Anja and the Druid

Chapter 2


Purple and orange stained clouds boiled with ferocity over jagged mountain peaks tipped with snow and ice, which reflected the strange light, giving the whole scene a curious appearance. The wind swept down from the granite teeth in strong gusts carrying droplets of moisture with it which, with the sudden appearance from the clouds of the sun, produced an impressive rainbow. After a few moments the sun once again became hidden and was replaced by a series of six spots of intense blue light which coloured the surrounding peaks and gradually grew in size and intensity until they all combined and began to descend with increasing speed, the mountainside. Several minutes passed and the blue fireball obliterated the surrounding scene with its intense glow, the light continuing moment by moment to become more intense, sweeping forward, engulfing everything with ever increasing speed until 'Aaaaargh!'

Anja awoke with a start, sweat beading her brow, heart thumping at an alarming rate. She lay staring at the ceiling beams for several moments before taking a deep calming breath. Glancing around the small room she recalled that she was in Rottal am See, at her parents cottage. Sitting up, she glanced around the room, her eyes focusing briefly on the shuttered window and as her eyes adjusted to the light, the other details of the room. Arriving late the previous evening, she recalled letting herself in with the spare key on the lintel and creeping through the house so as not to disturb her parents. As a result she hadn't bothered to hang her clothes as she shed them, draping her cloak on a chair and depositing everything else on the seat. Glancing about again, the bulk of clothing was just discernible as was her backpack left by the door.

Her eyes finished adjusting to the sliver of light permitted to enter by the shutters and something niggled in the back of her mind. Shutters! She could have sworn that she had pulled heavy drapes across the window, still it had been late and she was tired after the day's travails and the journey to get here.

She lay on her back for a while, staring at the beam above her head, thinking of yesterdays journey from Zilcken, remembering the detail of crossing the great River Elbst and the final few miles through the forested mountains around Rottal. She visited her parents regularly, at least once a four week, but the journey never seemed to get any better.

She looked across to the clock on the opposite wall and could just read the time by the meagre shaft of light. Five and fifteen. Another half and one before dawn, time enough to try to get some more sleep. Turning on her side and pulling the covers up over her shoulders, she caught a brief reflection in the mirror that had stood against the wall for all her memory. Moving her head around to try to see the object was fruitless, she would look in the morning. Settling back into the covers she caught another glimpse, so moving her head very slowly back again she saw what it was. Staring from the position which she was certain was the mirror, was a face. In the limited light she could only discern that it was a young woman with blonde hair and perhaps something familiar in the features. Not daring to move again, she lay transfixed for several long moments, the other face likewise remained unmoving, for she realised it was her own reflection. An owl hooting in the nearby trees broke her trance and so with careful movement Anja slid her arm from beneath the covers and turned up the lamp, oil hissing as it reached the burner.

All this time her eyes had not left the reflection, and only as the lamp illuminated the room more fully, did it sink in that it was only a reflection and her own at that which had startled her. Sitting up and drawing the covers about her, for the room was chilly, she stared at the mirror then leant down to pick it up. Studying the features reflected there, she noted the similarities to her perceived memory of her image. The same small mouth was there, set in a pleasant oval frame, her nose? smaller than she recalled and the eyes, the eyes were a piercing blue not the brown she knew she had, didn't she?

Trembling with something akin to fear, she put the mirror down on the bed covers and sat shaking for a while then snatched the mirror up again. There it was, the thing that had first caught her attention, long blonde hair, not quite white, cascading over her shoulders in soft curls. That was it, last night it was a shortish brown bob. Something was certainly greatly amiss, wiping the sleep from her eyes she looked about the room a bit more carefully than had been possible earlier.

The window was indeed shuttered; the remembered drapes nowhere to be seen. On the chair that should have had a minidress on the seat was a strange collection of garments with a glint of metal hinting at...well at something. By the door stood what appeared to be a rucksack made from furs and by the foot of the bed were a pair of boots, certainly not the casual shoes she thought she was wearing last night.

Panic arrived in a rapid thump; she leapt across the room to the shutters and eased them open. Outside all appeared as she recalled, the full moon reflecting off the lake a few metres away, the forest reaching down almost to the shore and there the morning light in the window of a woodman's cottage on the far shore.

