the ruined kirk, my knuckles white as I gripped the wheel. The real reason I
didn’t get on Chris about his constant mooning over Olivia was that at least he
and Olivia had had something. I’d had nothing with Jared. No it hadn’t quite
been nothing, but it may as well have been. One thing that Chris and I had both
learned on this trip is that an ocean is not nearly enough distance to outrun
kirk’s tourist lot, leapt out of the rental and ran across the bridge and up
the fairy hill, startling some of the local wildlife along the way. When I
reached the Minister’s Pine I was panting, my heart pounding as sweat poured
down my back.
that quartz. I just had to.
knees and felt around near the base of the tree. I found my brush rather
quickly, along with my hairclip and the stupidly expensive Mont Blanc pen that
my advisor had given me when I earned my masters degree. But the quartz, the
quartz wasn’t anywhere. The bits of lunch I’d had turned to lead in my stomach;
if the quartz was gone, then it was really, truly over.
this, are ye now?”
the voice, blinked, and pushed my glasses up to my forehead. Yeah, he was
really there. Standing in front of me was a tall man in what I assumed was
period dress. Instead of a kilt—we American girls tend to think that all
Scotsmen run around in kilts, no matter the occasion; sadly, this is not the
case—he was wearing a padded brown leather coat topped with chain mail, along
with matching brown pants and well-worn leather boots. A helmet was tucked
under his arm, and I could see the hilt of a claymore, one of those medieval
broadswords that were so heavy you had to swing it with two hands, poking up
over his shoulder. A shield rested next to the sword’s hilt, its curved edge
just visible above the man’s shoulder.
realized they did reenactments at Doon Hill, and I made a mental note to check
the brochure for show times. I also noticed that the actor had his hand
extended, with my lump of rose quartz sitting on his open palm.
my feet, and grabbed the stone. “Thank you,” I said once I remembered my
manners, stroking the stone with my thumb. The man looked at me intently, his
expression wavering somewhere between confusion and curiosity. “What made you
think it was mine?”
I did,” he replied.
waiting here since then?”
be back for me.”
I must have misunderstood his accent. What I’d heard as ‘me’ must have really
been ‘it’. Accents do tend to garble words. “I really appreciate you waiting
for me. Thank you,” I said, extending my hand.
dark brows low over his blue eyes. Then he grasped my fingers and brought them
toward his mouth.
doing?” I snapped, snatching my hand away.
wanted me to kiss your hand,” he explained.
shake your hand!” He looked befuddled rather than offended, so I attributed
this to yet another cultural misunderstanding. It was becoming quite the list.
“Well, regardless, thank you. I’m Rina.”
repeated, that Scottish brogue of his making my nickname sound positively
decadent. “’Tis quite an unusual name.”
Karina,” I explained. “Karina Siobhan Stewart,” I added, wondering why I’d felt
compelled to give him my full name. Historically I’d only been called Karina
Siobhan when I was in trouble.
Kirk,” he said, extending his hand. This guy was way deep in character, like
method actor deep. I shook his hand, and we both smiled.
you, Mr. Kirk.”
Reverend Kirk.” These reenactors sure liked to stick to their roles, though I’d
never expected to see a reverend wearing chain mail. We stood there for a
moment, holding hands and grinning like a couple of fools, and I took the time
to really look at him. He was older than me, probably a bit older than Chris
too, with dark, tousled hair, chiseled features, and a roguish glint in his
blue eyes. They had obviously picked reenactors that would appeal to the
Karina lass, no offense was taken,” he murmured, and my cheeks were suddenly
hot. I took back my hand, barely resisting the urge to fan myself.
going,” I said. “My brother’s waiting for me.” I scanned the area around the
Minister’s Pine, ascertained that I’d left nothing else of import behind, and
turned toward the path. A hand on my arm stopped me.
me here,” the reenactor said. “Ye must take me with ye.”
faced him, planting my feet before him and whipping out my cell phone. “I don’t
know what goes on here in Scotland, but I’m an American citizen. Stay back, or
I’ll call 911.” I didn’t even know if they had 911 in Scotland. Would I have to
call Scotland Yard instead? I hoped my phone had some kind of app for
international emergencies. I waved my phone in what I hoped was a menacing
manner, and Robert—or whatever his name was—eyed it as if it would bite him.
tricks, lass,” he said. “It was ye what called me here in the first place.”
