“You did well, Sam! Come rest here now while we have a brew and seek some solace for our weary bones.”
Sam Omerod didn't need to be asked twice; he lifted the sleeping black cat from the settle and placed it firmly on the stone floor before taking its place in the glowing firelight. The night had been a long one and these past few hours even longer. Did she have the skill to stretch time also? He wouldn’t put it past her.
He watched as Annwn poured the hot liquid and offered him a heavily carved wooden cup which looked somewhat out of place amidst the simplicity of the cottage. Reaching out, he accepted it gratefully. He had no doubt from her manner that there was more work yet to come. He knew that he would be willing to undertake any request that she should make of him despite his newly discovered exhaustion.
He took a sip of the tincture that lay beneath the rising steam and relaxed in the knowledge that the babe was safe. The wise one had worked her magic on Nellie Carr and then laid the dead baby in the empty cradle up at Heyleigh Hall. There would be no one to know it was a changeling, apart from Grace.
He grimaced as he thought of Grace. He doubted that she had the ability to keep the night’s events to herself. He was sure that Annwn had not missed this either. He sighed deeply and taking another sip, closed his eyes for a moment. How long would it be before sleep washed away this night?
He listened absently as Annwn walked over to the door and let her small white dog out, whispering words Sam did not quite catch. He felt the cold wind rush over the threshold from the open doorway and shivered slightly.
“There’s no need to worry anymore, Sam,” Annwn soothed.
He instinctively knew that she was leaning over him and smiling softly. He looked up and forced himself to blink hard several times. What was wrong with him? She looked like a young maid! He shook his head and tried to wipe the phantom sleep from his eyes. He began to panic, fearing that he had caught a chill or worse still the pox from Nellie Carr’s baby. Woe that this should be the death of him also! He wasn’t ready to die yet. There was still much that he wanted to do!
He shivered once more and realising how deep the cold had travelled within him, he yearned to feel the warmth again quickly. Suspecting that the brew would do him good, he tried to raise the cup to his mouth and was astonished to see it lying on the dark flagstone floor, a red stain creeping across the rushes beneath his feet. He searched his mind frantically -– when had he dropped it? He must have truly fallen asleep and be prey to one of slumber’s tricks!
“Hush, Sam. You’re not sleeping.” He felt Annwn lay her warm hand comfortingly upon his own. His eyes followed the movement and he stared in fascination at his own matching youthful flesh. Was he dreaming or victim to one of her spells?
“What have ye done to me!” he asked in awe, rising to his feet. “Am I bewitched?”
Annwn’s laughter was as youthful as her looks. “I’ve rewarded you, Sam, given you back the last sixty years. How you use them is up to you. There is but one condition: you must leave these parts immediately, walk away and never return.”
“What about Grace?”
“No need to worry about Grace anymore, Sam. Go on, now. Be off with you and enjoy the gift I’ve given. You’ve new warm clothes and there’s plenty of gold in your pockets, so you will not be wanting.” She opened the door and encouragingly patted his shoulder, again whispering words he didn’t quite catch as he passed through it.
He didn’t feel the bitter snow beneath his newly acquired leather boots or the iced wind through the woollen cloak he was now wearing. Within a minute he had forgotten what his other existence had been and within hours he was enjoying a life Sam Omerod had only previously dreamed of.
Labels: 1690, Billy, Refuge of Delayed Souls, Web Fiction