“Danes, oh no,” she murmured.
Her heart began to thud with the intensity of a blacksmith’s hammer. Nervous energy hummed through her body. A hot summer wind blew a strand of her long brown hair across the spyglass, obscuring her view and shaking her from her paralyzed state. Her horse shifted beneath her and stomped his foot. She didn’t need any more urging, it was time to go.
The click the spyglass made as she compacted it made both her and her horse jump. It was silly to think the Danes could hear. Knowing that didn’t make the fear go away, though. The spyglass slipped from her hands and she fumbled with it, barely catching it before it fell.
“No!” she gasped. An entirely different kind of anxiety clutched at her chest. To lose her spyglass here, now—knowing what was coming—would be more irony than she could handle. She clutched it close to her heart for a moment, then carefully tucked it into a pouch at her waist, ensuring the ties on it were well secured.
Murmuring soothing words to her horse, she patted the arch of his muscular, black neck and took up the reins.
“Easy Dubh,” she said, not liking how loud her voice was out here on the deserted hilltop.
With no saddle between her and Dubh she easily felt his muscles bunch in preparation to run. A rustling sound drew her attention. She shifted her weight back, cuing Dubh to wait. A tiny creature that looked like a dangerously thin human but was no bigger than Neala’s hand, fluttered on iridescent wings above Dubh’s neck. It cocked its head and gave her a concerned look.
“Go little fairy, it isn’t safe here,” Neala told it.
The fairy cocked its head at her, and the look of concern that pinched its tiny features made Neala’s chest tighten. It floated to her shoulder and lingered there. Its delicate wings brushed her ear.
“Please go, I’m beggin’ ye. Tell yer kind this town isn’t safe anymore,” Neala said.
After a glance in the direction of the ship which was only a speck on the horizon, the fairy nodded and disappeared. The air glimmered green and blue for a moment, then all trace of her was gone. She must have understood the danger to some degree, but how much, Neala couldn’t be sure.
Turning Dubh toward the port town of Dublin, Neala let him go. He thundered down the green hillside, his massive feet with their long, black feathers of hair throwing up huge chunks of earth. Once they reached the cobblestone streets she had to slow him to a trot to maneuver through the horse-drawn carts and pedestrians. Dubh was so big that people moved quickly out of his way and a path was cleared.
It felt like an eternity before she reached the shop where her da was, though it took only moments. Their cart, with Dubh’s black and white brothers hitched to it, was parked in the alleyway next to the building. It was empty. Good, that meant her da had already unloaded the wool. Before Dubh came to a stop at the hitching post Neala leapt from his back. She didn’t bother to tie him. Though he stomped and snorted, he wouldn’t go anywhere without her.
Forgetting all propriety, Neala threw the door open and ran into the shop, darting around tables covered in bolts of material and wool. At the back of the shop her da was leaning upon a tall table engaged in conversation with the old man behind it.