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The burning spread down my neck and back, the pain
brilliant and scoring, and I clutched at her hand, her
shoulders, and shrieked again. Mother winced and fumbled
silently, her thick fingers pressing hard, too hard, against
my scarred lips.
And then we were racing through the forest night.
The freezing rain lanced like needles against the hissing
scars on my neck and face. QUIET, MY DARLING, MY
DOVE, LEST THEY HEAR YOU IN THE VILLAGE, her
We moved over slick and glittering snow, through
juniper and AETERNA, and my breath misted and crystalized
on the heaped furs, and the dogs in the traces grumbled and
Then it was light, and I lay in a dry, vaulted cavern on a
Above me the druidess L'Indasha Yman rustled, draped in
dried leaves and holly bobs like a pageant of late autumn.
She was young for medicine, young even for divining, and I
was struck by her dark eyes and auburn hair because I was
fourteen years old and just becoming struck by such things.
She gave me the BEATHA to help with the pain, and it
tasted of smoke and barley. The burning rushed from my
scars to my throat, and then to the emptiness of my
"They've matured, the lad's scars," she said to my
mother. "Ripened." Expectantly, she turned to me, her dark
eyes riveting, awaiting our questions.
Mother's hands flickered and flashed.
"Mother wants to know . . . how long ..." I interpreted,
my voice dry and rasping.
"Always," said the druidess, brushing away the