“The night of which you speak was little different from any other,” Peter began, “at least, not at first. My flock had feasted the whole day on sweet grass and spring water, and now was huddled in fluffy clumps preparing for sleep. It was an unseasonably cold night, though. While my flock was good and warm beneath their wooly backs, I was pulling the plaid of my feileadh mór tight around my shoulders to fend off the evening chill. I stirred my campfire, and invited my sheep dogs to sidle close for warmth.”

Peter said he was wary of the sudden, strange change in climate, but he was not surprised. Locals like him knew “strange things” happened on this meadow “all the time.” As if to prove him right, a thick wave cloud of fog flooded across the pasture like water and cascaded into the gullies and ravines. Soon, Peter could only see a few paces ahead of him. 

But the darkness was not as dark as it should have been. Here and there in the mist, flickers of emerald green witch light appeared and disappeared like fireflies. And in the deep places where shadow and fog had already snuffed out both starlight and campfire light, a faint emerald glow emanated from the ground itself and shone up through the fog. 

“It’s all because of the magick, you know,” said Peter, as if his line of thought was obvious. 

Locals in both Land and Sky knew the lowland meadows in Sky coincided with the upland slopes of Mt. Majestic in Land. Moreover, they knew the mountain was laced with rich veins of magick ore. Magick was required for certain kinds of enchantment, and spellsmiths would pay a pretty penny for raw magick that they could refine into pure magic and then sell to wizards, witches, and necromancers. Hewers and miners scrabbled long and hard to collect a single poke of magick ore. Their work was especially difficult because the ore had a vexing habit of vanishing into and out of other Domains if you didn’t handle it properly. 

There are certain places where the Domains can commingle more easily; Mt. Majestic was one of those places. Raw magick constantly leached into the ground and weakened the veil between Domains. “Every local knows the meadow and the mountain are so thick with witchery that Sky and Land can overlap before you know it,” Peter said, laughing so hard he wheezed. “And all without the need of some sorcerer waggling a twisted wand, and dancing from foot to foot, and babbling some bollocks incantation!”

Peter admitted that the meadow frequently turned eerie late at night. If truth be told, it was not that unusual for the air to suddenly turn cold for no reason, or for witch lights to appear in the night, or for the vague silhouettes and muffled voices of Landfolk trekking over the mountain to be seen and heard by Skyfolk.

“You get used to eerie things happening on the pasturage after a while. Gods forfend anything bad happens to you,” Peter said, as he made a gesture to ward off evil. But then his expression turned as serious as an undertaker’s, and he added, “The only thing you have to remember is, if the veil between Land and Sky weakens, then you need to keep an eye out for anything accidentally…crossing over.” 

Peter continued his story. After the supernatural fog and wandering witch lights invaded the pastureland, Peter kept his flock close and did not venture out into the unknown. And he would have remained so had he not heard the alarmed bleating of one of his ewes. The mother sheep was distressed because one of her lambs had wandered away from the flock and she knew not where. Peter’s experience told him the lamb was probably curious and had wandered off to explore the lower altitudes of the meadow. Despite wanting to remain sheltered, Peter had no choice. He had to leave his hounds to manage the flock while he descended to the lower altitudes to find the lost lamb.

Peter had to tread carefully because the dense fog obscured the gullies and pitfalls. Furthermore, he had to ignore the eerie witch lights, susurrous voices, and phantom touches in the night that made his skin crawl. Peter prayed he could find the baby sheep soon and quickly return home. As if the gods had heard his prayers, he suddenly found the roving newborn gamboling not on the grassy meadow, but among the craggy rocks of…Mt. Majestic. 

Peter had no idea when he had accidentally slipped across the veil from the grassland in Sky to the mountainside in Land, but that clearly was where he was. However, he had no intention of staying long. He instantly gathered up the lamb in his plaid and was about to clamber back up the sky when he saw his path back home was blocked by a strange figure coming through the mist.

The swirling fog thinned long enough for Peter to see that a human was driving an oxcart up the mountain, followed by a string of complaining packhorses. Horrifyingly, the driver came to a stop in the middle of the plateau, not more than twenty rods away from the Peter, and blocked his path back into the sky. Peter silently cursed whatever bad destiny or bad magic had conspired to thwart him.

Perhaps the mysterious man had an innocent reason for driving his unwilling oxen and packhorses up this fey mountain so late at night and near the witching hour; despite the eerie fog, flickering witch lights, and susurrous voices—but Peter didn’t think so. More likely than not, the human was up to no good. Whatever he was doing, Peter wanted no part of it.

However, the shepherd had the presence of mind to realize that if he could see the man from Land, then the man from Land could see him. Fortunately, Peter was already higher up the slope of the mountainside with a bird’s-eye view of everything the human was doing. If Peter stayed low behind the rocks, and muffled the lamb in his plaid, there was a good chance the human wouldn’t see him.

Peter looked slightly abashed at Galwynn. 

“No offense m’lord, you being human and all, but in my days as a waggoner I met my fair share of humans. Most of them were good, honest folk, mind you: tradesmen, fortune seekers, mages, and occasionally star-crossed lovers, dreamers, and such. But I also met my share of brigands, thieves, and knavish necromancers. When I caught sight of a human in such a remote place, at such an unseemly hour, it occurred to me that the man might be more akin to the latter kind of human than the former. Taking all that into account, I thought it best to stay quiet and wait for an opportunity to escape home.”

Kevin Galwynn’s eyes were half-closed, and Peter wondered if Galwynn had nodded off. But then the Master of Enlightenment said as clearly as a town crier, “Did you recognize the man?”

Peter gave a start, then replied, “No, m’lord. I never laid eyes on him before nor since. He seemed prosperous, though, with well-made clothes, well-maintained equipment, and well-tended animals.”

“Can you describe him in more detail?” asked Aaron.

“Well,” said Peter, pausing to gather his thoughts, “His black hair showed no signs of gray, so I’d say he was young, going on middle age; lean and fit, but lacking the strength and grace of someone who labors each day. He was pale as a turnip, too. If I were to guess, I’d say he was a man who spent too much time sitting behind a desk reading books.”

Kevin chuckled at the shepherd’s inadvertent slight, but made no comment.

“And another odd thing about him, now that I think about it,” Peter said, furrowing his brow to remember better. “The man looked wealthy enough to take care of his health, but he still looked haggard and worn, like someone who hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in weeks. His shoulders were slumped; his eyes were weary; and his deportment was that of a man who was a stranger to peace of mind. At least, that’s the impression I got.”

“Interesting. A ‘haggard man,’ you say?” mused Galwynn. “But pray, continue your story, Peter,” he said, encouragingly. Then he leaned back once more, half-closed his eyes, and listened.

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