One evening following a grueling day of judging the souls of the dead, Lord Makar slouched down into his dark throne and listened as his wife began to sing. Ordinarily these quiet moments were his favorite but that particular night he felt unusually tired. Mere minutes into the song, the grim judge struggled to keep his eyes open. He soon raised his right fist in front of his face before yawning.
Seeing his sign, Morae held her voice mid song. She stepped away from the throne and approached her husband.
“You must be exhausted, my love,” she whispered as she leaned over him.
“It has indeed been a long day. I should probably sleep a little,” Makar replied after yawning once more.
“How about a hot bath beforehand?” his queen suggested.
“A warming bath, yes, that seems like a fine idea,” he replied.
Thus Makar ordered the Morkrai to make the preparations. The shadow beings quickly gathered water from the well outside the halls and began to heat it under a fire. Meanwhile the couple stepped away from the chamber and made their way towards the kitchens. One Morkrai followed them and there he picked up a bowl of fruit and offered the fresh harvest to his Lord and Lady. Morae helped herself to a bunch of grapes and some cherries.
Eating with the grace of a queen, she proceeded to grab a handful of raspberries before asking:
“Aren’t you hungry?”
“Not particularly,” Makar responded simply.
Morae ate the juicy raspberries before speaking again.
“Are you sure? It’s been a while since you last ate,” she uttered softly while touching at the fruit inside the bowl. “Why not try some pomegranate seeds?” – she asked.
“Very well, I’ll have a few, just to taste,” he replied.
Morae took a pomegranate from the bowl and passed it to the Morkrai. The creature quickly sliced it in half with a thin knife before offering it back to her.
Morae removed a handful of seeds and put them into Makar’s mouth.
“Mmm… delicious,” he murmured after swallowing the bursting seeds.
Morae simply smiled in response.
“I think our bath should be ready by now,” Morae noted as she handed the bleeding pomegranate back to her servant.
They walked towards the bathroom just as the Morkrai had finished pouring the last batch of hot water into the wide tub. Before leaving, the shadow creatures rested two soft towels onto a marble table in the corner of the room.
As soon as the Morkrai left, Morae wrapped her arms around Makar.
“Alone at last!” she declared happily before they kissed.
Morae then made her way towards the cool marble table. There, next to the towels, stood a collection of numerous glass vials filled with essential oils.
“We have some lavender, jasmine, bergamot, mint….Which fragrance would you like? ” she asked.
“The mint,” Makar decided.
“Mint, good choice,” Morae smiled as she took the bottle from the table.
She poured droplets of the thick oil into the tub before putting the bottle back in place. She undressed and edged into the steaming bath. Makar disrobed and soon joined her. The pair rested in the tub for a while, enjoying the pleasant aroma and soaking until the water started to grow chill. Not long after Makar and Morae grabbed their towels and made their way towards the bedroom.
“How long have we?” the goddess wondered once inside.
“We have time enough. The dead can wait a little longer. Our Morkrai will watch over them whilst I spend some time alone with you, my dear queen,” Makar replied as they perched on the bed.
That night they made love before falling asleep in each other’s arms. Hours later they woke up to the sound of a horn. Finally rested, Makar rose quickly and dressed himself, Morae hurriedly followed. She snatched a comb lying next to their bed and moved to brush her hair. She was about to leave when Makar stopped her.
“Aren’t you forgetting something, my dear?” he asked, holding up a spiky black crown decorated with onyxes and crystallized dark roses.
Morae took the crown from him and stared at it for a few quiet seconds.
“My queen deserves her crown,” Makar whispered.
“And you, my dear king…where’s your crown?” asked Morae.
Makar grabbed his hooded cloak and robed himself.
“I would rather keep my hood up,” he replied before pulling the dark hood over his face, “as long as they can hear my voice, the souls will never need to see my ugly face. I would rather they gaze upon my beautiful queen.”
“There’s nothing wrong with your face dearest,” said Morae as she rested the shadowy crown on her head.
Makar smiled at her before they strode towards the throne room. They passed through the kitchens on their way where Makar ordered the Morkrai to bring food over to their thrones. Unquestioned, the Morkrai obeyed their master and quickly began to prepare a meal.
The couple walked silently into the towering chamber and took their seats on the dual thrones. Soon after the Morkrai laid out great platters of food. Makar and Morae were still eating their breakfast when two Morkrai entered the hall, dragging a dead soul behind them.
Still chewing his food, the Lord of the dead gazed down at the spirit stood before them. The ghostly figure was a middle-aged man with thin grey hair and a long beard. His clothes were left dripping wet from sea water.
Finishing his meal in grim silence, Makar passed the empty plate to one of his servants before speaking:
“Captain Larnin, son of Erios of Gragia, I am listening. You may begin,” the grim judge spoke in his cold and emotionless tone.
Makar and his queen listened carefully to Captain Larnin’s tale. There Morae waited until he had finished his story before speaking.
“What a fascinating tale. I have never had the pleasure of visiting Makar’s sister’s kingdom, nor have I ever seen any of Afa’s creations. What more can you tell me of these water Enai? – she asked.
Hearing her words Makar turned to face his wife.
