Hester and Raven stop at Derek’s bar on the way home, and the Druid Aengus meets them there. Druids are experts on Celtic symbols. He reads the tattoos the witch embedded in Festus’s and Boaz’s skin.
Raven stopped at the Druid community again to keep Aengus up to date on what was happening. He and Afric listened carefully, then Aengus said, “Are you stopping at Derek’s bar for supper?”
“No reason not to,” Raven said. “We’re hungry, and no one wants to cook.”
“Mind if I join you there?”
I grinned at him. “You’re always welcome. You’ll fit right in.”
He laughed his big, booming laugh. In his long priest robe with his big, black beard, he’d turn heads. “I only wear this get up around here. When I venture outside of our settlement, I wear jeans and a flannel shirt like everyone else.”
“I’ve never seen you in jeans.” I couldn’t picture Aengus in ordinary clothes. My fire demon only wore black until recently, and it was a pleasure to see him in low riding blue jeans and snug thermal shirts that showed off his taut muscles. I didn’t think that would be the case with our Druid.
Aengus rose and winked at me. “This is your lucky day. Give me a minute to change, and I’ll follow you into Muddy River.”
When he came out wearing loose Levi’s and a bomber jacket, his keys in his hand, I blinked in surprise. “You look like Hagrid from Harry Potter.”
His dark eyes twinkled. “I’m taking that as a compliment. I’ve read and watched that whole series. I always liked Hagrid.”
“So did I.”
Raven nodded toward the door. “Ready to go?”
Aengus kissed Afric on the way out and followed us to Main Street, parking in the lot for Derek’s bar. The minute we opened our car doors, Claws saw some of his familiar friends at the edge of the asphalt and left us. When we walked into the building, Derek looked Aengus up and down, then grinned.
“Welcome, Druid.’ He scooted people off the stools to make room for us. “What’s your poison?”
We ordered our usual wine and beer, but Aengus ordered mead. When he sipped it, he made a face. “Tastes like Kool-Aid.”
Derek laughed at him. “If you want chouchen here, you’ll have to sell us some. No suppliers stock fermented honey. I started a micro-brewery, though, and have an ale you might like.”
With an amiable shrug, Aengus downed his drink. “Bring it on. Does it pack more punch than this?”
“It’s not chouchen, but it’s not Kool-Aid either.” Derek poured him a glass and crossed his arms, waiting for his reaction.
“I like it. Great flavor. Pour me two more.”
That taken care of, I looked around the room. Gray and Syn were sitting at a nearby table with Simon Seer, Muddy River’s public-school teacher who had the gift of sight. I was going to say hi to them when Speedy stuck his head out of the kitchen and said, “What’ll it be? You have to be hungry by now.”
Bless Derek’s cook. He did his best to keep us well fed. We’d finished ordering when Festus and Boaz arrived with their wives. Raven had called them to let them know when we’d be back in town.
As they settled, Birch came in and sat next to Syn. She called to me. “I really enjoyed subbing for you today. The four girls who are going to graduate this year are awesome. I’d love working with them more.”
“They could use that. Any time you want to stop by the school to tutor them, let me know.” I was hoping to talk to her about leading a new, young coven, but now wasn’t the time. After Birch graduated, she’d attended every monthly meeting of our coven. She’d have a lot to teach new witches.
Brown bumped Aengus’s shoulder and motioned to Festus and Boaz. “Those are the two men who woke up with tattoos and visions.”
Festus overheard him and studied our Druid friend. “I’ve heard that you’re an expert on Celt tattoos.”
Aengus nodded. “Would you mind showing me yours?”
“Maybe you can make some sense of it.” Festus started to roll up his shirt sleeve, and Boaz did the same. Aengus’s eyes went wide when he saw them. “These are old school. Most Fae wouldn’t know about them.” He took off his bomber jacket and rolled up his flannel shirt sleeve, then his tattoos reached for theirs. Dark ink swirled through the air. The bar went quiet.
When the tattoos connected, Aengus closed his eyes. He didn’t move for several minutes. When he opened them again, he said, “The witch who did this only had enough strength to tell her story a little at a time. She’s desperate. Her tattoos are like writing messages in bottles, hoping someone finds them and understands them.” He touched Boaz’s tattoo again with his own. “There are three more tattoos out there somewhere. If you can find them, you’ll learn more.”
“Can you sense where they are?” I asked.
He pinched his lips together and frowned. “They’re close. I can feel them.” Then he shook his head. “That’s all I’ve got. Lir is about to pack up his van to deliver our settlement’s goods to towns that have ordered them. Lots of mistletoe.” He winked. “Would you like for him to ask around everywhere he goes?”
“Would you please?” Melodia asked. Our siren leaned against Boaz for comfort. “I can’t stop thinking about the poor witches in cages.”
Aengus nodded. “Witch magic and our magic can work well together on this. We’d like to find the witches, too, and stop the voodoo priest.”
“Will Lir be in any danger if he questions people about tattoos?” I liked the young Druid with his flowing copper hair and mischievous grin.
“I wouldn’t think so.” Aengus finished his second ale. “The priest only wants witches. The worst that can happen to him is that he’ll return with a tattoo of his own, and we can help him with that.”
I relaxed a little, and Raven said, “Brown and I will try to find any supernaturals who’ve traveled near the Ohio River lately. Maybe that way, we’ll find someone else the witch embedded a dream into. We’ll call around and let people know what we’re looking for.”
For the moment, there wasn’t much more to do. We finished our meals and paid our bill, leaving a generous tip. Then we got ready to go. It wasn’t so late that Raven and I couldn’t sit in our own living room, sipping a last glass of wine in front of the yule fire. It would be nice to have time to decompress. With a wave, Aengus turned toward the Druid village. As we walked to the SUV, Claws hurried to join us. Raven drove faster than usual on the way home and when we reached it, I invited Brown and Meda in. But thankfully, they were anxious to get home, too. We’d all investigated and talked about the priest and missing witches enough for one night.