c.3 -- Nurr
Ckorza House walked to breakfast the next morning in a stiff, cold wind. The cafeteria was stuffy and smelled of wet bodies. The steady drip from the leaky roof above the stove filled the air with steam. Mud tracked in by the students coated the floor and made it slick. Conversations and complaints echoed back and forth in the room, shouted over one another.
Gyax nibbled at her food, then slipped out early. She walked quickly to her new homeroom, shoes clicking in the empty hallway, wanting to be the first one there. She climbed the stairs in the Tower to the second story and found the door. Taking a quick, deep breath and tucking her silky hair behind her ears, she opened it.
The lights inside were bright, and five round tables were spaced out around the room. One was covered with writings, diagrams, pictures, and gadgets. Each other table had four slates and four pieces of chalk stacked neatly upon them, and four chairs pushed in around them, except one which had only three chairs. The missing chair and another were in the center of the room, where a man and a boy sat talking. They both stood as she entered.
"Well," the man said. "Good morning."
"Good morning," Gyax automatically echoed. She looked back and forth between the man and the boy. "Am I interrupting something?" she asked quietly.
"No, no, not at all," the main said, walking quickly to the cluttered desk. His movements were fast and short, but smooth. He was tall, over six feet, with sandy blond hair, clear blue eyes, and a sunburn. Gyax guessed he was in his early thirties.
The man had picked up a slate and was scanning it with his finger, mumbling to himself. Suddenly, he looked up at her. "What did you say your name was?"
"Gyax. Gyax Morlik." She watched nervously as he mumbled some more and then broke into a broad smile.
"Good, you're in the right place. And so am I." He grinned foolishly, disarmingly. "I'm Tarbiy Siyad. Better call me Professor Siyad in front of the other teachers..." He grimaced. "But in here I'm just Tarbiy."
"Yes, Pro... Yes, Tarbiy," Gyax stuttered.
"And this," Tarbiy said, waving an arm at the boy, "is Nurr."
Nurr smiled and waved politely and disinterestedly. He had dark brown eyes and nearly black hair, both highlighted with gold. He was younger than Gyax, by a cycle or so, only eleven. He was quiet and frail, and Gyax thought he'd blow away if he went outside, windy as it was.
As if reading her mind, Nurr walked to one of the windows on the north wall and frowned. Brilliant blue lightning flared, making a blinding silhouette of the thin boy. A hole in the clouds appeared, and a piercing gold star shone through. Then the clouds blew over again.
"Something is happening," Nurr said softly.
Gyax moved to the window. Already the storm was abating. Patches of clouds were thinning and allowing the normal stars to glimmer through, despite the continuing flashes of lightning. "What was that golden light?" Gyax asked, awe in her voice.
"Ajta," Nurr said, watching her.
"She shook her head. "No, it can't be. Ajta is a violet star."
"It is now," he said, then turned back to watch the weather.
Gyax turned to the boy, perplexed. "Why would it change to gold?"
"Because something important happened," he said. He turned away from the window dismissively.
"Legend says Ajta was once gold, and the moon was silver," Tarbiy said. "One is supposed to come to restore the star and the moon. One who will complete the cycle of the Phoenix and the Dragon and bring order to the world. Ajta and the moon are supposed to herald his coming." He paused for a moment. "I wouldn't pay too much attention to the old legends, though. That's more Safir's area. I'm convinced the colours are caused by purely natural phenomena."
"You think the phases of the moon can be explained by science, too," Nurr pointed out.
"But the star turning gold," Gyax interrupted. "Has that happened before?"
Tarbiy shrugged. "Who knows?"
But Nurr nodded, looking askance at the Professor. "Yes, thrice. The first was eighty-seven cycles ago, in the late winter, when the elven prince Pirion Maldem took Lyllyra Neciri, of the line of Asacon, as his wife. The second was one cycle and ten months before I was born. The last was seven cycles, three months, and two days ago, the day before I was accepted into Bedegelegaedincued."
Gyax blinked. "Into what?"
Nurr gave her a condescending look. "It's a city."
