CHAPTER 5: A THING LOST… A THING FOUND
The Hall stood silent and dark. Across Mia’s Edge, younglings chattered eagerly as those who had them in their care dressed them warm and tight against the night. Flozzie tapped a fresh cask and filled the ale skins that were a vital partner to a night of company and mystery both… and TaleSpinner?
In a dark and hidden room in the Hall, a light began to glow from the walls. As the light grew, a murmur and hum of voices could be heard to swell. And as the light swelled and began to flood, small embers began to flake from the walls and dance like fireflies. Then the light flared… and was gone. And in the dark, Talespinner’s eyes opened.
As she walked from the room, the room was no more and the wall healed whole behind her. And as she walked, the Hall’s lamps lit, that she might see her way, though each inch of every floor and wall was as well known to her as her own scales… Which in its way was no surprise. And glancing at the fires set to warm the place that would soon be warm from the many who would sit and listen, the fires leapt to greet her as the old friends they were.
With a clap of wings, TaleSpinner took to the air. It was better that those who would come did see her also arrive from afar. And as those who had the will did gather for the night of mystery and wonder, a drake was seen to fly in the evening gloom, and it appeared from over the southern seas as first shadow, then the sound of wings and then…
“ See! TaleSpinner comes!”
The child’s voice was clear and rang across the night. And to herself, TaleSpinner smiled. For the Tale was everywhere… and here no different.
" A tale... a tale.... a tale...."
The lights in the Hall went out. A moment’s pause.. and then, from the darkness the voice came..
"Did ye ever hear tell of Thunder and Lightning? Of the Fool and the Fair?"
And then the rhyme followed..
Sonea Finder, unmade maker
Song that waits the tune
Dragon bound her, dragon found her
Wings across the moon
The Hall was crowded to bursting. And the time was now. And the place was here. And the Tale…
‘None know just how long Sonea wandered, mind-mazed. Of a time, she was seen wandering the GraniteFall Mountains where her father had died. And if ye had watched her wanderings, ye might have seen that she made frequent trips to an abandoned mine. But no pick she bore. Upon reaching the mine, she would take up a branch of wood. And there she would stand all day, mindlessly swinging her branch at the nearest rock.
Aye indeed, Soni’s hands grew wounded and bloody from the rough wood she did hold. But she noticed it not, and cared less. At the end of each day, she did drop the branch which was by this time quite ruined. And Sonea left, only to return another day, and take up a new branch, and begin anew.
Of that tide, as some may have heard tell, an old Helian drake, a healer of some worth, did inhabit the GraniteFalls. It was on one of Sonea’s forays to the mine, that she came to its attention. Something in her demeanor, perhaps the driven manner in which she trudged to and fro, or the mindless way in which she picked at the rocks, caught its interest. The Helian watched her for a time. And then, seeing that Sonea was mind mazed beyond most mending, it decided to act.
The Helian lay itself upon a sunny rock beside the mine’s entrance. And the very stone is like unto a jack-and-box beside a drake that seeks stillness. And it waited. As ye know, draku are long-lived and thus have the patience of the ages. So for the Helian the very mountains might rise and fall and it still wait for the unscaled one to pass its way. But it had some knowing of those both scaled and unscaled, and knew that lest some thing occurred to upset Sonea’s pattern of behavior, ere long she would return to the mine.
And of a time did Sonea come again, trudging up the overgrown track that now held a path trampled through its center from her frequent to and fro. As Sonea neared, the Helian opened its eyes, for it had been dozing in the sun’s warmth. Sonea spied the slight movement. But as there was no threat in it, she was not afraid. And though she did not approach it, neither did she retreat. In fact, though she did not recognize it as such, Sonea felt a faint relief, most likely due to the calming, caring aura that the healer did carry about itself, that it might aid in comforting, and encouraging life in those it healed.
Sonea, still mazed, made no effort to bespeak the Helian, and in turn it did naught but sit, stiller than stone, and watch as she toiled. And for no small number of days was this so, and the Helian did notice that Sonea’s trips to the mine became more frequent. I think this was due to the calming of her soul that did happen in its presence.
