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Meetings

I stopped at The Glass Dove Inn, located in the Wastelander village of Cedar

Knoll, about three days on foot across the grasslands from the eastern edge of The

Great Forest. I had met the current owner, a Wastelander male by the name of

Alnakh, twenty turns of the seasons ago. Alnakh is a bit different from most of the

Wastelanders who settled in this area over the past eight hundred turns of the

seasons—he’s friendly, generous, and not prone to the superstitious fear of those

who are different. While making my annual trades, I usually stop at his inn for at

least a meal and to exchange news with Alnakh, and sometimes I will make use of

the bathing facilities.

The evening started out much the same as always, with several regular

customers in the common room enjoying a meal or a drink. Nezcha, the servant girl,

was cleaning tables and attending to the customers, one of which was an older

male—a high-level cleric of the Dahl-Mahb sect by his clothing—sitting off to one

side. A party of five rough looking males came in, dressed in the style of the Dahl-

Shan sect of the Wastelanders. This group of males seemed to be in their twenties

to thirties, and was loud, obnoxious, and rude—especially to Nezcha. Alnakh, who,

like the cleric, is of the Dahl-Mahb sect, was clearly nervous at their arrival, so I

quickly sized them up, and, while disguising my interest, kept a close eye on them.

The longer the Dahl-Shans were there, the more their arrogance became tinged

with hostility. While everyone else seemed nervous, I was becoming rather annoyed

with the group. Suddenly the leader got up and grabbed Nezcha. He roughly tossed

her down onto their table, causing her to scream, and his companions cheered him

on. At that point, I had had quite enough and was not going to allow Nezcha to come

to harm. With a loud snarl, I leapt to my feet and ran to their table. I grabbed the

leader and threw him forcefully across the room. I howled in rage and told them in

no uncertain terms that I would rip the throats out of anyone who would lay a hand

on the girl.

After their initial shock, one of the other males in the group nervously said, “It is

death for any se’fris-qat

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who would strike one of our people.”

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se’fris-qat – “unbeliever”

I saw his hand reach for his dagger, so I snatched up Nezcha from the table and I

quickly unsheathed my sword, Battle Fang. Sensing the shift in my thoughts, the

magic in my sword became active, and the blade began to glow with a swirling,

reddish light. Little tendrils of the light seemed to reach out hungrily towards the

male while the weapon made an unnerving, quiet howling sound that one couldn’t

be sure if they heard with their ears, in their mind, or both.

Curling my lip in a low snarl I said quietly, “Oh, really. There is one of me and

only five of you...hmm, better make that four,” giving a little nod towards their

unconscious leader still sprawled out on the floor. “Since I’m immortal and you’re

not, the odds are definitely not in your favor. Perhaps you wish to reconsider.”

The male spread his fingers and slowly drew back his hand, holding both up in a

gesture of submission.

I lowered the tip of my sword slightly and said, “A wise choice. I think you should

call it an evening and return to your homes. Be sure to pay for your meal before you

leave.”

They quickly gathered up their leader and tossed some coin on the table and left.

When the last one went out the door, I forced myself to calm down, causing the

sword’s magic to go back to sleep, and then I returned it to its scabbard. Poor

Nezcha was shaken up, but otherwise unharmed. I gave her a hug and quietly told

her that she was safe, and suggested that she should go back to the kitchen to rest

for a while.

“Thank you, Mist Runner...I’m glad you were here this evening,” she said softly

with a little sigh of relief.

“Think nothing of it, my dear. I hate to scare away Alnakh’s customers, but I

hope those fools don’t come back.”

When Nezcha left for the kitchen, I straightened up the place, telling Alnakh that

I would pay for any damages.

“I’m glad they are gone, my friend. They have caused trouble here before. It’s

fortunate you were here this evening, otherwise I fear Nezcha may have come to

harm,” Alnakh said gratefully.

He collected their money and went about his business. The older cleric who was

sitting off to the side had finished his meal and pushed his plate away. He seemed

as if he was deciding what to do next. Eventually he got up from his seat and

nervously made his way over to my table near the fireplace. I looked up as he

approached—he was startled when he saw the firelight reflected in my eyes. I could

readily tell that he was quite nervous, though I wasn’t sure if it was from being so

near to one of my kind, or that someone might see him in my company. He

reminded me a small animal that had found itself nearly surrounded by predators.

Using the Common Tongue, I asked, “Do you understand my words?”

