Episode 9: Death of the Echowood

Listen on Acast

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Listen on Spotify

CONTENT WARNING: Discussions of illness, death, and grief, natural disasters, existential dread and paranoia, and character betrayal.

Chasing the Traveler into the woods, Grael soon finds himself alone beside the ancient archway – the door between worlds. There, he finds someone he does not expect… And a story about the arch’s creator becomes a meditation on time, change, and the end of all things.

Starring Sam Taylor as Grael, Tal Minear as The Traveler, and Alejandra Cejudo as Maeven, with original music by Jesse Haugen. Written and produced by Trevor Van Winkle and made possible by our supporters on Kickstarter, Patreon.com/homesteadcorner, and ko-fi.com/homesteadcorner. Executive produced by Axel Allcock.

For more information, additional content, and episode transcript, visit homesteadonthecorner.com/tote009

“Dark Emptiness” elements created by jalastram (https://freesound.org/people/jalastram/), Licensed under Creative Commons (CC 3.0 Unported: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

“Medieval City” element created by OGsoundFX (https://freesound.org/people/OGsoundFX/), Licensed under Creative Commons (CC 3.0 Unported: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

“Wind in basement” element created by jrosin (https://freesound.org/people/jrosin/), Licensed under Creative Commons (CC 3.0 Unported: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

“Breaking Ice” element created by dheming (https://freesound.org/people/dheming/), Licensed under Creative Commons (CC 3.0 Unported: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

“Prayers in church” element created by klankbeeld (https://freesound.org/people/klankbeeld/), Licensed under Creative Commons (CC 3.0 Unported: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

Transcript

CONTENT WARNING: Discussions of illness, death, and grief, natural disasters, existential dread and paranoia, and character betrayal.

[Forest at night – wind, birds, creaking branches]

Narrator

Before we get started, this episode contains discussions of illness, death, and grief, natural disasters, existential dread and paranoia, and character betrayal. Content warnings and a full transcript are available in the show notes.

Grael (distant, echoing)

Traveler! Traveler, come back, it isn’t safe out here! Traveler!

[The Traveler breaks through the foliage, running and panting]

[The Traveler stops, catching their breath]

Maeven

I warned you, didn’t I?

[The Traveler gasps]

[Maeven emerges from the bushes, walking towards them]

Maeven

I warned you that he’d turn on you eventually. That you weren’t safe with him.

The Traveler

Yeah. You did.

Maeven

It’s not like you to accept defeat so easily.

The Traveler

I can admit when I’m wrong, Maeven.

[Silence]

Maeven

And were you?

[Silence]

The Traveler

I thought I could trust him. That he was trying to help me, even after everything.

Maeven

And now?

[The Traveler scoffs]

The Traveler

Now I don’t know what to believe.

Maeven

Believe that this Echowood must reach the end of its path without his interference. Believe that his plans for you sow nothing but disaster. Believe…

The Traveler

Why should I trust you more than him? I spent the last three months with him, and I still don’t know what he wants. I barely even know you!

Maeven

You know what I am, how I serve the Echowood…

The Traveler

Only because of what Grael told me! I don’t even know if any of that’s true!

Maeven

Heed me now child, and listen well…

The Traveler

No, you listen! I didn’t ask to come here. I didn’t want to be a part of this – I don’t even know what this is! You can’t ask me to kill someone just because you say so!

Maeven

It’s the only way -!

The Traveler

No! No it isn’t.

Grael (distant, echoing)

Traveler! Please, come back!

Maeven

If you go out there on your own, I won’t be able to protect you anymore.

The Traveler

I don’t care.

[The Traveler turns and runs off into the trees]

[Main theme]

Narrator

Homestead on the Corner presents: Tales of the Echowood

[Main theme ends]

[The woods at night, near the ruins of the Archway]

[Grael’s wings flutter as he pushes through the foliage]

Grael

Traveler! Traveler, it’s not safe out here, you need to come back! Please! Please…

[Grael stops, sinking to the ground]

[Long silence]

Grael

I thought this time would be different. That you wouldn’t run

away. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

[Wolves howl in the distance]

Grael

But I taught you everything you need to survive out here. I just hope you were listening.

[Slow footsteps approach out of the trees]

Grael

Oh, there you are. I thought I might find you here eventually – back where it all started.

