And, just to be clear:
The Tale of the Maiden's Arms (Sharizeen Cor)
As the title suggests, this page is dedicated to my ongoing story The Tale of the Maiden's Arms which takes place 1400 years before the events of Through the Dark Wood and centers around the character of Sharizeen Cor (or Sarie Cor). Her tale has some bearing on the future of the TODTOL universe. I genuinely hope you like her as much as I do. As I post new chapters to the blog, I'll add them here in one easy to read location.
And, just to be clear:
And, just to be clear:
Not arms like:
Rusdan Orinian, harsh King of Coriaer, preferred Darlandan slaves, as did his father before him. “Why should our people mine, or build, or risk their lives in the Tharsald when Darlandans can be used for those purposes?”
His son, Kin Lash Orinian, couldn’t have agreed more. “They are worthless... are they not, father?”
The king replied, “Less than worthless, if that can be.”
Kin Lash was eight years old.
Sharizeen Cor walked the woods of the Darlandan countryside barefoot on an early summer day, humming to herself and taking in the scents of the morning. The sun warmed the hills she so often enjoyed. The wind shifted her sandy hair across her face. She tucked it back behind one ear.
Sarie, as her father used to lovingly call her, was seven years old.
She heard a twig snap in the brush about a stone’s throw away. She was instantly alert. It was a good thing too. A rock the size of her palm flew through the air and swished past her ear. She’d moved aside just in time. Had she not, it would have drawn blood.
"Boujh!" She shouted and touched a small scar on her brow from a similar instance in the past then narrowed her gaze determinedly on the place she had heard the snap. Boujh Cor poked his head up from the brush with an equally focused look. Raising a large stick aloft he quickly crossed the distance between them and dove, swinging his would-be club at Sarie with what any onlooker would have taken for lethal intent. He missed by an inch as she leapt up and over him, dodging the stick and pushing his face down into the loamy soil beneath the grass in the process. Boujh landed in a heap, and Sarie landed—almost gracefully—on her feet, laughing.
Boujh spun to his feet, wiped his face and took Sarie by the hands. “That’s my girl!” He swung her up to sit on his shoulders. She kept a hold of one hand as Boujh started walking.
Wiping at the slightest hint of a tear, he said. “Father would be proud.”
“You really think so, Boujh?” she asked, leaning over his head and meeting his eyes upside down.
Boujh was fourteen and her only family. “Yeah. I do.” he said with half a smile and held her hand a little tighter. “Keep that up and no one’ll ever be able to hurt you.”
Such was the manner in which Sharizeen 'Sarie' Cor was trained from the year of her father’s death until her brother’s.
Twelve years passed. Sarie Cor was nineteen and unwed, and living in the Underqwall District. That was an uncomfortable fact. Underqwall was the lower class district of Darlan proper just beyond the walls of Cirin Darlandan and the most likely place to find an unwed woman of suitable age suddenly taken by the royal guard and drafted as one of prince Aeron’s companions. Concubine was a disparaging word. So, he didn't use it.
The death of Sarie’s brother Boujh eight months earlier had broken her heart, but it also afforded her time without threat—the grieving season. Boujh had found work in service to one of the younger captains of the castle guard, Eerid Freen, and had been working toward actually joining the ranks of the guard. Being of dubious birth, it was easy to find a place among the fighting men, but he wanted a better life for himself and his sister.
Having joined Eerid on a short trip to the temple just east of Tol Darlandan (Rivelin’s first outpost), they were set upon by bandits and Boujh lost his life defending his employer and friend. Sarie had been living in Eerid’s home under Boujh’s protection, but now she was alone. Eerid offered to let her remain in his house until her grieving season ended, but only a month later, in an unwarranted fit of jealousy, Eerid’s wife demanded that she go.
Out of the kindness of his heart, Eerid set her up in a hostel just beyond the walls of Cirin Darlandan so he could have his servants keep watch over her for the remainder of her grieving season. “I am sorry for the loss of your brother, Sarie. Would that I could have saved him. I owe him my life... purchased at the cost of his own. The family Cor will always be remembered by me. Take this, though it is a pittance in comparison to my debt.” He bowed then handed her a small chest of coins to sustain her during her stay. She thanked him.
