The Circle and The Stone

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

A fantasy novel i've been working on off and on.
It,s a long read so far, i'm aware of that. i've been writing this for years, and it is a very long and drawn out story that will extend onto a trilogy of novels. one before this time line and one after, but, to create this world i'm trying to create, takes time and words. the first story is over a 400 page novel, and is conceptually written and complete, just need pro editing and revamped concepts as i have allready wrote part of the first novel and part of the third and last. they all intertwine. it's very complex, but if ONE person loves the whole trilogy and the whole world i created, i'm a happy guy
Oh what your reading is actually called "The Dawn of The New Forest" Booksie screwed up something with my account and i had to open a new account as a new member etc. so since the work is allready on site i had to call by that title, The Circle and the Stone is the first novel in the series, which i'm working on. The Dawn of the New forest is the middle of the trilogy which i wrote first. The Spirit of the Great Tree is after Chevis and the New Forest Coven.
If you like this wait until the "other" sentient animals in the series. Not just squirells, All types!

Chapter 1 (v.1) - The Circle and The Stone

Submitted: January 23, 2012

Reads: 276

Comments: 1

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Submitted: January 23, 2012

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Chapter 1:

The Celebration

“And I don’t want the world to see me,

I don’t think that they’ll understand,

When everything things made to be broken,

I just want you to know who I am.

Incubus

The celebration commenced on cue as it had since the beginning. At first there was only one, but that was long ago and now there were many, a conglomeration in fact, and they quietly gathered together to watch the early morning sky.

The world began to gently glow in a dazzling array of magentas and soft violets, all slowly dancing atop an ancient forest canopy, stretching their reach outward toward the furthermost horizons. From above and behind, the Night Sun stood silent in her silver brilliance, as she was alive and awake, and though her time in this place was coming to a close; she knew another world would once again embrace her wisdom, her presence, and allow her succession to continue on once again. Slowly, she descended out of the night sky releasing her grip upon the darkness she created, and with a deep sense of reluctance, she began to quietly fade into the cold horizon.

In the beginning she was alone, and she knew that she alone could never illuminate all that there was so to bring harmony below, their had to be a balance above. To show her love for the world, their had be light upon it, so she divided her spirit in to equal yet opposite souls. By her selfless act, the Day Sun came into existence allowing the world to flourish and breathe amoungst the gentle rays of life, and it was within this light that the forest below slowly began to awake. Large deep green ferns gently turned their outstretched foliage towards the impending light, searching through the breaks in the canopy in which to receive the first hint of the suns warmth. She didn’t see this, as she couldn’t, nor did she see the tiny yellow flowers which littered its floor standing erect, yearning for the return of the day, as they shook the wet evening dew off their delicate petals. Tiny prisms of light from the drops themselves glistened peacefully in the early morning rise, but the sight escaped her as it always had, reminding her once again of the mysterious side of her place in the reality that she gave birth to.

From the stealth of the night a large clearing slowly began to emerge, free from the shade trees and the underbrush which surrounded it on all sides, and covered with finely stranded weaves of different grasses all combined together to form a uniquely soft carpet. The clearing was an exception in this place and not the norm, as the forest itself was by nature to thick and impenetrable for most to have ever entered and explored at any great length, or let alone discovered the center in which it sat. It was in this center on the western most side of the clearing that a magnificent form rose out of the forest floor, towering high above the canopy and dominating the landscape with a gentle sense of authority of which it could never be aware of. Its girth was astounding and its height was unknown and immeasurable, and with its origins steeped in myth, its age was always in question as it had existed here since the beginning of time.

Alone and unwavering, yet gently swaying from the ebb and flow of the morning breeze, stood the Great Tree.

The early rise quickly approached and the wonderful shades of the predawn sky slowly drifted off, as their own time was also now over, and the crown of this impossible sight began to shine above all else. It softly glowed as the light of the Night Sun diffused through the brilliant silver of its new growth, and its foliage slowly became visible as the monochrome orange light of the morning sun hinted at the bright reds and soft golds of its individual leaves. It was here that the Celebration officially began, not just under its monolithic branches some the size of the other trees that it towered over, but also high above the forest canopy, enveloped in the labyrinth of its golden foliage. The gathering above began to stir amongst its crown, and far beneath in the clearing below, others silently waited gazing up in anticipation for the coming event and as the tiny droplets of water from their movement above, fell from the foliage and tenderly landed on the grasses of the clearing. Some however, had there peaceful fall interrupted by the finely groomed gray fur of the creatures in this strange place.

The Great Tree began to take on a new life of its own as countless bodies twisted and turned, skirting from branch to branch, jockeying for position in the easternmost edge of the crown and as the foliage rustled from the activity, the sun finally broke the horizon and struck its magnificent apex. The shades of reds and golds burst alive in a brilliant fury of color, reflecting the full spectrum of light onto the clearing below. As the white light that was the created from the new growth atop mixed with the glow of the Night Sun, a defined ring of silver blue light formed a perfect circle around its perimeter. Tiny faces with wide dark eyes, watched in awe as the ring momentarily held in the spectrum of light, creating a bubble of energy that surrounded them and embraced their world. The light returned that particular morning as it had on all others, but this was no ordinary morning as The Great Tree clearly showed.

