Breaking Bread “Winter is a bitter season, the variety of food and flavours are bland. But a warm roll of rye bread baked by loving hand’s can warm the coldest hearts.” “I’m sorry about my brothers out burst. He can be so insensitive sometimes.” Monarda apologised to Soil, who was walking quickly alongside her. Doing his best to keep up with her long stride. “You don’t have to apologise, I know what having a sibling can be like.” Soil replied, “It’s clear that Brook cares about you. His anger and frustration shows this, he’s just unsure of how to communicate that care to you.” “Oh it isn’t that, trust me. My brother is just rotten because he isn’t the head man in the family.” Monarda finished her sentence as she approached the doorway to her own house, that she lived in with her partner, Phlox. Soil stared up at the marvellous homestead. It’s dark timber framework had been elegantly crafted and the multitude of pieces interconnected in a seamless, satisfying, fashion. Unlike many of the other homes in the village, this marvel made use of black brick to construct its walls. Rather than using the common, and cheaper, method of using wattle and daub. The building had it’s own yard, that sprouted a variety of green winter plants. White bulbs of garlic could be seen reaching out from beneath the dirt, as rows of leafy spinach. Perhaps the most impressive feature of the house was a stable that connected to it. Housed within was a great brown mare, whose head hung over the stable door. It’s large friendly eyes looked upon Soil as he gazed upon the large homestead. He wasted no time in following Monarda into the house, of which the front door stood at a height that accommodated her towering stature. As the pair entered he hallway they were greeted by a sea of delightful smells. The aroma of sweet boiled herbs wafted throughout every nook and crannies of the house. Soil mouth began to water uncontrollably. Steam rolled in from the kitchen and crept across the ceiling above, bringing with it a warm refreshing temperature that drew the bitter winter chill from Soil’s limbs. Monarda removed her thick blue coat and hung it on a collection of hooks that protruded from the wall to her right. She fanned her face weakly with her hand and exhaled deeply. Her hand stilled and her eyes widened when she noticed Soil was still standing with his large thatched cloak on. She kept forgetting that this young man before her was not used to the little rituals that village folk carried out on a daily basis. “Feel free to hang your cloak up Soil. You must be boiling in that.” “I am a bit warm to be honest.” Soil replied sheepishly, his face quickly reddening. After fiddling with a small toggle he drew the cloak from round his shoulders and hung up on one of the wooden hooks bedside him. Revealing his undergarments, which consisted of shorts and a sleeveless top, that looked much like a weaved potato sack and was a green grey in colour. Monarda looked at his thatched cloak and cursorily rubbed a part of it between her thumb and index finger. It’s outside layer was harsh to the touch , almost gritty, as if one was rubbing their hand against sandpaper. However, to Monarda’s surprise, the inner lining was the opposite, pleasantly soft and elegantly smooth . “Where did you get silk from in Eyre wood?” She asked in amazement. “It’s not lined with silk, it’s moss.” Soil replied cheerily. “Moss!? That’s incredible! How have you managed to use moss like that?!” “The cloak is more like a living plant, rather than an item of clothing… It’s a mix of craft work and magic,” Soil told her, “But I couldn’t explain how the magic aspect works, I crafted it together and the forest just… sort of… did the rest? I can’t explain it.” Their conversation was abruptly interrupted as Phlox came to stand in a doorway at the other end of the corridor. “Monarda! Soil! I hope you’re both hungry!” The dark man said with a smile, “Your mother and brother are not joining us Monarda?” “Unfortunately not my love, You know what Brook’s like.” “That’s no problem. He’s a growing man looking for his place in the world! I was just the same when I was his age.” Phlox chirped, before bringing his hands together into an enthusiastic clap, “Let’s eat shall we!” The trio made their way into the dining area, which held as much splendour as one would have imagined. Four large arrangement of candles sat in each of its corners, they provided a bright light that flooded the expansive room. The walls were adorned with a collection of different antiques and trophies. On the northern wall situated above a doorway, that led to the kitchen, was a pair of two curved swords. Mounted so that the naked blades crossed one another. The swords were inscribed with strange symbols that ran from their points down