The Revelation of Asphorela -Part 6

After days of preparation, the potion was complete; just in time for the coming of age ceremony that was to take place later that afternoon. Asphorela, Daphne, Heleconius, and ten others stood on a golden platform among the trees opposite the elders. The elders held crystal necklaces that were to be awarded to each of the members of the young order after their spells were successfully completed. To her surprise, Asphorela was not the first novice chosen. Surprised again, she was not even the second. The night went on and Asphorela wondered if it would ever be her turn. She was glad she had not drunk her potion before the ceremony started. It may have had time to wear off and lose its effectiveness. Finally, after a couple of hours, it was Asphorela’s turn. She twisted around so that no one could see her take a gulp from the small vial containing the silver liquid. Then she walked into the center of the ceremonial circle. She noticed Neldoroth, Georgina and Ecthlion cast a glance at one another as she began to raise her hands into the air. Asphorela knew the spell she tried to cast would be difficult, but she felt as if she were prepared. She chanted in the high tongue and made a stirring motion in the air. She could feel energy moving inside her body as well as in the space around her. The forces became so strong that winds picked up, causing her hair to slap and sting her face.

“What are you summoning?” the High Priestess called out.

Asphorela ignored the sister, for today she needed all her concentration . . . and more. Asphorela worked hard to calm the winds and rein them into the circle. If she swayed even an inch, she knew the winds would blow her so far away that she would never be seen again, not to mention the damage to the temple her magic would cause. Just when Asphorela was about to lose all hope of pulling off such a powerful spell, a white cloud began to form in the center of the ceremonial circle. On the surface of that white cloud, the three plotters were shown talking to each other. Next, their voices emitted from the cloudlike movie screen. The details of the dastardly plot were soon revealed to all in attendance.

The malevolent voice of Father Neldoroth boomed, “Yes, the spell will be cast during the coming of age ceremony. The young order will not threaten our authority with their emerging powers ever again. They will all be dead!”

Confusion spread throughout the crowd. Whispers turned into mumbles, and mumbles turned into shouts.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Father Neldoroth said as he stomped toward Asphorela.

The High Priestess, Amaryllis, quickly placed herself between Father Neldoroth and Asphorela. “My thoughts exactly.”

Asphorela stepped back, but maintained the spell.

“This is lunacy! She’s cast a spell of illusion.” Father Neldoroth pointed toward the cloud in the center of the circle on which a picture of the three conspirers flickered. Then he looked past Amaryllis and glared at Asphorela, “I command you to stop this immediately.”

Amaryllis held her hand up. “Silence!” She looked at Asphorela and then back to Father Neldoroth, “We will get to the bottom of this. She eyed her fellow elders before continuing. “I shall cast a spell of anti-illusion. Then we will know who is telling the truth.”

Father Neldoroth’s face turned red. “You would take the word of a novice over me? I am a council member! I have proved my loyalty! I swear, if you perform that spell, you will regret it! I will petition the High Council to remove you from your post.”

The High Priestess looked thoughtfully at Father Neldoroth. Then she raised her hand toward the cloudy screen and chanted the anti-illusion spell in the ancient tongue.

Everyone in the crowd gasped when the cloud turned a bright white and twinkled with tiny pinpoints of light.

Sister Georgina screamed and fell to her knees.

Father Ecthlion pulled his hood over his head and tried to sneak to the edge of the circle.

“Seize them!” the High Priestess ordered.

A great fury of panic spread throughout the circle. Elders, novices, and recently graduated sorceresses and sorcerers scrambled around trying to apprehend the wrongdoers. Sister Georgina was the first to be captured. She didn’t even try to put up a fight.

Father Ecthlion cast a spell to make several members of the crowd look exactly like him. By the time the real Father Ecthlion was captured, over half the crowed was kneeling with their hands bound behind their backs.

