A Song Forgotten

A Song Forgotten

A Story by Rowen Cameron
"

Ephiny is one with nature, blessed with its powers and lives in peace and solitude. One night, a stranger seeks her help and all is changed...

"


A gentle wind whispered through the trees as the moon cascaded her bright radiance over the leaves. The forest was alive, the trees dancing with the gentle wind and conversing in the old tongues of wood, leaf and air, tongues that had long since been forgotten by man. Indeed forgotten, but never lost. The song travelled through the darkness, fluid and graceful, before settling around a small, mildly lit hut in the innermost depths. Through one of the open windows, the light of many candles could be seen and the smell of rose water and heather filled the light yellow aura they produced. But it was not that to which the gentle song of the wind was drawn.

A slender figure stood before a small table, on which a mortar and pestle and many flowers and herbs were lying. A loose pale blue dress with a pale crimson sash covered the skin of dark peach and fluttered lightly behind her with the wind. A pendant of opal hung from her neck and her shimmering locks of deep chestnut had been woven into a long thick braid as she attended to her work. Taking small handfuls of lavender and monkshood and placing them in the mortar, she listened to the forest song and let it silently wash over her, like a rolling stream, as she gently crushed the plants into powder. She smiled and began to speak softly, peaceful and undulating, words archaic and of the earth itself.

"What news bring you tonight, messenger of the air?"

The flames of the candles flickered before her, each word reflected in their dancing light.

"The rains will hold for one night more, Ephiny of Misthaven. Proceed with the ritual and at midnight ready thyself for a visitor."

"Visitor? Someone from the village?"

"Indeed, forest-child. One will come to seek thy help, one unfamiliar with thee and thy workings. That is the news I bring, Ephiny of Misthaven. Haleth venan."


The candles became still once more and the messenger of the air departed as it had entered, gliding through the window and up through the trees into the vast sapphire sky above. Ephiny followed it with her emerald eyes as it left, before turning back to the mortar and adding rose leaves and mugwort to the mix. Grinding the mixture, she pondered on the tidings the wind had borne to her. One unfamiliar with thee and thy workings. This was clear enough, as no villager with knowledge of her was desperate enough to brave the forest after twilight. No terrible dangers lurked within the forest, but when superstitions take hold, they hold for a lifetime. This ailment must be most severe, she thought, I will gather more asaleth seeds and blackthorn berries upon my return. Ephiny took down a small vial from the shelf above her and decanted the powdered plants into it with a wooden funnel. She then took a jug of crystal clear water from the shelf and poured a small amount into the vial. The mixture bubbled and hissed inside the glass, a liquid snake writhing in its transparent prison. Ephiny turned her eyes towards the largest of the candles around her, focusing on the fluid movement and drawing its warmth and form into her mind and body. She held the vial out before her and, as if immaterial hands had clasped it, the flame detached itself from the wick of the candle and floated gracefully upwards and into the vial. Slowly waving her hand over the glass, the flame rested upon the liquid and she placed a cork in the top to complete the elixir.

Every full moon, she had performed this ritual. Every full moon, she had taken this potion and a blood red rose to the top of the mountain, quietly chanting the incantations of old, buried the rose beneath the earth and poured the potion upon it. Every full moon, the earth would hiss and crackle and flames of varying colours would appear before her. Her pendant was placed within these flames, and with this, a pledge was made once again. Once more Ephiny of Misthaven became one with the world, its faithful warden and receiver of the infinite wisdom and strength it holds. A true servant of the elements. A true forest mage.

The pledge made and the pendant fastened around her neck, Ephiny returned to her hut, following the river through the trees and carrying the vial, now filled with seeds and berries. As she drew closer to the hut, she saw a shadow through one of the windows, pacing back and forth inside. Epiny proceeded cautiously to the door. She knew she was to have a visitor, but still she felt a wave of unease creeping over her. She applied some force as she opened the door and met the eyes of the pacing shadow. It was an old woman of about sixty-five years, her face creased with age and dark eyes not dissimilar to those of a fox. Despite her weathered face, she was dressed in fine red silk and arrayed with diamonds, rubies and gold. She also wore a costly cloak and hood of black velvet which trailed on the mossy floor behind her. Whoever this woman was, it was clear that she did not wish to be recognised.

"You, girl!"

The woman's voice was throaty and deep and she eyed Ephiny like an insect.

"Are you the woman the villagers speak of? Speak!"

