The Ulterior Pool
~The Ulterior Pool~
The pale green light shone down thru the leaf canopy ceiling of Analeise’s tree top room as the sun began to rise. Analeise’s eyes flew open as the pale green light flooded into her dreams, to bright to be early morning. If it were mid-morning like she feared, she was going to be late. Gracefully she leapt from bed and rushed to the dresser. Pulling out a long sleeved, V-necked, fleece blouse of dark green and a dark brown, ankle length, leather skirt, she slipped them on and rushed to the mirror. As Analeise approached the mirror she saw her eyes change from black to the same dark green as her shirt, her eyes always changed color either to her clothes or her mood. Quickly she ran a soft brush thru her long silky hair and took a moment to stare at her reflection. In the mirror stood the tall woman who was so skinny her flesh seemed more like a thin sheet to cover her bones, joints sticking out oddly. Her kind was known for having pale skin but her skin wasn’t pale, it looked like white marble. The colorless skin was not helped by the silk like, midnight black hair that flowed from her scalp down to her knees and it definitely wasn’t helped by her always changing, always bright eyes. But even though she wasn’t the usual fairness of her kind, she was far more beautiful then the rest. Unfortunately the men of her village were not allowed to court her for she was an unspoken outcast.
“No time to weave chamomile flowers into my locks now.” she sighed while running her long bony fingers thru her hair and tucking a lock out of the way of her face, revealing one of her pointy elf ears. With a finger she traced along the smooth notches in her ear, then rushed out the door. Sprinting through the kitchen she grabbed a pear and dodged her mother’s glare “You are going to be late for your own hearing.” her mother snarled. “No I won’t. I’m leaving now, see?” Analeise replied as she sprinted out the door. “What about your chores? Analeise!” Analeise was already running down the wooden staircase that spiraled down the trunk of her tree home. “I’ll do them when I return. I will!” she yelled over her shoulder. Jumping the last five steps she landed lightly on the lush green grass and dashed away toward the Auld Tree. Running thru the forest of tree homes and uphill she finally stopped just in front of the Auld Tree’s two great doors.
The Auld Tree was the largest in the village; it was where the Elder Ones, the village leaders, met to discuss matters. Today, they would be deciding whether or not Analeise would be permitted to go to the Ulterior Pool. The Ulterior Pool was what decided the future of a person in the village; it decided if a boy would be a carpenter or a soldier, a blacksmith or a healer, or another of the various duties to be carried by men. It also decided what level housemaid a girl would be. The Ulterior Pool never gave anything more than the job of a housewife to the women; only once had it ever chosen a woman for a soldier. Analeise was almost certain that the Elder Ones would permit her early acceptance to the Pool, everyone in the village despised Analeise and there was nothing they wanted more then to put her at the front of the oncoming battle so as to be rid of her.
Placing a hand on each of the two intricately carved wood doors, Analeise pushed them open and started walking down the cool hallway that was dimly lit by candlelight. “The way I see it Analeise,” Clayen had said just the day before “the Pool chooses not just by capabilities but by characteristics. I know you’ll be a soldier and a fine one at that.” Analeise smiled at the memory of her best friend encouraging her yesterday when she had confided in him. As she was thinking about Clayen, she had run up three flights of stairs to the Great Hall. Standing just outside the Great Hall she took a deep breath and let herself inside. She was right on time. The Elder Ones had already seated themselves at the podium like desk that made a half-moon shape around the edge of the round room. Analeise glided to the tall backed chair that sat at the room’s center and seated herself as the Elder Ones shuffled papers lazily before the meeting started.
