Loch Ness, 517 AD

“Sìneag!” cries Eithne, my sister faerie, “Come, come, look!”

I raise my head from the lavender plants I’ve been working my magic over, spraying them with the energy of summer. We dryads help plants and animals that are struggling. Sometimes, we help people. Most of the time, we amuse ourselves by watching them and playing little tricks on them. Secretly, we’re fascinated by them.

Sitting in the leaves of an oak tree, Eithne watches two riders following the road that runs along what humans call Loch Ness toward the hillfort Urquhart. Green hills surround the loch, which is blue and calm, reflecting the sky above.

Curious, I dart to sit on the branch by Eithne and stare at them. It’s a man and a woman, talking and laughing. He’s broad-shouldered, his long, dark hair gathered at the nape of his neck with a leather string. An oiled beard that has been recently cut and groomed reaches halfway down his neck. He’s bare-chested, and pale blue patterns play over the hard muscles of his stomach and the biceps of his right arm.

“He’s handsome,” says Eithne.

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