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Authors: Jodi McIsaac

Into the Fire (3 page)

BOOK: Into the Fire
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“Good morning!” she said brightly as she walked into the kitchen, trying to mask the fluttering in her stomach. Eden waved enthusiastically, her mouth filled with toast and peanut butter. For
some reason, she was wearing a sparkly silver mitten on one hand. Jane, who had slept on the sofa, stuck out her bottom lip and took another sip of coffee.

Cedar filled her mug and then kissed Eden on the head. “Are you pretending to be Michael Jackson?” she asked, looking pointedly at the silver mitten.

“Who’s that?” Eden asked. “I’m Nuadu of the Silver Hand!”

“Who?”

“Our ancestor!” Eden exclaimed, waving her silver hand around. “His hand got cut off in a battle, so the doctor Dian Cecht gave him a silver one to wear instead. Kind of like Anakin Skywalker, except Anakin’s was black. But then Dian Cecht’s son, who was an even better doctor, gave Nuadu a new hand—a real one—and he became king. All Anakin turned into was Darth Vader.”

“Yes, I see where the comparison breaks down,” Cedar said, stifling a smile. “How are you enjoying your father’s history lessons?”

“Great!” Eden replied, her face lighting up. “Guess what else I learned? There are four magic treasures in Tír na nÓg. There’s a pot that’s always filled with food, a sword that can never be beaten, a spear that never misses, and a big stone that roars.”

“A stone that roars? That seems like an odd treasure,” Cedar remarked over the rim of her coffee cup, one eyebrow raised.

“They’re not all in Tír na nÓg,” Finn corrected his daughter. “Our people brought them here to Earth when we first arrived from the Four Cities, and then to Tír na nÓg when we lost the battle with the Milesians. The sword, the spear, and the cauldron are still there, but the stone was lost. It’s called the Lia Fáil, the Stone of Destiny.”

“Well, our destiny is to finish packing and head out on our own adventure,” Cedar said, ruffling Eden’s hair. “Finish your breakfast, and then go brush your teeth.”

A couple of hours later they were ready. Cedar had gone over their alibi with Jane one more time to make sure she had it straight. Eden had packed her favorite stuffed animals and books into a backpack and was wearing what she thought was her most fairylike dress.

Before his parents had returned to Tír na nÓg a couple of weeks ago, Finn had given back to his mother her half of the starstone so that they’d still be able to communicate. He activated it now and waited for her response.

Cedar was glad to hear Riona’s voice. “Are you ready?” Riona asked through the stone.

“We are,” Finn responded. “Where shall we meet you?”

There was a pause, and then Riona answered, “By the white tree, I think.”

There must have been something strange about her expression, because Finn leaned closer to the stone and asked, “Is everything okay?”

Cedar edged in to see Riona’s face. Catching sight of her, Riona gave her a nod and a small wave.

“Things are… interesting. I’d forgotten how the politics of this place can be. But I’ll explain everything when you get here.” She waved her hand again and was gone.

“Well, shall we?” Cedar asked.

Eden ran up and took her hand, squeezing it tightly. Cedar knelt down and hugged her daughter. “Remember, baby, I’m with you this time. It’s going to be such an adventure, and we’re all going to be together—you, me, and Daddy—so you don’t have to be afraid of anything.”

Cedar stood up, trying to keep her legs from shaking. Despite her encouraging words to Eden, she was more than a little nervous. The last time she’d been to Tír na nÓg, it had literally been the death of her. Eden’s experience hadn’t been much rosier—she’d been taken there against her will, like a sacrificial lamb. And Finn had fled the place when he was only twelve years old, driven out by
war and a tyrannical leader. But now they were all going back. They had changed everything about Tír na nÓg the last time they were there, and now it was home—or it very soon would be. She took a deep breath, knowing that her life would never be the same once she walked through that door.

“I’m ready,” Eden said. “The white tree.”

Cedar gave Jane another quick hug. “Be safe,” Jane whispered, her eyes filled with worry.

Eden reached out to grab the doorknob to her bedroom. They had discovered that while she had used a tree and an archway to open the sidhe in Tír na nÓg, she still needed to use a door on Earth. She closed her eyes and then pulled the door open. The air behind it shimmered, moving in waves like heat off asphalt. Through it, Cedar could make out the vague outline of a white tree with several figures gathered beneath it. Grasping Eden’s hand tightly in one hand and her small suitcase in the other, Cedar walked through the door. She sensed Finn’s presence directly behind her.

The first thing she noticed was the change in the air. It felt lighter, thinner somehow, though she could breathe just fine. She tried to remember if it had been this way the last time she’d been to Tír na nÓg, but so much had been going on that she’d hardly taken the time to notice the quality of the air. She was surprised to see that the landscape looked much as it had before—brown, dry, and barren. The grass crunched beneath her feet, and the uniform gray of the sky did little to defuse the dead atmosphere. But she barely had time to register these thoughts before she was swept into a bone-crushing hug by the most beautiful man she had ever seen. He was tall and lean, with blond hair that looked as if a woman’s hands had just been run through it. His straight nose and chiseled cheekbones provided the perfect setting for a pair of piercing blue eyes that were twinkling with mirth. She could feel the muscles rippling in his chest as he hugged her, and she hoped she wasn’t blushing. He didn’t show any signs of letting go.

“All right, Felix, let her breathe,” Finn said.

“Felix?” Cedar gasped, pulling away to get a better look at him. Gone was the old fisherman she had known, with his bushy white beard and small beady eyes. In his place stood this godlike creature, who suddenly flashed her a wide grin. “You kept your teeth!” she exclaimed. Instead of the perfect smile she’d expected to go with the rest of his gorgeous body, Felix’s grin was still punctuated by two gold teeth and one black one.

