“We would be pleased to have your niece finish her senior year here in Ireland. Our courses are challenging, and accepted by Oxford as freshman credits, so I see no problem with getting through the freshman challenge exams for pre-medical courses.”
“In that case, I’ll be happy to enroll here,” Alanna said.
“You do realize you will have to take your MCAT’s when you get back to the states, and you’ll likely have to do all the major sciences as well?”
“I’m aware, I will have my calculus done though, and with the advanced courses here, I’ll have a much easier time of the other courses. It’s a strict set of courses to get into medical school, but I’m willing to put in the work to get there.” Alanna answered.
“What do you think Cardamon?” Headmaster O’Brien met the white haired healer’s deep blue eyes directly.
“We’ll continue with our studies on the weekends. Alanna is researching our family history with Father Patrick one afternoon a week, and Liam Moore is helping her with that. I won’t expect her to take on a part time job, as she’ll be very busy with what we have already put on her plate.” Cardamon’s steely stare made Alanna glad he was on her side.
“I would agree, she has enough to do to with what you have outlined. Liam Moore has a head for history. A fine lad. You couldn’t ask for a better friend.” The rotund headmaster stressed the word friend. “You will be a bit behind, as you are starting three weeks into the year, but I’m sure you will catch up easily.”
“I’m a quick study, sir.” Alanna almost snapped at him.
Why do you think I’m going to have trouble? I can feel your doubts. I’m might be a year younger than most of your seniors. I’ll be seventeen in a couple of months, and you will be another one who will eat their words. I’ll solve my problem with my dreams, and I’ll beat your damn exams and challenges too.
“I don’t doubt it.”
“I’ll start classes today then?” Alanna said.
“I’ll have your schedule for you in a few minutes. My secretary is printing it out now. She’s getting a map of the buildings for you as well. You can start as soon as you have them. Mrs. O’Malley will escort you to your first class and introduce you to your teacher.”
“Thank you, headmaster,” Cardamon said, and rose from his chair. “We’ll wait out in the main office. I’m sure you have more important things to do. We’re grateful for your quick attention.” He opened the door, and waved Alanna out ahead of him.
She felt the icy waves of distain rolling off her great uncle. It was nice to know he sensed the animosity she felt as well.
Alanna plopped down in a well worn leather waiting room chair and whispered, “Is he always such a pompous ass.”
“I haven’t had anything to do with this school since I went here and graduated almost 60 years ago. It wasn’t much different then. The headmaster was convinced most of his students would end up as ne’er-do-wells too.” Cardamon’s voice held a hint of a chuckle.
“You can go home Cardamon,” Mrs. O’Malley instructed. “And you come with me Alanna. This is the last class before lunch hour. We have an excellent café just down from the school and a couple of pubs close by as well. Including Murphy’s, so you won’t go hungry.”
Alanna followed the grandmotherly woman out into the hallway and caught a wink from a saucy blue eye. Reassured by Cardamon’s attitude, she continued beside her guide up a flight of stairs and turned right.
“This is advanced biology with an emphasis on bio-chemistry and micro-biology. I’ll introduce you and find a way to let Liam Moore know where you are. He’ll make sure you find your way through the lunch hour and back to your first afternoon class. He’s a good boy, our Liam.” She knocked on the closed door.
Alanna took a deep breath. This was going to be fun. At least she hoped it would be.
“At least I can understand what I’m hearing,” Alanna told Liam
“They might grimace at your American accent, but they understand you too. What makes you say that?”
“It took me almost three weeks of working with Chin Che before I began to understand his Chinese accent. Now that I do, I wonder why it was so hard at first. I don’t have an ear for languages like my mother and her wife do.”
“I still can’t quite believe you lucked out and have three mothers. What a strange twist of fate.”
“I paid the price though, no mother for years. I had great grandparents on both sides, but no mother. I’m still trying to adjust to this new reality.”
“Do you have a picnic packed?” Liam asked.
“You said we’d be going to the oak grove this afternoon. I’m free of homework, got it all done last night after I memorized all the ways licorice root can be used for syrups, teas, and tonics. I’m glad I have a great memory for that sort of thing.”
“The only thing I like licorice in is root beer. We don’t get it often, only when we get a stray shipment at the store. Dad is pretty strict about no soda’s. Too much sugar.”
“It’s great with hyssop root powder and a little willow bark to get a bad cough to quiet. Especially if it’s more irritation than congestion.” Alanna explained. “And yes, I have a picnic packed, with a charm to keep things cold or hot as needed. I seem to remember getting a few cans of root beer when I was in to get groceries last week. Your father said you had a real fondness for it. We have a couple of apples and some soup in a thermos and sandwiches to go with it. Cardamon said I should make sure we have enough food. And he said not to let the fairies trick me.”
“I’ve never seen a fairy there, only heard the tales.” Liam said as he tucked the picnic basket into the back of the van. He went around to the front and open the door for her and waited as she settled herself, before he closed it with a gentle snick.
“How long is the drive?” Alana asked. It felt so strange to be a passenger on the left side of a car. She reminded herself, it would harder yet if she were driving.
“We’ll be there in less than an hour as we have to go the long way around. The walk is about the same, but we would be climbing a lot of hills between here and there.” Liam said with a groan. “And it’s worse on the way back as it’s more up than down coming home.”
Liam started the van and eased into the narrow roadway between the hedges. Alanna said a quick spell for safety under her breath as he headed west across the impossibly green fields toward the castle ruins. She still hadn’t been there. Every time she thought she’d have the time something came up to keep her from exploring them. Another spot she knew would bring a trance or a dream. Maybe Samhain. Cardamon said they lit the bonfires there every year.
School was exactly what she needed to keep her head from focusing on the dreams. The subjects she was studying were relevant and fascinating, but the research at the church had proven to be a frustrating search through journals. As Father Patrick told them, he was sure there were many missing documents. They had yet to find any mention of a trial held to explain Muireanne’s fate.
As to Sir Torin, he might as well have been a figment of her imagination. Deataigh insisted his memory was correct. Inherited by each successive generation in his line, the were ingrained in his brain as truth. The cat often followed them into the archives, as they searched the oldest parchments for any hint of the knight.
“I’m going to take the crystals and put them on my desk tonight. I need to dream again,” Alanna said as they zipped up another hill barely missing the mirror on the truck that passed them.
“You don’t look as haunted as you did when I found you at the stones. I think you might be ready for another one.”
“At least you approve. I’m pretty sure Cardamon would shake his head at me for even thinking it.”
Liam spun the steering wheel deftly and turned sharply to the left into a small park. Across the field behind the outdoor tables, she could see a grove with towering oaks, the tallest and oldest in the center.
“We’ll bring the basket with us, you take it, and I’ll bring a blanket for us to sit on.” Liam said.
“I can’t wait to see your fairy hill.” Alanna smiled. She wondered if Oberon would be there.