To say Nightwood was a far off land wasn't an overstatement, at least for those whom hailed from Charrpoint kingdom. For the Ezvel elf clan the forest was just over the hills. Considering that the Ezvel claimed the woodland as part of their territory that would only make sense. After all, every elf clan needed ritual grounds. Of course it had to be complicated, there were rules, one elf clan to a woodland area. Naturally Chrigel (the leader of the Ezvel) marrked the place—sealing it off with many high-level enchantments that insured no other clan could use it, not without granted access. It was Sharon's first time in the Ezvel territory—in any elf territory to be most honest. She had heard much lore of elven forests being places of splendor and otherworldly beauty. Beauty so other worldly it was rare even to Messze a Világ, a planet known for its enchanting lands. Pine trees with leaves that glowed at the tips and trunks adorned with emeralds were quite a site to see, epically on summer nights when the soft glow attracted an entourage of fireflies and an occasional pyxi. The average person, upon turning his or her head, would then come upon crystal stalagmites (mostly in shades of bright and olive green) jutting from the ground. And plunging downward into a nearby pond cascaded the water of Sirenfond creek—a lovely body of water branching from Crescentwayne ocean (just off the coast of Moonlight Hills).
It was here that Sharon attended her first elf clan ritual. It would be the first of many to come. The woman was a special type of human to say the least. Every few centuries would come a human with the physical and mental tolerance to attain the abilities of any species of their choice…a human with a pliable genetic makeup. It all sounded wonderful to Sharon at first—to be a creature that could change from one species to the next—but such was not the case. No. Sharon had to choose one species and stick with it; the only genuine advantage to being a Mystic-Gifted was having the ability to choose what creature she wanted to be. And God forbid if she chose something dastardly she wouldn't be able to take it back and re-pick. And so it was that she had to journey across Messze a Világ getting a taste of all the cultures. And her first taste of would be Teacht Earraigh—a coming of spring ritual.
Chrigel passed her a bowl of mashed raspberries. She dipped her pointers in the mushy, sweet smelling substance. Half tempted to lick it off her fingers—to see if it tasted as sweet it smelled—she drew with her finger a red line of berry from the corners of her eyes to the tip of her chin. She jabbed her finger into the mesh once more and dotted her cheek bone and jawline. And one final time to draw a star on her lips and a flower on her head. She then passed the bowl of mashed fruit to the next elf. Sharon stared into the roaring fire before her and began to wonder what point this berry mess served…what it symbolized. Chrigel pulled her from her musings upon lighting a wax candle, one that he promptly stuck into the berry mas (that had been passed back to him prior). He lifted the bowl to the sky, the scent of raspberries intensifying.
"I lift this bowl Loreena, Mother Messze, Queen of nature—in hopes of a season of prosperity and a safe returning of spring." He raised the bowl higher. "Mother Earth we ask you, please, oh oracle of the wood, gibe us rain and let our crops flourish. Renew once more, the Great Pine of Nightwood. Permit its beauty to reign high above all else. Please great spirit of Messze, of spring, of seasons. Let spring come gently and breathe life into the nature claimed by the ice queen's blanket of white and cold—of despair and of hopelessness."
"Let the elemental spirits descend and make a wholesome season." Sharon murmured along with the other elves. She watched white wax drip down the candlestick and sizzle in the fruit jam.
"Loreena, natures guardian…" Chrigel began again.
Sharon didn't mean any disrespect, but it was upon hearing those words that Chrigel's chant fell into more of an utterance, words blurring together in a monotonous slur. Sharon didn't hate these rituals or anything, but they weren't of any particular interest to her either. To be quite honest, she didn't even believe in praying—in a manner of speaking—to Mother Messze or the elemental spirits. Of course she believed in their existence, just not in ritualizing them…worshiping them.
"Sharon." Came the hoarse whisper of Chrigel's wife, Anne. "Take the candle."
"Right. Sorry." Sharon mumbled softly and took hold of the candle. She didn't exactly know what to do with it so she just passed it over to the next elf, Meri Tadic. She was a brown haired elf with coal-dark eyes that always seemed to glow with a degree of disdain.
After each elf had the candle, Chrigel spoke up again. "Mother nature, great spirit of the seasons, we thank you for all you have put into each season and for your care of us lesser beings."
"Mèsi, mèsi Ms. Mckennitt." Sharon bowed with the elves.
Chrigel blew out the candle. "Now take the Gywdle* bark." He pointed to a wicker basket full of darkly colored, spiny wood. Sharon watched as each elf chose a chunk of wood from the basket, dipped it into the raspberry jam, and waked over to a seemingly random tree where they proceeded to paint on many different elven symbols Sharon could not even begin to decipher.
Sharon bit her lip and tried to mimic the elves to no avail. Everyone seemed to be drawing different symbols and at different trees, all she could do was stand there wishing that Chrigel prepped her more.
Patrick gave her a light tap on the shoulder. "Need help with the sketching milady?"
"That would be nice." Sharon answered.
Patrick glanced around at the other trees. "Oh good, no one drew this one yet." Glancing back at Sharon he continued. "This one is the easiest to draw." He picked up his own piece of Gywdle and lightly etched a double ringed circle with a dot in the center and two triangles—one on top and one on bottom.
