Claudius walked with no hurry. He was home among the birches and the aspens, and he felt no rush, as he had no precise destination he needed to reach. When he stopped for a moment, he looked like an old tree himself, crooked gray silhouette blending in, in the woods…
He had long hesitated before leaving the quiet house. He knew Vohne was a wise young man, and he would never doubt Cibelle’s power. Still, the old man wondered if their fusional love would be a strength or Achilles’ tendon. Together they’d defeat, or be defeated. He wished he could have helped them a little longer.
But he had walked away the moment She had called for him. Claudius was well aware that ignoring her holler meant facing the consequences that came with being disobedient.
So, there he stood, nervous for the first time, since the Elders had sent him to find and present the One with his fate. Now that he had complete his task, only God knew what his future held.
Claudius walked a little deeper in the forest, tapping his walking stick on the rocks on his way. The rhythmic knocking resonated, and he noticed the awkward silence that surounded him. Not a bird chirp. Not the faintest breeze in the leaves. The wise man could almost hear his own heartbeat, as he reached the pond.
He sat on a dead tree trunk and waited.
The sun ran in the sky, slowly stretching Claudius’ shadow toward the East. After a while, he came to wonder if he had misheard Her call. He closed his eyes and fell in half meditative, half asleep state of mind. Rocked by the souvenir of a lullaby he had caught Cibelle singing one night, his soul just lingered on the edge of awakeness.
Suddenly, there She stood, in front of him. Well over twice the height of the old man, her tender gaze embraced him from above.
Rare were the living that were graced with the sight of the Forest Spirit. Meeting with Her even just once, was a blessing most people considered a mere legend. But She and Claudius were going a long way back… Perhaps, their friendship was the closest link between the world of the living, and that of the Spirits.
I had warned you, old friend…
She didn’t speak. But their hearts could communicate in a much clearer way than any human could ever talk. Claudius knew what She meant, and he couldn’t deny what She was accusing him of.
I didn’t mean to, you know… I am but an old man, and I the heart is a wild beast, my Lady. You know that better than me. You’ve lived long enough to see the weakness of Mankind.
Her head bowed with the wind, and Her branches leaned his way, reaching out, even if he couldn’t touch their tip standing on his toes.
I know… I know.
She turned her face away, but he caught the sight of a couple of drops of sap running down Her rough skin. She had warned him, indeed, before leading him personally to the opening in the woods, where he was to find Cibelle and Vohne’s well hidden home. She had warned him once more, when he had brought the young lady to Her… She had seen it in his eyes, had felt it in his heart. He had let himself feel attached to the One and his guardian. Claudius’ paternal affection was the failure they both had feared.
Hell has broken loose, Claudius. It is coming for your protégés. And now, you reek of your soft feelings for them. It’ll smell it from miles, and I can’t protect you from it. I… I just can’t… You have to run fast and far away!
The wise man stood up, knowing She was right. His only way out was to flee, and hopefully keep his thoughts for the young couple to the fewest. And pray, he would have to pray a lot, to keep out of the sight of Hell’s angels.
He walked to her, and knowing this was certainly their last meeting, he wrapped his arms around her trunk, and held her tenderly. As his fingers ran on her bark, lovingly, he heard her leaves trembling.
My blessings will always follow you, dear friend… Goodbye, and good luck.
When he looked up, she was gone, and he was just hugging a random tree. He picked up his sparce belongings, and headed out of the woods, wondering where he would now seek shelter…
To read the previous episodes of Cibelle & Vohne’s adventures, click here.