Monday, November 29, 2010

[RP] The Tree, Part II

Woof, has it been a long week. NaNo is drawing to a close and I’ve got about 2600 words to go (Verdus beat me after all, fistshake!). That means I’ve got enough time between breaks to post more of the fuckery that is The Tree.

Poor Libby.

The first time she saw the little red fox, Libby was gathering herbs in the Feralas lowlands. Her basket was full of flatleaf parsley and wild thyme for their weekend roast, a tradition not unlike the countless other traditions that stemmed from the exhaustive workings of her compulsive mind. Today’s roast was venison, which was one of the few variations permitted on this particular day of the week.

A flash of color at the corner of her eye got her attention, and she turned her head to get a better look, prepared to defend herself and her little basket of woven grasses.

Instead of the odd winged serpent she expected to find was a small bushy fox with sleepy yellow eyes. It barked at her, then hopped into the row of sedge lining the slope above. Libby smiled to herself and made a note to avoid that particular tangle of undergrowth, lest she disturb the fox or the kits she imagined the creature might be guarding.

As the weeks went on, however, the fox began to appear more frequently, often watching her from a distance as she went about her daily chores on the inland. She began to think of the beast as a sign of good luck; she often found (or thought she found) the most succulent greens and potent herbs near the places her fox appeared.

One evening in the late fall, when most of the leaves had gone yellow and shaken themselves loose from a good portion of the forest foliage, she addressed the little fox directly.

“Soon it will be winter, and we will see each other very little. Will I see you in the spring?”

The fox looked at her with its sleepy yellow eyes and blinked slowly.

An idea had begun to form in Libby’s head over the last several days, and since it appeared the creature would not be spooked by the sound of her voice, she gathered up a little nervous, self-conscious courage from somewhere deep down inside herself and said, “Little fox, have you brought me a message from the Earthmother?”

Once the suspicion was no longer rattling inside her head but spelled out on the air in a puff of iced breath, she winced at her own stupidity. Of course the Earthmother hadn’t come to her in the shape of a fox, that was only wishful thinking and would get her nowhere.

Unbelievably, the sleepy-eyed fox grinned at her.

As it turned tail and darted into the brush, Libby felt an almost frantic impulse to follow. Only the thought of being late to start dinner kept her--barely--from dropping her basket and launching herself into the brush, taking the fluid form of a plains cat.

It is said in some draenic sects, in stories of the Creation, that all possible worlds revolve in tandem on an infinite plane. Such tales suggest that in these infinite worlds, all possible outcomes can and do occur, making subtle changes to the future events of those worlds. Perhaps on one of those separate, but parallel worlds, Libby did not close her eyes and wait until she could no longer hear the sound of the fox as it barreled through the bush.

Or perhaps, on yet another plane, one of infinite Libbies chose to keep her eyes open and saw the little fox shimmer and morph as it hit an unexpected pocket of warm air trapped under the fallen leaves. That Libby might have discovered the guise of an errant felhound and returned home in a hurry, determined to safeguard her home and family. That Libby might have remained safe.

Alas, the trap of ‘what-if’ is broad and empty. Even if such worlds exist, it is beyond our ability to return to the past and undo what has been done. And so Libby opened her eyes as the sounds of the fox’s retreat faded away, wonder and fervent hope wild in her heart, and made her way home to the cliffs of Feralas.

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