It was days after I cast the spell that freed him, and Silvanus was still shocked and overwhelmed by the change, both to himself and to the island.
"Where did it all go? The stone buildings, the monuments, and the land itself? Why, it's less than half the size it used to be! Even the weatherstone is gone!"
"Weatherstone?" I asked, intrigued.
He just shook his head sadly.
"It doesn't matter any more. It's all gone. And just look at me! How can I allow myself to be seen in this state?"
I tried again to tell him I thought his leafy green appearance was amazing, but he was not in a mood to listen.
The one thing that did pique his interest was my little herb garden. He tsked over the haphazard way I had gone about planting, even though he was impressed with the quality.
"Don't you have trouble with rabbits and deer and so on? I can show you how to grow a fence from vines if you wish."
I did wish, and the project turned out to be the best thing in the world for both of us. Gradually as we worked, I could see his spirits beginning to lift. He still would stop occasionally and stare off into space, but those times became fewer and farther between, and besides, who doesn't like a long stare off into nowhere once in a while. I know I do!
As for me, I couldn't keep my eyes off him. I was sure he was quite the most beautiful man I had ever seen. Not that I've seen many, but still!
Sometimes when he walked past, the scent of peppermint and cinnamon followed in his wake, leaving me in quite the state. But he seemed oblivious to my adoration. Besides, after my two previous failed relationships, I wasn't sure I really wanted another one.
At any rate, the vine wall was eventually finished, and Silvanus and I transplanted everything in to proper rows. He wasn't surprised at all about the 'bloom' discovery I had made - it was common knowledge that fairies possessed back in his time. I shook my head in dismay at hearing that. So much had been lost.
Cinnamon grew into a beautiful teenager. She was a huge help with Atsana now. Atsana still was quite a handful, but Cinny seemed to have a knack for calming her down, and I was extremely grateful for that.
Cinny was was quite certain that she was in love. The boy in question was Derrick, the youngest son of the old wolf Ula. I think my Uncle Val was his father, but when it came to old Ula, you never were quite sure. She had raised a houseful of children by herself, and was eternally closemouthed about who their fathers might be. This Derrick definitely had witch blood in him though, so Val was a prime suspect.
He seemed nice enough to me, even though he was part wolf. I didn't mind that he came over to help Cinny babysit. Atsana was always better with more hands to attend to her. And I wanted to show Silvy the town. He had finally agreed to come with me to see the Garden Grove.
It was deep night when we set out. Silvy was still so sensitive about his appearance, it frustrated my to no end. So, it was late, and we had the garden all to ourselves. I was getting a little sleepy, what with the lateness of the hour, so I pulled out a handful of coffee beans.
"Here, have some! You don't know what you're missing." I offered.
Silvy shuddered a bit and shook his head no.
"I don't know how you eat that bitter stuff. I couldn't do it if I tried."
"Well, you never eat anything. I don't know how you survive."
"I have no appetite. It must have something to do with this crazy new body of mine. A few hours in the sun or in the hot spring, and I am completely refreshed. A good cup of coffee does sound wonderful, though. Perhaps I can think of a way to brew it. Yes. That would be a good project."
Projects! That reminded me. I had to show Silvy old Andrae's project. Actually, it was now Ezra's project, but Andrae was the one who started it. And so we found ourselves at the community wedding hall.
"...and this is where we hold all our weddings. Did your people have weddings?"
"We did. Ours were held in a great stone temple. There was a flight of wide stone steps leading to the entrance, and giant stone statues on the landings."
He had that faraway look in his eyes again, and I was immediately sorry I had asked him the question.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to dredge up sad memories. Come on, come downstairs with me."
I grabbed his hand and led him down the winding stairway.
"See? There is a moon calendar just like the one on top of my house. Only I don't have footprints under mine. And the seven stars on the walls - they move! Ezra keeps a journal of their movements. Old Oakheart - the one who brought the amber charm back to the island - he said he thought it was important. Do you think the seven stars are the ones you had me find in the telescope, the ones that showed you where to find the shipwreck?"
I suddenly realized I was babbling, and glanced over at Silvy to see if he was listening.
But he had wandered over to the left wall and was staring intently at the painting of the young yellow-haired man that was displayed there.
"Silvy? Is something wrong? Do you know who that is? No one can figure out who that is and why it's here."
He shook his head with a slight shudder, as if trying to clear his mind.
"No. Nothing is wrong. It is only.. that painting. It is somehow familiar. But I'm not sure how. Or why. It's as if I met that person long long ago, in a dream..."
He turned away suddenly and delibrately.
"I'm exhausted. I need a good long soak in the hot spring. Shall we return home, Freya?"
The soak in the hot spring was not to be, however. At least not until I kicked out the two current occupants. I hated to disturb them, though. They looked so happy together.
"Aren't you worried about what will happen if you leave them alone down here?" Silvy whispered with concern in his voice.
