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Extreme Planning..
Part Two

Extreme Planning..
Part Two

Timeline:

It is time for strategic planning.

Heroes and friends gather to see what must be done and what can be done for the enemy is harsh, merciless, numerous, and hidden..

 

And in a small town,
the future of the kingdom is decided.

 

This story is the continuation of
Extreme Planning..
Part One

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, Lords and Ladies, emissaries and representatives, welcome to our humble town of Serenity Home.”, the old, raspy voice of the mayor was heard as everyone settled down as he stared at the rather crowded room full of important people of many different peoples and races, their retinue, their guards, and their servants.

“That said, I believe introductions are in order. I am Arthandos Yuleman, the mayor of this town and your host, and upon formal request, I shall also be representing the Arashkan refugees.. As a quick reminder before we begin; as you all know, are under the threat of a formidable enemy. All possible precautions have been taken. However unlikely, should anything unexpected occur, each and every one of you here has been given assignments as to where you should be and designated a location to wait until further notice. Please follow said instructions in an orderly fashion and stick to them. Should you need any assistance, town guards will be made available to you as soon as possible. Also, dinner will be served after sundown. Thank you very much. Now, shall we begin?”

“Lady Alisia Sivara Hooman, Lady Moira Hooman, and Captain Fardashi. Durkahan.”, Lady Alisia introduced herself and her retinue in a brisk tone.

“Nadine Graciousward. Former queen of Bari Na-ammen.”, the beautiful lady Nadine said and though she appeared calm, the fire in her eyes spoke otherwise and hushed voices rippled in the room.

“Lord Haransis. Koruxan Knights’ Commander.”, said a tall, lean man in bright steel armor, his winged helm on the table, his sword and shield hanging from his chair.

“Dridges Motherswolfie, Tactical General. Elder Hills.”, a young dwarven girl said quietly from her seat. Standing right behind her was also a pair of dwarven girls scowling menacingly and leaning on long, wooden shafted battle-axes —the Tosser twins.

“Margaret Madish, Argail Smitefast, Lady Magella, and Harakoon Evilscowl. Scowling Hills.”, said a surprisingly soft-voiced dwarven woman with half of her scalp shaved and had very pale green eyes. Sitting on her side was an ancient dwarf with a grand and white beard and with a big hammer hanging from his thick, leather belt, a young, diffident dwarven girl and a middle-aged dwarf, his face marred with a truly evil-looking scowl.

“Moglonar Picklefork. Tinker Hills’ Artificers.”, piped a bold and old gnome.

“Master Randorm Billbuckle. Mayor of Last Hope Town.”, said a middle-aged man with peppered hair, a thick mustache, and muscles that said he’d rather be out cracking goblin heads than be a mayor.

“Dagard Dreadhound. Representative of the Drashan Armadana.”, spoke a tall, stick-skinny man in black, possibly silk, clothes; black shirt, a black necktie, black trousers, and black shoes.. His face was clean shaved and other than a sinister mark, likely cut by a knife, etched at the side of his chin, with his thick, black eyebrows and his knotted black hair, he might as well have been some corporate’s shark lawyer.

“Drashan Armada..”, scoffed someone from the other side of the room. “You mean a bunch of rat pirates floating on feisty rafts!”

“Those rats on feisty rafts have been sinking Watch Flotilla’s for the past few centuries, Lord Alberdel. How is that cuss of an elder brother of yours, by the way? Trimdel Kandara, wasn’t it? Ow, wait. He’s dead, on account of being assassinated.. while he was surrounded by twenty of his elite men. That must have been rather embarrassing.”, replied the man, Dagard, cooly.

“That’s it.”, growled Lord Alberdel as he rose. “I refuse to be in the same room with this deck rat!”

“By all means, leave, Alberdel. Though walking all the way back to Endless Watch should be quite a chore; we sunk your ship.. with our feisty rafts. It was a pretty ship. Did make a fine bone fire, though.”, grinned Dagard.

“You, son-of-a—”, snarled Alberdel and reached for his cutlass.

“Gentlemen. Please. We are all here for one, and only one reason and that is not starting a fight in my town. Every representative here has come willingly or by the king’s command.”, inserted Arthandos Yuleman with his raspy voice. “Please refrain from abusing our welcome.”

 

Lord Alberdel settled in his seat, fuming furiously while Dagard smirked at him.

 

“Shall we?”, offered Yuleman.

“Parson Brimstone and Katrine Faeriefire. Vodgar Nuke Squad..”, said a frowning man in dark red robes with intelligent eyes and entertaining a long, elaborate goatee sitting next to a charming looking woman in her early forties, in dark purple dress robes with wildly curly brown hair, a distracted expression, and vivid blue eyes.

“Seressa Wraiven and Miss Cinotnacra Gocelap, representing the Academy of Melshieve.”, said the very tall, night-black girl in frilly pinks with a cool, cultured, but distinctly feminine voice, politely introducing herself and the scruffy-looking gnomic girl sitting next to her.

The hobbit sitting next to them coughed.

“Brom Bumblebrim. Observing from Bowling Hills.”, the small hobbit said.

Miss Cinotnacra Gocelap? Really, girl?”,  he then asked, lowering his voice.

“Shut up, hobbit!”, the gnomic girl snarled at him.

“Cora Sleet. Representing the Bear Claw Tribe, the Ice Crag Tribe, and the Ice Wolf Horde of the Great Northern Tundras.”, the pale, white-haired elf with the swirling tattoos said softly.

“Liam Ruststone. Commander of Palantine Militia.”, spoke the man in banded armor, sitting next to the white elf with a hoarse voice that sounded like he’d been shouting all day.

“Liason Constance. Representing a special interest group.”, came the soft, careful voice of the tall, elegant half-born woman.

“Standorin Shieldheart. Sheriff of Serenity Home.”, Standorin said in a curt, all-business tone, sitting next to the liaison.

“Talüna Mira Silverdenú. Elder of the Wood Elves of Dimwoods.”, creaked a very elderly elf woman.

Upon being nudged by his queen, Udoorin cleared his throat.

“Udoorin Shieldheart and Alor’Nadien ne Feymist. King and Queen of Aranië.”, he said with his low, rumbling voice.

“Armathelius Riverblade. Commander to former Bari Na-ammen forces.”, the high elf said in his baritone voice.

“Anglenna Brightleaf. Advisor to the King and Queen of Aranië.”

“Aranië..”, rumbled the awesome ogress sitting right next to her queen. “A bit vague, don’t you think?”

“You know elder elvish?”, Anglenna asked more than a little surprised.

“I know many things. Elder elvish is one of them.”, Grulganiste replied with a scowl. “But ‘Kingdom’ is a bit of a generic name, isn’t it?”

“Bari Na-ammen is destroyed, Chieftain Grulganiste.”, came the soft voice of the Queen of Aranië, Alor’Nadien ne, sitting beside the giant ogress. “We may not use it again. When we take back our woods, we shall not rebuild it. What we will build is something new, and it shall not carry the sins of her ancestors. We shall adopt what we have seen and witnessed here, in this very town, wisely named; Serenity Home. Whoever comes in peace shall enter it, and live in it. And whoever lives in it, shall sweat for it, and bleed for it. Thus, I and my King have decreed, and so the elves I represent have agreed.”

“A wise and refreshing choice, girl.”, smiled the ogress, making her already brutish face, even more terrifying. “Now, then. Grulganiste Grimtooth. The chieftain of the ogre’s of Oger’s Foot.”

“Inshala ‘la Fey’ Frostmane.”, whispered in a slightly petrified voice and the skinny little Inshala spoke with a very much embarrassed face. “I represent the druids, the shamans, and the witches of Ritual Forest.”

“Speak up, little girl.”, some creaky voice said from the other side of the room.

“..Hooman.”, added Lady Alisia sternly, one hand on the pommel of her long blade. “She is my daughter and her honor is my honor.”

“..Bolgrig.”, rumbled Grulganiste. “She is my daughter and I will crush any of you punny things who disrespect her!”

“..Fogstep.”, murmured Aager very quietly. “And my claim trumps all of yours, for she is my mate. But by all means, do disrespect her. I haven’t let blood loose for quite some time..”

 

A terrifying silence settled in the room.

 

“I did not ask for her credentials.. I asked her to speak up!”, said the same voice of the very old Talüna Mira Silverdenú..

 

Several more representatives declared their identities, including a tall, beautiful, high elf woman with auburn hair and very deep green eyes from Solace, a platinum-blonde high elf from Tranquil, several other mayors from various towns, and the King’s personal emissary, all with their retinue.

When the last representative introduced himself, an eager silence settled.

✱ ✱ ✱

Thank you all for the introductions.”, rasped Yuleman. “Now we will exhibit the current situation and bring you all up to date. Then I shall present our needs and open the floor to anyone who may address them. As most of you know, two months ago, Arashkan city was unexpectedly ambushed, without warning nor provocation by an army of Orken.

For those who do not know, the Orken, as we suspect, are originally orcs, though heavily modified and mutated to be as tall as eight to nine feet tall, extremely vicious, resilient, hardy, ruthless, and cunning creatures. Where they came from, we do not know. How they came to be is also unknown at the moment, but their timing coincided with four major attacks;

One on Heavens Hand, demonic in nature, and the assault is still underway. Though the wall still stands unbreached, the loss in life was unprecedented.

Another attack occurred on all the outposts of Tranquil, also demonic in nature. Two outposts were overrun and totally destroyed. Thanks to the quick intervention of Tranquil Airships and the Demon Hunters barbarians, the demons were routed.

The third attack was on Dwarwick, east of Celestial Mountains, Orken in nature. Though they were unable to breach the dwarven walls, the loss of life was monumental.

And the last assault occurred on all fronts at the Demon Plains, demon and undead in nature. Though the Durkahan knights and paladins held their ground, Solace forces were hard-pressed and Korduba’s Watch cavalry was pushed back behind their own walls. The Ford is currently under siege!

At this point, it isn’t hard to suspect some form of collaboration and assume the attacks on Arashkan and High Woods were the fifth and sixth attacks..

From where these Orken came, we do not know. As to how managed to come all the way to Arashkan, and in such massive numbers, reliable witnesses from many independent sources inform us they deployed a device that rendered either all or a large portion of their leading forces totally invisible. They were over the walls of Arashkan before any feasible defenses were brought in. The siege of the city did not last long but the total occupation and the destruction of the city took nearly two weeks, as local forces and the high elves in the city fought a costly delaying tactic to get as many civilians and the city’s militia out as possible via ships and boats. The Arashkan military camp was simultaneously also placed under siege, but thanks to the timely arrival of more ships still floating, more than half the city’s regular army was smuggled out and also brought here.

As far as we know, the First Lord, Princeps Kaladin, his son, and his daughters were all slain. While Arashkan was being overrun, a second Orken army entered High Woods and laid waste to the high elf city of Bari Na-ammen. The current status of Ri Grandaleren is unknown, though his wife, the former Rise, Nadine Graciousward, and their daughter, Queen Alor’Nadien ne made it out alive and are both here.

A large portion of that army split and turned west and surrounded Vodgar which is currently under siege as we speak. Whatever the reasons, the Orken made one fatal mistake; they started their campaign and attacked right before winter settled in. At the moment they are all out there, stretched between Two-Day Forest and Vodgar. They may, or may not have considered turning former Arashkan into a base for themselves, but due to some unforeseen and unprecedented occurrence, the city is now very much uninhabitable to anything, including the Orken. They have suffered two months’ worth of extreme winter thus far.

Come spring, however, they shall attack. They must or they shall perish and they know it. They may split again and go north for Tranquil, which would cost them too much with little possibility for victory, as Tranquil has been on high alert for the past six or seven thousand years and their army consists mostly of highly skilled and battle-hardened veterans —unless they abandoned their current campaign and rushed there.. They may turn south for Koruxan, also ending in a likely disaster, as Koruxan is a fortress city, its back resting against extremely hazardous mountains and approachable only by two sides. They may go for Durkahan, also a city full of veterans and paladins, it’s back also against mountains. Should they move against either city, they will be leaving their own rear and flanks totally vulnerable to attacks.

They might decide to skim over to Last Hope and attack Palantine, again, being subject to attacks from all sides.

I believe that leaves us..

..as the only viable option.

Should they take Serenity Home, they will have access to the great Ritual Forest that will give them all the wood and lumber they would need to build further catapults, mangonels, spears, and arrows, almost endless supply of food both from the forest itself and the surrounding lands. They will have access to the Arashkan river and able to build ships and be able to make landfall anywhere in the kingdom. They will also have access to the iron, copper, and silver mines under Scowling Hills and Tinker Hills. Once they invade this portion of the continent, they will also be able to move north, up to the tundras, and attack Celestial Mountains, Tranquil, Sky Stone Keep, and Dwarwick from the rear. All they will need to do after claiming these lands is to stopper the gaps and they will be able to practically settle here and in the next twenty years, they will have doubled their numbers. In the next fifty to sixty years, they will be over a million, all able warriors and armed to the teeth.

Ladies and gentlemen, we will have only one shot at defending the king’s land here. I must also inform you that they have deployed the same device they used at Arashkan and one-third of their army has gone missing. We do not know where it is, or where it will strike. We have trackers and rangers scouring all the possible locations they may appear but so far, we have thus failed to locate them.

The Durkahan army will be moving out as soon as the ground thaws to reach here and give us relief. But that will take time. We must help break the siege on Vodgar. Once that is done, It will be possible for them and anybody else to come at the Orken army from the rear and also give free rein for the wizards and sorcerers there to teleport directly here to help strengthen our defenses until the Durkahan army gets here. For this, we were hoping to rely on Koruxan knights and Palantine militia.

Our main problem is the lack of trained warriors and logistics. We have great amounts of lumber moving from Dimwoods, but not fast enough. We lack food, clothing, and shelter for the near eighty thousand Arashkan civilians and High Woods refugees and we are sorely short on arms and armors. The dwarven smiths have been working day and night, around the clock, but with nearly twenty thousand Arashkan militia and regulars, and fifteen thousand High Woods’ able soldiers, that is really a tough call. We have over thirty thousand very well-trained dwarves at Elder Hills but they will and must defend their hills and the west of Ritual Forest. The wall we have been building for the past months is substantial, but it will not stand against mangonels or even a steady pounding of scores of catapults. We have the engineers and the manpower, thanks to the dwarves and the gnomes, but we still need more, much more raw materials.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need your help, and quite desperately and we have two months at best, five weeks if we get an early spring, or the Orken get tired of sitting in the winter and decide to attack anyway.”

 

Mayor Arthandos Yuleman looked around for a moment, then nodded at Sheriff Standorin.

 

The sheriff cleared his throat and stood up.

But before he could start, the deep rubble of Chieftain Grulganiste Grimtooth was heard.

“Will the woodsmen of Dimwoods behave, should my boys bring their lumber here?”, she asked.

“We may be able to arrange a liaison.”, the sheriff mused. “It would be wiser if the chosen person went to speak with them first, though there are quite a bit of trees, cut and shaved already.”

“A team of my sons and daughters can drag half a dozen trees from there to here in under three or four days. The first batch will be slow. After that, they will have opened a trial. They have grown fat and lazy. The exercise will do them good, and there are over three thousand of them. Now. What raw materials do you need for this wall of yours?”, she inquired in a brisk, matter-of-fact tone.

Standorin turned to Margaret Madish.

“Stone.”, Margaret said simply.

“Will mountain rock work the same way as stone?”, Grulganiste asked the dwarf woman.

“Depends on the mountain.”, she replied.

“Rook Mountain rock!”, growled the chieftain.

“Rook Mountain rock is hard to chip and shape, but otherwise, it will be exceptionally good for a siege wall.”, Margaret said, her eyes suddenly bright.

“I shall call upon past favors and summon distant friends and relatives. I shall tell them to bring the Rook Mountains here as gifts.”, Grulganiste rumbled with a hideous grin. “After that, we shall all go to the west of our forest and camp there and wait for these Orken to come. They will make a merry hunt for seven thousand of my sons and daughters, and friends and relatives.”

“Perhaps..” said the creaky voice of the elderly Talüna Mira Silverdenú. “..the chieftain would like seven hundred elven archers to protect their flanks from their north when they make camp west of Ritual Forest? If she is willing to refrain her sons and daughters from eating my elves..”

“Elf tastes like chicken, Mira-Silverdenú!”, sniffed Grulganiste. “We don’t eat chicken. We have them only for their eggs. And elves do not lay eggs!”

 

Chuckles were heard from the dwarves.

 

“Perhaps..”, said the young dwarf tactical general, Dridges Motherswolfie, as she glanced at the ogress. “..the chieftain would like several thousand dwarves to protect their flanks from their south when they make camp west of Ritual Forest? If she is willing to refrain her sons and daughters from eating my dwarves.. That way, we may part and divert at least five thousand of our ground troops to the defense of the walls here.”

“We have standards, Dridges-Motherswolfie-girl!”, she said with a distinct expression of disgust on her face now. “None of my sons and daughters will put a dwarf into their mouth and risk infectious diarrhea!”

 

Dridges went red.

The Tosser twins went black!

A burst of roaring laughter went off and Argail Smitefast slammed the table as he stared at the brutishly glowering chieftain ogress.

 

“It would seem, years have stolen little from your sour sense of humor, Grulganiste.”, he said merrily.

“It would seem, years have stolen quite a bit from you, old dwarf. You are all white!”, Grulganiste sniffed at him.

“Harsh..”, said Argail, and laughed some more.

“You two know each other?”, Dridges spluttered.

“Argail thinks he knows me. Like all men who think they know and understand women, he is a wrong old fool!”, snarled the chieftain with undisguised disdain.

Dridges and the Tosser twins just stared at her, then at their grandfather, thunderstruck, while Margaret Madish and her sister, Marideth Brave, gave their father a bemused, poorly concealed, slide-long glances.

 

Argail coughed.

 

Sheriff Standorin looked at Margaret again.

“Will this solve the issue of stone and lumber needed to finish the construction of the wall, Lady Margaret?”, he asked.

Margaret Madish didn’t reply immediately. She pursed her lips as she thought for a moment, then she turned to her own daughter and spoke.

“The stones and the lumber will suffice. But that will not solve our main concern, here. I believe Our Tactical General Dridges is better equipped to outline said concern..”

Dridges nodded at her mother, then quietly but sternly, she picked up her mother’s narration.

“Our main concern; the south end of the wall.. Unless we continue building the wall to eventually surround the town, a wall is just a wall —a linear line. It may not be breached, it can, however, be easily outflanked. Perhaps not from the north end, due to the swift-running Arashkan River and they do not come with ships, it will be flanked from the south, making the whole structure redundant and moot. Should the enemy circle around Silent Lake and risk the Demon Fog, our whole defense line will be overrun in a matter of minutes and Serenity Home will be done for. Should they follow the said route, they will not only be coming at us from our south but also from our rear, practically using the King’s road! Should they not want to risk the Demon Fog, they still have the option to sail over Silent Lake using whatever that floats and still come at us from our south, totally ignoring and bypassing the wall..”

“If some kind of sleds be crafted and pulled by, perhaps the ogres before they leave for the western end of the forest, a decent number of our Drashan Armada can be put on the other side of the stone bridge. That way we can make sure these Orken can not come at the wall from the north by the river and we can patrol the whole of Arashkan Lake make it quite hazardous for them to shore anywhere. Provided the petty lords of Endless Watch do not use this as a lame-ass excuse to cockblock our ships in hopes of trapping them. Should they be foolish enough, we will unload everything we have on them, and anything else that gets in our way and be damned with any past treaties we have made with Serenity Home..”, Dagard Dreadhound spoke in a calm, deadly voice. “Make no mistake, here, gentlemen. We are not here as anyone’s servant, and certainly not as part of the Kingdom of Isles. We are here as part of our pact with this town and this town alone. Perhaps the merry Lord Alberdel can actually offer something to save his own kingdom.”

 

Lord Alberdel Kandara glared at the tall, lean man in blacks but refused to comment.

 

“It is possible..”, said an illustrious, cultured, and distinctly feminine voice. “..Lord Alberdel may be more of help by providing a sizable number of Endless Watch Naphta Team, along with their munitions, instead of bringing in more ships into a river already cramped with ships.. and avoid further frictions?”

 

Everyone turned and stared at the very tall, very dark, and rather buxom girl with the long, pink hair and the frilly, short, and vivid pink skirt dress.

 

“What are you doing, girl?”, hissed the scruffy-looking gnomic girl at her side. “We can’t get involved. We can only observe!”

“But we are not getting involved, luv.”, Seressa Wraiven said, grinning with pristine-white teeth. “We shall be observing this war.. from above.. via Melshieve Gunships.. The Endless Watch Naphta Team will merely be on board our gunships as guests and we can’t always keep an eye on said guests, nor can we be responsible for the things they throw over board, now can we?”

“Sophistry!”, scowled the little gnomic girl. “That’s pure sophistry and you know it!”

“Tonic, luv—”, the very tall, very dark girl began.

“—Shhh.. Don’t use my name dammit!”, hissed the scruffy gnomic girl.

 

And a few tables over, Nadine Graiciousward’s ears prickled suddenly!

 

“Oops. I am sorry.”, whispered the dark girl earnestly. “But what I was going to say was, it is only sophistry when there are two parties and one of them is trying to outmaneuver the other by following the letter of a certain agreement, but not the spirit of it. Yes, the Academy of Melshieve has a sworn policy to ‘observe only’ any and every possible occurrence taking place in the Kingdom of Isles without taking sides or joining any conflicts. But said sides of any given conflict must have some form of agreement or at the very least, some form of recognition in the first place, historically or conventionally. Neither the Kingdom nor the Academy has ever made such agreements and no one here has recognized the Orken as a sovereign kingdom. They appeared out of nowhere and attacked without provocation.”

“Girl, you just defined how sophistry works.. with another sophistry!”, snarked Tonic. “But I don’t really care. It’s not me you have to sell that demented logic to.”

“Spoken like a true pair.”, murmured the hobbit sitting next to the gnomic girl.

 

“That actually is a very good idea, Maiden Seressa.”, spoke Lorna. “Melshieve Gunships are quite famous, and bombarding the enemy from above will make sure they are unable to circle around and come at the wall from the south end and make sure they can not use boats to cross Silent Lake. It is possible to put highly trained elven archers on board the gunships as well, providing both protection for the ships, the Endless Watch crew, and raining arrows upon the enemy below.”

 

The room was suddenly filled with nods and murmurs of agreement as Tonic bent closer to her pair, Seressa, all the while hiding her face behind one of the fruit bowls.

 

“You just want to ride on a Gunship!”, she hissed at Seressa in a low voice.

 

“About this device, the Orken has employed..”, Lady Alisia asked. “What do we know about it?”

 

“Actually, I want to ride their new invention; the Storm Kites.”, grinned the dark girl. “You, on the other hand, truly want to be on a Melshieve Gunship. I know for a fact that you do because you applied one hundred and nine times as a flight member crew, a gunship engineer, a gunship’s turret man, a deckhand, a kitchen assistant, and going as low as applying as a flight attendant, who basically just serves drinks! All your applications, along with their rejections, were also in your files..”

 

Nimbletyne Tinkerdome got up at that point and he had a very sour face.

 

The gnomic girl gave her a very baleful glare.

“Girl, you can turn into a ghostly raven and it looks awesome and you can literally fly without a gunship!”, she almost snarled at her.

 

“The device, as far as we know..”, Nimbletyne began after clearing his throat. “..is comprised of several components. We are not sure how they have been assembled or who was the original designer. But once activated, it bends and reflects light around a very large area, sort of a half a globe or sphere, not making those inside strictly invisible, per se, but making those outside unable to perceive those that are inside. At least that is our working theory.”

 

“But so can you! You have a cloak, and a broom that can help you fly.”, Seressa smiled down at her little pair. “And why are you suddenly hiding behind that fruit bowl?”

“The cloak does not count.”, mumbled Tonic.

 

“And what are we doing about it, Master Nimbletyne? That missing Orken army might be anywhere. We could be bringing our paladins in hopes of hitting their army here and get slaughtered when they suddenly appear behind us.”, Lady Alisia said with a concerned tone.

 

“What? Why? Did you dump one of your acid vials on it to see if it is acid-proof?”

“What? No, dammit.. I.. plan on.. *some incomprehensible mumbles*”

“You what?”

*More incomprehensible mumbles*

 

“We have tried various approaches to the issue at hand, but I am afraid we haven’t made much headway.”, admitted the Nimbletyne with an infuriated and frustrated tone.

 

“Ow. I see. You don’t want to tell me. I get it.”, Seressa said cooly.

“You really want to push this don’t you?”, Tonic scowled at her pair.

“Yes. Very much.”, smile Seressa.

 

“We may have a solution.”, said a distinctly alluring voice, and people turned to the tall, horned girl sitting next to Sheriff Standorin.

“You do?”, asked Nimbletyle Tinkerdome, somewhat surprised. “By all means, share with us, Liaison Constance.”

“We did not come forward with it because the solution lacks the practicality of application.”, Constance said. “We are, at the moment, looking into various avenues.”

“Perhaps I can help there?”, Nimbletyne asked eagerly.

“The main composition at the moment can reveal, not the location of this concealing device nor what it conceals when activated, but rather the area it affects. At least for a time long enough to be seen with the naked eye. Our problem is delivering it to the suspected area.”, the Liaison explained succinctly.

 

“I plan on gifting it to Cora!”, she whispered at her.

“Ow? Why?”, Seressa asked a bit surprised.

“Because she’s awesome and cool and I want her to experience the delights and the freedoms of flying. I mean. She’s a barbarian. She is literally the definition of ‘free’ and on so many levels. And she’s been a friend to me even though she had no reason to be. I mean, I certainly never gave her any reason, that’s for sure.. Uhhmm.. besides, I want to see how fast she can fly and land on her foes with that kazirillion foot long sword of hers.. from above! It’ll be legendary!”, Tonic replied with a silly grin on her face.

 

Nimbletyne Tinkerdome mulled over the Liaison’s explanation.

 

Seressa sighed.

“You are such a dork, baby girl.”

 

“Use PPG’s.”, said Tonic promptly, from behind the fruit bowl.

“Of course!”, exclaimed Nimbletyne, smacking at his forehead.

“Well, FINALLY! Someone who knows his acronyms!”, said the gnomic girl happily.

“Perhaps you may want to dummy that down for the rest of us, Miss Cinotnacra?”, Udoorin said, showing a surprising initiative, as he stared at the voice hiding behind the fruit bowl, with a bemused and poorly hidden smile.

“Pressure Propelled Grenades.”, Nimbletyne inserted absently. “Never thought much of them myself because they are quite unreliable and tend to totally miss their target as often as they hit your allies.”

“Yes.”, Cora Sleet, the barbarian girl said quietly from where she sat without cracking a smile.

 

“Hells bells, Cora. Just how many times did I hit you?”, Tonic hissed at her with a scowl.

“Nine times.. Five with your fire grenades when you misjudged their distance. Once with your stun-bang grenade-thingy, which almost got me killed because I couldn’t hear or see anything. When I am very silent, I can still hear my ears ringing. And three times with your acid grenades, totally disintegrating and ruining two very good shirts, and that time when you totally melted away my favorite pair of pants and put me on display to the rest of Arashkan —in my undies!“, she replied seriously.

Tonic gave her a rather guilty look.

“You are never going to let that one go, are you?”, she fumed.

“It was a good pair of pants and you still owe me one.”

 

“We should try it immediately, Miss Gocelap. I believe I have all the materials.”, offered Nimbletyne eagerly.

“No, no. I heard a lot about you, Master Nimbletyne. I am sure you can handle this one on your own.. And.. uhhmm.. I have a prior engagement elsewhere, sir.”, Tonic replied a bit hastily, still hiding behind the fruit bowl.

“Very well.”, said Sheriff Standorin. “We shall eagerly await for the results of this PPG-whatsit. Now, we have three more items on our plate. One is; how to lift the siege on Vodgar as soon as possible, because as long as that siege is there, Vodgar will be out of commission, and we will be unable to trap the Orken. Yes, as much as we want to make sure they will be unable to invade the eastern end of the continent by taking Serenity Home and its surrounding lands, we also do not want them to spread out and around the hills and forests between here and Vodgar. Two; we need clothing and food for over one hundred and twenty thousand refugees, including the Arashkan civilians, their militia, and their regulars, and the High Woods elves. And three; the elves and the regulars currently have acceptable equipment, though most of their armors need repairs and lack shields, the Arashkan militia have very poor arms and armor, and we do not have enough for any new requites from the civilians who want to participate in the coming war.”

“We shall move our main forces and beef up Last Hope’s defenses to make sure these Orken can not come at you from that direction. And when they attack the wall, we will harass them from their southern flank..”, Liam Ruststone, the commander of Palantine Militia said hoarsely. “We train our militia both as stationary and mobile defensive long-pikemen, and for trench warfare, so we have certain diversity. Any gap that needs corking, any trench that needs clearing, my men can handle it.”

“We can hold off the Orken at Vodgar for a very long time.”, snickered Parson Brimstone.

“Indeed.”, Katrine Faeriefire gave a hearty laugh. “Best thing that’s happened to Vodgar in the last three centuries.”

“Yes, yes.”, added Parson gleefully, stroking his odd goatee. “All the newbie and apprentice wizards, sorcerers, and warlocks who could barely cast a cantrip just two months ago are now dropping fireballs, ice storms, and lightning bolts —en mass!”

“We could send some two hundred of them over in a few days. Some physical training and seeing the results of war would be good for them. Educational, even, and that it isn’t just nuking from afar.”, Katrine said thoughtfully.

“Excellent idea, my dear. We should also send some to Durkahan. Those partial to detection and divination, in particular. It should help against possible ambushes should they decide to employ this device against the paladins. We have had good relations with them for centuries and they have treated us with honest respect.”, Parson said, nodding at Lady Alisia who nodded back.

“Then it is down to food, clothes, arms, and armors.”, Standorin noted with some relief.

“Endless Watch can supply the food and clothing.”, Lord Alberdel mused. “We are, however short of arms and armors ourselves. We can send word to Graystone Military Keep and Devien City for them, however. If the bloody pirates refrain from raiding them, they could be here within one and a half months by sea. Our ships with the food and clothing, within two weeks.”

“I have been given free rein to make any agreements.”, Dagard said cooly. “Provided no Drashan ship is attacked. If they are, Drashan will retaliate in kind. Please note that should this Orken threat be eliminated, we expect the Kingdom of Isles to officially accept Drashan as a free, sovereign kingdom.”

 

A strained silence settled in the room as many faces turned sour.

Aager Fogstep, who was standing silent and quite still behind Udoorin, had an amused expression on his face, hidden behind his half mask. Many things could be said about Bara’baras Kördog, the ‘King’ of the pirates of Drashan, and none of them good, but the very tall, giant of a man did have great foresight and he was a patient hunter. The official treaty he had signed with Serenity Home five years ago had legalized Drashan’s existence in the eyes of the Kingdom of Isles, even if it had been by mere insinuation. And now, he was going to officialize that, hence any attacks on any Drashan ship or soil, would constitute as an assault against a sovereign kingdom instead of a rabble of illegitimate pirates.

 

“Well played, you son-of-a-heartless whore..”, Aager growled with admiration..

 

..and just then, Lilly Venom dropped from the heavy chandelier above just as alarm bells went off everywhere in town.

✱ ✱ ✱

The events of the next few moments happened in a blur..

..when the lithe form of Lilly fell on someone standing right behind the former Rise of Bari Na-ammen, Nadine Graciousward!..

..as someone else, standing right behind Lord Haransis, the Koruxan Knights’ Commander, gave a low, painful grunt and stiffened, and Agent Largo was standing behind him with a bloody knife..

..and Inshala Frostmane disappeared as another figure lunged forward with a long, curving dagger..

..and a tiny squirrel was climbing up Chieftain Grulganiste Gimtooth’s massive, tree trunk-like arm and shoulder! The squirrel darted into the giant ogress’s thick, braided hair and holed in it..

..when Dagard Dreadhound whipped out a very sharp dagger and hurled it at Lord Alberdel of Endless Watch..

..just as Aager Fogstep sent a ghostly dagger across the room at the barbarian tribes and horde’s representative, Cora Sleet..

..while Bremorel Songsteel lurched up and over the table, and with the great, blue sword in her hands, knocked a dagger cast for King Udoorin, right out of the air..

..and with a swift draw, Lord Armathelius ran his long, elven sword through the neck of the man coming at his Queen, Alor’Nadien ne, without so much as looking at him..

 

..and the room went up in total chaos!

 

“You deck rat bastard—”, began Lord Alberdel furiously as he went for his sword when the dagger hurled at him missed. Then he froze and stared in amazement when someone behind him toppled over and crashed, face down onto the table.

“Huh.”, was all Cora Sleet had said when she turned around to see the moaning man clutching at the long, ghostly dagger sticking out of his chest. To her bemused surprise, the dagger suddenly faded.. and disappeared! She looked back at the man in dark leathers, hood, and mask and noted the same ghostly dagger reappear in his hand, once again. The man did not so much as glance at her as he engaged with someone else trying to get at the human king of the high elves.

She didn’t wait for too long to take in the chaotic mess around her for someone had just grabbed for Tonic!

The little gnomic girl yelped as the ‘guard’ behind her picked her up by the knot of her reddish-brown hair and tried to twist her very slender neck.

“There is a man behind you, Mother Ganiste. I think he is trying to come at you with a knife!”, whispered Inshala into the ogress’s ear, from where she was lodged.

“So the peace with the humans is over? Thus soon?”, Grulganiste grunted with disgusted disappointment.

“I do not think these are good humans, Mother. Ow, and the one coming behind you is almost upon you. I think you should do something about him.”, Inshala urged.

“I SHALL KILL HIM THEN AND FEEL NO REMORSE!”, snarled the ogress.

“I don’t think so..”, said Cora cooly, and seamlessly she drew out her great, two-handed sword, blazing with frigid tundra winds from her back and brought it down on the man, splitting his head open like a ripe melon, all the way down to his midriff! “..She’s our midget.”, she continued with a touch of swagger.

What was left of the man stiffened as blood and gore gushed out everywhere and Tonic dropped on the floor all drenched!

“Mustn’t complain. Mustn’t complain. It’s only hog’s head full of blood and crap!”, muttered the gnomic girl. “Behind you, Seressa.”

Seressa, however, was a bit busy hailing several other guards across the room coming at the ranger girl, Bremorel, sending ghostly and howling skeletal hands in misty fists at them. The ghostly hands clutched at each guard’s throat. Bremorel spun around, and with a lithe dance, she cut the men down, showing once again just how she’d earned her name; Songsteel..

“Thomas, GO!”, she snarled. “Take the Liaison and Temez and GO! I must guard Udoorin!”

Brom, the hobbit, pulled out his lyre and with a quick twitch of one finger, send a very disturbing, discordant note, and the man coming up behind the very tall, very dark Seressa stumbled as his head suddenly snapped up, one eye staring ahead, the other, somewhere north and west! Blood gushed out of his mouth, nose, eyes, and ears, and his whole head exploded from the inside!

“Dridges!”, yelped Lady Magella in a terrifying voice as she shied away from the man coming at her. The man lunged at her and she flung back, toppled over her chair, and slammed herself on the ground, hitting her head quite hard.

“You should be ashamed of yourself going after girls. Fight someone with balls!”, snarled her mother, Margaret Madish, and caved his head in with an enormous hammer while her father, Argail Smitefast was downing men, right and left.

In perfect sync, the Tosser twins, Britney and Dritmey, had started swinging their great battle-axes as Dridges told them where to butcher.

Lady Magella rose from the ground and her timid face was gone. What replaced it was nothing short of wrath. She pulled out her six-flanged mace glowing with incandescent light and started breaking bones!

Thomas gave Bremorel a stern look filled with the fear of being deprived, turned around, and with two of his junior temple guards, he dashed up to Constance and Temez and curtly said, “You, two. With me!”

Liaison Constance nodded, though it was clear, she did not want to leave..

..when Perigren Ostlanna Temez jumped over her table, and with a water-like flowing motion, she flipped and landed a kick right into the throat of a man coming at Lady Anglenna, who was hastily dragging Queen Alor’Nadien ne. The man stumbled back and Temez pulled out the broken pair of her antler horn and stabbed it into the man’s face, then at his jugular, and seamlessly, at his heart! The man barely gave out a rattling, wet, and wheezy sound as he collapsed.

Back to back, just a few steps over, Lilly Venom and Agent Largo were carving their way, from one table to the next, using a rather brutal strategy..

..where Largo would jump an assassin, and with a series of punctures, then stab his shortsword into in their stomach, twist, slice open, pull out, point up and shove it into their throat as they would, inevitably grunt forward, and Lilly would cut open their kidney, then stab them in the pit of one arm, piercing the heart at a diagonal angle, and finally slice off a jugular, as an encore.. and move on to the next, a process that seemed more like an extremely bloody and excruciating dance, really!

A body with two arms missing flew over Temez and crashed into a group of men trying to corner Sheriff Standorin as he tried to fend them all off the Serenity Home mayor, Arthandos Yuleman.

“Aager, Morel!”, he bellowed over the clamor. “Get Udoorin to his secure location, NOW!”

“Time to go, I believe. Nadien ne. Please stay close to me..”, murmured Anglenna.

“Not without my King and certainly not without my mother.”, replied Lorna stubbornly as she sliced open a man trying to get at her, all the way from his groin up to his forehead!

“Young Udoorin has his own retinue, cousin. Being pigheaded now is unseemly for a queen. Lord Armathelius, do ask the former Rise of Bari Na-ammen to join us if you will?”, she said as she calmly flash-burned someone trying to get at her. The man crumbled in charred cinders.

“I offered.”, Lord Armathelius replied with equal calm as he clashed his elven longsword against three assassins. “She said she was assigned elsewhere.”

“Get behind me, mother. You are out of practice.”, Moira beseeched. “Two kills and your sword hand is trembling.”

“Just who do you think your father practiced his swordplay, young lady?”, fumed Lady Alisia Hooman.

“Mother, that was over twenty years ago. Please. Just do this for me? You have children who will mourn should something happen to you.”, Moria pleaded as she slammed her shield into a man and ran him through when he stumbled.

“I am not leaving my daughter, nor the man who makes her happy.”, Alisia hissed with determination. “If anything happens to that boy, Inshala will be devastated.”

“Mother, Aager knows what he is doing. Better than either of us. And I do not see Inshala. She must already be out. Captain Fardashi. Please talk some sense to my mother..”, Moira said grimly.

“I do not tell the First Lady of Durkahan what to do. No one does. Because she is smart enough to know what she must do, as opposed to what she wants to do. After all, she is the First Lady of Durkahan.”, Captain Fardashi said calmly as he cut another man trying desperately to get at Lady Alisia.

“Lady Moira, Lady Alisia, Captain Fardashi..”, Thomas said as he and his junior temple guardians maced their way over to them with Nadine Graciousward in their mids. “This way, if you will. We have two more to pick up..”

Udoorin head-butted one of the men coming at him, then chopped him down. The next one was just a little too slow and he was dead before he knew it, as the burly King lopped his head, clean off his shoulders.

“Time to go, Udoorin. Anglenna and Armathelius are taking your Queen away as we speak.”, Aager growled.

“Can’t.”, Udoorin rumbled. “The door is too crowded. Might as well stay and help.”

Aager fumed.

“That one, Mother Ganiste. And that one.. we must get them too before we can leave.”, Inshala whispered.

“Why? Can’t they take care of themselves?”, the ogress, Grulganiste, growled.

“I am sure they can, Mother. But then, so can I..”, the tiny squirrel chirped happily.

“You have been too long with the humans, my daughter. You now have much sass!”, scowled Grulganiste as bulldozed through the chaos, reached over, and grabbed her query, by the scuff of his coat, right off the ground.

“Eep!”, yelped Brom, just to come face to face with one of the most brutish and awesomely scowling faces he had seen in his entire life!

“Ow. Hello Chieftain Grulganiste Grimtooth. It’s been a while. You are as comely and captivating as ever”, he said grinning toothily at her.

“Good Heavens!”, Inshala exclaimed in a melting voice. “He is sooo cute! Can we keep him?”

“Master Hobbit. You seem to appear at unexpected times. And your words are as beguiling as ever, even though you lie through your teeth. Do say more!”, growled the ogress.

“Chieftain Grulganiste!”, Cora snarled. “You will let our hobbit go, right now.”

“Simmer down chicken legs!”, Grulganiste snarled back at her.

“Chicken legs?”, Cora said dumfounded and with a very flushed face.

“Yes.”, the giant ogress said. “Meat like chicken —all white!”

“It wasn’t meant as an insult so much as it was a descriptive term, Cora. The esteemed chieftain and I are acquainted.”, Brom explained hastily. “Uhhmm.. where are we going?”

“Wherever I take you!”, scowled Grulganiste and tossed the hobbit on her back!

Brom yelped again and clung to the long, thick, braided hair of the giant ogress.. and came face to face with a tiny squirrel poking her head out of the nest of hair!

Inshala giggled.

Thomas appeared next to the very tall and very dark girl, Seressa Wraiven, and the midgety little gnomic girl, Miss Cinotnacra, with Ladies Nadine Graciousward, Alisia, and Moira, Captain Fardashi, and his junior temple guardians, and was talking to them in quick, brisk words.

“Hold on tight, my daughter.”, growled Grulganiste as she bashed in the head of another assailant and stepped on him. The mad crushed and the chieftain of Oger’s Foot rammed right through the town hall’s outer wall..

..with a dust-covered Cora coming up behind her!

“That was awesome, Mother.”, said Inshala. “You are so awesome at breaking houses!”

“Are you punning me, my daughter?”, scowled Grulganiste.

“We are out, my Aager.”, Inshala whispered in her mind.

“Pun you? Who would be foolish enough to pun Mother Ganiste?”, she giggled.

“I noticed.”, came Aager’s dry and amused voice. “I must admit, your mother is indeed, quite awesome!”

“I know, right?”, Inshala said with an exhilarated voice.

“There! The way out!”, Aager said, pointing at the gaping, ogre-shaped hole in the wall.

Udoorin turned around to see Alor’Nadien ne, Anglenna, and Lord Armathelius shimmer..

“..Be safe!”, he shouted.

“..Stay safe, my Dorin..”, Alor’Nadien ne whispered..

..and Anglenna, Armathelius, and Lorna vanished.

“Ranger Lieutenant Morel. It’s time.”, barked Aager.

“Just a sec..”, snapped Bremorel as she danced her way into the chaos.

“Once. Just once I want you people to do as you are told!”, growled Aager..

..and the ranger girl reappeared with a limp body in her arms and running over the tables. When she reached the last few tables, she jumped, sailed over them, and landed, quite lithe and supple, next to Udoorin.

“Why have you risked everything for that woman?”, Aager snarled at her, as he pointed at the elder of the wood elves of Dimwoods, Talüna Mira Silverdenú. “She had her own assigned designation.

“She was knocked on the floor and people trampled over her. Just how was she supposed to get to her designation?”, Bremorel snarled back.

“That is not your concern, Ranger Lieutenant!”, snapped Aager.

“She is my only remaining relative!” she hissed at Aager. “She is my cousin Laila’s grandmother, hence my grandmother too. I’ll be damned before I left her there to be slaughtered.”

Aager fumed some more, though he knew any argument made here would be futile. The ranger lieutenant’s stubbornness was bested by only her dislike for him.

Then, inadvertently, he looked down at the frail, old, and unconscious elf woman in the ranger lieutenant’s arms and noted she was very nearly as small and skinny as his Inshala. Yet, where his Inshala was full of life and skipping energy, this woman was at the end of hers.

“To the sheriff’s office..”, he growled silently.

✱ ✱ ✱

To say Inshala was pleasantly surprised when Chieftain Grulganiste Grimtooth had parkoured her way through the town in a literal sense and brought her to her home..

..newly built and freshly painted!

 

“Nuf with the free ride, hobbit!”, Grulganiste growled. “The Heavens have gifted you with sturdy legs.. as short as they may be..”

Brom hopped down the giant ogress’s back and landed on his butt with a flushed and quite embarrassed expression face as Cora joined them.

“Why have you brought us here, chieftain?”, she asked gruffly.

Grulganiste scowled down at the tundra elf for a moment.

“You are a grouchy one, arent you? I can not say I like elves, but I had heard the white elves from up north were a bit better mannered than their kin living in the woods. Do not make me think I was mistaken.”, she scowled at her some more.

A squirrel climbed down the fourteen-foot ogress and hopped on the floor, spun once, spun twice, and on the third, the squirrel was gone, and the skinny form of Inshala was there.

“Mother Ganiste, please. They are guests. And they have just come out of a dire fight.”, she said with a shy smile as she looked down at the very ‘cute’ hobbit and his pouting elf-girl companion.

Then she turned around and ogled at her home..

..and darted inside.

 

Apparently, Chieftain Grulganiste hadn’t had her ogres rebuilt her home..

..she had them built something totally new; a two-story lodge with a guest room and a separate kitchen with a larger fireplace on the ground floor, a wide-spaced living —and possibly playing— room on the second floor and a very cozy attic that had its roof high enough to stand —as their spacious bedroom.

The new home was furnished with hand-woven tribe’s patterned rugs on every floor, low, cushioned, backless chairs and a similarly low table on the guest’s floor, two more low and backless chairs and a table on the second floor, though these were less flashy but warmer in color and appearance, along with dozens of cushions. The mattress in the attic was certainly not a threadbare thing, but something filled with washed and sun-dried sheared fleece, soft cowhides, and not-itchy woolen blankets. There were handcraft lanterns hanging from little hooks and slender chains on the walls now and there were a few more pots, pans, wooden plates and bowls and cutlery in the kitchen, and the squeaky pump in the garden had been fixed, and it didn’t shriek like a banshee anymore when its lever was pulled down and it was also, somehow, moved into the kitchen! However Chieftain Grulganiste had attained them, there were even a few very elegant vases and soft, faintly blush-colored doilies as well, all elf made!

And then, there was the garden..

Grulganiste’s ogres hadn’t touched the big, blooming cherry tree, but the small garden had been swept clean and a stone-laid path was leading from the kitchen to a little gazebo, complete with a wooden table and two benches on either side and a brazier hung from the ceiling of the gazebo.

Inshala was enthralled..

..and thoroughly shocked.

The cherry tree also entertained many lanterns and even a two-seat swing, hanging from one of its larger branches..

And as a final touch, the garden was cordoned off with a fence tall enough to give certain privacy, and the fence itself was hand-woven, interlocking, dried and varnished reeds..

 

“Mo.. Mother Ganiste? What did you do to my home?”, she asked dazedly when she came back out.

“I made up for my folly, my daughter. I had my ogres use as much as the original materials they could salvage from what I wrecked, then made a home worthy of my daughter and the Ritual Guardian. Your father, Cathber, was a man with many good traits. Being alone made him lose perspective. Particularly after he lost Tamara at the hands of Themalsar. He was the Ritual Guardian, yes, but otherwise, he was little more than a hermit running around doing silly things like delivering babies and gathering lightning. Being the Ritual Guardian is not much different than being a king, a queen, or a chieftain, my daughter. People will not understand what being a Ritual Guardian means, nor what it entails, and they certainly will not understand the kind of responsibilities and burdens it shall place upon you. But they will see this home and respect you for it; you had the most feared and fearsome creatures of your forest build it for you. The underlying message there will never go unnoticed.”, rumbled Grulganiste.

“But.. but what if my Aager does not like it?”, moaned the skinny girl.

“Does your Aager burn when he takes you into his arms, my daughter?”, the ogress asked.

“Mo.. mother, please.”, the skinny girl blushed furiously.

“It is a relevant question, girl. Does he or does he not?”, Grulganiste asked.

 

“Every time.”, came Aager’s voice.

 

“Y.. yes..”, mumbled Inshala, her face blazing hot.

“There you have it then. If you liked this home, then so will he, because when it comes to homes, the only part that belongs to a man is the roof. The rest is yours. Your man will love it because of who is in it. Not because of what is in it. If he is more interested in that, then you have a problem. I saw the condition of your former home, my daughter. He loved that home because you entered his life. Now he will defend this home because there is actually something in it.”, Grulganiste said gruffly. “Now. Tell me who those men were and why did they try to kill you, the hobbit, and the elf?”

“Uhhmm.. they attacked you as well, Mother.”, Inshala objected.

“No, girl. They went after very specific people. You, Master Hobbit, the white elf, the little gnomic girl, and the tall, black and skinny one with the pinks, the boy king, his pretty mate who was brave, thoughtful, and foolish enough to sit next to me, your itchy fingered sheriff, but only because he was defending your mayor, your human mother, and your human sister, the man who had his ship burned, the little dwarf girl and my brave Argail, who bashed in many heads, the tall one in iron clothes from Koruxan and the two from Vodgar; the human with the goat hair on his chin and the madwoman with him. They attacked me only because I was blocking the way of many.”, Grulganiste said, displaying just how perceptive she was.

“Then shouldn’t we help them?”, Cora asked, getting a better grip of her great blade.

“We do not know who is friend, nor do we know who is foe. Do not be another itchy-fingered fool, elf. There are more than enough of them out there. For me, everyone here is a foe and no one is a friend. Hence I shall wait for the sheriff to come and tell me it is over, and my daughter, Inshala here, will make us some nice, hot tea, as our host.”, she replied cooly.

Inshala blushed and ran inside her new home and her new kitchen.

“I didn’t know you had a daughter, Chieftain Grulganiste. Though I must say, she is adorable. She hopped on my head and nested herself there and chirped all the way here as if wanting to assure me.”, murmured Brom.

“Yes. She is adorable, and she is the nicest and the most selfless thing I have ever seen. She sure did old Cathber a lot of good the way she dropped into his lonesome life.”, replied the brutish ogress.

“Cathber? What has he got to do with her?”, Brom asked as he remembered the months he’s spent with the odd druid.

“Inshala ‘la fey’ Frostmane is a foundling, Master Hobbit. Old Cathber found her, many years ago in the woods. I believe her birth mother was some woodsman’s wife, taken when she was out gathering herbs and mushrooms. Never liked them, woodsmen. Foolish, superstitious, rash idiots, the lot of them. They blamed us whenever anything went wrong in their lives. Break a toe, it’s the ogres. A lightning strikes, it’s the ogres. A goat dies, it’s the ogres. As if we had nothing better to do.. But for years, many of their women were taken. Then one day, one of the taken woman returned, bedraggled, hungry, hurt.. and bearing a newborn child. You would think they would have rejoiced, but no. They drow her into the forest and stoned her, and the child to death. From how old Cathber told it, the mother did everything she could to protect her baby. The fools left, thinking she was dead, and to be fair, she was.. just not yet. She got up, and with what strength she had left, she ran off deeper into the forest for as long as far as she could.. which wasn’t all that far, seeing as she was already weak when she had come down Rook Mountains, to begin with, and being stoned didn’t help her either. She died, from much bleeding, with her little baby in her arms.. In my many centuries, I have had respect for very few and even fewer among humans. To soothe the spirit of that woman, I have prayed and burned much incense. Old Cathber found them some two days later. He buried the mother and tasked himself with the care of the baby. The soft-hearted old fool.. What did he know about raising a child? Yet he did.. Yet he did..”, Chieftain Grulganiste said, her eyes lost in some unseen distance.

 

Brom and Cora, however, were looking at each other and with quite freaked expressions.

 

“Uhhmm.. When did this event happen, Mother Ganiste?”, Brom asked carefully.

“Some years back.. my daughter should be seventeen now, so that many years ago.. Not too long after your visit to my hills, really.”, the ogress replied.

“Mother Ganiste, Master Hobbit, and Pretty White Elf lady, the tea is ready.”, Inshala came out of the house with a happy skip.

“You like it then?”, Grulganiste asked with a surprisingly pleasant smile.

“I love it, Mother.. The new kitchen is so awesome and the pump is so easy to use now so I also made some things to eat. The house is so big now and we have so many more plates and bowls, I can finally ask Bremorel and her hubby, Thomas, Lilly and her hubby, Sir Agent Largo, Liaison Constance and the sheriff, Perigren Ostlanna Temez, Hal Mali, gorgeous Demelze, Hamna Vir and dear Dar Derune, Biberbell, De De Dexter, Laila’s father, Uncle Devien, Ranger Master Uncle Moorat, Lady Magella, and her sisters and even her mother, Udoorin and Lorna, Mother Alisia, my sisters and brother, and Granma, and when they come back, even Laila and Gnine..”, she said in a breathless voice.

“Perhaps we should eat in the garden?”, Grulganiste said, and not without some guilt. “I believe I have destroyed enough buildings in this town in one day.”

“YESS! I loved the garden, Mother Ganiste. There is even a swing there! I will bring the tea and the food out there and light the brazier to keep our guests warm.”, the skinny girl said happily and took off again.

“Wow.”, Brom admitted. “She really is adorable and so happy to have friends in her life.”

“Whatever friends she has, they are all new, Master Hobbit. That girl lived alone all her life, even if her father, Cathber, was there. She tried to make friends with the wood elves. They never hurt her, but they never let her come anywhere near them either. She tried to make friends with the woodsmen and they beat her, stoned her, caged her, and whipped her for it. So when I said, I would ‘crush any of you punny things who disrespect her’, I was being polite.”

 

“What is happening, my Aager?”, Inshala whispered as she put the tea, the teacups, the plates full of newly washed fruits onto a large platter she found in the kitchen.

 

“We.. uhhmm.. we saw her with a man in dark clothes, back when we were in Arashkan, some months back. Is he her husband?”, he asked.

“Yes. A dangerous man. But he will not let anyone hurt her. Now, Master Brom Bumblebrim and you, Cora Sleet, will tell me where you two actually know her from?”, the ogress gave the two of them a very ugly and stern look.

 

There was a moment of precipitous silence.

 

“Cora, my dear, I think you should tell this one. It happened in your tundras. If anyone has the right to speak on this to another person, or whether it should be told or not, is up to you. Though I am not sure now is the right time, and whether the girl should hear, or even know about it..”, Brom said quietly.

 

“The town is under attack, love. Whoever these people are, they have been infiltrating amongst the refugees and even amongst some of our town guards.”, came Aager’s strained voice.

 

Cora frowned a bit, but not because she thought Brom had thrown her under the dragon, per se, but as to all the events that had transpired up to and after the ‘RED OCTOBER’, as the barbarians of the Great Northern Tundras had named the odd phenomenon; the turning of the sky to crimson on a clear October day and the appearance of the vile creature..

..and the beginning of the disappearances of their womenfolk, including the daughter of the chieftain of Bear Claw Tribe.

 

“..then they mingled as part of the retinue of one lord or lady or representative or another, and everyone, including us, thought they belonged to someone. Quite ingenious, really.. in a sinister and heinous way..”

 

It had been at that point Cora and Brom, along with the dwarf sisters, Lillias Absentwhot, and Jeina Blonde had gotten involved. They had been asked by no other than the Bear Claw Tribe chieftain himself to find his daughter and to bring her back.

After a long, dangerous, and harsh trek, they had finally located where the vile creature had holed up; a cavern set deep into the southern end of Lost Mountains, filled with many corpses, all ravaged, half-eaten, gnawed and rotting —and all women.

 

“..we have many wounded and many more dead. We barricaded Udoorin at the sheriff’s office and he was very frustrated about it. He tried to order me, ‘I am the king and I order you to let me go!’ I laughed at his face and told him if he didn’t stay in the building, the elves would LACK a king and his pretty Lorna would be all sad about it! In retrospect, though, I probably shouldn’t have said that, but it was funny at the time. More assassins arrived and they climbed the office walls and came down through the door leading up to the roof and now he is laughing like a merry idiot and cutting them down as they drop into the office and he won’t even share the kills with anyone!..”

 

That was also the time when Cora and Brom had met pretty much the rest of the particular clan Lillias and Jeina had belonged to. The whole lot of them had arrived to ‘bring their lost dwarves’ back home.. For Cora, it had been the first time she had met them. Brom, on the other hand, had made acquaintance with some of them before, during his travels, though he hadn’t said as to how he knew them. The answer to that would reveal itself much, much later, and after the two, along with Seressa and Tonic would suffer Arcanton Mordenon’s demented tower!

Upon the insistence of Lillias and Jeina, the whole clan had gotten involved and had lured the vile creature from its cave using a continuous hit-and-run tactic, all the way to Rook Mountains, and losing the creature at Ritual Forest, buying time for Cora and Brom to enter the cave and save whatever there was inside left to save.

 

“..I left him with the guards and Bremorel to check in on the others. The elves’ headquarters are also under attack, though I suspect a similar mule-headed enthusiasm on Lorna’s part there. I always thought her to be a calm and gentle girl. Turns out I am not even sure which of them is worse anymore; Lorna or Udoorin..”

 

Neither she nor her bushy little friend, Brom, would ever find out the extent of their deeds that day, but Cora had always suspected that there would be consequences..

..the ones she would know and perhaps find out later, and the ones she would never hear about;

When they had saved the chieftain’s traumatized daughter and returned her to her father, she would, in time, be married to the son of the chieftain of the Ice Crag Tribe, making Cora quite popular and ‘savior’ among the two tribes. And later, when she and Brom had saved the Ice Wolf Horde from a certain ‘demon’ that had infested their lands, who had turned out to be no one other than Seressa Wraiven and her vivid illusions and her pair, Arcantonic Palecog, the savage Ice Wolf Horde had promptly adopted her as their ‘savior’ as well, effectively promoting her as a hero among three of the four major tribes/hordes of the Great Northern Tundras —and when the events of her ‘re-encounter’ with Dreadmaw had wiped out the Wyrm Horde, she had, perhaps unwittingly, become the ‘Princess of the Tundras’, the sole person to have the power to call upon all the remaining three tribes/horde to arms and fight against the coming Orken, in a land far, far to the south and beyond the tundras. This had been the most apparent, though quite unexpected, and certainly unintended outcome of the RED OCTOBER event.

 

“..The temple is also under attack but Thomas and his temple guardians are putting up a good fight. Not to mention they have Nadine Graciousward. I am tempted to say, like mother, like daughter, and I can see where Lorna gets her calm and enthusiasm from. There is also that tall, dark girl with all the creepy pinks and her gnomic friend who I think is quite mad! She is cackling like a maniac and throwing bombs at everything that moves. The bloody idiot has already leveled six houses near the temple!..”

 

The other was, there had been a second survivor, deep down in the cave of the vile creature; a much traumatized, beaten, raped, and ravaged, underfed, hungry, bruised, and very much pregnant young girl..

..who had wanted nothing from them except some food and an axe, and to be let go so she could return to her people, her family, her husband, and her home..

The resilience of the skinny little girl who had suffered months of use and abuse from the vile creature, not to mention, was at the end of her pregnancy had, now, astounded Cora for she, in all candor, had never believed the girl would have survived the month-long trek through the bitter cold, torturous, treacherous, and precipitous Lost Mountains and then the Rook Mountains to reach her Dim Woods. Yet she had.. and giving birth, alone, on the way, no less..

..just to end up being run off and stoned to death by her own people and her husband..

 

“..Some of them tried to infiltrate the temple by breaking through the boarded windows.. They never came back out for some reason. I am not sure if they enjoyed their last moments in this world, but I am certain our Liaison’s half-born brothers and sisters must have..”

 

At that point, Cora wasn’t sure just who had been the true ‘vile creature’.

Yet, her daughter had survived, against incredible and impossible odds; Inshala ‘la Fey’ Frostman, and ‘WOW’, was all Cora could think of.

 

Whether Cora had figured out that when they had saved that skinny little girl, they had also caused the vile creature to follow her in hopes of finding and retrieving its offspring and consequently becoming a menace to the woodsmen of Dimwood for the next decade and more, was unclear.

Probably not.

And now, that vile creature’s daughter was here;

 

“..Sheriff Standorin, Lilly, her hubby, Agent Largo, D.D. Dexter, and I, along with three dozen guards, rangers, and the elven veterans I have been training are now moving street by street and going house to house in a search and destroy mission. I am afraid this might take a while though.. Hey, are you making tea?”

 

A beautiful, adorable, earnest, sincere, full of life, selfless, shy, frightened, abused, stoned just like her mother, beaten, caged and whipped, scared and scarred little girl, adopted by the old Ritual Guardian, Cathber Gwet’chen Bolgrig, and by the ogress chieftain of Oger’s Foot, Grulganiste Grimtooth, and also by no other than the First Lady of Durkahan, Lady Alisia Sivara Hooman and become the new Ritual Guardian..

The whole thing made Cora reel back in its incredible, unbelievable, mind-staggering, and quite astonishing absurdity.

 

“Well.. We do have some guests here, so I thought I ought to make some for them. It is cold outside..”, Inshala replied a tad guiltily. “I really wanted to be there with you.”

 

Cora carefully cleared her throat and spoke with her low, slightly hoarse voice.

“People need her now as she is, and anything that is past is in the past, though our stories somehow come out in the most unexpected moments and haunt us..”, she said, looking down at Brom with emphasis, “..it would be fruitless to summon them by will.”

 

Chieftain Grulganiste scowled down at her for a long moment.

 

“..’Tis alright, love. Enjoy yourself. I shall be there as soon as possible, though I suspect it might be later than I would want. We will have to make a tally on our losses and figure out how they managed to bring in so many.”

 

“I see.”, she rumbled finally. “And perhaps wisely spoken too. My daughter is very dear to me. The first time we met, I thought she would scream and run.. Yet she said I was awesome, as demented as I had thought her perspective was at the time. She looks at people and somehow judges them by their merit.. and accumulated deeds.. if at all.. And should she judge said deeds, she seeks the reasons that led to those deeds as if looking for an excuse to forgive them. I would hate to see her break again and humans have done everything they could to do just that.”

“Ready!”, declared Inshala happily as she ran up to them with a skipping hop. “I lit the brazier to keep us warm as well, especially for Master Brom Bumblebrim, here, or perhaps you would rather I call you Blom Bumdlebim Hobim?”

“What?”, blurted Brom in surprise. “How do you know that name?”

“Blom Budle— what?”, Cora asked with an amused expression and very much pursed lips.

“You don’t really need to know, Cora.”, he scowled.

“I am friends with all the dryads and nymphs in Gull’s Perch, Master Brom. They told me some very endearing and lovely stories and you were in them. My Aager and I saw you at Arashkan before today, but I didn’t know your name then. We saw you and pretty Cora talking to our Merisoul and give her something. We were up on one of the roofs and the very tall girl with the lovely pink hair and dress that I would love to have too, and the cute gnome girl was also there, though they were hiding in some trash for some reason!”, she said as she led them into the garden and over to the gazebo.

“You can sit on the swing if you like, Master Brom. I already tried it and it is awesome!”, she offered with an exhilarated grin.

 

There were also two ogres, one male, the other a female in the garden sipping tea from comparatively very, very tiny teacups! When they saw their chieftain, they jumped on their feet and sort of stared at their feet like two kids caught in the act.

 

“Uhhmm.. Greetings Chieftain Grulganiste. We fixed and refurnished the house as per your instructions. Does it meet your satisfaction?”, the female ogress rumbled carefully.

“I wouldn’t know, Garishka.”, the chieftain replied with a horrible scowl and turned to Inshala. “Does it?”

“I love it, Mother Grulganiste.”, Inshala said happily. “I think sister Garishka Bloodhammer and brother Grawl Goraxe are very good at what they do.”

Garishka and Grawl beamed at her.

“I think you should hire out your ogres to help build the defenses and homes for the Arashkan refugees. That way, the humans can become friends with your sons and daughters, just like Sheriff Standorin wanted.”, she said.

“Maybe..”, Grulganiste scowled. “But only if your hubby also likes this home..”

“There were some men skulking around the house, Chieftain, but because you told us not to kill any humans while we were here, we asked them, very politely, what they were doing. They just pulled their knives and charged at us. Again, we told them, very politely, not to do that but they just wouldn’t listen. So.. me and Garishka bashed them all and tossed them over the fence.”, Grawl said tentatively.

“We tossed ’em far, Chieftain, like, several buildings over so there shouldn’t be any blame on us!”, added Garishka hastily.

“We also wiped all the blood and brain!”, Grawl mumbled quickly.

 

Grulganiste looked at them much like an executioner would, right before he brought down his axe.

Then sighed.

 

“The deed is done. If they drew their knives at you here, in the house of the Ritual Guardian, they got what they deserved. How is the tea?”

“Excelent, Chieftain Grulganiste. The Ritual Guardian sure knows her teas.”, Garishka said in a hurry and Grawl nodded vigorously.

✱ ✱ ✱

It was past midnight when Aager Fogstep stumbled, dead tired, to his home..

..and looked up at the two-story house.

He had known all along that Chieftain Grulganiste had totally destroyed it, even if she had done it unintentionally. He hadn’t said a word about it to Inshala and had, quite deliberately, made sure to never think about it all day, just so she wouldn’t be able to sense his disappointment. True, it had been a rather simple, single-room, quite bare, empty, even, and in all candor, a pathetic house, really, but it had been his home, dammit!

The home he had secretly wanted to share with Inshala from the moment he had understood that he felt something for that ‘pretty but weird’, and ‘pretty wierd’ girl who had been outright cantankerous, to be honest. She had plagued and pestered him, constantly creeping up to him and whispering ‘You are not a good person!’

The fact that the moment of his comprehension of his feelings for her and the moment he had figured the odd nuance in her words had coincided hadn’t gone unnoticed by Aager;

 

She had never said he was a bad person..

..like ever.

Only that he was not a good person.

 

And in all likeliness, him being ‘not a good person’ was very true and a bloody obvious fact, and he, Aager, had never claimed otherwise.

What was there to claim otherwise?

But where no one in his entire life had cared about him being a good or a bad person, or ‘not a good’ one, the way Inshala’s had phrased it, told him something;

That for some dementedly naive reason she had thought he wasn’t a bad person, and cared enough —again, for some incomprehensible reason— that he was not a good person, either

..and that it bothered her.. A lot.

Enough to plague and pester him for weeks from the moment they had met while tracking down the assassins who had started the unquenchable fire in their town, up to the moment they had come climbing up the broken and crumbling stairs of the damned ruins of Themalsar.

 

Had she actually managed to make a good person out of him?

 

Aager thought not.

And looking back at all the things he had done since having met Inshala, just about anyone would agree with him.

Looking at how, or better yet, why he had done them, however, said ‘anyone’ might just pause..

 

So when Aager had found out about the predicament of his rather simple, single-room, quite bare, empty, even, and in all candor, pathetic house and consequently say he was disappointed, it would likely have been the under statement of the century!

And now he was staring at a two-story house with dim candlelight glowing from all the windows.

“I am sorry for your home, young man.”, a voice rumbled in the dark.

Aager stared at the newly woven reed fences and noted the three giant figures sitting there.

Quietly, he veered in that direction and nodded at Chieftain Grulganiste and then at the two other ogres.

He also noted the gazebo, the burning brazier hanging from its wooden ceiling, and the swing hanging from the blooming cherry tree and thought of just how much his Inshala had probably loved seeing all this.

“You came to my tent and behaved as a guest should. I came to your home and behaved.. badly..”, she said.

“Tis alright, Mother Ganiste.”, he replied tiredly. “I am aware you did not do it deliberately. Bad things happen, even with good intentions.”

“I tried to make up for my folly. Inshala loved it but is freaked out because she thinks you might not. I told her, home is where we are with the ones we love and care are, and that coming from a clumsy ogress is a neat trick!”, she rumbled. “If you do not like this home and want to break spoons, I will understand.”

“What is it with spoons and breaking them, Mother Grulganiste? Who would want to break spoons? How would you eat if you broke your spoons?”, Aager asked amusedly, even though he was quite tired and just want to sleep.

“That is the point, young man. No one wants to miss supper because of broken spoons.”, she said as if stating the obvious.

“I take it there are many spoons in this home now?”, Aager asked, getting a hint at where this conversation was heading.

It was interesting to see this giant monstrosity of an ogress to genuinely be sorry for what she had done, and with this ‘private’ talk, she was almost begging him to accept her apology, along with the house, in her strangely roundabout and gruff way.

“Damn.”, he thought. “She is a lot more considerate than many humans I have met!”

“Of course. A house should always have many spoons. For friends, guests, clumsy mothers, and.. mayhap.. children..”, she said with a straight face. “You have many guests even now. The hobbit, Brom, the white elf who thinks scowling all the time is cool, the crazy gnome girl, and the creepy one with the pinks. I saw so much pink today, I am pink-blind now. The other mother of my daughter, her elder sister, and the mother of the queen of the elves is also here.”

“Huh.”, Aager grunted.

“I would have wanted to apologize to that skinny she-demon for the things I said to her earlier. I found out she has an interest in your sheriff and that she treats him with care. That is good because your sheriff is a respected enemy and has fought well today.”

“Huh.”, Aager repeated himself.

“You should go and tell your mate that you liked the house.”, she growled. “Inshala is a good girl but she panics over the silliest things. She must truly care for you and for what you think, young man. Nurture that.”

 

Aager nodded at her and started for the door and stopped.

There was another door leading from the fenced-off garden directly into the kitchen too, now.

He hadn’t noticed that..

 

“Thank you, Mother Ganiste. It would seem some mistakes are good to happen.”, he said quietly.

“You should see what I did with your bedroom, then.”, he heard her grinning voice coming from behind.

 


 

arashkan şehri dungeons and dragons groups modül savaş serenity The Great Arashkan the plot thickens Whispers; A Cabal

Extreme Planning..
Part One

Extreme Planning..
Part One

Timeline:

It is time for strategic planning.

Heroes and friends gather to see what must be done and what can be done for the enemy is harsh, merciless, numerous, and hidden..

 

And in a small town,
the future of the kingdom is decided.

 

This story takes place shortly after
Grulganiste Grimtooth Bolgrig;
“A Debt Father to Daughter Passed..”

 

 

Hello Nimbletyne. It’s been a while.”, said the rich, throaty, enthrallingly feminine voice as a carefully swaying figure of elegance stepped lightly into the workshop.

“Hello, girl. Been a while indeed. Thought you’d drop in one of these days.”, Master Nimbletyne Tinkerdome rasped as he limped over to the tall, rather curvy, and extraordinarily striking figure. “Are you here to kill me?”

 

The tall beautiful woman stared down at the old gnome for a moment before she replied.

 

“By all accounts, I probably should. You didn’t do us any favors when you burglarized the central office of the Whisper. Do you have any idea how many assassins I had to put up with since then?”, smiled the striking woman.

“I am sorry for the trouble I caused you, girl. But not for what I did. You were there when we found out what they were up to. You knew what I had in mind. And, as I recall, you did encourage me.”, grunted Nimbletyne.

“True. Though, in my defense, I was young and foolish, then.”, mused the extraordinary figure.

“Lassy..”, Nimbletyne grinned. “..you are always young in my book, but never foolish.”

 

The woman gave out a rich, throaty, genuine laughter.

 

“Apparently, some things never change, and you are as smooth as ever, darling. How are you still single?”, she asked merrily.

“Had me eyes on a girl, once. Nothing on your league, of course, but killer-cute. Single mother, a Wessa Doodlebellz, with a sweet little daughter. Husband killed in a Bean Bomb manufacturing accident. She was, however, also one of the victims of the Whisper.”, shrugged the gnome, though not as indifferent as he wanted to seem.

“I.. am sorry about that. And I am sorry I wasn’t there with you when you found out about it.”, the woman said honestly.

“Tis alright, girl. Really. You had your own plate full, as I recall. A breakup with Delia must have been devastating for you. Was surprised to see his daughter here, a girl by the name; Moira. Very pretty. Very strong. And very stubborn —in an endearingly mule-headed way! Delia always did attract women with those particular qualities for some reason.”, he said with another grin.

 

The beautiful woman looked down at the old gnome with amusement.

 

“Flattery will get you everywhere.”, she said with a pursed smile.

“My thoughts, exactly.”, chuckled Nimbletyne.

“Alright.”, the woman said, all-business. “Who must I wrestle here to get some attention? Who’s arm must I bend?”

“You require little to garner attention, my dear. Years have barely noticed you.”, the gnome’s grin widened.

 

The woman sighed.

 

“You are going to drag this as far as it can go, aren’t you?”, she said, but not without a certain amount of amused resignation.

“But of course, my dear. And your ‘pretty’, will fully justify my sins on this account! For the sake of saving some time, however, going to the sheriff’s office should speed things up for you. At least on this side of the river. Couldn’t speak for the elves, though. You should know how they are, by now; arrogant, conceited, condescending, sniffy, snooty, stuffy, and stuck-up.. pretty much in that order!”

“Nimbletyne..”, the woman said with a note of reproval.

 

Nimbletyne shrugged.

 

“Ow, I am sorry, sweetheart, I wasn’t aware we were putting on a public face.. For them, you should probably go and talk to your daughter. I must say, she is quite the will-full girl —in an endearingly mule-headed way.. I must congratulate you on a job well done, there, Dine, she has everything an elf has, and none of the things they shouldn’t. It’s like the Great Heavens dissected the perfect elf, tossed out all the bitchy parts, and named her, Alor’Nadien ne! Never seen a girl as pretty and still be honestly and earnestly dignified and down to earth about it. If she, at this very moment, pointed one pink finger in any direction and said, ‘That way..’, all the elves and the Arashkan refugees will pick up whatever sword, shield, or stick they can find and charge that way! And that’s over fifteen thousand high elves, over eighty thousand Arashkan refugees, not including their militia and their regulars, several thousand wood elves, and no one really knows how many of the fey-folk!”

 

A surprised and pleased expression lit the beautiful face of Nadina Graciousward.

 

“Finally. Has she thus decided to be her destiny?”

✱ ✱ ✱

Biberbell knew she was on an important mission because she was told, she was on an important mission.. by no other than the Ritual Guardian herself! Hence she ignored all the ogling Mortals as she flew through the Mortals’ town they named Serenity Home, which did sound like a place where elderly people would reside. Biberbell was likely the only creature around to have noticed the irony of Mortals naming their town after a place for the elderly since only they would grow old and inevitably die.. The only problem with that would be, Biberbell probably didn’t know what irony was, and even if she did, she’d stay well away from it.. since it had ‘iron’ in it!

With a serious, all-business-like frown on her tiny face, she flew up to the sheriff’s office with a trail of sparkling pixie dust, drew her toothpick height up to an impressive, toothpick and a pint, and knocked on the ‘massive’ door.

 

Nobody answered.

 

Possibly because the stupid Mortals were also too deaf to hear her minute fists banging on a door, many scores of times bigger than her!

Biberbell fumed!

Then she darted over to the tiny, barred window near the gigantic door and peered inside. There were several Mortals inside, all wearing iron clothes and carrying sharp, iron swords. Biberbell scowled at them in disgust.

Then she took a handful of her pixie dust, weaved it into a gossamer spell, pointed her tiny little index finger at one of the dumb Mortals; the one nearest to the door, and released it.

The dumb Mortal gave a surprised sort of grunt, turned around, and opened the door that he thought was being pounded—

 

—to come face to face with a tiny little thingy!

 

“What the..”, he said in astonishment and made a grab for it..

“Hands off, you uncouth clod twerp!”, Biberbell piped!

 

The Mortal froze..

..and a whole lot of merry laughter came from inside the sheriff’s office.

 

“That’s a new one, Anderson!”, laughed one.

“Indeed. Your ability to rile women of all sizes is astounding..”, chuckled another.

“Hey, clod twerp! ‘Sup man!”, snickered a third.

 

Mortal Guard Anderson flushed furiously and turned around to mouth off his fellow guards when another voice was heard, and this one did not laugh, nor snicker. In this voice, there was a definitive, commanding rumble.

 

“Please invite Miss Biberbell, the fey-folk liaison, if you will, Mr. Anderson.”, the rumbling voice said.

“Liaison Biberbell, this way please.”, the young guard, Anderson, said politely, though he was very much flushed.

“Well. At least you are acceptably behaved.”, sniffed Biberbell. “Hence I shall apologize for my impromptu reaction. You may call upon me for one favor that is within my ability to attain or accomplish.”

“There really isn’t any need, Liaison Biberbell. I made a grab for you, and that was very rude of me. I would think what I did and got in return, are fully justified.”, Anderson mumbled.

Biberbell stared at the young man for a moment and amended that perhaps not all of these Mortals were lummoxes after all.

She flew closer to him and with a patronizing tone, she said, “Give me your hand!”

“Uhhmm..”, the young man hesitated. “Am I going to get it back?”

“We fey rarely give without taking, but never take without giving!”, she sniffed. “Give me your hand, boy!”

Resigned to his predicament, young Anderson opened his hand and showed the tiny sprite his palm.

Biberbell carefully placed a red bug with white spots into his palm.

“Uhhmm.. a ladybug?”, he said a bit confused.

“Yes. That’s what you Mortals call it. Keep it safe and feed it greens and your home will always be free of infectious pests and always be warded from deploring emotions..”, she squeaked.

“Ow. Wow! Thank you. My sister will love this. It will be good to see her smile again!”, Anderson’s face lit with elation as he stepped aside and let the tiny fey in.

 

All the other guards crowded around the young man and stared at the tiny ladybug with undisguised wonder, as it crawled along the fate-lines etched in the palm.

 

Biberbell swooped into the office, careful never to get anywhere near all the iron racks holding all the long, iron spears and armors and shields and all sorts of other iron things, and came into a, relatively, much smaller office, where two, very large Mortals, one sitting behind a desk, another standing across him and on the other side of the same desk. There was a third thing in the office who was possibly the only one who wasn’t a Mortal. Biberbell scowled, for she knew what this one was; one of them pretty she-demons, and the reason why all the little fey-folk were in this town!

