It was a raw autumn day and the sun was brilliant, but low on the horizon even at noon. Gwen drew the thick winter cloak more tightly around herself and resisted the urge to stamp her feet.
Carefully she angled the sunlight, refracted from the Talisman, into her cornflower-blue eyes. The changing colours played over her deeply tanned face, untamed golden hair and the floor-length garment hiding her lissom figure. Buoyed by the power of the Talisman, she sent out a silent siren call.
The first of the creatures came from the woods, hesitant, alert, poised to run, but dragged by an implacable force beyond their understanding.
Gwendra smiled, remembering such displays when she was a child, tutored by her mother Slidden those many years ago. Timid mice and voles, rabbits, foxes, roe deer and occasionally red deer, had come out of Hobbs Hole wood to be examined. But never a Hecate. Today she would call such a one. Then she would be ready for the ultimate step.
In the six years since the Chi-Dhu incursion had been crushed Gwen had roamed her birth-land, helping intermittently, while honing her wild talent.
Slowly the small communities recovered from the ’Horde’s’ depredations. Some unlucky towns like Tregoba were too badly damaged for the surviving inhabitants to rebuild. Yet the Northlanders were remarkably resilient and this year’s Holymonth festivals had been widespread and joyous affairs.
Toadsmoor wood surrounded her on three sides. It was warmer in this sheltered spot, on sheep-bitten grass at the gently sloping base of the hill. Spider-webs sparkled with hoar frost in the shadows at the border of the wood, but where she stood sunlight had licked the ground and frost was melted.
In front of her, the thick growth of mixed woodland hid the deep pool that filled the valley bottom. Back up-slope a breeze had begun to stir the taller grasses. Here the air was still and silent, save for a faint rustling among the topmost branches.
Gwendra saw the Hecate melting into the shadow of the woods-edge. Sinuous, golden coat dappled with chocolate markings, tufted ears, a striped tail that flickered revealing irritation.
In front of her stood danger, prey. She flattened, her belly to the ground, instant fluid movement, then froze again. Prey was still. Ease forward closing the gap, hind quarters bunched, tensed to spring.
“Not Prey. Too big. Back off.” The Hecate hissed her defiance. Something wrong, danger not prey, circle. She flowed over the ground like a dream, her back toward the sun. Prey turned to face her.
“NOT PREY” For a long moment the tableau held, then the Hecate spat and was gone.
Gwendra shivered somewhere inside her mind. Her body beneath the winter cloak was soaked with sweat. Urine trickled down both legs.
Later, as Gwendra swam naked in the cold cleaning pool, fed by a fresh water stream, calm and a sense of triumph returned. True she had not bent the Hecate to her will but the sensation of shared perception was total. Her mistake was to be seen and so become potential prey. This was a salutary warning, an error not to be repeated with the next creature she intended to control. Humans were more dangerous than a Hecate!
This is from book 3 of the After the Fall series. (not yet published)
Books 1 and 2 are on Amazon Kindle at a reduced price. Check out: Talisman of Ictis and Sword of Ictis