Shay looked around the bakery. It was bustling with help from the Village. She’d called in the three people who were useful in a kitchen to help with today’s load. There were also two craftsmen working on finish work at the front part of the building where the fire had done the most damage. Terrasylvans came to the window leaving with fresh bread, and there was a pleasant hustle happening in the Village beyond.
Miren sat in one corner of the bakery helping Shay’s children with sums. She had learned her numbers sailing with her father along the Irish coast. She could do math Shay had never heard of, do it very well, and very fast. That was one of the many things Shay loved about Miren, and she was grateful not to have to teach the kids sums. Though she had a pact with her that if Miren ever married and had kids Shay would teach all the reading and writing. Shay felt she had the better end of the deal.
Looking around everything was so right, it felt good. Shay felt that sometimes a person belonged in a place and no matter how far they went from it, they never really left. With that in mind she left the kitchen helpers to clean up and returned to the blank page before her. She dusted a little flour from it and put quill to parchment.
“I had been gone from Woodland and the Order eight long years before I returned. I ran from one place to the next. Hardly staying long enough to know the name of wherever I passed through. Never long enough to give my name to those I met. I worked my way between plates of food and traveled with nothing except the clothes on my back and the boots on my feet. There was a glorious anonymity in my wandering. I felt free, and any time the loneliness began to creep in I got up and ran.”
“I learned much in my travels, including how to make bread that people want to eat. I paid for much of my wandering by working in the bakeries of Europe.”
Shay smiled at the thought of Southern France and its many varieties of delightful bread.
“When I came to Greece I ran flat-out into the chest of man nearly a foot taller than I am. He stopped to help me to my feet even though he was running too. Running for his life. Those that chased him felt he knew too much. I disagreed with them using a rapier I slipped from the belt of a merchant bodyguard standing among the crowd. When the tall man thanked me he asked for my name. It was the first I had spoken it since I left Woodland.”
Shay smiled again, there had been many words that passed between them. The sweetness of which the world would never know. She felt somethings shouldn’t be written down. She mouthed his name to herself, cherishing it.
“We married a short while later. I took a rock from the garden of the church as we left. I’m not a sentimental person, I’m not sure why I bent to retrieve it, but from that day on I carried it with me everywhere we went. And we went many places. Who ever was chasing him, was now chasing us. We ran together.”
“After a year our first was born. A boy, long and lean like his father. The boy learned to walk quickly, and then to run. Two more years passed and we were blessed with a girl, beautiful and curly-haired. Thankfully she traveled well.”
Shay looked at her lovely children cuddled up with Miren much older now but not so old they couldn’t give out hugs. They were content. That made her happy. But she remembered a darker time when she was worried for their safety. She returned to the script.
“I found that no matter how clever I was or how stealthy we moved, somehow the Greek demons chasing us would catch up. I fought with them many times with the stolen rapier. But no matter how many I dispatched, more seemed to follow. I knew that at some point they would catch me unaware, I couldn’t stay awake forever and I couldn’t look in every direction all at once.”
“I told my dear husband of Woodland and the Order of the Rose. I told him why I had left, but that I thought it was time to go back. He agreed. We decided it was time to head for England. I had some reservations about returning to the Order, I wondered if they would take me back.”
“The Greek demons chased us all the way. We crossed the Channel barely a day ahead of them. Landing at Gooseneck Point we paid the boat captain to say we put off any place else. Then we made a mad dash to Woodland hoping to lose our trackers among the trees.”
“As we neared the ruins of the ancient castle near to the Heart of Woodland something stirred within me, causing me to stand still. It was a feeling I’d hadn’t experienced since that night at Ellesbeth’s Cairn. I felt like someone dear to me was calling my name. I felt it in my soul, like music.”
“I breathed in the scent of the trees. I felt the canopy filtered sunlight playing across my skin. I could hear the flow of water and the sounds of all the wild things that live in the hidden depths of the forest. The air tasted of blossoms and honey.”
