The golden glare of the sun warms you as you lie amid the soft grasses and bracken … the sweet smell of bruised greenery and the rich loam of the earth. A gentle playful breeze runs invisible fingers across your recumbent body, flipping and tugging gently at your clothing. Rich attire you’ve never seen before … in the most marvelous shades
The wind washes over you, and the gentle susurrus seems to speak
Ahhh … there you are, come again, child of Light …
But I see you are changed. The young man I once knew is grown
No more need for the lessons of fairies, it seems.
Then She stepped forth from the golden light …
At your sharply taken breath, She continues
This form is ancient, lush and robust with the youth of the World, long since faded. I cling to it with the vanity of every woman ever born. Do you find me foolish?
She looked down at you, not unkindly
My dear rabbit … poor, scared little rabbit … You need not answer.
The world is turned upside to your eyes, hasn’t it? You see more than most and even that small glimpse behind the tapestries has cost you. It is very nearly too much.
You are surrounded by a struggle of a nature and on a scale that never even occurred to your waking mind, only perhaps in shadows in your nightmares … among with visions of …me?
She laughed lightly.
You know my true appearance and it is hoary and grisly to behold. Some would say I have stayed too long at the party, almost all of my brethren have said at one time or another
Here (she melted into a gentle vision of golden trimmed robes of snow white silk, fair skin and golden hair down to the tiny scattered bluebells at your feet, wound about with pastel taffeta ribands into a shining golden cable as thick as her arm) does this put you a bit more at ease?
She sighed …
Suddenly she swung about and
was pouring amber wine into a pair of golden, jewel-studded goblets from a golden ewer covered completely in a tracery of engravings of leaf and tree, beast and hunter, flower and fruit, and handing one to you
This contest was a part of nature millennia before your Light was pulled forth, but it had gentler context then. There was no malice in the striving in those days.
The Light is a good cause for the future of the Races of Men, but the Darkness is seductive …
And we are the lingering peal of ages past, and some of us do not fade as gently as others … I am fury incarnate over the indignity of having my identity stripped from me by the uncaring hand of Time.
Do you wish to know what is coming and why?
Yes, you know it. You have seen the signs and portents, heard the spirits wailing. The Wild Hunt labors to collect the restless spirits and return them to Spirit, but in time the tide will be too great for even them.
But what drives it?
The Darkness incarnate such as it has yet to be seen in this world.
What does it mean?
We, the Olde Ones, have stood by and watched as our world faded and this new one grew.
The Light is worthy and shows the true path back to Spirit, but it was not the Light that built the Church. It was a dumbshow from the start, and a masterful one at that. The whole world was duped and drawn in.The Light’s hands in the world warned, and then cried out, but never pitted themselves against the Church that claimed to be their own.
All life is sacred, even that of those that Walk in Darkness.
But the Darkness is ravenous in its hungers, insatiable, greedy, gluttonous
The Light of Spirit fills the sight of the mystics
They would go quietly at the hands of the Darkness, so adamant are they not to waste precious lives. But if they go, the Light will be dead at last, finishing the business it began centuries ago, witnessed and chronicled by the elfs. Their gifts, Chivalry and Courtly Love, will die with it, becoming no more than a naive old-fashioned folly.
The Dark is tired of hiding.
It has set the stage and cultivated Vice, or at least the acceptance and even tolerance of it, in the very hearts of the masses. Hope ebbs ever more lowly. The people do not despair… they are insensate…they are numb. Acedia gains the upper hand in the World of Flesh. They look to the ultimate reward in the afterlife, as they should, but cease to care for their circumstances in this life. But it would seem it is not yet quite ready to claim its kingdom.Your excursions and alarums threaten to bring it into the public eye too soon.
Beside you now walks the first holy man of the Light ever to even consider that slaying the followers of the Darkness might be necessary to keep the Light from being extinguished in the end.
What will you do? What will you?
Finally the peril is perceived and now you race to waken the sleep walkers …
And all those who would aid you are become targets.
If you could have one wish, what would it be?
And what would you give to have that wish?
She kneels down and kisses you lightly on the cheek, you catch a whiff of dazzling sweetness, the rarest and most common of flowers, honey and bee pollen, fruit heavy with ripeness, intoxicating to the point of making you swoon … as something small, hard and cool is pressed into the palm of your hand.
Turn thrice widdershins and toss it into the waters and it shall be yours …
The Dark is like the vast beachhead of a surfacing continent he can sense behind him, like the great escarpment of Albion, which he has also never seen.
The Light behind the Lady is bright, unblinking.
He wonders: Is the Dark tired of hiding, or does the presence of the Light hurt it on some level? Is that what we are doing here?
That is not the question he asks.
Out loud, he looks up at her princess-in-ermine, thinking of all the saints in one little wood like wooden monkeys in a barrel, “Why?” he asks, waving at all her wondrous glamour.
She smiles the smile of someone biting too deep into pomegranate. He completes the question, “Why do you stay, then, Lady? It cannot be for despite. That would never have lasted so long, and there would have been none of the Light left in you if it had. I, and the formerly-silly-Marchioness are part of the answer, I think – if not directly.” He feels the summer day and the ripeness of fruit, holds the question like the ripest of peaches: gingerly.
“Though I rage at my diminishment, fading from the minds of the Races if Man, and my vanity us sorely stung, pieces of me linger so long as the pagans remain faithful. A bit of my ancient purpose yet remains. Give my regards to the Macha if you see Her. Ask Wotan how fares Freya. This makes fading by degrees easier to bear. And tells me I still have a role in all this, even if only as a … how did you put it? Fairy godmother.”
“For the hand I gave taken in things, Shanria is better able to weather the storm. Without the woman who us now Lucinda, Shanria is guaranteed to have been destroyed. Having been broken so many times and in so many pieces, it deserves to survive. As for those nasty swords, if you can get in hand those two you and your friend have claimed – and KEEP – that great dark purpose for which they are sought is foiled. And for those that remain hidden, they lie in the ruins of most ancient days, when Shanria struggled to be born – the Century Wars, the Wars of the Hundred Kingdoms.”
Laughter like the tinkling of tiny silver bells fades as the wind passes and lets you rest … and consciousness fades.
On waking, you find a golden coin in your hand. Old. Very old.
And Caudraí thinks: Me and my big mouth.
There, bobbing in the quiet treesong of Rhiannon’s pool, he feels the truth – and the amusement – of his lack of Talent with the World That Is. He wonders if the Light had a purpose in that.
He remembers Bizarre’s kingdom and sword words from the shoals of dreaming. He thinks of the pale roots going down into the dark.
He thinks of the leader of the Light who lived for a Thousand years.
He no longer sees the broad leaves.