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"Mark of Prophecy"
by Elizabeth Fidler

from Enchantments: The Many Facets of Magic
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A elvan shall be born with the
divine mark and aura at birth
Both fading from sight and memory
before the her first birthday

The newborn fiercely announced its displeasure at the loss of the womb’s warmth. Exhausted Setrina examined her only child. The skinny girl had a rich down of her mother’s jet-black hair, and her father’s rosy complexion shone on her angry little face. Her little, slightly pointed ears stuck out in the usual way. And even in anger, the corners of her little rosebud lips curved up in that perpetual smile that was common among her kinfolk.

There were two unusual things about the child which puzzled and frightened her mother. She bore the divine mark of Kievan and Varelle, and her odd, gold-green eyes were unusually alert and aware for a newborn. Her daughter was a fighter. Setrina thought, That will serve her well in the end.

Setrina’s labor had been rougher than most. The baby had not wanted to leave her womb and had fought the whole way out. She had taken a full three days to bear, and the midwives had even summoned the High Queen to lend her strength of spirit, but it could not save Setrina; the birthing was just too much. “I name her a child of Fire,” she whispered. “Sister, she is yours.”


The elvan shall possess abilities almost
forgotten and gone in Elvere
In time she will grow into them and
meet a teacher to guide her path

Branada was standing on peak of a snowcapped mountain, her boyish figure dressed for a long journey in her favorite brown doeskin leggings and burnt-orange poncho. Before her were many paths but she could see nothing beyond a dozen steps of any of them; the clouds in the sky blended into the mounds of snow all around her. Unsure how to proceed, Branada was studying her surroundings when there appeared a gorgeous red wolf; the splendor of his magnificent thick, bronze coat was lost to the brilliance of his jade eyes.

As Branada sunk deeply into the wolf’s intense stare, a voice like faraway thunder rumbled in her mind, “Follow me, Branada,” the wolf said, “I have something to show you.”

Feeling a tug towards him, she followed him to a waist-high snow drift. The wolf dug away the snow to reveal the head of yet another path hidden by the fog. They walked along in silence for some time, seeing nothing ahead or behind them except a few steps in either direction of the dirt track, but everything to either side of the pair was cloaked by clouds and snow.

After following the wolf for what seemed an eternity, Branada stopped short as he dropped back on his haunches. Suddenly, the mist vanished all around them and they stood on a small hill that lay in the heart of a lush valley, alive with sights and sounds. An immense rushing river flowed around either side of the mound, its sparkling aquamarine waters winding north-south through the vale. Surrounding the whole basin was a thick forest full of every kind of tree, from blue spruce to desert palm, all growing side by side on the slopes of circling mountains.

Turning to take in the whole vista, Branada saw that, centered on the crest of their hill, was a large steel basin holding an immense bonfire. In several places, rainbow-hued moss patches covered the basin. The moss peeked through strands of climbing vines covering the cauldron, which were rooted at the base in a colorful carpet of wildflowers. The flowers spread down the sides of the knoll to the very edge of the water, and stretched out from the rim of the far bank into the forest and up the mountainside. The valley was full of animals. The young of both prey and predators were playing together while their elders lazed in the infinite bouquet of flowers, some across the water and others just within feet of Branada and the wolf, unfazed by their presence. Branada watched as a little gray rabbit chased a large panther cub in and out of a copse of birches. The wind constantly changed, blowing a harsh winter gale or a light summer breeze or anything in between, yet Branada felt comfortable in all of them. She laughed as the wind pulled wisps of her long black hair out of the leather strap that tied it loosely back. “I have never seen such a glorious place,” Branada said. “I’m glad you showed it to me.”

“Hush, child,” the wolf said. “That is not why you are here.”

As he spoke, an unnatural stillness enveloped the entire valley; time seemed to stand still. When it resumed, there was a prevailing uneasiness, where a moment before the air had been filled with the rich sounds of contented animals and the songs of joyful birds, now the absence of their distinct noises was painfully obvious. All the animals were gone. They just vanished; there wasn’t even fish in the river. The only evidence that she hadn’t just imagined them was the occasional hoof or paw print and the remnants of nests in a few trees. With the creatures missing, the vale appeared to contract in on itself; all of its features looked shriveled, and the air felt lethargic.

Branada turned in frantic circles, looking with wild eyes to find a clue to the source of the shocking disturbance. Finally, on one of the lower slopes above the trees, she spied a massive brown bear and a thin yellow ram. They were headed towards the forest, the ram prodding along the slow and hesitant bear. She lost sight of them when they reached the edge of the woods. Once the pair had disappeared, treetops around the far edge of the forest started sinking out of sight.

The pair came into view again. Branada watched as the bear wandered slowly through the woods, eating whole trees until not a twig or leaf was left in the forest. Whenever the bear tried to stop, the ram stamped a hoof and head-butted him. The ram grew taller as the bear consumed the wood, but the bear’s height diminished.

Next, the ram pushed the bear to the riverbank and swept his horns into the bear’s left foreleg, causing the bear to crash to the ground. The bear lay motionless, growling deep in his throat, but the ram just snorted. Grunting his disgust, the bear lowered his head to the water and drank the riverbed dry. As the bear swallowed each ton of water the ram grew fatter and he became bone thin.

