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Thread: Thunder and Lightning - A Tale of the Fool and the Fair (Part 8)

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    Post Thunder and Lightning - A Tale of the Fool and the Fair (Part 8)

    CHAPTER 9: A TERRIBLE PRICE


    On the very next day, those who passed the Hall were astounded. For there, even as the sun rose, was Flozzie. And about him were piles of aleskins, and cold roasts and such provender as he enjoyed. And he passed the time carving at a piece of wood, and as he would use up some skin of ale or mayhap a chicken leg, then there would be one who worked at the inn, or mayhap one of the childer, and a coin or two would pass, and the old would be taken away and the new brought forth.

    And if any asked why he was there, Flozzie would only say that there was no way on Brobbet’s good ground that he would miss what TaleSpinner would speak that night… and if any asked what that was, he would only say that the words were yet to be spoken. But when they were, there was at least one dwarf that would stand witness to each and every one!

    And as evening fell, it seemed that there were more in the Hall than there had ever been. For if what was to come so bound Flozzie, then there was not a one who would miss it.

    And from over the Southern sea, there came a speck on the horizon, and the speck grew to seem a small bird, and the bird grew wings that were not a bird’s wings, and the small became larger… and TaleSpinner was there. And she landed at Heart’s Ease and she made her way to the Hall. She looked about, and her eyes were both sad and joyous. And she took herself to the speaking place as she had so many times before. And she waited.
    And also seeming both sad and joyed, Flozzie began the chant.

    " A tale... a tale.... a tale...."

    "Did ye ever hear tell of Thunder and Lightning? Of the Fool and the Fair?"

    TaleSpinner’s voice did not wait the chant long this night.

    Sonea Finder, talon took her
    Paid another’s pain
    Lost a father, called it brother
    Lightning seeks the chain

    "We left Sonea sleeping. But sleep ends and days dawn… and sometimes dawn brings night darker than any setting sun."

    Upon the next day’s dawning, Sonea woke with a song and a smile on her lips. She came dancing and singing out of her sleeping place and greeted the drake with a bright Soni smile and wished it joy of the day. Ye see, the Soni who had been hidden within for so long was back and shining forth brighter than ever. The drake thought this was a splendid beginning, and it asked of her what she would fill her time with this day.

    Now Sonea was quite proud of her masterpiece charm and she determined that the one who had taught her must see it. So she prepared herself and then began the trek down the mountain to visit the Grimbattle clan. As Sonea traveled down, she met a young Grimbattle male climbing up the path. Ye see, the young one was Bori’s son and namesake.

    Soni wished Bori-younger joy of the day, and he in turn grinned and replied that it most certainly was a day for joy as his mother had gone to her birthing bed and a new clan member was soon to arrive. And it was Bori-younger’s task to bring the news to his father who was at a new mithril mine where the village men were attending a ceremony being conducted by the Priests. It seems they were offering blessings to Brobbet for the bounty that had been bestowed upon them in the form of the mine.

    As Bori-elder would hasten to the village to attend to the birth, Sonea decided to continue on and wait for him there. In this wise, she might show her charm not only to Bori, but to the other Grimbattles who had supported her whilst her mind healed. And then Bori-younger did travel on up the mountain whilst Sonea continued on down.

    When Sonea reached the bottom of the mountain, a pair of shadows raced over the ground towards her. As the shadows fell upon her, they caused a chill that made the very hair on her arms and neck raise up as if trying to protect her. And with the chill came a wave of paralyzing fear, that washed over her and stopped her in her tracks.

    Eyes wide, Sonea did lift her gaze to the sky and saw not one, but two drakes circling the Grimbattle village. The one was black as night with scales that seemed to swallow the light around it. Its blood red chest scales glowed in the morning sun. The second was its antithesis. Red scales flashed as if lit from within or perhaps it was born from the very lava flows of Dralk. And its chest scales were obsidian.

    Sonea watched in horror as first one and then the second drake dove, gouting flame to strike terror into the villagers. They landed and began to cast flame and bolts on the dwarven homes before leaping skyward once more. And then the screaming began. Sonea was torn between running away and running forward to aid the Grimbattle women and children.

    For the moment the point was moot as the dragon fear had her yet in its grip. The drakes flamed and dove a second time. And this time when they landed, the pair stalked through the village strafing any home yet standing with sulfurous flame. And then they rose and caught a thermal to circle high above whilst they did survey the results of their work.

    At last the drakes were distant. The dragon fear subsided and Sonea could move. But what to do? She rushed to the flaming village and began gathering stray children to her. Then she herded them to safety in the forest where they might hide themselves from the long sight of the pair. And then she came to Bori’s home. And it was smoke-filled and starting to burn.

    Again, Sonea stood frozen, looking on in confusion and horror at what the draku had wrought. How could such a thing be? She had, to this time, known only kindness from the Helian. But here was horror more unspeakable than any she could have imagined and it was done at the claw of ones like unto her healer.. and friend. She wanted to descend back into madness. But no longer would it provide refuge. She was cured, and must face this with courage and quick wit. And then the dragon fear began again.

