Chapter 5

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Eleri paid no mind to anyone else she passed as she made her way back to her own tent. Her thoughts were all-consuming; she had no attention left for others, not even, it seemed, Celyn. The warrior had called to her from a good distance away, but she should have heard him.

It was not like her to cut herself off from others unless she was carrying out her priestess duties at one of the groves in the forest. In cases such as these, it wasn't a deliberate attempt to isolate herself, only geography. Other people were simply too far away to serve as a distraction. When she was with the tribe, they were her focus. She was their priestess, their connection to the Lady, their healer. This behaviour then, was very much out of character.

On reaching the tent, she parted the doorway and entered, letting the curtain fall back down, blocking out the outside world as she did so. It was dark within, though shafts of light crept in where the covering of the poles had worn thin.

Eleri sat on the floor and took a few deep breaths. She could feel something was going on, something that she couldn't see, just as she had told Dewines that morning. It was as if some invisible woman was weaving a cloth around her. To begin with the threads were not close enough to interfere with her life, though their presence was near enough to be detected. But, those very same threads weaving under and over the waft, were gaining ground. They were becoming entwined with the threads of her own existence.

How could this be when she had no idea of what was occurring? Eleri was sensible. Practical. Intelligent. She was not easily cowed, nor easily defeated. There had to be a way to make it all make sense. If she could fit the pieces together, she might be able to understand what was going on and then and only then, be able to extract herself from this woven web. But how?

A swift movement by the door, and the curtain was pulled aside. Eleri's deliberations were over for the time being. In stepped the tall, broad figure of Celyn. He had to stoop slightly in order to remain standing.

'Eleri? Where have you been? You said you wouldn't be long in the forest, but I've just seen you return.'

The priestess slowly turned her head towards him. The look on her face must have been enough to convey that something was wrong.

'What is it? Has something happened?' He dropped down onto his knees in front of her and gathered her hands in his own. 'What am I saying? I can tell something has upset you.'

Eleri chewed her lip. What to say? How much to say? Would Celyn even understand why she was so troubled by what appeared to be so little?

'Eleri, please. Tell me all and tell me truthfully, other wise there is no point in our tying. Unless...' Celyn squeezed her hands gently. 'Yesterday I asked you if you had changed your mind about-'

'Celyn! No! It's not that. Not even close.'

'Are you sure? I would understand. I love you, Eleri, but I won't make you marry me if you don't want to.'

Eleri threw her arms around the warrior's neck and held him tight. He instantly returned her embrace and she sighed. Things felt better, easier now she had hold of him.

The words came tumbling out of her, one after another, one moment so quickly she couldn't speak fast enough, the next, slowly as she tried to find the right words so he might understand. It was no easy task; the words she said could not express what she felt, what she knew in her heart. What she knew as a priestess of the Green Lady. She was desperate for Celyn to see the warning Dewines offered, the strangeness of the words spoken by Hen-not-Hen, the omen of the unidentifiable bird flying over Cylch Cerrig...As for the encounter with Arwel, she knew he would wouldn't like any man conversing with her alone in the forest, especially one speaking to her of marriage.

When she had finished unburdening herself, Celyn stroked her hair and whispered in her ear, 'Do not fear, my love. You think this distant king can stand in the way of our marriage. I ask you how? Brenin will not go back on his word. His blessing has been given. We are as good as married, Eleri. I do not pretend to understand the ways of a priestess and the path you walk. But I am a champion; confident and strong. As a warrior, I live and die by my instinct. And do you know what my instinct is telling me now? That this River King ploughs a forsaken field. His hopes will come to nothing. You are mine, Eleri. Mine. Nothing short of death will keep us apart.'

Celyn's words and gentle touch were a balm to her soul. The fog that had clung to her started to thin. For the first time in hours she felt she could breathe easy again. Eleri might have been the tribe's healer-priestess, but here was the man that could heal the healer.

She pulled slightly away from the warrior in order to be able to rest her forehead against his own. Looking into his brown eyes, she smiled. 'Thank you. How have I managed without you since Midwinter?'

'I dare say you managed well-enough, woman.' He gently brushed his lips across her own, but a commotion from outside brought the moment to an abrupt end.

'Lady Eleri! Lady Eleri,' someone was shouting. Footsteps stopped outside the tent. Celyn, the warrior in him forever alert and ready to act, jumped up and marched out to find out what was going on.

Eleri missed the comfort of his closeness immediately, especially when she heard what was being said without. 'No, no, no,' she mumbled to herself, angry that her peace was so suddenly over.

'Lady Eleri has been summoned by the king,' a young boy said as he tried to get his breath back. 'You too, Warrior Celyn. The king says it's urgent and you're to come at once. Please. Now.'

Eleri's eyes closed as she felt something heavy pull the pit of stomach downwards. The fog returned and panic flared up inside her. Her intuition told her this was not good; that she was standing on the edge of an abyss and one misstep and she would fall and never regain her footing.

Although she didn't want to find out what the king wanted, she wouldn't dare refuse his summons. The king's blessing had already been given to her and Celyn, but what if he'd learned of some technicality by which he could prevent their wedding without breaking his word? An ancient, almost forgotten law, told to him by one of the keepers of the tribe's laws and traditions, the druids, before they left for their secret meeting?

Eleri swallowed hard. It didn't bear thinking about.


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