Warning: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in ..../includes/class_bbcode_alt.php on line 1270
Warning: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in ..../includes/class_bbcode_alt.php on line 1270
Warning: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in ..../includes/class_bbcode_alt.php on line 1270
Warning: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in ..../includes/class_bbcode_alt.php on line 1270
Pen and Paper Games hosts a very powerful, but easy to seach and join database of players and game masters in the United States and Canada. Our forums are also a great place to find the most recent news, product releases, tips, and rpg discussion.enFri, 09 Dec 2016 13:30:35 GMTvBulletin60http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/pnpg_style/misc/rss.jpg
The Confessions of Kellionor Galabrion
Sun, 14 Mar 2010 20:27:08 GMTThere were many turning points in my life, most of them terribly tragic. But do not offer me your pity, sympathy, or any sort of sentimentalities. ...
There were many turning points in my life, most of them terribly tragic. But do not offer me your pity, sympathy, or any sort of sentimentalities. The Racewar was long and hard on nearly everyone and my own story cannot be worse than any other. The important thing every person must realize is that from the depths of despair and loss one must hold on to the idea of hope. Usually the lowest, bleakest moments in ones life also contain opportunities for redemption from that foul and dark pit. What separates the survivors from the victims is the recognition of those opportunities and the will to seize them. Of course luck, fate, or divine intervention have their roles to play.
-From the Confessions of Kellionor Galabrion
Gaelyn Galabrion lay in the small tent he erected next to a tree, not too far from the wagon. The wind was rising and he could tell that there was a fierce storm approaching. Because of this he had his wife and child sleep in the wagon while he kept what watch he could outside. The small tent was well camouflaged by natural growth on both sides, as well as by brush he had placed on top and in front. He had made an effort to hide the wagon, though there was little that could be done. After dinner he had re-packed the wagon and had kept his two-horse team bridled and harnessed to it.
There was little he could observe in the darkness this far off the road anyway. The dense foliage and black clouds made seeing much further than a few feet nearly impossible. And he dared not start a fire. So he listened to the wind and the slow patter of rain as it began.
Gaelyn was an experienced fighter and had served many years in the army before striking out on his own to adventure across the land. He held his greatsword across his lap in its sheath and prayed that he had secured his horses tightly enough. He knew that thunder and lightning could spook his horses so badly that they could break loose and he might have to chase them and the wagon down. Securing the horses in such a way that they could be away quickly was a rare thing for him to do since it was not very good for the horses, but he somehow felt the need this evening.
There was a bad, uneasy feeling down deep in his gut as he listened to the rain. He could not be sure, but he felt as if they had been followed since midmorning. He had backtracked twice to see if there were tracks or sign of someone or thing following. He was no ranger, and his minimal tracking skills were not up to the task. But as he sat in the small tent, he derided himself for not pushing on, into the night.
Now, however, he felt a chill that had nothing to do with the downpour that was fully underway. Perhaps he heard something move in the darkness, perhaps he smelled something that was not right. For whatever reason, he felt suddenly compelled by the urgency of fear to leave the small shelter. Ten feet in front of him were three enemies he had seen before. He knew what they were since he had killed many of them in the past. They had not seen him yet as they crept up to the rear of the wagon. He was downwind of the enemy and so the little noise he made was covered by the wind and rain.
He approached quietly, but made sure he reached them before they reached the rear flap of the wagon. Without a word he began to hack at them. The first one fell quickly with a single blow. The deep gash in its back forestalled any cries of agony or anguish as it collapsed to the muddy ground. The other two quickly turned and came upon him faster than he would have thought.
Gaelyn parried the weapon of the one on the left then cleaved through the shield of the one on the right, severing the arm. It’s howl of pain was snuffed out before it began as Gaelyn’s second strike cut deeply into its skull. Using his boot he tried to push off the dead Creature from his sword. As he did this Gaelyn moved to his right, trying to keep the dead creature between himself and the remaining enemy. The Creature jumped upwards, taking advantage of the pinned sword and hacked down at Gaelyn’s exposed head. He dodged to the right and twisted his blade free, swinging it upwards into the chest of the remaining foe. It too fell to the ground, bloody and lifeless.
Gaelyn did not hesitate. He reached into the wagon and grabbed the leg of his wife and shook it. A moment later her head came out of the back.
“Quickly! Quietly! We must go. Get up front, I will free the tethers.” Again, he did not hesitate but quickly moved towards the horses and the stakes he had placed into the ground. Mollindra Galabrion took only the briefest of moments as she surveyed the dead creatures on the ground. Without a word, she hurriedly climbed out of the back and moved to the front of the wagon. She was climbing up and saw something in the distance down the road. Torches. Lots of torches. Whatever the enemy was, it was coming quick and riding some sort of steeds.
Mollindra grabbed the reins as she pulled a small covering off of weapons that were attached to the back of the seat and began to move the horses. She was afraid, terrified. The wagon had already begun to move when she become aware that Gaelyn had not taken a seat beside her. The horses were nervous and skittish, but they responded easily enough despite that they were moving off into near total darkness.
The wagon had been in a slight opening at the side of the very narrow road, and as it moved, Gaelyn jogged beside it tying to grab a rail by the front bench seat while still holding onto his large weapon. He pulled himself up just as the wagon turned onto the road. As he settled into the seat beside Mollindra, he put his sword inside another scabbard. The previous one had been discarded somehow along the way. This one was positioned directly behind the driver’s seat and was nestled among the other weapons. He withdrew a short bow and strung it as quickly as he could before uncapping the quiver.
He looked to both sides of the wagon as it regained the more stable road. There was very little room to allow the wagon passage. This was the primary reason why he had avoided traveling at night. It would be difficult to avoid having a corner or wheel strike a tree or root. Damage to the wagon he could ill afford. But those concerns were not important at the moment. He looked behind them and saw numerous figures riding quickly up to the wagon. The only advantage the narrow road offered was that their approaching enemies would not be able to come along side them. However, Gaelyn estimated that there was no way they were going to out-run them, not pulling a wagon. He cursed himself for not having Mollindra grab Kelly and bring him up front with her. They could at least flee with the two horses.
A bright flash of lightning and a deafening clap of thunder filled his senses. Gaelyn was looking left and to the rear when the lightning struck. He was not blinded by the flash, though he suspected Molly was by the intake of her breath and the stream of curses that followed. The horses jumped, jerking the wagon, though they continued under her direction. In the brief moment of the lightning flash, Gaelyn saw what they were up against. The road behind was filled with the riders, at least thirty of them, some of whom carried burning brands. He looked at his wife momentarily as he realized what he must do. But first, before he jumped, he began firing his bow at the riders. The jolting of the wagon along the road did little to improve his situation as he carefully took aim at the closest of the enemy.
Though he was skilled in the use of the bow, it was not his favored weapon. Gaelyn had dedicated much of his life to the perfection of the art of killing. However, most of that involved the use of his great sword. Nevertheless, his skill was proving effective as again and again his arrows struck true. But the enemy was not satisfied to simply ride along as targets. They began to use their own bows to good effect. Several of them went by his head and most of them stuck in the wagon.
The strike of thunder rolled across the earth awakening Kelly from his deep sleep. The deep vibration could still be felt in his bones as he wiped his eyes and sat up. The heavy sound of rain could be heard against the stitched leather top of the wagon, and the chill in the air made Kelly want to crawl deeper into his blankets. But the jostling of the wagon had started again and Kelly knew that they were moving for some reason, though they had stopped to camp for the night. He could not be certain why, but there was a sense of danger in the air, a sense of urgency. For a lingering moment he remembered bits of his father’s story by the campfire, and how his mother admonished him for the bloody, violent tale.
