Urban Fantasy Speculative Fantasy

*featuring characters from "Escaping the Fool Virus" and "A Spirit Set on Revenge"

Aayan knocks gently on the trunk of the ancient tree before him. As a prince of the sea, his knowledge of things on land was limited, to say the least. This usually didn't bother him. But... he glances from his mother Kalena to her dear friend Iolana. The two wore identical expectant expressions. "So." He draws the word out. "This is what you wanted to show me?"

Kalena takes hold of her son's hand and squeezes it gently. "Sweetie, I love you, and you're new on land, but we don't knock on the Sacred Tree." When she took on this mission to avenge her people and reclaim this island, she never fathomed that she would feel at home here again. Let alone have her son here with her. Aayan was her youngest, and the one that was most like her, and thankfully, farthest in personality from his father. His escape from the sea gave her the chance to be with her son. And without his father or the sea court hovering over them. 

"Oh." Aayan turns his hand under hers to link their fingers. "Right. Sorry."

Iolana does her utmost best not to laugh. It's adorable how Aayan looks ever so slightly abashed.

Kalena fluffs back her son's dark hair. "This tree has been on this island since the beginning. Since a time when our people lived on land, and before we went below the ocean's surface. But this tree never lost its meaning. Even Iolana's own people, before they cursed her, celebrated the life and spring that this tree brought." Kalena gestures to her friend. "And we felt with the tree's renewal it was time for you to learn about it."

"If you're interested, I can teach you some of my people's dances," Iolana offers. She tips her head back to watch the flowers' soft fluttering dance in the ocean breeze. "I've always felt at peace here."

"Wait, hang on, we didn't always live in the ocean?" Aayan asks. His mind rejected the idea. In large part, thanks to his dad's frequent lessons about the family history.

"I knew you were never listening," Kalena says, eyeing her son. She often told her four children the stories of their people during the days when they all lived on this island. She never left out the betrayal their god faced that drove them to leave humanity for the sanctity of the ocean. "In the beginning, our people were as one with this island as the humans are today. The deities and the humans once lived together in harmony until a betrayal by our god's closest human companion drove us to leave the island. We would then go onto to spend the next several centuries below the ocean's surface. Even with the volcano that erupted, humans seemed to carry on. Those people eventually gave way to Iolana's people."

There was the faintest niggling of recognition in the back of Aayan's mind as his mother spoke. He squints at her thoughtfully. "Dad's lessons may have overshadowed yours a bit," he admits.

Iolana clears her throat diplomatically. "My people were born of the survivors of that volcanic eruption," she says. "Our stories alluded to a time before, but that Great Disaster stole the focus of our theft." It was so long ago now, but Iolana still remembers the first time she heard someone tell of a time before the Great Disaster.

"Our civilizations actually had one thing in common. This tree. We called it different names, but both of our people gave thanks to it, and it was at the center of our communities," Kalena says. She strokes the tree thoughtfully. "It was always a place that made me feel at home. As a girl, I would sneak outside under the moon and climb all the way to the top." She arches her head back to look up. "The top was a lot shorter then."

"We would visit it for every festival," Iolana says, her gaze soft. She joins Kalena by the tree and stretches to reach one of the lower hanging branches. "Our marriages took place here, and we would bury a cutting with our beloved dead." She glances at Kalena. "Did I ever tell you that?"

"You did. I believe your grandmother's cutting was buried …" Kalena looks around before deciding which place she was almost a hundred percent certain was correct. "Here?" She points to an area to the right of the tree that was overgrown with sticky weeds that had small thorns on the stems.

"That's right." Iolana gestures for Aayan to follow her over. "Grandmother's proximity to the tree was a special request, granted only because of her role in the community."

"I'm standing over dead humans?" Aayan recoiled.

"No," Iolana assures him. "It wasn't enough to be royalty, or merely valued by our people, to be buried here." She touches one of the thorns and watches as a bead of blood wells up at her fingertip. "You had to give yourself utterly to your people to be considered for a spot like this."

