Flora walks into the Chamber of Voices, carrying a mat. The table held a few pitchers of drinks and some fruit for her, and she could smell them strongly. The door closes behind her with a gentle thump. As requested she was alone, and those outside were making an effort to be quiet. It is mid-afternoon; rather early for her meditation, but this was something she needed to do before evening.
Putting down the mat she settles in, taking a lotus position. Centering her being she begins her meditation.
Her senses expand, taking in the immediate environment, then widen out beyond the Tree and into the lands of Pixie Hollow. She could sense the sparks of Life, from the biggest Faerie to the smallest insect; from the smallest seedling in Spring Meadow to the mighty oaks of the Fall Forest, as they went about their daily lives.
The Voice of Nature was clear, but diminished somewhat by a much closer Voice, and that one was the one she wanted.
She opens her eyes to find herself in a room of wood. Veins in the grain were glowing a soft yellow, and she realized she was deep in the Tree. Holes in the walls, floor, and ceiling were of various sizes, and streams of glowing Pixie Dust flowed from one to another, sometimes passing through her form.
« At last you have come, » said a Voice. « I welcome you, Oracle. It has been long since the last Oracle Talent, and I am glad to have someone to talk to again. » The Voice was warm and comforting, and the Flower Faerie could sense it was female. Behind the gentle words she could feel the awesome power it held.
“You- you are the Tree?” asks Flora, nervously.
« I am. » is the reply, with a hint of amusement. « Do not be afraid, child. I nurture and shelter all. »
“I am sorry for not making a better presentation of myself,” says the Faerie, bowing, “I am Flora of Linphea, the Faerie of Flowers. I am very glad to meet you.”
« Your arrival, and that of your friends, has been a blessing to Pixie Hollow, and on behalf of all my children I thank you. » says the Tree, and Flora can tell the sentiment is sincere.
« And I want to say thank you for saving the Winter Woods. I have been worrying over it for a long time now. It is gratifying to know the clues were still in existence, and could still be deciphered. The Winter Woods will be safe for millennia yet to come. »
“I will be sure to give your message to the others,” nods Flora. “But if I may, I need to discuss some things with you.”
« Of course, child. As Oracle that is your job. Ask what you will, » says the Voice.
Flora pauses, gathering her thoughts, then chuckles. “I am sorry. Now that I am here, speaking with you, I am not sure where to begin.”
A gentle laugh washed over her, not in ridicule, but in understanding. « Many past Oracles have expressed the same problem at first meeting. I will start, and you may ask as needed. First of all, yes I am responsible for teaching you the languages you and the others have learned. »
“I suspected as much. Thank you, it made the job much easier, and has given me and others a new appreciation for languages,” answers Flora.
“On a different subject, what would I be doing as your representative?”
« As Oracle, you will be the one to talk to me and relay my concerns and wishes to the Queen. Others who wish to consult with me will do so through you. »
“I understand why you chose me; I am a Faerie of Nature. But- ” begins Flora, but is interrupted.
« I did not choose you, child. The Oracle Talent was in you all along. The dust has awakened it, and now your role here is established. »
Flora opens her mouth to object, but realizes it must be true. Communicating as they are, they cannot lie to each other.
“I am objecting to not having a choice,” she clarifies, “I may not want to do this. I have a life in the other world. I need time to think.”
« That choice is now, always has been, and always will be, yours to make. A Talent may be used, or not used. You are free to return to the other world if you wish, or stay here and use your magic and knowledge in other ways. I am very old, Flora of Linphea, I nurture, protect, and guide, and have long since learned the un-wisdom of forcing my will upon others. »
“Thank you,” says Flora, “I will think about it. But what about the Witches? I understand their talents, but what about the wings?”
« While they slept in the Chamber of Voices, I read them and learned that all three were broken in mind and heart, and knew they would find healing and purpose here. The gift of wings will help that goal. The changes in their bodies are permanent, but if they leave, they do not have to use their wings. That is why I gave them the same kind you have. »
That answered her unspoken question. Suddenly Flora smiles. “You know what I was going to ask before I did.”
