Meeting the Other Side

After the incident on the bike trail, Konrad decided it was better for them to stay away from secluded places.  He didn’t tell the girls that they couldn’t go out on their bikes alone quite yet.  However, Liesel was fairly certain that he was hoping that, by keeping them where other people could easily see them, he was preventing any further trouble.  She had no problem with that.  After all, it was Johannes that the Thurmans were after.  As one of his Defenders, it was her job to keep him safe.

As before, they were riding their bikes, while Johannes skated between them.  On this day, they went to the same park that they’d visited with their brother on the day that Opa had his meeting.  Today, though, they simply rode around the playground, keeping to the bike trails and in full view of the parents that had brought their children there to play.

A sound in the bushes just off the trail made Johannes skid to a stop.  Frieda followed his example, turning back to watch as he skated into the grass.  “Where are going?” she asked, as Liesel followed him, walking her bike.

“It’s a kitty,” Liesel said, her tone excited.  Greeting the cat, she said, “Hello, pretty one.”

“That’s a sidhe,” Johannes said, his voice soft.  As the cat padded over to rub against his fingers, he pointed.  “You can see her wings, tucked against her back.”

“Is she… friendly?” Frieda asked, approaching her brother and sister carefully.  She didn’t know as much about the different spirits as her brother did.  She only knew that some became corrupted by staying in the physical world for too long.

Johannes smoothed the cat sidhe’s fur gently and nodded.  “She’s a spirit of diligence, not sloth,” he said.  “How did you get here, Kitty?  Is there a portal opened nearby?”

The cat sidhe trilled at him and then looked to the trees.  Johannes stood and followed the cat sidhe’s gaze.  Frieda squinted, trying to see the same thing that her brother was.  She gasped softly as she saw the edge of a stone doorway.

“That’s not just a portal,” she said, her voice soft.  When Liesel made a curious sound, she pointed towards it.  “I mean… it’s not just this rip in the veil, like the Thurmans made.  That’s a doorway.”

“Frieda’s right,” Johannes said.  “Someone made that.”  He scampered forward and the cat sidhe bounded after him.

“Hansel,” Frieda called, her voice strained.  “We’re not supposed to go in the forest alone.”  She looked at Liesel, who shrugged.  Then, she heaved a sigh and dropped her bike to hurry after her brother.  Liesel was close behind her.

As they drew near the doorway, the stranger with the bow from the previous day stepped out from behind it.  Johannes stopped to let Frieda and Liesel draw up on either side of him.  “Did you open this?” Johannes asked, nodding at the doorway as the cat sidhe bounded through it and vanished.

“It’s been here for quite some time, young one,” the bowman said, shaking his head.  He gave them a tight smile and held up his hands.  “I’m here alone, girls.  There’s no need to worry about your Cross on my account.”

Liesel tilted her head as if she were listening to something.  Then, she nodded at Frieda.  “He’s not a Dark One,” she said, her voice soft.

Smiling faintly, he said, “You can tell that just by looking, can you?”

Shaking her head, Liesel said, “I can tell by Knowing.”  Then, she stepped over to the doorway and looked up at it.  “You use this to let the good spirits come and go as they please?”

“That’s what it’s always been used for,” Thurman said, nodding.  His brows furrowed.  “We’re called upon to guard them – to prevent…” he trailed off.

“To prevent any dark spirits, like Singers, from coming through it,” Johannes said.  His eyes sparkled with excitement, even as Frieda turned to him in surprise.  He stepped closer to Thurman and shook his head.  “You aren’t so different from us after all,” he said.  “Do you know what happened to split us into two groups?”

“What makes you think we were ever one group?” Thurman asked, his voice soft.  He shook his head.  “You have Crosses and we have Stars.  You serve the Great Father and we serve the Snow Queen.”

“The Snow Queen is an aspect of the Great Father,” Johannes said, shrugging.

Frieda gasped.  “He’s right,” she said, even as Thurman shook his head.  She looked over at her sister.  “It’s like Konrad said: deities don’t have genders the way we think of them.  They aren’t just male or female – they can be both or neither or either all at the same time.”

Johannes nodded.  “We’re Windwalkers, Thurman Lance,” he said.  Holding up his hand to show the mark of the Great Father’s favor, he added, “This isn’t a cross and you don’t have a star on you – not really.  They’re both the same thing: a compass – the sign of the Great Father’s blessing.”

Thurman heaved a sigh and shook his head.  “Has anyone ever told you what a scary little boy you are?” he asked, his voice faint.  When Johannes shook his head, he handed the boy a small printed card.  “If you want to know more about us… come there.  It’s… well, not the proper community center, but the one where our side meets now.”

“The side that isn’t following the Dark One,” Johannes said, nodding.  He tucked the car into the pocket of his jeans and nodded.  “I’ll be there… with my Defenders.”

“I’d never imagined you coming alone, little one,” Thurman said.  Then, he ducked behind the doorway.

Scowling, Frieda hurried over to the door to look around the edge of it.  She blinked and then looked over at her brother and sister.  “He’s gone,” she reported.  Then, she returned to Johannes’s side.  Nodding at him, she said, “Do you think it’s a trap?”

“I don’t,” he said, shaking his head.  He shrugged and then, after one last glance at the doorway, turned away to return to the park.  “If he’d wanted to trap me, he could have brought his cousins or his Star,” he said.  “Instead, he came alone and told me about their meeting – told me to bring all of you with me.”

“He’s right,” Liesel said, her voice soft.  She nodded and patted Frieda on the arm.  “I think he’s just what he seems.”

“Do you really think that we used to just be one group?” she asked, her voice soft.  What he’d said about the Great Father and the Snow Queen was true.  It was also true that their crosses were compasses.  However, it was a bit of a leap for her to go from there to the conclusion that they were the same thing.

“I do, Frieda,” was all that he would say.

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