    Sonea dove for cover behind a large rock, crouching to make herself as small as she could, and then she did hide her head beneath her arms. The fear grew stronger. Dust and debris from the drakes’ wing beats stirred into the air and pelted her back. She held her breath and willed herself invisible for she knew the drakes must be near to overhead. And then… she could feel eyes boring into the back of her neck.

    Ye see, the black drake had been seeking Sonea. And it saw her hide the Grimbattle children. And then it watched her emerge from the forest and run back into the village. And when the drakes descended for the third and final time, the black took itself apart and left the red to continue the razing of the Grimbattle homes. And the black did glide to where Soni lay hidden. And it landed.

    The black drake peered at Sonea over the lip of the rock and it enjoyed the sight of her curled into herself, shaking with fear. And then with a single swipe of its claw, the black did catch Sonea and turn her over onto her back, ripping open her stomach in the process. For a moment it stared down at Soni, sneering, wondering what the drakonel who had directed it to seek Sonea out could possibly care about a biped as small and insignificant as this.

    Its work here done, the black took to the sky and rejoined its partner in destruction. The Grimbattle Clan’s village was in full flame. There would be little left but ashes. Seeing that there was naught left to do, the two drakes, black and red, flew off. And the Grimbattle women ceased their screaming and began wailing as they called their childer to them and sought to aid those who had been caught in the flames . And Sonea lay hidden, immobile, in pain and in shock.

    Then something broke through the pain to catch her attention.. a whisper.. “Sonea..? And she was consumed with a need to return to the Helian who had been healer and friend. Sonea steeled herself against the pain and crawled from the shelter of the rock. Her journey was short, as she was mortally wounded. Her strength waned and her resolve failed and she lay dying in the ruined village of Clan Grimbattle.

    Sonea knew that she would not live to see Bori’s return. She covered her wound with one hand and she lifted the other to grasp at the neck of her tunic. Her fingers caught the mithril chain, and she drew it forth. And with a final shudder she did clutch her master’s piece, the dragon-moon charm, to her breast.

    Now the young dwarf, who had started the day with a spring in his step and a twinkle in his eye, did feel a chill wash over him as he crested a pass on his way up the mountain. He spun on his heel and set his gaze downward to the Grimbattle village. And he did bear witness to the drakes diving and flaming and causing mayhem to the dwarf-kin homes. Bori-younger’s guts wrenched in fear for the Grimbattle women and children.

    Hands shaking, the young dwarf fumbled at his belt. Finally loosening his horn, he sounded three long blasts that bounced off the GraniteFall Mountains and echoed through the valleys for miles around. And then Bori-younger began to race up the mountain toward the mine and the Grimbattle men. And as he ran, he sounded his horn again and again, warning of danger and calling the men to battle.

    At the mine, the Grimbattle men heard the horn blasts. They gathered their weapons and began the long run down the mountain. When Bori-younger reached the elders, he did fall to his knees before his father, the elder Bori. And he did gasp out a telling of what he had seen. The Grimbattle men hurried on down the mountain to the village, finding much of it already gone to fire. The elder Bori ran past homes where women and children were trying to douse the flames. He only had eyes for the little cottage where he had left his wife laboring to bring forth a new life.

    TaleSpinner stopped speaking. And she was silent for a moment or three.

    "Bori of GrimBattle had words of this. He spoke them ere he took the Void winds. ‘ Of Honour and Justice’ they were called, and truly called. They may be found in the Community Place where such words are spoken… But for this tide we speak of Sonea, Lightning that would be."

    And among those who succumbed to the flames, were both Bori’s wife and a newly born daughter.

    Bori was beside himself with grief. And for a time he stayed, kneeling upon the ground, keeping watch over wife and babe whom he had carried from the smoke-filled cottage ere it collapsed inward from the weight of burning timbers. And then, through his tears Bori saw a movement on the ground. He lifted his head to see more clearly, and he did see Sonea fall still after crawling forth from her hiding place.

    In his grief, Bori was not thinking soundly. And though he couldn’t imagine why this one, whom the old Helian had been healing, should be near the village, fear gripped his heart. For the Helian might think that the villagers had caused harm to Sonea. And having just bore witness to the mayhem caused by the black and red drakes, he feared the Helian might, in its grief over the death of Sonea, also come to cause harm to the village.

    And so Bori raised himself up and made to gather Sonea in his arms, that he might take her away. When he lifted her up, her hand did fall away from her chest. And there, laid bare that he might see it, was the dragon-moon charm. Bori’s eyes filled with tears once more. And there he stood, cradling Sonea. And he looked long at that dragon in full flight, not knowing the meaning behind it, but recognizing it as a master’s work. And he knew then why Soni had come to the village.

    With a shake of his head, Bori roused himself to complete the grim task at hand. Up the mountain path he went, carrying Sonea to her forge. And there he laid her next to her smelter and anvil. After a moment’s pause to say goodbye to one he could have cherished as his own, he turned, head hung in grief. And he went back to the Grimbattle village and to his own sorrows.
    TaleSpinner paused again, and she looked up at her listeners. Eyes clouded with the memory of old pain.

