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Authors: Deborah R Stigall

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BOOK: Awakening Her Soul to Destiny
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Noting only the two chairs at the table and the large amount of food, Kaitla glanced at Jared and asked, “All for us?” as she pointed at the banquet before them.


Aye, weel, old Hobart does tend to overdo just a bit. Yer being an American has him a bit off his pace, I’d say. Ye see, he’s not quite sure what ye’re about.” Jared gallantly held out a chair, motioning for Kaitla to sit. As Kaitla scooted closer to the table she thought this job was turning out to be a bit more interesting then she had first anticipated. Creating landscapes inside a home was one thing; dealing with eccentric patrons and their handsome relatives was something else again.


I’m afraid I’ve made a bad impression on Hobart,” she confessed, settling Tobias comfortably in her lap.


How’s that?” inquired Jared as he opened the ice bucket and began filling a glass.


Well, he seemed to be having trouble with all my gear when I arrived but when I tried to carry some of it, I believe it rather hurt his feelings.” She accepted the glass of ice and the bottle of sparkling water from Jared. As she was opening the bottle and filling the glass, it suddenly occurred to her to wonder how Jared had known exactly what she was going to ask for? As she set the bottle on the table and pondered this feat in her mind, she looked up into those piercing gray eyes and felt as though Jared somehow knew everything she was thinking.

But Jared simply smiled, as he arranged a cup of tea for himself. “Hobart is just a wee bit proud is all. He doesna’ wish anyone to think he can no longer take care of his own.” Jared frowned in concentration, as he attempted to free one of the sugar cubes wedged tightly in the bottom of the sugar bowl, “Ye see ---Hobart has been a faithful servant ta’ my family for more years then I can say. So, he’ll come ‘round. He just takes a bit ‘o getting used to.” He smiled triumphantly at Kaitla, as he finally broke loose a sugar cube and popped it deftly into his cup.

Quietly sipping her water as she observed Jared’s antics, Kaitla took a moment to fill her lungs with the clean refreshing air; returning Jared’s smile as the cool June breeze gently caressed her face. Admiring the graceful willows swaying in the breeze, she turned to watch the journey of a meandering butterfly, dipping and circling in the air. “It’s so beautiful here,” she sighed, smiling at the butterfly’s aerial show.


Verra beautiful,” agreed Jared, watching Kaitla intently over the rim of his teacup.

Kaitla wriggled uncomfortably in her seat, blushing at the not so subtle compliment. “Have you lived in Edinburgh all your life?” she asked, moving the conversation to safer ground.


Not exactly,” Jared replied, returning his cup to its saucer. “Actually, I’ve only been in Edinburgh for a few months.”


I’m surprised I didn’t see you while I was staying in town,” Kaitla said. Rubbing Tobias fondly behind the ears, she smiled, “I had to be near my little buddy while he was in jail.”


A jail for cats?” Jared asked, tilting his head curiously to one side. “And what sort of crime might a wee cat commit?”

Grinning mischievously, Kaitla couldn’t resist, “Have you never heard of cat burglars?” Jared’s puzzled expression clearly revealed he in no way understood her poor attempt at a weak joke. Shaking her head in dismay, she filled a small saucer with cream and offered it to the furry criminal in question. “Just a bad joke…I’m sorry…Tobias had to stay in the pound until they were absolutely convinced he wasn’t a rabid villain.”

Scratching his head in confusion, Jared mentally rebuked himself for not studying the ways of the earth realm more intensely. Etain had warned him of such things, but he had thought they’d have been back in Cuchailard long before now. Still not quite understanding all the circumstances Kaitla was describing, it was now Jared’s turn to steer the conversation to a safer subject. “I thought ye said ye were hungry?” he brightened seizing the idea with fervor.


There’s so much here, I don’t know what to eat first!” Kaitla laughed, shrugging her shoulders in dismay.

With one graceful swoop, Jared quickly filled a small dessert plate with several varieties of cookies and cakes, plopping it in place in front of her. “Try these biscuits...ye’ll fair swoon o’er them, I promise.” Selecting one of the smaller varieties, she bit into it, silently wondering why in the world anybody would call a cookie a biscuit.