Eerid threatened the hostel owner that if anyone took from Sarie, or mistreated her, his establishment would pay in more than just gold. It was a needless threat, because Sarie fell quickly into friendship with the hostel owner, a twenty-eight year old Rud by the name of Jaren Adds. Ruds are the copper-skinned natives of western Darlandis. He saw to it that none of his other patron’s bothered her, citing her observance of the grieving season, and adding that, despite her beauty, word had it she was a fighter more capable than many in the castle guard.
In the open bunk sleeping arrangement of the hostel, many a traveler was tempted to press his will with her, but only once did any try. He had been a renowned mercenary. There was no memorial for him, and all who witnessed his end told and retold the tale until the fighting prowess of Sharizeen Cor was near legendary in Underqwall. Though her stomach turned at the need to end any man’s life, she was grateful for the peace her reputation provided.
The grieving season was over and Sarie knew her time in Underqwall must be as well. She had already witnessed two young women taken by the royal guard to serve prince Aeron.
The bell above the rough wooden door rang and a soldier strode in. He was castle guard not royal guard. He looked at Jaren who stood behind the bar. “Sarie Cor?”
Jaren was a sturdy man and usually good at hiding his thoughts, but he knew the danger for Sarie and flinched at the mention of her name. Sarie was just beyond a screen across the room chopping vegetables for that evening’s stew. At the mention of her name she stole a glance. As she did one sandy strand of her otherwise braided hair dropped in front of her eye. Pushing it back behind her ear she saw the guard wore a deep red cloak over a silver mail shirt that bore the emblem of Cirin Darlandan. His sword hand rested on his hilt.
Jaren regained himself and asked, “I’m sorry. Who do you seek?”
“Please, Sir. Do not play the fool with me. I know the young lady resides here. It is imperative I speak with her.”
His tone wasn’t threatening, more imploring, but just in case Jaren grasped the hilt of a blade kept on a shelf inside the bar. “Who is it that seeks her?”
“My commander Eerid Freen sends an urgent message for her.”
Sarie kept the kitchen knife in her hand and stepped out from behind the screen. Immediately the soldier bowed then raised his eyes to her. “Good miss! I and others in my regiment have guarded you beyond your knowledge this seven months passed, but our duty cannot stand against the danger set to assail you today. The king’s second son, prince Aeron, sends his men here to claim you. You must fly from this place.” He produced a scroll bearing his master’s crest. “This he sends with you. It will grant you the privilege to cross through the gates of Adrel Teng beyond the reach of his majesty. The monk’s there have freedoms even the king is bound to uphold.”
She tossed the knife to the cutting board. It stuck tip down and quivered there. She quickly crossed to the bunks and opening her trunk pulled out and donned a pair of dark breeches beneath her laurel-colored surcoat, fastening them as she answered, “I thank you, Sir. Please, hand the scroll to my friend Jaren. Do you know how much time I have?” She slipped her two short swords—or extra short swords as Boujh always called them—into a specially crafted sheath worn across the small of her back to be hidden by her cloak.
“Word was given to me nigh unto twenty minutes after his majesty the prince informed his captain. I can only assume it is your fighter’s reputation that delays them. They are commanded you must be taken utterly unharmed.” As he spoke she donned her buckled boots, and began cutting off the skirt portion of her surcoat.
She looked at Jaren. “Had I left even a day sooner….” Her eyes said more. She had planned to leave weeks ago and make for Billowing Pools, but she stayed for him, hoping. There was a love between them. Not in full bloom, but present and growing. She blamed him in her heart. Were he moved enough to wed me I would not face this peril. But, I am just as much the fool….
Jaren said, “I would fight for you.”
“And you would lose. I will not have your life forfeit for me.”
Jaren knew there was neither time nor sufficient chance of persuading her to argue the point. He took his purse and filled it with all the gold he had on hand, one-hundred and thirty-two durras. He placed the scroll in the purse as well, and a small container of wine. He draped it over her shoulder and across her chest to let it hang at her side then kissed her forehead and said tenderly, “Be safe, Sarie. And…” he waivered, “I…” he sighed. “Don’t forget your cloak.”
She sighed and pulled her cloak and a small pack out of the trunk and lay them on the bed. She girded her waist with the belt her brother had worn for years. He’d made it with sheathes for knives of varying sizes and purpose at intervals around it. As she reached for her cloak, the soldier said, “Good miss, please… take mine. Yours is known to the guard, and garbed as you are now you will draw much attention. Though mine is crimson, it is not uncommon for a castle guard to walk the streets of Underqwall alone. It may help disguise you.” She took it and put it on, lifting her pack to her shoulders over it. He added, “Keep your hood up and your head down. Walk with haste as though you are on great errand, but not as though you fly from danger.”
