Spring Rain on the Wind
A Historical Time Travel
Published in the United States of America
Spring Rain on the Wind
By Kristina O'Donnelly
© Copyright: 1988, 1994, 2007, Kristina O'Donnelly aka Kristin V. Donnelly
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any
means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information or storage
retrieval system, without the express consent of the copyright holder.
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Spring Rain on the Wind
A historical time-travel
Prologue - Anglesey, Wales, 1742
"BURN WITCH, BURN!"
It was a single chant, a man's, high-pitched yet determined, ordering the rest of the men and women to join him. After a brief hesitation their mouths began moving, silently at first. Then their voices gained strength and unity, like individual flames leaping from branch to branch and creating a single sheet of blazing forest fire:
"Burn witch, burn!"
Their town sat close to the coast on the Isle of Anglesey, facing the Irish Sea, and undulating stretches of sand penetrated two miles inland. Situated off the north-west coast of Wales near the beautiful Snowdonia mountain range, Anglesey was called Mam Cymru 'Mother of Wales,' during the Middle Ages because its fertile fields formed the breadbasket for the north of Wales.
The execution was to be done in secret; therefore the men had opened a clearing amidst the one-hundred feet high dunes separating the settlement from the coastline.
As two black garbed, grim-faced men dragged the willowy redhead toward the stake upon the pyre of wood, she focused her amber eyes on the blue sky above the circle of hostile spectators. If she could remember that the soul is immortal and death but another form of beginning, she might endure the flames with some sort of dignity. Witch trials had declined throughout England and the last official burning in this peaceful hamlet of well-to-do farmers and tradesmen had occurred sixty years ago, with Dame Angharad Drake, her grandmother who'd been a renowned healer, and her two male assistants, Amergin and Torsdan. What bitter irony that she was to meet the same fate, and on Samhain All Souls' Day.
Though her trembling was out of control, she dug her teeth firmly onto her lower lip. Thus she managed to restrain the scream of terror lodged in her throat. But her teeth had sliced open the skin on the corner of her lip and her mouth was filled with the coppery taste of her own blood. Still, a part of her viewed her avid tormentors calmly, as if detached from their wretchedness that was propelling her to this fiery end. Out of the twenty-two gathered here, she had tended the illness and injuries of nineteen. It was unbelievable that they would find her guilty of sorcery. Yet they had, and she could not reverse the chain of events that had led to this moment. Her cousin Adrian Maddox's eerie ability to manipulate the gullible members of his "Methodist" society had triumphed over reason as well as loyalty.
Despite her outward show of strength, in her mind's eye Mairenn Morgan watched herself engulfed in living hell and felt disgust as she saw herself succumb to the final indignity begging him for mercy.
Then she was placed in front of the uneven stake, her arms pulled back and tender wrists bound together with stinging lashes around its rough surface, while faggots were heaped all around her. Every touch upon her already smarting skin sent fresh echoes of pain reverberating from the top of her head to her toes. Earlier, her bare feet had been desensitized by the cold in her dank stone cell. But as luck or the Devil would have it, today the weather was unseasonably temperate and the wind balmy. Once outside, its touch had soothed her frozen flesh, bringing it to life with an embrace reminiscent of a mother's.
Her sight was blurred from staring skyward, and she had to blink several times to focus on the glowering, paste-colored face barely two feet away from her. Maddox had stepped onto the pyre and was hovering dangerously close to her. He was very tall, lean, with shoulder-length, white-blond hair and piercing blue eyes eyes that were reptilian in their coldness and he wore a black cloak. He could have been termed handsome but for the expression of haughty disapproval permanently etched onto his blunt features.
Lifting his right hand, he thrust the Bible under her nose. "Confess, Mairenn! Confess and repent."
"I have nothing to confess, and you know that for a fact," she replied through cracked lips. Each word was uttered with great difficulty, each releasing blood pooled in her mouth. A thin line of crimson rolled down her dirt-smeared chin.
"It is too late to redeem your body," Maddox declared urgently, "but there is still time to save your soul!"
Terror drumrolled through her veins and she shuddered, her teeth clattering loudly enough for him to hear.
His ice-blue eyes narrowed with glee he could not contain. "You need but to confess, and I will order you strangled first by a rope and then burned. You will be spared the agony of the flames as they consume your flesh."
She opened her mouth to defy him again, but her voice failed to carry out her will.
"I pity you, sweet Mairenn," he spoke softly. "Yes, pity you even though you have disappointed me more than you can ever comprehend."
"And I damn you, Adrian!" Mairenn shouted with a last ditch effort, "and the rest of your misguided society, too!"
An uncomfortable silence fell upon the assembled. His hand holding the Bible drooping to his side, Maddox reached out with his left hand, touching first her shoulder, then the bare expanse of her arm.
Her skin crawled. His touch felt heavy, his palm cool and smooth like that of a serpent.
"Why did you have to kill Elizabeth?" he whispered, his tone rueful. "There was no need to it. I was going to take care of her in my own way, at the right time."
Shivering, Mairenn realized that at last she was facing the true depths of her cousin's madness and delusion. Although he was the culprit, he had convinced himself that she had poisoned his wife. Yet, mad or not, Adrian was too clever for her to prove otherwise. Neither was she able to expose the other murders she suspected he had committed before.
