I fell into an easy sleep in no time at all. I concentrated on Joel as I did; using the techniques that Jared had drilled into me during my training and picturing Joel as I had seen him that first time. Soon enough I found myself in the familiar field of stars from my lessons where each peg of light represented a person’s dream. I focused on Joel, thinking about him as hard as possible, and in a short amount of time I found myself drawn to a particular star.
I pushed myself that way and when I reached out to touch it, I found myself standing at the edge of the white cliffs of Garelan. The river was about forty feet down, and it ran fast and deep where it cut through the rock toward the sea. The opposite shore was about sixty feet across from me and the forest was twenty yards behind where I stood. In the distance to my right I could see top turrets of Horsetower where we were to travel the next day and I stayed still a moment and I took in the large structure. Ahead of me was a man walking toward the castle and I noticed for the first time that Blar was at my feet, looking up at me expectantly.
I looked down at her with a small smile as I started off toward the man at a brisk walk. “Is that him?” I asked the wolf who trotted beside me.
She glanced up at me, and in answer sped up her pace a little. Joel was walking slowly, almost as if he were enjoying this quiet time after a tedious day. I caught up to him fairly quickly, but Blar reached him first. When she came into his field of vision, he stopped and bent to pet her, seeming a bit confused by her sudden appearance.
“What are you doing here, girl?” he asked. As if the answer hit him suddenly, he turned to look at me about the same time that I reached him and he smiled. “Corrine.”
I smiled back at him as I took a moment to catch my breath from the fast pace I had set to get to him. “We’re here,” I told him, clasping my hands in front of me because they were itching to reach out to touch him. “We are staying at an inn in the city. How do we get to you?”
Joel straightened from petting Blar and looked down at me, his face serious. “You’re in Grimhaven?” he asked expectantly. When I nodded he said, “Did—who came with you?” He was a little anxious about the question.
I smiled again, knowing that he was eager to learn if Mac was here since it appeared as if their destinies were intertwined. “We’re all here. Glenn, Siofra, Eliza, Mac and myself. We were told that Taeynd will have open court tomorrow and we are coming.”
He closed his eyes in relief for a second when I mentioned Mac’s name, then frowned when I talked about coming to the castle. “You would walk into the viper’s nest?” he asked, his voice warming me so that goose bumps jumped on my flesh.
I regarded him seriously for a moment with one of those ‘hello’ eyebrow lifts that expressed slight irritation. “It’s not like you told any of us how to go about doing this once we got here,” I told him with a smile, then I sobered. “What do we have to do to free you?”
“If I knew I’d have freed myself long ago,” he replied with a sigh and paused. “That’s not entirely true.” He turned away from me and looked over the river, half angry, half regretful. “I know how to free myself, but I will not do it.”
I moved around him so that I could see his face. “What do you mean?” I asked, nearly whispering the question.
Joel looked down into my eyes for a few precious seconds, then reached for my hand and tugged on it so that we began to walk along the edge of the cliffs, away from Horsetower. “What do you know of sorcerers, Corrine?” he asked as he looked ahead of us.
I glanced at him while we walked, unsure why he was asking. “I know that Mac came back as one and that for some reason mages look down on them. I’m guessing that it has something to do with the difference in power between the two groups. Personally I think the idea of looking down on someone is ridiculous. It’s what is in your heart that makes you who you are. But I don’t think that’s what you are asking about.”
We were walking hand in hand slowly along the cliff edge and I tried not to enjoy the secure feeling I had being at Joel’s side. The ground was rocky and uncertain here and I found myself clutching at his hand at times as we moved along. But Joel’s grip was strong and he guided me easily, making sure that I didn’t stumble. “My family has always believed that Sorcerers receive their power from Great Spirits, either to fulfill a task for the spirits, or to repay a debt they owe to the person receiving the power,” he explained. “Your father has a task to perform, rather a series of them, some of which he has already completed.”
“And is helping to free you so you can return to your family one of them?”
“In a way,” Joel replied, glancing down at me with an emotion in his eyes that I didn’t understand. “There are things I must teach him, things Gwrhyr cannot. I had planned to be in Galway when he returned, but…” He turned his head to look out over the water, his voice full of regret. “I thought fate could not touch me if I did not acknowledge it,” he said almost absently.
I watched his features as best as I could while we continued to walk, but my eyes narrowed at his last comment. “You sounded like Mac just then,” I commented. “What made you change your mind? About fate?”
“A man can only run from his destiny for so long,” he replied, still not meeting my eyes, keeping his face turned almost as if he were ashamed. “The Fates have ways of forcing one to their will.” He finally looked down at me again, and smiled sadly. “I like to think I have learned my lesson. I bow to the wisdom of the Fates,” at that he gave a short bow from the waist, “and give thanks for their mercy.”
I stopped and used our still joined hands to make him stop as well. “Did they put you here as a way of making you bow to their will?” I asked my voice low and showing that the idea was not an agreeable one to me. I lifted my other hand so that I could touch his cheek, “That’s not fair.”
“No,” he said with that sad smile. “I came of my own free will, believing I could somehow elude their plans. Had I not run so hard from my destiny, I would not have fallen so deeply into their grasp. It was a hard lesson to learn, but learn it I did.” His hand came up to cover mine and his smile lost some of its sadness. “And it is not always so difficult to follow the Fates, sometimes their grasp is sweet as honey, and gentle as a flower bending in the summer breeze.”
I nodded and looked down at his chest. “I don’t know what to do. We read a prophecy that seems to tell about us coming here, but it doesn’t say how we go about doing what needs to be done.” My gaze met his again. “Will we see you tomorrow?”
