We arrived back at Glenn and Siofra’s house around noon. Siofra asked if anyone was hungry and fixed a light lunch, but it was obvious that some of us were too worried about what lie ahead for us to eat. Eliza went outside with a cup of coffee and Mac refused everything his sister offered.
I suggested that we call Grandmother and Grandfather to let them know what was going on and that maybe they should keep Ian while we were gone. Siofra thought that it was a good idea and I was elected to make the initial call. Once they were each on their own extension, I told them about the dreams that everyone but Eliza had experienced the night before and what we intended to do about it. As expected, they were surprised by the circumstances and expressed concerns about our intentions, but I was the one that was really surprised to find out that they knew of Joel. They wouldn’t tell me much about him, other than he had been missing for a few years and that he was from Northern Ireland. They informed me that his family name was Fenian and that they had connections to the fey, but weren’t fey themselves.
By the end of the conversation my grandparents agreed that it was best that we help Joel and that they would keep Ian and Eddie while we were about it. Siofra quickly put together some of Ian’s things and I traveled through the portal with her to drop him off in Ireland.
When we got back everyone began to prepare to leave. We raided Siofra’s pantry for food and water for the trip since we didn’t know where we would be able to readily find it once we arrived at our destination. We tried to keep things light so we could travel quickly and we all changed into comfortable clothes and sturdy shoes in case we had to walk any long distances.
Siofra opened a gateway to the caves in Shelby Park about a half an hour later. It was dark in the caves, but everyone was prepared and had flashlights ready. It didn’t take long to find the stone circle that looked just as it had in the vision from the Fates’ pool. Eager to get our adventure underway, we touched the stones in turn as we had been instructed and put the necklace on Gwrhyr, who sat on the center stone.
In the blink of an eye we were mystically transported to the gray circle I had seen in my dream. The first thing I noted was that our clothing had changed dramatically. I was now wearing a long, silver dress with sturdy, knee-high riding boots and a cloak. Siofra also wore a long dress, but hers was burgundy. I saw that her boots were similar to mine as well when she lifted the hem of the dress and a cloak that was draped on her shoulders, too. Her hair was swept up in a pretty twist with wispy tendrils of hair brushing her neck.
I almost giggled out loud when I saw that Mac was wearing plate armor over a chain mail shirt that went to his knees. He wore an over tunic of blue that had a wolf’s head embroidered on the front. He looked like he had stepped out of the pages of a book of King Arthur stories and strangely enough, it looked natural on his muscular frame. I watched as he examined the armor and mail expertly to be sure that everything was situated properly.
Eliza looked like his page, complete with leather armor that went nearly to her knees with leather leggings underneath and knee boots. Glenn was dressed similarly, but his leather was a darker shade of brown compared to Eliza’s. A closer look at everyone told me that we all wore a wolf like Mac’s somewhere on our person with the exception of Glenn, who wore a raven on his shoulder.
A quick inspection of our surroundings showed that we seemed to be alone in the forest. The trees were thick; like I remembered from my dream, but when I checked with magick I could tell we were the only ones in the area. There was a sense of foreboding in the air, however, and I couldn’t stop myself from worrying about what awaited us.
All of our belongings had been changed as well into their medieval era equivalent. The most startling change was that my cell phone became a scroll with ink and a quill to go along with it. Our bottles of water became flasks and all the other plastic packaging on the food we had brought was now clean cloth. Our money had been changed to gold and silver coin that I had to assume was the type of currency used in this land. Credit cards became letters of credit from a bank that none of us had ever heard of.
Siofra eyed Mac closely. “Can you walk quietly in that?” she asked half serious as she pointed at the armor and mail.
Mac gave her the hairy eyeball in return. “Yeah.”
Our weapons were converted to their medieval equivalent, too. Everything except the stakes, that is. Even our knives were similar, but not constructed the same as they had been. Our guns were archaic in fashion now, along with all the provisions needed for them, like powder and packing, that was among our supplies.
“You’ve got to be joking,” Siofra commented as she examined the gun she had pulled from her bag. “Do you know how to use this? I’m not sure I do.”
