Eolyn by Karin Rita Gastreich (Excerpt)

Posted on Monday, October 7, 2013

Chapter 4

Eolyn was approaching her twelfth summer when she met the boy for the first time. Spring bloomed throughout the forest that day, with heavy southern winds forcing back the frosty breath of the north. Fresh pale grass pushed up from the musty wet earth and delicate pink leaves budded from the tall oaks. The songbirds challenged each other with musical contests and territorial displays, as their battles for nest site and mate gathered momentum. The river ran overflowing with the icy water of melted snow. A good bit of mud still sloshed underfoot, but that did not stop Eolyn from dancing after butterflies and rabbits until exhaustion tossed her down on the banks of the river, where she took to watching white clouds race past the tree tops in the blue sky.

Three years she had lived in Ghemena’s care, her fears of oven roasted children long since abandoned. Even if Ghemena craved tender young limbs, no one ever appeared at the cottage for her to prey upon. There were no roads and very few people in the South Woods. Their only visitor was sour-faced old Varyl, a forester who brought them supplies twice a year. Some time ago it occurred to Eolyn that without roads the King’s Riders could never find her. Their swords could never cut down Ghemena, and their torches would never land upon her thatched roof. Eolyn realized she had found the perfect hiding place, and so she decided to stay with Ghemena forever.

Her adopted guardian had taught her how to navigate the maze of trees that concealed their refuge and how to orient herself in the forest beyond the river. As Eolyn grew older, Ghemena set aside a day each week for the girl to rest from her chores and explore the woods on her own. Thus Eolyn became as much at home in the moss-covered corridors as the squirrel that sprang from fir to oak or the wisent that grazed by the river or the lynx that dwelled in the cave on the ridge. Upon returning from each adventure, Eolyn laid out a collection of simple treasures for Ghemena’s appraisal. The elder’s knowledge proved as great as her mother Kaie’s, though it carried a very different flavor. This smooth black rock, for example, could absorb negative energy. This winter sage, if burned correctly, could help release a soul from the Underworld. A pinch of that mushroom boiled for an hour with henbane, laurel and mugwort facilitated flight. A trap spun from the silk of this web could wither one’s enemy. On Ghemena went, revealing uses that extended far beyond the flu remedies and food sources Kaie had taught Eolyn. The girl absorbed it all with eager enthusiasm.

That afternoon by the river, the embrace of the earth and the caress of the springtime wind brought on a dreamy mood. Eolyn had almost dozed off when the snap of a twig brought her to her senses. Her heart stopped and her eyes flashed to the origin of the disturbance, for no animal of the forest ever made noise like that.

Not more than a few paces away stood a boy about her age. Caught in mid-step, he brought his feet together. He returned her stare, looking just as surprised to see her as she was to see him. He wore a sage green cloak over a loose linen shirt and dark pants of finely woven fabric. His hair fell in black curls about his face and his full mouth had stiffened into a slight frown. His thick brows crouched over eyes so dark Eolyn could not decide whether they were night gray or dusky violet. The way he had appeared, alone and out of nowhere, aroused her suspicion.

“Good afternoon.” Eolyn got up and tried to brush the dirt off her skirt, but the effort was wasted since her hands were covered with mud. She straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin, ready to run on a moment’s notice. “You must be lost.”

“No, I am not,” answered the boy, indignant. “I can get back to where I came from . . . I’m just not certain where I am.”

“You’re in the South Woods of Moehn, on the banks of the Tarba River.”

The boy’s eyebrows lifted in astonishment, and Eolyn realized he truly did not know this forest. She wondered how far he had traveled.

“My name is Eolyn. Who are you?”

“Ak. . .” He paused and glanced away, then returned his gaze to Eolyn. “Achim. My name is Achim.”

“Do you have a place to stay tonight, Achim?”

“Of course. I will return home.”

“Do you have to start back right away?”


“Would you like to play then?” Eolyn’s voice went bright with anticipation. After all, many seasons had passed since she had played with another child her age.

“I don’t think so,” replied the boy. Eolyn thought his tone very solemn. “I do not play. Certainly not with girls.”

“That’s ridiculous!” She threw up her hands in disbelief. “How can you not play with girls? Half the children in the world are girls!”

“Not where I live. Most everyone my age is a boy. And when girls appear we are not given leave to speak with them.”

“So it’s not that you don’t play with girls, it’s just you haven’t had the opportunity,” reasoned Eolyn.

“That’s not what I said. . .”  His words trailed off into a doubtful frown.

“I have an idea,” Eolyn offered. “We can look for the rainbow snail. The snail is supposed to migrate up this river during the spring but I’ve never seen it. Ghemena says it grows as big as one’s hand and has a shell made of pearl that reflects all the colors of the world. Would you like to help me find it? That would be more exploration than true play.”

Eolyn could sense the effort he spent pondering her proposal. She could not imagine what he found so complicated about an invitation to play.

“It’s only for a little while.” Annoyance crept into her tone. “If you don’t like it you can just go back home.”

At that his countenance softened. A smile invaded his dark eyes and he grinned in such a way it occurred to Eolyn he was not accustomed to turning the corners of his mouth up like that. Achim reached down to pull off his boots. Eolyn jumped with excitement. Unfettered by anything as unnecessary as shoes she took a head start toward the river.

“The first one to find it wins!” she called over her shoulder.


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Genre - Fantasy

Rating – PG13

More details about the author

Connect with Karin Rita Gastreich on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://eolynchronicles.blogspot.com


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