The conscious wind breaths form in my mind...... words take shape........
and Shape presence.
She calls out from the darkness...... "Come, she whispers.... follow the light.... Come and know your true name."
The Lovely Crone Stands before me..... terrible and awesome..... Kind and Wise.
"You must choose," are her words to me.... Choose for I shall light the way.
Her slender arms holding torches high, revealing two paths ...." Do not be afraid", she urges..." I will give council, but make no mistake you MUST choose!"
I shudder with an unknown chill, "How can I choose, I know not the way?" I pleaded with her. Her gaze met mine, in her eyes I felt kind resolve, there was no other way.
I Looked down each Path, First the right.....a pleasant level road, unencumbered by obstacles.
As I turned I caught a glance at her furrowed brow
I then quickly redirected my attention toward the left path. I could see her composure improve as I took interest in this new direction.
The path though somewhat dark was still lit well enough by her torches to discern a steep hill, the ground uneven and rocky would not be as easily traversed as the first path.
Still, she seems to be pleased at my interest in this way, I took a step forward toward the hill. She stepped to the side allowing me to catch a glimpse of a third, middle, path.
I could feel her watching me, judging my perception as I studied this new path.
Dark and foreboding it was. I could not help but feel a twinge of fear as I peered into the Dark wood. In the distance I could make out the faint shadow of an abrupt cliff..... Figures seemed to shift in and out of view as the light from the tourches flickered. This way seemed Far more treacherous.
I was not ready for this path, not yet.... Before I could take another step I felt her hand on my shoulder, her touch kind and gentle. Her words of council fell softly upon my hearts ear.
"NO, young one, that is not an easy path.. Difficult, but not impossible. What you can not see from here are the wonders beyond."
Fear gave way to comfort, comfort to determination...
I stand now, these crossroads before me.......
Choose I must and Choose I will, for she lights the way and I am not afraid.
Go forward I will, for She is the light bringer, and though I may lose my way, her light will guide me back.
As I slowly begin to move forward down that middle path, Two Grey hounds bounded ahead to lead the way. I had not noticed them before. Magnificent creatures they where, Fearsome in their manner yet, I knew somehow they where there to aid and guide me.
the scent of Honey hung lightly in the moist air, in the distance wrestling.... something, someone just out of reach of the torch light. Whatever it was, was keeping pace. The hounds, seemed to not notice as they trotted ahead. Still these unknown some things made me uneasy. What where they? Why did they follow us?
In silence we made our way to the cliff face. As I stared up at the imposing rock I wondered how I was ever to climb it. I had to sit and think a moment. She took a spot next to me on the cold ground, joined by our two companions. "what are they called?" I asked her. She smiled slightly as she replied. " This one with the green eyes, he is called Asuion,, and that one, he is Arkeo" Arkeo nudged me with his nose, his sky blue eyes begging me for a nice chin scratch.
Daunted and unsure of the task ahead, I welcomed the distraction and kindly obliged my new friend. He was soft and silky to the touch. Droplets of dew clung to his fur. I sat there looking at the cliff, dread washed over me... what had I gotten myself into? There was no way, just no way.
"Daughter," She said to me, " Do you give up so easily?"
She knew my thoughts before I knew them myself, Nothing would please me more then to go back the way we came.
"Can you lead me back?" I gestured in the direction opposite the cliff. Her head lowered in disapproval her tone cool and sturn.
"That way is closed, my light shows only the way ahead, you must press on."
"How..?" More frustration then I had intended revealed itself as I spoke. "I have no rope to climb, and it is far to steep to climb by hand. Surely I will fall!"
She sighed "there are far worse things then falling dear one. Are you so stuck in your thinking, you can see no other way?"
Again I looked toward the cliff struggling to find another way. There, perhaps, a rocky step. Maybe, I thought, I could make my way there. As I strained inspecting this stair through the darkness, I saw something move.
"what is that?" I gasped in terror. I quickly turned seeking council from she who had brought me so far.
Nothing but the night greeted my question. I was alone.
Devistated, I crumpled to the ground. How could she have left me, abandoned me. What was I to do now? I can not go back, nor can I go forward. WHY... Why would she lead me here only to vanish when I need her most?
A cold nose and hot breath brought me to my senses. Asuion, nudged my cheek, he had not left me. A growl behind me drew my attention, Arkeo was here as well, and so was something else.
Quickly I got to my feet. Whatever it was was coming this way. The hounds did not seem pleased by this new arrival, as both where now taking up position in front of me with hackles and ears at full attention.
A voice, smooth and deep "So, left you did she...... I'm not surprised... I have seen this before.. I think it is like a game to her..... Poor Poor child,.... here... alone in the dark" He stopped a safe distance from my weary friends.
"Oh, where are my manners... I am known as Tropaion" He made a flourishing bow in my direction. He was well built and attractive. "Pleased to make your acquaintance.... and you...? What are you called.?
