CHAPTER 3: A JOURNEYMAN’S TASK

A strange thing had come to Mia’s Edge. For here and there one new to that place might come across some few of the inhabitants, some three or four or five. And they might be at ale or meat, or walking by the shore… And as the one they knew not came close, they would fall silent, not in any manner hostile, but simply… quiet… and as the new one walked on, or took them to some other place, they might hear voices behind, that rose and fell. Not in anger, not in grief… but in puzzle and mystery.

And some of Mia’s Edge did seek TaleSpinner. And they did ask of the last telling. And TaleSpinner would fall silent, and look to the horizon… and her voice might speak, or try, and seem to seek some word, of this or that, but no meaning came. And her eyes would look lost a moment, and wordless she would shake her head. And others did seek Sonea, and more oft than before they would find her at practice with blade or bow, with mace or hammer. And if they called her and asked of the Suldarion tale, she would spin about, and about her face there would a both tears and rage, and the ones who asked would hurry away. And behind them there would be the sound of some mighty blow as the weapon Sonea bore bit deep. And ever would she seek out the one who had asked later, and beg leave of understanding for her manner. But no word of Suldarion would she speak.

And for some days this was so.

And then one day, one found Sonea. And Sonea greeted him. And Sonea smiled. And Sonea’s smiles may light the very DeadPool. And when that one asked of Suldarion, then did Sonea speak, and she did say..

“That which is… is. That which was… will be told in its time. And that which will be? Why, that is both and neither! But for now, I have this new keg that is in need of thine opinion…?

And one found TaleSpinner. And when she asked of the Suldarion, TaleSpinner looked for a moment sad, but then she said..

“That Tale sleeps, or that child of the Tale… child or mother? It is all one… But come ye to the Hall this night, and bring those about thee. For there is another telling that is come to its own time…?

And thus it was. For the many gathered to the Hall, and the night was clean and clear in the coming crisp of Fall. And Sonea was there, and she chatted with those she knew as she head before. But all saw that these tides, she was never without some weapon at her side. And the Hall stood open to the evening, and the trees had their first burning of Fall’s flames.

And TaleSpinner waited patient before them. And as ever, the childer knew their part was needed ere anything would be spoken…

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

And the winds that breathed about the Hall’s breath did settle, and TaleSpinner looked upon those who waited.

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

Crafting be a piper, and piper must be paid
Sonea walked a maker, and by her Craft was made
Crafting be a knowing, and crafting seeks a trade
Sonea made her journey , and Journey task was laid

Laek formally installed Sonea as his apprentice in the Craft Tower of his guild, The Circle of The Hawk. For a time she traveled with her new master, meeting the others of her new clan and learning the ways of tinkering. She also came to know her new guild mates. Ye may have heard of some of them.. Lord Regash and his beloved, the Lady Mystif.

There was also the elf ranger, Rolynd Anyndir, who crafted armor and weaponry. He spied the bow that Sonea carried, and noticed that it had seen little use and even less care.. for ye know that Sonea had lost the lust for war. He did take it and straighten it, and oil it and restring it for her. He did also offer to craft weapons and armor for her, should she ever have need of them.

TaleSpinner paused and smiled. And then she leaned forward a little and lowered her voice to share a confidence with those gathered.

“Rolynd was a handsome man, tall and slim, a warm smile and high cheekbones, dark hair flowing down over his collar.?

She raised her voice again..

For several days after Rolynd had repaired her bow, Lord Laek noticed Sonea smiling to herself as she worked. And of an evening, in that time between sup and bed, when normally Sonea would beg Laek to tell her tales of his travels, now she sat quietly humming to herself as she stared at the moon and twirled a lock of hair ‘round her finger, smiling at nothing.. but mayhap at everything.

Ah well.. there are many forms the Long Road doth take. And many must walk it more than once, or at least it often feels so. Sometimes of foot, sometimes in the blood of war, sometimes in the endless moment where an eye meets eye, and forever not one, but two lives and later more are changed. And not least is the road the one who seeks craft must walk.

