My Nanowrimo Novel - Vahnatai stuff!

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AuthorTopic: My Nanowrimo Novel - Vahnatai stuff!
Triad Mage
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*cough* *cough*


"At times discretion should be thrown aside, and with the foolish we should play the fool." - Menander
Drakefyre's Demesne - Happy Happy Joy Joy
Encyclopedia Ermariana - Trapped in the Closet
You can take my Mac when you pry my cold, dead fingers off the mouse!
Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00
Law Bringer
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Profile Homepage #76
Well, this thread *does* still serve a purpose, and the conversation isn't that unrelated to the topic.

Besides, my Inbox is stuffed to the brim. :P

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Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.
I have a love of woodwind instruments.
Posts: 8752 | Registered: Wednesday, May 14 2003 07:00
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Then you'll need a larger brim.

The Knight Between Posts.
Posts: 2395 | Registered: Friday, November 2 2001 08:00
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Aww, Drakey, we're only going to be able to do this for 5 more days... Surely it's not that disruptive? And anyway, other people can get a good feel of how NaNoWriMo works, both for those who've done it before and for those who are doing it for the first time. Even if our range is rather small. :\

"I'm not crazy!"
"Well, whatever. Maybe you just ate something really questionable, or perhaps someone hit you on the head with something large, blunt and heavy just now. By the way..." Gil nudged Grul pointedly.

Ooh! Homepage - Blog - Geneforge, +2, +3 - My Elfwood Gallery and DevArt page
So many strange ones around. Don't you think?
Posts: 1308 | Registered: Sunday, September 8 2002 07:00
Law Bringer
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This post presently is only to say my wordcount is at 40000, but will later today be edited to include the next chapter, so it is not entirely pointless.

*sounds of arguing*


Chapter VII continued:

"I absolutely cannot allow this. It is ridiculous that we are even having this discussion; you know perfectly well what my standpoint on it is."

"You are overreaching your authority."

"You are far outside your jurisdiction. Inside the resting-halls, my voice carries light." Tam remembered that this was an expression used among the Vahnatai to indicate almost absolute authority. "You cannot expect to barge in and make such demands, especially overruling my judgement."

"The circumstances are different."

"They are exactly the same as any other time. There is one who requires healing, and for that purpose he stays in these halls and I decide when he is ready to go out. Not you, nor anyone else."

"Mh'repha, I must insist on a meeting now, and with no delay."

"I tell you as before, Phamh'rir, I cannot allow it. He is in no condition to meet with anyone, and it would violate both procedure and my conscience to judge otherwise in this issue."

"You have lost touch with reality! You cannot expect to take in one of the Shining Ones and expect the situation to be no different than with any other patient. There are forces at work that are beyond your understanding."

"My offer stands. I will continue to observe his recuperation, and notify you immediately once I hold he is sufficiently recovered to face up to your questioning. Mh'asharra willing, that will be in a week's time."

"We do not have a week. You cannot tell me he has not yet recovered from his starvation - you said he had regained consciousness more than a week ago! What are you still waiting for?"

"There is a difference between being conscious and being recovered, as you well know, Phamh'rir."

"I have heard you are teaching him our language."

"That is true. He has made a stunning progress."

"If he is able to learn languages, then how can you claim he is unable to be questioned? He is obviously in a sound state of mind."

"Yes, but not of sound body. Do you realize he has not yet even managed to stand for more than three seconds, let alone walk? You would have to cart him in to the meeting room if you wished to speak with him, and I can guarantee you that the stress will have a serious detrimental effect on his recovery time. Then you will wait even longer for your precious report."

"I am fine with that, Mh'repha, as long as I get my answers right now, and no later."

"You are despicable."

"I am fine with that as well, Mh'repha. Now let me past. Room twelve, you said?"

"Room twelve it is, and if you take another step I shall arrange to have you forcibly thrown out of this building."

"Then I shall arrange to have your forcible evictors forcibly evicted themselves. Stand aside." There was a minor disturbance, steps on stone, for a while Tam even thought he heard swords drawn. The situation sounded tense, dangerous, and utterly pointless. Tam decided to put a stop to it before it deteriorated further and led to a mess.

A voice sounded suddenly through the curtain. "Stay. Your wish is granted."

The two Nephilim, each surrounded by three of what had to be guards - Tam noticed that they were a lot taller and more muscular than the others, appearing almost to be a breed of their own - looked up in astonishment. Their surprised faces - still reflecting the earlier anger that had been etched upon them only seconds ago - were looking upon a curtain being hesitantly drawn aside, upon a figure in a dark green cloak. The figure was tall, but only little taller than them - and shorter than their guards. His head was a large, almost spherical bulb with huge green eyes, and his skin was glistening in a shiny grey. He would have seemed only little less frail if it had not been for the natural thinness of the Vahnatai - for he had not gained weight in the recent weeks spent recovering. As he stood in the gateway, the curtain now fully drawn open, he awkwardly clutched the doorframe for support. A paleness that only accentuated his seemingly unnatural grey colour spread over his face. And yet, he was undoubtedly awake and conscious.

"Greetings, Phamh'rir. You wish to speak with me. How can I help you?" Tam continued to speak in the flowing, purring speech of the cat race as he had before coming in.

"Tam!" Mh'repha sounded half in panic, and half in awe at his apparent ability to leave his room and walk unsupported. "You were not supposed to leave your bed for another week at least!" In her surprise, she appeared to have missed his change of the language, and automatically began to address him in Novah. At an imperceptible signal from her, the three muscular bouncers around her sheathed their weapons and withdrew into the corners, seeming almost to vanish from sight. In response to this, the guards that had accompanied Pham'rir also put away their blades, and withdrew in silence.

"I could not bear waiting any longer, so I came down. Besides, I wondered why you had not shown up yet. What has kept you?" Tam was quite insistent about the language, as if wishing to prove a point to Phamh'rir, whoever he was and whatever his position.

"He has." Mh'repha simply pointed at Phamh'rir, who had apparently given her some trouble already. "He has some questions, and insists on having them answered right away, as his kind often likes to think they have a right to." She turned back to Phamh'rir and nodded.

"It appears that my point has been lost, for he can walk unaided. If he consents to it, I will allow you to question him. Yet, I must remind you of his continued weak health, and that you do tend to make your questioning sessions far, far too long. Please confine yourself to short queries, and do not strain him.

"Tam, if he bothers you and won't go away if you tell him, just tell me. I'll have his liver for dinner if he doesn't follow my conditions."

"Do not worry, Mh'repha. I think I can stand it, as long as you can find me something to sit in, and under the condition that you stay with me during the questions."

Phamh'rir looked quite sceptic for the better part of a minute, but had to give way under Mh'repha's smouldering glare. Weakly, he protested. "Mh'repha, this is sensitive information, and highly classified. We cannot afford the risk of acquiring a leak in our intelligence and communications"

Tam was ready for that. "In that case, I don't have anything to tell you."


"No, I do not mean I will not tell you, I mean I have nothing you wish to know. All that I do know and remember, I have told Mh'repha already. If what you are seeking to know is too confidential for her to listen to it, then what I can tell you is obviously of no use to you." Tam spoke without stumbling, mainly because he was careful to speak slowly and carefully - you could not rush a language you had learnt less than a week ago. "Besides, I am not yet familiar with your language, and in spite of being able to walk, am too tired to answer a lot of questions. I am confident that Mh'repha will allow me to end the questioning once I cannot stand it longer, and I will need her help when I lack the right words."

Phamh'rir seemed not to have expected that, but recognized a hopeless issue when he saw one. "On the condition that you will not repeat what you hear inside the meeting, neither my questions nor his answers, you are welcome to come." He turned around as if to leave. "Now if you would follow me..." he took a few steps towards what was evidently a staircase to one of the lower levels. When he reached it, he turned around.

Tam was still standing near the curtain and leaning against the wall for support. Mh'repha had not moved either.

"Follow you?" Mh'repha asked. "Follow you where? There is a vacant room, the first door to the right through there - ", she pointed at the curtain, "which is perfectly suited to talk with nobody listening in. I am sure you can see that Tam is not ready to walk any longer distance, and I will not let him leave these halls before then." Tam suspected this was as much out of concern for his health as it was due to a thing he had overheard earlier - Inside the resting-halls, my voice carries light. Once Mh'repha let him be taken out of the halls, she would lose what power she had now, and would be hard-pressed to continue to protect him.

Phamh'rir's eyes were glinting dangerously, their golden irises drawn to dangerous slits like those of a tiger. His black fur was bristling, and his guards appeared to move slightly in the shadows as if sharing his anger.

"As you wish."

"And your guards will remain outside, as will mine. I trust you want to keep the meeting as confidential as possible." Mh'repha sounded faintly ironic, although Tam could not imagine why. He must not know something about the guards, who were standing as still as the shadows of statues.

Pham'rir nodded, defeated. He and Mh'repha followed as Tam - closest to the door - led the way into the room labelled One. As Tam looked around for a seat, but apart from two wooden chairs found only the bed, which he promptly sat on, he wondered what exactly it was that Pham'rir wished to know from him, and who he was and was what his position within the Claw. If he were an ordinary man, Mh'repha would never have allowed him this near, and if he were one of the arhmshar who Mh'repha had told him of, he would surely be older. He appeared to have a lot of rank to pull and a strong lack of personal concern, hinting at a military commander - but Tam could not imagine what the army of the Claw wished to know from him, and why. It would remain to be seen, he realized even as Mh'repha drew up the two chairs next to the bed, careful to arrange their positions in such a way as to have Phamh'rir face both of them, rather than Tam.

Phamh'rir pretended not to care about the arrangement that, by its appearance, seemed to put him in a cross examination as the examinee rather than the questioner. Instead, he sat down, determined to get his answers as quickly as possible and leave this unfavourably situation again. There will be other days, he thought grimly.

[ Saturday, November 26, 2005 16:34: Message edited by: NaNoWriMo ]

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Chapter VIII is not yet done, although it is far too long already. Here is what there is so far (>5000):

Chapter VIII
Questions and Answers

When all three of them were seated - Mh'repha had first gone back to lock the door to make sure they would not be interrupted (partly, Tam suspected, in case Phamh'rir had any ways of commanding his guards at this distance, and trying something underhanded to capture him, as he would not past the furious tiger with the cunning eyes) - Phamh'rir immediately began.

