Look, Squilla, we are back in Ceird County. The fields always seem so lush in this part of Riocht. No wonder they provide most of the food for the kingdom. I expect we will have a much better trip this time. From his letter, this merchant only wants to expand his booth in Ceird City, and he even hinted at a repayment plan. Maybe this guy has a better idea than Seamus.
Squilla, those snorts are awful. Yes, I am aware there is another reason for travelling this hot road this morning. You also know I have likely been away too long. We received no messages since we have been away, so I have likely missed out.
Well fine, you just be that way. We will see what we find today. You really should have suggested visiting the shrine earlier.
Huh, these trees certainly come out of nowhere. I suppose that is a testament to the work of the order. Though judging by the fields, they had plenty to work with. I guess you could grow anything here. Now, how do we get into Dair?
Good eye, Squilla. This canopy does a better job than the clouds at cooling things this morning. Why have we never visited this shrine? In other regions, folks have given tours of their shrine, but no one has ever brought us here. The oldest shrine in Riocht, next to the capital’s, and we have never made the time to visit. So, at least we get to correct one error today if not more.
I really expected more side paths. This one is just straight and long. Still, a calming effect does settle in the longer we go. The mix of magnolia and spruce is pleasant. The pointy leaves with their flowering friends really feels like a place where life comes together.
Oh, Squilla, look at that spruce tree. It must be the Dair Tree. I wonder if it came from my family’s land. The trees along the back-garden look a lot like this one. Although, my trees are not as big or as full as this one. Of course, no one from the order has cared for my trees. No wonder, that group was charged with caring for the shrines.
Those must be the prayer rags. I have heard much about them, but I have never hung one. I guess they work a lot like the letters I receive. People have a problem, come here, leave a message, and then the local druid comes by and selects the ones with some possible solution. Though, I must have some experience with them given the random messages received during my last few visits. How does all that work? I cannot begin to imagine. They have been encouraging on occasion though. Yes, fine, Squilla, on more than just an occasion.
Okay, Squilla, I will leave you here at the opening to the Dair Tree area. Looks like the warm spring already gives you some weeds to eat. Just neigh if anything starts to come down the trail.
Oh, now I see the side paths. I should remember that these shrines are set up so people will leave the rags at the central tree. That must be why I did not see any trails off that entrance trail. Still, I see people have left their rags there anyway. I wonder if that creates any more work for the druid here. I guess that it depends on who is in the area.
My goodness, there are so many prayers hung on this tree. Let me see. If I recall, the blue ones are for medical issues. I would have to go beyond creativity to come up with a medical issue.
Hmm, what about a white one? I could pitch a greater unity between the politics of Ceird County and this druid. Yeah, we could move him into more official channels, and maybe visitors would get a tour of this shrine like in other counties. Plus, he could likely get some recognition for work done on occasion.
No, on second thought, this county seems to have a druid who uses the current set up well. Official channels would only add extra burdens which seem unnecessary to how things function here.
Okay, I could definitely see several reasons for using a green one. I could offer money or ask for help with my money decisions. I will present an offer of patronage. The druid here will have to respond because of my rank. Then again, I am setting up for a very specific meeting which might very well make this guy uncomfortable. Same goes for asking for help. Such a request would cement the view that I am just another petitioner. Do I simply want to be another task?
Well, let me think.
Oh, Squilla, you scared me. Is there someone coming? No, you just want me to think about the pink ones. Yes, I do remember what those are for, and you’re right that pink one might be the most appropriate. However, many of the pink clusters look undisturbed. That would suggest leaving those alone, Squilla.
Just let me think. I will just have to get creative in order to get noticed.
Although, even if I am recognized, I have been away from this county for weeks, so I have likely been forgotten by now. I received messages regularly when I did my last tour here, and the voice seemed to build on past messages to me.
Very likely, I just seemed like someone else with a problem. And, the voice never reached out to know more. Likely, he was just leaving random thoughts along the way. Maybe he was just leaving messages out of a sense of duty or venting knowing that it was unlikely anyone would receive them. After all, there are less prayer rags here than I have seen in other shrines, so this druid must be dedicated. Or maybe this guy just takes better care of Dair.
