And my heart beats, p.1
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       And My Heart Beats, p.1

           Blair MacKinnon
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And My Heart Beats


  And My Heart Beats

  Copyright 2015 Blair MacKinnon

  Thank you for downloading this e-book. This book remains the copyrighted material of the author, and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book please encourage your friends to download their own copy from their favourite authorised retailer. Thank you for your support.

  Table of Contents

  Awakening

  Beast

  Phoenix

  Acknowledgements

  About Blair MacKinnon

  Connect with Blair MacKinnon

  Awakening

  I float between the land of dreams and the world of the real. Warm, loved, at peace and my heart beats with the rhythm of my breathing. Slowly, I am pulled into the world of the real – the fresh smell of rain on grass, the tinkling of wind chimes, the warmth of sunlight on my face. I sit up and take one long, slow breath before opening my eyes and releasing the land of dreams. Sunlight streams in through the windows of the cabin. I look up above the hearth …..and my heart stops. Gyllen’s sword, the sorrow and the pride of our family, hangs there. The Beast has returned and this day is the day I am to face it….. and my heart beats again, faster now. It is time to greet the day, perhaps my last. I meet it with gratitude and joy.

  I open the door and walk into the light of our two suns, yellow Mirath hangs in a deep blue sky freshly washed by the rain, while smaller, red Arat peeks just over the hills of Moran to my right. Tarakona buzz and hover over the river to my left, flashes of darting blue iridescence in the morning light. The forest is before me, dark, threatening, predatory. The memory of the forest of my childhood is in my mind's eye, bright and vibrant. It has changed, the darkness of the Beast lies at its heart now. Tears of grief and loss come unbidden. I give them to the morning light and let them go - today is a day for hope, not fear and grief. I turn away from the forest, it is not yet time to enter there.

  Eyes closed and arms outspread I recite the Prayer of the Suns - and my heart beats with Mirath and Arat’s healing energy. I sink to my knees, fingers digging into the soft soil and I recite the Prayer of the Land - and my heart beats with the life pulse of Rianth, our world. The breeze carries the scent of water to me and I rise and take the few steps that bring me to the river. Mirath’s light is dancing on the surface of the river, it is an invitation. Diving in I feel the shock of cold on my skin, the caress of the current as it flows over me, around me, through me. A deep breath as I surface and recite the Prayer of Water - and my heart beats with the flow of the river. Sun, Water, Land – I am connected. Up and out of the river I let the sunlight warm me as I walk back to the cabin. At the doorway I turn and face the forest and feel the presence of the Beast, feel its summons.

  "Patience Beast" I whisper "we will meet soon enough." Rage - incoherent, silent, formless – erupts behind me as I turn and go inside.

  Stillness surrounds me, even the dust motes seem suspended in crystallised beams of sunlight. Tears of grief and pride come – Grandmother Elyane's battledress and Gyllen’s sword hang before me. I hear Mother’s words again, soft and steely, her hands gentle on my shoulders:

  "The battledress has not been worn since we came to Rianth. Gyllen did not wear it when he faced the Beast. It is yours, Nireti, to wear when the time comes. It will protect you."

  Then Father "Gyllen’s sword passes to you now, it is yours to wield when the Beast returns. The sword was grown in the crystal caves of Moran for this day. It is the Rianthi's gift to us."

  Another memory comes. Tall, slender Sthyssk solemnly giving me one of his crest feathers. Rianthi playmate of my childhood, fierce hunter and gentle guardian. I remember the comfort and warmth of his feathery embrace, his piercing gaze and deadly raptor claws.

  "The Rianthi are an admirable species, they are predators living in balance with their environment. They are at peace with their world being both gentle protectors and fierce guardians of it. Anyone or anything that threatens Rianth will have them to face." Words from Elyane's journal. I must embrace the spirit of the Rianthi to face the Beast.

