Fynndlaigh was tucked away, a village at the end of a few rutted paths passing as roads. Woods surrounded it, dark and thick even on a sunny day. Many lived in thatched huts in the woods. The prosperous lived in the village or beyond, on farms. A person could get lost in Fynndlaigh if he had a mind to.
Lacey dodged muddy tracks in the path to the village. Afraid for her life, she’d raced from London. The runestones never lied. Tommy hadn’t liked their truths. In a reading trance, she didn’t see his face going purple. She spoke details of his wife and his trusted ally, lovers skimming his money. Tommy’s vicious voice shocked her out of trance. “Breathe a word of this and you’re gone, witch.” Menace dripped from him.
Lacey was smart enough not to breathe a word. Smart enough to know silence wouldn’t keep her safe. Intuition told her to hurry. She cleansed the runes and shoved them into her rucksack, filling it with needful things. Careful escape plans were pointless. Following her gut would be best. It always was.
The city was a speck in the distance before she took a deep breath. Her gut told her she was safe, but her brain said to be sure. A fortnight spent laying false trails led her to the Welsh countryside. She trusted the universe’s great plan. It spoke to her through dreams, runestones and gut instincts. Instinct led her to Fynndlaigh to find safety. It was a bleak spot but the right spot nonetheless.
Would the villagers accept her? She was not just an unknown, she was from London. Offering up a prayer, she ducked into the pub. Noisy conversations went silent. She felt pummeled by a dozen pairs of eyes full of suspicion.
“Oh, be off with the lot of you,” a woman behind the bar shook a towel around the room. “Act like useless beasts what never saw a stranger.” The man back there with her laughed. People kept watch out the corners of their eyes as they murmured together. “What’ll it be then, girl? Cider do?” Lacey nodded and sat.
A pint was plunked onto the table as the woman plunked into a chair. “Olwyn, I am. You’ve the look of one with the Devil’s own at her back. Running away?”
Lacey took a large drink of cider. “Was running away. Now toward here. I hope.” Olwyn’s face held no surprise at the London accent as she nodded.
“Fynndlaigh gets new blood at times. Arrived ten years gone myself.” Olwyn raised her chin. “You’ll stay in the pub. We’ll give you a Welsh name. None of us know your old name, so you can be at peace.”
Olwyn tapped the table. “You’ve the Sight in those pretty blue eyes. Safir for your eyes and the Sight.” Lacey trembled, her gift sussed out so easily. She hardly heard Olwyn introduce her. Sense returned and she gave a grateful smile.
Days relaxed into months and seasons passed. Tommy’s bullyboys never came to Fynndlaigh. She settled in, comfortable as Safir. Her pouch of runestones lay untouched in her rucksack. Olwyn never spoke of what she’d seen in Safir’s eyes that night.
Safir helped Olwyn and Fyrsil run the pub in exchange for a room. It took Tarrant several charming months to wear her down. Shyly, she agreed to move to his home down the lane. Fyrsil lay a hand on her shoulder, whispering. “You ever have need, your room awaits.”
She should be content, but her dreams and even instinct were clouded. When Olwyn asked after her, Safir shrugged it off. One afternoon, the pub empty, Fyrsil pressed the subject. “Don’t be angry with Olwyn,” he told her.
She dropped her cloth and sighed. “I’m not angry.” She gave a weak smile. “Working so hard to pretend all’s well. The harder I work, the worse it gets.”
Fyrsil watched her. “Seems you need to open your special eyes again. Maybe it always came easy to you. Now you have to go to it.” Fyrsil ducked his head and put up a hand. “Or maybe I’m a fool.
Safir laughed. “Maybe you are! Not about this, though. Suppose I mixed up being safe with not Seeing danger.” She rubbed her hands together, craving the smooth stones. “I’ll be back,” she called as she dashed out. She needed her stones. It was long since time.
Her rucksack was stashed behind a barrel of barley in her pantry. Snatching out the velvet bag, she felt a rumble in her center just hearing the runestones click against each other. Not yet allowing herself to dig in the bag, she hurried back to the pub. Fyrsil leaned back in his chair, staring. “There’s light in your eyes, Safir. Cast those bones.”
Plunging her hand into the bag, she savored the cool, carved amber. First just stones, they came alive, warming to her touch. She felt herself slip into them, slip into the grand plan. She cast them, feeling more than seeing. There was Thuriaz and here, Ken. Wyn and Gytu lay reversed. Peorth burned to her touch and she hurtled down the tunnel of trance. Fyrsil’s worry was unheard as she Saw them. Olwyn. Tarrant. The hut. The runes were never wrong. Her Sight was clear as ever, mist burned away by the brutal vision.
As Safir pulled back from trance, she methodically put each stone in the bag, offering her gratitude for the Sight and the Seeing. No matter the vision, it was a gift. She could never hide from it again.
She heard Fyrsil say her name, felt his hand on her arm. Tears dried on her cheeks. Fyrsil went still as she gazed up at him. “You saw them, didn’t you, girl?” His voice was hoarse and pain etched his forehead. “It’s a hard gift you have, Safir.”
“Thank you for your help, Fyrsil. Is that room still available?”
© 2011 Jessica Rosen
Although the lines do not appear in the story, it was inspired by a writing prompt Melissa Murphy posted on #storystarters a while back. Thank you for the story it began, Melissa. I must have deleted 500 or more words. This story wanted so badly to bloat!