Seventh Circle (Chapter 6- Wondrous Metal, page 1 of 5)

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A cauldron bubbled over a charcoal fire, sending up clouds of aromatic vapours. Adrina took a strand of catgut and lowered it into the steaming liquid. The stringent tang of medicinal herbs hung in the air and she said a prayer, partly for the benefit of her brother and partly for the cobbler.

Fury was lying on a linen shawl with a deep gash across his cheek. He had arrived on his broken-down mare, muttering incoherently about a fight in which he had driven off numerous assailants. Adrina didn't believe a word of it. Her brother didn't get involved in fights. Fury hid in the woods, strumming on his harp, singing puerile songs about trees and buttercups.

She studied him as he lay waiting for his wound to be treated. He hadn't changed much since their last meeting, nine moons earlier. Although he was older and taller, Adrina had never thought of him as her big brother. He remained the little boy who played with her when they lived with their mother a long time ago.

'Tell me again how you got the wound?'

'It was when I went to the shrine of the Holy Lady,' Fury replied. 'The Duideth sent me. They didn't want to go because it's outside their territory. They were scared they'd be killed by mother's men.'

That part of the story was believable … the rest was pure twaddle.

'I got there and it was the same but different,' he said. 'The cows were bigger and so were the trees. Then I saw this carriage, which ran along without horses, and I knew I'd travelled between realms ...'

Adrina listened as he prattled on.

'There were other things I'd never seen before. I went to the holy spring. That was in the same place but the water was dirty. Then I went to the hollow where the lovers perform the sacred rites …'

His voice petered out.

'What happened then?' Adrina asked.

'I found this lovely girl.'

Adrina was pleased her brother had discovered girls. That was a step in the right direction, even if he was only fantasising about them.

'She was lying on her back in the long grass,' Fury said. 'She was the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen.'

It occurred to Adrina that, as an acolyte of the priesthood of the Duideth, Fury hadn't seen many girls, beautiful or otherwise.

'She wore strange clothes. And there was this giant …'

Adrina let him ramble on. She wasn't interested in what he was saying and was thinking of other things when he produced an amulet in the form of a cat. It was made of a strange metal and fastened to a chain.

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