"And if you were standing over dead humans, you'd be respectful. Besides, humans visit their dead all the time. Some even keep them on a shelf at home." Kalena bites her lip thoughtfully. "I never understood how they'd fit on a shelf, though."

"We burn them," Iolana says idly, distracted by her quiet happiness. Her grandmother loved these thorns above all other plants. It seems the tree truly blessed her to allow them to grow over her grave.

Aayan stares at her aghast. "You..."

"Humans are very different." Kalena nods as if she was sure of this fact. "it's a whole tradition. Besides, ours wouldn't work up here because we aren't in the water." She takes a deep breath, taking in the mix of honeysuckle, blossoms, and pine that seemed to linger around the tree. No one could determine its species, and Kalena always thought that was part of its magic.

"They're dead first," Iolana says, finally noticing Aayan's horror. "We don't burn them alive."

"That's a little better, I guess," Aayan mutters.

"See all better." Kalena pushes her son forward. "Now, commune with the tree." She puts her hands on his shoulders and guides him up to it. "I think you'll find the power in it." She was excited to have a chance to celebrate the tree's renewal again. There was nothing like it, and from what she gathered from Iolana, it hasn't happened for a few centuries. Iolana's curse allowed seeing the changes within the island over the centuries and saw firsthand the decline in the celebration of the tree's spirit. 

"What am I supposed to feel?" Aayan asks, awkwardly placing his hands on the tree as instructed.

"Thank you so much for letting me be here for this," Iolana enthuses.

"Just be won with the tree." Kalena smiles brightly. "Close your eyes and clear your mind. It'll speak to you. It always sounded a little scornful to me."

"You're a scornful spirit. Of course, it sounds scornful to you," Aayan mutters. He closes his eyes and does what he can to quiet his thoughts. It takes a bit. His mind doesn't like to be quiet.

Iolana shuffles soundlessly to Kalena's side, and the two hold hands while they watch.

Aayan gasps as a foreign presence appears. It's welcoming and a little sad. He pushes towards it with his mind and is enveloped in the warmth of a mother's arms. Love and happiness dance around him. He can feel the tree's pride in who he is just as he can feel the gentle admonishments of a wise one who sees better than you how you can improve. Aayan opens his eyes and turns to his mother, awed.

She cups his face and grins. "See, and now your soul is bonded with the tree as well. And also, I wasn't scornful then. Though I was rebellious." Kalena boops her son's nose with her finger. "And now you can take part in the renewal. Once Je gets here. Even during his time celebrated the tree."

"Does that mean I'm going to grow up sad?" Aayan asks, leaning against his mother.

"Not necessarily," Iolana says. "The tree always struck me as mischievous, and look at me." She pats her chest. "My defining trait isn't mischief."

"Iolana was cursed for centuries and then turned her curse into her weapon. She now controls the island's nature and wildlife." Kalena gestures at Iolana. "That is what you should take a lesson in, right there. I may be a vengeful spirit, but that is true strength." She nods assuredly. She hears a low whistle. "Je is here." She smiles brightly.

"Always butting in when I'm preening," Iolana complains good-naturedly.

"Am I late?" Je calls. He appears suddenly in the shadows between two bowed trees.

"Little bit," Aayan says.

"You're just in time, my dear." Kalena greets her headless horseman with a kiss. "Where you a redhead this morning?"

"I was," Je confirms, touching his forehead to hers. "But then I came across this blond man throwing his wealth around and, well, long story short, I'm blond now."

"I like the blond." She fluffs his hair. "We just told Aayan about the Sacred tree when our civilizations were going. Would you like to share yours now?" Kalena hugs his arm to her and takes her son by the hand.

Je presses a quick kiss to Kalena's cheek before sweeping Aayan a bow. "It would be my honor."

Iolana watches Je with interest. His people had not settled long before the bulk of them moved on. Thinking about it amuses Iolana. Je seems to have inherited his people's wanderer heart.

"My people are travelers," Je begins. "It isn't that no land suits us, as we hold many, dear. It is more like..." he gazes at the Sacred Tree, searching for words. "...a calling," he says finally. "Our scholars once speculated that we were more intuitive than others, and perhaps that's true."

