Paechra's Tale
Part Three
By: Timothy Law

In the 513th year of the Kingdom of Thuraen, Fredrickson the Third is King, Vladimir the Young is Chief Sage. Druid Paechra, a sylva from the land of the forest spirits left her home with a light heart. She walked through the forest of dreams with her head held highly. The great fir trees were friends, gigantic guardians that the young-one felt would protect her. Paechra's betrothed, Low Prince Derek was wounded, his pride certainly but there had been a physical element that the sylva thought she had gifted as well. Paechra hoped she had given Derek much to consider and she planned to give him sufficient time to dwell upon the lessons taught. He had allowed his anger and jealousy to rule him and guide him and Paechra would not settle for a beloved she needed change so much. Derek's brother must have seen something in Paechra but there would be time for her to ponder upon this. For now though there was the thrill of adventure ahead.

The sylva had not traveled far from home before but she was striding in her father's footsteps, Therdous had taken his love of language and other races beyond the forest and Paechra felt now was the time in her life she needed to be with such a man. Having no experience traveling beyond the forest realm did not mean Paechra had no knowledge of such a path. In fact she knew of many pathways that one could choose to travel in a way of moving through the world between worlds. There was the way of the mountain, this way of peace and self-discovery Paechra associated with her father and perhaps the High Prince, certainly her mentor Mother Sienna. Too long it would be for Paechra though. The way of fire and darkness Paechra knew her betrothed would follow, should he choose to hunt for her, the fool that he was. Not through choice would fire be his route, but Low Prince Derek would choose naught with a clear head. Paechra had seen in his aura that Derek was a boy of no-thought, only do; do from anger, do from pain, do from jealousness and fury and hurt and then the circle began again. The way of sea Paechra feared the most. That way could be chosen but it was chosen at great risk. Some who chose the way of sea left early but remained forever changed, some never left and some never found the courage to set sail and trust in the journey. Paechra thought with excitement that her travel would be via the way of air. The most challenging and the most exhilarating, Paechra's heart had filled with joy and longing the first time she had heard her elder sister druids speak of such a way.

"The thrill of touching the clouds while the wind plays with your hair," one had said, Rachella, daughter of Mother Sienna and beloved of The Lady of Possibility.

"For me it was the feel of the creature's skin and mine so close to be almost connected, to feel its spirit even before we took to the skies," another had added, both druids sharing a look, a mutual knowledge of a life's achievement that they could share.

It was the same thrill that Paechra planned to experience, a story to share when she next saw Therdous Father.

The land rose slightly and a small smile creeped across the sylva's features. She was warm from how far she had walked that day already but the pending thrill of traveling through the air spurred her onwards. The strange sun remained a constant light in the place between worlds. One step then another, Paechra continued her journey, farther and higher up the path. Soon the forest of firs thinned and the path became rocky. A mile ahead the land became hilly, hinting at the mountainous terrain to follow after. At the base of the hills Paechra could easily see a hollowed out cavern, a small fire burning in the cave's entrance.

"Good day!" called the sylva, hopeful of a reply.

It had seemed almost an eternity since she had left a dark, verbal battle with the Low Prince. The druid was in great need of conversation, a voice full of warmth. Not the sounds of angry jealousy she played back over and over to spur on her walking. At the sound of Paechra's call an ancient figure dressed in animal furs similar to the druid hobbled forth from the darkness of the cave.

"Ho, Paechra!" the ancient one called back.

Paechra thought at first this figure was Mother Druid Sienna but as the figure spoke she discovered it was certainly not the case. The voice was male.

"Greetings old one," Paechra stated as she hurried toward the cave. "How do you know of me?"

Closer to the hermit of the cavern and able to stare into the man's eyes Paechra discovered a strange reptilian nature to those eyes, golden in color and showing a youthfulness where the body so obviously stated age.

"Child, what you wish to ask is why do I know of you so well where you know naught of me."

Unsure of how to react to this Paechra merely nodded.

"I see the wisdom of elders has drawn you to silence, child," laughed the hermit.

The old one turned and wandered back into the cavern, stumbling as he moved by the fire's flames. Paechra was swift in closing the gap, there to catch the old one under one arm to halt his tumble.

"The Mother Druid Sienna did say that you were a kind one," said the hermit. "Glad I am to discover that this is indeed the case."

"Know you Mother Sienna?" asked Paechra.

"Indeed child, she has come this way though not for many years, more than a hundred or more," lamented the elder.

"Do you have many visitors come this way?" Paechra asked as she helped the hermit rise again to his feet.

"Not as many of late," sighed the hermit. "Perhaps there was a male of your race, one or two years ago."

"My father, Therdous?" asked the druid, surprised. "I was certain he would have chosen to walk the path of the mountain."

