Book the First - Storm Rise
here is a Hall of Mirrors at Heart's Ease, Sonea Finder's plot, in Mia's Edge. Where did the Hall come from? From Sonea's building, mayhap. Or mayhap it is always with us, in this place or in that, in many places and it may be in no place at all save our hearts…
Whence came TaleSpinner? From the mountains, as draku do… from the Hall, or the Hall from her… who knows? Mayhap not Spinner herself.
And the Tale? Ah, the Tale…
Tales do not begin. Tales do not end. They wake, they sleep, they…. dance. And those who hear are as much a part as those who dance within. And now ye that gather these words… ye too are part of the Tale. The Long Tale of the Long Road.
What was Thunder? Who was Lightning? Why care?
There was a storm… and it rose.
PROLOGUE: STORM BORN
he was born on a night when the very tempest demons stalked the heavens and made war against each other. Not one second passed that lacked the crash and roar of their voices. And the night sky was near to the brightness of day with the flash of their swords.
In a hut on the outer edge of Heather, as a young woman made the last push that cast a new-born into the world, a bolt flashed from the sky and tore the roof from their dwelling. As the rain fell in rivers about them, and the blood washed from her, she whispered into the face of the storm:
“Her name is Sonea. Sonea…”
And in that whisper, her spirit gave up the too-long and too-hard struggle. She lost her grasp on life, and she was gone. And the man who had been there each second, each cry, each scream, each moment of the struggle… wept. Wept as the sky wept and like never to cease. But cease he must, as the babe must have care and coin and food. And he did take up the babe and his sword, and set foot to the raven's road that ever waited…
At least that was the tale Sonea's father told her. For it had spirit and some nobility, and some ease for Sonea as she grew. And it was better than to speak of a wife who had found the charms of an inn-keeper and the inn he owned of more delight than the raising of a child, and the mercenary road her husband walked.
And each time, if Sonea was there, she would leave the fire or table and all would speak that it was sad that a child so lost a mother. And if any asked Sonea, then she would not speak, and if she showed sorrow, then the one who asked would never know how close he walked to death. And if she showed anger and rage, then any would understand at the daughter missing her mother and blaming herself, or the mother, or the very fates. And Sonea would herself become a demon of storm and take her rage elsewhere. For darker shadows than any knew attended the tale.
And of the other? Ah… the other…
There is a story that the one who would be named Sephiranoth heard in the hatchling places on most all of the many times it was young. Adults do not speak of it often, and hatchlings only by two or three, in secret places. This is not a matter of Law, and it is not forbidden, but the voices that speak do so in whispers. And most times when it is told, it is called The Hatchling Tale:
Draku Ancients live long. They have worked hard for the power they wield and the wisdom they bear. They share not either with those younger, save grudgingly or by necessity. Yet time is still their master, and after a time and a time and an age, the Ancient knows.
It is The Time of Shadow. For the true drake,'tis the Time of Broken Shadow. For others… but of the Single Shadow it is ill to speak.
Most Ancients live apart, but then does the Ancient take them yet further apart. Deep into the mountains they fly, far and long. Often the place they seek is one they selected long ago, while still an adult. A cave, a crag, a ledge, a pool of fire. And there do they sit. Long they must craft, and strange the rock and ritual they must complete. These are not matters of power, but those of precision and focus. And at the end? Statues. Just as they made when seeking their wings, they must craft an image, not one but many. But, and fear those who fear the Broken Shadow and fail the test, not an image of their form, or single in nature but an image of drake. No features, but suggestion. No form, but the form of the ideal, the spirit which is their kind. Not truly in this place do the images sit, but they twist and turn into other realms and even times.
Then, when the forms are true ( and often many times must the images be made before they are true), the Ancient flies one last time. High it soars, and higher still, the images tight in claw. It is said that the flight of such a drake is the most glorious that may be seen, but that none have ever seen it for if another watches then the ritual is naught. And when it has reached the sky and the air itself passes into death and even in day the sun's very fire pales to nothing at what it does, at the doorway to the stars it dances.
On wing, the statues gripped in claws, amidst the blood of the Lights of the North the drake dances, that the forms may be charged with power. Mid way through the dance, it swallows whole the images it has made. Then dances more, to twist and turn through the path its life has taken, living each second once more in that final moment, storing each trial and gift of war or craft, each journey and new-found secret to a knot of power deep inside its flesh. And when the dance is done… it falls.
Down and down it falls, driving that fall with the power of wing, the power of the primal. Some say the stars that flare and die across the night, not all but some may be but echoes of Shadow Times. To the land it falls, gift of the air. But not to the rock. Deep in the mountains lie the secret pools, where the life blood of fire flows with primal energy. At the end, to fire it returns itself and plunges below, never to be seen again.
But then a thing happens. A strange thing. For on a day they know, when the wind whispers an Ancient name, the clutch mothers take themselves away to the mountains. Long are they gone, for the way is always hard and they must walk. But when they return, they come with new ones, the hatchlings. Weak and lacking in learning are hatchlings, but be careful to say so around the clutch mothers. For they will become stern and silent, angered and knowing.
And often will a clutch mother be seen with a hatchling, silent and still, gazing deep in to the hatchling's eyes. And never will they tell why they do this. But it is said, and only a story mind, that the mothers seek the Shadow Reborn. For when the dawn light catches a hatchling's eye, then if one knows how to see, an older eye, a fragment of history, a gift to tomorrow, may be seen deep beyond the edge of sight for just a splinter of a heartbeat. And this is good. And the hatchling who hears for the first time will walk away, cheered that some part of a noble spirit may lie in their past and their future glory.
But if a hatchling stays, if a hatchling is bold, then it will hear the other. For each light bears a darkness, and this one also.
Sometimes, the story goes, a hatchling may be seen no more. One the clutch mothers have looked at long and long may be no longer with the clan. And none shall speak of it, adult or hatchling. For there is the Single Shadow. And it will try to hide in the eyes of a hatchling, for the older eye is whole and the spirit is whole and the knowledge is whole and the fear which made it so is a fear which will destroy and burn and lay waste to all that it may stay whole. But the clutch mothers watch, and most they find. And those are taken and are lost and are not spoken of. Most they find. Most…
But it is a story. No more. And only the hatchlings tell it, and what may a hatchling know? A hatchling fresh from the mountains…
And in another time, another place… there was a mountain. A mountain and a night of tempest and rain that fell like the world's tears. There was a pool, and there the rock blood burned.
And the clutch mothers came. And as they do, they waited. And of a time, the pool stirred, and it boiled… and there was a claw. A wing. A small head with a crest… and the rock blood for a moment was blue, with dancing fireflies of red. And then a hatchling crawled forth and stood before them. And as they had so often, the clutch mothers moved to take it to them.
But it was not to be.
For the oldest of them stepped forth, and she stood between the youngling and the clutch mothers. And she spoke.
“ The Long Road waits for this one. Longer than may be spoken here.”
And she turned to the youngling, who looked at her with eyes that shone like mirrors.
“One will come, or one that is bound to it. Set thy foot, new made drake. We will meet again here of a tide…”
And as the thunder broke loud above them, the clutch mothers were gone. And the hatchling? The path before it was dim and hard to find. But one claw raised, and one claw lowered. And it stepped forth.
And the mountain… wept.