A different realm. An earlier time.
Darkness had fallen, but the stars refused to shine. Dulled light shone softly from two reluctant moons hanging, bloated with grief, reflecting the heart of Alandria. The king and queen of the Faeries had been slain, along with the princess, the remaining heir of Feraánmar. Her love and partner in rebuilding the treaties between the races, the prince of the Elves and heir to the throne of Alandria, was lost—presumed dead. As was the hope for a united Alandria.
In the depths of the Forest of Lumei, the Elders carried out their last act before they disbanded. Some would diminish with time, cloaked in glamour to live out their days. Some would go into hiding to preserve what remained of the ancient magic for another life.
Floating balls of fire along the periphery lit the clearing. There were no additional witnesses but for the forest and the creatures that lay within; their cries and calls were the only sounds to be heard in the vast silence. At the cry of the raven, seven figures hooded in ancient tradition walked ceremonially from the forest, each stopping at one of the seven points indicated on the star burned into the ground. Robes colored in blue, purple, brown, dark green, crimson, light green, and white each represented a different tribe. They carried in one hand a single candle with a purple flame flickering in the stillness of the night. In the other, a small silver dagger carried by the hilt, point toward the sky. The light from the flames reflected off each of the blades, dancing onto the trees and creating the illusion of a greater light. The hooded figure in green at the top point of the star said something in a very low, monotone voice. A single word in an ancient language.
Everything went silent: all the creatures of the earth and sky. Simultaneously, the flames extinguished. Darkness.
Two heartbeats of silence. As suddenly as all fell into darkness a sound arose so primal, so ancient, it seemed to come from the depths of the earth. Flames ignited with a burst of life, permitting the creatures to release their cries, their sorrows for the tragedy that had befallen them all. In the center of the pentagram, where there had been only a large, flat-topped boulder, stood another hooded figure, this one cloaked in black. His head was bowed, his stature humbled, wrists bound in front of him by shackles alight with a fire that did not burn.
Responding to a silent cue, each of the hooded beings walked toward the center, toward the figure on the rock. Surrounding the boulder, they extended their hands, palm to palm, symbolically closing the circle, their reverent chanting creating a low hum. Then once again, simultaneously, there was silence, this time weighted with anticipation and something tangible in the air... magic, old magic. The hood in the center dropped to his knees. The candles were raised to the sky, then brought down and placed along the edges of the rock’s platform where the flames illuminated the earth. Stains of past sacrifices opened the ears of the earth and beseeched the rocks to bear witness. The green hood that opened the ceremony once again uttered a single word in that same monotone voice.
The hoods reached with their left hands, grabbed their daggers by the blades, and swiftly pulled the hilt down, uttering not a single expression or sound. Palms squeezed tightly and blood trailed down wrists to fall on the ground and rock.
Another word uttered: “Rroonda.”
The white hood released the bindings of the black-hooded being in the center with a simple touch of his hand. The black hood held out his left hand, palm up, waiting for the sting of sliced flesh. He closed his eyes and smelled the coppery scent of his own blood before registering the pain. He refused to flinch or utter a sound. He wouldn’t dare. He deserved this, and more. This was the commencing of his punishment.
More ancient words were uttered: “Brachtah. Gallten. Kollaque.”
Then the white hood spoke so all present could understand. “Earth, receive this blood, hear our petition. Rock, take this offering and bear witness to this sacrifice.”
The blue-hooded figure to the right looked up at the black hood on the rock and said, “The blood spilled here tonight is not only an offering, but represents what will happen to the one who breaks the vow. The boulder is the strength of the bond created and serves as silent witness. The earth absorbs the secrets of the vows; it is ever present and will execute punishment as it deems necessary, even if all others are unaware.”
The purple-hooded figure spoke out with a voice that carried power. “Your crime of murder upon the Ferrishyn innocents and royals in hiding is worthy of instant death.” He took a moment to let the gravity settle. “Due to the desperate circumstances of all of our people, mercy has been extended to you. You have been spared and commissioned with the guardianship and protection of a blessed child. Let it be known...” He paused, looked the central hood straight on. He gripped his blade once more, releasing a greater flow of blood to the earth. “You are hereby banished!”
The hood in the center, head already hung with shame, dropped his shoulders, his final stand of pride stripped, wishing for death instead. The purple hood continued, “Do you agree to the conditions of your pardon?”
For the first time, the hood in the circle’s center looked up and spoke. “I do.” As ceremonially required to seal a vow, he squeezed his hand as the others had onto the ground and again onto the rock, adding his stain among those who had stood before him, whether for ritual or retribution, but almost never for a pardon from such a sin. The burden for carrying the knowledge of what he had done would be more than he deserved. He deserved to be sent to Exhile.
“Bring the child,” the dark green hood spoke.
The child, barely old enough to walk, was carried from the forest into the clearing by a young woman. Blue iridescent tears streamed down the woman’s face. She possessively gripped the child, infusing every ounce of love she had to give, hoping that some day the child, though not her own, would understand, and that forgiveness could be found. Reluctantly, she handed the sleeping child to the black hood in the center and looked deep into his eyes. When she was satisfied with what she saw, she gave him a frank nod and ran back into the cover of the forest.
Awkwardly, the figure in black cradled the child. Looking upon her innocence and frailty, recognizing her as his personal savior, he tenderly stroked a lock of her dark hair aside. Resolved with his mission, he then looked to the green hood, who now stood in front of him and waited.
“You have been given a great gift, but one that will weigh on you for as long as you live,” the green-hooded figure spoke. “Take care of her. She has been marked... the last of The Orchids,” he whispered, his voice choked. Lowering his head, he then uttered in that same ancient language, “Lan du hasen ie.”
There was instant darkness. When the flames burst back to life, the black-hooded figure and the small child were gone.
©2013 Morgan Wylie
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