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CH 4 | The Fragile Heart (Part 3)

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  1. The snow had been falling for a few hours now, falling slowly and gently. Darrah looked up at the sky, seeing the tones of grey clouds and the spot of brightness marking the sun’s position in the day. The Autumn Equinox was near its end, but the great battle that had ended only those few hours ago changed the Great Forest. Rulership changed from Samhradh to Geamhradh and all the Forest Gods had come to listen. None would watch as it was forbidden, the conflict between the Oak and Holly King a private and sacred ritual. Though the seasons were always meant to change and the rule of the forest to change as well, it did not mean that it was a peaceful transition.

    And now Geamhradh had defeated his twin, as he had always done on this day for millennia, and his Winter Court now ruled the Great Forest.

    The Crow Lord stood just inside the treeline, the only one truly left after hearing the sounds of battle in the heart of the forest. He waited a few minutes more before entering the heart of the forest, having observed the snowfall until he deemed it safe to do so. Snow blanketed the ground in pristine white, glistening like many millions of tiny crystals. There was only one being in the clearing now, resting on one knee and Darrah knew that he was still recovering from the fight. Layered robes of gold-embroidered black and red were stained with golden blood and it trailed in the snow around the old Forest God.

    The old Forest God was breathing heavily, but the Crow Lord stood silently at the edge of the clearing, not daring to approach Geamhradh until he was allowed. The changing of the Courts was not something to be interrupted. It was soon, however, when the Holly King looked up and eyes of light-green met the Crow Lord's mismatched colors. This action revealed the proud ebony antlers protruding from equally black hair, crowned in holly branches decorated with its leaves and berries.

    It was only a few minutes more until the Holly King looked up, better revealing his proud antlers of black and his crown of holly branches and its leaves. Eyes of a light-green color met his own mismatched colors, and the old Forest God then smiled kindly as he spoke in an airy tone, “Ah, so again you’ve come to my aid Crow Lord?”

    Darrah smiled back. “I know better than to interfere in your duels with Samhradh, my friend.”

    Geamhradh’s tone turned wry as he replied, “That you do… Come forth my young friend, let nothing stop you from joining me!”

    The Crow Lord did just that and helped the Holly King up onto his feet. Geamhradh placed a hand on Darrah’s shoulder, using it to steady himself and he released a deep sigh. He looked at Darrah, as though searching for something, and then asked, “Before he left my brother told me of your dealings with a young mortal girl. Truly she has become your friend?”

    Darrah stilled at the question, glancing down before he carefully replied, "She has... and I find that I do not mind her company."

    Geamhradh stared at Darrah for a long moment before he simply said, "Walk with me, Darrah."

    Though confused, Darrah complied and walked side by side with the Holly King. They were quiet as the muted winter sounds of the forest surrounded them. Eventually, the old Forest God spoke.

    "You hesitate - why? I would think such a vibrant young woman would be a positive influence in your life."

    Darrah was silent, causing Geamhradh to sigh.

    "What has happened?"

    "She... she confessed her love for me," the Crow Lord admitted quietly, unable to look at his old friend, "And I fled, because I was..."

    "Afraid?"

    "Yes."

    "What was she like when she told you this?"

    Darrah looked up, "Why does that matter?"

    The old Forest God smiled as he replied, "Humans are curious creatures, as honest as they are dishonest - some even lying to themselves on what they truly want. It was the mind's truth that convinced Corvus ages past to teach a similar young woman the magic of an Herb Witch, but the heart's truth is a more complicated matter. That is why I ask."

    "Asha was beautiful," The words were breathed out in a rush, light as air and sudden like a gust of wind, "I had never seen such a light about her before and her kiss... I felt whole."

    Geamhradh waited in silence, allowing Darrah to continue but when it was apparent the Crow Lord was lost in the memory he nudged him back to the present.

    "And yet you fled."

    The memory saddened.

    "Yes."

    "Have you not gone to see her?"

    "No."

    "Darrah," the Holly King sighed, "It is not forbidden to interact with mortals, only rarely done. You need more light in your existence, Son of Corvus. It is easy to see she brings that into the solitude of your tower."

    The Crow Lord gave his friend a dispairing look, giving Geamhradh pause.

    "What can I even do, Geamhradh, when I broke her heart? What will I do when she inevitably passes into the cycle of life and death while I remain until the end of time?"

    "Love her."

    "What?" Darrah stopped walking, Geamhradh following suit but did not take back his words.

    "That is all you need to do, my young friend. Love is timeless and something one never forgets. Your Asha will never be truly gone as long as you love her and remember her."

    "But she won't be here."

    The Holly King gave him a sympathetic expression, truly feeling for the young forest lord.

    "Not forever, no, but while she is and with her heart's truth open to you... cherish the time you do have with her."

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