Sword and I were not on speaking terms.
As the river ran south to north, the headwaters must reside in that thin green line on the horizon. We followed the traces of rutted paths made by conquering and retreating armies.
But the paths were not straight nor clear, requiring frequent fording of the ice cold waters of the river. My toes no longer existed. My hands turned from blue to white.
Taking Sword out of the scabbard, fingers so frozen I dropped him on beach-head river rocks. A spark when the blade hit. Then a glow of warmth enveloped the cold stone.
“You did not tell me of such a talent!,” I snapped, warming my hands. I chose not check for damage to the blade. I fell asleep without Sword’s night song, but warm for the first time in forever. (This wasteland demanded absolutes.)
I awoke to the shrieks and moans of charcoaled branches and the easterly wind. Huge, black clouds rolled across the blasted woods. Soon, the sky would crack open.
Without Sword’s guidance, I followed the ruts south. If he would not speak, neither shall I. So, it was South. Quest. South.
As my wound healed, I began to feel hunger. My hollow stomach ached, causing a sort of madness. A huge thorn tree, perhaps the mother of the impenetrable bushes, blocked the path. Her singed spiked branches hung to the ground protecting what lay ahead from questing intruders.
I took Sword out of the scabbard, thinking I could hold back a branch and skitter in. I looked up, as the black clouds were streaked with flashing white, and readied myself for more cuts, sticks, and scrapes.
I noticed a gap missed before. Just wide enough, I scrambled in. The first huge cold drops of rain – Neiklot’s tears – splatted up the dust.
Inside the space between trunk and branch were nuts – deep brown unscorched thorn nuts. I was so hungry I considered if poison, I was to die of starvation anyway. If enchanted, I would watch for hands and feet turning into fins, talons, or stone. If food, I would eat as many as I could.
Heated would no doubt prove better. I apologized to Sword, and carefully examined the blade from hilt to tip. A task best performed prior to considering my needs. No nick, scratch or blemish. I carefully tapped one of the rocks I had brought from the river bank. Was I forgiven? A spark, a glow.
I was never quite sure that we were alone in the burnt-over woods. Protected within the embrace of the tree, I felt we were truly safe for one night.
With a full belly, lulled by Sword’s nightsong, I slept late. A portion of me wished to stay, but questing called. Time to be off. I packed up my bed roll including a still warm rock. I slipped out of the thorn sanctuary by the same hidden “door way.”
Wetness dripped from branches; fog hid the blighted forest. The easterly wind blew no more. Again, the stillness, the silence.
Like a regal lady in a wide skirt, the thorn tree drew her branches closer to her so we might pass. A thousand crackles as they reclaimed the path again.
I curtseyed a thank-you. As much as could be achieved without a dress or a skirt. Sword sang a “farewell-thee” lilt.
In a very unsoldierly way, I devised a dance to accompany to Sword’s questing song. With all forgiven, once again we turned our faces south.
Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie’s fairy tale friday prompt #39: tree
Thanks to Anja for giving me the chance to continue the Quest. A bit longer than most episodes. The Narrator, mad with Sword and with hunger, had a lot to say!