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|The last two characters begin their journey. The next part will bring the characters together and get the quest truly underway.||
Chapter Five: Tanyo
Tanyo was a slave. Both of his parents had been slaves before him and he had been born into slavery. When he was only a small child, he was bought by a wealthy merchant, Dalspo of Yadrin. He worked hard for his master but he was rewarded by kind words, good food and a warm place to sleep. He was clothed, if only in the rough garments of a slave, and had sandals or boots to wear upon his feet depending on the season. He started out working in his master’s household but when the master realized how big Tanyo was getting, he put him to work on the docks, loading and unloading the great ships of his fleet.
He may have worked for all of his fifteen years of life but Tanyo had known no real hardship. For all that he was a slave, he was treated better by his master than most servants were. Dalspo recognized him as the valuable property that he was and would do nothing that would lessen his value. The merchant believed scars from beatings bred resentment that would in turn lead to further rebellion. His kind treatment however was rewarded with all of his slave’s undying loyalty. They were well aware of how good they had it and would die before they let anything get in the way of that.
Tanyo started having strange dreams at the beginning of summer that he duly reported to Vanla, the wise woman of the slave quarters. She advised him that the dreams were in truth images of the distant past, a time when no man could own another. She told him that it was not unusual for slaves to dream of this time or its horrific end. Then she told him that he should come to her immediately if the dreams changed at all. “There is power in dreams, young one,” she told him. “Sometimes, the gods prove that they have not forgotten even the slaves of this world by sending messages in our dreams. If your dreams become something more than just the war that ended the Age of Magic, you must tell me. Until then, do not trouble yourself overly much.”
Much relieved, Tanyo made his way through the city to the busy docks. For the next couple of days, he didn’t give much thought to the dreams he had come to think of as normal.
It was several days before the summer solstice that the dreams changed. He saw what could only be described as a cavern where nine people in flowing silver white robes were standing in a circle. Behind them was what looked like the opening of a tunnel but the portal glowed with a blood red light, a light that somehow seemed malicious and dreadful. Off to their left, a scarlet red dragon gazed at the nine with sorrow in his golden eyes, an amethyst wand clutched in his claws. Between the nine, there was the blue glow of magical power gathering, the likes of which Tanyo had only heard of in stories.
Suddenly, the robed person closest to him, a woman he was surprised to see, turned to face him. “Please, my son. You must come.”
Tanyo nearly started awake, holding onto the dream with the thinnest of grasps. “Why me, mother?” he asked, the title an honorific for a woman of more than middle years.
She smiled sadly. “Only you have the power, my son. Come to me.”
“Where do I go?”
“The mountains, my son. Please, you must hurry.”
Tanyo did start awake at that point, cursing himself for a fool. Just because the old tales claimed the mountains were haunted by the dark magic that had created the Deadlands was no reason to behave like a ninny and let go of so powerful a dream message.
Although it was before dawn, Tanyo got out of his warm cot and made his way silently to the women’s side of the slave quarters. Not surprisingly, Vanla was already awake, sitting on the side of her cot watching the door. “Tanyo,” she greeted him with a warm smile. “Why am I not surprised? Come help an old woman braid her hair.”
Smiling, Tanyo entered her tiny sleeping alcove and took the shell comb she held out to him. “I had another dream, grandmother,” he told her as he began to comb her long hair.
“And what have you dreamed this time, young one?” she asked gently.
“I was in a cavern where nine robed figures were drawing forth a great amount of power. Behind them was a door that was lit by an evil light and a red dragon lay beside them, watching as if he were already mourning. One of them - a woman I think - turned and beseeched me to come to her.”
“And did she say where you were to go?”
“The mountains, grandmother. I was so startled that I woke up when she told me that.”
She sighed and turned to face him as he tied the leather thong at the end of her braid. “I was afraid of this,” she murmured. “Sit down, young one. There is a tale you must hear.”
Tanyo obediently sat cross-legged on the bare wood floor and gazed up at her with expectant eyes. In the back of his mind, he registered that he had sat like this when he was a mere child to hear her stories but he stored the thought to examine later when there was time.
She smiled kindly and gently cupped his face in her hands for a moment. “Time has certainly flown, young one. I remember well the day our master brought you home from the slave market. I have never seen him so angry or so gentle.” She sighed and drew her hands back. “I have told you that you were seeing the war that ended the Age of Magic. What I neglected to say was that you were also seeing the nine magi who sacrificed their lives to save our world from an evil that was so great it would have consumed our entire world. The whole war started when one man decided that he was not bound by the laws of mere men and that he should in fact rule all men. Does that sound familiar to you?”