"It's an elven city not far from here," Tarbiy said. "Everyone but the elves just calls it Bedegel."
Gyax stared at Nurr. "You're an elf?"
Nurr rolled his eyes. "No, I'm not an elf. You're more elvish than I am."
"I'm not elvish at all."
Nurr looked her up and down. "I know an elf when I see one. You're not all elf, but there's elvish blood in you. I can sense it."
"You can not!"
"Can not! I am NOT elvish!"
"Alright, alright," Tarbiy interrupted. "The other students should be arriving soon."
"I apologize, Professor," Gyax said immediately.
Tarbiy raised an eyebrow. "That's an automatic thing for you, isn't it? Always the proper response...."
Gyax blushed. "I... I'm sorry, I...."
"No, no, nothing is wrong with that," Tarbiy said. "I'm just amused. I bet you only write your initial and last name on your papers, too."
Gyax hung her head. "Yes, Professor." Her hair fell forward into her face, and when she tried to brush it back, it only tangled and caught on her hand. She gave up and just let the dull mass limply lay.
"So much for 'not elvish,'" Nurr muttered.
The Professor looked at him quizzically.
"What?" he said defensively, meeting the Professor's gaze challengingly. "You saw what she did!"
"I didn't do anything." Gyax was on the verge of tears.
"Now, now..." Tarbiy said. "Nurr, you know you shouldn't call people names."
"I wasn't calling her names," Nurr replied. "She really is part elvish."
The Professor gave Nurr a warning glance, then knelt next to Gyax. "Don't cry... I'm sure Nurr didn't mean it as an insult."
Gyax shook her head. "No," she sobbed, "it's not that..."
Tarbiy waited a moment. "What is it?"
"It's just... my name... my name...."
"What's wrong with your name?" Tarbiy prompted gently.
"I can't write it."
"You don't know how to write your name? I can show-"
"No, I know how, I just... just can't. I tried last night, writing in the sand with my finger, and I still couldn't do it. I even tried writing it backwards, and I couldn't even do that."
"Why don't you use another name?" Nurr asked.
Tarbiy looked up at him and hissed, "You're not helping, Nurr."
"I was being serious," he said. "Have her change her name to Siyell or something that she can write."
Gyax looked up and sniffled. "I can do that?" She looked between Nurr and the Professor.
Tarbiy thought about it for a moment. "I don't see why not. Although I don't really see why it's necessary. It's just a name."
"I HATE my name!" Gyax exploded.
"You'd have to have your parents approve, of course," Tarbiy said.
"I don't have any parents anymore," Gyax said softly.
"Then it shouldn't be a problem, right?" Nurr interrupted.
Tarbiy glanced at Nurr and sighed. "I guess not," he said.
The door clicked. Gyax quickly dried her eyes and did her best to look like nothing had ever happened, and then she and the Professor and Nurr all looked up to see the next student to enter. As he - it was a boy who was fourteen or fifteen - came in and looked around, Nurr leaned over and whispered in Gyax's ear, "My truename is Keshef. What's yours?"
"I don't have a truename," Gyax said. Elves and spirits and fairy creatures had truenames, which they never told anyone because if someone knew it that person would have power over them, but humans rarely ever did. Nurr looked disappointed.
c.4 -- The Omendancer
Gyax, or Siyell as she now called herself in school, didn't speak to Nurr for several weeks after that. When their class talked, she addressed the others rather than talk directly with him, and she avoided his eyes. He was always watching her in school. When she slipped out at night onto the plains, she could look back and see him, hair blowing in the wind, from atop the roof of one of the houses, sometimes looking at her, but more often staring into the ever present wind.
It was one night, clear as day but dark as velvet, with the wind whipping the grass across the path she chose, and Nurr for once was not on the roof behind her, that Siyell took her circlet with her for no reason that she knew, clenched it tight within her hand, and walked farther than she had before. She knew she was walking too far, but she didn't really care. She moved mechanically in the direction she was facing, tired of the presence of Nurr and of the School and needing the solitude. When the black earth turned to hard-packed dirt with two deep furrows at her feet, she stared uncomprehending, too startled by the presence of anything to collect her thoughts.
