The forest is vibrating, pulsing.
The raw energy of Spring is rising. Everywhere.
Scents and spores and pollens and pheromones fill the air and overload the senses. Ir-Mar moves like a cat through the bushes, barely disturbing the furiously alive greens that run wild in the undergrowth. His thin and muscular frame looks like a young vigorous tree. His eyes have the deep color of the moss that grows under ancient trees in the deepest part of the forest. And he smells like scented wood. As she walks behind him, Shan-Ma-Ya is mesmerised.
All around them, the whole forest is raging. A gigantic orgy of exploding life, bursting forth towards the sun. Beetles and birds and flowers and vines, all is lost in a boundless copulation of gigantic proportions.
Winter is dead.
Everything is reborn and celebrating.
Ir-Mar turns around with a smile: "We're nearly there."
"I'm not sure we should do this."
“Yes we should! You have to see her before everybody else does!"
"But the Ancients… They say it's forbidden!"
Ir-Mar smiles again: "What do they know?"
As the two elves move forward, the forest becomes quieter, as if all the joyful feast of spring was not appropriate here.
Indeed, there is something different in the air. Something sacred has lived here. Something has laboured, felt pain and exhaustion. But yet, it is a spiritual place. The trees make the small clearing looks like a cathedral. And at the end of the vegetal nave, between a chaos of rocks, an opening into the ground appears as like the entrance of a crypt. Shan looks around in amazement, realizing what the place truly is.
"How did you find it?" she whispers.
Ir-Mar smiles once again. His eyes are smiling too. Some secrets must not be told. At least not now.
Shan takes his hand and slowly, reverently, they walk down between the rocks, down inside the crypt.
The ground makes a rough slope downward. Around them, many tunnels branch, forming a gigantic maze in the entrails of the earth. A place that life has totally deserted and yet not burdened by the feeling of death.
As if reading her mind, Ir speaks under his breath: “ hey have all left now. They let Her have a much deserved sleep."
"So it is true… She's the souls' mother?"
"I haven't been able to enter during winter. The place is guarded by myriads of soldiers, drones and workers. They are all attending Her every needs while She gives birth to each and every soul of the forest. One for each plant, rock, animal and river… and us. A few weeks ago, the hive was filled with them. But now, they are all gone and She has moved deeper underground. She's transforming again."
Shan hold Ir's hand tighter.
"Don't worry, I've come here many times. Nothing will harm us. She knows me now, She knows when I'm here."
The air of the tunnels was now warm and damp, in a good way. The scent of the earth was engulfing them. Suddenly, they were in a large hall. And Shan was struck with a vision.
Could this be real?
There She was in the middle of this room under the earth. The cocoon was several meter high, made of a faintly glowing silvery silk, hanging from the selling in a tangle of fine roots that looked like a delicate lace. The light slowly pulsating from inside was like the beating of a peaceful heart. And through the silk membrane, Shan could see the delicate shape of a chrysalis. For one moment, time seemed to stop.
"Yes, that's Her! In the winter, She is Syl-Manath, the Queen of the Hive, the Hatcher of Souls, the Life that Lives Through Winter. And now, She'll soon be reborn as Syl-Iriah, the Spirit of the Light, the Sun-Child, the Protector. Then at the end of the summer when everything will start to decay, she'll become Syl-Yarath the Spider, the Spirit of the Dark Places, the Lurker under the Moon, The Devourer and the Weaving Crone. You may not want to meet her then…"
"No. No need to worry. She won't harm you now."
Then the chrysalis started to crack…
For several hours, they sat there, transfixed, as the godess was being reborn. They felt terribly embarrassed, puny elven youngsters watching one of the most intimate moments of a Goddess' life. Yet they were unable to move, fascinated by the beauty and power of life pulsing through her all new body. What had first appeared as deformed stumps were slowly becoming layers and layers of magnificent butterfly wings. She was no longer the underground birthing mother with a body distorted by the delivery of so many children that they outnumbered the stars. She was becoming a radiant creature of the skies.
How long did it last? They could not remember.
Maybe because the goddess turned her head toward them and looked straight into their souls. Her brow was ornate with large deer woods and her long hair was waving like a scorpion tail, ready to strike.
But at this moment, her face was only love.
And she spoke to them:
"My children, how can have you grown so big and strong so fast? I remember you, the day you were born. Your souls were just flickering lights, so tiny and fragile!"
They felt the warmth of her love deep down inside, radiating through their body like summer sun.
She opened her wings wide and there was a sparkling rain of light as she rose in the air.
"Tell them that the season of joy has begun and that it is time to feast."
It was like a command they couldn't resist.
It would certainly have happened anyway, but Shan had not yet fully stopped resisting before now.
They turned to each other and instinctively, their bodies met.
When they woke up, Syl-Iriah had left. They looked at each other and couldn't stop smiling.
"She's magic" Shan said.
"And so are you…"
She blushed. "Will we see her again?"
At that precise moment, Shan guessed that Syl-Iriahwas still with them. The young elf suddenly understood that the spirit of life and magic was breathing inside her now, and that soon she would give birth too. And probably take life too, as a warrior should. And so she would become Syl-Yarath the Spider, the devourer of life herself. Life was such a strange thing.
As they came out of the hive, the calm had lifted from the little clearing, as if it had just waited for the goddess to awake.
The exuberant undergrowth made it hard to believe that in just a few months, autumn would come and life would go to sleep once again.
Just as it was hard to believe that, Syl-Iriah would become the gigantic spider creature that the elves dreaded so much. It was even hard to believe that if anything became a threat to the forest, Syl-Iriah would probably appear to strike with all the might of her magic and strength.
Wasn't she, deep down, always a spider?
But what loving mother does not become the most fearful fiend when her child is threatened?
Shan took a deep breath, filling her lungs with the powerful sent of the forest full of the promises of the newborn spring. Then she turned to Ir: "Come on! You heard Her, let's go tell them: It's time to feast!"