The Northlands

 

The Northlands

 

The months that followed were full of travelling. I followed my new friends, carrying my extra soul unknown to them all. It did not seem to affect me very much, at least not to begin with. Only days after this occurred we ran into a young man in an inn. He had been badly beaten up, and on the run from the baron Armenius’ bailiffs. At first we were not going to interfere, since Alex and Tierry served Armenius as well, but when the bailiffs wanted to hang him without any trial, we prevented them from doing so. The poor wounded young man told us his name was de Mouy, a name my companions had run into before. His family seemed to be sworn enemies of the baron Armenius. But although this man seemed to be an enemy, we could not just stand by and let him be slain without a proper trial. We brought him to Father Cidrons employer, the bishop of Zorenstadt, who wished to interrogate the young man. The bishop’s home was a formidable one! Large and beautiful and quite overwhelming it was. I guess it never had occurred to me that people other than kings and nobles could live in such mansions. And it seemed absurd to me that a clerical man should live like that – the wealth of the church ought to be given to the poor, in my opinion. While we were there Tierry encountered the young woman who had drugged and questioned him in Aurora, and though he never told me anything, my guess is, that he had an affair with her in the bishop’s home.

 

We stayed a few days, but alas, the wounded young man died of his wounds, and we left Zorenstadt again. Alex and Tierry were bound for the northern city of Glenroran, where the baron Armenius had hired them to train the militia. It seemed that they had already been at it before they were sent to Aurora, and now they were going back. I don’t know why Father Cidron joined them, but for myself I can say that I didn’t know where else to go. I received a short letter from Father with saddening news. I send a confused letter to my Father telling him of Fienna – I didn’t know what to think of it myself, and I longed for his level headed advice. The continuous rumours of civil war on Aurora deeply worried me. Martial law had been declared on Aurora and all news seemed grim. Daniel had been drafted and sent to war and Father was kept busy with his axe. With these troubled thoughts I set out on the journey north.

 

I liked the northlands right away. I love it still. It was like coming home. Not that it reminded me of Aurora at all, but the sense of home stayed with me. Probably because the woman whose soul I carried with me had come from there. A strange thing happened as we crossed the border and travelled north. I started to dream a lot at night. Dreams of a man, dressed in nothing but a chequered piece of cloth – a beautiful man with dark hair and dark intense eyes. A man I loved the first moment he appeared in my dreams. And the dreams were full of touching and kissing and caressing, full of things I had never done before, untouched and untouchable as I was. And to confuse me further I began imagining that I saw him at daytime too. First time I saw his face for certain was in the Golfac-forrest in the northlands, near the now ruined tower of old.

 

We had travelled through Golfac, Alex, Tierry, Father Cidron and I, a dark and frightening forest to strangers. We found the tower in the middle of nowhere and set up camp there for the night. We had slept under the sky for several nights, and it was good to be indoors again, even if it was just a ruin. Someone seemed to live there though from time to time. We found the remains of a fire, a few scattered tools and one corner smelled distinctly like a privy. At night some people did seem to come by the tower, but they fled when they found the tower occupied. We followed them through the forest, but lost them on the way. We suddenly found ourselves in the outskirts of the forest, and near a lake with a peninsula where a great celebration seemed to take place. There was a huge bonfire and the people I could see were practically naked and painted with blue paint in intricate patterns. I was intrigued by the sight – at one time comforting and totally strange. We left again without getting noticed by anyone, though we failed completely in our attempts to be quiet and discreet. I supposed they were too caught up in doing whatever they were doing. Father Cidron was convinced it was some sort of barbaric and heathen ritual taking place, and he was right, off course, in his point of view. To spite the northlanders, in his own word to prevent robbers from using the place, Father Cidron set fire to the tower the next morning, when we left it. Stone doesn’t burn, though, and I know for a fact that the tower stood for another few years before it tumbled and fell for good.

 

It was that morning that I saw the face of my hearts desire. I saw him just outside the clearing around the tower, looking at me. But as I ran to find him, he had disappeared. Afterwards I wasn’t sure I had actually seen him. Was it just a dream or wishful thinking? But I knew for sure that my dreams of him not were likely to cease or diminish after that. My heart pounds still at the thought of those first days of being in love.

