Roots Ever Deeper Part 6: Grafting Pains

Charcoal scraped over the loose sheets of bark in front of him, blackened fingertips tracing the lines of tally marks and labels to the quiet rhythm of the rain outside. A quiet harrumph of displeasure is followed shortly after by the rumbles of “hmm” and “ahh”, as the line is quickly struck out and re-tallied based on the half-scribbled note slid into the ledger’s margins. Why did people wait to submit their plans for spring so late in the winter, when there was little time left for reconciling the records against the stores?

Sighing, Etienne took the opportunity to stand and stretch, adding blackened fingerprints to similar marks on his shirt as he twisted to and fro, seeking the subtle pop of joints and ligaments sliding back into proper place after too much time stooped over the desk. Spring was on its way sooner than expected, and that was the problem. Short winter meant flush storehouses and happy townsfolk, but less time for the soil to renew itself and feed the endless maze of root and vine that fed the land. They could clear away the deadwood, crop the bent and broken limbs to allow for healthy growth, but was the food there to fuel it? And that was before this mess with the wizard and his curse, sapping the lifeblood of the forest for his own purposes…

His gaze turned to the storm outside, seeing the rivulets of runoff worm their way back to the river. Everything was connected here, hung in a delicate balance overseen by the spirits and managed by the efforts of man and beast. How will things change, when the Mists finally fail, when the Standing People no longer have the strength to talk to the people and are left as deaf and dumb as the lion statue the townsfolk worship around? Tears well in his eyes at the thought, quickly brushed away with a careless hand leaving streaks beneath his eyes.

Realizing what he had done, tears quickly changed to mirth, quiet laughter bubbling forth as he sought out the basin to clean the coal from face and hands. Enough maudlin thoughts, he confirmed to himself, reaching for soap and cloth. We should be looking forward to spring, and the return of the sun. The town was growing ever closer together, the Circle grew in strength as Patrons were selected and blessings granted, and the near impossible had occurred in Grandfather Oak agreeing that their changes were for the best.

As thoughts shifted to Oak, a still-damp hand paused to reach for the scar over his heart, still pink and fresh even all these months later. Yes, perhaps now is the time to finally have that chat, now that the winter winds were giving way to the season of change…

Leave a Reply