Copyright © 2015
Morgan Byrne and Cail, her raven companion, head the Raven Council. Years ago, Morgan received two important missions from Lady Raven. First, recruit other members to Lady Raven’s service. Second, find a suitable human for the Raven Ring. She found recruiting new members relatively easy, but finding the perfect person to wear the ring took time and patience. Nearly forty years later, she succeeded. She found Raven Wyng. 9611 Words.
Screams and shouts filled the air ahead of the advancing army of Shadows. Mundane weapons and prayers did nothing to halt the advance of the creatures from the Other Side.
Morgan Byrne watched in silence from a tree overlooking the village. She shivered at the heaviness pressing on her spirit. The raven ring she wore on her right hand gave off a faint glow that throbbed in time with her heartbeat. Something else crossed with the Shadows to this world. Whatever it is will bring greater grief and destruction than the lesser Shadows. Cail, her raven companion, perched nearby, preening his feathers. A sharp whistle and thunk captured Morgan’s attention. An arrow quivered in the trunk near her hand.
“Fools. They will kill more of their own and not stop the Shadows.” She pulled the arrow free, studying the fletching. “Brendan Grignarson is still alive. Strange, I didn’t see him anywhere, and he’s the one taking charge when there’s trouble.”
“Last time there was trouble here; many villagers blamed Brendan for the attack by the slavers.” The bird yawned.
She nodded. “I know after that raid, he had a new set of armor and a new sword. Something he couldn’t afford before then.” I hope he isn’t involved with this. He’s been a good friend over the years.
“Is it possible he’s working with the Shadows? Or whoever controls them?” Cail ruffled his feathers, settling them in place. “What now?”
“Lady Raven instructed us to wait and watch. She hopes I will find recruits for the Raven Council.” Another arrow flew past, and she ducked. “It’s time we move to another position.”
Cail flew off while Morgan slid down the rope secured to the branch.
Morgan passed through the trees, around the bodies of villagers. A quick look at their white faces told her they were beyond help. She circled the village, the shouts and screams faded, leaving the sound of crows and the crackle of flames filling the air. A few homes burned, the village enshrouded with smoke and cinders. It won’t be long before nothing but ashes are left. Behind a barn, a body near a once-hidden door caught her eye. She knelt by the young woman, her ring sensing a faint spark of life. She held her hand over the body, a silvery glow radiated from the ring on her right hand, expanding to envelope the body.
*Cail, come here. I’ve found one.* Aloud, “Hold on, youngster. I will help if you let me.”
On silent wings, Cail arrived. “I will keep watch while you cross. This area is free of Shadows.”
Morgan closed her eyes, sweat beading her forehead. She followed the link the raven ring formed between her and the half-living young woman. Passing through the Veil, she stood before the white stone arch that led to the world of the living, aglow with a bright silver light. Across the way stood an archway made of black polished stone filled with a dark silvery glow that led to the world of the dead.
The Shade of the young woman stood nearby looking around with wide eyes. “Where am I? Who are you?”
“You’re in the place where spirits go before they cross the final barrier to the world of the dead. Your body still has a spark of life. I am here to make you an offer.” Morgan reached out and drew her aside. “Lady Raven needs help in the war against the Shadows. A Shadow attacked you, but unlike the other villagers, you continue to hold onto life. You have a strong spirit. What’s your name?”
“Raven. Raven Wyng. My f-father was a bowyer and fletcher. He taught me how to use a bow and to hunt.”
Morgan grinned and removed a ring from her belt pouch. “Raven Wyng, I extend the offer to join the Raven Council. This will allow you to continue living and to fight against the Shadows.”
Raven held out her hand, accepting the ring. When she touched it, a silvery glow erupted, surrounding the two. Morgan raised an eyebrow, but kept silent. Raven placed the ring on the middle finger of her right hand. “Now what?”
“Time for us to return to the world of the living, Raven. Welcome to the Council. Follow me.”
They walked toward the white stone arch of the living world.