Home > Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2)(7)

Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2)(7)
Jeff Wheeler

“Thank you,” Phae mouthed to him. She gave Trasen a hopeful look.

“No one threatens my family,” Winemiller said angrily. “We look after our own. We always have. We always will. You are a Winemiller, Phae.”

The other children had slipped away to their rooms. Dame Winemiller was still engaging Prince Aran in conversation, prattling on with her wealth of stories. Phae slipped past them into the corridor, looking downcast but secretly eager. She passed the ladder leading up to the loft and debated within herself if she should climb it one last time and peek in on the little ones. She chose not to, but opened the door and found Rachael nearly ready for bed.

When she started pulling together another shirt and pants and stuffed them into a pack, she heard Rachael gasp. “You’re leaving, aren’t you?”

Phae nodded and then the two orphans hugged each other fiercely. Rachael kissed her cheek. “I don’t like sleeping alone. What will I do without you?”

Phae smiled. “Will you do my chores for me? Until I get back? The little ones need stories. Can you do that for me?”

Rachael nodded, wiping a tear from her eye. “Are you leaving soon?”

She sighed, nodding silently, and continued stuffing clothes in the pack. Fetching her cloak from a peg on the wall, she fastened it around her neck. The action reminded her of what she needed to do. Around her neck, she wore a simple chain necklace with a blue stone set in a gold band. The stone was light blue with a white cat’s-eye streak in it. Dame Winemiller had said she had been delivered to them with the necklace, that it was the only thing she had arrived in, save a blanket. There was no name and so the family had chosen one for her. Phae.

Phae unclasped the necklace and stared at the curious thing. She was reluctant to leave it behind. It was the only physical part of her past that was left as the blanket and the basket had fallen apart years before. It was heartbreaking to part with it.

Phae knelt by the bedside and rumpled the covers. She slipped the necklace underneath her pillow. Then, rising, she hugged Rachael one last time and unbolted the window. With a hard push, it opened outward on the hinges. The sky was black, dotted with shimmering stars. The smell wafting in was the one she had smelled earlier coming from the vineyard. Planting her boot on the edge of the bed rail, she gracefully climbed up and swung herself out the window. She dropped to the ground outside with only a little puff of dirt. Rachael handed her the pack and shut the window behind. Pressing her face against the glass, she waved goodbye.

Fear and anguish were Phae’s companions. She did not want to leave the homestead. But the cabin was not so very far. Perhaps this would all be nothing. Perhaps the danger wasn’t real.

Perhaps it was.

Head down, Phae walked to the barn. She was so grateful that Trasen was going with her. It would make everything so much easier. What an adventure they would have together. Hopefully, by the time his fortnight of leave was over, it would all be resolved.

Trasen saw her approach and met her from the shadows of the barn. He was equipped with the items Winemiller had suggested and handed her another bow to carry. She saw the dagger in his belt.

She bit her lip, glancing back at the house. “Can I borrow your knife?” she asked.

He looked at her curiously. “Why?”

Her heart was suddenly very heavy. “You said there were rumors the Plague was coming. If it is, I want to do what I can for the family. I’d like to leave a little blood on the lintel. Just in case.”

He stared at her for a long time, weighing her words. In other parts of Stonehollow, a girl like Phae would have been publicly executed at the outbreak of another Plague. Her blood was the property of all and it was no crime to kill someone with the fireblood. She had no idea why that was, but it was commonly believed that their blood, spread on the lintel, protected a household from the Plague.

Trasen nodded and handed the knife to her.

“A great poet from ancient times put it this way: Love is the beauty of the soul.”

—Possidius Adeodat, Archivist of Kenatos

It was a small cabin, pockmarked from woodpecker drilling and dusty from lack of use. The sun was just beginning to set behind the massive range of mountains, causing a shadow to fall over the dwelling hidden in a copse of evergreens. There was always snow in the winter, and so the cabin had a steeply slanted roof to prevent too much from accumulating. Phae and Trasen were both exhausted from the arduous hike into the mountains and since neither had slept the night before, they reached the door grim-faced and weary.

Trasen hefted a short axe and motioned for her to stay back. “I’ll go on ahead. Wait here.”

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