It was cold.
Rain whipped down in stinging sheets from the sky at the whim of the gale. The angry sea churned not far below the stony outcropping, battering the rocky shore in an inky frothy fury that would crush any poor soul unfortunate enough to fall in. Lightning split the sky in a deafening crack , casting the world into blue-white harsh relief for a breathless moment. It illuminated the lone slender figure standing at the very edge of the rock in the shadow of Kópakonan . She was steadier than the statue even though the wind buffeted her body and tore mercilessly at her long black coat and loose hair. Her hair stuck to her face and neck as the rain lashed at her ghostly fair skin, catching in between her pale lips. Mossy green eyes stared unseeing out across the dark ocean as the toes of her salt-stained boots hung over the edge of the slick rock.
The Morrigan sighed and licked the salty rain water off of her lips, pulling her hand from her pocket and checking the gleaming wrist watch on her slender wrist. She decided she had some more time to waste and readjusted her soaked coat around her shoulders. Not that she even needed the coat, but it made the mortals leave her alone if she at least made the effort to look like she was dressed properly for the elements. Not that any sane human would be out in elements like this , but it was peaceful in the storm. The world of electricity grew quiet as the small village of Mikladalur hunkered down to ride out the wrath of Poseidon. Of course, the Morrigan knew he was actually somewhere off the coast of Hawaii frolicking in the surf with some unsuspecting college girl on summer vacation. There was no god at play here. Only her.
The Morrigan sighed again, breathing the salt in and tried to make out the dark loom of land across the sea, another island in the archipelago that acted as her haven. Her gaze wandered and she could see a fishing boat returning to the tiny port, the light of the cabin a candle light on the heaving surface of the bay. There had been no plan to herald the end of time spent tonight, and she reached out, sinking into the humming comfort of the magic that saturated her being. It flooded underneath her skin like slow cool water, fogging her breath and tingling at the tips of her fingers as she stretched them in front of the boat.
Be still .
A tingle of icy cold pricked at her fingertips and the waters in front of the boat calmed to a gentler swell, but only long enough for the vessel to motor its way to an empty berth and tie down. She could feel the power of the ocean fighting against her will, pulling heavily at her hand until she released it with a sigh. The storm surged again and the Morrigan went back to her quiet observing. There would be no deaths in her secluded haven this evening. The weather raged on and the Morrigan gathered her coat around her nearly an hour later, sated with her bout of solitude.
She had just stepped away from the edge when there was an ear-splitting crack of thunder and the ley line under Mikladalur lurched and twanged so strongly it brought the Morrigan to her knees. Copper flooded her tongue and restless electricity prickled her skin at the disruption. Something wasn’t right.
Something had breached the veil into the human realm.
The Morrigan swallowed against the surge of power vibrating through her chest, roiling in a heady spin as it looked for a release, and steadied herself. She turned her face to the black sky, piercing eyes unblinking against the lashing rain and breathed in steadily. There was a disturbance rippling through the stratosphere wards she had enchanted in what felt like eons ago, like a needle punching through skin. Forced through. It tugged at the corner of her attention and the Morrigan followed it, just barely catching the fiery flash of light blinking into existence high above. The storm extinguished it and she watched the black thing plummet in a dead free fall. Thankfully whatever it was was headed right for the bay and away from the homes of Mikladalur. The last thing the Morrigan wanted to do was expend the extra energy to curb the trajectory of the object. Lightning flashed low across the sky, casting the intrusion into a low relief.
It wasn’t some thing , it was some one .
Someone had punched into their world and was now hurtling towards the water in a heap.
There wasn’t anyone else in the Faroes who could take care of this intruder, it had to be her. The Morrigan grumbled a few choice words and carefully started back towards the safety rail. It had been well over two hundred years since anyone had tried to force their way into the human realm and she wasn’t about to let some idiot upset the delicate balance between the humans and the gods. She peeled her waterlogged coat off and draped it over the metal railing, and absentmindedly pulled a weave of illusion over her clothing and herself. It slid along her skin like cool silk and cloaked her from the human eye. There was a whistling and she turned just in time to see the figure plunge into the water with a deep splash a few hundred yards out past the small harbor. The Morrigan pressed her lips together in a grim line and quickly stripped out of her clothing, toeing her boots off and stuffing her stockings and underthings in her coat pockets. It would just cause extra weight and drag in the current. She left her jewelry and the heavy pendant around her neck on.
She padded back to the edge over the slick rock, ignoring the stinging heavy rain on her bare skin and breathed deep. The Morrigan pulled on the slumbering power in her being with coaxing hands and a calm mind. Cool strength bled into her veins from the well in the center of her chest and hummed tantalizingly to the surface. It felt familiar and good and she rolled her shoulders back with a grunt as energy flooded her. She shook her hands out in anticipation, feeling alert and primed, and waited for a surge of a wave to crash over the outcropping. It came a moment later in a rushing froth of foam and icy water. She let it push at her legs until it reached her knees, and then the Morrigan dove in.
It was dark.
But with a coaxing of crystalline facets, the roiling and dragging waters around her slowly lit like the basement of an old home, grey and gloomy. She swam down and out, her pale body cutting through the water like a knife. Beneath her was nothing, but she knew whoever it was had to be down there.
The pressure of the ocean bore down and finally, the sandy floor came into view. With a twist of her arms, the Morrigan righted herself and sank her feet into the bottom of the ocean between the islands. She took a moment to balance herself, and then stretched her hands out.
She reached out past her fingertips and into the dark waters, probing, feeling. Looking for that new asshole who damaged her wards. Ice cooled the back of her head and she reached further, looking for anything. The freezing feeling of her power, comfortable to her, crept down her neck and across the tops of her shoulders as she eased further out. It was one of the simplest incantations of finding, but sometimes it still felt like the wet slimy whites of a chilled egg were sliding over her skin.
There was the series of boulders. There was the old concrete barrier that had washed into the harbor twenty years prior and been carried by the current a hundred and fifty meters behind her. Wriggly sea cucumbers and brittle stars shared the space with urchins and fish. And then the tangling forest of thick kelp.
