Gospel for the Fallen Ones pt3: In the Absinthe of Light
By A. Devia
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"So your great-grandfather was a reverend? Aren't they sworn to celibacy? Where did you come from?" Ophelia asked.
"No, those are priests."
"Shhh…. we're coming up on the good part!" exclaimed Ophelia.
"Shhh? I can't shush, I’m the one telling the stories!" I shake my head at the batty pixie. "Which part would be the good part?" I asked.
"Well, the part with me in it of course!"
In the Absinthe of Light
"So say goodbye or say forever. Choose your fate." - Dead is the New Alive by Emily Autumn
"I saw you!" I yelled into the shadowed pine forest. "I know I saw you! Lilatheen! Oh, Ruler of what is hidden and what must be, Lady of the Wood, please show yourself and speak with me!"
I saw a flash of light out of the corner of my eye. Perhaps I captured her attention?
I called out again, "I propose a barter! I have with me sparkling gems and feathers of the brightest hues! For you! All I want is to talk to you." I laid out my treasures for her inspection and whispered, as much to myself as to her, a plaintive, "Please."
'She's real. I know it! She must be,' I said to myself. 'She was in the Kalakon.'
"Well, since you said, Please," a playful voice came from above me. "I suppose I could spare a few moments in honest barter."
I glanced up and found a beautiful woman lithely crouched on the branch above my head. Her skin was a shimmering golden brown with shifting white lines moving over the surface. When I tried to focus on them, they were typically just a blur, but occasionally I could make out symbols. Her hair, every imaginable shade of blue, was pulled up into two long curling pigtails. They cascaded over her shoulders as she looked down on me. Her features were partially obscured by her hair, but I could tell they were the delicate structure of the fae. Set just a little too widely apart for human, her eyes were almond shaped and deep brown, no solid black without any white…no brown. What did I just see? I swear, she blinked and for a moment her eyes were solid, un-broken black, but just as quickly they appeared brown again and almost human. I must be imagining things. Oh, God! Imagining things? I'm describing seeing a goddess in the flesh. I've gone insane. Surely I shouldn't worry about something as simple as eye color! Anyway, I'm committed now. She was wearing a dress of silvery, purple flowing fabric. It was so light it seemed to dance despite the faint forest breeze. Tucked behind her and barely visible, I caught a glimpse of her wings in vibrant ombre shades of gold, crimson, fuchsia and violet. Her feet were bare. I have to admit; I breathed a sigh of relief. I'd heard tales that, in her fae form, she could be silly and mischievous but generally kind. I shuddered to think of the reports of other forms she'd taken, generally when she'd been angered. I had no idea what it took to anger her, there were so few stories. But no risk, no reward, right?
"So what have you come to ask me? Do you wish to know if you'll ever find true love? Or perhaps it's money you're after? Where to get that perfect job?" she asked in a bored voice. Did she just roll her eyes? She leapt softly to the ground and inspected the crystals I'd offered her. She picked up each one and turned them within a shaft of light, a look of rapt enjoyment on her face.
"I would not waste your time with such trivial things." She looked at me then, a skeptical eyebrow raised above brown eyes so dark you could get lost in them. Perhaps I did get lost for just a moment; I shook my head to clear it and hurried on before I lost her attention. "I just wish to talk to you. To converse, to learn more about you and your kin."
"I will say, the pursuit of knowledge is far more respectable than material gain. You intrigue me." She settled herself upon the ground, holding a crystal in her hands as if she forgot it were there.
I took this as a cue that I was allowed to ask questions, "So, your real?" Crap! Of course she's real, I'm talking to her aren't I? Shit. Sometimes I am so stupid. I'm so embarrassed!
"Nope. You're hallucinating," she said in a monotone, matter of fact voice.
I glanced at her, shocked. She giggled.
"Right. Sorry. I…ah…well…I possess the Kalakon," I said the last part in a whisper. It was the first time I had ever discussed the existence of the book with anyone other than my grandmother.
"The Kalakon?" she asked and her eyes glazed over, like she was looking at something far away. "Oh. I see," she said as if she forgot I was there. "I do see the resemblance. That was long ago." She shook herself out of her reverie and continued, "So, you are the keeper of wood." Lilatheen looked me over more carefully, taking in my wild curly hair, my abundance of black clothing, my pale skin. "What is that shiny thing in your mouth?"
I stuck my tongue out at her. "It's my tongue ring," I responded after tucking my tongue back inside my mouth.
"Hmmm…I like shiny things. You don't look like much, but then, looks can be deceiving. I know that better than anyone. I like you," she declared. "What do you want to know?"
