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Silently Watching Under The Strawberry Moon

Trembling, he dropped to his knees on the bloodied rug and gently placed a hand on Trine’s shoulder. She whimpered faintly. Taking care not to hurt her even further, the runner scooped her up into his arms and carried her through to his bed. Blood had soaked through the leg of her tight trousers and a second patch was soaking through her cloak at her shoulder. How to stop the bleeding? As a feeling of panic began to creep over him, instinct took control, fading memories of teenage first aid training filtering through. Grabbing a nearby t-shirt, he tore it into pieces then pulled the leg of her trouser up to expose the wound. It looked like a deep ragged knife wound running down her calf, stopping just shy of her Achilles tendon. He applied compression to the wound then bound it tightly with strips of the torn fabric. The Ice Maiden’s wings were folded awkwardly and, fearful that they would break, he eased her into a sitting position, rearranged the feathers to protect them before easing her cloak from her slender shoulders. It slid off easily. Blood oozed from a second deep wound to her shoulder, but he could see that it was already congealing. Taking care not to hurt her, he eased Trine’s top away from the wound, reached for another t-shirt and pressed it onto the wound, unsure how to immediately secure it in place.

In his arms, she let out a sharp cry of pain. Her eyelids flickered then he felt her go limp. Was there something in that shoulder wound? What had caused it? A knife? A shot? An arrow? Regardless, both wounds needed to be cleaned properly and dressed. The beach hut was void of medical supplies. Knowing he couldn’t just take her to A&E, the runner reasoned that the quickest way to get what was needed was to transport himself to the nearest pharmacy. It had been years since he had last set foot in one. The best he could visualise was the local branch of Boots. Holding onto as clear an image as he could recall, he closed his wings round him, silently praying that he’d end up where he needed to be.

Unfurling his majestic, green-tipped brown wings, he opened his eyes and looked round. Hairdryers, curling irons and electric toothbrushes were on the shelves in front of him. Bingo! He’d at least made it to the correct shop. First aid supplies and antiseptic were at the back of the shop. Finding a large plastic bag behind the counter, he filled it with everything he thought he could possibly need, closed his wings around himself once more and transported himself back to the beach hut.

He gauged he’d been gone less than ten minutes.

Pausing to put the kettle on to boil, to give him some hot water to clean Trine’s wounds, he hurried back into the bedroom. The Ice Maiden was lying where he’d left her.

“Trine?” he spoke quietly, trying to keep the panic from his voice. “Can you hear me? Who did this to you?”

Her eyelids flickered but that was her only response.

“Fuck,” he muttered, tossing the bag of medical supplies onto the bed. “Let’s get those clothes off and get those wounds cleaned up.”

Cursing himself, he realised too late that he should have tried to find some antibiotics in the pharmacy. Would they even have been effective on a vampiress?”

It took him a few minutes, but he finally had her stripped down to her silver silk camisole and panties. He’d checked her over for other signs of injury but, apart from a few ugly purple bruises and the nasty gouges on her cheek, he found none.

In the living room, the kettle began to whistle on the stove.

“I’ll be right back,” he promised softly.

Using warm water laced with disinfectant, he bathed her wounds tenderly then carefully dressed them. The stab wound to her leg was still bleeding but the flow of blood had slowed considerably. Her breathing was slow and steady. There were no signs of fever, but she still had not regained consciousness. Positioning her as comfortably as possible, propped up on pillows, he let her rest. With a heavy heart, the runner dragged in a chair from beside the dining table and settled himself to keep a vigil over her.

As the first light of dawn began to streak across the skies, Trine began to stir. At the first sign of movement, the runner was on his feet and by her side.

“Hey, it’s ok. You’re safe,” he said gently, laying his hand on her forehead to check for fever. Her skin was still cool to the touch.

“Pain,” she murmured. “Thirsty.”

“Give me a minute. I’ll fetch you something.”

He returned with a glass of blood infused wine and some painkillers he’d thought to toss into the bag almost as an afterthought.  He held the glass up to her lips.

“Sip it slowly,” he cautioned. “I’ll hunt for us later. This will need to do for now.”

“Tastes good,” whispered Trine, struggling to open her eyes. “Wasn’t sure I’d make it back here.”

“I’m glad you did,” he said warmly. “Now, rest. There’s time to talk later.”

“Stay with me.”

“Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere.”

Three days and nights passed before Trine was strong enough to stay awake for more than a few short minutes and felt well enough to get out of bed for a while. She had barely protested when the runner offered to carry her through to the living area to sit by the stove.

