Déorah clutched her child close to her bosom as she ran into the blackness of the old forest. The rain broke effortlessly through its thick, leafy canopy. She was frightened, but brave, as the darkness seemed to steal her very breath. Nonetheless, she hurried her journey upon the narrow path to the fortress of Berothai. She tried to comfort her son, to no avail, as the rain fell heavily upon them. For now, her cloak sheltered both.
Her protector, Jthan, a knight from the king’s inner circle, followed close behind-his sword unsheathed. “The sun has its troubles shining through the forest, but the rain does not seem to have such a problem. I will find a place for us to rest.”
She shook her head in gentle protest. “They will find us. I must bring my child to Berothai. Only there, will he be safe.”
The king’s most trusted knight wrapped his arm around her waist and pushed onward through the storm. How many times, throughout the years, had he asked for her forgiveness? Truly, he regretted the hour when he and his men put the torch to each home in her village. She had captured his heart that day as she ran from cottage to cottage trying to save the children from the fire. Nevertheless, Jthan was obligated to present to his king all the plunder of war and Déorah was a part of it. At least, he had rescued her from a lifetime of slavery when he convinced the king she was beautiful enough to be his queen.
“It is life for you,” he told her. “Do not refuse him.”
In time, her hatred for them both turned into genuine love-for one as husband, the other as friend. Though, Jthan’s heart longed for more he knew she would always be faithful to her king.
But now their kingdom lay in siege. The fall of their empire was imminent. Jthan’s orders were to take Queen Déorah, and her child, KBěhrszhen, to safety. Berothai was their only hope. Nevertheless, if the light in the forest could not be found, the path to the Fortress of Berothai would remain hidden.
Their journey to Berothai met with much resistance. Food was scarce, bar the few black bilberries and an occasional treasure of hazel nuts Jthan gathered in haste. Their enemies were many, both human and beast. The knight’s sword was stained with the blood of these foes. Even a Griffin, sent by the Witch of Endor, could not escape Jthan’s sword. The scars of that battle were still visible on his face, yet he revealed no pain.
As time in the forest passed, Déorah’s exhaustion overwhelmed her and she finally collapsed into Jthan’s arms. She closed her eyes and rested against his chest until the urgency of their matter forced him to put away his sword and carry mother and child to Berothai.
When at last a light was seen in the forest he gently placed his queen under the giant buttress roots of an ancient tree. She watched as he approached the flame in the rock.
“Even the rain cannot squelch the fire,” she whispered to KBěhrszhen.
Jthan hesitated slightly before he reached for the torch that lay beside the rock. If his heart was not pure the torch would not accept the light. He dipped carefully into the flame, and to his relief, the torch received the fire.
(copyright, Debby Alten, 2009)