Amaris looked up to find what looked at first sight like a child smiling at them. A closer look betrayed great age in the girl's eyes, and a maturity beyond that of any adult she had ever met.
"Uh ... yes?"
"The Lady is ready for you both," the girl said warmly. "If you would come this way?"
Dev blinked again, brows furrowing at the girl who'd appeared before them. Where had she come from? He hadn't seen her there a moment ago.
"But I'm not ..." he started, ready to protest. He wasn't affiliated with Avalon in any way, except through Amaris.
The girl's smile seemed impish, both young and old in the same moment. "You'll see," she said, gesturing for them to come with her.
Amaris blinked, looking to Dev before moving to get to her feet. "I guess the Lady likes you already," she said, mildly envious of that for a split second.
"Or likes you, and I'm just an accessory," he countered, wondering what to do with the coffee mug that seemed to have come along for the ride. He climbed to his feet, pulling her up beside him, mindful of her leg, though she seemed to have healed. "Time to face the music, babe."
Her leg was still sore, but it was more of a bruised sensation than the hot throb of healing bones now. Amaris tucked her hand into Dev's as they moved to follow the strange little girl, only now beginning to notice the men and women who all had their own business around them.
"We can do this, right?"
"Yeah," he replied with a reassuring smile. "At least, no one is snarling at us," he said, unlike the fight with the werewolves the night before. He was only just starting to understand why it was so hard for the hunter to describe this place. It was something you had to see to believe. "Is she taking us to see the Lady?" he whispered.
"I guess so," Amaris whispered back, at a loss herself. She'd never been here before, but she didn't think they were going to fall victim to a hustler here. The girl was leading them toward the tall grey stone building that must have been a temple, glancing back every now and then to make sure they were following. "Everyone looks like they stepped out of a ren faire."
"Yeah, except instead of the cheesy costumes, these look authentic," Dev remarked as he, too, looked around. If anyone knew cheesy, it was him. He'd been raised in a place where cheesy was an everyday occurrence, even if most of it was just dressing for the tourists.
"It's almost like time stopped for them when they left the mundane world," Amaris murmured. "I wonder if all these people were alive when Arthur was." It was becoming clear that she knew as much about Avalon as Dev did at this point; all her life, it had been distant knowledge, never truly real, and yet here they were.
Dev blinked at her statement, not having considered that. "That would make them very old, if not immortal," he said. But if that was the case, why wasn't King Arthur there with them?
"That girl isn't a little girl," she pointed out, though she had no idea where she was going with this idea. They'd reached the wide steps of the Temple, and the girl continued on, turning back at the top to gesture for them to follow her still.
"But she has to grow up sometime, doesn't she?" Dev wondered out loud, brows furrowing in confusion as they looked up to the girl at the tops of the stairs. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?" he asked, just a hint of nervousness in his voice as he gave her hand another squeeze.
"This is what we're here for," Amaris agreed in a soft murmur, deeply grateful for the pressure of Dev's hand enveloping her own.
They mounted the steps together, and passed into the coolness of the Temple corridors, passing a wide space that was clearly used for worship that was definitively not of the Christian kind. An incredibly old nun, in a Christian habit, was kneeling before a statue of a kindly woman - the Goddess, no doubt - while a young boy industriously swept up the remnants of incense burned that day.
They were obviously entering a temple of some sort, though it was unlike any church or temple that Dev had ever seen. It looked as though it had been built in ancient times, but there were no signs of ruin.
"Do you think maybe time has stopped here?" he hypothesized.
"I don't know," Amaris answered, keeping her voice low as though she were in a cathedral or library. "My grandpa served under a different Grandmaster than the one in place now, so maybe it didn't. I really have no idea."
The little girl came to a halt deep in the corridors of the Temple, gesturing to an open doorway that was crowded with vines twisted in and around themselves, barring the way. As they came to a halt, the vines untwisted seemingly of their own accord, opening the way into what appeared to be a beautiful garden. The girl smiled.
"The Lady is expecting you."
Dev sensed there was nothing to fear her. If this Lady - whoever she was - didn't want them there, she wouldn't have brought them. No, it was a sense of pure wonder mingled with utter confusion that Dev was feeling, not fear. This was a place of peace; there was nothing to fear here.
"Thank you," he told the girl, with a faint but sincere smile, before looking to what was obviously some kind of opening into a garden, where it seemed this Lady would receive them. "Shall we?" he asked, looking to Amaris, though it didn't seem like they had a choice.
In contrast to Dev, the nerves were radiating from Amaris as she nodded to him. "Thank you," she remembered to mumble to the girl as her feet carried her forward with Dev, hearing the vines twisting themselves back in place behind them. "I guess we don't get to back out of this now," she managed with an awkward laugh, clinging almost too tightly to his hand as they followed a winding path between trees and flowers beneath brilliant sunshine.
"Do you want to?" he asked. She had made the choice to act as Alpha and contact Avalon. He knew she didn't really want to take her uncle's place, but it seemed she had no choice, at least for now. The only thing he didn't understand was why she'd been allowed to come here, if she wasn't going to remain the Alpha.