“I closed my eyes as I tilted my face towards the sky. Gentle tears slid down my cheeks dripping softly to the ground. In all the world I had seen nothing so lovely as Woodland in the spring. I sank to my knees in the soft wild grass. I placed my palms firmly on the ground in front of me. I needed to feel the earth of Woodland. I needed to know it was real. And it was real. It felt like a healing balm on my soul.”
Shay took a moment to recall that feeling. There really was no place so lovely as Woodland in the spring.
“My family needed to rest so I secreted them in a small cave that I had long ago used for Salt storage. It was near the stream that led to the ancient ruins of the castle near the heart of Woodland. Remarkably my fathers old salt merchant case was still there. It badly needed care.”
“I proceeded to the castle expecting to find a look out to take me on to the Village. Instead I found Captain Damian regaling members of the Order of the Rose with stories from years gone by. I recognized a few faces but most were unfamiliar to me. I froze not knowing what to expect. When Damian noted my presence he opened his arms wide to me.”
“I was nervous about what he would say to me but I shouldn’t have been. ‘Here is one of our own, who has been gone a while. Welcome home Shayen!’ He exclaimed.”
“I was introduced to the assembly, Ja’ika, Tilly, Ul’vade and a young Lieutenant recently returned from New France in the Americas named Kane Driscol. There were others too. I was immediately accepted without any question or accusation by all who were there. I joined in the conversation and felt it familiar. It was as though the eight years of my absence were nothing at all.”
“As I took my leave to go and fetch my family, Damian excused himself from the others to walk with me. He informed me of our losses over the years. The comings and goings of many of our friends. I told him of my husband and children. He chided me for not asking for permission to marry. He loudly, but with good humor, lamented the lost opportunity to celebrate my wedding with the traditional sword arch. I begged his pardon, and then his help. I told him of our difficulties and he assured me the Order would defend one of their own. I thanked him.”
“I brought my family to the Village, and with the help of old friends and new ones we built a house and bakery.”
Shay paused to help make up a large basket of bread that was needed at the garrison. Then returned to the page trying to decide how to end this little history.
“When the time was right, I made the trip to Ellesbeth Cairn and retrieved the things I had left there the night I began running. I expected them to be wasted and gone but when I uncovered the rocks, my rapier was whole and undamaged. Not even a spot of rust could be seen. My tabard was just as I had left it, folded with the rose facing up, no moth or mold had touched it. It was as though I had just set them down a moment ago. But the scabbard and belt showed all eight years of my absence. They were waterlogged and decaying, damaged beyond repair.”
“As I pondered on the state of my possessions, a warm and sighing wind blew at my back, wrapping around me, almost like an embrace. A quiet calm settled over me. A peaceful feeling that while the future was unclear, that all was right now. There was no more need to run. I knew then for sure that I was home.”
“I took the rock I had carried since our wedding day from my pouch and gently placed it among the stones of Ellesbeth’s cairn. Laying my grief down with it. The small smooth rock stood out bright white and shining, like only the rocks of Greece can, against the dark gray rocks of England. I was home and whole.”
“As I stood the wind swirled around me once more almost like it was asking me a question, ‘What do you seek now, Shayen Locke?’ It seemed to ask.”
“I looked down for a moment, my sword and tabard in my hands. I looked into the wind and replied, ‘I seek to rejoin the Order of the Rose.’ The wind replied not in words but with a feeling.”
“I came to understand that sometimes you belong in a place, and no matter how far you go from it you never really leave. I had run as hard, as fast, and as far as I could, but my mind and heart were always in Woodland, always with the Order of the Rose. In that sense I had never really left.”
Shay closed her eyes for a moment while the ink dried. She positioned her hand as though holding her rapier. She breathed in the divine smell of fresh bread. She listened to the laughter of her children, and in her mind tasted the sweetness of life. She belonged in Terrasylvae. She relaxed her hand and opened her eyes. She rose quietly to her feet, closed the book, and set it next to the window for later when Lorcan was sure to stop by for a loaf of bread.