The books in this section are...

King Edward, Part 8

King Edward, Part 9

King Edward, Part 10

King Edward, Part 11

King Edward, Part 12

Ark`ay The God (hope you can read german)


King Edward, Part VIII


King Edward, Part VIII Chap 8: Wilderland The journey through Valenwood was pleasant. The weather held fair for the most part, with sunny days and cool nights. Bright leaves of scarlet, crimson, gold and green drifted down to form a carpet beneath their horses' feet. Valenwood was very different from the somber, steep forests of High Rock. When they reached the northern border, Edward, looking back, saw that the trees were mostly bare, shorn of their glory. Before them lay a wide green land of rolling hills with only a few stands of trees. It seemed to spread on forever. "This is Wilderland, Edward," Moraelyn said. "Be on your guard. It seems a pleasant land, but no king's writ runs here. Each man's hand is against every other's -- and there are worse than men. All the races of Tamriel meet here, and clash, save thine, perhaps." They journeyed for some days more with small incident ... save one for a band of Khajiit raiders that crept up on their camp by night. These were easily repelled. Silk slew one and the rest ran off yowling. The gentle wood elf girl, ÷Willow, lobbed fireballs after them. There were no roads, just small paths that criss-crossed one another and seemingly led nowhere. After two weeks of steady riding they came to a bowl shaped place in the hills where the land was tilled. The fields looked fair and were stacked with harvest, but the folk were dispirited, ragged, and unfriendly. Questions about inns got only shrugs and puzzled looks. Armed bands challenged them at times and demanded to know their business. When Moraelyn said they were bound for Morrowind, they were told to pass through quickly and mind they stole nothing. "Passage is all we wish," Moraelyn said quietly. "Someone should teach these folk manners," the usually placid Mats growled. "Thou mayst stay and open a school of etiquette, if it pleases thee," Moraelyn said, "I fear my life's too short to teach the lessons these villains require. Still, I like not ÷the look of the sky; it looks e'en more evil than the folk. I think we'll try our luck in the town." The town was surrounded by a palisade of wood and had a stout gate. Guards looked them over and refused them entrance. "None but humans enter here, elf. Take thy rabble and begone." "I see. Ali, Mats, Edward, thou seemst to qualify for the hospitality here. The rest of us will shelter elsewhere." Aliera announced that she would see them all blown back to Firsthold by the storm before she'd step within these gates. So they circled the town, passing a moat with stone walls within and a keep of some sort within that. A track north took them past a small house with a large barn nearby. Both looked in poor repair, but Moraelyn sent Aliera and Edward to knock at the door and ask if they might sleep in the barn. The rest waited in the road. An elderly woman answered their knock; she looked pleased to see them. "Stay? Aye, I'd be glad of the company. No need to sleep in the barn, though, lady. I've a room to spare. My name's Ora Engelsdottir." Aliera gestured toward the waiting Companions. The woman squinted toward them. "Thy man's there and some friends? Aye, we'll all squeeze together then. T'will be warmer so. I've a pot of soup on the fire; made it to last me a week but you're welcome to it. I can make more." "My husband's an elf." "Is he so? He looks to take good care of thee and thy son. Thou's fat as pigs. Bring them in. I wish my grand-daughter had such a one to care for her." Ora refused payment, saying she was not yet at such a pass that her guests must pay for her hospitality. She said tales and song and an evening's merriment would be payment enough. Pots and dishes were set out to catch the worst of the leaks; she knew them all well. They gathered around the hearth and made very merry while the storm raged, banging the shutters and doors and threatening to blow the roof away altogether. "Tell me, my lady," Ora whispered apart to Aliera, "He's ÷truly good to thee? He's so big and so black." "Truly good," Aliera said keeping her mouth serious while her eyes laughed. "Aye, 'tis well, then. He put me a bit in mind of our baron, who's big and dark -- oh, not so dark as thy elf. He took my grand-daughter, Caron -- and, he does not treat her well. He -- he hurts her, my lady. And she dare not run away. Where would she go?" Tears gathered in Ora's eyes and followed worn familiar tracks down her cheeks. When their hostess had gone to sleep in her own room, Aliera repeated what she had been told. "Let's rescue the girl," Beech said, "we grow stale with inaction." "Aye!" said Silk and Willow at once. Mats growled an agreement. Mith and Ssa'ass looked interested. ÷ Moraelyn looked doubtful. "We cannot right every wrong in Tamriel. This baron offers his folk shelter of a kind. They could leave if they liked it better outside." "Aye," Mith said, "he keeps the bandits off so he may rob the folk at leisure." "An we pull him down? There'll be another to take his place. Or else the outside will come in and there'll be nothing left at all." "Nothing would be better than this filthy something," Mats said. "There's that." The storm seemed to have moved away. Aliera went to the door and stared up into the sky where clouds raced past the eastern moon. A single large brilliant blue star hung near the moon. "Zenithar hangs near Tamriel tonight. Moraelyn?" "I'd thought to mend her roofs tomorrow if it's fair," he said as she returned to the fireside. "We'll do so much at least. As for the rest -- Aliera?" "She asked for my help, in a way ... and I -- I think I hear Zenithar's voice in the wind and feel his hand in the rain on this night." "Thy quest, then, wife." Aliera nodded, unsmiling. She curled up with Moraelyn in the chimney corner and they whispered and laughed together for awhile. Edward fell asleep. In the morning he was sent up on the roof to help Beech and Willow place new shingles. Moraelyn wrote a letter which he gave to Mats, telling him to take it to the baron, to arrive at the castle around dinnertime and to go afoot. "You're going to challenge him for the girl!" Edward grinned. "But will he fight? And wouldn't he take her back again once we're gone?" "Mmm. Since he wouldn't let me in his town, thy mother thought to invite him to our house instead." Moraelyn stamped the letter with his sealing ring and handed it to Mats. ÷ "Oh. It's a long way to your house still, isn't it?" Edward felt a bit of disappointment that no rescue seemed imminent, but he supposed it really was not reasonable to expect eight people to take a keep, even if they were Moraelyn's Companions. Probably the songs exaggerated their deeds. Moraelyn grinned, ruffled Edward's hair and told him to cease his questions, get up on the roof, and mind his mother. Moraelyn and Mith set off together on foot. Aliera said they were going hunting. They did not return even at suppertime. Aliera told Edward not to worry; they'd meet later. It was well after sundown when she bid their hostess farewell. They took all the horses with them and left them in a grove near the north wall of the keep. Aliera asked Edward if he wanted to wait for them with the horses. Edward asked where they were going. "We have to enter the keep to get Ora's grandchild out. No questions, Edward. If you're coming, then stay with me and do exactly as I say. Levitate across the moat: I must swim. Once across we'll scale the wall. Once inside, just follow me and be as silent as you can." ÷ Edward gaped at his mother and the other Companions. How could the six of them possibly storm a keep? Three women, two men and a boy? There would be guards up on the wall and a lot more inside. Mats would be inside too, though, he guessed. But where were Moraelyn and Mith? There were fearsome things in the moat. Edward began a protest, then thought better of it. Ssa'ass slid into the moat first. There was some splashing and hissing, then the water went quiet. Aliera entered the water. The others levitated. "Here's the ropes," Beech said, feeling along the wall. There were three ropes. Edward, Beech and Ssa'ass went up first; Aliera, Willow and Silk followed. Moraelyn and Mith were waiting above. Two guards were snoring softly in a heap. "How--" Edward began, and found his mother's hand clapped over his mouth. A guard from another wall section called out and Edward's heart stopped beating. Mith called something back to him and tramping footsteps moved away. The Companions went silently down the stairs and slipped ÷across the yard like shadows. There was no guard on the door to the keep itself. Inside the passages were eerily quiet. They stopped at an imposing door and flattened themselves against the wall beside it. They could hear voices within. A thin chilling wail sounded and died away. Moraelyn whistled a snatch of song into the silence that followed. The door swung open and they raced inside, falling on the startled guards like furies. Edward was last inside, Tooth in his hand; he stabbed the nearest guard in the side, and Beech finished him with a blow to the head. Mats had been inside; it was he who had opened the door. His axe clove the head of one guard, then swung against the inner door. Aliera and Willow had barred the strong outer door. Moraelyn's opponent was a very young man. He'd taken one look at the big dark elf, dropped his sword and fallen to his knees, praying for mercy. Moraelyn eyed him with disgust and said, "Greet Zenithar for me; tell him Moraelyn of Ebonheart commends you to his mercy. I have none for such as you." He slashed the young guard's throat. Blood sprayed ÷over Moraelyn's leathers. His victim fell over, gurgling horribly. A burning acid rose in Edward's throat; he swallowed hard and looked away. The guards inside the anteroom had been dispatched, but outside the door shouts and footfalls thundered and there was pounding on the door. Edward followed his mother into the inner chamber, which was empty save for a naked girl tied spreadeagle on the enormous bed, her eyes starting from her head. The Companions cut her free while Aliera caught her shoulders. "Thy grandmother sent us, child. Where's the baron?" The girl pointed at a bookcase, then clung to Aliera. She was no bigger than Edward and seemed not much older. Her breasts were just beginning. She was covered with welts and blood and purple-yellow bruises. Aliera flung her own cloak over the