Hunting the Blue Rim

Spur had hunted this vast swath of forest before. Known as the Blue Rim – from the Strays’ enclaves it looked like a blue-green streak – it undulated its way to the far horizon. She licked her lips in anticipation and snapped her fingers to call out her witch-light. It pooled in her palm, casting a white-blue glare over the rocky hill on whose crest she now stood. The way down into the Blue Rim was perilous even at the best of times, but in the failing light of sunset, it could mean a painful death should she miss a step and tumble to the bottom. Genesis and the other elders said the Blue Rim had once been something called an “oshun”, an enormous body of salty water in which strange animals fed and lived and slept. Spur loved stories about What Came Before, though she did not really believe them anymore; not since she left childhood behind when she began her monthly courses.

Her muscular legs and supple feet picked over the rocky hill with meticulous care, bare toes gripping the embedded chunks of twisted metal and stone she had to climb over and down. The stories held that these ruins were all that remained of a great city, destroyed by war centuries ago. Indeed, above the Rim lay a field littered with the detritus of What Came Before, now reclaimed by forest. At the bottom of the hill, she squatted and searched the ground. Her eyes lit when she saw the edge of a print set in a patch of mud. Rain had come several days ago, soaking the fields and refilling the Strays’ wells. Here under the trees of the Blue Rim, the ground had not quite dried, thus capturing the mago’s print. The size indicated a male of considerable proportions. She crept closer. He must have come here in search of more ruins. The Blue Rim was a holy place for many, including the Strays and the people of Modoa. Indeed, the magos often came on pilgrimages to pray at the shrine of the Green Lady, who lay further on. That was when the hunts began. The Strays felt the magos move through the Blue Rim. The subtle lines of power embedded in the ground trembled and sent vibrations back to the Strays’ elders. And so a hunter was sent. This time, it was Spur’s turn.

The sun had truly set now and the forest stretched out its shadows in ever-deepening pools. Spur could go on, continue to track, but hunger and weariness – it was a five day walk from her home to the Blue Rim, after all – would mean she might face her prey at less than optimal condition. That would not do. She had only one chance left now and had to use every advantage she had to ensure success.

Besides the plentiful plants that provided food, the forest was alive with game. Rabbit, deer, goat, ground fowl, even a vicious cow sometimes made an appearance. And, of course, the unicorns. But the likelihood of the Green Lady blessing her to that degree seemed impossible. Not with two failed hunts behind her.

Other predators roamed here too. Giant cats with fangs and claws like knives, wild dogs, snakes so big they could devour an adult whole. And then there were the Unwholesome. Those creatures who appeared near the end of What Came Before and operated outside the laws of nature. Most of them were extinct now, wiped out by the Modoan magos and the Strays. But a few remained and they were terrible to meet.

As Spur walked in the general direction of the Green Lady, she picked edible berries and fruits in case she could not bring down a meat source. But then she saw a print quite different from the first one she had seen near the bottom of the rise. It was a cloven hoof, small. A spark of excitement leapt to life beneath her breast bone. Spur removed her bow from her back. Her staff went into its loop on her leather back plate, across the quiver of arrows. That was not for hunting food, even if she were hunting unicorn. Her staff was only to be used in the bringing down of a mago. She set her collection of vegetation on the ground and pushed dead leaves and loose dirt over it to discourage all but the most determined of foragers. More hoof prints led the way and she took out an arrow, nocking it to her tightly strung bow. She extinguished her light. Later, it might be useful to blind and confuse her prey, but for now she must use only her senses of touch, taste, and smell to find her way.

Spur placed each step carefully, feeling for impediments that would either cut her bare feet or give away her location. Ahead, starlight lit up a small clearing. She could not see prints in the darkness but she smelled the distinct tang of animal dung. This she followed to the clearing. And there, bathed in dim luminescence while it munched on the sweet grass of the meadow, was a unicorn.

