The shape appeared out of the grey veil of rain like a spectre. Just a shadow against the vertical lines of falling water, the legs lost in the grey mist of surface spray so the figure seemed to be floating along a couple of feet off the ground.
Mark only saw him at the last minute, but then he hadn’t expected anyone to be walking along the side of the carriageway in the middle of nowhere in the pouring rain.
In the glimpse he saw of him, as the headlights of his truck passed across the figure, he saw the man was hunched over against the downpour, his hood pulled well up hiding his face but his coat was not long enough to protect him from the spray that rose from the road with every passing car.
And then Marks truck was past him, and he couldn’t even see the figure in his rear view mirror. The view had been so brief, and it seemed so strange that anyone should be walking along the dual carriageway at all that Mark began to wonder if he hadn’t been seeing things.
Sure he’d picked up hitchhikers before, but always on the edge of towns not out in the sticks. No one walked anywhere anymore. Maybe he had imagined the figure, not a good sign.
Mark checked the clock. It was almost time for his break anyway and the torrential rain which had been pouring all morning had made the drive especially tedious. He would pull in at the next service station.
Mark felt much better with a plate full of bacon and eggs and all the trimmings plus several cups of coffee inside him. He made a dash through the still pouring rain back towards his cab and almost ran straight into a man navigating his way between the lorries.
“Sorry mate.” Mark said, reaching out a hand to steady the man. Then he stared. It was surely the same man who had been walking beside the carriageway earlier. Who else could it be, soaked to the skin, so far from any place of habitation.
“No harm done.” The man replied mildly, smiling at Mark.
“I saw you on the road earlier,” Mark said, ignoring the continuing downpour, intrigued by the strange fellow before him. He was wearing a wool coat that seemed to have been stitched together like a jigsaw from about four different garments. He was about fifty, Mark guessed, his face beginning to wrinkle with age, but in a flattering way which seemed to lend the man a kindly and amused aspect. He was clean and his beard, flecked with grey was neatly trimmed, so he did not have the appearance of a homeless man. Yet he was carrying only a small worn leather satchel and had no other baggage for his journey.
“I’m heading west, I can give you a lift.”
“Most kind young man, but I’m happy to walk, I’m not far from my destination now.”
Mark thought hard, he knew the area quite well and could think of no town or village, or indeed even a farm within walking distance.
“But it’s chucking it down, you’re already soaked!” Mark persisted.
The man laughed lightly. “A little rain never hurt anyone. But I do thank you for the offer.”
And with that he nodded his head and left. Mark stood staring after him for a moment, before his senses returned and he realised he too was now sodden and he dashed for his truck.
Once he had changed into dry clothes and been back on the road awhile, Mark found his mind wandering back to the stranger. He wondered what could have led the man to be walking in the rain in the middle of nowhere, so unconcerned by anything. What sort of life would lead a man to such an unexpected point?
But then he thought of his own life. He had never expected to be driving trucks up and down the country. He remembered as a kid he had dreamed of being a knight in shining armour, like the heroes in his favourite movies. He had daydreamed his way through school and left without any qualifications. Then he had grown up and reality had rudely replaced his dreams. A series of dull dead-end jobs had followed until he found himself, at the age of twenty-six, in his current employ. How was his fate any different from the man walking in the rain, he pondered. Nobody could know where they were going, or where they might find themselves. Maybe he too would be better off walking in the rain.
A car swerving into his lane broke his thoughts and he leaned on the horn to chastise the idiot.
Then he laughed to himself. Stupid dream anyway, there were no noble knights and damsels in distress or dragons to slay. They had only ever been dreams and stories.
Three days later Mark had completely forgotten about the strange encounter with the man in the rain. He had just delivered his haul and with the truck empty he was hoping to make it half way to his next pick up before having to park up for the night.
He took a shortcut he often used when he was on this route, which involved a couple of single lane roads with high banks and hedges, but at this time of night he rarely met any traffic and it would cut more than half an hour off his time.
The sun was low in the sky and though the summer evening meant it was still light, the rays no longer lit the lane. Mark flicked on the headlights. Mist gathered in the hollows of the road so for great stretches Mark could barely see the road ahead, and was forced to slow to a crawl.
As he turned a corner onto a long straight stretch the mist cleared and at the far end, just before the turn Mark saw a figure striding along the centre of the lane. There is something instantly familiar about the figure; even though the person is so far away Mark couldn’t even say if it were a man or a woman. Yet some instinct tells him it is the same stranger he met before.
