Charlotte Tudor, known
to her friends and family as Charlie, read over the text she had written
during the past hour. Her brow furrowed, and she pushed the laptop away
and onto a low coffee table. She leaned back into the soft sofa she
was sitting on, and raised her arms above her head, arching her back,
and grimacing as she heard her vertebrae pop.
whispered to herself, and ran both hands through short, dishevelled
Shed been writing
for hours, but now let her arms fall loosely at her sides. She looked
to her left, to the window.
Outside it was dark,
as it should be on a cold October evening. Rain pelted the window pane,
and the wind blew against the roof, producing a high keening sound as
it found its way between aging roof tiles.
Her cell phone ringing
made her jump, and she stared at it for long moments before answering
it. It flashed as it rang, sitting on the table beside the laptop.
She leaned forward and
picked it up, frowning at the caller ID before flipping it open.
the voice screamed. "Where the hell are you?"
she said, holding the small device away from her ear.
"Are you finished?"
she asked when the screeching ceased.
"Just tell me where
you are," he said, sounding out of breath. "You cant
just disappear without telling anyone where youre going."
"I did," she
said quite reasonably. "I needed to breathe, Jeff, and you werent
letting me." She listened to the sound of her editor calming his
breathing. "I had to get away, or I would have gone crazy."
"No, Jeff. Im
safe, and Im writing. Something I wasnt doing in London.
Just let me have a few weeks and Ill have something for you, and
for the publishers."
"Where are you?"
he tried one more time.
peaceful." Charlie smiled and closed her eyes. "Ill
let you know in a couple of weeks." She snapped the phone closed
before any more could be said, and quickly turned it off, slipping it
into her pocket.
Charlie eased her feet
off the floor and onto the sofa, lying back against the plump cushion
in one corner.
Closing her eyes, she
revelled in silence.
Shed never experienced
complete silence before, but here, in a cottage on the edge of Bodmin
Moor in Cornwall, there was nothing to ruin the peace.
Except for the wind,
and the rain, but that was a different kind of sound, different from
the traffic and general hum of noise that was always evident in London.
She remembered going
into the small village store earlier in the day, and chatting with the
rather jolly woman who had served her. In only a short time the woman
had extracted more information from her than shed given her agent
in the three years that shed known him. The woman, a Mrs. Babb,
reached across the counter and patted her hand when Charlie told her
a couple of the details of her split with her partner of five years.
And a half an hour later Charlie left the store, shaking her head in
wonderment at the way the woman had gently grilled her for information.
Charlie eased herself
up and padded across the thick pile carpet towards the door to the kitchen,
which led off from the lounge. Writing tended to make her hungry, and
she decided upon a ham sandwich.
Shed managed to
find the cottage after a brief search on the internet. Normally only
open for holiday-makers in the summer months, the cottage was rented
to her after long conversations on the phone with the owners.
She needed some solitude
after the painful break up with Jan, and a nasty case of writers
block. But she knew that her agent wouldnt leave her be, so shed
stolen away one night, packing a token amount of clothing and her laptop.
Since shed arrived in Cornwall, shed shopped for the things
shed left behind, and had made herself very much at home in the
cosy little cottage.
The kitchen was an addition
to the small building. Obviously built for a farm worker and his family,
the property consisted only of two main rooms. One would have been for
living in and one for sleeping. The addition of kitchen and bathroom
brought the dwelling up to modern standards. She thought the small cottage
to be at least three hundred years old, and determined to check on village
records at some time in the future. The quaint surroundings had also
had a positive effect on her writing, and she found herself writing
for hours on end, having to force herself to stop and go to bed in the
She was just opening
the fridge door when the lights went out. She stood, frozen for a moment.
she whispered, quietly shutting the door to the now-silent fridge.
It was absolutely pitch
black, and, if possible, even more quiet. Only the sound of the gas
central heating boiler in the kitchen broke the silence.
Charlie fumbled her way
back to the lounge, feeling ahead of herself with her hands. She sat
on the sofa and waited, listening to the rising wind, and the increasingly
heavy rain hitting the windowpanes.
"Well, this is fun,"
she said quietly, pulling her knees up and circling her legs with her
The hair on the back
of her neck bristled when she heard muffled voices outside. She had
no idea who could possibly be out in this weather and at such a remote
site. A light shone through the curtains and she watched as the golden
glow moved from one side of the window to the other.
Charlie set her feet
on the floor once again, and stood. She watched the light moving beyond
the curtains, and then jumped when she heard a loud thump from the kitchen.
She looked to her left,
towards the door that led to the small room, and saw that the kitchen
was also filled with the eerie glow.
Taking a tentative step
towards the kitchen, Charlie peered into the darkness. Another thump
brought her up short. The sound of splintering wood, startled her, and
she stepped back, tangling her feet in the short legs of the low coffee
table. She put a hand out to break her fall, and felt a sharp pain in
her left wrist when it made contact with the floor.
But the pain was forgotten
as three large figures rushed into the lounge. The wind whistled through
the small cottage, and her vision was filled by wildly fluttering torches,
held high by the men that stood before her.