"Yes, I do believe Therdous was his name…" considered the hermit. "He wished to test my knowledge of languages but many have come before him and many will come after."

"That sounds like Father Therdous," laughed Paechra. "Always testing, hoping you are concentrating and wishing that the knowledge would just stay put."

"Have you come to test me too, child?" then asked the hermit, his eyes flashed for a moment as if there were a terrific fury awaiting release.

"Many of my sister druids have spoken of the wise old dragon," began Paechra, honest and straight to the point. "I am hopeful that you may know where this creature can be found."

The hermit pondered a moment, gnarled fingers drawn to a wispy white beard that adorned his chin.

"The dragon appears only to those who offer a gift." Paechra pondered for a moment, she had left home with little but what she thought to grab. Thus far her journey had supplied her with everything she needed.

"My father would have gifted the ancient beast a word," she thought. "Mother Sienna perhaps the gift of respect."

"I know the gift that I wish to bestow upon the wondrous dragon," the druid announced but with caution. "For what it is worth I offer to you the gift of my friendship."

The eyes of the hermit grew wide as if surprised but then filled with warmth.

"Paechra Lightheart, daughter of Therdous Lightheart, I knew of your arrival and I knew you would not disappoint," announced the hermit.

Before her very eyes Paechra watched the old man transform. His body grew larger and more elongated as silver scales appearing across the old man's wrinkled skin. The beard became like leathery vines, the eyes larger but still holding that warmth and humor.

"I know child when you guessed the truth and discovered my identity," the great beast gushed. "I accept your gift and as a friend I offer you the ride you seek."

"I thank you my friend," replied a gracious Paechra.

As she spoke she felt in her mind the name Fythrania.

"I honor you, Fythrania, Dragon Friend," stated the druid with a bow.

"As I honor you, Paechra, Sylva Friend," the dragon replied.

Dragon flight was a strange feeling, wondrous and terrifying. Paechra climbed between the giant's shoulders, just in front of his wing joints, just as Fythrania asked her to do. As she sat and patiently waited she found the beast connect with her, mind to mind.

"I will keep you safe child," the mind of the dragon promised, the eons echoing, betraying the true ancientness of the creature and the old man it pretended to be. Then suddenly the flight began.

As promised Fythrania did protect the sylva, flying while grounded and yet mentally Paechra experienced all the thrills of bursting through the clouds and seeing the true world from such a vantage. It was as if she was dreaming but experiencing this physical thrill at the same time.

"Is this how flight always feels?" Paechra cried, her voice barely a whisper as she battled the wind whistling past her.

"Speak with your mind child and I will hear you," the dragon replied, an echo amongst the madness that was Paechra's thoughts.

"Is this how…?"

"Flight always feels?" laughed Fythrania. "I did hear your question as you thought before you spoke."

"Of course," replied the young druid, embarrassed but happy.

"To answer your question, Paechra Sylva Friend it is not how flight feels for the birds and other creatures that fly and glide using the air for travel… For those who fly by dragon though it is the safest way to experience the speed and height."

"Show me truth then, what it is to fly for real," Paechra asked.

Again there was a moment of pause as the dragon, like the hermit considered the request.

"As you wish," he stated. Immediately Paechra fell. Tumbling through the open sky she screamed, panic overfilling her mind where previously there was calm, excitement, happiness. Just as quickly Fythrania returned, his solid promise of protection like a shield.

"Wish you to experience that again, young one?" the dragon asked.

"No, please, never again," Paechra replied. "I have learned to simply trust you and your wisdom, Fythrania."

"Paechra, Sylva Friend, I sense that our friendship will be a strong one," stated the dragon.

Paechra thought she detected some humor in the creature's tone.

"Wise and wondrous Fythrania, I sense the same," she replied with a smile of her own.

The dragon landed in a forest clearing far from Paechra's homeland. The sylva slid from the creature's shoulders and looked back to see a number of trees uprooted as if Fythrania had crashed into them. Thanks to the mental connection the pair shared Paechra had felt none of that impact. As she inspected her friend she found slight cuts and abrasions where the great oaks caused harm.

"Please, allow me to help," asked Paechra, her aura flaring as she touched each wound.

They were only shallow so closed up swiftly.

"I thank you friend, I shall watch your journey with interest," said the dragon. "Now though our paths go separate ways."

With a gracious bow Paechra turned away from the dragon and entered deeper into the wall of trees. She felt rather than saw Fythrania take flight again, headed back to the cave and identity of the hermit.

Alone again the sylva wandered east. Her heart seemed to say that was the path her father had trodden. The voices of the trees and animals were her company and the druid quietly chatted with them all as she went. Now the sun was a ball that moved and Paechra could feel the passing of time. As the morning became afternoon she felt the mood of the forest change. As if like a curse there came the sound of steel clashing upon steel reverberated throughout the once quiet forest, sending its native inhabitants either scurrying away or taking to the air with just as much noise as the combat that startled them. Paechra felt the flight instinct evident in each and every beast that raced by her. Driven toward the danger the sylva caught the bridal of a milky white horse that tried to race past. Encasing the beast in her aura the druid spoke calming words as she connected with the majestic mare.

