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(From "Sullindill's Song")

...

I opened my eyes to still another song carried on the wind. This one wrapped around trees and falling through the leaves in a deeper, richer voice. I closed my eyes again, warm, comfortable, and at peace.

As the song ended, I heard a deep, rumbling chuckle that seemed to come from everywhere. I felt something on my face, and realized that I was once again in the Woods, curled up in Grandmother’s lap. She was softly stroking my cheek. "Yes, daughter, you are back. I have much more to tell you."

Stumbling over the words, I looked up at her. "I... I told Father..."

She nodded.

"I know he believed me... but I do not think he took it very well." I paused a moment, twirling a braid slowly in my fingers.

We sat there a while in silence, lost in the peace of the woods. Finally Grandmother spoke again. "We are chosen ones, you and I. We have much in common. Our histories; and our legacy.

"My parents, like yours, were warriors. The tribe was known for their strength and courage. They knew something was different about me from the day I was born. Little did they know..." She chuckled ruefully. "I always walked a different path. I did not lack the strength, just the desire to fight." Fingering my braids while she spoke, she loosened them, and re-plaited them, weaving in grass and flowers from the forest floor. "I too was known for running for the trees instead of my lessons. I could not sit still with the wind calling to me. They began to think the signs they thought so promising simply meant that I was to be a troublemaker." She paused, chuckling. "Perhaps they were right. It did certainly cause a stir when I left to pursue the druidic path - a thing previously unheard of among the Shu’halo." She sighed, remembering, her gaze shifting far away. After a few moments she lifted my muzzle, admiring her work on my braids. Eventually her eyes met mine, and I watched a tear form and slowly roll down her cheek. I reached up and brushed it away, then settled back into her lap, snuggling close.

"Then I returned. With the joy of my heart - my son. They did not want to accept us - accept him - into the tribe. They were afraid. Afraid of him, afraid of what I had become, afraid Cenarius would come charging into the village to claim our child. They were afraid of the changes that were taking place in the world, and we were the embodiment of that change. Do not be afraid of the changes, Little One. They are opportunities. A gateway to new and wondrous things."

I leaned back in Grandmother’s lap, studying her face as she continued. "A piece of my soul died with each mocking word - each look of scorn. That which brought the most joy to my life - my very heart - my son - was ridiculed. As he grew, the others were jealous of his strength and wisdom - yet fearful of his appearance and heritage. He was different than them, and they could not see any similarities. They would forget that he has feelings like everyone else, and the same difficulties growing up as every calf.

"To me he has always been beautiful. Others labeled him a monster. Every time I heard the hurtful things they said about him it was a dagger into my heart. They could say what they wanted about me - and they did - but I could not handle their treatment of my son.

"As the years passed, it only got worse. Watching him only brought more pain. Of course his resemblance to his father was a part of it - a reminder of what was lost. A symbol of love - but love cast aside. I always hoped Cenarius would claim him as son. Yet my hope faded in time.

"One of the hardest things for a mother to watch is the torment and ridicule of their child. Even if the child is not aware of the slight, the mother’s heart feels it deeply. So many nights I cried myself to sleep over a snide comment overheard during the day. A mother wants her child to be loved and accepted by all. She yearns for others to see them as she does - beautiful, talented, smart... As the years passed I realized that this would never happen. The world would never see my son as I do. There are no others like him, and I feared he would live in shame and loneliness for all time. That realization broke my heart."

"So I withdrew from everyone. I stayed in my tent. My heart was broken, my spirit shattered. Without the wind or the trees, I became weaker, sick. I was torn between wanting to see my son, wanting to feel the air, and not wanting to face anyone. I knew he was worried, but the tent was too small for him to fit inside. And I could not go out into the pain. So I sang. When I knew he was near, I sang for him. I could almost feel his tears, but it was all I could do.

"That night - the last one..." Grandmother sighed heavily, tears now streaming down her muzzle. "I woke to find him asleep halfway into my tent. Somehow, he had managed to fit most of the way in, but fell asleep there on the ground, lying on his side. I went to him as quickly as my now frail body could move. I sang for him, I held his face in my hands, I told him how much I loved him. He slept so soundly... When I no longer had the strength to move, I kissed his muzzle, and curled up in his arms. I longed to hold him in my own as I had when he was small. But now he was the stronger one. I had hoped we would both wake in the morning that way, but the Earthmother had another plan. At least I was able to show him one last time that I loved him."

Grandmother smiled, stroking my mane. "My son is my legacy, my gift to the Earthmother - and to the world. Through him, great things have been done. His father would be proud - as am I. You, my Little One, have a similar legacy. You begin a new tribe. You will pass on the wisdom and love of the Earthmother to a new generation. The love for the earth will be strong in your tribe - because of you. I am proud of you already."

I smiled up at her. "You know I will try my hardest, Grandmother."

"Yes, I do." She lifted me up to stand beside her. "You must go now. I fear the coming days will be difficult for you. You will stand strong. May your heart always hold to hope." She sang again, a song of comfort...

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