Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Nict For Ure Selfe (Not For Ourselves): An Excerpt

Shannon Marie knew where he was going. He did not have to tell her. Their brief connection was enough for her to just know. His secret made him sad. She did not understand why he did not just tell her and be done with it. Whatever he hid, she would do her best to understand; maybe she could even help. But now he needed to connect with Bridget. He always did when she tried to see what was behind that door. Communing with her was the only thing that restored his peace and calmed his soul. It was like when Shannon tried to see beyond the door, he was forced to look at something he wanted to ignore. As long as she did not ask, whatever it was did not exist. By asking, she was forcing him to confront it. Shannon hated seeing the pain in his eyes, knowing she had caused it, but not knowing how or why.
There were fifteen more competitors yet to shoot and he never did like the long wait after his turn. He did not compete with the others, but against himself. Every year he challenged himself to do better than the year before. The crossbow competition was scheduled next, but she was the next to the last to shoot. She had at least an hour. This time he was going to tell her. She would not let him leave the circling until he told her the truth. Leaning over she whispered in Rachael’s ear. “I’m going to the Divine Circling.”
Her younger sister looked past her and nodded. “If they change anything, I’ll come get you.” Quickly she reached into her pocket and pulled out three silver coins. “Honor Bridget, Cerridwen and Danu for me.”
Looking in to her green eyes, she watch the darker outer rings expand. She was seeing beyond this moment. Shannon Marie mentally made a mental note to ask her later. “Come with me.”
The younger girl shook her head and pushed the coins into her sister’s hand. “Tell her I remember the dream. If I can not change the it, I will honor my promise.”
“I do not understand.”
Rachael sadly smiled. “Please?”

Tweaking the tip of her sister’s nose, she smiled and nodded. Taking the less traveled path, she circled around to Michael’s destination. She wanted to give him a few moments alone with his patron Goddess, before she appeared. A large raven screeched from above. Startled, Shannon Marie stopped and spun around, looking up. It flew downward. She followed its trajectory. Quickly spinning round, she saw it vanish into the forest and for someone to disappear into the underbrush. Instinctively, she reached for her boot knife. The movement in the undergrowth, revealed the intruder’s escape route. Whoever was returning to the competition. She released her hold on the hilt, but did not drop her guard.
Slowly she turned and continued toward Divine Circling. Although it was necessary for her to pay attention to path, her focus was behind her. More than once, she tripped on a fallen branch and uneven ground. Just outside the glade, she stopped and looked behind her. The path was clear, yet she sensed someone was watching and waiting.
She reached the forest line around the clearing. The circle was the oldest and holiest place in the Parish. It is said that the elfin helped the Druids clear circle to represent the cycle of life. Next to each other in the center, they place the altars to Dagda and Danu. The glade had been dedicated to them eons before as the father and mother to all the Gods and Goddesses. Spiraling outward, other altars were dedicated until the coil filled the field. Around the circle, the trees grew lush and tall, but they never intruded on the holy space. Instead, they stood guard over the shrines and those that worshiped there.
Michael stood at Bridget’s altar. It is where women prayed for children and farmers left tributes of their harvest in fall in hope she would bless them with bounty again the next year. Michael had dedicated himself to her there and claimed the name Dagha in honor of her father. Once a month he would travel the half day to honor her with a tribute. Only Michael did not go to ask for children or bounty, but the ability and wisdom to heal others. Although he was a skilled warrior and hunter, he had no desire to kill. Instead, he wanted to heal both the body and the soul. He had always claimed that in another time and place he was Druid of the wood, blessed with the skills of healing and foresight. In spite of the old ways falling away under Christos, Michael chose to follow them. It was that spiritual quest, which filled his heart and soul, giving him inner strength and peace.
Shannon Marie had seen his abilities too many times to doubt his claim. The latter was something he and Elizabeth had in common. Once again looking over her shoulder, Shannon Marie scanned the forest for movement. Something was off. Turning fully around, she looked back down the narrow path. No one was there, yet she expected to see someone.

Suddenly Alyssa was afraid. There was someone out there. She reached out and touched Shannon Marie’s shoulder. She needed to warn herself. It was not safe. Yet she didn’t know why.

