The Oracle of the Vine
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 XVI: The Oracle of the Vine
¶I. As the Nymphs fared the Elderwood they saw many wonders. Near them at one point were three perytons; a white stag joined by two doe of hazel, white-spotted coat; all three grazing peacefully amid the sparse underwood, stopping by turns to preen the white, black-barred pinions of their wings. Persisting still through the ancient wood the Nymphs saw many rauracks hopping about the clover and in bout locking horns, ratatosks scurrying up and adown trees, and stealthy Crows beneath the canopy flying.
¶II. Willow led the other Nymphs through the Elderwood’s shades, through tree-cast dims by sunlight straked, until after a time they came upon a modest glade, its air by the Sun’s rays hazed with brighten dust dancing as faint stars aloft aurous light. And the glade’s floor was lushly clad in greenest of ivy thicket, with leaves stimed in pale gold. Amongst the ivy, under blanket of honeyed haze and besprinkled in gilded spangles that powdered all the leafy thicket were thirteen Hamadryads, swimming mid the vines.
¶III. Immersed to their chests in the ivy groundcover the Hamadryads swam, laughing and shrieking merrily as they breached and dove about.
¶IV. Willow led Serenity, Faith, Liberty, Fervidness, Lea, and Brook out into the ivy. Oddly the vines were not much deeper than their ankles, even as the Hamadryads swam betwixt the other Nymph’s feet. And as Willow neared the glade’s center the Hamadryads were still and curiously watching the other Nymphs, and without moving from their spots they clomb up out of the ivy to finally greet them.
¶V. “These are the Vine Nymphs, or Ampelyads,” explained Willow. “They are the Hamadryads of the vine.”
¶VI. “Why have ye graced us with your presence?” asked the Alpha Ampelyad.
¶VII. “The Oracle Ruis of the Elderberry hath sent us to seek the counsel of the Oracle Gort of the Ivy,” said Willow.
¶VIII. “He shall appear to us at dusk,” replied the Vine Nymph. “We would fain have you stay with us till then.” And to this the other Nymphs agreed.
¶IX. And the Ampelyads retrieved from beneath the groundcover crowns of ivy which they placed upon their guests’ heads, and gathered also bunches of red, blue, green, purple, and black grapes from the vines, and presented the berries to their guests as offerings of sisterhood.
¶X. The Dryads, the Ampelyads, the Nixie, the Lampad, and the Aulonyad lay in there in the ivy, bathing in sparkling dust of lucent sunbeams that shone upon them through canopy’s cover. The Ampelyads coddled the other Nymphs, feeding them grapes often by hand yet at times from their own mouths, nestling them and grooming them through sunset and till dusk.
¶XI. The Nymphs all stood to their feet, and the vines began to billow. And from the center of the glade there arose a lofty mass of ivy, reaching toward the darkening sky as if a great and twisting leafy arm. And its utmost end bent and trained at them, and its vines mingled together, and formed from themselves the shape of a man’s face. And the face said unto them:
¶XII. “Lo! I am Gort of the Ivy. Among you is one that hath quested far, and wisheth to obtain for herself a love that is not the way of Nymphs.”
¶XIII. As a snake the mass of vines twisted as its face looked over each Nymph. And when Gort’s gaze fell upon Serenity, he said unto her:
¶XIV. “Serenity of the Cherry: thou art an odd creature indeed. Thou hast everything a Nymph might desire awaiting thee in the Emerald Forest, and yet still art thou unhappy. What hath happened to thee that thou would wish to leave thy sisters of the woodlands?”
¶XV. “I have fallen in love with a mortal,” said Serenity.
¶XVI. “No,” said Gort. “No, that isn’t it at all. Faith of the Vine knoweth differently. Thou hast for the greater part of a century wished to live a life in discord with thy sisters. Thou desirest above any other thing to live the life of a mortal; a life not the way of Nymphs, but the way of Elves and Hoblings and Gnomes, and the way also of Humans, Dwarves, and Ogres. This mortal thou hast fallen in love with: he is only an effigy of thy true desire. What thou truly desirest, is an affront to the way of Nymphs, for it embraceth that which thy kind hath of times yore abandoned.”
¶XVII. “Liar!” charged Serenity, and the Ampelyads were aghast. “Thou saith I desire only to desert my sisters, to abandon the way of Nymphs. Have I dispraised at any time the nature of Nymphs? I dare thee allege so! Truly have I been discontent in the way of Nymphs, howbeit thou hast no right to disclaim the love I have for my sisters, or the pride I have for my kind!”
¶XVIII. “Then why dost thou wish to live as a mortal?” asked Gort.
¶XIX. “It is my destiny!” proclaimed Serenity. And there was silence about the glade. The Oracle smiled upon her then and began to laugh, as Serenity stood agape by her own words.
¶XX. “Now that thou art beginning to understand the importance of thy quest,” said Gort, “thou shalt have a chance to succeed therein. Thou shalt seek the counsel of the Oracle Duir of the Oak, to whom the Oryads will lead thee. Go in peace from me now, and continue in surety thy journey. And blessed be.”
¶XXI. And the Oracle retreated below the ivy, and the glade was again still, and flat.
¶XXII. “We must leave now,” said Willow unto the Hamadryads, “and lead our sister Serenity to the summit of Mount Ævalwark.”
¶XXIII. The Vine Nymphs bid farewell to the others as they left the glade, and onward to the mountain called Ævalwark, where the destiny of Serenity awaited.