Morwen's Grove

Even from the top of the hill the grove looked somehow more vital than the landscape around it.  The trees were taller, had thicker branches and more leaves; the grass at the edges, well away from the tree roots, was greener and more varied; the small shrubs that filled in the undergrowth, fighting with the trees for water and nutrients were larger and healthier.  There was an occasional flash of light as Mirko descended the hill, so he thought that there was probably water within the grove as well.  As he walked he reached out with his druid-trained senses, trying to find a reason for the health of the grove.

Up near the top of the hill he could feel nothing except a vague presence, nothing more than he'd expect from any other grove or copse.  He glanced up at the sky; clouds were starting to come in from the south-east and were grey with the promise of rain.  The sun was low, with probably only an hour of good light left at best.  He carried on, thinking to shelter in the grove if the rain should start.

Deciding to carry on to the grove instead of returning to the druids and telling them of the release of magic that he'd seen had been a hard choice.  Even now, a nagging voice in the back of his mind kept worrying that he'd done the wrong thing.  What would it matter that you've reconsecrated a grove, he thought, if it turns out that what's been released has killed all the druids?  It was a ridiculous thought, he had no reason at all to think that the magic had anything to do with him, or the druids, or anyone anywhere near Kinedrink.  And if it did, he had to remind himself, it would have happened before he could get back.  Unable to completely convince himself that he was right, he'd pushed on to the grove, to make a difference where he could, and worry about the consequences later.

As he reached the half-way point downslope the hillside flattened a little and suddenly the grove seemed to resolve itself in his druidic senses.  Instead of being a nebulous green cloud of life and strength it became a solid sphere, faintly luminescent, pulsing like a living creature.  He halted, reaching outwards with his mind, brushing the edges of the sphere with exaggerated caution, ready to flinch back and away from it at the slightest provocation.  The sphere quiesced, allowing him to perceive its smoothness and integrity.  Without a doubt, this grove had been shaped by people in the past, and the harmony of life within it was being maintained still.  This had to be Morwen's grove.

Gently, he dipped beneath the surface of the sphere, his mind pushing through a tenuous membrane like a swimmer diving beneath the surface of a calm lake.  For a moment he was filled with a rush of noise and motion, and then it subsided and a warmth spread through his body, starting in his chest and pushing outwards into his head and limbs.  He mentally shook his head, clearing his thought, and pushed his mind out again, looking around.

Beneath the sphere was another shape, a snub octahedron, many faceted and sparkling turquoise.  Tiny transparent droplets formed at the vertices, growing and trembling until surface tension could hold them no longer, and then they streamed across the faces of the solid like tears from an imprisoned immortal.  Mirko halted his quest instantly, mentally staring at this new shape, wondering what it meant.  Something else, something perhaps not human, had also shaped this grove, and although the sensory image was beautiful, that did not preclude it being deadly.

He dropped out of his druid-trance, releasing his hold on the world of sense-images, and shivered.  His back ached and his legs were stiff and tense; above him now the sky was occluded with cloud and a cold wind was making gusting, buffeting him gently.  He bent, easing his back and knees, and exhaled, wondering what would happen if he tried to reconsecrate the grove without knowing what the new shape was, and stood up again.  And found three wolves stood facing him, their teeth bared, snarling.

The End

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