The folding of Cain Coven (7)

She ran once more to the bed chamber where her mother lay sleep talking.
“I may be a fortnight” she said to Henna.  “May you be blessed in what you do.  Her blood is in mine, and I hope that I may do honour to her grace and courage.”

Elfeena kissed her mother upon the forehead and was startled to see her awaken from the talking dream.  With bandaged hands, Merylyn gestured to her nightstand.  “Wear my wings.  They were for you, all along.”  Elfeena did not cry, but closed her eyes once more with bowed head as Henna set the raven crown upon her.  And so, uplifted to see her mother lucid, at least for a time, and in Henna’s good care,  Elfeena kissed her once more and made ready to leave.  All of the sisters stood to watch as Gran finished loading up the pony. “Wait a moment,girl, before I wish you Godspeed”, she said, and went into her private quarters. She returned with a long parcel wrapped in linen. “I do not know your full purpose at Cain, but I know what you carry. I do not know how you will find your way, for they have confounded the airs with a hiding spell. If you win through, they will fear you, small though you are. They may even guess the import of the raven’s wings. Carry this staff, and at least they will know from where you came. Its crescent moon is the symbol of Gryndal.”

For six days, Elfeena made her slow passage through hillside, bush, creek and thicket.  On three of the nights she faced a cold and torrential rain, a tent of oilcloth her only protection.  The sad looking pony grazed despondently on wet grasses. They came upon predators in the forests, but the beasts kept their distance. On the seventh day, they came to a choked and reedy stream and followed it upcurrent. At last, a dense thicket blocked their progress, and here Elfeena tied the pony. From her mother’s tales of the place, she knew she was close, and so left all behind save for the staff of Gryndal. The keening of cicadas grew stronger as she cut her way through clinging vines and undergrowth. The very air grew warmer and crackled with the noise and feel of static electricity. She felt as if she were breathed upon by some hot blooded beast. But Elfeena and her ken were not known to the spell-makers, and fear of earthly artifice did not come to her.

In an hour’s work, she had climbed through the coarse bush, and stood upon a rise with an open view ahead. She saw, as though wavering behind a heat curtain, the thatched roofs and fencings of a compound. Her mother’s home of old. There was no one about, only a few sheep in a pen. Elfeena rightly guessed that the inmates had not arisen yet. On a stump she sat, some few hundred feet away, and waited. One could see the whiteness of her face, the roundness of her eyes, and her slightly open mouth as she read what she could of this haven and divined the scriptures of its shut-in inhabitants.

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To be continued

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