Putting on Sarie’s cloak he walked to the door. She called after him, “What is your name?”
“Ryon. Your brother was my friend, and he is missed. I must leave before they arrive, and you must do the same.” He bowed to her and exited.
Sarie looked at Jaren wishing something greater could have been between them, and Jaren looked at her with regret, knowing that moment he had lost any possibility of a future with her. Though he would liked to have proven himself wrong, he was not the man for a woman like her and he knew it.
In crimson, laurel, and black, and looking very much the like the warrior her brother had always trained her to be, Sarie Cor turned away and stepped through the door, ready to face whatever challenges would come her way.
Across the sea a twenty year old Kin Lash Orinian faced his father and bellowed, “But I loved her! You would send her to serve in the Tharsald?! She will die beneath that weight. She loved the sunlight more than any person I’ve ever known, and you sentence her to serve in darkness forever!” He advanced upon the king.
Rusdan Orinian held up his hand and two guards angled their spears at the prince’s chest. He stopped in his tracks. “You would have them kill your own son?”
King Rusdan smiled bitterly. “You would have them kill your own father had you such power this day. I do not wish that they should harm you. Only subdue your fury should it become unleashed. She was a harlot. She was never going to be your wife. That is not the way of Coriaer nor has it ever been nor shall it ever be.”
“She was a servant. Yes. But, Lerasea was my favorite.”
“Favorites will come and go, my son. But the mind of a king—which one day you will be—must be set upon higher things. Things such as…?”
The prince seethed, and let out a protracted sigh. He set his jaw and glared at the king before reciting, “Conquest. Currency. Law. Legacy….”
The venom in his tone was matched only by the pleasantry in his father’s. “You see? Love is not among them, my heir. Do not be a fool. A wife will come of noble line, and she will have her value if she produces for you an heir, but do not be fooled by emotion. She is but another tool in your continued building of an empire.” His tone grew severe. “An empire which will be greater in your day than mine or you will not have a place among your fathers when you die, and your sons will go down to their graves in shame!”
Kin Lash growled, removed one of his golden rings, and hurled it at his father’s throne.
“Insolence is only tolerated for a time, my childish son. A man will take my words and grow from them. Come not before me again until the infant in you is removed.”Kin Lash bowed—out of duty only—and exited. As he walked the opulent palace halls, the tears he longed to shed refused to fall. That my heart holds sorrow and compassion, and I am capable of love—which you are not—makes me not an infant, Father…. He turned aside to a balcony overlooking the sea. “That is how I know I am a man. You will know me as such and feel my fury one day!”
Having left just in time to avoid becoming one of prince Aeron’s concubines, Sarie Cor made her way swiftly through Underqwall and the districts beyond to the gates of Darlan. As promised she was met there by guards friendly to her and opposed to the younger prince’s plans for her. At the word of Eerid Freen a horse had been saddled and loaded with all the supplies she would need to make the journey to Adrel Teng. It was three days ride to the east to reach the monastery. The road leading there was weatherworn and underused. Early on the second day, the terrain began to rise into a line of low hills. By mid-afternoon, she’d crested them and could see The Cauldron boiling below her—or so the valley of Adrel was called. It was more like a great crater than a valley and the wind seemed to storm at all times through the emerald and golden trees, whipping them to and fro and lending the surface of the forest a look not unlike a boiling cauldron. In the center of it all was a lone hill rising above the forest. Crowning that hill, and delved all throughout it, was the monastery of Adrel Teng.
Sarie had to camp that night in the woods of Adrel and she was surprised to find the trees near her did not boil with the wind. She slept not just soundly but sweetly, her dreams full of joyful wonders. In the morning she awoke refreshed and set off for the monastery. She was surprised by the stillness about her. Not far off she could hear the trees whipping as if the wind raged through them, but all around her the forest was calm—as if the trees and the wind were making way for her.
When she reached the base of Adrel Teng, her horse came suddenly to a halt. There in the path before a great stone arch was a man robed in shades of blue and green like the colors of a peacock’s feather. His hooded cowl was a dark teal and shrouded his face in shadow. The billowing indigo robe that fell open from his shoulders was belted at the waist by yet another shade of blue and revealed an intricate doublet beneath. Sarie noticed the pommel of a short sword rising slightly above his right shoulder. The man’s hands were folded together and his posture implied authority, though not threat.