Then hands were grabbing
at her, hauling her to her feet. She reached out, her hands coming into
contact with heavy damp material. "What do you want?" she
screamed, her voice sounding desperate to her own ears.
justice be served," a low, hoarse voice replied.
Then she was turned and
pushed face down across the sofa. Her hands were pulled together and
her wrists bound with rough rope.
screamed, as the rope was pulled tighter, the pain sharp, sending spikes
of pain lancing up her arm.
"Hold your tongue,
girl," the voice said, and she was hauled to her feet again.
Her vision was filled
by the broad back of the man ahead of her as she was pulled along by
the two other men. Both held an arm, their grip tight on her upper arms.
They pulled her through the kitchen and towards the door and the storm
that raged beyond.
She looked down at her
sock-covered feet, and then realised she only wore a white tee shirt
and black sweat pants. She gasped when the freezing rain hit her bare
arms, and immediately soaked through the tee shirt.
The man ahead of her
turned and held the torch above his head, the flames fighting to remain
alight against the wind and rain.
awaits, witch," he said, and stood aside so that she could see
the gathered mob.
She blinked through the
water that coursed down her face. The people before her were dressed
unlike any others she had seen. The men wore heavy coats, and high boots.
The women small, linen head coverings and long dresses. Shawls covered
their shoulders. Many held torches illuminating the immediate area.
She looked back over her shoulder towards the cottage that shed
just been dragged from. The newly installed windows had gone. In their
place small frames, with heavy, thick glass. The roof tiles were no
more, replaced by old rotting thatch.
She looked up at one
of the men who held her. "I dont understand," she said,
her voice all but lost in the wind.
he said, and hauled her towards the cart that waited beyond the mob.
Charlie was thrown into
the back of the cart, and then it lurched forward, making her attempts
to find a more comfortable position just about impossible.
Another man jumped into
the back of the cart with her. He pulled her up roughly by her hair
so that she was kneeling, and then placed a heavy noose around her neck.
The rain slanted down
into her face, but she still looked up at the man that stood over her.
"You will answer
your accuser," he said, and jumped from the wagon, leaving her
alone, shivering in the wind and rain.
Charlie closed her eyes
and slumped down again. She tried to gather her scrambled thoughts.
Only moments ago she was sitting in a cosy lounge, enjoying the first
little piece of sanity in her life for months. No years.
Now she was here, in
some sort of nightmare. A nightmare with no reason. People dressed unlike
any shed seen outside of a film were dragging her through a wild
and stormy night towards
She didnt know.
The sky was lit again,
a jagged arc of lightning cracking across the horizon. She turned her
face to the filthy straw that lined the wagon, and closed her eyes,
hoping upon hope that she would awaken soon.
Then she felt rough hands
on her again, pulling her by her feet to the edge of the wagon. Once
her feet hit the ground one of the men grabbed the end of the thick
rope that encircled her neck and dragged her along. The rain hit her
face and she squinted through the deluge, trying to see where they were
She was thrown roughly
into a small dark place. She had no idea what it was. The floor was
covered with straw, but she felt cold mud ooze through it. Her shoulder
and the side of her head hit the back wall of her small prison, and
she slid to the cold damp floor.
Charlie eased herself
to a sitting position, feeling the wet straw beneath her and the rope
biting cruelly into her wrists. Whatever she was in didnt keep
the rain out. It ran down the wall that she was leaning on and dripped
through the low roof. In fact, the roof was so low, that she thought
she probably wouldnt be able to stand upright.
She listened to the rain
dripping onto the ground between her feet, which were bare now, her
socks somewhere back between her prison and the cottage. She seemed
to be in some kind of lean to. A small wooden hut tagged onto the wall
of a larger stone building.
She felt the cold now.
Her tee-shirt clinging damply to her flesh. Water ran off her hair and
down her back. Charlie started to shiver, and flexed her hands, which
were becoming numb from the tightness of the rope that bound them.
She bowed her head. "Help
me," she whispered, her voice breaking. "Someone, please."
The door to her prison
suddenly flew open, and a man bent into the low space, catching hold
of her ankles and hauling her out into the storm. She was pulled to
her feet and then turned towards another man.
The new comer was huge,
and he took her face in his hand, turning it towards the light from
the torches that his companions held. "She pleases me," was
all he said, before pushing her back towards her small prison.
As she hit the floor
once more, she heard the sound of horses hooves. The man riding
away presumably. This time she didnt bother to pull herself up,
merely curling up us small as she could.
She tried to sleep, praying
that she would awaken from this nightmare soon.
Charlie was, in fact,
jarred awake very quickly after drifting into a restless slumber. A
hand was on her ankle again, dragging her out into the wind and rain
on her stomach. The ropes on her wrist released, and her arms flopped
uselessly to her sides. She was turned onto her back, and she stared
up into the darkness, her sight bleary due to the rain slanting into
A figure loomed above
her. She couldnt see the face, for the person was looking away
from her, towards the house. Then it was turning back to her and bending.