Tears filled Spur’s eyes. Never in her short life had she dared hope to see an actual unicorn. The Strays’ dwellings were covered in paintings of the holy beasts; clay fetishes stood on every windowsill; the robes of the priestesses were embroidered with their likeness; and a very few – those born with the sign of the Green Lady on their bodies – bore tattoos of unicorns. But to see one in the flesh was the secret dream of every Stray. It stood, no larger than an outsized wolf, like a blue star on four spindly legs much like a deer’s and its body was spare and light like a deer’s too. Its long tail, tipped in a brush of cobalt hair, curled and whipped around its flanks. Blue fur sprouted over its leg joints and chin. A graceful neck arched from its shoulders topped by a head something between a goat’s and a deer’s, delicate and sweet. But betraying its true nature were sharp incisors reaching from below its upper lip and the spear of white bone sprouting from the middle of its brow. Beauty and death in one perfect animal, the embodiment of the wild world and the Green Lady’s most holy and rare envoy in the world. Spur did not want to kill it. It was too beautiful. It seemed the height of sacrilege. But to refuse such a gift would offend the Green Lady, perhaps curse her entire hunt. “To see a unicorn was a blessing,” the Strays’ elders said. “To kill one during a hunt a mark of favor. To feast on one, a source of power.” Spur mouthed a prayer of thanksgiving to the Green Lady and raised her bow. The wood creaked slightly but that was enough to rouse the unicorn’s attention. It raised its dainty head and bared its teeth in warning. “Lady, guide my arrow,” Spur whispered and let loose her shot as the unicorn bunched its muscles to spring at her. The arrow, indeed, flew true and planted its barbed head in the beast’s breast. The unicorn gave a melodic cry – lovely even in death – and stumbled to the ground. It gave a last shuddering breath and then went still. A clean kill.

Spur stood dumbly, unsure what to say or do. No one she knew had ever killed a unicorn. She had not even known before this moment if it was possible to wound one with mortal weapons, despite what the elders said. Perhaps it was not dead after all. Perhaps it would spring up and ram its lovely horn into her chest, or bite out her throat with its teeth. Spur approached, cautiously drawing the hunting knife from the sheath strapped to her thigh. She held it ready as she knelt beside the gleaming creature and laid a hand on its still-warm side. Her fingers were black against the sapphire-blue pelt. Her held-back tears dripped down her face. “Forgive me, beauty. I thank you for the sacrifice. I thank the Green Lady for this gift. May I walk in worthiness from this night on.” She kissed each of its hooves. Then, hesitating for only a few blinks, she split the unicorn’s belly, spilling out its entrails. She put down her knife and swam her fingers through the fragrant warmth of its innards until she found the plum-sized heart. With a great jerk, she pulled it free and held it up. Blood ran down her arm. Its redness surprised her. She had half-expected, in the ignorant way of the young, for the blood to be silver or gold, or even clear as water. It both disappointed and comforted her to see that even a legend bled the same as any other animal. Spur held up the heart. “For the glory of the Strays and the Green Lady.” Blood jetted across her tongue as she bit into the warm organ. Much of it was tough, but she ate it all anyway. Next was the liver, a little larger than the heart, but softer and easier to chew.

She left the rest of the carcass for the predators who stalked the Blue Rim, a gift to thank them for leaving her in peace. The Strays did not take trophies, especially not from animals considered sacred. Hunting was not a sport or game. Since she was not in a position to make use of the hide and bones – as she would if hunting near her enclave – she left them for the forest and the Green Lady to reclaim and remake.

She cleaned her bloodied hands and knife on the grass, replaced the blade in its sheath, then returned to her cache of fruit. As she put distance between herself and the unicorn’s carcass, she munched her tiny harvest. Finding a resting place in a fallen tree, hollowed out by time and insects, she curled up in its fragrant belly and slept.

The next day, she reached the Green Lady herself.

This clearing was much bigger than the one in which she killed the unicorn. The trees had made valiant attempts to crowd against the crumbling stone and mangled metal slicing up from the ground around the hill that rose from the center of the clearing, but had yet to overtake it. Spur, pausing her search for more of the mago’s prints, struggled up the steep incline until she stood beside the enormous star-shaped plinth and looked into the face of her goddess.

Only fragments remained of what the elders said had been a mighty monument during What Came Before. The crook of an enormous elbow holding a tablet with raised letters etched on it. Most of the writing was indecipherable to her, but Spur could make out one word. She stopped now and gazed with shining eyes at her goddess’ message to the world. “JULY IV MDCCLXXVI”, she whispered. She did not understand what it meant, but “July”, she knew, meant the same as “Julio”, the name of the Strays’ most holy month. She shivered as though she had spoken one of the sacred incantations used during a moon ritual.

