Emer's Quest (Manannan Trilogy)

Free Emer's Quest (Manannan Trilogy) by Michele McGrath

Book: Emer's Quest (Manannan Trilogy) by Michele McGrath Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michele McGrath
her mother’s face flashed before her. She remembered that long ago sunny afternoon when Niamh had showed the child, Emer, how to mix this dangerous potion.
    “Remember this well, Emer,” Niamh said. “If you are unlucky, you may need one day to look into the future. The mixture must be accurate, if you are to survive the journey and return.”
    She had never forgotten. She could do this thing and there was no escape. Best to do it at once. She rose and carefully set out on the table the things she needed.
    “Hello!” a voice called from outside and the door rattled.
    Emer opened it. A woman she did not know stood there, holding a bowl and a grinding stone.
    “I was told you wanted these.” She thrust the objects into Emer’s hands and hurried away before Emer could even thank her.
    Emer turned and went back into the hut. There had been fear on the woman’s face. She could not mistake it. The woman knew something uncanny was going on and if she did, so did everyone else. Emer sighed. If she lived, she would be called a sorceress. Her life would never be quite the same again.
    Emer spent the rest of the morning grinding the ingredients into powder and then measuring them out into the right proportions.
    “One black, two white, three yellow…” she whispered the rhyme her mother had taught her as she blended them together. The mixture looked the same as her mother’s.
    Emer drew a long breath. She had finished. She tidied away the remaining ingredients, putting them on one of the high shelves. Now there was no more excuse for delay. She wiped her hands and picked up the bowl which she covered with a small piece of cloth in case any of the mixture blew away. When she stepped out of the hut, the sun was shining and the sea was blue. The distant mountains were dappled with a light covering of snow. Emer looked around her. The world was a beautiful place, even here where men lived with their smells and the clank of their hammers. Would she ever see such loveliness again?
    She went to find Atli, who was down beside Rolf’s ship, talking to one of the men. He saw her and broke off his conversation, hurrying to meet her.
    “I am ready,” Emer told him.
    “Then come.”
    Atli led her to another hut, some distance from the others. It seemed as if it had been put to rights in a hurry for it had not been properly swept and the air was musty, as little used places are. It contained several pallets and a fireplace where a blaze had been newly kindled.
    “This is where we tend the sick,” Atli told her. “ We rarely use it, thanks be to Odin. No one has been ill since the spring. You will be undisturbed, for most people think the place is evil. Will it do?”
    Emer nodded.
    “Before you start, I must tell you that I intend to send two of my ships as far as the middle sea. I have never done this before and I would like to know if these voyages will be successful and prosperous. I also want to know if we will find your father.”
    “ I will try to find out for you. Do you wish to remain while I begin?”
    “ Yes.”
    “Then stand by the door so you don ’t breathe in any of the fumes. When they become too strong, go outside and don’t let anyone come in until the air is clear again.”
    “I will do so.”
    Emer pulled one of the pallets closer to the fire. She sat down on it and took the covering off her bowl. Very carefully she sprinkled the powder on top of the glowing turf. Immediately clouds of dark purple fumes spiralled upwards, reaching out from the fire like a living thing. Hurriedly, Emer lay down on the pallet, her hand holding tightly to the green stone she wore around her neck. She imagined the great ships on their southern journeys, holding their images in the forefront of her mind. Hopefully she would be able to see enough to fulfil Atli’s expectations.
    “Wish me luck,” she said to him.
    “Odin and all the gods protect you,” he replied.
    Then the vapour poured over her, a sharp smell was in her

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