Another post on world-building in After the Ruin. This time, I’ll tell you a bit about the borderlands, the liùthion* and their king, and the firstborn tree.
The borderlands lie at the edges of the waking world. You come to them across a stream which rises at the foot of the firstborn tree. It’s a little thing to the eye, that stream, no further than you could easily jump, no deeper than your arm up to its shoulder, but don’t be deceived by what your eyes show you. That stream runs far faster than you could swim, it’s far deeper than you can think, and only a fool would step in it. When the time and place are right – midwinter in the wild woods of Eulana, say, or midsummer in Lyikené, or else upon the equinox in many places across the world – the further bank is not the one you can see from this side of the water. Instead, you’ll find yourself in borderlands between a dream and waking, where the sun never rises, the stars never set and the wind never ceases to blow across the empty land.
The kindred of the borderlands are the liùthion. They have no hearts that can be broken or flesh to bleed: they are air and starlight, dancing forever on the wind. There’s a king too, in the borderlands, a quiet king in a tattered cloak and stars tangled in his hair. He wears a borrowed face (and has worn many faces since the waking world began) and guards the firstborn tree beneath his sky.
The firstborn tree
The firstborn tree is an apple tree. It looks much like many apple trees – green leaves, little yellow apples, its branches bent against the wind from the sea – but this tree grew on the day the sun first rose upon the waking world and when it dies the waking world shall pass away, as if it had never been. It grows by day within the waking world, on a hill close by the king’s hall in Lyikené, and by night in the borderlands. Only the kings of Lyikené and the borderlands may rightly pick its apples. It’s not a little thing to eat the fruit of the firstborn tree. One of those apples grants oblivion (an end to sense and self and memory) if picked in the borderlands but an new beginning, an understanding of oneself and one’s place in the world, if picked in the waking world.
* I said in an earlier post that Liùthai, the western, evening star, was the root of many names in After the Ruin. This is one of them.