Magic and science really aren’t that far apart; they just take different roads to the same goal (and one currently has a better track record). More stories should get into the possible friendship those two fields can have.
The Doctor and the Druid, by Alexander Paul Willging
Word Count: 784
“Okay, we should be coming up on the heart of the forest,” said Shevaun. She looked down at the topographic map on her phone, then smiled. “Only two more kilometers to go!”
A soft voice squeaked behind her. “Oh… wonderful!” Kimiko was holding onto her knees, panting desperately. “I’m sure it’ll be lovely…!”
Shevaun favored her with a sympathetic smile. “If you need a break, just say so. I’m sure Kyle’s team can wait.”
The willowy fey flinched at the suggestion. “No, I’ll… I’ll be fine.” As she caught her breath, she adjusted the greatcloak around her shoulders. Shevaun put her phone away and leaned against a tree while her friend closed her eyes to concentrate. “I think the way ahead is clear.”
Looking ahead, Shevaun tried to glimpse anything through the incoming fog. The Orkwood was a mysterious place, but the Alliance was counting on their expedition. Their first real attempt to bring sorcery and science together for a common cause. Kyle’s team of sorcerers and engineers should have reached the middle of the forest already. All that was left was for a physicist and her druid companion to join them.
Shevaun did a quick check of the pockets in her field suit, making sure all their supplies and equipment were there. Then she marched ahead into the mist, with Kumiko silently following.
No sign of Kyle or his team. The clearing in the heart of the Orkwood was empty. Only a few birds singing in the trees, bright blue things on gnarled black branches. Shevaun peered at the surrounding woods, but she couldn’t spot a thing.
“Oh, no,” Kumiko whispered. She knelt in the middle of the clearing, brushing her fingers into the soil. “I was afraid of this…”
“What is it?” Shevaun whipped out her phone and turned on the spectrometer app immediately. Maybe a soil sample was what they needed.
The elf-girl swallowed. “It’s wights. I found signs of barrow-wights in the grass.” Her gold eyes slid shut in despair. “We might be too late.”
“I’m not giving up on them that easily.” Shevaun lifted her friend off her knees. “I’m sure we can get there in time. Just tell me where to go next.” When the fey shook her head, Shevaun decided to change her tone. “Listen, I know you’re scared. But you’re not alone, Kumiko. I’ll be facing those spirits right alongside you.”
Kumiko looked up at her in wonder. Then she cocked her head, listening to something. Shevaun heard a twittering over her shoulder and saw a pair of bluebirds fluttering overhead. They seemed to be chirping directly at Kumiko.
“Really?” Kumiko smiled. “Thank you! Yes, we’ll be right behind you!” Without warning, she grabbed Shevaun’s hand and pulled her through the clearing. “Come on, we’ve got a lead!”
When she took her first step into the tomb, Shevaun brandished her flashlight. She heard the wights hiss and saw something pale swirling through the mists within.
“Over here!” Kyle called out. Shevaun found him chained to a post near the back, dusted with cobwebs and white as a sheet. “Thank God you’re here!”
Shevaun didn’t waste time getting out her multitool. The chains holding Kyle in place were old and easy to break with the right amount of force. But it was hard to focus with the hissing and the deathly chill pressing down on her.
“Where’s everyone else?” asked Shevaun, nearly getting Kyle free.
“I don’t know,” he muttered. “Maybe turned into ghosts? This place is bad, Shev. We need to get outta here right now.”
“They’re fine,” said Kumiko. She appeared beside Shevaun, waving her hand over Kyle. A pair of squirrels climbed up the post and removed the last of the chains binding him. He fell into Shevaun’s arms, too weak to stand, let alone walk.
A low-throated snarl echoed throughout the tomb. Dust and cobwebs rained down from fresh cracks in the ceiling. Kumiko grabbed Shevaun’s hand and pulled her and Kyle for the door as fast as she could.
The barrow-wight’s hissing turned into an anguished howl as they made one valiant leap through the passage and into the cold sunlight. Branches and stones rose up from the ground to seal the tomb behind them.
Shevaun lay on the ground, panting desperately with Kyle curled up on her chest. When a shadow fell over her, she saw Kumiko leaning over them with a tired smile.
“Not bad… for a druid?” she panted.
Shevaun laughed, though it hurt to do so. She patted the fey’s hand and said, “Yeah… not bad at all. I’m glad the Alliance paired us up.”
“Me, too…” Kyle gasped. Shevaun laughed again and ruffled his hair.
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