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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 kaplanmış 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 yanaklarında 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..

 


 

 

 
 

Quiet In The Library

Timeline:

Arcantonic and Brom slip silently into the night to do somethings that might very well break the prophecy they were sent for.

Adamant that she must do what she set out to do, Brom has little choice but to help accompany the ‘cute little demon’ of a gnomic girl.

 

This story takes place on the same night as
“Benim gitmem lazım.”
The Returning of Shal -ah Galad
Geleceğin Adımları
“Not Yets” and POV’s (18+)
and right after
Between The Blinds.

 

 

THAT. WAS. AWSOOOOOME!“, Tonic half shrieked, half cackled with manic fervent and triumphant hysteria. “I can’t believe she held me.. No!.. She hugged me! The Riverin of High Woods, The Princess of Bari Na-ammen, the daughter of Ri Grandaleren and Rise Nadine Graciousward.. THE FUTURE QUEEN OF THE HIGH ELVES, Alor’Nadien ne Feymist herself, my twin sister by adoption, no less, and she hugged me! Oww my Gosh, she smelled so nice.. So warm.. And you know what? I think I will go visit her again, once this is all over. Just for more of that!”

“Girl.. She offered you the throne of Bari Na-Ammen, literally, and all you can think of is her hugs? I’ll be the first one to admit, she is a beauty, par to Wraiven, but really, now.. Your priorities are a tad eschewed.”, Brom said with a bemused tone.

“Look here, you little hobbit!”, she said pointing a tiny finger at him. “This here is the hair of a Princess. And not just any princes, but that of Alor’Nadien ne, herself! And not just a snippet, either. She gave me a whooooole strand!”

 

Her tiny finger, the one she was pointing at Brom, was nearly all black! Because her fingers were so small, and the Princess truly had had very long hair, flowing nearly all the way down to her feet. She had enlaced the hair around and around her finger until it had all but covered it.

And now, the little gnomic girl was skipping and hopping like she was the proud owner of one of the rarest wonders in the kingdom..

..which, she was!

 

“You are such a dork, Tonic.”, Brom smiled. “..And a fangirl!”

 

The two had left the huge Dorin guy and the beautiful, graceful, and pretty princess behind and were heading to their next, and hopefully, last stop for the evening; to the Great Arashkan Library.

Why was every officious building in the city named ‘Great’, Brom had wondered.

The Great Arashkan Courthouse, The Great Arashkan Library, The Great Arashkan Arena, The Great Spires, The Great First Lord Princeps Palace.. It wasn’t like there was another city just over the hill with a courthouse, a library, an arena, some spires nor another first lord that one would confuse, now, was there?

Or perhaps there were some ‘baby’ Arashkan courthouses, libraries, arenas, spires, and first lord palaces and hence, the ‘great’ ones had real and practical significance.

Brom couldn’t imagine a conversation where some stranger would ask; “Excuse me, mate, where’s the First Lord’s Palace?”, and get a reply, “Which one? I mean, we have so many!”.

Brom suspected, that conversation would devolve into something like;

“The ‘great’ one..”

“Yea, okay, but which one? We have a lot of ‘great’ first lords in Arashkan. You’ll have to be a bit more specific, mate!”

“How many First Lord’s do you have, in this city?”

“19,876 by the last count. We had a new First Lord spawn just the other day!”

 

Apparently, Brom’s live-imagination was at play again!

 

But there was, however, some truth in his creative perception. All these ‘greats’ didn’t make the city anymore endearing.. Only pompous! No one, it seemed, was near-honestly humble like hobbits in this world. Hobbits lived in nice, quiet, rolling hills. They didn’t build giant monuments, nor put awesome statues to impress others. Seemed a little like too much work for no gain at all. Hobbits made their homes in the hills and.. well.. they lived in them.. Happily too!

The near-honestly was because hobbits were just unenthusiastically lazy to be bothered by such frivolities!

