Chapter Thirty-Five

on July 9, 2010 in Evermist

© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Thirty-Five

Eli stood before a massive stone door.  Reaching out, he ran his finger along the intricate patterns depicting trees, bushes and grass.  It struck a chord in his memory, this image of a Great Forest.  He shook his head, trying to remember where and when he’d seen anything like this.  Even the tapestries along the walls of the Keep did not have the level of detail he saw here.

The Wall stretched as far as he could see left and right, the door set within the stone and ending just at the edge of the light above him.  It made no sense for it to be here.

“Have you gone through?” asked a voice.

“No,” he answered.

“You should,” said the voice.  He felt a hand press against his back, giving him a shove forward.  He lost his balance, toppling towards the door.  Raising his hands, he tried to stop himself from slamming face-first into the stone and found that he stumbled forward without ever hitting it.  Warmth spread across his skin and he lowered his arms to see that he was standing on an impossibly ancient stone, one of thousands forming a road twice as wide as any he’d ever seen.  Above him a blue sky replaced the canopy of leaves and a bright sun caused him to blink and squint.  Looking South, he saw that the road stretched nearly to the unfamiliar mountains on the horizon, cutting a swatch through the Great Forest surrounding him.  To the North, it disappeared into that same Forest, swallowed by trees older and larger than he was used to seeing.

He had a feeling that he needed to keep moving.  Since he saw nothing to the South but imposing mountains, he chose the Northern route and began to walk.

The city was hidden in the Trees, or a part of the Trees, and yet was of the stone as well.  It didn’t make sense, but it did.  He shook his head, closed his eyes and looked again.  His eyes tried to focus on details, but everything seemed to blur, fade and resolve again.  It caused his eyes to burn so he looked down, noticing for the first time that he held something in his hands, something made of wood.  He tried to remember what he was supposed to do with it when someone touched his shoulder and there was a spark-

Xanh turned and smiled at Alia, her hand upon his shoulder.  Her excitement was infectious, and today was a very important day.  Together, they watched as his father and the Human interacted.  It was strange, seeing someone so small, so petite, walking beside his father.  They did not communicate normally, for she did not speak their language, nor they hers.  Instead, they seemed to be learning from one another as they walked and pointed to objects, speaking single words to identify what it meant to both.  In this way, his father had told him, they would be able to communicate given some time.

The need to communicate was imperative in this situation – there had already been several instances over the past season of the Humans trespassing on sacred grounds, attempting to settle areas tended by the An’lo’ahn for centuries.  The entire Forest was filled with tension over their ignorance and blood would be spilled if they did not learn.

“She’s their leader and she’s shorter than I am,” Alia whispered, causing Xanh to smile briefly.  All of the Humans were smaller than they were, they were just different, and that’s what he kept telling himself, they were different.

“That bothers you?” he whispered back to her.  They were part of a large group of both Humans and Ansha who followed the ancient road, framing the sides to watch the interaction as it weaved through both the Forest and the city.  The An’lo’san kept their distance but their presence surrounding them could be felt; they were nervous as well.

“It makes it hard to take them seriously,” she whispered back and he nodded.  When they looked no bigger than a child, that did make it difficult.

His father had paused and the entire group paused with them.  A sapling had broken through the ground a dozen or so paces off the road and he walked towards it, the Human leader taking three strides for every one of his just to keep pace.  Smiling, his father gestured to the sapling as she repeated his words and he repeated hers, both nodding as if to understand.  As he raised his hand and began to hum softly, the Human’s eyes became wider than Xanh had ever seen while he infused the sapling with strength, bringing color to its leaves and helping it grow a few hands taller.

Xanh closed his eyes for a moment, reaching out to sense how the roots of the sapling had stretched deeper into the rich earth, intertwining and mixing with the roots of a thousand others and through them, a thousand more, receiving the nutrients and fortification necessary to grow stronger and taller.  With a smile, he nodded, always impressed and humbled by his father’s Voice.  He opened his eyes again and saw that the Humans had become quite agitated by it all.

Still, it was necessary.  They needed to understand the Balance and the Cycle if they were going to live in Harmony.

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