Sorry for the delay, been a busy day! Here is the next short story for 2018 – Saerwen’s Burden! This short is based on the image below. The image is created by FlyingPengu, also known as Snowy15708, see their other work here. I highly encourage you to check it out!
I want to give special thanks to the patrons who’ve supported me thus far:
Hypermice, Sean Young, and Mister Artorias
Now, please enjoy the story and let me know what you think! Check back next Monday for another free story.
The forest was alight with color, flowers in full blossom from reds and yellows to violets and blue. The canopy above moved and flowed with the gentle breeze. The shifting leaves caused the sun’s rays to dance across the forest floor. Birds chirped in joyful tunes, fluttering from branch to branch in play. Squirrels ran along the floor, tails rustling bushes as they scavenged for a variety of nuts. Insects buzzed and hopped among the tall, skinny trees. Few clouds floated by, giving a clear view of a bright, azure sky.
Saerwen trudged along the thin animal path snaking its way through the forest. She kept her head lowered, green eyes staring at the ground beneath her feet. The dress she wore seemed heavy on her shoulders; its loose fabric felt like it clung to her skin, pale skin, holding a hint of red from the day’s travels. She kept her thin, elegant fingers constantly wrapped around the leather strap going around her shoulder and across her chest. The bag the strap held gently bounced against her back, its presence a constant reminder.
She paused in her movement, looking down the sloping path. At the end of the path which led into a curve waited a thin yellow wisp of air shifting through the air. “I’m coming, my love,” she whispered and resumed her pace.
Turning along the path, she was given a glimpse through the trees to a lake beyond the ridge where she stood. The lake glistened in the sunlight, a dozen deer along the bank with well over a hundred ducks swimming along its surface. She felt her eyes glisten at the beauty, but the bounce of the bag brought her back to reality, her head drooping once more.
The curve of the path led her into a darker part of the forest, the trees growing thicker and more bunched together. The canopy overhead blocked out much of the sun’s rays. The smell of morning dew was thick in the air, the water dripping from leaves untouched by the light.
She took slow, calculating steps, her eyes focusing on every spot across the floor, the thick bed of fallen leaves hiding any obstructions from view. The slowed pace caused Saerwen’s heart to race, her eyes looking for the yellow wisp in the air.
Quickening her pace, the uneven ground caused her to stumble several times as she kept descending deeper into the forest. Mushrooms sticking out from the ground glowed green, helping guide her along the path that was growing more difficult to find.
A gasp escaped Saerwen as her foot hit something solid. She extended one hand out, not daring to let go of the leather strap. The impact against her hand did not slow her descent as she found herself face first in the dirt and dead leaves.
“I’m sorry, my love…” Saerwen moaned in pain. Looking up slowly, relief washed through her at the glimpse of the yellow wisp in the distance. A smile crossed her lips as she forced herself to her feet. Rubbing her scraped hand and brushing off the dirt, she walked after the wisp. “Always patient for me and my clumsy self.” A tear slipped down her cheek, “Maybe, if I weren’t so clumsy, you would still be here…” She trailed off, looking away from the distant wisp.
A warmth caught her attention as she saw the wisp weave around her before fluttering along the trail. “I know, I shouldn’t think such things. It’s just so hard.” Saerwen sighed and started walking again.
Another tear crept along her cheek before she wiped it away. “Not much further, I’m sure of it,” she muttered to herself, shifting the bag along her back. The path weaved back and forth through clumps of trees, mushrooms, and boulders. Thin streams snaked in various directions with no rhyme or reason, colorful weeds and fungus growing along the banks. She stepped lightly over it all, leaving nearly no trace in the dirt and mud she walked on. A shiver ran through her from the chill that filled this part of the forest.
A small crease formed along her lips as Saerwen noticed a light at the end of the darkness and the path ascending once more. The crease quickly left her normally blank face when she noticed the path weaving through more of the maze-like forest. “I understand why they say this journey should never be taken lightly.” She said, leaning against a nearby boulder to catch her breath. “Such a heavy burden every elf who has walked this path must carry. It pains me to think the years ahead of me without you, my love.” Saerwen caught sight of the yellow wisp shifting among a bundle of ferns. “It’s a necessary burden though, for you.” She brushed some of her brown hair back behind her long ears. She spotted a glint of blue in the direction the wisp was dancing towards. “The lake… maybe I’m closer than I thought.”
With light shining along her path, Saerwen hurried. Deer tracks lined the path, guiding her along. Her feet moved swiftly; energy renewed within her. Her grip on the leather strap tightened as Saerwen felt the reminding bounce of the bag against her back.
The forest opened in an instant of bright light. Saerwen shielded her eyes, letting them grow adjusted. Stretching beyond her vision was the giant lake. Several deer remained, their eyes shifting to her, snouts sniffing the air. Seeing no threat from her, the deer returned to their drinking and slow grazing. Ducks flapped about, and she spotted several cranes flying down to land in the water with their long legs. Walking along the grassy bank, Saerwen noticed more wildlife in the form of small lizards and turtles roaming the water or swimming across its surface.
“Surely it’s here.” She asked, looking across the water’s edge for the yellow wisp. Further down the bank, Saerwen spotted it continuing to float. “I suppose not.” She walked briskly, giving fleeting glances to the cool water and various bushes growing along the water with bright red barriers. She squeezed her stomach slightly as it grumbled, trying to force the thought away. “Just a bit longer.”
She trailed the yellow wisp back into a line of trees and underbrush. A thin river ran to her left, feeding into the lake behind her. Past the trees, she could see a large hill rising above the surrounding forest. Several massive trees, dwarfing over all others, grew along the top of the hill. A shower of white petals blew off the giant trees to fill the sky, the breeze sending the petals to distant lands.
Following the snaking river towards the hill, there she saw the small cave entrance. Hesitating at the river’s edge, her eyes studied the yellow wisp fluttering along the entrance before entering. “This must be it… the center of the forest.”
Stepping lightly along the stones embedded in the flowing river she made her way towards the cave. At the entrance Saerwen paused, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness before continuing.
Her free hand stretched out to a wall, fingers tracing the uneven stone surface. The wisp glowed in the darkness, helping lead her. As she went deeper, yellow crystals lined the walls, ceiling, and floor. Her eyes glistened at the beauty of the lights.
Coming to the back of the cave, Saerwen smiled at the clear pond waiting for her. She lowered the bag to the floor and knelt. Her smile brightened at the sight of the yellow wisp dancing along the water’s edge. “You’re ready my love, I know. You wish to finally see the beyond land promised to us all.” Saerwen brought the bag into her lap and undid the straps. “I hope you can understand that I will miss you dearly.” She reached into the bag to pull out the small golden jewel.
Turning the jewel in the palm of her hand, she then lowered it into the water, watching the wisp meld into it. The jewel sunk into the water before dissipating out of view. “That’s it then.” Tears streamed down her face.
“This lonely pain really is heavy, but it’s my burden now.” She wiped the tears away, her smile still bright, “I won’t ever forget all of our happy times together… when we first met in that rose garden to the times high up in the sky atop soaring gryphons. Knowing that one day I’ll finally be able to rejoin you in that peaceful land brings comfort to my soul. For now, though… it’s a burden I must carry until the end.”