Eden Forest (Part one of the Saskia Trilogy)

BOOK: Eden Forest (Part one of the Saskia Trilogy)
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Eden Forest

(Part one of the Saskia Trilogy)

 

 

Aoife Marie Sheridan

 

Eden Forest (Part one of the Saskia Trilogy)

Copyright © 2015 by Aoife Marie Sheridan

All rights reserved.

This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical,

photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without prior written permission of the copyright owner and/or the publisher of this book, except as provided by United States of America copyright law.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

 

ISBN-978-1515368892

Published by Aoife Marie Sheridan

Also available in eBook and paperback publication

BY AOIFE MARIE SHERIDAN

OTHER WORKS BY AUTHOR AOIFE MARIE SHERIDAN:

 

 

THE SASKIA TRILOGY

EDEN FOREST #1

CITY OF SECRETS #2

THE RISE OF THE QUEEN #3

 

 

DEMON SERIES

HUNTERS (PART ONE)

HUNTED (PART TWO) (COMING SOON)

Dedication

This Book is dedicated to Emmet Proudfoot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EDEN FOREST

 

Prologue

 

 

 

I
pull down my brown tunic to try and cover my ever-

growing stomach. Sweat trickles down the back of my

neck as the sun burns high in the sky, yet I have a sense

of peace as I dig my hands into the cool soil that surrounds

the flower beds. I close my eyes and inhale the beautiful

scent of thousands of roses with lavender lady flowers and

violets as their companions.

“Suis, could you fetch me a beaker of water?”

Suis jumps up off her knees.

“Of course, ma’am.” She runs off along the path that winds

through the rose beds.

I kneel back on my haunches while waiting for Suis to

return. My mind wanders to the festival only two days away. I

am excited, yet terrified. The festival is held every ten years for

women of the age of twenty-five. The king and queen match us

personally for our future husband or wife. I rub my belly gently;

I have all I need for now.

“Here you are, ma’am.” Suis hands me the water.

“Do you have a stomach ache? Because if you do, my mum

always says rosemary leaves settle it.”

A tingle of fear runs through me. I have to be more careful.

If Suis saw me rub my stomach, then who else might have?

I square my shoulders and take a deep gulp of water. “I will

remember that. I actually grow some in my garden, but thank

you for the advice, Suis.”

Suis pushes the clay off her small hands, already forgetting

about my stomach. She is only sixteen and my first apprentice so

I am not entirely sure if my teaching is in any way good. The bell

rings once, signalling it’s time for lunch. We wash our hands by

the fountain before making our way to a large barn where food

is served for the gardeners. There are about twenty of us that

are spread out amongst the four sections of the gardens. Each

section holds different flowers and plants. The section that I

work in is S1. This is the smallest of all the sections; only Suis

and I work here.

When we arrive at the barn, there is a large queue formed

already, and I have to wait in line in the sweltering heat. It never

bothered me before, but with swollen ankles and a sore back, it

is getting harder.

“Next,” the server calls in a rough voice and slops soup

into a wooden bowl, while another and equally rough server

hands the man at the top of the queue a bread roll. I can’t blame

them for their lack of enthusiasm. Once we are finished eating,

they have to serve all the workers from the vegetable and fruit

gardens, and they exceed our numbers threefold.

I take my soup and roll while thanking both men, but not

receiving a reply. I sit myself at one of the long wooden tables

that have been worn down from years of use. The cracks that

run along the wood are wider, allowing me to see my toes

peeking out of my sandals. Suis sits down beside me, glancing

around the barn, looking terrified.

“Why are the guardians outside, ma’am?” she asks with her

eyes wide and innocent.

“First of all, Suis, please call me Marta, and the guardians

are always stationed here to make sure the work is done. If the

work is done, then there will be no trouble.”

Suis looks into her soup. “And if the work is not done?” Her

voice quivers a little. I can see by her face that someone has told

her some nasty rumours; the children seem to think it fun to

scare one another, but it’s hard to make someone feel safe when

they are so afraid.

I pat her gently on the back. “The work is always done.

Don’t fret, child.” Then I give her a square look. “And don’t be

listening to silly stories. Unless an adult tells you, always assume

it is untrue.” She relaxes her posture, relieved that everything

will be all right, and she digs into her soup.

Nicon sits down across from me. “Marta.” He looks at Suis

and acknowledges her with a nod. Then he raises his eyebrow

in a question. Is it okay to talk in front of her? I give him a nod.

“Any word on the supplies?” Nicon asks in a whisper so none

of the guardians can hear.

He is referring to wine I am getting him. It is a rarity here

in Saskia, as the queen has banned all alcohol from our village,

saying it’s for our own good, but not everyone agrees. It is only

allowed at times of celebration.

Dominic, my best friend’s husband, knows people who know

people. “Not yet, but soon,” I whisper. He inclines his head and

starts eating.

He is a rather large man and with his build would be more

suitable as a woodcutter, but he signed up to be a gardener. He

towers over all of us, but would never hurt anything. He is a

gentle giant.