Sarie hadn’t seen him a moment before and was startled when the horse stopped. Slipping a knife from her belt as stealthily as possible, she waited for him to speak. When he did, his voice held a certain kindness in it that took her back to childhood and conjured visions of her father.
“The trees make way for few.”
She wanted to feel threatened to keep herself on guard, but his voice and the heart behind it were utterly disarming. He continued, “It is a storm that most oft meets a traveler in the valley of Adrel, but even the wind has made way. Your coming was expected, and a room has been prepared. Come. I will show you to your quarters then introduce you to the Scribe.”
Sarie didn’t move. “Show me your face first—your eyes. I will not trust one who has not met my eyes.”
“It is a wise way.” He pulled back his hood, revealing a younger man than she anticipated. He was less than ten years her elder with short-cropped dark brown hair that would have fallen in waves if it were longer. He wore a beard, but it was a young man’s beard; full, but short and trimmed in the fashion of the day. His eyes were a brilliant blue and seemed almost to glow with the colors of his garments. When he looked at Sarie a rush of fear ran through her, a thrill like none she had known before. He smiled and introduced himself. “I’m Thresh Dannan, and I am at your service.”
He being genuine when he says, at my service. It was an odd sensation. There was nothing unwholesome nor anything of self interest in Thresh’s demeanor. Sarie had never met any man like that. Boujh had been like that to a point, but only with her because of their relation. There was something about Thresh Dannan that was utterly captivating. She cleared her throat and took a moment to clear her mind.
“Sharizeen Cor. Yes. I am aware.”
Sarie puzzled. “I had no idea Captain Freen had sent word so far ahead.”
“I know of no Captain Freen.”
“Then how do you know my name?”Surprised she would ask, Thresh cocked his head a little looking bemused. “From the Scribe. It was he who told me to wait here for you each day these last two months. As I said, Sarie, your coming has been expected—or rather foretold.”
With a desire that conquest should drive sorrow from his heart—and his father’s mandate Come not before me again until the infant in you is removed driving his soul—Kin Lash boarded his ship, the Perilous Dawn, and set sail for Western Pyree.
The great island country of Pyree was once a garden of delight in a world of warriors and kings. Resting halfway between Coriaer and Darlandis, it was an ideal waypoint in ones travels between the two nations. The gold mines of Pyree were the envy of many kings and emperors, but their generosity and peaceful ways earned them the protection of Darlandis. For nearly three hundred years—while the line of good Darlandan kings remained—their land prospered. The lords of Pyree sent emissaries to other lands to learn of their cultures and make record of them, and in time they amassed the greatest library of the ancient world—the Library of Endbredth. Their knowledge and their wealth were unsurpassed.
In the days of Ellerion and the wicked kings who followed, Pyree was besieged by one nation after another. The Darlandans who had been stationed in Pyree and remained faithful to the good kings rebelled, taking up arms and protecting the island. The great distance from Pyree to the nations that desired to claim it was much of its protection. At least a month of sea travel lay before any who desired to claim that land. After many failed attempts, the malicious enterprise of Pyree’s enemies was cast aside, but never again did the people of Pyree send out emissaries. The Darlandans and other foreigners who had taken up the fight, settled and married among the peoples of Pyree. In only a few generations the peaceful island broke into factions. Those who wished to continue building the great Library of Endbredth migrated to the east nearer to the library. The west and its gold mines drew those more warlike in mind. In due course war broke out and Pyree was split in two.
In the days of Faydregd Moree, chieftain of Western Pyree, a great cataclysm struck the island and the whole of Eastern Pyree was swallowed by the sea along with the library of Endbredth. Faydregd claimed his dark arts had cursed the east causing their destruction, and all those who lived and remained faithful to the east were either killed or joined the west. In the years that followed the people of Western Pyree grew more warlike and hostile to any who landed on their shores.
By Kin Lash’s day Western Pyree was as uncivilized a nation as any in the world and served as a proving ground for Coriaeran warriors to test their mettle. Returning with the head of a Pyreean warrior brought great honor to any Coriaeran who accomplished the feat, and many a young Coriaeran died in the attempt. Kin Lash had hired or purchased the finest warriors and mercenaries that money could buy and intended to bring back more than just the head of a Pyreean. Kin Lash was certain he would succeed.I will bring back the Pyreean chieftain alive and claim the island for Coriaer. My father believes me an infant, but that will not last long. When the peoples see I have accomplished what no king in our history has, my father’s time upon the throne will end and I shall have vengeance for my heart and for Lerasea.