The older cleric nodded his head and said, “I am Khe’strah Kh’rol-Mahb, the High

Cleric of both the Dahl-Mahb and Dahl-Shan sects of our people.”

Out of courtesy, I stood and greeted him in the traditional manner of the

Wastelanders, “Ahnsa T’siru Kh’rol-Mahb

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. I am Sire Mist Runner, of the Ayoona-

Lu-Nehm’a.”

The High Cleric drew in a sharp breath as he looked up at me for I stood head

and shoulders above him.

Ahnsa T’siru K’tek

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,” he said, giving the traditional reply.

I gestured to the seat across from mine and said, “Please, sit and have some tea

with me.”

As we both took our seats, I saw Nezcha coming out of the kitchen so I waved to

get her attention. When she saw me, I held up my mug and nodded towards the

High Cleric. Nezcha nodded her head and went back to get some more tea and

another cup.

“That was quite a thing you did earlier, coming to the aid of a mere slave girl,”

the High Cleric said.

I quietly snorted and said, “I’ve known Nezcha ever since Alnakh first brought

her home. She is a nice young person who doesn’t deserve to wear that thing around

her neck. I understand why Alnakh ended up with her, but still...it pains me to see

that slave collar on her. At least he treats her as if she was one of his own, and is

allowing her to work towards earning her freedom.”

“I take it that you don’t approve of her status in our society,” the High Cleric

said.

I held off replying right away as Nezcha brought some more tea and the second

cup to the table.

“Is there anything else that I can get for you sirs?” Nezcha asked politely.

The High Cleric gave a casual dismissive wave to indicate that he required

nothing else.

“I’m fine for now, dear,” I replied with a grin.

Nezcha smiled briefly and headed off to continue her work.

I turned my attention back to the High Cleric and looking him straight in the eye

I said, “No, I do not.” I took a slow drink of my tea and asked politely, “So, what is it

that you require of one of my people?”

The High Cleric fidgeted a bit and replied in the thick, guttural accent of his

kind, “The nature of what I must do is a very sensitive matter and I cannot afford to

take chances. I need someone who can be trusted, someone who cannot be swayed or

influenced by bribes or threats. Your people are well known for being honorable,

though I must admit that mine look upon yours with fear and superstition. I wish to

employ a protector for someone, a young girl. Soon there will be a Grand Council of

Elders, where all the religious leaders of our people will gather, and the main thing

to be dealt with will be the issue concerning this girl.”

“What’s so special about her that she needs a neutral protector?” I asked.

“She is a particular descendent of our greatest holy man, and now that she will

soon be coming of age, various factions have formed and each side is willing to fight

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Ahnsa T’siru Kh’rol-Mahb – Ahnsa (peace) T’siru (upon you) Kh’rol (High Cleric of the) Mahb (sect)

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Ahnsa T’siru K’tek – Ahnsa (peace) T’siru (upon you) K’tek (also)

and kill for possession of her—or to do away with her in order to prevent someone

else from obtaining her. Even now, forces are gathering and there may well be a

terrible war,” he replied.

“Forgive me for asking this next question, but what does this have to do with us?”

I asked.

“You do not understand the depths of treachery some will go to in order to bring

woe and chaos to others over this girl. My office has already uncovered several plots,

some of which could very well end up pitting the various peoples of this land against

each other,” he replied.

The High Cleric spoke with fervent passion that the girl must be protected at all

costs, indicating that his own people could not be trusted with her protection.

I thought very carefully for a bit and, not sensing any attempt at deception, I

said, “Very well, I will meet this girl of yours if she is so important. Where is she?”

“There is a religious enclave where she has been sequestered at some distance

north of here, near the village of Zahr-Rey. Do you know of it?” the High Cleric

asked.

“I’ve heard of it, though my travels usually don’t take me near there.”

He reached into his robes, pulled out a small bag, and set it down on the table in

front of me.

“I hope this will suffice as a down payment for your services,” he said, casting a

quick glance about the room.

I picked it up, noting its weight, and looked inside. It was all silver coin bearing

the markings of the Eastlanders. I accepted it.

“It would be best if we travel at night then, and off the road...there will be less

chance to be noticed,” I suggested. The High Cleric began to fidget at that idea, so I

asked, “What’s wrong, can’t see well at night, or are you not accustomed to

walking?”

“No!” he said quickly. “Y-Yes,” he stammered after a moment. “I am the High

Cleric, I travel with my retinue, I ride...”