“Liaison Biberbell. We are glad to see you here.”, said one of the large men. The one sitting behind the desk. “May I offer you some refreshments, perhaps? We have—”

“—I am sorry Sir Sheriff Standorin Shieldheart, but your Mortal beverages are not suited for my taste—”

“—Sugar Cane Juice—”

“—GIMME!”, Biberbell piped!

 

Without cracking a smile, Standorin pulled open a drawer in his desk, using just two fingers, he carefully pulled out a very, very tiny and delicate glass cup, and from a relatively small bottle, he counted a drop or three in the cup and pushed it across the table with the care only a midwife would show during a delivery!

Biberbell swooped down, not unlike a hawk would on a fat, juicy rabbit, grabbed the cup, and drank its content with alarming lust.

 

“What will I owe you for another, Sir Sheriff Standorin Shieldheart?”, she asked eagerly.

 

Standorin wordlessly poured her another.

Biberbell topped that one as well, then stared at the sheriff with a flushed face, a silly grin, and slightly off eyes, then squinted at the tall, non-Mortal she-demons standing behind him, then back at the sheriff.

 

“You, Sir, sure know how to treat the women around you!”, she said, her voice happily slurred..

..then toppled over and dropped, face down, on the desk!

 

There was a moment of awkward silence and Constance sighed.

 

“And this is why you should always bargain with the fey-folk, sir.”, she said with an amused voice, mixed with resignation.

Standorin stared at the tiny thing snoring on his desk!

“Well..”, he said. “That went well..”

 

The other large man snorted.

The sheriff scowled at him.

 

“This is not a laughing matter, boy. And it certainly isn’t funny.”, he growled.

“I am sorry, father. But it sure looked that way from here.”, Udoorin chuckled, though he seemed somewhat tired too. “How distilled is the juice in that bottle?”

“I don’t know. I asked for the best the innkeeper had to offer when I went to buy it. I wasn’t going to serve some cheap snot to the fey!”, Standorin rumbled.

Constance sighed again.

“What?”, he asked.

“The best would mean he gave you ‘pure’ sugar cane juice, sir.”, she said.

“Yes, so?”

“You didn’t so much as make our little liaison, here, roaring drunk, you made her comatose..”, she replied, stifling a laugh.

“Ow..”, Standorin said with a flushed face. “Well, what do we do now?”

“Mix some clear rainwater into the bottle. A spoon for spoon ratio should suffice.”, she said smiling.

“No, I mean, about her!”, the sheriff fumed.

“Ahh.. Do you perhaps have any rosemint tea at hand?”, she inquired.

“Rosemint, what? I am sorry Liaison Constance. I don’t even know what that is. I only drink coffee.”, he scowled.

Constance sighed once more.

“Some water and a bit of cotton, then?”

“We have water and lots of cotton and bandages.”, he said and from the same drawer, he pulled a steel canteen and rolls of bandages and a linen pouch full of cotton and put them on the desk.

“And a box, please. About wee big..”, she said, pointing at the sleeping little sprite.

Standorin frowned, took one of the parchment docks on his desk, dumped its content, and gave that to the tall half-born girl.

Constance placed the parchment dock on the desk and carefully lined it with one of the rolls of bandages, then padded it with cotton. Then she took the canteen, tried to pull open the cap.. but failed. She looked down at Standorin meaningfully.

“Must you plug every bottle and every jar so tightly? Is there some manly code about it that I am not aware of?”, she said with a frown.

Udoorin barely avoided a snort.

His father gave him a searing glare, wordlessly took the canteen, with an easy twist, pulled the cap off, and handed it back to her.

The tall, alluring girl parted a bit more of the cotton, and wet it with the water from the canteen, then dripped a careful drop or two on the sleeping little sprite.

“What! No! I didn’t do it!”, Biberbell yelped as she sat up like she was stung!

“Biberbell. You came here for a reason. What was it?”, Constance asked hastily.

“What?”, spluttered the tiny sprite. “I am on an important mission, that’s what! She is coming! The Ritual Guardian is coming very soon and wants preparations made to accept Chieftain Grulganiste Grimtooth Bolgrig of Oger’s Foot immediately! They will arrive at the Blooming Tree at noon! I was also told—”

That’s as far as she got before she fell back, curled into a tiny, sparkling ball, and started to snore!

 

Constance reached down and very gently, she scooped up the tiny thing and placed her in the cotton-filled parchment dock. Then she picked up the dock and put it on one of the higher filing drawers, and out of sight.

 

“She should be safe there. Have one of the windows slightly ajar so she doesn’t feel trapped and panic when she wakes up.”, she said kindly.

“Noon, huh?”, growled Standorin. “It is bloody noon, and we are supposed to prepare to entertain the chieftain of the ogres? This is going to be one wretched day, this will. I am sure of it!”

“Your scowl is impressive, sir. But please do not use it on the chieftain. She represents at least five thousand of her kind. A like amount if she calls more from the Rook Mountains, should you offend her. If such an unfortunate friction occurs, I fear you will lose more than half the forces you have here, including the elves, before you subdue her and her kin.”, she said. Then added, “And please do not test her as you tested me upon my arrival.”

“You are never going to let that go, are you, Liaison Constance? I did say I was sorry. Took you out to dinner, even, to make up for my blunder.”, Standorin said with a flustered face.

 

Udoorin coughed.

 

“I never held your faults against you, sir. But this is the part where I do my job, as a liaison, and advice. And you did not take me out to dinner as part of your apology. You took me out on a date.”, she replied calmly.

 

Udoorin coughed again.

 

“Sorry.”, he said with a grin. “Still recuperating from my wounds. There are bound to be a cough or six!”

Standorin scowled some more.

“Come, dear, sir. I believe we have a chieftain to entertain.”, Constance smiled warmly at him. “I think a score or so of your men should suffice as an entourage and impress upon her just how seriously you take her, which you should. Young Inshala spoke quite highly of her, and one should never dismiss that girl’s wisdom.”

✱ ✱ ✱

Someone coughed from the other side of the door and Lilly Venom snapped open her eyes. She gave a very quick glance around to absorb her surrounding, made sure she was alone, looked down to see there were a pair of very old, very sharp, nearly shortsword size daggers in both her hands. One might even call them ancient. She wondered just exactly where her elder brother, Aager, had found these daggers. They were elegant, perfectly balanced, impressively sharp, and never seem to chip nor blunt no matter how hard she stabbed or slashed at something. Whatever else her brother was, he sure knew how to bribe a girl, apparently.

Then she looked further down and noted she was also pretty much naked.

 

Armed and naked!

 

Sounded like the title of one of those soppy romance books young men seemed to like.. or girls.. The kind you read under the table, or when you knew you were alone.

But then, Lilly had only recently discovered just how much she enjoyed sleeping in naked abandon and cuddled with her hubby, ‘Sir Agent Largo’, as the little girl, Inshala, called him, to his great dismay.

Said Sir Agent Largo certainly didn’t seem to mind her new sleeping arrangements, she thought smugly.

 

“Ahem..”, came the coughing voice, again.

 

‘D.D. Dexter..’, she thought. Her hubby’s son. He was a decent young man. A bit on the stuffy side, but decent.. Enough to share his home and his food with them until the war would end and they would get a place for themselves.

“I am sorry to wake you, Lilly.”, the young man said sincerely. “I know you have been up late, training rookies all night, and need your rest..”

‘That’s not all I did all night long, boy, and your father will concur!’, she smirked quietly.

“..but the good sheriff sent word; if you’d be kind enough to grab yourself and your hubby, picked a good spot, and made sure certain people behaved! —his exact words.”

 

Lilly Venom frowned.

What the ‘good’ sheriff had meant was, hide somewhere and kill anyone who steps out of line..

Lilly’s face soured.

Dammit!

She had decided to never do that kind of job when she had looked at Largo and figured she’d liked him. Enough to spend the rest of her life with him.. way back when they were sailing from the burning city of Arashkan to here.

 

Then she sighed.

Apparently, there was a price for everything worth it..

And this was hers to pay.

 

All of that, she didn’t mind. Not as much as she did when the ‘good’ sheriff also dragged her hubby into it and put his life on the line as well..

“When I said, spend the rest of my life as ‘partner in crime’, I was speaking metaphorically!”, she fumed.

 

Then she sighed again..

What was done, was done.

Some people earned their place peacefully.

Apparently, she was never going to earn hers quite that malleably, but as bloody as possible —just like any good Drashan girl would!

 

“Well. At least I am armed for the occasion.. if not quite clothed..”, she muttered.

Then she said, to the door, and the young man behind it;

 

“Be right there..”, she said, putting a deliberate, cheery tone to her voice as she put on her clothes and further armed herself. “..and thank you, Dexter.”

✱ ✱ ✱

What do you mean, I hope they let us in?”, squeaked the scruffy-looking little gnomic girl. “I thought you came through here, before.”

“I did.”, replied the bushy-haired hobbit sort of evasively as he stared at the distant ‘rock’, lost in the clouds; the sight of Gull’s Perch had lost nothing of its beauty in the last eighteen years. The little hobbit felt a pang in his heart as he stared at the majesty of the naturally formed, spirally column, some half-mile at its base and climbing all the way up to the vivid blue winter sky and disappeared in the mists.

Brom Bumblebrim ‘thought’ he heard the lone, sorrowful cry of the gigantic, pristine-white gull perched up at the very top of that rock, hence the name, Gull’s Perch, though he doubted anyone else knew why it was called so.

“Rest in peace, lovely Aremela Berrybush.”, he murmured quietly.

“Say, whot?”, asked the scruffy gnomic girl.

“Nothing, Tonic. And when I said, I came through here, I mean it in a more, generalized sense. I came as far as seeing the town from the edge of the forest, but never went in it.”, Brom admitted.

“You came all the way to the edge of this town and didn’t even bother to enter? Duuuude!”, Arcantonic Palecog asked incredulously.

“The time wasn’t ripe.”, shrugged the hobbit.

“Leave him alone, luv.”, said the very tall, very dark girl, Seressa Wraiven, from behind, in a hushed voice as she followed the hobbits gaze and also stared at the beautiful sight of the Perch. “I believe there is a history here of personnel nature. And if Master Brom believes the time wasn’t ripe, it probably wasn’t.”

“What she said.”, said a fourth voice, soft and sort of throaty, or perhaps a bit hoarse. Like someone who’d been shouting in the dead of winter for too long; Cora Sleet came at the rear, her pouting scowl in place and her long, glossy white, braided hair playing tag behind her. “It’s a good thing those rangers we encountered recognized a tundra elf when they saw one.”, she huffed. “You would think we were something of a legend.”

“But my dear, Cora. You are a legend.. On a uniquely singular level.”, smiled Brom.

“Are you flattering me or punning me, hobbit! It’s hard to tell.”, scowled the tundra elf.

“I never pun anyone I can’t outrun, my dear girl.”, the hobbit said with a grin, even though she couldn’t see it.

“Huh. You can’t outrun anything!”, she replied, squinting at her bushy little friend.

“Ow.. Harsh, girl. Very harsh.”, snarked Tonic. “I mean, I felt it stab all the way from here. Did you feel that too, Brom? Bet you did..”

Brom lost his grin and sighed.

“Girl, you are killing me. I was flattering you. I mean, what is there not to flatter; you are a uniquely singular legend!”

“Now I know, you are punning me!”, Cora scowled. “But you managed to squeeze unique and legend in the same sentence, twice. So I shall let that one pass. Wow, that is a lot of refugees!”

 

The odd, unlikely four came out of the south end of Ritual Forest and saw the vast encampment of refugees stretching as far as the eye could see in either direction and it was very noisy. Brom saw troops marching up and down, children crying or running around, cooking fires everywhere with pots, pans, and cauldrons of whatever size was available, boiling soup and stew. Though there was a semblance of order, the refugees of Arashkan all looked lost, mournful, dejected, angry, and miserable.

 

Brom didn’t linger. He took the shortest route possible to the long, stone bridge stretching over Arashkan River and leading to Serenity Home town..

..and found himself facing a score or so armed-to-the-teeth dwarves, mounted on similarly armored, pony-sized goats, their horns shod with sharp, serrated steel.

And they seemed like they would not let anyone in without a goring them, or taking a sizeable bite!

“Lamark Earthbound at your service. Name and business, please?”, grunted the leading dwarf.

“Responding to an urgent summons, sir. We will reveal our identities when appropriate. Suffice to say, I represent Bowling Hills, the elf lady represents the tribes from the Great Northern Tundras and the other two ladies represent the Academy of Melshieve.”, replied Brom promptly as Tonic huddled right behind him while Cora glanced at the dwarves with professional coolness and Seressa stared at their goats with interest.

 

The dwarf stared down at him, then at the gnomic girl, then at the elf, and finally, and with quiet deliberation, at the tall girl in her scandalous pinks.

 

“Don’t I know you from somewhere? Are you, perchance, Master Brom Bumblebrim?”, the dwarf asked.

“Maybe.”, Brom cautioned.

“You don’t seem so sure..”, noted the dwarf.

“Depends on what will happen if I am, perchance, said Brom Bumblebrim..”, replied Brom.

The dwarf shrugged.

“If you were, you’d be the troublesome hobbit who tasked my mother, Margaret Madish, something vicious some years back and then killed my brother some few months ago.”, he said gruffly.

“Then I probably should not be said Master Brom Bumblebrim, seeing as how it might be detrimental to my health if I were.”, Brom replied, even more carefully. “But if said hobbit did, indeed, tasked your mother, Lady Margaret, he did so because he thought every inch of her was worthy of the task. And if he also killed your brother, said brother probably had it coming.”

Tonic snickered from behind.

“Yea, he totally had it coming.. The gnarled, slimy bastard!”

The dwarf snorted.

“Perchance you should enter, then.”, he said. “Go on. Report to Sheriff Standorin, though. All representatives must.”

 

And nudged his giant, angry-looking goat-mount out of the way.

 

“If I may, Master Lamark. Are Dridges Motherswolfie and the Tosser twins here? Or even Lillias Absentwhot, and Jeina Blond?.. Perchance?”, Brom asked.

“Perchance they are. Along with their mother and our grandfather, Argail Smitefast, who will very much want to meet the hobbit who tasked his dear and beloved daughter with something thus vicious!”, Lamark grinned at him. “Our dear sisters Lillias and Jeina are not, though. As per said vicious task, they are at the outpost east of Gull’s Perch.”, he added. Then he looked behind him and his grin turned to a polite, appreciative smile.

“Lovely pinks, by the way..”

✱ ✱ ✱

The large tent’s flaps parted and the large, young man entered without challenge. He looked around and noted the tent had been quite lavishly furnished and decorated; several backless elven chairs, a moderate-sized table, any number of cushions carelessly thrown around, two densely embroidered tapestries depicting some beautiful trees, deers, and birds, the ground was covered with soft, thick, rich maroon, very expensive carpets, many lanterns gave the interior of the tent, a certain, fairy glow, and several braziers radiated enough heat to warm the place to a comfortable level. The other end of the tent was partitioned off; the sleeping quarters of the Queen of Bari Na-ammen.

Udoorin pulled off his great helmet and tossed it near one of the heaps of cushions, undid the knots, and carelessly dropped his cape as he walked, pulled off both his massive battle-axes and stabbed them into the carpets without so much as taking notice..

 

And pulled apart the partition..

..to see something he’d never seen before but had wondered.

 

Alor’Nadien ne Feymist lay, sprawled on a bed of silks and velvets and in a black, gossamer gown, her slender back curved and her youthful, smooth hips rather calling..

..and she was totally out.

Udoorin stared down at the girl he’d loved the moment he had seen her, and of the beautiful sight, he notes the ugly bruises, the gauntness, the totally limp and exhausted arms and legs, and the, quiet but steady, wheezy quality in her soft breathing.

It broke his heart to see her like this.

She was a princess, dammit!

No.

She was a queen now. Declared unanimously, by the high elves, the moment the two of them had limped up the Arashkan River and to the banks of Serenity Home.

In his life, he had never seen such manic and holy joy in a crowd, let alone elves. In fear for her life, he had so wanted to just grab her and runoff, as tired and done-for as he’d been.

But with a few, curt commands, the much-elated elves had settled down, and several people had approached them; his father, Sheriff Standorin, in the lead, accompanied by a tall, pretty-looking young woman with horns, whom he would later learn was the Liaison Constance of the half-born, whatever that was, followed closely by a grim-looking Aager and a happily crying Inshala, and Lady Lenna who’d also very nearly crumbled down and cried, standing next to a very tall, blonde high elf in very eloquent armor. Then he had seen a grinning Thomas, holding Bremorel by the waist and Udoorin was like, “What the.. Thomas is so dead, now!”

And behind them were rows upon rows of joyously chorusing elven warriors, some fifteen thousand of them;

 

RISE ALOR’NADIEN NE!

RISE ALOR’NADIEN NE!

RISE ALOR’NADIEN NE!

 

At that very moment, Udoorin knew he wasn’t a hundred percent, but vaguely he recalled ‘Rise’ was elfish for ‘Queen’..

“About time, you snobs!”, he’d muttered to himself.

He couldn’t exactly remember the rest, though. Only someone was trying to take his Lorna away from him and he was trying to stop them.

It had been Lady Lenna, Lorna’s cousin, who had neared him and said, “Dear boy, it’s alright. Your queen needs care and rest. I shall see to her needs personally and be there at her side, always. You go with your father and Master Aager. You will need similar care, and rest. No one should see either of you drop. Come now, young Udoorin, let her go.. That’s it. Nice and easy.. There..”

 

Funny, how he had trusted his Lorna to no other than Anglenna, then..

Apparently, spilling sweat and blood and ultimately, life, did form that very special bond.

 

That was the extent of the surreal events, as far as he could remember. Something had happened.. sometime and somewhere between the Arashkan sewers and waking up in a very pretty valley. He was out of his armor and his shirt and his pants were all bloody and he felt a certain, sizzle in his heart, but he’d supposed that was to be expected. After all, he was told he had been very severely wounded and lost a lot of blood, and had very nearly died, but was saved by no other than his Lorna, which was no surprise.

 

His Lorna was awesome, like that..

 

Except there were two problems with that. One, he couldn’t remember who had told him of all the events leading up to his waking up in that pretty valley, other than remembering a rich, throaty, mature, and distinctly feminine voice, and two, Lorna had stopped talking to him. Well, not precisely stopped talking to him, but had been decidedly evasive of him. Sure, she’d kept hovering over him making sure he was not bleeding or anything, but it was clear, she herself was done in. She had been a rather slim girl, to begin with. Not skinny or anything, but comfortably slender and still have very beautiful curves.. When he had woken up in the valley, she seemed little different than how little Inshala seemed, right after she had buried the whole ruins of Themalsar down into the ground!

What had truly hit the young man was, she had stopped looking at him in the eyes.

And that was downright killing him.

Hence, armed to the teeth, he had marched right into the elf camp, expecting to run over anyone who’d be stupid enough to get in his way, had found an extraordinarily neat, military headquarters, teaming with high elves, and all of them had just.. stopped. It had been quite uncanny, really. Wherever he’d passed, they had all stopped, turned to him, put their right hands over their hearts, solemnly nodded at him, and murmured;

 

“Mere Estel Aranië..”

 

Udoorin knew very few elvish words. And the only one he thought he knew had been Aranië.. or rather, Ara.. or maybe it was Aran.. which meant noble, or maybe even king. He’d certainly hoped it meant noble. He was fine with noble.. Just not with a bloody king!

Hence, he’d nodded back at them, in a ‘noble’ sort of way, and came to the largest tent. And there he saw the same tall, blonde elf with his eloquent armor —damn that armor looked awesome— talking with Lady Lenna.

“I would like to see Lady Lorna.”, he’d asked and the blonde elf dude, his awesome armor, and Lady Lenna had just stared at him.

“Are you asking us, you want to enter the queen’s tent, young Udoorin, or are you merely being polite and informing us that you are going to see your queen?”, Lady Lenna had asked, staring directly into his eyes.

Udoorin had suddenly gotten the uneasy feeling that he was just about to be scored depending on the answer he would give. At least, that’s how Lady Lenna had made it sound like.

“Uhhmm.. I am telling you I want to see Lorna?”, he had sort of said.

“The tent is yours, young Udoorin. So is the Queen. She has thus declared it by having chosen you as her mate, just as you have made a similar declaration when the two of you announced your betrothment.”, Anglenna had told him with slight amusement. Then she’d half turned and introduced the blonde elf dude and his awesome armor, “Ow, this is Commander Armathelius Riverblade, the leader of the high elves, here, by the way. The two of you should have a sit-down and get to know one another some time.”

“Mere Estel Aranië..”, the elf had said to him and nodded, also placing his right hand on his heart.

‘Again, with the Aranië-thing!’, Udoorin had fumed but politely nodded at him and his armor, and murmured, “As soon as I am sure Lady Lorna is doing well. She has suffered a lot. I hope you understand.”

The blonde elf had merely nodded at him but hadn’t said anything.

“We will be out here. Do call us if you need anything.”, Lady Lenna had said politely.

 

Something was decidedly going on here, Udoorin had conceded.

 

“Lorna.”, he whispered, which sounded more like a hoarse rumble, really.

The gaunt form of Lorna didn’t even nudge and the only thing that gave away she had any life in her limp figure was the soft, wheezy sound of her breath and her skin had gained some of her ‘baby-tan’ color back.

 

“I am so sorry, Dorin.. I should have told you..”

 

“What?”, he said.

And noticed, she was still lights-all-out, asleep.

Udoorin frowned.

And it hit him.

 

She was thinking of leaving him!

 

That’s why she was sorry.

A terrible expression came over his face.

 

Not ugly.

Not furious.

Just plain, childish fear.

 

“If you want to leave me, I will not stand in your way and make it difficult for you. But I would rather you said it to my face. That way, I will get to see your eyes one last time.”, he said with a desperate voice, turned around, grabbed his helmet, his axes..

..and left.

 

“I apologize for the carpet.”

..he said to a rather surprised Lady Lenna and was out of the elven military camp. 

 

Udoorin felt drained.

Tired physically, mentally, and emotionally.

And he didn’t want to go back to town.

Not that he cared about the gossip or anything, that he had just been abandoned by the elven queen. To what he felt at the loss of his Lorna, that particular gossip meant so little.

Hence, he turned direction and headed north.

Perhaps getting lost in the woods for a few days, maybe even a week or two would help settle his storming heart.

 

Heart.

 

That’s when he felt the sizzle again.

It wasn’t painful, per se, but very, very, very bothersome.

Like something that truly reminded, just how short life could really be.

 

“You look troubled.”

He heard a voice say.

He was a tad surprised to see Bremorel grinning at him.

And no..

He wasn’t surprised to see Bremorel.

He was surprised to see her grinning, something quite rare, and whenever it was sighted, it meant something bad was about to happen, no matter how one looked at it!

“..like someone who swallowed a bug.”, she said, still grinning.

“Uhhmm.. I am not really in the mood, Bree.”, he mumbled.

“Well, I am, so all is fine.”

“Is Thomas still alive?”, he asked.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”, she asked back.

“I thought I saw him holding you, the day me and.. Lorna came back. I thought to myself, ‘Man, you are so dead, no one will be able to save you, now!'”

Bremorel laughed.

“I suppose that is true. No one can save him from me, indeed. Never got the chance to tell you. Thomas and I got married!”, she said happily.

 

Udoorin felt thunderstruck!

 

“When? How?”, he spluttered.

“About three and a half months ago, when you lot were in Arashkan.”, she smirked.

“Wow. Thomas finally managed to brave up? I am.. pleasantly surprised.”, the young man said.

“Well. He worked hard for it. Worked hard to fix me too. I can not undo the things I did before. But at least I can do new things. Smarter things. And he is there to back me up. We live in the temple. I go around helping and smiling now, which makes all the other people decide to give me a second chance. I know they don’t have to. But they are doing it anyway. So I am trying hard not to mess it up again.”, she said.

“I am happy for you, Bree. I really am. I know we didn’t start off well and it was all my stupidity. But even then, you chose to forgive me and be my friend. I knew you were cool. A bit hot-headed, but cool.”

“You did come and apologize to Laila and my uncle for what you did.”, Bremorel reminded him.

“Of course, I apologized. You would have too if you’d gotten a trashing from my father. Damn, he had a heavy hand. After he put you in that hole to cool off, he came home and gave me the speech.. and the beating of my life!”, Udoorin said with a horrified expression on his face. “I mean, it’s been years and I can still hear the ringing in my right ear!”

Bremorel laughed again.

Then as if remembering something she said, “Oh my, you have been out of touch for so long, you probably don’t have any updates. Here, let me fill you in; Lady returned first, but didn’t stay. She left for Scowling Hills to fix some family business there. Then these half-borns arrived.”

“Half-borns. I have heard that word, and I think that Liaison lady hanging around dad is a half-born.”, mused Udoorin.

“Yes, accept there are quite a bit more of them. I am not allowed to reveal their numbers or capabilities right now but they can be quite a handful when they want to. They are like our Merisoul. It would seem she helped them escape their masters so they all came here to help fight their former masters and the Orken. A few weeks back, that Anglenna elf girl came crashing into the town, and when I say, crashing, I mean it literally. The only problem with that was, according to Lady, you and Lorna were supposed to be with her, yet neither of you were. She was quite badly wounded and sick for weeks. Then Aager and Inshala returned from Durkahan and it seems they have also married!”

“Well. That one was only a matter of time. I am happy for him. And her. Neither had a happy life. Together, I think they can have one.”, Udoorin said thoughtfully.

“A few days after that, Lilly Venom came with a man named Largo who turned out to be D.D. Dexter’s father.”, she continued.

“I met him. When Anglenna, Lorna, and I were at Arashkan.”, Udoorin said. “I am happy they both survived.

“Ow, they survived alright. Enough to get married!”, Bremorel snickered.

“Is everyone getting married?”, the young man asked and that particular topic seemed to sting him all of a sudden.

The ranger lieutenant shrugged.

“I suppose, people are more honest with one another when imminent and total annihilation is at your door.”

“So it’s only Laila, Gnine, and Soul who haven’t returned?”, he asked.

Bremorel paused there.

“What is it, Bree? Have you heard something?”, Udoorin asked.

“I.. We don’t know exactly how, but the half-born somehow learned.. Merisoul is gone, Udoorin. They were.. devastated..”, she said mutely.

Udoorin staggered.

And stumbled.

“How? How did it happen?”, he asked.

“We really don’t know. They won’t even say ‘dead’.. only ‘gone’.. like she stopped existing..”

“She was nice to me. Always. She was strange, but her advice always helped, in some odd, unexplainable way.”

“Yea, she was weird. But to stop existing? She.. she didn’t deserve that.. All she wanted was some peace at heart..”

“Some peace at heart is more than most could find in a life time. Hello, young Udoorin, Ranger Lieutenant Songsteel.”, said a cultured, baritone voice, and the blonde elf dude and his awesome armor appeared out of the trees.

 

Udoorin was too at a loss to notice either, though.

 

True, Merisoul had always been strange. Or perhaps, off. Or even ‘out of this world’, sort of girl, but she’d had one of the purest hearts he had ever noticed. One could almost call it child-like.. Her means had been convoluted, to be sure, but the ends were not. And on top of everything, this particular news did not settle well with him at all.

 

“Back off, elf.”, growled Bremorel. “This is a private conversation between friends.”

“I apologize ranger lieutenant. But I believe Mere Estel Aranië overrules friendship. Sir Udoorin can not be left to roam alone in the woods. I am sure anyone you would care to ask would concur.”, Armathelius replied calmly.

Bremorel scowled at him.

“Well, I am already here, and this conversation does not need a third wheel.”, she growled.

“But it could use a fourth, perhaps? That way, it will less likely topple over and no one will get hurt..”, said another voice, and Anglenna also came into view.

Bremorel’s face turned black, now.

“I remember quite clearly just what I had said, should I want your opinion, banshee! You have been nothing but trouble from the moment you stepped foot into our town!”, she snarled at Anglenna.

“I believe the word you used was ‘bitch’, not ‘banshee’. But in all fairness, I have been more than trouble, and much before I set foot in this town, young Bremorel, so when I say, I had the worst intentions in mind for my cousin, Alor’Nadien ne, young Udoorin, here, your own cousin, Laila, the irritating little gnome, your half-demon freak, Merisoul, and just to be on the safe side, Master Aager, I mean it at its greatest extend. I am telling you this, so you do not delude yourself into believing your feelings for me is a simple matter of distaste on my part or some character flaw on yours.”, Anglenna replied calmly.

 

“I don’t believe that.”, Udoorin rumbled suddenly.

 

“Then you are as naive now as you were when we first met, young man.”, she said with a very distant voice.

“It is possible I am naive. But no. Not in this case.. You only thought you should have ill feelings for Lorna, but such feelings were introduced to you and impressed upon you.. You based your feeling for the rest of us on top of that; me for wanting Lorna’s love, even though I was not even aware she was a princess at the time, Laila, for having been given that sacred elf bow, Aager, because he is bloody dangerous, Merisoul, for always speaking uncanny truths and revealing what everyone actually felt, as opposed to what came out of their mouths, and Gnine, for being irritating, which is the only one you got right. The little midget is irritating! The pranks he pulled on me in the last six or eight years have made me want to toss him right into the Arashkan River, and that isn’t even a joke!”, Udoorin replied.

 

The three just stared at him.

 

“Who are you and what the Hell did you do with the real Udoorin?”, said Bremorel with an astonishing frown.

Anglenna tried a few attempts to object, just nothing came out!

Armathelius opted to stay his silence, though a bemused sort of smile played on his lips.

 

“Told you, you would fail, should you try and judged him at face value, cousin.”, came a soft, slightly wheezy voice, and with absolute silence, Alor’Nadien ne appeared.

“What are you doing out here and alone, Nadien ne?”, Anglenna said with a decidedly reproving tone.

“I have been out and alone long enough to want no more of it, cousin. I am here because I dreamt of my Dorin. In my dream, he had come and visited me, yet when I woke up, he wasn’t there. His cape, however, was.. I kindly asked our rangers to track you down, then leave. So they did. I believe I have some things to discuss with my mate-to-be if you would give us a few moments of privacy.”

Anglenna was about to object when Armathelius smashed one mailed fist on his armor and in his baritone voice, he said, “As my Queen wishes. We shall be but some acceptable yards away. Lady Brightleaf, if you will?”

Anglenna gave him a sour look but caved.

“I shall take my leave as well, then. Though I had actually come here to tell you something else. But since everyone I was charged to inform is already here, I might as well say it now.. Udoorin, Lorna, Lord Armathelius, and you, Anglenna, are invited to join a meeting at the mayor’s office, on the second toll, this afternoon. This shall be an important meeting so no skipping town, I am afraid. Everyone of note shall be there, and no platoons of guards, please. Only two for Lorna. Aager and I shall be guarding Udoorin.”

“What the.. I don’t require guards, Bree. And if you and Aager do it, there’ll be no end to that one!”, fumed Udoorin.

Shut up, Udoorin! Not like I wanted Aager, either, but my Thomas will be there representing the temple and the temple guardians..”

“Who else is coming?”, Udoorin asked slightly freaked.

“You, Lorna, Lord Armathelius, Anglenna, Master Argail Smitefast of the dwarves, his daughter, and possibly Lady Magella and their strategist, Dridges Motherswolfie. Davien and Moorat will speak for the rangers. Arthandos Yuleman will be there, naturally, as the host and speak for the town and the Arashkan refugees, the Ogress Chieftain Grulganiste Grimtooth from Oger’s Foot, some gnomes from Tinker Hills, your father, Sheriff Standorin, our Inshala as the Ritual Guardian and as the representative of all the druids, shamans and the witches, Perigren Ostlanna Temez and Liaison Constance will speak for the half-born. A Lady Alisia Hooman and our Moira from Durkahan, some wizards from Vodgar, militia generals from Palantine, bigwig knights from Koruxan, elves from Solace and Tranquil, two representatives from the Academy of Melshieve, some lord from Endless Watch, a barbarian princess from the Northern Tundras, if you can believe that, not to mention our Nimbletyne Tinkerdome and your mother, Lorna, Lady Nadina Graciousward will all be there, along with a representative from the king himself.. Hell, there will even be a bloody pirate from Drashan!.. The whole town has been put on the highest alert. So whatever issues you two got, you have less than an hour to fix it!”

 

A chocking silence fell, for the list of people, places, and representatives the ranger lieutenant had just dished out was not only impressive in number but it bespoke of the importance and the direness of their true predicament.

 

“My mother has returned, then?”, Lorna asked, sounding slightly relieved.

“Just this morning, I believe. I am not privy to the details, but I suspect the two of you will have time later to catch up.”, Bremorel replied. “Well, I am off for now, though Thomas did ask me to invite the two of you over for dinner sometime. Funny how he can think of all this stuff and I can’t!”

..and she took off with an impressive dash.

 

“My Queen. Mere Estel Aranië..”, Armathelius very politely nodded at the two of them, kindly held out a hand for Anglenna, who gave him another sour look, but followed him anyway, though quietly fuming.

 

Udoorin stood awkwardly, staring at, not his own feet, but at the feet of the girl, he’d loved the moment he’d set eyes on her as if to make sure she was still there.

 

“You forgot your cape, Dorin. Tis a tad cold to be wandering the woods in the dead of winter without a cape. You lost a lot of blood. You will freeze before know it.”, Lorna said, as she produced his cloak, neatly folded. Her voice weary, very tired, and had.. to Udoorin’s confused surprise, fear!

“That’s a new cape. How would you know it was mine?”, he asked, though to make conversation, really.

“I know my mate’s warmth. I know his scent..”, she replied softly but with a determined voice.

 

That simple phrasing very nearly concussed the young man and stung at the same time.

 

“Why would you say that, if you are planning on leaving me?”, he asked with the simplicity of a child.

“Leaving you?”, Lorna very nearly gasped.

“You have been avoiding me since I woke up in that valley. You have barely spoken to me. And you sure as Hell haven’t looked me in the eye once, since then and it’s killing me! I am fully aware of my standing and certainly not up to your elf standards. But I would rather you be honest with me to the end because we always have had that, at least.. Perhaps I did something when I was out. I do not know. You must tell me what it is that I have and is bothering you. How else can I work on it, if you don’t tell me? If you want to leave, I will not make it difficult for you. You are the Queen now, while I am just a country bumpkin.. I have never demanded anything from you. Only and always your good grace and the smile on your face. I was never quite as happy when you made me feel happy, as I felt content when I made you smile because every time you did, I was dancing in my head and shouting like an idiot, ‘Yes! She is smiling. She is happy.. I did that!'”

 

Lorna did not reply for the longest time.

When she did, her voice was anything but herself. It seethed and boiled and with no small amount of bitterness, she spoke.

 

“The Hell with the Queen and the Hell with the elves..”, she very nearly snarled.

 

Udoorin froze and stared at the gentle girl in amazement.

When Lorna spoke again, her voice was low and burning with her words now..

 

“None of my heritage nor my people were there when I needed them. They honor me now because they need me. And to get me, they must accept you. This they know because I left them no choice. This they know because I gave them no choice. I was chosen by the Spirit of High Woods. I never asked for it, but she chose me anyway. Yet they did nothing to nudge from their ways and look what that befell them. It cost them their lives. It cost them the ways they couldn’t be bothered to change. It cost them Bari Na-ammen and it cost them, High Woods. Never in my life have I acted on self-interest. I abandoned my only home just so they could have their merry ways. And now, all of that is gone, and I am done with their merry ways. Now they will have me with you, or they will all scatter and fade as homeless exiles. Whatever happens, or however this turns out, I am not leaving you, my Dorin. But should you want to leave, I shall not hinder you, either, and the line of Feymist will end with me, for I shall never take another and neither do I wish to birth the seeds of another.. The only man to have met me, and honestly desired me, without even knowing my heritage, is you. Though I gave you my consent and my freedom, you never took advantage of either and you never abused them. And you would think I would want to leave you? Know this, my Udoorin Shieldheart; if there is no you, there shall be no Queen.. I will lead these elves to victory or to annihilation. Either way, I shall not lead them any further than that. Not without you!”

 

Udoorin gulped. He’d always known or guessed, there was a seething, smoldering, and equally lonely volcano in the young, beautiful woman that he loved. But this was the first time she had thus openly let it all loose.

And deep down somewhere, something wild and exhilarating churned in him. He’d loved Lorna as the calm, gentle girl that she always had been. This burning and very nearly feral girl, however, he suddenly raved to see!

 

“Then look me in the eyes, and tell me why you are so sorry and what it was that you should have told me, Lorna. You said that when you were asleep when I was there in the tent.”, Udoorin said silently.

 

Lorna gasped in pure, unadulterated panic.. and fear.

Then her shoulders slumped and she spoke like someone who just submitted to her own execution..

 

“I.. can’t..”, she moaned, her face aflame and all she could do was stare down. “I did you a great wrong, my Dorin. And the shame I feel burns. You.. you have all the rights to reject me and never look at me again.”

“What..?”, Udoorin said somewhat surprised. “..that you stabbed me? Knew it the moment I saw your blade sticking out of my chest! It was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Not something I would want to repeat, but it was funny at that moment.. Is this what all this is about?”

 

Alor’Nadien ne flinched..

..and broke down.

She just went limp and dropped on the frozen forest ground and wept with uncontrolled abandon..

 

..but Udoorin was there.

He caught her in his great arms held her by her slender neck and the small of her back and lifted her, and looked her full in the eyes.

Lorna went pale, her cherry-red lips trembling and tear-stricken eyes were very deep green now, as she turned away her face, trying desperately to avoid the young man’s burning eyes..

 

“You will look me in the eyes, Alor’Nadien ne, the chosen daughter of the Spirit of High Woods, the Queen of elves, and my mate-to-be. You will look me in the eyes and tell me what ails you. Through my sweat and blood, spilled and spent, and through the fires we walked, this much, I have earned..”, he said, and now, his rumbling voice was ablaze too.

“I.. I almost killed you, my love. I almost destroyed your beautiful heart. You gave it to me to care, to nurture and to nourish, and to safe keep and I betrayed you by shredding it! How can I look you in the eyes and expect you to love me?”, she spluttered.

“And just what did I do when we first met, my love? Did I not try to slay you?”, Udoorin growled.

“You did not know. And you held your swing. You stopped. I did not. I very nearly slew you!”, she moaned.

