The Tale of Starlight's Shrine | Tankards & Tales Ep. 2
This is a transcript of Tankards & Tales Episode 2. If you would like to listen to the story as you read along, you can find the podcast episode here.
In the small town of Moonfield, right by The Quiet Thicket, a forest that grows with moonlight, the owner of an apothecary who knew every potion for every ailment lived in a leaning tower, and the townsfolk knew her only as Lady Lucyne.
Dressed always in a simple, flowery silver dress, Lady Lucyne wandered through the edges of The Quiet Thicket every day. With basket in arm, she searched for all sorts of flowers and weeds, from dandelions to chrysanthemums, so as to ensure her stock was always fully replenished at the end of each day.
Being the only apothecary in the town, Lady Lucyne had a great many orders to fill, but she was a tranquil soul, seeing nothing but the blissful moments in picking her flowers, in draining them in rain water, in weighing the petals, in mixing her various caldrons, in listening to the boiling potions… She lived for the simple moments, admiring every second of tasks others often found mundane.
To her, these moments brought stillness, and in these moments, she felt most present. They reminded her of the marvel that is being a person who can experience life and its wonders, and in those wonders lie the gift of giving to others.
It gave Lady Lucyne so much pleasure to fulfill an order, whether it be to cure a cold, to block terrible odors, to prevent hair loss, to gain stamina, whatever it may be, she did it with joy. Every order she fulfilled, she added a note of thanks with a flower petal and a golden wax seal of a leaf and a crescent moon.
Lady Lucyne was a beloved member of Moonfield, revered even. She had saved many lives from the grasp of death, both young and old, and the town was forever thankful for her kind heart. Moonfield was a town on the outskirts that struggled financially, but Lady Lucyne never turned anyone away, even if they didn’t have the coin for her services, nor did she ever keep a ledger of owed wages. And for that, the town felt a gratitude of insurmountable measure.
Moonfield had a sense of pride for being the home of Lady Lucyne, and for centuries to follow, it will be known for being the home of the Goddess of Starlight.
One early summer day, a young boy entered Lady Lucyne’s tower with a small pouch of two copper coins. There she was, the silver-dressed woman, watching her herbs grow by the window when the boy walked in.
The boy looked a bit like a mouse. He had a cute button nose, soft pink lips, and streaks of dirt on his cheeks like whiskers. He came in quietly, timidly, clutching his pouch of precious coins so closely to his chest.
Lady Lucyne glided over to her front desk, which was filled with all sorts of ingredients from mushroom caps to vampire fangs. She greeted him.
“Hello dear, how can I help?”
“Lady Lucyne, I’ve got a real big problem, and I’ve done everything me and my mom can think of: tea, candle nightlights, lavender, you name it! I need your help.”
“What’s the problem, dear?”
“I can’t dream! I can’t dream!” The truth almost brought the boy to tears.
And for the first time since Lady Lucyne began her studies in botany and potion-making, she drew a blank. She could not think of the remedy for dreamless nights. And the thought of the ailment broke her heart, for how dreadful it must be to be blocked from the world of dreams and to face darkness in the night when sleep can bring so much gentle light.
“Don’t worry, my dear boy. I will create a potion for your dreamless nights. Yes, don’t you worry.”
And off she went, working all day to find a cure. She rummaged through her supplies, scanned through her tomes, experimented with different mixtures, on and on until the night sky had nothing but moonlight, and had she not been so focused, she would’ve realized there was nothing else indeed, for the stars were amiss that night.
The next day, a sleepy Lucyne found herself greeting a whole family. The father approached, with mother and three young children behind him, all with dark circles under tired eyes.
“Lady Lucyne,” the father said, “It’s been a restless night for my family. You are the town’s healer and only from you could we ask for help. We cannot dream! We cannot dream!”
Lady Lucyne reassured the family that she was concocting the remedy, warning that it may take some time, for it was one she had yet to discover. But, her mind, though tired, held fast onto suspicion.
Something unnatural was at work here; she could feel it in her bones.
But still, her mind was stuck on her cauldron: the vessel of the potion she was sure she could create. And so, another day of research went by. She ventured out to The Quiet Thicket, basket in arm, collecting every possible ingredient she could find on her usual path. She tried new techniques in stirring, boiling, mixing, ladling, on and on she went, attempting every new form and fashion of the art she knew of, but once again, the moon came without a potion to show for it. And once again, Lady Lucyne, so focused in her apothecary, did not notice the starless night.