“That’s impossible.” He told himself, “I’m hundreds of miles from where I met him, he can’t have walked so far in three days!”
He was coming closer to the figure and with each meter between them closed, Mark became more and more certain that it was the same man.
“Maybe he hitched a lift with someone after all.” He mused, “Just an odd coincidence that he happens to be on this same road as me.”
Mark contemplated offering the man a lift again. It’d be safer than walking down a dark and misty lane after all.
Just as Mark was close enough to get a really good look however, the figure vanished suddenly. Mark was startled for a moment before realising that the road had descended into another pocket of mist. He slowed the truck right down as it too reached the mist, not wanting to run the poor fellow down in the gloom.
The mist seemed to go on forever, and the odd thing was that even after five minutes of driving, Mark had still not seen the stranger appear in his headlights. Surely he would have caught up to him by now, even driving at snail’s pace. Maybe he had passed him; the man could have stepped into a gateway or layby that were hidden from Mark by the mist.
The mist cleared very suddenly and ahead Mark saw the strange man again. But it was what he didn’t see which was most surprising. The view before him had changed completely. He was no longer on the narrow lane among the familiar rolling patchwork fields. Gone were the high banks and thick hedges which he knew so well. Instead he found himself looking out over a high plateau, a heathland of tangled heather and sprouting gorse and dark peaty pools. Distant mountains shimmered blue-grey against the sky.
It was still evening, the pale pink light of the sky painted the landscape before him and reflected in the perfectly still lake which lay ahead. The road turned to a cart track and then petered out on its shore.
And on the shore stood the stranger.
“Well, I’m not in Kansas anymore.” Mark thought as he brought the lorry to a halt. It felt like a dream. Maybe it was a dream, he thought. “Damn, that means I fell asleep at the wheel. So maybe I’m not even dreaming, maybe I’m already dead.”
“Where am I?” Mark called to the strange man as he jumped down from the truck’s cab and looked around perplexed.
Mark approached the man cautiously. As he got closer, the stranger turned and began walking away, but he glanced back over his shoulder as he did so.
“There isn’t much time, we must hurry.”
“Time till what? What’s going on, where am I?” Mark insisted, jogging to catch the man up. “And who are you?”
“They call me The Traveller, and as for what’s going on, I shall explain on the way, and as for the where, well, some would call this Ysbadden, The Land of Giants or the Fairy Realm, the Otherworld.”
Mark stopped dead and let out a harsh laugh of disbelief. He might not be where he expected, but the place didn’t exactly look like the land of the faeries.
“You’re soft in the head!”
The Traveller turned and had to walk back a few places. For the first time he seemed impatient and a little exasperated. He started scanning the ground all around them, as if searching for something he had dropped.
“Ah Ha!” He lunged forward and tugged at a patch of heather. It came away from the ground, and beneath it Mark could see a network of well-worn paths, previously hidden by the vegetation. Something was moving along the paths in a kind of procession. Marks first instinct was that they were animals, but as he looked closer he saw they were in fact tiny figures.
Some had smooth, froglike skin, others were covered in matted wiry hair, all had a loosely humanoid shape, yet they were only a fraction of the size of a man. The creatures had stopped their procession and were staring up at The Traveller and Mark with bulging yellow eyes, many were baring their tiny sharp glistening teeth and considering their size, they looked surprisingly threatening.
The Traveller dropped the heather back in place and turned to observe Marks reaction.
“I hope that will convince you of my sanity.” The Traveller queried.
Mark tore his gaze away from the heather that covered the incredible sight and nodded with amazement.
“M-maybe it’s my own sanity I should be worried about.” he managed to stutter out at last. “W-what were they?”
“Mudbogs, Peat Faeries, they go by many other names, these moors are riddled with them. You have to watch your fingers with them, they’ve got a nasty bite.” The Traveller said rather dismissively as if such things were a common sight. “I’m fairly certain you won’t have seen anything like them in your world.” The Traveller said with a knowing grin.
“No.” Mark agreed.
“Now really we must be getting along!” The Traveller insisted as he turned back to the path among the bogs. Mark followed him, still feeling rather stunned.
“Now for the why you are here,” said The Traveller. “A young maiden from your realm has been kidnapped by the Sidhe, The Faerie Wind. She is to be wed this very night, against her will, to The Grey King, unless we can rescue her.”
“Who is this Grey King bloke?”
“He is King of the Giants and an extremely unpleasant fellow, most unsuitable for such a lovely young lass.” The Traveller said.
