Twain O’er Wagon

by Kayne Brookes

Twist Raven’s tooth about grey birch

ere ye lament the

Two figures
dashed silently through the darkened woods. Moving with a self-assured grace
that bespoke both an intimate familiarity with their surroundings and a
singular and burning purpose, an observer might easily mistake the two swift
shadows as a pair of some terrible eldritch predator coughed up from the
stygian depths of the Eyrewood. However, the unnatural quiet with which the two
progressed – not pant of laboured breath, nor crackle of dried leaf to reach
the ears – and the manner in which they seemed to melt from shadow to shadow
between the great grey boles of these woods, would soon disabuse one of such a
notion. Not beast, nor man, nor devil these.

Reaching the
lee of a crag that jutted out of the brush like unto a great stone dagger
stabbing at the leaf clothed evening sky, the pair stopped as one.

“Well we
are here,” said the first in a voice gravelled with age and experience, “and
afore the other two it seems. Did you find sign of the younglings? They did not
cross the lake.”

replied a young woman’s voice like velvet over cold steel, “I did not Guardsman.
There was a bole wight’s grove a stone’s throw dawn-wards, and I had thought
perhaps the wretched fiend had made a long and merry meal of the little ones.
But I found neither bone nor tooth nor cloth of them. I know not how the
village has stood so long with such neighbours!”

“By nought
but the grace of the Judging Wood I’d wager,” said the old man, “The trick, it
seems, is in those verdant waters. A stone crested salamander slumbers in the
depths of the drowned forest. One of the last. It is his influence which keeps
the Eyrewood’s more ravenous children at bay methinks.”

A third
shadow coalesced beside the first two.

Greenheart!” said the woman, “What news?”

“Hail Blademaster,”
came the reply in a kind and motherly voice, “The woods, it seems, have
conspired to swallow up as much of it as possible, but I have found the trail.”
She hesitated before continuing, “It leads to the house of a Daughter of the

The young
woman gave a low whistle.

“Better ‘twere
the bole wight methinks. We will have a tough time of it if we must go up
against a Daughter.”

“Where is
the fourth?” asked the old man, “Where is the tangled one?”

“He has
gone his own way,” answered the Greenheart, “as his kind are wont to do. I am
not sure the knots bind them in the same way they do us. Rest assured he will
be with us when the storm breaks, although which way his thistles bend and
whose hides they pierce is any man’s guess.”

The guard

“Let us be
off then,” he said, “Lead on Greenheart.”

And they
were gone, leaving only darkness and the night breeze.

Tie Lamb’s crook tight
afore the search

that innocence not

In the
depths of the Eyrewood a village stood upon the shores of a great lake. The
lake was an inland sea of rare immensity and purity, waters that were still and
clear pushed to the horizon and beyond, offering up an ever vigil mirror to the
sky. Beautiful and benevolent in its bounty, the lake was strange nonetheless,
although strangeness is itself an old and familiar inhabitant of the Eyrewood.
The trees of the woods that embraced the waters did not halt at the lake’s
edge. Rather they marched out into the lake, and the forest continued
unhindered beneath the gleaming surface; the woods flourished inexplicably,
green and full, in the emerald depths. Occasionally a fisherman from the
village would be taken by storm or deviant current to the centre of the jade
expanse, and they would return with tales of immense stone ruins only barely
scried far beneath the ripples left by their boats. Fishermen, however, were as
notorious for their tall tales as they were for their love of the potent rice
wine brewed in the village.

The village
was a cheerful place that thrived in the bosom of the lake, gathering the ripe
fruit that floated to the surface once dropping from the boughs below, taking
the queer, legged fish that clung to the submarine branches, and harvesting
rice in the shallows. The people of the village had found a delicate balance
with the forest; they cleared no land, and for each tree they felled custom
demanded they plant two in its place. The villagers believed that it was
because of this way of life that they were tolerated, that the Eyrewood suffered
them to live there, and while the people were wary of the great eldritch beasts
that stalked the sun dappled shade, they took comfort in the safety of their

figures stood amoung the birch trees where moments before there had only been
the golden afternoon sunlight pooling and spilling between the eaves, and the
fickle breeze toying with the occasional errant falling leaf. Although similar
in their forest hued garb and aura of controlled ferocity, their appearances
varied greatly. Three of the four stood straight backed and resolute: a
grizzled old man, a warrior, grey bearded and one eyes; A woman, tall of
stature and her hair in a large silver braid, her eyes glowed green from behind
a mask of rough bark that concealed the upper half of her face, but a soft
smile lay upon her lips; A girl, beautiful and proud, her raven locks flowed
out from under her raised hood, sunlight glinting on the collection of knives
belted across her tunic. And then there was the fourth. It stood with its head
cocked at a strange broken-necked angle, a smooth white porcelain mask covering
its whole face with nary an opening for eye or mouth. In one place, in the
position of the right eye, there was a crack from which sprouted a single rose.
Cable thick brambles coiled down one of its arms, thorns piercing its flesh and
staining its sleeves red. Its cloak was tattered and torn.