The next morning came with a sleeping Lady Lucyne, arms draped by her cauldron, being woken by a knock on her door. As soon as the morning birds were chirping, that’s how early the knocking on her door came.
A groggy Lady Lucyne answered the knock, only to find the Magistrate of Moonfield on her cobblestone steps with nearly all the townsfolk behind him.
“Lady Lucyne, an illness has struck this town. We beg for your remedy. None of the townsfolk can dream, and nor can I. It’s maddening to rest when the gates to the land of dreams are barred. Help us! Guide us! All that you need will be brought to you at once. All you need is ask.”
It is a daunting sight to see an entire town come to you for aid, especially when you’ve not the slightest clue how to help. Imagine the pressure, the stress, the weight of responsibility, the terror…
And yet Lady Lucyne felt none of it. Remember, she had a heart of charity and giving. So all she felt was sorrow at this dreadful plague that has darkened the nights of her fellow townsfolk. Never before had she felt such strong an urge to help, to bring tranquility to an anxious town.
“Worry not, my friends,” she said. “I will find the remedy. I know not of this strange illness, but I will find its cure. I must venture out deeper in The Quiet Thicket and seek The Nameless Garden, for I am sure it holds an herb without name that can bring our dreams back. I ask only for your patience. I will be back soon.”
The town trusted Lady Lucyne and so even the most stubborn found the patience deep within for her.
Lady Lucyne gathered her things: her basket, her traveling apothecary’s kit, her provisions, and her shawl made of fine wool and scattered beading forming constellations on her back.
By mid-day she was off, adventuring into the deep unknown parts of The Quiet Thicket.
Now, Lady Lucyne lived all her life in that town. Born and raised, she knew its tall tales and secrets like no other, but one piece of folklore always intrigued her: The Nameless Garden.
It is said that The Quiet Thicket hid a garden without name with all sorts of precious plants meant only for the hands of the gods. Lady Lucyne felt compelled to go in search of it. She felt it in her bones that this place was calling to her, and so she let her intuition lead her through the unfamiliar woods.
For a while, it felt like an aimless hike for Lady Lucyne. Her feet had calluses from the steady uphill climb, her arms had new bumps from mosquitos searching for sweet blood, her hair damp with sweat despite the cool air. Still, she never stopped, knowing her shawl kept her safe and her feet would eventually carry her to her destination.
But not before a night’s rest, for her traveling lasted the whole day, and dusk approached. Always having felt at home amongst the trees, she had no problem in fashioning a soft bed of moss for her to rest her head, with a nice sturdy tree above as a natural roof. Settling in, she waited for the stars to peer out from that dark blue curtain of nightfall, one of her favorite sights in the world, but she started to get a bit worried when the moon rose with no stars to accompany it.
“Well, how strange,” she thought to herself. She rubbed her eyes, checked for clouds, adjusted her eyesight, but all to no avail. The stars had disappeared. Gone.
She grew suspicious once again, but this time, her theory solidified: Something unnatural was at work here. Something unnatural indeed.
That night, she slept under the starless sky, and for the first time, she felt the plague’s hold on her. Her mind felt trapped, the gates to the land of dreams far from reach, and even after the mental drain that came in walking to those gates, they would not budge. The lock was so masterfully built that not even the king of rogues and thieves could lockpick it. And so she slept with no dream, just an empty void of dreadful nothingness. It sent shivers down her spine, and she could sleep no longer. She spent the early morning hours, those that still belong to the moon, continuing her hike through The Quiet Thicket.
The moonlight blanketed the forest, blessing it with its mystical energy, and yet Lady Lucyne could feel in her bones that it was weak. A king can not have a kingdom without the people that give it life, and so is the moon just as insignificant with a kingdom without stars.
Her silvery dress glistening in the moonlight, she strolled through the trees like a lone star herself, looking for her companions. How she missed those stars, Lady Lucyne. How lonely she felt without them…
Just before dawn showed her early signs of awakening, Lady Lucyne found herself on a particularly steep hill. Climbing it cost every bit of energy she had left, but it was well worth it, for at the top, a fenced garden awaited her.
The fence obscured The Nameless Garden, for it was a natural fortress, an extended trellis of stone with a number of different colored thorn roses battling for space. If it weren’t for the golden statuette of a fairy above the gate, Lady Lucyne wouldn’t have the slightest idea of how to enter.
