Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Laurel of Andar" Excerpt--"The Exodus"

Dawn broke over the isle of Andar, yet it was the most dismal dawning in the nation's history.
Valleys, once lush, forests once rich and full, towns once full of the color and life of its people--all this now lay beyond even the life-giving power of the sun and the cooling, moist breeze. Everything stood barren and deserted, a wasteland where had been an oasis.
Golon the Elf surveyed what was left of his beloved homeland--all that remained yet untouched by the blight.

Golon shuddered; the blight was pure insidious evil, wanton destruction in biological form. No one knew how or where it began, but it only took a few hours to know where it had been. Nothing living was beyond its reach; plants and even animals withered and died upon contact. Not even the Elves of Andar were safe; when the blight struck, a tall, sturdy Elf became bent and haggard in a matter of hours. The blight actively annihilated life itself, in whatever form. Nearly half of the country was already consumed, and the other half would follow by nightfall. Elves filled the streets as the Andaru, as they called themselves, united in exodus, seeking to escape ahead of the blight with anything they could carry.

Golon looked toward the harbor, where a whole fleet of ships waited to be filled with the exiled Elves, produce, possessions, and livestock. The Elvenking, ruler of the Andaru, had provided these ships for his people, desiring to save as many and as much as he was able. Golon watched the remnant boarding the ships. He glimpsed Maoife, his sister’s midwife, herding her five older children while pushing the younger one, an invalid, in a wicker cart—but where was his sister?

A young Elf shoved his way through the crowd and fairly threw himself at Golon’s feet.
“Uncle! Uncle Golon, come quick! It’s mother! She—she—“
Golon grabbed the Elf’s shoulders and lifted him to his feet. “Nareandor, where is your mother? The last ships are nearly full.”
Nareandor vainly tried to squelch his despair as he roughly scrubbed the tears from his eyes with a grubby hand, “She—she will not rise, Uncle. I cannot get her to come. She needs your help.”
Golon nodded, his face creased with concern. “Let’s go,” he told Nareandor.

The two Elves weaved their way against the flow of bodies to a modest-sized house in the middle of town. Golon entered first, and Nareandor followed.
"Jerynna," Golon called gently, "it's time, sister."
He peered through the dim light in the house till he caught sight of his sister's bed. Nareandor broke away from his uncle and ran to his mother’s side.
“Mother, wake up! Uncle has come!”

The pale Elf-matron opened her eyes at her son’s voice. Golon stepped forward and addressed her, "Jerynna, the ships are being loaded. Come, we must go!"
Jerynna smiled at her brother, but it was a sad smile. She placed a tender white hand on her son's arm, while the other stroked the dark hair.
She gazed earnestly at Golon. "Take him," she said faintly, "Take Nareandor and go; the Elvenking wants all the survivors to escape the blight."
Golon frowned, "I know, sister, that is why you and I and the child must leave now! Hurry, the blight looms closer every minute!"
Nareandor grabbed his mother’s hand, careless of the unmanly tears on his face. “Mother! You have to come with us! Please! I’ll—I’ll carry you!” He blustered.
Jerynna shook her head, the tears welling in her eyes. "I am sorry, Golon," she whispered, "It is already here."
She drew the blanket aside, and both Golon and Nareandor recoiled with a gasp, staring at her legs.

The blight had reduced them to mere twigs covered in weeping sores. Golon knew her entire body must be covered with those sores, and death was certain and imminent.
"No..." he choked. Nareandor was too overcome to say anything.
"Take Nareandor," Jerynna begged Golon, "Raise him as your son, and teach him of Andar every day, for I have had a vision that one day, by him will come a great leader for the Andaru, a true Andara, who will protect and lead the people in the manner of the Elvenking!" Jerynna's eyes shone with pride in spite of the pain. "Terriaf, chlosfergu! Go, my brother! Kriellraenna et oy ungortren!" (“Farewell in the present.”)

Golon wanted to hold his sister, to comfort her in the last moments, to bid goodbye for the last time, but he could not risk contact with the blight. "Saletaf..." the words of the response stuck in his throat, "Saletaf et oy angortren." (“Greetings in the future.”)  Jerynna cast her eyes one more time at her son; she smiled.

Golon pushed open the door of the house and watched the sunlight stream over his sister's dead face, watched the blankets and pillows on the bed change colors as the blight that killed his sister ate at these, too.
He gazed down at the small Elf under his arm; Nareandor, on whom the future leadership of Andar rested. What could be in store for them across the sea? He had heard of the continent across the sea; Murinda, it was called, and inhabited by round-eared, bearded men, short, swarthy dwarves, and Elves with dark skin who consorted among them freely. Golon couldn’t even imagine what a dark-skinned Elf would look like.
Golon boarded the last ship in the harbor, and as the tide pushed them away from shore, watched the last living vestiges of Andar slip over the horizon. They would find a new home at the end of their voyage, But, Golon promised himself, I will return someday.