Sheoak loved the smells of her world. It was the perfumes of nature on the wind of the forest at night. With her almond eyes closed and her sharp ears listening Sheoak could see the silver owl drop from a branch and narrow in on its prey, a silent hunter. The babble of the brook called to her telling her secrets as did the whisper of the wind through each branch, caressing each leaf. The forest was her home, the home of her people and she knew each and every inch intimately. That was why it was such a shock for the elf when she discovered the body.
It was on the second day of the beginning of the storm season, the year of her one hundred and twenty first anniversary of birth that Sheoak discovered the vacant eyed forest prince. It was a discovery that disturbed her very soul. The body had been left there, in a forest glade and she had been drawn by the unusual stench of extended death during the night as she was patrolling. First she caught the scent; blood and pain and wasteful death. This scent was so out of place that confusion clouded her mind. She followed the odor of life cut short and with tears blurring her vision she came across the majestic buck. It had been pierced by arrow and spear but not any weapon of the primitive quality the elf was familiar with. The heads of the shaft broken off then dug free by Sheoak seemed more advanced than her people could manage to create. Horrific it was to discover the body of the forest prince just left behind to rot, discarded. All that had been taken was the head and one hoof. Lovingly, reverently Sheoak used all of her strength to lift the body of the beast. She carried it for hours until she brought the limp carcass back home to her camp. The body of what was once a proud creature was now naught but a mess of blood and early decay. A marionette of power and pride with its strings slashed as its rack was stolen.
“What have you brought upon us daughter Sheoak?” asked the Mother Druid.
“Mother this creature’s life has been taken… Stolen without need…” cried Sheoak.
“We give the body of this creature back to the Earth,” announced the Mother Druid, the other elves murmuring their own blessings in reply.
“Mother the creature’s spirit calls to me,” announced the Seer.
Two other elves took the body of the buck between them and it was given to the crackling fire to feast upon.
“Speak!” demanded the Mother Druid of the Seer.
“The beast is angered at such a waste of its life… The very forest demands an answer to why… Sheoak found the creature… The forest asks Sheoak to bring back that answer…” stated the Seer.
“Sheoak, do you accept the request of the forest? Do you accept the demand of this buck?” asked the Mother Druid, kindly, openly.
Sheoak smelled the rotten flesh burning within the flames. She remembered the scent of the deer and the wrongness of the scent and the waste.
“I accept, Mother,” she replied with a grim determination.
Armed with her father’s bone knife, her mother’s spear and her knowledge, Sheoak returned to the site where the buck was found. The night had been filled with fitful dreams of messengers and warnings but by morn those images had been washed away in the stream. Sheoak had kissed her family goodbye and accepted the blessing of the Mother Druid. She had packed a bag with fruits and meats, two skins of water and her flint rock to cause flame. Traveling light had returned by the light of the new morn to the place of death. This was her first time leaving the camp for more than a night and day as she realized from the beginning this would be no swift journey. A necklace of feathers adorned her neck for the Seer had prophesied she would fly far from home. At the place where the buck had been discarded Sheoak used her knowledge of natural magic to transform. The guise of a fox opened up the death site for further investigation and with her heightened sense of smell Sheoak discovered further confusion. Creatures that had stood like elves but were not spirits of the forest had passed through this place, the odd scents of these strangers making it harder for Sheoak to understand. A squirrel, normally fearful of foxes approached as Sheoak searched the blood soaked soil for more answers. The elf quickly picked up that this squirrel was like her, transformed. With trust in a fellow druid she followed as the chestnut creature scurried away.
