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Tales of Orgonia: Chapter 2 - The Fens

Wilfred followed the direction of his sons startled eyes towards a piece of folded parchment leaning awkwardly between the dusty floor and the timber wall.

Rowan darted at the floor like a Gannet to retrieve the parchment. He then moved into the centre of the room and took a deep breath before unfolding it slowly.

“Well me boy, what does it say?” Wilfred urged.

“It’s… It’s…” Rowan stuttered.

“It’s what boy, read it aloud for your old Pa won’t you? You know I wont have a hare’s hope of making out what it says.” Wilfred said.

“It’s not a note.” Rowan looked a little stunned.

“Well then laddy, what is it?” Wilfred questioned.

“I think, it’s a map.” Rowan said.

“A map? Who’d need a map of The Fallows?” Wilfred chuckeld.

“It’s not the Fallows Pa, I think it stretches all the way up to the Metropolis the edge of the world.” Rowan said studying the battered piece of parchment that was scorched around the edges.

“The-? I don’t believe it boy, show me.” Wilfred made his way over to Rowan and peered at the map from behind his sons shoulder. Rowan was frozen.

“I ‘aint never seen anything like it.” Rowan admitted, eyes ablaze with wonder.

“But where in the Gods did it come from?” Wilfred asked.

“Must be one of the wanderers I suppose.” Rowan said, thinking back. “You know I never thought anything of it at the time Pa but our Ornella was always the first one to welcome a stranger to the village, she’d pull up a stool and listen to their tales for days on end. But there hasn’t been anybody pass through these parts for years now, why would there? There’s barely enough here to keep us all alive. And better yet what would she have traded for it? All we’ve got is a few copper pieces that we were saving to one day start a family with but i’ve just packed them and they’re all still there.” Rowan said.

“Who knows what’s been going on in that girls head boy, I sure as pig-skin don’t. But at least you’ve got something now to guide you on your way.” Wilfred tried to re-assure his son. “Now listen laddy, none of this might not be making any sense right now but the quicker you catch her up the quicker you can ask her all about it. Right?”

“Right Pa.” Rowan agreed, folding up the map and tucking it into his bag.

Rowan once again made for his staff and this time grabbed hold, giving it a handful of firm taps on the floor. He stepped out of the cabin and was relieved to find that although still cold, the sun had added a few degrees to the day bringing a little comfort to the beginnings of Rowans journey.

Rowan took a few steps forward and looked back at his dad. Wilfred smiled and gestured at the ring on his finger with a wink. Rowan returned the smile, turned out to face the great beyond and put one foot in front of the other.

Rowan walked for miles and miles with nothing but his thoughts to keep him company. He’d always imagined the border of the village to be some kind of picketed fence bodged together with shreds of old branches and knotted wire that divided one side from the other, but that he found not to be the case.

Thinking back Rowan couldn’t remember ever seeing a sign within the village itself labeled as The Fallows, but then again, what use is a sign when it was only the educated that possessed the ability to read, and what reason would the educated ever have to be so far south from The Heartwood?

That’s one of the reasons that Wilfred had so much confidence in his son, because despite growing up in the most desolate and deficient part of the entirety of Orgonia when Rowan was just a boy, he befriended a passing wayfarer who gifted to him a weighty stack of parchment bound with string in one corner detailing ‘plant matter’ which Rowan used to teach himself to read.

However, sign or no sign, Rowan soon knew that he was no longer in The Fallows, the mood had changed. The air was thicker, the ground darker. An uninviting grayness hung overhead, lingering with beady eyes as it both followed and nudged Rowan further and further into the mist.

Rowan consulted his map and it took him a handful of turns to correct its orientation and to gather his bearings.

The Fens’ Rowan read to himself.

There were no markings or drawings of the terrain, no buildings and no pathways and with no compass or guiding tools of any kind, Rowan had no real way of knowing which way to go.

‘Now if I were our Ornella, which way would I go?’ Rowan pondered and paused. ‘What a stupid question Rowan, you’ve got no idea what state her heads at, call yourself a husband? Stupid, stupid, stupid. You’re a bloody fool Rowan Graysinn, always have been, always will be. What the bloody hell have you done ey? What was so bad that shes run off like this, what in the name of-’ Rowan heard the thoughts rattling round his head and realised that in this time he was no closer to choosing a route forward. ‘Well, suppose I just have to keep going the way I was going, what more can I do?’ Rowan agreed decisively.

For hours Rowan ventured aimlessly further into the marshland, the dank ground sucking at his feet, clumps of mud tacking on to his boots more and more with every step.

As the distance in which Rowan could see in front of him gradually grew shorter, he stumbled upon an old wooden path raised almost a foot above the ground.

‘Finally, an ounce of luck’ Rowan thought to himself “Although how long is this luck likely to last?’

It dawned upon Rowan on his long walk departing The Fallows that maybe he had ran out of luck. Maybe he had used up all the luck the Gods had gifted to him in the mere 25 years that he had been alive.

Rowan had always considered kindness to be his greatest skill. He had believed that life was a handshake and that as long as you reach out with a hand of kindness then a hand of happiness you shall receive. But if that were true then how could Rowan be stood here today, in the bone-cutting breath of The Fens; miles away from a home that he no longer recoginsed; searching for his missing wife with no more clues than a battered old map that he found by chance?

The very first thing that Rowan wanted to know when he woke up this morning was how his wife had slept, he loved her that much that before he considered any of the life crippling decisions and tasks that come daily with a life of poverty he wanted to make sure that his wife had at least had a restful nights sleep.

‘What did I miss?’ Rowan tortured himself again ‘How did i not see this coming? My own wife, unhappy or lost or unwell - whatever it is I should have know, should have been there for her, should have listened.’

Rowan stepped up onto the old wooden pathway, the rotten slats mostly snapped and splintered, the few remaining holding to the legs for dear life. Regardless, he began to advance along it paying close attention not to trip or get caught in the gaping holes, using his staff to steady himself when necessary.

The day had past it’s best and darkness was descending. The blackness was beginning to pilfer Rowans route as he started to loose his footing. He spotted a small platform forking off the main pathway and attempted to reach it before he lost the light completely.

For the first time in his life Rowan contemplated praying to Mama Quilla, God of the moon, to shed a little light to brighten his way but without anything to offer he realised that his efforts would be in vain.

The platform was strong and even enough to hold Rowan for the night. He cut down some nearby reeds and cotton grass and laid them down to cushion the ragged wood. He tucked his bag under his head, wrapped himself up in his cloak and pulled over a few large Taro leaves he had gathered.

Wilfred warned Rowan that the journey would be difficult but this first night away was sure to be the hardest.

Solus in the bitter open air, surrounded by foreign sounds and smells that tasted alien, it struck Rowan that this night was the first he’d ever been completely alone; no parents; no wife; not even a familiar plant to comfort him. He wondered if he would ever feel himself again, or if this was his life from now on? He felt completely out of control, like a hand had reached down from the sky and scooped him from his wonderful life only to deposit him in someone else’s, as if he had been stripped naked of his feelings; his thoughts; his belongings; everything that mad him Rowan Graysinn. A stranger in his own skin.

The night was long and grueling and he woke, horror-stricken, to his earlobe clamped between a set of teeth.

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