Old December 1, 2008, 01:31 PM   #1 (permalink)

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A dedication to Her

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Optia 24, Spring, Era XV

The brightening had but recently dawned and his fingers still tingled from the archery practice that he habitually started a brightening off with when he was somewhere such as a Hall with a range.

It was a brightening to make him feel at peace with himself, but not enough to quiet the nagging that something was missing, something was not not enough. It was enough to turn his feet away from the Hall and any duties that might await him there and instead to take him into the forest. Not deep into it, indeed not that far away at all from the Hall. He wanted a sense of privacy, somewhere away from the dwarves and somewhere he could be alone with Her. It was strange it seemed to him, but the older he got, the more reliant upon Her he became, the more he felt Her touch on him and the things around him. He became less arrogant about his own judgement and more inclined to try and listen to her will, especially when it might be different to his own.

But such was hard, in company. He'd spent the winter mostly on his own and come to know Her much better than before, to see her hand where there were no other people around to impose their wills over hers, to see a land in harmony. But there were ways, even here to obtain privacy.

He sought and find a small clearing, not much bigger than the reach of his outspread arms. It hardly qualified as a clearing, more just a random group of smaller trees growing where a mature giant had once stood before it crashed aside in some storm or perhaps just disintegrated with old age.

He stood in the centre of the clearing and closed his eyes. He stood for a while, his ears just listening to the sway of the leaves in the moving air, then he sought and obtained clara, placing himself in Her framework, drawing upon the Essence that She controlled. It was a spell that he had done before, and where once a ranger had stood, now there was a tree, not much different to those which stood around.

His senses were different now, but it wasn't uncomfortable. When first he'd tried it, the loss of vision had worried him which is why he now tended to compose himself with his eyes closed if he could. His hearing sharpened and now he felt the touch of Her breath upon his leaves and they swayed just a little in time with his neighbours.

Once it had seemed odd to be out of his body, but it seemed to be Her way with him, to teach him to open his eyes, to open his mind and to understand others, by becoming others. He stood and waited, his patience that of the trees, listening and feeling the nature of the place. The birds which flew, the animals which scurried. He waited while the brightening grew old and the darkness covered the land. He slept perhaps while the creatures of the darkening were abroad, the silence of the dark carrying the sounds in from far and wide.

As the suns rose and warmed his branches, he knew that this was the place, here was where She had guided him. With that knowledge, the spell shimmered and a man stood there once more. A man who was stiff and took a moment to catch his balance then to work out the pins and needles which ravaged his feet and hands. The next brightening, that would mark the start.
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Old December 1, 2008, 05:51 PM   #2 (permalink)

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Optia 25

Once again he was back in the clearing. The only difference this time was that he'd taken the time to return his bow and quiver to his bunk so that he was free and unencumbered for this task.

He sat in the clearing, trying different places around the edge, even lying down and staring up at the tracery of branches which wove overhead. He knew what he wanted, he'd spent enough time in the Narim and Acumin Halls to have a very clear idea of how it worked. Of course at first he'd no idea how it was done back in Narim, but he'd been fascinated by it none the less and his memories of it were clear.

This would be a special place for him, somewhere he could be with Her, so he was willing to take the time to make it right, as right he could for a first attempt at any rate. It would only be a small place, but it would perhaps be the first of many, though not all would be dedicated to her.

He chose eventually three main branches from the slightly larger trees that surrounded him. What he intended would not be quite as he'd seen but then he was alone and he wasn't a druid master either. He was sure that She would not object to his improvisations. He might not have the touch of a master, but this would be his dedication to Her.

He laid himself down in the centre of the clearing and spread his arms. He stared up for a while, fixing the scene above him into his mind before he closed his eyes and slipped into clara with just a short delay.

This was a spell that he'd not had as much reason to use as the others, for it was something of an unusual one, unusual at least in the sense that he'd not needed to use it in survival situations which was how he often used his arcane skills.

He reached out with his mind, exploring the branches above him, pulling the ones he'd decided on down so that they arched across the space above him and interlinked them making the changes in their shape permanent. When it was done, he looked above him and smiled. It was a start, now he had an arch above his special place, the boughs strong, a framework for what was to come.
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Old December 2, 2008, 03:15 PM   #3 (permalink)

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There was a peculiar satisfaction in the work that he'd done, something that made him wonder why he'd never done it before. Certainly he would in the future and he thanked Her in his heart for the revelation. It seemed to him that She welcomed him into Her wilderness, giving him permission to seek shelter at need by using her gifts. It was a comforting feeling and one that made him lighter of heart as he made his way through the forest.

He had to make his way some distance to find what he sought, a willow where the trunk had split and fallen, a host of shoots springing up from the bough. Using his knife, he cut an armful of the young branches. It appeared at first sight to be extreme, but the willow was part of Her bounty and harvesting it merely caused it to rebound with greater vigour and with double the shoots. He flexed two shoots and then cut them off, using the distorted wood as a binding to gather up his gleanings.

He arrived back at his clearing, hot for the bundle was heavy and his arms ached from carrying it. Willow was a vigorous tree and he knew it was ideally suited for this task, having seen it used so in many places, so he intended to use that gift of Hers to bolster his own mediocre arcana.

He spread the willow shoots out around the clearing, filling in the gaps such as they were between the existing trees and leaving just the entrance. Once he was satisfied with the distribution he went to work sharpening the butt ends and plunging them into the soil, one by one until all were planted. Where possible he planted them at an angle so that they crossed each other. Left to their own devices, many of them would root and grow, but it was his intention to speed up that process more than a little and so ensure that they all grew. He wiped his grimy fingers on his breeches and lay once more in the centre of the clearing.

