CHAPTER 2: THE NIGHT BEGINS

How long is eternity? It is the time from now to then, from heartbeat to heart-cease, the time of Summer’s youth and of pain’s memory. And… it is the time a single drop of salted water takes to fall a single inch.

Draku do not cry. But in a room few might find, in the Hall’s very heart, still the tear made its slow journey down each scale.

Behind the silent dragon a door opened. Few indeed know all the paths of the Hall, but Sonea was one. And Sonea it was who stood there.

“ TaleSpinner? Aimitis? I could not find…?

The drake lifted her head and turned. And as she turned, the light from the door caught on the drop that still fell.

“ Aimi! What passes? What…??

The drake’s voice was soft… almost beyond hearing.

“ Two. Two and one and all and none… Thunder, Lightning, Stone and Storm… Who are you??

“ Aimi, it’s me. Sonea! What’s wrong??

The drake’s voice went from soft to hard in an instant. Not unkind, but strong and unyielding, like the very rock.

“ Who. Are. You??

Sonea looked, and in a shadowed room, it seemed a shadow began to lay cold fingers across her heart.

“ Sonea I am. Fair One I am called by some, aye and Lightning and…?

“ WHO ARE YOU??

And Sonea knew. Knew the time was come, and it was now. Not the ending, nor yet even the middle mayhap, but come natheless. And she knew the words must be said and the true Storm start to wake. And her own voice was as cold and unyielding as the drake’s.

“ That which I am, I am.?

And she turned, and she left the room where the TaleSpinner did not weep, for draku do not weep. And she took her to the place where she kept such things, and she looked on Zealot, on Rancor, on the Blood Staff. Her eyes softened as she let her fingers curl for a moment around the leather grip of a special stave with its faceted red gem beset in gold filigree. This one bore her own heart for the one who had given it to her. And she looked at the ‘false scales’ as that one called them. And she took sand and cloth, and stone and water. And though the day was bright and held many delights, none saw her that day as each edge was set to proper whet, and each link and joint of armour made safe and whole. And as she took the stone to Zealot, no water she gathered. For humans weep even if drakes do not, and her tears bathed the metal her whet-stone chased.

And the Fall sun left the sky, and the night came to cloak it’s passing. Those who would gather came to the Hall and took the places they found meet, and sat with those they held close. And a marvel they saw, for there was Sonea and she was full caparisoned as though for war, and across her back were two staffs, and her belt bore the weight of Zealot.

The speaking place was empty, but the younglings knew their part. And they began the chant.


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

Of a sudden the light was lost, and a darkness fell that was so deep none could see the very nose on their face, not even the dwarf Dabogus, who had a nose that might win prizes. And from the dark, from where TaleSpinner would commonly be, a voice came. But this voice was not hers, and it was old and older. And the voice spoke.

“ This is the word of those who watch.

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.?

And the pitchy dark that set about those who waited seemed to give way before a faint glow, and the glow seemed to dance, and the dance was a flicker, and the flicker was flames… and there was TaleSpinner, and her face was set about by the ghost flames of a campfire she often favoured for light. And beside her was a dragon with scales worn by years uncounted, and eyes that had seen too much. And the old one lifted its head and turned to see Sonea.

“ No dragon made thee, Lightning. But daughter I call thee, aye and sister also. Ye be worthy of scales, and twice worthy.?

And the air shivered, and the ghost fire flames flickered, and the old one was gone.

And the night fell upon those who sat and waited, and the ghost flames danced, and it seemed a cold wind blew through the hall. And as though far from them, there came the sounds of battle and of war, and over all, one long and seeming endless cry of loss.

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

And it was begun.

Long ago it was. Long and twice longer, and further gone than counting. Or mayhap but yesterday… the Tale hath strange ways. And where? East of sadness, West of pain, North of sun and South of rain. Which is another manner of speaking that none know, though mayhap one may… or two. But the one may not yet speak and the other… if ye hear it speak and know the speaker, then none will hear ye after.

Draku they were. Draku, but better, people. Such as each of ye. Who loved and cried, who lived… aye, and died. And, for this was before the Changing, who grew old as ye do, and who sent promises to tomorrow as ye, and made young even as ye do. And this was a thing, for many of the draku did bring the fragile stones ye call eggs. But these… these of whom I speak, made young as human or elf or gnome. And living, their young came forth.

They were few, and a clan of little note. In the deep mountains they flew, and they moved between the places of green and the places of snows. Fire they knew and the burning rocks, and they had no ill or discomfort of such things, but such were not their places. And few knew of them. But not few enough…


There was a day that some came to the clan. Were they drakes that came? The drakes that know, or will speak as though they do… they will say not. Were they dwarf, or gnome, elf or Sslik? Human renegade, some fore-spawn of the undead Foe we know today? It matters not. Did they seek dragon hoard, or dragon death? Venging for some slight, or terror that some gain be bought in dragon blood? It matters not. Enough that there was a night, and there was blood and death… Enough it is to know that they came.

And know this. There is no creature that will not fight to hold its place. And there are few that will not fight that the promise they send tomorrow may be spoken. And when the blood-time comes, when the fire burns, there is not one single drake who will not take their place. For the dead have nothing of tomorrow, nor yet of today, and no drake holds another the guardian of their next breath. Clan they may be, but each also flies on their own wing.

