Joined: 29 May 2009
Location: "...I took the one less traveled by..."
|Posted: Mon Sep 07, 2009 5:38 pm Post subject: Tales from under the Tree
|The Wooden Rose
Klafarius sat under the branches of his favorite tree. He enjoyed the cool refreshing shade the tree brought during the heat of the day, especially on days like this when the heat crept up on you like a City of Of assassin. Blatantly obvious and wearing a shirt and breeches in colors as loud as an elephant stomping through the Fantasy Forest.
So here he sat dressed in a white undershirt and brown breeches lazily carving something yet unidentifiable from a piece of wood he found earlier that morning. Two of the three prized possessions he had sat on the grass beside him. One was his hardened wood walking staff and his carved wooden handled elvish sword. His shoulder length white hair was pulled back into a horse tail and tied with a leather thong. His wrinkled face was a mask of concentration while he used his dwarven dirk to diligently work the wood, so much so that when he eventually realized the small group of children gathered around him watching he was genuinely surprised.
“Good afternoon children.” He said politely nodding to them.
“Whatcha doing there mister?” asked a girl who looked to be around the age of five.
“I’m carving.” said Klafarius never once stopping his rhythmic caressing of the sharp blade against the wood. There were five children of various ages seated in a half circle in front of him.
“What is it going to be?” asked a young boy.
“Well, that I don’t know yet. But I have an idea about what it might be.” said Klafarius.
“What?” inquired another boy.
“Well to find that out we must start with a tale. Would you like to hear a tale children?”
A chorus of affirmations ringed through the little group as a few more children, seeing their friends, came and joined the circle. Klafarius thought for a moment then smiled.
“Have you ever heard of the Wooden Rose?”
Many years ago as I traveled the world I came across the small house of an elderly man. He sat in a chair made from stones brought up from the river bank next to his home. Seeing me and calling to me he asked if I would like to rest and refresh myself beside the cool water. As I had finished the last drop of water from my skin several hours before and the man mentioned that it would be a few more hours to the nearest town I decided to accept his hospitality. Removing my boots I rested my tired and sore feet in the cool water and drank from my now refilled water skin until the parched, dry feeling in my throat had passed.
The Elderly man told me his name was Holvik and when I inquired about the length of his residency he smiled and gestured.
“Lived here all my life I have. I’ll be sixty nine come next season.” The statement surprised me because the elderly man did not look past fifty seasons, the muscles and joints of his body still looked to be well oiled and without crippling. Seeing the surprise on my face Holvik’s face went deadpan. “Don’t you think you can rob this old man if’en that be your trade stranger, my skill with sword and sling are as good as any man of twenty seasons or less.”
“Father, I am not a thief or a highway man. I am just a simple traveler going wherever the winds take me. My name is Klafarius.” I said replacing my boots and standing, the soreness in my feet numbed for the moment by the coldness of the river.
“Hmm…Where do your travels take you along this dusty path? To Ellesburough or Yardsfell, cause’n thems the only two big towns along this road.”
“To be honest I don’t know. I had not inquired about either town in the last village and no one offered any advice. I was going to walk until I reached someplace or a crossroads and then let lady fate decide my path. She has yet to lead me astray.”
Holvik nodded. “Well I wish lady fate had thrown the dice in my favor as she has apparently done in yours.” Holvik sighed. “But alas tis none of your concern stranger and I will bid you come in and sup with me tonight for the night is not long in coming, the road ahead becomes treacherous and there is little place to take shelter.”
Seeing that the sun was in fact starting to wane I agreed. Upon going into his house I saw that it was of the type most commoners dwelled in. There was a small bed in one corner that was curiously carved from what I could only guess would have been a huge stone block covered in straw and rushes, a stone table with stone chairs sat in the middle of the room apparently hewn from the same type of rock as the bed. In fact as I took a seat at the table and looked around the whole of the domicile the only wooden items I could see were the hilt of my sword, my hardened walking staff by the door and a small carved wooden rose upon the mantle above the cooking hearth. Even the bowls and ladle that Holvik served the delicious hare stew in were made of polished stone.
As we sat after eating my curiosity over came my sensibilities and I inquired as to the reason for all of the masonry. Holvik sat for a few moments after I had asked my question pondering deeply and just when I thought he was going to ignore my question completely he sighed then started to speak.
“Ah, of course you would ask. It’s not often that’n a wanderer like yourself should come across a strange inhabitance such as mine. I noticed your perusal of my home when we first came in and I also noticed your eyes stray to my curio upon the mantle there. A tale of sorrow comes with that strange and damnable flower, one which I have longed to tell. Would you listen to old mans curse.” I of course nodded my acceptance, for I am a man who on occasion has been known to collect the odd tale here or there. But to my amazement the yarn the man spun to me now was almost too outrageous to believe, however I listened without interruption.
