In the chapel, beneath the rotted thatched roof, Honeysuckle lay in Jess Bethel’s arms. Their lovemaking had once again lasted the whole night through, causing the forest to emit an air of contentment and ease. As Honeysuckle embraced Jess in the night, a remarkable and somewhat frightening thing occurred. Whether it was a trick of the moonlight sneaking past the canopy of trees or a spark of dormant magic he could not say. But as they made love, the monk’s face seemed to transform momentarily. Over the handsome human face appeared the visage of another. That of Dogwood. And he was grinning in absolute love. The kind of grin Dogwood had always given Honeysuckle whilst they lay entwined beneath the blossoming trees in their halcyon days.
At first, Honeysuckle paused in alarm. “Dogwood?” he whispered.
But as soon as he spoke, the shadowed face of Jess returned, peering at the sprite with loving concern.
“Was nothing but a trick of light,” Honeysuckle explained to himself, and blessed the monk’s face with fresh kisses.
As morning broke, Grit wandered out of the cover of the trees and ambled onto the bank of the river. She had been emerging from the forest more and more of late, hearing the river as it passed her by. She would stand and moan along with its crystal song.
Her newfound independence did not go unnoticed by Honeysuckle and Jess.
“Why does Grit leave us now?” Honeysuckle wondered one morning as they ground grain for bread.
Jess shrugged, and kissed the worry from the sprite’s eyes.
Grit soon began to greet every sunrise by the river, and would often stay there into the early hours of the afternoon. At least until Jess would come and take her by the hand, leading her back into the safety of the woods. She would follow him without quarrel.
This particular day, however, Grit had reason to stand vigil at the river bank. Like a sightless sentinel, she did her macabre dance of sway, facing this way and that. She sensed something, some familiar and frightening presence in the air. Something intent on harm. She stumbled over the sand and rocks, here and there, trying to get a better sense of whatever it was that was coming. She was uncertain of its origins, but she knew she didn’t like it one bit.
Behind her, the rustling of bare feet and dragging robe on ground let her know Jess had come to retrieve her for their lunchtime picnic. Silent as ever, he stood, waiting for her to fumble toward him. She was slow in coming, though. Jess could see she was distracted. Grit continued spasmodically facing up then down river, moaning in unintelligible notes. She lurched her shoulders as if she were a cat among hounds.
When at last she did make her way to Jess, grabbing hold of his tattered robe, she was still quite tense and shaken. Jess led the way slowly through the forest path with Grit ever his token charge. He had come to view her with great affection, and her angst was extremely troubling for him.
As they left the riverside, delving farther into the forest, Grit became less agitated. Still, something was wrong. Upon catching sight of her at the chapel, Honeysuckle could tell as much.
“Grit,” he soothed. “Why do you moan so? ‘Tis a beautiful day, and see what tasty morsels we have to eat?” He raised a slice of warm bread slathered in thick raspberry jam.
Grit turned from the treat, tearing herself from the comfort of family, and frantically rambled about the vicinity. She batted at bushes and trees, tore vines, and threw stones. Her cries reached a disturbing crescendo, higher than Honeysuckle had ever heard. The cry curled the color off green leaves.
“Grit!” Honeysuckle exclaimed. “What’s the matter?” He looked to Jess for a possible explanation, but the monk could only shrug in puzzlement.
Grit reached with both arms into the harmless forest air, as if grabbing at something directly in front of her. She looked like she might rip the world asunder. For the first time, she exhibited something resembling anger.
Honeysuckle came to her, wrapping his arms about her and pulling her back to the chapel. He and Jess comforted her even as her fit continued. Even as she lifted her face to the sky and screamed in blatant rage and the hillside seemed to shudder in dismay.
Beyond the view of the Passions and the monk, hidden by the bramble of the woods, two eyes watched intently, contemptuously. Peat Moss only recognized the form of Honeysuckle Sycamore. The human could be easily dealt with. But it was the female sprite that caused the monster to stall his rampage that he had intended to unleash upon them. Something about her, something within her, shook him to the core for only the second time in his entire existence.