453 A.D.
Salisbury Plain, England

     Morning mist enshrouded Geileis as she approached the hateful circle. That the mist gave her cover should have eased her mind, but it did not. Being caught here by the priests would certainly mean death. She knew of their ways. Had heard tales of their rituals. The sacrifices.

     Fear gripped her heart even tighter than she gripped the stone. Warm and smooth against her palm, its heat brought no warmth to her heart.

    Why this place permeated with evil magic?

    She stopped just short of entry. One step more would take her beyond return. She meant to raise her voice in introduction, but the mist pushed against her words keeping them close to her mouth. I am Geileis, the vessel, daughter of Edana and Lughan.

  Wind danced its way among the giant stones, whispering acknowledgement, bidding her enter.

    The next step took her through the perimeter. Her breath grew more ragged when she realized she had not died. The tangy salt of blood ran along her tongue as her teeth chewed her lower lip.

     A faint blue glow pulled her attention to the far side of the circle. When the stone in her hand answered with its own pulsing blue glow, her heartbeat doubled.

     Her mind rebelled against every movement forward. The bloodstained dais in the center of the ring caused her knees to buckle, but she scrambled again to her feet, stumbling backward blindly, away from the heinous sight. A cold, hard surface brought the retreat up short. She froze. The ring itself had stopped her. Perhaps it wanted to see this endeavor through as much as she did.

     The glow came from the knee-high stone now only a short distance away.

     Her entire body a quivering pulse, she covered the final distance. She mouthed a quick prayer for protection and stretched out her arm. Her hand shook so violently, she fairly dropped the stone, but it landed well in an indentation clearly meant for its housing.

     The sound of massive winds filled her ears and an expanse of blue appeared before her eyes.

     A portal.

     To what?

     She muffled a cry with the back of her hand and stepped forward tentatively. Heat enveloped her. The heat of a hundred summers or a thousand hearths or or hell itself, surely! This evil place held the gateway to hell!

     She turned and fled.

     Her mind raced faster than her legs, admonishing shaming. Mother would not have sent her into danger. Deathbed promises must be kept.

      But had not Mother been in and out of the clutches of fever when she extracted the vow? She could not have known what she was asking.

     Geileis gained the outside of the ring and only then slowed her pace, becoming aware of the odd weight that filled her hand. The rock! She had snatched it, unthinking, as she ran. She turned back to face the hellish circle, fighting to bring her breathing back under control.

     The blue portal had vanished.

     So would the key that opened it.

     With all of the strength she could muster in her small frame, Geileis heaved the rock through the mist toward the giant stone looming nearest her.

     She smiled in satisfaction at the pop and watched two blue sparks fall in opposite directions.

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