Father Neldoroth was the most dangerous of the traitors. The High Priestess took it upon herself to seize him. As Asporela expected, he dueled fiercely. At first, Amaryllis only used her hands to cast spells of protection and incarceration. But Father Neldoroth pulled out all the stops until the High Priestess was forced to take the wand from her pocket. Bursts of fire, smoke, blinding lights, lightning bolts, and foul smelling gasses erupted between them. Asphorela thought it was the most terrifying sight she had ever seen. She wished there was something she could do to help her favorite mentor.

Glancing at the other novices, Asphorela realized that Daphne and Heleconius were missing. Her heart skipped and she let go of her spell. The white cloud deteriorated and she could see clearly the chaos around her.

“Heleconius!” Asphorela’s voice was scratchy and painful from the raw power it had taken to cast the spell of revelation. “Daphne!” She searched and searched until she found her friends. To her horror, she saw Daphne sneaking up behind Father Neldoroth, and then gasped when she realized Heleconius was right behind Daphne. “No!”

Just then, Father Neldoroth turned toward the two girls and chanted a spell.

Reacting out of instinct, Asphorela raised her wand and began to recite a forbidden spell known as, ‘the sleep of death.’

Amaryllis, realizing Asphorela’s intentions, cast a spell of dismissal toward the novice and continued her assault on Father Neldoroth.

Asphorela was knocked off her feet, and she tumbled to the ground. Determined, she picked herself up and began reciting the spell again.

Father Neldoroth gave one last roar–then disappeared into thin air.

Asphorela slowly lowered her wand and pressed her eyebrows into a furl. The sleep of death was supposed to make the victim collapse and die, not disappear. Did she do something wrong? Did her spell misfire?

Amaryllis looked over her shoulder and gave Asphorela a look of sorrow mixed with pity.

Asphorela collapsed to the ground from exhaustion. Had she bitten off more than she could chew? The events played in her head over and over. Then she remembered the priceless expression of surprise and horror on Father Neldoroth’s face right before a troubling thought hit her . . . where was the Blade of Dragoonslayer?

 

 

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the journey! Please feel free to let me know what you thought by leaving your comments below.

 

COMING SOON:

Tales from Faeyelwen as told by Ol’ Grum, a grumpy yet heart-warming gnome.

The Revelation of Asphorela -Part 5

Heleconius chanted an unlocking spell under her breath and tip-toed into Father Neldoroth’s room. He lay there sweating on top of the covers of his small, pitiful bed. On the nightstand next to his bed were his wand and an unlit oil lamp. Heleconius crept toward the sleeping man hoping to find a few hairs on his pillowcase. How she hated to think that she might have to pluck a hair from his greasy, sweaty head. To her dismay, Heleconius could not find a single strand on the sheets, his pillow, or even on the floor. Determined to complete her mission, she cloaked herself in a transparency spell, grabbed what she hoped was one hair, and yanked.Father Neldoroth yelled and sat straight up. “What the . . .”

Heleconius quickly stepped out of arms’ reach, silently backing toward the door. She hoped that Father Neldoroth was too tired to sense magic.

Father Neldoroth grabbed his wand and performed an illumination spell. The tip of his wand emitted a bright bluish-white light. He rubbed his head, the place where his hair had been plucked, and examined his fingers as if looking for blood. Then he swept his wand around the room.

“I know you’re here,” His gravely voice sent chills up Heleconius’ spine.

“Reveal yourself,” the old man continued.

Heleconius stood as still as a statue. She even tried not to breathe.

Father Neldoroth flung his legs around so that his feet landed firmly on the floor. Then he snorted and grumbled, “Combustium.”

The oil lamp blazed to life.

Heleconius flinched.

“I gotcha!” He stood and started toward Heleconius.

Heleconius, confused that he could see past her transparency spell, crouched on the floor and fished her wand out of her pocket. She barely had time to point it at the man before he leapt. She closed her eyes, turned her head, and cringed against the wall.

“You’re not getting away from me.” Father Neldoroth roared.

A great crash erupted near her left knee. Heleconius had expected to feel Father Neldoroth grab her, yet she felt nothing. More noises persuaded her to open her eyes and look in the man’s direction.