Re-closing the shutters, her fingers idly twisting a blonde curl about itself, she tried collecting her thoughts, 'what has happened?' and 'why?' Thinking that perhaps an answer or possibly just a clue might lie in the pile of 'her' possessions, she sat on the bed with the rucksack and proceeded to tip the contents out. A small leather pouch, a finely carved wooden box, a bundle of what appeared to be clothing, some fruit and a half loaf of bread, not much to go on.

The clothing bundle looked promising, releasing the ties, the contents were revealed. Some garments of the underwear type, shapeless cotton, two pairs of shoes, a pair of embroidered slippers and a pair of ridiculously high dancing shoes with fully 12 centimetres of heel, how any one could balance on those impressive heels and why? And here a matching clutch bag. Rolling the rest of the bundle out, she discovered a silk shift of mid thigh length and a much heavier garment in velvet with much embroidery, which at a guess would be floor length. No clues yet but they were not this seasons fashions!

After re wrapping the clothing, she turned her attention to the leather pouch. The cord was greasy with use and knotted but after a couple of minutes she had gained access and was promptly disappointed by its contents. Three glass spheres about the size of a partridge egg and a bunch of what appeared to be dried herbs. She returned these meagre contents to the bag and moved her attention onto the wooden box.

The carving was exquisite; a look of delight sat on her face as she sought access. Disappointment arrived with the discovery of a small keyhole, the as she replaced it on the bedclothes, she spied the tool of access lying on the covers where it had dropped from the pouch unnoticed. Retrieving the box, she tried the key, which, after a bit of jiggling, and to her great delight, opened the latch allowing her to lift the lid.

The jewels thus revealed were like nothing Anja had seen. The largest was a blue crystal fixed to a chain by a silver mount, its facets perfect, its colour so intense, so clear. She turned her attention to the other contents; a pair of drop earrings made of a similar crystal and a ring of platinum and ruby.

She closed the lid and relocked it, put the key into the pouch and deposited it on the bed. Then in her usual manner of keeping things in order, replaced everything into the rucksack. Turning her attention to the pile of clothing, she pulled the chair to her and started to investigate the assortment. On top were duplicates of the underwear in the bag. Next were a pair of leggings in a bright blue and a matching vest followed. The next item came as a surprise; a vest of linked metal rings, not dissimilar to chainmail and wrapped in it a wide leather belt. Lastly on the seat were a pair of leather gauntlets and a scabbard complete with a sword. A hooded fur cape now replaced her woollen coat. By the bed end stood the last component of wardrobe, the pair of boots, sturdy, low heeled and by their cut, thigh length.

Glancing about the room the only thing that was as she recalled was the old cuckoo clock on the wall and of course the old mirror. By the lamp was a bit more jewellery, another ring, a couple of bangles, a necklet and circlet, all of precious metals.

Anja sat on the bed totally bemused and bewildered.

Dawn arrived crisp and fresh, heralded by the birds in the surrounding trees, the cacophony stirred Anja from the fitful sleep she had managed for the last hour, the chill of the morning doing nothing to help her digest her present predicament. However, she was a practical girl, practical meant dressing, even if the clothing options were a bit unusual and strange to her.

Pulling on a set of underclothes and the blue tunic and leggings, she glanced in the mirror and once again didn't recognise the blonde in the glass as herself. Deciding that she actually quite liked what she saw, she pulled the boots on, which as expected came well over the knee. The blonde tresses were then tamed with the help of the circlet, next then a plan of action!

From her earlier observations, she was not the only thing that had changed overnight; a look around the rest of the house was in order. Her parents, if they were still here, would not rise for another hour, so she left her room cautiously and quietly. Sunlight was streaming in from a gap in the shutter at the end of the hall and this illuminated her way amply. Although décor and furniture had taken on a more 'rustic' appearance, she confirmed that the building layout was essentially as she remembered it should be.

Returning to the hallway, she decided to check on her parents room, opening the door carefully she peered inside to discover not her parents but a storeroom, half filled with cheeses but definitely no pater or mater! Closing the door once more she returned to her own room more disturbed than previously.