The ring of light and the reflective colors began to subside as quickly as they appeared, and as the Day Sun slowly began to clear the horizon and impose its will on the Night Sun, their world filled with the orange light of the full morning, and the vastness of the forest became crystal clear. It rolled on and on in all directions for what seemed like an endless expanse of multiple shades of green, dispersing here and there, with the deep reds and ambers of the different species that lived amoungst it. It went out to the furthest horizons quietly disappearing out of sight, but never out of mind. Above them their was nothing but empty sky and this vision weighed heavy on some, especially those in their first year of age, as it created an uneasy feeling in their mids; as even in the tallest of the trees below, the comforting sight of the Great Tree rose above all. But now they were atop and inside it, and they stared in disbelief at the awe-inspiring view of there world at this height as it was on this day, and this day alone, that the long climb to the top was allowed. The Great Tree was revered and deeply respected as its very survival was proof positive of the creations of All That Is. They gathered to celebrate the harmony of the day, the time when the Night Sun stayed late and the Day Sun came early, and together, though only briefly, they shared the sky as one, whole and complete, opposite yet balanced as they once were in the beginning.

The Great Tree stood between them as a conduit of that balance, a statement of stability, and a testament to the core of their beliefs. To the east, the Day Sun was almost fully ascended above the horizon, and to the west the Night Sun, full and bright, equally descended into its own vista, they stopped all movement above and observed with a certain reverence all that was before them. Hundreds of small sleek bodies all covered in fine gray fur with tiny ears and large thick tails watched as the day sun finally and completely rose above the horizon, fully enveloping the day world with light and life. They then turned and looked at the night sun, as she was also still full and unbroken and yet gently kissing the horizon below, and it was this perfect balance that they were waiting for, not just above, but also below, and they looked at one another with feeling of understanding and admiration for all that they were.

They had existed here alone and unknown for countless generations, fostering a gentle sense of community that centered on a deep presence of soul. They were squirrels, but far from ordinary as they were sentient, alive with spirit, self aware and synchronous with the world around them. High above they calmed themselves, releasing their nervous energy out to the eastern rise, an occasional gray tail twitched in anticipation as they looked amoungst one another, and nodding in agreement. Below they watched above and they looked within their own silent gathering and nodded above in harmony. It was time, and under the off white fur of their soft underbellies; tiny hearts raced. Those in the Great Tree slowly closed their eyes, digging their sharp claws into the coarse bark of its branches and then as they rose up on their hind legs, they extended their fore paws forward turning them over towards the fresh new sky, exposing them to All That Is. It was in this form, erect and compliant, when the moment came. As they embraced the light they also embraced the sky, and as those before them had and those before them, they left the relative peacefullness of the morning rise and lept into the empty abyss.

The rim of the Great Tree stirred as a tiny portion of the foliage exploded in a fury of tiny creatures. They immediately began to plummet towards the clearing below, the gray hair of their fur was forced upward and the soft skins of their under snout flared out, and as the wind from their velocity gained its strength, their mids dropped and their hearts raced faster than they had ever before. They had climbed to feel the harmony above, the balance between night and day, and they observed and sensed it in the foliage of the Great Tree. But that wasn’t enough, they believed they had to experience what The First had, the day sun was hot to touch and the night sun to cold to speak, and both lived in realm to far off to comprehend. They believed this was why they were given the Great Tree to allow them to understand what was above, from north paw to south paw, hind to head and everything in between. They were the link between the sky above and the ground below and it was in the very nature of this relationship that a remarkable, yet very natural form began to take shape.

As they accelerated toward to the impending forest floor, they began to spread their four legs apart as wide as they possibly could, and what appeared was a thin fold of skin, all but hidden amounts their gray coats. It spread from the outset of their small bodies to the joints at their paws and as they spread their claws apart, the webbing between them gathered more air as their large tails, which were no mistake, became flat, mimicking the same effect. Clean air pocketed under them and their violent descent slowed dramatically, as they began a swift glide into the clearing below. Some held a fast and furious approach while others attempted to maximize their air time by various subtle techniques, learned from years of mundane glides from tree to tree or tree to ground. Their folds were a gift, and as much as the flight was a celebration of the harmony and balance above and below, it was also a celebration of The First, who in there oral history was the first sentient squirrel, and the first to glide from the Great Tree.

As they began to steady there glides, they prepared themselves for the inevitable meeting with the clearing below and by slowing their descent as much as they possibly could, they struck the soft damp grasses with a simple bounce and a fur soaked tumble. Still aloft their was one however who had different plans. He was an average flyer, but his slight size allowed him a certain maneuverability that some of the others didn’t have, and he searched among the dozens of squirrels still in flight, looking for the one he knew was an able flyer, but not as agile as he. The particular squirrel he was searching for was larger than average, gliding at a fast pace, and spread apart wider than the sky between day rise and nightfall. As he cleared the last large tree in the path of the open clearing he saw who he was looking for; the very round and robust squirrel with rigid claws extending out and a tail as flat as possible in a vain attempt gather lift. He judged his brothers rapid descent to the floor and adjusted his own flight path accordingly, above and behind him, in a fast but effortless glide.

Fowland, as he was named, was almost out of the necessary strength to sustain such a long glide and he was quite happily relieved to clear the last of the trees and approach the forest clearing. He was a strong individual, but of late, his particular feast of the daily fresh petals of Hyslop and Primerose were starting to take its toll, and instead of the moments of understanding and spiritual guidance that many claim to gather during the flight, he was simply concerned about not breaking his thick neck from the quick and impending impact. Watching this with a quiet grin on his face, Fiddich closed in from above, still adjusting his own glide to perfectly mimic Fowlands flight by subtly extending and contracting front his claws for pitch and role, and flexing his tail for lift or drop. Within moments he found himself directly over his brothers back, and in the seconds before impact he folded his front legs in, losing all lift, and slammed directly on to his brother. They both struck the ground simultaneously, one on top of the other in a spectacular, to a squirrel anyway, uncontrolled landing. Carried by their own momentum, they tore through the wet grass twisting and tumbling as one gray mass, scarring the delicate surface, and finally coming to rest a good distance from their initial impact. Fiddich was splayed out on his back exposing his creamy underbelly to the sky above, exhilarated and exhausted and laughing with great delight, as he had warned Fowland the night before to expect the unexpected. Fowland lay a few feet away, trying to clear his head and honestly perplexed by what had just happened, until he heard another to his side laughing, and he immediately knew whose laugh it was. He slowly rose on to all fours, his gray fur soaked and soiled, and with a particular grass stain etched across his forehead, he saw his brother. Fiddich was now just beginning to compose himself when Fowland spoke.