Before them
were two others; A woman kneeling, her palms upwards in her lap in
supplication, weeping softly and bleeding from the fresh cuts upon her hands,
and a man who stood behind her, attempting to cloak his cowering in bluster and

Fiends!” he yelled, “Into the woods with ye! Bring back my son! And mind that
ye do nothing to invite the Eyrewood’s anger!”

The four
looked on impassively.

“Well?” he
said to the stony silence, “Ye have your task! Set to it!”

Still the
four stood unmoved.

“What is
wrong with them?” said the man, nudging the woman with his foot.

“You did
not tie the knot, little man,” said the black haired girl, “It is not your
blood that sings from the thorns.”

The man
puffed up his chest with self-importance.

“I am the
village chief,” he said, “I will command ye.”

Nudging the kneeling woman once more he said, “Tell them to fetch back my son!”

With a
sudden shriek the woman leapt to her feet and struck the man, leaving a wet
crimson smear across his face and sending a resounding clap through the quiet
forest. She then unleashed a fury of blows beneath which the chief cringed and

“I begged
you!” she screamed, “I begged and begged since the night Kahana was taken for
you to let me call them! Why now? Why? Is it only after your own is taken that
you can see reason?”

The woman
reigned in her anger. She stood over he chief sat upon his rump with his both
hands raised to ward off any further blows. With her back to the four she said,
“The children have all been taken from the village. We know not what by, but
always one or two every night. My daughter was the first taken. His son the

The woman
turned and faced the four. Feet apart, fists at her sides, blood fell from her
hands to patter softly on the dry leaves of the forest floor. Staring into each
of their faces in turn, she said, “He fears your intervention will call the
wrath of the Eyrewood down upon this village. I care not. Please save our

“My son,”
croaked the chief, “save the others if you can but bring me back my son!”

him, the woman said once more, “Please save our children. I implore you,
Watchers of Thorns.”

With that
the two women and the old man disappeared, swallowed by the forest. Only the
twisted creature in the pallid mask remained. It stepped towards the knot of brambles
tied about the trunk of a birchwood tree, bending so that its covered face was
a mere breath away from it. Crimson beads gleamed from amoung the coils of
thorns. It inspected the intricate weaving for some moments in silence. Suddenly
it giggled, then said in a voice strangely unmuffled by its holeless mask, “The
binding is wrong!”

straightened and turned towards the two villagers.

binding is wrong,” it said once again, the edge to its words speaking of sanity
and reason long bereft, “And yet here we all are!”

With that
it made a mockery of a bow before it too vanished with a flourish into the

With Twain o’er Wagon’s
bloodied bands,

the knot is now set

“Well this is a pretty little trap,” whispered the Blade. The three of them – Blade, Greenheart, and Guard – crouched in the deeply shadowed underbrush on the edge of a small glade. Carpeted with lush green moss, the light of the waxen moon over the clearing would have made for an idyllic scene, but for the malevolent violet glow that emanated from the repugnant plague of toadstools and fungal brackets that sprouted from almost every surface. A giant fig tree stood at the far edge. Its fruit hung putrid, huge, and pink, and its swollen whole pulsated and throbbed sluggishly to some unheard beat. Twisted in among its misshapen roots, still and glassy eyed, were the village children. In the middle of the glade, atop a knoll cloaked in feather moss, a small girl sat clapping and laughing at a young boy, some years older than her, capering and dancing madly. White wild flowers bloom among the girl’s hair, slightly wilted, their vitality seemingly robbed by a line of bracket fungus that climbed up her neck and over one side of her face, their undersides glowing with the same purple corruption. The boy too wore similar markings, but the spore had worked much further on him, with toadstools sprouting from his hair and the black lines of fungal filaments visible beneath the skin on his face and arms. In a perverse parody of a dance, he jerked and spasmed as if attached to the strings of a puppet, and his eyes stared forward with the same dead gaze as the other children.

The Guard
grunted agreement. “Aye,” he said softly, “The guardian lurks nearby no doubt.
He would know of our coming. The Ebb has him as well if it uses its mistress as
bait. And the eaves have eyes it seems.”

agreed the Blade, raising her eyes to the treetops, “A lot of them. So, how do
we slip the catch without getting our fingers caught? A Daughter is one thing, but
this… she is young. She cannot be more than five summers. Much too young to

“It is that
youth,” spoke the Greenheart, “Which has provided a crack for the Ebb to creep
in. It has found a great and powerful tool in her; one which it will not
relinquish easily.”

“I do not
relish putting my knives to one so small,” said the Blade, “Daughter or no, Ebb-taken
or no.”

studied the scene in the glade in silence. The girl was now in the throes of a
furious tantrum, stomping her feet and screaming. The boy sat slumped forward
in front of her. The girl’s disposition skittered and careened like an angry
spider in a barrel, one moment yelling demands into the woods, the next
giggling and singing. Eventually she sat once more, and began speaking to her
silent companion.

“I do wish
Elrik would come back,” she said in her child’s garrulous warble, “It is much
more fun with him here. Do you know why I named him Elrik, Fenir? It’s because
he looks like a big tree, and I think Elrik sounds like a good strong name for
a big tree. Yesterday his name was Tree-fur, because his fur is like leaves, but
that was a silly name and not proper at all, so I have changed it to Elrik you
see? Like the hero in my story books. I think Mama will like the new name more.
Don’t you think so, Fenir? Fenir?”

In another
sudden outburst of anger the girl began demanding that her limply docile
companion answer her. There was a shadow to her childish fury that hinted at
something deeper and infinitely immense. Indeed, a pall of malevolence hung
over the whole glade; a strange humidity of ancient hatred.

playmate,” said the Blade, “He is the son of the village chief. I can see the
mark of the gormless wretch upon the poor boy’s face.”

“And the
mark of she who has bound us is upon the girl’s,” said the Greenheart, “The
first child to disappear. It would seem that she is the only child that was not

said the Blade, “The children fade, and I do not think the guardian will show
his hand afore we show ours. We must make our move, and quickly so.”

The Guard
nodded slowly, frowning.

“You and I
will draw the girl and her beast out,” he said, “The Greenheart will tend to
the other children while we do so.”

“You think
to cut her!” said the Blade accusingly, “I will have no part in it!”

“Nay, we
must not, at all costs. The bind- Hsst! Ebb claim him! What is that fool

The Briarlock had emerged from the opposite
side of the glade and was striding purposefully towards the girl at its centre.
The girl watched the masked creature’s approach with a discontented frown upon
her face. It stopped before her, then, slowly and with the threat of great
malice, extended is briar tangled arm towards her. Suddenly it jerked its head
toward the forest’s edge. The girl screamed, and her guardian burst forth from
the tree line bringing with it all the avenging fury of the Eyrewood. The grove
lion loosed an ear-shattering roar like unto the snapping of a thousand giant
boles beneath the tumbling of a hundred boulders. The beast had made great
effort to bear the brunt of the Ebb’s assault upon its tiny mistress, and the
decay had spread its roots deep. Fungus sprouted all over its face of living
wood, with a large twisted clump growing out of, and completely concealing, one
eye socket. Its enraged bellow revealed the inside of its maw to be carpeted in
a glowing, throbbing spore, and its thick mane of leaves was wilted, brown, and
riddled with toadstools. Along its back, massive pustules of a diseased hue
swelled, ruptured, and then swelled again, releasing a noxious powder into the
air. Even in its corrupted state, the massive creature bespoke the grandeur and
strength of the Eyrewood. In a single bound it leapt across the clearing, and
with one huge claw it swatted the Briarlock away from the girl as if it were no
more than a cloth doll. The Briarlock flew backwards, and would have been
pulverised against the trunk of a tree had flood of brambles not erupted from
beneath its cloak, cushioning the impact then launching it back at its
attacker. Landing on the beast’s side, the briarlock lashed its thorned
tendrils over it, cruel spikes biting deep into its hide. The grove lion roared
in surprise and rage. The girl continued to scream. The trees that ringed the
glade began to grow larger and twist into each other in a spiral that was meant
to close the clearing to the outside. As if coming out of a spell, the three
remaining members of the Thornwatch sprang through the shrinking gaps between
the trees as one, blades drawn. Gliders began to alight, skin speckled with the
Ebb’s pestilence and eyes shining with an old hunger.

yelled the Blade, “See to the children! Guardsman, keep these things from
chewing on our rumps! I will assist the Briarlock!”

“Assist him
as you can,” yelled back the Guard, “But stay his hand if need be! Do not slay
the beast! The girl is bound to it, and the children to her! Harm any of them
and we are undone!”

But the
Blade was already running towards the grove lion.

“Harry them
well Guardsman,” said the Greenheart beside him, “Put the fear of the Watch
into them.” And with that she too sprinted away, running toward the tree that
held the children, sword held wide and cloak billowing.

The lead
nearest glider lunged. The Guard moved with a grace and precision that belied
his grey beard and missing eye. He stepped to the side and relieved the glider
of its head as it flew. It fell to the ground with two soft thuds, both head
and body twitching atop the moss. He stepped forward, slicing his sword across
the side of the next creature. It snapped its jaws wildly as blood and viscera
spilled across the ground. The guard kicked the nearest glider hard, feeling
its bones snapping through the leather of his boot and sending the fiend flying
into a group of three of its fellows that went down in a tangle of wing
membrane and legs. He then whirled, sinking to one knee, and stabbed unerringly
through the eye of a creature that had circled behind him. Its bat-like muzzle
snapped spasmodically on the end of the blade as its life fled. Another glider
lunged from the side, its fangs sinking into the guard’s sword arm. With his
free hand he unsheathed his short sword and drew it across the thing’s throat
in a single lightning movement. Its lifeblood spilled over him in a warm spray
as he stood. The trees had now twisted completely shut, trapping them all
inside. Five of the creatures lay dead or in their final throes. Some score of
them remained, eyeing him warily now, with still more continuing to drop from
the darkened heights. The Guard threw himself into the pack, swinging and
cleaving, dodging and spinning in a dance as old as forged steal. A dervish of
blades and death, he was still and tranquil in his heart, giving himself
completely to his work and seeking no more than to be the threat amoung his
enemies that must not be ignored.

The glade was littered with carcasses, but
still they came. The pack was giving the thrashing grove lion a wide berth. The
Briarlock crawled over it like a demented insect on clawed wooden legs. The
beast twisted and bit and raked its attacker with its claws, but always the
Briarlock was able to cling to its bulk, sprouting tendrils and sinking in
cruel thorns. The Blade would seek an opening and occasionally dart in and bury
one of her knives up to its haft in its flesh. This only seemed to irritate the
guardian, sparing only a momentary snap of its wooden jaws at the nimble Blade
as she danced back out of reach, before returning its attention to the twisted
creature that clambered over its back. A number of hafts already protruded from
various areas over the grove lion’s body and legs.

The Greenheart continued her ministrations, a
glowing hand upon the gargantuan fig tree coaxing the children from its tangled
bowels. About her, blackened and charred or impaled upon living roots that had
erupted from the earth, were the bodies of gliders that had perhaps thought to
seek an easier prey and had instead found swift and uncompromising death in her

The grove lion seemed to be slowing, red sap
seeping sluggishly from a collection of cuts and ugly looking punctures, but
not as much as the Briarlock. Its magick was taking a toll upon its own body,
thorns ripping and tearing its own flesh with each thick vine that emerged from
its body. Blood poured from beneath its cloak, soaking the grove lion’s
diseased back. The Blade threw a final knife, lodging in the grove lion’s front
shoulder to an angry howl, and drew her short sword. She drew the blade
smoothly across her palm, cutting and coating the metal in a vivid crimson. She
gripped the haft with both hands above her head then slammed the blade into the
ground between her feet, driving it deep into the soft earth. Each of the knives
embedded in the raging beast suddenly shone with a cold incandescence, and the
grove lion collapsed to the ground with a loud grunt as if some immense weight
had suddenly pulled down upon it. It bellowed, straining and jerking, but it
was pinned fast to the forest floor.

The Briarlock stood atop the fallen behemoth
and extended both of its hands. Its arms bulged unnaturally then burst open,
twin torrents of thick brambles shooting out to lodge in the grove lion’s back.
The vines then began to pulse and thicken, like a mass of leaches drinking
thirstily of their host. As they throbbed the Briarlock began to swell in
grotesque proportions; first the vines that had been its arms grew to the width
of tree trunks in their feasting, then its shoulders and back grew bulbous and
huge, tearing its clothing at the seams, until the masked head, tiny by
comparison to the abomination the body was becoming, was the only echo of humanity
left. With the change in the Briarlock, there also came a change over the
glade. The evil looking fungus began to dim and shrivel, while the fig tree
began to shrink, its putrid fruit falling to burst overripe on the ground, it
now regurgitated the children from its roots faster than the Greenheart could
take them. The gliders began to mill uncertainly, hooting and clicking at the

The girl stood looking on, her eyes wide with
fear. Suddenly, the trees which had made a prison of the glade whipped back
into place with a sound like thunder, raining leaves down into the clearing.
The girl fled into the forest.

“Greenheart! At her heels!” roared the Guard. The Greenheart was already away. The glider pack scattered, the Ebb’s hold over them now too tenuous to drive them through their instincts towards self-preservation. The mark of corruption upon the grove lion finally began to recede and it ceased struggling against its bonds. Proud head laid upon the soil, it breathed heavily and deeply, each exhalation announced by a long shuddering whimper, all the more piteous for coming from such a great beast. The Blade placed a soothing hand upon the creature’s muzzle.

“Hush, rest
now noble one,” she said, “You have fought hard and protected your mistress as
no other could. You will both be whole again soon.”

Presently the Briarlock released its grip and
half rolled, half slid, from atop the grove lion. The guardian’s wounds remained,
bright red against its pale green skin, but all sign of the Ebb rot had disappeared.
The Briarlock, its body an inadequate vessel for the Ebb it had sucked from the
land, was now a huge roiling mass of rapid decay and malformed growth, a
tangled ever changing mess of thorns, fungus, and flesh. Great boils swelled,
burst, and reformed in a horrible cycle of putrescence all over its body,
spitting spore and vapours into the air. Heaving and dragging its bulk
painfully, the Briarlock slowly crossed the glade like some nightmare maggot,
until it rested in front of the Guard. Stretching out a neck corded with
exertion and agony, the Briarlock lowered its head before the old man. He
stared down upon the pitiful monstrosity.

“You have
done right this night, Briarlock,” said the grizzled warrior, “And we all of us
owe you this knot methinks. But I fear you have sacrificed more than any of us
should. It pains me to do this.”

Briarlock twisted its head slowly, fixing the guard with its single rosebud

In a
strangely lucid voice, it said, “Strike well and true, Guard of the Thornwatch…
that innocence not cost.”

It lowered
its head once more.

then,” said the guard raising his sword above his head, “May we be bound
together again.”

The sword
fell, barely slowing as it passed through the briarlock’s neck. The gargantuan
body slumped lifelessly upon the ground. Thick black smoke sputtered and spewed
from the severed neck while globules of a tar like substance dripped thickly
from the wound, evaporating before reaching the ground. The grotesque body
began to shrink like a leather bladder losing its water, and gradually returned
to a semblance of the Briarlock’s original form. Eventually the flow of smoke
ceased, leaving only thorn torn remains lying upon the ground. The Briarlock’s
rosebud eye began to rise from the decapitated head atop a vine that snaked out
through the crack in the porcelain mask. With a soft rustling, other vines
began to push up from the body, bearing buds that also opened into bloom as
they grew. In a matter of moments the sad corpse was completely hidden and
consumed by a magnificent rose bush. Hands resting upon the pommel of his
sword, its blade standing in the moss covered earth, the Guard looked on
wearily. The knot was nearly fulfilled, and he was tired.

Greenheart sprinted unerringly through the night, the great boles of ancient
trees passing her by on either side. Behind her she felt the Ebb swell, then
suddenly shudder and recede. She sheathed her sword without slowing. She
allowed herself to be pulled towards the soft warm hymn of exultation – of life
and growth – that the very trees seemed to sing in the wake of the Daughters of
the Eyrewood. Presently she came upon her quarry kneeling in the lily pad
speckled shallows of the great lake, crying loudly and with abandon as only the
young can do. Gone was the ruddy taint of the Ebb, leaving a sad and frightened
young girl child with wild flowers blooming in her hair. A girl child upon
whose tiny shoulders the mantle of a god had descended. The Greenheart knelt
beside her in the surprisingly warm waters. The influence of the Ebb now
departed, the child sought comfort rather than to flee, and buried her face in
the woman’s lap, muffling her sobs.

little one,” said the Greenheart in a soothing voice, “It is done now.”

kneeling, she gathered the child up in her arms.

“Let me
soothe your hurts.”

The child
hugged the woman tightly, her head upon her breast, as the woman ran a hand
through her hair and they were enveloped in a soft green glow. Around them,
lotus flowers sprouted from the lily pads and burst into furious bloom. The
fungal brackets that crept up the side of the girl’s face, the only evidence of
the Ebb’s recent dominion over her, shrivelled and fell into the water leaving
not a scar. The girl’s sobs and hiccoughs began to slow, then ceased. Still
hugging the Greenheart tightly, she said in a small voice, “I miss my mama. I
want to go home.”

