Cormac and the Trial

Fiction By Anna // 5/11/2009

Once upon a time, when men were still young on the earth, the Fairies were dominant.
Fairies were ruled by Lords, and occasionally a Lady or two. But Fairy Lordship did not pass from father to son, as with lordship of Men. Their system was far safer in nature, not to mention more mysterious.
Anyone who fished to be Fairy Lord had to pass the Trial. Only those who passed the Trial- and those were few indeed- actually knew what it was. For only the pure of heart and brave of soul ever came out alive. And if ever the Lord should become corrupted by the extraordinary magical powers Lordship gives, it was stripped away immediately.
At the time this tale began, there already was a Fairy Lord- a perfectly good one. There was no problem with the Lord, but rather with the timing of his reign. For all heroes have their villains, and the land of Fairies was beset by their own- goblins. But the real trouble came when the Lord died, murdered in his sleep by goblin assassins. No one knew how they got in and out, but they did, and the Fairies were without a Lord.
No one seemed to want to enter the Cave of Testing and face the Trial. No one, that is, except an impressive-looking fairy named Lathan.
Lathan was tall and handsome. He had long, rich black hair, pale skin, and flashing blue eyes. But no one thought he would survive the Trial, for all knew him to be greedy, arrogant, and self-confident. So imagine their surprise when he returned to the palace with miraculous powers, claiming to be Lord! If the Fairies hadn’t seen him enter the Cave of Testing themselves or wield his magic, they wouldn’t have believed he had faced the Trial at all! But it is not the way of Fairies to question their Lord, so they obeyed Lathan.
Now there was a certain lady Fairy named Riayn. She had hair as golden-white as the heart of the sun, eyes as green as the emeralds, and a heart just as lovely, gentle, and kind. And her extraordinary outward beauty caught Lord Lathan’s eye.
Having some idea of nobility, he began to search his mind for a way to win her hand. But his whole being was so twisted on the inside that what he devised endangered the whole Fairy nation.
He gathered all the Fairies together, outside the palace. Picking Riayn from the crowd, he had stand by his side as he waved his hand over the rest of the Fair Folk.
Under Lathan’s magic, all the Fairies’ wings turned to leaves and petals. Everyone except Lathan and Riayn was now crippled.
Lathan turned to Riayn and said, "See what I have done for you? Now not only are you the most beautiful of Fairies, you are also the only one- besides me- who can fly!"
He hoped that because of his deed she would be grateful and wed him but instead she was repulsed. She fled the palace, and when she returned, her wings were plastered together with honey.
"I shall not fly if none of my people can," she declared.
The made Lathan furious. He began to scheme a new way to impress her- or else, force her into marriage.
In the meantime, all the Fair Folk suffered from Lathan’s rash magic. Without flight, they could not even escape from the invading goblins. They pleaded for a reversal of the magic, but Lathan refused. The people wondered that his Lordship was not taken away immediately, for he kept his powers!
Now, Riayn was in the habit of going to the Men of the earth- I briefly mentioned that they were new- and helping them in their shaky start, and having her wings disabled didn’t stop her. After one such trip, she was making her way back at evening, utterly spent. She found herself staggering across the palace grounds, and finally collapsed, exhausted, and slept. When she woke again, it was near midnight. Twenty goblins surrounded her.
"Can we eat it, massster?" one hissed, his forked tongue flicking out to touch her arm.
Riayn jerked back violently, but was still too tired to move much.
Suddenly, Lathan stepped out from the scrabbling, grasping goblins. Riayn had never been so glad to see him.
Lathan smiled, showing his white teeth. They seemed oddly pointed in the moonlight. "I’m so sorry about this, Riayn. I didn’t mean for my servants to overtake you."
Riayn’s relief turned to confusion. "Your… servants?"
He laughed. "Yes, mine. I am very powerful, Riayn."
Riayn found herself standing. She shook, half with weakness, half with anger. "Coward!" she cried. "You cripple and oppress our own people, and now they shall knew how the enemy have been under your control, yet you let them kill! Craven! Traitor!"
Then Lathan drew himself to his full height, and every desire he had for her love turned to hate. "You dare scorn me?!" he roared. "You scorned the wings of freedom I gave you, Riayn, and the power you might have shared at my side. So now I give you new wings- not of flowers, but stone!"
And at that moment, Riayn felt herself dragged down again, and her wings, threatening to tear from her back, were turned to stone.
Seeing Riayn thus, Lathan gathered his goblins and left her to die.
Riayn lay there in the night, time passing like drops of water from a leaf.
