Sunday, September 25, 2011
Goddess of Abundance
“You may kill this body, but you cannot take my life! I am a Goddess, and as such, I will simply be reborn!”
The crowd knew that she was saying this solely to give them hope, but as much as they wanted to believe her, it was hard to imagine. Who had ever heard of a God that could be killed? Gods were not people with bodies; they were beings of pure energy that could not be destroyed.
It was true that this particular woman had been considered a Goddess by the people. She had many wonderful powers, and people were blessed by her presence. She healed the sick, encouraged abundant crops, and influenced the weather so that it was always beautifully sunny during the day, and when rain was needed, it occurred at night when almost everyone was asleep.
Yet, her power could only reach so far, and some people were jealous of the prosperity she caused. They labeled her a witch, and insisted that she be put to death. Normally, the people of this Kingdom did not fear witches, but the neighboring Kingdom decided to invade, and promised that they would not stop until this Kingdom was conquered or the witch was killed. The result would be the same in the end.
Upon hearing that the neighboring Kingdom promised to leave this Kingdom in peace if she was put to death, the Goddess volunteered to sacrifice herself. She made the invaders sign a magically binding contract that they would not harm this Kingdom in any way for at least a hundred years after her death, and now she waited patiently as they made the ordeal a very public event. They did not really care about invading this Kingdom, they simply wanted the Goddess or witch gone so that she could not bless and favor this Kingdom ever again.
“Are those your final words?” The Commander of the invading army asked impatiently. He was just itching to behead her, and held his heavy war axe ready to strike her as soon as possible.
“Yes, I will be reborn, and this land shall thrive once again.”
“If you say so,” the Commander scoffed, and beheaded the witch. She was already atop a funeral pyre, and he gestured for a waiting soldier to light it as he jumped down and to a safe distance from it.
The Commander looked around in satisfaction, and sent shivers down everyone’s back as he grinned malevolently. “Burn the entire city to the ground!”
His soldiers tried their hardest to comply, but none of them could make a flame that lasted longer than two seconds. In frustration, they tried to use their weapons against the citizens, only to find that they could not harm anyone in the slightest. Realizing that they really would have to leave this Kingdom alone for 100 years, the invaders retreated, grumbling about the incredible power of the witch they had just vanquished.
50 years passed, and the once prosperous land grew less and less with each passing year. There was very little rain, and the sun often burned the struggling crops. Even the livestock had a hard time finding edible grass to eat. The citizens began to believe that their only option was to abandon their Kingdom, and take refuge elsewhere.
Except that if they left their Kingdom, they would be considered slaves in their neighboring Kingdom, and no one could bring themselves to choose a life of slavery when they were safe from harm so long as they stayed in this kingdom. The people cried out for their Goddess to return and save them, and she wept.
Taking on a mortal form was not as easy as it seemed. She did not hatch from an egg, or simply will herself into a mortal body. Nor did she take over the growing body of a mortal fetus inside a mother’s womb. To be reborn, she needed to find a person with a strong enough will to protect her, and a deep well of energy to sustain her.
She searched for such a person, finally finding one – the son of a nobleman. The nobleman was at his wife’s side, watching her die from starvation. He was not too far from death himself, and their young son felt guilt gnaw at him. He did not want to eat all of the food they managed to find, but if he did not, he would be wasting it for his parents refused to eat until he had filled his stomach. As a result, he was still more or less healthy as they lay dying.
“I will find you food!” He vowed to his parents, and then turned to leave on a hunt.
“Wait,” his father insisted. “It’s already too late… Please, promise us that you will do whatever it takes to survive.”
“Why?!” The boy demanded angrily. “Most of our people have already starved to death, and of the few who yet live, most are even younger than I am! How am I supposed to eat when I know they have nothing? Why shouldn’t I just go and end all of our suffering now?!”
“You mustn’t say that!” His mother protested with the last of her energy. “The Goddess will come, and you must live until she does, or else our entire Kingdom is doomed.”
“You sound as if it is entirely up to me to save the Kingdom. What good is it for me to live if no one else does? How can I save the Kingdom if there is no one else left to be saved, and why me? Why do you insist that I live?” The boy wanted to know. This was just too much for him to handle.
