Kiss of Winter’s Wind
Kaelen pulled her cloak tight against her body, an effort to fight against the chill night air. It didn’t last, didn’t help as she let go to continue her work. The circle had only been half finished when the breeze kicked up. It brought with it the smell of autumn and the end of summer sun.
What few leaves had fallen to the ground, crunched under the soft pads of her bare feet. Strict rules for the ritual forbade shoes, she felt lucky to have the cloak. The chill wind would have chaffed her naked flesh.
She had come to the sacred grove to give harvest offering. Kaelen’s parents had given up the old ways and their fields had grown fallow. Nothing grew, despite good rains and well maintained soil. But their blight had carried into other aspects of their lives as well. When Kaelen inherited the farm she chose to pay the price they had grown unwilling to pay.
She finished the circle and then lit the candles at the five points of the star, black candles housed in the skulls of her ancestors, farmers through the lines of ascension, just as her parents.
“I have come to offer the sacrifice as my ancestors have before my time,” she said as she stepped into the center of the circle. “My blood to feed and nourish the earth mother and bring us a prosperous yield in the next year to come.”
At the last she slashed the back of her forearms with a sickle, the same her father had used and his father before him. Her blood ran down her arm and dripped into the center of the circle. Her arms grew numb to the cold bite of the wind.
In a flash red light flooded her eyes, blinded her to the world around her and a force pulled at her arms, pulled her to her knees. The earth around her had reached up and engulfed her hands, climbed to the site of her wounds. Her heart skipped and churned as she felt her energy, her life sucked away in a blast of cold flame.
Had it been a few seconds, had it been an hour, she had lost connection to the world around her and then as fast as it had sprung upon her she returned to the present thrust free of the force that consumed her.
She was no longer in the center of the wood, instead she woke at the edge of her family’s fields. Winter had come and gone. The change in the air kissed her flesh as she sneezed. Fresh pollen and the smells of spring flowers blew gently in the breeze.
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