I shook my head. It didn’t always feel like a blessing. Thom squeezed me gently.
“You didn’t ask if she was a druid,” Thom said, his tone careful and curious all at once. “Why not?”
“She doesn’t have the look of one,” Daniel said. “There’s a look they’ve got, and a feel.” He offered me a smile. “Not that I don’t have the utmost respect for you anyhow.”
I choked back a laugh as I got up to rescue the steaming kettle from the fire. “No offense taken, I promise.” Not on my end, anyway. I filled a small teapot with the hot water and let the tea steep before I started to pour it. Both men stared off into the darkness, leaving me to my brief bout of domesticity.
“You know,” I said as I finally began to pour the tea, their silence a little more than I could bear. “You never did tell us who Kit O’Shea was and how she knew Phelan.”
The corner of his mouth twitched. “I was wondering how long it would be before someone asked about her.” Daniel stretched languidly as he accepted the mug I offered him. “She was one of my professors at university. A cultural anthropologist trying to unravel the mysteries of Celtic civilizations across time. She always used to talk about this chap that she knew in old days, red hair, quick wit, given to occasional brooding, said he knew more about the lost history of the Celtic peoples than anyone she’d ever met. I think she half believed that the tales he told her were real. She passed them on to me over a pint or twelve.
“Called him Wanderer, said his real name was Fallon or some rot like that. I think they might’ve had a fling once upon a time back in the seventies, but I could never be sure since she’d never talk about it—only about his stories. Of course, I got the idea in my head to start doing research on the chap.” Daniel took a long swallow tea. “Have you ever heard the legend of the Wanderer?”
“Can’t say that I have.” I glanced at Thom and he shook his head, shrugging with one shoulder.
“What about it?”
“It’s an old English piece,” Daniel said, stretching again. “Most folk only know the part about the horse and the rider.”
Thom’s brow arched and he looked at Daniel askance. The shifter grinned.
Then he began to sing.
His voice came soft, lilting, his accent making the words seem more otherworldly.
Where is the horse gone? Where the rider?
Where the giver of treasure?
Where are the seats at the feast?
Where are the revels in the hall?
Alas for the bright cup!
Alas for the mailed warrior!
Alas for the splendour of the prince!
How that time has passed away,
dark under the cover of night,
as if it had never been!
Now there stands in the trace
of the beloved troop
a wall, wondrously high,
wound round with serpents.
The warriors taken off
by the glory of spears,
the weapons greedy for slaughter,
the famous fate (turn of events),
and storms beat
these rocky cliffs,
fetters the earth,
the harbinger of winter;
Then dark comes,
from the north there comes
a rough hailstorm
in malice against men.
All is troublesome
in this earthly kingdom,
the turn of events changes
the world under the heavens.
Here money is fleeting,
here friend is fleeting,
here man is fleeting,
here kinsman is fleeting,
all the foundation of this world
turns to waste!
The words struck me with their familiarity, though I couldn’t quite place their origin. I knew I’d never heard of the poem he’d referenced, but the words felt like ones I’d heard—or read—before.
Thom just stared at him. “That’s from Lord of the Rings, isn’t it? Aragorn, Rohan, something like that.”
Daniel smiled. “It’s from an Old English poem about the Wanderer.”
“So, wait,” I said, shaking my head hard. “You’re saying that your professor thought that Phelan was connected to this poem somehow?”
“Not quite,” Phelan’s voice said heavily from the darkness behind me. “Kit knew it was connected.
“Leannán, the poem is about me.”