Author’s Note: This is Part 2 of the prequel blog serial entitled “What is Needed”. This series is a companion to The Bow of Destiny (Part 1 of The Bow of Hart Saga) as expanded writing samples for the concluded Indiegogo campaign for the novel. The events of the blog series pre-date those of The Bow of Destiny by several hundred years but include several long-lived characters who appear in the forthcoming novel. This material is copyrighted and not intended for reproduction except at the author’s consent. Note: I’m releasing this part in sections so there will be more to read on Sunday.
What is Needed (Part 2)
by P. H. Solomon
Hands grasped Hastra. She screamed. It’s killing me! Her heart thudded in her ears. I’m dying. She stared into the blackness.
“Get it off me!”
Zelma’s face, ringed with light, replaced the darkness. “Sister, what’s wrong. You’ve fallen.” Tears brimmed in Zelma’s green eyes.
“It was here, a hobgoblin. It attacked me.” Broken crockery and ruined food lay strewn on the rough stone. Hastra groaned, lay back on the cold floor and grabbed her head. “Another vision?” Tears streamed on her cheeks. Breathe. Her chest heaved.
“What’s wrong?” Someone called. “Do you need help?”
Zelma helped Hastra sit up. “My sister is injured and fell.”
Someone stepped closer. “What do you need?”
“Howart? That’s Howart.” Hastra twisted and placed her back against the stone wall. The gaunt Withling stood in the pool of light at the corner.
Zelma coaxed Hastra to her feet. “Send a student to clean the mess and have another bring more food to our room. It’s second level, seventh door on the right. Hastra’s weak from her travels.”
“Can you get her to your room?”
Zelma nodded and displayed a weak smile. “What is needed is given.”
Hastra trained her voice to a low tone. “Good, I’m not ready to share visions yet.” There was no impression for action or meaning—yet. She winced when she put weight on her leg.
Howart frowned, nodded and left.
Hastra leaned on her sister as they hobbled away. They arrived at the stair and struggled at each step until they gained the next floor. Hastra hoped there was a prayer for her hip or she expectd being gimpy for a while. She sucked air through clenched teeth as her boot soles scraped on wooden stair.
“You’ve had visions?” Zelma huffed and grunted as Hastra pushed against her.
“Yes, the first knocked me off my horse and that’s how I got hurt. Thank Eloch, Kregen helped me.”
“Tell me what you’ve seen.”
Hastra shook her head. “Not here, not yet.”
They shambled to their door and Hastra hopped to her bed while Zelma closed the door. The young woman rounded on Hastra with arms crossed and brow creased. “Tell me why this vision’s so secret in Withling’s Watch.”
Hastra rubbed her leg and related the exact details. “Darkness howled from the gate with a gust of wind and punched me from the saddle. There was fire-“
Zelma whirled at a feeble knock and snatched the door open. “Good, this is good. Is the floor cleaned?” The young Withling closed the door as the student mumbled an answer.
She handed the plate to Hastra who nibbled and waited as the student’s footsteps faded. She related the condition of the gates, the screams and everything else between mouthfuls of warm food. Zelma stood with her head cocked and the furrow between her eyebrows unwavering. She had Zelma’s attention now. Hastra paused, bit into her bread and chewed.
“And in the passage?” Zelma motioned in the direction of the stairwell.
“A second vision.” Hastra nodded with vigor. “Yes, on the heels of the first. A hobgoblin stepped out of a door and attacked me as darkness descended again.”
Zelma sat on her bed and leaned forward with her elbows braced on her knees. “That’s rather emphatic, two in one night.”
“But there’s more.”
“Ah, good you haven’t told me your impressions or inclinations. These are pivotal to interpretation.”
Hastra frowned and set her plate aside. “That’s just it. I have none.”
Zelma leaned further forward. “Nothing at all? There must be something.”
Hastra brushed crumbs from her skirt. “It’s like an empty well. It should have water but the bucket brings nothing up.”
“You need to write it in the Book of Prophecies. Someone else will know what it is for, what the interpretation is.”
An edge crept into Hastra’s tone. “Didn’t you hear me? I have nothing from Eloch instructing me what to do, not even that.”
“Then maybe it’s not real. If I didn’t know better I’d say you were…” Zelma fell silent and lowered her head.
Zelma displayed a weak smile. “Perhaps over-worked. You said yourself you pushed to return before the winter snows.”
“I’ve only been allowed to tell you this. There is warning and likely danger but it is not to be spread, at least not yet.”
Zelma stood and opened the door.
“Where are you going? Give me something more since I’ve been allowed to share this with you.”
“I have. Enter your visions in the book or go to sleep and forget them. Either way I’m due to say prayers.”
The first snow of winter blew drifts in the courtyard for three days and Hastra’s leg ached worse each day. She left her haggard reflection in the mirror and shuffled with Zelma to prayer on the morning after the snow ended.She refrained cursing the stairs on the arduous descent to the main floor. Stray words meant to her and all Withlings.
Other Withlings milled outside the chapel. Someone in the crowd laid a hand on Hastra’s arm. She paused at an old man in a felt hat. Hastra bobbed her head for a better view of the stranger’s face but got none in the morning shadows.
Zelma kept walking. She waved at one of her friend’s and turned to Hastra. “Stay here, I’ll be right back.”
Hastra nodded with a grimace as she rounded on the other Withling. “Good morning, I don’t think I know you.” Hastra avoided putting weight on her injured leg.
“We’ve met.” The old man waved his hand.
Hastra glimpsed a twinkle in his eye just under the brim. “I just don’t remember—perhaps it’s the hat?”
“You need that hip healed. May I?” Without waiting her consent, he reached around her and touched her lower back and spoke words Hastra didn’t quite understand.
The pain dispelled in a moment.
Hastra sighed. “That’s a relief. Thank you.”
The old Withling nodded with a wisp of a smile.
Hastra didn’t find Zelma close. Where’s Zelma? There’s a message in that injury and the timing. She wheeled back to ask her healer’s name again. And he’s gone. Hastra brushed past the three smiling sisters from Grendon. What are their names? Zelma’s hair blazed in the crowd where it thrust from beneath her head scarf.
“There you are, sister. I’ve gotten a healing this morning.” Hastra flexed her painless leg.
“Who?” Zelma’s head swayed as she searched the crowd.
“I didn’t recognize him but he’s wearing an old, wide-brimmed hat.” Hastra sat on a wooden bench beside Zelma.
“Oh, he’s probably left it outside.” Someone cleared their voice as the morning cantor started prayers.
Halfway through the intonation Hastra’s head rose before she remembered herself and bowed again. She’d serve in the Hall of Silence until she had more direction. Her smile grew throughout the end of the prayer as the dour mood of several, painful days crumbled from her face like melting ice.
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Thanks for reading.
P. H. Solomon