The Journal of Talaelowar Ki'yik

Chapter Twenty-One: An Amulet of Destiny’s Past…

It has been an interesting experience teaching those who have so long been our teachers in the ways and customs of the strange lands in which Pik and I have wandered. Now that we are home in the desert, we have had to think carefully and explain things which to us, are first-nature. How to find water, how to conserve water, how to dress, how to shelter, and so forth. All new experiences for our clutch-family. We traveled in easy steps, helping accustom our new family to the rigors of desert travel.

At last we arrived near Deathhaunt. As we approached, we were surprised to discover fresh tracks in the sand, oblique to our path. Noting that the tracks used the lee of the dunes to hide approach with respect to the oasis, we decided to follow and see if we could ambush the ambushers. Alas, we found our prey when they rose suddenly from the sand and attacked us! A fierce fight followed. They recognized me for what I am, and sought to neutralize me by tackling me to the ground. A cunning strategy. Fortunately, Pik was swifter than all they. Gramblin was much put out at not being able to slay the giant. Pik could barely stand, so calamitous were his wounds from the giant. One Brownscale was left alive, and him we interrogated. We learned much of usefulness of the recent history between the barbarian tribe occupying the oasis and the Brownscales over the past couple of years.

We set the sole survivor free, after taking life-oath from him. We also took tokens of each of the slain, especially of the giant. The tokens served us well in securing guest-right. However, the king of the tribe of humans, for so they proved, “requested” that the one who slew the giant fight him in a friendly tournament of might. Squarely caught upon the horns of a dilemma, I felt! On one hand, of course they must test us to assure that the gifts we brought are not some trick, but were won in combat. But, on the other, if we defeat the king in combat, even mock combat-some will take it upon themselves to be offended on the king’s behalf, even if he himself is gracious beyond reproach.

Pik, in one of his sometimes startling prescient insights, held back his full might from the onset, and managed to fight the king to a draw. It was only afterwards that we learned that while his might is not contested, there are others of his people whom are considered the king’s champions, and fair better warriors than he, or so it is said. My brother’s wisdom is without subtlety, but holds depths unrealized by many. Only a fool disregards Pik when he chooses to speak his mind.

Not only that, but he sees what many do not. I feel a bit the fool, and a bit of anger towards myself for missing such a matter of import. And I spoke directly with the high-priest directly, no less. Yet I did not see. During the evening meal, a veritable feast with excellent entertainment, Pik approached me and asked if I had seen it. At the ceremonies of guest-right previous he saw that the high-priest was wearing a medallion, and that medallion appeared to be identical to the one which I always wear, the one that I was found wearing, when but a babe! An astonishing revelation. We immediately sought out an audience with the high-priest, and were graciously granted a time of meeting towards the end of the festivities.

The conversation was long, and involved much exchange of history on both our parts. My hand shakes as I write even this small summery. The high-priest is a descendant of a fairly long line of high-priests, one of whom found this medallion upon the body of a woman. Which woman was found in one of the caves which is in the outcropping that form one of the outer walls of the oasis! We compared medallions, and indeed they were almost exactly the same. Some of the symbols on one part of my medallion are different, more complex, but the design and style is clearly identical. We were convinced beyond doubt when the high-priest recounts the tale of the discovery, and mentions that there were signs of a child or babe, but they never found the child.

The high-priest was clearly startled, and amazed to discover that I was that child. Desert life is harsh, and he is both unfamiliar with the Fair Folk, and unaccustomed to the thought of life lasting longer than a few decades. I was impatient, but could do no less than to answer his questions of curiosity as best as I was able-considering the import of what he has told me.

I felt it appropriate, as did Pik, that this story was closed with all participants present. And as strange a fate as has brought this to pass, this high priests life-thread has been tangled in mine. I invited him to accompany us in our efforts to find and, if fortunate, contact the departed spirit of this mysterious woman, possibly my mother.

Chapter Twenty-Two: Too Many Secrets… (or, Dead Women Do Tell Tales!)

