Memories and the Forest

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Take a trip down Memory Lane with a young druid as he returns to the place he calls home.

Submitted: June 19, 2014

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Submitted: June 19, 2014



As the first light of day began to filter in through the canopy of the trees overhead, the young Elven man walking calmly through the untamed tracts of growth paused to take a look around him. The forest was slowly growing more defined as the sun made its daily climb, with crisp outlines of the foliage and the massive trunks of the Elder trees coming into focus. After taking a moment to make sure his heading was right, he stepped over the protruding knot of roots that would have tripped up the unwary traveler and continued his steady pace through the dense wood. For a few more hours he walked on, keeping the small magelight lit only as a force of habit, until the rising sun cast enough light on the forest below to illuminate his path and show him the hidden knurls and tangles of brush and ivy lying around him.

Kyronaius had always appreciated the forest in his late youth, and after learning the ways of sharing life with the world from his friends and companions, he’d grown even fonder of the World Beneath the Trees. With every step his bare feet made on the cool damp earth he could feel the heartbeat of the forest around him pulse and echo in time with all of the living beings under her branches. It was still a novel experience for him, feeling the life force of every living creature both flora and fauna around him, but even though it had only been several dozen seasons he felt as though he’d been meant to enjoy the world this way his whole life. Every step brought more of the world into his grasp as though his very aura had exploded outward to encompass anything it touched within a furlong. It was a bit noisy at times for him, especially during the migrations of animals that came and went with the passing of the seasons, but in the calm hours following the dawn it felt to him as though he were awash in a sea of whispering voices.

He’d never really kept track of the passing of time after he’d fled home so many years ago, and when he’d shed the shackles of time as a constraint to his whims he’d found a sense of peace that hadn’t existed to him before. No more schedules to maintain meant he could sleep as long as his body needed, sometimes finding great comfort in letting the day pass by lazily as he rested his body in the shade of an ancient oak. With no more urgent duties to complete for the sake of others he found that he could take his meals when he pleased, finding it quite pleasurable to converse with the forest Nymphs while the many faces of the moon passed overhead. The passage of time no longer held control over his days, and in that Kyronaius found more peace and happiness than he’d ever known.

It was a life that had, at first, seemed to be so overwhelmingly dull that he had spent many of the first seasons of his tutelage fervently pouring over the few preserved tomes the old Druids had kept with them. After every page had been read and memorized, every chapter notated and studied, he realized then that he still knew almost nothing about the ways of communing with the world. The old Druids knew this would happen, however, and let him pursue his ambitious devouring of text and stories in their possessions. Even though several of them were only humans, and there for many decades his junior, Kyronaius had realized almost immediately upon meeting them that the men were so much more his superiors in experience. When he’d finally learned to set down the books and seek answers from the source he found that the nearly two centuries of knowledge he’d grasped before then had only paled in comparison to the months to follow.

As he walked along a small game trail that wound its way to the river he knew was near, he let his mind shift to the day’s most recent and the things he had seen. He recalled the days before he’d made it to this part of the forest, when he’d been caught in the middle of a dispute between two herds of Satyrkin that roamed the plains far to the south and east. He almost laughed aloud when he recalled the look of shock on all of their faces as he effortlessly resolved their dispute, only to propose a merging of the herds. His head still swam with the blurred memories of roughly-hewn mug after mug of ale being passed into his hands, the whirl of dancing and feasting that followed running in to one another as his memories faded all together into a single blur of happiness and frivolity. He nearly laughed out loud again as his he felt his face heat at the foggy and not-quite clear memories of one too many bodies against his own as he woke from each night’s revere; he had never once thought of himself so loftily as to turn down the occasional pleasure of the flesh, but it was something he’d never experienced until then and he couldn’t remember if his enthusiasm had been due to his inexperience or the copious amounts of drink flowing during those nights.

His quiet reflections were interrupted by the sound of water and his mind returned to the world around him as he realized he’d not only reached the river but somehow managed to cross it while lost in thought. Looking back at the rushing water behind him, he saw the current washing away a low-rising mound of earth that had formed in his path as he reached the water’s edge. For a moment a new sense of elation filled him as he realized that he had quite effortlessly brought the earth up to him, giving him a dry path to walk on, and he turned back to the riverbank and strode for the eddies that ran over the shallow slope. When he reached the water he was a little disappointed to feel the cool rush of liquid over his bare feet, puzzled as to why the earth had not responded to his gentle urging. For a moment he stood there in the shallows, feeling the coursing water wash away his attempts to coerce the ground to rise, only realizing that he had manipulated the earth instinctively after he tried once more to raise the ground above the gentle current of the river.

