copse

drive away

I am driving away 
from this daunting rock
where ‘self’ and ‘loathing’
lived in the copper-leafed
forest of doubt 

I am driving away
without even looking 
back
to the selves flailing in
panic in the rear-view mirror 

I am now
leaving myself
behind;

I have driven away
round the curving road
out of this copse, screaming 

at the acrid smoke
clogging my veins

tears that could extinguish oceans
raze this dull wood
- self-hate the eternal
ouroboros -
to the ground

till nothing
remains


I have driven away

as I can
only 
miss 

what I have 
lost 


//what I must do
to love myself//

a tale of trees and espionage

okay story time:

my professor (lovely man, married to our TA, 5'2", about as intimidating as a muffin) is a dendrologist by trade, so he studies trees. it was about three hours into our social sciences course, last lecture before exams, everyone was frazzled and exhausted, so he told us about his most exciting/in-depth research to date to cheer us up.

(the few of us who actually showed up were like “ok sir im sure its fascinating” but in our minds we were totally like its trees what. is. exciting. about trees. You might be wondering the same thing - the acorns? the leaves? the roots? BUT NO. IMMA FUCKIN TELL YA.)

ANYWAY we settle in, he had a few pictures loaded up from his field work (we were chuckling at this point…. ‘hehehe field work’ i giggled to my frend. its trees.) and began to tell his tale. it’s long, imma warn you, but……. god. just read it.

theres an species of tree called the cucumber tree (Magnolia acuminata, if ya wanna get all Latin-y). its super endangered, in our region there’s only ~280 that are registered by the government, yadda yadda yadda. my prof thought that was tragic (i know) but also strange, because when he was writing his thesis about local trees years ago, he kept coming across cucumber trees in really random places. we’re talking like backyards, independently-owned nurseries, etc. WHICH IS IMPOSSIBLE because, according to tree law (i know) it is very strictly protected by the government, and thus super “illegal to possess, transport, collect, buy or sell any part of a living or dead member of a listed species if it originates from wild sources.” essentially, the govt takes control over growing the trees and anyone who independently raises them is breaking the law (i know)

so he’d ask people “do you have a permit for these trees?” and they were like “uh no, it’s just a tree someone sold me, i think it looks nice, are you gonna arrest me?” so he’d be like “nah nah nah just tell me who sold it to you”

eventually, months/years later, someone did, and turns out it was like this underground sort-of illegal tree dealing club (i know). so my prof went, got a bit of funding from the government, who were getting pissed at independent cucumber tree numbers, and THIS IS WHERE IT GETS INTO THE GOOD SHIT I STG.

he infiltrates the tree trafficking organization. he buys a cucumber tree from an independent nursery, raises it for months, ensures he gets noticed by the traffickers, and then INFILTRATES it and convinces its leader to LET HIM JOIN. he has to pay like a steep entrance fee, which he does (and it blows my mind that the government of my country paid money to illegal tree dealers), but then he is given full access to records and maps because they think he’s one of them, not a SECRET AGENT.

now this part blows my mind because the tree lords don’t even have to try very hard to find cucumber trees because government agents MARK THE TREES AND DISTINCTLY TAG THEM SAYING THIS IS ENDANGERED DO NOT TOUCH. so, ya know…………. it’s a bit obvious. my prof hangs out with the members so much that he figures out their “hit spots”. these are where the trees are relatively secluded and unguarded. (he writes all this shit and numbers down for his research.)

BUT THATS NOT ENOUGH BECAUSE THE GOVT SAYS HES WASTING THEIR FUNDING IF HE DOESNT HAVE PROOF and they are willing to take LEGAL ACTION for misuse of funding (my prof doesn’t have the money nore time nor power to take them to court, which would also blow his cover). so my prof literally STAKES OUT a copse of cucumber trees at a recognized wildlife reserve for. DAYS. he camps there, and watches the trees, is about to give up, he’s going off an unreliable rumor from the traffickers that a harvester would be going there within the next week. finally, this guy comes and takes the cucumber tree seeds from the CLEARLY MARKED trees by the government, and my prof takes pictures (we are shown these pictures, most of us are speechless at this point). dozens of candid shots of a man my grandpa’s age with a grocery store bag, garden shears, and a ladder, clipping away the illegal seeds and then going on his merry fucking way.

so my prof has the proof, he’s been undercover for months now at this point, he writes up his report, gives it to the government who is like…….. “oh shit”, helps them draft up a new LESS COMPLETELY FUCKING OBVIOUS way of marking endangered trees (so that way non-tree-lovers wouldn’t damage them further, etc.), and then never returns to the tree traffickers. he’d given them a fake name, address, everything….. he disappears.

…there was a full minute of stunned silence from us students at this point, during which he grew more and more nervous (again, he’s a muffin) and all of us students are just like……. “whoa.” we asked him what happened to the remaining illegal cucumber trees & if he turned the tree dealers in to the government, and that is when he smiles a little bit and shows us the last few pictures. because here’s the kicker… he never turned the smugglers in. he burned all the data he collected, defied the government pressuring him to turn them in, and the only reason he’s not incarcerated is because his work is so prominent in certain circles now & universities love him, that there would be an uproar if he got arrested. he’s like a fucking anti-hero and then he tells us (i’ll never forget, it’s the most inspirational green-thumb thing in the world) “it may be 'illegal’, but those who risk their liberty to ~save the world~ should never be reprimanded, no matter what those in power say.”

we are all stunned. some of us are considering dendrology as a field we’d now be interested in pursuing. he clicks his slide one final time, before we leave our last lecture and, since he had an asthma attack (lil muffin) he didn’t attend our exam, so i never see him again…………

and there, on the slides, the last picture? THERE HE IS. in his own backyard. with his equally lovely TA wife. both grinning innocently, standing underneath a……. FUCKING. FULL GROWN. ILLEGAL. CUCUMBER TREE.

This is one of the best family stories I know and I can’t believe I’ve never shared it.

My second cousin (let’s call him Elijah) is older than me by roughly fifteen years, and this story is all I’ve ever really needed to know about him. When he was ten or eleven years old, his father made a rare attempt to include him in his life by bringing him along to visit some bigshot lawyer friend.

This guy happened to be a major collector of military memorabilia. He’d spent hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars collecting all sorts of martial antiques, which he kept in an enormous pole barn on his estate. The crown jewel of this collection was a real WWII tank.