“It was almost thirty seasons ago when I was just a young buck too full of meself to care about anything other than that, I found myself walking into the forest across the river one day to do some hunting. At that time I was trying to court a young lass in the town of Yardfell a day and a half journey from here east over the trader pass through the mountain. I had asked that young maiden what I could do to win her heart. Knowing that my talents leaned toward the carpenter’s skill she advised me to create for her the most beautiful flower out of the heart of the white quelna tree. Quelna’s are a rare thing in these parts and white quelna even rarer. Well, while I was stalkin’ a wild boar deep within the forest I happened upon this young white quelna, and fancying my luck I drew my sword and spent the better part of an hour chopping at the tree until with one last swing I loosed it from the roots. Forgetting about the boar I loped back to this house and began a month long endeavor to create for the maiden the token which you see on the mantle. I trimmed, I planed, I bored, I sanded, I carved, and I bled. Through my ministrations the token blossomed. I held after that month an achievement of a lifetime in my hand, for I didn’t know it then but I had used up all of my talent in the skill of carpentry. Taking the token to Yardfell I found the maiden sitting at the well and giving it to her I supplicated myself unto her and asked for her hand in marriage. She looked at me with pitying eyes and then laughed in my face. Handing me back my token she admonished me for tryin’ to fool her with somethin’ that obviously a master craftsman had created and how dare I try to pass off someone else’s work as my own.”
The old man shed a tear at these words as I sat there listening. Getting up and walking over to the mantle he gently picked up the carven flower as if it were an idol of worship and brought it to the table and placed it before me. The craftsmanship was truly exquisite; the wooden petals were as delicate as real ones and the thorns on the curved stem as sharp as a needle. I felt that if I were to reach out and touch one that it would pierce my finger with little effort. I looked from the flower to Holvik.
“I came home heartbroken but with the knowledge that I could delve myself once again into my trade until the hurt passed. I started in on a boat this time with the knowledge that a farmer in the valley was on the lookout for a new one. I started with the frame but each time and every time I made a cut or plied the fire to bend the appropriate shape something always went wrong. Cuts were crooked, joints misaligned, measurements were off or the wood would become brittle. Finally I gave up my craft. I started farming instead but that was not where things stopped oh no. Anything wooden seemed to break in my hand. By the Devils hide I couldn’t even sleep on a wooden bed because it would snap in half or a ladle to cook with because the bowl would crack. So eventually I taught myself to make tools and things out of stone. Polishing the stone with sand until the roughness left or create an edge sharper than any iron to dress game. As long as it did not include wood I could use it. I have lived that way for thirty nine seasons and all I have left to me is this flower. It’s the only thing that will not crumble at my touch.”
I looked back at the flower Holvik had set in front of me. I had heard of such things occurring before in my travels but it was usually because of a spell cast by a wizard or witch. Using a technique I had learned from one such person I examined the carving again using a touch of magic this time.
It felt like someone had hit me with a lightening bolt. I toppled the stone chair and hit the far wall knocking myself senseless against the wall for a few moments. When I came to a moment later Holvik was standing over me a look of astonishment on his face.
“Ya’ll right Klaf? What in the Devils red beard did you do? You almost brained yourself.” Holvik helped me back into the chair which he set upright with little effort. I held my aching head in my hands for a moment then looked into Holvik’s eyes.
“You did not harvest a quelna tree you daft man, you harvested a hamadryad!” I said through clenched teeth.
He sat down stunned. “A wh…wh…what!” He squealed.
I got up and carefully put the carving back onto the mantle for the time being while I fuzzily tried to figure out what to do next. This man had presented me with an almost impossible situation. This bumbling idiot had encapsulated the soul of a hamadryad into the form of the rose. Only the most skilled of magicians could do that.
My head throbbed as if a herd of antelope were trampling my skull making it particularly hard to concentrate on the current problem and after a few moments I gave up.
“Look, My head is killing me. Here’s what we are going to do. We are going to get some rest and then in the morning I want you to show me where you cut this tree down. Understand.” Holvik nodded and offered me the bed for the night. I refused stating that I felt more comfortable on the floor and after bunching my cloak under my head. I fell asleep.
In the morning the throbbing in my head had settled into dull ache and I could think a little clearer. After a meal of porridge and bread I carefully took the wooden rose from the mantle piece and placed into my cloak for safe keeping. I turned to Holvik as we prepared to cross the river at a shallow spot a mile away from his home.
“Are you prepared to take responsibility for your actions even though you did not know at the time you were doing a grave harm to the hamadryad?” Holvik stared at the ground for a few moments.
“Yes.” He said sounding a lot like a child being scolded for doing something he knew he shouldn’t have.
“Do you understand what you have done?”
The question seemed to take Holvik by surprise. “Well, ah…no. Not really.”
