|"Autumn Riders" copyright 2004 by Emily Balivet|
This novel, based loosely upon three of my ancestors, is available on Kindle for $4.95.
I've included an early chapter - hope you enjoy!
Happy New Year - may it be rich with the blessings of the Earth.
The thin gold torc around her neck caught the morning light as she adjusted the heavy cloak about her shoulders. Despite the sun’s warmth, the mountain air was cold and reminded Sanza that the seasons were changing and winter would soon be on the mountaintop. The climate of Navarra was not intense and Sanza easily welcomed the coldness of winter. This winter in particular, the coldness of the world outside would echo the coldness that lived in her heart. Even now, having achieved this much, she felt no lightening from within. Perhaps that would come later. Perhaps now it was just too soon and her expectations too grand. She wanted to be here on the mountain top—alone for the ceremony. And really, what choice did she have? If her father knew what she had done she would be cast from his home forever. She found herself caught once again in the middle of the struggles that had ripped her family apart. She loved and honored her father and she wished with all her heart she could be the good daughter he expected her to be; but greater than that love and honor was the darkly deep bond that held her to her mother—even now, even in death.
“Maman!” So soon the great longing for her mother had begun and she did not yet understand how the longing would stay with her and that it would grow and shape her life for eternity. Today she climbed the mountain in order to release her mother’s spirit and return her to the elements from which she was born. Her hand grasped the small silver box that lay nestled in the pocket of her cloak. She knew what must be done but she held back for another moment, keeping the contact that had guided her through all of her sixteen years. And her mother’s voice came to her over the wind reminding her that what she was about to do was the way of their path and the way of their ancestors.
“Keep to the true ways, daughter, though your path be walked in darkness. Keep to yourself and to the silence and honor that which I have taught you, and teach your daughter so she may teach her daughter. In this, Sanza, lies our greatest strength for I have seen such horror and death ahead in the time that is soon coming. The old ways must be kept alive though the world seeks to destroy us all…”
Her mother, Acibella, drew Sanza close when she spoke these words and the great terror that she had envisioned moved from the mother to the daughter until Sanza dropped to her knees and covered her face with the soft blue silk of her mother’s gown. And she understood that the secrecy and the lies that Acibella uneasily embraced so that they could live their truth in the outside world would become her shield of armor in the years ahead.
of Arnaldo Paunfiloun
May Her Soul Rest With God
Roncesvalles, Navarra, 1268
Was it only last night at twilight she met with her mother’s two trusted friends in the mausoleum at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit in Roncesvalles? Yes, and together they had removed her mother’s shrouded body from her tomb and carried her to the mountaintop. This had been Sanza’s promise to her mother as she lay dying in her small home in the forest. She would go along with her father’s wishes and her mother would receive the Christian burial expected by the family and the people of Pamplona where her father’s house marked him as a respected member of that community. Yes, but then later, later in the darkness of night she would free her mother and return her to her true home in the mountains. And now there was nothing left but the ashes and the wind and the release of Acibella’s spirit so it might journey through the night and find again a home.
In a circle of rosemary branches Sanza stood with the silver box held up toward the evening sky. A fire of oak branches and dried herbs sent sweet-smelling smoke down into the valley. Now was the time—the twilight time when the two worlds came together for a brief moment and the powers of the elements hovered nearby waiting for her to call them into her circle. She stood facing the west where the sky was still tinged with the rose of the setting sun and in the secret language of the old ways— as taught to her by her mother who was taught by her mother and so on and so on —Sanza called out to the elementals and showed them her love and her honor. And in the old words and by their old names she bid them to attend her in the circle. In a sudden gust of the wind—in the quickening of the flames—in the trembling of the earth beneath her feet—in the pale mist that shrouded the circle the elementals made known their presence. Sanza held up the silver box and slowly opened the lid. The wind on the mountain top quieted for a brief moment and in that moment the ash lifted from the box and danced as a spiral in front of Sanza.
“I return to the river and the river returns me to the sea—mother of All! The endless beginning and eternal end. I am home.”
She felt more than heard her mother’s voice circling the mountain top. From a silk pouch tied to her belt Sanza withdrew a handful of shimmering powder and a clear smooth crystal. She circled the fire singing softly an ancient chant her mother had taught her many years ago. The words mingled together—some in her native Basque and others in the tongue of the people who had left the land so long ago. It was the language the trees spoke and the language of the earth caves. When her song was done Sanza knelt by the fire and dropped the powder and the crystal onto the burning oak wood. Violet blue flames shot up toward the darkening sky and the wind rushed down across the valley and called out to the river whose waters surged and washed over its banks. Sanza knelt before the fire, her cloak spread around her and her dark hair loose about her shoulders. And in the crystal Sanza envisioned all that was her mother’s spirit and the beauty and the wisdom of that spirit reached deeply into her heart and touched the sadness of her great mourning .
Later, wrapped in her cloak, Sanza slept in the circle by the still burning fire. And despite the mountain’s winter chill she felt the warmth that was her mother’s presence and with this warmth she felt the strength and wonder that she knew was the presence of her Lady—Dona—Donia—the pure essence of all that was and would ever be. And in her dreaming She came to Sanza and bid her no more to mourn for her mother but to change the mourning into something alive and powerful—something by which Sanza could honor her Lady and in this she would honor all life. Through the dreaming She spoke to Sanza her words—the words of the deep caves and the running rivers.
“Be here with me now, child—for I will be with you as I have with your mother through all the steps that will be your life. From the waters of the Great Mother you were born and it was I that brought you forth—it was I who was midwife to your mother and to her mother and to her mother…as I will be to your daughter and all of her daughters. In this we are one and we serve each other. Stay true only to this and I will stay true to you.”
And the breeze stirred Sanza’s dark hair where she lay on her cloak by the fire and her breathing quickened as she dreamed the words of her Lady in the night.
“My ways are not the easy ways of this world, daughter, and of this you have much to learn. We choose each other and in the choosing is the contract that will not be broken. No marriage here on earth can be so binding for I bind you, daughter of the earth, to my world — a world that is all above you and all below you. With me you have no boundaries—no weights to hobble your feet to the earth. You will see. You will grow, you will learn and you will seek with me by your side. Always and in All Ways.”
And like a lover’s kiss at dawn Sanza drew in the touch and scent and feel of her Lady and rose up from her dreaming refreshed and renewed. The day, like a wondrous journey, lay before her and though she knew not what waited on the road ahead she was strangely and eagerly excited.