Elves, humans, gnomes, dwarves.. none of them ever seemed satisfied with what they already had. Always they would thrive for more..

..and still, be unhappy.

Just how stupid was that?

 

“Brom.”, Tonic said sternly. “I know what she offered. Think of my history. I know what power is. I lived with my uncle for years. And I know what power can do to you. My uncle.. He had power. Lots and lots of it. Even his demons feared him and it really is hard to instill fear in a demon. And look what it brought him. Banishment to the depths of hell he is never coming back from. It is possible he is still alive. And burning perpetually there.. And Heavens willing, he should burn for more, and then some.”

“I.. can’t say I admire his disposition. But why? Why did Nadine banish him and not just kill him and be done with? Death seems kinda more permanent, don’t you think?”, asked Brom a bit taken aback by the little gnomic girl’s savage tone.

“No. Death is not always thus permanent. Not for guys like my uncle..”, she replied, her tone much more subdued now than just a moment before.

“Ow? How do you mean?”

“My uncle, Arcanton.. He made many deals with many beings.. Outsiders.. Creatures that do not belong to our plane of existence. Planes where time and space get distorted. You literally can’t kill those creatures, Brom. You can only banish them from your own reality and hope some fool will not summon them back.. At least not in your lifetime!”, Tonic said quietly.

“Hmm.. So Arcanton made deals with things out of our plane of existence. But so did Wraiven, come to think of it, did she not? I mean, The Raven Queen doesn’t exactly belong to our plane of existence either, you know.”, Brom said carefully.

“Seressa did not make deals with the Raven Queen, Brom. Not in the sense that my uncle did. My pairs soul is her own. And belongs only to her. I doubt under any circumstance would she give up her soul to anyone.. or anything! Seressa is bonded with the Raven Queen via a pact. She does her bidding in return for her queen sharing a part of her power and knowledge with her. It is sort of a mutually beneficial agreement between two parties. She can, if she wanted, dissolve that bond. Yes, she will lose the Raven Queen’s favor and the power she imparts to her, but the fact remains; she can end the bond..”, Tonic tried to explain.

“So she can.. But I still don’t see the difference.”, said Brom as he squinted into the night.

“The difference is, unless you got more balls than brains, you literally can’t break the deals you make with Outsiders. Once the deal is done, your soul is on the market! It’s ‘Going.. Going.. Going.. Gone!’“, she said seriously.

“Well, that sucks.. I suppose. I like it that Seressa is free. I like her free. And she should always be free. Social rhetorics do her enough injustice and chain her as it is. She doesn’t need any more constraints.”, Brom said quietly.

 

The two walked on for some time in companionable silence. As it turned out, they ended up going the longest possible way around, taking the streets between the Officers District and Heaven Park, behind the Archery Military Camp, and by the Lights Temple. For some reason, the First Lords Palace and the streets surrounding it seemed to be teaming with burly, scowling patrols and neither Brom nor Tonic needed any complications or altercations with the city’s law enforcement’s that late, that night.

 

“Don’t.”, Brom said finally.

“Don’t what?”, asked Tonic, a bit surprised.

“Don’t ask the question you have been meaning to ask all night, Miss Tonic.”, he said with a destitute voice.

“Actually, I wasn’t going to ask anything.. And you really don’t need to ‘Miss’ me you know. Every time you say ‘Miss Tonic’, it sounds like ‘I miss Tonic!’ in my head, and that’s just weird.. and creepy!”, she said.

“Well, now. That is weird.. And creepy..”, mused Brom, but it seemed his mind was elsewhere.

“I did wonder though..”, Tonic began.

“And that.. is what I meant when I said, ‘don’t’!”, Brom frowned.

“You know. It isn’t fair you get to do all these psychoanalysis on me and then fend me off when I want to ask you some personal questions.”, she sniffed.

“I am not the one with the accumulated issues, Miss— Tonic.”, replied Brom, but there was no heat nor beration in his voice.