A whip snapped over her head. "Hey, get out of the way!" a rough voice snarled. Siyell flinched backwards, finally noticing the noise of a caravan approaching, the wheels of the wagons tracking the ruts in the dirt. He eyed her up and down, then grinned a liscentious and dangerous grin. "Hey, lads, go get her!" the driver called, snapping his whip again at the two poor horses hauling his cart, as he passed by.
Siyell turned and ran. Four young men jumped off the caravan and pounded after her. Siyell slipped quickly thorough the high grass, staying low, relying on the wind to stir the grass more than she was and mask her passing.
But the boys were faster, and she almost walked into one who had run ahead of her. He let out a whoop and called the others. "Over here! She's over here!" After that, they were too close for Siyell to hide in the grass, and Siyell just sprinted as quickly as she could. One reached for her and brushed her shoulder, and she screamed and the world went grey.
Siyell tripped and fell, and she heard a startled curse. Dust rose when she fell, grey and cold as death. When she stood back up, the paler grey stalks of grass glittered as if they burned with a white flame where the moon touched them. The moon itself was too bright to look at. The caravan was gone, except for one covered wagon lit brightly from within. This wagon rolled slowly by itself down the tracks, with no horses attached. The four young men who had been chasing Siyell had also disappeared. The world was silent except for the softly moaning wind.
As she, utterly bewildered, watched the glowing wagon, it slowed, then stopped. A head as bright as the wagon itself stuck out between two of the concealing sheets, and the lips moved, though at that distance Siyell still could only hear the wind. Then the wagon backed up. An old woman climbed out. She glowed like fire, and only here was there colour, and it was hard to see, tiny flecks of red and green and blue in the white light. The wagon dimmed as she stepped off, and then quickly faded completely.
The crone took no notice of the wagon's disappearance, but bent to pick something up from the side of the road. Even so far away, Siyell recognized the thing as her circlet, though the circlet had something on it that glowed silver. She must have dropped it when she started running. The ancient woman looked at it curiously for a moment, then clasped it tightly in her two hands and closed her eyes. Then she opened her eyes and stared straight at Siyell. Siyell shuddered. Then the woman waved and appeared to shout, though there was no sound but the continuing wind.
One of the young men appeared abruptly not ten meters from Siyell. He was impossibly thin, with huge eyes that seemed to contain all the stars. Siyell screamed, and suddenly colour and sound returned to the world. The caravan stretched along the road at a grandeur halt, horses and humans alike stamping and fidgeting impatiently. An elderly but normal woman stood next to one of the wagons, holding something shiny in her had. Three of the men chasing Siyell were back, but the thin one vanished as if he never had been. Siyell fainted.
When Siyell came to, she was on a soft straw bed. Someone was humming softly nearby. People were talking, but they seemed farther away, and Siyell couldn't make out what they were saying. She could hear voices of men and of women. A horse somewhere stomped and blew dust from its nose. A puppy yipped excitedly, and children laughed. Siyell opened her eyes tentatively.
At first she thought she was in a strange tent, but Siyell quickly realized she was in the covered wagon. The ancient woman sat nearby, rocking softly back and forth while sewing patches on old clothing and humming. She looked up at Siyell and smiled, but she didn't stop working or rocking or humming, and she looked back to her work immediately.
Siyell shifted to stand up. The woman looked up again, but this time she stopped sewing and fell silent. Siyell hesistated.
"They wouldn't have hurt you, you know," the woman rasped. "Those boys. I told them to keep a watch out for a girl of your age. I knew you would be coming."
Siyell didn't respond, but sat still, looking at the old woman. The old woman, in turn, looked Siyell up and down, scrutinizing.
"You don't look too much like Pirion," she decided at last.
"Pirion?" Siyell echoed.
"That's his script you've got there," she said, waving an arm at Siyell's circlet, which sat on a barrel which doubled as a table at the foot of the bed, "written on the inside of the band." Siyell looked. The circlet was plain, unadorned silver, as always. "What's your name?"
