The sun hung low in the Western Sky and Devlyn awaited it to sink below the horizon, yet the evening kiss between sun and land never came. The golden rays of the setting sun colored the sky in an assortment of shades and colors. The clouds caught in the rays swirled and danced about the sun...
The First Chapter of the Splendor of Dawn
The sun hung low in the Western Sky and Devlyn awaited it to sink below the horizon, yet the evening kiss between sun and land never came. The golden rays of the setting sun colored the sky in an assortment of shades and colors. The clouds caught in the rays swirled and danced about the sun exhibiting colors more vibrant than the trees of the Wood sprawling out beneath. With a closer look, Devlyn perceived something other than a cloud or a fragment of light dance about the sky. It moved not as the clouds nor shift as did the golden light; yet the form belonged and complimented the sky claimed by the setting sun.
A Lady of unsurpassable beauty glided from the setting sun atop a knoll waiting to bid the world good night. As she slowly approached, the object dancing in the sky drew closer as well. The Lady’s hair was of gold and silver and she was clothed in what appeared to be the light of the sun himself. Dancing about her was a magnificent bird of light, whose feathers shifted between various spectrums of color depending on the light; amidst the lesser colors, gold out shone them all. Devlyn felt a familiarity with the bird, yet he could not imagine why. As it fluttered closer, a stream of golden fire alight in the sky trailed behind. Slowly the tale of light faded as the bird flew closer.
But a few more strides and the gap would close. Just as the setting sun refused to set, so too the Lady and the bird of light refused to close the gap. Her legs glided elegantly atop the ground and the wings of the bird fluttered through the air, yet no closer did they come. Devlyn maintained eye contact with them both. He saw the longing within their eyes and knew the same was true of his own.
Unable to endure the separation, Devlyn extended a single foot forward, to greet the pair and join with them at last. As the gap diminished from his effort the setting sun fell at last below the knoll and the evening lights faded taking with them the Lady and the bird of light.
* * *
A dark room greeted Devlyn when he opened his eyes; a familiar steady rumble was heard from the far side, not uncommon at this dark hour. Not quite ready to move from bed, Devlyn decided to listen to the slow rumble of his cousin Alex's snore. The rhythmic sound of the noise tempted Devlyn to drift back into his own dreams, with hopes of returning to the one he had just woken from. He remembered vividly the Lady and the bird of light, whom had become fairly familiar figures.
While the dream was common, the frequency of its recurrence the past weeks caused Devlyn to wonder. He never recalled drawing so close to the Lady and the bird of light. Typically, once he made to move a single leg the sun would set with him waking. Yet he actually came close enough to see the Lady’s face along with the bird of light. He drew so close that he could actually feel them within himself, beating within his very heart
The near silent early hour allowed Devlyn the rare opportunity to ponder his recent dream in drowsy leisure, absent of any responsibility. He was well aware that once the rooster crowed, the luxury of lying in bed with only his thoughts would be lost. The rooster always served as an alarm for the Abbey School, most especially for Devlyn, who shortly following his crow, was expected to report to the barn for the early chores. Such as gathering eggs and milking the cows. The average day saw the majority of the Abbey School moving by the time Devlyn was well into his morning chores. Abbot Entiel was the exception. He had the habit of rising from bed once the rooster was heard and saw it as his divine mission that Devlyn was not sluggish in beginning his morning chores. Devlyn felt that Abbot Entiel looked forward to the morning hours, just to be the first to cause him grief.
Devlyn expected this day to resemble every other, despite this particular day ought to be set aside in remembrance of his birth, as it was for every other Human being. No empty hopes were held for any sort of celebration. Such wishful thoughts passed away while he was still a boy and his only present was an apron to clean the dishes.