I cut him off with a sharp look, “Your ‘retinue’ is just going to have to stay home

this trip—they would draw too much attention. The less people, the faster we can

move and the fewer wagging tongues to deal with. Besides, I think the walk might

do you some good.”

I grinned at the thought of him trying to keep up with my loping strides. His skin

paled slightly at the sight of my grin, which only served to make it broader.

I convinced my new companion into changing his clothing for something more

suitable for traveling on foot. After arranging with Alnakh for keeping my trade

items in a safe place until I could return for them, I obtained a few extra supplies

for the trip. We left the village before the gates closed for the night. As soon as we

were out of sight of the village, we quickly left the road. I made sure to conceal our

tracks where we entered the brush so that anyone who tried to follow us would

think we accepted a ride from a local farmer.

As I thought it would be, our journey was slow going for the first few days. This

member of the priestly class was indeed unaccustomed to walking any distance, and

his complaining was becoming annoying. I gave him some herbs to ease his soreness

(and also to numb his tongue). In a quarter moon’s time, we reached the small

enclave, populated mostly by women of varying levels of status. A handful of males

who were makers, scribes, clergy, were there, as well as a small contingent of

guards. With the exception of the High Cleric and his small staff, the other males

had to stay outside of the walled women’s portion of the compound and were

forbidden on pain of death to be in the company of the womenfolk inside. I always

thought it strange and unnatural that they should divide themselves so.

Before arriving at the enclave, my companion changed back into his usual garb so

that the guards would recognize him and allow us in. As we approached the gate,

the guards looked upon us—and upon me in particular—in a strange mixture of

astonishment and fear. One guard at the gate, apparently the ranking member of

the watch, greeted the High Cleric by bowing low before him. My companion

intoned some sort of blessing and the guard straightened himself. The High Cleric

stated that he was making an unannounced visit and needed to speak to those in

charge immediately. The guard issued a command to someone inside the compound

who opened the smaller gate for people.

The High Cleric went through the gate ahead of me, though when I started to

enter the guard stepped quickly in front of me and uttered, “Dogs are not allowed!”

I grabbed the offensive youth by the front of his tunic and lifted him with one

hand to my eye level. I gave a low, throaty snarl close to his ear, and then caught a

whiff of a particular scent.

In very serious tones I said, “Strange, I thought only dogs messed themselves

when frightened.”

Indeed, the guard had done just that. I held him out to the other guards and

released him; the poor chap fell to the ground in a heap.

“Take this pup of yours back to his mother, he is need of a bath.”

At that, I strode into the compound. The High Cleric had heard the commotion,

but he was unable to see what had happened because the other guard was in the

way. When I joined him, I mentioned what had happened, which caused him to

frown. The High Cleric said something sharply to the guard on the inside of the

gate; the guard quickly bobbed and went to speak to the other guards outside.

I always found the buildings made by the People of the Wastelands to

be...unsettling, I suppose would be the word. There was just something not quite

right to my forest-born sensibilities. Perhaps it was due to the straight walls, the

rigid unnatural patterns, and the lack of anything resembling natural grace or

beauty. Theirs was a harsh world, ruled by blood feuds between their clans that

went on for generations, as well as strict obedience and cruel punishments for any

who broke even the most minor infractions. It seemed that some trivial observance

or another dictated every aspect of their miserable lives. I say that their lives were

miserable because they showed little to no joy at simply being alive. Indeed, it

seemed that some at least couldn’t wait for Death to come to them, finding new and

creative ways to seek their own destruction (while taking others with them

whenever possible). The rest seemed resigned to wait with a fatalistic apathy for the

end of the world. They were full of contradictions, though—their clerics preached

doom and gloom, yet seemed to live a life of comparative luxury. Their singing (if

you could call it such) was—depending on which of the two groups was making the

noise—either a monotonous drone or a painful wailing. Both groups forced others

into servitude. One thing that was common to both groups was a fear of anything

different. The origins of both groups lay in a common past, though they both were

loath to admit it. They didn’t like anything or anyone who didn’t conform to their

ways. I could only imagine just how much my own people upset their cart, as it

were. We are totally different from the Wastelanders in many ways: our shape, size,

physical and magical abilities, as well as how we live. The People of the Wastelands

held our kind in superstitious awe, often with a good deal of fear and loathing. Some

went so far as to think we are some sort of “evil spirits” or some such nonsense. It

was strange how they believed unnatural is “good” and natural is “evil”.