“I don’t think when The First took the first jump from The Great Tree he had someone else land squarely on top of him” he said.

Fiddich began to snicker, but when he looked over his brother, wet and severely grass stained, he doubled over with laughter.

“Oh you think this is funny?” Fowland mused, and this only made him laugh harder.

“I couldn’t resist” Fiddich half attempted to say, but he was now gasping for air as tears ran down his fine haired cheeks.

“And I warned you last night” he finally spat out, as he rolled over onto all fours and bolted across the clearing with his brother in pursuit.

On the other side of the clearing, where the others gathered, a silver gray furred female watched with much anticipation as they glided into the clearing and successfully landed in the wet grass. She didn’t participate in the flight this year, as behind her and nervously hiding in the underbrush, was a young one of barely 3 months of age. She witnessed the flight with much amusement focusing in on the brothers, as Fiddich had told her of his plans for the end of the flight.

“Fiddich, the Keeper wont like it” she had cautioned him.

“Who says we can’t have some fun?” he had retorted with a sly grin.

“He’ll say it’s not a time for games,” she reminded

“He always says that, no matter what the occasion” he said, actually pointing out the truth. Her name was Cerridwyn, and she was an exceptional flyer herself, and inside herself she was laughing as hard as Fiddich was, but she kept it quiet for the moment. Around her was the general community, some were either too old to attempt the dangerous flight or to young and inexperienced to successfully complete it, and there were many like herself who had commitments below. Participation in the annual flight was by no means mandatory, as all had in one year or another flown, and they knew the raw instinct was to powerful at some in point in their lives to ignore.

The conglomeration brought out the best that each house had to offer, from finely woven mats created by a unique method of weaving that utilized their sharp claws as a loom of sorts, to brandied liquids that were spiced and cured in large butternut leaves buried beneath the forest floor. Others brought food of indescribable proportions; sweet mushrooms from the base of the olive fern, tiny green berries from the deciduous bushes, which surrounded them, and the soft sprouts of the ancient bay nut tree. Their community was always gathered in some form or another, be it for general discussions or entertainment or just simple conversations, as they were by nature social creatures, quiet and gentle, and always regaling their lives with a sense of purpose. She turned to the underbrush over her shoulder searching for the young one who had just went to ground, and she spotted him splayed out on his mid, all fours to the ground, and frantically looking about for some comfort that she couldn’t give.

Around her the celebration was in full force, and as she turned to approach the young squirrel he let out a tiny screech and bolted up the nearest tree, now hiding alone among the dense foliage. She turned back to the clearing, knowing as only she could, that the young one would come down from his perch when he was ready. Fiddich and Fowland, who were both truly exhausted sauntered up to the conglomeration laughing to one another, and with a nip at an ear and a swat to the tail, they found Cerridwyn, gently amused at the edge of the gathering. As they approached Fiddich was sporting a large grin and she read that “I told you so” look in his eyes that she had seen on many previous occasions, and Fowland glanced through the crowd searching for his mate Cory, who he knew was not far with his young one somewhere in tow. A few others looked over at Fiddich as they came forth and shook there heads in quiet laughter; they all knew the brothers as they all knew one another, and since the beginning the time, they were simply one large extension of the first families.

“You know your going to hear about that” Cerridwyn said with a tiny laugh

“Well that’s nothing new” he said to her with a sly smile

“Yes and I’m sure somehow so will I” Fowland surmised and he then promptly nipped his brothers tail causing both squirrels to momentarily tangle and roll on the soft grass. Fowland spun away from his brother, and light in heart he vanished into the gathering to find his own family. Fiddich looked into her eyes and quietly nudged his nose to hers, but her preoccupation rapidly became apparent as she immediately turned towards the small tree behind them and stared atop at the young squirrel in his perch.

“Another?” he asked “but when?” he said as he gently reached out and stroked the silver hair that cascaded from her the base of her tiny ears.

“He was brought by Council late last night, he attacked his mother and his father barely managed to contain him until they came”

“Attacked!” Fiddich exclaimed, as he now looked up into the foliage above attempting to further observe the young one. “He can barely groom himself,” he finished.

She turned back and looked into Fiddich

“Fiddich, none of them can groom themselves,” she said

“Wyn” he said, as that was his name for her “You can’t possibly bring another in,” he incredulously stated.

“If I don’t then who will, Fiddich!” she exclaimed “Answer me that question” He just quietly looked at her as he knew the answer; no one but her, as she had assumed the role of surrogate mother to the Outlings until the time they disappeared into the forest, running in fear from her and rest of the conglomeration.

“Besides” she continued, with a more gentle tone to her voice “One left at the sight of the flight from The Great Tree, it just ran screeching into the forest”

She was watching it forage and dig at the far end of the clearing, and as the flight commenced and the Great Tree exploded with squirrels, it looked up into the sky and was overcome by raw fear as its self preservation instinct suddenly reacted, sending him deep into to forest. She knew this one was gone for good, and she was sad but relieved at the same time, and all though she knew what they were, they had a right to live at birth. All in there society understood Cerridwyns motives and they quietly agreed, but never spoke of her unique role among them, as it was her that Council would bring a new born Outling to have a chance at basic life and a fighting chance for eventual survival in the forest. Fiddich knew this, but it was her role that prevented them from sharing a life together and rearing there own children, and she understood his frustration at the situation but he stayed by her side as she knew he loved her, and this only made her love him even further.

