A Hidden Power

I started to write this a few years ago and am hoping to continue to make it a proper novel. Any comments on how I could improve it are most appreciated.

The story is about a young girl named Andrina who finds out about her unusual heritage and learns how to control the power that comes with this.

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1. The Beginning of Something New

I took a deep breath, preparing myself for the horror that waited for me outside. I really didn’t want to be there, standing in front of the doorway scared of what lay behind it – a big crowd of people dancing and laughing together. Going to things like that was not on my top priority list of things to do with my time; I cannot believe dad had talked me into it in the first place.

Usually I would find some way to get out of that complete and utter torture – a hunting trip or something like that generally tended to work but oh no. Not this time. Dad gave me the classic lecture, ‘you’re all grown up’ blah-de-blah. Yeah I’ve heard it all before, many times, believe me. I can remember exactly what he said as I was packing my hunting gear to head out the next morning.

“Andrina you are a grown up now” he said, “This is just silly, you can’t run and hide every time there is something you don’t like. You have to face it head on. Just come for a couple of hours and see how you go, it’s all I ask. I promise it won’t be that bad. Okay?”

I had agreed, though only half-heartedly, knowing that I would not enjoy myself one bit. I t had made him happy so that’s all that really mattered. I took one last steadying breath, not wanting to let my dad down, and pushed the door open and made my way out into the clearing to face one of my biggest fears.

In front of me were at least fifty people, all standing in little groups around the central fire. The clearing was about sixty paces wide and was surrounded by forest on all sides. Small wooden huts were dotted around the outskirts leaving a large, clear space in the middle of the starlit clearing.

All the people around the fire were talking very loudly and there were lots of small children running around squealing at the top of their voices. There was a myriad of different people standing in the clearing that night; some from Elderwood, the village that I lived in, and others coming from as far away as the shores of Anemot. There was a path through the forest that led to all the other cities and villages of Murcanos so that all the different clans could make it without too much hassle. All those people made me feel claustrophobic. I could feel myself wanting to run back into my hut and hide there until the festivities were over.

It was the first day of one of Murcanos’ historical two-day festivals to honour the gods and spirits of the forest. People would gather in a different village around the capital, Tyros, each year to celebrate.

The only reason that the festival made me want to run and hide away in a dark corner somewhere and never come out was because of the crowd it attracted. I was not much of a people person back then. I didn’t know how to relate to anyone except my father. It was very difficult for me to even say something as simple as hello to someone.

I stood and stared at all the different people sitting around the fire seeing if I recognised anyone from previous festivals. There were many people that I see year after year but this year there were a few new faces.

Food was just starting to be dished up into bowls as I made my way into the clearing. Once I had finished my food I sat at the edge of the group of people that sat by the blazing fire.

After the meal was finished by everyone and all of the bowls and cooking equipment had been cleared away the chief from my village, Alaric, stood to officially begin the festivities.

Alaric was a tall man with dark hair starting to go grey around the edges. On the first day of the celebrations he wore a red tunic and woollen leggings just to make sure he stayed warm in the autumn months, as it had begun to get a bit chilly. Also it was the traditional clothing for the chief of the hosting village.

“Thank you all for joining us tonight my friend” he said, “It is an honour and a pleasure for Elderwood to be hosting the Ferna. Now that we have eaten our fill, let us dance and sing to praise all the forest has given us over this past year.”

Everybody gave him a polite round of applause and then got ready for the first dance. A couple of the best musicians from each village began to bring out drums and pipes from huts nearby. The music then began.

It was all good. The music was tuneful, a lot of my favourite songs being played. The music was pretty good, everyone staying in time to the beat. As everyone danced round the log fire I stayed in the shadows of the huts, not wishing to participate.

Everyone danced into the night and early morning. The sun was starting to creep over the forest as people began to excuse themselves and went to their huts for a couple of hours sleep before they had to prepare for the grand finale of the festival.

As everyone was leaving I sat and watched until everyone but my father was left. He came over and smiled down at me.

“It’s nice to see you’re still here. Did you enjoy yourself?” he asked.

“Oh yeah sitting over here all night was SO fun!” I said sarcastically.  He laughed at the look on my face.

“You know what would make it more interesting, going to talk to people. It is good for you to do it now and again, you know.” He said pulling me to my feet.

“I know but I just can’t. It’s like there’s a barrier or something. It’s really difficult.” I said looking at him. He just nodded.

“Well you’ll have to work at it. Come on let’s get back to the hut and get some sleep. We’ve got another busy day tomorrow, wait I guess it’s later now isn’t it.” He said chuckling to himself.

He put his arm round my shoulder and led me back to the hut humming the last tune over and over again until it got stuck in my head and I was humming along with him.

 

It had only been about six hours since everyone went to bed but I just couldn’t sleep. I needed to get out of the house; it was getting a bit stuffy in there. I knew that I would be back before dad woke up and started worrying about me.

I went outside as quietly as I could and sat beneath an oak tree at the edge of the clearing beside the path that leads to the other villages. This was what I needed, sometime to myself without anyone around to interrupt my thoughts.

Last night had taken a lot of willpower just to take that teensy step out into the clearing. Everyone had been so loud and flamboyant. The entertainment was good and I had nothing against it but I just think that everyone dancing around and singing along to the music was just a bit of a strange concept to me. I would do nothing of the sort. Personally I have always felt that music is best enjoyed in a calm environment where you can really appreciate the beauty of what is being played. Everyone is different I guess.

I sat there, beneath the oak tree, for most of the morning thinking about the previous night until I heard my dad calling my name.

“Andrina, Andrina where are you?” I heard him call from the hut.

I had known subconsciously that dad would be waking up soon but I had been too engrossed in my thoughts to notice the time until then. As I ran back to the hut I could see him in the doorway looking around nervously for me.

“Oh Andrina thank goodness you’re okay. Where have you been? I’ve been calling you for about the last ten minutes.” He said as he spotted me approaching, looking me over to check I wasn’t hurt.

He could be overprotective sometimes, always wanting to know where I am. It got a bit frustrating sometimes but I knew he really meant well.

“Sorry dad I had to get out and think for a bit.”

“You could have woken me and told me where you were going” he said with a sigh, “Well it’s okay this time I guess but tell me when you’re going somewhere in the future. Okay?”

“Okay. I’ll tell you next time.” I walked forward and gave him a hug.

He relaxed and said, “Good, well I’ve got to go and help with the preparations for later. Do you want to help with something too?” I knew I wouldn’t be able to get away from him; he never let me out of his sight after I annoyed him like that. There was no point in disagreeing with him, it wouldn’t make any difference.

“Sure. Why not, I’ll help.” He looked down and kissed me on the forehead.

“Come on then, let’s go.” He said leading me to the middle of the clearing where a group of kids my age were starting to prepare the food for that evening.

We stopped a couple of metres away from them. I looked up at my dad. I knew what he was trying to do.

“No dad. DO I have to help with this? I know you’re trying to get me to talk to people but it’s not going to work. Not this way at any rate.”

“I’m sorry but if I don’t make you, you won’t even try. You never do try and face up to your fears, no matter what they are. Everything else is for adults only anyway. Go on and help. I’ll come and rescue you in an hour or so.” He said chuckling at the look on my face.

I glowered at him for a second then stalked off towards the group of teenagers who were sitting crushing and chopping herbs and berries.

They all looked up at my approach. They seemed shocked that I had been going to help them. I picked some herbs from a pile and a grabbed a couple of stones we used for grinding them. I then went to the edge of the group and set straight to work.

Within a few minutes they all started up their conversations where they had stopped as though I hadn’t intruded at all. They kept glancing back at me now and again though; just to make sure that I hadn’t moved any closer. Sometimes it felt as though they were scared of me. I was the least scary person on the planet.

I looked up at the group sitting around me. I recognised everyone but the boy sitting closest to me. He must be from somewhere around Tyros I thought and as I did he looked up at me as though I had called his name out loud. I smiled at him then picked up my pile of shredded herbs and took them over to the cooking fires. I didn’t want to start a conversation with anyone at that precise moment in time; I don’t actually think I wanted to have a conversation with any ever.

There was nothing left for me to do so I went and sat beneath the same oak tree I had sat underneath earlier that day. I sat there with my eyes closed thinking about the upcoming night of festivities, which is usually much worse than the first night.

After a while of sitting there daydreaming, I became aware of approaching footsteps. Nobody usually bothered me when I was sitting there; they knew they’d never get a word out of me so after a while everyone just gave up trying to talk to me. I just sat there ignoring whoever it was, content in my own little world. Though that was true I was still curious to know who actually wanted to attempt to speak to me this time.

I opened my eyes and saw that it was the boy that I’d sat near to earlier when I’d been helping. Now that I looked at him I noticed that he was tall, taller than all the other teenagers in the village. I’d never seen someone as tall as him before, except maybe myself. He had quite long black hair that fell over his bright green eyes. He looked at me, smiled and came over and sat beside me.

No one had every willingly sat beside me before. The kids I had grown up with thought of me as some sort of freak of nature, due to the fact that I couldn’t talk to them and in consequence I had never had any real friends. I any case none of them had ever even tried to be friendly enough to even try to get to know them.

I started to get a bit worried as time passed and the boy still sat next to me, looking at me as though he was expecting me to say something, because then I knew I had no choice but to talk to him. He didn’t know me, but soon he’d find out how much of a freak I am, I though, just as soon as he sees I can’t answer him properly. It was just impossible that he’d actually come over of his own free will and wanted to talk to me. I looked round at him.

“Hi” he said smiling at me again.

“Hello” I replied. I didn’t know what to say other that.

“My name is Faolan; it’s very nice to meet you. I’m sorry that I didn’t talk to you earlier but the others were saying not to because you’d curse them or something really bizarre like that!” he chuckled, “I didn’t want to upset anyone. Sorry.” He gave me a sympathetic look. I made no move to speak so he asked, “What’s your name?”

“Andrina” I answered quietly.

“That’s a nice name.” No one had ever said that to me before. Not even my dad. I thought I should say something to be polite. I sat there surprised at myself; I, in fact, wanted to talk to Faolan. Things were getting so strange it had almost become abnormal.

“Thank you.” I said, “Are you enjoying the festival?” I wasn’t sure but that seemed a pretty normal thing to ask someone.

“No not really. It’s not my sort of thing, the singing and dancing part anyway” he said chuckling to himself, “From where I was sitting last night it doesn’t seem to be yours either, eh?” Faolan smiled and laughed at the expression of surprise on my face.

I couldn’t believe he had been watching me.

“I didn’t see you.”

“I know I should have come and said hello but I didn’t want to get in the way of the dancing, my big feet would have probably tripped someone up! Anyway you looked as though you were concentrating in something really hard and I didn’t want to ruin your train of thought.”

“It’s okay. I was actually arguing with myself about good reasons why I was actually at the festival in the first place.” I smiled at him then looked away thinking why on earth he had come to talk to me. This feeling of wanting to talk to someone was new and strange, but I still wondered why he had come over in the first place. A person wanting to talk to me was an even newer experience.

“Why did you come over to talk to me?” I asked.

Faolan seemed taken aback by my question, looking slightly hurt.

He paused for a second then said, “Well you seemed a bit lonely sitting over here on your own and I thought you could use some company.” he smiled gravely, “I’ve heard things about you Andrina and from what I’ve heard I’m extremely lucky to have had an answer from you at all. Is that really true?”

“Well yeah. I never talk to anyone usually.” I looked at him and smiled.

“In that case I am privileged to be one of the people you talk to.” He said, seeming to cheer up considerably. At that exact moment I heard my dad calling my name in the distance.

“I’m sorry but I have to go. My dad’s looking for me. Bye.” I quickly got up and ran to where my father’s voice was coming from leaving Faolan behind me with a bewildered expression on his face.

As I ran I contemplated what I had just done. I had actually talked to someone, I had had a proper conversation with someone other than my father and what struck me the most was that I felt the need to answer the questions he asked so that I would make a good impression. It was turning into a rather bizarre day.

My dad was standing in the middle of the clearing near the fires. When he saw me coming I saw him relax and let out a big sigh.

“Would you stop trying to give me a heart attack young lady! Where were you this time? All the others said you had finished and went wandering off somewhere.”

“I was at the edge of the forest” I told him, “I wasn’t doing much, just daydreaming like you usually find me.”

I really wanted to tell him about my conversation with Faolan but I knew that I shouldn’t get his hopes up, at this point anyway. Maybe it was just a once off, like the next time I saw him I might not be able to speak to him at all.

“Well okay but like I said earlier you have to tell me where you’re going. Really do try stop giving me heart attacks, I don’t know how much my poor old heart take!” he laughed.

“Yeah dad, sorry I totally forgot.”

“Try not to forget in the future.” He said, “Anyway the finale is about to start soon, why not come back to the hut and freshen up before we go, yeah?”

“Okay.” I said heading back to the hut with dad feeling as enthusiastic about the festival that evening just as I had been the night before. Why couldn’t I not have said no to dad and gone hunting instead?

 

As I had the previous night I took my food to the edge of the group. Again it was delicious. I looked up from my meal when I heard someone approaching. It was Faolan; he was coming to sit with me again. Wow, this was crazy it was like everything that doesn’t usually happen was occurring in just one day. It was like I was in some sort of alternative universe.

“Hi, Andrina.” He said smiling as he sat down next to me.

“Hello, Faolan.” I answered politely, “How are you this evening?”

“I’m fine. Glad to get something to eat in fact, I’ve not had anything all day. I just realised how hungry I am,” he said with a chuckle and as if to reinforce the point his stomach growled loudly. We laughed and he started on his meal. I continued with mine so as not to make him feel self-conscious or anything like that.

“So have you always lived here?” Faolan asked through a mouthful of food.

“Well not always. I moved here with dad when I was about three. It’s the only place I remember ever being called home to me. I don’t really remember where I used to live, as I was so young when I left. What about you?” I asked as he was just finishing his last mouthful.

“Well” he said placing his bowl on the ground and looking back at me, “I don’t really stay anywhere in particular. Most days I move to a new place, pitch up camp here and there. It’s the easy life but it does get a bit lonely after a while.” he gave a smirk and asked, “It’s okay if you don’t want to, but do you want to come for a walk with me in the forest?”

I paused for a moment thinking through the pros and cons but after going through a couple of arguments in my head I just give up trying to find some way that would make me not want to go. The main reason that I was going to go was to get away from everyone else but I wasn’t going to tell Faolan that part of the plan!

“Yeah, I’d love to come!” I said smiling at Faolan.

“Great!” he said smiling excitedly back at me his excitement doubling.

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