He expected the Ei’anaceur and the students of the Abbey School to treat him just as every other day. If anything, they might be harsher simply because it was his Birthday. If he were not born, they would not have had to take him in after the incident fifteen years prior. At least Alex and Brother Bernard would share a kind Birthday greeting, he thought before rolling onto his side to gaze out the window facing east, overlooking the quiet village of Cor’lera nestled along the edge of the Illumined Wood. He knew the sun was still a few hours off from bringing forth a new day. The night covered the land beyond his window in darkness and the only lights visible were those of the stars, no moon was visible this night for a new cycle had just begun.
Devlyn always enjoyed the New Moon, for it allowed the stars to shine ever more brightly in the night sky. Curiously enough, one of the stars refused to remain stagnant, as did the others; it danced about the night sky in a most peculiar fashion; rising and falling as if it had a will of its own. Devlyn began to consider whether or not he still dreamt, for he knew full and well that stars simply do not move in such a fashion, not even the few that fell. While still groggy, he was able to recognize his own thoughts, and he was aware of the dream he had woken from.
Determined to identify the light, Devlyn sat up in his bed and strained his eyes out the window towards the small light. The star moved about the sky in a harmonious array, dipping into the leafy canopy of the Illumined Wood and rising to soar above the trees for a time before diving yet again. It can’t be a star, Devlyn thought as he watched the aerobic light in the sky. It could be a bird; perhaps the one who accompanied the Lady I dreamt of? Devlyn strained his mind to recall the bird from his dream. What kind of nonsense is this? Birds don't fly about the sky as if set aflame like a...
Before his thought could come to fruition the features of the bird magnified as his eyes adjusted. The bird was leagues from where he sat upright atop his not too comfortable bed in the highest room of Abbey School's lone tower, yet appeared as if it was just before his window. The bird continued to draw closer and before he knew it he was engulfed in its golden eyes.
No longer did he look upon the world from his own, but rather from those of the bird; he saw as the bird saw, and to his shock he looked upon the world in a brightness he never experienced. Even though he knew the sky was still blanketed in the darkness of night, it seemed completely natural for the world to be seen in this manner.
The world was ten times brighter than the brightest of days. The additional light, seen from the eyes of the bird, revealed a light that was not present in the night sky. The New Moon shown with such splendor that Devlyn had never looked upon her in such light. The Moon, along with the stars appeared more natural through the eyes of the bird than through his own, as if a greater light was required to look upon the lights of the night sky. Devlyn was startled that the brightness of the light was not blinding effect.
As the bird of light flew through the night sky, his body, back in the tower window kept coming into focus; he stared at himself from a pair of eyes other than his own. His light brown hair was all a tangle and faced every which direction resulting from a long night’s sleep. As he looked upon his eyes, the silver green he was accustomed to seeing in a mirror or a pool of still water were replaced by a golden color and they produced light of their own from the perspective of the bird, but not so strong as the light permeating from his chest. His vision drew closer to his body, as if the bird flew towards the tower window.
He blinked in the brightness of the light permeating from his chest, just as the bird was about to crash into him. When he opened his eyes, he once again saw from his own, and with the loss of the bird’s lighted vision a sudden dimness filled the room and the landscape outside the window. His vision felt empty, blind even, as if he should see more.
Devlyn searched for a trace of the bird of light outside his window yet found known. It had simply vanished from sight. Knowing that he would not fall back to sleep again, he forced himself from his bed to get an early start on his morning chores, rather than spend the next couple of hours regretting the loss of that incredible light.
He made every effort possible to rise from his bed quietly, but was fairly certain his bed was the oldest the Abbey School offered, including the ones left unused. It proved impossible to rise silently as a series of loud squeaks followed his slightest movement. Devlyn nervously looked in his cousin’s direction and regrettably saw him roll onto his stomach and proceed to pull his pillow over his head.
Dropping his head in failure, Devlyn moved across the room to where he left his clothes the previous day, conveniently discarded on the dresser next to Alex’s bed.
Once he approached the dresser, Alex rolled over once again; his eyes visibly open. “Sorry Alex. I tried to avoid making a sound, but you know what that old bed is like,” said Devlyn in a low voice, which was returned by a few unrecognizable sounds from Alex, not unlike a grunt. “Those weren’t words were they?”
