Apocalypse VII: Chapters 9 & 10.5

Apocalypse VI: Chapter 8.5

Though Lakai was now reunited with the faery friends from Acrela who had sheltered him for most of his life, he had now spent time in the outside world, and his mind developed an acute awareness of his own mortality. He knew his blood was human, not fey, and the desire to discover his true lineage took hold of him and would not let go. Lakai came to the Faery Queen Ginzandi, and requested permission to travel back to his Enchanted Forest home to learn about his real parents. Ginzandi gave him her blessing, and warned him not to stray off the faery paths that lead to the Underworld city of Elfame, for the cursed forest was a dangerous place.

Briskly Lakai walked, through East Forest glades, through South Forest jungles, and all the nature spirits he passed offered him food and protection. Finally he reached the borders of the Enchanted Forest, its towering ancient trees rustling in the wind as if sharing whispered secrets. He walked by day and he walked by night, following the faery path, until he came upon a magnificent faery mound encircled by a jeweled fence. Itsí ornate double-door gates opened to a delicate harp-strung melody played by two imperial sentries. Down he went through dazzling crystalline caverns until the majestic city of Elfame spread out before him, above him, and all around him, lit by the brilliant Underworld sun.

Lakai headed for the iridescent faery palace at the heart of the metropolis, and felt an intense wave of nostalgia engulf him as he crossed the threshold. Faery Queen Erunei was the first mother he could remember, and she embraced him with joy. He asked her about his original parents, and Erunei sadly told him of their banishment by Queen Onedia for speaking the truth, and of their tragic death at the hands of the local tricksters. Lakai felt it was his duty to avenge them, but Erunei explained that due to Onediaís curse, only those born or reborn in the Enchanted Forest were able to leave it.

Undeterred, Lakai asked if there was any way for him to be reborn. Erunei admitted that there was one way. It involved facing the goddess Laurel herself, except that Onediaís curse had made her forget her divinity and she now enjoyed luring weary travelers into her cottage and feeding them a magic stew that turned them into various animals. There were two ingredients in that stew: Essence of Animal, and the other a transformational catalyst. The antidote to Essense of Animal was the faery foxglove that only grew in Faeryland, but it was highly poisonous to mortals if taken by itself. Queen Erunei told Lakai that she could give him some faery foxglove, but he would be on his own if something went awry, for the denizens of the Enchanted Forest would not act openly against their goddess.

Lakai accepted the faery foxglove, and set out eastwards along the faery paths the next morning, heading for Laurelís domain. All day he walked, and only at the fading light of dusk did he stumble upon her as she was tending her garden. According to plan, Laurel invited the boy to stay the night at her cottage. He followed her up the enchanted ladder into the house, and as she was busily preparing her stew in the kitchen, Lakai gulped down the leaves of faery foxglove. But even after he ate the magic stew, he felt sickeningly nauseous and his vision blurred, and he soon collapsed on the floor.

The distraught Laurel checked him for vital signs and, satisfied that he was still alive, picked him up and carried him to another cottage not to far from her own. The goddess stormed through the door and dropped Lakai at the feet of a girl sitting by the hearth fire, ordering her to fix him. The girl checked Lakaiís symptoms and concluded that he was a victim of faery foxglove. She told Laurel to leave him with her overnight, and that she would have him healed by morning. When Laurel left, the girl prepared a medicinal potion from several herbs, and administered it to the unconscious Lakai. She stayed by him the entire as the poison was expelled from his system, singing him sweet lullabies.

When Lakai awoke, he found himself in a sunlit clearing with a beautiful blond woman staring down at him. His memory was gone, and it was as if he was looking at the world anew. He asked her who she was, and she replied that she was Laurel, the Lady of the Forest. He asked her where he was, and she replied that he was in the Enchanted Forest. He asked her who he was, and her lips spread into a lascivious smile. She told him he was Pan, the Lord of the Forest to rule beside her.

Laurel showed her new Pan the boundaries of her part of the forest and forbid him to ever to cross them. She commanded the flora and fauna, the tricksters and faeries, to pay homage to him as the Lord of the Forest, so that no living thing would pose a threat to her consort. Lakaiís days were spent frolicking through the woods without a care in the world, but Laurel instructed him to always return to their cottage before dark. His dreams were haunted by visions of lives other than this one. They grew more lucid night by night, and it troubled him, but he did not dare breathe a word of it to his mistress.

One day, as Lakai was off exploring at the edge of Laurelís prescribed boundaries, he came upon a cottage with a well-kept garden. He heard beautiful singing come from the back yard and came around to see a maiden singing prayers to the spirits of the forest. Her hair was the color of the darkening sky and on her brow shone the shape of a waxing crescent moon. When she saw him, she quickly slipped into her cottage and locked the door. Lakai ordered she open the door in the name of Pan, Lord of the Forest, but to no avail. Finally he told her that he sees her in his dreams, and begged her to at least tell him her name.

         Upon hearing this, the girl opened the door and invited him inside. She introduced herself as Saillie, Laurelís own daughter, who healed him when he was poisoned by faery foxglove. Indeed it was true that her mother enjoyed turning humans into woodland creatures, but Saillie told him that those men Laurel finds particularly attractive she saves for herself. She wipes their memory with a magic catalyst in her vain attempts to mold them into Pan, the divine consort lost to her through Onediaís curse. Saillieís father was such a man, but when he finally succumbed to the reality of his dreams and tried asking Laurel for his freedom, she killed him on the spot. Saillie told Lakai not to worry, for he had been wise in not telling Laurel of his dreams, and in due time she would surely figure out a way for him to escape.

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Revised: 12 May 2010 07:47:48 -0400 .