The following morning saw us heading for the rock outcroppings that form the windbreak that protects the oasis. I found it interesting that none of the shelters have been erected near the cave opening. The inside is cooler than the outside, but as we penetrate deeper into the cavern, the air grows curiously warm. At the second turn, Pik stopped momentarily, and pointed to a hollow in the floor. Later I spoke with him and confirmed my suspicion. According to the lore of my first-kin, that is where I was found. I had to hurry to catch up to the others, as they had not noticed our pause, and had moved deeper into the cave.

It continues to grow hotter as we descend, and I questioned the high-priest about it. Apparently there is a source of great heat somewhere deep in the cave. They have never found it’s source, as the heat grows too intense without magical protection. He stops suddenly at an intersection. One of the branches proves to be an alcove, and in the back of the alcove, lay the body of a woman. The body had been mummified by the intense heat and was in almost perfect condition. Everyone stood for moments of silence and wonder. Sabriel and I agreed to defer to the high-priest in seeking out the departed spirit. He besought the favor of his deity in prayer, and a few moments after he finished speaking, the eyes of the corpse opened. There was a glimmer of light in the eyes, as if seen from the end of a long dark tunnel. Then a dry voice rustled in a strange tongue. Curiously, it sounded much like elvish, but if so, it was a dialect I have never heard. I suppressed a shiver, of what I am not sure. Deep feelings were moving in the depths of my heart, unnamed leviathans stirring.

The high-preist said another brief prayer. I hastily read a prepared magic from a scroll enabling me to understand unknown languages. Then he turned to me and bade me to speak. I framed my questions carefully, mindful of Sabriel’s coaching on this matter. The answers at first were disappointing. It quickly became apparent that she was not my mother.

However she was the personal servant of the Matriarch of the Clan or Tribe, although the word they used was House. Curious. One must wonder to what degree these magics will correctly infer cultural references and idiom. We discovered that a babe was left near the mouth of the cave. It was hoped that I would be the salvation of this House-Tribe. I was the last born of the Matriarch. I have encoded the names and directions and exact words spoken into the pages of this my journal. It is a hunch, but tinged with the weight of destiny. I feel a foreshadowing laying heavily upon me.

The last information we received shook the high-priest severely. A certain hidden place which he thought known only to his people was sought by my mother as well. And described in fair detail-sufficient to shock the high-priest into revealing that he knows the way to the place that she sought. It is a holy site to this people, as an ancient king who fell in battle is enshrined there. He is greatly disturbed that not only was it known, but specifically sought by my mother. I press the advantage of his unbalance, perhaps foolishly. But I must find out the secrets of my past! I cannot return to my first-kin without the answers I must have.

Chapter Twenty-Three: Promises, Promises…

The wind never ceases. It gentles from time to time, but is a constant presence. It looks over my shoulder as I write, it swirls around Arielle as she stands watch, it enters and leaves my sleeping companions, and surely it hounds the footsteps of the stranger who sought to offer our heart’s desire. My fasting gnaws at my middle, resolutely ignored. Doubts prey upon my mind. Yet within this sandstorm of half-seen movements, there is a core of certainty.

I had promised the high-priest that we would give him an answer in the morning. Were I to agree to follow this mysterious stranger into the tomb of this king… we know not what we would find, nor how long we would be. Besides, without the agreement of the tribal elders and the king, we would be violating the guest-right we had received. We have partaken of the bread, salt, and water of this people. Were I to violate guest-right, I would be as surely exiled from my first-kin as I will be if I cannot complete my quest. A savage choice. And the fate of my future rests in the hands of this priest, king, and elders.

I am certain that I was right to turn away the offer of the stranger. His claims of knowledge of the outcome of the discussion rang false to my ear. His manner of appearance and departure bespoke a stealth ill-suited to an honest offer. I will not so ill treat the king and priest whom have guested us so well. No… despite the misgivings of some of my little family, this is the correct course.

Chapter Twenty-Four: The Serpent in the Oasis…

My heart was heavy when the high-priest came to us. His face was stern, austere. In a flash of inspiration, I besought him to permit me to address the tribe before the verdict was given. To my relief, he acceded. Prepared with some minor magical oratory enhancement to aid me, which I felt safe in using, as it did not directly affect any of the tribal members I addressed, I stood and presented myself. I drew upon my memories of my early life with my first-kin, and guessed at customs that we would likely share. I must admit, thinking back upon it, that I did well. Very well. Suggesting that some of the tribe accompany us, to keep safe the items of historical importance and other things sacred to them, was a stoke of wisdom.

