“She vexes me,”
The aged voice whispers as thin hands tremble towards a tin cup. He turns it over, dumping long, white tail feathers, long, slender, polished stones, round stents of metal an d wood onto the parchment strew top of his writing table. Old bones lean heavily upon a walking staff, upon which a ball of clear crystal sits clutched inside the gripping talon of a falcon. His body molding to the straight form of the staff, leaving heavily upon it as the body is ravaged by coughing. The room is dark. The forest blocks out most light, of the early morning sun, casting long shadows that would not dissipate until the noon sun sits high in the sky. The chill of night still hangs beneath the branches, clinging inside the drops of dew that hang to the lowest of leaves in the trees. As he steps out of the small cabin, onto the decking of a small porch, his old ears can hear the sound of the dew falling onto a leave littered floor. Curious how it sounds the same as small mice being snatched up by a constrictor.
His steps are silent, accompanied by the soft thump of his staff against the wooden boards of his porch, as he descends the two steps onto the un-level ground of the forest floor. His bare feet dampened by the dirt, as he stumps his way to the water basin at the corner of the house, used to catch the runoff of recent rain from the wooden slats of shingles. With shaky hand he dips the tin cup into the water basin, while at the same time readies himself to relieve himself against the side of the home.
“She temps me with whispered poetry. Imagery benign in beauty, yet an attack on the mind…” he whispers in further irritation, as he readjusts his small clothing having finished his business, plunging his right hand into the water basin to cleanse it, before heading back into the small cabin with a slow, progressive thump of his walking staff. His mind not on the pains and slow triggers of an old body to the early morning, but on the dreams that continue to plague him. Another nightmare of wolves, and image of that beautiful face that has so haunted him these past fifty years. It was enough to ensure that he awoke in a fervor this morning the same as the one before that.
Once back inside, thin fingers upon which skin stretches taunt over brittle bone stretch out towards a small satchel of crushed herbs and powders, splayed upon a dried leaf and tied together with a thin cord of thread. He picks one of the bundles up with shaking hand, placing the tin cup down upon the table, and promptly emptied the mixture into the water. It immediately sank to the bottom of the cup. He then turned the small leave over in his hand, balled it up and sat it atop of the water’s surface. The leaf sat for a moment before coming to an unnatural flame that effused itself into the water. Steam rose , and with it the acrid scent of a stout brew. He picks up the tin cup, raises it to thin lips, and draws a sip off the top, careful of the heated liquid on sensitive skin. The liquid was bitter, but a taste he was well accustomed to.
“To battle. The hymn of youth she doth sing to my ears,” he continued on in his irritation, moving deeper into the small cabin, releasing the walking staff to let it fall into a notch by an old, wooden chair upon the back of which old, dirty robes lay. Grumbling to himself of the dream he dressed, glad to push off the chill of the rising morning with the thick wool of the robes, once brilliantly white, now dinged and darkened with age and use. “Like some child’s blood she does sense.. but youthful grace has forsaken me, and strength of will alone is not enough to move the world,” he whispers, settling himself down upon the wooden slats with the tin cup of tea, taking another sip, and looking into the dead hearth.
And what does she expect me to accomplish exactly, his mind whispers, throwing the thought into the forefront of his concentration, to rest amongst the irritation. The dreams have been nearly a week in their persistence, as though the product of some damnable calling, and he was trying his best to ignore it. Such things had been rumored to happen, especially in times like these, where whispers of gathering forces crawl the shadows almost as efficiently as the common mouse. Whisperings of wolves and beasts, of carnage and terror beneath the fang have even found their way to his ears out here. And now these damnable dreams.
A hand dipped into his pouches, a fist full of sand extracted, and in his irritation, he flung it into the darkened hearth. As the sand settled upon the half eaten log of wood within, flames begun to burn, the old man’s gaze looking upon the only companion he’s known these fifty years: the fire that warmed his bones and kept pure his mind. The void pulses. He can feel it like a heartbeat in the darkness: unseen, but as present as a lover these fifty years. A heart beat to match his own, to remind him of why he doesn’t simply lie down to die. The flames of the hearth begin to dance as they grow in strength given them by the log, Then to his eyes an image, dancing with the hypnotic sway of the flames, with colors unnatural amongst the orange and blue hews of fire. A man’s face, youthful in age, strong in appearance, clearly of the race appears.
From slack hands the tin cup falls, as the remainder of the body stiffens. Dark eyes fade into formless orbs of darkness as the magic of the void consumes, the mark of his bond only visible upon touching the magic. The vision was unexpected, as they always are, and to such an overpowering degree that the old man could do nothing but sit, and watch what transpired amongst the flames. Davinus saw himself walking through the old wood of his home, along the path to his people. The place named by familiar trees and ferns, as Davinus spent many of his early years in exile amongst them, before coming here.. settling this side of the mountains. The saw the man, more of body than of face, but knew the two to the one. This man walked beside him now: a possible answer to the problem of his strength. Did the oracle listen to the ramblings of an old fool? Did she know the reason he hesitated, and this was what?? An offering of assistance?
And the vision was just thus: a momentary glance, no more than an image of a moment, like a photograph that left more questions than it gave answers, and they reeled within his mind as he stared into the fire. Why would he return home? The western forest held nothing for him anymore, or so he had been stubbornly telling himself these past few years, and lower still this past week, as the dream continued to show images of the familiar groves on the way to his homeland.
“She speaks in broken tongues, this oracle of grace,” he spoke to the fire, “but it would seem her song has been taken up by another mistral, and this one I cannot ignore. To the abyss itself with matters of grace or sin, my heart is cold to them… but my master now speaks: to the home once forsaken shall you go.” Davinus sighed, reaching up from his chair to grip the length of his staff, using it to pull himself up to his feet.
I should pack, he tells himself in the more stable tongue of the mind, whispering thoughts in clarity, it will be a while before I return, if I ever do. A wave of his hand before the flames of the hearth, and they die away to nothingness again, and his eye s fade back to their dull, gray color. A shiver of breath as he stumps through the house, to collect this things, allowing himself just one moment to recreate his tea…
+ + + + +
The passage of time was of question. It could have been a month, maybe two since the old man left house and home to return to the forest of his ancestry. Isildier stood broad and real around him, with thick trunks of ancient oaks rooted deep in their age creating a canopy of dense limbs that even in this time of year were blocking the sun’ s light from completely touching this hallowed ground. Here, the old man stood amongst one of the earliest paths within the forest, one of many that would nest together, like paths of a maze, to lead one through to the citadel of the ancient race of Gypsi. A formidable feat of navigation was to find the way, a near impossible miracle for one to simply stumble upon the lost city. To Davinus, the ancient soils of his home were sacred, hollow grounds, and to be in complete communion with them, the old man removed his traveling shoes, tucking the thin leather slippers onto a pack astride his horse, and continued upon aged, bare feet. The dirt of the forest floor was cold beneath his feet, and through the souls of his feet he felt as though he could feel the ancient pulse of his people.
The void had his eyes, a telling sign that the old man focused magical power into the creation or maintaining of one of his spells. His vision was the same in either state, he could see just as well without the magic as he could with, but the appearance of his eyes marked him, and with greater power, the taint within him would grow to consume. A fate the old man not only longed for, but actively sought these last fifty years in exile. A path that led him back, at what he believes to be the guidance of the void itself, to fulfill the whim of the Oracle. Within these words lies the key to his participation, at least, within these words lies the beginning of his trials. This boy of middle age, with arms like trees braided together and death hanging about his shoulders like a cloak. The face of the man whose visage appears in his dreams. Two faces has he seen there these fast few weeks. This man of corded wood, and a woman…
An hour into the forest has the old man leaning upon staff, walking with feet dirtied by the forest’s floor, with humor lost to the weariness of a day of travel. His voice, a twisted sound of conflicting emotions, of jovial humor and trite anger, echoing in words that seem nearly as cryptic in meaning as they were in sound, as though spoken with broken mind or cursed tongue. Upon any who witness this, it should not be lost to attention that the source of the voice, the old man, seems to be alone, and his attention focused solely upon the beast whom he guides by thin leather reins.
“By the light of the night maidens, I swear to you, I will bestow these reins upon the first we come across who will have one such as yourself,” the old man barked, tugging firmly at the reigns. The horse on the other end simply flared nostrils, and jerked back against the reigns, as though the irritation felt within the old man also soured the beast’s own mood. The day had been long, and both man and horse were tired from their burdens of travel, and yet both stubborn enough to press on in the face of dogged weariness so not to be the first to fall: at least, so it was in the mind of the old man. Davinus leaned heavily upon the staff at his side, thumping along with an unnatural gait, swearing under his breath at the dogged, damnable spirit of his traveling companion…
“I swear it,” he said, stopping at length, leaning his back up against a tree, closing his aged eyes for a moment, “ I would believe you’re mother part ass with as stubborn you are about this.”
Weary, the old man let himself slide down the trunk of the tree, to collapse a pile of skin and bones, entombed in dirty white robes, at the base of it. Thin fingers scratched at long, white whiskers, also dulled and dirtied with so much time in solitary isolation, not to mention the recent earnest in which his travels had taken. To reach the great forest of Isildier in time. Though the question still lingered in the forefront of his mind, as it had nearly every night since having the damnable dream: Time for what?
Perhaps this younger gentleman would know? Perhaps it was something to learn once they reach the Gypsi homeland, or perhaps another vision would occur… another nightmare by that cursed oracle, to guide him in cryptic, broken images… If he could ever see her, could ever be alone with her for but a moment, he didn’t know if he’d demand an interpretation, or choke the life out of her with his own hands…
Or so was his frustration with the entire situation..