to their hilts. The western wall housed a large open fireplace, in which a beautiful yellow crimson flame danced about upon a heap of charring wood. On the mantle of the fireplace sat a collection of 4 plates, very bland looking, made of clay. Each of the 4 plates had a unique character painted upon them. Finally, in the centre of the ceiling, hung a truly grand yet unusual ornament. It was a crab claw, however it was nearly the size of a human, spanning a length of 6 ft. The bazaar appendage had been suspended by ropes that were in turn fixed into the dining hall ceiling. It hung freely, mirroring the long rectangle dining table that sat below it. Soil winced slightly as his eyes met the grotesque centre piece. Phlox pulled out a chair for Monarda, and then for Soil, on the opposing side of the table. “Make yourselves comfortable! I shall return shortly with your food.” Phlox sung out as he exit the room, disappearing into the soft, steamy fog of the kitchen. Soil couldn’t stop himself from slowly shifting his gaze upward, doing his best to conceal the fact he was doing so from Monarda. A grimace forced it’s way across his face as he stared at the gigantic pincer. When he shifted his gaze subtly to Monarda he jumped! For she was looking directly at him. Quickly the distasteful expression left his face and Soil did his best to replace it with one of neutrality. Monarda laughed slightly, “Is the giant claw bothering you Soil?” Soil leaned across the table slightly as he replied “It’s a bit… Unsettling. Is now a bad time to mention that I don’t eat meat…?” Monarda couldn’t contain the laughter that popped out of her body, Soil looked at her in confusion. “Don’t worry Soil. It’s not the season for meat, Vegetables are the only food that we can get hold of right now, so you’ll be fine.” Soil forced a small appreciative smile onto his face. He couldn’t stop his eyes from nervously glancing up at the claw at final time. Phlox re-entered the room carrying three bowls of creamy soup, and a basket of black rye bread, upon a large tray. He placed the dish down delicately on the table and shared out the food. Providing each dinner guest with a dainty sliver spoon. He looked upon the table with a distinct look of pride when he had finished, before pulling out his own chair at the head of the table and planting himself firmly upon it. “We were just talking about the claw Phlox,” Monarda said, breaking the silence that Phlox’s entrance had brought with it. “Oh yes the claw! The most prized item in my collection.” Phlox said cheerfully, staring up at the suspended limb. “Was an awful pain to transport when I moved to Tachbrook however.” “I didn’t know crabs grew to that size…” said Soil as he brought a spoonful of soup to his lips. He found the collection of herbs provided a sweet flavour that was most agreeable, yet the boiling heat scalded his tongue. Soil did his best to conceal his discomfort, he glanced across at Monarda. Who was giggling at him quietly, and purposefully blew on her spoon before placing it in her mouth. “It’s not a crab Soil! That is the claw of a mighty Argapod!” Phlox bellowed, before taking a tiny mouthful of steamy soup. “They’re a race of intelligent crustaceans that live just off shore of the Muskove mainland. Incredible beings.” “Did you kill this one?” Soil asked. Phlox laughed in response to Soils question. “No, no, I can’t even begin to pretend that I did. I don’t have the strength or the means to take one of these beings down. I came across the claw at an auction many years ago. A very rare find, taking into account that Argapods are notoriously hard to kill. Some even consider them to be gods.” Soil looked down at his spoon thoughtfully, before blowing on it and sipped at the sweet pea soup. “Anyway Soil, Tell me what it’s like living in the Eyre woodland!” Phlox continued. “Have you never been in for yourself?” “Never had the chance if I’m honest. Much of my work consists of travelling between Tachbrook and Larton city. So I don’t get much free time to go exploring. What’s it like?” “It’s a very beautiful place, full of amazing flowers, trees and wild life. You could never get bored with the colours they display. Truly wonderful.” Soil smiled, as he thought of his woodland home. “Monarda, which of the flowers is it that you wanted to see. The ones that your brother mentioned. I can take you there at some point if you want? No one knows the forest like I do!” The mood of the room instantly plummeted and Monarda’s face went a ghostly white. Soil sat staring at her, with a large grin plastered on his face. However he shifted his gaze between Phlox and Monarda as the silence began to draw out. Soil’s smile slowly receded, he wondered what it was that he had said… Phlox delicately placed his silver spoon