Phone rang soon after I finished talking to Siofra and I figured through the process of elimination that this time it had to be Mac. “Hello?”
Mac answered pleasantly. “Good morning, luv. You called?”
I smiled at the sound of his voice. “Morning. How did you sleep?”
Mac laughed slightly. “A little restless, but I understand that runs in the family.”
I laughed outright at that comment. “Yes. Siofra and I were able to locate the Fates. We all need to be in Nashville by eight. Can you and Eliza make it?”
“Morning or afternoon?” he asked. “What time is it?”
“Morning,” I confirmed, glancing at the clock. “It’s about 4:30 now.”
“I think we probably can,” he replied. I could already see the wheels in his mind turning as he processed everything I had said, plus what had happened in his dream as well. “Need to bring anything special?”
I thought a minute. “I’m not sure. I bet Siofra will have stuff for breakfast, but I have some cinnamon rolls that I made here that I planned on bringing. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
He hesitated for a second, but when he spoke I heard the serious tone in his voice. “That’s not quite what I meant, luv.”
It took me a second to realize that he was talking about weapons instead of food and I instantly understood his questioning. “Oh,” I replied, feeling like an idiot. “Whatever you think is best really.”
“Would you like us to ‘pick you up’ or just meet you there?”
I shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. You can come here earlier if you like. I’ll have a pot of coffee ready. I’d like to talk to you first anyhow and I have a present for Ian that I could use some help carrying.” I knew that I wouldn’t try to sleep again and I doubted that Mac and Eliza would, either. I didn’t actually have the cinnamon rolls that I had mentioned to him because I planned to make them fresh to take with me since I was wide awake anyhow.
“OK. We’ll be there, say about sevenish. See you then.”
“See you then,” I confirmed, and then hung up.
Feeling the need to not think about the goings on of the past few hours, I put myself on automatic pilot and started making a huge batch of cinnamon rolls that I knew wouldn’t last long once Mac and Glenn got a hold of them. After I set the dough aside to rise, I put on a pot of coffee, and then pulled out a bag to pack a few things in case we ended up being in Nashville for a few days. With all the weekend visits I had been making to Ireland and Mac and Eliza’s place on the island, I was getting really good at packing quickly and efficiently, so the entire exercise didn’t take very long.
The first batch of rolls was out of the oven when Mac and Eliza arrived around 6:30 with Eddie and Gwrhyr in tow. I had timed everything right so that I was showered and ready by the time they got there and prepared to pour the first cups of coffee with a fresh smile on my face when they walked through the bathroom door where the gateway had been established.
I was quickly aware that they were ready for anything, as usual. Eliza carried a crossbow case with her suitcase and various stakes, knives, and guns were also visible on her person. Mac’s weaponry was a little more discreet, but I swore I could hear him ‘clinking’ a little as he sat down at the table. I offered to make them eggs if they wanted, but they declined, saying that the rolls were fine.
“Coffee will be good,” Eliza said as she also sat at the table with a big cup from 7-11 in one had and a cinnamon roll in the other. She was looking a little paranoid for lack of a better word, and I think it was because they were in Salem. But I had been very careful in my preparations for their arrival. I had already checked all the wards and made sure that all the windows in the apartment were securely covered. The vampires may have been safely tucked away in their beds for the day, but their ghouls weren’t and I didn’t want to take any chances.
Even Eddie and Gwrhyr partook of the breakfast sweets. The wolf normally ate people food to begin with, so it didn’t surprise me at all when Mac leaned to one side and fed the two animals from the plate of rolls I had put on the table. I put water down for them and hoped that the puppy didn’t get sick on my floor from the sweets.
Eliza must have read my thoughts. “You’re going to make him sick,” she commented between sips of coffee.
Mac looked down at him and smiled. “It’s all right,” he assured her, and then reached over to squeeze her hand playfully.
“Just because you feed the wolf that-” Eliza started.
“He’s a puppy,” Mac interrupted with a wide grin that made me smile as well.
“He’s a year old,” she insisted, not about to be put off where Eddie’s health was concerned.
“He’s a growing puppy,” Mac countered, amusement filling his gaze as he looked at her, open challenge in his gaze.
Eliza rolled her eyes and took another sip from her cup. “When he grows too big to get through the bedroom door, he’ll sleep downstairs.”
“He’ll learn to teleport,” Mac insisted and raised an eyebrow in her direction.
