Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Komae thought…hard. It had to be sign she was right…it had to be. Her heart leapt within her, excitement racing around her mind. She’d wondered for so long, coming again and again to one inescapable conclusion, but it seemed so ludicrous, so outlandish, she’d thought herself crazy.

Though she was walking through the forest floor slower than usual, still her prisoner struggled to keep up. She could smell her fear, among other things. Don’t these people ever bathe? She wondered as she went a bit further ahead. This is intolerable; she’ll have to wash. . . .Now what? There was no plan she could plainly see. No clear way forward. Obviously, this endless game of frightening the Haders deterred them less and less. While it felt better than killing, her mercy only seem to embolden them to greater risk. Now this!

She walked slower as she thought back to that day more than two hundred years before, when everything changed. Remembering, with perfect clarity as if yesterday, that she had stalked another group of woodcutters, silently positioning herself, filled with hateful indignation, as she heard the axes and saws desecrating her woodland.

Coming out of her revelry, Komae stopped, saying, “Rest here,” pointing to a mossy spot near a huge tree. Above, the suns filtered down through the branches, dispersing a comfortable light.

She sat on a rock opposite the woman some feet away, positioning herself strategically up wind.

The past crowded in once again as she looked upon the woman, obviously miserable, hunched over, holding her knees. She looked so much like her final kill, she shivered involuntarily; it was uncanny.

“Would you care for some food?” Komae asked.

The woman, less wild in her eyes, nodded.

Komae dug bread from her pouch and handed it over, plus her water bottle. The woman smelled the victuals first, then ate and drank greedily.

So long ago

For reasons not entirely clear to her, by a sheer leap of faith, Komae felt her lips began to speak.

“A long time ago, I saw a sky ship, a big one such as yours today, approaching slowly through the mist from the south. I counted my arrows as they touched down about a half mile from me.”

The woman looked up at her, listening, but continuing to eat.

“Men and women poured out. I heard their foul speech. I waited until they began chopping and cutting. I could have killed them on the boat as easily, but ending their lives while committing a crime felt more justified.

“Men and women worked feverishly side by side, cutting and loading as fast as they could. Even at that great distance, I could see their muscles bulging, as they carried wood up the gang plank, almost running. Drawing my bow to full strength, I let fly my first arrow. It flew straight and true, finding it’s target just as the first man stepped aboard the ship. He dropped off the side to the earth below, a clean kill.”

The woman stopped eating now and stared at her.

“Of course, in the pandemonium that followed, it was every man and woman for themselves. I let fly my arrows, while they frantically made their way onto the ship, one after another dropping as each of my jagged bolts found their mark.”

No compassion

Looking up at the trees, Komae sighed, rubbing her fingers in her palm, then continued. “At that time, in those days, I felt no compassion for woodcutters. Cutting the trees that your kind destroyed in the war, and profiting from that destruction, cut through the heart and soul of every Halan. ‘Let the trees return to the ground in peace,’ I thought. To me, it was simple justice, meted out at the point of my barbed arrows.

“However, that day, my next to last arrow flew wide as the ship began to rise, gang plank falling, and the woman I targeted lost her balance. My arrow grazed her back. I’d hoped the fall would killed her, but she got up, obviously hurt, and ran towards the forest.”

“Why are you telling me this?” the wide-eyed Hader woman said slowly.

Komae said, “Because I want something…”

Continuing on, she said, “Later, I found the woman leaning against a tree, back soaked in blood. I had but one arrow left. The code of the Forest Warden demanded clean, humane kills. Better to be close than miss again. So I crept close enough to smell her fear. She slumped to her knees, winded and in pain.

“Suddenly, from the right I heard the sound of someone running, shouting, ‘Ha, Ha, where are you! Ha!’


“A big man crashed through the undergrowth, frantic, looking this way and that, finally seeing her. As he took her in his arms, the woman collapsed.” Komae paused. “I remember it so clearly,” she said, emotion in her voice. “He said, ‘Oh my Ha, what have these demons done to you?’ I trained my remaining arrow at his heart.”

Looking away a moment, as if the next words would be painful, Komae turned back to her captive, and said, “As you know, we Halans are mind talkers, but we must be close enough to hear thoughts clearly. I was barely twenty feet away when their anguish hit me. Their feelings for each other were so strong it breached my mind, even as I notched my last arrow. It was too late, I couldn’t block their love…I felt everything. I heard the man cry out, ‘Ha, please…please don’t leave, stay with me my darling.’

“Darling? His words fell on me like a thunderbolt, Haders – those animals – loved?

“I saw the dying woman reach up and touch his face and lips with her finger tips, fading fast now, as images of her life flashed through my mind; times of happiness, conversations under moonlight, lovemaking on soft sheets in the morning – all filling my mind and heart until her hand fell limp. The man wailed and rocked with her lifeless body in his arms for hours.”

First time

She stopped talking for awhile, gazing up at the sunlight filtering through the trees. “That day, for the first time, I wondered if what I did was right,” she could barely speak the words as she was almost in tears now.

Komae looked at the Hader woman, eyes widened, obviously bewildered and wondering at her confession.

Finishing, Komae said, “All that afternoon, I witnessed the big man dig a shallow grave with his knife and bare hands, carefully laying his lover in the ground. I realized I’d never buried any of those I killed before, believing none deserved a proper rest. As he moved the dirt over his woman, I could hardly breathe.”

Looking down for a moment, listening to her own voice, she said, “After that, I slipped away into the deep forest, shedding my quiver and my bow, losing my armor and throwing away my padded gear. I suppose my people assumed I had been killed by your kind. The truth is, after that I got lost in the forest for a very, very long time.”

Komae looked up and spoke directly to the woman. “You are alive now because the Forest Warden in me, the part of me who thought she had a right to kill your people, died that day. I don’t know what to do with you, but I feel you are a sign from above. I give you my pledge I will not kill you.”

Not quite believing what she said next, though she’d been thinking about it for some time, Komae spoke the words, “But in return, I want you to take me to your people. I want to find a way for us to live in peace.”

Mysterious Forest