Laughter. « Of course! I could not have watched as many lives pass as I have without learning how others reason. But I also know better than to overwhelm my Oracle with too much at once. »
“That’s probably wise of you. I am a child, after all,” Flora jokes.
But the Voice becomes more serious. « Flora, you are very intelligent, and have wisdom and understanding far beyond your years. It is my hope that you will accept the role of Oracle because I have need of you. Without an Oracle it is very difficult for me to reach others. The most I can do is send an answer as a feeling, or influence a dream, and many times that is not enough. »
“But no pressure,” grinned Flora.
« No, » agreed the Tree, amused, « No pressure. »
“You said Oracle talents are rare, but I’ve gotten the impression that new Faeries are given a certain Talent to fill a need. Is that true?” asks Flora.
« Yes, mostly, » is the answer, « Through the Pixie Dust I can imbue a new Faerie with a particular Talent to maintain the balance, but it does not always work. I do not know why. For example, there may be a need for a Water Talent, but a new Art Talent appears instead. I have observed that a rare Talent appears when there is need for it, even when I am not aware of that need. »
“That explains Darcy’s Unlight Talent,” muses Flora.
« No, in her case there is a danger approaching that only a Faerie of her kind can counter. Being aware of it, I took the step to make her so. That she was instrumental in fixing the problem in the Winter Woods was coincidental. »
“A danger approaching?” asks Flora, alarmed, “What is it?”
« It is not of immediate concern, so I will not explain, yet. I do not wish to unduly influence your decisions. You and the Trix need to decide what you will do first; stay or go home. »
“But by telling me even that much you are influencing my decision,” Flora says.
« To a point, yes, » says the Tree, « But there are other factors in play of which you are yet unaware. »
The Flower Faeries is silent for a few moments. “Very well. I will trust your judgment and say nothing to them.”
« Thank you. »
“You know the three Witches are called the Trix, so I surmise you are aware of what goes on around you?” asks Flora.
Laughter. « Of course! Very little happens within the boundaries of Pixie Hollow I am not aware of. Beyond them my sight grows dim. »
“Tell me, what about someone with more than one Talent?” Flora asks, thoughtfully.
« That does happen, though very rarely, » says the Tree. « You are one. You have the Talents of both a Garden Faerie and an Oracle. »
Flora smiled a gave a chuckle. “At this point, that honestly doesn’t surprise me. Ah, I remember now what I wanted to ask; in the Winter Woods library, Leffi figured out I am a Priestess of the Linphean Nature Sect and revealed it. I was immediately hailed as your Oracle by the Pixie Hollow Faeries. Why did that happen?”
The Tree’s embarrassment was clear in her reply. « Her words triggered a… racial memory, I believe it is called, of Oracles in the distant past. It was never my intention for such a thing to exist, but it is an unavoidable effect of my influence on the Faeries made from a baby’s first laugh. »
Flora’s mind is racing. “But… if that knowledge is a racial memory, then Ishandra was right; Queen Rhianna was a Priestess!” The sudden realization of what that meant hits her like a bolt of lightning. “And you…”
« Yes, » says the Tree, « I was Rhianna. »
Flora’s eyes fly open to find the light very subdued in the Chamber of Voices. Shakily she got to her feet and lit a couple of candles on the table. Then she poured herself a cup of tea from the mechanical tea maker Tinker Bell had invented.
She sits on the mat and drinks. The hot liquid soothes her nerves as she thinks about the conversation with the Tree… no, with Rhianna. There is a lot to process.
She thinks about resuming her meditation, but feels something warm and gentle indicate she should rest now.
Finishing her tea, Flora opens the door to find a fast-flyer stationed there, half-hidden in shadow. “Zephyr? Is that you?”
“Yes, Duchess Flora, what can I do for you?” is the answer.
“Uh, what time is it?” Flora noted the yellow glow from the wood veins was bright.
“Just after sunset, Lady, and your dinner is waiting,” said Zephyr.
Another shock. It seemed like minutes, but she had spent at least four hours with the Tree! Her stomach growled, and food sounded like a very good idea.