Like all things in the world, magic was bound by laws. To understand and appreciate these laws was one of the first lessons that all magically-talented youth were instructed in their education. Magic was, simply put, a manifestation of the wielders focus guided by his will and knowledge of the currents of magic that laced the world like so many rivers of power. To tap into and harness the power of these currents, called Leilines, was to call upon the forces of power themselves and channel them through the user’s will and create magic. The same energies that a summoner might harness to call forth a familiar would also fuel the intense flames of an Elemental Mage, or knit the broken bones of a body through the application of Restoratives. Some Leylines were stronger than others, lying deep within the earth like unseen rivers of measureless power, some moving freely through the air around us like currents of of wind unbeknownst to all those that could feel them. To reach out and coax the power from a Leiline was as easy as grasping something with your hands, only it took the mental strength to grasp the current and the fortitude of will to harness it’s power.

Kyronaius let out a little sigh and turned away from the river, continuing on his way through the winding paths of game trails and foliage into the heart of the forest beyond the river. Even though he was considered by his mentors to be far more adept at the arts of Druidic magic than they, he still felt as though he knew nothing compared to the wizened sages that taught him. He sometimes found himself performing small miracles when he didn’t even realize he was doing it. In a single night he had once managed to grow almost an entire league of forest around him in his dreams, waking to find himself in the heart of a new growth of forest that had quite literally sprang up overnight. Other times, he found himself doing impossibly destructive things without being any the wiser until he returned his focus to the present; he swore never again to let his memories dwell on the darker days of his past, not after he’d nearly stripped all traces of life from the very forest he’d created. That place would be a dark stain on his memory, and he’d vowed then to never allow himself the weakness of regret or misery of memories when there was nothing that could be done to change the past.

As he crossed the threshold of the forest into lands that felt almost achingly-familiar, his mind once again wandered to the days before his return to this forest, before his introduction to the world of Druidic Arts. He remembered the time he’d spent in the company of people who never judged him for his past, and had shown him that it was only what one did with the present that mattered. The City of Eyelwa, Family in the Forest to those who spoke the common tongue, was where the Sons and Daughters of the Forest dwelt. Amongst the Elves there were many different cultures that existed in their own separate ways, from the noble and high-statured High Folk to the distant and oft-prone to violence Llothari, Drow in the common tongue. The Sons and Daughters of the Forest were known as the Woodsmen to his kin the High Folk, but they simply referred to themselves as The People, having no care or concern for the trite titles or namesakes that others may cling to.

The People of Eyelwa had been welcoming and accepting of Kyronaius when he’d come to them in dark times and need, and they had taken him as one of their own without so much as ceremony or acclaim. He had been a troubled youth then, wracked with guilt and still seething with fury for the nearly two centuries of misery he’d endured with his own kin, the High Folk. They had been sympathetic with him, helping him overcome the troubles that bore on his soul like so many chains, cutting each free with small acts of kindness and the sense of belonging that he’d never felt with his own. After several years with The People of Eyelwa, he’d been transformed from the broken husk of a man he once was to the hopeful and ambitious person he was today. The smile that formed on his face at the memories of all the joy he’d felt at being a part of a community that cared for him nearly split his face in two.

By now the sun was nearly at its apex, the forest air thick with moisture as the light finally coaxed the dew on the forest floor to life, releasing it like so many spirits from the body. Kyronaius paused a moment in a small clearing to undo the clasps on his robe, shed the garment, and drape it over his shoulder with a sigh. Even as used to the climate as he was, it was simply too warm now to wear much more than the short sleeved tunic and light trousers he wore beneath it. The robe had been a gift to him from his mentors as a parting reminder to learn from the lessons the world had to offer and live the experiences they taught every day. It was a plain, pale-green robe with several carved buttons of some very old and ancient Darkwood that Kyronaius was sure the eldest of his teachers had also carved their staves from. There were no embroideries on the fabric nor elegant trim or tassels to give it any defining markings, and though it was light and well-made it did not seem to have anything that made it noticeable from a plain tailor’s pattern. It looked so unlike the robes that his mentors wore, gilded and shot with elements of beautiful color and patterns that seemed to be alive with every shift in the fabric, but as he had worn the cloak, it began to dawn on him that the robes were not supposed to be adorned or accented by anyone other than the wearer. The evidence of that lay plain as day in the subtle emergence of gold stitching around the hem of his hood that looked as though it were growing into the rest of the hood; that little detail had appeared several days ago when he’d helped the Satyr herds overcome their feud.

Taking in a deep breath and exhaling it with a sigh of relief, he turned and looked about the clearing, searching for the tell-tale signs of markers that would lead those who knew where to look towards Eyelwa. From a low-hanging branch that looked like a heavy weight had been placed on it during its growth hung a small bundle of leaves that wouldn’t have looked out of place to the casual observer. On the bark of the tree across from hanging branch was a patch of bark that looked much like any of the many scars of young bucks rubbing their horns to rid them of velvet. To a common passerby this small clearing would look just like any of the hundreds of small clearings that form in the forest surrounding this one; the differences were all of a subtle nature that only the perception of those with the senses to spot them, or the prior knowledge of their location, would notice.

