*warning, this book contains mature, and dark themes. Please read at your own discretion.*
The moon shone bright within the starless sky. Dark clouds gathered at the base of it, a herald of misfortune.
A young woman cuts across a large field, ebony hair streaming behind her. A smudge against the green.
She falters, gripping her rounded abdomen, as she regains her footing.
Dogs bay in the distance. A steady reminder of her purpose, allotting new strength to her spent bones.
Just a little further.
She must make it to Haygarths hollow.
The soft tapping of her unborn child against her rib, fueled her panic.
Pain rips through her sides, but she continues.
Silent tears escaping her eyes, sting against the cold night air.
“Please.” She rasps to no one in particular.
“My baby.” She whispers through ragged breaths.
She carries on, in a desperate haze, exhaustion griping her, she knows that she’s running out of time.
Then, like an oasis, the tree line brakes from the unending darkness stretching before her.
A cry of relief escapes her lips.
But it is short lived.
The pain comes again, worse this time, increasing in strength and progression.
She falls to a squatting position, ripping her tattered dress even further.
Her screams pierce the night.
And then are joined by another.
With nothing left to give, she curls around her child. And waits for the inevitable.
They will be here soon, the dogs grow louder as they pick up her scent.
“Please.” She whispers once more. Her hand out stretched to the woods.
If only she had the strength to get back up, to carry herself and her baby to the sanctuary of the hollow.
If only she had worked up the courage to escape sooner.
Then maybe she could have saved them both.
Bitter tears slip down her cheeks, plopping on the baby’s forehead.
The child doesn’t stir, opting to peer at her mother instead, with an intelligence far beyond her mere minutes of life.
“Forgive me my sweet, Evanora.” The mother sobs.
“Why have you come here, wican?” A low voice sounds from the shadows.
To far gone to be startled, the mother raises her gaze to meet the strangers glowing green orbs.
Hope flares in her chest.
“My child. Please. You must save my baby.” She gasps.
After a moment of silence, only disturbed by the barking that drew ever closer.
The stranger approaches the woman and her child.
No longer cast in shadows, her identity became clear, though the revelation did not come as a surprise to the woman.
She had in fact ran to her hollow.
Haygarth, herself, had come to investigate who lay at her door step.
Haygarth, a powerful spirit, cursed to roam the world for all eternity searching for the souls of lost children.
She was here long before anyone else, and doesn’t treat strangers kindly. As such, her woods are widely avoided, scaring off most men before they even pass under the foliage.
Never in the many years, since the mainland began dropping people on her island home, had even one soul dared to come so close to her domain, that split the two territories.
Annoyance prickles at the old spirit, until she leans down and catches sight of the small child, cradled to her mothers breast.
The urge to hold the baby, is unbearable.
“Damned curse” She spits, she had never liked kids, not in life, and certainly not in death.
But the fates enjoy irony.
Thus her curse was specifically crafted for her particular quirks.
Her heart softens, only slightly, as her gaze shift from the dark haired, blue eyed beauty, to her mother.
She had once been beautiful, that much Haygarth could deduce. But abuse and malnutrition and taken their toll.
She now lay in her bloody mess, shriveled and dying.
A shell of what she was.
And they called Haygarth evil?
But Haygarth had little room in her cold heart, for sympathy.
And without a word of agreement, or anything else for that matter.
She plucks the baby from her mothers arms. Who weakly allows her to. She no longer has the strength to lift her head; to say good bye to the blessing that she will never get to know.
Regret and bitter sorrow, twist her features.
The smiles she will never see.
First words she will never hear.
Little hands she won’t hold.
And tears she will be unable to wipe.
She watches Haygarth disappear into the shadows she’d steeped from.
Taking the woman’s heart with her.
“Evanora.” Her voice cracks. But she hopes the spirit heard her. That her child would at least have one thing from her mother, who desperately loved her.
“Over here!” A man shouts, appearing beside her. Knelling down, he scoops her into his arms. Her head rolls freely at the neck, relaxed of all tension.
“Shit. Bring the healer.”
Several men, and their dogs, pour into the clearing, but stop before coming any closer.
“She’s already had the baby.” The man who held her announces.
“Shit, boss won’t be happy about that. Where is it?” Another man asks.
“Gone, taken into Haygarth’s hollow, if I had to guess. That crazy spirit is known for snatching kids.”
“The boss is going to have our heads. Especially if he loses his wife too.” Another hisses.
“Fuck! Where the hell is that healer?”
An old, skeletal woman is pushed forward, she rocks on her heels slightly, searching for balance.
And then her eyes fall on her lady.
“Oh no, madam.” Her words are barely audible through her emotion.
She drops to her knees, placing a hand on either side of her lady’s face.
“I’ll get you all fixed up. Just hold on a little longer.”
The dying woman begs her old friend with her eyes.
Please let me die.
Be it grief or self preservation that forced the healers hand, the woman may never know.
But as magic filled her veins, stitching her flesh and replenishing her blood supply.
She knew her friend would not heed her request.
Her eyes search the tree line one last time, but find nothing.
A small smile tugs at her lips, accompanied by a river of tears.
Evanora was free.