The Mad Druid
Karol Stormsinger was just a boy when he was called to Alfwyrd Grove. He had always had an affinity for animals, and at ten showed surprising aptitude for channeling the power of the natural world. On a fair spring day in his tenth year, while the boy was in an extended meditation, a storm formed over the family farm. The storm was fierce but brief and when it had passed young Karol got up, bid farewell to his parents, packed a few things, and left. His parents were unwilling to just let him walk away but every time they tried to stop him they were attacked by random animals: the family cat, a flock of crows, a pair of foxes, and so on. When they realized they could not stop him they returned to the farm. His father hitched the wagon while his mother packed supplies, and Karol rode with them to the forest.
When they arrived they were met by an old woman, gnarled as the oak staff she held. Karol again said good-bye to his parents, and this time they had to let him go.
Karol has been the caretaker for Alfwyrd Grove for many decades. He has faithfully maintained the Grove, and the peace between the Alfar and the humans. Though everyone he ever knew, and their children as well, have aged and passed on, Karol still looks like a man in his late middle years. Those who have met him say he is kind and gentle, calm as a still pool, patient as the great oaks. In the past season however, a few people have returned from the forest terrified. They say he has become feral. They describe a man with wild eyes and a quick temper; a man who is vicious and cruel.
Near the end of every season a small group of foresters takes a wagon to the forest’s edge. They carry in supplies that Karol cannot grow or make for himself such as flour, salt, spices from the south, and metal tools. They carry out goods from the forest, such as honey, medicinal herbs, and furs. Of the last group to go in, only one returned. He was found by local woodsmen and brought to the nearest garrison. He would not eat, or drink, or speak, but only rock back and forth and weep. The healers were summoned, but could not lift the cloud from his mind. The man, a seasoned forester, took his own life a few days later. He left behind a note:
The Heart is Black. Burn it. Burn it all. Burn it Burn it Burn it Burn it Burn it Burn it Burn it Burn it….
This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.