Chapter 5: The Strands Of Glaux
The owls in the hollow tore their gaze from the spirit of Soren and watched silently as a shadowy mass entered through the port. It drifted over to the dead Barn Owl and hovered momentarily before sinking down and forcing its way through the wound in his chest, seeming to drain into him and push out the bloody dagger, which clanked on the wooden floor.
Suddenly, several black filaments leaped from the gash and wound themselves around the gray cloud. They retracted slowly and pulled the cloudy form back through the jagged hole from which it came.
"What... was... that?" Lydia asked apprehensively.
Her question was soon answered as the edges of the tear began closing before their eyes, and Soren's eyes deepened from the color of ash to a strange purple black.
He felt his eyesight return, followed by his hearing. He then felt his still heart give a jerk, and sensed a warm fluid flowing through his cold body.
I died, but somehow I have been revived. How did this happen?
He heard another voice resound in his head, deep and ancient: You gave your life in defense of another without hesitation. You still have much to accomplish, Soren. Therefore, I have returned your spirit to you. In doing so, I have also bestowed you with a small amount of my essence: the Strands Of Glaux. Learn to understand them and use them wisely, my son. Farewell...
Thank you, Glaux. I shall not fail you...
With this, The king blinked and heard shouts of disbelief and joy from the owls crowded around him.
"Soren, you're alive!"
"Are you okay?"
"How did you survive?"
"What was that black stuff?"
He staggered to his talons and attempted to answer the myriad of questions the Guardians had thrown at him.
"I am okay. I was spoken to by Glaux. He said he had returned my spirit because I gave my life for Blythe. He also said he imbued me with the Strands Of Glaux, whatever that means..."
He was suddenly enfolded in the soft wings of his mate and daughter.
"I was sure I had lost you, dear. I thought our chicks would have to grow up without their father. I never would have been able to bear it, Soren."
Pelli weeped slowly, and he could not discern if they were tears of joy or sadness.
"I am glad you are alive, Da. I thought I would never see you again."
"I am glad too dear, though I never imagined I would be brought to life again. I had accepted my death without regret, and yet here I stand, thanks to Glaux."
He gazed at his loyal Guardians and saw that their faces were overcome with elation and shock.
"I will have to postpone Nimsy Night while I try to figure out this essence. Glaux said I must learn how to use and understand it. I have a feeling of where I need to go."
Not a single owl objected, and the King dismissed them from the hollow. They filed out slowly and retreated to their chambers, relieved of their evening duties, and anxious to spread the news about the events that had transpired.
"Wh-what will you do now, Soren?" his mate asked quietly.
He drew a breath and replied: "My gizzard is telling me to go to the Palace Of Mists. I have this sense that there is information there about Glaux's Strands. Would you mind coming with me, Pelli?"
"How can I say no, Soren? I wish to find out more about this power you have gained, and how it rescued the most dear owl I have ever known..."
Blythe looked at him and mumbled, "Can I come too, Da?"
"No, Blythe. You must stay and help take care of your brothers. I am sorry. I hope you will understand."
"Yes, Da. I do. All I care is that you are alive."
He sent for Cleve, and when the Spotted Owl arrived, he explained to him the journey he needed to take.
"Cleve, I am sure you have heard by now the strange events that have occurred."
"Yes, Your Majesty. Although I do not fully understand what I have been told, perhaps you will explain upon your return. All is well with you, I presume?"
"Yes, for the most part. I will explain in depth once I fully realize my gift. Please alert the tree that Pelli & I will be on a journey to the Shadow Forest. We will try to be back before the moon has dwenked."
"Right away, sir. Glauxspeed. And please stay safe."
Cleve turned and glided from the hollow, a misty shape weaving through the night.
"Blythe, we will be back shortly. Now go watch Samuel and Erik."
"Okay, Mum." Blythe replied, entering the maze of passages and disappearing from view.
"What shall we do with him, Soren? He committed a crime of the most vile sort. You did not remain dead, but it was still murder."
"We shall take him to the Glauxian Brothers. We must fix the situation honorably. He must atone for his mistakes there. But first, we must consult with Bess."
With that, two owls burst from the opening and flew west over Ga'Hoole, soon reaching the Hoolemere Sea. The soft tailwind boosted their flight, and the ominous fog seemed to thin before them as they flew on beneath the golden stars, one owl leaving dark clouds in the fog as he flapped his wings...
The deep black sky had morphed to a soft blue as the two owls alighted on Cape Glaux.
"Can we rest here, Soren? I am exhausted and hungry..."
"Me too dear. Wait here. I will go catch some mice to eat."
Pelli watched as her mate flew off, blending with the cream and orange western sky.
