Before the Great Wave swept across the ocean, destroying the livathi city deep beneath the green-blue waves and the ships of many a fleet, when Moorva's ships still sailed on the sea to bring battle to the strange perverse peoples of Taamahn, and before the relurim were struck from this world, there lived a merchant of pearls and jade on a small island.
Rich, he was, in coin, in land, in his dedication to the Sevenfold Method, in his beautiful ivory-skinned wife, in his eldest daughter Lihya, in his enjoyment of all things brought to him by his labor and his political acumen. His name was Dryshav Vayarhii, and Dryshav was indeed, a dhaja happy beyond measure, well-respected and wise even among the scholars of Liidhaga and Bhagada.
As scholars often do, he corresponded by messenger bird and by ship, by messengers who rode the merchanter vessels and fishing boats from the mainland of Moorva to the blue-painted walls of his village and the whitewashed gates of his estate. Oftentimes, he even corresponded with the livathi that protected his shipping interests, and they would send up great wonders of stone and worked coral from the depths of the sea.
And often too he would invite other scholars and merchants to gather at his estates, to share in the fruits of his vineyard, to enjoy the bounty of his seabound allies, to admire his daughter and wife, and to speak knowingly of classic texts on couches overlooking the sea. Long into the lanternlit night they would gather, and speak, and often, their gatherings would be spoken of in the winehouses and taverns of Liidhaga, recounted and retold, words changing and mingling, so well-regarded was their discourse
The gates of his estate were open for all who might come, passing under twining reliefs of the Muses, and so, one day it was that a rich merchanter of Liidhaga came up from the city in a strange boat of stone such as the relurim are known to make, and with him came one of their antlered kind, with skin as green as any plant, faces as drawn out as some artists might work in watercolor, and eyes glowing with a strange, otherworldly light both wise and strange.
Dryshav's estate, though blessed in coin, though fertile, though blessed with a wise owner and his beautiful wife and daughter, had never hosted such as the relur, and as the being passed with the merchant of Liidhaga, many made gestures of respect or averted their eyes, for the power and influence of the relur states and nations was well known, even in Moorva, far from the continent.
And as the hour grew late and the wine grew less watered, as Dryshav's fine ivory-skinned wife and daughter excused themselves and the debates grew passionate, the relur did not take wine, but instead, the lanterns seemed to grow bright near where it stood. It was not passionate, but spoke infrequently with such cunning insights and wise acumen that the learned scholars gathered on those couches were struck with something close to enlightenment, and feared, briefly, falling away into the foams of the sea.
The wine grew stronger, and their tongues grew loose, and it seemed there had never been such discourse as had been exchanged on the couches of Dryshav's estate that night. Wicks within lanterns did not flicker, the amphorae of liquor did not dull their wits, but instead made them swift of thought, and the relur even swifter, joining the age old sport of scholars with a strange intensity and interest.
Yet, all were mortal, even fine Dryshav, and as many retired to sleep, even he rose, and made a sign of respect to the relur, thanking him for the wisdom, and the relur bowed his antlered head very slightly and said, "Honored, I have been to be guest in your hall. I will return with the next changing of seasons to honor you in turn."
Having said this, it turned and left the room with a smoothness and grace that even a dancer of veils and swords might admire, and his companion went with him, stumbling from the wine consumed in the course of the evening.
For days and months, the tales of the discourse that night spread through Liidhaga, setting alight scholarly circles and setting debates to violence in the taverns. Whispers of wine-fueled debauchery were admired, condemned, and at last admired again. Entire arguments and new discourses were penned, debating points raised that night. Students rose and fell on the merits of their understanding of the subtle nuances born on the seaside terrace of the estate.
The seasons rise, the seasons fall, and a fast ship came on the waves from the mainland, a trading vessel. With it came a strange, soft-worked scroll of some fabric painted in glorious colors and bearing the message of the relur. It regretted, in beautifully formed Moorvic, the absence of its author, and offered up recompense in the form of three pitted seeds like those of peaches and a beautifully worked pin for the stola of Dryshav's daughter.
The merchant could hardly be displeased with this, or his reputation amidst his peers in the merchanting and scholarly circles of Liidhaga, and so, he framed the beautiful message, gave over the pin to beautiful Lihya, and planted the pits in the bountiful soil of his estate with all due haste.
Seasons passed as his daughter gained in beauty and Dryshav's reputation grew in stature, his merchanter fleets growing thicker with ships, his scholarly commentary growing increasingly more influential. The seeds in the garden sprouted not at all the first year, were saplings the second, and by the third, were two handspans thick and spreading wide, heavy branches over the soft dirt.
