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49. Wodgiss Night

The hive tower was decked out magnificently. Woven boughs of lufwood arched overhead, tiny lanterns hanging from them in glittering clusters, while the traditional sumpwood globes, painted green and red, floated in the warm air.

In the middle of the floor, a mighty fire blazed, around which long tables had been arranged to form a circle. These groaned under the weight of good things to eat – tildersteaks, glazed legs of hammelhorn, steaming bowls of spicy tripweed, and, of course, Wodgiss sausages.

Hedgethorn Lammergyre, the new mayor of Farrow Lake, had spared no expense to make this a Wodgiss Night to remember. After the terrible trials and tribulations of this last year, there are many of us Farrow Lakers who are heartily grateful to him for his efforts.

There is nothing like this great midwinter feast for bringing communities together and raising the spirits. This year, snow had come swirling down and a bitterly cold wind had turned the Farrow Lake to ice. Three of the Five Falls had turned to frozen icicles and many Farrow Lakers had likened this bitter winter to that legendary one, so long ago, that had afflicted the great floating city of Sanctaphrax.

But the warmth of the hive tower soon banished such thoughts from our minds as we raised goblets of hylewine and tankards of wodge-ale in the traditional toast – “Earth and Sky!”

I downed my drink in one and looked around at the faces in the firelight. They were my neighbours – the solemn long faces of the webfoot goblins of Farrow village; the hard, weatherbeaten traders from the shacks in the Western Woods, and the eager, excited faces of the new settlers and their young families, who were establishing themselves on the fringes of the eastern shore. Our little community had grown so much since I’d arrived, I realized, and now the war was over, would grow bigger than ever.

‘Earth and Sky… and Farrow Lake!’ I cried, raising my re-charged goblet.

‘Farrow Lake! Farrow Lake! Farrow Lake!’ The hive tower resounded with joyful voices raised in celebration. Across the fire, Hedgethorn, his little foundling cradled in his arms, laughed delightedly.

‘Why, Forden, came a familiar voice, and turning, I saw my old friend, Gart Ironshank, coming towards me. ‘Just the person I was looking for.’

The captain shook my hand warmly and drew up a chair. ‘Quite a festive gathering,’ he said, looking round appreciateively. ‘Good to see things getting back to normal…’

‘They’ll never be normal for me,’ I said. Alcestia’s beautiful face appeared in my mind. ‘But life has to go on.’

‘Indeed, indeed,’ said Gart, nodding, ‘which is why I have a very interesting proposition to put to you, Forden, old friend…’

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Posted by Forden Drew on Dec 21st 2009 | Filed in Uncategorized | Comments Off

48. Vitus

Vitus, Vitus, Vitus…

I named him myself, the little bundle of life I found nestled among the death and destruction of the battlefield. Nearly three weeks have passed since the terrible events of the Battle of the Farrow Lake and, thank Earth and Sky, the little fellow is thriving.

It would be an exaggeration to say that everything is back to normal, for nothing will ever be the same again. Yet for all that, some semblance of normality has indeed returned to the Farrow ridges. The fallen – from both sides of the conflict – have been removed from the battlefield, and their bodies sent ceremonially and reverently soaring up to Open Sky on flaming pyres. Poor Forden was too ill to attend his Alcestia’s funeral, but later performed a solitary ceremony of his own. My friend has been subdued since his tragic loss and my heart goes out to him.

The lake and landing jetties and buildings that were damaged in the phraxfire have been repaired. The felled trees have been cleared, used for timber and firewood, and recent heavy rain has washed away the blood that stained the ground. In its place, thousands of red papery-petalled woodlilies have sprung up, their crimson flowers serving as a poignant memory to those who died.

Scores perished in the Battle of Farrow Lake, including many that I had come to regard as friends, yet today the Farrow Ridges are more populated than ever. For not only did several of the Freeglade Lancers decide to remain here, sending for their families to join them, but many others from Great Glade have decided to move to this quiet outpost, so different from the mighty city they chose to leave behind.

And then there is Vitus, who, at less than a month old, is the youngest of our community…

Despite asking around, I was unable to find out anything about the tiny newborn baby I’d found. No one knew anything of his mother or father, and I could only assume that they were newcomers who had been caught in the crossfire and perished.

Though tiny, Vitus is a strong little thing. He has dark blue eyes, sturdy limbs – and a powerful set of lungs. When I headed back to my hive-house with the little fellow swaddled in my scarf, he bellowed with red-faced indignation the whole way. Thankfully, his distress was caused only by hunger, and after drinking some warm hammelhorn milk (taken from a bottle with a makeshift teat I fashioned from the thumb of a glove), he fell into a deep and contented slumber.

Since then, Vitus has been as good as gold, feeding regularly and sleeping through the night. For the first couple of weeks, I left him in the cot I’d made him, with Plume – my loyal cantationary bird – on guard. Whenever Vitus stirred, he would fly off to find me, crying like the baby himself, so that I knew to return. This last week, however, with so much to do, I have kept him with me in an adapted backpack, his legs dangling down my back and head darting about in his curiosity, or resting on my shoulder, asleep. In this manner, he has accompanied me as I’ve dug my fields, gathered wood or taken my coracle out on the lake…

It’s strange how things work out. I’d always assumed I’d be a father, yet sadly it was not to be. When I was young, I fell in love with a grey goblin called Innis. She was beautiful and kind and, betrothed to one another, we made plans for our lives together – before she caught fog-fever and died in my arms. Some while after that, I was conscripted into the Hive army and sent to fight at the Midwood Marshes – and then, of course, I moved here. The years passed, and those early dreams faded. Yet now I have become a father – of sorts – after all.

‘We’ll be fine, you and me, little one,’ I told him one night as I settled him down in his cradle. ‘Don’t fret, Vitus. Hedgethorn will look after you just like his own.’

Even as I spoke, though, I knew that I was fooling myself. Oh, I could feed him and look after him well enough, but he needed more than that – baby Vitus needed the love and special care that only a mother could give him. But where could I, a battle-scarred veteran, ever find such a person?

As I pulled the tilder pelt up over his sleeping body, there was a gentle knock on the door. Wondering who might be visiting me so late at night, I crossed the room and opened the door to see a tall fourthling standing before me. She had long reddish hair and the greenest eyes I’d ever seen.

‘Hedgethorn Lammergyre?’ she said. ‘My name is Laria. Laria Chillax…’

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Posted by Hedgethorn Lammergyre on Dec 8th 2009 | Filed in Uncategorized | Comments Off