Rowan stood in front of the full-length mirror inside of her Aunt's tent. Racks of many-colored, "medieval" costumes in every shape and size lined the walls. She studied her reflection in the mirror, surrounded by an oak frame carved with curling, twisting vines. She glared at the young woman who stared back at her, wondering why she looked so ridiculous in a velvet, emerald-green corset and black dress, with swishing emerald petticoats. The silky sleeves hung slightly off of her shoulders and billowed gracefully around her wrists.

Her mahogany-colored hair was in a beautiful, yet chaotic mess. Rowan's Aunt Romina had attempted to tame the stubborn locks by plaiting them with a dark green rawhide strap, fastened with a sterling silver Celtic knot barrette that was woven into an intricate triskelion symbol. Numerous strands of mahogany fell in loose curls around her face and the rest vigorously attempted to escape from her braid. Rowan had a wild, untamed beauty about her.

Desperately, Rowan tried to convince herself that she looked like a tavern wench in some stupid, pirate movie or a Shakespeare in the Park reject, but deep down she knew that she looked… rather lovely. Her Aunt had even told her so, but Rowan refused to believe her. She wanted to be completely covered in black from head to toe as she dressed at school with lots of thick, black eyeliner around her eyes.

If she had it her way, her hair would be pitch black as well; however, Rowan's mother had this constantly annoying habit of reminding her daughter that until Rowan turned eighteen, her hair legally belonged to her mother. And for the time being Rowan's mother was quite contented with her daughter's natural shade of mahogany. Rowan sighed heavily—well, as heavily as one could while wearing a garment that constricted one's lungs.

Things could be worse, she thought to herself, puffing her cheeks out to blow a strand of hair out of her eyes. Obstinately, it flopped back into place. I could be wearing that horrid burgundy and emerald gown that Romina had originally picked out for me. At least this outfit allows me hide behind some black.

Rowan traced the looping groove of a vine tendril along the edge of the mirror's frame and shivered. It had been a chilly, autumn day so far and the crisp breeze that blew through the tent bit at Rowan's bare shoulders with invisible, sharp, pointed teeth. Rowan reached for the black cloak hanging behind the mirror, glad for its warmth and ability to keep her hidden, but sneered at its emerald lining. Romina insisted on dressing Rowan in emerald green, declaring that the color brought out Rowan's own striking green eyes.

Rowan drew up the hood and plopped into a large, cedar rocker beside the mirror and sulked. She always thought "Ren Faires" were a place for losers and now here she was among them. She was stuck amidst the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings freaks who were running amuck around the fairegrounds, thoroughly convinced that they were wizards and hobbits venturing out among the shire on a quest for Mordor or venturing to Hogwarts.

The only reason she had agreed to assist her Aunt with costume rentals at this Renaissance Faire anyway was so that she could escape the clutches of her overbearing mother, if only for one weekend. Rowan's mother—Rosalind—always thought of her sister—Romina—as a bit too eccentric for her taste. She thought that running a "Ren Faire" was a bit too far-fetched of an occupation to make a real living off of. But Rosalind was ecstatic at any opportunity to rip her daughter away from the dark solace of her candlelit room with her Tori Amos and Ani DiFranco albums, even it was only for a couple of days. The amount of time that Rowan spent in her bedroom both perplexed and frightened her mother.

Rowan reached down and pulled off her dirty, scuffed boots and massaged her toes. The boots pinched more than a hermit crab and they were brown. Rowan despised earth tones, but Romina would not allow Rowan to wear her black, buckled platform ones that she kept back at home, because they weren't "period" enough. Romina also claimed that they made Rowan tramp about as if she were Frankenstein's monster.