“Never have I ever told you your follies, my dearest Lorna. Never would I have thought the day would come that I would have to. Thus that dreary day has arrived, and I shall speak the truth of the day we met my love, and you shall listen, and you shall accept and you shall understand, also. When Inshala burst through that door, down in the stinking dungeons of Themalsar and went after Darly Dor, I was much vexed, for we had been trailing the bloody assassins that had burned our town, for weeks, yet we had found nothing. No trail to speak of, nor any clues as to why they had done, what they had done.. Nothing.. I charged, mindlessly into a room expecting answers, because I was stupid, and I was also a fool, for there were no answers to be had with axes! And I charged the first thing I saw, without understanding what I saw. You may think I had some great self-control and stopped, but you would be only so wrong. I stopped because I was dumbstruck by your beauty. I have never claimed to be a smart man and seeing as how the others have thus looked upon me, I couldn’t even blame them; I am just the dumb kid with the big axes and likes to chop things down to mincemeat! I stopped that moment, yes, but it had absolutely nothing to do with me, but everything to do with you. I stopped because I was so stupefied by the young woman that stood before me, her glaive raised, the way she’d spun, and the way her skirts scattered and with blazing, fearless green eyes, she came at us even though she was thus outnumbered. You saw an idiot charging at you, I saw a majestic creature with no fear. What I did see also, was that she held no scorn in her burning eyes. She came at us because she had to, and not because she held us in contempt. That is the only remarkable thing that I could claim wisdom on my part; the fact that I somehow noticed all that. You, on the other hand, were under the duress of the Draugr, when we were down in the sewers of Arashkan, seeking the old head quarters of the Thieves Guild. When Anglenna warned us about it, I figured she knew what she is talking about better than I would, since I never even heard of a Draugr before, let alone know what the bloody Hell it was. My only guess was, it was something big and ugly. So the moment I saw something particularly big and ugly coming at us, I just closed my eyes and started swinging at any sound that came at me. That’s why I told you to get behind me; to avoid accidents, though I didn’t think there would be any because you do not make sounds when you move, much like you do not shout or do silly battle cries the way I do. I just barge into fights and try to appear as large and threatening as possible to get everyone’s attention. You? You weave through the enemy. You could be fighting through a horde of Orken or a gaggle of undead or even be belly dancing and no one would know the difference, should they watch only you. What happened to you was unfortunate, and had I had my eyes open, either we would have killed one another because I would have been struck by the Draugr’s insanity as well, or I would have tried to disarm you and carry you away until you came around. The simple matter of fact is, none of us were prepared for the Draugr. We attacked it like we would attack a band of goblins and had our piece handed over to us. Now you can either accept this for the fact it is, or you may not and destroy everything we have thus build together and quite needlessly. But you should know, my love. I shall have a Lorna who looks me in the eyes and without shame, or I shall go to this war and against the coming Orken, and I surmise I shall make a very bloody mess, but I will not return. Because you are the reason I want to fight.. and live.”

 

Tears rolled down Lorna’s eyes as she reached up at the man and touched his scruffy beard with both her slender hands and held them there. She held his face and stared into his eyes like it was the last time.

 

“Dear child. You mustn’t.”, said a rich, throaty, and very mature, voice in the depths of her mind.

“I will never have secrets from him. He shall know and accept. Or he shall stay ignorant and there shall never be a Summer Lady from our line.”

“This was not our bargain, dear child.”

“Our bargain was that you heal his heart and save his life, and in return, you would take one of my daughters as the Summer Lady.”, she said fiercely.

The rich, throaty voice sighed.

“Mortals.. Very well, child. But should you speak the truth and he departs, what then? I have fixed his heart and saved his life but there shall be a bargain unfulfilled.”

“You may take mine, as I offered it to you for his in the first place, for there will have been nothing else for me to give. I will never wed, nor bed another man.”

“Dear child. Again and again, I have thus told you; I may not take a Mortal’s life who has never done me wrong.”

“Should he depart, I will never be able to pay you my end of the bargain, Mother Titania. That is a wrong done to you..”

The rich, throaty voice sighed again.. and was gone.

 

“I bargained with the Summer Queen.”, Lorna whispered, staring into his eyes, and still holding his face in her hands.

“I do not know this Summer Queen person. But for the sake of argument, let’s say I do.”, Udoorin rumbled with a frown. “What did you bargain?”

“I did not wound you, my Dorin.”, she said as she started crying. “In my insanity, I stabbed you through the heart. Neither my cousin nor I could have saved you. So my cousin sent me and you to Serenity Home. But for some reason, we missed our destination and ended up in Gull’s Perch. That is the Summer Queen’s sacred valley. She put you into stasis and offered me a choice. To save your life for something in return..”

Udoorin’s frown deepened.

“And what did she want from you?”

“Life for life.”, she said with a moan. “I begged her to take mine for yours, but she said she couldn’t. Instead, she would take one of our daughters.”

 

The young man froze.

 

“But.. we do not have any daughters.”, he blurted.

“We.. we will.. should we wed..”

“Let.. let me get this straight. She demanded one of our unborn daughters for my life? What kind of a demented bargain is that?”, he suddenly blared.

“Dorin..”, the girl in his arms said weakly.

“How could she even know we would have daughters? We aren’t even wed yet. I mean, we could have sons.. What will happen then? Are we going to try and try until we have a daughter? Or she wants a red-head and we would end up making a dozen or two until we get one!”

“Dorin.. please..”, she pleaded.

“What? Is she going to take her pick from the ‘litter’? Who does that? I mean, we are not even wed and people are making bids on our unborn children already?”

“D.. Dorin.. S.. Stop..”, she begged.

“Let’s say one of us falls in the coming battle. What will happen then? She is going to wait until one of us weds then demand from that lot? If she is, she’s going to go home quite empty-handed because I am going to marry you, or I will stay alone.”, Udoorin blazed.

“If I fall, you are free.. of me and the bargain.. Should you fall.. she will have the right to mine..”, replied Lorna quietly.

 

Udoorin just stared at her.

 

“The Hell, she will!”, he said fiercely.

“Dorin. Please. If you want to know just who the Summer Queen is, you should ask dear Inshala. After all, she serves the Summer Queen.”, Lorna said mutely. “The bargain, however, is done. I.. I had to save you, Dorin. I had to. This you must know. A lonely life, I could bear. A lonely life without you.. I could not. If.. if you want to leave, I will understand. I was told not to tell you of this bargain, but I did it anyway because I can not have secrets from you.”

 

Udoorin fumes.

 

“What is she going to do with our daughter?”

“She will make her the Summer Lady.”, Lorna replied.

“What the..”, the young man spluttered.

“You really should have a sit down with our Inshala as she is the best equipped to tell you all about the Summer Queen, the Winter Queen, and the Ladies, and the Courts.”

“Why does she need a Lady, anyway? Is she short on girls in this court of hers? Perhaps I should go and have a sit down with this Queen, myself!”, Udoorin sizzled.

 

Lorna just stared at him.

 

“Why don’t we go and speak with Inshala now. Since she serves this Summer Queen, she should be able to arrange a meet, right? Then I can tell it to her face, child exchange is not acceptable. This is ridiculous. Perhaps I can challenge her for a duel to free you and our daughter from this bargain. I am sure a queen would have a knight or two to fight in her steed?”

 

Lorna sighed.

But when Udoorin grinned at her, she wiped her eyes and squinted at him suspiciously.

 

“You.. you are punning me..”, she blurted.

“Punning you? No, love. Punning the mess we put ourselves? Yes. Of course, I know who the Summer Queen is, Lorna. We are practically neighbors with Her and the Gull’s Perch. But we do not go there because the dryads there can get frisky at times. Not that it matters, because the whole valley was cordoned off when I was around two or so, I think, due to some dwarves getting too greedy and trying to mine there. It was perhaps the only time I remember my mother getting riled about anything. She died shortly after that event. What’s done is done, Lorna. I thank you for saving my life. But not because I believe my life was all that worth saving, but because you think I am worth you, and because of you, I will get to see you every day of my life. Does that make me selfish? Perhaps. But I do not care. I do not know what being the Summer Lady entails. All I know is she gets to become a noble in her court. She will get to see many places and experience things no elf or human can. And do great deeds as well. She will have a very full filling, and hopefully, a happy life. I do not know my daughter yet. But I am already happy for her, and would very much like to meet her sometime. Will you marry me?”

 

The question came seamless and so suddenly, Lorna was caught totally off guard. It took a long moment to go over all the things the young man had said until she got to the end.

 

“You.. you do not blame and hate me for my choice?”, she blurted.

“Lorna.”, Udoorin said seriously. “I hate the reasons we ended up in such a mess. But I do not hate you. You saved my life and bought me the days and years to be with you. You made my daughter the Summer Lady. What’s more, you made me realize, our days are short and numbered, and I do not want another gone without you. I have little in the way of fortune. What I do have, however, is you. Will you marry me?”

“Like, right now?”, she spluttered.

“Like, right now.”,  he said, stood up straight and called, “Lord Armathelius and Lady Lenna, if you will, please?”

 

After a moment of startled silence, Anglenna, Armathelius, and his awesome armor approached.

 

“Should a couple wish to wed, how many witnesses are required among the elves?”, the young man asked.

Anglenna pursed her lips before answering.

“It varies.”, she said. “But King’s Law demands and requires only two.”

“Alright.”, Udoorin said with a frown. “Lady Lenna? Lord Armathelius? Will the two of you act as witnesses, then?”

“I would be happy to, young man.”, Anglenna smiled.

“I suppose I will have no choice but to agree.”, replied Armathelius with a small smile of his own.

“Well, then.”, he said, turned to Lorna, and knelt.

“No. Please. No kneeling. You will be my mate and I want no doubts that you are my equal.”, she begged.

“Very well.”, Udoorin said a bit relieved, and got back up, took a deep breath, and rumbled, “Lady Alor’Nadien ne Feymist, daughter of Nadine Graciousward and Grandaleren Feymist. Will you be my wife, my life-long friend, my partner, my love, my comrade in arms, and my breath?”

“I will.”, Lorna replied, her face bright red, somewhat dazed, and with the first honest smile since the destruction of Arashkan and Bari Na-ammen. “And will you, Udoorin Shieldheart, son of Limnia Karya and Standorin Shieldheart, be my husband, my life-long friend, my partner, my love, my comrade in arms, and my breath?”

“I will.”, Udoorin said, giving her a small smile of his own. “On a throne, or on cold ground..”

“I, Armathelius Riverblade, son of Sylvenessa Brightgrove and Methalier Riverblade, have so witnessed.”, the young elf commander said solemnly.

“And I, Anglenna Brightleaf, daughter of Selvius Brightleaf and niece to Selendenien Sindarin, have so witnessed.”, Anglenna said. “Will you exchange rings now, or perhaps hold that for a more, public wedding?”

“Ow, right, rings..”, Udoorin smacked his forehead. “I knew I had forgotten something.”

He pulled a ring from his own hand, a not too ornate but gold with green specks, and offered it to Lorna, while she pulled a ring from one of her own fingers and offered that to him.

The rings they exchanged, fit the other like it was made for them.

 

Anglenna sighed.

 

“I can’t believe this.. Did you two actually just switch combat rings?”

“Well, I gave her my Ring of Regeneration. She should feel better in an hour or two.”, grinned Udoorin.

“I have him my Ring of Spell Storing.”, smiled Lorna.

“What? Why?”, asked the young man a bit surprised. “Give me something else. You love that ring and what do I know about spells?”

“Yes, I love that ring, my Dorin. Which is why I gave it to you. And you will not need to know much about spells, either. You will have to have it filled should you expend the ones in it, though.”, she replied.

“What’s it got in it right now?”, Udoorin asked with a curious and enthusiastic grin on his face.

“Will tell you later.”, she smiled.

“Right.”, agreed, the young man. “I believe we should head out for the meeting? Elves, as I recall, do not like tardiness. And I do not wish a trashing from the sheriff.. again.. Lady Lenna, Lord Armathelius. Thank you both for being patient with us. If you would lead the way?”

Armathelius banged his steel fist again, nodded at him, then at Lorna, and murmured, “Lady Lenna, please allow me to escort you.”

 

Udoorin waited for a thirty count before he swiped Lorna off her feet and with a very refrained enthusiasm, he hugged her.

 

“Thank you.”, he said simply, staring into her eyes. “I.. I would very much like to..”

“..kiss me, now!”, finished Lorna, staring back into his eyes.

✱ ✱ ✱

What a lovely tree. Cherry. And in bloom.”, rumbled the nearly fourteen-foot tall monstrosity as she ducked out of the gaping hole that had just parted in the trunk of the beautiful, blooming cherry tree.

“Did you do this?”, she asked the disproportionately ‘tiny’ girl, as she peered up the tender pink flowers fluffing everywhere.

“Yes, Mother Ganiste.”, smiled Inshala, as she reached out to help the giant ogress up.

“What are you doing, daughter? Are you giving me a hand?”, she asked with a scowl, though there was an amused light in her very scary eyes.

“It was the polite thing to do, Mother.”, Inshala replied seriously.

“Polite, pointless, fruitless, and quite futile, my daughter.”, she rumbled.

“Futile?”, the tiny girl asked.

“That you would think me old and feeble and I would require help to get up, girl!”

“Loved ones can help without offending those we love and care, Mother Ganiste.”, Inshala said with a little smile.

“I see you have already been afflicted with the foolishness of the humans around you.”, she scowled.

“How so, Mother?”

“You now have a smart mouth!”

 

A funny noise escaped the little girl; her way of a snort.

 

“And punning your elders too, now. Should you roll your eyes at me, as well, I shall spank you, little one, Ritual Guardian or not.”, Chieftain Grulganiste Grimtooth Bolgrig said with vehemence, though the glitter in her eyes, as creepy as it was, said otherwise. In secret, she was very pleased to see her tiny ‘daughter’, happy and full of life. It made her want to pocket her and keep her there. A something she should have done many years ago, but a tad too late now. The little girl she loved as her daughter had grown. She even had a hubby now.

Even if said hubby was the Winter Knight of Mab.

 

Chieftain Grulganiste shuddered.

 

Mab?.. Really, now, girl.. I knew you were a wonder for much greatness, but Mab? MAB?

 

Grulganiste growled and rose and stared around.

 

“What is this hideous place, my daughter? It stinks of humans and fear.”, she rumbled.

“Yes, it smells a bit because they are working day and night for the coming war. And they fear for their loved ones.”, Inshala replied solemnly. “Their fear is well placed for the Orken are a fierce foe.”

 

Grulganiste grunted and looked around.

 

“And this?”, she asked, pointing at the tiny, single-room house.

“My home, Mother Ganiste.”, replied happily.

“This?”, Grulganiste asked incredulously. “Is this what the great Winter Knight has to offer to my daughter? I can walk right over it! I put my chicken-birds in sheds bigger than this!”

“Please, Mother. Do not mock the warmness of my home. This is where my Aager and I belong.”, she pleaded with a pout. “We eat here, we talk here, we sleep here, and here, we even dance and play silly games. Here, he can look at me as he pleases. Here, he spoon-feeds me when I am too tired to feed myself. Here, I can hug him as it pleases me. Here, only the two of us are.”

“I.. see..”, Mother Ganiste replied, eyeing her tiny little daughter. “Perhaps I spoke in haste. Let me have a look into the warmness of your home.”

 

Inshala smiled.

It was a beautiful, happy smile.

An accomplished smile.

A smile that said;

Something wonderful has happened here..

I brought peace to a troubled soul.

I did that!

 

Inshala opened the door to her home and wide.

“Please come in, Mother Ganiste. You shall always be welcome in my home.”, she said.

 

Mother Ganiste looked down at the tiny house, then at the even tinier door, quite dubiously, as she mentally measured her head, her very broad and very much muscled shoulders, and her powerful buttocks, came to the obvious, impossible conclusion.

Then she noted the happy and the quite earnest face of her tiny daughter..

..and sighed.

An ogress she may be.

But she wasn’t a heartless beast to break the heart of her beloved daughter. Certainly not when she put on that eager face!

Bowing to her predicament, and bowing quite literally, she stuck her head into the door as she berated herself just how silly she must look from behind, as she pushed..

 

..and promptly got stuck!

 

“Oops!”, exclaimed Inshala. “Are.. are you alright, Mother?”

Mother Ganiste said many things at that point. A series of choice swear words in ogre, in orcish, and in dwarfish as well, because when it came to cussing, no other race beat the dwarves, and it was possible that had been the only reason she had learned it, to begin with. She struggled, moving her massive shoulders sideways, turned the other way, and tried some more, and when that didn’t work, she even tried to cork her way in!

 

“Uhhmm.. what’s going on, here?”, asked a struggling Guard Anderson as he stared at the greatest ass he had ever seen, and would likely ever see, in his entire life!

 

Chieftain Grulganiste froze..

 

..and be damned with silly daughters, silly humans, and their silly homes, and with the silly world in general!

With a great snarl, she heaved and pulled herself out..

..along with the door.. and half the wall!

Inshala yelped and ran out, as the roof caved in, and the house collapsed in on itself!

 

“Well..”, grunted Grulganiste, her eyes still ablaze. “..that went well..”

 

Then she looked down at her daughter, who just stood there, her tiny hands, her diminutive face, her long, dark hair, and pretty much the rest of her was covered in dust, as she stared at the wreckage of, what was just a few mere moments ago, had been her home.

 

Her slim shoulders drooped, a pinkish-red blush spread around the ovals of her eyes and her cheeks as large tears streaked down and around her trembling, and pouting little mouth.

 

It was hard to say what crossed the awful face of Chieftain Grulganiste Grimtooth at that very moment as she held the door frame and parts of the wall still hanging around her neck, and stared at her devastated little daughter.

✱ ✱ ✱

There were guards everywhere. The level of security had been quite apparent the moment they had come out of the Ritual Forest when groups of elf, half-elf, and human rangers with no-nonsense expressions skimmed past them. As they came closer to the town, they noted the two platoons of dwarven warriors armed to the teeth, sitting on armored, rather angry-looking, almost horse-sized goats with brutal-looking iron-shod horns stationed at the north end of the stone bridge. There were also large groups of Arashkan militia and regulars roaming both around the refugee camps and the northern banks of the Arashkan River. Udoorin also noted the strange runes and glyphs etched on the outer walls of the town and at even intervals. And when he looked up, he saw odd flocks of birds circling the town from high above.

One such bird, a tiny little baby owl, darted down and settled on Lorna’s shoulder and immediately started pecking and cleaning her fluffy, soft feathers.

Udoorin gave Lorna, who was smiling impishly, and the extraordinarily cute baby owl a side-long glance, then blurted, “Inshala?”

“Whoo?”, replied the baby owl.

“Inshala..”, repeated the burly young man. “Our Inshala..”

“Whoo..”, said the baby owl, staring up at him with large, endearing eyes.

“Ow. Now you are just making fun of me..”, he said smiling down at the owl.

Lorna laughed and the owl hopped down and spun once around herself, twice, and on the third, the baby owl was gone and the skinny little girl with her curving horns appeared.. also laughing.

Inshala jumped the large young man and hugged him, then jumped Lorna and hugged her as well, then paused, ogling at the two of them.

“When?”, she blurted!

“Uhhmm.. when what?”, asked Udoorin.

“When did you two—”, she began.

“Shhh.. not here, dear sister.”, Lorna said with a blush.

“How could you possibly know?”, asked Udoorin with an exasperated frown. “I mean, pretty much nobody knows.”

“Your scents!”, said the skinny little girl with a happy red face.

“Our scents?”, the young man stumbled.

“Yes. Yes. Your scents. Always before, they were separate. Yearning but distinct.”, explained Inshala joyously.

“Do I even want to know how that makes any sense?”, Udoorin mumbled.

“But now, your scents are together. Intertwined! And they have made a new scent. A happy scent. A scent full of new potentials!”, she blushed and seemed like she was about to burst with happiness. “Are you going to have babies? I love babies. They are so cute!”

Lorna also blushed.

Udoorin coughed.

“I can’t believe you can read all that from our scents. I mean, all you had to say was, we needed a bath..”, he murmured.

“Please don’t say anything to anyone, dear sister.”, Lorna pleaded. “This meeting is important and does not need any distractions. We shall declare it at an appropriate time.”

Inshala stared at her like she was asked not to cry when she’s just stepped on a bee, or worse, an iron bee —however silly that sounded!

 

“Lorna and Udoorin got married!”, she blurted in her mind.

“Eh? What? When?”, Aager’s surprised voice came.

“Speak later? Please, please, please don’t tell anyone..”, she begged.

 

“Ow, alright. I promise I won’t tell.. anyone else..”, she mumbled in a deploring voice.

 

“Okay.”, Udoorin said seriously as they walked over the stone bridge. “What’s the security protocols here?”, he asked.

“I have no idea what you just said, but my Aager will tell you some rules. He told them to me as well, but there were too many butchered words in it and I got lost!”, Inshala replied. “All I understood was, if anything happens, I am to go home and wait for him there, which he knows is not going to happen.”

“Butchered words?”, Lorna asked.

“Yes.”, Inshala replied with an exasperated tone. “It is when humans cut words in two or more. It seems like an infection. Even the half-born are using them now. Just the other day, I heard Liaison Constance call Sheriff Standorin as ‘Stan’..”

 

Udoorin froze.

 

“She called my father, Stan? Nobody calls my father, Stan. Only my mother used to call him that. And maybe the mayor. He would cave in any face who would call him, Stan!”, he said. “So they really are dating? I thought they were just putting a scene to make me uncomfortable.. Sort of a private joke.”

“I think they are. Dating, I mean.”, replied Inshala honestly. “Your father seems more, now, since he started dating her.”

“More? More what?”

“Just, more..”, Inshala replied, as if that explained everything.

 

Lorna smiled.

 

“I do not understand.”, Udoorin complained.

“I will explain it to you later, Dorin.”, she replied.

“Anglenna and the other elf, Armatus, I think his name was, will be attending to Lorna at all times, and should anything happen, they are to take her to the elf camp. My Aager and Bremorel are to stay with you, Udoorin, and take you to the Sheriff’s office where they will lock all the doors and windows. The dwarves will charge at anything that comes near the town, the rest of the elves and the Arashkan soldiers will go up to the defense wall, along with more dwarves and gnomes. The druids, the shamans, and the witches will help them. The rangers will be everywhere. The ogres will travel just north of town, and wait near Elder Hills, in case there is an attack from there..”, she said breathily.

“I am not getting locked up in a room!”, Udoorin fumed.

“I am not separating from my Dorin!”, Lorna flared.

“I was told you two might say silly things like that. My Aager told me to tell you that if you will not follow simple orders, then he will use the big stick on you again. He said you would know.”, Inshala said to the fuming young man. Then she turned to Lorna. “And Anglenna said, she would teleport you to the elf camp if she had to, and told me to remind you how her last teleport spell turned out! I told them that it wasn’t nice of them to say such things to them because they were both grown people who are much bigger than I am and that Udoorin is a smart man and would do what needs to be done, and Lorna was the best when it came to making calm and wise decisions.”

 

Udoorin scowled down at her while Lorna smiled in defeat.

 

“I believe we should give in, Dorin —gracefully. Our friends want what’s best for us, even if we might think otherwise. And disrupting current security is unwise. It would seem we are not part of the entourage, but part of the delegation.”

“I did say you were calm and wise.”, grinned Inshala.

“You are part of the guests too, aren’t you?”, Udoorin frowned.

“I am.”, admitted, the skinny little girl. “Hence the reason my Aager told me to go home if there was trouble and the reason I won’t.”

“How does that work, exactly?”, Udoorin asked, still scowling.

“The answer to that is quite elementary in its simplicity!”, she smiled smugly.

Udoorin cocked an eyebrow at her.

 

“My Aager will not hit me with a big stick!”, she said and took off.

 

A funny sort of noise escaped Lorna. Something that might even constitute a snort!

✱ ✱ ✱

Just out of curiosity..”, rumbled Udoorin as he walked up the stairs leading into the municipality building with Lorna in his arm. The mayor’s offices weren’t all that big, to begin with, but the base furniture, the bookshelves, the drawers, the filing cabinets, and the desks were all removed to make room for the self-same tables used during the celebrations upon the return of the heroes from Themalsar. “..what does Mere Estel Aranië, mean, and why is that Armathelius elf keeps calling me that?”

Lorna smiled, leaned into him, and whispered.

“It means, ‘the awaited hope of the kingdom.’, dear.”

 

Udoorin stared at her.

 

“You can’t be serious!”

 

“Elves may have habits that may appear odd and many others that may be faulty, but they do not toy when it comes to names.”, she said quietly.

“Couldn’t have picked something less ostentatious? Like, ‘He’s alright.’, perhaps?”, the young man asked with a rather disturbed expression on his face.

“I didn’t choose it, Dorin. The elves did. You came to us at a time that was clearly the end of Bari Na-ammen. As sad as it is to lose our beloved home, they finally understood what my mother had been trying to tell them for the past thirty years; that they had grown secluded, complacent, and become stagnant. Nature does not tolerate such qualities. Secluded becomes complacent, and complacent becomes stagnant. Eventually, stagnant rots and collapses to make room for ‘fresh’ and ‘new’ life and beginnings. The elves that are here could have gone to Solace, or even Tranquil. But they preferred to come here.. to humans because if there was going to be a kingdom for us again in High Woods, it had to have the things it pushed out and rejected, and let in friends..”, she said. “And friends mean, other races. What the humans in Serenity Home and the dwarves at Scowling Hills have done to sustain the Arashkan refugees was exceptional. That they treated us the same way and unbiased, considering how Bari Na-ammen treated strangers, has put us all to shame. And you, love, came out of this town. You fought against Themalsar, side by side, with the princess of Bari Na-ammen. You defended and protected her. You cared for her and honored her, and you brought her back to her people when they were leaderless. That, my dear Dorin, is the long-awaited hope for the new kingdom of elves.. We will have many wars to fight ahead of us. But we will also have a home to return to. And that home must have a leader. They insisted I lead. But I never wanted the job. Perhaps I am selfish. But that is the truth of it. When I declared Anglenna to take my place, I was not putting on a show. I was being honest. I really wanted her to take this burden off my shoulders. But after what my aunt did, they wouldn’t follow her. It is thanks to Lord Armathelius that they haven’t shown open hostility against her, or put her on trial while we were not here.”

“I’ll cave in any face that tries to show hostility against her, hold her in contempt, or try to put her on some trumped-up trial. None of those elves know the kind of Hell Lenna went through..”, Udoorin said grimly.

“That is rather nice of you to say, young man.”, Anglenna said from behind them. “It would seem my cousin chose her King well. The only person that wouldn’t judge me for my sins is a human that we wouldn’t have let step on Bari Na-ammen soil. Though I suspect the irony in that will be lost upon many.”

“We are who we are, Lady Lenna. But we can be who we choose to be.”, Udoorin said seriously. “You and my Queen are not so dissimilar. She was forced to be something. Yet she chose to be something else. You were forced to be something as well. Against all odds, you chose to be something else, too. Which makes both of you much greater than I could ever be; I wanted to be nothing, and likely would have been nothing, had it not been for the people around me. First Aager Fogstep and his unrelenting efforts to make something out of me, then my Lorna.. Her mere existence made me look at the world and see it about to burn and made me do something about that. And I would like to claim no small effort on your part, either. I am aware of how you have been secretly shadowing and protecting us without us even knowing. That is honor and loyalty in my book.”

Anglenna stared at the young man with an odd expression on her face.

Armathelius didn’t say anything, but a mirthful smile played around his lips.

“Wow, I haven’t been in this building for a while. The last time I came here, I got trashed by Mayor Arthandos Yuleman personally. It was the best trashing I had, and the only one I got a ‘Thank you, young man, you did a great job!’, at the end.”, Udoorin grinned.

“So you are the boy with the itchy sword hand that has been giving my boys and daughters trouble all these years. I would very much like to crush you!”, rumbled a bass voice and everyone stopped.

“Yes. That would be me, ma’am.”, they heard Sheriff Standorin from inside.

“Ma’am? Just which part of me did you think makes me a ma’am, boy?!”

“Merely being polite, Chieftain. We are all here for the same cause.”, the sheriff said.

 

Udoorin, Lorna, Anglenna, and Armathelius ran in to see Sheriff Standorin standing at ease, facing something..

..HUGE!

 

Chieftain Grulganiste Grimtooth made an average ogre look small. She had long, thickly braided strands of hair, untoned arms, torso, and legs, all impressively muscled, yet, no one could mistake her femininity and she was an evenly proportionate ‘woman’.. and she loomed over the sheriff with an awesome scowl on her face.

In a rather brutal way, Grulganiste was, indeed, a striking figure.

 

“No, boy. I am not here for your cause. I am here because my daughter, Inshala, asked me. I am here to make sure she stays safe. If it weren’t for her, I would have stayed in my hills, and watched you and yours butcher one another.”

“Lady Inshala has been kind to us. And we honor her for it. She fights for us because this is her forest and this is her home. We all fight for the people we care about, and we are all here to defend our homes, Chieftain. And your home is also in that forest.”, Standorin replied kindly. “We have had minimal quarrels with your sons and daughters and have left you alone.”

“You speak arrogantly, boy. You fail to recognize this by admitting to have ‘left us alone’. Oger’s Foot is ours. It was ours before this town. And it is not still there because you ‘left us alone’ and neither did you do us any favors by claiming that you did. I am quite disappointed in you and hope you do not look upon my daughter with the same narrow perspective. The woodsmen of Dimwoods are alive, today, only because old Cathber asked me not to avenge what they did to her. They thought they had the right to my daughter’s life. They beat her, stoned her, caged her, and whipped her..”

“Mother Ganiste.. please.. there is no need for this. It’s all in the past..”, Inshala said with a brittle face, as she stood next to her.

“No, my daughter. It is not. I have seen the scars on your back, and the scars in your heart. Closing your eyes to the arrogance of men is foolish. They think us brutish and call us savages. But then, we are brutish as we are savages, for we are ogres. Tell me, daughter of my father, what is their excuse?”, she growled at her, then to the sheriff, she said, “Much like them, who thought they had the right to my beloved daughter’s life, you think you have the right to ours when you say you ‘left us alone’.. I find the similarity of your stance with those ignorant, superstitious, and savage woodsmen and you, sheriff of this town, disturbing.”, she said balefully.

“Chieftain Grulganiste—”, Liaison Constance stepped in.

“—Whatever gave you the idea I was talking to you, demon? Do not cast your words at me and think you know better. I have made an agreement with my daughter, the Ritual Guardian, to come here in peace, and to help her fight the Orken. Said peace, however, does not include your kind. Should I see you or your kin anywhere near my ogres, I will rip your skinny arms and your pretty legs off, and I shall feel content about it!”

 

A moment of choking silence settled in the room as the air grew intense.

 

“I apologize, Chieftain.”, Standorin said finally, though very much offended. “For my choice of words, but not for my arrogance. I am the culmination of my life and the things I have seen, lived, and suffered and they are unlikely to change. We may not correct our faults, but our children might get that chance. For that to happen, they must live. I offer little more than that; a chance for both our sons and daughters to live in peace. This may happen, or it may not. That will be up to them. Should the Orken do what they intend to do, however, even that small chance of change will be gone because all of us will be dead. As for our young Inshala, she will be our treasure, always. You have seen what I did when I came to your hills. Should anyone mistreat her, they will get more of the same.”

 

Grulganiste glared down at the sheriff for a long moment, then gave a nightmarish grin.

 

“I shall then hold you to your word, Sheriff Standorin Shieldheart. Now.. I have seen the sad condition of the house my daughter lives in..”, she said with disdain.

“Mo.. mother, please.. My house is fine —was fine! My Aager and I shall rebuild it the way it was. We liked it the way it was..”, Inshala blubbered, her face burning bright red.

“Hush, girl. This is grown-ups talking.”, Grulganiste told her briskly. Then she turned to the sheriff. “Two of my ogres will be arriving from the forest. They will have white flag poles on their backs and some sacks with them. I will be unhappy if they were hindered. You will allow them here and to my daughter’s sad home.”

“What will they be bringing, if I may be so bold as to ask?”, Standorin inquired politely.

“A bit of this, and a bit of that..”, the giant ogress replied evasively.

 

Standorin cocked an eyebrow.

Chieftain Grulganiste Grimtooth sighed.

 

“They hold my daughter’s dowries, young man. Something that is truly none of your business!”, she fumed.

Standorin coughed.

“Mo..mother? I don’t have any dowry..”, Inshala said, her face burning even brighter.

“No. You don’t, because you are a foolish little girl, and seeing as how that sour old Cathber lived in that pathetic little chicken shed he called home, I didn’t think he would have thought about dowries. Hence, I have been preparing it since the day he first brought you to me.”, Grulganiste said grimly.

Standorin’s mouth curved at the corner.

“You are a very cunning woman, Chieftain Grulganiste. Even though everything you said about my arrogance was true, all you wanted was a free pass for your ogres to the town! All you had to do was ask, you know. I may have an itchy hand with my sword, but I am not totally unreasonable.”, he said with a poorly hidden grin.

Grulganiste scowled at him.

“I am the chieftain of Oger’s Foot, boy. I do not ask. I demand.. And the things I said were correct and had to be said. Are we at an agreement, sheriff of Serenity Home, or shall we break spoons?”

Standorin didn’t know what ‘breaking spoons’ meant, but it wasn’t hard to guess.

“Chieftain Grulganiste, I shall send two rangers to escort your ogres to Lady Inshala’s house. I will have to ask your ogres to stay in her garden until the end of the meeting, though. This meeting will call upon many people of many races and places. There is no need to risk frictions.”

“I wouldn’t worry too much about them, young man, for they will have their work cut out for them. And they better have it finished by the time this meeting is..”, she fumed balefully.

“One more thing, Chieftain. Should anything happen during the meeting, I would like you to take Lady Inshala and yourself to her home and stay there.”, Standorin informed.

“You want me to run and hide in a broken down chicken shed?”, Grulganiste blazed.

“Chieftain Grulganiste. This is my town. I am the host, and you are the guest here. And the safety of my town and my guests is of utmost importance to me. And I can not do my job if all the guests are running around and doing as they please. You are a guest here, but you are not the only guest.”, the sheriff said, then he looked down at Inshala and grinned. “And as a personal favor to Lady Inshala’s mate, you should make sure she stays there as well..”

 

Inshala’s face looked mortified because she’d had no intentions of running home nor staying there at all.

 

“That.. was not nice, my Aager.”, she fumed in her mind and heard a growling chuckle in return.

“You.. you are laughing at me!”, she said heartbroken.

“No, love. Only making sure you do your part as I have kindly asked of you.”, Aager said.

“Don’t I get any say in this?”, she pouted.

“No, love, you do not. You told me you wanted my respect and my trust. This is where you show me yours —by deed.”

“You think I do not show you respect and trust?”, she asked somewhat downcast.

“Love. I have the utmost respect and trust in you and never have I ever doubted yours.. But town security is not something that can be done alone. It involves hundreds of people; guards, rangers, the elves, the Arashkan militia, the dwarves, and quite a few others that must know where they must be and what they must do, act as a whole, and in cooperative coordination. I have absolute trust that you can take care of yourself, and me, but you do not know any of the security protocols. Young Udoorin does, yet he is still not part of it, because he too, is a guest today. This, you must see. This, you must understand. And this, you must accept.”, Aager replied briskly and succinctly.

 

“Come, girl. Let’s find ourselves a seat before all the good ones are gone!”, Grulganiste rumbled.

 

Aager thought he heard a lot of huffing and puffing and mumbling about putting live Kumse Beatles into someone’s pockets before her voice was gone.

✱ ✱ ✱

The meeting of possibly every leader of every race, people, city, community, circle, near and far, and every important figure, head, or chief was a crowded, confusing, chaotic, and a bit of a messy business. The central conference room had been opted to be used for the meeting out of convenience as it was the largest room available for the job. There were many lanterns hanging on the walls, but the main source of light was the great chandelier with scores of burning candles made brighter by the use of cleverly placed reflectors —a gnomic ingenuity, thanks to no other than Nimbletyne Tinkerdome, crafted and placed many years ago. The center of the room was left open to anyone who would want to get up and speak, and tables surrounded the room in one big circle, all covered with white table cloths. Many flower pots were placed on the tables at military intervals, along with large, flat bowls full of fruits, decanters full of cool cider, and brass cups. Food would also be served shortly after sundown and adjacent rooms were prepared and available for private forums and strategic planning. All in all, Aager, who was responsible for the security of the building, suspected if half the guests survived, it would be a win!

And he had good reasons to expect so..

The dwarves did not want to sit next to the high elves, for one. They might fight alongside them, and against a common enemy, sure, but they did not want to sit next to the pointy-eared, condescending, stuck-ups!

The high elves, in a similar line of thought, did not want to sit next to the dwarves, the gnomes, who were pointing at them and snickering, the woodsmen, the bandits, the shacksmen from the tar pits of Stinking Shacks just northwest of Ritual Forest, and certainly not next to the bloody pirates of Drashan, and decidedly not with the ogres.

The wood elves didn’t mind the dwarves, but they really seemed like they wanted to make a scene about the ogres in an —as dramatic a way— as possible and preferred to stay aloof of their high elf brothers and sisters.

The Drashan pirates outright refused to sit next, or anywhere near the Endless Watch representatives, who, surprisingly wanted to get as near to them as they could —with cutlasses and poniards —and possibly a galleon’s deck catapult of two!

The Koruxan knights all seemed quite distraught as they didn’t want anything to do with any of this bunch!

The two representatives of the Academy of Melshieve looked around a bit dazedly. Or rather, one of them looked around quite dazed and in a dreamy way —an extraordinarily tall young girl with sharp, pointy horns, dark as a starless night-sky skin with long, loose, pink hair wearing rather scandalous pink dress skirts. The other one, a midgety little gnomic girl with many pouches, a heavy wrench tucked in her belt, and with carelessly pulled up, scruffy reddish brown hair, who, for some reason, kept throwing covert but guilty glances at Nadine Graciousward. The neatly dressed little hobbit sitting beside her had a polite expression on his face though he seemed like he was watching everything and everyone from a third person’s view, rather than his own. Sitting next to them was a tall, lithe, elf girl who was very nearly pale as her long, thickly braided, glossy white hair, many swirling and spiraling, dark, marine-blue tattoos on her arms and shoulders, and with a frosty, no-nonsense expression on her face.

 

There were also many familiar faces among the representatives.

Sheriff Standorin himself had taken a seat and..

..Liaison Constance was sitting next to him, also with a polite and interested smile on her face and..

..Perigren Ostlanna Temez, the leader of the Escape, had settled right beside her. She did not smile. She looked pale and soulless, like someone who had something most precious and dear to her taken away and most unfairly. She just sat where she did, silently and still with one of her antler horns broken and missing. The only sign of life was her eyes, as dull as they were, seemed to look at every single person in the crowded room individually, and singularly..

Next to the leader of the Escape, was the senior temple guardian, Thomas Dimwood, with two of his younger guardians standing right behind him.

Lady Magella sat with a diffident expression on her face, next to her grandfather, Argail Smitefast, a mountain of a dwarf, her mother, Margaret Madish, one of her brothers, Harakoon Evilscowl, a dwarf true to his name, her aunt/uncle, Yor Whatoo, and one of her sisters, Lamideth Doncross, as the representatives of Scowling Hills.

Dridges Motherswolfie was also there, waving at the hobbit across with Britney and Dritmey, the Tosser twins, also grinning at him, and Nikelix CarverLady Magella’s sisters, along with another of her aunts, Marideth Brave, representing Elder Hills.