    “Now.. where was the old Helian during all of this, ye might ask. Surely one drake must know when another is near. And the black and the red had made no secret of their presence.?

    The Helian knew.. The moment the pair had come near, it had known that something was amiss. And it had also known that Sonea had traveled down the mountain that morning. And so, it had followed her in Khutit form. And it had seen her speak to Bori-younger and then move on. And it had been near when the pair had carried out the razing of the village.

    And the Helian had cried.. yes draku may shed tears.. when it saw the black cast the mortal wound on Sonea. And yet it stood by and did naught. Ye see, the Helian knew that this was the price the drake visitor had mentioned. This was the cost of the Helian’s interference when it healed Sonea of the Clan’s influence. And the Helian cried. For it had caused this. It had failed.. again.

    The Helian also followed when Bori took Sonea to her forge. And when Bori left, the Helian did revert to its magnificence, and carefully it stepped near to her. As the Helian lowered its head close, Sonea moaned. And then she opened her eyes. And seeing the Helian so near, her eyes widened. She moved to sit up, but the pain from the wound would not allow it.

    Sonea reached her hand up to wipe away the tears that yet fell from the Helian’s eyes. And in halting voice, she did ask why.. Why did the draku attack? The Helian breathed a steamy sigh, and then it began to speak. It told of those who had Judged it and cast it forth. And it told how those same ones had caused this vile thing to be done to the Grimbattles and to Sonea.

    Sonea lay there for a time, her hand resting on the drake’s cheek. And then she gathered her strength and she did ask if the horror that had been done to the Grimbattles was because of her. The Helian replied that the fault was not hers. With great sadness, the Helian did say that if blame were to be laid, then place such at its own claws. The retribution was directed against the Helian alone. And it went on to vow that a time would come when it would right matters.

    Sonea set the chain about the Helian’s neck. And with her close to last breath, Sonea told the drake to be free. The Helian laid a sleep upon Sonea so that her passing might be eased. As Sonea drifted away, the old one gazed upon her, eyes drooping with profound sadness. And it did speak to her one last time. She barely heard its final words..

    ‘Thou art my stone. If thy heart would bear any part of me, let the memory not be ill. I was.. Banakar..’

    And Sonea died.

    TaleSpinner fell silent once more. And for no small time she spoke nothing, but seemed to stare into a distance of a thousand years, though whether forward or back was not clear.

    "There are other words I might speak. But the night draws on, and the words are not short. Mayhap we should…"

    And Flozzie stood, and Flozzie spoke. And the words he spoke were thus:

    "My seat is here. Till the words be done, my seat is here."

    And he sat.

    And one by one, around the Hall, each one there stood. And each one spoke, and each said:

    "My seat is here. Till the words be done, my seat is here."

    And TaleSpinner looked up at last, and she spoke, and she said..

    "Then let it be so. But the words of Bori I will not speak, for those are the words of Bori. But another spoke, and those words I may speak. And this is the Ael-Draku, and these words are also found where the words of Bori are found."





    CHAPTER 10: AEL-DRAKU


    Ael is a word from the tongue the one now called Sephiranoth spoke as a youngling. It loosely translates as Wisdom. It can, in contexts of imparting education or learning, also mean tale or story. Hence Ael-theyr, which has corrupted over time to Aelther, and thence to Elder. Thus, Ael Draku ( Wisdom of many dragons or Wisdom of the race) is an educational tale from a dragon perspective or as told by dragons.

    For reference, drakonis is a drake inhabited by a primarily male spirit. For a drake inhabited by a primarily female spirit, drakonel. The head drake of a clan is technically either ‘clan drakonis’ or ‘clan drakonel’ depending on the balance of its spirit. However, common use now titles the clan’s leader simply as ‘clan’, and leaves the gender designation out).

    “He comes, clan….?

    The words of the recently risen adult, who carried messages for the outfliers that guarded the clan, broke the silence of the deep cave.

    The red and black scaled drake who sat silent towards the back of the cave did not move. Then, after a time, without looking up, he spoke.

    “Who comes, young Voice? Precision in the words of the messenger is the key to understanding. Or did outflier First Wing Gorlith give those words alone to thee??

    The clan drakonis’ voice was not harsh, even faintly amused, but the words were inflexible.

    “My regrets, clan. A single dwarf approaches afoot. It approaches through the Southern Pass. Wing Fulgar Skyspear of patrol Storm has identified the banner and mark of Clan Grimbattle. First Wing Gorlith does not perceive threat and suggests this be the envoy you spoke of.?

    “Better, Voice Storm. The event, the facts and the minimum necessary analysis. Now. Why does the First Wing not speak of the dwarf as male or female??

    A faint note of pedagogy entered the tone of the red and black dragon. It was a weakness of his kind…

    “Clan drakonis. In these tides, gender is strange to our kind. Report of gender can therefore be prone to error. Report of gender is only made where it is confirmed accurate and relevant to the report. Dwarf gender is…dwarves are… It is difficult to report dwarf gender, clan drakonel. And history records that dwarf females, where identified, are no less threat with axe or magery than males. Thus the report of gender is not required by patrol discipline.?

    “Excellent, Voice. It is perhaps meet to speak that First Wing Gorlith has spoken well of thee. Return and tell the First Wing that the dwarf is to pass, but remain under eye.?

    When the cadet Voice had left the cave, the red and black drake crouched silent on the cave floor.

    After a time, a voice spoke from behind him.

    “So, Alth’. It is come. Those who might speak for Dralk feel no need. The matter be sat in thy claw and the cost of failure nests with our clan. Such honour they do us…?

    Altharion DreamWeaver felt a ripple of scale cross his shoulder at the faintly bitter tone of his mate’s (though the biped word spoke but a breath of the depth and span of the binding) speaking. In a biped it would have been called a wince…

    “Maladrien, heartsfire, ye know I never sought this. None of us have. But Dralk has spoken, and spoken in words of rock and fire. The choices are a cold wind. Toek BrokenFang and Fuldar Frostwind are lost to us. This we know. But there is why. Ever, there is why…

    Mordin’s get would rend the Treaty before it e’er be full grown. If Clan Grimbattle were no more, then there would be no tales to tell of dead dwarves and draku flame. And some in Dralk would take that wind… but the Treaty holds. Yet if this dwarf stands forth and speaks of the two who burned his people, and we speak of Mordin… then the Clan will come, and in the night flame will burn and Grimbattle will be no more, Treaty or no.

    And then there will be no Treaty… And Mordin will laugh long and long and long. And if Grimbattle stand forth and we do not speak, and we do nothing, then will they take their tale far and long and wide and the Treaty will become undead, with none trusting its words where draku fly. And without draku, there is no Treaty, is no Truth.?

    “So what is to be done, Alth’? Whether Toek and Fuldar be hag-ridden or were but missed by the clutch mothers, they did as they did and are no more with us. We could not offer them even if that was the True Flame our spirits followed… and it would not be. No, not in any wise. Talk they would before the Grimbattle had their way and the things they would speak… No.

    Yet still the dwarf comes…?

    Altharion sat silent, his eyes lost in distance. Then he spoke.

    “Aye, Mal’. And that be what will save us. It be a dwarf that comes. And dwarves are… they are as of the rock they hew and the metal they smelt. They do not bend. And a Were coin we have gathered, a chest brim full of mithril coin. Most highly do we value the dead of Grimbattle!?

    “A chest of mithril, Alth’? The clan will cast you out! It will take every coin that there be, and that be more than we may give! The hoards will be empty for all that follow thy Flame!?

    “It be a dwarf, Mal’…?

    The small one stood before Altharion and Maladrien. It was clear that he was no elder of his clan, but he stood with no fear. And the Voice he offered would have stood any Wing proud in the clarity and precision of the report he brought. He spoke of women and younglings, of fire and death. He spoke of his clan’s loss and made no greater thing of his own than the loss of any other. Even as he spoke, tears of flame burned the eyes of Altharion Dreamweaver and he knew full well that his weaving would be colored by the Accursed and his deeds for long and long. But he also knew that there must be no hint of that in this place. So he forced the hint of a smile to both eyes and jaw.

    “Ah, yes. Some buildings broken, a shield of some making taken, and, mayhap, a dwarf or three lost. Unfortunate… aye indeed. Unfortunate. But done, and not to be taken back. So. What would ye have of me, small one??

    From the side where she watched, Maladrien could see the rage that threatened to overwhelm the dwarf at Altharion’s words. That the small one held himself in check was a matter that was worthy of scales! The time she had flown at Altharion’s side let her know that not a single word or a merest flicker of expression was not chosen precisely and carefully. But they seemed ill-omened. Maladrien had thought that Alth’ would seek to reason in some manner with the envoy, to find some place of meeting that did not involve or reveal that which must not be spoken. But this!

    “What would I have of ye, clan lord? I would have that which the Treaty demands. I would have those that burned my people be given over to our hands. Dwarven Justice shall they face, as the Treaty is written! And though it be no Justice, it be a thing of the law also that recompense…no, not recompense for there be none, that penalty be paid in coin for the comfort of those who have lost clan. Justice there must be, and Weregild there must be, and by the law, clan Grimbattle will declare an ending in their speaking. For their spirits and their hearts I cannot say…?

    Altharion let the smile at his jaw grow a little broader, hard though that was…

    “Ah, indeed. The Treaty. That ye bipeds have finally come to thy senses and agreed to join with us that ye may find our teaching is a truly good thing. It has been long and long since ye forsook that path of wisdom. But to speak of the Law one must first know the Law. Justice, aye. It speaks of that. But not of Dwarven Justice. Merely that those found at fault, and found at fault they have not yet been, merely spoken of, must face proper Justice. And that term is key.

