Prologue

Young Teresa is the daughter of a merchant, but herself is just a peasent on the dusty streets. She is protective of her village, even though many of the folk do not respect her.
When something begins to cause trouble around the village, Teresa is thrust into a world that she'd never imagined. A world that she had once lived, but had been stolen from like an animal wandered astray.

Tongues of black water rushed through the gorge at frightening speed, whipping up white rimmed currents and clashing waves. The sound of the river crashing through the ragged, sandy bed roared in the woman's ears, drowning out the steady sound of her steed's hooves touching the ground.

The mare flattened its ears against its head and snorted as the woman straightened her back and moved with the shifting shoulders under her leg bones. Hot sweaty fur clung to her skirt. The ware and exaustion of traveling ached at her bones, and made a settlement in her food-waning stomach. A bundle of linen and cloth settled  on the woman's lap. The infant slept soundly despite the raging river.

Pebbles clattered down the steep slope, and the horse squealed as it slipped dangerously to the side, wavering over nothing but a long stretch of bare, white-washed rock before the tide looming below. The woman tugged its mane to the right and hovered there for a few moments, staring up into rocky darkness above. Dawn was slowly reaching the land through golden spider web laced between the clouds. Milky sparkles settled over the hills in the distance. The water shimmered with brillant white reflections. The woman sighed inwardly, then trotted on.

A shadow cast along the gravel-laiden ground from a cliff overhang that protruded from the mountain wall above, tufts of grass leaning over the edge and droplets of water ceaselessly dribbling down the damp face of rock. The horse flared its nostrils, but carried on to the press of its riders thighs. She squinted at the break of morning, then pulled in and listened. The river growled relentlessly somewhere far below. Eagles circled in the sky. Clouds parted to reveal a day like that of an egg overcast, split, with a yellow yolk spilled out across the sky.

"Onwards!" She barked hoarsly, clearing her throat and pushing the mare forward, risking speeding around the narrow corner and up the next flurry of rocks and boulders.

It was becoming more and more impossible for the horse to follow the path. The woman pulled it to the side and slid off its back with the ease of many years of practice, bundle rested on the bough of one arm. She pulled it into the shade and patted its rump, then grabbed a crack in the rock with her fingers and pulled herself onto the next ledge. A few metres up was the cliff. She reached up and touched the blade of grass that drooped over. Life.

She grabbed the jagged stone with bleeding hands and struggled against the flat surface and pushed the baby onto the flat of turf. The newborn gave a wail of distress, face red as tears dribbled down its cheeks. It's mother clung there to the edge, breathing raggedly, palms straining. Her arms burned with the effort to hang on. The child screamed and struggled in the folds. The mountain gave a grumble, and from the lurking shadows came the glow of lantern eyes. A snake-like hiss cut sharp into the air. The woman let out a sigh of relief, stared at the baby, then at the creature pulling itself out to glint like a jeweled statue in the sun. She released her grip on the rock and plunged against the howling wind, clothing flurried by the fall, cascading for the dark, toothy, unforgiving waters.

 

The End

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