Dear Reader. I hope, if you managed to progress this far, that you have enjoyed the story thus far. I also hope that you feel the desire to continue on with the story as I and my friends write it.
By the way.
Welcome to a hidden link!
Anyhow anyway, This small exerpt is nothing more than a small addition to the story of Celtrillus that really doesn't have much of a place in Mura's Storyline. Well, this character's back-story doesn't, anyhow. But all the same it is important, because I felt I needed to convey the manner of relationship between humans, magic, the Leshii
and even to a small degree, Elves. Leshii
, by the way, are something of a warped version of creatures from Russian lore and myth. I couldn't resist the idea of bringing such unique creatures into my world... (By the way, LotR did the same thing with Tree-Beard and the like, so I figured I simply couldn't go wrong in doing so as well). If you enjoy Jami's story, then never fear, for you will see this character again, and soon, although more as a support character despite being more active in the upcoming troubles that are afflicting Celtrillus. But yes...I'll let you start your reading now...and, as said before, I hope you enjoy Jami's small story...for I surely enjoyed writing it.
The Rose and the Ruin: Page 4
It started with a crowd. Bodies jostled one another for the chance to catch a glimpse of the three figures fighting their way through the masses. Shouts, curses; angry faces jeered even as cruel hands reached towards the small figure being guided…dragged…along between two tall men. The large building towards which they were heading was foreboding. It’s roof was sloped, the edges curled upwards to capture rainwater, which fell into large containers at each corner. Water was rare in the Northern lands, where the ground was frozen for most of the year, but not far enough north for great amounts of snow. It was the House of Justice. And to think, the small figure being dragged along bitterly thought, it had been her grandfather whom had ingeniously designed that very building.
Jami pressed her lips together as not to cry out as one of the guards wrenched on her arm, fiery pain lancing through her. But she wouldn’t give the crowd; friends, neighbors, the satisfaction of hearing her cry out. What a fine day to die, she mused miserably as she looked around.
And that was her undoing. A sharp scream rose above the angry din of voices. Apparently someone had finally noticed that her blindfold had come loose and was slipping. Oh by the Goddess, the witch could see! She would put a curse on everyone she looked upon! Jami wished she could, and her sneer was marred as she was hauled onto unsteady feet and rough hands fumbled for the blindfold as the crowd went into a frenzy of panic. Fat fingers jabbed into her eyes, and she flinched instinctively, earning her a heavy cuff to the side of the head, which sent her brain scrambling along the insides of her skull. Nausea quickly followed.
The heavy chains circling her delicate wrists and ankles were, in fact, too cumbersome for her to move around in, and too heavy for her weakened body. She slumped unceremoniously to the cold ground, and promptly felt someone spit on her a moment before the world went dark again.
It hadn’t always been thus, she reflected. Not too long ago, she had been respected, sought-after; loved. But then it had all changed.
Her first mistake had been allowing herself to be seduced by the local lord’s son. He was a tall man, young, and pretty. Jami supposed she should have seen past her infatuation and noted his hard, cold eyes, or the faint sneer that seemed to always linger at the corner of his full, handsome lips. But she had been blinded by his tall, healthy body, the flowery words he spouted from a silver tongue as he pursued her. So she had allowed herself to be seduced…
It hadn’t been a pleasant thing, that seduction.
Afterwards, in shock, Jami hadn’t immediately come to terms with how wrong he was for her. She had stupidly (stupid stupid stupid!), believed that it had been her fault that she hadn’t enjoyed the encounter. And that he ignored her afterwards, she attributed to her utter inexperience at offering him his man’s pleasure. She’d been an idiot.
So when Jami had found herself to be with child, she had been cautiously overjoyed. After all, he would marry her when he found out she was to bear his child.
Obviously it hadn’t worked out like that.
No. When she had approached him, he had cast her away, calling her a slut, claiming that he had never touched her, and when his father, the lord, got involved, he had claimed that yes, he had been interested in her…until he had found her consorting with dameons.
Dameons. They were small creatures with slender bodies, impossibly quick movements when they wished. Their hair was strange…so fine it looked as if it were made of silk, and their ears were odd…long, pointed, which made Jami wonder if they could hear better than mortals. It was said that they were immortal…and their language sounded like a musical series of notes. Once, in the village where she had originally come from, Jami had both seen a Dameon,,,and heard them called by another name entirely. Elf.
