Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Chapter 15: Reasons

   "I don't know why you brought him to me, but I am expecting a detailed explanation." Celeret stated as she walked out of the tunnel onto the balcony. Fulkar was sitting on an outcropping of stone on the side of the mountain, enjoying the open air and expanse after the cramped tunnel. The balcony hung over a mile from the bottom of the mountain and it's beak was so high its view was blocked by the clouds. There was another, smaller mountain on every side, four in all, causing a wall to be formed around this oasis within the mountain range. Fulkar looked up at her and snorted.
   "Do you really care what I have to say? You have already made up you mind, have you not?"
   "Perhaps, but I always like a good story."
   "He rescued me." Celeret let loose a laugh that sounded like a  hundred bells had been rung at once.
   "He rescued you?" She laughed again her eyes shining.
   "Yes he did. Are you so surprised?"
   "He's a child." She stopped laughing and placed her hands on her hips. "Are you trying to trick me?"
   "No. I swear to you that I speak the truth." He recounted the story to her and when he had finished, he asked her forgiveness. " I hope you do not think ill of me for bringing him without notice. I thought it very unwise and irresponsible to leave him to stay uneducated."
   "I do not think ill of you. I will teach him, but I do not think he is as powerful as you do. Not to mention, that he is weak spirited. I do not think he will last a week."
   "He will last. Give him some credit, Celeret. You have grown cynical and pessimistic as youve aged. Have a little hope."
   "No... but I will teach him just the same."
   "Fine. Do it your own way. I must ask you though, what had you decided before I told you the story?"
   "To keep him. What can I say? I enjoy entertainment." with that she turned and reentered the tunnel. Fulkar shook his head and launched himself into the air, disappearing into the clouds.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chapter 14: Celeret Cont'd

   "Unless you prefer separate rooms, this will be where you can sleep."
   "We'll stay together. Thank you," replied Ardan. Celeret opened the door and revealed a room in utter darkness. She waved her hand toward the room, and a flame from the nearest torch leapt into the room and bounced from torch to torch, throwing light into every corner. The room was large with two torches built into every wall, just as in the tunnels. There was a large bed, the likes of which he'd never seen. He'd always slept on mats on the ground inside his mother's tent. This bed was made of wood and raised six inches off the floor by wooden legs. It had a thick packet of something held up by wooden slats and many blankets layered onto it. At the head of the bed was a kind of bag that had been stuffed. It was very odd to him that someone would work so hard on something that was only used for sleep.
   The room also had a set of shelves that were packed full of books. There were no windows, but a desk and stool sat against the wall opposite the bed with a lit lantern on the desk. he could see that there was parchment with a quill and ink-well and hoped she wouldn't expect him to write for her. He knew his alphabet and some basic words, but his hand writing was atrocious.
   "I will leave you to rest. If you need anything I will be in the great hall that we came through. Can you find it?"
   "Yes. Thank you."
   "You are welcome. Sleep well." She tipped her head in a miniscule bow and closed the door behind her.
   "This is very nice to be inside a great mountain. I would have never thought this possible, but I suppose you can do anything with magic," Rheto said leaping onto the bed. He circled a few times before settling himself at the food of the bed. "This is wonderful!" he sighed. "It's been so long since I've been on a real bed." Ardan walked over and pushed down on the large packet. It was full of softness, it gave slighty, but would not sink.
   "It's a mattress," Rheto told him. He put his nose close to the blankets and sniffed. "It's full of wool and feathers. That little bag is called a pillow. It too is stuffed with wool, but it is only for your head." Ardan tentatively sat on the side of the bed. It was incredible how comfortable it was. How his mother must have missed this.
   "Are all beds like this?" Ardan asked.
   "No. This one is very nice. Many people just have a mattress on the floor or a thinner mattress on a smaller frame, but the idea is the same." Ardan rose and went to sit in front of the shelves. He sat with his legs crossed. His mother had owned a book. It was a history book, but he had never been allowed to read it. He took out a small book and weighed it in his hands. The cover was leather, with what resembled branding on it. He ran his fingers over the words, but was unsure of what it said.
   "Rheto... why didn't Arta teach me to read?"
   "Most of the people in your village can't read. It would have set you apart even more, besides, they don't respect intellect like people in the city. In the desert you have to be strong, fast, and tough. It's about survival. She wanted you to succeed."
   "Still, I wish I knew what this said." He opened the book and flipped through the pages. There was a soft thud and then Rheto was beside him.
   "Let me see it."
   "Rheto, you can't read..." Ardan chuckled. He held the book out anyway so that Rheto could see the cover. "Legends of Virtue," Rheto read aloud. Ardan's mouth dropped open. Rheto looked at him expectantly, so Ardan turned the page. "Legends of Virtue. Compiled by Phynx of Aqi'tra." Ardan turned the page again, but the next was blank. The following page was packed full of words, except for a space left for the title. The first letter of the body was large and intricately drawn, with ivy and other foliage curling around the letter.
   "The Tale of Dinon... On a small farm near the Kanx Sea, a baby boy was born. The child was very small and weak and his parents feared that he would die. They named him Dinon and his mother prayed over him and lit candles for him daily. He was their only son and it grieved her to see him so sickly..."
   "Stop." interrupted Ardan. Rheto looked at him questioningly. "How can you read?"
   "Your mother used to read aloud to your grandfather. He enjoyed hearing her voice. I used to sit beside her. I listened and could see the words on the page. I eventually picked it up. I had many, many years to learn. Your mother has a strong voice and is very good at entertaining with it. It saddens me that she has never read for you."
   "Will you help me? I want to know how to read."
   "Of course." Rheto and Ardan sat on the floor, Ardan sounding out words, Rheto correcting or praising him as they went. In another part of the castle in a mountain, the air was not so calm.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Chapter 14: Celeret

