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Authors: Dana Marton

Tags: #Fiction, #Paranormal romance

The Third Scroll

BOOK: The Third Scroll
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THE THIRD SCROLL

By Dana Marton

 

 

 

 

This book is dedicated to Jenel Looney, a treasured friend and incredible cover artist.

 

With many thanks to all who provided encouragement and/or their special skills along the way: Susan Mallery, Adel Kiss, Linda Ingmanson, Toni Lee, Pat Cleveland, Anita Staley, my friends at SHU who gave me early feedback, and all my wonderful Facebook friends. I appreciate you more than words can say.

 

www.thethirdscroll.com

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

THE THIRD SCROLL Copyright © 2012 by Dana Marton. All rights reserved. Published in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the author.

 

www.danamarton.com

First Edition: May 2012

 

 

 

Reviews:

 

"...Marton excels at worldbuilding and character development... readers will find it impossible not to care what happens next to Tera. It's impressively easy to become immersed in Marton's fantasy world." Kirkus Review

 

 

~~~***~~~

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

(Twelve Blue Crystals)

 

 

We did not have rice to eat with the fish my father, Jarim, might catch. We have not had rice for a long time. Sometimes we did not have fish, either. As I sat in the swaying branches on the top of the tallest numaba tree, I prayed that he would catch
something
for that night.

Traders never came to our rocky beach since my mother died, and few of the sick made the long trek from the village these days. I had passed into womanhood from childhood, but my healing powers had not arrived.

Next to me, Koro hung on to the branch with both hands, his sateen tunic—befitting the only son of a wealthy father—soiled from the climb. The wind ruffled his golden hair, pushing it into his eyes, the exact mellow brown shade as the tree bark. He would not glance down but instead kept his gaze on me. “I talked to my father about visiting yours tonight.”

I looked away. “Jarim is in a bad mood. He had nothing but bad luck with fishing lately. Maybe next week.”

“Next week my father will leave on another trading trip.”

“When he comes back, then.” I turned back to Koro and felt guilty at the sadness I had put on his face. But I would never have my healing powers if I married now. Despair sliced through me at the thought of him coming with his father to present an offering.

“Tera, you are—” he began in that soft voice of his that had comforted me so many times after my mother’s death.

I shook my head, stopping him. “When your father returns from his journey.”

A trip to the farthest Shahala villages could take a full moon crossing or more. Maybe enough time to cajole the spirits into sending my powers to me. Powers like my mother’s, not like my great-grandmother’s, I added silently, to make sure that no spirit who might be listening to my thoughts would misunderstand me.

Koro nodded, the disappointment on his face turning into a fond smile. Truly his face was welcome in my sight, his friendship valued from the bottom of my heart, but I could not give him what he longed for, not yet, not for a while.

My stomach growled.

My resolution wavered.

I could refuse Koro, but how long could I say no to the bride price? Even if I could endure the hunger, a good daughter would not starve her father.

“They will hurry on this trip.” Koro watched the lone cloud above us. “They will want to be back before the rainy season begins.”

For a second I saw the sky as it would be soon, a damp gray blanket thrown on the sun, keeping it captive. I swallowed the lump in my throat, blinking the image away. Jarim and I could not survive another rainy season like the last. Toward the end, only the occasional strand of seaweed washed to shore had kept us from starving. I could still feel the dark, gnawing pain in my belly every time I thought of it.

If those hunger-filled days taught me anything, it was that if I could not heal, I was nothing.

The breeze from the sea strengthened and moved the branches around us. Our perch swayed. Koro held on tight with both hands, his face turning pale.

“Maybe you should go. Your mother might need help with the twins.”

“Of course. And you would want to perform your ceremonies.”

Nothing but kindness sounded in his voice, but I caught a flash of disappointment in his eyes, along with a faint trace of hurt.

I had managed to offend him, at once implying he could not handle the climb and that I did not want him with me.

“I will visit again in a few days, if you do not mind,” he said as he slipped to a lower branch carefully.

“Of course not.” Even to my own ears, the words sounded insincere. I cared for Koro. He was my childhood friend. But the great shadow of marriage had come between us lately, threatening the only thing I ever wanted.

I watched him climb down and disappear in the dense foliage below me, swallowed by a profusion of palm-size round leaves. Then I turned to the task that had brought me to my perilous perch. As a healer, or almost one, I spent a fair amount of time with potion gathering.

I said my prayers to the spirits and bowed before them. I thanked the numaba tree for sheltering the moonflowers that lived in the crook of its branches. I thanked the flowers at length for their dew as befitting a great gift. Then I tipped one of the large flowers in front of me, the haunting color of the twin moons, and collected the tiny drops that nestled inside the creamy soft petals. I moved to the next flower and the next, filling the small phial that hung on a cord around my neck.

The ritual of the harvest filled me with peace, but as soon as I finished, frustration nudged its way back into my heart. I loved collecting potions, but the time had come when I wanted more than this.

