It was with much anxiety that Honeysuckle at last returned to the river. Grit had been so shaken upon her return to the chapel, neither he nor Jess could calm her. He needed to know what she had discovered, what had frightened her so. Some instinct in him wanted to protect her.
He approached the river with fear edging on disgust. He sat hidden by the trees for some time and watched the river from the hillside. His eyes were fixed on it as if it were returning his stare and neither of them would forfeit and break the battle of gazes.
Finally, though, Honeysuckle’s fierce concern for Grit won out, and he broke through the trepidation that had caged him for so long. He stepped quickly from the forest to the beach and it was as if a breakwall had given out. Upon him cascaded and swirled all the goodness the river had given him. He realized how much he had missed the banks and the sound of water. Yes, there was immense pain there. But there was also undeniable joy.
He waded into the shallowness at river’s edge, feeling the water embrace him again. And as he looked into the river his own image changed in much the same manner as Jess had seemingly transformed before his eyes the night before. Now, instead of his own reflection, Dogwood peered back at him once more, now in the clear light of the day. Dogwood raised his powerful arm from his side and placed it palm-up toward Honeysuckle. In tears, Honeysuckle did the same, mirroring the mirror. As his hand lay over Dogwood’s palm, the water rippled and the glassy image became that of Jess. And then it shuddered once more and became Grit. Yet, it wasn’t Grit. For there, in the water she seemed different...Content. Happy even.
“Loves of my life,” Honeysuckle whispered, his tears adding to the flow of the current. “And you are with me.”
Though, Grit had scared Peat Moss from instantly attacking Honeysuckle Sycamore at the chapel, it was not her presence alone that took the monster aback. As he hid in the brush watching the two sprites and their human he began to hear whispers. These whispers coincided with a strange tinge of jealousy he felt at observing the tenderness between Honeysuckle and the young monk. From the tops of the trees the intimations seemed to fall. Like mist around him they settled. They were barely audible at first, but then grew in strength. Peat Moss turned this way and that in startled watchfulness. He stumbled away from his hiding place, but the whispers followed him. He swatted at them like gnats, but they would not be silenced. Grunting and flailing, he ran through the forest and down the hillside until he came to a cave he had often taken refuge in during a storm. And at once, the voices hushed.
Peat Moss peered into the darkness. Though he could no longer hear the invasive whispers, he sensed something still clung to the air around him. He was not alone. He swung angrily, attempting to grab whatever creature had dared follow him into the cave.
He began to see tiny balls of light, like fireflies only much smaller and faster. They took up the whispering again, but now louder. They whirled about him, over him. Try as he might, he could catch none of them. He growled in frustration and it echoed off the cave walls.
Soon, the tiny orbs began to cluster into a single, larger orb. It then became a blinding white light at the center of the cave. Peat Moss shielded his eyes from its brilliance. And, slowly, the giant orb began to take form and the angered whispering suddenly dispersed again. Peat Moss’ eyes widened in pain and regret as the ghostly vision of Buford Longpost formed silent and aglow in front of him.