Duskael

 Story: From Dawn to Dusk

   The quiet peace of a sunlit forest. Green leaves fluttering in a gentle breeze, patterns of light and shade cast across the twigs and bracken on the ground. Floating blossoms, earthy scents and bird song fill the air. It’s only after a while that the ear of a listener would notice that one of those bird songs isn’t a bird, it’s someone whistling.
   Duskael skipped lightly barefooted through the glades, swirling around the trees like flowing water while whistling tunes to the birds and laughing at their replies. The tune she whistles is one that’s stuck in her head, playing at the back of her mind near constantly these days. It was like a piece of full orchestra music, full of life, hope and promise, and like any classical song it was reaching a climax.
   Her whimsical progress led her to the side of a river, a small stream and she contemplated a quick swim, but her errand was important and the tune would not let her stop. She tested the water and saw that water vines sat just underneath the waves. She smiled, concentrated and skipped lightly across the water. As her feet came close, the vines bunched under her feet to buoy her up across the waves. She alighted on the other side with damp soles to her feet. She winked at the vines and carried on her way.

   The sun was high overhead when she stopped to rest, she picked some ripe crowberries from a bush and sat down on a stump. Digging her toes lightly into the soil at her feet, she drank fresh water and enjoyed the sun on her skin. The melody in her head would not be denied though and would not let her stay idle. With a happy sigh, she opened her eyes and gave into the music. She held her hands open and palm up. She knew her harp wasn’t with her, but right now she wanted it here….. and with a small pop and rush of air, her harp landed in her waiting fingers. Setting herself on the stump she began to play. Her eyes closed, her breathing slowed and her fingers moved ever faster, plucking the strings in rapid, smooth progressions as she tried to match the music in her mind. The music that was everywhere and every when, it flooded her mind and flew from her fingers into the harp but it existed within the harp too, waiting to be released. Whether she played the harp or the harp played her was merely a matter of opinion. Small wispy lights, rose from the leaf mould, slid out from the bark of trees or dropped from the underside of flowers. They orbited in a graceful flight around the glade and Duskael, matching time to the music. Time stretched, minutes into hours, as Duskael played on.

   The sun had slipped low on the horizon when Duskael finally opened her eyes and looked around. The wisps finished with a flourish and faded back to their roots, a few small creatures that had stopped to listen scampered back into the bushes. Duskael smiled, willed the harp away again and then carried on in her journey. Within the hour of her leaving the glade, the bushes and trees began to blossom for a second time this year…

   The music in her mind had grown louder as the day dragged on and Duskael knew she was reaching her goal for today. Ahead of her, the forest revealed a granite wall of cliff. A section of bedrock carved by wind then decorated by nature over the centuries that rose above the trees. She reached the base and looked around for an easy way up, none seemed obvious. The wall clung with ivy but she knew it would support her weight only at the cost of it’s own grasp so she sought another alternative. After a short walk she found a large oak tree near to the cliff, perfect she thought clapping her hands lightly. She lifted her head and breathed in deeply through her mouth and nose, filling her senses with the surrounding area. She felt what she was looking for nearby and soon recovered it. A half-eaten hare that had died in the night. She carried the corpse back to the tree and laid it in a nook between the two largest roots. Leaning against the tree she whispered gently to it’s hard bark.
   “Excuse me, sorry to wake you but I need to get to the top of the cliff. I’ve brought you something as payment.”
   She stayed holding the tree like a lover until it gave a soft groaning reply. Laughing lightly again, she stepped back and waited. The strong boughs bent as if in a heavy wind and continued bending. The lowest branch tilted till she could take a small step onto it. The branch lifted her up to the next branch, then that led onto the next until she had been lifted to the top of the mighty tree. The last branch tilted down and she hopped onto the top of the cliff. She turned to face the tree and curtsied gratefully then moved away. The ground around the hare corpse split as numerous tendril like roots quested to envelop the dead meat, within moments it had formed a cocoon and the dirt parted to draw the fresh bundle of nutrients down to the hungry tap root deep beneath the tree.

   Duskael sat on top of the cliff and faced the direction she heard the music coming from. Concentrated again, she caused a small map to appear on the ground beside her. She looked at the map, glanced at the sun and then used a piece of charcoal to draw a line from where she was sitting and then following the direction of the music. Marking a direction from this rise, a direction with no distance. The line could go on forever. She knew it wouldn’t, but she’d need another two or so excursions like this to properly find what she sought. She felt like half a person and the music would see her whole again.

   By the time she was done, the sun was barely a glimmer on the horizon. Duskael knew better than to travel the woods at night so looked around for a suitable spot to rest. Seeing a tree with a large enough bole, she looked again for anyone watching or nearby. She was alone. Striding quickly towards the tree, her skin flowed and changed, whorls and grain appearing like tattoos as her dress reverted into a bare drape of Ivy. Her body shortened, her features shifted, and she felt like herself once more. She stepped to the tree and into the tree, safe in it’s wooden embrace.

   Somewhere, further than most people can imagine and as distant as the other side of a shadow, A young girl awoke and stretched. The light coming in through the hovel window glared in her face and she felt stiff all over.
   “By the Goddess I might as well sleep in wood, I’m that stiff,” she muttered to herself.
   “Dawn?” a voice called from downstairs. “Come on, we need to catch breakfast.”
   “Coming, Dad!” Dawn called back, dragging on her dress with the Ivy print, she headed down the ladder and out into her world.