In the dew-drenched radiance of an early spring morning, a sylph touched down gingerly on a flower bud. She reached in a tiny, translucent finger and tickled the bud, giggling in a chime-like timbre as her touch coaxed out a wave of infinitesimal seeds. With a wave of her free hand, she conjured a slight breeze, scattering the seeds across the floral field, hoping to fill in any gaps hungry birds and tiny mammals had made. Spring was the season of renewal, after all, after winter where old and weak things were discarded to be replaced or returned anew once the frosts thawed. The eternal dance of the spirits made sure that this cycle continued. The sylph was just one tiny part of that. And even now, she could tell that other parts were moving. She could sense traces of obscure magic known only to the Cenairot, or time spirits, at work in this meadow. The sylph cocked her head, wondering what it could all mean. Every being in Estrevaire had noticed the new darkness infiltrating the world, a slow rot grown from a corrupted seed planted a millennia ago. But whenever Cenairot were involved...well, if the stories were anything to go by, things were about to get real interesting. 

Curious as could be, the typically flighty sylph decided to stick around. Perhaps she could catch a glimpse of what the time spirits had in store. Come to think of it, she had heard the memories inside flowers as she went about her duties here. Hadn't there been something about a girl imprisoned here? No, not imprisoned; it hadn't been anything so dark as that. What had the flowers called it? A hibernation, that was it! If that didn't have the stink of the Cenairot all over it, nothing did. 

Wysteria Morningsong stepped from the tiny log hut, taking a deep breath to bring the scents of spring back to her nostrils. It had been so long since she'd last experienced such a heavenly aroma; two hundred and some odd years, in fact. But she didn't have any way of knowing that. After all, she'd been asleep that whole time. Now, it seemed the world needed her again. It had called and would, of course, be answered. But first...you couldn't fault a girl for stopping to smell the roses, could you? Wysteria bent down, not caring about the dew soaking into her the plain linen robe she'd woken in. She set down the empty teacup, which she'd found full and steaming, and sweetened with just a hint of honey, the way she liked it, by her bedside. She wanted both hands to caress the soft blossoms that bedecked this gorgeous field. As she knelt, absorbing the sweet sensations of the living world, unwittingly being observed by a whole host of spirits, the sylph included, she began to hum a soft tune. It was one taught to her years and years before, and across the way, she could see the flower associated with it. Streiaciia, or Star-Glove, it was called. It was a white puffball flower that shone faintly white in the new moon, as if in defiance of the darkness. That was always your favorite, wasn't it, Fennali?

I remember the bouquet you gave me on our wedding day, all those years ago. You told me that a million of them could never shine half as bright as my eyes. Wysteria fiddled with the groove in her finger, worn in by many years of love, deeper and more robust than the most potent whiskey, and twice as fiery. Tears ran down Wysteria's face as she recalled her wife, now buried in a cairn like her Rhino clan ancestors, surrounded and covered in a vast blanket of Streiaciia. Some day, Wysteria would dance with Fennali again along the arms of constellations. Today was not that day, however. She had a duty to complete. Fennali had always been a patient woman; she could wait a few more millennia. 

Wysteria rose to her feet and scooped up the empty cup, banishing tears with a seraphic smile. Spring was the time of rebirth, which meant Wysteria could start fresh. She followed a path through the meadow that she knew well, being extra careful with her step to avoid crushing any flowers. Before long, she could hear the laughing stream that filled the pool around the sacred tree, and with it, the deific song that only one so deeply attuned to nature could listen in on. It was deep and resonant, speaking to a time long before the world as it was known when Quellaphae the Heart Tree had first been planted. It had been a time of entropy when its pink-tinged bark and pointed purple leaves had stood as a symbol of rightness and order in the world. To this day, it stood as a guardian of these same principles. Its song is still healthy and vibrant. I wonder who's tending to it now?

She didn't have to wait long to find out. Dwarfed by the massive roots of Quellaphae—the thinnest of which was a meter across—was a singular lithe figure, which seemed to be plucking weeds from the loamy earth around the trunk. It immediately stiffened and stilled at the sound of her approach. Wysteria's smile broadened; very impressive! As always, she'd been reverently silent on her arrival to the great tree, but still, the woman had noticed her presence.

"No need to halt your work on my behalf, good caretaker. I'm merely pleased to see Quellaphae in such good hands. It's only just past Tea Hour, and you're already hard at work!"