Kelly reached out to where his mother had curled up beside him in the wagon and found that she had left while he was sleeping. He could barely see anything, it was so dark. That was when he heard the arrow impact the back of the wagon. It pierced the cloth-covered rear and embedded in the wooden crate behind his head. The crate carried hard, dried bread that his father referred to only as “Not that shit again!” But then he heard his father’s voice coming from the front of the wagon.
A horrible thought occurred to Gaelyn as he ducked down and pulled away a strip of leather that covered a slit in the wagon behind the seat. Though he could not see inside the wagon at this angle, he hoped his voice would carry inside.
“Kelly! Keep down! Lay as low as you can and take cover!”
Gaelyn was not sure his son had heard him and he was not able to do much about his situation in any event. But as he again looked over the wagon, he saw that the enemy had closed to within only a few feet of the rear of the wagon. It was then that he decided to make his move. He kissed his wife on the cheek. “I love you! Don’t stop, whatever you do. After I start climbing to the back cut this wagon open,” he said, slapping the thick, oiled cloth covering the wagon. “and get Kelly the hell out of here.” He pulled his great sword from its sheath and again stood up.
This time he climbed up on top of the wagon, keeping low, and made his way to the rear. More arrows came past him and he felt the wagon shudder. He spared a look over his right shoulder as he moved along the top of the wagon. It was then he saw the arrow sticking out of the rear of his wife’s head. Her body then slumped to the left and fell off. The road was so narrow that the body immediately bounced off the trunk of a tree and was forced against the side of the wagon. He could feel the wagon rise as her body quickly fell under the left rear wheel. He rose then, planting his right foot on the last spar of the frame, yelled in fury, and launched himself upon the lead rider.
He impacted with the body of the rider but he had led with his sword. The blade cleaved deep into the shoulder of his enemy and sank nearly into its chest. As the body fell to the side he cursed himself for his clumsiness. Refusing to let go of his weapon he fell with the body to the ground. He hit hard and the weapon was almost twisted out of his hands as he separated, rolled in the mud, and came to his feet. The fall from the charging giant wolf would certainly have been the downfall of lesser men
Behind him now, the wagon tipped to the right and was pulled a bit further by the team before it went completely on its side. The wagon continued to roll and it hit several trees to the side of the road, bounced back and forth as it started to come apart before coming to rest upside down. It was far away and barely visible through the darkness and rain. The team of horses must have also fallen. Over everything else he thought could hear them baying and whinnying in pain and fear.
But all of this he took in with a mere glance and his ears. He focused on his enemies. If his son survived that crash then he too would need to live. His sword took out a foreleg of a wolf as it went by. He saw the tip of a spear come at him and dodged to the side while he slapped the weapon down and into the ground with the flat of his greatsword. The creature was catapulted into the air.
Other riders slowed down, moved to the sides of the road and began to dismount while the two rear-most continued to charge forward at him with long spears of their own.
When I woke up after the crash my world immediately centered around pain in both of my legs, and it was hard to take a breath. My head was bleeding and everything hurt. But the pain and shock gave way quickly to fear when I remembered we were being attacked. Everything was upside down and confused and I was being smothiered in blankets, crates and barrels. The length of one of the broken spars pinned my legs between something heavy in the wagon, perhaps the wagon itself, or crates. I could move some, and moved the blankets out of my face. But now I could looked out of the open back of the wagon.
Through the near total darkness there was light in the distance from the torches held aloft by our enemies. The torches, somehow burning brightly in the rain, created a circle of light were I could see some of what was happening. The tears, blood, pain and rain caused everything about that night to become a blur and my imagination may have played a crucial part in piecing together the action I was only partially witnessing. Because of this I will try not to relate here what I do not distinctly remember happening, though the years between that incident and today may have cemented what my imagination created in such as way as to make it indistinguishable from true memory.
In truth I could not see a lot of the action since the back of the wagon was so low to the ground and my body was situated, from what I recall, at about the middle. Mostly, I saw legs and feet, though I picked out only my father’s at that distance as he fought and moved about in the torchlight. But over the sound of the tortured horses I could hear my father yelling in anger, sometimes in pain. I remember crying and flailing about to get out from under the wagon. When I shifted a flat crate I remember the added pressure and pain that made me stop those efforts so that I only focused on what I could see and hear: My father fighting for not only his own life but for those of my own and my mother, though I did not realize at the time she was already dead.
I could neither see nor hear my mother at the time, and thinking back on the incident I do not remember thinking about her then, not during the battle or all through the night afterwards. Only when I saw her body later did I feel the pain of her loss. But I do remember watching our enemies fall to the ground, dead or dying from my father’s sword. I remember clinging to a greater measure of hope as each one fell before him. I remember the hatred and anger I felt for them, a certain twisted pleasure as the battle raged closer to the wagon and I could see the bodies more clearly in their throws of death. But it is entirely remarkable that I cannot remember what our enemy looked like, not their race or gender. They wore light armor and were heavy of build, but that is about all I can recall besides their low, guttural shouts or screams in the night. They rode mounts that appeared to have an aspect of a wolf or giant dog.
The fighting seemed to go on for a long time, and as the battle came closer to the wagon I remember imagining my father laying waste to them, hundreds of them falling and dying around him as the battle progressed. I reenacted the battle in my mind time and time again over the years, supplying moves my father may have made as I developed my own weapon skills.
Despite the fog of terror that must have gripped me that terrible night, there was one moment of true clarity that stuck with me all my life. It was the end of the battle. My father was laying on his side only a few feet from the rear of the overturned wagon. His face was turned up towards me in the dim light, but it lit up with the illumination of an approaching torch. His grey eyes seemed to glint from something else, perhaps some inner source of light. I distinctly remember the expression of pain and sorrow on my fathers face as his life left him, as he inched his way closer to me along the ground with broken arrows embedded in his chest and side. The words “I’m sorry, so terribly sorry. I love you so much! Be brave!” Were his last words. I saw several more arrows enter his back, then the eyes were lifeless, his body still.
I remember other feet coming closer then, though booted feet are all I can recall through my veil of tears. Booted feet and a gloved hand reached down and picked up my father’s weapon. There was some yell of triumph, though it was hard to make out through the pounding of my heart and the narrowing of my focus on the face of my now dead father.
I cannot say how long it was I stayed awake after the battle. I did not remember falling asleep, only the long sobs of grief and sorrow that choked me for what seemed like hours as I watched my dead father as a captive audience, a prisoner trapped beneath the wagon. Whoever they were, they did not stick around and search the wagon and I still do not know why they attacked us. But I know that at some point I did fall asleep and woke up well after the storm had passed and the sun was above the horizon. I heard the sound of horse hooves on the earth, and feared that my father’s murderers were still around, or had returned.
I do not remember the language of our attackers. And as I said their voices were deep and guttural. The voices I heard then were human and their steeds were obviously horses. I called out then, and heard someone come closer. The voice that greeted me was calm and confident. His face came into view as he stooped down behind the wagon. The sun was shining down in the gap between the trees, caused by the road and seemed to highlight the man’s head with a golden glow. The man had to get down onto his belly to get to me and reached in, taking my own hand in a firm and steady grip. “We will get you out, son.” He said. “Hang in there.” But as I gripped his hand I saw a true illumination and felt something stir deep within me.
