“Revin,” Farrel called as he came out of the forest’s edge.
She turned toward him and smiled. Revin had already Sensed him, while still in the forest. She never tired of seeing his leisurely, but confident stride. It seemed as if he had barely aged in twenty-five years. The same brilliant blue eyes, like the depths of a lake, and just the hint of gray in his beard. No, he hadn’t changed. A familiar tingling sensation filled her, followed with anticipation…Later, she summoned the willpower to nudge the thoughts to the back of her mind. Not forgotten, just delayed.
Farrel walked up the small hill overlooking the meadow, his smile brightened her day. His lips briefly touched hers and she felt her will failing. It wasn’t long after learning that she was a Phoenix, that she was told Fylla meant “complement” and she couldn’t think of a better word for the man approaching. The tingling became stronger, and she quickly constructed a stronger wall in her mind to keep the desires in check.
“Maeveen has heard from Neala again.” He put an arm around her shoulders and held her securely, a sensation she had come to treasureovertheyears.
She leaned her head against his chest. “It will be tonight,” he added with a quick squeeze.
Revin had expected as much. Neala had approached the young woman in Hillford, just as she had Revin those many years past in Winterheart. Neala had barely implied that rare exotic skins could be had for next to nothing if the woman, named Brandi, were to travel directly to the source, a small village well back in the mountains. Brandi promptly left for the north early the next morning, which had brought a smile to Revin’s lips when she had been told. It brought back the memory of her own hasty trip in search of wealth. Another sign that Brandi was her Dragon-daughter.
Neala had followed the young fur trader at a discreet distance. Revin could have communicated directly with her Dragon-grandmother, but her time was limited with so much to do in preparation for the Time of the Burning and the subsequent Gathering, leaving Maeveen to receive Neala’s updates over their shared Mind-bridge.
“Are you sure young Keldan is the one?” Farrel questioned. “He can be a little cocky at times and, I might add, he lacks a certain amount of reverence for authority.” He quickly added, “Though I trust him without any reservations.”
A grin spread on her face as she leaned back and looked up at him, his somber expression making her chuckle.
“Sounds like someone else I know.” She elbowed him. “I can sense the kindness in his heart. His devotion will be unflinching. It takes a lot to be the mate of a Phoenix.”
“Don’t I know,” he snickered, earning himself another elbow.
“Make sure he’s waiting just inside the village,” she reminded him, but was sure he had everything in hand. He had become indispensable not only to her, in every way possible, but to the village as a whole. Both Farrel and Maeveen’s husband, Torben, were on the town council. However, for the last fifteen years, the two men had managed the day-to-day functioning of Awakening—Torben as the mayor and Farrel taking over from Torben as the village-reeve.
The Daughters counted on them as they prepared for the upcoming Time of the Burning Blood.
“He will be there,” he assured her. “Henrik is with him now.”
Henrik was Revin’s and Farrel’s youngest. At twenty, he had become one of the finest fighters in all of Awakening, able to hold his own against most of the Phoenixes. Handsome, sharp as a blade, though he lacked patience. Something Revin had always fought to control herself.
“He couldn’t understand why he was the one to meet the girl but accepted his role nonetheless.” Farrel was a father-figure to the younger man and Keldan would do just about anything Farrel asked. The same couldn’t be said of others who tried to get the young man to follow rules. He saw their orders more as guidance. In this, Keldan and Henrik were alike.
“Good. It should be natural if it is to be true.” Revin wondered if this same conversation had transpired between Maeveen and her husband twenty-five years earlier.
A smile graced his face now. “I feel a bit sorry for him. He has no idea why or where it is likely to lead.”
“Are you disappointed?” Her eyes narrowed and she pretended to frown.
“Not in the least.” He shook his head, his eyes wide. “It was probably the best thing that happened to me.”
“Probably?” Her lips thinned as she tweaked his right breast.
“Ow!” He rubbed his chest and professed serious injury as his smile spread into a wide grin. “The best!”
She laughed, and as much as she could have stayed that way, she pulled away, there was much to do before Brandi arrived that night.
