At the bottom of the stairway Morgan and Baxter followed the rocky ravine until it led them down into a meadow of purple asters nestled in a vale at the base of the mountains. Here two round-topped hills of faded green sloped gently upward on either hand framing a hazy view of the long lake and grassy plain beyond. By now it was well past mid-day, and Baxter, who was tired and hungry, pleaded with Morgan to stop for the night. But Morgan would not delay the journey any longer than absolutely necessary. So after a quick meal of chocolate chip cookies and tangerines, they set out across the grassland just as the sun began sliding westward.
“Do you have any idea where you’re going?” said Baxter.
“Tory Island,” answered Morgan. “To the Morrigu’s tower. I told you before. She’s a wicked enchantress. Do you remember Madame Medea’s?”
“Madame Medea’s. It was a shop in that row of stores your father used to own down on Front Street.”
“Never heard of it.”
“Well, I’m not surprised. One day it wasn’t there, and the next day it was. Eny and I went inside a couple of times. She’s the one who took my dad. She’s got him locked up in her tower, and I’m going to get him out.”
“How can you possibly know that?”
“If you don’t believe me, you don’t have to come.”
Baxter looked sheepish and said nothing.
They pushed on, heading straight north and keeping the lake on their right hand. After a while a dark line of shimmering blue rose up before them on the horizon; and during the next half-hour this line expanded and broadened until they could see clearly that it was another body of water.
“Look!” cried Morgan. “That inlet leads straight out into the ocean towards Tory Island. Come on!” And he started to run.
“But we don’t have a boat!” Baxter shouted after him.
But when they crossed the last grassy ridge and came charging down the sandy slope to the water’s edge, what should they see lying before them but an old gray dinghy, complete with a mast, a triangular sail, and a pair of oars.
“What were you saying about a boat?” Morgan grinned triumphantly. “I think we were meant to find this! Help me get it into the water!”
“How about we wait until morning?” Baxter glanced at the reddening sky.
Morgan glared at him and shoved the boat into the shallows. “Get in!” he commanded.
Taking their places side by side on the bench, they began to row up the inlet with their backs towards the open sea and the glare of the setting sun in their eyes. Up over the ridges of the choppy waves and down through the dividing troughs they labored while thin mists gathered in swirling eddies on the surface of the water.
Far away to his right, rising above the plain like a hog’s back, Morgan could just make out the bristling canopy of the Hill Forest. He did not know that it was the Hill Forest, of course. It would have taken his breath away to be told that Eny had camped there only the night before. He knew nothing about the geography of the Sidhe or Eny’s current location. But he was earnestly hoping to find her on Tory Island. Never once had he doubted that this was exactly where she intended to go.
It was dusk by the time they reached the mouth of the inlet and paddled out into the open sea. Looking over his shoulder, Morgan saw the bulk of the island brooding dark over the face of the cold and heaving ocean. They seemed to be right on course. Directly ahead rose the thin black spike of Tur Morraigu, like the tooth of a dragon challenging the gathering night.
“It’s not far now,” he panted. “Half an hour more and—”
Without warning, something struck the prow of the boat, driving it straight towards a heap of sharp rocks at the foot of the promontory.
(To be continued …)