He’d hunted the moment it had grown dark, settling for sheep’s blood for them both as he hadn’t wanted to stray too far from the hut. Already he could imagine the farmer’s protests over the loss of two ewes to “dogs”.

Passing a glass of the still warm blood to her, he asked, “Do you feel up to telling me what happened?”

“It was her,” began Trine, pausing to drink deeply from the glass. “She was here. She followed me. Hunted me.”

“Who?”

“The dark angel,” she revealed quietly. “She’s beautiful.”

“She is,” he acknowledged. “But she’s dangerous with it.”

“We flew north. Flew for hours. I lured her away from here. There was a storm. We fought. She stabbed me. I managed to grab her knife. Managed to stab her in the back with her own knife. She fell. I did too,” she paused then continued, “I hid in a church for hours, but some men came. I transported back here before they would see me.”

Telling the abbreviated tale had left the injured Ice Maiden exhausted. The runner refilled her glass, and she drank in silence.

“She said you were hers. Said you were unique. She described you as pure,” Trine paused, her pale face a mask of pain. “She knows you intend to kill her. Knows about the deal with my father. She said he won’t honour it.”

“How could she possibly know about that?”

“I have no idea, but she knew.”

“Do you think she survived?”

Trine nodded, “But I’ve no idea where she may be. Wherever she is, she’s badly injured.”

“Should I look for her?”

“Do you even know where to start to look for her?”

The runner sat in silence, staring into the flames dancing in the wood burning stove. Trine’s question hung in the air unanswered.

By the eve of the full Strawberry Moon, Trine was almost restored to full health. The long light summer nights meant their time outdoors was limited to a few short hours. Neither of them had strayed far from the beach hut while she’d recuperated. Initially, the runner had hunted for her but gradually, over the cycle of the Strawberry Moon, Trine had felt strong enough to hunt locally for herself.

With their thirst quenched with doe’s blood, they sat on the beach in front of the hut, listening to the gentle movement of the river before them.

“I wish we could stay here forever,” whispered Trine, playing with a smooth round white pebble.

“Don’t you miss your life in the castle?” he asked curiously.

Trine shook her head, “No. I’d miss the freedom being here gives me. I’d much rather be here than there.”

“Why do you bring this up now?”

“Because I know my father and he’s going to expect results from you,” she replied. “And soon.”

“But if he’s searched for her for years, why would he expect results from me in only a few months?”

Gazing into his dark brown eyes, Trine said simply, “Because a child always knows the way back to its mother.”

With a long sigh, he confessed, “Well, I used to.”

As the Strawberry Moon shone full and bright over the calm river the next night, the runner sat alone on the beach in front of the hut, deep in thought. He’d barely slept after his conversation with Trine the night before and the little sleep he got was troubled by bad dreams. Putting his hand in his pocket, he pulled out the small white pebble that he’d picked up months before. He sat lost in his thoughts, turning it over and over in his hand.

Although she hadn’t said as much, he guessed Trine knew he was struggling with the thought of actually killing the dark angel. He held onto a false hope that her fight with the Ice Maiden had seen her fall to her death. In his heart, he knew he had to look for her, to at least confirm if she was dead or alive.

“You look troubled, Son of Perran,” commented Trine as she approached him, picking her way carefully over the uneven rocks.

Without looking up, he said, “If she survived the fall after your battle, she’ll have found her way back to her mausoleum.”

“And you know where it is?” Trine’s words were more of a statement than a question.

The runner nodded.

“Go,” she said warmly. “If we can at least report back to my father that you’ve seen her that may stall him for a few more months.”

“Don’t you want me to kill her?” he asked, feeling suddenly confused.

“I want you to keep your word to my father so that you stay in his good graces,” replied Trine honestly. “But I’m not ready for our time here together to end. I’m not ready for you to die, my dear.”

Reaching up to take her hand in his, he said, “I’m not ready for this to end either but I need to check to see if she made it back or not. I need to check her mausoleum.”

“Is it far?”

He shook his head.

“Then go before you change your mind.”

The ground under his feet felt soft as he landed silently in a clearing near the concealed stone tomb. It was the same small clearing that the dark angel had led him to many years before. Moonlight lit his way through the trees as he walked soundlessly towards the mausoleum. There was no sign of fresh footprints near the small stone building; there were no signs of life near it either. Carefully, he walked round to the front. He stopped dead in his tracks. The door, usually tightly closed, was slightly ajar.