A coldly grimacing Lady Alisia Sivara Hooman..

..her eldest daughter, Moira Alisia Jean Hooman, who had an expression that said, ‘Why me?’, in an existential sense..

..and the sour captain, Fardashi, who was likely going to head-butt the person responsible for the sitting arrangements, because sitting next to the first lady of Durkahan was no other than the former queen of Bari Na-ammen;

Nadine Graciousward, herself, who was politely smiling, and Master Nimbletyne Tinkerdome, who was, for whatever reason, eyeing the little gnomic girl from the Academy of Melshieve.

The appearance of Chieftain Grulganiste Grimtooth in the room did cause a bit of a ruckus as pretty much everyone, except for the sheriff, and interestingly, the same hobbit, went for their weapons. The fact that the relatively tiny girl, Inshala had reached as high as she could and was holding her hand, had made the scene all the more incomprehensible.

A low cough and a ‘settle down’, warning from the sheriff hadn’t put them at ease, but certainly put them to shame and.. well.. ‘settled them down!’

It was at that moment when the queen of the high elves, Alor’Nadien ne Feymist, walked in with her very new husband and king, Udoorin Shieldheart, flanked by Lady Anglenna Brightleaf, Lord Armathelius Riverblade, Aager Fogstep, and appearing next to him like magic, Bremorel Songsteel..

Queen Alor’Nadien ne was simply radiant and every bit as queenly as she was promised. A promise, given not only by her beauty but by her calm, serene, commanding, but not quite demanding, aura.

King Udoorin, on the other hand, just scowled.. silently. A protracted tactic he had decided to adopt for the whole of the meeting and for as long as he could. After that, he was of the opinion; LET THE AXES TALK!

 

Bremorel gave a cursory glance into the room, picked out the former Agent Largo, dressed quite elegantly as some lord, and mingling amongst the other lords and emissaries. It took a while for Aager to spot his sister, Lilly Venom, though.

 

“What the..”, he silently exclaimed.

 

She was up on the vast, candle-lit chandelier, holding on to its thick chain with her slender legs snaked around it, staring at everyone, upside down! And because of all the bright candles and the reflectors, she was literally cast in total shadows in the center of the bloody thing!

“Damn..”, Aager thought. It must be burning hot up there. The creepiest part was, the chandelier never budged, nor swung..

And he would never have seen her, had he not known she was in this room somewhere.

He somewhat grudgingly admitted, her sister, Lilly Venom was much better than he was when it came to hiding and ambush, which, in a way, made sense; Lilly was an assassin, through and through and he was not.

But, really, girl?

The meeting was likely to last past midnight and she would be hanging, upside down, in the middle of scores of candles, for at least ten hours and possibly until the next dawn.

 

Queen Alor’Nadien ne and King Udoorin went over to Nadine Graciousward and the half-elf girl gracefully hugged her mother.

“I see you have finally come to terms with your destiny, my daughter; lived, suffered, and overcome. You, my darling, were the only accomplishment your father and I managed to do right, even if we messed up so horribly at the end. And you, young man, have stood by her at her best, and at her worst, and are still here. You must truly love her. Do be never as I and my husband were. That would be a shame.”, Nadine said and hugged the bearish man who was flushing furiously.

“Hey, you.”, said Moira from two seats over.

“Hey, you.”, grinned Udoorin. “I heard there was a family squabble back at Durkahan. I am happy you set things right and are here again.”

“Not without quite a bit of help from Master Aager and my sister Inshala.”, Moira grinned back.

“That’s what friends are for.”, replied the young man. “Lady Alisia, it has been a great pleasure and delight to have met you and your daughter, here. May I introduce the Queen of Aranië, Alor’Nadien ne Feymist.. Alor’Nadine ne. This is Lady Moira’s mother and the First Lady of Durkahan, Lady Alisia Sivara Hooman, and the wife to late Delia Karakash Hooman.”

Alor’Nadine ne reverenced gracefully at her and smiled.

“I have heard so many beautiful things about you, my lady. Your daughter, Lady Moira always shined bright as the sun and lit our way through dark and dread by her very presence. Just for that, I shall cherish you and her for the rest of my life.”

“Thank you, dear. You are as kind and graceful as my daughter described.”, Lady Alisia inevitably smiled back.

Lorna beamed at her.

“I see you have met my mother.”, she said with a flushed face.

“Yes. I have.”, Lady Alisia said with a slightly grim expression.

“I know this meeting will last quite a bit. But when it is over and before you leave, I would be much honored if you and Lady Moira would be kind enough to visit us in our camp, just outside the town —as a personal favor?”, Lorna asked.

Lady Alisia looked at the beautiful young girl for a moment, as if seeking something on her face. Then she smiled.

“Of course, dear. We would be delighted to visit you and yours. I dread these meetings, to be honest. I would rather decisions be made and in haste, hence we get to the fighting part and cleanse our lands of this Orken infestation.”

Udoorin grinned.

“Spoken like a true Durkahan lady.”

 

Bremorel didn’t go directly to stand behind Udoorin but steered towards her husband, Thomas. She motions him over and took him, by the hand, to where the two representatives of the Academy of Melshieve were sitting. She nodded at the very tall, very dark girl in pinks, and at the scruffy-looking gnomic girl then came to stand before the hobbit!

“Master Brom Bumblebrim!”, she smiled at him.

The bushy-haired hobbit, Brom Bumblebrim, stared up at the pretty girl, and at the confused-looking man, she was holding with a death grip.

“Uhhmm.. Hello? Do I know you, my lady? Ranger, by the looks of it.. And a corporal at least, or possibly a lieutenant.”, the hobbit said.

“Very astute, Master Hobbit. How did you guess.”, she asked, grinning at him.

“You have the air of accomplishment and confidence that only well-earned achievements can give, my lady.”, the hobbit, Brom, said politely.

“I am impressed more now than I was impressed before, Master Brom.”, Bremorel said, then turned to her husband. “Thomas, I would like you to meet the esteemed Master Brom Bumblebrim.”

“Pleased to meet you, Master Hobbit.”, Thomas said politely, though still confused.

“Thomas, this is the first man I have ever kissed!”, the ranger lieutenant said, her grin even wider.

“Come again?”, asked the gnomic girl, ogling at the tall ranger-girl, then at the hobbit.

“I.. see..”, Thomas said carefully.

The hobbit coughed.

“I am sorry, young lady, and I know this makes me sound like an arse but, have we met before?”, he asked with a flushed face.

 

The very tall, very dark girl in pinks was eyeing the ranger-girl and the hobbit with a neutral expression..

..while the pale elf girl with the glossy white, braided hair was staring at the hobbit too, though with bemused eyes and pursed lips.

 

“Morel.”, said Bremorel. “Daughter of Seleina Sunstrider and Aramsis Darkmaine..”

 

Nothing but stumbling out of his chair could have described the hobbit’s reaction!

He got back on his feet and stared up at the pretty girl..

..and his eyes blurred.

 

“Seleina Sunstrider and Aramsis Darkmaine.. Ow. My. Good. Heavens! My dear, dear girl.”, he said quietly, hopped on the table, and hugged Bremorel.

“I am so, so sorry for what happened to your parents. It broke me when I heard about them. For unrelated reasons, I had met with some of the dwarves at Scowling Hills, and Lady Magella, who is sitting right over there, claimed she knew you and told me about it. I was devastated..”, he said with an equally hushed tone. “They were good people. And look at you, now. Wow, you have grown and become the beautiful young woman I knew you would be, even back then.”

“You are kind to say so, Master Brom.”, Bremorel replied, also hugging the hobbit. “You were a great inspiration for me and kind enough to suffer a little girl’s adventurous games with dolls.”

“It was the best game I played, my dear Morel.”, smiled Brom as he drew back.

“And possibly the only game where you played the princess in distress?”, Bremorel smiled at him.

“I didn’t mind being the princess for you, my darling. Being saved by your fearsome knight was as entertaining as it was educational for me.”, the hobbit replied, wiping his eyes.

“Will you be staying? I would love to have you and your friends over for dinner.”, she offered.

“Our schedule is out of my hands, my dear girl. And this meeting will likely be quite binding. But I shall do my best. You are the only one I dearly enjoyed having met, during my long travels with Master Cathber, all those years ago.”

 

Several tables over, Inshala’s ears prickled at that..

 

“And where shall we be seated, Master Aager?”, Lorna asked in a low whisper to the lean man in dark leathers.

“Technically, you and Udoorin, here, are the only king and queen present. Everyone else is either lords and ladies or various representatives. As long as you do not sit next to the Drashan pirates, because that would totally give the wrong message to the rest of the whole of the kingdom, and not next to the lord representative of Endless Watch, which will very much alienate the bloody Drashan pirates, you are free to sit wherever you want. We can seat you next to your mother, Nadine Graciousward if you like?”, Aager offered.

“As much as I would want that, no. Sitting next to her will tell everyone I am under her shadow. As sad as it may be, she no longer holds any official capacity, hence, she represents only herself, and that inevitable shall be interpreted as self-interest.”, she replied as she mused for a very brief moment as more representatives started filing in.

 

“There.”, she said.

 

And with Udoorin by her side, she calmly walked over to the singular ‘person’, sitting alone and with the exception of the disproportionately tiny girl seated next to her, three seats in either direction were empty.

Inshala waved at them happily and then patted the seat next to her and motioned her hubby over with a grin filled with hidden trepidation—

 

Her Aager didn’t know about the house yet!

 

—and with her king, the queen of the high elves and  Aranië started in that direction and sat right next to Chieftain Grulganiste Grimtooth!

 

And just then the mayor of Serenity Home, Arthandos Yuleman entered..

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, Lords and Ladies, emissaries and representatives, welcome to our humble town of Serenity Home.”, the old, raspy voice of the mayor was heard as everyone settled down.

He looked around with worn, tired eyes and smiled.

“Shall we begin?”



 

book 05 books dungeons and dragons karakter analizi komedi role play serenity home tarihçe the plot thickens tundra walkers

A Bard’s Tale XIV
“a Bit of a Bite” III

A Bard’s Tale XIV
“a Bit of a Bite” III

Timeline:

Bu hikaye, Brom Bumblebrim adındaki, Bowling Hill’de yaşayan kendi ırkının diğer bütün üyeleri gibi ‘normal’ ve hayatını olabildiğince keyifli ve tembel geçiren bir hobbit’in, beklenmedik bir şekilde ne idüğü belirsiz bir şey tarafından ısırılmasıyla başlar.

Genç hobbit’i her ne ısırdı ise, o günden sonra Brom bir türlü yerinde duramaz ve en sonunda, gecenin alakasız bir yarısında, eski arkadaşı ve aile dostu olan Gamwise Samgee’ye evini ve gülleri emanet ettiğine dair bir not bırakarak yollara koyulur. Uzun bir gece boyunca nereye gittiğini bilmeksizin, öylece, istikametsiz bir şekilde yürür durur..

 

Bu hikaye,
A Bard’s Tale XIV, “a Bit of a Bite” II ‘nin
devamıdır..

 

 

04.05.7589 B.Y.S (-18 Yıl)
Mayıs başı.
Tinker Hills..

 

Sen iyi misin, evlat? Biraz hırpalanmış gibi bir halin var..”, der yaşlı gnome han sahibi Brom’a.

“Biraz hırpalanmış bir haldeyim zaten.”, diye cevap verir Brom acıklı bir sesle ve yaşlı gnome hancının getirdiği sıcak, etli çorba kabını sımsıkı tutmuş ve sesli höpürtülerle yutkunurken.

 

Brom Bumblebrim, Croaking Mire bataklığından kurtulduktan sonra, korku ve panik içerisinde bataklığın hemen kuzeyindeki ormanlığa kaçmış ve günlerce bir o yana, bir bu yana koşuşturmuş, yorulup takati bittiğinde ise bulduğu bir ağaç kovuğu, devrilmiş, içi boş bir ağaç kütüğü yada çalıların yoğun olduğu yerlere sürünerek girmiş ve pestili çıkmış bir şekilde uyumuştu —uyuyabildiği gecelerde..

Bataklığın buz gibi soğuk, çamurlu, bulanık sularında karşılaştığı ‘kız’ ve akabinde konuştuğu ‘Muhafız’dan sonra zavallı hobbit’in bütün dengeleri altüst olmuş gibidir. Bu ‘küçük’ gibi görünen olay, Brom’a kati olarak bir şeyi öğretir;

Yaşadığı dünyada pek az şey göründüğü gibidir ve her an, her yerden beklenmedik bir şeyler çıkıp onu öldürebilir..

Zavallı hobbit, bir anda panik ataklarla tikleyip ve titreyerek ormanda kendisini kaybeder.

Gündüzleri sessizce sinerek ve evinden ayrıldığı günden beri yanında taşımasına rağmen hiç kullanmadığı, babasının eski kılıcı ve amcasının antika denebilecek gürzünü sırt çantasında çıkartır ve hayatında ilk defa elinde silahlarıyla dolaşır.

Brom, Croaking Mire bataklığından kurtulmasından sonraki günlerde tam olarak ne yaptığını, yada o günleri nasıl geçirdiğini asla tam olarak hatırlayamaz. Yıllar sonra bile, o günleri hatırlamak için de herhangi bir çaba göstermez. O günlere dair isteksizce hatırladığı az şey, her mantarın yenilemeyeceği ve nasıl pişirirse pişirilsin, sıçanların tatlarının iğrenç olduğudur!

 

“Nereden geliyorsun böyle, delikanlı? Buralara hobbit’ler pek uğramaz.”, diye sorar yaşlı hancı.

“Ben uğradığımdan dolayı pek mutluyum, hancı efendi. İnanın bu şey, aylardır yediğim en güzel yemek.”, diye etli çorbayı şapırdatarak kasesinden içmeye devam eder Brom.

Hancı ‘fırk’lar.

“Evlat. Benim yemeklerimi beğendiysen, ya başına çok kötü bir şeyler gelmiş olmalı, yada gerçekten hayatından bıkmış olmalısın.”, diye gülerek cevap verir yaşlı gnome.

“Her ikisi de, hancı efendi.. Her ikisi de.”, diye acıklı bir sesle söylenir Brom.

“İstersen birkaç gün kalabilirsin. Bakla, bezelye, enginar ve kabak için hasat zamanı. Bu yüzden gündüzleri hanım boş oluyor. Çiftçiler ancak akşam saatleri uğruyorlar. Bakladan ne kadar nefret ettiğimi bilemezsin ve burada gururla o şeyden yetiştiren ahmaklar var.”, der gnome hancı yüzünü buruşturarak.

“Evet, bakla yemesi de, pişirmesi de zor bir sebze. Aç kalmakla bakla arasında bir tercih yapmak zorunda kalmak istemem doğrusu.”, diye cevap verir Brom ve kendisi de yüzünü buruşturur.

Hancı buna kahkahayla güler.

“Ne işle uğraşırsın, delikanlı? Konuşmalarına bakılırsa kitap okumuşluğun var gibi.”, diye sorar hancı.

“Brom. Adım Brom Bumblebrim, efendim ve ben bir ozanım.”, der genç hobbit ve bir anda, aylardır Lir’ine dokunmamış olduğuna ayılır.

“Bir ozan!”, diye ünler yaşlı gnome. “Bu harika. Bak ne diyeceğim. Neden sen burada birkaç gün kalmıyorsun? Akşam olduğunda bu hanı şenlendirirsen, yemek ve yatak benden. Canın sıkıldığı zaman tekrar kendine eziyet etmeye geri dönersin.”

“Kabul!”, der Brom ve içinden, olur olmaz zamanlarda onu ısıran şeye lanet eder ve birazcık olsun yakasından düşmesini diler.

“Anlaştık o zaman, Efendi Brom. Tanıştığıma memnun oldum. Bende Kimbletyne.. Kimbletyne Tinkerdome. Buralarda herkes bana Kimble amca der.”

“Ama ben size Efendi Kimbletyne, diye hitap edeceğim.”, der Brom ve sırıtır.

Yaşlı gnome, Kimbletyne Tinkerdome, genç hobbit’e takdir eden bir ifadeyle bakar.

“Şimdi. Sizden üç şey rica edeceğim. Öncelikle, bu akşamki gösterime başlamadan önce bütün müşterilerinizi kaçırtmamı istemiyorsanız, sıcak bir banyo, su ısınırken, bu harika yemeğinizden bir kase daha, ve uyuyabileceğim sessiz bir de oda. Biraz dinlendikten sonra Lir’imi bir gözden geçirmem ve performansım için hazırlanmam lazım.”

“Tabii, tabii, genç efendi. Hemen bir kase daha getiriyorum ama korkarım sizin kalibrenizdeki bir şahsiyeti tatmin edecek taş küvetimiz yok. Sadece yıkanma fıçılarımız var. Yukarıdaki odalardan istediğinizi alabilirsiniz.”, der hancı mutlu bir şekilde.

“Fıçı olur, Efendi Kimbletyne.”, der Brom anında. ‘Fıçı da olur, küçük kum kovası da.. Gökler adına, bardak bile olur!”, diye geçirir içinden.

. . .

Brom odalardan hiç birini istemez. Onun yerine, uyurken de, akşamları söyleyeceği şarkılar için hazırlanırken de rahatsız edilmeyeceği tek yeri tercih eder; tavan arasını!

Hancı Kimbletyne’in onun için hazırladığı, içi sıcak suyla dolu fıçı, Brom’un düşündüğü gibi gnome boyunda bir fıçı değildir. Daha doğrusu boy olarak gnome’lara uygundur —ki bu da Brom’un işine gelir, eni ise.. aynı anda en az beş cüceyi içine alabilecek genişliktedir. Belli ki gnome’lar suda oynamayı seven bir ırktır ve bu bakımdan kuzenleri olan dwarf’lardan ciddi bir şekilde ayrılırlar.

“Evladım, sen yıkanırken ben de bunları yıkayıp getireyim.”, der yaşlı, tiz bir ses ve Brom neredeyse ‘bi kaşık suda boğulur’!

Başını sudan çıkardığında, yaşlı bir gnome teyzenin, elbiselerini almış, klinik bir ifadeyle onları incelediğini görür.

“Uhhmm..”, diye afallar Brom.

“Seni ürküttüm mü? Kusuruma bakma, evladım.”, der yaşlı kadın tiz sesiyle.

“Sorun değil, teyzeciğim.”, diye cevap verir Brom nazikçe.

“Sen nerelerde dolaştın, evladım. Çamurda mı yattın? Bu elbiselerin hali ne? Ben hobbit’leri daha temiz sanırdım.”

“Özür dilerim teyzeciğim çamurda yatmadım ama çamura düştüm..”, diye cevap verir Brom.

“Nereye gittiğine dikkat et evladım. Çamur düşmek için iyi bir yer değil!”, der yaşlı gnome teyze.

“Haklısınız teyzeciğim. Size zahmet olmasın, ben de yıkardım.”, diye utanarak cevap verir genç hobbit.

“Eyvahlar olsun!”, diye ünler teyze. “Hanımıza bir ozan gelecek ve elbiselerini kendisi yıkayacak.. Duyulmuş şey değil!”, diye dizlerini döver gibi söylenir ve elbiseleri aldığı gibi gider.

 

Brom teyzenin bu tepkisine hayret eder. Evet, bir ozan olarak Bowling Hills’de de saygı görmüşlüğü olmuştur ama bunun daha çok rahmetli anne ve babasının tanınmış ve hürmet edilen şahıslar olmalarından kaynaklandığını düşünmüştür daha çok. Teyzeden —ve geri dönüp baktığında da— hancının kendisinden gördüğü ‘hürmete’ bakılırsa, ozanların dünyadaki yeri oldukça saygındır. Biraz izcilerin, gittikleri her yerde gördükleri saygı gibi.. Sadece biraz daha ‘kültür’ içerikli.

Brom o gece iyi bir performans göstermek için elinden geleni yapmaya karar verir.

Genç ozan, sıcak suyla dolu fıçının içinde, fıçının hemen yanına bırakılmış iri sabun kalıbı ve sert keçe ile neredeyse bir saat oyalanır. İşi bitip sudan çıktığında, su soğumuş ve rengi de kahverenginin pek de hoş olmayan bir tonuna bürünmüştür.

Brom hızlıca kendisini havluya sararken utanç içerisinde karamış suya bakar ve huysuzca söylenir.

“Bu hep senin suçun!”

 

. . .

 

Brom, sessiz bir beklentiyle kendisini süzen, bir han dolusu bakla çiftçisine bakar ve tırsar! Evet, Bowling Hills’de daha önce bir iki defa gnome görmüşlüğü olmuştur ama şu anda en az otuz, kırk tane, ellerinde dolu maşrapalarla bekleyen huysuz görünümlü gnome ona bakmaktadır.

‘Hay shit!’, diye geçirir içinden. ‘Beklenti olayını biraz abartmış gibisiniz, sanki.’

 

Brom yıkandıktan sonra odasına, (tavan arasına) çekilmiş ve yaşlı hancının büyük bir nezaket göstererek süpürdüğü, havalandırdığı ve çarşaf, yorgan ve battaniyesiyle serdiği koca yer yatağına yüzü koyun kapaklanmış ve akşama kadar uyumuştu.

Genç hobbit’i, tavan arasına çıkan merdivenin başında durmuş, elinde derin çukur tabak dolusu yemek ve soğuk elma şırasıyla ‘psst’layarak küçük bir gnome uyandırmıştı.

Brom uyandıktan sonra, yatağının yanına bırakılmış yıkama kabında ellerini ve yüzünü yıkamış, sonra da küçük gnomu’un getirdiği yemek ve şıraya dalmıştı. Yemeğin tamamını temizledikten sonra, hiç vakit kaybetmeden aylardır sırt çantasında duran Lir’ini çıkarmış, zavallı antikayı utanarak bir güzel temizlemiş sonrada tellerini akort etmeye başlamıştı.

Genç ozan Lir’iyle uğraşırken, küçük gnome onu baştan sona kadar sessiz bir ilgiyle seyretmiş, sonra kalkıp yanına oturmuş ve hobbit’i daha yakından incelemeye başlamıştı.

Küçük gnome gerçekte şirin bir çocuktur ancak bu şekilde Brom’un neredeyse burnunun içine kadar girmesi, genç ozanı biraz irkitir ama yine de çocuğa sesini çıkarmaz.

Brom, Lir’in akorlarını son bir defa daha kontrol eder, sonra o gece söylemeyi planladığı şarkılarını seri bir şekilde zihninden geçirir ve peşinde küçük gnome ile aşağı iner..

 

..’Hay shit!’, diye geçirir içinden Brom. ‘Beklenti olayını biraz abartmış gibisiniz, sanki.. Kimbletyne amca naaptın sen? Bütün Tinker Hills’i mi davet ettin buraya?’

 

“Merhabalar..”, diye açılışını yapar Brom.

“…”

“Bu güzel bahar akşamında nasılız?”

“…”

“Uhhmm.. Keyifler yerindedir umarım?”

“…”

“Peeeki.. Sanırım şarkılarım için sabırsızlanıyorsunuz..”

“…”

“Öhöm! O zaman sizleri daha fazla bekletmeyelim..”

Brom iyice tırsmış bir şekilde hanı dolduran gnome’lara bakar ve bir anda terlemeye başlar. Temkinli bir şekilde tekrar boğazını temizler, Lir’ini alır ve bir yandan çalar, bir yandan da söyler..

 

Ozanların canı yanmaz
Hiçbir şey hissetmiyorum, ne zaman öğreneceğim
Acıyı sindirmeyi

Parti olduğunda çağırdıkları benim
Çağırmak için kapıma dayanırlar, tokmağını kırıncaya kadar döverler
Sevgiyi hissediyorum, sevgiyi hissediyorum

Bir, ki, üç, çak
Bir, ki, üç, çak
Bir, ki, üç, çak

Sızıncaya kadar çalalım, oynayalım

Avizeden sallanacağım, avizeden
Sanki yarın yokmuş gibi çalacağım
Sanki hiç yokmuşçasına bir kuş gibi gece boyunca öteceğim, dökülen göz yaşlarım kururken hissedin
Avizeden sallanacağım, avizeden

Canımı dişime taktım, hayata tutunuyorum
Gecelerimi doldurun sabaha kadar çünkü bu gece zor tutunuyorum
Yardım edin…

Brom bu şarkısını en son Bowling Hills’de, Greener Kasabasındaki handa söylemişti ve o zamanki seyircileri çıldırmış bir şekilde “Tekrar! Tekrar!”, diye ıslık eşliğinde bağırmışlardı.

Şu anki tepki ise..

 

“…”

“…”

Evlat, senin ciddi sorunların var..

“…”

 

Brom fena halde bozulmuş olmasına rağmen bunu gizlemeyi başarır. Brom kendi duygularını gizlemeyi iyi bilen bir hobbit’dir..

Lir’ini tekrar kaldırır, “Evet.. o küçük performansımızla ısındığımıza göre artık başlayabiliriz..”, der ve tam kendi kasabasında pek sevilen bir başka şarkıya geçecekken karşısında hobbit’ler gibi hayatlarını tembelce bir mutluluk içerisinde geçiren bir kalabalık değil, bir han dolusu bakla çiftçisi olduğuna ayılır ve sebebini tam olarak kestiremese de, içsel bir içgüdü ile taktik değiştir..

 

Seni bana getirsin diye bir şarkı yazdım ki
Beni sana götürsün diye bir şarkı yazdım ki
Bunu bu akşam saatinde çiçeklerine söyledim ki
Gülümse de yanına geleyim..

Olduğun yerde canın sıkılmasın ki
Diye, söyledim sana bu şarkıyı ki
Ben hala buradayım ve seni düşünüyorum ki
Üzülme de yanına geleyim..

Benim adımı sen koydun ki
Çağrıldığım da gelebileyim ki
Mutlu olasın diye bu şarkıyı sana yazdım ki
Hadi beni çağır da yanına geleyim—

Brom’un daha önce hiçbir seyirciye sergilemediği, rahmetli annesi dışında da kimseye söylemediği bu şarkı bir tepki alır. Bu tepki istediği yada beklediği tepki değildir, ama yine de bir tepkidir işte..

Tavan arasındaki odasından indiğinden beri sessizce bekleyen gnome’lar, benzer bir sessizlik içerisinde ellerindeki maşrapaları kaldırırlar ve iri yudumlarla kafalarına dikerler!

Yaşlı Hancı Kimbletyne Tinkerdome, elbiselerini yıkamak için gelen yaşlı teyze ve küçük gnome çocuk, ellerinde dolu maşrapalı tepsilerle masaları gezerler ve boşları dolularla değiştirirler! 

‘Nasıl yaa?!’, diye hayretle gnome’ları seyreder Brom.

Brom bunu takip eden iki saat boyunca, kötü kafiyeli ama yazarken içten duygularla yazdığı bütün şarkıları sırasıyla söyler ve o şarkılarını söylerken yeni maşrapalar, yemekler, meyveler ve tatlılar gelir, boşlar gider.

Boğazı kurumuş bir şekilde ayağa kalktığında bütün gnome’lar da ayağa kalkar, son maşrapalarını ona doğru kaldırırlar, sonra onları da kafalarına dikerler..

..ve sessizce handan ayrılırlar!

. . .

Günaydın, Efendi Brom”, diye yüzünde mutlu bir ifadeyle karşılar Brom’u yaşlı gnome hancı. “Dün akşamki performansınız harikaydı. Mesleğinizin hakkını verdiniz..”

“Teşekkür ederim, Efendi Kimbletyne.”, diye nazikçe cevap verir genç ozan ve boş handa, pencerenin yanındaki bir masaya ilişir.

Yaşlı Kimbletyne Tinkerdome, elindeki uzun saplı süpürgesiyle ortalığı süpürürken, bir yandan da sırıtarak genç ozanı süzmektedir.

Genç Brom ise dışarıdaki bakla ve kabak tarlalarını, ve aklı hala karışmış bir şekilde tarlalarda çalışan çiftçi gnome’ları seyreder.

Brom dışarıyı seyrederken, “Buyur, evladım. Dün geceden sonra acıkmışsındır.”, diye tiz, titrek bir ses duyar hemen yanından ve genç ozan yaşlı gnome teyzenin, elinde bir tepsi içerisinde beyaz peynir, kaşar, çam balı, kabak reçeli, tavada sucuklu yumurta, fırından yeni çıkmış bir somun taze ekmek ve kremalı çilek turtasıyla durduğunu görür. Brom ister istemez yine irkilir. Teyze yaşına rağmen yine dibine kadar sessizce sokulmuştur!

“Uhhmm..”, diye biraz afallar, biraz da utanır. “Zahmet etmeseydiniz, teyzeciğim.”

“Zahmet, kıymetin göstergesidir, evladım.”, diye dişlek bir sırıtışla cevap verir yaşlı gnome teyze. “Dün gece söylediğin, annenle ilgili şarkını, bu gece de söyleyecek misin?”

“Uhhhmm.. İsterseniz, tabii ki söylerim.”, der Brom ama genç ozanın içine bir kurt düşer. Yani.. Evet, o şarkı içten yazılmış bir şarkıdır ama hiçbir şekilde ‘müşteri’ amaçlı yazılmamıştır ve kötü kafiyeler ve zorlama anlamlarla doludur. Brom, şarkının ‘eğlenceli’ ve ‘mutlu’ temposuna rağmen herhangi bir seyirciyi coşturabileceğini düşünemez. Zaten şarkının mutlu temposu da gerçekte Brom’un, acısını örtbas etmek ve kendi kendisiyle alay etmesi amacıyla düşünülmüştür.

“Çok isterim, evladım. Çok hoşumuza gitti.”, diye gözleri dolmuş bir şekilde cevap verir yaşlı teyze, sonra yavaşça, kırış kırış olmuş, titrek elleriyle genç hobbit’i yanaklarından tutar, kısa bir anlığına gözlerinin içine bakar, eğilir ve Brom’u başından öper, sonra da dönüp tekrar muftağına gider.

Brom tamamen tırsmış ve kafası karışmış bir şekilde yaşlı teyzenin gidişini seyreder.

“Nooldu şimdi yaa?”, diye kendi kendisine sorar afallamış bir şekilde.

Yaşlı Hancı Kimbletyne, elinde bir fincan, bir de kupa dolusu sıcak çayla gelir. Sırıtarak fincanı Brom’un önüne koyar, kupadan da kendi çayını hüpletir.

“Ten Ton Wressa’nın kusuruna bakmayın, Efendi Brom. Bazen böyle içlenebiliyor.”

“Bakmam, efendim.”, der Brom ve bir tepsi dolusu kahvaltılığa hiç utanmadan dalar. Bir sonraki yirmi dakika boyunca muhteşem köy peynirlerini, kaşarları, balı, reçeli, sıcak ekmeği sucuklu yumurtaya bandıra bandıra yer ve fincanı keyifle yudumlar. Tepsiyi boşattığında, evinden ayrıldığından beri ilk defa kendisini bir hobbit gibi hisseder.

Yaşlı hancı kalkar, bir tepsiyle geri gelir, boş tabakları toplar, turtayı Brom’un önüne bırakır ve gider. Tekrar döndüğünde, yüzünde mutlu bir ifade, elinde tazelenmiş fincan vardır.

“Bu.. hayret verici..”, der hancı gnome sırıtarak. “En son ne zaman Wressa’nın yemeklerinin bu kadar seri bir şekilde silinip süpürüldüğünü hatırlamıyorum bile!”

“Rahat bırak çocuğu, Kimbletyne. Beni oraya getirtme!”, diye yaşlı gnome teyzenin tiz sesi duyulur mutfaktan.

Kimbletyne tekrar sırıtır.

“Uhhmm.. Teyze..?”, diye temkinli bir şekilde sorar Brom.

“..Kendisi ablam olur ve bu hanın da, gördüğün bu toprakların da gerçek sahibi o dur.”, der yaşlı gnome mutlu bir ifadeyle.

“Teyze beni ilginç bir şekilde sevmişe benziyor, Efendi Kimbletyne. Genelde insanlar küçük ırklara biraz kuşkuyla bakarlar.”

“Sorunun cevabı, kendi içerisinde saklı, Ozan Efendi.”, der Kimbletyne ve daha da sırıtır.

“Uhhmm.. Nasıl yani?”, diye sorar Brom, aklı iyice karışmış bir şekilde.

Yaşlı Kimbletyne Tinkerdome içten bir kahkaha atar.

“..Biz ‘insan’ değiliz..”

Brom kendi salaklığına ayılır ve istemsizce ‘fırk’lar.

Çayından bir yudum daha alır ve işte o anda, daha önce gördüğü, ama uyanamadığı bazı küçük şeylere daha ayılır genç Brom ve bunu tetikleyen şey de yudumladığı çay fincanının ta kendisidir.

Fincanın üzerinde, ne olduklarının anlaşılması zor, ancak imtina ile hazırlanmış ve muhtemelen bir zamanlar çok ince, zarif, altın ve pembe renkleri kullanılarak çizilmiş çiçek desenlerinin olduğu bir fincandır ve bunların kümülatif olarak bir araya gelmesi ona bir şeyi açıkça söyleyiverir;

 

Fincan eskidir..

Fincan çok eskidir.

Yüzlerce yıl, eskidir!..

 

..ve her ne kadar kendisi, göreceli bir şekilde saygın bir ozan olsa da, olağan bir sabah kahvaltısında böylesi paha biçilemez bir antikayı hakketmediğini de kati olarak bilir.

Dahası, fincan onun önüne spesifik bir amaç için konulmuştur. Hobbit kültürlerinde fincanların ‘yadigar’ anlamda önemini bilecek kadar onları tanıyan, yada bu konuda bilgisi olan birisi tarafından..

Brom, kendisini sessizce izleyen yaşlı gnome hancıyı, varlığını hissettirmeden yanına sokulan teyzeyi ve önceki akşam sergilediği performansı ürkütücü bir sessizlik içerisinde seyreden diğer gnome’ları düşünür ve dış dünyaya dair bildiği kıt tarih kırıntılarını bir araya gelir..

“Haklıydın, Wressa..”, der yaşlı gnome sırıtarak. “Sanırım çözdü.”

Yüzünde mutlu bir ifadeyle, yine Brom’un yanında peyda oluverir yaşlı teyze.

“İlk gördüğümde akıllı olduğunu biliyordum. Akıllı.. ve farklı..”, der Wressa teyze tiz, titrek sesiyle.

“Siz.. sizler Tinker gnome’ları değilsiniz..”, diye ağzından kaçırıverir Brom. “Sizler Silent Hills gnome’larısınız.. Sizler Sessiz Gnome’lardansınız!”

Yaşlı teyze, elinin bir hareketiyle kardeşini oturduğu tabureden kovalar ve onun yerine oturur. Hancı Kimbletyne yan masadan kendisi için bir tabure kapar ve ablasının yanına çömer.

“Evet, evladım. Bizler Sessiz Gnome’larız.”

“Ama.. bu nasıl olabilir ki? Rivayetlere göre Silent Hills’e o garip sis çöktükten sonra bütün Sessiz Gnome’larını da oraya hapsettiği, sonrasında da hepsinin neslinin tükendiği yönünde.”, diye hayretle konuşur Brom.

 

“Sevgili annem, Seressa Ton Wraiven..”, diye başlar yaşlı teyze. “Annesinden —benim anneannemden— aldığı bazı talimatlar çerçevesinde, böyle bir şeyin başımıza gelebileceğine dair uyarılarda bulunmuştu ve bizler için gizli kaçış yolları hazırlattı. Buna rağmen çoğumuz yine de o mebus sisin içinde takılıp kaldı.. Ama bazılarımız kaçmayı başardı ve güneye, Endless Watch ve oradan da Standalone Fortress’i geçip büyük Sulking Woods ormanlarına yerleşmek için yola çıktık.

Burada olanlar, o gruptan gizlice ayrılanlar, onların çocukları ve torunlarıdır.. Bizler buraya yerleştik çünkü plan buydu. Herkes, hepimizin güneye kaçtığını sanması gerekiyordu ve öyle de sandılar. O mel’un sisi başımıza indiren düşman, onların peşine Orken denen, kıyım için özel yetiştirilmiş yaratıklarını gönderdi ve en sonunda da onları yolda yakaladılar ve hepsini öldürdüler. Bu, o kaçanların bilinçli olarak yaptığı büyük bir fedakarlıktı ama Silent Hills neslinin devamı için yine de bunu yaptılar. Düşman onları öldürdükten sonra, Silent Hills’in neslini kuruttuğunu düşündü ve bu da, sebepleri olmasa da, sonuçları olarak rivayet halinde bütün krallığa yayıldı.

Bizler.. Bu köyde gördüklerin, Silent Hills’den kalma son halkız.”

 

Brom duydukları karşısında daha da hayrete düşer.

“Ama.. ben bile sizi bulabildiysem, başkaları da sizi bulabilir!”, diye ünler.

“Aaaa.. İşte bu yüzden sana ‘farklısın’, dedim. Çünkü bu köy, özel koruma büyüleriyle çevrili ve kimse buraya elini kolunu sallaya sallaya giremez. Deneyen çok oldu, ama muhafazalara takıldılar ve akılları karışmış, neden burada olduklarını da unutmuş bir şekilde de geri gittiler. Ama sen.. Sen bir anda burada peyda oluverdin.”, der yaşlı teyze gnome.

“İnanın bende buraya nasıl geldiğimi bilmiyorum. Günlerdir, kendimi kaybetmiş ve korkmuş bir şekilde buranın doğusundaki ormanlarda dolanıyordum.”, diye açıklamaya çalışır Brom ve zihninde, onu olur olmaz zamanlarda ısıran ne idüğü belirsiz şeye tekme atar!

“Hmmm..”, diye düşünceli bir şekilde masanın üstüne koyduğu yaşlı ellerine bakar Wressa teyze. “..O zaman vakit yaklaştı..”

“Vakit yaklaştı..”, diye onaylar aynı düşünceli, ama ağzı açık bir ‘hayranlıkla’ karışık hayretle mırıldanır yaşlı Kimbletyne. “Ve en sonunda..”

Yaşlı Ten Ton Wressa teyzenin gözleri dolar.

Kardeşi ona sarılır ve kendisi de mutlu göz yaşlarıyla fısıldar.

“Evet abla.. en sonunda..”

“Torunlarımdan birisi hakkı olan tahtına oturacak.. en sonunda..”, diye ağlamaya başlar teyze. “Biz göremeyeceğiz ama Silent Hills’in tekrar sesi duyulacak. Halkım tekrar bu dünyada özgürce yürüyebilecek. Tekrar..”

“Tekrar, abla.. Tekrar..”, diye onaylar Kimbletyne sessiz bir hayranlıkla.

“Uhhmm.. Anneanneniz olacakları nasıl tahmin etmiş olabilir ki?”, diye kendisi de hayret içerisinde sorar Brom.