Tanyo paled. “You mean the emperor, don’t you?”
Vanla smiled again. “I do though not in the way you’re thinking. I believe in his blind greed and thirst for power, the emperor might have woken things that were best left undisturbed. If nine of the most powerful magi gave their lives to seal these things away forever, then I am sure they had very good reason to. Some secrets, young one, should never be revealed. If I am right and he has woken things best left alone, then perhaps the magi’s spirits are calling to all with power to see that he is stopped. Since you have received this call, there is nothing to do but to follow this call wherever it may lead you.”
“But how, grandmother? Master will hardly let me go gallivanting off to the mountains on the say so of a dream. In fact, I doubt he would let me go for any reason.”
“Sometimes, young one, it is better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission. I will see to it that you make this journey. All you have to do is to be ready when the time comes.”
Tanyo took a deep breath, wrestling with his demons. The part of him that was still a boy was screaming in terror at the thought of leaving everything he had ever known behind. The part of him that was just starting to emerge, the part of him that was already a man, was jumping at the chance. “I’ll be ready, grandmother,” Tanyo replied as the man’s strength won out.
“Then you’d better hurry or the overseers will miss you. It will take a few days I think.”
It was two days later when Vanla came for him in the depths of the night. She had two of the strongest dock workers with her and a nondescript bag. “It is time, young one,” she told him as soon as he was awake.
On silent feet, the four of them slipped out of the slave quarters and left their master’s compound. Moving confidently they strode through the darkened city streets to the walls by the docks. Here where the threat of attack was slim, the walls were much lower though Tanyo had not yet grasped why they had brought him here.
Vanla gave him the bag. “Food, provisions, and a warm cloak,” she told him with a thin smile. “Be careful, young one. You must skirt around to the mountains through Unsar and Allamor. Do not set so much as one toe into the Dudeinren Empire or you will beg for death long before it comes. Put a bandage over your arm until you are well into Allamor. Even if they recognize you for an escaped slave they will not send you back; they believe slavery to be barbaric. Be careful of Westwood when you get there. Things live in those woods that are far older than this world and that do not sleep. Keep to the outermost edges of the forest until you come to Lake Murtos; do not for any reason venture into the depths of the woods. I assume the dreams will give you further instructions as you near your destination. Listen close for the gods often whisper. Good luck to you, young Tanyo, and may the stars smile upon you.”
“I’m never going to see you again, am I?” he asked, holding back tears.
She very gently stroked his cheek. “Not in this lifetime,” she replied. “Perhaps in the next world. Go now; time grows short.”
Without another word, she turned and walked away into the night, leaving the dock workers to heave the boy over the wall. He landed with a thud on the other side and slowly began to make his way west, leaving behind everything he had ever known.
Chapter Six: Baritruz
Baritruz was the son of a merchant who preferred to spend his days hunting and fishing in the woods around his home with his friends. As the third son, he had no set destiny and idled away his time accordingly. Not set to inherit his father’s modest estate or his moderately prosperous business, the young man saw no point in his lessons so, more often than not, he escaped his tutors at the first opportunity. His father despaired of the boy ever making anything of himself and feared that he would end up as a burden to his brothers. His mother, a quiet, gentle woman who saw far more than anyone gave her credit for, advised patience. She asserted that Baritruz would one day find what he was looking for and become a man his father would be proud to call his son. Most laughed and shook their heads in disbelief when Reahtu said such things, including her son. She never pushed the point though she was in fact giving her son just enough rope to hang himself with.
Baritruz was a fairly good looking young man with raven black hair worn roguishly long and eyes the color of warm honey. His friends adored him because he was the kind of person who was always laughing and wasn’t afraid to be laughed at. He had a strong build with broad shoulders and narrow hips that made the girls sigh over him, not that he paid them any mind. Fifteen years old, he had far more important things on his mind than the empty headed girls in the city of Kailibar.
What others saw as dreams, Baritruz deemed nightmares. When he tried to speak to his father, it was suggested that perhaps he had a future in soldiering. After all, a commission could be purchased for him at a price the family could handle.
Furious, Baritruz made his way into the garden and flopped down at the base of a tree, brooding. The violent images in his dreams had made him distinctly uneasy, leaving him with a feeling of impending doom.
Reahtu found him there several hours later. “Do you want to talk about it?” she asked gently.
