The Revenants

The Revenants by Sheri S. Tepper Read Free Book Online

Book: The Revenants by Sheri S. Tepper Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sheri S. Tepper
have been altogether forgotten.
    So life went on, and sometimes he/she was happy, bubbling with the joy of being healthy and alive in a world full of wonders. Always, however, something hovered just at the edge of that world, staining it, threatening it. Ephraim did not name it. Neither did Nathan. Only once in a great while, one of them would say, ‘I think it stems from … that,’ with the word ‘that’ said in a whispering spit as though it meant something unutterably foul. Jaer puzzled over this. ‘We dare not go,’ Ephraim said. ‘Because of that!’ His tone was such that Jaer could not ask about that . It was something which included the Keepers and the Separation and the Temples, the far off fields, no longer tended, going back to thistle and thorn. It was a shadow beyond the things one could see or define, something to the east, he thought, beyond the Concealment, beyond the ruins of Tchent. The Thiene were in it somehow, and the ancient times, and the name Taniel.’ Jaer learned not to think that as he had learned not to cry in that certain way, for to think it seemed to invite the shadow’s attention.
    So, Jaer grew, and learned, and waited, and pondered, and was not more impatient for life than was bearable. The years passed, and Jaer was ten.

    Year 1163
    Deep within the sullen moors of Anisfale lay the lands and leaseholds of the family Fathra, and deep within that family lay the fate and future of lean-limbed Leona, third daughter of a third daughter, fifth child of a fifth child on the father’s side, doubly unlucky, therefore utterly without honorable position. The family was so disgusted at her birth that they did not even have new-made the traditional birth-gift of maidens, the circlet with which her hair would be bound until marriage. Instead they found one in some ancient storage room of the fastness and dusted it off, out of fashion though it had surely been for generations. Though the error had been her father’s (he might, after all, have restricted his attentions to one of his other wives, getting his unlucky fifth upon Oroneen, fourth daughter, for whom it would have been only a second birth, or upon Panaba, who had already born nine and was, herself, twelfth daughter) it was Leona who would suffer for it. She was consigned at birth to a long spinsterhood, a withering away in the caring for other children and other households than her own. She would never need to give her maiden circlet to a husband, therefore she did not need one suitable for giving.
    Leona could not recall when she first became aware of being a child unwanted who had arrived untimely. It was simply something that was known by everyone, herself no less than they. She was not mocked for it, nor taunted. It was as though she had some kind of deformity which disqualified her for life but did not, unfortunately, seem likely to kill her. Slender she was, as lovely as a sapling in spring, lithe as a reed and as graceful as blown grass. Still, she would never marry, never bear children. Out of politeness no one mentioned it, but no one would have been fool enough to say that it didn’t matter.
    Whether she sensed this early or not, she never looked at any boy or man with favour, preferring instead the lonely muted swell of the moors, or her own company, or the love and companionship of certain of the women of the family. She loved first a sister, then a young aunt, and finally a cousin whose lineaments were much like her own, Fabla. When with Fabla, Leona could forget or simply not think of her maimed life, which she carried day to day as she might have carried a twisted spine or a withered limb. With Fabla, or sometimes when alone on the moors, she could feel as though she had been born anew, translated into another life, another body, a being not her own. Once in a while, alone on the moors with the sun riding low in the west to look under the edge of the cloud blanket and the green of every herb

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