After her toes ceased throbbing, Rowan reached into an inner pocket in her cloak and pulled out a small, black velvet box. Opening it, she removed a small, teardrop-shaped, greenish-black stone, which hung on a simple silver chain. It was a gift from Romina, rewarding Rowan for accepting the task of working at the faire all weekend. The stone felt cool and smooth in the palm of her hand. The sensation both calmed and soothed her as she stared into the stone's murky depths, entranced by its beauty. In her hands, it felt solid and real—more real than the corny, mixed-period costumes that surrounded her. It was the only thing that made her present situation bearable.

Rowan was startled out of her thoughts, by an ancient, odd-looking woman who hobbled into the tent. The old woman wore tattered robes of a dull, grey color that were covered with brown splotches of mud. At least, Rowan hoped it was mud, but you never could tell with all of the livestock wandering about at the annual Berkshire Renaissance Faire. The woman's long, transparent-like hair fell around her knees in a mess of tangled cobwebs. She leaned heavily on a walking stick that was almost as gnarled as her hands and stared intently at Rowan through two black, beady slits of eyes.

Rowan began to fidget nervously with her necklace. This woman was making her feel extremely uncomfortable. Rowan broke the silence by clearing her throat.

"Uh…um…" Rowan stammered, searching for her words, "my aunt is away at the moment, but she should be back shortly." The crone just continued her piercing stare. It was unnerving to say the least.

Rowan sighed. Some of the people who attend these things are just too weird, she thought. She regretted her next question. "Can I help you with something?"

The woman answered in a voice that resembled nails scratching on a chalkboard, "Be that a wishin' or a wantin' ye be doin' with that worryin' stone there?"

Rowan immediately shoved the little prize back into her cloak pocket. The old hag threw her head back and cackled, causing her already narrow eyes to be swallowed whole by the many wrinkled folds of her face. An immense wave of uneasiness swept over Rowan like a hurricane.

"Oh don't look so distraught, dearie," the old woman cooed, "an old prophet like me sees all that is left unsaid. Seems to me you been wishin' 'n wantin' to be rid o' this place."

Rowan forced her lips into a smirk. She's good. The whole costume, accent and routine was quite believable. If Romina were there, she would be telling Rowan to take some notes on characterization from this woman.

"Be careful what you wish for, dearie," the old woman crooned, "that worry stone there is mighty powerful. It may just come true."

Rowan let out a nervous laugh. "Yeah—I'll uh…remember that."

Rowan once again peered into the cloak to extract the precious object. It seemed strange how she was so drawn to the stone, hypnotized by its magnetism. The stone calmed her nerves somehow. When she looked up once again, the old woman was gone. Rowan hadn't even heard her leave. Startled, she blurted out to herself, "Now that's just creepy!"

Rowan closed her eyes, inhaled deeply and rubbed the stone in her hands. She let its cool smoothness heal her already fractured nerves. Rowan walked up to the mirror and fastened the chain around her neck. After admiring it for a few moments, she tucked it inside of her collar. As she tucked away the stone, something on the back of her hand caught her eye. It was a temporary tattoo of a pentacle. Rowan had received it this morning as a gift from the owner of the body-art tent next door. She didn't practice Wicca or keep any kind of religion really, but she allowed the owner, a round-faced, jovial woman to put it on her hand as an act of courtesy.

Rowan groaned. She felt like washing the mark off, but didn't trust the portable washbasins over in the designated "privy" area. Romina had been gone for almost an hour now and Rowan was starting to get annoyed. She yawned. This is even more boring than I thought it would be.

Feeling drowsy, Rowan dragged herself over to a narrow, hard, little cot, situated behind a rack of men's cloaks. She shivered and drew her own cloak around her. Lying down, she began to drift off into a dreamy half-sleep. She felt the comforting smoothness of the stone beneath her dress. It fell right near her left breast, warming the skin there and seeming to kindle the uneasiness above her heart. The restless murmur of voices in her head serenaded her to sleep—at least, she thought they were in her head. Gradually, they began to dim, fading away like some distant memory.

