The Eye of Carly’s Hope
Millie and her Aunt sat crouched in that small cave for hours discussing what to do about… Well, everything. They were interrupted occasionally by screeching monkeys, and once by Mark.
“Millie!” he said unable to hide his surprise, “and Mrs Moltari.”
Both Millie’s looked at him and their eyes gleamed a striking silver. They were locked in an enchantment that separated them from the real world, although they could hear his voice.
“Never mind,” he said, shrank back into a cat and left them to it.
A bit later, Æther popped into their enchantment through the cave wall. All the Millie’s could see were her eyes, nose and mouth. After much discussion, they decided young Millie would travel to the Eye of Carly’s Hope. She needed to find the jewel at the centre of its network of caves. The caves were littered with gems and jewels, but she could touch none other than the one Millie was sent to get.
“How will I know it?” Millie asked. “If there are so many gems?”
“You will know it,” Æther said, “because it will call to you, and only you.”
“Yes,” her Aunt said. “I envy you, child. No one has been able to pass the gatekeepers—”
“Gatekeepers?” Millie asked.
“Yes,” Æther said. “There are two. You will know them and if you are the seeker they have been waiting for, they will know you.”
“What if they don’t know me?” Millie asked, and although she was all over being a witch, she sensed an unnerving panic emanating from her Aunt. “Aunty?”
“Do not panic, child,” Æther said and smiled at her Aunt. “They will know you, for I know all.”
“Yes,” Millie began, “but how will they know me? I mean, if no one—”
“They will know you,” Æther snapped.
The two Millies gripped their joined hands tighter.
“Alright,” Aunt Millie said to Æther. “And please remain calm, but how do we get there?”
“We?” Æther asked and the sides of the cave slightly crumbled.
“I mean, Millie, how will Millie get there?” Aunt Millie asked. “And if it’s not too much bother, what about Sandra?”
Æther disappeared and the Millies didn’t know what was going on. They were about to break their hold when Æther returned.
“Sandra must remain sleeping for the journey to be successful,” Æther said. “The crystal which holds the hobgoblin remains, but the bones of dead gods have disappeared.”
“What does that mean?” Aunt Millie asked.
A jolt of horror moved through their clasped hands, and the Millies worried.
“It means, the essence of the hobgoblin is free,” Æther said. “Its husk is empty and I fear it has returned to live within Sandra. Without the bones, without the jewel, it will take her over completely.”
“Sandy,” Millie whispered, and her Aunt squeezed her hand.
“While Millie searches for the jewel,” Aunt Millie said. “I will gather the coven to find the bones.”
Æther went quiet and if they could see her eyebrows, the Millies presumed they would be pointing down towards her nose.
“Æther?” Aunt Millie called, and the stony eyes in the cave walls stared back at them.
“Only young Millie can undertake the journey for both,” Æther said.
“Not fair? I know, Mills,” Æther said. “They say the bones are within the caverns of the Eye of Carly’s Hope, though sometimes the dead lie. Millie? Only you can enter the Eye. Only you have any hope of returning… And what are you doing here anyway? I told Millie not to tell anyone.”
“You mean I could get lost?” Millie asked, but her question got lost in the cosmic argument brewing.
“Millie did nothing wrong,” her Aunt snapped. “I’ve always been able to read everyone's mind, Grace.”
“Oh really?” Æther snapped back. “Did you even guess where I was going when I walked into the Ether?”
“Well, no. You kept that one pretty close to your chest,” Aunt Millie said, “though I put that down to your grief blocking me.”
“You don’t even know how I ended up here, do you?” Æther angrily growled.
Millie, while holding her aunt's hand with her left, wrapped her right arm around her pulled-up knees. She sat back, remained quiet and hoped they’d forgotten about her.
“It was my mother,” Aunt Millie said, and the anger in her voice had toned down.
“Yes,” Æther said. “But your mother, like Sandra, desired great power because they had very little of their own, so the hobgoblin in that crystal gave it to them… But for a price.”
Aunt Millie had joined her niece, she hadn’t pulled her knees up, but the quiet was a good place to sit.
“That price was my daughter,” Æther continued, but it sounded like the fight had left her. “For you both, that price will be Sandra.”
“I’m sorry, Millie,” Æther said, “but if you do not succeed, then Sandra will die. The hobgoblin will eat her from the inside out.”
Aunt Millie’s mind was racing. She couldn’t let that happen.
“What can I, or the coven, do to help Sandy?” her Aunt asked.
A piece of paper floated from the Ether. It was still burning around its edges as it floated into Aunt Millie’s hand.
“I have been working on a Division of Self spell in the hopes it will help you, Mill’s,” Æther said. “It’ll need some tweaking, but get the ladies to work on it with you. Millie?”
“You have one full day, and one full night, to find the jewel and the bones,” Æther said.
