This is the first chapter of my fantasy novel. Combining Sience and mythology, creatively!
The big wooden door slammed violently, rattling the glass in the windows to the point of nearly shattering in their wooden frames.
Darting in three long bounds across the white washed wooden porch Jamie leapt down the stone steps to the garden path directly below. When her feet hit the rocky ground she picked up her pace and in desperation ran as fast as she could away from the house which, since her childhood she had regarded as a safe haven. That was at least until Anston burst in through the front door in a total rampage shattering in seconds any thoughts of security she had long kept of her precious home. A picture in her mind of the axe embedded in the wall less than half a metre from where she stood an instant ago had imprinted a tattoo image on her brain that threatened to haunt her for the rest of her waking years and of many restless nights to come.
Confused and terrified she had no idea why her stepfather was enraged like he was or what she had done that deserved such a terrifying reaction this morning. Yelling at Jamie so fast and deafening she couldn’t make out his words as they came out rushed and garbled with his anger. The only thing she remembered was something he said about being lazy, useless and something about mutilation of his best stock. None of this made any sense as Jamie stuck to a strict routine unchanged since she was twelve which had never caused any problems in the past.
She would always get up at first light to begin preparing breakfast for Anston to return from his early morning chores on the farm. After cleaning up, she would get dressed and put on her boots to finish her own chores of feeding the poultry and tending to the vegetable and herb garden, and then make herself available during the day wherever she was needed. A dedicated hardworking lifestyle was a necessity in the small settlement of Rowstane as it was an almost completely isolated town. Reliant on its own self sufficiency for most of the year as the inaccessible mountains to the north and the dessert to the west and a great ocean ten miles south to which no one had ever claimed land beyond, only allowed for trade from the east from the other small towns for goods and supplies to be brought into Rowstane. Bartering between the farm folk and skilled peoples was common as a matter of survival between families at local markets in the settlement’s centre every week, and so the responsibility of each family was high to maintain the success of whatever it was they did for a living, which was mostly farming and skilled trades.
But this relatively tough but peaceful life for Jamie all changed in seconds the instant Anston burst his way into the house just after sun up. Then next instant she had an axe thrown at her barely missing her left shoulder before embedding itself two inches thick in the timber wall behind her. For what seemed forever for her body to respond to the incident, may have been only seconds, she wasn’t entirely sure as time seemed to slow down before her flight instincts took over and every nerve charged within her leaving her with only one thought above all else. Leave now or die!
The stony path situated between the flower and herb garden led away from the house to the edge of the farm boundary and then became no more than a muddy trail from years of use. The first one hundred metres of the stony part of the path was carefully placed by Jamie herself. She had meticulously selected white stones and border rocks from the farms paddocks and carefully placed them along the gardens edge a few years ago, allowing for an herb garden to grow near the house, for medicinal as well as cooking purposes. She took great pride in how the garden looked and was tended, taking great care in weeding the path regularly, but the unseasonal rain storms this last few weeks had kept Jamie indoors instead of out in the garden where she loved to spend most of her time. The heavy unseasonal rains had encouraged large amounts of moss and young weeds to spring up in any damp crevice. The weeds took root in abundance where ever dirt existed while the moss claimed any rock large enough to cling to, threatening to take over the entire path and outside paddocks. The normally pristine white pathway evolved into a living green carpet almost matching the green and flowering shrubs along its border. Normally the penny sized stones and pebbles and larger sandstone rocks along the paths border were attractive as a garden feature but the path was not designed for running on, especially barefoot. The fact that the moss and new growth had sprung up in abundance was probably the only thing that saved Jamie’s feet from getting bruised and cut, as she had not yet had time to comprehend that she was still barefoot. Her adrenaline numbed her senses as the urgency of the situation caused Jamie to be oblivious to the discomfort beneath her and she persisted to flee for her life. Every hair stood up on the back of her neck as she ran, expecting another life threatening object to be thrown at her at any moment, unsure whether this time it will miss.
With every nerve screaming at her to get as far away from the house and Anston as her feet would let her, the sound of her own feet stomping on the ground and the boom! boom! Of her rapid heartbeat pulsing in her ears made it impossible to determine if she was being followed. Nor was she game enough to turn around and look as even this act could slow her down enough to put her in at risk. With every split second that ticked by fate juggled between life and death. Her muscles ached against the brisk early spring frosts and they would not move as quickly as she would have liked, but she egged them on regardless of the cramps. At least she could deal with that later when she was somewhere safe. Despite her adrenaline pumping through her body helping fight the cold and pain it had a downside though, it is short lived and wore off quickly after the danger had passed.