flat onto the table. The faint sound of the cutlery being rested on the wood rang out clearly in the complete silence of the room. He said in a low voice, his stare fixed directly on the table, “Monarda. We’ve spoken about this.” “Phlox please, I didn’t-” “When are you going to give it up Monarda! When are you going to grow up and get a hold of yourself!” “Can we do this later?” Monarda hissed through gritted teeth and shifting eyes. “Let’s not argue in front of our guest.” “No we shall! Otherwise our guest is going to think that I’m just unreasonable and don’t want you to go, out of spite.” Phlox snapped back hastily, remaining firmly upright in his chair. “Which we know isn’t the case, is it.” Monarda looked down sheepishly at her lap. “No.” She whispered sadly. “So please, stop chasing silly dreams and focus on what’s important for once!” Phlox’s stare was fixated his partner. Soil, didn’t know where to look at or even what to do with himself. He stared at his bowl of green soup. Hoping, wishing for some excuse or reason that would justify him to leave the table. However none sprung to his inconveniently vacant mind. So Soil continued to sit, silently. He sipped at the broth and prayed that Monarda and Phlox would hurry up and do the same. In order for him to make an early escape from the tense, awkward atmosphere he now found himself in. The rest of the lunch time meal was carried out in a bitter silence. The couples heated exchange had sucked the previously enjoyable atmosphere from the dining room. Instead it was replaced with a heavy, uncomfortable one. That squashed mere seconds to feel like minutes and minutes into hours. Soil’s heart leapt with joy as Monarda finally took her last mouthful, after what felt like a lifetime of waiting. She tenderly placed the small silver spoon beside her bowl. Soil was eager for someone at the table to say something, anything! Until he realised it was up to him, the neutral party, to shatter the quiet that hung around them. […]
Tachbrook “We are not like animals. We have a higher consciousness that can think, and place us, beyond nature’s laws. It’s up to us as people to act on this and ensure we make the right conscious choices to help all of that which we find around us.” – Soil speaking to his old brother. The walk back to Monarda’s village was a short one. Soil knew the forest well, and was able to navigate with ease. Despite the lack of a coherent pathway. The bitter edge of the morning was melting away as the sun stretched into the sky, pouring it’s warmth onto the land below. Morning frost, that had decorated tree bark and saplings, faded away into droplets of morning dew. Soil’s eyes widened as they came to the edge of Eyre forest. The tree’s came to a stop, and the tough forest floor faded into soft emerald grassland. He had known the whereabouts of the settlement for sometime, but rarely visited. For when he was younger, he had almost convinced himself that the forest didn’t have an end, and simply extended indefinitely, encompassing all far reaches of the globe. But finding the village broke that idea. The forest brought him comfort and a sense of security, and finding an end to that, finding there was more beyond the trees, brought with it a feeling of doubt and worry. Soil paused and turned his attention to a tall naked tree that stood to his left. Jumping up, he hauled himself through the array of wooden arms that stretched out the towering trunk. The woodling positioned himself high in the tree top. He looked out at Tachbrook, that sat humbly a short distance away. The green meadow encompassed the collection of quaint houses that made up the village, and surrounding that further still was the edge of the Eyre woodland. Framing Tachbrook in a circle, as if it were an elegant painting. It was a quiet place. The common folk that resided there, much like Soil, kept themselves to themselves and liked to remain in a degree of separation from the rest of the wider world. “Are you coming?” Soil looked down to see Monarda waiting patiently at the base of the tree. “Yes! I’ll be down in a second.” He took one last glance of the view before making his descent. Within seconds the woodling landed firmly on the ground, after making his way through the branches with little effort. “That’s some impressive climbing skills you’ve got there,” Monarda smiled. “When you’ve lived in the forest as long as I have, it’s just something you pick up.” “I don’t know how much use it’ll be here.” Monarda replied, before walking into the soft grass of the meadow. Soil watched her as she glided through the shallow sea of green. Mesermised as her hair glimmered in the late morning sunlight. He followed a short distance behind her, gliding his fingertips across the meadow top as he went. It’s