At last I’m going to share part of a fantasy story with you. This tale was meant to be a short story but as with most fantasy pieces I set out to create, it has grown during the course of the writing and now is begging to be part of something much bigger. I like it enough that it might become part of the novel trilogy I’m writing. Enjoy!
The fickle breeze of Autumn carried the scent of brittle leaves and the promise of early snow. It teased the deep hood of Lianea’s cloak and spun her earth colored hair into ribbons as she walked the ancient pathway. Here, folded deep within the Velchin wood, she sought a cure for the illness plaguing her village and her dear brother Liandro.
As she drew closer to the glade the sky grew darker, the air pressed up against her, stealing her breath. She clutched the handle of the short dagger she wore at her waist, knowing it would do her no good but reassuring all the same. With each step the dark press of air grew more eager, more oppressive. The village elder had warned her that there would be forces that would try to stop her from crossing into the glade, that she must not give them heed.
She forced her way through the stone archway and as she passed the darkness lifted. Inside the small glade stood an alter and statue of Izis, goddess of knowledge of the past and future, one hand cupped before her, the other over her heart. The green veined marble had been worn by the wind and weather, moss grew along the folds of her long robe.. Lianea felt the statues eyes upon her as soon as she had entered.
As prescribed by the elder, Lianea lit the tallow candle and cupped her hand around it as she set it into the small hole in the low alter. The flame seemed too weak in the failing light, too fragile for such a task. The townspeople had said the same about her when she demanded to leave and seek help.
On either side of the candle she set the four required items, a blue feather, the blood of a dying man, a silver coin, and a rose crystal from the mines of Turah. This last she admired in the flickering candle light, never having imagined that a place filled with such sorrow would contain a wealth of something so beautiful. There in Turah her guide had met his untimely end when he stumbled and fell from one of the high ledges in the mine. She set the crystal next to the vial filled with his blood.
Dusky twilight filtered through the branches as the moon made its journey across the blanketed sky. Lianea recited the first incantation as she poured the dark contents of the vial into the hands of Izis. As she did, a cold mist trickled into the glade. While reciting the second incantation she dipped the feather in the blood and then used it to draw the broken circle slashed with five lines, a symbol of submission and humility. The mist gathered around the statue, boiling and churning at Lianea’s feet.
With the third and final incantation she held the silver coin to the flame until it stung her fingertips and then pressed it into her outstretched wrist. She clenched her teeth, holding back a gasp of pain as the coin burned a circle into her skin. Izis required a token of suffering. As she spoke, the mist drew itself up around the statue, covering it like a shroud. It pulled the flame from the candle into itself until it began to glow with its own ghostly light.
Lianea’s heart raced, screaming at her to flee the clearing as the once statue came to life before her. She willed her feet to stay firm, she could not fail, not after coming so far. Liandro needed her to be strong. She placed the rose crystal in the palm of her hand and the other hand over her heart, the last offering.
A voice whispered through the trees. “Too long have I waited for an offering from the children of this world, too long.” The voice trailed off, but the presence of the spirit of Izis remained strong, studying Lianea. “You have suffered much child, I feel it within you. Speak your request. If it is within my power, I will grant it.”
Lianea drew in a breath, she was the last hope for Liandro and all those of her village who had fallen ill. If she failed, the sickness would claim them all, herself included. “Oh Great One, the people of my village are dying of a sickness. The elders have never seen it’s like. I petitioned them to leave and seek help.”
The mist rose up around Lianea, brushing her face. The gesture reminded her of times when her mother would stroke her cheek to sooth her. As the mist touched her a flood of images from the last few weeks filled her mind. People crying, clutching wives, fathers, and children in their arms before returning them to the earth. So many. Dark bruises covering arms, legs, and faces. People moaning, consumed by fever. Her own brother, pale and listless on his cot.
Lianea sagged to her knees, overwhelmed. The mist withdrew.
“There is hope little one. I will grant you knowledge of those who can help. You must seek them out.”
The mist rose towards Lianea’s face once more and she flinched as it brushed her skin. This time images of people she had never met and towns she had never visited filled her mind, teaching her and filling her with a peace she hadn’t known since before the sickness began. She knew what she had to do.
…to be continued…