A Change of Quests
Part 32 of Quest
~ ~ ~
Whispers in the dark,
demons converging unseen
soft words hide danger…
~ ~ ~
Henneth ran through darkness that rippled;
evil rushed towards that rise where a shadowed
woman had wafted up, like smoke, stippled
with the ash of her former life, not bowed
but standing tall against the foes arrayed
against then all–the Undeem horde falling
with the night, riding the failing light’s blade.
He’d left her alone to face death’s waiting
blade, while he’d run at her urging to find
safety for the rescued baby he clasped
against his racing heart; back there his mind
wings in fear for her who stands there unasked,
taking his place before that threat and so
his feet slow, to safety he cannot go.
~ ~ ~
Henneth stopped and gasped for breath; he felt all his years slam into him, each decade of love and loss. Across his back the Guardian blade threw soft white light upon the ground. Enchanted trees stood as mute witness to his changing heart.
What had he done? Had he condemned that Undeem maid to destruction by her own kind for standing up for life–the one thing she who leeches vitality should not want to protect? Yet she had.
He faced the darkness.
The night wore his father’s face–
his accusing eyes…
What had he done? From memory Henneth’s father’s eyes scolded him, called him a coward, challenged him to turn back, to prove that he was worthy of respect. Nevermind the fact that his father had died twenty years past. The man lived now in memory and even there, he withheld his approval. The one thing a middle aged man should not crave but he did.
“What it is? Why have you stopped?” Chero asked as he hovered in the air before Henneth, Anasril at his side. Her wings a blue blur next to the almost invisible black of his. She too looked concerned.
“Is the young one alright?” Anasril gestured to the baby, who had been very quiet during this hurried trek.
Henneth looked down and met the thoughtful gaze of a brown eyed baby, the reason for their flight. A child who couldn’t possibly understand what was going on despite the look in his eyes. Not that he was born yesterday, but even if he was closer to one year old than none, he couldn’t follow their conversation.
“He’s fine but that woman–”
The two Anandarwen, who looked like fairies to Hen’s old eyes, both nodded. Neither liked the fact that they had abandoned her.
“Take the child, we’ll go back and help.” Anasril squared her shoulders and stiffened her spine as she spoke. Though her eyes pled with Henneth to come up with a better plan–fast.
Chero nodded; he’d already entertained the idea she’d proposed. He pointed at something ahead. “The Groundling’s place is close; it’s over the next ridge. Just past its top there’s a trail. You can’t see it through the trees but it’s there.”
Indeed, night had painted the world indigo and wrapped it with threats of sprained ankles and ranging too far from pleasant porches where friends might be found. The kinds of misfortune a man of middle years needs to avoid at all costs.
Henneth regarded the darkness that had stopped flowing around them. Something had changed. A scream filled with a lifetime’s worth of pain and rejection shredded the night’s quiet.
Like two stars rising,
his fair friends took to the sky
leaving him earthbound.
Henneth looked at the baby. Take the defenseless tot into a fight or run on, hope he found the Groundlings in time to make his case for sanctuary and then run back? Would he be too late? The baby bobbed his head, his eyes serious.
“You can’t know what’s going on. You’re just a babe and I’m a silly old man reading signs that don’t exist.” Henneth exhaled and then inhaled; he smelled the cold bite of the night and the earth under his boots. He had to go back, now.
The baby rocked forwards in his arms, his tiny hands outstretched. Henneth turned around and ran hoping he’d reach that match in time to help. Yes, that was the key.
Let him be in time,
Let him help defeat evil.
Dear God, let it be.
Trees flashed by as he hit their back trail and followed it. Running hard, but breathing harder he sought some way of keeping the baby away from things that would rip the life from him and leave a corpse behind. But where could he find a safe haven with the Undeem loose and hunting?
The crystal sword strapped across his back intensified its glow as the night plunged them deeper into darkness under that dense canopy. Of course, the sword, Guardian blades protect the innocent. It would protect the child from the Undeem. Yet that left him without a weapon…
Henneth stopped in a copse and lay the baby down on a bed of leaves after wrapping him in his cloak. He set the Guardian blade next to the baby who watched him with eyes more serious than any baby should possess. Laying his hand over his heart, Henneth prayed not to God but to the legends and the spirits of the heroes who had born the sword he’d found:
Protect the baby,
Guardian blade with sharp edge
and your power’s aid…
Then he backed away withdrawing a pebble of lumir to light his way. It threw a thin yellow beam into the gloom. After one last glance, he turned and ran.
Not a single tree betrayed its enchantment; their magic and their glow was cloaked this night, hidden from the specters that hunt at night. Still he ran scanning for a disturbed twig or foot print to point his way back to a fight he shouldn’t have left. The fight must be close now…
~ ~ ~
The crystal sword levitated, showered
light that made the babe giggle with delight.
Then the sword also flew, hilt first, toward
the fight where it belonged against the night.
A shaft of light stabbed down between branches
that leaned aside to let it pass; trailing
its brightness like a skirt hem o’er branches
and leaves, it wavered, like arms beckoning.
The babe crawled into light divine, love’s pure
light, that cradled and carried him into
darkness to where his comrades’d gone, where sure
victory depended on a child who
had cracked a damned heart to let the light in,
and salvation now rises from within.
~ ~ ~
Help now converges
for one who was left behind
they stand together.
~ ~ ~
To be continued tomorrow…
For my sister:
In silence I prayed.
In silence you departed.
There’s just silence now.