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Authors: Holly Barbo

Tags: #animals, #psychic, #sages, #sentient, #low tech, #female role model, #animal companion

The Sage Seed Chronicles: The Unraveling

BOOK: The Sage Seed Chronicles: The Unraveling
6.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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The Sage Seed Chronicles: The Unraveling

 

 

Holly Barbo

Copyright 2011 Holly Barbo

 

All rights reserved.

 

Smashwords Edition

 

ISBN: 978-1-936539-44-4

 

Red Willow Books

www.RedWillowBooks.com

Chapter
1
Reality Altered

There was a breeze in the moonlit forest and
the shadows shifted and blended as the branches moved. A young
woman raced between the trees, oblivious to the branches that tore
at her hair and clothing. In her haste her feet would slip on the
leaves and decaying foliage which added to her terrified flight.
The slender girl whirled behind a tree and crouched low. Her large
blue eyes darted over her back trail, searching the flickering
shadows for her pursuer. Her breathing was ragged. ‘Where was
he?’

She tried to catch her breath, so she could
listen, but her heart was racing like a stampeding elk and her
breathing was so hard she was practically panting. The thundering
of her heart filled her ears so much that she couldn’t hear the
whimpers that escaped her throat in short ragged bursts. She looked
around the tree at the terrain she had just covered. Was that a
movement back there? With a gasp, she darted back behind the tree
and staggered into motion. She knew he was following. Goose-bumps
raced up her arms as she tore over the small rise, her heart
pumping like a smithy’s bellows.

Something brushed her cheek. At first the
soft touch didn’t register through the overwhelming terror of her
flight but it came again, this time with a voice. “Erin. It’s
alright. You’re safe for now. Erin, hear me!” The light contact
came again and abruptly broke through to her mind. She startled out
of the nightmare that had gripped her and with a shuddering breath,
opened her eyes and looked up into the gentle eyes of the Merlin
falcon that was standing beside her head. “Thank you, Keir,” she
breathed, shakily. She rose up on one elbow and reached up to
lightly touch the bird but her hand quivered with the remaining
adrenalin that still coursed in her blood. “That was...
terrifying!”

The bird bobbed his head. “The nightmare is
understandable. The murder of your parents would be enough but
there are also your new abilities. Erin, you are sensing the
dangerous person who is seeking you. I am sure of it and that had
to play into your dream. But that person is not near. My kind have
been watching. Rest. Dawn will be soon. There are some miles to go
yet to get to Ree. She will have some answers for you. Rest. You
are safe for now.”

Erin nodded shakily. She could feel the sweat
from the nightmare drying on her skin. “You’re right. It was so
real, it’ll take me a few minutes to totally be clear of it, so I
can sleep. I’m sorry I woke you, Keir.” She shook her head and her
long hair slipped behind her shoulders. A few strands still clung
to the sticky sweat on her face. Erin reached up a hand that was
steadier than it had been moments before, and brushed the hair away
from her forehead. “I know Ree, a ‘wise woman’, will at least be
able to advise me - and right now I need all of the advice I can
get.” She looked off through the trees. “I think we are no more
than several hours away.” Erin sighed then sank back down and
pulled her blanket around her. “Thank you, my friend. You get more
rest also.” she said with a smile. Keir made a small sound in the
back of his throat before flying to a low branch above her. “I may
be gone when you wake but I will not be far. Just keep going to
Ree’s home.”

The next thing Erin knew it was early
morning. She quickly slipped her pack onto her shoulders and after
pausing to study if she had left any marks on the ground, Erin
started off. She appreciated Keir’s assurances that the “Seeker”
wasn’t near, but there was still a pressing feeling of urgency and
she didn’t want to linger.

After a couple of hours she paused at an old
evergreen tree and studied the landmarks. Even though Keir wasn’t
to be seen Erin knew where she was. There was a glimmer of the
river through the trees every once in awhile and the land was
sweeping down toward it. She had been careful in her journey, but
since the nightmare she was more cautious, consciously stepping
where the ferns were deep or where the rocks emerged from the leafy
forest debris. She wanted to lose the killer, not lead him to Ree’s
home! A glimpse of willows and cottonwood trees, at the base of the
hill, told her that the river was there and at its bend was Ree’s
cabin.

She used to visit there with her parents.
There had always been a feeling of peace at that quiet spot. The
turtles were probably basking in the warmth of the autumn sun, on
the log at the rivers edge. There was comfort in seeing life
continuing normally. Hopefully, Ree was there; Erin didn’t know
where else to turn.

Erin approached the plank over the stream,
that fed into the river. Seeing the smoke coming from Ree’s
chimney, Erin smiled and picked up her pace. There was a strong
possibility that the old woman was home.

Making her way around the copse of trees,
Erin could see the cabin and Ree in her garden, the sun
highlighting the silver strands that wound through her hair. She
was standing near her carved ‘spirit’ posts, the fancifully carved
poles that loosely defined the perimeter of her garden. Ree turned
toward Erin as she emerged from the trees and the young woman could
see Keir perched on one of the posts. Something about the tableau
gave Erin pause. She probably wouldn’t have noticed the subtle
hints before but with her new abilities it seemed as if Ree, too,
could converse with Keir. Somehow that realization warmed Erin’s
heart and reassured her that she had made the right decision in
coming here.

Erin gave the old woman a warm smile and
quickened her steps. Ree hadn’t changed much over the years. Her
grey and white hair was in a long braid that wrapped around her
head like a coronet. She had always favored reds and russet colors
and was wearing her gathered homespun skirt with a plain shirt and
shawl. Erin was sure that there were several pockets, in that full
skirt, filled with both necessary items and treasures.

