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The Forest Bower -- Part II

Mon Apr 19 2021 04:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

When he was led back to the crowd a dark scene unfolded before. A bier stood, wrapt in sable stood in the midst and sad chants rose to the air. With an sigh, the enthroned woman motioned to our young man to approach her.
"I thank you for your presence! What people do you represent?"
The lad replied with more composure than expected, "I am . . . am but a lost child. I apologize for my presence. I do give my condolences for your loss."
"Thank you most kindly. I will be with later when I am less occupied."
At this dismissal the lad took a place on her right and observed this strange funereal. Chant and incense rose to the air as mourners visited the coffin and the lady. The melody struck the soul of the lad but he could barely understand the lyric. He thought it meant something like this--but far more soul gripping:

Is death the Great mishap?
Or a freeing for the ageless ones
Only shall we know
When we've paced the final lap
The fruits of life we now owe,
But if struck down what great gift
We will have won?

By the exceeding reverence shown by the mourners, the lad perceived the lady to be of higher status than the mourners. Had his "vision" led him to the burying of a mythical king? When the visiting had finished the coffin was adorned with lavender and cypress. Then it was carried to rest in a grave nestled by the roots of a magnificent oak.
All stood in silence for a minute, then a great body of the crowd retired, leaving the now breathless lad and the lady and her train.

"How did you come upon us, lost one?" she asked.

"I . . I was just out for a stroll and was attracted by the lights."

"Ahh . . . so you are another of the fallen ones. We welcome your kind from time to time. Indeed at this crux I would value your perspective as an alien to my people. But that is a trouble for another hour. You must be astonished by this gathering. Most of your kind have know idea of our presence."

"Indeed. You called me a fallen one. Whence does your knowledge of me come? I have never seen any of your 'people' in my life?"

"I will give you the short story know, and the legend later.

"Though you do not know us, we are familiar with your people. It seems that from time to time the children of your fallen race come to our bowers. There complexion is makes there origin fairly obvious. What drives them here, I know not, for it seems that they find no rest in our a humble abodes. Nonetheless from them we learn much about the society around us. It seems the life of your race is full of vigor, but also filled with tumult and uproar--I could take that above my life here."

"Your knowledge is accurate I must say. And who are your people?"

"That . . . that is a question for tomorrow. The hour is upon us for retirement. Aethul, prepare lodgings for this man." She motioned to Aethul and, as if in a dream, the young man was led to a hammock. Though it looked like a rude resting place, no sooner had he reclined than he fell into a pleasant, dreamy sleep.