Dear Callum, Dunvegan Manor, Straithclyde
I have met oneads! Real, living, breathing (?), pureblooded oneads! Oh, and we caught Dr. Husk. I should mention that, since that is why we came here to Straithclyde in the first place. Maybe I should begin with the beginning.
Mrs M. sent us to Straithclyde, because Dr. Husk had been seen here. I imagine he came here to catch more ‘unnaturals’. I hate that word. I am not unnatural! I am a creature of nature itself – it doesn’t get any more natural than that! I am not too fond of the word non-human either, even though I am not human (only a little bit), but it makes me feel subhuman – like real people are humans and the rest of us are something less. But I get upset about nothing. No one treats me badly, because I am a nymph. Most people don’t even know I am a nymph at all. Would they treat me nice, if they knew? I don’t know. I feel very conscious about what I am, now that I know – and more now than ever. It is strange to get used to. But I am getting way off track, sorry.
Incidently Dr. Husk had been seen in the Dunkirk area – as you know: where Mackenzie’s manor is, so we went to stay there. I had no idea she has such a fine estate! It has towers and a music room and a hallway as grand as I have ever seen! And what a location! Very happily situated in deed! Mountains and a lake and rocks and green stuff all around. Gorgeous! But you know this. You must have been here. Mackenzie’s uncle Mac greeted us, and kept calling Mackenzie ‘Flora’. It was very confusing. Mackenzie says it’s a nickname he’s called her always, and I find it an odd choice of a name. I like Mackenzie very much, but a flower she is not. Flowers are small and delicate and only good for pleasing the eye, while Mackenzie is strong and forceful and well, not very flower-like. But we got settled, and when I say we, I mean me and Mackenzie, obviously, and Vincent, Henry, Max and Alejandros. Cassie would join us a little later. She was attending the blessing of a cousin’s child or something. In the manor I asked for and got a room in the tower. Vincent joined me there. As you know, I dislike sleeping alone, even though I am getting used to it, now that Cassie and Vincent occasionally sex together. When they do that I don’t want to be there (I am sure they prefer I am not there as well). Between us I find it a little gross. Liquids and stuff – urgh! But the room was awesome! Enormous bed! Fantastic view of rocks and rocks and more rocks and a bit of green. Holy Artemis, I like Straithclyde!
There were several obvious places to go look for Dr. Husk. Apparently this is an area with many supernatural beings (why have I not come here before?). We decided to start out low key and planned to go to the local fishing village, Dunwollen upon Lake, to snatch up rumors about strangers. Mackenzie said the fastest route was across the lake, so we sailed there. And we really shouldn’t have! Halfway across a fog rolled in and visibility was nearly nil. And that was not all! There was some monster in that lake! We nearly capsized, and Mackenzie and Alejandros and Max all fell in the lake! But we got them out before they got eaten (as you can guess – I would probably have started the letter differently, if one of them had died). Mackenzie called it a sea troll, and Alejandros could tell us all sorts of things about them. Viscious creatures, and very vindictive. The villagers called the monster a serpent, which it clearly wasn’t, but they would not believe otherwise, as they had recently produced a lot of souvenirs depicting a sea serpent. Apparently sea monsters is the new thing to lure tourists to come. More importantly: Dr. Husk had been in the village, and they had told him of all the places around here, where supernatural beings could be found: apart from the sea monster, there is a stone circle, a dragon cave, an old haunted ruin, a witch’s dwelling and a Hanging Tree. He could be at any of these places. We decided to start out at the stone circle, but would wait until the next day, as it would take at least half a day to get there. And honestly we were tired and wet and cold, so we went back to Dunvegan Manor for hot food, mulled wine and dry clothing. And a good night’s sleep.