But that had been much, much further north… Here, there was the mysterious forest, into which none ever went, for it was a death sentence for anyone foolish enough to wander through the tree-line.
So she had been accused of consorting with Dameons. An accusation which both shocked and horrified everyone in her village. Certainly an offense worthy of a branding and whipping.
Jami wore the deep stripes of the whip fresh on the flesh of her back, and the brand stood out in harsh relief against the back of her hand, which was swollen and appeared to be in the process of a full-scale infection. But even then, she hadn’t been considered a witch.
Nay. That hadn’t happened until she had been laying in her dirt-packed cell after the initial punishments, and felt the first contractions hit her.
She had lost the baby.
And it wasn’t as if she hadn’t wanted the child. Jami was not so callous as to believe that the sins of the parents should be reflected on the children, and when Brenton had refused her, she had decided to keep the babe and raise it as her own anyhow, even if it meant having to leave the village.
But the loss of the child, coupled with everything else, had nearly killed her. And as she heard the large doors of the Justice Hall begin to swing open, Jami wished that she had died with her child. She had not, however.
It had been in the hours afterwards, when the guards had ushered the midwife that had hastily been sent for out of the cell, Jami had lain curled on the floor, nearly dead in both body and spirit. Her hand had been resting on the packed floor, and she had felt it. That familiar feeling. The sensation of a small life, just below the surface of the dirt…crying to be set free. So Jami, in her weakened, exhausted state, had forgotten to take care…to guard her secret. She had scratched at the dirt with a fingernail…loosening the hard surface for the small little seedling. And she had coaxed it to grow…needing to feel that connection…and grew it had, flourishing right before her eyes, the bright green sprout soothing something wounded deep within Jami’s soul.
That, after all else, had been her most terrible mistake…
Jami had been born different… She had been born with…something…deep inside of her. When she woke in the morning, she could feel it, curled deep in her body, warm, soothing, eager to be used. It was magic. Or, at least, that was how it felt. For when she went out into the world outside the village, Jami could make things grow… That thing curled deep inside of her healed dying plants…sped the growth of seeds…
It was an incredible joy, and a deadly secret.
But it was a secret no longer. Her desperate need to give life when the most precious of life had deserted her had betrayed her. She was to be sentenced as a witch.
A mere five score cycles ago, they would have burned her. And in some places, she heard that they still burnt magic wielders. Superstition ran rampant among mankind. There were too many magical aspects within the world beyond their control for them not to fear magic. But this village had long ago decided that rather than risk burning her and her ashes scattering across their lands and turning it barren (for that was the current belief), they escorted witches as far into the forest’s boundaries as they dared and allowed the tree demons to take care of the killing for them.
The trial, it turned out, was a mockery of justice.
Neighbors, both friend and otherwise, turned against her, each supposed witness to her witchery claiming that she had, in some manner or another, cursed them. But the betrayal went even further than that. Even the midwife came forward, claiming that Jami’s evil magic had deformed her child beyond recognition, and that such an innocent life had chosen death rather than to exist within the womb of one so twisted.
Jami’s cry of anguish and fury had echoed across the room, and she had fought her chains until someone had bludgeoned her into unconsciousness.
Lies. They had all lied…turning against her in the most vicious of ways.
And when she had come to, sickened and dizzy by the blow to the head, she found herself being half carried, half dragged, towards the shadowy tree-line.
It was then that she forgot herself and begged for her life…
To no end, however.
They released her from her chains and set the dogs on her.
In a situation such as that, one had little choice but to flee into the forest and pray that they managed to survive…despite the fact that none whom had gone before her appeared to have ever lived through their own ordeal.
So Jami ran…and ran…until she could run no more, and the howl of dogs faded in the distance.
For a lifetime, it seemed to her, Jami wandered…lost…jumping at every crackle, rustle and chirp until she feared she were losing her mind. And she was followed, she was sure of it. From the corners of her eyes, she would see a flash of movement, only to spin about and see nothing but the forest. It happened, over and over again until finally she found herself uncaring of the movement.
After days, she no longer even noticed it.
And an eternity later, Jami slowly came to the realization that, for some reason, whether they did not know she was there or they simply did not care, the tree demons had not attacked her. It was then that the human girl found her feet slowing to a halt, near a small glade, her brown eyes finally, slowly accepting the reality of her situation…and the beauty of the forest, and decided that she could, if she chose, simply live within the tall trees.