“Let me feed the new one” she whispered to him, while softly scratching one of his ears “And we’ll meet later at the Telling” She nudged her nose to his, and he smiled as he began to nudge her back.

“Stop it” she laughed, and though she really didn’t mean it, she had to feed the Outling as she could hear its hungry agitation.

“Go find your brother” she finished with her own warm smile and a last nudge, as she vanished into the underbrush.

The Keeper had always kept a careful eye on the two brothers from their very inception, and though their parents were never aware of his interest in them, they remained a focal point deep in the recesses of his mind. He never, until now, understood his preoccupation with them as he was the spiritual leader of the conglomeration, the Keeper of The Great Tree, and the eldest in the community, and he was never really interested in the offspring of the conglomeration that was as long they followed the spiritual mantras that his father, and his father before him, and all those in his direct blood line had created. The position of Keeper was not a position by choice; it was handed down to the first offspring of the current Keeper who always lived alone and inside the Great Tree, amongst a labyrinth of interconnecting halls and tunnels.

The position was held in the deepest respect among the community as either he or she, held much more than just a spiritual position; they were the original descendents of The First. There had not been a female Keeper since his grandmother from ten generations previous; she was the legendary Corridwyn, stemmed now more in myth than in fact, as it was her who created the Council that now had the gentle voice of authority, which loosely governed their society. She had seen what absolute power could create in the sentient mind and she knew, in her heart, that The First never would have approved of it. The Keeper sat alone, removed for the moment from the celebration, and watched his only daughter nudge the youngest of the brothers, of which he was going to have a talk with, but not about the simple indiscretions of protocol regarding the flight, no, a conversation of more serious matters.

Cerridywn was to be Keeper, but he knew the true depth of the role would never come to fruition, and not just because he knew she would inventively choose a true life with Fiddich; she would choose him over the Great Tree and change the face of the conglomeration. She would have to. He also knew the newest Outling was the thirteenth, and that the hidden and dangerous prophesy that only he and Council new of had finally come and the Time of Tradition was swiftly coming to an end. He could accept that, but the End Time prophesy he couldn’t allow to continue to unfold, as he also knew of other truths, truths hidden from the conglomeration since the beginning. Truths that would prove to destroy the position of Keeper, yet maybe save them all. He never questioned himself on the decision he was about to make, it was pointless, but he did question the two brothers and their role in it, as these young squirrels were about to grow up rather quickly.

He sat quietly, pondering these thoughts, staring across the clearing at the Celebration, watching Council himself entertain the children by manipulating his excessively large tail into the form of a snake gently rising up and striking out at them, much to their delight. He was observing the brothers feasting on the fine delicacies and drinking from buttercup goblets, when he out of the corner his ancient eye, he saw it again. Far along the tree line that ringed the clearing, the ghost like figure appeared hidden in the underbrush as it had on occasion and always during the Celebration, and it just sat quietly and watched them as it had since as long as he could remember. It was a creature of some form, one that was not native to the forest and it was larger than them, but not threatening and he knew that it was only he that could see it. When he would attempt to look directly at it, it would vanish and when he looked away it would reappear in his peripheral vision, but not this time. He turned his head and looked once again directly at it, and for the first time in his long life, it allowed him to clearly see it. It was an animal creature, and he could now make out the cream color of its fur and he judged its size to be 3 times his. His heart began race in amazement as it looked back at him, stood erect and overturned its large paws towards the sky.

“Leave it our hands” a gentle female voice said in his mind “Find us, and we can help”

“Who?” the Keeper asked in a whisper.

“The Thirteen” it answered.

“Where are they” he again asked.

“The Outside world, send the two brothers out with the day sun always at there backs and I’ll find them, and when I do they’ll be delivered” it said as it bowed its head to him and disappearing into the forest. His old worn paws began to tremble as he sat in awe at its acknowledgement of The Other World that only he and Council knew the legend of. It was true. The ancient and secret forest spirit, always only known to the Keepers, validated the truth and he now knew the role two young squirrels must play. He slowly rose up on all fours, as his fragile old body fought against him, and proceeded across clearing towards the others to give the Telling, for what he clearly knew was the last time.

The celebration was still in full force as he approached the conglomeration. Some were gathered together recanting the flight and others were laughing recalling some of the old tales that were passed around from previous generations. Council had finished, for the moment, entertaining the young ones when he saw the Keeper approach from the base of the Great Tree. He wasn’t long for this world, he thought to himself as he noticed he had almost none of his original color left in his now thinning coat, to thin to even hide his now unused webbing that was sagging out from under his frail body, he rose up on all fours and walked over to greet his counterpart.

“Are you ready?” he asked the old squirrel as he they stopped to speak for a moment. The Keeper didn’t immediately respond to his query, but he just stood transfixed on Councils eyes.

“What’s wrong Aidin?” he said as the look in his gray eyes told Council something was not right in his world.

“It’s time,” the Keeper simply stated with a wavering voice and a transfixed blank stare. Malvo immediately knew that he was not speaking about the Telling, but of the certain truths that only they were aware of, and his stomach dropped as he began to sweat.

“No the story remains with us” he said with a slight sense of the limited authority he held.

“No Council!” he spat out, emphasizing the word “Council” “It doesn’t remain with us, they will know the truth, and they will all know by tomorrows rise!” he emphatically stated as he pointed a knurled old claw towards Malvos snout. They coldly stared at one another for several moments and Malvo knew this time he was not going to win. They had of late argued about exposing the conglomeration to the truth, as they understood it, of their world in response to the problem of the Outlings.

“To what end Aiden! Tell me!” He desperately asked “To What End” he finished emphasizing each word.

“Not to the end that were going to inevitably face” he said as he began to slightly calm.

“We simply don’t know that!” he desperately stated.