girl. Beech picked her up. Mith's fingers were feeling over the bookcase; there was a click and a section slid aside. He went through cautiously. The others ÷followed and the secret door closed after them. "I think it's just a bolt hole," Mith said, "but there'll be traps, no doubt." "Go warily, then, friend," Aliera said. "There's no hurry. I think the baron plans to show his departing guests the door, as a good host should." A narrow passage opened to the left. Mith sent a bolt of light down it. The floor was littered with bones. Human bones. Small skulls stared eyelessly. "I'm going to enjoy killing him," Moraelyn said. "No!" Aliera protested. "My quest, my kill!" Moraelyn swung to face her. "Aliera--" "I want it sung that he died by Aliera's hand! I claim my right to face him, king." "Leave him to me and we'll sing it your way! He's twice your size. D'you want to fight ME for the right?" The elf leaned ÷over her, a full head taller. "If I must." Aliera brushed past him, slinging her shield on her arm, and drawing her short sword as she ran. Moraelyn grabbed at her, missed, and ran after her. His size hampered him in the low, narrow passage. Sparks flew from his spell shield as he caroomed recklessly off the walls. "Come on, you two," Mith yelled from ahead. "I'm not promising to save him for you." "Moraelyn," Edward gasped, running after him. "You're not going to let her!" "Let her! How d'ye propose I stop her? I'm open to suggestions, short of actually fighting her myself." He seemed half-angry, half-amused. "M-maybe he's gone by now." "Nay, he's locked in here with us; we found the exit earlier from the other side and Mith set a lock the baron will not undo." ÷ "Well, paralyze her. You can carry her." "She's activated her shield; it reflects spells, among other things. I'd only paralyze myself and I'd be inconvenient to carry. She'll be all right. It's an excellent shield. It casts a very powerful protective spell. I'ric himself devised it." "Having a spot of trouble with your locks tonight, baron?" Mith's voice came clearly from ahead. They emerged into a larger space where the baron had been clawing vainly at switches beside a massive door. "Shoddy work. You should get another smith." "He won't be needing one," Aliera snarled. The Companions spread around her in a semi-circle. The baron set his back to the door and set himself in a fighting stance. He was a big man, as big as Mats, and he was holding an axe as big as the one Mats wielded, and wearing a breastplate and helm. He addressed Moraelyn. "Nine against one. I'd expect odds like that from you black devils," Moraelyn was at the back of the group, yet the baron had singled him out as the leader. People did, somehow. "You prefer the advantage of weight, do you not? But my wife wants you to herself. She cannot resist your charms it seems. Nor can I; I could not wait for you to respond to my invitation, so I came to you instead." "I beat her and the rest of you kill me? Hah! It might be worth it at that," he added, staring at Aliera with cold dark eyes. Aliera smiled a terrible smile. Her dark hair swung free about her shoulders and she seemed to glow. "You will not beat this woman, baron, but if you do, then you go free. You are mine alone tonight. Swear it all, by Zenithar! If he haps to kill me, my ghost will hound him to his grave and beyond." She sounded rather pleased at the prospect. Edward began to shiver. "By Zenithar!" The baron laughed, "I don't believe you, but one last female for my collection then. Are you so wearied of her, elf ?" "Are you so afraid of her that you'd rather face me instead?" Somewhere deep in his mind Edward realized that the elf was right. Despite the baron's bravado, he was afraid of Aliera. Edward hadn't sworn with the others. He clutched his staff tightly but his feet seemed rooted to the floor. The baron laughed again and swung a mighty blow at Aliera in answer, but it deflected harmlessly off her shield. His eyes widened as he realized she was spell shielded. Aliera danced aside and cut his arm. She was nimble, but he managed to land many blows. If her shield went ... Edward did not finish the thought. But he was leaving himself somewhat open in the hope of wearing her shield down and she was scoring hits against his limbs. She kept her blows low, trying to cost him the use of his legs and drain him of blood. All the while she taunted him about his manhood, saying she would geld him ere he died. A great blow knocked her back; her shield flashed and was gone. ÷ The baron raised his axe high to cleave her skull with a single blow. Her arm drew back and she threw her slender short sword straight into her enemy's eye. He dropped the axe and fell screaming to his knees, hands clawing at his face. Aliera stepped forward and thrust the sword home, piercing deep within the brain. The body fell over, twitching and jerking. "Well fought, wife!" "I had a master trainer, and a better armorer!" Aliera laughed, then she threw back her head and shouted wordlessly in triumph, raising her arms, fists clenched. "That you did!" Moraelyn grabbed Silk in a rough hug and kissed her noisily. "It's a neat trick you taught her, Silk." "I'll thank you to cease flirting with my trainer, husband!" Aliera said, wiping her slender adamantium blade carefully. "Me flirt? Not while thy blood's up ... and thy shield's ÷still charged. I'm just thanking her. I'll kiss I'ric too when next I see him." "Is he truly dead?" Caron had clung to Beech throughout the fight with her eyes closed. Now she regarded Aliera with -- Awe, Edward thought was the right word. Edward felt something of the same, although it was akin to horror. "Dead enough," Aliera said, regarding the still faintly twitching form, with satisfaction. The girl drew closer, then knelt beside him. She picked up a stone and smashed it into the face again and again, sobbing. When she had done, Ssa'ass cast some healing spells on her. Mith unlocked the door. They'd come out quite near to where they had left the horses. They took the girl back to her mother's house and left her there, instructing her to tell anyone that ventured to molest her, that Zenithar's servants would return if she were harmed. The bewildered old woman clasped her granddaughter to her. As she bade them farewell, she whispered to Aliera to look after that man of hers. "Oh, I do," Aliera said. "I do." * * * * * * * * When they stopped for rest Aliera came over to Edward to talk to him, but he protested that he was very tired and just wanted to sleep. Moraelyn tugged her away, saying that if her son did not need her then she could see to her man, who did. They moved out of the circle of firelight. Edward lay wakeful, listening to their small, stifled sounds. That was not unusual. It had troubled him at first. "I can't sleep; you're too noisy," he'd protested one night. "What are you doing, anyway?" That had drawn giggles from the Companions. "Can't you at least pretend you're sleeping?" Moraelyn had asked plaintively. "Now I know why dark elves seldom have more than one child. What I do not understand is how humans manage to get so many." Moraelyn and Aliera had come back to lie by him that night, but after that he had pretended to s leep, like the others. And the noises were too familiar now to keep images of the night's adventures from flashing through his mind, as vivid as if they were happening again in truth. He could feel his daedra feeding and could not stop it. It just wasn't fair, he thought, but now he was beginning to see what Moraelyn meant by feeding his daedra and yet walking with the gods. With Zenithar. Moraelyn came back, carrying Aliera. He set her gently down, then stretched himself out between Edward and her. "It must be difficult, being a woman," he said softly. "It was hard, watching her. Just watching." Edward nodded. "I've asked it often enough, of her," Moraelyn continued. "She told me how hard it is, but I never knew until tonight. I knew she'd win. Zenithar was with her, and all the baron had was his daedra. And still it was very hard to watch. She makes that cast nine tries out of ten, and there were more uses on ÷the shield if she missed ... he'd have dropped of exhaustion before he wore it out entirely." "I keep thinking about it, too ... and the guard you ... he asked for mercy?" "I know. And yet, he listened to that ... night after night. And still he remained the baron's man." "Most men are not as strong as you are. Maybe he couldn't help himself?" Why was he pleading for a man already dead? His mind kept replaying the night's events as if they might yet come out differently, for better or for worse. "Even to witness evil such as that corrupts the soul. To watch and do nothing ... Mats would have stayed my hand had there been anything there worth keeping. And it's worse for the young; I am sorry you had to pass through this night." "Is my soul corrupted now?" "You feel the acid's bite, as do we all, but you'll heal." "Can you Heal me now?" "Aye." Moraelyn gathered the boy in his arms, then rolled over so that Edward lay between his parents. Aliera put her arms around him without really waking. Her strong woman smell mingled with Moraelyn's musky dark spice odor in Edward's nostrils. "She was so angry," Edward whispered. He'd wondered if he would ever really feel the same toward her again ... and yet her arms were still as comforting as before. Maybe Moraelyn too had needed that reassurance and had been wise enough to ask for it. "She's a woman. That sort of injury to another touches her near," he said. How near? The boy looked the question he dared not put. "Thy father's not a monster. But she was wed to a man who did not care for her, and she could not leave him. It's common ÷enough among thy race, which makes it none the easier to bear, I think." "She has a daedra, too, then?" Edward asked sadly. "You must speak with her about that." "It wasn't really a fair fight, her shielded and not him." "Fair fighting's for the arena, boy. Would you fight a wolf or hell hound without weapons, spells and armor, though they have none? I would not." "What will become of Caron and Ora? And the other folk, now that the baron's dead?" "Do I look like the prophet Marukh? How should I know? We can stop here in the spring and see what's been planted in the field we burned tonight. I've no mind to stay and plow it. I've my own fields to tend -- listen to me, I sound like a Nord farmer. Mines to dig is more like it." He yawned. "The others didn't think about afterwards. You did." "I'm a king; it's what we do." barbed_wire

