The Treeman of Roses: Chapter 7

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.

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Image Credit: Ian Wilson

Chapter 7: The Fire Witch

For almost three weeks, Goewyn packed a lunch and a water bottle and left for Rhodon’s garden. She would have to tell Rhodon that she would be leaving to return to the capitol to resume her duties there in about two week’s time. If he came to visit Keep Meridian, he would never lack for company to counteract his melancholic tendencies. She still kept his secret, and told her Aunt and Uncle that she was working on a surprise in the woods.

 

Because Rhodon had given her permission to enter at any time, Goewyn opened the gates and began looking for Rhodon. As she walked, she noticed something behind the stand of willows, where she first met Rhodon. It was a quiet spot where many birds sang, and was full to the brim with white roses, most of them in large pots. In the center of the little clearing was a small cairn, and a single red rose bush, it’s flowers so dark they were almost black.

 

“Oh…” thought Goewyn “This must be Akasma’s memorial.”

 

Goewyn looked gently at the meticulous care Rhodon had taken with the flowers. A husband’s final gift to his wife, to care for the things she loved. Sadly, none of them were Akasma’s original roses. Only two of those remained in existence, one in Meridian, and one in Momotaro. But each one of these roses were loved by their master as a remembrance of his beloved. She slowly backed away respectfully bowing her head.

 

Goewyn continued her search for her friend, making her way through the garden, still astounded at its beauty and variety. Rounding a hedge, Goewyn came across Rhodon finally. He was absorbed in his work, training some dark pink clematis plants and pale pink tea roses around a frame in a pot. Gesturing with his hands and fingers, Rhodon carefully and gently guided the flowers into place.

 

Rhodon turned his head slightly and noticed Goewyn.

“Ah, Goewyn! Please come closer. What do you think of this?”

 

Goewyn came closer and examined the work.

 

“It’s beautiful, Rhodon, but perhaps it could be enhanced by some sweet alyssum.”

 

Rhodon paused to consider this suggestion.

 

“Yes, I believe you are right, and the alyssum would drape over the side of the pot and add a bit more interest.”

 

Rhodon sat down, Goewyn sat close by and opened her harp case. She began tuning up her harp and speaking with Rhodon, slowly.

 

“Rhodon, I won’t be able to come very many more times. I have duties in the capitol I must return to in two weeks.”

 

Rhodon looked sad.

 

“If you came back to Meridian, you would never lack for company. My Aunt Betsan is Lady Meridian and she would be eager to meet you.”

 

“I cannot go back to House Meridian.” he said finally.

 

“Why not?”

 

“I simply cannot go back there. Everyone I loved is dead.”

 

“I know that, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot find new friends. Why did you come to trust me, if you did not know this?”

 

“You greatly resemble Solana. You have her hair and eyes and milk white skin. And her peaceful, gentle ways.”

 

Rhodon turned away suddenly, hiding his eyes. Then he was himself again.

 

“Sing me something, please, Goewyn.” he requested softly.

 

Goewyn placed her harp against her shoulder and began softly playing an old song.

*“I’d ask no dowry for Seave Ni Bhruinnealla,

But to live in her village and hunter’s permit,

Oh, Seave, Seave Ni Bhruinnealla,

Oh, my beloved, leave and marry me!”

 

Unexpectedly, Rhodon began to sing, a chest rumbling baritone.

 

“I’m master of a ship,

The home port of Prydain!

She’s a good ship,

And she never has failed me.

Oh, Seave, Seave Ni Bhruinnealla,

Oh, my beloved, leave and marry me!”

 

Goewyn paused briefly in surprise, before continuing.

 

“Oh, a ship’s captain I’d never except,

For he’d always be choosing ‘tween me and the ocean,

Oh, Seave, Seave Ni Bhruinnealla,

Oh, my beloved, leave and marry me!”

 

Rhodon began again,

 

“Fair, but poor is my Seave Ni Bhruinnealla,

She has but one coat, and that is worn through,

Oh, Seave, Seave Ni Bhruinnealla,

Oh, my beloved leave and marry me!”

