Cythera Chronicles: Chapter Two: Verdant Ashes

  • NIGHT BEGAN TO FALL, AND LIGHTS SPRANG UP AROUND THE VILLAGE- THOUGH not as many as there would have been two years ago- and people hobbled into the village carrying water from the stream half a league away, Seran finally arose from a crouch next to the well. Stretching cramped muscles and rubbing bruised fingers, he wondered why it had taken him so long. The plants had not only refused to heal or move, they had also scratched and pierced his fingers, something that had never happened before.
    Walking toward the meeting hall, he saw members of the council striding in ahead of him, the wisest and most trusted men and women of the village. Just as he approached the door, however, a dark-haired woman came to the door and, holding a rod carved with runes, announced in a voice that carried to the edges of the village that there was a meeting tonight, not only for the council, but for the entire village, and that “it was time something was done about the state the village was in.” Seran began to enter, and as the woman at the door moved to stop him, Master Istel’s booming voice stopped her,
    “He’s not a young boy anymore, Mistress Farhal, and he has as much right as anyone in the village to be here. Let the lad in.” Mistress Farhal stepped aside, but shot him a disdainful look, plainly telling him he wasn’t appreciated here. Ignoring the look, and with a thrill racing through him after finally being treated like a man, Seran stepped into the room and took a seat in one of the chairs along the wall. The room was impressive, with a rough-hewn wooden floor and stone walls reaching up three times as high as himself. A stone fireplace stood against one wall, covering a quarter of it with its immense arch and mantle, with flames dancing in it, warmed the room. A clock hung above it, and plants and intricate wooden sculptures adorned the mantle, along with trays holding large pitchers of wine, brandy, and cider. Windows as tall as he was stretched up on the walls, with real glass, and a stone staircase led to a catwalk running around the wall, with doors opening into rooms, and leading to a platform with vines running around the railing, and a chair that was only used for celebrations or to pass sentence on the rare crime.
    People began to pour in through the doors, filling up the seats and talking among themselves , creating a low roar of voices competing to be heard. Seran looked for Master Istel to tell him of what he had seen, but the only times he could be seen were when flashes of his verdant green robe of office could be seen through the crowds of people talking to him. Finally Master Istel broke away from the crowd and, before Seran could reach him, walked up the stairs to the chair, holding the same rod as Mistress Farhal had, and, as he sat down, the roar dwindled to a low buzz of worried whispers. He rapped the railing briefly and waited for the talking to stop, which happened quickly.
    “I am afraid that we all know what has been going on recently in this village, so I won’t dwell on that, but will go directly to the point.” His voice, instead of coming from the platform, seemed to be right next to Seran’s ear, causing him to turn briefly in surprise. Some people gave him a look of disdain, but he noticed others doing the same as he.
    “My reason for calling you here tonight is a simple one; why has this been happening, and should we try to save the village, or pick up and leave?” As the last word left Master Istel’s mouth, the meeting hall was thrown into an uproar. Most people were standing on their chairs, angrily shouting to be heard above the others. Leaving Leirta had an air of finality of it; to leave Leirta would be no better than death.
    As Seran tried to make himself heard, a thunderclap resounded through the hall, and Master Istel, never one to become angry, had a furious look about him.
    “Silence! This is no time to be angry; we all must keep our heads!” He bellowed. If anyone other than Seran saw the irony to that statement, they didn’t show it.
    “Now, if we can continue this in a civilized manner, then I shall proceed. Master Coranel, you seem to be eager to speak; come up here and make your case.”
    The council continued in this fashion for a while, with many people putting forth their opinions, and Seran was growing discouraged. Every time he tried to make himself noticed, he was met with a sharp rebuke from people around him: “This meeting is for adults, not boys like you who are barely off their mother’s apron strings!” Or, “Leave the thinking to your elders, boy, and do something useful, like hauling water.”
    The council began to draw to a close, and heads nodded, when a man in his mid-twenties, with fiery red hair and a fervent look in his eyes took the stand. Galorn Heranith had been an impetuous youth growing up, with a temper to match his hair, but he had settled down some since reaching adulthood. Tonight, however, he looked more like the Galorn of old, but burning with a new intensity. If Seran had ever seen a dangerous man, this was one.
    “I know the cause of our trouble,” Galorn spoke softly. “This trouble has been brewing for longer than any of you know. This trouble, comes not from outside, but from us! We have been forsaken by the plants! And do you know why? I know why.” He began to laugh softly, but the laughter had an edge of madness. “Yes, I know why. We are constantly growing more distant from the plants, and they are punishing us! Every time we create one of our much-vaunted sculptures, we grow more distant. Every time we come in contact with those villages below us, we grow more distant! Every time we walk into our house, instead of living among the plants, we grow more distant! Every time we sleep in a bed, we grow more distant! Every time we hold back the growth of the plants, we grow more distant! Every time we embrace civilization, we grow more distant!” During his speech, his voice rose, until he shrieked out his last words. “Yes! We must leave our houses! The plants decree that it is so! We must burn down our village and flee to the forests, and live as we should! We must strike now, if we wish to save ourselves! We must purge the village with fire! NOW!”
    With that, he grabbed a torch and flung it at a tapestry on the wall. It caught, and within seconds spread to other flammable objects. The fire devoured wall hangings, leapt to sculptures, and hungrily licked at clothing. It found bottles of brandy, and the resulting explosions deafened those there. Standing above all of it, his face mad as light danced wildly on it, his hair indistinguishable from the flames, Galorn laughed exultantly with the power he felt rushing through him. He paid no heed to the flames that had crept up to the platform, that caused the vines shrivel from the heat and the platform to begin to sway. One of the supporting ropes burnt through, and the platform lurched to and slanted to one side, throwing Galorn off of it. Sparks rained down upon those gathered below, stampeding to get out of the building. Most were simply trying to escape, their fear overpowering everything else, but some had been inspired by the speech, and were waving torches of their own, shouting of cleansing the village.
    It was then that Seran discovered what the figure had been doing to the meeting hall. As mightily as the crowd pushed, fueled by fear, they could not open the doors, and as mightily as people struck the windows, they would not break. Everything in the hall seemed to be catching fire with a preternatural speed, and even the stone walls seemed to have flames creeping up them. Throughout the screams and crashes, a mad, laughing voice could be heard, as Galorn danced wildly, wreathed in flames, cackling with glee.
    In the middle of this swirling mass stood Master Istel, as strong and immovable as an old oak tree, his feet planted on the floor as firmly as roots grasping the dark earth far below sight. His face bore no expression of anger, no expression of fear, merely one of infinite sadness. He murmured, softly it seemed, but the cries and shouts seemed to dim in comparison. The flames began to grow smaller, to flicker and die, and his cloak, once verdant, shriveled and turned to ash. He raised his hand, and the immense doors began to slowly, painfully, swing open. As they opened, he bent, seemed to grow older, and grasped his staff in support. And, as the last people rushed out like water bursting a dam, and the last sparks seemed to die, a burning post fell from the ceiling, crushing Master Istel.

    (This message has been edited by moderator (edited 04-14-2003).)

  • I enjoy this series. I can hardly wait for the next part.

    Slayer's guide to Cythera:

  • I am greatly enjoying the story. You are an excelent author. Keep up the good work.

    I have run out of quotes for my signature. Please give me suggestions at

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