Genre:Rhyme, Life, Adventure
The Tree of Life
by Andrew Durbin
There was a time not long ago when tales and songs were sung
Of knights and kings, and wizards wise, and wells where water sprung.
My tale tonight shall tell you of a place where magic dwelt,
And what became of this old bard, and what I saw and felt.
While walking down a narrow road, I came upon a sign.
A sturdy thing, made from the wood of some old gnarled pine.
The town that I was headed to was called by name, “Gremell.”
A shiver traveled up my spine, but why, I could not tell.
I had been walking all the day, and now had come the night.
I had no lantern with me, and the dark impaired my sight.
This town must surely have a place where I could take my rest.
Just then, I heard a sound that made my heart pound in my chest.
I slowly turned upon the spot, and there, before my eyes,
A figure in a hooded cloak against the moon did rise.
I quickly dropped my walking staff; my hand dropped to my sword.
The figure merely stood there. Then it bowed and said, “My Lord.”
Startled and confused was I. I knew not what to say.
The figure pointed with its hand, as if to show the way.
A beam of light cut through the dark, as bright as noonday sun.
It shone upon the rocky cliffs, along which trees did run.
“Who are you, sir?” I asked the man. “And from where do you come?”
My heart was thudding loudly, like the beating of a drum.
He said, “A place where mortal men like you have never seen.
The place where magic makes its home. A place called Ailoth Green.”
“My name is not for you to know,” the man then said to me.
“For if you were to speak it, you would turn into a tree.
But come, the night is drawing down its curtain on the land.
We must away while there’s still time.” He offered me his hand.
I reached towards the figure’s hand, but stopped and stared in awe.
The hand that he held out to me looked much more like a paw.
And then the moon, so full that night, shone down upon us then.
His hood fell back, and what I saw, I may not see again.
His features were not that of man, but of a wild beast.
Pointed ears stood atop his head; his brow was furred and creased.
A long white snout was ended with a wet and coal-black nose.
With one paw pointing, the other held out, he seemed to strike a pose.
He motioned to me fervently. “There’s no time to delay!
We must be in the walls of Ailoth Green before the day!”
I then reached out and grasped his paw. We then began to run.
I looked around for others, but there wasn’t anyone.
Ten minutes passed, and then we stood against the huge cliff face.
A massive thing of granite rock spread out across that space.
The beast-man placed a padded paw against the ink-black stone,
And I’ll tell you that what happened next…it thrilled me to the bone.
A giant crack did then appear, and cut the cliff in twain!
All I had seen, and this besides, weighed heavy on my brain.
I then dropped down upon my knees, and raised my arms up high,
And cried out loud for God to come and take me to the sky.
“Up on your feet,” the creature said. “You’ll not be dying now.
This is the place where we must go. Of that, I will avow.”
He helped me stand, and then he nodded at the growing crack.
“Once we go in, I must warn you…there is no coming back.”
The fissure opened wide enough to let us both pass through.
The walls of rock around me glowed with a bright rainbow hue.
I glanced around me at the walls, and gasped aloud in shock.
A plethora of giant jewels were encased within the rock!
Rubies, emeralds, topazes and sapphires were there,
And onyxes and amethysts, and opals, which are rare.
A bloodstone shone out from the rest, and glinted out at me.
But as we passed, I soon realized there was much more to see.
The first thing that I saw as soon as we had passed the wall
Was the shimmering glaze of water as it fell over a fall.
It landed in a mirror pool a thousand feet below,
And as this wonder met my gaze, I saw a dark brown doe.
She wandered out of a small wood that stood near the plateau
On which the two of us now stood, the water all aglow.
She bowed her head at both of us, and then began to speak!
“The Master waits for you down there. He’s sitting near the creek.”
The beast-man nudged me with a paw and pointed to a stair.
“You must go to the Master now. You cannot have me there.”
I started for the cut stone steps, but when I looked behind,
The creature and the doe had vanished, not a trace of them to find.
I started walking down the steps, my eyes cast here and there
To take in every detail of this fascinating lair.
And when I reached the bottom, there before me near a creek,
A little man sat smiling there, a tattoo on his cheek.
He was a short and wizened man, of what age I knew not.
To me, he appeared ancient, as if him the time forgot.
He wore a light blue silken robe, and round about his head,
A circlet of some brownish leaves, their color saying dead.
“I welcome you, my slim young friend,” this old man said to me.
“My name is Osnant Willowborn, the Guardian of the Tree.
My servant led you to me, and now I will tell you why:
The Tree that holds the world together will soon begin to die.”
I stood there stunned, not really sure if I had heard him right.
I said, “But why did you choose me to aid you in your plight?”
He smiled up at me and said, “Because you are the one
Whose poetry and tales of wonder people do not shun.”
“It is because of men like you the Tree still stays alive.
The magic of the spoken word allows the Tree to thrive.
When you go back to your home town, I ask you only this:
That your poetry continues to keep the Tree from the Abyss.”
He pulled a leather pouch out then from deep within his robe
And from within that small brown sack, he took a tiny globe.
He handed the small thing to me and said, with knowing grin,
“You can’t know where you’re going without knowing where you’ve been.”
He told me then to close my eyes, and so I did as asked,
Wondering to myself how I’d complete this mammoth task.
And when I opened them, I once again stood on the road
And faced towards the town Gremell, where morning sunlight flowed.
Twenty years ago this was, and I still have the globe.
I usually keep it in my rented room’s wardrobe.
Wherever I have gone since then, I mark it plain and clear,
For if the old man’s words are true, then we have much to fear.
Poets, bards, and storytellers, please heed my words this day.
Keep up your old traditions, and don’t let them go astray.
As long as we keep the magic of the Tree of Life alive,
Then the world will hold together, and for that…we all must strive.
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