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Authors: Jodi McIsaac

Into the Fire (10 page)

BOOK: Into the Fire
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Deaglán waved his hand impatiently. “I, for one, have confidence in the Lia Fáil’s ability to prove who is worthy to be the ruler of our land and people.” He gave Cedar a withering look. “No one is expecting you to succeed. But some believe we owe it to your parents to give you a chance to prove yourself. You have one week.”

One week
?” Cedar asked, aghast. “To find a stone that has been lost for centuries?”

No one answered. They all watched her silently, awaiting her answer. She lifted her chin. “All right,” she said. “I found my daughter against impossible odds. Now I will find the Lia Fáil.”

Finn was waiting for her outside the Hall. He swept her up into a tight hug as soon as he saw her. “You were amazing,” he said. She arched an eyebrow at him.

“Were you eavesdropping?” she asked, and he nodded sheepishly.

“Butterfly,” he said. “Yellow wings. Behind Deaglán’s left shoulder. I was tempted to leave a few droppings on his robe but was worried that he might crush me.”

Cedar laughed. “I’m glad you were there; you can help me make sense of all this.”

Finn’s eyes were glowing. “You should be proud of yourself. They threw you a real curveball, and you handled it beautifully. I think Sorcha and Deaglán were hoping you’d just give up right then and there.”

“What do they have against me anyway?” Cedar asked as they walked back toward their home.

“They seem to have something against pretty much everyone,” he answered. “I’m sure they’d both love to rule, but members of the Council aren’t allowed to put themselves forward. My father says that Sorcha was a big Lorcan apologist in the early days. Of course, now she’s claiming that he threatened her into submission, but I doubt that’s what really happened. Deaglán’s always played his cards close to his chest, and I’m not sure what his game is here. Maybe it’s simple prejudice. It’s hard for them to accept that you’re one of them and that you killed Lorcan when no one else could.”

“Do you think I can do it?”

“I told you, I think you’d be an excellent queen. And if you have what it takes to be queen, you definitely have what it takes to find the Lia Fáil.”

Feeling heartened by his words, Cedar picked up the pace. She had expected to find the common room empty when she arrived back home. But her friends and family had gathered to hear what the Council had had to say. Rohan and Felix stood in a corner of the room, talking in low voices. Molly was reading a book to Eden on a long chaise longue draped in velvet while Riona looked on, and Nevan and Seisyll were chatting animatedly while sipping steaming mugs of tea. Seisyll was the first to see them enter, and she rushed over to Cedar.

“Cedar,” she said, grabbing at her hands. “I am so very sorry about what happened this morning. One minute she was there, and the next she was gone. She closed the sidh the second she was through, or I would have followed her. I accept full responsibility—I
should have been more vigilant when entrusted with the care of a sidh-child.”

Cedar smiled wanly. “It’s okay,” she said. “Nothing bad happened. It’s not the first time she’s pulled something like that.”

Seisyll smiled at her gratefully and then asked the question on everyone’s lips. “So? What did the Council want?”

Cedar breathed out and looked around at all the expectant faces that were turned toward her like flowers to the sun. “They want me to find the Lia Fáil.”

There was a moment of stunned silence, then Nevan said, “You’ve got to be kidding.” She looked at Finn. “She’s kidding, right?”

Finn shook his head. “I’m afraid not. They said she needs to prove herself worthy of the throne by finding the Lia Fáil and bringing it back. If she fails, they will give Nuala the crown.”

“And I only have a week to do it. So… anyone know where it is?” Cedar asked, not expecting an answer. She was starting to feel slightly panicked, but she pushed the feelings down. Panic would not help her find the stone.

“There are several theories, of course…,” Nevan said, trailing off. “But I don’t think anyone’s even looked for it in, well, centuries. We’ve all just assumed it was lost forever.”

“Well, what are some of the theories? Where was it last seen?” Cedar asked.

They all looked at one another, and then Riona said tentatively, “I heard that the human warrior Conn found it after it had been missing for quite a long time. He stepped on it by accident, and it roared.”

“But didn’t he break it in two when it failed to roar for Lugiad?” Nevan said.

“No, that was Cúchulainn, Lug’s boy, way before Conn’s time. And I don’t think it broke—I think it just stopped working,” Felix said. “They say it never roared again, except that once for Conn,
which happened hundreds of years later. I assume that’s why it got lost. It could no longer identify the true king, so it was just treated like any other ceremonial stone.”

“When did all of this happen?” Cedar asked. “How long ago?”

There was another uncomfortable silence. “Um… I think it was before your race—the humans, I mean—started recording history,” Nevan said, an apologetic look on her face. “I’m sorry, Cedar. It’s just been so long since any of us have even thought about the Lia Fáil. The druids were always obsessive about history, not us. I’m afraid we’re not going to be very helpful.”

Then Finn spoke up. “The humans have some more recent stories about it. I did some research on it while we were on Ériu. I was curious to find out what the humans knew about our race. Some of it is… interesting, to say the least. Humans have a way of creating their own version of history based on their beliefs about the world.

“Some scholars believe the stone was used as a pillow by a man named Jacob, who was a great leader of a race called the Israelites. They say it gave him a vision, and he went on to found a new religion. Some believe it was taken and hidden in the monastery at Iona. Another theory states that it’s the standing stone that still crowns the Hill of Tara.”

“Where’s that?” Cedar asked.

Finn shook his head. “County Meath in Ireland. It’s the coronation site for the ancient Irish kings. But I’ve been to Tara in recent years and have touched the stone. If it was the real Lia Fáil, it would have grown warm at my touch.

“Then there is the Stone of Scone, which rings of truth, but seems… too easy.”

Cedar waited for him to elaborated, and noticed that Eden was hanging on Finn’s every word. A historian in the making, she thought.

“The story goes that the Lia Fáil was last used for the coronation of Murtagh mac Erc, the High King of Ireland, about fifteen
hundred years ago,” Finn continued. “Then he loaned it to his brother, Fergus the Great, who was being crowned King of Alba, or Scotland as it’s now known. But shortly after his coronation, Fergus and all of his inner circle were killed in a storm off the coast of Antrim. So the stone was never returned. Instead, it stayed in Scone, which was the seat of the High Kings of Scotland at that time. It was used there in coronations until King Edward I of England conquered Scotland in 1296 and took the stone back with him to Westminster Abbey, where it has been used in coronations ever since.”

“Is it still there? At Westminster Abbey?” Cedar asked. Maybe this wouldn’t be so difficult after all.

“No,” Finn replied. “It was stolen by a group of students a few years ago, and they returned it to Scotland. They got caught, and the stone was taken back to the English. But then the queen gave it back to the Scottish in a symbolic gesture, and it’s now in Edinburgh Castle.”

“Then that seems like a good place to start, doesn’t it?” Cedar asked, not sure why Finn didn’t seem more excited.

“It’s just that the likelihood of it being the real Lia Fáil is slim to none,” he said apologetically. “It’s changed hands so many times; it’s extremely likely that at least one copy was made, if not several. Who knows where the real stone is? It may be at the bottom of the sea with Fergus and his men. Or perhaps Murtagh sent Fergus a copy. Or maybe the monks at Scone gave Edward a fake. Even if they didn’t, the chances that the real Stone of Scone was just sitting around in Westminster Abbey all this time are extremely rare. It’s quite possible it’s locked in a vault somewhere in a government facility or museum. There’s no way to tell where the real stone is, I’m afraid.”

Cedar was getting frustrated. “Well, we’re not going to find it by standing around here talking,” she said. “The first thing we
have to do is go back to Earth.” She felt a moment’s hesitation as she looked at Finn, who was staring intently at Eden. She’d assumed he would come with her, but now she wasn’t so sure. Would he want to stay in Tír na nÓg with Eden?

“We’ll have to bring Eden with us,” he said, and Cedar felt a wave of relief. “We’ll need her to create sidhe for us so that we can travel quickly.” Cedar hadn’t thought about that, but he was right. If they only had a week they’d need to move as quickly as possible.

