Nym entered the world in a swirl of celebration. The event of his birth was ample cause for the Oosah tribe to rejoice – as they had when each of the elder siblings of this youngest prince were born. Nym’s parents, Prince Nok and Princess Ena, were the leaders of their tribe, and so it was with great joy that the Oosah tribe welcomed the newest addition to the royal family.
The trees of their redwood-forest village were bedecked with fairy lights, courtesy of the friendly fairies who shared the forest with the tribe. Additionally, the fairies had caused droplets of dew to form in the night on every frond of every tree in the area, so that the entire forest sparkled in the morning sunlight as though it were covered in dazzling gems. Even the birds chirped their welcome to the new little prince.
In the magical world of Merellian, where this forest grew, the world was a rainbow of color, and so each of the redwood trees was a different vibrant hue. These trees’ fronds ranged from sunshine yellow, on through the entire green spectrum, the blue spectrum, and into the violet. Only the furry, snarly redwood bark was in the red ranges of color, and they were every shade of red from fuchsia through magenta, and even into the burnt sienna and brown tones. All of this color dazzled the eyes of the newborn baby Nemor.
The Oosah tribe were a tribe of Nemors. Nemors were furry creatures in a wide range of colors, who strongly resembled lesser pandas in almost every way, other than their color variations. However, one difference was that their eyes were large and soulful, instead of small like most lesser pandas, and they came in as wide a variety of colors as that of Nemor fur. Some of the elder Nemors had grizzly moustaches and beards.
Little Nym was a lovely shade of Cerulean blue with navy stripes and a matching mask. His soulful eyes were a deep violet. His parents could not be happier with his coloring. His mother, Princess Ena, cuddled him in her rosy pink-furred arms, and she held out a finger for Nym to grasp, taking note that he had all four fingers and a thumb to grasp her finger with. Being newborn, Nym was as tiny as a little Yorkshire terrier dog, but he had awoken to the world with bright eyes and a happy expression.
Nym’s father, Prince Nok, stood nearby, observing his new son from a little more distance. Nok brushed his purple hair out of his eyes and gazed in only partially-dimmed wonder at his new child. Nym’s siblings were also nearby, although less interested in the new baby, as they chased each other around the tree trunks off to one side. Little lavender Ada was finally swept up in the black-furred arms of her big brother, Ono, and the chase ended. A stern look from their father made Ono put Ada down so swiftly she almost stumbled, and they meekly came over to join the rest of the group. Now, the Welcoming of New Life ceremony would begin.
Princess Ena went and sat in her royal chair in front of the hut she shared with her husband and children, and Prince Nok seated himself in his royal chair beside her. Baby Nym cooed in Ena’s arms as the ceremony finally started. First came the fairies, in a procession up the center pathway to the chairs. There were dozens of them all floating and flitting in an uneven line. Between them, they carried beautiful glass chalices brimming with nectar which they had made for the tribe as a gift for the birth of the new prince. Using their magic, they caused a light, airy, musical melody to waft through the trees in a breezy way. The dewdrops sparkled and everyone was smiling.
After the fairies came the head tribespeople, carrying gifts of their own: musical instruments made from fallen tree branches, the wood of these both rosy and polished; handmade tools for digging, scraping, and sawing; weapons for Prince Nok that consisted of mostly bows and arrows; wooden bowls, cups, and tableware for Ena, and more. Following the gifts came some of the tribespeople acting as performers. A Nemor over the age of two years old could breathe fire. It was usually a response to fear or anger, but some Nemors were able to control it and do it whenever they liked. Fire breathing while dancing was complicated and difficult, but these Nemors performed it beautifully, both their bodies and their flames swirling and spinning around without catching anything alight.
The fairies stayed well back to the sidelines during this performance. Their two greatest fears were fire and flood – the two main threats to their home in the forest. Nemors had the gift of fire, knew earth magic, and were able to control some of the water in the river. Fairies had water magic and a little earth magic, but no fire magic. The Nemors only controlled some of the water in the river because there was a clan of Ogres nearby – the Bogli clan, ruled over by King Gogul. The Ogres controlled the other part of the river, and where the Ogres had control, the Nemors could not influence.
