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Evelyn had chosen the sword. Gwilminawyn wished Evelyn had confided in her more. Did she leave to search out her roots? To avenge her family’s death? To simply live among the humans for a while?
What had happened to Evelyn?
There were no answers yet. Should Gwilminawyn wait for answers? If she was a leaf, or if she was a fish, should she stay in the pool formed at the base of the rock, waiting for answers?
Gwilminawyn contemplated this option, closing her eyes and imagining her life. She would stand up from here, walk back to her home, climb back up the vine and slip into her house unseen. She would sleep and eat, and wake, and go through the rest of the grieving with her parents. There would be songs, music, candles placed along the garden wall, lanterns hung in the trees around her home and around the homes of her neighbors. There would be gatherings, eulogies, memorials attended together.
And then life would go on. Slowly at first, but certainly. Eventually Gwilminawyn would be back at her studies. In a couple of decades or so her parents would be speaking to her about apprenticing, if she knew what she wanted to pursue. Or, if not, they would be speaking to her about spending some years in sampling…rotating through mentors till she found a path that fit her.
Maybe somewhere during that span her uncle would leave, would travel, would find and bring back answers about Evelyn. Maybe.
Gwilminawyn opened her eyes.
One thing she knew now. She did not want her life to go on as if Evelyn had never existed. Surely Evelyn’s life had meant something. Had mattered.
Gwilminawyn couldn’t avenge Evelyn’s death, but surely Evelyn’s life had been more than just a wind through the pines.
She wrapped her fingers around the hilt of the foil.
Against whom would she wield a sword? Against orcs for causing the destruction of Evelyn’s first home and first family? Orcs might make a fine target for her anger and her grief. It would be easy to hate them.
But it wouldn’t bring meaning to Evelyn’s life. And, even as she thought about taking up a sword, training to track and kill orcs, Gwilminawyn knew that wasn’t who she wanted to become…some anger filled slayer. Gwilminawyn, raised in a peaceful home surrounded by beautiful garden and filled with music and love, didn’t want to be so cold, so bitter. “Unforgiveness,” her father had said, “is like taking poison daily and then expecting some other person to suffer its effects.”
Not an orc hunter then.
If not that, then what?
It was not fair, not just, that Evelyn should have lost so much. It was not right that Evelyn’s village was just one of many to fall to flames and violence. That Evelyn, vibrant, brilliant Evelyn should have lived so short a time before she was snuffed out.
Gwilminawyn stood, foil in hand.
Suddenly she knew what she wanted.
Nothing she could do would bring Evelyn back. Not now, not ever. And nothing she could do would make Evelyn’s death right. She couldn’t change what had happened to Evelyn, but she could step in, and keep it from happening to someone else. Not as a ruthless hunter, or a cold-hearted slayer, but she could step in as a Protector.
She smiled, savoring the word again in her mind, Protector.
The foil felt right in her hand.
A sword for the hand, a goal for the heart….that took care of two of the three realms of being, body and spirit. Now, for the mind, for the intellect…
Gwilminawyn let out an audible gasp as the last piece slid into place. Arcana for the mind. Body, mind, and spirit, she knew what she wanted to become. The realization sent a shiver of excitement over her.
Grinning, she jumped off the rock, landing with a less than graceful splat in the mud on the far side of the small pool. She rubbed her soiled hands and the edge of the foil along a nearby clump of moss to remove the biggest part of dirt. Even a botched landing didn’t serve to damper her enthusiasm. Her foot and handprints in the silt at the edge of the pool still left a smooth unmarred stretch of mud, and that was what Gwilminawyn needed.
The foil tip was capped with a round knob, making it less than ideal as a stylus. But Gwilminawyn dug it through the soft clay anyway. It left no graceful elven script in its wake, but fat furrows punctuated with clumps of mud. Intent on her purpose, Gwilminawyn gripped the foil with both hands, her right around its hilt and her left curved around the blade just below the guard. Letter after chunky letter she carved into the ground.
A few moments later, she stood surveying her handiwork. The thick pine forest filtered out most of the moonlight, so that even her elven eyes had to strain to see. Her bare toes were nearly numb with cold and her shivering now was not out of excitement alone. She’d be running home, cold, wet, and muddy. But the word she stood looking at now, that one word made everything else seem insignificant.
Tomorrow, she decided, she would come and line each letter with flower petals. But now she began slowly, carefully picking her way across the dark rocks, heading for the path that would lead her home.
Behind her, the night would keep her writing hidden for hours. Unseen in the dark, cold mud was one single word of hope.