Although I saw no other fey on my journey to the home of Monohan, I did behold the phenomenal beauty of the forest, brilliant with light and flushed with color, truly a wonder of nature rarely glimpsed by human eyes.
The old man called out certain areas to me as we passed by them or over them. Root Path, Copper Stream, Satyr Stump, Fallen Tree, and others. But I paid little attention to the names. Instead, I concentrated solely on observing all I could. I wanted to hold tightly to these beguiling visions of woodland splendor and the broad spectrum of color that no painter could ever hope to reproduce.
My body felt young again, and my energy seemed infinite, despite how far we had walked. The complaints of old bones were gone, replaced by vigor and determination.
The home of Monohan was hollowed out of a huge and ancient tree, easily fifteen feet across the trunk. The bark was rough and gray. A mass of thick branches reached high into the sky and across the earth, but bore no leaves.
I saw no entrance to the tree at first, but the outline of a door appeared when the old man knocked upon the thick bark. The door, a section of tree as tall as Monohan and myself, slowly swung open of its own accord, and the old man bade me enter.
“This tree was once mighty and powerful, long ago,” Monohan explained, as I stepped into the tree. “But, as with all things, his time was soon to pass, and when I happened upon him, I asked if he would share with me the space within his giant form, so that I may have a home.”
Remarkably large yet equally cozy, the hollow of the tree was yet another sight to take my breath away.
It was as if a storybook image had come to life before my eyes. All of the furniture that lay within; the large table, the chairs, the shelves and cabinets, and the narrow stairway that wound its way to another floor higher in the tree – they all appeared to be fashioned from the substance of the tree itself. In fact, the legs of the table sprouted from the floor as though they had been grown, as did the railing on the stairs and the stairs themselves. The floor was smooth and solid, and detailed the pattern of the tree’s long life.
“The tree obliged me,” Monohan continued, motioning me to be seated at the table. “I have lived here ever since, long after the tree gave its final breath to the sky.”
Lavish tapestries adorned the walls, depicting images of elves and fairies and other creatures I did not immediately recognize. A small fire blazed at the opposite end of the hollow tree in a small enclosure, with the smoke dwindling up into an unseen chimney within the outer shell of the trunk.
The scent of herbal incense also hung heavy in the air. I found it all very pleasant and soothing, and immediately felt at home within the tree.
Monohan leaned his staff against the wall and proceeded to take a small teapot off a shelf, and hang it from an iron hook, suspended over the fire. “Blackberry tea is best served hot.”
As the old man busied himself with the teapot, I took in some of the finer details of his home. Strange runes and symbols were impressed within the inner shell of the tree and along the table, reminiscent of Celtic design.
Various nooks and flat protrusions in the tree formed crude shelves, on which all manner of items were stored. Small candles placed thereabouts further illuminated the inside of the tree, casting the hollow in an amber light.
My eyes wandered over the tapestries, and I took notice of a small representation depicting a tall, thin being that I first thought to be an elf, but something told me that despite the elfin features, this fey was something different. He stood within a ring of other creatures, and possessed a regal look. His stance set him apart from the depictions of the other fey that regarded him. They seemed awed yet warmed by his presence. A subtle smile on the central fey’s lips revealed a multitude of characteristics; kindness, understanding, strength, confidence, and more. I do not know how I was able to discern all that from the tapestry, and Monohan interrupted any further thoughts of it.
He sat himself down across from me. I noticed then that Cluny was gone. He must have flown off at some point during the walk, but I was too lost in the wonders that surrounded me to have noticed.
“Now, while that tea is getting hot, let’s talk.” He clasped his hands in front of him.
“Alright,” I said. “Why have I been brought here then?”
The old man’s face brightened, and he smiled. “Ah, good lad, now you are asking the right questions.” He paused, and then grew very serious.
“You’ve been brought here,” he said, “to tell the tales of Tanglewood.”
He smiled again, but I was merely confused.
“You don’t look pleased,” he said.
“I don’t know what you mean,” I replied.
“You are a writer, aren’t you?”
“Yes. Well, I mean, I used to be.”