“What do you expect me to do against a giant!” Mark protested, “I don’t have any magic powers like you faerie folk, he’ll crush me like a bug!”
“I shall take care of that,” The Traveller looked round at Mark with that same relaxed grin he always seemed to wear, and patted the small leather bag at his side. This didn’t exactly fill Mark with confidence but then this whole situation was ridiculous in any case. “The young lady will by now have tasted the food of the Fey, so binding her to this realm. Only a mortal from her own world can now help her pass back through to her rightful world.”
“Why are you helping her? How do I know this isn’t just some faerie trick to feed me to this Giant King as a wedding gift?” Mark asked.
“I admit, I have done nothing to earn your trust, but must ask it of you anyway. I can reassure you however, I’m no faerie.” The Traveller laughed.
“Oh!” Mark exclaimed, surprised, “Then what are you?”
“I am from between the worlds; I belong to none of them, that is why I can travel so easily between them. I use the ‘thin places’ where different worlds meet. I brought you into this world through one such place.”
“And that’s how you could travel hundreds of miles in just a few days even without a car?” Mark speculated.
“Indeed!” The Traveller seemed pleased with Marks deduction, “What would be many miles in one world is but a few steps in another.”
“Couldn’t you have brought me thought closer to this Giants castle, my feet are killing me!” Mark complained good humouredly.
The Traveller laughed heartily.
“Your truck arriving on the doorstep would have been rather a giveaway to our presence unfortunately.”
The path they followed was narrow and overgrown with heather and it was hard to see with the light fading fast all about them. But The Traveller seemed to have no trouble finding his way and Mark kept his wits about him, being sure to keep close to The Traveller least he loose his way among the many bogs and pools, which now looked black as tar.
“Why me?” Mark asked as he trudged along behind The Traveller, realising this was the one question the strange man had not yet answered.
“I’m nobody! I drive a truck!” Mark objected.
“No, you are special, you’re a dreamer.” The Traveller said smiling, even stopping and turning round to face Mark as he said it. Mark started at him. He turned and they continued.
“What do you think would happen if I had brought any old regular Joe to this place?” The Traveller asked over his shoulder.
“They’d probably have a mental breakdown.” Mark replied.
“Exactly!” The Traveller said grinning round at him, “Yet here you are, following a stranger into a strange land on a strange adventure.” He said. “You’re special!”
They walked on in silence until at last, flickering rectangles of light appeared in the distance and then Mark could make out the silhouette of a huge building against the twilight sky.
“The Hall of the Grey King.” The Traveller announced, “Stay close, and stay quiet.”
They approached warily, but had no need, it seemed everybody was inside celebrating, and anyway Mark reasoned, what would a giant have to fear? They crept around the side of the enormous hall until they were below a shuttered window.
The walls had a foundation of massive boulders, on which stood columns that consisted of entire trees, the framework was boarded with wooden slats, and the roof was lost from sight as it was too high and too dark to make out.
“So what have you got in your ‘magic bag’ that’s gonna save me and this lady from a giant and all his giant and magical mates?” Mark asked anxiously as they crouched in the shadows outside the feasting hall.
The noise coming from within the hall could easily be attributed to a gang of inebriated giants and was enough, Mark was sure to send even a genuine knight in armour running for the hills.
The Traveller fished about in the satchel for a minute then produced a bundle of worn looking cloth.
“What’s this? Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak?” Mark asked as The Traveller handed it to him.
“Sort of.” said The Traveller, “Though Harry Potter is just a fictional character you know.”
Mark laughed at the absurdity of his situation, and swung the cloak around his shoulders. He looked down at his legs.
“I’m not invisible!” He stated flatly for he could clearly still see his lower body, now just draped in the tattered, and frankly rank smelling cloth.
“Well, only invisible in a manner of speaking.” The Traveller clarified, though he was half distracted, he had climbed one of the foundation boulders and was balancing precariously, peering in through a hole in the wooden shutters at one of the halls windows. “You can’t go in there dressed in clothes from your world, you’d stand out a mile. The cloak will help you blend in with the locals.” He concluded.
“Gee, they really know how to dress up for a wedding in this world!” Mark said sarcastically, sniffing tentatively at the cloth.
“There she is!” The Traveller said excitedly still peering through his peep-hole. He moved aside as Mark climbed up to see.