And then one day, as Sonea toiled, the Helian began to hum a quiet rumbling tune. Softly.. well softly for a drake.. and slowly at first, it hummed. This went on for some minutes as the rhythm and meter of the wordless melody gradually changed, until it finally settled, matching the movement Soni made as she swung her stick at the rocks. The Helian watched as Sonea’s shoulders relaxed and her visage melted from one of mindless repetition to one of pleasant preoccupation. And it watched as the tune worked its way into her being and soothed her soul.
This healing, for a healing it was that the Helian did make, of Sonea’s soul caused a crack in the door that had, on the night of the Cleric’s death, slammed shut in her mind. Sonea paused in her work, and then she did stand back from the rock. The branch dropped, forgotten. She turned and faced the Helian with a baffled look upon her face, for she truly did not know where she was or even why she found herself to be there.
And then she looked long at the Helian, as if she were taking the drake’s measure. Now, Sonea’s thoughts were rusty, and her memory dim, but the healing song of the Helian’s humming had nudged her mind. And she did recall one thing. Though she’d had no dealings with draku up to this point in her life, she had heard of them and had seen them aloft from time to time. And Sonea recognized that she faced one such.
Sonea did also see a sadness in the Helian’s gaze, as of an old hurt, long buried. After a time, it seemed that the Helian passed her inspection, or mayhap she felt a need to share some bit of happiness with it. Staring at the one big eye closest to her, Sonea slowly reached into the pocket of her tunic, and carefully pulled a small something out of it. And then, the quiet rhythm of her breath vanished as she waited in perfectly composed silence.
Did ye know that draku are gatherers of all manner of knowledge? Well, the Helian was no different in this wise. It was very curious to know what Sonea held in her hand. Very slowly and very gently so as not to frighten the poor girl, the Helian lowered its head that it might see. And as it looked down at Sonea, she began to move her hand gently up and down. And .. she smiled.. a Soni smile. Though Sonea still said nothing, it was a comfortable silence.
I had told ye that Sonea’s smiles outshine the very fires of the sun. The world tends to brighten each time one doth grace her face. Nor was the Helian immune to them. Ye see, Sonea’s smile touched the Helian, and it sensed that this one bore watching. Though it lay dormant just now, when Sonea smiled, a hint of her true spirit shone forth. But there was also another, puzzling thing about her. Having come near to Sonea, the Helian sensed a thing hidden deep within her, a dark fire that called to the Helian.
The Helian observed Sonea’s face for a moment. Its expression, as it met her eyes, was thoughtful. And then it turned its attention to her hand. And it grew even more curious, for what Sonea held proffered that the drake might see, was a very small carved bird with eyes that sparkled, and wings that flapped as she slowly shook her hand. It seems, the drake’s healing song, or perhaps the sadness in its eyes, had touched that hidden spark within Sonea, and in turn, she was sharing with it one of her most precious possessions.
And thus the second healing of Sonea’s mind began. The Helian took her into its care. And she accepted it. It went with Soni to gather her small hoard and then escorted her to its lair, where the drake made for Soni a sleeping place, that she might find comfort in it and think of it as hers.
When Sonea lay down to sleep that first night, though many would the drake’s lair make her shelter, the Helian cast a dream magery upon her that it might gain some knowing of her past. For in knowing what has been, and what has caused an injury, one might better direct a healing.
As it probed Sonea’s memories, the Helian recalled the dark flame that had burned in her. when Sonea showed it her carved bird. So it stilled its mind and looked deeper within her. And along with feeling the turmoil of madness, it did sense something else, something familiar, buried deep within.
The Helian pondered this for a moment, and then carefully, so as not to disturb her, it moved its snout closer to the sleeping girl. A talon moved swifter than thought, and red streaked Sonea’s sleep bound cheek. Then swifter yet, the drake stroked her cheek with its tongue. If ye are unschooled in draku lore, this might seem an odd thing for the drake to do. But those of ye with some knowing understand that this is an old form of draku greeting. The lore on it is all but forgotten, but what I recall of it goes somewhat like this..
In elder days, there were draku that were, and also those that were not, friend. Ye see, some draku were from the deep mountains. And of these, some were seekers of knowledge, and others seekers of war. Irascible as some might be, they were generally good neighbors. And then there was the Clan.. If ye recall, the Clan were draku who had followed the dark path. And those of the Clan were known for rending another’s spirit, that the body might do their will. And of a time they would ride another’s skin causing the one so-controlled to wreak no end of havoc.
