First Steps | (Re) Quest
(Picks up where Tree of Memory left off. )
~ ~ ~
Village perched in trees
rope bridges span the divide
connect lives and homes.
Henneth slung a rucksack crammed with food, clothes and other items dictated by necessity over his shoulder. One last time he stood on the balcony, his back to his front door. He laid a hand on the massive tree that had held his home in its boughs for decades and bid its rough bark a goodbye. Nodding to the bridge suspended between his dwelling and the next one fifty feet away, he gave the village one last glance. Lumir globes glowed in some of the windows creating points of light in the misty morning’s gloom. The wind stirred leaves a hundred feet over head and more as the enchanted forest breathed.
Goodbye to you too. After one more pat, he let his hand fall to his side and then sat down on the scarred planks. Swinging one leg over, he felt for the first rung of the ladder. Once caught, he started the long descent to the forest’s dappled floor. Sephah’s much missed voice whispered in his ear, urging him on. Then he’d run out of ladder and his boot struck the leaf covered ground.
For a moment he hesitated and then took that first step. The second came easier and the third, easier still. He was off, maybe on an adventure, maybe not, but this trip would be his first and his last journey.
Daylight drained away
the vale stretched on without break
alone he camped out.
Henneth laid out his bedroll between two tree roots wider than his thigh and stared up a leaf-veiled sky. He’d not traveled far, maybe five miles, maybe more. Not the best start for his journey. Someone, like say a concerned son or daughter, could raise a ruckus. He glanced back through the fading light down a straight shot, more or less, to the village and sighed. They’d find him alright. His shoulders slumped in defeat.
He’d walked in a straight line due south to where he’d heard that cities lay. Rumor had it that Shayari had two major urban centers–Jacora and Renthalia. Sephrah would want him to see those, especially the Guardian’s white tower. That monument rose somewhere in Jacora, Shayari’s capital.
Maybe he could meet a real Guardian of Shayari. Sephrah would want him to do that too. He added that to his short itinerary for this walkabout. It now had three items on it. That was a respectable list and a good plan. It gave his journey a direction and a destination. Both comforted him.
What to do about those searchers though…there would be some. He had four sons and a daughter and all of them had sons of their own. Add in cousins, nephews and that number rose quite a bit. What to do? Should he walk a ways in the dark and hope he didn’t trip over a gnarled root? No, that could be dangerous without a light and he couldn’t risk a light. But they could and he’d see them coming. Yes, he’d hear them too. They’d call out to him, rustle leaves and make lots of noise. So he’d wait and then he’d use the darkness to slip away.
Stars rose overhead
their cold light hidden by trees
night’s cold bit his skin.
Morning tiptoed past and afternoon started to follow it before Henneth woke. He threw off the blanket and startled a deer. For a moment, he lay there confused and then it all came back to him. Night had crept past in slow, quiet hours until sleep had snatched him. No searchers had appeared before he’d fallen out.
He sat up and ate a chunk of bread and boiled egg waiting for one of his relations to pop back into sight. They must have found him. He had fallen asleep around the Dreamer’s Hour–midnight. So one of them must have stalked off to piss and the others must have gone back to the village to spread the news. They didn’t need to guard him; his woodsman days were decades in the past though he still remembered the forest’s ways.
Henneth sipped cold water from his canteen and waited. Light fell in gold streamers cut up by the leaves overhead, or was it needles? Hard to tell five hundred feet down from the trees’ crowns. Many trees in Shayari were deciduous but not all of them. He gazed at the bark’s thick ridges, not deciduous this one.
Any minute now Cole or Bran would stroll out of the foliage. He’d say something like, ‘alright pops, you’ve had your fun. Now it’s time to go back’ and that would be the end of it. Seprah’s last request would go unfilled.
From the depths of his heart an outcry erupted and he shouted one word: “No!” Slamming the cap back on his canteen, he shoved it and his blanket into his rucksack. He used the walking stick to rise and started walking. He had a mission and someone who’d be disappointed if he failed it.
He pictured her nod
back lit by heaven she waits
her request, his quest.
Henneth rounded a tree; they grew in rows because a long, long time ago, an earth Goddess, also named Shayari, planted them that way. Despite the fact that their bowels spanned hundreds of feet in diameter, they were still straight paths between those primeval trees. He skirted around until his path now headed southwest, all the while listening hard. Birds sang out far overhead ignoring his scuttling around. No other sign of anything drifted to his ears.
Could they have missed him in the dark? Perhaps they had called a halt to the search at nightfall. That meant they would resume it at dawn but where would they search? Standard practice dictated that they’d cover a five mile radius around the village. Day two would necessitate enlarging that to ten. If they had camped out last night and started at dawn, they could be ahead of him since he’d already lost a good portion of the morning to sleep.
Nothing he could do about that now. Best he keep moving, vary his route and make as little noise as possible. If he kept an ear cocked, he ought to hear them first. After all, they didn’t need to be quiet.
To be Continued…
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