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Grace

The Adventures of Millie and Sandra S03E05

By Karen Eastland Published 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 18 min read
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Lealiance - Hobgoblin

Moving with care through souls lost, some new, many forgotten, Millie begins to lose her moments of life intended to for a future she’s likely lost. Rhianna was gone, not lost but back with her sisters. Aunt Millie and Tess arrived just in time to hear Rhianna’s panicked cries.

“Millie,” she was screaming, “gods, she is lost and with no anchor—”

“Millie?” Tess asked. “What’s happened to my daughter?”

“It separated us,” Rhianna said. “We’d just made it into a cavern of lost souls then forced apart by something… I don’t know what, but Millie. She’s no way of getting back.”

“Hey,” Sandra said, with the door slamming behind her. “Still getting used to landing… what’s going on?”

The coven turned to look at her and their faces said more than Sandra ever wanted to hear.

“Where’s my sister?” Sandra demanded.

While the coven filled Sandra in and discussed ways of finding Millie in an ever-expanding ether, Millie's mind was reeling. She’d just made it through a large area of the lost without getting touched. Then she heard a familiar voice call her name.

“Millie? Millie? Is that you?”

“Granny Ellen?” Millie asked and a dense fog like atmosphere parted in front of her.

“Oh, Millie,” a female voice said. “Why are you here?”

“Me?” Millie asked when a small group of souls off to one side were revealed, “what are… I mean, have you been… grand pappy Eustace? Mark? Is that you, Mark, and Marly? Oh, I’ve been looking for you… but how did you all come together?”

Millie’s grand pappy and granny-Ellen parted any wayward souls, so she had a safe, and direct, line to Marly and Mark.

“We’ve been waiting for you, Millie,” granny Ellen said.

“But how’d you know—”

“You were coming for Marly?” granny Ellen asked. “Time is different here, young Millie. We knew you were coming before you did. Marly arrived long before she became a shifter. The ether has a way of preparing for us. We are always here, my child. Even your shadow self is in the ether somewhere.”

“Does that mean Grandma Meryl’s here?” Millie asked.

“It does,” her grand pappy said. “She was always a bad egg, young Millie.”

“A bad egg indeed,” granny Ellen finished for him. “There’s a special place for beings like her. We do not speak of it and we do not look for it.”

“She’s your daughter,” Millie said, then thought, if anyone would know about her grandmother, it’d be her parents. “But Marly? Mark?” Millie asked, still reeling from finding them all together.

“Oh Millie,” Marly said, “I’d love to hug you, but it would be bad, but your granny and grand pappy found me when I arrived… it was like I didn’t have family here, so they took me in, then we found Mark and they’ve taken care of us while we waited for you.”

***

While Millie learned secrets of the ether, panic and arguments abounded throughout the coven.

“How do we get her back?” Tess demanded, yelling over the top of all the other voices.

Everyone became quiet. Everyone turned to look at Aunt Millie. She was usually the level-headed “I know what to do” elder, but the ether was not her baby.

“Rhianna?” Aunt Millie asked. “You know more about the ether than anyone here—”

Everyone turned to Rhianna, and the yelling, crying, arguing began again.

“Stop it!” Rhianna said.

“Yes, shut it!” Aunt Millie demanded, and had to send Tess a hairy eyeball to make her stop.

Aunt Millie knew Tess and Sandra were panicking more than the rest, if that was possible, but she had to give Rhianna the quiet, the time, to think about what she could do. Scrying wouldn’t help, nor would a locator spell.

“Okay,” Aunt Millie said. “If we are to find Millie, Rhianna needs quiet… and some hot tea with a dash of brandy?”

Rhianna took a seat and a hot tea was in her hand before she could get comfortable.

“Right, Rhianna,” Aunt Millie said. “Think about where you and Millie got separated.”

“We’d just found a cavern full of lost souls, and one brushed against Millie… it took some of her life force, Tess,” Rhianna said, devolving into tears, “for all I know she’s already dead.”

“No,” Tess said, “I refuse to believe that. Millie’s a bright little witch and a dragonfly—"

“Yes, yes,” Sandra said. “She’s a dragonfly… we’re dragonflies. There’s nothing we can’t do.”

Sandra sounded certain of herself, and was giving a good show of confidence, but her insides burned like fat on a barbecue.

“Then what?” Aunt Millie asked Rhianna.

“I’d just told her how dangerous it was for the lost to touch her when a thick black, cloud like mist engulfed me and she let go of my hand,” she said. “I looked and looked, screamed her name, but she was gone, so I snapped back into my body in this dimension “We will,” Aunt Millie said. “Millie’s a bright little witch. Always takes warnings with the seriousness in the wisdom in which they are imparted.”