Now, draku eyes are bright, but they are best suited for the long sight. And close by, it can be hard to know one from another. But draku smell and draku taste are also sharp. And ye do know that each and every drake doth smell and taste different! Not to the scale but to the very blood, each hath some nature unto itself alone. So it came to be that as draku approached, they would sniff to seek friend from foe. But smell may be confused.
So another thing came to be, and this is long forgotten, and mayhap not by chance. For it was found that if one’s spirit was taken by the Clan, and one of the Clan controlled the mind, then something changed inside the one so controlled. And this change spread all throughout. Now, the Clan would not have this known. But others did learn of it and determined that something had to be done.
And so it came to pass that if one drake greeted another and declared itself friend, then it would stand and let the one greeted make a small slice with claw to cheek. In this, there had to be trust. And the one greeted would taste the blood that flowed, and by this know the very essence of friend... or if the one was controlled by the Clan, it would taste foe.
Time passed and the influence of the Clan diminished. And the need to taste the blood of kin to know them faded. And the kin grew comfortable with getting the merest of hints of taste that could be gained by licking the cheek of another instead. And there ye have the birth of this quaint form of draku greeting.
And so.. in the touching of tongue to cheek, the Helian caught the familiar taste of dragon, but alien to the mind... the taste of Clan! The Clan had been tampering with this one? Ye might ask how the Helian could know the Clan…. And mayhap ye will be answered. Mayhap…
Suffice it said that the Helian had been Oathbound and it had no love of the Clan nor their workings. And for this reason, the Helian resolved that it would do what might be done to heal Sonea’s mind and spirit, and perhaps remove the Clan’s influence from her in the process.
Though it could not see the details, the Helian also sensed that Sonea had some level of war training. But more importantly, it saw that whatever had driven Sonea mad was a thing of violence, and that she had run, frightened and in shock, away from those who knew her.
As Soni slept on, the Helian thought on the manner in which it might best provide aid. Considering the violence in her past, it feared to set her again to the warrior path. It pondered Sonea’s mining of the rocks day in and day out. And that Soni was alone when it found her, and she seemed to have been for some time.
All these things it considered. And then it decided.. The drake determined to heal Sonea’s mind and settle her spirit by nurturing her creativity. It would introduce her to the joy of crafting. For as ye do know, the gathering of resources and then the crafting thereof is a somewhat solitary task, where most oft none aids and ye rely on thyself alone.
In this manner, Sonea might find healing in the delight of creating, and the challenge of learning, and yet not be troubled by others. And thus, with the help of the Helian, Sonea the crafter was born new, but of her past, she yet recalled naught.
TaleSpinner’s voice slowed, and came to cease. Her eyes seemed lost and far away, as though she stared a thousand miles, or mayhap a thousand years. And then in the stillness of the Hall, there came a grumbling rumble. TaleSpinner’s eyes widened slightly, and then she smiled.
“ Ah, me. I forget the manner of ye two legs of a time. The Tale speaks, methinks thy stomachs speak louder. The Inn no doubt waits, or the fire at home… And Sonea sleeps. She will wait our ears a while…”
The light began to dim, and TaleSpinner turned to leave. And then…
“ Nay so fast, TaleSpinner. There be more than…er… two leg… bellies that needs be fed. There be, as ye do say, ears also… and the Inn can do more than wait for a coin or three… so to the Inn, come on in!”
There might be more empty aleskins than full about him, but Flozzie’s voice was bold, and not at all the voice of the dozing dwarf that many had thought him to be. And as he spoke, the doors to the Hall opened, and those who had opened them stood with steaming platters and covered dishes, and a cart brimming with inviting looking bottles and jugs…
“ It came to me that today was not my birthing day. And as I have no joy in getting older, why then this was a thing worthy of note and joy! So take joy, friends. Take joy and take meat, and take ale! But not all of the ale mind… leave a drop for a thirsty dwarf!”
