A somber darkness had made its home on Treomynd. There were several Guardian casualties from that terrible night Atricio invaded the island. The Fire and Air Guardians were lucky to have been far away from the invasion, but the Earth and Water Guardians were not so fortunate.
Lucio managed to take all the fallen Guardians into his meadow as Orbs of Feor, except Lothlorien. The Magician of Light worked all the magic he knew, but he could not turn her soul into an Orb. He labored next to the small of water until he shouted at the sky in anger, spewing words in the Universal Language. All the while Aurora sat next to the river that streamed from the pool that had been Lothlorien’s body. She managed to subdue Renato enough to fall asleep, so she remained in a numbed silence.
“Listen!” Aurora shouted at Lucio.
“I don’t hear anything,” he said in a black voice.
“Well, then listen harder! Open your ears!” Lucio scowled at her and listened.
“Do I hear…Her?” Lucio whispered.
“Yes,” said Aurora. “I can hear her whispering to us.” They knelt next to the river’s edge and stayed silent until the sun came up. They learned that, if you listen past the usual flowing and babbling sounds of the new river, they could just make out the sound of Lothlorien’s voice. Sometimes the words they heard were different, sometimes they were the same. It told them what they wanted to hear; Aurora heard Lothlorien reassure her about raising Renato, while Lucio heard how much they had been through together. But they both heard forgiveness for the previous night.
They wanted to stay there forever listening to their friend, but they had to go on and attend to their duties. So they went back to the cottage. The next few days went by slower than a slug, and they quickly realized there were more pieces to pick up than they had hands for. Any Guardians they met on their way home not only greeted them with sorrow, but anger. What little trust they had established when they travelled the island was now shattered.
Lucio travelled the island again on his own to check if he missed any casualties and regain the Guardian’s trust, but to no avail.
“It’s no use,” he told Aurora when he returned to the cottage. “They don’t trust me anymore, and it’s for good reason. I promised them that they would be safe here, but my brother invaded the island and killed several Guardians with his Atrumnus.”
“At least your brother is dead now,” said Aurora. “Are the Atrumnus gone too?”
“There’s no way to know for sure. I saw no sign of them, so I think we are safe for now. But evil has a habit of reappearing after it is vanquished.” Aurora touched the place where Lothlorien’s horn had pierced her heart. It healed almost immediately after, and now only a deep scar remained.
“What happened that night? Was it me that made the Atrumnus disappear? Lothlorien told me you would explain everything about The Mark of Eternal Protection.” Lucio sighed and sat in his chair.
“The Mark of Eternal Protection is one of the Guardian’s best kept secrets, as I’m sure Lothlorien told you. It is something that can only be done between a human and Guardian that have a strong bond. When Renato was born, Lothlorien approached me about using The Mark of Eternal Protection on you or Renato in case something terrible were to happen.
You see, a Guardian’s purpose is to protect. In times of danger, a Guardian can plunge its horn into the heart of a human, thus transferring their energy and will to protect onto the human. It is a grave transfer, meaning the Guardian will die soon after someone receives the Mark. This newly found life-force added to the human acts as a kind of shield against all harm. This shield also protect against anything touching you, which is why Renato survived unscathed as well.”
“What…what does this mean?” Aurora asked. She could feel her heart start to beat out of her chest.
“You are protected for the rest of your life, Aurora. You’ll be more invincible than your father ever was. If danger should ever come your way, it will stop dead in its tracks. Nothing will ever be able to physically hurt you now. Lothlorien wanted to have this plan in place should something happen, because she cared for you and Renato. And I agreed. We didn’t want you to know because we knew you wouldn’t let it happen.”
“Of course I wouldn’t have let it happen!” Aurora shouted so loud that they could hear Renato scream in the next room. “She sacrificed herself for me and Renato? How could she do that?” Lucio said nothing while Renato continued to cry. She balled her hands into fists while tears streamed down her face. She snorted and strode into the adjacent room. Once Renato had quieted down, Lucio got up and stood in the doorway. Aurora stood facing away from him with Renato in her arms.
“She sacrificed herself because she loves you,” said Lucio. “You would have done the same for her. You and Renato were her greatest loves, so she wanted to protect you at all costs.” Aurora sniffled and wiped her face.
“She was also my greatest love. I hate that she had to leave us, because she made this past year bearable.”
“I know, but you are not alone. You and Lothlorien were bonded over the loss of your lovers, and we can get through our new loss together. Lothlorien was the first Guardian I met, and I am in as much pain as you.” He walked up and put his hand on her shoulder to turn her around. He gazed at her swollen eyes, and she fell into his embrace as they both sobbed over Lothlorien, Renato in between them.