“Agreed,” was the word moving throughout the sacred space.

“In the eye of Carly’s Hope shall you find the way to bring Millie home,” Susan, the dimensional guardian, said.

Rhianna dropped her cup of tea on the tiled floor. The China cups fracturing made all heads turn to look at Susan. Like Sandra had that day in the kitchen, Susan was floating above the floor. Her feet were dragging behind her, and her eyes had rolled up into the back of her head. With mouths agape and eyes like saucers, Susan’s visage transformed before their eyes. Susan was now Grace.

Grace, a powerful witch, was the coven's original dimensional guardian, who willingly walked into the ether after Meryl murdered her daughter, Aster, Tess’s best friend.

“Carly’s Hope?” Jacqulyn asked.

“Yes,” Grace said. “It’s me, and the Eye of Carly’s Hope is the entrance to a volcanic tube hidden beneath hundreds of years of granite and clay. It is an anomaly for Tasmania. Few are charged with the knowledge of where the tube is.”

“Wow,” Frieda said, walking into the room. “Grace? Hey. How you doing?”

“I am well, Frieda.”

“Grace?” Tess asked, her voice sounding small in the room's silence.

“Tess. Dear sweet Tess,” Grace said, floating to the floor in front of her. “If I had known how bad you had it with Meryl, I would have got you away from Meryl before I left.”

“But… Aster. Did you find Aster?” Tess asked, a tear running down her cheek.

“I did,” Grace said. “Now. You have lost one of your daughters to the ether, Tess. I can help.”

The coven was dumb struck.

“Grace?” Aunt Millie finally asked. “Is it really you?”

“It is me, old friend,” Grace said. “I’ve come to lead Rhianna back to young Millie…Sisters.”

“Take a seat,” someone said.

“What’s it like living in the ether?” another asked.

Questions were flowing thick and fast. Eventually, Grace had enough and was running out of time.

“Okay!” she said. “Rhianna?”

“Yes?”

“Follow these coordinates,” Grace said, and brushed a hand over her face. “They will lead you to Carly’s Hope. Retrieve nine obsidian shards and return with haste.”

Rhianna shifted through the wall and every witch felt her essence leave their dimension for another.

“I’ve come for one reason, sisters,” Grace continued. “To lead Rhianna back to your lost sister, Millie.”

“Oh, thank you, Grace,” Tess said, unable to hold back tears. “Thank you.”

“Okay. Not to put too fine a point on it,” Grace began, “but Millie’s running out of time.”

Sandra didn’t know what was going on, apart from the fact that Millie was missing, then Celia floated from her bag, and the moment Grace saw the crystal and how attached it was to Sandra, she freaked.

“Where,” she bellowed, “did that come from?”

Everyone turned to see Celia as she floated back into the bag.

“Oh, this? This is Celia,” Sandra said and smiled. “She was grandmothers and now she’s mine.”

“That is a hobgoblin—"

“Told you,” Aunt Millie said, gently elbowing Tess in the ribs.

Low laughter filtered around the sacred space. Even Grace, uncharacteristically stoic in her new demeanour, cracked a smile.

“It is a tool of evil, young witch,” Grace said to Sandra, then turned to the coven, a tear sliding down her cheek, a constant reminder of its role in Aster’s, Grace’s daughter’s death. “That thing murdered Aster… murdered my daughter. I don’t understand?” she wailed into the minds of those present and all, but Sandra felt the shame of a thousand witches deaths.

“Celia helped us kill grandmother,” Sandra said in defence of her friend.

“For a younger body!” Grace bellowed.

A menacing growl rose up out of the bag and Tess captured Sandra’s attention. Aunt Millie snatched the bag from her, and Sandra fell to her knees. Her eyes rolled up into the back of her head and a long drawn out, blood-curdling scream reached out from deep inside Sandra and shook their sacred space. She thrashed about in her mother's grip. Several witches rushed to help restrain her.

“Hurry,” Aunty Millie said, and Jacqulyn snatched the bag from Sandra’s grip. It wasn’t easy. The hobgoblin did not want to let go of her.

“Get it into the Box of Bones,” Aunt Millie said, “and lay it gently on the Ostrich eggs… do not crack any of them, otherwise it’ll escape.”

Aunt Millie knew the Box of Bones would hold it for a while, but the coven was at a loss about what to do with Sandra. Her piercing scream was unrelenting. Neither a breath, nor a break, did Sandra take.

