Mmh… Nearly two years to add the first chapter… I still have 4 in reserve in French in fact but translating is hard work and since I want to update the English and French versions at the same time, it takes a while!
I won't give up!
Chapter I – Farewell
"Come on! Just two more and it's over!" Millie was getting impatient as a breeze shuffle her hair.
Sarah Wise couldn't believe her ears. How could she consider botanic knowledge as mandatory for her general knowledge? Sarah was seventeen years old and came from the London suburbs; she was born there and moved to Ireland with her parents and four brothers four years ago. She was going to state high-school, was dressing up only rarely in a skirt, hated green vegetables and was very dependent of the Internet. Only her best friend, Millie O'Shane was able to take her out of the cybernetic world she was living in. Not very sociable and finding so many physical flaws in her ginger hair and emerald eyes, Sarah was fleeing from the male sex or any other social group from the real world.
"Just tell me what you think it is."
This was almost exactly what Millie had asked her for almost two hours: To state the names and virtues of the various plants that she had on display.
Millie was born and raised those last seventeen years in Ireland. She was going to the same state high-school as Sarah, liked anything that concerned nature and animals, wore black clothes at all times, and quite often dresses with flounce and lace that were contrasting violently with her pale blue eyes and that had gave her the reputation of non-conformist. She was cheering herself up from her lack of social life by telling herself that few people would understand her interest for the wicca; the magic that some were stating came from a pre-Celtic population. Which was all Sarah knew about it.
In all honesty, Sarah didn't care at all for that kind of stuff.
"Millie? Do you think we'll get good enough results for our exams? I'd like to make the most of holidays for a change."
"I thought you weren't working this summer."
Millie was still weaving her plant with a pouting expression.
"Nah, I don't wanna work but I have to look for something for next year."
"No university in sight?"
"Cain repeats again so we're a bit short on money." Sarah sighed.
Being from a large family, her parents didn't have enough to pay for her studies yet, especially since the oldest was repeating his classes yet another time. The second born, Ephrem, enlisted in the army and the whole family was worrying about him. As for the two others, Joshua and John, their studies were still ongoing.
"You know in what field to go for?" Millie asked.
"I'm not sure. I would have liked to join the Drama department but… I don't think my parents will help me pay the course."
"I see… I'll have to wait a bit myself with Mommy being ill…"
Millie seemed to contemplate the plant she was holding.
Sarah and Millie were different and yet similar. Both liked dance and arts and hated free violence. Sarah remembered well the flamenco lessons she has taken together with Millie to counterbalance, according to her parents, the martial arts that her brothers had learnt. Each of them knew a different one; Cain practiced judo, Ephrem fencing, Joshua boxing and John archery. She remembered even more the pleasure they had taken when she was a child to jump on her in turns to use her as a test subject. She thought she was going to lose her hand the day John had asked her to hold an apple from the tip of her fingers to test his accuracy, for which he had been severely scolded by their parents. Which was in itself another reason she was running away from men and probably a more justified one than the previous one.
Another common point between the two girls was that they were generally chicken-hearted but able to keep calm and practical in times of crisis; they hadn't hesitated to help out when their neighbour's barn caught on fire. The general consensus was that they were very generous, despite the fact that one wouldn't ask for their help often; which was suiting them very well.
"It's Valerian." Sarah ended up letting out.
"Good! And what is it used for?"
"You tell me."
"Come on! I think I had you swallow enough of it during the exams…"
Sarah let out a long sigh and laid down in the grass before answering.
"It's an anti-stress? And cats kind of like it…"
"Exactly!" Millie beamed and clapped her hands. "Last one!"
"Just a last one! Just one."
Sarah looked at the oval face surrounded by auburn strands charging itself with a pouting expression. She was even giving her puppy eyes! She was defeated.
"Oh! Well guessed!"
"And it's used as a disinfectant."
"Oh well… You gave flawless replies today."
