Home > Fireblood (Whispers from Mirrowen #1)(7)

Fireblood (Whispers from Mirrowen #1)(7)
Jeff Wheeler

He began to pace, his heart rushing with conflicting emotions. Not even Reeder’s singing could distract him from the hive of his thoughts. An outside fire pit crackled and spat, the smoke warding off flies, but Annon stared at the coals, the orange pulsing coals, and he could only think of his hands, his child’s hands cupping a flame. He could reach into that nest of fire and pull out a burning log and it would not harm him so long as he had uttered the words in his mind. Pyricanthas. Sericanthas. Thas.

It had been several years since Annon had summoned that power. When he had rejected his uncle, he had rejected his uncle’s teaching. It was not Druidecht. He should never have been taught how to do it. Annon never told Reeder—or anyone—what happened. He carried it in his memory as a secret shame.

Staring into the eyes of the fire, he wondered if he should obey his uncle’s summons. He did not need to think about it very long, for Annon knew in his heart that he would wonder about it for the rest of his life if he did not. He was no longer that hopeful little boy. He was no longer bound to the past.

Annon was a Druidecht.

“The city of Kenatos was founded centuries ago on an island lake. The location was proposed by an advisor to the Arch-Rike for its proximity to the adjacent kingdoms as well as its defensible position. It took twenty years to build the shipyards on the southeastern shoreline; there, the ships were constructed to ferry the stone and timber and animals required to begin the construction. To this day it remains an icon of cooperation between the races and kingdoms, a monument to the knowledge that wise rulers can band together and work for the good of civilization. I believe that in the end we shall see that those individuals and kingdoms that learned to collaborate and adapt most effectively have prevailed.”

– Possidius Adeodat, Archivist of Kenatos

Annon had a solid stride and could cover leagues without getting tired. The further north he went, the more sparse the woodlands became. Thinning pockets of boxwood and maple stretched before him, revealing glimpses of the undulating hills, thick with heather and fern. Jays swooped and glided nearby, and he nodded to them in greeting. There were fewer signs of spirits as well, giving the land a dead feel to it that Annon found worrisome.

As he walked, he encountered forsaken farmlands. The fences had rotted and collapsed. Little cottages with gaps in the thatch showed the years since the inhabitants had been decimated by Plague. It was a common sight, even in Wayland. Homes were abandoned, never to be reclaimed. Many had abandoned fortunes hidden beneath hearthstones, but money was of no consequence to Annon. Often the greedier spirits laid claim to treasures and harmed those who wandered too close. They did not need the golden coins—they just fancied pretty things, and the minting of coins was a curiosity to them. A tiny pent had the same value to them as a ducat.

He spent the first night nestled in the grass on a hillock, and he summoned a shain-spirit to guard him while he slept. In return, he promised to feed it with dew-filled berries that he would leave in his wake the next morning. That was the way of Mirrowen. Some favored a song; others wanted riddles. Some could be coaxed with mortal food and others with promises of service. This was beneficial to the spirits, especially when their lairs were disturbed by mortals. A Druidecht would always try to be fair-minded in any case. And by wearing a talisman that had been spirit-blessed, he had proven himself reliable.

As the morning wore on and afternoon passed, Annon wondered if he had missed his destination by traveling too far to the west. He was uncertain whether he should turn east or not. Fortunately, he discovered a gull loping high in the air and soon after that, he could smell the odors of the waters. It was an unhealthy smell. Kenatos.

He walked with a mixture of nervousness, excitement, and dread. Since spirits did not typically dwell in cities, he would be particularly vulnerable. His reputation might shield him, but it was enough to cause some alarm and nerves. The anticipation of what his uncle wanted teased his imagination.

Annon encountered a paved road and joined it, taking it west. There were multiple docks along the coast serviced by ferryboats. He was tired from the hard pace he had kept and was not surprised to see the first set of docks empty. Sitting down, he rested himself and ate the last of the bread that Dame Nestra had provided. He remembered her face for a moment as he chewed, wondering how long it would be before he returned that way. Dame Nestra and her husband were good people. He would miss them. By the time Annon’s simple meal was over, the water began lapping against the dock posts, announcing the arrival of the ferryman.

He was a middle-aged man with the signs of pain in his back. He nodded to Annon as he berthed the ferry and stepped off, groaning in pain and stretching his arms. His face was full of whiskers that were as peppered as his hair; he shook his head mournfully at the thought of ferrying again.

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