Free Fantasy Story–A Singular Inheritance–Continued
Posted by Sue
Last week we began Brina’s story. As we continue, the raiders have just gone by.
A Singular Inheritance
by Sue Santore
Only when the soft tramping of the raiders faded into the distance, beyond the village, going on down The West Road, did Brina relax her vigil. She crept out from the side trail and hurried further down The East Road. She needed to get far enough from the village to stop until dawn. There was no way she could find Shylah’s hut in the forest without daylight for her to search out the way.
The girl and the dog sped down the dark road, held in place only by the feel of the packed dirt underfoot. After their quick steps ate up a safe distance, Brina headed off the road again. She pushed through the bushes, biting her lip against the stabs and scratches, until she stumbled into a tree trunk, then she stopped and slid down the rough bark to sit with her back against the tree. The scratches on her hands and face stung, but she couldn’t bother with them now. With Conall’s presence, she didn’t have to worry about wild animals. Soon her tired eyes could stay open no longer and she slipped into a troubled sleep. The dog laid down beside the girl. His ears twitched as he stayed on guard for his young mistress.
The lowing of cattle and the stamping of feet woke her with a start. In minutes the raiders fled past. The fog was thinning and the first light was breaking over the horizon. So, the raiders had been successful in carrying away some cattle from the next village. She wondered how many lay dead with their blood soaking into the ground, away from their loved ones. Did the raiders have enough men to take their dead home with them?
She stayed still, her arms clutched around her knees, not looking at the road for fear the men could feel someone watching. They would be on edge anyway. She didn’t need a reason for them to search for a watcher. Conall stood beside her, ready to attack, if need be. At least the cattle would cover any trail she had left. That would make it harder for the druid to send trackers after her. Even the dogs would have a difficult time sniffing her trail with the raiders and cattle passing after her.
After the passing of the raiders, Brina stood up, looking around her to get her bearings. There was a packed trail to Shylah’s hut, if she could but find it. If she headed in that direction, surely she would hit the trail. It couldn’t be far. She grabbed her travel herb pouch and clutched the safe-travel herbs. Closing her eyes she sought out for direction. A faint tugging pulled at her, a line weaving through the forest.
Brina dodged through the trees, avoiding hanging tree branches and gnarled roots sticking out of the ground, following the source of the tug. Relief flooded her when her feet struck the trail. The trail wound through the forest for hours, it seemed. In the distance she heard the morning crowing of the cock and smiled. Shylah’s chickens were up. The sun was burning the lingering remains of the fog off when Brina finally entered the clearing. A small hut stood against the forest at the far edge of the clearing. Near the dwelling carefully placed rocks surrounded and protected a bubbling spring, the holy well. A massive oak tree, a cloutie tree, towered near the well. Prayer rags were tied to many branches. Here pilgrims drank the holy water for healing, made a prayer and tied a prayer rag on the tree. As long as the rags remained on the tree, the prayers continued to rise to the Upper Realm. Shylah said the new druid Colum Cille had drunk from the well, touching the water, and that now the water had healing powers.
As Brina crossed the clearing, the hut door opened and Shylah stepped out. The older woman, stood, her arms crossed over her chest, watching Brina approach. As Brina drew near, she could see the frown on Shylah’s face. “Trouble follows at your back,” the herb woman stated.
“Oh!” Brina stopped. “I don’t want to bring you trouble, but, Shylah, I had to get away. The high druid was insisting I become his bride.” She wondered where she could go, if Shylah turned her away. Silently she held out her the gift of bread and cheese.
“He is filled with the darkness of the evil one. You must never become his bride. Then he would have power over you as your husband. He would suck out your budding power and take it as his own.” Shylah closed her eyes briefly. Brina could feel her thoughts, but she could not read them. “Come,” said Shylah. She took the food, turned abruptly, and re-entered the dwelling, leaving the door standing open. She walked to a small table and laid the bread and cheese on it, then she moved further into the room, to the other side.
Brina followed, trailing her hand along Conall’s back as he trotted along side of her. Her eyes strained to see in the dim light. Gradually the room came into focus. Shylah was kneeling beside a large, crudely made chest, reaching into it. Brina walked closer.
Out of the large chest, Shylah lifted up a small box, intricately carved of wood. She hesitated with the box in her hands and looked up at Brina. The girl was strong enough and she had a good heart and she was also the only one possible left to pass the precious heritage on. Shylah had to take the chance. She stood, turned, and extended the box to Brina. “This is for you.”
Brina reached out to take the box. It felt warm between her fingers. She whispered, “What is it?” She felt no sense of foulness as she did when the High Druid did his magic, but the box felt like it was bursting with power. It also gave off a sense of welcome. She cradled it to her and touched the carvings, rubbing one finger around a three-part connected spiral, looping around and back again. Conall raised his massive head and sniffed at the box, licking her fingers against the wood. Reluctantly she handed the wooden box back to Shylah.
