Here it stood before him, his mother’s grave. Yet, the rest at the end of his long, arduous search—the peace that Dosec had expected to find was…missing.
Lorah-taan was laid to rest in the elvin grove of Kaionah’s Cradle at the foot of a toppled ebonwood tree. Looming over the grave, her effigy was rent from its tangled thatch of ancient black roots in intricate detail. Dosec could see that the artist had fashioned pigments to bring her to life in color. Hair of gold and gown of violet and sage, she was everything and nothing he’d expected his mother to be. With head bowed and hands clasped protectively over her stomach, she was with child. His mother was a vision of perfection.
He knelt beside the honeysuckle growing over the mound, entombing her young body. Other assorted flora in an array of colors created a solemn oasis for her alone.
Born here in this clearing, Dosec’s life had begun as she lay dying.
A wrenching loss filled him as he turned and sat beside the grave. Clasping his head in his hands, he fought back the grief threatening to overtake him. He had no idea what he had expected to find, but a lonely garden was not it.
“There’s nothing here, and there never was.” His broken voice echoed across the empty meadow.
What had he expected to find? Her waiting to explain it all away? That her mere presence would heal a solitary childhood with a mournful father? Perhaps a scroll resting on her grave, answering all the questions he’d never been allowed to ask?
It didn’t matter, because none of it was here. It was just him, alone, sitting in a hidden field on a patch of land still protruding slightly after seventeen long years.
Beneath her suspended monument sat a memorial plinth caked with grit. The requiem etched on the mer alabaster had been carved deeply to prevent the words from withering with time. Even as she returned to dust, these words would live on.
Herein lies the body of Lorah-taan
Of the elvin begetter tree, Yilar
Tribune of our scion, Pride
Friend ~ Wife ~ Mother
An eternity passed too soon…
Early morning pierced the Ebonwood Forest’s amber and silver canopy. Burnt-orange rays lit the eastern horizon casting the glade of Kaionah’s Cradle in a fiery glow. Long-fingered shadows stretched across the misty meadow from towering trees. Large copper leaves rustled in the swaying treetops. Fluffy white dandie-flowers exploded on gusts of crisp wind and danced wildly into the forest depths. The aromas of a new spring filled Dosec’s senses.
Glistening dew clung to the blades of grass and the delicate clovers that sprouted here and there among the flora around him. He ran his hand through the patch and captured one. He had never seen a clover with four leaves before. Her small garden was covered with them.
Dosec groped behind him for the satchel he’d discarded with his cloak and scarf. As he rummaged in it, his hands seized what he was looking for. He drew out a tattered leather-bound diary wrapped around by two straps. On its cover was a dark glyph branded into it of an elvin tri-tree. Unbinding the journal, he opened it on the dewy ground. Its pages were filled with intricate drawings. Each plant, creature and place bore footnotes for further study. Every instant in his short life was gathered there. Those lessons, or lack thereof, he collected in parchment and charcoal. Thumbing through, he stopped at several drawings of a female’s face. Delicate, young, determined, it was the face he guessed belonged to his mother.
They were each different in subtle ways. Dosec’s sharp nose and softly arching eyebrows were on one drawing of her. It had too much of his father’s scowl to be an accurate image, though. For another sketch, he’d found a patch of dandelions and crushed their yellow petals into dust. He had painted her hair and eyes gold to match his. This one had his high cheekbones and gently sharpened ears.
None of them were her, of course. Dosec had never met her—never seen her. But many nights, he’d whispered into these pages, pouring out every hope and fear a son wished to tell his mother. These tiny glimpses of a face that was his in subtle ways, stared back silently. These drawings held more of his secrets than any of the words written along their edges.
At the diary’s center, he came to a place that had no writings. A thin swath of silk lay between two sturdy pieces of honeydew-covered parchment. A wealth of memories and moments from Dosec’s life was hidden within.
