G. C. Dillon
Tior, commander of Lady Janelís scouts, dressed in a mantle of kendal green and wore a sharp-edged, bronze dirk suspended from his braided sash. Silently, he spied upon the infantry troop of the humans.
The humans had made camp in a small clearing formed after a lightning strike and accompanying brush fire last summer. Tior had helped dig the wide slash of the firebreak that formed one edge of the clearing.
Each soldier was armed with a bulky arquebus gun, wide misericord dagger, and a long partizan-bladed halberd. They wore conical helmets with narrow nostril guards and muddy cotton surcoats. The officers carried slender rapiers and sported feathered steel bascinets with pointed visors. Many of the soldiers carried haversacks. They struck flint and started their cook fires. The hickory tinged smoke drifted through the air. They set armed pickets about the area and the compound facilely took on an orderly atmosphere.
Tior heard twigs breaking. He touched his dirk hilt and turned. He saw Hoder the Blind stumbling through the forest. "Hoder," he whispered. The scout released his grip on the weapon. "You must go back. Youíre heading straight for an encampment of the barbarous ones."
The old one replied, "I know." He stared at the world through glacial eyes. A fluffy white beard flowed down his chin and across his barrel chest. It was strange to find the poet out in the wild, unusual to hear his voice strained, not clear and stentorian, reciting an epic ballad or bawdy song. Normally Tior would see him entertaining a merry crowd at a harvest festival.
The forest branches parted again. Rory came through the gap, rushing to catch the aged Hoder. The young woman was an apprentice to the aged musician. She, like her older companion, was dressed in a plain brown tunic, only hers contained crudely cut slits for her wings to project. Her gossamer membranes fluttered nervously. Both Tior and Hoder, being male, were wingless.
"Take him home," ordered Tior. "Quickly!"
She took his arm. "Hoder, please. Come with me."
"No," he said sternly. "I must not."
Tior grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him around. "Go."
"You do not understand," he mumbled, but allowed Rory to lead him through the brush. "I mustÖI must." Tior returned to his spying on the humans. He had a report to make. The scout knew his superiors would not be pleased with what that report would tell.
"They are that near?" asked Rohm, captain of the guard. Tior stood in the center of the spun-crystal throne room. Moonlight drifted through the translucent roof to illuminate the room. Mí lady and her closest advisors looked to the woodsman. Kasper the scribe held a stylus above a clay tablet, ready to inscribe his answer. The scout shifted his weight to his right leg, as he did when preparing to battle.
"They are!" responded Hoder. All turned toward the elder as he approached the dais. Tior was about to silence the aged bard, but the regal Janel, lady-in-waiting to Queen Mother Batrini herself, spoke up.
"Pray continue." She brushed her light green hair off her jade forehead.
"I smelled the smoke of their fires and their cooking pots. I can still detect it on the scout. It reminded me of the old days," the old one paused, " -- before the mortals forged hard iron or stole saltpeter from our bogs for their firearmsí powder. They were our friends once. Lost children would call our names in the dark of night.
"In those times of yore, a farmer or charwoman would leave a bit of bread or a dram of porter for us. Asking only that we watch over the hearth and keep the coals lit but safe. Or chase the foxes from the hen yard, stop the milk from curdling." His voice trailed off. "Wake the rooster."
Rohm slammed his fist down on the arm of his chair. "And today, what do they do?" He stood, his silken cape swirling about him. "They tramp across our lands. They strip our forests, drive out the fowl and the game, and dam our brooks. They plow our fields to plant their foul crops." His antennae twitched excitedly and flushed vermilion as he raged. "These vandals must be stopped before we are driven from our homeland."
"Is it not already too late?" Hoderís voice echoed in the chamber. Rory stepped up to stand next to her teacher, her master. She had changed from the simple garment Tior had seen her in earlier that day to a more courtly vestment. A sleek chemise wrapped about her shapely form. Hoder carefully put down his lute. She took up the instrument. He placed his palm on the strings, informing her he would perform a cappella. His voice rang out rhythmic, strong and melodious:
Yes, I will meet you at the High Kingís court,
My little friend whose legs are far too short,
But what song of ancient time will you sing,
When you are brought before this magic king?
Sing what adventures you have set to rhyme,
While I, myself, will think in my own time,
Of all companions lost to death and age,
For my own life nears its last, closing page.
And hourglass does what I feared it would.
In this defeat, I fear not death, nor should.
But I would not leave you, my little friend.
All my joy is only what you do lend.
Do this child Ė make of me your newest song.
It will not seem that Iíve been gone so long.
The hall was silent and still. The Lady Janel rose, sashaying from her amber throne. She straightened her taut bodice about her curvaceous gown and the soft light of a gibbous moon sparkled off the opals in her diadem. Her hands rose to her face and drew aside her diaphanous veil. It fell about her bare neck.
"Good Hoder, you speak for us all, I think. What song of us will the humans sing anon when we are no more? There will be no battle. We will withdraw, deeper into the wilds."
"And when there are no more wild places? What then?" Rohm demanded.
"Then our time will have ended, as all things must," Janel replied. Her expression was serene, but all knew that her word was final.
© 2005 by G. C. Dillon
Bio: G.C. Dillon is a Connecticut resident by birth, a computer programmer by training, and a writer by inclination. He has been published on the poetry section of aphelion-webzine.com in May ( Leanhaun Sidhe), quantummuse.com, scribaltales.com, scifidimensions.com and deep-magic.net; as well as The Cenacle magazine, Across the Universe fanzine, and Trap One Report newsletter. When he is not engrossed in legacy COBOL, Java, Python or PL/sql, he likes to shoot off his mouth at the Aphelion Lettercol under the nom-de-plume (nom-de-ordinateur?) of 'Cuchulain'.
E-mail: G. C. Dillon
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