I just smiled. Silvanus still didn't quite understand the current situation on the island.
"I hope it will happen," I whispered back. Out little village needs all the babies we can make."
Silvy just shook his head in wonderment at my cavalier attitude. He just didn't understand.
The next morning he joined us on the dock for our morning ritual. That was another thing he couldn't quite wrap his mind around - that every day, every witch on the island stood on the shore at sunrise and cast the spell that kept the ocean at bay. Now that there were more of us, it took much less time, but it still had to be done.
"Your witches didn't have to to this? How did you keep the storms and waves back?" I had asked in surprise when he first observed the ritual and asked what I was doing.
"We had a weather stone, imbued with magic to calm the worst of the storms, and hold flood waters back. But it's gone, gone along with the temple and the rest of it."
I couldn't take the sad faraway look in his eyes then, so I never asked about it again.
This morning I wasn't thinking about weather stones or old stone temples, though. Today was going to be special. After the sunrise ritual, Cinny head off to school, and I headed off to Gerry's and Judd's to leave Atsana for the day. I sighed a little when I noticed how happy they still were together. Maybe I was just doomed to go though life with no one to love.
Dax was getting big enough now for Atsana to play with. He was a chubby little guy who was happy and giggly all time. My brother loved to go on and on about what a good child he was.
I wasn't sure how good he would still be after spending a day with Atsana.
"See, Dak. Yu take da dolly an bite it. REEL hawd."
"Wike dis, Sana?"
I couldn't help but smile to myself as I tiptoed out the door.
Although Silvy still was shy about meeting the townfolk, he was not at all adverse to going diving with me. After dropping off Atsana, we took the sailboat out to the place I'd found the old shipwreck.
First I showed him the spot of the old wreck, and the chest where I had found the witch's box. We looked around the area a bit more, but there was not much to see. We moved on to a spot closer to the island, a place that Silvy said used to be dry land.
At first we saw only fields of kelp, but suddenly a set of stone steps shimmered into view in front of us. I wondered if it might be the steps of the temple, but just then a shark swam into view. Silvy motioned to me to follow him and we swam slowly away. I heaved a sigh of relief when the shark continued on without noticing us.
I back pedaled for a while, making sure it was gone, and when I turned around, I had the surprise of my life. Stone steps, just has Silvy had described them to me. And even the head of a giant stone statue resting on the ocean floor. Disappointingly, the steps led to nowhere. But it was fascinating to see the place where the old stone temple had once stood.
Moving on, Silvy pointed out a small underwater cave. I shook my head no, and pointed to the writhing snake-like creatures blocking the entrance. But he proceeded on into the cave anyway, swimming carefully past the grasping tentacles.
The tentacles disappeared then, and fearing the worst, I followed Silvy into the blackness. And I do mean black - as in pitch black. I couldn't see Silvy; I couldn't even see my hand in front of my face. Suddenly I felt something long and slimy wrap itself around my leg. I reached down to untangle myself, when my hand brushed against a leafy appendage. I knew instantly what, or rather who, it was. I could recognise the feel of Silvy's leafy skin anywhere. And he was hopelessly tangled in the writhing tentacles.
I'm still not sure where the strength came from to pull Silvy free of that awful cave, but somehow I managed it. I was so relieved, but yet so furious with him. What was he trying to do, kill us both? I pointed to the surface, and we sailed home without saying a word.
I went to bed still angry, but I couldn't sleep. I knew I had to do something about the gulf between us, and I knew right where he'd be in the middle of the night. Sure enough, there he was, soaking in the hot spring, and staring off into nowhere. He looked so vulnerable sitting there, my anger melted away in an instant.
"Mind if I join you?"
He didn't say anything, so I took that as a yes, and slipped into the water beside him. We both sat there for a long time, just staring off into nowhere together. Finally he broke the silence.
"I'm so sorry, Freya. I never meant to put you at risk. I only wanted to see if I could find something - anything - that might explain what happened to my - to our- island. I..I really care about you, you know. Even though I don't always show it."
"You do? You care about me?"
My heart was in my throat as I answered. I never thought I'd hear those words from him.
I could feel him looking at me then, although I continued to keep my eyes straight ahead.
"Of course I care for you. How could I not? You are beautiful and caring and kind. You saved me from a fate worse than death and I have been too wrapped up in my own problems to see it. Can you forgive me?"
I glanced sideways at him then, and saw the truth in his eyes. He really did care. I gave a little nod in answer to his plea.
I felt his arm slide behind my neck, and I moved toward him as he pulled me into a close embrace.
"I want to show you how much I care," he whispered then. "Would you like me to?"
Speechless, I could only nod once more.
His kiss was peppermint and cinnamon and licorice, rolled into one. I had never felt like this before, but I wanted it to last forever. For the first time in my life, I was in love.