"Omh'phtah," a word that Tam translated as Shining One (and he remembered the first time Phamh'rir had appeared to call him this, which apparently was the name the Nephilim for the Vahnatai), "your name is, as Mh'repha previously stated, Tam?"

Tam briefly smiled at the irony that this first, seemingly easy question was already one which he had immense difficulties to answer, but quickly responded. "I can remember no other name. Mh'repha told me it was what I answered the ones who found me, but surely you have been told that I was in no state to answer sensibly at that point."

"You do not know your true name?" Phamh'rir was incredulous. "Or what reason do you have to withhold it?"

"Tam could easily be my true name. It is possible that this uncertainty about it is just an after-effect of the delirium."

"Very well," Phamh'rir replied, although from his tone it was clear he believed it to be neither well nor truthful. He would have pressed the point, Tam was sure, but he appeared to have no time for what was obviously a minor point. He seemed to be aware that if he pressured him too much, Mh'repha would break off the questioning, and there were things he urgently wished to know. "Tam, how did you arrive here and where did you come from?"

"I would be more able to tell you that if I knew where you found me and how you brought me here."

Phamh'rir's fur bristled again. Tam, though having no personal experience with such interviews, knew what was coming. I'M ASKING THE QUESTIONS! Phamh'rir opened his mouth, but caught himself in time. You did not shout at someone you had only limited time to question; shouting revealed agitation, and agitation was insecurity, and insecurity of the questioner coupled with the knowledge of time being on one's side made the questioned one impervious. He struggled to swallow his anger. "You were found by one of our hunting parties a few dozen leagues south of here, several weeks ago. Our hunters reported that you must have been travelling for what must already be over a hundred leagues, on foot, and that you were near death from exposure, and from starvation. Where did you come from?"

Tam briefly wondered if Zadal-Ihrno had gotten the same questioning when he arrived here. His diary entries didn't seem to mention it, but then they were overall quite positive and hesitated to place any stains on his impression of the cat race. Or perhaps he was forbidden from mentioning the questioning to anybody else. Then again, Zadal had visited these people more than three hundred years ago. It was quite likely they had significantly changed in the meantime.

"I left my home town early in the eleventh month, that must be almost two months ago now. I travelled northeast for some time, then lost my way in a storm, and travelled northwest for the remainder of my conscious time. I was unable to tell the direction or the time for the last few days or so, however, but I was not making a lot of distance by then either, I guess."

"You have travelled a great distance north, but variously northeast and northwest. Do you believe you are now east or west of your home town?"

"West. Definitely west. I went northeast for less than a week, but northwest for as long as I can remember after that."
"That is well possible. The southwest has been travelled, the south has mostly been left alone, and about the southeast we know little to nothing beyond great plains of emptiness and dark, impenetrable forests. If it is indeed that way by which you came, then the only thing I marvel about is how you survived that long."

"I cannot answer that myself. I had supplies to last me a few days, and on the way I hunted a hyena for food-" Mh'repha's face twisted into a pitying frown at this, which brought back the stringy, bitter taste Tam had had to endure when forced to eat the meat - "but for the rest of the way I had nothing but water and roots to gnaw on."

"No, I mean how it was that the wild beasts left you alone! Why did they not tear you to pieces? At this time of the year, they are starved for food, and if you even come within the range of their noses, you must be prepared to fight for your life!"

"Beasts? I did not see any beasts - save for the hyenas, and that was long before I began to travel northwest. There were no beasts in my path, neither edible, nor hostile, nor dangerous."

Mh'repha seemed suddenly to come to a startling realization, for she opened her mouth in surprise. "Tam, did you truly pass through the forest without even encountering any of the animals?" In spite of her original intentions, she had turned around to face Tam, so that he indeed was now faced by two questioners rather than one. Phamh'rir appeared to be annoyed at the interjection.

"Mh'repha, if you would kindly not interfere, I would be pleased. Tam will give an indication when he needs your help, I am sure, and I would rather ask without you involving yourself as far as possible." He appeared to be straining to be polite. Tam wondered if that was because he was so angry that he might lose his temper if he did not control it in this way, or if he feared that too brash an attitude would anger Mh'repha sufficiently to throw him out again. A transformation had seemed to come upon him since he had been granted the permission for this questioning - perhaps it was a line of diplomacy he had not considered at first, but which he was trying hard to keep open now since the alternatives were far less certain to yield the information he wanted, and a lot more far-reaching in their repercussions. He also seemed anxious to get back to the interview. "Tam, as you can imagine by our surprise, it is very much out of the ordinary to pass the way you have come without courting death at almost every step. Would you care to tell us how you did this? What way do you have of warding off the monsters?"

"How I did this? But how can I know if I did not even see what danger I was warding off? The woods were silent, and the wind was moving around me, and the sun was rising and setting, and after the first few weeks I did not even realize where I was going, much less what or who might be around me - I saw no animals and no monsters!"

Suddenly, as he finished, he was reminded of a curious feeling he had first experienced on the day that he had returned from the test. It was not so much a feeling as it was a concept, an illusion, a state of mind. Not around him, anything that he could sense, but the sensation of having an idea on the edge of his mind, something he was struggling to remember but could not quite place, something on the very edge of his awareness. He struggled to put a word to it, and was surprised when the first one that came to his mind was shadow.

A shadow! A shadow, like one cast upon him from behind, but less a shadow that was cast on his body, and more a shadow that was cast on his mind. Something...

"I am not sure, but I believe I was followed."

Of course, the question had been a rather tense one, and what he had been asked about was very out of the ordinary already. Whatever his possible response might have been, it would have led to very interested reactions. But Tam doubted he could have given another reply that would have shocked the Nephilim he was talking to that much. As well, he could have said he knew the secret of invisibility, and they would have been less impressed. Except one could not really call them impressed. Mh'repha's face was filled by incredulous shock, while Phamh'rir's appeared to be intensely interested, almost afraid.

"You were followed."

Tam nodded.

"By who?"

Tam shrugged. "I cannot say. I cannot even say for sure that I was followed. But ever so often, I had a feeling that a shadow was hovering just beyond my awareness, and on my trail, careful not to interfere, but possibly smoothing my passage and warding away the beasts that might otherwise have attacked me. I cannot explain it otherwise."

With every word he spoke, Phamh'rir became even more agitated, and when he mentioned the word shadow, he seemed to visibly blanch - through the fur on his face, even - as if with terror - if Tam had not been sure that one like Phamh'rir, if he could even feel terror, would never show it this openly. He still did not know who his questioner was, but in his face and his behaviour, in his gestures and even the slightest of his moves, he felt that the Nephil was one who was in control: In complete control, at all times, of himself, and the situation around him. He was powerful, powerful and yet wise enough to realize there were several approaches to reach one's goal - as he had shown by choosing the diplomatic way earlier. There must be little in this land that was his match: If he felt fear, then what he was fearing must be terrible beyond mortal comprehension.

He spoke again. "Mh'repha, do you now see why I needed to insist on meeting with him immediately? I have not yet asked him ten questions, and already he brings to light information that I could not have expected or even imagined in my worst dreams!" The Nephilim word for dream was used for anything from daydreams to nightmares, even occasionally for illusions or hallucinations. The second meaning seemed most likely, judging from his still terrified expression.

Mh'repha, however, seemed less impressed. "What information is it that you so fear?"

Phamh'rir responded without even pausing. "I fear that there are powers at work that could well come to mean life or death not just for our clan, but our entire race." The way that Phamh'rir did not even react to this - if not intentional, then at least not very carefully avoided - insult, was another testament to the great urgency that he must perceive in gaining more. What Tam had only guessed at about Phamh'rir's personality, Mh'repha knew quite well. If Phamh'rir was ready to see past his personal interests this well, then the stakes must be great indeed.

All the more reason to be wary of his intentions, Mh'repha realized, for if he placed the importance of his mission beyond his own, then he definitely placed it far above any of their concerns, and that Mh'repha and Tam had been able to convince him to be this accommodating was only due to his perception that he could reach his goals more quickly this way. It also meant that although he was now doing his best to remain diplomatic, and to head off any possible concerns she might have - thus ensuring that he would get his information as easily and quickly as possible - her threat to break off the questioning would have to remain a hollow one. If she actually did send Phamh'rir on his way, his implacable will in acquiring what he needed by whatever means would inevitably lead him to use violence. Which would cost him the ease with which he could currently question, but would be the only way to gain information. They were at each other's grace and depended on them for their mutual advantage. Mh'repha was reminded of a logical riddle that would have two Nephilim able to choose to cooperate with each other, or to betray each other. If they both cooperated, they had the greatest advantage, but if either was betrayed without expecting it, he was utterly lost. At present, they were both cooperating, but as soon as either showed signs of hostility, there would be swords drawn, and blood as well. They were trapped in the present situation. Not for nothing, Mh'repha realized grimly, did they call this the Prisoner's Dilemma*.

Phamh'rir must be realizing the same, for he was a master at strategy - both politically and in matters of war. He had seen much of the ways of the world - even though not the world itself - and the interactions of beings, mostly Nephilim, but others as well. It was the weight of this experience that was now carried in his voice when he spoke.

"Mh'repha, our civilization, our people, and our very race is in the immediate danger of entering the greatest war it has yet had to face in its history, and believe me when I say that for all our power, our chances to survive it are grim at best, and our chances of ever regaining the normal life we lead earlier are next to non-existent. Things are even now being put in motion, and while this curious visitor from a far land we have never seen might play just a minor part in it all, he puts such information as I have already gathered into a new light entirely."

"How do I do so?" Tam asked. "It seems to me you have learnt nothing from me - I do not know my name, I could not tell you for sure even which direction I came from or what distance I have travelled, I could not even explain why I was so strangely able to evade the beasts on the way here, and even now I have not told you why you have found me travelling so far from my home."

