And now for my story, the fifth of ten challenges. This turned out longer than I expected; I believe I’ve found in me a love for stitches and knits!
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They called her the wisest of them all. She wondered whether they still would, if they found out how much the agonized cries of the deer they slaughtered clawed at her heart. Or whether they would bow and fall at her feet when she declared that the trees be left to themselves, for they wept tears of blood when their kin was cut down.
Her wrinkled hands made the words on the parchment for the tenth time that night.
I am confused at times. Should I sound? Should I echo?
She knew they were wrong in thinking that theirs was the purest race, for in nature’s eyes there was no such thing. There was only the circle of life, and all beings were pawns who played an endless game. If she sounded, it would be a clarion call, but all she did now was to echo their sentiments.
She needed them. For food, safety, shelter. They were her family.
And yet the trees heeded her more than her own people, when she voiced an opinion different from their beliefs.
She rose to stand on her aching knees and walked slowly away from the comfort of her own thoughts. Little Po, the hangman’s grandson, ran to her and hugged her around the knees.
His grandfather may have banished a great many souls into the void of death, but Po had a gentle soul. His eyes were open and brown, the color of the earth – not the pale blue of the skies that was often seen among her people. She could see he was as forbearing as the Great Mother herself, for he was the first to give away his clay soldier to the beggar woman when she wept of demons around her, when all the village decried her as a witch.
“What must I do, Po?” She asked the smiling child, bending slightly to touch his chin.
“You need not answer all the questions! You can just laugh and laugh again.”
Ah, the wisdom of babes. The boy giggled softly to himself and danced away, back to his own little world.
The elders were assembled in a tight knot, engaged in intense conversation. They all stood up for her as she approached, for in their tribe wisdom was highly prized.
“Mother, we asked the cutter to make an offering of blood and bone to the tree spirits. Perhaps that will appease them, and the tree gods may not unleash their fury upon us innocents.” It was Jaqui who spoke, the youngest of the lot.
“That tree has been here before you crawled on your four limbs, Jaqui. What is it that you mean by blood and bone?”
“The fattest lamb from the shepherd’s flock. Drops of blood from the cutter’s own wrist to satiate the gods’ thirst.”
Oh Harui, you poor old fool, what do you know of the spirits and their hunger? “You don’t even know yourself well, the lot of you. You expect to know anything of the hunger and thirst of spirits?”
She was only partly aware when she spoke these words, that for a moment the baffled faces of the party made her wonder what she had done. The Mother often differed with them, but was always soft spoken. She sighed.
Thoughts – they do what we don’t ask for!
She had not meant to chide them so harshly, but the trees were their siblings too, and hardly were they the sort of bloodthirsty beasts that her children believed them to be.
“I shall not be a part of this slaughter.” She said in a milder voice. “The Spirit tree is the home of your own siblings and you speak with little unease of destroying their home. If this murder does take place, I shall leave this village forever.”
Her children were thoroughly confused, and she did partly regret her words – pride and impulse were ornaments to youth, but the old should wear the armor of restraint for their own sake. Harui frowned. “Mother, you are insane. You surely cannot abandon us over the cutting of a lowly tree, can you?”
It was delivered with such ignorance that she had to laugh. And laugh, and laugh, as she walked away from the assembly.
* * *
At times, we pretend to think on one and actually think everything else!
Every time he looked into those depths, he would think of Mother.
Po was a man grown, philosopher, gardener, father, husband and the reluctant hangman. Every time he tied the noose around a damned man’s neck, he would look into his eyes and wish him well.
He would also ask him in his heart, to find Mother in the lands of Death and ask her for forgiveness on behalf of his people.
He hoped that they did reach her, until one day he found a doe dancing around the woods. When she spotted him, she bounded away gracefully into the depths of the forest. He followed her, and she always paused to ensure that he was.
When she stopped, it was beside a sapling, with silver leaves and a dark red stem. The leaves gleamed, as if they were smiling in recognition. He dropped to his knees and pressed his forehead to the earth.
She always said he was the child of the Earth, and now She was his sibling.
In the depths of this forest, She would be safe.
I knew it! That I don’t know!
Who would have known? Then again, why would anyone know?
They hardly knew themselves.
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