A Stranger in a Strange Land
“Wake up lass. Wake up.” Spoke a man’s voice softly from the warm dark void. Every word became clearer, and soon the void was gone, I found myself lying and staring at a man’s face who was only a few inches away from mine. A handsome face but that of a stranger made me back away, without thinking, from him to win some distance.
Suddenly the ground beneath my back gave away and dread made me gasp hoarsely. Rapidly a hand grabbed my wrist, and my fall halted. The cool wind whistled at my ears and looked up. “Foolish lass.” He smirked down at me before slowly pulling me up. His sky-blue eyes were fixed on mine as I had solid ground under my feet. “Watch where yer going, lass.”
The dread within me turned at that moment to anger and blinked at him bewildered. “And you should know strangers need personal space! Secondly, stop calling me lass!” I paused and crossed my arms. “So, to whom may I thank for saving me?”
He glared at me surprised before grinning at me broadly. “I am Taranis.”
“Taranis, thank you for saving me.” I gave short.
“A simple thank you for what I’ve done won’t suffice, lass.”
“My name is Ina, and if you dare think of giving you a kiss, you can forget that!”
“Even if it would save your life?” He teased.
“Your tone and smirk won’t make a difference, never.” I hissed.
“For a sweet-looking lass, you have icy words.”
“Call it harsh experience and being woken up with a stranger’s face a few inches away from mine. Pardon me if I don’t trust you.”
“Oho! Sceptical are we? Obviously, you don’t believe in Gods then.”
“What do Gods have to do with it?” I snapped. As he mentioned the word ‘Gods’, I began to have a strange feeling in my gut, and a thought passed my mind, is he a God?
He gave a peal of laughter; apparently, I am an open book and knew what went through my mind. “I thought as much! Follow me; I’ll bring you back home. This is no place for mortals.” He waved his arm as a gesture to follow and walked ahead.
Hesitantly I followed him and looked at my surroundings, but I couldn’t see much because of the thick fog.
Suddenly from the fog, I heard an animal snort. I froze in petrified fear and looked in the direction where the sound came from. Before I had the chance to call him, he was already standing beside me. He spoke to me through gestures of the hands and pointed to hide behind a couple of large rocks. Without thinking, I went there and kept peeking to see what it is. Suddenly I felt something warm and soft tickle at my ear. Slowly I dared to turn around and found myself staring at a beautiful horse. Instead of a sigh of relief, I laughed about facing a horse. Quickly I peeked over the stone and spotted Taranis speaking with a pretty woman. She has long raven-black hair and beside her stood a beautiful dapple-grey horse with a long snow-white mane. The horse beside me started to play with my hair. I smiled and stroked it gently. Soon it began to nod its head and kept turning to its back. Gently it took me by the sleeve with its teeth and led it to its back. “To ride?” I whispered cautiously, knowing no normal horse would do that. It nodded to my question. Carefully I mounted up, and before I was sitting comfortably, it went off in a quick trot towards an unknown direction. The sudden motion made me gasp aloud and hoarsely.
“What’s this, I see? Loisir, what is it with this human?” Asked a woman’s voice softly.
I found myself staring at her.
“Epona, you must promise to tell no one of this. I found her here. How she came here is unknown, but I’ll get to the bottom of this.” Hissed Taranis concerned to Epona.
Wait! Taranis and Epona? They-they are Celtic Gods. How is that possible? I blinked to the thought while staring at them.
“There is nothing to be afraid of, lass. We mean you no harm. Apparently, Loisir likes you very much. He is otherwise shy to newcomers, especially humans.”
“Loisir?” I wondered.
Epona nodded with a warming grin.
“Her name’s Ina, and she says she’s a woman, not a lass.” Whispered Taranis to Epona with a smirk.
I rolled my eyes to his notion.
“Ina, what a beautiful name to a beautiful woman. And I understand Taranis’ perspective. You are human, a mortal and only Gods can enter this realm. How did you get here?”
