Ihloden stirred in his bed. His face twisted as he fought to subdue the voices that echoed in his mind. He rolled over and the sheets rolled with him, tying into an uncomfortable knot below his stomach. He sighed and rolled back the way he had come. The sheets did not unravel. He twisted his mouth in disgust. His skin was slick with sweat and his jersey clung to him. Still the voices whispered to him. He groaned and griped his head. ‘Stop,’ he screamed at them in his mind. He opened his eyes in a vain hope that reality would stop them. It didn’t work of course. His head was aching from the strain of trying to hold them back. It was futile, he knew, they would not stop tormenting him until they had told him all that they wanted too. Till then he was at their mercy.
He closed back his eyes and tried to relax. The only way to get out of this was to weather it. The never ending train of thought nearly drove him mad. He lay stiff like a log on his bed, waiting for the trickles of thought to end. How different it had been when he was a child. Hearing the voices of the land and the trees had been such a wonderful thing to him. He used to sit under the trees for hours talking with them and singing their songs. Then as he grew up he realized that he was the only one with this gift. It had frightened him, isolated him. And no matter how hard he tried to make himself believe that he was the same as everyone else, the voices he heard told him different. He could not block them out; his bond with them had been woven tight from the days of his childhood when he had reveled in their company. They considered him one of them, part of them and so they made sure that he was well kept up to date in the everyday occurrences across the lands. It has brought him more than one strange look when he unwittingly gave information about lands that he had no right to know about. It was a curse! He should have never have had to bear it. Butit was not always a bad, a thought came to him. He realized with a jump that the voices had stopped and the one that he heard in his head was his own. It was right, more than once the land had saved him by warning him about dangers beforehand. He frowned. It was still a curse! He thought back fiercely.
He was fully relaxed now, dropping halfway back to sleep. It was over, they had gone. What was it that they were saying? The thought startled him, perhaps it was something important. He quickly tried to recall the very thought he had tried to subdue. ‘Damn,” he said in his mind, ‘you are a fool Ihloden. One minute you are condemning the voices and the next you want them back? What do you really want?’ He sighed angrily. He wouldn’t lie to himself despite all his complaining, he liked hearing the trees. They had gentleness in their woody voices that made him feel at home. He was really part of them. ‘No,’ he thought back fiercely again, ‘you are not part of them, you are normal. If only.’
Suddenly a cold spray of water splashed over him. He bolted upright with a particularly bad curse on his lips.
“My, my, my,’ came a familiar voice, “Aren’t we happy today?”
Ihloden looked up through his dripping hair and saw that his sister Shila was standing over him, one hand on her hips and the other held a jug.
“Shila!’ he said annoyed, “Are you trying to kill me?”
“Kill you?” she said, “No, I was trying to wake you. Now that is a real task.”
“Ha ha,” Ihloden laughed mirthlessly. He held his head which had the headache back in renewed fury.
‘What’s wrong?” said Shila sounding annoyed but with a hint of tenderness in her voice.
“My head hurts” Ihloden said watching her out of half-closed eyes. She put down the jug and came to place her hand on his head. He reached out and grabbed her, pulling her into his arms.
“Ihloden!” she screamed “let me go!”
“Not without your morning kiss dear sister,’ he said a pressed his wet lips on her cheek.
She laughed and pulled away from him. “You are no longer a baby Ihloden,” she said, “Yet you always act like one. Get up little brother. Or you will be late for work. And don’t drink again alright?” She looked at him concerned.
Ihloden felt guilty, “I’ll …try.” She sighed and he looked away from her. He knew he would not be able to look her in the eye.
“I fear for you brother,” she said, “You are so happy outside, yet inside you die. What is it that makes you incomplete that you must fill the void with strong drink?” Ihloden did not answer. “Be safe my brother,’ Shila said and left his room.
Ihloden sat for a while. Shila’s words had settled deep in his mind and had cut like a sword to his heart. He shrugged it aside and went to get dressed for work. A while later he was clean and heading out the door, after kissing Shila and his mother goodbye. Shila held his hand tightly, a sign of concern and he had given her a sad smile. She was the one who had undressed him and put him to bed when he came home drunk that night before. Mother had been ill and she had gone to bed early. Shila had waited up for him. He hated when she did that, he never liked to see her drunk. The sun was now rising over the Behrud and a few of its rays spilled down into the village. The morning wind had not yet reached Molvn village so the place was still. He strolled toward the Tavern where he worked. It would be already filled, despite the early hours of the morning. Suddenly a slight wind blew. Ihloden stiffened and stopped. That was unusual. There was no voice in the wind, though. He would have known if it was the trees trying to say something. He sighed and shrugged it off. He was getting too paranoid. He resumed back his walk, but his mind would not let it go. The tavern soon loomed into view. The tall wooden building looked like a broad shouldered man standing unbeaten in the morning’s breaking. ‘Very much like its owner,’ Ihloden thought and smiled. He slipped around the building and entered in thorough the back. As soon as he entered the tavern a tray was thrusted into his hands. Grims the tavern owner grinned down at him.
“You’re late,” he said.
Ihloden grinned back at him, “Yes, but ready to make up for it.”
‘Ha,’ Grims laughed, “I’ll hold you to that.”
He pushed him forward. Ihloden slipped though the great doors that divided the cooking area from the dining area and was almost immediately deafened by the chaotic sound that emitted from the room. He smile broadened as he took in the sight of the men and women that were eating, drinking and laughing at the top of their lungs.
“Ihloden” a voice called him. He turned toward the voice, ‘Beer, boy!” he grinned and nodded and ran back through the door. He had gathered the beer and was headlong back through the door when the thought slipped into his mind, “Ihloden beware,doom call at your door.” He glanced around and spotted the tree that spoke to him. Its leaves shook slightly in the wind. His mind ran back to the unusual wind in the street. He felt uneasy. He was about to ask it what it meant when, Grims corralled him back into the dining area. The voice of tree died out as the doors closed. Ihloden felt fear grip his chest. Doom at his door! What did it mean? By the timed he had finished and had a moment to get back to the window the voice of tree had fallen silent. He stared at it in despair. ‘Damn!’ he thought. There was nothing he could do. He could not command the trees to speak; they spoke when they had a mind too. All he had now was a warning and his own fears.