Spring was approaching. Earth was not frozen anymore and the air was getting milder and milder. Very well. No more trudging through snow, no more breaking ice in the river to get some water, no more frost paralysing life in all the places, no more chill hurting lungs while breathing. I hated winter. Druids have been teaching us that each season of the year was blessed and each was bringing gifts of its own kind but still I hated winter and could not wait for spring to come. It was not just that the Nature was renewing, it was a change in the atmosphere, in energy, in aura and even in characters. People were getting more serene and behaved better towards one another.
‘We are running out of coriander’, Orthus interrupted my pondering. ‘We will have to wait for the new plants to grow.’
Orthus was the chief druid in our community and a sage respected in all the villages nearby. We were sorting herbs in preparation for the spring, with his position Orthus did not have to do that but he volunteered for that task himself. ‘It calms me down’, he said and we did not object.
The door opened suddenly and Daile entered like a storm. That’s how she usually got into the room, pressing the door handle abruptly and running like the wind.
‘The villagers called a monster hunter’, she exclaimed. ‘He’s in the inn now!’
Orthus and I looked at each other without a word. A couple of weeks ago inhabitants asked the druids for help when the third person disappeared from the village. ‘It must be a monster!’, they muttered. Druids checked the tracks carefully in the forest but found nothing suspicious. Whoever was kidnapping people from the village…if anyone was kidnapping them at all…was neither an animal nor a monster. Apparently, mayor and his people did not believe us.
‘Daile, perhaps you can find us more coriander?’, Orthus said aloud but our young disciple was still excited.
‘They say he’s one of those famous warriors whose deeds are narrated in the chants’, she kept talking and talking. ‘Oh, I would like to see him, he must be handsome!’
‘Go search for coriander, please’, Orthus repeated and Daile had no choice but to follow his orders.
‘Ailintho, I want you to go and check this man’, the chief druid said when we were left alone. ‘It’s not a monster but something IS happening in the forest and I don’t like it. I don’t want that warrior to come here and sniff around, we may end up with the King’s people and the army invading our territories.’
‘Understood’, I nodded and put herbs back. ‘In this case I will go immediately.’
‘Ailintho!’, he shouted when I was opening the door. ‘Be careful in the forest!’
‘Of course, Master’, I smiled. ‘I always am.’
Indeed, I knew forest as if it was my own house. I have lived here with the druids for so long that I didn’t even remember my life before I had got here. I was an orphan and druids adopted me when I was five years old. They and the forest were the only family that I had.
He was close, I could already sense him without going into a state of trance or deep meditation. Thanks to my telepathic skills I immediately tracked the place where the stranger was and ran there immediately. I found him surrounded by the wolf pack and I laughed quietly. He was not as good as Daile claimed. I asked the wolves to go away as it was a matter between two humans, they did and I put the entangling spell on the man. After he was tangled up, I approached him.
He did not look like one of those rich warriors striding around the lands of the kingdom. In fact he seemed rather poor although his gear was first class, I was not familiar with various types of weapons, but his looked mighty. His clothes were not expensive but rather comfortable. But in one things Daile was right, even in such an embarrassing situation for a warrior, he did look handsome. He was tall and slim, had straight short black hair under his helm, pale skin and dark eyes staring at me angrily as if they were burning coals.
‘Thank you for your help, milady’, he spoke first. His voice was low but melodic. ‘Now you can release me, I’m not here to hurt you.’
‘I know’, I answered without confusion. ‘What I am trying to determine is WHY you are here. Alone in the winter forest endangered by the wolf pack…this is not the place for you.’
‘I have my own issues to resolve’, apparently he did not want to speak.
‘Then the druids and I will be glad to help you, that’s what our duty is, to help people. All you have to do is to come to our community and tell us what the problem is. ‘
‘It’s my business and you have nothing to do with that!’, he said angrily trying to free himself from my entanglement spell. I sighed. Why were all the warriors arrogant jerks?
‘Sir, let me put things clear’, I got impatient. ‘You are here immobilised by my spell. If I wish, I can go away and leave you like this, cold, hungry and endangered by the forest animals. Sure, you can break this spell yourself’, I added quickly, feeling that this is what he could be thinking about. ‘But it will take time and energy and you don’t have much of them. So what’s your decision? Will you come to the druids with me or not?’
He sent me an angry look but nodded his head. I stretched my hand and released him from my magic, he straightened his stiff legs and I had to admit they were really nice, long and finely toned, that much I could guess from the shapes hidden in the trousers.
‘We may be searching for the answer to the same puzzle’, I said looking him straight in the eyes. ‘Now walk before me and don’t try any magical tricks to escape, the forest is my ally and will not let you pass without my permission.’
He bowed his head before me ironically and said
‘May I know your name, Lady of the Forest?’
‘Ailintho. Ailintho Kernal, member of the Druid Council’
‘Nice to meet you, Ailintho’, his pretty, full lips were still crooked in an ironic smile. ‘I am Wanlorn, a free warrior and I don’t belong to any councils.’
Now I got angry. I looked at him with disregard and said,
‘I can guess why. Now go!’
He turned round his back on me and went slowly ahead. ‘God and Goddess, please give me patience to arrogant warriors!’, I prayed silently and followed him still being cautious. You can never trust warriors.