The gate was silent as it gave way to her gentle hand, and inside, an otherworldly garden awaited her. A jungle for ankles and elbows alike, this garden housed numerous plants, all unlike our Lady Lucyne had ever seen.
Golden shimmery dust coated the multicolored petals of nameless flowers and the various textures for the mushrooms, both big and small. Vines slithered on the ground like snakes as pollen floated from flower to flower, escorted by the night’s winds. Ladybugs and caterpillars strolled through the moist dirt as fireflies and bees fluttered their wings lazily.
It was a sight to behold; an apothecary’s dream; a myth proven real.
And yet despite all the beauty, a heavy lethargic feeling washed over Lady Lucyne as soon as she stepped in. More and more she noticed how muted the natural colors were, how slow everyone moved in the thick space, how… lonely the garden felt, despite all its guests. A garden for the gods felt more like the doldrums of the mindless.
And in that moment, Lady Lucyne realized here was the source of the unnatural happenings, for here, it felt like The Nameless Garden too had been barred from entering the world of dreams.
Lady Lucyne did not yet, however, have an explanation for why until she heard a voice say: “Oh, dreary me!”
The voice kept mumbling, helping Lady Lucyne find her way through the garden to a pond where a small goblin sat, cross-legged, with a book on her lap.
The goblin had frizzy, gray hair that only just managed to be tamed by a pointy hat. She wore ragged dark robes, though her fingers had quite a collection of silver and golden rings. She had long ears that draped past her shoulders, but a fairly small nose that just made her eyes look even bigger than your average goblin. She had her tongue sticking out of the corner of her lips as she paroused her book, and to her right, Lady Lucyne recognized immediately a rudimentary apothecary’s set.
The small goblin kept mumbling to herself as her bejeweled fingers traced the contents on her pages.
“Hello there…” Lady Lucyne called out.
The goblin jolted in her seat and scrambled around like an awkward puppy until she was on her feet with her book behind her back. “Who are you?” She asked.
“I am Lady Lucyne. Who are you?”
“Efsee…” the goblin answered.
“Efsee, it’s a pleasure to meet you, my dear.”
“Yea, ok…” Efsee the goblin looked fidgety and skittery, her hands fumbling with her book behind her back. “You’re not here to steal my stars, are you?”
“Yea, they’re my stars, so just leave me and my stars alone, you hear?!”
Efsee put on a mean pout for Lady Lucyne, but her eyes kept darting to the pond. And that’s when Lady Lucyne noticed all the night’s stars swimming like tadpoles in the pond. The waters were a crystalline blue and the stars, as if at home, waded in the water, forming their beloved constellations.
“These are not your stars, my dear. They belong to the night’s sky.” Lady Lucyne did not move. She simply spoke.
“Well, yea, but Knight’s helping me, you see? He said he’d get me the stars I need.”
“You speak of the night as if it were a being, like you and me…”
“Well, he’s a lot bigger, that’s for sure.”
And as if on cue, Knight showed himself.
The thunderous creaking of a falling tree boomed toward them, each step testing the strength of the earth beneath. Within moments, a massive foot in the shape of a tree trunk planted itself just behind the fence of The Nameless Garden. Another foot soon followed, and Lady Lucyne lifted her eyes to see the blue celestial eyes of an earth giant. Head to toe, the giant was nothing but tree roots, branches, and vines. Fireflies, crickets, and cicadas were passengers on his shoulders and thighs. His smile was hidden behind a nest-like beard, but his eyes, so bright and blue, were unmistakably there.
The being leaned over the garden, careful with all its guests, and tossed in a few stray stars into the pond. They floated their way down to join their brethren.
“My gods… good evening to you, great Knight!” Lady Lucyne was stunned to be in the presence of such magic, when all her life, the only magic she’d seen with her eyes was the kind she could bottle up and deliver to a neighbor’s door.
The friendly giant nodded, his kind smile hidden but there.
“Well, you’ve certainly done a fine job of capturing all these stars,” Lady Lucyne said, “but I’m afraid you cannot keep them, Efsee. These stars are the keys to the land of dreams. Your gathering of them has locked us all out. We’ve had such terrible nights without the stars!”
“That’s because they belong to me now! You can’t have them! My stars, my dreams!”
“But why, Efsee?”
Efsee hesitated for a moment, fighting the urge to look behind her. Eventually, she answered, “I’ve got to make a portal. The trolls will not stop attacking my clan, and the humans don’t care about us goblins. I need to find my clan a new home or there may come a day where my clan doesn’t exist anymore…”
“And you look for a home in the land of dreams?”
