Found – Part Fourteen
Parts One through Thirteen can be found on my author’s page
My enchanted guides faded away as the sun began to rise behind the mountains. The gates to Haven’s End were enmeshed in nature. They towered over me, covered in deep green vines, and lush ivy. I walked close to the gates. There’s still time to turn around. Go back to Calum, apologize, and beg him to take you back. No. I’ve caused him enough pain and trouble. Leaving him was the best thing I could do for him. This was where he was planning for me to go anyway. I was the last Grimoire. I was meant to be The Guide. And I couldn’t do that if I was hiding in a forest.
I know that I owed Calum my life. He saved me and brought me into his home and cared for me. And I repaid by destroying his possessions and putting him in danger. You did the right thing. But now you’ll bring that same danger to the innocent people of Haven’s End.
As I stood outside the gates, I knew I had to find a Healer, recover, and leave.
“Enough,” I heaved a sigh. My body was beginning to feel the burden I placed upon it. It felt heavy, and each step felt like a step through hot sand. I pushed myself against the florid gates, and the colors of the sunrise poured out from behind them.
Before my eyes could adjust to the light, I heard a voice.
I shielded my eyes from the sun and turned towards the voice. She was standing a few feet away from me, holding a large basket. She was wrapped in a cloak, her face shrouded in shadow.
“Hello,” I replied.
She came closer and dropped her hood. She appeared to be close in age to Calum. Her long, raven hair was knotted up at the nape of her neck. An angry scar ran across her cheek, vandalizing her porcelain skin. Her eyes seemed to shine with tears that refused to fall, warping her features with sadness.
“Welcome to Haven’s End. Before we get you settled, we bring everyone to Arion’s Tree. If you’ll follow me, please.”
She didn’t wait for me as she started walking. But I followed her. We walked a short distance to a large tree that dominated the center of the town’s square. Its branches stretched upwards in every direction as if they started reaching towards the sun, but gave up half way. There was a weathered bronze plaque mounted on it.
Come all here, those who flee
Guided to this willow tree.
Here you’ll find not foe, but friend
Welcome all, to Haven’s End.
She stopped in front of it and touched her hand to its trunk. Her eyes closed, and she bowed her head. For a fleeting moment, there was a flash of joy.
“This is Arion’s Tree,” she began. “It’s enchanted to keep us all safe and to help those in need to find us.” Her eyes opened, and she lifted her head to face me. She smiled at me, her eyes still swimming in unshed tears.
Arion. That must have been the name of Calum’s friend, the one who made Haven’s End. This tree was their heart. It gave them hope. Did they know? Did Calum tell them?
“Why do you bring people here?”
“It’s a tradition that started back when the town was built. Arion, for who the tree is named, would bring people here to explain the enchantment and help them to feel safe. I’m Mara. You don’t have to share your name if you’d prefer not to.”
“My name is Nox.” I earned that name. It was the first thing that was ever mine, and I’ll share it with anyone that asks.
“It’s lovely to meet you, Nox.” Her melancholy picked at the edges of my heart. “You seem injured. Let’s get you settled in, and you can get a good rest.” Mara turned and began to walk around the tree.
By then, the sun had risen, and the town was bathed in day. I’d never been to a village before. I only knew my cell in the castle and Calum’s cabin. I followed Mara around the tree, and there was a large fountain behind it. The water cascading from it caught the sun and glittered like fairy dust. Different sized buildings surrounded the fountain. The people of Haven’s End began to awaken, and a few were making their way around.
“This is the Town Square,” Mara said. “Most of the businesses can be found here. You can have a tour later if you’d like. But right now, you need rest.”
“Where are you taking me?”
“Right there,” she gestured to the largest of the buildings in the Square. “That is The Willow. It’s the inn and tavern here. Most of our newcomers settle in the rooms there, and most of the people congregate there. Don’t worry. Everyone is welcoming.”
She continued walking toward The Willow, but I didn’t follow her right away. I froze in the Square. Not good. People would want to talk to me, and I did not want to form attachments. I didn’t want to stand out in any way, so I didn’t want to say that to Mara either. Nothing stuck out like someone who wanted to blend in and disappear. But I couldn’t help but feel drawn to Mara. Her sadness and maternal energy were endearing. She was warm and soft, and that made me want to protect her, and that was dangerous. The last time I felt that way about someone, her wings were ripped off, and she was crushed right before my eyes.
“Nox?” She called from the doorway. ”Are you all right? Do you need help walking?” She started walking back over to me. I held my hand up to stop her.
“No, I’m fine. I… I’m—”
“You don’t have to say anything. No one that comes here has a happy story. But you can find your happy ending here. There’s no need to worry. We’ll keep you safe.”
Yeah. I’ve heard that before.