Paechra's Tale
By: Timothy Law

Paechra was like so many other members of her race, the forest dwelling and nature loving fae-kin. She was of an average height, at just over five feet tall. She was of a weight that fit her frame, toned and sun kissed as was common for her kind. Paechra's childhood was that of the average sylvan who called Greenwood Vale home. With a father who was a scholarly linguist and a mother who was a druid; a keeper of the forests that Paechra's people called home, the child Paechra had no inherited benefits, nor additional responsibilities to sculpt her, just the life of a free spirited kinder. She was blessed with a childhood that was full of open skies, exploration, adventure and the free time to make it so. Years of lessons in love for so many languages, was a gift to Paechra from her father. Knowledge of the Mother Spirit and how to care for the flora and fauna of her home were playful lessons taught to Paechra by her mother and the other druids. An only child, it was tough for Paechra, many a moment was there when she longed for a brother or sister with which to while away the days. When the time came though, her deep love for the earth outweighed her difficulties with other languages. Naturally then she followed in the bare-footed dancing steps of her spiritual mother. Soon after Paechra had clearly made her choice it was fated that her father had needs to move away. After so many years of a carefree childhood, it was only natural for Paechra to wish for this life to go on and on and on. Then one day, as was traditional for her kind, everything in Paechra's life suddenly and abruptly changed.

The gray storm clouds poured forth their fury upon the rich green grove, pitter pattering a rhythmic splatter upon a crystal clear blue pond. A small group of druids, the guardians and keepers of the forest had gathered here, away from the rest of their community. Seven of the small group took shelter from the frightful weather beneath the thick canopy of interloped oaken branches. One from this party rebuked the offered shelter, the storm that raged within allowing her to ignore the harsh weather for the moment.

"How dare he?" Paechra fumed. Her deep eyes of oaken-leaf green flashed wildly with anger as she spoke; giving her friends no reason to expect that she was anything other than furious.

"Sister, Sister Paechra. Please try to calm yourself." Sienna murmured quietly as she slowly approached the irate Paechra. Sienna's old frame made moving quickly impossible, as if she had been a bear waking from hibernation or one of the giant oaks that these eight sylvan-kind had been selected to care for. Great drops of rain pelted the older forest dweller and soaked her quickly, but Sienna continued her journey accepting the rain more as a caress of a friend then a hindrance. The other sisters of the grove respected Sienna's age, Paechra releasing her anger instantly so that she could rush to her friend's aid. Kneeling before Sienna, taking wrinkled hands in her own delicate ones of youth and looking up into Sienna's paling blue eyes, Paechra sighed.

"I am sorry Sister. I feel too young to be betrothed, and what is more, the man I have been paired with is a pompous fool," Paechra added to that sigh, making it known to the sisters just what it was that angered her so.

The six other druidic women all gasped in unison to hear a prince spoken of with so little respect. Sienna though, laughed an almost silent laugh.

"Young one, it is our way," the ancient sylvan began. Gently she released her gnarled, earth loved hands from the supple ones of Paechra's and dragged her long silver hair over a pointed ear.

"Daughter, walk with me awhile," Sienna suggested, shuffling away from the six gossiping sisters and taking Paechra with her. The grip of the elder sylvan was so surprisingly strong that Paechra found she had no choice.

"Indeed it does seem an odd match," Sienna stated with sagely wisdom. By then the two sylvan, one ancient and one the replication of youth had walked far enough away from the others that they could not be overheard.

"Sienna, Derek is like a limp, wilted flower!" Paechra stated, exasperated.

"Paechra daughter, perhaps not so much wilted," Sienna replied with deep lines of thought wrinkling her face even more than age had. "He is still of the royal house, though I will say that his sole resemblance to a rose be the prickles along its stem."

Paechra kept the slow pace with her old friend and listened respectfully. Her anger fumed within her exactly like the storm that continued to rage around them, but her respect for Sienna allowed her to listen.

"More like a colorful pansy. A bit faded, seemingly no plan for life. He seems like something that has bloomed simply to be seen. Certainly not rich in color and aroma like a rose. Neither does he have the sting of its thorns. Certainly no rose indeed," Sienna added with great thought.