The man was wearing chainmail and a heavy brown leather cloak. On the outside of his chainmail he displayed a religious symbol of Verengaard. It was a round yellow disk that looked like the sun itself. The disk had fallen forward and was touching the earth as reached in for me. It was now glowing brightly, almost blinding in its intensity. He took notice of it and glanced down. I could not see his expression, but as he let go of my hand to pick his symbol off of the ground the light abruptly winked out. I do remember hearing his shocked intake of breath and his amazed eyes as he suddenly looked at me once more. It was not fear in his eyes, more like a sense of wonder or awe. I was very young at the time but I remember that look. Then he reached out to take my hand only to have his symbol shine once again.
But it was that stirring within me that I remember most of that meeting. Like a warm glow of comfort, my fear started to ebb away, my inner pain started to recede. That comforting balm suddenly vanished when he let go and I longed to regain that grip on his hand. When he touched my hand again the feeling returned in full measure.
His expression changed to something that I cannot describe but have seen often since. I found out soon after that the man was a cleric of some power. He muttered the words “Verengaard, you have found another!” and then began giving orders to the others to get me out of there, all the while never releasing my hand. But laying on the ground he rolled to the side so his other hand could tuck the symbol beneath the front of his armor and out of plain sight.
It was only a few moments longer before several others lifted the wagon and he pulled me free. All in all, I was not badly injured. Surprisingly, there were no broken bones. But I was silent, emptied of tears and emotion. The cleric’s hand in my own seemed to keep me sane, with a feeling of safety and security.
I tried to move closer to my father, whose body was still laying face down several feet away. I remember someone grabbed me and pulled me away from the cleric. That feeling of safety suddenly vanished, but for some reason I did not seek his hand again, not right away. This other man tried to get me to climb onto one of the horses. But when I frantically resisted his efforts the cleric bade that he release me. I remember pulling away and running to my father’s body. There were several arrows sticking out of his back and broken shafts embedded into his chest. I gripped one of the arrows sticking out of the center of his back and tried to work it free. But the shaft broke.
Standing, I walked over to the wagon and retrieved an undamaged one, carrying both to the horse I was to mount. I cannot truly say why I recovered them, or why they were so important to me at the time. Only later would I affix some meaning to the act.
I always felt that I should have remembered at least one of the men that rescued me that morning, other than the cleric of Verengaard. I can only say that my attention was fixed on the arrows I gripped on that journey. I know I replayed what I knew of the battle again and again in my mind, my father’s last words, the look on his face, his dying breath. You can imagine the trauma these sorts of incidents can have on the young.
As we left the wagon, and its now dead team, I remember seeing my mother’s body laying to the side of the road. Her body was crushed, a broken arrow was embedded in the rear of her skull. I remember feeling as if my own heart were crushed. But as we passed her body I looked hard at the arrow. It was broken in half, folded over onto itself, but the fletching was visible. I compared them as well as the shaft with what I gripped in my hand and knew they were the same. The shafts were both black with small silver-colored stripes, and the fletching consisted of yellow and black feathers with an assortment of odd colored dots. I would later learn that they came from a bird to the east, a bird most commonly found in the elfin lands. I still carry those bits of my past with me today.
Nowhere on the field of my father’s last battle was there a body of the fallen enemy. There was plenty of blood. More blood than the rain could wash away. I thought later that I might have looked for some sort of tracks. But the mind of an eight year old does not exactly think in those terms under the conditions I was in at the time.
I do not remember much of that journey, other than it was long and hard riding behind one man in armor or another. We must have stopped to rest and camp several times.
When we were camped the cleric, I discovered his name was Jordin Heggle, would talk to me and try to get me to tell him what happened. I cannot say why I could not talk about it at first, but while I was silent, he talked about Verengaard and the teachings of his prophets. He told me tales of the Knights of the Verengaard, filling my head with stories of heroism and honor. Sometime before we reached Banamyr I had told him everything, probably crying or sobbing like the child I was. Still, when he would touch me his holy symbol would glow and something inside of me made a strong connection with something and I felt as if I were glowing on the inside as well. And when I asked him about it, he told me that it was for the High Priest at the Temple of the Sun to sort out. But he said that in time I will learn to feel that connection without his aid.
I often imagined that were it not for the demise of my parents I would follow in the footsteps of my father who had spent many years in the military. Then, when the time felt right, I would break away, retire, muster out, and find my own way in the world. But such a fate was denied me.
When we reached Banamyr Father Heggle first took me to an inn. There he cleaned me up, got me some good clothes, and better food. And although I had slept a good deal on the journey, I remember the comfort of my first real mattress at that Inn. I do believe that was the first mattress I ever slept upon. My stay there was very short. I think it was the third day in Banamyr when he took me to the Temple of the Sun.
I had never seen a place like it before. And whether my parents visited such a center of worship in my short eight years of life I do not recall. And there was a point as I walked along that the feeling I had while touching father Heggle’s hand abruptly arose within me unbidden and without his aid, but much stronger. I stopped then and gazed up at the temple. The symbol of Verengaard above the central tower seemed to shine on me alone. The tears I shed then were more cathartic than I can describe, and it seemed as if the inner turmoil, the pain and grief began to lift and dissipate though it would take a few more years to complete.
Jordin Heggle stepped up to me and pulled out his holy symbol before gripping my shoulder. His symbol failed to glow this time. I barely made out his words, they were spoken so softly, but I do remember them. He said “Our journey together is nearly over, young man.” And then he directed me up the short steps. I have been told that when I stepped upon the consecrated grounds of the temple the symbol in the tower began to glow. I do not remember it that way. It just seemed as if the sun’s rays glinted brightly off of the giant bronze disk and reflected into my eyes, almost blinding me. That could also explain the tears. I was also told that there were others on the steps of the temple when I arrived and that they saw a shimmer of light surround my body. Again this can be easily explained by the reflection of the sun, but I ascribe such tales as nonsense, like the makings of growing rumors that change over time with the telling of them. And I was told that the great symbol of Verengaard stopped glowing as soon as I stepped within the church proper. As I said, that it glowed at all is doubtful in my mind, though I will never doubt the power of Verengaard himself.
Upon entering the atrium I saw a shallow pool of water to one side. The pool also gave off a slight radiance, an inner glow that seemed to come from the inside of the bowl. “Yes, that is holy water. And when inside the temple and inside the bowl it always looks like that.” The cleric said to me. He stepped over to the water and dipped two fingers inside, saying some sort of prayer as he did so. He then traced a circle on his own forehead with his wet finger as he completed his short prayer.
But then the high priest stepped into the atrium. He took one look at me and seemed to recognize me, though I had never seen him before. There was a rushing noise in my ears then. I do not remember when it started, but I think that is when I first noticed it. This was later explained to me as the Whispers. This ever present holy sound could only be understood during times of prayer and deep reflection when Verengaard or lesser powers at his direction speak to the faithful. It would be several years before I could truly listen with an open heart and mind to what Verengaard had to say. But I was young when he called me to service and I had not yet learned enough of the religion to make sense of anything.
The years that followed were the best of my life up to that point. My mother had taught me the basics of how to read and write, but the priests at the Temple of the Sun taught me so much more. And it was several years later during my time with the Knights that I was told that my training would set me apart from both the priesthood and the Knights of the Temple themselves. I was training to be a Warrior of the Light, ever striving to become a Champion of the Sun. Like some few clerics of the religion of Verengaard, I was to be set free upon the completion of my training to make my own way in the world and to allow my destiny to be directed by the hand of Verengaard himself.
