Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Worlds within Worlds #2.2

I find a source of water a little while after my berry meal forced me back to my feet.
When I recognise the shape of the grove I allow myself a moment of ecstasy – just a moment, no more. The discovery is enough to settle my senses into their more normal ranges; it also triggers reflexes that fold me into a sudden, still crouch.
I observe everything about the grove: the paths that lead to it; the state of the hedges planted around its edges; the colours of the barks bearding the central trees. I look for smoke and listen for song.
Nothing. The hedges are badly overgrown and the bark looks old and rough. Either the grove has been abandoned, or the women have set a trap.
I remember that I am (was, will be) nimble, with a reputation for raiding these places – rarely am I caught. I wait for a hundred breaths, and a hundred more, checking everything about the grove and the terrain that surrounds it.
On my fifth step towards it, I tread on a twig hidden between grass tufts: crack!
I freeze in an instance, wait for the sting of a dart in my flesh ...
I command my lungs full and risk another step. And another.
Realising the trap has been sprung with no retaliation, I give up my stealth and hobble at some speed to the closest path leading into the grove.
Within the hedges, the place reveals itself to be long abandoned. No woman would allow the litter of dead leaves to collect so deeply on the soil. Even the hearth stone is covered in old foliage.
While scrabbling through detritus as I hunt for a well, I discover a small heap of clay pots, each filled to the brim with cool, stale rainwater – never has such liquid tasted so hale and sweet! I remember to swill the remnant flesh of the bitter fruit from between my teeth before I commence on the fourth pot.
A woman always builds her bier in the branches of her favourite tree – she cannot be too careful. If this grove still has a bier, I do not know it. The leaves by the hearthstone are deep and welcoming as I collapse on my back into them.

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