Find Me Swallow
by Em and Kat
our latest story – a fantasy inspired.
If there was one thing I knew, it was to never go in Eldritch Forest. It was one of many warnings which I had received, practically since birth. If I’m honest myself, nothing scared me more than the prospect of spending any amount of time in Eldritch.
“Al, it’s time to go.” My mother’s depressed face appeared in the doorway or our house. Our house was small, only one room, which was quite unfortunate when Da was having a fit. My mom had to work in the clan gardens every day, but she had today off in view of a certain ‘event’ going on in our family.
The short story is, my da is insane. He wasn’t always. It confused me when he started raving about the ‘lost lands’ hidden within the woods of Eldritch. No one believed him, and for good reason. No one ever made it out of Eldritch. It was the worst punishment; to be banished into the forest, other than being burned at the stake, but that hasn’t happened for years.
You see, I didn’t want to let my Da go. I still remember when he would tuck me into my straw bed at night and tell me old clan legends, and he’d softly kiss me on the forehead. Every night. For years.
But then things changed. My da, Plover Frond was banished from the clan because he started acting on his belief. He’d been saying he’d been receiving visions; visions of people, a people in the forest. He started to lead revolutions against our clan leader, Chief Falcon. No one seemed to want to follow him and risk death, and the clan elders had finally decided it had gone too far. Yesterday they had decided that I should walk my father to the edge of the forest, armed clan elders blocking the village at my side.
The clan leaders, or “clannies” as my one friend and I often mockingly called them, were concerned over the secret, rebellious generation growing under their strict leadership, like a blister under a tight sandal strap. Of course, my father was leading the coercive, silent young rebels, being young himself – he could be hardly older than 26, and that was at his highest. I’d been following’ after my Da’s ways ever since I was a wee one. My mother was kin to Chief Fal, and she cared little for my father, especially after one of his rages. She said he’d been a good child, once, and that was why she’d married him a year early, at fifteen. I was still young for marriage, too old to play among the wee ones, as their tan skirts flapped in the wind, yet too young to follow after the Elder Folk. I was at the shadow age, the age where one is too young and too old. I was eleven, and I was walking my crazed father towards the woods of death. I considered myself too young to cry.
“Swallow, you look strained.” My Da looked at me with eyes full of concern, and I could hardly believe that he’d been running the borders of our settlement, tripping crazily around the rim of the woods like a madman, only the night before. It was at times like now, however, when I wondered how I had ever feared him.
“Why Da, I reckon I have right to be afraid of the forest.” I gripped his hand tighter, as we approached the twisted fence of logs and briars, which surrounded our clan’s camp. It was meant to protect us from enemy marauders, visitors, and creatures of the night. It was meant to protect us from the forest. As we were surrounded by woods, all of the above came from the forest.
“Child, you have no need to be feared. I do not fear the woods – Eldritch is no curse, but a blessing.”
He must be drunk or something. Yet his eyes had never been clearer, nor his face more awakened. Da was strong, and his muscles rippled through his tunic. Of course he didn’t fear the woods, he was stronger than iron!
Softly, I spoke again. “Da, you quiet now, and return to the fence come mornin.’ I’ll be awaitin’ you there.” Tears sprung to my eyes, but I forced them down. “Surely the Chief and the clannies and the Elder Folk will pardon you if you arrive humbled and unharmed.” Or unarmed, I was thinking.
“Child, I shall not return here.” Da’s voice was solemn with conviction.
“Do not be a fool Da! You must live – for me!” I whispered. Sweet birds sing, but a Swallow never cries, I reminded myself. Twas one of Mema’s sayings.
“I shall not return here, young one, because I do not wish to.”
That settles it. He’s is drunk beyond repair. I paused in the dirt path, overlooking our shaded, tight, and muddy settlement. Spring rains had stirred up the streets into wallowing places for dogs, and pigs waded carelessly through the knee-deep muck. Fondly my eyes focused on our dirty straw brick hut, noting our pigs, one of them which was just heading inside. Mema would most likely let it lick the dining plate clean, its sticky tongue swiping away the soft potatoes and crisp onions. A pig’s tongue is a fine feeling.
Meanwhile, Da noticed my silence. “Swallow Fern, I bekeep thou with my vision. Carry on my dreams – one revolt will change our settlement!”
I halted at the stockade, and my eyes burned with tears, but I stopped them once again. “But Da, I don’t know how.”
Da’s gentle-rough hand brushed mine, and his back braced against the cold wood of our stockade. In the distance, the Clan guards watched.
“Find me, Swallow.” My father said, as his grip loosened and he lept over the fence, into the woods. A crackle of brush, and he was gone.