“Oh don’t be smart this early,” said Alex, clearly making an effort to annunciate every word this time. “I said, why are you moving about so early? The rooster won’t crow for at least another hour.”
“I thought I would get an early start on the day. Besides, how often am I given an hour or two without the old Abbot breathing down my neck?” said Devlyn in the same hushed voice. “It can be his Birthday gift to me, although don’t mention it to him, he might try and take it back.”
“Oh,” Alex began before a hearty yawn escaped from his mouth. “That’s right, I forgot about that,” he finished as he moved to get out of bed with considerable less noise than Devlyn’s attempt. He made his way over to his own clothes to get ready for the day. “Well in that case, I’ll give you some company. Consider it my gift to you.” The two cousins quietly laughed together before making their way down from the tower, out the dormitory and through the Abbey School.
As they walked towards the barn and stables near the gate of the Abbey School’s grounds, Devlyn told Alex what he remembered of his dream. “That doesn’t sound too unusual. I have beautiful women visit my dreams all the time,” said Alex once Devlyn finished.
“That’s what I thought, just a normal dream, but something was weird about it. It felt...real. And that Lady! There was something about her; she looked like a Queen,” said Devlyn, not wanting to mention his encounter with the bird of light, both within the dream and after, fearing what his cousin would think.
“So let me get this straight. Not only are you having vivid dreams, but you think there’s a Queen out there in love with you?” said Alex raising a single eye brow. Rather than pushing his point, Devlyn decided to drop it. The two joked about the possibility of marrying a noblewoman and leaving the small village of Cor’lera for one of the great cities. Amidst their juvenile laughter, they reached the gate and looked down the eastern road, which led to Cor’lera. A figure was shrouded upon the road in the early mist. Already, the predawn light was making itself known. The stars of the night were fading, making way for the promised light of the dawning sun.
The two cousins waited in silence as the figure drew closer and more distinct. Devlyn was taller than his cousin, but tended to slouch to make himself appear shorter. His height, along with others with Lucillian ancestry was mocked among those in the Abbey School, leaving Devlyn and the other Lucillians to try and make themselves appear shorter by slouching. Noticing the large size of the approaching figure, Alex was the first to break the silence and say, “He’s on a horse.”
Both squinted to better discern the features of the approaching rider, and as they did, Devlyn was shocked to discover that it was no man who sat atop the horse, but a woman. He quickly shared his observation with Alex, whom after spending another moment of squinting, realized his cousin was correct. “Maybe it’s your noblewoman. But if she falls in love with me first, you have to accept and support us,” said Alex before they both laughed.
Their hushed laughter quieted down and they awaited the rider in silence. Several minutes passed before the rider was close enough for the two boys to make out the sounds of the horse trotting upon the crunchy snow. Once the gap between the two parties closed, the two cousins were astounded by the rider’s beauty and elegance. Her blue riding cloak was simple, yet Devlyn caught a glimpse of what looked like leaves cascading from her sleeves, not concealed by her cloak. Long fiery red hair was easily seen beneath her hood. Before drawing near the cousins, she concealed the greenery, which did not belong in the wintry scene, leaving only her cloak exposed to the cold elements.
The woman resting atop her horse was soon before the two cousins and said in a kind soft voice, “Good Morning,” before they were able to greet her. Her eyes were of a silver grey, and they appeared to know everything about the two boys before them. They responded simultaneously in the same proper manner, instilled in them by the Ei’anaceur running the Abbey School. The woman chuckled softly before asking their names.
“I’m Alexander Vaerin, son of Clyde and Vine Vaerin, student of the Abbey School of Cor’lera.”
“My name’s Devlyn, son of Evellyn and Abire Vaerin. But I’ve lived here at the Abbey School since I was young. Once I was old enough the Ei’anaceur permitted my studying here.”
