The acrid smell of the ‘smokers’ stung loric’s eyes and he rolled onto his side to cover his head with his lightly tanned arm. This position was soon ruined also, as an errant beam of early morning sunlight stole under the shade on the window and hit him in the corner of his left eye. Soon the battle of boy versus nature was over and Loric groaned as he gave up and sat up.
He watched the dancing motes of dust pirouette in and out of the beam of golden light for a few moments and then moved to the window through which it came.
Loric never ceased to be moved by the sight of his village in the Trees. The web-like network of vines that linked his home to the surrounding trees, the home of his uncle down that one, that of his sister Silsia at the base of the other (she was an unmarried female and was considered somewhat a rouge by the other villagers, except Loric who worshipped the ground she walked on even if it was in fact ground and not the vines he had been born to.
There was a natural depression of the land between here and the village of Greensward, with the lake shimmering in the exact center like a jewel of surpassing beauty, in fact the only gem Loric had ever seen was the blue polished stone that his uncle wore in his headband, as a sign that the Spirit of the Wood had chosen him to lead. He was a demanding taskmaster and not taken to change but fair to all, and his leadership had gotten the people through several hard winters when the ice-ladened vines had snapped and fallen upon the ‘Downlanders’ below.
The mention of the Spirit of the Wood reminded Loric of his morning prayer. His was a simple one and not really a rhyme to be proud of but his Grandfather had assured him that as time went on he would achieve better rapport with the spirit and the Hearth-song would reveal itself more clearly.
Making a simple hand gesture of acknowledgement to the rising sun, he sang to the Spirit of the Wood:
“Spirit of the Wood,
Spirit of the Wood,
I’d come be with you,
If I could.”
This done Loric took a step outside to see where his Grandfather was this morning. Loric’s father Dernhelm had been one of the ‘Downlanders that has perished in the winter and since that time Loric had lived with his Grandfather, whom everyone in the village called Oldsir. Loric’s awe for his older sister was only over-shadowed by that for his Grandfather, who though blind for nearly all of Loric’s two years and twelve still negotiated the vines connecting the upward village with the ease some never developed. Several of the younger men who were jealous of his seat on the arboreal council urged him to join his wife and family on the ground but he always said “If I go below again it’ll be on my head!”
“That’s a strong oath for a young man to take,” commented a voice from above him. “Shall I swear witness to it, Loric?”
“Oldsir I was talking to myself, and besides, I have yet to take the Shreaving, and I can swear no oaths before then.”
“It is only three more nights till the Moon shows itself full upon the land, I think perhaps you are ready to try.”
Loric was surprised, it had been only a cycle earlier that he had begged Oldsir to allow him to accompany the young men to the ground where the Rite of Shreaving began. He looked closely at his grandfather, somehow sensing the weariness and pain that sometimes took his Grandfather and shook him for nights in a row. Oldsir turned tired, sightless eyes upon Loric and in a flash of inspiration Loric saw what it was that his Grandfather was fatigued from. His eyes bore the tale-tell spider-tracing of a Vision. The Spirit of the Wood had spoken to Oldsir, or perhaps through him during the night. No one alive in his village had ever had two visions from the Spirit. This meant that something of extreme import to the village was about to occur.
Oldsir’s eyes showed Loric something else equally disturbing. They revealed to Loric that his Grandfather was dying.
The days between that moment and the day of Sheaving were filled with a combination of early congratulations from the villagers, getting his garb fitted for him by his sister, and quiet reflective evenings as his Grandfather taught him the oral histories, and shared with him the knowledge of dreams and visions that The Spirit gave him.
Loric feared that Oldsir would not live through the days of Shreaving to see if he became a man. But his Grandfather seemed at peace and showed no outward sign that his time of death had been revealed to him. He seemed to convey a quiet dignity that Loric tried in vain to accept. He felt like shouting and fighting but there was nothing but shadows for him to vent his anger on.
“Why?” He said finally, unable to keep his fear to himself, “It’s not fair!”
“Is it fair that you were born to my son and not to another, that the rain falls on the Windbourne mountains and leaves the Plains of Woe a place where only djervishes can walk?”