[Grael stands and crosses to the Archway, pushing away the vines covering the stone arch]

Grael

Beautiful, isn’t it? Even after all these years – or maybe because of them. The runes are almost worn away, and the stones are choked with moss and vine… But oak and ash and iron and thorn still grow beneath them, strong as the day they were woven. Still… I don’t think it’s very long for this world

now. Time passes ever into the future, its only constant change.

Maybe another six or seven years, and then the door between worlds closes forever. Three hundred years I’ve kept this inn and arch, and now… It’s nearly over. One way or another.

[Footsteps slowly approach]

[Grael scoffs, sitting down]

Grael

Did I ever tell you how I first came here? How the inn began? No – it’s not a story I would have told you. Told anyone. But look where the stories I didn’t tell got me: alone in all the worlds.

[Grael shifts position]

Grael

Why not? Why not tell the story… It’s not like it will change your mind. Like it will change anything.

[Grael takes a breath, then lets it out]

[Music]

Grael

You know how the arch was made… How the doors between worlds were first opened by a desperate sorcerer in a time of drought and fear and death. You know the heroes who came forth, who saved the village-city trapped behind its walls and gave it courage enough to venture into the unknown. You know of the girl and the hunter who trained her, and the sorcerer who fled the dungeons and vanished into the deep-wood beyond. And there the story ended. But their lives went on for many, many years beyond that day… Until they didn’t.

It was nearly a hundred years before the sorcerer dared to return to that city beneath the trees, no longer walled-in or dying of famine. The village council who condemned him for his lies had died off long ago, while his magic extended his years beyond those of other mortals. Even so, he waited decades before returning, fearful of what he would find – and when he finally passed into the wide clearing that held the village of his youth, he almost didn’t recognize it. The walls had been torn down, though the gates remained on tall posts of old stone carved with an unfamiliar crest. Even then, he struggled to recognize the gates, which had not changed a whit in the century he’d been gone. Had they been repainted? Stained? Sanded and cleaned? Then it came to him – they were open. He could count on one hand the number of times he’d seen them flung open at midday before, but now, they were propped open, with heavy steel braces holding them in place. To the sorcerer’s eyes, it looked like they had not been moved in months.

[Sound of a busy village street – voices, bells, hammering]

As he wandered the once-familiar high street towards the remains of his now-ancient arboretum, he saw new signs, shops, and houses in every direction he looked – new constructions built atop the old, and even a few places where it looked like fire had swept through, destroying the old structures. From the look of things, the city had wasted little time in building on the ashes. More unfamiliar than the new buildings, however, was the sense of bustle and business that filled the street from end to end. Even when he was young and the city first began growing inwards like a cancer, it had never been this crowded – while homes were packed tight with as many souls as they could fit, the population could only grow so far, and they certainly didn’t let outsiders wander in to swell their numbers. But now, the faces he saw were unfamiliar – bright, clear-skinned youths who’d never worked a day at farming, short, squat, heavy-shod

dwarves bustling about the blacksmith’s stall down the road – even a wulver, dressed to the nines in fine silk and lace with his dark gray fur combed neatly around his ears. As the sorcerer watched, the wulver stooped his wolf-like head below the doorframe of the general store, and emerged a few minutes later with a bushel of bright red apples in a rough woolen sack. He paused just long enough to take a heavy bite of one before turning and strolling back up the lane towards the gate.

[Street noise fades, low droning noise]

The sorcerer didn’t know what to make of any of this. He knew that building the gate would open his village up to outsiders, but he never expected the people he grew up with to embrace these strangers so quickly or so entirely. It was a good thing – at least, he thought so. But there was an odd gnawing sensation of wrongness in his gut… A feeling that something was not quite right about what he was seeing.

If he’d taken a longer moment to reflect on that feeling, he might have realized it was just the way all people feel when returning to their home and finding it changed without them. There was nothing wrong with the village-city and its new denizens… But it was different from how he remembered, and to a mind already on edge with fear and uncertainty… such change feels like danger.

[Street sounds fade in, foosteps]

But he did not reflect, and did not realize. Instead, he continued through the town – past the shops and merchants of the old market, through the affluent neighborhoods clustered around the center of the city, then passing by the ruins of the arboretum. The archway still stood, of course – it would stand for thousands upon thousands of years, and the sorcerer knew it.

