The rain was incessant throughout the days walk. Often trees collecting the water from the clouds in their hollow trunks emptied it from broken boughs high above them from in steady torrents. So many ancient trees abounded the path that at times it was like walking through a hundred waterfalls. The thought crossed the mind of Ibbero that the trees would pay a heavy price for the malice of the weather. The cursed, befouled, earth hater had finally found a way to strike at the heart of the ancient forest.
The paths misty end was obscured to their vision and only the faint light piercing the gloom told them it was not yet sundown. It was as though they were walking through a grey water curtain. In their mind eye Ibbero wished it could now be drawn aside to reveal a better clime. The pace was slow and they needed to make the great tree before nightfall. The forest was no place to be abroad in, when the light failed. Ibbero thought they needed something to uplift them and began to softly sing.
Where hearth and home forsake us let us lift our faces to these daysWe look to the stars and shall see its face smiling behind the haze
For no grey malice shall cloud our way, no despite rent asunder
The path we have set ourselves; no matter how loud the thunder
Valiant and strong we will let none gainsay this; our vital mission
The truth is known to all of us and we shall deliver our attrition
Ibbero stopped singing and reflected on things for some time. How easy it would be to let go all that he cared for. Was not the spirit of man flawed the same vein with each new generation. They were ephemeral and weak; in equal measures and so ready to mask all others harsh existence with a selfish fear of their own possible indigence. They sought only to dominate and build vast coffers of wealth and property. Avaricious and proud to be so, without any remorse or sign of pity for their kin. Even the earth hater looked after his own better. While this thought took vague shape in his mind he sighed inwardly and yearned for the reason he was helping them.
The party suddenly stopped amidst the teeming rain and Asthralain dismounted. A deer was lying across the path and its right flank was rent and bloody. It tried to stand at her approach but its wounds were too great and it flopped helplessly to the muddy floor looking at them pitifully. Asthralain knelt on the ground by its side and wept. Yet her tears kindled a greater emotion than pity alone. From her belt she removed a small leather flask and emptied some of its contents onto her palms. The liquid sparkled briefly in the gloom like a vision of a celestial, wheeling galaxy as sometimes seen within the dying embers of a fire. The deer stared at her balefully and yet knew intuitively that this was an act of kindness she was to be given. Asthralain laid her hands on the wound and the potion crackled and shone briefly then disappeared into the cut as she recited the words of lore.
By earth and fire the evil harm was doneNow take no hurt in what you have won
The healing light of Saffa’s ancient wood
Takes away pain and make things good
The deer raised its head one last time and then fell silent. Asthralain took its head in her hands and gently cradled it softly. Tears streamed down her cheeks but she remained at its side till the healing took effect. The potion knit the sinews of the wound and fortified the deer’s will. Long minutes passed but the deer rallied and rose and with one long, backward glance disappeared in to the forest. Asthralain mounted her horse and the party continued.
Often it is said that doubt brings a response from the earth. Ibbero was satisfied in his faith in them but he turned to Asthralain and asked, “Why sister would you save that which may yet be attacked by wolves and die this very night?” Asthralain smiled and replied, “Because I could and because even if I couldn’t, then it was human to try.”
There lay his answer, he helped and fought for them because he could and because despite their frail resistance to temptation they wished always to be better. Though wishes do not make the future; enough strived to defeat that which they were born to. For the moment his faith was rekindled.
© Edetric Vistal