The path she discovered ducked off the main road and went east. It was very overgrown, and cluttered with fallen leaves, but it was definitely a road meant for walking. The young woman stopped, her hands at rest while she studied the density of the surrounding forest and wondered. She was small and slight with a heavy braid of violet hair which hung over her right shoulder and terminated at her hip. Her eyes encapsulated the same rich purple hue and were wide and inquisitive as she studied that path. It was clear she was curious where such a road led, and eventually, stepped forward with a sweep of one hand to move aside vines and make her way up said path.   It wound up along the forest for nearly a league, and she paused every few yards to gouge a large X into the bark of a tree. When the road ended, it did so at a rather ornate, ostentatious entrance which, to the untrained eye, seemed to open to nothing. There were columns of quarried stone bricked on either side, and wide wrought iron gates that had been left open. Jutting from the stone at either side of the entrance burned lanterns. They should have been dormant, but they burned from within with warm, dim light. They were dusty, and a little overgrown, and Isla discovered she felt compelled to tend to them. She ran a bare hand over the top of one, wiping away the years of dust and the makings of a failed nest before she moved on.

Timeless.   Sacred.   The trees are much taller here, and they stretch on for acres. They are tended daily and with love, but also left to nature's touch. The Myleum is possibly the most sacred place in all of Orr, having been the burial place for many a species and many a race for countless millennia. No one truly knows for sure (except possibly an oracle cow, if one should ever be lucky to cross paths with such a beast in their lifetime).   Everyone knows the traditions. Everyone knows the rules. No one knows where they came from, or how long they have been. Bodies may not be buried here. Only the ashes of loved ones can be brought to the Myleum for their final rest. Only a single plaque, no bigger than a hand print may be fastened to the chosen tree, nailed in place by a wooden nail at eye level. The ashes must then be scattered at the base of the chosen tree, beneath that plaque.   There are wardens. Some of them are centaur. Some are elves. Some even human, dwarves, or fairies. All of them are druids. No tree can ever leave this sacred ground. If one is ailing or dying, its plaques must be moved to a healthy tree and it must be felled in place and burned. There, its ashes must be scattered around the base of the new tree.   There are festivals here. The UtuRhu come every year to celebrate with the dead. Shamans come to channel for the living. Every year, the elves come, too. They come bearing gifts of drink and food to share with the druids. They bring their dead in colorful urns to scatter them.   The Myleum is a place of peace.   A place of love.   A place of memory...

She wondered if the world had actually darkened as she stepped past the open gate and stopped again to glance about. There were designated pathways between trees, but nothing else for what seemed miles around. The paths were all lined with rock and covered in stone, as if someone had carefully tended to them, though in some places there were ferns and they were quite overgrown. The trees themselves all seemed quite uniform in size, shape, and height. There were several wooden plaques fastened by wooden nails into their barks. Some of these were high, and some were low. Some had even been set so high, they couldn’t be reached. The Reaper touched one and traced what she decided was a name inscribed upon its surface. Some of them had dates and short little thoughts etched in solemn words.   Touching these plaques gave her a sense of sorrow, but also a tranquility she’d not felt in many weeks. She tilted her head and looked through the grove. That’s when they began to emerge from around the surrounding trees. Mostly they were white orbs, soft and floating, but eventually her reaper’s eyes began to make shapes of them. Most were humanoid, but some had four legs.   Finally, she broke contact with the tree she’d been touching and lost the vision, taking a step back. “I didn’t mean to intrude,” she told the nothing between the trees. “Please forgive me for disturbing your peace.”   She stood on the path and indulged in the silence of the monument forest. In this world, she’d learned that the dead were never truly gone, but remained conscious just beyond the Veil. And here, she had found her way into one of their living cemeteries. She wanted to stay, and clean and tend to it, because it was clearly forgotten or just plain neglected. But, there were other obligations and pressing matters.   With a quiet exhalation, Isla turned back to the overgrown path to make her way back to the main road.
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Cover image: by JustBirch


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