"Maybe I want a rose!!" cried the exasperated Paechra.

"Perhaps it is not any rose that you seek child. We are gifted with what we are given, Paechra. What it is we do beyond the gifting is what many consider the greatest test of life," Sienna answered with a laugh evident in her tone as she spoke.

Paechra laughed too, unable to refute the truth that rang in what her friend and teacher had said. The prince was the rose of his house, the rose of the forested principality. What girl did not want her prince though?

"Sienna, the bards will sing of your wise words forever," Paechra laughed.

"Perhaps they will not sing of them forever, my young friend," Sienna replied, her tone quite serious, her ancient eyes though reflected a childish mischievousness. "The occasional tune would be a nice surprise though," the elder druid added with a smile.

Calmed again, Paechra turned upon her heels and guided her friend Sienna back toward her sisters, back toward her friends.

"Thank you, Sister Sienna," Paechra whispered as she led the other sylvan back the way they had come. Knowing that the wind and rain had easily drowned out her words, Paechra thought it strange that her friend was smiling.

The rain fell heavily and in what seemed to be one constant sheet, making the cobbled street chatter and laugh like young children not yet educated in the lessons of life learnt by their elders, the importance of silences and their place in a world often filled with chaos. Cursing the noise that continually broke his concentration, Ulan, Rose of the royal family of Greenwood Vale parried another clumsy blow headed for his unprotected chest. The wielder of the blade was none other than his younger brother.

"The crown is mine!" Derek screamed over the sound of the insistent storm.

"I would only wish to be one of those simple droplets," Ulan thought longingly to himself. "My only responsibility would be to fall from the sky and be one with the earth," Ulan added before again he had to bring his blade up to swiftly block.

"Mine! Mine I say!!" Derek hollered with toddler like whining and consistent regularity.

Just as regularly as the storm's rainfall, Derek's poorly trained dagger blows struck out wildly towards the back stepping Ulan.

"Brother! Please stop this nonsense!" Ulan begged. A simple statement, yet it seemed to be the only way to get a message through to Derek at that very moment.

"Half-brother," Derek hissed. His correction of Ulan's urge for peace was like that of a physical slap in the face to the suggestion.

A brother considered to only partially be a member of the ruling family, the unending rain that just seemed to refuse to cease, a crown that had been thrust upon him; all of these things jostled in Ulan's mind, wanting to be the first issue to be addressed. Ulan's thoughts wavered briefly from the skirmish. Just long enough for Derek to score a hit.

The knife cut and cut deeply into Ulan's defensive left as so many compounding thoughts filled the mind of the sudden High Prince of the Greenwood sylvan. A river of crimson poured from that slice, as the knife blade slid free the pain of the wound caused the young High Prince's dammed up temper to finally burst.

"I do not want it!!" Ulan exploded as the flat of his blade whipped around reflexively, crashing into his half-brother's cheek. Ulan felt remorse instantly as he saw rather than felt the shattering of the bones that he had struck so forcefully.

The rain continued to fall from the sky, not at all phased by this rare show of rage from the young ruler. The blanket of water from the sky disguised the argument of blades between Ulan and Derek.

"My liege, be you hurt?!" called one guard.

"My lord, are you alright?!" urgently asked another.

Those same two guardians, drawn by the noise, a noise that was almost impossible to hear over the roar of thunder from the foreboding sky, rushed into the courtyard and tended to Ulan's injured arm. They left the collapsed and cowering Derek to vomit a crimson mess that mixed insignificantly with the pool of water that flooded over the sandaled feet of the other three that shared the cobbled courtyard. Water erupted in small splashes as the two guardians led Ulan away.

"Enough!" Ulan stated, with an undertone of authority that was sufficient for the two that lent him unneeded support to let go their assistance, allowing Ulan to rush back to the fallen Derek who gasped for air. Ulan saw that the waters from the storm flowed into his panting mouth with each gasping breath.

"Rise up!" Ulan urged.

Derek made a weak blow towards the one who had struck him such a vicious blow. An explosion of pain erupted in Derek's skull as Ulan lifted him under the armpits and clumsily tried to help him rise.