    I know naught of Dwarven law, envoy. It be too new a subject for my knowing. But I am sure it be some good effort in the manner of justice. But by dwarves it be made. And thus for dwarves it be held. So. Let us say a dwarf had, in some manner minor, transgressed against draku. Mayhap it had insulted a clan drakonel. Not a thing for honour to seek, ye understand? Now. Let us further speak on this. Let us think that the Treaty demanded the dwarf be given over to draku Law and Justice. What would transpire?

    Well, the clan drakonel would be consulted of course, and most are lenient… Mayhap the one at fault might be sentenced to… forgoing flight for a ten-day! For that is what a drake would gather as penalty. Well, and well! How that dwarf would fear such a binding! To forgo flight! Why, the very air would be thick with insults to the lords of clans. A drake who wished to offer insult would simply spin a copper or two to any biped near and the deed would be done!

    Which be why the Treaty says not so. It says the wrong doer must face proper Justice. And as any Ael-theyr would speak, that can only be the Justice of its own kind. And rest easy, small one. We will deal with these young hotheads as is… fitting?.

    Altharion held a note of convivial joviality in his voice, almost impossible as that was. The spirit that he saw in this dwarf was strong and unbending and just. The pain he must inflict on the small one was unavoidable, but left acid and fire in his jaws.

    “Now, as to the matter of coin. Yes, yes, the Treaty speaks indeed of this thing called Weregeld. To offer coin for the death of another… why it be close to a thing of hoard! Ye do seek to learn wisdom in this matter. And coin we do have…?

    Altharion concentrated a moment, and a small flame leapt forth and blew open the lid of the chest on the floor. Mithril coins piled to the lid gleamed in the flame’s passing.

    “Take it, small one. And the matter be closed…?

    The dwarf looked at Altharion, eye to eye. And few there were who could do that… Then he looked at Maladrien. Then he strode forward and drew the axe from his belt. Altharion moved not a muscle, but Maladrien readied a bolt of primal should what she feared transpire.

    The dwarf stepped forward and raised his axe high. Then he brought it down, swift and hard. The axe cleaved clean through the chest, scattering mithril coin to left and right. When it hit the ground, a single coin lay split either side of the axe blade.

    “WITHOUT HONOUR THERE CAN BE NO JUSTICE.?

    The dwarf’s voice was not angry, not sad. It was simply inflexible, like cold rock.

    The dwarf turned and left the cave. As he walked away, keen drake ears heard him speak once more. Softly, but just as firm.

    “Without Justice there can be no Future.?

    When the dwarf had left, the cave was silent. But still the ghost of the words remained, held it seemed aloft on a breeze that would not die.

    “Without Honour there can be no Justice. Without Justice there can be no Future.?

    “Do ye see, Mal’? A dwarf it was. Draku, human, elf… mayhap any. The coin would be gone and still the anger remain. But the dwarf-kin… they hold Honour and Justice first. Thus I knew the coin would stay. As if any other would seek the Flame of this clan right now…?

    Altharion’s voice was bitter.

    “Enough, Altharion. It is done as it had to be. Now there is that which must be done as it must be. But how may we craft that doing? The dwarf may never believe another dragon for all of time, but I know thee and thy word was given. It will not be lost. But where lies the wind that will craft the doing? New come or from the Stone, Toek and Fuldar be Clan-lost. But The Clan has hidden long and long and even those two will be beyond our finding…?

    And then from the darkness came a new voice..

    “That which is hidden may not be seen… But that which may not be seen leaves a hole in thy sight that may yet be found… They hide and thy sight finds them not. Bound I am still, and thus I may not find them… so they may thus be found…?

    The voice was thin and whispered. Still clear, but like the last breeze of a dying day rather than the storm it had once been, that could still be heard clinging to its edges. Altharion reared up and raised a claw.

    “ Who enters the Judgement Bowl without call??

    “Call, Altharion Weaver of Dreams? Call? Long and long and longer has it been since I was called to Judgement. I fell and was judged Fallen. I am here because here is where I must be. Soon enough for thee I shall be here no more and that is as it must be also.?

    “It is the old one! Banakar of the Oath! It has not woken from sleep in a hundred ten-days!?

    Maladrien spoke in a whisper pitched for Altharion’s ear alone. But the words did not escape the old and withered drake before her.

    “Maladrien, clan drakonel. Sleep is what one does when there are no deeds more to do or thoughts more to think. I have sought my… I have sought that which I seek and not found it this walking. But now there is fire and death and the loss of honor. Mine be dust, but the honour of our kind still stands. Thus I wake… till I wake no more.

    The ones ye seek. Seeking I know. They shall be found. Await my word on the wind.?

    With that the dragon with once blue scales, now close to midnight black, was gone.

    Altharion raised his forefeet and reared high, his voice roaring across the Judgement Bowl.

    RAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWR!

    “Clan drakonel, Elder of Dralk, why the very self of Drulkar! I swear, for that one there would yet be no difference! There is no insult in the words, but wherever the world’s wind drives others, that one flies some other path!?

    “Calm yourself, Alth’. It be not clan to follow the clan. Oft has it said it may not take our Flame, nor any other.?