Mark stared with amazement at the sight inside the hall. It was packed with creatures of all kinds, from tiny gossamer winged faeries worthy of a Disney movie to the huge trolls and giants that would have not been out of place in a horror movie. In between there were trows and rat-men and firbolgs, sprites and elves, and many creatures which Mark had no idea about, one had the appearance of a small hedgehog others appeared as birds with human-like faces. It was hard to miss The Grey King he was the biggest giant of all and was standing at the head of the hall. He was an awesome figure, ugly beyond anything mark could have imagined with skin as thick and worn as old leather covered with scars and blemishes. It hung off his bones like sackcloth off a scarecrow. His grey hair, appeared to have been styled for the occasion but it still resembled most closely a windswept thorn bush. The King was dressed in clothing stitched crudely together from many smaller garments and in contrast to the rags, he wore crowns and jewels all strung together, adorning his neck and wrists and belt. Although he appeared to be of great age, it was clear he was still fearfully strong.
Beside The Grey King, seeming impossibly small and out of place sat a place, raven haired young woman. Mark let out an involuntary gasp.
“Do you see her?” The Traveller asked.
“Yes!” Mark replied. He felt like his breath had been stolen away. She was very beautiful; her skin was porcelain pale, her lips red as berries. But her eyes were strange, distant and vague, like she wasn’t really there. Among all those present in the hall she was the only one who was not taking part in the revelries. It wasn’t simply a refusal to take part, but an absence of being. Mark felt that despite her beauty, something essential was missing from the woman, something that made him feel sick inside to see her so afflicted. He turned to The Traveller and the concern must have shown on his face.
“She is enchanted. They will have forced her to eat faerie food and so she knows not her own mind, but when you touch her, she will be restored.”
“All right, let’s do this!” Mark said, he wanted to get it done before he lost his nerve.
“Keep your face hidden and don’t eat or drink anything!” The Traveller advised as they made their way to the hall entrance. “And try to get close to the girl, when it’s time, awaken her from her stupor and lead her outside.”
“How will I know when?” Mark asked, drawing the hood of the cloak over his face.
“You’ll know!” Grinned The Traveller.
It wasn’t hard to gain entry to the hall, there were many people coming and going through the towering doors and it was easy to slip inside unnoticed. The Traveller waved Mark away once they were through the doors and he wandered off to the side of the hall and began making his way around the edge towards the top table where the girl sat. It felt bizarre being jostled by the strange faeries in the crowd, and Mark felt suddenly very glad of the cloaks odour because more than one creature looked at him suspiciously and sniffed heavily at him as he passed by. Mark felt sure that they would have been able to smell that he was a human, if it weren’t for the masking stench of the cloak. It did indeed act like an invisibility cloak and he was able to slowly make his way around the hall until he was standing just to the side of the Kings table.
Mark had lost sight of The Traveller among the throngs of faeries, but The Traveller must have been watching his progress because only moments after Mark was in position, Mark saw The Traveller step up to the Kings table and address the giant.
“My Lord, The Grey King, I a humble traveller, congratulate you on your betrothment and bring you a wedding gift.”
He had to shout to make himself heard over the noise of the crowd and the crowd quietened as The Grey King, amused it seemed that this little man was addressing him, called for hush.
“What can you have that is worthy as a gift for such as I?” The giant bellowed, and the hall erupted in mocking laughter.
“I come across many strange objects on my travels, and believe I have one that will be of interest to you.” The Traveller replied, reaching into his satchel and bringing out a beautiful golden chalice. It was big for a chalice, but before the giant, it was tiny. The Traveller sat the chalice on the table before The Grey King.
The giant laughed, and his voice shook the whole hall causing Mark, and many of the smaller guests to stagger.
“You think this is a worthy gift for me?” The Grey King spat, “Surely you can see, I already have many such trinkets!” And he held out his arms displaying the many armlets made of hundreds of such cups and other ornaments. Mark felt fear freezing him in place, surely The Travellers plan was going wrong. But The Traveller stood as composed and calm as ever, waiting for the laughter in the hall to die down.
“This is no trinket my Lord, it is an enchanted chalice, it is filled with the sweetest wine and will never run dry.” The Traveller explained and now a ripple of surprise and awe ran round the hall.
The Grey King too was now interested and carefully picked up the cup between one huge finger and thumb and peered at it.
“Is that so?” He mumbled in what seemed to Mark a shout, “Well, we will see!” The giant lifted the cup high with a grin exposing rotten brown teeth the size of tombstones.
The Traveller seized the chance.
“A toast to The Grey King and his new Queen!” The Traveller shouted, grabbing a cup off the table and drinking it down.
The entire hall followed suit echoing his toast.