“Nonsense! There is no such thing as used-to-be. You are a writer, whether it has been ten minutes or ten years since you’ve picked up a pen. Look there, on the shelf.” He pointed.
The shelf he indicated held a large stack of parchment, and several quills and bottles of ink.
“They are yours,” he continued. “To write the tales of Tanglewood.”
He said this matter-of-factly, as though everything should have been understood.
The old man spoke. “Much has happened in the ‘wood these many years past. Much that needs telling. It has been my charge to record the events of the ‘wood and instill them within the Well of Knowledge, but I have fallen behind in my task, as I was busy with other matters, and will soon be called away again. So I entrust this chore to you. You need to write, and the ‘wood needs a suitable scribe.”
He rose from the table and proceeded to take two wooden mugs from a small nook.
“I wrote stories,” I explained. “Fiction. And sometimes newspaper articles. But I was never a famous writer. Why me?”
“Why? Because you believe. And also, because when you wrote, you wrote from the heart. You wrote with feelings and emotion. You let it flow from your heart and soul, to your pen, to the paper. You have a magic in you that can manifest itself in the words you write, should you choose to let it out.”
“Magic? I don’t think so. I imagine I would have been more successful as a writer if that were true.”
“You were not meant to write for the ‘kynney deiney’. You were meant to write for the ‘wood. Until now, your magic has been suppressed. Here in the ‘wood, it can be free.”
Monahan rose from the table but continued talking. “You feel it now, don’t you? You feel it stirring in your heart, like a sleeping beast that has been dreaming for very, very long, and is only now opening its eyes to a new world. No doubt there is a flurry of words and sentences and descriptive passages already forming quite a storm in your head.”
Monohan removed the teapot from the hook, and poured each of us a steaming mug of dark purplish tea. The sweet scent of blackberries and various other spices wafted through the hollow of the tree. It smelled absolutely heavenly as I breathed in deep the steam that rose from within the mug.
“Not just anyone can write these tales,” he continued, seating himself at the table again. “But you have always been a Soul of the ‘Wood, even if you were never actually in the ‘wood”
“Soul of the ‘Wood?”
The old man looked at me, his eyebrows furrowed. “You like repeating after me, don’t you? Well, to answer your question, a Soul of the ‘Wood is one who has always believed, one who has always had the wild spirit of nature contained within. You are at peace in the forest, and a friend to animals. You find the beauty in nature, and your soul is open to the magic of the world. That, my good man, is a Soul of the ‘Wood. Now, drink your tea.”
I did, and the sweet-hot liquid was like nothing I’d ever tasted. Its warmth enveloped me in a comforting embrace, while my senses were affected by a rushing wave of sprightly exuberance.
Tasting of ripe blackberries, woody herbs and sharp spices, I felt as though the spirit of the ‘wood itself was contained within this magical elixir.
It tasted familiar. It tasted like home, a home I had never seen, but at last returned to.
My mind was a flurry of ideas, and I looked at the parchment and quills, suddenly eager to begin work on these tales of the ‘wood.
I had denied myself the comfort and thrill of writing for far too long.
“These stories, these tales of Tanglewood you wish me to write,” I said, taking another healthy sip. “Who will tell them to me?”
Monohan sipped his own tea and smiled.
“Listen to the trees, my friend. The trees will tell you the stories, and perhaps much more.”
I listened, and the whispering wind rustled the leaves of the trees. The very air had found a voice, deep and ancient. There were no clear words, but rather a weighty moaning that penetrated my mind. From this engrossing chant I could discern a meaning.
Behind my eyes, I beheld new images of the ‘wood, places I had never been to, and strange creatures I had never seen.
The voice of the ‘wood suffused itself into my soul with startling intensity. It spoke as though it were just another part of myself, familiar yet detached, muted as though immersed under water, a rumbling echo within a deep cavern.
The great trees had witnessed much in their millennia, and had an abundance of stories to tell. But they chose to speak to me first of a little boy named Colin, who reminded me much of myself when I was his age.
But Colin had found Tanglewood much faster, much easier than I did…
For more information regarding the fantasy series, The Tales of Tanglewood, please visit the website to learn more about Colin and the other characters in the 'wood, and to download a sample of the first few chapters of each book for free.