The sisters entered Mikaela’s tent. The one with the loose braids walked over to Mikaela and placed a wreath of wild flowers and greenery upon her head. “Come, it is time,” the sister announced.
As they walked out of the ten, Mikaela realized the sun was setting in the distance, and saw a large fire with the clan gathered around. There was drumming and clapping coming from the people gathered around the fire. Some members danced about in circles and Mikaela suspected a little drinking was already underway.
Mikaela’s mind spun. Could she escape tonight or will someone be watching her too closely? She looked about and spied Pepper was penned up with some other horse just outside the encampment. As she looked around, her menacing guard walked in front of her blocking her view of the pen and, tilting his head sideways, shook his finger in a wagging pattern indicating no.
She looked to the ground then turned back in the directions the sisters were guiding her. She recalled what the mystery man from her dream told her Keep looking forward. It’s the only way through. So she walked on, semi-willingly, with the sisters.
The bearded man from earlier walked up to the sisters and Mikaela. “Fine work sisters! She is perfect.”
Mikaela looked up at him. “Are you Hank?”
The man laughed again, as if she said something hilarious. “Oh, dear child, no, I am not Hank! That’s funny!” He looked at the sisters and nodded at them to leave them. “Come with me. What is your name child?”
“Mikaela. And yours?”
“I’m known as Jed in this clan. I have also gone by Fitz in another life.”
“Oh yes! All except the children have had another life before we reached Nowhere. Many of have chosen to stay in Nowhere. Some have opted for other locations, such as Somewhere.”
“Where are you originally from then?”
“Oh child, we are all from There. Even you are from There; I can tell.”
Mikaela’s head was spinning. All of these people came from her time, her home? Her voice squeaked out, “How?”
Jed looked at her kindly, “How does not matter. Why probably matters more. Confused yet?”
Mikaela just stared at him.
“Good. You should be. Your acushla will pale in comparison to what we have to offer in Nowhere. But Nowhere must also accept you. You, my dear, are very different than others from There. I don’t believe you can even comprehend it.”
Mikaela looked up at him, then realized they were standing in front of a hedge labyrinth.
“Tonight, we will find out if you will find Hank, or if you will pass on from Nowhere.” Jed waved his hand at the entrance of the labyrinth. “But first, we will dine. Come with me, dear.”
Jed took Mikaela by the arm back towards the fire. The clan was singing and dancing still. Some had started eating as well. Jed picked up a bowl and handed it to the cook who had worked on the feast. “For the lady.”
The cook nodded, turned, and pulled out a piece of what appears to be chicken from a large pot, then poured other cooked broth and vegetables over it, then handed it back to Jed.
Jed turned to Mikaela. In a non-accented voice he whispered, “It’s like chicken soup.”
In that moment, she realized Jed was not from this world, as he did not have their accent. Her eyes grew wide.
He laid his finger across his lips, indicating for her to say nothing.
Mikaela wasn’t sure if she could trust him to help her, but shook her head yes.
Jed’s voice piped up and the accent returned, “Eat up, child. You’ll need your strength tonight!”
The sisters walked by and giggled. Some of the men of the clan watched Mikaela as she walked with Jed, some with lust in their eyes, others with disgust. Mikaela felt she was on show for the highest bidder or something, and became self-conscious. The sheer dress in the cold air revealed far more than she was comfortable with.
Again, those words came back to her. Keep looking forward. It’s the only way through. She lifted her chin and continued to keep up with Jed instead of being bashful and falling behind.
Finally Jed settled onto a stump and patted for Mikaela to sit next to him. She did and they both ate. Mikaela continued to look around at the group.
Everyone was fair haired and fair skinned in the group as well as light-eyed. It was odd to see no one with dark hair or dark eyes. Most of the women were petite, no taller than 5-foot 2-inches, and even most of the men were under 6 feet. Jed and Mikaela’s guard were the exceptions as they were both over 6 feet tall.
If Mikaela had not felt like a captive, she might have enjoyed herself. The clan enjoyed laughter, sang, and danced away the night.
As the fire and frivolity died down, Jed stood up. In a booming voice he announced “It is time! Mikaela, please join me.” He stretched out his hand to her.
Tired and weary, she took his hand. She could no longer think straight and longed for sleep. But, she knew that soon would be her chance to escape.
Jed escorted Mikaela to the entrance of the hedge. Her guard followed closely behind. “Your journey starts here,” Jed announced again so the whole group behind them could here. In a quieter voice under his breath, he then told her “Keep looking forward. It’s the only way through.”
Mikaela noted his words and walked into the labyrinth.