The Healing Forest
Kaida was breathing heavily as she sprinted through the shadowy forest, twigs cracking and crunching underfoot, and branches clawing at her face. She finally skidded to a halt at a clearing, gasping for breath. In the middle of the clearing, Kaida could see a bright light shining and casting a warm glow over everything. Her heart sank with the realisation of what was happening – she was too late.
Kaida had travelled for days on an important quest for the queen. She was to retrieve a rare plant that possessed magical healing properties from the ceremony. As she slowly walked into the clearing, Kaida could hear the laughter, the music, and magical chants. Today was the day of the Solstice, a very special event that marked the turning of winter to spring. She had been so excited at the thought of witnessing the magical tradition. The air was charged with energy, and the scent of cherry blossoms filled Kaida’s heaving lungs. She could see people dressed in colourful robes dancing and casting spells. More and more magic filled the air, each spell more extraordinary than the last. There were flashes of light, explosions of energy, and excited voices raised in awe. Kaida watched as objects floated through the air, and marvelled at all the fires dancing on the ground with different coloured flames. The atmosphere was simply buzzing with electricity.
As Kaida attempted to finally catch her breath, it was very clear she had missed the beginning of Solstice. The sun was already beginning to rise high in the sky, and it was obvious the celebration had begun long ago. Kaida beat her tiny elven fists against a tree as the frustration boiled inside her like a cauldron of spells, threatening to spill over. She had missed everything – the spectacular transformation of the forest, the creatures and other folk coming out to pay their respects to nature, the skilled fingers plucking away on harp strings, and the sacred fairy ritual. She could hear the fairies' laughter in the distance – a tinkling melody that enchanted whoever was lucky enough to hear it.
Kaida crumpled to the ground as despair washed over her in waves. She had managed to miss what her people said was the most important day of the year. The magical energy that undulated and rippled from the earth did not happen on any other day, and it was the reason her peoples' forest remained healthy, so alive, and free from disease. As she sat there wallowing in misery and self-pity, Kaida heard a soft rustling. Her keen elf senses zeroed in on the sound, as she rose to her feet and prepared to fight. But, then she saw him.
A young wolf limped toward her, clearly wounded, as its eyes beseeched Kaida for help. Its paws left behind a bloody trail. As Kaida cautiously moved toward it, the music from the Solstice filtering through the forest, the wolf pup dramatically collapsed, its breathing becoming shallower. Kaida immediately tended to its wounds, emptying the precious water from her flask over the animal's cuts and scrapes. She could see the cuts on the poor pup’s pads – deep and jagged – and her heart ached for it. Kaida dug in her medicine bag, eventually retrieving bandages, which she gently wrapped the wolf’s paws in. The pain etched on its face tugged at Kaida’s heart as she finished wrapping its paws. Its face relaxed slightly as if it was aware that the elf was trying to help it.
Kaida murmured comfortingly to the pup, even as the sounds of music and laughter continued to waft over them. Kaida’s feelings of anger and frustration were long gone and now replaced with an immense feeling of gratitude, and a recognition of the beauty of the moment between herself and the wolf pup. Kaida watched in disbelief as the pup’s wounds began to mend, weaving back together like an intricate spider web. Where there had been a gaping laceration, there was now only smooth, unbroken skin – even the fur was restored. The wolf’s fur had been matted with blood and dirt, but was now a sleek and shiny silver colour. The way the forest had helped provide healing was a magical gift that humbled Kaida, restoring hope, and resonating within her heart.
Kaida eyed the animal before her with a fresh perspective. This is why she had come here, deep into the forest. She was here to bear witness to the remarkable magic and ensure the forest remained protected. The Solstice was not the most important part of her quest, it was the celebration of the animals, trees, and land that made the forest magic possible.
Kaida watched as the wolf stood up and tested out its paws, before walking away and vanishing into the bushy undergrowth of the forest. It was very clear that the wolf pup was resilient and brave. The wolf’s spirit mixed with the forest magic had completed the amazing healing process. Kaida stood solitary in the clearing, surrounded by the glow of the sun, feeling more alive and connected to the forest and its energy than ever before. She knew in her heart that she would never forget this moment, and the magical lesson she had learned.
As she gazed once more upon the celebration, Kaida realised that even though she may have missed such a special and sacred event, she had been gifted the opportunity for a new and different one, showing her new beginnings and new growth. The forest reminded her that it was alive and magic was all around her. With that thought in her mind, Kaida turned to continue her mission for her beloved queen. She would find the rare healing plant as had been requested of her, then she would make her way home, the magic of the forest bursting within her heart.
From behind an oak tree, the wolf watched as the elf girl walked toward the festivities. His heart was filled with gratitude and his eyes soft as he thought of the elf’s actions. He had been given a second chance by a species that did not typically trust his. He knew he couldn’t repay the kindness, but he would pay it forward. He would take the world on, using his resilience and strength to help others, just as the elf had done for him. As he began to leave, the wolf howled with gratitude and made this promise to the forest. His journey was only just beginning.