   She was graceful and pale, like moonlight. He'd never seen anyone with skin so light. Her hair hung down to her waist and was the color of a corn husk, yellow and absolutely straight. She was very tall and lithe in a long white gown that swept the ground.
   "Welcome Fulkar. I was expecting you, but a boy and a dirt dog? These are a surprise." She spoke slowly, her words as lovely as she was.
   "Thank you for the welcome Celeret. I am sorry for bringing guests unannounced, but this boy, Ardan, is gifted. He needs your guidance." Ardan gasped. This woman was the aged, wise magician that wuld teach him so much. He realized that his mouth was hanging open and quickly closed it.
   "Ma'am. Celeret, I... I'm Ardan. My parents are from Balti, but my father was murdered because he wouldn't teach the dark magic. My mother ran, so I was born in the desert village of Soumae. I am asking for guidance, for a teacher." He was surprised at himself. His voice didn't shake, and he somehow knew just what to say.
   "I see," answered Celeret. "And you little dirt dog, why are you here?"
   "I go where Ardan goes. I belonged to his mother before he was born. She would never forgive me if I let something happen to him."
   "What is your name?"
   "Rheto, ma'am."
   "You are very brave little dog. You are all welcome here; I will show you where you can stay." Then she turned and led them deep within the mountain. They followed a wide tunnel that was lit by lanterns sitting in carved out shelves along the walls. The air was cool inside the tunnel, and Ardan found himself shivering slightly.
   "I apologize for the tightness Fulkar, but as you can imagine these caves weren't built with Drakons in mind," Celeret said from the front of their line. Fulkar had his wings tucked in as tightly as was possible and was crawling on his belly. Still his spikes scraped the ceiling.
  "It's not your fault, my size can sometimes be a hinderance." They reached an archway, and the tunnel opened up into a great room. There were fires burning in large fireplaces at either end, and the walls were lined with books and art. A large table was set t one end of the room, lit by candles and at the other, rugs and large, comfortable-looking chairs were placed around the fireplace to make a very appealing and cozy sitting area. There were two tunnels leading out of the opposite wall and yet another tunnel ran parallel to the one they had just exited. The room spanned four-hundred yards at last, and Ardan reeled slightly at it's unmatched size. They entered the great room and Fulkar shook his entire body, flexing his muscles and releasing his wings from their tight hold.
   "Ardan, Rheto, If you will follow me I will show you to your rooms. Fulkar, you know where you are going?" Fulkar nodded and entered the tunnel across from them. "Drakons find sleeping indoors, a bit, confining," she said as she led them toward the tunnel parallel to the one Fulkar took. "That tunnel leads to a courtyard that was formed in the mountains centuries ago. It is only accessible by that tunnel and the sky." The followed them down their own tunnel, passing a door to the right and the left. As they made their way down the second tunnel, Ardan had the distinct feeling that they were walking  uphill. The feeling passed in just over a minute and soon the tunnel was lined with doors interspersed between the torches. At the third door on the left, Celeret stopped.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Chapter 13: Mountains Cont'd