“Anneannem.. çok özel bir kadındı..”, diye cevap verir Wressa teyze. “O.. o Silent Hills’in gelmiş geçmiş en büyük kraliçesiydi!”

Brom, tepesinden kaynar suların boşaldığını hisseder.

“Ne? Nasıl? Yani siz? Kral soyundan mı—?”, diye kekeler.

“Evet, Efendi Brom. Ama bunu hiçbir yerde söyleyemezsin, ve hiçbir zaman da tekrarlayamazsın..”, der yaşlı Wressa teyze.

“Tekrarlamam. Ama neden bana söylediniz ki? Ben yanlışlıkla buraya yolu düşmüş, önemsiz bir hobbit’im!”, diye itiraz eder genç Brom.

“Hayır, Efendi Brom. Sen yanlışlıkla buraya gelmedin. Çünkü yanlışlıkla buraya giremezdin. Neden ve nasıl olduğunu bilmiyorum, ama senin buraya girmene izin verildi. Ve bizim sana yemek dışında vereceğimiz bir sırrımız var.”

“Bilmek istediğimden emin değilim, efendim. Bu iş şimdiden benim için biraz fazla çetrefilli.”, diye somurtur Brom.

Kimbletyne Tinkerdome kıkırdar.

“Sana bir şiir vereceğiz. Bunu, Silent Hills’den kaçarken sislerin içindeki bir şeylerin fısıldadığını duymuştuk. Ama bununla ne yapacağımızı asla bilemedik. Sonra sen geldin ve gece uyurken biri bana rüyamda bunu sana vermem gerektiğini söyledi. Senin de bunu bir başkasına vermen gerektiğini, vereceğin kişiyi gördüğünde tanımayacağını, ama bileceğini söyledi..”, der yaşlı teyze.

“İşte şimdi gerçekten çetrefilli oldu!”, der Brom mutsuz bir şekilde. “Niye ben yaa? Önemli birisi bile değilim. Aslına bakılırsa, bu son bir kaç ay içerisinde öğrendiğim bir şey varsa, o da hiç kimse olmadığımdı!”

“Kendine inancın biraz daha fazla olmalı, genç Brom Bumblebrim.”, der yaşlı Wressa teyze. “Bu köye ‘hiç kimseler’ giremez..”

“Öyle olsun, teyzeciğim. Sizi kırmayacağım ve isteğinizi yerine getirmek için elimden geleni yapacağım çünkü ben bir hobbit’im ve ‘evimi’ ne kadar sevdiğimi biliyorum ve hiç kimse evinden mahrum edilmemeli.”, der Brom ciddi bir sesle.

“Evet. Edilmemeli, genç Brom. Umuyorum sen de bir gün evine tekrar dönebilirsin. Ama senin geleceğinde yapman gereken daha bir çok büyük işlerin olduğunu seziyorum.”

“Böyle bir şey sezmemiş olmanızı tercih ederdim, efendim.”, diye somurtarak cevap verir Brom.

Hancı Kimbletyne tekrar kıkırdayarak güler.

“Anneanneniz.. O kimdi? Böylesi büyük ve ön görülü bir Silent Hills kraliçesinden bahsedildiğini hiç duymadım.”, diye sorar Brom.

“O ise.. veremeyeceğimiz bir sır, genç Brom.”, der Wressa teyze nazikçe. “Bu konuda bütün Silent Gnome’larının vermiş olduğu bir kan yemini var. Varlığından haberdar olmuş olmanız bile bir ayrıcalık.”

. . .

Brom, o geceki performansına hazırlanmak için odasına döndüğünde kendisine verilen muallak şiiri düşünür ancak şiirin neresinden tutarsa, tuttuğu yer elinde kalır. Belli ki şiir, ilgili şahısların eline geçtiğinde anlam kazanacaktır ve o kişi de kendisi değildir. Brom bundan dolayı dürüstçe bir şekilde mutlu olur zira kendisi bela peşinde koşacak kadar ahmak değildir ve tek istediği evine, güllerine, şarkılarına, mutlu yemeklerine ve tembel hayatına geri dönüp o şekilde de yaşlanmaktır.

 

into the hills
silent and hollow
chase the path
and through the fog
find the door
knock
more
and hallow
blood for blood
soul for soul
and
life for life
trade and be king
freely given
and
ascend

✱ ✱ ✱

27.06.7589 B.Y.S (-18 Yıl)
Haziran sonu ve Temmuz başı.
Miasmire..

 

Brom Bumblebrim, neredeyse iki ay Tinker Hills’de yaşayan bu garip, sessiz gnome’lara takılır ve her gece onlara, dünyanın geri kalanının ‘fiyakalı’ olduğunu düşündüğü şarkılarından değil, çok daha sade, cafcafsız, sanat amaçlı olmayan, içinde daha çok ‘özlem’ barındıran hem hüzünlü, hem de mutlu bir çok şarkı söyler. Ve önüne konan bütün yemekleri de yer! 

Sessiz Gnome’larla geçirdiği süre içerisinde onlardan bazı şeylerde öğrenir. Söz gelimi, bakla çiftçilerinin neredeyse hiçbirisinin gerçekte çiftçi olmadığını, çoğunun Silent Hills’den kaçanların çocukları ve torunları olduğunu, dolayısıyla silah kullanımı, istihkam, kimya, hendek ve siper savaşları konularında da eğitimli oldukları hayretle öğrenir.

Aynı süre içerisinde yaşlı Hancı Kimbletyne Tinkerdome ile uzun yürüyüşlere çıkar ve bu yürüyüşlerde hem Sessiz Gnome’lar, hem de Silent Hills hakkında bir çok unutulmuş bilgileri edinir.

Sessiz Gnome’ların saklı kasabasına geldiği günün akşamı karşılaştığı küçük gnome ise onu nereye giderse takip eder, yaptığı her şeyi ilgiyle izler ve..

..taklit etmeye başlar!

 

Brom dışarıda dolaştığı bir gün, gnome çocuk ile ondan bile daha küçük, pabuç kadar boylu, pembe, daha çok pofuduk bir pamuk şekeri bulutunu andıran tüleri saçlı bir kız gnome arasında geçen bir konuşmaya kulak misafiri olur;

 

“Bugün ne oluyoruz?”, diye sorar küçük, şirin kız.

“Bugün..”, der küçük gnome, “..Ozan olacağız!”

“Umm.. Bir; Ozan ne? İki; Neden?!”, diye sorar minik kız.

“Sevgili Terrah Doodlebellz, ozanlık, gelmiş geçmiş en saygın mesleklerden birisidir. Öyleki, nereye gidersen git, seni prensler gibi karşılarlar, ne söylersen söyle, kanunmuş gibi dinlerler, Lir’inle ne çalarsan çal, sanat olduğunu sanırlar ve seni yerlerine çakılmış gibi dinlerler..”, diye grant bir şekilde sırıtarak açıklar küçük gnome..

“Bana daha çok kaybolmuş da yanlışlıkla gelmiş, laf hokkabazı gibi geldi.”, der cıvıldayan sincap gibi sesiyle Terrah Doodlebellz.

Brom kaşlarını çatar, “Laf hokkabazıymış!”, diye burnundan soluyarak ‘hıf’lar ve oradan uzaklaşır.

 

Yaşlı Ten Ton Wressa teyze ise inatla her sabah, her öğlen ve her akşam bir tepsi dolusu enfes yiyeceklerinden getirir Brom’a. Kadıncağız, bir halkın son prensesi gibi değil, basit bir hancı aşçısı gibi ona hizmet ederek genç hobbit’in, evinden ayrılmasından sonra kaybettiği bütün kilolarını geri almasını sağlar.

Yaşlı teyze, sadece bir sabah Brom’a servis etmez.

 

Silent Hills’in son prensesi Ten Ton Wressa 7589 yılının Haziran ayının 27. gecesinde sessizce gözlerini dünyaya kapatır.

 

Ertesi gün bütün Silent Gnome’lar cenaze için toplanırlar ve garip, ürkütücü bir sessizlik içerisinde yaşlı prensesi defnederler.

Brom o akşam handa toplanan gnome’lara hiçbir şey çalmaz. Elinde Lir’i, katatonik bir hayal kırıklığı içerisinde öylece taburesinde oturur.

Vakit geldiğinde, handaki bütün gnome’lar dolu maşrapalarını tekrar ona doğru kaldırırlar, sonra kafalarına dikerler..

Yaşlı Ten Ton Wressa’nın vefatıyla Brom da ayrılma vaktinin geldiğini düşünür zira buraya ‘getirilme’ sebebini de çözmüş gibidir.

Brom, gelecekte onu nelerin beklediğini bilemez. Ama evinden ayrıldığından beri ilk defa, an itibariyle sebebini bilemese de, kati olarak ortada bir sebebin olduğuna ayılır. Buraya, Silent Hills’in son prensesine yetişmesi de sebeplerden bir tanesidir.

Ablasının vefatını olabildiğince vakur bir şekilde karşılamaya çalışan yaşlı Kimbletyne Tinkerdome, artık gitmesi gerektiğini söylemeye gelen Brom’a itiraz etmez. Yaşına rağmen genç hobbit’in elini, kendi güçlü elleriyle sıkar ve genç ozana koca bir bohça dolusu erzak verir. Yaşlı hancı Brom’a, içinde bir kaç adet, kelek büyüklüğünde toplara benzeyen bir şeylerin olduğu ikinci bohça daha uzatır.

“Bunlar Bakla Bombasıdır.”, der Hancı Kimbletyne. “Temkinli kullanmanı sağlık veririm. Kaçman gereken durumlarda, şu gördüğün mandalı çekip bombayı at.. Tercihen düşmanlarına doğru. Onları öldürmez ama sana kaçacak kadar zaman kazandırır. Her ne yaparsan yap, çıkacak kokuyu soluma ve rüzgarı karşına alarak atma!”

“Umm.. Bu bana biraz tehlikeli gibi geldi, Efendi Kimbletyne.”, diye tırsmış bir şekilde bohçanın içindeki ‘toplara’ bakar.

“Tehlikeliler zaten. Burada keyif olsun diye bakla yetiştirmiyoruz. Hiçbirimiz baklayı sevmeyiz. Sadece ithal ederiz.. ve bunun gibi Bakla Bombası imalatında kullanırız.”, diye acı bir şekilde sırıtır Kimbletyne.

“Teşekkür ederim, Kimbletyne amca. Bana hakketiğimden çok daha iyi davrandınız. Sizleri hep iyilikle anacağım.”, der Brom.

“Hayır, evlat. Ben sana teşekkür ederim. Hepimiz adına. Özellikle de Wressa için.. Sayende mutlu.. ve onurlu bir şekilde gitti.. Bir prensesin böylesi bir yerde unutulmuş olmasını engellemiş oldunuz. Bunca yıldır onu hiç bu son bir aydır gördüğüm kadar mutlu ve hayat dolu görmedim. Ablamın şarkı söyleyebildiğini bile unutmuşum. Sen bize sadece ablamı geri getirmedin, genç Brom. Sen bize onurumuzu, umudumuzu, geleceğimizi ve prensesimizi geri getirdin. Bundan daha alicenap bir şey düşünemiyorum.”, der yaşlı Tinkerdome ve kendi evladına sarılır gibi hobbit’e sarırlır.

“Elveda, Kimble amca.”, der Brom üzgün bir sesle.

“Elveda, Efendi Brom., diye karşılık verir Kimbletyne Tinkerdome, sonra döner ve hana doğru seslenir.

“Gnine.. Evladım gel, bak. Efendi Brom gidiyor. Ona ‘güle güle’ de..”

. . .

Brom, kendisine verilen sayılı Bakla Bombalarından ilkini, Tinker Hills’den ayrılmasından kısa bir süre içerisinde kullanır. Sessiz Gnome’ların köyüne gelirken çılgınca bir panik içerisinde bir oraya, bir buraya koşturmasını, gnome’ların sakin köyünde, ve özellikle de Wressa teyze”nin yemekleri sayesinde üstünden atmış gibidir ve oldukça düzgün bir yol takip ederek Silent Hills’in hemen kuzeyindeki Miasmire bataklığına girer.

Miasmire, daha önce saplanıp kaldığı Croaking Mire bataklığı gibi değildir. Evet bu bataklık çok daha ‘ıslak’tır ama bu da biraz normaldir. Nede olsa tam ortasından Endless Sea denizine bağlanan bir akarsu geçmektedir. Ve burada zemin çok daha derin, kaygan ve sivri sinekli olsa da, Croaking Mire bataklığındaki gibi ne bir sis, ne uçuşan hayalet ve hortaklar, ne de kendisine ‘kurtarması için’ adıyla yalvaran ürkütücü yaratıklar vardır.

Bu, hiçbir şekilde yolculuğunun kolay olduğu anlamına gelmez. Öyle olmuş olsaydı Bakla Bombasını kullanmak zorunda kalmış olmazdı!

Miasmire bataklığının ortasından salınarak sürünen bulanık akarsuyu geçtiğinde, Brom’un daha önce hiç görmediği, neredeyse 15 adım boyunda, tamamen bataklık bitki ve sebzelerinden oluşan bir yaratık, muazzam bir devinimle çamurlu, bulanık sulardan yükselmiş ve küçük hobbit’e saldırmıştı.

Brom bir anda kendisine saldıran dehşet karşısında hiç düşünmemişti.

Kimbletyne amcanın verdiği bohçalardan birisine elini sokmuş, içinden kelek büyüklüğündeki toplardan birini çıkarmış, tepesindeki mandalı sökmüş ve kocaman ağzını açmış onu tek lokmada yutmaya gelen yaratığın hazır açtığı delikten içeri fırlatmış..

..sonra da sonuçlarını görmek için bile beklemeden arkasını döndüğü gibi kaçmıştı!

Brom arkasından ‘Vump!’, diye boğuk bir ses duymuş, bunu ise yaratıktan gelen acı ‘vıyaklama’ çığlıkları takip etmişti.

Brom, Miasmire’dan çıkıncaya kadar koşmuş, ancak Gulls Perch denilen yerin güney sınırına vardığında durmuştu.

Genç hobbit, evinden ayrıldığından beri değişen pek az şey olmuştur. Söz gelimi, hala farkındasız bir şekilde ellerini kollarını sallaya sallaya dolanır, ve karşılaştığı yaratıklardan anında kaçar ve saklanır.

Ancak bazı şeyler de değişmiştir. Mesela, o ilk gecesinde olduğu gibi erzakını hemen tüketmez ve olabildiğince günlere yaymaya çalışır. Eski tembel haline nispeten çok daha dayanıklıdır ve artık kendisini bulduğu ilk ağaç kovuğuna, devrilmiş bir ağaç kütüğüne yada sürünerek girdiği yoğun bir çalılığa sinerek uyumaz.

Kendisine, küçük de olsa bir kamp ateşi yakar, sıcak yemek pişirir, amcasının antika gürzünü, uyurken yastık olarak kullandığı sırt çantasının altına saklar, kılıcını da ince bir kayışla bileğine bağlayıp öyle uyur.

Birileri bütün bunlara bakıp gülebilir. Biraz daha nezaket göstermek isteyenler için ise bu küçük değişimler ‘bebek adımları’ olarak yorumlanabilir. Ancak Brom için bu değişimler gerçekten büyüktür ve onu bekleyen geleceğe hazırlayan zorlukların ilk meyveleridir..

Brom Bumblebrim’in hayret verici maceraları
A Bard’s Tale XIV “a Bit of a Bite” IV ile
devam edecek..


 

book 05 books dungeons and dragons karakter analizi komedi role play serenity home tarihçe the plot thickens tundra walkers

A Bard’s Tale XIV
“a Bit of a Bite” II

A Bard’s Tale XIV
“a Bit of a Bite” II

Timeline:

Bu hikaye, Brom Bumblebrim adındaki, Bowling Hill’de yaşayan kendi ırkının diğer bütün üyeleri gibi ‘normal’ ve hayatını olabildiğince keyifli ve tembel geçiren bir hobbit’in, beklenmedik bir şekilde ne idüğü belirsiz bir şey tarafından ısırılmasıyla başlar.

Genç hobbit’i her ne ısırdı ise, o günden sonra Brom bir türlü yerinde duramaz ve en sonunda, gecenin alakasız bir yarısında, eski arkadaşı ve aile dostu olan Gamwise Samgee’ye evini ve gülleri emanet ettiğine dair bir not bırakarak yollara koyulur. Uzun bir gece boyunca nereye gittiğini bilmeksizin, öylece, istikametsiz bir şekilde yürür durur..

 

Bu hikaye,
A Bard’s Tale XIV, “a Bit of a Bite” I ‘den
sonra başlar ve ta Büyük Kuzey Tundralarındaki Shakehands kasabasında son bulur..

 

 

29.11.7588 B.Y.S (-19 Yıl)
Kasım sonu, Aralık başı.
Bowling Hills, sonrasında da Endless Watch’ın güneyi..

 

İnanamıyorum buna!”, diye inler genç Brom.

“Bütün gece yürüdüm, dere tepe düz gittim ve gele gele buraya mı geldim?”

Brom Bumblebrim, yeni doğmuş, mutlu bir Kasım sonu güneşinde, doğduğu, büyüdüğü, ve gece boyunca ayrıldığını sandığı Greener Kasabasını yukarıdan, bulunduğu tepeden seyreder.

“Bu nasıl mümkün olabilir ki ama? Bütün gece yürüdüm ve hepi topu koca bir daire mi çizmişim yani?”, diye, çökmüş, fena halde bozulmuş ve neredeyse ağlamaklı bir şekilde söylenir.

Mevcut hayal kırıklığı yetmiyormuş gibi, Brom bir de göbeği istikametinden derin bir gurultu duyar ve bu konuda da yapabileceği hiçbir şey yoktur zira yanına aldığı ve en azından bir kaç gün kendisini idare edeceğini düşündüğü bütün kurabiyeleri, kaşarlı, salamlı ve taze naneli sandviçleri ve peksimetleri gece boyunca yürürken yemiştir!

Belli ki iş yemek olduğunda bir hobbit olmak hiç de kolay değildir ve bu konuda tutumlu olması gerektiği, Brom’un daha birinci geceden öğrendiği ilk acıklı ders olacaktır..

..Yön bulma kabiliyetinin olmadığını anlamasından hemen sonra!

Halbuki tam on altı defa okuduğu o hobbit hikayesinde, yemek bulmanın zorluğu, ancak üstü kapalı bir şekilde geçilmiş ve yön bulmak konusunda da hiçbir ip ucu da vermemiştir! Yani, tamam, o hikayede de kahramanlar kaybolmuştur ama bunu yoğun ağaçların olduğu büyülü bir elf ormanında yaşamışlardır. Kendisi ise Bowling Hills’in açık arazili, naif, yeşil tepelerinde gerçekleştirmeyi başarmıştı bunu..

 

Brom acıklı bir şekilde, gezginleri yanlış yönlendiren kitaplar hakkında uzun, bir ozan olması dolayısıyla da muhtemelen ‘kafiyeli’ bir belagat dizecekken, bir anda asıl soruna ayılır;

Sorun kitapta değildir zira ve en nihayetinde, on altı defa okuduğu o hikaye, tam olarak da budur:

BİR HİKAYE!

“Off yaa.. inanamıyorum! Nasıl olurda bir hikaye kitabında okuduğum şeyleri referans olarak alabildim ki! Bu gerçek dünya Brom Bumblebrim, bir roman değil!”

 

Brom acıkmış, yorgun ve uykulu bir şekilde, Greener Kasabasına yukarıdan seyrettiği tepenin üstünde yere çöker ve “Ne yapayım, ne yapayım?”, diye düşünürken uykuya dalar ve suratının tam ortasına isabet eden kocaman bir damla ile yerinden fırlayarak uyanır!

Gece olmuştur ve yağmur yağmaya başlamıştır..

 

Brom, bütün bir günü, dışarıda ve soğuk Kasım’ın son güneşi altında nasıl uyuyarak geçirebildiğini merak eder.

Genç hobbit nedense kendisini kazıklanmış hisseder ve tepeden aşağı inip evine gitmeyi düşünür. Hatta bu saçmalığa bir son vermek için, eve varır varmaz da kapısını ve pencerelerini, tekrar dışarı çıkamamak için bulabileceği en büyük çivilerle sıkıştırıp sabitlemeye karar verir..

..ve işte tam o anda bir şey onu ısırır!

 

Brom küçük, biraz fazla tiz bir çığlık atar ve can havliyle yerinde hoplamaya başlar.

“Beni bi şey ısırdı! Muhtemelen zehirli bi şey!.. Ölüyorum! Ölüyorum! Muhteşem Gökler adına, ölüyorum!..”, diye kalçasının, tam da göremediği bir noktayı eliyle tutarak yerinde zıplamaya başlar.

Brom, yağmurlu ve karanlık gecede, tepeden aşağı, “İmdat! İmdaaat! Bana tabip getirin! Bana güzel bir hemşire getirin!..”, diye çığlayarak koşmaya başlar..

Kalçasının, tam olarak göremediği noktadaki ‘ısırık’ acısı geçtiğinde, Brom ne kadar koştuğu, dahası, hangi istikamete doğru koştuğu hakkında en ufak bir fikri yoktur..

..ama doğuya, güneşin doğduğu yere baktığında, bunu bütün gece boyunca yapmış olduğunu fark eder!

 

“Nasıl yaa?”, diye iyice tırsmış bir şekilde, ağlamaklı bir sesle inler küçük hobbit.

Bütün bir Aralık başı gecesi buz gibi bir yağmurun altında ve karnı fena halde guruldayan Brom, bulduğu ilk yaban çileği çalısına dalar ve avuçlayabildiği tüm acı çilekleri ağzına tıkar..

Çalıların arasında işi bittiğinde, ellerinde, kollarında ve yüzünde sızlayan bir düzine çizik ve biri ensesine, diğeri ise ayak parmakları arasına yapışmış bir-iki inatçı çalı kenesiyle uğraşırken gök yüzünden kızgın bir homurtu gelir.

Brom göğe bakar ve inleyerek söylenir;

“Ama zaten beni yeterince ıslatmıştın.. Daha fazla ıslanamam ki!”

Brom yerinden fırlar ve ortalıkta başını sokabileceği bir yer —herhangi bir yer— aramaya başlar..

..ama aç karnına yediği onca acı çalı çileğinden dolayı bir anda midesi bozulur!

 

Brom Bumblebrim, hayatında yaşadığı bütün kötü an ve anıları bir araya getirdiğinde, bu iki gün içerisinde başına gelenlerle kıyaslayabileceği bir olay düşünemez.

Üşümüş, fena halde ıslanmış, hala aç, her tarafı çiziklerle dolu ve midesi bozuk bir şekilde bir o yana bir buyana koşturur durur.

Yorgunluktan ve açlıktan, dahası, midesine musallat olmuş kramplardan bitkin düşmüş bir şekilde ne kadar koşturduğunu bilemez ama uzaklarda bir yerlerde gözüne ilişen kamp ateşini gördüğünde hava çoktan kararmıştır.

Brom, nefes nefese kalmış bir şekilde kamp ateşine doğru yaklaşır ama içinden bir ses, belki biraz temkinli olsa, bunun kendisine daha az acılara sebep olabileceği düşüncesini uyandırır.

Genç, ıslak, üşümüş ve şiddetli karın ağrılarıyla kıvranan hobbit, karanlığı aydınlatan kamp ateşine temkinli bir şekilde yaklaşır. Ateşin önünde oturmuş kimseyi göremeyince iyice içkillenir. Sessiz adımlarla biraz daha sokulurken birden alnının ortasına bir şey, müthiş bir hışımla çarpar ve Brom, acının yepyeni bir mertebesine ulaşıverir..

Taş..

Birisi karanlıkta ona taş atmıştır ve olduğu salak gibi o da bunu yemiştir.

“Niye yaa!”, diye inler Brom. “Neden kafama taş attınız ki? Beni soyacaksanız, bunu rica ile de yapabilirsiniz. Açım, donmuş vaziyetteyim, sırılsıklam ıslanmış durumdayım ve şiddetli bir karın ağrısıyla uğraşıyorum.. Tek istediğim ateşinizi paylaşmaktı ve daha merhaba bile demeden kafama taş attınız! Bu.. Bu çok ayıp ve hiç de medeni bir davranış değil!”, diye de acı içerisinde bağırır Brom.

Ancak genç hobbit’in bu ağıtına herhangi bir cevap gelmez.

Brom, yağan yağmurun burada biraz daha sığlaştığını fark eder ve kamp ateşi sayesinde karanlıktaki ağaçları görür.

 

“Ne istiyorsun, bücür!”, diye horlayan, tiz bir ses duyulur ağaçların arasından.

“Az önce söyledim ya! Sıcak bir ateş, o kadar.. Biraz yemeğiniz, kuru bir de battaniyeniz varsa, benim de biraz param var.”, diye acınaklı bir şekilde cevap verir Brom.

Aradan ancak bir kaç dakika geçtikten sonra cevap gelir.

“Kamp ateşinde ısınabilirsin. Orada küçük bir tencere dolusu yiyecek ve kuru bir de battaniye var.”, der aynı tiz ses ve Brom konuşanın ya küçük bir kız, yada eşit büyüklükte bir sincap olduğunu düşünür. “Geceyi ateşin başında geçirebilirsin. Ama yerinden kalkar ve bize.. uhhm.. bana doğru yeltenirsen, fena halde de-kompoze ederim seni!”

“De-kompo-NE?!”, diye hayretle sorar Brom.

“De-kompoze!.. Neresini anlamadın?”, diye sorar tiz ses.

“De-kompoze nedir? Hayır, beni öldüreceksen, en azından ölürken nasıl öldüğümü bilmek isterim. Sürpriz ölümler hiç hoş olmuyor!”, diye cevap verir Brom ve ateşe doğru sokulur.

Genç hobbit, kamp ateşinin yanına varır varmaz, adı geçen küçük tencerenin yanında duran teneke tabaklardan bir tanesini kapar, tencereden içine, nezaketin kabul edeceği ‘azami’ miktarı doldurur, ateşin diğer yanında duran battaniyeyi donmuş bedenine sarar, sırtını ateşe verir ve küçük, iki büklüm bir topak halinde sıcak yemeği kaşıklamaya başlar.

Yemek, kendi standartlarına göre pek de iyi değildir. Daha doğrusu, yemeğin tadında bir gariplik vardır; sanki iki alakasız kişi, kendi hoşlarına giden ne varsa içine atmışlar gibidir. Ancak şu anki aç haline bir şölen gibi gelir ve istediğinden çok daha kısa bir süre içerisinde de biter.

“Gece orada, kıpırdamadan dur. Yoksa—”, diye arkasından aynı tiz sesi duyar.

“—beni de-komoze-şeysiden edeceksin, hatırlıyorum”, der Brom. “Ama sanıyorum ki ben zaten de-kompoze olmuş durumdayım.. Ateş, battaniye, yemek ve de-kompoze uyarısı için teşekkür ederim.. Parayı ateşin yanına bıraktım. Size iyi geceler.”

Brom hayatında hiçbir zaman böylesi bir nezaketsizlikle karşılaşmamıştır. Ne bir başkasından, ne de kendisinden. Ama takati, sabrından önce tükenmiştir ve yeni yeni ısınmaya başlayan vücudunu battaniyenin içinde, sadece burnunun ucu dışarıda kalacak şekilde, biraz daha topak yapar ve kendinden geçmiş gibi derin bir uykuya dalar.

 

“Neden bu salağı aldık ki kampımıza?”

“Sırılsıklam olmuştu, üşümüştü, açtı, acı çekiyordu ve korkuyordu.”

“Tamam, onu anladım da, neden bu salağı kampımıza aldığımızı anlamadım? Bence tehlikeli. Hazır uyumuşken kafasına odunla vuralım, tam uyusun!”

“Lütfen kafasına odunla vurmayalım. Başkalarına karşı biraz anlayış gösterebilirsin bence..”

“Neden? Sen gösterdin de ne faydasını gördün bu güne kadar?”

“Faydası için değil, eksikliğinin zararlarından kaçınmak için yapmalıyız.”

“Saplantılı fetişlerin yetmiyormuş gibi, üstüne üstlük hem safsın, hem de biraz aptalsın.”

“Bu.. bu biraz ağır ve kırıcı olmadı mı?”

“Beraber olduğumuz süre boyunca seninle geçinmem opsiyonel. Bir zorunluluk değil. Seni ben istemedim. Aslına bakılırsa, kimseyi istemedim. Hiç istemediğim bir şeyi resmen kakaladınız bana!”

“Benim ise çok istediğim bir şeydi ama kim olacağı kısmı nedense bana da sorulmadı. Ama bir tercihim olsaydı, bu yine sen olurdun.”

“Dediğim gibi.. sen hem saf, hem de biraz aptalsın!..”

✱ ✱ ✱

06.03.7589 B.Y.S (-18 Yıl)
Mart başı.
Giants Hutt Ormanlarının kuzey sınırı..

 

Brom, üç gündür saklandığı daracık ağaç kovuğunda, uyuşup yine karıncalanmaya başlayan bacaklarına, yeni öğrendiği bir egzersizi uygulamaktadır —sessizce! Evinden uzakta, bildiğini sandığı her şeyi sıfırdan ve canlı deney faresi gibi öğrenmek zorunda kalmış olması, genç hobbit’i iki aydan birazcık daha uzun bir süre içerisinde çakı gibi yapmıştır ve iki ay öncesinde olduğu gibi bütün erzakını bir gecede bitirmemiş, elindeki kurumuş bir dilim ekmeği küçük ısırıklar ve uzun süreli çiğnemelerle yemektedir. Buna rağmen üç gün içerisinde sırt çantası neredeyse boşalmıştır.

“Gidin.. gidin artık..”, diye sessizce mırıldanır Brom ve üç gün önce yanlışlıkla fazla sokulduğu haydut çetesinin kamp yaptığı yerin dibindeki oyuktan ‘ev sahiplerini’ izler. “Sizin gidip basacak bir köy yada kasabamız yok mu?”

Brom birden söylediği şeye ayılır ve utanır, zira bu rezil haydut çetesinin bir köyü basması halinde, oradakileri muhtemelen öldürecekleri anlamına geleceğidir.

Bitkin ve aç bir şekilde, neden ana yoldan saptığını ve neden Giants Hutt ormanında ‘macera’ aramak istediğini ve hangi ahmakça fikrin ona bunu yapmanın iyi bir fikir olacağına ikna ettiğini düşünür. Şayet hayatta kalırsa, aynı ahmaklığı tekrarlamaması açısından bu önemlidir..

‘Macera’ imiş..!

“İşte tam olarak bu yüzden hobbit’ler sıcak evlerinin güvenliğinde, mutlu bir şeyler atıştırırken macera kitapları okurlar, ama macera peşinde koşmazlar!”, diye geçirir aklından..

..ve farkında olmadan sırt çantasına elini sokar ve kalmışsa, yiyecek bir şeyler bulma umuduyla içini karıştırmaya başlar.

Çantanın içinde dolaşan Brom’un eli herhangi bir yiyecek bulamaz ama yanlışlıkla, rahmetli annesinin yadigar Lir’inin tellerinden birine dokunur ve Lir, keskin bir nota çıkartır!

 

..Ve bu..

..bir anda..

..beklenmedik,

..zincirleme bir reaksiyon başlatır!

 

“Neydi o?”

“Neydi o?”

“O neydi?”

“Ne neydi?”

“Bi ses duydum!”

“Ne duydun?”

“Ne duydun?”

“Bi ses!”

“Ne ses?”

“Bi sus..”

“Ben de duydum..”

“Ne duydun?”

“Ne duydun?”

“Bi ses!”

“Bi sus!”

 

Brom, saklandığı ağaç kovuğunda, kollarıyla daha da eğdiği başını kapatmış, çömdüğü yerde terleyerek kendi ayaklarını seyreder ve haydutların duydukları şeyden ivedilikle bıkıp vazgeçmeleri için bildiği her şeye dua eder..

..ve lanet şey, her ne ise, onu ısırmak için tam bu anı seçer!

Brom Bumblebrim, kontrolsüz, tiz bir çığlık atar..

 

“Aha! Yine duydum!”

“Ben de duydum..”

“Neydi o?”

“Neydi o?”

“O neydi?”

“Ne neydi?”

“Bi ses daha duydum!”

“Ne duydun?”

“Ne duydun?”

“Bi ses!”

“Ne ses?”

“Bi sus..”

“Ben de duydum..”

“Ne duydun?”

“Ne duydun?”

“Can’t touch this!”

“Bi ses!”

“Bi sus—

 

Brom, haydutlardan korktuğu kadar, aptallıklarına da hayret eder ve içinden acıklı bir sesle söylenir;

“Bi grup salak tarafından öldürüleceğim.. İnanılır gibi değil!”

 

—Brom korku ve panik halinde, neden son haydudun sözünün bir anda kesildiğinde ayılamaz. Ama kendisine garip, ıslık gibi gelen sesler, çeliğin çeliğe vurmasını andıran çınlamalar ve bunları takip eden çığlıklar, en sonunda genç hobbit’i, haydutların kampında bir şeylerin olduğunu söyler..

Brom, saklandığı ağaç kovuğundan başını kaldırdığında, kovuğunun neredeyse dibine kadar gelmiş bir haydudun, kafasının arkasına bir buçuk yardalık haşin bir okla, yüzü koyun kapaklanmış olduğunu görür!

Brom etrafına bakındığında, hemen ileride başka haydutların da benzer kaderleri paylaştığını görür ve birden onlara karşı hissettiği korkunun gerçekte ne denli küçük olduğunu anlar..

..zira ortama daha büyük —çok daha büyük— ve tehlikeli bir ‘balık’ gelmiştir ve bu balığın hiç şakası yoktur..

Brom gözlerini kısarak ana haydut kampında yoğunlaşan çarpışma seslerine baktığında, orada iri cüsseli, haşin suratlı bir adamın, elinde savurduğu kocaman kılıcıyla önüne çıkan bütün haydutları, tırpanın arpa başlarını biçer gibi biçtiğini, dehşet içerisinde seyreder! Ve adam yalnız da değildir. Göremediği birileri de, haşin suratlı adamın etrafını sarmaya çalışan haydutları birer ikişer, bir buçuk yardalık oklarla şişlemektedir.

Brom kıyımın ne kadar sürdüğünü bilmez. Ama bittiğinde ortada canlı bir tane bile haydut kalmamıştır..

İri cüsseli, haşin suratlı adam son haydudu kestiğinde nefes nefese bile değildir.

“Bu da sonuncusuydu.. Moorat, Davien.. Etrafı kontrol edin. Bu hayvanlardan kaçıp kurtulan olsun istemiyorum. Aynı işi bir kaç ay sonra tekrarlamak niyetinde değilim.”

İri adamın çağırdığı adamlardan biri kısa sarı saçlı, yakışıklı bir elftir.. Yada belki de bir half-elf, Brom saklandığı yerden tam olarak kestiremez ama adamın duruşundan mıdır, nedir, onun birincisinden ziyade diğeri olabileceği izlenimine kapılır ve elinde Brom’un neredeyse üç katı boyunda devasa bir yay vardır.

Sarı saçlı yarı elf gibi elinde benzer bir yayla sakladığı yerden çıkıp gelen diğer adam ise genç hobbit’in hayatında gördüğü en çirkin adamdır. Adamın eski kayış derisi teni, kara —kendim, ekmek bıçağımla kestim— izlenimi veren parçalanmış saçları ve bir gözünü kıl payı ıskalamış yara izi yetmiyormuş gibi, suratında da pis bir sırıtış vardır.

“Harika iş çıkardın, Şerif. Geri döndüğümüzde Efendi Thokan’a olanları anlatmalıyız. Eminim sana özel, epik bir şarkı yazacaktır.”, der Davien denen yarı-elf mutlu ve biraz da muallak bir sesle.

“Nasıl bu kadar iyi ok kullanıp, aynı zamanda da bu kadar salak olabildiğine hayret ediyorum, Davien!”, diye hırlar, diğer, adının Moorat olduğu tahmin edilen çirkin adam.

“Alındım.”, diye cevap verir Davien gerçekten alınmış bir sesle. “Senin kadar zeki olmamam, beni salak mı yapıyor, şimdi?”

“İkiniz..”, diye burnundan solur Şerif. “..ve bitmek bilmeyen dırdırınız.. Hatırlatsanıza bana, sizler gerçekten nasıl izci oldunuz?”

“İyi ok attığım için..”, diye mutlu bir ifadeyle cevap verir Davien.

Moorat denen çirkin adam ise omuzlarını silker. “Sıkıcı bir gündü ve yapacak başka da bir işim yoktu. Ben ozan olmak istiyordum ama o karga sesli Thakon yerimi kapınca ben de izci olayım bari, dedim..”

Davien buna kahkahalarla güler. Haşin suratlı şerif bile gülümser.

“Sanıyorum buradaki işimiz bitti.”, der şerif. “Bu şerefsizler kimseye bir daha musallat olmayacaklar. Etrafı kontrol edin, özellikle size ait bir şey kalmış olmasın.”

“Neden? Bunlar kötü adamlar ve bizde bu bölgeyi onlardan arındırdık.”, diye aynı muallak ifadeyle sorar İzci Davien.

“Evet, ama teknik olarak bu bölge Endless Watch’ın sorumluluğu altında ve bizim gelip onların bölgesinde ‘Serenity Kanunları’ uyguluyor olmamızı pek de hoş karşılamaya bilirler.”, der şerif sakince.

“Ne fark eder ki? İşlerini yapmış olsalardı, onlar da haydutları öldürmüş olurlardı.”

“Ama onlar haydutları önce yakalar, sonra şehre götürür, ardından büyük, teatral bir mahkemede yargılar, ancak ondan sonra asarlardı. Onlar kıçlarını kaldırıp bunu yapıncaya kadar da bu hayvanlar bir kaç köyü daha talan etmiş olurlardı.. Serenity Home’un böylesi gösterişli mahkemelerde harcayacak lüksü yok ve açıkçası bu şerefsizleri kasabama sokmak gibi bir niyetim de yok —asmak için bile olsa. Sanıyorum Tinker Hills sakinlerinin yardım için Endless Watch yetkililerine gitmektense bize gelmeleri bundan kaynaklanıyordu.. Geri döndüğümüzde, yüzümüzdeki ifadeden herkes gerekli mesajı alacaktır. Yuleman’da Tinker Hills gnome’larına ‘Halledildi.’, diye kısa bir not gönderecektir.”

Moorat yine omuzlarını silker.

“Bana farkmaz! Ben bir izciyim. Bu iş gelip beni ısıramaz.”, diye hırlar.

“Beni de!”, diye atlar Davien.

İzci Moorat, Davien’e tiksintiyle bakar sonra tek kaşı kalkmış bir şekilde şerife döner.

“Bu yüzden sen ‘tatildesin’, Standorin!”, diye ayılır birden.

Şerif, Moorat’e sırıtır.

