Chapter Twenty-Two

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Hester wrapped Riona tightly in a woolen blanket. Riona stared at the needlework with hazy eyes, trying to piece together the events of the past hour. With a sigh, she sank backward and gazed up at the tarp above, closing her eyes tightly and focusing her staggered breathing.

"Riona?" Hester's voice was soft but insistent as she slipped one arm behind Riona's back and helped her straighten up.

With swift motions, Hester tipped a vile of small liquid into her palm. The comforting bold scent of lavender and feverfew filled the air. Hester rubbed the oil gently into the skin of Riona's chest. The floral smell focused Riona's vision, and the fog in her mind cleared slightly.

"How do you feel?" asked Hester.

"Better," said Riona softly. She glanced up. "Thank you."

Hester's face was a mask of worry, her forehead wrinkled in concern. "Do you...have visions often?"

Riona paused. "More and more, it seems."

"What triggers these fits?"

Riona wrung her hands in her lap. "There is no pattern," she admitted, "I have no warning of when they will come upon me."

Hester considered this. "Who is Emrys?"

"My parent." Riona's breath caught. She could feel tears stinging at the corners of her eyes. "I only just learned they were a druid-I don't know anything else." Her voice bubbled with anxiety.

"Shhh," said Hester, sitting down and wrapping a comforting arm around her. She ran her fingers through Riona's hair. The touch allowed a sense of calm to wash over her. Riona's head sank into Hester's shoulder.

"You are safe here," said Hester gently.

Riona took her hand, and Hester squeezed back. Riona focused on the young woman's scent, spicy and warm like the incense priests swung about in their churches. Hester lay back upon the thick carpet of the tent, bringing Riona with her. Riona's eyelids were growing heavy with exhaustion, and with a soft sigh, she fit her head into the curve of Hester's neck. The other woman hummed softly, her fingers still interwoven with Riona's. Riona felt the darkness of sleep overcoming her and gave in.

Riona realized uneasily that she was dreaming. The earth moved beneath her feet of its own accord. A bright white light obscured her vision. The familiar sound of waves against a rocky shore broke through the vast silence of Riona's mind. Her vision cleared suddenly and swiftly, and she let out a small gasp. She was home. Her small stone hut stood before her. To one side, grazed the goats, on the other, the garden was in the full bloom of midsummer. A familiar voice carried over the warm breeze.

"Pais Dinogad,

fraith, fraith

O grwyn balaod ban wraith

Chwid! Chwid!

Chwidogaith

Gochanwn, gocenyn wythgaith."

Riona's heart caught in her throat. "Mother?"

She raced to the other side of the house. Her mother was sitting upon the stoop, up to her elbows in water and cloth. Nimue had always preferred to do the washing alone. Riona felt light as if the smallest bit of force would shatter her into a million shards. The sound of her mother's voice came to her as if muffled by a hand. Riona reminded herself with an aching heart that this was a dream.

The sky was a vibrant blue; billowing white clouds stood like mountains on the horizon. With a sinking feeling, Riona knew she remembered this day.

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