Disclaimer: I don't own them. I am borrowing them for my own enjoyment.
Roar: Transition by Ecri
Parched. Dry. Cracked. Hard. The Earth was turning to Dust. Soil that had been fertile and green, with all manner of growth upon it, now was sterile, brown, and dying. The island had never before–at least not since man could pass along the tale–known such a drought. A slight breeze could set the soil, now dust, flying high and far.
Hunters had to go far afield to find enough game to feed their villages. Fires were watched carefully. Lest a stray spark turn the entire island to flame.
Conor felt the weight of his responsibilities as he surveyed the land. There was some serious imbalance to cause this, and he wondered what it was. Perhaps something had been done when the Spear had turned his headhe cut off that thought angrily. He could barely remember what had happened then. What memories he did have were as if they'd happened to someone else. Dreamlike, they would solidify in moments of clarity. "you should bow with the others." He closed his eyes and forced his breathing to calm, but he was too late. Again. He saw himself, his hands around Caitlin's throat, squeezing the life out of her
Shaking his head to clear it, he turned back to the Sanctuary. He was afraid. He'd harbored a fear in himself, of himself, ever since the Spear. He was afraid of the vengeance in his heart, of the way the Spear had affected him. For surely, if the Spear could stir those feelings, that hunger for power, then those feelings must be within him. What if he lost control again? What if he couldn't find his way back? What if he caused more deaths in the name of protecting the land and striking back at the Romans? What if his thirst for vengeance blinded him to his true duty?
He felt like a failure and a sham.
Sighing, he quickened his pace. Fergus would be going out with the hunters again. They'd been out almost everyday this week, sometimes catching enough for the day, sometimes not, but never more. They'd had to begin rationing the water.
What more could he do? He knew the others looked to him for answers. He looked to Fergus, but neither of them had a clue how to make the rain fall. Caitlin prayed. The Druids had their own rituals to ask the land for balance. Conor wasn't sure why, but he felt the answer lay elsewhere.
His walk back to the Sanctuary was full of reminders that the land itself seemed to have turned against them. Dry, withered trees, and brown, brittle grass replaced the verdant lush hills he'd taken for granted all his life. The Sanctuary seemed less and less like a sanctuary each day.
"There y'are, lad! Are you ready for the hunt?" Fergus had gathered today's hunters by the entrance to the Sanctuary. His smile was hopeful and his great deep voice seemed to insist the hard times would be over soon, perhaps this very day. Conor smiled despite his glum mood.
"Lead the way, Fergus!" Conor fell into step with the hunters, and, together, they went in search of sustenance for their clan.
"What a wretched place this is!" Diana turned from Longinus in anger. "The entire island is becoming a desert!"
Longinus graced his queen with a sardonic half-smile. "Come, Diana, you know your duty to Rome. You should be glad to stay here to claim this place for your emperor." His mocking tone grated on Diana's ears.
She faced him and noticed his sly smile. "You have a plan."
Longinus stood and strode gracefully to her side. "I'm afraid that's my little secret." He left her standing there, staring after him. To him, her frustration was more delicious than the finest feast ever prepared.
Longinus expected to take full advantage of the plight of this hideous island. He had planned an expedition to the wooded area his men were sure hid Conor and his followers. The drought must have forced them to wander in search of food. They'd be less cautious, more desperate, and, undoubtedly, more afraid. The boy would soon find the weather to be the least of his problems.
Conor followed Fergus and the others on the hunt, though his heart wasn't in it. He saw nothing that would fill even the smallest belly among his people. Frustrated and demoralized, he sat heavily upon a boulder.
Fergus was beside him in a moment. "Why are you lagging back here, lad?" We're bound to find something soon; don't look so discouraged."
"Fergus, we've gone farther from home today than we ever have before. We've got to do something. We've got to find a way to end the drought!" Conor's eyes pleaded with Fergus to know what to do.
Fergus looked away. "We'll survive. We will not be defeated now, before we even begin to fight! Come, Conor." Grabbing Conor by the arm, he eased the lad upright and led him through he sadly withered woods.
Most of the day was gone when they finally spotted it. Through the trees, Conor could make out a soft spotted coat. Gesturing to Fergus, he pointed.
"A fawn," Fergus whispered in delight, "and too young to be weaned. Its ma must be nearby."
The hunters soon discovered several deer, male and female. They spread out and began the attack. Caitlin's arrows caught two of the animals before they could run. Soon they had several small and two large deer to take back to the Sanctuary. Their own bellies gurgled in anticipation of tonight's feast. Surely, some whispered, this was a good omen. Things would change.
