作者：残烟一缕 提交日期：2008-7-28 9:32:00 | 分类: | 访问量：1109
The Blood of Saint Hoderund
IT SEEMED that every time Simon opened his mouth to speak, or even to breathe deeply, it was immediately filled with leaves. No matter how often he bobbed and ducked, he could not avoid the branches that seemed to grab for his face like the greedy hands of children.
"Binabik!" he wailed, "why can't we go back to the road? I'm being torn to pieces!"
"Do not complain so much. We will soon be returning toward the road."
It was infuriating to watch the tiny troll threading his way between the tangling twigs and branches. Easy for him to say "don't complain!" The denser the forest got the more slippery Binabik seemed to become, slithering gracefully through the thick, clutching underbrush while Simon crashed on behind. Even Qantaqa bounded lightly along, leaving barely a ripple in the foliage behind her. Simon felt as though half of Oldheart must be clinging to him in the form of broken twigs and scratching thorns.
"But why are we doing this? Surely it wouldn't take any longer to follow the road around the edge of the forest than it's taking me to burrow through it inch by inch!?"
Binabik whistled for the wolf, who was momentarily out of sight. She soon loped back into view, and as the troll waited for Simon to catch up he ruffled the thick collar of fur around her neck.
"You are most correct, Simon,' he said as the youth dragged up. "It is just as good time we might be making the longer way about. But," he held up a stubby, admonitory finger, "there are other considerations."
Simon knew he was supposed to ask. He didn't, but stood panting beside the small man and inspected the most recent of his lacerations. When the troll realized Simon would not rise to the bait, he smiled.
" 'Why?', you are asking curiously? What 'considerations'? The answer is being all around, up every tree and beneath all rocks. Feel! Smell!"
Simon stared miserably around him. All he could see were trees. And brambles. And even more trees. He groaned.
"No, no, is it no senses you have left at all?" Binabik cried. "What manner of teachings did you have in that lumpish stone anthill, that... castle!?"
Simon looked up, "I never said I lived in a castle."
"It is having great obviousness in all your actions." Binabik turned quickly around to face the barely-visible deer trail they had been following. "You see," he said in a dramatic voice, "the land is a book that you should be reading. Every small thing,"—a cocky grin—"is having a story to tell. Trees, leafs, mosses and stones, all have written on them things of wonderful interest ...."
"Oh, Elysia, no," Simon moaned and sank to the ground, dropping his head forward to rest on his knees. "Please don't read me the book of the forest right this moment, Binabik. My feet ache and my head hurts."
Binabik leaned forward until his round face was inches from Simon's. After a moment's scrutiny of the youth's bramble-matted hair the troll straightened up again.
"I suppose we may quietly rest," he said, trying to hide his disappointment. "I will tell you of these things in a later moment."
"Thank you," Simon mumbled into his knees.
Simon avoided the task of hunting for supper that night by the simple expedient of falling asleep the moment they made camp. Binabik only shrugged, took a long draught from his water bag and a similar one from his wineskin, then made a short walking tour of the area, Qantaqa sniffing sentry at his side. After an undistinguished but filling meal of dried meat, he cast the knucklebones to the accompaniment of Simon's deep breathing. On the first pass he turned up Wingless Bird, Fish-Spear, and The Shadowed Path. Unsettled, he closed his eyes and hummed a tuneless tune for a while as the sound of night-insects slowly rose about him. When he threw again, the first two had changed to Torch at the Cave-Mouth and Balking Ram, but The Shadowed Path turned up again, the bones propped against each other like the leavings of some fastidious carnivore. Not the sort to follow the bones to hasty decisions—his master had taught him too well—Binabik nonetheless slept, when he finally could, with his staff and bag cradled close.
When Simon awakened, the troll presented him with a satisfying meal of roasted eggs—quail, he said—some berries, and even the pale orange buds of a flowering tree, which proved quite edible and rather sweet in an odd, chewy way. The morning's walking also went considerably easier then the previous day's: the country was gradually becoming more open, the trees more distantly spaced.
The troll had been rather quiet all morning. Simon felt sure that his disinterest in Binabik's woodlore was the reason. As they were coming down a long, gentle slope, the sun high in its morning climb, he felt driven to say something.
