Snowing again. It is one of the quirks of my particular personality that when I shouldn’t go outside I feel the overwhelming urge to do so. This weather is not fit for man nor beast…nor goblin, but I laced up my black clunky snow boots, put on a wool hat and coat and trudged into the yard.
The snow was very dry and creaked like old floorboards as I walked on it, clearly very poor snowman snow. It did not meet my old Idaho definition of cold. When I sniffed my nose my nostrils did not freeze together momentarily. Chilly, not cold. I reached into my pocket and withdrew the Goblin Lens. As I held it up to my eye the veil between worlds parted and I saw once more the refugees of Faerie skittering abut my yard. I had received a note from Jatrophae yesterday telling me the holidays were no excuse for not catching goblins. I guessed I had better step up my capturing and interviewing.
I scanned the yard with the lens to my eye. I saw a myriad of creatures. One tried to make himself look like a mushroom at my approach, another with a bowl shaped head hissed and swiped the air with it’s claws. I’ll leave that one for last. I looked up into the oak tree and saw the wizened old face I had witnessed there nights ago. As my lensed eye met his eyes he smiled a slow, wooden smile. A sense of peace flowed over me. This would be my quarry.
I reached into the my inside pocket, withdrawing the vial of herbs. I crunched over to the base of the oak tree and sprinkled a tiny bit at the base. Uncorking the vial of amber liquid I let a drop fall. I put the lens back up to my eye to watch him come to me, but he did not! He was smiling away and inhaling deeply, clearly enjoying the scent of the bait, but he remained stuck fast to the bark of the tree. Impossible to tell where he ended and the tree began.
Ugh, this isn’t how this is supposed to work at all. Like an idiot I began to try to coax him down like I would my cat. Saying things like “smell that nice goblin bait, little guy.” and “yes you want to come down right now and have some of this nice smelly stuff.” He regarded me coldly, his smile slipping and a slight scowl appearing in his face. Still I kept on, waving the bottle of bait around and talking in a twittery high voice.
“I am 900 years old.” said a voice that sounded like creaking branches. I looked back up the tree to a very cranky looking critter.
“What?” I replied not sure if I was experiencing an auditory hallucination.
“I am 900 years old. You don’t need to talk to me like a human child. Now run along back to your human affairs and leave me to my tree in peace.”
Undaunted, I said. “But I need to capture you. Make you safe.”
“You are really quite annoying. I seem to be safe right now and it has been 200 years since I lived in a tree. I believe I am going to stay right here. Abdelkader is dead, the Museum destroyed. I will be just fine without help from impatient sing-songy humans.”
“Abdelkader is not dead.” I retorted. “Jatrophae says his body was not found and he likely escaped before the destruction. He says he will seek to continue his work…whatever that was.”
The tree creature’s eyes widened. Clearly this was news to him. “When will it all end?” he sighed in a voice like the last breeze of summer.
“I don’t know.” I said. “But I am here to help. Find you a home safely away from Faerie, far from the reach of the Doctor.” I explained to him about finding a Guardian and my work with Jatrophae to discover what Dr. Abdelkader was up to and end it once and for all. He reluctantly agreed to come down from the tree. Apart from the tree, he has a wispy inconsequential form, like a ghost.
Once in the house, he drifted over to my ficus. The wispy substance he was wrapped around the tree and began to thicken. Before long his face appeared out of the woody stem of the little tree. I held the little guide book as I sat on the floor next to him. The pages turned to an entry that said:
Tree Spirit: Said to be the soul of a tree. This is not entirely the case since trees already have their own spirits. Tree Spirits were once embodied in a very rare kind of tree in Faerie. When those trees were destroyed in the first Great War, the tree’s spirit lived on and drifted to meld with the spirit of other kinds of trees. Theirs is a symbiotic relationship much like lichen.
He told me his name is Quercus because of his fondness for oaks. He said my ficus was young and “chatty” and he looked forward to finding a nice quiet old oak to converse with. Quercus had been in the museum for a very long time, and because he listened more than he spoke, he provided much information. I am unsure just now what it all means, but I recorded it in the little book. Quercus described being paired with many different types of goblin and other magical creature via spells and a strange machine. It was painful and clearly meant to measure something. I did also discover that the purpose of Dr. Abdelkader’s work was to create some sort of living device for “reconquest”. I couldn’t wait to see Jatrophae to find out what “reconquest” meant. Did it have to do with the Seelie-Unseelie war?
In any event, Quercus is in need of a Guardian