“Told ya I’d getcha,” Father Neldoroth said with satisfaction.

To her relief, Heleconius watched Father Neldoroth carry a small grey mouse by its tail and place it inside a small wooden box.

“You’ll be a good test subject in tomorrow’s poisonous potions class.”

Heleconius felt sorry for the mouse, because she knew Father Neldoroth often seemed to enjoy torchering his test subjects. She vowed to rescue the mouse along with the few hairs she yanked from the old geezer’s head.

Neldoroth stretched and scratched himself, blew out the oil lamp, and plopped onto the creaky bed.

Heleconius waited in the shadows until she heard muted snores, then grabbed the wooden box that contained the mouse, and crept out of the room.

The next morning, the three girls met in the alcove by the courtyard.

“So, How’d it go?” Asphorela asked her two friends.

Daphne smiled and handed her small stash of hair to Asphorela. “Piece of cake.”

Heleconius reached in her pocket and withdrew the small grey mouse. “I rescued this little fella. He was going to be toasted as a test subject today in Father Neldoroth’s class.”

Daphne clapped, “Oh how sweet. He’s so cute.”

Asphorela wrinkled her eyebrows and studied Heleconius as she waited for an answer, but when it was clear that Heleconius was only interested in playing with the mouse, Asphorela prompted, “Yeah? But what about Neldoroth’s hair?”

Heleconius quickly handed the mouse to Daphne and then fumbled in her pocket. “Oh yes, I apologize. It wasn’t easy, but I got it.”

Asphorela took the hair from Heleconius and ignored Daphne as the girl made cooing sounds at the mouse. Depositing all of the hairs into a small glass vial, Asphorela said, “Great. That should do the trick. Now all I need to do is break into the High Priestess’s tower and brew a potion in her gold plated cauldron. Then it should simmer for three days. Once that’s done, I will put it in a vial and drink it right before my ceremony.”

“Sounds good. What can we do to help?”

Asphorela shrugged, “Umm, well, you could act as my lookouts. Let me know if anyone is coming while I’m in the chamber of the High Priestess and stuff.”

Daphne popped a piece of chewing gum into her mouth and blew a bubble, “You gotta admit. This cloak and dagger stuff is pretty exciting.”

The three girls giggled and continued making plans.

 

Be sure to check back next Wednesday for the conclusion of Asphorella’s story!

The Revelation of Asphorela -Part 4

Later that day, Daphne found herself studying incantations in the classroom of Sister Georgina. The sister was teaching the class how to properly roll their “R’s” for the most effective invocations. Although Daphne rolled her R’s sufficiently well, she raised her hand.

Sister Georgina walked over to Daphne and asked, “Your pronunciation sounds fine to me. What is it child?”

Daphne signaled for the Sister to come close to her and acted as if she had a secret to tell.

Sister Georgina fell for the ruse. She bent down and lent Daphne her ear.

Daphne leaned forward, cupped her fingers around the sister’s ear, careful to get at least one hair caught in the silver ring she wore around her middle finger. She whispered, “I think my moon time is early upon me.”

Sister Georgina’s eyes grew wide with understanding as she straightened and cleared her throat. Daphne saw no evidence that she even felt it when a few tiny hairs were yanked from her head. “Hmm, hmm. Very well Daphne, you are dismissed for the remainder of this class. Run along and don’t forget your assignment.”

Daphne gathered her things and left the classroom, fingering the tiny hairs that sprouted from her ring.

Asphorela’s task was a bit more challenging than Daphne’s. Father Ecthlion was practically bald, and she was unsure how to get even one of the last remaining hairs from his blindingly shiny head. He was the type of man that had a small ruffle of thin hair encircling his neckline. He also sported a few twigs that he combed over the top of his scalp. Somehow, Asphorela needed to convince him that it was absolutely necessary to part with those last remaining remnants of his youth.

When dinner rolled around, Asphorela had a plan. It was not necessarily a fool proof plan, but a plan nevertheless. With her wand in one hand and a small razor in the other, she approached Father Ecthlion. She had heard Father Ecthlion talking about gardening many times with fellow Sisters and Brothers of the temple, so she assumed he had a keen fondness for the temple gardens.