The journey to the stone circle was a bit of an ordeal. It took hours! And there was no apparent road. I swear that most of the way we were following one animal path or another. We crossed moors and brooks and got wet and muddy. The only up side was a great view and lots and lots of rocks! The stone circle was awesome, though! Maybe you’ve seen it? A great big hill with giant rocks in a circle (obviously) on it. I got the strangest vibe from it. We found traces of a recent campfire there, so apparently somebody (Dr. Husk?) had been there. I hope he has not harmed anybody. We set up camp ourselves right outside the outer ring. There were smaller stones in the outer ring, and on one of them there was etched into it the words ‘over water, under hill’ in ancient runes. Henry said it was a warning not to cross into the land of the fae. He and Alejandros told us stories of folk, who had wandered into the fae world, and didn’t get out until a hundred years later. Time passes differently there. I was very intrigued. Would this be oneads, I thought? Well, it WAS something! In the night we all had different, strange experiences: Henry got lost in the night on the moor, Vincent heard Cassie calling for him, and Mackenzie heard you. Max and Alejandros must have experienced something too, because the next morning we could not wake them. They just slept. And me? If you wonder, what I saw in the night, I will tell you: I saw a castle instead of a stone circle, and I saw sylphs (creatures of air, like I am of stone) and they bid me welcome and led me into their castle. And it was strange and wonderful! I danced with them, Callum, and they danced like I do! I followed my heart and my instincts and they were right! I was not stared at or frowned upon, but accepted and fitted in. And I walked further into the castle and I can hardly explain the oddness of it all. Up was down, and I walked backwards to move forward, and things were far away and then really close. And it wasn’t odd at all, really. It felt right. The sylphs spoke to me. They told me that they knew me. I had been there before (really, I haven’t, or I haven’t in this lifetime), and they knew me! They told me that the ones, who were like me, had left them and gone on the path, the human path, and the Witch had closed the gate behind them. The Witch knew more about it, and could also help my lost friends (whom I didn’t know were lost at the time). I could find the Witch by Mirror Lake, they said. I really liked the sylphs, and would have spent more time there, but the King of the Hill came by, and he got all upset about the sylphs inviting strangers to their midsts. He made the whole place fall down, and I found myself on the hill, or rather kneedeep in the hill, surrounded by the stones, with the dawn approaching. I called out for help, and Vincent came to my aid, and helped dig me out. Soon enough Henry came by too (he had walked all night in the same little puddle, he said), and then Mackenzie came with Cassie and Haggis – they had found eachother wandering about nearby. Max and Alejandros was still asleep, as I said earlier, but as the sylphs had told me the Witch could help us, so she was our next destination. But first: back to the manor with our two sleeping friends, and food, and dry and clean clothes. Again. I guess I understand now, why Mackenzie has so much clothes. One certainly uses up one’s entire wardrobe quickly in Straithclyde! Back at the manor Mackenzie lent me a kilt. What a wonder that piece of clothing is! Warm, dries quickly, wildly comfortable, doesn’t get soaked when crossing water, and the Dunkirk colors even becomes me. When we got back I asked Mackenzie, if I could keep it, even though I am not of her clan. She said I could. I may never wear anything else now!
But first to the Witch’s house. Again we hiked through the harsh and beautiful Straithclydian landscape, across a wide river, with a brief respite in an empty shepard’s hut where we sought shelter during a rain storm. We knew we were getting close, when we found wards hanging in the trees – wards of bird sculls and feathers, stones, bones and small pieces of cloth. Henry said the wards were to keep strangers out. I must say that I did feel the urge to go away, but we had business here: we must save our friends, and I wanted to ask about the oneads. And maybe she could help us with Dr Husk – that is what I thought at the time. We knocked on the door to her hut, but nobody was home. We entered – and we probably shouldn’t have, since it was tresspassing (sorry!). It was a dark and spooky place. Lots of herbs and flasks with potions and stuff, but also a lot of scary things: bones and sculls from animals and a foul sense of wrongness. I realized that the Witch wasn’t necessarily friendly. I had imagined she was, because I thought she was my kind. Not an onead, but on my side, somehow. Do you understand? We went back outside and looked around, and saw a man up in the hills. We went to him, and he was dead for no apparent reason. We found tracks of horses, and we followed them into the forrest. It was a strange and gnarly forrest. The trees were twisted and unhealthy looking. Black moss on their sides.
And then we found the Witch. And Dr. Husk. And a bunch of henchmen. They were making an unholy ritual by the Hanging Tree. Summoning a demon by the sound of it. The Witch was performing the ritual, holding a small, black scull in her hand. The tree and the ground was painted with blood – summoning symbols and trapping symbols, as far as I could see. Dr. Husk was standing back and looking at her work. Wanted a demon for his menagarie, I suppose. Well, he would not get it! Vincent snuck closer to get a better look, but was spotted by a henchman and attacked. Mackenzie joined in the fight, but was hit over the head, and was knocked out. We later discussed that she (and the rest of us) might benefit it she wore a helmet of some sort. It is really bad for her to get hit on the head so often! Henry stood over her to protect her, and though he really wasn’t the right man for the job, he actually managed quite well. Vincent fought hard as well, but attacked a fiend that I was fighting instead of helping Henry. I talked to him about it later, and he agreed that it had been a bad move – but as he is not a fighter, he does not have the overview that Mackenzie and I are trained to have. We agreed that I could yell orders at him, when we were fighting another time, since I generally know what I am doing. It sounds a bit pompous, but it is true. Mackenzie and I are really good at fighting, and knowing what to do in a fight is part of being good fighters. It makes sense that we endeavour to put the individual abilities in the group to the best use. Fighters fight, sneakers sneak, thinkers think – and then we help eachother across abilities. That’s what makes a good team. We managed to beat all the henchmen – they either ran or lay unconscious by the time we left. And in the battle I managed to knock Dr Husk unconscious. I did not want to kill him. I want to bring him home to the Society for justice. We also overpowered the Witch, but a moment too late: she had already managed to summon the demon! I haven’t had to banish demons for a long time, but I managed to sent it back to Tartaros, and I crushed it’s scull, so it could never be used to summon it again. And Callum… I kept a little piece of the scull. It’s kept safe, and I didn’t tell the others. I wanted it, if I have to use my onead powers, like the ones I used in the arena and had in Nanga, remember? Being fast and having stone skin. It comes in handy in a fight. I will discuss it with Mrs M., when we get back, if I can keep it. I would only use it for good, of course, and only if sanctioned by the Society. I will not tell the others in the group about it though. It feels… dangerous.