Sonea loved making. The heat of the forge was a Summer she thought she could live all year round and not regret a single day. The sound of hammer on anvil was the glad greeting that marked a day well begun, and the brush of broom on floor, the ordered stacking of tool each in its proper place at the end of the day made a place within her where all was calm and peace and the world might be set a-sleeping and her spirit with it.

And if she saw but one more sword blade, one more hinge, one more lump of thrice damned ore, she swore she would make the one who brought it to her eat it, and that with molten metal for drink!

A thousand thousand picks she had dragged from unwilling metal. Hinge upon hinge, spring upon spring, and so many gear teeth that her own set on edge at the very thought. And as she stood in Laek's place of making in the Craft Tower of the Hawk, she wondered what demon had beset her, to take up the crafter's path.

As she cast about for some thing on which to vent her frustration, her eyes were caught by a fine chest that stood on a near table. A chest of wood, of fine silver birch... the grain of the wood polished and clean cut, the... silver birch? Silver hen-teeth! Sonea stepped closer.

As she thought, the chest was no thing of wood. It was made whole of... why, of very silver! Her eyes traced the line of seeming wood and grain, the edges of apparent bark that had been ' left' as banding round the edge... to be able to make such a thing... Her fingers reached out to touch...

"It was my master's master piece."

Sonea jumped as the voice behind her startled her. She turned, to see Lord Laek standing, a smile on his face, and a hint of sadness also. He seemed not to see her, but gazed lost into some distant place, another time.

"He... left it... to me… when he passed..."

"As ye know well, Sonea, this is the way of things. The Apprentice works, and works long and hard. And others watch, and teach, and one, marked by the grade of Master, will wait till the candle has burned to the proper mark. And then a task is set, and the task done, the Apprentice is no more and the Journeyman stands. And if the 'Prentice thinks that their work was long and their task hard, the Journeyman longs for those days of ease and simplicity..."

Laek grinned.

"Till the day another task is set and the Journeyman also is gone and a Master strides forth.

For thee, the time of luxury and idling is done, my Apprentice. It is my delight and honor to set a sword blade to thy heart, though in this case no sword is involved, and make ye no more, never to pass this way again. For by my reading of the candle, a Journeyman's seal awaits thee, and that well earned. And were it my will I would give it to thee even now. But this is not the way of things. There must be a task... or rather, tasks, for there are more than one. And they may try thee, but I know they will not stand before thee, for I have seen this is thy way, to strive and strive till that ye must do is done."

As she listened, Sonea's spirit nodded inside. For there were many things she must do. This was indeed one, but there were others... things Laek as yet knew nothing of and might never. But they also would be done. For she was Gifted and could not die trying...

Laek continued.

" I will speak of other parts later, but here is the first. Somewhere, and I know not where, there walk three very lucky young crafters. And why are they lucky? Because a day waits in their future, and that day not far, when a charming, delightful, witty and above all skilled maker will come to them and gift them with a fine new tool of their choice, and not a coin will leave their purses nor a finger will they have to lift in the gathering of that which is needed. Are they not lucky crafters, my fine Journeyman-to-be?"

And with that, Laek smiled, turned, and was gone.

For a time, Sonea stood, near stunned. Journeyman! J-o-u-r-n-e-y-m-a-n.... she drew the word out long and long in her mind, savoring each letter... Hmmmmm. Mayhap she would not make Laek eat the ore she must gather after all, and allow him to seek other quenching of his thirst than the metal blood. J-o-u-r-n-e-y-m-a-n... Sonea smiled also, and that smile was like a new dawn. Then she turned, and she also was gone.

For many days Sonea was found in the ore fields and at the forge. And those who gathered there or who also set ore to the fire took wonder, for she would make and she would break, but not as so many did to gain skill. She would make indeed, a hammer, a chisel, a pick... and she would take it and examine it, and set it to eye, and pass her fingers along it, aye and even seem to taste the very metal with her tongue!

And then... it would be cast aside, and unmade and the thing begun anew. For she seemed to seek some thing she could not find... and one of those about would whisper to another, and that one to another. And all would smile. The Journey task. Oh, indeed, the Journey task! And those who had once been as Sonea was now would grin at some memory of long ago, and those who had yet to be where she stood would look on in delight and no small envy.