“We should all go with you!” Molly exclaimed. “The more of us who search for it, the faster we’ll find it!”

Finn shook his head. “No, I think it should just be the three of us,” he said. “It’ll be too conspicuous for a big group of people to appear out of thin air. And I don’t want to leave Nuala here on the loose. You need to stay and keep an eye on her in case she tries to take over while we’re gone.”

“Not so fast,” Felix said, running a hand distractedly through his blond hair. “You have no idea what you’ll find, or what you’ll be up against. Finn, you’ve got a little girl to look after, and, well… no offense, Cedar, but you’re still kind of, you know, human when it comes to strength and all of that. And if any of you are injured, my healing power will be useful. Everyone else should stay here, but I should come with you.”

Finn started to protest, but Cedar said, “Thanks, Felix.” She was glad he’d be coming with them. The more help they had the better, she thought, and if they did run into trouble, Felix could always bring Eden back to safety.

“Make sure you take the starstone,” Riona said. “That way you can keep us updated on your progress, and we can let you know what happens here on our end.”

“We should leave a sidh open for you,” Finn said. “I don’t like leaving you here with no way out, just in case things go… wrong. We don’t know what game Nuala is playing.”

“But what if she follows us through?” Cedar asked.

“I don’t think we have to worry about that,” Rohan said in his deep voice. “Eden’s the only one who can open the sidhe, and she, Finn, and I are the only ones who can close them. I don’t think she’d risk being trapped on Ériu. But there’s no need to leave a sidh open. We’re not going anywhere. Besides, we can contact you through the starstone if we need you to open one.”

Cedar nodded. “Okay, if you’re sure.”

They all looked grim, no doubt remembering the years they’d spent searching for Brogan’s hidden sidh as they evaded Lorcan. She hoped they wouldn’t need such an escape this time.

Cedar said good-bye to Nevan and Seisyll, both of whom wished her luck and hugged her for just a little too long. Then she followed Finn, Eden, Riona, Rohan, and Felix into the house’s willow-lined courtyard.

“We’ll grab a few things from our room and open the sidh from there,” Cedar told Riona and Rohan, gesturing to the door that led to the room she and Finn shared. Riona nodded and hugged her close. “Good luck, dear.”

Cedar opened the door and held it ajar as Finn, Eden, and Felix entered. Then she waved at Riona and Rohan one last time and closed it behind her.

“Are we really going back?” Eden asked as they walked through the field of poppies.

“Yes, honey, but just for a little while. Your father and I need your help. There’s something we need to find—”

“The Lia Fáil,” Eden interrupted.

“That’s right,” Cedar said. “And we don’t know where it is, so we’ll need to look in a lot of different places. That’s where you come in.”

Eden nodded seriously. “I can help by opening the sidhe for us to go through.”

“Think of it as a big scavenger hunt,” Cedar said, keeping her tone light. If Eden saw this as a game, maybe she wouldn’t mind being dragged all around the British Isles quite so much.

“Where do you want to go first?” Eden asked.

“Well, I think we should start by going home,” Cedar said. “Our old home. An Internet connection would come in handy, and I can pick up my tablet to take with us in case we need to look up maps or pictures of where we need to go. Are you ready?” she asked as they approached the pond.

“Just a minute, I want to say good-bye to the fishies,” Eden said, running over to look into the water. Felix followed her, and she started showing him her favorites.

Finn pulled Cedar in for an embrace as they watched them. “Ready to save the world?” he asked.

“Always,” she said. She could feel the adrenaline pulsing through her veins. “But first, I want to change back into my jeans.” She walked into her walk-in wardrobe and found her jeans and shirt toward the back, where they had somehow hung themselves up. When she emerged, the others were standing in a small group.

“I’m done saying good-bye,” Eden said. “Where should we go? The kitchen?”

“It’s as good a place as any,” Cedar said. “I hope Jane’s not walking around naked or something.”

BOOK: Into the Fire
11.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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