For half a day the fox chased the tiny critter, deeper, further through the forest until nothing smelled familiar. Past stream, past tree, past rabbit’s home and nest of bird until again a familiar smell caught the senses of the fox. Again the smell of the creature she hunted was assaulting. It confused Sheoak with how much it seemed out of place. Returning to her elven form the druid rested, leaning upon a sturdy tree. Using her keen sight in the low light Sheoak sought other clues about her quarry. The foot print was long, heavy, seemingly without toes or claws. The rich dark earth captured the print almost as if The Mother was holding clues in preparation for her sleuth’s arrival. The creature walked upon two feet, one print shaped as a mirrored image of the other. Similar prints were mingled amongst the creature’s tracks, evidence it migrated with a herd. Perhaps it were the alpha that she sought, claiming the antlers of the deer as a prize would be something Sheoak considered an alpha would do.
Following the tracks to the edge of the forest Sheoak had a moment where she thanked the forest and its creatures for their guidance. Stepping out from beyond the comfort of the undergrowth the elf felt a distinct disconnection. The earth was soulless, carved and recreated to an unnatural smoothness. The footprints of the creature were no longer so visible but the stone path in front of the druid was like a scar across the world. Sheoak followed beside the trail, giving its soullessness a respectful birth. For days she followed, eating sparingly from her rations. As road turned to town the elf felt no curiosity to explore. The smells upon the air seemed wrong, a herd fighting against their environs not working with it and within it. As the habitats grew in size Sheoak thought she may be drawing nearer to the creature she sought.
The most abundant and obnoxious habitat of all was where Sheoak decided to search first. By the light of the full moon she transformed into a little black bird. Her keen eye and tiny orange beak took a moment to drag a fleshy worm from the soil but the world was wrong and so all that came from it was wrong too. Half a worm seemed half too much but Sheoak had not eaten for two days and she wished not to fail the Mother Druid, The Mother Earth and especially not the buck. Sheoak knew the importance of food before flight that she would have enough energy and focus to do what needed to be done. Taking wing as the remains of the worm wriggled away the black bird sought entry. The Stone Mountain was like a termite hill, a fortress that seemed impregnable. Even termite hills had tiny ways of entry for something small enough. Through the arrow slit windows it was easy for the bird to invade. Once within the fortress the elf returned to her true form. Her barbaric sylvianism caused immediate fear in the servitude, they fled from her path like rabbits from the fox. Those dressed in the finer furs and cloth gifted from the Mother Earth were braver. They cried garbled shouts of concern. Sheoak merely revealed her father’s blade and watched as they too vanished. Finally came the six and six again who dressed in the scales of the armadillo. Her father’s blade and her mother’s shaft would do naught against such protection. With little resistance Sheoak willingly went into their custody.
The elf was amazed and appalled at the extravagance of the room full of people she was brought into. Presented before an ancient slumped upon a crafted tree the elf was more interested in the younger creature sat beside the old man. Both wore metal across their brows but the younger’s was elaborated by a silver extension that could only be interpreted as a buck’s rack. This was the quarry, the hunt was over.
“Mother Spirit has sent me to you!” announced Sheoak, her powers as a druid enabling her to communicate with any animal.
“Ahhh… Our unexpected visitor can communicate,” croaked the old man, eyes milky white looking up into Sheoak’s without seeing.
“I wish no disrespect wise one but it is the one beside you I have sought,” replied Sheoak as she looked beyond the old man’s eyes and into his thoughts.
“I know her not, father,” stated the younger.
“It was you that murdered my family,” replied the elf.
The old man’s head jerked toward the younger.
“Is this true, Prince Derrick?” asked the elder, shocked.
“Father I tell you I know not what this sylva is talking about?”
“My dear, my son does not know what story you tell,” stated the old man. “Take away our guest to our best room…”
The stone prison beneath the castle did not hold Sheoak as once more she transformed into something smaller than the manacles encasing her hands and feet. By the light of the moon the black winged bird found the prince a slumber. Her mother’s spear pinned the creature as her father’s bone knife stole head and hoof. As the bird fled the castle its beak was crimson in color.
For two hundred years the humans raged a vengeful war against the elves. It was a war they were unprepared for in a land they did not know. Sheoak was there as the humankind fled, never to set foot in her forest again.