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.
Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with another chapter in this wonderful story from Cianna. It is entitled They Call her Lady Warrior
Background music by Smartsound
Chapter 5, “Ghosts of a Different Kind, Part 1
The sea air was chilly as Cianna stepped out of her house in Aelasar’s Forest. The leaves in the trees gently swayed with a breeze that caressed her face, reminiscent of the way her grandmother used to caress her cheek when she was a child. She sighed.
“I miss you, Aelasar,” she whispered to her grandmother. “And you, Mother. Where are you both? They say you’re dead, but how can that be? You’re Outlanders. Outlanders don’t die, do they?” She shook her head. “But if you’re not dead, where are you? Why can’t I find you?”
Her gaze settled on the old lighthouse on the small island off the coast of Aelasar’s Forest. It had been a favorite place for her to visit in her childhood. She and Aelasar would spend hours at the telescope, watching ships go by or looking at the stars and strange planets that circled overhead. Life had been so simple then.
Cianna sighed again and then, on sudden impulse, started walking over the bridge to the small pier that would take her to the lighthouse. She hadn’t been there since she took over the care of the forest. The idea had been too painful. But now, she felt the need to relive those old memories.
As she passed the decaying mansion to the right of the pier, Cianna was startled to see the front door ajar. No one lived in the old place, not since her grandmother had lived in it when she first began visiting the Forest. After her grandfather had purchased the small hamlet and built a new summer home there for Aelasar, the place had gone into ruin. Aelasar could never bring herself to tear it down, though. And neither could Cianna.
She approached the decrepit building, warily eyeing the open door. Might just be an animal that’s gotten in, she thought. That door never hitched properly anyway. Still, she had to be careful. Her father’s people were looking for her, she knew. It’s possible they had tracked her to the Forest.
She pushed the door open slowly, drawing a small dagger from her belt as she did. The interior was dark and dank. Cobwebs covered the walls, and the musty smell of dust and decay made Cianna want to sneeze. She held her breath till the feeling passed, then cautiously moved forward to the main room on the first floor. She cursed the misfortune of not having a torch with her to light the way.
She jumped, rubbing her face with her free hand. “Damn cobwebs,” she muttered, the inevitable chill running down her back. Then she almost laughed out loud. You’ve killed men with your sword, she thought, yet you’re afraid of spiders. Some brave warrior you are!
Cianna listened deeply to the silence. It remained unbroken. She took a few more steps down the foyer to the living room. She knew there were hidden rooms in the house, but it was unlikely anyone else would know about them. If someone were on this floor, the living room is where they would be.
From the little bit of light coming through the dirty windows, she could see the old iron fireplace to one side. It had been beautiful once, she remembered. Her grandfather, Alron, had it restored when Aelasar first lived here. Sadly, time again had reduced it to a dusty relic. Its grate was cold to the touch. No recent fire, then, Cianna thought.
She peered around the room, squinting to see. Nothing looked out of place. No dust had been disturbed on the floor that she could see. There was still silence all around.
Cianna closed her eyes and went within, using her senses the way her grandmother taught her. “We are all one,” Aelasar said, “all of us, man and beast, are connected to the same universal mind through Nature. Use that connection. Trust it. It will not let you down.”
Cianna reached out, her mind connecting with an owl sitting in a tree outside. “Brother,” she said respectfully, “may I use your ears?” The owl didn’t respond but Cianna was instantly aware of hundreds of new sounds, the chittering mice in the yard, the hawk soaring above, the distant sound of a boat passing the coastline. She drew the hearing inward, shutting out everything but her nearest surroundings. And she listened.
“Nothing,” she said out loud after a few moments. “If someone has been here, they are gone now.”
Resolving to return again with a torch for a closer inspection, Cianna backtracked and left the old house, once more turning her steps toward the lighthouse.
It rose above the island like the good sentry that it was, a stalwart during storms, and a beacon of refuge when the waters were calm. It was the lighthouse that made Aelasar, an Outlander, want to build a haven here in the coastal forest, a place where she could go to escape the stress of her new life in Novia. She adored her husband, but marrying into the court life of the True Elf population in Novia had been a tremendous burden for her. “Druids are meant to be a part of the land,” she once told Cianna. “The machinations of man do not interest me much.”
But she had been a loving, kind woman, with a grace and gentleness that earned her the love of Outlander and Novian alike, and her work to help those in need made her company much sought after. The Forest was the one place she could go to be alone, to catch her breath, to mourn, in private, the beloved life she’d somehow left behind in another world, and to practice her old Druidic rituals. As far as Cianna knew, she and her mother, Valandra, were the only two visitors from Court that Aelasar had ever allowed in the Forest. Well, except for Grandfather. But once he had purchased the land and fixed it up, including installing a strong, well-fortified Viking house for Aelasar (“I must insist, my love”), he had never returned. “It’s your space, now,” he had said. “I will not intrude.”
Cianna opened the door to the small inner chamber on the ground floor of the lighthouse. She had standing orders that the interior was to be kept clean while she was away, and the room still looked as though Aelasar herself would walk in at any moment. Cianna felt her throat tighten and her eyes water as she looked around the room, so familiar, yet now so empty of Aelasar’s presence.
Without lingering, Cianna mounted the steps, averted her gaze from the second floor room that had been Aelasar’s study, and reached the top. She pushed the door open slowly, feeling engulfed by memories.