The Secret Spring

The following is an excerpt from Phantammeron Book One by author Mitchell Stokely.

The Secret Spring

As Ana looked through the haze, there beside the tree stood a young woman. Even in the dim light she was beautiful beyond words, with eyes blue as the shining waves of the sea, and skin white as the foam of the ocean. She was clad in a flowing white dress embroidered with accents of red gold and forest green. And her shining, ruddy blonde hair was elegantly braided as it hung down to her ghostly white feet. Upon her head was a shining garland of lilies and orchids, woven like a crown, framing her graceful face.

She seemed to be a being, not of this world, but from some other time and place. For she radiated a strange phantasmal aura that was filled with an unworldly, yet life-giving glow. She was not of the flesh, but appeared as a vision seen only in the depths of a waking dream. Yet Ana sensed she was a spirit of the earth and a being somehow connected to the hill upon which they now stood.

As Ana drew near to her, she saw that her head was held down, as if in deep meditation. Or was she mourning?

Ana stopped and stood beside her, unsure of the strange woman. The golden maiden then looked upon Ana with happy, yet tearful eyes. She then walked towards her, her small feet almost gliding across the earth. Ana then saw her face up close. It was perfect, peaceful, and soft. Beautiful beyond compare. And yet in her eyes seemed to dwell some mystery Ana could not fathom. For the spectral woman bore a profound sadness upon her face. Her watery eyes looked as if for many ages she had wept alone in silence.

The forlorn woman then spoke to Ana in a ghostly voice, saying, “You have returned to the pool. For this am I grateful.

Ana asked, “Who are you?”

The ghostly woman then said, “I am the Secret Spring who has slept in this mound for many uncounted eons, waiting patiently for the last of my days in Phantaia. From me have arisen the waters of the well that lies before you. And from those waters has the One Tree and the trees of the world been nourished. But the last of my waters have all but drained away now. For what essence of me that yet remained in the pool has now been depleted. So, like my own fading spirit, this precious font I once filled has now bled away.” She then looked down, as if in sadness.

But Ana fell to her knees, saying, “No, I am the one who has taken your essence. For a cruel thirst possessed me for many nights.” Ana then started to cry, saying, “I have taken that which was forbidden. For Ama told me not to drink from the pool. Seeing the wilted tree with its once mighty lights now diminished, I am fearful for the fate of Abrea. For with the dying of the light of the One Tree shall evil soon come upon it. Left unguarded, both the One Tree and its precious garden shall surely die. Then shall all of Phantaia also fall. Only Ama can now stop the dark spirits that come to destroy them.”

Ana looked up at the spirit for mercy, saying, “Noble Spirit, Ama disappeared into the woods and has not returned. He must have known of my evil deeds and fled away,” She then held her hands to her face in shame, pleading, “Please forgive me for all that I have done.”

But the Secret Spring knelt beside her, saying, “Ana, you should not be sad. Nor should your heart be troubled. For these are things that have come to pass which I long ago had foreseen. At last has my own time in this world finally run out, like the golden sands that once poured with vigor from the Hourglass of Time. But the essence that once flowed through me had begun to fade long before you came to Phantaia, as it was made and meant to do. And so have I known that the waters of my life would someday perish, and all things sustained by them also die. For everything that has a beginning must also have an end, Ana.”

Ana then looked once more upon the falling leaves of the dying forest and turned away in despair. For it seemed with each passing moment the colors of autumn, red and gold, had deepened, enveloping Abrea and all of Phantaia in the hues and shades of its failing spirit. And she saw in the great tree’s death a tragic end to the world of which she had played a part.
But the Secret Spring saw her suffering and touched her face, as she smiled warmly, saying, “Do not fear the future, child. Soon shall new life be born into this world. For I like you came to this marvelous realm with fear until I found love. Yet strangely, unknown to me, I discovered I was brought here by a higher power, so that my own waters might someday nourish the young spirits that now grow in you.” Ana then looked in confusion at the spirit.

The Secret Spring said to her, “To you, Ana, has been given a great gift. Soon shall come the time when your own children are born into this world, blessing it with their many wondrous creations and gifts.”
But Ana said to the spirit, “How could it be that the pool and tree must perish so that my children live?”

The Secret Spring said only, “Ana, this is the great cycle of life the Essence Eternal, our Great Father, set in motion long ago.”

But Ana cried, saying, “If I had known what would become of Phantaia, I would never have come here. For I love Ama as I do the very trees of Phantaia. I never sought to harm them.”

The Secret Spring looked at her with understanding eyes. “Through your love for Ama shall the spirit of the seas and the trees now be united. From your love shall the spirits of the Children of Shining be born anew in this world. For it is the secret desire of the Essence Eternal who willed it that this be so,” said the Secret Spring, smiling.

But as Ana looked into the compassionate eyes of the Secret Spring, she saw a profound sadness borne upon her gentle countenance. The Secret Spring then said to her, “But one task remains for you.” The Secret Spring held Ana’s hand, saying, “You know now what you must do, Ana. For you have known it in your heart for many nights in Phantaia, even before you came here. Within you sleep the Sacred Waters of the world—the true waters promised Phantaia before its very creation. You must make a choice soon. It is yours alone to make, as no other may decide it for you.”

Ana stared at the Secret Spring, who smiled down upon her with kind and understanding eyes that looked deeply into her own.

– the Author

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