They arrived on the Isle of Skye two days later they had to wait for the ferry to return they missed the launch by an hour. They got rooms for the night at a local inn and spent the day learning about the area of Scotland and its history while exploring the hills and the countryside.
Sebastian and Helena stumbled upon a finding which made their hearts skip a beat. They found a significant Steele with Pict glyphs on it that matched the gate symbol on the disk. When Caladan and Trudy arrived at the Steele, they were so excited all they could do was point smile. They were on the right track. They began slowly searching the area for more clues. Next, to an old oak tree, they found another stone, much smaller than the Steele they had seen with more carving on it. It was part of the infinity symbol and matched the disk. Another half an hour searching yielded five more stone and when they assembled them most of the symbol on the disk was plain to see. This had been one stone at some time. They decided another day in the village would aid their search and booked a second night at the Inn. They spent the evening in the dining room of the Inn. The locals came here of an evening to associate, drink Stout, play darts, and spin tales. One of the village Elders came in during the night, Angus MacDonald, he lived in the village for seventy-eight years.
They sat and listened to his stories of times past when the Pict was the Kings here, and the rest of the inhabitants were their vassals. They had fought the Celts, Saxons, Anglos, Vikings, and in the end, became part of the ruling class of Scotland after they converted to Christianity one thousand years earlier after the defeat of the Norman invasion when the Anglo-Saxon King Harold lost to the invading Normans led by William the Conqueror. According to Angus MacDonald, was the beginning-of-the-end of the Pict rule over Scotland.
Caladan being Norse by birth, asked him many questions about the Viking invaders, the Inner Hebrides, ancient holy places used by the Pict, and if he knew of any of the places where they said were unusual to the old gods. Angus told them to look on the Isle of Skye near Dunvegan. Seek out the sea cave that appears during low tide, but be careful to get out before the tide comes in; it floods the cave.
Caladan and Sebastian were excited they had a direction to follow now, and they would need to stay a few days in Dunvegan to locate and examine the cave. They bought a round of Stout for the house and settled in for an evening of good food and drinks. The villagers had treated them fair, but in the corner of the room, near the massive hearth, was an odd fellow. He didn’t seem to fit in as a native of the village, Trudy and Helena were on edge, and they could feel a power emanating from the man. He was rather large, almost as large as Yuri, had copper red hair and a short beard, was dressed in a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches and a shooting pad on the right shoulder, wearing tan riding pants, and over the calf, highly polished black boots. He cut quite a manly figure from beneath his copper eyebrows were the clearest bright blue eyes any of them had seen.
He came up to them and introduced himself. “I am James Connors I have an estate not far from here and would be very pleased if you would be willing to join me for the day. Everyone here knows me and can direct you to the estate on the morrow.”
Caladan agreed they would go the next day and would arrive around ten o’clock in the morning, Connors said that was a perfect time, and he would have the tea hot when they arrived. He left after the introduction and Sebastian and Caladan spent some time talking to the locals about James Connors. Angus MacDonald said, “The Irishman got the castle through his marriage to the last heir. She is a young woman of twenty-five, and I watched her grow up seeing as how my farm butts up against the border of the MacLeod Estate.”
‘You saw not to like the Irishman very much. Has he done something angered or went against your customs?” Asked Sebastian.
Angus said, “Nay, he is an outsider is all, just come across the Irish Sea one day, and a few months later, he marries the young Miss Abigail, and now he is Lord of the Manor.”
At least he was not a threat to worry about. Caladan continued talking to Angus as long as he wanted to talk, Sebastian and Helen had struck up a conversation with the Innkeeper and his wife, and they were getting more information about Connors and Miss Abigail as well as directions to MacLeod Manor. Caladan discovered she was a direct line descendant of the last Pict King in the area before King Harold lost the Battle of Hastings.
When morning came, the group gathered in the main room downstairs, ate a light breakfast and hired a ride to MacLeod Manor. They were apprehensive, curious to find out what mysteries they would discover at the ancient seat of Pict power.
They arrived in half an hour, a two-hour walk at least from the village. It was a proud place. Built of gray granite stone, and ivy clinging to the stonework, it had large vaulted windows and massive oak doors with iron fastenings. The manor seemed to be out of place as if it had been transported from a distant past to the present day.
Caladan knocked on the door, and the knocker was the face of a lion with a ring in its mouth, it made a distinct hollow boom when the ring hit the door. It was unsettling, the house sounded empty from the noise of the knocker. An elderly gentleman opened the door and asked for their names then he escorted them across the main hall to a sitting room where Connor was waiting. The castle was impressive full suits of armor gleamed in the morning light as it came through the windows, swords, and Claymores shined, bagpipes and Tartan Kilts rested on stands, and a whole array of weapons was on the walls, along with the family coat of arms and paintings of former lords and ladies. Indeed a wonder to see.
Connors was waiting for them in the sitting room along with his wife, Abigail. She was a lovely young woman, with fiery red hair in a long braid over her left shoulder, and wore a beautiful emerald green gown, the picture of a Lady of Breeding. “Welcome to our home. You are the group that James met in the village last evening?” they nodded, “I am Abigail MacLeod-Connors, what brings you to our fair land?”