“You mean, now?” Millie asked, and looked at the wind-up watch her mum and dad gave her for Christmas. ‘It’s almost five in the morning?”
“The sooner you leave, child, the better it will be for your sister,” Æther said. “But time in the Eye is said to be different than time in the world.”
“What does that mean?” Millie asked. “Is it more time, or less?”
“That I cannot tell you,” Æther said. “I have a stake in knowing. It makes the dead in the Ether become unhelpful.”
Aunt Millie was reading the spell Æther had given her, it was The Rite of Janus, and it was good.
Could do with a bit here, a little less there, she thought but of course, everyone there could hear her.
As I said, Mill’s, Æther said. It needs a bit of work, but I have faith in the coven, and I know Tess will throw her all into it. She has a gift not even she knows about yet. It will help.
As the sun began to rise, Aunt Millie left the cave and rushed back to the coven. Millie stayed behind with Æther.
“Grab your bag, maiden,” Æther said. “There is food and a change of clothes in it—”
“How’d you know—”
“I just know,” Æther said. “Hook it on tight, the first ride in a portal through rock can be pretty harsh.”
“A portal through—”
Millie didn’t get to finish that question. A large milky white swirling formed in one wall of the cave, and the form of a human stepped through. It had no features and was the exact same colour as the portal. Before Millie could utter a word, it touched her shoulder and pulled her into the swirling mass. Millie had no idea how long she’d been in there, but found herself being thrown through the air as the portal closed behind her.
She landed on stony ground, but when she looked up, all around her was greenery. Millie couldn’t see a cave anywhere. She got to her feet, straightened her backpack and was thankful she’d worn jeans and boots to school that day.
Maybe I knew? She thought and smiled. Now, which way to go?
Back at the coven, a breathless Millie raced through the doors.
“Help,” she cried. “Help.”
“Mill’s?” Tess said running to her side and helped her to a seat. “What’s going on? Where were you… and where’s Millie?”
“Here,” Aunt Millie said and passed the spell to someone.
She had no idea who took it. It was the first time she’d run like that since the bull.
“What’s this?” Abbey asked.
Aunt Millie looked up, saw the paper in Abbey’s hand and said, “It’s to help Sandra. We’ve gotta help, Sandy.”
“Here, drink this,” Rhianna said and handed Millie a hot tea, “and try to calm yourself. You look like you’re about to pass out.”
On the first sip, Aunt Millie swallowed the warmth of some concoction laced with brandy.
“Oh, Rhianna girl,” she said. “I love ya.”
They waited for Millie to finish her tea, then tried to leave it to Tess to ask her what was happening, but witches aren’t known for their patience.
“Where’s Millie?” Tess asked, and a chorus of voices moved through the room like a murmur of starlings. “Shush!”
“Okay,” Aunt Millie said, “can I have another, Rhianna?”
“You certainly can,” she said and smiled.
“Millie, has been taken to the Eye of Carly’s Hope,” she said, and that murmur changed to a gasping, gulping mass of “Oh no’s.”
“Shush,” Tess said and waved her right arm up behind her in a sweeping motion to calm the onlookers. “Why’s she been taken there?”
“To save, Sandra,” is all Millie could say.
Rhianna handed her another tea brandy. Millie drank it before telling them the whole story. Especially the part about the escaped hobgoblin, and the missing bones of dead gods.
“Think I’ll have one of those teas,” Tess said to Rhianna and sat on the floor at her sister's feet.
“Can we help in any other way than the spell?” Susan asked.
After a break and her breathing coming to some sort of resting state, Aunt Millie, who’d been working through things in her mind the entire time, was ready to delegate.
“We need to break up into smaller groups,” she said. “Those who are better at spells, writing and casting, will stay here.”
“That’s us,” Susan said holding up the spell.
She gathered a few ladies into a small living area they’d soundproofed, for… things.
“ Æther said the dead can sometimes lie, so that means the rest of us, not you Tess—”
“In a minute,” Millie said. “Those left, including me, will pair up and use our senses to see if we can sniff out those bones.”
“If Tess isn’t coming,” Jacquelin said, “that means one will be on their own unless you're not coming, Mill’s?”
“I’m coming, but think I’ll drop by Frank’s—”
“Oo oo, Frank,” a chorus of voices sang.
“Stop it,” Millie said. “You’re behaving like children.”
A low giggle murmured through them and Aunt Millie blushed.
“Anyway,” she said. “I’ll get Frank to come with me. He can get us into places that we couldn’t necessarily go… What?” she asked when she looked up to see her friends all smiling down at her.
“What do you mean, what, Mill’s?” Tess asked. “We all know. Surely you do too. You do know, don’t you?”
Tess suddenly realised her sister might not know Frank was infatuated with her. That Millie herself, might not know she was infatuated with Frank.
“Stop it!” Millie snapped, her pink flush shifting ever so subtly into a red burn. “I don't want to talk about it.”
“Drizzles on a cheese stick,” Tess said, sending everyone into fits of laughter. “How long you known each other? And you still… Come on, sis. Admit it.”
“I’ll admit nothing,” Aunt Millie said. “Now you’ve all got your assignments—”
“Can we help too,” a voice floated into the room.
They all turned to see Marly holding Mark in her arms.
“We can get into places no one else can,” she said.
“She’s right,” Abbey said. “They could be good in a pinch.”
“You don’t mind being a cat for a day or so, Marly?” Millie asked.
“Nope,” she said. “It’s the weekend and my parents know I’m spending it with Mark, under your supervision of course.”
Marly was smiling. Mark was purring.
“Alright then,” Aunt Millie said. “Would you mind coming with me and Frank, Marly… As a cat of course? And Mark can go with another group?”
Marly spoke with Mark in cat language—It was so adorable—they nuzzled noses, and Marly kissed him on the top of his head.
“He said that’s fine, but he can’t stop the change when the sun goes down,” Marly said. “So, someone will have to carry a bag of clothes for him.”
“Oo,” Rhianna said. “I can do that.”
“I can change at will, much like you all can, now,” Marly said, “I need someone to carry a dress and sandals for me.”
“I’ll carry them, Marl’s,” abbey said.
“Okay everyone, please do not change into your insect reflection unless it is absolutely necessary,” Millie said. “We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves.”
“What about me?” Tess asked.
“In a minute, sis,” Millie said. “You’ve got your assignments. No time to waste. Off you go.”
“Go where?” someone asked.
“To all the secret places, the sites of magic and those of mayhem,” she said. “You'll like that Abbey."
"Would I ever."
"We’ll keep in contact telepathically," Aunt Millie continued, "for those who don’t share that gift, make sure you pair up with someone who does.”
The witches paired up, and Millie saw them to the door. Marly changed into a cat, and Abbey picked up her clothes as they left. Millie took Tess by the hand and dragged her to the roof.
“Æther said you have a gift you don’t even know about, and it’s to do with the spell,” Millie said. “Do you know what she means?”
“Um,” Tess said, her mind frantically searching its outermost reaches, “no, sis. Got no idea what she’s talking about, but what about sandy?”
“We have to put our faith in Millie’s power, sis,” Millie said. “The spell is for the final part of everything we’re doing.”
“But my girls, sis,” Tess cried. “I can’t lose my girls.”
“You won’t,” Millie said. “We’re all going to make sure of that. I have to go, the days getting away from us.”
“But what do I do?”
“Sit back and think,” Millie said. “I don’t know… Maybe back to when you and Aster were friends? Could be something mother did that you saw coming and averted with a spell? Could be anything. Think about it.”
Aunt Millie looked at her watch, 6-am.
“Frank’ll be just getting up,” she muttered as she made her way to the stairs.
She was leaving a stunned Tess to take a traumatic trip down memory lane all by herself. Millie didn’t like it, but her sister had to dig into that pain to find whatever Æther was talking about. Tess sat in silence trying to figure out what gift she had that she didn’t know she had.
“Come on!” she cried to the sky, “just a hint?”
Tess was so busy, that when she was grabbed and pulled from her chair, she yelled, “Exmaltia knot.”
Whatever grabbed her flew into a deck chair on the other side of the roof.
“Damn,” Aunt Millie said trying to catch her breath after having the wind knocked out of her. “You got some power, sis.”
When Tess saw who it was she laughed so hard she had to cross her legs.
“What are you doing back here?” she asked.
“I just came back to give you a hug,” Millie said.
She got out of the chair and walked back to where Tess was standing. Millie pulled her in for a hug.
“Even though I’m not here, sis, I’ll still be with you,” she said, kissed Tess on the cheek, and pulled her in for another hug, before saying, “Goodbye.”
Tess watched her sister through a veil of tears.
While this was going on, Millie was blindly walking through thick shrubs, during snake season, looking for that cave opening...
Millie is lost in the northeast Tasmanian wilderness. I have a question for you, and please leave your comments either in the comments below, or follow the link to my Facebook or Linkedin pages.
#NaNoWriMo is coming up, and I would like to know if you, The #AdventuresOfMillieAndSandra connoisseurs, would like the last episode of season-3, to be a short Ebook?
It would be free of course, but Millie’s about to go where no one has gone before and I think it requires a bit more than a 5000-word short story
As I said, let me know in the comments below or on my FB or Linkedin pages. I will also be creating a sticky of this letter to my readers for that purpose.
If you’d rather have another short story, then I will write that at the beginning of December.
About the author
I write primarily, Urban Fantasy, but because my style sits on the cuff of several genres moving into paranormal fantasy was an easy step. I became a Vocal+ member to provide interactive access for my readers.