1st Day of Harvest Season, 342 Years After Mourning

“Twin rowans guard the bend where the river turns east. Count off fourteen paces—nay, double that for your young legs—and you’ll find the overhang. If you don’t see it immediately, sweep away the vines. Sleep there. In the morning, follow the river east. Look for my marks on the birches.”

With my finger, I drew the symbol for her in the dust. A circle pierced by seven sets of half-arcs which meet in the middle. Our conversation turned after that. We talked of messages and I calmed her fears about the pigeon Wohlgrin smuggled to her. Hilla’s family ran a bakery. She could grind meal and churn butter. About birds, she knew next to nothing. She’d never been close enough to a pigeon to touch one. The girl is nothing if not brave. Her hands trembled when we spoke, but within the steady brown eyes I saw a depth of strength. You have chosen well, Sisters. You always do.

Wohlgrin thought of the flyer, no doubt, for practical purposes. I wonder if he considered the subtle benefits of the giving the girls another mouth to feed. The pigeon has kept Hilla so occupied, her grief has lessened, if only for a day. No tears were shed during either visit today.

I’m afraid Wohlgrin will need to take over the birds here at the temple in order to retrieve any messages, or assign one of his kitchen boys to them. Cardinal Imorgan’s spies must not discover the farm.

In light of recent revelations, I’ve ignored the mercenaries and turned my attention to the disease responsible for killing our population. Yesterday, Hilla shared the details of her family’s death. The symptoms match the others. The boils. The fever. The quick death. But she survived. She and her sister. What courage it must have taken for her to share everything! She spoke of an immense ache within her, just under the skin, racing along her veins. The fever, which came first, was separate and raged in her mind, but a small part of her remained lucid. She tried to push past the fog in her head and explain the pain, but something stopped her every time. She could think, could reason, and rationalize, but the moment she tried to communicate, a cage slammed down around that small part of her that was alive. In her mind, she screamed and railed against the cage, moment after moment. She watched her father die as if from afar, though he held her hand as he released his last breath.

“Hilla,” I began, placing a hand on hers.

“I roared.”

I wasn’t sure if I heard her correctly.

“He taught us that. Roar louder than the bear. So I roared.” She shrunk into her shoulders, as if embarrassed.

“What happened then, child? What happened when you roared?” I couldn’t contain my excitement. I knew the answer as sure as I know both moons rise each night.

“The cage shattered,” she whispered. Her voice betrayed her disbelief.

Despite my excitement, I avoided pushing the child further. The tears came then. Next to a half-blind old man in a dungeon, she finally mourned everything she had lost. And with the tears came the guilt. Why hadn’t she roared sooner? Why didn’t he, the man who taught her the magical formula to defy death itself, heed his own advice?

“Do you want to know a secret, Hilla?” I asked her between the tears.

She sniffed.

“We spend our entire lives asking those questions, sometimes loudly, sometimes softly and sometimes silently. On a good day, someone answers us. The other days, well, the other days feel like eternity.”

“Is this all there is, then? Death and unanswered questions?”

“And life and answered questions. They are all tied together.”

She bandaged my broken ribs in silence and left soon after. Her revelations may be the key! The sickness attacks in two ways, not a unified front as we first believed. The ramifications have the potential to shatter all of our beliefs. If I can just piece the information together. Hilla and Poppy are the first survivors I’ve encountered. Why were they spared? What is different about them? Have you marked them, Sisters? Do they belong to you?

The questions whirl through my mind as I shuffle awkwardly back and forth from the iron door to the far wall of my cell. There are answers here. Hidden not only in the dark, but in the mystery of survival.

Tomorrow, I am to be released and resume my temple duties, whatever those might be. While I ponder my future and these mysteries, my eyes fall upon the symbol I drew for the girl. I didn’t have the heart earlier to rub my hands over the dust. I stare at it, the circle of radiance drawn on a filthy dungeon floor, hoping the answers will come. They never do. The only sound I hear is my own ragged breath, and an echo of my words repeating in my head.

“And life and answered questions. They are all tied together.”

-Jakob Borchain


Click here to read the previous entry, Catalysts, the 48th Day of Ripening Season.

 Click here to read the next entry, A New Beginning, the 2nd Day of Harvest Season. 


Click here to go to the beginning of Jakob’s Journal.

2 thoughts on “Answered and Unanswered Questions

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