The Ancient Flower Renewed

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story written to be like a Greek epic. It's about a girl, raised by the dryads and loved by the greek goddess, Aphrodite, who has never needed (or really liked) people and a man who wants to be a hero trying to complete a quest from Aphrodite to 'protect the heart of the forest'. A bit of a sad ending but it makes you smile.

Submitted: June 08, 2016

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Submitted: June 08, 2016

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The Ancient Flower Renewed

 

Once there was a young girl named Nicarsiae. And this young girl loved nature and nature loved her. She was in the forest as much as she could and by the time she was 12, lived in it. Because of her close connection with nature, the dryads would come out of hiding and talk to her. They called her their little flower after the ancient Nica flower.

As time passed and Nica grew older, she also grew to be the most beautiful girl in all the lands. She had deep brown hair that reached the earth when she walked and a wreath of blue sky mirror flowers in her hair. Her eyes were as blue as the azure sky on a clear August day. She wore a dress of forest green decorated with deep emerald green  vines. But no matter what, she was always barefoot.

She knew the forest, each and every tree and could sense when travelers were lost and needed help. But despite all this, Nica never showed herself, at least, not until that one fateful day. The day that would change her future. The day she finally revealed herself to another person. And it was the first time she had ever gotten angry. And it all started when the willow dryad, Will, informed Nica of a traveler she had not been able to sense who was near the heart of the forest, lost.

They were worried about him because he had an axe and they were afraid that this traveler would chop down their trees thus, ending their life period. As soon as Nica heard this, she started racing to get there before the traveler started to cut down trees.

Because of her life in the forest, Nica had more physical ability than even the greatest hero. She could run on even and uneven ground and dodge between trees with the speed and agility of a deer, climb up any surface as if it were just a set a stairs and go for hours without needing a rest. She could also see in even the darkest hours of night.

When she got to the place Will said the traveler was she hid up in a nearby tree. No sooner had she settled herself in than she heard a noise of in the forest approaching the clearing. She saw a mountain lion stumble upon the scent of the traveler then hide in a group of bushes nearby. The traveler walked into the clearing holding a pile of dead wood. He was a man with golden hair and green eyes. Nica knew that the mountain lion was going to attack the man and that she was going to have to act quickly.

She jumped down from her position in the tree and ignoring the man’s exclamation of surprise ran over to the mountain lion’s hiding place. She got there just as the lion pounced. With excellent skill and grace she grabbed hold of the lion’s front paw and pulled him down driving his attention to herself. He sprung again but with her great strength, Nica shoved him right back down again. The battle went on like that until the battered mountain lion stumbled off into the forest in defeat. Nica, however, had come out unscratched and not even a little out of breath.

“Who are you?” the man asked in awe.

“I am the one the dryads sent to escort you out of the forest.” Nica answered.

“But I must finish my quest. The goddess Aphrodite assigned me a quest and I intend to complete it.” He said. “But what I really meant was what is your name? And what are you doing this far into the forest? And how did you defeat the mountain lion?” the man asked.

“A quest from Aphrodite you say.” said Nica thoughtfully. “Very well, I will escort you through the forest because I have lived here all my life and know every trail. The dryads will not be happy about this and how I used my gift from them to harm a creature of the forest. But be sure that you are in good hands. I am Nicarsiae but the dryads call me Nica, after the ancient flower. But who, might I ask, are you?” asked Nica.

“Oh, pardon my manners. I am Traeceles. It is my pleasure to meet you fair maiden Nicarsiae.” He answered politely. Nica looked at Traeceles as if she had seen nothing quite like him in all her life.

“Is everything alright?” he asked.

Nica shook out of her trance and said, “Oh, yes. I apologize. It has been years since I last talked to another human. You are nothing like the dryads. I am not used to such politeness and quite honestly, I don’t know what to expect. But we must be going. The sooner you complete your quest, the sooner you can leave and then the dryads will be able to rest without fear.”

“Why are they afraid?” Traeceles asked. Nica looked him in the eye. “Am I correct when I say that you carry an axe with you?” she asked.

Traeceles looked surprised and a little suspicious. “Yes. Why?” he asked.