"Thanks Patrick." She whispered as began painting her own symbol over it. When she was done, she placed the bark back into the basket and sat down next to the other elves that had finished their drawings.
Sharon began thinking to herself once again; she pondered upon what she would do the next morning. Should she harvest ildish berries or practice her horseback riding?
"What are you thinking about?" Anna questioned.
"Nothing much. Just my schedule for tomorrow."
"Will you be doing much?" The elf's questionnaire continued.
"No, I don't suppose so. Why do you ask?" Sharon responded.
"Well, if it isn't any trouble, there is a chance for us to partake in something rare and special. If spring awakens tomorrow with rain clouds—and there's a very high chance of it, our clan will hold a magical celebration. Rainwater gathered on the first day of spring is supposed to have particularly special properties." Anne explained. "The wood witches love using it for potions." She added.
"And how do you know it will rain?" Sharon asked in an attempt to buy time as she contemplated her answer.
"Ivo Henzi." Anna smiled. "He's really good with reading the Autramawrs.* He smelled rain in the air earlier this evening. And he's hardly ever wrong."
Sharon lifted an eyebrow. "And say the day was to be sunny. What do the Autramawrs smell like then? As far as I've heard, only woodland fey can smell the Autramawrs."
Anna considered. "I don't know, I guess Ivo's just got a gift." She paused. "And sunny days. Those are his favorite. He says they smell distinctly of lilacs."
Sharon shrugged. "I suppose I could go, it couldn't hurt any. I just hope it does rain."
"Oh. Don't you worry. It will rain." Anna assured her.
"Now everyone, find the symbol that most accurately depicts your problems and pray to mother nature's tree imp that is acquainted with your current conundrum." Chrigel announced.
"You'll have to excuse me." Anna remarked before stalking of towards a tree depicting a deer and a snowflake. Now that was a symbol Sharon recognized. A while back, during some folktale telling, Sharon had come to learn that such a symbol marked the loss of a child on a winter's eve. A sudden cloud of grief washed over Sharon as she watched a possible new friend kneel before the tree, eyes glistening with tears yet to be shed.
"Just what are you doing here if you aren't even going to participate?" Meri huffed. "Do you even believe in the tree imps?"
"Of course I believe in them!" Sharon nearly shouted. "I just don't worship them."
Meri made a face akin to sucking on the most sour of lemons. "Then by all means, you shouldn't be here."
"I'm here mostly for duty's sake. But I am trying…" Sharon began, only for the other elf to cut her off.
"No one goes to elven rituals 'for duty's sake'. How rude is that? Disrespecting our beliefs…shall I just waltz into one of your fancy human churches and…"
This time it was Sharon who cut the other off. "And how did I disrespect your faith? I'm sorry for having absolutely no idea how this ritual is run."
"I say Patrick draw that rune for you" Meri scoffed. "Humans are dreadful beings. Just above the vampires. I've always hated them."
Sharon opened her mouth to protest once more, but the elf had already stormed off to join her boyfriend, Merlin, by one of the pines. "What a perfectly pompous elf."
"Pompous elf?" Chrigel appeared next to her. "Which one of us. Certainly not me." He added with a half-smile.
"Meri." Sharon spat.
"Oh, pay no mind to her. She's very touchy about our rituals and ceremonies. I'm not saying that that's a bad thing…" He trailed off. "She isn't used to outsiders…believes that if they don't adapt to our idealisms than they should go home and practice their own.
"Well, your wife invited me to your rain celebration tomorrow. I'm sure Meri will be thrilled." Sharon looked in her direction. "Should I decline the invitation?"
Chrigel snorted. "Well that's up to you, my human friend.
"Oi, Chrigel! It's time for the closing statement." Merlin called.
"I hope to see you there." Chrigel waved.
"Perhaps." Sharon muttered before sitting back down on a log. She stared into the smoke, spark, and ash rising up and popping amid the trees. She heard a pack of mountain trolls grunting triumphantly in the distance—probably just finished clubbing their unfortunate pray until its last breath was drawn. The beasts would feast well tonight.
"Thank you Mother Messze, mistress of the Nightwood and all other nature surrounding, for listening to our wishes, dreams, desires, and despairs." Chrigel bowed his head. The other elves following closely, Sharon taking their lead. "You may proceed back to your homes."
Sharon got up, set on leaving.
"Hey, thanks for coming tonight. Chrigel and I enjoyed having you." Anne said as she unhooked her lantern from the tree and ran off to catch up with her husband.
"It was indeed a pleasure." Merlin shook her hand.
"Night Sharon." Patrick waved. The two of them grabbed their own lanterns and set off down the path before them. They would walk together for a good while but would eventually split off a little ways down the path.
"Hurry, hurry Madame. The scent of mandrizies* is and rain hang strong in the air tonight." Ivo cautioned.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Sharon asked.
"A storm is a brew. I'd make hast if I were you."
"Come on Ivo! We have no time." Meri grunted as she grabbed his arm and tugged him off.
Sharon was now standing alone in the clearing, in what little light was still emitting from the remaining lanterns and dying fire.