The Eternal Flame: Chapter 1, part 1

This is part of an ongoing story. In order to start from the beginning, click HERE.

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Jerem awoke with a start. He clutched his chest at the vague memory of pain. He wiped away the sweat dripping from his brow with a sleeve. Was all of it a dream? Did he really just feel like someone had reached into his chest? He had never experienced a dream that intense or vivid before, and he immediately hoped never to have one again.

The sun was beginning to peak over the horizon, the first glimpse of a new day. Jerem decided not to risk the chance of having another strange dream, and quietly got dressed so as not to awaken his younger sister who was sleeping in her own bed adjacent from his in their small, shared room. He managed to keep the hinges of the door from causing excessive noise as he escaped into the hall.

His father’s bedroom door, directly across the hall, stood open enough for Jerem to see that the bed was empty. Jerem knew he would find his father in their rudimentary kitchen, preparing breakfast for the three of them, and so he did. The back of Thed Gillin’s peppered gray head leaning over the stove, swearing as he burned himself lightly on a hot pan cooking eggs, was Jerem’s welcome to most mornings.

“Perik’s Bite!” Jerem’s father managed to keep his voice down as he waved his hand to cool it, before sucking on his burned index finger. He turned when he heard Jerem stifle a laugh. “Ah. Good morning, son.” He attempted to regain his composure. “Uh – the eggs will be ready in a moment.” He returned to his work. Jerem sat at the table just behind his father in the middle of the room. Forks already sat at three of its four sides.

“Can I help?” Jerem asked. He was almost thirteen now and was more than willing to prove that he could do his fare share of the work. He helped around their little farm, on the occasion it was needed, but it seemed to him that his father would always see him as a child and not ready to be a man.

“Believe it or not, but your old man can handle a few chicken eggs and burnt bread.”

“You mean toast?” Jerem giggled.

“I wouldn’t dignify it with such an grand name.” Thed shot back with a grin. “Why don’t you go out and make the morning offering? And don’t forge-” He turned and his eye caught the empty fourth side of the table. Jerem pretended not to notice Thed’s voice trail off, but he knew what was being asked of him.

“I’ll take care of it, father.” Jerem got out of his chair and headed straight for the door. Next to the door lay an assortment of herbs and a spare egg, the largest of the morning’s bounty, in a small basket. Jereme picked it up as he opened the door to walk outside.

Jerem had a hard time keeping track of the gods. There seemed to be an almost unlimited number of them. He did, however, know the few that mattered the most to their farm. The alter stood not three feet from the door, facing the path leading to their home. It wasn’t as beautiful as some of the other alters he had seen the last time Thed took the family south to Voris, a city of wonders in Jerem’s mind, but the alter had been hand crafted by Thed himself the day the farm passed from his father to him. That was the way of things; one had to create a new alter to mark the land as their own.

Jerem quickly kneeled next to the alter and set himself to arranging the herbs together to go into the bowl shaped carved into the alter. Morning dew gathered at the bottom, forming a small pool of water. Jerem did his best to dry it out with his sleeve; herbs cannot be burned wet. He mashed the herbs together with a stone set onto the alter, and then flicked the end of a lighting stick to start the fire. The herbs burned into a sweet smell, perfect for Ugila, goddess of growth. He placed the egg next to the bowl, using some remaining herbs to create a small bed for it. With a short prayer, he offered it to Ora, goddess of the weather, so that the rains will come when needed and leave so as not to flood. Finally, he uttered the All Father’s Prayer.

All Father, Creator of Us All, God of Gods. Protect us from Evil and Guide us in our Journey. We pray that you be with those that are Lost, and lead us unto a New Day.

Jerem rose from his knees as he finished. Movement caught his eye next to the alter. A single flower grew from a mound of earth three feet to his right, gently swaying in the morning breeze. It’s petals were white with purple stripes leading inward toward the yellow stems at the center of the bulb. Jerem could have sworn that flower was not there a minute ago. He looked from the flower, up the mound of dirt, to the headstone. He had read it a million times in the past two years. “Losa Gillin. Beloved Wife and Mother.” He choked back a tear and placed his hand on the headstone, as if by some miracle it meant reaching out to her, his mother, who had been taken from them.

“Watch over her, All Father.” He whispered, half request and half command. The priests in town would have a fit if they had heard his tone of voice.

Jerem pulled away from the headstone and looked back to the mound of dirt. Weeds had gathered around the headstone and around the mound as well. Jerem quickly pulled them to keep the grave site pure. He reached out to pull the flower, but paused. What was he to do with so beautiful a thing, especially if it really had just grown over a matter of minutes?

Jerem rushed back into the home and into the kitchen. He nearly bumped his father into the stove as he searched the cupboards.

“What has gotten into you, boy?” Thed had meant to say, but before he could finish Jerem moved back from the fourth side of the table. What was once a previously empty space now held a cup with a small amount of water and a white flower with purple stripes leading to the center. Thed was taken aback.

“Wh-where did you get that?” Thed asked, solemnly.

“I found it growing on mother’s grave.” Jerem couldn’t bring himself to look at his father. “It was very pretty and I didn’t think it was right to toss it out with the weeds.” Jerem felt his father’s hand on his shoulder.

“You did good, son.” He knelt down to Jerem’s level. “Do you know what kind of flower that is?” Jerem shook his head. “That is a Kelian Orchid. It grows on the slopes of the northern mountains where our world touches the sky kingdoms of the L’drin. It’s a good omen, one of protection.”

“Is mother watching over us?”

“I can’t think of a single thing that could stop her.”

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