"Siyell," she said immediately.
The crone started laughing, a throaty cackle mixed with frequent coughing. She laughed so hard she almost fell out of her rocking chair. "That's good, that's good," she finally croaked. "Keep calling yourself that. That's good. Don't tell anyone a thing." She chuckled a moment more, still watching Siyell, then turned back to her sewing. "What did you dream last night?"
"Excuse me?" Siyell asked, caught by surprise and thoroughly confused.
"I asked what you dreamt last night," she croaked. "And don't tell me you don't remember. The winds tell me they told you something. And you won't forget the voice of the wind."
"I-- " Siyell thought a moment. "I dreamt that the sky was cloudy and low, and the hills all around were covered with snow. Snow was still drifting down lightly, and through gaps in the clouds the moon and stars shone brightly. The moon was silver. A blue gem was in my right hand. A fire, a pyre, burned on my left side, lighting up the clouds and land. Everything was white and blue and silver and gold. In the dream, I knew who had died, who was burning on the pyre, but now I can't remember."
The woman nodded. "That's the wind talking, for certain. The wind likes poems, you see, so it writes them itself."
Siyell tried to picture the wind writing poems. Giving up, she asked, "Why, did you dream?"
The woman scowled. "I always dream. I've dreamt as long as I can remember." She sighed. "I have had many dreams, and when I was young, all of them withered from my mind as I woke, and I never remembered. But I never mourned, for the dreams were frightening and terrible, and many nights I awoke sweating and shaking. Men thought I was possessed, and at last they left me on the road out on the plains. For seventeen days I wandered the hard, dusty land, and for seventeen nights I shivered in the cold wind, and by the seventeenth day I was seeing my dreams waking and walking, hallucinations brought on by cold and hunger and fear and fever. And on the seventeenth night I remembered that seventeen was a number sacred to the gods, and there were seventeen stars in the sky. And on that night, the violet star which stands alone shone bright gold, and its light was like the day, and I found the city Feilarintogetusihideduraticerilecelo, which no human had seen in a thousand cycles. And the elves took me in and wrapped my feet and fed me and watched over me until the fevers subsided, but the visions never faded away again, and the elves feared me."
Siyell thought about that a minute. "I know someone named Nurr, who mentioned Ajta turning gold before. He said it's only happened three times before. He said once was when some elven prince married--" she tried to remember the names, but couldn't-- "...someone else. And another time was like thirteen and a half cycles ago, and the last time was when he was accepted into the elven school. Last time besides a few weeks ago, that is. Was this a fifth time?"
She shook her head. "Feh. Nurr is a fool who thinks he is older than he is. He has no idea what he is talking about. Sitherayis Ariam is as much a fool for taking him in."
"Then that wasn't when they happened?"
"Oh, it was, it was. Prince Pirion was married in Feilarin the same night I arrived."
"Prince Pirion? The same Pirion you mentioned--"
"Yes, yes, girl. Don't interrupt! That was a major event, you see. They were all major events. The second had to do with someone's birth, and the third with someone's death. Who were you with when the fourth one went off?"
"Me? I was with Professor Siyad and Nurr."
Her eyes narrowed. "Hmm... how old is this Professor Siyad of yours?"
"Um... I don't know. Thirty-something?"
"Hmm," she said again. "Maybe Sitherayis isn't as much a fool as I thought. Hmm." She glared hard at Siyell, as if Siyell had done something wrong to make Sitherayis not a fool.
"Ma'am, I really should...." Siyell started.
The woman waved her hand for silence. "Yes, yes, the school, I know. They're worried about you, I'm sure, if only so they don't get in trouble. They have no idea who you are. Neither does Nurr, more the fool for him. Next time you go invisible, make sure you take him with you. It'll do him good, and you good too, because he knows enough to teach you to not kill yourself doing something stupid."
"What did you think you did last night, stop time? That would be a nice trick, I'm sure, but one a bit beyond you. The invisible and the visible can't see one other. Things that are around for a long time, like the earth and the grass, leave an impression on the invisible, which is good because then you can find your way around. Buildings, too, after a few cycles."