“Because,” she answered, “the dryad’s life period will end when their tree gets cut down. And had I sensed you earlier, I would have led you to where you needed to go and you would be gone by now.”

“I would never hurt the dryads!” Traeceles exclaimed.

“Then why do you carry an axe with you?” Nica challenged.

“Just so I could chop the firewood I found dead on the forest ground. You do not truly think that I am lying, do you? Because I will swear upon my title as a hero that I am not!” he exclaimed.

Nica stared into his eyes for a few seconds before looking away and saying, “No, you are not lying. Now come, so you can complete your quest and leave.”

Traeceles looked surprised before saying, “It’s too dark to see. I was just about to make camp and get food but I guess I will have to use what provisions I have.” He started rummaging through his shoulder sack when a thought occurred to Nica.

“Save your provisions.” she said. “I will get food tonight since I am your guide.” And with that, she ran off into the forest leaving behind a very confused Traeceles.

Nica ran to the orchards. She was the only one who knew they existed so every fall, she sent crates of fresh fruit to the nearest village. When she got there, she was relieved to see that some of the dryads had put some fruit on their trees. She picked up a nearby basket and quickly filled it to the top with many fruits and even some walnuts she found and hurried back to Traeceles.

When she got there, he was setting up a campfire. He stopped what he was doing and looked up in surprise when he saw the basket. “Where did you get that?” he asked.

“From the orchard eight miles off.” said Nica. “Don’t ask.” Traeceles nodded and got back to work on the fire.

“You’re doing it wrong.” she said after a few minutes. “Let me show you.” She tore down his attempt and then with her nimble fingers, set up an impressive wood pile with thicker logs at the bottom getting thinner until it was kindling and then getting a little thicker at the top. Then she took Traeceles’s flint rocks and created a shower of sparks that fell on the kindling which burst immediately into flame and they soon had a blazing fire.

Nica took some fruit and walnuts out of the basket for herself and passed the basket to Traeceles. They ate in silence then when they finished, sat staring into the dancing flames.

When Nica suddenly got to her feet, Traeceles jumped and asked, “Where are you going?” She pointed up to the trees. “I should have guessed that you sleep up in the trees, being friends with the dryads.” he said. Nica merely nodded and then jumped up into the branches of a nearby sky mirror tree that certainly hadn’t been there when she left earlier.

She nestled in among the blossoms, smelling their sweet scent. The branches moved in an un-tree-like way to reveal the starry, night sky. The moon was almost full and the stars seemed to shine especially bright. Nica closed her eyes as a warm, gentle breeze encircled her. And before she knew it, she was asleep.

Traeceles, however, had more difficulty getting to sleep. How was it that no one knew about this dryad girl? And what made the dryads become her friends? And how was it that the dryads were able to give her physical abilities greater than any hero, even if it was over time? His mind raced with questions. But when he finally was able to settle his thoughts, he found he still couldn’t sleep. He had locked away his curiosity, why wasn’t he asleep? He thought about it for a while and almost laughed when he discovered the answer. Traeceles just didn’t want to wake up only to find that this had all been a dream. He smiled and looked at the fire. No, there was no way this could be a dream. And with that, he lay down and finally fell asleep.

When the dryads flower, Nica, awakened, the sky had just begun to grow light. She jumped down from her place in the tree and looked at the camp. Traeceles was sprawled out on the ground with a blanket covering him. She looked at the fruit basket and was relieved to see that there was enough for the next couple of days. She took some out for herself then set some aside for Traeceles. When she was done, she went to a nearby stream and washed her hands and face. She started covering their tracks as soon as she got back. She covered the fire pit, buried all the cores and pits of the fruit, packed Traeceles’s bag and so on until all that was left was the blanket that covered him.

Nica waited until the sun had risen before going over to Traeceles and whipping the blanket off of him. He bolted upright and and said, “Are we under attack?”

“No.” Nica said folding the blanket. “We need to leave soon.” Traeceles looked around and saw that camp had vanished.

“You were up early today.” he said.

“I wake when the sun does.” was all Nica said.

Traeceles ate the fruit that Nica had left out for him and buried the pits and cores at her insistence. She showed him to the creek where she filled the flasks while Traeceles washed his face and hands. They set off and Traeceles couldn’t help but ask question after question. Nica was forced to go at a slow pace with Traeceles. She found some of his questions amusing but made sure not to show it. Nica stopped in her tracks when she realized she had never asked Traeceles where he needed to go.