“’
Tis what they are” replied Jared. Startled by this second feat of mind reading, Kaitla dropped the cookie to the plate with a clatter. She quickly rose from the table, knocking over the chair and almost upsetting the teacart in her haste.


How are you doing that?!” She coughed, choking on the bite of biscuit as she backed slowly away from the table. “I think it’s time I got to work. Thank you for the refreshments!” Grabbing Tobias, she quickly backed her way to the safety of the empty house.

~*~


Well done, Jared,” Etain observed sarcastically. “What did I tell ye about communicating with Kaitla?” Jared looked across the veranda to a large rose bush. Perched among the branches was a delicate silvery finch. As he watched, the tiny bird hopped from one of the branches onto the massive marble railing surrounding the veranda, observing him with it’s little head cocked to one side.


Do be kind enough to show me your face, Etain,” Jared replied in a resigned tone of voice. “After all, if ye mean to scold me at least let me look at ye as I always do when ye berate me!” The tiny bird’s body gradually lengthened, resuming the form of the delicate woman. The silvery feathers changed to the silvery hair and soon the disgusted Etain stood before Jared impatiently tapping one foot.


Did I not say to ye that ye must only speak aloud to her?” Exasperated, Etain righted the fallen patio chair and gracefully took a seat.


I DID only speak aloud!” Jared argued. “I just forgot about waitin’ for the words to come out of her mouth before I responded to what she was about to say.” Jared fidgeted miserably in his seat. This wasn’t the first time Etain had lectured him. Jared had been Etain’s novice since birth approximately 100 years ago. Her face softened as she watched the bowed head before her. Jared had been the brightest soul she had been blessed to train. He was not only gifted in many of the ways, but it had been revealed to Etain that Jared was somehow an important part of Kaitla’s destiny. How exactly, was still a mystery but she trusted the answer to be revealed to her in time.

Jared also was a descendant of Ravon. Therefore, any positive effect he could contribute in the healing of the realm would only help the clans at last find peace with each other. Studying Jared, Etain could clearly see Ravon’s bloodline. The sleek dark hair, very nearly black, was cropped close to Jared’s head to fit with the appearance of current day Edinburgh. His facial features were well chiseled, cut with high cheekbones and cleft chin. The deep gray eyes were filled with remorse in the tanned face, the muscles of his jaw rippling as he gritted his teeth in aggravation. His shoulders were almost too broad for the white linen shirt, and she must speak to him about how snug those trousers were. She could clearly see his muscles rippling as he wriggled uncomfortably under her scrutiny. Granted he was a large man, but he must appear to belong to this realm. The open-chested shirts and closely fitted pants of Cuchailard would be out of place here. Thankfully, Jared only inherited his physical attributes from Ravon’s bloodline. His personality harbored none of the cruelty of Ravon. Jared was as warm and friendly as a pup and sometimes as impetuous.


Kaitla has no idea who she is, Jared,” Etain finally spoke. “She is not aware of all the gifts that are hers to claim, ‘tis why we’ve come here.” Etain rose from the chair, slowly circling the table to Jared’s side. “We must show her the ways and awaken her soul to its destiny.”


But how Etain?” Jared asked, raising both hands in exasperation. “She trusts no one. When I touched her hand and looked into her eyes, I saw nothing but fear and wariness. What have they done to the lass to make her so leery of all she meets?”

Etain drew a deep breath and explained wearily, “When I hid the child in this realm it was like dropping a stray kitten, hoping someone would take pity on it and welcome it into their home. She was but a wee bairn and I couldna’ leave her in Scotland or Ireland. The legends are still alive and remembered here and Ravon would have sensed her in this land.” Etain slowly walked over to the marble railing, sliding her hand along the cold smooth surface. Reaching the rose bush, she idly picked at a scarlet bud. “I had to travel to America and leave her in a bus station where her hungry wails wouldna’ go unnoticed.” Etain returned to the table and sat, propping her chin in her hands. “She was soon found and placed as a ward of the state in a foster home.” Etain closed her eyes speaking softly, “Through my dreams, I watched the lass grow and be passed from one home to another. She was never actually abused but she was also never loved. As soon as she’d allow herself to love and trust someone, she would be torn away to never see them again. The lass now thinks if she allows herself to love, she will be hurt. So, she only allows herself to trust and love a wee cat.” Jared watched Etain in amazement. It was the first time since he’d known her that he’d ever seen her shed a tear.


