Free Fantasy Story–A Singular Inheritance–Third episode
Posted by Sue
A Singular Inheritance
by Sue Santore
The tramping feet came into the clearing, closer, closer. It was a group of her father’s men! A voice called out, and Brina recognized it. It was the head guard for their druid. As he spoke he came closer. “Woman, where is the daughter of Lord Kemble?”
“Who wishes to know?”
“The most important high druid requests her.”
Brina’s stomach clenched at that statement. No, she wouldn’t be his bride. She couldn’t. But what could Shylah do against the armed men?
“But she is not the daughter of the high druid,” Shylah replied to the guard.
“Lord Kemble follows the old paths and listens to the high druid. She is not his daughter, but she will be his bride. Give her to us.” His gruff voice was low and menacing as he walked up close to Shylah.
Shylah did not budge from the doorway. “She is under my protection and the protection of this holy place.”
“You do so refuse the druid’s request?” The guard’s voice was now a snarl.
“I cover her with my own protection.”
“Foolish old woman, you seal your fate.”
Brina saw him make a swift movement. She heard a wet thud and a small moan from Shylah. “Shylah!” she cried out and started toward the doorway. A voice sounded in her head. Stay! Don’t come out! Brina froze in obedience as Shylah’s body slowly collapsed before her eyes and she crumpled onto the ground in front of her own doorstep. Don’t…come…out. Learn…much. The voice in Brina’s head stilled and was gone. Grief flooded through Brina.
Just then another voice shouted. “No! You fool!”
The voice sent shivers though her. It was the druid! He rushed out of the middle of the group of armed men. She had never known him to go so far from the village before. Conall’s growls grew more intense and her fingers tightened under the dog’s spiked collar. “Stay, Conall.”
The druid’s face was contorted with anger. “Idiot! Now her blood will seal the protection she placed on the girl!” He threw up his hand and a bright light flashed. The guard let out a single piercing scream and where the guard had stood was only a lump of blackened flesh wavering back and forth. Then the man-sized lump fell to the ground in front of Shylah.
The druid walked forward. He stopped before he reached the bodies and peered into the cabin interior. When he spoke again, this time he spoke directly to Brina. She could hear the subtle persuasion in the spelled voice he used. “Come out, Brina. We’ve come to take you home. Your mother and father have been very worried.”
Brina twisted her mouth in a grimace. She knew her mother hadn’t been worried. She only cared about Bretta, her older sister. Her father? Maybe. Sometimes it seemed that he cared for her. Mostly he cared for Gavin and Lann, her brothers.
She didn’t answer. According to what Shylah had told her, as long as she stayed in the hut, she was safe. She was not going anywhere. I won’t forget, Shylah, Brina thought. The tears streamed down her cheeks as she took another look at Shylah’s crumpled body. Shylah, the only one who had loved her unconditionally. Brina moved away from the wall and sat down at the small table. She could not bear to look at Shylah’s body lying on the ground. Shylah had said that as long as she was within the dwelling she would be safe, but at what a price. She sat facing the door, unwilling to turn her back towards the druid. Shylah had told her that the druid could not control her if she came into her power apart from him and to study hard to learn how to use her power. That was just what she would do.
The druid stood a few paces away from the bodies on the ground, his spelled voice continued to try to persuade Brina to come out. Ignoring the pleas, then the commands, from the high druid. Brina opened the box and took out the book. The light from the one small window, covered with oiled cloth, was enough–with the door open. She forced away her sorrow and began to read. Magical words danced through her mind and helped keep the anguish she felt at bay. Then the anguish resolved into hard determination. The high druid had gone too far. Brina would not be used by him. Shylah would not die in vain.
Hours later, when the voices and noises outside had finally ceased, Brina looked up from the book. She could see no one in the clearing in the line of sight from the door. Thick clouds had rolled in to cover the setting sun and the light in the dwelling was fading. Brina cut a slice of cheese and a slice of bread from the food left on the table. She handed the food to the dog who lay at her feet. He gulped it down.
Then she stood up, dreading what would come next. Not a sound came from outside. She paced to the door and looked into the clearing. Conall stayed by her side, still on alert. The men had disappeared, but how far had they gone?
She looked down and tears filled her eyes. Crumbled on the ground in front of the door was Shylah, her blood soaked into the dirt. The blackened body of the guard who killed her lay apart.
She couldn’t leave Shylah laying there, but she couldn’t leave the doorway. Not yet. There were sure to be some guards left hidden among the trees to watch her. Brina sank down onto the floor in line with the doorway. She wrapped her arms around her knees and rocked back and forth, keening a requiem for Shylah. Conall lowered himself to the floor beside his young mistress and rested his broad head on his forearms, ears alert. Brina sang over and over in a high mournful tone:
Ah, Shylah, mother of my heart,
Long I have loved you.
The leaves shake for your pain.
The ground drinks your blood and
Hears the cry of your soul.
The earth calls out against your murder.
Shylah, Shylah, Shylah.
Echoes of her voice came back to her from all directions and Brina felt that the forest lamented Shylah’s passing with her. Under the cover of the clouds, total darkness was fast approaching. Brina felt for her travel herb pouch. Did she dare use her charm to try to hide herself while she buried Shylah’s body? She closed her eyes with her herb pouch held tightly and said, “Eyes do not see me. Ears do not hear me. I am not here.” A dreadful premonition filled her as she neared the door, and she hesitated. Then she remembered the ring of invisibility. She backtracked to the table, reached out for the box, opened it, and slipped on the ring. Her body disappeared before her eyes. She reached down and clutched Conall’s collar and the dog disappeared also.
