Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Mikro is overbooked this semester. While Nanowrimo is a favorite activity here, we didn't even register him till after Thanksgiving, so I set a short wordcount that I thought would be challenging but doable in a couple of days... He did it! With much cajoling and a bit of collaboration (I helped, especially with the songs...), he finished another chapter of Enewan's Quest.
You can read the other installments at this link and this link.
ENEWAN's QUEST, Installment 4.
Copyright 2016, Mikro Coyne. All rights reserved.
At sunrise, I met with the rest of my new team. Benaret is unusually tall, like her grandmother Binarim. Although she is fairly young, she is known as a formidable swordswoman. She carries three swords of different length on her back, and daggers in her boots. She seems eager to embark on our quest. Shiran, a stocky older warrior, is known for his stealth and his skill with the Sakarran, a three bladed throwing weapon. Retenotar, the third warrior, is slim and agile, and is known as the best archer in the Netarpa clan. We gathered for breakfast at the Hall of Sedenka, so that my master could help brief us on the journey ahead.
“You have all probably noticed that our Home Tree is looking sickly. You are going to help cure it by going on this quest to gather ingredients for a potion from the Realms of the Living, and from the Lower Realm.” Sedenka announced. “Enewan is fated to lead you on this quest. Rotonaka will accompany you and give advice and support,” he continued.
“Shaman Sedenka, why is the Kuru Dupal ailing?” asked Shiran.
Sedenka rose and faced the group. “That is a tale that began a long time ago,” he began. “You know that at the end of the Age of Chieftans, the Elerastapok overthrew the Evil Chieftan Seraivin. That great victory was not without cost, however. Seraivan’s last act as Chieftan was to summon from the Realm of the Damned a Fire Serpent, which has been corrupting the Kuru with its venom ever since. The poison is slow, but enough has flowed into the Kuru that it will die unless a healing potion is administered. You will gather the nine ingredients. The first is right here, in Netarpa. It is water from the sacred well of Netalian, which lies deep below the roots of the Kuru in the Temple of the Sacred Well.”
“Master,” I asked, “How are we to get past the Fire Serpent to reach the well?”
“Use your knowledge, Enewan. What would make the Seprent sleep?”
I pondered this for a moment. “Cold, Master?”
“Yes, young one. And for that, you shall need tarran.“
“It is time for you to complete your apprenticeship and create tarran of your own.”
“This child?!?” Rotonaka scoffed. “He is not ready.”
“The sacred map says otherwise!” Sedenka snapped. “The Elerastapok has spoken!”
Rotonaka glared, but fell silent.
“Master, I do not know how to create tarran.”
“I will help you, Enewan. This is the first great task of your quest, which you alone must fulfill.”
“The rest of you should get ready for our departure,” I ordered, trying to sound confident. “Gather provisions and trade goods, then return here to meet me this evening.” The warriors left immediately, already discussing what to pack. Rotonaka lingered.
“This knowledge is not for you, Rotanaka,” declared Sedenka. “You too must go and make ready for the journey.”
Rotonaka left, muttering under his breath.
“That one is trouble.” Sedenka warned. “But you must forget that for now and concentrate on the task at hand. Join me in the workshop,” he invited.
We passed through the heavy doors that separated Sedenka’s laboratory from the rest of his home. He opened a large chest and removed a cloth bundle. Unwrapping it, he handed me a cone of amber colored wood, which glowed like a crystal. “I have begun the preparations, but you must finish this. You must bond with the heart wood of the Kuru, from which all tarran are made, to make this your own. You must hold this and meditate on the history of the Kuru, and seek the blessing of Netalian. I will leave you to it.”
I closed my eyes, stroking the smooth surface of my future tarran, and remembered the stories I had been told from the time of first understanding:
In earliest times, the Qwerastafay were nomads, wandering the vast jungle in search of their True Homes. The people split into seven groups, led by seven chosen ones, who we call the Tree Spirits, and set off to find their Home Trees. Our people, the Netarpa, followed Netalian in this quest. As I remembered the tale of the founding, a song filled my head and I began to sing:
At the dawning of creation
Seven trees for seven nations
Made by Anazuli, wise
She gave each a creature in disguise
Gave Tree Spirits map and key
So that they could plainly see
Which one of many by its mark
Points the way through jungle dark
To proper leaf and proper bark
She let Netalian plainly see
Kuru Dupal is our Home Tree
As Tarran I ask now guide me.
The wood in my hands began to glow, and as I finished my song it seemed to grow warm. I could feel it changing, reshaping itself, as if it were absorbing the song, and singing it back to me. The smooth surface of the cone now bore the image of the Netarpaxylotyl, a small salamander found throughout Netarpa, which migrates through the jungle during mating season. This is the guide Anazuli sent, whose white and grey hide resembles the bark of Kuru Dupal, and whose green markings are the perfect image of its leaves. It is said that Netalian followed the creature through the jungle until he found its home territory, and the largest, oldest tree therein, the Kuru Dupal, which became our Home Tree.
