Burned – (Re) Quest
Part 6 of (Re) Quest* a retelling of Quest
(Picks up where First Steps left off. )
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Maybe the searchers had all gone north or east after all. North would put him them on track for Calestra, another small village. East lay a lot of trees but not many people. Shayari’s population thinned in that direction until it petered out altogether somewhere short of the eastern border. If there was a border out that way. Henneth had his doubts. It was all wild country that way full of enchanted trees and other assorted magical oddities. Not much worthy of a visit.
Henneth leaned against a tree of incalculable height. Perhaps he had ducked his relations and escaped their net of worry. Perhaps, but he still should have heard shouts in the distance. Searchers always made a lot of noise. How else could they attract their lost quarry? He had heard nothing but bird calls for three days.
What if they had sent no one to look for him? He scratched an itch behind his ear and swallowed against a throat that had dried from disuse. What if indeed. Was that possible? Had his children abandoned him to his fate? Not fate, this quest, the first and last quest he’d ever make and one made by request of his late wife. No better quest than a loved one’s last request.
Maybe they no longer wanted him around. Had he become an inconvenient truth to his sons? A thing better left lost than found? Henneth chewed bread baked five days ago and choked down warm water from his canteen. All the while a second hole burned itself in his heart.
Unwanted, that’s what he was now, by kin and kith alike. It hurt more than it should have as he swallowed his meager breakfast and squared his shoulders. Fine then, if they didn’t want him, the he didn’t want them.
Everywhere he looked spring had sprung green, gold
and clear running streams no longer ice-choked.
Nights still froze his balls off, but leave the wold
he would to see Shayari ‘fore he croaked.
Nothing tied him here now that his wife had gone.
His children grown no longer wanted him
around, an inconvenience he’d become.
He set off that morn adjusting his brim,
to hide the tear tracing his grizzled cheek.
He put his home of five decades behind
and headed for the last time to that creek
which marked the end of home, no time to whine
about loss, giving that his back, he turned
and in his breast, curiosity burned.
His heart had three holes–
one ripped by loss of his wife,
one torn by family
whose rejection left no search
in the last a flame smoldered
curiosity fanned it
for what lay beyond.
Silence fell around him. Perhaps the birds shared his somber mood. Sunlight sparkled on the creek turning it unto a brilliant ribbon that divided the known from the unknown. He stopped, squatted down and refilled his canteen. Ancient, enchanted trees surrounded him; quiet sentinels, they stood as mute witness. A choice bisected his path, babbling as it meandered over rocks.
One step beyond that creek and he’d stand further than he’d ever been from home. Was it darker over there–the shade deeper than on this side? Did the giant trees stand more shoulder to shoulder there leaving less trails between them? Henneth scanned the undergrowth which grew thicker on that side of the creek seeking signs of movement–anything to alert him to possible danger. Not a leaf stirred, no wind rippled down from the ridge beyond.
Go on or go back? Henneth capped his now full canteen and stretched. Seprah’s ghost stayed quiet; his imagination gave her no voice either. Maybe she had gone to the Dead City after all. Closing his eyes, he prayed:
O Guardian most dear
Hold those loved and lost near
Shield those who live from fear
Always be with us here
O Guardian most dear.
Henneth felt no stirring of Shayari’s breath, no sigh of wind whispering in Seprah’s voice, no sunbeam speared down from above to dissipate the darkness. Yet something had shifted inside; some new courage had burrowed out of his heart making a fourth hole. Behind it questions spilled out. Questions about the other ninety-nine valleys. Shayari claimed in legend and song to have a hundred valleys and he had only seen one. The way ahead brightened just a hair or perhaps he now saw the light lingering there instead of the shadow.
Heneth passed the creek, started up the vale’s
wall seeking its rim and not one son run
up to ask of him where he’s bound or rail
at him for leaving home to have some fun.
Almond branches scratch aquamarine sky
as he paused on the valley rim, breath
caught by a village planted in the sky–
treehouses rope-suspended on a breath,
hanging on enchanted oak, connected
by ladders and bridges, a delicate
tangle that teams with life, disconnected
now him from them, that village as he quits
it and continues, his last adventure
is his first and only solo venture.
On that valley wall, he bade goodbye to his home and turned his back facing south towards Shayari’s cities and his future. Then he started down the ridge, putting it between him and home.
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