Chapter 21: Druid Directions

Her eyes were dark, just as her complexion, and the bit of hair that was poking out from underneath her hood was curly and a rich chocolatey brown. She was still smiling, and there was a kind of knowingness about her that made me feel calm, even though I probably should have been terrified.

"Who are you?" I asked, perhaps a little impolitely, but I was completely fascinated by this new situation I'd gotten us into. My voice was feeble, but she seemed to hear me well enough.

"My name is Orya, Erin. This is my home, were your friend and I brought you after you over-exhausted yourself using your powers. You're very welcome here, nothing will harm you." Orya gestured around at the cave, and the firelight seemed to glow a little brighter still.

My head was swimming. Being on a quest was constantly overwhelming, but this was surely the epitome. What Ryan and Orya had said about me exhausting myself was obviously true, but I still didn't know how or why. I didn't have powers. That was the whole point of not being a demigod!

Painfully, I sat up. The cave swam before me and I found myself reaching out instinctively, finding a strong arm to steady me. When I realised that the arm could only belong to Ryan, I felt my cheeks grow warm and I let go as quickly as possible.

"Here" Orya said, proceeding to hand me a cup that she'd filled with the contents of the cauldron. Now, I don't know about you but my parents had told me often enough not to accept any kinds of sweets from strangers, lest they might lure you away and kidnap you. But, seeing as I was already in this lady's home, I decided to accept the cup. "What is it?" I asked, smelling the liquid inside. "Some magical potion?"

"No." said Orya "Chicken soup."

I raised my eyebrows at her.

"Not everything is magical, Erin, even in our worlds." Our hostess laughed, taking a seat on a low seat next to the fire. "Drink it, it'll make you feel a lot better."

I thought about how my mom always made me chicken soup when I got ill, and to my embarrassment, the thought brought tears to my eyes. I missed home. Quickly, I took a gulp of hot soup so that I could pass of my watering eyes as a reaction to the temperature. It was delicious, and it did help to stop the room from spinning every time I moved.

"Thanks." I said, smiling at Orya. "I have some questions."

"Naturally" she replied, and Ryan, who was sitting on the edge of my bed, shuffled a little further away from me now that I was no longer in danger of face planting onto the floor. He hadn't said anything for a while, and I got the feeling he was letting me sort things through before starting to annoy me again. Orya looked at me hard "Though I may not be able to answer them all, Erin."

The way she said my name had a kind of gravitas to it, like she was expecting great things of me. It made me a little nervous, but I tried to focus nevertheless. There were things I finally wanted to know.

"What powers do you mean? I'm not a demigod, I don't have any special abilities." I said this and looked over at Ryan for confirmation, but to my surprise he didn't agree via sarcastic comment. Instead, he was looking at me strangely, like he was considering running me through with his blade before I could cause any more trouble.

Orya sighed. "Erin, I believe Metanoia already told you this, but you do not have to be a demigod to be special or to possess special abilities. Your power comes from a different source, the one that is guiding you."

I blinked. "The Spirit of Delphi."

"Exactly. And it is the Spirit that allows you to go where you must in order to complete your quest."

"How do you know about-" "I told her." Ryan interrupted. His hair gleamed in the firelight. "About the quest."

This surprised me as well. Ryan usually didn't volunteer information like that. But maybe Orya had the same effect on him as she seemed to have on me. There was something wise and powerful about her, but not in a threatening way.

"Right." I rubbed my eyes. "So the Spirit allows me to follow its trail, we know that. And I mean, it hasn't exactly been a picknick, but it's never knocked me out like this before, so.."

Orya nodded "Before now, you followed the path the Spirit took itself when it broke free. But the Spirit never passed through here directly. There was no portal, as you call it, that led you to my home, Erin. It was simply your will power and your connection to the Spirit that you used to travel here."

There was that word again. "Travel." I repeated. "That word means more than I think it does, right?"

Next to me, Ryan shifted uncomfortably. I realised he'd known about this longer than I had.

"Yes" Orya agreed, taking back my cup and refilling it for me. She took her time passing one to Ryan and to herself before continuing. "The ability to travel, that is to teleport if you will, is a gift possessed by different gods, goddesses, nature spirits and monsters. It seems to me, Erin, that the Spirit of Delphi has blessed you with this gift, so you may fulfil your destiny and use the trail it has left behind. Usually, when the Spirit passes through a place, the portals you two use are easier to travel through, like a piece of paper that has become wet. But this last time, you ripped through the paper on your own, you see. That is what took such a toll on you." She paused. "I do not know how long this gift will last, if it is yours permanently or only until your quest is completed. But the Spirit works in mysterious ways, so I doubt anybody could give you a straight answer." She smiled fondly at this last thought.

Processing what she just told me, I was reminded of what Rachel Dare had told me about the vagueness and uncertainty of being an oracle. Only, Rachel hadn't smiled at the thought of it, quite the opposite. I realised that Orya must have dealt with the Spirit of Delphi before.

"Are you an oracle?" I asked her, taking another gulp of soup. I was feeling warm and comfortable now and, for the first time on this quest, not afraid of my immediate surroundings.

Orya laughed, her dark eyes gleaming. "No, child. I am a druid."

"Like Merlin?" I asked, astounded. I hadn't known druids existed, even in this crazy world of mythology.

