The Water of Awakening, Chapter 1-4 “The Farmwife and the Volva”

My latest book, The Water of Awakening is set to be released on July 7 on Amazon.

In in, Helga, a young newly-married woman, is put on a quest for a strange artifact in return for a cure to her husband’s mysterious illness. This artifact, the Water of Awakening, is held by a clan of strange creatures on the edge of Fay, where reality and dreams are one and the same, and road is long and dangerous. Helga quickly quickly realizes that she is out of her depth, but persists and finds friends in unexpected places.

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She was wakened by a long, bony finger poking her. She sat up with a start and scowled at Rafnhild.

“Don’t you have any decency?” she said.

“Yes,” Rafnhild replied, then walked to the door of the bedchamber. Without turning back to face Helga, she said, “Sun is up, and breakfast should be on the table.”

Rafnhild disappeared into the dark hall. Helga gazed around at the room. It was half-dawn at best. “Three pence for breakfast!”

“One!” The old seeress called back.

Helga quickly got up and put on a simple dress, checked on her husband, then hurried into the kitchen. Rafnhild was sitting at the table, calmly looking at her. “I like my eggs over easy and my bacon crispy.”

“I haven’t got any bacon.”

“What have you got?”

“Salted ham.”

Rafnhild shrugged “Not worth a penny, but… I’m a kind woman.”

Helga fixed the breakfast hurriedly, dropped Rafnhild’s plate down on the table, then shot back to check on Erling. She could hear the old woman smacking even as she walked away.

“Have you considered opening a kitchen?” the old woman said through a full mouth.

“No.”

“That is good. I am finished with my breakfast. Now I will tell you what I have seen.”

Helga rushed back into the kitchen and sat down, though she scarcely believed at this point the old woman would tell her anything of value.

“Your husband is very sick, girl.”

Helga bit her lip and took a deep breath. She said through her teeth, “I know that.”

“His affliction is a spiritual one, born of a curse. It’s colloquially called the Moss Rot. Really, its proper name is the death bell, or mist blight, but since you are simple woman, you should call it Moss Rot. Yes, a bad type of curse.”

“How did he…contract this?”

Rafnhild shrugged. “Probably an old lover who knows sorcery.”

“No. Not possible.”

The crone laughed. “You are young and naive. I forgive you. It could also be a lingering from… communion within the dead realm, but of course that is out of the question.”

Helga stared at her.

Rafnhild laughed again. “So that is what it is! Good. No, bad. Well… good that I am here. You are very fortunate to have one as kind and knowledgeable as me on hand. I did well trusting to my reading, that I should come hither.”

“How exactly am I fortunate? My husband has gone from sick to cursed. I pity to see what you consider unlucky.”

Rafnhild picked at her teeth and said, “Do you want to cure him?”

“Of course.”

“Then you are fortunate, for I know of a way to cure him. In fact, I know all the points of ritual, all the runes to cut. It is a very complicated ritual. Few know it.”

Helga stood up. “If he can be cured, then let us do it!”

Rafnhild laughed at her. “Surely, child, you know that nothing is free.”

Helga narrowed her eyes, but held her tongue. “How much do you want? We are young, and my dowry is light, but I can pay well if I must.”

“Money? Money is the concern of the young and narrow sighted. No, I require something more than money.”

“What is it?”

“I need you to fetch something for me.”

“Name it.”

“Eager, are we? Well, perhaps you should not be. In order for me to cure your husband I will need the Water of Awakening. As full a vial as you can safely hide.”

“What is the Water of Awakening?” Helga asked. She was leaning on the table now, almost standing over the volva, but Rafnhild didn’t seem to notice.

“What is it?” Rafnhild said almost casually. “That is a great question. It is a substance of power, but only for those who have great knowledge of the spirit realm and the fay, such as myself. It will not be useful to you, I think. A better question is where you shall find it.”

“Can you cure him?” Helga said. “Can he really get better?”

“I am not a liar,” Rafnhild said. “I will cure him, body and soul, but first I must have the Water.”

“How will it cure him?” Helga said.

“I must remember that the young are not usually wise.” Rafnhild cracked her knuckles as she talked to herself, then looked up at Helga. “It won’t. It is merely payment for my work. I can gather what materials I will need for the ritual here. Of course, if you are thinking of finding another volva who can dispel the Moss Rot, your luck will run dry. I alone in this part of the world still know the runes. I alone have the skill and the mercy, and the courage, to see it done. Yes, it is very perilous, and you are very fortunate that the spirits called me here.”

Helga sighed. “Very well. Where do I find this Water of Awakening?

Rafnhild rubbed her hands together and smiled, and the light in her eyes was chilling cold. Her voice, rising in pitch, was like a rattle. “Well, the heart of the Fay is where it is, though of course you cannot go the Fay, not without losing your mind and probably your body as well. Lucky for you I know another way. Far east and south of here, there is a great forest that the wise, such as myself, know to be a borderland with the remains of the prim, and a gateway to the oldest and most powerful parts of the Fay.”

“But you said I cannot go there,” Helga said.

“You do not have to. There is a tribe of people there, if people are what you wish to call them. They can travel through the prim safely, and do so. They are called the Watchers, or the Dim Watchers, though you should not call them that to their faces… oh and what strange faces they have. They, I am sure, can fetch you some of the water, for in the Fay it is plentiful, even infinite. It may even be worthless to them. Yes, you are lucky.”

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