Deep within the sway of the green, something pushed against her gentle probe. But so weakly that it was nothing but a presence.
The Morrigan maintained her incantation and reeled the fan of her probe in, focusing on the intruder. She took a single steady step forward over the coarse sand and paused, her inky hair curling around her shoulders and neck in a silky cloud. The intruder didn’t move, but stayed sunken in the silt and kelp. At least they weren’t trying to flee. Perhaps they couldn’t? She set out with a purposeful step this time, the soft shushing of her feet in the sand helping keep a rhythm to the incantation spinning in her mind. She stepped into the kelp forest.
The tickling of fish swimming past her brushed against her skin as she picked her way through, careful not to tread on any of the ocean’s denizens. She had said there wouldn’t be any deaths in her haven that night, and that courtesy extended to the sea creatures in the ocean. That courtesy also extended to this intruder. If they behaved . The Morrigan hadn’t gotten this far in life to be upset by some hotshot who didn’t even try for stealth.
On she went, stepping over a pale anemone and politely slipping through spaces between kelp vines. She maintained her incantation, falling into a near meditative lull as the familiarity of the tide of magic buzzed happily under her skin. She hadn’t let it Search for a while, and it was eagerly tripping through her fingertips to work. It led her closer and closer to the unmoving intruder, nosing over them like a curious dog. They weren’t fighting back, so she let it do what it wanted.
An armored leather boot came into view from in between two root beds.
A sheen of gold-ish plate was strapped to the top of the boot, and it was unmoving. The Morrigan pulled herself reluctantly out of her comfortable lull and ended the incantation. The lacy feeling spidering across her head and shoulders faded like a comfortable shawl sliding off her skin. She let her arm relax and coaxed the still present power to pull up in a protective barrier. Her skin cooled and her body took on a barely visible iridescent shimmer. The Morrigan strode on, lowering herself into a near-crouch in case she needed to dodge quickly. The barest hint of adrenaline spiked through her chest as a matching grieve attached to the boot appeared, in the same burnished-gold. There was a fine subtle engraving of what looked like wings in the metalwork, a detail of craft that would be costly from the hands of a master. She could feel the spell work woven into the armor from nearly twenty feet away and knew that had this intruder been more present, she would have had her work cut out for her.
But something wasn’t right. She could taste blood in the water.
Cold, coppery. And foreign. Too sweet.
She didn’t like it.
The Morrigan guessed that the reason they weren’t moving was because they were injured. Or dead.
With a twitch of her fingers the kelp parted with a pulse. There was a billowing red cape, rich as a ruby, and tattered on the ends. Battle torn. The fabric swayed low and the water darkened and changed color.
The Morrigan stepped closer and looked down upon the intruder, drawing up short.
It was a woman, handsome in a conventional form, with long blonde hair and a thin straight nose. Her eyes were vividly blue, bloodshot as she stared unseeingly up towards the surface, tiny bubbles escaping her parted lips. There was a nasty cut bisecting her right brow. The rest of her golden burnished armor was just as intricately detailed, padded by leathers and a navy gambeson. A separate brighter blue tunic under a grecian-looking belted tasset of leather curled over her hips.
The golden breastplate was split.
Cracked, really, from the puncture of a blade high on the chest.
Blood, darker than the night seeped in spidery tendrils from the nasty puncture in the armor just to the right of center near the clavicle. She listened closely for a moment, blocking out the roar of the storm high above and centered herself in the pit of her chest. She listened… and picked up the faintest slow heartbeat from the intruder. Whoever she was, she was still alive. But barely. The Morrigan licked her lips and tasted the brine of the ocean as she thought for a moment. If she didn’t take this woman, her remains would most likely be found by the humans at some point and that would be difficult to explain. However, the Morrigan needed to protect her realm and the people in it, which meant that she had to take this woman. If she died, she could dispose of her body without drawing attention.
She sighed in annoyance. So much for a quiet century.
The Morrigan reached out her fingers again and let her magic pour over the form, sliding from her body with the same silky coolness of water like the calming incantation from before.
The intruder’s heart paused mid-beat and she fell into a state of temporary stasis, one that would last long enough for her to retrieve the woman’s body and attempt to treat the wound. It also acted as an induced lethargy, preventing her from lashing out if she managed to regain any strength. The Morrigan didn’t want to take any chances, she looked a bit dangerous. She stepped over the kelp roots, her toes sliding in the sand underneath the limp body of the golden armored woman, and hooked her fingers into the small space between the burnished breastplate and the belted tasset and lifted her with a heave. The Morrigan was by no means weak, she could carry a lorry if needed, but this woman was heavy . But she could manage. She settled the unconscious intruder across her shoulder with an annoyed grunt and tucked the red cape in between them for some padding, and began to turn back.
The incantations of stasis and protection easily held, thrumming powerfully through her chest. She had almost forgotten what if felt like to stretch her legs like this and it reminded her of her younger days when she often found herself calling upon it multiple times a day. She still did, but minutely. She could barely even call it that with how little she pulled upon it. Activating a reagent or imbuing a tea with restorative powers was child’s play she could do in her sleep and didn’t leave a lot of room for creativity. This, however, felt like she was sinking back home into her bones. She wondered if perhaps this new intruder would kick up her old habits again.
The Morrigan slipped out of the kelp forest and reoriented herself, peering up through the water and found Kópakonan again, the outline of the statue unmoving against the roiling sea and angry sky only visible in front of flashes of lightning. She readjusted her grip on her heavy burden and took a step, coaxing the water to become firm under her foot. It did as she bid and with careful steps, the Morrigan climbed up out of the ocean as if ascending an easy flight of stairs at an extremely shallow angle. It was easier than going straight up and struggling over the rolling surface with the extra weight of the intruder.
