Roots Ever Deeper Part 7: A Storm Approaches

Thunder rumbled overhead. Black clouds hung low and swollen, ready to burst and release their precious cargo to the thirsty earth below. Spring was here, and the rivers ran rapid with the thaw, carrying life from the rills to the swamp and beyond. Bird calls and the chirping of tree-dwellers blended into a song of life, growth, and green that swept him along its current as he strode deeper into the forest, eyes near closed as he listened for the song.

‘This might be our last Spring.’

The thought came to him unbidden, yet undeniable. The Mists were all but spent, the Court reduced to whispers and final blessings granted through shrines despite the restoration of the Grove and the leylines beneath it, and Etienne could hear it in the song of the woods. There was life, yes, but life fed by death. Growth, at the expense of something, some*one* else. The green shoots reached for the sun, but their flowers and fruit seemed…lacking in some essential element, leaving them hollow and unfulfilling in the stomach.

Already the Hungerer’s restlessness was visible, the effects of it waking resulting in the constant gnawing in the gut, the weariness in the bones. Would their winter stores make it to the first harvests in summer? Each ration stretched shorter and shorter by the day, and if nothing changed, the elders would be reduced to eating pine shoots and grass soup by the end of spring.

Finally reaching the Grove, he paused to take it in: the mushroom circles and carefully tended herb plots; the newly crafted shrines in their place of honor; the canopy overhead stretching out shadows to protect from sun and rain alike. It looked much like it always had, but for how much longer? Without the Mists, if they were to survive the Beast Below, what sort of a future would their children have? One of hiding and secrecy, the Grove reduced to a place of secrets and lies instead of joy and laughter?

He looked at his hand, once again overgrown with bark and moss much like his Patron, the temporary reprieve from the granting of the patronage faded like a dream. It was a visible sign of their Oath, a reminder of one possibility for the Circle and Luisant, and one he hoped wouldn’t be required. He *wanted* to trust in kith and kin, in the spirit of cooperation and comradery that had been built up these past few years, but was he right to make that call?

The clouds above gave out, no longer able to hold up under their mighty load, and the pale morning turned to a sodden gray as the heavens wept. Tears of joy and relief, or tears of sorrow he could not tell. Perhaps it was both, and rightly so, as his own tears mingled with the rain as it fell, each one a silent prayer for wisdom that he was unsure if it would be answered, but needed to be made nonetheless.

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