Roots Ever Deeper Part 2: A Gift of the Moon

“If you keep digging like that, you’re going to ruin my good hatchet, fils.”

The quiet voice on the wind disturbed his prayers, scattering thoughts like cattails in the hand of a curious child. He swallowed hard, eyes locked on the bloody tangle of roots and soil before him, before restarting his entreaty to Willow for her peaceful guidance through the Thorns for Simon.

‘Grand-mère, veuillez guider cette pauvre créature vers son repos. Il a parcouru nos chemins et a accepté votre bénédiction. Menez-le à travers les Épines sans blessures, qu’il puisse retourner sans ombre dans le cycle du monde.’

The moon shone brightly all around, the specks of heart’s-blood on his hands glowing softly in contrast to the white criss-cross of scars on his flesh. The words tumbled from his lips were paired with puffs of steam, the night air cutting into lungs with every breath. It wasn’t enough to block out the gentle touch of a hand on his shoulder, her words in his ears.

“You did as you were told, beb. You listened to your Mère, and got what dat poor boy needed. Don’ you waste tears dat it wasn’t what you wanted.”

Prayer complete, he rose to his feet, shrugging off the (imagined?) hand on his shoulder, and reaching for a cloth to clean both flesh and steel. “Why do you always have to talk now, hahn? Why not when I actually need your advice?” His words were harsh, darkened with traces of grief and pain. “I know dis was the best outcome, short of him being free to join the Circle, but since when are we dat lucky, no? Was it when de Kruzemore showed up, carried on paths of tiny legs? Or was it when our *lord* was taken and replaced by his useless son, arrogant as any youth? No, MawMaw, we not dat lucky anymore, an’ it looking to be gettin’ worse.”

Task complete, he placed the hatchet back on his belt before turning to stare at the moon, high in the night sky but seemingly close enough to touch, perfectly outlined by the tips of the trees of the grove. “All dose stories o’ yours, of Arbor and his adventures? How he protected the forest and guided the woodcutters to the best groves and taught the secrets of the undergrowth? His mighty staff ensuring good footing through de worst o’ de bayou?”

He spat on the ground, flecks of blood amidst the saliva. “Lies. All o’ dem.” He turned to face the willow tree, its branches softly tossing in the night’s breeze. “He’s a spirits-damned Lion, and now I don’ know *what* to believe.” A small tear formed at the edge of one eye, before being ruthlessly scrubbed away by a scarred back of one hand. “But I’m a good boy, an’ I know my duty. The Hungry One is wakin’, and we need the Pact to be strong. I’ll do my part, but know this: I will never forget. We’ll grow, and move on, but dis only goes to prove you right, your favorite saying an’ all.”

“When dealin’ wit de People an’ de Court, know dis: you always get what you need, but rarely what you want. Live well, work hard, and only lean on gifts when all else fails. Everything has a cost, an’ you might not be the one to pay, cher.”

Roots Ever Deeper Part 1: A Change Among the Wind

“Don’ worry about dat wind none, fils.” his father’s low voice murmured, when the latest storm blew through camp and set the lanterns creaking in their dance, the canvas of wagons and tents snapping to the rhythm. The groans and pops made him burrow ever deeper into warm, protective arms. “It’ll blow t’rough by morn’n, and da woods will still be here, guarding an’ growing as ever.” Warm brown eyes winked down at their smaller mirror-image, a small grin growing beneath a bushy mustache as more creaks lead to shivers in his small form.

“You wan’ to know deir secret? How dey give no mind to storm an’ sun alike?” His small head gave a timid nod, eyes locked on the light reflected in his father’s spectacles, the wick’s flame dancing like fireflies. The thought of summer; of the sun and being away from the storm threw all notions of fear aside for precious moments, before being cast aside as the wind howled anew. His father chuckled, his emotions had obviously been all over his face despite his attempts to be brave.

“Strong roots, fils. Down, down t’rough dirt an’ loam; past water an’ darkness to heart of de eart’ herself.” He could almost picture it, the lines of strong wood spreading like the nets they used on the river, ever deeper into the world below them. “Course, it’s not jus’ de one tree dat makes it work, hahn? De roots, dey reach out to each other, tied together like holdin’ hands in de Circle. Dat’s what makes dem strong, fils.” His father’s voice started to fade, as the his eyes drifted closed, fear losing the battle to gentle voices and soothing warmth…

Étienne startled awake, hat dropping into his lap from the sudden jerk of his head. Reaching for it with one hand, he felt the bark of the great oak behind him with the other, its rough rasp familiar and anchoring him in the *here* and *now.* Part of him ached to return to his dream, to that time of protective strength and certainty, but the rest of him knew that escape into the past wasn’t the point of his meditations today. He had gone into the Wild alone for a reason, to search for the answer to Grandfather’s challenge last market, and hints as to the best path forward for them all as a community.

“Roots hahn?” he muttered, standing and brushing off his trousers before gathering his things and preparing to return to camp and prep the evening meal, already counting out ingredients in his mind’s eye. “If that’s the sign we need, to stand together and be heard all the same, then who am I to doubt?”

His eyes turned to the oak once more, patting the bark gently before turning and leaving the grove for home. “Merci, père. You always knew what to say when I needed it most.”