King Edward, Part IX


Edward, Chapter IX King Edward, Chapter IX: Luck Edward knelt behind Moraelyn, leaning over his shoulder so that he could see the cards the elf held. He was sitting away from the fire, so it was dark for human eyes, but Moraelyn was the only one of the group who would allow Edward to see his hand. The other players, Beech, Mith and Mats said Edward brought them bad luck. Moraelyn said that it was not really a question of luck, but that their hands were reflected in Edward's face for those that had the eyes to see such images. It was too dark for Beech and Mats to see Edward now, and Moraelyn blocked him from Mith's view. And yet, the pile of coins in front of Moraelyn had grown smaller since Edward had taken a place behind him. But this time he had been dealt a good hand. Edward could see that. It was Mats' turn. He was cogitating. "You're shivering, son," Moraelyn said, "Have you no warmer clothing? We must find something for you. Here, come share my cloak, then. You can hold the cards if you like." The wind was chill; there was a bite to it now that they were farther north and the year had grown older. Edward accepted the shelter of Moraelyn's arm and warm fur cloak and sat ÷close against his side. "I think I'll just play the cards I hold," Mats said at last, and pushed a pile of coins into the pot, then with sudden resolve, added a few more. "There." "Throw the hand down, Edward, we're through." "But there aren't many better hands than what we've got!" Edward protested. "Edward!" Moraelyn growled. "Well, how'm I s'posed to learn?" Mats didn't have to show his cards unless they matched his bet. "By watching. Silently. Oh, very well. No one ever told me that fatherhood came cheaply." He shoved most of his coins into the pot to match Mats' bet and Edward laid the hand down. "Ah," Mats said, "you needn't do that, my friend. I'll show the boy my cards for free." "You filthy Nord," Moraelyn said in disgust, "put down your cards and take my gold, if you can beat my hand. Let's see if I'm the one who needs educating on how to play this game." "You don't," Mats grinned. "Except that you could have accepted my generous offer instead of throwing an insult at me." Mats laid down the perfect hand called The Ladies. "A taunt like that rates an insult. Mats, that hand is almost worth the viewing price. Five beautiful Ladies! You don't see them together every day; they're not that fond of one another's company." "How'd you know?" Edward demanded. "Ah, that'd be telling," Moraelyn grinned. "Some things you're supposed to learn for yourself. That's part of the game. But remember that a good ÷hand's worthless if someone else holds a better." "I'm sorry." Edward looked ruefully at the few remaining coins. "No matter. It's foolish to play with Mats on those nights when the God of Luck himself stands at his shoulder and all I have at mine is a runaway Breton prince who should be in his bed. He'd have had that money off me i' the end. This way we'll get a bit of sleep." "Spoilsport," Mats grumped. "It's not every night Sai visits me and I do enjoy his presence." "He can leave as quickly as he comes. Sai's not someone you want to get overfond of, Mats." "Who should know that better than I? Nay, do not apologize. I appreciate your concern for me, my friend. It's not altogether unwarranted, but I am mindful of the temptation. I know how undependable Sai's favor is, and how capricious. I play only among my friends, whom I do trust." ÷ "Goodnight, then." Moraelyn and Mith went off to join those who were already asleep, leaving Mats and Beech and Edward by the fire. The dark elves' natural sleep pattern was a period of five or six hours during the day, and a short nap of two or three hours after midnight. Now that they were travelling, they were sleeping only at night, which was a difficult adjustment for Mith and Moraelyn, who had to use spells to cope with it. Edward had slept a bit as soon as they had stopped for the night, while the others prepared supper. In consequence he was now wide awake. Beech was yawning. Mats seemed to require less sleep than the rest. "Tell me about Sai, Mats. I've never heard of him before. I didn't know there was a god of luck. I thought luck just happened." "Being as you're Breton, I can understand that. Bretons like things explained, clear and reasonable, in sequence, so one thing follows from another, and you know where you are. Most gods are like that. They lay down rules and ÷if you obey them and pay homage to the god, why then he or she grants you favor. And the better you keep the rules and the more you worship the god, the higher you rise in his favor. Those rules aren't always easy to keep, and one god's rules may require you to violate another's but you know where you are. Well, Sai's not like that. He's not a daedra, but he's got a daedric side to him, for sure. One thing, if you worship him too much, he'll abandon you altogether. They call it 'Sai's Affliction'. It's an overwhelming desire for the god's constant presence. My father suffered from it, poor man. The disease is more than just a desire for the god's presence. The sufferers require continual proof of the god's favor. So they gamble incessantly. Not to win, for all they do with winnings is keep on gambling until they lose. Then they do what they must to raise a stake so they can gamble again. "Oh, it's a terrible thing. Terrible. My father sold me as a slave because of it. Later he sold my oldest sister. Then, when he was in debt yet again, he killed himself in one of his rare lucid mome nts when he could see what was happening to him. What he was doing to his family, himself. 'Course I was just a kid when I was sold. I didn't understand. I thought it was because of some fault of mine that I'd been sent away, laziness or stupidity or disobedience, and that if I'd only been a better son it wouldn't a happened. That's Auriel's way. It's intended that children should respect their parents and learn from them, but some parents aren't deserving of respect. Well, it was a sickness in him, so my mother says. I don't know that he should be blamed for it, any more than if he had red plague or leprosy. I believe her, yet sometimes I still feel it was my fault. Well, that was bad luck you might say. But Sai sent me Moraelyn and that was a lucky day indeed. "What other god would put it into his head to stop one human from beating on another? Any other elf in Tamriel would have turned away in disgust or stopped to watch and laugh at the stupid humans. Two dark elf kids against four grown Nords, and for all they knew I deserved what I was getting. I could have been a thief or murderer. I suppose I was a thief. I'd stolen myself, so ÷to speak." "Moraelyn can't say himself why he did it. He says he was spoiling for a fight that day and seeing slavecatchers on Morrowind soil did nothing to ease his temper. That's why I say: it was Sai. But it was Moraelyn that listened to the god. "There's no doubt it's a grand thing to feel Sai's hand on your shoulder. It's like riding the finest horse, like love itself. You're one with the world, and everything goes your way, everything's on your side, instead of being the constant struggle that life really is. You don't have to be smart or handsome or kind or witty. Things just go your way. If you do something dumb it doesn't matter. It'll turn out to be the right thing to have done. Lucky. Some folks do seem to be born lucky, others unlucky. I don't know why. Most everyone feels Sai's presence sometimes, I guess. You have, haven't you?" Edward shook his head. He'd no idea what Mats was talking about. "Well, it's a kind of greed, I guess, this Sai's Affliction. You see, there's only so much luck to spread around, and if a few folks got it all, there'd be none left for the rest. Like tonight, I won that last pot, but the others had to lose it. Everyone can't win with Sai. That's not true with other gods, not necessarily. You still don't understand, do you? Would you like to hear a story about Sai?" Edward nodded. Mats was a good-natured fellow, but usually quite silent. Edward had thought him rather stupid. Mats' luck at cards seemed to have loosened his tongue, and now Edward saw that he thought a lot more than he talked. * * * Long, long ago, when people were fewer and wolves more numerous than now a young widow named Josea lived smack in the middle of what is now the province of Skyrim. She was an ordinary sort of woman, neither plain nor pretty. She had smooth brown hair, warm brown eyes, a short nose, a full round face, and body to match. She'd been born the only child of peasant farmers. Her parents had been ÷carried off by typhoid when she was seventeen. Shortly afterwards she had married Tom, a strong young woodcutter with a cheerful disposition and a roving eye. He'd gotten her pregnant quickly, then turned his attentions elsewhere. Shortly before the babe was due he'd been killed by the local goldsmith who'd come home unexpectedly, found the handsome woodcutter in bed with his wife, and stuck a knife in his back. Tom's death had occurred on Heart's Day. The babe, a boy, was born four months later during Mid Year. Two neighbor women came to help her birth him and one stayed a few days. After that she was left to cope with caring for child and smallholding as best she could. One evening in the next Morningstar, Josea went out to the small barn to do the evening chores, leaving the babe asleep in his crib. The wind was howling. She had to clutch her cloak tightly around her. She milked and fed the cow, fed the pigs and chickens. When she left the barn she walked out into a fierce blizzard. The wind had risen so that the barn door was wrenched from her hand and slammed back against the ÷side of the barn. She couldn't even see the house, which was near the road, and some little distance from the barn, but she set off toward it with