Friday, June 24, 2011

When There Is No Solstice

The ground is smothered beneath the wrinkled remains of the Spring’s harlequin leaves
Grim clouds cast the first of the season’s chilling, white warriors upon the forest
They gather on the trees, their magic spells making them sparkle with new life
Birds with cotton puff feathers coo to their mates as the first icy wind chills their hollow bones
Lerimoth steps forth from her carved oak cave, lightly padding over the crisp leaves
They hardly crinkle beneath her feet
She sniffs the frosty air and grimaces as the clouds begin to thicken
The silver sheen in her thin, silky hair disappears beneath the looming shadows
Something does not smell like her Winter spirits
Somewhere in her forest, the season refuses to change
She follows the scent of pollen and nectar, and listens as the forest around her hums with the labor of bees
Then she stops
Her cane falls to the ground
Winter retreats
The clouds clear
The Snow melts
Lakes begin to thaw
Flowers begin to bloom
Wars begin to wage
Dictators and Kings seek the bringer of Spring
With its power, there will be no end to the harvest
They will live in prosperity, and their men will be fed and fit
Their soldiers march forth, battling over the right to excavate the forest
Metal calls out across the Earth as sword meets shield, and arrow meets mail
A church burns to the East, ravaged by the Nundlok cavalry
War rings its own bells
Kalferd is the first to step ironclad boot beneath the dense, green trees
He is a mere slave troll forced to bear the arms of the Maliard infantry
Born into the service of the Malian army, Kalferd knows a life only of violence
As a youth he participated in the Games, a barbaric contest among slaves
The bones in his legs were shattered for over a year
He shakes away the memories as the forest grows thick around him
Allowing his mind to wonder will be the fastest way to welcome Death
Though he’s heard no other soldiers yet
Disturbingly, he’s heard nothing
Squirrels have not scampered, birds have not hummed
Leaves do not rustle in the wind
There is no wind
The forest is filled with a disquieting vacancy
At last there is a clearing of short grass and small petals
Kalferd spots the object of war
The Sun’s Tear, a large amber stone hotter than fire
Maliard’s King Artel has promised freedom to any slave who can retrieve it
Freedom at his fingertips, Kalferd ignores the burning of his palms as he grabs the Sun’s Tear
Suddenly the wind appears, bringing with it a pleading, vapid whisper
Kalferd pauses, considering the wind’s words
He looks at the Sun’s Tear
He looks at freedom
And thrusts it full to the ground
The Sun’s Tear shatters into a thousand sparkling pieces
Then burns away, leaving nothing but charred dirt and a thin scent of smoke
All at once the Winter takes hold
Stripping the trees bare, burying the gopher burrows, and freezing the soldiers in the distant fields
Lerimoth rises from the falling snow, using her cane to hoist herself out of darkness
She looks at Kalferd with shrewd eyes
Then nods
Kalferd is free of Maliard
He is free, but has no home
He is cold
He is hungry
But he is free

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