The chilly rain lashed against her as soon as her head broke the surface and the Morrigan immediately missed the soothing calm of the deep. She licked the salt water from her lips and stepped back up onto the rocky outcropping. Her clothing was still safely slung over the barrier and she took a few moments to set the woman down and wriggle back into most of her sopping wet clothes just so she wouldn’t have to carry anything extra. She threw her overcoat around the intruder to hide the armor and hoisted her back to her shoulders with a strained groan and made her way back on the small path up to the one road of Mikladalur.
Warm golden light filled a few windows of the closer houses settling down for the night and slipping into sleep. Not that they should have seen her, she still half-heartedly was holding up her illusion weave. She was barely to her home when a door opened nearby and an elderly woman and a small boy hustled towards a car. The Morrigan paused to watch the the woman usher her grandson into the back seat and round the car. And then surprisingly, the elderly woman looked up and startled, her hand flying to her throat and her eyes wide when she caught sight of her.
But the woman thankfully didn’t scream, she froze. The Morrigan barely picked up her mumbled pleas and she realized the woman knew who she was. What she represented . She had forgotten that those near death could see through her incantations.
“ Please just let me take him home first. Don’t take him, he’s too young-”
The Morrigan set her new charge down again and swept across the narrow road, letting her power wane for just a moment to appear in her more human form. She knew it was a risk. She knew this woman probably knew her as the elderly, blonde, single woman named Lucy who ran the tea and medicine shop. But compassion seized her and she stilled the woman’s gnarled trembling hands with her own. Her skin was warm under her icy touch and the woman sucked in a startled breath.
“Be still. It is not your time.”
The woman tried to speak again and the Morrigan shook her head. “Do not fret, daughter. You will see your great grandchildren.”
With a gentle tug, she tapped into the ley line under her feet and stretched the woman’s time a couple more years, dissolving the clot in her veins that would have taken her in her sleep the next day. She knew the woman hadn’t felt it, but the slow recognition of who this human face belonged to dawned in her expression.
“When I let go, you will not remember me.”
The Morrigan reached up and pressed the pad of pointer finger to the center of the woman’s forehead. She sent a small trickle of a new incantation into her head, an encouraging thought that she had only seen a plastic bag or perhaps a stray cat on the other side of the street.
“Go, and drive slowly.”
She let her go and sank quickly back into her illusion. The woman blinked owlishly and looked around in confusion, her fear gone in an instant. She made a face of self deprecation and slipped into her car after roughly shaking her umbrella, then started the engine and cautiously pulled off down the road south towards Húsar. The Morrigan watched her go until the red tail lights turned around the only bend on the road through Mikladalur, and then went back to the intruder.
The rest of her short journey home was uneventful and she managed to get into her back door without any trouble. She had decided on the short way back that maybe it was time to leave Mikladalur and return the store front to Tórshavn. Her store front had been in the small harbor town for a few decades now. It was time to move locations and assume a new name and look. The intruder could wait in stasis for a while yet until she could attend to her, but first the Morrigan needed to pack her shop up and move.
Freshly showered and her home settled into its new foundation in Tórshavn, the Morrigan started gathering her medical kit, materials for stitching and cleaning wounds, and clean towels. She retrieved a large aluminum tub she normally used for gathering herbs and piled everything into it. Next she double checked to see that the old latch to her shop front was locked, made sure her paperwork was ready to take to the bank and other municipal offices in the morning, hitched the tub up onto her hip as she retreated back behind the counter. The Morrigan slipped through the door in the corner and made a detour through the mudroom and into the back hallway that led to her home. The walls on either side of her were filled with jars of different herbs and spices from all over the world. An entire half of the wall to her left was only tea leaves. Her bare feet made nearly no noise on the old wooden floor, worn smooth from centuries of use and care. The Morrigan passed through the dim hallway of aromatics and earthy notes, to the warmth of firelight throwing the end of the hallway into a more welcome atmosphere.
The Morrigan rounded the corner and continued to the right into her living space, filled with incredibly comfortable furniture and two enormous bookshelves overflowing into stacks scattered around the room. She had stoked the fireplace in the living room hot, hotter than she normally let it get even on the coldest nights, and the heat made faint steam rise from her skin. She wove around the squat overstuffed armchair and ancient coffee table to her couch where she had laid the intruder on a plastic tarp. Extra towels lay soggy at the edge of the plastic where the sea water continued to drop off of the sodden woman. Her stasis spell was still thankfully in effect, and the Morrigan could feel the pending headache of the long concentration starting to prickle behind her eyes. There were remedies for headaches in due time, but first it would be most polite to try to save this woman’s life.
“Alright. Let’s see what we’re dealing with here, hmm? Hopefully I found you before it was too late.” She asked the unresponsive woman.
She moved her larger coffee table off to the side for a better work space from the couch to the fire, and began setting her supplies out. Next came the work of removing the foreign armor.
The Morrigan laid out another tarp in front of the fire and returned to the couch. The stasis incantation had stemmed the blood flow for now, but it was still a deep jewel red smeared on the woman’s chest, neck, and face. Before beginning, she looked her over, finding nicks in the metal and another nasty cut on the inside of her knee. Probably the wound that immobilized her before she was struck in the chest. She gathered her damp hair back with an olive green strip of cloth and got to work.
The armor itself wasn’t difficult to remove, the hidden clasps were similar to what she was familiar with from days past, and methodically rearranged it on the new tarp. But it was immensely heavy. Unnaturally so. The Morrigan frowned and looked closer, splaying her hands wide just above the cool metal. Through each engraving, a weave of spells crawled sluggishly. She managed to parse out a handful of protection weaves before it started to resist her, and she let it be. If this intruder survived, she’d ask her armor not to be so uptight around her.
With the armor drying in front of the roaring fire the Morrigan set about unbuckling the belts and straps of the next layers of protective gear. Without the armor she was much easier to move. The intruder was still rather dense, a couple times heavier than what she appeared to be, but now she was no trouble to shift. Just dead weight. The woman was all long limbs and sleek muscle as she started peeling the soaked leathers and clothing off of her. Scars were hard to find but there were plenty of purpling bruises. Had the woman been well, the Morrigan was sure she would be a fine display of power. She removed the last of the clothing, wiped the blood away, and patted the cold clammy skin dry gradually shifting the tarp out from under her until she laid limply on a pad of old sheets. As she rubbed at her hair she noticed that her ears had the slightest point to them, indicative to her beginning thoughts of what this woman was. But she could indulge in speculations later.
