The Five Sisters (short story)

The official GemStone IV encyclopedia.
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This is a creative work set in the world of Elanthia, attributed to its original author(s). It does not necessarily represent the official lore of GemStone IV.

Title: The Five Sisters

Author: Rohese Bayvel-Timbertree

Many years ago, five sisters dwelt on the shores of Ta'Vaalor. These five young elves were all of surpassing beauty. The eldest only in her third century, the second a half-century younger, the third a mere decade younger than the second, and the fourth, just two years younger again. They were tall, elegant figures, with dark flashing eyes and auburn hair. Dignity and grace were in their every movement and the fame of their beauty had spread far and wide. But, if the four elder sisters were lovely, how fair was the youngest, a delicate creature of only sixty years. The blushing tints in the soft bloom of fruit, or the delicate painting on the flower, are no more exquisite than the blending of the rose and lily in her gentle face, or the deep liquid blue of her eyes. The vine, in its luxuriance, is no more graceful than the tendrils of glossy hair that framed her glorious visage.

The heart of this fair elf was pure and joyous, with devoted attachment to her sisters and a fervent love of nature. Her angelic voice and merry laughter were the sweetest music of their home; she was its very light and life. No living thing within the sphere of her tender witchcraft could fail to love her.

Should you try to learn the names of these sisters, it would be in vain, for they have passed beyond memory and the dusty tomes on library shelves mention them only in passing as a fable. But it is said that they resided in a fine home, which stood within an immaculate garden and surrounded by a high stone wall, from where an archer could loose an arrow to the nearby abode of a prosperous and imperious lord.

It was a sunny summer morning when this nobleman emerged from his own residence and turned his steps to the house of the fair sisters. The sky was sapphire blue and the grass a brilliant emerald; the Mistydeep River glistened like a path of diamonds in the sun; the birds poured forth their songs from the shady trees and the deep buzz of insects filled the air. Everything looked bright and cheery but the pompous nobleman walked gloomily on with his eyes fixed upon the ground until he reached a small postern gate in the wall of the sisters’ garden, through which he heard the sound of soft voices in conversation and merry laughter. Stepping through, he saw the five sisters seated on the grass; all occupied with their usual diversions as the youngest sang songs in the midst of the throng.

"Fair day, ladies," said the embittered man. "You are all very merry this afternoon."

"You know how light of heart our sweet sister is," replied the eldest politely, running her fingers through the crimson-highlighted tresses of the blushing girl. "And what joy and cheerfulness it wakes within us all to see nature beaming in return."

The lord did not respond, save for a grave inclination of his head and the sisters continued with their crafts in silence.

"Still wasting your precious hours," retorted the elf eventually, turning to the eldest sister as he spoke. "Wasting precious time on these vain pursuits."

"But sir," urged the youngest, ceasing her song, as did the others, pausing their tasks around her. "Our morning chores have been completed; our charitable duties performed. I hope our occupation on this lovely day is a blameless one?"

"See here," said the lord, taking up the half-woven circlet of flowers from one of the sister's hands and turning to the youngest. "An intricate winding of gaudy colors, without purpose or object, unless it were to serve as an ornamentation on our wedding day. Day after day, you are employed in these senseless tasks. Is there no better way to pass the fleeting hours than to dutifully serve a husband such as I?"

The four elder sisters cast down their eyes as if abashed by the lord's shameless rebuke but the youngest raised her tender gaze and her voice in gentle reproach.

"Our dear mother," faltered the youngest sister, "was living when these tasks began and bade us to apply ourselves in all discretion and cheerfulness in our leisure hours. She said that if we passed those hours together in harmless mirth, they would prove to be the happiest and most peaceful of our lives and if, in later times, we went forth into the world and mingled with its cares and trials – if we ever forgot that love and duty should bind us together – a mere glance at the results of our shared pursuits would evoke fond memories and soften our hearts."

"She speaks truly, my lord," added the eldest, somewhat proudly and resuming her work. The sisters bent gracefully over their crafts while the lord looked from one to the other in frustrated silence as he had long desired marriage with each of the ladies in turn over the centuries, finally settling his desires on the youngest and fairest.

"How much better," he said at length to the youngest, "to shun all such thoughts and devote your life to me. Agree to wed and I shall see that your sisters are duly taken care of in turn."

"Never!" cried out the youngest. "I would never barter the warm freedoms we enjoy for the cold cloisters of the matrimonial home. Let us live and die together in this garden’s compass and we shall be content."

Tears fell from the young elf's eyes as she closed her impassioned appeal and hid her face in the shoulder of her sister.

