"Did you hear him ride in?"
"No, he was just -- there."
"Did you watch him ride out?"
"No -- I was in shock," the man sputtered. "Why would a member of the Fae set to stealing from any of us above ground?"
McGregor smiled weakly. "When it comes to the Fae you don't ask why-- they just ask themselves: Why not? Carter's Hollow is full of the beasts. Buttermen, watersidhe, phooka, sheerie and grogochs. Rumor is the Grey Man even shakes out his cloak standing just above the hollow itself. Surely you saw the many little hills. And the three big ones?"
The man nodded.
"Split by a magician and hollow as a drum. Those woods are thick with the Fae. And wolves as big as ponies," he added as an afterthought.
"Dear God," the man whispered, "Then why does the road run through there?"
"Romans built the road. They were warned about the Fae, too. But the Romans weren't so good about listening to the superstitions of the people they were trying to enslave, unless they thought it would make conversion easier. So they built the road and thought they had Diana's blessing one day when a squadron came across a beautiful white hart standing right in the center of the road--in the thickest part of the woods. They must've thought it was sent to be a sacrifice because one of the poor bastards fired an arrow at it. The stag caught the shaft in its antlers and then it attacked the lot of them. By the time it was finished there were only three men left. And they weren't quite right after that."
"But that was many years ago--why isn't there a new road?"
"Roads cost money. I doubt you've volunteered to pay for many yourself," he added, perhaps too sharply. "And frankly there aren't too many of us around here who can afford a tax increase like that would require. That's why someone always makes sure signs are posted on the road before Carter's Hollow."
"Damn," McGregor gritted his teeth. "I keep trying to tell people they've gotta' be blessed or the Fae'll just tear them down. You're sure you didn't see a warning?"
"Nothing," he answered tersely.
"Should've said: Fair warning--fae warning. I personally think it should say: don't f**k with the fae, but no one listens to me."
The girl was giggling again.
McGregor glanced at her as she leaned heavily on Dezdemona. "And your daughter? What happened to her?"
The little man whimpered. "I don't know. One minute she was there across from me in the carriage, the next moment she was gone and I heard this shriek and then..." he shivered. "Whispers. Her and a man's voice, but I couldn't see them anywhere. And then all I could hear was laughter. From everywhere in the woods. All God's good creatures fell silent, but I could hear her... She was laughing hysterically. Giggling, guffawing -- everything in between. And then--poof!" He flicked all of his chubby fingers at once. "She was back. Sitting across from me. And her clothes... She was--disheveled..."
"Girl--girl!" McGregor called.
"Her name is Miera. Mierabelle."
"Miera--Miera!" McGregor shouted, though she was barely more than an arm's length away.
The girl turned and looked at him, but it was as if she was seeing him from a great distance. A smile still twitched at the corner of her long lips. She blinked twice.
"Who did this to you?" McGregor asked sternly, but before Miera could even open her mouth to reply, he knew.
"Tam Lin," they both whispered and the driver shuddered, collapsing limply against Judge McGregor in shock.
Well, that's it for the prologue. Hope it was enjoyable!