And Sonea? Sonea saw naught save the hammer head she moulded, or the chisel blade she worked as fine and folded as any sword blade. And she saw none... for she would settle for no less than her best. And many days passed.

And then came the day. The day the sun glinted fine and bright from a chisel edge that would cut the wind and make it bleed. And the hammer that lay beside it had a head that would break adamant, but lay soft and fold thin sheet with a gossamer kiss.

And she cried out in delight, and she danced and she held up those things that others about might see... and then she stopped. For only the grass was witness to her joy, and the gathering places and the forge and the anvil were empty of any company. And she stood, and she looked about... and a mighty curse she swore!

" Fardles! Fardles and blatherskite! When I have those that need, I have not that needed! And when I have that needed..."

And suddenly realizing the absurdity of calling curses to rocks and cold metal, Sonea was overtaken by mirth, and she fell to the ground laughing fit to burst. And she laughed and chortled till her sides seemed fit to split... and had Laek been there he might have felt re-assured that the one who yet felt dark shadows could be so pure in joy.

After a time Sonea stopped her merriment, and she sat and looked at the things she had made. And she carefully lifted each one and set it to one side where she might see each tool. Then, two more sets she made, and where the first had been hard and of much trial, the next two sets seemed to leap from the ore of their own will, and her hands found their shape without thought. And the thing was done. Three full sets of tools lay before her. And she looked upon them, and she reached out and touched them... and Sonea SMILED.

The next day Sonea woke early. The dawn light called to her, and the smell of fresh baked bread from the Hawk's kitchens made her mouth water and her fingers itch. Taking a moment to pack her tools and the new ones she had made, and to charm a still warm loaf and fresh cut cheese (for though the Gifted need no food, its delight is not beyond them) from the Confectioners quarters, she set out for the ore fields. She felt in her very bones that it would be fine day.

As the morning sun rose higher and burned off the early mist, her skin warmed, and somehow her heart warmed more. Aye, a fine day indeed... As her pick swung, Sonea felt its rough handle shift and twist in her hands, and she found herself comparing it to the pick Bori had made her. Now, most times when Soni thought of those days, the tears would flood. But today... today it was a thing of joy to remember the pick he had made. And she remembered how the pick would sing of a time... and the old, old melody drifted close to her memory...

Sonea sang. First softly, then louder, then louder, her voice ringing each time the pick hit ore, even as Bori's gift pick had done. She lost herself in swing and strike, in note and beat. And no ill losing, but a thing of calm and peace and joy. Sonea sang.

Now, to hear a hill singing is a strange thing. But over the rise three young crafters, new woken all, thought that was what they had found. A singing hill! A wonder indeed! Each with a new made cargo disk bobbing behind them, they ran, or rather waddled their way forward to see this wonder. And a wonder indeed it was, though not the one they had thought.

For over the rise they found an one swinging a pick, and all about her was song. And as the song grew, so did the pile of ore she gathered to her sack. The three stood, and they watched, and the sun was bright about them. And somehow it seemed to each of the three that they would like indeed to be this maker they saw before them. The skill with which she swung her pick and the joy of her task was a thing each would treasure and seek to emulate as they grew.

As they watched, Sonea exhausted the outcrop of ore she worked on, and stopped to mop her brow. The moment her song ceased, she knew she was not alone. Sonea tugged at her tunic, pulling it away from where it clung to her sweat dampened skin. She dusted the ore from her leggings. And then she turned and looked upon those who approached. And she counted... and she knew the fates were kind this waking. Sonea greeted them.

"Joy of the day, young makers! It seems I have taken all I may take from this patch of ground. And indeed the sun is delight, but it makes a gatherer know why rivers are made.. that one might bathe!"

Sonea noted the flush that came to the two males before her, young as they were, to hear a beautiful woman, and one most evidently well made and full grown talk of bathing... She chuckled to herself. And chuckled more at the disgusted look the female crafter gave her companions, and the long suffering glance that one cast at Sonea.

