The prophecy

Prologue
By Emma Moesswilde | Apr 07, 2010

"The wolves are outlawed." These were the last words I heard my mother say, before the fever claimed her, and she was gone. I felt something shudder, but maybe it was only the breeze ruffling the curtains in her bedroom. My throat constricted. The scent of herbs, honey, and, most recently, wine to dull the pain of the splitting headaches that accompanied my mother's fever, filled my nostrils and my heart began to ache.

For a time I just sat there, the fire flickering on my tear stained face and my mother's cold hand in mine. I must have fallen asleep, for I was awakened by rosy evening light. After a last, long look at my mother, I turned and left the room, shutting the heavy wooden door behind me.

The funeral was held on a gray day, heavy with mist and dewy grass that soaked my lilac colored dress. The dress had been my mother's favorite: she always said it made me look like the Herald of the Dawn, the great goddess Karra herself.

A balding man said words about loss, and returning to the earth, and her spirit staying with her beloved family, and remembrance. People cried. I didn't. I had nothing left. My mother had been the village herbalist, and she was loved and respected by all the mothers in the village, for she had helped many of them through one difficult childbirth or another. Some said she was like a magician, the way her touch could soothe and her teas and tinctures could mend. But magicians were pretenders and my mother was real. She had met my father in the woods: her gathering, him hunting. He thought she was a nymph of the wood, rosy cheeked, hair bedecked with flowers. She was beautiful, and she loved the strong, witty man who could charm diamonds out of stones with his jokes and songs.

I cried myself to sleep for three nights. The fourth night, Father didn't come home ‘til dawn. Then, he was in the arms of the searchers and there was blood on his face. A hunting accident, they said. He had stepped on an overhanging bit of turf with no rock underneath. There were rocks below him though, sharp like monsters' teeth.

So I cried myself to sleep, there was another funeral, and on the morning of the 10th day since Mother had left us, the Daughters came for me.

The Temple of the Moon took in orphaned and unwanted daughters from many families to train as initiates and priestesses. They were kind, spiritual women who pledged themselves to the moon and stars, the one and many. All that life required them to do was worship, care for others, and weave, and that was what they did best. As such, they helped girls and women in need. I had joined that happy company; I was a girl in need.

As the two women, one dark, one fair, helped me gather Father's bow, my clothes and keepsakes, and Mother's silver pendant, I looked around at our cottage. A bedroom for me, a bedroom for them, a sitting room, and our big kitchen with its massive fireplace and comforting wooden table. A door out back led to the privy and our garden, just bursting forth with the young shoots of spring. I blinked back tears and went to join the initiates at the door. They pulled it shut and I clicked the big iron bolts into place. The rest of the family belongings had gone to the temple's poor boxes, ready for someone else to cook stew in Mother's favorite pot, someone else to chop onions with our best sharp knife, someone else to sit in Father's favorite chair next to the fire.

As I walked away from the only home I'd ever known, the rich mud sucking at my feet, I thought back to the last words to pass my mother's lips, just 10 short days ago: "The wolves are outlawed."

Emily Moesswilde lives in Belfast.

 

 

 

 

 

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