The Ring of Entitlement
Rayna and Inlakesh were sipping the last drops of coffee when some brouhaha among the trees at the back of the cabin made them jump.
Rayna picked up her club instinctively. But Inlakesh bade her to listen and observe through the northwest window.
It soon became apparent that some sort of bird mischief was going on. Rayna went out, wanting to play with the birds. But Inlakesh followed as silent and light as the ray of sun now falling on the stirring waters in the nearby birdbath.
Before Rayna could interfere, Inlakesh pointed towards a tree that seemed to shake with terror. A burst of sparrows escape the trees as a cry was heard.
“Pay attention!” Inlakesh admonished.
Red-tail Hawk soared through the sky with a piercing cry and then circled above their heads.
“What is the message?” Inlakesh asked quietly.
Red-tail Hawk swiftly descended and perched on the birdbath. It drank water and then sprinkled the two women with it.
“Water source,” Inlakesh understood, “Where?”
With a piercing cry, Red-tail Hawk took to the air and flapping its gorgeous wings headed towards the northwest of the cabin.
“I know where,” Rayna said, for she had been listening deeply. “I’m meeting someone at the Womb of the World.”
“That is how town people call the lake that provides water for the town, isn’t it?” Inlakesh asked. “Isn’t it guarded?”
“By the Elders,” Rayna nodded.
“Then it is safe to go,” Inlakesh said.
“Why?” Rayna asked.
“For starters, Red-tail Hawk would not bid you there if there was danger,” Inlakesh said. “And for keepers, I was expecting that your call may be answered first by the Elders, who have been meeting in secret to discuss how to save town.”
“It’s not that much of a secret if you know it,” Rayna joked. “You don’t even go to town.”
“I am part of town, Rayna, just as I am part of you,” Inlakesh said softly. “We are all part of The Forest. Red-tail Hawk knows this. Perhaps you should follow him and see if you can learn more from him.”
Inlakesh placed a bundle in her hand.
“Something to bite, water to drink and tools to make fire,” the tiny woman said. “That’s all you need. Fly!”
And fly Rayna did as she released her deer speed and hastily followed Red-tail Hawk towards the West.
The cabin was almost at the center of the Wild Lands, the South section of The Forest. This was the part of The Forest where hunting had been prohibited by the two kings, her father and King Aldrich. After a terrible famine years ago the two kings recognized the need to let the creatures replenish themselves before hunting or gathering their fruits, and they had created this zone, though the Chancellor seemed to ignore it at will.
But Red-tail Hawk was not traveling directly west. It was leading Rayna just south of the Witches’ Lair, the west and most unknown section of The Forest, for there it was said a dozen witches live, all with terrible powers.
At the southwest corner of the Witches’ Lair was the Tail of the World, an old stone portal that was said to lead out of this world. Though how would anyone know this Rayna could not fathom; as few people had ever ventured into the Witches’ Lair and fewer yet had come back. And as far as she knew, no one had come back from the other side of the Tail of the World to let the town people know what lay beyond.
Red-tailed Hawk was leading Rayna directly to the Womb of the World. This is how the townsfolk called the Great Lake that nurtured the main town and much of the kingdom. It received water from several rivers that transversed The Forest. The Womb of the World was guarded by the Elders since an instance long ago, when an evil sorcerer poisoned the waters to force the King to resign and seize the crown for himself.
The Town Witches came up with an antidote and spread it in the lake, and then tricked the sorcerer into drinking from his own poison. From that time the King allowed any Witch or Wizard, alchemist or sorcerer that swore alliance to the throne to prosper in town, as long as they did not do anything illegal.
Rayna believed that this had increased the wealth of the town, as these magical creatures could foretell attacks, storms and plagues, come up with cures and greatly added to the town’s health. Their abundance of natural food, beautiful arts and crafts and magic attracted people from other towns and kingdoms into town.
But the Chancellor had outlaw magic, and the Magical Council had left the Kingdom. Rayna suspected that many of them were hidden in the Witches’ Lair, waiting for…
“For you, so hurry up and stop the dillydallying,” Red-tail Hawk cried into her heart.
Rayna picked up her pace. Her heart was thumping; not because of the running, but because of her excitement. Who had answered her call? The obvious answer was that the Elders, who guarded the Lake, were summoning her.
“Could it be a trap?” she suddenly considered. “Could the Chancellor have heard the call? Could the Elders have told him? Could the Knights be after me?”
But she remembered that the Soul’s Song that flowed from the flute could only be heard by those that resonated with that song.
And the Elders, sworn to care of the town, would never betray their Queen to the Chancellor who was destroying town.
“The Queen,” Rayna whispered. “It’s still so strange to call myself that.”
“Hurry up, your Majesty,” Red-tail Hawk cried into her heart. “The replier is almost there.”
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