The Essedessel Tree
I’m totally cheating this week by adding an excerpt from the first NaNoWriMo novel I completed, the first of a series titled The Unlikely Hero. It was the first thing that came to mind when I saw the picture, and I have forgotten how much I loved these characters (and how they need to have their story completed!). I hope you will enjoy it as much I enjoyed writing them!
It was easily the largest willow tree River had ever seen. Its girth spanned almost the entire open space. The whole area had an aura of magic. There were sparkles of fairies flitting here and there, the ground was a lush green carpet, and stars filled the night sky above. This is the place where childhood dreams go, waiting for something wonderful to happen, and it never disappointed. There was a large hole in the base of the tree, and it was from this hole that the strange lights were coming from. They illuminated through the branches, causing rays of light to expand and stretch into the woods nearby. He briefly wondered if Tasha was nearby.
“The Essedessel Tree! The gnomes have invited us in. We can rest here for the night.” Gwyneth’s voice rang out happily as she led them through the opening at the base of the tree.
It was unlike anything River had ever seen before. The opening itself was magical. stretching to accommodate even the tallest of the small party, still on horseback, yet did not appear to have actually changed in size. It was as if they had merely shrunk as they passed through. The lighting was bright as sunlight as they continued down through the hole. It wound down steeply, yet there was no danger of falling. The walls were made of earth, but polished smooth and strong. The roots of the great tree spread over the path, a soft glaze of clear sap spreading across them like icing on a cake. This sap was the most powerful ointment in Savania, and incredibly hard to come by because the gnomes were stingy in their invitations. To acquire some, one usually had to engage in a game of catch the gnome, then guessing its name. As impossible as it was to catch one, guessing its name was even more difficult, making the prize that much sweeter when it was won. Not only was access to the sap gained, but also the gnome could be summoned just by calling his name. The gnomes were small but incredibly strong, and they were known to be the best furniture makers in Savania. To own a chair or couch made by a gnome was a symbol of prestige.
The path finally opened to a large room, shaped like a giant dome, deep within the earth. The dome had arched openings scattered all across its height, little rooms that led to places further beneath the earth. The base of the dome had tables spread the length of it in the center and a platform on the right. The platform held various farming goods from watermelons to green beans, and there was a small livery filled with goats and pigs just beyond the platform. On the left side of the dome was a myriad of merchants selling their various wares. The merchants did not seem to compete, happy to help their neighbor sell their stuff while their own was overlooked.
There were shops of clothing, tableware, and farming tools in little wooden shacks along each side of the room. There were little carts holding such things as jewelry scattered throughout the dome. There were stairs cut from the walls to each arched opening, and little wooden balconies painted in various bright colors stretched over the marketplace like captured bits of a rainbow fallen from the sky. The air was cleaner here than it was up above, and the temperature was consistent, being neither hot nor cold. There was a small stream running along one end of the dome, and it was to this stream that they led the horses. The water in this stream was so clear they could see their reflections in it. Everything under the tree was pure in its nature. They were in awe of all they saw.
A gnome of great stature greeted them at the stream. His beard was white, and his eyes showed an intelligence that only came with age.
“Welcome. It’s not often that we get visitors of your caliber in these parts.” He took his red cap off and bowed before River. “It’s an honor to entertain the Chosen One tonight. Please relax, make yourselves at home, and let me know if I can be of any assistance to you. Be sure to fill your skins with water from the stream so you will never be in need of water again.” He paused. “I am your humble servant, Rodra, King of the Gnomes.”
He stepped away, entering the small chamber just above the stream. There was a plush purple carpet edged in gold tassels extending from the opening of his chamber and running across the small bridge. There were statues on either side of the doorway of the gnome kings who had gone before him, and full green bushes at the edge of the bridge. This place was full of life and thriving better than the world above was. Before the visitors could wander too far, a small group of gnome girls met up with them. One of them led the three women away, marveling over Gwyneth’s golden hair. Another one took the horses and led them to the livery. The one remaining, a young gnome with silver hair and green eyes and rather well-endowed body, flirted vicariously with the four males, as she led them back to Rodra’s chamber.
“The state of the world is in chaos.” Rodra blurted out. Flashes of light shot from his hand as he tipped the bejeweled goblet to his mouth.
“Indeed.” Brandlance answered.
“It’s imperative that the balance be restored. While it’s not visible to the naked eye, things here have changed as well. The stream is changing. The earth is changing, even the Essedessel is changing.”
“What will happen to the tree if I don’t succeed?” River’s heart was heavy. This was too much for him. He suddenly realized the magnitude of his journey. These people lived innocent lives untouched by evil until now.
“The magic will die, taking with it everything that makes it possible for us to survive. The walls would cave in, trapping us here. The stream would fill with poison, killing any who drank from it. The results would be disastrous for my people.” Rodra’s deep sigh reverberated throughout the small chamber, as if the tree sighed with him. “I want to help, but I can’t leave my people.”
“You took a great risk telling us your name. Why?” Petrus asked.
“I needed you to know you could trust me, that you can depend on me. I’m putting great trust in you. Do not take advantage of it. Your quest is of great importance to us. Unlike the elves, we need this world. We don’t have ancestors on another world to sail off to.” He seemed to look straight at Brandlance when he said this.
“Understood. What did you have in mind?” Brandlance continued to question him. Kub sat silently, soaking in the lushness of the room around him, marveling over the emerald grass that covered the walls, just taking in the conversation.
“I have given you leave to take as much from the Stream of Life as you need to fill your skins. The water is regenerative and your skins will never be empty, so long as they stay intact. I am going to give you Esse Ointment for your journey. Should one of you fall ill or become mortally wounded, if applied in time, it will save you. In addition, I am lending you my son and heir to the throne should you be in need of gnome services. I do not know what he has in mind, but I wish you good luck. My markets have clothing to fit you, and the waters here are always warm. Please take my leave, and enjoy yourselves.” He started to lead them back to the tree center but just before exiting, he turned to Petrus. “It’s been awhile since we have had a bard in the village, any songs you wish to provide will be welcomed here this night.”
This post is courtesy of Ermiliablog’s Picture It and Write. A new photo prompt is offered weekly to inspire your muse. This week’s photo is in the post above.
I’m very interested in constructive criticism here. Please share your thoughts in a comment.
Thanks for stopping in!