“Father Ecthlion. I am holding a fundraiser to raise money for the temple gardens. My herbology class would like to add Atractylodes. We would also like to purchase caterpillars to grow Cordyceps.”

Father Ecthlion’s smile seemed sincere, yet he eyed the razor skeptically. “What can I do to help you young lady?”

Asphorela let her cheeks turn red and her shoulders slump as she tried to portray the perfect picture of embarrassment. “Well, you see. Oh no. I can’t. It’s too much to ask.”

Father Ecthlion’s expression appeared genuinely curious when he prodded. “Tell me child. I will help if I can. I’ve hoped we could find a way to gather Cordyceps for years. I will do what I can.” He placed his hand in the small of her back. This was the first time a man, a real man, had touched her in such a delicate area.

Asphorela truly blushed this time. She gathered her wits about her before she explained, “You see, I’ve kinda been making bets. I bet that I could get you to shave your head, and most of the novices have bet against me. I’ve got a lot of money coming to me if I can pull it off. It’s all with good intentions.”

Father Ecthlion gulped.

Asphorela shook her head, “Never mind. I know it was wrong of me. I just couldn’t think of any other way . . . and I love growing new herbs.” She began to walk away and then stopped when she felt Father Ecthlion grasp her elbow.

“Would I have to shave my entire head?”

Asphorela shook her head, “I don’t think so. Not technically. I think just the top would do.”

“Very well. Follow me.”

Asphorela followed Father Ecthlion into a room adjacent to the dining hall. He sat in a chair and instructed her to proceed.

Asphorela smiled triumphantly as she walked out of the dining hall.

 

If Asphorela thought she had had a difficult time obtaining an elder’s hair, it was nothing compared to the difficulties Heleconius faced. The young novice waited until the moon was high in the sky, and all the creatures of the night were quiet. Heleconius crept carefully into the elders’ quarters, using unlocking and silencing spells to move about the dwelling. When she found the room belonging to Father Neldoroth, the most daunting professor in the temple, she froze. How could she even dare to think she could pull this off? Who did she think she was, Helen the Huntress? She almost talked herself out of the mission, but Daphne’s words echoed in her head, “Do you want to live?”

 

Part 5 to be released next Wednesday!

The Revelation of Asphorela -Part 2

When Asphorela exited the forbidden forest of Gatheron, she ran with all her might. She ran away from that horrible scene and toward the place she felt the safest, the Hall of the High Priestess. By the time she reached the edge of the temple grounds, Asphorela’s eyes were swollen with tears. Trees had become blurs of wet and sopping hues, and the temple walls were immense blobs of colors. She was not terribly surprised, then, when she tripped overn someone’s foot and plowed into someone else, knocking them both to the ground. Heleconius, a short novice with a stocky build, rolled to her side before looking at Asphorela with a bewildered expression. “What kind of fool would plow into a girl digging up a ginseng root? I’ve been chasing that bugger all day, don’t ya know? It’s a good thing I had a tight hold on it or else you’d be out here helping me search for it again.” She paused and looked up at Asphorela. Her brow furrowed as her jaw dropped. “What’s the matter with you? Seen a gargoyle or something?”

Asphorela stood up, dusted her clothes, wiped her eyes and blinked. Her fingers held a muddy mixture of tears and dirt, which she knew must certainly be smeared on her face.  She wiped her sleeve across her cheeks and then looked to see who was yelling at her. Her vision was still a bit blurry, “Heleconius? Is that you?” She turned toward the other person and asked, “Daphne?”

Both Heleconius and Daphne grunted at the same time, but Daphne added, “What’s got you so upset Asphorela?”