I eat my soup quickly. “See you, Nicon.”

He sets his wooden spoon aside and drains his bowl by using

it like a mug. He wipes his face with the back of his hand. “That

was tasty. See you later,” he says with a smile. I laugh, as he has

bits of bread stuck in his beard.

 

Once back in the garden with Suis, I give her instructions

to remove all the dead leaves. Then I return to my own work.

After a few hours, I watch Suis from the corner of my eye. She

is struggling, catching her hand on every thorn while trying to

remove any dead leaves.

“Ouch.” She places another bleeding finger in her mouth. Her

small face is scrunched up, making her features look smaller.

“Suis, go wash your hands by the fountain and take a break.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” She speaks with her finger in her mouth,

making me laugh.

“Call me Marta.” She smiles, nods, and leaves to wash

her hands. I return to my work, turning more soil. A shadow

appears over me, a guardian. There is always one stationed at

each garden, making sure the work is done. He is young so I

know he will be harsher than other guardians.

He looks at me with a scowl. “S1, where is your apprentice?”

We are called by our sections. It is easier than names.

I rise and incline my head with respect. “She has gone to the

fountain to tend her wounds, sir. She will be back shortly.”

The guardian leaves without a second glance, his face stoic,

and makes his way to the fountain to make sure I have told the

truth. Suis arrives back shortly after the guardian is gone and

looks at the rose bed as if in a challenge.

I say nothing of the guardian, as I do not want to upset her.

It will only give her cause to worry. “Do you have an affinity,

Suis?”

She looks at me, confused.

“Of course, everyone does.”

“What is your affinity?”

“ Air, ma’am… I mean Marta.” She gives me a shy smile.

“Then use it.” She frowns. I walk behind her and place my

hands on her shoulders. “Close your eyes.” She closes them

really tight. “Relax, Suis. I want you to reach out with your

mind to the roses. Can you feel them?”

She nods. “Yes, yes, I can.”

“Now feel along them until you come to a blank area. Can

you see it?” She nods. “Okay, that’s the dead leaves. Now send

wind to knock them off.” The rose bushes begin to rustle.

“Gently. You only want to get rid of the dead leaves.” One by

one, the leaves flutter to the ground.

Suis opens her eyes. A smile spreads across her face when

she sees all the dead leaves on the ground. When she smiles,

she looks prettier. “No more thorns to poke at me,” she says

gleefully.

 

The bell sounds. It rings all over the village, signalling the

end of the day. We put away our tools before leaving and head

back toward the village. The streets are full of villagers buying

and selling goods. I have to squeeze through the crowded square

to get to the other side where I live.

The village is encircled with large, round towers that house

all guardians. From the square they look really small, yet their

presence is felt always. They were built with black stone and

a red slate that covers the circular roofs. The colours were a

reminder that danger would never pass the guardian towers.

Once, they had given comfort to the people of Saskia that we

 

 

were looked over and protected, but now they are a reminder of

our darker days.

My small white cottage comes into view with its bright

yellow straw roof. The village is scattered with small cottages

for workers with no families. They are just sleeping quarters

with a cooking and resting area. It is all I need. When I get

to my bedroom, I gather the fresh garments and soap I have

wrapped up on my bed and make my way to the spring to clean

the sweat and soil from my body. The main springs are located

beside the castle, but are always full with workers at this time of

the day. I found a small spring not far from my home that was

rarely used, and I love the peace and quiet.

On the way, I have to pass the memorial garden, just at the

end of the village. I don’t help maintain it, as it’s too painful.

My parents are buried there, along with other villagers. King

Morrick came up with the idea that we should build the garden

in memory of all the villagers who were wrongly accused of

being traitors from the time Saskia was at war with the previous

king, King Paulus.

I still feel angry, even though it has been over twenty years

since the war. I was only five at the time and my parents

were decapitated in front of me for sheltering wounded

rebel guardians. They rebelled against King Paulus for his

evil ways, as he had brought darkness and suffering to the

Saskian people for almost fifty years. I shiver at the memory.

But rumours were circulating lately that he still lives.

Nobody ever found his body after the clean-up started, but

we all hoped he was so badly burned there was just nothing

that remained. The rumours are starting to frighten people

who fought and lived through the dark times. My parents

faces come back to me, both of them on their knees as I was

made to watch. I wipe the fresh tears from my eyes. I am still

amazed by how much it hurts after so long.

When I reach the spring, my stomach growls. I pat it gently.

“Wash first, then food.” I strip off my work clothes- a long

brown tunic that has short sleeves just to the elbow and slits up

the sides of my legs to allow flexibility while gardening. Brown

is worn by all workers outside the castle, and blue is worn inside

the castle.

I lace my tunic with soap and scrub viciously, making sure

to get all the soil off it. When I finish, I hang it on a nearby

branch of a tree. After I remove my sandals and undergarments,

I let my hair down, removing all the pins. It falls just at my

shoulders, a cascade of black curls.

There is a dip at the side of the spring that I use to lower

myself into the water. It is warm from the sun’s rays. The

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