The Elder Oracle
Copyright © 2002-2017 by Dustin Jon Scott
[Last Update: Decemberrd, 2017]
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).
Episode XV: The Elder Oracle
¶I. “Put thy fire out,” said the Dryad Willow unto Fervidness, as the Nymphs approached the last dense patch of Elderwood before Mount Ævalwark. “We are nearing the land of the Oracles.” Fervidness snuffed the flame of her torch with her hand, and with the other Nymphs proceeded onward into the deep wood that before the mountain lay.
¶II. Under the sun-flaked shades of the forest the Nymphs strode, until Willow had led them to a great Elder tree. And the Nymphs were halted.
¶III. Taller by far than its fellows within the Elderwood, the Elder tree reached the very canopy itself, and its width was greater than forty cubits. Sprinkling the Elder’s green branches were many flowers, and these were of such brilliance that it almost seemed they glowed.
¶IV. The Nymphs faintly saw within the Elder many figures, shadowy and Nymph-like in both form and movement. And these figures began to come forward from within the Elder, and stepped out onto the old trail.
¶V. Fair creatures were they: in appearance akin to Aulonyads, yet with ruddy hair and bluest eyes, and all bedecked in crowns and circlets of garland.
¶VI. “Who are these?” asked Serenity.
¶VII. “They are Samyads,” said Willow, “the Tree Nymphs of the Elderberry.”
¶VIII. The Tree Nymphs said nothing unto the others, but only stared with narrowed, wondering eyes at them; they stared as if trying to discern from the other Nymphs their purpose, but in no way seemed more than deeply curious.
¶IX. And one of the Tree Nymphs looked to Brook, and then to Willow, and with her eyebrow raised at them she said:
¶X. “Why have ye brought these Nymphs here?”
¶XI. “These two Wood Nymphs came to the Elderwood to seek out Daphne,” said Brook. “All the way from the Emerald forest. It seemeth that one of them hath fallen in love with a mortal, and wisheth to be with him.”
¶XII. “Daphne couldn’t help her,” added Willow, “and so Daphne hath charged me with seeing her to Mount Ævalwark to seek the Star Nymphs.”
¶XIII. “And these other Nymphs?” asked another of the Hamadryads.
¶XIV. “They’ve all offered to see me safely to my journey’s end,” said Serenity.
¶XV. “Truly the love and generosity of Nymphs knoweth no boundary,” came a voice from within the Elder tree. The voice was as a man’s, lent and kindly yet deeply toned, being the sort of voice befitting a wise old sire.
¶XVI. The Tree Nymphs turned then to the Elder, and with bended knee each bowed before it.
¶XVII. And the Elder’s branches began to move, gathering lively together, and entwining became bound. From the limbs there formed a mass, its shape alike that of the face of a proud old man, bearded in pale leaves and ashen mosses. And the face was as a hollow mask, enclosing no flesh yet occultly ensouled. The face spoke again in that gentle, timeworn voice, and it said to them:
¶XVIII. “I am Ruis of the Elderberry. Among you are many that have in only a short time encountered perils as fierce as any ye’ve imagined. Therefore, ye have come to beseech from me the sooth of your journey’s fate.”
¶XIX. “Yes,” said Willow.
¶XX. “Yet the purpose of this journey is a thing that I cannot clearly see,” said Ruis. “I suspect that it concerns thee, Serenity of the Cherry. Thou at first sought Daphne of the Laurel, didst thou not?”
¶XXI. Serenity nodded. “I have fallen in love with a mortal. I wish to take him as my mate, and to have by him at least one child.”
¶XXII. “That is not the way of Nymphs,” said Ruis of the Elderberry.
¶XXIII. “I know,” said Serenity.
¶XXIV. “And so Daphne was unable to help thee, and so sent thee off to Mount Ævalwark to seek the aid of the Star Nymphs. Correct?”
¶XXV. “Yes,” said Serenity.
¶XXVI. “For what thou seekest, Serenity, I am unable to give thee any knowledge. Willow of the Peach shall take thee to the Oracle Gort of the Ivy, who will offer thee knowledge of thy future.”
¶XXVII. “And what of our journey to Mount Ævalwark?” asked Willow.
¶XXVIII. “Your perils are not ended,” said Ruis. “Ye will face many dangers on your journey, but if ye be bound by the sisterhood of Nymphs ye shall endure the challenges that yet await you. I bid you not abandon your sister Serenity, for your aegis in her quest is a blessing unto her that the Gods shall return upon you threefold.”
¶XXIX. “We thank thee, O Wise One,” said Willow, bowing to the Oracle Ruis.
¶XXX. The Tree Nymphs began returning to the Elder, one after another disappearing therein, and as they did Ruis said unto Willow, Serenity, Faith, Brook, Liberty, Fervidness, and Lea:
¶XXXI. “Depart now from my presence and go forth unto Gort of the Ivy by guidance of Willow of the Peach, and in sisterhood bind ever until journey’s end and forever in spirit thereafter, and made blessed shall ye be.”
¶XXXII. And again the Elder’s branches moved, and untwined, and the face of the Oracle was unmade. And again the Elder was naught but a great tree.
¶XXXIII. And Willow led the other Nymphs away from the Elder, and took them deeper into the Elderwood, always toward Mount Ævalwark.