Meldrick's Tales, Chapter 15, The Elder Tree
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Meldrick the Elder
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Knight of Zantarni
Zantarni NPC
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Mon Jun 08, 2009 7:56 am
(The inspiration for this tale came from this painting, "Old tree at water" by Sergey Voevodin His Gallery

Chapter 15 The Elder Tree


Meldrick was making his way back towards the Edingtol’s Gates after taking a break to share a meal with some of Zantarni’s newest citizens. On days like this, he loved to take a few of the newcomers to the outdoor eatery in the Towncenter Market. He preferred it as it allowed him to listen to the hustle and bustle of the market area as well as listening to the assorted birds and animals that liked to hang around the eatery looking for a handout. He enjoyed feeding the birds and chipmunks and squirrels.


As he made his way back to the low, stone wall that was his perch, a small group of children approached him. One little boy, a little braver than the rest, spoke up, “Sir Meldrick, why do they call you the Elder?”


Meldrick smiled and chuckled a little, “You mean besides me being so old and wrinkly?” A few of the children laughed at that as Meldrick closed his eyes a moment.


“’Elder’ is a title that some use just to denote age, and some use to denote a person of sage wisdom or a leader of a church. . .” He paused a moment, “I have been called many names in my lifetime. . .Meldrick the Adventurer, when I was young. . .Meldrick the Wanderer, when I was older. . .but when I found my way here, most bestowed the title ‘the Elder’ upon me because of my age and because of the adventures I have had in my youth; some felt I may be the holder of great wisdom.” He blushed a bit, “Though I am but a humble storyteller and greeter at the gates, somehow ‘the Elder’ fits me.”


The children moved a little closer to him, some nodding their heads in agreement, when the bold lad spoke up again, “I agree that the title suits you, but have you ever met any other Elders, such as yourself?”


Meldrick smiled as he leaned back against the wall, “I have met many Elders, for even my own tribe of Gypsy Elves had Elders. . .but the most unusual Elder I ever met was the Elder Tree. . .”


-------------------------


The caravan had stopped outside the gates of AnLorna along the Central River. AnLorna was a place of wonder and music as they were reknown for making musical instruments of incredible sound and quality. It is said that “to own an AnLorna instrument, is to own a piece of heaven.” Meldrick loved the sounds that filled the air and though he was not that adept at playing instruments, he enjoyed playing a small wooden flute that had been given to him by an AnLorna shopkeeper, who had told him that its music was the key to wisdom.


They were to be in AnLorna for a few days and Mother Marla could tell that Meldrick was antsy to do a little exploring. As he came out of their wagon with his pack she greeted him, told him to be careful and then kissed him on the forehead. Meldrick always felt so happy as he wandered off to explore after Mother Marla bade him farewell.


He made his way back down the road and crossed over the bridge as on their way into AnLorna he had spotted a large old tree along the other side of the river bank. A tree of a variety he didn’t remember seeing before. It had a large trunk that moved up to what appeared to be a large scooped out area that the branches encircled like fingers of a glove. . .if nothing else, he thought it would make a very good place to camp out in and observe the river traffic as well as the rest of the area, almost unnoticed.


It had taken him awhile to reach the tree and he smiled when he realized that he could see the walls of AnLorna and that he could softly hear the music coming from the city. As he stood at the base of the tree, he glanced about the trunk looking for a way to climb up to the hollowed out perch. He smiled as he noticed that the trunk appeared to have deep grooves in its bark which made perfect handholds for climbing.


After a few minutes of climbing he found himself in what appeared to be a smooth-surfaced bowl and he had been right, it did allow him to observe the river traffic and all else as the tree limbs and leaves perfectly hid him from view. He took off his pack and looked about the bowl of the tree. It was approximately 12 feet across and the surface was smooth and devoid of bark. He went back to the edge of the bowl where the tree limbs were formed and noticed that the bark stopped at the lip of the bowl which indicated to him that the tree had grown this way and that no hands had smoothed out the surface of the bowl. Meldrick smiled at the wonder and beauty of how nature could do such a thing.


