The echoes of war haunted her, day in and day out, for months after it ended.
Inverness was a welcome escape. It was a return to a sort of normalcy, if there were any such thing. She rented a room from The war haunted Elizabeth. Day in and day out, months after the war had ended.
Inverness had been a welcome escape. A return to a form of normalcy, if there were any such thing. Staying with her grandmother, Gran Murray, and working in the village, the routine helped lift some of the crushing weight of what she had experienced, little by little. Still, moving on with life proved futile. Walks through the fields and tea with Reverend Wakefield had not been enough to break the hold that the war had on her. It was like being caught in a web, unable to pull free, trapped. She was paralyzed at times.
It was Mrs. Graham who pulled Elizabeth free, step by step, and day by day.
The druid circle that the older woman headed had been welcoming, understanding, and provided a young woman with a new perspective regarding life, death, and nature. The seasons, the flowers and herbs that grew wild, the path of the sun and the moon and the stars, the water that flower in rivers and streams, the way the wind blew this way and that - so many things rooted in ancient history, and Elizabeth was offered a safe environment to study it all, practice it. The chants, the dances, and the rituals all helped her to embrace life after so much death.
Learning the uses of flowers, herbs, and weeds that grew in abundance in the surrounding moors and forests became a calming hobby for Elizabeth. It gave new purpose to the long walks she took along the outskirts of Inverness, so focused on searching for specific blooms and watching the stags and does prance about in the fields, weaving between the trees and chewing at grass. She would always arrive home with a basket full of plants, and a gentle smile on her lips that her Gran Murray claimed could cure the sorrows of any soul.
The months passed through summer, and Samhain approached quickly. The women of the circle were all tittering about the offering to come, while Elizabeth worked with Mrs. Graham on how to move about, hold the lantern, and flow with her partner, Mary MacIver. When the morning arrived, Elizabeth was fitted in the same druid shift - a thin white dress over a slip that belled at the sleeves and hung off one shoulder - adorned by a veil and floral crown atop her head of pale, summery hair.
There was a crisp chill in the air, yet they were all so excited to ring in the dawn that none of the women felt the cold seep into their bones. They offered their voices and their bodies to the coming sunrise, dancing about the stones of Craigh na Duhn. Through the rustle of the grass, the ghostly singing in the early hours of the morning, Elizabeth could have sworn that she heard a buzzing that grew louder whenever she passed by the center stone. The sound of bees buzzing around a hive, or that was how she thought of it.
Of course, it was of little consequence to her, at that time. The sun rose, bathing them all in the suddenness of light and warmth, and then the women began drifting off to get on with their day, while Elizabeth stayed behind for a few solitary minutes. She stared at the stones, and enjoyed the sight of the natural Highlands; the rolling hills and sprawling moors seemed as large and endless as they had when she was just a wee girl. It had been so long since she had lived in Scotland, and it seemed as though nothing had changed, but far different from the droll, misty countryside of England.
Nothing could compare to being home, and that had always been Scotland.
In the Highlands, the air was fresh and earthy, and nothing was rushed. Everyone and everything moved at its own pace, and there was no loudness, no stress. It was quiet and simple. A far cry from being settled, Elizabeth mused, but as much as she remained a lost lamb, each day became a little less harsh, and living became less of a struggle.
But in the tranquility of the morning, Elizabeth’s ears filled with the buzzing of bees. It was like a large hive was swarming her, the sound deafening, yet there were no bees to be seen. She stood and turned slowly, looking up into the tree butting up against one of the outer stones, but there wasn’t an insect in sight. The buzzing grew louder still, and she turned again, towards the center stone.
Pulled by some invisible force, Elizabeth took a step further into the circle. The bees grew louder and louder, thrumming angrily in her ears as a breeze danced in the tall grass. Whipping around, she swore she heard voices coming from outside the circle. It sounded like…
“Claire?” Elizabeth called out, the morning sun blinding her as she spotted two figures coming up the hill. But it couldn’t be Claire Randall. No, it must be Mary and Mrs. Graham coming back for her. “Do you hear the bees?”
The breeze grew to a strong wind, no longer dancing but swirling violently through the moor and whipping her hair about her face. Elizabeth backed away from the two figures, silhouetted against the rising sun, unable to hear anything but the roar of bees and the whistle of the wind between the outer stones. Her feet carried her in reverse, toes cold with the morning dew and crisp air, until her back bumped into cold, solid rock.
It happened in the blink of an eye.
Elizabeth shouldn’t have spun around when she felt the buzzing in the stone, but she did.
Pale hair flying across her face, she pressed her hands to the center stone to steady herself.
The world went dark.
The ground fell away from under her feet.
Nothing could ever describe the experience of falling through time.