  "You are."
  "How can you know that?"
  "Trust me, I know." Rheto stretched underneath the ropes, waking at the sound of voices.
  "Ardan, don't worry so much. You'll be wonderful. No one could help but love you. Plus, we'll help you. Won't we Fulkar?" Rheto interjected.
  "Absolutely." Ardan felt a little better, but their words didn't stop the millions of butterflies in his stomach from flying around as if caught in a thunderstorm. He tried to relax, but as the mountains loomed closer he couldn't help, but become anxious. This was most likely going to be one of the most important times of his life and he desperately wanted to do it right.
  "Fulkar, what do I say? When we get there."
  "You should say hello."
  "And after that?"
  "Tell Celeret why you've come. That you want to be taught. Bow when you say hello and be respectful. I'm sure that everything will be fine."
  "I wish we could have practiced while we were still on the ground. I've never met anyone important before."
  "You met me..." Ardan smiled.
  "Yes I did. I suppose that went okay."
  "I didn't eat you." They all laughed as Fulkar turned his head to wink at them. "Stop worrying."
  "I can't."
  "Well, you must. We're here." Ardan's breath caught in his throat. He hadn't realized how close they were. The mountains were shrouded in a thick fog and when Fulkar landed, the mist rolled out from under him in thick waves, spilling over the edge of the outcropping where he set down. Ardan's hands were shaking so badly that it took him three tries to untie the rope. He slid to the ground and tried to straighten his vest, nervously running his fingers through his hair over and over again until there was a deafening crack and the rock in front of them began to move. It opened like a door, revealing a well-lit interior, and the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chapter 13: Mountains

   As they rose into the air, Ardan watched as the great water, the lake, he had just felt so small in, became as small as one of his own hands. He watched as the forrest sped by underneath him like a green rug in his mother's tent. He looked all around trying to take in everything he saw. As the sun began to set, he stared as the colors washed over the mountain, painting them in reds and oranges. They were the most beautiful, the most indescribable things he'd ever seen. The colors danced over the rocks, and it was like a fantastic dream - a wonderful, amazing dream, and he wished his mother could see it. She would have loved the way the sun played over the land and filled the sky. He smiled thinking of the joy it would have brought to her face.
   Then his worst fear hit him, a thought that had dwindled at the edge of his mind since his first flight with Fulkar. His eyes couldn't focus on the sunset anymore. Instead he saw his mother's face, the look in her eyes when she woke that morning and found that he was not in his bed. The tears that filled her eyes when Taur came to their tent, his eyes on the sand, telling her where her son had gone. He saw his mother sit down on the floor, her strong arms limp by her sides, and her beautiful hair hanging over her face. He tried to look at the sunset, at the mountains or the forrest, but her face filled his mind, pushing everything else aside. He realized exactly what he had done to her. What she must be going through, not knowing where he was or if he was coming back? Those thoughts swam through his mind as he drifted off to sleep, tossing and turning and keeping Rheto awake, muttering to himself in his sleep.
  When Ardan awoke, his cheeks were wet with tears. The sky was like ink, but the stars were burning so brightly that he felt as if he could reach up and touch one, that it would burn his fingers. The mountains had grown incredibly large and quite ominous while he slept, he could see cliffs and steep slopes and wondered how Fulkar could ever land on such terrain.
  "Are we going to be there soon?" he asked.
  "Actually we should be there within the hour. I caught a favorable wind while you were sleeping. It sped things along quite nicely."
  "Really? An hour? Oh wow..." Ardan's face grew serious. "Well, now that it's happening... I mean, now that were here... I'm nervous."
  "Because... What if I'm not good enough?"