She inspected the wounds closely now with an experienced clinical eye, using a small incantation to help her keen eyes see even sharper. The cuts on the woman’s knee and brow were first, and she found them to be from a simple straight edge. There was no rank bitter scent of poison nor chilly cloying pull of dark magic, so she simply cleaned them with a sterile solution and rubbed a numbing agent on the surrounding angry skin. Next she moved to the nasty puncture on her chest.
There was something… weird about it.
It was in the soft scalloped diamond of a blade’s shape, but there was a green tinge. Not a gangrene tinge, but a tinge that pulsed in such away the small spidery capillaries under her skin lit like summer lightning bugs. The Morrigan looked closer, gently pulling the wound apart with her fingertips but she couldn’t see anything. But she knew something was in there that was hurting the intruder. She wrinkled her nose in annoyance and rose back up to her feet. This called for more than the simple suture kit she had gathered and she padded quickly from the room.
She hung an easy right and slipped into her dim bedroom. The Morrigan quickly found the rest of her tools in her medicine cabinet and returned to the intruder’s side, stopping only for a small empty vial. She knelt again this time with a pillow underneath her knees, and arranged a thin cloth around the puncture wound to catch any fluids. With her scalpel in one hand and her long nosed tweezers resting on the woman’s sternum ready to be used, the Morrigan made a quick assessment and gently pulled the wound open.
With a steady hand, she began to carefully widen the inside of the wound along the cut line of the weapon that had caused it. She didn’t cut much, just a few millimeters here and there, until finally the smallest speck of something sickly green at the deepest point was revealed. The Morrigan plucked up her tweezers and reached in, and grabbed the shard tugging it free. As soon as the strange piece of gemstone was out of the woman’s body, the odd pulsing around the wound ceased. She pursed her lips in thought. There wasn’t a natural substance on earth that acted in such a manner, though she supposed that made sense since this woman wasn’t from her realm. Still , is was-
“ Curious . I think I’ll hang onto this until you wake.” She half spoke to the unconscious woman.
The Morrigan placed the bloody mineral shard into the small vial with a delicate ting and stoppered it with a cork. She took a few more moments to disinfect and numb the puncture wound as well, and checked her over front and back one last time. Feeling confident that she had done what she could, she stretched her hands out over the woman’s chest wound and willed her magic to pour into the puncture with a will for it to close.
The intruder’s body didn’t resist. It didn’t do anything . The Morrigan’s will simply didn’t take.
She withdrew her hands and sank back onto her heels. That wasn’t good. She had hoped to try to heal the worst of it, but now things just got quite a bit trickier. She rose to her feet with a tired groan, finally starting to feel the effects of continual magic use after a long period of stagnation, and ventured back out into the shop front. The Morrigan borrowed a smaller clean mortar and pestle from the work bench, and went back to the back hallway. She began measuring different herbs into the mortar, mumbling to herself as she calculated percentages and debated restorative effects, imbuing each ingredient with a little of her power as she went. It was unsure that it would actually help aid the healing process, but it was worth a try. She didn’t have much modern medicine on hand, and she didn’t know how this other-dimensional intruder’s body would react to it. At least if the woman reacted poorly to the herbs she could take advantage of the presence of her power and nullify the paste with a few quick words.
The grinding of the pestle released the oils and fragrances, heavily earthy and medicinal on her tongue as it wafted up to her. The Morrigan plucked a few more fresher ingredients, held stasis in their jar by useful incantations, and made her way back into her living space. Soft sterile gauze was measured out and a pot of saltwater was brought to boil with a snap of her fingers. She stuck her hands in the open flame of the fire place for just a moment, frowning at the mild discomfort as she burned away the impurities in a hiss of steam. Then, after shaking her hands cool again, with sure fingers she added a little of the new saline solution to the gauze and carefully packed the woman’s chest wound. A little more clean water was added to the mortar to make a true poultice, and the Morrigan gently spread the fragrant mixture of capsaicin, ginger, burdock, and dandelion around the wound, and plastered over the mixture with plantain leaves, leaving the gauze untouched to prevent air from getting trapped in the wound. It would be a poor mistake to create a pocket for infection to fester in. She covered the entire area with fresh sterile gauze and taped it to the woman’s clammy skin. It would have to do for now.
Next the cuts on the woman’s brow and inner knee were tended to, carefully sutured shut and covered with more sterile bandages. The Morrigan started making a mental list of items she would need to get or replace in the morning as she pulled the suture thread gently through the layers of skin. If these wounds didn’t heal quickly, she would have to possibly care for this person for a while. It wasn’t particularly something she wanted to do, but she wanted answers. It would just be… mundane.
Now for the last steps before releasing the stasis incantation, the water in the lungs. The Morrigan could sense the liquid filling them, hell she could practically hear it sloshing about as she moved the woman onto her side and tugged the now empty basin closer. She may not be able to affect the intruder herself, but she could address the foreign water. With only the incantation of stasis remaining, she could feel the twinge of a tension headache. If this were to be a regular occurrence she needed to reacquaint herself with the ley line. Tomorrow would be a good time to do that.
With a deep breath and twisting pull of her chilled hands, the briny sea water burbled out of the woman’s lungs and through her parted lips. She deftly directed it down into the basin with a flick, careful not to drip any on the chest dressing. It took a couple pulls, and she knew she would have to make sure the woman’s lungs didn’t fill up with more fluid during the night and the next few days, but she got what was there.
“There now. Let’s get you something to wear…” the Morrigan murmured as she rolled her onto her back again and found the soft pajama pants and tee she had set out.
