‘Come on,’ Isoldé ordered Tristan out of the truck and pointed him to the path to the grove. ‘Go!’ He did as she bid him.
Embar leapt out of the back of the truck and stood at Isoldé’s feet, glaring up at her.
‘I must,’ she told him.
‘Ask …’ The word formed in her mind like a shout.
‘I can’t,’ she said. ‘What if they say no?’
The cat continued to glare for a moment then turned and followed Tristan down the path.
The light in the grove was a red monochrome from the bloody reflection of the eclipsed moon.
Isoldé wondered what she must do to walk between the worlds from one grove to the other. She stood by the head-stone, then crouched beside it. It really was a face, a head. There was the mouth as a mossy crack in the rock. The nose, slightly bulbous, stood out as a bulge of stone. And the eye. The eye was carved, a circle with an equal-armed cross inside it, the astrological symbol for the Earth. The carving was over four thousand years old but those who had done it knew what they were doing. The head itself stood out of the grass as though the rest of the giant figure was still buried in the ground. Perhaps it was, no-one had ever dug here to find out, Tristan had never allowed it and neither would Mark.
Isoldé could feel a presence in the eye, as though it watched her back. ‘I want to walk between the worlds,’ she told the presence in the head-stone. ‘I want to take Tristan back across the worlds to your counterpart in the grove in the Isles of the Dead, the Isles of the Blest, where he belongs. Will you help me?’
From somewhere impossible, a shadow blinked across the eye. A sense of “Yes” came inside Isoldé’s head.
‘What must I do?’
‘Blood,’ came the reply.
‘Your blood.’ It felt as if there was a chuckle came with the words. ‘It is the night of the blood moon after all.’
‘All right,’ Isoldé agreed, trying not to think about what she might have agreed to.
The chuckle came again.
She delved in the bag she’d brought, what was there she could prick her finger with to draw blood? Her fingers felt something long and thin, she took it out, it was a long needle. ‘What do I do?’ she asked.
‘Draw blood,’ came the reply. ‘Smear some on Tristan’s forehead and your own, then onto my eye. Then take Tristan’s hand and look directly into my eye.’
Isoldé took the needle and stabbed her finger. Blood welled up immediately. She smeared a little on her forehead then stood to do the same for Tristan. She squeezed her finger again and put the bloody tip to the centre of the eye in the stone head. As she finished she felt Embar twine about her legs. She bent at once and rubbed the last of the blood between his eyes, then, taking Tristan’s hand she pulled him down beside her looked straight into the stone eye. Embar jumped into her lap and also stared at the stone.
Isoldé felt herself shooting forwards, into the eye, like rushing down a dark tunnel. She could sense the man and the cat were with her but there was no feeling at all, it was as though she didn’t have a body, just a knowing, completely bodiless. Suddenly the sensation stopped. She had no idea how long it had gone on for. She felt dizzy and sick as she jolted to an apparent stop to find herself crouched on grass, along with Tristan and Embar, all of them facing the head-stone.
It was different. The blood-red colour of the light was gone, replaced by a white-gold along with monochrome stone and the grass. It had worked. She was in otherworld and she’d brought Tristan home. She turned to him.
He stood up, pulling her with him. ‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘But you must go. Now. You cannot stay. You must go home.’
Isoldé turned back to the stone, stared into its eye. There was a chuckle in response. ‘It only works one way,’ the stone-voice said inside her head.
‘Oh …! You didn’t tell me that!’
‘You didn’t ask,’ said the stone. ‘I only tell you what you ask. If you don’t ask it, I don’t tell.’
Isoldé sagged. She was a fool. She should have known that, after everything that had happened recently, all she’d learned. She’d behaved like a foolish child … and got the appropriate response. What was she to do?