11 July, 2017 by katelaity
I had many thoughts occupy my mind as we rode along but I was soon cheered by the countryside through which we rode. I admit I had never much thought of Scotland as anything other than the colourful land of Scott’s exciting novels. Which I suppose meant not conceiving of it as a real place at all. I didn’t expect to run into Rob Roy or poor Lucy Ashton, but I did rather think it to be larger than life and ten times wilder. Here on the east coast the hills rolled gently and little brooks broke up the landscape as they rushed down to the North Sea. It was far more charming than the intimidating roughness of windswept Orkney or the craggy heights of the Highlands. Who knew this northern land was so various?
As the sun began to make its way to the horizon we arrived near our destination. We seemed to be nestled in the crook of some hills. Chambers said we should make camp here and explore the mound in the morning. I could tell that Tansy would be all for going right into the mystery tonight, so I was grateful for our friend’s suggestion and seconded it at once. It took a little time to bring Tansy around for I could see that gleam in his eye that sparked whenever there was adventure afoot. Most unhealthy, I assure you. I had been hoping this journey would satisfy that itch for novelty and risk in my friend. I had begun to fear that it only increased it.
We gathered wood and made a small fire in the hollow of the hills and ate our meal. Mither Wishart had supplied us with a good amount of cold pies and cheese so we didn’t actually need to cook anything, but a fire always lends a sense of warmth—literally as well as figuratively—that makes any uncomfortable camp a little more charming.
‘We should tell ghost stories,’ Tansy said, holding out his mug for another swig of ale from Chamber’s capacious bottle.
‘Oh, please no,’ I cried. ‘We have had so many strange adventures of late that I fear I shall never sleep if we do.’
Chambers was curious about our adventures so Tansy shared some of the queer highlights of our trip so far, from the strange little green folk in Cornwall to the wild winds of Orkney and Rae’s tales of the Hudson Bay. I must admit in retrospect that we had indeed encountered many a strange thing but nothing that yet seemed the height of absurdity. Perhaps we would find it here in the most unexpected of places. A fairy mound! Or so Chambers had joked, though Mither Wishart had nodded most earnestly.
As the fire burned down to glowing red coals we lay on our blankets staring up at the stars that pocked the sky. I could hear our horses cropping grass nearby, nickering to one another in that way they do. What do horses converse about, I wondered. Is the grass over there any greener? Or sweeter? That man I’ve got isn’t half heavy! I chuckled.
‘Are you thinking about the fairy mound?’ Tansy asked.
‘No,’ I said, yawning. ‘I was wondering what horses talk about to each other. Rather silly I suppose. That’s your bad influence, getting me to think about all kinds of nonsense.’
Tansy chuckled. ‘Misce stultitiam consiliis brevem: Dulce est desipere in loco, my friend.’
I could not argue with that so I simply said good night. The chill of the air and the strangeness of all the sounds of the wild night made me fearful that I would toss and turn for ages, but all at once I felt the warmth of the sun on my face and realised it was morning.
After taking care of our morning ablutions in a nearby brook, we intrepid adventurers were ready to begin. Chambers took a large book from the courier bag he had thrown across his saddle yesterday. The volume was bound in aged leather, tooled with odd designs. The parchment pages were covered with a neat script I had not seen since the college missal. His finger sought the correct passage, then he nodded and led us a little around the side of the nearest rise. A small tree grew where the little brook disappeared into the hill and Chambers smiled. ‘This is the place.’
Tansy looked as eager as a racehorse at the starter’s pistol. I rather wished for some talisman to cling to but had left my lucky rabbit’s foot behind in London. No matter, I tried to convince myself, I have done stranger things. Chambers read a few words aloud that I could not understand in a voice that had no trace of tremor.
All at once there was a cleft in the hill that had not been there before!
[with thanks to the Quote Investigator]