Ceri trudged through the snow, the brittle wind tugging at her clothes and stinging her face. Cormac clung to her tunic underneath her cloak.
“Spirits, why isn’t this blizzard dying down, even just a little?” she grumbled, the mist of her breath immediately watering her face.
This doesn’t feel like a natural storm Ceriwyn. Cormac’s feathered body shivered, even though their heat combined kept them warm beneath all the scarves. Ceri’s eyelids drooped with fatigue, the biting frost keeping her awake.
“All I want to do it lie down and sleep forever, that new spell drained me like nothing I’ve ever done before.” she bowed her head slightly to block the wind partially from her tender skin. Resisting the urge to lick her chapped lips, Ceri carefully sat down in front of the largest tree she could see. Positioning herself facing away from the wind, she attempted to make a small snow fort.
Ceri was too exhausted to use even a bit of magic, it could very well kill her to do so. Thankfully the cold snow hadn't penetrated her boots, so her feet were dry, if not relatively warm.
It was very difficult to pack snow and keep Cormac underneath her mantle. After Ceri finished making a wall against the wind, she slid down the truck of the tree, her knees snug against Cormac who was pressed up to her chest. The wind pulled at her hood, but her snow wall was a good barrier.
Speaking of your spell, what did you do? Ceri coughed slightly, trying to think of a simple answer. It was clear in her head, and she could also feel her spiritual well larger than usual. Sitting in silence for a while Ceriwyn figured out how to say it.
“Empathy. It was empathy.”
Ceri lifted her head. The blizzard hadn’t died down at all while she rested. The snow had only risen even more, and she could only make out slight shapes of the trees around her.
“Almost as if there’s a solid barrier between me and the snow,” she wondered as she stared into the white abyss before her. An unnatural shiver slowly crept up her spine. To reassure herself, she delved into herself and felt for her gift. It was there, but waning fast.
“Do you feel that?” she whispered into her cloak. Cormac rustled slightly.
I’ve been feeling that since we stopped. Ceri moved cautiously into a crouching position. She couldn’t hear anything above the howling whirlwind. Slowing her breath, she let Cormac drop from her cloak onto the frozen ground. He hopped to her side, feathers tense and puffed.
Now she could feel a definite dark presence. Cormac shuffled from left to right as Ceri scooted her back to the tree. She couldn’t tell if it was a daemon or banshee, or something else entirely.
Banshee’s are followed by the sounds of a woman wailing, and I’m not hearing anything like that. Ceri squinted. Stray hairs found their way into her eyes, causing her to swipe them away.
“I can’t hear much of anything.”
A black flash in her peripheral vision was her only forewarning. She raised her arms to cast a basic protection spell.
Ceri tried again, feeling for her gift. She couldn't get a spark of Light within her.
I can’t access my powers, she realized with panic that she was defenseless. Her eyes widened as she gasped at the horror before her. A formless shadow walked smugly and slowly towards her. Ceri's helplessness paralyzed her.
Run you fool! She heard scream over and over in her head, but her legs wouldn't, or couldn't, move. Cormac pulled her hair and bellowed in her ear.
A sudden weight from above her pummeled Ceriwyn to her knees. The edges of her sight began to dim slightly as a constant screech pushed her head lower to the ground.
The cacophony of the wind, Cormac’s squawking, and the non stop shrieking from whatever monster was attacking her made her head ache terribly.
Ceri clutched the sides of her head and screamed.
She felt a wetness trail from her ears and down her jaw. Scarlet droplets dripped stark against the white snow. Trying her best to look up, she saw Cormac flying frantically. The dark, looming figure stood nearby. Ceriwyn couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman, but the cries of it’s deadly voice felt like a repeating violent kick against her head and gut.
Not resisting the pain anymore, Ceri hunched her back and she retched onto the already stained snow. Ceri fell to her onto her side and wept as the agony intensified. The darkness crept to the center of her sight, her perception gone.
The familiar and nostalgic scents of lilac and pine engulfed her, slightly burning her nostrils. Ceri’s eyelids felt crusty from her tears. A tender touch to her cheek helped her eyes flutter open.
Above her leaned a heavenly face framed by chestnut locks and sparkling blue eyes.
“My anwes,” she cooed. The setting around her was a small tent with candles burning in a circle about the two women, each small flame a different color.
Anwes. Her special pet name given to her from her mother. Ceriwyn’s eyes filled with tears once again as she sat up and embraced her mother tightly. Her mother pulled her away, her hands in Ceri’s. Looking down, she remembered her mother’s hands imitated her own.
“The stars represent the Light of our gifts,” her mother recited, tracing her octagram. Ceri remembered well her trials in the Deep Wood. Endless days and nights of memorization and lectures. Her mother’s soft azure gaze looked into her’s expectantly.
“Our gifts reflect the Light within us and give us power others fear,” Ceri continued, “Do not use this power to control that which you shouldn’t. Influence through Truth to bring Light to others.
“Our gifts are not curses or burdens, they uplift and enlighten us.” Her mother smiled, gentle crow’s feet appearing around her eyes.
“Now you know I am not a foreign spirit. You’ve been busy as of late, my daughter,” Mother turned away and sat cross legged opposite of Ceri. Memories flooded back into her. Cormac, the blue eagle man and his short tempered brother, and the monster that attacked her.
“Do you know who attacked me?”
“The question is what, not who. Think my anwes.” Her mother had never told her exactly what Ceri wanted to know. Sorceress’s riddles. Making Ceriwyn find knowledge for herself, by herself with little nudges from her mother.
“A daemon of some sort,” she thought back on it, “But daemon’s don’t have that kind of power,” Mother’s eyebrows went up suspiciously.
“Shouldn’t have that kind of power,” Ceri corrected herself.
Her mother shook her head lightly, “Your fate is now mingled with many, my Ceri. The men hunting you aren’t the real threat, as I hope you have seen. I cannot protect you as I have been anymore,” Mother’s eyes filled to the brim with tears as she stroked her daughter’s cheek with her thumb.
“Return to the Brothers of Purgatory, my anwes,” she continued thoughtfully, her eyes growing pale and hazy. A small dribble of blood trickled from her mouth down off her chin.
“Fight with the Light of the Moon.”
The soft, wet kisses of the snowfall gently woke Ceriwyn. As she came to, her head began to pound once again. She ignored it, noticing she was lying on her back, in a glen. The weight of Cormac on her chest awakening her further. The sky above was overcast and the trees reached up, seemingly curling in towards her.
Ceriwyn! Cormac sounded happy and excited. I honestly thought you’d never wake up.
He hopped closer to her face. Her joints ached and creaked as Ceri propped herself up on her elbows. Her mother’s final words imprinted forever in her memory.
“Cormac,” she croaked, clearing her throat, “Are you alright?” Ceriwyn felt for her power.
She sighed with relief. It was still there, if a little faded. Still recovering from the daemon. Ceri looked around. No one in sight, not even foot prints in the snow showed any indication that an attack had taken place.
Yes, but why are you worrying about me? You’re the one who was almost dead.
“No,” Ceri pondered for a moment, “Something is just trying to show me that they can kill me or harm me at any time, whenever they wish.”
An ultimate threat? His head cocked to one side.
“I suppose.” She scratched away at the crusty blood on her face, thinking of her mother.