Pressed upon the sticky pages were several items of note. A small yellow kembrel leaf was nearly bare to its veins as it clung to the top inner-corner. From Dosec’s first garden, the slow-growing plant taught him a lesson in patience. Across the page was a thorn from a piperous plant. The night-blooming bush hid its defenses along its stem—hundreds of inch-long thorns. He’d fallen into a patch as a child while out playing with his friend, Nelroth. If not for her summoning the healer in time, its fast-acting poison would have killed him. The thorn served as a reminder of dangers unseen. Beside it was a dried marga berry placed there by Nelroth—a quiet request to fetch some whenever he came upon it. They made her favorite cup of tea, and Dosec thought it small compensation for the life he owed her. Down the page, a flat scale about the size of his thumb bore the dragon glyph for no. The etching reminded Dosec of the power of a single word.
He laid the clover on the parchment and said, “Perseverance.”
Other tidbits and trinkets from his bartering travels filled half of the blank space. Empty pages followed, awaiting their own memories.
A fairy-made gyther flute lay hidden beneath the silk swath. The instrument was inlaid with intricate carvings of the Seats of Union... the elemental scions. Dosec ran his thumb over the depictions he knew well. A unicorn, mermaid, and dragon intertwined around the flute above the body of an arbor. Below, an elf and ogre stood back to back as brothers.
Once the immortal guardians of Lolore, nearly all had fallen centuries ago in the Sunder of OoLaNaR.
He lingered on the image of the ogre. This was Lolore’s King Strength. The last scion, the cruel sovereign, was nothing like his reputed benevolent ilk.
The instrument was a gift to his mother from King Ekran, of the fey. Bequeathed to Dosec upon her death and given to him by his father, it was the only thing that tied her to him.
Dosec became quite adept at playing it on long bartering trips, much to the chagrin of his father.
“Chagrin is all Tydec ever feels,” he sighed.
Before the death of his wife, Tydec served the elvin trillage of Echlaroop as the general of its armies. After his loss, he relinquished command to become the principal barter. Dosec was his apprentice.
Plucking the flute from its cradle, Dosec closed the pages to protect its other treasures.
Looking into his mother’s face, he said, “This is for you.”
Placing the flute to his lips and setting his fingers to the small pinholes along its spine, Dosec breathed life into the delicate instrument. Its first sharp whistle filled the quiet clearing to the dense forest wall and back.
The melody was one his ayah, Bekamy, sang to him as a young child. Odalal Tipathrah was his favorite lullaby about a unicorn, an elf, and a sprig. Each note of the piece took the trio further into the adventure. At the peak of its crescendo, when all seemed lost, a tribune would deliver them from the grasps of peril. Returning home, each was a little braver and a little wiser.
As the last wisp of music faded on the morning wind, the forest that had been teeming with life fell eerily silent. Removing the flute from his lips slowly, he stood. Fearful of potential predators, he watched the tree line intently.
“Who’s there?” his strained voice called.
Not really wanting an answer, the question made him feel in control. After a few still seconds, he heard the indistinguishable sound of wood creaking, straining…moving.
Dosec’s heart skipped a beat. Reluctantly looking back, the visage of his mother loomed just inches from his face.
“What the?” Dosec inhaled sharply, falling back. Pushing away from the grave, he grabbed his satchel to his chest as a makeshift shield.
Covered in a sheet of cold sweat and rigid with fear, Dosec’s heart slammed in his chest. Frozen to where he sat, a startling thought overshadowed the calamity of his panic.
“Is this my mother?” he gasped.
He tried to inch away, but as he made to rise, the statue’s head turned to follow him. His insides felt as if a small trapped animal was clawing its way to the surface.
A wild terror roiled up from the pit of his stomach. Staring into the effigy’s emotionless gaze, he realized there was no one to call on. He was alone. He’d left his assigned bartering route to find this forbidden place. Now came the consequences for his impulsiveness. Fear began giving way to a hint of anger.
Looking around the clearing, Dosec said, “I’m going to die in this meadow, and no one will even know where to look for me.”
The visage drew back slowly, settling a cautious distance away.
Dosec forced himself calm and laid the satchel aside. His courage bolstered further when he stood, and the statue did not follow him.