Rather than listen to the two of them go on, I went to pull a big box from the closet to the couch. It was a car set that I had bought for Ian a couple of weeks ago that I had planned on giving him when I saw him next. I knew that I spoiled him a little more than I should, but I couldn’t help myself. I did the same thing with Sam’s little boy, Brendan, and she always protested just as much as Siofra did. But I had plenty of money, thanks to Eliza, and who cared if I decided to buy the two little boys in my life everything they wanted? It made me happy and the smiles on their faces were rewards enough.
About an hour later we opened the portal to Nashville. Mac was carrying the large box that contained the car set and he led the way through. Siofra was waiting for us in her kitchen with a friendly smile. Everyone exchanged hugs and greetings and after I handed Siofra the cinnamon rolls, I led Ian over to his present.
To say that he liked it was putting it mildly. His little body almost burst with pleasure when he saw the cars and pieces of track that the box contained and I had to laugh at the spectacle he made. Glenn entered the room just in time to hear his son’s shouts of delight and the look he gave me was one of mock thanks. It had become a constant source of teasing lately that whoever brought the gift had to put it together, so that’s what Ian and I did for the next half and hour while the other’s had coffee and the cinnamon rolls.
“Has anyone talked to Grandmother and Grandfather, let them know what’s going on?” I asked later. The track was together now and Ian was totally immersed in making car noises and running the vehicles around and around.
Siofra shook her head. “No.”
“What is going on?” Mac asked.
We all looked at each other in silent wonder. It was true that we didn’t have many answers to a long list of questions that clearly began with who Joel was. We weren’t even sure what this was all about, but I for one was convinced that we had to do something. “Not one hundred percent sure,” Siofra commented finally.
“Joel’s in trouble, we need to help him,” I comment, making sure that I wasn’t looking at any of them.
“Who the hell is Joel?” Mac asked, his gaze swinging to me.
“Worldwalker,” Siofra informed him.
He rolled his eyes. “The seeker who must be sought.”
Siofra’s brows lifted in interest as I looked up at him as well. “So he’s the seeker?” I asked. “I thought he was the Worldwalker.” When Gwrhyr had first mentioned something about a seeker, my thoughts had automatically gone to Sam since that was what she was. She was the mage born into every generation that was destined to see visions. Glenn’s mother had been the last one. I was beginning to see that Joel was pretty involved in this whole thing, whatever this thing was. I only hoped that we were able to free him.
Mac looked at Gwrhyr and seemed to be having one of his silent conversations with him. “I think he mentioned that,” he commented dryly after a minute, probably talking out loud to the wolf. “He’s known by many names,” he added when he caught his sister regarding him in confusion.
“We have to go see the Fates,” Siofra said as she stood and grabbed a piece of paper off the counter. “I located them in the phone book.”
Mac gave her the ‘oh-no-you-did-not’ look and she smiled at him. “Yeah, I did. I did the dream walking thing and she kinda shoved me out of it. Was kinda pissy because somebody else was there first.”
“So we know where they live?” I asked, not wanting to sit around anymore. It was time to find some answers and it sounded like the Fates were our best stop.
But I was ignored as Mac asked, “Hmm, trailer? Let me guess, wading pool. I’ve seen it.”
“What did you see in the pool?” Siofra asked him.
He described looking into the pool and seeing what sounded like the cliffs from my dream, complete with white stones, overlooking an area where a river met a sea. He told of seeing images of bodies that faded in and out like I had and he described the details of their uniforms as red and black, same as I had seen. The stones turned red from their blood and remained so even when the bodies had faded out of sight.
Then the view in the pool had changed to show a line of trees; huge, ancient ones like those I had walked through in the forest of my dream. Then the vision changed again to rush along the edge of the cliff until it stopped at a large stone castle perched on an outcropping. The ground was red here too, but he couldn’t see any visible source for the color. The whole thing vision sounded a great deal like what I had seen when I had briefly looked in the Fate’s pool, so as least it seemed like we were getting the same story, even if only bits of it.
Siofra agreed that she had seen about the same thing as Mac had when she looked in the pool. “One of the Fates said to find them the right way, so I found them,” she said. “Now we need to go.”
I stood. “Okay, road trip.”
Just as we were about to pile into Siofra’s new Lincoln Navigator, Eliza spoke up, “You know, I don’t think I should go.”
