Elqanah – 1st Era
Pre-War of the Races
Draugolë strode into the forest clearing, the elf’s skin warming against the chilling late-summer air as he stepped out of the shade of the forest. The Sun’s rays cast a shine off of his well-maintained black hair and simple silver circlet on his brow.
She had better be here this time, he thought, or I’ll be sending a servant to do this next time, king’s orders or not. The elf’s high brow, pointed nose, and half-lidded eyes gave a natural look of disapproval and superiority, mirroring his soul as he walked over to a small pool of water between two old oak trees. He pulled a pumpkin seed from a pocket in his robes, and his eye caught a snag that a thorn had torn on this trip. He sneered. It was good that these were his old robes. Though they showed no sign of wear, he would be glad to throw out last year’s robes to be rid of them. He didn’t want to be seen in something so old.
Draugolë tossed the pumpkin seed into the water and stepped back to watch. “Hurry up, spirit,” he said under his breath. He hated this task. It was so trivial a thing. While once a young, ambitious Draugolë was excited to be handed such an important task, now as advisor to the king, he felt the job was so far beneath him.
His patience worn thin, he finally shouted, “Yávië!”
Leaves from the forest floor gathered into a pile and swirled as if a whirlwind had started before him. The wind caught his hair and robes pulling them forward as he shielded his face. The leaves swirled up into a cone shape as they turned from their luscious green color into a beautiful blend of orange, yellow, and red autumn colors. As they reached their pinnacle, the top of the cone opened up and the form of a beautiful maiden grew from them. Her long, chocolate-colored hair was capped with a circlet of twisted vines and autumn flowers as her hair grew and cascaded down her beautiful ivory skin. She opened her eyes and her piercing brown irises and her gaze took Draugolë’s breath as it had every year.
“Tunuvu quenuva Draugolë.” As she spoke, the elf felt a cool, autumn breeze on his face and smelt a faint scent of spiced apples.
Draugolë held a sigh of relief that the spirit had finally arrived, his hair and robes still disheveled. “I would hardly call it a good morning, Yávië,” Draugolë replied, preferring to speak in the common tongue rather than the ancient elven language they usually spoke in. He was in no mood for cordiality and ceremony. “I have come to these woods a dozen times this past month. You know that I have other important matters to attend to. I do not like to be kept waiting.”
Yávië smiled innocently, obviously ignoring the elf’s coarse attitude. “The time of my arrival is not for me to decide. I come and go as the Master wills it. It is only you mortal races that believe you have control over His desires.”
“We mortal races,” Draugolë started, a calm anger in his voice, “do have control over our choices. That’s why one can help a beggar, strip him clean, or kill him, whatever they so choose.”
Yávië turned and looked toward the forest, the sun gleaming off of her skin. “This is true. You are the ones foolish enough to incur the Master’s wrath, while we spirits are bound only to act within His will.” She turned her gaze back on him with such intensity that a shiver went down his spine. “I would not trade places with you for all the wealth of the world. One has tried that temptation and failed.”
Draugolë took the opportunity to straighten his hair and robes as she talked. “Yes, well, I quite like the wealth this world has offered me, and I have yet to see this Master of yours. Though I have seen many other spirits.” He looked Yávië up and down indicating her.
Now Yávië was wearing an expression of annoyance. “Have you brought the offering, elf?”
Draugolë curled the corner of his nose in disgust at the degrative tone at which the spirit spoke the name of his race. He knew better than to respond however. Though he was an experienced master of the arcane arts, there was little doubt in his mind that Yávië could tear him apart without a second thought. The tension between the elves and the spirit world was palpable, the elves trusting in the earth to provide all of their answers through the art of KemenGûl caused a natural rift between them and the realms of the supernatural.
The elf pulled an unassuming disc from his robe and opened the lid revealing a glowing green liquid inside. He sat it on the ground and dipped both of his index fingers and thumbs into it. Holding his hand in a diamond shape to his right, he slowly pulled them apart. As his hands separated, an oval-shaped portal appeared, ringed in a light the same color as the liquid on his fingers.
Draugolë gave a disapproving look as his eyes searched in the portal then he stuck his head in. On the other side, there was a vast room with high ceilings and rows of vines on fences down the center. The ceiling was painted with blue skies and storm clouds, and there was rain falling from the clouds. Must be watering day in the Spring Garden, he thought.
When a gardener walked by, he called out to her, “Gardener! Where is my offering?”
The elf searched for the voice and jumped when she saw it was the King’s Advisor. She rushed into another room and quickly came back with a blanket-covered wicker basket. “I’m so sorry, Your Grace. It’s just that you had gone so many times and the spirit hadn’t come that…”
“Keep your excuses,” Draugolë said as he snatched the basket and disappeared through the portal.
Draugolë snapped as he handed the basket to Yávië and the portal closed.
Yávië smiled as she took the basket and gingerly removed the blanket. “Kiwi, passionfruit, cherries, strawberries, and apricots. Oh,” she said as she pulled a purple flower from the basket and put it in her hair. “A hyacinth too. What a nice touch.” She smiled again at Draugolë.