“I’ve listened to your side of this argument, and in the beginning I agreed with you. Let’s wait and see, well we’ve waited and we’ve seen and though you don’t really believe the Prophesy, it’s staring you in the face. Thirteen have now been born.” He said in straightforward manner. “So thirteen must be found” he finished.

“No there has to be another answer, there simply has to be,” he desperately said.

Aiden shook his head and let out a tiny laugh.

“You know what your problem is” he began as Malvo stared in disbelief, “Power, that’s your problem”

“That’s not fair” he interjected, but the Keeper ignored him and continued on

“You don’t want to lose your position with in the conglomeration, you don’t care about them, you only care about yourself, and I stand to lose much more than you can possibly realize” he finished as he abruptly brushed pass Council, leaving him standing alone with his mouth wide open.

A Keeper gave the Telling every year during the celebration. It was the story of the beginning as they knew of it, and it was a reminder of the importance of their oral history. Aiden approached the others, who were unaware of the exchange he had been involved in only moments ago, and they knew it was time. Off to a small corner of the clearing was a large rock, dark in color and well worn from centuries of exposure, and Aiden quietly greeted those in his path as he moved towards it. Fowland and Cory, along with there first born who was far too young to participate in the flight, were among those he greeted.

“Fowland, how are you and your family” He asked him as he stopped for a moment.

“Very good Keeper” He said to him with a genuine smile.

“And who is this One?”

“This is Aaran” Cory now answered, “He’s our first” she finished with a proud tone in her voice.

“That’s excellent Cory,” He said.

She looked down at her tiny son, now trying to hide in Fowlands folds.

“Do you want to say hello to the Keeper?” she asked him. The tiny squirrel attempted to further bury himself into his fathers pelt, playing strange to the Keeper. Aiden began to chuckle at the young ones behavior as he sensed a strong sentient mind growing into existence.

“I want Uncle Fiddich” Aaron blurted out.

Fowland wished at that moment that he could hide under his own folds, because of all the things to remind the Keeper of, this certainly was not one of them.

“Let me apologize for my brother, Keeper” Fowland blurted out in a preemptive acknowledgement of the landing incident. Aiden continued to look at the small one with a look of deep concern in his eyes.

“No need for an apology, Fowland,” he said as he turned his attention back towards him. “However, I need to meet with you and your brother later tonight, and tell the stunt flyer to bring my daughter with him.” he finished as he immediately felt Fowland and Corys slight confusion.

“Things are about to change,” he said as he turned away from them and proceeded to the rock.

The conglomeration began to gather on the grasses in front of large stone, as the Keeper took his place on top its smooth surface. He sat in place, patiently waiting for the full community to gather, and watched as they slowly took their own positions in front of him. Fowland and his family had not yet taken their place in the grass, when Fiddich approached sporting a large grin.

“Uncle Fiddich!” Aaran exclaimed as and as he spied his uncle walking towards them, he tore out from under his father’s folds and raced to Fiddich. He jumped solidly on his back and immediately began to gently attack his large tail.

“Is he mad?” Fiddich asked with a slight laugh as he came up to his brother with Aaron straddled across his back.

“No, and I can’t figure out why” Fowland answered with his own grin.

“Seriously, is he upset” he asked again

“No brother actually he’s not, he said its okay”

“He said what?” Fiddich said perplexed.

“He said its okay, but he wants us to meet with him later tonight” He continued “And he wants you to bring Cerridwyn with us.”

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“I don’t know” Fowland honestly answered.

Fiddich suddenly became concerned for the old squirrel as this was completely out of character for him.

“Have you seen Wyn?” he asked Cory.

“Not yet” she answered “but I think she’s still with the new one,”

Fiddich’s face grew momentarily long at the thought of the new Outling, and the one that just left the conglomeration. They saddened Cerridwyn and it bothered him that he couldn’t give her the comfort she needed. He didn’t understand the Outlings plight but somehow she sensed something, or the lack thereof, in them, and he knew it gave her pain. She had her father’s abilities, a gift if you want to call it that, but to him it was almost a curse, and her being the Keepers daughter was the biggest curse of all. In time she would assume the duties of her father’s role, and his relationship with her would have to fall to the side as the tradition of their society came first. Fowland immediately sensed his brother’s change in heart and diverted him away from the thoughts he knew he was having.

“She’ll be here, and then she can wipe your nose for you” he said with a laugh. Fiddich sported a grin as he knew his brother was again successful in putting those emotions to the back of his heart.

“Cory?” he asked as he turned to her “Wasn’t it last season when he grew ill and you had to gather his precious Butternut sprigs, so the fat squirrel wouldn’t go hungry”

“Those were important for my coat, Fiddich” Fowland said in a serious tone as he pointed a claw at him.

“Yes, important all right, important enough to sit all day on your hinds and stuff your snout” he chuckled. Actually Fowland knew he was correct because he really play up his illness that time so he could do exactly that.

“All right lets forget it” Fowland said in half defeat, as he knew once fiddich latched on to something he wouldn’t let it go. Fiddich gave him a smug grin and a small wink of acknowledgement as the three headed over to the telling.

The conglomeration was almost fully gathered and the celebratory tone was slightly subdued at this point, as they all waited patiently for the Keeper to begin. Fiddich, with Fowland and his family, took a seat close to the edge of the clearing nearest the Great Tree. The Keeper was about to begin when Fiddich felt the familiar gentle touch of Cerridwyn on his back. He quietly smiled and turned over his shoulder to acknowledge her.

“Is everything all right?” he whispered.

“Everything’s fine” she whispered back as she softly nudged her nose to his.

