Free Fantasy Story–A Singular Inheritance
Posted by Sue
I‘d like to share with you a fantasy short story, a prequel to my Singular series. I’m breaking the story up into four installments to be posted on Mondays of each week until the story is finished. I do hope you enjoy it and I welcome comments.
The Singular Inheritance / The Beginnings
by Sue Santore
Thick fog wrapped around Brina like a damp blanket. Wispy fingers rose from the lake before floating upward to join their brethren in coating the night. Under the log walkway water softly lapped against the massive tree trunks sunk deeply into the water to support the village on the wooden log platforms which spread out over the water in all directions. Brina shivered even under her thick cloak, but she slowed down her feet anyway and flattened her body against the wooden posts which made up one crannog wall. Their village was build entirely over the water with strong trees trunks, over which their high druid had said many prayers. She shivered as she thought of him.
That same high druid wanted her to become his bride. She shuddered. The high druid gave her chills when he passed by her. His power rolled off him in foul waves. When he looked at her, it was as if something else was looking through his eyes. If his fingers accidentally touched hers when he guested at their table, she felt besmirched. Her stomach churned whenever he was near. To be his bride would mean to be in his constant company, to summit to him touching her as a man does a woman. She couldn’t bear that, and Father was close to insisting she accept the offer. If only her brother, Gavin, was here. Father might listen to him.
Brina came to herself with a startled jerk. She had to make this escape work. Since she had put sleeping herbs into the dogs’ evening food, they should be all asleep. She only needed to pass the guards without being caught. A muttering of voices reached her from around the corner and she reached down to her hanging pocket and touched the pouch which contained her safe-travel herbs: comfrey, mugwort and wormwood, with a few willow leaves tucked in for good measure. The packet of bread and cheese she carried clutched against her was a gift for Shylah, the Herb Woman.
The last time Brina had visited Shylah, she had come back to the village, retelling the herb woman’s stories of the new type of druid, a man who said he had power from the One God. Their village druid had been furious and had forbidden her to mention the man again or to visit Shylah. At least the high druid did not know that Shylah had also been secretly teaching Brina the ways of the ley lines and how to gather their power. Her father, Lord Kemble, followed the old ways in his village. She had never been inside the high druid’s home, but it was rumored that he decorated the inside of his home with the heads of their enemies, like the heathens of old. Since the soul rested in the head, then he controlled their souls. She shivered at the thought of souls in the hands of the high druid forever. Never would they see The Upper Realms.
Even so, the word of their high druid was as important as Lord Kemble’s and his word was to be followed, so the high druid commands had to be followed. Not only was she not allowed to leave their village, but he watched her all day long, his wise eyes knowing as she chafed under his seeing. When he was busy, his vates watched her for him, even as her father pressed her to become his bride. Much honor rested with the household who had a daughter bride of their high druid.
Even rolled into her sleeping mat, Brina felt them spying on her. Shylah. She would run away and take refuge with Shylah. Her power didn’t make Brina feel sick in her stomach area, and she knew so much more that Brina needed to learn, had to learn. Weeks of spying by the druids did not turn her docile, as the high druid had expected. Instead, Brina planned her escape carefully.
Days ago, the vates, the druid diviners, had predicted thick fog for tonight. It was this type of night that the cattle stealers would be out, but all of Lord Kemble’s cattle were safely in the adjoining stockades over the water. It was a sign of the Clan’s wealth that they could build crannogs for their cattle as well as their people. The cattle were driven out across a log ramp during the day to forage for food, herded by the slaves assigned to that duty, then brought back to the lake stockade at night. Guards were always on duty at night on the ramps, but rarely did the other clans bother their village. They were well protected in the middle of the lake. They always had plenty of food, and most of their boys grew up to become men. Their clan was large enough to defend itself against the smaller clans, since they could not sneak in a surprise attack. Crannogs were hard to build, but easy to defend.
The fog tonight was thick enough to cover her movements. If only she could sneak past the guards, she was sure she could hide in the trees until it was light enough to travel. The other guarded walkway led to their fields and farms. This walkway led to the main road and the forest beyond.
