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June 19, 2000

Elemental Fury

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Realm Fantastica
     
Elemental Fury
The Blood of the Trees
by J.D. Gross
 

Mirindir strolled through the forest, the pale moonlight filtering through the trees, illuminating his pointed elven features and silver hair. An owl hooted in the distance, mice scampered beneath his feet, the pungent smell of pine filled the air.  The chill of evening was upon him, causing him to pull his white gown tightly
around himself.

"Es Hazhura mon lah
Es Hazhura lon rah
Caen den quaron
Mes den kaentah
Lesin masah, mon lah
Quaren le Mikhaera."

He sang softly an elven paean to his home and creator, casually inserting a line about the unusually chill air. As if to mock him, a wind picked up and blew by him, the strange feeling of an arm creeping around his waist. He shuddered, hoping to shake the feeling though at the same time wishing it to be kinder to him.  The wind was gone quickly as he approached a stream in a clearing where the sky could be seen, the stars clearly visible in its vast, clear darkness. "It is not so cold here," he muttered to himself, his thoughts sticking in his throat as he caught sight of a woman on the bank of the stream. He would not have been so surprised if she were an elf like himself, but he could sense, though he could not yet see, that she was not. A power greater than he had ever felt before emanated from the woman, and Mirindir wondered if he hadn't stumbled into his creator.

"It can't be," Mirindir said to himself as he crept closer to the woman, though trying to remain discreet, as if that would help in the presence of a god. He gulped, attempting to convince himself that if he ever were to meet his maker, then he would know right away if it were Mikhaera. As it was, this just felt like a very
powerful being, but not one that would have created anything... The woman looked over in his direction, her bright, shining eyes piercing the shadows where he hid like two stars cleaving the darkness of night. Somehow, Mirindir felt as if he had been violated, though if anything were being violated, it would have been this woman's privacy.

I am sorry, sounded in his mind, but whether the words were hers or his, he did not know. Her eyes struck him like a spider's fangs, drawing out the juices of his soul...

"Stop," he managed to say, stepping out from the shadows. "Please, my lady, I did not mean you any harm..."

She looked him up and down, and it was then that he realized she was bare.  When her eyes were again level with his, he was surprised to see himself in them, naked as a newborn babe. Instinctively his hands went to cover himself in modesty, but his fingers closed over the soft cloth of his garment, not the smoothness of his skin. He soon realized that this was not a physical creature of the earth, but rather a creature of the soul--a spirit, actually. This was the Forest of the Spirits, after all, a garden of the gods, but one did not see these beings so much as sense their presence. But here was this woman, appearing as flesh and blood to Mirindir...

"I am sorry, if I am disturbing you," Mirindir voiced. "I did not know you were here,  and--"

The woman smiled and cocked her head in amusement. The elf, taking this as a more relaxing response, stopped and laughed at himself. The woman took his hand that he was using in a futile attempt to conceal himself.

"I am Calliophene, guardian of Foristen Spirarnen," she said in a musical voice that spoke of the forest.

"You--you are--a nymph," Mirindir stuttered. "I have heard--"

"I hope you have heard well of me. It is by my will that the things of the outside world do not disturb your people's home. But if you have forgotten me..."  The nymph released the elf's hand. Mirindir searched his mind for memories of this deity, stories his people might have told... There were few, but they were there. Calliophene was reputed to be vagarious, acting on whims as they suited her--she certainly was not to be trusted. Over the years the elves had come to rely more on their own forebears for the defense of their home and less on the "spirits of the forest." But the way Calliophene was talking, it sounded like she had turned her back because the elves had turned their back on her first.

"We have not forgotten you," Mirindir defended for his people, though more for his own sake--the power coming from the woman beat upon him like a flame, and he did not want to get burned.

"Then why have I not been paid my tribute?" 

Mirindir swallowed hard, but could not keep from being swallowed up by Calliophene's intense gaze. 

"Unless you are my tribute..."

Mirindir felt himself shrinking as the arms of doom swept around him, enveloping him in their blackness.

"My lady--" he whispered in dread awe.

The nymph approached Mirindir, spreading her arms to embrace him. Her body pressed against his, he felt smooth skin--his garment had dropped, he had been laid bare...

"Say no more." The warm breath touched his ear, the hands caressed him...

The darkness closed in over him and Mirindir could remember no more.

* * *

"Beloved."

The word swept over Mirindir like a passing cloud as he sat gazing at nothing, his thoughts abstracted.

"Is something troubling you?"

Something touched him. He looked down and noticed another pair of hands upon his own. The delicate fingers belonged to his elven soul-mate--the woman he had proposed marrying but had not yet sealed the vows of their bond with.

Mirindir looked back up, his own slender fingers closing over the hand of his beloved.

"I cannot say," he said lowly, searching his mind for the appropriate response.

She leaned against him, placing her head on his shoulder, her dark hair falling over him.

"When can I truly call you my mate?" she asked softly, though with a faint note of impatience.

"When I feel the time is right," he answered bluntly, stroking her soft hair. 

"What does it matter when, when we have an eternity?"

She pulled away from him abruptly. "If we have an eternity, what does it matter if it is now or later?"

He turned to face her, a deep sadness reflecting in his eyes. "It matters. Do not ask me why, but it does." He turned away again to face the nothingness that he knew would be there waiting for him. "I cannot tell you the reason, because I do not know it myself."

She stood up and brushed herself off, some of the dirt landing on him. 

"Well, you know where I'll be when you change your mind." She stomped off.

"It will be soon, beloved, soon." He turned to look at her, but she had already disappeared and become one with the shadows of the trees. "Why do I do this to myself?" he muttered, resting his head in his hands.
Just as he was about to close his eyes in despair, Mirindir's eyelids flickered open as he caught sight of something. A powerful being stood before him, one that seemed familiar...

