It was the warmest and most lavish welcome Caitlin could have imagined. Their arrival had been like one long celebration. They’d run into one coven member after another, and she saw faces she hadn’t seen in what felt like forever—Barbara, Cain, and many others. They’d all sat for lunch at a huge banquet table, in the warm, stone castle, furs beneath their feet, torches along the walls, the fireplace roaring, and dogs running all around. The room felt warm and cozy, and Caitlin realized that it was cold outside—the end of October, Caitlin had been told. 1350. Caitlin couldn’t believe it. She was nearly seven hundred years away from the 21st century.

She had always tried to imagine what life might be like in this time period, in the times of the knights, of armor, castles...but she had never imagined anything quite like this. Despite the stark change in surroundings, the lack of major towns or cities, the people were still very warm, very intelligent, very human. In many ways, not all that different from the people of her time.

Caitlin felt very at home in this time and place. She had spent hours catching up with Sam and Polly, hearing their stories, their version of what had happened to them back in England. She had been horrified to hear of what had happened between Sergei and Polly, and so proud of Sam for saving her.

And throughout the whole night, she couldn’t help but notice that Sam barely took his eyes off of Polly. As a big sister, she sensed that a major shift had happened within him. He finally seemed more mature, and for the first time ever, truly and totally in love.

Yet Polly, this time, seemed a bit more evasive. It was harder for Caitlin to get an exact fix on where she stood, on her feelings for Sam. Maybe it was because Polly was more guarded. Or maybe it was because this time, Polly truly cared. Caitlin could sense, deep down, that Sam meant the world to her, and that she was being extra careful not to disclose her feelings, or mess it up. Caitlin did notice that every once in a while, when Sam looked away, Polly stole a quick glance back at him. But then she quickly averted her eyes, so that Sam wouldn’t catch her looking.

Caitlin felt, beyond a doubt, that her brother and her best friend were about to become a couple. The idea of it thrilled her. And it amused her that both of them were still in denial of what was happening between them—and even trying to pretend that it wasn’t.

The table was also filled with new human friends, and Caitlin met so many people who she felt close to. They were all warriors. The king sat at the head, surrounded by his dozens of knights. Throughout the afternoon, they all sang drinking songs, and laughed aloud as they recounted stories of battle, of hunting expeditions. Caitlin could tell that these Scottish people were warm, friendly, hospitable, loved to drink, and were great raconteurs. And yet they were also very noble and proud, and great warriors.

The meal and stories went on for hours, as lunch extended into late afternoon. Torches died out and were re-lit. Dozens of new logs were added to the massive, stone fireplace; huge vats of wine were replaced. Eventually, all the dogs tired out, feel asleep on the rugs. Scarlet finally feel asleep on Caitlin’s lap, while Ruth curled up beside Scarlet. Ruth had been well-fed, thanks to Scarlet, who’d fed her a never-ending supply of meat. A dozen dogs were seated around the table, begging for scraps, but they all had the good sense to steer clear of Ruth. And Ruth, content, didn’t seem interested in messing with them, either.

Some of the warriors, gutted from food and drink, eventually nodded off on their furs, too. Caitlin found herself drifting off, turning her mind to other times and places, other matters. She started to wonder what her next clue would be; if her Dad would be in this place and time; where her next journey would take her. Her eyes started to close, when suddenly, she heard her name.

It was the king, McCleod, addressing her over the din.

“And what do you think, Caitlin?” he asked again.

As he did, the jovial table slowly began to quiet, as people turned and looked her way.

Caitlin felt embarrassed, not having been listening to the conversation. The king looked at her, as if awaiting an answer. Finally, he cleared his throat.

“What do you think of the Holy Grail?” he asked again.

The Holy Grail? Caitlin wondered. Was that what they had been talking about?

She had no idea. She had not been thinking of the Holy Grail at all, and hardly even knew what it was. She wished now that she had been listening to their conversation. She tried to remember what it was, and thought back to childhood fairytales, to myths and legends. To the stories of King Arthur. Excalibur. The Holy Grail…

Slowly, it was coming back to her. If she recalled correctly, the Holy Grail was rumored to be a chalice or goblet, rumored to hold a special liquid….Yes, now it was coming back to her. Some people had said that the Holy Grail held the blood of Christ, that drinking it would make you immortal. If she remembered correctly, the knights had spent hundreds of years searching for it, had risked their lives trying to find it, to the ends of the earth. And no one ever had.

“Do you think it will ever be found?” McCleod asked again.

Caitlin cleared her throat, the entire table looking to her for an answer.

“Um…” she began, “I haven’t really thought about it,” she answered. “But if it really exists…then I don’t see why it can’t be found.”