An eerie silence settled around her, which churned her stomach, made the blood rush to her ears and caused her head to pound. Something just isn't right, Rowan thought. She could feel it, even in her light slumber. Just when the throbbing in her head became almost too excruciating, she bolted awake.

Something isn't right. Rowan could feel it from the bowels of her being. She looked about the tent. Everything seemed different. There were no racks with period costumes of any kind, only colorful, regal-looking drapes of plum and gold. An odd fragrance hung about in the air. It was some sort of incense. Patchouli, was it? Rowan couldn't tell for sure. She was never a big fan of incense. She was more puzzled at her Aunt's choice of re-decoration and even more unsettled as to why her Aunt hadn't even bothered to wake her. Rowan decided to find out.

She stormed out of the tent, only to be caught by one of the burliest looking men she had ever seen. He was an ominous, unshaven, balding man with quite a few of his plaque-covered teeth missing. Towering above her, he wore a costume of metal-studded leather that was much too tight and abundant for Rowan's taste, making the brute perspire more than he needed to. His forceful grip around Rowan's waist tightened as he pressed his sweaty carcass up against her soft frame.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?!" Rowan yelled. Her piercing green eyes glared daggers at him in rage.

"Ah, a saucy wench," he breathed. His sour breath made Rowan gag and his whiskers prickled her skin. Great, she thought, he's drunk. Wait a sec, I thought that we were a dry Faire.

"If you're done servicin' milord, I could use a wee bit o' servicin' meself" he cooed, running his greasy fingers along the edge of her jaw.

Something that she desperately hoped was the hilt of his sword poked at the front of her skirts. Rowan had never felt so violated before in her entire life. She was astonished that he could keep up his accent even while intoxicated, but was still disgusted with his words, nonetheless.

"Look, I don't know who the hell you think you are, or who I am for that matter," she seethed, "but I am an independent woman, not some slut, and I have never serviced anyone before in my life, and I don't plan to any time soon."

Rowan stomped the heel of her boot onto his foot, throwing all of her 119 pounds into it. He yowled in pain, but clamped a steel grip around Rowan's wrist.

"Biles, take your whoring somewhere else!" came a sharp voice from behind them.

Rowan struggled to whip herself around, to behold a tall, somewhat handsome, middle-aged man with angry grey eyes and fiery auburn hair that stopped at his shoulders. He was dressed in many layers of gold and scarlet velvet and satin, with a noble crest of what appeared to be a falcon across his chest. The two beefy-looking, hooded attendants who flanked him wore the same emblem across their chests; however, their garments were the same plum and gold which filled the tent that Rowan had previously exited. The hoods on the two cloaked attendants prevented Rowan from reading their facial expressions. All of them carried rather sharp and heavy-looking swords. Rowan gulped.

"I am sorry, milord," pleaded Biles in a whining tone, "but I was just trying to dispatch of this wench I caught leaving your tent." Rowan was fuming. What was wrong with these people?

"Excuse me, but that tent belongs to my--" Rowan's words went unheeded.

"Wench?" The richly attired man cocked his head. "I had no need of any whore's services tonight."

"So," Biles bellowed, "we have ourselves an intruder snooping around Lord Cromley's tent! Well, I'll just have to--"

He stopped short as he noticed the pentacle on the back of Rowan's hand. His eyes widened in terror.

"My Lord!" Biles exclaimed, aghast, "a witch!"

Biles turned Rowan's wrist around forcefully for the rest of the party to see.

"But—but it's not even real!" she stammered.

Rowan spit into her free hand. And rubbed the saliva onto the back of the imprisoned one with all of her might. The mark disappeared.

"See?" she offered.

Gasps sounded all around her.

"What sort of treacherous magic is this? Poisonous venom in which to ensnare your lordship in a seductive embrace of death?!" accused Biles.

"Guards! Arrest her!" Lord Cromley roared.

