The wind was strong here. I could barely stand as it whipped my cloak all around me. I looked out to the horizon and saw the heavy thunder clouds coming in. The storm would hit land in an hour or less. I needed to find shelter soon or I would be a sorry, wet mess. There was a flash of lightning and roll of thunder which confirmed my thoughts.
It is best you come down from the wall now. I don’t like how the water is. Greyshanks said as she yipped in concern below me.
A spray of water splashed over the wall that protected Dashan from the invading sea.
I don’t like it Evander. She said and another worried whine escaped through her teeth as she sniffed the air.
I knew what she meant. There was something about the weather that didn’t bide well with me either. The storm had all the features of well—a storm—but something was different and it made the hairs on the back of my neck prickle a bit.
Another peal of thunder clashed through the air and a fat rain drop splattered on my nose. That was quick. I thought to myself and looked back out at sea. The lightning laden clouds were now only a mile out and the deluge of falling water blotted out the horizon in an already angry sea.
Not normal. I thought to myself and then clambered down the wall and mounted Greyshanks.
“We are not going to make it into the city in time.” I said cursing my luck. I had decided to meander on the outskirts for a few days as I was being shadowed.
It was hard escaping Indué alone; that with my whole retinue of advisors and guards who were all too willing to follow me around. It took me weeks to work out but I had finally hatched a plan to make social calls to the different countries on the continent which would ensure my stealthy getaway.
Sonis was the only one I breathed a word about where I was truly headed and even then, the truth was not told in full. “A damn foolish plan.” he had called it when I told him that I was going to search for a magical disturbance that could upset the balance of peace.
His brows had knitted into uncertainty when I related that excuse to him. At first, I didn’t think that he would believe me him being a man of logic and practicality. He surprised me however; after a moment of thought, he just shrugged and said “Who am I to question the motives of a king especially one with the gifts you have. If thine eyes saw, then so it is.”
It was staggering the amount of faith that he and most of my people had in me. Guilt washed over me for the lie I told, however I couldn’t tell him that I was leaving to search for Tet. He would want to come with me then or try to dissuade me and I wanted no one getting in the way of finding Tet.
I left Indué placing him in charge until I returned. He was reluctant at first but I was successful in convincing him that he would serve me best looking over the kingdom. He was fearless in battle but was not ruthless. I had come to know him better these past months. He had a steady hand and a commanding presence. He would do well as my replacement if anything were to happen to me.
I made my rounds visiting Sebán and Rá Leat as the rest of the court was told I would be doing. In the process shedding off my handlers in each town, giving them tasks of vital importance to occupy their time. By the time I got to Tuath I was alone. There I boarded a boat on the River Osh and travelled to Leár via Lake Agnis. I shed my persona of king and became again a commoner, bartering my service as a deck man for free transport and food. The feeling of being unknown left me quite heady as I felt like a great mantle had been lifted from my shoulders. When someone approached I was afraid that I had been found out, but always I was mistaken. I then would get annoyed at my paranoia.
On the other side of the lake, Greyshanks stood waiting for me. I didn’t ask how she knew where I was. The same way I didn’t question how I knew that she would be there waiting.
“You shouldn’t be here.” I had said.
Neither should you, but here we are. Came her reply. There was no need for further discussion and together we left for Dashan.
Twilight was approaching and one by one small lights flickered on, lighting up the cityscape along the southern tooth of the river. It was the same river, the Dry Water River which flowed from Gé Addar, but in Leár it was called SeTualla or the Fork in our tongue.
The road was empty of any travellers, scared into shelter no doubt. Rain had been plying the land thirty minutes now and the hard clay that made the road was now a sticky mush. Greyshanks was having trouble ploughing through the deep mud so I decided to walk beside her instead.
My eyes stung with each drop of rain that hit my face and rolled into them. I wore a cloak but the wind made a mockery of its protective qualities.
We need to find shelter. I do not know how much further I can go on like this. There is a light just ahead. Perhaps we are almost near to the city. said Greyshanks.
I doubt that. The city was almost a two-hour ride away and at our pace it is unlikely that we have covered that much ground. I replied as wading through the mud was wearing away at my strength.
But the light, we should follow it. She said.
I don’t see a light. I said as I squinted through the fog.
Just a few steps more and you will. She said nudging me in the direction in which I should go. I followed her direction and very soon I saw the light of which she spoke, it was hazy and flickered on and off, but it was there.
It is quite a distance from the road. Looks like it is coming from the mouth of a cave.
Does it matter; we will be out of the rain and in warmer surroundings.
That or into the hands of robbers.
She let out a small whine as if annoyed with me. Well I am going into the cave whether or not you are coming. I for one will not let myself drown in this sky water. I deserve a more exciting demise. She said as she sauntered off in the direction of the light.
I watched her for a bit and noticed that she was not turning back.
“At times like this I wish I had a horse.” I fumed.
The day you get one I eat it. She said in a tone of jealously. Despite my mood, I had to laugh.
We got to the mouth of the cave and I went in after Greyshanks. The cavern was bright and the shelter was welcome from the battering rain outside. We were several feet in and yet we didn’t meet up on anyone or the source of light.
“I think we should be fine here.” I said as I was about to settle down, Greyshanks had other ideas as she prodded further down into the cave.
It is too close to the opening. She said and trotted on.
Grey! Greyshanks! “Greyshanks!” I whispered but she still paid me no attention and just continued into the cavern until all I could see was her tail. “By Babu’s boots.” I swore and trotted after her. “I don’t like this.” I said.