A look of interest spread across the woman’s face, but not terribly obvious. Devlyn thought it resembled someone at the market, who had just come across what they were looking for, yet still wanted the seller to think they were not interested with the hopes of acquiring it at cheaper price. “It’s curious that you mention your mother first. There isn’t a reason behind that, is there Devlyn?” asked the woman.
Out of everything the woman could have been interested in, she wants to know why I spoke my mother’s name first, thought Devlyn. Unprepared to answer such an obscure question, he found himself saying, “I suppose it has to do with how widely my mother is spoken of.” He paused and took a deep breath before continuing as if preparing to dive into a depth of cold water. “Well, it’s a long story, one I’d rather not burden onto a Lady such as yourself. And you’re probably familiar with the incident from the gossip of the villagers. If I didn’t know better, I’d say all of Perrien knows of it.”
“We all meet misfortune in our lives, Devlyn. I’m sorry it’s visited you so young. I regret to say that such stories grow more common,” said the woman. “As it turns out, I have not heard any here speak of it. As you can see, it is still early, and I have not yet reached the village. The gates are still closed off from the night. My name is Velaria Treyven, and I assure you, I am not of noble birth, so you need not treat me as such.”
Both cousins shared a look of disbelief between each other. The thought of a woman such as the one before them not belonging to one of the noble families was beyond recognition. “Surely you’re connected to the nobility. You’re obviously not from Perrien; you don’t look like anyone else here. But, what of the great cities to the South?” asked Alex in disbelief. “After all, you are riding a horse at leisure; such sport is unheard of.”
A small smile made its way across Velaria’s face before she said, “I have not enjoyed a time of leisure, as you say, Alexander, for several years now, let alone the past months. I’ve been traveling at great speed and with little rest.”
“Please, call me Alex,” he began. Few, other than his mother, referred to him as Alexander, and even that occurred too often in his preference. “I’m sorry to ask, but what could be so urgent as to travel through Perrien in the winter months. Surely the mountain passes have all been blocked by snow and ice for the better part of the past months.”
“It is certainly dreadful to travel this far north during the winter. Even if today marks the official beginning of Spring; it’s a shame it takes so long to reach this far north,” said Velaria, not seeming to mind the onslaught of questions. “Fortunately, not all the passes were blocked. The cause of my urgency was given me by their Majesties, the King and Queen of Lucillia themselves.” Before Devlyn and Alex were able to respond to the exhilarating news, Velaria continued in the same manner. “They sent me to the eastern provinces of the kingdom of Perrien, what was once Parendior, to inquire about a particular family, namely, within the village of Cor’lera. A family to which Evellyn belongs.”
A confusing array of emotions fell over Devlyn at the sound of his mother’s name. Not knowing how to respond, especially, as he considered the gravity of a situation requiring the attention of the King and Queen of Lucillia. More concerning was the fact that Devlyn was the last of that family remaining in Cor’lera. The object of urgency to this Lucillian woman and a king and queen was himself. “I’m sorry, but all I know about my mother is what I’ve been told from others, and none are worth the inquiry of a king and queen from a foreign land. Especially, since all I’ve heard are horrendous accounts connecting me to a dreadful woman,” said Devlyn with difficulty.
“It saddens me to hear Evellyn reduced in memory to the word dreadful. Do not believe all you were told Devlyn, we live in an age of deception,” said Velaria. Both cousins stared at the woman not knowing what to think, for she was the first to ever condemn something as a lie in their village. The Ei’anaceur at the Abbey School preached that those who did such were the true deceivers. “Would you like to hear how the truth sounds?”
“How could I take what you say as truth if you so quickly condemn others for lying.”
“Even a lie can imitate the truth, but it cannot replace it. Only the truth can expose a lie of its nature. If the truth is unknown, and remains unknown, the deception endures. Does that make the deception true?” asked Velaria in her matter of fact way. “There is something else you must know before I begin Devlyn.” He looked unwillingly into her silver grey eyes as she continued. “This is not the first time the waves of time have witnessed our meeting.”
“Waves of time or not, how is that possible? Surely I would have remembered us meeting before,” said Devlyn, not attempting to conceal his doubt.
“Not even the best of memories can recall events at so young an age, your sister had to tell me your name you were so young. You were a toddler at the time, no older than two. Those were different times though. I first came to know you surrounded by a loving family. And what a beautiful family it was. Evellyn possessed such beauty that she could be mistaken for a queen, and indeed I did. And Abire was her fitting spouse; if any could be a suitable match for one such as Evellyn it was your father. Such fine gentlemen are difficult to find, even in the grand courts.”
The words she said did nothing but stir strife within Devlyn, for not only did her image of Evellyn contradict every image of her he was told, but it also stirred an emotion within which longed for such a family; the very sort of family taken from him, by none other than his own mother. The nightmares within returned to the surface once again. The connection to such a woman as Evellyn and his half-brother Ayden drove him wild. He feared that he would continue the destruction they began. He grew up hating his mother because of that fear and all the detestable acts she and Ayden had committed.
Unable to contain the nightmare within, he found himself speaking his shadowy past, as it was passed on to him. “I’m not sure which family you visited all those years ago, but it certainly could not have been mine. My mother and father were both known in the village as odd. Their reputation of family life was barbaric at best. Hatred and greed fueled the relations within my family. The struggle reached its climax when my mother and half-brother had had enough, and in their vile nature murdered my father along with mutilating my sister. Witnesses saw her screaming and running from town towards the Illumined Wood leaving only a trail of blood behind.
“They say that someone her age had no chance of survival within the forest. The pair vanished into the night, along with all of Evelyn’s relatives, leaving me within the nightmare of their making. Abbot Entiel and the other Ei’anaceur said that my father wrought his own trouble by wedding Evellyn and later having children with her. They supposed that he did so in order to collect the profits of the Cor Inn. They said that he received an appropriate price for marrying one of Evellyn’s kind, and that he should have stayed in Gneal with his motherless son after leaving Cor’lera in the first place. And the Abbot, my uncle, says that I’m no relative of his. Even among them I’m a stranger!”
Devlyn found himself panting as he concluded his account. He was somewhat surprised at how worked up he had gotten over the affair. Throughout his entire telling, not once did Velaria try to argue her own position or interrupt, rather she remained quiet with a posture of authority and superior knowledge, which spoke volumes of her own disagreement.
Devlyn did not have to wait long for his assumption of Velaria’s doubt to show itself, for once he had taken a few gasping breathes she responded for the first time. “Is that what you believe?”
Anger flared within Devlyn. How could this woman take this as a lie? There were witnesses, he thought. “You’re the first to disagree with that story. There is no reason for me to doubt the entire village, simply because you have another opinion,” said Devlyn, counting his breathes to calm himself.
“I have said nothing to disagree with your account,” said Velaria, continuing to fuel Devlyn’s anger, her calm tone only intensifying it. “However, I’ll not concede to such a tale that disgraces a woman like Evellyn and a man such as Abire. As their son, you should be ashamed of yourself for continuing the spread of such scandal. And since we’re on the topic, have you yet considered that I might be one of the few able to share the truth with you?”
The simple utterance of the word set Devlyn in doubt and uncertainty. All these years he was fed ugly stories, passed on to him from others, but never were they accompanied with explanations. Whenever he inquired about such details, all he was told was that it was his mother’s vile nature. Always displeased with such answers, he continued searching throughout his early years. Probing different villagers each time.
There came a time when he was thirteen when he ran out of new villagers to ask. He had asked them all the same questions and had learned nothing new. Every story was the same, nothing new and nothing left out. It was as if they read the story from a pamphlet word for word. The years since, he embraced what was given him as truth. But now, a new version of the story was available to him. He doubted its veracity, yet was eager all the same to hear different. A small part buried within ached to hear of his mother’s innocence, yet that would not return his father from the grave.
“Would you like to hear what I have to share with you?” asked Velaria in a patient voice with a small smile.