They came. And in a deep cave, Silmar DawnDream was near time. Near and twice near. And the sound of war came down to the deep caves. And it was a call that might not be denied even by the manner of Silmar’s state. And she took her from the deep caves…

Many would not survive the day. And Bendrath WindWise was of their company. For of a time she battled, and the wind was indeed her friend, and fire and claw and bolt also. But then, far from her, she saw another drake, and that drake danced in a sea of foes. But the sea could not be withstood, and the dance of the one she saw was failing. And then in a flash of scale, in a turn of wing, she knew. For but one sister she had, and that one was Silmar. And as she watched… the sea rose. And Silmar was sinking. And with a cry of loss, of horror and of an anger that would split the very skies Bendrath fell from the sky where she watched, and she came upon the sea as the skybolts split rotten trees. And the foe parted before… but behind her it closed.

And those that made the sea were of no mind that she should reach Silmar. But for Bendrath that day, save death itself there was no denial. And tooth and claw, bolt and flame, she made her path to Silmar. But the path was not bought without cost. A rended wing, a broken patch of bare scale, a burned and withered foot… and in that sea did Bendrath WindWise die. And it was Bendrath of the Nine Wounds that found Silmar, and it was Bendrath of the Nine Wounds that sent the last foe rended and broken beyond any repair. And it was Bendrath of the Nine Wounds that must watch her sister die. Or so it would seem…

And Silmar was near passing, and that which she bore would brook no waiting. And Silmar spoke…

“ It must come, sister. And it must be now or not at all. But… I am not near enough. I fear failing, and that a drake should fear be no good thing. Cast the Healing winds, sister, that it may be, and it will come and I… I have some strength. What must be will be…?

And Bendrath knew it was so, and she summoned such magery as she bore that might Heal, though draku even then had little of Healing. And Silmar took strength… and what needs must be, was. And when the thing was done, a patch of dark blacker than the night that surrounded them stood. And Silmar had won her battle. And Silmat looked upon the new one who was, and she thought. And she spoke.

“ MorDin I name thee. And the stars do sing to greet thee… MorDin StarSong then… but do ye take him to some safer place, Bendrath sister. For it is done and I yet breathe… and I will yet be here when ye come…?

And while Bendrath could see that Silmar was spent and near past, the trial was done and Silmar’s heart yet beat. And she took the young one and she flew.

Silmar watched her fly. And as Bendrath passed from her view, she laughed. But her laughter held none of joy. And she spoke, seeming to her very self.

“Ah, the gift twice given. They will not welcome it, and were my Flame True, I could not but speak the same. But what must be… It seems ye lack a key to thy passage, lost one.?

And a claw moved, and it dug deep and a red door was made where none was found. And from that door another claw, yet smaller emerged… and the claw struggled, and the door was opened more wide. And as the one who struggled stepped forth, Silmar sent forth a surge of primal and it washed over the new come one. And she looked upon what was.

“Lost ye be, and none shall find thee… they will cast ye forth to time, and ye will seek what they would not have ye find… what are these things? What dream do I walk? Lost…?

Her voice grew faint.

“Lost. Aye, lost indeed. Sul then, for the losing. And dar for the twist wind that none may follow… Suldarion ye be…?

And she was gone.

And as she left the lands that had known her, as her spirit fled from all knowing, there was a great scream from the sky, and Bendrath of the Nine Wounds, who had come swift with one of those trained more in the Healing winds, did set claw to rock. And the fallen shell that had been her sister did not greet her, and the red and open door that had been made was all the greeting she found. That, and a new one who stood, with claws still red. And she raised up and her own claw flashed, that this one and this thing be taken from her sight for all time. But the one with her was swifter yet and did set itself ‘twixt and between, and Bendrath’s claw fell unsated. And Bendrath’s eyes turned cold.

“Ye are not worth a single scale of her, life stealer. And ye bear a burden that no hoard will ever repay. MorDin is mine, and twice mine for my sister’s memory. Ye? Flesh and cave, those because I must. But ye? Nobody! This I name…?

Of a sudden, the night spoke. And the voice that came seemed all about, and yet spoke from no place that could be made clear.

“Suldarion. Suldarion it was named… Sssssssssssssssssssssssul…………?

And the voice was gone, but any who had known her would have known Silmar’s words. And again the night was split by the roar of dragon tongue.

And when Bendrath’s grief was cast to the winds, she looked again at the new found thing. And still her eyes were cold.

“As it was spoken, then. Suldarion if it must be so. MorDin lives, and it seems he has a shadow…?

And Bendrath raised up once more, and her anger burned bright, and her flame brighter. And that which had been Silmar took of the flame and was no more, and the very rock burned. And Bendrath was gone.

And the other one who had come did take the youngling, Suldarion. And wings beat, and the flames that burned were gone and the Healer was gone and Suldarion was gone. And as the sun rose… the night began.

TaleSpinner’s voice fell silent. And those who looked could see the tears coursing Sonea’s face. And none who sat and none who had heard would speak, for none knew what word might best be said, or cause least ill. And of a time, TaleSpinner raised her head.

“ This be the Hall of Mirrors. This be the place of… of many things. And of a time this place… remembers. And ye who come may greet those memories. But this? Lost it was… lost it remains. And that night… that night is not yet over.?

And of a sudden the Hall was black. And when the fires burned again, as was their nature, of TaleSpinner there was no sign, nor of Sonea also. And those who had gathered did sit, for so oft there was a sign, or a new thing come to the Hall after a telling. But no sign came. And of a time, they rose, and still silent, they left, for this night was a strange telling. And they were gone.

And the Hall stood empty. And the door was firmly closed, and each shutter also. And as it stood, the fire flame flickered, and a night wind whispered from a casement that had no opening. And the wind whispered…. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssul….