Untitled Fantasy Novel
The old, gray-haired woman, her shoulders stooped and gnarled with age, shuffled along the well-worn, wood-lined path that so many before her had trod down on their way to one of the many moonlit sisterhood meetings held since the dawn of time.
Like those before her, the old woman’s life had been filled with a purpose far beyond that of just wife and mother. She was charged with protecting her people from forces within their world and beyond it, from those who were dark and evil, who came from the Dark Void.
The old woman’s name was Brighide, and she was a member of a secret society of women, a sisterhood, that had existed for many years – since the beginning of time, in fact. To a time when magic was everywhere, in the very air you breathed, and people didn’t have to hide who they were; where magic was considered right and good; where magic solved problems and healed those who were ill.
Times were different now. Her world no longer looked upon those graced with magic as pillars of society. Instead, those who practiced magic were ostracized and oftentimes killed for their practices. Those who possessed magic were accused of misdeeds that were not of their doing, while those truly responsible walked away without so much as a slap on the wrist. The good fell victim to hate, while those who truly wished harm on others continued on, to wreak their havoc on the world with no repercussions.
Despite all the changes the world had seen, Brighide had held out hope that one day her people would be saved by one of her descendents – a descendent that the old woman had seen in a vision only a fortnight before.
On that fateful night, the old woman had been roused from her deep slumber by an unseen force. As she had struggled to wipe the remnants of sleep from her eyes while raising her age-ravaged body from her bed, a misty form had materialized in front of her. The countenance of her long-dead mother stared back at her, with a love and understanding shining in her eyes that Brighide had last seen shortly before her mother’s death when she was just a young girl.
“Mama, what are you doing here?” Brighide croaked, her once silken voice long gone.
“I’m here to tell you that your time has come to say goodbye to our people and move on to the Area of Light, where you will join all of those who passed before you, including me. It is time for us to be reunited once more.”
“Why, mama? I don’t feel sick.” Even though Brighide’s body was stooped and wrinkled, she was still strong and healthy and had much life within her, or she’d thought.
“You are aware of the turmoil in the world, yes?” Her mother’s eyes stared into her own, intense and probing.
“In order to save our world – the world that we know and love, you must sacrifice your life to guarantee the birth of a granddaughter – a granddaughter strong enough to fight the evil now found in this world, a granddaughter infused with all of our powers.
“Your sacrifice will bring about a time of change. While not immediate, a time will come when your future granddaughter will gain full use of her powers – powers that none before her have ever possessed. She will return our world from darkness and bring light to all once more.
“I do not tell you this with a light heart for I know it is against our beliefs to take our own lives, but in order to move forward, this is how things must be done. Without your help, we will not succeed. All hope will be lost. You cannot allow that to happen.”
Brighide’s heart beat rapidly, and for a brief moment, she thought it would burst forth from her chest to fall upon her lap in a bloody heap. She knew she could not ignore the pleas of her mother. She knew that must obey if her mother was speaking to her from the other side of the veil. That was the way of her people. That was the way it had always been and would always be. All messages delivered from the other side must be heeded, no matter what, for if they weren’t, terrible things could happen. And Brighide did not want to the cause of them.
“I understand, mama,” Brighide said as she stared into her mother’s eyes. “Please explain what needs to be done, and I will see to it that it is.”
As the night faded into morning, Brighide’s mother provided her with all the information that she would need in order to be successful in her last mission – the steps that Brighide would need to take in order to guarantee the future birth of Brighide’s heir, her granddaughter – their people’s savior.
Here it was, a fortnight later, and Brighide was as ready as she would ever be. And even though she tried not to be, she was scared, not only for herself, but for those future members of the Sisterhood. They faced tough times ahead. Brighide wished she could wave her magic wand and make the troubles disappear, but she could not. The magic she possessed was not one that could change the course of history. But her sacrifice would aid in the battle that was to come.
As Brighide walked into the toadstool-ringed circle found deep within the woods surrounding her people’s village, a hush fell over the group of women gathered in it. One by one they raised their forest green hoods to hide their faces. Each woman walked to her respective place within the ring and grasped the hands of the woman on either side. Brighide stood in the middle of them all, looking at each woman in turn. Many of these women she had helped birth, for not only did she heal the sick and protect those who lived in her village, but she also helped to deliver babies. Now they would help her leave this world as she had helped them enter it.
Together, the women’s voices began to chant in unison, building in intensity, blue and green sparks crackling in the air around them until the very end of the ritual, which left all but one woman standing.
Brighide’s cloak-shrouded body rested in the middle of the circle surrounded by white flowers. Her arms were crossed over her chest. Her face was placid and serene. The chalice that she had sipped from sat near her head, empty, its poison washed clean.
A lone wail erupted from one of the woman standing near the entrance of the circle. Her eyes were wet, shining with the tears she longed to shed, but could not. Her name was Siobhan, and she had just witnessed her mother’s life force leave her body. Her mother had died to protect the people she loved and held dear to her heart. Even though Siobhan knew her mother had done what was necessary to guarantee her legacy and that her family would continue for years to come, it still sent a sharp stab of pain through Siobhan’s heart. Life without her mother was not one that she had contemplated.
The remainder of the women that made up the circle closed in around her, enfolding her body within their arms, pouring their love and support into her, providing her with the strength she would need to deal with the difficult times that undoubtedly lay ahead for her.
As the women whispered their condolences and expressed their love for Brighide, a cool breeze stirred the leaves on the trees surrounding the circle. A faint voice whispered, “Do not shed tears for me, for I am still with you. I will be with you forever. And remember, this will not be the last time we see each other. I promise you we will stand together once again, for I have seen it. I must go now, but I love you all.”
The breeze that had lifted the leaves on the trees disappeared as calmness enveloped those standing beneath the ancient sentinels. Life would go on. They would see to it.