~~~
Now, early in the morning, the Fairy gardener of the palace would rise and do a check up on his plants. His name was Cormac.
Cormac was not particularly handsome. He wasn’t tall. His hair was like sun-burnt grass, coppery of color, and his skin was browned from working outside in the sun. His eyes were muddy brown. But he was strong, and what’s more, he was kind and brave.
On this particular day, Cormac had gone out to check his plants with two other working Fairies, Twyre and Maddox. Imagine their surprise when they found Riayn!
Cormac ran to her and helped her gently to her feet. "Riayn! Are you all right? What happened to your wings?" he cried. (He knew who she was; most Fairies did.)
She seized her shoulders and leaned on him, though he couldn’t be sure whether she did so to steady herself or to keep him at arm’s length. "Who are you?" she asked.
"Cormac, milady," he said. "The gardener."
His friends also spoke up hastily.
"Twyre, the engineer."
"Maddox- I cook."
"What happened to you wings?" Cormac asked again, sounding angry and taking one sheet of stone gently to lift it off the ground.
Riayn looked at his tan face and saw concern and honesty. Trying not to weep, she poured out the whole story. After it was told, she was so distressed and tired that they laid her under a tree, and she fell asleep again.
As she drifted off, Cormac declared, "One of us must face the Trial."
Twyre and Maddox broke into nervous laughter. "You jest," said Maddox in disbelief. Twyre gave an uneasy nod.
"I’m perfectly serious," said the gardener. "Lathan can’t be allowed to keep his Lordship any longer. And if neither of you will, I myself shall go to the Cave of Testing and face the Trial!"
Twyre and Maddox gasped. "Don’t, I beg you, Cormac!" cried Twyre. "You’ll be killed."
"Most likely," said Cormac, looking troubled. But his will was of iron. "But only if someone else claims Lordship will the Fairies- and Riayn- be truly free."
He paused. "You know, being a gardener is almost like being invisible. Sometimes it’s as if I’m the unseen eyes and ears of the palace. When Lathan took our wings, I was there as Riayn glued her own together with honey, refusing to fly without us. I’ve seen her lifting our small ones into apple trees to reach the fruit, since they can’t fly, and I’ve seen her wait to carry them down. I’ve watched her go to help the Men even though we Fair Folk have our own troubles. And now she’s defied Lathan, which is braver than anything we can say we’ve done. I think she’s worth dying for- if that is how it will end."
With that, Cormac walked away to the Cave of Testing, while dawn was blooming in the hills, unaware of what would soon unfold.
~~~
When Riayn awoke, it was high noon. Twyre and Maddox brought her some food, and as she sat up to eat, suddenly she asked, "Where is Cormac?"
Twyre and Maddox exchanged uncomfortable glances. "He’s gone to face the Trial for you," they said.
She tried to stand. "What?!"
They told her of his unwavering determination and all he had said.
She blushed. "He said that? He saw those things? Tell me more about him."
So they told her about Cormac- the tenderness with which he treated plants and people, the untiring way he toiled, and the firm, honest way he handled problems.
"And brave," they added, "to go willingly to the Trial and to death."
Riayn said nothing for a long time. Then, finally, she spoke. "If what you say is true, then I believe that Cormac will survive the Trial. Never have I heard of one so noble of heart, gardener or Lord. And when he comes out, I will tell him how my heart went with him."
~~~
Cormac stood at the yawning entrance of the Cave of Testing. He had no weapon for the Trial- only a spade. He took a deep breath and walked in. To his wonder, the cave was only partially dark, for glowing stones were set in the walls. He walked through a long tunnel, and finally came to a dead end.
"is this what I came for?" he asked himself. "To turn back in defeat?"
Suddenly, he heard a voice. It was neither masculine nor feminine; rather, it was like the sighing of the wind. "Have you come to set me free?" it asked.
"Who are you?" asked Cormac. "Where are you?"
"I am here, I am here," said the voice, and Cormac saw in the wall blocking him a small, round blue stone.
"What are you?" asked Cormac.
"I am Lordship," it said. "I am in the keeping of the wrong Fairy, yet I cannot withdraw. I have seen all the evil he has done with my power, but he has bound me to him. Only if someone else defeats the Trial can I desert him."
"Lathan bound you?" asked Cormac. "I do not understand. How can one bind Lordship?"
"After he killed he worthy one-"
Cromac cut off the stone in surprise. "You must be wrong! Goblins killed our last Lord, not Lathan!"
"I am never wrong about the past of my people!" thundered the stone, its voice filling the cavern. "Lathan helped the goblins- he sent them!" The voice ebbed again. "Then he wove a spell of tree-blood and nightmare’s shadows and brought it to the cave. That is how he bound me, and now Lordship is lost… lost… lost…"