Further off was the goddess’ cracked face, lying half buried in the ground. Spur had been here twice before to ask the Green Lady’s blessing during each of her failed hunts. The goddess had not seen fit then to grant her success. Indeed, Spur had suffered physical injury and unutterable humiliation. The memory of it made her chest tighten, her palms grow damp. This was her last chance. She approached the ruined visage and fell to her knees. The Green Lady’s sad eye and mouth, the only features to have survived, seemed to invite Spur to sit and talk, pour out her worries.

“I’m afraid I will fail again. I don’t want to see the shame and disappointment on the faces of my kin should I return to them for a third time. I don’t want my magic to die.” She bowed her head as tears slipped from her eyes. “Please, help me. I won’t go home again. I will win the mago or disappear into the Blue Rim and let it finish me as it chooses.” Spur clenched her hands into fists. At eighteen she had attempted this same hunt, though the quarry had been different. For a full month she had searched until she had had no choice but to admit that the vibrations of her prey had long since wavered and disappeared. She had returned home, having never even set eyes upon the mago. For two years, she endured the pity and disappointment of her clan while she trained relentlessly for another attempt. On her twentieth name-day, she had struck out again. This time, she cornered her quarry, a female, in a ravine overgrown with suckling vine. They had fought for hours, but the other woman had won and walked away, leaving Spur wounded and shamed. The disgrace had been even worse when she returned to her clan a second time.

No, she would not go home unmarked again. She refused to spend her life in perpetual childhood and servitude while her magic remained asleep and caged until it shriveled and died inside her. But the Green Lady had sent a unicorn – and that changed everything. Giving the goddess a final bow, she stood and searched around the ruins for signs of her prey. A breathy, joyous laugh leapt from her lips when she spied prints that matched the one she had found last night. They circled the plinth, stopped a ways away from the Green Lady – he had not come close for some reason – before doubling back and descending down the hill to the north. Spur turned back to the Green Lady and bowed deeply. “Thank you.”

As she made her careful way down the hill, she saw movement in the trees ringing the clearing. On instinct, she froze and hefted her staff. Magic vibrated up her legs, making her entire body shiver. Her own power struggled to awaken, to respond to the energy calling to it. He’s here. Spur licked her lips and continued down the hill, eyes fixed on the trees.

Fingers slippery on the wooden shaft of her staff, she approached the shade of the trees. Excitement and fear rushed through her veins. She had to consciously calm her breathing lest it give her away. Ducking beneath low-hanging branches, she entered the shadow of forest. A hedge of nettles blocked her way. She blinked at the living wall, at first uncertain if she was dreaming. Turning her head, she looked to either side and saw the hedge ran in each direction until it left her sight. This was no natural growth. The mago had put it there to stop her. As if to confirm her suspicion, she heard a deep chuckle on the other side of the nettles. “Go home, little witch. You’re outmatched. Go home and serve your priestesses, look after the children of your clanswomen. Go home where it’s safe.” Spur’s breath snagged in surprise. Not only did the mago speak the Strays’ language without accent or hesitation, as if it was his mother-tongue, but it was the same dialect as Spur’s enclave. Had he come from her home? Perhaps she even knew him, knew his family.

“Nothing to say, witch? I thought not. I’ll be on my way, then. Safe journey back to your shack and dirt-patch of an enclave.”

Spur ground her teeth against his scorn. Her hands ached as she gripped her staff until it creaked. “I have the blessing of the Green Lady! She has given me with the power of one of her unicorns.”

A long pause followed her shouted rebuttals. Spur almost hoped he would dissolve the wall between them and surrender. Almost. But a mago who yielded so easily was not worth having. At last, in a voice now quiet and free of mockery, he said, “Then use it, little witch.” The vibration of his magic lessened as he moved off.

Spur clenched her teeth and surveyed the thorny obstacle again. She could try to find its end, but it might take days, depending on whether the mago did not keep adding to it the closer she came to bypassing it. Meanwhile, he would reach the outer edge of the Blue Rim and be beyond her reach.

Spur touched one of the thorns, it was half the length of her thumb and wickedly sharp. Her own magic could not circumvent such a spell. Until she claimed her teacher and opened her power completely, she was left with nothing but calling forth witch-light and other tiny spells, amusing and often helpful, but without any true power to change things. “Magic takes both talent and will; power and blood.” Those were Genesis’ parting words to her six days ago. The hunt was as much a test of a witch’s endurance as it was a pursuit of her magical awakening.

