One of the Fallen

Spring in Woodland is breathtaking. It evokes thoughts of Eden in its paradise. The trees are a golden green color and the smell of blossoms fills the air with a heady perfume, intoxicating, and enlivening. Cool, snow fed streams, burst through the shady glades singing a counterpoint to the trilling of thousands of birds. When Terrasylvans far from home think on their Woodland realm they remember it in spring.

It is a terrible time for a funeral. The gentle white sunlight and bursts of flowers everywhere seem so irreverent for such solemnity. When all the world is full of new life, facing the death of a Terrasylvan is especially hard.

It came so suddenly. The attack. The new recruit was on patrol with a few other, more seasoned, members of the Order of the Rose. They were near the border of Woodland closest to the Village of Canton. It was the safest patrol route. One moment the troop were all talking and laughing, simply enjoying the beautiful weather, then in the next, out of the sky fell a rain of arrows like a violent spring storm. Thick and black they poured down like cutting rain, rain  full of death. The trees overhead diverted many of the plummeting shafts, Sylvanus must have been watching that day, but there were so many arrows no one came away unscathed.

The officer in charge called for a retreat just as another volley came crashing through the perforated canopy. For a moment chaos ruled but the well trained Company gathered the wounded and fled into the protecting embrace of the trees before a third volley could wreak any more havoc. They ran for what seemed like an hour chafing every step of the way that they couldn’t turn and fight.

When they were at last sure of having lost their attackers they stopped to assess the damage. The new recruit was dead. The poor soul had been barely breathing when the officer had hoisted them over a shoulder and began the mad dash through the trees. The intrepid soldier had slipped away silently in during their flight. By the time the halt was called the cold and stiffness of death was already setting in. Considering the circumstances it was a miracle there had only been one casualty.

After bandaging and resting for a moment, the remaining Sylvans lashed together a sling for the body out of bedrolls and spears. Hardly a fitting litter for one so brave. They made their weary way back to the village near the heart of Woodland. As they came beneath the branches of the ancient oak, heart of the Woodland realm, the grieving troop stopped to pluck a single silvery leaf from Sylvans’ tree. With the tear inducing tenderness only soldiers understand, they placed the leaf in the sword hand of their fallen comrade. With this done they moved silently on.

Coming to the Order Garrison the silent and grieving troop laid their venerable burden upon the courtyard flagstones. A crowd gathered to pay respects. Quiet reports were made and a more heavily armed troop began to organize in the background while surgeons, spouses and friends attended the wounded.

The Terrasylvans exacted a swift revenge on the attackers and returned for a midnight watch to honor their fallen friend. The body was laid out beneath the altar in the small chapel on the far side of the village. Torches were lit and quiet mournful songs in the old tongue were sung so softly they seemed to whisper through the trees like the wind sighing. With hushed voices and quiet, slow movements the band of adventures stayed awake through the night tending the fires and each other in subdued vigil for the dead.

At dawn when all the inhabitants of the secluded paradise had gathered, a grave was dug in the soft earth of an open glade not far from the little chapel where the service was held. A glade too full of little white limestone markers. Those that knew the fallen best carried the body wrapped in clean linen to its final resting place. They moved slowly between two lines of Swordsmen whose swords were drawn but not held high in an arch of celebration. Rather the ranks of the Order held their swords by the blade, point down, quillons facing the fallen like a cross. There were no smiles, no cheers. Even the birds seemed to still their trilling in respect.

Spring in Woodland is a terrible time for a funeral.

As the final spade of rich dirt filled the grave these final words were spoken, “Here lies one of the Fallen, for the Glory of the Rose.”