“What’s the matter?” he asked with a hint of worry in his voice.

Nica turned around and bowed her head saying, “I never asked you where you were headed.”

“Oh. Is that all?” Traeceles asked, amusement twinkling in his eyes. “I actually don’t know where exactly. All Aphrodite told me was that I was supposed to protect the heart of the forest which keeps everything in it pure.” he explained.

Nica stiffened when she heard his words. “The heart of the forest?” she whispered.

“Yeah.” Traeceles said. “You do you know where that is, right?” Nica gave a slight nod. She raised her head and before she turned around, Traeceles saw her beautiful, blue eyes but they were not filled with amusement or wisdom or even irritation. What he saw surprised him deeply. Her eyes were filled with pure fear. “This way.” Nica said in a small voice.

They went the rest of the day in silence. Nica was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she would have walked on into the night if Traeceles had not put his hand on her shoulder and stopped her. They set up camp and ate and when they were finished just stared at the fire Nica had built. Traeceles looked at Nica and saw that the fear was still in her eyes along with a little worry. Traeceles took a deep breath and asked what had been bothering him.

“What happened in the heart the last time you were there Nica?”

Nica gave a sharp intake of breath and said in a small voice, “Nothing. Nothing happened. Nothing is wrong. Everything is just as it should be.”

They sat there for only a couple seconds when Nica burst into tears. Traeceles put his arm around her and she cried into his shoulder. “Nothing is right.” she sobbed. “Everything is wrong. He is after me and I can’t go into the heart without his permission. He scares me so much. I don’t want to face him.”

“Hey now,” Traeceles said in a soothing voice, “I won’t let him get you. I’ll protect you, but you have to tell me who this man is.”

“Don’t you see?” Nica sobbed. “He’s not a man. His name is Virmundo and he is a werewolf, a wolf-man. He won’t rest until I share with him a power that I don’t have. He tortured me and nearly killed me when he last found me almost in the heart.” she went on. “He said that because of my power, I was drawn to the heart and would always find my way there even if I had lost my identity. He said he would be waiting for me when I return and he has found a way to keep me out unless he lets me.”

Nica sobbed and sobbed without any end in sight. Traeceles put his arms around her and hugged her tight as if to keep away this evil being from the sweet, delicate flower he held.

Slowly, Nica’s sobs grew quiet. She had had been worrying and crying so much that it had drained all her energy. Nica soon began to feel exhaust creeping up and instead of pushing it away, welcomed it as a way out of the mess she was in and fell asleep instantly.

When Traeceles found that Nica was asleep, he smiled and retrieved his blanket from his pack. He leaned up against a tree and  laid Nica in his lap, covering her with his blanket. He looked at her tear stained face and wondered if there was a way for him to find a way to the heart of the forest without endangering Nica.

Traeceles brushed some hair away from her eyes and realized that he didn’t just respect her for her fighting, strength, gentleness, beauty or even courage. He realized that he could sense in some small way that she was independant and had always done everything herself and that she had never been able to ask for help and probably didn’t know how to. But when he thought that she had been able to tell him what had been troubling her when they had known each other for such a short time, he felt a sudden urge to protect her and promised himself he would do whatever it took to keep her safe. And with that he drifted off to sleep.

Nica woke in the morning when the sun had just begun to shine. She sat up and was startled to find she had fallen asleep in Traeceles’s lap. She got up so quickly that she woke Traeceles. He opened his eyes and smiled at her.

“Good morning Nica.” he said.

Nica blushed and said in a quiet voice, “Good morning Traeceles.”

They took down camp and were soon ready to start their journey.

“Nica,” Traeceles began looking a little worried, “I was thinking that maybe we could take a day off from travel and just do something else until we come up with a plan for how to reach the heart without putting anyone in danger.”

Nica looked as if she had just learned that giant trees came from tiny seeds and didn’t just appear, though in that forest, some did.

She looked down at the ground and said, “Thank you Traeceles. I am indebted to you.”

Traeceles smiled and said, “Think of it as payback for driving that mountain lion away.”

