For now, here's part seven, from Crystal.
The carriage shifted to the side and her body slid as well, ending her musing. Obviously, the driver was getting down from his seat which meant they were at their destination. She started folding the wool blanket when the driver knocked on the door and gently opened it.
Maybe it was the ray of sun shining that hit him, or just his overall appearance, but she actually noticed him. No one notices their cab driver, but she noticed him. He was very handsome with dirty blond hair, blue eyes, and extremely tall, nearly 6’3” she’d estimate. He wore a sack coat, club collar, and brushed-cotton trousers—all clean, patch free and recently pressed. Stylish, impressive
The driver cleared his throat, and she blushed. She realized he had caught her staring at him.
“Miss Celestnue we have arrived,” he said.
“Excuse me, what did you call me, sir?” she asked as she lay the folded wool blanket across the seat next to her. His eyes followed her actions, and the folded blanket won her a beautiful smile, as he placed the step on the ground for her.
“Thank you, ma’am, and I called you Miss Celestnue,” he replied. “Some of us have been waiting for your arrival for days now, especially the owner of this establishment.”
Celeste paused, her hand on the carriage frame, “I’m sorry but do I know you?”
“No, milady, you do not. My name is Gaheris.”
He reached out and took her hand to help her down.
Celeste shook her head and closed her eyes for a moment. Celestnue? She thought as she stepped down from the carriage.
Once firmly on the ground, she pulled her senses together and centered herself. “Let’s start over Gaheris, it was Gaheris right? My name is Celeste, not Celestnue,” she stated firmly.
He leaned close to her and whispered. “No ma’am, you were Celeste. You cannot be that here. However, when you came through the portal into this dimension you became Celestnue.”
“I what? This dimension?” she whispered back.
“Why yes, you are no longer following the timeline of your dimension,” he replied nodding.
“How can this be? How do you know this?” Celeste asked.
“I do not know how it can be, ma’am. It is what Gwyar says, and she is never wrong about these things.”
Different dimension. Different time line. All right. Processing.
“So, you are Gaheris—as in Sir Gaheris?” she asked.
“Oh no, ma’am. No sir to my title. It’s a family tradition to use such names.”
“Hummm, I can understand that, but who is Gwyar?” she continued, trying to record everything she heard on the mental blackboard in her head.
“I have said enough, you need to speak with Gwyar,” he replied. “I’ve may have said too much already.”
“I don’t understand.”
Gaheris smiled but said nothing as he helped her further onto the sidewalk.
She glanced around the street and found that no one was traveling the sidewalks on either side. How odd.
The storefront to which she had been delivered was old but well cared for. The windows were clean and the entry was clear of snow and ice. The sign above the door read Candles and Herbs.
Celeste turned back to face Gaheris. “What do I owe you?”
Gaheris lifted her hand gently to his lips and bit her finger. Celeste jerked it back yelping in pain. Viper-quick, he pulled her hand back to his mouth and sucked on the wound.
She yanked her hand back and, as a reflex, wrapped her other hand around the injured spot. She paused. It no longer hurt. Celeste looked down at her finger. It no longer bled. There were no holes or scars or any sign that she had ever been bitten. Did I imagine that?
“Excuse me, Celestnue,” Gaheris said. “I shall wait here until you return. Your fare is paid in full.”
“Um, thank you, Gaheris. I think,” she replied and stared deeply into his blue eyes. Nothing of what she’d just experienced showed in his baby blues. Perhaps I really did imagine it.
The mare whinnied. Celeste looked upon the horse, and again, its eyes flashed red. She knew she was not imagining all this.
As Celeste watched the mare, the air around the horse blurred. When Celeste could once again see clearly, a large mongrel dog stood where the mare had been. The harnesses lay on the ground around it.
“Ruuuw,” barked the dog.
“Really Ragnell? Are you sure?” Gaheris asked.
“Ruuuw,” replied the dog.
“Excuse me Celestnue, but it would appear that Ragnell is going in with you,” Gaheris said as if this was the most common thing in the world. “Perhaps we should all go inside.”
“My apologies, ma’am,” he replied petting the dog that was now at his side. “Celestnue, this is Ragnell. Ragnell, Celestnue.”
“Ruuuw,” said the dog.
Celeste stood, shaken for a moment, not certain whether the dog had actually responded to Gaheris’s introduction. Am I supposed to believe this creature is sentient? Why am I so disturbed by this—this strangeness? I’m a witch from the Twenty-Fourth Century, travelling with my ex-husband who inadvertently turned himself into a cat. So, the nightmare turns herself into a dog. Gaheris put his hand on her elbow and guided her into the shop.
“We have to get you in out of the weather,” Gaheris said, “it’s about time for the wind to pick up. We don’t want you freezing to death.”
Celeste stopped just inside the doorway frozen. Her eyes glazed over and she began to pace back and forth in the small area at the front of the store. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I’m here on a mission. Must keep the task in mind. Gawain and Jacob are relying on me. Her pacing was cut short by an elderly lady, who stepped in front of her and loudly snapped her fingers in front of Celeste’s eyes.
“Celeste,” she said firmly.
“What!” Celeste shouted.
The old lady continued in a much softer voice, “Now, dearie, we don’t have time for this. You have to pull yourself together. You really should be taking your elixir, you know. We have a lot to discuss and not a lot of time. Now, stop this nonsense and come with me.”
“I—I—I’m sorry,” Celeste said, shaking her head and staring at the floor. “I left my elixir at home. And who are you?” Celeste frowned. "And how the hell do you know about my elixir?"
“Oh my, how rude of me, dear. My name is Gwyar, but you know me as Gee-Gee,” she said.
“Gee-Gee. The only Gee-Gee I know was Gawain’s mother,” Celeste said.
Celeste stared at Gwyar and Gwyar stared back at her. Gwyar folded her hands in front of her and watched as Celeste’s mind caught up with reality. Time seemed to slow as she stared into Celeste’s eyes and waited. Just as the old woman knew they would, Celeste’s eye lit up.
“You are Gee-Gee. You’re Gawain’s mother,” she said, “but, Gawain’s mother died fifty years ago.”
Gwyar continued to stare silently at Celeste. “Wait a minute. Her body was never recovered. You didn’t die when that boat exploded. You somehow survived. What the hell happened? Better yet, what the hell is going on?”
“I don’t know what they said happened to me in your dimension, dearie—our dimension, I should say. I was somehow shifted here to where Gawain’s missing brother was stuck,” she said pointing at Gaheris. “Actually this is where we’re all stuck.”
“Gawain’s brother. Harris?” Celeste asked twisting a strand of her long red hair.
“Yes.” Gaheris replied.
“But you’ve been missing for, well since before Gee-Gee and Dad married,” Celeste blurted out.
“Quite,” Gwyar replied.
“So who or what is Ragnell?” Celeste asked.
“Ragnell is Gawain’s betrothed from the 23rd century, or at least she was before she changed,” Gwyar said.
“Dear, I have a lot of information to share with everyone, but we are all in danger. You,” she said pointing at Celeste, “have a long, dangerous journey ahead of you, and time is not your friend. You are the key. You are the only witch I knew that studied the witches of old, even those during the days of disbelief. You know their rituals. You are the key to saving Gawain, which is ironic since you are also the one trying to destroy him.”
“Not now, dear,” Gwyar said. “We have to get moving. I have already packed the supplies you’ll need.”
Celeste stomped her foot, “Wait a minute. How the hell do you know what I need?” Celeste shouted.
“Calm down, dear” said the old woman. “Perhaps you didn’t know, but precognition is one of my skills. I know what you need. And the first thing you need now is to drink this.” Gwyar handed Celeste a small vile.
Celeste glared at Gwyar for a moment but reached up and took the vile. Her hands shook as she uncorked and smelled it. She grimaced and tilted it up, swallowing it down in one gulp. “Well, that surely is my elixir. Nothing else could smell that vile and yet taste good.”
Gwyar took the vile and sat it on the counter then reached out and took both of Celeste’s hands. “I know you’re scared and overwhelmed. This is a lot to take in, but you will be okay. Do you hear me? You can do this. You’ll be okay.”
“Yes. I can handle this. I’ll be fine. I’m just not comfortable with anyone else being in control. I’m sorry if I’ve offended you.”
“Think nothing of it dear,” Gwyar said, letting go of Celeste’s hands. “Now, you need to look over this.” Gwyar handed Celeste a large, filled-to bulging cotton sack.
Celeste opened it. It reeked, but she took inventory anyway: candles—green, blue, red, three white, two silver, two gold, and a tiny suspended candle holder with four prongs. There were also several herbs and oils—Mugwort, jasmine, sandalwood, parsley, dried mushrooms, cannabis, nutmeg oil, Saint John’s wort oil, and a few others she didn’t recognize.
“Mother of all, Gwyar, what are you preparing us for anyway?” Celeste asked.
“Here is the other bag,” Gwyar replied handing her another sack, “look inside it also so you have the full inventory imprinted in your memory.”
She took the other bag and looked inside it. She found a small wooden box, which she opened. It was full of elixirs. The bag also contained ruby-colored slippers with teeth marks on them, a pocket watch with a heart imprinted on the front, a small green silk pouch with three beans inside, and another small pouch, this one black in color with a plain band ring inside it. There was some kind of inscription on the inside it.
“The future dear. All I will say now is that a lot of the items we thought were fairy tale devices, are real relics, just not as we knew them. Also, a lot of stories we thought were myths are—or have become—history. I think Ninue is behind it. Now let’s go, time is ticking,” she said as she headed for the door. “Ragnell, you are going to have to shift again dear, I’m sorry,”
The mutt, who had been sitting quietly in the corner, whined but got up and headed to the heavy wooden door where Gaheris stood waiting.
“But I have more questions about you and Gaheris and Ragnell,” Celeste protested. “I mean, Gaheris bit me, I think. And how can Ragnell polymorph? And well—everything. and why can't I be Celeste?”
“To the carriage, dear. We must get safely to the carriage.”