Winter Wood

Free Winter Wood by Steve Augarde

Book: Winter Wood by Steve Augarde Read Free Book Online
Authors: Steve Augarde
life, then, for a Gorji?’
    â€˜Er . . . well, yes, actually. It is. Not many of us reach a hundred.’
    Yet some do. Have faith, Midge. Celandine may be in this life still.
    Pegs took a step forward, and Midge began to feel that she was being hemmed in.
    â€˜I really don’t think she is. You see, I’ve . . . well, sometimes I think I’ve seen her . . . or at least felt’ – she didn’t like to say the word, but could think of no alternative – ‘felt her ghost.’
    Her ghost?
    â€˜Yes. Her . . . spirit. I can’t explain it. It’s like she’s here sometimes. With me. Or I’m with her. Oh, I don’t know. But I’m sure it means that she must be dead.’
    We all of us have many lives, child. The spirit of a traveller may move from one life to another, and from one part of a life to another. Perhaps Celandine is such a one – a traveller, who comes to you from elsewhere. Find her. Speak with her when you see her, and she may answer.
    Midge didn’t like the thought of that at all. It was too creepy. Much too weird. And sitting here in the draughty gloom of this old barn, talking such impossible talk – this was too weird also. She wanted to escape, now, to get away.
    â€˜Well, I could try and find out what happened to her, I suppose,’ she said. ‘Maybe.’ She could hear the lack of conviction in her words, even as she spoke, but what did they expect – that she could work miracles? She gave a shrug of her shoulders.
    Nothing more was said for a few moments, and Midge was conscious of the disappointment hanging in the air. Tadgemole reached up and gently took the piece of paper from her hands. He began to foldthe sheet along its original creases, handling it with such care that Midge felt her heart suddenly go out to him. His strength and pride had disappeared, and he no longer looked like the leader of a tribe. He looked like an old man, tired and worried and worn down by care, a man who had lost his way. All of them had lost their way. Midge watched the top of the aged head, bent in concentration, and knew that she could not ignore the pain that she saw there, or just walk away from it. There was no escape after all, and there never had been. She made a decision.
    â€˜All right,’ she said. ‘I don’t understand any of this, but I’ll try. Honestly I will. I’ll do everything I can.’
    She meant it, and she saw a new expression in Tadgemole’s grey eyes as he lifted his head to look at her – a glimmer of hope, perhaps, and gratitude. And renewed curiosity.
    Pegs came up to her and briefly nuzzled her hand, the warmth of his breath passing softly across her fingers. How miraculous he was. She remembered how she had cared for him, brought him back to life in this very barn when he lay crushed beneath the hay-raking machine. She shyly reached out to touch one of his wings, feeling once again the curious texture of the velvety membrane and the long quill-like bones beneath. So fine and delicate. And so beautiful that she felt suddenly awkward, as though she had no right to be so familiar with him. She withdrew her hand.
    Do you see, Tadgemole, why this maid has all my faith? If not for her I would have passed from this life long ago. Midge was sent to our aid, as Celandine, her kin, was sent beforeher. We hide from the Gorji, and go in fear of them. If we cannot escape them we know that we shall perish. And yet we are helped on our way by their own childer.
    Tadgemole nodded. ‘Aye. This is a strange world. And a stranger day than ever I thought to see.’ He hesitated for a moment and then said, ‘Take this, then, maid – Midge. Perhaps it will help you.’ He held the folded piece of paper out towards her.
    Midge briefly wiped her palms on the knees of her jeans, and stood up – rather shakily. She had the sense that she was being

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