Chapter 12: Strength, Change, Empathy
"That's right, Miss Sylvari. I am The Great Oak." The words came out of her as if it did not seem strange in the slightest yet I still felt a considerable amount of confusion as I looked up at her. "If you are The Great Oak, then why-"
I was cut off immediately, the woman pressing her slender finger to my lips. "Your Questions will be answered in due time. Patience is a virtue, you know. I must ask you my own first. Then you may ask me as much as you would like. While we are together, at least."
I wanted to interrupt. To scream that it was not fair. None of it was! I was the Queen, but I kept being told what to do!
Sick of it.
I opened my mouth to speak again yet the same scene followed. This time, the Great Oak continued to speak instead of shutting up when she reached the end of her shushing. Looking back on it, I should have really seen it coming, what was about to happen.
"Lutum Sylvari. The 3rd Earthen Mother, and the 5th Ruler of Terra." She spoke again. The way she said it, it would have usually been commanding and loud, demanding a listener's attention. When it came from her however, rather than commanding and loud, she spoke softly and with care. As if she was watching over you, protecting you. Like a mother to her child. All I could do in response was manage a nod, I was stunned.
"Do you remember the three principles that you must adhere to as a ruler of Terra?"
She asked without malice, it was a genuine care and worry for me. That was how it felt at least-I could not claim to know the inner workings of a spirit.
"Of course. The first was...strength. I must be sturdy and strong. As things can change, and yet they need a sturdy foundation beneath them." This time, she got even closer. She propped me upright, and suddenly I was no longer falling. I was sitting on solid earth. A foundation had been laid beneath me.
"Very good. And the others?"
This time, I remained silent. I slowly shook my head and I could feel a sense of shame and disappointment hanging over me. A few tears rolled, as if I had let one of my parents down. That was how it felt refusing to give an answer to The Great Oak.
Rather than comforting me, this time she poked and prodded me. She annoyed me until I had no choice but to pay attention. Standing tall and looking as serene as ever, she leaned down to tell me "I know that you are aware of the next principle is. It is your roadblock at the minute. You know deep in your heart what must be done."
"No, I do not. I am full of confusion, full of worry and full of-"
The Great Oak was shaking her head again as she interrupted. "Yes, I know, you are full of doubt. Everyone is full of doubt, my young Queen. There is not a single person on this plane who is not filled with doubt. Your predecessor was a bag of nerves, you know-"
This time I interrupted her. I was in shock. Dahlia was a bag of nerves. That woman could not be scared of anything! "No!", I cried.
"Oh, yes. Very much so in fact. It may shock you to know as well-she is more nervous now than she has ever been before. Do you know why?"
I shook my head in disbelief. "I do not believe that for one moment! She is full of life and vigor!"
A wry smile was formed on the face of the woman. "That is precisely why she is so anxious. Someone else is taking her place-you. She may know you a bit more now, but it would be strange were she not nervous that a young girl was taking her place on the throne. Someone inexperienced, even if capable. You should know-she is not just worried for herself-not just the well-being of a nation with a new leader. Dahlia is worried about you, my dear." What felt as if it would have better served as part of a lecture instead became a calming talk to me, as if helping to meditate and relax-to clear my mind of clutter and unnecessary thoughts. At first, I shook my head in disbelief. But it only took a few moments to realise that what The Great Oak was saying was something abundantly clear all along, I had simply been ignoring it-pretending it was not there or was not true. It was as if it came to me all of a sudden.
The next principle came to me suddenly. Well, rather than came to me-I felt more ready to accept it. It was obvious what I had been pushing away. Refusing to believe.
"The second principle a ruler must adhere to is...to embrace change."
The Great Oak simply smiled at me. "You did know it. I expected nothing less of someone I chose."
"Great Oak...why did you choose me?"
"Close, Miss Sylvari-but I am afraid I am still leaving questions until the end."
"Very well...I am simply curious." That was a lie. We both knew it. I felt guilty doing it, but we both knew why. We both knew the pain and anxiety I felt over this, the changes I had to go through that I would rather have not done. I knew the final principle she would be mentioning in a moment's time as well. Regardless, I let her continue. It would not be wise to disrespect her I felt.
"I know that you are aware of the final principle as well. It is something you are familiar with, I would think."
Unable to pull up any words that I could use reasonably, I opted to simply listen to The Great Oak Continue.
She placed her hands upon my shoulders as she said that.
"Now, I am certain you have heard of the tale of King Finch. A man with bountiful empathy and feeling in reserves, yet gone before his time with no trace. A man thrown in to war, that had no place in it. His life was a beautiful song, short and fleeting yet such profound effects on his people. There is a reason he remains one of the most popular figures in our stories, as well as having so many of our youth named after him."
Unsure in what direction this was going, I felt myself instinctively raising a hand as I asked "I have heard of the 3rd ruler of Terra of course, but I do not understand-why are you telling me this?"
It was almost as if The Great Oak were laughing at me.
"Well, is it not obvious? I had thought it may be. He was the man who that showed us we needed more than the two principles we had at the time. Gaius, the 1st King of Terra was both strong and empathetic. The man was lucky to have been around before things shaped into what they are today however."
Opening my mouth to speak, I was silenced in the same manner just as I was before. Her slender finger, warm and delicate pressed to my lip. "I know-you want to ask why still. I am getting there. Please be patient, Miss Sylvari." Frustrated, I silently closed my mouth and bit my lip. It was a strange sensation. I still could see nothing except for myself and this woman. Everything else was dark, but now it felt as if I were sat on a tree stump in the forest as I listened to her lecture.
"What he lacked-was adaptation. He was thrown into a situation he was not ready for, with The Great War. It is my biggest mistake as a servant of Eden-appointing him as the next ruler in that time. It was easy to look back upon our first and decide the two other traits were enough to shape a ruler. Evidently...the events that followed did not adhere to our vision."
"He...should not have been King?"
I could not help but throw a question right back in her face. It was so long-winded and at times a bore to listen to-but it was information that perhaps I was the only person now in my nation to know of. Likely, the only other one was Dahlia.
"He could have been. In another time. Not the time of war."
"Do you know what happened to him?"
With a solemn nod and what used to be a gentle smile on her face replaced by a sombre frown, The Great Oak almost shuddered as she spoke; "King Finch was driven mad by the horrors of war he saw others endure. The empathy he had in reserves was his downfall by the end of his time. The poor man decided he could endure no more, and threw himself under the Behemoth's foot. Earthern Mother Dahlia was chosen the next day."
I nodded, matching the frown displayed by the spirit.
"Now then Miss Sylvari, I am sure you are wondering why you are conversing with me still."
"Of course I am. I understand that you wanted to remind me of the principles, but why now?"
This elicited a small chuckle. "I am very sure you are aware of one of the reasons, Lutum Sylvari. You are undergoing a large change in your life right now-and there will be many more to come. The other...well, the other is something I would not expect you to know. The other reason is that I could not contact you myself before. This sensation is something that every ruler goes through. It means that the Gaia-the life force of the land is accepting you. You are becoming one with the nature around you."
I could not claim to follow completely, but I was familiar enough with the concept of Gaia to understand the general gist of what she meant.
I was accepted, by the land itself.
Before I could spit out any sort of reply, I found myself shooting up in bed. From what I could tell, not even 2 minutes had passed yet that ordeal felt as if it had taken at least an hour out of my life. Throwing myself back down on to my bed, I attempted to process what I had learned and what it meant.