The High Cleric and I walked through the compound until we finally came to the

building where the young girl was secluded. We went inside and the first thing that

came to my attention was, as usual, the smell. The High Cleric didn’t seem to

notice, but I nearly sneezed from the strong scent of incense, perfume, and a

concentration of their body odor. To our sensitive noses, these people have an

unusually strong smell about them, no doubt the result of the heat they keep in

their buildings and from their diet. Upon seeing me, the womenfolk fled like a flock

of birds that had been startled. Although they were hiding, I could hear their

breathing. Their whispered words tinged with fear and with a strange curiosity. I

knew their veiled eyes were watching my every move.

A servant guided us to a side room off the main hall to wait as someone fetched

the girl. The High Cleric took a comfortable position upon the cushions spread on

the floor, while I stood near the window with my back against the wall. Shortly my

ears perked to the quiet sound of multiple footsteps approaching. These were light

steps, short, from two pairs of slippered feet. Most likely, they were the footsteps of

their womenfolk. I relaxed slightly, though remained at the ready...just in case.

They paused at the door and I could hear a female voice whisper a few words. There

was a light knock on the door, the High Cleric spoke some word in his native

tongue, and the door opened.

Two females entered the room, both with their heads lowered, their eyes not

looking directly at either the High Cleric or myself. One was older, the other

obviously younger, though their ages were difficult to tell through the coverings

that they wore. The older woman closed the door behind them and they came to

stand before the High Cleric, acting as if they were pups about to be scolded for

some wrongdoing. He said some words in their native tongue, and then directed

their attention to me. The eyes of both females went wide in shock; the older woman

gave a strangled cry and looked as if she would collapse in a heap on the floor at any

moment. The younger one clung to her elder, more in a measure of support and

comfort than from fear, though she surely did not know what to make of my

presence. I glanced at the High Cleric, then calmly moved from my position by the

window and approached the two females. At that, they both sank to the floor,

averting their eyes and holding their hands before their faces.

I slowly knelt before them and in a quiet voice asked, “Do you understand my

words?”

There was a brief pause and the younger one nodded her head in the

affirmative...the older one seemed too terrified to move.

Slowly, I held out my hands, palms up. “You have no need to fear me. Please,

take hold of my hands...I am real flesh and blood, not a spirit. Go on, I won’t bite,” I

said with a grin and a wink.

The younger of the two slowly let one hand go from holding her elder, and

hesitantly reached out and touched her fingers to my open palm. She gasped and

looked up at me.

“They are warm!” she whispered quietly.

I motioned to the older woman and bade her to hold my other hand. She refused

at first, but I was patient, and used my empathic abilities to help calm her fears.

When she finally reached out and took hold of my hand, I said, “See? I am no

demon, just different from your kind.”

Her reaction was also of surprise, for before now they both had known only

stories of my kind, and now they were able to see and feel one of us and know that

we were real beings and not a myth.

Still holding their hands in mine, I slowly stood and bade them to rise. From

what I knew of their people, members of the opposite sex did not openly touch one

another except in certain cases. I’m sure I was breaking any number of their rules,

though I doubted that anyone would say much about it, given the circumstances.

After introducing myself to the two females, I asked for their names. They quickly

looked to the High Cleric, as it was not proper in their society for them to give their

names to a strange male, let alone to one of another race. He hesitated a moment so

I looked at him with an arched eyebrow. Thinking quickly, he nodded his head and

said something to them that I didn’t understand in their language.

The young female, speaking in the Common Tongue, said, “This is Sister Sarneh,

and I am Dahmietra.”

I gave the traditional Wastelander greeting which surprised both of them. After

they responded I said, “Come, let us sit together, and talk,” so we went to sit upon

the cushions with the High Cleric.

For some while we sat, while the High Cleric and the older woman both spoke in

their own tongue with the girl translating into the Common Tongue for me. I mostly

kept silent, speaking only when I felt something needed clarification, listening not

only to the words but also sensing the feelings behind them. The girl spoke little of

her own words, though I could see that she had her own thoughts. She would look at

me occasionally with her large green eyes, and I could see in them despair,

sadness...and something else—a glimmer of desperate hope.

Eventually we grew hungry, so the High Cleric summoned servants to bring food

and drink to us.

A somewhat terrified servant came hesitantly before me and stammered, “S-S-

Sir, we do not know what your k-k-kind e-e-eats.”

