Posted on October 18, 2010


This story is Part 26 of the Fire and Water series. It follows The Battle. To read from the beginning, please visit the Index Page.

* * *

Sulinor lay down in the middle of the battlefield, exhausted from her imprisonment and the battle itself. As soon as her eyes closed, she dreamed.

Two young men and a Chyre-cat female in human form huddled together in a sterile white space, their hands and feet bound with a hard, metallic twine. Other creatures, utterly unlike them, moved about, taking no notice. The three communicated with each other silently through the deep, lush current of magic flowing in and between them.

She recognized them: Findol, Coanh, and Varala, those whom the Nurain had stolen. We know you see us, Sulinor, they told her. Don’t fear for us. We will be with you soon.

Sulinor awoke with a start. Though she felt as though only moments had passed, she discovered she had slept through the night; the eastern sky was violet with dawn. There was movement all around her. No one else, apparently, had slept. Without looking, she felt the Varzil concluding funeral rites for their fallen tribesmen and horses; Peldanir and the Sorcerers were gathering fragments of Nurain ships; Eron and the Sylphs were blowing away ash and charred debris from the sites where those ships had exploded. Yryn and Aurmid flew above, looking for Nurain warriors who might have escaped or been killed, but Sulinor knew they found no trace of them. Their ships had retrieved them all while her people were blinded by their unnatural light.

She rose and went to Zaghran. He was in conference with Jal, Madan, Griel, and Maira, the wise-woman of the Tirmanin Mountains in the north.

“Yes, it is there,” Maira was saying. “A passage under the mountains, like to that one the Queen of the Deep guards even now. I nor my people have ever seen anything rise out of it, but it has a strange feel similar to that of the Great Mother’s old prison. I wonder if the Nurain know that door is there.”

“Another door,” Sulinor mused. “Yes, I remember the place. I felt it open at the same time the one in the sea opened.”

“How could the Nurain not know of this door?” Jal said. “They made the one in the sea floor, so it is reasonable they made this one, too. Perhaps they simply haven’t needed it yet.”

“That is possible,” Sulinor said. She felt Zaghran share her memory of that time, and in the sharing they both saw it more clearly.

“When the first door opened,” Zaghran explained, “Sulinor and I felt a disturbance around the entire boundary of Vael. It was as though… another body brushed against Vael’s body.” Sulinor nodded.

“That event caused many small shudders in our world’s form,” she said. “I felt two cracks begin, but the one in the sea kept growing, as though the Nurain were tunneling through. The other crack remained as it was.” She and Zaghran exchanged a questioning look.

“What?” Madan said, looking from one to the other.

“What if it was an accident that first brought the Nurain here to us?” Zaghran suggested. They were all silent a moment, absorbing this possibility.

“If that is so,” Griel said, “then the Nurain might have spoken the truth to you, Zaghran, when they told you their world was dying.”

“But that does not excuse what they have done to us since,” Madan said.

“No, it doesn’t,” Maira agreed. “But think what a fortunate opportunity this second door might provide us, if they don’t know of it.”

“We may use it to go and retrieve our friends,” Griel snorted. “If the Lady Maira will show me where it is, I will investigate where this door leads.”

“I’m ready now,” Maira said, smiling.

“We will go much faster if I carry you,” Griel said, and they all gaped at him with wonder. No one in Vael had ever ridden a dragon before this.

“It will be the honor of my long life, Griel,” Maira said, and clambered nimbly upon his shoulders. He leapt into the air, and she threw her arms around his neck and squealed with delight. They flew north and were out of sight in moments.

Peldanir and two Sorcerers, Erdan and Kalan, came running to join them then.

“We have an idea,” Peldanir said bluntly.

“We’ve never done anything like it, but it may be possible,” Erdan added.

“We’ve come to beg your blessing,” Kalan said. Sulinor laughed at their enthusiasm.

“Tell us, then,” she said, “before you strain yourselves.”

“I was looking at the pieces of the ships the Nurain left behind,” Peldanir said. “Perhaps because I’m– I’m partly Nurain, I seem to feel the logic of the design. Erdan and Kalan examined the pieces, too, and say their materials are simple.”

“They would be easy to copy with materials we find in Vael,” Erdan interrupted. Kalan nodded eagerly.

“I want to build a ship,” Peldanir said. “I can learn how they built theirs by studying the fragments. I know I can. Erdan and Kalan will help me. And when we’ve built it, I’ll use it to go get Findol and Coanh and Varala. Will you give us leave to do this?”

Zaghran and Sulinor exchanged another look, and Jal and Madan grinned.

“It seems that not only do we have a hidden road to Nur, but soon we’ll also have a vessel to travel it,” Zaghran observed.

Sulinor remembered her dream. We will be with you soon, they had told her. May it be sooner than you expect, my children, she thought.

“Build your ship,” she told Peldanir, and he and the Sorcerers grinned.

“We’ll begin immediately,” Peldanir said, and they hurried back to their pile of ship debris.

Sulinor turned to Zaghran and smiled.

“I have work to do, too,” she said. “It’s time to heal my old prison. I’ll make this ground fertile again, bring it back to life. I will restore the Forest of the Center. Will you help me, love?”

“I’ve waited three thousand years to do exactly that,” he said, and embraced her.

“Then let’s begin.” She felt hope unfurl in her heart.