By T.K. Wilson
Word Count: 15261
Rating: PG for depictions of PTSD panic attacks and violence
Summary: When Lady Goewyn of House Meridian meets the long missing treeman of roses, Lord Rhodon of the Western March, her eyes are opened to a new world of danger, magic, and healing.
Chapter 12: Hecate
The fire witch shrieked in frustration as her flames refused to light the tall thorns surrounding Rhodon’s garden. Goewyn’s scheme had worked! The ground was too saturated to set on fire!
The thorns parted revealing the three dryads and Goewyn waiting on the other side. Goewyn, her ankle still injured was being carried by Rhodon.
“It was you, wasn’t it?” barked the witch. “You planned this, didn’t you, elf?”
“I had to save my friend’s garden.”
“You’re just as weak as all your kind, then.”
“For protecting my friends?”
“Yes! Friends make you weak, but you’re too foolish to know that!”
Goewyn understood in a flash. This girl turned to magic because someone she loved betrayed her.
“What is your name?” asked Goewyn.
“What do you care?”
“Your name!” barked out Ablach.
“I chose a name that even the elves fear, Hecate.”
Goewyn realized that even her choice of name was a way of walling herself off. Hecate was indeed a name feared among the elves, the name of the first witch-queen in either the realm of man or Avalon. But such a name was clearly meant to shield a frightened girl, hardly older than a child, her own emotional peer, from those who would try to help her.
“Your name is a lie! You’re no witch like her.”
The girl’s face twisted in anger.
“I am a witch!”
“You’re not a witch! You don’t know what that means, you only know it’s a chance to seek vengeance or justice on those who hurt you. Who was it? A boyfriend? A childhood friend? A parent? A sibling?”
The last one struck a nerve. Hecate stopped short, looking confused at first, tears forming at the corners of her eyes. Then her face hardened back into a mask of anger.
“You don’t know me! You don’t know anything!”
“I know what I’ve seen. You don’t really want to hurt anyone, you’re just angry, lost, and scared.”
“No more!” screamed Hecate, unleashing a blast of fire. The dryads dodged out of the way, Rhodon landing on his knees in the water. Goewyn felt him tense up, a panic attack was coming.
“Rhodon, stay with me now, stay with me.” she urged. “Look at me, you’ll be alright.”
Rhodon forced himself to breathe normally, nodding.
“You don’t know me!” Hecate howled. “You don’t know what I’ve been through!”
Hecate lashed out at the stout thorn bushes, blasting away, scorching the ancient wood. Ablach and Maia were pinned down on the other side of the wall, away from the creek. Even still, she didn’t want to really hurt anyone. Something was holding her back, something deep inside, something that perhaps she didn’t even know about. A shred of goodness and love that kept the witch from going completely over the edge to oblivion.
“Hecate, please! You don’t want to do this!” yelled Goewyn
“Yes I do! No one will ever hurt me again!”
“Ask yourself, is this worth it?” shouted Rhodon, standing up.
Hecate turned to look at him.
“Is all this destruction worth it? Is numbing your pain with the hurt of others worth the price you pay? I have known hurt, heartache and I are old enemies. There are times I have wanted to turn my hurt against everyone and everything, but that ultimately only brings you sorrow!”
Hecate stopped short. Goewyn began to hope that she was changing her mind, Rhodon’s long years of pain would bear fruit in saving this girl from the darkness. Hecate looked at the ancient hamadrayd, pleading with her to turn away from this dark path, even as she tried to destroy his home. Goewyn offered her hand toward Hecate, a sign of friendship and forgiveness.
As Hecate considered this, whiplash of her flame, no longer in her full control, went awry. In a split second, Rhodon had a decision to make. He set his jaw firmly, and turned his back to the fire. He may die, but Goewyn would be alright. The fire hit Rhodon squarely in the back, searing the hamadryad’s skin. He shrieked in agony dropping Goewyn into the water below, and bringing him to his knees. Goewyn surfaced with a gasp and splashed Rhodon’s back with water.
