June 20, 2021

Midsummer Magic, by Kelly Jarvis

Editor’s note: This story has everything I like. Herbs, potions, the solstice, bonfires, folklore! There are imaginative delights all through this story. I told Kelly that I want her to develop this character and story into a full book. I hope you’ll agree. (Kate)

The dusky light of the longest day stretched itself across the sky and looked down on a raging bonfire that had already drawn the villagers to its side.  


Maidens, draped in garlands of summer flowers, blushed as young men competed for their attentions, and older generations celebrated, toasting one another with solstice joy. 


Arabella Porter kneeled in the shadows cast by the flames, her cloak the color of twilight. She thrust a branch into the dark ashes at the bottom of the fire and twirled it until it was coated with blackened soot. She was scraping the hot remains into a small leather pouch when a young man grabbed her and pulled her into the throng of revelers. 


There was a moment of shocked silence. The Porter Cottage, which sat alone at the edge of the sea, had been a pilgrimage for weary villagers seeking solace as long as anyone could remember, and Arabella, the last living healer in a long line of gifted women, had always been treated with wary respect.  


The young man smiled, lines of mirth deepening around his glossy eyes. 


“Will you take my hand and leap over the fire with me, Arabella?” The honey mead that had emboldened his actions slurred across his words. 


Such familiarity with a Porter woman would have been unthinkable on any other day of the year, but Arabella laughed at his innocent display of midsummer madness. 


“And what would the village do if I make merry with you and forget to brew my remedies?” she teased. “I’ve no time to celebrate with you tonight.” 


She had been working since the quickening of the season to plant medicinal herbs and collect the items she needed for the dark half of the year. Her seaside garden was already thick with foxglove and fennel. Rosemary and lavender bloomed in the salt spray. Arabella coveted one more ingredient for her cupboard, and it could only be gathered at midsummer. 


She treated the young man to a flirtatious wink before moving toward the dark line of the forbidden Fae Woods, her cloak fading into the twilight of evening. 



The sun lowered itself toward the inviting caress of the trees as Arabella approached the Fae Woods. The music of the villagers’ solstice celebration gave way to the sound of humming insects. Fireflies throbbed in the bushes, searching for mates. 


Although the healer had been visiting the Fae Woods since her childhood, she always crossed the threshold of the forest with caution. All summer long, she left offerings of bread and cream at the tree line, hoping to appease the Still Folk who lived there.  


A bloodcurdling howl rang through the air, birthed by the wind whipping through a grove of weeping willows. Arabella hurried to a small clearing and kneeled reverently, waiting. 


She heard the distant song of a swallow. She heard the faraway chime of silver bells. She watched as the sun paused on the horizon, lingering in the doorway between day and night, its last rays suspended in the humid heat of eventide.   


Arabella shivered and blessed herself three times.  


She did not blink, for fear of missing the moment she desired.


The sunbeams swirled through the clearing, and out of the dappled light emerged the ethereal figure of the Midsummer Queen. She was clothed in translucent robes woven of summer foliage. She wore a crown of white flowers which twisted themselves through her flowing hair. Glittering butterflies darted between the blooms and iridescent sprites the size of mustard seeds followed after them, sprinkling glowing dust like falling snow.  


Arabella bowed her head and recited an ancient incantation. Shimmering fractals of faery dust floated into her leather pouch, joining the ashes she had taken from the solstice bonfire.  


Thunder pealed across the newborn night sky. A wild wind whispered. 


The Midsummer Queen melted into the rose-scented shadows of the forest.  



Once inside her lonely cottage on the edge of the sea, Arabella emptied the contents of her leather pouch into her cauldron and slid a thin blade across her palm, squeezing three drops of blood onto the fusion of bonfire ashes and faerie dust. She stirred the mixture over a flame, adding sweet nectars from her garden until it thickened into a smoldering liquid that rolled and glistened like dancing starlight.


The healer poured the precious fluid into glass vials and placed them into the cupboard which stored her dried herbs, her wax candles, and the sacred elements she had been gathering since the earth had started to thaw.  


She had harvested pearls under the April moon, and plucked pink tree blossoms the moment before they dissolved into the dewy green of summer leaves. She had captured the throaty melody of songbirds and collected the misty rainbows created by warm water rushing through the glen. The heat of the midday sun, which she had harnessed with her magic, still smoked and bubbled in metal pots, and the damp smell of life itself, which she had amassed from the verdant growth of the meadows, permeated the cupboard like fresh falling rain. 


Arabella wrapped her wounded hand with a wet cloth and wandered outside to watch the moon rise over the windswept sea. Her cat purred at her feet, his black fur shining like velvet. 


The healer sighed happily, knowing she had finally secured everything she needed to brew her balms and enchant her elixirs. Now, when the villagers sought her help through the lean, hungry months, she could use the mystical moments she had stored in her cupboard to mend their broken bodies and fix their fractured hearts. Her spells would not stop the wheel from turning, but they would fill the barren winters with priceless memories of warmth and light.


The inky darkness of the shortest night settled around Arabella’s shoulders and listened as a faraway strain of silver bells serenaded the dying solstice with the fleeting music of midsummer magic


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Bio: Kelly Jarvis teaches classes in literature, writing, and fairy tale at Central Connecticut State University, The University of Connecticut, and Tunxis Community College. She lives, happily ever after, with her husband and three sons in a house filled with fairy tale books. She is also Enchanted Conversation’s special project’s writer.


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Image is “Flora,” by John William Waterhouse

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kate—this character should be a book! Wonderful tale to kick off the summer solstice😊 Your imagery is always so rich!

Kelly Jarvis said...

Thank you so much for reading! Happy Summer!

Stanley Parker said...

Beautiful story, Kelly! I always look forward to your entries!

Amy Perry said...

Loved your charming chronicle and concur that Arabella must be developed to her highest potential.🧚‍♂️

Kelly Jarvis said...

Thank you Stanley and Amy! I had fun writing this one! <3

Lynden Wade said...

Perfect reading for Midsummer's Day! I love how you've woven so many different traditions into one solstice moment.

Kelly Jarvis said...

Thank you so much for reading, Lynden! I had so much fun learning about Solstice traditions while I was writing this story!

Lissa Sloan said...

Magical! I loved the atmosphere!

Kelly Jarvis said...

Thank you for reading, Lissa! ❤️

Lauren A Mills said...

I really love this, Kelly, and agree it should also be part of a book. It's so compelling... the character, the magic, the place.

Gabby said...

What a lovely story! I would read more about Arabella in a heartbeat. Her story, and that of the generations of healing before her, would be fascinating!

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