"Binabik, do you want to tell me about the book of the forest today?"
His companion smiled, but it was a smaller, tighter grin than Simon was used to seeing. "Of course, friend Simon, but I am afraid I have given you a wrong thinking. You see, when I am speaking of the land as a book, I am not suggesting you should be reading it to improve your spiritual well-feeling, like a religious tome—although paying attention to your surroundings for that reason is certainly possible. No, I am speaking of it more as a book of physic, something one learns for the sake of health."
It is truly amazing, Simon thought, how easy it is for this little fallow to confuse me. And without trying/
Aloud, he said, "Health? Book of physic?"
Binabik's face took on a sudden look of seriousness. "For your living or dying, Simon. You are not in your home, now. You are not in my home, although I am undoubtedly being an easier guest than you here. Even the Sithi, for all the ages they have watched the sun as it is rolling around and around the skies, even they do not claim Aldheorte as theirs." Binabik stopped, and laid his hand on Simon's wrist, then squeezed. "This place where we stand, this great forest, is the oldest place. That is why it is called, as your people say, Aldheorte; it is always the old heart of Osten Ard. Even these trees of younger age," he poked with his stick on all sides, "were pitting themselves against flooding, wind, and fire before your great King John was first drawing baby-breath on the Warinsten Island."
Simon looked around, blinking
"Others," Binabik continued, "others there are, some that I have seen, whose roots are growing into the very rock of Time; older they are than all the kingdoms of Man and Sithi that were thrown up in glory and were then crumbling in obscurity."
Binabik squeezed his wrist again, and Simon, looking down the slope into the vast bowl of trees, felt suddenly small: infinitesimal, like an insect crawling up the sheer side of a cloud-lancing mountain.
"Why... why are you saying these things to me?" he asked at last, sucking breath and fighting back something that felt like tears.
"Because," said Binabik, reaching up and patting his arm, "because you must not think that the forest, the wide world, is anything like the alleyways and such of Erchester. You must watch, and you must be thinking and thinking."
A moment later the troll was off again. Simon stumbled after him. What had brought all this on? Now the crowding trees seemed a hostile, whispering throng. He felt like he had been slapped.
"Wait!" he called. "Thinking about what?" But Binabik did not slow down or turn.
"Come now," he called over his shoulder. His voice was even but curt. "We must be making better time. With luck we will reach the Knock before darkness is falling." He whistled for Qantaqa. "Please, Simon," he said.
And those were his last words for the morning.
"There!" Binabik finally broke his silence. The pair stood atop a ridge, the treetops a humped blanket of green below. "The Knock."
Two more strands of trees were stair-stepped below them, and beyond these a sloping ocean of grass stretched out to the hills, which stood profiled by the afternoon sun. "That is Wealdhelm, or at least its foothills." The troll pointed with his staff. The shadowed, silhouetted hills, rounded like the backs of sleeping animals, seemed only a stone's toss away across the expanse of green.
"How far are they... the hills?" Simon asked. "And how did we get so high up? I don't remember climbing."
"Climbing we did not do, Simon. The Knock is a dipping-down place, sunken low like someone has been pushing at it. If you could be looking backward," he waved back up the ridge, "you would see that where we now stand, we are a little lower than the Erchester Plain. And, to give your second question answering, the hills are being quite some far ways, but your sight is deceiving you to make them close. In truth, we had better be at climbing if we wish to make my stopping-place with sun still on us."
The troll trotted a few paces along the ridge. "Simon," he said, and as he turned the boy could see some of the tightness had left his jaw and mouth, "I must tell you that even though those Wealdhelm Hills are babies only compared to my Mintahoq, still to be near high places again will be... like wine."
Suddenly childlike again, Simon thought, watching Binabik's short legs carrying him rapidly down the slope between the trees... No, he thought then, not childlike, that's just the size, but young, very young.
How old is he, anyway?
The troll was in fact becoming smaller and smaller even as he watched. Simon cursed mildly and hurried after him.
评论人：天涯网友(游客) 评论日期：2009-3-16 3:16