Midnight in the Garden

That night, after Opa had gone to bed, Liesel and Frieda slipped into Johannes’s room.  He nodded at both of them and then they headed down the steps.  Opa wasn’t a terribly light sleeper, so they weren’t too worried about sneaking out of the house.  However, their eldest brother, Konrad, seemed to wake at the slightest sound.  So, they moved as quietly as they could, until they were outside.  Once Frieda had eased the door closed, they all breathed a sigh of relief.

“All right,” Johannes said, nodding.  “Let’s make sure that the garden is clear of portals.”  He slipped off the patio and into the garden itself.

Liesel could hear him singing softly and she knew the song well.  Most people would have recognized it Tallis’s Cannon, but they knew it as the Tracking Song.  It was the song that Johannes used to sense if there were any spirits in the immediate area.  If he was singing it now, she assumed that meant it could find whatever he might be looking for – including portals into the spirit world.

He nodded and made a beckoning gesture.  Liesel glanced at Frieda, who nodded.  A moment later, they had both summoned their weapons.  If there was going to be a fight, they both wanted to be ready.  After all, they were meant to be protecting Johannes, not the other way around.

After they had gone deep into the garden, Johannes stopped singing and pointed.  “The portal is there,” he said.  He glanced at both of them and smiled faintly.  “It makes sense for it to be here, actually.  This is about where Frieda encountered that spirit of pride.”

Liesel glanced around and then she noticed the daisies around them.  She nodded.  “You’re right,” she said.  Turning back to Johannes, she said, “Are there any other tainted spirits around.”

Frieda set a hand on his shoulder and pointed.  “There,” she said.  Almost hidden among the greenery there was a little winged being.  She glanced at Johannes.  “I’m getting the same nervous feeling from her that I did the other one.”

“Trust your instincts,” Johannes said, nodding.  As the fairy glided up, so that she wasn’t hidden anymore, she giggled.  Then, she began to glide to one side.

Liesel gasped and swung her hammer, but the fairy dodged her attack.  Frieda leaped forward with her pike and slashed the fairy’s wings with a well-timed attack.  Then, Johannes held out his hand, as he had towards the first fairy.  “I name you, spirit of pride,” he said.  “I bind you!  Be sealed in my ring and trouble us no more.”

Once the fairy had been drawn into his ring, Frieda heaved a sigh of relief.  She nodded towards the place where he’d said the portal was.  “We need to close it, before any more of them come through,” she said.

Johannes nodded and stepped over towards the portal.  Then, in a soft, clear voice he began to sing what most people would recognize as the familiar hymn, “Be thou my vision”.  For them, it was the song that would seal portals closed.

As he sang, the portal became visible to their eyes as a swirling circle of light.  As Liesel and Frieda joined in with him, the circle grew smaller and smaller.  Finally, it was no larger than dime.  Nodding, Johannes stopped singing and smiled at his sisters.  “That’s done,” he said.

“Nothing else can come through it,” Frieda said, frowning.  “Why not seal it entirely, though?”

Johannes shook his head.  “According to the Elder Cross… they don’t stay closed,” he said.  He shrugged.  “If you leave it opened just a tiny bit, they seem to stay that way.  No one is sure exactly why.”

“I wonder why,” Frieda murmured.  Then, they hurried back towards the house.  It was getting late and there would be uncomfortable questions if they were caught in the garden at that time of night.

Once they were settled into bed once again, Frieda found that she couldn’t go to sleep.  Her mind was racing, like a hamster on a wheel.  She rolled over and looked over at her sister.  Liesel slept on a trundle bed next to her own when they visited Opa each summer.  It meant that every night was like a slumber party.  “How did the portal get into Opa’s garden in the first place?” she whispered.

Liesel sat up and frowned thoughtfully at Frieda.  “I don’t know,” she admitted.  Then, she slipped out from under her blankets and climbed up onto the bed with Frieda.  As Frieda sat up, she said, “I might have a way to find out, though.”

Frieda bit her lip and nodded.  Liesel was a Hammer and they had the gift of Knowing.  Although, technically, they weren’t supposed to tell anyone exactly how those gifts worked, Liesel had told Frieda.  They were twins and twins didn’t keep secrets from each other.  “Do you want me to call some wind?” Frieda asked, her voice faint.

“Just a little one,” Liesel said, nodding.

Frieda closed her eyes and hummed softly.  Outside, the wind began to shake the trees.  Focusing on that breeze, Frieda directed and guided it, so that it sang around the corners of Opa’s house.  As the air whistled outside the window, she opened her eyes.

Now, it was Liesel’s turn.  She was tilting her head to one side, as if she were listening to secrets being whispered into her ear.  As she listened, her brows furrowed and she frowned.  As the wind died back down, she shook her head slowly.

“What did the wind say?” Frieda whispered.

Liesel met her gaze and then heaved a sigh.  “It was strange,” she said.  “I asked it where the portals came from and… it kept saying was to beware of the dark ones.”

“The dark what?” Frieda asked, shaking her head.

“I don’t know,” Liesel said, her voice faint.  She glanced towards the window and shook her head slowly.  “I asked, but it only told me that the dark ones come at night and to beware of them.”

“We’ll ask Konrad in the morning,” Frieda said, nodding.  Their oldest brother was the family’s Sword.  He might know things that they didn’t.  Between being the youngest defenders and being less important than the Sword, there was a lot that the Elders wouldn’t tell them.

Liesel nodded and then climbed down onto her own bed.  They both curled up under their blankets so that they were facing each other.  Somehow, it felt safer knowing that her sister was close enough to touch.  Soon, Frieda managed to fall asleep.