This is now the 18th chapter of “Of Wind and Wings”. See the table of contents here.
Note – I posted three chapters that did not follow one of Sue’s prompts. here is a brief overview in case you don’t have time or inclination to read them (or you can skip to today’s chapter):
Chapter 15, Mr. Brown – Ed and The Grubb have lunch with Mr. Brown, who seems down. Ed discovers that an ancestor wrote a book of philosophy in the 1780s. It was in the form of a dialog between a person and a supernatural being and dealt with freedom and equality for all people, no matter sex, race or religion. Ed also discovers that not only had Mr. Brown been separated from his wife for a long time, but she had finally left for good the night before.
Chapter 16, With the Grubbs – Ed has dinner with the Grubb family. The father, just called ‘Grubb’, is similar to his son, but more practical. The mother is much more learned, but also very attuned to the different side. She gives some philosophy on “value” and death. She also tells Ed about “The Others”, with the many names, from Elf, to Faery to Hob to Sith. She tells Ed that his family has “Sith” blood and he needs to become more attuned to the land. The Grubb can help, as can Elisabeth Smyth, but the former is stuck in a rut, looking for a sign that has always been there.
Chapter 17, Dreams and Ghosts – Ed has the “pillar” dream, but it changes to his bedroom. Liza’s mother talks to her about destiny, they Ed can only see the mother. He also realizes that Liza’s “destiny” was something she was supposed to create herself. She had control of her life. Did she misread her mother? Ed wakes, not knowing it it were a ghost or a dream. he thinks of Gothic novels, but the ghost was not his true love. Who was? He hears Lauren’s voice in answer.
Now to the story!
“Hello, Mr. Pulman, can you hear me?”
Ed jerked his mind back to the present. Mr. Brown had a big grin and gave him an over exaggerated, giant eyebrowed wink.
“Good to see you back on Planet Earth, Mr. Pulman.”
Ed smiled. “I’m sorry. I’m a little lost in thought today.”
“Thinking, eh? That’s a dangerous habit, you know. You start thinking and you never know where you will wind up.”
“Exactly. Uhm, you asked me a question?”
“Maybe not a question, though I’ll admit that one was very much implied. That’s why I love language, you know. I just observed that you went out without The Grubb this morning. He spent the last half of the morning in my office, sulking.”
The Grubb was sitting across the table from Ed, lunch only half eaten. He was frowning into the notebook, seeming to ignore their conversation, occasionally making marks in the book with his fist-handed-held pencil.
“I went up to Blackhorse Wood this morning.”
“Ah, I was wondering if you had found it. You know that some call it Barrows Forest, don’t you?”
“Yes. Liza mentioned it last night. I found it online and then drove out there bright and early this morning. I’m surprised at how close it is.”
“I agree. The moors seem to stretch forever, so it does seem odd to hit this bit of a wood with only a short drive. Of course it would have been a half day’s journey before the automobile. Well, less on horseback or a coach, but still not really in the neighborhood as it seems when driving.”
“Yeah, I sometimes forget how much distances have shrunk in the modern age.”
The forest was small on the map, but seemed immense when Ed arrived. He started off on a well-marked, well used trail, but decided to follow the small river instead. It was hard going, but his feet seemed to know the way and he was able to cross the roughest areas without a struggle. He had been off trail for almost an hour before he realized that his sense of the land had been growing as he moved deeper in the wood, higher up into the mountains.
Just a little farther in he came across a place that even with his heightened senses he could not continue to follow the river. There was a small path to the side, which he followed. After a bit it hit the river again, but there was a large stretch that was missing, a hidden valley.
He crossed the stream and went downhill again. He was soon back at the same place where he had originally left the water. It was impossible to get to the valley.
Impossible? It couldn’t be.
He closed his eyes, but could still see the land. A trail grew in front of him. He opened his eyes and still saw it. It was a solid trail, difficult but not impossible. Strangely, though, it was hidden from sight. You could not see it ahead until you stepped right onto it.
Scrambling over a last boulder Ed was in the hidden valley. At first glance it didn’t appear much different from any place else along the little river.
But then he seemed to see a building in the foliage, hidden, but brightly illuminated in the sunlight. After the first building began to resolve itself, he noticed more.
The valley hid a small village. A large structure grew out of the middle of the village.
“Rivendell,” Ed said out loud. It wasn’t the same as the place in the books, yet it reminded him of it. He could imagine it being the heart of the Elf kingdom.
He tried to approach a building, but it faded as he drew near. He tried another and the same thing happened. They were there, but they weren’t.
He sat down near the river and closed his eyes. Good. The village was much more visible that way.
There were people around, but they were different. Ed guessed that they were from the time that didn’t exist. But they were more than that. There was something about the people that told him they weren’t quite human.
“Hobgoblins? Sith? Faeries? Elfs? Or perhaps, I should use the Tolkien ‘Elves’,” he thought.
In most of the stories that Ed had read or heard, “The Others” were always “wee folk”, but in Tolkien’s universe, they were full sized. As he had discovered, they were full-sized people in many of the local legends as well. “Wee folk” was an outside concept. Most of the people he had talked to saw “The Others” as full sized, as humans that weren’t quite human. They were more part of the land, part of nature.
The people of the village were cleared those folk. None were close enough for him to get a good look. Perhaps if he tried to get closer…
When he opened his eyes the village was gone. At the edge of his vision, in the bright sunlight, he could still almost make out one large building, but it would vanish if he looked directly at it. He left and went back to his car.
He had arrived in his little village just in time to meet Mr. Brown and The Grubb for lunch.
He brought himself back to the present once again.
“I haven’t been back to the Woods in an age or two,” Mr. Brown said. “I always enjoyed a walk there. Hey Grubb, did you ever spend any time in Blackhorse Wood or Borrows Forest?”
The Grubb looked up. “Once. They have a hidden village there. I saw it. I like the open moors better.” He bent back to his notebook.
As they were finishing lunch, which Ed did pay for, a thought struck him.
“Mr. Brown, I was wondering if you could join Mrs. Smyth and myself for dinner. I don’t know if I can invite you to her house. If not, I’ll take the two of you out to… What’s wrong?”
“Oh, nothing, nothing. I’m fine.” Mr. Brown glanced nervously around. Ed had stopped as the man’s face grew pale and he drew back. What was up?
“OK, good. Anyway, would you like to…”
“I am sorry, but I am very busy tonight. Give my regards to Mrs. Smyth, won’t you?”
Ed thought that the man looked like a school boy. Why was he suddenly shy?
“Yes, I will.”
“Anyway, thank you for lunch, I really have to get back to the office. It was great talking, even if you were completely drawn into yourself most of the meal. And of course it is always a pleasure to see The Grubb.”
The man bowed and walked out.
Ed thought there was a secret, something hidden here, but he wasn’t sure what it could be. Perhaps he’d figure it out later.
“Hey Grubb, do you want to take a walk out on the moors?”
The Grubb gave him a look as if he were insane. “Were you actually thinking of doin’ anything else?”
“Of course not. Let’s go.” As they walked out of the restaurant, Ed let his inner thought out, as he discovered he occasionally did. “Mrs. Smyth seems a sensitive topic to our Mr. Brown. Wonder what’s up.”
As they got into Ed’s car, The Grubb, who had obviously overheard Ed’s mumble, said, “My mother once told me that Mr. Brown and Mrs. Smyth are both lost and need to be found. What does that mean?”
Ed shrugged. Another mystery.