The water in the pool was clean like it had been when I had first seen it earlier that morning in my dream. Lucy-Mae called out to one of the older children that were outside playing to bring her a stick. The three women took turns stirring the water and soon a picture developed of a cave with a circle of twelve stones with a thirteenth one in the center. Mac and Siofra recognized it almost immediately as one of the caves that were under Shelby Park in Nashville.
Five of the stones in the circle were highlighted in a pattern, then the center stone. Superimposed over it was an amulet of sorts that was round, with words in an unfamiliar language around the edges, and a gryphon in the middle.
“What is that?” I asked from my place between Mac and Annabelle.
“It’s a talisman,” Lucy-Mae answered.
“What kind of talisman?” Siofra asked.
Lucy-Mae looked at her. “It’s a gryphon.”
“Where can we get it?” I pressed, eager to have all the answers I needed to get to Joel.
Annabelle carefully let go of her walker and reached under her shirt to pull out a tacky necklace that she handed to me. As soon as it passed into my hands, it changed so that it became the large silver and bronze medallion with delicate inlays of gold that seemed to form words in an unrecognizable language.
“So what do we have to do with this then?” I asked as I studied the markings closely. “We have to go there, obviously.”
“Does that rock mean something?” Siofra added.
Lucy-Mae looked at us and said, “In a circle of stones touch each in turn.”
“In the middle of all the wolf will cry,” Annabelle chimed in.
Carlene finished, “The door will open for your goodbye.”
Before I had a chance to forget the incantation, I pulled out a piece of paper and wrote down what the women had just told us. As I did so, the image in the pool faded away.
“Is there any help or advice you can give us before we go?” Siofra asked.
Carlene snickered. “Don’t tarry.”
Mac glanced at her then asked, “What sort of time line are we looking at?”
Lucy-Mae’s brow creased slightly. “What do you mean?”
“You said if Joel doesn’t return to this world soon he’ll never be able to.”
She nodded. “That kind of time line.”
Annabelle hobbled a few steps closer to him. “It’s not a date on a calendar.”
“The wolf has been there before,” Lucy-Mae told us indicating Gwrhyr. “He’ll be able to help you somewhat, but you’ll need to seek out a guide.”
“One from there?” Siofra asked. The older woman nodded and Siofra was sullen for a moment. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” With that the three of them turned and headed back toward the trailer.
I pulled the necklace over my head and tried to tuck it inside my shirt, but it was very wide and made my shirt stick out in odd angles. I left it there anyway at the others headed for the car. I had one last thing that I wanted to ask the three women without any of my family hearing so I called out to them and I followed them a few steps.
“Can I help you, child?” Lucy-Mae asked when she turned back to me.
I hesitated for a minute, not sure how to begin. “Joel… he… he said some things… in the dream. Where they true, do you know?”
She smiled. “Many things are true; many things will not come to pass. What is it you ask?”
“He seemed to know me.”
She nodded. “Yes.”
I didn’t know if she was telling me something or just agreeing with what I said. “Okay. Forget I asked.”
“He knows you all, child,” she told me in a gentle voice, reminding me of my Grandmother.
I looked away embarrassed. “I’m being silly. Forget I said anything.” And I turned to walk away, but her hand on my shoulder stopped me.
“All will be well,” she whispered and winked at me.
I nodded silently then my eyes moved to the ground and I turned to walk back to the vehicle.
“And child,” she called. I stopped to look back, but what she said puzzled me. “Remember that not all is as it seems at first glance.” Then she turned and went to help Annabelle up the steps and into the trailer.
Eliza was waiting for me near the door to the backseat. She smiled at me reassuringly then we climbed in and Glenn started the drive back to town.
“Have you guys discussed your dreams with each other?” Eliza asked.
Siofra twisted in her seat to look back at us. “No.”
Eliza looked around at us. “Don’t you think you should?” She had been the only one to not have a dream so I figured she was feeling pretty out in left field in this entire situation. I had to concede that her suggestion was a good one even though I didn’t really want to share all the details of my dream with them.
Siofra shrugged. “I guess.” She thought a second, as if trying to remember where her dream had started. “I saw the chick,” she began.
“Which chick?” Mac asked.
“Taeynd. I saw them arguing.”
“Joel?” he interjected.