"The thin man... the one with stars in his eyes. Who was he?"
She looked at Siyell sharply. "You really don't know... you really have been isolated, haven't you? Casidiyer is an elf. He popped invisible to find you."
"And you... you were glowing..."
"I wasn't there," she snapped. "I was dreaming. You dreamt you saw me, a waking dream that showed exactly where my visible self was. I dreamt I saw you, which is how I knew where to tell Casidiyer to look. That's how it works. Imagine seeing everyone like that. No wonder men think you're possessed. YOU think you're possessed. Now get out of here. Head straight into the grass. The boys won't follow; I've seen to that. Nurr is looking for you. He'll find you."
"But..." Siyell said, not quite caught up with everything that had happened and had been said.
The ancient woman shoved the circlet into Siyell's chest. "GO!"
Siyell stumbled out the back of the wagon and fell several feet onto the ground. She landed flat on her back. Several people stopped what they were doing to look, then went back to talking and working and playing. Siyell scrambled up and ran.
Just out of sight and sound of the caravan, Siyell ran into Nurr.
"Gyax!" he said, shocked but pleased. She paled and backed away.
"Gyax, what's wrong?" She backed further away. "Gyax, wait."
"No, no..." she stuttered. "It's impossible. How did she know?"
Nurr set a hand on her shoulder to calm her down. "Easy. Take a breath. You're not making any sense. Come on, let's walk this way. They're wondering where you are, you know. You scared Tarbiy, disappearing like that. Most of the others are just mad."
Gyax let herself be led back toward the school. She tried to put everything together that she had heard. Finally, she asked, "Who is Sitherayis?"
Nurr gave her a puzzled look. "Sitherayis was the elf who trained me in Bedegel. Why, where'd you hear it?"
Barely paying attention, Gyax continued half to herself. "She said someone's birth and someone's death. And then them getting married, which you already said. The gold star... but why did she think something was on my Line Ring?"
"The gold star?" Nurr asked.
Gyax glanced at him. "Ajta."
"The second and third time it changed?"
"Who did you talk to?" Nurr said.
"I don't know," Gyax admitted. "She was a really old woman with grey eyes. She said you were a fool and Sitherayis was a fool for taking you in." Gyax flushed.
Nurr stared at her. "What else did she say?"
"She said..." Gyax hesistated, debating whether she wanted Nurr hanging around expecting her to do something unnatural. "She said you were here looking for me, and that you would find me, and she said that I had Prince Pirion's script on my Line Ring. And she also said that you were supposed to be with me if I ever turned invisible again." Gyax flushed again, worse than before.
"Invisible.... invisible again?" I knew you were an elf!"
"I'm not an elf," Gyax muttered automatically.
"How else do you explain it?" Nurr asked. "Let me see your Line Ring."
Gyax handed him the circlet.
He looked it over, perplexed. "But this isn't a Line Ring of any of the elven houses.... and there's nothing on it."
"I know," Gyax mumbled. "That's just what she said."
"So it's someone who can turn invisible and probably has been to Bedegel, if she knows who Sitherayis is...."
"She said she wasn't invisible," Gyax offered. "She said she dreamt she knew where I was, and I was dreaming she was there, which is why she glowed all brightly with sparks of colour when everything else was grey."
Nurr stared at her in shock. "You met the Omendancer?"
Nurr just shook his head. "I can't believe you met the Omendancer...."
"Nurr, who is the Omendancer?"
"She's a seer, the greatest true seer ever alive. She was the only one let into the elves' hidden city in a thousand cycles. She's ancient, and no one knows for sure how she's still alive. The elves respect her on a level with their own elders. They say she knows about every time Ajta will turn gold, and what each time means."
"She said the wind talks to her," Gyax said.
"I wouldn't be surprised," Nurr replied. He shook his head again in wonder, then remained silent the rest of the trip.
|18 Jul 2006|| Kayla|
Wow, this is neat! I'm off to read more! Cheerio!