A hand reached out for her, but this time she was not grabbed and hauled
painfully to her feet. Instead the damp, heavy noose that had been put
about her neck was gently removed.
the voice, so softly, Charlie was surprised she could hear it above
the storm. "Come with me. Ill take you away from this place."
It was the voice of a woman, she decided, with a musical lilt evident
even in the few words that had been uttered. "Trust me."
Charlie looked at the
hand inches from her face, then up beyond the hand to the face of her
saviour. For thats what this person was, Charlie decided. A flash
of lightning briefly illuminated the face above her, but she was pinned
by the blue eyes that regarded her, but the rest of the face remained
a mystery as it was once again cast in darkness. She reached for the
hand, but her own were still numb and she couldnt grip.
So the large hand of
her saviour shifted to her wrist. The storm was forgotten with the feeling
of warmth that seeped through the skin of Charlies wrist. She
was hauled to her feet, and she staggered forward into the body of the
Then she was being dragged
through the darkness and lifted bodily onto the back of a tall horse.
She reached for the soggy mane of the huge beast, but couldnt
get her frozen fingers to obey her commands to grip. Then a solid body
was settling in behind her. An arm encircled her waist and the horse
was turning. She heard the earth churning beneath its hooves, and then
the sound of shouting behind her. But it all blurred together, and her
body surrendered itself to its exhaustion. She slumped forward, the
only thing keeping her from plunging to the ground beneath the horses
hooves was the strong grip of the woman who held her life in her hands.
Brodie OShea pulled
the limp body back against her chest, and urged her stallion to greater
speed. She knew she needed to put as much ground between her and the
young womans captors as she could before sunrise. She also knew
that she needed to get the girl into the warm. Shed seen people
die of cold many times before, and the brief sight shed had of
the pale face as she reached down for the girl, told her that the small
blonde was in danger of succumbing to the cold autumn night.
Charlies body had
given in to the punishment it had received very quickly after theyd
set off from the small village on the edge of the moor, and Brodie had
to hold her tight with one arm while directing the horse with the other.
Brodie had woken some
hours before, the familiar feeling of a need to be somewhere overwhelming
her. As usual shed saddled Kane, and followed where her instincts
took her. Shed arrived on the edge of the small village and had
just managed to duck behind the tree line as a horse thundered into
view. Then torches were lit and she squinted through the driving rain
to see a slight figure dragged from some kind of small lean-to and presented
to a now-standing rider.
She had waited, watching
as the men threw their captive back into the lean-to, and then returned
to the house. She heard their laughter from within the wall, and smiled
at their stupidity.
The rest happened in
a blur. She remembered reaching into the small prison and feeling for
the girl, then pulling her out. As the lightning illuminated the face
below she was momentarily frozen. Then she was pulling the stumbling
girl towards Kane and their escape.
She never questioned
these nights, when she found herself riding through the darkness to
the rescue of some stranger. She had a gift, she knew. She asked and
received nothing in exchange for the lives of these people. It was her
gift, and she didnt question it.
Of late, these nights
became more frequent, especially in this part of the country. Shed
arrived in the south over three years before, and in that time had liberated
many. Having arrived on Britains shores from her homeland of Eire
some six years previously as a young woman of twenty-two years, shed
first made her way north, to the Highlands of Scotland. Over the years
shed drifted, arriving in Cornwall and finding a small one-room
cottage, which she re-thatched herself. It was secluded, hidden from
the small road near by dense woodland.
Shed never brought
one of her liberated souls back to her home. Shed always found
a safe haven for them with sympathetic folk who would take them in.
But this woman was different. Brodied had a vision once of a strange
woman, who would change her life forever. The woman in her arms was
unlike any other shed ever seen and she knew her vision might
well be coming true.
She slid down off the
tall stallions back, and then let the limp form slide into her
she said to her horse. "Ill be back."
She carried the woman
into the cottage, and laid her on her bed. Then she rushed back out
into the storm and led Kane to the small stable shed constructed.
Once she had the horse settled with enough food and as dry as she could
manage, she rushed back into the cottage.
Brodie threw a few logs
onto the fire, and lit a number of candles around the room. Then she
turned back to her charge. The woman was lying on top of the rough blanket
that covered her bed, shivering slightly, blonde hair plastered to her
forehead and cheeks. The Irishwomans hands trembled as she reached
for the senseless woman, pushing damp hair away from closed eyes. She
pulled the blonde to a sitting position, and when the damp head rested
against her shoulder, she closed her eyes, pulling the pliant body against
her own. A feeling of calm settled in the pit of her stomach, a feeling
of belonging, and she cupped the womans head in her large hand,
rubbing her cheek against that of the woman in her arms. But the chill
in the soft skin reminded her of her duty. Taking a moment to study
the pale face, she started to peel the wet clothing away from cold skin.
It was the chattering
of her own teeth that awoke Charlie Tudor. There was a hammering in
her head, the pain threatening to split her skull in two. Then she felt
a cool cloth against her cheek, and a warm hand cupping her chin.
She tried to sit up,
but the hand left her chin and pressed against her shoulder easing her
back onto the bed.
A dark shape hovered
over her. There was a pale light, but really not good enough to see
"Where am I?"
she asked through chattering teeth.
said that same smooth, lilting voice.
"Who.. who are you?"
"My name is Brodie
OShea This is my home." The woman put an arm behind Charlies
shoulders and lifted her to a sitting position.
It was then that the
blonde realised she was naked beneath the rough blanket, and clumsily
tried to keep the covering from slipping. "Drink," Brodie
coaxed, and lifted a cup of steaming liquid to her lips. "Itll
chase off the fever, and help you sleep," she said, smiling as
the smaller woman drank tentatively. "It tastes like the devils
own brew." She lay Charlie back down and tucked the blanket around
her. "We need to get you away from here."
Brodie said, and looked down when she felt a touch on her knee. The
blondes hand had slipped from the confines of the blanket, her
fingertips resting against the dull leather of the tall womans
trousers. Brodie took the hand, meaning to tuck it back under the covers.
But she found her fingers tangled with smaller ones.
Charlie gave up trying
to resist the exhaustion that pulled her body towards sleep. There were
questions she needed to ask, and a beautiful, mysterious woman she wanted
to know more about. She slipped towards sleep accompanied by a pair
of gentle blue eyes, and the feel of a large warm hand curled around
Brodie released a breath
once Charlies face relaxed in sleep. She eased her hand from the
sleeping womans grip and tucked the smaller hand under the blanket.
Shifting her chair beside the fire, she bent and picked up the strange
clothing the woman had worn from where shed thrown it. She felt
the material, wondering at the way the band at the waist snapped back
once stretched. The white top the woman had worn was the finest material
shed ever touched, and she decided that she must be a woman of
money to own such fine things. Something slipped out of the pocket of
the strange garment and Brodie retrieved it from the edge of the hearth,
turning it over in her hand before placing it in the breast pocket of
She turned once again
to regard the still figure in her bed. It was the face in her visions.
She knew as soon as shed seen the womans face, in that second
as the lightning lit the sky. Shed always wondered how the woman
with green eyes would come to her. She hadnt imagined it would
be as a victim of the witch-finders.
"Ca as duit?"
she said quietly, where are you from?
For the past few months
many women had been taken from their homes and tried as witches. It
had been over a century since the witch trials that blighted the country,
and the same fear and cruelty was in danger of encompassing the small
part of Cornwall that she had chosen to call home.
One man was to blame;
he went by the name of Martin Birch.
She couldnt fathom
what his motives were. He accused, and then sent his small pack of willing
followers to find the women and bring them to his mercy. The women were
tested, and searched for the witches mark. Whether or not one was found
seemed to make no difference. None of the villages felt inclined to
challenge him, and that was mostly due to the fact that many were employed
on his estate, either on his farmland or in his tin mines.
The blonde shifted on
the bed, and glazed green eyes fluttered open. Utter confusion was evident
on the pale face, and her eyes tracked across the room until they settled
on the quiet figure sitting beside the fire.
almost winter. Ill make more tea." She leaned across and
swung the kettle over the flames. Then she shifted her chair closer
to the bed.
Charlie looked at her
intently, her eyes taking in every contour of the dark-haired womans
face. "I know you."
Brodie nodded tightly.
"Aye, youre no stranger to me. But I think our meeting was
not in this lifetime."
The brunettes matter
of fact speech would have knocked Charlie back a step had she been standing.
Charlie shifted onto
her side, and rested her head on her arm so that she was facing Brodie.
"Can you tell me whats happened to me?"
"Birch wants you.
He wants to examine you for the witches mark."
happened." She looked around the room. "Everything is different.
Ive never seen a place like this before."
"You were brought
here from another place?" The blue eyes narrowed. "Maybe witchcraft
Charlie closed her eyes.
"Not another place, Brodie." She almost laughed at what she
was about to say. "Another time."
Brodie stared at her
steadily for long moments. "Then we need to get you back to your
"Does nothing surprise
you?" Charlie asked, her eyelids becoming heavy once more.
"I have seen many
things." Brodie leaned forward resting her elbows on her knees.
"Tell me your name."
Charlie wondered at this
womans complete trust in what shed told her. Why was she
not running for the hills from her? "Charlie, um, Charlotte Tudor,"
the blonde said absently.
"I knew youd
travelled far," said Brodie and pulled something from her pocket,
holding it up to the candlelight for Charlie to see.
"My cell phone."
"Is this a sorcerers
tool?" she asked, turning the small object over in her hands. "Ill
not abide sorcery here."
head began to throb. "Its very common where I come from.
People can talk to each other from great distances." She watched
the dark-haired woman turn the small device over and over in her hands.
"Brodie, Ive come back in time. Can you believe that?"
"Are you a witch?"
asked Brodie, still looking down at the phone.
"No, Im not."
then." Brodie said simply and looked up at her. "For many
years I have dreamt of a woman, with hair the colour of the sun, and
eyes the colour of the Irish hills. But though I wouldnt know
her, she would be no stranger to me. I dreamed she would be
ghrá mo chroí."
Brodies soft lilting
speech was making Charlie drowsy again. "I dont understand,"
the blonde said.