“Just for now. I wanted you to recognize me,” he said, laughing. “Damn, it’s good to see you. And you, too, little fairy,” he said, bending down to greet Eden.

“Eden, this is Felix,” Cedar explained. “He used to look like an old man, with a big white beard. But that was just a costume—a very good one. Do you remember him?” Eden nodded and smiled shyly. Felix had doted on her while he was supervising Cedar’s recovery in the days following their return from Tír na nÓg.

One day, Eden had discovered a wounded bird at the playground. She had brought it back to Felix, begging him to heal it. When he did, that had sealed the deal for Eden—she and Felix became fast friends. She had taught him how to play Go Fish, and he’d tried to teach her how to pronounce his real name, Toirdhealbhach MacDail re Deachai. It had come to no one’s surprise when they’d decided she would keep calling him Felix. He had come back to Tír na nÓg only a week ago, once he was certain that Cedar and Eden were both in perfect health.

“Why do you look so different?” Eden asked him.

“Well, when I was in Ériu, in your other world, I thought it might be fun to pretend to be someone else for a while. I don’t get to do that too much around here. But now that I’m back home, I figured I should probably look like myself.”

“You sound different too,” Eden said, looking puzzled.

“Aye, do I now, young lassie?” Felix said, putting on the heavy accent he’d adopted while living in Halifax. “Don’t worry, I’m still
the same lovable guy, just without the beard and the strange words. It was great fun, though—definitely my favorite disguise yet. Here are some other people you might not recognize at first.” He stepped aside, and a slim, graceful woman rushed forward to hug them. It was Riona, but she looked thirty years younger than when Cedar had seen her last. With her dark hair and fair skin, she could have easily passed for Cedar’s sister. Molly was there too, looking like her usual teenage self.

“Hello, Cedar. Hello, Eden,” Riona said. “It’s so good to see you. Do you recognize me, Eden? I know I don’t look like a grandma anymore, but I still am. Remember how I turned into a kitty for you?” Eden smiled and nodded. “This is Molly—she looks just the same, but I think you met her only once or twice, so you might not remember her. Molly was born in Halifax, just like you, so you’re not the only one who’s new here.”

Cedar was encouraged by Riona’s words. She hadn’t thought of it before, but the rebels had been away from Tír na nÓg for more than two decades. Some of the younger children had never seen their homeland before, and Finn and his brother, Dermot, had spent the majority of their lives away from it. Even those who had spent centuries in Tír na nÓg must have felt disoriented. So much had changed, so little was as they remembered. Cedar wasn’t the only one who felt like a stranger in this place.

Just then, she heard a loud voice call out,
Cedar! Welcome home!
Cedar spun around, looking for the source of the voice. Finn burst out laughing. “What…,” she started to ask, and then spotted a tiny figure running toward them from off in the distance. She heard the voice again.
I’m coming! Hang on!

“Nevan!” Cedar cried, realizing that the voice she’d heard had been Nevan speaking to her telepathically. In a few moments the pixie-like woman was upon them, hugging Cedar and Finn and laughing.

“I hope I didn’t scare you!” she said, out loud this time.

Cedar grinned. She had liked Nevan from the beginning. “No, I was just surprised, that’s all. I keep forgetting you can do that.”

“It’s
very
good to see you.” Nevan beamed. “And… don’t worry. We’re going to sort everything out. Hey, Eden!” Nevan knelt down so that she was at Eden’s level.

“Hi, Nevan,” Eden said, smiling.

Nevan and her partner, Sam, had been two of the last to return to Tír na nÓg after Lorcan’s downfall. Nevan had fallen in love with Cedar’s homeland and had been reluctant to leave it, especially for the gray skies of Tír na nÓg. But Sam had convinced her that they needed to play a part in their world’s renewal, and so they had returned.

Taking in Nevan’s words, Cedar frowned. “What needs sorting out?” she asked. Nevan stood up abruptly, her playful smile sliding from her face.

After a moment of silence, Riona was the one who spoke. “Eden, why don’t you show Molly what you brought from home? Are there any stuffed animals in your backpack?” she asked. Molly took the hint and knelt down beside Eden, who had already starting pulling toys and books out of her bag. Moving a few paces away, Riona signaled for the others to follow her. When they were far enough that they could speak privately, she said, “I’m sorry to have to ruin your first day here with bad news. Nuala has returned.”

“Returned,” Cedar repeated, her heart seizing. “From where?”

“From wherever she was hiding,” Riona answered. “She has presented herself to the Council and made them an offer they are finding difficult to refuse. You’ve come just in time to stop them.”

“Stop them from what?” Cedar asked.

“They’re going to make her queen.”

Cedar’s legs and lungs were burning by the time they arrived at the Hall. The great building was as imposing as ever, its twisting white spires piercing the sky, their colored banners hanging limp against the dull backdrop. She shuddered at the memory of this place. Finn put his hand on her arm as they approached the main entrance. “Just wait a moment,” he said, “and catch your breath.” He didn’t look tired at all, and Cedar was reminded of how frail—how human—she was compared to everyone else in this world.

She was baffled by Riona’s revelation. Why would the Council want to make Nuala queen? Nuala had tried to help Lorcan. She was the enemy. She must be using her power of persuasion on them, but surely the Council of the Tuatha Dé Danann would not be so easily deceived.

Riona had urged Cedar and Finn to go to the Council without delay. Finn’s father, Rohan, would be waiting for them there. In the meantime, Nevan had offered to show Eden around before bringing her to her new home, where Riona would get her settled in. Cedar had been reluctant to leave her daughter behind, but Eden had seemed perfectly happy to stay with her new friends.

BOOK: Into the Fire
13.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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