I looked amusedly at the servant and said with a mischievous grin, “Fresh meat

would be preferable,” licking my lips while looking intently at her.

The poor woman’s eyes grew so wide that I thought they would pop out of their

sockets and run away.

“However, whatever you have will be acceptable,” I said jovially.

The servant bobbed and quickly left the room. I could hear feet running and a

quiet “Aiieee!” trailing off across the hall. Snickering quietly to myself and shaking

my head, I turned back to the others in the room. I saw that the High Cleric and the

two females had frozen in position, looking at me with their eyes wide. It was so

quiet that I thought I could hear the insects outside.

“I was only joking,” I said. “Honest.”

The girl interpreted my words and there seemed to be a sigh of relief as everyone

went back to what they were doing. I caught the gaze of the girl and gave her a

wink and a little grin. She seemed to understand and quickly lowered her face for a

moment, then looked up with only her eyes and smiled. In time, the food and drink

arrived, though the one servant was noticeably absent.

I’ll have to make amends for frightening the poor woman so,” I thought to myself

with a mental smile.

As the evening wore on, I became restless. I could not stand to stay long inside

their buildings—I preferred to breathe the night air and feel the ground beneath

me. I stood up and stretched a bit, and announced that I needed some fresh air.

I looked towards the girl and asked, “Join me?”

The older woman, Sarneh, looked at me and then at the girl and then at the High

Cleric.

When he said, “No woman of ours may be left alone in the company of a man who

is not her mate or immediate family,” I became a bit upset.

I looked at him coldly for a moment and said, “First of all, I am not one of your

males, and secondly, you wish for me to be this girl’s protector. If you don’t think

she can be safe when alone with me, then why am I even here?”

There was a stunned silence in the room. A few moments passed and still nobody

spoke. I reached into my pouch and removed the small bag of coin I was given.

“If you have nothing more to say, then I return this and am done with you.”

I tossed the bag at the feet of the High Cleric, and headed for the door.

“Wait!” said a small voice, “Please?”

I paused with my hand on the door's handle...the small voice pleaded with a

desperation that I could not ignore. The small voice was that of the girl, Dahmietra.

“I need you!”

I am one of The People of the Forests, a guardian, and protector of all things wild

and free...yet, here was one who was not free. She was caged, and forced to live a

life dictated by others, in a society that did not care about her wishes. She needed

me, the antithesis of all that her people believed in, and for what? So that she could

be used as a game piece to further the desires of those who only crave power over

others? I let go of the door’s handle and slowly walked back to the girl and knelt

down in front of her.

I took her hand into my own and, looking deeply into her soft green eyes, I asked,

“Why?”

Dahmietra leaned forward and spoke softly, “Come with me...to the garden.”

She looked me straight into my eyes, and I saw only a sincere kindness and trust.

I nodded my head once, slightly. As we rose, Dahmietra picked up the small bag of

coin and slipped it back into my pouch. She looked up at me and smiled. Dahmietra

formally requested allowance to leave the presence of the High Cleric and after a

stern look from me, he granted it.

Dahmietra and I made our way outside to the garden in the center of the

compound. The night sky was clear over the deserted garden. Even behind walls,

these people did not willingly venture far outdoors, for they were a superstitious lot.

It seemed that they feared the night for some reason or another. We stopped at a

small pool of water and Dahmietra sat down on a nearby bench while I sat on the

ground as was customary for my people. It also made me seem not quite so large to

the girl, so perhaps she would be more relaxed. After a short period of quiet between

us, I thought that I should get to know more about this person who I would be

protecting, and more about what I would be protecting her from. I needed to know

something of how her mind worked, what she felt was important, and what—if

anything—she might be inclined to try if the chance should present itself.

“Tell me about yourself, Dahmietra, and of your family, your home, and what sort

of things you enjoy,” I inquired.

She looked at me with surprise and uttered a small gasp, quickly lowering her

eyes to the ground.

I looked straight at her and asked, “Why do you look away? Are my questions

offensive to you?”

“No,” she said after a moment, “it’s just...no one has ever cared to ask such of

me.”

For the first time in my existence, I was struck dumb.

“No one?” I asked incredulously, when I could speak again after such a shock.

“No,” she spoke quietly.

“Why? For someone who seems to have much concern made over, no one has ever

asked of your needs?” I asked.

“No, I am just a girl, and nobody cares about me or what I want...it’s all about

what others perceive me to be, about what I represent to them,” she said after a

moment.

