It was a small thing, air-light, tissue-thin, barely an impression left in the great, good green into which it was born. The spark that brought it to life was also a mere whisper, a molecule or two of breeze floating among a soft spring mist just before dawn.
A small thing, but not helpless, even though the one who wished it into existence thought it hopeless. Sometimes, a small thing can travel in and around and under obstacles which prevent the large and lumbering from moving forward. Sometimes, a small thing can bring just enough small happiness to change the world…
He stood on the front stoop, much as he did every morning, clutching tight a strong draught of tea in a fragile porcelain cup. The cup was covered in hand-painted violets, shading from the palest lavender to the deepest plum. A delicate green line bisected the handle, too small for his gnarled and knotted warrior’s fingers. The cup had belonged to his late wife. He drank his tea from it every morning, just as she had. And just as she often did, he drank from it standing on the front stoop, watching the road which led to the village, and then to the town, and then to the capitol where he’d spent his days in the Republic’s guard.
He rarely thought about those days spent traveling from one campaign after another, fighting in a battle here, a skirmish there. He’d been proud of his service, proud of his successes and the financial security it had provided his family.
He was less proud of the cost. He took leave when he was able, arranged for them to join him when peace would guarantee their safety at his side. There was never enough time together, though, and his absences were more of a burden than the gold was a blessing. So he walked away. He lay down his sword and shield, his rank and honors, and returned home.
He had years of happiness with his family around him to look forward to. His son was married, and lived down the road two farms over with a wife and four children. His oldest daughter was apprenticed to Cobly, the blacksmith, and was married to the blacksmith’s daughter. The couple would be taking over the forge when Cobly retired.
His youngest daughter, though, was of a more restless nature. She stayed home for a time—by then his wife was ill and there would be no thought of leaving. She tried her hand at farming, fishing, goat herding, but once they gathered to scatter her mother’s ashes on the sea, she picked up his old sword and marched off to war.
It shattered something inside him. The loss of his wife was such a blow, and then to see his daughter—his child—wield that sword as though she was born to it tore at his soul. He knew what war did to anyone who faced it. He had one true and honest conversation with her before she left.
She heard more than he realized, but still, she left.
He watched for mail. She wrote home even less than he had. He listened to talk at the market or the village tavern. His eldest daughter brought him news from travelers who carried it with them to the posting house where she sometimes helped with the horses. His son shared what he gleaned from the seasonal workers who came with the planting and the harvest. It shamed him, thinking about what his wife and children had gone through, hearing news of battles, then suffering through long stretches of silence, uncertain of his fate—and now he was uncertain of hers.
So he stood on his stoop, clutching his wife’s favorite cup, sipping tea much too strong for anyone else, for he had never learned the knack of producing anything but camp brew.
He waited. The early spring mist covered the stretch of garden in front of the small house, covered the newly emerging violets with droplets so fine they barely had any substance at all, only enough so they glimmered in the sunlight just cresting the hedge. He thought they were beautiful, and he wished that somewhere, somehow, his daughter was safe enough long enough to see a field of violets.
A small thing. A small wish. Brought into being by a father for his child who was far away and out of reach.
And on a hillside, she woke from a dream of violets and of home. She laid down her sword—her father’s sword—and both their burdens. If she hurried, the next sunrise would see her in his garden.
— Patricia Miller