The Morrigan carefully dressed the woman, propped her up with some pillows, and laid a few heavy blankets on her. She then took the time to clean up her materials, move her furniture back to its rightful space, and put the kettle on. The deep green and gray checkered shawl on the back of the arm chair closest to the kitchen and fire and made its way around her shoulders and she sat on the coffee table. The Morrigan studied the woman for another moment steeling herself in the hope that she wouldn’t have to call upon her power again that evening, and released the last stasis incantation with a gentle prod of air into her lungs.
There was a long pause and for a moment, the Morrigan thought she had wasted her time.
And then she breathed.
But it was still a breath. And then another. Just as shallow, but she started breathing on her own with a wheeze.
The Morrigan tiredly rubbed her eyes and wandered back into the kitchen to fix a cup of tea. It was about to be a long, boring night.
A little before dawn there was a soft groan of pain from the couch. The Morrigan rose from her doze and climbed out of the overstuffed armchair closest to the fire, carefully leaving her forgotten book behind. She didn’t need to sleep, but it was a luxury she had gotten used to. She stepped around the coffee table and perched on the edge of it again. The woman’s head turned towards her just enough for the firelight to glint off impossibly blue eyes. The Morrigan could see the shimmer of something more in her irises, but she was too weak.
“Nan çæp tæ ? ” She croaked.
The Morrigan frowned and shook her head. It wasn’t often she came across a language she didn’t know.
“You’re safe here. Rest now.”
A crinkle formed between the woman’s brows in a frown and her lip trembled. A lone tear slid down her cheek and she turned her face away with a rattling breath. The Morrigan didn’t try to catch her attention again, and rose back to her feet. She banked the fire and pulled the curtains closed across the wide window in the kitchen. Before she left she placed a glass of water where the intruder could reach it without pulling too harshly at the wound on her chest. She sent a subtle probe to check on the woman’s lungs, and seeing that she was okay for the time being, stepped back.
“Call if you need anything.”
There was no response, but long slender fingers barely tightened on the blankets. Sensing that there would be no forthcoming conversation, the Morrigan gladly retreated to her bedroom to rest. This intruder wouldn't be going anywhere.
The woman did nothing but sleep for the first handful of days, fighting off fatigue and the threat of infection. The Morrigan pulled some strings with a close friend in New York and had a special delivery of medical supplies and a variety of antibiotics on her door step later that day. She also took the time to re-establish her business, running minor incantations during the day to give the illusion that she was setting up a new shop under a new name. She felt a bit cheeky, and wrote down The Mortar and Kettle on her paperwork. The Morrigan also scrawled a new name to match her new look, one that she hadn’t worn since the late 1800’s. She that allures. Moonlight . She was starting to get a bit snotty in her age but where else would she find her humor?
After a couple days of care and enough broth and simple food to make the Morrigan tired of soup she wasn’t even eating, the woman taking up space on her couch started becoming more alert. Her fever had reduced but she was still exhausted. The Morrigan could tell she was swallowing down her pride as she allowed her to help her use the toilet and to wipe her down with a damp cloth in place of a bath. She had no energy to worry about wounded pride, but she did allow her freedoms when she could. As long as she didn’t try anything funny. The wounds were also slowly closing, and the puncture was shrinking. The intruder’s face still fell pale every time she had to change the dressing but she never made a sound beyond a hissed grimace. It was either shock or more foolhardy bravery than some of the meanest warriors she had stitched up in her time. It was most likely both but she appreciated the lack of screaming.
A little over a week after being fished out of the sea, the intruder finally spoke in a tongue she could understand.
The Morrigan was perched on the edge of the coffee table again, carefully pulling the soiled gauze out of the wound with her tweezers. The woman swallowed thickly, blue eyes flat and sad.
“You should have left me to drown.”
Her voice was rough and her accent lilting, but her r consonants were curiously heavy. She sounded pathetic . The Morrigan pursed her lips and pulled the last fold of gauze free, still focusing on her task.
“Well then I wouldn’t have any answers to why you wrecked my wards.”
The woman didn’t say anything, her eyes looking blindly out in front of her.
The Morrigan bit back another dry comment and quickly finished cleaning and repacking the wound. She realized maybe she shouldn’t have been so smart, and leaned in a little closer.
“I apologize for my lack of tact, but I wasn’t lying. When you’re feeling better I would like to hear how you came to be here.”
The woman nodded mutely and the Morrigan buttoned her borrowed flannel back up. As she got up to dispose of the soiled gauze she moved the coffee table closer and made sure the woman’s water and a book were within reach. She heard a soft thank you and let her be again, this time stealing off to her bedroom for a few moments. The Morrigan retrieved her phone from her back pocket, an annoying human device that allowed her to contact her few friends without having to expend any energy, and quickly found the contact she was looking for. The call picked up after the second ring.
“ Hello, darling. I was hoping you would call soon. ” A rich, British tenor hummed into her ear.
The Morrigan chewed on her lip for a moment. “I have a woman on my couch.”
“ Oh? I thought you were over pleasures of the body.”
“I never said that.” The Morrigan rolled her eyes at his annoyingly teasing tone. “She slipped through my wards. Well,” she bobbed her head to the side even though he couldn’t see her. “-crashed through them. She’s not well.”
“ Oh. Is she why you asked for a kit? Do you need more antibiotics? I can get in touch with William in London again? ”
“No, I think she’s passed the infection. But my magic won’t touch her.”
“ Fae? ”
“Most likely. Classic power traits and minor physical characteristics. She also spoke Pictish , I haven’t heard that in lifetimes, so she must have been here at some point. Have you heard of any other breaches?”
Her friend hummed on the other end of the line in thought. “ I’ll check in with some others. See if we can figure out a possible trajectory pattern. Where exactly did she come through? ”
“Directly above the main harbor at Mikladalur. Nearly straight down.”
“ Like a rock .”
“I had to fish her out. Tasted salt water for days.”
“ How generous of you .” She could hear his smirk. “ Did you do that fancy pirates of the Caribbean skinny dip? ”
The Morrigan huffed. “Cloth would have slowed me down. It’s basic physics.”
“ Keep telling yourself that .”
“ Your favorite .”
