Cocooned in his favourite blanket, the old man, eyes closed, reclined in front of the roaring fire. His once dark hair had turned completely white. His smooth latte skin now resembled tissue paper which someone had crumbled and then spread out leaving lines and crevices that took up residence on his face. He thought back over his long life and a smile of satisfaction creased his countenance.
He could hear the children race down the hall, then stop, whispering amongst themselves. They quietly tiptoe into the room. He opened one eye and smiled at them.
“It’s okay guys. You can come in. I’m not asleep.”
They formed a semi-circle on the floor in front of him. He raised his recliner to an upright position and spoke.
“And what, pray tell, may I do for you ladies and gentlemen on this glorious day?”
“Tell us the story about the witches and the faeries again, Grandpa. Please. It’s my favourite,” said Evie, bouncing up and down.
The old man winked at her and whispered, “Mine, too,” as he began his tale.
“It was a dark and stormy night, a long time ago…
Still awaiting the lamplighter's arrival for his customary nocturnal chore, Mayfield street remained veiled in a shroud of mist and darkness. Only the echoing sound of horses' hooves resonated through the damp air. The carriage stopped at number fifty-seven and a cloaked figure descended from the vehicle into the fog. The door opened as the creature darted around the puddles and through the front entrance.
“She’s in her room, my Lady.”
“Thank you, Bennett,” said the woman as she ran past the impeccable butler and threw him her dampened cape.
Up the stairs she bound to the tower room in the home and throwing open the door, shouted “Mother, I must talk with you.”
An older woman, dressed in her night ware turned from the altar where she had been meditating and calmly spoke. “Everloure! What are you doing here? Why aren’t you at court?”
“Oh, mother,” sobbed Everloure. “I had to escape as quickly as I could. Something awful has happened.”
“Oh, no. Has the Queen dismissed you?” asked Lady Aldith, the Duchess of Somerset and Everloure’s mother.
“No. Worse,” Everloure proclaimed. “You will be so angry with me. But it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t.”
Everloure’s mother sighed. “Just get on with it, girl. We’ll figure out what to do.”
The girl slowed her breathing and settled herself. Looking at her mother, she said, “I was caught throwing fire balls.”
Aldith gasped. “What do you mean you were caught? You know you are not to do magic while at court. The King has outlawed all magic, and anyone caught will be put to death. This puts us in great danger. Come. Sit beside me and tell me exactly what happened.”
The two ladies walked to a bench in the room and sat. Everloure began her tale.
“While attending compline this evening, Mhairi and I were startled to discover that her shawl had gone missing. We searched everywhere and eventually found it beneath a bench, adjacent to the Queen's chair. We couldn't fathom how it got there, but it made us very late going back to our quarters. Trying not to be discovered outside after curfew, we were quietly making our way to our rooms when for some reason I tripped over something in the path and fell flat on my face. I swear there was nothing there when we went to the chapel. Anyway, my breath was quite knocked out of me. I threw out my hands to break my fall and two fireballs shot out from my hands. I’ve been doing so much better controlling the energy. It isn’t fair,” she wailed.
“But only you and Mhairi were there. No one else saw. Right?”
“Not quite. What we didn’t know was Lord Enright was following behind us and saw everything.”
Aldith gasped and put her hand to her mouth. “What did he say?” she whispered.
“He called us to stop. He gave me a wicked smile. Then grabbed my arms and pulled me to him. He said ‘What is this? Witchcraft? This will have to be investigated. Go to your rooms and I will send the guards for you in the morning.’. He stroked my cheek and said, ‘Such a beauty. I have been watching you since you arrived at court. Of course, if you chose to come to my room this evening, I won’t need to speak to the King in the morning. Chose wisely, my dear.’ Then he strode away.”
“What an odious character! From the very first encounter, I informed your father of my strong dislike of the man. But now, with Malcolm's decree against witches causing friction between your father and his brother-in-law, we need to tread carefully. The King remains oblivious to the Queen’s magical lineage, and we must keep it that way. Tell me, how did you slip away unnoticed?”
“Mhairi and the head groomsman have been lovers for awhile now, so we quickly packed a few items and went to the stables. He was able to hitch up a carriage and escape through a back entrance to the courtyard.”
“Where are they now?”
Aldith paced back and forth, hands behind her back. Finally, she stopped and faced her daughter.
“While the horses are being changed, you three will have a light repast in the kitchen. Then you will be on your way to your cousin’s home in Edinburgh. From there you will go to Eilean nan Sithichean, (Island of the Fairies) just off the north shore of John O Groats. Maeve, Queen of the Fae, is an old friend of mine and will hide you well until this all blows over. There are family members on the island who possess knowledge about your gift. With their expertise, you’ll learn how to control your powers, preventing any further occurrences like today. Your father and I planned to send you next year, but we’ll have to move the date up a bit. As time is of the essence, we’d better move quickly.”
“I knew you would know what to do,” exclaimed Everloure, clapping her hands.
“We’re not safe yet,” said Aldith pushing her daughter out the door and down the stairs. “Do hurry, Everloure. We have no time to lose.”
Aldith saw to everything. Soon everyone was fed and had extra food for the trek. Bags were packed, money for the journey was given, a letter of understanding was written, and the trio were on their way.