After laying out his sleeping bag and eating a bit of jerky, he went back to the edge of the bowl nearest the river and watched the moving waters and the few flat bottom barges that were plying it. It was almost as if he were watching a play. He smiled as his perch in the old tree made him feel so comfortable.


With the sun beginning to sink in the west, Meldrick broke out his small wooden flute and began to play it. He didn’t know many tunes and he didn’t play that well, but he loved the sound of the flute. He lay back against the smooth surface of the bowl and smiled as a group of fireflies, in the middle of the bowl, seemed to be dancing to the sound of the flute. As Meldrick watched the fireflies he realized, to his amazement, that they were not your normal fireflies. . .they were Firefly Faeries!


Meldrick stopped playing and when he did the Firefly Faeries flew up into the leaves of a nearby branch. “I mean you no harm. . .” He said as he looked to the leaves.


“Ye did nothin’ wrong, lad. . .the wee buggers only understand the music. . .it be how they communicate.”


Meldrick jerked back surprised by the voice, so close to him. He looked to his right and there sat a small, wizened gnome with a long white beard and a curved clay pipe. “Who. . .who are you?” Meldrick asked.


The gnome chuckled and spread his hands, “Why I be Fee-Ador, the Keeper of the Elder Tree.”


“Fee-Ador, I am Meldrick of the Gypsy Elves. . .I take it this is the Elder Tree. . .May I ask what is the Elder Tree that it needs a Keeper?” Meldrick looked again to the Firefly Faeries and then back to Fee-Ador.


Fee-Ador smiled and with a twinkle in his eye he spoke, “Ah me fine lad, the Elder Tree be a repository of knowledge, Elvin, Human, Faerie and much more. Within the bowels of the Elder Tree, thair be books and parchments and such on things from almanacs to animal husbandry to the study of the stars.” He softly whistled and the Firefly Faeries flew to him, settling on his hat and in his beard.


Meldrick smiled at the sight of the old gnome’s beard flashing on and off with the Firefly Faeries in it. “You say that within the bowels of the Elder Tree there is this knowledge, how does one enter this tree of knowledge?”


Fee-Ador chuckled and using his clay pipe he pointed to the wooden flute in Meldrick’s hand, “Ye hold the key thair in you hands.”


Meldrick looked at his flute, then looked back to Fee-Ador as he remembered the shopkeeper’s words “…its music was the key to wisdom…” Fee-Ador was holding in his hand the same flute that Meldrick had, and putting it to his lips, he played 5 notes. As the last note finished the center of the bowl opened showing a way into the Elder Tree. Meldrick grabbed his pack and followed Fee-Ador into the tree. The Firefly Faeries leading the way and lighting up the interior.


Meldrick whistled softly at what he saw, for there was level after level of books and ancient manuscripts, much like the ancient Library of Arnrhythgarn he had heard about. The interior of the Elder Tree was much larger than what showed on the exterior and its roots extended deep within the earth.


Fee-Ador spoke again, breaking Meldrick’s reverie, “That flute is the key to knowledge, try to remember the notes I played and keep the flute safe as they are only given to a rare few. . .the Shopkeeper must have seen somethin’ special in ye, Lad.”

---------------------------------------------------

“I had spent the next couple of days with Fee-Ador, spending the days inside the Elder Tree, reading and studying maps and drawings and the evenings in the bowl of the Elder Tree, playing the flute for the Firefly Faeries. . .and when I was ready to leave, Fee-Ador gave me a package to deliver to the shopkeeper who had given me the flute.”


“Do you know what was in the package, Sir Meldrick?” The boy closest to him asked.


Meldrick smiled, “Yes, it was a book of sheet music that Fee-Ador had written for him.” Then taking his flute from his pocket, he started playing. The song was one the children knew and they began to sing as Meldrick played.


“Gathering dandelions to make a crown,
Dancing in circles, we all fall down
Picking up feathers and flying about
Dancing in circles as we all shout
Gathering berries and eating our fill
Dancing in circles, down by the mill.
Picking up leaves down on bended knee
Dancing in circles round the Elder Tree. . .”
_________________


Sit back and I'll tell you tales of Faeries and dragons.
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