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Aradia's Diaspora: First Draft
by Susan Woerner

In a closer-than-you-think alternate reality, our protagonist finds herself pleading with other women to stay clear of fanatical witch burners. On their journey to another home, they encounter slavers, mythical monsters, talking Aurochs, ghost queens, and other incredible beings. Can they make it to their new home before they are called heretics and meet a fate of other wisewomen?

Scene 1

I looked at the photos one by one, taking in details, arranging and rearranging them, shuffling and stacking different ones, as if I were giving myself a tarot reading that I didn’t like the answers to. One photo in particular stood out because I saw new detai...





Scene 2

“You want some coffee?” I asked. “I’m in need of a little wake-me-up.”

Mom looked up at the clock. “Oh my god! We’ve been doing this for three hours!” she said. “Yeah, honey, make a fresh ...





Scene 3

In the morning, which was pretty late by the time I’d gotten up, Mom was fixing breakfast for me. She had a card table set up in the living room so we wouldn’t disturb the photo piles.

“Good morning, sleepy head!” she said as I ...





Scene 4

I didn’t go back to the photos right away. I read through the file that my Mom’s cousin – my second cousin? – had made. She had hand-drawn a chart, having taped together several 8x10 inch sheets when she ran out of room on one.

There we...





Scene 5

I showed the photo of the young woman to the archivist at the second county seat I visited, thinking maybe I could get more information if I could identify anything else in the photo that might be particular to a region, or to a farm family that was well-known in th...





Scene 6

I was through the door and outside, coughing some from the smoke. Turning around I saw that the inside of the building was on fire. I couldn’t believe how fast it had spread. From the open doorway, I saw the flames start to creep up the side of the building. L...





Scene 7

“It will take them a while to come into the wood. They do not like the dark and they certainly do not like the wood in the dark,” the rider said.

Still panting, I held out my hand. “Thank you,” I said, “thank you … ?”

<...





Scene 8

My arms ached as we rode. I thought I was either going to bite my tongue off, my lower lady parts were going to be permanently flattened against my body, or both. Arion was tall and I didn’t fancy falling to the ground from what felt like the height of a secon...





Scene 9

Falling on my butt as I slid to the ground off of Arion’s back, I was thankful to have such a well-padded derriere. Isobeau had sheathed her dagger and picked up a nearby bucket as if it were just another day. She headed for the stream to the side of the clear...





Scene 10

Something a bit foul smelling filled my nose as I came out of the darkness of unconsciousness. The smell came in waves of barely noticeable to overpowering. I felt steam near my nose. That was enough to help me break the surface to daylight and to Isobeau, waving te...





Scene 11

We rode Arion out of the protective circle. I looked back and couldn’t see the rainbow of dust that surrounded the place. I asked Isobeau whether the shadow creatures would be waiting in the woods for us.

“It is likely they were called back by the ...





Scene 12

“Hey, I know it was dark when we rode to the cabin and all, but none of this looks familiar,” I said, looking around the woods, “Aren’t we going back the way we came? I thought you said the Sisters, or Daughters, or whatever you called them, ...





Scene 13

Coming over a ridge, we stopped at the top of a hill to view the valley below us. There was a group of small houses or tents - I couldn’t tell what they were for sure - clustered together. It reminded me of spokes and hub of a wheel. In the center was a huge t...





Scene 14

We rode into the village and I smelled something extremely delicious on the air. We hadn’t eaten since the eggs and mushrooms at breakfast.

Isobeau and the rider stopped in a clearing near the edge of the village. She dismounted as did the rider.

&...





Scene 15

I ran my eyes along the beams that held up the circular ceiling. I’m not exactly sure how it worked, but it opened in the center, the central beams never meeting at the top. Smoke was rising from a large oven set into the earth in the middle. To one side, the ...





Scene 16

The fire roared as if someone had poured gasoline on it, but no one was adding branches or logs, yet it was burning hotter and higher in the night sky. Above it flew owls circling above the flames, catching hot updrafts. They dove, pivoted, spiraled around each othe...





Scene 17

I was riding in a boat. In the boat was this very cushy bed and it felt so good to sleep. But I kept hitting my head on sandpaper, which was getting more unpleasant. But I didn’t want to leave the boat and the nice furry bed.

Furry bed?

Li...