Laying there on the ground and staring up at the arches formed by the tree boughs he could feel the power of the earth beneath him, and as he slowly relaxed and slipped into clara he fancied that he could feel Her presence there. The spells that he performed were on a larger scale than he was wont to do, more complex certainly and required more concentration than he'd applied before.

He felt at one with the earth, he reached out, feeling the new shoots where they were sunk into the earth and he spilled energy into them, first the roots which reached out, delicate white fingers which grasped the earth, spreading out and drew nutrients, then like miniature pumps the roots sent that energy up the stems, buds busting as the energy of growth reached them one by one. The shoots lengthened and reached for the sky, thickening, the yellow green bark expanding and stretching.

Finally he lay, eyes closed as the suns danced across the skies and the brightening drew to a close. Hunger finally roused him, but he stayed where he was for he had one more task for the willow shoots before he sought refuge in the Hall for the darkening. This was to be a place of worship, of prayer, not a hut though he might hold vigil here when it was done, his arcane energies focussed into the smaller details, solidifying and completing the work.

He reached out with clara for the final time that brightening, energies wrapping around the willow shoots, the spell something of the two spells that had already been used in this place, but this was a delicate thing in comparison though the visible effects would have been more spectacular to an onlooker. Now he wove the shoots, while they were still soft and flexible, entwining around eachother and the trees that grew there, creating a delicate tracery, a living trellis. It wasn't solid, it didn't bar passage to the wind or to the smaller of Her creatures or birds, but now there was only one entrance through which a man might walk unobstructed.

It would take several more brightenings work to complete what he had started here with the willow to his satisfaction, but he was in no hurry and the brightenings work had filled a gap in his heart that he'd not even known was there.
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Old December 3, 2008, 04:40 PM   #4 (permalink)

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Over the course of the next two brightenings he had taken the willow from just finger thick shoots to stems as thick as his wrist and they interwove, their side branches weaving in and out to make a thick fence, but one that was not artificial in the way that a basket weaver might have done for there were no regular patterns, instead the wood flowed with it's own rhythm, in places there were gaps large enough for windows and in others he could barely squeeze a finger through. The top was still open to the sky. This would change over time as the willow grew on it's own and the branches of the trees which formed the arches sprouted their own new branches. It would never be a solid or even remotely waterproof cover.

The main work of the construction was done, now he could add a few last touches, a task made easier by the season for now all plants were in a flush of new growth. He spent the morning wandering the forests, his knife taking cuttings of the climbing plants that he found, among them honeysuckle, clematis and rose. He wrapped the cuttings in a damp cloth so that they would stay fresh and made his way back to the clearing.

He knelt and with a sharpened stick made planting holes for each cutting in turn, placing them in the ground softly and then releasing energy into them, feeding them until they had sprouted and started to rise up the walls, twining in and out of the smooth barked willow.

The work was tiring and the brightening was well advanced before he was done, so he took the time to lay himself down in the centre of what could perhaps be called a building, perhaps a shrine and rested. He cleared his mind and attempted to be in tune with Her and with Her work, listening to the sounds of the trees, the calls of the birds and the noises of the mice as they shuffled in the grass.

Darkening came and still he lay there, his eyes closed, his mind restful but active. His final act before he got up from the ground was to seek clara for a final time. Slowly small mists gathered around the clearing, weaving in and out of the willow making the structure ethereal. His skin felt damp and cold, a shiver ran through him uncontrolled but he relaxed for cold and damp were but aspects of her blessing and he concentrated on the mists. They thickened, moisture beading around the stems, the beads collecting, merging and finally running down the stems, dripping on the ground, the dampness seeping into the soil which had been drained by the demands he had placed upon it.

Willow was ever hungry for water, and it's lack would ever be a hold on it's growth here. Perhaps some of the stems he'd planted would die from it's lack, but they would remain firm for some eras to come before rotting back into the soil, providing nutrients for what replaced them and so Her cycle would continue. Eventually he was spent, his resources run dry and the mists dispersed, leaving just the sound of an occasional gentle drip as he stood and left the clearing behind.
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Old December 6, 2008, 03:29 PM   #5 (permalink)

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The building was complete, as far as it needed to be, what it needed now was little, certainly it did not need consecration for it was built with Her in mind, was built with Her materials and using the skills that She had gifted to him. The construction was a statement of his dedication to Her.

The question that loomed in his mind though, and one of the reasons that he'd spent the time building it was what She wanted of him. He'd spent the last brightenings in one long and complex prayer to her, each movement, each spell an element in it, each plant a support. What was here was his prayer in a solid form, a homage to Her.

She gave him no answers, not yet at least, not that he expected any, it would be too simple for that. He knew that She worked in much more complex ways than that, Her ways were subtle, he did not expect clear answers, instead he sought hints.

He knelt in the centre, his knees in the moss of the forest floor. For a moment he suffered double vision, the first time he'd felt it since he'd been here, the scents of the forest intensified and he leant forward to rest his hands on the ground, a position that mimicked in his mind his other posture.

He breathed deeply, panting as his mind was confused, for a moment his vision blurred, the living became lighter than the non living, and then it was gone.

He sat back on his haunches. It was a hard path, but he felt drawn to it, and felt that She had marked him for it. But it did not explain why She had drawn him here, for here was far from that, and while he would return to follow that path, here She had set him a different challenge, and one that he only groped towards.

There was a ripple, the druid disappeared and in the centre of the clearing, a new tree stood, the arches of the roof now buttresses, locking the two into one, living prayer and tree all one.

The tree breathed without breathing, its mind one with the forest, Her forest, Her mind. Time was different for a tree and the brightening waxed and waned while he contemplated what the future might hold.
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