Siofra looked at her quizzically and they seemed to have a silent conversation while the rest of us stood there. “Then you can stay with the baby,” Siofra said outloud after a minute.
Eliza nodded. “Okay.” The whole exchange seemed to reinforce my thoughts that something had indeed happened in Nashville, most likely involving the Kindred of the city, so I understood Eliza’s hesitancy to leave the safety of the house. Glenn had the place rigged with so many wards that it made Alcatraz look like a playhouse so I wasn’t concerned to leave her here.
Mac’s brow furrowed however. “Bullshit,” he chuffed suddenly. “Get in the car.”
Eliza opened her mouth to argue, then saw the look in Mac’s eyes and silently turned to lead the way to the door that went into the garage. There was no other conversation as we all exited the house, including Gwrhyr, leaving Ian in the care of one of the girls that lived in the brownstone with Glenn and Siofra.
Glenn drove while Siofra told him where to go from the directions she had put looked up earlier. The trailer was in the hills far from town and the roads were very rough. Good thing we had the four-wheel drive or we wouldn’t have been able to make it there.
It took about an hour and a half to get to address. The blue-green, doublewide trailer looked exactly like it had in my dream, but with one exception. Standing next to the neat and tidy herb garden was a big, mangy yellow dog, whom I assumed was the culprit responsible for the large… deposits… around the yard. He was eyeing the car like someone inside was his next meal.
Everyone was on high alert as we got out of the vehicle, unsure about approaching the door. I was pretty antsy to get the show under way so when Siofra finally started to make her way cautiously across the yard to knock on the door, I was right behind her.
A young woman answered the Siofra’s knock. She wore tight, hip-hugging jeans and a baby doll t-shirt that in no way hid the fact that she was at least six months pregnant. To say that she was voluptuous was being nice. To say that she was White Trash was more truthful. She had a pierced eyebrow and long dishwater blonde hair that at least looked like it had seen a brush that day. She grinned past us toward Mac and Glenn in what was almost like recognition. “’Bout time,” she said as she stepped aside and motioned for us to enter. “’Spected you sooner,” she continued in her charming southern accent.
Siofra glanced back at the rest of us then moved to go inside. I filed in next, followed by the rest of the group. The house was a dazzling display of fake wood paneling, Formica and linoleum. The main living area housed the kitchen, dining and living rooms of the structure, a low dividing wall separating the carpeted living room from the linoleum covered floor of the kitchen/dining room.
Not a single chair in the house matched and every piece of furniture showed the kind of wear and tear that only children could put on it. The floor was littered with toys as well as a half a dozen children, ranging from the age of one to ten. They were either playing with the toys that were strewn everywhere or with the mangy yellow dog who had come in behind us.
The only thing that made the house appear in any way homey were the many handmade things that were strewn about. There was a latch hook rug on the floor, knitted pillows on the sofa, and doilies on every flat wood surface visible. The air smelled like a mixture between old lady, baby poop, dog, and hair dye. I thought I was going to be sick from the overpowering scents that were hitting me all at once.
“Come in,” a middle-aged woman said from the kitchen area where she was cooking. From what I could see, the kitchen was a large area that was brightly lit and perfectly clean, which struck me as odd for the rest of the house. As for the woman, she had big hair that was going gray, and was wearing black polyester pants and a striped shirt that was too long for her and the sleeves were rolled up. By the looks of it, she was chain smoking and using whatever was at hand for an ashtray as she cooked. “We did expect you long before now, but you’re welcome, come in.”
A television was on in the living room and a young looking, Phil Donahue type, was talking to a teen mother about her situation. A large, comfy chair with a walker stood near the television and there was an end table on one side that held sewing notions and a stack of tabloids, like The Enquirer and The Globe. All seemed to be heavily annotated with pen marks and dog-eared for some reason.
In the chair sat the old woman that Siofra and I had met in our dream. She was reading a copy of a King James Version bible that appeared to be similarly written in, like the magazines. She wore an outfit that might have been in fashion in the late forties and had big hair like the other woman in the kitchen and she looked up from the bible at our entrance. “Couldn’t come before. Dead,” she commented in a clipped voice, before taking a sip of her iced tea as she eyed Mac knowingly, prompting Eliza to move closer until Mac slipped an arm around her.
Siofra’s gaze turned to Mac sadly as the youngest of the three women moved closer to us and eyed him hungrily. “What’s that?” she asked the older woman absently as one hand absently caressed her large stomach.
