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The last of the More Joy prompts: Guin and Jeffrey - Laura Wise

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February 8th, 2013


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08:13 am - The last of the More Joy prompts: Guin and Jeffrey
It's Friday! I'm swamped and feeling swampish, exhausted from a rollicking bout of insomnia last night, and struggling with New Dog of the House -- but we persevere.

And, since this is just about a month after I took prompts, it's also the end of More Joy, er, Month.

mobile_alh asked for a visit with Guin and Jeffrey (whom I introduced to you in a Halloween story in 2011). Time has moved on, change is coming....


“Jeffrey dear.”

Guinevere James spoke her husband's name with perhaps less sweetness than was her wont – but she had said it three times already, and yet he was still squinting at the notes for his Sunday sermon and chewing on the tip of his pencil in a most maddening way.

This iteration of his name, however, was enough to jolt him from over-zealous contemplation of Proverbs. He blinked, looked up, clearly took in the significance of her coat and sensible shoes, and said, “Oh my dear, is it that time already?”

“As you see, Jeffrey.” With her free hand she waved at the long-case clock inherited from her Aunt Isolde and brought with her to the Vicarage upon her and Jeffrey's marriage. It had struck ten o'clock whilst he was scribbling.

It was a peculiar clock indeed: on its face was painted a lady's gloved hand and the taper it grasped. On holy dates of the magickal calendar, the represented candle burst into painted flame – although only the ladies in direct line of the gift could see this transient fire. After their marriage Jeffrey too had been able to make out the flames, albeit dimly: this was a great mark of natural favor, but perhaps appropriate for her consort. They had changed more than one tradition.

Tonight the painted candle burned so strongly blue and green that Guin could almost smell the smoke.

“Sorry, dearest.” With dispatch he stowed away pencil and notes, then collected his coat and blessed dagger. He didn't offer to carry her basket for her – that would be ridiculous, since the evening's task was by blood and choice hers – but he draped a lacy cashmere scarf around her shoulders and checked her gloves' fit with a caress before ushering her out their front door.

(He neither could nor would attempt an arrogation of her duties, but he did insist that she ward herself against taking a chill. She allowed this fussing, although didn't admit that it gave her enormous pleasure. He knew, nevertheless.)

The night – the midpoint between winter solstice and equinox, this year dark under a new moon – was fair and chilly. The two of them walked quickly and silently, hand in hand, through their sleepy, well-curtained village of Nether Sett. They thus had walked the lane many nights, but tonight....

Although Guin still smelled smoke, now it came from ahead. She urged Jeffrey forward with a stronger clasp of his hand.

Behind the Loaf of Bread lay the wood where the lost yet tethered sorcerer Malalibre haunted. Guin and Jeffrey – after anticipating their public marriage vows and in the pleasurable process making a handfast promise to each other that strengthened Guin's already formidable powers – had managed to release Malalibre from the worst of the animal possession in which his long-ago spells had entrapped him. Yet they were still laboring to break his link to the copse where he'd endured so many centuries in pain.

In the time she had been researching Malalibre and his curse, she had realized two things: one, that he had been a very bad person indeed; two, that after his long magick incarceration, he was ready to try goodness. He was, she thought, ready to try anything.

But the smoke still teased at her; she could see it now, rising grey against black sky. She and Jeffrey hurried on.

The path into the woods was dry, unnaturally clear of debris. Smoke curled through the trees. It was sage that burned.

Jeffrey whispered, “Guin--”

“No.” She spoke quietly, and released his hand. “Follow.”

In the depths of her basket she found her blessed candle, and then lit it with a word. The light enveloped her and Jeffrey in an unwavering circle of protection.

The light also showed her the shadow, too near, too near. Malalibre – face still badger, body a man's – stood just on the other side. In his hands he cradled sage. Where had the creature obtained it?

“My lady and her priest,” said Malalibre. “You come too slow.”

“My fault,” Jeffrey began, “I was writing--”

“Jeffrey dear.” She had only to speak his name, and he looked apologetic and subsided. Thus she turned her attention to the creature of sorcerous intent. “Now, sir, what mean you by these tricks?”

“Tricks, my lady?” Haunted eyes gleamed in the darkness.