"Does it mean that you'll leave me alone for a moment with those?"
"No. Tomorrow it will be even harder!"
Sarah turned on her belly while groaning and put her chin on her hands. The field they had chosen for their experiment was a little bit away from the town but had been left as a fallow land for several years already and the grass was so long that it was laying down under its own weight. A few years ago, there used to be a row of trees marking it out but a violent storm had snatched more than half of them. Sarah liked that landscape, although so different than the one she'd been used to during her childhood.
"Do you wanna know what I am thinking about?" Sarah asked.
"No but you're gonna tell me anyway."
"I can't believe you made me wear one of these dresses!"
She contemplated the long dark red dress with a middle-age cut over her shoulder. Millie had insisted she wear a dress for the ceremony tonight. As Sarah was refusing to wear black, Millie had to nick a dress from her mother whose tastes seemed to have partly rubbed off on the daughter. She probably wouldn't resent her if she washed it before setting it back in the wardrobe.
"I don't understand why you want me to participate in this… If you are so interested in the wicca, why don't you join a… A what again? A coven?"
Millie tightened her thin lips together so that you could only see a thin crimson line, then her shoulder collapsed under an invisible weight.
"They don't believe me when I tell them that I can get in contact with a man from another world."
"I may remind you that neither do I."
"Yes but you'll be easier to convince once you see him!"
"If it works, Millie. Only if it works."
Millie settled for bearing a triumphal smile to which Sarah responded to faintly, her eyes throwing daggers.
Millie had been preparing this for months, without even neglecting her schoolwork. It was one of the reasons she had often come to school, eyes underlines with black shadows and sometimes fell asleep during class, which of course, didn't help raise her reputation. But the essential was that she managed to gather all the necessary elements for the ceremony. How could that man give her so many instructions? And more importantly, how did she manage to apply them without a mistake? Sarah had no idea.
Millie and the man had planned it lengthily while she was sleeping and she knew that it was, for the most part, a theory. If something was amiss or wasn't corresponding to what was requested, everything would be wasted. All this time she had spent looking for what looked like the most to what he had shown her would have been for nothing. But how could she know if she had guessed right? They visibly didn't speak the same language and the few words she had managed to master was definitely not enough to reassure her.
Her look fell on Sarah. She had straightened up on her behind and was observing the first stars appeared in the sky as the sun was lowered itself more and more onto the horizon. Sarah's shivering voice made her jump.
"In the end," she admitted, "I could make use of the shawl I refused earlier."
With a bright smile, Millie took the grey shawl lined in burgundy she reserved for Sarah out of the big embroidered bag she took with her. Sarah took it with unconcealed gratitude.
"Time is coming." Millie eventually said.
"About time!" Sarah replied.
She observed the small wooden altar, a simple box actually, covered with a white cloth onto which Millie had arranged numerous objects including several plants that Sarah couldn't recognise. Some incense was already burning in a small dish onto a sheet she suspected to be of gold.
"The moon is pretty tonight." Millie commented. "And the weather isn't too cold."
"Speak for yourself! I'm shivering from head to toe! If it fails, believe me, you're going to hear from me!"
"Calm down! I'm telling you I know what I'm doing."
"I hope for you that it's true!"
Millie made do with a smile, as usual when she was convinced to be right, which was, to Sarah's despair, often. Could she, for once, be mistaking?
Millie started chanting incantations in a language she didn't understand as Sarah was setting herself in front of her, presenting her hands to the sky above the altar as Millie had asked her earlier. Despite herself, Sarah closed her eyes and stretched her mind out to feel tiny changes which were supposed to occur according to her friend.
At first, she didn't feel anything then a tingling on the back of her neck that she assimilated to the sting of an insect. She brought her hand to her neck but didn't feel anything get crushed under her fingers. Yet, the sensation didn't disappear; on the contrary, it seemed to get more intense as Millie's chanting was increasing in power.