    “Oh, aye indeed Mal’. Oft and oft has it said all things. And it knows no commander save this nonsense Oath it bears. Hah! And alone it is not, whatever it speaks…

    Do ye recall when first it came to us? Well, rocks were younger then and so was I. And recent called to guard the clan’s Flame. And even a dwarf be less sensitive to honor than a new clan drakonis… So when this shadow of a draku took residence close by, and sat by our council speakings and took long flight with the new adults that they grow or brought gifts to the younglings, why I thought to honor it with our Flame! And there I heard it first speak of Oath and binding, of falling and seeking.

    But no Flame would it take… And wroth I was, that it found us unworthy. And I stormed the deep caves and I resolved that it would no longer take space near us and profit from our honor, as I did see it, with no duty to the clan. And I called it to the Judgement Bowl, I did. It would be cast out, by my word… And I came here. And I waited. And it did not come… but others came. Oh, indeed, others came…

    It was the clutch mothers, do ye see… Most never do they leave the hatchling places, save when they seek the mountains. But they came, many and many. From our clan, aye, and others I knew… They came to the Bowl and they would not let me pass. Me, a clan drakonel! And one stepped forth, and she spoke to me. And these words she made.

    Ye are One, but Five ye be not. And while ye speak, ye do not Speak, nor be Heard, nor Bound. And Five have Spoken and been Heard and been Bound and then have judged. Thus judge ye may not. And this is the word of those who watch.

    And then they all left. All bar the one who had spoken. And before she left, she spoke again.

    The Oathbound Stone be two in one. The Oathbound Stone will ever come. Till Five shall Feast and Truth be spoken, till one is two and Oath be broken.

    We are those who watch. The Oathbound Stone did not fail our watching, but still it walks. Stand not in its path, clan drakonis.

    And then she too was gone. And to this day, Mal’, it yet drives me to flame and claw and wing, and still I know not a thing about it that I can state with certainty.

    PFAH! From the look of its scales, soon it will be no more and then, mayhap, I may sleep of a night…?

    From the rocks above the rim of the Judgment Bowl where it listened, Banakar nodded in agreement with the clan drakonis below. Aye indeed. Soon it would pass once more. But not till this matter was done. So it lifted to wing and took flight.

    As it flew, on wings that were slower in age but still beat strong enough to bear it, it pondered.

    The Treaty was not in the interests of The Clan. This was so. But in no wise would that be enough to bring them forth from their hiding. Rather, as ever, they would seek to sow distrust and friction and make the Treaty fail from within.

    Two draku had flown and burned and killed. Two of Altharion’s clan, two of a single time of hatching. Thus, either those who watch had twice failed in but a single watching, or those who flew had not flown at their own will. That the clutch mothers did miss the Stone reborn of a time was a true thing. That two such in a single watch had passed was beyond imagining. Aye, indeed. Hag-ridden the two had been beyond doubt. Hah! The matter began to unravel!

    Now, if hag-ridden, could aught else be said? Well, mayhap. Draku were of might, yet dwarves were no matter to be ignored and left for nothing. For an attack such as this, there was risk of failing. A drake may be injured, taken by magery or steel. And then it would fall, and perhaps be lost. In such a falling there may be no time for the Clan spirit within to free the bindings. And thus that spirit may be lost. Was the cause enough that a drakonel of the Clan be placed at such risk? Banakar knew it was not. Thus the lost ones would not be bound by drakonel of the Clan, but by invisible ones, drakonin. They could be used without issue after all… And if they were Clan drakonin, then they would have been bound to the lost ones by drakonel, and would not have the skills of unbinding. They were cast forth, even as he. Hah, and twice HAH!

    The Clan hid in many ways. Yet one of the most effective was also one of the most simple. In ways learned from the Hidden Ones, the blue ones who bound the Oath, they had found the manner of bending desire. A place could be marked, that as one drew near, it seemed to lose interest and some other thing near gathered the need and the attention more. No wall of fire that all could see, but rather a place that… was not what was sought. Was of no focus or relevance to the seeker or watcher. And if none knew the effect might be present, most worthy were the results. A Clan place might sit close by many and be remarked on by none, entered by none and yet raise no doubts.

    But if the thing was known… why then it be a hole in the sight that might be used to see the thing plain!

    Banakar began to fly wide, sweeping paths that quartered the land surrounding Dralk and lay towards the place of Kirasanct. As it flew, it felt the first stirrings of disinterest. Why fly this way? Naught lay here… Surely it would be better to seek the steading of clan Grimbattle? There the draku had struck, there they would be found… and there was good feasting on the prey in the mountains East…

    It was enough. Banakar began to circle the edges of that feeling, driving the circle smaller and smaller as the feeling grew…until there was naught below his wing but a canyon that met its end in a wall of rock.

    Taking stance under a near rock tower, it drew on its knowing of the ways of such things from the one within. There’s naught here. No interest, let thine eyes pass elsewhere. ‘Tis only rock and stone and sand in the wind…

    But Banakar watched. And a watching dragon may outstare the very sun itself…

    Of a time and a time, the wall at the end of the canyon moved. Slowly it swung wide, and as it swung, it let the light fall on those the OathBound sought to find.