Draugolë put the disc in his pocket and bowed at his shoulders. Someone in that garden actually did something right, he thought as he pondered who must have put the flower in there for the spirit. No matter.
Yávië’s smiled deepened as she smelled the kiwi. A tear rimmed her eye as she sat it back in the basket and inspected the rest of the fruit. “What is she like?”
Draugolë’s brow furled. “She?”
“Spring. I imagine she is lovely. Her flowers and fruits are so beautiful.”
Draugolë was taken aback by the request. This was the first time that the Autumn Spirit had shown so much emotion with him. “We…” He cleared his throat and straightened himself, reasserting his confidence. “These fruits came from the Spring Garden we maintain in Lostariel, not from the Spring Spirit. They are fresh. They certainly wouldn’t have kept all Summer long. And we only have the covenant with you.”
“Pity. I would so love to meet her. Summer is here when I awaken, and Winter is here as I return to rest, but…” She looked up at him and her tears vanished like glimmering glitter. “You have honored our covenant, and so shall I. Relay to Orthorien my gratitude, and the trees will be turned within the week. The forests around Lostariel will be as beautiful as they are every year.”
Draugolë bowed once again and pulled at his robes as he turned back toward the city.
Yávië pulled the flower from her hair and smiled as she inspected it. She began to hum a calming tune as she replaced it, turned toward the forest, and took a bite out of a strawberry.
The leaves of Autumn’s dress rustled and swayed as she walked about the forests of Lostariel. As she looked up into the trees, she took a bite out of a strawberry. Juice glistened as he trailed down her chin and sparkled as it shimmered away into mist around her, leaving her youthful skin as dry as if it had never been covered.
The spirit came to a stop when she reached a giant tree. She smiled as she sat her basket down and stepped closer to the old beech.
“I’ve returned, friend. It is time once again.” The language she spoke was an old one. One that had been heard by very few people of the mortal races. It was the tongue with which she was most comfortable.
Autumn placed the side of her head against the trunk, closed her eyes, and ran her fingers through the grooves in the bark. The tree groaned in what almost sounded like a sigh of relief. “Yes. Rest, child. Twilight is upon us. Let your weariness take you.”
She began to hum, and the tree quivered beneath her touch. She hummed a melodious song that was older than the tree itself. It was a song that she filled the woods of Elqanah with every year. It was a lullaby as old as the earth.
As Autumn hummed, the tree’s limbs began to sag, and the leaves turned to vibrant shades of golden bronze. The wind swept up and carried her song deep into the forest, and all of the trees along the path followed suit, shifting to various shades of beautiful orange, yellow, and auburn.
The spirit kissed the tree and stepped back, looking into its branches. “Good night, dear friend.”
Picking up her basket, she turned back into the forest. As she began walking, the volume of her melody grew to unnatural heights, as if the forest around her carried the notes too. She walked about with a smile on her lips, and soon the entirety of the forest had taken on the beautiful shades of Autumn.
As Autumn stepped out of the forest, she finished the last bite of the fruit from her gift. She sat the basket on the ground and placed her hands on both sides. The wicker untwisted and sank into the earth along with the rinds from the fruit, returning to where it had come from.
When she stood, a giant, monstrous form landed before her, shaking the ground with its might. It let out a mighty roar sending frost bellowing around her and whipping her hair about violently. As the torrent went on, she stood staring at the beast without emotion.
When it had finally finished roaring, a mist evaporated around her, the beast’s shape finally taking form. A mighty dragon towered over her, its scales shimmered like ivory and its eyes glowed deep blue. Its breath was frost and its glare carried death.
“Bow before me, Autumn. I am the ender of life, and my kingdom is nigh.”
Autumn stared at him without blinking for several moments. “Your ambitions grow. Your reign has not yet come, Winter. Now is my time. The mortal races are harvesting, and you have no power yet.”
“My reign grows, Empress, as yours diminishes. As each day passes on this age, your time grows shorter as mine grows longer. The Time of Winter eats at your kingdom, and soon you’ll be no more.”
“If the Master wills it,” she replied. “But I have seen no such decree.”
Winter grinned. “You need no decree. Look around. Each year you wake later, and each year my power returns sooner. Soon, you will wake no more.”
“Temper your ambitions, dragon. You know what happened to the spirit that betrayed Him. Do not overextend your reach lest you join him in his punishment.”
Winter roared again. “Keep your commands, Empress! They will mean nothing anyway. You will see. Your eyes will tire and your limbs will grow weak, and I will return sooner this year.”
The dragon beat down his mighty wings as he lifted back into flight. He flew with intensity and before long he had disappeared in the mountains he called home.
Autumn stared after him for some time. A cool breeze stirred her hair, strands drifting on its current reminding her that it was still her time. She couldn’t help but wonder if Winter was right though. Would he ultimately overtake her? What was the Master’s plan in diminishing her reign? She smiled and her heart warmed as she remembered Him. It didn’t matter. Her time was His to command.
Autumn returned her gaze to a forest on the horizon, still lush with Summer green. A rabbit leapt in the tall grass. The field before her carried the promise of sweet smells, laughter, and life. Her time was now. She began her walk to the other side of the field where she would sing her song for as many trees for which she had time.