Peoni, Peoni, what are you guarding?
A child, a child, asleep on the grass.
Larani, Larani, what are you guarding?
A cloak, a cloak, nestled up to its chin.
Save-K'Nor, Save-K'Nor, what are you guarding?
A book that she was reading, ere it was halfway through.
Siem, O Siem, what are you guarding?
A lyre, a lyre, softly sweet and pure.
Halea, Halea, what are you guarding?
A key, a key, which she will certainly lose.
Naveh, O Naveh, what are you guarding?
The last illusion, by which quickens her throat.
A Child's Song of Uncertain Origin.
The raindrops fell, though very wide apart. It fell to green to introduce their new passenger, which Gwynwyffer was a burble of babel – until she stopped at a place where no one seemed to be. Or rather, she seemed to know that the white-shrouded figure was there before anyone else did. And what was more surprising was the reaction.
“I am surprised that you are here. Surely, there were better things to spend your time on than me.” There wasn't a laugh, but there was the constant hint of it.
“There things more important, but they are waiting there turn, because many of them live a very long time.” As opposed to the pandemonium of Gwynwyffer, Loria's voice was calm, and could be hard to hear.
“I forget that you take the long view, it is not the way with the wealth of humanity.” while the voice had turned down, there was no indication of any real hint of dissatisfaction.
“You do not know what a gift that is, to wake up each day, and go to sleep that once good night.” Even Loria was beginning to get, if not gay, then happy.
“I could afford a little bit more time.” Teased Gwynwyffer, with a great deal of mirth.
“You think you could, but having a day without forgetting, is not something that you really wish to have.” Retorted Loria, the without as much play.
The tête-à-tête between Loria and Gwynwyffer caught everyone else off guard. But finally, the Watcher managed to enter into their discussion – though he did so by speaking Hârnic. “It is clear that you know each other, and know each other quite well. Why do not you speak what you mean, because you imply much more than that.” He did not phrase this correctly, but it would have to do. 'Twas enough.
Two women looked at him, and first Gwynwyffer laughed, while Loria just made a slight half smile.
And then Gwynwyffer turned to Loria: “Did you not tell them of what you were doing?”
“But you do it so well, that is explanation is your strength, one might almost say your forte.”
Someone else might have blushed, but not Gwynwyffer – though it was difficult to know whether it was pride in her talkativeness, or she just did not realize that she was insulted. A good mannered insult, since it is clear that the two women were friends, or as much as they could be on opposite sides of life's divide.
Again, interjecting himself into the conversation, theWatcher interjected: “Are you saying that you are the mysterious companion, and you,” that is Loria, “was the gate opener?”
“Of course she was.” In a mellow high-pitched tone which was Gwynwyffer way. “But I did not know she would be on this vessel. How could I? It would be a strange thing for you to dredge up the one person who carried me through the pseudo-stone. You will have to forgive me if this did not cross my mind.”
Everything fell into place: Loria had been searching – at least among other things – for this person; and everyone began to suspect that the undead of Morgath were looking for her too. Thus servants of Naveh were recruited. Naveh desired evil, but not so much evil that human beings could not control it; whereas Morgath had no such compunctions – human beings were to serve, not to command.
The Commander them asked: “So what are you going to do now? And why did Naveh decide to rebel, if they had not gotten what they wanted?”
“They only needed Loria and myself, and I would imagine that they would terminate the relationship when the last hurdle was passed.” though she did not know it, the island capital was the last hurdle. There ever afterwards, there was no one to stand in the way of procuring that which Naveh wished for them.
There were more questions to be asked, but at this point, ominous low high clouds gathered, and it was that they had to gather things together, and batten down the hatches. Fortunately, this long ship had a full main deck, so people could huddle beneath.
It was just in the nick of time, too. Although the Commander was on the ship, everyone else asked a great many questions, though they often wanted for answers. The ship had come from the continent, and they suspected that it was sent for them. The other thing which puzzled more than a few people – was why did not the Skald maiden participate. With all of the goings-on, it made this suspicious. But later on they understood, she was in bed with one of the rowers, not quite the tallest, but the broadest one.
The Commander stood out all night, and watched the dragon hole, which spewed sparks and lava. None of them knew if it was going to explode, and none of them wanted to find out. So every so often, one or another of them looked out. They saw the orange light from the hole, and the red sash, which was brooding in his footsteps. Everyone stood away from him, because there was a foul temper to him. It was not just Loria's skirting around the issues – though that was part of it – it was that no one knew where the Morgath undead would strike, and that was on his mind again. So while it was light, it was the darkest light that anyone had ever experienced.
Bells chimed at 8 o'clock, and the crew slowly roused themselves. Not that there was any change in either the weather, or the Dragons hole – though no one had seen the black dragon. Which had a kind of mercy to it, even as the was still aclouding sky, that still rained down upon them. The crew only roused their sleep, which was unusual for them. It was almost like a holiday – though undeclared. Different people stretch different places it the anatomy – but the general consensus was that it was a day of rest.
There were only three people who were on affected, course the elves who rarely ever slept, more a command with nature, were not effective – and the last person was the Commander, who could not sleep because he watched the dragons hole and the twisting sky. Buy 8 and a quarter, all of the crew was assembled, and one might add crisply so. The holiday was over. And it was back to work, though a did not make a cleanup of the main deck, instead they sorted out the cramped quarters below – there was only about four and a half feet. But they managed to make quick work, and then go on to the little jobs which made what could be called spin and span.