“And she
misses you,” replied the woman, “But you are already home. And a fine home it
is! It gives shelter and life to us all. The woods are your vaulted halls, and
you are a princess, crowned with sunshine and sat upon a throne of living oak!
Do not worry about your mother. She has steel in her, we have all seen it. Just
know that she loves you and that you will see her again.”

With this
the girl was silent for a time before asking plaintively, “Why was the thorny
man hurting Elrik?”

“He was
trying to help him. Both Elrik and you were not well.”

“Well I
think he’s scary! I don’t like him!”

“Not many
do, child,” said the Greenheart gently, “But he has departed and will bother
you no more. Elrik is much better now, but he still needs your help. He needs
and loves you just as you once needed and still love your mother. Rest now
child, I will carry you back to see him.”

The girl in
her arms was already asleep.

that brothers might
take sisters’ hands

and lead them home
this night.

They made a
strange procession through the moonlit woods. Two score of children following
the Greenheart, the Blade laughing and playing with them as they walked, the
Guard bringing up the rear. They walked in double file, and the Greenheart bade
them hold hands, for while the girls were themselves once more – happy, alert,
and eager to be home – many of the boys were listless and unresponsive. Some of
them improved as they walked, others remained distant, as if gazing intently
upon vast vistas that only they could see, and had to be guided by the female
companion holding their hand. Fenir, the village chief’s son, had not regained consciousness.
He lay as if sleeping, though his eyes remained wide open, and no amount of
chiding could rouse him to walk or even stand on his own. If there were a price
to be paid for the Briarlock’s spell, then it seemed it had been the boys, and
Fenir most of all, who had paid it. They had left Kahana in her grove. The
Greenheart had returned the sleeping girl to the grove lion, and she had awoken
but once to hug the guardian fiercely, burying her face in its lush mane, and
healing its hurts without conscious thought. She had then curled up and slept,
her head upon its forepaw as it sat vigil over its tiny charge.

They arrived at the copse of birch trees near
the village on the lake to find great fire built up, and much rejoicing at
their return. Each family ran to their child and the village was made whole
again. The Guard sought out the village chief. The man was distraught at his
son’s condition. Passing the father his son, the Guard said to him, “He lives
yet, but I know not whether his mind will return. But for your fear of the
Eyrewood you might have called for us sooner and your son not suffered so.
Learn from your missteps that his light might not have been extinguished in
vain. Lead your people as a leader, love and respect the woods that nurture
you, and give thanks to he who sleeps in the lake for his bounty and
protection. If you do these things this village will stand for an age.” He left
the man to grieve and care for his son.

A woman searched among the children, peering at their faces, her motions becoming more and more desperate.

Where are you Kahana? Come to you mother!”

She came to
the Blade and the Greenheart standing before the copse of birch trees.

daughter is not here,” said the woman, her voice quavering.

said the Blade, “Your daughter lives yet! She was not taken, rather she was
called. And now her heart beats in tandem with that of the Eyrewood.”

mingled with a deep grief washed over the woman’s face.

“Then she
may as well have died. I will never see her again!”

spoke the Greenheart, “While the Eyrewood will provide for her and she no
longer needs your protection, she will always crave your love. Come morn head
dusk-ward along the lake. There is a glade, some hours walk. She awaits her
mother and she will see to it that you find her. Rejoice, for she will remain
precious and well until the end of your days.”

Greenheart looked towards the knot of brambles the woman had tied about the tree
mere hours ago.

“I know not
whether it was by design, but it is well that you tied the knot in this way.
Our compatriot may have acted differently had you not, and your daughter might
have paid the price in place of those that did.”

The Guard
joined them now.

“Ah, the
spell of return,” he rumbled, “how it pulls at my bones. Fare thee well mother
of a Daughter, may your life be long and may you never have need of us again.”

And with
that they were gone.

On the shores of a great lake, outside a village that sung with merriment, a soft night breeze blew. It stirred the flowers that had been placed in thanks and celebration among an intricate knot of brambles looped around the trunk of a birch tree, tied off wagonwise over twainward.

Twist Raven’s tooth
about grey birch

ere ye lament the

Tie Lamb’s crook tight
afore the search

that innocence not

With Twain o’er Wagon’s
bloodied bands,

the knot is now set

that brothers might
take sisters’ hands

and lead them home
this night.