"The Natural Way" by NobodyAtAll

Note: read “Fairy Hollow” and “The Mystery of the Druids” first. Spoilers for the Forces of Nature, Auldryn and Multiverse Sagas.

A forest, somewhere in England.

In a clearing, a feral mare, heavily wounded, on the brink of death.

A voice.

“Daddeh! Am dis way! Huwwy!”

A second voice.

“I always keep some of it on me now, Herb!”

Herb the druid, the unofficial leader of druids, enters the clearing, following Herb, his garden fluffy.

He kneels besides the mare. He resuscitates her long enough.

To give her a choice. The same choice he gave Herb when they met.

She says “Yus.”

A few days later, Floris and his two garden fluffies meet with Gaius, Spirit of Nature.

The mare, now named Flora, is already pregnant.

Gaius chuckles.

"It seems a new fluffy subspecies will soon arise, dear Floris."

Floris smiles sheepishly.

“I’ll give every injured fluffy that conventional magic can’t heal the same choice. If that’s the consequence… well, it could be worse.”

Rose the fairy flies up.

“You’re the only druid with the power to force that… ghastly transformation upon them. And even though you’re the most powerful druid, you can only manage one.

“Yes, it shouldn’t end in disaster, like when my ex-wife, that old thorn in my side did it.”

Floris glances at the empty pedestal, awaiting the current Champion’s final days, when it is expected that Calvin will return the Sword of Kings, for when the next Champion needs it.

“So how’s she doing?”

"She’s doing well. Calvin has visited us a few times. She currently goes by Fi. That is the name Calvin gave her. I understand that it is a reference to one of those electronic games he enjoys so avidly, but that kind of thing has never really been within my sphere of knowledge. It is not the worst name she has been given."

“Hewb haf tu awsk: wut wuz da wowst namesie?”

Gaius chuckles again, this time sounding embarrassed.

"Erm… I believe it was Damned Sword-Haunting Spectre From Hell. That Champion did not last long before he returned the Sword. He was convinced that the spirit was trying to drive him into a bloodthirsty berserker rage in order to damn his soul."

Rose puts her hands on her hips and shakes her head.

“She would never do that! She’s far too nice to do something like that! I don’t know how people get ideas like that into their heads, Papa Gaius. She only wants to help her Champions!”

"T’was a time when superstition was rampant, dear Rose. Auldryn was right about that. There was indeed a time when magic was embraced by all, before the birth of Christ."

“Now I have to ask. Was he a Champion? What about the whole Son of God thing? Is it real? Because with everything else we know of now, that would honestly be small potatoes.”

"No, Christ was not a Champion. Well, in a way, he was, but he never took up the Sword of Kings. It’s a shame. She would have let him. But he was someone else’s Champion from the beginning. Although, He probably would have let him too. He doesn’t mind His forces working with other parties, as long as they remember who their primary employer is. He’s all too happy to let those nephilim stay on Earth and work for the ChaotiX. They are protecting the innocent, and they aren’t required to obey the Pacts."

“So it was real?”

"About as real as anything else in this world. I’ll let you three in on an ancient secret."

“We won’t tell a soul. Or any soulless entities, either.”

“Yu can twust Hewb, Pappuh Gaius.”

“An Fwowa.”

Gaius chuckles again.

And he whispers to them the secret. A secret that only a small group of individuals are allowed to know.

Apologies, but you’re not in that group. Yet.

For now, let’s just say that it’s a major revelation about how things work Up There.

The druid and his two garden fluffies are flabbergasted.

“Really? All of them?”

"All of them, dear Floris."

“Wow. That’s… wow.

Gaius chuckles one more time.

"And I dare say there’s a certain someone who did not like what your ex-wife did. Should that someone decide to exact vengeance, Arborea wouldn’t be far away enough for that foolish usurper to be safe…"

“So they’re not…”

"No. But they’re waiting. For what, I don’t know. When, I don’t know. It may not happen for a very long time yet. Hopefully, it’ll never happen."

“I can’t say I disagree, my Lord. If it does happen, we’re all screwed.”

"There are forces working to ensure that it does not happen. But something else is happening, and it may inadvertently cause the thing that must NOT happen."

“I’m sorry, I’m starting to get tired of this cryptic talk. Can you just be straight with me, my Lord?”

"Alright. To put it in simple terms, there’s another force at work. Not one of them. Someone else. And he’s going to make his move soon. He’s already chosen his Harbinger."

Floris gasps, but Herb and Flora don’t seem to get what the big deal is.

“I shoulda known he’d pull a stunt like this. Does Chaos know?”

"Yes, but he hasn’t told anyone, not even Calvin. He’s got his reasons."

“And what about Law? Does he know?”

"Yes. As does Time, Space, the Deaths, the One Man Army, and both Bosses, Up There and Down There. The people Down There are dealing with something that’s connected to him right now."

“What kind of game is he playing, my Lord?”

“Hewb nu fink it am huggie tag.”

"I cannot be certain, dear Floris. But if I had to make a guess…"

Gaius pauses, for dramatic effect.

"…I’d say it involves Calvin."

“Obviously. I’d be surprised if Calvin wasn’t involved.”

“At dis point, daddeh, it am a giben dat Caw wiww hab sumfin tu du wif it.”

“And there’s no point telling him to stay out of it.”

“Wike wif dat pwant gowem.”

“Exactly. He tried to stay out of that one, but events conspired to drag him into it.”

"If only Robert had taken Floris on a different route out of the city."

“That was probably his doing. Not Robert’s, I mean. That uppity little control freak. Back then, he was still carrying out his old duty. He wasn’t happy when the Biggest Boss gave him his new duty. He likes doing it, but he isn’t allowed to do it as much as he wants to. He wants it all his way. Which honestly isn’t a surprise either, considering who he is.”

"Who’s being cryptic now, dear Floris?"

“Pappuh Gaius haf gut yu dewe, daddeh.”

Floris laughs, obviously embarrassed about his hypocrisy.

“You’re right, you’re both right. My point is, we can’t tell Calvin to stay out of it. If he would do so, the O.M.A. couldn’t have tricked him into going to the Citadel on their behalf with reverse psychology.”

Rose chimes in.

“So we need to tell him about it soon. Before it actually starts.”

Gaius suddenly looks uneasy, and Rose flies up to him.

“What’s wrong, Papa Gaius?”

"I could have sworn I felt something. Oh. Now I know. It’s him again."

“What is it, Papa Gaius? What’s he doing now?”

The endless forest of the Outer Plane of Arborea.

A tree with a face.

The screaming face of a cruel old witch.


The entire tree disappears.