She nodded. “Yes and the girl. They were arguing. She’s short, with long dark hair. He was telling her that he couldn’t stay in her service much longer because he has a duty to fulfill and she said that his duty was to her alone. Jolesic, that’s what she called him. He mentioned that ‘they will come for me’. I’m assuming that’s us. And his service to her was going to end. She mentioned the queen. Liosalfar. He mentioned his family, and destiny, and the Fates. I think at that point he noticed me, and left to walk through the trees.
“What did the trees look like?” I asked, wondering if she had been in the same forest that I had.
Siofra shrugged again. “Trees. Big trees. Like redwoods. He wasn’t trying to lose me; he made sure I could follow him. I had on a blue embroidered long gown, and a knife. I’ve dreamt of him before. Somewhere in the middle of it I called out to him, and he stopped and waited for me. At the edge of the forest there’s a cliff and stones that are chalk white. I’ve been dreaming of this since the last time you died,” she finished sadly, looking at her brother.
Mac eyed her and smiled teasingly. “The first time or the second time?”
She tore her eyes away from him with a pained look that I knew we all still felt from time to time when we thought of the months when we had been without him. “The second time. He didn’t really answer any of my questions; he just talked in riddles almost to an annoying degree. He called me Sprite, and told me that he knows me well, and we’ve spoken before. He can read destinies, and see into the future.”
An idea came to her then and she her gaze met his again. “You know, he may be of some help to you. You know what? He said something that the Fates said. The future is like moonlight on water. To touch the surface would be to change the reflection. They said the same thing. What do you think of that?”
Mac made a face that was typical when the word destiny was brought up in his presence. “I think its prophetic bullshit,” he scoffed.
Obviously Siofra didn’t agree with him. “Maybe,” was all she said.
Mac continued. “Because if you give it five seconds, you see the reflection as it was.”
Like the rest of us, Siofra knew that there was no way to change his mind, so she changed the subject instead. “He says there’s going to be a battle fought and we cannot be there to see it, and if she is there, all will be lost. I don’t know who he means; he wouldn’t tell me who it was, again with the riddles. She’s beautiful, though.”
I knew, Joel had told me that he hoped that I didn’t see the battle as it was fought next to the cliffs and my stomach dropped because Siofra was back on this subject. At hearing that he had told Siofra that I was beautiful, though, I felt my cheeks go hot and I looked out the window, hoping no one would notice my discomfort.
“You know what?” Siofra continued. “He said that she was in the forest the same night, he must have talked to her like he talked to me.” I felt everyone’s eyes turn toward me and I prayed to Gaia that I gave nothing of my thoughts away in my gaze. “Was he talking about you?” she asked me.
I looked at them hesitantly. I didn’t want them to know about how I felt about a man that I hadn’t even met yet and my mind raced as I figured what to tell them. “Blar said that if I was there, during the battle… that I shouldn’t be, but I don’t know what she meant by it, because I saw a mist of dead bodies.”
I glanced around me at the others in the vehicle, afraid that they would see through my emotions at what I was hiding so I plowed ahead and told them what I saw in my dream to change the subject a little. “I was on the cliffs as well, outside the forest. I saw the same forest that you did. I saw the aftermath of battle. I saw many bodies lying on the field. They wore two different colors, two different armies that fought there.”
“The white cliffs turned red,” Siofra confirmed, but she wasn’t about to let the subject die that I was the girl Joel had spoken of. “Do you think you are the ‘she’ that he was talking about in my dreams?”
I shrugged uncomfortably, wishing that she would drop the subject and leave me the hell alone about it. “I don’t know for sure. I mean, it kinda sounds that way, but I’m not really sure.”
Siofra looked at her husband then, expectantly waiting for him to share what had happened in his dream next. “I was kinda woken up in the middle of mine,” he informed us, looking sideways at his wife.
“Sorry,” she replied guiltily as she reached over to touch his hand where it rested on his thigh.
He shifted their hands until their fingers were laced together and continued to watch the road. “I saw the stone circle in the woods, and the castle, and a large party of men in black uniforms riding from it. I did talk to Worldwalker, and he said something about the cliffs running red because the Gods will it so. He said that he must be gone from there soon or he will never leave. The seeker must be sought, the seed must be sown, and then someone woke me up.”