Humanity had soured on her, it seemed. All she had seen about her for an entire seventeen years, and thusly her entire life, was the squalor that humans seemed to live within. Cattle roamed freely through the towns, their droppings leaving a tell-tale stench behind. Dogs, nearly wild, often snarled and snapped. Many of her neighbors failed to bathe for long stretches at a time, and their homes more oft than not smelled like a privy from poor hygiene. Worse than that, on days the wind blew ill, the true scent of the local privy flowed over the town like a sickening miasma.
Those were all facts that Jami had long ago learned to live with. Yet roaming the forest, she came to realize that her world no longer had to be that way. Small streams trickled with fresh, clean water, pooling in some places to offer a shallow bathing place. Bushes and trees offered fruits, and Jami could sense which roots and berries were inedible.
Far from stupid, Jami came to terms with her new world.
The place she found where she would build, she stumbled upon by sheer good fortune. It was mere happenstance that she spotted the large, moss-covered boulders nestled together like ancient friends. A cycle or two ago it appeared as though a large animal had dug down into the earth between two of the giant rocks for a den. When Jami cautiously crawled into the tunnel’s opening, she discovered the reason for the den’s abandonment. The roof of the den had caved in, revealing that the boulders, which appeared from the outside to sit right next to one another, actually sat in a rather large, misshapen ring. Delighted, Jami immediately decided that she would make her home within the protective ring.
From there, she began to build.
Using her wits, she managed to fashion a roof of sorts out of fallen branches and dead saplings. Using vines, she fashioned ropes, cleverly devising a way in which she could pull the roof away and allow the light that filtered down through the forest canopy to shine down upon her when the weather was fine. From there she began scraping away the moss from the inner ring of the stones, and dug a long shallow pit into the earth, which she tossed the moss into to serve as a bed.
Berries and roots, Jami had in abundant supply. But cloth was another story entirely. Her lack of meat was also another problem, both solved when she began watching the small, furred creatures of the forest around herself, learning their habits. Fashioning traps was a matter of trial and error, as was turning the fur into something she could wear, curing both hides and meat. For tools such as knives and the like, she found sharp-edged stones, and fashioned her clothing by using long, thin strips of extra-tough hide to tie the pieces together.
In doing so, the girl discovered that in being alone, she no longer needed skirts and dresses. Modesty and yards of material were a thing of the past. Instead, Jamie began wearing a shortened version of leggings on days that were warm, leaving her legs bare but for the soft shoes she’d made. Even shirts became something little more than a length of cloth tied around her chest. And as the season changed, Jami continued to teach herself, learn, and thrive in the world around her.
It was two seasons before Jami stumbled upon a clearing some distance from her home. As in finding the boulders, her discovery was made purely by accident.
Within the clearing, Jami found herself surrounded by small, delicate little saplings. All were just about the same height…as if someone had simply walked through the clearing one day and scattered dozens of seeds into the fertile soil to grow.
That day was when Jami discovered that her magic was still deep within her and yearning to be released.
In the two seasons that Jami had been on her own, her magic had lain dormant…as if knowing that she, in part, blamed it for her banishment… But as her bitterness faded into a quiet, serene happiness with herself and her world, her magic had bided its time, waiting for a time when Jami would once more find wonder in its use; for magic, more oft than not, truly did have a mind and will of its own.
Within that clearing, Jami found her magic again.
For a full season more, Jami visited the clearing each and every day, drawn to the growing saplings for some unknown reason, tending them, touching, humming wordless notes that had no song as she watered them and stroked their leaves.
‘Twas on one of the days, as the season slowly came to a close, that Jami was tending the saplings, which were growing amazingly fast under her care, already taller than she was when they had been little more than several inches tall before, that she felt the air stir, and looked up from her task to come face to…well…bark.
Her shriek startled her almost as much as it appeared to startle the tree demon, for even as she startled backwards, tripping over her own feet in her hand and landing on the ground with a decided ‘thump’, the tree demon’s leaves and branches quivered and shook violently, bark scraping and crackling as it shuddered.
And it was even with a more startled shriek, albeit a breathless one, that Jami witnessed a shocking miracle: all the saplings that she had so lovingly tended suddenly trembled, the earth around their roots moving and quaking as they slowly uprooted and began moving. Nearly thirty saplings swayed in a slow, creeping crawl as they moved closer and passed her, inserting themselves between her prone body and the large, fearsome tree demon. Together, they created an impenetrable barrier, their roots entangling with one another, crawling and weaving up each partner’s trunk until there was a solid wall protecting her.
