As Easter is not far away I thought I would share a little story as my Easter gift to you. What better than a short, short Iski Flare adventure?
Iski ran his hand over the bark of the tree and breathed in the sweet scent of the forest. He would never tire of the smell. Never. Iski had seen a number of strange things in forests, but the splash of colour he noticed at the base of the next tree caught him by surprise. The pale orange was a stark contrast to the dark bark it rested against. It seemed a strange place for an animal to leave an egg and he reached out a tentative hand to run it over the patterned surface. It was cool to the touch and he closed his fingers around it. A rough zigzag pattern had been painted around the shell as though painted by a child and yet there was something safe in the weight of it.
He smiled as he put it in his pocket and then, along the track, he spied another. More blue than green he found himself rushing forward to collect it.
‘It is beautiful,’ Flare whispered in his ear. He nodded as he put it in his pocket and then a small hand was in his tugging at his fingers and he stared at the strange creature looking up at him.
‘Those are for the children,’ he said, jumping up and taking the egg from his hand, which he placed back in the little space between the roots of the tree.
‘What children?’ Iski asked his hand on his pocket as the creature extended his hand again. When Iski didn’t move, the creature indicated with a slight movement of his paw that Iski hand it over. With a sigh he reached into his pocket and retrieved the egg.
‘The children of the village,’ the creature said.
‘Are you a rabbit?’ Iski asked, suddenly tempted to squat down and study him.
‘Are you the man that wanders the world talking to someone that isn’t there?’
Iski looked down at the ground. ‘He’s a rabbit,’ Flare whispered.
‘Tell me about the eggs,’ Iski asked.
‘A little ritual,’ the rabbit whispered.
‘To celebrate a god that doesn’t believe in you,’ Iski shot back and Flare coughed her disappointment.
‘I’m sure you have seen many a thing you didn’t believe in before you were faced with them. Have you faced your god yet?’
Iski shook his head.
‘Witches and wolves, giants and faeries,’ the rabbit muttered, counting off along his paw. ‘I wonder what else is to come.’
Iski smiled at the little man, for the more he studied him the more like a man he looked. Was nothing as it seemed?
‘Maybe not,’ the rabbit muttered holding the pale egg that Iski first picked up. He hopped back toward the tree Iski had found it under.
Shaking his head, Iski followed. ‘Do you really think that the children should be out in the woods this far from the village?’ he asked.
He stopped then and looked around. Lifting himself up, his body still, he twitched his nose, causing the little whiskers to swish about. Iski watched in wonder as his formerly, long floppy ears, stretched up and twisted as though listening for something. He leaned closer to the tree and rested his ear against the bark. ‘Maybe,’ he muttered.
‘Leave,’ Flare whispered.
‘He’s a rabbit,’ Iski said. ‘And a small one. What harm could he pose?’
The rabbit collected the egg up again and it disappeared amongst his nut coloured fur. And then he took off at full speed, racing through the trees, leaping over logs, and roots. Iski was not far behind him but as much as they ran, the rabbit was always just ahead. As they ran through the trees Iski saw no sign of anyone else. No children. No villages.
Iski lost the rabbit in the undergrowth. He looked around for any sign of him and when none was found he sat on a fallen log, disappointed that he hadn’t had the opportunity to ask more questions. So much had changed in the years since he discovered the stories of the witch were true. How many years he had wandered the world? Despite the possible dangers he always felt safest in the trees, beneath the canopy, with the smell of the living around him.
He leaned back and looked up at the pale sky beyond the green branches. Maybe he needed a little more sunshine, maybe he needed some more time in the open. When he sat back up the rabbit sat before him. He turned his head to the side and an egg appeared in his paw, smaller than the others, but a brilliant red. The colour was somewhere between Flare’s hair and cape of the Reds.
‘Thank you,’ Iski said holding out his hand and the egg was very carefully placed within it.
‘I see you Iski Flare,’ the rabbit said. ‘She might not be as far away as you think. She may not be as close.’ He gave a little bow and then disappeared again.
‘Happy Easter,’ Iski muttered, turning the egg in his hand and he found that it wasn’t an egg, but an egg shaped rock. Red and solid. He slipped it into his satchel, removed his hat, wiped his brow and then replaced the hat. He stood slowly and stretched. Who was close enough to need him now?
‘Children from the village,’ he muttered. ‘There must be a village.’ He lifted his axe over his shoulder and headed in the same direction the rabbit headed. After a little while he found a path, not very worn, but a path. He couldn’t hear any indication of a village but followed it all the same.
When Iski walked into the cobblestone square of the town, the golden colour of the stone buildings shining in the sun, he could only smile. He walked around the fountain, so much grander than that of Muteguard, and stopped. The quietness of the world took him by surprise and then he realised that there were no children. If they, as children, had such a fountain on a sunny day they would have been splashing in it.
Maybe the little rabbit man was confused about the children, or Iski was about the village. And where was Flare?
The second episode is not far away…
Illustration by Courtney Brims, image courtesy of bloodyloud! (www.bloodyloud.com)