It was only a matter of time before the hard stones underneath the green carpet began to make themselves known. Her muscles soon ached too much to ignore and she had no option but to slow down to a fast walking pace. She also took the chance to look behind her. She could not see the house anymore and many years of working around the farm had kept her strong and fit. Within minutes her breathing slowed to a steady rhythm. She listened intently, but could not hear any footsteps behind her, or if there was anybody treading carefully in the shrubs so as not to make any noise then they certainly could not have been moving quicker than her, which allowed her to ease a bit. Although her head throbbed a little with the stress of the situation this was of no concern to her, as another problem soon became apparent. Where would she go now? She was unprepared to leave the farm to say the least. No shoes or money to go anywhere, let alone off of the farm and into town to find help from other townsfolk.
The only place she could think to go in the short term where she could feel safe enough to sort her predicament out was the storage shed where she kept most of her hunting gear at the end of the farm, there she could gather her hunting boots and survival kit and disappear into the woods for a few days at least to come up with a plan, or until things cooled down enough for her to come home, but that thought of coming home was far from her mind now and as far as she was concerned she would never want to return, not after what just happened. She didn’t know if she could ever return. If she did she would never feel safe again as long as Anston was there. She could not live like that, always wondering if this incident could ever be repeated and the fact that there was no previous warning to this morning’s frightening event would make it too difficult to look for tell tail warning signs to avoid it in the future.
Just the reminder of what happened sent chills through her body while her mind began to rage with anger at the man for doing what he did, making her head hurt more. “I will have to get some of my mint and lavender balm for my head and some menthol oil rub for my muscles when I get to my survival kit” Jamie thought through throbbing pains in her temples.
Jamie tolerated a lot of things but having an axe thrown across the room in her direction to slam into the wall beside was not part of her tolerable limit. The thing was she was not entirely sure of was why or what had brought Anston to such rage as to threaten her life? Never had he come close to hurting her. Usually there were arguments about this and that but never had he threatened her life before. Jamie had noticed the tension building up lately though with a lot of townsfolk, the tension had been building up rapidly during the past weeks until everyone she met gave her the impression of a cork waiting to blow its top.
There were an abundance of strange things happening not just around the farm, but the whole town these days. The rains were one of them. Never in her life had Jamie encountered such heavy falls at this time of the year. There were numerous accounts where it had ruined crops and caused flood damage to many homes and roads. It was this event that Jamie blamed for everyone's lack of usual cheeriness in Rowstane lately. In fact the whole town had become rather solemn and dreary and not just the people. Mud and waterlogged clay along tracks made travelling difficult and messy, and the sky was constantly overcast. Even when the sun shone there was a smoky lingering haze in the air that seemed to blanket the sky. It also appeared to exaggerate Rowstanes already extreme climatic differences by acting like a blanket up above contributing to keeping in the cold at night dropping temperatures to near freezing and trapping the heat of the sun during the day to raise temperatures to five degrees above their norm for this time of the year. Even the air itself felt clammy regardless of the temperature and there was always a slight smell of decay on the breeze, like rotting vegetation, which Jamie had also reasoned to the heavy rains of late, but despite the logic behind it, there was still something which made Jamie feel uneasy about the whole lot of events. Nothing seemed to be like it once was and there was a feeling of change in the air. Until now this sensation Jamie had passed off as nonsense, but now she wasn’t so sure. She really needed to clear her head for a few days to sort through this crazy world. The forest definitely was the place to be now. Quiet and serene, with nothing but nature to surround a person gave that person time to think through the toughest problems and find solutions. Time did not matter in the woods, or at least this was the impression it gave. There was no other place that Jamie would rather be now to clear her head.
She could certainly survive in the woods for a few days even a week or two. Jamie had lots of experience. She had been exploring the woods since she was 10, starting off early, only venturing to the forests edge at first, exploring the outskirts as a curious child. Her stepfather was always too busy on the farm and her mother Merlaine was unable to venture too far from the house because of the early signs of dementia. With neither parent to scold her for wandering off each year she began exploring further and further until she made her own tracks and eventually came to know the forest as her second home. When it was first discovered she had been exploring the forest Anston and Merlaine parents didn’t like the idea very much and scolded her against doing such a thing, until the first time Jamie came home holding up a young Hare in her hands proudly at the age of eleven. She had learnt how to make snares from watching Anston a few times in the tool barn meticulously preparing each wire trap to catch predators later on the farm. She also had to be assist in killing livestock for food and learnt how to skin and prepare it for cooking. With the tough reality of the farm life and the need for survival, Jamie was immune to the necessity of death to eat and curious she ventured into the forest to try this method of hunting out herself, despite being told not to. Later that day when she checked her snares she was so excited by the fact that she had caught one, that she forgot about the restrictions she had been given and proudly waltzed up to the front porch where her parents were resting on the wooden rocking chairs, holding the skinned and gutted hare by the back legs. Anston and Merlaine were mad at her for disobeying their rules but were so esteemed by her efforts, and the free food, that she was reluctantly given permission to continue hunting. Anston even put together a hunting pack with a dagger which Anston said came from her family bloodline and was handed down to each eldest child when they came of age, as well as basic tools for making a fire and a medical kit in case of cuts or sprains.