 

In Glenroran we took board at an inn called “The Banshee”. Apparently the other had had some unfortunate experience there before, because the innkeeper John Dardell was not at all pleased to see Alex and Tierry again. His attitude towards me warmed though when I offered to help serving one night when they were extremely busy. I soon befriended the other barmaid, Maggie, a cheerful and pretty girl, who became my very first bosom friend. I must admit that I throughoutly enjoyed the job as serving wench – I liked the noise and the laughter, I liked being busy and feeling like a normal person. I had always seemed to fall through everywhere, but in “The Banshee” I felt completely at home. I also liked the fact that I could pay for my own board out of my wages and tips, instead of scrounging on the others.

 

It was in Glenroran the the man spoke to me for the first time. I had seen him out of the corner of my eye several times, but he kept disappearing into shadows and around corners, when I turned to look. Then one day in church I saw him standing in the back leaning on a wooden pillar. And this time he didn’t move away, when I walked towards him. Though the church was crowded and the priest had already started moaning his sermon, it felt like I was completely alone with this man. We were standing within reach of each other and all I could see was him, and all I could hear was his breathing and mine. “Who are you?” I asked breathlessly, and he told me his name; Sean MacFien. “Who are you?” he asked in great wonder “You are her, but you are not her. I have wept for her death, only to discover that she is not dead at all, or is she? I feel this incredible urge to be near you, to protect you, yet I don’t even know who you are! Who are you?!” I stammered my name and told him that by some great fluke Fienna did indeed live in me. He seemed very taken aback by this. It must have been very strange for him to know that the woman he loved was dead, but somehow lived on in me, a complete stranger. And I did not in any way resemble that powerful and self-assured woman he had loved, even my colouring was more like his own than hers. It must also have been strange to see the devoted love in my eyes – a love that he could not at the time return as he was still in love with her. And bitter for me to know he loved her and not me, though we both lived my body. What an absurd triangle! Confused and bewildered he stepped back from me, and though I reached out for him, he disappeared into the crowd, and I was unable to find him again. Naturally this incident shook me greatly. So, Fienna had had a lover, had loved this man that I loved. The dreams I had had, were they memories of hers? I tried to figure out whether it was truly my own love, or only her love for him growing in me. But it was our love, my love. How to differ between Fienna and myself, myself and Fienna? I felt her confidence growing in me every day. I felt more secure, more satisfied with my life as each day passed by. Was Fienna pushing Judith away? No – she integrated herself into me. We became one, a little at a time. I felt complete comfortable with this, but I cannot deny that my curiosity as to who she had been grew daily.

 

After about a month in Glenroran, in which I didn’t see Sean MacFien again, I left with Alex, Tierry and Father Cidron to the town of Hambeck. The baron Armenius had sent word that they were to find a de Mouy-agent that had been located to Hambeck. When we arrived however the local baron MacLir needed help to fight some local thugs that threatened to attack the town. Tierry and Alex agreed to train the local militia, as they had experience in such matters. Unfortunately I fell sick by then, and I can only tell what I heard from the others of what happened. As it turned out the thugs were merely peasants, families, who wished to pass the bridge near the town of Hambeck, so they could return to their home in the Northlands. The baron MacLir had no intentions of letting this happen, as the peasants were his clansmen and subjects that had rebelled against him. The town of Hambeck intended to fight the peasants. Alex and Tierry entered into negotiations with the peasants, and Alex became quite fascinated with the leader of the peasants, Angus MacLir. I guess it was then that I stopped doubting about Alex. I had for some time suspected him of being something other that he seemed to be, and when I saw him talking of Angus MacLir, I doubted no more; those eyes, those shining eyes, could only belong to someone in love… A woman in love. I could not guess why a woman would chose to live and travel like a man, and since she didn’t seem to want to confide in me, I kept my silence.

 

Under those circumstances Alex and Tierry refused to fight with the militia. Father Cidron was appalled by this; they had signed a contract, had made a promise to these people, and could not in good conscience let them down. Tierry and Alex in turn didn’t feel they could fight in good conscience. So the town militia went to make war on MacLirs clansmen, and were absolutely butchered. Obviously that did not make us the most popular people in town, and Father Cidron was so furious that he left our party. He pulled me aside first though, and told me his side of the story, and then he told me something that worried me; he told me it was unwise to keep secrets from your friends and travel companions. His eyes bored into mine as if he tried to tear my secret out of me, but how could I tell him? He was an inquisitor! It was his job to burn the likes of me. Although I admired him greatly, I just couldn’t trust that he liked me enough not to put me to the stake. I had seen his dedication and his fury with everything heathen and supernatural – I just didn’t dare to face his wrath. But I took his words to heart. After he had left I told Alex and Tierry about Fienna. I told them that it would be their own choice if they wanted to keep travelling with me or not. If they would not, I would understand and go on alone. They thought long and hard about this, and admitted that they, especially Tierry, found it difficult to cope with, but that they would not abandon me. They had not seen anything to prove that I had turned into an evil witch, and they didn’t find it difficult to understand why I couldn’t tell Father Cidron. So we left together, but without Father Cidron, and returned to Glenroran.

