Another piece of the story.
Brenden had never seen the likes of the beauty who called herself Fyre. He found her loveliness completely mesmerizing and couldnâ€™t stop staring. When she offered her hand, she hadnâ€™t let go as she led him deeper into the foliate, away from the main road. And his village.
Darkness pressed all around. Even the gold moon high above could not penetrate the depth Fyre had led them into.
He watched with an interested eye as she skillfully built a fire, using underbrush, small pieces of bark and sticks, and then rubbing something together to make a spark. Now the gold and orange blaze flickered over her lovely face as she poked the embers, keeping the flames alive.
â€œWhere do ye hail from?â€ she asked, breaking the long silence.
Brenden blinked, forcing himself to focus on her face and away from drawing the odd symbols with the stick in his hand. It seemed golden in the half light. â€œÃ‰odic.â€
â€œThe village in the Forest Lochlann?â€ she asked and he nodded. â€œYe far from home then, are ye noâ€™, wee laddie?â€
â€œBecause of yer mam?â€
He still could not place her dialect and her accent. It sounded so foreign, almost ancient, to his ears. In a way, it reminded him of the village Elders.
â€œI was told there is a doctor in Lofinn,â€ he said.
â€œAye,â€ she agreed, nodding slowly, then wrinkled her brow. â€œMayhap ye mean the Healer?â€
â€œAye. The auld man has been alive longer thanâ€”â€ She paused, chewed on her lower lip. â€œWell, longer than most.â€ Her ruby red lips formed a small smile.
â€œMost?â€ It seemed he could only repeat her words, so stunned was he by her voice. He sounded like a fool.
â€œYeâ€™ve entered the Land of the Auld Ones. Or did ye not know?â€
He shook his head and continued to poke the ground with the stick, drawing shapes that had no names. Shapes he had seen in his dreams his entire life.
When his mam fell ill, he did all he could for her. Nothing seemed to help. She continued to weaken, losing her powers of speech. The village doctor could do nothing for her, either, and told Brenden to prepare for the worst. His mam, though, wrote him a note one day.
Seek the doctor on the other side of the Silldar. He will know what is to be done.
She had written doctor, not healer.
But mayhap she had been mistaken? And at any rate, he had never known his mam to leave the village, so how could she know about the doctor in Lofinn? A puzzle, to be sure.
Fyre scooted from the edge of the flames nearer to Brenden. She glanced down, saw the patterns in the dirt and watched his hand move from one side to the other, making an elaborate wavy circlet. Then back again to connect it. Like intricate knotwork he had dreamed since he could remember dreams.
â€œWhat is that?â€ She nodded to the sand.
â€œJust shapes,â€ he said and shrugged. â€œPatterns. I often draw to pass the time.â€
â€œYe dinnae know what those shapes are, do ye?â€
His gaze landed on her face, her expression guarded as through she already knew the answer to her own question. His brows drew together.
â€œShould I know?â€
She lifted one thin shoulder in a half hearted shrug. â€œNay, I suppose noâ€™.â€
Scooting backward, she leaned against a thick fallen tree trunk and drew up her knees. Her arms encircled them, her fingers clasping. Her chin perched on her kneecaps as she stared into the firelight.
â€œAre ye hungry, then?â€
â€œI have a bit of bread.â€ He pulled the crusty piece from the small knapsack hanging from his belt. â€œWould you like some?â€
She wrinkled her nose â€“ which he noted had a splatter of freckles â€“ and shook her head. As though the mention of bread was distasteful. With a shrug, he broke off a crust and popped it into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully.
â€œWill the dragon come back?â€ he asked then, thinking of the creature that had swooped down on him just hours before.
â€œAye, to be sure,â€ she said. â€œYe must not travel along the main road. Or yeâ€™ll find yerself as a wee tasty treat. Noâ€™ even highwayman travel these roads, for they know the consequences.â€
â€œRight.â€ He wondered how he was to get to Lofinn then, when he couldnâ€™t use the main road.
As quick as he thought the question, she answered it for him. â€œIn the morn, I will show ye how to get to Lofinn without going the main road. Rest yeself, now.â€
Brenden dropped the stick and settled against the log, tucking his hands behind his head.
â€œThank you, by the way, for saving my life.â€
Glancing at her, she gave him a small smile. â€œYe are most welcome, wee laddie.â€
As he drifted off to sleep, he wondered why she called him wee laddie, when she seemed not more than a day older than he.
Â© Michelle Miles, 2005