The air is rich and sweet here, and oh, how I’ve missed it. This land, this glen, it has a way of tethering to the heart and holding strong no matter the distance such a heart wanders, forever pulling until it returns. Thick moss carpets the ground, turning even the most jagged stone into something smooth and soft. Slender white trees poke through the ground, growing tall and bending towards each other. They tangle their branches into intertwined fingers, holding each other like lovers.
My hands are empty, but a phantom touch still haunts them.
A narrow stream tumbles through my path, splitting in the presence of a small mossy boulder and winding onwards; searching, curious, and ever moving no matter how it must split to do so. My feet are heavy, sinking into the spongy ground. How light they used to be.
Throaty cries fill the air, black feathers and gleaming eyes and the settling rustle of crows landing around me. They remember me, recognize me, even after everything. The light touch of talons grip my shoulder as one lands beside my ear. I don’t have to look to know it’s Shella, already preening my hair and tucking it away from my face.
After all this time.
I never stopped thinking about them. This place.
My hands open and close, like a gasping fish caught on land. I’m not sure what to do with them anymore.
I’m thinking about what I have seen; but then again, when am I not. Stone and fire, steel and destruction, ice and marble. Heavy mists, ripped sails, blinding light. Sea monsters. Mad men. Countless hands outstretched.
I’d taken those hands. One by one. The calluses they gave me still remain. Some even stayed, followed me, stood at my side. I think pieces of me stayed in their palms.
I think of all the villains I’ve fought, and the one who died in my arms. Of how my blood screamed in rage, and yet I set it aside and told the dying man of soft moss and sweet air, for his doom had already been set and I’d had full enough of the poison that choked me and consumed him.
I sit on a covered log, half swallowed by the ground. I touch the moss that creeps over rotting wood. There was once a time I’d enjoyed the feel of it beneath my fingertips. I still feel the sensation, but my mind only thinks of the howling wind in a red-stone canyon far, far away.
I have come home ruined, hoping to find an echo of myself I seem to have left behind. Black feathered heads tilt to the side, watching me through watery black eyes. I hear their occasional caws, but they are mixed with shouts and windstorms and a voice screaming my name.
Some wounds don’t have a magic cure. Most, in fact. I’ve really only seen a magic cure twice in my life, the cost of which was steep. There are no shortcuts, not even in fantastical things.
Some griefs you must sit with until they ease from the stomach, the gut, the chest. But they cannot always be this way. Like lead on my heart. Like the sky on my shoulders.
Patience. Say the crows. The time will come.
Shella nips my ear to be sure I hear her. Every time has its place.
I cannot settle, but I start to. My fingers jump from moss to clothes to crumbling wood. My heart tries to remember how to not skip over beats. My eyes are burning from the strain of the horizon, but they do not protest long when I close them.
I am home.
The air is sweet, and thick moss carpets the ground; it has a way of crawling over everything given enough time, taking even the most jagged of souls and softening their edges.