"The Forest of Illusions is a dark harbor of legends and mystery, a black stain on all maps warning travelers to avoid its clutches. It is an ancient forest poisoned by grief and hatred, a wild beauty full of menace and tricks. But--it is said--this was not always so. Once it was as other forests, tranquil and content, a haven for weary mortals to whom it would whisper ancient secrets and sing drowsy songs. There was a nameless boy who would come often to visit, to play in its branches and sleep in its shade and sing with its voice. This boy was murdered during one of the bloodiest battles in recorded history, and the forest withered in loneliness and confusion at the savagery of mortals until it barred itself from men, hid its beauty and sought vengeance on any who bore the taint of violence in their hearts. The Forest of Illusions came to be feared by all, and endured the centuries in miserable isolation.
Until Faeren, a young knight who bore a striking resemblance to its lost child, stumbled upon the forest and awakened its shriveled heart from its long, murderous sorrow. It begged him to stay, to play in its branches and sleep in its shade and sing its songs, but he could not. He had a duty to king and country, and a life elsewhere. Years later, he fell in battle and awoke to find himself in the Forest of Illusions, scarred but alive. It had taken him from death, revived him with its life and made him one of its own. It guards him continually like a jealous lover, sheltering him from the world which destroyed him--a world in which he can no longer dwell. He is one with the forest in life and slumber and the turn of the seasons. There he will always remain, loved and protected and nourished, but alone. The Forest's gift to him is a curse. All that he strived for and cherished in his life is denied him, all connections to his duty and family severed, though the wants and desires of being mortal linger on. There are no weapons here, no kings and servants, only peace and solitude. His companions are the trees and illusions made and unmade by his consent. They can neither free nor comfort him in a place where no other living creature dares to visit. The forest is his salvation, his home, and his eternal prison. He has become but another secret in its shadows."
For months this image waited in my mind wanting to come to life, and finally, over a period of three weeks, 6-12 hours a day, it did. One of the most realistic paintings I've ever attempted, and I'm surprised my poor tablet survived the abuse. You can find detail shots on my website. The pieces titled "Awakening", "Ephemeral Throne", "Deep Wood", "Cherish", and "Transcendence" in my gallery are also related to this one. :)