confidence. She'd lived here all her life and knew every inch of ground, although she'd never seen a storm quite this fierce and sudden. Already there were two inches of snow beneath her feet. She struggled against the wind for some time, until at last she realized that she must somehow have gone past the house. She turned back and tried to follow her own footprints, reasoning that at least she'd warm herself in the barn before setting out again. But the snow was falling so thickly that her footprints vanished before her eyes, and she was quite lost, and cold. Josea struggled on, hoping to come across something recognizable, a boulder or a tree or the road if not house or barn. Her hands and feet were wet and numb. She hadn't dressed heavily and was now chilled to the bone, with ice forming on her eyebrows and lashes. "Timmy! Tiimmmeee!" She cried her child's name, hoping against hope that the babe would wake and cry and that she might follow the sound to him. She stood and listened, gasping the cold air into her lungs, but there was only the howling of the wind. The wind, or something more? A grey shape took form in front of her, staring at her with slitted yellow eyes. A great grey wolf. Her heart seemed to stop. Her eyes filled with tears as she thought of her child lying helpless in the house alone, and his mother dead outside. How unlucky, to die so close to shelter! Unlucky. But she had always been unlucky, the unluckiest woman she knew. It might be days before any thought to visit her. She sank down to her knees, exhausted. The wolf sat before her, threw back its head and voiced its dreadful howl. Her frozen hands scrabbled in the snow, looking for stone or stick, anything with which to defend herself against the pack. Another dark shadow appeared from the whirling white snow. She scrambled backwards in a panic. This one was also gray, but tall and two-legged, gray cloaked and hooded. Its gloved hand reached for the wolf's head and patted it. Her scream died in her throat. "No need to fear, lass. We'll not bring you harm, nay quite otherwise. Be you the mother of yon child?" She nodded dumbly. His voice was deep and kind, clear in the high whistling of the wind, but her eyes went to his dread companion. "No need to fear," he repeated. "My friend Grellan here will lead us back to safety. Unless you indeed do wish to spend the night here." His hands reached for hers and pulled her up, and she leaned on his arm and hobbled alongside him. When at last they reached her door, he said, "I stopped here hoping for shelter from the storm. I hope you don't mind?" How could she refuse? Men too could be wolves, but if he were it wasn't likely he'd take no for an answer anyway. "P-p-please come in. I l-left the k-kettle on the boil but I expect it's empty by now," she said inanely. "I did go in, when there was no response to my knock, and ÷found the babe asleep and alone, and the kettle boiling away. I took the kettle from the fire, but left the babe be. I knew his mother would not be far, and sent Grellan to find you. Lucky for you, but then I have always brought luck to those around me." He threw back his hood and she saw that he was tall and pale, with silver hair and eyes, but a young face. His countenance was grim, but the silver eyes were kind and his mouth gentle. "My horse too will want shelter on this night. Have you a shed to offer him?" While he stabled his horse she changed out of her wet clothing and fixed a bit of supper for them: soup and bread and cheese, and elmroot tea. As she dished it up she apologized meekly for the meager fare. "Why, 'tis a feast compared to my efforts!" He smiled, and fell to, hungrily. Grellan lay by the fire, his eyes fixed on his master, who occasionally flung him a morsel. "He ate well yesterday, luckily for your chickens, else I'd have to buy one from you." ÷ "Nay, nay," she protested. "I'm deep in your debt and glad to share anything I have with you." The babe stirred and cried then, and she picked him up, changed his wet diaper, and put him to her breast. "Where's your husband, lady?" She hesitated a moment--the thought flashed that she should not tell this stranger how alone and unprotected she was--then told him the truth. "A sad tale, truly," he said, "but he's left you a handsome child, and you seem quite comfortable here." His eyes went round the humble one room cottage, crib and feather bed at one end, covered with a quilt of her mother's making, and stone hearth at the other, table and chairs made by her father in the middle. A ladder led to the loft where she'd slept as a child. Suddenly the simple room seemed a palace to her. They were warm and dry and well fed, and indeed what could be better? "Why, you're right, stranger. I am lucky after all. Now, will you tell me something of yourself?" ÷ "I am less fortunate than you in some ways. I am a wanderer, and born to wanderers, a tinker by trade, though I can turn my hand to most things. I have never been married and have no children, nor have I ever had a home other than the wagon my horse pulls. I've never stayed long in one place. My parents named me Sai, but most folks call me Lucky." "Lucky is what I will call you then, for you have indeed been lucky for me." He stood and stretched, and began clearing the remnants of their meal from the table. He poured water from the copper kettle into the basin and washed and dried the dishes, something she had never seen a man do before. After the babe was fed they played with him on the hearthrug while he told her of some of the odd and wonderful places and peoples he had met with on his journeys, and once again her life seemed very narrow and dull. After an hour or two the babe grew tired and cranky, and she took him on her lap and sang to him until he fell asleep. She laid him in his crib and wrapped him warmly in a rabbit fur bunting. ÷ When she went back to the fire, Lucky reached for her hand and held it for a moment, without a word, then they were in one another's arms and kissing hungrily. They shed their clothing and lay together shamelessly, enjoying each others bodies in the flickering rosy firelight. He loved the roundness of her breasts and thighs, belly and buttocks, and said she was as juicy as an apple. His bleached lean muscular body and silken hair fascinated her as much. She had loved Tom and known pleasant moments with him, but nothing like she felt with this stranger. She woke in bed in the morning, to the baby's crying as usual. Lucky wasn't there and she thought he must have been a vivid dream. Then the door opened and shut, and he was striding toward her, fully dressed, and motioning her to stay where she was. He kissed her lips, then brought the babe to her and stood watching as he suckled. "What a pity that we remember not the pleasure we once knew." "Yet we have pleasures still that we will remember," she said, and felt her cheeks redden at her boldness. What a wanton he must think her! "Indeed," he said, and laid his cold hand against her hot cheek. The storm had stopped during the night, but the snow was deep on the road, and it was clear that it would be days before the horse could pull Lucky's small wagon along the road. That wagon was brightly painted with leaves and vines and flowers in red and blue and green and yellow. The wheels were red with yellow spokes. It had a canvas top, also painted, blue with white fleecy clouds. Josea loved the wagon but it sorted oddly with Lucky's quiet greyness. Lucky did small jobs for her, mending tools, hinges, and utensils. He cut more wood for her, saying that if she did not need it this year, there would be another. He stayed a week and a thaw came and then a freeze, and the road was rutted but fit for travel. They looked at one another in the morning light, and he said that it couldn't hurt to stay another day, or maybe two ... if she was not yet tired of him. She wasn't. After another week, Lucky asked her if she would come with him. Her heart leaped at the question, but she looked around the ÷little house where she'd spent all her life, thought of her land and village and her babe, and said, "I can't go. I've no desire to travel, and I don't want to bring my babe up as a homeless waif." Pain flashed across Lucky's pale face, but he only nodded, harnessed up his horse, and kissed her goodbye. Tears clouded her eyes and blurred the gay wagon colors. Sun's Dawn passed very slowly, with rain and sleet and snow, but nothing like the storm that had brought Lucky to her. Occasionally there was a knock at her door, which started her heart pounding, but always it was just a villager, come to buy the dried herbs she sold. Then, on the first night of First Seed, she heard the creak of a wagon and knew. She flew to the door, her face alight and flung herself into his arms. "I can't stay," he said. "I'm just passing through--" and that was all the talking they did for quite awhile. Spring came and crocuses poked their noses up through the snow. Lucky spaded up her garden. Curious neighbors came to call, but found out no more about him than she knew. She sold them eggs -- her chickens were laying very well -- and dried herbs and an elixir she made from her grandmother's recipe, which was sovereign for headache and rheumatism. They hired Lucky for odd jobs, despite their suspicion of him. Lucky continued to come and go, never saying where or when he'd be back, but he seldom stayed away more than a few days. He spoke no words of love, but loved her fiercely all the same. Josea's round belly grew rounder, and she weaned Timmy to cow's milk. Lucky's trips became shorter and less frequent. All around the land prospered. Even the oldest could not recall a better harvest. In Hearthfire Josea birthed a beautiful baby girl with silver hair, but eyes of cornflower blue. Lucky held his child and joy radiated from him, so that he seemed to burn with a white fire. barbed_wire