    As the dragons stepped forth, one took up a thing it held in its claw, a large crystal it seemed. It placed the rock in a mark on the canyon wall, and the wall again swung slowly shut. The drake removed the rock and the pair took wing, circling higher and yet higher. And Banakar moved not a scale.

    Of a time and a time, the pair returned, each bearing a full grown cow in its claws. As they landed by the rock face, one again took forth the crystal and set it to the stone. The wall swung open slowly. Entering, the drake took the stone and placed it on a similar mark inside the wall. As it did, the wall swung slowly shut. With no sign of their passing, the drakes were gone.

    It was time, and past time. Still without moving a scale, in the manner the Gifted would come to call Telling, Banakar spoke to the wind…

    “They are found. Bring ye thy trusted ones, those of the breath of ice and the strong of wing. Come swift Weaver of Dreams, or all may be lost.?

    Altharion started from slumber as the aged whisper rang in his ears. He looked about the cave for the intruder, but none were to be seen. Still, that voice he knew. The note of respect for authority that was so distinctly lacking, while the note of almost absent minded affection that was so present. It was Banakar and none other.

    As he took wing, he saw two others coming even now to his nesting place. Maladrien and First Wing Gorlith. They took position each to a different wing side and flew with Altharion.

    Gorlith spoke.

    “Clan. I must confess to transgression. It seems that I have arranged a training patrol for some of our veteran Wings and Claws. Ones who… have no fondness for Dralk or any voice save thine. It was to be a thing I would call at short notice, with unknown purpose, to test their readiness. The old one, Banakar, did suggest it to me as a thought of thine. I have sent the call. Have I done ill??

    Pfah. Again the old one had interfered. Again that same doing had turned to be of need and knowing, as others had in the past. Again, there was only one course…

    “Nay, First Wing. It is as I… It is as I wish. Let us fly to the place I show thee…?

    The flight of drakes flew low to the ground and swift, clinging to ridge lines and mountain passes. This was but second nature to those of the outliers, whose task was to see, and yet not be seen save by design. Of a time and a time, they came to a canyon riddled land, and Altharion rose higher and led them to a place of rock under a tower of stone. There he landed and took stance.

    “Clan, why are we here? This place is but a flame cast upon the water. It is nothing. Where be what we seek??

    Gorlith’s voice was puzzled. Equally of mind was Altharion, and he raised wings to fly. There was naught here…

    “Hold, clanling. Thou hast indeed found thy seeking…?

    The voice was low, yet came from nothing. Then a spur of rock unfurled into a wing, and a stone became a claw and the light of a star became an eye and Banakar was there.

    “It is but a mazing of the mind. And it is that which shows us that where we are is where we must be and what we do is what must be done.?

    Banakar told the assembled drakes of the wall of rock and the stone crystal. And what must be done…

    “Die? But they are of clan! Tend them we must, and mend them! If drake kill drake, then the Schism will fail and… We cannot kill them!?

    Banakar’s wings drooped. And his voice was saddened and almost it was lost…

    “Gorlith. They are not of thy clan. They are hag-ridden, and such do not return. They may not be mended, for the spirits within them are Clan, and if those spirits be lost, then they are but dead husks. The older spirits are eaten… And ye will not kill them. Oh, they will die indeed, but not by thy claw or mine, and even the doing shall not be thine but mine, and in that doing shall come my passing. Is that enough for penalty, that a thing be done and a drake die from the doing?

    And this is how it will be. I shall pass to that door and they will cause it to be open to me. And I shall cast a shield of primal, that they call not forth to those of Mordin… yes, I will speak that name! And the crystal I will seize. And while this be done, shall those of mighty wing cause great winds to hurl them to the back of the cave, and those of mighty ice breath shall close great walls of ice around them and above them and below them and to bind them. And thus it will be.

    And held they will be. And in that cave will be held gold and silver and things of worth, and a shield. The Honor of Grimbattle. And in ice we will hold all, while ye of swift wing will take this my binding stone and unlock my hoard, for I will tell thee of it, and thou wilt bring it to this place. And it will be piled within for I shall have no need of it. And the shield of Grimbattle will be placed in that piling. And then the door will be closed, and the ice will of a time melt and the water pass and the drakes within… will be within. For the primal shield I will hold till that which must be has been. And that holding will take what power remains to me, and then… And then there will be no then for Banakar, nobody and nithing ever.?

    And with never a word to explain how and why the door would be opened, or how it knew of the shield it spoke of, Banakar took wing and dropped to the canyon floor. And naught remained save to make ready as it had spoken.

    And when it stood before the door, Banakar spoke.

    “I fell and was judged Fallen. By The Five was I judged. I was cast forth to seek, and I have found. Open the rock, invisible ones, for I am come to speak of my seeking!?

    And of a time, the rock swung open, but only a small way, and a drake voice spoke.

