By Jules Watson

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They are afraid of Conor, see. They say grief has twisted his mind. One lord harboring the fugitives was attacked by raiders, another stripped of his lands. The Red Branch have been chasing all over the North after the girl and the boys, and then …” His small eyes gleamed. ” Maeve’s mind was a storm. Red Branch warriors did not kill each other. They prided themselves on their unique fighting skills and their secret, mystical bond—the nature of which she’d never discerned. Now Red Branch not only stalked other Red Branch, but slayed each other?

Her lips open, Maeve let each cry be swallowed by soil and rock. Hidden, secret—dark disgorged to dark. Ruán knelt by the lake, staring across the water. The glints on the waves danced. Within the orbit of the sídhe, it appeared he possessed the sight in his eyes, both in Thisworld as well as the Other. You must mark your body , they had said in the stones. Drained, he had not questioned that, walking back on trembling legs through the meadows of marsh-grass touched by dawn. There he plunged into the lake, scouring away all the mud and blood.

Slowly, he worked it all into the cuts. Branding himself, he had scored the great spiral that continues curving forever inward, and forever outward. All druids knew that symbol. The journey in seeks the heart of the One truth that joins All together. The journey outward, the growth and expansion of a soul. When the sun ignited the frost on the grass, Maeve opened her eyes. Wrapped in her leather mantle, she had fallen into an exhausted stupor and lost the night. She was lying among the heather, her knife in her hands.

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