The cavern never seemed to end as the light beckoned us forward. I looked behind me for anyone who maybe following, but I saw nothing as the path we’d travelled was shroud in darkness.
“Greyshanks we should stop.” I said holding on to her shoulder.
No. She said prodding forward. Her tone was lacking the usual feral edge. This sparked my worry and I furthered my invasiveness into her consciousness.
This was an invasion I usually avoided but her behaviour was making me uneasy. Her mind was a labyrinth of emotions, impulses and urges they however were subdued and her main focus was to follow the light.
Greyshanks, I called trying to bring her back from where her consciousness was buried. I had sensed her there, but it was like she was trapped behind a shield created by this trance.
“Greyshanks! Stop! I am commanding you to stop!”
“She will stop and she has, but only because I willed it so.” I drew in a sharp breath and turned to face the person who had spoken.
There was a cloaked figure that stood at the back of the cavern, a Hawthorne staff in one hand and an orb that pulsed with orange light in the other.
“And who in Avandor are you that you control my wolf?” I said sternly to the creature.
“I do not take lightly to be spoken to in such a manner, but I will acquiesce this time as I am after all in the presence of a king.” said the figure. He thumped the ground once with his staff. At the same time Greyshanks reared up on her hind legs and snapped at my hand. If I hadn’t moved it out of the way she would have bitten it off.
“Calm down,” I said placing my hand on her shoulders.
The light, Evander the light,” she said as she railed up from my hold.
“Beast be still.” said the stranger as he thumped the staff against the floor. Immediately Greyshanks was still. Her head swivelled towards the stranger. A slow growl issued from between her teeth.
“Who are you?” I said looking back at the cloaked stranger.
“Many call my name and not know it was I they summoned. I have been forgotten over the ages, but that is the price I paid for not making my demands known. But my name isn’t important at this time.”
“It is to me.” I said defiantly.
“Since you ask, I will tell you.” He said sitting down. “You may sit as well. Your feet must be tired.”
“I will stand, thank you.”
“Suit yourself,” he said laying the staff beside him. The orb of light he placed on the ground and it sprung up into a neat little fire on which burned nothing.
“Who are you?” I asked again.
“Have you heard the lore of the beginning?”
“Yes, but what has it to do with you?”
“Everything.” he said tersely and from outside thunder seemed to roar and shake the cave. He inhaled deeply, “Perhaps I should relate it to you once more and then you can tell who I am.” He started:
In the beginning there were the gods,
Between themselves always at odds.
Except for earth a place born out of their love.
Cherished more than even the heavens above.
But the earth was empty and lacking life,
So found they a solution to quell the strife.
To show who was greatest and beyond compare,
Three races they made for the world to share.
Humans by Manneth the god of thunder made,
Wondrous and loud, with much pomp and parade.
Like thunder they were as they signalled rain,
Which would nourish the earth and wash away pain.
Some humans were gentle, meek and mild,
Spreading love freely as mother to child.
Others were terrible and thunderously wild,
Their greed and lust left the earth forever defiled.
Sintri, Lord of shadows and the moon,
Spun from the darkness creatures with eyes the colour of doom.
Ulgana were strong and steadfast as fire,
But their thirst for blood was an unquenchable desire.
Travellers they were moving from village to village,
Plotting and raiding leaving naught but pillage.
Their great strength was their defeat,
As the race of scales laid waste of the very earth under their feet.
Anandra the cunning, goddess of the sea,
Created a race as beautiful as she.
Fashioned them from the ebb and flow of the tide
Their beauty they could show or choose to hide.
Their cunning also grew and their vanity great,
Looked they down on the other races with disdain and hate.
They lived for centuries but their numbers were few,
As love was rare amongst each other too.
Three races had emerged from the words they spake,
But the gods raged on as they realised their mistake.
Llyn Morir was born from their violence,
As they plotted to make the world again empty and silent.
The races cried out and their plights were heard,
By Avandor god of light, creatures and bird.
A council was called at his gates,
And a price was demanded to erase their disastrous fates.
Bufrakis of the Ulgana gave their sopli,
Blood shed for blood spilled satisfied Sintri.
Power and knowledge were gifts of the Mage,
To pacify Anandra they took centuries from their age.
Of the gift demanded by Manneth no one is sure,
And the burden of ignorance plague human kings even more.
As the price maybe light or cut deep to the core,
It has yet to be paid or so goeth the lore.
“So you are trying to tell me that you are a god?” I said raising my eyebrow incredulously.
“You asked and I answered,” he said patiently.
“It will take much more than a summoning spell and rain for me to believe that.”
“What you believe doesn’t change what is.” The room again shook with thunder.
“What did I do to warrant a visit from a god? Manneth I presume, from the weather.”
Evander be careful, this is not a being we have encountered before. Whined Greyshanks.
“My price is yet unclaimed and I am letting you know that the time of retrieval is near.”
“And if I refuse?”
“You have set out to save the changeling Tet. The time will come when you will require help that only I can grant. If you refuse my demand you shall fail and she will die.” he said picking up his staff and lifting himself from the ground. “So I ask again, when the time comes for the price to be paid, will you be ready?”
“It doesn’t seem that I have much of a choice.”
“The fact that your love for the changeling is quite binding does play well in my favour.” he said walking away.
“How will I know that time is upon me?”
“It is hard to hide the call of thunder.” he said as he walked off, his form melting into the darkness.
I cannot sense its presence anymore. said Greyshanks. What do you think it wants?
“I do not know, gods rarely reveal their will. We will have to wait and see.”