Baby tree demons.
Jami wasn’t entirely certain as to whether she ought to laugh or run screaming for the…er…trees…
What followed was a strange and wonderful experience for the small human girl.
In the slow, immoveable manner of trees, the larger one simply sat there, as if deciding something, and then, without apparent reason, simply shifted away, moving noiselessly back into the forest, vanishing a moment later. And as Jami sat, the saplings unwound from one another and creeped and crawled in their disturbing manner back to their places, their roots slithering back down into the rich soil, appearing as it they had never moved…as if they were not baby tree demons…
It took a long time for Jami to find the courage to move…and leave…
And it took the girl even longer to come to terms with the fact that she had been tending the very creatures which the villagers had claimed would be the ones to see her dead…
Yet in the infinite patience of trees, the saplings waited in their clearing. Waiting for the girl to return. Waiting for her to hum and tend to them. And eventually she did return, her gift refusing to be denied, drawing her back to the baby tree demons that awaited her magical presence.
And in return for tending them, the saplings offered to her a new kind of magic. As time passed, first by seasons, and then by accumulating cycles, Jami was being immersed in the strange magic of the Leshii. Time ceased to mean anything to the girl. One day was no different than the other, and seasons were taken as they came. She ceased to age, although she never noticed. Ever so slowly her body took on an odd kind of movement and speed; eerily similar to that of the Leshii themselves. The guardians of the forest began to speak to her in their maddeningly slow language, and she learned to reply in kind. But perhaps the most revealing of all was the girl’s memory.
She began to retain her memory. The magic of the Leshii swirling around within her, soaking every cell of her body until she remembered as they did, tracing her blood through the ages…picking memories from it. It was then that she discovered that far, far back, yet not so far for the Leshii as all that, an ancestor had been an elf, thereby granting her, a descendant down through the ages, the gift of growing. This was accepted by her in the same manner as it would have been by the creatures she tended.
They called her Vigyaz Puwe-ek. To care for the Trees. Or, a bit more simply, the Tree Sheppard.
In the same way that the Leshii had given the girl once known as Jami their magic and attributes, so did those under her care begin to take on aspects of Jami, albeit in their own strange manner.
Young saplings sprouted with leaves not of green and blue, but with leaves an odd shade of red, taking on the red-gold tints of her riotous hair. Their bark, as they grew older, shaded a hazel brown, green tints layering throughout after the color of her eyes. Even some of her personality seemed to be within them, for the saplings, as they grew old enough to move about and become guardians in their own right, began rejecting all of Man’s intrusions into the Forest; more so than even their elders.
Jami the Tree Sheppard lived quietly, peacefully within the Forest, as ignorant of the Elves as the Elves were of her.
It took three hundred cycles for disaster to strike.
The same storm which had lured the Elvine Queen up onto the highest platform within her kingdom, and which had been to fierce in its fury, also rained its anger down on Jami.
The fire had started so quickly, its blaze so hot that the Tree Sheppard had had no warning.
For all the magic imparted to her, she was no more immortal than the Leshii were. She could burn, and she needed to breathe. Her body was still essentially human in its needs even if it failed to age. She was caught sleeping within her little shelter as the blaze sprung up, smoke so thick, the heat so hot she nearly smothered before waking by way of coughing so hard she lay doubled.
Ash, exploding sap, and fire licked at the world around her, heating the ground and the stones around her, filling the air with smoke and heat, singeing her flesh and curdling in her lungs. The events around her initial survival were murky, most likely a miracle. The Leshii found her sprawled out in a shallow pool of water, her body blackened, terrible burns covering large portions of her small body, and her breathing so thin that it seemed as if she were already dead.
But trees are far more different in their thinking than mortal or elf.
There was still life buried deep in the damaged body. Life that the Leshii presumed could be coaxed forth again if all the dead were carefully pruned away.
Of course, the best creatures at seeing to the pruning and general beauty of the Leshii were the kepä ma waraek. Small forest birds. The creatures that insisted on calling themselves Elves.
The Leshii supposed that they might be these Elves, but in truth, they seemed no more than birds, for all their insistence that they live high within the boughs of the One, building their nests and chirping day and night with their strange little songs.
They were tolerated and even accepted as simply a part of the Forest, for they had their uses…such as pruning.
So it was to the Forest Bir- er…Elves…that the Leshii agreed to carry the Sheppard…
The Rose and the Ruin: Page 4
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