Baritruz looked up at the pretty, petite woman and smiled ruefully. “He just doesn’t understand, Mother,” he complained. “These are more than dreams but less than visions. I can’t really explain it.”
Reahtu seated herself beside her son with no regard for her expensive silk gown. “Sometimes, my son, fathers get so caught up in what they want their sons to be and do that they don’t see the worth in the son that the gods gave them,” she explained softly. “Do not judge your father too harshly. For all his faults, he does love you and he wants what is best for you. Tell me of these dreams.”
He shrugged self consciously. What had seemed so important when he had confronted his father now seemed more than a little foolish. “I see a war being fought, a great evil bringing all the realms to heel by force. I see men and women in robes - priests I guess - trying to stop this great evil. And I see them give their lives to accomplish just that. I don’t see how or why they die; I just see them fall over dead in a cavern. I wake up with this horrible sense of dread and an urge to go into the west.”
Reahtu frowned. “And what lies in the west?”
Baritruz shook his head. “I honestly don’t know. I just have a feeling that if I don’t go, what I see in my dreams might actually come to pass. Or maybe that it already has and will again. I’m not making much sense am I?”
Reahtu shook her head, her brown eyes worried. “Perhaps it is not something that should make sense to your family,” she replied, turning those worried eyes to the western horizon. “Do you want to go?”
He shrugged. “I feel that I must but the feeling makes no sense so . . . I don’t know what to do.”
She wrapped an arm around his shoulders comfortingly. “I think that you should carefully consider it. When you have made your decision, you come to me, not your father. Sometimes, Baritruz, Destiny gets her claws into someone that she will refuse to let go of. And Destiny does not have to be reasonable or make sense even to the person she grabs hold of. Sometimes, our destinies lie close to home with the people we’ve known all our lives and sometimes they lie much farther away.” She did not say what she had known since the day he was born; she would not say that his destiny was one of the latter rather than the former. “The thing about fathers is they will resist their sons going to find their destinies; they will resist their sons leaving home at all. With your father, it would be best if he were kept in the dark until you make your decision. If you need someone to listen, you can always come to me.”
He nodded and grinned sheepishly, hugging her. “Thank you, Mother,” he whispered against her shoulder.
She held him tight. “Most women know how silly it is to try and fight Destiny when she comes calling, love. Most of the time, she will have her way no matter what you do so it is best to just go along with her. When you fight her, you just make her get nasty. Remember that, Baritruz. She will not be denied and she will not hesitate to leave a path of destruction in her wake to get her way.”
“I’ll remember, Mother,” he promised, wondering about the strange warning. He suddenly had the feeling that his mother knew far more than she was telling.
Reahtu suddenly smiled, dispelling the sudden sense of foreboding that had fallen over the small garden. “Then we’d better hurry or we’ll both be late for dinner,” she said, getting to her feet. “You know how much your father likes to be kept waiting.”
Two days later on the morning before the summer solstice, Baritruz woke from a dream in which one of the robed women begged him to aid them with a start. He lay in his well appointed room and suddenly came to a decision in the growing light. He would follow his instincts into the west and find whatever it was that drew him so strongly. Today, he would set out to find his destiny.
He rose quietly and packed his gear as he would for an extended hunting trip. He decided that he would only tell his mother where he was really going and trust to her discretion in telling the rest of the family.
He appeared in the kitchen about an hour later with his pack to find his mother waiting for him. With her uncanny ability to know another’s thoughts, she already knew he was leaving.
Reahtu smiled at her son and passed him a sizeable bundle. “Provisions for your trip,” she stated softly.
“Mother, I -”
She squeezed his hands. “Don’t say anything, Baritruz. I already know.” She hugged him and kissed his cheek. “You had better go. I’ll tell your father when the time is right.”
He impulsively kissed her cheek. “I love you, Mother,” he told her. “I’ll come back as soon as I can.”
She smiled sadly. “One more thing before you go. You must learn not to make a promise you can’t keep.”
Startled, he gazed into her eyes, searching for some clue into her thoughts. He wondered suddenly how much his mother knew of the road that lay ahead of him but wisely chose not to ask. With the need for words spent, he turned and left the only home he had ever known, departing through the kitchen gardens to avoid a last confrontation with his father.
|Elder Guardian Chapters 6-10||Out of the Shadows, Chapter 2|
|Night Terrors Part 2||Ancestors Call Part 1|
|Warrior Queen||Out of the Shadows, Prologue|