There was a small roar of approval at the table.

“You see,” McCleod said to one of his knights. “She is an optimist. I, too, think it will be found.”

“An old wives’ tale,” said a knight.

“And what will you do when you find it?” asked another knight. “That’s the real question.”

“Why, I shall make myself immortal,” the king answered, breaking into a hearty laugh.

“You don’t need the Holy Grail for that,” said another knight. “All you need is to be turned.”

A tense silence suddenly fell around the table. Clearly, this knight had overspoke, had crossed a line and mentioned something taboo. He lowered his head in shame, recognizing his mistake.

Caitlin saw McCleod’s sudden, dark expression, and in that moment, she realized that he desperately wanted to be turned. And that he sorely resented Aiden’s coven for not obliging him. Clearly, this knight had raised a sore point, the one point of tension between the two races.

“And what is it like?” the king asked aloud, directing his question to Caitlin, for some reason. “Immortality?”

Caitlin wondered why he’d had to ask her, of all the vampires in the room. Couldn’t he have picked someone else?

She thought about that. What was it like? What could she possibly say? On the one hand, she loved immortality, loved living in all these times and places, seeing her family and friends again and again, in each new time and place. On the other hand, some parts of her still wished she had a normal, simple life, wished that there was a normal arc to things. Most of all, she found herself surprised at how brief immortality seemed: on the one hand, it felt like life forever—but on the other hand, it still always felt to her like there was never enough time.

“It doesn’t feel as permanent as you might imagine.”

The rest of the table nodded in approval at her response.

McCleod suddenly rose from his chair. As he did, all the others rose at attention.

Just as Caitlin was turning over the odd exchange in her head, wondering if she had upset him, she suddenly felt his presence behind her. She turned, and he was standing over her.

“You are wise beyond your years,” he said. “Come with me. And bring your friends. I have something to show you. Something that has been waiting for you a very long time.”

Caitlin was surprised. She had no idea what it might be.

McCleod turned and strutted out the hall, and Caitlin and Caleb rose, followed by Sam and Polly, and followed him. They looked at each other in wonder.

They crossed the large, stone floor, following the king through the enormous chamber and out a side door, as the knights around the table slowly sat back down and resumed their meal.

McCleod walked in silence, strutting down a narrow, torch-lit hall, with Caitlin, Caleb, Sam and Polly following. The ancient stone halls twisted and turned, leading them to a staircase.

McCleod took a torch off the wall and led the way down the darkened staircase, into seeming blackness. As they walked, Caitlin began to wonder where exactly, he was leading them. What could he possibly have to show them? An ancient weapon of some sort?

Finally, they reached a subterranean level, well lit by torches, and Caitlin was amazed at the sight. The low, arched ceiling glittered, plated in gold. Caitlin could see illustrated images of Christ, Knights, scenes from the Bible, mixed with various odd signs and symbols. The floor was an ancient, well-worn stone, and Caitlin couldn’t help but feel as if they’d entered a secret treasure chamber.

Caitlin’s heart began to beat faster, as she sensed something important awaiting them. She strutted faster, hurrying to catch up to the King.

“The treasury vault of the McCleod clan for a thousand years. It is down here where we hold our most sacred treasure, weapons and possessions. But there is one possession which is more valuable, more sacred, than all of them.”

He stopped and turned to her.

“It is a treasure we have been saving just for you.”

He turned and lifted a torch off a side wall, and as he did, a hidden door in the wall suddenly opened up in the stone. Caitlin was amazed: she would have had no idea it was there.

McCleod turned and led them down another twisting corridor. Finally, they came to a stop in a small alcove area. Before them was a throne, on which sat a lone object: a small, jeweled treasure chest. Torchlight flickered over it, illuminating it, and McCleod gingerly reached down and picked it up.

Slowly, he lifted the lid. Caitlin could not believe it.

There, inside the chest, sat a single piece of ancient parchment, a faded, antique color, wrinkled and torn in half. It was covered in ancient handwriting, in a delicate script, in a language Caitlin did not recognize. Along its edges were multi-colored letters, drawings and symbols, and in its center was a drawing, semi-circular. But given that it was torn in half, Caitlin could not make out what it was supposed to be.

“For you,” he said, gingerly lifting it and holding it out to her.

Caitlin held the piece of torn parchment, feeling it crinkle in her hands, and held it up to the torchlight. It was a torn page, perhaps from a book. With all of its delicate symbology, it looked like a piece of art in its own right.

“It is the missing page to the Holy Book,” McCleod explained. “When you find the book, that page will be complete. And when it is, you will find the relic we are all searching for.”

He turned and faced her.

“The Holy Grail.”

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