Two moons over, p.30
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       Two Moons Over, p.30

           Levi Shipley
 
habit to shake just like breathing and blinking. He continued on.

  Five

  The other side of the bridge had no trinkets left behind, and Cecil wondered if the ones he’d seen on the other side of Ruby Run had only been there because the forest let them stay for Cecil to see. There was no more need to see the cruelty.

  He thought of just how sheltered he made himself. Of course there were evils out there, but he knew he was ignoring most of it. Cecil knew that most Christians did this also. There seemed to be consensus among them that not exposing yourself to evil was a way to keep it out of your heart. And though that is sometimes true, it won’t help those afflicted by evil. He thought he must be a coward somewhere on the inside for having his head buried for so long. Not just here, but he knew he was like that on Earth. And he knew others were as well.

  He couldn’t help but remember a time he tried to break free of the ignorance in school. He was tasked with writing a story, something he was not very skilled at, about what he thought a day as a prisoner would be like. Of course, he made the mistake of being honest. All the other kids in his class wrote about how they thought it would feel so confined and never left that point. Just that one time, Cecil was honest for the teacher and wrote about how he would try to avoid being raped. He wrote about the racial segregations and gang activities. He knew these things and more took place behind bars, and expressed how that’s what he would try to keep away from.

  Of course the teacher didn’t approve of his use of the term “unexpected sodomy” among many others. The teacher expressed his disappointment over Cecil’s paper. Though he admitted it was one of his better works as far as structure was concerned, the subject matter was not school appropriate. Cecil explained that he was being truthful about what happens in jails, but that got him nowhere. His parents were brought in, and he had to explain for actions. In the end Cecil was able to avoid most of the trouble that had been set aside for him. After all, what did the teacher expect to hear about jail?

  He wondered just how much explaining he would have to do to the teacher about him walking through the woods, with an enormous sword mind you, on a mission to overthrow a king. He thought he would be expelled for that.

  He wouldn’t feign ignorance ever again. As he knew now that to do so would only let evil fester and grow stronger. And that wouldn’t do the victims he saw any good.

  The path went on, and Cecil followed. Maybe by the time this was all over, he would be able to call himself a real man in body, mind, and even soul. And perhaps there would be those who would call him a hero. There was a title for him with far more meaning reserved. But that would come later.

  Six

  He came to the edge of the woods, and the forest’s powers began to wane. It was now late afternoon, and light from the sun was pouring through the canopy above. The light was warm and comforting to Cecil. The air grew warmer with it, and he heard birds sing for the first time since entering the Dark Forest. He heard the chatter of squirrels and beheld a grand oak tree before him. The guidance of the woods was gone now, but it brought him out here for a purpose.

  He walked up to the oak, feeling nostalgic again. At the base was a hollow. Cecil walked in and was greeted by the stench of strong fermented herbs and old tea. There were carvings on the walls depicting lore he’d heard of. The most noticeable of which was a depiction of Artemis’s and Orion’s ascents. There stood a short table in the center of the room for people to sit on the floor when eating at it. This kind of home was favored by ancient dwarves. Cecil thought this tree must be thousands of years old, or the inhabitant was. Then again, the owner could also be mad. That was always possible.

  The owner, an old sage named Frander, was nowhere to be seen. Cecil walked back out, seeing no dwarf and detesting the odor being absorbed by his superhuman nostrils. As his head poked outside again, a blue jay lighted on his left shoulder. He didn’t wave it away, even when it put its beak into his ear and began to chatter. He couldn’t understand any of its whispers, if one could call it that. But the bird seemed to be in distress, and Cecil guessed it was without its owner. If it had one that is, and he guessed the inhabitant of the oak was.

  The bird removed itself from his shoulder and flew away. Cecil didn’t bother to watch it fly away, as his attention was taken by what he saw on the north side of the oak. There was no more question as to what happened to the dwarf Cecil forgot about. He was starting to get tired of death for one day, and thought that might be a problem if he wanted to use his sword.

