A fissure ran through the block of oak standing on Jaclyn’s workbench. Around this crack, she’d carve faeries, elves, dwarves, dragonflies, and wood nymphs.
On the reverse, if one knew to look, one would see the peering eyes of a demon. Bringing in one type of magic always let in the other.
The creeping-in had already begun. Her young neighbor Florinda walked past home from school with her head hung down.
“Why so glum, little Flor?” Jaclyn asked.
“My ada finished the rail line. Did you hear that? Well, not him, but the people he bosses. And now it’s done, and he took Sparkie to go over there, but not me, I had to stay home with Rocket and Ama, but when Spark came back, he was sad.”
“He was none too happy about that dark place, then?” Jaclyn asked.
“No, siree,” replied Florinda. “He says it’s creeply.”
“But he’s home now, safe as beechnut and sound as rabbit, is he not?”
“And he has a brave sister with a cheerful heart, does he not?”
“Then all is right in the world, and don’t you worry about the creeplies in the shadows.”
Florinda’s smile returned and she skipped up the hill.
Jaclyn headed upstairs to the computer.
Sugar Maple was online.
“It has started,” she typed.
“The two-way connection?” Sugar typed back.
“Yes!” Jaclyn replied. “That blasted goat-footed man. He should have stayed in the Wishing Well.”
“We knew this would come,” Sugar replied.
Sugar and Jaclyn been expecting something like this since Cathy’s ill-conceived wish had pulled Brennan Stuckey out of the well. They’d hoped binding the two through marriage would forestall the encroachment.
After their twins were born, each full of such goodness, a swing in the other direction became inevitable.
They’d discussed plans and strategies, but until the connection was actually established, it was impossible to know what exactly to do.
“Keep your hope up!” Sugar typed.
Jaclyn closed her eyes and whispered a quick protection spell.
Buttercup, dew drop
Spin a web round
The wishing well.
“Let’s talk” Sugar typed. “Can you make it to the city?”
They agreed to meet at the Spice Festival at sunset.
Though Jaclyn had never been to the city, she easily found her way from the rapid transit station to the Spice District. Sugar played her violin, and Jaclyn simply followed the pull she always felt from Sugar’s tunes.
“Might as well have second supper,” Jaclyn said when she spied the table laden with falafal, curried eggs, and dal.
“I’ve seen it all before,” Jaclyn told Sugar. “It was like this in the old place. First the trolls. Then the boogeys. Then before you knew it, we were hardly safe outside the warrens.”
“But you survived,” Sugar Maple said. “It didn’t wipe your peoples out. And you found a balance, right?”
“We adapted,” Jaclyn said. “Protection spells, blessings, wildcrafting. All the rituals of the old ways kept us from being destroyed, at least.”
“That’s what I mean,” said Sugar. “You developed rune. We don’t have to look at this as the end of something. We can think of it as the beginning.”
“It’s a barrow-full of toil!” said Jaclyn.
“That it is,” replied Sugar. “But then, I’ve never been averse to hard work. Have you?”
Jaclyn supposed not.
“What’s this?” asked Nathanael, Sugar’s nephew-in-law, who’d come along for the festival. “Are you talking about work at a time for feasting?”
“Simply stringing the loom,” said Jaclyn, “so the warp is set when we’re ready for the weft.”
“Right then!” said Sugar.
Jaclyn caught the whiff of willow catkins on the grill. She knew of only one man in these parts who had a taste for grilled catkin. Sure enough, near the picnic tables, her sweet-heart Davion dished up a plate of fresh-spring river willow catkins for sampling.
“What brings you here, Davi?” she asked.
“Had an inkling you’d be here,” he said.
“Aren’t you the charmer?”
Sugar came to say good-bye. “I’ve got some research to do,” she said. “Don’t worry, Jaclyn. We’ll find a way to protect who and what we love.”