Monday, February 22, 2010

Chapter 12: Water Cont'd Again

    The water wouldn't let him sit down, but he pushed against it keeping his head under water; which filled his ears and caused his hair to dance around his face. He counted to three and then opened his eyes. All around him was blue. He could see tiny things floating in the water. He didn't know the names, but some swam and others just drifted. He saw a few fish, but they all darted away so quickly that he couldn't really get a good look at them. It was like being in a different world. His arms felt weightless; he had to struggle to move them, to keep them under the water. He turned his head quickly and watched his hair slowly follow. Everything seemed new to him.
    He allowed some air to escape between his lips and watched as the bubbles found their way to the surface, their incandescent spheres reflecting everything. He had been so distracted by the beauty, the calm of his newly discovered world that he had forgotten about his quickly-emptying lungs. His chest screamed for air; His heart beat loudly, filling his ears and his head with its rhythm. He froze and then began to panic. He didn't know how to swim. He didn't know what to do, how to get back to the air that his body needed so badly. Then he remembered the sand between his toes. He pushed against it and after three seconds of eternity, his head emerged atop the waves. He gulped in air, his chest and shoulders heaving.
   Fulkar was still there staring at him, worried lines connecting his eyes. Ardan pushed back his hair with his hands, and Fulkar relaxed as a grin spread across his face. On the shore Rheto called, "well done!". Ardan threw back his head in a triumphant war whoop, a call of his own victory over the water and over his own fear. His smile had taken over his features, his eyes shone brightly and his teeth were revealed, contrasting sharply against his skin. His dark hair was slick and still dripping, even longer when wet. Fulkar slowly came towards Ardan, his large body causing waves that would over turn a small boat. Ardan planted his feet, preparing for the water. Fulkar's body appeared more and more as he came into the shallower water, until finally the water no longer reached his belly, but stopped just below his knees. He bent his neck forward and tilted his head until one giant eye peered at Ardan.
   "So, little desert child, does the water suit you?" Ardan could feel Fulkar's breath on his face; it was warm and wet with little puffs of steam following every word.
   "It's amazing! I've never felt so refreshed, ready for anything," Ardan gushed.
   "Water is healing. Most humans don't realize just how much. Water is part of every facet of life."
   "I've never known it could be like this, so... comfortable and green... not a desert." Ardan laughed at his own inability to put his feelings into words. Fulkar smiled, as much as a drakon can smile, enjoying Ardan's inexperienced glee.
   "We should eat," Rheto reminded Ardan, who was lazily running his feet through the water's edge.
   "You're right." Ardan pulled himself up the beach, back to his bag. He got out his sand cakes and broke one into pieces. Fulkar stretched out in the sand, his belly carving a ditch in the beach. "Aren't you going to hunt?"
   "Yes. I suppose so. I'll be back soon." He raced off into the trees, his body changing from the black and white of the sand to the green and brown of the forrest.
   "Tell me more about magic. Please. What will I be able to do?" Ardan asked, taking bites of sand cake.
   "Well, magic's use is depends on the magician. Some, like your father it seems, use it to teach. Some, to gain power or respect, some for healing, for discovery, or to gain knowledge. Others use it for war or to cause pain. It is up to you to decide how you want to use the magic."
   "Can a magician do anything? I mean, are there limitations?"
   "Of course. You can call on magic and whatever power it gives you is the power you have to call on. I have known magicians who could move mighty rivers, that could call people back from the dead, but things like that..." Fulkar moved so that he could look Ardan directly in the eyes. "Things like that require sacrifices from the magicians, sometimes it is just a drain of their energy, they sleep it off or eat a good meal, and the energy is restored. Sometimes it takes a part of them; they age so to speak because the magic has taken years from them. Other times, if the magician is not powerful enough or practiced enough, the magic claims his life. Celeret will be able to explain better than I. Drakons do not live under the same rules as humans. Magic flows through all of us like blood. It is part of us. If taken from us, it can kill us, but I have never heard of a spell that could kill a drakon."
   "So you can do anything?"
   "No. We cannot bring things back from the dead. That would kill us for another reason. There is certain magic that is forbidden among our race. Our ancestors made a great pact hundreds of years ago. It is that great spell that would take the life, not the use of the magic. It is to keep a single one of us or a group from becoming more than we were meant to be. Do you understand?"
   "You mean like taking over the world?" Fulkar chuckled at this.
   "Yes. There is a fantastic story about the forming of the Drakoni, the pact of spells that keep us who we are meant to be."
   "I would like to hear it." Ardan put the rest of his sand cakes back into his bag and looked at Fulkar expectantly.
  "Not now little friend. Now it is time to go."
  "But Rheto?" Ardan jumped up as Fulker stood and stretched his wings. He stretched his body from his neck down to his tail and looked toward the trees. Ardan smiled as Rheto emerged holding another rat in his mouth. He ate it and agin buried the refuse in the sand. Rheto and Ardan climbed back onto Fulkar's back and as Ardan tied them on, Fulkar stretched his wings preparing to fly.
  "How far is it now?" Rheto asked.
  "We will be there by dawn. Get some sleep when the dark comes. I will fly all night."
  "Can you?" Asked Ardan.
  "I am extremely refreshed by my dip in the lake. It will be easy."
  "Were not too heavy for you?" Ardan insisted. "You have carried us a long way." Fulkar shook his head laughing and leapt into the air.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chapter 12: Water Cont'd