[Quiet wind, distant voices]

But the land around it had been cleared and resown years ago, with bright flowers and meadow-grass fed by the aqueducts that brought water from the far-off reservoir. The old stone wall that used to ring the groves of oak and ash and thorn remained, and the sorcerer watched as a young father helped his child balance as they walked along the top of the smooth stones, giggling all the while. Despite himself, the sorcerer felt a thin smile curve the corners of his mouth. The place where he deceived the entire city – the place where he opened up a gate into the darkness between worlds – had now become a park where children and families played and picnicked and napped in the sun. Another change – but this one did not bother him so.

He carried on – past the park and the archway at its center, past the old well now falling into disuse and disrepair, past the old council hall that still looked just the same as it ever had. Of course it did – changed as the village was, the sorcerer doubted the council had changed with it. If not for the century that had passed since he’d last been here, he wouldn’t have been surprised to see the same old faces looking down from those seats as he saw that morning when he opened the archway.

[Low rising drone]

But he was not here for them, nor for the park, nor for any other place in the village. It had been so long that he could barely remember the address, but eventually, he found it: a small, single story home of wattle and brick at the corner of three streets, with a plain red door and a lantern hanging beside it. After a long moment of hesitation, the sorcerer stepped onto the threshold – then knocked.

[Footsteps, knocking on wood]

There was no answer. He frowned, then knocked again.

[Knocking]

Still nothing. He stepped back, glancing up and down the street in confusion. Had he found the wrong house after all? Had he misremembered the description she gave him all those years ago, as she helped him weave the thin branches of saplings into the shape of a door?

The confusion on his face must have been clear for all to see, as an older woman with a hammer on her belt called out from across the street. “You looking for someone?” She asked, her voice carrying clear and strong over the distant hum of voices and animals hanging over the city. The sorcerer, surprised, said that he was: a woman who lived here, or perhaps used to live here, who perhaps worked as a hunter?

At that, the woman’s face fell. “I’m so sorry,” she said, her voice tinged with a sadness the sorcerer could feel from across the street, “The poor woman… She spent her whole life protecting this place, fighting harder than anyone could ask – and what killed her in the end? After so many years, to be laid low by somethin’ she couldn’t see, much less fight. But she tried. By gods, she tried.”

[Music]

The sorcerer’s mouth went dry. He’d known before he left that he was unlikely to find her – but he thought there might be a chance. She’d been touched by the magic of the green in much the same way he was, even if she didn’t know it… and if that was true, then he’d hoped it might extend her life as well as his. But if her neighbor was telling the truth – if she’d been laid low by an illness while he was gone…

“You all right, father?” The woman asked, clearly concerned by the look of grief and rage twisting his face. The sorcerer shook himself from his thoughts and asked how long ago she’d died. The older woman’s face fell once more. “Less than a year ago. She’s buried in the old churchyard, if you want to pay your respects.” With that, she turned and resumed her walk – either she had somewhere to be, or she didn’t like the look on his face. The sorcerer didn’t blame her – he didn’t like it much himself.

Less than a year… It was almost too cruel to believe. Had he hurried back to the village just a little faster, had he not been so afraid of the judgement and punishment he’d escaped long ago, then he would have been in time. He might have been able to save her, cure her illness and let her walk the woods again. But no… She was gone, and no amount of magic could change that… turn back time and give him his farewell.

Without meaning to, the sorcerer found his footsteps leading him into the wide plot of gravestones in the field behind the church. He glanced up, confused. When did it get so dark? Had night fallen without him noticing? How long had he been wandering the streets, lost in grief and rage and guilt? The questions broke the haze hanging over his thoughts for a moment, but he found no answers in the darkened muddle of his mind. If someone had approached him at that moment, he couldn’t have told them who he was or what he was doing, no matter how hard he tried. His legs felt numb, even as they carried him forward into the cemetery. The only light shone faint and golden through the stained glass of the sanctuary – midnight prayers were underway, and a hundred candles flickered within. But the light they shone into the darkened graveyard was little comfort – sickly and yellowed as it died amongst the old stones. Even so, the sorcerer could find his way down the rows and rows of graves easily enough. He did not know where to look, nor did he really care. Aimless and heartless, he treaded the paths of the dead as sure as any specter in the underworld, though the grass beneath his feet was green and living.