Still, he did seem to leave messages based on problems I was having. Could I have left something like a message for him? How could I even do that? I think Dad mentioned one time that we have family in the order, but they never came around. I could just be interpreting those messages in a certain way. Possibly, I am merely projecting my ideas like those who write me letters.
Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself. I just need to figure out how I am going to leave this message first. Looks like there are some low hanging branches, and maybe I could leave a piece of my skirt to stand out from the rest. Let me see if I can reach some of those branches.
Hold on, what is this? A piece of grey fabric has fallen among the roots. Well, grey is not a prayer rag color, that I recall. I suppose someone tore their garment trying to hang a rag. I could at least clear the trash.
Oh, I can’t see. Wait, this is that rush feeling I got with the other messages. Could he have already left one for me? That seems out of….
“Hello, my name is Ferdia.”
No, stop right there. Give me just a moment. There’s a circle of root that looks comfortable.
This will do nicely. Now, I can take my time. Okay, go ahead.
“Hello, my name is Ferdia. I’m sure you’ve figured this out by now. I am a member of the order and am the druid for Ceird County.
“I hope you are enjoying Dair Shrine. I find it a very comforting place. The long history and trees provide a welcome resting spot for all kinds of travellers. The trees are tall, and their limbs shade the area nicely.
“Plus, the history here runs as deep as the roots. I sometimes imagine that the trees feed as much from that as the fertile soil.
“The shrine is a great place to reflect and lighten one’s load. The space is open and quiet; it really provides a sanctuary like nowhere else in the county. The bustling expectations of the city are blocked by the plants, and the constant duties of the farm fall from one with the long knave. I think that knave was one of my mother’s finest pieces of work. So, the shrine really ensures people truly bring only what is most pressing on their minds to the Dair Tree. I secretly think Dad appreciated that focus when he went looking for tasks among the rags. Dair Shrine really is unique for its relaxing environment.
“Anyway, if you are hearing this, I have received many messages from you on my rounds. You sound like life is a bit complicated at the moment. Otherwise, I don’t know how I am getting your messages outside Dair.
“Still, from your messages, I imagine that we are in very similar lines of work. I’m wondering if there is some kind of mutual help we can provide each other. I know the life of traveling and trying to help is tough, so I wager some form of mutual venting could be useful.
“However, your messages have been confused and random. If we are to continue, make a choice to leave a thought (or several thoughts), focus on what to leave, and just let the thoughts flow. This way your messages will come with greater clarity.
“If you would like, I suggest we can begin a kind of correspondence through these messages instead of just stumbling upon them. So, go to the public house in Ceird, sit at the first table inside the gate to the back porch, and leave me a response. I should be along eventually and find it. I have some other tasks along the way, but I always seem to have a job or two in Ceird.”
My vision is clearing, so that must be the end.
Well, that was really short, and it pretty much just confirmed everything I already knew. Although, I like having that confirmation. And, I have a name. That is useful. But, why is he so interested in the environment? I mean he told me more about this shrine than about himself. How is that helpful? Oh well, he did offer some pointers on the message thing, and that is nice. I have a bit better idea about that. How was he still receiving messages when he left this? Though, I do not know when he left this message. And, he has given me a way to get back in touch with him. I guess this turned out better than I expected.
At least, I have a day’s ride ahead of me. Maybe I can come up with something to say by the time I reach Ceird. I think we can build on this correspondence idea. I will have to introduce myself too. Maybe I can even encourage some looking at the people especially in Ceird.
Although he must have left this message a while ago. Maybe he has already given up on getting my response. He has probably already completed his Ceird task, failed to find my response, and has moved on. I mean how long is he going to keep going back to the same spot?
Well, he does have to come back here every so often. So maybe he is a person of habit. Maybe he picked that place because he goes there often. He mentioned being a fellow traveller, so perhaps he will understand the passage of time.
Okay, I have already covered all that before. He gave me an invitation, so I ought to answer it at least. I should get Squilla and just see what happens.