"The love of my
heart," Brodie translated. "In my dream, she had travelled
from a far off land. But when I found her I knew I would know her."
She leaned forward and took Charlies hand in her own. "Am
I a stranger to you, Charlotte Tudor?"
"I think not, Brodie."
Charlie heard her own words, but they made no sense. Shed never
had the kind of dreams or visions that Brodie spoke of, but the woman
before her was so familiar. And her stomach clenched when the blue eyes
softened and the handsome face before her became beautiful as she Irish
woman smiled down at her. She knew shed seen that smile before,
and she felt like she was in the presence of an old friend.
Brodie leaned forward
and brushed her lips against those of the reclining woman.
Charlie reviewed her
thoughts. Not an old friend. She felt more than friendship for this
Brodie pulled back. "You
feel it too?"
Charlie searched the
dark-haired womans face intently. "I do." She wanted
so much to act upon the emotions she felt, but the demands of the last
few hours were pulling her into a place away from the pain and the terror.
"I need to sleep," she said, holding on to Brodies hand
as the tall woman started to pull away. "No, please," she
said, blinking against her tiredness. "Join me."
Brodie regarded her for
a long moment, then stood slowly. She divested herself of her clothes
so slowly that Charlie suddenly began to feel lightheaded. Shed
been holding her breath as more and more of the woman was revealed to
her. And then Brodie was standing there, naked, the light from the fire
and candles reflecting of a body as perfect as any the blonde had seen.
Charlie pulled the covers
aside, and Brodie slid in. The Irish woman pulled the woman against
her, smiling when Charlie relaxed into her warmth and almost immediately
"Sleep well, Charlotte
Tudor, for tomorrow we have to race the devil himself."
Charlie woke and snuggled
down into the rough blanket... Rough blanket?
She managed to pry her
eyes open and take in the strange room she was waking in.
"Oh my God, it wasnt
a dream," she whispered, and scanned the room for her tall rescuer.
She was alone.
She rose to a sitting
position, the muscles in her back screaming in protest, then looked
down at her wrists and found them raw and bruised. A pain on her face
had her cautiously exploring the skin near her eye with trembling fingers.
She found a scrape and swelling.
Charlie heard a noise
outside, and pulling the blanket around her, she eased carefully out
of bed and padded across the cold wooden floor to the door. She pushed
aside a thin curtain and looked out through thick dirty glass. All she
could see was shapes, so she slowly opened the door, letting in a cold
blast of autumn air.
Pulling the blanket closer
about her, she peered out, taking only a moment to locate her saviour.
Brodie picked up a log
and placed it on a tree stump before raising an axe over her head and
splitting the wood into two neat halves. She was dressed in the leather
trousers that shed had on the previous evening, along with the
knee high boots. However, she was without the dark waistcoat now, wearing
only the loose fitting white shirt.
The Irishwoman picked
up another log, but dropped it suddenly and turned towards her small
dwelling. Instead of cutting more, she gathered up the logs shed
already cut, and made her way towards her home.
Charlie stood aside and
allowed Brodie to enter.
"Its a cold
morning," said Brodie, who deposited her load beside the fireplace,
throwing some that had already dried into the fire. "Come here
and warm yourself."
Charlie shivered slightly
as she eased her aching body onto the hard wooden chair that sat beside
the fire. She was offered mug of steaming liquid and she wrapped her
hands around it, glad of the heat. "Thank you," she said quietly.
"I have some clothes
for you." Brodie pulled some garments from a large wooden box.
"Theyre not as fine as your own, but they are dry."
She handed the clothes to the blonde, a large white shirt and a pair
of knee length breeches. "Oh, and this is yours," she said,
reaching into the fireplace. She had retrieved Charlies panties
from where shed hung them on the arm that held the kettle, handing
them to her as her cheeks flushed. Brodie took a step back. "Ill
let you clothe yourself," she said before walking out into the
Charlie watched her go,
already missing her presence. She quickly dressed, her feet chilled
against the stone floor. The breeches werent too big, and she
did up the three buttons that closed the front. The shirt, however,
was huge and the sleeves had to be turned back a few times so that she
could use her hands. She sat again on the chair, and drank the hot tea
that Brodie had made for her.
Charlie sank back down
onto the chair and buried her face in her hands. She was tired, sore,
and hungry. Only the previous evening she had been in her cosy cottage,
writing her latest novel, and more at peace with herself than shed
been for years. Now here she was, in a place that scared her but with
a woman whose mere presence gave her courage.
The door opened again,
and Brodie entered and deposited another armful of wood on the hearth.
"We must leave soon," she said.
"Where should we
"Back to where you
came from, we have to find the door that you came through." Brodie
brushed her hands off, and slipped into a long waistcoat, quickly buttoning
it right up to her chin.
"You say you came
from a different time, you must have come through a door."
Confusion was evident
on Charlies still-pale face. Could it really be as simple as that?
"I was in a cottage, on the moor."
Brodie lowered herself
to sit on the bed. "Then the cottage has a spell on it," she
said. "And something drew you through the door."
"What could that
have been?" Charlie asked.