Elijah and his father were given a tour of the barn. Eventually, the adults decided they couldn’t be bothered with supervision, and left the ten year-old boy alone in the pole barn. He, of course, did what any hot-blooded American kid would do in his situation.

After climbing inside the unlocked tank, Elijah flicked some switches. Then he flicked some more, and the tank turned on.

The eleven year-old boy who had never driven a vehicle in his life then found himself at the wheel of a 50 ton armored tank he didn’t know how to control, with no way to stop. He crashed through the pole barn, broke down one wall, and tore through the estate grounds, destroying everything in his path. Only when the tank got caught sideways in a copse of trees was he able to stop and escape, unharmed.

gods of wood and stone

(this may or may not ever turn into something, so I thought I’d leave it here as the product of my procrastination.)


Obito gets lost on the way back to the afterlife.

It sounds like the start of the worst joke ever, like something Kakashi would mock him for forever after finding out about it, but it is, Obito admits to himself with great reluctance, actually true. This is definitely not the Pure Land, Rin is definitely not waiting for him, and he is definitely alive, because apparently using Kamui to skip out on your path to the afterlife leaves you alive even when you don’t want to be.

The worst part is, Obito can’t even regret it. He’d make the same decision again, because Kakashi needed his eyes so he wouldn’t just stand on the sidelines like a useless lump or throw his life away trying to take a hit. With Kamui, Kakashi has a chance at getting them a victory against Kaguya. Without it—

Without it he’s dead, and Obito doesn’t need the blood of any more teammates on his hands.

Cursing quietly, Obito pushes through a particularly tight net of tree branches, trying to figure out where he is. Another dimension, he can tell that much—Kamui gives him a good sense of such things—but unless he wants to kill himself with chakra exhaustion he can’t teleport back out of it. He could try it to get back to the afterlife that way, or just use a kunai, but—

Obito is a stubborn bastard. He was fine dying to save his friend, because there was no other choice and he was dead at the end of the war anyway, but if he’s alive? Yeah, fuck that, Obito is going to survive. It’s what he’s always done, and even if it’s against the world’s best interests, Obito is going to keep it that way. He’s alive, and no one can take that away from him.

The forest thins out up ahead, the spaces between the tree trunks widening as the ground grows rocky, and Obito makes for it, hoping to find some higher ground so he can at least get a look at his surroundings. The earth is covered with old leaf-litter, soft and silent underfoot, and Obito feels like he should know it, like this whole area is familiar, but he can’t quite place it.

He rounds a thick stand of trees, pushes through a thicket of brambles that curl away from the touch of his Mokuton, and hears—

War. War like the one he just left, the one he started, but without the monstrous roar of the bijuu or the overwhelming lash of chakra from shinobi with no concept of human limits. The earth trembles beneath his feet, the air rings with shouts, and there’s a clang and crack of weapons meeting. Fire roars, the smell of scorched cloth and flesh rising in its wake, and there’s a loud cry.

A familiar cry.

Obito reacts without even thinking. He dodges around the last copse of trees, chakra already surging within him, and bursts out onto the battlefield just as there’s a flash of yellow light.

Years of learning how to craft a plan, how to alter it on the fly, how to act and react and take advantage of every skill he’s managed to cultivate—that’s enough to let him take in the fight in one swift glance, ignoring that fact that it should be impossible. Senju on one side, heavily armored and fighting desperately; Uchiha on the other, backs bared because their stupid pride won’t let them wear armor, but pushing the Senju back. Two sources of chakra brighter than the rest—one on the far right, two heads with long black hair, a dragon made of wood, a familiar gunbai and a curl of scorching flame. The other is at the far end, almost dead-center. A fading glow of gold, black hair, Uchiha symbol, and he’s turning but it won’t be fast enough.

But Obito has faced a man who’s even faster, and he can make it in time.

It’s nothing conscious that drives him—the connections are simpler than that. Half a moment to judge, another bare fraction of a heartbeat to let Kamui whirl to life, and there’s a beat in Obito’s blood that sounds like the cause the cause the cause. Nothing solid, nothing certain, but trained instinct and denial working in tandem as he whirls off the battlefield. A portal into the Kamui dimension, and almost before he fully materializes he has another forming, leading right back out, and he snatches up a staff from a pile of stored weapons and is gone. As soon as he’s through he shifts his body sideways, back into the other dimension as he phases through the man—no armor, just robes, and fuck but Obito can’t believe he’s part of a clan filled with such arrogant assholes, thinking they’re too good to wear armor in a fight—and brings the shakujo around.

A sword collides with it in a flash of yellow light, and red eyes framed by white hair go wide.

Obito snarls, in no mood to call for a truce here and now, and plants the butt of the shakujo in the ground. He leaps, using it as a pivot, and slams a foot into Tobirama’s armored chest with all the force of his chakra behind it. The future Nidaime goes flying, and Obito lands lightly, yanking the staff up as he turns.

Uchiha Izuna rounds on him with a victorious laugh, red-and-black eyes bright with triumph, and opens his mouth.

Obito sweeps his feet out from under him, dumps him on his ass, and buries him in grasping roots that drag him to the ground and pin him there. “When the hell is it ever going to be enough for you bastards?” he snarls right in the man’s dumbfounded face. “How many innocent people need to die in this stupid fucking war before you finally decide that you’ve had enough revenge?!”

There’s no answer, only blank gaping, and Obito growls, pivoting on his heel. Several knots of fighting shinobi are watching him with one eye, clearly wary, but not enough to stop their own battles. It’s not going to be enough to save them, because in a split second Obito has made up his mind. It’s a stupid decision, probably the worst he could come up with, but if there’s a chance in hell of stopping all of this before it starts, Obito will take it.

“Stay there,” he growls at Izuna, leveling his shakujo at him, and then turns. A burst of speed sends him hurtling right at a Senju kunoichi with her hair in a topknot and the ponytailed Uchiha she’s fighting, and he shoves right behind them, knocking the woman into the man and pinning them both with Mokuton. The Senju lets out a startled cry, but Obito is still moving. Branches and roots erupt around him, grabbing for shinobi without discrimination.

Those in Obito’s path don’t have nearly as much of a chance to fight back; Kamui makes him a ghost, and even when he’s tangible his speed leaves him all but untouchable. He plows through the ranks separating him from the other fighting pair, drives forward with a wave of Mokuton subsuming everything behind him. There’s a snarled knot of fury growing larger and larger in his chest, a twist of something that’s very close to grief, and he’s had enough.