“Morae, my dear, I fail to see how this is in any way relevant to my verdict on the Captain’s fate. Why ask?” he whispered into her ear.
“You’re right, it’s not relevant. I’m just curious,” the Lady of sorrows replied.
Makar smiled and kissed her hand before resting back in his seat.
“Very well. Captain Larnin, for the sake of my wife’s curiosity I would like you to tell us more about my sister’s servants,” uttered Makar, all the while staring down at the ghost.
Captain Larnin turned his head slightly to face the goddess before speaking:
“My Lady,” he began, “Lady Afa’s servants are vicious monsters whose love for violence is equal only to their love for their watery home and all creatures of the sea. Their women are beautiful, with long turquoise hair and blue fishtails. Yet the one that sank my ship was a young, strong male. I will never understand why he chose to attack me and my crew but, judging by the look on his face, he appeared to enjoy watching us suffer. Destroying my ship seemed to be enough to keep him amused, but then his kin joined him and pulled some my crew down into the depths. One of his women even drowned my first mate’s young boy,” he concluded his tale before wiping a tear from his face.
“Thank you Captain Larnin. Your tale proved to be very entertaining but now it has now reached the time for me to declare your fate. I see little virtue nor any noble deeds in your life. Before becoming a sailor you lived the life of a petty thief, spending most of your days robbing people in the streets, occasionally getting into drunken fights. I therefore sentence you to remain here in these halls, forever,” the grim judge declared.
The Morkrai grabbed Captain Larnin and pulled him away into one of the cold halls. Makar took a few sips of water from a cup offered by one of his servants. The horns sounded once again and the Morkrai trudged back inside, dragging more members of Captain Larnin’s crew into the hall. Makar listened to each of their stories while some promptly removed their jewelry and offered it as a gift to Lady Morae in exchange for a further audience with the goddess. Morae listened to each story before stepping away from her throne in order to deliberate with her husband.
“It seems this crew mostly consists of former criminals who, like their captain, decided to do something more useful with their lives,” Makar whispered to his wife.
Morae gazed down thoughtfully at the lost souls below before speaking:
“That is perhaps true for most, but not all of them,” she noted before pointing towards the only female crew member, a short brunette dressed in a grey cloak. “That woman there, she’s different. She is the only one here without a criminal past.”
Makar glanced down at the woman again before turning to face his wife.
“Oh her. Indeed, she spoke little of her life. She said only that before joining Captain Larnin’s crew she worked at a market stall,” Makar recalled.
“Well, that is only the barest truth. Once during her time at the market stall she spotted five street children trying to steal her goods. Instead of punishing them, she took those orphans home and raised them as her own. She was a loving mother to all of them, and she helped them to find work and to settle down,” Morae replied shrewdly.
“And you believe her?” her husband asked.
“Naturally, my powers allow me to sense lies. This woman spoke the truth,” the goddess replied.
Makar smiled at his wife before responding.
“Well done, my dear. This in fact means we have found a noble soul, one worthy of an afterlife in my father’s palace. My mother will be thrilled to learn of this,” Makar whispered before turning to face the crew once more just as Morae returned to her seat.
One by one, he announced the fate of each wretched individual and watched as the Morkrai dragged them away until only the woman remained.
“Please, my Lady stop this! These people were my friends, they did nothing wrong. It was the Enai, that caused us this misery, why are you punishing us?” the woman cried out to the queen.
The couple stood up from their thrones and glided down the steps towards the ghost. The woman shivered in fear as she watched the dark gods silently approach her. Once close enough, the pair stood facing her perfectly still, then at last Lady Morae suddenly started to sing. A few seconds later the woman lay down on the ground, her eyes closed, deep asleep. Makar ordered the Morkrai to fetch a bowl of water while his wife stared at the pale body lying on the ground.
With the items in hand, Morae helped her husband as he began to clean the woman’s face, her hands and her feet before pouring the remnant water over her body. Makar finally placed his right palm on the woman’s forehead before shouting:
“Eviria, daughter of Auria, I hereby grant you pardon and release you from my realm,” Makar proclaimed loudly. There he used his divine power to light the woman’s body up under a pale flame. There was a fleeting brightness in their dark realm before the light soon caused her to disappear.
Only moments later Eviria woke to find herself lying on a blanket of clouds. Confused by her new surroundings, she gazed upwards to see the ceiling of a vast golden palace filled with the brightest lights. Suddenly she noticed a figure walking towards her. It was a beautiful woman dressed in white with long flaxen hair adorned with a golden crown.
“Lady Era-Gragiya!” Eviria shouted and quivered once she realized quite who she was addressing.
The goddess smiled before holding out her hand and helping the woman stand.
“Eviria, daughter of Auria. My son Makar has deemed you a noble soul, and thus granted your release from his kingdom. I am delighted to welcome you into my home,” Era-Gragiya answered warmly as she led the woman into a hall where the other noble souls were each seated.
Unlike the innumerable souls in the grim Halls of Makar, these spirits appeared almost as though they were still alive. Instead of standing, locked in a state of trance-like sleep, these bright beings were happily sitting together and chatting away, as if merrymaking in a warm tavern. One friendly faced woman rose and offered the newcomer a drink of sweet nectar. Eviria immediately took the cup and sat down on a chair with a fresh smile spread over her face.