"Calliophene," escaped from the elf's lips as the memory that had been pushed back came to surface.

Come here, she beckoned, and he obeyed, moving away from the relative safety of his people and their home.

The nymph's arm swept around him, and they walked along the secret paths of the woodland's guardians. When at last they came to a certain place, a place that Mirindir was certain no mortal had ever been before, his guide stopped and drew away from him. She paced the periphery of the glade and when certain that nothing from beyond the wall of vegetation and magic could get in, she went once again over to Mirindir.

So we are together again. Calliophene embraced the elf, their heads pressed together, their thoughts passing silently between them. 

What do you want from me now?

I want nothing from you--it is what your unborn child deserves.

A deep chill froze Mirindir's heart. It had been easy to forget about this woman when he was with his beloved, but he could not forget about the promises spoken to her when he was with the nymph.

This cannot be! I am promised to another...

You do not have to take the child. All I ask is that you give him something, something that will enable him to survive.

Mirindir pulled away in horror, gazing into the nymph's star-like eyes. "My child will die if I do not give him something?"

Calliophene shrugged. "How can I say? I am not of the earth, nor of the air--as are you. I am not of the physical world, but I feel the child growing with me; how this came to be, I cannot say. But I think with a piece of the world, he will live. Each of us must give him something, for neither of us plans on taking
responsibility for him."

Guilt stabbed Mirindir's already frozen heart, and he looked at the shady ground in shame. "I cannot take him because of my people. My people believe in the sacred vows between a man and a woman, that they cannot be broken--"

"In this life or the next," Calliophene spoke sarcastically. "I know."

Anger flared up in Mirindir, thawing his pained heart, giving him the courage to face this callous, if powerful, being. "If you knew," he growled, glaring defiantly at her, "then why did you violate me?"

"Was it not you who entered my sanctuary?" the nymph defended. "Was it not your people who had forgotten about me?"

"My people are not here for your amusement!"

Calliophene's eyes flared. "If that is all you think of me, then your people can just take care of themselves! Let the humans come and tear your beloved home apart, see if I care, because I will not be here!"

"We can take care of ourselves."

"Just as you always have." She laughed bitterly. "But remember our child." Sense became her once more. "If you care anything for your own blood, then I will see you back here in a month's time--with your blessing."

She disappeared and the glade faded; Mirindir was once again in Hazhura.

A child, he thought, knowing that whatever he thought when among his people would be known by them. He didn't care; it didn't matter anymore, anyway.

Putting his hands to his face, Mirindir cried softly to himself.

* * *

The pale moonlight streamed into the glade, illuminating the soft features of a newborn babe held in the arms of a woman with eyes of starlight. A figure strolled into the clearing, carrying a shining object in its hand. The woman turned to face the newcomer, who was singing:

"Maentahl lechten, maentahl lechten
Mi kaentahn shandehn
Beyutahn maentahlen
Le mach si Mikhaera
Weachu saen queolah."

Mirindir held the stone over the baby, who opened his gray eyes to look at the curious object.

"Mahntehn loru caoyen shandehn," Mirindir chanted softly, the glowing stone in his hand slowly dimming as the moonlight became trapped inside, swirling around to form a word, an elven word--Shanadar, meaning rock. 

"And now for my blessing." Calliophene handed the infant over to Mirindir, who placed the stone around his son's neck. Then the nymph made a gesture, and a squat, furry creature emerged from the shadows.
At a signal from Calliophene, the dog-like creature went over to Mirindir.  Standing on its hind legs, it came to about the elf's shoulder.

"Show him the child," Calliophene ordered.

Mirindir hesitated, afraid of what might happen. But however menacing the creature's teeth might have been under those black lips, its glowing green eyes spoke of a gentleness that belied its savage appearance. The elf slowly lowered the babe to the level of the creature's head.

Calliophene went over to kneel beside the creature. "This is your charge," she whispered in its ear. "See that he comes to no serious harm. If you ever catch him wandering the desert of despair, give him a good nip to send him the opposite direction. This I bid you, from one parent to another."

The creature lifted its head, indicating that it heard. As the nymph drew away, it set to work on learning the identity of its responsibility--the sight, the smell, every nuance of the baby, to indicate that it accepted.

"Remember this especially," Mirindir spoke lowly, showing the creature the rock. "By this we will be able to identify my child, at any age."

The creature lowered its ears, glared at Mirindir for a moment, then turned and walked away back over to its lady.

"I bid you leave now, to take care of your own family," she said. The creature departed into the shadows surrounding the glade.

"And as for you," she said to Mirindir. "I bid you return home and leave the rest to me."

Mirindir stood staring dumbly at the nymph, the baby held protectively against his chest.

"Give me the child." Calliophene strolled over to him, her hand held out. 

She stopped before him, her head cocked, a sad expression on her face. "Which will it be: your child, or your people?"

Mirindir withdrew the baby from the safety of his chest. Holding the infant out at arm's length, he looked over the soft, moonlit features of his child one last time.

"May Mikhaera bless you, my little Shanadar," he said, finally relinquishing the child to his mother.

Calliophene took the infant, gazing intently into her lover's eyes one last time.

 Nothing more needs to be said, spoke silently between them. You know what needs to be done.

The nymph kissed the babe on the head. She looked up and smiled, her eyes gleaming.

Farewell.

The nymph and child departed on the wings of the night, leaving the elf standing alone in a shadowy and desolate glade.

It was going to be a long walk home.


© 1998 J.D. Gross. All rights reserved.


Elemental Fury material is © J.D. Gross. All rights reserved.