Sitting back on the bed, she wondered what her next move should be, try to return to Zilcken - that didn't sound right and didn't seem such a good idea anyway. What then? Her thoughts were disturbed by a noise emanating from the back of the cottage. In a state fast approaching panic she reflexively picked up the sword and was surprised by its weight, or rather lack of. Making her way cautiously to the back of the house, the noise defined itself as someone or something walking up and down the pathway outside.

Easing the kitchen shutter open a touch, Anja peeked out at the individual who appeared to be trying to wear out the pathway. From her viewpoint she could see a cape not dissimilar to the one that she had inherited in her room, as the wearer turned back toward the cottage she gasped in shock. I

t was not as she had first thought a man, well not as she recalled them from yesterday anyway. This particular member of the sex was not human but appeared to be some type of large lizard! As it approached the cottage, she realised with a little embarrassment that it was naked but for the cloak and a series of leather straps. About her own height, it had what could best be described as purplish red skin which faded to almost white on it's head. Small intelligent eyes sat above a short snout that ended in what appeared to be a small beak. The creature yawned revealing two rows of most un-birdlike teeth of the sharp pointy kind, then continued toward the cottage and her hiding place, or more correctly the back door.

Strangely Anja did not feel any fear, rather a feeling of comfort at the creatures presence, it was as if she knew the being. The impulse came over her to open the back door, or rather the upper half that almost without hesitation she swung open pausing only then to stand the sword by the doorjamb.

'There you are, I thought you'd never surface this morning. Let me in then, its freezing out here and you know I cant stand the cold' it came out with a lisping hiss.

Wordlessly she followed the instruction, realising as she did so that she knew the truth of the statement. She opened the lower portion of the door to admit the lizard man into the cottage. Anja did little more than watch as he, an indubitable he, comfortable on a chair and proceeded to produce a picnic breakfast of bread, cheese and some sort of sausage from a small knapsack which materialised between door and table.

Glancing at her, he shrugged his shoulders

'You already eaten?'

In reply she stammered 'Nnno'

'Well come an' get some then'

Hunger suddenly overtook her other senses and she took the chair opposite the visitor, who after cutting himself some of the bread and cheese, passed her both loaf and a dagger like knife. The next quarter hour were strange, neither speaking but between them devouring the loaf, most of the cheese and all of the sausage. The only break was when Anja fetched a pitcher of what appeared, and turned out to be a light ale, which she served in turned beakers.

'Well we must be off soon, you packed?'

She started and could only manage 'where?' in reply

'To Tirzle of course, come on Anja, get with it'

It was obvious even to a confused young woman that the lizard knew her and therefore she should know it. She realised that her best option for now was to go along with things, until such time as her incomplete memory cleared somewhat.

'I'll just fetch the rest of my gear'

'Don't be long, we ought to be away before the roads bear much traffic.'

Anja returned to 'her' room and gathered up' her' belongings, scooping up and putting on the jewellery by the lamp, then reflexively shrugging the chainmail vest over her head. By the time she returned to the kitchen she was fully kitted up, she seemed to know by instinct where each item belonged.

'Good, lets go'

She retrieved the sword on the way out, her companion picked up a key from the table and proceeded to lock the cottage behind them, he then gave Anja the key that she then stowed carefully in a belt pouch. They departed wordlessly through back lanes of a village she half recalled to come out on a road which she recognised as that leading south toward the district known as Obergau in the high Tirzle mountains.

Have a look at the map here!

After an hour of silent travel at a steady pace on un-peopled tracks, her guide stopped to rest on a log at the track side.

'You're very quiet this morning'

All she could manage as reply was 'yes' and at the same time a name flashed into her consciousness, 'Dav, I didn't sleep well' which was certainly true.

Dav or Davril Cunarddias to give him his full name, was a Saurienne, this information bubbled through Anja's mind, however no clue to her new identity was forthcoming. Maybe later.

' Most unlike you An, you usually sleep like a log'

They sat for a while, the Saurienne drawing his short sword, which she had hitherto not noticed, hidden as it was in the folds of his cloak. He carefully inspected the blade for damage running it over the four digits of one hand. Anja meanwhile spent the time inspecting the jewellery she had hurriedly donned and reflecting further on her changed circumstance.

