The War, The Elf, The Great Ash Tree

Far, far away

A long time ago

When trees used to whisper

When trees used to sing

And when more than just deer

Once settled here

 .

For before humans came

Across the shining sea

Other folk once lived here

Gentle as a sparrow, clever as a cat

It’s where our children played

In this gentle glade

 .

Where the trees became our homes

And the leaves became our dwelling

Where peace and birdsong

The stars and sunlight

Twined ‘round us, a sacred cape

A sanctuary, a great escape

.

Until the day that they came

Across the shifting sea

Humans in their monstrous boats

With hunger in their eyes

Greed within their hearts

Something new within these parts

 .

Where greed and lust did not exist

With its fiery kiss

Instead tranquility and temperance true

Brushed us with its wings

But with these humans, something changed

The moment words between us were exchanged

.

For we were different, easily seen

Our pointed ears, our flowing tongue

Their rounded ears, their harsh, harsh tongue

We had our beliefs in different things

Held our honor different ways

And we lived far longer days

 .

So our cultures crashed

When they came upon our shores

And yet they had the daring nerve

To claim the land, to kill its creatures

Even when our ancestors

Had lived much longer than theirs

 .

And so one day, our differences

Collided in a single meeting

A human man, an eleven male

Achan the Young and Raeus the Light-foot

Both unsheathed their fiery tongue

And dark daring words they flung

 .

Which turned into a bloody night

For both humans and the elven

As Achan and Raeus turned to brutal duel

And late in the night, with Achan’s slaying

For no man could beat an elf

Our fragile peace so revered, it tumbled off the shelf

 .

And a full out war was pledged

Between our folk and theirs

With their battle drums and gnashing gums

And our silvery stunning swords

Our war began, our war was launched

That once began, no blood was stanched

 .

The elven folk fought for our former life

The whispering tress, the gentle life

And man fought for their pride and glory

With bloody words and hungry vows

To take what they thought was theirs

As we fought them for our cares

.

And through each battle

And through the blood

Our gentle life was shattered

Our gentle life was splintered

As war became our way of life

As our days were filled with strife

.

And we carried on for days and months

With neither side a winner

Until a woman, soft as dew-light

Marched to our brave leader

“Sigurad, this war must end

Why yet do we pretend?

 .

“Why yet do we pretend

To fight for our land, our home

When it is shattered, and rendered bare?

Our trees are dying, the sky is crying

The rivers run with blood

And blood has mixed in mud?”

 .

Siguard, the leader replied, much wearied

“Cienwen, fair one, do not mock me with your eyes

For within them you render much despise

I cannot end this war, though it’s wrecked our home

We fight for honor, we fight for family

We fight for all this agony”

 .

Cienwen left then, disagreeing

The fight is prideful,

And pride is fleeting

Like a summer bird in autumn

It soon will go away

And if it does, what left is there to say?

.

‘Our homes destroyed

The braches broken

The numbers of dead are yet unspoken

Our way of life, our way of thinking

Destroyed now by this bitter war

All as a way to settle the score’

 .

She stared out at the burning land

The battlefield, men’s fatal cries

The way the world looked through a bloody haze

Their world fueled by a revolted daze

And how men of both their races

Died on each other’s swords’ embraces

.

She watched as Siguard lead his troops

Out onto the battlefield

Where trumpets blared and soldiers roared

A torch to heat up their discord

Where people maimed and people died

All for this war based on pride

 .

Back to her temporary home she walked

The shouts of children around her mocked

The tragedy of this part of our history

And when her uncle found her there

In his voice there was despair

“Come now, quickly, your brother, Faihr

 .

He calls to you now, his wound is deep

There’s little time, Cienwen, before he’ll pass”

She stared at Uncle, uncomprehending

Her brother, wounded, about to die?

Her brother, twin, and young elf of Saeding

Fate was cruel, and she felt it’s sting

 .

She hurried to his bedside there

Where roses bloomed upon his sheets

Bloomed of blood, and want, and war

Where young elves died, the price of pride

As together, they said their final goodbyes

As his heart made its final cries

 .

And when he passed, a sorrowful wail

From those who mourned the loss of him

A bright young warrior, a handsome sight

A peaceful elf, a luminous light

And now I’ve lost him, now he’s gone

And yet the war around us, presses on

 .

A war on pride, a war on greed

A war sown by a bitter seed

That our fair people had to fight

That turned our light forest, into night

And now Cienwen lost what she held dear

And everything became suddenly achingly clear

 .

Well, she was prideful! Let them see!

Let them meet her at the great ash tree!

At its great branches, at its slender truck

There she would stop this fight, this blanket night

And she would make sure no more war

Ever came to their fair shore

 .

And in her fury, Cienwen went

And there she sang in grief and mourning

To the greatest old grey ash tree

She sang of despair, she sang of love

She sang of the future, of the stars above

She sang about the mourning dove

 .

She sang until she was nothing but the song

Until the world had done her no wrong

Until the elves began to come

To listen to her woeful hum

To listen to her sing her grief

To listen as she turned to leaf

 .

And as she sang, and as she hummed

The air around her thrummed

As she grew into the great ash tree

Tangled with the leaves and bark

Becoming one with the tree itself

Turning to tree from gentle elf

 .

And Cienwen sang until she was no more

Until she was tree, and nothing else

For she knew how to settle the score

And the elf’s fair beauty, the elf’s fair light

Came from within the tree, within the bark

Her limbs and branches in gentle arc

 .

And we wondered why, we wondered how

As we keened our grief, for her and her brother

Why would she do what she had done just now?

Was it out of grief, or out of madness?

To follow her brother? To escape this life?

To take leave of all this strife?

.

But yet we honored her, with her choice

 Giving her transfiguration a voice

We told the others, we told Siguard

Told her uncle, told her aunt

And we mourned the loss of not one but both

Of Tyfwr Eiddew’s gentle growth

 .

We mourned their beauty, their fierceness, their gifts

Fahir’s bravery, Cienwen’s peace

Both of their fervour for life and passion

And we laid Fahir near the great ash tree

Near where his sister had made her plea

And had turned herself within the solemn tree

 .

And the war went on, the war continued

With more dying, more crying

More mourning our losses

Until the day the winds had shifted

Until the day the leaves grew still

And suddenly, the forest contained a thrill

 .

A gentle singing, a gentle hum

Twirling leaves, and yet no breeze

A gentle foreboding, a saddened presence

Creaking trunks and no singing birds

Rippling roots, and shuddering trees

As the war began to freeze

.

For the elves and men alike

Grew frightened at the forest

Where the trees grew into traps

Branches held hostages

And the grass tangled limbs

And the men sung their hymns

 .

The battle that raged, the flames that ravaged

All quickly were extinguished

For fear of the forest’s retaliation

For though none had died,

 Both humans and elves

Were afraid for kin and themselves

.

For neither race had seen such a disturbance

In such a calm, old forest

But Siguard knew

And with the idea flew

To go to speak and see

Cienwen in the great ash tree

.

And once there, he knelt in the grass

On bended knee before the tree

‘Cienwen, tell me, are you there?

Cienwen, beauty,

Do you live within this tree?

Cienwen, will you answer me?’

 .

And he waited there, for a long while

Waiting for a sign, a voice, a whisper

And when there was none, he rose

Only to hear Cienwen’s gentle tones

Rise above the tumbling breeze

Sending him back to his knees

.

‘Siguard, I greet you

Yes, indeed I live

And the power I have within these limbs

Ought to frighten thee

Speak now to the great ash tree

For I am it, and it is me’

 .

The elven leader trembled, the elven leader shivered

For the power Cienwen wielded,

Was far beyond what was known

A great and terrible beauty

And yet she still resided within the tree

How it could be, Siguard could not see

 .

‘Siguard you have come to me,

If you wish now, speak to me

Let down your burdens, lighten the load

Tell me know what leaves your shoulders bowed

And if you so wish, if you desire

I’ll tell you what is truly dire’

 .

Our leader hesitated, stunned by Cienwen’s power

Stunned by her pure intuition

Stunned by this great ash tree

That Cienwen wielded, as part of her

So with fear and awe in part

His side of the tale he began to start

 .

‘Three days ago, and again, three nights

The Gwyrdd forest began to thrum

The birds didn’t’ sing, the wolves didn’t howl

And yet the forest breathed

Stirring the breeze and whispering threats

Giving all of us the sweats

 .

“And yet we continued battle,

Each trying to win with blood

Each trying to ignore the strangeness,

The shifting in the Gwyrdd

Where plants crawled, their creepers gently streaming,

The plant life green and teeming”

 .

He told of a forest writhing and alive

Who took both races into its depths

But yet kept both elf and man alive

Even when they could not be found

A warning, a signal, something more?

What did this forest abhor?

.

Cienwen and the tree sighed

When Siguard finished his tale

And with a whisper on the breeze

“Siguard, did I not tell you?

Did I not say?

This war on pride, this war on greed

This war sown by a bitter seed,

 .

“It must end, it must stop

Or the Gwyrdd will start to kill

And you may hack down every tree there forth –

But you will never succeed –

You must end this war, you must end this fight

Or you will feel the forest’s bite”

.

“Cienwen, why? Cienwen, when?

Why does the forest seek to kill?

For the need, or for the thrill?

Let me say, it is no thrill to kill?

Why make men suffer? Why make men die?

Why make poor people cry?”

 .

The whisper was sharp

The sting like a whip

“Siguard, what must I say to make you see?
You couldn’t see it before, but see it now!

This war must stop!

The cost must drop!

 .

“Your homes are destroyed

The braches broken

The numbers of dead are yet unspoken

Your way of life, your way of thinking

Destroyed now by this bitter war

All as a way to settle the score

 .

“None are winning, all have lost!

All at too high of cost

I lost my brother, you’ve lost your sons

And now I have power, now I have skill

And when I say, the trees will kill

Not for the power, not for the thrill

 .

“But to make you see, but to help you find

Look at the ground, saturated with blood

Places teeming with life, deserted

The burying ground full

And everybody grieving,

Wanting to be disbelieving”

 .

Siguard started, feeling frightened

Of what Cienwen had implied

A forest that could attack?
A forest that could maim?
What would cause this madness?
What would cause this sadness?
.
This war they fought, for pride, for glory,

Was to keep their way of life, their home, their children

And make sure that no man would overstep their borders

So why would Gwyrdd fight against them?

Why would it threaten, why would it warn?

Why would it be so set to mourn?

 .

Then it came to him, then he saw

What Cienwen had been saying all along

In mind’s eye, his youngest son

Embracing a sword’s cutting kiss

His eyes wide as he pulled it out in wonder

The embrace tearing him asunder

 .

How Siguard had roared, and quickly slain

The man who had killed young Ieuen.

How he had kissed his son goodbye

And had heard his mother’s cry

The pain he had felt, the sting of sorrow

Had made him fight harder, on the morrow

 .

And yet, and yet!

Multiplied by a hundred, a thousand

He began to feel the pain of what this war had caused

And with that, he let out a cry

“Cienwen, fair one, now I see

What you were trying to say to me

 .

“We’ve lost many elves

We’ve lost many people

With our homes destroyed

Blood spilled

 And lives in tatters

It’s not truly this war that matters

 .

“No, we must rebuild, make a truce,

Find our peace again

And remember this day

For this war shall end

This war shall finish

Before we diminish

 .

“It will be long, it will be hard

But we will save lives instead

Of cutting each other down

No more murder, no more death

We shall believe in peace and no more war

And we all shall restore”

 .

A contented sigh flew through the breeze

And Siguard finally took his leave

Finally understanding, finally aware

What he had brought his people through

And Cienwen, in the great ash tree

Knew Siguard could finally see

 .

So, in the days and weeks to come

The elves and the men had their talks

And it was decided, to end the war

As none had won, and all had lost

Together they would rebuild

Both races finally fulfilled

 .

And none forgot the great ash tree

None forgot fair Cienwen

And every year, when the trees blossom

And the jewelled birds sing their song

We honor her with our verses

And each of us converses

 .

For she is old, and she is wise

With her weeping branches,

She has seen as much as any elf

And anytime you need an answer

Cienwen can calm, Cienwen can help

Without scorn, and without a yelp

 .

For her beauty remains within her limbs

And all who see her do remember

What she did for elves and man

And how she controls the forest

A tree that was once an elf

An elf that fought herself

.

A young maiden who wanted to change

Who wanted peace, who wanted love

Who took the chance, who took the sacrifice

To fix what she believed broken

To who stopped a war

To who we adore

.

Okay. This one is long. And when I say long, it’s 2 566 words. This is the longest poem I have ever written, and I’m not even sure why it is so long. But, it’s a new experience. So, congrats if you got to the bottom of it, because it’s not my usual material.

So I’ll keep it short and sweet on this one. 

–          I’m not sure why this particular topic popped into my head, nor why I felt inclined to write a story about it. Though I have my suspicions on a week of having the flu and watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I also admit to really enjoying a good fantasy novel ever once in a while, so who knows where I picked this up.

Other than that, I’m heading out to Toronto tonight to play in my last Nationals ever before I am done my club volleyball career. It will be really hard, both emotionally and physically. After all, we’ll have to fight for every point, every set, every game. And then…it’ll be done. And my days as a volleyball player will be over. 😦

And then, two days later, it’s grad. It’s moving really, really fast, and I can’t believe how fast this year has flown by.

But enough on that. Have  a good long weekend (if you live in Canada), and if not, then enjoy, and thanks for reading all of this! 😀