Closing her eyes, Spur brought the head of her staff to her lips. The large, unpolished agate embedded in the wood gleamed faintly. “Show me the way.” She lowered the staff again towards the nettles. With a groan, Spur thrust it into the hedge and cleared an opening just large enough for her to enter. Immediately, she was enclosed in a suffocating half-light. Thorns hooked in her skin, tore at her shift. Panic, like a cold, iron spike in her chest, threatened to steal her courage. But she kept her eyes closed, one arm raised before them to keep the thorns from plucking them out, and followed the tug her staff. The agate hummed as it picked up the faint trace of the mago’s power. It pulled her, like a magnet, in the right direction. Spur held on, though blood soon made the wood slippery. Thorns dragged at her cropped hair, jerking tufts of it free from her scalp. Blood trickled from hundreds of places up and down her body. Hours seemed to pass before she fell from the nettle wall and landed in a bleeding, whimpering heap on the other side. For several minutes she lay gasping against the pain, unable to bear the thought of inspecting her wounds. But, she finally pushed up from the ground and cast a fearful gaze over her body. Her shift hung from her shoulders in blood-smeared ribbons. Her dark skin had not fared much better. Releasing her grip on the staff, she struggled out of her back plate, emitting small yelps of pain as it slid over the cuts and nicks covering her arms. The ruined shift came off next. Only her back, protected by the thick leather of the plate had escaped unscathed. Her shift had protected her from the worst of the thorns, but, even so, she bore shallows cuts along her ribs, chest, buttocks, and thighs. Her limbs and face had endured the majority of damage. She needed to wash and treat the wounds, but that would have to wait as, through the haze of pain, the thrum of the mago’s magic called her.

Anger, bright and hot, rose like a cleansing flood, washing away the worst of her pain. Spur struggled to her feet. Wincing and biting her lips so she would not shout, she heaved the back plate on again and picked up her staff. Now nearly naked, she followed the pulse of magic. Behind her bloody footprints marked her path.

As darkness once more overtook the Blue Rim, Spur called up her witch-light and cast its glow over the trees and bushes. The blue-white flame marked the places the mago’s scent and magic spotted the ground and underbrush. No switchbacks that she could see, only a straight path through the woods. She doubted this lack of opposition meant he was ready to surrender. His kind did not capitulate easily, if at all. And Spur would not want it any other way. After two humiliating disappointments she wanted nothing less than complete triumph. And there was her rage to satisfy now. She wanted a fight. She wanted to pay him in kind for the blood she had spilled today.

Soon, wood-smoke, mingled with the sharp scent of water on stone, wafted to her on the evening air. She extinguished her witch-light and allowed her nose to lead her. Full dark had fallen by the time she stepped from the night-black forest and stood on the bank of a meandering river. Spur clutched her staff, lowering its head until it was leveled at her prey.

He crouched before a large fire, naked to the waist. Even bent over, she could see the Green Lady had made him large and fine. Here was a man who took pleasure in the physical as well as mental demands of life. Spur could have put his age anywhere between thirty and fifty. Magos knew how to stretch the years, make their bodies last for centuries or more. His trek through the Blue Rim had made him as dirty and unkempt as she. Cropped brown hair stood up in messy spikes. She could not see his face, but she imagined his beard and mustache better resembled the hedge of nettles than the neat symbols of power most male magos sported. The skin of his back, lighter than her own by only a shade or two, was crowded with tattooed spells. Her eyes roved over those swirling patterns hungrily. The sheer number of them coupled with their complexity spoke of battles fought and won. Soon, she would begin her own collection of spells, but only if she could convince this man to take her on as his apprentice. Head bent towards the fire, he turned a spit loaded with three fat rabbits. Too much for one person – even someone of his size. He had known she would come.

Though nearly imperceptible, her practiced eyes saw his entire body tense. “You’re strong, little witch, I’ll give you that.”

Spur squared her shoulders and came closer as he rose and faced her. The fire behind him cast his face in shadow, but as she drew close, it became clearer. He did indeed sport a tangled beard, the same motley brown of his hair. His lips within that nest were thin and firm. He was not handsome by any means, too hard and spare for such a descriptor. But his eyes, those were the true attraction. They swirled with veins of green and blue and orange. They were eyes of power and wisdom. This man had seen the Green Lady’s true face – not just the shattered idol lying in the forest of the Blue Rim – but the eternal face of the universe. He had looked into the deep well of time and seen What Came Before.