He continued his walk, passing through the hidden archway marked by the hidden signs and continued along the game trail until the sun tipped just past its zenith, making the long journey to the far side of the world to rest. Kyronaius wasn’t concerned about walking through the forest at night, he only wondered if he’d make it in time to greet his friends before the day gave way to night. His fears were laid to rest when he found himself standing at the base of a massive Great Oak, one of the many that had started to become more common as he wound deeper into the northern territory of the forest. For a moment he stood in awe at the monolith, feeling its immense presence like the inexorable pull of gravity beckoning all walks of life to come and bask at its base and frolic through its branches.

The Great Oak, known only as the Gate Tree to the peoples of Eyelwa, was the final signpost to travelers seeking the hidden city. Its base spanned tens of dozens of man-lengths across, and from the game trails leading to the bare clearing of earth around it, it could easily be concluded that this was not only an important landmark to The People but also to the wildlife that called the forest home. Kyronaius began walking around the base of the tree, reaching out to rest a hand on the sturdy bark as he did. From within the deepest roots of the tree he could feel a pulse, as though a great heart beat within the earth below. This didn’t surprise him, for the oldest and strongest of trees often took on a life of their own as the years turned to decades turned to centuries. It was comforting to feel such an ancient and familiar presence still living as it had when he’d left Eyelwa so many years ago, much like seeing an acquaintance after so long and discovering that they too had missed your company.

As he rounded the base of the tree another path soon emerged from hiding amidst the foliage, this one much wider and clearly intended for travelers and friends alike. Spanning between two trees nearly thrice his height apart was a single woven rope of vines, its length adorned with hanging lanterns of Faelights that looked more like luminous fruit rather than fixtures. Hanging at the center of the arch was a single elaborately-engraved sign of wood he suspected was far older than he; the gilded sign merely saying ‘Welcome’ in the written common word shared amongst their peoples of all variations. Kyronaius’s heart swelled at the sight, knowing that just beyond a small bend in the path ahead lay the city he’d come to call the only home he’d ever known and the friends who’d made that home a place worth remembering.

As he passed under the welcoming sign, he took a deep breath and closed his eyes as he savored the warm rush of happiness and nostalgia that coursed through him. The very ground beneath him seemed to bloom with unconstrained joy as both his heart and mind reached out to grasp at the familiar wispy trails of magic and life that he’d only just barely touched before his journey to seek knowledge and his own awakening as a mage. For a long while his feet carried him along the path as though they had walked it over and over again throughout the course of a lifetime, his eyes shut and his mind open to the wonder and the memories that had seeped into the very trees around him. It was as though he wanted nothing more than to bask in the memories and relish the warmth and happiness that came with them without a care for whatever else happened in the world around him.

As he opened his eyes again, he felt the light brush of memories fade away to a dull glow around him, the comforting nostalgia of that homecoming fading almost as quickly as the hazy remnants of a dream would upon waking, leaving nothing but the subtle ache of longing and the comfort of fondness that comes with reliving times much simpler. During his long trip into the forest, he’d allowed himself to slip into the waking dreams that were the lingering memories of his presence in the forest during his return. Unknown to him at the time of his first return, his every step left an imprint of his very being on the world like footprints in soft earth or sand. With every step, his mind drifted back to that warm summer day when he, still a young and vibrant young man, had journeyed to the home of his friends in Eyelwa with news of his travels and his studies. Before he’d even reached the river his mind had been enveloped by the impression he’d left behind, his mind filling in all of the gaps with vivid detail enough to make the scenes that played out before his eyes come alive. In those hours of travel, he’d been a man much younger and far more innocent of the world, eager to share in the bounty of experiences and knowledge he’d gained in his tutelage.

Kyronaius stood in the center of the empty town, his eyes falling on the distant and long-forgotten remnants of his former home; the only sounds drifting down from the high boughs of the trees surrounding him were the gentle hum and song of insects, and the oblivious chirruping of birds and other animals in the foliage around him. For what could have been days, for all it was worth, he simply stared around him at the dark eyes of what had once been stores and dwellings, their life long gone from the shells of the domiciles they had once been. It had been nearly a thousand years since he‘d last set foot in Eyelwa, the city lying empty inhabitants for a little over half that time. All around him lay the remnants of that city reclaimed by the forest, and what wasn’t already long-claimed by the underbrush and tangled growth of new life was filled with the evidence of new life having laid claim to its husk.

