A line of orange fire stretched across the eastern horizon. Soaring down, away from the chill of the mountains, the gryffon welcomed the rising sun. He spread his six wings into a glide and stretched his tired muscles, glad that it would be a pleasant day. The sun’s warmth would renew the strength of his wings, and his resolve. It had been a long journey, far longer and harder than he had anticipated, but then, he thought, regardless of the cost, I shall always obey my Master.
Even before the moon had risen on the previous evening when a noisy harbinger-dove interrupted his sleep with its flapping of wings and chortling excitement – silly creature that it was – he knew the message would be brief and urgent: Ha’dar – Come soon. Immediately, he knew who it was from and departed.
From the gryffon’s aerie in the Rhipaean Mountains, Ha’dar flew to the city of Jebus in Canaan to meet Theatero’s call, and to receive his mission. From Jebus, he set out for the lowland’s coast to do his master’s bidding. This time, his task was a strange thing; he was to plant a seed.
His flight had taken him over Massif de la Vanoise, Mont Blanc and Chamonix. Across the Pennines he flew, then the Berner Alps, and the Juras, beautiful, each mountain range an inspiration in its great height and sculpted grandeur – but cold, so very cold.
Tight in his talons he gripped his charge, the reason for his quest. The small oval made of gold and etched with thread-fine runes seemed warm; he did find this not unusual, for the acorn held the hamadryad’s legacy as had designed by Theateros. He had clutched the precious seed so tightly for so long, a day and a night and a day, that his talon cramped. Ha’dar felt a spike of doubt and wondered if he would be able to unfold his claws to complete his task once he reached Friesland.
When the North Sea came to view, he began his descent, pitching into spiral turns that he hoped would allow him to better identify the village of Oostmahorn.
Crested on the southern edge of a small protected bay, the tiny village bore the relentless winds that swept down from the North Atlantic Ocean. He knew that landing on the appointed bluff would require all his remaining strength and skill.
At the line where the sea met the shore, Ha’dar dipped his left wings and tensed the long flight feathers on his right, arcing down to skim along the wave line until he saw the outlying isle-spits that buffered Oostmahorn’s pocket bay. Two, three degrees to the left, he sighted the high bluff that sat in guardianship over the village. He circled three times, searching for signs of early risers; from past experience, he knew it would not do to be seen – never would they understand what he was, or that there was purpose to his presence.
The promontory was clear of human activity, but now he saw a sharp updraft billowing over rim of the bluff. Wary of wind shear, he prepared for the shock but misjudged the clashing air currents and lit too close to the edge, nearly losing his balance. Alarmed, he power-stroked his wings to regain equilibrium, then flared, bracing his feet for a soft landing. Bringing his many senses to bear, the gryffon quickly searched for the best soil in which to plant the seed. He soon located a wide pocket of dirt, rich and deep. This will do, yes, this will do very well. Here, close to the bluff’s edge, the seed would grow to become a massive sentry oak, standing watch over the village and bay of Oostmahorn.
Ha’dar carefully set the acorn to the side, scraped off the top layer of dirt, then began to dig in earnest. Using both talons, he deepened and widened the hole until it was at last the correct proportion that Therateos had instilled in him. Twice, he gathered clumps of soft leaf mold into the bottom of the hole, then gently placed the acorn in the middle. Adding more clumps of leaves to cover the seed, he covered the hole with dirt, then tramped over the soil to pack it down.
Once done, he stood to utter the prayer his master had given him: “Creator of all things, bless now this seed, that your design may be fulfilled, that your glory may shine forth, that your children may know your great and mighty love. Bless now those who will come after me. Grant them courage when they are confronted by the wicked ones, grant your beloved strength when they are weak, grant them wisdom when they are mystified, and grant them peace when fear stands before them. Prepare them carefully for the tasks to come. When the time is full, guard them, equip them with the presence of your spirit. So do I make this prayer. Amen and amen.”
As a lasting gesture, he flapped his wings to scatter leaves and twigs, erasing any vestige of his presence. Satisfied, he whipped his tail and leapt into the air with a bright cry to begin his arduous flight back to Rhipaea.
raced with the sun’s warmth and seasonal rains and coastal fog, the seed soon took root. The first green shoot sprouted, resolute with promise, then two, then three small branches followed. It continued to grow in strength and height. Within a year, the tree had gained a foot; in two years, it had reached nearly three feet, and at the end of five years it was taller than the tallest man. In twenty years, the tree was a mature oak with broad, thick branches that spread to all sides.
As the oak tree thrived and grew, so did the spirit of the hamadryad. She bided her time, delighting in the sun and rain, the panoply birds and squirrels and insects, knowing all the while that her purpose was anointed and blessed. At the passing of a hundred years, she knew the appointed time was coming near, for the ground below was now richly carpeted with leaves and twigs and acorns. Patient by nature, she had no difficulty waiting for that designated year, that time especially ordained by Therateos, yet to come.