And Flozzie laughed, and laughed long and loud and deep, at the delight on the faces of the childer and the amazement on those of the grown. And he looked at TaleSpinner… and he winked. And then he spoke again:
“ A tale… a tale.. a tale… a tglmthgth…”
And while the chant battled with the half fowl and brimming aleskin that danced in Flozzie’s mouth… TaleSpinner smiled. And the dancing flames of the mountain campfire that companied her words grew again. And her eyes looked back to a time long gone…
The Helian was satisfied. But ere the morrow, there was much to do. It gathered to its pouch a number of coins from its hoard, and slipped out of its lair. It launched into the air and then soared, silent as a shadow, down the face of the mountain. And if one watched carefully one would have seen beneath its wings a narrow path which threaded down from the lair, eventually coming to a dwarf-kin community nestled in a fold of hills near the mountain’s base.
The drake landed. And then it changed.. and took forth the Khutit form. Now.. if ye have never seen this magery, ye have missed a stunning sight. Ye see, only draku have the ability to change form. It’s as if they take a part of themselves, including their wings, and place it in a place elsewhere. And they assume the form and size of a two-legged one, that they might pass through narrow ways, or enter a dwarf-kin place without knocking over the dwellings. Of course, being wingless, the Khutit-drake may not fly. But it does gain a measure of swiftness, and this can be a useful thing.
As the Khutit-Helian neared the dwarf place, where stood some half-dozen stone lairs, it was pleased to see a light yet shining from the door of the smithy. For the drake knew that the dwarven smith Bori, of the Grimbattle clan, might oft times be found at his forge working late into the night. At even-tide, after the toils of the day were done, the tool and weaponry orders finished and ready for delivery, he would return to the smithy where he might take up a few bars of metal and begin heating and then shaping them, for pleasure alone. And as he did, he would let his mind wander and it seems that when this happened, his hands would take on a life of their own.
A full candle might burn well low ere he came again to full knowing, and when he did he would find that he had teased the metal into an exquisite stylized rendering of the very tools or weapons that he crafted during the day. And these works of art were special. Yes, they contained all of the strength and precision of their mundane counterparts – after all Bori was a Grimbattle, and naught would be produced of his hands lest it be of the finest craftsmanship.
Of more note, these mind-wrought tools and weapons did seem to take on an extra quality, depending on where Bori’s mind had wandered, and on whatever spirit his wandering mind had found and worked into the very fabric of the piece. It is said that one warhammer he crafted whilst contemplating a grizzled ole bear, did seem to roar of a time when its wielder swung it in battle! And when it did thus roar, the foe was rended not as one might expect a hammer to make from bashing, but with slashes as one would see when a bear’s claws had swiped and sliced.
But I fall from the Tale’s wind… ye see the Helian knew of these special tools and weapons, and came to the dwarf-kin that it might speak of such with Bori. The Helian entered the smithy and greeted Bori with joy of the day. Bori, always somewhat terse and, indeed no lover of draku, looked up. And noticing it was the Helian darkening his doorway, grumbled something about what sort of fix the drake’s Oath had gotten it into this time.
The Helian politely heard nothing and continued as if Bori had greeted it warmly. And it spoke of needing a mining pick, the size of which a small two-leg of moderate strength might find able to wield with some ease. And it spoke somewhat of she who would wield it, that Bori might come to know of her.
And then the Helian bid Bori good eve and it left the smithy. But not far was the path it traveled. On this night the Khutit-Helian did take itself around behind the smithy and it settled itself near the forge and anvil, but yet out of Bori’s sight. And it did commence to hum, a tune of strength and beauty, of flight and grace, of hope and healing.
And on this night as Bori began to heat and work the metal, his mind wandered until it did light upon the memory of a small bird he had seen that day. Light and graceful it was, swift of wing and true of sight, with inner strength and endurance that it might fly long and longer and never tire. And some hours later he blinked, and looked down at what his hands had wrought.
There before him was the shiny steel head of a mining pick. The pointed end, the one used for pecking at the ore, had runnels on each side, extending from sharp tip to just where the pick would be attached to a handle. It made him think of the two halves of a bird’s beak. And the center of the pick head was beset with faceted lapis lazuli, one to each side, just as the bright eyes of a bird might be. And the knife-sharp rear of the pick was flanged and flared in such a way as to remind one of tail feathers.
Bori looked on his work, and he was pleased. But the tool was not complete. So he hied to the woodshop and took up an unfinished handle. And he carved into it, a few lines here a few there, to give the hint of long slender wings, one to each side. And this he affixed to the pick head. Then he smoothed and waxed and polished the handle until it glowed with a luxurious sheen. And the tool was done.