"Your ancestors sought the Sacred Tree out as if they knew where it was beforehand," Iolana says.

"It is like that everywhere we go," Je says, nodding.

"A certain knowing. Sort of like how we met, and you just knew that you needed to emerge from the ocean where I just happened to be passing through?" Kalena asks with a sweet smile.

"Yes," Je says, reaching for Kalena. He trails his hand through her hair and cups her cheek. "Though my pull to you was stronger than any I've felt previously."

"If we could not talk about my mother's love life," Aayan cuts in loudly. "That would be great."

Kalena whispers, "We're embarrassing him." She grins at her. "Very well, dear." She opens her mouth to continue with her speech about the ceremony that comes with renewal when a voice cuts her off.

"I told you this was the right direction," a voice echoes through the brush. "You were taking us back to the beach!"

"There was something there," a second voice argues. "I'm telling you, we should have checked it out!"

"No... you were going to the beach. This is just like when you took us into the thorn bush. I still have a scar," the first voice quips. Then huffs.

"Should we hide, or?" Aayan asks, trying to pinpoint where the voices are coming from.

"It's not my fault you scar easily!" The second voice retorts.

Iolana taps her chin. How best to deal with strangers? She grins and reaches out to the surrounding vines.

"Hey!" The second voice cries. "What's - why are you trying to trip me?"

"I did not! But don't think I didn't think about it." The first voice comes in the form of a young woman with kinky hair that hung down past her shoulders in dark brown locks. "And there's the tree! Told you - oh … people. Hello people. We are tourists that are sightseeing this beautiful island."

"Yes," the second voice agrees. A dark-skinned, dark-eyed young woman whose black hair falls in loose twists to her shoulder blades steps out. "We are completely ordinary tourists." She jerks her wrist free from a twining vine, turning the movement into a wave. "So nice to meet you."

"Yes, we are here admiring this lovely scenery." The first woman gestures at the tree. She pats it on the side. "So lovely."

Kalena squints at them. "Wow..." She looks to Iolana. "Are we that obvious?" She gestures at the two women.

"I'm afraid so," Iolana sighs. Another reason they don't interact with the islanders.

"Hey," Aayan waves at the newcomers. "You don't have to pretend with us. We're not normal either."

"I'm a water spirit." Kalena steps forward. "She was cursed. That's my son. That's my headless horseman... well, he has a head right now. But he doesn't always." She gestures at each of them, then finishes by giving all of their names.

"I'm Kailua," the first woman says. "We're dryads. We went to sleep about a hundred years ago, and we were supposed to wake up by the tree, but someone chose the wrong part of the island." She gives a narrowed look at her companion.

"You said to pick the part where the energy was the strongest," the second woman argues. "You gave poor directions." She flashes a smile to the others. "I'm Tua."

"I did not give poor directions. You gave poor listening," Kailua retorts. "We awaken every year for the renewal of the Sacred Tree's energy and life."

"Yes, you did," Tua nudges Kailua. "Anyway. We'd like to pay our respects."

Kailua says through gritted teeth, "did not." She looks at them. "I hope we aren't interrupting."

"You aren't." Kalena gestures them forward. "Do join us. I remember when it was the entire island celebrating this tree and all around were flowers and you could see the ocean in every direction." This was before it had become so overgrown with woods and brush. During her youth, the land around the tree was considered just as sacred as the tree itself. It was kept cleared out and with a pristine appearance. 

"It was flat?" Je asks, amazed. He looks at the trees all around them. "I can't imagine it."

"It was spectacular. In fact, we had very few other trees. Just groves, fruits, gardens, flowers." Kalena sighs thoughtfully. Remembering the past always gave her a mix of emotions. She lets out a soft gasp at the sight of a sudden bloom on the right branch of the tree. "It's time."

April 22, 2021 05:58

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Gwen C.
16:56 May 18, 2021

Great story! I love it.


LM Konkel-Dixon
02:10 May 20, 2021



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Show 1 reply
19:05 May 03, 2021

Good story


LM Konkel-Dixon
20:33 May 03, 2021



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