They tried their best to end the night in good spirits, for Renato’s sake. Aurora was worried that the sheer amount of grief on Treomynd would hurt him. They spent the night playing with him in the cottage, because they were scared to face any Guardians outside. The toddler soon fell asleep with a smile on his face, and Aurora and Lucio sat next to the fireplace, lost in thought.
“You still haven’t told me what happened,” said Aurora. “What was that bright light, and why did Lothlorien turn into that pool of water?”
“Giving someone The Mark of Eternal Protection is one of the greatest honors among Guardians. Because of that, the nature of The Mark allows the Guardian to receive a merciful passing so they can be a reminder to the person after they die. This can differ from Guardian to Guardian, of course. In Lothlorien’s case, she probably loved Treomynd so much that she wanted to become a part of it, because it’s something that she helped make with us. Turning into the mouth of a river could be the best way to talk to you and I, so it feels like she never left.”
“Then that river will be the most sacred part of Treomynd,” said Aurora. “For both us and the rest of the Guardians. I want to call it the River of Whispers, so it reminds everyone of its powers and memory of Lothlorien. Perhaps we could call the pool from which it comes from the Moon Pool, because I think the moonlight that pierced through the clouds helped her turn into what she wanted.”
“I agree, it will be a very sacred place that all of us can agree on. I’ll make sure that The Moon Pool and River of Whispers will be treated with reverence.”
“Good,” said Aurora. “Now tell me about that bright light that exploded out of me.”
“Now that was truly something. I had never seen anything like it before, and we probably never will again. My guess as to what happened was the wound from Lothlorien’s Mark was so fresh, it intermingled with your emotions. Since the energy hadn’t fully settled within your body, you commanded some of it to leave you, and that’s what started that explosion. I’m very thankful that you did, because he Atrumnus would still be running rampant on the island if it weren’t for that moment.”
Aurora smiled and touched the mark on her chest. Knowing that she helped save Treomynd put her mind at ease just a little.
“What does this mean for me now?”
“Well, you can live just as you did before, but for much longer than normal. Since nothing can physically cause you harm, your life will be extended quite a bit. By how much, I’m not sure. You definitely gave some of Lothlorien’s energy away to kill the Atrumnus, but I can tell that you still have most of it. Your face still has a slight glow to it.” Aurora blushed and touched her cheeks. “The only thing that will kill you now is time. Those who receive the Mark often go on to live long, fulfilling lives, because you have received such a great blessing.”
“I don’t know if I would call an extended life a blessing.”
“I would disagree. I’ve learned that a part of being fluent in the Universal Language is an extended life. How old do you think I am?”
“I’ve been too scared to ask,” Aurora looked down at her hands.
“I am over 100 years old, but I feel like a teenager! I can show you that life is worth living for such a long time.”
“Then I’m glad I have someone to share it with,” Aurora said with a smile.
Life tried its best to go on for everyone on Treomynd, but it was clear that there was a large scar festering over the island.
Lucio travelled once again to tell everyone about the sacredness of the Moon Pool and River of Whispers. The Guardian’s reactions were overwhelming. It seemed that the loss of Lothlorien was a huge part of the bitterness between the Guardians and Lucio. They considered her a liaison between themselves and the Magician of Light, and loved her dearly for her kindness and empathy. Guardians of all elements soon began to travel to the River of Whispers to pay their respects and listen to Lothlorien’s voice one more time.
One night, Aurora found that she couldn’t sleep. After tossing and turning for hours, she sat up and looked out her window. The moon was full again, and cast a cool light on the forest outside. She got up and made sure that Renato was asleep, then slipped on her cloak and shoes and walked outside.
She walked for an hour or so to the Moon Pool, because the sound of Lothlorien’s watery voice seemed like the only thing that would calm her restless mind. When she arrived, the full moon shone in the pool’s reflection as a perfect white circle. The pool was still as a mirror, and the river flowed playfully from its edge. There were no Guardians around, thank goodness.
Aurora sat down and listened to faint whispers until she slipped into a sleepy trance. After a while she stood up to stretch her legs. She knelt down by the water’s edge and let her fingertips caress the flowing water. It felt like cream against her skin.
“What are you doing? You’re defiling this sacred place!” shouted a voice. Aurora jumped up and turned to see a brown Earth Guardian a few yards away, glowering at her.
“I—I’m sorry,” was all the girl could manage to say.