If it were a slave ship, many things would have to be carefully constructed by the crew – but since they were free men, and they had a bond between them – there was a willingness and an eagerness about them which was infectious. The men even told jokes in their strange tongue, even though for many of them it was a second language. But down below, Gwynwyffer would not permit the priest to do anything but continue to instructor, at which she was amazingly gifted. Ones or twice was enough to fix in her memory a word or a phrase or idiom.
Then, suddenly, everyone had something to do – and in each case it was the Commander who suggested it, and if not suggest ordered it. But only one person understood this, and he was the Watcher. Bags of flour were stacked, water was laid out into open buckets for the next journey – and 1000 different things that needed someone's attention. That is why the Watcher went over to him when he was done giving orders, but watching everyone with a still calm eye, and rested a still and on his red cloaked shoulder. Slowly, with a stare framed in the steel helmet, the eyes of weariness stared back at the Watcher.
“What is it you would like to say?”
“In all the world there are few people who could organize this motley collection of men and women into a crew. Just do not forget that one of them is you. And some of us will remember it, at least one at the time it happened.”
“You are too gracious.”
“I only knew one thing. I would not serve under Green, or Loria, or anyone else here; but I went would serve again under you. You can take that as a compliment, or what you will.”
Under the helmet, there was little expression from the Commanders face, but he thought that the rough edges had smoothed. This was the most internal thought that he would ever see. But then, in both of their eyes, something was moving along the sea sky - and they both suspected what it was.
A Black Dragon. A sinewy thin dragon, as before.
At this point, the Commander was waving his hands - and shouting orders, in two languages. He was a torrent of energy in this mode, because things had to be done. So he rolled his gait and was all over the deck shouting orders. But the Watcher was moving his eye to focus on the black dragon. And he saw something very interesting – and he started to wave down the Commander.
“That is not the same dragon as the one we watch before.”
“And what is different about it?”
“The first dragon was almost straight, with only a bending loop going down from the head. The bending loop was formed into a circle, that was straight down as the as the circle moved from head to tail. Thus it was pure, even when it was stretching out. This dragon reaches left and right, it is pure in a different way. It will left than right, up and down, and the whole body stretches in several directions. This is not the same dragon at all. I do not know whether they are mates, or even which sex is which. But I do know that there are at least two.”
“How do you know these things?” In his steel helmet moved back and forth, as to motion amazement.
“Most people watch, where have I observe. There is a difference.”
The Commander just nodded.
Soon the dragon was no longer in the background, but had moved to the mid-ground. And they all saw, when they looked up at different times, a man dressed in black armor and wielding a long sword. There was no detail on his face or figure. There was something of dread about him, even those who did not know what. But the Watcher knew.
“That is not a Gulmorvrin – because one of them would be dead. This is different but the same. It clearly is under the command of Morgath, but it has a deep life to it.”
Because most were scrambling around, and only a few people paid him any heed. But the Commander was interested. “What is it?”
“I do not know. But stories tell of undead that have life to them, and command the Gulmovrin with their mind. There undead, of a kind. But they have life left – which they willingly give to Klyss - Morgath's second in command.”
“So how do we defeat them?” Asked Green.
“We do not defeat them, but we can dissipate they're to form a little while.” Countered the Watcher.
“Wonderful, we cannot defeat it just drive it off.” Commented Gwynwyffer. “If I ran the world, things would be rather different.” She checks her quarterstaff, and felt for her sling.
“Watch out for the sword, it has fell treatment about it, and eats with sword, a Bukrai blade – the un-magic force.” Commented the Watcher to no one in particular. The rowers had gone beneath, and in a view minutes were growing out of the island. It is this point that the dragon lit down, with its talons – which were five – reaching below to strike at the vessel. Right up overhead, it was vast – easily twice the length of the ship, but of course only about one quarter the size in breath. It was clear after it had missed that that was a warning shot, and that what it wanted to do was to have the ship move towards the land.
And it was working: both because of the tide, and because of the storm – as well as the motions of the dragon – the ship moved towards the coast. Gradually, it was heading for the easiest beach that the Commander could find. Then the Watcher saw Loria bend to the Commander – but what she said the Watcher did not know. And then finally, the craft beached itself on the pebbles – and that was the moment that Loria sprung into action. She wielded an enormous bow – longer than almost any that anyone had seen – and with the dragon bearing down on the vessel – she fired a shot which struck directly at the right eye. And what is more amazing – she managed to hit.
With that two things happened, one is the dragon pulled the arrow from its high, snaking around as it did so, and disappearing into the mist. The other one was that the undead released himself from the saddle and stretching his arms gracefully pulled open a cloak, and slowly descended far away from the crew. He was still completely back. He hit the ground, with his knees sinking to earth – but righted himself again. It was clear he was tall, broad, and cover in armor from his head downwards.
No one but the Watcher saw that smoke and steam was coming out of the dragon hole, and eerily dead men came spewed out by fours. Eventually, the dragon Rider landed at the middle point of the point at which the dragon whole was further up the chain, and spun to – perhaps embrace - his legion.
From out of the lava from the hole the minions were collecting and streaming down the pinnacle. Clearly, this is not what the Dragon Rider intended, but it would have to do.