The ring which fit her left index finger was of gold with a runic symbol inlaid in white gold, she could not recall the meaning of the symbol, new she should, but didn't think too long on it. Inspecting the bangles next she realised that the blue titanium on her left arm was covered in more runes, the gold about her right was decorated by geometric designs, the almost square bangle glinted on one side with a cluster of tiny sapphires, six in all forming an ovoid. She removed the necklet that in the full light of day revealed the same runes as the bracelet etched in the titanium surface; silver wire edged the piece. Without having to remove the circlet she knew that that too was engraved with the same runic message.

Replacing the necklet, she addressed her companion

'Why are we going to Tirzle Dav?' she tried to phrase it so that it seemed like a request for confirmation of a known fact. Instead of answering, the Saurienne sheathed the sword, stood and indicated that they continue. After a few metres in which he seemed to be considering the question, he started to reply then stopped before any sound left his throat.

They continued on for another couple of hours, occasionally passing others intent on their own business, who neither seemed surprised or bothered by the young woman or her companion. Anja kept her own counsel whilst Dav made occasional comment about the land through which they were passing, but not answering her question.

Still none the wiser for the reasons behind this journey into what she instinctively new was the deep south; Anja kept pace with her companions' easy gait. The trail was mostly good going, a surface of compacted broken stone that for the most part kept the mud at bay. Their route followed a river valley, the swift flowing waters for the most part hidden from view by dense forest although from time to time their route crossed the valley and thus the river. At these crossings either ancient stone bridges or on occasion shallow but swift running fords were used, the heat of the day soon drying gear wet from these incursions, for despite the chill of early morning, as the sun reached its zenith the temperature rose to a comfortable level.

As noon approached, they reached the small mining town of Clausthal. Here the volume of people was unexpectedly high, a sign proclaimed a population of around 2000 souls and it seemed most were on the street! Following her companions' lead, they made their way to a small inn, The Miners Arms, Anja had to stifle her surprise at the sign apparently consisting of two dismembered arms hanging above the doorway.

They ducked through the low doorway into the interior, selecting a corner table in the as yet quiet bar; Dav ordered a meal for them from the attentive serving girl. Anja felt somewhat uncomfortable until she realised she was sat on the knapsack still slung across her back, while Dav conversed with the barman she made herself comfortable.

Food and ale arrived simultaneously, huge steaming plates of vegetables, batter pudding and possibly lamb, although by the aroma it could have been goat, topped with gravy and accompanied by thick slices of fresh bread. Using the rough implements provided, they ate in silence, watching the arrival of the locals coming to eat and or drink, market traders were joined by smiths, drovers and then a group of miners, their grimy mien somewhat at odds with their trimly turned out neighbours.

Midway through their meal Dav picked up the conversation.

'I have thought about your question'

Anja's attention went from food to saurieene in a flash.

'You asked why we travel to Tirzle, in truth I know not the answer, but I will state the facts as I see them. I received a message from Pieter that told me to collect you at your cottage in Rottal at dawn this morning. This was two days ago'

Dav then proceeded to relate how this Pieter had said in his message that they were to head for the Tirzle's and that he would meet them en-route. Anja listened eagerly not making any comments. When the other finished he gave her a questioning look, then not receiving an immediate reply, continued with his meal.

Although not a great deal wiser, Anja was feeling more at home with the situation, Pieter obviously knew her as did Davril. The countryside on the whole seemed familiar, although there were subtle differences in the buildings and certainly fashions were not as she would have expected, come to think of it she hadn't seen anyone dressed similar to herself, and as for her companion - well.

'Eat up, we must leave soon'

She jerked back from her musings into the present? And soon completed her meal. Dav produced coins from a waist pouch, which he gave to the serving wench as she collected their empty platters. The strange duo left, raising only passing curiosity from the others in the hostelry, at least until after their departure when they became the prime topic of conversation.

Before they left Clausthal, Dav purchased some sausage, fruit and bread, which he informed her would make an excellent breakfast. Rejoining the road southward they continued their trek. The traffic gradually declined comparative to their distance from the town until only the occasional woodsman could be heard or glimpsed. As the afternoon wore on Anja became more talkative, pointing out interesting plants and making other light conversation about food and the weather. Dav for his part replied in kind and, Anja thought, the looks he gave were of relief that Anja was back to the behaviour he expected.