King Edward, Part X


King Edward, Chapter X Chapter X: Josea and Lucky, Part II Mats continued his story of Lucky and Josea. The years passed, twenty of them. More children came. Timmy took a bride. The land continued to prosper. Few died, so there were many people now, and much of the forest was cleared for farms. Others became soldiers or sailors. Their voyages and battles all prospered, and they returned home laden with booty. The gods were with them, people said, for they were virtuous and deserving folk. Skyrim was united now under King Vrage the Gifted, second and noblest son of the legendary Harald of Ysgramoor, thus Josea's king was high king of all Skyrim. The Nords under Vrage's leadership spread into Morrowind and High Rock, conquering some of the sly and thievish dark elves and the weak and superstitious Bretons. Josea and Lucky had opened a store and built a fine big house for their family. One night Josea awoke alone, and heard voices in the hall. She left her bed and crept to see. The voices sounded angry! Lucky was standing there in his nightshirt; the passing years ha d changed him little. He looked no older, but he had grown leaner and paler, and somehow less substantial. Standing with him were a tall matronly woman, dark haired, and clad in a fine blue robe, a knight in black armor, carrying a black sword and a handsome blond man, greenclad, with a bow. Two elves were there as well, one fair and one with golden skin; one had a harp, the other a lute. Elves had not been seen in Skyrim in years! How did quiet simple Lucky come to know such grand people? "Is this how you keep your pact with us? Did we not make the rules clear to you?" The woman was shouting at Lucky, who only muttered, "Lady Mara, I didn't realize it had been so long. It was only for a few days ... and then a few days more. And then there were the children and Josea needed me. I thought no harm. Things seemed to go well for everyone. It hasn't been so long. Tamriel did well enough without me before." Lucky spoke softly, yet his face was set and Josea knew how stubborn he could be. "Everyone! What of the Bretons? What of the dark elves? And the wood elves. Of the ice elves I say nothing. They are gone, gone altogether and forever." "Such shy folk ... I tried," Lucky faltered. "I did try. The ice elves were very hard to find, and not that friendly ÷when I did find them." "Are all the elves to follow them, and the Bretons, and then the other races?" "I'll go; I will go. But High Rock and Morrowind are so far from here. And how can I leave my children? Surely, I am entitled to children? And my woman ..." "You could have arranged matters as I did," said the green clad ranger. "Now it's too late for that. Matters have gone too far. We trusted you. It was a simple assignment. Yet we should have watched him." This last sentence was addressed to the black knight. "I did watch him," the knight snapped, waving his sword, which Josea now saw was actually a part of his arm. "Yet alone I could do nothing! I'd few devotees in either High Rock or Morrowind. Once I realized I knew I had to find the rest of you; alone I could do little. What I could, I did. They're halted for now, yet the damage must be repaired, and he who ÷caused it must do the fixing, Tinker! It won't be easy. You'll have to avoid the Skyrim folk altogether for a couple of hundred years, I think." "No! My Lord Ebonarm, no!" The cry was wrenched from Lucky's heart. "I cannot. I implore you. Do not ask it of me ... leave me something of my own! Why must I always give it all to others? I'm tired of it! You promised me a life, and what you gave me, that endless wandering, was not a life!" The black knight Ebonarm scowled back at Lucky. "We are a gentle folk," the wood elf bard said in his musical voice, "yet Zenithar can no longer be restrained. And if he wars against you, the other elven gods stand with him! If the gods war, Tamriel itself may be destroyed. You may find daedra to stand with you; they love chaos. But I think you will find that not even Springseed, Ebonarm and Mara will fight for you if you defy them further." "Jephre speaks truth, as ever. Let us not speak of war among ourselves, my friend. We wished your folk no ill. We deeply regret what has happened and will labor to repair ÷our fault. I regret our long absence, yet it was necessary. Raen and I were needed -- elsewhere." Mara said. "And not even a god, or a goddess, can be everywhere at once. "As for you, Sai," she said, turning to Lucky, "One night a year with your woman and your children I will grant you. But not in the flesh. The temptations are too strong for you, I see. It was a mistake to let you hold the flesh so long. I apologize to the rest of you. Now, go and make your farewells. You are dismissed." The knight and ranger vanished, but the elves remained. The golden skinned one spoke to Mara, "Watch these new folk of yours more carefully, Lady Mara. We are a patient people, and kindly disposed to other sentient races, yet there are limits to our patience. Take warning." Then the elves too were gone. Lucky fell to his knees, clutching at Mara's robe, his face a ÷mask of anguish, "Lady, wait! I implore you. Am I never to feel again? Never? It is more than I can bear. The rest of you can assume mortal form on occasion. Better I should have died naturally, and gone to rest," he added bitterly. Mara considered, frowning. "Others have paid dearly for the life you have stolen. Their spirits are not at rest; they too will exact payment. And yet ...very well. If you will labor to repair the damage you have done, then you may on occasion assume bodily form, but not as human. Wolf shape shall be yours, in return for the kindness you showed Grellan." And she was gone, leaving Lucky standing alone, barefoot. Josea ran to him and clasped him ... oh, how thin and cold he was! "What is it, dearest? Who were they? What does it mean? Oh, don't leave us!" "I must," he said, shivering. "I have stayed far too long. My dearest, I am Luck itself. I was born with the talent, ÷though mortal as yourself. My lord took me for a soldier. I was killed in my first battle, even as the battle was won. I e'er brought luck to others, ne'er to myself, never. Ebonarm appeared to me, said I had an interesting talent and offered me immortality if I would agree to spread my luck about. "He said the gods were overworked, seeing to events, and constantly quarreling over what should happen. He thought that I could balance things out naturally with my inborn talent. I was young. I'd barely lived. I didn't want to die, so I agreed, and Ebonarm said that I could keep my body for a time. I wouldn't age or die, but I would fade slowly, as you have seen. I am nearly eighty now. I did as he bade for many years. Then I met you, and found myself trapped by your need, I think. I was your Luck, you see, what you needed. And truth is, I needed you, too, my dear love. "Yet while I've stayed here, my luck has spread like ripples, strongest in the center, weak along the edges until ÷there's none at all in Morrowind and High Rock and the Wilderness to the south, and the folk are dead or chained in slavery. Also I've brought luck only to the Nords among whom I've lived, so that the wood elves have fled and the ice elves have died. Now I must go, and bring Luck back to them and redress the balance, as it should have been." He went to the children's rooms and kissed them as they slept, while his tears fell on them. Then he said, "I'll be with you one night each year, though you will not see me. Yet you will feel my presence, dearest. Oh, and I could never speak of love or marriage ... but know I love you, as no man or god loved woman." Then he kissed her one last time, and was gone. *ű *ű * Mats stopped talking at last. The fire had burned down to ashes. Edward drew a long breath. "That's some story," Edward said. "Is it true?" ÷ "Are you calling my grandmother a liar? I know she used to leave a bit of food and a bowl of milk out on winter nights. 'For the Wolf,' she said. And we Nords hold it very unlucky to attack a wolf unless it attacks you. It just might be Sai! "My grandmother said she got the tale from her great-grandmother, and her great was Josea herself. So she said. Or maybe it was her great-great-grandmother. I get lost there. Anyway it happened during the reign of King Vrage the Gifted, like I said, when the Nords invaded Morrowind and High Rock. It took Sai a hundred and fifty years to get things set right again, and he needed a lot of help. From Moraelyn's brothers and father, among others. The dark elves and Bretons have been lucky to get their lands back, you see, and it's been hard times for Skyrim folk, although once your luck builds up the way theirs did, it takes a long time to really run out altogether. And Sai didn't make the same mistake again. He's been spreading luck around ever since. Otherwise folk get arrogant and start thinking they're entitled to more than others. Yet he's kept his promise. You see, I'm his descendant and once a year I feel his presence. That was tonight." "I thought being a god means you can do just as you please," Edward said. "Well, they can, you see. Sai did, for awhile, but he and his fellow gods weren't pleased with the results. There's rules to being a god, it seems, just as there are rules to being a man or a boy." "Who makes the rules then?" Edward demanded. Mats laughed. "Best save that question up for the Archmagister. It's much too deep for me! Well, I don't know about you, but I'm going to have a drink -- I'm parched after so much talking -- and then rouse Mith, so I can sleep myself." "Mats, I was taught that Moraelyn's father and brothers were just raiders and that the Nords were the real owners of the lands they took. That the dark elves come up out of the ÷ground and raid for meanness and profit." "Moraelyn's father, Kronin, and his brothers, Cruethys and Ephen, took to raiding after the Nords drove them out of Ebonheart. Guerilla warfare isn't pretty, but neither is losing your homeland. Human memories of that time are faded hand-me-downs, but there's a fair number of dark elves who lived through it still around. Moraelyn's aunt Yoriss for one, she who rules in Kragenmoor. Oh, there's some dark elves still, along the borderland in Blacklight, who are just thieves and kidnappers, no question. They have holds up in the mountain caverns and raid farms and villages in east Skyrim. But Moraelyn's folk have naught to do with them, leastways not since they regained their own lands in Morrowind. Moraelyn hates the raiding. He'd stop it if he could." Mats sighed. "Why can't he?" Mats yawned widely. "That's a matter of politics and power, boy. You ask him about it, and you'll likely get more answer than you want, for once. Me, I'm off to bed. Good night." barbed_wire

