For the past week, Gortaithe had not been himself. He was restless and jumpy. He kept barking into the empty night even though Maria assured him that everything was fine and, when that didn’t work, commanded him to be quiet. When they walked in the laneways, he wouldn’t relax. He alternated between pulling on the lead and hiding behind Maria. Today was no different. A truck backfired and he pulled so hard that Maria had to let go of the lead or fall over. Worse, he then ran off.
What on earth is he doing? thought Maria. She ran after him. She heard growling and snarling up ahead. The truck backfired again and then all was quiet.
Maria ran to Gortaithe. “Oh my God,” she shouted, “no, no.” He was lying in the laneway; soaked in blood, lifeless. Standing over him was Galahad, also, streaked with blood. Maria couldn’t understand what had happened but, right now, all that mattered was getting help for Gortaithe.
“It’s too late,” said Galahad. “He has gone.”
“No,” insisted Maria. “He can’t go. It’s a mistake.” Maria went white. “Bring him back,” she demanded of Galahad. “Bring him back,” she screamed. Gortaithe and Galahad disappeared and all that remained was the warm blood spread over the cobblestones.
Maria ran up and down the laneways calling Gortaithe. Perhaps, she had imagined the whole thing. The laneways were empty. When Maria got home, she rang the council and lost dogs home in case someone found him. She went into the laneways again. It was getting dark. She had to go home. She closed the curtains, sat on the lounge, and didn’t move all night. Sudden loss has a way of immobilizing us.
Maria stirred on the lounge. Someone was at the door. I must have fallen asleep. The doorbell rang again. Perhaps, news of Gortaithe.
“Erdo!” said Maria. It was Erdo Kapus from the Leleks. Erdo reached out to Maria and hugged her. She clung to him and cried, “It’s my dog. I’m afraid he has been killed.” Maria first visited Erdo, her mystic teacher, when she was eighteen. She saw him a lot in those first few years but less so once she moved to the back hills into Charlie’s shed. She had not seen him at all in her two years in Eraldus.
“I know,” said Erdo. “That is why I have come. Let me come in. I have brought you some food from my garden.” Erdo’s food was not just nourishment for the body. It had healing properties. Nevertheless, Maria hesitated.
“Oh, I can’t eat,” said Maria. Erdo ignored her and walked to the kitchen as if he knew the house well.
“The dear old house hasn’t changed that much since your great aunt Rose lived here,” said Erdo. “It got a little run down in her later years but I see you are doing a fine job of fixing it up again.”
“You knew my great aunt?” Maria was surprised.
“Of course. We all had a crush on her but she loved us all the same. Once, I almost convinced her to come back with me to the Leleks but, in the end, she said that it was unnecessary. I tried to tell her that I thought it was necessary but Rose was not the sort of woman one contradicts.” Erdo laughed affectionately. There were many questions that sprang into Maria’s mind but Erdo busied himself with putting the kettle on. He then put a vegetable pie in the oven.
“Galahad did not kill Gortaithe,” said Erdo. “I know you are remembering that Galahad warned Gortaithe not to cross him but that was just a harmless warning.” He pulled out some homemade biscuits from his bag. “We’ll have these with our tea,” he said. “It was Rose’s sister, Evanora, who killed him. She has been lately walking up and down the laneways here in Eraldus. Gortaithe would have sensed her looming presence.”
“Yes, he had been acting strangely for a week,” said Maria.
“Gortaithe ran into Evanora in the laneway and lunged at her,” said Erdo. “Evanora shot him. Galahad came as quickly as he could but he was not fast enough. Gortaithe died instantly and Evanora disappeared back into the Shadowland. Because Gortaithe died protecting you, Galahad was allowed to take him back to the North Country.”
“Is he in the North Country now,” asked Maria excitedly, “with the wolf pack?”
“Yes, he is.”
Maria was thrilled. He will love it there and he will be free. Another thought crossed her mind. He can visit me in the laneways like Galahad does. Galahad often brings some of the male pack.
“No, he cannot come,” said Erdo reading Maria’s mind. “He has much training to do. He cannot move between dimensions. It is a learned skill. Also, Gortaithe’s pull to this world will be strong for some time yet. His attachment to you and his belief in this reality would make it difficult for him to leave this dimension. However, he would not be able to stay here. He would end up in the middle of the dimensions. He would be stuck in the dividing line.”
Erdo suddenly changed the topic and chatted, instead, about his recent forest visitors/students. He then got up and indicated it was time to leave. As he walked to the door he said, “Gortaithe is not the only one whose path is changing.” Maria looked at him. With that, he was gone.