With a shout, Madara shoves Hashirama away, then whirls in, sword sweeping down. Hashirama catches it on a thick burst of wood, shoving him back, and in the same moment Madara’s eyes flicker up above Hashirama’s shoulder, taking in the rest of the battlefield in an automatic sweep.

Obito, barely three yards away with his shakujo already swinging, catches his eye and bares his teeth in a wolf’s grin.

Oh, he’s going to enjoy this.

Hashirama must see something in Madara’s face—either that or his instincts give him warning, but Obito likes the idea that Madara’s dumbfounded expression serves as warning enough. The man ducks, rolling to the side, and the ring of the shakujo sweeps across the space he just occupied. It just misses Madara as he leaps backwards, a fireball bursting from his lips, but Obito phases right through it, landing lightly and spinning the staff through his fingers.

Madara feints left, but this is man who trained Obito to begin with, almost a century younger and far less skilled, and Obito easily spots the misdirection. He lunges the opposite way, catches Madara’s sword when he reverses directions, then twists past the blow, drives an elbow into Madara’s gut, grabs him by his long, thick hair, and uses it as a handhold as he spins, knocks Madara’s feet out from under him, and drags him down to the ground.

From above and behind him, there’s a cry, and Obito wrenches the sword from Madara’s hand, keeping the other man pinned with the shakujo against his throat, and half-turns to level the blade at Hashirama. It taps the Senju’s chest as he pulls up short, eyes wide, and Obito snorts.

“One move and I’ll happily put another hole in this waste of space,” he growls, seeing the way Hashirama’s eyes flicker from him to Madara and back.

Hashirama stares at him for a long moment, then nods and takes a careful step in retreat. One half-glance around them and he says very quietly, “You have Mokuton.”

Madara makes a sound like a pissy cat dropped into a pond. “You have the Sharingan,” he spits, as though this personally offends him. “You’re an Uchiha.”

“And that fact has been responsible for pretty much all of the misery in my life,” Obito retorts, and for a breathless, terrible moment he’s back in that clearing under the full moon, a handful of seconds too late to save Rin from Madara’s manipulations. One blow and he can stop all of that here and now, can prevent so much of the pain that might come.

Hashirama must see something of that in his eyes, because he takes a quick stride forward, only to pull up short when Obito snarls and levels the blade at his throat again. “Please, don’t!” he insists.

“Get lost, Senju!” Madara snaps at the same time. “This is an Uchiha matter, I will handle—”

“Clearly it is a Senju matter as well,” Tobirama says coldly, coming to a halt a short distance away, but his eyes are on Obito’s sword where it touches his brother’s collarbone.

“I don’t think so,” Izuna counters, equally chilly and just as biting as he edges closer, Sharingan eyes narrowed and wary. “Just because some Senju bastard couldn’t take no for an answer when it was coming from an Uchiha kunoichi—”

Instantly Tobirama whips around, offended rage written clearly across his face, and he grabs for his sword, only to be pulled up short when Hashirama reaches back and grabs his wrist.

“But—” Tobirama starts to protest.

“Izuna,” Hashirama says, carefully even, and he doesn’t look away from Obito but there’s a spark of tightly contained fury in his dark eyes. “Mind. Your. Tongue.”

Izuna flicks a glance between Hashirama and Tobirama, swallows, and takes half a step away from them. “Brother,” he complains.

Madara gives Obito a dark look, but he doesn’t try to move. “You wouldn’t stand for such an insult to our clan, Izuna,” he huffs. “Don’t expect the Senju to have any less pride.”

Narrowing his eyes, Obito presses the shakujo in a little more firmly. “Don’t bother taking that high and mighty tone, Madara,” he bites out. “You’re the one I hold responsible for all of this, and I’m going to fucking take it out of you hide.”

Red-and-black eyes go wide, and Madara almost flinches away from him, hands rising in something like surrender.

Obito doesn’t want surrender, though. He wants to rip into Madara the way he wasn’t able to before, wants to get a hand in his chest and tear the heart right out of him, pay back every bit of pain that Madara inflicted on the world, through Obito and through Zetsu and by his own hand as well. Wants to rip and slash and hack away until this monster is nothing but a pile of bloody flesh, unable to hurt anyone ever again. It overwhelms him for the space of a breath, white-hot rage the only thing inside of him, and before he can think to stop himself he tightens his grip on his shakujo and—

Big hands grab him, one arm around his waist and the other around his chest, and with a jerk he’s hauled right up off of Madara, dragged back against a broad chest as dark hair tumbles around him. “No,” Hashirama says, halfway to a plea, and his grip tightens enough to force the air out of Obito’s lungs.

Obito freezes, stiff and stunned at the touch of another human. Years, it’s been, since anyone touched him to do anything but inflict pain, and his muscles go tense and tight in anticipation of a blow.

There isn’t one, though. No hit, no pain, no kunai slid into his kidneys to gut him and leave him for dead.

No pain, just—

A trickle, wet and hot, against the back of his tattered robe. Blood, by the smell, and since Obito doesn’t bleed anymore it has to be Hashirama’s, has to be from when he knocked the sword aside to save the man who will eventually kill him.

It’s too much. The thought of it, the reality of standing here over Madara, able to end everything before it begins, and Hashirama is the one to save him—

What Obito did, the people he killed—that’s on his head. But it’s on Madara’s too, on Zetsu’s, on Kaguya’s. Uchiha Obito should have died in a cave-in when he was thirteen, but he didn’t, and the reason for that is right in front of him. The reason he didn’t carved a seal into his heart, killed his best friend, and gave him a twisted, broken vision of the world as an illusion, and then set him to unmake it.

Obito is responsible for his own actions, and he knows it all too well. But Madara was the trigger. If Obito was the sword then Madara was the hand that forged and wielded him, and that has to mean he bears at least a part of the blame from the hell of the past few years.

No,” he snarls, and though he shoves backwards to loosen Hashirama’s grip and get away he doesn’t reach for Kamui, doesn’t try to hurt the man (again, again, something in him whispers, hurt him again you mean). “Let go of me! He deserves whatever I do to him!”

Hashirama’s grip isn’t harsh, but it is immovable, and he’s as solid as an oak as he drags Obito back another step. “Don’t,” he says quietly. “This isn’t the way.”