"Come to my aid!" Ulan ordered of the two guardians. They immediately responded.

Thus together the two kindred left the storm and the flooding courtyard. The only sound that remained was the roar of the rain and the chattering laughter of its oblivious children.

As soon as the furious storm began, it seemed to slow, and then was finally blown away by the wind. With the fading of the rain much of Paechra's fury vanished also. With a clearer head she went in search of her mother, Sienna's words of wisdom comforting her as she went.

It was thus that Paechra was deep in thought when she stumbled across Heidi the Dove-Spirit. Since the very day that Paechra chose her lifelong path, it was Heidi who became her best friend joining her in the same journey, from a novice to a fully-fledged druid.

"You are dedicated to the earth! You are a druid, keeper of The Mother Spirit and all her children," Heidi panted in disbelief as she heard the news of Paechra's betrothal. "Those who call themselves our rulers obviously have little understanding of what that role actually demands."

Paechra loved her friend. As all best friends did, Heidi knew exactly what to say to make the nerves vanish and the laughter rush forth. Today though she was a listening ear and a sympathetic voice, features of only the truest of friends. Together Paechra and Heidi spoke of the strange and sudden match between Paechra and Derek as they continued their search, but even together they could find no sign of Sarah Lightheart. That was because Paechra's mother had business where Paechra and Heidi dared not to look. She had business at the palace.

Of all the structures of the forested sylvan community, the palace was the most permanent. Made of hard strong stone, where most of the other buildings were formed from that which the forest alone supplied, the palace was the home of the elders, the decision makers and others of that sylvan race whose protection and position was most important. During darker times the palace served as a barrier against enemies, but now that times seemed peaceful the main role of this stone fort was to keep the worst of the cold and the heat from the youngest and the oldest of the citizens. It was by tradition that those classed of having the blood of the original forest spirits from whom the sylvan had spawned; those then considered of royal blood resided within the palace too.

When any of royal blood required medical attention of any level they asked only for the best. Sarah came as quickly as she could to the palace, but she could not disengage from her feelings towards Ulan and his choice for her daughter. As Paechra's mother pulled tightly upon the bandage that bound the deep knife wound, her thoughts were motherly, but certainly not towards the royal.

"How could you?" she asked through gritted teeth. "Join my daughter to… him?"

Ulan looked up pleadingly, yet he dared not speak a wrong word to his healer and at that very moment every word seemed wrong.

"Have I vanished?" Ulan's brother tried to say. The healing salves that Sarah had applied to his face were dulling the pain, but had no effect on making his speech any clearer. The words came out as a jumble of slurred and sloshed sounds, something that Sarah and Ulan both found easy to ignore.

"It is a girl's decision finally who it is she shall love, but our ways are there to guide this decision," Sarah continued. Both Ulan and Derek listened as though their very life depended upon the druid's words.

"Do you understand? This boy is not what I nor Paechra's father would have happily chose for her. Neither, I believe, would Paechra choose him for herself."

"Boy!" interrupted Derek. Even with his jaw giving the word an unusual pronunciation, both Sarah and Ulan clearly understood what he had said.

"Yes, you act as a mere boy!" Sarah stated as a plain fact. "Your current actions cannot be considered those of a man."

"How is it that you dare…?" growled Derek, his words unclear but his threat clearly evident.

"If it were not for your childishness, would we be both sitting here getting wounds tended?" Ulan asked kindly. His patience with his half-brother was well known. With great effort the sylvan ruler attempted to diffuse the tension before it worsened.

The fires of frustration still burned in Derek's eyes of gray, but at Ulan's words the young prince turned his head away. As Sarah and Ulan talked quietly together, dark thoughts ebbed into Derek's mind.

"Ulan took away my prize. Father should have given me the role of highest prince. And now the menial prize that Ulan has given me will be whisked away, simply because she doesn't like it," sulked Derek.

"I shan't let this treasure be taken from me." Derek vowed silently in his thoughts. Without a sound to alert the other two, the young prince slipped away.

For what purpose and how that was to affect Paechra and the others only time would tell.

To Be Continued…


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