“So only people with decent backgrounds get to analyze others, then?”, asked Tonic mildly.

“No.. There just isn’t anything there to analyze.”, Brom replied allusively.

“Ahh.. I see.. So it’s perfectly alright if I did ask you a few personal questions, then?”, said Tonic with a victorious smirk.

“What? No.. How did you even get to that conclusion, girl?”, replied the hobbit feeling exasperated.

“Using awesome logic!”, smirked Tonic again.

“Using logic..”, snorted Brom. “You are not going to let this go, are you, girl?”

“Nope.”, replied Tonic happily. “So.. What do you see in Seressa?”

“Thought I already told you that. Just this evening. At least twice.”, frowned Brom.

“Yes, and no. Your description of her was a bit.. too intimate and heartfelt.. One could argue it’d make an excellent book cover, let’s say.”, said Tonic tentatively.

“I don’t know what kind of books you are into, girl, but I would suggest you read something that has actual literature in them.”, Brom scowled now.

“So you don’t like her, then?”, she blurted.

“Now why wouldn’t I like her? I mean, what is there not to like?”, replied Brom honestly.

“So you do like her..”

“Ow. My. Gosh, girl. You are going to push this in your direction whatever I say!”, exclaimed Brom, waving his hands.

“I just want you to give me an honest, and straight answer. Is that too much to ask? I mean, we are friends, right?”, persisted the gnomic girl.

“Just because we are friends, that doesn’t mean we share everything..”, said Brom exasperated.

“But you said, ‘We suffer. We mourn. We sing and we celebrate.. We do. And what we do, we share!‘. Your words, not mine.”

 

Brom ‘hoo boy’ed.

The little demon was persistent.. and she stuck on him..

..like a tick!

 

“That is possibly the worst misuse of a friendly conversation, Miss Tonic!”, Brom said angrily. “But I will tell you, just to get you off my back!”

“Yeshh!”, Tonic fisted her hand into the air. “Victory!”

 

“When I see your pair.. No.. When I see Wraiven, I sometimes wish I was a taller man. And better looking, perhaps. ‘Cooler’, so to speak. Maybe a bit more muscular.. You know, the type girls like to ogle at.

 

I love everything about her and she sees me only as something that she can, perhaps, cute into her coin purse. Not that I would mind being pursed by her, but that will still not make her see me in the light that I would rather have her see me.. If that makes any kind of sense to you.

 

We are so impossibly different, yet she makes me simply not care. Which is the core of the problem. She doesn’t see me that way, period. I mean, what am I to her, really, but a bushy little hobbit?”, said Brom then fell silent. This night had offered him many wonders. Just not the ones he would have wished for.

 

Tonic stared at the back of the hobbit as they once more fell silent.

She had been surprised by this unscrupulous hobbit a few too many times this evening. But this last bit gave her a whole new insight about him because he hadn’t been staring at her pair for the simple visual pleasure of having ogled at a very beautiful, proportionately curvy, comely buxom, life inducingly vibrant, deservingly exhilarating, darkly mysterious, and honestly alluring figure, counter-underlined by some macho male animal instinct, but for something more. Something that was intimate. Something that had real depth.

Tonic suddenly felt angry and jealous.

For all her pretense otherwise, she didn’t feel like sharing her pair with anyone, even though she had taken her pair a bit too much for granted.

Then she felt shame.

The hobbit —No! Not the hobbit.. ‘Brom’, had done nothing but give his best to help a cranky, cantankerous, contrary, grumpy and surly little girl his all, and not just that evening, but carefully, every day, ever since they had met. And for some reason, Tonic didn’t think he’d done any of it to gain favor with her pair, by proxy. For all his seeming indifference towards everything, lack of base enthusiasm, exasperation level of sloth, and blatantly unscrupulous attitudes, he was smart, cunning, always seemed to show unsolicited kindness, and he was loyal, educated, and well-spoken, even though he hadn’t been to an academy such as Melshieve and thus far, he’d more than pulled his weight in fights.