Naruto, Obito thinks, guilt and grief and regret and anger all wound up and tangled together. He curls his fingers into fists, takes a breath that vibrates with anger, and does the hardest thing he’s ever managed in his life.

He opens his hand and lets the weapon go.

flickr

(via GATCOMBE, TOLT COPSE, CHILLERTON | Flickr)

Elain Archeron walked the worn path through the tall grass to the back of the property. The day was unseasonably warm, and the wind was blowing in off the ocean making her hair sticky with sea salt. She didn’t mind, just wended through a small copse of trees and found the shed on the other side. She looked through the cracks in the driftwood door.

Azriel sat inside hunched over a potter’s wheel, working. His foot tap, tap, tapping the pedal to keep the plate spinning.

She’d been staying with him for the past three weeks, and hadn’t once worked up the nerve to walk back to the secluded shed he disappeared to each day.

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What do you think the others would think of being a Classics major? Ancient languages and customs, all in one.

A bit about them here! In short, because Elsewhere is somewhere ambiguously built upon Irish mythology, I think the local folkloric tradition would associate Latin with trespass and intrusion. That said, any grudges held have by now faded significantly, and They’re always down for a good story. 

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Because @charminglyantiquated is the coolest person ever, there is now a super-awesome fandom for her comic, Elsewhere University, and because she is even cooler and lets us write stuff for it, I thought I’d take her up on her offer. 

You press the iron necklace into your skin, and you bite your lip until you taste blood, and you walk into the doorway that you’ve never seen before and pray for a miracle. 

You don’t really think that it will work, but you do it anyway. 

They took her about a week ago, while she was walking home from sleeping over-with you. You stupid, idiotic moron. You should have said, “it’s too early.” You should have said, “skip your 8 AM, it doesn’t matter, you’ll pass anyway.” You should have said, “you have a salt packet, right?” But you didn’t. When she didn’t text you all day, when you called her 2, then 5, then 20 times, when you ran home praying that she was lying in bed watching Netflix or working on her english project, when you burst in through the door and the room was dark and cold and empty, then you knew. And you cried and cried all night, begging whatever was listening that they wouldn’t hurt her, toy with her, change her. Praying that they’d give her back. People come back, they do it all the time. Maybe it wasn’t…permanent. You try not to think of how many English majors have vanished this year alone. 

And as the days passed, and there was no sign of her, or even something that looked like her, you slowly come to accept what you must do. 

You went to Shell (has three turtles, that’s how he chose the name) and you buy an iron necklace, for you do not have one of your own. 

“Dude-” Shell starts as you drop the Twizzlers on the table (he picked up the habit of trade over there. he was there for a while. not all of the reptiles in his cage may be turtles.) “-don’t do this.”

“Just give me the necklace.” You don’t want time to doubt this, to second guess, to think of your dad and your aunt patty and your cousin blake who you really wanted to see grow up-

“Look, I’m as sorry about Ash as you are, but…this…what you’re planning?…it won’t work, Willow. It just won’t.” 

They had both chosen tree names, to be called by. They’d met as a mixer, and she’d used it as a dumb conversation starter. She had been so beautiful that night, her skin absorbing the light and glowing with a brown radiance that reminded her of the sun. 

“Just give me. The necklace.” she spat, hands clenched and tears dripping off her eyelashes. 

He sighed, but reached under the counter and dropped it on the pockmarked wooden surface (screwed in with iron screws. he took no chances, not anymore.) he stared at her, eyes hard but burning with regret.

“I know them, Willow. I wasn’t there for…” he drifted off, his eyes fuzzing a bit. time is different there. he was gone for about a month when one of the RA’s finally did something-he was a TA, and he was the resident “merchant” on campus, and he was needed. he said it was longer over there. that was all he ever said, except for the midnight sleep-screaming, and occasional chanting. he shook his head and resumed. 

“…but I know them, ok? you won’t get her back, not if they want her, and definitely not if you demand her. and if you do manage to get her? there’s a price. there’s always a price. and it’s always too high to pay. always.”

she grasps the iron necklace, shaped like a circle, like eternity, in her clammy palm, and says, “she is beyond price.” 

You went to one of the “thin places” (think liminal/the copse of trees next to the sorority that has some girls with skin that is far too pale and eyes that are much too bright ) and you stand there, and say, “i am coming to reclaim what is mine.”

silence, but one that is filled with words.

“she is mine, and i am hers, and i intend to have her back.”

a thin wind rises, and it like the hissing laugh of cruel ancient things. 

you straighten your shoulders, and you resist the urge to grasp the iron circle, and you say “let us begin.” (bring it seemed too high school, and there is a way of going about these things that even she must follow)

and then the door was clear and defined in the trees, and you taste your blood and your fear and you enter. 


she is so beautiful here, but in a way that screams wrong. her thick black hair, her glowing brown eyes, her deep brown skin, it is ethereal here in the wrong way, not the ethereal it is supposed to be, has always been to her. and her eyes are vacant and empty, not full of wit and love and grace. she is wrong, and you intend to fix her. if you can. 

the thing on the throne, the roots twisted like muscle, stares at you from the other side of eternity, and finds you wanting. 

“she is ours.” the thing said, its voice like wind through the leaves, or a knife up a spine. “you have no right to claim her.” 

“i love her. i have every right.” the thing laughs, and that is the worst kind of sound you have ever heard. it is a laugh that has nothing in it to make it a laugh. 

“love means nothing. you say you are each other’s? this means nothing.” it leans forward, on its root throne, and for a moment you step back. “no one you love is special. death will come for you all. that is all that matters, for you. it is all that will every matter.” it leans back, and smiles with too many teeth. “we give her trinkets, and long life, and the pleasure of being chosen. what can you offer, but death?”

you want to have some speech prepared, some grand statement of freedom and love and the power of humanity, but the words are like dead leaves in your mouth. they will mean nothing to it. they barely mean anything to you. 

“i want her back. you do not need a reason to take. i do not need a reason to take back.”

at this, the thing actually nods. “very well. what do you offer? what will i gain, for losing a treasure?” 

she knows she is a dead woman, perhaps not literally, but in all the ways that matter. so long as Ash is safe, alive and well and writing stupid papers until 2 in the morning, she will be content. 

“take what you want.”

it grins so wide she thinks its face will split. 


a life for a life.

you hate yourself. but the thought of ash, asleep in bed at home and safe and with eyes that are hers and are filled with life, you can get through it. 

he comes, as you knew her would. the phone call, panicked, “i’ve got her! i’ve got her! but i think she’s drugged or something you just know so much about this, can you help please please please?” he runs down the path, approaching the copse of trees you stand next to, in the dark, so dark he can’t see you’re alone. 

