Chapter 1 : Rose Garden (Rosa Sant)
My life is ordinary.
But I am not.
Diana sighed and placed her pen on the table precisely parallel to the little red diary she'd been writing in. Something glinted off the metallic body of the pen and she looked up to an extraordinary phenomenon. Her eyes were glued to the soft purple light emanating from the pond in her backyard. Though the surface of the water remained undisturbed, the light beams danced, their myriad hues - purple, blue, green, red - fluctuating in intensity. The full moon's radiance could not match the glow of the water that pulsated with colour. She tightly closed her eyes, covered them with her hands, and peeked between her little fingers. Lo! The light was there! Alex's ears pricked up as he stared unblinkingly at the colourful luminescence. "Stay, Alex. Stay", she whispered firmly before bounding down the stairs into the living room. He made a protesting noise but heeded her command.
"Daddy! Daddy! Wake up!" she shook him. Exhausted from the long day of surveillance, her father barely stirred from his armchair. She gave up on rousing him and raced to the back door. Reaching up, she unlatched the door with a little effort and stepped out. It seemed like a miracle that the light was still there! The pond was beside the vegetable patch at the farthest corner of their yard, half-hidden by three soaring maples, but the iridescent beams peeped from between the tree-trunks. She tip-toed forward and stopped behind the trunk of the nearest maple. The dancing lights made it look like the surface of the water was rippling, creating fantastic, gorgeous effects like a laser show. Mesmerizing! She approached the pond carefully, kneeling on the stones that outlined its shape and .......gasped.
The bottom of the pond was no longer stone, replaced by greenish purple shapes that curved into a sphere. The thin reeds and water lilies had been swept aside by the sphere that occupied the entire volume of the pond. She reached forward, desperate to touch it but afraid of what might happen if she did. She wavered, her finger an inch from the vivid surface before plunging it in. As her finger made contact with the dazzling exterior, a strong force pulled her forward and her face broke the surface of the water. For a moment, she was suspended in a tunnel which seemed to bend space itself. On either side of her, the water shaped into the walls of the tunnel and in front of her .......
Are those leaves?
Without warning, she tumbled and fell face first to the ground. "Ow!" she sat up nursing the bruise on her chin. Her fingers were blood-stained when they came away from the wound. The cut stung and tears began to prickle her eyes. She stood up, grimacing at her grass stained pajamas and turned to run back home. Only...................
Where am I?
In the place where her house stood, there was a circular garden filled with rose bushes that grew in an elaborate pattern. Roses of every kind and colour bloomed, their varied fragrances wafting harmoniously through the air. Pale, white pebbles tinged with red, outlined the pattern of the bushes, shining in the bright moonlight. A single rose bush that bore no flowers grew just a few feet in front of her. It stood out like a sore thumb amongst the perfection of its neighbours. And beyond that.......
A gigantic tree rose from the earth, an enormous behemoth, whose top disappeared into the night sky. Its base, as broad as her bedroom and its roots, as thick as her body, snaked across the ground in all directions. Its lowest branches were twenty feet high and densely packed with small leaves. There was no way to gauge its height though she stretched her neck as far back as it would go.
What in the ...?
When she looked up, she saw something infinitely more shocking than the tree. The sky! Instead of the familiar pitch black, the sky was a deep violet flecked with stars that twinkled in majestic, swirling patterns. The jeweled sky was dominated by the moon which was ten times its usual size. And beside it was a small planet whose surface swirled with gases of different shades of crimson. The pebbles weren't tinged with red, the moonlight was - it filtered reddishly down to the earth. She was staring at the heavens, her mouth open, when a voice rang out.
"Dár foeir ennas!!"
She whirled around to see a dark-haired boy dressed in pastel coloured clothes that hinted at an earlier era. His stance was defensive, one hand raised in front of him, feet apart, as if expecting an attack. Straight dark hair fell below his chin and a fringe brushed across his brilliant green eyes. Eyes that were currently filled with fear ................... and fury. Between the two of them, a sphere like the one she'd touched earlier hung in the air, distorting the objects that could be viewed within. The light that this sphere emitted was muted, a soft white glow that barely illuminated the dark green and brown shapes inside it. A fine vortex shimmered like a mirage at the base of the sphere, originating from a small, black disk on the ground.
