Lisan Ra Brendel - Mona Leigh
Dust motes waltzed and twirled in the late spring heat. Bits of pollen teased and danced just out of their reach. The sun cast liquid shadows on the forest floor as small animals paused in their endeavors to watch as she walked by. They were no longer afraid of her. She had been a part of their lives much too long for that. Still, they were curious. Sometimes, when she was not too preoccupied, there were good things for them in the cloth pouch she always wore. Or perhaps a pat, kind word or burr removed. But this afternoon none of those things would happen. She was searching again and they had come to know that on those days she would not notice them. Silently they crept back to the things they had to do.
She paused near a small stream running silent and deep and pushed back the golden fronds of the water ferns that grew there. She bent, frowning, and carefully removed the cool mosses growing underneath. She held her breath and watched, waited. And there! Slowly, almost timidly, a small blue flower began to unfurl as a gentle beam of sunlight touched it's home. Her laughter floated through the forest as she reached to dig out the tiny plant. Only at this time in it's life. Only at this time of year. She knew that this one small plant would save many lives in the coming year. So rare and so precious. So powerful. But only one would she take. One per year. It was a trade and the only one she would make.
Straightening, she carefully placed the plant in her pouch. Pushing back her thick dark hair she sighed and once more begin to look around her. She had come further than she'd planned today and it took a moment to get her bearings. The meadow with Dark waiting would be there, that way. Glancing at the sky she realized it was time to head home. At this time of year night still came too early to wait any longer. Her parents would worry, even now, if she tarried much more.
She strode quickly, lightly and now took time to notice the many small animals that paused hopefully as she passed. As always her laughter was quick and ready. "Greedy. Tomorrow. I'll make it up to you."
After some time the stream she had left behind took a large turn on itself and once again she met up with it. Here just before the meadow it was wider, rocky and loud. She skipped lightly across the stones and almost burst into the meadow on the other side only to stop suddenly and drop to the ground. Dark. He had not greeted her. Was not even looking in her direction. He would have heard her come, he always did. Would be coming to meet her. But not today. Today he stood frozen on the other side of the meadow and was staring out into the forest beyond. His ears were pointed so far forward they almost touched. His nostrils flared as he drank and tasted the scents on the air. Every muscle was taunt with his concentration. She respected his senses enough to wait on his verdict. He would be a better judge of the danger of whatever was out there than she could be. She knew also he would fight to protect her. Her father had taught him well. Taught them both. She knew his hooves and teeth were a match for any woodland danger. And there had been no other dangers here for many years. She would wait hidden in the tall grass and let him decide what needed doing.
After several long moments he relaxed and tossed his great head. His mane fell forward over his eyes and he shook his head again. Then pawing the ground he nickered back to her. She smiled and rose, began walking over to him. The danger was passed. She trusted his judgment. He had never failed her before. She looked down as she walked and dusted off her skirts. The stallion swung his white slashed head back towards the forest and nickered again. He looked back to her once more and then as if deciding something he walked off into the forest.
Aeovel continued walking toward him, following where he led, her forehead creased now, eyes narrowed. Wondering. A quick wind tossed her hair back, lifted it suddenly, only to spill it down her back. It pushed her skirts back against her legs making it harder to walk in the thigh high grass that filled the air with it's fragrance. But the wind also brought it's own fragrance. No not a fragrance, an odour. A acid smell. Almost metallic. One that caught in the back of your throat and made it hard to swallow. One that is never forgotten once tried. Aeovel reached down, grabbed her skirts and lifting them broke into a run, fighting against the grass, the wind and her rising fear. "Dark! No! No! Gods, please wait. Please." She sobbed from deep inside and decided to save the rest of her breath for running.
Forgetting her own safety she burst into the trees and ran on in the direction her horse had taken. In only a short terrible moment she could see him standing just ahead of her. She slowed and tried to take in what was happening. Dark stood quietly, neck extended and gently, so gently, was sniffing something on the ground in front of him. This made no sense! She could smell orcs everywhere. The air was thick with the foulness of them. The ground all around torn and ravaged, made raw by their passing. Their passing. That was it of course. They were gone now. She whispered, "Please the Gods let that be so." She came up quietly behind Dark and reaching out to trail her hand along his coat she walked beside him and stood.
To learn what he had found.
The rain continued through the night, soaking the ground and the newly planted fields, causing the seeds to swell and burst. To quicken the life that waited there. To begin the true magic that flowed through seasons and renewed them all. It was a gentle rain. Kind, warm and welcome. It brought life to the earth and filled the streams and ponds for the coming hot season. It cleansed also. And put out the fires and washed the smell of blood and fear from the vanquished earth. The smell of hot entrails poured out as if in offering to the springtime sun. It made the soil wet and flowing so that by morning the footprints and gouges were filled in and gone. It left behind a sparkling blue sky, a forest made fresh and cleansed and the terrible lonely smell of cold wet ashes.
Aeovel stood slowly, aching. Her clothes damp and clinging. Her thick beautiful hair now a heavy sodden mass. Without a backward glance at the thing heaped in the corner she walked slowing and carefully out of the ruined shed and into the morning sun. Continued walking out into the centre of what had been her parents farmyard. From here looking out towards the forest it was all the same. The field in front newly planted and full of rich browns. The air full of bees working through the fruit trees over there. Dark grazing quietly with one cow over there. Ah yes, there was a difference. One cow. Only one. No calves. And the quiet. The dammed horrible raging quiet of it. Mornings here were always noisy. Horses neighing and stamping impatiently. Cows crying to be milked, chickens hurrying around busy with their own pursuits. The dogs always trying for one quick game before the morning round of work began in earnest. And always, always the sound of her mother singing . Her clear and wonderful voice always filled the air and joined the birds in making this place seem enchanted in the morning. A place out of time. A place always of peace.
