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Where the Trees Speak

Where whispered words work wonders

By Lisa VanGalenPublished 3 months ago 8 min read

It was starting again. The henna-stained pages on the ancient texts told of a time when the woods would speak the truth and reveal the future of the planet. The last three nights had been interrupted by whispers emanating from the darkest part of the forest.

It was time.

***

Adriane paced the floor of her cabin, tracing the path of her mother before her, of her grandmother before that. Each had been the Record Keeper in their own time. Bits of words floated in through the open window, carried to her on the backs of the fairies and fireflies. She knew there was no choice but to gather her belongings and strike off into the woods. If only it weren't so dark.

She glanced at her pack, bulging slightly with bottles of ink, books and pens for recording the messages. It would be wise to leave a note for anyone who may come looking for her. Adriane's face twisted at the thought of the parson leading a mob to her door. Maybe she should tack it on the gate so none would enter her sanctuary.

It had ever been the plight of the Record Keeper. Only the designated one could hear the trees. It guaranteed clarity and reduced confusion. And left the one to bear the brunt of the ridicule. It wasn't her fault the fairies came to her when they were sick. Or the animals who guarded her home and land with ferocity and skill. They knew her role in the future. Explaining it to the rest of the populace had been a lost cause. How her mother had found a suitor was beyond her comprehension as no man would meet her eye in the village let only speak to her. Perhaps she was a halfling after all.

The time for procrastination was at an end. There was nothing else she could do to delay the inevitable, so bracing her shoulders against the storm only she could feel brewing, Adriane crossed her threshold and locked the passage behind her.

***

Her ears pricked as the sounds of villagers crashing through the dense underbrush invaded her solitude. Not a moment too soon, she slipped into the shadows cast by the wavering lanterns. Warm breath tickled her hand and Adriane reached out to grasp the thick fur on Patrick's neck. The wolf leaned in close, nudging her deeper into the forest. His padded feet brushed softly on the dry leaves, mimicking her skirts as they strode farther from her cottage. Cries of outrage startled the night birds into flight, an owl soaring gracefully overhead to land some distance ahead, hooting quietly.

"Come," he seemed to say. "Now." Adriane watched as the silvery light of a single moonbeam glistened on the white feathers. The direction set, she let go of Patrick and the wolf dropped behind, ensuring no one would follow.

"my lady," the oak sighed, "it is good that you have come."

"lady adriane, we need you," called the poplars from the grove near the stream.

"follow our voices, my dearest," came a whisper from the willow.

Adriane smiled. She was most at home here where the voices were the strongest. It had been a long time since she had walked beneath the branches of the Elders. At her feet, midnight moss glowed briefly along the sacred path, the colours dancing and twinkling as though painted by the fairies she knew to be close by. There was a tension in the woods. Looking over her shoulder, no sign remained of the route she had taken, and fear nibbled at her insides as Adriane realized she could not retreat.

"fear not, child," the ferns said as she passed. "you are safe here."

The owl reappeared, calling to her as he landed. "Time."

His tone was tight, his anxiety palpable as Adriane picked up her skirts to move more freely. She watched in awe as the path magically cleared before her, the twigs and thorns turning away as she raced to the centre of the wood.

***

Patrick bumped her leg as Adriane stood at the edge of the glade. Never in all of her visits had it seemed so ethereal. Wisps of mist floated above the knee-high grass, swaying in the breeze that lifted Adriane's hair as it drifted past, the moist air kissing gently at her flushed cheeks. Fairies darted between the blades of grasses, collecting dewdrops in tiny cups. Rustling in the shadows brought her head snapping around, her wolf companion growling low in his throat at the new threat.

A magnificent stag stepped into the clearing, midnight moss dangling elegantly from his rack. Dropping to one forelock, the stag bowed before her.

"Mistress Adriane," his deep voice rumbled. "Your time has come. Have you brought the Sacred Records?"

Adriane nodded, her voice lost as the import of the day momentarily struck her mute. Fumbling with the ties on her pack, she blushed at her ineptitude. She had thought herself ready. Only now, when her training and legacy was needed, did she understand just how little she truly knew about the wood.

The stag stood tall, looking about the glade, before calling out: "It is the Time of Sharing. Who speaks for the living creatures of the valley?"

Patrick stepped forward, his eyes gleaming in the glow of the fireflies. "I speak, Lord Agate." The wolf turned to Adriane and began.

"Lady Adriane, it has been a pleasure to walk beside you on your journey. Know that you skills are deeper than you have been lead to believe. Trust in the words you hear tonight. Feel in your heart the truth of the knowing.

Understand that the world is not as you perceive it. You are the caretaker, the key-carrier. Your word is your oath. Within this ancient circle, you wield the power to bring great change. Or mighty disaster. Have faith in your choice. Listen to the oak, the willow." He stopped, his ears tuned to noises within the wood beyond their sight.