She shrugged out of her back plate, just managing to suppress an agonized moan, and took a preparatory stance, staff ready across her body. “Do you surrender, mago?”

He emitted a sharp bark of laughter and crossed his arms over his inked chest. “To a little girl? You’ve done nothing but tax my patience, witch. I grew bored of your pitiful attempts to track me, so decided to enjoy a decent meal and rest.”

Spur ground her teeth until the muscles in her jaw burned. But the pain helped her tamp down the fire of her anger. Genesis’ voice creaked through her mind, He’ll say and do anything to rile you, make you lose control. Don’t give in. Spur’s youthful temper had been her downfall during her second hunt. When her quarry had hurled insults at her, Spur had gone blind with rage, forgetting her training.

His smile widened. “If you don’t like what I have to say. Either leave or shut me up.”

Spur’s eyes narrowed. He’s an empath. He read her emotions too easily for mere insightfulness. She schooled her heart into a block of stone. She would give him nothing of her to feel – not until she had him in her net. “Do you surrender?”

Though his smile remained, it grew more thoughtful. “You want me, little girl? Come take me, if you can.”

Spur curled her lips into a vicious grin and ground her toes into the dirt, using them to launch her at the mago. As she had expected, he feinted to the side and sent a bolt of power sizzling towards her. She planted her staff against the ground and used it and the momentum she had built up to vault into the sky, above the paralyzing shot. She landed right in front of her quarry and swung her staff in a half-circle sweeping his legs out from under him. She had the satisfaction to see a brief look of surprised admiration on his face before he back-flipped over the fire. He landed in a warrior’s crouch.

“No more smile, mago?”

“There’s no one to tend you out here, little witch,” he replied with a sneer. “When I thrash you, you’ll be recovering for a week before you’re able to limp back to your pathetic enclave.”

Spur snarled. “Do you surrender?”

“To what? A bumpkin with a walking stick?”

Spur slammed the butt of her staff to the ground and blew into the fire. It snapped out towards the mago with a hungry roar. A pitiful little trick, but one that proved useful as he fell back and she leapt over the spit to pin him. He eluded her, though, rolling away and springing to his feet. He delivered a kick to her abdomen, throwing her towards the beach. Her staff flew from her hand and clattered against the rocks as the air rushed from her lungs in a painful whoosh. For a panicked moment, Spur could not breathe and her eyes bulged. From the corner of her vision, she saw the mago hurry towards her. He swung a bare foot through the air in another brutal kick. Spur grabbed a fistful of sand and grit, flinging it into his face. While he stumbled back, momentarily blinded, she lunged for her staff and brought it hard against his ribs. She felt something give with a sharp snick. The mago grunted and fell to one knee, right hand clutching his side. His breath rasped in and out in sharp pants. Spur leveled her staff at his throat. “Do you surrender?” Her voice was harsh and wheezy.

His laugh held no mockery now. “I can do this all night, little witch.” His free hand shot out. With a soft cry, Spur watched her staff fly from her grip and into his waiting fingers. And before she could blink, let alone retaliate, he had cracked the wooden pole against her left arm, breaking the bone. She fell against the rocky beach again, bruising her already battered legs. He stood over her, staff held at the ready. “Do you surrender, witch?”

Spur clenched her teeth together and grabbed the wooden pole, palm over the agate. In her last gambit, she shoved all the power she had access to up the shaft. It ignited like a giant match and the mago let it go with an angry cry. Spur threw aside the flaming staff and struggled to her feet. On her way up, she grabbed a rock small enough to fit in her palm. Her left arm hung useless by her side but she saw the slight curl of the mago’s body around the ribs she had smacked. Apparently, she had broken something. A satisfied smile curled one side of her mouth.

“Something amuses you, witch?”

She nodded. “This.” She tossed the rock at him. For half a moment, his attention was divided and Spur took advantage of his distraction by launching her entire body into him. Pain like red lightning sizzled up her broken arm and radiated through her body as she made contact and sent him sprawling to the ground. She clutched him around the neck to control and guide their fall, making sure she landed on top. Her thighs gripped his torso and she pressed her right forearm against his throat. He stared up at her, their panting breaths mingling. Spur blinked against the nausea threatening to make her either vomit or faint. “Do… Do you surrender, m… mago?” She increased the pressure on his neck when she felt his hands, pinned beneath her calves, ball into fists. Then, he suddenly went limp.