With his heart pounding and his hands suddenly sweaty and trembling, he walked towards the door. Reaching it, he pulled on the edge to open it wider. A sense of dread hung over him as he stepped nervously inside. He could smell the distinctive ferrous aroma of blood in the air; he could smell the stomach-turning aroma of decay and excrement. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, the runner thought that the tomb was empty then he spotted something lying crumpled on the floor. Now able to see a little clearer in the dim light, he noted the numerous dead mice and voles littering the stone floor. Cautiously, he approached the dark bundle.

It was her. It was the dark angel.

At first, he thought she was dead then he heard a shallow rasping breath.

She was alive.

Using his cigarette lighter, he lit two of the wall sconces. The flames hissed and spat as the light grew brighter around them.

Slowly, he knelt on the floor beside the prone angel. One of her majestic wings lay at an awkward angle. From the stench surrounding her, the angel had lain there for some considerable time.

“You came,” she whispered hoarsely. “I knew you would.”

“Sh,” he said softly. “Don’t try to talk. Let me help you.”

“Don’t touch me!” she spat venomously.

“I need to if I’m to help you,” he said firmly. Reaching into the back pocket of his jeans, the runner produced a slim pewter hip flask.

“Drink this,” he instructed, holding the flask to her parched lips. “It’s still warm.”

Holding her head in his left hand, the runner put the flask to her cracked lips. The dark angel took a few hungry sips then slowly opened her eyes.

“Help me,” she whispered, her eyes silently pleading with him.

“That’s why I’m here,” he assured her, offering her more of the warm deer’s blood.

“My back. The knife,” she said weakly.

“The knife’s still in there?”

“Yes.”

Gently moving her wing, the runner saw the hilt of the knife lodged in the angel’s back between her shoulder blades and close to the root of one of her magnificent purple tipped black wings. Blood was crusted round it and there was a putrid smell from the wound.

“I can’t treat you here,” he said simply. “I’ve nothing to clean that wound even if I can get that blade out. You could bleed out. I need medical supplies. You need a doctor!”

“Do what you must, Son of Perran,” she said faintly. “I trust you.”

Knowing he had but one choice, he lifted her into his arms, taking great care not to touch the knife, wrapped his wings around them both and visualised his destination.

Silently Watching One Week After The Buck Moon

dark-angel

One week later the air was heavy and muggy, a thunderstorm gathering overhead. As he jogged up the hill towards the graveyard, it matched his own mood. The first drops of rain fell as he climbed the steps into the cemetery. As he approached the tree, a bright flash of lightning lit up the dark sky, revealing the dark angel herself who was standing in the shadows.

“Well met, Son of Perran,” she greeted him formally as she stepped forward.

“Hey,” he replied forcing a smile. “Looks like we’re about to get wet.”

“Not at all,” she said stepping forward. “We’re leaving.”

Before he could protest, she swept her wings around him. The world went black and everything felt still.

When the world cam back into focus, he wasn’t surprised to find himself in the dark angel’s mausoleum home.

“Is this the way I’m going to have to exist?” he asked as he sat up and looked round. “This place feels different. Smells different.”

“It’s the oils,” replied the angel calmly.

“Oils?”

“Lavender and geranium,” replied the angel lifting a large box from a previously unnoticed niche by the door. “Take your shirt off.”

“Pardon?”

“Remove your shirt,” she said slowly and deliberately.

Without argument, he removed his running top, tossing it onto the stone bench. As he stood in the middle of the tomb, stripped to the waist, he was acutely aware of the angel’s gaze on his lean toned body.

“Enjoying the view?” he teased as she walked behind him.

Her green eyes dark and intense, she stared at him, the gaze boring into his soul. She moved round to stand directly behind him. She studied his back for a few moments then ran her cool hand over his shoulder blades. Tiny sparks of electricity pulsed through him as her cold fingers caressed his warm skin. He felt her pause and run her thumbs over the tips of his shoulder blades.

 

Taking a step back, the angel studied his smooth skin, tanned from the summer sun. At first, she couldn’t be sure and she thought for a moment that his luck had held then she noticed a slight circular discolouration. There were two patches of skin about two centimetres across that were a darker shade than the rest of the runner’s bronzed back.

“The buds are there,” she said quietly as moved round to face him.

“Buds?” He looked at her with a face filled with confusion.

“Your wing buds are forming.”

“Ah!”

“I have worked out a way to slow their development but you’re going to have to work out a way to administer the treatment on your own,” she explained, her tone serious. “How are you with pain?”

“I’m tough. I can take it,” he replied, sounding calmer than he felt.

