The second of two ‘not-quite-excerpts’ from Butterfly Raven written in response to the monthly prompt over at The Writer’s Block. This one lets us take just a little peek into Ethne’s inner landscape. It was posted in response to the September ‘first line’ prompt.
The entrance to Laurel Creek Estates wasn’t on any map. It was a construct, a place she went to escape the madness of living in a world that was only half awake; half alive. Savants had their inner landscapes too; ‘memory palaces’ where they might process the results of their thinking, their remembered truths, evidence, for example, in the disputed case of whether or not the label fit the famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes. To her, Laurel Creek Estates was such a place, that afforded her the way to understand, order and process the many thoughts and evidences in her own life; a life lived on several, parallel planes.
She could never have told her therapists that. If she had, they would have locked her up indefinitely; thrown away the key, but she wasn’t crazy, hadn’t been suffering from the effects of a nervous breakdown or any of the other half dozen diagnoses that had been bandied about in various meetings, held behind closed door, and to which she hadn’t been invited. She hadn’t even seen the written reports until she got an attorney involved, and had finally won her release. What she suffered from was perfectly normal; perfectly healthy, perfectly natural grief. What she was gifted with – and there was the rub so far as the Wells were concerned, Daniel and his mother at least – was the ability to connect with the world on a deeper level.
She closed her eyes, listening to the retreating engine sounds, and the return of the chirrup of crickets and cicadas; the sounds of the evening, though it was late into it by the time Daniel left. She let herself be soothed by it, smoothing out the waves of turmoil his coming had precipitated, and willed her inner footsteps to carry her to Laurel Creek, and the peace that awaited her there.
Running again, Little Raven?
The ornate wooden gates of the estate swung open at the lightest of her touches and closed again behind her; thought the only agent by which they were returned to their place. He was waiting for her beside the pathway, one of her guides; a guardian that had been with her for as long as she could remember. For her, he was a Sacred Warrior; Priest to her inner Priestess and often the steady voice of wisdom amid the clamoring, jangle of fear.
“Not running, My Hawk,” she told him with a tired sigh, “but I won’t allow that man to put me right back where I started after I’ve managed to come this far.”
He looked at her in mild reproach.
‘This far’ being to shut yourself away in the middle of nowhere, speaking to no one, ignoring several obvious cries for help, and—
“He put me in that place, Gwal,” she interrupted. “He was party to lies that were used to drive a wedge between me and Zak. He spied on me and used my grief to make it seem I was completely crazy and—”
— has asked you, outright, to go to his brother now, and to help him.
His words derailed her anger, and she sagged; would have sat, right there and then upon the road had the knight not taken her arm in a gentle grasp and tugged her to him.
Come. Share my fire. We can talk better there.
Mutely, she followed the Hawk of May, along the roadway, which at that moment was little more than a dirt track, into the woodland that was the landscape of Laurel Creek on that occasion. The estate shifted and changed according to her needs; fluid as the water for which it was named, ever moving with the ebb and flow in the web of life, of which she was a part.
He led her to a familiar clearing in the woodland, bordered by many trees, but at the head and foot, right and left of the space made sacred by their many meetings there, stood the towering Oak, the solid Cedar, the Rowan and the Ash. At its center flowed a bubbling spring, bordered by carved stones that made a shallow basin into which the water pooled.
It was from the spring that the knight filled a hand carved, wooden bowl, held it between cupped hands and closed his eyes, murmuring a blessing in an ancient tongue before offering it to Ethne. She took the wooden vessel as the precious gift that it was, and as it passed from his hand to hers, he whispered, May you never thirst, and kissed her softly.
The water, as she sipped, was cool and refreshing, but filled her from the inside out with a warmth that began to chase away the fear and doubt with which Daniel’s visit had filled her. She held the bowl for a moment longer, before offering it back to the warrior-priest with an equally soft kiss, and an echo of his blessing and waited while he sipped the water, before he let the remains of it fall to refresh the earth at their feet.
Go to him, Little Raven. It is past time and you are needed… all of you.
Not until he had replaced the bowl in it’s place atop the stone from which the spring flowed did the two of them retreat to sit beside a warmly glowing fire in the southern quarter of the grove, and as they sat she asked the question born of his insistence and the urgency she heard in his voice; felt from him in their brief moment of shared blessing.
“What have you seen?”