Orya laughed again. "Well, not quite. I do not work magic by my own power, but I am in tune with nature. Few people know that druids have been connected to the Greeks for eons. It was Partholon who travelled to the shores of my people and brought with him knowledge that we have kept safe throughout the ages. Our name, druid, even derives from the Greek word for oak tree, which is driis. Of course, the oak tree has always been sacred in Ancient Greece."

For a moment, I was speechless. I dawned on me that the secret world I had discovered wasn't so secret at all, but tightly entwined with every aspect of our history, legends, and life. If it hadn't been for the constant confusion and fear this quest brought, this would have been the best history lesson I'd ever visited! It definitely beat learning about the treaty of Versailles.

"And do druids dabble in fortune telling?" Ryan interjected, interrupting my thoughts. His voice was back to its old sceptic self and he had raised his eyebrows at our hostess. Thankfully, Orya didn't seem offended, and I got the feeling that she knew exactly how to deal with men who behaved like Ryan was at the moment. Calmly, she explained "Not all do. But I have been given the gift of sight and have crossed paths with the Spirit of Delphi. My branch of fortune telling, as you call it is a little different though." She smiled "I do not try to divine the future, as my clan believes that whatever is coming will come, whether we know about it or not. We also believe that it is dangerous to try and avoid our fate."

Here she threw both of us a meaningful glance and my heartbeat sped up. "I direct my sight towards the past." Orya explained. "The past can guide us in many ways that the future cannot, and it can warn us about previous failed attempts. If we understand our past, we understand our present, and if we understand our present, we understand our future. That is my task."

I noticed that her expression had changed while talking about the power of the past. Her eyes seemed to be looking at something far away, and there was a painful wistfulness about her. On impulse I said "Can you tell us something about our past?" Ryan threw me a look, but my eyes stayed trained on Orya. Metanoia had mentioned deep regret in our past, and that it would endanger us and our quest. If Orya could help us solve it, I was all for that.

Orya's gaze returned to the present and she looked deeply into my eyes. "I may be able to help you unlock your past. But you yourself have to ask it for direction." I had no idea what she meant. Unlock our past? Like a door? "There is something about the two of you that makes me wonder…" Orya trailed off, then stood up and started pottering about the cave, grabbing different viles and storage containers. While she was gathering things together, she continued "It's not only your own past you need to look at, Erin. Understanding the Spirit's past may also prove essential for this quest. You need to understand what made it leave Rachel Elizabeth Dare and why it has gone where it has gone."

She turned around and regarded both of us, her hands full of herbs and bottles. I blinked. Come to think about it, Ryan and I hadn't really tried to understand the path we were going on yet. We'd been so busy trying to catch up to the Spirit that we hadn't considered that each station may also hold its own significance. Sure, we wondered why we ended up where we did, but in the end we didn't dig deeper. Perhaps that would have to change. Suddenly, I felt a little more hopeful. Still terrified mind you. But hopeful.

"So what do you mean, unlock our past?" Ryan had stood up as well, and I could see he was not comfortable with the direction our talk had taken. "I know all about my past. So does Erin about hers. We don't really need any memory potion." He gestured to the pot where Orya was now stirring in the ingredients she had collected.

Orya shook her head. "There is much you don't know Ryan Seachad." With a jolt I realised I hadn't even known what Ryan's last name was. Orya continued "but I will not force you to drink this elixir. It will help you remember, yes, but I won't pretend that drinking it won't cause pain and possible danger."

I gulped. This whole evening seemed surreal, and I could already feel my energy draining again. The soup power must have been burnt up by sheer confusion and wonder. "What exactly will it do?" I asked, gesturing at the liquid Orya was now ladling into crystal cups.

"I can't tell you that Erin." She replied. "I would, but it does not work the same for everyone. It reveals the past, that is all I know. And I feel that your past has a weight to it. But I cannot tell you exactly what will happen, other than that you will start to…remember. But how, or when, I cannot say."

Well. That sounded dangerous. And scary. And irrational. And totally out of my comfort zone. But I had been out of my comfort zone for so long, did it matter if I went ever further? Also, my curiosity was rearing its head. Thoughts came, like whether I had been a demigod in a past life, or somebody famous, or somebody with a terrible fate. Or maybe all three.

I glanced at Ryan, sure that he would decline the offer. But his face was now unreadable, and he was looking at the cups with an intensity that made me shiver. Then his gaze met mine, and he gave a tiny nod. "Metanoia said that our past may hinder our success. I can't let this quest fail as well." His voice was only a whisper, but it made me shiver. What did he mean, fail as well? There were definitely secrets in Ryan's past, if not hidden from him, then hidden from me. But he was right.

Nodding, I held my hand out to Orya, who handed me the cup. The liquid smelt a little like lavender, which was one of my favourite smells. It also smelt a little like celery, which was one of my least favourites. With the image of a two-edged knife suddenly stark in my mind, I gave one final look to Ryan, who nodded, and then raised the cup to my lips.

Let's see what my past might tell me about myself, I thought and started to drink.

Hooray, another update. It's been really fun continuing this story and I'm really motivated to finish it. As I've said before, this story is officially the sequel to "The Light in the Sky", my other fic, but I will explain things where necessary, so you don't HAVE to read that one to understand and enjoy this one (I mean, I'd still appreciate it if you do, as I personally think it's worth it!)

Let me know how you liked this chapter and what you think will happen to Erin and Ryan now that they've met the mysterious Orya.

Disclaimer: I don't own Percy Jackson or Heroes of Olympus.