Lord Makar the grim and extremely light-sensitive god of death appears to be a favorite for many of my readers so I decided to share some information about my inspirations for the character. My main inspiration for Lord Makar came from the god Hades from Greek mythology and a character called Mandos (also known as Námo) the Vala from J.R.R.Tolkien’s ‘The Silmarillion’.
Like both Hades and Mandos, Lord Makar is depicted as a grim character associated with the land of the dead. Another similarity he has to Mandos is that he performs the function of the judge of the dead and the declaration of fates. Lord Makar is the king of the underworld which is known as the Halls of Makar, inspired by the Halls of Mandos. When writing the story of his origins I tried to think of a reason why he would choose that dark place as his realm. Unlike the Greek god he is inspired by, Lord Makar had the freedom to make his own choice without being coerced or tricked by others. This is how I came up with the concept of him being extremely light-sensitive and thus terrified of bright lights which is ultimately what drove him to create his kingdom underground.
I never envisioned him as an evil entity but rather as someone whose role requires a cold and emotionless demeanor when performing his duties. I decided to contrast this by giving him a softer side depicted by his loving relationship with his queen.
While both Mandos and Hades have queens, neither of them were an inspiration for the character of Lady Morae. Unlike the Greek goddess Persephone, Lord Makar’s wife is a goddess of sorrow who was always destined to become queen of the underworld. The pale enchantress Lady Morae is associated with darkness and sadness which makes her the perfect soulmate for Lord Makar. She entered the underworld willingly and remained there out of love for her husband who never did anything to force her to stay.
All was quiet in the dark halls when suddenly Lord Makar heard a raspy voice calling out his name. He stepped away from his throne and glided towards the iron gates. No horn blew as the Morkrai guards stood in position leaving little cause for alarm. He gazed towards the entrance where he noticed a dark hooded figure standing by the gates. “Makar, my Lord, please let me in!” shouted the cloaked woman as she turned towards him from behind the gates. He watched as the figure removed her hood, revealing a slender face of ivory skin, pale blue eyes and raven black hair. She looked too perfect to be mortal, though from her appearance he could tell she was no Enai. Intrigued by her presence, Makar opened the gates.
“Well aren’t you a sight for my sore eyes?” he whispered softly as she approached. “I am not used to visitors here in my realm. Where have you come from?” he asked keenly.
The Lady responded: “Your father, Lord Ifir sent me. I wish to keep you company for a while if you would let me in.”
Lord Makar smiled at her before responding: “Indeed yes, welcome fair Lady to my humble home. I have little to offer except for my company, but I would be eternally grateful if you choose to stay.”
“Yes I would like that. Thank you.” she replied.
“What may I call you?” he asked.
“I am darkness, I am a shadow, I am made of a thousand tears. But you may call me Morae,” she whispered and held out her hand towards his.
“My dear Morae, so kind of you to join me. It will be my pleasure to be your host.” he whispered.
Lord Makar swiftly took her hand and escorted her towards the halls. Each one was vast and cavernous with bleak, jet black stone walls and stalagmites. The lack of light did not seem to bother her, as they silently made their way through each room, over the sea of pale faced spirits and Morkrai guards. He led her towards the throne room and ordered his Morkrai to bring her a seat.
“Would you sit with me for a while?” he asked.
Morae nodded and sat on the throne placed beside Makar’s own. And there she remained watching. Days went by as Lord Makar returned to his usual routine. The Morkrai would escort dead souls into the halls to await judgment. The Lord would listen and decide each individual’s fate in turn. Most were condemned to remain within his halls, though occasionally his brother Atar would venture out and assemble a few dead warriors to ride with his Enai.
At times, when it was quiet, Morae would sing to Makar. Her voice was low and soothing, so somber that it lulled condemned souls into a trance-like sleep. Yet to the Lord there was no sweeter music than the lure of her song.
As the two became familiar, she asked him to remove his hood so she could see his face. Makar was reluctant to do this and explained: “My face is not a pretty sight, my Lady. I do not wish to frighten you.”
“I am not afraid. There is nothing about your appearance that can scare me,” Morae replied instantly.
Thus, she ordered the Morkrai to fetch her a blazing torch. Flame in hand, Morae rested her palms inside the fire and cast a spell to extinguish it. She then spread her arms causing the smoke to disperse in a circle around them. Sparkles of pallid light swirled, illuminating the ground below.
As the light settled Makar removed his hood revealing his scarred face and damaged nose. Much to his surprise Lady Morae was neither frightened nor disgusted by his appearance. She simply smiled at him and touched his face while stroking his dark hair. “My pale enchantress…” Makar whispered and smiled at her before they shared a kiss. He wrapped his arms around her. There they stood, listening to each other breathe. Oh how he wanted that moment to last. Yet soon the horns sounded again, the smoke vanished and they returned to their seats.
A few days later, he asked her if she wished to stay.
“I want nothing more than to have you by my side. Will you marry me?” he whispered, holding his hand out towards her.
“Yes. I will,” she replied smiling. In all haste Lord Makar asked his mother, the Lady of the skies, to carry out the ceremony.