"I re cin?" he demanded angrily.
"'here ceri- cin tul- o?"
"What are you saying? I can't understand a word!"
"'iar! Cin 'xpect nin na 'elieve cin baw heni- cín garn lamb?"
He eyed the girl in the grass-stained pajamas scornfully, satisfied by her obvious ordinariness. She must be a child of one of the guests, he thought. He dropped his hand, relaxed his stiff stance and switched to English.
"What is this?" he gestured to the sphere.
"I don't know." She glanced at the sphere again, perplexed and disappointed that the boy didn't know anything about it. She was just about to ask him .....
"Don't lie! I saw you falling through it! " He crossed his arms.
"I don't know-"
"You should know better than to lie to me!! Answer me or I will have you punished for disobedience!" he declared pompously.
Diana was growing tired of the insolent boy. "I DON'T KNOW, OKAY??" She flipped her fringe behind her ear, exasperated with the boy's histrionics.
He stared intently at her face for a moment and his eyes widened in sudden dread. "You-y-you're one of t-them??"
"One of who?"
"You're a s-spy!" The fear in his face now mingled with indignation. "Don't play games with me! I k-know who you're with! I - I - I'm not scared of you!"
"Look! I don't know where I am and I want to go home!"
"Gurgof!!" He spat. "You have the audacity to come here after what your people did to us! To me!" His tone seethed with bitterness. "Who else did you come to target? Who else will you take from me?"
"Relax, okay! I came here by mistake. Just tell me how to get home and I'll be gone." Diana put up her hands defensively, alarmed by the sudden change in the boy's demeanour.
There were angry tears in his vivid green eyes and his whole body shook with emotion.
"You will not go anywhere."
His voice was very faint.
"You will not succeed again."
His hands balled into fists.
"You will pay the price of their crime!" he screamed, before launching himself towards her. Half blinded by tears, he pushed her with all his might.
He meant to hurt her as much as he could. Finally, here was someone to blame, someone he could punish for his loss. She must feel the pain he felt, she must feel his devastation. How dare she show her disgusting face to him?! But something happened that threw his plan to the winds. A golden glow emitted from the place where his skin had come in contact with hers. The light expanded, blinding them, spreading far beyond the garden. She fell backwards and the world tilted around her in slow motion. She expected to hit the ground but her fall was broken by the barren rose bush. She used the branches to scramble up, still shocked by the light that had extinguished itself in seconds. The boy took a step back, equally astounded.
Something brushed her palm and she turned to find hundreds of buds on the bush blooming into large, beautiful crimson roses. She couldn't believe her eyes! The petals sparkled as though a thin film of glitter was spread on its surface. The leaves swayed though there was no breeze.
"Breg! Na i Rosa Sant!" someone shouted. "Quick! To the Rose Garden!" Rapid footsteps approached the garden and the boy turned to their direction.
"Hi! Tirith! Tul- hi" He yelled. Here! Guards! Come here! "Im gar- raina i spui!" I 've caught the spy!
Diana was terrified. The boy wanted to hurt her and she was sure the people who approached were his friends. Her eyes wildly probed the dark shadows for an escape. The boy was still shouting out, when her eyes fell on the sphere, still in the air, its vortex undulating calmly.
This had to work.
She picked up the nearest white pebble and crouched down on her knees like an athlete. Just as the first guards appeared in the garden, she ran past the boy and leapt into the sphere. Mid-air, she aimed the rock carefully on her target and threw it with as much force as she could muster.
But she had disappeared.
The rock struck the circle squarely in the center and it exploded, shattering into hundreds of pieces in a blinding flash of light. The sphere destabilized, its surface rippling with expanding waves, growing larger and larger till it stood still. It then contracted into itself, vanishing into a small point of light.