Scene 18

Thundering hooves. Passlande galloped toward us, Ruis on her back. Arion followed close behind. We stood as they approached.

“Isobeau! One of the warriors from the journey returns,” Ruis shouted, “one of the Guard spotted her. She’s hur...





Scene 19

For the next two hours, we waited. Ruis and Isobeau, two healers and a couple of women who were part of the Guard were in one of the house yurts with Shala, the warrior who was first spotted on the hill. Beside her, in her hawk form, was Bhasi. No one else was allow...





Scene 20

The woman and cow in the photo had not only changed, but the image itself was becoming clearer.

Changing colors.

No longer only black and white, subtle color variations were apparent. There was a tinge of pink to the woman’s lips and cheek...





Scene 21

Isobeau was standing near the door to the yurt as we made our way back to the village. I saw food and flowers left in front by well-meaning Daughters. A healer came out and whispered something in Isobeau’s ear then walked toward the Great Yurt.

“He...





Scene 22

Shala fell back onto the bed and mumbled more things but there was no getting her to focus on me and answer questions.

One of the healers placed her hands over her face, saying through them, “Nana is dead? How can that be?” In turn, she looked at e...





Scene 23

What I thought would happen when Toci declared this to the entire village was total panic and chaos, with some wailing, cloth-rending and ash-wearing.

But. That’s not what happened.

There was a small group of women who came up to Toci and spoke to ...





Scene 24

Isobeau came in with Toci in tow. I followed, closing the flap behind me.

“Pua is Nana now,” Shala said, “and I must tell you, Isobeau and Nana and Betty what happened.”

I don’t know if I’m prepared for this.<...





Scene 25

I have never had much trouble eating even when things were upsetting and chaotic. This meal was no different and I finished quickly and waited for Isobeau and Nana, who both picked at the food on their plates. Perhaps it was because I still felt like an outsider, or...





Scene 26

“Me?!” I said, taken off-guard by Isobeau’s question. I looked at Nana and opened my mouth to suggest it would be better if she did it, but before I got there, she interrupted.

“I am not the leader for this journey,” Nana said, &l...





Scene 27

Even a drink of Diamond vite water was not enough to extinguish my thoughts.

She’s Malefici. Photo changed again. Harming a cow. Well, she had a knife. Maybe she wasn’t going to.

Kill that cow.

No, not a cow. An Au...





Scene 28

“Show Nana the drawing - the photo - is that the word? - show it to her,” Isobeau said, “she needs to know your connection to this woman.” We were walking toward the yurt. The sun was warming the pink tops and blue-purple bottoms of clouds on...





Scene 29

“Rest now, Shala,” Nana said, “thank you for telling us what you can remember.”

Nana stood and we did the same, moving toward the door.

“I think it would be good if the four of us went to my yurt to discuss this further,&rdq...





Scene 30

Mira said on her out-breath, “Betty. Isobeau. Toci. Bhasi…”

“Bhasi?” Nana asked. I thought that might break Mira’s concentration, but she continued.

“Bhasi. She knows the way,” Mira said. She did not open her e...





Scene 31

“This is Maddalena who came to live with the Order when I was young,” Auri said, nodding, “it’s been a long time since I have heard her name or thought about her. But this is she.”

We shifted in our seats toward Auri.

&ldquo...





Scene 32

“Gone? She left?” Isobeau asked.

“She was not there,” Auri said, eyes wide in remembering that night’s events, “but she had not left the room. Brothers came pounding on the door trying to get in when I called out to them. It...





Scene 33

“Betty, there will come a time when you will understand more about how we live in our world. For now, you must leave it at that,” Nana said, “Auri, thank you for sharing this information with us. I am sorry that your heart was broken and for the pa...





Scene 34

“Who’s Madeleine?” Auri asked.

“A bear-woman - she-bear - I met. And sort of dated,” I said, looking where Madeleine had run off, hoping she might come back.

Really? She might be wicked mad if she comes back.

...





Scene 35

We’d walked in from the west where Daughters lined the main pathway, waiting, chatting with each other in low tones, looking expectantly down the dirt street.

Looks like a parade route.

Ahead, I could see women rushing in and out of the Gr...





Scene 36

A makeshift stage stood in the space where women and girls had once sat to eat meals together. Logs that had served as benches were put in service as the base of the stage. Smooth, uniformly flat wooden planks were being laid on top of the logs. The Daughters had ta...










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