To this day he still did not know when his friends and their descendants had left the city to be reclaimed by nature, and perhaps it would never be known to him. Long before its abandon Eyelwa had been dwindling as her children grew and sought life elsewhere in the world, and as the slow trickle turned into a steady stream the forest had begun her work in taking back the land The People had borrowed from her. It was the nature of all things Man and Elf and Beast alike to take and borrow from nature to make their living, and it was in her nature to patiently wait until the day she could reclaim it and return it to her bosom. This Kyronaius knew to be more of a fate than a rule, but the pain of seeing it happen was only more visceral than the knowledge itself could have been. He knew in his heart that as long as his friends, more aptly brothers and sisters, lived on in the hearts of their children and their children’s children that he too would live on as a part of their lives ultimately forgotten to the passage of time.

The thought didn’t bother him as much as it had in the centuries before today, he knew that as a scion and child of the world itself he was destined to carry on a much greater legacy that would never boast a song or legend. He knew that his work was not only for himself or for the select few who hear it, but for the continuation of the legacy of life that had been nurtured like so many before him since the dawn of time itself. He had been merely a child before he’d become a man, and when he’d answered the call of The World he’d taken on the mantle of a Druid, swearing to carry out the duties of maintaining the balance of life between the world and its inhabitants. As he carried out those duties day by day, the knowledge of a truer purpose began to take root in his mind, spreading its reach to his heart and soul until he could no longer deny his purpose in the world. His was to live and to ensure that others lived fully; his was to learn and teach others to learn as only he had been taught himself; his was to grow and nurture those around him to grow and one day nurture those who would only continue the cycle as time carried on its slow and never-ending journey throughout the Ether. The fulfilment and happiness that came to others in life would come to him in due time as he matured into the proper being he had always believed he was destined, and as he lived his days he would embrace every new experience and opportunity to grow with open arms and an open heart until the day that very heart ceased to beat once more.

With a sigh mixed of contentment and woeful longing he took one last look at the abandoned city around him, shrugging the robe from his shoulder where it had rested after he’d removed it in his memory walk. No more was it the simple and dull robe of a man new to his craft, instead the same robe now looked to rival the finest tapestry of any throughout the world.Throughout the very fabric of the robe the threads had taken on a life and personality of their own, fueled by the ever-growing power of their wearer and driven by the limitless creativity of the mind they anchored themselves to. Where there had once been only simple and featureless fabric now lay various pockets and stitched embroideries so seamless and fluid in their lines it would seem that they had not been sewed on, but instead had grown from the very cloth itself. Though resembling something that might be seen within the wardrobe of a king or decorated priest the garment was not so extravagant that it would be impractical. Every stitch and fiber of the robe seemed to surve a purpose, every thread lending not only strength to its neighbor but giving the tapestry of color and design a life all its own. 

Where the thin filigree of gold had woven itself around the hem of his hood those many years ago, now threaded a beautiful and intricate halo of brilliant greens and golds with a few delicate veins of silver; the patterns now woven throughout the fabric seemingly alive with their own energy, giving the once rather simple design a much closer semblance of the mythical icon of Angels. Down the front of his robes wove an intricate and stunning embroidery of vines that wound and crept lazily across his the chest and sleevs in rich browns and vibrant greens, the minute strands of stark white and black highlighting an inner and much more complex pattern that would make any tailor green with jealousy. As the patterns wove their way down the robe towards the hem that no longer threatened to scrape the ground, the vines that trailed so meticulously down became a gentle curtain, their tendrils reaching as though to grasp the very ground they so nearly touched. Across the back of the robe was an embroidered silhouette of the Great Oak itself, the threads knitting so tightly and intricately together that it dared the mind to believe it woven by mere hands and not magic. Behind the bold icon of The Peoples of Eyelwa was a rising sun, the vibrant yellows and golds that comprised it seeming to provide their own illumination.

Long gone was the wide-eyed and wondering child that had worn these robes so many centuries before, instead replaced by the livery of a man well versed in the lessons and trials that life had to offer. Every line and pattern on his garment told a story; many sad and many somber, but so greater were the ones that told tales of joy and wonder as well as the love of life and all its offerings. Long gone were the youthful and boyish features of a man not-yet embracing his prime, replaced by the strong and handsome features of a man who bore the weight of stories innumerable, the lessons having carved his slender features into a firm and sturdy frame. The light that shone from deep within the opalescent-blue hues of his eyes was tempered by both the fires of passion and excitement and the icy floods of reality, turning his gaze one of both a knowledgeable teacher and an eager student. It had been a long journey for the man known as Kyronaius, one that had been filled with its share of pleasures and pains, but this was not the end of it.

As he made his final journey through the archway leading to the Great Oak, he paused only a while to gaze up at the flickering Faelights that hung from the ancient vine rope between the even more ancient trees. For one last moment he basked in their hauntingly-familiar glow before he raised his hand, and with a gentle wave much like a gesture of goodbye, he let the lights finally flicker and die to join the memories of this long forgotten place in a well-deserved slumber within the depths of antiquity.

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