Spin Offs, Othi Part a
Alnavien’s baby had been born the day previous. Othi had little to no sleep for the past couple of days; though it had been a long labour, everything had been fine. Both mother and child had survived and both appeared to be healthy. Now, mother and baby were sleeping. Thern, a young woman from the village, was presently staying with them to help the new mother care for the child. Othi had come up to her casting circle, overlooking her home, which was a mixture of odd buildings she affectionately referred to as The Lodge.
A storm was blowing in from the east and to the west the sky was still mostly clear with the sun nearing the horizon. The trees all around her glade swayed, chimes tinkled and clattered while old dilapidated charms, grit and the odd leaf flew through the air or skittered along the hard packed earth. Her skirts and hair whipped about in the wind.
Her casting circle was in fact a moon calendar. Though it had been many years since she had used it for such. After so many decades of tracking the dates for the villagers, she knew one day to the next, the flow of seasons and the weather signs like she knew the beating of her own heart. Othi had helped the old hedge witch, that had once lived here, shape and then erect the markers while she learned the secrets of the runes and symbols of power of the first people. These days she used the circle primarily to amplify her spells, which had also been part of its original purpose.
Flint had left for Cof Crossroads a month past. She had been dreaming of the man for years, not knowing who she was dreaming about. Then ever so briefly he had been with her, though nothing had gone as she had seen in her dreams. She knew that was the way of things, the dreaming world was fluid and not bound by the strictures of time. Still, a woman could hope.
Othi had been trying for years to gain access to the hall that Flint sought, though nothing she had tried had ever been able to bypass the protective magics that warded the area. Neither she nor Flint had been the only ones seeking to do so. Over the years a dozen others had come, some had been treasure hunters while others had been mages seeking the power, lore or artifacts of the Eldra. Many of the villagers had also tried to penetrate that barrier. None had succeeded.
When Flint had arrived, Othi knew he was of the old blood, even if her dreams had not told her so, she still would have known. Those with the Eldra blood stood out from other folk, if you knew what you were looking for. Unlike her own elvish ancestry, there were less physical markers to the Eldra bloodlines, though even if they were not mage-born they still possessed a robustness and strength of character that was uncommon. She had half expected him to just walk up to the hall, unimpeded by the barrier. Though, like the others, he had been turned around and lead away.
She had though that his sword might help, there was no denying it was an Eldra blade, superior over other weapons, even those made by the dwarves. Othi knew that in almost all cases the blades were heavily enchanted. During his brief stay, after having rescued the caravan folk, they had tried to approach the hall again, with the blade. That had not worked either.
Once again he had left, escorting the survivors of the bandit attack to Cof Crossroads. She expected that he would be back soon, reaching the hall and discovering what lay within was obviously very important to him. That expectation of his return and her desire to help him was making her consider some dangerous options. Though as she considered those options again, buffeted by the wind, she knew that only one of them had any chance of working. If it did not kill her outright.
Many years back, close to two decades now, a man from the far south had come seeking the ancients. He had been dark skinned, not brown like the Tannican or Pwhanna complexions, but black as the night sky. He had travelled by land, then by sea and then by land, again. Claiming that his dreams had drawn him to this place and he had left his home nearly ten years previous to his arrival.
Fabatti Nerrido, like others before and since, had exchanged his lore and wisdom with her. In return she had shared her own knowledge and assisted him in his efforts to bypass the magic barrier. He had been methodical and thorough, trying many landward approaches, he had tried the cliffs and nearly died in the attempt. He had searched underground through the ancient ruins looking for a way into the hall from beneath. He made an attempt to dispel the barrier and laughed at his own feeble effort, though Othi knew it had been an heroic casting, she had not seen anyone previous nor since draw that much energy together for a single spell. He had also been well versed in the dreaming magics of his homeland and had brought artifacts and drugs to amplify his abilities.
The Nargatheen, for he was of that southern race, had prepared himself with symbols and meditation. He had asked her to guard his body from physical harm. Then he had mixed the cumiquin he had brought from his distant homeland and made a potent tea of the drug. After drinking the tea he lay down in the centre of her ritual circle went to sleep, a sleep from which he never awoke. Though she had guarded his body and fed him broth for a hundred days, he had never returned to the waking world.
