Chapter Six: Bliss Forest

It was quiet in the forest, save for a few birds. Moonlight streamed through the branches of the trees and the leaves nearly glowed in the pale rays. A stream babbled nearby, the twinkling sound of water rushing over rock filled her senses.

She looked up as something rustled in the brush nearby. A face, hiding in the leaves, watched her. Birds swooped low to get a good look at her and rabbits bounded up to her feet. She began to wonder if there was something strange about her, to be attracting animals this way.

Something or someone was approaching, walking among the trees. The being was in the form of a man. He was tall and cloaked, and two antlers protruded from his forehead. His features were rugged but handsome and wild brown hair framed his face.

The girl sucked in her breath and watched him in awe as he made his way towards her. Their eyes met and the girl fell into a near swoon. What raw power! What virility!

He held out his hand to her and she reached for it. Their fingers barely brushed--

My eyes snapped open. Confused, I rolled over in bed and caught sight of the alarm clock. It was almost noon! I leaped out of bed and dove towards the washroom to relieve myself.

Pierre was in the kitchen, frying up an egg for himself. He didn't even turn around as I walked past. I reached into the cupboard and pulled out a box of cereal. We ate our breakfast in silence.

I had no idea what was going through Pierre's mind, but I was trying to put together the fragmented pieces of my dream. Animals. Forest. Horned man.....wait. What?

And then it clicked. Cernunnos was calling to me again. And I had responded hadn't I? I recalled reaching for his hand, but did we touch?

I recalled his fierce eyes and manly features and nearly blushed right there at the table. I hadn't expected the god to be so....well hot. Brighid was pretty, no doubt about that but the beauty of the gods wasn't something I ever bothered to dwell on since they so rarely took human form for us.

"What are you staring at?"

Pierre's voice brought me back to reality. I blinked at him a few times and shrugged.

"Nothing," I mumbled. "Just spacing out."

"I have a game tonight, so some guys are coming over," he told me.

"Okay." Good for them. I'd just go hang out somewhere else. I thought about calling up Gabie and seeing if she wanted to hit up the cinema but something about that park was calling to me. I felt compelled to sit among the trees today.

I nearly jumped out of my seat when I felt Pierre's foot come up to rest between my thighs.

"What are you doing?" I squeaked.

He smirked at me and kept his foot where it was. Dark eyes peered back into mine and I let a smile of my own grace my visage. My own foot drifted up to rest somewhere as well.

His lips parted and he let his head fall back so that the dark and curly hair on his head nearly hung to the floor. He was really beautiful, I thought to myself. If only he didn't have such a disagreeable personality....

The moment was broken when the phone began to ring. With a sigh, Pierre heaved himself out of his chair and made for the bedroom. After a moment, I heard him speaking animatedly with someone in French, so I used that opportunity to get dressed and locate my cellphone.

I dialed Gabie and tapped my foot while waiting for her to pick up.

"Yeah?" Goodness, she sounded terrible.

"Gabie, it's me," I said. "Are you alright? You sound like you have a sore throat."

She coughed a bit and then paused. "Because I do. I feel like death. I must be coming down with something. What's up?"

Just peachy. "Well I was going to see if you wanted to see a movie today, but if you're not feeling well...."

"Sorry," Gabie sounded sheepish. "We'll do that when I start feeling better."

"No problem. Just rest up and get well again. Plenty of fluids," I directed before hanging up and letting out a frustrated sigh. Something strange was going on. The vibe I was getting from Gabie wasn't illness, it was evil.

Something is amiss, Meredith. Can you feel it?

Oh I could feel it alright. Tonight was going to be a fine night for travelling on the astral plane. I think it was time to start extracting information on this demon causing me problems. But first I would head to the park, sit at the base of a great tree, and meditate for a while.

I popped back into the bedroom long enough to give Pierre that heads up that I was heading out and he waved distractedly.

As soon as I stepped outside, I nearly melted. You wouldn't think summers in Montreal could be so hot, but if I didn't know any better I'd say I lived in Florida. The humidity was already flattening the curls in my hair.

Resolutely, I took a step forward and then another. Heat be damned....this was important.