"Where do I begin? So are you really the goddess of Prophecy? Do the other gods foretell the future too?" I asked.
"You think the might and magic of the Yaidalize is limited to prophecy?" she stated condescendingly.
"The Yaidalize? What are they?" I asked.
"Well, me for one, Silly!" she said with a laugh. "You come seeking information about something you know nothing about. The Kalakon obviously didn't tell you everything."
"Only a little, here and there. Enough to know I had to seek you out and find the truth," I replied.
"The Yaidalize are Fae divinity."
"So you're not a goddess, you're actually a Yaidalize? You’re a fairy?"
"Calling me a fairy is like calling a goddess, a mortal human. I am a Yaidalize. I am to the Fae what a Goddess is to you. Though, truth be told, I belong to both tribes, so I am a Yaidalize and a Goddess. I am the thread that runs through the fabric of all the realms; tying them together. I direct the weaving of those threads, deciding where they go. I must provide balance, making sure I weave both the light and the dark. Ragar lights them on fire. He controls the indestructible, infinite essence that is life. Together we are the link, the connection, the road that leads all places. Our roots run into the well from which all life springs and our branches reach every realm, every time, to the end and back again. Damial is the beginning, the end, and the chaos in between the strands of order. He is challenge, obstacle but also hope, change. If Ragar gives you life, then I give you direction and maybe just a bit more. That unexpected meeting that changes your life, I am Serendipity. I can re-weave the fabric of reality. I can make your dreams come true. I could be your biggest ally, but dreams can also be nightmares; I could be your most terrible foe."
"Wow, you're so much more than I ever imagined," I said, not just a little awe-struck. "Perhaps you could just tell me, is it true you can transform into a fierce dragon?"
"I am the patron of both fae and dragon and have an affinity for both forms, but I can take any shape I choose, plant, animal, human." She added with a smile, "If I choose to let you see me at all." At that, she disappeared completely. My stomach flipped and my heart sank. No! She couldn't be gone already!
"Can you change shape?" I heard from behind me. She placed the crystal she'd been holding on the ground. Examining a few feathers, she brushed them along her bare arms. Then Lilatheen retrieved another crystal to hold and settled herself in front of me again, a grin on her face belying her amusement at the little prank. She moved with a grace that seemed to defy the effects of gravity and a silence that defied the existence of sound.
I shook my head, "Sadly, no. I always thought it would be fun to become a wolf or a phoenix or something, but I am just me."
"Brave, inquisitive, knowledgeable, there are worse things to be," she said with a kindness I didn't expect from the fearsome and fickle Lilatheen. "Did you know that we took pity on drone bees and their boring subservient lives by gifting them spectacular deaths? When he mates with his queen, his ejaculation is so powerful it causes his penis to eject from his abdomen as he does a backflip off her and dies!"
"How is that a gift?" I ask, horrified at the idea.
"He dies having the best, most explosive orgasm of his life!" giggled Lilatheen.
"Ah…wow. Ok. How kind?" I replied with a shiver. "So, you mentioned that you give us direction and maybe just a bit more. Were you referring to the magic? In addition to the Kalakon, I researched every source I could find, looking for information, confirmation that what appeared in the Kalakon was true. Some accounts say that you are the source of all magic. Is it true?"
She flung herself back to lay on the ground and looked up at the sky. It had a very child-like, carefree quality to it that I envied. "Who can know the true nature of the unknowable? My position in the universe gives me immense vision and perception and so I am often seen as an oracle, but I am not omniscient. I can alter realities, but am I the weaving? I can walk the void, the veil between worlds where others dare not tread, but does that make me the void itself? If I were that nothingness, would I know it? I was once told that the roots of the Tree must be made whole to restore magic to all the realms, but if I am the tree, am I the root of all magic or perhaps just the conduit? If I’m the conductor, can I also be the orchestra?"
She didn't really answer my question, but gave me a lot to ponder. Was she just being evasive, or did she truly not know the answer herself? I may never know. She stood while I pondered and I sensed her restlessness. I didn't have much time left.
"Please don't go yet, if I may Lilatheen?" I pressed ahead without waiting for her to answer, afraid she might just vanish, for good this time. "Will you teach me?"
She cocked her head while letting another stone drop to the ground.