Much better than she had!

Hells bells, he’d also played that lyre like a siren! She remembered all the times she’d thought he was just staring at her pair’s butt, while he had persistently claimed he was composing a song.. in his mind!

And he had been telling the truth all along.

‘The Endless White’.

The tune he had played, back at the inn that very evening was something that was simply ‘mad’..

..and Tonic had loved it!

And now she didn’t want to share her pair with him?

Like her pair was hers to give or not..

Just how arrogant was that?

 

“Yes.”, inner Tonic said. “You really are selfish, you know.”

“Whose side are you anyway?”, blazed Tonic but her heart hadn’t really been in it. She’d flared more out of ‘muscle reflex’ than true intent.

“Does it matter? It was you, who wanted to try ‘this way for some..’, wasn’t it? Now you want to quit? I wasn’t aware it would be this short. Must have missed the memo. Had I known you’d be this fickle, I wouldn’t have fought against it so hard, knowing you’d come around on the morrow..”, inner Tonic said, and she didn’t even bother with the sarcasm.

Tonic shut up.

From the inside!

 

No. The hobbit was not just ogling at a very beautiful, proportionately curvy, comely buxom, life inducingly vibrant, deservingly exhilarating, darkly mysterious, and honestly alluring figure.

Brom was staring at the heart of all that and desolately knew, he could never have it.

The ogling was just his way of fooling those around him..

..and himself.

 

“You could tell her.”, she braved mutely.

 

“To what end? There’s nothing neither of us can do about it, particularly if she doesn’t see me that way. If I tell her, all I will get is either the basic ‘You are my friend’, talk or the infamous ‘But I love you like a brother’, talk, which I would rather forgo and Heavens forbid, will never happen. However Seressa sees me, I never want her to love me like a ‘brother’..”, replied Brom, and not without a good dose of bitter disgust.

 

“So you are going to do nothing?”, asked Tonic incredulously.

 

“I never claimed to be a brave man, Tonic. As a matter of fact, I did say I was a coward, this very evening, I might add. Being refused by someone as awesome as Wraiven is not something I ever want to experience. I’d rather just ogle and make sure she sees me doing it.”, he said quietly.

 

“Make sure she sees you? Why? That doesn’t make sense.”, said Tonic befuddled.

“I don’t like sneak-peaking at her. Feels wrong. Feels like cheating.. Feels immoral —and yes, I am fully aware of the monumentally depraved irony there. That doesn’t change the way I feel, though.”, said Brom, frowning a bit.

 

“But.. but you are suffering and she doesn’t even know!”, bewailed Tonic.

“What’s got you so riled. It’s my problem. I’d rather look at that beautiful and wonderful, and beautifully wonderful girl with the impossible dream of a ‘chance’, than never to be able to look at her again when I get refused or be declared as ‘loved like a brother’!”, said Brom, gruffly.

Tonic ran up to Brom and stopped right in front of him and looked him in the eyes.

“That’s.. That’s just wrong, Brom.. and sad..”, she said with brimming eyes.

“Well. I am a sad sort of man. I got a problem, and I am using the cowardly way out. Nobody is feeling bad and no one is getting hurt..”, he said flatly.

“Accept you.”, she said quietly.

“Yea, well. There you have it. Chew on that psychoanalysis if you will, Miss Tonic.”, said Brom, brushed past the gnomic girl and with determined steps, started towards The Great Arashkan Library..

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

Tell me again.”, said Brom with a mute, stoic voice. “What do I say to this Tinker-guy, again? And how in the blazes am I even going to get up to that window anyway? It must be at least fifty-five feet up there. Probably more, since this is a library. They would require higher ceilings to store all the books.”

