Telling Tales

Posted on July 6, 2010

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This story is Part 8 of the Fire and Water series. It follows Pursuit. To read from the beginning, please visit the Index Page.

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For seven days Findol, Coanh, and Varala wound their way through the mountains. Aurmid flew high above them, circling wide, watching for trouble and helping navigate their course. She often wheeled close to keep an eye on Varala, who invariably met her scrutiny with a scowl.

They made camp on the seventh day in a small cave which gave them respite from the winter cold and snow. As they huddled beside the fire they heard Aurmid’s wings flapping. She landed outside the cave’s mouth and peered in at them. When she was satisfied all was well, she settled beside the entrance.

“Why does this beast follow you?” Varala said, glaring at Aurmid. “Why doesn’t she hunt the Great Father herself? She’s better equipped to find and conquer him than you are.”

Findol stretched his legs alongside the fire, considering her words.

“Fair question,” he said. “There are more questions than answers regarding this enterprise. For example, why are you still with us? We haven’t forced you to stay. You’ve had any number of opportunities to leave and find your Great Father on your own—to protect him, as you say. Yet here you are. It’s more than time to share the knowledge we have between us, don’t you think?”

Coanh passed bread and dried beef to them both. Varala nodded her thanks.

“I only know my mother’s tales,” she said, nibbling the beef. “They say Zaghran gave his essence to all things. We each bear some of his magic in our blood, and so he is our Great Father. I have no reason to doubt this. The tales have been passed down through the ages intact. You humans change your tales to suit your whim. That’s how you forget the truth of things.”

“You seem to know a great deal about how we remember things,” Coanh observed. Varala laughed.

“But you don’t remember. You know nothing about your prey other than the rumors from his former captors… and their allies.” She looked at Aurmid’s snout. “Have you asked her yet what she knows about him?”

Findol and Coanh both looked out at Aurmid, who moved her head closer so that one golden eye was visible.

“I am here in honor of my father, Griel,” she said. “He knew Zaghran personally in the Time Before. He assisted the Old Ones in capturing him. I trust he had sufficient cause. Therefore I pursue Zaghran as my father did. I accompany Findol Grey because my father himself chose him.”

Findol felt Griel’s scale turn hot against his skin. He lifted it, watching it glint in the firelight.

“So, to sum up,” he said, gazing at the scale, “Varala’s tales say he is the Great Father who gave his shapeshifting magic to all things. If that’s true, he’s connected to my mother’s family in the same way. Perhaps the Queen of the Deep, Zaghran’s keeper, chose me because that magic also touches me. Aurmid says Griel knew Zaghran long ago. Now I have Griel’s scale, a gift to me from his death chamber. The dragons are allies of the Queen. Their favor gives her another reason to choose me for this chase.”

“Our tales say the Queen of the Deep is the daughter of an Old One,” Varala said. “She remained here to guard Zaghran when they departed this world. His escape would enrage them. That is why she needs to find him again.”

“Why should this concern the Old Ones if they aren’t even here?” Coanh said. “If they left, that means they have no more interest in this world, doesn’t it?”

Griel’s scale grew heavy in Findol’s hand. Its iridescent surface rippled like water as he looked at it, the colors bleeding away. The velvety black expanded, engulfing his vision. He had a sensation of falling.  He heard Aurmid grunt in surprise, but her voice seemed to come from a great distance.

I chose you, Findol Grey. I, not the Queen, said another voice inside his head: an ancient voice, a dragon’s voice. No creature now living remembers all that happened. I was the last, and I died before my children could receive my knowledge. So I passed it to you, because you honored me when you found me. Trust my words.  I will always tell you the truth…

Coanh shook him until his sight returned. Varala crouched next to him, an unexpected look of concern in her green eyes. Aurmid snarled a warning, pawing the ground at the entrance.

“Findol, wake up!” Coanh said. “What’s wrong? Are you all right?”  Findol shrugged out of Coanh’s grip. He stood and went to the mouth of the cave, Coanh and Varala close behind him.

Aurmid reared on her hind legs before the cave, swiping at the twilit sky. A hawk swooped just out of her reach and shrieked. She roared in answer.

Varala gasped and started forward, but Findol grabbed her arm.

“Aurmid, let him be!” Findol shouted, and the dragon retreated, her whole body emanating threat.

“This is the one you seek,” she growled. “He heard my father’s voice speaking to you just now, as I did, Findol Grey. It drew him to you. I will subdue him so you may bind him.”

“He means us no harm, Aurmid. I’m sure of it.” She growled her disagreement and waited.

The hawk landed in front of the cave. His form dissolved, and in its place a smoky column appeared, lit from within by tiny sparks of light. The column shimmered and shaped itself into a man about the age of Findol’s father. His dark eyes were ancient, eternal. He faced them fearlessly and nodded to Findol.

“Thank you,” he said. “I am Zaghran. You have no reason to believe anything I tell you. But for the sake of my old friend Griel and his trust in you, young man, I beg you to hear me. Then perhaps you will help me. I don’t have much time to accomplish what I must.”

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