How will we ever do this task?” Jared dissolutely repeated. Turning away from Etain, he ran his hands through his closely cropped hair, then covered his face with them. Dropping his hands to his sides, he turned again to find Etain’s own face buried in her arms on the table. He walked over to Etain and hesitantly patted her shoulder. Her face remained buried in her arms and she just shook her head.


She is so confused. I felt it when I touched her. And those eyes! She has the eyes of Laird Caymber!” Jared mused, as he shivered at the memory of the rage in the golden eyes of Laird Caymber when he had caught Jared trying to catch a glimpse of the portrait of Lady Bristna. The rage had subsided once Caymber learned Jared was accompanying Etain to recover Kaitla, but not before Jared had seen the depths of pain and torment in the golden eyes of Caymber.

Etain slowly raised her head from her arms, wiping the tears from her cheeks. “The child has always been alone and afraid. I dared not intercede during her childhood for fear Ravon would discover her.” Etain rose from the table and returned to the cool marble railing looking down into the flower gardens below. “She has spent the first thirty five years of her life here in the earth realm, but she has never truly belonged. I’m afraid our task will not be an easy one.”

Jared joined Etain at the railing, gazing out into the garden. His gray eyes narrowed as he focused on a slight movement deep within the greenery. “Etain, look at that vermin!” he urged as he pointed beneath a clump of trailing vines.

Etain’s eyes followed Jared’s direction, immediately focusing on the huge black rat peering cautiously from under the leaves. “That is no vermin, Jared, that’s Ravon!” Immediately, the silvery hair returned to the form of feathers. This time the form Etain chose was not that of a tiny finch but of a great silver owl. Swooping from the veranda, the great owl dove towards the rat with talons outstretched. Spotting the approaching owl, the rat suddenly shrank into the shape of a small black snake, quickly slithering into a hole in the masonry. Denied of her prey, the owl rose, circling again and again in hopes the snake would reappear. Finally realizing that Ravon had escaped, the beautiful owl returned to the railing beside Jared and alit in the shape of the angry Etain.


He must’ve followed us here knowing it was time for Kaitla to return.” Etain paced restlessly across the veranda. “She must not be left alone. She’s not safe until she has found her powers.”


How will we stay with her constantly?” Jared asked. “The lass doesna’ trust anyone.”


Weel,” Etain looked thoughtfully at Jared with a gleam in her eye. “She does seem to have a weakness for stray animals.”


Now wait a minute, ye canna mean to change me into a wee cat?” Jared backed away from Etain; arms outstretched and hands spread in an attempt to shield himself from an attack.


Why no, Jared, but I do believe ye’ll make a verra fine dog!” Etain reached down and scratched the massive head of the large black dog now standing before her. “There now, it willna’ be so bad. Ye’ll have your regular form when Kaitla is about the house during the day. But whenever she would take leave of ye, ye’ll become this fine animal and ye can protect her. Now, off with ye, go and find the lass and make sure she likes ye this time!” With those final instructions, Etain once again took wing, returning to make a few more circuits of the garden.

~*~

Ravon angrily shattered the obsidian reflecting glass against the cheaply papered wall. “Damn it, Etain!” he cursed under his breath at the thought of the silver-haired sorceress. “Ye know I canna defeat ye unless I stand upon my own lands.” Pacing back and forth across the dimly lit room, Ravon emptied the tankard of wine then smashed it against the wall as well.

A hesitant knock at the door interrupting his tirade, Ravon ripped the door open, nearly tearing it from its hinges. “What the hell d’ye want now!” he roared at the cowering little man standing in the hallway.


Uh..well..uh, nothin’ a’tall sir. We…uh…heard a crash and some of the other tenants were a bit concerned. They thought I might come ta’ see ye were well?” stuttered the poor innkeeper.

“’
Tis none o’yer business how I fare. I’ve paid yer fees,” spat Ravon in contempt. “Tell the other tenants ta’ burn in hell and if they canna find the way…I’d be most happy ta’ lead them there! Now leave me and bring more wine!”

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