"No!" cried Cormac vehemently. "The Lordship it not lost! Riayn and the other Fair Folk must be delivered!"
"Hmm," mused the stone. "You know, you just might do. Will you accept some advice from me?"
"Anything you can give," said Cormac. "My only asset is a spade."
The stone said, "In the Trial, you will hear many voices and see many people. They are not to be trusted, for they are not what they seem. They are to deter you- none are your friends. Remember that, and stay on the path!"
"I will remember," said Cormac.
"Now," said the blue stone, "touch me. I cannot aid you anymore. You are alone."
Hesitantly, Cormac reached out.
"Don’t touch it," said a rumbling voice from behind. "If you touch it, I will kill you!"
Cormac, remembering the blue stone’s words, touched it anyway. Instantly it disappeared, leaving a hole in the wall.
"I will destroy you now!" thundered the voice.
Cormac, at a loss, pushed the wall with all his might. Nothing happened.
A figure with a long curved sword vaporized behind him. As it charged, Cormac stuck his finger in the hole and pulled. The wall flipped around, and the swordsman dissolved to dust behind it.
Another tunnel stood before Cormac. That was close, he thought- though somehow he suspected it would get closer before the Trial was complete. "No turning back," he said.
He walked in silence, the time going unnumbered, until he came to water. It seeped in under the walls and had a current, like an underground river. It was deep and wide, but Cormac waded in and began to swim across.
The water was ice-cold and numbing. By the time Cormac was a quarter of the distance across, he couldn’t feel any of his limbs. But he was very strong, and fighting the current wasn’t a problem.
Suddenly he heard a splash in the water. "Cormac, help me!" cried Riayn’s voice.
Forgetting himself, Cormac turned to the voice. "Riayn! Riayn!" he called.
"My stone wings are drowning me!" cried her voice. Cormac though he could see her form struggling in the current, and he swam toward it.
When he was close enough to touch her, she suddenly lunged through the water and caught his arms. Her grip was cold and vise-like. Then her form changed- it was not Riayn, but a wraith trying to lure him to his death.
The not-Riayn tried to drag Cormac down under. The gardener then remembered the stone’s words- too late, it seemed.
Then Cormac got an idea. The spade was still in his hand, and he stabbed its sharp tip into the creature’s face. There was a scream- and suddenly the river disappeared, and Cormac was on his knees on dry stone, and he himself was dry. The spade was gone as well, but Cormac knew the Trial had not ended.
Cormac stood and began on his way again.
It was not long before something else happened. He came to a place where the tunnel branched off three ways- to his right, to his left, and straight before him. As he stood, vacillating, it seemed to him that he saw a light in the left path. He moved to walk in, then stopped uncertainly. Another light appeared in the right tunnel. And down each one came a Fairy.
Down the left path came Maddox. "Cormac!" he said. "I have found the way out!"
Down the right path came Twyre. "No! I have found the way to Lordship and overthrowing Lathan!"
Maddox protested, grabbing Cormac’s arm, "Riayn is calling for you! She says if you return now and do not kill yourself on this foolish errand, she will wed you! Choose my path!"
"It will be no true joy," sneered Twyre, also taking ahold of Cormac. "Without Lordship, you will be nothing, and Lathan will rule! Choose my path!"
But Cormac saw through their tricks. Pulling away, he backed down the middle path. "Neither of you directs the way to Riayn or Lordship. I choose this way, because the blue stone said this: ‘None are your friends. Remember that, and stay on the path!’ So I shall choose the road that neither of you guides me on!"
When Cormac said this, the not-Maddox and not-Twyre tried to attack him, but he ran down the passage. Then they vanished, and the two paths along with them.
Finally Cormac found himself in a circular room. There was no exit, save only the way he had come in. And in the room stood another likeness of Riayn, fairer and truer than the other, but her wings were not of stone.
"Cormac!" she cried happily, spreading her arms wide. "You have completed the Trial! See my wings? You have saved us all!"
But Cormac had become perceptive. "You are not Riayn," he said, "and the Trial is not over!"
Then the passage closed behind him, and the likeness changed. It swelled and grew and blackened, and when it stopped shape-shifting it was a foul giant. Its hand alone was the length of Cormac’s body.
And Cormac had no weapon.
The giant leaned down and spoke. Its breath was sour. "I am not Riayn, as you have said, and the Trial is not complete. In fact, it has only begun!" The monster laughed. "I am the Trial! I am all your fears and nightmares in one being! I am darkness and deep water and deceit and dead ends and failing spirit! I guard the Lordship, and I will not be cheated of it again! I will destroy you!"