“The Princess…” his mother whispered. “She is your age, and I know her parents will make certain she survives. If you survive, together you can save the Kingdom.”
“Great! Two 13 year old children are the only ones who can save our Kingdom,” the boy stated sarcastically. “I will find a rabbit or a squirrel or a frog and I will bring it back for you to eat. Do not die!”
His parents nodded, knowing that they would likely be cold and stiff by the time he returned. They were right. They died less than an hour after he left them.
Now, the Goddess thought. It is not fair to him, but I must do it now! She gathered up all of the energy that was her immortal body, and concentrated it so that it was the size and shape of a robin’s egg. Then she flew at him, hitting him with enough force to throw him to the ground and knock him out. With him unconscious, he could not stop her from invading his body, but first, she told him why.
“You will remember what I am about to tell you. It may take you a while to do so, but you will remember. I am the Goddess who blesses this Kingdom, and I need you to carry me until I am reborn. It will not be easy for you, but you have the strength and energy I need. In return… you shall be gifted with several powers… I pray you survive…”
Had he been watching, he would have seen a bright green light sink into his lower abdomen, and then fade. Now that she was in his body, she needed to focus on growing in power until she could manifest a body and be born. Therefore, he would not know she was there for quite some time, and she would not be able to communicate with him. Not until they were both much stronger.
“Hey there, wake up already!” A voice commanded, and the boy groaned. “You been asleep for at least three days!”
“Who are you?” The boy asked.
“I’m Ianto,” the man introduced himself with a relieved smile. “Who are you?”
“My name is Aeryn. Did you say I’ve been asleep for three days?”
“Yes,” Ianto confirmed. “I was afraid that you would starve to death if I didn’t wake you soon.”
Aeryn gasped. “My parents!” He leapt to his feet, and ran. After three days without food, he should have been weak, but his sudden panic gave him the energy to run all the way back home. He halted unexpectedly as he entered the main yard. Every single person that had survived prior to his departure – except his parents – lay huddled together. He searched them for signs of life, and found none.
“Mother!” He screamed. “Father!” His feet raced to his parents’ room, and found them sleeping peacefully in their bed. Only he could not ignore their pallor, and no matter how long he waited, they didn’t draw in a breath.
Ianto caught up with him, and could do nothing but place a comforting hand on his shoulder. Eventually, he left to cook up the squirrel he had caught just prior to waking Aeryn. It was the smell of food that finally tore the boy away from his parents.
“I don’t want to eat, but I must…” Aeryn affirmed sadly. “Will you share your dinner with me?”
“Of course! I wouldn’t have bothered waking you if I planned to let you starve,” Ianto assured him.
Aeryn nodded, and accepted the portion Ianto handed him. They ate in silence, and Aeryn was grateful that Ianto didn’t try to comfort him. If he had, Aeryn was certain he would start to cry.
Finally, Ianto spoke. “I am headed to the capitol city. The King has issued a proclamation calling everyone still alive to come to the palace. He doesn’t have much, but he promises to share whatever food he has until it runs out. It’s better than nothing.”
Aeryn nodded again, indicating that he would go too, though it pained him to leave everyone behind.
“There’s more…” Ianto near whispered, as if he was afraid that the boy would fall apart any moment. “All who die are to be left out rather than buried or burned. It is hoped that the bodies will feed the wildlife so that they in turn will feed those of us that survive… We may even choose to…”
Aeryn shook his head fervently. “No! I don’t care how desperate I get, I will never consume human flesh!”
“I feel the same way, but I’ve been lucky. I’ve found just enough on my journey to sustain me. Perhaps we’ll both feel differently if we go a few days without food,” Ianto suggested, shrugging. He didn’t relish the thought, but could not deny that people were just about the only thing left to eat in the entire Kingdom.
“Where is that damn Goddess already?!” Aeryn growled. At this point, he didn’t care if she struck him down for his disrespect. She’d have to come here in order to do so, and if she came, then the Kingdom would be saved.
“You still believe in her?” Ianto laughed. “I stopped believing in her when I was just a bit younger than you.”