Nica looked up and smiled for the first time since he had met her. She was about to say something when they heard someone coming towards them.

They stood there, ready to spring when a man looking  to be the same age as Traeceles came running through the trees. He would have seemed normal enough except that his clothes seemed to be made of woven willow branches which, in fact, they were. He looked at him and Traeceles saw that he had the most astonishing green eyes he had ever seen. Beside him, Nica gave a small gasp and said the him, “Will? What is the meaning of this.”

“It is Oakalana.” he answered looking as if he had just seen the most terrible thing. “She’s after me.” He went on, ignoring Traeceles. “She thinks I fancy Birchette and got mad at me for some reason.”

“Maybe it’s because you make all the girls think they are in love with you and then leave them in the dust.” Nica said disapprovingly.

“Not all the girls.” Will contradicted. “And I don’t attract them consciously. They just start following me around.”

Nica shook her head then said to Will, “We’ll finish this conversation later. Right now I want to introduce you to Traeceles he is on a quest from Aphrodite.”

Will turned to him and said, “Nice to meet you. I’m Will. And as you may or may not know, I’m a willow dryad.”

Traeceles smiled back and said, “It is my pleasure to meet you.”

“Wow.” said Will, raising an eyebrow. “Looks like we got a very polite quester here. Where is Nica taking you?” he asked. Traeceles looked a little nervous and turned at Nica. Will turned to look at her too, frowning slightly.

Nica looked at the ground and whispered, “The heart.”

Will recoiled in shock. “But you know what will happen if you go there, Nica!” Will practically cried.

“That is why we were going to take a  break today and figure out what to do.” Traeceles said calmly.

Will looked Traeceles over then said, “I’ll take him for you Nica.”

Nica looked up and said, “That it very thoughtful but you cannot even get close to it without me.”

Will smiled and said, “It was worth a try. Now let’s move, Oakalana will probably be here soon. Maybe Birchette too.” They all laughed and walked to the creek.

When they got there, Will said, “I just remembered I have trees to check on just around the bend.” He looked worriedly at Nica.

“Go on.” she said. “I won’t wander off.” He nodded and went around the bend.

Traeceles went into the water and sat down. Nica went and sat on a rock at the edge of the water. “Why don’t you come in?” Traeceles asked.

“No thank you.” Nica said.

Traeceles knew she was thinking about the heart so he decided to take things into his own hands. He stood up, walked over to her and splashed her with water. She stood up and with a hint of laughter said, “You asked for it.” She stepped into the water and the water moved so it didn’t touch her feet or dress.

“Hey!” Traeceles exclaimed. “You can control the water and I cannot.”

“The water just prevents itself from getting me wet when I don’t want to.” Nica said. “But I will let it.” And the water closed in on her feet and dress. They splashed in the water for a while until Traeceles admitted defeat. Then they sat down at the edge of the creek and put their feet in. Then Will came back and joined them.

“So, how about we go see what the others are doing.” He said.

“That is a good idea.” Nica said.

“What others?” Traeceles asked.

“The water nymphs.” Will answered. “They swim around these parts at this time of year.” Traeceles smiled at the thought of being able to meet the water nymphs.

“Dryads and nymphs all in one day.” he said to himself.

“You are very lucky.” Will said. “And the only reason you’ve been able to meet anyone is because Nica here chose to reveal herself.” Traeceles was surprised and looked at Nica.

“Why is that?” he asked.

“Don’t you know?” Will asked him.

“Know what?” Treaceles asked Will.

“Well,” Will said looking at Nica, “She was practically adopted by the entire forest and she is the forest's guardian. There is no one who would deny her authority. But she has never shown herself to another human ever since she came to stay with us. You have to be worthy if Nica chose to show herself to you. You wouldn’t be able to meet any of the forest spirits if Nica hadn’t found you worthy.”

“I’m not sure if she found me worthy but rather, she saved me from a mountain lion.” Traeceles said.

“That does make a bit more sense since it is doubtful she would even show herself to a worthy person. She left other mortals behind when she came to us. That is one of the reasons she was able to accept gifts of power from the dryads.” Will said thoughtfully.

