A wee treat on Samhain from the realm of our Highland Legends series…
by Kat Bastion
“Isa.” Iain’s voice echoed from far away. Even though my new husband sat right in front of me on our Clan Brodie plaid.
A strange pain developed behind my breastbone. Heartburn? Only if a pinprick tug toward my insides could be considered heartburn. The sensation intensified. Tugged a little stronger. Once. Twice. Like an impatient child demanding a parent’s attention.
“Isa!” Urgency underscored his tone. But the volume had muffled further. His visage faded as well, as if I’d sunk beneath the surface of a deep lake and stared up at him from ten feet below.
I stared at him, confused. Then I glanced at our scrumptious picnic, so unlike my thirteenth-century warrior to prepare let alone in the busy last few days since he’d returned from weeks of scouting.
Unable to reconcile the escalating pain in my chest, I rubbed two fingers over the spot and inhaled deeply. A warm flash brushed over my heart outward, to my scalp, fingers, and toes.
Pregnancy typically came with heartburn. But in the first trimester? Maybe twins were different. But the hot flash was an odd unexpected. Then again, I had no reference point for my first pregnancy. Pretty sure human-turned-immortal cases weren’t in any medical books. Anytime in history.
“Isa!” Fear etched severe lines into his face, and he lunged toward me. “You’re vanishin’!”
As the heat increased, wavy lines distorted the air around me, like the atmosphere above scorching summer asphalt back in twenty-first-century California.
“Iain!” I called out to him at the split second that everything disappeared, as I realized what was happening. Different than the episodes before. But recognizable nonetheless.
Apparently in response to an unknown trigger—the tugging within—I’d unconsciously gathered energy from my surroundings to respond to where I’d been requested.
Time had beckoned.
And the powers I’d recently acquired had responded. Without my say-so.
Yep. Stupid me. I’d assumed I’d be free to enjoy a romantic evening picnic.
An instant later, I materialized into thick forest.
And no longer in the baby-blue gown I’d chosen for our first date night in weeks. My favorite deerskin halter top and pants had materialized on my body. In my hands? My short swords.
Instinct had me duck, just before the low hum of an arrow whizzed over my head. Then I dodged right, to avoid another. Faking left, then swerving right, I dove through scrub edging a game trail and thrust my sword in the exact spot the arrow had originated from. A rustle preceded a muffled thud.
How had I known where to target? No idea. Another new power—they kept on coming.
As I spun around, then kept running along the trail while targeting the second archer, I screamed a mental call for assistance out into the ether. Cupcake!
The wide base of a tree loomed ahead. Without slowing, I discarded one sword by tossing it blade-first into the soft earth, ran up the trunk and grabbed the lowest branch, then thrust up and skewered my second attacker. A low grunt sounded. With a jerk of my sword, a body fell to my right from above. Then made a much louder thud.
Great. I’d killed two people. Somewhere in time.
Get your superior ass over here, Sunshine! A little help!
Breathing hard, I cleaned my blades then resheathed them.
The chest-tug continued. And so did I, down the game trail. With cautious stealth. Alone.
Figures my mentor would abandon me on my first assignment. Yep. Tossed that accusation out there too. But the lack of intel didn’t surprise me much. From the beginning, the whole time-traveler thing had come without any warning. Or an instruction manual.
However, my sarcasm rubbed my lone guide the wrong way. Ienjoyed it immensely. But there was a time and place. Other times. Different places. Not here and now.
The tugging transformed into a keening vibration, a constant pull with every measured step.
After a dozen more paces, the thick foliage began to thin. Through low saplings, I made out a clearing ahead.
When I stopped with only slight leaf-cover as camouflage, I made out a dark figure turned away from me. Behind him, giant menhirs engraved with megalithic art fanned outward, brimming with unleashed energy. Barely discernable in the darkness beyond, the presence of a massive mounded earthen structure pressed against my senses.
All of a sudden, the vibration within my chest escalated, burst into a hot charge, then shot forward into the clearing, manifesting as sparks of that same shimmering mirage.
The figure spun to face my direction. The “dark” turned out to be a robe. A wiry salt-and-pepper beard clung to the bottom a weathered face. A gnarled staff extended from his clenched hand. With a strangled cry and glowing eyes, he struck the ground with his staff. Like a forged lightning bolt, energy shot up through the ground so fast, the hairs on my arms stood out on end. The air above him began shimmer, then roiled with a growing dark cloud that appeared from seemingly nowhere.