All of that was gone now. In one staggering afternoon a lifetime had been wiped out. Two lifetimes.
Aeovel stood, head bowed and wished she could cry. Wished she could find some way to lessen the great crushing weight that seemed to have lodged itself so deep inside as to never find its way out again. She wanted to deny all of this. Or to run and rant and rage against whatever fates let such things happen. That let such beasts live in a world so full of beauty and light.
She took a deep slow breath and lifted her head. Such thoughts did no one any good. Not the dead, nor the living. Her father would not approve of such things on this morning of all mornings. He would tell her she had things to do. There was much to take care of, choices that must be made. Work to be done on a scale she had never faced before. And that thing Dark had found, she must decide what to do about that. Perhaps that first of all. Plenty of time for the pain. There would be nights aplenty to mourn and days without number to hurt for her loss.
She turned to look back at her home. The house was finished. She could see no way to repair what was left. Only parts of the stone walls were standing. The roof was gone in the blaze she had come home to yesterday. The barn too was finished, beyond her ability to fix. Those walls had been of wood and very little remained. The shed she spent the night in was probably her best chance of shelter in the coming weeks. Beyond that she could not go. The fields were mostly fine. Only where the orcs had walked through was there damage. Plenty was left to feed her and the few remaining animals. One horse, one cow and there were several chickens left scratching in the fields. The rest were in heaps of gore littering the yard and orchard. Just parts of the fractured and shattered bits of her life they had left behind. They had torn through the house before torching it. In their lust to destroy they had actually done her a favour. There were a few unbroken dishes, a pot, a few pieces of clothing she could repair, all scattered and mixed with what was left of the animals. It would be a dark and terrible job to sort through that horror but one she knew she would have to face. She hardly had a choice. She must face this day like all others and find a way to live.
I guess that was the morning my history began. For you see, Aeovel was my mother.
She told me once about that morning. I can hear her voice now. We had finished our dinner and were all sitting out under the stars. The night was hot and still. My father and brothers had just returned from Evinlorn with news of a another orc raid. After that one slashing raid that changed my motherís life they had retreated north again and had not returned for many years. Once again this summer they were back. In smaller groups but braver somehow. Or more desperate.
So on that bright and peaceful night she told us all her story. One I had never known before. How she had survived that summer. Had burnt the bodies of the animals and had never found the bodies of her parents, for we all know what orcs use humans for. She still shuddered at that but had gone on to tell us of rebuilding some kind of life and how she had nursed the thing her horse had found in the forest that day. For she did nurse him. She said she could not leave a creature of such unearthly beauty and light to die from filthy orc wounds. How it would treat her when it was well she knew not and could not care. It must survive!
How he survived at all was a great testimony to her healing and love. And the power of her little blue flower. It had been weeks before he regained true consciousness. And weeks more before he could do anything on his own. He stayed with her all that summer and when the winter came and his strength had returned he decided he could not leave her.
He was an elf. A Wood Elf. Sylvan. Not one to mingle with humans or even his own race overmuch. But her kindness, her somber beauty and her great need of him kept him with her the many years until her death. He stayed with her as husband and they came to raise six children.
I am the last of their brood. He is my father. Brendel of the Lios Alfar. Tall, slim, with hair long and red. When the sun shines on it, it seems that gold dances and sings all through it. His eyes are green and as deep as a forest pool. And as knowing. He is a creature of grace and beauty and she loved him well. As he came to love her.
And so my childhood was filled with things of the forests and fields. She knew much of planting and he learned these from her. He in turn taught her much, much more of the forest, plants and animals she had always loved. Her healing powers came to be great and good. Together they taught my brothers and I all of these. I followed my lessons with a joy fierce and strong. Brendel taught me to speak with the small mammals of the woodlands and fields surrounding our home. I have come to know the signs in weather and wood that are part of the language of our world. I know of plants to heal and to kill, although my mind was never able to follow my parents in this as much as they would have liked. But I know of tracks and sounds and smells. I know of rocks and climbing. And I can ride. This perhaps was their greatest gift to me. I now ride the great grandson of Aeovel's Dark. I call him Darkson. Not original, but it honours him.
Last summer Aeovel died. As do all of the human race all too soon. In the spring Brendel brought me to the same stream Aeovel had found on the day she found him. He showed me the place she had gathered her little blue flower and his salvation. This year we had to brush snow away instead of moss but when the sun had touched the right spot for the right time it grew and blossomed before my eyes. He took this one small flower and brought it to her grave. We take only one per year. Her trade. Now our's. This year there would be no healing from this flower. Because this year we left the One there for her. Not original, but it honours her.
After touching my face and looking deep into my mind long and hard he turned and walked into the forest that afternoon. I have never seen him since.
So tonight I sit in an Inn somewhere I have never been before. I have left my forest and brothers to become a part of men's world. I hope only a small part. I have become a scout. I spend much time alone and in the forests I love so true. So, it suits me well enough.
I travel with two companions. Lika Daniloth and Choris Blackwood. Elves. Of course. Theirs is not the red, gold and green beauty of my father but their beauty and grace match his in all other things. They are quicksilver and moonlight. Laughter and courage. And they have accepted me. Among them the loneliness is lessened. Tomorrow we leave for the BargeWright Inn to do we know not what for I know not who. It seems a riddle and for no reason. Something done for the puzzle and for the joy of doing. In this it is much like life. And so. It suits me well enough.