“To the King and Queen!”
Mark grabbed a nearby cup and pretended to drink too, and high above his head, the Grey King began to drink. Mark watched, and watched, and watched, and still the giant drank. He became aware of the wedding party cheering their King on and noticed they too were drinking cup after cup in an effort not to be outdone by those around them.
Mark glanced back at where The Traveller had been, but he was gone. No one else had noticed. What now, Mark wondered, as he retreated more into the shadows and waited.
He didn’t have to wait long. One by one the wedding guests began to fall. They had already been merry when Mark and the Traveller had arrived, so it didn’t take much more alcohol to tip them over into dead drunk. The smaller ones went first, slumping down in their seats and across tables, or even just curling up on the stone floor. Then the giants present began to succumb until finally only The Grey King remained. The chalice was still pressed to his lips, his great throat bobbing as he sucked down gulp upon gulp of wine, but he could not outdrink the magical object and at last with a huge gasp his knees buckled and with the sound of a mountain collapsing he fell back onto his throne in a deep sleep.
Mark held his breath as the shaking of the hall subsided, but not a single creature stirred. Mark knew his time was now. He crept from the shadows towards the spellbound maiden.
As his hand made contact with her, it was as though she were awoken from being frozen in ice. She gave out a great sigh and colour rushed to her cheeks painting them a rosy red and revealing a few delicate freckles along her jawline. Her eyes cleared and became warm and curious. It took a few moments for the transformation to be complete and in those moments she became even more beautiful than before. It seemed to Mark as if she were glowing. Whatever had been absent, that spark that made her who she was and alive, returned with vigour and Mark found himself sighing at the sight.
The woman blinked and her beautiful eyes widened as she took in her surroundings. She almost screamed, but bit it off into a quiet squeak just in time as she saw the goblins and fairies sleeping all around her and her face turning to disgust as her gaze fell finally upon The Grey King.
“Come on, we have to leave. Now!” Mark whispered to her. He was still holding her hand but until he spoke she hadn’t noticed him. She jumped a little in alarm at his voice, but after squinting at him a moment and seeing what appeared to be a normal human, she nodded and stood up, gathering about her the folds of the luxurious silken cloth that formed her otherworldly wedding dress.
The Traveller was signalling at them from the end of the hall and Mark led the way, keeping tight hold of her hand as they went. They crept between the sleeping bodies, careful not to wake them, holding their breath at every twitch and stir and mumbled snore of the slumbering faerie horde.
Then they were out into the cold night air and running across the dark fen. The Traveller led, Mark behind, leading the woman, their hands still held tight together. Only the sounds of their harsh breath and their running feet, and the distant grunt and snore from the hall could be heard.
They had to stop at last, out of breath, but as they stood leaning over panting the girl began to laugh.
“Are… you… OK?” Mark asked breathlessly.
“Yes!” She said between giggles, “This is just… unbelievable!” And she folded over in laughter again. Mark found himself laughing too. He hadn’t realised how tense he had been, but that all vanished as they stood their laughing.
“I don’t mean to disrupt the joviality but, I think we had better be going.” The Traveller broke in.
Mark sobered up immediately and saw, or rather heard the reason for The Travellers concern. They could hear an uproar behind them from the feasting hall.
“I thought we would have a little more time.” The Traveller admitted, “We can only hope the darkness aides our flight, come on!”
They ran on in silence. They ran faster and further than mark had ever run in his life, and it seemed like in a nightmare where he would run forever and never reach his goal. He chanced to glance back from time to time, and at first it seemed the giant and his party would not find them, but then a treacherous moon, full and bright and bigger than Mark had ever known it, appeared from behind a cloud and fell upon them like a spotlight.
“They’re coming!” Gasped the girl, afraid now, and Mark felt her grip slacken as she weakened at the sight of the pursuing horde.
“Not… far…” Mark gasped, though in truth he had no idea how much further they had to go.
“There!” Shouted The Traveller, pointing ahead and Mark felt relief wash over him as he looked and saw his lorry not far ahead.
“You came here in a truck?” The girl laughed as they descended into the glen, their legs aided by the slope and their strength buoyed by the sight of the vehicle.
“What did you expect? A flying pony?” Mark asked though he saw how absurd it looked, a HGV parked in the middle of a moor.
Mark pushed the young woman up into the cab and raced to the driver’s door.
“I think this time I will take you up on the offer of a lift.” The Traveller said, grinning as he hauled himself up behind the girl into the cab.