“hey! I’m here!” Shell gasps, skittering to a halt with a pack bouncing off his leg. “i’ve got some stuff i think might help, where is she?”

you look him in the eye (you owe him that at least) and you say, “I’m sorry.” you say “it was the only way.” 

he doesn’t scream, as you half-expected him to. he’s too smart for that. he turns and run, sprints, gallops away, flinging ramen packets as he goes. its not enough.

the trees grow close, and he suddenly falls into them, like a cartoon character. his eyes catch yours before he vanishes into the blackness between the boughs. there is not even room for hatred in all the brokenness.

he is gone, and then wind is cold and filled with the laughter of cruel things.

a life for a life.

the price is always too high, because they take something and the taking rips the life from you.


disclaimer: i am very white so pleasepleaseplease tell me if my writing of a black character was racist or demeaning in any way! i just wanna help and make more positive representation, but PLEASE tell me if I’m being racist or stepping over a line! thanks! 

Flood my Mornings: Plymouth Trace

Notes from Mod Bonnie:

  • This story takes place in an AU in which Jamie travels through the stones two years after Culloden and finds Claire and his child in 1950 Boston.

PLYMOUTH TRACE

Later that same afternoon
September, 1950

“Daddy!!!” 

I parked Penelope’s car at the curb in front of the house, and got out quickly to see Bree pelting down the front stairs toward Jamie, who had stepped out of the ‘49 Ford he’d pulled carefully into the driveway. He’d been doubling back to come greet me, but hearing his daughter’s squeals, he turned and crouched down in the grass for interception.

Bree, however, was far more excited about the new car. Instead of flinging herself into Jamie’s arms, she made a sharp left and thudded herself into the front passenger door with both hands. Liking the sound immensely, she began pummeling the door further, jumping up and down and shrieking with giggles as she did so.

“No-no-no, a nighean,” Jamie said sharply as he reached her and grabbed both her hands away.

Bree jumped, startled and horrified by his harsh tone. Jamie was so unfailingly gentle with her, always, that for a moment, I thought she was going to burst out into tears. Jamie realized this, too, and quickly released her hands, laying one of his own against the gleaming paint of the car door. “Now, wee Bree, ye mustna hit our Bonnie. Ye wouldna wish to hurt her feelings by thrashing her about, aye?”

Bonnie?” I laughed, incredulous as I came to stand with Mrs. Byrd, “Is that its name??”

“‘Tis her name,” Jamie said with dignity, though I could see the corner of his mouth twitching. To Bree, he encouraged, “Can ye say ‘hello’ to Bonnie Blue?”

Without missing a beat, Bree took a step back and waved at the car. “Hiiii-lo, Bobbie bloo!”

We all laughed and Jamie kissed her cheek. “Aye, that’s right, cub. We all must be verra gentle and sweet to Miss Bonnie so she lasts a good long while.”

Bree looked pensive for a moment, considering, then walked forward to lay an unutterably delicate kiss on the driver’s door. 

“‘Inna laff-me!” she scolded as we all did. She pointed a stern finger at Jamie, then the car. “M’kissie, Da.”

Jamie opened his mouth to decline, then removed his hat and laid a soft kiss on the handle. “How’s that, cub?” he asked Bree with a grin. 

“’S’okay,” she said with a curt nod, rising on tiptoes to peer in the side mirror.

Jamie laughed, standing, “She’ll keep a man verra humble, one day, that one.”


Jamie was like a bronze statue behind the wheel, impeccable and sure in his movement. It was the deliberateness, the same steeled concentration in his eye that he’d used in battle. At the wheel, he used it to be cautious, careful, erring on the side of slowness for the sake of accuracy. Still, while we were puttering along at about the same speed as an octogenarian on foot, the set of his jaw made him look so…

“Damn me, but you do look sexy doing that, Jamie.”

“Oh, aye?” he said, not taking his eye from the road, but the corners of his mouth crooked downward: a suppressed smile.

“Indeed, you do,” I confirmed matter-of-factly, scooting closer to him on the wide seat and reaching out a delicate finger to trace his arm. “Positively rakish.”

“More so than when I’m about other activities?”

“Oh, in terms of sexiness, this is ranking in your top five activities, to be sure,” I said, with mock solemnity. 

He snorted. “Not that I’m no’ sensible of the compliment, but I canna quite see how turning a steering wheel should be at all rousing to ye.” 

“Welll….” I kept my face intentionally composed, tracing the tendons of his right hand, feeling the strength in them as they grasped the self-same wheel. “Do you…happen to know what the kids do, when they ‘go for a drive’?”

“Other than getting to their intended destination, ye mean?”

“The destination is everything,” I said dramatically, walking my fingers up his arm. “They find a secluded spot to park the car…” I leaned forward and breathed in his ear, “…and then set about to…. not enjoy the scenery.”

He shivered at my touch and his fingers tightened a bit on the steering wheel but he didn’t seem in the least bit shocked. “Aye, seems reasonable, there being fewer cow byres and springhouses to which the youngsters might secrete themselves.”

“Oh-ho! And just who was young Jamie Fraser secreting with in cow byres, might I ask?”

“And I might just as easily inquire with whom it was that ye *didna* enjoy the scenery, Sassenach…” he said sardonically. 

“Oh, really!” I swatted him, making him laugh and playfully swat me back. “Teenagers didn’t have cars when I was at the cavorting age, you oaf! Movies,” I drawled, seeing his puzzlement. “Lovers’ Lanes are common spots for young people to—” Ahah, how to explain this one? “—get murdered in gory films.”

“Jesus CHRIST, Sassenach,” Jamie said in alarm, taking his eye from the road a moment to give me a look of deep revulsion. “Folk enjoy seeing young couples getting—killed?”

“They’re not all about people getting—Oh never mind, I will get you to the cinema eventually, but anyway, I also happen to know more about driving dates than I’d wish because I have the joy of being a compulsory member of the debriefing committee for Della O’ Malley’s courting escapades.”

“Ah, our wee Della,” Jamie sighed ruefully, turning right. “She must get herself marrit, soon, or she’ll end up so entangled she’ll need to be pruned,” he laughed.  “So…whereabouts is the ‘Lovers’ Lane’ in these parts, then?”

