Chapter 4

IvyHold

Moonlight streamed into the darkened room when Flynn awoke with a throbbing headache and a soreness in his ribs. Terrified and confused, Flynn sat up in a panic. Groping around in the half-light, he was soothed by his mother’s voice which calmly chimed, “It’s alright my Love. Just lay back down and get some more rest.”

Flynn did as he was told without thinking – his head hurt too much when he sat up anyways. It took him a moment to understand that he was safe and sound, nestled in his bedroom back in IvyHold. The sight of moonlight streaming through his bedroom’s arched window high above comforted him.

Even more comforting was the familiar scent of lavender and mint drifting towards him. This was further reassurance that his mother, Dawnella was sitting next to him, “Get back to sleep Flynn.” she comforted, “You need your rest.”

Even though he had countless questions running through his mind, Flynn could not resist. His eyes became very heavy and he felt himself begin to drift off. Then everything went black once again as exhaustion overtook him.

~ – ~ – ~

The full moon continued to shine bright over the massive fortified walls of IvyHold. Moonbeams shining through the skylight illuminated thick tendrils of ivy crawling across the window frame. The tangled vines of ivy blowing in the nighttime breeze, cast strange shadows throughout the room.

Flynn began to toss and turn, trapped in his deep, dark slumber. His restful dreams had gradually turned into nightmares full of Witches and Weblings. Haunting images passed through his dreams as the moon made it’s way across the sky.

The strands of ivy slowly slithered through the window – creeping their way into the room. They crept down the wall, over the wardrobe and onto the hardwood floor in the far corner of the bedroom. As the morning sunlight rose and crawled across the room, so did the tendrils of ivy.

Flynn may have been in a deep slumber, but the creeping vines of IvyHold were awake and alive as always. By late morning, they had made their way across the floor and climbed up the bedpost to where Flynn was tossing and turning in his fitful sleep.

As the morning pressed on, Flynn awoke from his terrible spider-filled nightmares in a state of panic. The comforting aroma of lavender and mint let him know that his mother was in the room. Her presence helped to ease his troubled mind.

Rolling over in bed, Flynn noticed that his mother’s familiar scent was masked by another, less pleasant odour. Sharp onion and sweet garlic wafted through his room. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he could now clearly see his mother in her floral-patterned cloak. She was busy taming the overgrown ivy by spraying a bottle of thick brown liquid directly at the encroaching vines. The crawling tendrils quickly shrunk away from the pungent spray.

Dawnella continued spritzing the thick potion over the squirming ivy, forcing it to retreat from the room altogether. Once the ivy was banished from the room, Flynn began to rise from bed with a clearer head. Dawnella placed the spray bottle upon his bedside table, and sat down on the edge of his bed, “No need to sit up son,” she comforted, “Lay back down.”

Already sitting up, he stopped short when his head began to swim. Taking his Mom’s advice, he quickly sank back into bed until the dizzying swirls faded away.

“You need to rest son,” she soothed, pulling out a small vial from within the sleeve of her cloak. “Here, drink this.”

Flynn grabbed the vial eagerly and was about to take a sip when a thought struck him like lightening, “What about Dad!?!” Overtaken with concern he nearly dropped the vial, “Is Dad okay? There were Clouds and Enchantment and Weblings and… and… the Witch.”

Dawnella placed a comforting hand on her son, “Flynn, you know we don’t use that foul word,” she scolded, but not as stern as usual, “however, considering the situation I will excuse you this time.”

“But what about Dad? The Witc– I mean Enchantress was attacking him!”

“Your father is perfectly fine,” she assured him, “He told me there was a bit of a scuffle, which he handled. The only thing wrong with your father is that he’s furious with himself that you got caught up in the crossfire. Aside from cursing himself, he’s in full health.”

“Is he here?”

“No, he isn’t. He went back into the Outside. But you know that he can take care of himself.” Flynn nodded as his mother continued, “You two can catch up when he returns this evening.”

Relaxed with the knowledge that his Dad was alright, Flynn suddenly remembered the vial that Dawnella had given him. Lifting it to his lips, he drank deep, knowing the sweetness that awaited him.

His mother reached out to prevent him chugging the entire vial, “Not too much Love,” she lovingly scolded, “Save some for later.”

He felt the benefits of the potion straight away. His headache disappeared and his ribs felt blissfully numb, but he also felt the drowsiness that consumed him. His eyes became very heavy as he drifted back off into a deep, restful sleep that the milktree sap always induced. Recently, Flynn had become very used to everything fading into darkness.

– ~ – ~ –

Once again, the darkness was not so pleasant. His peaceful slumber quickly returned to nightmares of himself within the Spider Queens Hovel. The entire Hovel was infested by Weblings with hungry looks in their burning eyes. Flynn tried to run away, but his boots were as heavy as lead – making it impossible to take a step.

All alone in the nightmarish Hovel, he struggled to lift his feet until the fear became all-consuming. Just when he thought that it couldn’t get any more terrifying, a massive Webling emerged from the shadows. Nearly the size of the entire room, it’s wispy legs carried the gigantic beast forward. The giant Webling took it’s time, moving slowly, knowing it’s prey was unable to flee.