Astonished, I called out for my Master. Sedenka, roused from sleep, came and examined the wonderous object and proclaimed it a new tarran. He helped me to camouflage it as the head of a walking staff, so that it would be less noticeable in my travels. I am to practice using it as a focus point to accomplish the few spells I have learned already. Sedenka had me practice one spell in particular: the spell to summon the winter ice. It took me far longer than it would have taken my Master, but I managed to coat the chamber in a light dusting of snow crystals. My Master smiled. “I wish I had time to teach you more that might be of use, but there is no time. You must return with the potion before the seasons turn, or the Kuru Dupal may not survive,” he said. “And now it is time to gather your companions and collect the first ingredient.”
More time had passed than I knew. When we looked outside, dusk had fallen and the team had already gathered. The three warriors sat around a lantern , while Rotonaka paced nervously.
“It’s about time!” he exclaimed. “All that time for a walking stick?”
Sedenka scowled. “Give the fool a demonstration, boy!” he whispered to me.
I pointed my tarran in Rotonaka’s direction and sang the spell for winter ice. A plump snowball appeared over Rotanaka’s head and crashed down on him. “Impudent child!” he snarled, brushing snow out of his fur.
“I trust your doubts have been settled,” Sedenka chortled. Benaret and Shiran exchanged a glance, which I could not interpret. Retenotar covered his mouth as if stifling a yawn, but I knew he was trying not to laugh. Rotonaka shook with anger, but he said nothing for a change.
Sedenka handed me a fur wrapped parcel. “This is the map. You must guard it carefully, for it is the key to your journey.” He lowered his voice so only I could hear. “Keep it away from Rotanaka, who has ambitions above his abilities. Do not trust that one.”
“Thank you, Master Sedenka, for everything.”
“Not Master any longer, Enewan. You are an apprentice no more. And now, I leave you to your quest. You know the way to the Temple of the Sacred Well, and you know what must be done to reach it.”
“Yes, Mas—Shaman Sedenka.”
“Netalian be with you. Farewell.”
I could not help looking back as we boarded the gondolas that would carry us down to the jungle floor. I was leaving everything I had ever known. And I was responsible for the life or death not just of this small band of travelers, but of the Kuru Dupal and all of my clan. Maybe Rotonaka was not so far off. It seemed a lot for someone my age to handle.
When we touched down on the soft mossy floor of the jungle, we walked around the Home Tree, looking for a tunnel under the roots. The tunnel led down at a fairly steep angle, and was pierced in places by roots that had grown through it. Near the surface, they were healthy and robust, but as we descended, we noticed that the roots were shrunken and smelled of rot.
“The sickness!” Benaret exclaimed.
“Disgusting!” complained Rotonaka, wiping some root slime from his cloak. The odor of rot clung to him.
“Quiet!” I cautioned. “We do not want the Fire Serpent to hear us coming.”
The first clue that we were close was an enormous tube of shed skin lying on the tunnel floor. The size of it was daunting. Even the warriors looked worried. It was clear that the Fire Serpent was no ordinary snake.
I decided not to wait any longer. I unwrapped the tarran slung over my shoulder and began to chant.
Mother Anazuli’s Tears
Take the form of all our fears
Harden into winter frost
Freeze enemies or we’re lost
Let us live all our days
Giving Anazuli praise.
Almost immediately I could see a cloud of my breath in the suddenly frigid tunnel. It had worked. But I had no idea how long it would last. I urged the others onward. Soon the tunnel opened up into a larger chamber. One long main root came down from the center like a large column. Around it twined the monsterous Fire Serpent, which was not a snake at all. It was a lindworm—a wingless dragon with a long serpentine body and two underdeveloped limbs.
Benaret wanted to chop its head off while it slumbered in cold induced stupor, but I was not sure what its blood would do to my winter ice. Better to get what we came for and leave before the beast awakened. That proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated. The Winter Ice spell had also frozen the sacred well. Retenotar had to climb down to the water’s level and chip out a cup full of ice. As soon as he climbed back up, we retreated towards the surface. Shiran and I exchanged concerned looks as the roof of the tunnel began to drip.
“Make haste!’ I ordered. We began to run.
We had just reached the surface when we heard the Fire Serpent roar. My blood ran as cold as the magic ice when I realized how narrowly we had escaped.
In the safety of the lower branches of the Home Tree, we poured the sacred water into a bottle and corked it. One ingredient down. Eight to go.
Although it was late, we loaded our provisions on a cart and set out into the jungle. We had a lot of ground to cover before reaching the next ingredient. I checked the map to be sure we were heading in the right direction. Shiran drove the team of Skraels. Benaret and Retenotar took turns scouting ahead or watching from the back of the cart for any dangers. Rotonaka lounged atop the baggage and snored loudly.
We stopped for the night when it became clear that we could not stay awake much longer. Since he had the benefit of napping along the way, Rotonaka was assigned the first watch.
Before I laid down to sleep, I looked at the map one last time. Tomorrow, we would be entering Salanaen territory, in search of the second ingredient: 6 tail feathers from the anora, spectacularly plumed bird that hunts prey. Since Netarpa is on good terms with the Salaneans, I hoped that the only danger we would face would be from the anora. I wrapped the map up and stuffed it in my bedroll before rolling over to sleep.