Shylah had watched her soberly, seeming to check her reaction. When Brina pushed the box at her, she stepped back and shook her head. “No. It has accepted you. It belongs to you now and it can have only one owner at a time. Before its owner dies, it must be passed on to the next caretaker. You also need this.” Shylah reached up to her neck and took off a silver chain with a strange silver metal object dangling from the end of it.
Curious, Brina touched the small object. “What is this?”
“It’s called a key. It fits into the box, like this, to open it.” Shylah demonstrated as she spoke. “Here, you put the chain on, and never take it off. It’s yours now.”
A heavy dread filled Brina at her words and she shuddered as a premonition flashed before her of Shylah’s limp body lying at her feet. “But, Shylah, you’re not old enough to die.” Brina cried out in alarm.
Shylah’s blank face showed no emotion. “What will be, will be and I see you will be the next herb lady of the holy well.”
Unaccustomed tears sprang into Brina’s eyes and she quickly brushed them away. “No, I need you to teach me, and…” Her voice faltered. “… I need you.”
Shylah’s face softened. “Child, you will soon need no teacher. And you will have another come to take my place in your heart.” Then her face hardened. “Your village high druid senses your power and wants to use it himself. Whatever you do, you must not put yourself under his power or give him this box. The box holds great power, but it can only be used by you, now, until you willingly pass it on to another.”
Brina threw her arms around Shylah, still holding onto the box. This woman was closer than her own mother, who had no time for her, preferring her older daughter.
The older woman hugged the girl, who was more than a daughter to her, then she drew back. What she saw ahead for herself was a short, difficult road. Would she be able to follow it? She had too, for the sake of the girl.
“Whatever happens, Brina, you must be brave and stay strong.”
“I’ll try, Herb Mother.”
The rest of the morning was spent with the two women huddled together at the small table, Shylah talking rapidly, showing Brina the sparse contents of the box, explaining their uses. “You may add to the box as you see fit after you learn more about your powers.”
Shylah pulled out a book from the box and said, “This is why I taught you to read Latin. This book reads in Latin, for now. As more village lords turn to the new religion and their druids become priests, Latin is the written language all will use. All you will need to learn is in here.”
Brina’s head swarmed like buzzing insects at all the power flowing from the box and its artifacts. “Let’s try this.” Shylah placed the heavy, intricate bracelet on Brina’s arm and drew her to the wall of her hut. “Lean against the wall and think about the air and sunshine outside, the grass and trees.”
So Brina did and was shocked to find herself outside the wall next to the hut. She heard Conall whining inside the building. She pressed against the wall again and returned to find Shylah smiling at her. Conall licked her fingers.
“Very good,” Shylah said. Then she held out the ring. “Take off the bracelet and try this.”
After Brina placed the ring on her finger, she no longer could see her hand that the ring was on, nor any of the rest of herself. She was invisible. She gasped, “I am gone!”
Shylah chuckled. “You have much power within you. Your village druid has sensed your power for weeks, even with my covering spell over you.” Then a darkness crept over her face. “Come. We must hurry. The time runs fast.”
Brina placed the bracelet and ring back into the carved box. Shylah placed her hands on Brina’s shoulders. “Promise me that you will study the book often and learn fast. Only after you master your power will you be free from your druid’s control. You will be safe in this dwelling for a time, but the food I have here won’t last you more than a moon cycle.”
A dreadful premonition crawled through Brina. “What about you? You will need food, too?”
“I won’t need food where I’m going. I have Seen.”
“Shylah, Herb Mother, what have you Seen?”
“I will not tell you. You will know when it comes.”
Brina threw herself at Shylah and embraced the older woman. “What will I do without you?”
“You must gain much knowledge within the moon cycle, enough knowledge to stand against your druid. My protection won’t last beyond that.”
Then Conall growled. They turned to look at the dog and saw the hair on his back bristling. He gazed past the women through the open door with his ears alert. “What is it, Conall?” asked Brina. Shylah closed her eyes briefly and breathed a small prayer for strength.
Now they could both hear the sounds as they came closer, the tramping of many feet. “Hush, Conall, it’s just a group of pilgrims.”
“No, child,” said Shylah. “It is not pilgrims.” She moved toward the door. Brina moved right behind her, but Shylah held her hand to push her back. “Go over there and whatever happens, don’t come out that door. You won’t be protected if you come out of this dwelling.”
“But, Shylah.” A cold dread was rising in Brina. What was going to happen that Shylah was so afraid for her?
“Pledge it to me!” Shylah demanded as she looked into Brina’s eyes.
Brina drew a deep, shuttering breath, then answered. “Yes, I do so pledge it.”
Shylah walked across the room, stepped out the open doorway and stood on her doorstep. Brina was left waiting in the far side of the dwelling, lighted mostly by the open doorway. She leaned her back against the wall, peering across the room and out the open door, trying to see past Shylah. Fear chased around and around in her mind. What was Shylah protecting her from?
To read the beginning to this story go to last weeks post. To read the next episode, please come back next week.
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 13, 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. 4 Comments.