Cormac spoke calmly. "I have faced darkness, deep water, deceit, dead ends, and failing spirit, but I have come out on tip. I was a gardener, but I have become a hero. You say you are made of my fears, but I have none."
Cormac said this to test the giant’s strength, for he knew nothing else he could do.
The giant stretched out his hand before Cormac, and it filled with water. And in it Cormac saw many things- he saw goblins overrunning the land, Fairies unable to fly, Riayn with stone wings, and Twyre and Maddox in chains. Then the water turned black.
The giant laughed. "Do you doubt me now, gardener? I know your soul." Then the giant raised his hand and overturned it, and the black water spilled over Cormac and clung to him like cobwebs.
Its dark thoughts consumed him. His greatest fears besieged him. But in the back of his mind, like a flower under the weight of a rock, were other images.
He thought of Riayn, and all she had done, and remembered his own words: "I think she’s worth dying for."
Suddenly his fears melted off him and lay in a pool at his feet. And when Cormac opened his eyes, the giant was gone, and in the wall was the blue stone.
"Did I fail? It seems I’m back where I started. Or was it all a dream?" asked Cormac.
"You might say that," said the stone. "But I must thank you, for I am free, my Lord."
Almost in a daze, Cormac turned around and walked out of the Cave of Testing. Glimpsing a puddle, he knelt by it and looked at his reflection.
Yes, that was his face. Wasn’t it? For it was him, yet not him. There was something new there. Was it power? Or courage proved? He was utterly changed, but utterly the same.
He made his way back to Riayn, Twyre, and Maddox. It was the same time it had been when he had entered the Cave. Had no time passed at all?
Riayn was asleep again. Twyre and Maddox were gone. Cormac knelt beside her and passed his hand over her wings, turning them back the way they had been. He hadn’t noticed until then that his own wings were healed. How long had they been that way?
Riayn stirred and opened her eyes. "Cormac?" she whispered. "No," she said after another look. "I’m sorry; I thought you were…"
"But I am," said Cormac, smiling radiantly. "I faced the Trial, Riayn- and I came out with Lordship. See you wings!"
She shot up in the air and flew, and he flew with her. She laughed. "Cormac- my heart journeyed with you," she said.
He smiled. "Come," he said. "I must heal the rest, and Lathan must know he’s no longer our Lord."
Hand in hand, they flew into the palace.
Lathan was acting as a judge over a great number of Fairies, all of whom were complaining against him. But when he saw Riayn and Cormac, he was so astonished that his mouth dropped open. From the change in Cormac’s tanned face, Lathan though he was Fairy nobility from a distant land.
"I’m sorry, sir," he said. "I am Lord here, and you can see I’m rather busy-"
"You are not Lord here, Lathan," said Cormac firmly. "I am. I have faced the Trial and come out best, and I did it fairly- not as some."
Then Lathan recognized Cormac. "Aren’t you Cormac, the gardener? How could you have won the Trial?"
Cormac said nothing.
Lathan turned angry. "For your insolence, I will turn you both to dust!" But when he tried, he found the Lordship had indeed left him.
Then Cormac and Riayn exposed Lathan’s deeds, from how he cheated the Trial through trickery to his league with the goblins. After Cormac healed the Fair Folk’s wings, they were so furious that they drove Lathan from the land. Cormac had to restrain them from killing him altogether.
Cormac and Riayn wed and spent much of their reign fighting goblins and helping Men. And they both lived happily ever after.
THE END

Comments

Oh, just to tip you guys

Oh, just to tip you guys off, please read my cousin Jemiteaser's latest story. It's a bit strange, but it's going to be amazing- Trust me! :)
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"I for one am getting bored, and boredom is something up with which I will not put!" ~Phineas and Ferb

Anna | Mon, 05/11/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

Wow! Amazing story!

Wow! Amazing story!

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I believe in Christianity as I believe in the sun
rising; not only because I see it, but because by it I see all things- C.S.Lewis

Laura Elizabeth | Mon, 05/11/2009

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The best stories are those that are focused, unassuming, and self-confident enough to trust the reader to figure things out. --

http://lauraeandrews.blogspot.com/2014/05/dont-tell-me-hes-smart.html

This is so cool!! I love

This is so cool!! I love it!
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If I disappear, and you cannot find me, please don't worry.
Just be sure to check all the wardrobes.

Clare Marie | Mon, 05/11/2009

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"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." -Bilbo Baggins [The Lord of the Rings]

lovely

lovely story!

