The four gathered around the fire for a meal and Willow kept mainly silent, still trying to process all that Judah had shared with her on their walk around the lake. She had so many questions that circled through her mind, but she was unable to put them into words. She looked over the group: Poppy, the Teller of Tales and the Keeper of Truth who was in danger for reasons that Willow had yet to ascertain; Judah, the keeper of the Legend and the Advisor to the the Keeper of Truth and the Defender of Truth; and Galeal, the quiet but ever-present dwarf who had an understanding of much but spoke of little. And then there was Willow herself. She was not yet sure what she thought about her role in this journey or this destiny. And what of her mother?
Her mind continued to turn over question after question and she found that she wanted to draw away from the others, the others that she had yearned for only hours before she now wished to be apart from so that she could read through her mother’s journal and read through Poppy’s book, Beyond the Legend. She wondered what she would find there now that she had heard all of these things about the lore of the land and the part that she was supposed to play in it all. She looked about at the far side of the lake and up to the mountains, scanning all that surrounded her and wondering if there were eyes watching her in the darkness. As if sensing her apprehension, Judah spoke.
“There will be no need to worry tonight,” he said. “This night will be a night of rest for we are protected here. There will be no visits of angels of darkness to this place, young Willow, of that you can be assured.”
Willow spoke not, only nodded.
“Galeal has many with him to watch over all of us this night,” Judah told her.
Willow looked to Galeal who only nodded.
“Why do you put yourself in such danger for me?” Willow asked Galeal.
There was only silence among them except for the popping of the fire until at last Galeal spoke at some length.
My people have long been oppressed by many in the land. We have been perceived as wrong-doers and as a blight upon the land and yet all of this without cause. All of this only as the result of the angels of darkness who have sparked doubt and fear among the creatures of the land, aligning us upon the bottom tier as though we are but dross to be tossed away. Because of this we have trained to become warriors in our own right, wielders of swords and defenders of those who defend others. We have awaited the One so that we might assist her in her journey, though she travel alone.
Though you travel alone, young Willow, we are but a breath away so that we can provide as safe a passage as possible to the place of the throne and the inner space of the light that you seek to restore to the realm. We have awaited this journey and your destiny to restore not only the Ruler but us, to our rightful place among the creatures and people of the lands. And so, I do not see it as danger, young Warrior. I see it as honor and great privilege.
Willow stared at him for several moments as her mind processed his words and she came to understand the lies that had lived in the villages and in the stories of the Elders as truth and as history and that were not. They were but a shadow of the truth and she was ashamed to know that she had been afraid of Galeal and that she had wrongly disliked his presence simply because he was a dwarf.
“I owe you an apology,” Willow told him. “I have been so very wrong in my thoughts and my attitude about you and your people and I pray you can forgive me my ignorance, dear Galeal.”
Their eyes met and she saw that there was a glimmering of wetness around them and so she looked away until he spoke her name.
“Young Willow, you have done me no harm. I forgive you though there is nothing to forgive. I forgive you because you need to hear the words that I do, but you have done nothing more than believe the stories that were told to you as a young girl. That is why young Poppy is so very different and so very important. The words that she shares and the stories she holds and that she will tell will provide truth where before there was none.”
“Still, I thank you for your forgiveness and for your service. You do me an incredible honor. Please, tell your people that I am indebted to them for their protection.”
“Indeed, I will,” Galeal told her and bowed his head.
“If you all would excuse me,” Willow said, “I would like to sequester myself with my mother’s words and with Poppy’s book so that I might discover the understanding that I have missed up to this point.”
“As you wish,” Judah said. “Galeal will set up a small torch in the cave just off to the right so that you can read as you wish.”
Galeal rose from the group and headed into the cave where Willow would spend the night with all the materials she would need to read and to sleep. She was pretty sure she saw him carry a couple of small packets of food for her as well and she smiled to herself that he had come to know how much she enjoyed food just in the the past few days’ time.
“Poppy, you are welcome to join me, I hope you know that,” Willow said. “As long as you don’t mind my reading for many more hours tonight or perhaps rambling on with nonsense in my sleep.”
“I would have it no other way,” said Poppy. “Nor do I believe that I need an invitation to join my best friend on this night of coming back together.”
“Indeed not,” Willow said and the two hugged. “I will see you in time for sleep then.”
(Day 13 word count: 1061 for a total of 23,649/50,000)