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
Chapter 10: Return to the Living World
The next morning, Goewyn was awoken by someone prodding her arm.
“Whassa matter?” she muttered pushing herself up.
Looking down, she saw her visitor was Friend Raven.
“What news, Friend Raven?” she yawned.
“Do you want the good news first, or the bad news?” asked the bird.
“Good news, please.” said Maia from the kitchen counter.
“I am happy to report that the fire was stopped before it got anywhere near your orchard. She’s not very good at this whole fire thing, really.”
“Hot cider!” shouted Ablach throwing his hands in the air; and grabbing his wife around the waist he swung her around in a dance. Hearing the commotion, Rhodon stuck his head out of his bedroom and looked around.
“What is going on here?” he asked.
“Our orchards are safe!” cried the ecstatic apple dryad.
“Let’s not break out the champagne and strawberries yet, what’s the bad news?” said Goewyn turning to Friend Raven.
“The witch was sighted heading for the Western March.”
Goewyn jumped to her feet, forgetting for a second about her ankle and looked at Rhodon. It seemed that a good night’s sleep and some fireflower had restored Rhodon’s emotional balance. Adjusting one of the brooches on his tunic, Rhodon remained cool and calm.
“First, we all need to eat something, then we will see to our preparations.”
Goewyn let out a shriek. Stupid ankle, she was falling! Suddenly she felt someone pull her up short. Rhodon grabbed her by the arm and set her down gently.
“One thing is clear, either Ablach or I will have to carry Goewyn around until her ankle is better.”
“I think my burn is already healed up, it shouldn’t be long before I can walk again.”
“For now you get carried.” said Maia.
“Bones knit slower than skin, even in elves.” Rhodon reminded gently.
Rhodon’s head twitched toward the entrance to the garden.
“Someone is here.”
Ablach looked out the door squinting into the sun.
“It’s Raven. He’s got a message in his talons.”
Raven landed outside the door, suddenly formal.
“I seek an audience with the Lord of the Western March.”
Rhodon came out of the cottage to receive the bird’s message, taking the Raven on his arm. Goewyn pulled herself toward the door and watched in concern. Rhodon and the Raven spoke in low voices, uncertainty written all over the bird’s body language. Rhodon took the scroll from Raven and read it carefully. He nodded his head, and flung his arm upward, giving Raven a boost. As soon as his old friend was out of immediate eyesight, Rhodon clutched for the necklace.
“Oh no.” thought Goewyn. “What’s happened now?”
Rhodon re-entered the cottage holding the message in one hand and Akasma’s necklace in the other.
“It was your Aunt Betsan asking to come in.” faltered Rhodon, not looking at Goewyn.
“I never told her, Rhodon.” stated Goewyn.
“I did.” said Ablach quietly.
Rhodon looked at his kinsman half in dismay and half in fury.
“I had to, Friend Raven and I arrived at the same time and Betsan was very upset.”
“Extremely upset, she was about to wring Raven’s neck!” interjected Maia.
“I told her that if Goewyn was in the Western March she was with you and if she was with you she was safe, you would die before any harm came to any elvish guest of the March.”
Rhodon released his grip on the necklace and nodded, his face relaxing.
“I understand completely. You did the right thing.”
Goewyn reached out toward her friend, taking his twitching hand. Rhodon looked down at her, seeing reflected in her eyes the gentleness and compassion of Solana. No matter what, Goewyn would help him.
“Let us go greet your kinsmen.” hesitated Rhodon.
Ablach took responsibility for Goewyn this time, carrying her piggyback across the garden. Goewyn found this terribly embarrassing. Sure, she had carried kids piggyback, but never since she was a kid herself had she been carried piggyback. Maia was straightening Goewyn’s hair as they walked, as it was tangled and dirty from her fall the previous night. Rhodon lead the way, clearly a wreck. Goewyn could tell from his body language.
“I suppose,” thought Goewyn. “When you’ve been a hermit for the better part of a couple hundred years, suddenly having visitors would be rather disturbing.”
Approaching the gates, Rhodon gestured to the thorns to move aside, revealing the elves of House Meridian on the other side. Betsan and Aelius entered first followed by about half a dozen retainers.
Ablach lowered Goewyn to the ground and Rhodon offered his arm for support.
“So, this is the surprise you’ve been working on?” quipped Betsan.
Rhodon bowed gracefully from the waist to Betsan, who returned with a curtsey.
“My Lord, thank you for looking after our niece.”
“It has been a pleasure, Goewyn has been very kind to me.”
Goewyn gave Rhodon’s arm a squeeze before hobbling over to her aunt. Betsan hugged Goewyn tightly and looked at Rhodon gratefully. Aelius meanwhile, stood beside Betsan looking sheepish.
“I’m sorry. I take back the comment about guitars.”
Betsan gave him a sideways look.
“You’d better be.” she muttered.