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Can one woman, genetically linked to a time of witch burnings and religious persecution, prevent a devastating global war between conflicting ideologies in the near future?
Three women hold the key. In the year 1624 Mair Griffiths is executed for witchcraft in Wales. 2060 and Jeena H Roberts commands a top-secret mission halt a war that has the world in flames. In 1986 Helen Ross travels to Wales in search of her birth family but what she discovers in the ancient stones of that land of magic and melancholy is far more ominous than she could ever have ever imagined.
Mair ran, skirt hem gathered up and pulled between her legs to mimic a man’s breeches then tucked in to her leather-strand belt. Terrified, fleeing for her very life, she was barefoot, her breasts, heavy with milk, burned almost as fiercely as the breath that scorched her lungs. The savage barking of the dogs and the jeering voices of the men propelled her forward and uphill, toward her only hope for salvation. She stumbled, tumbled and then dragged her pain-wracked body back on to her feet to force herself onward. Sweat stung her eyes, her damp red hair clung to her neck and dread gripped her belly, heart and soul like the grasping talons of the devil himself.
The sounds from dogs and men melded into one, roaring behind her, gaining on her. Her once pretty feet were torn by nettles and stone, her chest was alive with searing pain, blood thundered in her ears. Even the throbbing of the seeping wounds on her slight body was as nothing, for in her desperation to live she felt only the rush of terror and determination that drove her on. Capture would lead to unspeakable horrors. She had to get to the trees for there she would be saved. She believed that to be true; she hoped that with all of her tarnished soul.
Overhead the glowering rain clouds parted and a shaft of light stretched out from the heavens to illuminate the three golden-leafed beech trees straddling the hillside in the near distance.
A sign, it’s a sign.
And, heartened by her faith, from some deep reserve within her, she found the strength to continue, spurring herself on harder as her pursuers bellowed threats. The side of the hill was cripplingly steep, and the pack was closing in fast. Her wounded thighs screamed their exhaustion as she clawed and clutched at tufts of grass to heave herself onward, upward.
Hauling her dissipated body to the brow of the hill, she threw herself at the middletree and clung to its protective bulk, shuddering panic finally reaching her knees and dragging her helplessly to the ground.
The magpie perched on a branch of the third beech tree flicked a wary eye at her as she lay – a bloodied creature in tattered clothing – at the base of the tree, sobbing, waiting for release from her torment.
She looked up at the bird; this sacred creature, mysterious, sly and, staring back at her, it appeared to be contemplating her predicament.
“Help me,” she pleaded. “Take me now. Don’t let them have me.” Peace. She felt the gentle hands of the First Mother upon her and was soothed. A sweet
murmuring lullaby, sung in that barely remembered language came to her from a vanished past and calmed her frantic heart. Lost in her reverie, unaware that her downfall was at hand, she waited in silence, oblivious to the fact that her pursuers had reached the bottom of the hill.
One man, breathing hard but grinning triumphantly was unleashing his dog and the beast, sensing its prey, charged up the steep slope, mouth foaming, eyes wild from the excitement of the chase. But as soon as it reached the summit of the hill, some unseen force stopped it from racing forward and it halted just a few feet short of the tree beneath which Mair sat.
High in the beech tree the magpie swayed on its branch, fixing the confused animal with its hypnotic stare. The dog was transfixed, unsure and so stood motionless, its body quivering, waiting for its master’s command.
Mair’s pursuers, her former torturers, mounted the brow of the tor and the dog’s owner angrily slapped it hard across the rump. Startled, the creature lurched forward, only to be grabbed by the neck by its master who delivered a vicious kick in the dog’s ribs, leaving it whimpering.
Moments later, blows rained down on Mair, feet kicked her and loud foul-breathed voices screamed vile words, but she could no longer hear them. An ugly slavering black dog tried to sink its teeth into her calf muscle, but merely drew blood and was dragged off
by the cursing handler. “You’ll have to kill it now.” “Like hell I will.” “Be it on your own head, then.” “Drown it,” said another. “If it’s tasted witch blood, it has to die.” “I’m not killing a good dog ’cause of her.” Mair heard this exchange at a hollow, echoing distance, and felt little as they
roughly hoisted her up by her long red hair. Her wrists were tied in front of her. Her captors affixed another rope to that rope, knots separated one from the other: A bond devised by the ever-vigilant witchfinders, to protect the captors from occult powers as they did God’s holy work.
As soon as the men were satisfied with their handiwork, they and their snapping, snarling hounds set off downhill at a pace, the rope tightening as they yanked Mair along behind them. Once led away from the magpie and the healing tree, she was brought back to reality. She had failed; there was no help for her now, no redemption, no retribution, and no hope. She shed tears.
“Sorry now, eh?” jeered one of the men, glancing back at her. “Always sorry when they’re caught.” “I’ve done nothing,” she shouted at them. “That’s rich,” one said and they all bellowed with laughter. “No need to run then, was there.” Pulled along behind this mindless, superstitious rabble, she knew there was some comfort for her in their beliefs; for she was less than a woman to them, now she belonged to the parish. If she were a mere thief on the run, these louts would throw her on the ground and rape her, no doubt, but their dread of the supernatural kept their fear-shrunken manhoods in place. Still, safe though she might have been from violation, she dared not stumble nor falter in her steps for she knew she would be beaten senseless and dragged along on her knees.
She kept up with them as the landscape of untamed fields turned to the tilled and planted; the wretched wooden hovels assembled as shelter by the poor of the parish gradually gave way to stone-built dwellings. And farther on, beyond the woods, to the far side, closer to Cardigan Bay, grand half-timbered houses appeared as the outskirts of Aberdyfi came into view.
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I was a freelance writer in the UK for several years before teaming up with my editor partner to run our own magazine publishing company for 16 years in London.