“Let’s go see the nymphs now.” Nica said. The trio walked along the edge of the water until they came upon a group of people sitting on rocks in the middle of the creek. The nymphs seemed to be flowing in all aspects and sometimes almost seemed to be made of water themselves. They splashed in the water until noon when the nymphs swam off to a new part of the creek.

“Now that that’s out of the way, we need to figure out what we’re going to do.” Will said. “I suggest that you ask the goddess to give you a quest that takes place somewhere else.” he continued. “Or you could refuse or maybe even ask her to get rid of that thing that is causing our problem.”

“Will.” Nica said. “None of those would work. You know that she isn’t like that.”

“I could refuse though.” Traeceles said.

Nica turned sharply to him. “I will not have you risk the goddess's wrath on my behalf.” she said.

They sat there for a while until Will said, “What if that thing is what you have to protect the heart from? It would make sense since Nica has to take care of the sacred laurel trees at the heart and that thing is keeping her from it.”

“I’ll fight him while you guys go on ahead to the heart to help the trees.” said Traeceles. “It might take a while but I’ll join up with you when I finish him off.” Will nodded and looked to Nica.

“Are you sure you can do it on your own?” She asked.

Traeceles nodded and went to get his pack. “We should start heading over there if we want to make camp closer to the heart.” he said.

“We will arrive at the heart before evening.” Nica said.

Traeceles smiled and said, “Let us move onward.”

Nica led them all the way to the heart. “The heart is just through that arch of trees.” She said pointing. They only took a couple of steps when there was a growl behind them. Traeceles set down his pack and turned around.

“Give the girl to me.” Vermundo growled at them.

Traeceles said to him, “You will never get her and I am the one who will defeat you.” Vermundo moved almost faster than the eye could follow and tried to get Nica but Will moved just in time to catch the blow instead. He stood there for a few seconds before turning into a weeping willow tree. Traeceles tackled him and they got into a full on fist fight to the death. Nica could only stand there, frozen, as they fought. It started to get dark but no one seemed to notice.

Vermundo lunged at Traeceles again but Traeceles took out a knife and stabbed him through the heart. Vermundo fell to the ground either dead or soon to be and Traeceles turned to Nica. “I told you I’d be fine.” he said with a smile. He took one step towards Nica then froze, a strange look coming onto his face. He started to fall forwards and Nica ran out to him and caught him. Vermundo had, just before he died, tossed the dagger into Traeceles’s back. Traeceles was dying and Nica was helpless to do anything.

As Nica held him in her lap, Traeceles started to talk. “I just realized that I completed my mission.” he said “The heart was not the this one but it was you the whole time.” Nica’s eyes widened. “You are in the heart of everyone in the forest but Aphrodite knew that you needed something more. She knew you needed to learn how to love and to be loved by someone else. I was the one who fell for you and I fought him with my thoughts full of you. I protected the heart that keeps everything pure. It’s you Nica.” Traeceles started to fade away into golden light which floated off into the sky. Nica started to cry but Traeceles brushed away her tears.

“Nica,” he said, “Promise me that you’ll always remember me and that you’ll learn how to use your love to help others.”

NIca nodded and said, “I promise, Traeceles.” He nodded gratefully and with that, turned completely into golden light and floated up to the sky.

Nica sat there in the dying light as the stars started to come out and was surprised when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

Nica looked up into the face of the goddess Aphrodite who smiled and said, “Cheer up. He is still here.”

“What do you mean?” Nica asked her. “Look up at the sky and you’ll see.” Aphrodite answered. Nica looked up and saw a new constellation in the sky.

“He is there watching out for you from the stars. He will now be known as ‘The Protector of the Heart’. And you will be known as something different as well.”

Nica looked at her in surprise.

“You will now be known as Nica, Goddess of the Forest, Guardian of the Laurels.”

Nica closed her eyes as she was engulfed by a golden light.

“Awaken, Goddess Nica.” a voice said to her. “Awaken and fulfill your destiny.”

Nica opened her eyes and saw that the forest was so vibrant and alive around her. At her feet, a small but beautiful flower bloomed. Nica had never seen it before.

“Awaken, Nica.” the voice said to her again. “Awaken, for you are the ancient flower renewed.”

All at once, she knew what the flower was and smiled. It was the return of the ancient Nica flower.


 

The Beginning

 


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