However, I always keep with me the arrows that I recovered after the death of my parents. As time went by I found one among the Knights of the Temple that spoke the language of the elves and managed to find a tutor there. My main purpose was to learn about them, the elves that I supposed must have been my parent’s murderers. I wanted very much to learn about their culture, their history. But the more I leaned, the more I realized that the elves could not have been the ones responsible, though they were the most likely suspects at the time.
In the late hours of the night I would lay awake and pull out those bits of wood, feather, and steel. I would examine the keen edge of the expertly crafted head. I would lose myself in the leafy pattern etched into the metal, and the amazing skill or craft that placed the black enamel over the entire shaft. With no knowledge of the bowyer’s craft, I would imagine the long-lived elves taking weeks or months to craft a single arrow.
Eventually my time among the clerics and knights was over, as was the Racewar that I had imagined to have claimed my parent’s lives. And as I make my way throughout the world I will forever seek out my parent’s murderers. As an instrument of justice, honor, truth, and light I realize that if and when that personal quest comes to an end I will have a choice to make. For my training and experience has shed light on a simple but important truth: there is neither justice nor honor in vengeance.
]]>Groqxhttp://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1063-The-Confessions-of-Kellionor-Galabrion1) Prologue: Deceitful Beginnings
Sun, 21 Feb 2010 19:52:41 GMTI didn’t know my parents at all. I mean to say I never met them and am not even sure of their names. My master told me they were of peasant stock...I didn’t know my parents at all. I mean to say I never met them and am not even sure of their names. My master told me they were of peasant stock and were killed in a raid upon their caravan. But what am I to believe of his words concerning my own parentage?
I found a document in a small wooden box inside the maid’s quarters when I was just a boy. One cannot even be sure if the receipt was for me or not, there were so many other children at the orphanage. I like to think it was my own receipt, but that is just the fantasies of a young boy, dreams really, and sad at that given time to reflect upon it. Yet, their names were certainly promising: Samuel and Arethra Goodington. The date was about right in my estimation for my birth, but why would they have sold me? What causes someone to sell their own child? And for a mere five pieces of gold? I suppose that must have been a fortune to a peasant at the time. But I try not to dwell on these things.
Corrianne Morgryn sat on a bench inside the study. It was an overly large room without a hearth. Her back was aching from the stress of these last weeks of pregnancy. She liked this bench despite the lack of a cushioned seat but precisely because it had a cushioned back which provided just the support she needed to ease her pain, if only slightly.
She drew in an unsteady breath as she felt her child kick and shift within her. It was a comforting sensation and made her smile despite her pains. She leaned her head to the side and continued brushing her hair. It was then that her eyes spotted a book, among the many there, that caught her attention. It was simply titled “Morgai the Destroyer”. She had never heard of this Morgai before, despite her hobby in histories and legends. It took her some moments to pluck the book from the low shelf and return to her seat.
The book was like many others she had seen, large and almost unwieldy. Its binding and cover were obviously old, but made with a very robust and lacquered hardwood. The pages were held together with thin, silk-like cords that passed through holes in each page and were secured by knots after they passed through the back cover. The pages were heavy parchment that took the colored inks well. Most of them were coated in something that made them slick to the touch but preserved the ink on the page.
The designs on the front cover were rather frightful with dark circles and shapes interspersed with runes of a language Corrianne could not hope to understand. And the words on the inside were almost as indecipherable. She recognized a number on the first page as a date, or thought she did, although the number was not one she could make sense of. Of course since the current date was the year 271 AE, the number listed on the book, 1343 BR, might not be a year after all, but some number presented in a context she could not understand. And she knew full well that different races on this world might use different calendars.
Her own great-great-great grandparents came to this world in year 1, the day Settlestone was founded and the very day that hundreds of thousands of others of various races came here from many other worlds…a concept she never fully understood. This mass movement to this world was the Exodus, they called it then, and accounted for the AE post script for the year as ‘After Exodus’. Her own father was also born in Settlestone, making her maiden name ‘Gray’ one of the prominent founding family names still in residence within the city.
Unable to fathom the language, she flipped through the book and examined various illustrations. None of them looked wholesome, but all were masterfully rendered. The last was of some huge tower with a field of devastation surrounding it in all directions. Despite the craftsmanship, or perhaps because of it, the sight soured her stomach. Dead bodies littered the fields and lands surrounding the tower. Seemingly thousands of dead and suffering souls being burnt alive in a scourge of fire were rendered in exquisite detail. Then the burning dead seemed to rise from the ground to walk forward as soul-less soldiers, now carrying implements of war, a sword, a shield, or a spear. Corrianne quickly turned the page.
Then she came to the back of the book and found some unfinished pages. The last three was of a family tree of a very long lineage that began with Morgai the Destroyer. Here his name was listed as Calipthian Morgai. She chuckled lightly as she thought of this excellent reason to be known for your last name. But she then considered the moniker he was given. The name ‘Destroyer’ did not bode well for the origins of one’s family history. Moving to the end of the family tree she saw that it ended with her husband’s first name, Dorgas. His grandfather’s name was also listed, but not his father. All with the last name of Morgai.
She closed the book and sat in thought for a moment. She did not know her husband’s father well. He worked in town as a glassblower and window maker. She briefly smiled at the word he used to describe his craft: Glazier. But her husband and his grandfather were both wizards, powerful wizards, certainly. And now she knew from where they chose their first names, some mysterious family bloodline headed by this C. Morgai? And even the last was so very close to her husband’s own family name, Morgryn.
She looked again at the book in her hands. She has been in this study countless times and read many of the books here. She was suddenly sure this had not been here before but was a recent addition. It must have been placed here for… Rising to her feet, with a little difficulty, she carried the book and her brush into the main living room.
“Dorgas?” she asked as she entered.
This room must have been at least three to four times as large as the study. Doors and openings in the walls lead towards a dining room, a hallway, the grand foyer, and a second narrow stairway that led to the second floor. And it had two hearths, one at each end of the room. Both of the fires were lit and blazing at the moment with new wood. It was a bit warmer in here than she liked, and none of the chairs or couches in here offered the support for her back as that bench in the study.
She found her husband sitting at a table, looking over a scroll laid out before him. There must have been at least twelve lamps burning in the room. If any of them needed fuel, it would cost a fortune to keep them aflame. As it was, having a husband who cast spells proved very useful. They regularly sold similar lamps and many other enchanted objects for quite a profit. He registered her presence with a raised hand, a signal for her to be patient.
Dorgas Morgryn was a thin man in his late thirties. His height, about five feet eight inches was only slightly more than his wife’s, who was considered quite tall for a human woman. And he had her weight as well, when she was not with child. Although he was not gaunt, he was certainly slim of build. But his head was hairless, completely, as was his own father and grandfather. A trait he claims afflicts the men in his family beginning late in adolescence. His eyebrows were bushy, and would dominate his face were it not for his very unusual and striking eyes. They were of cobalt blue surrounded by a thin, dark brown ring. He somehow maintained a perpetually clean-shaven face which made his sharp features stand out.
She gritted her teeth, grinned slightly in an unpleasant sort of way, and brought the book over to him. She placed it on the table on top of his scroll, abruptly interrupting his study. “I never suspected you of being so sly, and passive, as to slip this to me like that.” She said flatly. “Usually, if you have something to say you simply come out with it.” She opened the book to the last few pages and scanned the names listed there. “So, I suppose you want to find our child’s name from this list? While it may be as good a source of names as any, it is not what we had talked about, Dorgas!”
