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
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.
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.