“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.”