Later, after a very fussy Dyn Hysbys shooed everyone out for ‘the benefit of the patient,’ Shay sat propped up by half a dozen pillows and in the company of her daughter’s favorite doll. Kane had surreptitiously left the mangled key on the little table by Shay’s bed earlier as he left. Shay held it now, turning it over and over in the moonlight.
In her heart she didn’t believe Nevin Westmont to be a bad man. She had come to know him a little while he’d been chained to the millstone in her bakery, and more so chained with him at the pond. She now thought of him as a good man who had done bad things, terrible things. She wondered why.
However, her loyalty was to Terrasylvae, the Order, and her own family. As she thought on this she realized it was time to take the manacle off. She was not bound to Westmont, and the decision regarding his future was out of her hands. In a sense she had already borne witness in any trial he might have to Kane and the other leaders who had listened behind the curtain. She slipped the key into the locking mechanism, turned it and with a little ‘snick’ it opened. She placed both the manacle and the key on the table and examined her wrist.
From out of the dark came a voice, powerful, yet quiet. A voice she had heard only once before when she first arrived in Woodland, “I wondered how long that would take you.”
“Sylvanus?” Shay asked in a reverent whisper.
Sylvanus was the most powerful Woodland guardian. He kept all the Woodland guardians in balance with one another, and guarded Terrasylvae as a whole. He watched over his people and helped when it was imperative to the future of Woodland, though generally he preferred to allow them to dictate their own destinies. Shay was completely awed that Sylvanus would come to visit her. She felt quiet, humble, and grateful. She sat silently waiting for Sylvanus to speak his mind.
“Why did you hesitate to remove the iron cuff, Little Shayen?” The Wyvern asked, gliding gently into the moonlight at the foot of Shay’s bed.
Shay had never see this guardian of Woodland, though she felt as if she knew him. She was awed by his presence for he was beautiful and powerful. Shay felt totally at peace with him near.
“I know where my loyalty lies, Sylvanus, but I merely wondered if Nevin Westmont is more like us than we think. That is why I hesitated.” She softly answered. Sylvanus seemed to invite her to continue, so she spoke her mind freely, but respectfully. “He has been our enemy, he has hurt our friends. He has done terrible things in Blackkoven’s service, but I think every life has value. We believe in Honor where none is found. I think there is a modicum of Honor in Nevin Westmont.”
“Would you speak for him then, Little Shayen?” Sylvanus gently asked.
“Despite what has happened to me personally, I have no ill will towards him. I have said all there is to say for, or against him. Except,” Shay paused, “ I do not wish to see him hang.”
“What would you have happen?” Sylvanus pressed.
Shay thought for a moment, “If it were possible, I’d see him join us, here, in Terrasylvae. But I don’t think that is a viable option.”
Sylvanus shifted in the moonlight, and the room glittered with the reflection off his coppery brown scales. He reminded Shay of the rocks, and hills, and of the mountains surrounding Woodland.
“Why?” he asked, “Captain Westmont wishes to leave Blackkoven’s service. I listened as Kane and the others talked with him. He is sorry for all he has done. Could he not change and be one with us?” He posed to Shay.
“Maybe, but not now. He has done so much, too much, I think. Perhaps if he lived a whole life striving to right all his wrongs, then maybe he would be comfortable here, in this life with us.” Shay quietly responded. “But knowing him, the little that I do, I don’t think he would be comfortable here, yet.”
“How could he do that, Little Shayen? Live a whole lifetime, then live this life after? You mortals don’t last so long.” Sylvanus kindly stated.
“I don’t know Sylvanus. He has taken many innocent lives. To right that wrong, he must give his life. But not by dying, I think. That is too easy. But by living, better, and in the service of others. If he does that, he might be able to right his wrongs, to some degree, and perhaps forgive himself. If he did that it would show the heart of a Terrasylvan. I think.” Shay paused for a moment looking beyond Sylvanus out into the night.
She continued, “I’m not a judge Sylvanus, I don’t think we are here to stop people from taking the Swordsman Oath. We are here to help them, so they can choose when they’re ready to take it for themselves. But I think he would tell you himself that he isn’t ready. I also think he would tell you that he wants to try.”
Shay felt that she may have said too much for Sylvanus did not respond for a long time. She was concerned she might have misunderstood a great deal.
“Well, little Shayen, we guardians agree with you. It is to be a ‘life for a life.’ And it is already done. Vann Oru has taken Nevin Westmont, and set him on that very path. You may see no more of him until the very end. Time will tell. ”
Shay bowed her head in understanding and respect. “Thank you, Sylvanus.” She simply said.
Sylvanus, shifted in the moonlight once more sending light cascading around the room. He seemed to shrink in size considerably, but the rightness that accompanied him also made Shay believe that he was always the size he needed to be, and that it was her perception of him that had changed.
Softly he came to rest on Shay’s injured wrist, gently wrapping his spearheaded tail around her arm. He fluttered there for a moment then lay his head on the inside of her forearm stretched out towards the middle, with his wings fanned open but laying to one side. In profile he looked a little like an archer’s arm guard.
Shay was overcome with the beauty of the experience and she held as still as she could. The feel of his scales was at once hot, and cold. Shay’s whole arm tingled at his touch. The buzzing feeling moved throughout the rest of her, she became very tired, and totally relaxed.
“Sleep now little Shayen. Save all your thoughts for another day. All is well. Sleep.” Sylvanus spoke in a gentle voice, like a father tucking in a weary child.
Shay obeyed willingly curling into the pillows, with her other arm wrapped around her daughter’s favorite doll. She was dreaming of spring roses, and fairy lights on the water before Sylvanus let go her wrist. When he finally did the skin beneath was healed, and all the bruising gone. Behind was left a thin silvery scar that curled around her wrist ending in an arrowhead at one end and the tiniest profile of a dragon’s head, and wings at the other.
In the morning the key, manacle, and Nevin Westmont were all gone. But the Mark of Sylvanus remained with Shay forever.