‘He’s going to say no, you know that right?’
Oak pulled his mind from the darkness and back into the now. He shot a sidelong glance at Varn and grunted, hoping that would be a good enough answer to what ever it was he said.
‘Oak, you do know he is going to refuse, right?’ he asked again.
‘I know Varn.’ Whispered Oak. Straightening the emerald breastplate so it sat more comfortably across his chest and altering the sword sheathed to his hip.
‘Then why go?’
Oak looked at his oldest friend dead in the eye, they had grown up together, learned to climb and fight together, trained together and fought side by side more times than either of them could count. But in that one moment the words coming out of his mouth were so stupid Oak had to physically stop himself from punching him in the mouth.
‘Because I’m going, no matter what he says.’ Oak sighed as the anger passed. ‘I just want to tell him why before I’m labeled an exile.’
‘Oak,’ said a voice down the carved corridor. A monk stood with his hood raised and tattooed face smiling at them both. ‘If you still wish to speak…’
‘I do brother.’ He said with a respectful nod of the head.
‘Then proceed. He is waiting.’ With those words the monk smiled, bowed, and left.
It felt strange, knowing what was about to happen, what he was about to say and do…He’d made his mind up weeks ago, when the first signs of spring had first touched the forest, now the trees were thick with summer leaves and the days were starting to grow short. He knew he would have to go soon, and had cemented in his mind that he would explain why to Him before abandoning his people in search of a myth. When he imagined this moment only days ago Oak thought he would feel empowered, or determined.
But he only felt like he had for the last year…
‘Well,’ Varn said awkwardly, he never was one for goodbyes. ‘I guess this is it.’
Oak turned to him and offered a smile, which obviously wasn’t very convincing. Shaking at the forearms the two warriors stood a moment, thinking back over the years they had spent together. ‘Is there nothing I can say to make you change your mind Oak?’
‘Goodbye Varn.’ Oak let go and walked down the corridor where the monk had been, trying not to think about how Varn felt, nearly three decades of friendship ended by two words…He had to do this, he had to.
Pushing open a set of carved doors sunlight nearly blinded Oak, birdsong immediately filled his ears and the smell of the forest tickled his nostrils. The Glade had been a sacred place for over a millennium, for obvious reasons, but Oak always felt that even without the presence of the Green One that it still would have been incredibly beautiful. The whole thing was so thick with trees of every imaginable species that it was hard to see thirty feet in front of you, but from the balcony of the temple tree where Oak stood you could see over the canopy to where the sheer white cliff face rose above everything. Shining in the sunlight like a crystal in a cave, the great waterfall falling from its peak without ever ceasing. Feeding the great lake that Oak knew rested at the foot of the white cliff.
‘Beautiful is it not.’ His great voice resonated to Oak. It’s bass and timbre like nothing else in this world.
‘It is,’ Oak replied to the air as a gust of wind rattled the leaves around him. Such informality would have seen others punished, but Oak carried a sacred name that he had earned through a lifetime of war…plus he thought the Green One liked him.
‘You want to talk.’ The voice boomed again, it’s presence in his mind giving him the familiar feeling of inferiority.
‘Then come. You know where to find me.’
Walking through the Glade was an experience unto itself, to see every species of flower known to man coating the floor and all in full bloom, watching birds sing together and dance on the gentle breeze. A few minutes into his walk Oak heard a snuffle beside him in the undergrowth. Suddenly two wolf pups shot from beneath a thicket of brambles, rolling and playing with one another who were quickly followed by a fawn, who jumped and played with the wolf pups as if it was a pup itself. This was the strangest of the Green One’s effects on the Glade, predator and prey living side by side. He had once told Oak that there was no death in the Glade accept the changing of seasons, whether it was true or not the slim warrior wasn’t sure, but seeing wolf play with deer and hawk sit with songbird was very disconcerting.
It took him close to twenty minutes to reach the lake, a mirror flat expanse of crystal clear water that despite being so clean still somehow managed to reflect the sky above. The only thing that broke its surface was an archipelago of large boulders close to the center, which had sat there for so long two of the larger stones had trees growing from them. Oak stood at the edge of the water and took a moment to admire the scenery, the waterfall crashing down from the white cliff far off to his right, the sound of the thundering water barely as loud as a mosquito’s drone. Everything about this place emanated peace and tranquility.
It felt like home.
For several moments Oak didn’t realize he was being watched. But across the lake, stood proud of a large hill close to the bank, a white stag stared at him. Oak couldn’t see it; no mortal being could, for no one can see a soul.
But he felt its hard white eyes on him, scanning, evaluating, judging.
They were eyes that had seen a million-million humans in its lifetime…but none quite like him.
