By T.K. Wilson
Word Count: 15261
Rating: PG for depictions of PTSD panic attacks and violence
Summary: When Lady Goewyn of House Meridian meets the long missing treeman of roses, Lord Rhodon of the Western March, her eyes are opened to a new world of danger, magic, and healing.
Author’s Note: Sufferers of panic disorders and trauma, please be advised of some triggering material in this chapter.
Chapter 5: “No One Ever Told Me that Grief Felt So Like Fear.” (C.S. Lewis)
After Goewyn left, Rhodon found himself struggling to breathe.
“No, no, not again.” he gasped, running for his cottage at the far end of the garden.
The sound of another voice speaking Akasma’s name had set in motion events in his mind Rhodon could not escape, though Goewyn’s presence and music had kept it at bay for a while. The smell of ashes and smoke stung the back of his throat, Rhodon’s mind went, unbidden and certainly unasked, to a place he never wished to see again.
Smoke… too much smoke. Cursed Fear Dubh! My poor forest! Akasma holds my hand, soft and cool. I look back, there is fear in her clear amber eyes.
“Come, love, not much farther!” I urge.
Akasma nods, she has a will of steel, we will make it.
A stinging shower of ashes reveals our pursuer. The Dark Man himself, the Fear Dubh. He grins cruelly.
“Hail, your majesties.”
I hear Akasma choke, a strangled noise of fear and desperation. She sprints ahead pulling me behind. Thank heaven, the Keep, not far at all now. I am so weak from the smoke… Akasma is just as exhausted. The air is better on the plain, but still not pure. We start running, but Akasma stumbles, her hand slipping out of mine. She gasps for the cleaner air, tears running down her cheeks. As I motion to pick her up, she pushes me away.
“I will hold him off, you get to the Keep.”
“Never! Come, it is not far now!”
She kisses me (if only I had known…), her tears splashing on my face. Suddenly vines shoot up from the ground, pulling me away.
“Seni seviyorum, Rhodon!” *
The vines push me to the gates, no matter how a struggle and try to command them to release me. Thorns are sprouting from my hands, my arms, I have to get away! I have to save her! My beautiful, brave bride!
Someone grabs me, yelping in pain from the thorns.
“Ablach! Help me, it’s Rhodon!” It is Orpheus.
Ablach and Orpheus pull me inside, I still fight them. Do they not understand!?
“Let me go! My wife is out there!”
“Rhodon, compose yourself!” Orpheus, always worried.
“She’s doing her best to protect you! She’ll be along shortly!” Ablach, pinning me down.
“The Fear Dubh hates her, please, you would do the same for Maia!”
That does it, Ablach releases me. Up to the ramparts, the roses could do the rest. Pull her away, into my arms where she will be safe. Ah, the smoke! I cannot see, wait, there we are. Where is she? Oh, dear heaven, where is she? No. No, please! All in flames! Akasma!
It seems unreal. Like some sort of horrible dream. I can hear myself screaming, the cold stones under my knees as I fall, but it does not seem real. Until I feel it. Pain. Hearts really can break, mine did. Oh, it hurts! It hurts so…
Ablach is here now. He is calling for her. I cannot. I cannot even breathe, I am weeping. Solana is weeping, my strength fails completely, Solana catches me. She does not care my thorns are cutting her tender skin; my brave little sun sprite!
“Please, Rhodon, drink some of this.” she pleads.
Maia has to feed me Fireflower, I cannot hold the bottle myself.
“I will take care of you.” sobs Solana. “You took care of me for so long, now I will care for you.”
“Sun Sprite… what can… heal a broken heart?”
Rhodon went to his knees. Grief and fear crashed over him, burying him like a tidal wave. Digging his hands into the turf, Rhodon held on, hoping that it would help. He looked at his arms, thorns sprouted from his knuckles, then his elbows, tiny thorns running over his forearms. He gasped, trying not to cry. Rhodon’s heart hammered into his chest, so hard it hurt.
“Is it not enough that I must see it at night, must I see it in the day?” he moaned.
Rhodon knew it was all in his head, but that did nothing for him, the horrible feelings that had haunted him for so long still controlled him. He choked again, this time a true sob. A hand flew from the dirt to his chest, the pain was to great to ignore anymore. Rhodon knew of only one thing that would help him now.
Rhodon got shakily to his feet, staggering toward an herb garden not far from the creek and his throne. Growing there were several medicinal plants, including the magical Fireflowers, sovereign against all wounds and illness. Unfortunately, the effects of this plant on dryads were different than in other species. In elves and humans, the flower and it’s extract healed wounds and illness without inducing immediate unconsciousness, in dryads, the immediate effects of soothing and healing were accompanied by sleep.
Rhodon was desperate. Wave after wave of grief and fear washed over him as he plucked off several flowers and ate them; the sweet juice having its desired effect, clearing his mind and soothing his heart. Rhodon felt drowsy right away; laying down by his roses, he muttered
“Please, for once, a happy dream.”
The valiant treeman fell asleep, tears slipping from under his eyelids.
*”I love you, Rhodon.” in her native tongue.