wasn’t long until they had come to the edge of Tachbrook, the stretch of grass came to an abrupt end, as it met with a wooden fence. Which ran around the entire edge of the humble village. To their right, a perimeter had been erected in part of the meadow that housed a collection of fluffy white sheep. The flock bounded over to a long steel trough, which a middle age man poured a large bag of oats. He looked up to wipe the sweat from his brow, and cheerily waved at the pair as they walked past, entering through the northern village gate. Each of the village buildings were made up by wattle and daub, with strong timber providing the frame work. Many of the homes were cramped tightly beside one another. However still providing enough space for yard, the boundaries of which were depicted by a skeletal wooden fence, to accompany each house. Soil watched with curious eyes as men and women exited their homesteads, clothed in thick woolly tunics, tending to mundane tasks that routine called for them to do. Each home bustled with all the vibrant signs of everyday life. A slight sense of unrest gripped him, for he had never witnessed so many people at one time before. However his nerves were eased as Monarda turned and smiled at him. He continued to follow Monarda down a rough dirt pathway that weaved through the multitude of buildings. Whilst on there way, a particular home caught his attention. It stood alone and was unlike that of the other cheery households that surrounded him. The wooden framework was a cloudy grey, and the buildings daub coating had begun to peel away, revealing a strewn mess of rotten branches that had been laid beneath. The yard was a mess, overgrown weeds and nettles stretched up from the ground and seeped through the garden fence. The buildings most striking feature however was the large amount of mysterious wooden symbols, hung on the buildings exterior by pieces of black ribbon, like medals on a soldiers uniform. The amount of hangings draped upon the home was so numerous that it’s deteriorating framework was almost completely covered. The only part of the building that wasn’t covered, was a single door that stood at the front of the house, which had been painted black and scrawled over in strange archaic writing. A thousand questions instantly appeared in Soil’s curious mind. He turned to Monarda, but before a word had left his lips another voice called out to them. “Monarda!” Soil held his tongue and watched as a dark skinned man jogged calmly down the pathway towards them. He enveloped Monarda in his arms and planted a kiss upon her forehead. “I’m so glad to see you’re okay!” The man exclaimed, “Don’t run off like that, you had me worried halve to death!” “I’m sorry.” Monarda replied, looking down at the pathway beneath her feet. “It’s fine Monarda,” The man hugged her tightly once again, “Just think about your actions a little next time, and the effects they may have on those you love.” The man planted a final tender kiss upon her pale forehead, before he noticed Soil standing idly behind her. “Who’s this?” The man asked cheerily. Monarda turned round and introduced the pair to one another, “Phlox, this is Soil, he helped me find my way back through the woods, and Soil, this is my partner, Phlox.” Phlox was quite the contrast to the frail and gentle complexion of Monarda. His skin was dark cocoa in tone and his body boasted lean muscles. He had his hair closely shaved. Except for a row of black dreadlocks, adorned with purple beads, that ran down the centre of his head. Flowing freely onto his shoulders. “Thank you so much for escorting her back safely.” Phlox extended an open hand out towards Soil, who was unaware of the cultural context of a handshake and instead bowed slightly, keeping his back perfectly straight as he did so. “You’re welcome.” Phlox smiled, and withdrew his hand before saying, “May I offer you some food as a sign of gratitude?” Monarda’s face beamed with delight, “That’s a great idea!” She turned round quickly to Soil. “Oh, I wouldn’t want to hassle you.” Soil replied quietly. “Please I insist,” Phlox insisted with a welcoming smile. “Monarda, could you offer the invitation to your mother and brother also?” “Yes of course, Although I don’t know why you keep inviting my brother. He’s never going to come.”Monarda grumped. “There’s no harm in asking is there?” “I suppose not.” “Okay, Lunch will be ready within an hour! Don’t be late!” Phlox announced mirthfully, “See you there Soil.” He planted a final kiss upon Monarda’s brow before turning to leave. “Come on you,” Monarda said to Soil, “Let’s go see my mother and brother!” Soil smiled at her, following the frail woman quietly once more. The pair cut through the centre of the village, passing by an expansive hall building. Three