“Sit here” he said as he moved back and gave her the room to sit in front of him where he could her in the comfort of his folds. She took her seat and truly relaxed for the time that day. The celebration was different for her, as it always was, she had certain duties she had to fulfill and not only as a future Keeper, but as the only minder the Outlings had. No others in the conglomeration dealt with the Outlings, only her, and that was direct instruction from her father and Council. Together they decided not to allow the odd squirrels to permeate into the conglomeration as they had no idea of the problems with them, or so they said. Besides, the squirrels were far from capable of existing in their society anyhow, so they gave charge of them to her. She, however, sensed the lack of sentience in them and she saw the foreboding nature of there creation, and it truly scared her. She knew in time she would have her own young ones with Fiddich as their father, and in time she would also live alone in the Great Tree, sacrificing her family for the honor of being Keeper, and maintaining the traditions of the past. But the Outlings weighed heavy on her mind, ‘What would cause this?’ She often thought to herself, ‘And how many more would be born in this condition?’ They sat together in silence as the Keeper took his seat the on the stone.

“Today” he began “Is our celebration of The First. Our celebration of the first flight and our celebration of The Great Tree. The Great Tree is why we exist, it gives us life as it gave life to the First and this is our story. In the beginning….”

He laid low under the dense brush, wet and shivering, on a chilly morning in the New Forest. His heart was racing, fed more on pure adrenalin than anything else, and his eyes were wild as they darted about in search of the ones that forced him into his solitary hiding. He began to shudder, caused more from the white fear he felt than from his rain-saturated coat. He was a young squirrel with dark wide eyes, and a coat that was a shade lighter than the coal black fur of the others in the conglomeration. His parents had attacked him, chasing him from their nest earlier than his siblings eventually would be and far more viciously than the norm; the deep laceration on his back bore witness to the pure sense of raw instinctual fear that he stirred in them. He had tried to return once, but his mother’s razor sharp claws, and the teeth of his own brothers and sisters, violently repelled him.

The others scrambled to higher branches when he attempted to re-climb the tree, screeching in rage at some irrational and incomprehensible level towards his very presence. He didn’t understand what was happening to him, as he couldn’t, yet fear should have given way to a natural instinct that sent him to the next unoccupied tree in which he could build his own nest, rear his own family, defend his territory and grow to old to survive this very simple condition of forest life. The natural cycle complete, the circle closed.

This wasn’t the case for him, there would be no nest for him, no mate, and never a family to rear and defend within that particular conglomeration. He would however live and die within the forest, but not at this time and in this place. Lying flat to the ground and still partially hidden under the wet foliage, away from the terrified eyes that searched him out from above, and he asked himself in the most rudimentary form a question; Why? The basic concept flooded his mind and filled his very being yet he didn’t understand what it was, as he still couldn’t understand it as their was no language in his mind to explain it; yet he felt the question. The basic instinct, which all the creatures of the forest possessed for the reason of survival, had developed into a simple thought for him, and he sensed the question again, why?

He was frozen in fear, but it wasn’t the original fear that had sent him to ground in the first place, it was a new fear, a fear of his own self, and the screeching from above had temporarily subsided and the forest suddenly had an odd calmness about it. The creatures in the canopy silently stared at him waiting for any sign of movement on his part that would send them back into their blind fury. He remained still, his mind swimming with a basic thought, and when he allowed his large tail to twitch just once, on cue, those above began to once again to show their fear of him. The forest again became a symphony of high-pitched screeches and screams, mixed in with the sounds of foliage and branches, rustling and snapping under the weight of the movement of dozens of bodies all at once in motion. He caught a glimpse of understanding of what at that moment was happening; he was not like them, he was now an outsider, and it was actually this understanding that made him an interloper among his own kind. They could instinctually sense his difference, and that difference translated into the only emotion they knew: Fear. His mind now began to cloud over and his own instinct for self preservation took over, he was a squirrel after all and now he only sensed one thing; survival.

The commotion above was just beginning to calm when he rose on all fours, dug his hind claws into the forest floor, and bolted out from under the relatively safe cover of the dense ground foliage. He had nowhere to run, no tree that was home, and no safe nest to hide in; he was alone and alone in more ways than at that moment he could possibly comprehend. The canopy above exploded in rage towards him, most of the creatures scrambled to higher branches, further distancing themselves from this unknown thing below, but one, the one he recognized from the place he was before lept from high atop her perch, as she was carefully observing him, waiting for the right moment. He saw her jump from the treetop as he scrambled across the ground, running for his life, and she spread her four legs, entered into a swift and forceful glide, and bore down upon him. He continued to run, frantically looking for some safe haven from them and from her in particular. His instinct again over took him and his mind clouded over even further, he could sense from above and behind, her rapid approach. There was nowhere for him to immediately hide, so as she was about land on him and strike a fatal blow, he spun over on his back, exposing his young sharp claws.

At a dangerously high rate of speed, she attempted to land on him. He rolled to one side, extending his legs and claws as she approached, and she struck him directly on his up turned paws. The canopy screeched louder at this sight and became even more agitated; the momentum of her attempted attack carried them both across the forest floor, entwining them together for a brief moment. He was dizzy and stunned from the attack, the earlier laceration on his back had now widened and it caused him even further pain, and he looked up to the canopy for any others who may attempt an attack, but there were none. They were wild with fear, but none was going to attempt another attack on him, because writhing in pain and close to death, with her insides exposed on the ground, sliced along her soft underbelly by his sharp claws from throat to tail, was his mother.