“The spirits know when the healer is ready, Tera,” my mother had told me a hundred times, trying in vain to quell the sea of impatience inside me.

I was so very ready. Why could the spirits not see?

I pushed to my feet on a sudden impulse, balancing on the swaying branch, and stood over the endless forest that covered our hill. Mountain of No Top stretched on the horizon, the dwelling place of the spirits.

Beyond the mountain lay the desert and the Kadar lands. For all I cared, they could both fall into the sea. Of the large Island of Dahru, I cared only about the Shahala lands of my people and my family’s beach.

Careful of my center of balance, I spread my arms and tipped my head to the sky, the wind whipping my hair around my face.

I shouted my heart’s desire into that salty wind. “Great spirits, I am ready!”

A wild gust rushed my words across the undulating emerald carpet of the treetops, ruffling the leaves. Birds of a dozen colors, like dazzling jewels tossed into the air, took wing.

I waited for the spirits to respond to me, to touch me, but I felt nothing. I could only hear my mother’s soft voice in my ear, words I had heard a million times.
“You cannot rush the spirits.”

I hung my head. She would have been dismayed by my willfulness and impatience if she were with me.

Disappointment clenched my teeth as I climbed down the tree, watching where I put my feet at every step, even though I had made the climb a thousand times before. I stepped from one thick vine to the next as they wrapped themselves around the tree’s smooth grey bark. My clothes stuck to my skin. Up in the treetops, I had the wind, at home a constant breeze blew on the beach from the sea, but in the woods, the hot air stood still.

I wished my mother were with me still, showing me wonders like the flowers and birds that lived on top of the tall trees. Maybe she had many more secrets she had not had time to share, things I would never know, could never show my own daughter someday.

I did want a family. But not before my healing powers came to me. I could cure without them, help others with potions and poultices, powders and teas. But true healing, my mother had warned me—the knitting of bones and binding of spirits—would be lost to me forever if I rushed the sharing of my body.

I had to make sure Jarim understood this before anyone came to offer for me. I climbed faster. In my hurry, a broken branch snagged the worn linen of my thudi, leaving a slight tear. My traditional thudi had its puffy legs gathered to narrow cuffs at the ankle. Its waist was fastened with a twisted length of blue shawl, as tattered as the strip of linen bound tightly around my middle up to my armpits.

I kept moving. I never thought that the snag might have been a warning from the good spirits resting on top of the numaba tree. If they had whispered
Little Sister, do not rush, watch out
, I did not hear.

To avoid another sharp branch, I had to turn away from the tree a little, now on the beachside of the thick trunk. Jarim stood in front of our home, four men around him. I brushed the hair out of my face and pushed a leafy branch aside for a better glimpse. They were not Shahala. I did not recognize their strange clothing. Maybe they were traders. If only we had something to trade.

Jarim was gesturing as if trying to convince them of something very important, his arms going up and down in a choppy motion like the wings of the small chowa bird.

I stopped. I had left my dress and my veil at home, as always when going for a climb. I could not let strange men see me like this.

But what if they had come for healing?

I tried to help the few who had not heard of my mother’s death and made the arduous journey, but despite the healing potions, I rarely succeeded. Jarim said I did not have the power in my hands, but I knew the truth: I did not have the power in my heart. Something inside me was missing, and the spirits sensed it.

Sometimes, secretly, out of sheer frustration, I blamed
him
. My mother had been a Tika Shahala, a healer from the highest order. Jarim, a foreigner, weakened her Shahala blood, robbing me of my heritage.

I slipped to the next branch, and it dipped under my weight, the leafy end shifting, and I saw the visitors’ ship at last, bobbing in the water some distance from the beach. My fingers went numb as I recognized the black sails.

A slaver.

The sea churned furiously around the ghastly vessel, foaming at the mouth. I shivered despite the heat.

I had seen a slave ship once, years before. An illness on board had brought them to seek my mother. The fame of her powers drew all manner of people to us day and night, never giving her a moment of rest. She did not seem to mind. She did everything with a smile. She had the kindest face of any woman, always comforting, making the sick believe they were already well even before she began her cure.

I only saw her sad once in all her life, the day the slave traders came to shore. She helped them, like she would anyone else, taking a boat to the ship and staying on it well into the night.

The Shahala did not own slaves—my people found the practice distasteful. But the Kadar did, attracting unscrupulous traders from the nearby kingdoms that dotted the sea.

The Kadar had to be the most terrible people anywhere, I had thought, but it was not until months later that I truly learned to despise them. From visitors, we had learned that the Kadar High Lord had fallen gravely ill. My mother, with her caring heart, wished to go and heal him.

She sailed away and never returned. Two whole moon crossings passed before word reached us from a trade ship that she had died on her journey. Whatever healing the Kadar had demanded of her had killed her.

BOOK: The Third Scroll
13.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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