“Bu iş geri dönerse, Serenity Home’a dönmeyecek. Kişisel olarak, tatilde dolaşırken saldırıya uğramış olan bana geri dönmüş olacak. Bu yüzden ortalıkta size ait bir şeyler kalmadığından emin olun ve kırık da olsalar tüm oklarınızı toplayın.”, diye emreder şerif.

“Ben hiçbir şey anlamadım..”, diye itiraf eder İzci Davien.

“Sen gidip oklarını topla, kasabaya geri dönerken ben de sana tane tane anlatırım.”, der Moorat hırıltılı sesiyle.

“Benimle alay edip dalga geçeceksin yine, öyle değil mi?”, diye saf bir şekilde sorar Davien.

“Evet. Ama yine de anlatacağım!”, der Moorat sırıtarak.

 

Brom Bumblebrim, saklandığı ağaç kovuğundan sessizce çıkar..

..ve kaçar!

Brom, Serenity Home denen yer neresidir bilmez, ama öğrenecektir ve oranın yakından bile geçmeyecektir..

Brom sessizce kaçarken arkasında bıraktığı haşin suratlı şerif ve iki izcinin konuşmalarını hala duyar..

 

“Limnia nasıl? Dahası, doğum bu kadar yakınken senin eğlenmen için buraya kadar gelmene nasıl izin verdi?”

“Lady hanımefendi başında duruyor. Ve bana da ihtiyacı olmadığına dair.. tam olarak bilmek istemediğim bazı şeyler söyledi..”

“Bahane böyle sunulur işte. Gör ve örnek al, Davien. Geçerli, şahitli ve kadınları kendi aleyhlerine kullanarak!”

“Söylesene, Moorat. Sen hala nasıl oluyor da bekarsın?”

“Akıllı olduğum için.. Onu sana vererek hem ablamdan kurtulmuş oldum, hem de dırdırından!”

“Sanıyorum yeni bir izci adayım var!”

“Davien.. Kim senin gibi aklı bir karış havada birisine evladını teslim edecek kadar ondan nefret eder ki?”

“Kimsenin sana çocuklarını eğitmen için vermiyor olmaları, görüyorum ki seni biraz huysuz yapıyor.. Sanki buna ihtiyacın varmış gibi.”

“Güzeeel. En sonunda senden kabul edilebilir hakaretler duymaya başladık artık! Kimmiş bu yeni adayın?”

“Efendi Darien’in pek sevdiği kızı, Laila.”

“Huh.. O küçük, süslü şey mi?”

“Evet, ama yaşı biraz küçük. Efendi Darien’e kabul ettiğimi, ancak bir-iki yıl daha beklememizin daha akıllıca olacağını söyledim.”

“Daha akıllıca.. Bunu sen söyleyince kulağa ne kadar komik geldiğinin farkındasın, değil mi?.”

“Alındım.”

“Siz ikiniz.. ve bitmek tükenmek bilmeyen dırdırınız..”

✱ ✱ ✱

18.04.7589 B.Y.S (-18 Yıl)
Nisan ortaları.
Croaking Mire..

 

Brom üç gün takılıp kaldığı haydut çetesinin kampından kaçtıktan sonra çok önemli bazı şeyleri öğrenir. Bunların ilki, ERZAK’ın asla yeterli olmadığıdır. Bir diğeri de elini kolunu sallaya sallaya ortalıkta dolaşmaması gerektiğidir.. Ancak bu ikincisini öğrenmesi —gerçekten öğrenmesi— çok daha uzun sürecektir çünkü kendisi bir hobbit’dir ve çok küçük yaştan itibaren özel eğitimden geçmemiş her hobbit’in ortak bazı özellikleri mevcuttur. Bunların arasında ve muhtemelen de en başında yemek yemek, eğlenmek, tembellik etmek ve hiç şüphesiz, mutlu olmak vardır. Bunların kümülatif olarak bir araya gelmesinin tekabülü de, elini kolunu sallaya sallaya dolaşmalarıdır!

Ve bir hobbit’in bu ‘içsel’ huyundan vaz geçmesi için önce yemekten, eğlenmekten, tembellikten ve hiç şüphesiz, mutlu olmaktan vaz geçmesi gerektiği anlamına geldiği için bu da temel olarak ‘düşünülemez’ bir durumdur..

İşte bu yüzden dünyada hobbit nüfusu az olmamakla beraber, macera peşinde koşan hobbit nüfusu ise yok denecek kadar azdır.

Bu nadir ve ‘isteksiz’ istisnalardan biri de şu anda, elini kolunu sallaya sallaya girip, çok kısa bir süre içerisinde de saplanıp kaldığı Croaking Mire bataklığındaki Brom Bumblebrim’den başkası da değildir.

İşin gerçeğine bakıldığında da aslında suçun tamamı Brom’a ait de değildir.

Genç hobbit keyfince bir yerlere gitmeye başladığında, içindeki bir ses —yada kıçındaki ısırık acısı— ona o yönde değil, bir başka yönde gitmesini söyler.

Söz gelimi, bir sefer Brom’un bunu sınamaya kalkması aynı gün içerisinde ardarda tam üç defa ısırılmasıyla sonuçlanmıştı.

Brom güneye, geldiği genel istikamete dönüp, “Hmm.. Bugün nereye gitsem acaba? Belki de güneye, Melshieve Akademisine gitmeliyim. Orasını hiç görmedim..”, dediğinde ilk ısırığı yemişti.

“Peeeki.. Güney değil. Batı nasıl? Orda Sisters Lake gölü ve Witch Sisters bataklığı var sanırsam. Rivayetlere göre orada yaşayan üç cadı kız kardeş, görülmüş en güzel kızlarmış!”

Buna yediği ısırık ise özellikle acıtmıştı Brom’un canını..

“Tamam.. Öyle olsun bakalım..”, demişti Brom, kalçasının, tam da göremediği noktayı acı içerisinde kaşırken. “Doğuya gidelim. Bu kadar yakınındayken denize girmemek yazık olurdu. Şanslıysam denizde fazla sis olmaz. Rivayetlere göre açık havada, Drashan ta buradan bile görülüyormuş..”

Gerçekte Brom’un, ne Aralık ortasında buz gibi bir denize girmek, ne de mebus korsanların olduğu Drashan’ı —uzaktan yada yakından görmek gibi bir niyeti vardır. Sadece aklında oluşan bir teoriyi sınamak niyetindedir o kadar.

Brom, teorisini üçüncü bir ısırıkla sınamış olarak kuzeye doğru yürümeye başlar..

Aynı ısırık onu hanlardan, genel olarak yolları takip etmekten, şehir ve kasabalardan da uzak durması gerektiğini.. eh.. ısırarak söyler!

Brom, kendisini bu pis kokulu bataklığın ortasında getirip, sonra da terk eden ‘ısırığa’ lanet eder ve yapış yapış balçık ve sulu-vatuzlu vıcık vıcık çamurlu ‘bi şey’lerin içinde bulur.

“Niye yaaa.. Niye getirdin beni buraya ki? Ne var burada? —Aaaa bak, vıcıklı sülüklü balçık dışında gerçekten ne var burada?”, diye acıklı bir sesle hicveder.

Genç hobbit, o bataklıkta iki gün cebelleşir ve gece mi daha kötü, yoksa gündüzleri mi, bir türlü karar veremez zira gündüzleri hareket eden, ve bazen de etmeyen her şey onu yemeye çalışır. Geceleri ise bataklığa olağan dışı, nereden peyda olduğunu bir türlü kestiremediği bir sisle beraber, boğucu bir de sessizlik çöker ve Brom sislerin arasında devamlı ‘bir şey’lerin sessizce ve süzülerek uçtuğunu görür.

Geceleri sessizliği bölen sadece, arada bir duyduğunu sandığı inleme sesleridir.

“Lanet olsun..”, diye geçirir içinden Brom. “..hortaklar ve hayaletler! Neden hortlaklar ve hayaletler olmalıydı ki?”

Brom bataklıkta geçirdiği ikinci gecenin boğucu sessizliğindeki inlemelere yeni bir ses daha katılır..

 

“Brom..”

 

“Efendim.. Ne? Eh? Kim var orda?”, diye tiz bir çığlık atar Brom.

 

“Brom.. Kurtar beni Brom, boğuluyorum..”

—diye çok uzaklardan, yankılanarak gelen, yumuşak, hafif titreyen, ipek gibi bir kadın sesi duyar Brom.

 

“Ne.. neredesiniz? Sizi göremiyorum!”, diye cevap verir Brom tırsmış bir şekilde.

 

“Yardım et bana, Brom.. Çok yalnızım.. ve yardımına ihtiyacım var, kurtar beni bu bataklıktan..”

 

“Ama ben kendimi bile kurtaramıyorum. Neredesiniz? Göremiyorum sizi. Sabaha kadar dişinizi sıkabilirseniz, sizi kurtarmak için yardım getirmeye çalışacağım.” 

 

“Brom.. Lütfen yardım et bana.. Boğuluyorum..”

 

“Ben.. adımı nerden biliyorsunuz?”, diye korkmuş bir şekilde sorar Brom.

 

“Brom.. Yardım et bana.. Kötü adamlar beni zincire vurdular ve beni bu bataklığa kurban ettiler.. Yok olmak istemiyorum, yaşamak istiyorum, Brom..

 

Brom duydukları karşısında korkmuş olmasına rağmen yine de fena halde hiddetlenir çünkü yaşadıkları bu dünyada, bir şeyleri def etmek için böylesi ‘bakirelerin kurban edilmesi’ alışkanlığı duyulmuş bir şey olmasa da, imkansız da değildir.

Genç ozan, özellikle kadınlara karşı yapılan kötülüklere, cürümlere ve cinayetlere karşı içsel bir hassasiyeti vardır ve bulduğu göreceli ‘kuru’ topraktan kalkar ve sesin geldiğini düşündüğü yöne doğru vıcıklı balçıklı bataklıkta, kör bir şekilde sislerin içine dalar..

..ve çok kısa bir süre içerisinde de ayağı takılır ve yüzü koyun, pis, bulanık ve buz gibi bir bataklık göledinin içine düşer.

Brom, anında ve panik içerisinde, buzlu bulanık suyun içerisinde debelenmeye başlar ama su, dışarıdan göründüğü kadar bulanık değildir.. daha ziyade, bir şekilde sadece ‘puslu’ gibidir..

..Puslu ve aydınlık!

Brom, suyun derinliklerinde ışıl ışıl bir şeylerin parıldadığını görür ve ister istemez tepinmeyi bırakır ve suyun dibine doğru batarken, hayranlıkla o pırıltılı ışıkları seyretmeye başlar.

Ve hobbit battıkça su sanki berraklaşır ve Brom orada, surun derinliklerinde, daha önce hiç görmediği, garip, çapraz örmelerle bir birine eklenmiş, zarif denebilecek kadar da ince zincirlerle ayaklarından, bileklerinden, belinden ve boynundan prangalanmış genç, sıskası çıkmış kızı görür..

Brom bir ozandır ve her ozan gibi hayal gücü gelişmiş bir ruhu vardır. Dahası, bir hobbit olması dolayısıyla, biraz da hayalperesttir. Ancak o buz gibi suda gömülürken, zincirleriyle boğulan sıska kızı gördüğünde içinde bir şeylerin kıpraştığını hisseder..

..ve aklından, “Kim böylesi güzel ve zavallı bir kızı buz gibi bir suyun içinde zincirlere vurur ki? Bu açıkça bir cinayet!”, diye geçirir.

Bununla beraber, zihninin derinliklerinde ise, “Bu sıskası çıkmış kız suyun içinde nasıl hala hayatta?”, diye küçük bir ses de duyar ama o ses, üst üste binen hayret verici şeyler karşısında biraz cılız kalır ve boğulur.

 

“Brom.. Yardım et.. Boğuluyorum.. Daha fazla dayanamayacağım.. Ölüyorum.. Lütfen.. Ölmek istemiyorum..”

 

Brom suyun içinde kulaçlarını açar ve kıza doğru yüzmeye başlar ve ona yaklaştıkça, kızı prangalıyan zincirlerin, göletin derinliklerindeki, üstünde ne olduklarını anlayamadığı bazı rünlerin kazıldığı büyük, yosun tutmuş bir sütuna çivilenmiş olduğunu fark eder.

 

“Boğuluyorum.. Daha fazla dayanamayacağım.. Ölüyorum, Brom.. Ölüyorum..”

 

“Geliyorum, dayan..”, diye bağırır Brom, ve bağırmasıyla birden boğazı buz gibi, çamurlu ve bulanık suyla dolar!

 

Genç hobbit, gerçek, katışıksız, akılsız paniği hayatında ilk defa ve o anda yaşar.. Ve hayatta kalma iç güdüsünün ona söylediği tek şeyi yapmaya çalışır; Brom var gücüyle yüzeye çıkmak için çırpınır ama farkında olmadan ne kadar derine inmiş olduğunu anlamamıştır bile..

..Küçük hobbit’in göğsü sıkışır, yanan ciğerlerindeki son hava da panik kabarcıkları halinde ağzından ve burnundan kurtulur ve Brom, gözleri kararmış bir şekilde tekrar dibe çökmeye başlar.

 

“HAYIR.”

—diye güzel, etkileyici bir ses duyar kaybolan farkındalığının derinliklerinde..

 

“Burası ölmek için uygun bir yer değil, ölümlü.”

 

Brom acı içerisinde gözlerini açtığında, hala göletin derinliklerindedir, ancak daha önce gördüğü parıltıların hepsi gitmiş, geride sadece buz gibi soğuk ve bulanık pis su kalmıştır. Brom açısından farkı ise, ilginç bir şekilde nefes alabiliyor olmasıdır..

Genç hobbit, hayret ve panikle etrafına bakındığında, kendisini kocaman bir hava kabarcığının içinde süzüldüğünü görür. 

 

“Burası küçük bir hobbit için de uygun bir yer değil. Ve bu, o mebus yaratığın ilk defa bir ölümlüyü zincirlerinden kurtarması için bu tehlikeli sularda boğuşu değil. Ama ben burada olduğum sürece, o da bu bataklıkta kalacak.”

 

Genç Brom sesin geldiğini sandığı yere döner ve karşısında, hayatında gördüğü en yakışıklı adamı görür.

Brom bir ozandır ve ozanlar için kelimeler ve nüansları çok önemlidir. Bu yüzden karşısında duran ‘adam’ için sanki ‘yakışıklı’ kelimesi yetersizdir. Yada sadece ‘anlamsızlaşmıştır’ artık.

Önünde duran adam, uhrevi denebilecek kadar ‘güzeldir’..

 

“Kim.. kimsin sen?”, diye tırsmış bir şekilde kekeler Brom.

 

“Sana adımı vermek isterdim, genç Brom Bumblebrim, ancak isimim seninle yayılacak olursa, bu benim buradaki görevimi zorlaştırır zira beni adımla bulabilirler ve gördüğün o şer yaratığın müritleri, mahpusumu kurtarmak için ellerinden geleni yapmak için burada toplanırlar. Nerede olduğu bilinmeyeni kimse kurtaramaz.”

 

“Be.. Beni kurtardığınız için te.. teşekkür ederim.. sanırım..”, diye kekelemeye devam eder Brom.

 

“Teşekküre gerek yok, genç hobbit. Bununla beraber, seni buraya getiren küçük misafirine, yüzmesini bilmeyen birisini okyanusa atarak öğretmeye kalkmanın kendisi için biraz masraflı, senin için ise ‘can alıcı’ olabileceğini hatırlatmanı rica edeceğim.”, der uhrevi güzellikteki adam.

 

“Sö.. söylerim ama beni dinleyeceğini pek sanmıyorum..”

 

“Denemekten bir zarar gelmez.. Dinleyebilir. Seni kaybederse, yerine yenisini bulması çok uzun sürebilir. Dahası, bunun için vakti de kalmayabilir.. Şimdi. Giymeye hazır mısın?”

 

“E.. evet, Efendim. Kesinlikle hazırım. Ama gitmeden önce bir şey sormak isterim.”

 

“Sadece bir şey mi?”, der adam ve gülümser.

 

“Sen.. Uhhm.. Siz bir melek misiniz?”

 

“Öyle de denebilir, genç Brom. Teknik olarak ben bir ‘Muhafızım’. Bizler bazen —nadiren— bir ölümlüye atanırız, onu korumak için. Bazen de bir yere.. Fesat bir yaratığın dünyaya saçılmasını engellemek için. Bu döngüde, ben buraya atanmış durumdayım.”

 

“Döngü?”

 

“Daha değil, genç hobbit. O bilgi senin için okyanustan bile derin. Öğrendiğin zaman, sanıyorum öğrenmiş olmak için de hazır olmuş olacaksın.”

 

“Uhhm.. peki.. Efendim..”

 

“Hazır mısın?”

 

“Evet, hazırım.. Ama bir şey daha sormak isterim.”

Uhrevi güzellikteki adam, derin, esef dolu bir nefes verir.

 

“Tabii ki sormak istersin. Ölümlüler ve onlarım ölümcül merakları.. Aşağıdaki yaratığın kim olduğunu merak ediyorsun.”

 

“Aslında ben sadece neden evimden alınıp zorla ta buralara kadar getirildiğimi sormak istemiştim..”

 

“Bu sorunun cevabını bilmiyorum, genç Brom. Birimizin bildiği bir şeyi, hepimiz bilmeyiz. Bununla beraber, sanıyorum hedefine vardığında bunun cevabına da muvafık olmuş olacaksın.”, der Muhafız gülümseyerek.

 

“İş işten geçince yani..”, diye cevap verir Brom somurtarak.

 

“İş işten sadece öldüğümüzde geçmiş olur, genç hobbit. Ki bazen öldüğümüzde bile geçmiş olmayabilir. Ama sen buradaysan, bunun bir sebebi olmalı. Tıpkı gideceğin yerde sana ihtiyaç duyulabileceği gibi.”

 

“Ben sadece basit, küçük bir hobbit’im. Kimin bana ihtiyacı olabilir ki? Bu koca dünyada nasıl bir etkim olabilir?”

 

“Bu ‘koca dünya’ dediğin şey gerçekte ve tamamı, bir çok küçük şeylerin bir araya gelmesidir aslında; ağaçlar, binlerce küçük yaprağın bir araya gelmesinden, şehirler, binlerce insanın bir araya gelmesinden, ordular, binlerce bireyin bir araya gelmesinden oluşur. İnsanların kaderlerini de, binlerce ‘küçük şeyler’in bir araya gelmesi belirler. Bunlar bazen niyetlerden, bazen eylemlerden, bazen de ‘sadece basit’ küçük hobbit’lerden oluşur..”

 

“Hiç bir şey anlamadım ama verdiğiniz alicenap açıklamadan dolayı teşekkür ederim, Efendim.”, der Brom ciddi bir ifadeyle.

Uhrevi güzellikteki adam tekrar gülümser.

 

“Gidelim mi?”, diye sorar hobbit’e.

 

“Evet, lütfen.. Ama hazır konu açılmışken, aşağıdaki kim di?”, diye soruverir Brom.

Muhafız yine esef dolu bir nefes daha verir.

 

“Ah şu ölümlüler..”, diye söylenir.

 

Brom içinde bulunduğu ‘hava kabarcığının’ daraldığını hisseder ve gözleri kararmaya başlar. Etrafındaki buz gibi su üstüne çuvallandığında ise kendinden geçer. Farkındalığını kaybetmeden önce duyduğu son şey Muhafızın sesidir.

 

“Zuggtmoy.”

 

Brom, muhteşem bir Nisan güneşine gözlerini açar.

Güneş daha tam tepede değildir ancak pırıl pırıl, masmavi gök yüzünde keyifle dolanmaktadır. 

Brom, her tarafı ağrır bir şekilde doğrulur ve etrafına bakınır. Aşağı, güneye baktığında, Croaking Mires bataklığını görünce biraz şaşırır. Belli ki Muhafız onu sadece yüzeye çıkarmakla yetinmemiş, onu bataklıktan da tamamen çıkarmıştır.

 

“Zuggtmoy..”, diye geçirir içinden ama bu isme tekabül eden hiçbir bilgi gelmez aklına.

“Aptal şey..”, diye hışımla söylenir ama bunu, suyun altındaki ‘sıskası çıkmış, ürkütücü kız’ için mi kullanır, yoksa olur olmaz zamanlarda onu, tam da göremediği yerden ısıran şu ne idüğü belirsiz şey için mi, belli değildir..

Brom Bumblebrim’in hayret verici maceraları
A Bard’s Tale XIV “a Bit of a Bite” III ile
devam edecek..


 

arashkan şehri book 03 books dungeons and dragons duygusal groups karakter analizi komedi role play serenity

Deja Vu..

Deja Vu..

Timeline:

Bir yandan Darly Dor, Aager, Laila, Gnine ve Merisoul, Gar Thalot hakkında bilgi toplamaya çalışırken, kaldıkları handa Inshala da Lilly Venom ile arkadaş olmaya çalışmaktadır. İş sanki dile getirilmemiş, gizli bir yarışa dönüşmüştür. Gar Thalot’u mu önce bulacaklar, yoksa Lilly Venom’u mu kazanacaklar.

Ortaya çıktığı günden beri yeri ve kimliği muamma olan Gar Thalot, ulaşılması imkansız gibidir.

Lilly Venom ise Aager’e karşı duyduğu yıllanmış nefretinden vaz geçmeye hiç niyetli değildir.

Bu hikaye, “Lilly & Shala” dan bir gün sonra yer alır.

 

 

Neden? Beğenmedin mi yoksa?”, diye gözü dolu bir şekilde sorar Inshala.

“Beğenip beğenmememin bir önemi yok. Canım istemiyor, o kadar.. Ben bir kesiciyim. Böyle saçma sapan şeyler giyinmem!”, der battaniyelerin altındaki kız.

“Ama o kadar çok güzel ki..!”, diye ünler Inshala ve dolu gözleri elbiseye bakarken fal taşı gibi olur. “Seni içinde hayal edebiliyorum ve tamamen yakıştığını görüyorum.”

Söz konusu elbise, silik, neredeyse beyaza yakın yeşil, yakası ve bileklerinde ince dantelleri olan, hafif düşük kesimli bir iç bluz, göğüs altından bele kadar inen ve arkadan bağlamalı derin, koyu yeşil, ince tığ altın işlemeli bir korse ve korseden sadece iki ton daha açık yeşil, iki yanında da uzun yırtmacı olan ve yere kadar uzanan bir etekten oluşmaktadır.

Prenses Alor’Nadien ne’nin, Inshala’nın ricası üzerine Lilly için istettiği hediyesidir ve onu olağanüstü kılan da budur..  Elbise bir elf yapımıdır ve tekil parçalarına bakıldığında büyük bir zevkle hazırlanmış olduğu aşikardır ama herhangi bir şekilde gösterişli olması amacı güdülmemiştir; fevkalade zarif bir şekilde onu giyene imalı vurguları yapacak, buna rağmen tadında bırakacak kadar ağırbaşlıdır.

 

“E, ne yapacağız şimdi peki? Lorna abla bunu senin için özel istetmiş. ‘Bu olmadı, başka bi tane getir!’, mi diyim ona? Bu çok ayıp olmaz mı Lilly abla? Ayrıca bu onu çok üzer ki..”, diye dertlenir Inshala.

‘Lilly Abla’, battaniyenin altında omuzlarını silker. Sonra önünde ona bakan kızın bunu göremeyeceğini düşünerek, aynısını sesli olarak ifade eder.

“Bana ne! Bana mı sordun böyle salakça bir şey isterken..”, der huysuzca.

Inshala’nın gözleri dolar.

Battaniyelerin altındaki kız, sadece huysuz değildir.. Aynı zamanda zehirlidir ve onu incitmek için özel bir çaba gösteriyor gibidir.

Inshala böyle şeylerle ormanda hiç karşılaşmamıştır. Yaşadığı ormanda rahmetli efendisi hariç, hiç kimseyle konuşmamış, hiç kimseyle de görüşmemişti. Ve aylar önce birileri gelip onu yatağında öldürmemiş olsa, muhtemelen şu anda ne bu garip, ürkütücü şehirde olurdu, ne de bu kızla uğraşmak durumunda kalırdı.

Ama o zaman da Lady, Laila, Lorna, Bremorel, Meriosul ve Moira ablalarıyla yada Udoorin, Gnine ve Darly abileriyle de hiç tanışmamış olurdu.

En önemlisi ise, Aager Fogstep’le hiç konuşmamış olurdu. Muhtemelen Aager’in bundan haberi yoktu ama, bundan dört yıl önce, kendisi Aager’le karşılaşmıştı. En azından o Aager’i görmüş ve günlerce takip etmişti ve Aager’de Aager olduğu için, kendisini görememiş olsa da, varlığını hissetmişti.

Çünkü o Aager Fogstep’di!

 

Gizliden gizliye Inshala, mevzu Aager Fogstep olunca biraz yanlı düşündüğünün farkındadır ama nedense bu hiçbir şekilde onu rahatsız etmez.

Kim bu dünya da ‘beraber aptal olalım’ yemini eder di ki?

Özellikle de Aager gibi, aptallardan nefret eden birisi için bu imkansızdı. Onun böyle bir yemini kabul etmesi için Inshala’nın aklına sadece bir sebep gelir ve istemsizce gülümser.

 

“Ne..? Ağlayacak mısın yoksa?”, diye iğneli bir sesle dalga geçer Lilly.

“Ağlayacaksan git bunu başka bir yerde yap. Bu saatte küçük bir kızın mızmızını çekemem.”

“Beni üzmek için bu kadar çaba sarf ediyor olmanın bir sebebi olmalı.”, der Inshala sessizce.

Lilly acı bir suratla ‘fırk’lar.

“Bugüne kadar elimden kurtulan tek kişi sen oldun. Senin yüzünden Aager de kurtulmuş oldu elimden. Her şeyimi aldığınız yetmiyormuş gibi, bir de bana bu saçma sapan şeyi giydirmek istiyorsunuz..”, der tiksintiyle.

“Aslında ne ben, ne de Aager Fogstep elinden kurtulmuş değiliz. Ama sen bu elbiseyi giymek istemiyorsan, benimkini alabilirsin. Bende başka yok ama en azından temiz. Daha dün akşam yıkamıştım. Zaten bana biraz bol geliyor. Bunu benim için, Yuleman amcanın kızı dikmişti. Sanırım zamanla içini doldurabileceğimi düşündü ama benden alınanların geri gelmesi yemek yemekle olacak bir şey değil..”, der Inshala aynı sessizlikle.

“Ne bunu, ne de seninkini istiyorum. Bana kendi kıyafetlerimi verin yeter!”, diye hışmeder Lilly.

“Peki..”, der Inshala. “..bunu Aager Fogstep’den rica edeceğim.”

Lilly Venom ‘hıh’lar.

“O hayvanın seni dinleyeceğini düşünüyorsan, sen gerçekten safsın ve küçük bir aptalsın!”, diye acı bir kahkaha atar Lilly.

“Bence ona aptal dememelisin, Lilly.”, der biri sessizce ve ardından kapı açılır ve Aager içeri girer.

Olduğu yerde bir süre sessizce Lilly Venom’u süzer Aager. Sonra yatağa doğru yaklaşır ve kızın ayak ucuna onun elbiselerini bırakır.

“Özel yapım. Her bir yerinde gizli cepkenleri var. On altı tane yakın mesafe etkili bıçak, dokuz farklı zehir, yarım düzine köpek balığı dişi, dört adet boğma ipi, iki tane katlanabilir kanca, yine katlamalı bir adet zehirli iğne üfleme borusu, iki düzine zehirli iğne, çilingir seti, bir makara kalın misine ve üç adet de duman bombası. Neyse ki Drashan’da kullandığın ateş iksirinden yoktu..”, diye hiç sektirmeden sıralar karalar içindeki adam.

 

Lilly Venom, öylece Aager’e ve yatağın ucuna bıraktığı elbiselerine bakakalır.

 

“Ama sana bir kızın elbiselerini karıştırmanın doğru olmadığını söylemiştim ve sen de bana bunu yapmayacağını demiştin!”, diye fena halde alınmış bir ses duyar Aager zihninde.

“Ben de bu düşüncene saygı gösterdim ve karıştırmadım.”, diye kendi cevabını gönderir Inshala’ya.

“Ne yazık ki Laila’yı bu konuda ikna edemedim..”, diye de sırıtarak ekler.

 

“Korkarım zehirler, iğneler, dişler ve bombaları an itibariyle geri veremeyeceğim. Bıçaklarından ikisi sende kalabilir ama gerisini de şimdilik vermeyeceğim.”, der Aager, kesici kıza dönerek.

“Ne? Kendimi iki bıçakla mı koruyacağım?”, diye hırlar Lilly.

“Burada kendini koruman gereken kimse yok. Bizim dışımızda gelen olursa da kendini iki bıçakla koruyamıyorsan, geri kalan on dört bıçak da işine yaramayacaktır.”, der Aager omuzlarını silkerek.

“Peki onları neden veriyorsun bana? Niyetimi biliyorsun..”, der açık sözlülükle.

“Hayır. O önceki niyetindi. Koşullar değişti. Ve Inshala senin kendini koruyabilecek durumda olman gerektiğini düşünüyor. Bu konuda kendisiyle tam olarak hem fikir olmasam da, yine de haklı.”

“Neden? Bilmediğim bir şey mi var?”

“Başında 15,000 altınlık bir ödül var Lilly, yoksa unuttun mu? Devamlı başında birisini bulunduramam.”, der Aager sakince.

“Devamlı başımda kimsenin durmasına gerek yok. Eğer beni öldürmeyecekseniz, bırakın gideyim.”, diye tıslar Lilly.

“Bu.. an itibariyle pek de ekonomik olmaz bizim için. Seninle daha görülmemiş bir hesabımız var. Ama dediğim gibi. Koşullar değişti ve senin bazı gerçeklere ayılman lazım.”, der Aager aynı sükunetle ama kendisini çok iyi tanıyan birisi olsa dünyada, Aager’in o anda hiçbir şekilde sakin olmadığını, iki muazzam duygu arasında kaynadığını fark edebilirdi.

Önünde, battaniyelerin altına gizlenmiş kızı feci bir şekilde öldürmek isteği ile, onca yıl sonra mutlak bir kaybın, kız kardeşinin, imkansız bir şekilde kendisine geri verilmiş olduğunun bilgisi arasında kaynamaktadır Aager..

 

Belli ki, Aager’i tanıdığını düşünen bir kişi vardır..

 

“A.. Aager?”, diye cılız, ürkek bir ses duyar karalar içindeki adam zihninde.

“Sorun yok. Bu kızı bulmak için yıllarca uğraştım. Sonra onun yanarak öldüğünü sandım. Meğer burnumun dibindeymiş ve ben onu öldürmek için elimden gelen her şeyi yapıyormuşum..”, diye acı bir şekilde geri gönderir düşüncelerini Aager.

“Ama.. ama onun şu anda kim olduğunu biliyorsun..”, der Inshala ona korkuyla.

“Evet.”, diye cevap verir Aager ama kızın neden korktuğunu anlayamaz.

“O.. o zaman neden hala onu parçalayarak öldürmek istiyorsun ki?”, diye aynı korkuyla sorar küçük kız.

 

Aager susar.

Kendini bildi bileli her zaman duygularına, neredeyse insan üstü bir hakimiyeti olmuştu. Küçük kız, onun bu taşlaşmış, içi ölmüş haliyle karşılaşmıştı aylar önce. Onun bu bitmiş ruhunu almış, damla damla akan bir çeşmenin altında ellerini yıkamaya çalışan biri gibi, Aager’in kaskatı kesilmiş ve kararmış ruhunu yıkamış, temizlemiş ve sanki ona tekrardan bir ruh kazandırmıştı.

Gerçekte Aager için bu arınmasının ilk göstergesi, aylar önce, Themalsar çıkışında Inshala’sını tekrar hayata getirmek için verdiği o on günlük mücadele değildi. Hiç şüphesiz o çadırın içinde bu küçük, sıskası çıkmış kızla geçirdiği ölümcül günlerin etkisi olmuştu, ama gerçek göstergesi ise Serenity Home’a geri döndüklerinde, onlar adına verilen şölen esnasında onu misafirhanenin penceresinden aşağısını gıpta ve utançla seyredişini gördüğünde aldığı karardı.

O karar, Aager’in yaşayan, atan ve hisseden bir kalbi olduğunun ilk göstergesi.

Onun yokluğunun gerçek acısını ise arenada Lilly’nin Inshala’yı bıçaklamasıyla beynine saplanan ölümcül darbe de değildi.

Gerçek acı, Inshala’nın ölmüş olduğunu anladığı andı..

Ve her ne kadar şu anda, battaniyelerin altındaki kızın yıllarca aradığı ve sonra da onun bir yangında can vererek öldüğünü sandığı kız kardeşi olduğunu bilse de, aynı zamanda o, Inshala’sının ‘farkındasız’ katiliydi.

İşte bu noktada iki zıt duygu Aager’in zihninde birbirini parçalayacak şekilde boğuşmaktaydı.

Ve bu acımasız, gazap dolu kavganın yankıları Inshala’ya sıçramıştı.

 

“A.. Aager.. Lütfen.. Arenada ne oldu?”, diye yalvarırcasına bir sesle sorar Inshala.

“Bir şey olmadı..”, der Aager ve odadan çıkmak için döner.

“Birbirimize böyle mi olacağız o zaman Aager Fogstep? Gizli, saklı ve sessiz..?”, der Inshala birden ve kahrolmuş bir sesle..

 

Aager bir cevap vermez..

..ve odadan çıkar.

 

“Lanet oldun sana Lilly.. Ve lanet olsun sana da Mab!”, diye yakan bir hışımla harlar Aager, ve ardında bıraktığı kırık kızın sel gibi ağlayan duygularını hisseder..

✱ ✱ ✱

Ona söylemelisin.”

“Hayır!”, diye hırıldar Aager oturduğu yerden.

Gün daha yeni batmıştır ve Aager Fogstep hanın arkasında, sevdiği sıskası çıkmış kızın penceresini görebileceği bir noktada, karanlıklara çoktan karışmış bir köşeye sinmiş, kendisi ve çevresi gibi karanlık düşüncelere dalmıştır.

“Ona söylemelisin!”

“Hayır.. Bilmesi gerekmiyor.”

“Ona söylemelisin.”

“Benden tiksinsin diye mi?”

“Bunu bilemezsin Aager Fogstep. Ama sınayabilirsin.. Bu yüzden ona söylemelisin..”

“Neden? Hayatımda sevdiğim, sevebildiğim tek kişi elimden alınsın diye mi?”

“O bir ölümlü. Bir gün zaten gidecek ve elinden de alınmış olacak. Bu kaçınılmaz. Ona söylemelisin.”

“O zamana kadar bilmese de olur. Kimse bilmiyor..”

“O sana hiçbir vaatte bulunmamışken bile yanından hiç ayrılmadın. Bunu yalanlarla yok etme. Ona söylemelisin..”

“Ona söyleyeyim ve zaten acıyla geçen hayatını biraz daha da mı karartayım?”

“O zaten acıyla doğdu. Acı onun en yakın dostu. Onun hayatında bildiği iki şey var; sana olan sevgisi ve.. acı.. Ona söylemelisin.”

“Seninle bir anlaşma yaptım, Mab. Bunu öğrenirse benim iyi biri olmadığımı düşünecek.. Bunu düşünmese bile bundan dolayı kendisini suçlayacak.”

“Bu muhtemel.. Ama onun tercih hakkını ona sormadan elinden almanı takdir eder mi sence? Ona söylemelisin..”

“Hiçbir şeyim yok artık.. Onu da mı elimden almak istiyorsun?”

“O zaten senin değil ki elinden alayım.. Kime ait olduğuna onun karar vermesi lazım. Ona söylemelisin.”

“Sen gerçekten çok acımasızmışsın Mab.. Biz ölümlülerin acısından özel bir zevk mi alıyorsun?”

“’..Onun canı karşılığında benimkini al.. Bu dünyada bir serseri eksik kimse fark etmez.. O ise özel.. Ondan sadece bir tane var! Onu kurtar..’ —bunlar senin sözlerindi. Ve bunlar kendisine acınmasını isteyen bir ölümlünün sözleri değil, Aager Fogstep. Ona söylemelisin.”

“‘Sevgi’nin ne olduğunu bilmeyenler ona sahip olamazlar. Ve ona sahip olmayanların kaybedecek bir şeyi de yoktur. Kaybedecek bir şeyi olmayan biriyle pazarlık yapamazsın ve o kişiye de asla güvenemezsin..” — bunlar da senin sözlerindi.. Merak ediyorum, Mab, sen en son ne zaman sevdin?”

 

..Buna Mab’den uzun bir süre cevap gelmez, ve farkında olmadan Aager bir simetriyi ve bir tekrarı kırmış olur!

 

“Ah şu ölümlüler.. Onları ne kadar iyi tanıdığımızı düşünsek de, bizi şaşırtmaya devam ediyorlar. Sorunun cevabını vereceğim Aager Fogstep zira Inshala’nın senin ‘yokluğundan’ dolayı çektiği acı, seninle yaptığımız anlaşmanın bir parçası değildi..”

 

Ve Kışın Hanımefendisi, Havanın ve Karanlığın Kraliçesi Mab, sindiği karanlık köşesinde sessizce duran yeni Kış Askeri’nin önünde belirir ve bir anda sanki bütün Arashkan’nın sesi kesilir. Aager’in duyduğu sadece Büyük Kuzey Tundra’lardan esen buz gibi soğuk, arktik bir rüzgarın uğultusudur..

 

“Çok, çok uzun bir zaman önceydi, ölümlü.. Bir önceki döngüdeydi ve tahmin edemeyeceğin kadar büyük bir acıyla, ve daha da büyük bir kayıpla son buldu. Kış Prensesimi —kızımı, kaybetmemin sebebi de bu oldu..”, der Mab soğuk.. ve kırık bir ifadeyle.

 

Ve Aager bir anda irkilir zira Mab kadar gururlu, kadim bir varlığın acısına.. ve ‘zayıflığına’ şahit olmuştur.

Aager’in teolojik bilgileri oldukça sınırlıdır. Aslında ‘sığ’ bile denebilirdi. Nevarki Aager insanları ve onların tepkilerini yakinen görmüş, tanımış ve tecrübe etmiş biridir ve bildiği bir şey varsa; hiç kimsenin, zayıflıklarının görülmüş olmasından hoşlanmadığıdır.

Bir ‘ölümlü’nün hoşnutsuzluğunun uç noktası ölümdür; şahit olduğun şeyden dolayı adam seni öldürür ve iş orada biter.

Mab gibi varlıkların hoşnutsuzluğu ise rahatlıkla ‘basit bir ölümle’ bitmeyebilir; şahit olduğun şeyden dolayı Mab seni öyle bir öldürür ki, sen ölmezsin. Ama bunu çok, çok uzun bir süre dilersin!