Phamh'rir, however waved it off. "You name is of little enough concern, though the circumstances under which you lost it might be of some interest, should they - as I do not yet suspect, but would not discard entirely - turn out to be more complex than just your starvation-induced delirium. The direction is determined easily enough - there is a mountain range east of here that you could not have scaled without a lot more equipment and skill and health than you possessed when you were found, and that you would have remembered had you seen it. The only way past it without seeing it and being hindered by it was from the Southeast or the North. South of the place where you were found, a great river would have impeded your passage, which you also did not come across. I have marched before you were alive -" Tam doubted this, since he was close to a hundred waking years old, and thrice that in the long years of deathlike sleep that his race did not count, but he said nothing - "and I know how fast and far you can march in Summer and Winter, and when hungry or not. Lastly, your guess at being followed is more important than everything else put together, especially the feeling you described. Being followed by a shadow that lies on your mind is not a very common feeling." Then he paused, remembering Tam's last sentence. "Why did you say you were here?"

"I did not, because you had not yet asked me, even though I would have thought it would be the first question you would seek to ask a stranger."

"I have found that the original intentions of strange travellers are often far less mysterious or even relevant than what they encounter in their travels, and where they arrive. Travel is unpredictable, and where you end up is more relevant to your present situation than where you were intending to end up. Nonetheless, tell me the circumstances of your departure."

"These are easily told. I am - was - a student of one of the greatest arcane academies in these lands. I had spent more than seventeen years studying magic under these wise professors, and at last was ready for the final examination. I went to the testing caves, I returned, and I slept for a night before going to the assessment because I was that exhausted. Turns out they didn't like that, so I got thrown out because I hadn't come back right away."

Phamh'rir chuckled, while Mh'repha looked sympathetic. "I keep telling our recruits that sleeping at the wrong time can be the last mistake they ever make. It turns out that applies to more than battles, I see. What did you do then, run away?" Tam nodded. "Without bothering to acquire equipment or supplies, I presume?" Tam did not nod, but it was not necessary anyway. "Sleep, and rash decisions, of course. The greatest enemies of anyone faced with danger, and there is no traveller throughout these lands who does not endanger himself by travelling." Phamh'rir then put off his amusement like a cloak that one no longer needs - or perhaps put on his seriousness like a cloak that one suddenly requires again.

"You speak of testing caves. A practical test, one of prowess and survival." He did not put it as a question.

"Yes. We call it a Test of Mind and Body - forachid." Mh'repha and Phamh'rir appeared to be unanimous in their surprise. "You are familiar with the term?"

"It carries this meaning in your language?" Phamh'rir asked.

"Yes, and seeing as some of the Claw appear to have passing familiarity with Novah, I am surprised that this is a secret to you - since you seem to be surprised as well," Tam continued as he turned to Mh'repha.

"The way your language is constructed allows for many such words. There is hardly something one can say that could not somehow be translated out of Novah, usually to say something with no meaning whatsoever. We just never thought of deriving the word from your language, for the significance it carries to us as a name is far greater."

"A name?" It was Tam's turn to be surprised. "Forachid is a name in your culture - as in, a person's name?"

"Not a person," Phamh'rir replied, and Mh'repha seemed uncomfortable.

"You would have to be familiar with our religion to understand the context and the meaning the word carries to us."

Religious and mythological texts had been curiously missing from the collection of Nephilim literature that had been made available to Tam in his time of recovering. His knowledge of Nephilim spirituality extended to the name Mh'asharra, who was likely a Nephil god of healing whom Mh'repha had mentioned earlier while talking to Phamh'rir.

"Do you have the time to give me such familiarity now?"

Phamh'rir nodded. "It is essential you understand the significance, because that is the only way you can know what information we seek from you about this... test." He seemed to shudder briefly. Phamh'rir, completely unexpectedly, nodded to Mh'repha. "Mh'repha, I believe you can explain better."

Mh'repha seemed as much taken aback by this sudden invitation to join in the conversation that Phamh'rir had told her to keep out of earlier as did Tam, and she paused for a while to collect her thoughts before she spoke.

"Where to begin?" She hesitated, then continued. "Tam, do you remember what was one of the first things I told you about our people?"

Tam thought a while, then replied: "You told me that the skill of the Nephilim with bows and arrows are unsurpassed by any other people."

Phamh'rir drew his face into what looked like a grin, a strange sight on one so calculating. "It would be like her to speak of archery, when she has probably never touched a bow in her life. Her skills lie elsewhere." Mh'repha opened her mouth as if to protest, but Phamh'rir went on. "I do not suppose she has told you that she is the greatest alchemist our Clan has had for the last two hundred years?"

"Uh... not that I can remember, no." Tam turned to Mh'repha, suddenly understanding why he had gotten the impression that the Nephilim were such masters of alchemy: When their knowledge of this lore - though not her own skill - had been explained by one so well-versed in it! Mh'repha's whiskers, however, twitched nervously, and she hastened to change the subject.

"It is not relevant now," she said, "because that is not what I meant. Tam, when I noticed you were awake, the first thing I told you was that we had not met one of your kind for centuries. That the arhmshar called you an enemy. They explained that your kind is arrogant and ruthless, and that you rarely see beyond the immediate personal gain, and never beyond the glory of your own kind. That you claim to be the first, and above all the only creatures that the gods created - to keep the precious balance. Balance and serenity are the things you preach, but from what we have read, you are neither balanced, nor serene."

I am not the first to notice that, it would seem. Tam nodded in agreement.

"We learnt a great lot about your people from one traveller who visited us many centuries ago. His name was Zadal-Ihrno." A-ha!, thought Tam, I am finally going to learn some more about this man! But Mh'repha did not intend to change the subject.

"But there was much that he did not need to teach us, that we knew already. Our legends have been wrought with your culture, your religion, your history and even your values - we have gone different paths, naturally, us devoting our lives to the longbow and the brewing of potions, while you perfected your knowledge of spellcraft and the carving of crystals. But our roots run together. We did not know this before Zadal-Ihrno arrived, of course, since we had never heard of your people. Zadal-Ihrno himself did not say much about the religion of the Vahnatai unless we asked him about it; it is thought he found the apparent hypocrisy too shameful to bear. He never wrote about it in his book, but it is fortunate indeed that he told us about the religion, for it gave us the missing keystone in this riddle.

"The other tribes have never realized it, since Zadal-Ihrno only ever visited three of our clans, and did not stay long enough to impart his wisdom on the other two. We of the Claw are the only ones who gained his knowledge, and thus were able to compare his descriptions of the Vahnatai culture with our own." She paused. "With a stunning result. As I said, there are so many parallels it is immensely unlikely that our races have never had contact. More, that they apparently communicated with each other, and exchanged knowledge. Even our religions possess so many similarities that they can be drawn together to a point-by-point parallel, deriving all tenets, deities, myths and principles of one religion from the other, and vice versa.

"With one notable difference."

Phamh'rir looked a bit impatient at seeing that Mh'repha did not make much of an effort to keep her explanation brief, but for the moment, he did not protest, and Mh'repha continued.

"The creation myth. Tam, what do your religious texts have to say about the genesis of your people?"

Tam's head was already slowly revolving from the concept that the cultures of their two races could be so alike, but the voice in the crystal-shaping hall remained imprinted on his mind as fresh as it was yesterday. How did I forget my name and remember this in such clarity? He inhaled and prepared to speak - "It was a whisper--", but at a glare from Phamh'rir, Mh'repha interjected; "a short summary."

Tam decided to cut the stuff concerned with metaphysics that seemed less to tell anything important and more to serve to build up a suitable atmosphere. Instead, he began: "Well, they speak of three gods, Rehlko, Dahrnai and Zaratis, who argued about how to forge the perfect order. Rehlko wanted to fashion it like a crystal, a minimal structure that would be perfectly stable, Dahrnai wanted to give it the complexity and evolution of life, and Zaratis finally told them that they could have it both ways, and made us."

"Exactly. You claim a place as the product of balance, and most importantly, you have a trinity of three creator gods. While we have deities that can be drawn as parallels to these, they had nothing at all to do with our genesis myth.

"Instead, our religion tells us of many powerful beings - a whole race of pure light - that made us. They did this to no high and noble end, but simply as an extension of their own will. Later, they forgot us and we gained our freedom from them. We have a great number of tales related to this, but some of them tell of the legendary dungeon termed Phorhachide. I am sure you can recognize the name."

"I believe our language lessons have also gone far enough to let you translate the name from our language."

"Phor - hach - yide," Tam said, thinking, and translated it. "Cave of dark dreams". With the neutral meaning of the word "dream", nightmares had to be set apart by an added label, in this case 'dark'. "The Cavern of Nightmares?"

"Indeed," Mh'repha replied. "Curious, how words so similar-sounding can have such different meanings in two languages.

"The meaning is not that different," Tam interjected bitterly. "If anything, your translation describes the testing caves better than our own does."

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Chapter VIII continued and done. This is the longest one yet, I believe. I really should split it up somehow.

45718 words, or 4282 left. In two days. But there is - as always - some roughage in my word document, duplicate chapter titles, footnotes, notes at the end, etc, that could be over 500 words. Still, I'll probably make it.

* * *

"Yes, that is what makes the phenomenon so odd. Were it an entirely unrelated word, I might believe in coincidence. However, the words Can you tell me what sort of tests your forachid entails?"

"A hall filled with ferocious monsters to be defeated or escaped from, a maze through which you are chased by a rapidly spreading magical fire, and a hall of riddles that alternates between the silly and the murderous. In summary, a test that is either survived or failed."

"Who designed it?" Phamh'rir asked immediately.

"Bugger if I know. The teachers at the academy would not give me a straight answer when I asked them, and at the time I thought they were just keeping their identities secret to prevent retaliation by some of the more infuriated students. That is about what they said, as well." And you swallowed that, too, he silently chided himself on his gullibility.

"The question that remains concerning the meaning and origin of the word then is whether it was originally a Novah word that got a second meaning in our tongue, or whether it was first the name given to our equivalent of Hell, and then got adapted to your test. I find the first more plausible, since it is much more likely that a student's reference to it would result in the connotation 'Dark Dream Cavern' than that your people would name a test after our name for the Underworld." Tam nodded, although he seemed skeptical.

"Tam, our tales concerning the Phorhachide tell us that Nephilim were sacrificed in this cave - or many such caves if there were several."

"Sacrificed?" Tam did not believe his ears at once.

"Yes. Sacrificed to the forces of discord. At least that is what the tales say. They speak of a dark, ancient ritual that resembles the elements of your test in many ways - battles and fire, riddles lethal in their nature."