The following day, a bright glow filled the halls. In answer, Lord Makar pulled a hood over his face and held his eyes shut. The light still stung his soft face and he shrieked in pain. Yet Morae positioned herself before him to help shield from its glare.
As the golden-haired Era-Gragiya entered the hall, unaccustomed to this much light, the Morkrai crawled towards the dark corners of the room, while the souls of the dead turned to face her.
“Please stop this mother! The lights are too much, I cannot see!” Makar cried out.
“Oh my poor boy. Forgive me. It has been so long since last I saw you.” Era-Gragiya uttered gently. She whispered a spell causing the brightness to fade from the room.
“It is gone now, my love. You may open your eyes, ” Morae said softly as she touched his face.
Slowly Makar opened his eyes and took in the darkness. His mother finally approached him and they embraced.
“May I introduce my beloved Lady Morae,” he announced.
“I am pleased to meet you my dear. Any woman able to bring a smile to my son’s face is a blessing.” Era-Gragiya professed. Eagerly she held out her arms and the two goddesses embraced.
“I have brought a gift from your father,” she continued and held up a pale-flamed blue lamp. “It is the faintest light we could find anywhere in the skies. Such a small flame will never hurt your eyes”.
Makar gladly took the lamp and ordered the Morkrai to place it behind the twin thrones. Quickly doing his bidding, they moved the light into place. Then his mother held out her hand revealing two golden rings inlaid with black onyx stones.
“Here are the rings that you requested. Your brother Fiehri sends his regards and wishes you well,” she declared as she offered him the shining rings.
Makar examined them for a time before responding:
“They are perfect. Tell Fiehri of my gratitude. I am forever in his debt.”
“You should tell him yourself someday. Many times he has offered you welcome and suggested you visit him if you wish,” answered his mother.
“You know very well why I am unable to leave my realm,” Makar explained.
Era-Gragiya was left to sigh in response and when Makar offered her a seat, she refused. Instead she had a look around the bleak halls for a while.
“I will not stay long,” she stated. “I know how busy you are. I will never understand how you can live in such a wretched place. Let us proceed.”
Makar and Morae returned to their thrones and Era-Gragiya turned to face them.
“My dearly beloved. I have come here today to join these two immortal souls in holy matrimony. Will you Makar take Lady Morae to be your lawfully wedded wife?” she asked.
“I do, from this day I shall be yours for all eternity,” whispered Makar smiling at his bride.
Era-Gragiya now turned to face Morae. “And will you Lady Morae take Makar to be your lawfully wedded husband?”
“I will,” she responded and turned to face Makar. “From this day I shall be yours for all eternity.” Instinctively, they exchanged rings.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride,” the goddess declared.
Era-Gragiya smiled as her son kissed and embraced his new wife.
“Thank you mother. Is there any way that I may repay you for this kindness?” Makar questioned, a smile still etched on his face.
“It was pleasure, my dear, always,” Era-Gragiya responded. “All I ask is that you grant me one noble soul to release from your halls.”
“One soul you may take but no more,” he decreed.
So the sky queen walked through each hall appraising a sea of pale faces when finally she stopped in front of a young mother clutching wordlessly to a newborn baby. “These two here. What was their story?” she asked.
The Lady of sorrows eyed the lost souls before responding: “She was a beggar who died giving birth to a stillborn son.”
“Such suffering is too much for any woman to bear. May I have them?” Era-Gragiya asked.
Makar shook his head in answer. “I promised you one soul, not two. You may take the child or the mother but not both.”
Era-Gragiya sighed before responding: “If that is your will, I shall take the infant.”
“As you wish. First he must be cleased.” Makar snatched the infant from the mother’s arms. Then he instructed his Morkrai to fetch some water and a bowl.
“Do you wish to assist me my dear?” Makar asked his wife. Morae nodded in response. Makar handed her the infant soul and Morae proceeded to wash him in the water before entrusting him back to her husband.
Makar placed a hand on the infant’s head and shouted:
“Aesos, son of Eila, I hereby grant you pardon and I release you from my realm.”
The child’s body suddenly lit up in a pale flame. The ritual complete, Makar handed the baby to his mother. There Era-Gragiya held the child in her arms, rocking it gently. The couple watched in awe as it took a breath and began to cry.
“My sweet little one. You are safe now. Never again shall you feel hunger or cold. Sleep now,” Era-Gragiya whispered, swaying the boy in her arms.
“Goodbye my son. I came this day for a special occasion, though I cannot return to this pitiful realm. If you come across any more noble souls, please deliver them to me,” Era-Gragiya uttered her final words before vanishing in a bolt of bright light.
“Goodbye mother.” Makar replied once the light had fled from the room.
He then joined Morae and together they returned to their thrones to await the next soul to enter their kingdom.
They say that of all the Enai, those of the woods, servants of the forest god Silyan are liveliest and friendliest to all other creatures. From within their small family groups, they join their Lord as he crosses the lands, never settling in one spot for more than a few weeks at a time. They travel ever light and take with them only enough food, tools and tame animals to last until they reach the next camp. Though their range is wide, the woods remain their favorite dwelling. There, after the sun sets each night and the moon goddess Vea awakes from her bed of clouds preparing to lift the ball of light once more, they find sleep. Some would lay on the grass, while others favored rest in treetops. In the winter they would build temporary tents out of timber and branches to shelter themselves from the cold, wind and rain.