"You may be from the ancient sage's bloodline, but he was something unique. To walk the path I would set before you, you will reach the edge of all you have known, into the darkness you must step, it is the way. The edge between life and death, order and chaos, pain and love, is sharp, can you walk that line and survive?" With that, she rose and bowed to me. "It has truly been a pleasure." She bent to pick up some of the brightest, most colorful ruddy kingfisher feathers in jewel tones of golden, crimson, fuchsia and violet. She spun and transformed into a creature with plumage the colors of the feathers she had picked up. I was in awe. Before me stood Lilatheen's own Sacred animal, the Kismet. I never in a million years thought they were real. It stood just above eye level with me at almost 6 feet on four powerful legs with webbing between its' strong claws. According to legend, the Kismet was a creature of all the elements. It swam, walked on land, flew through the air, exhaled smoke and fire, and traveled through time and space at will. The Kismet had a sleek body which led into a graceful neck and ended with a finely feathered head that almost looked like fur. Her eyes, alien and glowing a aquamarine blue, were large, intelligent, and held a sadness that bespoke eons of wisdom and experience. Her head tapered into a short snout. Running up her snout and between her eyes were markings which highlighted her eyes almost like eyeliner on a human, and swirling symbols that merged into the fin-like ridges and curling fronds that topped her head. She had two huge pointed ears that extended up and slightly back on either side of her head and flicked a little forward and back, listening. The outer part of her ears were fine black feathers but the inner part contained vibrant, glowing markings that looked more purposeful like letters or symbols than random coloration. With gleaming sunset wings spread wide, glimmering in orange, fuchsia, red and violet, she turned. As she turned, for a split second, if I hadn't know the legends, I'd swear I imagined it, but for a split second, her entire appearance changed from the beautiful dream-like creature of brilliant, bright colors, to some dark, decaying terror of hellish nightmare. Flesh blacked and melted away, drifting around her like smoke. Bone and tendon stood out in stark contrast to the deathly darkness. The vision left as quickly as it came and she lifted into the air and away. As she rose, I was afforded a glorious view of all her iridescent, shimmering plumage. While her body and face were covered in small, sleek feathers with ombré coloring that almost looked more like fur than feathers, she had huge iridescent wings like those of a bat or a dragon, the edges looking a bit tattered. As if that wasn't magnificent enough, as the Kismet rose, she spread her peacock like plumbed tail for balance. The tail was long and flowing, and the eyes on the end of each feather, well they had a mesmerizing depth. In them, I saw quick and confusing flashes, a library in a forest, a mountain, strange creatures, a pyramid under a red sky, war, fire, flood, the flutter of wings, glowing blue eyes and I suddenly felt dizzy. I had to fight to turn away and not fall in. According to myth, if you stared at one long enough, it showed you things, other worlds, the future, your true self. The side effects of such a trip are unpredictable, with it being claimed that some people went blind, some saw their own life and death, some gained psychic abilities, some experienced no after effects, and others went stark raving mad.
From somewhere above me, these words drifted down, "I have lit your path and guided your way. In the absence of light, boundaries fall, all paths lie open, the impossible becomes possible, but you must take that leap and trust that you have wings to fly."
I suddenly realized we'd been there far longer than I thought. Just how much time had passed? The previously bright and sunny glade was deep in shadow and a chill ran down my spine. A glow caught my attention and I realized that the crystals I gifted to Lilatheen were now glowing with an unnatural blue light and were laid out to form arrows of a sort, but which way should I go? And what did it mean? She left me with more questions than answers.
I stood staring at the glowing crystals Lilatheen left on the ground. I remembered her final words for me, 'I have lit your path and guided your way.' Were those arrows? Did she really mean that literally? If so, she was telling me to go four different directions. Which one should I follow first?
I walked a few paces in each direction scoping out the four trails that were leading away from glade where we talked. Hopefully one would look like an obvious choice. Darkness was falling fast and to be honest, each trail looked exactly the same. Just trees and plants in every direction. I looked up, the sky was overcast. It would be a dark, dark night without moon or star light. Perhaps this decision was better left until morning. I sat down with my pack and leaned my back against a tree. I would camp there that night.
I laid on the ground, gazing at the glow from the blue crystals as it reflected off the leaves and branches above me. It was an eerie but beautiful sight. Then I spotted a strange shimmer among the leaves, it was blue too but seemed just a little more substantial. I sat up and saw a faint shimmering column of blue rising up from the crystals. So faint, I never would have seen it in the light of day.
I rose and walked over to inspect it further. Reaching out, I expected my hand to pass through the light, but it hit something solid and suddenly the whole glade lit up. There was a glowing blue spiral staircase rising straight up into the treetops. Lilatheen's voice echoed through my memory, 'I have lit your path and guided your way.' Huh, things were not quite as they seemed. 'So much for the arrows; I guess I'm going up,' I thought.
I turned to gather my things; the glade fell back into to semi-darkness when I let go of the staircase. I jumped and reached for the stairway again to make sure it was still there. Reassured, I grabbed my pack and began to climb the strange glowing light into the tree tops. Rising and rising, round and round, I breached the canopy of trees and discovered the stairway continued upward into the low hanging clouds. I took a deep breath and continued my climb. After a few minutes my legs were beginning to burn and my breathing was labored, but I trudged onward, curiosity and the will not to look down urging me forward. Soon enough I was enveloped by clouds and dew began to accumulate on my clothing and bare skin. I paused and retrieved a jacket from by pack. My eyes squeezed tight, lest I look down rather than inside the pack. Fortunately, my jacket was right on top. Afterward, I realized that the clouds were probably obscuring my view of the dizzying drop below, but I didn't test the theory. I climbed further yet and the light of the stairway flickered for a moment. I paused praying the whole thing didn't just disappear beneath my feet. The glow steadied and I resumed my climb, but it soon flickered again and went out completely. I froze in the sudden darkness. I could still feel the stair beneath my feet and railing in my hand, solid and real. It was reassuring as I stood there in the pitch black night wondering what to do next. Lilatheen's voice once again echoed in my head, 'When you reach the edge of all you have known, into the darkness you must step.' I took a deep, calming breath and continued the climb, blind, shaky, trusting.
Eventually the clouds parted, the stairway still solid beneath me. I looked around in disbelief. I stood in another woodland, lit as if the sun were just rising, or maybe setting. High above me was a leafy canopy of treetops supported by massive branches large enough for people to walk along comfortably. These massive branches sprouted from tree trunks wider than a horse is long. Most of the leaves were green but some were plumb purple or goldenrod yellow. The lush branches were so thick I couldn't see the sky directly, just the twilight glow filtering through the leaves. Lower was a thin, sporadic under-layer of saplings and bushes that grew to about 15 feet in height. The ground was thick with mossy boulders, ferns and low growing flowering plants in a variety of colors. I walked a little and noticed that the woods seemed to be crisscrossed with low growing pathways of springy, green moss and what might have been homes were scattered here and there. I saw some Pixies flitting around like glowing hummingbirds and a dryad or two resting against their trees. I could hear birds singing and the rustling noises of other woodland creatures hunting for food. They paid me no mind, as if my passing by were a normal, everyday occurrence.
I noticed a unique quality to the atmosphere, a buzzing energy, a low pulse. I'd felt this before in crystals or temples or small natural places of power, but never anything this strong, this all pervasive. Could it be? Is it possible? Has Lilatheen guided me to the mystical safe haven and crossroads known as Tavshae?
I overheard two Pixies talking. On closer inspection I realized that they weren't exactly Pixies, they were more like Pixie-Bats. They had humanoid bodies with arms and legs, but bat-like wings and ears. One Pixie sat patiently in the branches of a Maple Tree with purple leaves receiving a haircut from another pixie. "Well, Ophelia, what do you think," she asked when she was finished. Ophelia darted over to a bog puddle near me to take a look. I noticed that they only seemed to glow while in flight. She exclaimed with excitement, "Who is this Boov? I do not know!" Then proceeded to do a little dance. I supposed it was a good haircut, but what was a Boov?
"Excuse me," I said to the pixie-bat.
She looked up at me, startled she jumped and did a back flip into the air, catching herself in mid-air by flapping her wings. "Oh! Hi Kva…no you're um... Hi! I'm so glad to see you again! What are you doing here?" she asked.
"Uh, do I know you?" I asked confused.
"Well, you used to, or maybe you don't just yet. It all gets a little wibbly wobbly sometimes. Hi, I'm Ophelia!"
"Please to meet you Ophelia. Might you be able to tell me where I am?"
"Well, Tavshae, of course!"
I turned in a full circle, taking in my surroundings more. It was said that Tavshae means ghost and that the place was nothing more than a ghost, a figment, ethereal, even a memory of long dead places and long dead gods. Yet it was also described as a woodland of perpetual twilight, that it resided always in-between; in-between everything, light and dark, between the realms, between life and death. If the stories of eons past were true, things I thought were nothing more than myth and legend, then Tavshae was home to gods and goddesses, er, Yaidalize, elemental spirits, and other magical creatures. Absentmindedly, I started walking again, in awe and wonder, looking this way and that. According to legend it was also home to the Way Station, the place for weary travelers to rest when traveling between realms, a place for beings in danger to find safety, the neutral meeting ground. I still wandered aimlessly through this strange land. I didn't even pay attention to which way I traveled; I was so amazed. I just followed my feet and the pulse of the energy in the air. Speaking of the energy, the tales speak of Tavshae as the place where all lei lines cross through, the point where all the realms meet the Tree of Life and connect, a realm of portals to and from everywhere, a place of perpetual energy where you breath magic and drink dreams. Maybe I was dreaming. 'This can't be Tavshae, Tavshae isn't real, is it? This is impossible.'
