Orchard of Hope

Greyriver Stead

As Ekero witnessed the encounter between Voah and the Goddess of the Moon, his heart swelled with a mix of awe and concern. Watching Voah convulse under Ereuhin's divine touch, he felt a profound sense of vulnerability—both his own and that of the woman before him. When Voah collapsed, Ekero's instincts kicked in; he rushed to her side, his hands steady yet gentle as he helped her navigate back to a semblance of stability. His other hand held one of his handaxes tightly.

"I humbly thank you," sighed the Arbiter to the night. When he looked back from Voah to where the Goddess once stood, she was gone, as swift as the night wind. The mother of midnight had vanished as quickly as she had come.

"I’m alright…" Voah assured the little man. Ekero realized that he could no longer understand Voah’s words, but he understood by the tone what she meant.

Voah breathed a long sigh and ran her fingers back through her shorn, wavy locks. She took one last look at the cursed stone and then, striding with purpose, returned on a more direct path to Alexis’ lodge with Ekero trotting quickly in tow.

Voah found Amu eating some roots nearby and took the reins, leading the horse on foot through an orchard of short trees. Slowing down, she allowed her free hand to pass over the leaves. These were fig trees… lion figs.

"Gonyaul…" she whispered, and a sad smile crossed her lips. “Look, Amu. Gonyaul planted these here…” She knelt and inspected one of them, noting some of its dying leaves. Ekero examined the foreign trees with great interest.

Gonyaul had indeed planted them before the warmth of spring; these small trees now faced the chill of an impending winter. She thought of how it mirrored the trajectory of her unexpected romance with the Vauxian. Just as these trees took root and flourished through the seasons, so did the feelings between Voah and Gonyaul, growing in depth and complexity against a backdrop of conflict that surrounded them.

Each step through the orchard brought back a memory of the moments that defined their relationship—from their initial cautious interactions outside Soliam farm, to dancing on her natal day, to the undeniable bond that formed as they shared stories, dreams, and fears.

Just as the orchard now braced for winter, so too did Voah face her own challenges… Another war—a war that threatened to uproot everything.

The changing leaves and the barren branches were metaphors for the transition their lives had seen, from a period of growth and warmth to one of cold and uncertainty. Voah was acutely aware of the fragility of life and love, especially now, as she contemplated the battles to come, what they meant for herself and her companions.

And the question lingered heavily in her heart… what will the harshness of winter and the ravages of war leave intact?

This orchard, much like her relationship with Gonyaul, was a testament to hope in the face of adversity. She couldn’t give up, even if it was a fool’s seeded hope.

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