She knelt down beside the dog and whispered to him. “Bring in, Conall. Bring in, boy.” Then she rose and walked to the doorway with the dog following her lead. With her whispered commands, the dog clasped his massive jaws on Shylah’s shoulder and pulled backwards. Brina tugged at the body also, and together they slowly moved her mentor’s body into the dwelling.
Startled cries came from a nearby thicket. Brina gave a bitter smile as she realized that the hiding soldiers thought Shylah’s body had started moving by itself, then disappeared. When the body was safely inside the dwelling, Brina went through the death ritual over Shylah. She could barely see the outline of the doorway now. The light was almost gone.
With her ring still on, she pulled on the bracelet and went to the back of the hut. She leaned against the wall and began to slide through it. She grabbed the dog and Shylah’s arm. With Conall’s massive jaws assisting her she managed to pull Shylah through the wall and out into the darkness. The dog left her side to relieve himself then quickly returned. She felt his nose bump her side in the darkness.
“Dig,” she whispered into Conall’s ear. The dog began to dig. Under her direction, after a time, the hole was made large enough to place Shylah’s body into. She made a sign of release on Shylah’s forehead and began shoving the dirt back into the hole. She tamped the dirt down with her feet, then shook off the dust from her clothes. She was exhausted and famished. Why was she so tired?
She tugged at Conall’s collar and the dog slid back into the dwelling with her. As she gulped down her own slice of cheese and bread, she bitterly thought about the soldier guards in the woods and wondered what they would make of the new grave in the morning. Let them wonder. They could think Shylah buried herself for all Brina cared. She stumbled onto the cot in the corner and fell fast asleep.
When she awoke the next morning, the blackened body of the former guard was gone.
Many days passed before the Druid gave up and left the clearing, taking his guards with him. Because of the soldiers, the pilgrims on their rounds stopped coming to the sacred well in the clearing. They continued to stay away even after the soldiers left. The days were long and lonely for Brina even though she spent the daylight hours with Shylah’s gift to her, the precious box and its contents. When she used it, she felt closer to Shylah.
Brina read and practiced, read and practiced. She nibbled on the food left by Shylah, but gave much of it to Conall. She worried about the dog having to stay in the hut all day, so in the dark of the night, she let Conall out to exercise and forage for himself. He would be gone most of the night. Twice he brought back a rabbit to her. During the cover of the night Brina also emptied her slops and threw some grain into the chicken pen. She searched for eggs under the sleeping chickens and each day found a few.
As the month of safety that Shylah had sacrificed to give her came slowly to an end, Brina thought she could face down the druid–maybe. Anyway, she felt she was needed to return for a brief time to her father’s crannog, for what reason she knew not, but she knew that her place here in this holy clearing would be waiting for her.
Very early on her final morning before returning to her clan, Brina brewed a tea of angelica root and holy thistle. She sprinkled drops in the corners and doorway of the dwelling to prevent evil forces from entering while she was gone. Then she poured half of what was left into Conall’s water bowl. He eagerly lapped it up while she drank the rest of the tea in preparation for her journey.
What could she do with the box of power to keep it safe? She didn’t dare take it into the lair of the high druid, just in case she wasn’t strong enough to resist him. Her gaze fell on the holy well at the edge of the clearing, close to her dwelling. Maybe there? She took a deep breath, said a prayer for protection, and stepped out the door in the light of day for the first time in a month. No shout came from the thicket. No rustle came from the undergrowth.
Brina walked across the short distance to the well and looked down into the stone circle. The water had a gentle movement in the center where the spring, the source of the well water, bubbled up. There was a niche between two large stones about two layers down. Maybe she could wedge the box into the niche. Brina bent over and stretched her arm down. Yes, she could just reach the opening. She took the box and pushed it into the cavity between the rocks. Then she touched the rocks and muttered an incantation from the book of power. The rocks closed over the box and it disappeared.
Brina walked to the edge of the clearing and stopped, looking down at Conall. “Crannog, Conall. Home.” His ears perked up and he started ahead of her, turning his head occasionally to make sure she was following. They cautiously made their way through the forest to the main road, meeting no one. The pilgrims still had not returned to visiting the shrine at the clearing in her new dwelling so the forest was silent of their sounds.
As Brina approached the road, she sank down into nearby shrubbery. She had to cross the road and make her way down to her father’s crannog safely. She listened carefully, but could hear nothing. She watched Conall. He was alert, but not on guard, so she eased her way out onto the road and sped down the road toward her ancestral home. If she heard anyone, she would flee into the bushes and hide again.
The sun is smiling on me, Brian thought, as she neared the approach to the crannog without having to dash into the underbrush, not even once. She stopped just out of sight and drew upon her inner self. She spun a small shield to hide her magic from any seekers then went onward. As she came in sight of the walkway, a shout came from the guard post and two guards came swiftly down the walkway, their spears at the ready.
“It’s me,” Brina called to them, holding her hands in the air. “Brina.”
To her dismay, the guards grabbed her roughly and hauled her onto the walkway so abruptly she stumbled. Conall thrust his massive body between her and the nearest guard and lifted his lips in a dangerous snarl. The guard dropped her arms and backed away, holding his spear in a protective stance toward Conall.
Before he could plunge his spear into Conall, Brina said, “Would you slay Lord Kemble’s favorite hunter?”
Come back next week for the conclusion of Brina’s story, A Singular Inheritance.
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 20, 2015, in about writing, Age - Adult, Age - Middle Grade, Age - Young Adult, Authors - Sue Santore, Genre - Fantasy Stories and tagged free fantasy story, literature, singular series. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.