She rolled her eyes and hoped he felt it. “I’ll try to get some information from her. Let me know if you hear anything?”
“ Of course, keep me updated. Talk to you soon. ”
The Morrigan echoed her own goodbye and hung up. For as cheeky as the man was, he was still one of the very few she was on good terms with. Reliable. She wasn’t used to having reliable people around her anymore. She hadn’t in a very long time.
The rest of her evening was uneventful. She fed the woman her simple dinner and then spent some time updating her inventory in the store front. She was finally planning to open in the next few days and she needed to make sure her stock was up to date. Eventually they both retired and they slipped back into silent interaction through the week. The intruder gradually started regaining her strength, eating more and taking short walks around the room a few minutes at a time. The Morrigan still changed her dressing on her chest every day, and the cut on her brow and inside of her knee were healing cleanly. When she could stand longer the Morrigan would catch the woman standing in the weak sunlight in front of the kitchen sink with her eyes closed, trying to soak up some sun.
In the evenings she paced like a caged animal, circling the living area, always looking at something, examining the spines on the books or the curious items above the fire place. During the day she followed the sunlight, but respectfully never lingered long in the Morrigan’s bedroom when she needed to use the bathroom. Her restless energy was becoming unbearable, and with it, her Fae magicks returned. It started as a faint glow at her fingertips, warm and deep red like embers under her skin. Like she was glowing from the inside out.
For one frightening moment, the Morrigan thought she was burning with fever when she was changing out her dressing that evening as the woman’s skin heated uncomfortably. She had just pulled the soiled gauze from the wound and was about to mention the heat when the woman inhaled sharply. Then there was a hiss, and the wound started to rapidly close before her very eyes. She watched in fascination as the tissue knit itself back together in ropey strands and pulled itself flush with a sickening squelch leaving a thin line of blood on her skin. A tendril of steam rose, smelling like burnt embers from her skin as the cut closed and glowed smooth and unblemished except for a thin silvery line. It happened in just a matter of seconds and the woman exhaled roughly and slumped back into the couch. Her face was pale and drawn, and the Morrigan nearly thought to scold her for pushing herself so quickly.
“Forgive me. It was uncomfortable.” She murmured softly, her eyes slipping closed. “I am going to rest now.”
The Morrigan sighed through her nose, gently wiped the blood from her chest, and finished checking on the inside of her knee and discovered it had closed as well. “I would have appreciated a warning first.”
The woman mumbled another apology and slipped into a doze, drained from her sudden power use. Her reserves must have been completely wiped out when she had found her, and the Morrigan wondered how much further she had to go again to return to her normal strength. She buttoned the shirt back up and covered the woman in a layer of blankets before she went about her business for the rest of the evening.
The intruder slept for three days.
The Mortar and Kettle shop opened and the Morrigan started the cycle of posing as a human again, deciding this time she would start fresh-faced in her human appearance. She cut and tamed her wild dark locks in the bathroom the night before, and set out a different color pallet for this new character. Darker subtle eye makeup and a range of red lipsticks were to go with her crisp button ups and dark jeans. The target was “wall street drop-out” with a penchant for lots of ear piercings and designer boots. She did like the boots. They were sleek and sexy and demanded attention. It was also nice to be displaying the decorative metal in her ears again. Those little embellishments had always been a fun little detail for her.
Right away on her first day she had a handful of customers, mainly tea-lovers of all ages looking for something fresh and new. She greeted them genially and offered her expertise when asked, but she decided not to hover. It would be too loud of a character flaw and would draw attention. Perhaps after she had been there for a few decades and had “aged”. People were more prone to forgive a hovering old woman.
As she tended the “new” shop to keep herself busy, the intruder rested and started following the sun around her home again when she regained some more strength. Still, she didn’t speak to the Morrigan. She started having nightmares, thrashing in her blankets. She started sleeping less. The Morrigan could hear her pacing the hall through her door in the small hours of the morning. Sometimes loud sounds would startle her if the Morrigan accidentally hit one of her pots. She wasn’t keen on tight spaces either. Whatever had happened to this woman had really hurt her, not just physically. The Morrigan wasn’t prepared to offer psychiatric help, nor did she want to. It wasn’t her forte and it wouldn’t be fair to pretend it was.
What a mess.
“Would you stop pacing ?” She snapped, dancing around the fidgety woman as she fixed her breakfast. “Go pace over there away from the kettle.”
The woman pursed her lips and did as she was bid, her eyes narrowing slightly at the Morrigan’s tone. She had spent the day prior checking over the clothing she had crashed to earth in and was back in her leather pants and soft blue tunic. Out of politeness she had left her boots in the Mudroom and her bare feet made her nearly noiseless on the hardwood. That had led to the Morrigan bumping into her a few times when she wasn’t paying attention, and it was annoying . She wasn’t used to having another person in her home and frankly she didn’t like it.
“When are you going to tell me who you are?” She prompted, pouring her hot water into a modern thermos travel cup.
The woman didn’t say anything but she stopped for a moment and breathed. The Morrigan didn’t bother to look at her, she had tea to make and a shop to open in five minutes. When she didn’t get a quick answer she finished making her tea, twisting the lid onto her thermos cup. She turned and quirked a brow, blandly unamused at the woman staring blankly into the fire.
“Have it your way. You know where to find me.”
She slipped past her and clicked out of the room on a new sleek pair of heels.
A few more painfully droll days of a strange limbo drug on and the woman grew healthier. She also learned how to stay out of the Morrigan’s way, dancing around her and staying out of the kitchen unless invited to eat. It made the situation only marginally better. The lack of communication was really beginning to get on the Morrigan’s last nerve. She had centuries of patience, but it had been too long since she had shared a space.
They had just finished their evening meal on one of the woman’s better days, and she had stood up and started cleaning their dishes as a way to make herself useful. The Morrigan told her that they could just use the dish washer, but she shook her head and grabbed the scrubby brush. She let her after seeing how surprisingly well she cleaned the dishes and it became a part of their new weird routine.