Ree moved toward Erin with a cry of joy and
grasped the girl’s hands, giving them a squeeze. “It’s wonderful to
see you. Keir was just telling me you were coming, though somehow I
was expecting you.” Her smile stilled and she cocked her head in
question as if she were listening. There was an unfocused look in
her eyes for a moment. Then she turned to Erin, studying her face.
“What’s wrong? What’s following you?” Seeing Erin startle and look
over her shoulder toward the woods she gently put her hand on
Erin’s arm. “No, not closely following you. You’re safe for now.
How may I help? Let’s go inside. I’ll fix you something to eat and
a cup of tea. You wouldn’t turn that down.” And with a wink to
Keir, Ree started for the cabin.

The merlin falcon left his perch on the post
and landed lightly on Erin’s shoulder, his talons squeezing gently
in reassurance. He cocked his head and his intelligent dark eyes
studied Erin’s face as he settled near her ear and said quietly in
his falcon tongue, “I know you’re worried, but if Ree says it is
safe to rest, then it is. There’s time yet.”

The three passed by the east side of the
flourishing garden, that within a month would be almost completely
harvested, and approached the front of the cabin. There was another
carved post, which stood guard to the entry and Keir gave it a nod
as they went by. Ree pushed down the big hammered iron latch and
the heavy wooden door swung open into a room filled with light and
space. The big stone fireplace climbed the west wall opposite a
bank of windows and the bed was in an alcove on the north side.
There were shelves and cupboards under the windows where odd little
objects were placed. 

Ree gestured toward the old wood table. “Sit,
my child, while I brew the tea.” She stepped into the kitchen and
looked thoughtfully at the slender young woman sitting in her home.
It had been years since Ree had seen Erin. She looked tired and
definitely worn around the edges. Her light ash brown hair fell
softly below her shoulders. At the moment the little merlin was
nestled into the silky mass. There was stress and fatigue shadowing
the large deep blue eyes. Choosing the herbs carefully, Ree blended
a special tea for Erin, one that would give her clarity of thought
and help restore her energy. Ree began to gather things for a meal,
her movements efficient and sure, evidence of a lifetime of
confidence and physical activity. Sliced bread from the morning
baking, fresh things from her garden basket and the steeping tea
went on the tray. At the last moment Ree smiled with a memory and
put a piece of honeycomb in a bowl on the tray, too.

Picking up the tray she carried it on the
table and set it down between them. “It has been years since you
visited, last. You have grown up. Please take a moment to eat with
me and tell me what you have been doing.” Erin started to eat. She
hadn’t been aware of how hungry she was. Soon the plate was empty
and her fingers and lips were sticky from the honey comb. She
smiled softly at Ree as she sipped the last of the tea in the cup.
“Thank you. You have been wonderful, feeding me and all. It is so
good to be here! I have missed you. I hope you don’t mind but you
were the only one I thought to reach out to.” Erin’s voice was
husky with disuse, though Ree thought it would have been low
naturally.

She looked up from pouring the last of tea
into Erin’s cup. “You are always welcome here.” She gave a nod to
Keir. “You also, my small friend.”

Erin looked down at her hands, then back up
to Ree’s patient eyes. “I don’t know what to do. I think there is
someone following me and it frightens me.” She glanced over at Keir
and tried again. “I will tell you what has happened but I need to
first state that merlins do not speak the name of a deceased loved
one out of respect for their departed spirit. I honor Keir’s belief
and the love he had for them by not saying their names as I tell
you the story.” The old woman nodded in understanding. She noted
that Erin had pronounced Keir’s name to resemble the hunting cry in
the merlin’s tongue.

“Two weeks ago my parents died. Father came
down with a fever in early August as he returned from town to buy a
new shovel and other necessary items. He had some cloth bolts to
take to the weavers guild and supplies to buy for Mother. She had
almost broken a shovel trying to dig up some mulberry bushes and
needed a bigger and stronger one for the job. The bushes were
essential for both her skill as a herbalist but also for Father’s
ability to produce silk cloth.”

“Father’s fever quickly became so high that
he was delirious. Mother and I did everything we could but he
passed away within hours of stumbling out of the forest. The moment
he passed, as his heir, I was flooded with his knowledge and
sensitivity of the energy fields that people emit. Father’s skill
was not strong nor did he work to develop it through his life but
he was able to sense when people had powerful emotional energy
fields. He always knew when people were ‘wearing’ a intense emotion
and he could read their basic character long before they were near.
It was an uncomfortable gift because he could sense some people
from miles away if their emotions were very ‘loud’. He never
learned to shield sufficiently or be at ease with his gift. He
rarely went into town except for supplies. It is why we lived in
such an isolated spot and were mostly self sufficient.”

Erin paused to gather her thoughts and to get
her own emotions under control. Finally she looked up at Ree and
said softly,  “As you can imagine, having that gift flood into
me was overwhelming. It just swamped my senses and combined with my
own grief I was dazed, to put it mildly.” She made a wry face then
took a breath. “Mother was, of course, devastated. The next morning
we buried him at edge of our small orchard. Ironically we dug his
grave using the new shovel that he had just brought back from town.
Mother had insisted on digging the grave, herself. She said that
she could take out her grief in the activity and preferred that I
build the coffin from planks we had in the shed - that and prepare
Father for burial. She then helped me place father in the coffin
and move it to the orchard.”

BOOK: The Sage Seed Chronicles: The Unraveling
6.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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