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Authors: Patrice Sarath

The Crow God's Girl

BOOK: The Crow God's Girl
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The Crow God's Girl

By Patrice Sarath

Copyright 2012 Patrice Sarath







Dear Mom and Dad,

Well, I’m here. It’s not so bad, and I don’t want you to worry, even though I guess you will. The Terricks are taking good care of me. Mrs. Terrick is nice. I like her. She showed me how to spin on a spindle the other day. I know, mom, but it’s important here. I think it’s called housewifery? I remember that from one of my social studies classes. It’s not physics or calculus, but running a big house like this one takes a lot of work.

Kate paused to rub her fingers. They were smudged with ink. She dipped the quill pen and began again.

Mr. Terrick is exactly the way I remember him. Gruff and kind of forbidding. He reminds me of that judge that you introduced me to at the Christmas party last year? But he means well, and he’s kind of nice. He even

She stopped. Would her parents understand when she wrote, “He even smiled at me this morning”? Look, she told herself, it’s not like they’re really going to read this. They would never even see it. The gordath, the portal between her home in North Salem, New York, and the country of Aeritan, was shut tight. The only indication there even had been a portal was a strange malevolent shimmer in the air. Only then had it really hit her–she would never see her parents again.

That was two weeks ago, two weeks in which she had to slough off her old skin of Kate Mossland, junior in high school, horse-crazy suburban girl with straight As, a driver’s license, and college applications on the horizon.

Now she was just Kett, foster daughter of the House of Terrick, betrothed to Colar of Terrick, the eldest son. This was her new home. No school, just learning huswifery. No bathrooms, but chamber pots. No TV or computers, just thick paper and a scratchy quill pen.

Kate knew that she was being foolish, writing a letter her parents would never read, but it made her feel as if she were still connected to them. It was comforting. She didn’t have much time either. She knew from experience that crossing the portal between America and here meant that once her brain reset, she wouldn’t be able to read and write in English anymore, and the final connection would be severed. She had to tell them everything while she still could, so she put the s
cratchy pen to the paper again.

He even smiled at me this morning.

Colar has two brothers, Aevin and Yare, and a little sister, Erinye. He had another sister, but she died. He said it was probably something we could have cured back home. That’s so sad, isn’t it? That’s why I plan to become a doctor in Aeritan. Aren’t you proud of me? Haha. I know, you always wanted me to be a doctor.

She put in a smiley face and continued.

Aevin is okay, except he is constantly trying to prove himself and it gets tiring. Yare’s a little pain in the butt, and Eri’s a sweetie. We share a room and I look after her.

Kate paused again, thinking about that. It seemed to help Lady Beatra that she was there to make sure Eri was dressed and clean and had someone to keep her company at her chores. She didn’t mind doing it, and had stepped up without being asked, but now that it was expected, she wasn’t sure how she felt about it. She didn’t know how to put any of that in the letter, so she carried on.

I want you to know how much I love you and miss you. I’m in good hands, okay? I’ll write as often as I can, and maybe someday, you can read these letters.



Her vision blurred and she sat back so that she wouldn’t let a teardrop fall on the letter. She strewed sand across the paper and blew on it, then set it aside so the ink would dry. Kate blinked back tears as the door ope
ned behind her and Eri came in.

“Kett, mama said it’s time for dinner.”

“Okay, I’ll be right there.”

She got up, sniffed and wiped her face with her sleeve. Eri watched her seriously.

“I’m sorry you’re sad, Kett.”

“Thanks, sweetie. I know.”

Eri came over and took her by the hand. She looked at the letter on the thick, coarse paper, cocking her head. The lamplight cast her delicate face in shadow so the child looked like a Renaissance subject in her kerchief and simple dress.

“Is that writing?”

“It is.”

“How can you read it?”

“It’s easy for me now,” Kate said. “It goes away after I’ve been here long enough, and then I will be able to read and write in Aeritan.”

To forestall more questions she squeezed Eri’s hand. “Let’s go. I’m hungry and I don’t want to keep your mom and dad waiting.”

Eri giggled. “You’re funny, Kate.”

“I’m funny! You’re the funny one, you silly kid you.”

Eri laughed louder and they teased each other on the way down the stairs.


The Terrick holding was more a fortress than a house.
The square stone structure faced the old road leading away to the rest of Aeritan. The house was as stern and weathered as the current Lord Terrick, now her foster father. The road was lined with ancient elms, their spreading branches giving comfort and cover to travelers. Kate and Colar had ridden up that avenue when she brought him home to Terrick from North Salem.

Now she knew how Colar felt almost a year ago. To save the boy’s life after the last battle of the Aeritan war, his father told her to take him back through the gordath with her. There doctors had patched him up, and she stood by him as he navigated his new world of school and cars, computers and science class, airplanes and modern plumbing. And now it was her turn to become Aeritan, just as Colar had made his peace with his new world.

Kate and Erinye slipped into the dining room. The family stood by their chairs at the shining table. Lord Terrick would arrive last, per custom. Aevin and Yare sat on the left, and Colar sat at his father’s right hand. His mother Lady Beatra sat at the foot, and there were two empty chairs for Eri and Kate. Even that stinker Yare sits higher than I do, Kate thought.

It shouldn’t have mattered. She knew who she was and her own value, and all the ingrained sexism of her new world couldn’t change that. It still grated. Maybe that was in her expression, because Colar caught her eye and shook his head slightly. She gave him a half smile, half-grimace, and took her place next to Lady Beatra, Eri on the opposite side.

