A Stand of Hazelnuts
The light reaching your eyes has been filtered through prisms of
leaves, refracting the sun's gift into a spectrum from jade to olive.
Hazelnut trees grow here, rooted in the luxurious earth and reaching for
the vibrant sun. Like an alchemist, they will take these basic elements
and turn them into higher forms: leaves to protect, nuts to nourish, rare
beauty to please. These trees do not loom and overwhelm; they grow only
as they need to achieve their purpose. Branches are within easy reach,
perfect perching places to rest and chat, while the moss at the roots of
the trees invites you to sprawl in comfort.
A tree endures here, a promise of strength and support in all weather.
The roughness of the bark meets the smooth freshness of the young leaves, showing the cycle of eternal Nature.
Peering between the broad trunks here, you see a rainbow where the sun refracts against a light mist. The mist appears to be rising from a small waterfall that feeds an inviting pool. A particularly broad branch arches over the glimmering pond. The leaves delicately dip their tips into the cool water. The pool is welcoming and the branch is exactly the right height to dive off of, joining the birds and other animals playing among the lilies and reeds. There is a slight indent further along that looks extremely comfortable; it's exactly the right sort of spot to sit and relax in while the breeze rustles the leaves around you and your toes just graze the water.
A glimmer of the rising sun welcomes you to new adventures. The path you took here beckons you back; the cool moss rises to meet your feet and speed you on your way. The lattice of vines is open.
A tiny bird swoops dangerously close to your head on its hurried way to a nest snug in the lower branches of the closest hazelnut tree. Clutched in the chickadee's beak is a tiny bit of glinting gold. Upon closer examination, you note that the bird has lined its nest with scraps of parchment. The material appears to be covered in childlike writing, as though the author was unused to holding a quill. It is easy to surmise this is the work of the goddess; what need has a dryad for paper and ink?
The sunlight illuminating the shifting leaves creates patterns on the moss beds ahead of you. The kaleidoscope of verdant tones is hypnotizing, but gradually your mind succeeds in creating sense out of the shifting shades. The forms of five immortals, all beloved of this glade and its mistress, take their places before you. You sense these are memories of the mortals Rhina cherished, rather than the powerful beings they became. First, you are faced by Solanthas, the years of war and strife softened from his face; he is generous and kind, strong and full of hope. Nicademus' wings appear to set the leaves to quivering with echoes of his ready laugh. Elladan ducks in and out of the shade lines, his eyes alight with wisdom and cleverness. Tamar stands, half illuminated, her eyes already full of the dreams that led her to immortality. Myronides' energy thrills through you, as you catch a glimpse of his elven face, proud and protective, yet alive to the wonders you have already seen. Slowly the shapes fade back into green static, and it is merely sunlight's game with leaves that skips over the mossy ground.
A vast canopy of hazelnut leaves shades you from the heat of the sun. The wind that rustles the leaves cools the air. A perfect balance of light and shade, of heat and chill, has been reached in this elusive stand of trees.
Soft, almost luxurious, moss carpets the ground. Hazelnuts lie beside their more developed brethren, the light green saplings that reach hungrily for the sun. Shy white flowers are visited by plump bumblebees, promising sweet strawberries to come. Fat mushrooms grow beside wide trunks. These all beg to be gathered for a delicious buffet of wild treats.
You are able to piece together the following words scrawled on the parchment: We are a Lawful Neutral following. Pacifism requires great self-restraint and strict adherence to those laws to which I find necessary to bind you. Your choices to a great extent will be your own, but I require absolute obedience to my will when expressed. Neutrality is the hardest route of all; you have not picked a simple life. We must walk between the two great powers of existence without being drawn into the blinding glare or shadow of either side. Read further for rules to guide you.
1) Never take life. You will be provoked, you will be angered, you will watch companions fall. Always stay true to the pacifist ideal. 2) Never take sides. You are as neutral as the world herself. You ally yourself with individuals, but no cause but our own. 3) Never show disrespect. Mortals and immortals alike are deserving of utmost courtesy, if not for their own sakes, then for yours. 4) Always adore your goddess. 5) Always, but always, enjoy yourself. Take the time for the small pleasures.