Gumber- the year 451
A baby’s cry rang about the glistening trees. The sky was alight with the dawn breaking through the patches in the canopy of leaves. In the heart of Gumber was a meadow that danced with blossoming flowers. The music of frogs, bugs, and birds came together as a chorus, chiming out their joy. It was a day of renewal, a day that would mark the first of a new age.
Ithilié stepped along the meadow until she came to its center. Three pools sat in a triangle, each filled with pure water. On the bank of the central pool lied an infant, naked and hungry. Ithilié scooped the newborn child into her arms and cradled it against her chest. “There you are,” she crooned while rocking the baby from side to side. “And not a moment too soon.” She lifted her voice and called to the emptiness around her. Her words rang about the meadow. “What is her name?”
From the meadow, another voice responded. It echoed in her mind as a string of words came forth.
She shall be called Ashlyn. She shall defeat the darkness, lest the world be tainted with ash. Take her to the village. Let the elves celebrate her coming. When they have accepted her, let her live amongst her people.
Ithilié gave a bow. “So it shall be.”
The child looked at her with a pair of beady brown eyes. In the light they seemed to shimmer with a gold lining. “Come, little one. The Sepheras has spoken.”
With the baby in her arms, Ithilié traveled out of the heart and into the nearby village. She came to a place called the Ferion, where the Tribunal of elves took residence. She faced the three elf lords: Kyanthus, Milanthius, and Kallus. They sat brazen against the backdrop of stone and wood.
“My lords,” she bowed while presenting the baby to them. “The next child of the Sepheras has arrived. The cycle has begun anew.”
“How fortunate,” Kyanthus replied, gesturing her forward. Kyanthus was an elf of seventy-five years. Though considered young for his age, he was the eldest of the three Tribunal heads. He took the child in his hands to examine her. “Has the Sepheras named her?”
“Ashlyn, my lords. She is to be raised amongst us. I would have her grow up in the palace, under my care.”
Kyanthus gripped his sharp chin and said, “no.” He stood, handing the child back to Ithilié. “She will be safest here, hidden from the sight of your precious humans.”
“But my lord—“
“King Daniel is old. With the birth of a new Sorceress, I imagine your days are numbered, Ithilié. How long before the humans exploit the child’s power? How long before she is a queen who cares nothing for the elves of this world?”
“I would not let that happen, Kyanthus. She will learn to care for all life, even after I am gone.”
“Then let her learn here within the borders of Gumber,” he said. Straightening his pose, he turned to his fellow Tribunal heads. “What say you?”
“The judgement is sound,” Milanthius replied. He stood three inches shorter than Kyanthus. His hair was a wavy blonde, accenting his light colored eyes. He was fifty-eight years in age, the middle of the three. “But who will care for the child?” Milanthius and Kyanthus both turned to Kallus, the youngest of the three. “Would you do it, Kallus?”
“My wife just bore a child of her own,” Kallus said, his eyes hardened like aquamarine. “Forcing her to care for two infants is not ideal.”
“Then let us give her to an elf who has no children of his own,” offered Kyanthus. “Hael, perhaps?”
Kallus averted his gaze. “Hael passed away last year. It was an unfortunate accident at the lumber mill. His widow, Calda, still holds their property in his name.”
“Calda,” Milanthius smiled. “Perhaps the child would suit her needs well. Let she who is childless have an heir.”
“Hmm,” Kallus pondered. “It does seem fair that Calda have a child. Both she and the baby must be taken care of.”
“I agree to that,” Kyanthus lifted his hand. “They shall not go hungry under our watch.”
“I agree,” Milanthius nodded, turning to Ithilié. “It is decided then. Take the baby to Calda. The day will come when Ashlyn lives amongst the humans. Until then, she will be anonymous.”
“Anonymous?” Ithilié was taken aback. “She is a child of the Sepheras, it is her destiny to be queen.”
“And when that day comes, she will not forget us.”
Ithilié had to consider it for herself. In a way, it made sense. But the Sepheras had spoken: the child was to be raised amongst her future subjects. If Ithilié’s own will was obeyed, she would have Ashlyn living as a princess in Tauros. She would see Ashlyn brought up under the kindness of the humans. However, the Tribunal’s concerns were indeed valid. Agronan, the Sorceress before Ithilié’s time, had no ties to the humans whatsoever. When the time came for her to be Queen, all Agronan sought was to govern the elves as the supreme empire. By the time she was gone, that empire had only spawned the dark elf throne.
Ithilié had spent her prime years developing the human cities and establishing King Daniel’s rule. Consequently, the elves had played no part in that. For the last thirty years, Ithilié had been serving as Queen of the human world. Now her time was about to reach its end. Perhaps it was sound to ensure that Ashlyn would have the wisdom to govern both the humans and the elves. She would be a different Queen, both kind and compassionate. She would be an asset to the Tribunal once her reign came to pass.
“I agree to this,” Ithilié decided. “What a gift it must be to see both sides of Lorianthil, to know them as her own.” Looking up to the ceiling, she noticed colors dancing around the room like wisps. The voice of the Sepheras yielded a sense of peace.
With another bow, Ithilié exited the Ferion. On foot, she made the kilometer trip to Calda’s house. It was a serene property, outfitted with a wooden deck and potted flowers. Ithilié knocked on the door. When it opened, a young lady elf stepped out. Her blonde hair was long and parted at the sides. Her blue eyes sat like sapphires, glinting as the sunlight hit them.
“Are you Calda?” Ithilié asked.
“Yes,” Calda brushed her hair to the side. She was frigid in her stance. “What is the Queen of Lorianthil doing at my door?” She noticed the baby in Ithilié’s arms, cooing as its tiny arms lifted to the air.
“I have a task for you,” Ithilié said. “It has been decided that you are to be mother to my young sister, here. The Tribunal has given their blessing.”
“Me? What have I done to receive their blessing? My husband is dead, I have no heirs. I am not prepared to raise a child.”
“I know you must be frightened,” Ithilié soothed. With a kind smile, she handed the baby over and let Calda make her first bonds with it. “Calda, this is a high honor. My hope is that Ashlyn grows up knowing the wisdom and prosperity of the elves. The crown of Tauros will send for her when the time is right. Until then, watch over my little sister, will you?”
Cradling the baby in her arms, Calda did not expect it to feel so warm against her breast. The child was human, yet it brought her a sense of joy. It was as though fate had crafted this encounter, so right and fitting at a time such as this. Calda had only dreamed of bearing a child of her own. A year ago, she had accepted that her life would be a lonely one. Now, with Ithilié at her door and a baby in her arms, Calda’s future did not seem so bleak.
“It is a high honor indeed,” Calda said, showing the faintest of smiles. “To raise a child of the Sepheras as my own. May its will be done.”
“Very good,” Ithilié nodded. “Whatever you and Ashlyn need, the kingdom will provide.” With that, Ithilié left a kiss on Ashlyn’s forehead. She gave one to Calda, too, before departing. Calda watched as Ithilié moved on, fading into the trees until her figure disappeared altogether.
In Calda’s arms, the baby was stirring, reaching for the curve of her gentle face. “Hello,” she spoke to the baby, letting its hand curl around her finger. “I’ll watch over you.”