By T.K. Wilson
Word Count: 15221
Rating: PG for depictions of PTSD panic attacks and violence
Summary: When Lady Goewyn of House Meridian meets the long missing treeman of roses, Lord Rhodon of the Western March, her eyes are opened to a new world of danger, magic, and healing.
To my parents: they never gave up on the dream.
To my brother: for putting up with my wild ideas!
To Mirriam: who gave me courage to pursue the dream.
To C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Brian Jacques: for being my teachers.
To Stephen R. Lawhead: The knot is truly endless.
To the animators of Disney: for lending color to the dream.
Chapter 1: Lady Goewyn
Goewyn wandered deep into the forests of her homeland in the southwest of Avalon. She was on a mission of exploration; living around the forest-bordered House Meridian all her life had not dampened her passion for going for rambles in the woods. Goewyn knew every inch of the forest on the eastern border of Meridian land, known as the Eastern March. But the Western March was almost unknown to her. She had never traveled beyond the gorge where the creek Solana ran; there had always been some sort of unspoken rule that you didn’t travel beyond that point.
The Western March was dark and deep, dangerous to those who didn’t know their way. Goewyn, however, knew the tricks of the forests, and kept her wits about her, her sword in hand and her harp on her shoulder. On her right ran Solana Canyon, which was little more the high banks of the creek, only about ten or twelve feet high, to her left the shadowy deciduous woods that made up the march.
The creek bed gradually lowered to a small valley, at the bottom of which stood a tall hedge of thorns. They grew almost to the tops of the trees, imposing as guards. Goewyn felt their bark, rough and weathered from age.
“How strange,” she thought. “I don’t remember anyone mentioning this.”
Goewyn found a small space in the hedge and, after sheathing her sword, crawled inside, pulling her harp in after her. As she crawled, a smooth lawn of grass opened before her eyes, and the very air was saturated with the smell of green things and flowers. Putting her head out of the tunnel she looked around and was amazed. She gasped, feasting her eyes on a vast and wonderful garden. She had never seen the like!
Goewyn walked through the garden listening in marvel to the voices of the flowers, all their languages she knew. Most beautiful of all were the roses. A thousand different kinds and colors, all breeds of the “king of the flowers” bloomed around the center of the garden. The air was heady with the scent and the sound of the drone of bees. A lane ran through garden to an empty throne made of willow branches and roses. Goewyn walked around it, examining it from all sides.
“A kingdom of flowers. The caretaker of this garden is quite good at what he does.”
Goewyn noticed that the Solana ran by the rose garden, clear and inviting. Goewyn knelt by the water to get a drink, but careful to not disturb anything. What a wonderful place! Why had she never heard anything about this? Then she remembered, she had heard of such a garden before, sitting at her mother’s knee. The old song of Meridian floated through her mind, singing of a time long ago, and of a dryad of great power.
“Lord Rhodon of the Western March. The King of the Flowers. But that’s impossible!”
Goewyn rose to one knee, deciding that if this was the garden of Rhodon, it would be wise for her to leave. He might not take kindly to trespassers.
“Wait, young lady!” called a resonant voice from somewhere.
Goewyn, balanced on one knee, jumped in fright, and sat down heavily. She looked across the stream, where a stand of willows grew as the voice’s owner glided into view. He was a tall creature, taller than an elf, with green and brown skin that was the texture of bark and green eyes shot through with amber and leafy sticks instead of hair. He wore an old fashioned tunic made out of linen that was green with a red and brown border, held closed with two gold brooches at the shoulders, around his neck was a thin gold chain. He looked at her with a mixture of curiosity and caution, like someone who had been hurt before. Goewyn nodded, she knew his kind, a treeman. But what sort of tree was he?
“I apologize,” stammered Goewyn getting to her feet and curtseying. “It was just so beautiful, I had to investigate.”
“I understand, that is why I put up my fence.” said the Treeman, walking toward her and through the stream.
“Your pardon sir, I meant no harm.”
“I have been watching you, you came only to look, not to touch. You showed respect for me and my flowers, though you did not know I was there. It would have been easy to pick some flowers and no one would know.”
“I wouldn’t like it if someone came into my garden and took my flowers without permission.”
“A wise answer. What is your name, elf’s child?”
“Oh, prince of the trees, I am called Lady Goewyn Nic Mannan of House Meridian.”
“Few of your kind have set eyes on me in these many long years.” said the treeman, for a moment looking far away. “I am Rhodon.”