Finally the head of the elves looked up from his now neat papers and cleared his throat. With a tap of his gavel he said, “This Council of the Elder Ones have been made to meet this day concerning the affairs of Analeise Ellanor Ilianlandol.”Analeise sat erect in her chair with an air of confidence about her. The head elf of the Elder Ones curled his upper lip slightly in disgust at the young she-elf and then continued, “The matter of discussion?” he asked, not because he didn’t already know but so the meeting could be conducted properly. A male elf in flowing purple robes, matching that of the other Elder Ones’ robes, stood up and rolled out a piece of parchment from which he read: “Analeise, daughter of Celedrell of the house of Anadathin comes before the Council of the Elder Ones this day seeking an early right of entry to the Ulterior Pool.” the elf sat back down and the Council whispered a collective moan. The council secretary took roll of attendance to check for a quorum in case of a vote. All the council was in attendance. Of course they were, these pompous “leaders” had nothing better to do. There was some more rustling and weight shifting before the head elder spoke again. “As law states, elves must have reached their 400th year of life before gaining access to the Ulterior Pool. Once the age of 400, said elf must then go forth to the Pool unaccompanied. The Ulterior Pool then symbolizes to said elf what they are to become, what position they shall hold in life”. The council nodded in agreement to the summary of their law. “Asking for early admission to the Pool is a very serious matter.” As the head elder said this he turned back to Analeise. “This matter will not be taken lightly.” Another of the elders stood and read a list concerning Analeise’s standing in their community. “Fourth and youngest child of “Commanding Officer to the Queen” Celedrell. Current age is 352. Unmarried. No past service to her community. She has rumors of being mischievous. No societal ranking.” It was a short list because of her young age but it could have been worse. The head elder spoke again “There’s never been an elf who accessed the Pool with such low standings. Your young age strongly influences this.” Analeise tried not to roll her eyes. Age, of course, wasn’t really the only thing affecting her eligibility. The council, along with the rest of the village, didn’t like Analeise. She was too different. She looked like an elf, moved like an elf, but she didn’t act the way proper female elves were to act. She didn’t hesitate to make a public stand for what she believed in. She voiced her opinions about the wars and other matters. She wasn’t as quiet as she should have been for a woman.
The council had still been talking, what had they said? Analeise was too busy fuming to pay attention. They were discussing something along the lines of her ability to be responsible. “...Never before.” Said one woman of the council. “Don’t forget the time she...” added another male council member. “Let’s not get into any more stories of the past.” Cut in the head elder. “Obviously, Analeise, you don’t have the needed years of wisdom and you are lacking in responsibility and social standing. In order for someone to be accepted for early eligibility they must be an outstanding individual with good reason for early access.” Analeise’s stomach churned, this was it, the refusal. “With the facts before us, the matter shall go to vote. Shall or shall not Analeise Ellanor Ilianlandol have early access to the Ulterior Pool?”
What a waste of a perfect morning.
Analeise walked slowly down the wooded path, bathed in emerald green light. That doomed conclusion had nothing to do with eligibility; it was all about being the unspoken outcast. Analeise was deep in thought as she strode down the small-unused path. The only claims brought to the council were false rumors of things she had been suspected of doing. None of the good things she had actually done were brought to attention; like the fire forty years ago that took place in the cavalry captain’s house while his little boy and wife were home. Analeise had gone into the burning home and saved the little boy from the flames licking at his bedchamber door. That wasn’t what was remembered about the fire though; the only thing anyone ever seemed to remember was the screams of the mother whom Analeise was unable to save. Two male elves had gone into the burning house with Analeise the second time but of course Analeise was blamed for the mother’s death. Nobody could have helped that woman. “Yet the council had nerve to say I’ve never done anything for my community! The little boy lived because of my help.” Analeise murmured.
All to soon it seemed, Analeise found herself arriving at her home. No, not home, house. Home was a place where a family lived who loved every member of the family. Nothing existed under that roof. A family only by blood lived in this house. Not a home, a house. Analeise did not wish to go in just yet and have to deal with the gloats of her mother about the outcome of the hearing so she went instead to the stables. Walking into the stable, Analeise was met by the warm scent of oats, barley, hay, and horse fur. She was greeted by the whinnies of the horses residing inside. One by one she fed each of the six horses, cleaned their buckets and gave them fresh water, mucked out the stalls, provided fresh bedding, and groomed each horse. One of the seven stalls was empty because her horse was out to pasture. Analeise put up the last of the grooming equipment and then climbed up to the stable’s hayloft. She sat down in a fluff of hay and let out a disappointed sigh. Analeise lay surrounded in the soft warm hay and tried to ignore her tension, focusing instead on the prickly hay strands tickling her bare arms and neck. Closing her eyes and breathing in the rich scent of timothy hay always helped to clear her mind. As her world and its frustrations started to melt away temporarily, the chime of glass bells suddenly interrupted her. Time had slipped away from her and now the evening meal was ready. The family would all be home soon.
Analeise reluctantly hefted herself off of the soft hay patch and slid down the rails of the loft ladder, landing on the ground with a light thud. Leaving the warmth and comfort of the barn, she glided up the wooden staircase of her house. She opened the front door and, without surprise, was immediately met with the unpleased tone of her mother. “Nice of you to finally return home. Have you finished your chores?” Analeise gave a sharp nod as she moved next to her mother to wash her hands at the kitchen basin. She could feel the hard stare of her mother on her as she lathered the soap across her hands and created slippery foam. “The table is ready to set and the evening meal ready to serve yet here you are covered in stable filth and hay strands sticking out of your hair like a beast of the field! Over 300 years and you still have absolutely no mannerisms of a true elven lady! The men will be here soon, go make yourself presentable before you serve!” Analeise whisked away to her room where she picked the hay from her hair and changed into an old pale blue blouse and white cotton skirt.
She returned to the kitchen just in time to set the table as the men of the family came in for the meal. First and foremost came her father, Celedrell - tall and lean with an aggressive look in his smoke grey eyes and an air of authority openly displayed on his sharp elven features. Behind him followed Celebriul, the oldest of the children, built most like his father but with shining hazel eyes. Then followed Celestion, the second oldest child, thin but slightly shorter than the two before him, with skin the color of pale bronze and eyes a shade of glassy green so deep they could be compared to the leaves of a great oak tree. Lastly, the third oldest child swept through the door. Kalebron was tall and heavily muscled from years of working as a blacksmith. While the other three men all had marvelous golden locks of hair flowing down past their waists, Kalebron had short-cropped hair the same jet black as Analeise. His eyes were so dark blue that it was like looking into the storm clouds immediately after the strike of a bolt of lightning – when the only sign left of the lightning is the fading dark blue hue that outlines where the bolt once traveled. A strong jawline and high cheek bones perfectly captured his tough character and was highlighted by small scars running up and down his hands and arms from scalding hot embers hitting against him as he formed his metal works.
Although Analeise didn’t get along well with this blood family, she had more of a connection with Kalebron than anyone else in the household. Kalebron was like a silent male replica of her in personality. As the men seated themselves, Analeise worked her way around the table filling their plates and then her mother’s plate. She put a small portion of the meal on her own plate and then sat down. The first few minutes of the meal was eaten in utter silence. Finally, Celedrell addressed Analeise. “Word has already spread of the Council’s rejection of your request.” Analeise finished her mouthful of food before replying “I assumed as much. Word always travels faster for private matters than public ones.” Analeise’s mother, Kaleria, shot her a glare. Kaleria was an extreme loyalist to the elven government. “Regardless,” continued Celedrell, “I advised you not to proceed with this request. Now you can suffer the shame of your decision.” The remainder of the meal was spent in more silence.
When the meal was finally finished, Analeise retreated to her room and thought once again of her day’s events. All at once the tension returned to her. She sat down on the edge of her bed but had her attention drawn to the balcony suddenly when she was a slight shadow dance across her wind blown curtains. Kalebron crossed the room in three swift strides and sat next to her on the bed. “Good evening dearest and only true brother.” Analeise greeted in a melancholy tone. “The evening is yours, fair sister.” Came his deep voiced reply. “How so, Kalebron? I think that perhaps after the day’s events, I’d rather give my evening to someone else less it be filled with more ill than the morn and afternoon.” Kalebron pulled his legs up onto the bed and crossed them underneath him as he sat. “Analeise, you know just as well as I and probably Clayen, that the ancient history of the Ulterior Pool was not one where elven members were limited by a council but by the Pool’s own judgment. Elven law enacted the age restriction but the Pool follows no rules but its own.” He advised.
