“What the shite…” Maria blurted as they neared the entrance. The cave had not changed, but the world outside certainly had. It was drizzling, but that wasn’t anything unusual for the time of year, even if the sky had been clear when they went inside.
Before, the island had been well on its way to autumn, despite the unseasonably good weather, but the world to which they had returned was in the full swing of spring. More than that, the woods were deeper and filled with the sounds of birds and other wildlife. The path that had led up to the caves was hardly more than a game trail winding through dense thickets and ancient trees.
“There’s not even a plaque any more,” Trevor said, looking around and around in confusion. He wiped at the rock with his hand as if that would reveal something. “There’s not even holes where they would have screwed it in.”
“How… what? Did we… time travel?” Mike asked.
“You should ask our pretty young miss,” Jack said, looking quite amused. Of everyone, he seemed the least perturbed about their change of scenery.
Glory’s response was to glare at him and turn away towards the path. What had he seen? If he’d entered the cave alone and without a flashlight, that meant he could see in the dark. Her plan to share her talents with her cousins did not extend toward her dubious ability to shapeshift.
“Hey! I want to know what the shite is going on!” Maria yelled, grabbing her by the arm.
She shook her off, giving the little woman a look of contempt. “I didn’t invite you. I didn’t want you here. I even sent you and Trevor in the opposite direction, which might have stopped you from ending up here. On that at least, I‘m not certain it would have worked. What the ‘shite’ is going on here though, is that I have something to do and you are an unwelcome tagalong.”
“I think you better explain yourself before I make you explain,” Maria growled, her face turning so red with fury it was almost purple. Glory turned away again, exhaling slowly through her nose. “Hey! I’m talking to you!” Maria grabbed her again and yelped in pain, clutching her hand and staring at Glory.
“What?” Trevor asked, anxiously peering at his girlfriend’s hand. There was no mark, but she stared from it to Glory.
“Don’t touch me,” Glory spat and started walking.
“Bitch is going down,” Maria said, freeing herself from Trevor’s arms. “Get her, Jack!”
He snorted. “My dear niece, popular thought to the contrary, I am not insane. As you well know, that was my poor unlamented brother. If you wish to get her, do it your own dam self. I’ve had my taste, and now you‘ve had yours. I daresay mine was the more pleasant experience.”
Maria stopped, turning to give him an incredulous look. He only smiled, which seemed to both give her pause and piss her off more. Mike was already half way down the path, hot on Glory’s heels as she disappeared into the trees. Maria glanced at Trevor as if she were going to tell him to ‘get’ Glory, but he walked past her without even acknowledging her look.
“Looks like no one wants to do your dirty work, pumpkin,” Jack said, striding past her as if the sudden change in the environment was little more than a click of some cosmic remote control.
Maria put her hands on her hips. “Shut up, uncle, or I’ll… make sure they lock you away for twice as long as last time and you can deal with my grandkids when you get out.”
Jack paused and looked back at her with a raised eyebrow. “I may not know what is going on here, dear child, but I am reasonably certain you have no jurisdiction over me at this point. I am hardly the fiend my namesake was, nor even your dearly departed father.“ Maria winced at that. “ But threatening me here, now, is hardly wise when so many dreadful things could happen before we reach home again, don’t you think?” He smiled as she went pale. “I would never, ever hurt you, my sweet, but if we should run into trouble, and I am simply too slow to avert disaster? Well, I would mourn you and comfort your sainted mother as best I could.”
Fury and disgust warred on Maria’s face as Jack turned and followed the others. After a moment, with nowhere else to go, she trotted after them herself. There was no sense staying at the cave and waiting for them to return, even though the logical thing would be to go back inside and make Glory undo whatever it was she had done to bring them there.
Up ahead, Glory had stopped where the trail diverged into two. As she pondered her choices, Mike caught up. He stood silently, waiting for her to acknowledge him, but as she continued to ignore him, he cleared his throat.
Glory stiffened and then let her shoulders drop, turning around. “I would have warned you, well as much as I could have… if not for Maria.”
“Yeah, well, now you can tell all of us what the hell is going on, including her, since there’s no hiding the fact that we’re not in Kansas any more.” He wiped the drizzle from his face, and looked back in the direction of the cave as Trevor came into view. “And no offense, but we could have stayed at the cave at least until this rain let up.”
She shrugged slightly. The rain didn’t bother her, but then she’d always rather liked the rain. “Well…” she glared down the trail where Jack had just appeared. “I’m not going back now, and it wouldn’t do any good. Whatever brought us here, isn’t there any more. Might as well keep moving before it gets dark.”
Mike scowled at that. “You need to bring us up to speed, not just keep spitting out these cryptic little snippets. What happened in the cave? How do you know we can’t get home that way?”
Glory groaned, watching Maria stalk down the path, her face red with suppressed fury. “Look, can this wait until we camp for the night. This story is too… convoluted to explain while we’re walking, even if you already know some of it.”
Mike grimaced, but Trevor had caught up by then. “We should keep moving.”
“Yeah?” Mike asked, scanning the woods. “Trouble?”
Trevor cocked his head to the side. “No…” he drew the word out as he considered, “but we need to be somewhere else by nightfall, or we’ll miss an important meeting.”
“Fine.” Mike sighed. “Let’s get a move on then.”
to Book 7, part 2, page 14