(the following are the 1,129 words from today’s one-hour writing sprint)
Máire was roused from her restless sleep by the insistence and demand in his words. “Rise and return to Luiseach and your duties there.” Myrddin’s voice was thick with frustration and his eyes did not meet hers. “This time you must not let her escape you,” he said, and she read the threat of his words plainly. Even so, she spoke her version of events to him.
“I came out to meet you, my lord,” she said, and though he looked at her not, Máire held her gaze upon him in order to convey more courage than she felt. “It seemed a perfect plan.”
“It is time for me to claim the Sacred Magic that was mine to have from the dawn of Dearbháil,” he replied, “and to do that, I must track down the missing element that has eluded me now for far too long.” He looked at her then but she saw none of the care he had shown her in the past. “Go. Return to your duties and report to me the place where she has gone.”
As Máire rose, she stumbled slightly from the pain and sudden shifting in her head, landing in his arms. She fingered the cut on along her hair and said nothing as she leaned into him. After several moments, Myrddin wrapped his arms around her and steadied her on her feet. “I meant only to clear the way for you,” she whispered. With familiar tenderness, he touched the hair near her cut and sat her gently upon a rock beside the fire. Without a word, he moved cloaked in his familiar aura of darkness and out of her sight. She heard the sounds of water in a vessel somewhere beyond the light of the fire and he returned with a damp woven cloth. With a gentle, intimate touch, he cleaned the area around the gash and then treated it with ointment from a small mortar. When he finished he pulled her back into his arms and held her there where she melted into him once more.
“So much depends on our success,” he said and she let his words wrap around her like they had so many times in the past, binding them together in the darkness. “This barrier between our world and the humans serves no longer serves any purpose. It is time for us to expand our reach, dear Máire, and I am thankful that you share that vision with me.”
His words wove through her dark curls and she raised her hands to his face and then, finally, let her eyes find his. Her fingers traced along his cheekbone and to his jaw and then, at last, she pushed herself up just enough to press her lips to his. She let her lips linger there one moment longer than she thought she should and then pulled away without looking at him and collecting her hair into a loose knot on her head. “I must go,” she said and disappeared out of his arms and into the woods.
Luiseach smoothed the hair off Sophia’s face and gently rubbed a tincture that smelled of lavender and other flowers Sophia couldn’t name along Sophia’s hairline and down around under her chin. “To help you remain at ease, child,” Luiseach told her. Sophia held the woman’s gaze and searched her eyes wondering what secrets of this world she must hold. Luiseach smiled and replied as if she read Sophia’s thoughts. “Indeed I hold many of the secrets of Dearbháil, its magic and its history and, oh, so many stories of Anrái and Uilleam, too.”
That name again. Why was it so familiar to her?
“All in good time, my child,” Luiseach replied, again as if she could read Sophia’s thoughts. “Your eyes express much of what you wonder,” Luiseach told her. “I see comfort when I speak of Uilleam. I see tenderness when I speak of Anrái. I see fear when your eyes dart about this cottage that is unfamiliar to you but holds memories from your childhood.”
“You are quite wise,” said Sophia.
“We all receive gifts of wisdom,” Luiseach said, “but not all of us tend that gift the same and so the wisdom wilts beneath the weight of our worries and desires.”
“Not all is as peaceful as this cottage,” Sophia said. “Like you, I see hidden truths in your eyes. There is danger here and I am somehow at the center of it.”
Luiseach smiled and stroked Sophia’s hair again. “Not you alone,” the old woman told her, “nor did you cause it be or bring it here when you stepped through the Book’s portal. It always was and is now coming into its full potential because at last you are here.”
Sophia wiped tears from her cheeks, wishing she could stop them from falling at all. But Luiseach covered her hands in her own and lean over her, as a mother would with a sick child. “Your tears are good things, dear one,” she said. “You were meant to find your way here, just as you did as a young girl searching for Anrái and for wonder and magic and love, so you do now, for those things and several others now that you are a grown woman.”
“Why?” Sophia asked her.
“Our journey is rarely about why, dear one, as much as it is about what you will do and who you will become in the face of what your journey brings to you.”
Sophia gave a small laugh despite the tears that still welled in her eyes. “You remind me of Anrái when you speak in such riddles,” said Sophia causing the old woman to smile so widely that her eyes crinkled and almost disappeared.
“I have never once spoken in a riddle.” From the doorway, Anrái’s words and accompanying smile cradled Sophia in its intimate familiarity.
“I’m sorry,” she said and the tears flowed with greater urgency at the sight of him.
He wrapped her in his arms and held her close so that his heartbeat became the steadying rhythm for her breathing, slowing her sobbing. “You have no reason to be sorry,” he told her. He took her face in his hands and kissed her with a passion the two had shared only in her dreams. When at last they moved apart, he held her hands in his and let his own tears fall. “When I couldn’t find you in the woods, I experienced fear I’ve never known before, even as a Chief Guardian here in Dearbháil who is responsible for protecting the Sacred Magic of the Isle.”
“I thought I could find you—” she began.
“— if you followed your heart,” he replied.
“But I was unable to find you.” Her tears began again.