Beyond the Mist of Forres

DSCF5641The village was dark and silent except for the howl of a lone wolf from across the ravine.  The air had turned cool with the approach of fall.  The young woman shivered slightly as her dark green eyes scanned the deep forest.  All was still – it was a good sign.  It was time.  Pulling the hood of her long black cape over her waist length raven hair, she let out a thin whistle between her small white teeth to summon her beloved black wolf.  Moving silently forward through the trees she treaded lightly in her breeches and boots. Glancing up, she smiled.  The light was good tonight.  Nearly a full moon, but not yet.  She had time.  A rustle in the bushes made her turn to catch the wolf coming to her side with his fresh kill of rabbit still clenched between his jaws – his dark, amber eyes gleaming in the dark.  He dropped his prize at her feet.

“Ah, there you are.” Kari whispered as she reached for her bow and arrows, and slung them over her shoulder.

“We must be off Wolf.  Make haste with your meal.  It may be your last for some time.”

A nearby knicker met Kari’s ears and she smiled again.  Softly approaching was her devoted steed Dario.  His dark bay coat and beautifully shaped head gleamed in the moonlight as he nuzzled her cloak for a lump of sugar.

“Ah,” smiled Kari, breathing in his scent, and feeling his energy.  “You know my heart well, my dear friend.  I cannot resist you and well you know it.”

Scooping her hand into a pocket of her cloak, she withdrew a tasty treat.  Dario dipped his head, sniffed at Kari’s hand and the sweet disappeared.  She quietly stroked his forehead, adjusted his bridle, and spoke softly.

“We must make haste this night Dario.  We must make our way home before the moon is full.”

Kari looked into the dark beautiful eyes of her magnificent Friesian, and a current passed between them.  He knickered softly, and pawed the ground with a strong foreleg.  He understood and was eager to do his mistresses’ bidding.  Taking a final look around the village, Kari swung herself upon Dario’s back and softly called to Wolf.  Electricity suddenly filled the night air and sensing the urgency of his mistress, Dario spun and cantered through the woods as graceful and silent as a gazelle.

The evening light was good, but it mattered not, as Kari knew the way well.  It was a two day ride home to her lands.  With any luck Dario would get her there well before the full moon.  An hour into their journey, Kari slowed Dario to a walk, and let her thoughts wander.  Somewhere to her left flank was Wolf, always her protector.  She could sense when he was near.

Kari made good time stopping only briefly for some nourishment, and to see to her other needs.  Her excitement grew as she closed the miles toward home.  Urging Dario on through the last of the forest, she broke onto the crest of the small hill where her property began.  The sun was just rising behind her, and the vision that unfolded before her made her breath catch in her throat. How she loved her home and her land.  She halted Dario to admire the view.   Its beauty never left her wanting.  The lushness of the hills and green grass always brought her a sense of peace.  All was calm in the early dawn light.  Her well guarded keep filled her with a sense of pride.

Urging Dario on, her thoughts drifted back to her visit with the old woman in the village.  She had been difficult to find and surrounded by loyal kinsmen.  But once Kari announced herself and requested an audience, she was welcomed.   Her long journey had been worth it.  For three days and two nights they talked.  Some of the old woman’s mumblings and visions puzzled Kari.  The place she described was filled with foreign sounds and edifaces.  Kari bit her lower lip in puzzlement.  She knew of no such place the woman described.  She could only hope she would be able to make more sense of it when she reached her home.  She would follow the old oracle’s instructions.  Until then, the peace she so desperately sought would continue to elude her.

Kari stiffened.  A low growl interrupted her thoughts.  Wolf was warning her.  She was not alone.  Suddenly a sharp whoosh filled the air as an object made contact with a nearby tree.  Dario snorted and reared.  Kari kept a firm, but calm hand on the reins and whirled in the direction from which the airborne object had come.

Angered that someone would dare to accost her on her own lands filled her with fury.  She was well known and only a fool would dare to attempt such an action.

“Who goes there?” she cried, grabbing her bow and arrow.   “Make yourself known or suffer the consequences!”  She wondered sharply why she had not sensed any danger.  But she knew.  She had been distracted with her thoughts.

“Make your presence known!” she called out, scanning the edge of the forest. “Show yourself!”

A low chuckle and rustling was immediately heard, followed by more laughter as a dozen men on horseback moved out of hiding and into the clearing.  Kari breathed a sigh of relief and lowered her bow and arrow.  By all that was holy, she could have shot him.  It was her twin brother, Noel.

“Ah, sister,” laughed Noel, smiling broadly as he approached her on foot.  “Such a fierce warrior you are!  We’ve been tracking you for the last mile.  You did not pick up our presence?  How deep in thought you must have been.”

“You bloody oaf!” she cried, rankled that he would choose such a method to make his presence known.  “I could have injured you!”

Kari dismounted and was immediately wrapped into her brother’s massive arms as he engulfed her in a powerful hug.

Noel gazed upon his sister’s lovely face.  Her green eyes gazed back at him clear and open to his close scrutiny.  Her alabaster skin glowed with good health.

“You look well,” admired Noel with the grunts of the others.

“Your journey has agreed with you it seems. Was it a success?”

“Aye,” she murmured matching her strides with her brother’s as they walked across the lush grass. “What news is there from home?”

Noel put his arm around Kari as his men joined them.  “There is naught, but that Uncle is frothing at the mouth to see you.”

Kari smiled and tugged at Dario’ reins to follow.  “And, how is our dear Uncle?” queried Kari.  “How fares his gout?”

A grin lit Noel’s handsome face bringing forth a flash of white teeth and a twinkle to his green eyes.

“The same as his disposition, I fear.  He limps with greater pain everyday whilst he roams the halls grumbling to himself.  He has been impatient for your return.  He is anxious for the cure you will surely bring him with your herbs and libations.”

Kari smiled in return as a vision of her cantankerous and aging white-haired Uncle came to mind.  She would attend to him with the herbs she had acquired first thing.

“So,” continued Noel, halting Kari mid stride.  “Was your mission a success?  Did you find the old woman?”

Kari stopped and let her gaze wander over her brother and the men behind him that were family to her.

“Aye!” she breathed anxious to share her excitement.  “She was there Noel!” she cried clutching his arm. “She knew who I was.  She had knowledge of what I sought!  She grows old, but she is well tended.”

“Tis good then,” replied Noel with a nod.  “And, what of the other matter we seek?” he asked in earnest.  “Had she any news?”

“Yes,” gleemed Kari.  “It has been as we suspected.  Our parents were not killed.  They are alive.   She has had many visions.  We sat talking into the wee hours.  Her visions are strong Noel, and we share the same sight.  She believes they have been held prisoner these many years.  She fears for the place they are in.  She feels a sense of urgency.”

“Where?” growled Noel, his jaw tightening, his eyes becoming a hard green glint.  “Does she know where?”

“Nay,” breathed Kari.  “But she has described the place, and ‘tis ugly.”

“We must find them,” resolved her brother.  “Let us make haste,” he continued as he turned to his horse and his men.  “You need to get home and rest.  Then we will talk.”

“We ride!”  He called out to his men, swinging up into his saddle, turning his great steed towards the top of the hill.

Kari eagerly nodded and quickly mounted Dario.  All securely mounted, they thundered down the hill and across the valley toward home.

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