I might have been talking to myself. I might have said that last bit out loud, as I heard in response, Lilatheen's voice, "In the absence of light, boundaries fall, all paths lie open, the impossible becomes possible. Welcome to my home. Would you like a cookie?"
Lilatheen's home was far smaller than I would have imagined. The rounded roof was thatched. Each window was lit from within by a candle. The walls were stone covered in stucco. It appeared to be a single story home with just a few rooms inside. It reminded me, somewhat, of a toadstool. The front door was a rounded arch of wood with a small overhang. A small garden in front of the home was bright with blooms and four chairs and a table made it a welcoming place to have tea which it seemed I had interrupted.
"Would you like a cookie?" Lilatheen asked again.
I blinked away my surprise and turned to her. "Is this your home?"
"Sometimes," she replied.
"Um, a cookie?" I looked at the dark brown, round biscuit that was covered in a white powder that she offered me. It looked like a real cookie. Who knew goddesses ate cookies? I didn't think the gods mingled with humans anymore, but cookies were a pretty modern invention. I didn't want to be rude, so I picked one up, saying, "Thank you." I munched on my warm cookie which was soft and very, very sweet. Taking in the scenery, I stood, afraid it would be rude to simply sit down uninvited. Her house was perched near a cliff with a view of seemingly unending forest below.
"Please sit down."
I sat, still looking around and absorbing my surroundings. "Am I really seeing two suns on the horizon?"
"It is a mirage. We only truly have one light in the sky, it is called The Morning Star. It always hovers just above the horizon. But it is believed that if you gaze at it directly, it will turn into a mirror and show you your true self, much like it projects its own mirror image in the sky."
I quickly look down, not sure I was ready to see my true self.
Boov's and Cookies and Things
"Oh, you are thinking a mistake. Boov do not steal and abduct. No. Boov liberate and befriend." - Oh from Home (2015)
"Ophelia, I keep meaning to ask you, how did you know what a Boov was? When I first visited Tavshae, that movie hadn't even come out yet," I asked.
"Oh please! You should understand by now that time is a very wibbly wobbly thing for me," explained Ophelia. "You know, sometimes the boov make me think of Lilatheen."
"Do they? Hey, that reminds me, I need to get her cookie recipe!"
"Oh, definitely! She makes the best chocolate crinkles!"
"I have to say, walking up that invisible stairway in the dark was terrifying!" I mused.
"Lilatheen is like that. She's like a mama bird pushing her babies out of the nest. She says, 'I gave you those wings and I can take them away, so use them right!'"
"Isn't the saying, I gave you li…nevermind, you might be right. I could see Lilatheen doing just that. I suppose, sometimes a leap to faith really is the only option. Sometimes logic and reason is not enough to get you to where you need to be. Often when people think of a leap to faith, it has to be faith in a divine being, but more often, what we need to have faith in, is ourselves. Sometimes leaving the clear and easy path with trembling fear and a firm belief that no matter what happens, you'll figure it out and get through, is the only path to growth."
"I closed my eyes and leapt off a tree branch one time," Ophelia said.
"I flapped my wings, once, twice, then BAM! I smacked right into another tree branch. The bump on my head was huge, but when I landed on the ground I found a new shiny thing!"
"I don't think we should ever take a leap to faith with our eyes closed. Just because we are moving into the unknown doesn't mean we should do so without gathering as much information and knowledge as possible first. When faith goes hand in hand with logic and reason, our chances of success are better. Most people equate the meaning of the word faith with belief, often belief in something without evidence or knowledge to support said belief. Faith should be equated with the word trust. Trust goes hand in hand with logic, reason and knowledge. I had to trust that Lilatheen wasn't going to make the staircase disappear and me fall. I also had to trust in my own ability to see the adventure through to the end. The leap is when you reach the end of all knowledge and trust that the direction knowledge lead you in will continue on."
"I suppose if I had opened my eyes before I leapt, I might not have hit the branch."
"Possibly, but it is also possible that you would have hit the branch anyway. And if you hadn't hit the branch, you never would have found your new shiny. Every leap to faith should be taken with the acceptance of pain. Life is painful and often some of the best places we get to involve a lot of pain along the way. Without risk, there can't be reward. The pain isn't necessarily a sign of failure and it is often the catalyst we need to take the leap in the first place, or keep going once we get started."
"Now, you remind me of Lilatheen," Ophelia stated.
Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith. -Margaret Shepherd