“He was dead, remember?” the woman who was cooking replied as she moved into the dining area and motioned for us to join her and the other two women. “And they weren’t ready.”
The young woman looked at Mac like he was a piece of meat. “Looks mighty good for being dead,” she commented. I was waiting for her to lick her lips.
If it were possible, Eliza moved even closer to Mac and I could see that she was doing her best to hold her temper while the other woman openly ogled her husband. I hoped she could continue to hold it until we got whatever information we needed from them.
“I got better,” Mac replied dryly.
The woman who was cooking indicated the chairs around the table again. “Come in, sit down. I’m Lucy-Mae, that’s Annabelle,” she said as she pointed at the elderly woman from our dream. “And this piece of white trash here is Carlene.”
The five of us moved into the kitchen/dining area, but Siofra was the only one who sat down at table. Lucy-Mae handed her a bowl of beans to snap while Carlene continued to eye the two men like they were her next meal, regardless of the fact that she was obviously well into her pregnancy or that they were both already married and their wives were in the room.
Thankfully, she didn’t come into the kitchen, though. Instead she stood at the edge of where the carpet and linoleum met as she stared at them hungrily, almost as if she weren’t allowed to come into that area of the house.
Lucy-Mae looked at the rest of us expectantly and Mac said, “We’ll stand, thank you.” She offered coffee next and Mac and Eliza accepted. I just wanted them to start talking already.
“Sure you don’t want to sit down?” she asked when she handed out cups.
Mac shook his head. “No, thank you.”
Glenn moved to sit down at the table as well, hoping to get away from Carlene’s probing gaze and drive home the fact that he was taken. I went to sit as well, while Gwrhyr loped over to Annabelle and have a silent ‘conversation’ with her.
“How is it that you can help us?” Siofra asked Lucy-Mae as the other woman lit a fresh cigarette with the remains of the old one and put the butt in one of the many ashtrays that occupied the counter in various places.
“She’s a Brennan,” Mac commented dryly as he tried to hide his grin at his sister’s forwardness.
“What kind of help do you want?” Lucy-Mae asked. “We can help you in many ways.”
“Worldwalker,” Siofra said as she dropped a handful of bean pieces in the bowl, then turned to her with a pointed look.
“How can we find Joel?” I asked, the edginess getting to me and becoming visible in my voice.
Mac began to tell her about the dream that he had and she eyed him with a look of recognition. “So you’ve been having the dreams then?” she asked.
“Of course they’ve had the dreams, why would they be here if they weren’t?” Charlene said from her spot near the half wall. She leaned toward Mac and purred, “Tell me about your dreams…”
Mac shrugged. “Not much to tell. I met the Worldwalker, he threatened Eliza, I woke up.”
“He was not very threatening in my dream,” Siofra commented.
“He threatened Eliza?” I asked, horrified by the thought. Joel had been so familiar in my dream, like he knew me. It made me want to know him as well, but if he had threatened Eliza…
“Well, he didn’t threaten her,” Mac conceded, causing Siofra to look at him expectantly. “He threatened that they would,” he finished, indicating Lucy-Mae.
“Things go much easier when you stop fighting your destiny,” the older woman told him.
“Things go much easier when you stop threatening my wife,” he countered, his voice tightly restrained.
Lucy-Mae returned his gaze levelly, as if she were getting ready to dress him down. “I don’t remember threatening your wife,” she started carefully, “but there are consequences to your actions.”
He eyed her just as levelly. “There are consequences to everyone’s actions.”
“Exactly,” she said, her lips curving to a small smile.
Siofra interrupted them by asking, “All right, so how can you help us?”
Lucy-Mae turned to her. “You’re looking for Joel?”
“Yes,” Siofra told her.
Lucy-Mae studied her for a moment before answering, “We can show you how to find him.”
“Can you tell us what else you know about this?” Siofra asked.
“We know a lot of things about this, what do you want to know?” the older woman asked as she glanced around at all of us.
Siofra was the one to speak first. “There are four of us having these dreams, all similar, but different at the same time.”
The older woman was silent for a moment, as if formulating how to put what she was about to say. “We can tell you many things, but the future is like moonlight on water. To touch the surface would be to change the reflection. It’s not good to know too much of the future.”
“You’re doing that annoying thing that he did,” Siofra said briskly, “talking in riddles.”
