The Grey Marsh  -  Day 8 - Meeting the Goblin Queen

This has been the longest day of my life. The culmination of all my wandering and study has led me here to meet again with Ieya, my love. She is changed, but not in the way I had feared. It is far stranger than anything I could have imagined, and the reality I face now challenges so many things I had assumed to be true - about the Gloom, about the Brightsong, about goblins. I will do my best to recount the events as they happened.

The goblins escorted me to the tower - a bizarre mixture of tree and stone, it seems to exist in defiance of the laws of nature, as if a tree had grown up inside the tower, and instead of breaking it apart, it absorbed the stone and steel and glass into itself. The mighty doorway stood open, and there, her skin glowing bright in the sunset, stood Ieya.

I didn't know what to do. I was frozen with fear and confusion. She looked so different, like the tower and the goblins, she seemed to have been merged with the surrounding natural elements and no longer resembled the eesheeya girl I met in the mountains. Now she stood almost as tall as myself and from her head grew a crown resembling antlers, covered with flowering moss. Her eyes glowed with the same light as the setting sun and her colourful clothing, woven from nature's bounty, hung in regal folds over her slender body. The goblins approached and knelt before her, offering up their hands for her to touch. She looked down at them, nodding as she gently brushed their fingertips with her own. The goblins then entered the tower, leaving Ieya and myself alone.

I... I began, needing to fill the silence somehow, but Ieya lifted her finger to her lips, and, stepping forward, took my hand in hers. She was warm, her skin was soft and when she looked into my eyes I felt exactly as I had done twenty years ago. All my pain and grief were forgotten and all I felt was love and excitement and relief to be in her presence.

Let me show you something, she said. Her voice ran like water down my spine and my skin tingled with pleasure at the sound. Entranced, I floated behind her as she led me into the darkened interior of the tower, and up a spiral staircase to the very top. The tower was unremarkable inside, other than its incredible size, it was just like the interior of any hollow tree, unadorned, unmarked by working hands, save for the staircase made of stone.

When we stood at the top of the tower, Ieya held me, wrapping her arms around me and squeezing me with an expression of longing that mirrored my own. I held her there, my face pressed against her neck, drinking in the perfume of her hair and skin. We both began to cry and Ieya lifted her face to look me in the eye.

Please... she said, gesturing that I should look around.

I had travelled for days in the swamp, only ever seeing its parts. From the tower I could now see the whole blessed valley. All the rivers and streams, glimmering in the orange sunset light, flowed in from the hills around to drain into the earth around the base of the tower. The trees and bushes and flowers and grasses suddenly could be seen not as the random growth of nature asserting itself over a wild land, but as the carefully curated and cultivated garden of a great and wondrous mind. Flowers of complementing colour grew in swaths along river banks. Trees bearing fruit and trees bearing flowers grew in patterned clusters creating a visual kaleidoscope of ripening abundance.

I looked back at Ieya, who had not wiped away her tears, but who had let them fall upon her cheeks with joy, and where they fell, I saw tiny sprouts of coloured moss grow and flower. Her beauty increased with every drop of salt water that fell from her eyes that now changed colour with the fading twilight. Like twin moons, her eyes pulled me into her embrace once again. Let me stay here forever, I thought in silence. Yes, my love, I heard Ieya's thoughts penetrate my mind.

What is going on here, my love? I thought.

It is a secret, she replied.

Ta