Taking a couple steps back down the path, Shannon Marie fought the impulse to run to Michael. The air around her made her skin tingle. She had felt this before. It was like when Seanhair had called Macha; instead of going to Seanhair, the Goddess to came to her and settle within her body as they became one. Through her eyes, the other looked out on the world; the sensation had been strange and unfamiliar, yet what she felt now was very recognizable. It was her, only more than just her. Once again, her senses became more intense and acute. Insects flying among the leaves yards away were just as clear as if they were preparing to land on her hand. She could hear the beating of her wings. Coldness radiate from within. She lifted her hand to look at the back of it. The transparent image of another woman’s hand superimposed itself over hers. She stared at it.
“Shannon Marie?” Michael spoke from behind her.
Slowly she turned to face him but did not divert her gaze from her arm. Suddenly she was alone again in her body.
“It’s happening again?”
She nodded. “What do you see?”
"I-I--" He stammered and stopped.
Shannon Marie looked up into his eyes.
Tears were welling up with in them. He quickly turned and wiped them away. "Do not go tonight. Stay home with Elizabeth."
"I cannot." Walking around, she stood in front of him. "What did you see?"
He shook his head. "I cannot." Michael whispered, turning away from her once again. “Bridget swore me to silence.”
Confused, Shannon Marie reached out and brushed his long dark hair out of his face and tried to meet his gaze. They had always been able to tell each other everything. They hid nothing. Yet, now whatever he held back was causing him great pain. She reached out and touched his forearm. "Please."
He slowly walked out of her reach. "I'm sorry."
"For what?" Shawn Jacob demanded, stepping off the main path. He was quickly followed by Damien MacNab, Richard and Keith Connell. "Explain yourself boy!"
"I told you!" Keith volunteered, pointing at Shannon and Michael. “I told you they were together.”
Shannon Marie's gaze quickly darted from her father to the smirking Keith. Anger rose within. "Papa. What ever he told you," she jutted her chin in Keith's direction, "is a lie.”
“Shut up girl!” Richard snapped, sauntering into the glade. “He said you were together.
“Slut!” Keith smugly pointed at her; the condescension in his voice matched his father. “Just like your Seanhair!”
Shawn Jacob snapped around; his left hand reaching for the dagger at his belt. “Richard, shut your bastard up!” The warning hung in the air between them, threatening to become more than a verbal battle.
“Michael?” Always the gentleman, Damien squared his shoulders and composed himself. With relaxed, yet directed long strides, he quickly crossed the distance between himself and his son. Damien reached out slightly tilted his head so that their matching deep brown eyes met. “Why were the two of you here together?”
“Father, we always come to honor Bridget.” Michael’s gaze did not waver.
Shannon was suddenly aware of how like in manor and appearance they were. Without Damien’s beard, it was like the men were looking in mirror reflections of themselves; one towards the past and the other toward the future. With their long dark hair held back, their oval faces looked almost heart shaped. Both were warriors; but whereas Damien had aged into a statesman, Michael still had the temperament and the physical stamina of a warrior and a hunter. Although their eyes were the same shape and color. Damien’s held wisdom. Michael’s were those of a seer who saw other times and places.
“I would never dishonor you or myself.” Michael continued. “Nor would I betray her father’s trust.” He turned toward Shawn. “Sir, you daughter and I have been friends for as long as I can remember. You never questioned us before. Why would you doubt us now?”
“We always have been together since we were children. Rachael and Scott used to come with us.” Shannon Marie interceded. “Since Scott was sent to the monastery, Rachael does not come any more. Michael and I promise to always remember them to Bridget together. We are honor bound. She gave me her offering.” She pulled the coins from her pocket.
“Shut up!” Shawn Jacob snapped, cutting off Richard. The anger in his voice was sharper than the blade at his belt. “My daughter does not lie.”
“Neither does my--”
“Your son?” Richard cut Damien off. “Are you dishonoring your legit heirs by acknowledging your bastard?”
Shawn James crossed the few yards between himself and Shannon Marie. His voice softened when he spoke to her, yet the anger, which was only inches away, remained directed at the Connells. “Little Elf, what oath did you give.”
“The four of us made a blood oath on Bridget’s alter to be each other’s defenders and protectors.” Michael quickly answered, stepping toward the father and daughter pair. “We are one in her name.”
“Yes. Papa. It is true.” Shannon Marie looked up into her father’s eyes, trying to get him to understand how she felt about Michael without her being forced to put it into words. They were more than friends, yet they both knew that is all it would ever be. How could she speak what her heart felt in front of all of them, when she could not say it out loud to the person who meant the most. Angrily she looked at the Connells. Arrogantly, Keith stood beside his father, his arms folded across his chest. She hated him the most for his pretense. His parentage was no better than Michael‘s, yet he presented himself as a son of rank. "But it none of their concern. Michael is honorable. Neither of us would do anything to disgrace ourselves or our families." She pointed at Keith. “He cannot say the same.”
“There was nothing more?” Damien demanded, stepping back and scratching his graying beard.
“Nothing worth speaking of.” Michael whispered and turned toward the altar. “I-we-it doesn’t matter. We have done nothing to shame ourselves or our families.”
Damien’s voice softened as he stepped around Michael and lifted his chin as if he was a small boy instead of a nearly grown man. “Speak the words of your heart.”

Nict For Ure Selfe (Not For Ourselves) is available as an ebook at www.theresachaze.com or through the Amazon Kindle program click here for the link

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