When Branoc had lived years two score and three, the Great Spirit Lokrin grew bored with fair skies and decided to test his children, the Lathra, great serpents of wind and sky, with a storm of sudden darkness. While the sea dragons flew in the arms of the spirits of the wind, the red sail of Bran, too far from the silver sands, went down into the sea.
Branoc wept to hear of his father's passing. He wove a shirt of golden mail, which was so fine that a needle could not pass through it, but so strong that a spear could not rip it. This shirt he wove for the chief of the Tritoc, who roamed the undersea, in exchange for the body of his father.
He exposed Bran's corpse on the bones of the earth. What parts of the body the creatures of the sea had not taken, those of earth and sky took. When the bones were clean, Branoc polished them white.
As he did so, his heart turned to those who had passed before. He thought of his mother, Moira, the daughter of Evra, the fire lord. She had died when she was unable to pull her son from her belly. He thought of his own son whose sleep did not end. Finally, he thought of his wife, Eyeda of Niya, who faded away from him in sickness, when the locust came to feed on her tree. The wind whistled in his father's teeth and sang to him of the loneliness and emptiness of what is after.
He looked at the bones of his father, who once sailed the waves, and said, "All that I am, one day I will not be. I can make a ship that flies or a rose so real that it has scent. I can forge a cutting blade that bends in the wind, like young grass, and yet those houses I build for the dead shall outlive the bones that lie within them and they shall certainly outlive me. It is not fair." The spirits, who caressed the ribs of his father, did not answer him.
Branoc took his father's bones to the hills where the stone house which held his mother stood. He placed all his father's bones, but for those of Bran's right hand, within that house, and Branoc sealed it up with a stone. From the bones of his father's right hand, Branoc made a flute that sang sorrow's name.
This done, he walked to the home of the herb witch, Wyn, who lived alone in the valley of Cairnoc. She answered when Branoc called her name and though she had lived a full four hundred, three score years and five, she appeared to be only in the waning years of her maturity. She smiled at Branoc, for he was good to look upon, and she gave him white bread and beer to eat and drink.
When he had finished eating, she said, "What has brought you to the valley of Cairnoc. This is a lonely place and few pass this way."
Branoc said, "First, I thank you for your hospitality, for it makes my heart easy as I have come to ask for your help."
Wyn laughed, "And how can I, a simple herb witch, help you, skilled Branoc? You are far more powerful than I. What do you want: a love philter, a doll for an enemy, a promise of rain for your fields. It is said you speak and the very storms obey. What magic can I weave that you could not create yourself?"
"All that you say is true. But for all my gifts, I am the child of Time and all that I am will pass. You have lived near four hundred years and I would learn from you the secret of immortality."
Wyn did not know what to say, for she did not wish to insult the powerful Branoc, so she began carefully, "I would that I could teach you that gift, but I know it not." When Branoc would have spoken, Wyn held up her hand to stay him, "True I have lived past the normal span of a human lifetime, but I have aged and am no longer in the bounty of my youth. If you wish I can teach you the ways to prolong your life, but in time you will die."
Branoc shook his head, "No, I want to live forever not a few hundred years, which are but a small part of eternity. Are you sure that there is nothing you can tell me."
And she replied, "I cannot help you more than I have said, but perhaps you will find what you seek among the Folk of the Hills. They may help you for the sake of your mother, who was of their kind. It is said they live longer than humans can remember."
Branoc thanked Wyn for her advice and went in search of his cousins in the hills which lie nameless to the north of Morna.
And so, it was some time before Branoc found the court of Eldric dancing under the stars. Branoc knelt before the lord of the dance and waited for Eldric to speak.
Eldric waved his hand for Branoc to rise and said, "So, half cousin, what makes you intrude upon our dance. Do you wish to dance with us."
Branoc stood and pushing his oak staff into the ground, he said, "I am not a very good dancer, rather I have come to ask a favor of you, my cousin."
Eldric sipped the wine in his silver cup, upon which the picture of a great battle long passed was inscribed in such detail that any who viewed the cup would claim that they could hear the pride in the voice of the great lord who fought on despite the loss of his right hand and that they could hear the death screams of his enemies. Branoc, who knew the magic of such things, which mirror the magic of Fair eyes, concentrated instead on the words of his cousin, "A favor, what is that? We do nothing for nothing. What will you give us in exchange, wise Branoc?"
Branoc pulled the flute made from his father's hand out of his bag and said, "I will entertain you with a song, for is not entertainment what you seek every moment of your lives."