“I’m just as surprised as you are. I woke up in this place with his face this close to mine.” I held up my hand to show the distance of how close his face was to mine.
“That is Taranis, alright.” Epona smiled.
“Epona.” Gave Taranis annoyed.
Loisir neighed as if he were laughing. I laughed along.
Epona turned to Taranis. “Then you know what must be done. Bring her safely home.”
He sighed and gave an agreeable nod.
“It was a pleasure to meet you, Ina.” Bid Epona with a warming smile.
“It was a pleasure meeting you, Epona, goddess of the horses,” I noted as I dismounted from Loisir. “You too, Loisir.” I patted at his neck.
With Taranis, we marched through the thick fog and kept close to him to avoid getting lost. I’ve learned now two important points, one those people are definitely Gods and two I’m very far from home.
I don’t know how long Taranis and I walked through the thick fog, but it felt like an eternity as it finally dissolved and found ourselves in the midst of a large forest. It was dark as the night, and a full moon shone on the clear starry sky.
Suddenly all the colours before my eyes turned to black and white, and the sound beneath my feet became silent as if I was going deaf and colour blind. I blinked hoping it’s just a trick in my mind. “What’s happened?” I asked, hoping Taranis hears me.
“Apparently we’re not alone. Someone sent us to travel back in time. Without a doubt, this the right location but not the time.” Explained Taranis on edge while his blue eyes searched the environment.
“What?” I gave surprised and spotted an owl flying, but it froze in mid-air like in a movie someone pressed the pause button. “Time travelling is possible among the Celtic Gods?”
“There are many things you mortals don’t know, except a few druids.”
Suddenly a chuckle of a man’s voice sounded nearby. From among the trees stepped out a dark figure. “Looks like you’ve lost your way.”
“Rudianos, what is this?” Taranis stepped in front of me with an angered expression while facing the figure.
“I could ask you the same, Taranis.” Rudianos smiled, his glance wandered from Taranis to me. A shudder went down my spine as our glances met.
“I’m bringing her back home where she belongs, among her kind.”
“Her kind? How can you be sure that she is no goddess, besides one as beautiful as her?” Laughed Rudianos.
Taranis sprinted at him and attacked with his electric wheel that he quickly conjured up. Rudianos parried Taranis’ attack with a mighty sword.
“So that’s what it is!” Sniggered Rudianos. “Then I must say you have good taste.” He laughed and pushed Taranis aside in rapid speed. Before I knew what was happening, he stood suddenly beside me with a devilish smile. His skin was nearly as pale as the moon and had long dark hair that reached to his elbows. “You must be related fore no mortal can possess such beauty, nor courage.”
I took a step back to win distance from him and before he could touch my face. I glared at him. “I am human. I don’t belong here.”
He took a step closer to me. His cold grey eyes were focused on mine while I kept my ground.
“Leave her be!” Roared Taranis and charged at Rudianos.
Rudianos jumped back, but before he did, he pushed me out of harm’s way from Taranis’ attack. Rudianos gave an amused chuckled. “Still throwing about the old wheel? You know as well as I that it won’t help. I am time itself and can move quicker than anything else.” Suddenly he stood beside me with his hands folded behind his back and smirked at me.
I blinked to his sudden appearance. “Why are you convinced that I am one of the Gods?” I wondered sceptically and felt how my fear turned to anger; his smirk is ticking me off. “Just because of what you call beauty?”
Rudianos sniggered. “That is not all, òigh (milady). Not only have humans an aura, but we Gods have it too, and they are different. Some druids had it similar to that, and that means only one thing. It flows in your blood.” He whispered the last sentence to my ear. “Perhaps you have already noticed that you’ve always been different than the others among your kin. Different such as having one or two special abilities that are actually impossible. Those are the traits of a God.”
“How dare you let her imagine such things! She only wants to go home and nothing more. Unless you were the one who brought her here in the first place.” Frowned Taranis angered.
