Ada put an arm around Kara. “Any regrets?”
She brushed a tear from her eye. “Only that I didn’t press you harder on the matter. I knew you were hiding something.”
Kara hugged her. “But I don’t regret taking in the girl.” She held her for a moment then reluctantly pushed away. “Let’s move on.”
Ada nodded, letting her fingers brush along Kara’s back and side. They followed the flow of time to the Not So Long Ago where Mona was a girl on the brink of womanhood. She was gathering firewood in the forest. Pale leaf buds heralded the coming spring.
Mona hummed a tune as she gathered more twigs. She paused when she heard hoof beats on the trail. Ducking quickly behind a tree, she peeked out at the riders. Four horsemen galloped by chasing a stag. Leaves and petals flew up in their wake. She watched them, curious as they shared her pale coloring; the same blond hair, fair skin and light eyes.
Mona whistled a few notes and the tree roots reached up to slow the horses. The stag veered to the left and the lead horse, trying to follow, tripped. The second horse fell as she tried to avoid the first; the third veered right and stumbled without falling. The last managed to stop, her rider quickly dismounting to check on his companions.
“Cursed beasts!” grumbled Gwyion. He removed his helmet and stepped clear as his horse struggled to her feet.
The years in the meadow had been good to the Jormuna; they hadn’t aged nearly as quickly as they would in their ancestral home on the other side of the gate.
“Which, brother? The stag or the horse?” teased Ollyn.
“Both.” Gwyion knelt down to check his mare for injuries. “I suppose our quarry is gone.”
Dian was dusting herself off. “So it seems.” She eyed her horse. “That’ll teach me to follow you so closely. Still, no damage done.”
Ollyn shook his head. “We almost had him.”
Balyn chuckled as he knelt to examine the ground. “It’ll make a good tale over drinks at any rate. These roots were enchanted. It was no accident that befell you.”
Gwyion strode over and stared at the ground. “Dreezians? I didn’t think we’d gone that far into the forest.”
“I think so. None of our magicians know such tricks.”
His sister looked around warily as she gathered the reins of her horse. “We’d best head back.”
Gwyion pulled Balyn aside and whispered, “We’ll take your horse. Hide and watch. I want to know how many are here.” Aloud to the others, he said, “We’ll walk the horses for awhile in case one pulls up lame.”
Balyn nodded and hid under the confusion of their departure.
Mona waited until the hoof beats faded away before creeping out to look around. When she was certain they were gone, she quickly slipped off through the forest to gather more firewood.
Balyn waited until he verified she had no company before emerging from the brush. He stared thoughtfully in the direction she’d gone for a long moment before running after his companions.
The scene started to fade but Ada held up a hand. “A moment longer, beloved. There’s movement still.”
Kara raised an eyebrow but she complied. Then she saw it; the swirl of leaves and petals in the wind that followed the riders. “Dree!”
“I feared as much.”
copyright 2014, Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved