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For a long moment, the hall was deathly quiet. Katie glanced at her friends, still apparently stuck in some trance, and then back to the monks, those glassy black eyes staring right through her, or so it seemed. They didn’t move a muscle, and she frowned, wondering if they were even still alive.
Finally, they stood in unison, the action forcing her to take a step back. They began to walk in a circle around her, kicking up a slight breeze that gradually grew in substance, though apparently only within the circle they’d created.
“Katherine Watson. Your enemy has been vanquished, and the warrior returned to the manor, but for bringing your enemy here rather than taking your warrior’s council, you will not be allowed to break the curse. As per the requirements for aide from the manor, you are hereby banished, and are never to return again.”
“Wait! No!” The wind swirled around her like a miniature cyclone now, and she tried to push through it, tried to get to Thomas, but it flung her back every time.
“You can’t do this! You can’t keep us apart! It’s not fair!”
The wind turned to a cloud, the cloud dark and angry around her, and tears slid down her cheeks as she felt herself lifted off the ground.
“No!” she screamed into her swirling cocoon. “I’ll find you, Thomas – I swear! I won’t give up!”
The cloud disappeared in a puff and she dropped to the ground, hitting hard and collapsing from the impact. Stunned, she rolled to her back and saw stars – real stars in the vast, navy blue night sky above. Crickets and frogs chirped in tandem as her fingers curled around dirt and grass. She sat up, looking this way and that, but though she was sure this was the right clearing, there was no sign of the manor anywhere.
“No,” she murmured, swiping at the tears on her face. “They can’t do this. I won’t let them.” She didn’t want to leave, but there wasn’t anything else she could do here, and she was pretty sure those damn druids wouldn’t be coming back.
After one last long look, she ran back to the car and slid behind the wheel. Locking the doors, she just sat there, stunned and shaking. She went over everything that happened, image after unbelievable image flashing through her mind. The manor was gone. Thomas was gone. Peter was dead, and Sarah was…a gargoyle now? It all felt like a dream, something her mind had made up while she was sleeping, and just like that, it was gone. Had it all just been a strange fantasy? Was she going crazy?
No. Even if everything else was fake, Thomas was real. She knew it as surely as she knew her own name, and when she closed her eyes, she could feel him next to her, holding her, hear his deep, gentle voice in her ear.
She had to find him. She would not give him up.
She started the car and peeled off the gravel shoulder and onto the pavement, only slowing when a local cop flashed his lights at her on his way to somewhere else.
She needed help. Someone who had seen the manor, who knew the legend, and someone who knew about druid magic, whatever that was. She had no idea where to find such a person, but the internet seemed like a good place to start, and there was no time to waste.
Frantic to find him by the time she reached her house, she ran inside and grabbed a pen, a notepad, and a couple sodas from the refrigerator before heading to her computer desk. Her fingers flew across the keyboard as she entered the first search terms and started scrolling through results.