Chapter 51

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The words echoed in Eleri's ears. He wants life unending. He thinks to buy it with the blood of your children. Her head spun as the words went round and round and round.

The soothsayer said no more after that. She huddled over, her face hidden, so that she looked like a pile of rags once more. Eleri waited. Nothing happened. This meeting was at an end.

At some point she got to her feet, thanked the soothsayer - to which there was no response - and exited the cluttered hut, but not before her eyes alighted upon one of the pebble-painted eyes. She shuddered.

How she wished Celyn could have been there with her, to reassure and support her. He would have known what to do, what to say, to make the words stop. He would have protected her from them...until they reached the end of the pathway where he would be forced to leave her; where she would be on her own again.

Would a few steps in his arms make any difference to the cold terror she felt taking hold in her heart? "Ifs" and "maybes" no longer mattered. This was the path she had chosen. She was without him; she was alone to face the coming struggled, and that was the truth of it.

Outside, she stumbled along the path, not paying any attention to the way. She was blinkered and blinded to everything external to her. When she bumped into Arwain, she stopped and blinked, surprised to find him there.

'My lady, what has happened?'

But Eleri couldn't answer, only shake her head from side-to-side.

'If the soothsayer has upset you, I'll-'

'No. No. I asked for truth and got it. That is all.'

'What did she say that could have upset you so?'

The terrible words sounded in her mind. He wants life unending. He thinks to buy it with the blood of your children.

Again Eleri answered with a shake of the head. She could not give voice to the words. She could not repeat what she had been told. Not yet.

'Are you sure you're all right?' There was a softness to his voice, betraying his concern.

'I will be, in time, Arwain. This has been such an exhausting, extraordinary journey. And now the end of it is in sight.'

As Arwain stood there appraising the priestess, Eleri thought over all she had been through. So much effort for so little time in the Summerlands; for so little time with Celyn. More time had been spent in the harrowing Borderlands than the land of eternal peace and plenty. It seemed unfair.

The guide returned the blindfold to Eleri's eyes, and then, with Arwain carefully leading her once more, they went to meet Defnyn. He had been escorted by the two guards to the doorway they were going to use to exit the Land of the Dead.

When they reached it, the cloth covering was removed one final time. Another doorway, constructed out of pristine white stone and with symbols that matched all the other architecture they had seen, towered into the air.

'Where in the Borderlands will this lead to? Back to Amser?' she asked Arwain.

'You're not going back to the Borderlands, Eleri. This doorway will take you straight home.'

'Truly?' Her voice was full of hope. She had assumed that the journey home meant a return trip through the Borderlands, with all that entailed.

'Of course. Lord Arawn decided you suffered enough making the crossing once. He didn't want you to go through it again. Neither should you have any trouble crossing The Veil this time.'

Eleri threw her arms around Arwain's neck. To hear such comforting news was one burden at least removed from her shoulders.

When she released the guide, Eleri noticed Defnyn was holding a large sack. Arwain saw the priestess look inquisitively at it.

'Gifts and provisions, as well as the clothes you were wearing when you arrived, and your other possessions. We didn't think you should leave our land empty-handed, especially after you questioned our hospitality.' The guide was teasing her.

Somehow Defnyn knew not to ask what had transpired at the soothsayer's hut. Eleri was thankful for that.

'All is not lost, girl. Whatever comes, we will deal with it. I promised Celyn I'll protect you, and I will. We outran the Helwyr, didn't we? What is one man compared to that? You may have started this alone, but you're not on your own any more.'

Defnyn made it sound so simple, and she was glad of his encouraging words. But he had yet to hear the soothsayer's revelations. She'd tell him, soon, when she had come to terms with them herself. For now, she would keep them close.

Eleri waved goodbye to Arwain who bowed slightly to her in return. She had made friends in the unlikeliest of places on her way to the Summerlands, as well as been aided by old ones. Dewines, Cigfran, Pren, Rhad, Aderyn, Taran, Geneth, Ebol, Arwain and Defnyn. They had all helped her in their way. She was grateful to them all.

It was time. She turned to face the doorway that would take them back to the land of the living. She smoothed down her robes one final time, and as she did so she brushed something hard in one of the pouch-folds. She retrieved it, curious to know what it was, and how it got there.

Staring into the palm of her hand, she gazed upon one of the pebble-painted eyes. She swallowed hard.

'What is that?' Defnyn asked.

'A gift from the soothsayer.'

What more was there to say? She returned it to the pouch, ensuring it was safely stowed away. She could think on the why and wherefore of the object later, when she had the time to ponder the oracle's purpose.

'Are you ready to go home?' she asked the hunter.

He smiled and nodded, the move barely perceptible. His eyes were bright with the anticipation of seeing the forest he had been banished from since time immemorial.

Eleri took his hand and together they stepped through the doorway. Her journey was over, but her quest had only just begun.

*

Thanks for taking the time to read this final chapter of Oathbreaker. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please consider voting for it.

And, thank you so much for reading it through to the end. Eleri's adventure to the Summerlands and back was exciting to write - even I didn't know what was always going to happen in the next chapter. For the story to have made The Wattys 2018 Longlist, was more than I could ever have hoped for, especially as the story was only two-thirds complete at the time the longlist was revealed.

UPDATE: Some amazing news: Oathbreaker made it on to The Wattys 2018 Shortlist.  Words can't express my gratitude to those who have supported this story and my writing of it.  Thank you :-)

As always, all comments and votes are greatly appreciated. Eleri's tale will continue in book 2 of the series, so if you want to keep up-to-date with how it's progressing, please add Oathbreaker to your reading list, follow me here on Wattpad, or like my page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Sammi-Cox-1697023080547692/

This journey has been amazing. Thanks all, for your support. Have a great day!




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