Yllfa's connecting stories can be read here:
Rising from the Ashes. Part One.
Rising from the Ashes. Part Two.
Rising from the Ashes. Part Three.
Days and weeks have come and gone since that night of terror, each hour passing slowly by like shadows in the corner, or like falling leafs from the autumn-colored trees. One by one they have begun to fall now, their color changing from green to a vibrant mix of brown, red and a yellowish gold. The colder nights are fast approaching, and the morning dew will soon be freezing into icy droplets in the darker hours. I wander barefoot across the still green and dewy grass outside Northgyth’s farm, and the unmistakable glint of sunshine hitting a stray piece of metal or other shiny object struck my eyes, and I turn my gaze upwards to the house that now holds our hopes and dreams within its walls, as faint and unreachable as they may yet be behind locked doors. The house upon the hill above seems to me inviting, nearly calling to me, even as it stands there empty and neglected, and even sad. Its walls are screaming as the wind rushes by them, the roof is crying on the inside when it rains, and every tree and straw of grass has been left unloved and uncared for, probably for many years. It is a poor sight that happens far too often in times like these. A house may stand for hundreds of years if cared for, or it may be burnt and razed to the ground in an instant by evil men; or it may slowly fall apart, ravaged by time and weather, of wind and rain and snow. I have seen all of these fates happen over the years, each time a little different, yet very much the same.
When my grandfather Aldur passed I was but a young boy, and he was an old, old man by then. He had his home and farm not far from Faldham, and he lived for the soil, for the grain and for the crops, and he worked his son - my father - hard and restless upon the fields to become a strong and hardy man, until he decided to live his life upon the horseback instead, and become a man of war and battle. Aldur would live out his days on his farm instead, together with his wife - my grandmother Roiwyn - and when both of them had passed, the house was left empty and barren, completely void of life save for the rats and mice and other critters that sought shelter under a leaking roof, where once there lived a man of the earth. In his older years before his death, his waning strength and mind focused only on bringing in food for the day, to the point of the house becoming near uninhabitable for normal folks, yet still unravaged by foes or fire. The thatched roof was barely more than a mouldy mess of once golden straw, many of the planks in the wooden walls had splintered and rotted, and the door had fallen off its upper, rusted iron hinge, I recall from the day when my father took me there to clear out the place after we had all said our final farewell to a true, hardworking man of the earth. I still remember the musty smell of old dust and mould, and the damp earthy scents and dust would linger in your nostrils for days, making you feel nearly sick with an itchy throat and running nose that never seemed to cease. We took what few valuables and tools the man still had, and we left the rest to rot, in a vain hope that someone else would take pity on the poor house and farmland, and make it their own. For us, it had long since served its purpose and father wanted nothing more to do with it, yet he wouldn’t see it burned either. It was not so much a home anymore, as it was more a tomb without a corpse, a monument of sorts for the the people that once had lived, loved and worked there, and now slowly decaying and rotting away, only to be gone and forgotten in a hundred years, just like any man or woman would be. It is the way of things.
“It is time to move on.”, my father would say to me as we rode away from his childhood home, now nothing more than a rotted dwelling for critters, and a small piece of dried and dead farmland surrounding it. “We have to move on, son. Make your own life, and do not dwell overmuch on those that came before you. Remember them as you will, if they be goodhearted people, but be happy for their final peaceful rest, and for the life they led. But forget not to also leave it all behind, and make your own life in place of theirs. Your life is your own, and spend it not needlessly on those who are already gone. When my time comes, son, I would ask that you do me the same honor, as I have shown my father here today. We will always remember, even as we leave it all behind.” I have tried to live by those words ever since, to remember, honor and celebrate those who have passed into the other world since then: my father, my mother, my wife... and while I couldn’t imagine a life without her, or any of them, I have somehow found a new way to live, just like he said. We always have to move on.
As for our house in Floodwend; as small as it was, we lived, loved and worked in it for many years, Eda and I, and eventually Ethel, who was born and grew up there. It became our home after Eda and I moved to Floodwend from Faldham, and after seeing so many sad, rotting buildings that many homes were eventually fated to become, I would put in much work there, making our home into something that would stand strong for generations to come, with Bema willing. I was never a good carpenter, but I know enough to keep it living, by repairing and building anew where needed, and happily I would pay someone more skilled to make the more delicate jobs. It was our house, our home, our castle, and never would I let it fall into such disrepair as my grandfather’s, for as long as I lived there. But the fate of men is cruel and unpredictable, and after Eda passed, I found it harder and harder to occupy my hands with tools and work upon it, and to keep it living. The dust collected fast inside, the smoke would leave its dark stains upon the walls when not washed away, some wooden boards started to rot from the rain, but the roof remained intact and well. Somewhere after her death I lost that feeling of a true home even as I did my best to give my daughter the best possible of lives and a hearty home, perhaps because its walls were still living vividly with memories, where every nail and every scratch would remind me of times long past, and even more so I felt the pull of memory when we gathered our things from there not long ago. It was still home, but as my father had warned me about, I had realized that I still somehow lived in the past in that house, and that it too had served its purpose for me in a way, and I believe Ethel felt much the same. It was time to move on, but we would not leave it barren and empty - no, another would soon move in and make it their own, while we moved on to a brighter future, to live out our lives anew.
And move on we did, together with Yllfa. Her birthright, her childhood home, that was our destination. Our hopes and our dreams, now laid before us on her farm, and yet dreams can shatter in an instant, and wake you from the most beautiful of dreams, into a waking, living nightmare. A deadly dance of fire and smoke took our new home not long after, and it was started by a twisted, evil man, and we were forced out into the dark of night as refugees, homeless but still together and alive. And so the weeks passed by, once we had been taken in by the kindly Northgyth of Bancross, who cared for us like we were her own, for reasons I will likely never understand, other than taking solace in knowing there are still good people in this world, no matter how much evil and darkness still lingers. And yet, every night would bring me another nightmare; and in every one of those nightly terrors, I would see my daughter burned, my love trapped under falling wooden beams, and I would look down upon myself, being frozen to the spot and unable to save any of them, even though I knew in my heart that we all lived.
So I started to take many long walks around the village, and I would seek to tire myself with chopping and stacking wood for Northgyth, or just mindlessly hacking away at overgrown bushes and removing stones from the roads. I was often tired come nightfall, and I would fall fast asleep with Yllfa by my side, but these unfamiliar surroundings would never let me truly rest. Northgyth’s home, as fine as it was, was not my home, nor was it Yllfa’s, or Ethel’s. There was no real future to be had here, to live in another’s home. We needed our own. And then, Northgyth came to us one evening, bearing a letter in her hand… could it be that our fateful tide would turn at last? Was there perhaps a chance at a new life here? All we could do was work hard to make it happen, and keep our hopes held high, for without hope and dreams, it’s far too easy to just stand still and never move forward. And as I walk here in the dewy grass on this misty morning, with the sun slowly rising over the village of Bancross, I see that glint coming from the empty house, calling to me. Together we rise from the ashes of burned dreams, stronger than ever.