The beings of Tierney Ríocht sought to name Moss as their king, but he declined. Instead, he chose one of his great-granddaughters to be queen, mother of the realm of magic in music. Her voice uplifted the people, and for her they wrote poetry and sang songs. In time, Moss taught her how to visit the world of Earth, and she took as her king a man who believed just as much in magic and music as Moss did. They forged a new lineage together, one that would forever reign over the realm.
Other descendants of Moss found those who believed in creatures of magic and myth, and in legends and song, and brought them to Tierney Ríocht to start other human lineages. They were all of them allies of the other creatures of the world; they were friends to elves and fae, comrades to centaurs and dwarves, and they welcome the fauns and all other creatures of the world into their lives.
The humans strove also to befriend the beings of shadows. They had an uneasy alliance with the dragons, but try as they might to befriend the devils, they were betrayed time and again. The satyrs sought to control them, to take advantage of what they had to offer. The humans worked as hard as they could to teach these beings to be kind and generous and patient, but only rarely did they succeed. Still, the fact that they had at all was enough to make them believe that they could teach everyone, no matter how dark. They were intent on spreading goodness throughout this world.
There were those who did not share in the joy that Moss brought to Tierney Ríocht: beings who lived in shadow, unable to uplift themselves, burdened by greed and jealousy. Unseen and unstoppable, one such being met with Moss at the base of the sacred tree. Moss faced them ready to put his heart into helping this tarnished being. In the end. their dark blade pierced his heart, and as they fled, Moss’s blood soaked the earth.
Creatures and family from all across Tierney Ríocht came to mourn him. The roots of the tree wrapped around his body, cocooning him, holding onto the remains of what it had made. It could not heal him, could not remake his body; there was no way to bring him back from such a fatal wound. A cairn of stones was built around those roots, and still those stones rest together.
The creatures of the shadows blamed one another for having ended Moss’s life. None would admit to it, and each accused the other of the most vile of sins. Resentment reared it’s ugly head. Even some of the beings of light searched for whom to blame.
There were other beings, however, who sought to transform what they could into a final, lasting expression of beauty in Moss’s memory. The tree could not make another being like Moss, and instead it called upon the spirits of the world. Fire spirits, water spirits, spirits of wind and earth and flowers– and so many more. Together, they made the land where Moss had fallen bloom. flowers sprouted, bright and bold, their scent, unlike anything else before known to the realm, filling the air. Their layers of petals were like the countless flames of a fire, but their stems pricked, just as Moss have been pierced by the blade of one of the dark beings.
These were the roses, the flowers that would be sung about and shared and loved by all. These were the flowers given more meaning than any other by the beings of this world. Where his blood had been shed, they grew a deep, dark crimson, and high up in the mountains, they bloomed white as snow. In the valleys, they were pink and yellow, and on the hills, bright vermilion. In countless other colors they grew, and in countless other places. It was even rumored that in the darkest places in the realm, they grew black as midnight.
Larsa had tears in his eyes when Nikolai finished reading that section of the ballad. “He was… was slain?” he whimpered.
Actually, Killian’s eyes glistened as well.
“Murdered, really,” Stefan said. Then he looked to Nikolai. “And they still don’t know who did it? Or if they’re even alive to face the consequences of their crime?”
Nikolai shook his head. “There are some who hope that Moss’s killer was destroyed along with the part of our world that crumbled. Others worry that someone with the tenacity and will to kill him would also have the skill to escape such dangers. We may never know.”
Stefan glanced down at me. I knew he could tell that I was deep in thought; I think that’s why he laid his hand on mine. “Leila?” he asked softly.
I looked up at him. “Moss was created because something else in Tierney Ríocht years before…”
“Centuries before,” Brom said. “Our world’s harmony was broken, and the Tree of Life created Moss to help keep everything from falling apart.”
“He would still be alive today if he hadn’t been killed,” Aubré added.
“And you have no idea who it was…” I breathed, trying to process it all, “or what happened in the final hour of his life…”
Aubré shook his head. “The most likely scenario was that he was snuck up on while he was mourning his beloved.”
“His wife?” I asked. “You mean… he was able to live longer, but she couldn’t?”
“She lived longer than most humans of her time,” Tobias replied, “but Moss couldn’t give Ciara the gift of life that he had. It passed to his children, and to their children, but those who joined us from Earth could only expect a good life, not one as long as ours.”
“Ciara Moss…” I whispered. I didn’t know much about my family’s history or genealogy, but the name was as Irish as I could have expected. It also occurred to me that she probably had a different family name before she joined with Moss, and there was no way for me to know her family’s perspective on her going off with him. “So… Tierney Ríocht has humans only because of Moss. He was the first human here, and he and his descendants brought more from Earth.”
Brom nodded. “Some of them lived a Terran lifespan,” he explained, “but those born from the union of Terran humans and those descended from Moss have a lifespan more like the elves, fae, and other beings of Tierney Ríocht.”
“Ye’re human yerself,” Killian pointed out. “And ye’ve lived for a good many centuries if ye met with a member of our family from the fifteenth century.”
“Right you are,” he agreed. “I was already… Oh, I’d say forty years old when Moss was killed. That was what started my quest for how to keep our world from falling apart.”
“Wow, you’ve been around for so long!” Larsa enthused. “Hey, if you’re related to Moss, and some of his family stayed on Earth, is everyone with that surname also related to him?”
Brom gave him a warm smile. “You’re right about that. Some of his descendants took other family names when they married, so there are more than you realize.”
“Oh, like Killian’s mom!” Larsa grinned. “So you’re related to the Moss the Tree of Life made!”
“Distantly, lad,” Killian reminded him.
“Then so is Leila,” Stefan added. “But what about the longer lifespans? Did that gift fade away over the generations?”
“I’m afraid it doesn’t work on Earth,” Jean-Marc said. “Even the earliest descendants of Moss lived a normal Terran lifespan if they stayed there.”
“Well then… if you’re human here, you’re descended from Moss,” Stefan went on, “but you’ve also added other family names to the mix. Some diverse ones, I’ve noticed, too.”
“People all over your world believe in magic,” Nikolai pointed out. “Anyhow, no matter how far out the family had branched, every human here has a link back to Moss.”
“We’re related, then,” I said, looking between Brom, Jean-Marc, and Maël. “and Brielle, too.”
“Heh…” Stefan scoffed. “Pretty distantly.”
“Oh, stop that, mister ‘my ancestors are Vikings!'”
I knew he didn’t hold any ill will, though. It was all just banter and playful semantics. He smirked, then gave me a fond smile. Then he had some more questions. “Do the humans not mate with the elves or dwarves?”
Nikolai chuckled at that. “Oh, there have been some intermarriages here and there, but they rarely produce any children.”