The Elder King

A very long time ago, when half of the Blackwood was still covered in saplings, a child was born in the far East of the forest.  He shined with a great light when he was born, and the sun rises in the East every morning to remind the world of that auspicious moment.

As a child, he roamed the forest from one end to the other.  He would stop when he came to a campfire, so he could talk with the people that lived there and learn about who they were.  He loved to learn about people, and in time he knew the names of everyone in the Wood.

On his journeys, he met a great stag with long whiskers like a dragon and fur as soft as a cloud.  Its eyes shone like stars, and glistening moss that hung down from its antlers.  “Climb on my back,” it said to the boy, “and I will show you all the trees of the forest.”

And so the boy did, and they ran together over stick and stone.  From the stag the boy learned the languages of every tree and flower, as well as the languages of all the beasts great and small.  Every animal took the boy as their king, except the wolf, which is too angry and proud to worship anything.

Of all the words the boy learned, his favorite were the words of trees, because they were soft and slow and very beautiful.  When an animal would please him, the boy would write his name on the animal’s forehead with the words of the trees.  “You are my dearest friend,” said the boy.  “Thank you for protecting me and helping me grow.”

When the boy grew to be a man, he was beautiful and strong and wise, and flowers bloomed everywhere he walked.  Elves would come from every tree and pond to trick him, but he was too clever for them, and soon they came to respect him and leave him alone.  Before long, the man looked around and said “I have learned everything about the forest, and about the people and animals who live here.  I don’t want to leave, but it is time for me to climb higher so I can rule the forest as a King should.”

So he so he patted the Stag on the back, which had always been his closest friend and greatest servant, and said “Walk through the forest for the rest of time, so I can always see things up close when I need to.”

Then he went to the river, and the river rose up to greet him in the form of a great dragon.  It coiled like a snake and spread out wings of sparkling water, and river weeds hung from its antlers and its eyes were like two polished gems.  “Climb on my back,” the Dragon said, “and I will show you the path to your home.”

And so the man did, and as he was riding the Dragon up the river, he looked around and said “This is the Way to my home, and all the things I do will travel down it towards the forest, and all of its people and animals.”

The Dragon carried the man to the very end of the Way, high up into the mountains, to a long lake that reflected the stars even in the middle of the day.  The Dragon showed the man the valley stretching out below them, and the forest beyond it, and “This is your home, my King.  We were born before you, but you age while we remain young forever, so you shall be our Elder King.” And the Dragon bowed down to the Elder King, and the Elder King wrote his name on the Dragon’s forehead.

“Thank you,” said the Elder King.  “Please swim the river for all time, so I can see the surface and the depths if I need to.”

And then the Elder King walked to a great cleft in the mountains that was not far from the lake.  With the help of the trees and the rocks and the water, he made a great palace for himself.  But there was no one for him to talk to in his palace, and he grew very lonely, so he would often walk out into the forest or the valley to speak with his friends.  “I love my friends, but I must watch over them, and it is so lonely in the Heights.”

And all the animals and trees and flowers and people that worshiped him were very sad, because they wanted their Elder King to be happy.  So they searched through the whole forest, and they found a woman who was the most beautiful in the land.  She was so beautiful that even the wolves were calmed in her presence, and all things seemed to shine like silver when she looked at them.

So they brought the woman to the Elder King, and the two fell very much in love.  “If you will live in my palace with me, I will make you my Queen, and we will watch over all of the forest together forever.”

And the woman curtsied and said “No one should be lonely, and you are the wisest and most handsome man in the world.  I love you dearly, and I will stay with you for all time.”

And so the Elder King and Queen were married, and from that day they have sent their wisdom down from their palace to every corner of the Blackwood.

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