The Secret Garden
Ellwyn and Aldous
Long ago, a lovely maid spurned a Lord’s amorous advances. In anger, the Lord bargained his soul to a Warlock. Thus, the maid was cast into a garden, forever to be neither Fae nor mortal and always beguiling. The Lord and each one who followed would reap prosperity for only so long as the ritual remained unbroken. It was a bargain not without price. In trade for these riches, happiness was forfeit. Each Lord must instruct the one to follow, so as to perpetuate the spell.
The old Lord muttered and shifted restlessly on his deathbed. “Not ready. Left too late. All shall be undone. The ring, the ring.” Aldous leaned forward, but the words held no meaning. He stood and crossed to the tiny window. The poor old man was addled with pain and would not last the night. As the only remaining heir and newly returned from the wars which had robbed Craigmoor of all direct descendants, he was not prepared for the mantle of Lord. His childhood had been a lonely one and the old manse had shared few secrets. His Grandfather had shared none. Distant and proud, he was unapproachable to a small boy and much had been left unsaid. Perhaps that was his regret. With a small moan, the dying man found his peace. The new Lord sighed. He would wait with his kin till the moon settled in the mist. None should be alone in death.
The song was just a breath on the night air. Faint and haunting. Perhaps it was a night bird or a stray waft of wind through the old window. His eyes traced the pale, moon-dappled garden below. As a child, Aldous had explored every nook and cranny of the huge old estate. He could swear he never found this garden. Walled and derelict, it was a tiny garden, hidden from any view save the one from this window. Even a small boy would not dare trespass in the Lord’s chambers.
Her pale form drifted through a moonbeam and Aldous stood transfixed. She lifted her eyes to his. As if she willed it, a puff of air stirred the tapestries and he saw the door.
She waited. One life had passed and he must come, surely as all those before him. The ritual was old as time. She drew the scroll from the old oak, gently strummed her mandolin and began to sing. In her tongue, it was a musical though not a joyous lyric. Perhaps this time would be the last. A forlorn hope cradled in her heart, for she grew weary of her prison and longed for freedom. But, of course, he would have been given the secret of his future and her eternal bondage would continue. She turned and bowed at his deep query, “Who are you fair one and how do you come to be in this garden?” Her eyes pierced his, then with quickly lowered lids she offered him the parchment. Could it be? Did he not know? She closed her eyes, fully prepared for that which must surely come.
Aldous stared in awe. She was a winged creature. Just there, in the pale light, he could see their delicate gossamer reflection. “Can you not tell me by what magic you play and sing in the moonlight?” His barely whispered words nearly made her meet his gaze. But she dared not till the ritual was complete. In his bewitched state he fumbled for the scroll. His hand was bare. There was no ring. He would not be able to read the scroll. She smiled and stole a last glance into his eyes. Her voice startled him. “I almost wish.” Then, before he could speak again and as the scroll left her fingers, she vanished. All that remained was her mandolin, abandoned among the dewy brambles and the memory of her secret smile and green eyes.
Original Story by Cheryl Crawford