“You’re late,” Yare told her across the table. “And Eri’s face is smudged. Mama!”

You rotten little brat, Kate thought. She flushed. She had forgotten, again, to make sure Eri was kept clean and presentable. The little girl looked as beautiful as always, but to be sure there was a smudge on her cheek and her simple smock was awry.

“Sorry–” Kate began, but Lady Beatra made a gesture.

“Yare, hush. Eri is old enough to make herself presentable. Are you not, Eri? Try not to disappoint your father, as he loves you very much.”

“I’m sorry, Mama,” Eri said in a small voice.

Kate’s stomach clenched. The terror of obligation to one’s parents, their honor, and above all their love permeated all things Terrick, even a simple meal.

Lord Terrick entered the room, bringing the smell of outdoors with him, of sweat, well-worn clothes, supple leathers. It was another thing to get used to. People were clean, but there was no getting around the aroma of the human body.

Lord Terrick’s gaze flicked down the table and back. Kate’s back stiffened, and she thought even Lady Beatra’s did. To her relief he didn’t cast a particular grim eye over Eri. Saved by the lack of electricity, she thought. The dining room was illuminated with plenty of oil lamps but was still dim.

“By the grace of the high god who holds us all in his hand, we are blessed with food and shelter,” Lord Terrick said. He sat, and they followed suit.

The meal was simple yet hearty; spiced lamb, flatbreads, stewed greens and red potatoes. Every bite tasted like sawdust. Kate chewed diligently and without savor. She fumbled to eat with a spoon and a knife. Her first dinner at Terrick, still terrified and exhausted from their long journey home, she had made a small joke to Colar about inventing forks. She thought he would laugh. She thought he would accept her offering of their shared history. Instead, he looked at her seriously and said that she would get used to a knife and spoon, like he had gotten used to forks.

She washed down an impossibly tiny bite with an even smaller sip of Terrick brandy, which tasted like mouthwash and which she loathed. As always it made her break out into a sweat, even the polite taste she had taken. She concentrated fiercely on her dinner, not even trying to catch Colar’s eye. She had tried that at their second dinner, hoping to get a smile from him, only to have Yare shout, “Mama! She’s making eyes at Colar!”

Her face flamed at the memory, or maybe that was the brandy.

Lord Terrick was going around the table, asking everyone their business. When he got to Eri, his eyes narrowed and Kate held her breath, but he said only, “Erinye, have you practiced your letters today?”

“No, lord father,” Eri said in a small, frightened voice.

“I see,” Lord Terrick said. “Perhaps you had better things to do than improve your mind?”

Yare made a derisive noise, then jumped in his seat, by which Kate thought that Aevin had kicked him under the table. Good, she thought at the boy.

“I–I” Eri started.

Lord Terrick waited politely, and when it was clear that he had silenced his daughter into frightened immobility, he turned to Kate.

“Perhaps our foster daughter can help you, Erinye. Kett’s knowledge and understanding impressed us all last year. You learned to read and write with Talios, among your lessons as his apprentice, did you not?”

“Ye–yes, sir, I did.” Kate winced inwardly at her own stumble. “I would be happy to help Eri with reading and writing, and arithmetic too.”

“Arithmetic! Learned indeed. Erinye, how would you like to be Kett’s pupil?”

Eri beamed with relief and Kate smiled back at her.

“So it’s decided then.” He turned toward his wife, but Kate interrupted.

“Lord Terrick, I can’t yet.”

The entire table fell silent. Kate took a deep breath. “I can’t read yet in Aeritan. I’ll be able to in a few weeks, but it takes a while.”

Lord Terrick’s expression was unfathomable. Kate hurried on. “Same thing happened for Colar. Right?”

She turned to Colar. “It’s true,” he said. “But,” he frowned. “It didn’t take me that long–a half-month?”

“Yes,” and now she was babbling. “Longer even, because you were in the hospital, and it wasn’t until you were out and at home that we even began to try to read and write, remember? We started with
Catcher in the Rye
, because you were going to need it for freshman English.”

Her voice faded. Lord Terrick and Lady Beatra were looking at the both of them, their expressions full of uncomprehension. Yare had a look of evil glee.

Catcher in the Rye
,” Colar repeated, as if the memory wasn’t a pleasant one. She had to admit, he had a point.

“When you can, then,” Lord Terrick said finally. “Arithmetic,” he added in a considering voice. “Perhaps you should also teach Yare.”

Kate and Yare looked at each other in equal disgust.

“Of course,” she said through gritted teeth.

“Yes, lord father,” Yare said, but she could tell by the gleam in his eye that he had no intention of obeying. Great, she thought. And it’ll be my fault if he doesn’t learn a thing.


Eri, freshly washed and tucked into bed
, yawned in the candlelight. Kate sat next to her, braiding the little girl’s hair. She wore a flowy nightgown just like Eri’s, and wished for her camis and pajama pants, so comfortable that girls used to wear them to class. The nightgown was good for one thing however, and that was hiding her T shirt and jeans that she wore under it, so she could sneak out as soon as Eri fell asleep.

“Are you going to tell me a story?” Eri asked.

“Sure,” Kate said. “Here’s a fun one. Have you ever heard of the Three Billy Goats Gruff?”

BOOK: The Crow God's Girl
6.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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