[Dull, foggy wind, muffled sounds of praying voices]

At long last, he stopped. His feet had carried him almost to the outer wall, where the filtered light of the candles barely reached. Standing before him was a small family mausoleum. There were a few dotted around the smaller gravestones and monuments, but the words above the door caught his eye. He could barely read them in the dark and through his tears, but eventually, he made out the phrase: “All endings are but new beginnings.” After a long moment, he stepped forward, and with a single word compelled the lock to open before stepping into the pitch darkness within.

[Flash of magic, door creaking open]

[Low rising drone]

The mausoleum was small and cramped: the ceiling just tall enough that he didn’t knock his head against it. He kindled a small ghostlight around his hands, struggling to focus and maintain the glow. Inside, the walls were lined with rows upon rows of copper urns on marble shelves, with names and dates carved below each and every one of them. In a town where every inch of space was once a precious resource, cremation had been the favored method of burial for centuries – and it seemed the old families still practiced it, even with the walls torn down. Slowly, with no real desire to find what he was looking for, the sorcerer scanned the labels one by one in the flickering grey light of his magic. Years and centuries rolled by as he read across the rows of ancestors long passed out of any living memory – some with titles that still rang out in stories, but most with a simple name that even a lore-master like him couldn’t recognize.

And then the dates became more recent. Soon the year of his birth oh-so-long ago passed by, and he began to recognize other members of the young hunter’s family: her favorite uncle, her mother, her father… then her siblings. Her cousins. Names he’d heard long ago, as they traded stories beneath the merciless sun in the arboretum. His stomach fell with every name he read – she’d outlived every one of her family members, and even a few nieces and nephews who’d died young. She’d endured – the magic of the green and a life well-lived sustaining her… But she had not lived forever. And no force on earth could keep the sorcerer from reading the next name down the line. “Rowan Baumann. Beloved daughter, sister, and protector of the woods. In peace may she rest.”

The sorcerer did not remember leaving that mausoleum. He did not remember wandering down the empty high street and out the still-open gate into the darkened forest, lost to time and place. The only thing he remembered was standing in the churchyard, glancing back at the words carved above the door. The midnight vigil had ended, and only the pale light of a crescent moon illuminated the letters. His vision was already swimming, and in the dark the words seemed to shift and move around one another until they read: “All beginnings are naught but ends.”

[Music]

No one in that village ever saw the sorcerer again – indeed, no one saw him anywhere. There are stories, of course… Rumors, whispers. That his grief drove him to necromancy and dark magic as he tried to resurrect his old friend, corrupting the green and eventually leading to his death. That his tear-blind wanderings took him out of the world completely, through the arch that he had made so long ago. Some say he chose to end his long life by his own hand… But I don’t believe that is how it ended. More likely, he – like the girl he befriended in that village – was an echo from another time: a name and voice and soul endlessly rebounding between the trees and across time and history, and his part in the tale was done. I believe that in his grief, he returned grateful to the green that bore him, awaiting rebirth in a happier place and time. “The Echowood just echoes on… Where nothing lost is ever gone.”

[Sounds of the forest at night]

But something is always lost… That was something that neither I, nor the sorcerer, nor the Rowan that was or the Rowan I knew or a hundred Ladies Little-Ash or Silvia Linwoods could ever understand: no world can live forever, no matter how many times it shifts and changes and turns beneath our feet. No matter how many lives are lived by each and every soul we brought into being at the moment of creation. No matter how many lives we wrote for ourselves across the eons, sad and happy and brave and lonely in turn. Nor could we know how deeply each of those lives would affect us, when the turnings of the world began at last to slow and the green faded with the passing of the seasons.

[Low drone]

We thought we had saved the world by binding it within the Nevermoor – but we had only trapped it in its own decay, and as the fog-bog grows like rot into the foundations of the world, the cycles of rebirth grow shorter and shorter, crumbling away as more and more of the Echowood we knew falls into darkness and death. We wrote 10,000 years of history into this place, but now… Now, I cannot hope to see it last more than 100 years.

