Animal noises started and this world started to seem alive, more alive than it had ever been since I’d arrived.
I followed the ditch as it followed the path I was meant to be on. And I followed it, and followed it, and followed it.
I checked the map; I should have arrived at the hill already, hours ago. The distance between where I’d hid from the Dark Army and Fairymount had only been six or seven miles, max.
Even on the most arduous yomps during Army training I’d always covered twice as much ground in less time. The scenery hadn’t changed one iota. Everything was the bloody same.
I dropped down onto the side of the ditch. I needed to have a drink and collect my thoughts. Things weren’t adding up. I took the flask from my satchel, unscrewed the lid and took a huge swig. There was nothing to have. I’d finished it. This was not a good situation to be in; a person could operate without food for a while, but without water they’d be dead very soon.
I needed to replenish the flask. Looking over my shoulder into the vegetation behind me, multiple shrubs and small trees, I got the feeling that deeper into the maze of plants there existed a small stream or something – the dense vegetation had to be fed somehow.
I got up and started to push my way through. After a few minutes the shrubbery thinned and I came across a stream with a shallow on my side.
The main body of water rippled by, and I knelt to fill my flask from the still waters of the shallow.
As I bent over the glass-like pool I caught a glimpse of my surroundings in the reflection. An image that should mirror everything that was behind and around me. But this was not the case – the reflection showed an entirely different surrounding.
On the surface of the still water, my head was as plain as day. But behind me, replacing the thick shrubbery, was a huge grass covered hill.
I turned around – shrubs. I turned back to the mirror water – hill. Needs were must and I filled my flask, filtering it as Jacob had instructed me, and waited for the waters to calm again after my intrusion.
They stilled and the hill remained whilst I looked at the water mirror. But when I turned the hill ceased and the shrubs regaled.
I needed to reach the Queen on the hill, but the hill only existed in reflection, not in the reality of this world, as far as I could tell.
I wished Jacob were here. He would know what to do. Then I remembered the Penduliflora, the Whispering Bells. I reached into my satchel and pulled out the container. The plant stems were plain to see but I knew I needed to do something with them, before I could contact Jacob.
I struggled to remember. I was tired. I’d been in this place sometime and had not yet rested. Nor could I, I reminded myself. Time was critical.
What was it? I relaxed. I knew getting stressed would only push the knowledge further from my grasp.
I tried to remember Jacob’s little rhyme.
A flat stone, for the stem to hone,
A wet leaf for the mix to breathe.
There was more but it’d gone. The only thing I could do was find a flat stone and wet a leaf and hope my memory would return, very soon.
I sat on the bank next to the stream and looked at the objects. There they were – a flat stone and a wet leaf – what next? I ran what I could remember of the rhyme through my mind.
The rhyme wasn’t just about collecting the leaf and the stone. I needed to do something with them. If only I’d listened to the whole thing instead of interpreting it.
I took a stem of Penduliflora and started rubbing its stem on the stone. Small pieces of the plant broke from the stem peppering the stone. I took the leaf I’d soaked in the stream and pushed it onto the stone with my fingertips, covering the small pieces and rubbed the leaf back and forward, then waited.
Nothing! Surely something had gone wrong. I wracked my brains to remember what else I should be doing.
Something itched my ear and unthinking I scratched it with my forefinger and in that instant I heard Jacob’s voice, loud and clear.
I don’t know what the rest of the rhyme was meant to be but I now recalled Jacob telling me to rub the mix behind my ear if I needed to contact him.
I loaded up my finger and placed the mix behind my ear. Then, looking like some kind of CIA agent, I started talking to my wrist.
“Jacob, can you hear me?”
“Lad! You’re OK! Have you got to the Conversion yet?”
“Yes, lad. The Conversion. It’s on the way.”
“Jacob, I got there days ago. I’m past the Conversion.”
“Sorry, son, my memory fails me. Time in the Other Realm is faster than your world.”
“It’s only been half an hour here, lad.”
I couldn’t believe it; half an hour equalling what seemed to be a day and a half! This could be discussed later. But I did need some vital information to get me closer to my goal.
“Jacob, I’m stuck. Something is stopping me from reaching Mullach na Sidhe. I can see it in reflection, but that is all.”
“You seem to be in a similar situation that happened to me, some many years ago my lad. Don’t move from where you are. The contact through the Penduliflora will remain as long as you don’t move.” Jacob told me.
“What if I have to move?” I said.
“How much Penduliflora do you have left?”
“Don’t move, lad. Wait. I need to find the answer. I’ll contact you soon.”