Edging slowly around the corner to the causeway, Brina breathed so softly that even she couldn’t hear her own sound. Her padded leather walking boots made not a whisper. As she moved closer to the guard post, she thought hard at the guards. “Eyes do not see me. Ears do not hear me. I am not here.” As she clutched her pouch with the safe-travel herbs in one hand, the other hand trailed along the sturdy wall. In a few feet the wall would end and the causeway would broaden. Invaders could easily be pushed off into the water with staves and spears, should they dare to strike into the heart of the Clan.
The guard change approached. Passwords spoken. Now was the time. While they were exchanging friendly insults on their manhood, Brina passed them by, a silent waif in the moist fog, just another ghost of the night. Just as she was sure she was safe, she felt a hard nudge against her leg and a cold moistness against her hand. A cry rose into Brina’s throat and she forced it back. Her hand moved over the furred back to the leather collared neck with metal spikes. It was Conall, her father’s favorite dog. Her favorite, too. He must have been with her father when she slipped the herbs into the dogs’ food.
Now what? He was trained to keep intruders out, but maybe he would not understand to keep her in. She knelt down and hugged the massive wolfhound, making the sign against his mouth for quiet. Conall licked her face, leaning against her legs, but made no sound, not a bark or a growl, not even a whimper.
There was no help for it. She would have to take him with her.
With the dog padding silently beside her, Brina drifted across the causeway, like part of the thick fog, passing by the guards without detection. When her feet touched the ground at the end of the log walk, she let out a deep breath and stopped to get her bearings. Since she could not see, she closed her eyes and tipped her chin into the air. In that still moment, she heard the wet fog dripping slowly from the leaves of the nearby trees. Moving slowly, she turned toward the East.
Shylah lived alone in a woods clearing near a holy well. She was a member of no tribe, but no one bothered her. Her clearing was a sacred place of sanctuary. Her small part of the forest was left strictly alone by all tribes, no raiding there. If Brina could get to Shylah undetected, she would be safe.
Carefully, she moved onto the hard dirt of the East Road. Her ears strained for any sounds of discovery from the village as she progressed farther along the road. Her hand rested on the dog’s neck, just before his spiked collar. Conall’s broad shoulders reached nearly to her waist. She slid her hand up to his ears for a quick caress, only to find the still silent animal on alert, his ears standing up, his head testing the air, like he heard something. The thought ran through her mind that maybe she should get off the road. Right about here was an animal trail, if she remembered right.
As her hands searched the bushes along the roadway for the small opening, a whisper of sound in the road ahead of her had her frantically probing for the animal trail. She had to get off the road, now! Finally, she found the small opening and wiggled through the brush, Conall following. His hair bristled all along his back, but the silent sign still held him. Brina huddled in a ball beneath the concealing underbrush, the dog standing guard in front of her. Brina could now hear the soft tramp of many feet. Raiders! Surely they would not go to her village. There was no chance of them getting across to their cattle.
She would have to hide until they went by. Likely they were raiding the next village, which was not built as a crannog. Even though they were after cattle, they wouldn’t hesitate to capture her as a slave. She had no illusions about what kind of life that would be. Although Conall would tear the throat out of the first man who touched her, there were too many for him to slay all of them. He would be killed and she captured if they heard the slightest noise from her. Closing her eyes, she touched her safe-travel herb pouch and silently repeated her manta that had worked against the guards. “Eyes do not see me. Ears do not hear me. I am not here.”
Come back next week to continue Brina’s story.
About SueFrom the time, as a young girl, when Sue read the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, she was hooked on fantasy. She loves to read fiction and write within many genres, but she always winds up going back to fantasy. For years she has had fantasy stories spinning around in her head and now that she is retired from many years of teaching, she is putting those stories into book form. She has many interests, including quilting and playing the mountain dulcimer, but writing is the most satisfying of all. Sue lives in the great state of Maine with her husband of 38 years. She has been a factory worker, a waitress, a librarian, and a teacher. Her biggest job was being a mother and she has three grown children. Now that she is a grandmother, she is enjoying that role immensely.
Posted on April 6, 2015, in about writing, Age - Adult, Age - Middle Grade, Age - Young Adult, Authors - Sue Santore, Genre - Fantasy Stories, or browse all books and tagged free fantasy story, literature, singular series. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.