“You should be more than sorry!” The Earth Guardian strode up until he towered over her. “Having the pride to show yourself here! Leave, and let us Guardians mourn our kind in peace!” The Guardian stomped his hoof.
“Please, I mean you no harm! Why do you hate us?” she shouted.
“It is only natural to hate those who betray us! We will trust humans no longer!” The Guardian charged two steps toward her with his horn lowered, knocking her over. Aurora wailed and took off back to the cottage. She woke Lucio up and told him what happened.
“I was afraid something like this would happen to you,” he said. “The way that Guardian treated you was very similar to all the interactions I’ve had since Lothlorien’s death. I was hoping they would only behave that way toward me.” He sat deep in thought for a long time while Aurora calmed herself down.
“The Earth back home is slowly dying with the Guardians now gone. I wanted to go back and work on ways to help the world heal. Perhaps we should spend some time on Earth for a while, until the Guardians come to forgive us.”
“It certainly doesn’t seem like the Guardians are ever going to forgive us, Lucio.”
“I know, and you may be right. But Earth needs us right now, perhaps more than the Guardians need or want us here on Treomynd. Why don’t we go back for a while? We can start a new life there, where I know for sure that you and Renato will be safe.”
“I’m so tired of starting a new life,” Aurora said. “But you’re right. I don’t think I can stay here much longer.”
“You start many new lives, once you’ve lived as long as I have,” Lucio whispered.
The next morning, they packed up what necessary belongings they had to head back to Earth. They decided to leave the cottage here this time, so they had something to return to. The trio walked out into the meadow and took one more look at the beautiful sight before them. The Orbs of Feor, the spongey green grass that was littered with bright purple flowers, and the sunlight shining on the early morning dew engrained itself into their memories.
Lucio carried most of their belongings, while Aurora had her own small bag over her shoulder. She held Renato’s hand as the child stumbled along beside her blissfully unaware of what was happening. His hair was starting to become long and wavy, and was a light blonde.
“Say goodbye, Renato,” Aurora said as she picked him up. “We’re going to a new home!” she tried to sound excited, but she couldn’t stop the tears from welling up.
The girl was about to break down when she saw the Pygmy Guardian slowly emerge from the trees. She looked sincere, and walked slowly up to the humans.
“Greetings,” said the Pygmy. “Are you leaving us already?”
“We are,” said Lucio. “Treomynd does not want us here.” The Pygmy nodded
“I understand, although I hope it won’t be forever,” said the Pygmy. “Guardians are not accustomed to so much death. I believe we will heal in time.”
“Thank you for your kind words,” Aurora said as she knelt down at the Pygmy’s level. They shared a brief embrace before the Pygmy turned to Renato.
“Don’t forget how to ride, little one. I expect you to be able to ride the Flyers when you return!” Renato giggled and hugged the Pygmy too. When they were ready, they backed away from each other and bade their farewells.
“Safe travels, my friends! May your return be swift!” said the Pygmy.
“Thank you, my dear friend,” said Lucio. “Slite!” He raked his fingertips through the air, and a rift back to Earth opened up. They stepped through it, and the rift disappeared.
Lucio and Aurora soon made their way back to Aurora’s old village and built a house a little ways into the forest. It was private enough that Lucio could practice his magic and healing in peace, while still being close enough to help the village.
One evening, Lucio was watching Renato in the main room of their house while Aurora started tilling for a garden outside. He was reading a book on healing when Renato climbed onto his lap and begged for attention.
“Why, hello there my little one,” said Lucio. “Do you want to help me?”
“Yes!” squeaked Renato. “Help Lucio!” The Magician chuckled.
“I’m glad you want to help, but you need to…” he stopped and thought for a minute, “know magic.” He quickly scooped the toddler up in his arms and sat with him on a large rug in front of the fireplace. He opened the book and placed it between himself and Renato.
“Watch what I do,” said Lucio. He paused and look at the open book. “Gelác!” One of the pages floated up and turned to the next one. “Can you say that? Say Gelác!” The book turned another page. Renato laughed at the sight of the book moving its pages on its own, but didn’t seemed to understand that it was the word that made it move. Lucio sighed and sat back against a wall.
“Perhaps it only works when animals are the teachers,” he said to himself. Renato pointed at the book and squealed “Gelác!”
The book slowly turned a page on its own, making Renato laugh and clap his hands. He repeated the word over and over again, until there were no more pages to turn, and the book shut its cover with a loud smack. Lucio smiled and picked up the child for a large bear hug.
“It seems that I have much to teach you, little one,” Lucio whispered.
*End of Book One*