“Bring her to me,” Grace said, and they dragged Sandra to her.

She was biting, scratching, kicking, but Grace reached out and placed a finger on her forehead. Sandra suddenly stopped. She became stiff as a board and the only part of her that still moved was her open, raging eyes. “That will do until I can take Lealiance into myself.”

“Lealiance?” Tess asked.

“That’s its real name,” Grace said.

“How do you know?” Tess asked as she and the others laid Sandra on the floor at the centre of the pentagram.

“The ether knows all things and I am the ether, sisters.”

“But—”

“Enough,” Grace commanded. “I can only take this form for a short time.”

Just as Grace said that, Rhianna walked back through the wall. Her entrance back into their dimension seemed to reach down their throats and pull out their gullets. It was only a moment, but more than one sister dry retched. In her hand was a blue silk bag full of shards.

“Welcome back, sister,” Grace said. “I see you were successful?”

“Yeah,” Rhianna said, sounding as though she’d run a marathon.

“Elder Millie? Take the shards and pass one to eight other sisters. Surround Sandra and lay them down so close that they look like they’re touching, but not.”

Eight witches surrounded Sandra’s paralysed body and as one, they lay the shards down.

“Right,” Grace continued, “we can go about our work without interference by the hobgoblin and his human tool.”

A shiver rode through Tess. Millie was lost to the ether and Sandra was essentially a magical object in a magical coma for everyone’s protection.

“What do we do?” Tess asked.

“Rhianna? You will use me as an anchor, and I will lead you to the lost witch,” Grace said. “I cannot go myself, but I can lead an astral body to her. I am not lost, but when Susan returns, you will have lost the only way of finding your daughter, young Tess.”

The room fell into silence. Grace and Rhianna’s eyes locked, and everyone inhaled audibly when Grace reached into Rhianna’s chest and pulled her astral body from her physical body. Then they both disappeared into the ether.

***

Back in the ether, Millie was learning the history of Celia. Where she, more precisely it, came from, what “it” was.

“A hobgoblin?” she asked granny Ellen, “how—”

“Your grandmother,” she responded.

“Meryl?” Millie asked. “But how?”

“She was a problem child from the start. We knew she had no control over her gift of absorption,” granny Ellen continued, “but the more power she absorbed, the more she wanted. Then she found out about creatures of pure magic—”

“Hobgoblins,” Millie said.

“Not just hobs,” grand pappy said, “anything of pure magic.”

“She was unrelenting in her search… I blame myself of course,” granny Ellen said, “she was a butterfly, a common one at that, we did our best to make her feel loved, accepted, but we, my dear Millie, are royalty. Dragonflies. You dear girl, are a descent of gold skimmers and are so proud your family are all dragonflies.”

“What about me?” Marly asked, if for no other reason than to remind them she was still there.

After a brief burst of laughter, Millie remembered why she was there, and she was lost. The lost souls, all four, had surrounded her to keep her safe. Millie couldn’t afford to lose any more life. She’d already lost a year or more. At the rate she was going, Millie would have, at best, left the ether as an adult, or not leave it at all.

“Millie?” an eerie disembodied voice called, and it appeared to be coming from some way from them.

“What was that?” Millie asked. It was as if the ether itself was calling for her. “Am I safe?”

“Here,” granny Ellen called in response to the voice. “You are safe. The ether is looking for exactly where you are. It wants to save you.”

“What about me… and Mark?” Marly asked.

“You can mostly go home, young Marly,” grand pappy said.

“Mostly?”

“Yes, mostly,” granny Ellen said. “You are not fully human anymore, but because Millie has come to take you home, you can now decide when to shift and when not to.”

“So, I’ll be mostly human… and can go home?” Marly asked, but her joy quickly faded, and fear gripped her heart. “What about Mark?”

“I can’t go, Marly,” Mark said. “I am long dead, five-hundred-years dead, but I am so happy that you can go home.”

“But… I love you?”

“And I love you, Marly,” Mark said. “We will still spend time together. The only thing that’s changed is that you get to go home. I will still love you, no matter who, or where, you are.”

With that, the walls of the cavern suddenly shimmered and Millie heard her name as though it was entwined in a strange wind. She looked up and floating above her was Rhianna, and her astral body was wrapped in ether.

“Rhianna!” Millie cried. “You found me.”

“Millie,” Rhianna said, her relief palpable.

“Take Marly’s hand,” grand pappy said.

“Yes,” granny Ellen said. “Now! You must follow Rhianna home.”