Blue eyes found those
of the blonde. "I have a notion." She smiled. "It has
to be something strong, to reach so far."
Brodie stood. "We
must leave." She went to the box again. "I have no more boots."
She ripped a garment into shreds and then knelt in front of Charlie,
binding the cloth around her feet. She went back to the box and took
out a coat. "Here," she held it up and waited while the Charlie
stood in front of her and then turned, allowing Brodie to slip the coat
onto her. Then she drew a long, leather sheath out of the box.
Charlie watched as Brodie
attached the sheath to her right boot, then reached in again and took
out a long knife. It wasnt as long as a sword, but it was much
longer than an average knife. When it was settled in the sheath, the
pommel rested above Brodies knee, within easy reach of her hand.
The coat was too big
again, but Charlie pulled it around herself, knowing she would need
the covering when they ventured outside.
"Let me saddle Kane,
then we leave." Brodie pulled on her own coat, and left quickly.
Charlie pulled the coat
closed, trembling fingers struggling with the large buttons.
She looked up as the
door opened. Brodie was standing in its frame and she held her hand
out. "Come," she said.
Charlie stood and took
the larger hand in her own, allowing herself to be led outside. She
was lifted onto the back of the tall steed, and then Brodie vaulted
up behind her, settling her feet in the stirrups and turning the horse
away from the house.
They moved at a good
speed for a couple of hours, and the Irishwoman wound an arm around
Charlies waist to keep her in place. Brodie craned her neck, trying
to see her riding companions face. "Are you afraid, Charlotte
Tudor?" she asked.
confused, Brodie." She drew in a breath and placed a hand over
the other womans, which rested on her stomach. "So much has
happened, in so little time."
"Aye, and I mean
to get you home." She gave Charlie a squeeze.
Charlie leaned back against
the woman. "Tell me why you kissed me, Brodie."
She was quiet for a moment,
gathering her thoughts. "Because I have waited all my life for
you, Charlotte. And I couldnt wait a moment longer." She
rested her forehead against the back of Charlies head. "Forgive
Charlie was frustrated,
she couldnt see the woman sitting behind her, and desperately
needed to. She squirmed in the front of the saddle, trying to twist
her body around. Then she lifted her left leg and half turned in the
circle of Brodies arms, for the tall woman had found it necessary
to loosen the reins and take a tighter grip of her companion.
They were so close to
each other now, and Charlie looked up. Brodies eyes, however were
scanning the nearby woodland, looking for anything out of the ordinary.
Weak sunlight shone down, light rain fell, and the wind blew steadily,
bringing a scattering of golden and amber leaves from the trees.
"You were waiting
for me?" asked Charlie.
At last those blue eyes
turned towards her, and the pain in them took Charlies breath
"I knew I would
find you one day," Brodie whispered. "But I didnt know
I would have to send you away so soon." She cupped the chilled
cheek in her palm, and pulled Charlies face towards her. "Forgive
me," she said again, before lowering her lips to the trembling
ones of the woman in her arms.
Charlie wrapped her arms
around Brodies neck and pulled her closer, badly needing, in that
moment of confusion and fear to feel the solid reality of someone who
appeared to have answers to her predicament.
Suddenly the world was
spinning, and Charlie was falling. She felt the arms around her waist
tighten as Kane reared. Brodies body cushioned her fall, but the
arms fell away from her. She was aware of Kane thundering away through
the heavy growth, and of gunshot and shouts. Then her arms were held
in an iron grip and she was being pulled away from the limp body beneath
screamed, looking back down at the unconscious woman. She could see
bare, bloody stone beneath the dark head, and knew that was the reason
for her new friends senselessness.
She was spun around,
and came face to face with the man that she remembered from the night
before. Martin Birch.
He regarded her for a
long moment, then drew his arm back and backhanded her, snapping her
head sideways. She would have fallen had it not been for the men holding
her, and they hauled her up when her legs threatened to buckle.
"You are testing
our patience, witch," he said calmly. "But you cannot escape
your sentence. Your trial was concluded in your absence and youll
be taken to the circle to meet your destiny." He turned from her
towards the still figure on the ground, and pulled a musket from the
waistband of his trousers. "And who is this?" he said as he
walked towards the prone figure.
Charlie struggled in
the grip of the two large men that held her. "Stay away from her,"
Martin Birch turned back
towards her for a brief moment, then turned away, lifted the musket
and fired into Brodies body.
Charlie screamed when
she saw the woman jerk with the impact of the shot. But then she was
being pulled away from her, and laid across the back of a horse. The
fight had left her, and she lay quietly as Birch mounted the horse,
and set about binding her hands behind her back. She heard the other
men mounting their horses, and then the horse was spurred into a gallop.
It was a couple of hours
later that the horses were finally drawn to a halt, and Charlie was
dragged to the ground. She knew now that all was lost. She accepted
that she had been dragged into this time and this place by something
so strong that nothing could prevent it.
She looked around. And
found herself being hauled over to a large stone in the middle of a
The rain was a little
heavier now, and the storm clouds gathered. They must have been near
the sea, because she could hear it. At the centre circle she was turned
and her hands freed. Then the coat was removed, and two ropes were tied
to each wrist.