“Did he tell us all the same thing?” Siofra asked, looking back at Eliza, Mac and myself.
“Sounds like its pretty close,” Glenn commented. “Except for those of us who were woken up, and those who woke up of their own volition.”
“Sorry,” she said again. “You didn’t have a sign up that said ‘leave me alone, I’m dreaming’.”
Mac cleared his throat. “I was told through my dream aspect of Gwrhyr that the seeker must be sought, the seed must be sown. I was talking with Eliza on the beach, I was drawn to the woods, I entered them, and there was the stone circle, big trees, Worldwalker. He knew Gwrhyr, greeted me, and then started in about destiny. He showed me Eliza dead in an alleyway, and that was about it.”
“Okay,” Siofra breathed out slowly.
“This was after I told him to shove destiny up his ass,” Mac finished.
I fought the grin that threatened to spread across my lips and tried to keep the conversation going so Mac didn’t continue his insistence that destiny meant nothing to him. “It sounded as if he has a destiny to fulfill of his own,” I pointed out.
Siofra nodded, regarding her brother evenly. “Could be. Maybe he’s meant to help you. Obviously you didn’t get it right at some point in your life; maybe he’s to guide you now.”
Mac lifted his hand to point in my direction as he said adamantly, “She’s here. I fulfilled my first destiny.”
I felt my brow crease as I looked across the space at him. I didn’t know what he was talking about. What did his destiny have to do with me? He was the one with things to accomplish, not me. I made a mental note to ask someone about it later, after we got Joel back. Not Mac, though, he made it perfectly clear what he thought about destiny and I was afraid he wouldn’t want to tell me anything.
Siofra looked back at him and said, “Maybe there’s another one. Maybe the destiny hasn’t been completed.”
“How many more times do I have to die?” he asked, barely controlling his voice as he did so.
She thought a moment, then eyed him with a grin and replied, “Once.”
Mac couldn’t help himself and grinned back. “Just once?” he asked sarcastically. “Thanks.”
“Then you can come back as something else next time,” she assured him with another grin.
“So is that how he threatened Eliza?” I asked, attempting to change the subject again. Eliza was visibly upset by the current topic of Mac dieing again and was now looking past me and out the window. “By showing her in an alleyway?”
“He made a comment as well,” he said.
“Such as?” Siofra pressed.
“That if I didn’t go after my destiny, she would die. ‘The Fates may force you to follow them, Macalister, with your joyous rage or without her’.”
Siofra regarded him crossly. “So you would put your destiny on the back burner and forget about it because you think it’s a bunch of crap and put her life in danger?”
He looked at her just as crossly and demanded, “I’m here, aren’t I?”
She frowned slightly. “Yeah, but you keep saying-”
“I don’t believe in destiny,” he interrupted.
“Well, it believes in you. Whether you believe in it or not, don’t you think you should follow it, at least for Eliza’s sake? “
His mouth thinned. “What do you think I’m doing, Sprite?”
“Being pissy about it,” she countered.
“No, I’m playing along.”
Siofra’s eyes narrowed over the headrest. “You have to do more than just play along.”
“I’m following my destiny,” he said sarcastically.
She rolled her eyes then and turned to sit back in her seat. Uncomfortable silence followed.
“Joel said that he was afraid that he had lost you to his own foolishness, and he asked that I ask for your forgiveness,” I said, hoping to get everyone talking again. “He only meant to show you the seriousness of what hiding from your destiny meant.”
“We’ll see if we can get him out first,” was all he said.
“Eliza’s had to live with you dying twice,” Siofra said, still looking out the windshield. Her words prompted Eliza to pull out a cigarette and light it. “You know how she felt about it.”
“Yes, she’s watched me die twice; I’ve watched her die once. Same thing I told Joel, and he basically didn’t give a flying fuck.”
“He just showed you the possible outcome if you don’t,” she said, glancing over her shoulder again.
“He threatened her life,” he pointed out.
“I’m sure there’s something more at stake here than what we’re assuming,” I said, still trying to push the conversation to neutral territory.
“More people have things at stake in this than he does,” Siofra added.
“Right, so we’ll just do what we can.” Letting the subject drop, I looked out the window and was quiet for the rest of the trip.
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