Aager büyük bir temkinle, hiç kıpırdamadan olduğu yerde durur. Ve bilgeliğin yepyeni bir boyutuna ayılır; birincisi, sonuçlarını düşünmeden, Mab gibi bir varlığa soru soramaması gerektiğine, ikincisi, Mab, kendisine ‘sevginin ne olduğunu’ bildiğini göstermek için zayıflığını da farkında olmadan göstermiş olabileceğine ve üçüncüsü, bunu farkında olarak ve bilinçli bir şekilde göstermiş olabileceğine..

 

Aager’in pragmatik yanı hiç bir yorum yapmaz ve Aager’i parmağı ile işaret edip ona gülmez. Bulunduğu odasının bütün pencerelerini kapatmış, kapısı barikatlanmış, loş bir köşede dikkat çekmemek için hiç kıpırdamadan, nefesini tutmuş bir şekilde durmaktadır.

 

Mab, Aager’in vardığı sonuçlardan hangisini onurlandırmıştır bilinmez. Ulaşılmazlığın zirvesi olan kadın, çok, çok kısa bir anlığına ulaşılabilir olmuş, şimdi ise aynı gururlu ve soğuk Mab olarak Aager’i süzmektedir.

 

“Ben pek az şeyin sebebi, pek çok şeyin sonucuyumdur! Acımasını bilmeyebilirim. Ama nadiren istekli acıtırım. Ona. Söylemelisin!”, der neden sonra.. ve gider.

 

Bütün ihtişamıyla bir an Aager’in önünde, bir an değil.

Işıksız, gürültüsüz, efektsiz ve dramsız..

 

Aager olduğu yerde derin bir nefes alır. Kendisine hedef alan arbalet ıskalamamıştır. Sadece geçici olarak beklemeye alınmış gibidir, o kadar.

 

“Lanet olsun sana Lilly..”, diye yine buğzeder haşin bir fısıltıyla Aager.

“O haklı. Bence de söylemelisin..”, der yumuşak bir ses.

Aager irkilir.. Düşüncelerine o kadar dalmıştır ki, geleni duymamıştır bile.

“Shit!”, diye küfreder sesli bir şekilde.

“Çok ayıp, ama isabetli.”, der aynı ses ve hanın çatısından süzülerek iner Merisoul Xyrotwu.

Uhrevi güzellikteki kuzguni kanatlı kız, zarif bir boyun hareketiyle bal rengi saçlarını arkaya savurur, Aager’e yaklaşır ve karalar içindeki adamın aylar önce, Themalsar harabelerinin altındaki mağarada havaya çizdiği ‘sınırın’ dibine kadar gelir.

“Bu işin seni ilgilendirdiğini hiç sanmıyorum, Merisoul Xyrotwu.. Senin Darly gibi ilgilenmen gereken birilerin yok mu?”, diye hırlar Aager.

“Darly.. Darly bir hayalin peşinde. Ölmüş bir hayalin.. Onu aşmadığı sürece ondan hiçbir kadına hayır gelmez ve kimse mükemmelleştirilmiş bir anı ile mücadele edemez. Ama şu anda güzel Darly Dor’dan bahsetmiyoruz, öyle değil mi? Bana kötü davranman için bugüne kadar sana bir tane bile sebep verdim mi Aager Fogstep?”, diye tamamen alınmış bir şekilde söylenir güzel succubi melezi alt dudağını pörtleterek.

“Ben hoşuna giden yerini yiyip, gitmeyen yerlerini atabileceğin bir aş değilim. İşine geldiğinde bana teşekkür edip, işine gelmediğinde beni ‘göndermeye’ çalışman bana pek de adilce gibi gelmiyor.”, der Merisoul.

“Bu güne kadar hangi davranışım sana benim adil biri olduğum izlenimi verdi?”, diye acı bir şekilde sorar karalar içindeki adam.

 

“Sanırım sen ‘adî’ ile ‘adil’i biraz bir birine karıştırıyorsun. Benim adım Merisoul. Ama sanıldığı kadar ‘mutlu’ değilim ve bazılarına göre bir ‘ruhum’ bile yok. Bu beni mutsuz bir ruh mu yapıyor? Bu dünyada günlerim o kadar sayılı ki.. Gittiğimde, gideceğim yerde mutlu olmayacağım ve o zaman ruhum da bedenimden parçalanarak sökülecek. Ama şimdi, şu anda buradayım. Yoldaşlarım için mutlu olmaya çalışıyorum ve ruhum da bana ait..”, der garip kız mutsuz ve umutsuzca.

Aager çarpılmış gibi olur.

 

“Benden ona ne söylememi istediğini bilmiyorsun!”, diye kahreder.

“Hayır bilmiyorum..”, der Merisoul hüzünlü bir gülümseyişle.

“..çünkü daha söylemedin!”

 

Bir an Merisoul Xyrotwu önündeki çökmüş, içsel bir ateşle yanan adama bakar..

Sonra ona doğru bir adım atar..

..ve ‘sınırı’ geçer.

 

Sınırı geçmesiyle tütmeye başlar. Önce tüyleri, sonra kanatları, sonra da vücudunun tamamı..

Ama kız geri adım atmaz. Kendisine hayretle bakan adama doğru uzanır ve onun yanağına dokunur..

 

“Aşk!”, diye çığlar melez.

“Onun için hissettiğin aşk.. O kadar çok ki.. Ve nefret.. Kendine olan nefretin.. Seni yakıyor.. ama bilmediğin, onu da yaktığı..”, diye inler Merisoul.

“Ne.. Ne yapıyorsun sen?”, diye korku ve hayretle bakar Aager tüten kıza.

“Ona.. ona karşı hep.. dürüst oldun.. Ve bu onunla paylaştığın aşkınızın temeli oldu.. Kız kardeşim.. o sandığından çok.. daha güçlü, sevgili Aager Fogstep.. ve ondan gerçekleri saklayarak, .. ona iyilik yapmış olmuyorsun.. O göründüğünden çok.. çok daha olgun.. ve bilge biri.. Ondan kendini.. sevgini.. ve acılarını esirgeme.. çünkü o senden bunları.. esirgemedi..”, der ve küçük bir çığlık atarak bir anda alev alır!

 

APTAL ŞEY! NE YAPTIN SEN!“, diye harlar Aager ve pelerini çıkartıp yanan, kaçık kızın üzerine atıp onu söndürmeye çalışır.

“Bu.. bu ateşi boğarak söndüremezsin.. Aager Fogstep..”, diye bir fısıltı kaçar tüten pelerinin altından.

 

“GİT.. GİT AAGER FOGSTEP.. SEVDİĞİNE GİT VE ACIMI ONURLANDIR!”

 

Aager öylece yanan kıza bakakalır, sonra panik içerisinde avazı çıktığı kadar bağırır!

 

“Inshala! Merisoul’un sana ihtiyacı var! Pencerenin hemen altında ve ilerisindeyiz!”, diye haykırır sevdiği kızın zihnine.

Aradan beş saniye bile geçmeden avuç kadar küçük bir baykuş konar yanına ve olduğu yerde iki kere döner, üçüncü dönüşünde baykuş kaybolmuş, yerinde Inshala belirmiştir!

 

Küçük kız eliyle bir işaret yapar ve yerden fokurdayarak su fışkırır ve Merisoul’u tamamen yutar..

Küçük kız eliyle bir işaret daha yapar ve sular geldiği gibi taşlarına arasından sızarak kaybolur.

Inshala gözlerini kapatır ve sanki bir şeye yoğunlaşıyormuş gibi durur.

Aager, Inshala’nın sesini kendi zihninde duyar.

“Jay.. Cesur ejderha.. Güzel ejderha. Sahibenin sana çok ihtiyacı var. Gel.. Ona gel güzelim..”

 

Inshala’nın seslenmesiyle, daha çok bir kürdanı andıran mızrağı ile sırtında Whimsi Lola olduğu halde küçük ejderha Jay’in belirmesi arasında neredeyse hiç zaman geçmez.

ÇAĞIRILDIK VE GELDİK! SAVAŞA HAZIRIZ!“, diye vızıltılı bir nara atar Whimsi.

Jay ise sahibesinin halini görünce acıyla karışık kurbağamsı bir ses çıkarır ve onun yanına konar.

“A aaaa…!”, diye ünler Whimsi ve neredeyse kömür olmuş succubi melezine alık alık bakar.

Inshala, Merisoul’u işaret eder ve narin parmaklarından, küçük, altın renginde parıldayan polen tozları uçuşur ve ağır dökülüm ile yanmış kızın üzerine konarlar..

Her toz tanesi Merisoul’a değdiğinde yanıkları uçuşur ve kızın kömürleşmiş yerlerinde canlı, hafif pembe derisi belirir.

Aradan bir.. iki.. üç dakika geçer ve Merisoul’dan derin, boğuk öksürükler kaçar..

“Mebus adam!..”, diye harlar Aager’e, konuşabildiğinde.

“..mahvettin. Her şeyi mahvettin! Sen benim ‘an’ımı çaldın!”

“Huh?”, diye kafası karışmış bir şekilde öylece bakar kıza Aager.

“BAŞKASININ AŞKI İÇİN KENDİMİ FEDA ETME AN’IMDI O BENİM.. VE KURTULUŞUM OLACAKTI!”, diye bir yandan şarlar, bir yandan da tam bir hayal kırıklığı ile inler Merisoul.

“VE SEN ONU MAHVETTİN!”

“Ummm..”, diye kızın abuk mantığı karşısında daha da afallar Aager.

“Neden bahsediyor bu?”, diye sorar Inshala, ardarda yapmak zorunda kaldığı ağır büyülerin yorgunluğu ile.

 

Aager durur.

Merisoul ise gözlerini kısar ve ona feci pis bakışlar atar.

 

“Benim.. Bana bir şey olsaydı ve biri gelip sana, beni kurtarmak için ne yaparsın, diye sorsaydı, sen ne der—”, diye sorar Aager, Inshala’ya sessizce. Ama daha sözünü bitiremeden, ve hiç bir tereddüt göstermeksizin, haşin bir sesle tıslar Inshala.

“—HER NE GEREKİYORSA!”

“Ben de tam olarak bunu yaptım; ‘her ne gerekiyorsa’. Gerçekte Lilly seni arenada.. çok ağır bir şekilde yaraladı.. ve sen.. sen ölmek üzereydin. Bende seni kurtarabilmek için Mab ile bir anlaşma yaptım. Ne yazık ki ‘hizmetim’ dışında ona verebileceğim hiçbir şeyim yoktu..”, der tek nefeste Aager.

Inshala korkuyla karışık bir kahırla bakar ona.

“Ne istedi senden?”, der küçük bir fısıltıyla.

“Onun Kış Askeri olmamı istedi.. ve.. ve bende kabul ettim. Seni.. seni kaybedemezdim!”, diye hiç sektirmeden ve acıyla konuşur Aager.

“Lütfen.. lütfen gitme..”

 

Uzun bir süre Inshala öylece bakar Aager’e.

Ve gözlerinden iri taneli yaşlar iner.

Ama ona sarılırken hiçbir tereddüt yada tedirginlik göstermez.

 

“Ben buradayım ki. Bir yere gitmiyorum. Beraber aptal olmaya söz vermiştik..”, diye fısıldar Inshala, Aager’e.

“Ve senin bunu anlaman için ne kadar tekrarlamam gerekiyorsa bunu da yaparım!”

✱ ✱ ✱

Lilly Venom hayretle ve tam bir şok içerisinde, bir anda önünde küçük bir baykuşa dönüşüp pencereden fırlayan kızın arkasından bakar.

“Bu.. bu muhteşemdi!”, diye sessiz bir saygıyla söylenir..

Lilly arenada geçirdiği bir haftayı, bu sürede gerçek adının Gnine olduğunu öğrendiği cüce ile yaptığı konuşmaları, onunla omuz omuza yaptığı karşılaşmaları ve sonrasında da bu garip grubun son karşılaşmada dev sürüngen ile yaptıkları savaşı tekrar gözden geçirir. Ve çok basit bir şeye ayılır.

 

Bu ‘insanlar’..

Hiçbiri para yada şöhret için çıkmamışlardı o devasa yaratığın karşısına.. Onca acıyı sadece ‘arkadaşları’ için çekmişlerdi.. bir cüce için!

 

Lilly, içine doğduğu ve büyüdüğü kendi dünyasında asla, ama ASLA kimse böylesi bir riski göze almazdı..

Hayır, bu bir risk olarak bile değerlendirilemezdi..

Bu sadece ahmaklık yada..

 

..FEDAKARLIK olabilirdi.

 

Ve o hayvan da o gün oradaydı.. O da bu fedakarlığın bir parçası olmuştu!

 

Lilly yatağından doğrulur.

O küçük süprüntü pencereden fırlayıp gitmiş ve arkasından kapatma nezaketini bile göstermemişti!

 

Lilly bu düşüncesine kahkahalarla güler.

Farkındadır.

Artık anlamsızlık derecesinde saçmalamaya başlamıştır.

O sıskası çıkmış kıza harlamak, onda kusur bulmak için insanüstü bir çaba sarf ettiğinin de aslında farkındadır.

 

“Aptal şey, sırf ben temiz bir odada uyuyabileyim diye daha dün boğuluyordu!”, diye hararetle söylenir Lilly.

 

Belki de bu ‘iyilik’ denen şey sadece doğuştan var olan —yada yoksa, olmayan— bir şey değil, gerçekten bir tercih meselesiydi. En nihayetinde Endless Watch Lordlarından Trimdan Kandara’yı öldürdükten sonra aldığı ‘kontratı’, bıçağı boğazında iken son anda öldürmemeye karar vermemiş miydi?

 

Acaba bu insanlar, o ‘müşterisinin’, geldikleri kasabanın Baş Tapınak Muhafızı Demos Lightshand olduğunu bilseler onu hayatta bırakırlar mıydı? Hayır. Muhtemelen bırakmazlardı.. Ama belki onu öldürmesi için kimin altınlarını vermeye gönüllü olduğu bilgisi onlara cazip gelebilirdi..

Tıpkı arenada o manyak izcinin neredeyse üç yüz yardadan delik deşik ettiği Dreadlock’u kimin tuttuğunu.. Dahası, kimi öldürmesi için tutulduğu bilgisini satabileceği gibi..

Lilly bunun iyi para edeceğinden kesinlikle emindi.

 

Kızın gözleri, gardırobun kenarında asılı duran muhteşem elbiseye kayar —tıpkı battaniyesinin altındayken defalarca kaydığı gibi. Lanet olasıca şey gerçekten çok güzeldi.

Evet, Lilly işi icabı Aager’in yatağının ucuna katlı bir şekilde bıraktığı kendi elbiselerini tercih ederdi ama..

..ama işte!

 

Lilly pencereyi kapatmak için yatağından kalkar ama elbisenin yanından geçerken istemsizce ona dokunur..

..ve dona kalır. Dış görünüşüne bakılırsa, bluz ipek gibi görünmektedir. Korse ve etek ise muhtemelen pahalı kadifedir diye düşünmüştür Lilly. Ama bluz ipek ise, bu bildiği ipeklerin hiç birisine benzemektedir. Dahası, korse de, etek de kadife gibidir, ama kesinlikle kadife değildir.

Lilly elbisenin tamamını eline alır ve onda hiçbir ağırlık hissetmez!

 

“Lanet olsun, lanet olsun, lanet olsun..”, diye hayretle lanet eder Lilly Venom.

“..bu lanet şeyi denemem lazım!”

 

Lilly Venom, silik yeşil, yakası ve kolları ince dantelli bluzu dener ve ne olduğunu bilmediği kumaşın teninde akışını hisseder.

Sonra uzun, yırtmaçlı eteği başından aşağı geçirir ve beline tam oturduğunu görünce buna biraz şaşırır. Korse konusunda ne yapacağını düşünürken, korsenin kenarlarında gizlenmiş ipleri fark eder. Yavaşça korseyi göğüslerinin altından, kalçalarına kadar iyice oturtacak şekilde yerleştirir ve gizli ipleri çeker..

 

..ve korse bir anda gerilir ve yerine oturur!

 

“Hah!”, diye ünler Lilly. “Üç kişi gerektirmeden, tek başına takılabilir korse! Zengin olmanın en hızlı yolu!”

 

Lilly, giyindiği elbisenin rahatlığına hayret eder. Yırtmaçları sayesinde etek hiç bir şekilde hareket kabiliyetini kısıtlamazken, kıyafetin kendisi de sanki yer çekimi inkar edercesine hafiftir.

 

İşte tam o esnada kapı açılır ve kolunda Inshala olduğu halde Aager Fogstep içeri girer.

 

Lilly Venom içinden büyük, acı bir küfür savurur.

Inshala’dan küçük, mutlu bir çığlık kaçar.

“Muhteşem oldun abla!”, der küçük kız sevinç içerisine.

Aager ise ona öylece bakar. Sonra elini başına götürür ve kara kapüşonunu ve ağzına bağladığı yarı maskeyi söker, ellerini terlemiş saçları arasında gezdirir ve Lilly’ye sırıtır.

 

“Yeşil kesinlikle senin rengin. Tercihi için prensese teşekkür etmem şart oldu artık. Gel. Seni diğerleriyle tanıştırayım. Bu odada yeterince kaldın kız kardeşim!”


Köpek balığı dişleri (Shark teeth): Üçgen şeklinde bir çeşit shuriken. Köpek balığının dişlerine şekil benzerliği dolayısıyla bu isimle bilinirler.

Inshala’nın Merisoul’u iyileştirmeden önce Merisoul’un küçük familiar’i olan Jay’i çağırmasının sebebi, sahibesine yapılan iyileştirme büyülerinin normalde yapılmaları halinde belirli asgari ve azami etki arasında rastgele etki gösterecekken, Jay sahibesinin yanındayken tam/azami etki göstermesini sağlama özelliğini vermesinden dolayı idi.

 

Aager Fogstep ile Mab arasındaki konuşma, gerçekte Inshala ile Mab arasında geçen bir konuşmanın simetrisi gibidir (bkz. Hikaye: Rüya).

Aager ile Merisoul’un arasında geçen konuşma ile iki farklı konuşmanın, roller değişmiş olan halidir, veya sonucudur (bkz. Hikayeler: Clandestine Toplantı ve  Kamp Ateşi III, “Aftermath”).

 

“Ne yazık ki Laila’yı bu konuda ikna edemedim..”

 

“Ama sana bir kızın elbiselerini karıştırmanın doğru olmadığını söylemiştim ve sen de bana bunu yapmayacağını demiştin!”, diye fena halde alınmış bir ses duyar Aager zihninde.

“Ben de bu düşüncene saygı gösterdim ve karıştırmadım.”, diye kendi cevabını gönderir Inshala’ya.

“Ne yazık ki Laila’yı bu konuda ikna edemedim..”, diye de sırıtarak ekler.

✱ ✱ ✱

İzci Onbaşı Laila. Bu elbiseleri didik didik aramanızı istiyorum. Sanıyorum ki içinde bir çok gizli cepkenler var. Temkini elden bırakmayın ama içinde ne varsa çıkarın ve bulgularınızı rapor edin.”, der Aager ve bir çuval dolusu elbise ve iç çamaşırı Laila’nın önüne yığar.

“Neden sen aramıyorsun? Bunlar kucaklayıp getirdiğin o kesicinin elbiseleri değil mi?”, diye itiraz eder İzci Onbaşı Laila.

“Evet.”, der Aager.

“Ve sen benden onları karıştırmamı istiyorsun..”, der Laila.

“Evet..”, der Aager kısa bir sessizlikten sonra.

“Dur bi doğru anlamış mıyım; sen kızı kapıp, kendi rızası dışında ve baygın haldeyken buraya getirdin, sonra da onu soydun, kız şimdi çıplak ve sen de onun iç çamaşırlarını kurcalamak istiyorsun.. Doğru mu anlamışım?”, der Laila ve Aager’e tek kaşı kalkmış bir şekilde kuşkuyla bakar..

 

Ortam bir anda sessizleşir.

 

Laila dayanamaz.

“Gökler aşkına! Siz üçünüz ne yapıyorsunuz o odada?!”

“..Onu ben soymadım.”, der Aager, kısık bir sesle. “Kız tehlikeli bir kesici. O elbiselerin içine neler saklamış olabileceğini bilmiyoruz!”

“Peeeeeekiii..”, diye hiç inanmamış bir sesle cevap verir Laila. “Madem o kadar çok merak ediyorsun, neden bunu SEN yapmıyorsun? Kızın iç çamaşırlarını karıştırmak isteyen sensin..”

“Çünkü sana emrediyorum!”, diye cevap verir Aager.

“Burası Serenity Home değil. Savaş halinde de değiliz. Dolayısıyla bana emir veremezsin. Sana rapor vermek sorumluluklarım arasında. Ama bana veremeyeceğin emirlere uymak değil. Emir komuta zincirinde ben sadece İzci Efendisi Davien’in emirlerine tabiyim.”, der sırıtarak Laila.

“Görüyorum ki evden uzak kalmış olmanız sizde yanlış bazı izlenimlerin oluşmasına sebep olmuş, İzci Onbaşı Laila.”, diye hırlar Aager soğuk bir şekilde.

“Ne gördüğünü bilmiyorum ama bu izlenim her zaman vardı. Tıpkı senin bana emir veremeyeceğin gerçeği gibi..”, der izci kız daha da sırıtarak.

Aager burnundan solur.

“Ama benden rica edersen, düşünebilirim!”, diye de mutlu bir şekilde ekler.

 

Yüzünde buz gibi bir ifadeyse önünde sırıtan kıza bakar Aager.

 

“Dur tahmin edeyim..”, der Laila. “..Inshala bir kızın elbiselerini senin karıştırıp kurcalamanı istemedi ama sen bunları karıştırıp kurcalamaya can atıyorsun!”

“Hayır..”, diye dişlerini gıcırdatır Aager.

“O zaman dursun bi kenarda..”, der Laila mutlu bir şekilde ve arkasını dönüp gitmeye başlayınca, Aager’in “Lütfen..”, dediğini duyar.

“..içinde gizlenmiş bir şeyler var mı diye bu elbiseleri arar mısın?”

Aager’in sesindeki soğukluk, Büyük Kuzey Tundralarını aratmayacak seviyeye inmiştir.

“Madem böyle nazikçe istedin, tabii ki bunu yaparım. Sırf sevgili Inshala ile olan, ‘seninkinden bile daha eski’ dostluğumuz adına!”, der Laila acımasızca.

“Anlaşılan ‘Bane’s Song Operasyonu’ sonrasında, siz ve İzci Onbaşı Morel ile yaptığım sorgulama sizde yer etmiş..”, diye hırlar Aager.

“Yaralı ve bitmiş bir haldeyken bize çektirdiğiniz üç saatlik sorgulamadan mı bahsediyorsun? Aklımın ucundan bile geçmedi!”, diye güler Laila.

“Gördüklerinizi anlatmış olsaydınız, on dakika bile sürmemiş olurdu. Dahası, o operasyonun üzerinden neredeyse beş yıl geçti.. Sanki bunu aşmış olmanız gerekirdi, diye düşünüyorum.”, der Aager haşin bir sesle.

“Ve bu da senin kadınlar hakkında öğrenemediğin bir şey, Efendi Aager; bizler asla unutmayız ve affetmemiz de opsiyoneldir!”, diye muzaffer bir edayla sırıtır Laila.

“Anlıyorum..”, der Aager ve gözleri kısılır. “..ve sanıyorum buradaki gerçek sorunu görebiliyorum; siz yakın zamanda yine yanlış mantarlardan yemişsiniz İzci Onbaşı!”

Laila bir anda olduğu yerde dona kalır.

“..Neyse ki yakınlarda hızlı akan bir ırmak yok!”, der Aager nötr bir fısıltıyla.

“Neden bahsettiğinizi bilmiyorum, Efendi Aager!”, der hafif paniklemiş bir sesle ve hızla arkasını dönüp giderken Aager’in sesini duyar.

“Aaaa.. İzci Onbaşı Laila.. Gitmeden bir dakikanızı daha ‘rica’ edeceğim.. ‘Lütfen’imigeri alayım lütfen!”

“Ne..? Nasıl yani..?”, diye afallar Laila.

“Az önce benden hak etmediğiniz kıdemli bir ‘lütfen’ aldınız. Onu geri istiyorum!”, der Aager sırıtarak.

Laila biraz terlemeye başlar.

“Ne.. Ne gibi..?”

“Şimdilik sadece bu elbiseleri didik didik aramanı istiyorum.. Borcunun geri kalanını kapatman için eminim uzun vadeli bir şeyler düşünebiliriz sanıyorum.”, der Aager ve dönüp gider..

 

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A Bard’s Tale XIV
“a Bit of a Bite” – I

A Bard’s Tale XIV
“a Bit of a Bite” – I

Timeline:

Bu hikaye 37 yıl önce başlamış olsa da, biz o kadar geriye gitmeyeceğiz. Bunu ikiye bölüp, sonraki yarısından itibaren anlatmaya başlayacağız çünkü gerçekte hikayenin, tam olarak ağız sulandırıcı olmasa da, ilginç diyebileceğimiz kısmı buradan itibaren başlıyor.

Hikayemizin kahramanı, Brom Bumblebrim adında efendi, saygılı, sevilen, macera gibi saçma sapan işler peşinde koşmayan, aklı başında, ev konforunu sevecek ve bu konforun günlük hayatının kalıcı bir parçası haline gelmiş olacak kadar da tembel bir hobbit.. ya da oldukları gerçek tanımlama ile; bir halfling..

Yanlış anlaşılmasın.

“Ev konforundan hoşlanacak kadar tembel”, saygın tüm halfling’ler için geçerli bir tanım ve olmayı hedefledikleri şey de bu.

Ve genç Brom, daha on sekiz buçuk yaşına rağmen bu saygınlığa ulaşmış biriydi. Ta ki..

Tabii ki işin içinde bir ‘Ta ki’ var. Ne bekliyordunuz, bir halfling’in ev konforlarıyla ilgili bir hikaye mi yazacağımızı düşünmüştünüz? O hikaye çoktan yazıldı. Üç bölümlük filmi bile yapıldı..!

Ama biz kendi hikayemize geri dönersek, ta ki bu saygın, ev konforu tembeli halfling’in başına hiç beklenmedik bir şey gelinceye kadar..

Hikayemiz de işte tam olarak burada başlıyor. Ya da üç aşağı beş yukarı bunun civarında zira halfling’ler, az evvel bahsettiğimiz hikayedeki kadar kestirilebilir değiller gerçek hayatta.

 

 

Yerin altındaki bir delikte, bir hobbit yaşardı. Bu delik ıslak, çamurlu, pis, solucan ve yapışkan kokulu bir delik değildi. Kuru, kumlu, oturacak veya içinde yiyecek bir şeyi olmayan, içi boş bir delikte değildi: bu bir hobbit deliği idi ve bu da konfor demektir..

Mükemmel denebilecek, yeşile boyanmış, tam ortasında pırıl pırıl parıldayan pirinç bir tokmağı olan, yuvarlak bir kapısı vardı. Kapı, tünel şeklindeki bir hole açılıyordu: dumansız, ahşap panelleri, parke ve halıları ve cilalı iskemlesi ve bir sürü şapka ve palto—”

Brom Bumblebrim, okumaya daha yeni başladığı kitaptan başını kaldırır..

Açık penceresinin hemen yanında oturduğu okuma sandalyesinden dışarı bakar. Açık pencereden içeri yaz sıcağını iteleyen, pöfür pöfür bir rüzgar esmektedir ve bu da Brom için, günün en keyifli anıdır.

Gözleri, yarım çitlerle çevrili bahçesindeki rengarenk çiçeklere, palamut ağaçlarına, oradan da yaşadığı tepenin aşağısındaki vadiye, vadinin ortasından süzülerek akan çaya ve çayın kıyısına kurulmuş şirin kasabaya takılır ve gülümser. Yıllar önce kaybettiği anne ve babası, geçen yıl, bu günlerde kaybettiği amcasından sonra Bumblebrim’lerin son üyesi olarak ailesinden ona miras kalan bu evde yaşamaktadır ve amcasını kaybetmesi üzerinden bir yıl geçmiş olmasına rağmen anca gülümseyebilmektedir.

Onun gülümsemesine sebep olan da bahçesinin ne kadar güzel oluşudur zira rahmetli annesi de, babası da, daha sonra ise amcası da bu bahçeye çok emek vermişlerdir. Amcasından sonra sıra kendisine gelmiş ve o da bu sorumluluğunu göz ardı etmemişti.

Brom, tekrar okuma sandalyesine oturur ama kitabı tekrar açmaz. Kitabı zaten daha önce okumuştur.

On altı defa!

Brom, kitap yerine okuma sandalyesinin hemen yanındaki okuma sehbahasının üstünde duran liri alır ve itina ile mandallarını ayarlar, tellerinden bir kaç deneme tınısı çıkartır sonra sevgili annesi, babası ve amcasından ona kalmış bahçesindeki çiçeklerine, hafif hüzünlü, daha çok melankolik bir şarkı çalmaya başlar.

 

Ozanların canı yanmaz
Hiçbir şey hissetmiyorum, ne zaman öğreneceğim
Acıyı sindirmeyi

Parti olduğunda çağırdıkları benim
Çağırmak için kapıma dayanırlar, tokmağını kırıncaya kadar döverler
Sevgiyi hissediyorum, sevgiyi hissediyorum

Bir, ki, üç, çak
Bir, ki, üç, çak
Bir, ki, üç, çak

Sızıncaya kadar çalalım, oynayalım

Avizeden sallanacağım, avizeden
Sanki yarın yokmuş gibi çalacağım
Sanki hiç yokmuşçasına bir kuş gibi gece boyunca öteceğim, dökülen göz yaşlarım kururken hissedin
Avizeden sallanacağım, avizeden

Canımı dişime taktım, dayanamıyorum 
Gecelerim dolsun sabaha kadar çünkü bu gece zor tutunuyorum
Elimden tutun…

Brom çalmayı keser. Kaşlarını çatar ve kendince dramatik, düşünceli bir poz verir ve “Bu son kısmı olmadı sanki.”, der ve okuma masasının üstündeki, üzerinde bu şarkının sözleri yazılı olan parşömeni ve tüylü kalemini alır, onun hemen yanında duran küçük, mürekkep hokkasına, kalemi bandırır ve yazar;

 

Canımı dişime taktım, dayanamıyorum hayata tutunuyorum
Gecelerim dolsun Gecelerimi doldurun sabaha kadar çünkü bu gece zor tutunuyorum
Elimden tutun Yardım edin…

..diye düzeltme yapar ve tatmin olmuş bir şekilde gülümser. ‘Bu şarkı, akşamki partide acı kavun gibi patlayacak’, diye düşünür ve iyice öğreninceye kadar tekrarlar..

..ve olanlar da o akşam ki partide olur ama Brom Bumblebrim’in bunu anlaması biraz daha sürecektir.

Brom, akşamki partiye hazırlanmak için okuma sandalyesinden kalkar. Tam gidecekken gözü defalarca okuduğu kitaba takılır. Bu kadar çok defa okuduğuna göre, kitaptan hoşlandığı bellidir, ancak kitap birçok teknik ve kültürel hatalarla doludur. Brom, kitabı yazan adamın hayal gücüne saygı duysa da, hayatında bir halfling görmediğinden emindir. Temiz ya da pis, Brom bugüne kadar hiçbir halfling’in bir delikte yaşadığını duymamıştır..

Genç Brom renkli ve cafcaflı parti kıyafetlerini giyerken bir başka şarkıyı da mırıldanır;

 

Seni bana getirsin diye bir şarkı yazdım ki
Beni sana götürdün diye bir şarkı yazdım ki
Bunu bu akşam saatinde çiçeklerine söyledim ki
Gülümse de yanına geleyim..

Olduğun yerde canın sıkılmasın ki
Diye, söyledim sana bu şarkıyı ki
Ben hala buradayım ve seni düşünüyorum ki
Üzülme de yanına geleyim..

Benim adımı sen koydun ki
Çağrıldığım da gelebileyim ki
Mutlu olasın diye bu şarkıyı sana yazdım ki
Hadi beni çağır da yanına geleyim—

Kapı tokmağı büyük bir gümbürtüyle vurulmaya başlar ve Brom’un şarkısı yarıda kesilir.

“Vurmayın şu kapıya kıracakmış gibi her geldiğiniz de, yaa!”, diye söylenir genç halfling.

“Broooom! BROM BUMBLEBRİM!..”, diye bağırır biri dışardan.

“..kaç tane ‘Brom’ var bu kasabada ve kaçı bu evde yaşıyor?! Ve neden benim kapıma bir defa da bir kaç dwarf gelmiyor?”, diye söylenmeye devam eder.

Kapıdakiler Brom’un adını defalarca, kapı tokmağı eşliğinde bağırırlar. Öyle ki, genç halfling hazırlanmış bir şekilde kapıya geldiğinde neredeyse birilerini öldürmeye hazırdır. Ama kapıyı açtığında elinde liri, yüzünde ise muhteşem bir gülümseme vardır.

Brom, dışarda bekleyenlerle beraber Greener Kasabasının hanına doğru yola koyulur.

 

Az ilerideki çalıların altından bir hışırtı duyulur. Küçük, karanlık, şekilsiz bir şey, sinsice kıstığı gözleriyle uzun bir süre kalabalığın içindeki Brom’u takip eder. Neden sonra pis bir sırıtışla..

‘Tamam. Bu..!’,

..diye tıslar ve peyda olduğu çalıların altında kaybolur.

✱ ✱ ✱

O gece Brom ard arda şarkılarını söyler, çalgısını çalar ve handaki yoğun kalabalığı eğlendirir. Neredeyse sabaha, diğer halfling’lerle ve bir köşede oturan birkaç gnome, dwarf ve elf’i eğlendirir.

Yorgunluktan bir kenara sızmadan önce hatırladığı son şey, avizeden sallandığıdır..

..ve sağ kalçası ile baldırının üst tarafından, tam göremeyeceği yerden, sanki bir şeyin onu soktuğu.. ya da ısırdığıdır.

✱ ✱ ✱

Brom, müthiş bir baş ağrısıyla uyanır ve evindedir. Eve nasıl geldiğini hatırlamaz ama bu onun için son bir yıla yakın zamandır alışkın olduğu bir durumdur.

İçler acısı bir inlemeyle doğrulur ve istemsizce sağ kalçasıyla baldırının üst tarafındaki, tam olarak göremediği bir noktayı kaşır.

Zorlukla ayağa kalkar ve elini yüzünü yıkar, ıslak ellerini saçlarının arasından geçirerek onlara taranmış izlenimi verir ve mutfağa yönelir. ‘Ih’laya ‘pof’laya bakır demliğe su doldurur ve ocağın üstüne koyar. Sonra ocağın içine birkaç odun ve çıra atıp, çakmaktaşı ve uzun bir demir yardımıyla çıraları yakar. Demliğin kaynamasını beklerken, başını mutfak masasına dayamak için oturur ama bu sadece birkaç saniye sürer çünkü oturduğu gibi tekrar kalkar ve masanın etrafında turlamaya başlar. Neden sonra demlikten keskin bir ıslık sesi gelir ve Brom demliği ocağın üstünden kaldırır ve fincan rafından indirdiği rahmetli annesinin en sevdiği fincana sıcak suyu doldurur, içine şeker atar, karıştırır ve hızlı bir yudum alır.

Genç halfling, elindeki sıcak fincanla ekmek kutusuna gider, önceki günden kalma ekmeği alır, kilere yönelir, döke çarpa iri bir dilim kaşar, üç yumurta, sucuk, çekirdekli erik reçeli kavanozu ve iri bir kaşık dolusu tereyağı ile geri gelir, tencere ve tavaları koyduğu dolaptan geniş ağızlı, yıkaması kolay tavalardan birini çıkartır ve ocağın üstüne koyar. Tereyağını içine atar, yumurtaları kırıp onları da tavaya döker. Bıçaklarını koyduğu çekmeceden çıkardığı kısa çeliği olan bir tanesini alır ve sucuktan cömert bir kaç dilim doğrayıp olmak üzere olan yumurtaların üstüne, yumurtaların sarısına değmeyecek şekilde dizer, baharat kabinine gider, nane, zencefil, çörek otu ve tatlı kırmızı biber tozu kavanozlarıyla geri gelir, masanın etrafında bir tur daha döner ve sucuklu omletin üstüne getirdiği baharatların hepsinden birer çimçik atar, masanın etrafında üç tur atar, tavayı ateşin üstünden alır, günlük kullanım tabaklarının olduğu dolaptan indirdiği geniş, düz tabaklardan birine aktarır, masanın etrafında bir tur atar ve kahvaltısı olan sucuklu omlet, ekmek, kaşar ve çekirdekli erik reçelini yemek için oturur..

 

Neden sonra Brom, baş ağrısıyla başlayan gününde bir gariplik olduğuna ayılır.

Yudumladığı fincanında çay yoktur!

Sadece şekerli sıcak su..

Hayret ve ‘bir gören oldu mu acaba?’ ifadesiyle sıcak sulu fincanına bakarken, kalkıp masanın etrafında sekiz tur daha atmıştır.

Mahvolmuş bir kahvaltı ile asabı da, morali de bozulmuş olan genç Brom, günün geri kalanını evde bir oraya, bir buraya giderek, ve oturma odası, salon, misafir odası, ikinci misafir odası, yakın arkadaşlar odası, çalışma odası, dinlenme odası, çay odası ve.. mutfaktaki masanın etrafında defalarca tur atmıştır. Dahası, farkında olmadan ikinci kahvaltısını, öğlen yemeğini, ikindi çayını, akşam yemeğini de kaçırmıştır.

“Nooluyo yaa?!”, diye irkilir Brom birden.

Ama kendisine verecek bir cevap bulamaz.

Bu durum ertesi gün de devam eder.

Üçüncü gün uyandığında kendisini, mutfak masasının etrafında turlarken bulur!

Ve tırsar..

Ertesi gün kesin olarak Greener Kasabası revirine gitmeye karar verir ama bu düşüncede bile onu rahatlatan tek şey ‘gitmektir’.

O akşam, farkında olmadan en sevdiği keplerinden biri, kısa pelerinini, topak haline getirdiği bir battaniye, sırt çantası, rahmetli babasından kalma çok eski bir kılıç, amcasından kalma küçük bir gürz ve annesinden kalma liri ile çoktan evinin kapısından çıkmıştır.

Brom, en yakın arkadaşı olan Gamwise Samgee’nin kapısına bir not bırakır ve gecenin karanlığında kaybolur.

Not çok kısadır;

 

Sevgili Gamwise Samgee,

Beklenmedik ve ne idüğü belirsiz bir iş için, kestiremediğim bir süreliğine gitmem gerekiyor. Evim ve annemin çiçekleri sana emanet.

Özellikle güllerini çok severdi. Onlar günde iki defa su ister; sabah ve akşam.

Sevgilerimle,
Brom Bumblebrim.”