    “Why do ye stand here, Fallen? Ye would reveal us to any who mark thee, and the Clan be ill served and by thine Oath ye serve the voice of the Clan! Leave this place by word of the Clan!?

    “I stand, invisible ones and mine Oath burns me not. For it binds me to seek and I have sought. And the voice of the Clan is not invisible, but drakonel and ye be invisible. And thy presence crosses my seeking and I must seek. So open that we may speak of it…?

    And, though Altharion felt terror at Banakar’s seeming bond with Mordin’s get, the rock swung open. And even as it did, Altharion felt the canyon grow silent to the primal call, even as Banakar had spoken. And Banakar leapt forward and took the crystal from the rock, and seeing the drakes within fell on it. Rousing, Altharion leapt forth with those who followed his Flame and gales and storm and ice were made. And at the back of the cave lay the two drakes, bound in cold and bound in prime and Banakar lay dying.

    “Fly swift, for only as I live may my hoard be found. Take the binding stone and bring that which ye find to this place…?

    The voice grew thinner even as it spoke. And drakes sprang forth and flew as they had never flown, and all that was Banakar’s was brought there. And it was placed hard in the center of the cave, while ever drakes cast mageries of ice and binding that the two bound be not freed. And ever the shield of prime held, while Banakar faded further.

    At Banakar’s word, did Altharion step forth to the cave and find the shield of Grimbattle. And a thing of rare hoard it would be to enrich any drake, but it was placed in the gold and silver and mithril and other things of wealth that lay in the cave.

    And Banakar smiled.

    “There will come a time, Altharion, that this place must be found. And I charge thee that it be the envoy, Bori of clan Grimbattle that finds it. When the time comes, let the stone be found by him, and let no drake be seen in that finding. For here is a thing. The hoard within this place would take long and long and longer yet to build. So these rogue draku must have been apart from their Treaty bound kind long and longer in their lawlessness, no? And thus no Treaty clan be guilty of hiding them… and the Honor of dragon be not sullied. And of the Clan… naught need be spoken.?

    And Banakar rose slowly on bones that were broken and wings that were torn and it took the crystal and set it in the outer mark on the rock. And the rock swung slowly closed.

    And the winds ceased and the ice storms ceased and all was quiet. For the primal shield held.

    “Now take ye thine from this place. I shall do what must be done for as long as it must be done. And when it be done, ye shall know.?

    When Altharion would have questioned it about Clan and Oath and binding, Banakar set down and seemed to sleep. And in sleeping it once more became as a pile of faintly blue rock. And no word did it speak.

    Altharion and Maladrien and Gorlith and those who held them first in faith took themselves away. And without any word being spoken, all knew no word of this they would ever speak. Save Altharion…

    When they came again to Dralk, Altharion took himself to the place of the clutch mothers. And he went to them, and of Banakar he asked. But none made answer. And after many days of asking, one stepped forth.

    “The Oathbound Stone be two in one. The Oathbound Stone will ever come. Till Five shall Feast and Truth be spoken, till one is two and Oath be broken.?

    And no other word would any say.

    Of a time and a time and a time, on a night of storm when lightning rended the skies, the winds spoke to Altharion.

    “That which must be done is done. Guard well the stone, Altharion clan drakonis. And know this. Mine Oath forbids me bind to any clan. But did it not, thy clan and thy Flame would have sat most well in my heart. Now I go to the mountain. Seek not for Banakar. She is no more and I must follow her…

    And if any would weep, weep not. Nobody and nothing I be, ever. But in this doing, for but a wingbeat, I was bright, if but for a moment. So bright…?

    And as it faded, Banakar did speak to the wind that all of draku-kin might hear, “Mine be dust, but the honor of our kind still stands.?

    And the voice was gone.

    "Ah, me. This part of the Tale… dark it is. Dark and darker. It is… hard… There is light beyond, but… Let it be for this night. There will be another, and the Tale will live again. Again? Nay, not so… for it never sleeps. Though we must… Let it end here for this telling. How say ye?"

    And all those present were most glad to agree, for the telling had been easy on none and hardest on Flozzie. And they all stood. And they turned to leave. And as they went, Flozzie could be seen scanning the walls of the Hall, eyes running from wall to wall, and from roof to floor. But nothing came, and no image formed. And his shoulders slumped, and he too turned to go. But as he did, there came a whisper… and all there heard it.

    “FFLLOZZIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE…?

    And Flozzie stopped, and all stopped, for the voice was not that of TaleSpinner.

    “Without Honor….?

    “There is no Justice?

    “Without Justice… there is indeed no Future.?

    “But where Honor walks with Justice?… A storm comes, Flozzie… it comes…?

    And on the left of the wall behind TaleSpinner, there came to view an axe, and that of dwarf making. And the blade bore a single word. Honour.

    And on the right of the wall behind TaleSpinner, there came to view another. And the blade bore a single word. Justice.

    And the voice came again, but fading…

    I was… Banakaaaar…?

    And the voice was gone.
    Last edited by peladon; July 27th, 2006 at 07:02 PM.

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