Rain battered on the windows and thatched roof of Rafie’s cottage as she pondered the egg. The fire roared next to them, throwing out warmth into the room. She ran her a finger over the split in the yellow shell, hesitantly touching the green shoot. Its waxy bud cold to the touch. Peering inside she could see a web of roots and dark soil.
“Am I supposed to plant you? Or will you change yet again?” Rafie spoke aloud to the egg but directing her thoughts to Lady Time, however she knew she was much too far away for an answer. “I think we need to head back out.”
She leapt to her feet, quickly changed into dry clothes, grabbed her cloak and gloves, and got the basket ready for the egg. She grabbed an oil cloth to protect the delicate shoot. Once the egg was safely bundled and protected she stepped outside.
Rain battered the ground, it bounced off leaves and her hood. The night was dark but Rafie knew the way, she hurried into the forest, weaving her way through the trees, keeping a grip on the basket and the edges of her cloak.
Dark shapes in the darker shadows drifted about, hunting, fleeing, enjoying the night. There was an odd note in the chorus of the night, something off. Rafie slowed her pace, unable to pin down the cause. She toyed with the ends of her gloves, but decided against dawdling, Lady Time would know what was wrong.
She arrived at the clearing and stopped in her tracks. Lady Time was drooping, her bark was much lighter and leaves were piled up around her trunk. Rafie rushed over, stripping of her gloves and placing both hands on her trunk, the basket swinging in the crook of her elbow.
“Lady Time, what’s going on?” Her words rushed out, eyes tight shut in concentration.
“This is my forest now.” The voice came from behind.
Rafie turned her head, without moving her hands from the struggling tree. Stood between trees was a towering, slimy creature with a huge horned lizard-like head above a morphing shadowy body. Blue eyes burned in its dark grey face.
Her stomach recoiled at the smell of the creature, it was death, stinking and sweet.
“You can’t help her. She will submit to me or die.” The creature blinked slowly, “As will all the trees.”
“What do you want?” Rafie probed Lady Time, trying to find her, her presence was so faint but she was somewhere.
“This forest.” The creature turned and began to move away before adding, over it’s shoulder, “Please leave my forest, I have no need for a gardener.”
Stop Rafie, Lady Time shouted in her mind.
The creature didn’t stop, it disappeared into the shadows. “I can.”
“What can I do?” Rafie focused back on Lady Time.
Images flooded her mind, the egg, a large tree in the middle of many saplings, Rafie watching over the growth, Lady Time dying and the egg again.
“Is this egg a new tree?”
You must leave, move far away and plant the next Lady Time, she must be safe. This is the task for which I brought you here. Lady Time had never spoken this directly, and it was clear it was the end for this millennia old tree.
“I’m sorry I can’t save you.”
The images of green shoots and withered plants.
“Still, I will miss you.”
And I will miss you, my child. But the next Lady Time will be lucky to have you. Leave now, before the creature senses the sapling.
Rafie reluctantly removed her hands, tears pooling in her eyes, the death of this forest was a tragedy, it would change the whole plain. She had to tell the village, they might be able to get a Servant, or maybe even Mavel herself, to deal with the creature. But Rafie had her task, Lady Time could not be saved so she must make sure that the next generation would prosper, the beautiful tree would have her dying wish. Rafie left that very night, stole away with what little she needed for the journey, the quest to find a new home for her and her sapling.
The End (for now).
Thank you so much for reading along with this story. What started as practise has become a story of which I am very proud, which fits into my world and has left me with a characters I can’t wait to include in other stories. I would like to continue Rafie’s adventures but I think a break is needed. However, there will be plenty of other stories and writings in the meantime. Have a great day!