He knew it was she, as her scent crossed his nose, but he felt nothing as the self-preservation mode he was in overtook all. He looked down at her as she rolled over on to her deadly wound, in a vain attempt to stop the fatal damage he inflicted. Her back arched and straightened almost rhythmically as her body twisted and turned in agony, until she lay semi-motionless with just the occasional involuntary nerve twitch overtaking her now limp body. He watched her until she took her last breath, blood formed around her tiny mouth, and as her eyes glossed over with a vision of death, they had the wild look of pure fear that he instilled with in them. She died in fear, and it was the fear of her own that killed her and again in a very rudimentary form; he understood this. He looked up at the conglomeration in the canopy above as they were now silent, he was alive and in more ways than one, and he looked down at mothers body for the last time and blindly ran through the underbrush away from the deadly conglomeration. He ran from all that he knew, all that he was, and into a different existence all together. The light came and went more often than he was actually aware of, but the forest and the canopy high atop it, continued, no matter if he stopped to rest when he was tired, or when his body forced him to stop all together and the strange pictures began to fill his head. Sometimes the visions were of the attack from his mother and he would awake screeching in terror and blindly scrambling through the dark foliage of the tree he choose to sleep in, damp from dew and sweat and deathly afraid. Yet at other times there were scenes were of the bright glow of light that he could only glimpse at high above; the one that kept him warm and safe in the light, and scenes of the other one; the cold dim one that gave him an odd comfort when the first one was gone. It was that one, he could somehow sense that was much more like him: Alone.

These dreams haunted him night after night and confused his senses during the day, but the pictures somehow lifted the fog from his mind and he caught tiny glimpses of his place in the forest, his time in the forest, and the simple fact that he was somewhere now, and not were he was before. He continued to wander deeper through his world but now at normal pace, he felt he was safe from them and he knew there was no reason to run, but he also sensed that their was always a reason to hide. He tried not to remember the pictures that came to him at night, but they continued to nag at him, begging him for the recognition they believed they deserved, and fighting him for the limited space within in his burgeoning mind. The warm one matched the look of the rest of his world, dull and bland in appearance but since he could never look directly at it, it never stood out against the background of the two dimensional world he perceived. However, the other was silently bright and gentle and when he could clearly see it, it burned through all the limited reality that he could comprehend leaving him mesmerized, staring up at night from the top of the canopy to the sky above. It was she, he began to perceive in his ever-growing awareness that drew him past his own fears of pure survival. She began to reach out to his own consciousness and he began to sense that she was like his mother but unlike her, as this one was gentle and soothing, but yet far removed from the world he saw. He continued to wander through the forest, now far removed from the conglomeration and in no fear of them, and the simple thought of her above somehow calmed him and gently she allowed his mind open up to another basic concept, what is she? His very limited mind was flowing with these thoughts, which were not true thoughts but only the organization of raw emotion, when he mindlessly broke through the underbrush and wandered into a vast empty expanse.

It wasn’t just the sight of the nothingness of the clearing that began to shock his system, all though he had never before saw such cold emptiness that wasn’t above him, but it was across this view and far on the other side of it, that caused him to violently recoil and bolt in terror up the nearest tree. Sweating profusely, and his heart racing, he dug his sharp claws into the raw bark of the butternut tree that he was hiding in and with it’s opulent deep green leaves sheltered his eyes from this incomprehensible sight. He began to obsessively beat his head into the very bark he desperately clawed into in a vain attempt to not only stop his mind from its inevitable emerging consciousness, but also to erase the pure terror of a an impossible sight; the sight of a massive tree. He drifted into unconsciousness from his self-inflicted blows, and when the blood saturated fine dark gray fur around his soft face began to dry, she came to him. Far removed from the tree in which he was currently hiding in, his dreams came to life, and he found himself in the center of the clearing, the very catalyst that sent him into his catatonic state, calm and tranquil with his eyes viewing this odd world from a different perspective. He saw it with depth, not just simply a two dimensional image that had no feeling, he could reach his paw forward and realize the distance between it, and him and the tree its self. He looked up with awe at it, and though he yet had no comprehension of what it actually was, he felt no fear but only a deep curiosity. The light began to emerge into the clearing and the scene began to unfold before him, he peered further into the sky and saw the light shades of purples and the deep tones of red that announced the coming of the light. It was this vision of the subtle shades of color, which left him amazed, as he was never before capable of seeing anything beyond the basic color spectrum.

He slowly began to move through the clearing, taking in both the size and the scope of it and the tree off to the edge, when he saw the different shades of green that the tree line around it produced, somehow knowing that the line to the left was closer than the one to the right. He could feel the soft grasses gently caressing the under pads of his wet paws and the tree appeared to grow in size as he slowly approached it. It gently shocked him, its shear size and strength was astounding, and its very presence was overwhelming and he found himself directly under it, examining the course bark. He passed his paws over the barks surface and for some unknown reason it was warm to the touch, and it gave him a feeling of comfort and solitude. He dug his sharp claws into the rough surface and slowly, he began to climb upwards. He moved steadily towards its apex, all the while trying to comprehend his emerging world at the heights he was reaching, and he peered upward patiently waiting for the golden foliage of the lower branches to grow clearer. As he became within reach of the lowest of the bottom branches, and the size of the individual leaves surprised him, they were three and four sizes larger than his tiny gray torso, and as he reached for the first large branch, he thrust upward on his hind legs and entered the caressing foliage of the Great Tree.

He ran from branch to branch, through multi-colored flora and over the soft delicate silver frost that seemed to permeate the new growth. He continued to scramble up higher until the branches themselves became thinner and the foliage it’s self grew thicker, and when their was none left he poked his tiny head past the last leaf on the uppermost branch, breaking through the canopy and embracing the morning sunrise. He revered all that was around him and he left the sleeping creature that was once him, alone and bleeding in a butternut tree, far off to the east. He knew this was his and his alone, and knew he was the first, but the first of what he was not quite sure. The warm morning sun welcomed him to sentience, and he somehow knew it and he was suddenly aware that his mind was clear, and the fight for it was over. She won.