 

We returned to Glenroran in a less than cheerful mood. On the way, not far from Glenroran, we had encountered a strange boy dressed in rags. At first I felt really sorry for him; he looked so bewildered and lost. Apparently he had lost his parents to some bestial murderer, and was haunted by it. We took him with us, as we didn’t feel we could leave him by the roadside in his state. We lived to regret that decision…

 

Back in Glenroran Tierry and Alex became very busy training the militia. The militia had almost doubled, and they were to be trained for battle, not just guard duty. And there were other bailiffs in town besides us, bailiffs unknown to us, and not under our command. Something was definitely brewing, and we didn’t have clue as to what it was. I myself was kept busy at the inn, serving alongside Maggie, whom I became real close to. It was wonderful to have a friend of my own age, one who didn’t shy away from me because I was the hangman's daughter – and thus pariah. How wonderful it was to giggle and gossip and share one’s innermost thoughts with someone! I loved having a friend. I think in all my years in Aurora that was what I had longed for the most; a bosom friend!

 

Soon winter descended on us, cold and windy. Tierry and I learned to ice skate when the lake froze over. One late afternoon we had been skating late and we saw strange lights near the castle where the militia stayed. When we went to investigate the lights, and those who held them, they fled across the lake. In the snow we could see multiple tracks of feet and a sled. We had not seen a sled with those who had just fled, so it would have had to have been there at an earlier time. Something was definitely going on, and Tierry was determined to found out what it was. By investigating in the castle, sneaking around in places he was not allowed to be in, even as a bailiff, he found out that a huge stockpile of weapons was hidden in the deepest dungeons. There were more weapons there than there were militia, and in Tierrys opinion someone was planning to go to war with all those weapons. He identified the weapons as being from Sach; they all carried a sachian smith mark. What was going on? We were obviously not the only ones wondering about that; the people we had chased away must have been equally curious or concerned. They could only have been northlanders, and in their shoes I would have been really worried too. The baron Armenius was certainly up to no good. His uncle was the ailing duke of the Northlands, and Armenius – a mere baron – was his only heir. Maybe he was getting tired of waiting for the duchy to fall into his hands, or maybe his plans were even bigger than that? I must say that my love for the Northland and the northlanders made it more and more difficult for me to be on Armenius’ side, as Tierry and Alex were. But they too were beginning to have doubts – I could feel it.

 

While all this was filling our minds with doubts, we had other, stranger problems to concern ourselves with. Simon was daily causing us worry. The boy seemed unable to behave in any normal manner. He muttered a lot to himself, and was decidedly dangerous around fire. It became increasingly difficult to keep him under control, as he began to mutter insanely about the moon, and what the moon said to him. We found out that he believed that the moon had told him to kill his parents with an axe – and he had! In the end we had to have the militia lock him up, after he had burned down a house or two on orders of the full moon. I felt sorry for him, but was afraid of him as well. He just looked like this neglected and starving boy, but I’m convinced he was possessed by some evil spirit. The whole thing reached its climax one day after Tierry and I had spent an afternoon skating. I had fallen and hurt my foot, so I could hardly stand, let alone walk. Simon had fled his prison, had seriously wounded a priest and attempted to burn down a church, when he sought me out. I was furious with him, and also quite afraid of what he’d do to me. He wanted to run away, but I was urging him to stay, thinking that we could help him somehow. What a fool I was! I followed him out the city gates, where he hurt the guard to get out. He was barefoot in the snow and looked just plain terrified. I begged him once more to stay and receive what help we could, but he just hissed at me that he needed help from no-one. Then he pulled a knife on me, a huge butchers knife, and I must admit that I thought he would kill me right there. But as he pulled it, I heard a scream behind me; my friend Maggie ran towards us, and threw herself between me and the knife. The assault that was meant to kill me struck Maggie in the chest instead. I was terrified. I screamed. I screamed for help, I screamed in rage at Simon, who fled, I screamed in terror of loosing my friend, who so valiantly had saved my life, maybe with her own at stake. Soon help arrived and Maggie was brought home to her family. I followed along, but the doctor that came did not want too many people in the room, and I was sent home. In the inn I cried on Tierrys shoulder, I was soaked in Maggie’s precious blood, and I was a complete mess. I could not understand the furious action of Simon, I could not fathom that I could have been killed by him, that he maybe had killed my dearest friend. It seemed almost supernatural then, when the door to the inn opened, and a huge shadow appeared in the whirling snow. Father Cidron entered! In a few words he told me not to worry and Tierry and Alex to follow him – there were a demon to be killed! In seconds I was standing alone in the tap room – completely bewildered.