Soren flew mid level over the ground, scanning slowly for the sound of an erratic heartbeat. He heard the crazed rhythm down below him and landed on the log from which the pulsing sound came. The mouse crept out from one end, and he pounced on it, biting its neck.
He then swiveled his head around again, and heard a more pronounced heartbeat off to his starboard side. He flew a short distance and spied a vole digging a storage hole near a bush. He rose higher in the air and did a quick dive onto the fat creature, piercing it with his talons. He then flew towards the rising sun, squinting against the glare.
Stopping on the edge of the cliff, he saw no sign of Pelli. He heard his name being called from a high point behind him. Turning around, he saw her perched on the branch of an oak.
He flew up to her and offered her the vole.
"Here you are, Pelli. I see you found a nice hollow for us."
"Thank you, dear. Yes, I did some scouting and decided this was the most comfortable one I found. It was the only one not facing the sun directly."
The Barn Owls finished their food and nuzzled up in the shadowed area of the chamber.
"We still have a good amount of flying left. We should sleep just long enough to regain our strength, and then continue on. Good light, Pelli."
"Good light, Soren."
The soft breathing of the owls slowed as sleep overcame them. A shadowy haze was rising from the male like tendrils of smoke and evaporating into the air.
The harsh glare of a sickle shaped moon beamed in the hollow and burned against Pelli's eyelids. She fluttered them open and immediately turned from the harsh light.
"Soren, wake up. The night is young. We should go now."
Pelli saw the haze rising off of him intensify and envelop him. She didn't know what to expect as she hesitantly stretched her wing and pushed it through the black fog. She felt no sensation at all as she hit feathers and pushed harder.
"Is that you, dear?"
He saw Pelli standing before him, worry in her eyes.
"Soren, you are covered in black fog. Do you see it?"
He looked down and could no longer see his talons through the black cloud.
"I don't feel anything strange. Let's go. I am sure nothing is wrong."
"Okay, dear. If you say so..."
Pelli rose from the tree, turned 180 degrees and flew towards the black forms of trees in the distance. She twisted her head back and saw what looked like a winged puff of smoke moving in her wake.
This is going to be hard to get used to. Maybe he can learn to control it... she thought as the faraway trees slowly grew larger.
The talon-shaped moon had made its way high above their heads as they crossed the border of Silverveil. Pelli craned her head around and saw that the thick veil shrouding Soren had vanished as he lofted in next to her.
"Do you see any good trees to rest in, dear? We only need a short nap. The Shadow Forest is not far away."
Pelli faced forward again and peered into the soft green glow that perfused the spaces between the trees. She spied a large fir tree just off the shore of a small pool of water, reminiscent of the Mirror Lakes in the Beaks.
"Over there, dear. See that fir tree? It looks cozy, don't you think?" Pelli said with a smile.
"Where, Pelli? Oh, now I see it. Let's go check it out and see. But be careful, dear. That lake reminds me of how I was paralyzed by the Mirror Lakes on our journey to the tree..."
Being careful to avoid the avoid the allure of the shining lake, the two white shapes circled the sturdy fir and searched for an opening.
"I found one, Pelli. Just up there. Wait here while I check it out."
Pelli landed on a protruding stone below the hollow and watched as her mate slipped inside. Several minutes passed, and Soren did not reappear.
Pelli flew up to the entrance and cautiously peered inside.
"Soren, are you okay? Soren!"
Her voice rose with panic, and as she stepped in further, a roiling onyx form emerged out of the shadows.
"Surprise!" The black cloud quivered with laughter.
"Soren, you had me so worried! This is not funny at all! Shame on you!"
He could barely contain his amusement.
"You should have seen your face!"
She turned away from him angrily, and he quickly grew serious.
"I apologize. I was only trying to lighten the mood..."
The dark shroud evaporated as he walked towards her and laid his wing on her.
"Never do that again, Soren. I had thought a snake had struck you, or worse..."
"Okay, I promise, dear. No more joking."
He followed her to the shadowed section of the hollow and nuzzled in next to her.
Soren felt as though his sleep lasted only moments before he awoke, and glancing around, saw he was alone.
He trotted to the edge of the chamber and called out: "Pelli? Where are you? Pelli?"
He leaped back in fear as a bloody object struck him in the chest. Glancing down at his feet, he saw a vole that was missing its head.
Pelli then entered with another vole in her talons, churring loudly.
"How does payback feel, dear!"
"Very funny, Pelli. Now we are even. Let's eat and then make our way to the Shadow Forest."
