Blood Moon Page 31

I kept climbing down to the cottage because I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t just stand there on the moors, however grand and beautiful they were. I heard scratching when I got closer, like an animal digging for roots and grubs. I peeked around the side of the cottage expecting to see a badger or a bear.

Instead, there was an old woman, muttering to herself, up to her knuckles in mud. Her long gray hair was braided and wrapped like a small crown around her head. She wore a long, woolen blue-gray dress with a leather belt hung with bones and pouches and a short dagger with a curved blade. A long chain rattled down to her knees, hooked onto a ring of keys.

She was crouched down, pulling white puffy mushrooms out of the ground and adding them to a pile of herbs in a wooden bowl. When she chortled to herself I noticed she was missing a few teeth. And she smelled like berries and sweat. I wrinkled my nose.

“Excuse me?”

She ignored me.

She got to her feet, creaking and groaning and shuffled toward me.

“Hello?” I tried again, louder, in case she was deaf. Still nothing. Her left eye was milky white. She was blind. Good, she wouldn’t see the fangs and freak out. But she seemed to be ignoring me.

Instead, she walked right through me.

I came apart as if I were made out of cold air and smoke, and then melted back together.

It did not feel nice.

“Shit!” I burst out, startled and creeped out. “Am I dead? Kala totally drugged me and killed me. Can vampires even become ghosts?”

The old woman shivered and turned her head suddenly, staring at me as if she could see me. Her right eye was clear, black as a jetbead. “On with ye, Fair Folk. I’ve left milk out and I’ve cold iron. Your choice, but I’ve no time to play.” She chortled again and bustled off, slamming the door of the cottage behind her. I knew in that dream logic you sometimes had that she’d been speaking Scottish Gaelic, and I’d understood every word even though I’d never learned Gaelic.

I looked at my hands. I seemed solid enough. And I could feel the uneven dirt under my shoes. But I was pale. Not vampire pale; more like I was in a black-and-white movie when the world around me was in full Technicolor.

Clearly, I was hallucinating.

I went to the front door and reached for the handle. My fingers slipped right through it. Frustrated, I tried again. And again. I tried knocking, and my fist vanished through the other side of the wooden door. My arm felt like it was stuck in molasses that was slowly freezing solid. I yanked it back out again, feeling disoriented.

It took me a moment to convince myself that I should step right through, that I should push my body through that weird nonform. That I wouldn’t get trapped inside the door. Or inside this dream.

When I’d asked for help, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

I took a deep breath even though I didn’t need to breathe, and walked through. I ended up inside the one-room cottage, nauseated and exhilarated. The old woman was sitting on a bench in front of a hearth cut into the wall. An iron hook held a cauldron over the flames, but it wasn’t filled with toads’ eyes or cat tails. It smelled like lamb stew. Dried herbs hung from the ceiling, over a table with two chairs, a shelf with a horn cup and a wooden plate and bowl, and a narrow cot under a window. There was an old-fashioned spinning wheel and washed fleece in a basket. The air was smoky, the floor dirt strewn with flowers.

Just like an old cottage might look in Scotland.

In the 1500s.

Kala had sent me back to witness the prophecy as it was spoken. We’d never known for sure if it was real, if the legendary Scottish madwoman during the reign of Henry the Eighth and Anne Boleyn had even existed.

Now I knew.

A thrill went through me, even as I tried not to panic about finding my way back home. Bats fluttered at the window. The old woman didn’t seem to notice. She was too busy drawing a circle on the ground around herself with salt. It seemed to glow brighter than it should for a moment, as if it was made of light.

“Saint Brigid protect me,” she intoned. “Bride shield me from harm.”

She stirred the mushrooms and herbs into a cup of hot ale. The smell was cloying and strange. She drew some kind of symbol in the air with her fingertip, over the cup, and then drained it, straining the bits of plant matter through her broken teeth.


The ancient prophecy everyone was so insane about had been spoken by an old lady drunk on psychedelic mushroom tea.

I crept closer as she closed her eyes and muttered some kind of singsong prayer under her breath. The fire crackled and sparked, belching smoke into the cottage. It hovered in the air and curled around the rafters. She shivered, then her head snapped up and her blind eye stared up at the smoke.

“In the violet hills, the moon’s bloodshot eye sees all.”

She blinked, her milky eye veined in red.

“When princess becomes queen, the true dragon will be seen. But beware the royal daughter, when the crown tears her asunder; for the dead will return, and the wheel stop its turn. Then only dragon by dragon defeated, and only love by love undefeated.”

The fire flared high, scattering embers. The dried lavender stalks on the ground smoldered. She blinked again, blood on her crooked teeth when she spoke.

“A warning: Unseat the dragon before her time, and increase ninefold her crimes;

And a token: A kiss to wake, a kiss to die, and a kiss to tell the truth from a lie.”

She jerked violently, as if she’d been electrocuted, and then slumped wearily. Her hair was coming loose from its braids, and the neckline of her dress was damp with sweat. Her hands trembled. “That’s what I see, mistress.”

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