“Jerra,” she hears her mother call sharply. “Come in the house, now! It’s nearly dark.”
She looks over her shoulder at her mother, bundled up in her woolens and wearing her husband’s mud-caked workboots, and waves. Jerra knows it’s time to seek refuge in the safety of her well-made wooden house. The chinks were all freshly patched, the runes newly carved on the cardinal points and she knew her mother would have the repelling and cloaking herbs burning in the cheerily roaring fire by now.
But still, the slim young girl tarried, perched, her chin on her knees, on the black lookout rock just past the garden gate, beside the road that led to the nearby houses in her tiny settlement.
Jerra didn’t often get to turn her jade eyes toward the purple glow of the distant Masica city. Longing to explore the strange place welled up in her chest, threatening to propel her from her spot, away from the safety of her home.
She dreamed of journeying to the far away place, whose sparkling white and gold towers she imagined more than saw. Jerra saw, in her mind’s eye, the pristine paved streets, the colorful happy people, the abundance of food and drink, and most importantly, the absence of Ravers.
As if the mere thought of Ravers conjured a band of the violent, distorted beings, Jerra heard the clatter and susurrations typical of the monsters.
Shivers ran down her spine. Quickly she jumped from her perch, scrabbling with the latch on the garden gate. The noises approached faster than Jerra thought they should have. The small girl started to panic. She was sure the sound of her thudding heart was leading the monsters to her.
Her fingers found the mechanism as the first of the Ravers lumbered from the dark night. Its fingers grasped for her grimy skirt, but, thankfully, missed by a hair’s breadth.
“Papa!” Jerra screamed for her father, hoping he’d hear her cries over the near-constant crying of her two small sisters, but it wasn’t her father who answered her prayers.
Her jade eyes widened as her mother stepped from the wide, covered front porch of their house, hands held high and wide, something forming between them.
Jerra watched as her mother’s plump frame lengthened and thinned, the purple haze of magic glowing stronger between her hands.
“Jerra, run,” the form that used to be her mother commanded. “Get to your father and the twins.”
The girl ran. Her long floral skirt threatened to trip her wildly pumping legs, but she gathered the ends, indelicately exposing her thick woolen socks from her knees down and continued her mad dash, past the woman now chanting in the middle of the garden path.
Behind her, Jerra heard a gutteral yelp, as the first of the band of Ravers met her mother’s magic. She didn’t stop to see what had happened.
The door burst open when she slammed her full weight into it, revealing her father cowering in the corner, holding onto his twin daughters and staring wild-eyed at the door. Jerra turned, intending to close the door on the battle outside, but there was no battle. Not anymore.
Instead, her mother, all plump and matronly once more, calmly stepped across the threshold, holding out her wool-covered arms to her oldest child, “Come, Jerra, let me tell you about Masica.”
(part two is here: Her mother’s secret)