The temptation to set up a magical way to slow the boy down was rising. The location wasn’t far, he’d said. It was in a static location, he’d said. What he hadn’t said was that it was only accessible by passing through the gods only knew how much moorland and swamp. Kate certainly wasn’t fastidious, but she would have murdered for a pair of wellies in that moment. She was trying to extricate her cloak from a particularly clingy thornbush when Gawain stopped.
“We arrive, Sir.”
She gave one more tug and caught up with him. Before them lay a perfect circle of destruction. It looked like the whole of the area had been sliced off with a hot knife. Only the bare, burnt, barren patch remained.
“This…this is horrible. And no one knows what happened?”
Gawain shook his head, keeping well back.
“No one, Sir. A sprite passing through reported it, else we may have never found it.”
Looking again at the circle, Kate knew one thing for absolute truth. This had been formed by magic, and not the kind she had seen her brother using. Faerie Glamour could do a great many things, even shape a seeming of what she was looking at. But it certainly did not feel like this. This magic made her skin crawl and the closer she got, the more she wanted a long, hot shower to scrub and scrub until she finally felt clean again. This was mortal, pure and simple. Well, not pure. Unless it was pure destruction. A smile slowly crossed her face, despite the carnage. At least this was something within her bailiwick. She turned to look at Gawain, arms crossed over her chest.
“First thing’s first. I’m not Cliff. I’m Kate, his twin. Second, you’re lucky I’m not Cliff. He’s shit with mortal magic and that’s what this is. Any questions?”
His eyes were huge and he was looking her over in confusion.
“Identical twins. He’s my brother. I need you to send word to someone in charge. Whoever makes sense. Let them know this is mortal work and…” She stopped, kneeling to look more closely at the bare, scorched earth. “And quarantine anyone who’s touched it, entered it. Anything like that. You got me?”
Kate rubbed her temples, standing.
“Where’d I lose you?”
“Did you understand the rest?”
“Oh!” He bowed quickly. “Yes, Si- Um. Lady. I will go quickly. Do you intend to stay here?”
He gave her a look that screamed as loud as if it was lit up in neon and thirty feet high ‘please say no.’ She just sighed.
“There are things I can do to figure out just what happened here. So, yes.”
He hesitated then.
“Lady, if I may?”
Eventually, she decided, she would figure out how to get him to call her Kate.
He fidgeted nervously, bouncing on the balls of his feet and looking more like a nervous teenager than she’d seen him thus far.
“Why… If we were mistaken, why did you not correct our perception of your identity?”
That hit her. Why hadn’t she? She could have just said ‘oops! I’m his sister, take me home!’ and everything would have been fine. Why had that not occurred to her? She took a breath, trying to find the answer.
“Because… I felt I had to.” She looked at the blighted soil and then back at Gawain. “And I was right, so don’t argue and don’t tell anyone. But if Cliff does show up looking for me-”
“Then I shall endeavour to bring him hence, Lady. Subtly.”
“Oh good. Th-” Again she stopped herself. “Take care.”
As he jogged off, she turned back to the circle and frowned. This was a hitherto unknown level of worrying. She could almost feel the bog iron and salt. And she was purely human.
“Gods…” she muttered, kneeling down once more to check the edges. “Geometrically perfect, or as close as makes no difference and strong enough to kill a Changeling like Cliff… But why?”