He glanced back and up and saw in Galyna’s eyes a look he could not decipher. “Is there trouble?” he asked as he worked his way to his feet, realizing he was still quite exhausted.
She nodded and pointed to the spot where the tree trunk touched the disk. There was a yellow-white light at the contact point. Stanton wondered about it for a second and then followed her stopping when she did close enough to the light that he felt a steady vibration spreading from the tree trunk through the disk. As close as they stood to the source, the vibration was strong and slowly it crept up from the soles of his feet into his legs and warmly spread up until even his head felt it.
“This is the tree’s healing source. It will strengthen you from the core of your spirit outward. When you feel your fingertips and toes tingling it is completed and you will understand all.”
He could only nod feeling the vibration filling him, revitalizing him, nourishing, his, spirit. When his fingertips did as she’d said, Stanton knew that despite every effort the healers made, Margaret would not live. The explosive device used to amputate her leg injected her with an unknown poison that the healers could not counteract.
Stanton’s heart felt heavy wrapped in a grief that felt overwhelming.
Galyna took his hands in hers, and when she squatted he was forced to do the same. He tried to resist, but she was strong enough to stop him. Then she placed his hands directly on the place with the tree’s light originated. Nothing came to him to explain what her then felt, but when she released him, Stanton had accepted the coming lose of the mother of his child, but also felt a coldness he’d once buried so he the assassin wasn’t as ruthless, and without mercy. Now he felt driven to return to the king’s land and kill them all. But the portal was gone and with it the opportunity to seek and enjoy revenge.
The tree’s light flashed red/orange as he thought of his rage and thirst for revenge, and as it did those feelings left him too.
He stood again, and faced the warrior. “Will she regain consciousness so I may speak with her?”
Galyna shook her head. “No, and the healers must remove the child now before the poison reaches its heart.”
He nodded and went to Margaret, lifted her warm hands and kissed them both, then her eyes, and last her mouth. When finished, he looked around and a sharp drilling pang of regret reminded him of losing Blythe.
This is the way for me. Death is my companion and all I touch will feel its sting before my joy is complete, he thought and stepped back to allow the healers save his child.
About two hours later they, with the horses, began descending to the floor of the forest. He healers had left with his child since she his daughter was too premature for him to care for her. They would keep her until she was old enough to travel with Stanton. Galyna assured him that was their intention and they could be fully trusted.
He watched the tree disks slid around the base of the tree as they stepped on a different disk along with the body of the woman he’d loved when he’d not desired to love again.
Finally, as the sun began to darken, they were down. Several Druid males awaited their arrival. They gently gathered up Margaret’s remains and carried her to a large clearing with a pyre stood. After they’d arranged her, the Druids produced rods that emitted blue-green flames. With these they lit the wood piled around the base of the pyre.
Stanton fought the tears, the horror and anguish as the flames rose slowly, embracing her body and then she was gone.
He and the warrior stayed in place until the pyre and Margaret were nothing but ashes. Then Galyna reached for him, took his hand and guided him into the forest where a small village of stone houses and buildings stood. She took him into a one-room house and stopped at the doorway.
“You may live here as long as you need. If at time you want to help us, tell me and I will assist so you assimilate as easily as possible.”
He nodded. “And my daughter? When can I see her?”
“The healers will send one of their kind and take you to her at least once a week. They have informed me she will need to be with them for several months. After that you and she may leave if you so desire.”
“I don’t think I have a choice in that since I’ve been guided or even driven this far by powers I cannot understand or defy.” He tried to smile and failed. “Thank you for all you’ve done. I think I need rest now.”
She did smile, but in it was a kindness that made him feel that she cared. Without another word, she turned and left him.