When Eny awoke, Brighid was nowhere to be seen. She had disappeared without a trace. Not even the fallen leaves at the base of the tree where she had been sitting the previous evening showed any evidence of her presence. There were no tracks, no footprints, no broken twigs or trampled grasses to indicate which way she had gone. Eny searched the wood, calling her friend by name, but there was no answer. At length she was forced to give up the quest.
Sad at heart and weary of limb, she gobbled two oatcakes from her store and drank from the cold, clear rivulet that flowed nearby. After that, she struck her tent, packed her bag, and set off through the trees.
Tiptoeing warily to the edge of the little grove, she peered out from between the trunks of the pines and saw the endless ocean glittering blue-green and white at the bottom of a steep sandy slope. Over the ground between the wood and the beach nodded a few sparse patches of thin, dry grass. Above her head the trees were alive with birdsong. The sky was as clear as a pane of polished glass. Off to the west a fingernail moon was setting on the far side of the Firth. And out across the water rose the dark hump of an island, gray-green in color and round as the back of a whale.
Is that Tory? she wondered, gazing hard at the barren heap of stone. She remembered seeing Tory Island from the hill above Rury’s dun. It seemed to her that, on that occasion, she had clearly discerned the tower of Tur Morraigu rising up like a spire of obsidian from its highest ridge. Guess I’m seeing it from a different angle today.
Leaving the wood, she went down to the water’s edge where the breakers boomed and hissed on the shining sands. There she unlatched her bolg from her sheepskin belt, dumped its contents, and began to undo the folds of leather once more, this time shaping them into a small boat or currach like the one she had learned to navigate on the bay of Luimneach near Semeon’s dun. When the boat was finished, she loaded all her possessions and equipment into it, found a piece of driftwood to serve as a paddle, and shoved out into the deep.
Once beyond the surf, she rowed vigorously for the island. It was tiresome work, for the choppy waves were against her. “Unh!” grunted Eny, digging deeper and harder with every stroke of her awkward paddle-stick; and then, all at once, with a jolt and a jerk, a stiff current seized the coracle and sent it skimming like a leaf around the edge of a circular coral reef.
Suddenly an image rose up before her mind’s eye: swirling green waters, gyrating winds, a funnel that pierced the ocean floor itself. “No!” she screamed, remembering the Morslogh and the terrors of that dark passageway between the worlds. She pulled with all her might, fighting desperately to drag the currach clear of current. But this time the powerful surge did not plunge her into the trough of a whirlpool. Instead, it swept her far out to sea, past the reef and all the way around to the distant side of the island.
Round and round in a series of wide circles spun the frail little craft. At last, dizzy with the relentless motion, Eny shipped her oar and pitched forward into the bottom of the currach. A moment later the current died just as suddenly as it had arisen. Opening her eyes, she saw the vast blue dome of the sky wheeling lazily overhead.
Slowly she sat up looked around. She was lying in a calm, glassy bay just within the shadow of the island’s beetling cliffs. Well, thought Eny, taking a long, deep breath, that wasn’t so bad! Then she paddled to shore, jumped out into the rippling water, and dragged her little boat up onto the sand.
(To be continued …)