Sarie, followed Thresh through the arch, along a path to a dark stone opening into the foot of the great hill. She saw flickering torches far ahead in the dark, narrow corridor. By the time they reached them her eyes had adjusted to the dark. The torches were hung at the opening of a large room the walls of which were made of perfectly smooth black bricks joined so tightly together that their edges could scarcely be seen. Polished to a mirrors shine, Sarie saw herself reflected in them by the light of the torches and was struck by how warlike she appeared. Thresh stood beside her and, though prepared for whatever battles may come his way, his visage held far greater peace than she had ever known.
He admired the look of surprise on her face. “It is a good heart that recognizes its lack of peace. Your fears will be addressed in time.”
She stiffened at the word fears. “I fear nothing, Sir.”
“Only the fool fears nothing, but I believe there is only one thing you fear—possibly two.”
Her eyes flashed with anger and she wanted to lash out. But, there was no lack of kindness when he spoke. Confound this man! Frustrated she said, “You speak with much certainty, Thresh Dannan.”
He bowed his head a little. “Only because I know you are no fool, and there is one thing every man and woman fears.”
She asked more snidely than intended, “And what is that?”
He looked at her consolingly. “Being ever alone in heart.”
The words brought a lump to her throat, and the sadness that nearly overwhelmed her made her angry. Drat being alone! She sighed and clenched her teeth in thought. But, it is good insight.
Reluctantly she conceded. “You speak true, Sir.”
“I meant no offense by what I said. I simply wish to help you be ready when your battle comes. I fear the Scribe will be more direct than I.”
Thresh hesitated for the first time. “... Yes. But, you need not fear any actual battles here in Adrel Teng. Truash—the Scribe—will explain far better than I.” He hesitated again. “I… I may have already said more than I am supposed to. I assumed I would know what to say—how to behave—when I met you, but standing here in this room—of all places—your presence is undermining my confidence.”
It was the honesty of his statement that struck her most. This man… is an oddity. There’s no guile in him. She smirked. “What is it about me in this place that so unnerves you?”
Without words Thresh took a torch from its stand, crossed to a darkened corner, and touched the flame to a basin running the length of the wall. The oil inside ignited and a flame quickly flowed to the other corner. It took a moment for Sarie to understand. Along that wall, carved with the uttermost precision, were vignettes taken directly from her past: her as a newborn in her father’s arms moments after her mother died in childbirth; she as a toddler at her father’s side the day he died, struck down by an arrow to the heart from a villain never captured; her at fourteen hiding with Boujh in a cave in the woods after he had rescued her from a slaver who sought to sell her; and the all too recent and familiar scene of Sarie in a heap upon the floor of her quarters in Eerid Freen’s home, weeping at the news of Bough’s death. The scenes went on. One depicted her arrival at the arch where she met Thresh. The detail astonished her—right down to the surcoat cut short for ease of movement and Ryon the castle guard’s cloak. Others continued, but their locations and what they meant were unknown to her. The last had her standing in strength and wearing a crown.
She was pierced by emotions she usually stifled, and she was shaken. Her heart beat rapidly, and she teetered on the edge of breaking down. How can this be? What can this mean? She was breathing in short shallow bursts. Everything seemed to be closing tight around her. She looked fearfully at Thresh. “What… what is this place?”
He answered solemnly, “This is the court of Cor… beyond the gate of Sarie. This is where it was foretold you would arrive.”
Her mind was swimming. It was too much to take in. She asked the only question she could form. “When?”
Thresh saw the toll this place was taking on her, but answered despite. “Three hundred and seven years ago by Scribe Rendelaire.”The weight and meaning of his statement was too much. Sarie had never lost consciousness in her life until that day.
Kin Lash expected a battle most fierce when he and his men landed in Western Pyree. In truth, he expected a battle long before landing—Pyreeans were incredibly skilled seafarers. But, no battle came. He held the Perilous Dawn back from landing three days, awaiting any sign of the natives. He’d begun to wonder if the island’s inhabitants had somehow perished or turned coward, but just after dawn on the third day a bonfire was lit on a small raft made of freshly felled trees floating not far off in a bay the Pyreeans named Timbri. A man stood on the raft waving his arms wildly. Kin Lash sent Simlan, his second, in a skiff to search out the reason for the fire while he and his men remained on the alert. By the time Simlan reached the raft, the fire raged so greatly he had to take the man aboard the skiff. As they returned to the Perilous Dawn, the raft was fully consumed. Kin Lash noted the man wore only a blanket woven of large leaves.
