Stone in the Wood | Ryan Coleman

Daniel Lienert via Pexels

What is not built in stone does not last. In the north, the woodland was a wash of old growth atop the corpses of tens of thousands; the bog as much blood and spit as marshwater. The depths, deep within its inexhaustible woodland, perched the modest tower rested upon the piles ashes of wars past that once made his home. There was his name. South, the land of sun and open field, where men wore honor as plate and women courtesy as dress. He would confront the father who gave him life and return nameless and pure to the one who gave him honor.

He knew by the road that where merchants wore steel, no good man was safe. Winter had reached the spirit of the land well before the seasons brought it. The woodland was dotted with the ruin of recent exploit—torn palisades, charred keeps, leveled holdfasts all. What is not built in stone does not last.

Summer days basking in the creek, sparring in the shadow of the tower above. Autumn scents, canopies of oaken green turned to fiery bronze, the chill of a lasting wind that no stone nor flame could stave out, save for the flames of war. The cane, the buried mother, the bruises born from the man’s cups. The forest ate what it could kill, as any man did for its prey. The lessons of his father the northerner, which ebbed to his surface. The thought of his coming salvation and disownment, which warmed his heart against the bitter cold.

The foot of the hill that led to his tower. The human carrion, the traces of raid, the weathered sight of a forgotten battle. The peak of the hill of his holdfast, sky unobstructed, unmarred by the intercession of towering, drab stone. “What is not built in stone does not last,” his father had once said. He buried him, consigned the skeleton that wore his sword under the earth to meet the bog, to join the tens of thousands and to feed the wood that took him. The forest ate what it could kill, and wasted nothing. Not even stone could last the wood.

Twitter @rlcolem.

Ryan is a hobbyist of the pen & student in philosophy, writing for his local paper and in prose for endless hobbies that serve his career in no way whatever.

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