“Yes, it was me. I’ve kept an eye on her in case the time would come-”
Taranis attacked Rudianos swiftly with a firm fist to his head which Rudianos parried it with his hands. Soon Taranis pushed him to the ground and placed his hands around Rudianos’ neck. “How dare you! And you call yourself a God? She could have continued the life she had, but all thanks to you, she can’t. She now knows too much!” Bellowed Taranis furiously.
“She always knew much! She-she can foresee the future.” Coughed Rudianos and looked over to me while gripping on Taranis’ hands, trying to liberate himself.
Bewildered Taranis turns to me with a questioning gaze. Wondering what Rudianos said is true. I hesitantly nodded while biting my lower lip in shame. How did he know that? Foreseeing the future is my deepest secret that I told no one.
Taranis turned back to Rudianos. “Don’t tell me you are her ancestor? Have you lost it?” He shouted.
“You know as well as I, other Gods did it too.”
Taranis shook his head and sighed. “Why this approach? Why are you letting Ina know of all this?”
“I’m giving her a choice.” Gave Rudianos calmly. His voice sounds now different than before.
Taranis grunted in anger and punched his nose firmly. “A choice! What choice? Now she has additional concerns to look out for since being a descendent of a God!”
Rudianos laughed as blood dripped from his nose. “For an arrogant fool, you care for her greatly. You love her, don’t you?”
Taranis threw a glance to me and then back to him. “Caring for someone doesn’t always mean love.” He hissed.
“But there is something nevertheless; you needn’t hiding it from me. Above all, I am not your foe. The reason why I opened the time travel is for her safety, danger is nearing in on her.”
Taranis grabbed him by the collar and pulled him closer. “What are you talking about?”
“Efnisien is after her. He’s noticed her gift and intends to keep it for himself.”
“Efnisien? I thought he’s dead after what happened. You’re lying!” Remarked Taranis.
“I wish it were so.” Gave Rudianos gravely.
Taranis fell speechless and lets Rudianos go. Rudianos slowly sits up and wipes away the blood from his nose with the back of his hand.
Slowly I found the courage to approach him. He looked up to me with a wondering gaze; his grey eyes weren’t cold. Hesitantly I handed him a tissue.
“Thank you.” He thanked with a soft voice and a warming smile.
I blinked surprised to his other side of personality. “Is-is it true what you said? Am I related to you? Do I have the genes of a God?”
Rudianos sighed as he stood up. “Everything that I said is the truth.”
“Then what about Efnisien? How can I finish him?” Asked Taranis sternly.
“Who is this Efnisien? Why is he after me?” I wondered.
“Efnisien is the God of malice, and you do not want to meet him in person. Whatever his intentions are, he’s up to no good.” Explained Taranis gravely.
“What he says is true. He’s noticed your gifts and intends to put them into evil use.”
“If he’s a God, what powers does he have?” I asked.
“He can make himself invisible.” Noted Taranis while stroking his short beard and looking up. “Otherwise, cunning, manipulative and can cover up lies as well as twist words and their meaning.”
“Ina, surely you’ve noticed further gifts than just foreseeing the future?” Rudianos turned to me. His grey eyes shone with concern. I shook my head.
“We should keep going unless we want to be sitting ducks to Efnisien.” Suggested Taranis gravely and walked ahead.
As we all walked on, there was a heavy, uncomfortable silence in the air, especially when all is dark from the night in this forest. Do the two Gods hate each other, or did I miss something? Rudianos walked beside me; he’s an interesting character. Appearing at first glance evil but once you get to know him, he’s okay. He was trying to protect me. I am aware not all Gods do that, and maybe that explains why I never felt alone although I was an only child. After a long time walking I spotted the sun rising in the horizon, all the colours have returned and heard the birds sing up in the trees. Time is moving again.
“I haven’t properly introduced myself. I am Rudianos, the God of time.” He introduced. “And that’s Taranis, the God of lightning and thunder.”