“You’ll be alright, you’ll be alright!” she soothed.
Hecate stared in horror at what she had done. Rhodon whimpered in pain, unwilling to cry out again, while Goewyn wept in concern and anger. Goewyn felt her magic reaching out to all the plants around her, reacting to her distress. For the first time in her life, Goewyn was conscious of every leaf and blade of grass at her command. The power of the earth and the plants themselves coursed through her body! Keeping one hand on Rhodon as he shivered and sobbed, Goewyn raised her other hand high. Green and gold glittered around her body, shining it’s pure light around the landscape.
Slowly, Goewyn lowered her arm, the grass rippled up, higher and higher, out of the water; Rhodon’s thorn bushes rattled, heeding the call of their new mistress, each and every plant rose to Goewyn’s bidding. The water now came around her knees, but Goewyn held firm, the waters couldn’t go higher than this. Goewyn gave a push with her hand, launching the plants to attack. Hecate desperately fired blast after blast at the plants surrounding her, but to no effect. The plants were too green and too wet for fire to take much hold!
“I don’t wish to hurt you, Hecate! Leave now!” shouted Goewyn.
Hecate spun around in terror. She saw Goewyn, gleaming with magic and power, one hand on the wounded hamadryad. Despite all, Goewyn still looked with compassion at Hecate. Her goodness and power both terrified and gladdened the witch. For an instant Hecate thought
“Could I be like her, someday?”
“Fire can help and heal, Hecate. I hope we meet again, and on better terms.” said Goewyn.
Hecate ran, her fire forgotten, fleeing back through the woods.
Goewyn released the plants, slumping her shoulders tiredly. Rhodon moaned in pain, bringing Goewyn’s attention to her beloved friend. Goewyn took a firm grasp on Rhodon’s arm and stumbled out of the water pulling Rhodon behind her.
“Rhodon, my poor friend!” she cried, pulling him to shore.
Rhodon groaned, “I did not think…that it would hurt… so much….”
Rhodon reached up toward Goewyn’s face, his hands shaking, brushing her hair away from her cheek.
“Sun Sprite, please… it hurts.”
Rhodon’s whole body spasmed in pain and he bit back a cry.
“My poor Rhodon.” whispered Goewyn, holding his hand in both her own.
“He’s delirious, we’ve got to get some fireflower in him.” said Ablach.
Ablach and Maia pulled Rhodon to his feet and half walked, half carried him into the garden. The Meridian elves crowded around to help and hail the heroes, particularly Goewyn.
“We could see the light from here! You had all the plants in an uproar, it was incredible!” exclaimed Aelius.
“We’re very proud of you, Goewyn!” said Betsan.
Goewyn smiled and blushed.
“Thank you, Aunt Betsan. But Rhodon needs my help, I have to tend to his wounds!”
“Clear the way!” shouted Betsan.
Goewyn ran to Rhodon, who now lay trembling in pain on the ground, moaning the names of his beloved and his friends. Ablach and Maia held him steady and tried to get him calmed down.
“We’re right here Rhodon, we’ve got you.” soothed Maia.
Goewyn hobbled up carrying her first aid kit and poured fireflower juice directly onto the burn.
“Make him drink some of this.” she requested passing Ablach the bottle.
Goewyn rubbed her hands together briskly, hoping that her growing plants trick would work to heal Rhodon. Goewyn flicked her wrist, shooting green and gold sparkles into the burn. The sparkles settled around the edges of the wound and began pulling it together from the edges, closing and mending the horrific injury.
Rhodon had only known agony like this once before. The searing pain seemed to cut right through his body, stealing his breath and leaving him seeing visions. Something cool ran down his back, taking away some of the pain. He gasped, he was able to breathe properly again. He was aware of Ablach beside him, the power of the visions broken.
“Hush, now. You’ll be alright.” soothed the treeman of apples, feeding him fireflower.
As the fireflower sent him to sleep, Rhodon was aware of the tingling of magic on the wound, and the sound of a soft voice singing to him.
But to live in her village and hunter’s permit…”