Carpathian 00 - The Scarletti Curse
The raven winged its way along the edge of the cliffs. Below, the waves crashed and foamed against the rocks, each one rising higher and higher, reaching almost angrily toward the black bird. The raven changed course, circling inland across fields of wildflowers, above bare slopes, flying until it reached the timberline. It appeared to be meandering, slowly gliding across the sky, the waning rays of sunlight Generated by ABC Amber LIT Conv erter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html
glistening off its back. Patches of clouds began to drift across the horizon, almost in its wake, as if the bird was drawing a gray shadow over the land below it. Once in the stand of trees, the bird changed speed, swooped quickly, maneuvering through leafy branches and around tree trunks as if racing the setting sun. It flew as straight as possible up the hillside into the grove on the far slope of the mountain. It made its way unerringly to a thick, twisted branch. Settling there, it folded its wings rather majestically, its round, shiny eyes fixed intently on the small woman below.
Nicoletta carefully packed rich soil around the small fern she had recently moved. The earth here was more fertile than that closer to home and would enable her much-needed and rarer forms of flora to flourish. She used extracts from the plants as medicaments for the people in the surrounding villaggi and farms. What had started as a small hillside garden had grown into an enormous undertaking—transplanting all the herbs and flowers she required for various remedies and physics. Her bare hands were buried deep in the soil, the rich fragrances of the herbage enveloping her, a riot of color from the vegetation she had sown scattered all around her.
She shivered suddenly as a gray shadow obscured the last warming rays of the sun, leaving an ominous portent of disaster in her mind. Very slowly Nicoletta stood, dusting the damp soil from her hands and then her long, wide skirt before she tilted her head to look up at the bird sitting so still above her in the tree.
"So you have come to summon me," she said aloud, her voice soft and husky in the silence of the grove.
"You never bring me good news, but I forgive you."
The bird stared straight at her, its small round eyes shiny and bright. A lingering beam of light hit the feathers on its back, making them almost iridescent, before the graying clouds obscured the sun completely.
Nicoletta sighed and shoved at the wild mass of long, tangled hair flowing like a waterfall down her back well below her small waist, a few twigs caught in the silken strands. She looked as mysterious and mystical a creature as the silent raven, wild and untamed with her bare feet, dark eyes, and delicate sun-gilded features. A young, beautiful witch, perhaps, weaving spells amidst her lavish, exotic garden.
The bird opened its beak and emitted a loud squawk, the note jarring in the hush of the grove. For a moment the insects ceased their incessant humming, and the earth itself seemed to be holding its breath.
"I am coming, I am coming," Nicoletta said, catching up a thin leather pouch. She raised her head to the sky above her, then turned in a slow circle, pausing her arms outstretched, as she faced each of the four directions, north, south, east, and west. The wind tugged at her clothing and whipped her hair around her like a cloak. Hastily she began gathering leaves and seeds from various plants, adding them to the dried, crushed herbs and berries already in her pouch of medicaments.
Nicoletta began to run along a well-worn path leading down the hillside. Bushes caught at her full skirt, the wind tugged at her hair, but she made her way easily through the brambles and thick vegetation. Not once did her small feet falter on a stone or branch lying in wait on the ground. As she approached a stream, she simply hiked her long skirt up her bare legs and raced across smooth, exposed stones, occasionally kicking up a spray of water, like a shower of glistening diamonds.
Timber gave way to meadows and then barren rock as she neared the ocean. She could hear the sea thundering against the cliffs, continually seeking to erode the massive peaks. She paused before completing her descent to look upon the enormous palazzo that hulked forbiddingly on the next cliff above the raging sea. The castle was large and beautiful, yet dark and foreboding, rising out of the Generated by ABC Amber LIT Conv erter,
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