Much Fall Of Blood — Snippet 60

Chapter 32

Across Europe there are places where old stones remain in cleared places. Moss grows on other rocks and even on the trees. Not on these stones.

Particularly not on the stones standing in their ancient ranks here. This was not a great or impressive circle; the stones were small and worn. Irregular. If it had not been for the lack of moss, they might just have been a random arrangement of rocks, not at all unusual for these mountains.

Humans often made the error of thinking there were merely two intelligences that shared this world: those who were human and those who were not. Of course, in reality, it was infinitely more complex than that. To begin with, there were facets of reality that mere flesh and blood rarely perceived, much less walked in.

But even on the earth shared with ordinary mortal men . . .other creatures, not precisely “mortal,” walked. Some walked in darkness, others in light. Some were cloaked in flesh, others were less defined by the material world. Here of course, in her dark green heart, the wood sang ancient songs too. The forest was neither benevolent nor even truly understanding of animal life. It used and survived it, and sang slow songs of wood, water, wind and stone.

And blood.

Blood could bind.

Green cool eyes stared from the forest shadows at the glade and the ancient stones. Their blood was blue. There were others among the trees, further back, not wishing to be seen. It was twilight — a time when those of the day were prepared to meet the night creatures. And they had all come — or at least many of them. There were those who had chosen their own path and made their own arrangements with powers, such as the Vila. But the others . . . From hollow places in the hills, from the lakes and the streams, they came. Some would come forward when the syzygy called. Others would not.

The wolf-kind came to honor their side of the bargain, bringing the young ones to see and be seen, to receive the blessing and the binding of the forest, of the water and of the stone. Of all those who gave allegiance to forest that once stretched from shore to shore before the ice-time . . . and again after, while men still huddled fearfully on the edges.

Men had grown more numerous and bolder since then.

The forest and its ancient denizens had given way.

Everywhere, but here.

With a hiss the dragon-headed wyverns entered the glade. They were still of an age when every new thing was a delight — and possibly edible. Angelo and his kin stayed back, as was their right, on the north side of the circle. They were still. The time for howling was not yet.

There was no wind, but the dark forest moved and groaned.

Two sets of red eyes looked out at it. Eyes that burned like coals.

Utterly heedless of the magic and the dignity of the occasion, the two engaged in rough and tumble and then bounced around. The old ones looked on. There were few young ones anywhere anymore. These two had vast license, and both of them knew it.

They tasted the rocks too.

The forest creaked, almost as if it was clicking its tongue in disapproval

“The dragon comes. They know it.” said Angelo.

“But will he come here?” asked Radu.

“And then there is the question of blood,” said Grigori, his long red tongue lolling.

Angelo sighed. “Go and chase down a buck or something. How do I know? How do any of us know? He will do what he will do. That too is in the compact.”

“It’s in his blood,” said Radu.

“But will his blood be in it?” asked Angelo looking at the shadows in the trees.