“I don’t know… maybe? Anywhere but here. So, you can’t stop me, you hear?!”
Lady Lucyne took a good look at Efsee the goblin and noticed at once the weariness on her person and how comfortable that weariness was sitting on her shoulders. Another plague of its own kind, and one with a cure just by the feet of Lady Lucyne, in the pond.
“Where is your clan?” Lady Lucyne asked.
“Our camp is at the edge of the forest, at the foot of the hill.”
“Well, dear Efsee, I know not of portals, but I know how to handle a cauldron. Let me help you, and perhaps we can find you your new home and I can find a way to put the stars back in the sky.”
Efsee first looked to Knight for reassurance and with his nod of approval, she agreed.
Combining the goblin’s rudimentary tools and Lady Lucyne’s traveling set, the two were able to set up a rather well-equipped apothecary at the edge of the pond. Efsee’s book had ancient text that enthralled Lady Lucyne, and in studying it, she realized, creating a portal was far more complex than a potion for the sniffles. The two worked for a full day together, gathering the odd ingredients The Nameless Garden offered and stirring the contents into the pond, the only sizable cauldron for this complex creation.
Dusk approached just as the pond, bubbling with all its ingredients, was ready for the final incantation.
As Lady Lucyne prepped the final steps, Efsee gathered her clan, which in their time together, Lady Lucyne learned was a clan of 300 that had dwindled down to 60 in a matter of three months. Knight the giant guarded the area as the goblin clan settled in the space of the garden.
All was set. It was time to begin.
Lady Lucyne, in her best attempt of speaking the tongue of the ancients, read off the incantation.
The stars swarmed the center of the pond, all congregating as the words compelled them so. The blue waters rippled in cadence with the spell, the blue glow growing ever brighter.
The last few syllables slipped out. There was a beat of silence…
Whoosh! A beacon of untamable light bolted out from the pond, a beanstalk of energy that disappeared into the heavens. A soft lullaby emitted off the beacon, so soft like cotton, so subtle like the lone embers of a dead campfire, so strong like the weight of the unknown.
Lady Lucyne melted at the sight of it, humbled and reassured in her standing that she was simply a mortal being who was fortunate enough to experience what life had to offer.
Behind her, she could feel the awe from the goblins. They all had gaping mouths, whispered “oohs” and “aahs” at the sight.
The shock only just started to subside when they all noticed a figure emerge from the beacon.
The figure was tall, at least eight feet high, with a staff that just managed to reach the neck. The figure wore long, dark robes, very simple save for decorative stitching along the hems. The figure glided over the pond toward Lady Lucyne and the goblins, a cloud of mist around its feet. Once the figure was close enough, they all noticed the figure, though standing upright like any other humanoid being, was in fact an eagle.
The eagle stood before them, bold yellow eyes taking in every detail until they fell on Knight, the earth giant, and in that instant, his eyes grew cold. The silence, at first filled with wonder, was now filled with anxious dread. And when he spoke, the anxious dread transformed into fear.
“How dare you summon the doors of my domain! Ohdros, God of the Moon, shall not be defied by mortals who steal the gifts I have bestowed on the land.” He turned his attention to Knight the earth giant. “You have betrayed me! I granted you armor of the Immortal Grove, knighted you with the oath of protecting the stars, and yet you break that vow, giving the stars to these mortals. And here they are, defiling the powers of starlight. In the name of this betrayal, I will banish thee to the Underworld and for those who remain, I will rid the night skies of my moon and stars, so as to teach them the truth of darkness!”
“No!” Lady Lucyne put her hand out to stop the great god. “Ohdros, God of the Moon, spare us, I beg you. The goblins seek sanctuary, for there is no refuge for them on this plane. Your knight in wooded armor merely answered their desperate plea, as did I. Please, do not remove the only light of midnight, for the moon is the lighthouse that guides us through the ocean of nighttime and the stars are the keys to the land of dreams, where we can find light behind closed eyes. If you have lost faith in your knight and seek to strip him of his knighthood, then please, I offer myself to protect the stars.”
“What are you named, mortal?”
“I am Lady Lucyne.”
“Why should I entrust you to protect the stars?”
“Let me prove my worth. Let me guide this clan to a new land beyond the beacon, a mere mortal who knows not the various paths of the celestial planes. Should I return, then I hope that will prove me worthy.”