"Mayhap ye might sit a while. It has been long that I have worked here. And the world's doings in that time are a mystery to me. It seems I have well-aged cheese and bread fresh made this morn' to accompany our discourse..."

At the words ' bread' and, even more, ' cheese', all three lit their eyes and made haste to sit beside Sonea on the grass. And they talked of where they had been and where they would be. Sonea treated each and all of the three as fellow crafters, no less and indeed no more than she herself. Once all had, it seemed, said all that might be said, Sonea knew it was time.

"Come. There is a thing that must be done this day, and ye three be just the three to make it whole. Might I entice thee to assist me?"

The three stood, wondering what Sonea was about. She took them to the smelter. And there, laid on an anvil she was not using, were the three sets of tools.

"These things here. I would value your opinions, each one. Might ye assist me in examining their merits?"

The three young makers tried to assume serious miens as they took each tool and spoke of ores and hammering, and folded metal and edges and quenching. Sonea listened, and again she chuckled at their earnest voices, as they strove to appear wise in the ways of making. Each acclaimed the tools and spoke how the ones they had from their trainers were but pale shadows beside these. And Sonea spoke.

"I find I need space in my pack, that I may make new that which must be made. And I have three sets of these tools, and the day has brought me three of ye. There is a pattern here... and makers are great ones for pattern.

Ye would honor me well and greatly were ye each to take the set that fits thy hand. Take them, aye, and use them well. And one day... a day to come that has not yet been, mayhap ye will stand where I stand now, and ye will each do what ye will do. And this day will live then and we will stand together once more. Though each of ye be far from the other and I yet further from any. Will ye do this? By my hand and my honor?"

And three young makers each tried at one and the same time to seem solemn, and to beam in joy the like of which they had rarely known. Each gladly took what she offered. And each seemed to know that to speak of coin or service was not the pattern of this day.

Sonea bade them hold a moment... She took each tool, and her finest engraver, and in each she set a small pattern. Now, if ye looked a-right, and if ye knew what ye looked for, then ye might see a drake in full flight, wings spread across a moon full risen. For these three would walk far, and there was one that would know that sign did he ever see it. The three ventured on, their disks yet bobbing. And Sonea walked home. The song she sang this time was hers alone.
The Hall was silent. And then, from a place near the front, a small elf girl, but a few years grown, was heard to say to her mother.


“ Sonea lady sing? Sonea lady sing now??


And a whisper ran about the Hall, and the whisper was in voices high and higher, and not the voices of those older, and mayhap less bold. For the younglings knew their tasks well, and this was one they relished…


"A song... a song.... a song...."


As the chant rose, it could be seen that Sonea’s love of the color pink was indeed truly a part of her being, and she looked this way and that, a strangely panicked manner to one who bore blade and had faced many a Foe. But at last she laughed, and she stepped forth to the speaking place.


“ A song is it? Aye, well and so. For while I indeed sang that day, it was and is no thing that might set a bard to fear for their living… but ‘ by thy will’ as one I know might speak… What song would ye have??


And Flozzie did speak forth, and in a voice that showed close knowledge of the subject, he opined that there was a drinking song or three he knew most well… but Sonea declined his offer as gracefully as she might, and thought a while.


“ Well, look ye, there is a song I first learned in my…. In my younger days…?


For a moment, a look of intense sorrow passed over Sonea’s face, and then like a shadow of a dream it was gone.


“ Now… how did it go… ye do see, it spoke of the night sky, that we childer might come to know it and its use. So I will sing it for thee, and if ye know it’s manner, why then let me not wander the sky alone!?


And she began to sing. And for all her words, her voice was clear and each note of silver, and of a time the true gold of perfect pitch.


“ There high above, the hunter walks, and ever seeks his prey
And from him flees the mighty bear, and never it will stay
And every night they turn about but ever they stay whole,
For all the sky is like a wheel and tied unto the Pole…?


“ Hah, do ye have it? So come, skywalk with me!?


“ There high above, the hunter walks….?


And the children sang, and many a hand clapped time, and the Hall rang with joy.
And above her as she sang, the ceiling winked and spun, and as each mark of the sky was marked by her voice… the stars came out.