FOREVER KNIGHTS: #3 Forsaking the Vanquished

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RAESE - For the Love of Trees

WhiteHall, Harridan Hamlet, Paladines (Lost for sixteen years)

RAESE

Raese spent most of the morning staring at his hand. After nights of simply trying to forget what’d happened, he finally surrendered. Allowing himself to remember every vivid detail of the green lights dancing around his fingers. And the bluish scales that’d begun splitting his skin. There’d been pain but he’d been so mesmerized by what was going on he’d barely registered it.

What’s happening to me? He lay in bed wondering.

Until inevitably being transported somewhere else. The TreeCutters camp in Dread Country. With a magnificent view overlooking the Lake downhill from them.

If I’m back here, I’ve fallen asleep again.

Clearly, they’d just bedded down for the night. All but me. Everyone else was settled. A few already asleep as evidenced by their deepened breathing or snoring.

I can’t sleep. It was a rare night he’d actually slumber. When his body truly needed a recharge.

So, he lay resting on his back, staring at the treetops swaying in a Fall breeze. The night stars winked prettily as if knowing something he didn’t.

He heard the first rustle of leaves. Sounds of a creature bigger than any woodland animal. He stilled. Assuring he didn’t move until hearing it again.

Someone is out there. He slid the dagger from his boot. Sensing a threat.

Sniffing the air, he caught no hint of Cimmerii stink. What are you?

Then he caught the smell…Fresh and wild. Like lilies.

Calisto…He knew her name now. Could turn it over in his mind with some familiarity. But even these dreams explained nothing.

Don’t come here. He willed her. Don’t be the waterbeast I’ve been sent to kill.

But she emerged. Coming from the trees slowly, stepping with her heel first to reduce the noise of her arrival.

Dammit!

Her eyes scanned the men sleeping on worn bed rolls. She took in the scent of the fading fire and knew most were asleep. She moved her hands as though making a large ball between them, which only she could see. Turning it, she inspected it.

Raese heard the quieting of animals and glanced up and saw that the sky had turned frightfully black. Encasing everything in bleak darkness.

Oh, hell. This isn’t good. He drew a long breath, giving her a long study.


She glanced up in approval, as though she’d summoned the heavy cloud coverage.

Which she probably did. What are you? He wondered, not for the first time.

The first few drips of rain landed on his face. Then thunder rumbled and unleashed a torentuous downpour that came so fast he found himself lurching to a sitting position to spit out the water that’d already run down his throat.

Suddenly none of this was a surprise anymore. The mounting fear Raese had felt subsided as he felt a wash of warmth and knew this wouldn’t end in the nightmare it seemed to promise.

Something good is going to happen.

There was thunderous crashing. Branches snapping and grown trees losing thick branches under the weight of something heavy parting Feglen Forest.

It certainly doesn’t look good right now!

Then it came into view. Raese realized instantly, the lake that’d been quiet all these months, now lifted in a wave that devastated all it washed over.

He shouted for the men to take to the trees.

Her precious trees. She won’t hurt them.

They leapt to their feet. Leaving everything behind as they lunged on the ropes headed up the trees and climbing with arms, they’d honed from doing this countless times daily. Reaching the high tops, they rushed across bridges to reach the highest levels.

Calisto watched them. Purple eyes assessing their movements like a cat slowly watching a mouse she intends to catch. She was beautiful under the onslaught around her.

Untouched. Like a queen lording over this realm.

Rain fell around her. Soaking her hair and running over her black clothes. But she didn’t move. Watching intently.

One man in the trees shouted a warning and pointed a quaking finger as the flood of water coming into view. Cresting high to reach them in their sanctuaries.

She watched with vague amusement moving her lips.

“Hold fast!” Raese yelled.

When she turned back around to scan the ground again, she came face to face with Raese.

“You.” She hissed.

He tilted his head to look at her. Green eyes nearly luminous in the moonlight. Ready for what she’d do.

Ready for an attack. That’s what she came here for tonight, after all.

“You’re willing to kill all these men?”

“Every one.” She spat.

“Why?”

“Because they’re willing to kill every one of my beautiful trees. Until my forest is gone. Until my home is barren.”

“They’re just trees.”

“They’re just men.” She countered darkly.

Touché.

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