They say one day you wake up and you know when you’ve crossed the line.
You know… and there’s nothing you can do to turn back. You’d think that was the day I sent Brian home.
Nope. My day came a week later.
We’d gathered at the meadow down by Paddy O’Leary’s house at dusk. A local farmer whose family had ties with the Tuatha for centuries. A big bonfire roared in the center of a stone circle. The megalith boulders rose twelve feet in the air and encompassed a hundred foot span. Hundreds of guests circled the fire inside the rock boundaries. Sizes of the guests ranged from gigantic to itty-bitty. Brownies and fairies and even a banshee, I later learned. Today was the day before Samhain and trepidation hung in the air. Tonight I was going to take the reins from my grandmother and start my journey.
Was I ready? Was I capable?
I watched from afar, the laughing and cheering, as I sat beneath an old oak tree and hugged my knees. I almost wished a hole would open up under me and suck me from this world. As night fell, I rose on shaky legs and then emerged. A silence came over group. My gaze sought the guidance of my Nana.
She smiled and nodded her approval.
I walked forward, head held high and entered the circle.
What was it with being royalty? We’re real people, with real feelings.
I stopped and searched the gazes of the people. Some happy, some scared, some were curious, others angry. Why? I’d never asked for this. Would gladly walk away.
A powder was thrown into the fire and a blue smoke swirled around the crowd. As if I was being pulled, I was drawn closer to the flames. And as I stood before the great blaze my eyes sought, connected, held with a stranger from across the way. I’d seen this person before. That second day in Ireland.
The man at the museum. The man who I should fear.
His long black hair free from a braid framed his bronze face, his yellow eyes more feral than friendly and the magnetism he presented made my palms burn. His hash lined face, so magnificent, so fascinating to watch, become more as he appeared to search my soul. I felt a presence in my head, his, and I struggled to throw him out. I couldn’t. His eyes seemed to glow, to swirl. I felt every hair on my body stand up and began to pulse. I felt the air leave my lungs. I felt the world shift as he gazed into my eyes. My head started to pound, my heart started to flutter. I squeezed my legs together.
He nodded once, as if he was pleased. Damn him.
His thoughts were suddenly my thoughts. Myself alone heard. “Every hero must die before they can truly live again.”
I looked deep into the flames. Let the word mingle in my head. Felt the heat, embraced the unknown as it flickered across my skin. I stepped closer to the roaring in my brain.
I sought his gaze once more.
His lips drew tight. The only sign he showed.
And I knew.
I closed my eyes and stepped forward.
The ending is your choice. But? Is this really the end or just the beginning….
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