 

Brom didn’t feel well. He had never wanted to divulge his feelings about the very tall, very dark girl to anyone. And certainly not to Tonic. Not because he thought she couldn’t keep the knowledge to herself, but perhaps, and because, he thought, she would keep it to herself.

“Damit.”, he thought. “Why now? Why tonight, of all nights?”

Had it been the tune he’d played to the audience that evening?

The one he’d named a tad grandly as; The Endless White.

He knew he should have named it just The White... or even White... but white was just too generic.

Or perhaps it was the song he’d sang after that; Time.

In all honesty, Brom Bumblebrim knew, he just knew, it wasn’t him, who’d written that song. Unlike any other song he had written, this one had ‘come’ to him.. and in the most literal sense possible. Word by word, the song had written itself in his mind and heart during his two-year sojourn from Bowling Hills, all the way to Shakehands.. Which is when he’d met Cora. But tonight had been the first time he had actually put it on display, so to speak. And now, the song was out..

..and out of its ‘time’, Brom thought with a sardonic inner snort.

Or perhaps it was because of having met an angelic being.. or seen that dark, very sinister-looking man he’d ended up feeling ‘distaste’ at best, then getting all his emotions totally eroded when he saw the same, sinister man looking at the sweet little skinny girl the way he had. And the look she had given him had been emotionally ruinous all by itself for Brom.

He was a bard, damit, and love was the bread and butter for all bards.. But the thing between those two.. he found he couldn’t define it..

..because he could not comprehend it.

It had been so.. nubile in its beauty..

So primevally intense.

There had been no decorum to it. Only base, raw, savage, and somehow, awe-inspiringly tender and desperately lonely longing in the look the two, very unlikely man and girl, were giving one another.

And they were giving it in a sense that was singularly unique! It made other people’s love seem like they were merely and briefly lending their hearts to others, while those two had already and literally given theirs.

So much so that what beat in one, was actually the heart of the other..

 

What man, woman —or bard— could truly comprehend that?

 

The intermixed irony that was put under the broad beam of a bright spotlight was not lost on Brom at all;

One, inhumane human, and one, infinitely humane, inhuman!

It was likely that very destitution the two had, that’d sparked the fire that had previously been a mere and happy little kindle..

..into searing pain.

 

“Damit!”

 

Tonic gave Brom an even look.

Whether she surmised what was really going through the hobbit’s mind, she kept it to herself.

For now, at least.

Which was a grace, all by itself.

 

“I have seen you climb walls before, Brom. That cloak of yours will more than suffice. If you want, though, I can give you a potion that will make you climb pretty much any surface. Another for you to pass through any gap, or to safely float down. I can send a rope all the way up there.. The window is in range.”, she listed methodically. “I suppose, if you want, I can bring out Mechaber. He can give you a fifteen feet head-start sort of a jump. But I haven’t really had the opportunity to field test that. And I can’t promise a quiet landing. Likely, it will bring a lot of patrols upon us. I am guessing you’d rather avoid that.”

“I am guessing, you would rather avoid that!”, scowled Brom.

“Yes. Yes, I would.. Very much.. The technology behind Mechaber is not out yet, and I would rather it didn’t. Not yet, and not until it’s perfected and certainly not until I install the self-destruct unit in it.”, she said seriously.

“The self— what?”, asked Brom incredulously.

“Self-destruct unit.. You didn’t think I would artifice something as dangerous and deadly as Mechaber and then hand it over to the irresponsible humankind, or have it stolen, now did you? I designed it. I must make sure it never falls into wrong hands..”, Tonic said like she was paraphrasing from a blood-signed doctrine!

“Ooookay.. Good, we got that cleared, then.”, Brom said.

“Mechaber is serious business, Brom. Nothing to joke about. The fact that you have seen it, let alone know about it is a sign of how much Seressa trusts you because if it were up to me, you’d have never seen, nor heard mention of it.. Well.. not for some time, anyway.”

“Ooookay.. Good to know where we stand too, then.”, Brom said with the same tone.

