(Got inspired reading the Thornmouth Guild thread and thought I’d try my hand at a more IW-style post - if there’s a better place for it than this thread, let me know and I’ll move/remove-repost it)
I had been ignoring it for months - the nagging little voice at the back of my head. ‘Go outside… get some fresh air… put your feet in the dirt…’ it told me. Stubborn Taurus that I am, I kept hiding inside, watching television, pretending the world outside my door didn’t exist. ‘Come play… be free… dance with the faeries…’ It almost broke my heart… Faery tales and folklore has always been a passion, but between a less-than-amicable divorce and a determination to finish my graduate studies, I had become jaded - I had “grown up” things to do now.
‘Once upon a time… One more time… Your story isn’t over yet Hekate…’
“Who?!” I pulled myself off the couch… Hekate was my favorite Greek Goddess. I didn’t know much about her except her domain; midnight, death, magic, chaos, the moon. Dark, beautiful, underrepresented realms… Why was my inner voice calling her name?
I slipped on my sandals, pulled my fluffy red robe tight, and stepped out into my backyard.
“Who’s there?” I could feel something not only watching me, but reaching into my mind, pulling at all the crevasses I had hidden my love of magic in…
A blue jay darted out from the branches of my walnut tree, leaving a single feather in its departure. I moved to pick it up, but a breeze pulled it out of my grasp and toward the opposite side of the tree. I tried again… and again, and again! Each time pulling me further and further around the trunk until I finally realized… “My walnut tree… isn’t that big…” I took a step back and looked around. “Where… did my house go?” I was suddenly surrounded by a verdant forest; I looked up to the canopy and, though sunlight filtered in through the leaves, I could not see the top. I glared, silently accusing the trees of mocking my short stature. “Well… I guess I’m here… wherever here is…”
“Neithernor!” a strange, lyrical, whistling voice called out.
“Neither/nor what?” I queried, looking around for the speaker as I tied a double knot in my robe belt. “And who are you?”
“No, no. Not neither/nor. You’re in Neithernor. And I’m your Magiq guide,” out from a bush hopped the blue jay from before. It flared its wings and bowed its head, “Glad to finally have you here! What shall I call you?”
The nagging voice at the back of my head… I thought to myself, mentally rewinding the strange events of this morning and the past few weeks. “Call me Hekate,” I finally replied to the guide. The blue jay fluffed its feathers in what seemed like a pleased-with-itself manner and hopped a little way down the path, “Hekate, hm? Bit of a loner, I take it?”
I shrugged my agreement.
“But very curious… or else you wouldn’t be here.”
I tilted my head… it didn’t really seem like I needed to say anything for this strange visitor to carry on a conversation with me… in fact, it seemed to know me better than I knew myself! Our conversation carried on for a bit until finally, the bird hopped up onto a branch at eye level and it felt like it was staring into my very soul, “Would you like to make friends who will be unafraid of your inner Wild?”
I felt the capital W in the question and it took my breath away. I hadn’t been talking, but I was struck speechless nonetheless. The blue jay squealed a little melody to regain my attention and asked, “Would you like to find your place within the Great Chaos?”
I nodded eagerly, eyes stinging with longing for such a place and for such people.
“YES!” I shouted. I hadn’t meant to shout, but the guide was unshaken by my outburst. Another self-aggrandizing feather ruffle and the blue jay nodded, “You are Balimora, Hekate; and this is your guild.” The blue jay gestured through the branches toward the largest tree I’d ever seen… or trees? It seemed like this tree was made up of multiple species, all twisting and merging… one moment I thought I could identify a cluster of apples hanging from a branch, but then a breeze kicked up; when it settled the same branch was covered in small yellow blossoms… it couldn’t have been the same branch. I must be delirious - what else could all this be? What was certain is that one half of this behemoth tree was rooted firmly in the forest from which I looked out on it, and the other half seemed to be growing out from a lush jungle.
“Do you want to go meet your guildmates?” the guide asked me. I hesitated… this was crazy… too crazy… But I’d rather have this than be sane, I decided. “Yeah, I’d like that a lot!” As we climbed down through the thick brush I started recognizing strange shapes in the tree limbs - here, what looked like a staircase; there what could have been a stone tower; most importantly, the Castle Entrance. It looked like someone had carved a massive chunk out of the tree trunk to use it as camouflage for a fortress… or… no, it looked like the tree had overrun the castle walls!
“This is my stop,” said the blue jay as he fluttered up to the gate, emblazoned with a symbol of intertwined trees much resembling this bio-structure, itself. “Tell Nimueh I say ‘hi’ when you meet her.” The blue jay darted off once more, my strange magiq guide in this new world… Nimueh… isn’t that from Arthurian Lore? I was about to try knocking on the gate when a creaky, wooden rumble reached my ears… The drawbridge lowered itself on thick, rope-like vines. As I walked across, I noticed pale, luminescent blue tendrils growing off the otherwise dark green pulleys.
“Balimora…” I smiled, crossing the threshold into my new haven. “I think I’m gonna like it here.”