Dawn crept slowly over the darkened land of Eirené. The petals and leaves were weighted with glistening tears of vapor. The forest of Twigor was awakening. The belly of a snake slithered smoothly over the foliage, making its way through the trees, its head bobbing to the rhythm of its flickering tongue. It passed into a small clearing, where an immense rock reached over the forest roof.
The snake’s cold belly brushed over Leora's warm skin, paying no mind to her, and disappeared into a small crack in the rock. Shortly thereafter, Leora’s eyes opened, and she saw Grimmer with his back facing her. It felt as though he had been with them throughout the night. She stared at him in disbelief. It was not a dream, she thought despairingly. She did have dreams, vivid images of things that have not yet come to pass. Her three daughters lay silent, still sleeping in the basket. Without turning around, Grimmer spoke in a warm voice.
“Today you will feel changed, for in your sleep I have trained you. A mother you now truly are and of mothering you now know enough.”
Leora, feeling at a loss for words, did not reply. Grimmer turned to face her, and grinned menacingly before he walked off, disappearing into the woods.
Leora felt a shiver running down her spine, and were it not for the basket wherein her daughters lay, she would still have thought of it as a dream.
Leora found an unfamiliar change in her thinking. Above all, her thoughts now dwelled on a place to call home. She thought of no better place other than the greatest tree in the forest of Twigor. Old Bark, though it was not among the highest of trees, was monstrous. The old tree had a gnarled trunk measuring forty-four arms in breadth and reached sixty-five arms into the sky. Old bark had a natural platform at the pinnacle of the trunk, where around it grew stalwart branches towering from the edges of the trunk. The branches carried a great weight of twigs and silver leaves. When sunlight was at its highest in the sky, it pierced through the spheroidal opening atop and shone onto the platform.
Leora was pleased to make their home there, and she thought Old Bark would welcome their stay. Old Bark was home to many little creatures, some friendly, and others not so much. In time, Leora learned to contend with these creatures and they learned to fear her scorn.
Time passed and the seasons trickled on. Her daughters grew in stature, knowledge and skill. She named them, Elian, Allenial and Linlith.
Elian was most skilled in the crafting of things; from carving wooden toys, to mining and smelting elements to create magnificent jewels. Allenial found wonder in the herbs and plants that grew throughout the Burgeoning North. Sometimes she would disappear into the wild in search of places where some rare things grow. She would learn of ointments and herbal remedies to aid against injury or disease. Linlith was not joyful, for she was often ill. It was on Linlith, that Allenial could test her herbal remedies, and more often than not, Allenial would succeed in easing her sister’s pain.
The future of Linlith was revealed to her in many dreams. This did not bring fear to Linlith’s heart, for she desired this relationship with death, although she could not understand why. Their mother told them that when her time in the north ends, they should leave Twigor and journey to the lands beyond the forest to find their place in the world. Elian was to go east, for she had ever desired to visit the dwarves under the mountain. Allenial desired to go west for she thought she could learn a lot from the elves who practiced alchemy.
In the sixteenth year since the birth of her daughters, there was a celebration in the Old Bark, which had been their home now for many seasons. Old Bark was not as it once was. The old tree was weighted with decorations and crafted items. During those times, song and dance was often a part of their lives. The darkness crept in slowly on this day of celebration, as the sky went blacker than coal and the wind bashed against the towering branches of Old Bark. All the trees were restless, rustling loudly. The three Forelocks, now sixteen years into life, were safe inside the towers of the Old Bark with their mother. That night left all other creatures cowering in their holes and burrows.
It was so that the laughing and feasting stopped as an illness more serious than any other befell Linlith. Allenial by now had a wooden shelf stacked with herbs and exotic remedies that have seldom failed her. Allenial tried remedy after remedy, but it was all in vain. Leora felt an old fear gripping her chest. She became pale and cold. The night felt dark and heavy. The Forelocks huddled around their sister, and their mother remained sitting motionless against a towering branch, clutching her knees to her chin. The night fell silent. In this silence, Grimmer had walked out of the shadows and was now standing over Linlith. Grimmer lay his hand on Linlith’s cheek. Her eyes opened, but were as black as a starless night. Allenial and Elian stood motionless, mesmerized by the presence of Grimmer. Then out of the stillness, Linlith spoke in a slow whisper,
“My king has come for me, is this true?”
Grimmer took her hand to help her get up. Linlith stood firmly on the ground, feeling all her strength quickly returning. She felt Grimmer’s face with her cold soft hands. His eyes had her spellbound for a moment, then she turned to look upon her mother who sat as if holding a great weight upon her shoulders.
“Mother I am glad, and be glad for my king is here. My heart has found its keeper, and this is he.”
Leora looked up at her child holding Death’s hand. There was a brief silence, as a cool breeze sent dead leaves swirling in the light of the full moon. Finally, Leora began muttering words.
“Be free my child, for your heart has ever belonged to him.”
She felt a strain in her throat saying those words, and then she became still, feeling herself fall into darkness. Linlith had crossed the veil between life and death and she could follow Grimmer wherever he went. Linlith glanced over her sisters. Then they turned and merged with the shadows.
I am a 24 year old aspiring writer.
I live in Pretoria, South-Africa and I
study english part-time.
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