 

Somehow I managed to get out of my bloody clothes, wash the blood of my hands and wash my dress. I even managed to sleep a little, before I woke again, and ran off to Maggie’s house. I spend almost all of the following days at her family’s house. They did not harbour any hard feelings towards me, though I kept feeling that I was to blame for her wound. After a few days her wound fever broke and everybody rejoiced; she would live!

 

Some days after that the others returned. Tierry told me later what had happened. They had tracked Simon though the snow. For a mere boy he was incredibly strong and fast. He should have succumbed in the freezing cold, but he didn’t. Finally they had found him, and after a furious battle, Father Cidron had killed him, banished the demon in him and burnt the remains. What a strange story! What a strange boy! In Aurora we had fairytales about demons and trolls – I never would have guessed that I would ever actually meet one. But then again – I never would have guessed that I should carry two souls in my body, either.

 

I still didn’t tell Father Cidron my secret. After I had heard what he had done to Simon, I was afraid that he would think that Fienna was evil as well, and burn me like he had burnt Simon. I’m sure he suspected that I kept something from him, for though he treated me kindly and spoke to me politely, he kept his distance and kept a close eye on me. Though I still respected him endlessly, I was too afraid of him to ever call him a friend again. We seemed to be two poles, magnets keeping a constant distance to one another. The others surely felt it too, but what could they do? They had been with Father Cidron long before I came along, and the loyalty they felt towards me, must have been splitting them up inside. We all seemed about to burst, but we held on for a while yet. Time for the final parting was not yet upon us.

 

After New Years Father Cidron was called to an abbey south-east of Glenroran. The abbey had been attacked by robbers and the scattered residents were only just now returning. Still missing, though, were two noble children, Hermina and Francis Hugonin, who were entrusted to the abbey and a young nun who apparently had helped them escape from the attack. Father Cidron was asked to assist in finding them, and Alex, Tierry and I went with him.

 

The journey to the abbey was cold! A snowstorm had swept over the land only days before, the night following the attack as it turned out, so everything was covered in ice and snow. It was imperative that we found the children, because no one could survive long in that freezing cold. Hopefully they had found shelter somewhere.

 

Shortly after our arrival the boy, Francis Hugonin, turned up in the company of a sheepherder. He was a pretty boy, about ten years old, with a keen mind. He was terribly worried when he discovered that his older sister Hermina, a girl of 16, and the young nun, Sister Irene, had yet not returned after the assault. He told us that after the three of them had fled from the abbey, he had gotten lost. He seemed hesitant to talk, and I had the feeling that he was keeping something from us.

 

We searched for the missing in the surrounding territory, while the monks and nuns tried to repair their ransacked abbey. While searching we came across the small stronghold Arensborg where a young nobleman, Josef, resided. He was very disturbed to hear of the disappearance of Hermina Hugonin as she was his fiancée. He offered to help us search though he himself had been wounded a few days previously in the arm and in the face, when the robbers had attacked his stronghold as well. He mounted his fascinating white stallion and rode off in one direction with a number of his men, as we rode off in the other direction. It turned out that we had more luck on our search… In a frozen creek we found the naked body of a young woman encased in ice.

