chapter one: Otherworld Beckons

It was a crisp autumn evening when Lisbet Mary began her journey into the Otherworld. The four brown hens were busy clucking their way through the fields and she herded them into the kitchen garden and scattered the seeds for them. They were greedily feasting on these as she latched the garden gate and walked towards the grove beyond the fields. She looked back at her grandmother’s farmhouse, now shuttered and bleak, and gathered her best woollen cloak close around her neck.

She had on her Sunday best clothes – “Grandmother would approve of these”, she said. “You must look your best, or the Faeries will think you ill-mannered and rude.”

Marching along the well-worn path to the grove, she smiled as she remembered Grandmother’s words. Lisbet had been to the stones before, and she knew them all. She had felt their craggy faces many times. Hidden from the roads by the grove of Oak and Rowan trees – these grey sentinels had become her friends. There was no-one in her village who she called a friend. Even the neighbours called her ugly names and walked away from her, sneering and jeering rudely, behind masked faces.

Lisbet had waited for that special moment at dusk when the ‘jack-o-lanterns’ flitted over the marshy ground, shining their phosphorescent light to reveal what mostly stayed hidden in darkness. Just when the moon began its heavenly rise, was the safest time to start. She waited for the right time to find the entrance to the Otherworld.

Now it is time”, she whispered, as the sun began its descent, sending out speared flames of gold across the darkening sky. The skylarks and the robins stopped their even’ song and she listened carefully as the earth held its breath! Lisbet loved this magical time when the ending light shone directly into the circle of stones and illuminated the old markings.

Lisbet stepped into the stone circle and paced her way round each of the sentinels once, then twice and on the third sweep, stopped to place her hands gently on their faces, tracing their marks and feeling the light tingle in her fingertips. She was following the ancient way, the way that many before her had practised, and remembering what she needed to do.

She knew the runes and their meanings and how she was to press them. The order was important – press them wrongly and the Otherworld would remain hidden – press them rightly and the entrance through the Faeries Well would be revealed. Twelve stones, twelve paces between each one and twelve runes on each. The right way to reveal all, was to press the one ‘key rune’ on each stone in the right order. Only those with the ‘gift of knowing’ could lead her to the stones and only the one with the ancient map can find the Knowing Tree!

Her own grandmother had taken Lisbet to the stones, each year at Beltane, ever since she was old enough to walk. Her grandmother had shown her where the ‘key runes’ were on each stone and explained their meaning. She gave her the ‘ancient map’ and told her how it had been passed down from grandmother to granddaughter for centuries, and that at the age of seven, she would be ready.

The stories excited Lisbet and she was eager to be seven, eager to be ready. She knew she was being taught important lessons and she concentrated hard when Grandmother Elizabeth was speaking to her, in her soft whispery voice. She already had the ‘gift of knowing’ –  she had been born with a caul covering her face – and was always seen as special, and treated differently by the people of her village. There were dark stories too; caution for the ‘knowing child’ – the truth about the Faeries well and the entrance to the Otherworld.

You will only be able to reach the Otherworld when you are old enough to press the key runes in the key stones, in the right order and in the right time,” her grandmother said. “Only then will you be able to begin your journey as a wisdom warrior, as I have done before you.”

Lisbet often sang her grandmother’s Knowing song – she missed her so. “I will find my way back to you, Grandmother. I can be your brave, wisdom warrior. Wait for me!”

Lisbet sang her song and completed her third circuit of the stones, pressing each of the twelve key runes, in the right order!

“Listen for the wisdom of the stones
The clattering, chattering runes of old
And the silent, brooding stones left standing
As they wait, and wait, for travellers bold”