The city of Antaré was so beautiful to Emmeline, and to think all her life it was but a single day from her home. The elves who lived here called it the Shore of Forever or the Kindly Isles. Long ago a human hero stumbled upon the Isles and during his visit did some great deed for the royal family and the people. It has never been forgotten, of so the rumor said. Even today, on the far tip of the Upper Isle where the mists give way to the sea, a small fortified outcropping is manned by Thalassan paladins to Aarith, including the Just like Sister Typhon Ne. But other than thatnfew Thalassans and none of anyone else visit this place. The mists ensure that.
Magus Vanawë walked up to Emmeline, who was marveling at the sublime beauty of the place where the river met the sea. Since she had arrived little Sevé was nowhere to be found, having taken off into the forest where she thought she espied other fey. “I saw your little friend. She’s up there,” the wizard pointed to the top of the Great Mother Tree. “We call the tree Ametuoreë, the Mother of the Green. She was planted here long, long ago. She is thousands of years old.”
Emmeline looked up at the distant Tree. “She is such a powerful connection to the Otherworld. Has she always been in the care of your people?”
“For a time yes. The Mother Trees were a gift of the First Ones after the Sundering. They are our anchor and a reminder of the songs of long ago when there was not an Otherworld, just this one. Ametuoreë is the spirit of this land. As long as she is here, the Longago is still here as well. Yet, my people are fairly new. We are a blend of the descendants of ancient High Ones (the children of the First Ones) and the wild elves of the forest who fled the invasions of men. The last of us came here over 400 years ago.”
“Is a fey spirit also attached to Ametuoreë, aware of the people around her?” Emmeline asked.
She laughed a bit, “of course she is aware. But she isn’t ‘attached’ to Ametoureë. She is the Mother Tree. The First Ones can take any form and she took this one. They say she long ago would emerge at dusk and dawn to commiserate with the first elves that came here – her children in a very real sense. When I am powerful enough, I may journey through her to the Otherworld and visit her in the realm of the undying.”
Em was still looking at the massive tree in the distance. “May I visit the tree? I don’t know if Mara is aware right now but if she is I think it would be good for her.”
The elf nodded, “Of course. The only rule we ask of the rare outsider to visit is to not to bring harm to her, nor to cast any foreign magics. She is the center of wild magical energy and can be as whimsical as any fey. But you may touch. Please follow me.”
Vanawë led Emmeline up a curving stair toward the base of what looked to be a two hundred foot tree which itself was almost 30 feet wide at the base. At one angle an enormous ancient face could be almost discerned in the moss-covered wood, while at another angle it was gone.
“Lara, once Mahryswenifar,” Emmeline murmured in the sylvan tongue. She didn’t know if any unborn child could be aware of anything outside the womb, but she thought they could feel what she felt. “This is your kindred spirit, Ametoureë.” She knelt at the tree, reached out, and touched a thick, gnarled root. “My son,” she continued in the same murmur, “like this tree, your sister is special. Remember how this feels and remember you and I must cherish and protect her.”
Emmeline could feel a ‘presence’. At first it was a sublime feeling of a connection to the All, not an individual being. Like looking at a an admired artwork for the first time in reality or meeting a personal hero who turns out to live up to the hype. In her core she felt a stirring reacting to this sublime experience.
Emmeline stayed in place, giving herself time, and propped herself there at the foot of the massive tree. She smiled, then looked at Vanawë. “May I sit here a while?”
She answered, “All the time you need. I must attend to Kalista and reach out to Archmagus Revan. Some questions I have. Not a pleasant experience, but one I should do.”
She nodded and left Emmeline by the tree. Other elves sang in the distance.
Emmeline scooted around a little until she felt comfortable. She leaned back and slowly relaxed by taking down her mental guard she seemed to always be worrying over these days. It was one thing to have to protect oneself. But here, she didn’t feel the need to. After a bit, she may have drifted off to sleep.
A little elf girl nudged Emmeline awake. “Hello lady. You fell asleep.” It was dusk.
Em looked around and then smiled. “Oh. I’m sorry. Is Kalista okay? Where do I need to be?”
“I don’t know Kalista. I don’t know where you need to be. Do you need to be anywhere?” the little girl said. If she was human, she would be 3 or 4 years.
“I guess not. I don’t really know how long I was asleep, though.” Em look up into the sky to see if she could guess.
“I guess awhile. We don’t rest like you. More like a kitty. You curl up like a puppy. Where do you go when you fall asleep?” she asked.
“I go to a place of dreams, where anything can happen and I can be anyone I want to be. Recently I even learned to craft a dream so I can visit other dreamers. This I learned from the fey lady, Mahryswenifar,” Emmeline told her. “But just now, I was off in my own dreamworld. It is how I rest.”
“That’s funny!” the girl laughed. “That’s my name. Mother calls me Mahrys.”
With the dusk and sleepiness Emmeline had not noticed. This was not Antaré.
Emmeline’s attention was suddenly brought into sharp focus. She looked around to see where she was. “Mahrys? Who… is your mother?”
“My mother is Avriisahstar. She is a hunter and protector of the people,” the girl said. “She is the daughter of the chief and bonded mate to Leikuri, my papa.”
“I think I may be a bit lost, Mahrys. Am I still dreaming?” Emmeline asked.
“You himisen are strange. But I like you.”
“Himisen?” Em decided that must be their word for human. “You may call me Mabrilith if you like.”
“Don’t know. This is our holt, the clearing in the wide wood south of the mountains and north of the sea, the home of the Sinisësilma for most of my life. We came here from the other place. My little brother was born here and I’m the last born there.” she replied.
She added, “Mabrilith is a pretty name. If I have a little girl some day that might be nice.”
She looked confused for a bit, “You are one of himisen visitors, right? Who bring us fruits and furs? The good himisen and not the mean kaapio or a menninkai in disguise?” The words were meaningless to Emmeline, though the language was akin to both elven and silvan. Astonishingly Emmeline realized she spoke it after a fashion. “
“I do not know these words you use for people. Himisen? Kaapio? Menninkai? I am me.” She ran a hand through her hair and then looked at a lock to see the color. Was she even who she thought she was?
She again tried to get her bearings by looking around again. Normally, even deepest shadows were easily visible to her. Did she still have her witch powers? “I came to visit a Mother Tree and I fell asleep here.” She paused and then smiled at the girl. “You are such a smart young person. I would pay you for your wisdom. Would you like to hear a story in song?”
Emmeline’s hair was very long, black and curly. Her skin more ruddy and tanned. Her clothing was made of pelts. The girl Mahrys said, “Papa says you Himisen burn bright and go away. You are gentle hunters who say nice things to us. The elders say you were not here when we came. There were other, who looked a bit like Himisen, but were mean. The Kaapio live in the far tall hills. They don’t like to share much. They are little, littler than you, but they don’t visit much. The Menninkai came here with us. There are lots of kinds, but they left us to starve when we arrived says Grandpapa. In the old place their word was their bond, but in this place that is broken. Some stayed though and they still help us. We call them the Nominkai and the many selfish ones the Ablinkai.”
She added, “Do you want me to help you find your friend?”
Emmeline was jarred a bit by her change of appearance. Furs? Ew, she thought as she wondered if they had even been properly cured. She nodded to the girl. “Yes, please.”
She grabbed Emmeline’s hand and walked together a good ways down a trail to an old human woman working with several younger women and gathering roots and berries. Upon the approach of Mahrys, they stopped their work and bowed prostrate to the little girl. She smiled and said, “please rise Assura. I do not come for gifts or to play. This is Mabrilith. She is looking for a friend names Kalista. Do you know where her friend is?”
The old woman said, ‘This one has not seen one named Kalista bright one. This one also does not know the girl you bring. She is a stranger to us.”
“I’m having the feeling that the one I was curious about is nowhere near at all. I’m a little confused even as to how I arrived.” She was thinking somehow this might all be a dream. But then, aren’t dreams really other worlds crafted in the mind? That didn’t mean they weren’t real. Could it be the Mother Tree was trying to show her something?
“I see I have wandered far from what I’m familiar with. The last I knew I was asleep at the foot of Ametoureë,” Emmeline said.
The old woman looked confused. The little girl said, “I’ve heard that name before.”
“You have?” Emmeline looked hopeful. “May I speak to her?”
“Grandmama says that when we came here, some stayed at Ah’tirnara, the edge of the new world. Others went off into the world to explore it, further than us too. We explored and ran into many bad things and bad himisen who we tried to be friends with. They were scared of us. Ametoureë I think was a go-back. I think they went back to the beginning. I hope they made it.” the sylvan girl said. “We found this place and are building a home.”
Emmeline could hardly make heads or tails of what the girl was talking about. She sighed. “I suppose I am truly lost then. The last thing I remember was falling asleep near a Mother Tree. Nothing here is familiar to me, not even the very language I am speaking now and which you have spoken. I don’t know why I’m wearing furs, nor why my hair is black. I feel as though I’m a ghost lost in time.”
“It is okay. I’m sorry too. I don’t know what you mean about being lost in time. Can you tell me what a mother tree is?” the girl asked as the old woman bowed reverently and continued her work.
Emmeline’s policy had always been that of honesty, so she explaining it a try. “I think that if you have not heard of a Mother Tree, then I must be in a time when they were not yet born into the world. The best I can say is that a mother tree is a great oak that is so very special it stands as a symbolic and real link between two worlds that were once only one. Sometimes a one of the elder fey will link their spirit with a Mother Tree. As did Ametoureë — or perhaps if that has not happened yet, she will one day.”
Emmeline looked down at her hands and her body. “I don’t know who I am in this place. But in my place, I am a descended of fey and human, an incarnation and direct descendent of Mabrilith — who is also me. Mabrilith, called Neméwen by the elves who came after the Fey and Miriaynne the Fair by humans. Mabrilith was daughter of Mahryswenifar and her lifemate, Cynwrig.
“I mentioned the last I knew I had fallen asleep at the foot of Ametoureë, the Mother Tree. In that life I am Emmeline. I saved the last acorn from an ancient, nearly dead Mother Tree, and it is reborn in the Vale I have tended. I came to Ametoureë because she is ancient and wise and I hoped to connect with her. I wanted to learn how to care for the Mother Tree I saved and now protect.”
The girl looked confused. She said, “I am the only Mahryswenifar I know. I don’t know a Cynwrig in our family or any of the others in nearby lands. You say strange things Mabrilith that don’t make sense.”
A faintness came over Emmeline and she was caught by someone. She opened her eyes that she had closed for but a moment and she saw she was being held by a man. An Eterian soldier. He said, “Kyrie, are you all right?”
She shook her head with some confusion. Who was she now? “I’m not sure. Where are we?”
“Not far now my love. Once we get to sea Livia will not find us. Your Cerdic will not find us,” the soldier was handsome, but haggard from many sleepless nights. He vaguely reminded Emmeline of her grandfather, albeit much younger. “This war never should have happened. If we get there, we can leave it all behind and it will be you and me Kyrie. You and me.”
Emmeline could tell she was very pregnant.
Kyrie, thought Emmeline. Could this be the sylvan elf druid from her Tome? “Wars never should happen,” she said. “Will you tell me why it did from your perspective?”
He said, “You might not like it. But from what I see, Cenniya’s war didn’t need to happen. The men who goaded her into attacking us Cenric and Pelrimix want the old ways to return, ways your grandfather and the open-minded druids preached against. Tribal murder and religious zealotry. You saw the fires! They burned that entire garrison for the crimes of two men! Two hundred men put to the sword or flames, to say nothing of their families. Of course General Sygarius took revenge, but he escalated it and slew Cenniya’s family. It was a misunderstanding that others – on both sides – took advantage of. I’m afraid it won’t end until one side destroys the other. I feel for Cenniya, and I know you see Gwendolyn as a sister, but she hates us with all her being. She won’t stop until you are punished and I am caged and burned.”
“Whatever the cause of this war, it’s about survival now,” she murmured. “Fanaticism will be the end of us this time. So we must prepare and preserve our knowledge and culture, even as we all fight for all we are worth. The longer we hold firm, the more victories we can squeeze from them, the more time we will have to find a way to save something of ourselves for the future.”
“Now, will you tell me your views of Cenniya?”
He looked confused, “you are acting very strangely Kyrie. You know how I feel about her. You aren’t having second thoughts? I mean, I don’t understand why you are asking this. We have to get to the ship and make sail or you, me, and our baby will be killed.”
Em replied, “I’m sorry, I just don’t feel like myself today. Of course we should hurry.” From here instead of trying to figure out what was going on she decided to just go with wherever this took her. She joined him and let him lead them on their journey.
The soldier clearly cared deeply for Kyrie. “This way…”
Emmeline could hear dogs barking in the distance. A whole pack. The sounds drew her attention. A woman’s voice called out “Adelaide! Adelaide!” Emmeline turned her head again and the world became beach. The forests were gone. Emmeline looked around left and right. It looked like the beach near her acres on Thalassa but so much bigger and vibrant. “An old haggard woman was shuffling down the hillside, holding her skirt up from the sand. “Oh, Adelaide! You mother wants you in at once. This woman was huge and tall. Another voice to Emmeline’s left said, “C’mon Addy, let’s play!”
Momentarily bewildered, Em looked to her left to see who it was.
Emmeline saw Mara as she knew her as her imaginary friend as a child. The girl smiled…
Em woke up with a start. It was night. A star or two could be seen between the canopy, but mostly there was an airy ambiance of light. Vanewe was there with a pair of elves. “Emmeline, it is time….”