Evening tea had also become a part of their routine. The Morrigan would pick a kettle with too much history from the shelves that lined the back wall next to the large pantry, then a tea that she felt suited the end of the day. She found that the woman liked sweeter floral teas, as opposed to the more full bodied blends she preferred. In an attempt to be fair, she alternated every other day or so to keep from slipping into something monotonous. Tonight’s choice was a lovely green tea one of her older friends Zao Jun had sent her from the Zhejiang province. She had even chosen an appropriate teapot, gifted from her acquaintance Chìdì. Good teas required correct teapots after all, especially when imbued with the heat of summer and dragon’s fire.
They were seated in the living room, the Morrigan waiting by the fire for the kettle to heat. The evening had felt a little nostalgic for some reason and she put the iron arm over the hearth to use. She could easily heat the water with a twist of her fingers, or even get the woman to hold the kettle in her bare hands, but it took part of the meditative process away. A few moments later the water was ready and the Morrigan gently filled the teapot. The quiet hiss and crackle of the water coming into contact with the loose tea was the only sound in the room other than a log popping in the hearth. While the tea steeped for a moment, she set out two delicate porcelain cups with gold leafing on the outside.
Rain pattered softly on the glass, filling the ever-present weird silence between them. The Morrigan gathered her book and a favored blanket she had reclaimed from the woman’s pallet on the couch as the tea sat for a moment longer. Then after carefully counting the second in her head and with an even gentler touch, she pour two cups of perfect tea into the delicate porcelain. She had noticed that the woman had perked up when the clean grassy aroma started to permeate the air, sitting on the edge of the couch with her eyes glued to the steam. It was curious. The only other time she had seen the woman perk up was when she had let her try a mass-produced cookie of sugar and powdered cocoa.
The woman carefully picked the cup up as soon as the Morrigan set the teapot down and brought it to her chin. She inhaled slow and deep, her broad shoulders relaxing in a way that she hadn’t seen yet. A crinkle formed in between her brows as she squeezed her eyes shut, very clearly trying not to cry, and took a sip. The Morrigan picked up her own cup and retreated to her arm chair without looking away, curious about this new powerful reaction. It was the most personality she had seen her exhibit other than ornery and anxious and shell-shocked.
There was a gentle hiss, and the woman’s fingers began to glow in a gentle ember-like color, the deep reds and golds fluctuating under her skin like the dappled surface of a creek. And then green springy moss started curling out from under her finger tips, lush and healthy. Happy. A single little pink mushroom grew a moment later, delicate and jewel-like.
“It tastes of home.” She spoke, still not opening her eyes. “Home in the spring time.”
The Morrigan made herself comfortable in her seat and took a sip as well, enjoying the cleanliness of the tea and resolving herself to be civil. “I’m glad you like it. It’s very special.”
The woman finally looked up, her eyes too blue and clearer than glacier ice. Too earnest. “Thank you.”
It was unnerving.
“You’re welcome.” She managed.
The woman looked back down at her tea cup and grimaced at the sight of the new growth. Her cheeks pinked with embarrassment and within the span of a few seconds, the moss and mushroom had vanished, crawling back in towards her fingers.
“So. You are Fae.” The Morrigan prompted, finally having enough evidence to confirm her suspicions.
For a long moment, she thought the woman was going to bolt, her shoulders stiff again and hiked up to her ears. The Morrigan pressed forward almost nonchalantly, knowing she still held the upper hand.
“Don’t worry. As far as I’m concerned, you’re in no danger. No one knows where you are.” She waved off the rolling anxiety encroaching into her space.
“How do you know that?” The intruder demanded, setting her tea cup down onto the saucer with a rattle before twisting her fingers together in a tight knot.
The Morrigan simply pinned her with a deadpan stare, stamping down her short temper. “Because I don’t want to be found either. Now are you finished being a mopey child or are you going to continue to give me the silent treatment? That’s not very kind for someone of the Fae to take advantage of one’s hospitality.”
The woman blushed hotter and the room warmed a couple degrees. “I have been rather callous in my behavior.” She mumbled, eyes glued to her fists. “Forgive me. I… I am afraid.”
“Why?” The Morrigan adjusted the blanket across her lap with an arched brow, fishing for specifics.
The intruder’s eyes flickered up to her face again.
“I can feel your power.”
The Morrigan’s brow arched higher. The other woman swallowed thickly.
“It’s… cold. Deathly cold.”
The Morrigan couldn’t help it, she let out an undignified cackle. The woman jumped in surprise, her mouth ajar and her brow furrowing as she tried to figure out what was so funny. She waved her off again and picked up her tea, still chuckling into her tea.
“Oh, no. That was too on the nose.” She took a sip. “You needn’t fear my power, Fae , for you it has only been channeled for healing.”
The woman frowned deeper. “Will you give me your name?”
The Morrigan pinned her with another deadpan no-nonsense look.
“No, but I will tell you that you may call me Lena.”
The woman’s jaw clicked shut for a moment, another blush coloring her cheeks. “I wasn’t-I didn’t mean-”
“No I think you did.” The Morrigan cut her off. “Why are you here, Fae ?”
“I wouldn’t strip you of your will after you saved my life.” She responded hotly. “I’m better than those in your stories.”
The Morrigan quirked a brow at her. “Then answer my question, Fae .”
“ Stop calling me that .”
The temperature of the room jumped to sweltering for barely a moment, before the Morrigan’s own icy cold quickly pierced it like a needle. Heat rushed out of the room in a quick vacuum of power, flashing chill for one prickling heartbeat. The woman shrank down into her seat, cowed and deflated.
“Remember you are in my home, Fae . And I only call you as such because I don’t know your rank nor your name.” The Morrigan tucked her feet up under her rear and reached for her book.
“You will tell me your circumstances, or I will drop you off in the nearest pocket dimension.”
“Why can’t I stay in this realm?”
“When was the last time you were here?”
“Not too long ago.”
“We’re speaking Pictish . This dialect hasn’t been in common use in thousands of years. The only reason I can speak it is because it was my first known human language. And I’m far older than that, I just hadn’t bothered with the inadequacies of man until that point.”