“Our community is currently ruled by a government bloated by its own corruptness.” Analeise sighed. “I’ve never heard a more absolute statement of our active government. But no matter how they rule, they can not truly keep anyone from seeking ranking from the Pool.” Analeise thought about Kalebron’s words for a moment. “If it appoints me a simple housemaid, I’ll have yet another shame to live with. One that I can’t escape from because the position doesn’t provide an escape from this community like the position of a soldier does.” She spoke her worries aloud. “Since when has the fair rebel Analeise been a respecter of the ill will of others?” he asked. Analeise rose from the bed and approached the mirror by her washbasin. She looked thoughtlessly into the reflection of her own eyes until Kalebron’s reflection moved in behind her. He placed a hand on her shoulder, which she laid her cheek against. The warmth and strength of his hand combined with the scent of metal and ash comforted her. “A community, a world, doesn’t change until the people in it begin changing.” Said Kalebron. His reflection retreated from the mirror and he silently disappeared out of the open balcony.
His words resonated deep within her mind and sparked a new courage that seeped deep into her bones. Taking a knife from the basin table, she drew her hair into her free hand and cut it off at the base of her skull. The now shortened locks fell around her pointed ears and outlined her jaw. Her true brother had given her what she needed to press on; her shortened hair was a simple yet sure reminder of him to her.
The dark blue sky was streaked with dark purple and splashed with countless shimmering stars. The crisp night air nipped at Analeise’s skin as she made her way silently and undetected to the far side of the community. Creeping past each tree that housed elven families and past the Auld Tree, she could see the leaf covered path that stretched into the woods. Swiftly, she followed the path through the woods with no more than stars and the path’s outline of glowing mushrooms to see by. The gold and blue mushrooms glowed softly and cast slight shadows on the path as Analeise stirred up fallen leaves while she walked.
A few miles into the wood, she finally approached a great willow tree. It was the largest willow known in the world. Its thick roots dug deep into the earth to support its massive trunk, which bowed over a creek and reached its vine-like branches towards the ground. Its pale green leaves helped the branches create a curtain around the tree as if to conceal its secrets. Analeise inhaled more of the crisp night air and pushed aside branches so she could pass through. She slowly, respectfully walked closer to the trunk of the tree and kneeled at its base. Her soft hand caressed one of the great roots by an opening. Analeise slid into the opening between the roots and landed gently in the underground area of the tree. The dark area quivered with the crystalline blue glow of the water trickling into the Ulterior Pool. The reflection danced along the underside of the tree as the clear, perfect water of the Pool sat in its wooden basin formed by smaller tree roots.
As Analeise drew closer to the Pool she could see her reflection moving in the mesmerizing water. Placing her hands on the edge of the basin she leaned down and stared at her reflection. Stared through her reflection. The Pool was deep and wide and had appointed many great leaders and soldiers before her time. Life changed after the Ulterior Pool. “But the world won’t change until the people in it change.” Analeise reminded herself aloud. Humbly, she cupped her hands into the cold water and brought it to her lips. Her community was nestled in a generally peaceful and healthy forest that was rich in agriculture and aquaculture. The resources from her area had no comparison from other areas of the country. But never before had Analeise tasted anything as pure and fresh as the Pool’s water. There were no words in any language that could express the feeling that rushed over her, through her and settled into every fiber of her being. Suddenly, the water began to change before her. It clouded over light grey and a thick, black single word began to form in the center of the Pool. A word that had never before been given by the Ulterior Pool in its entire history appeared. A position never assigned before.