Tonic scowled.

“Look, just because you like someone, doesn’t mean you hand over the nuclear launch codes to them, alright!”, she said with an exasperated voice.

“The what lunch codes?”

“Never mind.”, said Tonic. “Read it in some silly futuristic sci-fi book.”

“Psychic-what? What are you talking about, girl? Just what the hell kind of books are you reading?”, Brom asked.

“Look, the story begins when a pretty Erossian spy falls in love with a mad and delusional Camerican nuclear scientist—”, the gnomic girl promptly began..

“Tonic!.. It’s late. I am tired and in all sorts of ways.. Let’s just get this over with, shall we? I am sure Cora and your pair have noticed we have been too quiet by now and gone to your room to check and see as to why! I think the story about some mad psychic-whatsit can wait, don’t you?”

“Right..”, said Tonic and blushed a bit. “Just tell him what I told you. Don’t loiter. Don’t chit chat. Get in. Tell him. Get out. And..”

Brom cocked one eyebrow.

“And?”

“..And, thank you. I made you do things tonight you would rather not have done.. At least not with me, nor for me.. So.. Thank you..”, she said with a small voice.

“You are welcome, Miss Tonic. And no, I wouldn’t have done any of this, not tonight, not ever, but not because of you. I just wouldn’t have done them because I would rather have taken a light snack, cleaned and tuned my lyre, and then went to sleep. Thanks to you, it is unlikely I will find any light snacks nor find the time to neither clean nor tune my lyre. And because it’s nearly the end of the night, I will not be getting any sleep either..”, Brom said.

Tonic frowned.. and felt a bit.. hurt..

“But I did do all the things I would rather have not, and I am now a better man for it.. All because of you.. So.. Thank you!”, he added with a smile.

Tonic’s eyes teared.

“Go.. Now.. Or I shall call you an ass and totally ruin the moment, Brom Bumblebrim!”, she sniffled.

 

Brom smirked, turned around, pulled his magic cloak around him..

..and started climbing up the side of The Great Arashkan Library like some odd lizard or possibly, an arachnid!

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

Who is there?”, a slightly tenoric male voice whispered harshly in the darkness.

“It is I, The Ghost of Silent Hills Past, Present, and Future!”, spoke Brom, with a hoarse, hollow voice as he produced a very high, very eerie, screaming tune from his lyre.

 

The poor antic instrument wept at her misuse.

 

Brom had found the ‘Tinker-guy’ with relative ease. The gnome was taller than Tonic but while the gnomic girl was proportionally slim, this gnome, the possible great, great, great-something grandson of Prince Gordigon was a bit on the stocky side. Though he looked quite young and robust and had keen, intelligent, and pursuing eyes.

Brom had thought of a dozen different ways of approaching the gnome, including stepping up to him and saying, “Hallo there, matie. Got somin te tell yer! Go there them Silent ‘ills an’ grab what’s there fer yer self and be quik ’bout tit! And while at tit, quit mawnin’ ’bout things ‘cuz non wuz yer falt! But I’d suggis yer watch yer arse cuz sum fellers wantsit!”

And now he was gnawing his knuckles, hiding a few rows, behind and above him, stuck on the ceiling!

 

“Whot?”, the gnome, Tinker-guy, said in a baffled and spooked voice.. And one of his hands formed claws as a huge ball of fire appeared in it!

 

“Ow crap!”, thought Brom. “A trigger happy fireballer!.. We are in a bloody library, damit! Who uses a fire hall in a library? That is a universal reason for contempt, almost akin to speaking aloud in a theater! Doesn’t he know there’s a special kind of hell for people like that? And this idiot is the heir to Silent Hills?”

He produced his own Wand of Ice, just in case the fool actually did fire his ball and he had to put out the fires!

 

And just then, they heard a monotonous, matronly voice echo.