“Can you ask Gyda and Hela to prepare the hall for tonight?” She had already Sent her thoughts to the two daughters from their marriage, but she wanted a little more time to herself, still troubled by the images she had recently Sensed of the future.
“Yes, my love. Right away.” He pulled her close and kissed the top of her head.
She knew he realized it was just an errand to give her time, but he stepped back and told her with a brilliant smile, “I know you will be late, but I’ll be waiting at home with a mug of warmed, spiced wine.” He turned, strode down the hill and disappeared into the forest.
Revin swung back to look out over the Gathering Field, a meadow covered in blemishes that stained the ground. She had come out here many times over the years. The Sentinel’s Spirit, that had merged with her own, enabled her to see phantom images of Gatherings long past. With the memories passed down through her bloodline, her Dragon-mother Maeveen, her Dragon-grandmother Neala, and all those that came before, details were added to the scenes that made them all too real. She fingered the small pendant that hung on a chain around her neck. Two dragons in a circle. One red, one green, struggling for dominance. One dragon virtuous, the other vicious, contending for the Spirits of those who inhabited Athule, the physical world, the circle. Every Phoenix wore one as a reminder of the battle that waged in and around them.
She had woken with troubled dreams every night over the last week. Twins, a sister and brother, dwarfed by the presence of a demon from the Shadows. A green dragon and a red one clasped in combat, not unlike her pendant. Revin had no doubt the visions were Sent from the Burning Lady. She knew it meant that her life would somehow intersect with the twins, but she didn’t fully understand how or why.
She shut her eyes and emptied her mind. Her thoughts floated away like fall leaves on the river. Riven stood still, letting all the tension fade from her body. How long she remained that way she couldn’t say. It felt as if she were drifting with the wind, the pendant in her hand her only connection to the physical world.
A blanket of fog rolled through her mind, an unusual occurrence when she had previously encountered the Goddess. The haze waned, revealing a vision…a campsite at night. Guards encircled a lone rider, pikes raised at the horseman. Across the fire was a noble with two children, boys, and more guards stood between the nobles and the rider.
Riven opened her eyes and she was in a Willow grove, one she had seen many times in her mind.
In the middle of the clearing stood a woman, a radiant glow surrounded her. She was dressed in a long gown, whiter than the stars hung in the night sky. Flames filled the Burning Lady’s eyes.
The image might frighten some people, but it only filled Revin with peace and comfort she couldn’t find elsewhere.
‘Thou are correct,’ the Goddess’ words filled Revin’s head, confirming her suspicions.
“Who are the twins and how will I find them?” Revin asked in a soft voice.
‘All will come to pass in its time.’
Revin wasn’t frustrated with the answer, the Goddess did things at her own pace, not Revin’s.
‘My Daughters shalt be prepared for the Olgas Mogwai.’
“Olgas Mogwai,” Revin repeated the ominous words in a slow whisper. “The Great Evil.”
‘All of thou shalt be the difference.’ The aura around the Burning Lady began to brighten, but before she disappeared, she told Revin, ‘Know my love, My Daughter.’
Revin put an arm up to block the intensifying light as she said in a tender tone, “I do, Mother.”
Her eyes shut tight and when she opened them, she stood once again overlooking the motley-colored meadow. Her lips tightened as she ran the Goddess’ words through her mind, ‘My Daughters shalt be prepared for the Olgas Mogwai.’ That was easy. It could only mean the Phoenixes as they were all born of the Goddess’ dragons. “But when and where?” Riven couldn’t worry about that now. She could only ensure that they increased their training.
Revin took a deep breath of the cool spring air and let the vision flow away like the river at Winter’s thaw. Now was the Time of the Burning Blood, when the new Phoenix will feel the heat, Awakened to the blood of her dragon and Spirit-born parents. She let the joy fill her as she would meet her Dragon-daughter in a few hours. But first she and the other women would have to create a semblance of a village that had succumbed to the depths of winter, as had the outside world. A necessary illusion that would draw on their strength and the il fennore, though much of it she would leave to the others, she needed to be at her best for Brandi, and, later, she thought with a wily smile, Blue Eyes.