Mark was already starting the engine. Across the moor the horde of fay folk were charging. Some were floating above the ground and coming at tremendous speed. Others ran, fleet of foot and unhindered by the tangle of heather and Mark saw the towering moonlit silhouette of the giants rising above the heathland.
“Drive on!” The Traveller instructed cheerfully.
“But, there’s no road, and no turning place!” Mark protested. Ahead lay the lake and all around nothing but treacherous moorland. “There’s no way back.”
“Indeed, you can only ever travel forwards.” The Traveller said, and flicked a hand at which, beyond Mark’s control the truck juddered forwards down the slope towards the lake.
“You’ll kill us!” Mark shouted as the truck gathered speed and resisted all Marks efforts to turn it from its current course. All around them huge rocks had begun to rain down, sending up great plumes of the peaty soil. The giants, seeing their impending escape were throwing boulders to try and crush them. One way or another, Mark was sure they were dead.
They hit the water at over 60mph, and Mark was thrown against his seatbelt as the vehicle came to an instant stop. Then slowed, encumbered by the water, everything took on a surreal almost comical sloth and then with an equally jarring lurch they were suddenly barrelling down an orange-lit, deserted bypass, with rows of identical box-like houses speeding past on both sides.
Mark slammed on the brakes and the truck screeched to a halt under the sepia light of the streetlamps. He sat gripping the steering wheel tight and mentally checking himself all over. Apparently he wasn’t dead.
He looked at the passenger seat. Staring back at him was a pale faced young woman and the grinning Traveller. So it wasn’t a dream, Mark thought.
“You did well, very well,” The Traveller said, proffering his hand, which Mark shook shakily, “Thank you for your assistance!”
“Sure, no problem.” Mark mumbled still trying to get his head round all that had just occurred.
“And thanks for the lift; I’ll make my own way from here.” With which The Traveller opened the door and swung himself out.
“Wait, what about…” Mark glanced at the young lady sitting beside him.
“Take her wherever she wants to go.” The man said with a shrug, then he jumped nimbly down from the step and when Mark leant over to protest further, he saw no sign of him, only a lone fox trotting away into the night.
“Er, I’m Mark.” Mark said awkwardly to the woman beside him.
“Rhian.” The girl replied. “Thank you for saving me.” She added.
A car swerved past, sounding its horn at seeing the stationary lorry in the middle of the carriageway. Mark put the truck in gear and pulled away.
“Soooo…” Mark said after they had been driving in silence for a few minutes, “Tell me how you got kidnapped by faries.”
Rhian laughed. “No one is going to believe this story.”
“Except me.” Mark pointed out.
“Except you.” She agreed laughing again.
“I was out looking at the Super Moon, you know, when the moon is closer to the Earth and goes all eerie and orange. I’ve always been fascinated by those kind of things. I suppose back in the day people thought it was the faerie folk or the gods or something, now we know it’s just science.” She paused and looked thoughtfully out of the window at the blur of passing crash barriers. “I’m not so sure about science anymore though, after what happened I mean.”
Mark glanced her way, he knew what she meant.
“Then I saw this dark shape crossing the face of the moon. I thought it was an aircraft, but it seemed to be coming towards me, and it was more like a cloud, like a swarm of bees or something. And before I knew it, it swooped down and carried me away. I was terrified. I could feel all these clammy hands grabbing at me, and sharp claws pinching me, and worst of all were the cackles of laughter and the eerie voices.” She shuddered that the memory. “But then I began to make out what was being said, and caught glimpses of the creatures that had hold of me, and well, curiosity overtook my fear.” Rhian was actually grinning now.
“I was actually kind of excited to be kidnapped by the faerie host,” She mused, “When they told me I was to be the bride of a king I didn’t mind so much. It’s not like my life in this world was anything special.” Rhian explained. “But I was expecting an Aragorn or King Arthur type, you know, like in books, not that hideous, decrepit Grey King creature.”
“Seems we got there just in the nick of time to rescue you.” Mark said.
“I guess that makes you my knight in shining armour.” She said, and for a long moment their eyes locked, before Mark felt embarrassed and turned his attention back to the road.
They were silent for a while after that, then she spoke again.
“I don’t know why they chose me, of all people, it’s not like I’m the most beautiful or elegant woman on the planet.” Rhian wondered aloud.
Mark thought that Rhian was plenty pretty enough to be a queen and he realised something else about her too. He grinned and said.
“You’re special, you’re a dreamer too!”
And as they drove on into the night, Mark began to tell her what The Traveller had told him.