“Oh, there are many, I’m sure. But Della’s favorite was in a huge copse of willow trees near the big creek off of Plymouth Tra—”

And before my eyes, not two seconds later, the car rattled merrily onto none other… than Plymouth Trace.

“What was it ye were saying, Sassenach?” 

“Why, you presumptuous wee bastard! How the bloody hell did you know?”

The wee bastard in question grinned devilishly, chancing a glance away from the road. “The lads at Fernacre as about as eager to crow about their escapades as Miss O’Malley. I figured it would be fitting to take our Bonnie here on her first trip.”

“You talk bout her like she’s our child,” I giggled.

Dinna listen to her, Bonnie,” Jamie crooned, patting her (“HER!” pah!) fondly on the dashboard. “You’re part o’ the family now.”

We pulled into the arbor, carefully, slowly and came to rest between two of the trees that stood close together. I couldn’t help gasping as I opened the door and tripped out between the fluttering curtains of yellow-green. There were perhaps twenty willows, scattered around a lazy bend in a wide, sweet creek; tall ones, with their fronds waving gracefully in the late-afternoon breezes. 

Della liked this spot, I knew, for the seclusion it provided in the dark of the evening. In the afternoon, with sunlight dappling between the leaves, though, it was—

Breathtaking…”

“My thoughts exactly,” came a soft, low voice at my shoulder as his arm came around my waist. 

“Flatterer,” I grinned. 

“No,” he whispered, pressing me back against the side rear of car, his eyes dark with feeling.

I melted into him, reaching hungrily for his mouth as he reached for mine. I could feel the sun-warmed panels hot through my skirt as he pressed me into them, his mouth, his hands, his entire body insistent against mine. 

I could feel my body rising to his, my blood pounding furiously in every vessel, crying out to him. 

Jamie. My Jamie. 

“Does it ever stop?” I panted, “the wanting you?” 

“No,” he whispered with a soft laugh before taking my mouth again. “Never.”

A long, fevered string of moments later, Jamie’s hand left my neck (though the other continued to roam freely. A moment later I heard the springing CLONK of the rear door latch releasing. “Get inside,” he whispered hoarsely. “I’ve got to have you now.”

“In the…? I thought we were supposed to ‘be gentle to Bonnie.’”

“Oh, aye, wi’ Bonnie I’ll be gentle…. Wi’ you—” He latched his mouth into the crease of my neck and chuckled darkly as I groaned with the rush of sensation. “Now… get inside.”  

I had his trousers down around his ankles in a jiffy, leaving him exposed. “Kick off your shoes,” I whispered urgently. He tried but got tangled up, and had to bend down to extricate himself. I took the opportunity to spread our picnic blanket over the back seat and clamber in. 

Jamie joined me a minute later, bare-arsed, pulling the door shut behind him. He knelt before me on the floor, running his hands up under the skirt of my dress. He was smiling, but I could tell he was done with kidding around. 

“You’re wearing far too many clothes, mo nighean donn,” he whispered, nuzzling my thighs, “far too many.”

While my vision was obscured by my dress flying up over my head, he set to work between my legs, eliciting a moan that surely shook the vines surrounding us. “Oh….Jamie….”

I heard—no, felt—him laugh against me, not slowing his pace one bit. It seemed hardly moments before I cried, “Ja—Jamie—I’m going—to—”

And I did, my vision going lilac with energy as i melted under his touch.

He didn’t wait long. With remarkable economy of motion, he pulled me down against him and whirled us around so that I was sitting astride him on the seat. My head almost brushed the roof but that hardly mattered. I was dizzy, spinning  as I was curling my entire body around him, bending my head to him, needing more even as I throbbed.

We slid together with a sigh that seemed to emit from us both. I could feel the car rocking softly back and forth with us as I rode him, hard and desperately.

“Sassenach….” he moaned, his head pressed hard into my shoulder as he gripped my hips so hard I knew I would bruise and moved me harder, deeper, faster. One hand slid further down and used his thumb to bring me to the brink again and we were crying out together, pulsing against each other to get one more moment, one more bolt of our common magic.

When we were both spent, he let his head fall back and I slumped against him, wrapping my arms slowly around his neck, both of us one sweaty, quivering heap. The sun beamed through the rear window, bathing our still-one flesh in blissful warmth and light. I took the opportunity to study him while his eyes were closed. His hair was short and arranged, and his clothes, wherever they were, were different, but he was still the lad–the achingly sweet, caring lad–who had slept outside my door to keep away brigands in the night. So pure and loving…so…exquisite. The lines of his face; the hollows of cheek and temple; the smile that tugged at his lips even as he heaved with exhaustion. Glowing in the sunlight, he looked so beautiful, I truly wanted to cry.

I opened my mouth to tell him so, but just at that moment, he spoke. “There’s a good lass.”

I thought he was addressing me, so it came as quite a surprise then he thumped not my bare arse but the seat beside us. “If this be the time we conceive, we’ll keep ye in mind when we name the bairn.”

“You’re ridiculous,” I murmured against his mouth, barely managing it, widely as I was grinning.

“Aye,” he laughed, a little sheepishly, wrapping his arms snugly around my hips. “I’ll try to be more dignif—”

I stopped his ridiculous mouth with another kiss.


Disappearance

She knew it would be strange and lonely to study abroad. She knew she’d feel lost, bewildered. It even had a name - culture shock. Like something benign, almost. Like jumping into a cold stream on a hot day, her mother said, it almost blanks your mind out to start with, but if you tough it out and stay in it, you adjust.

But she didn’t adjust, was the thing. It wasn’t just the distance, staying up late or getting up early to put fuzzy, stuttering skype calls through to her family, writing letters and postcards when that stopped working so well. It wasn’t the differences in language, the big and small adjustments she had to make for culture. (Why did Americans have to smile so wide, talk so loud?)

The place was weird was the thing. There were a thousand better words maybe - unsettling, abnormal, offset - but it all just boiled down to weird.

Home - England - could be weird too, but that was home weird, a right and natural weird. A weird of small tree copses and unloved council estates, of dark shadows traipsing the motorways and black dogs in the fog. She knew that magic. She’d tasted it already, knew the poisoned honey taste of it on her tongue. Merlin and Arthur sleeping until a prophesised time of great need, The Beast of Bodmin roaming wild, the sun behind the stones at Avebury.

Oh, she saw them, the gentry of Elsewhere University, she saw them in shadows and from the corners of her eyes and reflected in smooth surfaces. She knew them for legend and myth, she knew them - but she didn’t know them, either. They were different here, like the people were. She avoided eye contact, and never listened to the music from the lake no matter how beautiful it was, and when that pretty couple at the bar asked her home she didn’t go, because they smelled like chamomile flowers and poppies and blood.

It might have been fun, though.

She got fewer and fewer responses to her letters. Skype didn’t work at all any more. She made no friends, and none of her teachers remembered her name for more than three minutes. (she counted, on a stopwatch.)

She was disappearing, bit by bit from life, and no-one would care, no-one would remember. Nothing left of her.

She thought, in sharp jagged moments, of forcing some kind of remembrance. Of some kind of destructive public display - But she didn’t want to hurt herself, didn’t want to bring herself back into the world through destroying herself.

There was another option, her reflection said to her, when she looked into it too long. You’re vanishing anyway, what does it matter? It’s beautiful, you know, it’s beautiful.

She spent days, weeks, centuries in her room, letting the dust gather over her, hands pressed to her face. Or maybe it was just days, and there was no dust.

Once, as a child, she’d had a friend who wasn’t there. An invisible friend, as so many children do, only - only - she knew. She knew the way magic felt on her skin, tangled up in her heart. She’d never even known she missed it so intently, like some organ in her that had been torn out and only now started aching.

It wasn’t so hard, in the end, to make the choice. To walk out on a cold clear night, when the moon was a thin crescent, and to say Yes.

-

And in the end it got boiled down, reduced to a new legend. The international student who couldn’t handle the change any more, who got stressed and gave herself away.

No-one even remembers her name.

[x]

one black coffee, please

In which Class 1-A takes a roadtrip and Aizawa has had enough.

~500 words, based on this


Aizawa was never quite sure who had started the chant.

All he knew was that, three hours into a class roadtrip, someone had spotted a pair of golden arches over a copse of trees.

And then it all went to shit, really.

That was about…thirty seconds ago. Now, a rhythmic chant of “McDonalds! McDonalds! McDonalds!” echoed through the van, fists pounding on the seats, the windows, hell, even the ceiling, beating a steady tempo.

Aizawa did not need this.

His dry eye had been especially bothersome lately and he was already feeling ill from the motion of the van, not to mention the migraine.

The beat suddenly spiked in volume. Glancing into the rearview mirror, Aizawa saw Jirou’s audio jacks plugged in.

Fantastic.

What a lovely addition to the din.

Iida and Yaoyorozu appeared to be trying to calm everyone down–they really had been good choices for class officers–but it didn’t seem to be having much effect. Midoriya was somehow sleeping through the chaos, head cushioned on Todoroki’s shoulder.

All Might looked up from his book, sitting calmly in the passenger’s seat.

“It can’t hurt to take a quick detour, can it?” he asked.

Aizawa scowled.

If these kids wanted to stop by McDonald’s…

He would stop by McDonald’s.


The screaming had only gotten more frenetic the closer he had gotten to the fast food joint. The second he flicked his turn signal on to exit the highway (because he was a proper driver who did proper things like use his fucking blinker), it had gotten so loud that Midoriya had momentarily woken up.

But that was fine. They were almost there, and once they were there, they would all shut up for a blessed minute.

Aizawa pulled up to the drivethrough, where a tinny voice filled with false cheer asked what his order was.

He gave the kids a second to let the shouted orders die down before making very deliberate eye contact with each and every one of them in the rearview mirror.

Then, he leaned out of the window, and said, in the most polite voice he could manage with a migraine like a herd of elephants pounding through his skull and eyes drier than the Sahara, “One black coffee, please.”

The van went silent, save for Midoriya’s soft snores.

It stayed that way, the kids all shooting each other glances, as if wondering if this was all some prank and at the pickup window they would be showered in cheap burgers and fries anyway.

The window opened, and Aizawa recieved a single small black coffee, and then he thanked the worker very nicely.

No burgers. No fries.

He rolled the window up and drove away, getting back on the highway and up to the speed limit before taking a sip.

Absolutely disgusting. A true cup of McDonald’s coffee.

Peering into the rearview mirror at the suspiciously quiet kids, a small smile spread across Aizawa’s lips at the expresions of pure shock.

And then–the screaming started again.

Oh well.

It had been nice while it lasted, he reflected, pouring the shitty coffee out of the van window.

The Dullahan’s Ride through Elsewhere

 A short little story based in the fantastic supernatural world created by @charminglyantiquated. Do check out the Faerie shenanigans going down at @elsewhereuniversity; it is amazing.


You hear the thundering hoof beats and shrieking neigh just as the sun is setting. Gan Ceann is riding tonight. You know he is riding for you.

You had been too arrogant, too overconfident to dare remove your golden token this evening, for gold is the only thing that a Dullahan dreads. But she was such a pretty girl, and the time you spent with her certainly felt magical.

It will be the death of you.

You were certain that Elsewhere University would be a place to seek true protection. A clever deal, a well timed act of kindness, a gamble won… the Seelie always protect the ones they favor. You came to seek Their favor. Security that only They can provide against Others like themselves.

No one has ever said why, but in your family, once a generation spanning at least the past three centuries, the Dullahan will ride to claim a soul. Last generation it was your uncle, during holiday. While he slept with his wife. They heard the whinny and sharp metallic clang of the bit in the horse’s teeth too late. Your aunt awoke just in time to hear your uncle’s name called from the severed head. She screamed and Gan Ceann struck her blind in her right eye.

Your uncle’s soul was lost, taken in a hotel room on holiday, for there is no place that is out of the reach of the headless horseman. No gate, no door, no fence, no lock will keep him at bay when he rides.

It could have been one of your cousins now. It could have been your sister, or brother. You came to Elsewhere to stack the deck in your favor, to ensure it wouldn’t be you.

But it is.

Your plan might have worked, but you did not move quickly enough. It was just so nice to finally be away. Away from the daily reminders that the Dullahan still had yet to choose a quarry; reminders to keep your gold coin always safe and ready should you hear the horseman approaching; ongoing, repeating dialogue that reminded you that horrible death would strike your family, and that it was not a matter of “if” but “when.”

Being away from that daily conversation, free to even enjoy the occasional glimpses of some other Others than the one that plagues your family, you chose to dawdle. You thought you would take your time and shop for the best protector. The bargain that would net you the most benefit for the least payment. You are not keen on the stories of students who have hacked away enormous, essential parts of themselves for something, in your opinion, entirely too small, too insignificant. A life is an expensive thing to trade for. You did not wish to live a half life for a little extra insurance. So you waited. Listening. Watching. Learning. Weighing.

But now your time is nearly up.

You still hear him coming, even as your heart pounds in your ears and your straining, panting gasps shudder through the otherwise still twilight. You pause and look about your surroundings frantically, trying to pinpoint the direction the steed’s roaring breaths are coming from. It is the sound of the horse only that you hear, which reminds you that you are still among the living and still have time, however little it may be. You will not hear the voice of Gan Ceann. Not until he calls your true name. Not until he claims your soul.

You catch a glimpse against the deepening blues and purples of the sky: the black silhouette of a rider, holding his head up by its hair to scan ahead while his mount paws at the ground beneath its hooves. The dry grass flares up with each trample, sending orange cinders dancing up into the air. The rider is still too far away, but you imagine the ever moving eyes locking onto yours. In an instant the Dullahan pulls back on the reins, and the jet-black horse rears its head. You don’t stay to watch it resume its menacing gallop. You know the direction he is heading.

You take off again toward the copse at the far end of campus, just beyond the library. It is rumored to have the most activity this late in the day. You need to increase your odds of a meeting. You need to find a member of the Gentry; anyone will do at this point. Any Other you can make a hasty trade with. You grasp at your rucksack and hope what you have will be enough to trade. Enough to barter for your life.

“Gentle Fair Folk, please grant me an audience,” you pray, and repeat this mantra in rhythm with your hurried steps. Once… twice… thrice…

The shimmering glamour around the copse begins to lift, and out of the air directly before you a tiny blue light appears. You hear the tinkling of bells as it bounces in front of you. You skid to a stop just a hair’s breadth away from running into… you aren’t entirely sure. Another tiny bell jingles and you see another dot of blue light zip into being. And then another. And another. You are mesmerized by the dazzling trails they are carving into the deepening darkness, and you realize what they are.

Wisps. Will-o’-the-wisps.

Which is peculiar, even for Elsewhere. Isn’t it rumored that there are no fearie lights at EU? They are conspicuously absent from all the recounts you have ever heard of students being Lost, Taken, or Touched. Maybe this is a Gentry trick. Maybe this is one of the Fair Folk simply taking a more benign form. Maybe these truly are wisps. Maybe you are very lucky.

Or very unlucky.

Regardless… you have your audience.

“Please,” you beg, and drop to your knees to fumble with your bag. “I’ve come to trade. I need The Court’s protection from Gan Ceann, one of the Unseelie. He is coming for me.”

More jingling. You don’t know what they are saying, if they are saying anything to you at all. You remember the iron pins stuck in the lining of your jacket and the salt packets slipped into your socks. Will they help you if you still carry these deterrents? You strip your jacket and toss it away from you, likewise dig out the salt packets and throw them into the bush. The jingling stops and the lights hover. You take it as a good sign. The sounds of the rider’s horse are growing nearer.

You unzip your pouch and dig out a tightly sealed mason jar. “I have sea glass and abalone shells, and pendants of enamel and obsidian. What will you take in exchange for protection from the Dullahan?”

The wisps float before you silently. You begin to feel that the deal is going badly, and you are becoming desperate. At any moment you imagine you will hear your name and you will be dead.

“Please!” you cry, and shake the mason jar in frustration. “I’ll offer you everything I have in exchange for your help! Please!”

The tinkling of the bells resumes, and the tiny Fae line up before you. Tears trickle down your cheeks; you did not realize you were crying.

“Thank you,” you whisper, and get to your feet. You remember to be polite; you must always be polite. You leave your bag and grasp the mason jar tightly as you feel yourself being drawn along a path you cannot see, a path that the wisps are leading you down. You take out your cell phone and flip on its flashlight to help light the ground as you hurry after them.

The glamour lifts before you reach the copse and you know you are now in the realm of The Golden Ones. A too green marshland stretches before you, where the leaves are illuminated from within and the light along their sharp edges seems to march like a scrolling marquee. The land is dotted here and there with old, gnarled trees that have human faces, and nymphs and water sprites dance among the foliage and shallow waterways. A white stag ambles by in the distance.

The scenery seems lovely, but you wonder how being here will protect you from the Dullahan. You expected to be brought to a castle, or a fortress, or some other place with defenses. Maybe just being beyond the veil of the glamour will be enough, you think. No man-made structures can stop a Dullahan; maybe the thin glamour will prove stronger. Or, at least, strong enough.

It doesn’t.

A sudden gust of hot air on your neck makes you shriek, and you whirl around to see the Dullahan and his black horse towering over you. The horse’s nostrils flare and his breath comes out in a burst of fire. Gan Ceann still holds his head aloft by the hair, and its ever moving dark eyes lock with yours. You fall back into the waters of the marsh as the soft, sunken, moldy cheese colored face splits into a horrifying toothy grin, impossibly wide, so wide it literally stretches ear to ear. The mouth opens, and you know the next breath will be your name and your soul will leave you. You do the only thing you can think to do in the split second you have left.

You throw your cell phone at the horse’s feet.

The back flies off and the screen shatters into a hundred shards. The horse rears up and jumps back. The Dullahan head screams. There is no name in his screeching cry. He yanks the reins around, and turns to ride out of the Seelie marshland the way he came.

He is gone. You are alive.

Your breaths come in ragged sobs. At first, you are confused. Relieved, but confused. As you reach for the remnants of your phone, you remember something that you never should have forgotten. If your phone was functional you would query the Internet. “How much gold is in a smartphone?” you would ask. “Enough” is the answer. There is enough.

You remember the wisps and dump your mason jar of treasures out onto the soggy marsh bank beside you to show your gratitude. They surround you while you stand and you thank Them again for their protection.

They are not dancing. They are not jingling, or tinkling, but They are making some airy sort of noise. It bubbles and echoes around you until you realize with horror that it is the tittering sound of laughter.

Your feet are rooted in the marsh. You do not feel them anymore, and do not see the way back to the campus. The luminescence of the marsh has become black, and in the dark all you see are the lights of the wisps and the glowing amber eyes of the trees. The trees with the human faces.

You will be favored here. You will live, and the Dullahan will never claim your soul.

Such is the price of Their protection.