“‘Only ruin may open the traveler’s cage’,” he quoted part of the prophecy to me. “Only her death can free me,” he looked away from me and toward the water again, “and I know that I should do it, but I cannot, must not.” His voice was very low, almost urgent, and I could tell that the idea killing Taeynd really bothered him a great deal. It bothered me as well.
“Taeynd must die so that you can be free?” I asked in astonishment. Without realizing what I was doing, I took a step forward as if to move into his arms, but I caught myself and pulled back again. “I had hoped it wouldn’t come to that. What kind of powers does she have? I get the feeling she isn’t nice. Maybe there is a way to barter with her for your freedom or trick her.”
He laughed almost harshly. “Don’t you think I’ve tried?” he released his hold on me and turned to walk a few feet away toward the very edge of the cliffs. He was obviously agitated as he spoke, “I have no power here to escape except here in my dreams, and waking I have no power over my own mind. She has bound me to her with the power of blood so strong I cannot break free.” He turned to face me. “One does not ‘negotiate’ with Taeynd, or trick her. She is the strongest creature I have ever known, and if you try, she will destroy you, as she has destroyed so many others. I’d not see your life end on your knees before her, nor your father’s life, nor any of the others. Elizabeth is the only one she might spare, and then only for her own purposes.”
I knew that he was very serious in his claims, but I wasn’t about to stop now since we had come so far. “You said blood. Is she a vampire or something?”
He shook his head, his hair moving in waves around his face. “Not the way you mean, not the way Cormac was. I have felt the warmth of her skin, heard her heart beat. Vampires on our world lose their lives and keep their souls, Taeynd has kept her life, but her soul is gone. She feeds on others, but not of their blood; she feeds on their hearts, their magick, their souls.” He turned again, as if he remembered something horrible that he had tried to forget. “She used our blood combined to bind me to her with a magick so strong I couldn’t fight it, I still cannot.”
Hearing the finality in his voice cemented in me the need to see him free of Taeynd. I went around him so that I could see his face and put my hands on his shoulders to hold him there. “I need to know how to break it,” I said to him sternly. “Is killing her the only way? I relish the job no more than you, hell I don’t even know if I could kill her, but I will do what is necessary to see you free from her.” I made sure that he was looking into my eyes for my next statement. “You must help me do it. Tell me what I must do. You are the only one who can. We are not of this world and we don’t know how everything works.”
“I don’t know how to break the spell,” he replied as he rested his hands on my waist. “I can’t use magick the way that you can, I can’t see or feel what it was she did to know how to undo it. I know only that her death will break it and that only because she told me so, and gave me a knife to do the deed.” He pulled me into his arms and the warmth of his chest against mine was almost like he was holding me in the waking world. “There are times when I wish I could have done it, but I cannot, dare not.”
I pulled him closer, wrapping my arms around his neck. “We’ll figure it out. Don’t worry. Somehow we’ll figure it out. Can she feel that we have power? Will she know it if we get too close? We need every advantage we can get by the sounds of it.”
“She can smell magick if you use it in Horsetower,” he warned, speaking into my hair. “Macalister may be able to use his brand of magick, I’ve managed to keep mine hidden from her the few times I’ve been able to use it.”
“Okay, no magick until it’s time.” I pulled back enough to look in his eyes as I cupped his face with my hands. “Will she be able to tell where the magick came from? Or will she just know that it’s there?” I was so worried that we might be too late; that maybe whatever hold Taeynd had over him was too strong to break.
Joel opened his mouth, but what he was about to say was lost when I heard Siofra call out to us urgently. Joel straightened and both of us turned to watch my aunt as she hurried across the white rocks. She was wearing jeans and a shirt and Princess was beside her.
“Siofra,” I said in bewilderment as I pulled away from Joel to move toward her. Where had she come from? “What’s wrong?” I called out.
She greeted us hurriedly then said, “I was just with Taeynd and I was able to fight her off, but I don’t know how long it will last.” She looked at Joel and went on, “She knows that we are here to rescue you and she is going to kill you. We have to hurry.”
I felt the blood drain from my face. I couldn’t process what she was saying. “What have you done?” she asked quietly, in disbelief. I felt the numbness as it crept into my soul at the thought of Siofra seeking the woman out. What had she been thinking? How could she have told the woman that we were here and meant to free Joel? It was like signing his death warrant.
I glanced at Joel, who paled a bit, but gave us a wry smile. “She won’t kill me, Sprite, but she’ll make me regret your visit to her.”
“What’s done is done,” Siofra said to me as if she were speaking to a child whose favorite toy had just broken by her own hand. “There isn’t much time. We need to wake Mac and Eliza and come up with a plan.” She turned to Joel then. “I am sorry for what she may do to you. If there is anyway that I can fix it I would. Please be careful and avoid her if you can. We must go, now,” she said to me.
I felt Joel’s hand as he placed it on my shoulder. “Take care, I’d not have you lose your life for mine,” he told me as his gaze moved to Siofra. “Any of you.”
I turned to him and not knowing what else to do, touched his face. “Will you remember this when you awaken?”
He nodded. “Perhaps. You, I find hard to forget.”
I swallowed hard then spoke. “Then remember this, we will get to you and we will get you away from her.”
Siofra was eager to be gone, but at the moment I didn’t care. “I’m sure that he will, Corrine. Now we must hurry.” She grabbed my hand, and with a last regretful look, Joel let me go. I awoke back in bed at the inn, but I hadn’t forgotten the danger Siofra had deliberately put Joel in and I could feel my temper begin to rise uncontrollably.
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