Millie took Marly’s hand in hers, then pushed off from the ether floor of the cavern, in the place where she’d been cornered. Neither girl could risk getting touched by the lost. If the lost got a taste for their lives, they would descend upon them and suck that life right out of them until they too were too old to be saved.

“I love you, Marly,” Mark called, “and will see you soon.”

“We will miss you, Millie,” granny and grand pappy called, “and will watch over you.”

“Bye granny, grand pappy, Mark,” Millie called and was almost to the exit of the cavern when her granny-Ellen called to her.

“Millie? To kill the daemon...” but Millie was too far to hear and could not risk turning back.

Before Millie knew what was happening, she was shifting back into her physical body, but panicked, Where’s Marly?

“Marly has been returned to her physical body, young witch,” Grace said, and when Millie looked up to see who was talking, and with her ability to see beyond veils, she saw Susan surrounded by ether.

“Susan?” she asked.

“Not at the moment, young Millie. I’m Grace. Welcome home and be very careful from now on. I’d say stay out of the ether, but I know your future and it would be a futile warning.”

“Huh,” Millie said.

She was confused, but happy to be back with her family. Before she stood up, she looked to her left and saw Sandra lying next to her.

“What’s… what’s happened to Sandra?” she asked.

“Grace had to put her down for a while,” her mum said.

“But… her eyes, they’re following me,” Millie said.

She was still lying next to her twin but had rolled to her side and was resting her head up with her left hand. Millie raised a hand and ran her index finger to Sandra’s nose, then back again.

“Stop it, Millie,” her aunt said, but there was laughter behind her words.

Millie pulled her hand away but couldn’t look away.

“At the risk of sounding like Sandra, it’s absolutely fascinating… her eyes look like they’re following me… imagine if she stayed this way, wouldn’t it be delicious?”

“You’re right,” Aunt Millie said. “You do sound like your sister. Stop it.”

“All right, so I got Marly, but couldn’t get Mark. He was too old to return to his body,” Millie said. “What really happened to Sandra?”

“Celia,” her mum said.

“Actually,” Grace said, “Lealiance.”

“Who?” Millie asked.

“Never mind,” Rhianna said, and pulled her in for a hug. “The crystal ball is a—”

“Hobgoblin,” Aunt Millie said, tired of everyone stealing her thunder.

“What’s a hobgoblin?” Millie asked.

“A tricky, malevolent sprite like creature,” her aunt said, “and it’s really been working Sandra.”

“What do you mean?” Millie asked. “Sandra’s going to be okay… isn’t she?”

“Yes, yes, sweetie,” her mum said. “Look at me. Do I look worried?”

“No.”

“Then you don’t need to worry. I would trust Grace with mine, and your, life,” her mum said.

“The hobgoblin attuned itself to the crystal. Its bearer can only be free of its grasp if I take it into myself,” Grace said. “I will carry it to the untravelled valley, Ghost Man's Gorge.”

“But won’t it infect you too?” Tess asked, an old fear rising within… an old memory.

“To hold the attuned goblin within the crystal, it must be placed on the bones of dead gods,” Grace continued.

“They're not easy to come by,” Aunt Millie said, “but Grace would know where they are.”

“But how do we shift it from the Box of Bones and keep Sandra safe?” Rhianna asked.

“I will bind Sandra with my power,” Grace said, “until the crystal has been laid upon the bones.”

“So, a few days?” Millie asked and smiled.

“A few hours, cheeky girl,” Grace said and floated to where Millie was. Running a hand down along her cheek, she said, “you’re so like your mother,” and Millie felt the thrill of the ether move through her.

Tess took Millie’s hand in hers and smiled up at Grace.

“Thank you, Grace,” she said. “I am so happy you found Aster. Please give her my love. I miss her so much.”

Tissues were doing the rounds. The room was getting weepy.

“I must go,” Grace said. “Susan needs her body back, and I need the crystal.”

“Oh, yeah,” Rhianna said, and rushed from the room.

She was gone for a few minutes. When she returned, the crystal ball was covered with a tea towel, blessed of course. The crystal was vibrating violently between Rhianna’s hands, but she held it tight, and Grace reached out and covered it with ether.

“Here,” Rhianna said, carefully passing it to Grace.

When Grace took ownership of the crystal ball, its vibration became so violent, the very structure of their sacred space shook and Millie saw a ripple effect shimmer. The hobgoblin was trying to escape, but it was no match for Grace.

“Must go,” Grace said. “Know this, I watch over you all and help when and if I can. Goodbye my sisters.”

A chorus of “byes” echoed around the room as Grace disappeared and Susan reappeared.