“Don't try to be amusing. If you ever had the knack, it's been long lost.” She forestalled his growl by lifting the candle higher. Then, “Jeffrey dear, would you....”

“Of course.” He unerringly pulled the small linen page out of her basket. In the candlelight the old illuminated letters shone blue, gold, red.

Of Spring and New Life ran in Gothic script at the top of the page.

Malalibre saw, and his indrawn breath was a sob. “My lady!”

“At the equinox, sir magician. That will be your freedom. If--” She raised a hand in reproof-- “You stop trying to access your own spells. Please remember what brought you to this unhappy pass.”

She did not mention the hundreds of deaths he had caused over the years. She knew that he was aware, and as ashamed as one of his type could be.

And indeed he now dropped to his knees before her and Jeffrey. Transparent hands let smoke go, and clasped themselves together, and he bowed his head. “My lady, my lady. I am so hungry, and yet so grateful.”

“Well, then. Jeffrey?”

“Yes, dear.” He took the silver flask out of the basket, uncapped it, and much in the reverent manner of his presiding over his Communion services, put it to her lips.

The water she had purified that morning was cold, cold as Malalibre's long-ago heart, but refreshing. After she took her drink, she gave Jeffrey the basket and took the flask and then, incanting under her breath, poured three drops on Malalibre's head. One for the years he had waited, two for the weeks he had yet to endure, three for the promise of spring in a chilly winter night.

Good steam rose when the water touched him, and the last traces of smoke disappeared as his face changed, badger to human to wolf.

“I do wish you'd get that under control,” she said.

With a soft howl he closed his eyes. Strained. Became (if only for a breath) all human, all ache.

“Possess yourself in patience, sir,” she said, and gave him from the basket a palm's worth of bread and jam. “We shall see you on the equinox.”

“Yes.” Malalibre and his winter meal faded on the word.

She and Jeffrey stood for another moment, there on the path, there in the light. Then she kissed him and said, “Do you have your torch, Jeffrey dear?”

He rooted around in his coat pocket. “Yes indeed.”

“Then let us trade light for light, and we should go home.”

“Yes, Guin dearest.”

They walked back through the sleeping village, hand in hand, quickly and silently. It was still winter, and right now.... well, right now she wanted the comfort of a cup of tea and her husband.

Soon, however, it would be spring, and all would be well. Guinevere James would make sure of it.

.................

Soon, soon it will be spring indeed (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere). May the new season be a blessing!

(12 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:paratti
Date:February 8th, 2013 01:24 pm (UTC)
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Loved it.
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From:laurawise
Date:February 8th, 2013 02:13 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, L! Happy Friday, and better health.
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From:anne_d
Date:February 8th, 2013 02:30 pm (UTC)
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I do love your original characters!
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From:laurawise
Date:February 8th, 2013 02:39 pm (UTC)
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Thank you so much, A! [beams]

Have an awesome Friday!
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From:janus_74
Date:February 8th, 2013 03:41 pm (UTC)
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Very nice :) I think I'll go and re-read the Halloween story again too.
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From:laurawise
Date:February 8th, 2013 04:28 pm (UTC)
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Thank you thank you, T, and More Joy to you on this Friday!
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From:mamculuna
Date:February 8th, 2013 04:59 pm (UTC)
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So glad to see the return of Guin! Good to think she's out there taking care... and love the almost-repentant sorcerer and his transformation issues.
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From:laurawise
Date:February 8th, 2013 06:06 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! Guin and Jeffrey are characters I like thinking about, so I'm thrilled you enjoyed this visit. :)

More Joy to you this and every month.
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From:mobile_alh
Date:February 14th, 2013 01:20 am (UTC)
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Oh, so worth the wait! And many thanks for reminding me to check back...I always lose track of posts on bookfair weekends.

hugs and a toast to Guin and Jeffrey
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From:laurawise
Date:February 14th, 2013 11:39 am (UTC)
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Guin and Jeffrey -- and I -- thank you, ALH. Glad it pleased. :)

And hugs and a happy weekend ahead, no matter what you're doing!
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From:stevie_carroll
Date:February 18th, 2013 08:50 pm (UTC)
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Oh, very nice.
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From:laurawise
Date:February 19th, 2013 12:13 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, Stevie! And More Joy to you. :)

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