22. The Seer

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Back at the flat, I couldn’t sleep. My mind kept repeating scenarios. I would begin to dream then wake up five minutes later, screaming.

Connor sat in the chair in the corner, watching over me silently. He had refused to leave me. I perched up on my elbow and let my thoughts spill out.

“I don’t know how you can stand it. I know I can’t. I’m so worried. The first week they were away was bad enough, but it’s been six weeks since you heard that they were in Russia. How can you not wonder what’s going on, not worry yourself to death? I’m going mad here, and I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep myself sane. How can you be so calm all the time? It’s your family. What if they’re all dead? How will you know?”

“Whoa there. Slow down with all the questions.”

“I ask questions in the hope of getting an actual response. I want to know what you think. You’re such a closed book, so difficult to read. You never tell me anything.”

Connor shrugged his shoulders. “Some people are better with words than others, besides there’s nothing to tell.” He rose and came over to sit on the bed. “I’ve tried calling, I have. I’ve sent loads of texts but no one’s answered. What else can I do?”

“Don’t ask me. You’re the one with the magical world at your fingertips. Surely you can come up with something.”

Connor studied his fingers, biting his nails nervously. “Erm, well…we could visit the seer. Not sure how much use she’ll be but worth a try I suppose.”

“The seer?”

“Yeah, get some sleep it’s a long journey.”

Old Mrs Grimmock lived in the misty valley beyond Lyall ridge, a desolate and sinister place uninhabited by humans, and so far into the wilderness that even the most adventurous of hikers didn’t dare venture into its depths.

We travelled there on horseback, veering off a local trail, past waterlogged fields where a pair of ducks danced a merry courtship, to steer our mounts down to the woodland below. I was grateful for the pony trekking jaunts that I’d taken with my father as a child and the docile mare that Connor had chosen as my ride.

In the pale dawn light, the morning mist hugged the distant hills like wisps of grey cotton wool, and as we descended further through the tree topped soup of swirling haze, the light mizzle, floating in the air around us, brushed my skin like walking through cobwebs. Below the grey canopy, a glitterama of frost twinkled prettily over the landscape.

Connor rode on ahead, picking the best route through the primrose and violet carpeted floor. I concentrated on his back. There was something truly sexy about a man astride a huge beast, controlling it with a squeeze of his tightly wrapped thighs.

Rough mounds of earth evened out to form a more level landscape, and we wound our way past a small lake, crossed the stream that fed it, and continued around the water’s edge. A movement in the waves caught my eye and made my horse nervous. I kicked the mare into a gentle trot, levelling up with Connor, to position him between me and the unknown.

Connor noticed my nervousness. “Don’t worry; it’s only the water nymphs checking us out.”

“Water nymphs?”

“Protectors of the valley, confirming we belong here, that we’re not human,” he explained.

“Speak for yourself.”

He turned his head and smiled. “You’re one of us now. Accept it. If you weren’t, you’d be lying at the bottom of that lake, already.”

After almost an hour, we arrived at the edge of an evergreen forest then entered it. Daylight was swallowed by the thick canopy of branches, and a damp oppression clawed at my skin. Despite Connor’s reassurance that he could see our path perfectly clearly, I felt as if I were being pulled along blindly, in some dark dream tunnel that I had no control over. It was closing in on me, squeezing the life out of the air around me. I was imagining it. It wasn’t real. I knew that because the occasional branch snagged my hair, and whipped and scraped at my face and hands, and it hurt.

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