We waded into the chilly water, I following Holvik who knew the way. “To put it into simple terms you essentially trapped the soul of the hamadryad into your creation of the flower. You forced it to stay alive confined inside your creation. Thus not allowing the natural course of living things you brought upon yourself the wrath of what I imagine is a very young hamadryad. In not allowing it to die you set every other tree or object made by a tree against you. If my supposition is correct then the only way to return yourself and this helpless creature to normal is to re-root it in the spot where you were supposed to end its life.” We were now on the other side of the river and Holvik was leading me through a maze of trees and foliage.
“What will that do?” asked Holvik sounding a little unnerved.
“Well, in theory it should do one of two things. Either allow the hamadryad to die thus ending the cycle of life or cause a rebirth of the hamadryad and the formation of a renewed entity.”
We walked in silence for awhile. I assumed Holvik was thinking about all that I had told him when we walked in a small clearing of sorts and Holvik stopped. In the middle was a crudely cut stump of a tree. The air seemed stale here almost as if no wind ever blew through this area. Holvik pointed.
I brought out the hamadryad and placed it into his hands. He looked at me with fear in his eyes. “It’s your hand that caused its suffering. Thus it’s your hand that will end it.” I said backing up and watching him cradle the flower.
He stared into his palms thinking for quite awhile. Then he slowly set the carving down and drew his sword from its sheath at his side. Walking over to the stump of the tree he lifted the sword into the air and with a massive thrust plunged it into the center. It sank deep into the wood and grabbing the cross bar he started to twist the blade. Holvik’s muscles bulged as he exerted himself until he was red in the face and sweat streamed down his scalp. This went on for several minutes until I was sure that he would either break the sword and possibly injure himself or burst his heart with the shear amount of force being applied to the stump when I heard a crrrraaaccckkk and the stump split down the middle.
I was amazed. Holvik stood gathering his breath for a few moments then sheathed his sword and walked back to the place where he had set the rose down and gingerly picking it up he carried it to the stump. Kneeling, he gently placed the wooden carving into the crack stem first. He glanced around himself and spying me on the edge of his peripheral vision he motioned for me to come over.
“Water.” He said, his voice sounding harsh. I handed him my water skin and he took it pouring a generous amount on to the spot where the tree stump and the stem of the rose met. Instantly the fissure in the stump that Holvik had created with his sword sealed up allowing the carved rose to stand on its own. At that moment it was if a god breathed fresh air into the clearing. The leaves of the trees swayed to and fro in the gentle breeze and Holvik turned to face me. A smile played upon his lips.
“Well met young traveler.”
We walked out of the clearing and retraced our steps in silence. When we once again found ourselves on the other side of the river I turned to my companion.
“Unfortunately this is where we part ways my friend. I still have a half of a day left to me and that is enough to see me through the Travelers pass and into an area of relative safety by nightfall.” I said taking Holvik’s extended hand and shaking it.
“I’m sorry about all of this Friend…and yet I’m not. You have helped me quite a lot you know.” He said grasping my hand in both of his and pumping it vigorously. “I know what I need to do now.”
“Oh yeah, what is that?” I asked.
“I’ve got to take care of that sprout in there.” He said gesturing into the forest. “At least until it grows strong again.”
I looked him in the eyes. “You’re right and it’s a big undertaking. But you have a good heart and you’ll manage. Just tell no one of its existence. There are people who would kill to capture a hamadryad and defile its nature.”
He nodded and I turned and started walking.
It took the children a few moments to realize that my tale was through. They had been so enthralled by the story.
“What happened after that?” asked the five year old girl.
“Oh, I stopped back by to see old Holvik a few years later and the tree was still growing strong. Although it was looking more like a tree than a flower and he still cares for it, bringing water and fertilizer and he plays it songs on his lute.”
The children giggled at the thought of an old man playing music to a tree. Then one of the children looked at my hand and saw what was held there. A little carved wooden flower, while not being as masterfully done as the one in the story, it was still good enough to satisfy my sense of creativity and pride.
“Can I have your carving mister?” asked one of the children.
I smiled. “To make it fair for everyone I want each of you to smell the flower and then pass it to the next person. After you have each had a turn we will see who gets this token.” I gave the carving to one of the children and each in turn smelled it then passed it along until everyone had received a chance. Then when the carving was given back to me I asked them a question.
“How many of you didn’t smell anything when you sniffed the flower.” All the hands shot up except for one. One of the girls sat looking around at everyone her face confused.
“Alright, you can put your hands down.” I pointed at the girl who hadn’t raised her hand.
“What did you smell?” She hesitated for a moment then shyly answered.
“It smelled like strawberries.”
I handed the carving to her and she took it, staring at it.
“One day, this will help you make a very important decision. Take it home and put it in a safe place.” Standing up I belted on my sword and dirk and threw my cloak around my shoulders.
“What about us. How come we don’t get anything?” said a boy sounding put out.
I knelt down and looked him in the eyes. He fidgeted nervously. “Because there will be more stories and more presents to give away later little one.”
Tousling his hair and standing back up, I started down the lane, walking staff clacking on the pave stones.