“You wished to speak with me, child?” he asked. Only the fact that he was older than her grandfather kept her from being annoyed by the endearment.
“Yes,” she replied, bowing her head. “I want to know how to get to Annwn. The tales say there’s an entrance somewhere nearby.”
He blinked and sat up straighter. “What business does a young lady have in the land of the dead?”
“Someone I love arrived there recently, and I’m going to get him back,” Nia said, clenching her fists.
The Archdruid sighed. “It hurts to lose a loved one, I know, but it is not for us mortals to interfere in the natural cycle of life and death. The gods have a purpose beyond our comprehension.”
“There was no purpose to Celyn’s death!” Nia exclaimed. A hush fell over the hall, and her face flooded with heat, but she soldiered on. “If the gods have an issue with my plans, then surely they can stop me without your help. All I ask is knowledge. Will you deny me?”
He frowned, and she wondered if maybe she had taken things too far. But then, he nodded thoughtfully. “I will take an omen. If the gods do not wish you to undertake this journey, they will tell us so.” It felt like just a more roundabout way of refusing, but Nia sensed this was the best chance she was going to get, so she nodded.
Nia was led into the chamber behind the main hall, a room dominated by a colossal round hearth sunk into the floor. The Archdruid gestured for her to sit on one of the cushions around the edge of the room. Once she was settled, he tossed a bunch of herbs onto the fire. Fragrant smoke tickled the back of her throat. The shadows leapt and danced in a way that made her shiver with unease.
“This will help us to see more clearly,” he said, seating himself beside her and picking up a pouch that rattled like raindrops on a hollow log. “Close your eyes, and when I speak the words, I want you to tell me what images come into your mind.”
Nia did as he said, though she was beginning to feel anxious. It was well known that druids practiced magic, and though it was fun to hear about magic in tales Nia never thought she’d be participating in it. There’s probably a lot more magic in Annwn, she thought before turning her attention back to the Archdruid. The hollow sounds from the pouch seemed unnaturally loud.
“Journey,” said the voice of the Archdruid, and the images swimming behind her eyes reformed, becoming rain lashing her face while the sounds of wind and water roared in her ears.
“I see… a storm, on the ocean I think,” she said, shivering. Though her family had not been sailors, she knew a storm at sea could be deadly.
“Good.” More rattling. “What about choice?”
Again, visions flickered rapidly before her. “I see… a cauldron, and then… animals? A raven, a fox, others? I’m not sure.”
“That’s fine. One more… what does your heart say about fate?”
At the word, Nia felt like she was swallowed by darkness. In the distance she saw something shining. A thread, golden-white in color, fragile and all alone out in the void. Four new threads appeared. One was a violet so dark it was nearly black, one bright red, one cool blue, and one brilliant green. These threads wove around the original thread, and as a weaver, Nia knew that they were much stronger together. This vividly colored thread spooled upward into a tapestry. It was so intricate and beautiful that she couldn’t form words to describe it. When the vision disappeared the loss felt like a blow. She relayed everything to the Archdruid in a shaking voice.
“Hmmm,” he hummed for a moment. “You can open your eyes now. I am ready to give my judgment, if you are still willing to hear it.”
His words didn’t bode well for Nia in her estimation, but she was determined to see this through. She sat up straight, set her jaw in a fierce line, and nodded.
The Archdruid sighed. “This omen tells me that this journey is important for you, and perhaps for others. You will not, I think, find what seek, but you will find your destiny. Are you certain you wish to enter Annwn?”
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