Today Her Ladyship's Quest welcomes a guest. Cynthia Ravinski author of the emotobook Lingering in the Woods shares an excerpt and illustration from her story.
Lingering in the Woods http://amzn.to/HsxZWE
By Cynthia Ravinski
Why is it taking so long? Usko shivered again. The blankets didn’t warm him. They were soaked with sweat. He gasped, the air burned in his throat then ripped into his chest. Fever baked his body dry, yet chilled him through. Snot incessantly ran from his nose. And his head throbbed as if a horse had kicked it. If he’d had the strength, he would have smiled.
He’d deliberately insulted Kipu in a ritual the last dark moon. Not even his mother, with all her power, could drive away a curse from the goddess of disease. Yet it was taking so long, his body slowly wasted. If the disease didn’t take his life soon, he’d perish from weakness instead.
Another cough racked his chest. He gagged. The phlegm that erupted from his throat slid out of his mouth and dripped onto his stringy beard. It had never filled out. They said he’d never be a true man, that the sparse, reddish wires that grew from his chin proved that he’d never be like the rest.
“My boy,” Satu said as she clutched her son’s arms. Kneeling beside his bed, her raven hair flowed over her shoulder, the tips brushing the floor. “Why aren’t you curing yourself? Don’t leave me here alone. It’s almost winter. You have the power.” Her voice carried on in a squeaky wail, her youthful face contorted as she sobbed.
Usko knew she only cared for her ageless looks, but they wouldn’t keep her warm come winter. Let her reap what she’s sewn. “Mother,” he coughed. His tongue so dry he could hardly rasp, “Remember what I asked.”
Her face smoothed and she withdrew to pace the small space of her hut, her shadow growing and shrinking, caught in the dance of the fire. She began singing. He knew the song. It wasn’t just a humble tune. She was trying to sing him out of his illness with a magical rune song against fever. It was too late for that, and he just wanted her to stop her noise. But he said nothing lest she change runes to lend his body strength. That was the last thing he wanted.
This discomfort was temporary, and nothing compared to what his mother’s kind had done to him. Two decades he’d lived here in exile, kept from his father, forced to live with this woman. No one else welcomed him with anything but curses and stones. Demon spawn they’d called him. And the spirits of his father’s line called to him. As soon as his body rotted, he’d be reborn into his father’s kingdom. Walking with the rest of his kind, he’d find his place.
His mother’s song faded in the middle of a verse. Good. She’s finally realized there is no hope.
Darkness crept over him, the fire dying. He just needed to be patient. He’d discover so many secrets. It couldn’t possibly last more than another night.
“Usko? No. Nooo!”
Has mother gone outside? What could she need now? He didn’t care anymore. Numbness spread through his body as his blood ceased to flow. Yes. Gray flickering blurred his vision. Vitality seeped out of his husk and he slipped away from the small cottage on the taiga.
Satu had gone far enough. She stopped the horse under a scrub pine. It was suitable for Usko’s interment. No spirits had claimed this grove, and the tribe-folk never came out this far.
She worked quickly. This task needed finishing before dark. Over and over again, she buried the head of her shovel in the rocky dirt. When her hair tangled about the shovel, she pushed it back. When sweat ran out of her hair and down her temple, she wiped it away with the back of her hands, smearing dirt across her cheeks.
She dug and dug. Never mind that he’d asked to be left in the sun. The place for her boy would be far from the ground that good folk walked.
Finally, dirt-smeared and itching with sweat, she judged the hole would hold safe the body of her son. The sky lightened and blushed. The sun traveled too fast this day. Widdershins she circled the grave, while she sang a rune. She floated linden leaves down into the grave, making a bed on which to lay her enchantment. She dug into her pouch, a pinch of the dried grit of a distant sea; she tossed it on the leaves. Sung and seasoned, the pit was ready to accept its ward.
She turned to the sledge. He still had a damned smile on his waxy face. He lay in his furs, bow slung over his shoulder, quiver full. She’d folded a handful of cloudberries into a cloth and tucked it into his belt. At any moment he could spring up to hunt for her dinner, but his eyes were wide and dull. He thought he’d gotten what he wanted, freed his soul of its human limitations. How sanguine of him.
She frowned. He’d left her to face winter alone. She stroked the posy at her belt; its power warmed her fingers. She’d show him what he got for leaving her alone.
Like Adj, Usko’s demon father, the spirits of the land had abandoned her. Neither the spirits nor he would ever give her the comfort she wanted. She was truly alone and if the runes were right, a long, cold winter came her way.
“Ingrate,” she snarled and spat on his face. “You left me alone.” She grabbed his ankles and dragged him from the sledge. “You were all I had here.” She kicked him into his grave. He thudded into his new home, face up. Oh well. Too much trouble to climb back down there to twist him around. She clutched the posy and began circling the occupied grave. Winding a red cord round the stems, she sang the names of her chosen plants. Blessed thistle and green juniper sprigs for purification, betony with its purple blooms and birch twigs to dispel evil, and nightshade and willow switches to make Usko forget his life. Reaching the end of song and cord, she twisted the knot. Reaching over the hole, its thorny twigs bit into her hands, as her son had bitten into her life. Good riddance. With a rustle, the bundle landed on his chest. He’d had his chance to stay with her. Now she’d be sure he never went anywhere again.
No one but her would know his remains were here. She covered him with the forest’s floor, returning it to the way it was before she’d come.
You’ve just read a sample of the Emotobook Single, Lingering in the Woods. Written by Cynthia Ravinski. Illustrated by Loran Skinkis. Edited by Alexis Jenny.
Lingering in the woods is available at all major ebook reatailers including
This post continues my Magic Appreciation Blog Tour. My last post was at The Summer Sleeper. http://bit.ly/R1cOyw
Cynthia Ravinski writes Emotobooks, among other things. From her coastal northern setting she wrenches language into stories. She’s been an athlete, a co-pilot, and a world traveler. She’s basked in the light of great poets, and has been educated to high degrees at UMaine Farmington and Seton Hill University. To say she is obsessed with drinking tea is an understatement.
Find Cynthia Ravinski at her Blog www.cynthiaravinski.com
On facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CynthiaRavinskiAuthor
And twitter @CynthiaRavinski