The Ogres hated the Nemors, and so the Bogli clan was always laying traps for the Oosah tribe, trying to catch a Nemor or two, trying to ambush them, injure them, or further complicate the lives of the Nemors. To defend themselves, Prince Nok always had the perimeters of their village guarded with Nemor sentries. So far, it had been enough. Nok knew, however, that one day, it wouldn’t be – the Bogli would make a move, and who knew how things would end up, then. This was never far from Nok’s mind, although it was a bit more distant at this moment than usual. Still, the guards were at their posts, even during celebrations. Perhaps they would be safe enough for the time being.
Ena cuddled Nym in her arms while she enjoyed the fire show, and at first, Nym’s eyes had widened and sparkled when they began to breathe fire. But as the show went on, his eyes slowly closed, and the baby Nemor dozed.
Nemors are quick to develop, and within days after his birth, Nym was bouncing and bumbling around the forest near his family’s hut. His siblings, Ada and Ono, were very gentle with him, and they were instantly charmed by this little blue ball of fur. In very short time, Ada had Nym piggybacking with her while she ran all over the village, saying hello to everyone they met. Other times, it would be Ono carrying Nym around, although Ono was far more serious than Ada, and more inclined to frown. Ono also did not greet the people of the village as joyfully as Ada did. He was more somber and tried to carry himself like an adult. Even so, it was rare, indeed, when Nym couldn’t make Ono smile by being playful.
Nym loved to romp. He loved to bounce on the moss and soft earth of the forest floor. He loved to jump into the ferny bushes that were everywhere around them, and then pop out at his siblings, trying to surprise them. He was a lighthearted, perfect Nemor infant, and everyone instantly loved him. Even the fairies took an interest in him, bringing him small flowers and ferns and sticks to play with, and laughing at his antics and the cute little cooing sounds he made when they brought him something new.
Within a month, Nym had said his first word – snake. He had been told repeatedly about snakes, and his mother had brought him a few to play with. They weren’t really just to play with, however – as always with mothers, there was a lesson to be learned. Nemors were gifted with the ability to put snakes and other reptiles into trances and even to cause them to sleep. Because of this, snakes were not a danger to a baby Nemor the way they might have been to a human child. Nym was not merely meant to play with these snakes, but was intended to practice enchanting them. Princess Ena showed him how, and Nym paid very close attention while she demonstrated.
“First, Nym,” she said, “you get the snake to watch you – like this.”
She made eye contact with the snake and held it. When she moved her head to the left, the snake moved its head to the left; when she moved it to the right, the snake also moved to the right.
“Then,” she said, “you slowly lower your hand like this.”
She brought her little hand up to chest level and then lowered it slowly, with the wrist turned up and the palm open. The snake’s gaze went from her face to her hand and followed its downward motion. As her hand reached the bottom of its arc, the snake’s head was only inches from the ground, level with her hand, and the snake had its eyes locked onto it.
“Now,” she said energetically, “you follow through with the other hand!”
So swift it was like a blur of motion, she brought her other hand down from above in a long swinging arc, simultaneously darting her lowered hand down and forward so that it slid under the snake’s chin. The falling second hand came down smoothly on top of the snake’s head, and then she was holding the snake’s head, top and bottom, between her two hands. The impact of the dropping hand was a light slap, but the moment her two hands closed around the snake’s head, the snake was enchanted. She gently rocked her hands from side to side, and the snake moved effortlessly with her, drifting down into sleep. Once it was asleep, she gently set its head on the ground and let it doze.
Ena looked at Nym, then, and saw his jaw had dropped open and his eyes were sparkling with excitement.
She laughed and said, “Now you try, Nym. Choose a snake.”
Nym looked at the snakes around him, and choosing a light pastel violet one near him, he said, “Snake.”
