OT: Computer issues this week. I really need to install a new fan in the old computer or take it apart, clean it, and apply WD-40 in the appropriate spots. But hey- have some more necro- where I started from for this year's NanoWriMo.
Not long after, the stalagmites opened up to reveal a clearing of bare ground. A pile of stalagmite pieces created a platform in the middle of the clearing, and three men stood upon it – all dressed alike. There were several more men standing around the platform in formation. All the men were armed, with weapons ready. Tyrrae looked up at the stalagmites and saw several platforms entwined in the branches above. The platforms looked more elaborate than the word implied, but she simply didn’t have the vocabulary. Webs of green moss and rope obscured the platforms, but she could tell that there were more armed men above her. This differed greatly from the story line she had overheard, but she felt complimented by their fear. She preferred fear and respect to open trust.
“I have not come to harm you,” she said calmly, keeping her hands open and still. I am but one girl, and have approached you openly. I have seen one orc that threatened to attack two of your people and scared it off. I have heard that more of these predators threaten your people. I would help destroy these orcs with you. The one I saw looked too dangerous for me to hunt alone. I would ally with you against these, if you would allow it.”
“Show us your weapons,” said the three men on the platform in chorus.
Tyrrae set down the small pouch of her grandfather’s blood and bone, and the knife she had made from his left thigh bone. She also pulled the silk robe and her eating dagger from her pack, as they could be viewed as offensive weapons, although she would not use them that way comfortably. She was no warrior, and she knew it. It was better to be honest here, as these men could prevent her from ever leaving this clearing.
“I offer these to you, if you wish, though I doubt that you would find my best weapons to be useful to you.” She watched carefully for any sign for which was the real Loremaster, and decided it was one of the men in the lower row, off the platform. She approached him directly. She humbled herself to kneel. “Loremaster, I swear that I shall not harm your people.”
Tension rippled among the other men, and she knew she had made the right choice. The Loremaster lowered his weapons, and indicated that one of the other men should collect her weapons. “You are wise in our ways, Dark One. Please show us your face and gift us with your name.”
Tyrrae unwrapped the silk veil. Closing her eyes, she undid the strap holding the dark glass pieces. Bracing herself for the pain, she opened her lavender eyes long enough to say, “I am Tyrrae N’Tyl, Second of House D’Ner in the line of Tartulos.” Temporarily blind, she replaced the strap and the dark pieces of glass to protect her eyes. “My eyes are not accustomed to so much brightness, and must protect them.” Absorbed in her pain, she did not acknowledge the gasp as her face was bared.
“That is why you are a Dark One. Out of darkness you have come and to darkness you will return. It is burned into your skin and its mark will remain upon you.”
Tyrrae filed that away. She assumed that these were the Hated Ones, and also elves. She wasn’t sure what that made the strange eared ones.
“Custom declares that we should kill you now, as we kill all of your kind we encounter. Yet you have approached us in our fashion, and we hesitate. Is there any here who would speak of your veracity concerning this orc?” He almost spit the word orc, yet he did not show emotion while calling her a Dark one. Tyrrae wondered if he had ever seen one of her kind before, or if he was merely being courteous.
A female voice filtered down from above. “I saw not this girl when I ran from the berry patch. I saw a speaking skeleton with an orc, and I ran from there.”
“What did the skeleton say?” the Loremaster asked.
“It acknowledged its master and agreed to fight.”
“But it faced the orc,” another female voice said. Tyrrae recognized it as the one called Amarylis.
“So you did not see if the orc commanded the skeleton,” said the Loremaster. “I shall not rule out the possibility.”
“We did not stay to see,” the first voice explained.
“Orcs are not known to possess such power,” Amarylis said.
“I did summon the skeleton,” Tyrrae said. “I ordered it to attack the orc.”
“Yet you were not heard or seen. Only the skeleton was.” The Loremaster kept his eyes on Tyrrae.
“I did not wish to be seen by the orc. I am unskilled in the ways of fighting directly, but my skeleton servant will defend me.”
“That pouch contains what you need to summon a skeleton, does it not?” The Loremaster’s eyes narrowed.
“Aye,” Tyrrae said. “It is my greatest weapon, and therefore I offered it first. The bone knife is what I would need to create more servants to summon, and therefore I offered it next. It would take time to actually use it as it is meant to be used, and any other use may taint it. The rope and my eating dagger could easily be misused to cause harm, so I offered those as well.”
The man holding the items paled.
The Loremaster nodded. “You have shown your wisdom and your weaknesses to us. What became of the orc?”
“It was disarmed and retreated. I think it shall return for its weapon.”
“If its fellows do not kill it for cowardice, aye, it shall return with companions. But is there other proof of your veracity?”
The wolf stepped forward, holding the axe in its mouth. He dropped it at the feet of the Loremaster, then moved to sit beside Tyrrae.
“So,” said the Loremaster to the wolf, “you would vouch for this one?”
The wolf did his slow nod.
“Very well then,” the Loremaster nodded. “Please return her eating dagger to her. The other items shall remain with me.”
The tension drained out of the men at his words. The man handed the pouch, bone dagger, and rope to the Loremaster, and then the dagger to Tyrrae. She bowed slightly to him in thanks, and put it away.
“We will trust you as far as we are able. There is too much history between our people otherwise.”
“I know it not. It is not between you and I.”
The Loremaster relaxed a bit. “Then we must teach you our side of the story if you will hear it.”
“All knowledge gained is worth the pursuit.” She bowed her head in thanks again.
He actually smiled. “So that is still a tenet among the People. May it always be so. We will converse further in the future.” He looked up at one of the platforms. “Lower a basket for our guest!” His eyes returned to Tyrrae. “But let this wolf remain at her side to guard her and us from each other.”
The wolf nodded, as if he had intended this all along. Tyrrae set her hand on his shoulder as she watched the basket suspended by thick strands of something she did not recognize. The hair on the wolf was a texture she had not felt before, but she appreciated it. It was softer than a spider yet rougher than silk.