'Where would you like to go?' Pren asked, after he had returned to the waterfall where he left Eleri to bear witness to the answers she sought.
She had told him she was grateful beyond measure to the Fae for what they had given her, but the fey said gratitude wasn't necessary. She'd earned the gift all by herself. They were only fulfilling their end of the bargain.
Eleri wondered how this explanation fit together with everything else she had learned about the Fae. If they had chosen not to answer her question, because, in their immortal judgement she should not be privy to it, would that still meet the fulfilling of the bargain? The Fae, she believed, were a contrary, incomprehensible lot.
At some point, she wasn't sure when, Eleri had decided upon her next step on her quest. She would go and see the sorceress, Dewines. Perhaps the witch possessed some knowledge that might help her find a way through The Veil.
'Dewines?' he asked, incredulously. 'The sorceress?'
'Yes, that's her. She lives in the forest.'
'I know who she is, Eleri. Why would you want to go and see her? She's dangerous.'
'I don't doubt that for one moment,' the priestess answered, knowing all too well of the knowledge she had and power she could muster, 'but she is also my friend.'
Pren shook his head in disbelief. 'No. I don't think that's sensible. Not at this time of year.'
'What does the time of year have to do with it? You asked me where I wanted to go and I answered.'
He snorted. 'Foolish mortal. The time of year always matters, priestess. In this case especially so.'
Eleri sighed and gritted her teeth. Pren was proving why the fae often appeared unfathomable.
'Explain what you're talking about or stop talking altogether, Pren,' the priestess snapped. 'I would like to be getting on my way.'
'It's Midsummer. Cernunnos and the sorceress...celebrate the summer solstice...together.'
'Well, I'll just have to take my chances. I must speak with her.'
Pren threw his hands up in the air. He was not taking any responsibility for the absurd actions of the priestess.
'So be it. I warned you, but you wouldn't listen. I'll get you as close as I can to the witch's home, but if she's put up spells and enchantments, there will be little I can do. And try not to forget there is a group of men and hounds roaming the forest in search of you.'
Pren marched off, moving quickly. Eleri had to break out into a run to catch him. However, they didn't travel far. The fey stopped next to a narrow ledge protruding from the rock face, a little way from the waterfall.
He climbed up, and then offered a hand for Eleri to do the same. The ridge was barely as wide as her feet, but at this end it was only a short distance between where she was standing and the ground. That was set to change as the rock began angling upwards almost immediately.
Facing the stone rather than the drop behind her, Pren showed Eleri how to safely move along the ledge. The trick - at least for a mortal - was to give her whole attention to the stone and to forget about everything else, especially the fact that there was nothing at all behind her except a wide open space and a long drop down. She edged her way along the shelf, searching out handholds before moving her feet.
They rose above the waterfall at whose foot she sat to receive her fae-gift. From below she hadn't realised it, but the waterfall was not the result of a stream flowing over the edge of the rocks above, but rather an underground spring or subterranean stream coming out of the rock face itself. Passing over the waterfall, however, Eleri was surprised to acknowledge the sound of falling water didn't diminish. In fact, it was getting louder.
Turning a corner on the cliff face, the reason became clear. Another waterfall. Only this one was so much bigger than the first.
Not long after, the rocks became slick and slippery, sprayed as they were with the water that was falling over the rocks from above. Once she lost her footing, but Pren was there to catch her arm before she could topple backwards. With her heart in her mouth, she tried to steady her panicked breathing, so that she go on.
'It's not much further,' he said, raising his voice to be heard over the roar.
He spoke the truth. Soon, the ledge beneath her feet became broader, widening so much that she was shortly walking alongside Pren, her fear of falling down to smash upon the earth below, forgotten. They were in the space behind the waterfall, where, over the course of thousands of years, the force of the river had eroded away the cliff's face, carving a natural pathway out of the rock.
A little way ahead, the priestess spotted what looked like a niche or cave entrance. The light wasn't strong enough to allow her to see clearly. Pren moved in its direction and entered, beckoning Eleri to follow behind.
She had expected to find herself in a somewhat darker and damper place than the waterfall path, but the complete opposite was true. As she stepped into the niche to follow Pren, a painful bright light burst in front of her eyes, blinding her.
Instinctively, she raised her hands to her face, in an belated attempt to protect her eyes. Then she hit the ground with a thud. Instead of landing hard on stone, her fall was cushioned by moss and ferns and fallen leaves.
Eleri knew in an instant she was back in the world she belonged in; back in the forest she loved so much. She was home.
But all was not well. As she opened her eyes, tentatively after the blinding flash, she saw Dewines, with her bow drawn, an arrow notched and pointing directly at Pren. The fey himself was armed. He had two long, thin, slightly curved swords, one in each hand, sword-tips facing in the direction of the sorceress.
'Eleri, step away from the fey. Come and stand behind me. Quickly now,' the witch said.
'I told you she was dangerous. I said this was a bad idea, Eleri. Didn't I?' Pren countered, without taking his eyes off Dewines. 'Now, if you'll just come and stand by me and hold on to my shoulder. I'll get us out of this.'
'Not before my arrow embeds itself in your chest. You're not taking the priestess anywhere.'
Thanks for taking the time to read this chapter. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please consider voting for it. A stand-off between the fey and the witch, but why are they at odds? Is it a simple misunderstanding or something far more complicated? Either way, Eleri looks to be in the middle of it. All comments and votes are greatly appreciated. Chapters for "Oathbreaker" will be posted every weekday, so please add the story to your library / reading list so you don't miss the next one, or like my page on Facebook for updates: https://www.facebook.com/Sammi-Cox-1697023080547692/
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Oathbreaker (Oathsworn Book 1)Historical Fiction
|| The Wattys Shortlist 2018 || Added to Historical Fiction's "Historical Fantasy & Fairy Tales" reading list || #1 in Celtic - October & November 2019 || * * * 'Be my wife.' The words were so quiet, Eleri wondered if she had really heard them. 'P...