Their faces stained with blood and their gizzards churning softly, the Barn Owls weaved their way through the maze of fir, heartwood, and Ga'Hoole trees. The trees soon gave way to stands of pine, and the moonlight cascading through the needles glowed a murky green. "I can hear a rushing sound, Soren. It sounds like a waterfall." "We must be close. Look over there. I see mist rising into the air."
The two owls spiraled through the glinting curtain, and before they landed upon the stone spire that stabbed the night, Soren hesitated and felt the cloak of black enfold him again."Maybe you should go in first and explain to Bess. Try not to get too detailed."
Pelli nodded and descended through the mist and alighted on a small shelf that held a faded book. She heard mumbling off in the adjoining chamber.
She peered deeper into the gloom and spotted a ghostly form flying back and forth. She tapped her talons on the wooden stand and watched as the Boreal Owl emerged from the gloom and lighted down in front of her, the ashen feathers on her face showing a mix of confusion and joy...
"What brings you here, Pelli? I trust all is well back at Ga'Hoole?"
Pelli steadied her breathing and spoke hesitantly: "All was well, for a while. Then, then something happened. What you are about to hear will shock you, Bess."
She quickly tightened her grip on the mahogany stand.
"Soren was...killed. But he-"
Pelli watched in horror as Bess fell backwards off of the stand and landed with a thump on the stone floor.
"Are you okay? Bess!"
She shook her steadily with her wings.
Bess regained her senses and staggered to her talons.
"Oh, Pelli, I am so sorry! I-"
"Wait, let me finish! He is alright now. We came to find out how he was reanimated. We think you can help us figure out this miracle."
She saw a knowing glint flash in her pale yellow eyes.
"C-c-can I see him?"
Pelli shook her head and turned towards the thundering falls.
"Soren, you can come in."
A strange black form drifted in and settled in front of her, two slick orbs peering through the cloud.
"Yes, it's me. Do you have any idea what this is? It appeared after I died protecting Blythe from another owl."
Bess eyes filled with wonder and determination.
"I think I have a book that explains it. Wait here."
Bess flew off and found the wall whose niches were filled with scrolls. She drew a particularly old one out from a slot just above the floor and dashed back towards the mouth of the palace and handed the scroll to Soren.
"Here, read this. This is the only knowledge I have."
The parchment bore the title: "The Essence Of Glaux. A Guide To Its Nature, Control, & Origin." Bess watched as a myriad of emotions passed over their faces, ranging from awe to reverence. Soren learned that only a few owls had been gifted with the essence.
It was only bestowed on those who still had important business to accomplish in the living world, or had given their life honorably.
The bearer could, with practice, will the smoke to appear and vanish at will. It could inflict damage only when the bearer allowed it, or during times when the owner was in danger, forming thin filaments and burning those it touched.
Like fire made of shadow... Soren mused.
The haze would also vary its hues based on its owners emotions. The threads also came with a cost: the longer the owl used them without resting, the more it would gain control over the owl's soul, ultimately leading to the user becoming one with the shadow itself, mindless, evil, and capable of wreaking destruction without pity.
"I must be careful, Pelli. Read this line right here."
He motioned at the warning with his talon.
Pelli's eyes widened as she read the dire consequences one by one.
"Indeed, Soren. You need to think before you call upon the strands. Your very safety and the owls around you depends on it..."
The letter was short, and said nothing more about them after this warning.
Pelli carefully rolled the scroll back up and passed it to the Boreal Owl.
"Thank you, Bess. I apologize for scaring you earlier, but you had gone yeep before I could finish."
"It's okay. I just couldn't believe that Soren was dead. I couldn't imagine how he could still be alive. I have read about the Strands only in passing, and to see them for myself is awe inspiring, to put it mildly..."
"Thank you so much for helping me understand this strange gift, Bess. I am glad you are still alive and well. If you ever want to visit Ga'Hoole, you are always welcome to do so."
"If I decide to Soren, I will. I am unsure of the outside world. Forgive me if I cannot."
"We must be getting back home, dear. I do not want the Guardians to worry about us."
"I agree, Pelli." Soren then faced Bess and said softly, "Perhaps I will visit you again in the near future. Goodbye, my friend."
Soren and Pelli headed for the entrance, rose above the falls that painted their wings with a rainbow of colors, and flew steadily towards the eastern sky, towards home.
I will have to find a way to report this news to the Guardians without frightening them, and I must also learn to control my gift, so that I do not endanger others, or myself...
This was the declaration that pounded in his head from the time they left the Palace Of Mists until they arrived back at the Great Ga'Hoole tree one day later.
Soren's gizzard was quaking as he sent for the Guardians to meet in the Great Hollow, ready to uncover the mystery of his revival...