Again, Flynn tried to run away in his nightmare, but his heavy boots remained impossible to budge. The musty stench of the beast intensified as it’s flaming eye stared at it’s soon-to-be meal. Flynn began to punch and flail hopelessly, but the Webling’s toothless mouthed clacked greedily, ignoring Flynn’s swinging arms.

It slowly gripped him in it’s sticky clutches and busied itself, wrapping him up in it’s thick webbing. Flynn fought against the tightening grip of the webbed cocoon to no avail. Once it’s victim’s legs were tightly wrapped up and secured, the spider opened it’s mouth wide to begin it’s meal.

Thrashing in bed against his nightmare, Flynn woke up suddenly drenched in sweat. Flailing and struggling against his bad dreams, he came to recognise that the webbing he dreamt of was only tendrils of ivy wrapped tightly around his legs. Now awake, Flynn stopped struggling and composed himself. It took a moment to convince himself that it was all just a bad dream.

Sitting up in bed, he swatted the tendrils off his legs. Relieved, Flynn took a deep breath to gather himself. Once he was ready to get up, he grabbed a handful of the wriggling tendrils still on the bed and ripped them down from the wall – roots and all. Bright rays of sunshine beamed through the arched window above letting Flynn know that it was quite late in the morning at this point.

He had no idea how long he had been in bed, but he figured it must have been a long time. The ivy very rarely reached all the way to his bed. Usually he woke up when it was still crawling down the wardrobe. Mom was obviously way too busy to tame the wild ivy tendrils this morning, so he decided to get up and do it for himself.

With effort, he stood up and slumped across the room to the wardrobe. Despite a full night’s sleep, he was exhausted from the tossing and turning caused by his bad dreams – they had been especially vivid last night.

Tearing fresh tendrils of ivy from the oak cabinet, he reached inside to put on his well-worn, evergreen cloak. He wrapped the cloak tightly around his thin frame for a sense of comfort. Feeling better, he reached into his wardrobe again to grab his boots. They felt incredibly light when he lifted them up. The boots had been so very heavy in his dreams that he half expected them to still be that heavy in reality. Pleasantly surprised, Flynn managed to shake the nightmare from his mind while he buckled up his boots.

He clomped across the hardwood floor to the far corner of his bedroom. Stepping up to the ornate looking glass, he inspected himself in the misty reflection. He saw that the lump on his head wasn’t nearly as bad as he imagined it would be. The milktree sap must have worked it’s wonders while he was asleep.

Satisfied with his healing progress, Flynn left his ivy-covered room to enter the ivy-covered hallway which led to the ivy-covered kitchen. It should be noted that ivy was absolutely everywhere in IvyHold. As the name implies, IvyHold was infested with the crawling vines. Not just the dwelling that Flynn shared with his parents, but the whole fortified Hovel was wrapped up in the ever-growing tendrils.

After years of living in IvyHold, Flynn had become used to the pesky vines. He was no longer alarmed by the creeping ivy, merely irritated by it. Even though they were a nuisance at times, the vines of IvyHold did provide a very important function – Protection.

To be more specific, they offered protection from the dangerous Outside World. The towering walls of tightly bound ivy managed to keep the creatures of the Western Reach out of IvyHold. Flynn understood the necessity of this, because he knew that the Outside World was terribly dangerous – especially in the lawless Western Reach.

Although IvyHold kept him and his parents safe within it’s walls, it also ensured their loneliness. They were the only three residents of the massive compound, so IvyHold’s ability to keep things out meant that Flynn and his parents could feel quite lonesome at times. But after his recent adventures in the Weblands, he saw the importance of the safety that the fortified Hovel offered. He now realised that he preferred isolation to the company of the hostile Outsiders of the Western Reach.

Brushing aside a hanging curtain of ivy, Flynn continued down the hallway of his home. He stumbled through the kitchen and into the spacious dining area where breakfast was waiting for him. A heaping plate of boiled nettles and fried spuds sat on the table. It was cold by now, but Flynn had a deep hunger in him.

Usually reluctant to eat the tangy nettles and bland spuds, Flynn dug into his breakfast eagerly – he was starving! After stuffing his face with several desperate mouthfuls, Flynn began to push the nettles and spuds about on his plate while rubbing his aching head.

That’s when he noticed the vial of milktree sap sitting atop a tiny note across the table. He lifted the vial and the torn sheaf of paper to read:

Good morning Love!
Hope you are feeling better today.
Meet me in my Garden after your brekkie.
        P.S.
Save some of the Milktree sap for later.
You’re going to need it.

Laughing, he uncorked the vial and took a big swig of the milktree sap. Unable to help himself, he swallowed down the entire vial in one big gulp – the sweet taste was just too good to stop. He knew there wouldn’t be any left later when he needed it, but he didn’t care about that now.

Flynn savoured the rich flavour of the sap while it washed away the tart nettles and powdery spuds. Finished with his brekkie, he pushed his chair back from the table and made his way outside.

The dreamy drowsiness of the potion began to kick in, but Flynn had a renewed supply of energy after all of his rest. With a spring to his step, he was ready to start the day’s work. Sweeping aside the ever present ivy, he passed through the doorway and made his way to Mom’s garden.

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