Stepping Onto Thear

The island was safe. Crossing the sea hadn’t been a mistake. Breathing deeply, the wind blowing my hair, I stepped off the ship. When I was told about it I had no reason to believe there would be any problems. In all the time Hekate had been talking to me she hadn’t caused me to make any mistakes. Finding out there was somewhere safe… it was our only option. Considering what was happening it had been our only option for a long time, but until I was told about the island I had no way of knowing it was there. Some of the others had only followed me out of hope. They didn’t believe me. They were still having trouble coming to terms with the fact I spoke with a deity, as it had seemed so impossible, and yet I had brought them to safety. It was the first time we had been safe for a long time.
Of course that was just the beginning. Feeling like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders I turned to look at the others. Each one of them had this light shining in their eyes that hadn’t been there before. Part of who we were had been lost, because of the choices of others, but we were somewhere we could be ourselves finally. Smiling, I looked back at the island. From what Hekate said I didn’t think we’d have much chance to explore for a little while. Finding out feet was the most important thing. We’d brought supplies with us, and they were enough to last us until we did. They just weren’t enough to keep us going in the long term. We needed to make a start with the farms first. Growing the food was needed was the first step towards us being able to create a true home on the island. Slowly, an unwanted niggle of doubt still getting the better of me, I stepped forward, wanted to learn a little more about where we’d actually landed.
None of the others followed me. I knew it was going to happen eventually. When I proved to them I was truly speaking with Hekate they would see me differently. She warned me it was coming, not wanting it to be a surprise, and it wasn’t. That didn’t mean it was going to be easy to deal with. Up until that moment I had been one of them. Being on the outskirts… it was going to change everything, and I accepted that. How could I not? I was who I was. The way they viewed me… to them I was special. I was something more than they were, even though I wasn’t. Not to me. I would always be one of them, even if they didn’t see me that way, and it wouldn’t be long before the others started to hear her voice too. She’d said that being away from everything would have an effect on everyone.
Someone was still watching me. They were going to make sure I was safe. I walked towards the line of trees I could see, remembering what I’d seen in my dreams, and I knew we would find a clearing not too far from the shore. Hekate said it wouldn’t be long before a storm hit, taking the ship from us. Now they believed I’d told them the whole truth everything would be taken off the ship. We couldn’t lose anything if we were going to make it to autumn, and the first harvest. Fortunately I already had an idea of what it would look like. We would make it. I couldn’t stop keeping that thought in my head. I had to hold onto it. I had to be the one to keep everyone’s spirits up, even when things got bad, and they were going to get bad, because things always did. There was nothing we could do about that. All we could do was keep going, keep holding onto what I had seen, and keep believing that it was going to be our future.
Grateful someone had dared speak to me, I turned to look at Gregory. “There’s nothing for you to worry about. We’re safe here.”
He nodded. “I know, but you should still stay close. You’re the one who knows about this island. Without you none of this would have happened.”
“I’m not going to disappear on you.”
Smiling, I looked back at the ship. “Tell me what you’re worried about.”
“Everything.” He shook his head. “I don’t know, to be honest. All I know is that I didn’t expect this. When you told us there was an island, somewhere we could be safe, I didn’t believe you. The only reason I came was because she believed you, and she would be here if she could.”
“Getting out sooner would have been better, but I until we had enough people…” I shook my head. “I’m sorry we didn’t. I’m sorry we lost her.”
“So am I, which is why I’m not going to lose you too.” His eyes met with mine. “We’ve all been through a lot. We’ve all lost people. I know you loved her as much as I did, and you would have done anything you could to make things happen faster.”
“About three minutes away from there there’s a clearing. In that clearing should be our shelter for the early years. Fortunately we aren’t the only people have needed to come here for safety. They’re all gone now, but we can use it.”
“What happened to them?”
“They weren’t as lucky as we’re going to be.” I shrugged. “It happens, Gregory, and I wish it hadn’t, but it is something for us to be grateful for.” I ran my tongue over my dry lips. “Leah isn’t far away from giving birth. I wouldn’t want us to have to hunt for safety, especially with that storm coming.”
“Neither would I.” We shared a look. “I’m happy to come with you.”
“You’re going to treat me normally?”
“Both of us know that isn’t possible. You are our priestess now, Hol, and you’re going to have to accept that.”