We dragged the Witch to her hut, and promised her her freedom, if she told us how to save our friends (she whisked up a couple of potions) and how to find the oneads: she told me to follow the Stone Path, and stay on it, until I found them. I wanted to go right away. And Cassie would not let me go alone, and Henry wanted to come too. So we left it to Mackenzie, who was now conscious again, but very confused, and Vincent to get Dr Husk back to Dunvegan, and get the potions to Max and Alejandros. In hindsight we should have all gone with Mackenzie and Vincent, but I could not wait another moment! I have waited my whole life for this: to find my family! I would have gone alone, but they would not let me. So Henry and Cassie and I followed the Stone Path. It was visible only as long as we were on it. A step to the side, and it was gone. So we followed it for I don’t know how long. It felt like hours or days or minutes. I had one thing in my mind: to find them at last. And then finally we reached a valley and I could see them. They hid from Cassie and Henry, so I asked my friends to stay back and went into the valley myself, allways within sight. And I met them, Callum! I met oneads! I talked with them for hours, but afterwards Cassie said that I had only stood still in the center of the valley for about five minutes, not answering her call.
I am not sure I could describe them to you in a way that you would understand, but I will try, because I know how interested you are in nymphs. They were made of rock, naturally, but not human shaped. And though of rock, very elegant. They spoke in my head, all at once, and it made sense. They danced – we danced together – and they were happy to see me! They knew me, well, not me, they knew I was onead, though not exactly like them, but like the oneads, who had left the Home long ago to go into the Human world and become part of them. I am such an onead, one who had once wandered from here to live with the humans, with you. I am diluted a little bit, still onead, but part human because I have lived with you for so long
and because I have found human mates. There is something else that I must explain first. This is a bit difficult for me. It feels very private and intimate. But I have told Cassie and Henry, for they were with me, and Vincent, for we have no secrets from eachother, and I will tell you, because I feel that you should know this. I have no mother and father. Not in the traditional sense. Oneads were born of the wild goddesses, when they were still titans. Begot without male intervention. And we need no male intervention to rebirth ourselves. My cousins, the oneads, said that each one of us come from eggs (of a sort), an egg that is the essense of all that we are – our self, our history, our experiences, our delights, our mournfulness. Once our egg has hatched, our song (of a sort) is sung to us, and we know our previous life, our previous self and story and everything from the song. And we live and once day we meet our mate (of a sort) – someone who is just right for us, someone who matches us and align with us. And in the ecstacy that ensues we gather our selves and a little bit of our mate, and become the egg. And our mate sings the song, and we start over. Is it not beautiful? I am so full of wonder to be part of such an extraordinary process. But I am also very distressed by it, for no one has ever sung my song to me. I don’t know who my mate was, who should have sung it. I don’t know how I ended up with ignorant humans, who stunted me. I don’t know my past, my self. It is heartbreaking. My cousins believe my song lost, and are very sad for me. But do you think I might find it? Cassie believes I will. And Henry does – he even have theories as to how. And Vincent believes. And now I believe it a little bit myself. I really want to find my song! I want to find it, before I find my mate, before I am overcome with the urge to gather myself into an egg. I want the whole story to follow my future self. My child. And I have plenty of time. My cousins say I am only a child still. It will be years and years, before the mate may appear and the urge will come. I hope. If I live so long. Once an onead dies, the line is lost. There will forever ever be fewer of us. The human world is dangerous, these fullblooded cousins say, we die there. But truly, and this may be the human side of me, I would rather live dangerously in the human world, and be part of you and Cassie and Vincent and the others, than I will spend eternity in this lovely valley. I would die of boredom here, even in the bossom of my family. I think I have found adventurous humans as my mates in past lives, and that those little pieces of humanity I have in me are also adventurous and curious and want to see it all.
Do not hesitate to ask, if you had questions about the oneads. Cassie and Vincent had a million questions each! And Henry comes along and asks one question, goes away to ponder on the answer, write it down and consult his books, then comes back and ask another. I do not have all the answers. There is still a lot I have to learn, and a lot I have to find out. I need to find the other oneads – the ones who, like me, left the Home and went into the world. ‘They went south’ the pureblooded said. I know the Society will put me to other tasks, but whenever I can, I will look for them. And my friends will help me. I am fortunate that I am not alone.
Are you finding what you are looking for? Do you need help? You are not alone either, you know. I hope you are alright, and that this reaches you well. I am well. I feel more sure of myself every day. I dislike Dr Husk for what he did to me in the arena, but he did help me with some things: I know have a better sense of my self. I improved my fighting skills. I gained more confidence. I was away from Cassie and Vincent, but I survived. I made new friends. I found strength I did not know I had. Maybe we need deep water to learn to swim? Are you learning to swim?
The light is waning, and honestly I am exhausted. I am happier than I have ever been. And sadder. I will sleep now.
One thought on “15. Over water, under hill”