Tam suddenly remembered his conversation with Olidra like a whisper on a wind, hundreds of years ago. Had he not been surprised that the riddles had been changed and made more deadly? Had he not said that the halls with the animated statues were the only part of the riddle hall that had existed when he himself took the test - not including the multitude of death traps? There was something feeling enormously wrong about this.

"Finally, the makers of those halls were allegedly the same beings that had created our race."

"The beings of light?"

Mh'repha nodded. "We call them 'the Shining Ones'."

Tam shuddered. He had heard that name only a short while ago, and he believed it was from Phamh'rir. He turned to face him.

Phamh'rir nodded in response to the unspoken question. "We believed these beings to be mythical in nature, supernatural beings no different from the gods that we also pray to. Potentially existing, but far removed from anything but either blind faith or critical scepticism. The greater was our surprise when Zadal-Ihrno arrived."

"I have read of this Zadal," Tam said, "but I ever wondered about his origin, or his fate! What became of him when he left? For ere I read his work among the books you so kindly provided me with, I had never heard even his name - and nor have most of our people, I am sure!"

"It is a long tale, and not easily told, that tells us of his intentions and his wanderings as he related that to us. But what became of him when he left! What do you mean by this? For he never left us, indeed. And if things were but a little different, he would still be dwelling among us! I know, for I met him." Phamh'rir had taken the thread of the conversation back to himself, and as he spoke, he seemed to be caught in an inner monologue, and a flood of memories. His golden eyes glittered.

Tam stared, bereft of speech for a moment. "But... so many centuries..."

"He was young when he came, a traveller of many years but young for his race, and you know yourself the lifespan of your people. He was young, and I am old."

Tam was taken back. "You hide it well. Is it not true that the Nephilim live past the first half of a century only rarely?"

"Old for one of my people, though not as ancient as our arhmshar, who can outlive a century. I have seen forty-three summers.

"Yes, I have met him myself, the great Zadal-Ihrno, though I was but a child then. I was one of the last to see him alive."

"Alive? Then he died?"

"Aye, he was slain. Slain by an accident, as it later seemed. Slain by a vicious plot of revenge, as it looked to my young eyes then and continues to do now." His face was grim, and Mh'repha looked just as surprised by this as did Tam.

"But what slew him?"

"A stray arrow. It came out of the shadows as we spoke, and..." his voice trailed off in silent remembrance as he seemed to relive the event.

He caught his voice and began to tell a tale that seemed all the more unnatural because he was telling it - Phamh'rir, who had threatened force to capture Tam for questioning earlier, and who considered diplomacy and conversation both as means to an end only when other lines of action were impractical. Tam was straining to listen to Phamh'rir's words, but instead found that the strain of talking and listening was wearing him out - Mh'repha had never taught him this long without letting him rest. It was for this reason that Tam found his eyes closing, as the voice of Phamh'rir seemed to reach him from far away, and the tale he was describing replayed itself through his vivid imagination before his closed eyes...

Evening is silently passing over the hilltops. The evening air is fresh and cool, but not yet chilling. Clouds at the horizon are painted blood red by the setting sun, and the sky is darkening to a deep, clear blue. Glittering stars twinkle in the zenith and in the eastern sky, where the remaining sunlight does not blot them out any longer. The air is still and hardly a breeze shakes those tall, silent tree-tops that stand against the red western sky like giants covered by the blood of battle, like shadows looming over the world and threatening to cover it eternally.
The great moon is new, and the smaller one has not yet risen. The play of colours, red, blue, purple and ever turquoise, gives the sky, a wild, stormy appearance even though the few clouds that stand in it barely move.
Fog is rolling over the hilltops and enveloping it like a blanket, its tendrils reaching out to cover everything, though the tall trees stand clear of the mists and continue to loom before the setting sun. The image is frozen: Wherever the eye turns, the clouds, the trees, even the tall blades of grass on the ground, they do not move save when they are disturbed by the observer.
No bird dares disturb the silence of the late summer evening, but millions of cicadas endlessly sing a song without words or tunes, and the world is covered by their buzzing sounds.
A man stands in the mists in silence. But if one comes closer, where the fog does not blur the image of the dark silhouette, it is hardly a man, but more a boy, barely adolescent. He stands without moving, and looks at the setting sun in silence, almost reverence. The figure is that of a Nephil, slender and catlike in grace, the head and build clearly that of a feline.

Sounds are unnaturally muffled by the still air and the mists, as well as the roaring, monotonous song of the cicadas. It is therefore a long while until the young Nephil perceives a presence behind him.

"A wonderful sunset."

The Nephil jumps at the voice and turns around to face the one who has spoken. It is a warm, pleasant voice, and devoid of cunning, but he is tense and not used to being approached from behind, and the surprise has alarmed him. But when he turns, his terse expression relaxes, for the man who is standing behind him is no stranger - although he has not seen him often.

"Erae mh'row, the Stars guide you, " he greets the man, and his voice, like that of the Vahnatai, is muffled slightly by the heavy surrounding fog.

"And likewise to you, Phamh'rir," the Vahnatai responds, and then looks past the Nephil back to the setting sun. "It is a cold evening for the summer, though I have seen colder." Though the Nephil - whose name is indeed Phamh'rir - has seen the Vahnatai before, he is nonetheles surprised at finding he knows his name. He knows the Vahnatai's name, of course, but then he is very well known among his people.

"You know my name, Zadal-Ihrno?"

"As you do mine, Phamh'rir. Though I must tell you that the Ihrno is but a title, an honorary appendage to my name, and largely undeserved. Call me Zadal, if you would."

"What does it mean, Zadal?"

"Ihrno? In my language it means 'Wise Speaker', closely translated. But only fools think they are wise, and the wise know they are fools. At the risk of sounding wise, I will not call myself so, for that reason."

"Now you have confused me." The Nephil cannot help grinning.

"As we are all wont to do, both fools and wise men alike." The Vahnatai smiles as well.

"Why are you out here in this fog, Zadal?" The Nephil asks. "It is cold, and you have no fur to warm you."

The old Vahnatai chuckles. "That I do not, though my robe is enough to ward off the cold. But why I am here? For the same reason you are, I dare say - Look at the sun!" he exclaims, and Phamh'rir turns his head. The sun is balanced on the tip of a distant tree, looking like a gigantic red lampoon on a pole, hundreds of leagues away. "Some legends say that ere sun and moon were made, and ere the stars began circling, the world was lit by two lamps that stood in the south and the north, and it was always day, without night or evening..."

"Do you believe that?" Phamh'rir asks, wonderingly, for he has never heard this tale.

"No, indeed. How could we live if it never grew dark? How would we sleep? It sounds like a folktale, though it is widely believed among those people who I heard it from in my travels. But just look at the sun as it is balanced there - and now, even as it slides off its pole like a falling, broken lamp: If you wondered what the sun was, would you not think of the same explanation?"

Phamh'rir nods slowly. "Perhaps I would..."

"It is always the same way with us; Nephilim, Vahnatai, Humans, even Troglodytes and the meanest goblins; we need some way to understand nature. The Troglodytes have their great weather gods, the goblins have their mighty ancestors, and we have the forces of arcane structures and mathematical principles. The more knowledge we gain, the more we are able to do with our explanations, but in the end our calculations are little different from the troglodytes when they dance for the rayne to fall. I think if we lived in a world we could not explain, we would go mad with the knowledge of our own impotence and the tiny breadth of our comprehension. Could you bear living in a world and not know how it works?"

Phamh'rir, who knows little enough about how the world works, can only shrug.

"At the very least, you wonder about it, do you not?"

Phamh'rir nods.

"As do I. Just look at the stars, as they come out from the cover of day now. A rare evening indeed, when the stars grow so clear before the sun has even set... I wonder what they are made of. And what makes them circle? For they seem so much more distant than the sun, and yet they circle just as fast as she** does. I wonder..." He trails off, his eyes lighting up as if he had had a sudden idea, but he does not speak on. Phamh'rir knows not what to answer, and instead they both look on for a few minutes as the sun sinks toward the horizon, almost touching it already. They stand in silence, until Zadal breaks it again.

"Phamh'rir, it is good that I met you, for I had been looking for you for some time. That is another reason I came out here, for I believed that would be where I could find you. And I was right, which is fortunate, for I do not have much time."

"You were looking for me?" Phamh'rir is astonished, for while he has heard much of the great Zadal, he has never met him personally, only seen him from afar. Why would such a renowned man come looking for him? "Why do you seek me?"

"Because I need someone to speak to, and I am afraid none of those I normally speak to will do. If they would even listen, which I doubt." He sighs.

"Who would not listen to one as wise as you?" Phamh'rir asks, shocked. "It would be madness!"

"Those that think they are wisest are those that listen the least. And the ones who seek my company do so because they think themselves wise - for why else would they want to speak with me? But as it happens, I cannot blame them. For if one of your kind - or of my own kind - came to me and wanted to tell me of the idea that I now have, and I had not seen as much as I have, I would probably laugh him off. It is the most ludicrous thought I have arrived at in a long time, and yet it strikes me as clearer and more obvious with every passing day that I dwell on it."

"What is your thought?" Phamh'rir asks, eagerly, with only a mild trace of impatience. Zadal seems hesitant to tell, for he keeps speaking vaguely without getting to the business.

"Sorry if I ramble. The sun is sinking, and I do not have much time. For the first time in centuries, my time is running short. I have never had that feeling before, and it makes me nervous - as do the implications of my idea, and the uncertainty of how to put it." He hesitates for a while. Then he continues, eyeing the sun that is now perched on the horizon like a ball.

"Tell me, Phamh'rir, what do you know about how your people were created?"

Phamh'rir is surprised, he has not expected this. Zadal seemed so sceptical when he spoke of religion earlier; is it a thought related to religion that he has chosen Phamh'rir to tell to?
"The armshar believe that we were made by the omh'phtah, ancient beings of light. They were mighty, and they had the power to shape life itself to their will, though they were mortal in spite of their power. They made us to be their servants, and their slaves. The old legends tell of terrible things they did, but they vanished and left us on our own, and we were free."

"Free, indeed." Zadal's brows crease as if in sorrow. "Do you believe this legend?"

"I have no reason to distrust it, though I wonder if it is not an explanation we have made up to better understand our world." He smiles as he repeats what Zadal said minutes earlier. "It seems less strange than all the other stories I have heard tell."

