Standing resolutely as counterbalance to the evil which ceaselessly sought to overwhelm good in the world, the Old Forest was still every bit as bright with light and the newness of life as the world had been when both it and the elves came into being at the beginning of time The birds and animals of the Forest paused and turned to watch with curiosity as the stillness of the morning was interrupted as a young woman with dark hair and pale skin emerged from the boundary and gazed in wonder at the vibrant colors of the grasses and flowers and trees made even more vivid by the perfectly clear, baby blue sky.
Only the second human ever to be allowed entry to the Forest against the proscription of the elves upon their departure, Princess Caron looked in awe at the miracle they had created and protected hundreds upon hundreds of years earlier. The birds and animals and plants were all familiar, yet at the same time they were not, for their colors were so much more varied, so much more intense. Everything around her looked and smelled as if it had been freshly washed and sun dried in preparation for her arrival. She instinctively knew that this was how the world had looked when it was new and she wondered how darkness could exist anywhere in a world in which the power of this place existed.
After the evil that the wizard Greyleige had brought to the world was turned away by the fledgling wizard Wilton, Caron traveled to the little village of Wisdom bordering the Old Forest in which her instincts told her the man she had found, followed, encouraged and ultimately fallen in love with now resided. There, she had studied and consulted with the brotherhood of earth wizards that had been established nearby with the intent of finding a way to gain access to the Forest where she was certain Wil awaited her. But the key to her entry to the Old Forest had not been within any of the places she had looked. The key had been within that which she was seeking; for in the end, the key came seeking her.
It had been a long night and Caron drowsed over a scroll at the Three Oaks Inn. Her head lay on her crossed arms on a table in the common room when the summons arrived. You must come to me.
Without raising her head, she heard her answering question within her mind. How do I get to you?
You must come to me.
The summoning presence faded as her groggy senses cleared and she remembered that before he had learned of his heritage and his burden, Wil had been similarly summoned in a waking dream by the shade of the elf Gleneagle. Prior to that, he had wandered through an aimless, friendless life for sixty-five years before finding contentment and unquestioning friendship working for Scrubby, the village swineherd. His summoning shortly after his arrival in Wisdom was the first step of a turning in his life which changed both his own future and that of the world.
It was early morning with the sun barely up as Caron roused herself, stretched grandly and looked around. Nobody was stirring within the building and she stood and touched the elfstone lying upon her breast. It glowed brightly in the soft light of early morning. She smiled, confident that the summoning of the dream from which she had just awakened had been a true one. Letting herself quietly out the side door of the common room of Three Oaks, she walked west on the road toward the Old Forest.
The ancient grove of trees looked less forbidding, less formidable than it had in the past as she approached the edge of the Forest and waited expectantly as she had done so many times before. She did not know what would happen, but she was certain that this time there would be no resistance, no pain, no confusion as there had been on her previous attempts to enter the Old Forest. And there was none. For this time a path opened before her, glowing as if in welcome and showing her the way she was to travel.
After almost a week of walking on a path she could feel but not see, she found herself standing in the same opening in which Wil had stood when he received his instruction from the shade of the elf Gleneagle, her many times removed great grandfather.
The green elfstone on its silver chain glowed brightly where it lay upon her breast and the world seemed to hold its breath as she spoke his name. "Wil," she called softly. "I have come for you." Her eyes closed as hope and fear warred within her. What do I say to the man I love after four long years? What do I do if my belief that he loves me as I do him turns out to be wrong? Either way, how am I to act... or react? Am I willing to let him kiss me right away? If not right away, when? And what then?
After no more than a minute, her senses tingled briefly and she opened her eyes to find his image standing before her. It was insubstantial at first, but as the moments passed it became more and more solid, more and more real, more and more animated until at last he stepped forward. She could see once again his piercing, steel gray eyes as they stared longingly into her own. After four long years she had found the man she had been dreaming of since he had disappeared in a silent flash of light at the height of his desperate confrontation with Greyleige.
They stood thus for several long moments, neither one saying a word as they drank each other in. Caron could tell from the intensity within his gaze that the separation forced upon them had been as painful for him as it had been for her. Her fear fled her mind as the tears in his eyes told her he loved her every bit as much as she did him. At last, the tension passed from his face and he smiled warmly at her, the invitation plain in his eyes. Caron could stand it no longer and stepped forward to wrap her arms around him, longing to kiss the lips that had been denied her for so long. But as she reached for him his image wavered, then faded slowly away.
Caron cried aloud, tears springing to her eyes, "Wil, don’t go. Please don’t go. I worked so hard to get here for you. Please, Wil, please come back to me." But she was greeted only with silence and she sobbed at her loss as the Old Forest became darker and darker around her until she could see nothing.
A warm hand touched her shoulder. "Caron," said a quiet voice filled with concern. "Caron, wake up. You’re dreaming again."
Her eyes opened and she looked around as if lost. As they found their focus and she saw her husband’s concerned face, she reached out and pulled him to her, burying her head against his neck as her tears continued to flow. Her whimpering and the very real tears in her eyes when she had these dreams worried him, for he loved her so very much that it hurt him deeply to see her in such distress.
"Hold me close," she said, the remnants of her weeping causing her voice to catch as she spoke.
"That is all I have ever wanted to do since I first saw you when you were brought to me as a prisoner," Roland whispered as he softly stroked her dark hair.
After the tears had stopped and her breathing calmed, Roland kissed her forehead tenderly. "Sleep now, my love," he whispered, and she did. Wrapped in the warmth and safety of the arms of the man who loved her such that he knowingly and willingly shared her with another who could never be hers, she drifted into a sleep undisturbed by the past.