I could hear the pain in her young voice. I rose from my spot on the ground, went

to the bench, sat down next to Dahmietra (secretly hoping it would hold my weight),

and placed my large hand over hers. I gently lifted her chin with my other hand so

she would meet my gaze. When she did look, I could see the uncertainty in her eyes.

“Dahmietra,” I said as gently as my voice would allow in the Common Tongue, “I

care.”

It was her turn to be dumbfounded.

“But...if my own people don’t care about what I want, your kind certainly should

care even less about my people, let alone about me. After all, when our people first

came here, the first thing they did was attack yours for no good reason—you had

done nothing to them that I know of. All it says in our accounting of the time was

that they found these lands to be inhabited by ‘demon animals that walked upright’

so they sought to ‘cleanse the world of all such unholy beings’. It goes on to say that

if our warriors managed to kill one of the ‘demon animals’, then the ‘great holy

warriors won a victorious battle’, but if one of our warriors was killed while they

were slaughtering whole villages, then it was considered a ‘terrible massacre of our

people by unholy forces’. The stories don’t match up with the actual facts I’ve found

digging through the ancient war records.”

I thought on that for a moment and said, “We were content to keep to ourselves

and live within the borders of The Great Forest. The other races that lived in this

area most likely would have gotten along with your people, if they had been given

the chance. But your warriors attacked us, the Woodland People, and also the

Eastlanders, solely because we are different from you. When they attacked us a

second time, they brought fire and sought to burn us out...but we called to the skies

and sang the Songs of Rain and of Storm. The skies heard our Songs, and answered.

Strong winds battered your warriors, ice fell from the skies, and lightning lanced

down from the clouds, driving them back. Then the rains came in torrents, dousing

the fires and washing away any who resisted. When Rain and Storm had done their

part, we gave our thanks, and then chased your warriors back to their strongholds,

howling with rage for what they had tried to do. So, as you said, it would seem that

we would have good reason not to care. However, Dahmietra, one thing that your

kind doesn't understand about us, is that we care about all life. We are not

monsters. True, we may fight with all of the ferocity of wild beasts when needed,

and our understanding of things may give us abilities your kind cannot grasp, but

we do care...I care.”

For a long moment, she looked at me, as if she was seeing me for the first time.

“I understand,” she said at last.

Hesitantly, she reached up, laid her hand on the side of my face, and held it there

for a moment.

“You are different, and though I must admit that I was afraid of you when we

first met, I am not now.”

Dahmietra related to me where she was from, what she knew of her family

history, and the things that she liked. Her experiences were minimal, given that she

was forced to live a secluded life full of studies and little else since the age of five.

One of the things Dahmietra wished to do was to be free from the life she had

known and to see other places of our world. She knew enough of what was

happening between the two main factions of her people to want to be rid of it all, yet

her sense of duty kept her imprisoned with a feeling of despair and sadness over

what she was expected to do. Others had dictated all of her short life, and she had

only caught glimpses of life outside of her confines. The more I listened to her, the

greater the pain I felt in my heart of being. I swore then to protect this one, and my

word is my bond, which cannot be broken, though I was beginning to question just

what I should protect her from and how. Should I merely be a bodyguard to protect

her from physical harm until she stood before the Great Gathering of the two

factions, or should I protect her from the harm to her spirit inflicted by her own

culture? I thought on this while she talked, and decided that I should take her to

our Lore Masters and ask for their advice in this matter. I calculated how long it

would take to journey to The Great Forest from the enclave, and return in time for

the Great Gathering. I figured that the only way possible to make it back in time

would be to run while carrying her upon my back.

“Dahmietra, you said that you would like to see more of this world. I must confer

with our Lore Masters on a subject, and we would have enough time, I think, to

make a trip to my home within The Great Forest and still get you to this gathering

you are to attend. Mind you, your people have never been allowed into The Great

Forest...perhaps for you, an exception can be made. I would have to carry you in

order to make the trip quickly. Do you feel up to it?”

She looked at me in astonishment at the words I just spoke.

Dahmietra thought for a moment, and then asked, “I would love to see this ‘Great

Forest’ of yours,” she said excitedly, “I have never been in any place where one could

not see the horizon. But...are you sure that we can be back in time? How could you

carry me for such a distance? I do not desire to be a burden.”

“My people are used to covering great distances at speed, and we are far stronger

than you can probably imagine. You will not be a burden to me, Dahmietra,” I said

with a grin. “First, you will need to gather some things that you will need that can

easily be carried, and then get some rest. We leave at first light.”