He adjusted his tunic nervously, “Okay then. So, you don’t intend to kill me.”
As he watched, Lorah-taan’s right hand slowly tilted toward him as it opened. Emanating from the statue’s palm, a soft glow filled the shadowy glade.
“But you want me to have whatever it is you’re holding?”
He realized with a deep dread that he would have to get a lot closer to investigate it.
He sighed. “Just keep in mind that I’m your son.”
With another steadying breath, he closed the gap between himself and the figure of his mother. Her hand dropped, bringing him up short.
Leaning cautiously closer, a whiff of fresh rainfall met his nostrils. He felt the air in the meadow draw in around him. Even the forest felt closer.
Cradled within her palm was an oblong jewel the size of an egg. Its crystalline shell protected a vibrant kaleidoscope of colors undulating like oil on water.
Nature’s beauty danced across Lorah-taan’s countenance in its ambient light.
“What…is this?” he asked, the threat of its keeper forgotten.
The air around the jewel vibrated. It radiated power, unlike anything he’d ever experienced. Gooseflesh rose up Dosec’s arms as he stood in its presence.
“Is this the secret they’ve been hiding?” he asked the glowing treasure.
Curiosity overrode caution, and a sudden hunger overtook him. He reached to pluck it from her hand, then stopped. Hovering just above the jewel, he hesitated.
“This feels wrong,” he realized. “I think I’d better…”
Dosec’s dread escalated sharply when he tried to draw away and found he couldn’t move.
“What’s happening?” he called out, realizing he’d lost control over his body.
Without his permission, Dosec’s hand began inching closer to the crystal. When his traitorous fingers lifted the glowing treasure, the force holding him dissolved. He stumbled backward, away from the statue.
Staring around the cradle, he asked, “Am I losing my mind?” His question echoing back was his only answer.
He looked at what he was holding. It was surprisingly weightless. If he closed his eyes, he would not know it was there at all.
“What are you made of?” he asked, examining the flawless orb.
A rumbling thunder broke the pervading silence of the forest as a blanket of sickly black clouds rolled across the sky. They twisted and writhed into a tempest casting Kaionah’s Cradle into dusk.
Without warning, a searing pulse of pain lit through Dosec’s palm. His fingers involuntarily began clasping closed around the crystal, tendrils of purple energy abruptly spiraling out of the jewel fused to his hand. Like a living creature, threads of electricity elongated and tangled up his arms and around his shoulders.
Dosec clawed at his trapped hand with the other, desperate to free it from the jewel. A pulse of power threw his hands apart, and flames erupted from the heart of the jewel, climbing high above his head. A wave of water tangled around his feet, encircling Dosec’s body. Vines of green verdure and sparkling ore poured out in tandem. The ground buckled beneath him.
He bowed backward and writhed in torture. He shrieked in pain as a wild gust lifted him off the ground in its clutch. A gaping maw opened in the forest floor below him.
His body continued to pitch, seeking release or death as shards of energy pierced through his body repeatedly. Dosec cried out, but his hearing had gone the moment before. He was raw with excruciating pain.
Skulking on the edge of his rational mind, he saw the figure. No more than a wisp of smoke, it moved behind the statue, watching him. It mingled with the wind, never forming a solid shape. Dosec sensed it calling to him. It knew him. His shattered mind heard the hammering winds and cracking in the distant clouds.
A building power, like a whisper into a roar, began to grow inside him. It was filling him up, overflowing from his eyes, ears, mouth. His fingertips and toes began to blaze. Every inch of his body was now overtaken, and still, the roar grew. He arched forward in the throes of his misery to see the arbor visage of Lorah-taan looking up at him, her wooden eyes weeping.
“Mother!” he shrieked into the maelstrom entrapping him.
A sizzling violet tendril of lightning escaped his convulsing hand, electrifying the air around him. He went rigid; his face turned to the firmament. The deformed finger of power drove itself into his forehead.
With a final, shattering cry, the burgeoning charge within him was ignited, sending a clap of thunder roaring up through his body, and Dosec was no more.