The Khutit-Helian ceased its humming and rose from the place where it lay hidden. It joined Bori in the woodshop and admired the new-made piece. And the drake spent the remainder of the night, nie unto dawn, negotiating with Bori, until a price was reached and the Helian did come away from the dwarf-kin with a flatter pouch, but the spirit pick firmly held in its claws. With little time remaining until the sun peeked over the peaks, the Helian returned to its majestic winged form and flew back up the mountain, arriving just before Sonea woke.
When the new morn broke bright and fair, Soni did wake, though her mind was yet mostly asleep. After a moment of surprise at the surroundings she found herself in, Soni recalled meeting the Helian healer, and how being near it gave her a warm sense of peace.
Since Soni had slept in the few rags she yet bore, she had little to do to prepare for the day. She scrambled out of her nest, donned her worn boots, and made her way toward the lair’s main cavern, that she might stand by the drake and enjoy its calming aura once more. But the drake was not there.
For a moment, Sonea felt. And the feeling might have been disappointment, perhaps? Then, the drake was forgotten, and she did as she had done for so many days ere this. Sonea took herself to the abandoned mine, grabbing a tree branch along the way. But on this day, something was different. As Sonea neared the mine she heard a tapping sound, rhythmic in its persistence. And of a tide the tapping would be accompanied by the sound of a bird trilling a happy song.
Not knowing what manner of thing had invaded her place, she crept the remaining distance to the mine. And as she stood peeking out from behind a tree, eyes wide in wonder, she saw a thing that stood as she did, and not so very much larger than herself swinging a pick at the outcroppings of ore. Now the biped was a creature and lo! it had the same coloring and markings as the Helian, but it was so very much smaller, and had no wings, and it did walk upright rather than on four legs.
Sonea did not recognize the Helian in its Khutit shape, but she felt no fear of it. Ye see, the Helian thought that a Khutit would be less intimidating than a drake to a frightened one. And a Khutit might be seen swinging a pick, as it has hands, by a spying one who could see how a pick might be used.. especially if the Khutit knew the spy was close. The Khutit-Helian did know that Sonea watched, for though she thought she had crept, in her madness she had stumbled and blundered her way through the brush and brambles to her hidey spot at the tree.
The Khutit-Helian spent that whole day mining, swinging the pick and making a pile of the ore it did find. Several times, Sonea heard a bird burst into song. And just as the bird sang, it seemed the pick struck a rich pocket of ore. When this happened, the Khutit-Helian began its own rumbly hum as it gathered the ore to itself.
Soni watched its every move, how it picked at the rock, how it sorted the rubble and collected the dark bits of ore, and how it set them aside in a small but growing pile. And when the day was done, it gathered up the raw ore, put it in a pack and marched resolutely back to the lair whilst Sonea crept along behind.
Upon arriving, the Khutit-Helian dumped the contents of its pack near the lair’s entrance and then quickly disappeared into the darkness of the cavern. Sonea crept up to the small pile of dark stones where she stood for a few moments staring. And then she kneeled down and reached out to touch the stones. She picked up a small bit and turned it all around that she might see every side of it, and she rubbed it between her fingers to get the feel of it.
And then with a small satisfied smile, Sonea carefully put the bit of ore into her pocket and made her way back to her new nest where she found a small meal had been set out for her.. a few nuts, a wild apple, and some mushrooms of a variety that grew under the trees on the mountain’s slope. A pitcher of cold clear mountain spring water had also been provided along with a hand-carved wooden cup for drinking. Sonea enjoyed the best meal she’d had in long and longer. And then she crawled into her nest, snuggled down and stared at the ceiling until the peace of sleep o’ertook her.
And so it went for a time. Each morning Sonea would wake and hie to the mining place where she would spend the day peering out from behind a rock or tree, watching as the Khutit-Helian gathered ore. Through all this time, she never once wondered what had become of the drake. Though of a time she did marvel at how the Khutit and the Helian did share the same sapphire hue.
And then one morning when Sonea awoke and clambered from her nest, she tripped and stumbled over a thing that lay on the floor. It was a pick, a miner’s pick like unto the one the Khutit-Helian had been using, with a smooth wooden handle, and a shiny metal head, pointed at one end for cracking, and blade-edged at the other for prying.