“I’m Ina.” I gave shyly. He gave the nod and saw in his eyes that he knew my name already. “How long have you been keeping an eye on me?”
He stared at me, surprised for a moment. “I’ve kept an eye before your time. I’ve watched many of your ancestors from your mother’s side.”
That explains many things, and I was wondering if there is a bloodline inheriting special gifts. My mother has a different gift, but she denies having it although I’ve seen proof. Rudianos’ musical laughter cut my train of thoughts. “Why so silent? I was kind of expecting you are shooting at me a million questions regarding what your ancestors did.”
“I do have questions, but my mind was elsewhere.”
“Following the bloodline of the gift?” Wondered Rudianos.
I nodded and looked at my new surrounding. It was a rare beauty of untouched nature, growing wild and free. Suddenly I spotted a large dark figure among the trees, sprinting at a far distance. I gasped surprised at it stopped and hid behind a tree.
“What is it?” Wondered Rudianos concerned and followed my glance.
“There-there is a huge figure behind that tree.” I stuttered and pointed out with a trembling hand.
Without hesitation, Rudianos paced off in the direction I pointed while Taranis stepped closer to me and his eyes scanned carefully.
“Come out. We mean you no harm.” Called out Rudianos. Suddenly the figure sprinted off between the trees. “Stop!” He shouted and went after it.
Suddenly I heard a branch crack behind Taranis and me. We turned and faced a figure that nearly has twice the height of Taranis. It was a large faun; its dark eyes were nearly black and fixed on me. Its face and upper torso was human but had the legs of a ram. Along with the round horns, long ears and flat nose. Over his entire body grew dark hair, at the most at the legs, below the belly-button, his back and head. There was a bit of hair on his arms, but the rest was clean-shaven, especially at the face and jaw, which made him look younger and more human. “Ní bhaineann tú anseo.” He pointed with a finger at me. I blinked confused about what he said. I think it’s Celtic or Gaelic?
“You don’t belong here.” It repeated with a soft voice that sounded mesmerizing.
“Rudianos brought us here.” Stepped in Taranis, showing no hint of fear.
An annoyed sigh from behind me made me turn and saw Rudianos approaching us but soon began to smile and raise his arms as if to greet the large faun. “Celdecc, it’s been a while, my old friend.”
“What are you doing here, Rudianos? I sensed your magic nearby but not only your’s.” Celdecc turns to me. “I sensed your magic the most.”
“Celdecc, this is Ina. A mortal and a part of my blood.” He introduced.
Celdecc nodded with a warming grin and slowly walked around me to inspect. “I’ve never seen a mortal so close, especially one with magic in their veins.”
His body towering me made me uneasy, but something told me I was safe, and he means no harm. Over time I mustered my courage to move and was curious to know how soft his ears could be, I reached out a hand. Without hesitation, Celdecc stepped closer and let my hand touch his flat nose. Our glances met. “You’re different than the others I saw.”
“What do you mean?”
“Mortals are aggressive in nature but not you. You’re kind and gentle.” He tilted his head while inspecting my hand and taking it carefully on to his to compare the size.
I smiled. “And I see for the first time a faun, never would have thought your kind are so large.”
“He may be large, but he is different among his kind, he enjoys doing research instead of fighting.” Noted Rudianos.
“What a wonderful trait to have.” I smiled up to Celdecc. The moment I said those words, his dark almond-shaped eyes shimmered with joy and comfort. Yet I sensed pain and sadness as if among his kin they sort him for an odd-ball and ignore him. I know that feeling all too well from my time in school.
Taranis cleared his throat. “Ina is here because Efnisien is after her.”
“What!” Exclaimed Celdecc shocked. “Efnisien is alive? It would explain why he is after her.” He turns to me. “You’re magic is unique and as strong as Merlin’s was.”
Taranis and Rudianos stared speechless at Celdecc wide-eyed.
“Did-did Merlin really exist?” I wondered.