A sorcerer of some sort. That I’d been assigned to handle. With zero intel.
Even stubborn me knew knowledge granted power. And I had stifled my stubbornness before.
A little respect went a long way.
Skorpius. My mental voice gentled, as I finally addressed him by his proper human name. Would you please assist me? I’d greatly appreciate it.
At once, I felt his powerful presence beside me.
“You do not require my assistance, Traveler.” Amusement edged his low tone. However, he hadn’t addressed me with his typical “Ms. MacInnes” taunt. The situation warranted seriousness.
I so agreed with that assessment as I shot him a deadpan look. “I killed two people.”
Those preternatural swirling blue-green eyes stared ahead. Glossy black wings arched high above his seven-and-a-half-foot angelic frame. A dark olive complexion fell even duskier in the deep shadows of whatever ancient forest we stood in. He wore his typical distressed black leather pants. His matching black combat boots were battered, laces loose, like he wore them with some modicum of disdain.
“Who attempted to kill you.” He glanced at me with a tit-for-tat deadpan. “You dispatched them. With great skill. No assistance required.”
Thanks, Master of the Obvious. It seemed a body count came with the job description and zero expected guilt. I arched a brow and nodded out ahead.
What about Gandalf the Grey over there? And when and where the hell are we, anyway?
Our appraisal banter had only spanned a handful of seconds, but the sorcerer’s roiling storm cloud had quadrupled in size. Some kind of magick churned within it, its discharge buffeting my awareness.
The vibration within my chest twanged to life again.
A bright light burst to life within the churning cloud, growing and flashing out with star points.
A powerful druid. Skorpius’s gaze returned to our target. His greed is destabilizing time.
As the druid’s energy reached a frequency peak, three flaming blue fireballs fired out from the magickal star’s epicenter…and raced straight toward me.
We learn by experience—Skorpius vanished—Traveler.
Baptism by fire, I mentally grumbled back as I crossed my short swords, gathered energy from around me, and shielded myself for the blow. The fireballs exploded against my blades.
But not before painful sparks of magick singed my forearms.
Another build-up of power began from the weathered druid.
Urgency pumped hot through my veins.
Instinct had me running again, zig-zagging through the glade. But my new time-travel powers kicked in once more and flashed me in and out as I ran. Appearing in random places left to right, I closed the distance between us.
At a critical moment, just prior to the druid’s energy peaking again, I materialized far to the right then concentrated on the space he occupied. The next moment, I appeared inches in front of him with my sword thrust up through the center of his dark-robed chest.
The wizened face stretched gaunt, thin lips rounding into an O. His body crumpled to the ground in a heap of dark material. That flattened. Then disappeared. Along with his dark cloud.
Not trusting the Wicked-Witch melting act, I dug a toe into the earth where he’d last been. The air still snapped and sparked with power. Elemental energy from the megalithic stones licked across my senses.
And the angel’s ancient power still remained, nearby, but unseen.
Where and when are we again? Weary from the fight, I leaned against one of the towering stones.
Your answer lies within.
No reply came. Instead, Skorpius’s energy signature vanished.
Great. Thanks for the training, Mr. Riddle.
Wax on, wax off: Mr. Miyagi’s lessons for his Karate Kid. Only the Kid’s trials involved waxing cars and painting fences. Not swords and death. Welcome to my world.
With intense concentration, I followed Skorpius’s riddled directive on instinct. I closed my eyes and searched to the depths of my being, into the very beating of my heart, near where the tugging had begun. And some kind of information registered back. Not words. Not symbols. Just a decoded knowing born of magick. “October thirty-first, 2,800 BCE,” I murmured. “Prehistoric Newgrange. Eastern Ireland.” Surprised at the internal info-dump, I blinked heavily. “Samhain.”
Very good, Ms. MacInnes.
Ah. So, my mentor hasn’t abandoned me after all.
No reply came. No energy either. Neat trick.
Still catching my breath, I leaned back against one of the gigantic menhirs. Grateful for its support, I drank in the power of a legendary site I’d never been to—near its genesis. Whose energy still vibrated through me.
I stared at the turfed spot where the deflated robe had vanished. Traveler one, druid zero. “Well, at least my task is done.”
With the drop of my last word, the earth began to shake. Loose gravel bounced over the ground. The giant menhir behind me pulsed with greater power. All the stones in sight began to glow.
A heavy foreign presence invaded my mind. Ancient. Dripping with elemental power.
“No, my naïve one. We’ve only just begun.”
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