Song of the Gatum Forest
Faris had known for a while that Mama was sick. The sicker she got, the more obsessed she was about recording all her knowledge about the Outer Magics. When she became too weak to write, she dictated it to Faris, who sat next to her, writing day and night. Scrolls lay everywhere inside their home.
One afternoon she finally seemed satisfied with what they had recorded. She asked Baba and Faris to take her outside. She sat on her rocking chair by the Gatum trees and listened to them.
“They are singing. Their songs give me courage,” she said. By now Faris was able to understand bits and pieces of their speech, especially when they were rustling together. Sometimes they would each veer off in different directions and sound patterns. But he’d never heard them sing until now.
“Do they give you courage to fight the sickness, Mama?” Faris asked her with much hope.
“No, my dear one. They are giving me the courage to … move beyond.” Mama answered softly. She kissed Faris on the forehead, and then took Baba’s hand. He was openly crying, tears streaming silently down his face. Faris looked up to see how the branches seemed to be moving together, dancing against the backdrop of the clear blue sky. He listened harder, and thought he could make out the shape of their song. The dancing of the branches were connected to the song, he realized.
Mama hummed along, her voice smaller and smaller, until her notes merged in complete harmony with the trees’.
That very night they buried her body in the forest. Baba asked Faris to stay up all night, to watch and listen closely. He was going to perform the Ritual. Faris had never seen the Ritual before. He watched with slight fear, for he knew it was difficult magic. Baba hummed a series of low notes while executing gestures with his hands and body. He did this repeatedly, until the Forest seemed to echo his song, and the branches joined in his slow dance. Faris watched until his eyelids became too heavy, for this lasted all night. At dawn, his father woke him up.
“It is complete, son. Let’s go back inside and get some food for both of us,” Baba said as he took Faris’ hand. Rubbing his eyes, Faris looked at Mama’s grave. He gasped, for there he saw a small seedling of a Gatum tree. The Ritual had worked. Now the tree would grow.
The next couple of years unfolded in peaceful routine for the young wizard and his Father. In the day Baba taught him the speech, music, and dances of the Forest. In the evening Faris pored over his mother’s scrolls, reading and practicing while Baba wrote down his own scrolls. The Forest fed them what they needed.
When Faris finally began to understand the Forest and its speech, Baba taught him the Ritual. In the days that followed, they did nothing but focus on the rhythm and steps of the Ritual. It was taxing, and often took much of Faris’ energy so that he would be feverish the next day.
One afternoon, a messenger came to visit. He was riding a well-kept horse while ponying another horse. They both looked like they belonged to the Crown. The royal messenger handed a sealed letter to Baba. It was a message from King Chet, informing the wizard that Queen Anvi’s Barrier had fallen, and she was entrapped in a life-threatening situation.
“The time has come, son,” Baba said gravely. “King Chet begs me to help at our borders. The situation is dire. I expect to be gone for a couple of months, but I am not sure.”
“I will come with you, Baba,” Faris quickly responded. “I am ready.”
“No, you are not.” Baba put his strong hand on Faris shoulder. “Not until you master the Ritual. You must learn by yourself, the Forest will guide you.”
Faris started to object, but Baba looked straight into his eyes.
“The risk is too high if our Ritual is lost and forgotten. When you have mastered it, send a letter by the birds, and I will send a horse for you. I promise.”
Faris mastered the steps and the songs by heart, working day and night fervently. He sent a bird with his message, and waited. He waited several days, for a horse which never came. Weeks later it was the bird that returned, with a letter from the King. Baba had fought heroically with the other soldiers. But there were too many bodies. The King gave them all a proper heroes’ burning, and scattered the ashes on the hills of the borders.
Without Baba’s body, Faris could not perform the Ritual, no matter how many nights he tried. There would be no tree for Baba. The Gatum Forest would forget that this Wizard ever existed.
These scenes are part of the prologue to Sacred Rituals: the sequel to Nisha. Nisha is a coming of age fantasy novella which I wrote. You can purchase Nisha at the my shop. To see Nisha reviews and ratings, visit Goodreads.
Sacred Rituals is now available for purchase at the shop!