I was back in the dark hole of the sidhe. It was cool, but in the pit of my stomach there was colder ice. I was afraid for my people and afraid for myself. If they were truly gone I, who was familiar with being alone from time to time, was not just alone I was lost.
I scrambled to my feet. There was light from the hole I had collapsed in the false roof of the sidhe. I don’t know why I’d been so stupid. There was dry wood aplenty in the wreckage. I had steel and flint, I had my tinderbox. It was the work of a few moments and I had a fire started. I reserved a manageable branch for a torch. Moments later I could again clearly see the inside of the sidhe. There were still metal items that had caught the light, tarnish dulled, they had suffered from inattention.
With torch in hand I walked to the entrance of the tunnel that Jella called the souterrain. I found the loose otter stone and its cache of lamp and oil. My first instinct was to go as quickly as possible to find my people.
On a moments reflection I remembered my seeing. My visions were true. My visions of Jella, the lamp and oil, this pendant with flint and steel that I held was proof enough. I had seen our camp overrun, I couldn’t go there. It was too late to warn, my duty and my hope was to find. So I put the lamp in my pack, and I put the pendant around my neck. I walked back into the great hall of the sidhe to see if there was something, anything, that would help us. . .”
“Did you find your people Grand-father?” asked the youngest.
The elder boys elbowed the youngest. “He’s here isn’t he?”
“I did find our people. Most of them. Some of the other lads who had gone out before didn’t come back, but warning arrived before I knew of the danger. We had to run and sneak and we didn’t have deer or horses to ride either. We got food from the secret place which supplied us for our flight south, but our warring with the evil hordes cost us plenty.”
There was a yawn, and another. “Well, that’s pretty much what I know about the deer-riders. Maybe you three aught to go find your beds.”
The boys looked at each other and didn’t move as fast as they usually did he thought. “Of course you can help yourself to what’s left of dinner. Can’t have good bread go to waste.”
The boys dug in and murmured thanks as they parcelled out the last of supper. Mouths still full, the boys exited the tent. They were mounted in a flash, almost before the old man could make it out of his tent.
The eldest turned back before he and the others rode off, “Thank you Grand-father.” His fellows mumbled their thanks around their last mouthfuls.
“Off with you then my lads. You’re likely to scare the Deer Riders off if you’re around making noise and chewing so loudly.”
“Right, scare off the deer-riders, “Laughing, they waved and pelted off toward the main camp leaving the old man alone with his thoughts.
He closed his eyes. Perhaps from long practice or because he was older now and the veil between life and death was thinner for him now, but he could see so much easier now. As forgetful as he was becoming he could imagine walking away from his body and just never coming back. Perhaps that was what dying was. The man felt sure he would know someday soon.
But tonight he flew above the world. He saw from above the herd deer’s approach. He saw the stream of tawny bodies and clattering horn. They were coming. The moon was often his guide, somethings do not change. Now he felt the rush of the herd through his feet. His old horse nickered. He breathed deep. Was that the deer he smelled?
He walked briskly to the spot he had chosen. On a little knoll above his camp there was a tree with roots sunk into the rocky hill top. He had almost left himself short. He turned just in time to see the first of the herd deer burst over the nearby rise. His hand found purchase on the tree for stability and comfort. He could hear the coming of the deer now as well as feel it.
The herd cleared the rise before him on a broad front and it split to pass his place by the tree. The beasts were running blind for the most part now. But the tree was a big enough obstruction.
He had old eyes in an old body, but eyes aren’t the only way to see, he knew. And so he saw. On the back of a deer, a bit larger than most, was a person he knew. He smiled, it was good to see old friends, a bit sad to remember others. “Heyaah! Oren,” He yelled.
“Heyaah Dream-Walker,” The deer-rider called and waved as he thundered past among the tawny deer.