A flutter of movement caught her eye as Cianna stepped onto
to the lighthouse platform.
She stood still, holding her dagger at the ready.
“Come on out,” she called. “I know you’re
“You can’t go anywhere. Unless you want to jump. And
it’s a long way down. Come on out where I can see you.”
Another moment passed, then a figure came bounding around
“Don’t move or I’ll shoot!” The voice was female.
She was dressed in clothes that seemed out of place, blue pants faded almost to
white, a shirt hanging long and loose. Her hair was cropped short. And she held
Cianna laughed. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I
don’t mean to make fun of you. But if you try to shoot that arrow your bow will
fall apart in your hands. It’s seen better days, I’m afraid.”
“Don’t try to trick me,” the young woman said.
“I know how to use this.” Her words were fierce, but she looked
doubtfully at the bow in her hands.
“Up to you. But you might hurt yourself if you insist
on using that thing.”
The fair-haired woman looked back and forth between Cianna
and the bow. Finally, she threw it down in disgust.
“Fine. Go ahead and kill me. I’m tired of running and
I’m tired of hiding. Go ahead. Kill me.”
She stared defiantly at Cianna, though her hands were
“I’m not going to kill you,” Cianna said.
“I’d like to help you, if I can.”
“Why would you want to help me?”
The voice was still guarded, but a bit of the tension had
gone out of her shoulders.
“I want to help you because you’re an Outlander,”
Cianna said softly.
“People who come to this world from another
“You know that?” she said with a bit of fear in
her voice, as she looked around her. “How could you know that?”
“By your clothes, for one. By your hair, for
“Hey, what’s wrong with my hair?” The young woman
raked a hand through her matted, short crop of hair. “I mean, I know it’s
“The color, mostly,” Cianna laughed. “I don’t
think I’ve ever seen anyone with quite that shade of blonde before.”
The young woman grinned. “Well, yeah, I bleached it
myself, so it’s kind of…funky…I guess.”
Cianna looked her over more intently. “How long since
you left your home?”
The young woman’s smile faltered. “I’m not sure.
Several days, maybe a week.”
“How did you survive once you got here? Did you get
“Not much. I, uh, found some food and funny looking
coins. But the coins didn’t last long. Some jerk stole them later. I’ve been
sleeping in barns, mostly.”
A light went on for Cianna. “And in decrepit old
houses, too, I think.”
The young woman blushed. “Is that your house? I didn’t
do anything, I swear. I just crashed. It didn’t look like anyone lived
Cianna waved her hand to dismiss the words. “No one
does, now. Not for many years. I’m glad you found refuge there.”
Cianna let the door behind her swing shut and she walked out
fully onto the deck. “May I ask your name?”
The woman hesitated, then shrugged her shoulders. “My
friends back home call me Dancer.”
“That’s lovely. And why do they call you that,
The woman made a face at Cianna. “Um, because I
dance,” she said. “Don’t you have dancing here?”
“Indeed we do,” Cianna said with a laugh.
“But somehow I suspect it’s not the kind of dancing you’re talking about.
You’ll have to show me some time.”
“So, how do you know so much about Outlanders?”
Dancer asked. “Are you one, too?”
Cianna shook her head. “No, but my mother and
grandmother are…were. And my father, too. But I was born here in Novia.
This,” she indicated with a sweep of her hand, “all belonged to my
grandmother. She left it in my care.”
Dancer whistled. “Wow, this is all yours?”
Cianna smiled at Dancer. “And I keep her memory alive
by helping out Outlanders and other misfits, people who have a hard time
fitting in. Don’t glare at me, that wasn’t an insult. I’m a misfit, too.
Anyway, I give them a place to live, help them earn a living, even provide a
sense of family if that’s what they want. My grandmother did that in honor of
the people who helped her when she first came here, and now I do the same in
her honor. I know you have no reason to trust me yet, but I can help you, if
you’ll let me.”
Cianna could see that Dancer was hesitating, unsure of how
to proceed, so she turned away to give the young woman a chance to think it
over. She placed her hand on the delicate telescope perched on the deck, and
ran her fingers over it lovingly.
“I hope you don’t mind,” Dancer said, as she
watched her, “but I was looking through that a while ago. It’s pretty
“Yes, it is. I used to spend a lot of time here as a
child looking through the telescope.”
“Do you own those other islands, too?”
Cianna looked at her sharply. “Other islands? What
Forgetting her fears, Dancer bounded over to the telescope
and put her eye to it. “There, they’re right out…hey!” She looked
in astonishment at Cianna. “They’re gone!”
Cianna looked through the telescope as well, but only saw
the smooth clear sea water spread out before her. She turned away from the
telescope with a small smile on her lips.
“I promise you, they were there! I saw them with my own
eyes. Two islands! One was larger than the other, but there were definitely
two. They were sort of covered in clouds or mist or something, but they were
there. I swear to you.”
“I believe you, Dancer,” Cianna said, reaching out
to touch the young woman’s shoulder. “I’ve seen them, too.”
“But…but where have they gone? How can they exist one
minute and not the next? I don’t understand.” She shook her head a bit,
then looked wide-eyed at Cianna. “Is it magic?”
Cianna didn’t answer at first. “I don’t know,
Dancer,” she finally replied. “I don’t know what that is. And I’ve
never met anyone else who had seen them before, until now.”
She walked to the edge of the lighthouse deck, and leaned
against the cool stone wall. Her gaze swept out over the sea.
“I’ve caught glimpses of those islands. There doesn’t
seem to be any rhyme or reason for why they show up. At least none that I’ve
figured out. But, well, it very much reminds me of an old story Aelasar used to
tell me. It was my favorite bedtime story. And in it, there was an island
covered in mist. It was called Avalon.”
She blinked to stop the tears that threatened to fall.
“Sometimes I wonder if maybe Aelasar somehow found a way to…I know this
sounds crazy, but…to bring Avalon here and maybe…that’s where she’s gone
to, out there in the mists.”
“What happened to your grandmother that makes you so
“That, my friend, is a story for another time. First,
we need to get you cleaned up, into some comfortable clothing, and fed. Does
that sound good?”
“It sounds heavenly, but you don’t need to do all that.
I can keep sleeping in the old house, and I can work to earn my keep.”
“We can work out the details later, Dancer. Let’s just
get you settled first, okay?”
Dancer hesitated one last time, then grinned and nodded her
head. “Hey, what do I call you? You never told me.”
“My name’s Cianna, Dancer. And it’s a pleasure to meet
you. Now let’s get you cleaned up.”
She let Dancer go through the door first, stopping to take a
last look out over the still sea. “If you’re out there,” she
whispered into the wind, “I love you. Thanks for guiding this young woman
to the Forest. We’ll take good care of her, I promise.”
She gently closed the door and started down the steps. For
now, Cianna gently put the ghosts of her past behind her, and set out to make a
home for Dancer in Aelasar’s Forest.