Posted on August 7, 2010


For the #WeSeWriMo challenge, I’m posting new episodes for Fire and Water on Saturdays as well as for #TuesdaySerial during August. I hope you enjoy reading as much I enjoy writing them.

This story is Part 12 of the series Fire and Water. It follows Choosing. To read from the beginning, please visit the Index Page.

* * *

Findol dreamed, tossing and turning, grunting a little in his sleep.

He holds Griel’s scale in his hand. Its heat sears his flesh. The others surround him, looking on, but no one can reach out, no one can take it from him. The campfire burns in their midst, its flames licking the sky, reaching for the stars.

He can see Griel inside the scale. The dragon thrashes wildly as if he is trapped within it, as if he struggles to escape. Aurmid watches this at Findol’s side, pawing the ground. Yryn and Eron circle above them, roaring.

Why must you hold him here?” Aurmid pleads, her voice also a roar.

Findol awoke with a start. He got up, blinking, shaking off the dream’s hold.

He went to stand at the lake’s edge, shivering in the cold. A thin mist lay along the surface of the water. The sky was violet in the east. It would be dawn soon, and in a few hours, they would set out in search of Sulinor.

Aurmid appeared overhead, flying in from the direction of the mountains. She landed quietly on the shore beside Findol. She peered at him out of one golden eye, then turned her head to look at him with the other. He smiled up at her.

“Yryn and Eron are returning to Lulirnyn,” she said. “I was saying my goodbyes.” He nodded.

“When my father speaks to you, we all hear it, Findol Grey. You have dreamed of him.”

Findol looked out at the mist.

“Can you tell me what it means?”

Aurmid sighed, a rumbling in her chest like faraway thunder.

“I only know his knowledge is vast, spanning the whole history of Vael. The more he tells you, the harder it will be for you to contain it. You are, after all, only one small being. You must find a way to release that knowledge eventually, or be consumed by it.”

“I see. But don’t I also have to protect it from the Nurain? They want to destroy everything true about Vael. They want us to believe what they tell us, to make it easier to take our world as their own, don’t they?”

“I do not have the answer to this riddle,” Aurmid said. “But I will protect you while you protect my father’s gift. And I am not your only friend, Findol Grey.”

He smiled at her, and she shook her head.

“Help me build a fire for the breakfast? We should get moving soon.”

The others woke as they worked, and set about breaking camp. They broke their fast with bread toasted on the fire, some cheese and dried beef. By the time they were ready to set out, the sun’s first rays were chasing the mist off the lake.

A breath of wind erupted from amongst the trees, and ended as soon as it began. Zaghran and Aurmid tensed, and Findol felt a tingle of something more in the wake of the breeze.

“What’s that?” he whispered, but saw what it was even as he spoke.

There was a man standing before the trees in the spot where the wind had originated. He was tall, wrapped in a billowy coat the color of mist. He was bald, clean-shaven, and looked at Zaghran with piercing black eyes. He walked up to Zaghran and they stared at each other for a long moment. Then the stranger laughed and threw his arms around the shapeshifter.

“I heard you had returned to us,” he said, “but I scarcely believed it. Zaghran, how good it is to see you after all this time.”

“Jal, my friend.” Zaghran laughed too, and pulled away from his greeting. He turned to the others. “He’s an ally, a very old friend from the Time Before. He’s well met.”

Jal gave them a nod, noting they were ready to depart.

“I won’t keep you,” he said. “In fact, if you allow it, I’ll walk a mile or two with you.” Aurmid leapt into the air and flew east as if no further discussion was necessary. They followed her, heading through the trees.

“And where is your home, Jal?” Coanh asked. Jal looked from him to Findol, his eyes resting finally on Varala, who walked at Zaghran’s side.

“I follow the wind,” he said. “My home is nowhere and everywhere. My descendants are travelers, nomads. Perhaps you’ve heard their name, the Varzil. They prefer the southern deserts, but they wander most of the world. You might have seen them in Lualor as they came to trade from time to time.”

“How did you know we come from Lualor?” Coanh said, eyes wide with wonder. Zaghran and Jal smiled.

“Ah, you and Findol Grey have the sea in your eyes,” Jal chuckled. “And your lovely, fierce companion Varala here, she is a Chyre, one of the cat-people of the mountains. As I said, I follow the wind. Or the wind follows me, I’m never sure which. There is not a corner of Vael that I don’t know, no creature within it who is unfamiliar to me.”

“Then perhaps you can help us,” Findol said. “There is someone we must find, and quickly.” A cloud passed over Jal’s face. He nodded.

“I heard about that, too. It’s why I’ve come.” He stopped walking and turned to face them. They gathered around him, and he looked at Zaghran.

“The Nurain imprisoned Sulinor after they had you,” he went on. “Without you there to intervene, none of us had the strength to resist them. But I saw what they did, where they put her. It won’t be easy to reach her even now.” He bowed his head, and Findol felt his regret.

“Tell us,” Zaghran said, his voice tight. Jal looked up at him.

“There is a barren expanse where the Central Forest used to be,” Jal said. Findol heard Zaghran draw in a sharp breath. “It is only rock and dry earth now, and nothing will grow there. They did to Sulinor what they did to you. They cut her essence away from her.”

Findol saw Zaghran’s jaw set with rage and sorrow. He could not speak for a moment.

“How do we get there?” Findol said. Jal waved his arm at the trees behind him.

“Keep east through the woods,” he said. “You’ll reach its edge about midday. There are grassy plains beyond. When you get there, head northeast. You’ll find plenty of water and food along the way. When the plains end, you’ll be at the edge of Sulinor’s prison. You go due east there, and many long days of travel will still be ahead of you.”

“And the entrance to her prison?” Findol said. “Where is it? How will we know it?”

Jal smiled and shook his head.

“I live in the wind, and I know every rock and blade of grass in this world. I have searched for that entrance since they put her there, but I’ve never seen it. You’ll need keener eyes than mine to find that door.” He laid a hand on Zaghran’s shoulder.

“But Zaghran is free now, and he has allies,” he went on, looking at Findol. “If Sulinor is to be found, you’ll be the ones who can.”

“We will find her,” Zaghran said. “And we will free her.” Jal nodded.

“I cannot travel longer with you,” he said. “I must go with the wind. But I will always be watching and listening. If you need me, you have only to call my name and I will come. May fair winds be at your backs, my friends.”

Another blast of wind whistled through the trees and whirled around Jal. When it stopped, he was gone.

“We are with you, Zaghran,” Varala said. “And we’ve much to do. It’s time we get on with it.” She strode through the trees, and they hurried after her.

Posted in: Fantasy