These bold Enai spend their days hunting for wild beasts or foraging for fruit and berries, as the womenfolk collect water from streams and rivers to bring the ingredients together to cook their food. Unlike their mountainous and volcanic cousins, renowned for their skill in metal-work, the forest Enai find little use for weapons save for the small steel knives they use to cut their food as well as bows and arrows, for hunting. Alike Lord Silyan they communicate with all manner of animals and birds. Equally, they have a fondness, like their god, for music and would often sing as they go about their daily lives. Some too play their wooden flutes as they travel on to their next encampment.
Avarrin belonged among the forest Enai. Though far beyond his childhood, he was considered young by his fellows. His exact age was however impossible to define, for Enai being immortal age little even as centuries pass. Like most of his kin, he was tall and strong with greyish, green eyes and hair the color of barley. He had a fondness for climbing trees and collecting mountain herbs.
One summer Lord Silyan chose a forest near a mortal village as their new encampment. As the Enai began gathering food, Avarrin climbed one of the larger trees and gazed towards the village. From his perch, he watched as the farmers worked the fields, children played in the streets, and the crowds gathered to purchase their food and wares at the market stalls. He looked west, towards the local river bank where he spotted a young mortal woman washing her clothes under the flowing water. She was pretty with long, dark curly hair and deep eyes. He smiled at the sight. Though soon his sister Danae called, asking him to climb down and help the others prepare the meat for their meal. And so Avarrin did as requested.
Yet the following day, after his daily stroll collecting berries and herbs, he climbed the same tree again and gazed once more towards the village. This time he spotted the same woman running past the marketplace chased by an angry merchant. “What strange customs these creatures have!” he thought to himself laughing. Despite this he felt all the more intrigued to learn about the woman, and so he continued to observe her from a distance.
One night as Lord Silyan and the Enai prepared to rest, the clouds quickly changed. Those once peaceful skies turned dark. They all watched on as Lord Ifir, the sky god, stirred up a storm. Silyan and his Enai took shelter in the woods as the thunder rolled and bolts of lightning pierced the sky. From his favorite tree, Avarrin observed the mortals of the village as they rushed towards their homes, in search of refuge from the storm. From his vantage, he spotted the same dark-haired young woman as she too hid herself inside a small hut. Suddenly, much to his shock, a bolt of lightning struck her homestead and a fire broke out. Avarrin closed his eyes and prayed to the fire god Fiehri begging him to spare the young woman. He hoped blindly that she would make it out alive. Yet alas…strong winds had forced the doors and windows shut and the blaze spread, swallowing all. Avarrin watched in horror as the flames devoured the wood and then the air filled with the dreadful stench of burning flesh. From the safety of his tree, he heard her cries and he wept. Then at last a deep rain came pouring down and the villagers rushed to the site with buckets of water to end the fire. By morning the storm had passed, and the village stood mostly undamaged aside from the lone shelter which had swiftly turned to ash.
That day Lord Silyan announced that it was time to move on. Avarrin helped the others pack their things and gather the animals. Yet as the other Enai began their journey, he again thought of the woman and he turned back towards the village. Hiding by the trees until nightfall, he slowly walked towards the spot where the wooden hut had once stood. He rummaged through the ashes to see if anything remained. A few small objects were left undamaged by the fire, but he paid no heed. As there amongst the spent embers, he found her lifeless charred corpse. Under the night he carried her body with him back into the forest. He placed her carefully inside one of their wooden tents and instructed a wild dog to keep guard. Her body protected, Avarrin ventured out into the mountains in search of special herbs. He returned soon with his harvest and mixed it with water from the river, and then gently used his hands to carefully apply the salve onto the woman’s blackened corpse. He placed his right hand on her forehead and whispered a spell in the Enai tongue, one that he had once heard his elders utter to heal the wounded. As the sun rose in the sky, the woman’s burns slowly started to fade, her skin returned to its original hue. Her dark curly hair began to grow back. The muscles in her arms and legs twitched. And finally she opened her once lifeless eyes.
As she awoke, Avarrin stood back in fear of her reaction. For a while she looked around in dismay, confused by her surroundings. The guard dog barked at her and she quivered in fear, though soon he relented and dashed off through the trees. Only then did the woman break her silence. “Where am I? Who are you?” she asked in a daze. Avarrin approached her carefully in the hope that she would not run . “You are in the woods near your village. I brought you here after the storm,” he said. “The storm…I…” she stammered still shivering. “The fire…What happened to me…?” The last thing she recalled was running towards the door as the unrelenting flames began to spread. “You died and I brought you back. You’re safe now,” said Avarrin. “Thank you… How is it possible?” – she asked still bewildered. “My people are skilled healers, and we have the ability to revive the dead,” Avarrin explained. “Who are you?” the woman questioned again. He was silent for a moment before he responded – “I am called Avarrin.” The woman came closer to look at him. For despite having similar features to mortal men, Avarrin, like all of his kin was taller and, fairer than mortals and in the sun light his skin shone with a green hue. Awestruck by what she had seen, the woman touched his face before moving back and yelling: “You are an Enai! An elf of the forest…”
Avarrin smiled at this and gently nodded. He took out an apple from his bag and offered it to the woman. He stood back, watching her eat. Next he gave her a wooden cup filled with cool water to quench her thirst. After she had finished, they sat together on the open grass and they spoke once more. “I’ve heard stories of your people. They say you travel with the forest god Lord Silyan and that you tend to the animals and the trees,” she said timidly. “Indeed, we do,”- Avarrin responded. “I remember as a child, my grandparents would send me to collect flowers from the field and fruit from the orchards and bring them to the woods as gifts for Lord Silyan and his servants. They said that it would bring us good luck and that the Enai would protect us from the wild beasts,” – she continued.