Asphorela weighed her options carefully. Should she tell them? Might they be in on the dastardly scheme? Her reason swiftly dispelled any thoughts of distrust and convinced her that, like herself, these two novices were also doomed for death should the spell be completed. One last tear spilled down Asphorela’s cheek before her vision cleared up. Then she looked around to make sure no one else was around before she stooped and motioned for her two fellow novices to come closer. The two girls looked at each other, shrugged, and then tentatively stepped forward to form a huddle. Asphorela whispered all she had heard and seen as her eyes darted around wildly.

Daphne, a thin and lanky blonde, stepped back, covered her mouth, and gasped, “It can’t be!”

Heleconius grabbed the girl’s elbow and jerked her back into the huddle. “Quiet sister!”

Daphne yanked her elbow out of Heleconius’ grip. She scowled at the shorter novice before fixing her eyes on Asphorela. Her voice was wispy when she said, “I mean, Father Neldoroth has always been a bit scary, but how could he even consid . . . ?”

The whole situation suddenly hit home again. Asphorela dropped to her knees and buried her face in her hands. “I don’t know! I don’t know! It’s broomstick crazy!”

Heleconius patted Asphorela’s shoulder and bent to one knee. “I don’t believe it. I just don’t believe it. Why, it doesn’t make sense. Why would he want to kill us?”

Daphne used the shoulders of her two friends to lower herself and reform the huddle. “Be quiet! You don’t want the whole temple to know do you?”

Heleconius slapped Daphne on the shoulder, “I was being quiet, you . . . you daughter of frogspawn.”

Daphne’s jaw dropped and her eyebrows became razor sharp, “How dare you! You’re the daughter of frogspawn. No, you’re worse! You’re a slime-spewing, wart-picking humdy-grinch!”

Heleconius started to tackle Daphne, but stopped when Asphorela reached out and yelled, “You two shut the broomstick up!” To her ears, her voice seemed to bounce off the trees and distant walls. She imagined that everyone in the entire temple could hear her.

When they gathered their senses, all three girls searched the surrounding area for possible onlookers.

Heleconius whispered, “I think the coast is clear.”

Daphne agreed.

Asphorela nodded, “This is serious. If we don’t figure this thing out, all our lives are at risk. You know a spell like that could give me the know-how and strenght to slay a hundred of the queen’s most highly trained warriors.”

The color drained out of Daphne’s face. Then she shrugged and cleared her throat. “Are you sure you heard him right? I mean, maybe you misunderstood him.”

Asphorela fixed a hard glare on Daphne, “Of course I heard him right. I’m not an idiot you know. His spell was very clear.”

Heleconius was as serious and as focused as a snake about to strike. “We have to report this. He has to be stopped.”

Asphorela Picked up a twig and jabbed it into the dirt, “We can’t. What if Neldoroth isn’t the only person involved? Who can we trust?”

Meaningful looks passed between the three girls, each afraid to speak her greatest fears: What if all the elders were in on it?

Asphorela felt as if the weight of the world were on her shoulders. She sighed and began to speak, but flinched and yelped when a small bird suddenly landed on her head. She started to swipe it away, but then realized it was her favorite sparrow. She took several deep breaths in an effort to subdue her pounding heart as the bird jumped to her shoulder. Asphorela had relationships with many animals in the enchanted wood, but especially the birds. They often came to speak with her. It was not unusual for people to stare at Asphorela as she walked the halls with several birds perched on her shoulders, her backpack, and even on her head. Her favorite birds were the tiny sparrows who loved to chat. They were always eager to run errands and spread the latest gossip.

The tiny bird chirped and tweeted wildly. Asphorela was grateful that she knew how to communicate with the little creature.

“Asphorela, we hearing, we hearing, we hearing your news on the westward winds! I can, I can, I can spying for you.”

Although Asphorela could communicate with animals, she sometimes had a difficult time figuring out exactly what they were saying. Each animal had a different way of speaking. Some animals sent pictures and thoughts to Asphorela, while others, like this small bird, sang.

Daphne adjusted her apron and wiped her dusty hands on her skirt. She looked up and asked, “What did he say?”

Asphorela corrected, “She said that she heard our conversation and wants to help.”

Daphne shrugged, “How can that tiny bird help us? We don’t need a little birdy tweeting around our heads. We need magic. Real magic!”

Heleconius slapped Daphne on the shoulder, “Show some respect! Are you kidding? That little bird is the perfect little spy.”

An expression of understanding passed over Daphne’s face before it flushed with embarrassment. She looked directly at the bird and said, “Sorry little fella.”

This time Heleconius slapped the back of Daphne’s head instead of her shoulder, “It’s a girl, you imbecile.”

Asphorela shrugged with exasperation, grateful the bird could not understand Daphne or Heleconius. Then Asphorela spoke with the bird by whistling. She was not extremely proficient in bird talk, but she knew enough to get her message across. “Will you, will you, will you spy for us? Find out, find out, find out whom we can trust.”

“We will, we will, we will be spying for you,” the little bird gestured toward her flock and promised before she flew off in the direction of the elders’ quarters.

Heleconius took part of the root she had been digging up and broke a small twig from its side. She drew three circles on the ground after leveling the dirt with a swish of her hand. The circles formed a pyramid-like symbol, their edges barely crossing each other and forming a flower in the center. Then she drew squiggly lines that looped in and out of the circles. “We must cast a spell of protection around us until we can figure out what to do.” Heleconius handed the twig to Asphorela.

“Good idea,” Asphorela took the twig and carved identical symbols into the dirt before handing the twig to Daphne.

Daphne drew the same symbols and one extra. As she drew a series of triangles and crosses, she explained that the additional symbols would keep them from being able to blab about their mission without first clearing it with each other. Once all the symbols had been drawn, the girls joined hands and chanted the spell of protection in unison.

 

Part 3 to be released next Wednesday!

The Revelation of Asphorela -Part 1

Asphorela strolled through the enchanted woodland surrounding the temple of Cirruleaus. Her long dark hair swooshed softly against her back with each step. She kicked at the vines that crossed the dirt path so that others who might pass would not trip. Clearing the path did not distract Asphorela as she practiced her spells, preparing for her coming of age ceremony. Once a novice sorceress or sorcerer reached the age of eighteen, a panel of elders held an exclusive ceremony in which they tested each pupil. The novices were expected to showcase advanced spells to prove they were ready to practice magic unsupervised. The test also served as an initiation into becoming an active adult member of their mystical community. Asphorela was ecstatic about the idea of becoming a fully-fledged sorceress. Just thinking about it made waves of joy crash through her core. She paused to savor the welcomed tides before continuing her journey through the magical forest. Even though she found it difficult to wait for her initiation ceremony, Asphorela was not nervous. She had, after all, surpassed the expectations of not only her classmates and the elders, but also Amaryllis, the Temple’s High Priestess. Asphorela had made such an impression, in fact, that on Asphorela’s fifteenth birthday, Amaryllis awarded her with the title “Apprentice to the High Priestess.” This was the first time anyone had ever received such accolades at such an early age. Despite her achievements, the elders still insisted that she undergo the rite-of-passage.

Asphorela kicked at a particularly stubborn vine and paused. She suddenly felt as though she needed to be somewhere . . . but where? A tugging sensation took hold of her solar plexus and squeezed. The sensation reminded her of similar feelings she would briefly experience when she woke up from her many escapades of sleepwalking. It was as if an unseen force grabbed hold of her core and led her where it wanted her to go. Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, she found herself wandering off the path and toward the forbidden forest of Gatheron. The closer she traveled toward the intimidating and dangerous forest, the more she somehow understood; Asphorela was being led to the initiation ceremonial grounds.

She clutched her stomach and halted her progression. Her breath came out hurried despite her slow pace. Why might she be guided toward that particular location? The rules clearly stated that a novice could not have seen or set foot in the initiation site before the ceremony. Although she could recite the decree by heart, Asphorela couldn’t fight the tug of the invisible hand clenched around that part of her that she never understood. As if by their own accord, her shaky legs carried her toward the entrance leading into the frightening forest.

Tangled branches, looming trees, dark shadows, and an eerie silence made Asphorela long to turn back. She pleaded with her body to cooperate with her intentions, but it continued forward until she heard a man’s silky voice snake, like probing tendrils, through the dead branches. She gasped as her body relinquished itself to her curiosity. Like a moth drawn to a flame, she continued her journey into the creepy forest. This time, her progression was voluntary. Asphorela was careful not to step on any twigs, dead leaves, or brush up against anything that would alert the man to her presence. Upon reaching a clearing, she could clearly see one of the elders, Father Neldoroth, holding the Eyes of Azul over a blue flame. The Eyes of Azul were small wooden bowls filled with water that came from a magical spring named Azul. Sorcerers and sorceresses could chant as they held the bowls to strengthen whichever spell they recited. As Father Neldoroth swished the waters in a circular motion, he spoke a spell in an ancient tongue and then repeated the spell in the common language.

“At the appointed hour after her coming of age ceremony, the young novice, Asphorela will assassinate her fellow novices with the Knife of Dragoonslayer and then turn the dagger upon herself, thereby destroying the young order,” he spoke in a powerful, yet monotone voice that sent chills up Asphorela’s spine.

Asphorela shook her head and blinked as her knees threatened to give way. What was he saying? Confusion set in. It seemed as though her mind would not allow her to believe what she was hearing. Father Neldoroth was one of the strictest and most respected teachers she had ever known. How could he, of all people, plan such a betrayal? Her hand slipped from the tree that supported her, and she crashed to her knees. Father Neldoroth paused and looked over his shoulder in her direction. Screams erupted inside her chest, yet her mouth made no sounds. She forced herself not to move. Even her breathing halted. At least she had enough wits about her to know that it was imperative to remain hidden.

As soon as Father Neldoroth turned back toward his work, Asphorela silently pushed herself to her feet and crept out of the forbidden forest. She didn’t dare perform a silencing spell for fear that Father Neldoroth might detect her magic. Conflicting thoughts and emotions raced through her mind. Why would he betray her? Were other elders involved? Who could she tell? What should she do now?

Tune in next week for the continuation of this story.

The Interview

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“Quiet on set,” the director announced.

Cameramen readied their equipment while audience members fidgeted and squirmed in their seats. Some exhibited nervous expressions, and others seemed downright mortified. Only a few seemed at peace with the situation. The director counted down before he queued the cameras to begin rolling.

“Welcome to the Rudolpho Rumeras show. As you can see, today we have a guest who needs no introduction. Every person in this room has encountered her work. Heck, for that matter, every person on earth knows her. Please give a warm welcome to the most famous guest we have ever had on this show.” The talk show host gestured to a lady sitting on the cushion to his left.

Some members of the audience cheered, while others booed, and the rest remained silent.

Rudolpho eyed the audience disapprovingly. “That’s no way to welcome our guest. Let’s try again. Please give up a warm welcome!”

The audience begrudgingly obliged as Rudolpho nodded.

“That’s better.” He turned toward his guest. “So let’s get started.”

Lights reflected in the lady’s eyes, making her dark irises appear star filled and mesmerizing. Her lips curled upward in a warm, genuine smile, which aroused an audible sigh from the crowd.

Rudolpho shifted in his seat and cleared his throat. His voice cracked when he said, “I’d like to begin with a few simple questions. Is this agreeable?”

The lady nodded, her graceful neckline forming an exquisite contour of majesty.

“Great!” Rudolpho said overenthusiastically and then smiled without it reaching his eyes. Small beads of sweat glistened on his upper lip and forehead. “The first thing I’d like to know is . . .” He paused. His voice gave out and reminded him of the first time he spoke with his grade-school crush on the playground. He pulled his collar away from his neck before he continued. “What is your favorite flower?”

The lady’s eyes widened momentarily, but not long enough for anyone to notice. She replied, “You promised to begin with simple questions.”

Rudolpho fidgeted, rubbing his palms together as his smile purposefully broadened.

Before he had a chance to remark, the lady placed her hand on his bouncing knee and said, “I am only teasing. I will answer your question to the best of my ability. The fact is I do not have a favorite flower, tree, or preferred animal for that matter. I love all beings on earth in equal measure.”

Rudolpho let the breath he had been holding escape his lips in a long sigh. His shoulders slumped, and he directed his attention to the floor as he pondered his next question. Suddenly, he tilted his head up at an angle and looked at her with one squinted eye, “Does that include people?” He flinched away from the lady immediately after asking and held his hands in front of him. He waved them as if clearing the air and explained, “I . . . I mean . . . It’s been my impression that you don’t interact much with people outside your small group of friends.”

The lady allowed her breath to fill her chest, bringing attention to her ample bosom. All the while, she maintained her sense of peace and dignity. Her voice contained conviction when she answered, “I have direct contact with people every moment of every day. I am anything but a recluse. I speak with individuals as often as the wind blows. Why am I ignored and shunned? How can I build relationships if no one acknowledges me?”

Rudolpho shook his head. “Are you saying that you want to have relationships with people? That you do not despise us as so many would believe?”

A single tear formed and then slowly caressed the lady’s cheek. Stars glistened in her eyes as she reached for Rudolpho’s hands. He shrank away from her for the briefest of moments, and then he allowed her to hold his hands between hers. When their flesh met, an underlying rigidity left Rudolpho’s carriage, and softness filled his expression.

“Of course, I would like close relationships with people. I desire and thrive on love as much as anyone. Love brings balance, understanding, and eliminates fear.”

A member of the audience shouted, “Yeah right! You are lying!”

Rudolpho’s stiffness swiftly returned as he scanned the crowd for the offender. Resolve formed on his face as he turned his attention back to the lady. He withdrew his hands from between her palms and announced, “You heard him. There is an audience member who believes you to be a liar, and let’s face it, he probably has good cause to be upset with you.”

The lady regarded the man who yelled, “I do not lie. It is not of my doing if you or your loved ones suffer at my hand. I have an office to perform, and there are laws that govern my actions. Even I cannot escape these laws.” She looked at the floor and said in a low, regretful voice, “No one can escape these laws.”

Rudolpho observed her with more compassion than he had originally thought possible and asked, “Are . . . Are you sad?”

The lady continued to look at the floor, “These laws I speak of are not necessarily cruel. They are simply misunderstood. I’ve been trying for years to teach people how these laws impact their lives, but very few listen, . . . and those that do, still do not understand.” She beseeched the audience to comprehend. “All of nature; the trees, the flowers, the animals . . . all beings, live harmoniously according to law. Only people believe they are above the law.” Her eyes scanned the crowd before she continued, “At one time, people respected me. There was a time we lived in harmony. Then greed ravaged the world and severed our connections. For this, I am saddened . . . sad for our lost friendships . . . sad for what once was and what could be.”

A hush fell over the audience. It was so quiet that a single breath could be heard.

“And now you sit here and scowl at me accusingly?” She directed her gaze at the people radiating hatred from their eyes. “You, who accuse me of forsaking you with your glares, deceive yourselves. It is you who have forsaken me.” By the time the last words exited her mouth, her famous and elusive temper became apparent. Her voice rumbled throughout the studio.

The audience and Rudolpho sat frozen in place, afraid even to breathe. The lady sat in justified dignity as she allowed time for her statements to sink in. Then her expression softened and she sounded motherly when she explained, “I give you sustenance. . . . I give you shelter. I give you all that you need to survive and even thrive; yet, you blame me for the storms and chaos that come by your own creations. How can I perform my job any way other than what you dictate? Your life and my well-being are in your hands, not the other way around as you would conveniently believe. Wake up, look around, go outside and see that I try to have relationships with you every moment of every day. Pay attention to the small breeze that cools your hot skin. Pay attention to the birdsongs that lift your moods. Pay attention to how I alkalize your bodies when you place your bare feet upon my surface. Realize that I am with you every moment. I support your every breath. I am your mother. I am your earth. I am Nature incarnate, and I long to reestablish the love and friendship that once existed between us. Will you please listen?”