"Lord Agate, I fear I must leave you. Danger stalks these woods tonight." Patrick turned to Adriane. "Keep hold of your truth. Much will change this day." The wolf faded into the shadows, and Adriane struggled with the urge to chase after him. She had never been in the forest without her guardian and this was certainly not a night to be out alone.

The whispers of the woods intensified. Adriane whirled about, unable to pinpoint the source of the voices. There were too many, a jumble of noise, indecipherable, laden with panic as she pulled her pack tight to her chest. The weight of the words pressed upon her until she fell to the ground, her head near to splitting with information surrounding her. Fear constricted her heart. She wasn't ready. Her mother had not told her about this. Nor her grandmother. How could they have neglected to warn her, to prepare her for the onslaught of thoughts and feelings?

As quickly as the barrage had begun, the whispers stopped. The sudden silence was, in many way, worse than the overwhelming messages she had yet to process.

"You must listen with you heart," Lord Agate said. "Try again."

Adrian shook her head. It was all well and good for him to stand there and offer advice. He didn't have to sort out the relevant from the trivial, sift through the mundane to select the nuggets of prophecy she was supposed to record.

A sharp scream broke the eerie silence and Adriane sensed the evacuation of small creatures who had been watching from the underbrush. Hints of copper pinched her nose and she prayed for the soul of the one who had died or lay bleeding in the dark. For a brief moment, she worried about Patrick, until she soul-searched for him and found his signature moving away from the glade at a quick pace. Perhaps it had been nothing more than the owl being successful on his hunt.

"My Lady."

She turned back to the stag and nodded. Opening her pack, Adriane removed the Book of All Time and her quill. The bottles of ink tumbled out to lay in the crumpled grass, their glass twinkling as the closest fairies righted them. With a smile of trepidation, she closed her eyes and opened her heart. She had to trust that Patrick was leading the parson and his practitioners on a merry chase. And have faith that her training had been enough. The stories from her mother had only foretold of this day, of a time when the ancient ways would be threatened by those who did not understand the importance of the wood.

Dipping her quill into the pale brown ink, Adriane watched in awe as her hand scrawled images and words across the previously pristine pages. With no guidance, the messages took shape, foretelling of the change that was to come. Images of an army from beyond the mountain, with mysterious weapons, of fire raining from the sky, flowed through her consciousness to rest on the parchment.

The willows sighed as she recorded their knowledge. What they had learned from their cousins beyond the vale. Of the mass of men waiting to destroy their realm, believing the inhabitants to be ill-prepared for an invasion.

The poplars trembled with the news, as they spoke of the destruction which would befall the glade should the battle begin, if the newcomers crossed the ridge. Fire would rage through the valley. Ash would fill the sky, darkening day into night.

Only the mighty oak offered a solution. "there have been men such as these in the past," the oak said, once the rest had quieted. "your mission is to protect the glade. you must tell the others what we have shared. warn them. make them listen. show them what we have told you."

Adriane, drenched with sweat, shivered in the cool morning air. Hours had passed since she left her cottage. Dawn was kissing the sky, chasing the last of the fairies into hiding. The night had been long. Her bottles of ink lay empty, the quill dangling from her tired fingers.

Lord Agate looked up as Patrick sauntered into the clearing. "Is it done?"

Patrick grimaced, his sharp teeth reinforcing his discomfort. "Not yet. They would not follow me to the ridge. Their fear was greater than their desire for revenge." Blood stained the front of his chest and Adriane paled. The screams had not been the owl after all.

"Oh, Patrick," she cried. "Are you hurt?"

He looked to Adriane and shook his head. "It is not my blood. And it will do you no good to worry over who it belongs to."

In an instant, she knew the parson would give her no more trouble. But the others may be too afraid to listen, especially if they knew Patrick was her companion. Her job just got a lot harder.

The stag impatiently pawed the ground. "Will you be able to help? Do you have the words to save us all?"

Adriane looked at her book, at the pages filled with images and messages. Where doubt had once taken root, there was now a sense of certainty. The trees waited solemnly, not one leaf twitching as she gathered her things and placed them reverently into her pack.

"I do, Lord Agate," she answered, as the ancient magic of the glade filled her. Convincing the scared villagers of the threat would not be easy. But what in life ever is?

Fantasy

About the Creator

Lisa VanGalen

I am a panster by nature, discovering my characters as they reveal themselves. To date, my novel writing has involved the paranormal or magick within a more familiar setting, blending it with mysteries, police procedurals, or thrillers.

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Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

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Comments (1)

  • Flamance @ lit.2 months ago

    Great story nice I like it

Lisa VanGalenWritten by Lisa VanGalen

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