"Ephiny is what I am called," Ephiny replied calmly but firmly "Do you require assistance, good woman?"

"Good woman?!" the old woman snorted loudly. Her words seemed to echo through the hut into the darkness beyond, the delicate tranquility shattered in an instant. She seemed to realise this and, regaining her composure, she said more softly, "I am Lady Cecile De Molaine and I expect to addressed as such."

"Titles are but inventions of men." Ephiny remained composed, her expression tranquil and manner quietly confident. "Beneath them, we are all alike, merely flesh and blood. What is it that you seek?" She motioned to a wooden chair by the table inviting her to sit down. Lady Cecile remained standing and wringing her hands, her stout lower lip beginning to quiver as she searched for the right words, more in defence of her pride than with anxiety from her predicament.

Finally she took a deep breath and, with difficulty, said at last, "I...was told you have...medicinal skills...that you can...cure the sick. That is why I am here." She steadily paced the room again she spoke, the cloak trailing at her feet. "My son, he...he has a high fever and...is in great pain. The physicians cannot determine the cause...or the cure." Ephiny frowned slightly, taking in the information.

"How long has your son been afflicted?"

"Three days now. He went riding in the Western Woods with his servants, against my wishes! When they returned, he was as I have described. And now his skin is yellowing and he is bed-ridden!"

"Were there any visible marks or wounds upon his body?"

Lady Cecile thought for a moment. "No, none. Well...except...I do vaguely recall...two red spots on his arm. No larger than the point of a needle."

Ephiny nodded in acknowledgement, then emptied the vial of berries and seeds onto the table. She studied the items upon it for a few moments, considering their properties and which would be the most effective. She closed her eyes and began to chant quietly, a lyrical spell to cleanse the hut and the ingredients before her. Lady Cecile was starting to become impatient, tapping her foot beneath the rustling red silk of her gown.

At length, she could bear it no longer and barked, "Look you, I come here, with great reluctance, to seek aid for my son who could face death within the hour and all you do is turn your back to me and sing in heathen tongues! Now answer me girl, will you help me or won't you?!"

Ephiny's eyes sprang open and in a flash all of the candles went out, descending the hut into blackness. Trails of smoke billowed through the windows from the blackened wicks. Lady Cecile stumbled back in fear and looked about her in the darkness. The moon was still shining and a single stream of light fell through the window, illuminating the outline Ephiny's slender figure.

She turned her face towards Lady Cecile and, in a voice laced with firmness and dormant fire, she murmured "Lady Cecile, thou comest into my home and ask for my help, yet you show no respect for who I am or what skills I may posess. Everything I undertake while in this room is for a purpose, I am not ignorant to your request, I am making the preparations necessary to aid thy son's recovery. For your behaviour, I should refuse to offer my aid. However I will not allow a young man to die because of his mother's manner."

She reached for the largest candle and she blew lightly upon the wick, causing a flame to appear upon it.

"Now, will thou respect my methods and allow me to continue?"

Lady Cecile felt a cold shiver rise up her back under the bones of her corset. She inhaled deeply and straightened herself up in an attempt to fight against it. With what seemed an enormous effort, the proud Lady De Molaine said very quietly, "...for my son...so be it."

Ephiny replaced the candle upon the table and set to work at once, taking pinches of herbs and plants and placing them in the mortar. She also took two of the blackthorn berries she had gathered and ground these in with the rest of the mix. The berries bled a deep dark red as they were crushed under the pestle. Lady Cecile looked on intently as she worked, her beady eyes watching every movement. Adding a little water to the mixture, Ephiny gently poured it into a small bottle and held it over the solitary candle. When the potion began to bubble lightly, she placed a cork in the top and tied a length of white ribbon around the neck.

"It is done." Ephiny showed the bottle to Lady Cecile, who blinked in amazement. She then took a piece of dried animal hide and, putting two of the large asaleth seeds in also, wrapped the bottle up and held it out before her.

"From what you have told me, I believe thy son has been bitten by a Palhihras, a river snake. The venom is deadly so he is fortunate to have survived as long as he has. When you return, ensure he eats the asaleth seed, then give him half of the potion. It is vital that this is done exactly as I tell thee, his life depends upon it. Do this and your son should be in good health on the morrow. If some of his symptoms still remain, have him eat the second seed and drink the rest of the elixir and all should be well. Do you understand what I have told thee?"

Lady Cecile took the skin from Ephiny and held it tightly under her cloak.

"I understand" she said, but could not summon the will to show gratitude. Having already greatly degraded herself before a forest-dwelling peasant, she had no wish to tarnish her pride any further. She reached into her cloak and pulled out a small satin pouch, saying briskly, "Here is part of your payment. Fifty sapphires. You shall receive the rest when my son is well once more...IF he is well once more." The pouch was placed upon the table and, without saying a word more,  Lady Cecile De Molaine pulled her velvet cloak about her and hurried out into the darkness of the forest beyond.


~*~

The glow of the morning crept through the corners of forest, filling it with an ethereal radiance as the sun began to rise. The sky was a canvas, painted with clouds of crimson, purple and gold with a vast background of light blue. As it rose higher, the bright star shone its gaze upon the trees, waking and greeting them in its silent and intimate manner. The light wove its way along the river, through the rushes and reeds, and finally found the window of the tiny hut. Throught the window, the sun gazed upon the sleeping maiden covered in a snow white blanket, her dark hair loose and tousled about the pillow.

"Morning has come, forest-child. I come to awaken thee."

No other beings could hear these soft words, they had long since deafened their ears. Only the beautiful forest mage heard these words and her eyes fluttered as she raised herself up to a sitting position. Ephiny faced the window and bathed her face in the warm glow, embracing the welcome of the morning. She smiled in thanks to the sun and rose from the bed, then proceeded to dress herself, this time in a dark green long-sleeved dress with a blue sash. Taking a comb and ribbon from a stool by the bed, she began to comb her dark waves, humming to herself as she combed. She then tied the ribbon around her hair at the nape of her neck and fetched a tiny wooden box from under the bed. Inside was the satin pouch filled with glittering sapphires, her payment from the Lady De Molaine. Ephiny frowned, recalling the events of the previous night. Reluctantly, she took three of the pea-sized jewels and tucked them into her blue sash. Much as she did not wish to, she had to venture into the village. She picked up her basket by the door and looking about the hut, she hummed a charm of blessing about it before stepping outside and closing the door behind her.

The village was bustling with activity, it was market day and crowds had gathered in the square to ravage the stalls. Merchants from every corner of the kingdom had come to sell their goods and the square was filled with the smells of rich meat, bread, herbs and rare flowers. A bard stood by the large fountain in the centre, strumming his lute and singing of ancient battles and honourable knights slaying fierce dragons as villagers listened and applauded excitedly. This aura of noise and bustle assaulted Ephiny's senses as she entered the square. She hummed a chant to herself to dull the sounds and already longed to return to the tranquility of her home in the forest, where the only music was the music of nature and the beautiful silent song of the earth. She stopped at a stall selling fresh vegetables and small packets of meat and began to barter with the merchant's wife presiding over it. As she was putting some meat and vegetables into her basket, Ephiny observed that the noise of the crowd had become quieter, the bard had stopped playing. Thanking the woman and turning towards the bread stall, she noticed that much of the people were looking in her direction and talking in hushed voices. As she walked to the opposite stall, their eyes followed her and Ephiny began to hear select words.

Recluse. Mad woman. Blasphemer. Witch.

She continued to hum the chant as she approached the bread merchant. She was not angry or distressed by their words. They are but flesh and blood, she thought, they do not know the truth. Handing a sapphire to the stout bread seller, Ephiny put the loaf in her basket and proceeded to leave the square. Every step she took, she knew the crowd was watching, staring after her. As she passed the village gate, Ephiny stopped for a minute. A sudden feeling of being watched washed over her, as one would think it might, but it wasn't the bulk of the crowd. She could feel a particular pair of eyes within it, watching and studying her, but the number of people in the square prevented her from identifying them. With a sharp shake of the head, Ephiny continued down the path into the forest.

As soon as she re-entered the forest, Ephiny instantly felt more peaceful and content. She drank in the tranquility around her, the gentle bubbling of the stream, the light chirping of the birds. Home. But even as she approached her tiny hut and reached for the door, she could still feel the eyes bearing upon her. She stood still facing the door, trying to sense where her pursuer was hiding. Her breath was deeper but steady as she concentrated.

Finally Ephiny could no longer be silent and called out, "I know you have followed me from the village. Reveal thyself at once!"

After a moment's silence, she heard steady footsteps in the grass and turned in the direction from which they came. A young man of about her own age was advancing slowly towards her. He was fair-skinned with hair of light brown which stopped just above his shoulders and he smiled as he advanced. He wore simple villager's clothes, but around his neck was a scarf of blood red silk with a tiny golden insignia upon it. Ephiny studied him carefully. She did not recall seeing him in the square, but it was certainly his eyes that had been upon her. Small, dark eyes.

"Why have you followed me to my home? Do you require my help?"

The young man smiled again, the roundness of his cheeks softening the animal nature of his eyes.

"No, my lady. You have aided me enough already," he said "Forgive me for pursuing you so secretly. Call it the foolish whim of a curious boy." He gave a short bow to her in apology. Ephiny, slightly surprised at his agreeable manner, returned the gesture with a small nod.

"Thy apology is accepted," she replied calmly "But you say I have aided thee yet I do not believe I know thee."

"Indeed, my lady, you do not," the young man answered "Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Leon. Leon Armand De Molaine." He bowed once again and Ephiny's head rose a little in recognition. De Molaine, Lady Cecile's son.

"I am Ephiny, of Misthaven. You are the son of Cecile De Molaine?"

"Yes, Miss Misthaven. The one and only, unluckily." He laughed heartily and pointed to the insignia on his scarf.

"Ah, then it is pleasing to see thee in good health, sir." Ephiny smiled and bowed her head politely.

"That is exactly why I have come, Miss Misthaven," Leon replied smiling broadly "If not for your aid, I most certainly would not be standing here before you now. You have my greatest thanks." He reached into the pocket of his trousers and added, slightly tentatively, "And my mother's also. She...told me to give you this." His face coloured slightly as he produced a bulging satin pouch. "Fifty sapphires...as was promised." Ephiny looked at the pouch and frowned a little. She directed her gaze upwards to Leon's fair-skinned face. He seemed to be a genuine nature and this was no intended insult to her. Through his eyes, she saw that he was merely offering her the sapphires out of duty; she could sense his heart was pure and his gratitude great.

"Please, sir, keep your money," she said at last "I have no more need for it. Seeing you in good health and high spirits is payment enough." She smiled again and a look of relief swept across the young Lord Molaine's face.

"I am glad you do not think less of me, Miss Misthaven," Leon replied "It was never my intention to offend."

"I beg you, sir. Call me Ephiny, for that is my name." Ephiny gave a small laugh and, opening the door, added, "Should you like to come in?" She motioned with her other hand inside the hut.

"Only, dear lady, if you will call me Leon," he answered with a boyish grin.

"Very well...Leon. Come in." She advanced into the hut, Leon following slowly and lowering himself under the frame of door. Ephiny gestured to the chair, indicating he was welcome to sit. He obliged and sat, quietly watching her as she placed her basket upon the table and decanted its contents into larger baskets beneath it. As he watched her, he admired that every movement was soft and flowing, almost like a gentle wave of the calm sea, as though every movement was sacred. And as he continued to watch her, he felt something stir within him, a warm dulled longing. Not a longing of lust, but more of a desire to discover, to know more of this mysterious woman to whom he owed his life. Her ethereal beauty and grace were indeed undeniable, but this was beyond her outward appearance, deeper and more personal. Ephiny intrigued him in a way no other being could do and he could not simply walk away.

"May I offer you something to drink, Leon?" Her light voice broke into his thoughts and his body twitched slightly.

"Oh er...yes yes, if it is no trouble Miss Ephiny."

Ephiny giggled cheerily and took a jar of herbs and berries to the iron kettle on the tiny stove. She dropped and handful of the contents into the kettle and added the water. As before, Leon's dark eyes continued to watch her like a curious fox, catching every move she made. She felt his gaze flowing over her, but the apprehension she once held was gone. She sensed the eagerness and curiosity within him, a genuine wish to know more about her with no assumption or accusation. A quiet happy sigh escaped her lips and she turned towards him.

"I intrigue you, do I not, Leon?" Ephiny murmured kindly, looking into his eyes. He blinked and smiled at her shyly, a humble fox.

"I...cannot deny it, you do indeed," Leon replied "In a way that I cannot even begin to describe. It is...unusual." The liquid in the kettle began to bubbleand Ephiny poured it into two wooden cups, handing one to him, which he took politely. The sweet fragrance of the tea permeated the hut like an invisible cloud as Ephiny sat beside him.

"You have never laid eyes on one such as I before, have you?" Her voice was calm and searching, as if she were looking into the depths of his soul through his deep brown eyes. "Before today, your life has rarely stretched beyond the walls of House Molaine. Lady Cecile perhaps has great plans for your future and does not want the outside world to affect them. But there has always been a longing in you, a desire to see all that lies beyond those walls, a desire to learn all that there is to learn, with no assumptions or prejudice. And it is that curiosity and desire that led you here."

Leon sat quietly, amazed. How could she know this? he thought I have explained so little to her. He breathed deeply and said, "Miss Ephiny, indeed you are correct. On all accounts. But I pray you, how did you obtain this knowledge, if we have never met before today? I am sure my mother would not have told you. She is not the most giving of mothers...or women." He sipped the tea timidly and the hot sweet liquid filled him with warmth and soothed his rapidly beating heart. Ephiny could sense his uncertainty and she placed her hand over his.

"No, she did not. From no other beings have I gained this information. I gained it from you, Leon. Tis true, you have not uttered a word about this to me, but still you have told me." She looked earnestly into his eyes. "I see that your heart is pure and your desires are true. So I will share this with you. Everything within this realm sings its own unique song. A silent song that now only the most attuned of ears can hear. This song reveals the innermost thoughts and states and, for some elements, it is a form of communication and speech. In times long past, all men could hear and understand the songs, but they have long since forgotten them and their ears are now closed to them. I was born into the ways of the forest and the ways of the ancients and the songs call to me as clear as the speech of man. Leon, the silent song you sing is one of a cage. A being of life and vigour trapped behind a world of walls and restrictions. You long for the world outside the walls and if you could...you would leave them behind."

Leon took her hand in his and held it tightly. He tried to speak, but the words caught in his throat. His hands trembling slightly, he gulped down the rest of the sweet tea, letting the warmth soothe him once again. It was as if she had been a powerful mirror, reflecting his own thoughts and feelings before him. She knew him, before a single word had been spoken.

"You...you are truly...a marvel, Miss Ephiny," he managed at last, his throat dry and his words filled with emotion, "Strangers we are, yet a stranger sees into my heart more clearly than my family or servants. I...I am..." His voice trailed away, his words lost once again. He looked at her hand in his and felt the warm connection between them, like a warm skein of silk wrapped around their hands. Ephiny put her other hand over his and began to sing softly to him, the lyrical ancient words filling the air around them. Although the words were foreign to him, Leon let them affect him, let them speak to him in a way no other words could and his breath became steady again.

"Lord Molaine! Lord Molaine! Where are you, sire?!"

The echoing calls cut through the tranquility like a blade through flesh, causing the young Lord Molaine to start in alarm. As the calls continued to reach his ears, he regained his composure with a deep breath. But still he kept tight hold of Ephiny's tender hand, drawing from her strength and kindness, preserving the moment in his mind.

"Your servants are calling for you, Leon," Ephiny whispered "You should go to meet them."

"Yes...I...suppose I should," he answered slowly "But..." Still clasping her hand, he stood up and raised her to her feet. "Please, Ephiny of Misthaven, I must see you again. No one has shared with me so much and opened the doors in my heart and mind that I never thought could exist. With you, I feel...free. The silent songs you speak of, I wish to hear them as you do. I do not want my ears to be deaf to them. Please, if I come again on the morrow, will you help me to hear them? Will you let me see the world as you do?"

Ephiny looked at the young man before her, his face fair and kind, his soul laid bare upon it. A warmth began to well up inside her as her shimmering green eyes met his.

"Leon Armand De Molaine, you may come to my hut as and when you desire. I will share what knowledge I have, if you so wish to acquire it. My door is always open to you."  She smiled and touched the outside of his hand gently.

"Thank you," Leon replied passionately "Thank you for your promise, my lady." He lowered his head and softly kissed her smooth delicate hand. "Until tomorrow...Ephiny." He let go of her hand and bowed low over his arm to her. She bowed her head in acknowledgement and, with one last lingering smile, Leon left the hut of the forest-mage and hurried in the direction of the servants' calls.

"Until then...Leon De Molaine. Haleth venan."

