Gift

Image from Unsplash, taken by Thom Holmes

You can read the story from the beginning here

“What are you doing here?”

Noah jumped and then turned around with a sigh of relief. “Umbran! I’m so glad to see you. I thought I got the right door to go to the corner of the library that deals with beverages but I think that I took a wrong turn.”

Umbran nodded. “At least I can’t miss you.” He patted the bright yellow jacket. “And you stayed on the path.

Noah looked around the winter road and shivered. “I was warned, but I didn’t expect it.”

“You are in dangerous parts,” Umbran said. “Perhaps it would be a good idea to have someone take you to and from the library.”

Noah looked around and nodded. “Yes, I think that it would.” He pulled the coat closer around him. “So, which way is out?”

Umbran checked up and down the road. “This isn’t strictly part of Lady Freydis’ domain. Some parts are more… mutable than others. I’ll tell her about it so that she can sort it out.” He sniffed the air. “You can’t just follow the road. Instead, you have to push through the weak spots. You can’t get out unless you have some skill and inclination. Think of it as a trap or even a creature that preys on unwary travellers.”

“Excuse me!” a voice called out.

Noah and Umbran turned towards the woods as a figure stumbled out onto the road. “Hello?” Noah said cautiously.

“Hello there.” A tall, broad shouldered man strode across the road and held out a hand. “I’m Lord Devlin Farnley, from just south of Leeds, in Yorkshire. I’m deuced glad to see you. I’m afraid I’m a little lost.”

Umbran introduced them. “How did you find yourself here? And where are you going?”

Lord Devlin hesitated. “After these last few weeks, I’m not sure if I should trust you, but I suppose that I haven’t much to lose.” He looked up and down the dark road. “I got a gift that brought me to Fairyland. I won’t say I wasn’t happy to get it, and it’s been a wondrous adventure, but I really should be getting back.”

“A gift?” Noah asked.

Lord Devlin grinned. “Well, that’s what he called it. A man calling himself Lord Cerdig showed me a way in to these strange lands. We’d travelled back from London together after celebrating the coronation.” He looked around again. “I don’t suppose we can start on the way out? If you’re willing to be so kind?”

“Of course,” Umbran said. “Follow me.” He led the men along the road a little before it twisted and dawn light started streaming through the branches. “So you’d been to the coronation?”

“Damn, that’s better,” Lord Devlin said. “Dawn always looks good in these strange lands. Yes, I’d been to see the coronation and catch up with a few old friends from my army days. I’ll miss Sailor Billy, I won’t deny it.”

“Sailor Billy?” Noah asked, taking a deep breath of what was now spring air.

Lord Devlin grinned. “Good King William IV. And he was a better king than many. I don’t know how long that slip of a girl will last on the throne, and Victoria’s no name for a queen. It should be Elizabeth or Mary or something. Anyway, we’d been gaming most of the journey back from London and he’d had a run of rotten luck. I’d just about cleaned him out.” He stretched as the sun started to warm them on the walk along the brightening road. “I think I must have taken over a hundred guineas from him. But he was sporting enough and said he’d give me a gift to show that there were no hard feelings.”

“What sort of gift?” Umbran asked quietly.

“He said he’d show me the way into Fairyland. And I was all for it, you know. But I was only planning on staying a few days. It must be over a month now and I’ve had some rare adventures. But it’s time for me to go home. My family will wonder where I am.”

 “You have been here some time.” Umbran put a steady hand on Lord Devlin’s shoulder. “Time runs in strange ways in Fairyland. You’ve been here for over a hundred years.”

Lord Devlin froze for a moment. “I suppose he was a devil of a sore loser,” he said. “It’s been an adventure and I’m glad I’ve had it, but…” He swallowed and turned around to look at the sunny meadows either side as they approached a dark oak door. “It’s funny, you know. The word gift in German means poison.”

This chapter is in response to Writing Prompt Number 20

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