Eldric smiled and his court clapped, "You have chosen well, Branoc, we will see if you are as skilled as you are wise. If your song pleases us, then we will grant you your favor."
Branoc began to play on the flute, made from the bones of his father's hand, a song so sadly sweet the trees trembled and the Folk wept as they danced, but dance they did, for they could not resist the power of the flute's song.
When Branoc ceased to play, Eldric, Lord of the Dance, fell crying into his chair, "You have entertained us indeed. I had forgotten the intensity of human sorrow. You had best ask quickly for your favor before I begin to dislike this feeling."
Branoc put down his flute and smiled, "Cousin, you and yours live for as long as you wish, I too would like to live forever, so that all that I am will not pass."
Eldric began to laugh through his tears, "So, wise Branoc is not as wise as he would seem. We live thousands of years true, but they are but instants in eternity and time stretched merely becomes slow. If you want to live forever then seek out the spirits of the far mountains of Ouloom, of course we would much rather have you remain here and entertain us with happy songs. You'll live much longer that way." Several of the Folk, armed with swords of silver moved to stand in front of Branoc, who smiled and began to play a jig on his flute. None of the folk could resist the call of the dance and they whirled in the meadow until their breath caused pain in their lungs and they could not move but for the power of the song.
Branoc shouldered his pack and walked away as he played the song. When he had gone, they fell to the ground and could not move the rest of the night and even on the next night they were too tired to do more than sit in the grass in silence.
Branoc walked until he came to the sea, where he built for himself a boat and wove for himself a sail from the long grass. There on the sand, he summoned the wind and sailed across the water to the distant shore. From there he journeyed for several years across many lands and performed many wondrous deeds and always he asked of the people he met the way to the mountains of Ouloom. When he was weary of ever finding them, they rose before his eyes, covered with ice and snow. He climbed to the top of the tallest of them and he burned a bit of wood that he had brought, for there was none in that region. Pouring spiced wine onto the earth, he called out, "Oh, greatest of spirits, you who are known by many names -- Odan, Yewra, Manito, Mardaka, Enlila -- I beg of you show me your face." And the wind blew and then the world grew still and from the stillness there was a voice.
"I would show my face to anyone who has sought me for so long, but for the fact that I have none. I am before flesh, and fire, and water, I am. Why have you sought me for so long?"
"Oh, great spirit, I have sought you out to gain what you have, eternal life, for I fear death and the loneliness it brings."
"Oh, that again. I am not the one to ask for such favors. There is no such thing as death, only change and all things change. If you would seek to avoid that inevitability, then you should ask the Essence to remain apart from it and not bother me."
"Wait!" cried Branoc, "Where can I find the Essence?"
"Don't they tell you anything. The Essence is in you and in all things, it is all around you and certainly not something you need to seek on a mountain top in the middle of nowhere. All you have to do is speak to it from within and it will answer."
So, Branoc put out his fire and climbed down from the mountain. He returned across the lands and the rivers until he came to the sea. Once there, he built a ship that could fly and he jumped off the cliffs of that shore and sailed in the arms of the wind like one of the Lathra, who played around him and laughed to see a human fly. Branoc flew in his ship until he came to the cliffs of Morna and he landed there and entered his home, which was covered with dust. When it was clean, he sat on the cliff face and looked out at the sea and began to play the flute which he had made from the bones of his father's hand. When he had finished his song, he said, "Essence, I have long sought the secret of life, which now I ask of you. First I went to the witch of Cairnoc, but she knew only how to prolong life. Then I sought out my cousins, but they only prolong themselves into endless repetition. Then I crossed all the lands of the world in search of that greatest of spirits who lives on the highest mountain in the world, but it would not help me saying only that there is no death. Surely a lie. So, tell me, Essence, if you exist, how may I avoid death and in return for this I will give you all I possess."
The wind was warm on Branoc's face and it said to him, "All that is will one day return to me. All that has been is a part of me. The spirit to whom you spoke, spoke truly, there is no death, only change. From formlessness, life changed into shape, of water and fire and earth. You are just part of that last change. You have lived before and will live again. When you die, you will return to me, until once again all things are one in me. Until once again all things return to shape of water and fire and earth. A cycle of endless change. You already have endless life, so do not waste your time seeking it out. With your skill create and live knowing you will create again."
Branoc listened to the words which seemed to come from himself, which perhaps they did. When they finished, he played a joyful song on the flute made from the bones of his father's hand, before tossing it into the sea, where it lies to this day.