~*~

The evening was very far advanced before Leon eventually returned to House Molaine with his retinue of servants. He had not wanted to return, but the servants implored him, as it would mean a beating for them if they failed to bring him back. The dark grey walls towered over him as he opened the huge doors and strode into the hall. It was built entirely of shimmering cream marble with two collosal marble pillars at either side of the staircase which lead to the dining room and living quarters. Upon the walls were huge intricate tapestries, depicting the numerous grand descendants of Lady Molaine and her deceased husband. Their faces were stern and grave, much like his mother's, and Leon felt them bearing down on him as he advanced. He had never known his father, the late honourable Lord Horace De Molaine, but looking at the stout figure and angry face of his portrait above the staircase, Leon was greatly relieved about it. But even the overbearing bleakness of House Molaine could not dampen the fire that was now alight within him. New horizons were before him, new things to be discovered and a new friendship to develop. His eyes blazed brightly and his gait was light and vivacious. He was removing his scarf and waistcoat and handing it to one of his servants when a voice boomed from atop the stairs, "Leon De Molaine! Where in creation have you BEEN?!"

There was a rustling sound and Lady Cecile appeared at the top of the marble staircase. The rustling came from a new gown of frilly grey silk lined with silver lace. However, combined with her piled up hair and weathered face, the gown had made her look like an oversized ladies wig.

"I sent you to deliver the girl's payment this morning! Why did you not return until now?"

"That gown does not suit you, Mother. Have them take it back."

Leon was avoiding the conversation and she knew it. She continued the barrage as he ascended the stairs.

"My gown is of no importance, Leon! What have you been doing all this time?!"

"Nothing, mother. I went for a walk about the forest is all."

"Lies! I did not raise a liar!" Lady Cecile's gray face began to colour. "And Duchess Rosaline will not wish to marry one! I received a letter from her father, Duke Aversham, this afternoon and he has given his consent for the marriage to go ahead in three days time. So, at least there is some hope for you yet, my son!"

Leon strode indignantly past her into the drawing room and stood before the great fireplace. He was resolute, Lady Cecile would not quench the fire inside him.

"I will not marry her, Mother." he said with vigour, "I cannot marry her. Send a message to Aversham Manor and tell them I cannot."

Lady Cecile's eyes widened in disbelief.

"This is not a choice, Leon. Duchess Rosaline Aversham is a perfect match for the family, her father has consented and you SHALL marry her in three days time."

"I shall NOT, Mother!" Leon's voice rose in anger. "I will not be bound to a woman who I do not love, perfect match for the family or no."

"Insolent boy!" Lady Cecile grew deep red with rage. "If your father were here, he...I have given you everything you could ever wish for. You have wanted for nothing because of me and you cast it back in my face!"

"I have wanted FREEDOM!" Leon cried with passion, "I have wanted to leave the walls and customs of House Molaine and discover what lies beyond them. To walk towards the setting sun and keep walking. You have kept me in a cage, Mother! The bars might be of gold, but it is still a cage. My heart sings for freedom so loudly, even a stranger can hear it!"

Lady Cecile looked at her son intently. Although the fire from the hearth was reflected in his eyes, she could see a different fire in them, a internal fire. A familiar fire. She sniffed in disgust.

"It's that peasant girl, isn't it?" she said icily, "She has filled your head with illusions and heathen spells! Is it her you now love? Is it?!"

"Her name is Ephiny," he said trying to regain himself "And the only thing she has filled me with is hope and the prospect of knowledge. Something that you have never given me. Something that Rosaline could never-"

"ARE YOU IN LOVE WITH HER?!"

"...I do not know. But with her, I feel free and full of hope and peace. And that is more than I feel in this house...with you!"

He turned to face his mother, his face filled with vigour and anger. Lady Cecile's pursed mouth was open in utter shock. This could not be happening. Her son was in love with a peasant witch, and prepared to cast away everything she had done for him. She took out a small fan and began waving it frantically in front of her boiling face, as tears of anger began to fall.

"I'm sorry, Mother," Leon said quietly "But I will not marry Rosaline. I will send the letter myself so that you are not disgraced. And tomorrow I shall be going to see Ephiny again. It may be that I am gone for some time...I'm sorry."

He watched his mother fanning her face in shock and alarm. She appeared much older, the wrinkles in her face appearing deeper. Eventually Lady Cecile stopped and, taking a few shaky breaths, she said, almost inaudibly, "...very well my son...if that is...what you really want..."

"It is, Mother." His voice was also very quiet and he reached out and softly touched her shoulder of grey silk. She turned her old, tired face to his.

"Will you at least grant me one thing?" she pleaded, "Let me give you the rest of your medicine tonight before you retire to bed? I know you seem well enough, but I want to make absolutely sure the fever does not affect you again. Many things I may be, but I am still your mother and I will always strive to keep you safe."

"I feel perfectly well
Mother, but if you insist..."

"Go to your quarters then, my son. I will follow presently."

Leon nodded slowly and left the room by the far door in the corner. Lady Cecile called for her maid to bring her the elixir and asaleth seed to her, which she did promptly. The maid was about to proceed to Leon's room when Lady Cecile said sharply, "I will administer the medicine this evening, Katya." The maid raised her eyebrows, but said nothing. She gave the seed and bottle to her mistress and bobbed in curtsy before leaving the room. She left so hastily, she did not observe Lady Cecile De Molaine throw the asaleth seed into the all-consuming flames burning brightly in the marble fireplace.

~*~

The following evening, there was no glimmer of the shining sun setting behind the great trees of the forest. No canvas of purple and crimson clouds laced with glittering gold. No emergence of twinkling stars in the endless blue. The sky was blackened with endless clouds of deep indigo and grey and a low rumble could be heard creeping forth from the west. A mighty beast roused from a peaceful sleep. The once peaceful wind now blew fierce and unforgiving, sending great gusts piercing through the forest with a great scream, the trees bending to its power and the leaves rustling loudly. The song of the forest tonight was of anger, of malice of the deadliest kind, and it was heard by only one. Only the young maiden heard the messengers' songs, she who was born of the forest with shimmering locks of chestnut and her skin of darkened peach. Her dress tonight was jet black, but her sash was of the deepest red, deep as the blood that courses through the veins of men.

"Hear me, forest-child, for the message I bring thee tonight is most grave."

Ephiny raised her head slowly and looked deep into the single candle that burned dimly before her.

"Messenger of the air, I know the message that thou hast borne to me this night. The song I now hear is a cry shriller than all the tongues of man. He is dead, messenger. And by mine own hand."

A single tear issued forth from her emerald eye and fell into her soft hand. The wind caught at her hair and caressed her strikingly beautiful face.

"Nay, Ephiny of Misthaven. Not by thy hand did he meet his fate. For behind his cry is the quiet hiss of a viper arrayed in costly silks. Thy instructions were clear as the flowing stream. But the viper is cunning and refuses to be bested by one smaller in stature."

"Then I prithee, messenger, let him hear the hiss of the viper. He is now free and it cannot hurt him more. Let him hear the ancient songs that still silently fill the air. Bear him to foreign lands and let him see their majesty. For Leon Armand was a man of goodness and honour. And House Molaine will no longer blacken his soul."

"We shall, forest-child. His soul we shall carry in our embrace. So weep not. But, hark! Do you hear? They come for you now, Ephiny of Misthaven."

"Then I know what I must do."


The messenger departed once again and bellowed its song of betrayal through the forest. Barely audible behind it were the faint sounds of a crowd coming in her direction. Their cries were of anger and hatred and they were baying for blood. As she saw the flicker of many torches advancing, Ephiny rose from the chair and, chanting quietly, held her hand over the burning flame of the candle. She felt no pain as she focused her gaze on the tiny flame. Within seconds, she raised her hand and the flame rose from the wick and travelled with it, through the air towards her pendant of opal. When it met the precious stone, the flame melted away into it and its warmth flowed through it into her body. The hut was in darkness once more. The rolling thunder became louder. The yells of the crowd came closer and Ephiny began to hear select words.

Murderer. Heathen. Devil's w***e.

Wasting no time, she snatched a rose from a basket by the door and removed her pendant to wrap it around the slender stem. With one last lingering look, she preseved her forest home in her mind and ran out into the night.

Ephiny barely seemed to touch the ground with her feet as she ran towards the top of the mountain, the place she had visited every full moon to perform the ritual. As she ran, she held the rose and pendant close to her chest, clasping her hands tightly around them so the thorns pierced the smooth flesh of her hands and the blood began to flow. At last Ephiny reached the moutain top and, catching her breath, she looked over the vast plains before her, over the villages and towns and down at the fast flowing river far below her. And as the cries of the crowd came ever nearer, her thoughts found Leon. Leon with his dark eyes and fair skin, the man who had followed her though the forest to seek her thanks, the man who had clasped her hand so tightly, the man who had begged to see her again, to learn from her. She could not say if she loved him or not for she had never known the ways of love. But standing there atop the mountain listening to the painful song his soul cried out, Ephiny thought, this ache inside of me, is this how it feels for a heart to be breaking? Her vision became a blur and another tear fell forth and fell upon the petals of the rose.

"Now we have you, murderous witch!"

The words were loud and clear, despite the crushing force of the howling wind. A sheet of light flashed behind the sea of clouds and a great roll of thunder boomed forth as Ephiny slowly turned to face where they had issued forth. The crowd of villagers stood before her, their pitchforks poised towards her and their torches battling to stay alight.

"Before you meet your fate, you will face the victim of your heinous crime!"

The crowd parted in the centre and a familiar figure dressed in rustling red silk came to stand before her. Her eyes were narrowed and black, a cold, conniving, heartless fox.

"There is no victim before me," Ephiny declared boldly "and no crimes are bound to my name. But a crime has most certainly been committed."

"Listen to the witch spew forth her lies!" Lady Cecile bellowed, "My son's body is not yet cold and still she insults him!"

"Look! She even dresses in the colour of evil!" cried one of the villagers, shaking his pitchfork at her.

Ephiny, still clutching the rose to her chest, scanned her eyes over the crowd before settling them on Lady Cecile.

"Thou hast told these people that I am a murderess," she said in a tone that shook them all to the core "and they believe it because they know no better and thy voice is all that meets their ears." She turned her gaze back to the crowd. "But there are other sounds in the air tonight that thine ears cannot hear. It is the sound of the viper arrayed in silks. It is the heart-wrenching death cry of a man who yearned for freedom." With a sharp movement of her head, Ephiny locked eyes with Lady Cecile and, as if she were pushing a blade through her body, said resolutely, "Well...now he is free. And the viper has no more power over him."

A flash of lightning streamed forth from the heavens and the thunder bellowed above them. The blood from her hands began to drip onto the earth at her feet and tiny wisps of smoke rose from where they had fallen.

"VILE HEATHEN!" screamed Lady Cecile in a fit of uncontrollable rage, "You will not infect us with your poisonous words! Good people, see! See how her hands drip with the blood of my son!"

The crowd gasped and erupted into deafening yells and the screaming of curses.

"You shall die tonight, devil's witch!" Lady Cecile shouted, rising above them, "Your only choice now is whether you die by our hands or by the points of the rocks below you!"

As the wind whipped at her long hair and the hem of her flowing dress, Ephiny said nothing and turned her back to Lady Cecile and the throng of persecutors. She walked slowly to the edge and looked to the horizon. She then raised her head to the sky and began to sing, in a voice so loud and full of emotion that the noise of the crowd ceased. There was no spell cast over them, but they all remained motionless as Ephiny voice rose above the howling of the wind and the booming roll of thunder. The words archaic and foreign, a song from the depths of the soul, a song to bare herself to the world.

When she had finished, she turned her head towards them and said quietly, "Cecile De Molaine, thy song will be heard soon enough and a great shadow looms over thee. And to you, good people, remember this night, for if it is forgotten, like a felled tree, you will never flourish more."

And as the lightning lit up the blackened sky, Ephiny stretched out her arms on each side and fell forwards over the edge of the mountain, like a black wave crashing onto the shore. The crowd hurried to the edge and watched as she fell faster and faster. Soon they saw nothing, except a white circle that grew larger and larger in the river below following a distant sound of a great splash. As the ripples receeded, a small number of villagers hastened down to the river to collect the broken body. But no body had washed up on the bank. No body was floating upon the clear water. Nothing. The thunder rolled again and from the sky, tiny drops of water began to fall and the dam of the heavens finally gave way to the power of the rain.

Lady Cecile returned to House Molaine in a state of great anxiety. The words of the witch troubled her and an icy chill ran up her spine as she recalled them: "Thy song will be heard soon enough and a great shadow looms over thee". She stole away to her son's room, where Leon still lay in his bed, his skin still fair and warm, almost as if he were sleeping, and dreaming of being free. She crept towards him and, reaching out to touch him, stopped dead in her tracks, her heart cold with fear. Upon his chest was a single rose and in his hand was the asaleth seed, untouched and untarnished from the all-consuming flames of the hearth.

© 2013 Rowen Cameron


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My very first short story. Hope you enjoy :)

Posted 7 Years Ago



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Added on February 24, 2012
Last Updated on January 21, 2013
Tags: song, forgotten, witch, forest, free

Author

Rowen Cameron
Rowen Cameron

London, United Kingdom



About
Rowen. 27. Actress. Gamer. Writer. Dreamer and a realist in one form. more..

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Chapter One Chapter One

A Chapter by Rowen Cameron