On the thirteenth day of December

After a further full day of raking the forest, the elder was no closer to a third sign, nor to finding the treecreeper, whom he hoped might guide him to one. It was morning. At a loss, he thought back: had he overlooked any inkling of a sign?

No insight was forthcoming. Nevertheless, since he had first alighted upon the set-apart pine tree during the storm five days ago, his mind had consistently returned at intervals to it and to the elder-familiar power which he had felt there. "Perhaps its will inspire me," he deliberated, and set off for it, with measured step, right away.

A couple of hours later, he was by the unwonted pine once more... and there, inconspicuous on a branch of a nearby tree, ensconced among pine cones, was the treecreeper too, though the elder did not know it. Whilst its encounter with mysteries within the trunk of the set-apart pine had so bewildered and affrighted the treecreeper that it could not bring itself to land again upon it, the recalling to its mind of the nuances of that glassy, rich sap-light had drawn it back — stopping a little distance away — not once but several times.

The treecreeper observed the reverence with which the elder now placed his hands upon the tree... here a while... there a while... as though getting to know it — learning what the rugged, turning bark could tell of a life. And, admiring the juxtaposition of innocence and sagacity with which the elder proceeded, the treecreeper was suddenly overwhelmed with a wish to join him, notwithstanding his trepidation towards the pine. Fluttering down, the elder recognised him at once! — with delight! — from the Hazel grouse hills. And the treecreeper began to tell him, with wings flapping eagerly, of the hole it had made in the pine ten days ago, and the light within.

The elder, though, heard only beautiful birdsong in a high, trilling, ethereal pitch; tumbling down a note or two a moment, and then rising to the top of its register once more. The clock-tenderer could have understood it — but the elder's gift was wisdom, not magic. Realising that the elder did not understand him, the treecreeper tried all the more earnestly to recount his tale; but the elder heard only ever more heavenly music.

Not knowing how to help the elder understand, and flushed with the enthusiasm of his account beyond the reserve of his rationality, the treecreeper, with a plunge, suddenly leapt to the trunk... and with a few taps of its finely curved beak, so well-adapted for the purpose, it opened up again the hole it made before — a little broader this time. Finally, the elder saw it — the third sign! Light like whisky in a charred cask, a shade of sienna a little lighter than the brown of the pine's bark; beguilingly pellucid!

Tremoring a little from the fervour of his courage, the treecreeper was as discombobulated by this manifestation of the light as the first; but the serenity of the elder, the sharing of the light's unveiling with him, now calmed it. Before long, it took off contentedly for its nest; the elder followed him the entire way with his eyes, his face a synthesis of gratitude and marvel at what the tiniest of souls can accomplish.

This is the thirteenth part of an episodic tale written in November and December 2022. Previous part. Next part.

Last updated: 12:39 (GMT+1), 14th December 2022