Avarrin smiled at her words before responding: “We do our best to keep the beasts at bay and your gifts are most welcome. My sister Danae loves lilies and Lord Silyan has grown quite fond of cherries you offer. But enough about me and my kin… I have told you my name, yet I still do not know yours. What do they call you?” – he asked. “Amara,” the woman replied. “I should go,” she quickly added. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Amara!” Avarrin proclaimed and proffering his hand and helping her to get up. “Where will you go? Everyone believes you to be dead. Do you have any family or friends who might be looking for you?” Avarrin wondered. “There’s no one. My grandparents passed away a long time ago. I am not well liked in my village. They recently caught me stealing again, luckily I got away in time,” she explained. “You can stay with me if you wish,” Avarrin suggested. He paused to look at his bag again and realized that it was empty. “Now that you have eaten all of my food, perhaps you could help me fetch some more?” he suggested. Amara nodded and off they went through the woods. Avarrin taught her Enai ways and together they foraged for berries, fire wood and herbs. Occasionally they would go swimming in the river. And at night they slept side by side in the tall grass. As the days passed they hunted for wild beasts. Although Amara had little skill with a bow and arrow, she quickly learned to track their prey and retrieve the meat with the help of one of Avarrin’s dogs.
One day he took her to the mountains in search of wild herbs. After gathering the plants, Avarrin wished to show her the view. So together they climbed to the top of a small mountain peak and for a while they looked down over the valley below. Amara admired the wonderful sight and she swore to herself that she would never forget this day. Before they made their descent, she convinced Avarrin to stop within a natural cave cut into the mountain side. There buried within the rock walls she spotted a fist-sized, clear quartz crystal. Borrowing Avarrin’s knife, she carefully edged the gem from the wall. As they came out of the cave she gazed into the jewel, and smiled as the crystal reflected the rays of the sun. Still smiling, she handed the crystal to Avarrin as she spoke: “This is for you. Truly, I cannot thank you enough for all that you’ve done.” Avarrin examined the stone and with a light smile: “There is really no need. I wanted to help you and I ask for nothing in return,” he finally answered and tried to return the gift.
Amara refused to take the crystal back and insisted he keep it. And so Avarrin agreed and placed the crystal in his pocket. Amara smiled at him and under the peak of the mountain they kissed. As the day drew to a close, they descended the mountainside and made their way back to the forests. That night and for the many nights that followed they slept together under the stars.
As the weeks grew on Amara began to notice a change inside her. She had less appetite and grew tired quicker than usual. Avarrin too soon found that her body was changing. It was long until she realized what had transpired. For the Enai, like mortals, can produce offspring and Amara was carrying Avarrin’s child. At first they were elated and gave thanks to the Lady Era-Gragiya for their new found joy. Yet as the months passed, Amara became sickly, and she could no longer accompany Avarrin in their search of food. As the winter came, from within their wooden tent Amara shivered from the chill. So hurriedly, Avarrin summoned a donkey from the fields and with its help he carried her to one of the nearby caves.
He stayed by her side leaving only to seek out food for their next meal. Yet still she scarcely ate and grew ever more sickly, growing weaker every passing day. Though she lay still on a bed of straw and animal furs, she found little sleep. Avarrin prayed once more to Era-Gragiya to keep Amara and their child safe. One night as her struggles grew, the time came and Avarrin urged his love to push. Feverish and drenched in sweat, Amara strained her tired body as she labored to breathe. Avarrin throughout held her hands and sought to keep her calm. Hours passed by, then Amara’s efforts were finally rewarded. With one last push Avarrin watched as their child came into the light. There lay a healthy son with his own greyish green eyes and Amara’s dark hair.
His joy was however short-lived. For as he held his son and prepared to wash him in freshly heated water, he paused to look on Amara. To his horror he watched as her body shivered, blood poured from her and her limbs started to grow cold. He touched her forehead and tried to slow her heavy breathing but to no avail. Rapidly he washed the infant and wrapped him deep within a blanket of fur. Frantically he searched for the herbs he had once used to heal Amara’s burns though this time they all failed. As the dawn rose, Amara’s eyes closed and she gasped her last breath. Nothing, not even the spells he had once used to revive her were able to bring her back.