Have Pyreeans become so primitive?
As they climbed aboard, the strange man addressed Kin Lash, breaking several rules of Coriaeran courtesy. “Good my lord, you are a vision and a grace from the powers on high. I am Alren Rosh—”
Several soldiers were at the ready to strike the man down should he breach custom too greatly. Their demeanor silenced him. Kin Lash stared at the stranger. “That I desire information is all that keeps you from death this moment. Never address a Coriaeran prince without first being inquired of.”
“Oh, my lord, I knew not.” He put his hand over his mouth. “And I do it again. I mean no offense. And I am still talking!” He was becoming frantic. “I mean no disrespect, I simply—”
“Silence!” Alren clapped his hand over his mouth and held it there, nodding. Kin Lash spoke calmly. “You are not Pyreean. You are Darlandan, and that intrigues me. When you respond to my questioning, do so at a more measured pace. Your anxiety is unwelcome. You will not be struck down without due solemnity if your life is to be forfeit. So, for now, know the courtesy of my ship and crew, and speak. Tell me. Why came you to meet us upon the water, and why do the Pyreeans not attack?”
Alren answered as calmly as he could. “They are dying, my lord. A plague. That is why I wear no clothing. It has all been burned and I have washed in the ocean to cleanse myself.” Kin Lash’s men all stepped back.
Kin Lash stood his ground, but his eyes flashed with rage, and he said sternly, “You would board my ship and risk the lives of my crew?”
“No! No, my lord. I and my men have not been affected. Only the natives.”
Kin Lash narrowed his eyes at the man. “How long have your men been among the Pyreeans?”
“Three months. We landed without being assailed and were begged for aid. Two days later, our ship was stolen by a group of Pyreeans who desired to escape the plague, but those who still had strength shot arrows ablaze with a flame that does not quench. My ship now rests at the bottom of the bay.”
“And your men have shown no signs of sickness?”
“None, my lord. We tend the sick and dying, but our strength and health remain.”
Kin Lash looked to the island. “Then it is no plague.”
Coriaerans were known the world over for their great understanding of the medicinal arts. Coriaeran princes and captains were required to steep themselves in such knowledge. Kin lash was uncommonly skilled as were several of the men he’d purchased for this endeavor. I will discover what is killing them before I take their chieftain. I must be sure I will not bring death home in my wake—if their Chieftain yet lives…. “Alren Rosh, is the Pyreean chief alive?”
“If I may, my lord, my name is Alren Roshketh, and yes. He is very sick, but he lives. It is a slow painful death they suffer.”
“Roshketh? I know of the city of Roshketh in your country.”
“Named for my family, my lord.”
Kin Lash arched his brow. “Then it is Lord Roshketh?”
“It may one day be, but while my father lives, I am only Alren.”
This quest may prove more profitable than intended. “I am Kin Lash. You will remain in my council.” He turned to one of his men. “Bring Lord Roshketh some of my clothes.” He smiled at Alren. “The heavens only can tell how long your father will live. Among my men you will be honored.”
Sarie woke in a lamp-lit room, recalling how she’d passed out and precisely why. Her mind was still struggling with the Court of Cor and the Gate of Sarie. She closed her eyes a moment longer then sat up. So where have you found yourself, Sarie? The walls were rough hewn stone, with great pillars standing in each corner and on either side of each door. There was an antechamber off to her left. The ceiling here was also rough hewn stone. Had the room been any smaller, Sarie would have felt trapped. As it was, she felt more than a little too closely confined. A rough wooden door was left open a crack and that provided the only relief she felt as she scanned the room. I’m not caged. Most of the furnishings were simple but well crafted: a dresser, a wardrobe, a table and chair, the bed on which she found herself. It was hard, but no worse than her bunk at Jaren’s hostel. There was a pitcher full of water and a washing bowl on the dresser. The floor was covered in a thick rug woven of crimson, and in one corner stood a tall, ornate mirror of polished metal.
Sarie stood and went to the wash basin. Pouring the water in, she was startled by a voice from the door. “You have woken. It is good.”