large sliding panels made up one side of the barn like structure, all of which had been slid open. Soil had a quick peek into the inside to see a collection of men and women, working tirelessly. Each of the workers used a multitude of tools and equipment to shape wood that had been harvested from the Eyre forest. With extreme care and skill the different pieces were being fixed together to construct an assortment of furniture and other fine goods. “This is the hall of the Timber Smiths.” Monarda said, after noticing Soil’s keen intrigue, “It’s more or less a giant workshop. They collect timber from the forest. Then fashion it into different items that we export to Larton, which is a large trading city that is situated several miles east of here. Apparently Tachbrook is renown for it’s excellent wood craft, however when you’ve grown up with it I suppose you just take it for granted.” “It’s fascinating,” Soil replied as he continued to gaze into the large hall, “I’ve done some wood crafting of my own, but nothing like this.” “My brother is a trainee timber smith, you can ask him about it when you meet him.” Monarda turned to continue on their way, and Soil quickly followed. “Are there any other towns? Like Tachbrook and Larton?” The woodling asked innocently. Monarda laughed lightly to herself, “Of course, there are more than two towns in the world. I myself only know of a few however, and my only experiences of them are through traveller tales.” “What are the other places? And what are they like?” Monarda gently rubbed her chin as she tried to recall stories she had heard, “Well, there’s the Otto highland towns, that lay to the west of the us: Fort Kun, Bamoral and Orkoats. I’ve heard their folk are quite gruff, and that Orkoats makes good whiskey! There’s also Ottarr, that lies at the base of the Silkurn hills in the south. Oh! And Ullar which is some sort of fishing town I think?” Soil listened attentively, but quickly found himself lost in wonder.“The world is so much larger than I first thought…” He said quietly. “It’s even larger than that!” Monarda continued, “Land stretches far beyond the world that I know! For example, there are great deserts deep in the east, that make up the Akaian sea! But I’m afraid I have little knowledge of the world that far away.” […]
The Crimson Tree “Still the mind. Inhale peace. Let go of worries. Exhale stress. Notice the breath. Connect to all. Embrace the calm.” The world can appear to be endless. Without boundaries, or borders. One can stand upon the dunes of the earth and watch rolling hills ascend to ever reaching horizons and beyond. Stretching far beyond comprehension and often our own imaginations. Especially those of us who seek shelter in the familiar. A cloaked and hooded figure walked idly through his forest homeland. He knew little of the world beyond his realm of trees and earth. He walked tirelessly, without purpose, reason or intent. Trekking across the hard earth of the woodland floor in search of nothing, just as he had done many times before. But just because you are not searching for any in particular, it does not mean the world is not searching for you. As often we find ourselves in explicable situations and circumstances, as reason and purpose seed their way into our lives. The cloaked figure continued his aimless, barefooted walk. Silky morning sunlight seeped through the cracks of bare tree branches that spanned above him. The figure’s calm breath condensed in the cold winter air and vapour bellowed out from the darkness under his thatched hood. The figure pulled the hood down, allowing the cool air to envelop his face. The young man closed both his bottle green eyes as he drew a long deep breath, listening to the soothing sound of a shallow brook that ran nearby. Fresh air seep into his lungs, before it was exhaled once more, condensing into a thick fog of vapour. The birds who had braved the winter months sang their proud songs from the trees above, the cloaked man stood in silence, listening. He had heard their songs before, and was familiar with the symphony of the woodland in which he resided. However a new sound caught his attention, a cry that was out of harmony with the forest song that sang around him. The sound of sorrow, the sound of someone weeping. He turned on his feet, following the notes of sadness that glided through the air. He quickly found himself beside a shallow brook that cut through a small clearing within the forest. Across from him, standing on the other side of the brooks gentle embankment, was a small tree. Which stood no taller than that of an average man. It was unlike it’s tall and mighty brethren, who stood proud and bare throughout the forest, the sapling had retained it’s leaves through all of winters spite, which were bright red in colour. Sitting beneath the tree’s arching branches, was a young woman who’s head was buried in a pair of soft pale hands. The cloaked man stood in silence, observing the stranger from afar. He had encountered people before, however it was however an uncommon occurrence. The young man was accustom to a singular existence of isolation. Yet the good nature of his soul urged him to call out to the girl. “Are you alright?” The girl took her head from the cover of her hands. Her heart cramped in fear as she looked across at the cloaked stranger, who stood still on the embankment opposite. The youth was hidden beneath his thatched cloak, that had been woven from plant life and wood harvested from the floor of the forest. It flowed out from his neck, and came to an end softly at his knees, completely shrouding his shoulders, arms and torso. “It’s okay, I’m not here to harm you.” The stranger continued, as he made his way down a steady incline into the crystal clear waters of the small brook. The icy water brought with it a bitter chill as he carefully made his way across the shallow stream. “My name is Soil.” The stranger said calmly, “I am of these woods. I only wish to help.” The girl watched as the woodland man slowly walked towards her, a spring like smile adorned his face. He sat down on the frosty floor once he had reached the crimson tree, leaving a meter or so between them, and folded both his feet so them rested upon each thigh. “Why is it that you’re crying?” Soil asked. The young woman sniffed a couple times, wiping her numb, running nose with a purple handkerchief. Whilst at the same time trying to swallow a sad lump that swelled within her throat. “My partner and I, We’ve just had a silly argument is all.” She replied hoarsely, wiping cool tears from her pale cheeks. “I hope it was nothing serious.” “It was over nothing important.” Soil smiled at the young woman before saying, “The course of true love is not always a smooth and gentle one. But it’s rewards are worth the effort we invest in it.” His words struck a chord in the girls young heart, and an involuntary, yet welcome smile bloomed upon her face. She turned to Soil, “My name’s Monarda and thank you for your concern. It’s a rare trait to find these days.” “You’re welcome.” Soil replied, before turning his attention back to the endless canvas of trees that spread out around them. “So you say that you live in the Eyre forest?” Monarda asked as a new found curiosity took a hold of her. “The Eyre forest?” Monarda raised an eyebrow, bemused. “Yes, The Eyre forest. This forest.” She cast one of her hand in front of her as she spoke, encompassing the tall bare trees that surrounded them.. “I didn’t realise this forest had a name!” Soil replied in excitement. “Eyre forest… I like it!” The pair laughed for a moment before Soil continued. “But yes, I’ve lived out here on my own for many years.” “Don’t you have any family?” “I had a brother, but he’s gone now.” Monarda’s cheery look melted away, “I’m sorry.” To her surprise Soil turn to her with a glowing smile. “Don’t be,” He said, “He’s one with this realm now. I see him every morning when the sun shines and I hear him in every bird song.” Monarda’s heart was warmed by Soil’s undying optimism, a trait that she found was uncommon among most people. “So where are you from?” Soil continued, “My guess is that you’re from that settlement that lays south from here?” “That’s correct!” Monarda replied, brushing her long, cream blonde hair behind her left ear, “It’s called Tachbrook by the way. Have you been there before?” “No I haven’t, But I have met with several travelers who say they came from there.” “It’s a quaint place,” Monarda said softly, as she looked up to the milky morning sky above. “Oh my, I’ve been here too long!” She suddenly exclaimed, climbing up onto her feet and brushing the dusty earth off her winter jacket. She was a very tall and slender woman, standing at 6ft. Rich blonde hair gracefully flowed from her head down to her lower back. She was clothed in a thick winter jacket, deep blue in colour that covered from her shoulders to her knees and round its collar was thick white fur. Black woollen stockings kept her the biting cold from her legs and both feet were encased in tough hide boots. “I’ll escort you back if you like?” said Soil, as he also stood up. Monarda towered above him, as the young man only stood at a modest 5ft 6. “I’d appreciate that.” Monarda replied, as she awkwardly looked around, “For.. I’m not sure if I’ve got myself lost or not…” Soil laughed and pointed with an outstretched, “This way, would be a good start.” The two of them set off together, to retrace Monarda’s early morning footsteps. Leaving the solitary red tree to stand on it’s own one more, by the calm brook waters.