[Music]

The village-city endured for another age of the Echowood, growing, shrinking, falling to in-fighting and decadence before finally crumbling nearly 300 years after the sorcerer left it. The clearing was abandoned for many years thereafter, until finally, with the changing of the age and another turn of history, a castle rose in its place – built by no human or elvish or faerie hands, but built nonetheless… a towering edifice of magic and stone that rose seven-spired beside the sea without end. Few in the Echowood trusted it, but all knew that their allegiance and loyalty belonged to that place. So it remained empty for many years, waiting for the age to turn and prophecy to come true. For all within the Echowood knew of the old-god and the maker-child who sung their world into being, and all awaited the day when their age of story and song would meet the moment of creation, and their gods would sit in power at Castle Caraway.

Yet those ages were long in passing, and in time rulers came to sit in power on the throne of prophecy – a greedy emperor from beyond the world’s edge, who met his end at the hand of the green… Small kings and small queens elected from the nobility to reign over the Echowood – first in times of crisis, then in times of uncertainty, and finally all the time, as the gentry became corrupt and self-serving above all else. The old oak tree that was once an emperor had been cut down long ago, and the throne restored – but not for the one it was meant for, and the scramble for power lasted long into the late ages of the world.

And then finally, in a small village well out of the way of the kings and emperors and power struggles at the heart of the Echowood… I was born. Not just another echo, another reflection of who I was, but the sprite who had written the world into being… Who wrote himself into the story, not knowing what that meant. I didn’t know who I was, and the magic that placed me in the world kept anyone else from noticing either. So I lived the life that Rowan and I had written: centuries upon centuries of adventure, love, loss, grief, and loneliness, before eventually, the day of creation came, and I was reunited with the old-god I once was and the maker-child who was Rowan. And on that day, as we stitched the broken world together and discovered the fog-bog beyond the boundaries of the wood, I began to realize that the future was no longer certain… That the prophecies ran dry at the moment Rowan sat on the throne of Castle Caraway. We’d written endless ages into the past, but the future… The future was no longer set in stone.

[Low ticking clock, wind]

[Low rising drone]

I felt the consequences of that soon enough. The Rowan who sat on the throne of Caraway was not a character written into a tale, nor a reflection of her soul stitched into the world we’d made. She was a child: one who grew and aged and lived much of her life outside the borders of the Echowood, in the world she was born into and still called home. Yet she was torn between that world and the one she had made. I could see it plain as day on her face, even as we adventured and explored and ruled over an age of peace and prosperity unlike anything the Echowood had ever seen. She made friends amongst the beings she had helped create: the owls, the dwarves, and humans who bore her image… But she also tried to bring friends from her world into the Echowood. Few believed what they saw, and fewer still chose to return more than once. And as she grew up and grew older, she began to doubt this world as well. Her visits became less and less frequent, her presence at the castle less sure. And finally, on a day I will not soon forget… She told me she was leaving for good.

[Music]

I understood little of what she said – she’d graduated from her schooling and was leaving for further training somewhere far away. I asked why she couldn’t stay, what this university offered that she couldn’t find in the Echowood. She shook her head after a long moment, saying that it wasn’t about that – it was about finally growing up. After all, I hadn’t expected her to stay in the Echowood forever, had I?

I told her that I had – that we were both bound to this world in ways that could not be broken so easily, and that leaving was not an option… not for me. But that did little to dissuade her. She was always stronger-willed than I. And as she turned and walked back towards the archway to return to her home… I did something I will regret until the end of all worlds.

I… Broke her. I fractured her soul in two and stole the piece of her that belonged to this place – the child she was so long ago, when we spoke the world into being. The Lady Little-Ash. And in that moment, I sealed this world’s fate.

For many years, I reigned beside the half-Rowan I had taken, a child who could live forever young within the walls of Caraway, never aging, never growing… never changing. So blind was I with fear and grief that I did not see the truth: that what I made was anathema to all that Echowood was… A fixed point in a world that was nothing but change. And like a nail against a ream of cloth, Lady Little-Ash began to tear at the fabric of the world she was made to enjoy.