 

We brought the body back to the abbey, where the body was examined. It seemed evident that the young woman had been raped, before she had been killed. She had already been dead, before she had been dumped in the creek. What a terrible ending! While we were pondering what might have happened, Francis Hugonin stumbled in upon us. He had heard we had found a body, and was anxious to find out who it was. He identified the body as that of the young nun, Sister Irene. He was heartbroken, for he had liked the young nun, who had acted as their tutor, while they stayed in the abbey. To be honest he seemed a little angry with his sister, whom he was certain would show up ‘at her leisure’. He did in fact not seem very concerned for her. He did not seem very impressed either, when we told him that Josef de Arensborg had joined in the search of his sister. He said, that he didn’t suspect it would take Josef long to find his sister, whose foolish behaviour had caused Sister Irenes death. When asked further of this, he went silent, refusing to say anything more.

 

The next day we investigated the area near the creek where we had found Sister Irene’s body. Certainly she could not have died far away from that creek. And sure enough, not too far away in a shrubbery we found a little shed. In the shed we found a nun’s dress buried in the hay, and we found blood. We also found something curious; on a nail on the outside of the shed we found some long, white coarse hairs, that we first thought might be from a robe, but later identified as the hair from a horse’s mane. Then I had the strangest experience; while I was in the shed I got this eerie feeling. I turned to look at the door and I seemed to see the spirit of the dead nun. Just for a moment I saw her quite clearly, looking at me and then looking over my shoulder at her dress in the hay. I was in no doubt that this was where Sister Irene had met her death. But where did the light coloured horse fit into the picture? Alex then remembered Josef de Arensborgs beautiful white horse. Had he been near this place? Had he seen anything, or was he in fact our murderer? We went directly to Arensborg, but off course he denied everything. Actually he was quite offended that peasants like us even dared to suggest such an outrageous thing. Off course we apologized and left immediately, but we took our suspicions with us. But if it was him, what could we do? He was a nobleman and above the law. In truth peasants like us could do nothing. We rode back to the abbey in a hurry for clouds were gathering fast in the sky; another storm was coming…

 

In the night I was alone in my cell, a cold and bare place. The wind was howling outside and I was thankful of the thick walls between me and the storm. Suddenly I heard tapping on my window, and I sprang out of bed to open it. Outside I saw Sean holding a large bundle in his arms. He had nothing but his tartan on and he was practically blue with cold. His teeth were clattering in his mouth when he said “Quick, open the gates and let us in. I have Hermina Hugonin with me”. I ran to wake up Alex and we in turn ran to arouse Brother Gatekeeper. At the gates we found Hermina Hugonin – no Sean – bundled up in a man’s shirt and a huge bearskin over her own clothes. She was almost unconscious with cold. Alex swept her up into her arms and carried her to the infirmary. When we had seen to that she was well taken care of and slept peacefully, I returned to my cell and found Sean there. He had crawled through the window and was lying on the floor, shivering with cold. I managed to get him unto my bed and covered him with all the blankets I could find. He had given Hermina his shirt and his overcoat, leaving himself to be bitten by the bitter cold. I went to the kitchen and feigning hunger I manage to coerce a bowl of soup out of Brother Cook. But I couldn’t get him to eat anything, he was so worn out. I was at a loss of what to do. As I couldn’t think of any other way of getting some warmth into his body, I climbed into bed with him. I held him close, hoping that some of my body heat would warm him up. I must admit it was a strange feeling lying there next to him, my arms around him, my skin touching his skin. I loved this man, and if my body heat couldn’t save him, maybe my love could. I prayed to the Light to save this man, to forgive me of this sin of lying next to him, forgive me for taking pleasure in it. And I prayed that Sean, should he wake, didn’t find it too forward of me. With all these thoughts whirling in my mind I finally fell asleep.

 

