After the life-changing events at Samhain, George’s journal entries became less of a documentary about the details of his investigation. He’d figured out the pattern and recorded no more false trips to the island. The next two entries were:
2/1/2004 (Imbolc). Ceremony essentially the same as last year. The woman was not there.
5/1/2004 (Beltane). Ditto.
“Between the November 2003 entry and this one, your father painted the pregnant woman at least twice totally from memory, sold one of the paintings to Jerome Collins at the Low Country Gallery for $2500, and broke up with his girlfriend of five years. And he’d still only seen the golden-haired woman once.”
“I can’t say with certainty if I even saw him during that time.” Adeline glanced around at another couple who had just walked in, then signaled for the waiter. After a brief conference, she ordered a bottle. “It was a bad time. I’d been married to Ari for five years, and let’s just say the bloom was definitely off the rose. He didn’t even call on our anniversary.” Then she shook her head and smiled. “Another way of looking at it is that I was working toward financial freedom at a salary of three quarters of a million dollars or so a year. My total therapy bill was less than $15,000. So maybe it wasn’t all that bad.”
I reached out and squeezed her hand briefly. The events since we’d visited the island made the gesture no longer an inexcusable familiarity.
8/1/2004 (Lughnasudh). She was there tonight. With a beautiful baby girl, around 6 months old. When she saw me, she came over to show her daughter to me. Solemn, bright-eyed little thing, with light hair although without the fire of her mother’s. She stared at my fingers as I moved them to touch her face, which of course she didn’t feel.
10/31/2005 (Samhain): The motor quit 45 minutes out from the ramp. Turned out to be some sort of gunk in the gas tank. Took me around 3 hours by flashlight to get the carburetor cleaned, and then it reclogged again after 5 minutes. Spent the night on the water before catching a tow back home in the morning.
“You get to visit your lady friend four times a year, only twice when you can actually touch or talk. And then you miss one because of mechanical problems. Daddy must have been beside himself, particularly when you consider how much he prided himself on being a first-rate mechanic. Yet he doesn’t even give a hint how frustrated he must have been. That’s my daddy, alright.”
“He doesn’t even know her name yet. In the journal she’s just ‘The Woman,’ while the paintings of her from this time are named ‘Apparition’ and ‘Madonna and Child.’”
2/1/2005 (Imbolc). Something has changed. The woman seemed to be in charge of the ceremony tonight, and the little girl was not evident. Hope she’s OK. We did get to spend part of an hour together. We sat almost without moving, just staring at each other. I could watch her for much longer than that, burning her image into my mind so that it flows easily onto the canvas. I have no idea what she finds so fascinating with me, however.
5/1/2005 (Beltane). I learned tonight that with no shared language, a real conversation is impossible. So I started to learn her language. She would point out things and say the word for me to repeat. There are a lot of consonants and ugly sounds. Her name is not ugly, however. It is Nemuway. And she loved the pendant.
“$6000 worth of jewelry, she’d better have liked it. Wow, do I sound catty. Nemuway, if you’ve made my father happy, here’s to you.” Adeline drained her wine glass and poured herself another glass, topping off mine as well although I’d not drunk much of it. It was looking more and more like I might end up as the designated driver tonight, so I kept my intake under control.
George had corrected the spelling of her name in his next entry.
8/1/2005 (Lughnasudh). Nimue gave me three coins tonight. Put them down on the ground for me to take, as we do on feast days where we cannot touch. I think they’re Roman.
Another unusual observation: when Nimue is wearing the pendant, the moonstone glows. I gestured that I wanted to see it, but when she took it off the glow quickly faded.
9/3/2005. Coins definitely Roman, 3rd century so minted before they left Britain. This would make be a great smuggling scheme. I give Nimue gold, she sells me Roman coins at three times their value and comes out ahead. The Roman coins are worth many times their face value here, although maybe not in buying power. Too bad I don’t have the language skills to communicate that. Good thing I don’t need the money.
“Your father doesn’t note the value. Think he even bothered to have them appraised?”
“I’d guess not. Why go to the effort, if you know you’re never going to sell them?”
11/1/2005 (Samhain). The Samhain ceremony is somber and complex. It’s the only one I hadn’t seen before, thanks to leaving early the first time and the contaminated gasoline the next. There is none of the drink that they cook up on other feast days, for example. Fewer people come, and they seem warier. The women hollow out gourds, carve one horizontal and two vertical cuts in them, place a crude candle made of animal fat inside, and send the villagers back with them. Iron Age Jack-o-lanterns. After all the villagers were gone, the seven spent a long time standing around the altar chanting. Nimue is definitely in charge now. Men are not allowed inside the circle, so I watched from beyond the stones. Very little time to continue our language lessons.