“I have to… there is no hope otherwise,” Aeryn replied gravely.
Ianto nodded silently, and they both went to sleep. Aeryn was surprised that he was so tired since he had just slept for at least three days, but he had no trouble nodding off. Even if he wanted to stay awake, his eyelids refused to open. He gave in, and the next thing he knew, he was being shaken awake once more.
“You planning to sleep for another three days? Come on, we have to go,” Ianto insisted. “I’ve already carried your parents out into the open, so you don’t need to see them again if you don’t want to.”
Aeryn wanted to, but he was afraid that he would start crying if he did, so he shook his head, and followed Ianto. They walked in silence, and kept their eyes and ears open for anything they could capture. Aeryn prayed they would find a rabbit, since he loved roasted rabbit, but he didn’t hold out much hope. For an animal that bred quickly, there didn’t seem to be any left in the entire forest surrounding his home.
They did find several small mice, and roasted them over that night’s campfire. It wasn’t much, but it was better than starving, or worse…
Days passed, and they managed to find a little something to tide them over as they traveled. Finally, they reached the Capitol City. The gates were closed, and made then frown in concern.
“No one is allowed in or out of the city!” A guard shouted as they approached.
“But the King summoned everyone to the palace!” Ianto protested.
“True,” the guard admitted, “but there is a terrible plague here, and we cannot allow anyone in until it has passed.”
“Now what should we do?” Ianto muttered to himself, not realizing that Aeryn could hear him.
Aeryn shrugged. “Continue on as we have?”
“I guess we’ll have to…” Ianto sighed, and turned away from the Capitol City.
They wandered through the nearby forest, feeling both apprehensive and lucky that they came across no one else. A month passed, and Ianto grew increasingly concerned. They were able to find an astonishing amount of food in the forest –considering – but Aeryn started vomiting every morning, and randomly throughout the day.
“Could you have caught the plague?” Ianto asked him.
“How would I know?” Aeryc demanded grumpily.
“I’ve never heard of the plague taking this long to kill a person, but you have been very sleepy and sickly ever since I first found you. If it really were the plague, we should both have died from it long ago,” Ianto reasoned.
“Whatever…” Aeryn yawned. It was only the middle of the day, but he was so tired that he couldn’t walk a straight line. He fell to the ground, already asleep. Ianto dragged him under the lowest branches of a large evergreen tree. Without much water for several years, it was actually brown, but still provided them with shelter and a bit of warmth. The days were finally growing colder, and the nights were nearly frigid. Ianto was very thankful to the tree – and all the fallen needles – for keeping them warm.
That night, it rained. This was the first rain in nearly three years, and it woke Ianto from a sound sleep. He rubbed wax out of his ears, and listened carefully – positive that he was hearing things. He shook Aeryn awake enthusiastically.
“Do you hear that?! It’s rain!”
Aeryn woke up enough to smile at Ianto. “I forgot what rain sounded like,” he murmured happily, and then fell back asleep.
Ianto uttered an exasperated, “Bah!” and flapped a hand in Aeryn’s direction. He crawled out from under the tree – which thankfully kept them dry – and danced exuberantly in the rain. He cheered and whooped in joy. This rain wasn’t just a light sprinkling like the last rain had been, but a proper downpour. If it kept up like this all night, the rivers and lakes might fill up. Grass might grow. Life might go on!
Aeryn woke first the next morning, and was amazed to find a good-sized rabbit curled up next to him. It was dead, but still warm as if it had just died, and the boy wasted no time in preparing it to eat. He wasn’t nauseous at all, and felt like he could eat an entire ox.
Ianto woke when he smelled the fire roasted rabbit, and moaned in anticipation. “Good work!”
“Wasn’t anything I did,” Aeryn demurred. “But I’m ravenous, and not about to look a gift horse in the mouth!”
“It’s fall,” Ianto stated thoughtfully. In good years, secondary crops could grow during the short fall, and be ready to harvest just in time for winter. This was the only hope they had. “We need to find a good place to stay for the winter.”
“But winter’s months away!” Aeryn protested.
