by Haunted Sox
entry for 8/21 world weavers championship prompt 7 - Blooming Marvels approx. 936 words
|The sunlight reached the forest floor in an enchanting dappled pattern. The plants smelled green. It was like Raen had never experienced green until she entered this forest. The sounds of the forest were almost overstimulating, chirps of insects, tweets, and caws of innumerable birds, even the raucous shouts of some kind of mammal. This wasn’t just a forest it was a rainforest. Part of her didn’t understand how it could be so pristine. Something in her gut left her expecting a denuded landscape. It was like a memory but how?
“Raen, come on, the village is through here,” Honor shouted from ahead of her on the trail. The rest of the snake-handlers had wandered off into the forest with collection equipment and containment bags. Raen snapped to attention and scurried along the path to join Honor.
Within a few minutes, they had entered the village. The houses were obviously built from natural materials, the thatch of the roofs and the wooden branches making up the walls and raised floors clearly evidenced their origins. A few children ran and played in the clearing at the center of the assembled houses. Adults worked on mats, in front of the houses, processing plant matter.
“This village collects and processes certain plants found in the forest for the same reason we collect the venom. The empire needs the complex chemical compounds found in the plants of the forest. We cultivate the ones we can in farms closer to the city but many will only grow here,” Honor stated. He lowered his luggage and equipment to the ground. “That house over there is for visiting collectors. There aren’t any beds, but the mats are more comfortable than the ground.”
Raen hadn’t expected a bed so she wasn’t the least bit disappointed, “When should I go out and start collecting?”
“Let me get you the equipment.” He pulled a bag of hoods from among his equipment. He also handed her a long collection stick with a hook on one end and a claw that opened and closed on the other end. Then he handed her a stack of sacks. “Put the hoods on them, for safety and to keep them calm and healthy.”
Raen nodded at the instructions and started to turn to head out into the forest. Honor grabbed her shoulder. He handed her a small device with an led display. Honor switched the box on and it displayed an arrow pointing to the center of the square. “When you are on your way back, follow the arrow.” Raen started towards the forest. “Wait! Miriobi? Where is Turin?”
A woman pounding dried flower petals into a powder stopped, “I think he’s in the garden.”
“Raen, come with me,” Honor motioned. He led her past the nearest house to a clearly cultivated area full of flowers of all types. “What do you think?”
Raen stared at the flowers. Near memories flooded her mind, she found herself thinking that these flowers all resembled other flowers she had never seen before but could name scientifically and a variety of common names. The sensation of having so much alien knowledge blow through her mind all of a sudden made her dizzy. She held a hand to her head and tried focusing on one violet-colored flower at the edge of the garden. Iris, her mind supplied. The root of the varieties she suddenly remembered could be used to create cough syrups and topical treatments for skin conditions like eczema and acne. She actively wondered what this variety could do. Surely its uses were more esoteric than that if it was of economic benefit to cultivate it.
“Raen, this is Turin,” Honor said presenting a young man just a little older than she was. She had forgotten they had come around here looking for someone.
“Pleased to meet you,” Raen held out her hand. Turin looked at her awkwardly and fist-bumped her outstretched hand.
“So, what do you need Honor?” Turin asked.
“I want you to go with Raen on her first trip out into the forest.”
Raen frowned. She wasn’t used to the idea of supervision. “I have the compass box. I can find my way back.”
“Raen, there are a lot of dangerous organisms out there. I would feel better if you had a local guide on your first trip.”
“Honor, seriously, I am going out there to collect the dangerous organisms.”
“Do you know what plants to avoid touching to keep from coming back with a bleeding rash?” Turin asked.
Raen glared at the sky, “Okay, but for the record, I have never needed a babysitter before.” She rolled her head around on her shoulders finally turning her focus back on Honor.
“I know Raen, but supervision is something you should get used to. I was hoping you would accept my sponsorship to the apothecary guild when we got back. They are taking on a new class of apprentices,” Honor dropped a virtual bombshell on Raen.
“That would mean I would have to leave my pack. I’m not ready, Constance still needs me. She still wakes up crying for her mother sometimes.”
“Raen, are you really going to choose to stay on the streets? Full guild membership could lift you above them permanently,” Honor argued.
Raen chose to turn her back on him and start marching for the forest. He was trying to determine the path of her life. Who did he think he was? Her father? Raen didn’t have a father. She looked over her shoulder at Turin, “You going to come guide me through the perils of the forest or not?”