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Chapter Thirteen

“There’s more to this, something in this puzzle is still missing. I saw her there, in her cottage, writing in her shadow book. She was writing the recipe for a cure to infection. She wore an amulet, a large blood stone on a heavy silver chain. The stone was unusual. Most are deep red with a sprinkling of green. Hers was moss green with threads of scarlet, a bright spider’s web floating over it.”

“You can trust me, you know.” Doc Andrews said.

“I wasn’t sure at first. I only have her anger and the pain of her loss to guide me. I’ve been dreaming of her for almost a year now.”

“I don’t mean to be rude, but how old are you Alanna? It might explain the timing of the dreams.” Doc lifted Deataigh’s tail and slipped a thermometer under it.

The loud protest from the cat, made them both smile.

The sneaky bastard!

“Don’t be rude Deataigh! I need you certified as healthy and vaccinated if you want to travel with me.” Alanna laughed harder. She could have sworn the Maine Coon was blushing.

“I’ll make a bet he was swearing at me,” Doc said.

“Of course, he’s calling you a bastard.”

“Not inaccurate. I was born to a pretty peasant daughter of one of the MacCarthy’s tenant serfs. I’m a royal bastard. I never told Muireanne. T’was why I left. I served my father, even if he wouldn’t acknowledge me as more than a by blow. But how old are you?” Andrew brought them back to his question.

“I’ll be seventeen, in just over a week,” Alanna answered.

“When I finally came back to search for Muireanne, my daughter was sixteen. In the full flush of womanhood, and as angry and hurt as her mother.”

“So, you’re thinking that’s why I started dreaming of her this last year?”

“It’s as good an explanation as any other, and it fits the time frame.”

“Do you remember her amulet?” Alanna asked.

“Aye, I do. A thing of beauty and power. I remember it in my fevered dreams, before my leg healed enough for me to remember anything else.”

“Where is it? It hasn’t come down in our family.” Alanna told him.

“Good question. I’ve never seen it again in all the hundreds of years from then till now.”

They turned to look at Deataigh, where he sat licking a paw and grooming his whiskers.

Don’t look at me like that. I don’t know where she hid them. She had them till the day she was taken to the castle for her trial. She died mere months before you returned, Torin.

The gray cat stood stretching first and then arching his back. He moved to rub against Alanna where she stood leaning her hips against the exam table and rubbed his cheek against her ribs.

“Well, that’s a first!” Doc exclaimed.

“You heard him?”

“For the first time! To what do I owe the honor?” Andrew’s surprised face was a picture Alanna would remember.

You both deserve your happiness. Her curse was potent, but I know your love has lived as a reminder of what could be through all her lives as well. Each life brings her fulfillment, but she waits.

“Do you know where she is this time?” Alanna asked.

No and it worries me.

“And neither do I,” Doc Torin said.

“That’s a problem. I haven’t found the record of her trial yet, I’m off to the church and Father Patrick in two days to see if we can. There are only three more journals to look at.”

“Just the shots now Deataigh. I’m sorry, but they have to be done, and the follow up after Samhain.” Doc stroked the cat’s arched back.

Deataigh buried his sleek head under Alanna’s arm.

Do it. I don’t want to see.

“Today’s lesson, oregano.” Cardamon pointed to the rack where bunches of the herb hung drying along with all the other mint family.

“Do the roots need to be preserved too?” Alanna asked. She knew they had harvested the mint leaves and flowers for drying. But unlike the monkshood, they hadn’t brought any roots in for drying.

“Monkshood has seriously poisonous properties if you prepare the roots correctly. I use it to control the mice and rats around the barn and even the cottage. Usually put the power down in grain in the spring when they are most actively breeding.”

Sometimes Cardamon’s mind wandered a bit but ask the right question and he was an encyclopedia of information.

“I’m aware, it disrupts their heartbeat. What about the mints?”

“No roots, their flowers and leaves however, have excellent anti inflammatory properties. Especially oregano. In particular, oil of oregano.”

“If I’m right, the oil goes into topical creams or lotions only. Not good if consumed orally, if I remember correctly. At least that’s what Chen Chi told me.”

“Exactly but extracting it from dried leaves and stems is a complicated matter.” Cardamon pointed to an intricate apparatus made of tubes, flasks and beakers that occupied the corner of the counter closest to the window.

“I know, steam extraction. Chen Chi always ordered his from a plant in China. I always wanted to know how it was done.”

“I extract oils from various herbs, fruits and seeds. Some of is by steam, as here, but I have press for things like olives and certain seeds.”

“At least this way you know exactly what is in it and the purity and concentration of what you produce.” Alanna liked his set up. She would copy it when she had a chance.

“The crux of good herbal medicines is knowledge of exact proportions of the ingredients. Like a great cake recipe, they can’t be fudged.” Cardamon said.

“Do you want me to clean this?” Alana asked as she traced the paths of the tubes. “It’s a steam extractor, right?”

“Yes, it is. Wipe down the outsides of everything. It’s dusty. I haven’t used it since Yule last year. Otherwise it’s good to go.”

As she worked, Alanna mulled over the conversation with Doc Andrew. Finding out about his long convoluted story the afternoon before had sent her dreaming last night. She left the protective crystals on her desk, close enough to protect, but not stop the dreams like they did under her pillow.

“Child, listen to me, run. Hide in the fairy oak.”

“But mother, I’m more than old enough to face the bishop. He’ll take you away. Together we can defeat him.”

“My fate is sealed, in this lifetime. You must survive.”

“But I need you, I haven’t learned everything.”

“You cannot know all I do. T’is what I have done and know which has led to this. The bishop will not change his mind. To him, I am a witch, and unnatural woman and I must be stopped.”

The amulet on her chest reflected the sunlight streaming through the window. The web of red gleaming as it pulled energy from the light. Muireanne held her shadow book in her right hand, and a quill in the other.

“Go, I have words to write, before he arrives, and you must be safe. Ask the fairies. Go to their hill. They will help even if they are a devious bunch. Do not enter their door though, and if they trick you, do NOT eat anything they give you.”

“I will remember, mama.”

“Go, Niamh. You are my freedom and my bright light. You will bring our power to your children, and to many more in a long line of witches and healers.”

Niamh gathered a basket with cheeses and bread. A slab of smoked ham and a wineskin. There was a fresh spring close to the fairy oak, water would be plentiful.

“Will he burn the cottage, mama?”

“Once we leave, it will remain unseen. Of that you may be sure.” Muireanne told her. “To those in need, they will find you, no matter where you go. And you will be welcome, as long as you are alone.”

“More magic, mama?”

“Yes, dearling. More magic.” Muireanne drew her daughter into her arms, touching her face and tracing the familiar outline of her ear. It was the only reminder of the single night of love in her life.

“I will leave soon after you, Niamh. They will take me on the road to the castle. When the king’s men find me, the cottage will fade from their memories. Only you, will have the right to find our home. And in time, our children will find it too.”

Niamh’s shoulders shook with the finality of her mother’s words, and she felt the salty wetness of her tears as they wept together, wrapped in a tight embrace, seeking the last bit of comfort they craved. In time, Muireanne straightened and sighed.

“Go in strength. You are protected. I love you daughter.”

“I love you, mama,” Niamh whirled, grabbed her basket and ran through the door.

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