Torin longed to join the celebrations in the city streets below, but a wanted man must be a ghost. Arms crossed, he looked down at the throngs of Samhain creatures, mummers, fire dancers, and glowing lights. Symbolic bundles of wheat—some real, some fiber optic—as well as plastic scythes were bobbing through the crowds.


A blast of cow horns preceded a hobby horse procession. A group of crossdressers carried the flowering horse skull on a white-sheet draped pole, blowing their horns and wassailing. Fireworks drew his attention to the night sky before he closed the curtains to his rented room. The landlord of the five-bedroom home was at the party, as were the other tenants. He had the three-story house to himself.

The room was sparse but clean. A small table sported a hollowed-out gourd, glowing with a tea light candle, a rooster skull, small bowl of blood, and a piece of barmbrack cake. The barmbrack was meant for him while the other items warded off evil spirits and ushered in a lucky new year. There was no teilifis to watch shows on, and he’d had his last conversation on his cheap, untraceable cloch. He’d dispose of the communication device tomorrow, and of the barmbrack right now.

With nothing better to do, he picked up the yeasted bread of grapes and raisins and bit into it, wondering if his future would be told. Chewing carefully, his tongue picked out something hard. He spat the item into his hand; a ring. It was just cheap tin. 

“Mhac na galla,” he swore, rolling his eyes.

He put the ring on the empty plate, stuffed the rest of the sweet bread into his mouth, and nearly choked as he spat a second item into his palm. Among the masticated clumps in his hand lay a toothpick with its ends cut off. Picking out the object, he flung the wet crumbs into the trash bin and wiped his hand on his pants. The ring and the stick. Now, that was interesting. To find and not find love at the same time. With a snort, he picked up the ring and threw his fortunes in the trash. Stupid tradition. A warrior in his position had little time for emotional attachments. He learned that lesson a long time ago, and it was a wound that refused to heal.

Perhaps he should go out. No. Too dangerous. If he was going to fulfill his promise to Caractacus, he had to lay low. This time tomorrow he’d be with Etaine, headed into the wilds of the highlands.