Proving once again to be an unbelievable source of information, Mac came forward and gave all of us a quick demonstration on medieval firearms; how he knew about them I’ll never know. They were very different from our modern day weapons so I only felt vaguely comfortable with them. I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to reload when I needed to so I just hoped that I wouldn’t have to. Putting my weapon away, I decided that it was time to exercise my magick more to see how well it was working. Reaching out once more with Life, I allowed my senses to spread out around me. All I felt were small animals in the forest around us, which eased my nerves a great deal for the moment.
“Is this the circle you saw?” Mac was asking Glenn.
The other man looked around. “It appears to be yes, although it was dark in my dream and it’s not now.”
“Maybe we should take the trail,” Siofra commented, indicating a small path that ran through the undergrowth that looked a game trail.
“All right, Gwrhyr,” Mac said and the wolf turned his head toward him. “You’ve been here before, now where do we go?” I noticed that he still wore the medallion that the Fates had given us so I went over to slip it off so he didn’t loose it.
“I’d like to follow this trail,” Siofra said as the wolf looked up at Mac innocently. As if taking a cue from her, he started off down the trail and we all fell into single file behind him. Mac took the lead, followed closely by Eliza, then myself, with Siofra and Glenn bringing up the rear.
I slipped the medallion over my head and was about to tuck it under my dress when I realized that it had shifted slightly. The animal depicted on the pendant looked a little different from when I’d first been given it, but I figured that like everything else, it had adapted for this place and I allowed it to drop between my breasts.
I took the time to notice of my surroundings as we moved along the trial, using magick to get my bearings and to sense what was around us so we could find our way back to the circle of stones. I was sure that the others were doing the same and for now I felt only the presence of trees, but at the far edges of my field of awareness, there was habitation.
The game trail was narrow and lined with many of trees. We walked for a long while until finding a better traveled path that led us south. After a while a thought occurred to me.
“What are we going to tell people?” I asked, looking in front of me where Eliza trudged with her crossbow case and another pack on her back.
“We’re just passing through?” Siofra suggested from behind me. “We’re traveling to meet old friends. We’ve come to seek a new existence… I don’t know.”
“A wandering freak show,” I heard Mac put in from the head of the line sarcastically.
“Yeah, that’ll go over real well,” Eliza replied, a grin evident in her voice.
Mac stopped and we gathered in a circle to discuss on the path. “Look at it this way, between all of us we can do enough to back it up,” he said, attempting to sound convincing now.
“Are we going to charge money for admission?” Eliza asked, playing off his suggestion.
The mood sobered and we tossed around some ideas on potential stories to use and settled on one that said we were travelers whose horses and provisions had been stolen by bandits on the road to whatever city we were coming to. That established, we continued down the trail until we eventually came to a clearing on our right. It was a small one, where the big trees had roots that were just about the right height for sitting on comfortably. To everyone’s surprise, on one of the roots sat a little girl, no older than ten or twelve.
She was a cute little thing with long dark hair and quick brown eyes that stood out even from the six to eight feet that separated us. She reminded me of a friend of mine that moved away when I was young and the likeness was remarkable. She sat there as if she was expecting us, but her demeanor said that she was saddened.
“She looks like the girl that ran away,” Siofra commented to Glenn.
He shook his head. “I don’t see the resemblance, but she reminds me of my mother.”
Siofra left the path and walked up to the girl and said, “Hello.” The girl appeared a little afraid at first, but I could see her face when she looked up at her shyly at my aunt. “Why are you out here in the middle of the woods all alone?”
“Where else would I be?” the child asked as if the answer should be perfectly evident. Her clothes were remarkably clean for someone who supposedly lived in the forest. They were well worn, but the skirt displayed no evidence of dirt or tearing that one might expect.
“At home with your parents,” Siofra suggested, causing the little girl’s eyes to sadden as she looked down at her hands that were in her lap.
“I’m sorry,” Siofra told her as she moved to sit down next to her on the root and the girl shifted away slightly in uncertainty.
Mac moved to edge of clearing where he could keep watch of the road and Eliza stuck close to him as Siofra made a heart felt attempt to befriend the girl. “Is there something I can help you with? Something I can do for you, you seem… lost.”
The child bristled slightly, pulling her little shoulders up so that she appeared older. “I’m not lost, I know these woods.”
Siofra had to stifle a smile as she watched the girl. “Would you like something to eat?” I could see the hunger in the child’s eyes, but I also saw her resolve that said she wouldn’t ask for anything, either. “I have lots of stuff in my bag if you’d like something,” Siofra pressed.
The little girl hesitated a minute more, and then nodded her head slightly. Siofra opened her pack and offered many things from the selection of food that she had brought with her. It was obvious that the girl didn’t want to be greedy and in the end Siofra gave her an apple and some cheese that she tore into hungrily.
“Thank you,” the child said, eyeing the rest of us as she ate.
“What are you doing out here alone?” Siofra asked her.
“I live out here,” she answered matter of factly.
Siofra looked around the clearing. “Where?” she asked and the girl pointed toward the east. “Would you like us to take you back?”
The child shook her head as she swallowed. “No, I can find my way, thank you.”
Siofra considered her for a moment. “Do you know a person named Joel?”
“Worldwalker?” Mac asked when the child shook her head.
She shook her head no again and took another bite.
“What was the woman’s name?” I asked, moving a few steps closer to her.
She chewed carefully as she watched my approach. “Taeynd,” Siofra answered, causing the child to look at her quickly with fright in her eyes.
“You know the lady?” she asked Siofra in disbelief.
Siofra shook her head. “No, I don’t. I’ve seen her. She’s the one that Joel is… I think he is friends with her.”
“She doesn’t have friends,” the girl informed her.
“Well she seems to think he is her friend.”
I moved forward then and squatted down in front of the girl. “My name is Corrine,” I told her with a smile. “And this is my family.” I looked around at the others then turned back to the child. She was looking at them as well as I introduced everyone. “This is Siofra,” and she smiled at her benefactor who had given her a meal.
I quickly pointed out the others who all smiled warmly at the girl in turn. We were told that we would have need of a guide. Maybe that’s what the girl was meant to be, even if she was only a child. “What’s your name?” I asked her after.
I nodded and smiled again. “Do you know where Taeynd lives?”
“She lives at Horsetower.”
I studied her curiously. “Horsetower? Is that the name of her house, or the name of a town?”
“It’s a castle. It’s that way,” she said, pointing toward the southwest.
“Is she a nice person, or kind of?” I asked, which caused the child to shake her head vigorously. “I didn’t think so. Are people scared of her?”
Kenaz hesitated, and then nodded her head as Siofra put her hand on her small shoulder to sooth her fears.
I decided to take the chance that she might be our guide. “Do you think you could show us the way to this Horsetower?”
She was visibly frightened. “I don’t want to go there.”
“You don’t have to,” Siofra said, attempting to ease her fear.
Kenaz looked up at her. “I could show you where, but I don’t want to go there.”
“Ask her about the cliffs,” Mac suggested.
I nodded. “Do you know if we’re close to the Cliffs of Garelan?” Maybe we could just get some background information from the child to point us in the right direction, but I didn’t feel right just leaving her out here by herself.
“Horsetower is on the cliffs,” Kanaz answered.
I looked back at Mac and Eliza. “That must be the castle we saw.” Then I turned back to the girl again. “Just out of curiosity, are there soldiers that work for this woman?”
She nodded. “A lot of them.”
I wondered if her people were one of the armies on the field that faded in and out during my dream. “What color do they wear?” I asked.
“Black,” she answered, confirming my thoughts.
I pressed forward to see if there was anything else that I might learn from her. “Do you know of an army that wears red?” I asked, hoping to get some kind of idea who our friend might be, but the child answered no.
“Do you know a man named Jolesic?” Siofra then asked.
She seemed to light up at the mention of that name. “Uh-huh,” she told us.
Siofra smiled at her. “Do you know where he’s at?”
“He’s with the lady.”
“Is he mean?”
Kenaz shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Have you ever talked to him?” she pressed.
“Once,” was her response.
Siofra and I continued to ask the girl various questions while she finished the cheese and apple and the others waited nearby. Kenaz was adamant that she didn’t want to go to Horsetower, but she did consent to show us the way, which was a great help since we were unfamiliar with the lay of the land. She claimed to know the woods well so we agreed that taking her with us was a good idea until she had proven herself untrustworthy.
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