But before his two attendants had a chance to advance, Rowan elbowed Biles where it counted and headed off in a sprint. Angry shouts and heavy footsteps echoed behind her. Her head was swarming with a whirlwind of thoughts. Everything seemed so different. Nothing was familiar. The usual faire vendors weren't trying to peddle their wares. The once vast tents that lined the Ninnasquitesset River were now sparse. In fact, she didn't see the river at all, only a gloomy and foreboding forest up ahead. A sinking feeling of dread threatened to slow her pace. I guess I'm not in Kansas anymore, Rowan thought ironically.

Rowan made a mad dash through the trees, ignoring the branches that tore and snagged at her skirts, threatening to clutch her in their claw-like grasp. Her rib cage threatened to collapse beneath the iron-like embrace of the corset and air escaped her lips in shallow breaths, leaving her to wonder how women had ever survived in these death traps. Only when Rowan could no longer hear the footsteps, did she stop to rest. Her breasts heaved in her corset and her heart felt as if it were going to burst.

"I warned you, dearie. That trinket ye bear has pretty powerful magic," hissed a familiar voice. "Be careful what you wish for."

Rowan looked up to see the same old crone from her aunt's tent. The old woman's eyes twinkled mischievously.

"YOU!" Rowan shouted, "Where am I? Where is everyone?"

"You should know that, dearie," the old hag clucked, "After all, isn't this what ye wanted? To escape the dreary dullness of your daily routine? To experience something…real?"

Rowan couldn't believe her ears. It was true that she had felt immensely bored with her life lately, waiting around for something exciting and worthwhile to happen. Could she have actually willed herself to another time and place, one that wasn't quite so mundane as her own? She clutched the stone that hung limply around her neck, no longer finding comfort in its cool smoothness. Shouts could be heard in the distance. They would soon catch up with her and there was nowhere to hide. Tears brimmed in the corner of her eyes.

"I—I don't care. I just want to go back. You have to send me back."

The crone cackled, sending icicles up and down Rowan's spine.

"Only you can do that, dearie," she crooned.

The old woman faded into nothingness and her words echoed in Rowan's ears like some sort of chant. Rowan closed her eyes and tried to control her staggered breathing. Okay, it's going to be alright. The stone in her hand began to feel warm. If I willed myself here, I can just…will myself back. There's no place like home—Oh my God, I can't believe that I'm actually saying that—Jeez, concentrate Rowan. Your life and sanity depends on it--there's no place like home, there's no place like home…home…HOME! She oddly wondered if she needed to click her heels or something. I just want to be back at that stupid Renaissance Faire with the cheesy actors and the gaudy costumes--safe inside Aunt Romina's tent. And just when Rowan thought that the shouts would envelop her, they stopped.

Rowan opened her eyes and breathed in the musty smell of the costumes with a sigh of relief, thankful she wasn't inhaling any nauseating incense. She stopped shaking and took a couple of deep calming breaths, willing her heartbeat to slow down. Never before was she so glad to see the tacky costumes lining her aunt's tent. Their fakeness became real to her now, more real than any sweaty, drunken jailers, trying to molest her ever did.

Rowan growled as she ripped the silver chain from her neck and shoved the worry stone back into its box. She had half a mind to chuck it into the river, but she didn't want to hurt her aunt's feelings. It wasn't often that Rowan spent time with Romina, nevermind received gifts from her. Besides, it wasn't as if her aunt was aware that her little gift was a diabolical vessel for time travel, Rowan thought. Instead, she settled for burying it in the bottom a huge oak chest behind the mirror, underneath many layers of colorful stockings and hosiery. She slammed down the heavy lid with a loud bang and heaved herself into the rocking chair once again, wiping a bead of perspiration from her temple, grateful for putting at least a little distance between herself and the fiendish object.

Rowan never thought that she would ever take her boredom for granted again. She actually cared about her mundane life and she knew one thing was for sure. She would think twice before she let anyone place any marks of any kind on her body, whether they be religious symbols or Muppet characters.


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