Kara let the scene fade. “That’s how they discovered Mona! What do you think Dree was doing?”
Ada scowled. “I think ze led them to Mona. I don’t know why.”
Kara said darkly, “Perhaps ze wanted this war.”
“Dree wants many things,” she said dismissively.
Kara couldn’t argue with that. “”Why would ze want this?”
“Perhaps it was the best road ze could scout,” Ada hazarded.
Kara was sceptical. “Perhaps zir argument is with Jormun, the spirit of water?” She waved off an answer. “Never mind. Where to next?”
Ada considered. “Show me where it went wrong.”
“I’d say that’s when you met Dree…”
Ada held up a hand to forestall her complaint. “I was thinking of when the Jormuna came to our village.”
Kara sighed. “Very well.” She took them forward a handful of weeks.
The world refocused on the village center by the ancient oak tree planted when they made this their home. Ivy covered cottages were grouped around communal gardens along cobblestone paths radiating out from the tree. Ada stood with several of their warriors as they surrounded two riders. Her hair was now more silver than dark. Weapons were readied but lowered.
The first rider said, “I am Ollyn, youngest brother of Gwyion, Lord of the Jormuna. I have come to ask for the return of our sister.” The young man swallowed nervously as he steadied his horse.
Ada regarded him calmly. “There are no women of your clan here. Return to your brother and tell him you were mistaken.”
Ollyn shook his head. “You misunderstand. She is the youngest sister of Lord Gwyion. She was promised in marriage to seal a treaty. This changeling business is a bit of an embarrassment.”
Balyn said to Ollyn, “I tracked the girl to this village.”
“What girl? Describe her,” said Ada.
Bayln said, “I saw her in the forest, gathering firewood. She’s fair of skin and hair, eyes green as spring leaves.”
“And her name?”
Ollyn hesitated. “I know not by what name you call her. Our sister was changed for a rabbit when she was but a babe near fifteen years ago.”
“We have no changelings. You must have been mistaken.” Ada kept her gaze steady and breath even to hide the lie.
Balyn growled as he held up an obsidian jar, “Of course she’d say that. All Dreezians are liars!”
Ollyn raised a hand. “Wait…”
He was too late. The warriors, seeing the jar, created a cacophony of sound with drum and pipe. Ollyn turned his horse and pushed through the ring, the other horse, now riderless, following. They panicked and broke into a full run, jumping a low stone wall. The sound wave knocked Ollyn against his mount’s neck. He glanced back to see if they were being pursued and caught a glimpse of Mona peering around a cottage door. Balyn lay dead at Ada’s feet.
Kara stopped the scene. “Wait.”
Ada rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Yes, that was the point where war became inevitable. It is unfortunate Gwyion’s lover died that day.”
Kara was looking at the door. “That isn’t Mona. She was at the other end of village with me, helping to deliver Meg’s baby.”
Ada studied the scene. “Who then?”
“Who do you think?”
She allowed the flow of time to resume. The girl posing as Mona smiled coldly and changed into wind, petal, and leaf. She blew out the door and around the corner of the cottage away from Ada and the warriors.
“Dree.” Kara bit her lip, refraining from asking her next question.
copyright 2014, Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved