This is chapter two of the fantasy adventure ‘Monster Hunters of the Undermire’, which is officially ‘coming soon’. Chapter one is here. Needless to say, you should read that first.
Chapter Two: The Firelight Girl
Evelryn crouched over the black water, staring at the surface of the mire, waiting for the boy’s blue eyes to reappear. She lingered, half-hoping the face would return, but it was gone. A trick of the light she told herself, nothing more. She’d ask her grandmother, the old woman might know. Or maybe the wicce who lived in the woods, she’d understand. She knew the mysteries, though her answers came wrapped in riddles, tied up in rhymes.
The girl gathered her herbs and the eggs taken from a wood pigeon nest high in a yew tree, folded them in her shawl and made her way out of the dell into the chill of the afternoon breeze. Across the hillside men lugged a tree trunk from a copse. Smoke rose from the distant roundhouses. She glanced at the opaque sky and the pale glow of the sun. The best of summer had slipped away and already the evenings grew chilled, once a dew began to fall.
She made her way along the track, muddy from the passage of cattle and stones hauled from the quarry to the ceremonial site by the river. She kept out of the mud, sticking to the grass by the side, though the walking was difficult on sloping ground. A bird screeched behind her and she glanced back towards the black pool: only a hawk, circling high in the sky.
As she neared the roundhouses she saw her grandmother sitting on her favourite stone in the central clearing. Evelryn knelt beside her, took her hand and put the smooth, white eggs into her grasp.
“Unkind, to steal from them,” the old woman said. But she clutched the eggs all the same.
“I saw something today,” Evelryn said, and told the story of the black water.
“The old pond?” Her grandmother wagged a finger. “Haunted. Spirits from the old times. Stay away.”
“They used to give offerings there.”
“Not now. No use,” the old woman said. “No good can come of it. You stay clear.”
“But if there was a way…”
“There’s no way.” The old woman cut her short. “Be careful, you don’t know your strength girl, that’s the truth of it. Don’t go back, you promise me?”
Evelryn wrapped up the eggs once more. “I’ll put these safe.”
“You didn’t promise,” the old woman called as Evelryn walked towards the small roundhouse close to the tree-line. “Don’t think I didn’t notice.”
“Don’t worry,” Evelryn called back. But she knew the old woman wasn’t fooled.