The ram pranced across the dead channel and up the hilltop to the steel-basin bonfire, the bear followed, more dejected and slower with every step. The ram was practically dancing around the bonfire when the bear ambled over to the steel basin, raised a single paw, and smothered the fire without leaving any ashes. The ram bleated his jubilance and nodded his head, causing the bear to bring his massive paw down again, this time melting the basin into liquid metal that soaked into the ground, drying in an instant. The ram stood on that spot and shook his head, showing off his now colossal rack of horns. The bear collapsed with an agonized groan, revealing a toothless maw.

Branada had watched, horrified, as the valley was reduced to a cracked and desolate place. Everywhere the bear had gone, the wildflowers and earth had decayed into a barren desert. As the poor bear had wandered the valley, huge clumps of his soft brown coat had fallen out and left coarse hair instead. The ram’s hair had instead thickened, becoming as soft and curly as lamb’s wool. The scorching sun glinted of the ram’s rich, golden coat as the valley was reduced to a cracked and desolate place. Finally as the last wildflower wilted away, Branada cried, “Stop! Oh, what have you done—?”

Before she could finish, the ram swung around. Her gold-green eyes were instantly drawn irresistibly to its ebony ones, and Branada fell to her knees, gasping for air. The wolf sprung between them, at once blocking the ram from her view. The moment his paws hit the ground, the air rushed back into her burning lungs.

When the wolf stepped aside, they were back on the cloud- and snow-covered path. The bear and ram were gone, but the ruined valley remained. The red wolf turned to her and said, “You have seen enough tonight. I will return.”
Before she could rasp a reply, she found herself lying in bed. As she looked around her familiar bedchamber, she felt foolish. The dream had seemed so real; the mountaintop, the valley and especially the ram’s stare. She shivered as she saw, again, with her mind’s eye that powerful gaze. Frightened and confused, Branada notice the exhausted sweat covering her body and the aching rawness in her throat.


“Some precaution must be taken,” Patrium of the Air Clantrium Averic said.

Branada jumped as Averic’s sledgehammer of a fist pounded the thick steel table, vibrating it. Some loose dirt fell on him from the earthen ceiling above. He was a large elvar, taking up most of one side of the table, and was quick to bluster about the smallest thing. His thinning hair looked like wisps of clouds on a sunny day. But the look on his tanned face was far from sunny, since his merry, light-blue eyes had turned a stormy charcoal and his periwinkle tunic was badly rumpled. Branada smothered a giggle when Averic, grunting in disgust, shook the dust out of his hair, which joined the pile that, as usual, surrounded him on the smooth wooden floor.

Matrium of the Water Clantrium Meara, her aquamarine eyes as calm as the sea at midsummer’s dawn, said, “Don’t worry. This too shall pass. Man has outlawed magic before. They always come to regret it. We must be patient.”
Branada watched as Meara calmly brushed a speck of dirt off her navy dress and laid the same slender hand with sinuous fingers on Averic’s clenched fist, gently loosening it. Branada envied the older elvan’s fluid placidness. She was the only one never startled by Averic’s loudness.

“What precautions do you propose, Averic?” said Patrium of the Wood Clantrium Holzic. The top of his thick hair mere inches from the chamber’s dome, he rested his chin on his chest to see the other, much shorter Kinatrium members. His thin, solid frame was clothed tightly by his striped white and black robe. His light-green eyes peered down curiously at Averic. Branada hid a smile as Holzic tried unsuccessfully to straighten his flyaway crimson curls, the only movement he ever made with any haste. Once Holzic sat or stood somewhere, he barely moved besides a gentle swaying. Branada thought of his hair and his useless attempts to tame it as the only outward sign that Holzic was truly an elvar; otherwise she would have sworn he was a talking tree left from ancient times.

“We must fight them,” said Averic. “They can’t be allowed to assert their will on us. That is a direct threat to our way.”

Reflecting back to her distressing dream two nights before, Branada silently agreed. Ever since the news of the decree had reached the Kinatrium, she had wondered if her dream had been prophetic. Shuddering at the memory, she wished the chambers’ torches hadn’t burned quite so low.

“How do you intend to fight them?” asked Matrium of the Earth Clantrium Bruna, settling deeper into her large wooden chair. “We swore long ago to never again use Man’s weapons for violence—only for hunting and survival.”
“The prophecy speaks of this time,” said Patrium of the Metal Clantrium Stelic. “Is that not enough?”

Branada looked curiously at her best friend; wondering if he were right and the time of the prophecy had come.

“This may not be the time of the prophecy at all,” said Patrium Holzic. “We can’t know when the prophecy is to be fulfilled until Kievan and Varelle choose to reveal the child. We cannot know who it is or even if someone bears the symbol at this time. We are not meant to know.”

*     *     *

Branada will soon know, and face challenges she never could have imagined... and bear the responsibility of her entire race on her shoulders--proving that, even with a prophecy, destiny will be what you make of it.

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