Synopsis: Just years after the war that wiped magic from Gaelwin’s lands, a cherished woman named Brighid went missing. Who she is and what she represents is a mystery even to herself, as she wakes up in a strange man’s house without a shred of memory past her teen years. With her new companion-turned-lover by her side, she slowly works at retrieving her memories when her assumed identity, and the people she thought she loved most, prove to be nothing but mere fibers of the truth.
Excerpt 1: one of Brighid’s memories
Her father kissed her mother as he stepped out the door, headed for the caravan. They were off to trade along the eastern roads, he and his fellow travelers, seeking to swap wagons full of fruit and fresh mountain water for saltwater fish and game. The eastern port was the only outlet to the sea within a week’s ride; the rocky precipices and plummeting slopes beyond them made most of the coast impossible to access from anywhere else in the north. Therefore Cinderhearth acquired its fish and various meats from Felrun and Shadowsreach which, surrounded only by salt water and swamplands, respectively, hadn’t enough access to fresh water to quench their growing numbers of thirsty mouths. Situated in the mountains, Cinderhearth had only goat and venison game, and often relied on the fish and southern livestock for their variety. Her father’s occupation was that of a traveling trader, a noble job that helped keep mouths fed and families strong.
It was also a dangerous career. With the remaining unrest following the war, the roads were dangerous, pockmarked with pillagers and brigands and others desperate for survival. Anyone who was without a home often remained that way; eventually, desperation replaced honor for most of them. A caravan of goods was a moving target for those who banded together for spoils, and as a result, the traders often took alternate routes through winding roads and dense forests to prevent any kind of traceable pattern. This, of course, brought the added dangers of wildlife and natural disasters. But few things, living or otherwise, are as dangerous as desperate men. The caravan was heavily armed with each trip it took.
Those trips varied depending on the route taken, but they rarely exceeded a fortnight. When two had passed with no correspondence, it was decided that a search would begin.
In those days she often imagined Cinderhearth resembled an ant hill with the number of riders and messenger birds that hurried in and out of it. The caravan included some of the king’s best guards as well as men from nearly every family in the court. The days were spent with crying children and stone-faced women dragging their feet through the streets and an eerie cloak of hushed fears blanketing the nights.
The caravan was unrecognizable when they found it, a pile of splintered wood and rotten leftovers fertilizing the earth. Vines wound through the pikes of the wooden wheels. What became of the bodies, of which there were no traces within the immediate area, she never knew. She never wanted to.
If Cinderhearth was desolate during the men’s absence, it was all but abandoned when they were discovered. Wives and children took to their houses in mourning and many of their fellow men ceased work for an entire month to remember their brothers. The court was at a standstill, entirely silent following the king’s one and only speech on the matter.
A mere child, she didn’t remember the specifics of his words and was certain she wouldn’t have even if she had her untarnished memory, but remembered vividly the reactions of the people around her. Her most tangible memories were those of her mother staring at the king through empty eyes and detached tears. The king had lost a son to the travesty, and though the heir to the throne needed not work, he had insisted on accompanying the men on their journey—hence, the priceless guards they also lost.
At the word of their son’s death, Gwenneth, the king’s wife, had disappeared in the middle of the night. They found her horse grazing at the precipice of the Eastern Cliffs a mere twelve hours later, just preceding the king’s speech, her corn blue dress torn and flapping from a protruding branch.
The king’s and Brighid’s mother’s eyes locked through their grief as they strained to keep their faces inhibited—for the people and their children. After his speech ended, all quivering words and promises of retribution, a squire pushed through the crowd and invited my mother to the inner chambers of the court.
She had pulled Brighid close and nodded. “As long as my daughter can accompany me.” And added, hushed, “I am the only one she has left, now.”