After a short recess to consider my words, our desire was granted, with conditions. One guard and the tribal Loremaster would accompany us to the king’s resting place. Of course, we were not to disturb anything in the tomb. The guard assigned to us has become a friend over the last two days. But the Loremaster… He looked surprised that we would be permitted to go. We sought to hide our surprise at the certain stranger who had spoken with us in the depths of the night.

I wonder if the high-priest knew of the serpent which dwells within his garden oasis. We were in great danger.

Chapter Twenty-Five: Deadly Errors Compounded….

We made our way carefully to the place of burial. There we were able to find what my mother was looking for. Since we were bound to not disturb anything, I memorized what I saw. The full account will be given elsewhere. We also found the skeleton of a woman, in fine garments. My mother. I wonder if what she found was worth her efforts. What were her desires for my destiny? How did I come to be the sole survivor, a helpless babe? It seems that finding the secrets of my past has simply revealed new secrets underneath.

As we were about to leave, it was noticed that some minor things laying about had disappeared. We knew that we had not done it, which left our two companions. Obviously, we suspected the Loremaster. Having done a through search of ourselves and our belongings, we determined that nothing has been secreted with us. We did not wish to challenge the two of them, not where there are no witnesses, save ourselves. Returning without them was also not an option available to us.

Instead we opted to return directly to the high-priest and requested a private audience with him. He seemed disturbed. Somehow he knew that something had gone wrong. We threw ourselves upon his mercy. The geas that he had placed upon us was undisturbed. There was no effort to resist the binding of truthfulness he used upon us. He also spoke with Hunral and the Loremaster. We felt disturbed that these efforts seemed inconclusive to him.

Once one of the missing items was discovered in our tent, which we had failed to search - a grave error upon my part, our situation was murkier than ever. It finally came down to a wizards duel between the Loremaster and myself. I should have insisted upon resting till the next day. If I had, perhaps the events which followed would have come about differently.

Chapter Twenty-Seven: Mysterious Ending, Return Beginning…

Death was an experience I do not care to repeat. I didn’t care for it the first time back under the Giant’s stronghold, and I care for it even less now. I have set the account down in it’s fullness elsewhere. As this is my common book, certain to be had before many eyes, perhaps even before my death, it is not something that should be here for all to see. It was so close a duel. But he beat me by a sliver of time. I remember falling… falling into darkness. Sounds sliding away from me as I became aware of the sound of a great machine marking time beneath the threshold of awareness. As it stopped, I knew it was my life. Returning to consciousness was a sliding rush into a suffocating heat, feeling the evaporation of the waters of that cold river from my skin as I was dragged back through the veil. Only broken fragments of what I experienced on the other side remain, confused and disconnected.

I am given to understand that Pik sought to strike my foe, but in his grief, actually missed. It was Gramblin who saved us all. His quick wit and suspicious nature discovered the proof we needed to prove our innocence. I shall never tease him again about his many suspicions. The Loremaster will not trouble us again. Ever. However, we should also take our troubling presences from this tribe. We have shaken them rather badly. The King and the high-priest understand the hidden undertow of the events that transpired, but many of the tribe see only that we were involved somehow in the forbidden items removed from the tomb, and the death of the Loremaster. It would be wise to be elsewhere for a while. A long while. We shall return to my first-kin, and report the tale of our adventures. As sung by Arielle.

It is bemusing that I am now an adult. I who have outlived 5 generations of my first-kin. But my secret inner amusement is kept quiet, so as not to disrupt the solemnity of the occasion. Though I suspect that the officiating elder shared in the irony from the shifting glints in her faceted eyes and the occasional odd tilt of the mandibles. The feasting nears it’s end. The singing was splendid. There was even some of my second-kin in attendance, despite the many years of effort and cooperation my two kin are still uncomfortable with each other. Soon we shall begin the return voyage away from home. It is more difficult to leave my home than before. I am now bound to both of my homelands with a binding that shall never cease. The voices of the desert wastes whispers in my soul.