“This is an act, right? Reverend Kirk, freed at long last from the Minister’s
lass. Would that it were.” He stepped closer, and took my hands in both of his.
Robert’s hands were warm and callused, and, despite all this nonsense,
comforting. “I am Robert Kirk himself, and ye have freed me no from just a
tree, but from Elphame, and the Seelie Queen herself.”
replied. “Some refer to it as the Fairy Realm.”
the Minister’s Pine. He claimed he was from Elphame. Of course he was. How did
I always attract the weirdos?
agreed that when magic left the world, it was because the fairy realm had
closed its doors to humans. Some claimed that human industrialization, and its
rampant use of iron, had caused the fae to retreat, while others claimed the
global shift from pagan to monotheistic faiths was the culprit. No matter which
theory you favored, the end result was the same; there was no new magic. For
hundreds of years humans had made do with a few crumbling artifacts and
enchanted items, but those items were wearing out too. It was as if magic had a
half-life, and we’d long since passed the middle point.
from Elphame,” I said. “It’s closed. It’s been closed for centuries.”
will say this, when I was a boy the land was thick with magic. Ye could hardly
walk the roads without encountering one o’ the Good People.”
boy,” I repeated, then I remembered that Robert Kirk had lived in the
seventeenth century. Magic hadn’t started disappearing until a century later.
“Still, it’s closed now.”
door has been closed, does no’ mean it canna be reopened.”
the ground and Robert sat beside me, both of us leaning against the tree he’d
recently emerged from.
start believing him?
think all of this is real?” I ventured, gesturing around the clearing. “The
legend and all?”
wanly. “Ye have heard o’ me, then?”
told the world of the fairies’ secrets, so they imprisoned you in a tree.”
whole of the tale.” Robert closed his eyes as he leaned his head back against
the trunk. “I did have dealings with the Good People, but it was no them who
the Seelie Queen herself.”
and if I hadn’t already been on the ground I would have fallen. As it was, my
arm went out from under me, and my shoulder bumped into Robert. “Are ye all
right, lass?” Robert asked.
There was nothing all right about this. “Why did the queen take you?”
me,” he replied. “Offered me an apple, ye ken. I said no, it angered her, she
cursed me. And here we are today.”
him. He still had his head tipped back against the tree, his eyes closed. “That
sounds like the ridiculously oversimplified version.”
opened his eyes and speared me with his gaze. “Would ye be likin’ all the
details, then, lass?”
“Um, maybe not just yet.” My gaze moved from Robert’s face to the quartz in my
hand. “What makes you think I freed you?”
wi’ the tree, wishin’ to rescue me. Wishes are powerful things, ye ken.” Robert
leaned over and touched the quartz. “Then ye dropped your stone, and a door
opened for me. I ha’ been waitin’ for ye ever since.”
powerful things,” I repeated. “Why do you want to leave with me? You don’t even
me, and that is no small thing,” Robert replied. “I also know that as soon as
Nicneven kens I’ve left me post, she will send her creatures to retrieve me.”
no’ want to be here when they arrive.”
breath and got to my feet, Robert following suit. Once we were standing I
looked into his clear blue eyes, his guileless face, and sighed. He was either
telling the truth, or he was the greatest actor in the world. Or I was the
world’s biggest idiot; the jury was still out on that.
telling the truth—and I’m not saying that you are—I can’t just leave you here.
And, if you’re not telling the truth, I’ll drop you at the nearest police
station,” I added, trying to act tough in front of the armored man with the
his head, and took both of my hands in his. “Lass, soon enough ye will ken that
I only speak what’s true.” He once again brought my knuckles to his lips; this
time, I let him kiss me. It was nice, having one’s hand kissed by a dark,
handsome man. “Karina Siobhan Stewart, I am now your charge, and I shall follow
your every command.”
looked him over and issued my first command. “First of all, you can’t tromp
around Aberfoyle wearing chain mail. You’re going to have to take off your