There was a noticeable smile in the woman's voice as she stood and brushed dirt from her pants. "And good morning to you, Lady Oracle. I trust you slept well?"

"Very well. There is nothing like a two-century-long nap to make a woman feel lively as the birds and the bees!"

The woman turned, and immediately, Wysteria was hit with a wave of sweet nostalgia. Her long hair pulled into two tight braids, looked as soft as silk and vibrant like cloth-of-gold, and her eyes, filled with deep care for all living beings, were a familiar emerald shade that sent her heart beating fast all over again. "That's good to hear, lady Oracle. You'll have your work cut out for you, I believe. Oh, and I believe my great grandsire would smack my soul if I dared forget to relay this.” She scrunched up her brow, as if trying to remember what she had been told to say. ‘Welcome back to the world, dear Wysteria. I'm afraid we've left it a bit worse for wear. But, as I learned from years of working at your side, you're quite adept at cleaning up primordial messes. It shouldn't be an issue for you. Best of luck and love eternal, Brynhildr!" 

"She looks and sounds so much like you, my dearest friend, but I'm sure you know that," Wysteria whispered into the empty air. "You live inside the tree now, don't you?" On the breeze came a sound that could have been a bug or a leaf caught just the right way, but Wysteria chose to believe it was him, observing the interaction in his elemental state, which he'd achieved shortly before she went into stasis. "Knowing you, you told your children to pass that down to theirs so that whenever one of them met me again, they could say that." No answer was forthcoming, but Wysteria got the sense she was right. She smiled helplessly. Alright, let's see what you've left me with. With any luck, it will be enough to save the world yet again.

Wysteria closed the distance between herself and the half-elven woman, extending a hand and pressing it into hers. "Please, after the first hundred years, I grew weary of the formality. Just Wysteria will do."

The pretty young woman bobbed her head, a pale blush coming to the smooth white cheeks. In those cheeks, Wysteria could see signs that this woman smiled well and often. She must make others quite happy when she graces them with her presence. Anything else just wouldn't be fitting of Brynhildr's descendants. "Wysteria it is then." She bowed hastily. "I apologize if I seem nervous. There are many stories about you, and many were passed down through our family as if they were our own. Meeting you is such a huge honor. I'm sure the other druids will be equally excited. Um, is it true that you devoured a time god?"

Wysteria couldn't help but give a very unladylike snort of laughter. "Is that what they're saying now? I mean, it's not strictly untrue. I don't know how to answer that, to be honest. Give me some time to think, and I'll get back to you."

"Well, if the stories are true, then you'll have plenty of it!" 

Wysteria blinked and then let out a healthy chortle. "We'll get along swimmingly, I can tell already. Now, what was your name? I don't believe you've said it."

The half-elf woman clapped her hands over her mouth. "Look at me. You've been asleep for more than four times as long as I've been alive, and I'm the one forgetting my manners! Please, call me Lyfallah or Leafah for short. If you'd woken in time for morning tea, you could have met my wife, Allegra. She's out reporting to the druids as we speak.” Leafah gestured vaguely out of the sanctuary "As you may have guessed by the fact that you're awake right now, things have been pretty hectic. Everyone will be glad to see you back. Not having our spiritual leader around hasn't been easy on morale."

Wysteria put a comforting hand on the younger woman's shoulder. "I've always been averse to being the gloating crow upon the parapet, so I'll only reassure you. Whatever is going on here, fear not. Our order has withstood far worse, and we'll do so again. I believe in our strength...What’s the matter?"

Leafah was staring at the Tan'yuivar Oracle with open-mouthed admiration. "I see why Great Ancestor Brynhildr held you in such high esteem."

"If a few words were enough to win your respect, I'm a mite worried about the state of my precious order," Wysteria joked lightly. "But, in all seriousness, Lyfallah, I'm excited to work with you, your wife, and all the other wonderful men and women. Quellaphae has brought us together, just as it brought together your great grandfather and his wife. We’ll band together to protect Quellaphae and Estrevaire as a whole, and we won't fail."

"We don't have a choice," Lyfallah said gravely. "Because it's us, or the world."

"Precisely." Wysteria graced the woman with another smile. "And if you fight as well as you brew tea, I'm not worried at all."

April 17, 2021 12:33

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