"You have been found
guilty of witchcraft, and so will be given to the servants of the Master."
Martin Birch smiled down at her, water dripping from his nose and chin.
"Why are you doing
this to me?" Charlie asked. "Im no witch."
He ignored her, but
ran a finger across her face from the corner of her eye to her chin
then nodded at the man holding Charlies arm. "Tie her to
the altar," he said.
The men lifted her easily,
securing the ropes at her wrists to two stakes driven into the ground
at the foot of the large centre stone. One other rope was tied around
her ankles and secured to a similar stake at the foot of the stone.
The stone was sloping,
so Charlies head was higher than her feet, and she looked down
her body at the small gathering of half a dozen men. "This is wrong,"
she said, but even as she uttered the words a feeling of peace came
over her. She rested her head back against the cold, wet rock and felt
the rain on her face.
Charlie didnt know
who had shouted the words, but she looked down to see the men scrabbling
away into the growing darkness. She looked around the circle of stones,
none of them higher than a few feet, but could see nothing beyond them.
Then she heard a scraping
noise, and craned her neck. She blinked into the rain, trying to comprehend
what she was seeing.
There, on one of the
larger stones that made up the circle stood what she could only describe
as some sort of demon. It crouched and looked around, and she saw it
in profile. Its wings flexed, glistening in the heavy rain, from its
head stood two short horns. Its hands were large, fingers long and thin,
tipped by pointed nails. It looked towards her, and its face twisted
in some sort of smile. A low guttural cry came from its throat, and
two more of the creatures approached from the darkness.
Charlie watched them
as they circled the stone on which she lay. One crawled up onto the
centre stone. It crouched above her, one leg either side of her hips.
The smell of it wafted towards her, the smell of decay and death.
She pulled at the ropes
holding her wrists, immediately realising that there was no escape.
The creatures yellow
eyes regarded her, its head tipped slightly to the side. A long black
tongue licked grey lips, and its hand reached out, plucking at Charlies
shirt, which clung to her body.
A cry was dragged from
her throat, and she squirmed beneath the creature.
Charlie felt something
at her ankle, and suddenly her feet were free. But one of the creatures
was holding her legs. Then she felt cold, hard hands on her head, and
it was pulled back so that she was looking at another of the demons.
The one straddling her was trailing the tips of sharp nails across her
torso, splitting the material there, and drawing blood from shallow
cuts across her abdomen.
Charlie bucked beneath
it, straining against the ropes, which burnt her wrists. The three creatures
seemed to be working to a frenzy now, their hands grabbing at her and
pulling the cloth from her body.
She heard something rip,
and her shoulder was exposed to the rain. A sharp pain as one of them
dug a long, thin nail into her shoulder.
She cried out again,
knowing she was nothing more than a plaything for these creatures, something
to be tormented, and ultimately disposed of when they tired of her.
Somewhere in her frazzled brain, she wondered what they were and where
they came from.
The rope holding her
right wrist was cut through, and she failed with her arm, striking the
beast closest on the face. It seemed to be delighted with the fight
she was putting up, and screamed a high-pitched cry, which hurt Charlies
The demons scrabbled
around her, their nails digging into her flesh through her clothes.
Then she was free, and
the creature above her grabbed her hips and flexed it wings, pulling
her a few feet into the air, before dropping her to the muddy earth
beside the alter.
Charlie spun around,
wiping water from her face. One of them landed on her back, sinking
its teeth into her shoulder, forcing her to the ground. She landed on
her hands and knees, hearing the other two grunting and awaiting their
Then, through her pain,
she heard another sound. The sound of another in pain, and the weight
of the demon left her back. She looked to her right, to see one of the
demons on its side, its guts spilling onto the wet ground, its blood
thick and black.
She heard the other two
demons, and looked up to see them, both attacking something on the ground
and she recognised the boots of the figure struggling with them.
screamed, and threw herself at the trio, knocking one of the demons
away from the prone woman.
The creature turned towards
her, standing a foot or so shorter than her own height. She backed up,
until her back was against the altar stone. It approached her, its claw-like
hands reaching for her. A scream made it turn away from her, and the
demon that Brodie was grappling with staggered away, a hand to its throat
The fight had left the
Irishwoman, however, and she slumped back into the mud, the long knife
falling from her hand.
The remaining demon leapt
upon Brodie, and reared its head ready to sink its teeth into her throat.
It didnt get the chance, as Brodies knife plunged into the
back of its neck.
It turned to face the
small blonde, who backed away, holding the knife in front of her. It
pounced, pushing her to the ground, and suddenly its blood gushing from
its mouth, drenching Charlies face and neck. She pushed up, and
the creature fell to the side, its body curled around the knife, which
was embedded in it stomach.
All three of the demons
lay on the ground, their black blood spreading beneath their bodies.
Charlie watched as the one nearest her shuddered one last time and then
lay still. Then each one in turn melted into the ground, sinking into
the mud until nothing was left.
breathing made her rush to the fallen woman, and she dropped to her
knees beside her. She flung her arms around Brodies neck and was
relieved to feel the long arms circle her. Then she was pulling at Brodies
clothing, looking for the shot shed seen Birch fire into her.