On the way back, Fergus clapped a hand on Conor's shoulder. "You see! Next time, have a little faith."
Caitlin joined the pair. She looked into Conor's eyes as they walked and was relieved to see the weight had lifted somewhat. His eyes twinkled and danced in the sunlight, and his step had a bit more bounce to it. Caitlin was glad. She thought he worried too much.
"Conor, we've done well." She could see he was pleased they'd be able to feed everyone tonight.
"Yes, we have. I just hope we have enough to last a few days. We've no way of knowing when it will rain again." Conor was being cautious. The fear of running out of food for all of the people who had come to depend on them–on him–was always close.
Fergus clapped him on the back again. "You, Lad, have to learn to enjoy good fortune. Tonight, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we hunt again!"
Conor chuckled at Fergus' exuberance. Indeed, the jubilance of the hunters was contagious. Soon the sounds of laughter, boasting, and unlikely tales sworn as truth, blended with the breezes and almost seemed to relieve the cares and doubts they'd carried with them for so long.
They were no more than a few hours from the Sanctuary, when Tully, who'd been scouting ahead a bit, came running back. "Conor! Romans!"
"How many?" Conor's hand had already gone to the hilt of his sword.
Before Tully could answer, several arrows were shot into their midst. One hit a deer carcass. The rest fell to the ground. Diving for cover, the small band readied their weapons.
Soon the clash of swords, the battle cries of brave warriors, and the sounds of falling bodies created a strange cadence of its own and made a startling contrast to the laughter that had permeated the grove only minutes earlier.
Conor quickly dispatched a Roman who had tried to take his arm off at the shoulder. Looking around for another opponent, his eyes fell on Longinus. The Roman wizard stood, a calm center to the violent storm. He glided to Conor, no weapons readily apparent.
Conor felt his heart skip a beat. He recalled their last confrontation right after Longinus had killed The Father. He recalled his rage, his need to kill Longinus. Only the fear that he would fall back into what he had become under the Spear's influence stopped him in his tracks. He wanted to avoid this. Some part of him urged him to stand and fight–to defend his people. Another part of him wanted to be punished. He had, after all, not stopped his family from being killed. He had not been able neither to save Claire, nor protect the Father. He had failed so many people.
Fergus, having taken down several Romans, happened to pause just then. Something, some instinct or some inner sense, made him look around, and he saw Conor facing Longinus. The lad stood either ready to raise his sword and fight, or to take whatever punishment the ancient Roman offered.
Fergus was no bard, but he remembered a time when bards would travel with armies to urge the warriors on to glory. Figuring he had little to lose by the experiment, Fergus continued fighting, but with a difference. He sang. Each clang of his sword forced a rhythm to his actions and his words. His voice penetrated the grove and deep into the surrounding woods. He was too bust to do more than sing, fight, and keep half an eye on Conor, ready to spring to his defense. He could recall a vow he'd made in another moment when he'd managed to save Conor, but had been too late to save another. "I'll never leave you again," he thought.
Conor heard Fergus' song. Not consciously at first, but soon his friend's strong, clear voice penetrated the fog in his brain. It soothed the pain. It lessened the blame and the guilt.
As Longinus drew to within a few feet of him, Conor raised his sword above his head and let loose a roar. Taken aback, Longinus fell to the ground, tripping as he stumbled backwards. Conor dropped his sword and began to pummel the fallen wizard, giving him neither time to stand, nor time to raise his own unearthly defenses.
Minutes passed, and then, exhausted, Conor stopped, still kneeling where he'd fallen during his attack on Longinus. Raising his arms and recovered sword aloft, Conor threw his head back and he roared again. This time the land joined in. He heard it. Fergus hard it. His friends heard it. Even Longinus seemed to hear it. As Conor stood, he felt a splash, a drop or two, then a downpour. Thunder joined in with the Roar and a deafening cacophony chased the Romans from the grove. One soldier paused long enough to help Longinus to his feet and hurry him away from the fearful sound.
Conor stood, his pose victorious. Slowly, he dropped his arms, head back, eyes closed, as the rain cascaded down his sweaty, tired, exuberant body. He welcomed the rain as it flowed from the sky back to the earth in an unending cycle of life and balance. It seemed he could feel each droplet as it raced down his arms and back to puddle at his feet as he and the and roared. He felt the water wash away his doubts, his fears, and his guilt.