He watched the sun grew brighter and felt it warm rays dry the dew off his coat, and he turned around to see what was behind him when it all became clear. She stood in silence, the one he would often dream of on his journey towards this place, the one he knew of as the Night Sun. He could feel her in the back of his neck and down his spine right to the tip of his large tail, her energy permeated his body and saturated his soul, she was the one who was responsible for him, and he began to understand that it was somehow a gift. He saw the both of them together in harmony, one to the left of the Great Tree and the other to the right, they were twins, yet somehow not siblings. He momentarily closed his eyes as a wash of silver- blue light flooded his body, and suddenly he could feel the blood that covered the snout of the unfortunate creature, far off in a lost butternut tree near the edge of the clearing. He rubbed his paw against his left cheek saw the smeared blood on his paw and he looked back out at her in amazement. She gave his dream life, and she than spoke.

“I am your beginning” she began in a gentle voice that filled his mind. He understood her strange language but it confused him as to how.

“There will be many things that will confuse you,” she began, answering his unasked question “But we will always be here to guide you, to hold you and give you love and life. You are the first but not the last and I am the mother of all of you, to your back is the day sun and we exist alone but only here, high above the world, do we exist together. He is the light and I am the dark, he gives you life but I give you soul. He keeps you warm but I keep you safe, and he allows you to see but I allow you to feel. In our world, we are together. We are one. In yours, we are separate, but atop this tree, we are now three. I give you this place as a gift of life and not one of death and I give you this tree, this Great Tree, as a reminder of who and what you are. I give you sentience and spirit, the day and the night, I give you me, I give you him, and I give you all that is. You are no longer alone as you are with us but others will come, others like you, and all will break the binds of simple survival and search for an unknown existence. You will guide them and bring them to us as you are not only their beginning, you are also their life. Celebrate your new world young squirrel for now you exist”

He stood in awe at her silvery shimmer as he watched her slowly descend towards the horizon. The day sun continued to warm his back making him aware of his presence, and as he turned towards it, he turned his tiny paws over exposing them to His light. The intense ball of heat stood firm and yet slowly rose over the canopy of the forest, fully illuminating the world below. It spoke no words to him and he believed it couldn’t, but he could feel it’s strength and power as it was strong and silent and a part of Her, a part that she gave up for him and he became humbled at that prospect. The full day was almost with him now as he surveyed his new world from the heights of The Great Tree, and he pondered where the others like him were. He knew they would have to find their own way to this place, because he suddenly realized he had no idea of where his original conglomeration was located. The thoughts of that place now only drifted through his mind as an old memory, one with no color or depth, slowly pushing away as his mind took the necessary space needed for sentient thought. He turned his back towards the Night Sun but she now stayed silent, and he than turned back to the Day. They momentarily stood in perfect symmetry, and the effect caused the Great Tree to glow in dancing silver light. The light rose up through him and the though he was now alive the strongest of all his instincts rose up with it. He looked over to the large clearing below and quietly smiled to himself as he scrambled down from the perch he was on at the highest point of the tree, and bolted through the dawn foliage towards it outer edge.

He quickly found a large branch that led to the emptiness and as he ran across it, he could again see the morning light racing towards him. The foliage again began to thin and the light re-emerged as he ran out of tree space and instantly found the cool morning air. He was now free, and in every sense of the word that a squirrel could comprehend. The First began a rapid fall towards the clearing, opening his folds and allowing them to catch the clean air as he had done on many previous occasions, but now beginning the longest glide of his newly awoken life. The joy the glide gave him calmed his nerves and awoke his soul, and it seemed unending. The world was his but not his alone and he knew had a responsibility, but within the wonderful early morning flight he was currently under; the concept eluded him, but in time, he knew She would guide him. He was still a squirrel after all, and the joy of the flight was first in his mind, as he continued to drift in peace and contentment above the forest canopy.

“The others slowly found this place and the First had the task of guiding them through the fear and pain of awareness. He created our place in this clearing, and all from the guidance of the Night Sun who gave us The Great Tree.” The Keeper finally finished.

The conglomeration sat in satisfaction of the Telling as all but the youngest had heard the story in previous seasons, but it was the grandest of all tales and all waited in anticipation for its annual oration. The Keeper sat in silence as all waited for him to dismiss the conglomeration, thus allowing them to continue with the celebration, but instead he sat in silence, not acknowledging nor dismissing. Cerridwyn caught this break in tradition and immediately realized there was a problem.

“Something’s wrong Fiddich,” she quietly whispered to him.

Fiddich continued to focus on the Keeper for a moment when he himself realized that something was out of the ordinary.

“I haven’t had the chance to tell you,” He said as he turned towards her “but he spoke to Fowland before the Telling and he said wants to meet with the three of us later”

She quickly turned to Fowland who had just heard Fiddich tell her the message.

“What did he say Fowland” she asked.

Fowland shrugged his shoulders and answered her question.

“He said something about things changing, and that he wants to meet with us later”

Her stomach suddenly turned to knots. He would never ask to meet anyone, for any reason, if the Keeper had an issue with an individual he would untactfully and unceremoniously march to the individuals nest and quite simply speak his mind. “Meetings” he once said to her “Are for council, and not for matters of the Great Tree, and I want you to remember that when you take your place in it” She knew her father never said anything he didn’t mean, and he never did a thing different than any words he spoke.

“Did he say meet?” she asked.

“Yes he did” Fowland replied as he became slightly bewildered at her continence. She stared straight at her father immediately caught his gaze. His old eyes were now tired and as he stared back at her as unspoken words began to traverse the short distance between them. ‘It’s Time’ was all she heard in her mind when the Keeper began again to speak to the gathering

“For the first time in our history, we will add to the Telling” Those words rung loud in the minds of the conglomeration and it bewildered them, as there was no further story of the beginning that they ever knew of. The Telling was a static tale and never told in any other manner than tradition would allow,


© Copyright 2019 chris r adam. All rights reserved.

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