He turned and placed his hand on hers, starring up at her. She looked at him and stopped talking as he closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and shook his head slightly. His reaction was not what she expected. “No dear. We agreed on Gregorich if it is to be a boy and Corrinth if it is to be a girl, though it will be a boy. That is not why I presented the book to you.” He motioned to a chair on the other side of him as he seemed to take a deep, steadying breath. “This book is not a source of names, but a listing of my families’ bloodline. And our child’s name will not be listed within its pages.”
“Please sit, I have to tell you about my bloodline, what we will have to do when our first few children are born, and why.” His face seemed suddenly exhausted, weary, but mostly sad. His serious expression brought with it a nauseating feeling of confused dread that settled in her chest as she moved around him to sit on his other side were a chair was positioned a bit closer to the hearth. She could hear her heart beating heavily in her ears and knew her face must look quite pale.
“Well, out with it!” she said as she sat. Though, in truth, she considered that she might not want to hear what he had to say. As always when she became frightened, her anger began to rise, the paleness of her cheeks giving way to a tint of rose. In her own family it was something of a survival trait, or at least that was how her mother explained it.
“As you might have learned from this book, my love, our family name is Morgai, not Morgryn. Morgai is not a name anyone would claim given the history. If it were publicly known, we would not be able to live here and no town or city would accept our presence. We might even be hunted down. The bloodline presented there is a list of wizards. Note that my father is not listed? It is because he is not a wizard, though he is of the bloodline.” He stopped talking then, for a few moments as he considered his words. Although the words he was using were obviously well rehearsed, the telling of them looked to affect him like poison, draining his life away. His own skin seemed to pale and became gray like ash in the brightly lit room.
He closed his eyes, and when they opened they were moist, on the verge of tears. His voice seemed to change as he continued, almost as if he were and afraid of whatever terrible news he must present. His look caused her feeling of dread to increase, like a stone in her chest, pressing down on her heart. She nearly stopped breathing and knew immediately that whatever he had to say would involve their child, and it was not good.
Dorgas took another steadying breath, opened his eyes and continued. “As you know, the ability to control magic is certainly not unique to my family. Schools of magic have been built to train those who are blessed with the gift. It is a rare trait, and although it does tend to be passed from generation to generation such heritage is never taken for granted. Sometimes the gift crops up out of nowhere, in peasant villages where no mage has ever been born before. Sometimes, after generations of wizards, the expression of that trait abruptly ends, never to show itself again.
But the bloodline of Morgai is unique. Morgai’s power was nearly limitless. He grew to totally dominate his world and began to stretch out, influencing others. Although he was long-lived, he was not immortal and the passage of time began to ravage his body. Through some elaborate ritual of his own creation, he sought to pass on his power. He sired a thousand children from his concubines, all of them male. These were the first children of Morgai. He then entombed himself within his tower which vanished from the world. The tower itself has its own terrible legends.”
Dorgas stood then, and walked over to a hearth. He continued as he stared into the flames. “But as with any cruel and evil despot, Morgai had his enemies. They sought out and killed nearly all of the Morgai’s children. It was a near complete extermination of his bloodline. Only one, that we know of, was allowed to survive. These enemies forged themselves into an organization known as The Followers of Morgai. Their ultimate goals are not known to us, and neither is the reason why they keep our bloodline flowing. But this historical background is not even the beginning of the horror I must relate to you.”
He turned then and it seemed as if the heat of the flames may have added some color back to his cheeks. His own heart was pounding as he took a shuttering breath of his own. She could see it in the movement of his tunic. And it looked as if her husband was aging before her very eyes as his cheeks seemed more hollow, his face more gaunt than she had ever seen before. A slight sheen of sweat had appeared on his brow.
He continued in barely a whisper and she realized suddenly that she had been holding her own breath too long. She inhaled and felt slightly dizzy as he spoke while the growing nausea settled in her stomach. The child within her stilled and ceased moving around, as if he too were listening to what would be his fate.
“This power over magic grows ever stronger in our bloodline from generation to generation. If my own child were able to use the Art, he would likely be at least twice as powerfully as I. His child would be at least twice as powerful as he. It is nearly an exponential growth in power and the ability to control the forces of magic. This thickening of my bloodline must not be allowed.”
He moved back to the table and opened the book. He turned it to the page showing the tower that seemed planted in a world of hellish description. Pointing to it, he continued.
“I cannot pretend to know the mechanics of how this has come to pass. But I do know that my blood is tied to this tower. Once the blood has concentrated to a sufficient degree, it will call this tower back to the world, to our world. What you see here is what is destined to occur if we allow it to happen. Morgai himself will return, presumably to inhabit the body, through which flows his own blood. His return can only mean the end of all freedom and happiness.”
He closed the book and sat heavily in the chair, as if all strength was gone from him.
“My grandfather had four children, all boys. Only one, my father and the fourth of his children, did not possess the ability to control magic. Only he was allowed to live passed the first hour of his birth. My own father was taught well and knew that he could only have a single child, and that he, or rather I, would have the gift, the Art. Our bloodline allows only males for some reason, and thus I know you will bear us a boy child. And…and that child, our first, is doomed. Every first born in this accursed bloodline has the power. But our second and succeeding children have a diminishing chance to have the gift.”
“What are you saying?” she croaked out in surprise as she stood up with sudden realization. The dizzy, nauseated feeling piqued and she felt bile rising in her throat. She swallowed hard and clutched her chest with both hands, filled with renewed horror. The chair shot backwards and fell with a loud cracking sound. Her mind was so awed by whatever she was hearing that she could barely speak. But she managed to blurt her words out, shaky and unsteady as her feet, though her mouth and throat were painfully dry. “Are you saying that if he can use magic then you will kill him? You will kill our child?” Her voice was rising, almost in a panic.
“It must be so my love!” Dorgas said, his sorrow bringing tears down his face. Her mouth was open, her eyes wide and her body visibly shook with the terror of it as he continued. “The power cannot be allowed to build. If he can control magic, he will be at least twice as powerful as I, likely more still. And if he bears a son of power….god help us but no one should possess such power as that! Someone who might rival that of Calipthian Morgai himself. And such power might summon his tower to doom us all. As you can see by the long lineage listed there, this burden had been born for many generations. Would that we could we have no children at all and end our bloodline with me than to allow such a monster to be born upon this world. But even that simple blessing cannot come to pass. For then the tower would…”
“Are you saying our child would become a Monster?” Her cracking voice was nearly a shout now, as tears at last fell down her face as well. The fallen chair turned onto its side as she backed into it, as if she could escape the reality that was to come.
He turned his chair to face her and hunched forward as he looked, pleaded up at her. His own face was filled with regret and pain as he spoke. “Not our child, surely. Even if he could use the power he might be able to control himself and not be driven by it. Especially with our guidance. But his child? Power begets ever more power, that is Morgai’s curse. And our laps in this tradition would cause the blood to be forever stronger from grandfather to grandson throughout the future generations. And with our own lapse we cannot be sure that our son would ensure our traditions continue. He would be too powerful to control and his children…we cannot allow such monsters to exist!”
“Infanticide! You call Infanticide a tradition in your family? You are the monsters! All of you!” She turned and ran then, as fast as her bulging belly and sobbing frame would allow. She ran into the broad foyer and to the front door, pulled it open, and screamed out at the night and into the howling wind that could not hope to match the rage running through her heart and mind. The wind entered cold and fierce, buffeting her gown, twirling her long blond hair in all directions, and numbing her flesh. The shock of the blistering cold wind and her scream of anguish seemed to still her mind somewhat. She stood there a moment in sudden silence, thinking on where she would go this time of night as she fought her rage and fear. Then she turned and ran up the wide, main stairway to the second floor, down a hallway and to their chambers. The slamming door could be heard from every corner of the small mansion.