And there was his first word.
Ena laughed again, delighted that he had spoken, and said, “Yes, snake. That one will do. Now, we will go through it again. Make eye contact with it, Nym.”
Nym was so quick to learn to enchant the snakes that Ena was rather surprised. Yes, it was a natural talent for Nemors to be able to do this, but no Nemor she had ever known of had learned it as quickly as Nym did. Nym succeeded on his very first try, and did not require his mother to help him or walk him through it again – the single demonstration she had given was ample instruction for him, and he instantly mastered the technique of it. Even his older siblings and his father were impressed with the speed at which he picked up the knack for it. Within less than five minutes, Nym had put all of the snakes that had been brought for him into deep slumbers, and the snakes did not awaken for over an hour. The whole village raved over his unusual level of talent.
Things went on very smoothly for a while. The only discord in little Nym’s world was the occasional tribal meetings that his father attended, which increased in frequency as the months went by, and caused his father to come home a bit grizzled around the edges with stress. Nym didn’t know why for a long time, as no one talked to him about it. But he certainly picked up on the tensions, being a feeling creature as he was.
The tribespeople were becoming increasingly tense as Gogul, the king of the Bogli clan of Ogres set more and more harmful traps for the Nemors. While foraging for food for the village, one Nemor had a big stone fall on him and he nearly lost consciousness. Luckily, he had been near the Nemor tribal border, and one of the Nemor guards came swiftly to his aid, dragging him back across the line and into the village. Another Nemor, while hunting for small game, fell into a hole that had been camouflaged with fern fronds, and had spent the better part of an hour bellowing for someone to help him. That had been a close call, for as the Nemors were reaching him and pulling him out, a horde of Ogres came storming down on them and they had had to run for their lives back to the village.
Some days, the Ogres were everywhere around the village – behind tree trunks, hiding behind rocks, hanging out in the branches of the trees; but on other days, there was not a single one to be seen. And one time, one Nemor accidentally stumbled on the Ogres having a meeting and talking about roasting the village alive. That Nemor barely got away with his life, and would not have gotten away at all, had the Ogres seen him. The world they lived in was becoming increasingly dangerous, and no one had a good solution other than possible relocation, which no one would agree to. The Nemors loved their home and refused to abandon their village.
Of course – as these things must – one day, the actual confrontation arrived, and it was a very dark day, indeed. One of the Oosah tribal guards messed up, and that started it all. The Nemor had been up half the night drinking nectar with his friends, and so he had not gone to his post well-rested. Within only hours after taking up his guarding position, he had dozed off to sleep and was snoring. The Bogli clan chose that opportunity to finally make their move. On that day, the Ogres had gathered together and were all in a pack near the Nemor border. Only one Ogre was paying attention to the guard, but it only took the one to notify all the others when the guard slept, and they rushed over the border and into the village.
Using their water magic, the Ogres called up half the river and flooded the village. Frantic and confused Nemors were running in every direction. Nym escaped drowning only because his sister Ada snatched him up and dragged him up into a tree.
Where is Ono? Ada wondered frantically, Where are Mother and Father?
A few moments later, Ada and Nym spotted Ono in another tree some distance away, and were comforted that he was at least as safe as they were – for the moment. The water receded and the forest steamed as the moisture evaporated out of the forest; yet still, they knew it was not safe to leave their positions of safety. Shortly after that, they saw their parents, Ena and Nok, along with a large group of tribespeople, rush toward the Ogres and begin breathing fire at them. The Ogres crouched back, but it was too late. The forest began to burn. The fairies, meanwhile, had fled the village – although feeling ashamed and cowardly for doing so, they could not face both of their worst fears – fire and flood – at the same time. They were terrified, with the fire, over the possibility that their little, delicate wings would burn like candle wicks.
The blaze of the fire was consuming everything in its path. Huts were torches sticking up out of the ground, ferns were tinder, and then the fire began to crawl up the trees. Nearly too late, Ada realized that she and Nym were no longer safe in the tree. The fire was just about to jump from the next tree over, and so she grabbed Nym and raced down the tree trunk with him. Reaching the bottom, she shoved Nym down into a small hole under the roots of the tree, and, gathering stones from around the tree, she quickly covered the hole with the stones to keep the smoke from going into the hole.
Feeling that at least Nym was safe for the moment, Ada went up into another tree. She realized that she had lost sight of every other Nemor – or Ogre, for that matter – and she made the mistake of being so distracted in looking around her that she failed to notice when flying sparks from another nearby tree set her own tree alight.
Nym laid huddled in the hole under the roots in terror. The air in the hole was dark, dank, and stuffy, and he felt as though he could not breathe. He was too scared to move, however. It felt like it had been an eternity since Ada had put him in there. Hours had passed. Hours and hours. Lying tensely in that black hole, he could hear the forest continuing to burn all around him – at first, it was close-by; but as time went by, it gradually moved further away. Finally, still too frightened to have attempted an escape – with his tummy rumbling in hunger, and wondering with fear where his Mommy was – feeling too tired to stand it anymore, the baby Nemor fell asleep.
Nym slept well into the night, and was finally awakened by a glimmer of light and a scratching sound at the stones covering the hole he was lying in. With a mixture of fear and hope, he realized that the stones were being moved. As he came more fully awake, he remembered, with returning terror, where he was and how he came to be there. Little Nym’s throat felt like it was closing up, and he felt that he could not move for fear as the stones shifted in front of him.
What if it is one of the Ogres? He wondered in terror.
A single stone finally toppled all the way out just after he had this thought, and Nym saw, then, that the light that came into view was a fairy-lamp. Several tiny faces peered in at him in the hole.
Nym’s relief was profound.
The fairies pulled more stones away from the opening until it entirely cleared. After a few moments of encouragement from the fairies, Nym finally wriggled out of the hole under the roots of a tree that had been reduced to a vertical stick of cinder. The world he saw in the circumference of the fairy-lamps was an unrecognizable blackened husk of the one he had known before all of this. He could not reconcile that view with his home. The place held a feeling of absolute emptiness, and he knew that, other than the fairies, he was alone. They were all gone – every Nemor and Ogre. Being too young to understand death, he did not know where they might have gone to – and some of them might have escaped. What he did know was that he missed his mother, father, and siblings. He could see their faces in his mind every time he closed his eyes.
Nudging and cooing at him, the fairies were finally able to lead Nym to the edge of the burned wreckage of the forest. As he followed them, he could hear the distant hiss and pop of the fire still raging somewhere further off in the deep woods.
Once out of the forest, the fairies took him far away.
Sometimes using magic, they lifted and carried him; other times, they let him bumble around on his own as long as he was going in the right direction. They took him into another forest, out of that one, and into yet another one – ever travelling southward.
Finally, they reached the edge of a poplar forest. A little way along the edge of this wood stood a large, ancient, cathedral-like building. The fairies sensed huge amounts of magic throughout the building, and they decided to stop there. As long as that building stood, the fairies never left it again.
Nym was with them there for a little over six months, and played in the trees every day. He lived on the nectar of the fairies, but always felt homesick despite the sweetness of their brew. Sometimes, he remembered his sister, his brother, his parents, and he wondered where they were, or whether he would ever see them again. He felt like the last of his kind – alone, rather friendless – despite his fairy friends.
Most of all, he felt a deep longing for family.
And then, one sunny day when Nym was one year old, a young human girl came through a magical doorway between worlds and found him in the trees. She came with love and jelly beans, and she became the family Nym needed so much. Her name was Avalon Eyrelin – Ava, who would take Nym all the way across Merellian to fight an evil that threatened the land; Ava, who would love, nurture, and keep Nym safe – and he, in return, would save her; Ava, who, at long last, would eventually help him to find his lost people once again.
~ February 11, 2017, Copyright @Amarine Ravenwood
Header Image artwork by Lorraine Hall