“Well fought, witch. I surrender.”

Surprise made her gasp and let out the breath in a rush. She eased off his throat and sat up. “Truly?”

He laughed, though the sound was weak. “Yes, now get off me. You’re heavier than you look.”

Spur slid to one side and fought to stay conscious as her arm shrieked. He gasped sharply as he rolled to a kneeling position, one hand pressed to his ribs. With a grimace, he took hold of her left arm. Agony lanced up her shoulder and Spur tried to pull away. “Be still,” he snapped. Soon, a steady warmth flowed up and down her arm, wrapping around the broken bone and knitting it back together. “Better?”

Spur nodded, relief causing tears to fill her eyes. He nodded sharply and released her. “Your first lesson begins now. Heal the damage you’ve done to me.” He raised his right arm, exposing the ribs she had broken with her staff.

Eying him uneasily, Spur got to her feet and came to place her hands on his side. The elders taught the young ones about healing, whether they had magic or not. But until a witch’s magic was opened, magical healings were something known only in theory. Still, Spur drew up those long-ago lessons in her mind, picturing the drawings of the human body she had studied. She imagined the smooth curve of the ribs and softly traced her hands over his side over and over, willing the broken ends she sensed beneath the skin to move back together. He hissed, face contorted in an agonized grimace, but did not stop her or jerk away. Soon, his skin grew heated and Spur’s palms tingled. And then she felt it: something within her cracked open. She moaned at the pleasure-pain and closed her eyes. Power flooded down her arms and into the flesh beneath her hands. A deep groan preceded him lowering his arm and pushing at her hands. “Good. A little longer than I’d like, but speed will come with practice.” He pressed the heel of his palm to his side. “You’re thorough and clean at least.” His goddess-touched eyes were shadowed as he stared at her and his mouth was pulled into a thoughtful frown. His fingers brushed her shoulder where a particularly deep cut from the nettle hedge still oozed blood. “That will teach me to underestimate the Stray women.”

Spur chuckled tiredly. “I take it you’re no longer bored?”

He dropped his hand and his frown softened. Not quite a smile, but it made him look less forbidding. “I have a feeling I’m going to have a lot of trouble with you, little witch.”

“The Strays have a saying: ‘Trouble makes the best teacher.’”

He smiled at last, a genuine smile, free of disdain. “So it is. I’m Nedo Maatias.”

Spur raised her brows at the strange name. It was not Stray at all. His eyes narrowed a bit, as if daring her to question him. She pursed her lips instead. Time enough to find out the truth. “Spur.”

“Well, Spur, now that you’re under my protection as well as command, I command you to go and wash so we can treat your wounds. A sickly apprentice is no good to me. And we’ve a hard journey to make tomorrow.”

Spur’s grin unfurled across her face. “Yes, Master Nedo.” She almost skipped to the edge of the water. Relief and joy made the pain from her cuts fade into a dull and bearable ache. Tomorrow they would go on to Modoa, the mago’s city that lay beyond the Blue Rim, and her training would begin in earnest. Someday, she would return to her enclave, burdened with gifts and stories for her clan. Genesis probably already knew about the success of her student’s hunt. The vibration of Spur’s newly awakened power would have traveled back to the old woman and the other elders through the miles of ground between her and them. She hoped they could also feel her happiness and gratitude.

As she stepped into the cool waves, she glanced across the shore and her heart tripped. There on the far bank, watching her with eyes like black crystal, stood a unicorn. It was larger than the one she had killed in the clearing and a paler blue. It slowly dipped its head, as if nodding to her, before it turned and slipped back into the darkness of the forest. Spur swallowed and looked over her shoulder at Nedo. He once more crouched by the fire with his back to the river this time, seemingly unaware of their visitor – though a wise apprentice never underestimated how much her master was aware of. Spur regarded the place where the unicorn had stood. “To see a unicorn is a blessing. To kill one during a hunt is a mark of favor. To feast on one, is a source of power.” She licked her lips, hesitating over the finishing line of the proverb. “But to see one a second time, is a message from the Green Lady – a sign that she has her hand on your life.” And mortals who attracted and held the Green Lady’s attention rarely led peaceful lives, if one lent any credence to the elders’ tales.

Master Nedo has no idea just how much trouble has stumbled into his life. Spur smiled at the adventure spreading out before her.