~~~^@
Katie:-)

"We never need to be economical in our imaginations, thank heaven."
-Anne Blythe, "Anne of Ingleside"

KatieSara | Mon, 05/11/2009

Katie:-)

"Are all humans like this? So much bigger on the inside?"
-Idris/TARDIS

Amazing story!!! I love it,

Amazing story!!! I love it, Anna.
And as soon as I get the time I'll check out your cousin's story. :) :P
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I've never seen a purple cow,
I never hope to see one.
But I can tell you anyhow;
I'd rather see than be one.

Sarah | Mon, 05/11/2009

"Sometimes even to live is courage."
-Seneca

Blogging away!
busyscribbler.wordpress.com

Not Bad...

...I entertained my brother Ezra (who's home for a couple of weeks) by reading this aloud with various tracks from Lord of the Rings playing in the background. It was pretty effective. He was amused, in any case.

James | Tue, 05/12/2009

<><~~~~~~~~~~~~><>
"The idea that we should approach science without a philosophy is itself a philosophy... and a bad one, because it is self-refuting." -- Dr. Jason Lisle

It reminds me of both LotR

It reminds me of both LotR and Pilgrim's Progress.
Nicely done, Anna. :)

My favorite part has got to be this:
"Cormac, milady," he said. "The gardener."
His friends also spoke up hastily.
"Twyre, the engineer."
"Maddox- I cook."

I don't know why, Maddox just amuses me.
And yes, I am easily amused. :)

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“The venerable dead are waiting in my library to entertain me and relieve me from the nonsense of surviving mortals.”
- Samuel Davies

Kyleigh | Tue, 05/12/2009

That was great! I loved

That was great! I loved it.

~Erin~

"I find myself after the whole day ends in my hotel room just laughing. Just laughing, at nothing. Just laughing." -My HERO, Adam Lambert

Erin | Tue, 05/12/2009

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

And this was based on a

And this was based on a dream? Boy, I wish I had dreams like that. Most of mine are more along the lines of jumping out of tall buildings into the ocean that suddenly appeared in the middle of Missouri...
Great Story!

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I don't want to spend my whole life asking: "What if I had given everything instead of going through the motions?"
~Matthew West

Mary | Tue, 05/12/2009

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Brother: Your character should drive a motorcycle.
Me: He can't. He's in the wilderness.
Brother: Then make it a four-wheel-drive motorcycle!

Thanks! You bestow high

Thanks! You bestow high praise for such a short story. :)

Btw, my story contest submission is up on the site now.
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"I for one am getting bored, and boredom is something up with which I will not put!" ~Phineas and Ferb

Anna | Tue, 05/12/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

That was rather

That was rather awsome
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"There's a differnce between food and a meal."
-My bro and I have no idea what it means either

Keri | Tue, 05/12/2009

I officially love this

I officially love this story! I love stories that come from dreams, Anna, and I'm glad to find I'm not the only one who does it! Do you ever dream about your stories-in-progress? :0)
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And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

Heather | Fri, 05/15/2009

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And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

You got this from a dream?

You got this from a dream? you actually have sensible dreams? This was fantastic! Love it. Excellent job.

"Here are the beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron." C.S.Lewis

airlia | Fri, 05/15/2009

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived."
General George S. Patton

Yes, I do actually have some

Yes, I do actually have some sensible dreams, but for some reason I rarely dream about the stories I'm writing. Sometimes I find ways to combine them, though. :)
I'm working on at least two more stories-from-dreams as I type. :D I can't wait to post them!
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"I for one am getting bored, and boredom is something up with which I will not put!" ~Phineas and Ferb

Anna | Sat, 05/16/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

I can't wait to read them.

I can't wait to read them.

"Here are the beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron." C.S.Lewis

airlia | Sat, 05/16/2009

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived."
General George S. Patton

Nice

Overall, a well-formed story. But why do you capitalize "Fairy?" I think it doesn't have to be in this case.
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The Word is alive/and it cuts like a sword through the darkness
With a message of life to the hopeless/and afraid...

~"The Word is Alive' by Casting Crowns

May my words be a light that guides others to the True Light and Word.

Julie | Sun, 05/17/2009

Formerly Kestrel

I just kind of felt like it.

I just kind of felt like it. :)
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"I for one am getting bored, and boredom is something up with which I will not put!" ~Phineas and Ferb

Anna | Mon, 05/18/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief