Heike hunts for clues . . .
“I will go by the pavilion this afternoon,” she said as she presented the wallaby with a turquoise-colored, quartered tomato.
Walburga nibbled delicately, then devoured her treat. Heike cut one small slice from the crusty loaf and set it within paw’s reach, then made herself something more substantial. Her brother turned up his nose at soft sausages, for reasons Heike failed to understand. A good layer of liver sausage, some cheese, and two anchovies-in-tomato made for a most wonderful sandwich. She had three tins of herring, and smoked herring in the freezer, but those would keep for a special occasion.
Heike washed the dishes, then considered her knitting. “A baby jacket. Those always move quickly.” And people paid for baby things even when they balked at buying for themselves. Ah, for the days of high spending spa guests, but that was then. Sighs never bought a sausage. She settled into her knitting corner and selected a soft blue yarn, then a gentle cream. Walburga dozed, lower half in the sun. Heike tied the yarn, then tapped her needles twice, right over left, then left over right, and began. The tiniest hint of magic flowed through the silver needles, speeding the work and brushing the jacket-to-be. Would it ease teething? Or soothe an unhappy belly? Or perhaps help the new baby to sleep? That was for the Lord to decide. Heike only turned the yarn into a jacket.
When the spill of light on the floor showed three by the sun, Heike stopped. She had a good start to the back of the little jacket, and she put her work into the cloth-lined basket, stood, and stretched, then shook out her hands and wrists. Walburga remained fast asleep, as Heike had anticipated. The thaumatovet said that Walburga would need another month to fully recover from their work up on the North Sea, and not to be overly concerned about her lingering fatigue until August. Heike visited the washroom, collected her keys, and went for a stroll.
She followed the road east as it curved around the hill, then up a touch to Kurfurstenstraße. After looking all ways for cars, Heike trotted across the intersection and turned north. One could hardly miss the large sign announcing the Dunsthöhle, the gas cave or pit. Heike paused to read the sign and remind herself of the land around and under her. A little breeze swept up the long hill from the river, rustling the leaves of the old trees that shaded the park around the pavilion. She did not see anyone else lingering in the park, so she nodded as if making note of the sign, and turned onto the path in the park. She did not approach the pavilion. It would be locked, and the policewoman standing near the entrance kiosk glowered around at the world. Heike strolled along the soft tan dirt trail until she’d moved out of sight of the official guarding the scene. Then she retreated to the shelter of shade and silence.
Heike took a long, settling breath. Then she crouched, resting her fingers on the bare soil at the roots of a bee-loud chestnut tree. “Und die trockene Lande der von die Wassern separaierte. Und die Lande heisste Er Erde und die Wassern See.” And He separated the dry land from the waters, and called the land Earth and the waters the sea. The mage drew power from within herself and looked at the ground. Cracks below the grass reached down, far down, tapping gasses in the rock and bringing them to the surface. She sensed the water springs south and west, the spa springs and city spring. Here at the carbon dioxide pit, no water crossed the crack in the earth. CO2 flowed into the improved sink-hole, filling it or not depending on the air pressure around the pavilion. Heike allowed her self to descend into a light trance, reading the stones around and inside the pavilion.
How long she looked, she did not know. Cramps in her legs pulled her mind back to herself, and she stood with care, then stretched as the runners did. She drank from the small fountain, cupping her hands to catch the flow of cold, sour water that streamed out of the spigot into a basin. The sun eased some of the aches, and Heike stretched again, then finished her walk around the little park. Rather than raise suspicions, she cut south to the east-west road and followed it back west past Kurfurstenstraße to her corner, then trudged down hill two houses to the cottage. Once inside, she drank an entire pot of tea and munched on a chocolate bar, then had more Studentenfutter, student-chow. The salty, fatty mix helped ground her. The clock showed half-past four.
“What did you find?” Walburga inquired once her mage had recovered from the working.
Heike considered, sorting through her memories as she basked in the sun through the window. Stone always chilled her. “The land is well. But magic is still lingering at the pavilion. That I do not care for. It . . .” she sorted memories once more, trying to recall the exact sense of the power. “It does not seem to be blood magic, but it tapped the death. The caster did not intend that.” She blinked several times. “How odd. The caster didn’t mean for the woman to die in such a way. But his spells and something else responded to the death and drew strength from it. The stones remember.”
Walburga chewed, ears flicking back and forth as if flies bothered her. “So we must work Thursday night, ja?”
“Ja.” New of the moon, and they could not permit such traces to remain for others to encounter. Very bad things grew from just such beginnings. The work would be difficult, even with darkness helping them. “Should I warn Josef?”
Walburga reached into her pouch and removed the charm bag. She shook it, then offered it to Heike. Heike loosened the drawstring, closed her eyes, and reached in with one finger. The sharp tip of the miniature knife stung as it brushed her index finger. It did not draw blood, however, and Heike relaxed.
“We warn, but do not ask for help or a guard. We go to cut through a problem, not to avenge the death.”
Walburga hid the bag away once more and relaxed as well. “That is a relief. I am not the kind of Familiar who fights well.”
“No.” Their strengths lay in subtle magic and undoing evils, not in combat magic. Both kinds served the Lord, and He gave talents as He choose. It was for the mage, sorceress, or witch to determine how best to use what had been granted to her, or to not use them.
The wallaby nudged her mage. “So you will be able to go to the concert, ja?”
“Are you trying to match-make, oh white one?” Heike smiled as she asked, because she knew the answer.
An ear-flopping head-shake. “Certainly not. But Marko is a kind soul, and thinks you are a nice lady. And he has a job, a steady job.”
Yes, you are match-making. All Familiars shared that little affliction, or so other mages had warned her. “I will try to go to the concert. We might have other duties arise,” she reminded Walburga.
A little sigh. “Ja. I still cannot believe he managed to hex a spa bench and towels. Truly?”
Heike held up both hands, fending off the memory. “Sufficient emotion and will can work wonders, both for good and for ill.”
Mage and Familiar spent that evening and the next day resting and studying. With Walburga still tired, Heike focused on solo spells, the kind sorcerers relied on and mages occasionally had to attempt. “We begin with scrying back,” Walburga informed her. “Unless we know what we must lift, we spend too much magic for too little result.”
“Ja. And too much will. Once we know, we observe, then lift away what remains.” She drizzled honey into her tea, then sipped as she considered what she’d seen the day before. “The outside presence concerns me.”
“Indeed.” Walburga reached into her pouch. The charm bag clinked softly, but she did not remove it. “What say your books?”
Heike stood and stretched her back, then walked to the end of the cottage and back before answering. “Little of use. I know the presence was not in the Dunsthöle in June, because we attended the picnic there and sensed nothing. If we are fortunate, it was a foul presence passing through and a coincidence, nothing more.” She did not feel convinced of their good fortune. “I fear something more.”
“We prepare for something more,” Walburga stated, thumping the rug with one large, white and pink foot.
(C) 2020 Alma T. C. Boykin All Rights Reserved