With that, we got up and made our way back inside. When we got to the main

hall, I asked her if she knew the servant that became frightened at my attempted

humor.

“Yes,” she said, “that was Jamella.”

“Would you take me to her, please? I must make amends for causing her distress

before we leave,” I requested.

Dahmietra instructed me to follow her to the servants’ quarters, where upon

entering we found the young woman named Jamella.

As soon as everyone saw me, they gasped and quickly backed away, covering

their faces. Jamella looked up from what she was doing at the commotion and saw

me approaching with Dahmietra. I thought the poor girl was going to fall over...she

raised her hand to her face and looked as if I had come to make good on my dinner

“suggestion.” Dahmietra quickly went to her and spoke in their native language,

telling why I had come and that I wished to make amends. At first poor Jamella did

not believe what she had heard, but when I knelt down, lowered my head in a

gesture of submission, and held my hand up with palm outward and fingers spread,

her look changed to one of bewilderment.

“Please,” I spoke softly (with Dahmietra interpreting), “I did not mean to frighten

you earlier...I was only joking, and I meant no harm.” I held the position for a few

moments until Dahmietra could finish speaking in their tongue.

I slowly reached into my pouch and withdrew a small object. I held my hand out

to Jamella, turning my hand palm up, and slowly opened my fingers. There, in the

palm of my hand, was a blue star stone, about the size of one of their coins. I had

traded for it on my trip into the mountains; it was just a small trinket to me. Both

Jamella and Dahmietra gasped when they saw what I held in my hand. The others

in the room, their curiosity overcoming their initial fear, drew closer and they, too,

were amazed.

“For you,” I said, motioning for her to take it.

Jamella looked at the stone, then to Dahmietra, then to me and back to the stone.

She waved her hand in a motion of refusal and told me that she was not worthy of

such a gift. When I gently took her hand, she started at my touch and looked at me

with wide eyes. I placed the stone in the palm of her hand and closed her fingers

around it, holding them closed with my other hand for a moment.

“You keep,” I said gently, and Dahmietra interpreted.

I smiled and nodded my head and let go of Jamella’s hand. She slowly opened her

hand and looked down at the precious gem in wonder—she likely had never had

more than the clothes on her back and a few simple possessions, let alone anything

such as this.

“When this stone is touched by the light of the stars, it will shine as they do.

Remember, the stars shine on us all...we are all one in their light. This stone will

bring their light into your heart of being and chase away the darkness.”

I looked to Dahmietra who was also looking at me in wonder. She told Jamella in

their language what I had said about the stone.

I got up, went over to the window, and opened the shutters. The night sky was

clear and cool; it was quiet except for the usual night sounds. I motioned to Jamella

to come over to the window with me. When she did, I asked her to hold her hand out

and open her fingers. Almost immediately, the stone flickered with an internal

light, which then gradually became stronger and steadier. Jamella gasped, and her

eyes grew wide with astonishment. Dahmietra and the others gathered around and

saw that the stone was indeed glowing as if it were a star itself in Jamella’s hand. I

asked Jamella to close her eyes and relax, which Dahmietra interpreted. In a

moment, the stone’s light flared, then seemed to spread along Jamella’s skin,

traveling up her arm and spreading quickly across her body before sinking beneath

the surface. She took a sudden sharp breath and then her face became calm. When

she opened her eyes, they began to swell with tears, which were soon flowing

unchecked down her cheeks. Slowly she turned her head and looked up at me. I

smiled and nodded my head, knowing through my empathic ability what she was

feeling. Slowly she sank to her knees and brought the stone closer to her face. When

she closed her fingers about it, the light diminished and she gave a deep sigh and

quietly wept...not from sadness, but from having a great weight that she had been

carrying finally lifted from her heart of being. I knelt beside her and held her for a

time until she had collected herself.

She looked up at me and said in her language, “I understand now. Thank you.”

I smiled and nodded my head, not needing to hear Dahmietra’s interpretation. I

stood and helped Jamella to her feet. The other servants in the room, as well as

Dahmietra herself, were looking at me as if I had just performed a miracle.

“It’s the stone’s natural power to absorb and concentrate the light of the stars and

then allow one’s inner self to receive that light,” I explained. “Each person will feel

the effects of one of these stones in the way it is needed at the time it is used.”