“I am, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do what needs to be done. There’s no reason to give me special treatment.”
“How long has it been since we had a priestess?”
“Over five hundred years.”
“Exactly. You’re just going to have to accept you are special, and you’re going to be treated that way. Had it not been for you we would still be afraid. We wouldn’t have somewhere we might actually be able to call home. This is all we’ve wanted for a very long time. Now we have it you’re the one who speaks on behalf of the Goddess. You’re the one who knows what might happen in the future, the one who has an idea of how we are going to be able to survive, and that means something. It means more to us that it does to you, because being connected to the Goddess is normal for you. For us this isn’t normal. It’s new. It’s exciting. It means everything is different, and it means you’re different.”
“Thank you for putting it into words for me.”
“You’re welcome.”
As the two of us stepped deeper into the woods I glanced at him. Once, long before I connected with Hekate, there had been talk of the two of us marrying. Instead he’d fallen in love with one of my closest friends. The two of them had spoken out against what had happened. They’d fought for change, and that fight had led to her death, the way it had led to so many other deaths. Her funeral had been the last straw. If she hadn’t died I don’t know if they would ever have followed me. Hekate told me it was coming long, but knowing didn’t make it any easier to say goodbye, knowing I wouldn’t be seeing her again for a very long time. My job was to focus on getting the rest of us to safety, because I was the only one who could. We stepped into the clearing. Like I’d seen before there were a number of wood cottages.
Getting closer to them showed me that some of them were better off than others. I’d expected that. A couple of them were in a much better condition than I thought they should be, and I smiled. Hekate had protected them for us. Her power was much less than it would be in the future, when she had more followers, but she’d done what she could, and I couldn’t ask for anything more than that. Slowly, counting our numbers in my head, I stepped closer to those two cottages, thinking about who was going to have them. Leah was one of them. She had to be safe, if she was going to deliver the baby without anything bad happening. That meant putting Deirdre in with her. She was our midwife, even though she’d never finished her training, because it wasn’t as though we had any other option. We were going to need what she knew. We were going to need to learn how to do things we’d never had to do before. We were going to have so much to do in a very short space of time.
“Most of these should be pretty easy to fix up.” Gregory’s voice almost made me jump. I’d half forgotten he was there. “It’s not as though we don’t have plenty of wood to work with, although they might not be as pretty.”
“Pretty doesn’t matter as long as they’re safe. That’s the most important thing.” I turned to look at him. “Hekate protected them for us.” He glanced over at me. “Without her these cottages would all have rotted away a long time ago. She knew the time would come when we’d need them.”
“Thank her for us.” Slowly, he stepped around the cottage, studying it closely. “The building style looks a lot like ours.”
“Do you really think we were the first to try this?”
“How come they didn’t make it?”
“Bad luck. Not having a priestess. Failing to prepare for the future. Timing.” I shrugged. “I couldn’t tell you for certain. Hekate doesn’t tell me everything, and there are things she doesn’t want me to know about. This is one of those things. I think she worries it might scare me, right when I need to be at my strongest.”
“Surviving here isn’t going to be easy, even with what we have.”
“I didn’t think for a moment it would be, but we need this. Staying would definitely have led to us all being dead. Having a chance to build new lives here… it’s better. It’s one of those things we needed.”
“It is.” He smiled. “With you to guide us we’re going to be okay.”
“Don’t rely on me. Hekate, even though she can See, only Sees possibilities. We have no way of knowing what the future holds for certain, Gregory, and what does happen will depend on us. We need to make this happen. We need to do the work. We need to make these cottages safe, start working on the farms, find out more about the island…”
“We all know that.” The smile turned into a grin. “We’re as ready as we can be for what’s coming next, Holly. It’s safe here, and that’s what really matters, because without that safety we didn’t stand a chance. Our focus is going to be on getting through the first winter, which is going to come sooner than we expect. Winter always does.”
Nodding, I felt better. “I know. We’ll be able to forage in the autumn. There’s going to be plenty of fruit to dry, but fruit definitely isn’t going to be enough to get us through the winter alone.”
“Know anything about rabbits?”
“Not much.”
He laughed. “Are there rabbits here? They’re good hunting, and we have the sea to fish too. Fruit isn’t going to be our only option.”