“Each of the phials in that box contains an oil that you are going to have to use once a month. I can only stall the development for so long. This treatment had to be prepared in a single batch. I cannot make any more. There are three hundred phials in the box for you. Do not break any. Do not drop any. These are the only ones in existence.”

Glancing into the cardboard box, he saw that it was filled with slender phials containing a dark liquid.

“I’ll administer the first dose,” the dark angel explained pointing to a larger phial that lay on a black velvet cloth on the bench alongside her ornate knife. “I need to ensure that I treat the centre of the buds. I’ll make the first cuts. You will then use the same holes each month.”

“Holes?”

The angel nodded, the white streak of her hair almost shimmering in the candlelight.

“Wait a minute,” he stalled sounding anxious. “What’s the plan here?”

“The phials contain an infusion of horse chestnut bark, lavender oil, geranium oil and thyme plus a few other items. The oil needs to be poured into the centre of each bud once a month and the wounds covered with the moss that’s at the bottom of the box. The moss has been treated with the infusion. You’ll only use a couple of strands at a time.”

“And how a I going to explain two holes covered in moss on my back to my wife?” he demanded sharply.

“You like to decorate your body. You’ll get another tattoo across your upper back. The holes will be lost in the design,” explained the angel calmly.

“Oh, will I?” he retorted. “And I assume you’ve picked the design for me too?”

“I’ve designed it for you,” she replied calmly. “The design is part of the enchantment. It needs to be identical to the drawing inside the box.”

Before he could protest further, the angel reached into the box and pulled out a single sheet of paper with a Celtic design expertly drawn on it. Looking at the detail in it, he wasn’t averse to having it inked across his back. There were two points in the design where there was an obvious cross over and he deduced that those would mark the spots that matched the holes.

“Fine,” he said. “I’ll get it done. I’ll get someone at work to recommend a place. That won’t be cheap to get that inked.”

“There’s money in the box to cover the cost.”

“Thought of everything, haven’t you?”

Lifting the knife, the angel said, “I hope so.”

With the knife poised over his smooth skin, the angel asked, “Are you ready?”

“Go for it.”

“This is going to hurt.”

“Just do it.”

As the sharp tip of the blade bit into his skin, he flinched but never utters a sound. When she pierced the second hole, he was ready for it.

“This will burn,” she said as she picked up the large phial. “Really burn.”

“How am I meant to get tattooed if the skin is burnt?” he asked.

“The skin won’t be burnt. This will burn inside you. It will feel like fire.”

He gritted his teeth and clenched his fists as the angel poured the liquid into the two open wounds on his back. Pain ricocheted through him as the liquid worked its way around the nubs of his wings.

“Christ!” he yelled as the heat intensified.

“Almost finished,” promised the angel rubbing some strands of the pale green moss into the wounds. Instantly the pain stopped spreading and began to ease. “Done.”

“Whew!” he said rolling his shoulders stiffly.

“Well done. You handled that well,” she praised with a smile. “Guard that box with your life. One phial is enough for both buds. One phial once a month. When the phials run out then we have to last nature take its course.”

Pulling his running vest back on, he nodded.

“These should last you about twenty-five years if you don’t smash any.”

“I’ll be an old man by then,” he joked lifting the box.

“No, you won’t, Son of Perran,” she countered. “You’ll look exactly the same as you do just now. You’ve not aged one day since your transformation. Time will be kind to you.”

“Ok so how do I pour that stuff in on my own?”

“You’ll find a way. Pierce the holes open first then pour in the infusion.”

“Not quite the DIY I had planned but I’ll figure something out,” he muttered. “And I’ll get that ink done.”

“Get it done this weekend. It should then be healed before the next full moon if you can.”

“Fine,” he agreed bluntly. “Any more orders?”

The angel smiled and shook her head. “You can find your own way home from here.”

She pushed open the door of the mausoleum to reveal the dark stormy night outside. “Follow the path to the right.”

“Till next time,” he said as he headed for the door.

“Soon, Son of Perran. Soon.”

 

Over the years the box had sat on the second top shelf at the back of the garage. Its contents steadily dwindling as the months and years passed. In the box, wrapped in an old t-shirt, was apiece of wood with two nails driven straight through it, their tips sticking out proudly. Those tips had been filed until they were needle sharp and had been sterilised until they now shone silvery in the light of the garage.

Carefully he hung the piece of wood on the nail on the garage wall, making sure it was level. He unbuttoned his short and laid it on the bonnet of his car then lifted the last glass phial out of the box.

With well-practiced ease, he stepped back and leaned his full weight against the piece of wood, feeling the nails piercing their target for the final time.

 

(Image sourced via Google- credits to the owner)