My name.....? What was my name? How could I not remember my name?
"Come now..." He sneered " not a difficult question.... Your name child, what are you called?"
"Sarah,".... I snapped at him. "My name is Sarah.. of course I know my name, you just startled me that's all" I returned an awkward bow in his direction.
The hounds in unison yelped and turned their heads sideways at me, Then back toward , in their obvious opinion, the unwanted stranger before them.
"Your friends seem to ob
I let out a sigh as I patted Arkeo on his back, "Of course, they are merely surprised that I would be so open to a stranger, they are very protective."
What is the issue with this fellow over a name? I thought, what could it matter to him?
Dismissively he retorted, "well no matter... the bigger question is... Now that you are hear.... What to do with you?"
His steps circled me as he spoke. All the while the hounds matched his position as they kept watch over his movements. I could not help but feel as if I where being sized up.
"What to do.....?" I echoed "What do you mean by that?"
"Don't be foolish Girl!, I didn't mean malice by it! I am here to help? Do you want to go back or not?"
"I turned once again toward the impossible cliff.... thinking..."
"WELL??" He demanded, dissolving my thoughts.
"I...I suppose ....I " Startled, I jumped back toward him. Growls and snarls forced my attention down in time to see teeth and claws.
I felt something take hold of my arm, and I was jerked hard away. Arkeo had missed!
"Quick girl RUN!" Another hard tug. Asuion lunged catching my Robes in his teeth.
With his Hold on me, we ran. "No this way!' He pulled me away from the path and into the wood. "Run for the Cover Girl!"
We ran hard through the wood ignoring the thron trees that whiped and snagged at us.
The angry hounds hot at our heels, their howling pushing us further into the dark.
"You are betrayed!!!!! Girl RUN!" He screeched as he pulled me along with him deeper and deeper into the thick. My Lungs seared begging for breath.
"Please we have to rest" I managed to pant out " I can't breath,... please!"
No longer did I feel the ground pound beneath my feet, we had stopped. I steadied myself against a tree as I tried in desperation to catch each new breath.
"It's good I came along when I did" The beasts nearly had your head. A shame they betrayed you, poor poor girl!" His every word slithered from his tongue as he spoke. "Seems safe enough now." He was right, the hounds had given up their chase. All was still.
I looked up, at last able to breath. Pitch greeted my sight. "Where have you brought me?" Panic shrilled my every syllable. "I thought you where leading me back?" My eyes struggled against the dark cold night, unsatisfied. "Now we are more lost then ever"
"Lost..? Ungrateful whelp!" I felt his grip hard on my arm, his cold breath swirling my ear "How dare you! You sobbed you where alone, now you are not. You wanted away from the cliff, and you are away. You have everything you wanted yet you complain. Had it not been for me you would be food for those Hounds of hers." I felt his chin press hard upon my cheek. "You are mine now ,I own you!"
Own me.....? not alone...? His words stung my thinking. Will this nightmare never end? Own you..... Own you.... his words looped in my head..... Stubborn indignation flashed my blood, warming my temper OWN ME!!!..?
"NO!!!" I shouted as I pushed him away. "You do NOT own ME!!! "
INTERMISSION (back by demand )
Back to the STORY!
A Flash of light Whooshed through the air and stopped at my resting tree.
Instinct turned my head away.
His grip on my arm loosened.
Vision washed in white, my ears tuned like radar to every sound.
Leaves crunched as soft deleberate footsteps crept close.
A gasp of pain escaped my captor, he stumbled back.
Creaking of leather and wood stretched too far.
Another whoosh and thud.
Blurred images take shape as my eyes adjust to welcome light. Hazy specters loom just beyond the glow that now surround us.
"You" He exclaimed with Disdain. ..."Be on your way.... you and those arrows of yours!"
I turned to catch him wiping a trickle of blood from his cheek, then to what had his attention.
She was striking in grace and manner. Tall and fit, her blond hair braided tight upon her head. Her bow drawn and fixed upon Tropaion.
As if just noticing my presence, her manner warmed as she lowered her bow. She nodded toward me and smiled.
Without a word, she moved toward me, she seemed to glide rather then walk. Tropaion stepped back at her approach. She reached up taking a clump of disheviled hair in her hand. Then stretched out my cloak revealing many rips and tears. All the while shaking her head as she made her inspection.
Then as if to say she had finished she placed her hand on my shoulder. With one motion guiding me behind her as she stepped between myself and Tropain. Again, She raised her bow in challenge.
Defeat mangled his once attractive features, yet still his tone was arrogant "Do you think this changes anything.......? Do you think I have lost? What right do you have to interfere?"
She merely smiled at him, then turned gesturing to me to come. Glad to be away from him and this place I immediately headed along on the course she pointed out.
He Shouted at out backs, " Sarah" His tone was commanding ,as he beckoned me "Sarah... come to me... You are mine"
He voice increasingly Demanding. "You are mine, I OWN YOU!"