Distraught by his sudden loss, Avarrin used a layer of cloth to strap his newborn son to his chest, and with the help of the donkey, he carried Amara’s lifeless body from the cave. Solemnly they journeyed into the woods where he buried her remains by the same tree from which he had first seen her. He hoped to find flowers to decorate the fresh grave but none grew with spring still weeks away. He stayed there for a time, weeping, until his son cried out for food. Using his powers to summon a mountain goat, he took some milk for the child. After nourishing the boy, Avarrin lay down inside his tent with his son cradled in his arms.
As they slept, a chilling night wind made its way into the forest. In the ground, by the tree, where Avarrin had buried his love, the Morkrai came for Amara. With one touch, the shadow beings released the spirit from her body and they dragged it away down towards the iron gates of Makar’s Halls. A horn played and the gates opened. Deep below, they guided Amara’s spirit into the halls to await judgment.
As the days passed, Avarrin busied himself caring for his son, the boy he had named Natris. Much to his delight, the child was healthy and ate hungrily. Avarrin soon learned to soothe the cries with his song. He would carry Natris with him, strapped to his chest as he wandered through the woods in search of food. Yet despite all his joy, he felt lonely, missing Amara, thinking of the time they had spent together.
One night he took Natris with him to visit her grave and he wept. “I wonder what will become of her in the Halls of Makar,” he thought to himself.
As he lay down inside the tent that evening, his restless lingered . Even as Natris dozed off in his arms, Avarrin could not find peace. Gently he strapped the sleeping child to his chest and crawled out of the tent. He closed his eyes and whispered a spell, making them each invisible. In this shadow guise, he drifted deep into the ground, passing through the layers of soil, sand and rock. Then at last he found himself facing the tall iron gates and the dark Halls of Makar beyond. Avoiding the Morkrai guards, carefully he slipped past the gates and stepped silently into the shadowy halls. Inside it was almost pitch black with a single faint blue flamed lamp lighting the back of the chamber. There he found himself surrounded by a sea of shadows, pale faces and the lifeless bodies of men, women and children. Among them standing still, he spotted his beloved Amara. Her hollow eyes were staring blankly at the dark stone walls yet as if she could still hear his footsteps growing nearer, her ghost turned towards him.
Suddenly his spell lifted. Unmasked, Avarrin stood in silence. A ghastly voice bellowed from the end of the hall housing the two great stone thrones: “What brings an Enai, immortal servant of my brother Silyan into my realm? Your kind are not welcome here!!” The voice was so loud that it echoed across the halls, brought down the Morkrai, with a small group ready to seize the intruder at their Lord’s command. Avarrin slowly made his way towards the thrones and he knelt in front of the deathly Lord. “My Lord Makar,”- he began. “I came here of my own volition to ask for your permission to release Amara from these halls. She is the mother of my child and I take full responsibility for her actions. ” The Lord of the dead stared at him for a moment before speaking once more: “I deny you permission. The life I took was not yours to give. I have claimed her soul twice. Life is not yours to toy with. My judgment is final. Amara must remain here.” Avarrin raised himself from his knees and replied: “I wish to speak to your queen, the Lady Morae.” Lord Makar turned to face the raven-haired goddess on the throne next to him. “What have you brought for me?” – Lady Morae’s raspy voice questioned as she held out her hand. Avarrin thought for a while. Though he had his son, he had nothing else with him. Suddenly he remembered the crystal Amara had once given him. He pulled it from his pocket and handed it to the Lady of sorrows. “Please, I beg that you release her,”- he implored the goddess, kneeling down once more.
Avarrin watched as she examined the crystal, holding it up to the blue flame. Even Lord Makar gazed at the gem for a while. Appeased, Lady Morae placed the crystal into a chest filled with rings, necklaces, gold coins and other trinkets. The Lord approached his wife:, “What are your thoughts, my love?” he whispered softly before kissing her hand. For an instant, Avarrin saw what appeared to be a faint smile on the god’s disfigured face. Though the moment was fleeting and soon the grim faced Makar sat back on his throne, facing Avarrin once more. “Amara’s fate was sealed long before you met her. You had no right to prolong her life. On this, I must agree with Makar. She shall remain in these halls,”- Morae ruled. Avarrin was silent for a moment then he spoke again. “And what of my son Natris? What is his fate to be?” he questioned mutely. To this the Lady of sorrow replied: “The child’s heart is pure. For he is an Enai, immortal like his father. It is not our role to judge your kin. You may take him back with you.”
Avarrin raised himself and waited though in response Lord Makar screamed: “You have heard all we have to say on the matter. Leave this place!” In fear of being dragged away by the Morkrai guards, he turned away and he hastened towards the doors. As he moved, Lord Makar unleashed a cold wind, so powerful that it blew Avarrin and Natris out from the halls and through the iron gates. It carried them upwards back towards the land of the living.
Until this point Natris seemed blissfully unaffected by the cold darkness and noises of the underworld and he had slept through the entire ordeal. The howling wind though woke the sleeping boy and he began to cry. Avarrin rocked him in his arms singing. He held him tightly as they drifted past various layers of soil, sand and rock. By the time they reached the forest it was already night. They rested for a while before searching for food. As morning broke, gathering water from the stream, Avarrin spotted a flock of jackdaws crossing the sky. He summoned one to his wrist and instructed it to find Lord Silyan and the other forest Enai. A few days passed, before the jackdaw returned and they knew their path. After feeding his son, Avarrin packed some supplies for the journey, then strapped Natris to his chest and followed the bird.