The trees grew fast and thick, but the blossoms were few. As the trees grew, their roots writhed fast under the soil, taking their feed from the rich loam of the island. And the beautiful ivory-skinned wife of Dryshav Vayarhii, out practicing her calisthenics and the tracing of philosophical patterns in the soil turned first her ankle the wrong way on the twining roots and then, unluckily, her neck, falling dead to the ground in the leaf-thick grove.
Dryshav Vayarhii wept, Dryshav Vayarhii grieved, Dryshav Vayarhii was no longer a happy man, and the scholars gathered, honoring the fine white skin of his wife and her wisdom, which matched almost that of her husband. There was no discourse, but there was much wine in the honoring of her name. Seven days passed in which the skilled hands of alchemists wrapped her in precious resins and bandages and placed her in a stone catacomb beneath the earth, with a finely-carved marker above.
They buried her in the grove, and as Dryshav Vayarhii wept, the first blossoms of the trees rained down from above, pale pink and ivory falling on his fine robes and her spire. And in them, Dryshav found a measure of comfort. Amongst them, he could forget his pain some, and so he did.
The trees bore no fruit that year.
Neither did they wither, for it seemed they grew thicker, and the fortunes of Dryshav, but for his wife, remained as fine, if he himself seemed sadder and older and slower now. And in the spring, his daughter Lihya drew the eye of a beautiful young man, a painter of tiles and a scholar of mathematics, the son of a prominent Liidhaga merchant.
And Dryshav could smile again, For she, in a fine white sari embroidered in silver and blue birds, was courted with eloquent verse, with gifts of flowers, and lovely jewelry from afar. Lihya, though beautiful, was a shrewd and complex woman, and not given to love, and she returned the love of the painter-scholar with a joy scarcely matched by that of her father, who despaired of grandchildren to spoil and pass a legacy to.
For all of spring, the boats of the painter-scholar's father carried him or his messages and gifts to beautiful Lihya. Lovely, Lihya, whose features favored her tragic mother. Lithe Lihya, whose eyes were modest and cast upon the texts in her father's archives. Fine Lihya, who was a scholar herself, and, if only in age, did not yet equal her father's wit.
In the quickening of summer, the love grew passionate, and she would lie with her love beneath the white and pink blossoms of the trees, and they would speak of marriage and fleet and fast ships, and speak verses to each other. Truly, as the epitome of the Sevenfold Method is dissolution into the sea, so did they dissolve into each other, the seafoam in their veins fast and swift and rushing like the waves.
One day, as she wandered alone in summer, between the thick trunks of the trees, she glanced up and saw the first fruit of the trees, a single ivory and pink globe hanging low between the forking branches.
She reached up and smiled and pulled it down, inhaling the sweet fragrance of the fruit. Lihya, the fine daughter of Dryshav pressed the ripe flesh with her fingers. She tested it for poisons with her scholar's know-how. It seemed, as she breathed the hot scent of the fruit, that it kindled the memories of her lover, who was to come that day across the waves from far Liidhaga. Without a second thought, she pulled it from the stem and sunk her teeth into the soft flesh.
It was like the first taste of cider, like the shock of distilled liquors to the veins, like the sweetness of her true love's kiss. So wondrous was the fruit that she fancied she heard the music of instruments on the summer breeze, that she felt the brush of flower petals across her skin, that she had fallen in love once more.
It was there that her love found her, licking the juice from her fingers with a faraway, dreaming look, eyes upraised to the golden sunlight falling through the leaves of the grove.
He rushed to take her in his arms with all the ardor of a young man, and she cried out in shock and struck him.
"Lihya, my heart!" he said. "Do you not know your own love?"
"I love no man," she cried out. "I do not know your face, nor do I ever wish to again!"
Her words were passionate and piercing, and her eyes, as she gazed upon him, were cold and and hard like those of a statue.
He stumbled then, stammering and weeping, but she stood firm, and he fled, cursing and crying out her name, and he did not stop until he had reached the cliffs of the island, where he then flung himself over and into the ocean waves.
He passed her father, who rushed to the grove and asked her: "Lihya, your love goes rushing and crying! What has happened?"
"Love? I know no love!" she replied haughtily. "A man I did not know came upon me and forced himself on my lips and I struck him as any decent woman would!"