‘You look different this day Blademaster.’ His voice rumbled in Oak’s mind. Shaking him to his core.
Oak bowed. ‘I feel different, my lord.’
‘It is strange. I have seen your civilization grow from nothing to the kingdoms it is today,’ as He spoke Oak felt the ground shake beneath his leather boots. The hillside where the stag had stood a moment ago began to crack and move as trees were uprooted and soil was disturbed. ‘But in all my life one thing has never changed,’ emerald scales glistened in the sunlight, a huge clawed hand broke free from the earth, a long thin body unwound, and a great antlered head turned and looked at Oak.
With eyes the colour of fire. ‘The look of a widowed husband.’ Silvanus rumbled.
Oak had been given the highest honour during his life, to be able to see two of the Elemental Creators, when fighting with the sailors of the Great Water he been allowed an audience with their elemental, Lir. Seeing her was an honour…
But somehow He was different.
Silvanus, the Green One, Keeper of the Forest and protector of nature.
Through the millennia humans had called them many names, and Silvanus had admitted he had so many he couldn’t remember what he was originally named, but to Oak one fit best above all others…Dragons.
Unraveling his slim body Silvanus shook the last clumps of dirt from his scales, but still he couldn’t shift the tress that had grown between the great row of spines along his back, or the odd species of moss that had grown off his lower jawline like a beard over the centuries. With predatory grace Silvanus slipped into the lake, not even a ripple disturbing its surface as he swam across to Oak, only his stag like antlers breaking the surface of the water.
Lifting from the out like a cobra prepared to strike Oak felt the familiar sense of vulnerability he always did when meeting the forest dragon, at his full six foot tall the Blademaster was just an ant to this dragon. Barely tall enough to reach his knee. ‘Oak.’ His voice spoke as it always did, with no movement from his mouth, it just…was, no sound other than deep growls and roars ever escaped those prison bars of razor sharp teeth.
‘My lord,’ he said with another bow.
Scarlet eyes scanned him intently. ‘You are not yourself Blademaster, your spirit is dim and quiet.’ It was a statement more than anything else, and there was no point denying it.
‘I have not been myself for many months, it is why I am here.’
‘I know why you are here,’ Silvanus hammered into his mind, as Oak nearly sank to his knees in pain a pair of song thrushes landed on the Green One’s left antler and began to sing. ‘I have seen loss in your people many times before Oak, I have counseled Blademaster’s of ancient times on how to deal with grief, they always come seeking words…you are here for something different.’
Again, there was no point in lying. ‘I am, lord.’
Silvanus lowered his upper-body slowly, finishing so his teeth were only a foot away from Oak’s nose, crimson eyes still staring. ‘Tell me, what do you seek.’
‘Every element has a creator, you created nature, your sister the oceans, Baldur created fire, Kulana the wind and air, Tamagan the metal in the earth,’
‘Then who created time?’ Oak asked meeting his lords burning eyes.
The roar that followed was near deafening, roasting hot air bathed Oak from head to toe and he could feel the fire that glowed deep in the heart of the dragon. But he didn’t back down. He just planted his feet and pushed against it. He had to do this. ‘You wish to leave your kingdom to chase a legend!’ Silvanus yelled, still roaring.
Snapping his jaws shut with a powerful crack Silvanus turned away, shaking the birds of their perch momanterily before they settled back down. ‘Tell me why?’ he asked, almost…gently.
‘Because I can’t stare at the whole she left in my life anymore and live with it, I can’t climb into a bed on my own again, I can’t see her clothes in my home without her in them…I am empty Silvanus, I died with her that day. I want her back.’
A red eye looked at Oak, lowering so they were face to face. ‘I cannot save Scylla any more than you can Oak, but I can still save you from yourself, she is dead, you do not have to follow her.’
Oak laughed at that. ‘I followed her my hole life my lord.’
Silence. It stretched between them for a very long time and Oak made sure not to break eye contact with the dragon that stared down at him as snakes wound around his massive onyx claws.
‘There are something’s even we do not speak of; the Great Ones are one such thing.’ Said Silvanus, his voice a distant whisper in the well of Oak’s mind. ‘Find the ice that touches the sky.’ Silvanus turned and began to swim back across the lake, his voice returning to its powerful boom. ‘Go Oak, your title of Blademaster will be passed to another and your people will strike your name from the annals of the forest. You are exiled.’
Oak smiled, he had to do this. ‘My lord.’ Turning and leaving Oak wrapped a hand around his sword handle, his steps full of newfound energy.
Across the lake Silvanus watched him go, the white stag at his side, with unspoken orders the stag walked across the water, following in the Blademaster's footsteps.