The Fern Sleep by Eskiworks

The Fern Sleep

Eskiworks

9 November 2014 at 17:05:57 MST

I was lucky enough to be commissioned for this piece by a wonderful patron, someone who has been there to support some of the bigger personal illustrations I've made in the past, RalenFox! Thanks to Ralen I was able to create this piece to show this moment in Nym's life, when everything changes for her. I was waiting to upload this piece so I could flesh out some details. Originally I was going to write more, but I decided on paring it down to a single page story vignette, keeping the details a bit more vague. This moment is the beginning of the story I've come to dub "TeaFeathers", the world for which I am continuing to build! You can read more about TeaFeathers in a tumblr I've set aside for the very purpose of world building - http://tea-feathers.tumblr.com/

The Beginning

"Nym knew death well, the sting of loss was familiar. Her last surviving grandparent passed on when she was a young kit, it was the first time she fully understood the empty space a loved one leaves behind. Not too many years after, a friend of hers died trying his first flight too early. His young wings unable to support him, he plummeted clumsily to the canyon floor to his end. She had also seen patients die in her mother's healing room on a few occasions; people she had seen around the village, friends of friends. There are no true strangers in such a small town. It is in the nature of a living things to end, whether through the gradual degrading of the body or by succumbing to one of the many dangers of the world. But this loss shook her in a way no previous death had. This one had spirited away with a piece of her soul upon departure, leaving her a half empty.

She tried to be present for her grieving family, to gather together in the way Alecani do when someone they love dies. They needed her more than ever right now. Yet she found herself drifting, not fully feeling the grief. Just letting her mind pass into a numbness she could not fully describe. She would see her family members cry, watch them leave with offerings for the grave, but she was unable to shed any tears. Not being able to share in mourning, she felt she was hurting her family in some way. She felt herself a burden.

One early morning before the sun came up, Nym quietly left. She did not plan her departure, she did not know where she was going or how long she would be gone. She left no note, and took no belongings. Pushing off the stone porch, her wings spread, she felt the cool morning air fill her lungs. She relished the sensation of the soothing coolness filling her chest and chilling her throat. Onward over the endless horizon, she pushed her body past her breaking point. She focused on the feeling of burning in her flight muscles, the tightness in her chest as she struggled to breathe. The landscape was a blur, she paid no mind to the passing hours as she ventured on. How long had she been flying? How far had she come?

At some point in her seemingly endless flight, the tears finally came. She sobbed and sobbed, tears staining her face, the light of a new morning sun catching them in a glint as drifted away from her. All strength left her body as she descended into the verdant forest below, breaking the canopy and finding herself beneath the branches of a vast tree. She wept into the roots, little spirits gathering to touch the places the tears soaked into the moss. The sounds of her grief echoed pitifully into the old grove. Distant deer turned an ear to listen, birds ceased to sing, and the little spirits gathered in number around her. Their light faded as they took on her grief as their own, being empathic creatures. It seemed like the whole forest was weeping with her.

The weight of Nym's sadness was such that the little spirits felt compelled to sooth her in some way. With the root of the great tree to cradle her, she fell into a deep and heavy sleep as the tears slowed to a stop. The spirits called down through the roots, calling out for the help of a special plant that would help heal the wound left in her heart. Soon, little green spirals sprouted between her fur, unfurling into the feathered leaves of a grand fern. When Nym's body was shaded entirely by these ferns, the tired little spirits sank into slumber around her. The broad leaves took in the sunlight like any plant, but would instead use it to sustain Nym's body while her soul was replenished in this deep sleep; the Fern Sleep.

And there Nym lay for two years. The ferns stayed green through every season, taking in the warmth of the sun and feeding Nym's body. The creatures of the forest resumed their lives around her, and the group of little spirits ensured she would stay safe from harm. When Nym finally awoke, she had experienced a profound change that would take years to manifest, bringing her down a path no other Alecani could walk."

Submission Information

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Comments

  • Link

    Such a beautiful story and illustration.. <3
    Is this when Nym got her plant powers/magic?

    • Link

      Nah she has her magic before this! Magic is really common for her species. They basically channel spirit energy into the form of a natural element, one that matches their personality. So Nym has always been able to form plant-like magic, thought they aren't real living plants. She's not an extraordinary magic user either, somewhat mediocre in fact. XD She learns to do some pretty amazing stuff after this incident though, I can't wait to write about it!

  • Link

    Bless her...

    Bless her tears

  • Link

    This is sincerely beautiful, both the art and the story that goes with it. I can't wait to see more about your characters and world!

    • Link

      Thank you so much, I can't wait to publish more!

  • Link

    As someone who has lost a family member very close to me this year, this story really struck deep and helped to heal something in my own grief. Thank you.

    Beautiful image as well; I still adore how you use colour and composition.

    • Link

      Aw, that means so much to me... Grief is a big thing, we all have to deal with it at some point in our lives, and making this helps me come to terms with my own losses.

  • Link

    Oh wow this is fantastic. I'm very excited to read more about Nym! (I really like the illustration too, even before I read the short story I could recognize that feeling. Then again who hasn't wanted to curl up and hide in the ferns?)

    • Link

      Why thank you! Yeah, sometimes a patch of moss and ferns really does look like a temping nap spot!

  • Link

    I was a little worried at first when I saw this because the sprouts and such somewhat reminded me of the nightspores 8'( So my first reaction was "oh noooo...." and continued to be through all the talk of death, but I guess this fern stuff isn't harmful, even if it is a bit sad.

    • Link

      You're not the only one, I think I freaked out a few people! XD It is sad, but at least the ferns are there to help her rather than use her as a host. O_O

      • Link

        Well, true, it's rather good of those ferns to help her! I'm not entirely sure I understand how it works, but I'm really interested to see the results of the fern sleep and what it has in store for Nym. (': I just hope she feels a little better, and I hope her friends and family are doing okay without her there for two years!

  • Link

    It is such a sad but beautiful story. And a beautful work of art, as always.

  • Link

    Beautiful.

  • Link

    The art is amazing and so is the short story. IMO, this is one of your best pieces this year. =)

    • Link

      Thank you so so much!!! <3 This is one of my favorites this year too, I'm so glad I got to do some head world art. =)

  • Link

    The image alone is very impressive and touching, but when combined with your writing, it is a very heartfelt piece. I sense you've experienced a loss of your own at some point, because the way you describe it is so accurate. <3

    • Link

      Thank you! I have for sure experienced losses, it's something we all have to go through, yanno? It's a shitty part of life, but I figure I can turn it into something really beautiful if I try. Use it as fuel for new stories and paintings. =)

      • Link

        I'm sorry that you have experienced said loss, I thought so based on the description :( But you're right, it all happens to his someday, and many times over the years. You've definitely turned it into something beautiful.

  • Link

    Now that is magical~

  • Link

    This is such a gorgeous piece, I love the feeling of serenity and all the different shades of green. :) <3

  • Link

    A strange question, but can I share this on social media? I use it as my desktop background, which someone asked for a picture of, and I would totally credit you as the artist, but I just want to make sure its okay to do first

    • Link

      Also maybe I could use this as my banner on FB? If not I understand, but all credit would go to you!