With those words she turned on her heal, raising her bow as she drew back. Fire lit her eyes , the arrow ever glowing bright as she pulled back.
Disgust curled her full lips, and with a flick her arrow took flight.
Thud as It struck true. It hit Tropaion, her arrow passed through him. Reduced he was to smoke, then burring the tip deep in the tree behind where he had stood.
A satisfied smile replaced disdain, as she lowered her bow and joined me. The darkness parted way as we traveled. I could again smell honey in the air, we where nearly back to the cliff.
With a gentle hand to my shoulder she guided me to change direction. There I could see a cottage tucked away from the path.
Hesitation stayed my feet.. I looked to her with questioning eyes.
She merely tilted her head. The wood itself brightened with her smile.
Her arm lifted from my shoulder, the choice was clearly mine to make.
With that I nodded my head, assured in my safety, we moved toward the cottage together.
How odd it looked in this place. Contrast to the foreboding wood the grotto nestling the cottage was pleasant and inviting.
Wild Daisy bloomed in defiance of the darkness. The smell of honey thick in the air..oh and something else, intoxicating.
The aroma commanded me breath, and with each deep breath my stomach leapt in joy.
My legs now joined the conspiracy my nose had begun, my pace quickened out of my own control.
With a wide eye I looked back at my archer friend. Her head shook, amused as she let out a chuckle while motioning me to open the door.
My attention followed my nose toward the fire place. A cauldron bubbled up the most delightful aroma. My Stomach Gurgled my entrance into the room.
"Daughter... did you find her...?" gruffled the woman minding the pot. She was plump and pleasant to look at. Her long hair tied back off her shoulders in a neat pony tail. Her purple apron announced, she was the artisan who's craft commanded my stomach to protest so loudly.
My Archer friend gestured for me to take a seat at the table. As the older woman dished out a bowl of whatever delight was sending my stomach into such a tizzy. " ah, There , you must be Hungry!" just then my Stomach let out a very Loud grumble in answer.
"yes, so you are!" She responded to my vocal tummy. Then raised her head and smiled in such a way that the cold from the wood melted from every cell.
Smiled back and warmth again enveloped me.
"She placed a spoon in the bow, gave me a wink "go on, eat!" Music never sounded so sweet. I eagerly took up a spoonful. Ambrosia!
"I am glad my daughter was able to fetch you so swiftly." Her kind voice barely heard by the hungry ears, as I was consumed by every scintillating spoonful.
She reached over and took hold of my cloak. her lips pursed together "Tisk tisk, this will not due! Daughter draw her a bath!" My archer friend nodded as she toddled off kettle in hand.
"Now, What has gotten you in such poor shape little one?" I looked up from my bowl to respond to her. Her face full of kindness and caring, Her eyes brimming with concern. I wept as I recalled for her my journey. The crossroads, the hounds, abandonment, betrayal, the chase, the rescue.. My tale recalled through tears. She listened to every word without interruption, then when I had finished.
She leaned back in her chair obviously in thought. "Quite the ordeal you have woven for yourself little one." Her tone remained calm and kind, but one could not miss the tone of stern guidance that punctuated her her words.
"Myself..?" I retorted in bewilderment.
"Indeed, Little one, yourself" She reached over and uncorked a bottle and placed a glass in front of us each. "I do understand why you would be so traumatized " She said as she poured us each a drink " still, little one, all this you have gone through was of your own making."
I took a sip from the cup. The liquid burned like lava, as it made its' way to my gullet. "By the Gods!! what is that ?" I coughed out.
"Dandelion wine Little one, I know it can be a tad strong, but you will be fine" she gave me a pat on the back as she continued. "You say you where abandoned, yet you where not. Betrayed, though , are you certain of that? Rescued, perhaps. Well, I see your bath is ready. Go on, go soak. You can think things through. My daughter will see to your needs while I mend these cloths of yours."
The water was warm and soothing. Chamomile blossoms and rue leaves clung to my skin as I soaked. My archer friend silently brushed my hair as I thought about what the woman had said to me.
A cold nose and hot breath brought me to my senses. Asuion, nudged my cheek,. A Whimper behind me drew my attention, Arkeo was here as well, I had fallen asleep. I looked around only to find the familiar sight of the cliff face. Was I dreaming?
Confusion drew my hand to my head, the smell of Rue and Chamomile still strong on my skin and my hair. The cliff face there before me once again. .. Braids? If it was not a dream, how did I get back to this lonesome place? Thoughts tangled as I struggled against reason.
"CHILD!" A flurry of tails nearly whipped me senseless as the hounds danced in excitement at the sound of her voice.
"Do you mean to sleep forever? We must press on" She stood before me, her long dark hair catching the light breeze. She reached out her hand and helped me to my feet. Again I was comforted by her presence. Yes, this felt right.