“She is going to be a problem!” said a voice from the doorway that lead to the dining room. Dorgas turned and saw his grandfather standing there. “That is not how it is done Dorgas! Our women must never know, have never known, until near the end of their lives if even then.”
“I had to tell her. I had to.” Dorgas said, tears still streaking his face.
“No! No you most certainly did not. I would have taken her new born child and tested him right after his birth. Despite the total lack of precedent concerning his position in the birthing order I always have hope that the first born might not possess the gift. If need be the child would die shortly thereafter and it would look most natural, I assure you. The poison is painless and he would die in his sleep. Death in this way is common among children. Now she will not trust us and try to circumvent our efforts to stifle the power of our bloodline.”
“So what now, grandfather? I do not have the stomach for this. I know I cannot kill our child and continue to live my life with the guilt of his death. I do not know if I could bear to look at you if you did the deed.”
“The first born always possesses the gift, Dorgas, always has. You know this. My hope is merely fantasy; an impossibility. There is less of a chance with the next, but only slightly less. She could have six boys before there is a better than fifty percent chance of a powerless child. And if her lineage had even the smallest portion of magic within six generations the power in her child would be assured for every child you and she conceived. This is why we researched her so carefully before I allowed you to wed.”
“What?” Dorgas stood and pounded a fist on the table causing one of the weights at a corner of his scroll to bounce off and the parchment to curl upwards. “What do you mean by this? You…they found her for me?”
“Yes, they contacted me after you progressed from a mere apprentice and I have met with them once each year since then. That is, until they decided you should begin looking for a wife. Then we met once each month or so, as the need arose, until our research was completed and a suitable woman was chosen. I have had a regular, standing appointment with them each month since her pregnancy became known.”
Dorgas Morgryn settled down into his seat and leaned back and spoke to himself in a whisper “The Followers of Morgai” he said, fear crept into his voice to mix with the sorrow. “They are real. I had always hoped…”
The old man seemed like he had much to say and tried to keep the younger man’s mind focused. “Yes they are real you idiot! The Followers of Morgai and I together undertook to research the women available to you. Most were rejected outright because someone along their own bloodline possessed the power to use magic. Even as rare and as precious as the gift may be among humans, the ability tends to crop up from time to time, unnoticed by most. Once we located the few available to you it was a small matter to ensure you could spend time with them. Young minds and hearts are easily brought together.”
He continued in a lower, calmer voice more full of meaning than emotion. “They continue to watch our every move. Do I need to call the Followers in on this Dorgas, or will you handle it?”
With a groan the younger wizard leaned forward with his elbows on the table, pressing his face into his hands. “Why have I not summoned the courage to kill myself?”
“Ah! Yes that is one way out Dorgas, for you at least. But the rest of this world would be saddled with the Tower when it returned to spread the power anew. I think it is time for you to meet The Followers, my grandson. If I know anything, I know that the Followers have determined the exact moment of the child’s birth. They will ensure the infant’s demise if we do not. And we will certainly pay a price for their direct involvement. If what I know of them is true they will take something precious from us for good measure, as a lesson to us. They might kill Corianne, or your father perhaps. Or maybe they will introduce themselves to your wife with some threat against her cooperation. Finding another woman to bear your child would be much more difficult as she was hard enough to…”
“They would kill her or my father, really! Perhaps threaten her own family or friends? I think they may become my enemy in any case.”
“You do love her?”
He seemed to have attempted to sidestep the issue of her death or other penalties for misbehavior at the moment.
“Yes! I most surely love her with all my heart. But I also love my unborn child. And they will kill her or others if we allow my baby to live?”
“You can see the effect this has upon you and you must harden your heart against it. It is likely that up to three, four, perhaps as many as five of your children must be put to death before one without power is born. If you allow one to come into this world with power, how many of his own will he have to kill before one emerges without the ability? How many? Ten? Twenty children of his must die for the sake of perhaps three to five of your own? If our own ancestors had kept the tradition from the beginning only your first born would be condemned to death. Three of your uncles need not have died before your father was born.”
“Better I had not been born myself, Grandfather. When he is born and dead I will not have another only to be forced to kill him as well. It will end with the death of Gregorich.”
The old man gave yet another deep sigh. “I warned you before not to give names to the unborn children, it makes it that much harder to see them pass. And if you choose not to have more children, you will have to face the Followers and deal with them. The absence of the blood in the world has its own consequences.”
“I will deal with them then!” He stood once more and walked slowly to the stairs to grip the railing. Its heavily carved dark wood felt twisted and evil beneath his hand, mirroring the darkness that was creeping into his soul. “Or rather, they will have to deal with me!” he said softly but loud enough to be heard by the table. He then ascended to the second floor to find and attend his wife. Where his hand had been, the wood was left smoking, its surface charred.
The old man raised his head and the unnaturally dark blue irises of his own eyes caught the lamplight, glinting as a single tear welled up in one of them. “May Sharn the Lightbringer preserve us!”
]]>Groqxhttp://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1026-1)-Prologue-Deceitful-Beginnings5) The Examination
Sun, 21 Feb 2010 19:24:51 GMTThe morning sun shone bright in the east-facing windows of the Goodington house. Samuel had added the windows to the dining room with breakfast in...The morning sun shone bright in the east-facing windows of the Goodington house. Samuel had added the windows to the dining room with breakfast in mind and was never disappointed at that decision during this most early meal. He finished the thick slab of toast and was using his napkin to wipe the last of the butter from his hand when Cindy started to rise from the table.
She held little Samuel Junior in her arms and had indeed just finished feeding him his own breakfast. The little one had fallen asleep in her arms. “Let me put him down and I will clean up.” She said as she made her way to their bedroom.
“Nonsense! You already cooked breakfast this morning and I told Jacob to arrive early every day for the next two months. He will mind the store while I tend to you, my dear. Let me clean up while you rest.” He smiled at her and started clearing the table. He heard her say something in reply, but her voice was too low as she tried not to wake their baby.
He was pleased that she did not emerge from the bedroom as he finished with the dishes and stowed away the remainder of the bread. He looked forward to lunch this morning as he looked at the cheese and cooked beef in the Storage Box. That box was the most expensive thing in the house. Its magic preserved everything within, preventing it from spoiling. In fact, he still owed a little more than sixty gold pieces on it. But he had four more years to pay it off. And his recent commissions from the Earl of Settlestone himself promised so many years of work and so much money that the burden of paying off that debt was greatly eased. In fact, he looked forward to visiting Morgryn’s Magic Emporium to buy more lamps. That is, as soon as his next commissioned payment was delivered.
Sam then went to the bedroom and stood in the doorway as he watched Cindy lying down with the baby. They were both asleep in the dimly lit room and Cindy’s long red hair draped around little Samuel’s face like a halo of fire. The beautiful image stole his heart. The room seemed unusually warm, however, though it was certainly comfortable enough. Strangely, he remembered thinking the same thing during breakfast about the dining room. But the room seemed to cool down as he cleared the dishes and cleaned the table.
There was a knock on the door that brought Sam’s musings to a halt. He could not imagine who the caller might be. He closed the door to the bedroom as silently as he could and cringed as the hinges squeaked louder than he would have liked. He got to the door at the third attempt of their visitor to gain his attention.
Outside, standing on his step, was an elf. He wore a long traveling cloak and woodsman’s clothes of brown and green. His eyes were light green, almost hazel in color, and his face perfectly smooth with the sharp, angular features common to his race. Sam had met several elves in his time, but they tended to stay in their valley, keep to the forests, and out of the cities. But Sam’s home was on the very outskirts of Settlestone. He had a kennel of dogs that had thus far kept visitors, rogues and bandits away from their small farm and seldom had visitors of any sort. Looking around his front yard he could not see any of the three dogs that roamed his small homestead and suddenly became concerned for their safety.
