Copyright© 2021 by Charly Young
Anna Larsdotter Ohm was sitting on the porch of her cabin waiting for them when they arrived.
The hedge-witch had sharp, merciless gray eyes set in a wind-wrinkled face that was tanned to the color of strong tea. Her bone white hair was done up in an elaborate braid.
Anna was a wild-crafter and healer who had lived her entire life on the edge of the Opari. She harvested mushrooms and grew a vast variety of herbs and obscure plants which she distributed for herbalists and restaurants as far away as San Francisco. Her log cabin—a combination workshop and greenhouse was tucked into the base of a massive lightning struck old growth cedar.
Her place was a quarter mile from the house and workshop of old man Finn, where Quinn had spent his apprenticeship.
Anna was the one who led him at seventeen into the Murk and left him without explanation with the Vísdómur.
Quinn gave her a surly nod. He still hadn’t forgiven trickery, but the little wolf-girl needed a healer and Anna was the best.
“Hello Lachlan,” she said, ignoring his less than enthusiastic greeting. “I’ve been expecting you. What on earth are you doing with a wolf-kin? Come here, girl.”
The girl looked at Quinn and after he nodded, she walked over, stopped, and looked up wide eyed to hedge-witch.
She knelt and held the girl’s chin and gazed into her eyes.
“She’s change-impaired. What happened to her?”
“I don’t know. A shifter woman showed up at my house and shoved her into my arms. She managed to shift back okay, but Edie down in Oldtown told me to bring her to you. By the way, a Hag showed up looking for her.” Quinn closed his mouth and watched for her reaction.
“Wait here.” She picked up the little girl and disappeared inside her cabin.
Quinn wandered around and let the soothing sounds of the meadow that stretched in front of Anna’s cabin seep in. He breathed deep. Green smells, like every spring and summer and fall, all rolled into one. Faint and subtle sweet pansies and petunias planted in the sunny corner of Anna’s porch to the overpowering heady smell of mint and lavender in the huge herb garden on the south side to the toasted smell of meadow grass as it yellowed in the July heat. Fat gray squirrels were flickering speedy shadows as they ran their mysterious errands through the massive old growth cedar and maple trees.
He could FEEL the colossal life-force of the Opari Forest—millions of tiny rustlings and whisperings — feel the vibrations of their tiny lives down deep in the root of his brain—resonating a kind of welcome? The yammering whispering in his head now had a note of childlike eagerness as The Goddess called Opari welcomed him.
“At last. You’ve come back at last.” A thousand million voices sang.
The dragon’s whip symbiote in his arm rolled and twisted as it basked under Her regard. Quinn was no different. He felt like the spotted pony at a kid’s birthday party.
The Other, though, sat back in the corner of his mind and regarded Her presence with profound suspicion.