We're back to a rather whimsical picture! I picked this one, and it took me two writing sessions to finish. I personally love Hubby's. Tell us which you think wins!
“Alaqua, when will I get my roots?”
“You must be patient, Little Kai. Roots are strong, but they do not grow quickly.”
“When did you get your roots?”
“Oh, my roots came in long, long ago.”
“You smile, but you have been here for so long. Do you not want to run?”
“But if I ran, how could you find me?”
“And if you could not find me, who would water you?”
“Oh, I see. You grew roots so us saplings could all find you.”
“Among other things, yes. Now quit your running and sit here on this stone seat Hassun has prepared.”
“So how...when did...how did...”
“Calm yourself, Little Kai. Take a breath. And don’t kick your stumps back and forth so, you are disturbing the moss bed.”
“You say Hassun made the stone, but where is he?”
“He sleeps deep beneath. He worked very hard for a very long time, so he needs to rest.”
“Did you meet him before he slept?”
“Oh, Kai, do you think me that old?”
“No, no! But, if you did not meet him, how do you know he did so many things?”
“How else would we have the stones, and the hills, and the mountains, and the soil?”
“Hmm...you know a lot of things, Alaqua.”
“I may not be as old as Hassun, but my roots go deep.”
“Are your roots how you know so many things?”
“My roots keep me strong, but I know things because of my blooming boughs.”
“I wondered why you had so many! They are so pretty!”
“Thank you, Little Kai. Etu, the Great One in the Sky, he speaks to my flowers and they speak to me.”
“How does Etu know so many things?”
“Oh, Kai, Etu is the oldest of us all. He has been watching even before Hassun.”
“So is that why you are in this clearing? Away from the others?”
“It is. Else my flowers would not be able to speak with Etu.”
“I always thought it was because you did not like the others.”
“Oh, I like the others just fine. But I have my place here, and it is wonderful.”
“Do you not get lonely?”
“I have the brook to keep me company.”
“But it only bubbles to itself.”
“It is alright. I like to listen.”
“I would get lonely, I think.”
“Then you should find a nice grove before your roots come in.”
“Can I get watered now? My bark is dry.”
“Gah, Chochmo, you soiled my buds! It is good you protect us, or I would shoo you away.”
“Kai, do not speak to Chochmo so. He is a good mudhound.”
“I know, I know. Ack, do not soil my face too! Let me pet you. You keep us safe from the hastiin, yes you do!”
“And he does it well.”
“Why do you use that strange flower?”
“What strange flower?”
“The one to water us saplings. It is red like a rose, but it is not shaped like one. And it holds more water than I have seen in a single flower before.”
“Oh, dear Kai, it is not a flower. It is a thing made by one of the hastiin.”
“But we are supposed to stay away from the hastiin! How did you get it?”
“It came down the brook and one of the stags grabbed it for me.”
“Yes, Dyani grabbed it. He knows I like to water you saplings, so he thought I could use it.”
“But why use it? It is not like us.”
“It is not, but it can be useful. I can control how much water comes out and where it goes.”
“So, you can clean Chochmo’s soil from my buds!”
“Yes, I can, and I will.”
“Thank you, Alaqua! I feel clean and smart. I think my roots will come in soon now!”
“They just might, Little Kai. And when they do, you will do well in the forest.”
“Goodbye, Kai. I will see you again soon.”
“Grow, grow, grow!
My little sprout, to you I sing
Grow, grow, grow!
May flowers all around you spring
Grow, grow, grow!”
The sound of Mother’s crooning is always in my memory. The feeling of soft droplets cascading down my face and into my roots returns to me, and I smile. I still remember the gentle pushing up of the sweet blue flowers that were partial to my head in particular. Mama loved those flowers. I remember her humming and stroking them every night as they closed their petals at the moonrise, just when I was getting sleepy, too. I’d close my eyes and pet Galadanos ‘til one of us fell asleep – usually me. Ah Galadanos. Such a sweet friend. He was so tiny then – smaller than my little sapling self even. His lithe black body with all the spines was still soft, and I loved the feel of his smooth skin on the sensitive bark of my palms. Mother would sing until she was sung out, and if Galadanos and I were still awake, she’d hum ‘til my fingers stopped their stroking. I wonder what she did then. Perhaps she left for the night to stand watch. Perhaps she, too, was a guardian.
So reads the old account of the Guardian, Dapaos.
I knew that old tree well. The oral records are as close as I can get – besides memories – to hearing his creaking, melodic voice once more. He guarded us for centuries, and if he is correct, then his mother probably did the same for centuries before. What we will do now that he is gone, I’m not certain.
That’s why I’m on this journey.
I hitch the rucksack more securely between my wings and adjust my flight pattern to bear farther sun-ward. The evening light is falling, which means I should find a shelter to perch in soon. There – up ahead I see an old oak with a large knot about half way up. My cousins live in an oak much like this. They’re known for their comfort – lots of space, and the smell is very calming. I crawl inside the knot, snagging a few leaves and moss on my way in for a nest. Tucking into a comfortable corner, I nestle in for the night, hoping to find what I’m seeking tomorrow.
I wake at midnight to the moonlight filtering through the oak leaves and creeping into my nest hole. I smile sleepily: I’ve always loved the gentle caress of moonbeams. I snuggle in closer and listen to the crescent moon’s song. This stage in its tune is always melancholy, but I love it anyway. It matches the longing I feel. I fall asleep to the soft melody.
The next morning I wake with the birdsong. I peak outside, see a woodpecker on his way, looking determined, and I leave hastily. Nothing ruins a nice, peaceful morning like a noisy woodpecker.
The plump berry that I grab as I fly through the dewy morning is fresh and just sweet enough. The juice drips to the ground far below me as I skim the treetops. Perhaps here? No…the trees here are untended, and I see no evidence of my kind. I will not find whom I seek here.
The next forest over is more promising: I can see the large mushrooms on the forest floor that often host those of my cousins who are less fond of the high trees. I descend slowly and catch sight of a nutbrown girl with mossy green wings hovering over a nearby stream, gazing intently into its depths. Not wanting to startle her, I wait. After a few moments, her eyes light up, and she darts soundlessly into the water. When she emerges, she clutches a minnow. It is flailing wildly, and though she clasps it determinedly, I see it is about to drop back into the stream. Water drops fall from her frustrated face. She looks up, and I gesture to her. She nods, and I take some tall grass and zip over to her, quickly lacing the grass around the struggling fish. The girl carries it to the shore and kneels over it to whisper the death song into its gills. I wait till she is finished before I voice my request.
When she stands again, looking relieved and pushing hair out of her face, I hold out my hands and sing my greeting. She smiles and makes the appropriate acceptance gesture.
“And why have you journeyed so far, fair cousin?” Her voice is sweet and low.
“I seek a new Guardian,” I say soberly. Voicing my quest brings the full weight of my responsibility to mind once more, and I droop from it.
Her eyes widen. “You must see Sentros. Please – come.” She leaps lightly into the air and flies as my cousins do, near the ground, just skimming the grasstops with her toes.
I follow, feeling hope pushing its roots deeper in my heart.
Sentros is a very tall, thin birch guardian. Her leaves rustle gently, and I feel immediately at ease.
“Who is your Watcher?” she asks. Her voice is husky and lovely.
“We have none,” I say quietly. I bow low. “Guardian Sentros, I have come to seek help. My people need one of your kind to keep us safe. Already the Threkcos sniff out our anxiety and are on their way.”
Sentros is silent for a long moment. She waves her limbs absently, and the swishing sound eases the fear in my mind.
“There is a grove two day-flights from here,” she finally says, looking directly at me. “You will find what you seek under the roots of the blackthorn. You will understand when you see it. You must be patient, and your people must hide themselves while you wait. I will send a Lizon to guard your borders until your Guardian is grown enough to help you. And after he is three branches high, you must send word so that he can be trained properly.”
I prostrate myself in gratefulness. She looks at me once more and says in a low voice. “I am sorry that Dapaos has moved into the next stage so early. We all miss him.”
My voice cracks with emotion. “Yes, Guardian.”
“You must go. Fly quickly, little one.” She waves me on.
Without further words, just a quick good-bye gesture to the nutbrown girl, I take off into the tree tops.
After two days of flying sun-ward, I see the blackthorn of which Sentros spoke.
Excitedly, I drop, and then I remember caution and peek about me before descending all the way to the roots. I must burrow very far before I see a glint of gold sparkling up at me through the dirt. My heart leaps within me.
“Is it my time?” I hear a small, excited voice in my mind and jump a little, then dig faster.
“Yes! I’ve come for you!” I whisper. “My people must have a new Guardian. Will you - ?”
“Yes, yes!” I hear. “I have waited very long, thinking about who my little ones will be! Do take me with you!”
I finish digging out the golden nut. It is large but surprisingly light, and I know that the hope of our people will help carry it on the three-day journey back. I settle it gently into my arms and push off the ground joyfully.
“What is your name?” I ask softly.