Lulls in the conversation allowed Anja time to contemplate all that had happened today and then going back over the last several days of life as Anja Kirsche who worked / works? In Zilcken for a wool merchant, doing his accounts and helping out about the house as his wife required. She retraced her journey to her parents' cottage, trying to recall anything that had been different to usual. Only her crossing of the Elbst was unusual, a white mist had settled over the boat mid channel and it remained so engulfed up to docking. Whatever had occurred, she thought must have happened at that time. But something niggled that this was not right at all.

What she couldn't know was that the mist was only a result of something else. Moving through the planes had scrambled her memories somewhat and changed her physically. If she had been able to look at her self, she would have noticed the changes occurring as she travelled west from the river, only settling in to her current visage after she reached what in this plane was her cottage. The split in reality had changed her physical appearance and the reality she was in but it could not completely erase her memories of a place where she travelled in a personal capsule and lived a quiet life.

After a stop for refreshment at a wayside inn, they continued for another couple of hours until the night started to close in. Dav led the way into the forest a short way, then relieving himself of cape and knapsack, deftly used his sword to cut some striplings to produce a rough lean to. Anja watched with interest as her companion worked then helped as the other carefully wove the branches into a fairly draft proof shelter. Whilst Anja collected bracken to use as a mattress, the Saurienne made a small smokeless fire as the gloom descended about them. With only a minimum of conversation they both settled down, he produced a wet stone and honed his belt knife by the firelight while she gazed at the stars through the branches of the shelters roof.

After a while she sat and removed her boots, mail vest and sword, ensuring the latter was within easy reach. Davril finished with his knife, carefully stowing the whetstone in his pack and returning knife to sheath. After exchanging a few words whilst Dav banked the fire, they each pulled capes about them, she to sleep, he to keep a watch.

They were woken by a doe nibbling at their shelter in the early rays of dawn. The fire was no more than a few hot ashes, but Dav with consummate skill rekindled it to life. His bag was quite a Pandora's box, he retrieved kaff, a pot to brew it in and even a couple of battered vessels to drink from. While he fetched water from a nearby beck to make the brew, Anja produced a passable repast from the food in her pack and that which Dav had purchased in Clausthal. The kaff, although a bit bitter for her taste washed it down and produced that wake up kick. By the time the sun had cleared the mountaintops they had made several miles down the roadway. Anja was becoming more at ease in her 'new' persona, although she still retained specific memories of her 'other' self. As they walked, they talked; occasionally Dav would refer to past exploits and at these times the young woman would listen without comment, trying to fill a few gaps in 'her' memories.

They made good progress, covering nearly forty kilometres before stopping at another of the now regular wayside inns for their midday meal. Davril made his usual enquiry of the proprietor regarding Pieter and receiving a negative reply ordered their meal. Whilst they ate, several other travellers arrived which Dav scrutinised from their fireside corner. Up to now Anja had only seen other humans, here however amongst the new arrivals were several individuals she identified as being dwarfish and another with bark like skin.

Curiosity aroused, she tried to eavesdrop on their conversations, however noting the girl and Saurienne in the room, the group moved out of earshot and continued their discussions in hushed tones, occasionally gesturing or glancing in their direction. Dav, noting her interest informed her that they were likely to be woodsmen carpenters on their way to Gostle where a great hall was being constructed. A call had gone out whilst she had been away for craftsmen to help complete the project.

Anja suddenly realised that he had said ' while you were away'; this was why she was presumed to be this 'other' Anja, although she was still coming to terms with her new appearance. After all she had never seen a woman with hair much longer than shoulder length and here she was herself with flowing locks reaching well down her back, not only that but blonde! The only blonde hair she had previously seen had been firmly attached to the heads of visitors from Skandia many miles to the north. Obviously her memories were still a little confused.

