The house was full of the little noises of life. A bright fire crackled in the hearth, and over it
the contents of a small iron pot hissed and bubbled. Mary’s rocking chair creaked as her deft
fingers wove a world in cross-stitch, visions of sunset and starlight. A mourning dove, tucked
away in a nest in the corner of the stone window ledge, cooed softly.
Mary did not look up when a shadow fell across the picture in her hand. Through her
eyelashes she saw a tall, dark-cloaked form with a gleaming knife in its hand. For a tenth of a
second Mary’s fingers faltered; she regained herself, and continued to sew. She bent her head
closer to the cross-stitch and her chestnut hair fell over her shoulder.
“So you’ve come,” she said, her voice perfectly level.
The cloaked figure’s voice dripped with venom. “You expected me?”
The creak of the rocking chair filled the momentary silence, and the fire crackled. The pot was
near to boiling over.
“I knew you would keep your promise,” Mary said. “Though you have been much longer than
I expected. And even now you are waiting.”
The tall figure sneered. “Where is your fool of a husband?”
Mary said faintly, “He is coming.”
Outside, the cooing of the dove had ceased. A man was whistling as he came up the path to
the cottage. His tune died out, choked by sudden fear, and his footsteps hastened to an urgent
The cloaked figure raised the knife in the air. Mary lifted her head suddenly, and her blue eyes
pierced through the black cloak to the woman beneath it, momentarily halting the hate-filled
“Take care, woman,” Mary said, “lest the power you seek to control someday overpower
The door of the house opened with the striking of wood against stone as John Davies rushed
into the danger he sensed all around him.
The pot boiled over.
* * *
The cloaked woman hurried down the hill. She turned to look at the cottage once more,
watching as the flames reduced even the stones to ash. She laughed wildly, her laughter swirling
into the smoke-filled wind. The green hills around seemed to mourn as the heat and smoke
blurred their ancient sides into wavering, uncertain mirages. High in the hills, a hawk cried.
The woman turned and strode along the path that led to the town. In the distance she heard a
sheepdog barking, and her eyes narrowed as she pictured the small figure who was even now
making her way to the ruined house.
It would be so easy to kill her, too. The woman’s fingers clenched the handle of the knife,
slippery with blood, that was now hidden beneath the black folds of her cloak. But no. The
master would be angry. The girl was nothing and he did not want needless killing. It was not
wiseit was better to let the ignorant live in fear. So he said.
She spat. Master Skraetock was a fool. True, at times she sounded just like him, speaking of
wisdom for the sake of the future. Only now, with the stench of the kill hidden under her cloak
and the wind carrying ashes up to the heavens, with the power of the Covenant Flame running
wild in her veins, she did not care about wisdom.