Maeveen and the Oma stood and helped Revin to her feet. She knew she should be exhausted, but instead felt energized. In contrast, the jewel of her staff had dulled. Her body tingled as she realized her senses were enhanced, her sight clearer, the smell of the burnt ground stronger. But there was something else—another sense—one she couldn’t name. She could feel something about the women to either side of her. It was like a fiery tendril that reached out and connected with them. She could Sense their emotions and even grasped some of their thoughts.
The Oma spoke, “You did well.” A wide smile creased her supple face as she patted Revin on the arm.
Smooth! Many of the wrinkles had faded. It was then that Revin noticed the woman’s hair had darkened, like Revin’s own, the gray now absent. Her head whipped around. She saw that Maeveen looked younger as well.
“What? How?” Even though her energy had been restored, her mind was still clouded from all that had happened.
“You called upon the Spirit-beings of the il fennore,” Maeveen’s voice was calm and soothing.
Revin remembered Farrel’s explanation about the woman in the forest clearing, the one with the floating fireball. But she hadn’t trained as the other women had. “How is that possible?”
“It is one of our gifts, a blessing from the Goddess,” Neala answered, then explained, “Every twenty-five years the edge of the Shadows touches our world, and the demons at the bottom, the darkest and most vile, fight their way to the surface and break through. The Gathering is like a bell that calls them to a specific spot and temporarily keeps them contained when they erupt. The Burning Lady sends one of her messengers…a gold dragon to destroy the creatures. But the Sentinel must have the knowledge of the last Gathering to do this. That is why you had to be here.”
“How could I be the one? I was but a babe.” The pain of that time flooded back when the blacksmith had found her abandoned in the woods.
“The dragon has flown off to its final resting place where the flames will consume the Sentinel. The Goddess will take its Spirit from our world and give it new life.” Maeveen stared out in the direction the Gold had taken, a sadness filling her voice, but it was quickly replaced with joy when she turned back to Revin. “From the ashes of the Sentinel, a child will come into the world. A Spirit-child. One born of the Essence of the Spirit shared by the Burning Lady’s dragon and the Phoenix. Your Dragon-daughter as you are mine.”
Revin wanted to ask a dozen questions, but then she grasped Maeveen’s words, and she blurted out, “Daughter?”
Maeveen smiled at Revin’s shocked expression. “You are my Dragon-daughter. As I am Neala’s.” Maeveen nodded her head to the Oma. “As Neala is to Beatha.” She indicated one of the other dozen white-robed women that had come to stand around them. “And so forth down throughout our family’s history. The Daughters of the Goddess’ Dragons.” She now spread her hand out to take in all the white-robed women.
A strand of her new sense stretched out to make her aware of all the women in white and also those in plaid. The tingling grew, but it didn’t produce fear, instead she was comforted as she, for the first time in her life, perceived family.
“I came from a dragon!” Revin sat back down again. This could not be true. She was a person, not some strange being created by the death of a mystical creature. “I have a daughter?” Which seemed just as crazy.
“Yes.” Again, Maeveen seemed to understand Revin’s thoughts and told her, “But you are no less human than anyone else. You can marry and have children like any in Awakening. Even though we are born of the dragon’s Spirit, and carry its blood in our veins, we’ve all gone on to have children with a human mate.” She swept her hand indicating some of the plaid-clad women standing nearby then returned her attention to Revin. “In fact, you’ve already met one of my children.”
Keely walked up and grasped Revin’s hands in both of hers. “Sister.” She smiled while tears rolled down her cheeks, leaving rivulets in the ash on her face.
“But—” Revin fell silent.
“You offered your Spirit to the Sentinel, along with the knowledge buried deep in your Essence to fight the host,” Maeveen stated, the words coming slowly, but each one truthful. “In return you received the Sentinel’s Spirit, while the Burning Lady blessed us all directly with Her Essence that extends the life of our Spirit and reinforces our body.”
Ashes of the dragon, the Burning Lady’s Essence. The connection was clear to her.
“The Muspell continues to fortify the Goddess’ blessing.” As Maeveen explained, some of the villagers and farmers came and encircled the women.
If Maeveen was telling the truth, which Revin didn’t doubt, the villagers shared the longer life of the Daughters.
“Though the true gift is the Spirit-child.” Maeveen’s expression more serious as she reached down and gently ran her hand over Revin’s hair. “As I was the Phoenix, you are now, and as your child will be. We are the Phoenixes and by our Spirits we do the Goddess’ bidding.”
Maeveen stroked Revin’s cheek. “You may feel exhilarated at the moment, but soon you will be unable to lift your head. You need rest my daughter.”
Daughter. Revin closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. That implied family. The thing she never thought possible. But why had it been necessary to be lost from it for so many years? She answered her own question, she had to see the darkness for herself and experience the fear, the unknowing, before she could conquer it and truly give herself to the Sentinel. And even if it was a rather strange family, Revin knew she would not trade it for a thousand Gold Talons. She opened her eyes to see Maeveen grinning at her, and a little boy partially hidden behind the woman’s robe.
“Quin has a gift for you.” Maeveen pushed the boy forward.
He stepped forward with something in his hand. He opened his fist and in his palm was a tan ball with a red flame design around the center. He smiled.
The dimples, the green eyes. Revin recognized the boy from the tavern and concluded that it made sense for the boy and his family to be from the village. After all they had been with Neala at the tavern. “For the Phoenix,” he said with a wide grin, then he ran off back to his parents.
Riven suddenly realized that the boy wasn’t limping. He was actually running. His right foot, the clubfooted one, appeared normal. She smiled.
“With the demons defeated and the Shadows moving away for another twenty-five years, many things will return to normal.” It was as if Maeveen had read her mind. “However, we Phoenixes must always be prepared. This is not the only place where the Shadows may spew forth onto the world.” She indicated the blemished field. “We train and we wait. Some of us travel the land and keep watch. It is a great responsibility and not one we can do alone. We need someone we can share this with, who is always there for us as we are for them. Our Fylla.”
“The wagons are loaded,” the crowd parted, and a man announced bluntly as he approached. It was hard to tell, but he could’ve been ten or twenty years older than Farrel, who walked at his side.
“Blue Eyes,” Revin said excitedly.
Maeveen, Keely, and several of the other women nearby laughed. “I mean…” She didn’t know what she meant.
“My rather abrupt Fylla, Torben. The village-reeve.” Maeveen smirked and indicated the older man.
Torben bowed to Revin, then directed his attention toward Maeveen. “The dragon’s scales have been inventoried and will be taken to the warehouse.”
“Excellent.” Maeveen gently rubbed her husband’s arm showing more love than words could have expressed. She turned back to Revin but kept her hand on his arm.
Maeveen smiled at Farrel. “I would appreciate if you could take Revin back to Keely’s house. She needs to rest.”
“I would be honored to escort you.” Farrel came up and held out his arm.
The life of a dragon trader was hard and not something Revin thought she would miss. She was excited to find out more about the blessings that Maeveen said the Goddess had bestowed on her. But for now, she put her arm through his and he pulled her slightly closer to him, a different sort of warmth filled her. Revin’s smile turned into a wide, almost embarrassing grin as she told herself, Another blessing for the Phoenix.