“Well. That was interesting,” Susan said, and smiled. “Could do with a cuppa.”

***

Back at City Park, something came over Marly. Mark, who sees with the eyes of a cat, saw the moment Marly was returned to her body. It was also the moment he realised his soul could not.

“Marly,” he said.

“What is it?”

“Shift.”

“What? Why? It’s too early yet,” Marly said, but saw an odd look in Mark’s beautiful silver-grey eyes.

“Please,” Mark said. “Shift… for me?”

“But if I shift, then we can’t snuggle again until tomorrow.”

“True… if I shift too, that is,” he said.

“What? You’re not going to?” Marly asked. “I suppose it is getting late… what’s going on?”

“Nothing. Just try… please?”

“All right,” Marly said, “be rubbing up against your leg in a minute.”

With a cheeky smile, Marly shifted into a gorgeous ginger cat.

“Now shift back again,” Mark said to her loud purrs and gentle nudging against his leg.

The purring stopped and the Marly cat stepped away and shifted back into her human self.

“What the… what just happened?” she asked.

“Millie found you in the ether,” Mark said. His heart breaking, but he swallowed his pain and made sure Marly could only sense his happiness for her. “You can shift at will now… which means...”

“I can go home,” Marly said. “I can go home!”

“Yes, you can,” he said.

“But what about you?” Marly asked. “I’m certain Millie wouldn’t come back without you.”

“I am over five-hundred-years-old, Marly,” Mark said. “I always knew I could not come back… it’s almost night, Marly. You have to go.”

“What? No!” she cried. “I’m not leaving you.”

“But you have to—”

“You’re coming with me,” Marly said.

“I can’t, Marly, I’m a cat.”

“You’re a cat who’s kept me alive since, since… I was kidnapped, that’s right. Kidnapped by some… bad man… who I never saw and… don’t know where he kept me,” Marly said with force.

“Marl’s?”

“I won’t take no for an answer, and you’ve run out of time,” she said, just as he transformed into a cat.

She picked Mark up, made her way out of the cave, then ran as fast as she could back to her home.

“Mum, dad, rob,” she screamed, running up the front steps to the wooded porch.

She was crying, dirty and dressed in old snow dropped clothing and oversized gum boots. “Mummy!”

“Marly? Is that Marly?” she heard her dad call as she reached for the front doorknob.

The door flew open, and Marly’s family were all standing in shock.

“Oh, Marly. Marly,” her mum cried, and ran outside, into her outstretched arms. Marly’s mum wrapped her in her arms. Mark squealed and Marly shifted him, so he didn’t get squashed. Before she knew what was happening, her dad and brother had joined in.

By the end of the night, Marly had woven a horrific tale about what had happened to her and that her cat, snuggles—Mark had growled at the name—had been her only friend.

“It’d be strange for me to have a cat and a boyfriend called Mark,” Marly whispered to him in the few precious moments she was able to get to be by herself. Mark agreed.

“But snuggles?”

Lying in her own bed that night after the police finally left, with Mark snuggled up against her, she whispered, “I think I’ll be an actor. What do you think?” she asked, stroked his head and scratched him under his chin.

When her family went to bed, it was a day, and a mountain of food, later. Marly shifted into a cat and snuggled with Mark. Marly introduced Mark, the human, to her family during the few hours he gets in his human form. He moved into the apartment above the coven's sacred space and got to experience a semi normal life with his Marly, though the daemon still hunted the park, it could no longer smell Marly’s blood. Marly’s biological makeup had altered so much that her original scent had disappeared. Rob’s hadn’t, and the coven was working on destroying, or at the very least, capturing the beast.

Marly and Mark became honorary members of the coven because anyone attaching themselves to the twins had to be monitored. It took three-hours for Sandra to get unparalysed that night, but Millie and a couple of other younger witches had some fun posing her until she, Tess and Aunt Millie told them to stop it. Sandra remembered it all. She didn’t, however, remember Celia, or Lealiance, or the crystal.

That's a win, Millie thought that night, lying in her bed looking for sleep and sleep evading her. Granny-Ellen and grand pappy... just how I remember them, but how to kill a daemon?

"A trial for another day," she said, rolled to her side and closed her eyes, but every time she did, the ether was all she could see, feel, experience. "What did Grace mean?"

Millie rolled onto her back and stared into the darkness.

Adventure
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About the Creator

Karen Eastland

In addition to my creative pursuits, I'm also a dedicated advocate for education and literacy. Through my writing, I seek to inspire others to follow their passions, to make a positive impact on their world.

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