“Where exactly is he?” I asked, trying not to sound too eager for the information, but wanting to at least get some of the facts out in the open. “Where are these Cliffs of Garelan?”
“On another world,” Lucy-Mae replied simply.
“And how do we get there?” Siofra asked.
I spoke at the same time. “Is that what you’re going to show us how to do?”
She looked between us then answered, “Yes.”
My mind was thinking about a hundred different things, but I settled for one question to begin with. “What exactly is his situation there?”
She leaned back against the counter and took a long drag of her cigarette. “All will become clear in time,” she replied cryptically, looking at me as if she knew a secret.
“It would be good if all became clear before we walked into this,” I retorted in a huff as I crossed my arms over my chest in a defensive nature.
Mac spoke up then, causing Eliza to give him a dirty look. “Knowledge is power,” he said. That was the way he tended to look at life and I had to admit that I agreed with him most of the time. This time especially.
Siofra added her two cents. “What is it that you can tell us before we go?”
“Is he in danger?” I asked, trying not to be too overt in my questioning.
Lucy-Mae smiled at me as if she knew where my thoughts were going, which she probably did given she was a Fate and all. “If he does not return to this world soon, he will never return to this world.”
I didn’t like that idea, but I tried to hide my dislike as best as I could.
“How much danger is there to us?” Siofra went on.
Lucy-Mae shrugged and waved her cigarette in the air. “There is danger in everything. Walking down the street is dangerous.”
There was no doubt in my mind that I would at least go, even if I went by myself. I just wanted to know one thing at this point. “Will we be able to use our magick like we do here?”
“Yes,” she answered.
“I was not able to,” Siofra pointed out.
Lucy-Mae countered, “You were dreaming.”
“But I’ve used it before dreaming.”
The older woman shrugged. “It was not your dream.”
I frowned. I had thought that meeting Joel had been my dream all along. Apparently I was skipping around in dreams again and I had to admit that the thought was slightly disturbing to me. It was odd to think that I would just bounce into someone’s dream like I had and I had to admit that it didn’t sound like a safe habit to continue. “Was it his dream that we were all in?” I asked.
“It looks as if some of you know the answers to that,” she pointed out as she looked knowingly at Mac. “If you know the answers, why are you here?”
“We know the answer to that question,” Mac added.
Siofra switched tactics, I think before we talked ourselves out of their help. “Why us?”
Lucy-Mae looked down to avoid eye contact with anyone. “Because of your tie with the one who seems to be avoiding his destiny,” she said, moving to flick her long ash into a tray.
“That’d be you, Mac,” Siofra said with a grin, as only a sister could.
He glared back at her. “Thanks, Sprite,” he ground out.
She ignored his obvious displeasure and looked back to Lucy–Mae. “How do we get there?”
“Can we go now?” I added. I was worried about Joel and what was happening to him. I was trying to forget the way his lips had felt on my skin so I concentrated on the fact that he was somehow bound to that world, but it was really hard.
Siofra looked at me disapprovingly. “I’m not sure about going right now,” she said slowly.
“Well, how do we go?” I pressed Lucy-Mae.
Mac tried to lighten the mood by saying, “Turn right at the north star, straight on until morning.”
“Second star to the right,” Eliza corrected.
Mac looked at his wife and squeezed her arm. “Of course, my bad.”
Lucy-Mae shook her head in disapproval. “It’s no wonder you get lost upon occasion,” she observed.
He looked at her and his features turned to a teasing expression. “Is that why my destiny takes control?”
Attempting to avoid an argument, Siofra jumped in. “Directions, please?” she asked as she finished the last of the beans and dropped them in the bowl.
“Directions,” Lucy-Mae repeated as she pushed herself away from the counter and looked around the room at us. “Well, we need to go into the yard and do a little scrying in the pool.”
Everyone who was sitting stood and as a group we moved toward the door of the trailer. Annabelle had apparently finished her conversation with the wolf because she reached for her walker and stood as well and Carlene’s face showed utter happiness that the guys were now moving out of the kitchen, making it easier for her to get closer to them. Glenn was at a loss as to how to deal with her, but Mac kept Eliza between himself and the other woman as we moved outside.
Gwrhyr walked next to Annabelle as we all made to exit and I went to help her out of the house. She thanked me in a distracted old lady way, but I didn’t mind as long as we found out what we needed to know and found it out soon.
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