King Edward, Part XI


King Edward, Part XI The Companions stayed the night at a crude but comfortable inn at a tiny village that called itself Raven Spring, located in the foothills of the Wrothgarian Mountains. The ÷next morning they resumed their journey eastward, moving through rolling hills towards the Skyrim and Hammerfell borders, and camping the next two nights under clear early summer skies. When they resumed traveling the third morning, Moraelyn told everyone to watch the slopes north of the road for a notch opening to a high meadow that faced to the southwest. Shortly afterward everyone spotted it almost simultaneously when the group completed a bend around a rocky outcrop. Silk and Beech went ahead to scout a good route, and to look for a campsite for the evening ahead. By dusk they had covered most of the distance to the meadow, but still faced some stiff climbing the next morning. They agreed that it was time to camp once again, but happily a lunchtime picnic seemed very likely the next day. By mid-day the next day, which was Loredas the 5th of Mid Year, the Companions were sprawled across a grassy slope within the Dragon Village, having been joined by Akatosh and one other dragon. This second dragon was smaller than Akatosh, and seemed to be a female, although ÷characteristically Akatosh had just introduced the dragon as Debudjen, with no further explanations being forthcoming. The two dragons politely chatted with the humanoids as they enjoyed their repast, though Debudjen flew off afterwards, to arc gracefully above, and then swoop down upon a steer in a grassy field some distance away. Akatosh had been watching Edward's reaction to this, and asked: "Why did you flinch, Edward? Debudjen had not eaten recently, and really behaved no differently than you just have." Edward replied with a small smile, "I don't think that our meal was quite that violent in nature." Akatosh returned the smile, but then responded. "A good reminder then, that we are only similar, rather than the same." Edward paused, squinting into the mid-afternoon sun, and then turned to the golden dragon: "Akatosh - why did you choose this spot for your village?" "Well, it was high enough up into the mountains to suit us, but flat enough for raising the cattle ... with trees for the deer ... and it is very defensible for all of us. There is plenty of room for the humans to build their ranches and farms, and the elves are quite comfortable in the dense trees along the cliff edges. The adits in the surrounding cliff faces provide us the access to our lairs, which we have located within the mining tunnel system. All in all, an ideal site for such an experiment involving this many races of beings. It even opens to the southwest, providing reasonable warmth for the smaller beings, with some protection from the elements during the colder months." Edward responded, "It is difficult for me to get used to the notion of a village without some central concentration of buildings - but perhaps these will be developed in the future; at least, a few buildings for meetings and socializing. And, I suppose that there are also some beautiful sunsets to be seen." The dragon smiled again, but replied "Quite so, but I am the only one of the dragonkind to show any interest, and that was ÷not a legitimate consideration when we chose this site." Then wistfully: "I wish that I could assemble the words to describe some of them. I have attempted this many, many times, but the results just are not ...very admirable." More briskly: "And by the way, we do intend to erect a meeting hall for the humanoids, and also some stores for barter and other exchanges of goods." Moraelyn had wandered over and seated himself, and he asked, with a notable absence of the usual humanoid respect for dragons, "Whatever possessed you to attempt such a crazy experiment, Akatosh?" The dragon paused thoughtfully, and then replied "As is my wont I had been analyzing, in this case one might say the history of dragon behavior. Clearly our lengthy contest of resistance to these new Aurielian gods was futile, but it took many of our generations for us to realize and accept this. Then, our next pattern was to isolate ourselves, even from each other, and to resist intrusion from any and all beings. The exception of course was to mate among ourselves and procreate our race. However, aside from that one ÷activity, we fought any and all for our precious privacy, and really for no good reason except that we can be an especially stubborn race." Edward said, "Then you maintained a pattern of behavior long after the reason for it was gone?" Akatosh looked a bit embarrassed. He said stiffly, "I believe that is what I I just said. We are not the only sentient race to fall prey to that." Edward said, "The Archmagister has told me that much behavior is inborn." Moraelyn smiled at him, "And inborn behavior patterns are a particular problem for long-lived species who change slowly as conditions change. We elves suffer from it even more than you short-lived humans, which is why we like to keep things as they are, though life is change and to resist it utterly is death. Dragons live far, far longer than even elves, and, in consequence, breed even more slowly. Still, who can say what alterations being born into a social setting may produce, for good or ill, in dragon behavior." ÷ Aliera had by this time joined the conversation, and observed: "The Daedra must have been long pleased with dragon behavior." Akatosh responded, "Perhaps so, but I approached our ... queen with this suggestion moreso because it seemed clear to me that as a race we had fallen into a stasis, and we needed to break this shell in order to invigorate ourselves. She didn't quite agree with me, but, perhaps because of my reputation, she told me to go ahead and make this attempt." By this point, all of the Companions were sitting within hearing range, and Mats asked: "Did you have to get your queen's permission? And have there been many difficulties among the various races?" "Permission is not quite accurate in this case, Mats; being the beings that we are, it was moreso that I was obliged to tell her of this so that she would have the information. For example, other dragons regularly come to me with potential military intelligence, following this same philosophy of preparedness." ÷ Mats grinned and said, "You mean 'just in case', right? But what about these elves and humans?" "Ah, our humanoid Lord and Lady do set a most remarkable example of tolerance and respect for differing shapes and customs. I owe a debt of gratitude to Moraelyn for the loan of his smiths and miners, who have been most generous in sharing their knowledge and skills with the Bretons that my young friend Edward and I have, ah, persuaded to attempt settlement here. It is my experience that Bretons, well, many Bretons, will do virtually anything so long as it is profitable and they gain skill and knowledge from it. The Nordic lust for individual honor and glory makes the mithril armor and weapons produced here extremely profitable -- t'was sheer genius that inspired Aliera to insist that we sell only to the nobility -- while the delving opens new tunnels and provides access to -- that which we dragons require." Akatosh smiled a little slyly. He was very reticent on the subject of exactly what dragons required. "Beech ÷and Willow have made it known among their people that wood elves are welcome here, so those who have long missed their ancient High Rock homes have returned to these hills." "Fortunate for me that I'm now a Duke, and thus qualified to wear and carry mithril. If only I could afford more than a piece or two! But for the cost I might retire --" Mats said. "If you retired you would not require the mithril," Moraelyn pointed out. "And what of my son and daughter? Thinkst thou I will beg from thee for them?" Mats said indignantly. "My knees and wind may not be what once they were, I grant you. I'fact I'm somewhat tempted to remain up here, now I am here, yet I can still swing my axe with any!" Mith grinned delightedly, "Nords can't count. It's why they seek honor and glory, not profit. Honor and glory are not amenable to enumeration much past what one can tally on the fingers. Mats, if thou art but thirty-nine, thou wert the largest ten year old humanoid I e ver met or hope to meet!" "But what then are these benefits to those who neither delve nor smith?" Mats persisted, ignoring his old friend. "I would think that many would be terrified to live so close to such ... formidable beings" Mats spoke the last of this with a sly grin. "Well, on the other hand, the presence of the 'formidable beings' means that they are certainly well-protected. And this area is surprisingly fertile, so the crops seem to be growing well ... and although they provide the meat for us, we allocate one fifth of each herd to them for their own consumption. We've also been finding out what I have long suspected - the three sets of races, when combined, fight much more effectively than the sum of each when considered in isolation - that is, each race covers or cancels weaknesses of the others. At least it is certainly true that the local goblin population has been drastically reduced in a very short period of time." "Aye," Edward responded, "so Moraelyn proved in Morrowind." "With a bit of help from his friends," Moraelyn acknowledged. "I reap the praise, but i'truth I'm little more than the standard they wave -- and at times I feel more like the target they set up!" A wave of laughter greeted this remark. Edward persisted, "With you and the others up here, Akatosh, I feel my borders are well guarded, should Skyrim ever feel the urge to move its borders west again." Aliera asked: "Was it easy to convince the other dragons to move to here?" "Actually, the most difficult part of that was moving our hoards to our new lairs" Akatosh responded with a lazy smile, "although once it was known that we had no use for the metals, gems and jewelry that we accumulate, everything went much more smoothly." But then more seriously: "Essentially I had to approach each dragon personally, ÷and ... convince them that this idea had merit. Again, once I had persuaded a couple of our especially independent specimens, things went much more smoothly. However, there are only nine of us living in this area ... and there is really only room for two or three more of us. We shall have to see what develops hereafter." Aliera now observed: "I think that now the gods and goddesses might look very favorably indeed on dragon behavior." "That may be so, Aliera, but again that was not really why this was done. Besides, they still may remember and resent our long opposition to them." Beech asked deferentially "But what is the name of this village?" Akatosh sighed, and then responded "I fear that we shall never reach a decision, since each race has decided opinions in that regard. Perhaps once the initial building phase is completed, we will able to be more contemplative about such matters." ÷ Beech replied "That just doesn't seem right - everywhere should have a name, shouldn't it?" Willow chuckled and then said "Perhaps to us this is so, but who knows how dragons think; and I'm sure that the humans and elves will squabble over the style of the name, besides the specifics of it." Moraelyn interrupted with great drama, "Surely you don't mean to imply that an elf can be overly stubborn!?" and the discussion dissolved into a period of laughter and teasing amongst the group. Presently, Akatosh said, "I favor the name 'Section 22.'" Beech stared at him, "Akatosh, I see what thou dost mean about thy difficulties with the poetic. If you will allow my frank opinion? That is the single worst village name I have ever heard." Akatosh sighed gustily, then pardoned himself hastily to ÷Beech -- humanoids found dragon sighs quite unpleasant and sometimes actually hazardous. "Then thou seest what I mean by differences. To me, it is very meaningful, and most appropriate. Is 'Section 16' any better as a name? Not? Then is it the word 'Section' that offends you? In what way is it inferior to 'Keep' or 'Reich' or 'Glen' or 'Hold'?" Edward said, "But Akatosh, a name should make some sense. At least humans think so. You should have 21 other sections first, if you're going to name this place '22'." "Really?" Akatosh said, "Why is that? Are not all numbers equally valid? They serve well to distinguish one place from another. There could be many 'Greenvales' for instance. I myself know of four such villages. The number 'Twenty-two' does appeal to me....aesthetically, as well as possessing some 'sense' -- at least to me," he smiled secretively. Moraelyn said, "I think Lord Akatosh is enjoying what some call an 'in-joke'. Were I so rash as to instruct a dragon in manners--" ÷ "Who," Silk said, "would e'er accuse Moraelyn of being rash?" A bit later, Edward asked Akatosh: "Do you think that we could play a game or two of Battle? I brought the board and playing pieces with me." Moraelyn interrupted "I'm afraid that Akatosh and I must discuss some matters this evening - and you'd only lose again anyway" he added with a fond smile. Edward replied "But I can beat everyone else ... Akatosh, will I ever win a game with you?" "No, Edward, you won't", and Akatosh was slightly bemused by Edward's startled expression, and then the hearty laugh that quickly followed it. "That wasn't very diplomatic of you, Akatosh. But why won't I ever win?" "Because I have been playing for much longer than you have Edward, and so long as I continue to play, you will not ÷be able to catch up to me. Besides, this game is what I am starting to think of as a 'bounded problem', and that sort is most easily dealt with." "What do you mean by 'a bounded problem', Akatosh?" asked Mats. "That is a problem that has a countable number of possible actions and results, Mats. There are only 81 squares on the board, and each side has exactly 27 playing pieces, each piece moves in a specific way, and so on." "But the game is like a real battle, isn't it?" asked Ssa'ass. "No, it is very good practice for learning, and for thinking about how to execute a battle - but my Elven Archers never become tired or demoralized, and my Master Mage always does what I want. Such things seldom happen in a real battle." Moraelyn nodded in agreement, and asked with mock slyness "Then what is an example of an unbounded problem?" "Certainly a real battle ... but also, to me a poem is an unbounded problem" "But any poem can be analyzed, Akatosh" Aliera said chidingly. "Of course - but only after it is written. I am unable to define, or bound, the act of writing it, though ... that is, the act of creating it. If I start to write a poem ... there are so many possibilities" and then wryly "I never get beyond the first line, because I start imagining all the things that I could put into the beginning and...." barbed_wire