Zadal is interested. "Why?"

"Because it is a sad tale. And the world seems to be full of them! If it were but fiction, then why could those who first told it not told a happier legend?"

Zadal nods slowly, and looks curiously at the young Nephil uttering words that sound so far beyond his age. "Indeed they could. I thought the same, Phamh'rir.

"I have studied that matter for a long time. And what is a long time to me must be an eternity to your people." Phamh'rir looked awed, for to him even a span of ten years - longer than he had lived - would have seemed near eternal, and Zadal must be talking about many decades if not centuries."

"What did you learn?"

"Much to suggest its truth, and much to suggest otherwise, as is always the case when trying to investigate the truth of old legends. I was stumped. There was so much to suggest that the Nephilim were created - created not by some divine process, by immortals, but by mortals who really existed and walked the earth in flesh at least at some point, if they were not still alive. The evidence could be seen everywhere in your culture and race. But at the same time, there was so little that appeared to remain of that mysterious race of light. I never found it on the surface of the world, nor anything to suggest it had ever existed.

"Until I found this."

Zadal reaches within his cloak and his hand re-emerges holding an object, that glints a bit in the crimson light of the dying sun. The sky is too dark for Phamh'rir to recognize it, but Zadal has studied more than history and geography. With a small flick of his wrist, he conjures a sphere of light in his right hand that illuminates the metal piece in his left.

Phamh'rir cannot recognize it even now, for it seems wholly alien to him in shape and appearance; even the metal looks unfamiliar and strange.

"A tool like this," Zadal weighs it in his hand, "is used by our wizards to hold a crystal in place for carving, when great delicacy is needed. Do you see the three heavy feet that let it rest on the carving table like a tripod - and here, the intricate shape of these bars and wires that intermesh to form a fine web of metal and claws to hold the gem in place? When it is magically charged, it neutralizes the gravity field and lets the crystal hover in its grasp without moving."

"Is this one charged?" Phamh'rir asked, fascinated by the intricate structure.

"No, and it has not been for a long time. It is only charged when it is to be used, because it can only keep its charge for a few hours.

"Now, ordinarily, a thing like this should be an everyday sight to me - but when I found it, it was many leagues from any place known to the Vahnatai, and even further to any settlement or carving hall. And also..." he brings the light a bit closer to the glinting tripod-like object, and beckons to Phamh'rir to come closer so that he can see better, "can you make out the fine runes that run along the ring?"

"Yes, but I cannot read them," Phamh'rir replies, quite naturally - he is currently struggling to learn to write and read in his own language; the Vahnatai language is as alien to him as the concept of magic.

"No, even the arhmshar or the learned of my own people would have difficulties with them. The letters seem to be a more ancient mode of the phonetic letters of Novah that has not been used for many centuries, and the words are of a language I had never seen in my life when I found it."

"Then do you know what it reads now?"

"I have found out, though it took me most of the last five years." Phamh'rir looked stunned again at the long time - he could not imagine spending more than half his life so far trying to translate the writing on some ancient device. "It turned out that it was not the language, but the writing itself that was the problem when translating."

"But you said you could read the letters!"

"Yes, and I thought I could. They seemed to be an ancient mode of Novah... but I had not taken into account the phonetic shifts of the many ages that lie in between. Do you see that squiggly line there that would now represent the 'p' sound? It once meant 'ph'. The list of these differences goes on, but the end result is the same: I could read the mysterious symbols, and when I transcribed them again, the meaning became clear." He basked for a moment in remembrance.

"It is hard to imagine a moment more joyful in the life of a scribe or a sage than that moment in which he can translate a previously unknown piece of writing. It is as if the letters suddenly shift apart and rearrange themselves, and a veil parts from your eyes and allows you to read the meaning as clearly as if you were able to gaze into the mind of the writer directly, in spite of the centuries that lie between." He looks at the sun that is now only half-way over the horizon, and half sunk. The sun sets slowly over the world of Olm, but yet he needs to hurry.

"The words are quite clearly Novah, though the dialect is archaic of course. And the words are:

Bel'a'to pen na'a'bit, sten gho vah'na'tai ten na pen mehd.

Which is, when rendered in your language:

"Balance is Creation, the Life is Order, praise the People of the Living Crystal that shape Life and Stone."

There is an odd significance about these words, Phamh'rir recognizes at once. It takes him only a few moments to figure out what it is. "That word, what did you say? Vahnatai?"

Zadal nods, glad that Phamh'rir seems to be so quick to understand. "Vahnatai indeed. The people of the Living Crystal. My people."

"Would that not mean that the Vahnatai were the beings of light that created us? The Shining Ones?"

Zadal nods again. "In my darkest suspicions, I would not have thought of this. But here we have the evidence: The culture of the Nephilim is drenched with parallels to the Vahnatai civilization, it shows clear marks of a race created, rather than evolved naturally, and there is a distinctly Vahnatai tool referencing them as the Shapers of Life, that I found in a place that could well have been the birthplace of the Nephilim.

"It took me lifetimes of your kind to discover this, but now my time is running out. I must go. Perhaps we will meet again; meanwhile, keep this safe." He takes the carving claw and hands it to Phamh'rir. "Remember the words I have told you tonight, for you may one day bring the truth."

Only a sliver of the sun is still visible, and Zadal's face is illuminated by crimson light, and by the white sphere of brilliance that he now extinguishes in his hand.

"Farewell, young Nephil."

Zadal seems suddenly to sense something, for he tenses up, his face showing stark terror, and, whispering "Fly, while you can!" he hastens off into the night.

But before he has taken five strides, there is the singing sound of a bowstring in the darkness, and the whirring on an arrow speeding through the air. It only lasts a second, then a sick, muffled thud tells of the arrow finding its mark.

Zadal does not scream, for the arrow has pierced his heart with such force and precision that he is already dead before he hits the grand. His hands clutch the arrow around his chest, but he is already no longer moving as he lies twisted on the wet grass, in the fog of the night, even as the last rays of the sun have vanished.

Phamh'rir feels a brief urge to run to his aid, but he sees that all aid is too late for the slain sage who was talking to him only seconds earlier. Instead, he heeds the wise man's last instruction: Turning around, he soundlessly flees into the shadows before the slayers can find him too. In his hand, he is still clutching the object Zadal gave him: That which was the final key in the long riddle unravelling the origin of his race.

* * *

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Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.
I have a love of woodwind instruments.
Posts: 8752 | Registered: Wednesday, May 14 2003 07:00
Law Bringer
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Second to last installment. I am now at 49562 words (although I still need to remove the excess footnotes and other stuff that is cluttering up the word file - about 400 words too much). Tomorrow, I'll post the end of the last chapter I'm posting here now.

Chapter Ten
The Quest
Tam's eyes had opened with a jolt as if he himself were transfixed by the arrow he had heard hit... no, he had heard Phamh'rir tell of. The scene was painted so vividly and fresh upon his mind that he found it difficult to readjust himself to the waking world, where Mh'repha and Phamh'rir were still sitting on chairs next to him, one of them seeming to share his feelings of shock and the other still looking grim with the burden of remembrance. He himself seemed to have dozed off in a chair, and the tale that Phamh'rir told him had etched itself into his mind in the form of a dream, or rather a vision. Tam's eyes looked anew at the soldier - or even spy? - whose mind had seemed closed to matters other than reason and the pursuit of his own plans. How did such a man tell a story like this - a story that seemed less to consist of the words and sentences that told it, and more of images that rolled before the listener's mind, and sounds that were as real to the ear as the voice that told of them? Tam realized that there was more about Phamh'rir than he had thought, and - judging from Mh'repha's expression - it was more than she had known about him, as well.

The tale had been so impressive - not just to the listeners, but to Phamh'rir himself as well, as he recounted it from his memory - that a stunned silence filled the room for a long while that none of them dared disturb.

Phamh'rir, himself the storyteller, and thus the first to break free from its binding power, was also the first to break the silence in the room.

"I ran as fast as my feet would carry me, although I did not know where I was running. I could not see, for I was blinded both by the darkness, by the wild panic of having murderers at my trail, and by the tears that I was freely shedding at seeing Zadal slain. It was long before I stopped running, but when I regained my senses the next morning, I found I was at the house of my parents, where I had run to on the previous night before collapsing with the exhaustion and the shock." He paused.

"Did you ever find out who had killed him?" Tam asked, stunned, when the pause had grown long enough, and he sensed Phamh'rir was not going to continue.

"That I did, lad. It was a hunter of the Graywraith clan - the most skilled archers of all the tribes nearby, surpassing even us of the Claw. And the ones who have honed their stealth more than any of us. They are named the mh'iphraithe, the grey wraiths, for their renowned ability to pass unseen and unheard by all, by the other clans of the Nephilim and even by each other. When they wish to be seen, looking upon them is like looking upon a person out of place, someone who simply appears in the midst of the landscape without a trace where he came from. When they do not care to hide themselves, they seem like a shadow that moves where it should not, flowing and shifting and seeming more an illusion to a tired eye than a real sight. When they do not wish to be seen, they simply are not. You may be standing before one of their hunters, and you can only see her because she blots out the sunlight, or she obstructs your path. If she was not, you would simply look past her."

Tam shuddered, feeling chilled all of a sudden. A cold breeze blew through the window, and the room was once again shrouded in silence. With difficulty, Tam spoke again.

"The guards outside..."

"No, indeed, they aren't. Though in their training we borrow heavily on the training methods of the mh'iphraithe, in so far as we know and understand them. They themselves are not of our people."

"Not of the Nephilim?" Tam did not understand. "But they look like you... what sets them apart?"

"You will have noticed their tall, muscular stature and their feral eyes, by which you can recognize them. They cannot learn speech and understand only the simplest commands; when employed as guards, we make use of a mind-bonding magic that allows us to command them telepathically." And, since Tam looked fairly surprised at hearing of such advanced magic controlled by the Nephilim, Mh'repha added: "Using a potion, of course." She smiled.

"The guards you have seen might give you an idea, but the Greywraiths themselves are a hundred times more stealthy and cunning."

"Then it was they who plotted Zadal's murder?"

"Oh, no. It is very doubtful they plotted it themselves, for they had little to gain by it - as little as did everyone else. It is more likely that the hunter had been paid for her work, for the Greywraiths often work as assassins, using their skills of slaying for profit." Phamh'rir growled in anger.