Then it got silent. Sarah opened her eyes and the stinging sensation dissipated right away. She questioned Millie with her eyes and the later replied with the same look.
And they waited.
Right at the moment Sarah thought she was going to burst out laughing from the ridiculousness of the situation, she heard something; the wind seemed to murmur. A simple unarticulated sound at first, then it was a word to which Millie replied with the same, followed by another: "Minos". The wind replied by breathing her name. At that moment, Sarah opened her eyes wide. Could Millie never be wrong?! The later met her look and introduced her to the person that was on the other side of that bridge made of wind.
Then, Sarah heard a voice articulate distinctively the first word she thought she had heard in her ears followed directly by her name.
"Just reply with the same." Millie nudged her.
To which Sarah complied, too surprised to ask questions.
The voice that has spoken to her was rich, low, charged up with kindness. It was a voice made for laughing but it sounded to her that he didn't have the occasion to be happy in a long while.
Then the voice became distant again as he was talking to Millie. Sarah saw her friend stumble over words, something that she was unaccustomed to do. The sentences exchanged were short. Quickly Millie's eyes widen as she seemed to understand a thing she hadn't consider. She looked at her friend quickly before giving what looked too much like an agreement far Sarah's taste.
Then something happened. Something that triggered a wave of shivering in Sarah's back as if the ambient air got charged in static electricity and was persistent in numbing her senses.
She got up suddenly and only faintly heard Millie call her name out; her ears were ringing too much for her to be perfectly sure. In her movement, she knocked over a glass vial which fell down gently on the grassy ground after emptying its content on the altar.
And everything calmed down abruptly.
Sarah let herself drop on the ground, an atrocious headache piercing her. Millie took her own in her hands, experiencing the same symptoms.
"Don't ever do that again!" Sarah screamed.
"I… No, Sarah, I'll never do that again…"
"You… You're hiding something from me."
"No Sarah. I'm… relieved I think."
"Relieved? What did he ask you?"
"If…" Millie interrupted herself, hesitating. "If I wanted to join him."
"And you said 'yes'?"
Sarah stayed silent in front of this perturbing confession then spoke again.
"And you'd have left me alone? I'd have no one left to go shopping with me. No one left to joke and laugh about our faux pas during dance lessons!"
Millie started laughing. Both had taken dance lessons until the past year. Two years had proved them that their teacher was a frustrated person who was treating quite badly the students that were showing more talent than him. Sarah and Millie had the chance to get in a muddle enough to receive compliments!
"After giving it a thought, it's probably not that bad. I promise you that I won't do that again."
Millie visibly didn't want to show Sarah that it was costing a lot to relinquish herself into not attempting this kind of adventure. Sarah knew that not everything was going smoothly in her friend's family; Millie's mother was ill and her dad was working very hard to pay for her medication. Millie was doing all that was in her power to relieve her parents and it was one of the reasons that had led her to stop taking flamenco lessons. Sarah had stopped because of the lack of sympathy she had with her comrades and the lack of someone to repeat the performances with.
Sarah burst out laughing and rolled on her back. Millie soon joined her in her mirth. She liked the way Sarah was showing her emotions; she was never disguising her thoughts to those she had faith in. Her natural suspicion was relatively restricted but she was still far from being naive.
When they finally calmed-down, Sarah stretched out a hand to the sky, mimicking as if she was catching stars with her hand. She vaguely wondered what the sky looked like in that other world.
Then came the time to go back home.
Minos of Que Ina was panting in the patio onto which his bedroom led. Everything went smoothly until he stretched his spirit to catch the hand Millie had offered him.
He took a hold of the parchment that he had shown one week earlier to his sister and her husband, skimmed through it and sighed. This should have worked, or more like, it could have. Minos was conscious of the theoretical state of this information. He had managed to feel faintly what was on the other side. He knew that there hadn't been any error on this one, and then he had stretched his spirit further while meeting resistance and everything had vanished. His spirit got back into his body like the string of a bow coming back to its place, striking him with the most powerful mental slap he'd ever received.
