The Rosslea Woods were changing. Zandra had known for some time, because she had been changing with it. Her sight was failing. The Old One was beginning to live up to her name.
So she began preparations, gathering parchments, destroying the useless ones, and the ones that she did not trust to Cyprian. There were many of them. They spilled out of cracks in the walls and from between odds and ends on shelves. They huddled under the bed and under the window, just out of line of the sunshine that feebly entered there. Zandra’s hands shook as she gathered, sorted, and burned. She did not have much time. And there was the weight that slowed her down. She wiped the strands of long grey hair that fell in her face.
“Spring cleaning, Netra?” Cyprian’s spare, lean frame stood in the doorway of Zandra’s home. He used one of her other names, as he often did. His tone was not unkind, but he always had an edge to it, like his pointed face. His features made him appear to be a well-preserved middle-aged person, like Zandra herself.
“It is high summer, little brother,” responded Zandra. “It is almost time for my exile.”
Cyprian sauntered into the house. “How many years since I have been here? Many. And yet, I will miss you.” He scanned the room, looking. “Where is the whiny gnome?”
“Ah, he has left. Finally.” Zandra laughed. “I feared he would never leave. And then all my labors would have been in vain.”
“Would it truly matter?” questioned Cyprian. “A gnome, even if he is the last of his kind? We have seen men come and go, villages flourish and fall. What is a single gnome, or a single goat, for that matter?”
“That was always your great failing,” accused Zandra. “Our great failing. Guards of our realm, given a small measure of judgment to dole out, but it has never been our task to go beyond that. We are wizards, not gods.” She threw the last of the parchments into the fire. “You must learn this now, Cyprian, or I fear for your time as the Old One.”
“Is that why you are taking a detour?” Cyprian asked. “We both know you need nothing to go to the other side of Rosslea.”
“I must aid Cadmus if I can,” said Zandra. Her eyes were full of the weariness her soul had carried hidden. “I went beyond my task…or perhaps I should say, I went backwards. He would not willingly accept my help if he saw me now, but I may still be able to help him before I go.”
They were both silent for a time. At last Zandra shouldered the pack she had filled with a few essentials.
“Here.” She pressed the key to the house into Cyprian’s palm. “I do not need to tell you how important that is. Fulfill your role, until you are replaced and join the rest of us.” She looked her brother in the eyes.
“Wizards, not gods,” repeated Cyprian. Zandra nodded, then left. Cyprian watched her disappear into the embrace of the Woods, and beyond, into the world of men.
Tales of Enndover #9
For the other tales, click the category link by that name. Begin at the bottom, with Cadmus.