"You and I cousin we go back a long time " she whispered, her head spinning as she recalled how it had all begun.
They were second cousins, came from a noble family proud of its ancient, Welsh-Celtic roots, and were born on the same day, only five miles apart, to unrelated mothers who had died soon after giving birth. At the age of seven, Mairenn's father Sir William Morgan, the Viscount of Anglesey, had initiated both of them into the secret world of Druidism.
Their isle had long been associated with the Druids. At the time of the Roman occupation of Wales, Anglesey had stood out as one of the last strongholds of the warrior Celts and their druidic priests. Infuriated, the Romans had deemed it vital to invade Anglesey and annihilate the priests, subduing them only after protracted battles.
Though the Romans had destroyed the Druid shrine and cut down their groves of sacred oaks, they had not been able to eradicate their spirit. According to family lore, one of the black-robed women Furies who battled the Roman soldiers to death had been Alluvia, a red-haired ancestress of Dame Angharad Drake, her very own maternal grandmother.
As Mairenn and Adrian came of age, often sharing the same bench and desk, they had studied theology, science, history, herbalism, and the physics of the earth and stars.
Although they had gotten along at first, later, when Adrian had attended Oxford University and met the brothers John and Charles Wesley, they had grown apart to serve opposite masters: she, nature's all-loving Mother, he, Satan.
In that service, Adrian Maddox used the ultimate disguise, that of the most-devout Christian. Inspired by the Wesleys' Holy Club, in which members sought to live the Christian life through methodical study and devotion leading them to be nicknamed 'Methodist' he had joined the movement of founding local societies to 'spread scriptural holiness throughout the land.'
Reliving his final visit to her home, Mairenn saw her legs trapped between his, his cold hand at the hem of her skirt, wrenching at it, trying to pull it up.
"I have come to give you the good news that as your only living male relative, I shall do right by you, and take you under my protection as my wife," he had declared matter-of-factly, oblivious to her protests. "We shall be wed after a reasonable period of mourning Elizabeth. Then at last, all your estates that have fallen under disrepair ever since Sir William's death will have the firm and astute ownership of a man to thrive on."
When she had refused and shown him the door, Maddox had proven that hell hath no fury like the devil's errand boy scorned.
Mairenn drew in her breath, gearing to slap his face. Then the fact that her arms were immobilized struck her with a paralyzing sense of futility.
As she glared at him defiantly, perspiration broke out on his face. Thick threads of it trickled from his wavy, white hairline across his wide, deeply lined temple. She swung her head aside, avoiding his eyes.
Maddox's jaw clenched, his hand cupped her chin and jerked it around to face him fully. His black-garbed lean figure was so close that the smell of his sweat was putrid in her nostrils. Hooking her teeth on the insides of her cheeks, she fought to hide her defeat from his penetrating gaze.
Time froze in its hourglass.
On Maddox's face a tender, almost loving expression broke through its curtain of condemnation. "Farewell, beloved," he mouthed. "Take heart for we shall meet again in hell."
Maddox took a step back, hesitated, and then took another.
The last vestiges of her strength crumbling, Mairenn's shoulders sagged. Oh, she so wanted to live and mayhap have a daughter to whom she could pass on the gift and duty handed to her by the gentle, loving Brighid.
Returning her gaze to the blue sky, she forced herself to think: I am ready to meet you, O Lord; it was only by Your Will that I've lived to be thirty-three, and stayed healthy so I may perform my calling.
She wanted to add, forgive them Lord for they know not what they are doing, but could not, for the pain of the first flames licking at her feet obliterated all rational thought.
* * * *
When Marquis Bradford Alden, the blond, sixteen-year old heir-apparent of Percy Alden, Duke of Mansfield, approached the assembled on horseback, the first thing he saw was the top of her foaming, curly red hair. Wisps of black smoke rose high around the stake.
His heart sank. He was too late. The woman who had saved his life through great skill and patience when he'd been struck down with scarlet fever was dying in the hands of the people she had given her all to serve.
"For the love of God, stop this madness!" Bradford spurred his powerful white stallion with a kick that leapt him right in front of Lady Mairenn.
She was strangely silent but struggling with a desperate strength that shook the stake, dislocating it partially and freeing one of her already blistering hands. There was no time left to lose.
The rest was only a blur for the young heir as he drove his stallion through fire swift as lightning, wrenched the woman away from the stake and up onto his saddle.
When he emerged on the other side of the fire, his red cape, blond hair, as well as the tail of his white horse, were smoking, afflicted with insidious sparks.
As they galloped away, the villagers scattered quickly, terrified of his father's wrath yet furious because Lady Mairenn Morgan had escaped. Not long before, they had greatly respected The Lady, but in light of Sir Adrian's claimed revelations about her true motives behind that façade of goodness and light, that respect had turned into loathing. They sincerely believed in that the only method of driving away the witch was to burn her alive. And now that she was not, they were due to face untold calamities, for she would surely take revenge.
Adrian Maddox remained behind, a statuesque, white-blond haired and black-cloaked solitary figure staring in the direction of the horseman until the last dune stopped waving in his wake.
In the dark space behind his ice-blue eyes, Maddox concentrated on
a vision of himself slowly changing into a sleek black eagle that would follow
Mairenn and all her descendants to the Four Corners of the world.
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