Tuesday, September 05, 2006


It was evening. The sun was beginning to sink behind the trees of Braedoch Forest, throwing its leafy depths into shadow. It was early spring and the forest was still newborn; winter's chill could yet be felt in the air at night.

On the eastern edge of the forest, the nine children of Isaak Romany were gathering together.

Their home was a small house of stone, composed of three circular chambers. In the central chamber a fire burned slowly, varying light dancing on the face of a tall man in a dark cloak. He waited for the nine to gather. His face seemed set in granite, as always; no hint of emotion, no whisper of affection for the children he had raised. He, Maeron Duard, was their guardian, nothing more. They did not care for him either. Though they had grown up in the house, they often chose to stay apart from it: they wandered the forest, worked in the woodshop, climbed the small mountains that overlooked their home in the north. They were not like others. Their life had been one of isolation. They knew weaponry and woodcraft, but little of humanity. They cared for each other and yet spent much of their time in solitude.

Their guardian was afraid of them. Once the clan of Romany had been strong and numerous. Duard's ancestors, druids and powerful, vengeful men, had cursed the clan nearly a century ago. In the succeeding generations, hardship, famine, and war had plagued them--helped along by the druids. At last only Isaak Romany and his wife were left. They took their children to Braedoch and tried to live with them there. But Isaak was a powerful man of great personal force, and the few remaining druids feared that he would father a new beginning for the clan. They sent Duard to kill him. And he did. He killed Isaak and his wife, but could see nothing to fear in the children... behind his face of stone there was perhaps a heart, for he kept them alive, and raised them.

But he feared them now. Alone, he thought, they could be no threat. But as long as they stayed together, the clan Romany might again arise.

* * *

Taerith Romany entered the yard on foot. He stopped a moment at the well and dipped a bucket of water, bringing it to his face in his strong brown hands. He drank, and with his hands still wet, pushed his dark brown hair back from his face. Taerith's was a solemn face, kind and possessed of a depth too great for his twenty-four years.

He stepped away from the well and looked pensively at the smoke rising from the round stone chamber he called home. His eyes, always thoughtful, had darkened with worry. Duard did not often call his charges together. Taerith looked down at his boots, oddly striped now from days of being alternately splashed with mud and washed clean by river water. He had been in the mountains a fortnight hence, camped out beside a shallow river, watching as multiple fishing poles, carefully selected from the surrounding trees, bent and bobbed over the water. He liked to fish. It was easier than hunting, a good deal less bloody, and afforded him time to think.

But his thoughts had been clouded, and now had come together in a threatening grey sky. He shook his head, as though he could shake them out, and giving his boots one last stamp, entered the house.

A few of the others were already there. They sat in the shadows, as far from Duard as they could get and still be in the room. Their guardian stood in silence by the fire. He surveyed them with his eyes, keeping his thoughts to himself. As he had ever done. Taerith lingered in the shadows for a few moments, and then stepped to the edge of the light. He met his guardian's eyes, but did not speak. Moments later, Aiden, the eldest, joined him. Together they willed Duard's eyes to see only them, and leave the others to their own silences.

Duard waited until the last had arrived before he spoke. Then, slowly, he nodded, as though confirming that what he was about to do was right.

"You wonder why I have sent for you," he said. "I will not keep you waiting. The time has come for you to go."

Taerith blinked. The words were too sudden to sink in quickly.

"Braedoch is no longer home to you, nor are you any longer a family. You will each depart alone. You will have nothing more to do with each other from this day forward. You are not to communicate, and absolutely not to see each other. If you do, terrible consequences will follow--I am warning you now."

There was a shocked silence. Duard surveyed his charges with scorn.

"Make whatever preparations are necessary. You leave in three days."

Taerith spoke slowly, weighing the words on his tongue. "You are banishing us?" he said.

Duard's eyes met his with their familiar dark fire. "Do you question me?"

Some of the younger ones were already shaking their heads. Taerith's answer was almost a whisper. "No."

But he did... how he did. On the morning of the third day, as Taerith lifted his scant pack to his back and took a staff in his hand, he turned and looked back at the house with its slowly rising column of smoke.

"I question you, Master," he said. "And someday you will answer me."

The house did not respond; its lone occupant did not emerge. Taerith settled the pack over his shoulders, and walked away.

* * *

Copyright 2006 by Rachel Starr Thomson. Do not reproduce without written permission of the author.

Enjoying the story? Download the whole thing as an e-book from Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/82687


Blogger Jessica said...

amazing. i just found this blogspot link through another site and you have a way with your words. i can't wait until the next post comes out.

6:54 PM  
Blogger The Romany Epistles said...

First chapter, congratulations! This shall be a lovely read. :)
(Comment from Carolyn who does not have a blogger account and cannot seem to leave you a comment any other way.)

7:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, second try at leaving a comment:

Beautiful! You have a real knack with words, drawing the reader in from the very first, creating word pictures so vivid one can almost see the characters and scenes. I look forward to reading the rest of this!

5:24 AM  

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