Gran of Gryndal Coven had been expecting them.
In a carved-out clearing she had waited since mid morning. Peeping through fronds and foliage, one would have seen her resting on a stump, holding onto a string that curiously disappeared upwards. Clothed in a sagging fabric of shabby brown that resembled cheesecloth, she seemed to be fighting sleep, nodding every once in a while. This was exaggerated by the tall but squashed hat that she wore, seemingly strapped under the chin.
Indeed she was fast asleep at an hour past high noon when Mother Merylyn and her odd little daughter came to the clearing. They had seen the bright kite that Gran was flying, fashioned from dyed and scraped skins. Not wanting to wake the old woman, Merylyn motioned for Elfeena to stop, sit, and wait.
It did not take long. When Gran had snored a particularily loud one, she woke herself and sat bolt upright, blinking her eyes. Merylyn and the girl stood up and walked slowly into the sunlight. Gran rose to her full height, adjusting her wayward cap. “My Meryl” she said. “Ye I have not seen for too long. I see grayness, Meryl. Come to me.” With Elfeena still clutching her robe, Merylyn moved to meet Gran’s outstretched hand. The old woman cradled both of Merylyn’s hands within hers, and turned them palms upward. “You’ve been alone and without Sisters for years.” Looking for the first time at Elfeena, she said “How comes this one? Why was it not killed? For it is an abomination.”
Merylyn stepped back, struggling to control her anger. “SHE is of me. She came from my body, six years ago. I was nigh unto death. You will please call her Elfeena. She is my child.” “Does it speak?” said Gran. Merylyn took her daughter by the hand. “Come. We go.” “Mother, it is all right. We have come so far.” But Merylyn was unmoved, and made as to leave.
“Stay” said Gran. “I spoke out of turn. I have not felt fear in a very long time, but she has a look that disturbs me. Please give me your hand, Elfeena.” Even in Gran’s old and wrinkled hand, Elfeena’s looked so small and white. “Sit here a moment, if you will. I must talk to your mother.”
Gran spoke quietly to Merylyn by the clearing’s edge. “We will keep you safe here, if they get over the shock. How was she fathered?” “I don’t know” Merylyn said simply.
“I see by your eyes that you believe this”, said Gran. “Were you perhaps sick for a time, and losing your faculties? Laying unconscious?” “No. And you know that none comes to Cain of their own free will.” “But this child is not of our kind, nor of other kind that I have seen in my long life. She has spoken but ten words here, and yet I feel that she can command.”
“Please, if you will, Meryl. Come with me. Our hold is some distance away, but you have come many times that much already.”
Merylyn knelt down to her daughter. Saying nothing, she searched her eyes and found encouragement and assurance therin. And so, they turned to follow the old woman, Merylyn maintaining a suitable haughtiness and silence for a time.
To be continued…