"Take comfort, dear one," said the eldest, kissing her forehead. "The marriage veil shall never cast its shadow on your young brow."

The sisters, as with one accord, cried that their lot was cast together and that their home was a place of peace, love and harmony.

"My lord," continued the eldest, rising with dignity, "you have heard our sister and our final resolve. The same parents who enriched our early lives directed that no constraint should be imposed upon us but that we should be free to live according to our choice. Let us hear no more about it."

With a polite curtsy, the elf walked towards the house, hand in hand with the youngest and other sisters in tow. The lord, who had made the same appeal on many occasions but had never met with such a direct rebuff before, called after them.

"Think on," he said, directing an angry glance in turn between the five sisters. "The time will come when a glance at those frivolous baubles will tear open deep wounds in your hearts. When that day arrives – and, mark me, it will come – you will turn from the disappointment of the world to which you cling and weep for the refuge you have spurned this day."

With these words, he disappeared through the postern gate and the sisters retreated into the house.

The next day, the sun shone brightly, and on the next, and the next again. In the morning's glare and evening's soft repose, the five sisters still spent their days with cheerful conversation and pleasurable pursuits in the quiet garden.

Time passed as time is wont to do. With the gleam of moon on a helm of steel, an elven knight came calling upon the fair sisters and, in due course, led one away in wedlock. Courtiers robed in fine silks and velvets claimed a second and a third and, beneath the radiance of a late summer sun, an elven merchant on a prancing horse coaxed away the fourth.

But what of the youngest? There was a sullen darkness in the sky and the sun had retreated in anger, tinting the dull clouds with the last traces of his wrath, when the same lord walked slowly within a stone's throw of the house some years later. A blight had fallen on the trees and the wind that had prevailed all day, sighed heavily as though foretelling in grief the ravages of the coming storm. Again, he paused near the sisters' house and again he entered by the postern gate but did not encounter the sound of laughter, nor did his eyes rest upon the beautiful figures of the five elven sisters. All was silent and deserted. The boughs of the trees were bent and broken, the grass had grown long, and the cultivated flowerbeds had succumbed to the invasion of weeds.

With the indifference of one well accustomed to change, the lord entered the house and four elder sisters stood there over the emaciated body of their younger sibling. Their black gowns made their pale faces whiter still, and sorrow had worked its deep ravages. They were stately still but the flush of youthful beauty had gone. It was long since the sisters had met and there were furrows in their blanched faces. The lord took a seat in silence and motioned them to tell their tale.

"I blame myself for our weaknesses," said the eldest in a trembling voice. "What is there in her memory that we should dread but acknowledgement of the solemn fact that we abandoned her."

She glanced at the lord as she spoke, and, opening a chest, brought forth an elaborately woven circlet of wilted flowers.

"It was the last thing she touched in health," the sister cried, weeping bitterly.

The lord turned his steely gaze to the sister.

"The gallant knight who looked into your eyes, and hung upon your every breath when first he saw you all intent upon this pastime, lies buried on the field of battle."

The lady sighed and wrung her hands.

"The policy of court and lure of wealth," he continued, turning to the other sisters, "drew you from your peaceful home to scenes of revelry and splendor. The same policy and the restless ambition of proud elves have sent you all back as widows and humbled outcasts."

The sobs of the sisters were their only reply.

"There is little need," said the lord, with a meaning look, "for me to repeat my offer but repeat it I shall. One of you wed me and I shall see you all taken care of or let this house be your mausoleum."

The sisters asked for time to deliberate and felt initially as though the marriage veil were indeed the fitting shroud for their dead joys. But morning came again, and though the boughs of the trees in the garden drooped and ran wild upon the ground, it was the same garden still. The grass was coarse and high, but there was still the spot on which they had so often sat together, when change and sorrow were but fancies. Could they, remembering how their young sister's heart had sickened at the thought of marriage to such a man, look upon her in his company knowing it would never give her peace. No.

Instead, they sent abroad for a seedpod of the lasimor tree so that the spirit of their dearly departed sister may live on. The seed was duly planted in the very spot they had all sat together and the sun shone upon it. In time it flourished and for many days and months and years, the four sisters tended it. The lord observed from afar as only three sisters were seen in the customary place; then but two, and, for a long time afterwards, just one solitary elf stooped with age. At length she came no more but the composite trunk now comprised five slender entwined trees.

It is said that the tree still stands to this day and weeps in sorrow for a life unfulfilled. It reminds us that - despite recollections of actions we may bitterly regret - memory, however sad, and love is the purest connection we have with one another.