  A pile of short bones and full sized skull lied unburied behind the oak. They were undisturbed by predators. A crude sign made of straw and twigs was behind the pile of bones. It displayed the name that once belonged to the dwarf. It was Frander. Cecil wanted to think he had died naturally, but knew that was unlikely. Behind the sign, perched on various limbs of sprouting oaks, were an array of gold eagles. They allowed Cecil to kneel by the bones in respect. Cecil believed that if they truly were his servants at one time, they now punished themselves for their inability to protect him.

  “May I bury him for you?” Cecil asked the winged guardians, hoping they understood. When he began digging with his hands, they did not protest. The dirt yielded. Cecil wasn’t sure why he bothered doing this, but he felt confident that he would remember why.

  When he’d dug about four feet down, he stopped and wiped some of the dirt off on his pants. He took the bones set them at the bottom. He placed the skull down last as if that mattered. The bones were smooth and chalky in his hands, and he could feel the tiny pores on them. He wiped his hands again. Then he kicked the pile of dirt that accumulated beside the ditch into the hole and tramped it down to make sure it packed.

  The whole process took him ten minutes, but Cecil thought he’d been working all day. The eagles didn’t move from their perches or make a sound during the burial. He thought that they might be grieving over their inability to bury their master. He wondered just what kind of bird was capable of the level of understanding these ones had. Cecil thought they might be magic, something that no longer seemed impossible to him.

  “There,” He said, “nothing should be able to get to him now. You can go on your way.” Cecil flapped his hands just in case they didn’t understand English this time.

  The birds began to turn to each and slant their heads. Then one by one they spread their wings, made a harsh screech, and flew around the oak. Cecil didn’t know what kind of ritual this was, but he thought it was an unnatural one. Together there were thirty seven of Frander’s messengers swooping and whirling around the enormous oak. Cecil was unsure whether or not this was a sign of their joy. The screeching call they made was indistinguishable from any other, and he thought it ironic that these creatures would be so intelligent and yet be unable to express emotion.

  Seven

  They carried on like this for a minute then dispersed in every direction of the compass. Another minute went by, and there were no signs left of them. Cecil waited for them to return, but it seemed that their business was finished here. He looked at the grave he’d made for the dwarf. It was a shoddy excuse for a final resting place, but Cecil had never been adept in formalities or artful creativity. He thought the crudeness would have to do.

  But then he thought he could improve it just a bit. He walked toward the forest and picked up a large stone. He took the stone and planted it firmly into the ground at the head of the grave. Cecil didn’t bother to etch a name on the marker, a life span, or a short eulogy. He thought it would do well to go unmarked. Perhaps if the dwarf’s birds ever came back to pay respects, they could engrave something. Or they could find themselves unable and be stricken with guilt once more, but Cecil hoped that would not be the case.

  His business here was finished, and Cecil continued north. He came to a fork in the road, the left leading into a canyon and the right over a plateau. He decided that the canyon appeared to be th
e faster route and took it, although he had an odd feeling that it was the wrong way.

  Eight

  The walls of the canyon were gray with black strata streaking different spots along the sides. There were stalagmites (although he thought that name might only appear in caves) along the walls. These upward bursts of spiraling rock looked sharp at the point, and he thought they would look even sharper if one were to fall from the ridge onto one. After thinking this, he expected to see impaled bodies here and there, if not people’s than animals’. But he saw none, and that uplifted him a bit.

  The canyon had been narrow since it began with only about twenty feet from side to side, but now it opened up into a large crater. Now that Cecil thought of the canyon, he supposed it probably wasn’t considered a canyon. It probably had a different name that meant “small canyon” and didn’t matter. It was like debating the difference between a stream, a creek, a rivulet, and a full blown river. They were all the same thing in their nature, but one should never call any by the wrong name, lest they look like a fool.

  Cecil dismissed these thoughts, as no one was going to question what he just walked through. He looked around at the great bowl he now stood in
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