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In the previous episode, Celia woke in the caboose of a train, moving at a great speed through the forest. Celia watched the trees fly past in the dim light for what seemed like hours. All of a sudden the train halted, brakes screeching into the night at a woodland feast.
Celia walked to the door of the caboose, which opened for her with a click. She didn’t see anything but dark forest around her. Gathering her courage, Celia stepped off the platform and onto the springy forest floor and almost at once, the train hissed to life again and began chugging away. Celia whirled around and tried to catch hold of it, but it had gathered speed and – within seconds it seemed – was a fading light in the distance.
Celia looked around. The forest was dark and strange; giant trunks and twisted branches caught the moonlight and seemed to gesture in every direction, daring her to explore what lay nestled in the undergrowth. She shivered despite the warm night. Then a flickering light caught her attention from behind a tree. There it was again, stronger – she peered around one of the giant trunks and saw, she thought, a fire in the distance. She approached it cautiously.
All of a sudden, Celia was in full view of a clearing. She gasped as the scene in front of her exploded in a jumble of beautiful fabrics and colorful patterns, long curls and bright eyes, fiddles and flutes and fires jumping higher and higher. Her dark shining eyes took in a long banquet table piled high with sizzling roasted meat, seasoned vegetables, jugs of wine, large pieces of juicy fruit and decadent cakes of every shape and size. In the center of the clearing, a large fire was leaping into the dark sky and a woman with a long full skirt was twirling around, while laughing groups of men rhythmically clapped their hands.
Off to the side of the gathering stood an immense painted wooden caravan. A man was sitting on the forest floor leaning against one of the huge wheels, quietly playing a flute. He was wearing suspenders and a cap, and he looked up and met Celia’s curious gaze, winking at her. All of a sudden, she felt a hand on her shoulder. A woman with long red hair a full, multi-patterned skirt was standing behind her. She was tall and willowy, there was laughter in her eyes and Celia felt instantly drawn to her.
“Don’t be afraid,” said the woman in a melodic voice. “We won’t hurt you.”
“Where am I?”
“Deep in the forest,” was the simple answer. “My name is Marguerite. You are at our camp. We are leaving in the morning.” A shadow seemed to cross the woman’s eyes, but passed as quickly as it had come. She smiled faintly. “But questions can be answered later.” She gestured to the food and merriment with a wave of her hand. “Eat, you must be hungry.”
She took a step toward the long food table, looking up at the towering mountain of meat with trepidation. A young boy with overalls and piles of curly hair reached up in front of her and grabbed a large leg of mutton off the pile. He shyly handed it to Celia, who took the leg and inhaled the warm scent. She hadn’t realized how hungry she was, but as she eagerly bit into the mutton leg, all of a sudden she felt utterly famished. Her teeth ripped into the meat and she ate and ate; she couldn’t remember when she had tasted anything that delicious. Someone handed her a goblet of wine and she drank tentatively from it, feeling it warm her from the inside. Soon she was sleepily lying next to the fire. Everything seemed to be in slow motion – the dancers, their hair flying behind them, the wicked grin of the young fiddler, the roaring full-body laughter of the grisled looking men as they tore into the meat and poured the goblets of wine down their throats. Ophelia closed her eyes and nestled next to the young child who had handed her the meat, just as the song changed to a slower, more mournful tune. She listened to the haunting music and wondered who these mysterious colorful people were and where they would lead her. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.