- Shereen Vedam
Story Telling Time: Love Spell in London Chapter 1 Part IV
The hounds scrabbled to their feet and were hot on her trail with quiet grace for such large lethal animals. Even Bartos, the eldest, who was more gray than black, loped behind her without seeming effort.
Grace raced across the countryside, her cat form adeptly scaling fences and skirting startled bulls. She circled farmhouses and barns. However fast she ran, she could not shake Merryn’s last words of warning about Dewer.
The hounds kept pace at her back without tiring, never losing sight of her or lagging to investigate a curious scent or alarmed shout. Their single-minded pursuit mirrored her intention to reach her mother before a second frantic call was sent.
A half-hour later, Grace entered the moors that bordered her family home. She swerved around trees, climbed hills and leaped over shrubs as she sped to the far end. With no clear pathway, the hounds had a harder time keeping up. They whined at going around bushes she magically scaled. When the brambles proved too cumbersome, they barked their frustration.
She slowed to give them time to catch up, her thoughts returning to her mother’s strident call to come home. What could have upset a witch who could slam a door shut with a delicate tilt of her head or build a wall of thorny roses with a simple finger twirl?
Grace reached the edge of this stretch of the moor, and ahead stretched the long driveway that led home. She checked on the hounds’ progress and promptly stumbled and crashed. As her cheek sank into the oddly muddy ground, a vision took her into the depths of a river. Birds chirping, the hounds whining, all of it faded away as Grace entered an undulating watery world.
Someone tugged at her gown. Using her arms to wade through the water, she turned around and came face to face with an eel swimming among a school of trout. The fish scooted around the eel but one little trout stopped and asked the eel, “Do you need assistance?”
“My friend is hurt,” the eel replied. “I need a healer.”
Scales twinkling in the light, the trout said it recalled once meeting a witch who gently stroked his side where he had an angry gash. He shivered. She healed me.
Grace remembered that moment. A little fish had looked hurt in a stream behind her home where she collected medicinal herbs earlier this spring. Sensing its life slipping away, she had reached into the water to seal the tear. Surely the fish in this vision was not that same one? If not, why was she being shown this fish? Why was it important that she see this eel?
A bark brought her back to the present and she gasped for breath. Air rushed in to fill her tight lungs, as if she had been holding her breath underwater.
Her first thought was, how far back were the hellhounds? A frantic glance over her shoulder showed them sitting ten paces back, tongues lolling. Farfur was the one who had barked. His nose was raised, nostrils quivering as he sniffed the air. Then he gave a howl and tore toward her, Bartos was not far behind. She crouched, extending her claws in defense, but they streaked past her, toward her home.
Surprised, she flicked her white tail up in question, and then set off after them. They moved fast, much faster than she had ever given them credit for. So, they had been humoring her all this while, pretending they could not catch up. She hoped her mother never found out.
Past a strand of oak trees loomed her front garden bordering their circular driveway. The bushes were green but lacked colorful blooms. Flowers were rare this summer. The constant overcast skies and soggy ground from too many rainy days had devastated her mother’s pride and joy.
As she drew closer, Grace transformed back into herself. Her wet gown slapped against her legs as she sprinted. What soon riveted her attention and slowed her pace was a dark traveling carriage strapped to four matching black horses tethered before her house. The two hellhounds were circling the carriage, tails wagging.
Grace’s heart thundered faster than on her race home, for only one gentleman, one warlock, could own a vehicle that so fascinated these two hellhounds.
He was here!
Farfur was at her front door now, scratching to get in. If she did not accede to his pleas, he would leave gouges in the wood and that would infuriate her mother. Yet, Grace’s limbs trembled at the idea of proceeding up her gravel drive toward the door.
What if she made no impression on Dewer? For a second time. She rubbed her hands down her gown, and discovered the material was filthy!
Dewer’s groom and footman were on the far side of the carriage. The two lads were in their early twenties and their facial similarity suggested they might be brothers or cousins. A negligent twirl of her forefinger and bushes near them bent as if struck by a brisk breeze, while dirt and leaves peppered the air. The servants swung around, raising their arms to protect their faces. While their backs were turned, Grace shook herself.
She shed dirt from her face, hair and clothes, her blue morning dress dried and a fresh floral scent imbued her skin. Satisfied she was now presentable, she lowered her arms and squared her shoulders. She stepped toward her front door, her hips’ natural swing a tad wider in anticipation of finally being introduced to the alluring Mr. Dewer.
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