The Witches of Eileanan
and the little girl knew she was being punished for her demonstration of power in the inn. At last Meghan was satisfied, and allowed her to sleep, but Isabeau's dreams were filled with nightmares.
When she woke that afternoon, she found to her delight that the caravan of jongleurs had chosen the copse of trees to camp in as well. Dide was there, impatient for Isabeau to wake so they could play again, with his little sister Nina tumbling about the copse without a stitch of clothing on, her hair almost as red as Isabeau's. For seven days they stayed in the shelter of the forest, Isabeau having the time of her life with so many playmates. Meghan seemed to have made friends, too, with Dide's grandmother Enit, a frail woman with a hunched back and hands like claws, and a sweet, melodious voice. The two old women spent a great deal of time huddled over the fire, reading manuscripts and arguing about spells, or else disappearing into the woods with the grandmother's familiar, a blackbird with one white feather above his left eye.
Isabeau was surprised to discover Meghan and Enit knew each other from old days, before the Day of Betrayal, since the wood witch had not demonstrated any sign of recognition when they saw the jongleurs in Caeryla. Isabeau was used to Meghan's mysteries, though, and so she took advantage of her preoccupation to have the best fun she had ever had. At the end of the seven days, they made the long journey back to the secret valley, this time avoiding the Pass and its guard of soldiers, making the long detour along the Great Divide instead. Isabeau was heartbroken to leave Dide, and Meghan seemed sad to leave Enit, her face as grim and shadowed as Isabeau had ever seen it. So silent and unhappy was Meghan on the long journey back that Isabeau was afraid she was still angry at her. When Isabeau stammered out another apology, Meghan merely looked at her absently, and said, "Och, that's right. I'd forgotten," which merely alarmed Isabeau more, for Meghan never forgot a trespass.
It had been another year before she and Meghan again ventured out of the Sithiche Mountains, and never again had they gone any further south than the highlands.
With such happy memories of their last long journey, it was no wonder Isabeau was excited at the prospect of another. She had always hoped for another meeting with Dide, though all she could remember were bright black eyes and silly jokes. She smiled at the memory, then tried to compose herself to sleep. The last thought to cross her mind was that no doubt she would find out about her future in Meghan's own sweet time, and not a second before. Meghan had a way of keeping secrets that infuriated Isabeau, but no amount of wheedling or sulking would ever convince her to tell before she was ready.

When Isabeau woke, she lay still for a moment, wondering why she should have such a feeling of delightful anticipation. Then she remembered and her toes curled with pleasure. Bounding out of bed, she threw on her clothes and clattered down the stairs calling, "Time for a swim afore breakfast?"
Meghan, who hardly ever seemed to sleep, was stirring the porridge while Seychella leaned against the wall, chatting. "If ye're quick," her guardian replied. "Take Seychella, I'm sure she'd fain freshen up. And would ye mind taking the folding up with ye when ye go?"
Isabeau opened her mouth to protest, since she had intended just to slip out by the secret passage, by far the quickest way out to the loch. However, one glance from Meghan's black eyes was enough, and she said nothing.
Seychella gave a look of dismay. "Swimming!" she exclaimed. "Dinna ye hear the Fairgean be returning to the lochan?"
"I hardly think we need worry," Meghan said with a dryness in her voice that Isabeau knew well. "The Fairgean need salt water, no' fresh. Besides, no Fairge could leap that waterfall, and there's no other way in for them."
"Well, if ye be sure . .." The black-haired witch sounded doubtful, but she followed

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