pretentious cosmic picture


Seeliski turned to Braele, and a small bell she wore around her neck. "That's interesting. It's not of mortal make. Where did you get it?"

"It was a gift I got years ago, when I was a girl in Reir."

"An elvengift? Surely that is rare in mortal lands...was it costly?"

"It didn't cost me a single coin. Which was lucky, for I had no coins to give."

She sat back, starting to tell the story.

"You may know that Reir is a land of plains. Humans rear some of the finest unicorns in the world to ride those plains, but centaurs also group there. Both humans and centaurs organize in tribes. There is a king over all Reir, and a gathering of tribe representatives, but the centaur nature, at least among the young centaurs, is ever unruly, and intertribal warfare is very common. Unless it spreads to a third tribe, usually the king of Reir does not intervene.

"Many of my tribe, including my parents, were killed in a raid by centaurs. I was gathered up, in one centaur's grip, but bit his hairy arm and fell, miles and miles away from my tribe or any tribe I knew of.

"I was seven. I was glad to escape the centaurs...females at the hands of centaurs, even when young, are often used horribly...but I was far from anyone who could protect me. I wandered for two weeks. I ate small flying things, and a few plants, and was sick and hungry and thirsty and footsore. I didn't know where I was walking. I just knew if I didn't move, I'd die.

It was cold at night. Snow rarely fell that far south, but it was chill. It was close to Donangrir, which meant it was the dead of winter. I had a cloak, but the wind rips across the plains, and it was like a knife against my face.

"I thought I was going to die.

"Then came the night of Donangrir...or rather the night before Donangrir..."

"Donangrir?" asked Seleeski.

Falnee broke in. "The anniversary of when Klassadon was born. Many believe that Klassadon, who was born when Dahnmaya ruled aboveground, was C'Don incarnated as a human being."

Heosun said, "It's traditionally a day of hope and joy."

Braele continued. "I thought I was going to die that night. I fell asleep. But then I heard a bell lightly ringing.

"I looked up...and there was a man in a scarlet hooded robe, with a long silver beard and a smile that would melt ice. He wore gloves, as if he came from someplace very cold indeed. He had a thick fur coat with him, that was my size...and a small metal bell.

"He looked concerned that I had seen him, but also looked concerned about me. He stroked my head, and I knew there was nothing to fear. Then he gave me, silently, the bell.

"There was enchantment in the air. One moment he was there, and the next...and I was staring right at him...he was gone.

"I rang the bell. I rang it several times, and then cuddled in the furs. A half hour later, a rider of my tribe on unicornback came by. He said he had heard a bell, and wanted to investigate. But I had rung it much earlier.

"He knew me; he knew my parents. He carried me home. I told him my story, and he whispered, 'Ival Puchaun.'"

Heosun and Falnee looked with a lot of respect at Braele and the bell she wore. She was one of the chosen few who have received an actual gift from Ival Puchaun, although many parents will fake such gifts for their child.

"The loremasters of our tribe could translate the elvish inscription. It said, 'Ring, and help will come'. I have rarely used it since. But each time I did, help was not far away."

"I have heard of Ival Puchaun," said Seeliski,"but I mainly know he was a changeling raised here on Elvish island...a mortal reared by elves. He left us when he was grown, to sail to mortal lands. Later, he came back, and his friends among the elves journeyed with him to the farthest north. I know his elven friends...both dark elves or dwarves, and light elves, or him in monitoring the world and those in need. Past that, it gets a little hazy..."

Falnee spoke again. "Ival Puchaun journeyed to Cathrarho, which at the time was pretty much under Dahnmaya's domination. He was entranced by human children. He so rarely encountered children in the ageless Elven society that he was charmed by the great amount of human children. He made toys for them. He was also sent by Jequeror, the elvenking, because the Elvenking knew that a child of great import would be born in that area, but the Elvenking could not discern what kind of child it would be.

"Ival Puchaun soon befriended the family of Klassadon, and made some toys for the young Klassadon. When Klassadon was grown, the now-older Ival Puchaun followed him on his teachings, but was helpless to prevent Klassadon from being seized...and burned at the stake. But Ival Puchaun was given a mission by Klassadon, before the Burning.

"'Hope is needed in this world, Ival Puchaun. Dahnmaya is not the only mortal who can get an extended lifetime. I can give it to you...but it would be as you are. Old long as you give gifts and hope to the hopeless. Hie back to Elvish Isle, take those who will come with you, then travel far north, to the northern edge of the world. Dahnmaya will try to stop your gifts of hope. But you will have a weapon even he can't defeat.'

"'I do?'

"'Time. Elvenspells can slow time for mortals...till decades can seem like a single night, correct? You know how to cast that spell, correct?'

"'I am not an adept, but some spells I know, yes.'

"Very well. That spell will be made more powerful. When you use it...I would pick one night a year...the whole world will slow down, among mortals, save for yourself. Even Dahnmaya.'

"'You will be in danger at other times. That's why I recommend a place in the bleak north, far from other living things, where you can have some measure of safety.'

"So during Dahnmaya's repressive reign, there were gifts of magical hope left occasionally. Dahnmaya tried to stop it. But Ival Puchaun, or Father Donargrir as some call him, would always evade him. No match for Dahmaya in strength, yet he knew Klassadon and was well versed in elvenmagicks, and had elvensmiths and wonderworkers who aided him, and kept him safe.

"When Dahnmaya's regime above ground ended, still Ival Puchaun left presents to a few selected children, in time of great need, around the world. He will continue to do so, until the return of Klassadon, at the end of time...they say. But Braele is the first person I've met in person who has such a gift."

Seeliski looked more closely at it. "Beautifully made. Don't give it up for anything."

"I won't. Not so much for its enchantment...but for the memory of a wonderful old man who remembered me in need."

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Copyright © 1997 Al Schroeder