The grass between my toes was soft and warm, the tree bark against my bare back was rough and the dirt gritty beneath my fingers. This was indeed the perfect place for meditation. It was off the beaten path and away from human activity.

I leaned back into the tree and felt its sheltering arms slowly embrace me. Closing my eyes, I let out a few deep breaths and then quieted my mind. I remained thoughtless, floating in some dark oblivion for an eternity before a sensation came to me.

I was surrounded by the souls of my ancestors. They were with me, all around me and inside me. I was safe and protected. Seth was with them, looking down at me.

"Please protect me from harm this night and allow me to learn what I need to know to defend myself and mine against this evil," I quietly asked of my ancestors. I felt their confirmation and smiled.

For what seemed like hours, I reveled in the spiritual enlightenment that came from forgetting one's body and simply drifting among the forest spirits. I learned things from them, things I could not even put into words.

My cellphone buzzed, bringing me slowly out of my trance. I opened my eyes and saw only the trees. No spirits and no Seth. I reached for my phone and brought it to my ear.

"Where the hell are you?" Pierre's angry voice came through and I nearly dropped the damn thing.

"What?" I stuttered. "I-I thought you knew I was heading out. You waved."

"Did I?" he mumbled. "Anyways, when are you coming back? The guys are about to arrive and I want to have dinner before they do."

I told him I was on my way and mustered all my energy into getting up off the ground. I stretched languorously and headed home.

The astral realm is a strange place. Depending on what frequency you're resonating at, you can see some truly amazing things. To be honest, I'm not very good at navigating the astral realm. It takes me several minutes of deep breathing just to get comfortable enough with the concept of separating my awareness from my physical body, nevermind actually getting there and finding my bearings.

After Pierre and his friends wrapped up their game for the night, I went into the bedroom and laid down. Pierre followed shortly. We spend some time cuddling and kissing before he rolled over and went to sleep.

And now it was time. I find it works best when I'm on my back, so I shifted until I was comfortable. I pulled my nightgown down a bit, adjusted the blankets, and scratched at an itch on the back of my neck. Once those things were out of the way I closed my eyes and went into a deep meditative state.

There's a curious technique that I read about once for astral projection and it turned out to be the only one that ever worked for me. Here's what I do: I imagine my spirit, the very sum of my awareness, as a golden light. I bring that light to my solar plexus and focus myself into that one spot. Then I imagine another me, a version of my self residing on the astral plane.

That's about where I was. My entire awareness was a ball of light in my stomach. I focused on moving from my real solar plexus into the solar plexus of my astral double, imagining a connection between the two forms.

Tonight this took me several minutes but once I'd made the transition, I opened my astral eyes and looked around. For the most part, I was in an exact copy of my bedroom. Maybe the colors were a bit different and somethings may have been distorted, but you could easily tell it was a parallel version of the same room.

"Seth," I called out. "Are you ready?"

He appeared next to me, a magnificent display of glowing power and rippling white hair. His blue eyes looked even more blue in this form and his skin nearly glistened with the magic coursing inside him.

He held out his hand and I took it gently. "Let's go," he smiled.

I focused all of my mind on the entity that called itself Eammon. I was overcome with fear and anger at that moment, signaling the arrival of the demon. It manifested itself as an inky blackness, complete with red eyes.

"You're the one causing Gabie her illness aren't you?" I accused. I kept my voice firm. There was no way I was gonna let this creature know how much it frightened me. Seth tightened his hold on my hand.

Eammon let out a sound that could have been a laugh. I will infect every corner of your life. You will not escape me. Black vines began to stretch out from the blankness, reaching for me. Seth held out his hand, and a white light radiated from it. The demon screeched and withdrew the tentacles.

You won't harm her or her loves ones, he snarled fiercely at Eammon. You have no power here. I demand that you leave this place at once and stay far away from Meredith.

The black form laughed again. You're foolish, magician. You can't protect her. With a dreadful cackle it slipped away into the ether.

I came back to my physical body with a jolt. I lay there for several minutes in a panic, unable to move or breathe. Seth!

A hand gently reached out and brushed the hair back from my forehead. Sensation seeped back into me and I relaxed. The form of Seth lingered over me, comforting me until I drifted into a dreamless sleep.