I would not have seen sense if not for the most unlikely turn of fate: Rowan came back. After returning to the home she grew up in to be married, she ran away in fear to the waiting arms of the Echowood. I thought, perhaps, that there was a chance to restore what was lost, a chance to bring her back for good. She fled for fear of change, and I thought that maybe, just maybe, she would choose to stay with me and preserve the world against the decay that had already begun to set in. But I was wrong. Despite my best efforts, she found the Echowood different than she remembered – though perhaps that was because she had changed… Had grown. And when she learned the truth about Lady Little Ash and the fracturing of her own soul… Well, it all happened so fast I could barely see it. But in the end, the child was gone, and I saw in Rowan’s eyes that she was whole once more… Whole, and ready to return to her love.

[Sounds of the wood at night]

To my dying day, I will regret the words I spoke that night – the things I did – the lives I took in my rage. I tried to stop her, tried to hold her and trap her within this world… And in so doing burned whatever bonds of friendship still remained between us. In the end, it didn’t matter. She let the Nevermoor, the great Fog-Bog at the border of the world, consume her, and she woke again in her own world as though nothing had happened… As if it was all a dream. I spoke with her once, in the hospital as she recovered from her fall – but that was the last time I ever saw her. I returned to the Echowood, alone for the first time in years with no idea what to do next. Rowan was still alive in her own world… But she was gone from mine, and would never return.

I wandered the woods alone for decades. Without Rowan, the decay consuming the Echowood only accelerated, and within a century the Castle Caraway, long-abandoned by all but the rats, collapsed into itself, its seven spires crumbling down as the magic which made them gave way. The dragons of earth and air and fire and water began to grow older and weaker, the elements themselves becoming more uncertain and unstable than ever before. And I… I wandered alone, and watched my world die around me. And as it did, my heart stirred, and the first seeds of a plan began to form in my mind.

Of all the structures in the Echowood, only the gateway between worlds remained unaffected. Its magic had weakened, and no heroes had emerged since long before Rowan’s return… But the old stones and living trees still stood strong. The archway was made to save this world… And I knew that it could do so again.

[Low rising drone]

So I began to build. Day by day and week by week, I toiled in the ruins of Caraway, finding old stones and timber still strong enough for my purpose. I laid foundations by magic and hard toil, raised beams and set stones and carved doors that would be warm and welcoming to all who passed them by. And at long last, the Inn of the Archway was complete… a place of welcome and restoration for those I would bring through the doorway, where I could spin my tales and test them one by one to see if they would share my vision – my dream of an Echowood made new – and raise their voice with mine in a new song of creation.

[Grael scoffs]

Grael

I never could help myself when it came to stories, could I? I guess I’ve been waiting to tell that one for a long time now.

[Footsteps approach]

Maeven

So can you still not see it? Why you must fail? Why what you’re trying to do is impossible?

[Grael laughs]

Grael

I spent an afternoon making up stories with a child in the forest, and a new universe sprang up around us, Maeven. Forgive me if I’m not so eager to say what’s possible, and what’s not.

Maeven

Rowan was unique, Grael. One of a kind. How many reflections of her have walked beneath these trees? And how many of them are able to remake worlds?

[Grael’s wings flutter into motion]

[Rain begins quietly to fall]

Grael

Don’t tell me who Rowan was like you knew her, Maeven. She was my friend – perhaps the only real friend I’ve had in all the ages. I bound myself here because of her. I’m trying to save this world for her!

Maeven

And you think the Traveler can help you do that? They’re a scared child alone in the woods, beholden to a faerie who in his hubris thinks he can resist the turning of the age. All things die, Grael – they die, and are born again in new and different forms. Powerful as you are, even you cannot prolong death forever.

Grael

Is that what Anthea taught you?

[Wind rises, thunder crashes, ethereal singing]

Maeven

Don’t you DARE speak her name, ash-borne! She understood the balance more than you ever could – more than anyone. But I lingered, I endured… I did not follow my love into the dreaming because I knew what you were planning. How you would unbalance all worlds to save your own. Do you believe that was easy for me? That I do not regret that decision every single day?

Grael

No. I don’t.

[Wind and magic fades away]

Maeven

You must let this world fade, Grael. For the sake of all life. For the sake of your own soul. You need to let go.

Grael

You know I can’t do that, Maeven.

Maeven

Then I will do what I must.

[Maeven steps forwards, raising her hands]

Maeven

“Echowood, o earth and stone: Bind thy maker here.”

[The earth rumbles and cracks, ropes of energy snapping as they bind Grael]

[Grael yelps in pain]

Maeven

I’m sorry Grael.

