Posted Tuesday, Jun 18th 2013 @ 18:24

The Eleventh Day of March- “There will be barriers,” she said, as though one more warning could change my mind. “Then I’ll have to break through them,” I replied, tightening the leather rings binding the straps of my pack and checking my bootstraps a third time, “Or go around.”

The First of April- The undergrowth swelled as the last of the day’s light crept out of view. The air was thick, choked with the forest’s noxious vapor and old, dry ash. I drew in a deep breath, but stopped short. My lungs and throat contracted violently to expel the heavy pitch, as the darkness cinched tighter. I was afraid, and cold, but my compass still worked.

The Twenty-Second of April- My eyes adjusted to the darkness. The trees began to rematerialize as I caught my breath. I stopped a moment to reassess my bearings, leaning my palm against a sacred oak as I rifled for my navigation tools. The surface gave a little: brittle and damp. Moss. I was heading the wrong way. I tightened my fist, knowing well that this was neither the time nor the place to cry out. I couldn’t see the citadel, but I now knew where it was; and, more importantly, I knew where it wasn’t.

May the Thirteenth- My toenails were blackened; my toes battered and bruised from the incessant grinding against the worn inner linings of my frayed canvas boots. The pain was dull and persistent. There was no spectacular boundary to the forest: it simply trailed off into a dry, mountainous region, with steep, red, rocky ridges. I was expecting the light of the citadel to burst high into the night sky at the forest’s edge: a beacon, lighting the final push. Rather, the light was small: warm and distant, as it first appeared over the third ridge. A hearth, dimly welcoming the wary traveler. I checked my watch. Spores from the forest had stopped it cold, but I looked again out of habit. I knew this much: time was running short. The pathway was steep and treacherous. If I sprinted, I’d surely fall victim to the cliffside. If I traversed carefully, I’d run out of time. I needed to find another route.

June the Third, Recalling the Events of the Thirteenth Day of May- The sun sunk low on the horizon’s edge as my decision began to surface. If I couldn’t deliver the message to the citadel before dark fell, the warring party would strike, as were their orders if compromise could not be reached by the third day of negotiations. The cliffside was steep, and the path ahead treacherous. I loosened my pack and retrieved the treaty, letting the weight of the travel provisions sink toward the ground as the leather straps slipped through my fingers. I clutched the treaty tightly and let the satchel fall. I sprinted toward the chaparral, hoping the briar would break my fall should I lose balance. I misjudged a low-lying hollow and tumbled into the thick, thorny brush. The spines tore through my ribcage as the rocky cliffside etched abrasions across my forearms. I got up. I held the treaty tightly. These words meant everything.

xoxo (CW) Alex