Zena’s father, Xavier, pondered over the repercussions of his daughter’s visit to the woods last night. The fact that he was thinking this clearly meant that they had not forgotten about him nor the bargain he’d made. He did not remember telling his daughter about the plant, which only meant they had intervened, and he was unsure how he felt about this. He had been ready to die, but he knew his daughter still needed him, especially now.
He looked up to see his daughter mashing the remaining thistle and prepping it for the drink. She smiled when she saw him and his heart twisted as he thought of the ways he should have been a better father. Xavier walked over to his daughter and placed his hand on her shoulder before he spoke, “How did you know about the thistle?”
Zena stopped what she was doing and turned around to face him. “You told me, father.” She eyed him quizzically, waiting for him to explain himself though he was unsure if he could.
“I did?” Xavier would never have told her about the thistle, let alone gave her a reason to walk so deep into the woods.
“You did… You said it would help you and it did… I, umm, also came across the villagers who left.” She watched her father’s face as she replied, searching for any evidence he knew of the villagers or what he had spoken of to her, but saw none.
“And what of them?” Her father questioned.
“All dead. It looks as if the sickness found them even there and the monsters of the woods found the rest.” Zena made the sign of The Moon across her chest and her father did the same.
Pain and guilt engulfed Xavier. Not even the woods could protect them from the sickness and death encompassing the land, not that the woods ever helped anyone anymore. Not after he betrayed them as he did, and now, they were looking for revenge. He just knew that the bad luck hitting the country and village was more than that, he had angered the gods themselves, and now, he would have to visit them once more.
“Here is the thistle, father. Are you feeling better? You look pale. Perhaps, you should sit.” Zena worriedly catered to her father, needing his strength and answers in a world falling apart.
“How long was I out this time?” Xavier asked, ignoring his daughter’s concern as he grabbed the drink from her hand. He gulped it down in disgust. It tasted awful, but it would give him the energy he needed for the months to come. The damned thistle that got him into this mess and he was sure, it was also what he needed to fix it.
“Eight days.” She replied, looking smaller than her 14 years. She was a woman, but to him, she would always be his little girl. One that needed him, and one that he promised his wife he would take care of.
Eight days was shorter than normal, the thistle still worked well even after all these years of forgoing it. If he was going to mend the world he’d helped break, he would have to do it before the concoction wore off this time around.
“Father, please tell me what is going on.” Zena watched her father’s facial muscles twitch with thought. She wanted to help and to do that, she needed to find out more about her family’s past. “I deserve to know.” Is the only other thing she could think of to add.
Xavier did not want to tell Zena about the life he’d lived so long ago, but if he was talking to her through words not his own, he had no choice.
“Okay, lets take a walk.” It seemed, the past had to be brought into the present, despite his trying and failing for it not to.
(TO BE CONTINUED)