Posted on December 6, 2010


This story is Part 29 in the Fire and Water series. It follows The Next Task. To read from the beginning, please visit the Index Page.

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Sulinor and Zaghran stood close together in the center of the waste that had been her prison. The edges of their true forms flowed in and out of each other like little tides, green mist and starry smoke carrying their ancient bond back and forth, renewing their strength, refreshing the currents of their magic. There was no need to speak, for each heard the other’s thought instantly.

We can wait a while, Zaghran told her. You’ve been free only a few weeks. Take your rest, my love.

You didn’t stop to rest once you were free, Sulinor answered. You came immediately to help me. There will be time enough to rest once our world is whole, once all our people are home and safe. No more worry now. As long as you’re with me, I’m strong enough for this.

Zaghran felt her soft green warmth suffuse him like a smile, and he relaxed.

As you wish, then. Whenever you’re ready.

Sulinor scanned the edges of the barren expanse. To the south, Peldanir and the Sorcerers had moved all the Nurain wreckage out of her way and were busy studying how it was made, how it worked. All along the edges from north to south, the Varzil ranged on horseback, keeping watch over the expanse, over her and Zaghran and the work they were about to do. In the same manner to the east, the Sylphs lined the horizon just beyond the expanse.

Everyone was at a safe distance. Sulinor was ready.

This place had been a great forest once, the perfect center of Vael. It had been Sulinor’s and Zaghran’s home when they were not wandering the world. In that forest, Sulinor designed numberless forms, into each of which Zaghran breathed soul and magic. They had created life in that forest, and once they restored it, they would do so again.

Sulinor took a deep breath and let her awareness flow out to the perimeter of the expanse, then sink into the blasted earth. It felt like falling into brambles, but she bore it and sank lower, to the deepest remnant of the old prison. She slipped beneath it, down where the earth was still itself, and anchored herself there. Then she pulled the ruined prison into her center, cradling it against her heart, and encompassed it all.

The earth of the prison still held the bitter aftertaste of the foreign vibration it, and she, had been forced to sustain. Sulinor’s senses reeled briefly with the memory of it, but the prison was powerless now. She let the memory go. As she released it, the earth did, too, and its echo faded away to nothing.

Now the earth of the expanse lay quiescent and dark against her heart, itself again; free, but with no memory of what it had been before the prison. Sulinor held it, singing softly to it as to an infant. She sang a melody of healing, reminding it of its own natural rhythms and the life that had filled it since it was first made. As she sang, the earth grew dense and moist, and its rich aroma blossomed through all her senses.

She felt Zaghran join her now, and they cradled the healing earth between them. As she kept singing, his breath carried flickering sparks of light down through the earth. It stirred and awoke. It became aware of itself, and remembered its own nature, its own magic.

Sulinor and Zaghran released the expanse, feeling life coursing through it again. They resumed their places in its center once more. Sulinor held out her arms and turned in a circle, casting sparkling green seed forms outward over the expanse. She spoke one word: “Grow.”

The expanse rumbled gently beneath them. In every direction, they felt living things take root in the awakened earth. Sulinor sang another melody, the song of the forest that had been here since the beginning, and the expanse knew the song and sang it back to her.

Trees sprang up around them, bearing the song in their newborn branches toward the sky. Sulinor and Zaghran felt springs bubble up in several places throughout the renewed forest to replace the little brooks and ponds that had watered it long ago. From far away, they sensed all manner of creatures drawn to come and make new homes here.

In no more than a year’s time, the Central Forest would return to its familiar, abundant glory.

It is done, Sulinor told Zaghran. We have our home back.

Are you tired, my love? Their forms rippled gently alongside each other.

No, not tired. In fact, I feel better than I have in thousands of years.

Zaghran looked up at the trees already towering over them. Above the trees, he saw a few Sylphs gathering to investigate the new Forest. He smiled at them.

Soon, he told Sulinor, Vael will be as it was before the Nurain ever came here.

I wonder, she answered. I hope so. What is this?

She bent and picked up a small gray rock that flashed blue and gold and green. It was heavy for its size: heavy with memory and the scent of the sea.

Findol’s stone, Zaghran realized. He must have dropped it when the Nurain took him.

Sulinor held it close to her heart, feeling all the generations of Findol’s family and the long story of Vael that the stone held. It was awake now, just as the earth of the Forest was.

There’s powerful magic within this stone, and now it’s awake, she told Zaghran. If Findol still had it, perhaps it could help him and his friends resist the Nurain.

Zaghran embraced her, comforting her.

We’ll keep it safe for him, he told her. And when he comes home, we’ll return it to him.

An idea sparked in Sulinor’s mind.

Perhaps it can help bring them home. Come along, my love.

She headed south toward Peldanir and the Sorcerers, pulling Zaghran with her.