“Those at Cain have hexed me” said Merylyn to her child. They were in their bed chamber, and Elfeena was helping her mother with her dressing gown. “Mother, why do you make fists like this? Let me see your hands!” Merylyn, shaking with emotion and with weakness, sat down on the edge of the bed and unfolded her hands. Elfeena gave an exclamation of shock. Her mother’s hands were red and blistered in the palms and fingers, as if badly burned. “It was in the hare that I caught today. My hands were bathed in its cursed blood before I knew what it was. At the last, there was something I was meant to find. A thing of gold with unique design. A proof from Cain. Its handling has burned me. The blood of the hare has mixed with mine. I wither, Elfeena. They cast me away, saying I was under thrall of the Devil. And now, they have done this last evil.”
Elfeena slowly closed her round eyes, and bowed her head. Quietly, she said “and where is this thing now?” “I have stowed it in a rag underneath the bed.” “Give it me, that I may see it.” “NO! You are not to handle it!” “It will be all right.” Elfeena reached and found the knotted rag. Undoing it, she held up the glinting gold. Merylyn, crying, said “What do you do?” “Mother, see. It will not harm me. You know who I am. I must keep this. I will have need of it.” To comfort her mother, Elfeena tried salves that the coven had for the treatment of cuts and burns. Helping her into bed, she lay beside her until sleep took them both.
In their morning, Merylyn was in a fever of delerium, and Elfeena ran to get Gran. She begged two things of her- that Henna, Shaman of the coven, should care for Merylyn above all else, and that the women should swiftly prepare a travel pack and make ready the pony for her, as she meant to leave as soon as could be made possible. Gran balked at this, saying “Where do you mean to travel, girl, by yourself, leaving your sick mother?”
Elfeena said “I go to Cain. Please get Henna, and I will tell you both.”
And this eldest sister of Gryndal coven, long accustomed to command, turned on her heel and went to do the bidding of a tiny pale girl.
To be continued…