Flash: The Ancient Vitz Tree 2

Photo by Ivan Diaz on Unsplash

With fruit juices running down his face, Sharles joined Damonia in the shade of one of the Vitz tree’s children. She curled her hand around the watch, tucking it into her skirts. He collapsed backwards onto the moss and leaves.”That is the best fruit ever.”

Damonia nodded, then realized he had his eyes closed for daydreaming, she stammered a nonsense reply, “So juicy.”

“I know, right?” Sharles rolled over on his side to smile at her, opening his bark brown eyes. “The mix of sweet and sour is perfect, a bite of bitter when you get to the core. I’m not going to eat ever again.” He ran his tongue around his face, getting the last of the sticky juices.

Damonia laughed at his antics. “Until the Vitz day feast is served at sunset.”

“There is that.” Rolling back on his back, he rubbed his flat stomach. “I feel full right now. Not stuffed, just satisfied. No cravings for squirrel or snap-vines. No cravings, wants, or wishes.”

Sharles had been a well without bottom since he started shooting up three winters ago, going from the shortest in their age group to taller than most of the adults in the village and he was still growing. Damonia was one of the people shoving food at him, smuggling in extra snap-vines from her forest walks with the herbal women. The limited communal dinners portioned out by the Imman Priests from the capital would have left him skin and bones. Some days Damonia was grateful for her small stature, though most days she envied the clown’s stretched height.

“What about a kiss from Quessing?”

Sharles head snapped sideways. “Shh. She’ll hear you.”

“Nah, she is stuck on the child side of the tree for another year.” Damonia rubbed a thumb over the leaves engraved along the edges of the watch. “Sucks for you. No more kisses until she is fruited.”

Her friend leaned his head back. “Thirteen months. Then we can get married.”

“Oh, you asked?” The new adult raised her eyebrows.

A blush took both of Sharles cheeks. “Yes,” he muttered quietly, “last week when the Priests left after harvest with the taxes.”

Robins dropped into their shade joining them, the slight shine of eaten fruit decorating her cheeks. “What happened last week?”

“Sharles and Quessing promised.” Damonia reported.

Standing over his sister draped against the raised roots of the Vitz, Hickory nodded at Sharles. “Congratulations.” His right hand stroked the green-handle of the leaf-engraved machete he received five years ago from the Ancient Vitz Tree, something he kept hidden from the priests. He always looked lost during the farming season, his hand reaching for the empty space on his belt, just as lost as Council Froszen and Minister Grey did when they hid their Vitz gifts.

The modern Imman religion brought in when the Empire annexed the Forest Realm thirty years ago did not approve of alternative gods, especially trees treated as gods. Only the magic stored within the Vtiz fruit held their hand from burning the milimum old orchard to the ground. Instead they sent out soldiers, because the priesthood and the army were one and the same to the Holy Emperor and his Sacred Governor Heirs, to watch over the towns with Vitz tree groves, and every single fruit harvested from those groves were transported to the Forest Realm’s capital and then sent out to the wizard enclaves of the Empire.

Silly soldiers thought the Vitz trees were limited to seasons like normal trees, but the Ancient mothers only heeded the cycle of seasons when they wanted to. Even the decades old Vitz tree the new adults were sheltering under could drop a fruit into Damonia’s lap if she asked it to, one or two nut brown fruits hiding among the leaves above them waiting for a need could be brought to bright green and gold ripeness in an instant.

Hickory’s eyes narrowed as he observed the collapsed new adults throughout the town, many visiting from the nearby villages for the Elder tree ceremony, and her careful braced sitting against the tree. “Damonia?” his voice rose in a question.

Her eyes snapped up. He observed her clean face. “Did you …” Hickory cut his words short at the fear in her eyes. Is that what he looked like holding the machete two years ago? He had seen a small round object land in her hands and assumed she was going to have a normal life. Healthier than most thanks to the Ancient’s gift of a golden fruit, but normal.

Only two others in the town had special fruit, nearly twenty years apart. The Mayor’s rope and Council’s cane served them well over the decades. Hickory had learned there were others, but the gifts come with questions and quests, and the quests they went on … well, few returned. Loners usually, rarely missed by the grove. A seed sent out to protect the forest.

But the two of them, Damonia and him, getting their gifts so close together was practically unheard of. She was the more quiet of the two of them, but still, he wouldn’t characterize her as a loner.

He walked over to her and reached out his arm to her. “Come on.”

She stared at it like it was a snake-thorn vine, and she was debating how to puck the leaves safely. Sighing, she grasped it and let him pull her up.

Standing close together, he looked down at the diminutive adult. “Show me.” he whispered.

She opened her hand to reveal a beautiful watch, their bodies hiding the artifact from anyone nearby.

Metal. Like his gift. That means a quest. Always.

He hadn’t felt the need to leave. He hadn’t had a direction. According to the histories the gifted adults kept, the drive to go on a quest could take years to arrive. He hoped to stretch that out to never; he wasn’t the change-the-world type. Now, with this, he knew better. Because Damonia could change the world if she put her mind to it. She just needed someone at her back.

“Ungood,” he muttered.

“I know,” she responded, “and it’s vibrating now. I think it’s time.”

(words 1,031, first published 3/4/2023)

The Ancient Vitz Tree Series
The Ancient Vitz Tree (4/26/2020)
The Ancient Vitz Tree 2 (2/5/2023)

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