Dahmietra interpreted my words to the group, and then to Jamella herself I said,

“In time, and with practice, you will come to understand more.”

“We should go Dahmietra. It’s getting late and you should get some rest,” I said

softly.

I told Jamella goodnight in her own language, which surprised everyone (it’s one

of the phrases Alnakh had taught me), and we headed for the door. As Dahmietra

and I left, I was aware of the other servants quickly gathering around Jamella and

could hear their excited, though hushed, voices. Dahmietra looked up at me and saw

the smile I wore.

“What you gave Jamella, what you did for her, the words you said...,” Dahmietra

started to say.

“Was the right thing to do, at the right time, for the right person for the right

reason,” I added, still smiling. I returned her gaze for a moment and continued, “My

kind have always had the knack of being exactly where we needed to be, exactly

when we needed to be. We do not believe in coincidences, Dahmietra. There is a

reason for everything. Our actions are like tossing a stone into a pool of still water,

everything we do creates ripples in that pool which then spread outwards, touching

everything else. Those who are closer feel the ripples strongest, while those farther

away in place and time, less so...but do nonetheless. They bounce and reflect off

everything else and eventually will come back to you, though the ripples caused by

others in the pool may influence them themselves. We are all in the same pool,

Dahmietra. All of us.”

We stopped in front of the door to her room.

“And speaking of water, I believe I’ll get some. You get some rest, Dahmietra, and

be ready when I come for you,” I said.

“Are you not going to rest, as well?” she asked.

I listened to the tone of her voice and heard her concern...and yet, there was

something peculiar in that tone. I dismissed it for the moment, and replied,

“No need to worry about me, we ‘magical beings’ don’t need much rest.” I smiled

and patted her on the shoulder, and told her “See you soon.”

As I was walking away, Dahmietra spoke under her breath, but my keen ears

caught her words before she shut the door to her room.

“I hope so.”

I returned to the garden, sat down under a tree, and leaned against its trunk. I

relaxed and let my mind wander while enjoying the feel of the ground beneath me.

The cool, clean air filling my lungs was much better than the stifling, heavily

scented air inside the building. The next several days were going to require a lot of

determination. I wondered if I would have time to hunt along the way...like all my

people, I prefer my food fresh, not something that has been preserved for who knows

how long. Some of the foods prepared by the people of the Wastelands were

interesting—I have actually developed a taste for some of it—though I still prefer

the tastes of home. “I have been gone quite long enough,” I said to myself. I was

looking forward to going back...even if it was only for a short while. I made a vow to

myself that when I returned home after this nonsense was over, I would work on

some long overdue projects. I hoped that Alnakh hadn’t managed to lose any of my

things that I left in his safekeeping while dealing with this situation.

I wasn’t expecting to get so involved with these people, especially not when I was

on my way home. I suppose that there must have been a good reason for The Great

Circle to bring the High Cleric and me together, which in turn led me to this place,

at this time, to be with this girl. Although Dahmietra was practically of age among

her people, to me she was—and always will be—still so very young. She seemed

likeable enough, for one who has not had much of a life. The poor girl had only

known life in a cage, never able to run free or even to have any choice in what she

wanted to do. How can anyone truly live like that? She seemed to be no more than

one of their slaves—a horrible life, if life you could call it. If the Lore Masters would

accept seeing this girl, they would understand what to do. And thinking of slaves, I

thought of Nezcha...one way or another, I would see to it that she got her freedom. I

know that Alnakh only bought her because he knew of her family, as well as what

happened to them. Alnakh, being one of the more progressive thinkers among the

Wastelanders, didn’t approve of the practice of slavery. He had sought only to spare

her the life of misery and mistreatment that so many slaves end up living. It would

take time to save up the money to pay her bond price, and he had to work within

the laws of their society. He and I both had been trying to find out what happened

to her family. I hoped that eventually she could reunite with her mother and

siblings...if they were still alive. Well, nothing could be done about that issue at the

moment. At least Nezcha was safe with Alnakh and he treated her as if she was a

member of his own family. That was more than Dahmietra had—her parents

willingly gave her up at the age of five turns of the seasons to the clerics, denying

her of having a proper family life. I contented myself with the thought that

somehow things would find a way to work out for both of them, and then I let my

mind drift away for a time.

Uploaded 05/03/2018 04:23

This is the first chapter of "The Sacrifice for Peace, vol-1, The Gathering".


This story will be published soon, in its entirety, on createspace.com and amazon.com.

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