Grael

Just… do it.

Maeven

“The balance long forsaken: Of life and death in twain… Now fulfill as all things must: Fall now and-“

[Thrashing leaves, running footsteps]

The Traveler

Get away from him!

[Faint metallic ring as they draw their sword]

Maeven

Where did you get that?

[The Traveler swings their sword, panting]

The Traveler

Get BACK!

Maeven

You really think a sword will do you any good against a witch? Against the power of the green?

The Traveler

I don’t know, but I sure as hell can try.

Maeven

I thought you said you were tired of this sprite and his endless, cloying words.

The Traveler

That doesn’t mean I want you to kill him!

Maeven

So you’d kill in his name, to keep him safe? My, but you have changed…

The Traveler

STAY BACK!

[The Traveler swings their sword wildly – once, twice]

[Maeven stops]

[Grael’s wings flutter]

Grael

Traveler…?

The Traveler

Shut up.

Grael

When did you get your voice –

The Traveler

Not now, Grael!

[Tense silence, rain falling heavier]

Maeven

If this is how you wish this tale to end… So be it, Traveler. I’ll leave you and your keeper in peace… for now. But I will be watching, Grael. I will be waiting. And if you try and open that archway again… I’ll make sure you never finish that spell.

[Maeven turns and begins to walk off]

The Traveler

Hey, wait – Wait!

[The Traveler races after her, grabbing her by the arm]

Maeven

I’ve no more business with you, Traveler. You’ve clearly made up your mind.

The Traveler

So that’s it, then? You just spend three months trying to convince me to kill someone, then just… Leave?

Maeven

What else am I supposed to do?

The Traveler

Say you’re sorry! Apologize, or… At least say goodbye!

Maeven

But I’m not sorry, and I have nothing to apologize for. I serve the will of the Echowood. And I am not your friend, whatever you might think of me. Least of all now.

The Traveler

I just didn’t want you to kill him… Is that wrong?

[Silence, rain begins to slow down and turn to snow]

Maeven

I can’t say what will come of it, for good or ill. The balance between death and life is fickle and terribly delicate, and sometimes saving a life is less a mercy than ending it. But for one like you… Maybe it was the right choice. Perhaps. Time will tell.

I won’t wish you well, Traveler, for I don’t know which path you’ll take next. I only wish you… Good luck, and godspeed.

[Maeven turns and walks off into the trees]

[Grael’s wings flutter]

Grael

Thank you, Traveler –

The Traveler

Save it. You’ve said enough.

Grael

I never lied to you –

The Traveler

No, I just had to learn that you’re a god from some random bard, didn’t I!

[Grael doesn’t answer]

[The Traveler makes an exasperated noise, dropping their sword on the ground]

The Traveler

How many stories have you told me, and I still have no idea who or what you are? Why I’m here? How many of us you’ve stolen?

[Grael’s wings flutter, alarmed]

Grael

How much of that did you hear?

The Traveler

Just the end of it. It sounds like you’ve been doing this for a while.

[Grael scoffs]

Grael

“A while.” That’s one way of putting it.

[The Traveler takes a step closer]

The Traveler

Why am I here?

[Silence and snowfall]

The Traveler

Grael? Grael?

[Faint movement as Grael looks up]

[Grael sighs]

Grael

No more secrets. No more games. That time is past.

[Music]

Grael

Come with me, Traveler, and I will tell you everything.

[Grael’s wings flutter as he flies back towards the inn]

[Footsteps as The Traveler follows him]

[End Credits]

Narrator

Tales of the Echowood. Episode Nine: Death of the Echowood. Starring Sam Taylor as Grael, Tal Minear as the Traveler, and Alejandra Cejudo as Maeven, with original music by Jesse Haugen. Written and produced by Trevor Van Winkle and made possible by our supporters on Kickstarter and Patreon.com/homesteadcorner. Our executive producer was Axel Allcock. To learn more about the series and listen to our other podcasts, visit Homesteadonthecorner.com. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, feel free to connect with us on Twitter and Instagram @echowoodpod, and leave a review on Apple Podcasts or the podcatcher of your choice. I’m Trevor Van Winkle, this is Homestead on the Corner, and you’re listening to: Tales of the Echowood.

[Main theme]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s