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 8: “The Story Has Gone Crooked, and I am Left…” (J.R.R. Tolkien)
Rhodon busily tidied up the garden with what little light was left. He was preoccupied. Had he done the right thing by sending his robes to be repaired? Was he truly ready to leave his voluntary exile and live among the elves again?
“Rhodon! Lord Rhodon!” called a croaking voice.
Rhodon looked up, squinting in confusion. What was Friend Raven doing here at this hour?
“What news, Friend Raven?” he called holding an arm out for the bird to land on.
“None good, Lady Goewyn has had an accident.”
Rhodon’s heart jolted in fear and anger. What had happened to his dear friend? Who would dare hurt her, in his forest?
“Where is she?”
“She’s at the bottom of Solana Canyon, sore hurt, she can’t climb out on her own.”
Rhodon’s free hand curled into a fist and his eyes turned hard.
“I will fetch her out.”
“I must be off to tell her Aunt and Uncle!” the Raven cried as he took off.
Rhodon raced down to the edge of the garden and stood before the hedge of thorns. Stretching out both arms, he made a lifting motion, causing a section to grow up, taller than the trees. Swinging his right arm perpendicular to the ground, he lowered the section of thorns to the forest floor. Vaulting onto one of the trunks, Rhodon pushed both hands forward, starting his mission of rescue.
The next few minutes were spent in misery. Goewyn shivered in her soaked dress as night overtook the forest, her burned arm and injured leg throbbing. Then she heard something rumbling along the ground above her.
“Goewyn, where are you? Answer me!” Shouted a man’s voice from above.
“Here! I’m over here!”
Woody, thorny vines (Goewyn recognised them as the thorn bushes that surrounded Rhodon’s garden) snaked down into the canyon, their master riding on one of them. Rhodon jumped off and ran to Goewyn.
“Are you alright? What happened? Never mind. Come, put your arms around my neck.” rambled Rhodon reaching out for Goewyn. Goewyn wrapped her arms around Rhodon’s neck and held on as he scooped her into his arms.
“My harp and everything?” said Goewyn.
Rhodon directed some of the vines to grab Goewyn’s things before he got back on the vine for the return journey. Goewyn winced as her burn rubbed against Rhodon’s prickly skin.
“I will tend to your injuries when we are safe in my garden.” assured the treeman.
“Did Friend Raven tell you what happened?”
“No, he did not. He seemed to be rather excited about something. Please, leave everything to me.”
“There’s a Lightbringer stick in my bag so you can see what you’re doing.”
Rhodon nodded absently, thinking about his supplies in his cottage, and wondering how Goewyn had gotten that burn.
Rhodon carried Goewyn to his cottage and began first aid. Rhodon’s house was small but cosy, with a kitchen area, (stacked with containers of preserved herbs, fruit, and rosewater) a bedroom, a table and chair, (where Goewyn was seated) and a small cedar wardrobe where the rest of the dishes and Rhodon’s clothes were stored. First Rhodon applied soothing salves and bandages to her burn, then splinted her leg using the supplies from Goewyn’s bag. Rhodon reached into his wardrobe, pulled out a spare tunic and wrapped it snugly around his elvish friend. Goewyn shuddered, knowing that there was great danger to herself and Rhodon around.
“Rhodon…” began Goewyn.
“Please, you must rest.”
“It’s important. A witch did this to me, a fire witch, and…”
At the mention of the words “fire” and “witch” Rhodon looked ill, both arms suddenly wrapping around his chest and leaving him gasping for air. He sat down at Goewyn’s feet, with his back to her, holding his chest and shaking.
“I am alright, I am alright.” he grunted.
“You’re clearly not alright!”
“I tell you…” Rhodon’s voice faded as he choked back a sob.
Goewyn put out a hand to Rhodon’s back and felt his heart pounding like it was going to fly out of his chest.
“He has PTSD. A panic attack, that’s the only thing that makes sense.” she thought.
“Try to breathe normally, Rhodon.” Goewyn said gently.
“Fire takes everything from me.” gasped the dryad. “My garden, my wife, my very sanity!”
Rhodon buried his head in his hands so Goewyn couldn’t see him cry.
“Talk to me, Rhodon. What are you feeling?” said Goewyn, trying to keep him with her.
“I cannot bear it. When I close my eyes I see the fire, in my dreams I hear Akasma calling for me, but I cannot reach her. I smell the smoke and the ashes. And I find nothing!” the last words were a roar that shook the flowers outside the cottage. Rhodon’s hands fell away, his eyes were blazing and his face streaked with tears.
“There is nothing left! Nothing left of my garden, nothing left of Akasma! Only this-” he said drawing the necklace from under his tunic, his fingers trembling; a red-gold pendant in the shape of a rose. He closed both hands around the delicate gold flower, whispering brokenly
“This is all I have left of my wife. Burned to ashes, I cannot even lay her to rest! And now, to nearly lose you!”
Rhodon lost control, weeping as though his heart would break, thorns sprouted from his knuckles and elbows before he completely collapsed, falling to the ground. Goewyn lowered herself out of the chair, carefully putting a hand out toward him and taking his hand in her own.
“I cannot lose you too, Goewyn. That would break my heart all over again, and from that I would never recover.” sobbed the defeated treeman.
“You didn’t, and you won’t, Rhodon. This is the beginning of an new age of friendship between House Meridian and the Dryads.” said Goewyn.
Rhodon eventually calmed down, his breathing and heart rate returned to normal within a few minutes of Goewyn holding his hand.
“I do not know what came over me.” said Rhodon finally, rubbing his face with his free hand.
“It’s called a panic attack. It happens sometimes when people are reminded of a traumatic time in their lives. Clearly… that… is triggering for you, I can hardly blame you.”
Away to the east, through the door, Goewyn saw a light that did not look quite natural.
“Rhodon, what’s that light? It can’t be dawn.”
Rhodon released Goewyn’s hand, rolled to his knees and pressed both hands to the ground, feeling for vibrations in the earth.
“The animals are fleeing. Listen, do you hear the birds?”
“Yes, they’re afraid.”
A harsh croaking rang in in through the door, the sound of a Raven flying toward them.
“Friend Raven! Here we are, Friend Raven! What news?” called Rhodon extending an arm out of his cottage. The massive bird landed on Rhodon’s arm.
“The Eastern March is engulfed in flames, Lord Rhodon.”