by Janie Franz
Jan-nell the bowdancer, now pregnant with her second child, and her daughter, Mira-nell, trek up a mountain where bards’ tales have said a village of warrior women exists. Jan-nell makes this trip in winter—and in her condition—in order to find a place for Mira-nell where the child’s precocious abilities will be accepted. The women on the mountain, though, are not fighters or even man-haters. They have chosen to live apart from the world in a village of only women, led by a sisterhood of hunters. Chandro, a beautiful trackfinder, rescues Jan-nell and her daughter, offering them a home and the promise of love.
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Nearing the bend in the trail, Mira-nell gave out a cry and pulled on her mother's cloak. Jan-nell looked back at her. The child's face was rapt as if she had seen the One before her. "Look," she said, pointing ahead.
On the trail, silhouetted by the morning sun, a tall woman stood with feet spread wide apart, a hand on an upright spear that towered far over her head. The woman's short red hair was set afire by the golden rays behind her. She wore a cape and woven pants with high boots made of goat hide. Her stance was powerful. No doubt she could bar their way further up the trail since Jan-nell possessed little strength to push past her, much less fight her for the right to pass, if that was her intention.
Before Jan-nell could ask what she wanted, another tightening spread across her belly. She was prepared for it this time, only turning slightly to hold her staff with two hands as she breathed with it.
When Jan-nell finally raised her head, the woman with the spear stood a few paces from them. Reaching into a pouch by her waist, she brought out two small leaves and offered them to Jan-nell. "Chew and swallow the juice but not the leaf."
Jan-nell examined the leaves, sniffed them, and then raised an eyebrow to question the stranger.
"It will pause your labor," the woman explained in quiet tones.
"Pause it?" she questioned with suspicion. "I have used plants to speed a birth and to ease it, but not one to make it stop. I know of no such plant. Where did you find it?"
"It grows in the waste places of the mountain near the edge of the snows." Then she added, "It will not harm the babe."
Jan-nell crunched on the bitter leaves and nearly retched as the vile fluid filled her mouth. With effort, she managed to swallow it.
The woman offered a rueful smile and put a strong hand on her shoulder in comfort. "'Tis awful it is true, but it does the work." Then her brow furrowed. "The pull of the earth hastens the birth. We must get you to shelter and off your feet—and soon….”
About Janie Franz
Janie Franz comes from a long line of Southern liars and storytellers. She told other people’s stories as a freelance journalist for many years. With Texas wedding DJ, Bill Cox, she co-wrote The Ultimate Wedding Ceremony Book and The Ultimate Wedding Reception Book, and then self-published a writing manual, Freelance Writing: It’s a Business, Stupid!She also publishedan online music publication, was an agent/publicist for a groove/funk band, a radio announcer, and a yoga/relaxation instructor.
Currently, she is writing her tweveth novel and a self-help book, Starting Over: Becoming a Woman of Power.
1. Nickname or Name? My name is Jan-nell. For part of my life I was known only by my title, The Bowdancer.
2. Job? I am the Bowdancer, the keeper of the lore of my people. I am also a midwife and healer. I sing the songs of the One. Though I have left my people and that revered place in their village, I still do the work of the One, trying to find my place within this wild world I have discovered.
3. Most important goal? My most fervent desire at this moment of my life, before the birth of my second child, is to find a home for my clever daughter. Like I was as a child, she is quick-witted. However unlike me, she has no place where that gift is recognized. In the village below this great mountain I am climbing, she was ridiculed by child and adult. And her only future was to be the wife of a dull-witted farmer.
4. Worst fear or nightmare? My worse fear is that there will never be a place for my daughter Mira-nell, nor for me, for I, too, wish to finally belong somewhere again.