This is an excerpt from my novel, Carmina, which I hope someday will be finished. Like the people in this story, however, I seem to be wandering in Faery and despair of ever finding my way out. First draft, and I wanted to suggest archaic speech without actually using too much of it.


A band of travelers through Faery come upon a man sitting beside a wandering path through the woods.


He held his head in his hands as if in despair. He was dressed in nothing but a nightshirt and a pair of highly embroidered red mules with leather soles. They looked comfortable but considerably the worse for wear. At the sound of their approach, he jumped to his feet with an excited and expectant look upon his face and cried out a great rush of speech that some of them had trouble understanding.

“Is he speaking English?” asked Bobo.

“Yes,” Jeremy answered, “a 17th century version with a thick Highland Scots accent. He says his name is Reverend Robert Kirk and he came here in 1692. I’m from 18th century London, so his accent is not such a stretch for me.

“Do you wish me to speak like an Englishman?” the Reverend asked in a peeved but more moderated accent.

Bobo gave an embarrassed laugh. “No offense. My American ears aren’t accustomed to the Scottish accent.”

The Reverend scratched the stubble on his head. “American? Are you from one of the colonies, then?”

“Things have changed somewhat in the world since you…departed,” Jeremy explained. “The colonies broke away from the English crown in 1776 and formed a new country, alternately called America and the United States of America.”

“Is it?” The Reverend looked quite startled, holding his hand over his heart as if it pained him. He seemed to rally and straightened his shoulders. “No blame can attend anyone for wanting to break away from the English crown.”

“What can we do for you?” asked Jeremy.

“I should dearly love a pair of breeks—or what passes for them in your time. Some smallclothes would also be appreciated.”

“Smallclothes?” asked Bobo.

“Underwear,” Carmina explained.

“Aye, indeed,” said the Reverend. “Under wear. I should be grateful for more sturdy shoes, as well, but do not wish to impose.”

They looked pointedly at Ramannes [an Elfin lord].

He sighed impatiently, but waved his hand and produced a pair of men’s drawers and some gabardine trousers which he handed to the Reverend. In his other hand was a pair of brown work boots and socks like Jeremy wore, which he also handed off.

“The pants have a thing called a zipper,” Jeremy explained. He turned away from Carmina and unzipped and zipped his pants several times to demonstrates. “Takes a little getting used to but it’s quite efficient. Only—” He laughed self-consciously. “Make sure you have your…personal bits out of the way of the zipper teeth. It can be quite painful.”

The Reverend raised his chin to look down his nose as much as he was able, considering how much shorter he was than Jeremy. “I shall endeavor to take care.”

He stepped back into the trees. They heard huffing and puffing and an occasional mutter of Noo jist haud on! or Keep the heid! Eventually he stepped back onto the path, his nightshirt tucked into the trousers and the trousers tucked into the work boots.

He held the mules in his hand. “I do not wish to discard these, worn as they may be, for they have personal meaning to me.”

Otto, who had been silent through all this conversation, looking more and more anxious as it went on, asked earnestly, “Did you go to sleep and awaken in this place?”

“Nae, not quite.”

“Tell us, please,” said Otto. “I wish very much to know how it was for you.”

“Well. I was home. At the manse. In Aberfoyle.” The Reverend drew in a large breath, his eyes losing their focus on the people around him. “It was a brisk night, but none sae bad, being May. The air was filled with that ineffable essence of spring that fills the heart with quiet joy. The knowe—” He stopped a moment to moisten his lips and looked away down the road. “The hill near my manse in Aberfoyle was covered in bluebells, a fair mad host of them crowding the knowe, seeming to have sprung up overnight.

“Sae beautiful they were when I looked out my window at twilight with the last of the sun on their tops, a sweet indigo glow. They called to me but I didna go then for I had other things which needed attending and as it was my habit to visit the hill at night before bed, I waited.

“It was two days away from the new moon and dark as pitch when I slipped into my mules for the walk, and took a wee lantern as I ascended the hill path. I was not afraid of the dark, mind, but sensible of not wanting to stumble and do myself some injury.”

His laugh was bitter. “Aye, wouldna have wanted to do myself an injury. But I had no mind of harm as I walked. The lantern made a beautiful glow on the bluebells and the trunks of the pines, and the air, as I said, was brisk but sweet. I couldna seem to draw enough of it into my lungs. I wanted more and more and more, sae sweet it was, and the bluebells danced in the light and up the path.