King Edward, Part XII


King Edward, Part XII The dragon had paused, so Edward interjected, "Mother and I have been discussing the nature of the gods recently, Akatosh, and she thinks that poetry would be a godly activity. What do you think about that notion?" "I am not so certain that one can attribute anything to the gods, Edward. They are another example of an unbounded problem, of course, but also, their characteristics are just not very well known to us." "But surely one can determine things about any being that is a god?" Akatosh replied, "I do not think that we can, at present; they are not like the Daedra, who have a nature that is with them at their birth. That is, the Daedra capabilities are inherent in them, and not are the result of any changes that have occurred to them." Willow interrupted: "Akatosh, we can determine that the gods have a few basic characteristics, can't we?" Edward added "Of course, Akatosh - they are powerful beings who can perform acts that are incomprehensible to us. That in itself must signify their difference." Akatosh nodded and replied "I understand your point of view, but to a farming community on Tamriel in our southern lands, that could also describe how they would perceive me. Perhaps this is attributable to the fact that they seldom see a dragon nowadays, but it also does not mean that I am a god ... neither does it mean that I am not a god." Willow giggled, and said "Of course you're not a god, Akatosh" and Edward, smiling, nodded agreement. Akatosh replied "How do you know, Willow? I can understand that you would guess that I am not a god, particularly since I am a dragon." He grinned, and then continued "But how can you know that I am not a god?" Edward scoffingly replied "Well, I know that I'm not a god anyway. And I've certainly never seen you perform any godly acts, Akatosh - you also don't seem to have any worshippers about either." The Companions were smiling and generally agreeing with this, but Akatosh responded "But that does not mean that I have no worshippers, nor does it mean that I cannot perform ÷any godly acts - it just means that you have not seen either of these. I am not yet certain that gods and goddesses require worshippers to maintain their existence. And as I said, I can perform magic that would look like 'godly acts' to many Tamrielians." "But the gods must have worshippers, Akatosh" said Aliera, "That's how they get their ... sustenance, or whatever it is that allows them to continue ... to be godly. Husband, you must know more about this subject. After all, you made a god of your brother S'ephen." "I did no such thing!" Moraelyn responded, with a touch of indignation. "His godhood is between him and his worshippers, among whom I am numbered. I did establish a temple cult in his memory. Anyone with the worldly means could do as much for anyone, living or dead. That alone is not enough. Maybe it helps -- facilitate matters, but I think it's not really necessary. I know no more of it, but if you want my opinion--" he paused politely for confirmation that it was indeed still solicited, as ÷elven etiquette demanded if one were giving opinion at length. He continued. "There must be something, well, godly, in the person's soul or essence or whatever part it is that does not die with the body. I know not whether that capacity is innate in the person, from birth or conception, or quickening ... whene'er it is that soul and body are wedded for a life span, or whether great deeds and great generosity might breed it, enlarging the soul and transmuting it, so to speak. We all change and grow with each passing day, with every breath, some more than others. What else is life about?" He went on without pausing for an answer to his rhetorical question, probably for fear that he might get one. "In other cases, gods seem to arise from a locality, a mountain, or a spring, or wood, or a collection of localities, such as Tamriel itself. Places, like persons have souls, some greater than others. This place might produce a god or a daedra -- or maybe it already has one or more. As it changes, so do its gods and daedra, I think. Maybe they can choose to resist the change or aid it, if propitiated." ÷ He looked at Akatosh inquiringly. The dragon had stopped fighting the new gods, he said, but would he go so far as to worship them? "That speaks to the question of whence gods arise, but source is not nature: of that I know as little as the rest of you, maybe less, since the question does not truly interest me. The gods are; my worship of them benefits me and mine. It is sufficient." Akatosh did not respond immediately and Aliera refused to be distracted, "But suppose such a cult were established and worshippers provided for one of small and mean spirit. Would that spirit not become a god?" "I suppose it might be done, if one were determined enough and had a sufficiency of means to pay worshippers to perform rituals without -- spirit -- behind them. Maybe that's where small, mean gods come from, wife. Or maybe daedra? Maybe I'll raise a cult to thee and see what happens." "Are you calling my spirit small and mean?" Ali glared at him. "Only by comparison -- you don't fancy yourself a goddess, do you? You might make a daedra, though. The experiment might be a bit too chancy. Could I just mourn you for a century or two instead?" "Mm. I'll think on it. What about you? You've deeds enough already to qualify for godhood, surely ... although if you plan on many more such you may not outlive me." "I'm doomed to be R'Aathim, living and dead. It's godhood of a sort, but what a sort! Don't begrudge me my long life span. Think of me doomed to eternity in the gloomy Ebonheart council chamber listening to the eternal wrangles ... small wonder the dead R'Aathim pulled the place down on the live ones twenty years ago, thus causing my brother and my mother to join their number. The dead R'Aathim must have welcomed the century and a half of respite while the Nords held Ebonheart." "But your brother S'ephen was killed too, as well as your brother King Cruethys, and S'ephen wasn't R'Aathim, being ÷your mother's son and not your father's, if I have the story straight -- that's why he got his own temple," Edward said. "So why did they kill him, too? The story sounds very daedric to me." "You'd have me justify the ways of the gods to you, would you? I think they act for ends we cannot see, and slay the just and the unjust together -- not that I'd label any of my Kin as either -- not altogether. We see only the means -- how can we judge? Gods too face choices; I do not think their power supreme. They can overrule nature on occasion, as can any Mage, yet they, like Mages, are in the end bound by it -- and their overrule must answer other rules still -- and in those rules, whate'er they be, I think lies the answer to your questions. I think it's not something men and women may know while living." Akatosh smiled and replied "It is not so easy to describe the gods, is it? This is true even though, myself included, each of us thinks that we have a mental picture of what godliness means. On the other hand, the gods and goddesses certainly do exist - and I also believe that there is a connection of some sort between them and the Daedra, and ÷another connection between these entities and the power associated with performing magic." "The priests of Julianos have been calling this power 'Magicka'" said a stranger who had joined the group. Akatosh replied "Greetings bard. Please allow me to introduce ... Geoffrey, a ... wandering poet who has been visiting our village for these last few days." The Companions greeted the wood elf newcomer, some rising to their feet to do so according to their individual customs, and then all resumed sitting (actually sprawling about) and conversing. "A number of priests are theorizing that the gods and goddesses live on another plane, as do the Daedra - there is some debate amongst these priests as to whether they share the same plane of existence, or whether each has their own. And some of the Alessian priests are claiming that we can visit these alternate planes in our nightly dreams" added Beech. Edward asked "Why doesn't someone just ask a goddess or a Daedra about this?" Geoffrey chuckled and replied "Most of us are not able to be so thoughtful when confronted by one of these beings, Edward. Also, there is a common belief that the gods and Daedra are as reluctant to discuss their own natures as dragons are to reveal anyone's True Name." Edward looked quizzically at Akatosh, but Beech stated to Geoffrey "Well said, Bard" ... and that pair shared the slightest of smiles. Beech then said, "Do you know what the Resolutions of Zenithar has been saying about the gods and magic? This magic power, or Magicka, is just the power generated by the existence of, well, existance itself. When it becomes focused by living beings through natural processes, then it becomes accessible to the gods and goddesses as worship power, which is the next level of Magicka. After receiving some from their worshippers, the gods can then concentrate it up to god-level power - the ÷true Magicka. The gods themselves can't generate the mid-level Magicka, since they are dependent on it for their own existence, but they can 'convert it' to Magicka, which can then be used by mortals to cast spells. This Magicka is usually dispersed widely across the planes but there are areas of greater and lesser concentration due to interferences with the dispersion process." "When a goddess loses worshippers, her inflow of mid-level Magicka is decreased, so she in turn produces less god-level Magicka. With less Magicka under her control (for providing to worshippers, or dispersion), her influence is decreased in the mortal planes - of course the converse is also true. In the extreme, she receives nothing, and is relegated to a state of Stasis, barely existing from the ordinary Magicka generated by her few remaining Consecrated lands, zones of influence, and so on." Beech continued, "On the other hand, Daedra receive very specific, or 'modified' mid-level Magicka from a few mortals with specific areas of interest, and these Daedra are normally tied to very specific circumstances. Because of the ir nature, they gain much more power from their small worship base, but the gods, with their much broader base, generally have greater overall power, even though the amount of concentrated worship that they receive from any one source is much less than a Daedra's. Most of the Magicka that the gods 'process' is dispersed into and throughout the universe, no longer under their control, thereby making it available for everyone. It's not really something they do consciously, but as a natural process that happens automatically - in other words ... just because they are divine." Aliera said, "I would think that Magicka is simply available to sentient beings, although the gods and Daedra could facilitate its usage. I would think that the gods and Daedra have other influences on us as well, because not everyone has spellcasting ability! Maybe in those 'alternate planes' it's actually existance, and not sentient entities, that radiates Magicka, just as the stars give off light in our dimension. I just assume that Magicka is 'out there' in the ether, or maybe sentient consciousnesses automatically tap into an alternate plane as they sleep. I think that everyone has some supply of Magicka, but most ÷don't know how to use it very well, or else they adopt a way of life that inhibits or forbids its use. Maybe certain gods and Daedra serve as facilitators for the entire process; that is, both obtaining and using Magicka? But how do priests heal and cure and bless? Is Magicka involved at all or do they invoke their goddesses directly?" Ssa'ass said, "I am not ssssure that Magicka isss usssed; perhapss there isss yet another capability involved here. Thisss capability would be unknown at thisss time, and maybe even unsssenssssed... but I feel fairly certain that sssomehow it is a godly 'force' that they are employing." Then Geoffrey responded: "Ssa'ass, I believe that Magicka fills the universe of planes. All things are infused with Magicka to one extent or another. In this regard Magicka is attracted to some people and things over others, and some people with talent or training can control and even release Magicka in new forms. There may be other sources of Magicka available by tapping into alternate and otherworldly planes. There is also the possibility of alternate planes that are entirely void of Magicka. ÷Regardless, certain beings of great power, such as the gods and Daedra, can not only control Magicka, but can see, absorb, and transfuse Magicka to and from objects and people. By employing this ability, worshippers of these beings are sometimes capable of greater acts of Magic than they could accomplish otherwise. Also in this way, some items sacred to powerful beings can be said to be holy, with additional amounts of directed Magicka provided by gods or goddesses." "Magic items fall into two main categories by definition. Items that draw on the surrounding Magicka to create spell-like effects, and items that hold Magicka in reserve for their own internal effects. Normally magic items which absorb Magicka, giving increased abilities to their wielders, only affect themselves and are considered to use internal Magicka. In some areas where great amounts of Magicka have been used, the surroundings may be completely devoid of it. This of course negates the ability of beings to produce magic effects in these areas, although gods and Daedra carry their own supplies of Magicka, as do magic items that do not depend on the use of surrounding Magicka." ÷ Aliera said, "We've been investigating some rumors and stories concerning something that might be called anti-Magicka. I think the presence of a powerful Daedra with whom you weren't in 'tune' could cause interference with spellcasting - maybe even cancel out existing spells. Perhaps particular Daedra simply favor thief or warrior types. Or some goddesses, and their priests, might frown on 'competing' magic in certain areas, for example in locations dedicated to them. So then unauthorized spells could interfere with their rituals." Willow asked, "Can Daedra supply Magicka? And how about both a god and a Daedra being nearby? - wouldn't they sort of nullify each other's powers? This might be the cause of the anti-Magicka effect." "I've experienced an anti-Magicka zone myself" inserted Mith. "It felt a lot like the effect of casting a spell like Dispel Magicka. At the time, I thought that a truly powerful spellcaster could still effectively cast spells, but their resulting power would have been much reduced. I didn't get a chance to test this out though" added Mith with a smile. ÷ "We can also assume that certain powerful spells, creatures and even magic items might actually drain the surrounding area of Magicka," replied Geoffrey. "This could be extended to places where great amounts of magic energy were once gathered and expended, for example in ancient temples where great spells were cast, or battlefields where powerful mages contested. Perhaps certain metals or stones could act as absorbers of Magicka, allowing for whole structures of anti-Magicka zones. If so, you might be able to wear a amulet made out of anti-Magicka material and gain a good advantage against spellcasters. Perhaps the purity of the material used would allow for better and better magic resistance". Akatosh spoke: "Dragons have long been interested in the anti-Magicka effect, naturally enough. We have found some amulets that appear to act as Magicka absorbers. They might contain something like Negative Magicka, in which case they would attract any 'stray' Magicka floating free in the local area. They are made of a stone, or mineral, resembling marble - it is very rare, but could be extracted, and shaped by skilled craftsmen. For example, I'm sure that the dwarves could have worked with this material. They might have m ade these amulets - or even that statue that I once saw ... it was taller than any of you humanoids. Regardless, in these mountains we have found deposits scattered throughout the halls and tunnels at random, sometimes deep within the walls. Consequently, one appears to go in and out of these anti-Magicka zones of varying intensities, with little or no warning. I have been imagining that this material works almost automatically; it seems to 'reflexively' absorb Magicka if given a chance to. However, we cannot rule out the possibility that they have been magically charged somehow - perhaps this happened long ago, but the charge has somehow remained." Moraelyn asked, "Would the amulet affect its wearer, or would he be immune?" "Maybe a blocking spell could be developed, and then cast, to shield the wearer from the effects of the substance." Moraelyn then asked, "But Akatosh, getting back to our earlier discussions - what do you think of the speculations ÷concerning the connections between the gods and goddesses, Daedra and Magicka?" Akatosh replied, "I think that there are many truths that we do not know, and perhaps there are some truths that we are not meant to know." Moraelyn asked with a smile, "All right then, I've always wanted to know this - considering the shape of your mouth and teeth, how do dragons manage to speak the humanoid languages so clearly?" Akatosh paused, and then carefully responded, "Why, in much the same way that we can fly, even though our wings are not naturally strong enough to support such heavy torsos." "Speaking of dragon flight and sunsets..." Mith said, rising to his feet and squinting into the red-gold eastern sky, "We have a vistor, Dragon Lord. That's not a bird." Akatosh's head came up and he too scanned the sky. Tension grew in him, and one by one the Companions rose, watching as ÷the distant dot grew nearer and resolved itself into the largest dragon they'd seen yet. "Ma-Tylda!" Akatosh exclaimed, "She deigns to bestow her presence on us!" His wings lifted and unfurled, and the Companions broke and ran for cover as he took flight. The two dragons wheeled through the sky, spouting great gouts of flame against the purpling sky. "They're fighting," Edward cried, "what does it mean. Who is Ma-Tylda?" "I don't know who she is, son," Moraelyn replied, "but they do not fight. You behold a dragon greeting ceremony." The pair alit beyond a rock outcropping out of sight. "Should we go greet the stranger, too?" Edward asked. "Nay," Mith said. "They'll let us know if our presence is wanted -- look, even the other dragons stay away." It was true. Dragon heads had poked from the caverns to witness the event, but none of them had taken wing, and now they were retreating to their hoards within. The Companions ambled back into the meadow together and built a fire as a chill wind had sprung up. The elves sang an evening hymn to the stars, deftly weaving the dark elf version with the wood elf form. Aliera added her voice to theirs, but Mats and Edward and Silk and Ssa'ass sat listening silently. They couldn't manage elven music of this kind. Geoffrey had a particularly clear sweet voice, Edward thought. Akatosh returned presently, smiling in satisfaction. "Ma-Tylda's going to join us here, at least for awhile," he said. He was actually glowing in the dusk, each scale giving off a golden radiance. "Is she your queen?" Edward asked, feeling very small and human. "She -- just is. Maybe she'll want to meet you all some day. I hope so. Until then, well, I don't talk about other dragons, you know." To which Edward blinked in surprise and then surmise, and the discussion dissolved into jokes and songs for the remainder ÷of that clear and beautiful evening. barbed_wire