"If you found out who had killed him, then was she caught and punished?"

Phamh'rir snorted. "What do you think? The next day, it turned out that a hunting party of the Greywraiths had been out hunting for boar. They were all witnesses, and the one who had shot the arrow was among them. They swore that they had not seen Zadal, and that the hunter had shot at the noise they believed to come from a boar they had already been trailing for hours. It was only when they drew closer that they saw they had slain the Vahnatai sage, and were appropriately dismayed. The hunting party were publicly reprimanded and shamed for their poor skill of huntsmanship and their lack of caution, and the slayer had her bow broken - the height of dishonour - but nobody would have believed them to have intended his murder, and nobody therefore attempted to find out who had hired them." He grew bitter. "I was young, and am old now, and my memory grows faint. But this thing stands out clearly from the mists of the past, that I stood in the Halls of Justice, and I said I had talked to Zadal only seconds before he died, and he had seemed to know he was being hunted, and that no boar had broken the silence for a hundred miles around. My ears are sharp as knives, and they parted the night like the fine blade of silversteel parts a blade of grass, but they heard nothing in that night save the blowing of the wind and the sound of the arrow and the string as Zadal was killed. The Greywraiths may walk unheard by mortal ears, but the boar does not, and may it be ten times their quarry and have eluded them for half a day. That story, too, sounded incredible. A Greywraith does not need to hunt a beast for even a span of ten minutes, but she comes within bowshot of it, and the beast will not breathe another three times. And yet, they did not believe me, and claimed that if I had ever met Zadal - which I had likely only made up - then I had imagined or dreamt the events that I recounted to them. We had diplomatic relations to keep intact with the Greywraith clan, and that is why we never tried to find out who had ordered the sage's death.
"All that remained of the riddles surrounding his life and death were three things: First, his study, which was neatly ordered, with all notes and papers gone - they were not found on his body, so it is likely they were destroyed, either by himself, or by others breaking into his study, or by his murderers acting upon orders. There was nothing in his study that suggested he knew of his impending death, although they found a great many manuscripts for various treatises he had written on the history of the Nephilim race - nothing that suggested their creation by the Vahnatai or another race - and a large collection of books, both ones he had acquired from us and those he had brought with him from his long travels. Secondly, a copy of the one book he had written that had been bound and widely spread among the elders of our clans, which was found on his body when he died. It is that which leads me to believe he was not stripped of any papers he was carrying, but of course one cannot be sure of that. There was an odd note that had been scribbled in the cover of the book in his own hand; two lines of a poem:

"Rephna sathosha nish', yapheshis ramh'
Barh amh'rosh serina avalash-amh'

Tam mentally translated.

The night came rising fast, the day was gone
We wept in terror for the vanished sun.

"A poem?" He asked. "What is the rest of it?"

"I do not know, and nor did anyone else when they found it. He might have composed it himself, or he might have found it during his travels, in archives so ancient and well hidden that our people never looked upon them. Perhaps these two lines are all he ever wrote of the poem, if he did compose it."

"Curious lines. Could they have hinted at the evening on which he lost his life?"

"Perhaps they did, or perhaps they did not. But the rest of the poem, if it exists, was never found, and nor has the meaning of these two lines. They remain as much a riddle as the rest of the circumstances of his murder.

"And finally, of course, the third thing that remained of him was the strange item that he had given to me before he was killed - the tool that he had explained was used for carving gems, and that was engraved with the line 'sten gho vah'na'tai ten na pen mehd', 'praise be to the Vahnatai, who shape life and stone'."

"What happened to it?" Tam was quite eager to see it.

In response, Phamh'rir reached into the pocket of his cloak. "I kept it." As he pulled the strange, glittering metal piece out of his pocket, and Tam looked on in awe, he continued: "I brought it today when I went to meet you, for I hoped that you might shed additional light on its nature." He handed the item to Tam, who slowly turned it over in his hand, closely examining the shining metal structure.

Tam shook his head. "Even if I could tell you anything at all, I could not know about it what Zadal himself could not." He examined it a bit longer, his eyes looking for a long time on the reflective surfaces, lost in thought.

"But I can tell you this: It seems to be made of mithral, the strongest and most durable metal available to our metalworkers. That alone makes it valuable, and if it is as old as Zadal believed it to be, then it must have been a priceless artefact in its own time. I can see it is magically forged, for even after what could be centuries, even millennia, traces of forging magic remain on it. That is odd, because they should be far overshadowed and blotted out by the stronger traces of its use: Long use in the vicinity of crystals being carved, and the energy it is regularly charged with, should have made it impossible to notice any remaining trace of the magic used in its forging. Yet I sense next to no traces that would speak of carved crystals. If it was used, it was used rarely and only for the most basic of work. But why would such a valuable item be used so little, or so mundanely?" He wondered for a while. "It could have been decorative, or ceremonial..."

Mh'repha was doubtful. "Tools used solely as decorations or symbols? It seems to be constructed very precisely. The ceremonial mortar and pestle that we sometimes use are clearly recognizable as symbolic, but this object appears to be built for use."

"So it is, for I have never heard of a ceremonial set of crystal-carving tools. The process itself is almost ritualistic, but all the tools are quite real." Tam turned the object over in his hands. "But there is one thing that we can take for granted about this tripod, as did Zadal: Wherever it was found, it indicates that Vahnatai had been there, for the design is uniquely recognizable, as are the symbols Zadal managed to decipher."

Phamh'rir hesitated, then asked another question. "Can you read them?"

Tam glanced at the runes and shook his head. "No, I have no idea how to translate or even pronounce them. They look similar to our modern Novah writing, but I would need to know much more about the old symbols that Zadal studied before I could translate this engraving." Phamh'rir raised his brows, but said nothing and instead extended his hand to take back the item.

Tam weighed it in his fingers a last time, and returned the tool to Phamh'rir, who put it back in his pocket. "Thank you."

Phamh'rir, in turn, stood up, quite unexpectedly. Mh'repha and Tam looked up to him in surprise.

"That concludes our interview, I believe."

"You are already done?" Tam asked.

"I have learned what I came here to find out, if that is what you mean. I need to get back swiftly to make my report, and there would be no point in delaying further. Fare both of you well."

Tam waited as Phamh'rir stood up from his chair and walked to the door; then he asked: "Phamh'rir, did you show this thing to anyone else?"

Phamh'rir hesitated, his hand on the door handle. "No, I have not, in all this time. I will not mention it in the report either - I took it along on my own prerogative and to get my own curiosity satisfied." He turned toward the door, then stopped and seemed to remember something.

With only the barest hesitation, he extended the claws of two fingers on his right hand, and reached into the keyhole. Two seconds later, there was a soft, but distinctly audible click. "Farewell." Phamh'rir opened the now unlocked door and strode out confidently, closing it carefully behind him.

* * *

It was not over. Mh'repha, even after Tam assured her he had not been exhausted by the long questioning - if indeed it could be called that - told him she would on no account still teach him on that day and thus further strain him. Instead, she made him drink a particularly vile brew she had concocted, and told him to sleep and get ready for the next day that would likely prove a strain. She did not explain further. Tam, though he had initially protested he did not need to sleep, since it was still before midday, found himself proven wrong (though perhaps it was partly due to the effect of the potion she had given him), for Mh'repha was not yet out of the room when his eyes fell shut and he fell into a deep, but yet dream-tossed sleep.

* * *

It was a whisper in the void. A zephyr, barely a breeze, that moves between the long blades of grass almost without bending them. The sun is descending, the night beginning. Clouds are rolling across a storm-tossed sky, but down here, the air is completely still. Where the sun shines above the horizon, the clouds are drenched scarlet, bleeding down towards the earth in long streams of red. The Vahnatai elder looks upon the evening sky and turns back: "Ten and ten and ten again were the years, and they did not see the answer." His face is sorrowful, and his voice laden with regret. The arrow that has pierced him is sticking out of his chest in a strange mockery of life.
He turns away to face the sunset. "I tried to tell them, which was my mistake. Can I blame them? For what? For would not our reaction be likewise, were an alien being to visit us and tell them that all our lives, we have been living an existence that was begun on their whim, to their own ends? That our myths are theirs, our beliefs either imitated from theirs or indoctrinated by them? That our past belongs to them, as do our dreams? How could I expect them to understand, let alone believe?
"Remember this, young Aidra. The curiosity that yet burns in your mind can save the world, or break it. Know when to question, when to answer, and when to be silent, for the shortest path to knowledge is the furthest path from wisdom. Remember this." He walks toward the fading crimson glow and is suddenly gone, leaving me standing alone on the silent plain, while the sun descends. The tripod he placed in my hand feels smooth and cool to the touch, and its weight is reassuring. It is tangible and solid, and it is flawless and shining, like the physical incarnation of a proof. But there are archers moving in the shadows, and arrows that pierce the lights of truth. I draw my cloak tightly about myself, hoping to avoid the slayers, and feel afraid.

* * *

Tam awoke from his sleep knowing something was wrong. For one thing, the light outside was the cold grey light of a winter dawn, indicating that he had slept for half a day and a night. He had felt far too awake to sleep that long.

The second thing that was off was the Nephil sitting in his room.

"A pleasant morning." The Nephil immediately addressed Tam in his own language, but he did not speak very fast, and it was easy for Tam to understand him. Yet Tam took his time replying, for he was feeling disoriented both by the long sleep and the sudden arrival of yet another visitor, this time without Mh'repha being present. The Nephil seemed to take this as an indicator that Tam had not understood him, for he fumbled a bit and then repeated his greeting, a lot more slowly and a lot more clearly, as if speaking to one slow of wit. But evidently, he did not know a word of Novah, which he might otherwise have tried.

Tam, realizing that ignoring the strange man was not going to make him go away, replied. "A good day. Who are you?" He did not make a secret of the fact that he would very much prefer to be left alone right now, and while his greeting was quite a polite way of saying hello to a stranger who you awake to find sitting at your bedside, he rather stressed the last question.

"You can call me Ninoamh'row," the stranger replied, annoying Tam further as he woke further and could think more clearly. Why do they always say that? 'You can call me...'? What if I don't want to call them that, what if I want to call them annoying bastards who deliberately shroud themselves in vagueness so as to seem mysteriously enigmatic? He dismissed the angry thought again. Still, his irritation was faintly audible when he answered.