Despite this possible problem, his spirits remained high and this person did not appear to be of a threatening disposition. “Goodmorn, traveler.” He left the greeting at that and waited for a response. Offering to help a traveler, a total stranger, could be dangerous.
The voice was not as he expected. Most elves he met had voices that were nearly musical and pleasant to hear. This one’s was much deeper, almost raspy and grating, as if he had suffered some injury to his throat. “This is the Goodington house?” asked the elf.
Sam only nodded. He was a man of few words to outsiders and strangers, though his voice was exercised plenty within his home and shop. He knew many who easily took offense at the slightest perceived provocation, and he was a cautious man by nature.
“You have a new child, a son born nine days ago?” asked the elf. It was almost stated as an observation, a given fact rather than a question. Sam’s senses verily tingled with suspicion and for some reason a wisp of fear crept into his soul.
“Yes, indeed. Of what concern is it to you?” He asked. Samuel was no fighter. As a highly skilled and talented carpenter he knew well how to use a hammer. But his use of it had never included engaging it in combat. In fact, the only fight he had ever engaged in was in a bar many years ago. It was a fight that cost him a tooth and a severe blow to his pride. The uncertainty of this elf’s intentions was eating at him. He knew he could not protect his wife and child as he should.
“I wish to examine the child. You may call me Gormand. I have been hired to examine all children born on that day within and around Settlestone. Luckily for me we have found only four such children. Yours is the last of them I must examine. May I come in?” The words were spoken with confidence in that horrible, grating voice. There was a hint of warning there as well. Sam had the distinct impression that violence would ensue should he refuse, though the stranger’s friendly disposition did not change.
“You know, your request is quite odd. I do not know you and have never invited a total stranger into my home before. Can you tell me why I should allow you to examine my boy?” His words were also filled with confidence. He stood there in the doorway, ready to defend his home and unsure of what to do. But his voice did not waver and his body stood firm. He gripped the doorframe with one hand and the edge of the door with the other.
The elf raised a hand and a small ball of orange flame appeared, seemingly out of thin air, to float just above his palm. “Put quite simply, I will burn your home to the ground. Your entire family will die as I will not permit any of you to escape the house.” The threatening words were not spoken with undue menace. The tone was even and calm with the total certainty of one who does not make threats but only states facts and eventualities.
Sam had never seen magic used like that before. He knew there were wizards and that the king himself employed many of them. Wizards, or one of them anyway, had made his kitchen storage box. They enchant the things at Morgryn’s Magic Emporium. But tales of their power were frightening. Without another word he stepped aside, pulling the door further open. His hand tightened on the edge of the door in a pique of fear. But then he released it, leaving it open as he led this Gormand to the room where his wife and child slept. “They are asleep. Can you do it without waking them?”
“She will not awaken until I am gone, I can assure you of that.” He said, lowering his voice to a whisper. “The boy must wake as I must look into his eyes for my examination. Before I go in tell me Mr. Goodington, what is the color of your son’s eyes?”
“Brown, like my own eyes.” He said in a whisper.
“Was there anything peculiar about your son’s birth?”
“Not that I know of. I was waiting with my wife’s parents in the other room during the birthing. She did not report anything odd. None of the midwives commented about it other than to say my boy was healthy and my wife would recover quickly.”
As the elf turned to the closed door and placed a hand on the handle, Sam considered the strange birthmark on Samuel’s head. The mark was now completely covered with hair and one would have to search carefully to find it. It was some sort of tiny symbol in what could be mistaken for brown ink, the same exact color as his eyes. It looked to be a tattoo, though that was certainly impossible. Brown, red and purple are common colors for birthmarks. He wondered if this was what the elf was looking for.
The elf entered slowly and Sam wondered that the hinge made no noise whatsoever. The elf approached the bed and reached down towards the child. He gently lifted an eyelid and the baby woke up. Little Samuel awoke, smiled, and a tiny bit of drool escaped the corner of his precious mouth. He looked up at the elf with his dark brown eyes and blinked. He made a slight noise, an off-pitch sound as he giggled, making Sam’s heart ache with fear for him. The infant’s eyes widened in delight as he took in the sight of the new face.
The elf nodded and left the room. Sam followed and closed the door behind them. Walking back to the open front door, the elf commented. “You have a truly beautiful boy there Samuel Goodington. I wish your family a safe and pleasant future.” He paused a moment on the step and turned back to Sam.
“Mr. Goodington, are you aware that on the day of your child’s birth there were twenty nine midwives working in Settlestone? Fourteen of them were employed that day to supervise or directly assist in the birthing of five different children. All fourteen of those women are missing. Just something for you to consider as you go throughout your day. Goodmorn, Mr. Goodington.”
]]>Groqxhttp://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1024-5)-The-Examination6) The Woodcaller
Sun, 21 Feb 2010 18:23:15 GMT“Daddy?” said Samuel Jr. as he tugged on his father’s pant leg. His father was working on a table leg. Sam pumped his other leg on the pedal to...“Daddy?” said Samuel Jr. as he tugged on his father’s pant leg. His father was working on a table leg. Sam pumped his other leg on the pedal to keep the unfinished work spinning as he held the thin file in place. The groove was perfect and he picked a Rough cloth to smooth it even more, holding it against the wood with just the right amount of pressure as the wood spun beneath his hands.
Sam lifted his foot off the pedal and the soon-to-be table leg’s rotation began to slow immediately. “Sammy, I told you not to come in here when I’m working. It can be dangerous. See these?” he said, pulling the glass-fronted goggles off of his head. “Flakes of wood, or splinters can lodge in your eyes if you are not careful. You need one of these on when nearby any of this equipment when it’s operating.
The boy’s mind seemed to be focused as he simply ignored what his father was saying and launched into the reason he came into the shop. “You promised to show me how to shape wood daddy!”
Taking a deep breath, Sam bowed his head in defeat. “Yes, indeed I did. Ok, lets see what you can do.” He got up and went over to a bench of tools. He withdrew two whittling knives from the lot, picked up a new set of gloves that he had purchased not three days ago, and then led his son outside into the sunlight.
As he led young Samuel over to the wood pile he gave his first instructions. “You need several things to shape wood, young man. First you need a good knife.” He said this as he held up the two wood-handled knives. Both had slightly curved blades so that they almost looked like hooks. “Then you need a good pair of gloves.” He tossed the new gloves to his son. They were a bit big for his hands, but only just so. He had purchased the smallest pair of work gloves the leatherworker had in stock. “Next you need a good piece of wood to start with.” And by this time they had reached the wood pile.
“Take a good look at the wood here, my son. I was six, two years older than you, when my own father began teaching me how to carve wood. That is the first skill you need before you learn to truly shape wood. You must learn to carve it and to make the wood into something worth owning. So look carefully. You see, the fourth thing you need is a good imagination. Look at the wood and see what it can be, what shapes it can take.”
Sam reached down and picked up a short log. “I think this could be a goblet, easily. But I cannot carve it into a goblet, for that I would need the spinning lathe. So what do you think I could carve it into? A statue? A small stool?”
“Daddy, I think it can’t be a stool, a statue, or a goblet. It has too many cracks running through it. Until you fix the cracks it can only be firewood, I think.”
“Ha!” Sam snorted, a large smile on his face. “How would you know it has cracks running through it? You would have to remove the bark first. And both facings” he said as he turned the wood to show the cut ends. “are smooth, flat, and show no evidence of cracks. And we have no way of fixing the cracks anyhow.”
“Why not?” Samuel asked. “It’s only wood. Just tell it to fix itself and then you can make it into anything you want.”
This brought another laugh from his father. “Unfortunately I have not mastered the art of, um, woodcalling. I cannot speak to the wood and simply ask it to do my bidding with any hope of success, any more than I could with a rock. But if I use my hands I can shape it into whatever I can imagine. Go ahead and find yourself a bit of wood. I will work on this one.”
“That’s just silly dad! Stone doesn’t listen like wood does. It’s never been alive to begin with.” But he left it alone and found himself a short branch.
Together they sat on a bench near the woodpile and Sam began teaching him how to use the knife. It was thirty minutes later and Sam had removed all of the bark from his small log. He leaned back and threw the log back into the pile of wood. “You were right, son. It was cracked through and through. Can you pick me out good piece of wood?”
Sammy returned from the pile with another small log, though it was a bit bigger than the other and he had to roll it along the ground. “This can be my treasure chest, daddy! It is perfect and strong all along its length. No worms, nothing. Isn’t that what you need for a chest?”
Examining the wood in his own hands, he nodded slowly with a smile. “Yes son, it is perfect for a start. But a chest requires far more than one piece of wood. How about I make you a stool? You can sit on it while you work with wood, just like this bench. What do you say?”
“That’s fine, I suppose.” Said Samuel. He sat back down and continued working on his own stick with his tiny, four year old hands. His father had told him to examine the grain carefully and to use its pattern to try and determine what the stick was supposed to be. He stopped running the blade along the length of the wood. He had stripped the bark from the branch and shaved off several slivers which lay upon the ground around his feet.
First, the gloves were uncomfortable. He looked at them closely and tried to imagine what would have to happen to make them fit. As he did this he saw lines appear in the air around him. This was nothing strange to Samuel since they appeared whenever he concentrated hard enough on something. He had asked his mother about them, but she thought he was seeing things…which he knew he was, the pattern or web, or whatever it was. He could plainly see that the gloves were part of the pattern of lines, but they were tightly woven into the pattern. He concentrated, trying to shift the pattern of lines within the gloves.
Samuel had met with some success at this before. It was very easy to make the lines glow with heat, light, or both. Though he never made anything glow in front of his parents. It was very difficult to make the lines move, though not impossible. He tried this now with the gloves. He looked at the gloves from every angle as he moved them about in front of his face. He could see some pattern within the lines, though they were far more complex than wood, or metal. The threads were denser in some places and difficult to distinguish from each other. And they went off at strange angles, also unlike wood or metal which were more easily understood. He thought harder on some areas of the gloves, some of the leather that would have to be removed in order to make the gloves smaller. He worked at this for several minutes before he gave up. The lines would not move. The gloves had once been part of some living thing, a deer or cow or something like that. He tried to understand why, when things had been alive once, they had lines that were far more difficult to move than things that had never been alive.
He suddenly noticed his father staring at him.
“Like the gloves, huh?” said Sam. The boy seemed to have some guilty expression on his face that made him smile even more. “I got them at a good price so take good care of them, ok? Don’t be careless with that knife. It may be easier to replace the gloves than your fingers, but let’s not needlessly cut them up, huh?”
“Sure dad.” Said Samuel. Then he looked at the stick one more time. What he really needed was something to help him manipulate those itty bitty, tiny lines. So he took another real, good look at the stick. What did he really need? Did it have what it would take? After looking at it for a couple of more minutes, he decided that it did not. He threw it back onto the pile and began searching for another.
It was several minutes before he found what he was looking for. It was only about seven inches long, two inches thick, but it felt very heavy in his hands. The dark wood had already been worked and looked to be some scrap from a project his father had finished long ago. The growth lines were extremely close together, so close that it looked like there were no growth lines at all. One side was perfectly flat and smooth. The other was curved inwards, almost concave. He looked deep into the wood and saw its incredibly dense center. Yes, this was perfect. He sat back down and slowly began working on it.
The boy soon paused in his work to examine the knife. It was far too dull a blade, too thick. What he needed to work this wood must be sharper and thinner than any blade his father owned. And metal was much easier to work with than wood or leather. The lines were simpler, easier to understand, much easier to manipulate.
An hour later Sam stood up from his own task. The bark had been removed from the log and he was already carving out what would be the seat. “This is a most excellent bit of wood you found for me Sammy. But this project will have to wait. I have a table I must complete. What’re you making?” he asked as he watched his son move the knife along the wood. Each piece of wood that came up was perfectly straight, even, the same exact length, and paper thin. The blade did not so much as cut or carve, as slide through the wood like soft butter. He shook his head and tried to think of how his son was doing this. He knew that this particular piece of wood was Oakheart, the hardest wood to be found in a hundred miles, and very expensive. It had taken him nearly a month to complete the desk commissioned from those logs. It was a very expensive piece of furniture and one of his best. He wondered now if the weather had softened the wood since it had been here in the pile, or was the wood somehow defective.
“I am making a tool daddy.” He said, picking up one of the long, thin, needle-like slivers of wood. This one he had already cut lengthwise off of one of the flat slivers so that it now looked thicker on one end than the other, though it appeared delicate. He took off his gloves and ran his fingers over this tiny bit of wood. He pressed his fingers together as he did so. “See? I can use this to move the threads around and change the way things look or do. But first I have to make it sharper and longer, and harder.” He then gripped the thicker end between the fingers of one hand and began pulling it through the tightened grip of the thumb and forefinger of the other. It almost looked as if he were both polishing and trying to stretch the wood at the same time.
Sam opened his mouth to ask what the hell he was doing when he saw the wood change, ever so slightly, and then quite dramatically. The wood lengthened and began to change color. Instead of the rich, pale-golden color of the Oakheart, it was turning darker, grayer. It doubled in length before his eyes and slowly changed to the color of purest silver. It looked impossibly thin and sharp as it glinted in the sunlight. It was tapered ever so slightly until it seemed to vanish from sight due to its thin-ness or sharp-ness rather than end due to a limitation of its length.
Sam sat back down and looked at his son. “How did you do that?” his heart was pounding hard in his chest. How did he do that? What did he just do? He was also looking at the knife in his son’s hand. It was straight now, and thinner, although it was not longer or wider than it was before. Unless he found a new knife somewhere…
“I’m not sure, daddy. I needed a tool to help me move the threads around so that I can change things. And these tools will help me move the threads around and make these gloves fit better. They will also help me change things into whatever I want. I needed something hard and really thin and able to touch the threads that won’t do what I want. And this wood works perfectly for that. But first I had to change the knife. I hope you don’t mind. I had to make it thinner and harder, and sharper to cut the wood just right. It had to be a perfect cut to keep the threads that make up the tool, unbroken all in one direction. The threads go in all directions you know. And they all have to be together, stay together so I can make a tighter…um, bond I guess. It’s really hard to explain, daddy.” He poked the silver needle into the bench seat and began repeating this with another sliver of wood.
In minutes he had five silver needles sticking out of the bench. Then, he took three of the needles and started working with the sharp end of one of them. He spoke to his father as he worked. “I don’t know if I can make the end curved, but I might. It sure would help.”
A few moments later and the expression on his face told his father that he had succeeded in doing whatever he was attempting to do, although the altered needle looked exactly the same as the others. “Now I think I can make anything daddy!” Said the four year old boy, smiling brightly at his overawed and shaken father.