“You dare enter the labyrinth that lies behind the curtains of the realms?”
“Yes. I cannot turn my back on these people, and so I will be their guide.”
Ohdros stared at the clan of goblins, all huddled together behind the silver-dressed lady. “Very well, Lady Lucyne. May the forces from beyond have mercy on you.” Stepping aside, Ohdros let Lady Lucyne lead the clan of goblins through the portal.
Unnatural forces did await her on the other side: ugly beasts with fangs twice her size, wise beings eager to mold her mind to mush, tiny annoying creatures hoping to shift her off her path, the ghoulish howls of lost souls… It truly was a labyrinth where any could be lost for countless years.
But Lady Lucyne never gave up hope. Despite the signs of despair from Efsee and her goblins, Lady Lucyne remained the tranquil soul she had always been. Her calm demeanor kept the agitated forces at bay and helped keep spirits alive in the goblin clan.
It was her serene nature that led them to Aabkelta, now known as the paradise of the goblins in her corner of the universe. A farewell of many thanks and luck from Efsee fueled Lady Lucyne’s spirit. With it, she made her way back to the mortal plane where Ohdros awaited her.
“Lady Lucyne…” he said, “You have proven your worth.”
“Great Ohdros, God of the Moon, I offer myself for the knighthood you once bestowed on the earth giant.”
Knight, the earth giant, stripped of his knighthood, had taken on so naturally the role of the protector of The Nameless Garden, where to this day, he guards the plants meant for the hands of the gods.
Ohdros stared at Lady Lucyne for a long time, waiting for her tranquil soul to falter under his piercing eyes, but it refused. “And do you understand the burden you are offering to take on?”
“It is no burden to bring light where there is darkness.”
“If you take on the task of guarding the stars, I must warn you, you will need to leave your life behind. I now know my mistake was in having a knight protect the stars from the earth. You will live in the Immortal Grove above this plane where you will guard the stars from greedy hands and evil forces.”
“If this is the life I must live, then I will do so, if it means dreams will return to the sleeping mortals.”
“I am afraid with this portal, the magic in my stars will no longer serve as keys to the gate of the land of dreams. Too much of their energy has been used.”
Ohdros lifted his hand, casting a spell to dissolve the beacon. Soon, the magnificent light of the portal was snuffed out and only the moonlight lit the garden.
The pond lost most of its water, save for a tiny puddle of stars glowing with the mystifying light as before.
“Only these stars still hold the energy to guide sleeping souls to the land of dreams and back.”
Sighing, Lady Lucyne knew she was at a crossroads. She wanted the stars in the sky where they belonged, but she wanted people to have their dreams, and as if she were back in her apothecary, inside her leaning tower, she assessed her ingredients, and she found the cure.
“Great Ohdros,” she said, “before I take on my life in the Immortal Grove, I ask one last gift for the mortals I am fond of. I ask for a well or a bowl where these stars may live, so the waters that gather there are blessed with starlight. Any who know the art of potion-making can use the waters as an ingredient to bless any who need a gentle night’s rest with sweet dreams.”
“I admire your kindness, Lady Lucyne.” Ohdros raised his hands, summoned stones that scattered about the garden, and transmuted them all until they molded into a gorgeous stone statue of Lady Lucyne with a bowl in hand. He conjured water into the bowl and transferred the few stars still left in the pond. The stars twirled in the water, as if at home.
“Lady Lucyne. Come now, to the Immortal Grove, where you will feast on its fruits and accept your immortality. I grant you the title of Goddess of Starlight. The stars are now yours.”
Ohdros, God of the Moon, escorted the Goddess of Starlight to the plane above, and she, in turn, escorted the rest of the stars back to the night sky.
In her new ethereal form, Lady Lucyne returned to Moonfield where she informed the Magistrate and the townsfolk of the statue that awaited the soul that would take up the role of the town’s healer, with her leaning tower as a gift to them. There, the new healer had an apothecary waiting for their gentle hands, so they could cure the plague Lady Lucyne sought to end.
And so the Shrine of the Goddess of Starlight provides the ingredient for the potion meant to cure dreamless nights. It sits surrounded by The Quiet Thicket, the forest she often wandered in her mortal days.
The shrine was often visited by the town’s healer, generation after generation, and ever more protected by the town as well, for she was revered, Lady Lucyne, not for being a goddess, but for being a tranquil soul who looked only to help others.
Copyright ©️ 2020 Daniela Sylmae. All rights reserved.