a prolouge, of sorts

“Are you sure?”

The words came in a husky, cautious whisper then quickly slipped into the dark. A strong night breeze teased the sleepy, creaking pines above the heads of two tall figures hidden by shadows.

“Yes!” came the excited reply. “We have found her.”

Two men conversed under the trees. They were cloaked in thick hoods that were too warm for the night. The air about them was hot and anxious, a restless summer night. The first man, though advanced in years, carried himself sturdily. A wizened oak of a man that had weathered many storms and seasons. The second man was younger but made of the same hardy stock. A mature young soldier with a quiet, unyielding strength about him. Both men wished to go unnoticed by all save the owls and foxes making their nocturnal runs. The conversation between them was far too dangerous to be overheard by the wrong ears.

The older man, with a nature to always be on alert, gazed into the moon-washed forest. In his mind, he weighed the implications of what his companion was claiming to be true. He spoke again, still in a whisper: “But how can you know? If you are wrong in your judgment it could mean the end of our cause. Do you realize that? What you’re asking is a great risk to place on a reckless hope.”

The young soldier took a few steps from the old man’s side so he could stand facing him. He locked eyes with his comrade and spoke slowly, firmly; as if there were a thick weight on his words: “It is her. As you know, my men and I have been searching the camps for
years and last month I saw her myself….” Here his voice trailed off, cracking with emotion, There was a hint of moisture under his eyes. He swallowed hard and resumed speaking. “After all this time, I saw her. We had given up hope that she had survived. But now, we know she is alive. I need only your permission to retrieve her.”

“And what of the prophecies?” the elder man voiced another caution of his. “How can you know that the first one is even speaking of her?”

The old captain knew how close this matter was to the young man’s heart but their cause was too important to be risked on one soldier’s personal history. “What if you are wrong and she is not the who the prophecy speaks of?”

There was deep urgency in his voice when the young man replied, “After ten years of waiting and searching I am sure that she is the fulfillment of our hopes. I am willing to risk it all for the sake of our cause. If I am wrong, let it fall on my head.”

“I fear you would not be the only one paying the cost if you are mistaken.” The captain said grimly.

Suddenly, the old man felt weary. It had been many years of fighting for so long; fighting for what they had lost. Even in the beginning there had been nothing but a slim chance that they would succeed. He looked into the young soldier’s eyes. He remembered when he had felt that fervor and youthful energy. There was confidence in the those eyes, there was light.

It’s people like him who will see the end of this war. He thought. People like him who will give us the strength we need to finish what we started.

Finally he spoke aloud, “You are aware of the danger of this task?”

The young soldier nodded solemnly.

“And do you realize that even if you succeed in retrieving her, it is not guaranteed that she will accept us? She has known nothing but lies. Ten years is a long time, Kael.”

The young man looked down and waited before he answered. He was well aware that this mission had every reason to fail.  “I fully believe that no matter what happens truth will prevail. She may have difficulty but she will listen to the truth in the end.”

The captain glimpsed resolve in the soldiers face, seeing it felt like the sunrise after a long, dark night.

“You have earned our respect and trust. I know you would not make such a bold request unless you were sure that she was the one we have all waited for. Therefore, I give you my permission to proceed with your plans when you determine it is right to move forward. I ask only to be notified when that time comes.”

The soldier sighed with relief but quickly clamped his mouth together to hide emotion. “I understand sir. Thank you for allowing me to undertake this task.”

The old man smiled slightly, “We will see if you thank me after the results of mission are clear and whether or not they are in our favor.” The soldier simply nodded.

With that, they saluted each other and slipped off in opposite directions. They were soon swallowed up by the black pools of darkness spilling from the trees silhouetted in the moonlight.

Yet, long after they were gone, something lingered in the air that this world had not known for a over a decade. If you stood quietly under the bending pines, you could feel it as plain as the night wind on your skin….

Hope.