“True, but we still need to prepare, or else we will die shortly after the first snow.”
Aeryn nodded. “There’s a cave about two days up the mountain just north of my land…” he faltered when he realized that with his parents dead, it really was his land now. “Anyway, my father and some of his men used to take me there in the fall so that we could hunt and fish until we had enough to last through the winter for everyone.”
“Let’s hope there’s still something on that mountain to hunt!” Ianto stated vehemently.
It took them a month to reach the cave because Aeryn fell asleep every few hours, slowing them down. Ianto began to worry that they wouldn’t have enough time to forage and hunt once they did reach the cave. He was almost certain that they would be snowed in just as they got there, but strangely, the warm days and rainy nights of fall continued as if they had no intention of stopping, and they finally reached the cave.
The mountain was teeming with life by the time they arrived, and it was actually easy to fill their cave with food. Ianto thanked every Deity he could think of, including the legendary Goddess of Abundance their ancestors had allowed to be sacrificed on their behalf. As soon as he thanked her, Aeryn – who was sleeping yet again – glowed for a moment, and then returned to normal.
Ianto rubbed his eyes, and stared at Aeryn for several long minutes. “No… I couldn’t have seen him glow. That’s impossible!” He shook off thoughts off his strange vision, and left the cave to go practice.
He had a staff and a sword that he carried with him at all times. He had been trained as a warrior in case their hundred years of protection wore off early, and used all the time that Aeryn was sleeping to hone his skills. The last thing he wanted was to survive the lean times only to be helpless if they were invaded. He vowed to keep in prime shape!
The first snows of winter arrived, and Aeryn did nothing but eat and sleep. He tried to hone his skills by sparring with Ianto, but could not keep his eyes open long enough to do so. Even he was afraid that he might be dying at this point, despite feeling healthy and at peace.
During the longest night of the year, he dreamt that there was a green light radiating from his abdomen. It was the roughly the shape of a pear, and only a little bigger than an actual pear would be. Aeryn unconsciously rubbed his abdomen where the light was located, and felt fiercely protective.
After that, his dreams changed. He saw events that had happened in the past as clearly as if they were happening to him right then. One vision was of his parents clasping hands just before they exhaled their last breath, and he woke up sobbing.
A strange thing happened as the snow melted; the more he dreamed of past events, the less he slept. This was partly because he often woke up screaming or crying, and partly because he felt less tired. By the time the last of the snow melted, he felt like he had energy to spare!
He raced around the mountain forest hugging all the trees. Animals came up to him and willingly let him pet them. Aeryn didn’t even think twice about how unusual this was, but Ianto did.
Ianto had spent the entire winter watching him, and was now certain that this boy was abnormal bordering on supernatural. The odd dreams and the overly friendly animals did not spook Ianto, but the occasional green glow did, and he was caught between the desire to take care of his young friend, and the desire to run far away and never look back.
“We should return to the palace and see how many people survived the winter,” Ianto suggested one day.
“I agree!” Aeryn bounced around the cave as they talked. He was unable to sit still, and had a strong urge to dance as a way to encourage things to grow. He finally could not contain this urge, and danced around the mountain singing, “Stretch and grow, be a tree, stretch and grow, spread your wings, touch the ground and reach the sky!”
“Have you always hugged trees and sang silly songs to the animals?” Ianto asked.
“Nope, never,” Aeryn shrugged.
Ianto added that to the list of strange things about the boy, and adjusted the pack of food on his back. They walked much more quickly now that Aeryn no longer fell asleep every couple of hours, and their return to the palace took less than half the time their journey to the cave had. Aeryn seemed to have an endless amount of energy, and often ran around in circles, danced, and jumped from tree to tree. Ianto would have scolded him for constantly singing – which normally would have scared away all the potential food – but his singing seemed to attract every living thing in the forest, which rather made hunting a great deal easier.
“If you’re going to run around like a madman, then you may as well spar with me,” Ianto insisted.
Aeryn held up the staff that he’d brought with him from the cave. It was a heavy training staff left in the cave for the sole purpose of sparring during the idle winter months if anyone happened to get snowed in. He twirled it like a baton for a few moments, and then took up a solid defensive stance.
“I may still be a half trained child, but I should warn you, I was always pretty good with just about any weapon,” Aeryn stated as he gestured for Ianto to come at him.
Ianto chuckled. “I believe you.”
The two fought aggressively as they traveled, completely scaring away all the wildlife. Ianto was amazed at Aeryn’s speed and agility. He was crafty and clever too. It was rare for a 35 year old man to be equally matched by a 13 year old boy!
“When was the last time you sparred?” Ianto wondered as they both lay panting on the ground in the aftermath of the match.
“I don’t know,” Aeryn replied. “It was before we ran so low on food that people started dying.”
Ianto added that to the list of things that made this boy strange. It didn’t matter how good someone was at fighting, going probably two years without practice should have dulled his skills. Instead, he fought as if he lived and breathed combat.
Aeryc laughed. “I admit that I’ve never been quite this good before. I feel amazing! I had no idea that eating regularly and sleeping practically all winter long gave a person this much energy.”
“I don’t think it’s just that,” Ianto remarked with a shrug. They were resting in the forest about two days from the palace.
Abruptly, two men entered their small clearing. “Are you traveling to Capitol City?”
“Yes,” Ianto confirmed.
“Good,” they approved with a grunt.
“We were commanded by the King to go out and find any survivors. We’re soldiers in the King’s Guard, and it’s our duty to seek out all citizens and read this proclamation,” the first soldier announced.
The second soldier cleared his throat, and read from an official paper bearing the King’s seal. “While many people in our Kingdom have not survived the lack of food, plague, and winter, a few have. The Queen perished, but thankfully the King and the Princess both survived. It is proclaimed that all citizens shall travel to the Palace to meet with the King, be counted among the living, and discuss the future of the Kingdom. Due to an unexpectedly good crop last fall, there is now hope that the Kingdom will endure after all.”
Ianto nodded. “That is excellent news, but I am afraid that we haven’t come across anyone on our journey.”
The soldiers handed him a map, and asked him to outline their route. Aeryn introduced himself, and informed them that he knew for certain that there was no one alive on his land. The soldiers nodded, and thanked him. The information they had provided would save the soldiers from wasting time that could be used searching other places.
Ianto grew quiet for a moment. He reluctantly pointed to another area of the map, and said, “I am the younger brother of the Lord who owned that property. I regret to tell you that no one was alive there when I left last summer. However, I do not actually know if my brother and his family are dead because I was off on a hunting trip, and when I returned, there was a field of unidentifiable half eaten bodies. I found a proclamation inviting everyone to the palace lying on the ground, and so I assumed that everyone who survived left for the palace.”
The first guard indicated a blue circle around Ianto’s family land. “Yes, that circle indicates that a group of people did make it to the palace from there, but I must warn you, some or all of them may have died from the plague.”
Ianto nodded. “I expected as much… we were turned away from the city gates because of the plague.”
The guards nodded sympathetically, and turned to leave. “Oh… before we go, there is one last bit of information,” the second guard stated. “Our neighboring Kingdom suspects that our Goddess of Abundance has been reborn, and they are offering a substantial reward for her capture. The King wants us to keep an eye out for her and protect her if necessary.”
“After all,” the first guard interrupted. “We have all seen what happens to our Kingdom without her. I do not think any true citizen of this Kingdom would turn her over to the enemy, however…”
The second guard took over again. “The reward offered is staggering, and could buy enough food to last someone years. To that end, if you happen to find the Goddess, the King asks that you escort her to the palace where she will be protected from anyone who wishes to harm her.”
“You can’t do that!” Aeryn burst out angrily. “My parents taught me that the Goddess of Abundance must walk the land to bless it! If the King attempts to lock her in the palace – even if it is for her own protection – the land will suffer!”
The first guard sighed. “I understand what you are saying, and I don’t particularly disagree, but what else can we do? If the Goddess truly has returned, we cannot risk her falling into the hands of the enemy.”
Ianto scratched his head. “Does anyone know how the Goddess can be reborn? Perhaps that information can help us find her.”
The guards shrugged, and then decided to sit and get comfortable. “If legends are true, the Goddess of Abundance was born from a woman – a matron who already had a reputation for having a kind heart and a strong will. It is unclear if the Goddess had a childhood, but legends do say that she walked the Kingdom, bringing rain and prosperity to every corner. Eventually, the Kingdom was saturated with her power, and she was able to bless from her home. She moved every few years, and did not tell anyone that she was the Goddess. Therefore, she mostly lived as a normal woman, except that people always sought her out when they needed healing.”
The second guard sighed. “That’s all we know. Well, except that the legends say that she was at least 300 years old when she died, and that prior to her birth, this Kingdom was, well, much like it is now.”
Ianto rubbed his chin in thought. “So… is it possible that the Goddess has not actually been reborn yet? What if she is still in the womb of a pregnant woman?”
The guards both thought this over carefully. “Who knows, but that could certainly be true. Legend says that her appearance changes as the season does. In the spring, her hair is supposed to be the color of the sun at dawn, and her eyes are supposed to be the vibrant green of growing plants. As summer nears, her hair darkens to resemble golden honey, and her skin tans until she looks almost brown. Her eyes also darken, and have rays of brown and gold mixed in with the green of spring.
“In the fall, her hair shows all the colors the leaves turn, her tan fades, and her eyes turn brown. Lastly, it is said that in the winter, she loses all color. Her hair and skin turn white, and her eyes resemble the sky during the longest night of the year.”
Ianto flopped onto his back, and stared at the beautiful blue sky as he thought. He had watched Aeryn all winter, and while the boy had not turned white, he had seemed pale. Ianto had never gotten a good look at his eyes because they were closed most of the time, but now that it was spring, he did seem to be changing.
Aeryn followed Ianto’s example, laying on his back to contemplate the Goddess. Ianto bid farewell to the guards, then surreptitiously studied Aeryn. The boy’s hair was not the color of the morning sun, but it was definitely different than the brown it had been when they first met. The boy’s eyes even seemed to have green streaks running through the brown. Ianto wondered if it was possible that the boy was pregnant with the Goddess.
Aeryn laughed softly, and for a moment, Ianto thought the boy had read his thoughts. “Ianto, I think maybe I have been eating too much lately. Just look at my belly, it’s rounded!”
After years of not having enough to eat, almost everyone would be happy to see some fat on their body. Aeryn rubbed his belly happily, and prayed that he always had plenty to eat. He was realistic enough to know that it was probably wishful thinking, but if the Goddess of Abundance truly had returned, maybe he could even turn into a glutton. He dreamed about hiring a woman to bake him fabulous cakes and pies, and other pastries fit for a King.
Ianto forced his face not to show a strange expression as he wondered what Aeryn could possibly be thinking to cause him to grin like that. He watched Aeryn rub his belly out of the corner of his eye, and speculated once more on the likelihood of a boy carrying an infant goddess inside him. Is it possible that Aeryn is actually a girl?
These thoughts rattled around inside his head until they reached the Capitol City. This time, the gates were wide open, and the citizens all seemed excited with hope. A thought occurred to Ianto.
“I think we should visit the bathhouse before going to the palace. We both smell like we haven’t bathed in months!” Ianto stated.
“That’s because we haven’t!” Aeryn agreed with a laugh.
Inside the bathhouse, Ianto paid the attendant, and then pretended to ignore Aeryn as they stripped, and washed up. Ianto tried to contain his curiosity, but it got the better of him. He snuck a peek at Aeryn’s naked body, and then frowned.
He really is a boy. Ianto mentally sighed, and then shook his head. He’s going to think I’m a pervert!
After lounging in the bath for at least an hour, they relaxed in thick robes provided by the bathhouse until their clothes dried. They were even served tea, and Ianto realized that this is why the price had seemed a bit steep, but it was completely worth it. Finally, it was time to go to the palace.
In times past, the King would never have allowed just anyone to walk right up and hold a conversation, but these days, it was important to meet with everyone. This meant that no matter how low a person’s status was, they were granted immediate access to the King if they were coming to be counted. Even without this rule, Aeryn would have been of sufficient rank to get a fairly speedy audience.
They bowed respectfully to the King, and introduced themselves. The King surprised them both by gathering Aeryn into a tight hug.
“Aeryn! Am I ever glad to see that you survived!” The king announced as he set Aeryn back on his feet.
“You are?” Aeryn asked in utter confusion.
“Yes. We may have never met before, but your parents signed an official betrothal agreement between you and my daughter when you were both about five years old,” the King explained.
“Oh!” Aeryn blushed. Suddenly, he understood why his parents thought that he and the Princess could save the Kingdom. “I didn’t know that.”
“Of course not; no one did. That is why I do not fear some imposter claiming to be you.”
Aeryn nodded as if he agreed with the King, but in truth, he was still flabbergasted that his parents had never told him something so important.
“Do you wish to remain in Ianto’s care, or would you like to become one of my wards?” The King inquired.
“In Ianto’s care,” Aeryn blurted out. He had no real reason to choose Ianto over the King, except that Aeryn felt like he would suffocate if he stayed in the palace. Besides, he had come to think of Ianto as a favorite uncle.
Ianto was surprised that the King even offered a choice, and was strangely happy that Aeryn had chosen him. “I am honored to remain your guardian.”
The King was disappointed that Aeryn would not be staying in the palace, but managed to smile graciously. “Ianto, I am certain you must be anxious about your family. Why don’t you go let them know you are alive?”
Ianto bowed, and left to do so. Aeryn followed him, half expecting the King to stop him, but he did not. He had no idea why, but he felt enormously relieved when they stepped out of the throne room.
“Ianto!” A woman exclaimed, and Aeryn figured that she must be related to his guardian.
“Carissa,” Ianto greeted with a smile. The woman flung herself into Ianto’s arms, and then buried her head into his chest to cry. “Mark is dead! It’s just Gwen and I now… and you! I am so happy to see you!”
Ianto directed his comment to Aeryn, “Mark was my older brother. This is his wife, and Gwen is their daughter.”
A single tear fell from Aeryn’s brilliant green eyes. “My condolences on your loss.”
Green? Ianto practically bit his lip to prevent a gasp from escaping. They were definitely brown with green flecks the last time I got a good look at them.
“Carissa, as glad as I am to see you, I can’t stay in the city. I need to… I’m… Well, I’m going to walk the Kingdom helping the soldiers look for survivors.” Ianto finally figured out a plausible reason why he had to go so quickly after arriving.
“I see,” Carissa stated with a sad frown. “Don’t worry about us; we’ll be fine here in the city. Just remember to come back for us when you think the time is right to return to our lands.”
“I will,” Ianto vowed.
The two of them informed the king of their intention to help search for survivors and then practically ran all the way out of the city. Some distance away, they finally stopped to catch their breath.
“Why did we run away,” Ianto muttered. “And why didn’t we buy any supplies?”
Aeryn shrugged. “I don’t know about you, but I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I’m so glad we are back out here in the open!”
He impatiently tossed some of his hair out of his face. In the light of the sun, is was nearly golden, and Ianto had to take a few deep breaths to prevent himself from freaking out. The boy definitely looked like a girl at the moment, and Ianto was half tempted to strip him down and verify his gender once again. Is he turning into a girl???
“I think we should cut your hair,” Ianto finally managed to say in a normal – not on the verge of panic – voice.
“That’s probably a good idea,” Aeryn agreed. Ianto pulled out a knife, and sheared away all the excess hair. He dug a three foot deep hole, and buried the hair, praying that no one found it.
The two of them walked away, and Ianto couldn’t resist looking over his shoulder. In the exact spot where the hair was buried, and sprout emerged, and quickly grew into a tree. Before Ianto could force himself to stop gaping at it, it was a full grown tree abundant with apples.
“Something wrong?” Aeryn asked, looking at Ianto.
“Uh… no?” Ianto replied as confidently as he could. “Let’s go.”
Aeryn nodded, and burst into song once more. Ianto watched him dance, and his expression finally softened. Smiling, he knew that he would willingly sacrifice his life to protect this sweet and innocent boy – who likely carried the unborn Goddess. How exactly does that work?