Ark`ay The God

Mymophonus the Scribe

Arkay Mara der Gott So lasset es verkondet sein, daß die Götter einst waren wie wir. Ark`ay, der Gott des Todes und der Geburt, war einstmals ein gewöhnlicher Kaufmann, und das einzig Ungewöhnliche an ihm war sein leidenschaftlicher Wissensdurst. Um diesen Wissensdurst zu stillen, wurde er zu einem eifrigen Sammler gelehrter Bocher zu fast jedem Thema, das es oberhaupt wert war, darober zu schreiben. Eines Tages nun stolperte er ober einen Band, der die Geheimnisse des Lebens, des Sterbens und Sinn der Existenz zu offenbaren versprach. Nach Monaten intensiven Studiums der verzwickten Logik und der verquasten Sprache sah er endlich einen Hoffnungsschimmer, ÷den Gedankengängen des Autors folgen zu können. Zu dieser Zeit wurde seine Besessenheit mit dem Buch so groß, daß er begann, alles andere zu vernachlässigen. Sein Geschäft rutschte langsam in den Bankrott, seine wenigen Freunde besuchten ihn schon längst nicht mehr, er bekam nicht einmal etwas von der Pest mit, die zu dieser Zeit in der Stadt wotete, und sogar seine Familie war kurz davor, ihn zu verlassen. Doch gerade, als er kurz davor stand, aus dem Buch Visionen neuer Welten zu schöpfen, schlug ihn die Pest auf sein Lager nieder. Seine Familie pflegte ihn, mehr aus einem Pflichtgefühl denn aus Zuneigung, doch langsam ging es mit ihm zu Ende. Als letzten Ausweg sandte er ein flammendes Bittgebet an Mara, die Göttermutter, sie möge ihm noch die Zeit schenken, sein Studium des Buches zu vollenden. "Warum sollte ich gerade fo Dich eine Ausnahme machen, Ark`ay?", fragte Mara. "Mutter Mara, endlich beginne ich, dieses Buch zu verstehen, den Sinn von Leben und Tod zu begreifen", antwortete er, "und mit ein wenig mehr Zeit zum Lernen und Nachdenken wäre ich in der Lage, andere dies Wissen zu lehren." "Hmm, das mit dem Lehren klingt mir aber sehr danach, als hättest Du es nur formich schnell ÷hinten angefogt.", entgegnete sie. "Was ist denn der Sinn von Geburt und Tod?" "Es gibt weit mehr Seelen im Universum, als in der physischen Welt Platz haben. Aber nur in dieser physischen Welt hat eine Seele die Möglichkeit, zu lernen und sich weiterzuentwickeln. Ohne Geburt hätten die Seelen keine Gelegenheit, diese Erfahrungen zu machen, und ohne Tod gäbe es keinen Platz for neue Geburten." "Nun, keine sehr gute Erklärung, aber es steckt ein Körnchen Wahrheit darin. Vielleicht könntest Du sie mit weiteren Studien wirklich verbessern." oberlegte Mara. "Doch ich kann Dir nicht 'ein wenig mehr Zeit' gewähren. Ich kann Dich höchstens zu ewiger Knechtschaft auf dem Feld des Wissens verdammen, das Du gewählt hast. Was sagst Du dazu?" "Ich verstehe nicht, Mutter", erwiderte Ark`ay. "Du hast die Wahl, entweder den Tod zu akzeptieren, der Dir so nahe ist, oder einer von uns zu werden, ein Gott. Doch das Dasein als Gott ist weder amüsant noch leicht. Als Gott des Todes und der Geburt wirst Du die Ewigkeit damit zubringen, dafor zu sorgen, daß Geburten und Todesfälle in der ÷physischen Welt im Gleichgewicht bleiben. Und trotz allem, was Du zu verstehen glaubst, wirst Du Dich for alle Zeiten mit der Frage martern, ob Deine Handlungen auch richtig sind. Nun, wie entscheidest Du Dich?" Es erschien Ark`ay wie eine Ewigkeit, so lange berlegte er, bevor er antwortete: "Mutter, wenn nicht all meine Forschungen gänzlich falsch waren, dann habe ich nur die eine Wahl, nämlich die Aufgabe anzunehmen und zu versuchen, der Menschheit den Sinn von Geburt und Tod zu vermitteln." "So sei es, Ark'ay, Gott des Todes und der Geburt." barbed_wire