"Why are you in here? How did you get in? Where is Mh'repha?"

"So many questions, and so little time. But you shall get them answered. I am here because you are here, and I am to tell you that you need to get up and come to meet our chief. I got in by passing through the door over there, which I did by pressing down its handle and pushing the door open on its hinges using a gentle application of force, upon which I let go of the handle again, repeating the same process to close the door once I had passed through. Finally, Mh'repha has gone ahead to the chief already, but she asked to let you sleep until you woke by yourself, which took some time." That he continued to speak in a deliberately slow voice only made the long speech more irritating.

"You can talk normally, Ninoamh'row, I can hear you clearly," Tam kept his impatience under control.

"That is good, for if I were to continue speaking that slowly, I might be sitting here tomorrow." Then why not shut the hell up? Tam kept himself from retorting.

"I am not sure if I have the strength to walk far yet," Tam warned, as he rose and sat upright on the edge of the bed, now facing the talkative Nephil who was sitting on the chair Mh'repha was commonly occupying, and who was still eyeing him curiously.

"Mh'repha said that you would, if we let you sleep for a while."

Tam pushed himself off with his feet and was surprised to find he had no trouble standing, and his legs supported him with minimal effort. Perhaps the potion Mh'repha had given him was lending him additional strength. Why didn't she give it to me a bit earlier then? he wondered, but realized in the next moment it was just as well she hadn't, giving him more time to learn the language and to read the books that he had been given.

"I think I can be ready in five minutes." Ninoamh'row looked at him but said nothing.

"I will be ready to go in five minutes," Tam repeated, making a gesture suggesting Ninoamh'row to leave the room. But the Nephil remained seated.

"Before we leave to meet your esteemed chief," Tam said, rolling his eyes in exasperation, "I will require a change of clothes, for I do not wish to meet important persons in my sleeping gown, as that could leave an impression of impoliteness and a certain lassitude and carelessness that is wisely not displayed to persons who expect request be shown to them. However," and here he paused, "among my people we are used to change our clothes in private, because the process of changing said clothes usually includes a certain point at which we are covered by a minimum of clothing, and we are brought up with social inhibitions against letting ourselves be seen by other people, especially strangers, in that fashion. I now intend to get dressed in proper clothes, and therefore I would appreciate if you used your great skill with doors and went out of this room for a few minutes." He spoke very slowly, very patiently, and very clearly.

"Oh! You want me to leave; why not just say so?" Ninoamh'row shook his head. "Heavens, but your people have a long-winded way of talking." He quickly left the room, carefully opening the door and closing it behind him.

This is going to be a fun day, Tam mentally sighed as he changed.

* * *

EncyclopaediaArchivesMembersRSS [Topic / Forum] • BlogPolarisNaNoWriMo
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.
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Posts: 8752 | Registered: Wednesday, May 14 2003 07:00
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WOOO! 50,000 words done! Let's party! :P

C'mon, congratulate me! And then congratulate Aran because he's nearly done! Woooo!

"I'm not crazy!"
"Well, whatever. Maybe you just ate something really questionable, or perhaps someone hit you on the head with something large, blunt and heavy just now. By the way..." Gil nudged Grul pointedly.

Ooh! Homepage - Blog - Geneforge, +2, +3 - My Elfwood Gallery and DevArt page
So many strange ones around. Don't you think?
Posts: 1308 | Registered: Sunday, September 8 2002 07:00
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Member # 2984
Profile Homepage #84
Congratulations, novelist! Translate your work to make it accessible to non-Finns, or else!

My own stuff will follow this evening. This is a hectic day - Tech support, the PHP script that hit such problems a few days ago, and three weeks of homework to correct, and a novel to finish...

EncyclopaediaArchivesMembersRSS [Topic / Forum] • BlogPolarisNaNoWriMo
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.
I have a love of woodwind instruments.
Posts: 8752 | Registered: Wednesday, May 14 2003 07:00
Member # 1851
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So I probably should mention that the story itself is nowhere near end? Well, it might be at the middle part about now. There's still so much that needs to be happen. And of course, without notes and outlining at the end of the file, I'm actuall only at 47200 something. -_-;;

I didn't need much talk before I convinced myself I wouldn't verify until I'd get to 50,000 with nothing but storty itself. But, you know, I *have* written 50,000 words this month of that story. All the notes and all that was also during this month, so in a way it contributes safely. Still...

Also. What're you, nuts? Translating that horrible, monstrous text would probably kill me. Why do you hate me sooooo?? :'(
Although, I did come up with some adjective-like words first in English when I couldn't think of a good alternative in Finnish and then abuse my dictionary for a Finnish equivalent. But that doesn't count!

And anyway.. if you can't read mine, maybe I won't feel the need to ... really read yours *hides!* *covers!* It's sooo big! Oooh! o.o

"I'm not crazy!"
"Well, whatever. Maybe you just ate something really questionable, or perhaps someone hit you on the head with something large, blunt and heavy just now. By the way..." Gil nudged Grul pointedly.

Ooh! Homepage - Blog - Geneforge, +2, +3 - My Elfwood Gallery and DevArt page
So many strange ones around. Don't you think?
Posts: 1308 | Registered: Sunday, September 8 2002 07:00
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It probably would have been easier if you'd written it in English. Finnish has longer words. :P

The Empire Always Loses: This Time For Sure!
Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
Member # 1851
Profile Homepage #87
All the more goodgoodWOOOOOOpartay!*happydance* for me for finishing. Kinda. More or less. It doesn't matter that much.

Anyway, I hated the story I started with much too much.

"I'm not crazy!"
"Well, whatever. Maybe you just ate something really questionable, or perhaps someone hit you on the head with something large, blunt and heavy just now. By the way..." Gil nudged Grul pointedly.

Ooh! Homepage - Blog - Geneforge, +2, +3 - My Elfwood Gallery and DevArt page
So many strange ones around. Don't you think?
Posts: 1308 | Registered: Sunday, September 8 2002 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 2984
Profile Homepage #88
It is done! Done! I have prevailed, in the face of countless odds! Ancient Domains of Mystery and NationStates and Runescape could not distract me from my path, and nor could my superiors' increasingly obnoxious tasks, and nor the sudden need for a thirty-six hour day! A quick delete and a disconnect of the network cable took care of the games, and while nothing would appease the boss, caffeine took care of the sleep deficit. For a while, it seemed certain I would fail! Did I not miss an entire weekend? Was there not Numerical Algebra homework to complete every Sunday? Indeed, for a time I was more than 12,000 words behind the schedule.

But I caught up. And caught up. And caught up. And finally on the last day, I was left with 1000 words to write!

The last rush was easier than expected, though distractions heaped up. Polaris has moved, and we had another revolution in our fair North Pacific region in NationStates. I was assigned as ambassador to the region of Lemuria. Hours before the finish, allegedly attractive women began to contact me over Yahoo asking for cybersex!

But, using my enormous willpower, I would not be seduced!

Session Start (arancaytar:transientluvslave43): Wed Nov 30 21:10:49 2005
[21:10] transientluvslave43: hii... anyone there?
[21:10] *** Auto-response sent to transientluvslave43: I am currently away from the computer.
[21:10] transientluvslave43: oh your theere :) hi...
[21:11] arancaytar: A good day to you. Who are you?
[21:11] transientluvslave43: all my personal info is on my web page, the link is in my profiile.
[21:11] arancaytar: Why are you messaging me?
[21:11] transientluvslave43: a/s/l (age sex location))?
[21:11] transientluvslave43: im 27/f/USA. was lookin at your profile. thought you might like to chat.
[21:12] transientluvslave43: so what havee you been up to arancaytar?
[21:12] arancaytar: Well, I am very short on time this evening, because I have to finish writing a novel by midnight.
[21:12] transientluvslave43: cool. i was just hangin out watching tv. i was getting kinda horny :) (*blushes)
[21:13] transientluvslave43: feel like a little cyber fun with me ? please please...
[21:13] arancaytar: Sorry, I am not into that sort of thing.
Session Close (transientluvslave43): Wed Nov 30 21:13:53 2005

Can you not see how I struggled with myself to resist the offer?! How I denied my very character with that bold-faced sentence?

And finally, I was done.

End result:

50736 words, 1749 words today.
Average words per day: 1691.2
Highest in a single day: 6009 words (tough, yes).

I'm so doing this again next year!!!


So. What are you still waiting for?

Oh right. The last chapter.


A few minutes later, as he threw the rough but warm cloak around his shoulders, he looked around the room. Something about it had definitely changed, something that he had failed to notice earlier when he woke up, but which had troubled him all this time. As he looked around again, more awake this time, he realized at least one thing: The bookshelf had disappeared for mysterious reasons, along with its contents. Tam could not imagine why the cooks had been removed; surely they were not required with such pressing need? But maybe they had been lent by one of the elders in order to allow Tam to inform himself to at least an extent about his hosts while he was recovering - a thoughtful gesture.

The other difference failed to occur to him until Ninoamh'row reentered the room three minutes later, evidently beginning to grow impatient - without knocking, of course. Tam, who had finished dressing himself a while ago, decided not to mind.

"Are you finished?" Ninoamh'row enquired politely.

"I think so, yes," Tam replied.

"It may be none of my business," ''from the way you say that, it probably isn't'', Tam thought, "but do you not think you should be taking your weapon?"

"My..." Tam was speechless for a second. "What weapon?"

"Your sword, over there." Ninoamh'row pointed at the table in the foot of Tam's bed, where, sure enough, his waveblade was lying. It was secured within its sheath, cleaned and apparently none the worse for wear after his long journey. He had finally found out what else had been odd about the room when he woke; the table had been drawn up to the window and apparently his remaining possessions had been placed on it. It was not much.

A small number of gemstones, colored like pieces of cheap glass, but shining with the light of enchantment, was lying beside the blade, as was a pouch that Tam recognized as his purse. Finally, there was a small set of what could only be his carving tools! Had he really taken them with him when he left his room in the Oriath dormitory, and carried them on the entire journey here? He held back his laughter for a second, then realized there was no reason to, and laughed. Was it not like him to take tools for carving crystals on a journey into the wilderness, miles from any living habitation, let alone a Vahnatai city, let alone a place where one could obtain gemstones - and leave without even a week's rations? ''I should be thankful I did so, I suppose'', Tam thought, remembering that if the circumstances of his hasty departure had been but a little bit different, he would never have found the Claw.

He hesitated for a moment, realizing the reasoning he was suddenly following, even catching himself at it, in a way. Was he glad that the chances had turned out as they did? Amazed, he realized he was! He was glad he had never arrived at Mehdav, he was glad the storm had shaken his sense of direction, he was glad he had walked northwest until hunger nearly claimed him, and he was glad that he had ended up as a guest to the Nephilim. For a moment, he reveled in the thought of finally being satisfied with one of the turns his life had recently taken, a rare enough occurrence in the last months.

Ninoamh'row, sensing Tam was lost in thought, but not realizing the reason, spoke to explain the presence of the items. "It is the equipment that you were carrying on you when our hunters discovered you. They were put into safe-keeping for the time when you would have use for them again. Mh'repha had it all brought here this morning, and suggested you should take it with you before leaving."

"Why would she suggest that?" Tam was feeling apprehensive. First the potion to rapidly restore his strength, her sudden absence this morning, then the audience with the chief that she had apparently had not protested against, in spite of her doing the very same when Phamh'rir had wished to question him, then the now the bit about taking his waveblade and his equipment. There was something feeling very, very wrong about it.

Nonetheless, Tam went over to the table and lifted up the long blade with both hands, by the handle and the sheathed tip. The sheath was soft and flexible, and strengthened with surrounding rings of metal at regular intervals - it needed to be flexible to adapt to the blade's curving shape, and to allow it to be drawn quickly despite the wavy form. He weighed the sword in his hands for a few seconds and examined the blade that was slightly longer than his own torso, as was customary. As he hefted the blade and secured the sheath to his girdle, feeling once again the half reassuring, half unsettling weight of steel at his side, he realized what that implied. At Mh'repha's advice, he was not merely taking back the equipment that had been kept for him; he was arming himself. ''I will find the reason soon enough.'' He hoped finding the reason would not involve combat, for with a sinking feeling he remembered that his skill with the blade were even less advanced than those with carving crystals, and the weeks in which had been resting in his bed without exercise could not have improved his constitution and stamina. He would not be worth his dead weight in a battle.

He gathered up the crystals and stuffed them into the pocket of his cloak, and then tied the pouch of gold to his belt - wondering for a moment if the metal had any worth among the people he was with now - and turned around to face the door in front of which Ninoamh'row was standing.

"Very well then," he said, smiling. "Take Me To Your Leader."

"That I shall!" Ninoamh'row replied, not getting the reference of course, but then there was no way for him to know it. But as they left, Tam wondered for a moment if the behavior of the strange Nephil was indeed due to inanity or merely the cultural shock and uncertainty of how to deal with a stranger. With sudden dismay, he also wondered if Ninoamh'row had gotten the same impression of him. But such conceptions could be cleared up later, and for now, as Tam walked a half step behind Ninoamh'row, who was leading the way, he was glad to be able to walk on his own legs without trouble, and that the floor no longer seemed to waver beneath him as it had on the previous day.

Along the corridor they went, and through the curtain, and walking up the long stairs, and finally out of a low wooden door that was set into the stone, and Tam gasped! For there in front of him was air, and the ground beneath him was even further than it had been in front of the window of his room, which lay several floors lower. For a moment, he felt nauseous, but there was a pier in front of the door, a walkway constructed of wood, with railings on either side, leading alongside the rocky mountain wall itself.

Tam took a few steps behind Ninoamh'row and was stunned anew at the view. For here he was standing near the top of the vast cliff face itself, and he could see for many leagues around to the horizon. A freezing cold wind whipped past the cliff and tore at his robe, but the sky was clear and the morning sun was burning down upon him. He tucked his hands inside the sleeves of his robe and followed the Nephil as he walked along the wooden walkway toward a distant doorway, at a low but distinctly perceptible slope. They were going up even further.

They arrived at the great wooden double doors, which were rough but richly decorated and finely engraved with many an artistic carving. Their imposing size and luxurious appearance suggested only one thing: The hall that lay behind them must be significant indeed.

Tam approached the gate, but was held back by Ninoamh'row.

"Careful!" Even as he watched, the great doors slowly, ponderously, swung outward over the platform they were standing on. If Tam had been near them, he might have been swept off the walkway and fallen to meet his end hundreds of feet down. A dangerous construction. But Tam did not think of it further, for as the door opened, he could see inside the long hall. It was as if a palace had been set into the cliff wall itself, for the long hall with the high ceiling was carved out of the stone but decked with wooden plates to give it a less uncomfortable appearance.

The central corridor of the hall was indicated by two rows of tall stone columns that were probably more intended as decoration than to support the ceiling that consisted of many meters of solid rock.

And down the hall, there was a wooden throne, a tall but simple chair that even at this distance looked spartanic and uncomfortable. On it was sitting a lean Nephil with dark grey fur, who looked venerable and strong at the same time. Ninoamh'row entered the hall first, and beckoned to Tam to follow him, which he did. As he walked down the long hall, Tam also noticed Mh'repha, who was sitting on another chair drawn up to face the Chief's throne. They had evidently been talking already, and just waited for his arrival.

And indeed, the Chief of the Claw now raised his head and turned to face the two who had entered. He was the first to notice Tam, since Mh'repha had her back turned to the entrance. Ninoamh'row opened his mouth to announce Tam's arrival, but the chief waved his hand and nodded to him, which appeared to be a signal. Ninoamh'row bowed and turned around, exiting the hall again and leaving Tam alone with the chief and Mh'repha, who had now turned around. Tam met her gaze and she smiled, but there was a look in her eyes that made him uncomfortable. Then the chief spoke.

"Greetings, Tam. I am Sophromh' of the Claw. Mh'repha has told me much about you already. Please sit down," he indicated a vacant chair next to Mh'repha's seat, "for we urgently need to talk." And Tam sat down in the wooden chair and waited, wondering what the leader of the Claw so urgently needed to tell the first of the Vahnatai who had come to visit them for years.

The greater was his surprise when he learned just what it was that Sophromh' had to tell.


(My apologies. There will be an epilogue in a week or so, when I have recovered from the sleep deficit. For now, you'll have to live with it. Oh and yes, there will be a sequel.)

[ Wednesday, November 30, 2005 12:38: Message edited by: NaNoWriMo ]

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Member # 869
Profile Homepage #89
Just so you know, transientluvslave43 is a bot. :P

The Empire Always Loses: This Time For Sure!
Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
Law Bringer
Member # 2984
Profile Homepage #90
WAH! Why did no one tell me! I missed out on having cyber with a bot! Oh cruel fate! :(

Edit: On second thought, that explains what I had previously believed to be a high degree of idiocy.

Edit 2: The novel is now uploaded at

[ Thursday, December 01, 2005 06:58: Message edited by: Saavedro ]

EncyclopaediaArchivesMembersRSS [Topic / Forum] • BlogPolarisNaNoWriMo
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.
I have a love of woodwind instruments.
Posts: 8752 | Registered: Wednesday, May 14 2003 07:00
Member # 1993
Profile #91
:) Congratulations, Riibu and Aran. I knew you would make it!
(to be honest, I doubted for Riibu, but only in the beginning)

+_+ And I only can send ASCII cakes ...

.ii.ii.ii.ii.ii ___iii.iii.iii.iii

Aran, I have the feeling that your story is just at the beginning now. o_o Don't tell us there will be only one more chapter !
Well, a sequel ... hm. Before NaNoWriMo 2006?

ps: What is a bot? I might imagine what it means, but I'm not familiar with that term.

Slartucker: * facepalm facepalm facepalm *
Dikiyoba: Are you unconscious yet?
Posts: 1420 | Registered: Wednesday, October 2 2002 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 2984
Profile Homepage #92
Indeed, spy, I originally thought the story would get at least twice as long in terms of plot. Then, the plot kept expanding and expanding, and I couldn't finish it within a month.

And, as I said, the next chapter would only be something like "The Council of Elrond". A good part after which to put in a break, but not a part where to end a story.

EncyclopaediaArchivesMembersRSS [Topic / Forum] • BlogPolarisNaNoWriMo
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.
I have a love of woodwind instruments.
Posts: 8752 | Registered: Wednesday, May 14 2003 07:00
Member # 3241
Profile #93
Again. You said, in the second chapter or so, that the Vahnatai had NO mithril. And again:

"It seems to be made of mithral"

Other thing, in the dream, the guy said to Tam his real name, I was waiting for something to point that out.

Visit the and if you like, be the member of the forums.
Posts: 76 | Registered: Sunday, July 20 2003 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 2984
Profile Homepage #94
Mithril: If you read the current version I linked to earlier, you'll find this has been fixed.

Names: That is intended.

EncyclopaediaArchivesMembersRSS [Topic / Forum] • BlogPolarisNaNoWriMo
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.
I have a love of woodwind instruments.
Posts: 8752 | Registered: Wednesday, May 14 2003 07:00
Shock Trooper
Member # 3513
Profile Homepage #95
where's the hot vahnatai-on-vahnatai action?

Nobody appreciates me. It's all "Igor! Fetch some wine!" "Igor! Clean up this experiment!" or "Igor! Bury this in the garden, we're leaving town in 10 minutes!"

—Alorael, who tried to become a deivore once. The priest gave him a funny look after the third wafer.
Posts: 301 | Registered: Thursday, October 2 2003 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 2984
Profile Homepage #96
Originally written by Deaf- Will work for MP3s:

where's the hot vahnatai-on-vahnatai action?
die please k? :P

[ Saturday, December 10, 2005 03:30: Message edited by: An array cat ]

EncyclopaediaArchivesMembersRSS [Topic / Forum] • BlogPolarisNaNoWriMo
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.
I have a love of woodwind instruments.
Posts: 8752 | Registered: Wednesday, May 14 2003 07:00
Member # 247
Profile Homepage #97
Originally written by Deaf- Will work for MP3s:

where's the hot vahnatai-on-vahnatai action?
Oh hell yea H.V.A. :D

The Knight Between Posts.
Posts: 2395 | Registered: Friday, November 2 2001 08:00