Tana had lost track of time. Brin had fished her from the river more than half drowned, how many days ago now, and nursed her back to health. She had seen the moon wax and wane twice since regaining enough strength to leave Brin’s dwell. Each day the old woman taught here some new skill: the uses of the herbs in her garden, including the ones she used to break Tana’s fever; how to collect honey without too many stings; identifying different types of scat on the trails in the woods. All these things, Brin told Tana, would be needed once Tana left the safety of Brin’s wood. It saddened Tana to realized the unstated command in these statements – the day would come when Tana would have to go.

A breath of air blew across her face, for the windows of Brin’s dwell were unglazed in any manner. On the breeze she heard a haunting music. She rose and gazed out the window, trying to find the source. “Brin?” she called in a low voice. No one answered, but the music went on.

She stepped outside and cocked her head, listening. The music was coming form the grove. She walked towards it, feeling an edge of excitement in her blood. As she went the music became more clear. The tune was carried on soft hollow tones, as from a wind instrument. And while the notes were haunting the melody was happy and full of life. It seemed to be coming from near the citrus trees. She quietly approached, not wanting to disturb Brin from her playing. For it could be no other, she was sure.

Dim forms were becoming apparent ahead. There was Brin, seated with her back towards Tana, hunched over the instrument she played. But there were others there as well, some large, some small. She drew close enough to see.

A bear was seated next to Brin. Somehow this did not strike Tana as odd at all. The bear seemed to become aware of her and turned it’s head towards her. It’s massive tongue came out to clean it’s muzzle. It raised a giant paw to scratch an ear. It shook it’s head and let out a low rumble. The music stopped.

Brin half turned and beckoned towards her. “Come on, my child. Come and meet my friends.”

With mouth agape, Tana continued on. There, gathered in a small circle sat Brin, a bear, a wolf, an owl and a deer. They all looked at her, with curiosity in their eyes and nodded as if in greeting. Not knowing what else to do, Tana bowed deeply.

‘She has good manners.’ the owl observed.

Tana stared, unable to believe what she thought she had heard.

‘She is beautiful.’ said the deer.

‘Come on,’ the bear rumbled, licking it’s muzzle again. ‘We were expecting you tonight.’

~

Tana sat, legs akimbo, and listened to the music. It was the music of bear and wolf, owl and deer. Brin played upon a terra cotta ocarina delighting the assembled company. It was a strange and magical night. Tana felt as if her spirit were bound as one to those of her companions. The moon rose slowly over the eastern horizon and time passes out of all reckoning.

“My friends have agreed to teach you their ways.” Brin told her at the end of one song. “For the time is drawing neigh when you must leave.”

“I do not want to leave you.”

“Ah, but you know that you must. I cannot shelter you here forever, nor would you want me to in the end. Still, the world beyond my garden is a harsh, and filled with many perils. I have taught you much, but you are ill equipped to walk that world alone. If you consent, my friends will teach you the nature of their being, so that you can travel unmolested.”

“What do you mean?”

The bear fixed his eyes on hers. ‘We mean to teach you to become one of us, as the need serves you.’

“The choice is yours.” Brin murmured, putting the ocarina to her lips. “Let your mind empty to the music, open it to those around you. Let the moment take you.” Then she began to play once more.

Tana closed her eyes, soaking up the music. The music seemed to settle into her very core, to drive out all conscious thought. Her senses began to change – sounds, scents, the very feel of the air on her skin. She felt her nose expanding, her arms growing heavy. Then she arose with a growl, stretching her forepaws to the sky.
~

© 2011 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.

  8 Responses to “Brin’s Grove”

  1. To survive, she must become one with the forest. I saw “Brin” & expected a David Brin appearance. ;-)

  2. This is part of a much longer work, but I was stumped last night so I reworked one the the chapters a bit. She learns all four forms, but the owl becomes perhaps her most useful. But yes, she does become one with nature, which is a very powerful ally.
    ~jon

  3. That is a wonder filled story Jon. It begs for more.

  4. I’d sure like to see more of this. Good to know there is a larger work to satisfy my curiosity!

  5. Jon, I got caught up in your story and yes, it does feel like the beginning to something bigger. A very good beginning. I’d like to see more.

  6. A good story, well told. From a technical point of view I particularly like the paragraph beginning ‘She stepped outside’. I was right there, stepping forward with her.

  7. Jon, I love the magical quality to this, and am so glad to hear there’s more. I do hope you’ll share more snippets with us – hint hint. ;)

  8. I like the magical and innocent quality of this piece. In this world I sense much good. I hope she learns what she can before she heads back into the perils of her world.

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