   Rheto came out of the water and shook himself so that his hair returned only slightly to normal and then came to sit by Ardan.
  "Start slowly. Put your feet in and work your way deeper. Neither of us expect you to swim like a fish. You have never had more than a bath. We will keep you safe. You will not drown." Rheto spoke quietly as if his words were a secret. Glancing at his pet, Ardan stood up. He removed his bag from across his chest and laid it in the sand. Next he took off his vest and folded it on top of his bag. His bare chest shone in the sun; his young muscles strong and taunt. His dark skin seemed even darker here against the backdrop of green. He walked toward the water slowly. He was determined to be brave, but there was no bravery in foolishness. The water lapped at his toes, making the sand under his feet squish and stick to the tops of his feet. He walked until the water flowed up around his ankles and then stopped. Fulkar was still in the water, Ardan could see his nostrils, eyes, and ears peeking from above the waves. He was less than twenty yards ahead. The water must be very deep. Fulkar watched him intently, his eyelids the only perceptible movement.
   The water was cool, but not cold. It had been warmed by the long, hot sun. Ardan stared out across the waves wondering if his mother had had to cross this lake. If she could swim, perhaps the sad look that had often flitted into her eyes was not just for his father. It was easy to understand how someone could miss this. It was beautiful and serene. He stared and stared; making sure that he would be able to remember this place in his mind as long as he lived.
   Ardan gradually walked deeper in the water until the bottoms of his shorts were dark with wet. The water began to creep past his knees and he stopped again. Rheto and Fulkar couldn't see, but his feet were buried in the sand under the water. Perhaps he was afraid the waves would carry him away or perhaps it was just something familiar to hold onto. He leaned to his left until his fingertips brushed the water. He let them dance across the surface, and then he proceeded deeper. The water reached his thighs, his waist, and then it was up past his navel. He stopped again, letting both hands drop to his sides. He could feel the soft current against his palms, making his body sway gently. He knew he could not breathe underwater and yet he desired to know what it felt like to be encompassed by something so great and vast; to feel the water lift his hair. He took a deep breath and just sat down.