The guards raced to the spot where the explosion had taken place searching frantically for the boy. The Teacher found him with his hands over his head, shell-shocked and covered in dirt. He'd been knocked off his feet by the force of the blast.
"Are you all right?" he asked urgently.
He took some time to respond, staring up from under his arms at the destruction caused by the little girl.
"Are you okay, Silvanus?!" The Teacher grasped the boy by his arm and pulled him to his feet while kneeling down in front of him. Concern creased his eyebrows.
"Yes. I'm okay," he answered, shaking his head, trying to gain his bearings.
"Who was that?" the teacher asked the boy in a long-forgotten tongue.
"The enemy! They sent her, Teacher." He responded urgently. "Through that." He pointed to the empty space where the sphere had hung a few seconds ago.
The teacher was bewildered by his explanation. But there was no point in being careless. The seat of power of the planet had shifted to the palace. Very important people were under his protection right now. He ordered the guards to conduct a thorough search of the grounds.
"Where did you find this?" The teacher picked up the biggest shard of the black disk from the ground.
"Near the tree. It was almost buried in the ground. I pressed the center and the sphere materialized out of it. She fell through it. No doubt, they sent her to hurt someone else......... She-she escaped on my watch, Teacher. I am so sorry. I have failed you." His voice was glum by the end.
"I don't think the enemies employ little children, Silvanus," the Teacher half-smiled.
"No! I'm sure she is one of them. She - she is of their kind, Teacher!"
The teacher raised his eyebrows.
"I swear it. She's not one of us."
The teacher was anxious but he tried to make his tone light. There was no use worrying the boy. He had suffered so much in the past weeks. "Let's go back. You should be in bed. We don't want your mother to know of this late night excursion, do we?" He stood up, held out his hand and the boy slipped his tiny palm into it.
"Goddess!!" the Teacher exclaimed! "What is this?"
"I don't know. I 've never seen it before." The boy was baffled by the intricate design formed on his wrist. The design was pristine white, its golden glow dulling every second. As they watched, the glow disappeared altogether, leaving the pattern etched against his fair skin.
"I don't understand. It must've happened when the light appeared. I pushed her-"
"This happened after you touched her?!!" The Teacher looked even more alarmed by this piece of information.
"Yes. I pushed her and a light appeared. I'm sure it was her doing. To harm me in some way."
"No! She is not an enemy! " The teacher held up his wrist. "This mark proves it!"
"Silvanus ............................................................ She is your Zareh."
The word meant something to them that Diana would not have understood.
The boy was appalled. His Zareh! He'd treated her like a criminal! They had hoped for years to find her and when she appeared at their doorstep, he'd cast her off.
"Oh Goddess! What have I done?" He fell to his knees holding his head in his hands.
The Teacher patted the boy on his shoulder. "It's all right, child. Now that we know where she is, we can find her."
Silvanus looked up from his hands. The reflection of the stars twinkled beside renewed hope in his green eyes. "You can find her?"
"I will find her."
"But even if you find her, will she want to come back...?"
The teacher smiled at the innocent anxiety in the boy's voice. "I'm sure we can convince her."
The teacher noticed the formerly barren bush that was now teeming with sparkling blood-red roses. He examined them carefully. "These are everlasting roses. I haven't seen them since ............... Did she create them?" he inquired, astonished.
"Are you sure of her specie? The davizae are not this powerful at such a young age."
He turned towards the boy to find him looking at the ground despondently. "I am sorry, Teacher," he mumbled.
"It's all right, Silvanus. This is good news." He held up the black shard. "Once the tairseach is fixed, we can find her in no time. You forget we have the best minds in the land." He smiled kindly at the forlorn boy.
The teacher ushered the boy out of the garden but Silvanus stopped abruptly at the exit and took a last long look behind. The dazzling roses still swayed in a hypnotic manner.
©The credit for the Elvish language of Sindarin which is used in this story lies with J.R.R Tolkien.