 

“You have a beautiful voice, Rhodon.” said Goewyn.

“Thank you, it’s been long since I have been able to use it. I did not know I even remembered how to sing.”

 

Goewyn sang a few more songs, many of them the children’s songs she sang with her wards, merry tunes from the human world, finally ending with a soft song she often used to soothe frightened children. Rhodon seemed for the first time since Goewyn had known him to be truly at peace, a ghost of a smile playing around his lips.

 

As the sun began to set behind the garden wall, Rhodon again escorted Goewyn out of his kingdom; stopping at his little cottage to grab a box, (it appeared to be cedar) but beyond that, he was silent. He seemed preoccupied, like he was thinking.

 

“I’ll try to come tomorrow, Rhodon, but I can’t promise.”

 

“Of course, I understand completely. But do you think you can do me a great favor?”

 

“Certainly, what is it?”

 

“Please, see if you can repair this. There are a few small holes in it.” said Rhodon opening the box. Inside was a dark green robe and a red cape underneath, folded carefully in the cedar box. Goewyn recognised it as the court robes that Rhodon wore in the tapestry in the dining hall.

 

“Oh, Rhodon… I’ll do my best, and bring it next time I’m able to come.”

 

Goewyn ran out of the gates and down through the woods. Rhodon was healing under her touch! His singing had proved that! Perhaps by fall, when she came again, he would be willing to come to House Meridian he wouldn’t have to be alone anymore.

 

As Goewyn passed Solana Canyon, she stopped dead when she smelled something odd. Smoke! Goewyn spun around trying to find the source. On the other side of the creek but unfortunately too high to be immediately put out, Goewyn spotted the little spurt of flames. Dropping everything, she sprang into action. Carefully, Goewyn climbed into the gully and refilling her water bottle from the creek she climbed back up the other side, (scraping her leg on the way) and extinguished the fire.

 

Breathing heavily from her climb, Goewyn sat down. Then she noticed someone in the bushes, a girl all dressed in burgundy, staring angrily at her.

 

“Excuse me, I didn’t realise that the fire was in use.” apologized Goewyn, getting up.

 

“Sure was.” growled the girl.

 

“You really should have put it in a little pit with some stones, fires can get out of hand fast in the forest.”

 

“That was kind of the point.”

 

“What?”

 

The girl swung her fist up at Goewyn and knocked her down with a blast of flame. Goewyn fell into the gully, crashing to the ground. Elves are resilient, but falling a good dozen feet would hurt even them. When Goewyn landed she laid still, hoping the witch would move off. She had landed with her legs in the creek and the rest on the pebbly beach near the wall.

 

Goewyn let out a groan. She hurt all over, bruises, scrapes, a nasty burn on her arm and her leg was throbbing. There was no way she was climbing out now.  She felt her face. No damage there, that was good.

 

The sun was setting lower and lower. Goewyn knew that she was in trouble, she had to get help!

 

“Help! Can anyone hear me!? Help! Friend Raven! Rhodon! Somebody help!” Goewyn screamed herself hoarse before hearing the cawing of a raven over her head.

 

“Friend Raven! Friend Raven!” she tried again.

 

The bird circled lower and lower finally landing on a rock over Goewyn’s head.

 

“Lady Goewyn!” croaked the bird “You’re in a bit of a spot, aren’t you?”

 

“Raven, this is no time for a joke! I can’t climb out of here, I’ve hurt my leg.”

 

The Raven immediately sobered up.

 

“What can I do?”

 

“First, fly to Rhodon, tell him where I am, and ask him to come get me. Then fly to Aunt Betsan, tell her there’s a fire witch running around and tell her I’m safe with a friend.”

 

“Aye, my Lady!”

 

Raven flew off, leaving Goewyn alone with her thoughts. A fire witch on the loose, the entire forest in peril, and her laid up with a possible broken ankle. This is a fine state of affairs.

 

*Traditional Irish, adaptation from Gaelic by the author.

 

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