She turned quickly drawing a knife as she did. An old man with little hair and many wrinkles greeted her with a smile. “You needn’t worry here, Sarie. Here you are safe, though you won’t truly believe me for some time, and that is well enough. You have had many sorrows in your life and few men whose word could be trusted. In time you’ll know my word can be. I am Truash.”
Sarie returned the knife to her belt. “The Scribe?”
“Yes. The Scribe. Though you are only repeating something you have been told and have no real understanding of what it means.”
Though he spoke pleasantly and wore a genuine smile, Truash was very off-putting to a person like Sarie. “You speak true, Sir.” Her speech gained intensity as she spoke. “Nor do I understand how images from my life are scrawled on the walls of a chamber somehow named for my family and how you speak so freely of my sorrows and what I will think and what I will feel!”
Truash frowned, but the kindness did not leave his eyes. “Your temper is unexpected. I’m unaccustomed to dealing with the feminine temperament. I have not had the need. If this will help us communicate, I shall meet you tone for tone.” His intensity and volume suddenly changed. “I do not know how it is possible, save the fact that Elyon decided it should be so! I know what I know because I know it and cannot help what I know! That your life is written in stone, I have no control over.” he took several deep breaths, and Sarie stared at him momentarily disarmed.
That was strange. And, he’s not good at that.
Truash continued with a more gentle tone. “We can communicate through raised voices and raised defenses if you desire—it will be less efficient, but I have the strength for it, though not the stomach.” He smiled again. “What say you and I walk and converse like two reasonable people who would like to understand together what this all means?”
Sarie furrowed her brow. “I will walk with you, but allow me my right to feel unsure of everything around me.”
“Oh, certainly. You simply do not have a right to use those feelings to lash out at those who have only shown you kindness—regardless of your fears. I cannot accept you lashing out like that. It is improper.”
Improper? She started building defenses in her mind when a thought came to her—almost as if from somewhere else—they have taken you in and are protecting you from the King’s second son. But, your right to be afraid is granted. Much difficulty lies ahead. And the choice to fight your guardians is yours alone. Sarie was unhappy with those thoughts, but she couldn’t deny this was the one place in the kingdom she could truly be safe from the lecherous prince. She swallowed her pride and pretended she didn’t know she was afraid of any of this. “Truash, you’re right. I took liberty that was not mine to take. I am sorry for lashing out at you.”
Truash sighed in relief. “Oh good… me too. I apologize that is—for the whole raised voice thing. I actually don’t have the strength to maintain that kind of intensity for any great length of time at my age. I was afraid that would be the way of things between us. I would have matched you there to the best of my ability, but I think a day of that and I would sleep too soundly. I would have to have Ermskan conduct the next day’s convocation.”
Sarie was warming to the man, but couldn’t decide if he was weak or strong. The light in his eye led her to believe he was stronger than his words conveyed.
They walked the halls of Adrel Teng and he let her know which areas to avoid, mostly the bathing areas. Everything beyond that and the personal spaces of the individual monks were open to her. He said, “I understand your trepidation. Well, understand is a strong word. Your trepidation makes sense. First discovery of how one’s life can be wrapped up in such a larger story can be unnerving. When I was chosen to be the scribe, I knew I’d been born with insight, but I never knew how my life would affect others. Men and women have died at council given by the scribes of Adrel Teng, and that I knew, but holding that sort of power is fearful enough. However, having Elyon himself send words to me that alter the course of lives, I am honored by that, but humbled more greatly, and I walk with more fear than you would expect I should.”
Sarie was uncomfortable. “I don’t really believe in such things as Elyon or words from the heavens.”
“That’s alright, Sarie.” They rounded a corner into a chamber filled with statues. The first was of Sarie. It was very old. “He believes in you, clearly.”
“Scribe Anderel, almost five hundred years ago—if the inscription is to be believed.”
The statue was garbed as Sarie was that day with the exception of her cloak which was replaced by one of the monk’s cowls. Upon the base was a date and the inscription:
Grieving season draws to an end. Friendship rescues endangered friend. To Adrel to learn of what must come. And there to become what must become. ~ Scribe Anderel
Truash took her to a passage leading outside. “Go. You are safe within the forest of Adrel. The valley won’t allow you to be harmed. Spend some time in the air and the sunlight. We will talk more.”Sarie walked the corridor toward the light pondering many things. Boujh, I wish you were here.
To be continued....