2/1/2006 (Imbolc). Nimue’s daughter was there with her tonight. A 2-year-old charmer. She is fascinated by me, particularly with the whole there-not there thing. Loves to get a running start on her sturdy little legs and run right through me. I taught her to blow kisses, pretending that they knocked me back whenever they hit while she squealed with delight, although I couldn’t hear it of course.
I wish I could get a photograph of her. I don’t think I’m doing her justice in my paintings.
“I’ve never seen a clear painting of the little girl’s face,” I told Adeline. “Usually she’s shown from the back, or else hiding or in shadows.”
“I think it’s pretty remarkable that he could paint the golden-haired woman from memory, much less the little girl.”
“Perhaps not when you remember how much time he spent staring at her, even if it was just once a quarter.”
“I think Daddy had it pretty bad for her.”
“I agree, although I’m not sure ‘bad’ is the right adjective.”
5/1/2006 (Beltane). Beltane is basically an orgy with religious overtones. After the drinking and the dancing, Nimue and I had a couple of hours together while the villagers and the other priestesses rutted. No children were present, except Nimue brought her daughter, perhaps to discourage lustful behavior on my part? We even had the chance to walk together, with the little girl between us, holding our hands. Niniane is her name, I learned tonight.
Nimue tried to tell me who her daughter’s father is. At least that’s what I think she was trying to communicate. She pointed at my crotch, then at her crotch, drew a big belly, and then pantomimed the girl being born. Then pointed back at me and at my crotch while repeating a word. Sounded like Mohrdragch, although I’m not sure I ever really got it. Started with an M for sure.
Niniane gave me a big hug and a kiss before they left. So did her mother.
I must confess that Beltane is now far and away my favorite holiday.
“In the Arthurian tradition, Merlin fell for Nimue, who made him teach her everything he knew and then entrapped him in a cave. Of course, every version is a little bit different. But still. I wonder if the little girl could be Merlin’s daughter.”
“Think Merlin and Mohrdragch could be the same person?”
“Names are so different, I guess it could be possible. Not that it matters, but it’s really kind of neat that you might have a stepsister who is Merlin’s daughter.”
Adeline had no response to that except a shake of the head.
8/1/2006 (Lughnasudh). The three of us walked in the forest for a while, one big happy if silent family. The moon was full and bright enough to light our path. Niniane is growing so fast. Unlike her mother, who in three years hasn’t changed at all.
11/1/2006 (Samhain). Niniane brought me my own Jack-o-lantern tonight. On Samhain nobody goes anywhere without one, lest the spirits of the dead have their way with you (I learned that from a book, not from Nimue). Mine was made from a turnip. I learned the words for hug and kiss tonight. Perhaps the word for love as well, although with the necessity of expressing non-corporal concepts via charades, one is never sure.
12/24/2006 (Christmas Eve). I read in one of my new books tonight that the priestesses of the old religion were required to remain chaste except on Beltane. It’s all just speculation, of course; the writer has absolutely no way of knowing. Funny that I’m now the world’s foremost expert on British Iron-Age religious practices.
Still, I wonder how that would work. A year’s worth of foreplay and a night’s worth of magic, I suppose.
“I’ve read that book. And some of the novels echo the idea. Mists of Avalon, for example.”
Adeline snorted. “No wonder the old religion died out, if you could only have sex once a year.”
I had the naughty thought that you sure as hell couldn’t recruit Chai Fox on that basis, but kept it to myself. “Yes, but it was replaced by Catholicism, where the priests couldn’t have sex at all. Although I’m not sure how many of them actually kept to that chastity vow.”
“I’d say that women would never agree to that, except how do you explain nuns?”
2/1/2007 (Imbolc): When the women left tonight, Nimue sent Niniane along with one of them. It was the first time we’ve actually been alone, although the others usually leave us plenty space.
Nimue gave me a cup filled from the dregs in the bottom of the cauldron. It is pretty foul, but it would have been ungracious for me not to drink it, particularly when she drank some herself. Then we sat on two cut lengths of a large tree and feasted our eyes on each other.
20 minutes later, the drink had gone right to my head. The whole world spun slowly, although not enough to make me dizzy or nauseous, and nothing seemed real (funny choice of words, since in a way, nothing is real).
Then Nimue slowly undressed in front of me. Naked she is a beautiful creature indeed, seeming unmarked by age or childbirth. And then she danced for me. And around me and through me. She would lean close to me and then turn so that her breasts passed through my face. It was without a doubt the most erotic thing that I’ve ever experienced.
4/28/2007 (Beltane minus 3 days): I have resolved that I am going to stay with Nimue. I believe that there is a chance that, if I follow her wherever she goes when she leaves the island, I will remain there rather than return to the 21st century. There is also a chance that I may merely die. But he who loves and never dares is a fool indeed. I have lived for 62 years and have not been foolish for very much of that time. Far too little, it would seem.
It was the last entry.