Othi had kept much of what he had brought with him, including the small pot of cumiquin and the artifacts he had used. Over the years she had become well versed in the dreaming magic and every so often, when she had need of clearer insight or wished to travel further through the world of dreams, she had taken a small pinch of the potent drug. Though she had always been very conservative with its use. She was now giving serious consideration to attempt to cast her dreaming mind through the protective barrier around the hall, hoping that beyond that barrier was a living mind she could contact.
The wind buffeted her. Above, dark clouds raced to catch the sinking sun. She took three slow breaths, in and out. She stepped to the centre of the circle and raised her arms high, with fingers splayed she sang the setting of the sun and welcomed the coming dusk. Lightning flashed across the sky, thunder rumbled and the rains poured down. She stripped of her clothing and sat down within the casting circle. She was sure she had made her decision to go ahead with the dreaming, but she was not so pressured that she could not afford some time to think some more about that decision. So she sat in the storm and contemplated her mortality.
Othi had delayed her decision an eight-day, so far. Initially her reason had been to make sure Alnavien and the baby were in fact in good health. Which, they were. Alnavien had started getting cranky about any number of things, not being active and feeling useful was her main problem.
Thern, delightfully, had adjusted well to her task, to Alna’s disposition and even just being at The Lodge and around Othi. She was also good with the baby. More interesting, was the fact the girl was showing an interest in herbs and healing lore. Whereas, most of the locals tended towards distrust and fear when they were interacting with Othi, Thern showed curiosity.
So really, there was little reason to delay her decision any longer, yet she continued to do just that. Until the foresters who had gone to Cof returned. Flint was not with them, much to her disappointment, though he had sent word back with the foresters. He had gone on to Carskot, expected to be travelling to points beyond that and hoped to be back here in the early autumn.
So Othi took some time and showed Thern some more of the healing arts. Mostly dealing with the local plants and the harvesting and preparation thereof. While she was doing that, the villagers started erecting a palisade, manufactured arrows and spears on a daily basis and cleared lines of sight around the village. With the loss of the caravan they had a large stockpile of timber available, that otherwise would have been traded with the Maldorn as they passed by on their way to GreensBridge.
A couple of more eight-days passed. Alnavien was happy with all the new industry, it gave her something to focus her energies on. She often spent half a day out gathering shafts for arrows. She carried the newborn with her and roamed the woodlands with a couple of the dogs. A score of men and women arrived from Cof Crossroads. They had been sent by Marshal Thoddem to help the foresters with their defence efforts against the bandits.
There was no activity from the bandits though, certainly not anywhere near the village nor in the areas around Cof. There was also no traffic from the south, which in and of itself was not that unusual. Some of the foresters wanted to do a reconnaissance eastward into the forest, to start scouting the area nearer where the bandits had their base of operation. Not everyone was of the same mind on this topic though and it became a point of contention within the village.
In all that time Othi kept putting off her decision. Though as the summer days started to shorten and with the expectation that Flint would arrive shortly, she started wondering why she continued to delay. She knew the answer, any self-honest person would. She did not want to die. Was the slim chance of success worth putting her life on the line?
Over the next couple of days Othi was quiet and observant to the beautiful things in her life; Alnavien, the baby, Thern with her curious mind, the foresters and the small village that had grown from a simple camp within the time she had lived here. She cherished the sight of her home with its odd assortment of buildings, the trees and the hills with all the diverse creatures that were part of the land. All of it had taken on a new vibrancy, colours sharp and clear. She knew she had made her decision, had in fact made it many eight-days earlier. She had just needed some time to come to terms with what she was going to do.
She took great care in preparing for the dreaming she was going to attempt. She crafted charms, thirteen of them, one for each of the posts that defined her casting circle. Four of them would aid her in the casting of the dream-sending, four would help her to find what she sought, four were to sustain and protect her body while she travelled and the last would act as a beacon and help to anchor her spirit to her body. Then Othi made a brew that would help sustain her physical form, should she be delayed in returning. She gathered components and filled the circle with the symbols of power that would aid in the casting. All of this she did with help from Thern and Alnavien and as her preparations neared completion she informed the two women what she intended to do.
Alnavien was angry with her, for which Othi had been prepared and gave her some space until her temper cooled. Thern was worried but the girl’s curiosity was stronger than any fears she held. After Alna had calmed down, she provided the two of them with instruction for what was required.
The day came when there was nothing further to prepare. As evening approached Othi gathered her mana-crystals and stones of power, then she and Alnavien went to the circle as the sun was setting. Thern stayed with the child.
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