Sonea’s eyes widened as the pick appeared to capture the whole of her attention. She crouched where she had fallen and looked long at it, all thoughts of the Khutit-Helian gone from her mind. And then she carefully reached out her hand to caress the oiled wood of the handle, to test the sharp edge of the blade. Oh, she was canny in her madness. Ye see, now Sonea .. thought. And with the faint hint of an approving smile, she thought to use the pick this day as she toiled in the mine.
Sonea donned her boots and made her way toward the cave’s entrance that she might hie to the mine and try out her pick. As she neared the main cavern she stopped short. The Helian had reappeared. There it was in its magnificence, sitting with its back to her, tail curled around til it nearly touched the tip of its snout, which was resting atop a boulder the size of her friend Jorquas.
And at this thought, Sonea’s breath came a little too quickly. She knew a name, and with the name, she had a sense of an one who loomed large as a tree to a small girl. Along with this came a tightening in her chest as if her very heart was being crushed. Sonea’s eyes stung and she blinked as a profound sadness threatened to o’erwhelm her. But then, fleeting as a breath, it was gone and she could no longer remember.
“Greetings, fair one.” the Helian said, turning to the utterly silent girl, as tears began to dry on her cheeks. Sonea felt the weight of the Helian’s unwinking scrutiny. And then it let out a steamy breath and said “Come, keep an old drake company.” Those were the first words that Sonea had heard uttered in over two years. And she found that they were welcome to her ear. So she took herself to the drake’s head and stared once more into its eye.
The Helian began to speak to Soni of small things as one might speak to a child. And eventually it spoke of the pick that she held in her hand. And it spoke of the miner’s ways. At one point, the Helian did say to Sonea, “Ye can learn. Ye’ve both the eye and the heart for it.”
Ye see, the Helian told Sonea the ways of seeking outcroppings that might contain ore. And it told her of using a pick to crack the rock just so, to release the ore that she might gather it to her self and bring it to the drake in its lair. And then.. it set Sonea upon the path to the mine that she might work, this time with a miner’s understanding, and a miner’s tool.
A maze still set each thought that flitted through Sonea’s mind, though the fog of her memory had begun to thin. And so she would take herself day after day to the mine to pick at the rock. But this time the pick would strike ore. And at the end of the day, she would gather up the ore that she had mined and take it to the drake’s lair, and then dump it in a pile near the entrance as she had seen the Khutit-Helian do. If ye were to ask me, I would say that it was during this time that Sonea started to develop her love of crafting.
Thunder it is not, but the sound of a snoring, ale-soaked dwarf is indeed a thing that might shake the rocks loose from the mountains and set them rolling. And none had ever questioned the might of Flozzie’s lungs…
“ And it is indeed time for the Tale to set itself to sleeping. Even as ye must… for good food and even good ale sustain but for a time, and there be other needs. So let us cease our telling for this night. For even as the ore is the beginning of the making, Sonea has begun to heal. With a little help, mayhap… But think on this. Ye all have eaten and drunk, and done both well this night. And thy purses are yet whole. And this is a good thing. But another purse is lighter, for all things come at a cost… somewhere the tariff is paid. And Sonea has begun to heal. And is that any different? But that… is another night’s telling”
And in a blink, the light was gone. And when it came again, so was TaleSpinner.
Those about did stir themselves, and they did seek to gather the remains of Flozzie’s gifted feasting. And as they did, they sought about them to see what image might come of this night’s telling. But nothing was seen.
The childer began to dart about and make a game of the gathering, as childer do. There was one named Alexis who was younger and smaller, and less of swift than the others. And they gathered much, but at first she had little. But as they ran and sought, it seemed little Alexis’ pile grew swifter than the others and was more full…
Then the game was done and all gathered. And the smallest had won it seems. Now, the others, they did take it in good part and asked her how it was done. Alexis smiled… and she said “ Why, I did but follow the bird!”
And still smiling, as the grown ones watched, she told one of the older ones to take an empty flask and hide it, that it needed gathering again. Then Alexis closed her eyes while the older did so. And then when the flask was hid, the young one waited… and then… it came. The faint tap-tap-tapping, like unto a pick in the ore fields… and the young one did cast about and seek the place of the tapping, and she did follow. And sure enough, as Alexis followed, there was the flask! And as she reached her hand for the flask… the sweet, high voice of a trilling bird filled the Hall.