He blanched then, to see the juice on her lips and the strange look in her eyes. "You were to marry," he said, mournfully. "What has happened?"
"Oh father, I do not know, but I have only been eating the sweet fruit of the grove," she said, smiling at him.
Such was the power of that fruit, then, and in the morning when the body washed in with the catch of fish, there was a great mourning, and Lihya, the ivory-skinned daughter of Dyshrav sat confused and unweeping at his burial. And whispers began to spread of the cruel daughter of Dyshrav Vayarhii who drove a man to die, and the unlucky grove that bore strange fruit in his estate.
His fortunes waned some, then, whether through rumors or grief, and Dyshrav Vayarhii spent much coin on alchemists and philosophers, all striving to restore the memories of the lovely Lihya, all seeking to study where her memory might have gone. Some swore it had evaporated into the aether; others said it was seafoam. Some theorized a brainstorm had come upon her, striking her mad or striking her senses, but to no avail, for her powers of deduction remained as strong and her scholarly insights as sharp.
Her love was merely gone from her mind as easily as images in sand are wiped away by the sea.
Dyshrav Vayarhii wept, Dyshrav Vayarhii raged, Dyshrav Vayarhii mourned.
He sent message upon message to the relur, begging for aid, begging for a cure for his daughter, but there was no response. Two seasons passed and the tree bore no more fruit. His beautiful daughter Lihya was wise and swift, but none would court the woman who drove a man to suicide, nor would she be countenanced by the villagers on the isle, for they called her unlucky and many other things besides. Dyshrav Vayarhii wept, for he would never see grandchildren, or his daughter happy.
In the third season, the trees flowered beautifully and bore fruit, and as Dyshrav Vayarhii wandered among the branches, he was filled with despair amidst the scent of the blossoms.
And standing amidst the grove, he picked one fruit after another and devoured them, consumed in the memories of his wife, of the grandchildren he would never bear, of the discourse he would never enjoy, of the sweet wine, of the beautiful days in which his estate, his spirit, his family, his daughter were whole and inviolate and his words were respected in the streets of far Liidhaga.
As he ate, memory after memory slipped away, and two dozen pits accumulated around his feet, picked clean of flesh. Finally, he sat down with his back against his wife's marker, smiling into the sunlight.
They found him there like an idiot, drooling upon the stone images of bird swooping low over the foam-crested waves, and his daughter cried out in horror, and the philosophers and alchemists labored over him, but there was no restoring what had been taken from Dyshrav Vayarhii.
In a season, he even forgot how to breathe, and he passed, smiling ignorantly, into a warm summer night scented with wine and peaches.
Five years passed. They buried him beside his wife under the same marker.
Five years, and the roots tangled deep in the soil, choking out the vineyards.
Five years and as the stories spread, the villagers fled the isle and the interests of Dyshrav Vayarhii grew less and less powerful and Lihya Vayarhii lived alone in the once glorious estate as it faded slowly into nothing and as the grove grew taller and even more beautiful. Each year now, the trees flowered, filling the isle with soft breezes filled with white and pink blossoms, and she shut herself away, weeping for the memories she would never possess, weeping for the father she remembered all too well.
Finally, one day, as she sat weeping in the grove, a strange ship of stone came sailing to the ruined docks of the island, and a strange, antlered figure came up the path and walked beneath the cracking gate of the estate.
One day, as she sat weeping in the grove the relur came up the path and through the thick-trunked trees and their strange, fallow children, and asked her where Dyshrav Vayarhii was, for there was discourse he wished from the wise dhaja.
"Dyshrav Vayarhii is dead!" Lihya cried out. "Your trees have taken both my mother and my father from me, and there will be no discourse in the estates of Vayarhii! You, who are so strange and powerful, you must amend this!"
The relur replied that he could not raise the dead, for such was beyond his arts. "Any boon," it promised, "is yours. Any treasure I may deliver. The debt will not go unpaid."
Lihya wept, Lihya raged, Lihya cursed it, and it stood, unmoved as the trees, and as uncaring, and finally she demanded, "Take away the pain of my mother, of my father, and the memories you have taken from me! Make it as if the love I forgot never ran from the cliff and my name was never stained! Take the hurting from my heart and I will forgive you, monster!"
The antlered head nodded, the eyes glowed with soft compassion. A wind stirred the blossoms, sending petals in a cascade of scent and sweetness across the grove.
With a graceful, flowing hand, it reached into the canopy, and picked a fruit of ivory and pink and offered it to Lihya Vayarhii.