When I woke up I was the one lying in his arms. He felt warm, but not feverish, and he was sleeping peacefully. I feigned sleep for a little while; I didn’t want to move and break this wonderful spell. I could almost pretend that he was mine, as long as I was lying like this. It was not until he began to stir that I sprang out bed. I dressed quickly, my face burning with embarressment, and when I turned towards him I found him lying quietly, smiling at me. “You’re pretty” he said, and then sad thoughts seem to wipe the smile from his face. I knew what he was thinking and I said in a hoarse voice “But not like her?”. He shook his head and smiled sadly “No, not like her”. He paused and then spoke again “But in truth; I never slept with her, as I did tonight with you”. My eyes widened in surprise “I though you were lovers” I burst out. He shook his head again “No… I wished we were, but she was dedicated to the Goddess. She was Fienna, the warrior of Danann, and could not have a man. She was given the choice, and she left me for the higher purpose…”. “I’m sorry” I whispered, this I had not expected. He then got out of bed, quite unshy and put on his clothes. Alex must have put his shirt and bearskin into my room during the night, because it was lying on a chair. “I must go now” he said “Before someone comes and finds me here”. “Wait!” I said urgently “Who is Danann? Who is the Goddess? I don’t understand”. He smiled gently at me, slightly touching my cheek. “Go to Glandor – she resides there… As do I”. He cast down his eyes and drew away from me “Goodbye…” and before I could utter another word he had left through the window into the blistering cold. I was left completely baffled. I had a terrible yearning in me to call him back, to throw away all caution and modesty and call him back and loose myself into that body. I wanted to caress him, to tell him I loved him. I hoped beyond hope that he would love me too, though I was not her, though I could never be her. She was part of me, true, but she was not me, and I was not her, and he loved her…

 

Not long after his departure Alex came to fetch me – Hermina had awoken, and when she heard that poor Sister Irene was dead, she had a curious story to tell. She had not fled with her brother and Sister Irene, when the abbey was attacked. She had left the abbey sooner, with Josef de Arensborg. She had gone with him to his stronghold, blinded by her affection for him. But once there he had turned abusive, and had tried to force himself on her. She had defended herself, had cut him with her knife in his arm and in his face. Then she had run off into the oncoming storm. Fortunately she had found some good people in the forest who had taken her in. She had been working her way back to the abbey when the second storm had surprised her. To her luck she had been found by a mysterious northlander, who had brought her here. She had not known that her brother and the nun had gone missing and she was very distraught over Sister Irene’s death. When Alex and I aired our suspicions about Josef de Arensborg, she nodded “I wouldn’t put it past him. He was quite angry and abusive when I turned him down, pulling my hair and bruising me. And he chased me, when I fled out of the stronghold. Fortunately for me my horse was faster than his. Yes, fortunately for me, but not for Sister Irene… Oh, great Light! I was so wrong about him, I was so blind!” But how would we get him punished for his crime? His position made him practically untouchable. The only way was to get him to admit it, and he would never do that. Then this wild idea occurred to me; I had been quite shocked when I saw Sister Irenes spirit in the forest – how would such a sight affect the man who had caused her death? Hermina knew he would plan to come to the mass on Manuons day which was tomorrow. Now if we were to keep it a secret that Hermina had been found, he would not know that she had talked about his violent nature and how he had followed her into the storm and failing to catch her, must have stumbled across Sister Irene seeking shelter in the shed. Hermina noticed my likeness with Sister Irene, and said that but for the hair colour – Sister Irene had been blond – we would look very much alike. I would don a nun’s habit and stay in the shadows, and then maybe Josef would think I was Sister Irene’s ghost, come to condemn him.

 

We set the plan to work the next day, Manuons day, and it worked beyond belief! Josef de Arensborg sat in the front row, and once he caught sight of me in the shadows, he let out a shriek alarming everyone around him. As I walked closer to him, staring at him and pointing an accusing finger, he practically climbed over the back of his seat yelling “No! I killed you! You’re dead! Go away!” It could not have been better, I must say! He admitted everything in the presence of his peers, the priests and the monks. Sister Irene had been avenged!

 

But the story didn’t end there. In his fury of being found out Josef de Arensborg grabbed Francis Hugonin and fled with him as hostage. We followed them of course, and to our surprise he passed his stronghold, and went on up into the mountains, where he joined up with the robbers. It seemed he had been in league with them all along. We battled with them, and Tierry took a wound while he was saving my life. I had suddenly faced a large man with an axe to match, and I couldn’t get the gadget with the knife attached to my arm to work. We were hard put on, when suddenly a small army came to our aid. Afterwards we found out that Hermina and Francis’ father had arrived at the abbey to collect his children, and found Hermina in tears, the abbey in uproar and Francis missing. I must say; he couldn’t have timed it better!

 

We left Tierry in the care of the brothers, and Father Cidron left us temporarily to rapport on the incident.

 

While Tierry was recovering, Alex took over his duties in Glenroran. I worked at the Banshee, but was restless. Maggie was recovering well, and would soon be back to work. I spend quite some time with her rather large family that rather reminded me of my own. Maggie’s father was a smith and two of her brothers were apprenticed to him. But although I found some rest with the MacDorach family, I continuously wondered about Sean and about the Goddess. I had always been a faithful believer in the Light, renouncing all else as heresy. But the Fiennasoul in me made me feel that the Goddess was someone to be reckoned with, that she was good and kind, and that there was where we belonged. I was confused and wanted to go to Glandor, as Sean had suggested, to see Sean again and to find some answers regarding the Goddess. I consulted with Alex, and she wanted to go as well. She offered to ride as my companion, so that I should not ride alone, but I sensed she had reasons of her own to go to Glandor. Maybe the renegade MacLir would be there? As soon as Tierry returned in good health to Glenroran, we left for Glandor

 

It was a cold trip to Glandor. Winter was tipping into spring, but the air was still cold. On the way I wondered what to say to Sean, when I saw him again. I seemed so full of feelings, and I had no idea how to tell him all I felt. In the end I decided to write it down, when we reached Glandor.

 

Glandor was a splendid sight – rough and wild as it seemed. We were welcomed into the guesthouse – that looked very much like the dormitory at an inn - and we sought audience with the laird Fengus MacDorach, which we received that same evening. In the meantime I found paper and a pen, and wrote my much thought over letter to Sean.

 

The laird was a large man – a very large man. He must have been close to 2 meters, with a great red beard and a shock of red hair. His voice was booming, but his nature forthcoming. He found my request to talk to priests of the Goddess peculiar, me obviously not being a northlander, but promised that he would see what he could do. To Alex’s questions about MacLir, he seemed very cautious in replying. MacLir was not around, but trouble was surely brewing where he was, whether he wanted it or not. The Laird seemed troubled by it, but would say nothing more about it. He welcomed us though, and said we could stay in the guesthouse as long as we liked.

 

As the evening fell Alex and I found our separate paths. She seemed anxious to be alone, and I went on my search for Sean. Eventually I found him, and gave him my letter. He merely shook his head looking at it. “You shall have to read it to me. I cannot read myself” he said. I was astonished. On Aurora practically everyone could read and write – it was looked down upon if one was not able to. To my utter embarrassment I would have to read my letter aloud to him. With burning face and faltering voice, I did. But reading the letter aloud was not half as terrible as the silence that followed. Sean’s face looked like it was carved in stone, then he gave a sudden laugh and shook his head. “I’m sorry” he said “I cannot… It’s sweet of you, but I simply couldn’t…” He looked confused, gave me such a funny look, and I ran. I just couldn’t bear it, so I ran. I threw my letter aside all crumbled up, and felt completely and utterly foolish. What had I been thinking?! He loved her, and she was dead… She was tall, redheaded, aggressive, powerful, compelling, while I, though beautiful (as I’ve been told repeatedly) was slight and frail, timid and shy. Why would he, how could he love me, after having loved her? What a fool I’d been, what a complete fool!

 

With tears streaming from my eyes I went in search of Alex. I found her bathing in the lake – navel of the Goddess - that surrounds the castle Glandor. She was none too pleased to see me – she had wanted to be alone. But I cried out to her, that I needed to speak with her – woman to woman. She startled at this, and just stared at me for a while. “How did you know?” she then asked. “I don’t know – a gut feeling” I replied “But don’t worry; I wont tell anyone. Not unless you want me to. Your secret is safe with me. But please, Alex, please, will you listen to me? I really need someone to talk to”. She agreed, got out of the water and got dressed. And then I told her everything about Sean, and about how I so wanted to be with him, and of Fienna who, though she lived in me, stood between him and me. Hers was a shadow I could never emerge from. And Alex listened, comforted, talked, and told me her own story of an unwanted marriage, of flight, of living like a man for the past 4-5 years, being to war, falling in love and never telling anyone her secret. Not even Tierry knew, and certainly Father Cidron didn’t. It was good to talk to her like that. We became very close that night, and I went to sleep with less worry than I could have.

 

The next morning I was called to the laird. A strange man was with him in the audience-room – an old man with a wolf skin covering his head and shoulders. Besides the wolf skin he wore nothing but a tartan so dirty that one could not tell what colours it had once been. He was dirty, and frankly he didn’t smell very good, and his eyes were a strange and piercing yellow. He frightening me with his mere presence and he stared at me without shame. I felt practically naked before his eyes – I felt he could see right through me – and knowing what I now know, I believe that that indeed was what he did. He turned to the laird and gave a slight nod and then left us. The Laird then told me that my wish was granted, and that I would find the Goddess’ priests in the moor half a day’s travel outside Glandor. He gave me instructions as to how to find the place. He urged me not to ride alone and dismissed me kindly.

 

Alex and I left right away. We rode through valleys and passed cliffs and rivers, over the heath to the moor, where we were received by strange looking folk that led us the rest of the way without ever uttering a word. They seemed to have been expecting us. Then we reached the Goddess’s lair. People here looked strange indeed. Many of them were disfigured in different ways, some where obviously sick in the mind. Most of them were dirty and miserable looking. I had not imagined it so at all. To be truthful I’m not sure what I had imagined – maybe some ancient temple in white marble and tall people in colourful robes? An old man approached me and led me into a hut made of skins from sheep and other animals. The hut was full of smoke. Soon my eyes were stinging and my nose wrinkling up with distaste. The old man pushed me further in, and suddenly I found myself in a sort of tunnel, first made of animal skins, but later on it was rock. The tunnel was low and dark, and I had to be careful not to bump my head. I seemed to go on forever and ever. I was alone by then – the old man had left me somewhere along the way, and I was beginning to wonder what I had gotten myself into. Part of me struggled against this apparent heresy and part of me found it very very intriguing. When I was beginning to wonder if the tunnel would never end at all, I heard a soft chuckle around me – a sound that seemed to come from all around me. “Sit down, daughter” this strange voice said “Stop worrying about bumping your precious skull”. I found that I could stand up straight, and while a soft light began to shine and grow brighter I sat down on the floor, which was covered with soft skins. I was in a cave, or I must have been, it seemed more like a tent of some sort, the wall were covered with skin and the skulls and antlers of deer. In the middle of the floor on a little raised platform a woman sat. It might have been a trick of the light – I thought it was at the time – but I couldn’t decide whether this woman was young, old or somewhere in between. She was all three at once – her voice too was a mixture of youthful, mature and old. I realized that this wasn’t a priestess of the Goddess, but the Goddess herself, and I knew her name. It was Danann, and Maithair and Morrigu and more. I was in her presence and she welcomed me into her arms. She brought peace between Fienna and Judith, told us that we were one, inseparable in a perfect union. She welcomed me into her service, told me of the demon that Fienna had hunted, that it was still out there, that I would have to face it. She gave me a small purse that had been Fiennas. It contained a small knife and a small bag of blue powder. Without ever moving she seemed to come forward and kiss my forehead. I was in awe, I was at peace, I was strong and I belonged, I had purpose, I was chosen, I had chosen, I was one and I was happy. I cannot even remember how I returned to the real world again – the road seemed much shorter this time, and the tunnel higher and broader and lighter. Outside I was greeted by many people. Some hugged me, some shook my hands, some just smiled or nodded. I had come home, and all of these strange people knew it somehow. I was happy when Alex and I mounted our horses and left the moor behind us.

 

We travelled through the silence and darkness of the early spring night. I could not tell Alex anything, except for that I was happy and that I had received the answers I sought.

 

Suddenly in the distance we could see a small flickering light, as of that of a campfire. And on a small hillock over a roaring river a tall shadow stood by the fire – waiting. I was stunned, when I saw it was Sean. Without taking his eyes of me, he asked Alex to ride on. Alex turned with an inquiring look (I assume), and without taking my eyes of Sean, I nodded my consent. She left us there by the fire, under a sky of a thousand falling stars. I slid from the horse and into his arms, and if the night was cold, I didn’t feel it. I can’t remember if any words were spoken – I remember his voice, his whisper, but not his words. I remember his kisses, his caresses. My clothes must have evaporated, for I cannot remember taking them of. I remember becoming one with the sky of a thousand falling stars. I remember the heat and the feeling of having come home for the second time that day. To finally experience what I had dreamed about all my life – both my lives. To be in the arms of the man I loved – the only man I’d ever love.

 

I woke up at sunrise, still in his arms. I have never seen a sky so magnificent, I have never truly seen anything as I saw it that morning. Everything was perfectly clear. I could see every straw, every little creature crawling in the grass, every little rock in the river. And there was Sean beside me, smiling at me, caressing my face. I was completely and utterly happy.

 

Saying goodbye to him in Glandor was hard, but softened by the knowledge that we would see each other again. That lost love wasn’t lost at all, but very much present in us both.