She was startled by Dav's hand on her shoulder

'We should move'

'Yes, just a moment'

Collecting both thoughts as well as knapsack, she followed her red skinned companion out of the inn. By her reckoning they were still some three days walk from Obergau and the Tirzle Mountains. Again the Saurienne bought supplies and they set off again on this as yet unclear quest. During the morning Dav had admitted that he too was a little perplexed at their destination, but what the heck, he hadn't been doing anything important. When Pieter's message arrived, he had travelled through the night to reach Anja in Rottal, only to find her away visiting relations, or so her protective neighbours proposed. Waiting nearby he had missed her return but realised when he spotted an open shutter that she had returned. Anja was fast getting up to speed on recent events; her non-committal comments seemed to be what was expected of her, for he made no comment on this throughout their exchanges.

After a few more kilometres, another road joined the southbound route of Anja and Dav, coming from the eastern region of Slevda. Just beyond the junction a man sat on a boulder watching their approach.

'Pieter' Dav said without further comment and continued toward the now standing Pieter. Something was familiar about the man, but Anja couldn't place quite what.

As they drew closer she could see that he was at least a head taller than herself with a well kept beard which matched his well groomed, shoulder length dark brown hair. He was dressed in red tunic and darker leggings with matching boots and a black cape. Slung at his waist was a sword, at his back a bow and quiver. At his feet sat a small animal, by it's creamy colour she thought it to probably be a mountain Mogwach, his bag, similar to their own, was sat upon a nearby rock.

'Well timed Dav'

'We made haste as your message suggested'

'Its good to see you both' 'And you. What's with the Mog' Listening to the exchange between the others, Anja's attention was however fixed on the Mogwach.

'The Druid left it with me two weeks ago, he told me to bring it along with us when we meet him next week, he didn't say why'

'Ah well' Dav sighed 'I suppose the Master has his reasons. What of this meeting, did he give any clues as to its purpose?'

'No, not a word, he just said to make sure the both of you came and that Anja brought the Oaes Par stone with her' Then addressing Anja directly ' you have brought it?'

Jerked back into the now she replied 'yes' not knowing why, but sensing that the answer was truthful. Thinking on the contents of her knapsack she recalled the box of jewellery, the blue crystal would be the Oaes Par.

'I have brought all that you asked'

It was all starting to fall into place, the inherited pack, when she thought about it had been packed deliberately for this journey, it had even contained fresh bread and cheese.

Pieter spoke again

'We should continue to Ostrode for the night, we shall take lodging at the Pig's Head'

Picking up his bag and motioning the watchful Mogwach to follow, Pieter led off on the road to Ostrode, Dav quickly taking his side. Falling into step just behind with the scampering animal, anja listened as Pieter recalled events since they had last met, which, she gathered had been three months previous. Making no comment, but soaking up the detail, anja listened as the Saurienne and their new companion continued in conversation for the full length of their walk into Ostrode.

Ostrode, unlike the previous settlements they had passed through, was important enough to warrant some impressive defences. From several miles distant it could be seen, sitting atop a knoll above the surrounding forest. About a kilometre distant, a ditch crossed by a drawbridge, some five metres deep and ten wide surrounded the settlement, by the time the lower slopes of the knoll were reached, another ditch and an equally impressive embankment had been traversed. The intervening ground- so legend had it, contained all manner of traps and pits to stop attackers in their tracks.

The whole defensive system was split in two by the presence of the river Aal which cut through the forest, looping around the southern side of the knoll at the base of a sheer almost vertical cliff face. As they crossed the last ditch, anja could see past her companions to the gate lodge, where in preparation for the coming night, brands were already burning. As they got nearer, the walls, all fifteen metres of them loomed up and disappeared out of sight to either side as they curved about the rock. It being a time of relative peace, they passed un-challenged into the town proper and continued the climb toward their lodging, which was situated just off the market.

Anja was surprised that no one seemed to take any notice of Dav, however in Ostrode they passed others of his race as well as others of alien, at least to her, race. As they neared the market, the roadway now cobbled, became steeper and by the time they reached the Pig's Head all were becoming short of breath.

Pieter with the Mogwach close at heel, led them in and secured two rooms, one for Anja - the others would share. He even had the foresight to order a bath for Anja who was most certainly feeling a little the worse for wear. A servant led them to the rooms and drew the water for Anja's bath. The last thing she heard was Dav calling out that they would see her at supper after they had refreshed themselves, then she switched off as she luxuriated in the hottish water.

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