This is a mistake. I know it as soon as I set foot in the place.
It’s beautiful in its way, I suppose. Grey-gold rolling hills; trees still green even in this biting cold. A clear powder-blue sky with the green-and-pink ring of dusk on the horizon. But it’s not where I need to be.
I kneel down and put my hand on the soil. It’s ice-cold. In an hour or two it’ll be covered in frost.
I spread my fingers, pushing aside the tall, dry grass. Absently, I notice it is grass, not dead stalks — every blade still pointed even as it cracks under my fingers.
Between the blades, there’s another kind of leaf: a spiky-eared rosette trying to prick my fingertips. It, too, is dry and dead. At its centre, a silver flower sits.
I pluck it, and on impulse put it in my mouth.
Spiky. The taste is nothing but old straw. I bite down, feeling prickles dig into my gums and tongue. Taste sweet nectar, like the soft essence of honey. This flower has died useless and alone.
The leaves are lying face-down in the courtyard, stem-tails up in the air like dabbling ducks. They’re not dabbling; just flopped ungainly down in their red-and-orange pyjamas, making leaf-angels in the wet concrete before it’s time for garden bed.
“I’m not sleepy yet!”
“Look at me, I’m a starfish!”
“I’m a starfish. You’re obviously a rose!”
When the wind picks up they’re boisterous, chasing each other around the courtyard and running up and down the roof — pitter-patter, pitter-patter — on their little twig feet. They know they aren’t allowed up there.
On wetter days they jump into puddles and make mud-pies next to the pavement, getting their bright new pyjamas all grubby.
“Who’s going to wash your clothes now?” the old maple grumbles.
But the little leaves just laugh and dive into the next bit of water. “See, we’re all clean now! Look, all clean and shiny!”
And they are, too, until they run through the gravel to cross the street.
They really do get everywhere — up and down cliffs, in and out of the river — getting caught in brambles and underfoot. Always rushing, always laughing; and laughing all the more when the unexpected happens.
The oaks and apples grumble with the maple at the folly of the young leaves, but there are smiles in their hearts. They know in the end the leaves will settle down and snuggle into the earth. Let the wind and the rain gently put them to bed.
Then the trees can finally turn in themselves for a long, restful winter, before the leaves wake up again next year. Hungry, busy, looking for branches to perch on and light to sip. Rested and calm and ready for a long year.
The ship was safe and snug, on solid ground With cosy chocks along the keel and bow. A wrap of scaffolding and gantries ’round And city power running up and down.
The engine block is in. She’s heavy now Her gears and bearings tested, true, and round. The paint on every inch of her is proud. Pull out the chocks, and let the fog-horns sound!
It’s inches, but a mountain thunders free. A blue mug on the slip-way — dust — debris! The mass that moves, no human hand can stay. The breakers waiting, break, and turn away Under a keel sharp as Eternity And might on might, the vessel meets the sea.
You could not be contained in any maze. You only had to raise your hard right hand And lay it flat upon the dungeon wall To trace a path, inexorable as Fate. That distant giantess may cut the thread; You fed the present goblins to your sword.
They sung, in taverns, of a magic sword Long lost, within a grim enchanted maze. Rumours of rumours, but you traced the thread To take a map from cold and wrinkled hand: A cloakèd man, who met a grisly fate Waiting for heroes, by a tavern wall.
The Adventurer, Issue 25, Year 3 of the Rose Belle Stetsara
Is it time to re-think healing magic?
Healing: the curing of wounds by divine magic. It’s as ubiquitous as adventurers.
Wherever delvers are active, wherever there are monsters to slay, bandits to stop, or changes to make where the idle hand of the law cannot or will not reach, there are adventurers. And wherever they go, the priesthood is quick to follow.
Who hasn’t stumbled, wounded and bleeding, into the hasty A-frame of a frontier wooden shrine, and walked out hale and whole? Who hasn’t dropped a coin into the party resurrection jar; a donation for the marble halls of the Great Temple of the Green Heart in Towerburg, if the worst should happen? One way or another, we all owe our lives to the work of healers.
Lo! In the stream-bed sun-scales glinting.
Grimy, the greed-seeds set eyes aglow.
Iron-eyed, starving gold-gorged engines
From the valley view a virgin peak.
Pink sky arcs over a pale-grassed meadow
Hollow cloth-houses hug the fires,
Billys of tea-dregs. Men talk of patience
Mine the grey eyes of an old mountain.
Bright-cheeked but earth-blind new chums eager
Fell for the hill-side — suckers! Hooked in,
Dug through a dead-end. Treasure lay deeper.
Shout 'cross the bar for a digger's dream!
Rings 'round the moon by near midwinter.
Water, glass-solid stops the wheels.
From freezing gold-holes boot-betrayed feet
Leave to her snow-clothes cold Kiandra.
The Elves were proud when conquering They came across the sea So long of life! So fair of limb! They laughed so merrily When they called us less than living, Brief and brainless, born to die Just the fodder for the fire In a brighter Elvish eye.
The Goblins came in columns, cast Of shot and brass and steam And their shake-you-break-you engines Left us dust and smithereens, Each a number less than living Brief and brainless, born to die: The bloody hands and broken To the Minds that Artify.
But the dawn comes all-a-sudden, And a sword in every hand And we’ll scalpel out the stubborn Make them zombies where they stand! Leave them truly less than living Brief and brainless, born to die To fertilise the poppy fields The rosemary and rye.