The woman shrank even further into her seat, looking small and alone. Forlorn was a good way to describe her demeanor. The Morrigan sighed, feeling a little kernel of sympathy. She had forgotten how strange the passage of time was in relation to the different dimensions and it wasn’t fair to be so harsh to this woman who had clearly gone through some kind of horrible trauma. Perhaps her solitude had started robbing her of her kindness. She took a contemplative breath and started again with less bite to her words.
“I am not telling you this to be mean, I’m presenting the truth and the truth can be awful. It would be even more cruel to keep it from you. If you were to walk out right now you could be hurt, or killed, or locked up against your will. Right now? This is one of the safest places you can be.”
The woman was silent for a long painful moment. The Morrigan reached out and prodded at the teacup on the coffee table, adjusting the heat back to a proper drinking temperature. The woman noticed and picked the tea back up with another mutter of thanks.
“I am Kara Zor-El, one of the Regents of the House of El. I hail from Krypton.” She finally spoke after a long moment.
“A Regent . Well, I suppose the golden armor should have tipped me off. You don’t act terribly spoilt, if a little standoffish. I suppose you have a military background of a sort? That usually takes care of entitled behavior.” The Morrigan mumbled her stream of conscious into her tea, recalling old conversations about Fae realms with her colleagues.
Kara Zor-El shrugged helplessly. The Morrigan quirked a brow.
“You are a long way from home, Regent Zor-El. Krypton, from what I understand from our limited knowledge in this realm, is a very small dimension. And quite far. I only know of it from old discussions.”
“It wasn’t my intention to cause you annoyances. I was just trying to get away.” Kara Zor-El whispered. “In my pain I must have miscalculated. I was following my cousin.”
The Morrigan put her book down with a nearly wistful look. But she finally had this woman talking. No, this refugee . Not an intruder. Now was her chance to get some answers, and probably get sucked into something that was far bigger than her, and far messier than something she intended to get involved with.
Oh well. She wanted answers.
A slow, uncomfortable heat started building in the room.
“The Daxamites invaded.” She spat, venom dripping from every syllable. “Uncivilized, barbaric peoples. Slavers and reavers. Murderers.”
Kara Zor-El put the delicate tea cup down once more, her shaking hands clenching into white-knuckled fists on her thighs. She breathed heavily for a long moment, budding power and heat rippling out from her tense body. How quickly her emotions turned.
“Things weren’t always so bad between Krypton and Daxam.” She began lowly. “There was a truce, but something happened. The Ruby Queen wanted more. Demanded more. She gave Krypton an ultimatum.”
The Morrigan watched her pause again, watched her fight against losing control of her rage and the meager power she had managed to gain back. The Regent’s eyes flickered a white hot blue for a beat.
“She wanted me and my cousin as trophies. For her son. If we agreed, she wouldn’t wipe Krypton away.”
“Seeing as you’re here on my couch, I can assume you rejected her offer.”
Kara Zor-El barked a hollow laugh, her teeth flashing in a snarling grin. The Morrigan thought her teeth were a little too pointed.
“There was no way that snake would have upheld the bargain. We took down as many invaders as we could. Our objective was to protect our peoples long enough for them to escape. We succeeded, but… many of those fighting were lost. I’m not sure how many were able to survive the escape. The Ruby Queen nearly killed me, and I’m not sure how, but I escaped. I only remember pain and fear and darkness. And then a storm.” She looked back up at the Morrigan, her anger fizzling to frustrated confusion. “And then I woke in your home.”
The air hung thick and heavy between them. The Morrigan hadn’t expected her to speak so freely, and it was a sad tale as she had feared. But now she had her answers. She nodded slowly in acceptance when she couldn’t detect a hint of a lie.
“I have asked my colleagues to keep an eye out for any others who may have arrived in this realm. Thank you, Kara Zor-El, for telling me this. I will pass the important facts on. If more of your people made it here safely, we will try to find them.”
The Kryptonian slumped tiredly, but even more confused. “Why are you so eager to help me? You had me to believe you didn’t care for Fae .”
Her question brought the Morrigan up short. Why was she helping this Fae that had done nothing but get on her last nerve? First she had been driven by frustration, then annoyance. However, now she had information that made her change her view of her a little. Yes, she was still trying to get over that initial stand-offish attitude, but that was something she had come to adopt after centuries of betrayal and isolation.
There was something about Regent Kara Zor-El that piqued her interest for the first time in a long time.
“I don’t know. I suppose I’m curious. I wouldn’t go so far to say eager .”
The Regent scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Wonderful.”
The Morrigan shrugged and picked her book back up, sensing the end of their conversation. “When you live as long as I do you have to make life interesting somehow. You don’t want to know what happens to you if you don’t. Boredom can destroy a healthy person.”
Kara Zor-El didn’t have a response to her remark and picked her tea back up. The Morrigan glanced down and pursed her lips at the twisting brambles crawling up the Kryptonian’s shins. It seemed that she was having some trouble when it came to the link between her powers and emotions. That would most likely require another discussion. She was sure that she was finally going to get to read her book when her house guest spoke again.
“Maybe letting me drown would have been a kinder fate.”
The Morrigan studied her for a long moment. At first glance it was a pitiful sight, a full grown woman staring into her tea cup. But there was a pull to her shoulders and a blankness in her eyes that spoke of a deep immense loss. One that the Morrigan recognized from the men she used to visit on the battlefield. How horrifyingly appropriate that she was seeing it now.
She sighed and rose from her arm chair, gathering her book and blanket in one arm and her tea in her free hand. The Kryptonian didn’t look up as she paused next to her on her way out of the room.
“Grieve your loss, I will not take that from you. Remember that there is healing in death, Kara Zor-El. Death can be kind in many forms.”
The Regent bowed her head and her shoulders hunched in, trying not to shake from tears. The Morrigan quickly left her to mourn in privacy, pulling her door shut tight as the first ugly sob cut through the tension.