The Elyon planted the Tree of life in Casoria, not because he favored the Casorians, who were a no-people then, nor because the earth was rich, for the soils of the Southern Plains were already known for their sweetness. He did not desire the quick growth of the Magic Lands or the rise of Ron Jonna. The Elyon planted the Tree of Life in Casoria because he chose to.
The tree grew tall, ringed by others yet always distinguished by its glossy leaves and delicious scent. The scent came from a single blossom, a white petaled flower nesting among a tree that could have produced hundreds, yet yielded only one. The Outer Flower gleamed like a pearl by day and at night was a star.
The flower and the effects of its scent became legendary. One breath could erase fear, two breaths instill hope, a day spent in the confines of the garden made one young. The flower gained many titles, some poetic, others grand, but the name by which it ultimately became known was simple and common among rich and poor, young and old alike. The Outer Flower, bloom of the Casorian Tree. The Outer Flower, five petaled fruit of the Tree of Life, always with them yet always out of reach. Sarr had told them. But Sarr had not believed.
Sarr was the Garden Skyll. If the Outer Flower was the first fruit of the Tree of Life, then Sarr was the second, a man chosen to pass through the Veils, nurtured in the womb of the Deep, a man who wore the three stripes (scars) of privilege on the flesh of his upper arm. His place was first among the Skylls and it was he who walked in the garden, planted the trees yet refused to count them, and allowed no other paths other than those worn by his own feet.
None of the rest had gained more than two stripes; Ganesan from High North, Tulle of South Waity, Aaron of the Andovers, and Britt from the Burning Wood. Gunther of Ron Jonna and Tiane of waters and seas, beloved from the first. Their names and lives were bright strands against the sky, bright colors against Sarr’s dark vein. All could fly but for Sarr who was tied to the earth.
Progress was rapid in Casoria. A warrior declared himself king and founded a kingdom. A castle was built and called Ursaulis, an impregnable structure of timber and stone that blazoned from a hill slightly lower than the one on which the Tree of Life stood.
The Outer Flower shone, a pearl by day and a star by night. The people became part of her legends. Casorian hands were nimbler, their minds quicker, their children did not die at birth. The land was blessed and so the people sought to include the Earth Skyll in their praises, but Sarr remained aloof.
Envy had entered his heart through a series of small humiliations. He had come to despise the garden he was bound to, the commonplace tasks. He would be bent over, engaged in the ignoble task of transplanting a seedling or, even worse, spreading dung, when another of the Skylls would sail by, causing a wind. He would straighten, the foul taste of compost always in his mouth. His life was bitter. Yes, he had been to the Deep and earned the three stripes of privilege, but he didn’t want to be tied to anything, even the Tree of Life. He wanted to fly.
After they witnessed the birth of a star, he decided. They had come to him then, even Tianne who rarely left her waters, and described the wondrous sight. He didn’t respond, and so Ganesan, sharpest of the winds, complimented him on his carefully tended seedlings. Sarr thought he detected a sneer.
In his anger, he promised the flower to the dark god, Ba’hal. Ba’hal, in return, promised him flight. Sarr would soar among the clouds, shaming the rest, but first he must pluck the bloom. The bargain was sealed.
The tree was sturdy, and its branches tangled, a criss-cross of limbs and leaves that made it nearly impossible to climb. Sarr persevered until he reached the flower. Only then did he pause. He had not counted on its aching beauty, its exquisite scent. The petals quivered, as if offering a lament. Then he remembered Ganesan and the quick look of pity from Tianne, and Sarr stretched for his hand.
The burst was so quick that even as he reached out, Sarr seemed to explode into ashes; no one can hold life and live. His dust drifted downward as chaff, then scattered across the ground. The flower had disappeared.
Nor would it reappear; though the tree remained, it was barren. One by one, the Skylls were called into the Deep, save for Tianne, who in her grief and shame would not go into the Elyon’s presence but asked for a grave in the sea. Touched by her suffering, the Elyon granted her request and made her a promise. The promise went like this: “The Favored One is coming. He will be shadowed by the dark, nearly covered, but when he rises the flower will bloom again. And you will awaken, for his star will trouble your waters again and again.”
Tianne stretched for there hand in supplication. Then, she too was gone.
Time rolled forward. Seven new Skylls hovered around the throne, though none of them could fly and the Earth Skyll was always crippled. Tianne’s position remained unfulfilled. The King residing in Ursaulis was called the High King: some were good, others bad.
Nor was life without surprises.
The power unleashed by Sarr produced a spiritual bedlam. New gods woke up hungry and anxious to be fed. Sorcerers abounded, seeresses prophesied, men with strange urgent callings formed clans. In Glynnis Fen, it was said witch spirits crowded the air at every female birth while in Glarry Glen, the fairies squandered the light fashioning baubles. In the north, a mage rose called the Shatu, by all accounts an enigmatic man. He was said to shun disciples yet formed an order called The Blue Stone, a secret band; he spoke of peace while ministering to the warlike Pentacaucus; he counted his enemies yet feared only the Elyon.
To the northeast, there remained only the Nevers, a dark realm of neither travelers or trade. The demise of the Outer Flower had its effect there as well. Those along is borders felt it power passing, watched it splinter the indigo sky. The stronghold of the Ba’hal remained more impenetrable than before. Rumors from the borders would come, tales of strange cruelties and unnatural beasts. Civilized men would mock them as the exaggerations of lonely men.
The other stories were either forgotten or discounted. Only the legend of the Outer Flower remained and, serving the imagination, was recorded; the white blossom appeared in paintings, pub designs, and stitched on christening gowns. A static image whose name inspired neither hope nor fear, not even a curse. The children of the street used it in a game they played with rocks:
The Outer Flower grows,
Skip, two, three
And none can find it.
The Outer Flower grows,
Skip, three, four,
And none can bind it.
I began blogging The Outer Flower and stopped just short of Oren’s imprisonment as another project took precedence. Currently, Oren Whitehair, also known as Oren Hunter, lies bleeding in a smelly dungeon with scant straw. The actual manuscript lies on the floor to the left of me. I can touch it with my toe. The re-blogging will continue until Section 59, when the novel in its entirety will be played out. I hope you enjoy this fantasy. It’s called Flight: Book One of the Outer Flower, and envisioned as a trilogy.
Thanks for reading,