She found a hole in the
side of the waistcoat, damp with the warm blood that oozed from an unseen
wound. "He shot you," Charlie gasped.
"Aye, he did."
She smiled up at the woman. "Ive had worse." She started
to struggle to her feet. "Help me up."
Charlie helped Brodie
stand, and then called for her horse. She took the long knife, which
Charlie had retrieved from the mud, her pale lips forming a smile of
gratitude, and slipped it into its sheath. She looked around, and found
her coat on the ground. It was wet, but she slipped it on anyway. The
stallion galloped into the circle, and Brodie painfully pulled herself
onto his back. "I cant pull you up, Charlotte."
The blonde nodded and
jumped up onto the altar stone, and then onto Kane, this time behind
As they started out of
the stone circle Martin Birch approached them. Charlie felt Brodie straighten
in front of her, and held on tight, knowing her friend was weakening.
this place, Birch. Dont try to stop us." Kane danced beneath
her, eager to be away from this place of evil. "Go pray to your
Master now, he wont be pleased. Youll take no more young
women from their homes." Brodie urged Kane into a gallop, turning
him onto the road for Bodmin Moor.
Birch was shouting something
after them, but neither woman stopped to listen, and Charlie held on
tighter, resting her cheek against the damp material of Brodies
coat, enjoying the feeling of the body that her arms encircled.
And then Brodie pulled
Kane to a halt. "Were here," she said, turning slightly
to the blonde, who hadnt moved. "Charlotte, were here."
Charlie drew a deep breath.
"I know." She slid off the tall steed, her cloth covered feet
sinking into the mud.
Brodie eased herself
to the ground slowly, and turned to face the smaller woman. She pulled
the damp coat closed across Charlies chest. "You must get
in out of the rain," she said, seemingly unable to meet Charlies
"I dont want
to go alone, Brodie. Come with me?" Charlie asked, putting both
hands on the forearms of the taller woman.
Brodie froze. "I
cannot, Charlotte. There is too much work for me here. You saw tonight
what I have to fight. Those things, the Marlyns, were only servants,
they serve a Master stronger and more powerful than you can imagine.
I have to stay here to fight him."
Charlie eased her hand
into the folds of Brodies coat. "Youre bleeding badly,"
she said, feeling warm blood saturating the fabric of the waistcoat.
"Aye, but Ill
go to the Sisters, they have the knowledge to help me. She cupped Charlies
cheek. "You must go now," she whispered.
Charlie put her arms
around Brodies neck, and pulled her down, taking the cold lips
in her own, and savouring a moment of peace in the maelstrom of the
storm that raged around them.
She released Brodie and
took a step back. Looking up into the pale face above her, she wiped
angrily at her eyes, her view of the woman blurred by tears. "Ill
never forget you, Brodie."
"Nor I you, Charlotte
Tudor." Brodie took a few steps back, purposely creating a distance
between them. She watched Charlie turn and walk towards the cottage.
"Goodbye, a ghrá
mo chroí," she whispered, and turned towards Kane. She felt
the weakness in her legs, and clutched the wound as pain flared in her
Charlie stopped in front
of the door, put her hand on the clasp and pulled it open. She could
see the lounge beyond the kitchen, and could see her laptop computer
lying on the floor. There, only a few steps away, was her life. Just
as Brodie had said, this was some sort of doorway. And she had been
pulled through, by something so strong centuries couldnt hold
her back. She turned her back on the doorway, a looked for the tall
Irishwoman. She saw Brodie leaning against Kane, holding onto the saddle
for support. She considered what she had through that door, and then
she weighed that against what she might have with the woman who had
risked her life for her. She felt a pull, and it was away from the world
she knew. Shed rather risk living in the Twilight Zone with Brodie,
than in her own world with loneliness.
Charlie very deliberately
closed the door, and turned towards Brodie. They had found each other
despite two and a half centuries. She knew now that it was an ancient
love that had pulled her from her time, a love that had lived before
and would live again. But she knew she would never experience it in
her lifetime, if she walked through that door.
called, smiling when the other woman turned towards her. Charlie laughed
and ran towards her, throwing herself into the arms of the startled
Brodie was glad of Kanes
solid bulk against her back as the blonde flew into her arms. She knew
she shouldnt be welcoming Charlie into her embrace, but it felt
too good to let her go.
"Are you sure, Charlotte?"
she breathed into damp blonde hair.
"More than anything,
Brodie." Charlie smiled up at her. "Come on, lets find
those nuns," she said, and turned Brodie back towards the horse.
The best-selling author
Charlotte Tudors disappearance made the newspaper columns for
a few days, and in years to come television programmes would be made
about the mysterious circumstances surrounding her disappearance. In
the end the police assumed that she had walked out onto the moor one
night, in a fit of depression. The moor had claimed her, and one day
her body would either be found by a walker, or, more likely, her remains
would be taken into the bog and be gone forever.
to the Academy