Sebastian answered, “We are here on a fact-finding tour to see if we might assist our friends in an archeological expedition here in the future to study the history of the area and the ancient people who once lived here.” He had prepared the introduction and practiced so that they would think they were just scholars looking for knowledge. It seemed to satisfy her curiosity for the moment.
“Please sit, would you care for some tea, hot as I promised, and some scones made fresh this morning?” The accepted his offer and sat to have morning tea. It was a relaxing moment, and they waited to see what the Lord of the Manor was curious about.
“I asked you all here because it is a rare pleasure to have visitors here, especially from America.” He paused for effect, “I would like to know what it is exactly you are here to study?” he was to the point.
“We are interested in the Pict glyphs and the rune stones they left behind, we are planning to go to the Isle of Skye for an extended search of the area to map out places for our colleagues to study when they get the approval for the expedition. We are the forward team if you will.” Sebastian was well prepared.
“There are some excellent sites on Skye as well as several caves here along the coast you may want to inspect on your return. Some of the runes are Celtic, but I am sure you will find some Pict glyphs here of some importance. They were here first you know.” James Connors seemed to be in command Abigail just nodded in agreement and remained silent.
Trudy was on edge, the power she had felt in the Inn Tavern was much stronger here, even Helena felt it, and it was only partially coming from Abigail. They looked at James Connors more closely, trying to figure out if he was a Shaman, a Warlock, or something else entirely. James Connors gave them a grand tour of the ancient manor. It had great rooms and parlors, a huge kitchen, and well maintained and groomed grounds. The Manor employed many people from the area, gamekeepers, groundsmen, household staff, it seemed a very well managed and run efficiently, and all the employees seemed happy. Still, something wasn’t quite right about the place, it wasn’t anything specific, just a feeling. When they had finished their tour, they had a small lunch, made their farewells promising to revisit them once they returned from their expedition to the Isle of Skye.
They returned to the inn to begin packing for the trip over the next morning when Caladan asked Sebastian, “Did you feel the power in that place. There is something there that is connected to this mystery, I am not sure what it is, but I know it is related.”
Caladan nodded as did the women. This secret was getting stranger by the day. They hoped the next day would yield some answers to the burning questions they all had. It was a restless night, all of them had dreams of a giant tree crashing to the ground and a dragon waking and in his vengeance releasing the Ice Dragons from their prison. It was Dreams of Chaos, of floods and fires, and people dying everywhere with a vengeful God standing over all watching with glee as the destruction progressed.
Caladan woke with a start, drenched in sweat and shaking, the others were as upset as he was, they all had the same dream. They were standing on the edge of a knife, solving this mystery, finding their friends, and stopping Wotan from destroying the world was their goal. They sat there staring at each other, knowing something was disturbing their magical energies in an eerie way. Restlessly waiting for the morning to come and for the ferry to start taking on boarders.
The four arrived at the landing as the boat docked, it would be a few minutes before they could board, the ship had to be secured to the dock and the gangway lowered, then they could board. It was a small ferry, it took no vehicles, only people, and bicycles. There was a road, with a bridge from the mainland, but it was on the opposite side of the island of Dunvegan.
The sea was choppy, and the foam-flecked waves were spraying over the rail. They enjoyed the ride. It was a rare thing to take a slow boat trip for the sorcerers, being able to open a portal to anyplace on the planet and arrive there in an instant had become their usual mode of travel. Once at Dunvegan, the real adventure would begin.
Sebastian and Caladan had talked most of the way to Dunvegan, completing plans to investigate Angus’s cave once they settled into their rooms. The usual mode of transportation was a horse-drawn cart, bicycle, or on foot. The cave was situated on the coast a few miles from the nearest road. They decided to rent bikes, ride to the closest place the way could bring them, and proceed on foot from there. It was a two-hour bike ride to the cave, and they had brought food and gear in case they were unable to return to the Inn.
A narrow sheep trail led down the cliff to the shore below. The terrain was steep to the front of the cave. It seemed to be rarely visited. The cave mouth was very narrow, Sebastian and Caladan had to duck to get inside. They weren’t expecting what they found when they entered the cave.
It seemed that someone had been visiting the cave regularly, there were candle stubs, burnt torches, ropes, and ships tackle inside the cave. Sebastian used an enchantment to illuminate the interior of the cave. Unprepared for what they found on the cave walls and ceiling, paintings of an ancient God with one eye, carrying a staff and a spear, attended by ravens, and a wolf in repose before his feet. It was Wotan, called by many names and familiar to most as Odin, but this was definitely Wotan. The painting showed Wotan seated on a throne atop what appeared to be a celestial tree, and at the bottom, was a pool guarded by a dragon and a mysterious, hooded figure, Mimir, the goal of their search. The pool in more recent times became known as “The Eye of Odin,” but in truth, it was Mimir’s Pool. As long as it was guarded against Odin, and the tree remained whole, the dragon would sleep.