"Master… Danger… Flee...' the horse chanted at a galloping pace. ‘Master… Danger… FLEE…"

"I am friend… Come, show me the way," urged Paechra. "We can save him together."

Paechra leapt into the saddle and tried to work out the unnatural set up as the horse lead her back to its master. The two burst into the clearing to witness a lucky hammer blow from one of a half dozen vorsurk warriors. A lone human trying to fend off all of the dog-like monsters was struck sharply upon the helmet. The human swooned, Paechra seeing and feeling the effects of the blow in the man's outline. The bright red outline of adrenaline faded quickly to a sickening purple. As the hammer fell again, the human's new state of dizziness cost him his shoulder. Paechra saw the human continued fighting valiantly on, but she could tell his strength was fading fast. Urging the horse to fight through its fear the druid used a mixture of calming thoughts and urgency to drive it onward with earnestness.

The horde of creatures that had caught the human by surprise now looked up in shock themselves. The human, dazed and in agonizing pain from the blow to his head and shoulder Paechra was certain would be broken, watched with his mouth opened wide, as the druid a vision, blonde haired and dressed in mixture of furs, skins and cloth of various earthen colors leapt from the galloping steed and entered into the fray. With an ease Paechra molded her aura of sky blue light into what could only be described as the image of a great angry grizzly bear. All of Paechra's built up frustration was released in a flurry as Vorsurk flesh was ripped effortlessly and soundlessly from Vorsurk bones, almost like the five hundred pound monsters of muscle were really dried Autumn leaves blown from the branches by a cruel, cool wind. As the last limb fell quietly to the forest floor and the fallen Vorsurk all twitched their last, the girl turned on the spot to face the human and gave him a beaming smile "The Look of Paechra". The druid was surprised such a skirmish had not even caused her a moment of breathlessness, with a moment's pause to allow the savage she-bear to slip from her aura Paechra felt fury-free and ready to meet her first human.

"You seemed like you needed some help," the daughter of the forest began with a shrug and no sign of a shortage of breath. "My name is Paechra. Paechra Lightheart," the girl added, her beaming smile seeming to make the greeting a proclamation, not the plain statement that it was. She thrust out her hand but then retracted it apologetically, wiping the Vorsurk muck from her fingers upon the lush forest greenery before extending it again. The human took it and winched as excruciating pain shot up his agonized right arm. Paechra let the warrior's arm drop immediately

"You're hurt!" she cried.

The human let the obvious statement pass, answering affirmatively with just a single nod. Even this action of little effort caused him severe pain. Letting his sword drop, the warrior clutched his shattered shoulder and willed the pain to ease to a dull throb, without any success.

"Here let me…" the girl kindly offered as she gave the dark haired warrior another knowing smile. The human warrior released feeling of uncertainty then, unusually unnerved. As Paechra placed her hands upon the horribly damaged shoulder, the blue light flared up around her again. The human, shied away as if he expected to see the bear and face the same fate as the Vorsurk before him. Tempted as it was to bring out the ferocity once more Paechra decided to heal instead of hurt. The human warrior was both surprised and relieved to see the image of a dove instead envelope the girl. Beyond this was the feeling of warmth as Paechra helped his pain vanish away. A moment later, with a clearer head, the human looked again, with greater scrutiny at the sylva before him and discovered that the blue haze had vanished.

"Paechra?" the human asked. "You found my horse?"

"No, human," Paechra replied. "Your horse found me."

"Raven, please," requested the warrior as he tested his shoulder. "My name is Raven."

"Raven it would bring me great joy if I could call you my friend," Paechra gushed.

"As you wish," replied Raven.

His yellowish aura betrayed his uncertainty.

"Come, friend Raven," laughed Paechra. "Lead me to my father."

"Strange lady, I travel to Andrapaal," replied Raven. "We can enquire there about your father."

"Few of my kind have ventured lately among your people," stated Paechra. "Should my father be at this Andrapaal I am sure he will be easily found."

"Well you seem on good terms with my faithful steed," said Raven, indicating the saddle.

"It shall be no Fythrania, perhaps I shall ride with you," stated Paechra.

"As you wish," the human said with a sigh, the second time already since meeting Paechra.

Climbing back up into the saddle Raven lowered an arm. With great strength he helped Paechra onto the horse's rump. Testing his bearings Raven then turned the steed eastwards.

"Onwards to Andrapaal then," he said with a humorless grin.

"Indeed," agreed Paechra. "Onwards to Andrapaal."

To Be Continued…

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