A few weeks passed and finally spring arrived, bringing life to the forests. At last the pair found their kin, camped near a vineyard in the woods. Danae and Avarrin’s parents rushed towards him with open arms. His mother and father lovingly cuddled their tiny grandson. They were welcomed by the clan and a feast was prepared. Avarrin soon ate his fill, appreciating the offerings of nuts, fresh grapes and wine left by the mortals. As the feast began to subside, the flute music faded away and Avarrin heard Lord Silyan call his name. Natris in his arms, he walked towards the forest god by a tree under in the bloom of spring. “My Lord Silyan,” he answered, immediately kneeling down before his benefactor. The forest god turned to face Avarrin and asked that he sit with him on the grass. Avarrin did as requested. He held up his child saying: “This is my son Natris.”
The Lord of the forest smiled. He took a sip of wine from his wooden cup before speaking again: “A fine young boy, much like his father. So this is the reason you headed into the mountains instead of following us?” Avarrin kept his head down and was silent for a moment. “Forgive me, my Lord…I…” he began. Silyan took little notice of this, instead he took a bunch of grapes from a wooden dish and handed them to Natris. Avarrin smiled as his son grabbed the offering and attempted to chew the fruit. Then Lord Silyan spoke once more: “Your parents were worried about you. Danae asked for my blessing to look for you, but I could not let any more of my servants wander off on their own. Speaking of family, where is the boy’s mother?” Avarrin remained silent for a moment pondering a suitable response. So Lord Silyan continued: “There are no laws against your kin pairing with other Enai. Your woman is welcome here if she wishes to join us.” “She was not of the Enai. She was mortal and I lost her in childbirth,” Avarrin admitted with tears suddenly streaming down his cheeks. This revelation shocked Lord Silyan who swiftly demanded a full explanation. There, before his Lord, Avarrin confessed everything that he had endured including his journey to the underworld. Silyan listened carefully while sipping his wine and once Avarrin had finished his tale, he responded: “I should have warned you of the perils of dealing with the race of men. Your powers are a gift, one that I urge you to use with caution in the future.” He paused to take some food before continuing: – “As for my brother Makar, what he told you is true. The Enai are forbidden from entering his realm. And that is a deed which I cannot allow to go unpunished.” These final words startled Avarrin who hung his head, and held for his Lord to speak again. Silyan finished his meal before turning his attention once more to the young Enai. “Give me the boy,” he ordered. In fright, Avarrin protested, clutching dearly to his son. “Do not worry. I will not harm him,” Silyan assured him.
Avarrin reluctantly handed over the boy. Lord Silyan briefly held Natris in his arms before carefully placing him down on the soft grass. Much to his father’s relief, the boy rolled over onto his stomach and crawled towards the wooden dish of fruit. Lord Silyan stood before Avarrin and he placed his right palm on the young Enai’s forehead, whispering a spell. Avarrin felt a high-pitched noise ringing in his ears, his head began to ache and his body trembled. Struggling to maintain his balance, he fell to his knees. Seconds later, Lord Silyan ended the spell and lifted his hand away. Avarrin sighed with relief as the ringing stopped and the pain ceased. The moment that Lord Silyan had mentioned that a punishment was due, Avarrin expected the worst. And as if something left him, he soon understood that he was unable to communicate with animals and the spells he had once known were now powerless. Left hollow, he picked up his son from the grass.
As Avarrin held the boy, Lord Silyan shouted: “Take your son and whatever else you might need and leave! Stay away from our camps, mortals and from the other Enai!”
Avarrin bowed down low in response. Quietly he pulled himself up and walked away with Natris in his arms. He grabbed a clay bottle filled with water and he filled his bag with food. Reluctantly he said goodbye to the rest of his family and left the camp. As he departed, he could hear Lord Silyan announcing his punishment and forbidding other Enai from following.
On the way back to the mountains, Avarrin stopped by the tree where Amara’s grave stood. He decorated it with wildflowers and sang a bittersweet lament before moving on. Traveling in the daylight, they rested in the grass every night. Weeks later, finally Avarrin reached the mountains and found an empty cave which was to become their home.
He heeded Lord Silyan’s instruction and kept to himself. His days were spent gathering food and caring for Natris. The boy’s carefree nature proved to be his greatest comfort during those lonely times. Fortunately, unlike some of his siblings, Lord Silyan was kind and not unforgiving. His anger did not hold. After two winters, and just as Natris had begun to take his first steps, one day Danae arrived joyfully at Avarrin’s cave. She had been sent with a message from the forest god pardoning Avarrin, and thus he was now allowed to rejoin his kin. Avarrin and Natris left the cave and together with Danae they returned to their people. Lord Silyan welcomed them and gladly restored Avarrin’s powers. That day the young Enai swore never to again disobey his Lord. Thereafter he continued to live peacefully in the forests, traveling the lands with the forest god and his clan, always keeping to themselves going about their daily lives just as they ever had. Never again did Avarrin or any of his kin interfere with the lives of mortal men.