Previously Plumule found herself in a clearing marked by "the ridges and dips of a labyrinth that was dug into the meadow long ago." During a midnight trance, she watched a formidable owl fly the pattern of the labyrinth repeatedly, then perform an unknown ritual in the center before departing. After that, Plumule slept... and now she opens her eyes again.

This post, including all of the images, is a CC0-licensed contribution to Wanderverse. My thanks to Wffl (NSFW link) for the drawing of Plumule! πŸ§šπŸŒ°πŸƒπŸ’–

Illustration by Wffl.

Plumule awakes to dew falling through the early grey dawn. She ruffles her wings and petals to shed some of the moisture. Amid a smattering of birdsong, the pixie leaps into the slight mist, wafting upward on a quick gust and sailing toward the center of the labyrinth. She approaches the spot where she saw the owl scratching at the earth with his great talons.

But already this recollection grows uncertain in her mind. Plumule wonders for a moment if it was truly an owl, did she indeed watch a bird fly the labyrinth, what sort of bird would do that? The details blur and contort like a dream, evasive of examination. Did Plumule, too, fly the labyrinth? But the little fairy is accustomed to her thoughts fuzzing into nothing as the morning grows brighter, so she is unperturbed.

At the center of the labyrinth, the grass is torn apart. There is a gash of exposed soil. Inquisitive as usual, Plumule bounces into it. The dirt smells rich and damp. Its earthy fragrance is heady, overwhelming β€” her vision grows more saturated, until a brown wren flitting from branch to branch resembles a vermilion flare. Plumule swoons, taken by a trance.

She sees a council of owls arrayed throughout an elegant spreading oak. Immediately the pixie's heart starts hammering β€” she knows that these great birds feed on small creatures such as herself. One of them begins to speak, and somehow she is able to understand his low, melodious calls.

"Be not afraid," the owl says. "Perhaps we are fearsome" β€”Β he pauses to swivel his head back and forth to regard his comrades β€” "but we will not harm you. It was at our request that the wind drew you here."

Plumule trembles and trembles, but she manages to ask, "What do you want with me?"

"I want you to remember," the owl declares in a reverberating voice.

Suddenly she does. Her wings, her leaves, jerk and shake from the force of the images and associations inundating her mind. She is beset by every color, by joy, by terror, by landscapes and happenstances that she could never imagine.

Plumule sees herself over a city, plunging downward and then buffeted up again, riding a harsh wind.

"Come back, child," the owl says, and the city becomes the labyrinth. Plumule rushes down toward its center.

"Why, why?" Plumule asks, her small body shuddering with knowledge.

"Your friends are on the way, and you must recognize them," the owl answers. And then he too fades, with his council of comrades, and Plumule is alone again in the forest clearing.

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