Copyright © 2002-2019 by Dustin Jon Scott
[Last Update: December 28th, 2018]
Like most Palaeoboreanic epics, The Book of Rowans follows a fairly typical Palaeoboreanic narrative structure, containing an antegesis (pre-story), imegesis (in-story), diegesis (through-story), and exegesis (out-story).
¶I. Faith guided Serenity through the evening unto the southernmost ends of the Emerald Forest, beyond which lay the darksome dead of the Somberwood. And into the Somberwood they pressed on moonlit path; into the murk of sallow mists twisting through withered and leafless trees, into bale-boding voices of pasts long deceased, and into the harrowing blackness of its darkest depths.
¶II. As they traveled there were moans and whisperings always near them among the gnarled limbs of the deadwoods, forfending them to stay their path unto the Elderwood as seenless spirits breathed their bids upon the Dryads’ necks.
¶III. And these unseen wraiths spake all of them in rounds; hissing, raspily they breathed at first their bids upon the Dryads’ necks and grew louder all of them till screaming, always all of them saying:
“Born it was when the wolds did wither,
“blind specter of death through the trees doth slither,
“winding ever about in hunger’d dither,
“riving and gnawing all things yet whither,
“knoweth not the specter that it should slither,
“wilting the forest from here thither;
“of swallow’d souls doth it coil and slither;
“hear ye this, the forest’s swither:
“the Shadow riseth and cometh hither!”
¶IV. Affrayed, shaking, the Nymphs continued evermore, and braved their fears unyielding as louder grew the lurid shrieks with each moment’s pass. In their fright they kept on without relent, without heed of the woodland’s warnings -- till all about the Somberwood screamed, seemed to whirl and seemed to spin, and swith ran deafening these rounds:
“This wither’d wood doth not belie;
“eater of souls that stirreth nearby,
“from the darkness of its shadow-sty,
“wherein waiting doth it lie:
“Aroint! Aroint! It hunteth aye!
“Heed ye now this, this woodland’s cry --
“go ye now or soon ye’ll die!
“Flee ye from the specter-wry!
“Make haste! Make haste!
“The blind specter of death draweth nigh!”
¶V. Howling tortured unto them the forest screamed, and finally the Nymphs could take no more. Crying out in their horror they collapsed into each other’s trembling arms, and all around them the Somberwood wailed:
“Harken ye! This warning hear:
“soon ye’ll know the truest of fear!
“The specter of death shall soon appear!
“Into your souls shall it darkly peer,
“and for ye shall it forthwith sheer!
“Run away ye now!
“The specter-wry draweth near!
“Toward ye doth it swiftly veer!
“Nary a moment this place adhere --
“Too late! Too late!
“The blind specter of death is come here!”
¶VI. Clenching shut their eyes the Wood Nymphs sat curled together on the forest floor until the noises faded. Now in silence, they let their eyes drift open, and looked before them:
¶VII. In the shades afar between the trees ahead the Nymphs saw a darkness growing; a blackening that fathomless swelled there in the deeps of the barren wood. And from this darkness there came a wailing of many wights, mingling raspily together into a roaring hiss that it seemed through all the Somberwood rebellowed. Then the Shadow of the wood stretched forth at the Nymphs from its den, feeling along its way with tendrils grappling at the trees. Yet altogether was the Shadow like a great serpent coming fore unto the Dryads, slithering nearer them each moment atween the dead boles of the Somberwood.
¶VIII. Faith and Serenity stood to their feet and beheld the thing; a mass churning and writhing of Larvae, spirits restless that by Death were long sith taken. Each Larva in agony shrilled as it whorled about the others, vaporous and ethereal as shades borne upon the winds of Night’s breath. And the two Dryads: they turned from it and they ran.
¶IX. Swith did the Larvae give chase, its members shrieking tortured of both hunger and misery as the phantasmal worm bore at them through the forest. And soon was it upon them.
¶X. The Wood Nymphs sped through the trees, ever the tongue of wraiths it seemed at their backs as they assayed retreat unto the safety of the Emerald Forest whence they had ventured. Fleetly they ran through the haze of the Somberwood’s mists, that by shadow of the Larvae darkened behind them as the dire thing upon them quickened. Serenity then darted to the left and Faith to the right, and quickly they sprinted each of them up a nearby trunk.
¶XI. There they stood, either on the side of her own tree, and watched as the Larvae slithered past and disappeared at last into the dark of the Somberwood. The Larvae’s hiss grew more distant with the next few moments’ passing, until it seemed then very far. Slowly then the Nymphs strode from the trees adown, back unto the forest floor.
¶XII. And Serenity said unto her sister: “Is it safe?”
¶XIII. “I think so,” said Faith.
¶XIV. “We should continue,” replied Serenity. Faith nodded her head, and the two resumed their course eastward unto the Elderwood.
¶XV. Wolves began to howl in the distance as the Dryads trekked deeper into the cursed murkwood, and they could still hear the Larvae’s hiss somewhere far away.
¶XVI. Suddenly there was a crackling in the bushes. Serenity jumped slightly in start. “What was that?”
¶XVII. “I’m not sure,” said Faith, “it could be anything. It sounded as if it came from over there.” Faith pointed ahead of them and to the right, whence that moment a cloud of bats erupted from the tangles of dead vines and in panic took to the sky.
¶XVIII. Without thought the Dryads sprang like deer away, and they ran from there with all the speed their spry legs could carry them. But caught were they, plucked up suddenly off the ground ere they could make it far by a net that shot up and closed all around them. Before they had even the time to scream they were hoist swiftly into the air.
¶XIX. In the net Dryads grasped the ropes tightly in their hands, tugging on them vainly, afraid to cry out for help. Then a voice came from the woods, near that place in the vines whence the cloud of bats had flown:
¶XX. “Nearly eaten by a monster of your own creation, now caught up in my web like the worthless little flies ye are. Meseemeth the table hath begun to turn on you, Maenads. But tell me, why did the Ghosts of Somberwood attempt to warn you of the very specter ye Maenads have loosed upon the forestland?”
¶XXI. “We are not Maenads!” declared Faith.
¶XXII. “Who said that?” yelled Serenity, “where art thou?”
¶XXIII. Whence had come the voice there strode a woman, a woman that looked in most wise such that she could not have been distinguished from a Wood Nymph, yet this woman had on her the ears of a fox protruding from her sandy mane, and a fox’s long and bushy tail behind her waving. Aside from her ears and tail she had nowhere on her body any hair other than those places a Nymph would: her scalp, her eyebrows, her eyelashes, and naught else. And all her hair was of the same color, save the white tips of her ears and tail parted each by a thick black stripe from the rest of her ruddy blonde fur.
¶XXIV. She walked nearly beneath the net with her quiver slung from her left shoulder and holding in her right hand a shortbow, and she looked up at the Dryads, and spake unto them: “I can tell by the looks of you that ye must be Wood Nymphs of some sort. If ye are not Maenads, what would ye be doing in the dreaded Somberwood?”
¶XXV. “We are Dryads of the Emerald Forest,” explained Faith. “We are trying to reach Daphne of the Eldest Tribe, in the Elderwood.”
¶XXVI. “Please, thou must believe us,” Serenity pleaded.
¶XXVII. The fox-maiden sniffed at the air a bit. “I suppose if ye truly were Maenads, ye’d be reeking of very old wine. I’ll let you down, but do not think ye are free to leave. Attempt to run, and I’ll put an arrow in your backs ere ye make it ten yards.”
¶XXVIII. “By our troth,” replied Faith, “we’ll not attempt escape.”
¶XXIX. With that the fox-maiden went into the shadows of the trees near them, and within moments the Dryads fell within the net unto the ground below.
¶XXX. Serenity and Faith clambered sorely to their feet, grappling with the net as the fox-maiden returned unto them.
¶XXXI. “What’s thy name?” asked Serenity, finally loosing herself from the ropey web.
¶XXXII. “I am Reyna of the daughters of Huldra ,” answered the fox-maiden. “And ye are fortunate ye’re not Maenads, else ye’d have become my next meal.”
¶XXXIII. “O Huntress, please don’t eat us;” said Faith, struggling to free herself from the Huldra’s net, “at least -- not in the bad way.”
¶XXXIV. Reyna smirked, and began helping Faith out of the net. “So I’m the Huntress, am I? Now let me guess: Thou art the beautiful Sage, and she’s the Questrist, and ye both are on some grand journey to the Elderwood for the magickal cure to a most dire circumstance.”
¶XXXV. “Ay! that’s it exactly!” exclaimed Faith, wresting herself at last from the Hulder’s trap. “How couldst thou have known? Hast thou encountered such a thing before?”
¶XXXVI. The Huntress shrugged, and unto Faith she said: “Nay, ‘tis not that. I couldn’t think of another reason anyone would be foolish enough to attempt braving such a deadly and wholly worthless vast as the Somberwood. Though truly I was only jesting.”
¶XXXVII. “What about thee?” asked Serenity. “Whence dost thou hail?”
¶XXXVIII. “A place called Lightmote,” replied Reyna, “the last remaining vestige of the beauty that once was Luxwood.”
¶XXXIX. “Luxwood?” said Serenity. “I’ve never heard of such a place.”
¶XL. “ ‘Twas many centuries agone,” said Faith, “when thou wast but a Nymphet. We stand now where once the Luxwood lay; a place as splendorous as the Elderwood itself, that mysteriously one day was befouled, corrupted, darkled and twisted by forces unseen. It’s been known as the Somberwood ever sith.”
¶XLI. “It shan’t take long for the Shadow to return,” Reyna interrupted. “We should leave here. Follow me, I’ll lead you to Lightmote where the Shadow cannot pursue. Ye can rest there and warm yourselves, ere ye continue your journey to the Elderwood.”