  Resolution comes and my heart beats with Gyllen’s blood and my Grandmother’s faith. I dress quickly, the battledress soft, formfitting, uniform steel grey with the Phoenix insignia the only flash of colour. Her scent still clings to the battledress and I feel her presence with me. Gyllen’s swordbelt is scarred by the Beast’s fury but intact. I put it on so that the sword is at my back, on my left shoulder and Gyllen is with me also. Finally, I pin Sthyssk's feather to my hair.

  Exiting the cabin I take a few steps to the place where I recited the Prayer to the Suns. The crystal sword gleams in the morning sun as I take it from its scabbard, feeling its balance, the sharpness of its edge. It has a deadly beauty and I feel I could cut light with it. I sit cross-legged and lay the sword across my knees. Eyes closed, I empty my mind. Reaching out with my awareness I enter a space where time has no meaning - all that is, was and is yet to be are here. I wait, still, silent, breathing slowly and deeply till the sword's song fills my mind. Smiling, I open my eyes and see shards of rainbow light as I turn the crystal blade in the sunlight. I am ready.

  It is time to face the Beast.

  I hear my Father’s voice. "The Beast is the physical manifestation of the rage that we, humanity, have carried within us for thousands of years. We brought this to Rianth and it is ours to deal with. This is the gift that Rianth has given us, the opportunity to face our demons and defeat them."

  And my Mother. "You were born here and are a child of Rianth. The Rianthi believe this gives you a true connection to this world and that, when you need it, Rianth will help you against the Beast."

  Beast

  I salute Mirath and Arat with my sword (Gyllen’s no longer) and walk towards the forest.

  "Well Beast, shall we do this?" I speak quietly, certain my words will reach their target.

  "I grow impatient and I hunger. Come to me now girl and we will finish this." The Beast’s words are a sibilant whisper in my ears.

  A few steps and I am in the forest. I am surrounded by cold green silence, rottenness is in the air I breathe. There is no sunlight here and a chill mist coils around my ankles. I pause to raise the face mask, only my eyes uncovered as they slowly acclimatise to the darkness.

  The Beast chuckles. "What, courage deserted you girl. I feel your fear and I feast on it."

  I hear my Father’s words. "Only idiots and the dead feel no fear. You will be afraid – own your fear and use it. It will give you strength, speed and heightened awareness. It will be your power."

  I start walking into the forest and let that be my answer to the Beast. One step, two steps, three and the trees on either side start to sway and creak but there is no wind. Hanging vine tendrils snatch at my arms and legs but cannot get a grip on my battledress. Then they are all round me, thrashing, battering and my sword leaves them in writhing heaps behind me as I walk forward. Pressure round my neck – came from behind, it squeezes and I stop.

  "Well girl, should I snap your neck now or just hold you there so I can kill you myself. Tell me, do you have a preference or any last words? Not that there is anyone to hear them, of course. All alone, all alone." The Beast is chuckling again.

  Left hand grasping the vine above my head, I raise my sword in my right. The vine squeezes hard and the battledress stiffens in response – the pressure is gone. Slash and the vine joins the writhing heap behind me. I walk on and the forest is silent around me. Movement either side of me now. Slithering shadows with glowing eyes, they hiss and whisper at me.

  "A girl, a worthless girl is that what they send against me; h
ave they no men?"

  "Worthless, worthless, worthless."

  "Alone, alone, all alone."

  "Rip out your heart I will, crunch your bones I will, feast I will."

  "The boy was weak and I fed on his fear."

  "You shame his memory, worthless girl."

  "You are alone, you have no hope."

  Tears sting remembering Gyllen – brave, impetuous Gyllen – staggering from the forest, bloody from his wounds, sinking to his knees and laying his sword on the ground before him.

  And his last words to me. "Sorry, so, so sorry Nir. It was too strong for me, but I hurt it Nir – that is the blood of the Beast." Arm shaking as he points to his sword. "This is yours now Nir, when the time comes, make it sing."

  A final shudder and he was gone. The Beast howls in triumph as I sink to my knees and lay my sword before me. Tears fall onto its blade.

  "Worthless, worthless, worthless" echoes through the forest.

  I raise the sword to my lips, taste hot tears and cold fire. Rising, tears flowing, swinging the sword in slow arcs. A clear,
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