“Further up the knowe I heard a song thrush calling—my first of the year. ‘Here! Here!’ it seemed to say. ‘This way! This way! Night is calling! Only a fool would tarry!’ It quite led me on in joy.

“Behind me an owl called, hollow and haunting, but I thought nothing of it. The song thrush grew louder, pulling me onward and upward. The sweet perfume of the bluebells was overwhelming. Which should have struck me as odd, because their fragrance is usually reserved for the sunlight.

“But I carried on. I carried on.”

The Reverend rubbed his hand over his mouth, but still didn’t look at any of them, his eyes miles and centuries away. “I had gone quite further than I intended, quite further than my usual habit on these nightly walks. No matter how far up the knowe I traveled, the song thrush seemed just as far away. I stopped beside a stately old pine and leaned on it to catch my breath. The bark was rough against my hand, slightly damp and chill from the night air. The sharp pine scent mixed with the sweetness of the bluebells, but it was not a disharmonious mingling. It quite filled my head.

“Then suddenly, the song thrush was in the branches above my head, uncommonly loud. ‘Come along! Come along!’ it seemed to say.

“I blinked my eyes and there before me on the path lay a man in a nightshirt upon the ground, his lantern beside him, the candle inside quite extinguished sae I couldna see his face. But the light of my own lantern illuminated his mules, one of which was off his foot and tumbled into the path. It bore the same white and gold unicorn my wife had embroidered upon them.

“‘Come along! Come along!’ repeated the song thrush, and the pine tree upon which I leaned turned liquid. My hand sunk into it, and my person followed…into this place of eternal twilight.”

He turned to them then, eyes haunted. “I see by your clothes and your manners that some considerable span of time has passed between then and now.”

“Um, yes.” Jeremy scratched his chin. He knew this would be hard for Kirk to take in. “We ourselves came here from the Year of Our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Forty-Two.”

“19—” The Reverend choked, clutched his chest, and sat quite precipitously upon the ground.

Carmina kneeled beside him. “Are you all right, Reverend?”

“Not at all,” he wheezed.

She laid her hand upon his shoulder and his breathing eased a bit.

“Such a little time to me,” he said, “a matter of days. But I know well the ways of Faery and reckoned it must be longer. I thought perhaps one hundred years, though I hoped not sae much. But nearly three? Am I thus sae far from everything I knew?”

“I’m afraid so,” Carmina said gently. “Have you wandered in the woods all this time?”

“Not quite all this time. I heard laughter, wicked and cruel, quite sae soon as I came through to this place, and I knew then what had befallen me and where I had gone. The seelie wights brought me here. I tried to will myself back through that same pine, but it remained stubbornly solid. I reckoned then that the man I spied upon the ground of the pathway must be a changeling for myself, put there by the seelie wights sae none would know I lived still.

“I pictured in my mind my dwelling place and came there—not in body but in spirit. I saw my young wife…” He clutched his heart again and gave a great sigh. “She sat beside my coffin and lamented greatly. She was great with child, nae more than a month away, perhaps, of bringing forth my child. I could see that it would be another son. I wanted to tell her what had come to pass, to not be sae afraid nor downcast, but couldna break through her great sadness. It was the sturdiest of walls, preventing her from hearing me.

“But my cousin Graham was in the next room. He had a touch of the Sight, as I had myself, though not sae strong. I appeared to him and told him that when it came time to baptize my son, I would appear and he must throw his iron dagger over my head to free me or I would be doomed to stay in Faery ever more.”

The Reverend balled his fists. “But the clot-heid was sae startled when I appeared he failed to throw the knife. And I was gone forever, unable to look upon my family again, unable to do anything but wander these forests.”

He looked up with tears in his eyes. “And I have not seen another soul until now. I would hear voices betimes, or more of that wicked laughter, and direct myself towards it, but never caught it up, and then the sounds faded. I knew neither hunger nor thirst, just endless wandering through twisted forests.”

Ramannes, who had listened in silence until then, said coldly, “You peered too closely into what was none of your business. What else did you expect would happen?”

The Reverend nodded. “Aye. I should have known better, but the desire for mysteries was greater than my caution. To pierce the Veil and see the Other while still in the life of a man…that was my pursuit. And my folly.”