There had been this other girl. He didn't manage to distinguish her features in the faint light that reigned on the other side but he remembered the pretty curls of red gold that fell on her shoulders. Millie had called her 'Sarah'.
But he had to keep these names and the identities of the people he had contacted secret. If Bre ever learnt that the objects of the prophecies were women, he would never let him try to contact them again; which he had in mind to do this very night, in dreams. Anyway, he didn't have the luxury of choice.
He heard a noise behind him and twisted his neck to notice it was only Akaran.
"How long have you been here?" He inquired.
"Just now. Bre charged me to welcome the newcomers in case the scheme worked."
"Which wasn't the case, as you can see."
Minos looked at the tall man that was facing him now that he got up. The humans he knew were all, except a few isolated cases, a good head and half shorter than him. He had deduced this way that the spy of the court was from Kaderm; some people from the North and East tribes were known to be as tall as the démènes.
"You look tired." Akaran told him.
"A good night of sleep will do the best to me. And to you too, my dear friend."
Akaran smiled faintly. Minos knew that he had problems to sleeping since his visit to the king; the advisor came to find him three nights earlier so he could give him any remedy to make him sleep. Minos had chosen a harmless herbal tea, guessing that the advisor's sleeping problems were more likely linked to psychological torments.
Akaran was weirdly sensitive toward the sight of blood but he was taking it on the chin to assume his spy position. In some point of view, this weakness could transform into an advantage; a good way to be pretend to be innocent without forcing oneself. On the condition one get the occasion!
Minos put an arm around Akaran's shoulders so the later could help him to his bed. The efforts he had to give tonight had exhausted him. He was just laying down that he closed his eyes and sank into unconsciousness, palpating the matter of dreams to join the meeting point that he and Millie had discovered.
She came back home where only the kitchen's light had stayed alit, however, when she got in, Sarah only discovered four used plates still on the table, as usual. The pan on the stove was empty and nothing had been put on the refrigerator. Most likely, they thought that she had already eaten outside.
Too tired to prepare herself anything, she went up to go to bed.
Sarah stretched over it dressed; she didn't take the trouble to change herself after what she had seen. And too bad for the dress! She'd find time to wash it later anyway.
While turning on her back, she contemplated the phosphorescent stars glued to the ceiling, left there by the previous owners. Sarah liked this decoration.
She curled up on her side and tried to find sleep which didn't come.
In vain, she turned and turned in her bed.
May the plague be upon Millie! She thought. Something was wrong. The whole universe in which Sarah lived was losing all its meaning and integrity. Dear lord! There even existed other universes! How could one miss out on such a discovery? This couldn't have been a hallucination, even if Sarah would have preferred to reduce it to that. It was real. Way too much.
Sarah passed her tongue on her teeth; there was left from this experience an atrocious furred and bitter taste that she wanted to get rid of. Who knew? Perhaps this could enable her to get her sleep back.
Once in the bathroom, she barely recognised the reflexion the mirror was sending back to her. Big shadows were underlining her eyes, reddened from being awake. Turning away from it, she carried out in rubbing her tongue vigorously, aiming to get rid of the bitterness that was disturbing her and which didn't leave. Abandoning her toothbrush, she went back to her bedroom.
Something's definitely wrong!
Arriving mid-way in the room, she suddenly felt a cramp knotting her stomach, then the cramp became a burn and the burn a tearing and a cramp again and so on. The pain made lights dance in her eyes. Her hands tensed over her belly, she slumped on the floor while howling.
Then she disappeared. Any person being in that room that instant would have seen the cloth of space distort itself around Sarah before wiping her away completely by retracting itself.
Panicked by the scream, the young girl's parents opened the door abruptly to discover an empty room. Their daughter's belonging were abandoned on the night table, the diode of the laptop signalling that the charge was complete.