Although the farm had usually provided staples in abundance, it was one of the bad years on the farm for earning money, and after much discussion between the family it was decided that it was probably no more dangerous exploring the forest than helping work the big machinery and sharp equipment on the farm, so Jamie was allowed to continue to explore and learnt the ways of the forest, and learnt the tricks to avoiding it’s dangers, often the hard way, but luckily no major bad luck came her way. She was taught by her stepfather to avoid dangerous wild animals and she was reminded numerous times to be prepared to spend a night in the cold if anything when wrong, which meant keeping some flint and fire starting oil in her backpack. But Jamie was so tuned into the ways of the forest in the end that she never had to use the flint, or spend a night out in the cold. And by the time she was 18 she was regularly bringing home wild game, or even a medium sized mammal from time to time. Without her hunting knowledge her family might have starved on occasions during harder times, but these times were uncommon until now.
The shed was across the paddock at the edge of the farm and marked the boundary to where the farm ended and the great forest began.
It was an ideal place to store her hunting gear. Keeping it there meant she didn’t have to carry it all the way across the paddock before leaving the farm. This enabled her to conserve what energy she could for hunting, instead of wasting her energy unnecessarily. Hunting was often an all-day event so when Jamie actually caught something this meant she had to carry it home by herself, and she was always spent when she got home. Especially after a day of having to climb mountainous terrain and steep slopes.
Sometimes Jamie had to track a little from her usual path that she had slowly worn in herself over the years. When hunting success rates were low it meant she had to trudge off track, sometimes for hours through thick scrub and often up and down rocky slopes so she could try her hunting in a new area for the day. This was tiring but Jamie didn’t usually mind. The woods were like a second home to her and she loved being surrounded by an abundance of living creatures all day, it seemed to sustain her and revive her in ways the farm and all of its machinery and conveniences could never do.
The problem with the situation now was that Jamie had not actually planned a hunting trip. She usually made preparations the day before, taking into account the weather and making sure to pack adequate food and supplies, as well as checking her hunting gear before embarking into the woods. It can be a dangerous place for those who are unprepared and inexperienced. When wet, moss can be very slippery and could cause her to slip and sprain an ankle. This would be disastrous, as neither Anston would not know where she would be in the woods at any given time to find her, and her birth mother Merlaine was no longer living with them. Jamie’s birth mothers dementia had gotten a lot worse since Jamie’s childhood and she needed constant care. Reluctantly Jamie and Anston agreed for Merlaine to be handed over to the care of the Massitaine Church of the Divine Light as neither he or Jamie could be there all of the time due to the responsibilities of the farm. Every month a share of the farms profits would be donated to the Church as agreed for her care, and Jamie would always visit, delivering the funds herself and to see her mother regularly. Always Merlaine stared blankly out the window when Jamie visited, not saying a word, while Jamie talked uselessly about events around the farm and township. Jamie didn’t mind her mother’s absence as she knew that somewhere inside was the mother she always knew and her spirit could hear her words. “One day we will be together again, whole and complete in this life or the next” Jamie always said before parting the Church while saying thanks to the Divine Light for all her blessings as she passed the wooden statue of a crowned goddess on the way out. Ironically Merlaines condition was the only constant unchanging thing Jamie knew at the moment which gave her some solice and she wished her mother was here, absent minded or not, so she could tell her of the strange events of late. The reality of her situation again awakened in her mind and she was brought back to reality, feeling lonelier now than ever. At least the comfort of the woods would give her some solace for a while at least. She would like nothing more than to sit by the stream in the sun and run her toes through the grass on the bank while watching the native fish swim in the shallows and listening to the birds tell tales from faraway lands. She ever felt alone in the forest as there was always something living right next to you to watch or listen to for company and even the breeze felt like an embrace from a long-time friend in times of need as it would brush against her skin.
*Rest of story to be continued in the near future*