 

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, OR YOU WILL BE FINED! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

 

“What the..”, said the gnome, Tinker-guy.

Brom snickered. Ow, this was going to be fun!

“It is I, The Ghost of Silent Hills Past, Present, and Future!”, he repeated, with the same hoarse, hollow voice.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 50 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“And I have come to give you tidings from the beyond, young Tinker-guy!”, hallowed Brom.

The gnome, Tinker-guy, cocked an eyebrow, his face puzzled.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 100 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“What the hell?”, the Tinker-guy said.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 150 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

Brom snickered, some more. If Tonic caught him doing this, she’d have his hide, and then some!

“You shall go to Silent Hills.. There you will find your kin..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 200 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“You must reclaim your heritage..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 250 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Ow. My. Gosh!”, exclaimed the Tinker-guy. “Can you please stop?!”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 300 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“No. I can’t!”, moaned Brom.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 350 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“For I..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 400 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“..am the Ghost of Silent..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 450 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“..Hills, Past..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 500 CREDITS! YOU ARE NOW BARRED FROM THE LIBRARY FOR A WEEK. PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“..Present and Future!”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 550 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Stop!”, cried the gnome!

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 600 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“And you shall do my bidding..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 650 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Stop. Just stop!”, shrieked the Tinker-guy in desperation.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 700 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“No. I can’t..”, repeated Brom, his eyes shut, his face flushed and he had started doing strange, snorting, bubbling noises.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 750 CREDITS! YOU ARE NOW BARRED FROM THE LIBRARY FOR A MONTH. PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“You shall go to Silent Hills, and into the Demon Fog to reclaim your birthright..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 800 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“You must also know, young Tinker-guy..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 850 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Stop! You are going to get me permanently..”, cried the gnome.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 900 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

Brom could hardly breathe by now.

“..what befell you in the past..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 950 CREDITS! PLEASE BE ADVISED; YOU ARE NOW APPROACHING CONDEMN LIMIT. PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“..was not of your doing!”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1000 CREDITS! YOU ARE NOW BANNED FROM THE GREAT ARASHKAN LIBRARY. PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Whot?”, exclaimed the gnome and there appeared a haunted expression on his face. A face that bespoke of shame, self-loathing, relief, pain lived, and pain endured..

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1100 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Those who put your heritage into desolation sent their minions to slay ye and yer line..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1200 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

The gnome’s face paled. He tried to speak, but words utterly failed him.

“..to ensure, none would ever bring ‘voice’ to Silent Hills..”

And now, Brom wasn’t snickering anymore.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1300 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Hence an evil plan they hatched.. A heinous plan.. And they brought down your home and buried you, and yours..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1400 CREDITS! PLEASE PLEASE BE ADVISED; YOU ARE NOW APPROACHING CIVIL RIGHTS LIMIT. STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

Tears appeared in the Tinkey-guy’s eyes and ran down shamelessly.

“My mother? My father? My brothers and sisters by the dozen? Terrah Doodlebellz? All my friends? My neighbors? —They all died because of me?”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1500 CREDITS! THE CIVIC GUARDS ARE ON THEIR WAY. PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT AND WAIT FOR DETENTION! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Nay, young Tinkerdome. They all died because someone slew them. They all died to kill your line. Make their sacrifice worth the world, young Tinkerdome..

Reclaim your Heritage.

 

Reclaim your Hills.

 

Reclaim your Kingdom.

 

Reclaim your Throne.

 

Reclaim your Destiny.

 

Reclaim your People.

 

And be a King!

 

 

And with a job well done, Brom Bumblebrim silently climbed down the ceiling.

Quite as a mouse, he brushed past the devastated Prince Gnine Tinkerdome, the great, great, great-something grandson of Prince Gordigon, got out the window, and skimmed down the walls of The Great Arashkan Library..

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

WHAT DID YOU DO?!“, nearly shrieked Tonic in panic as she grabbed the hobbit and started running back the way they came. “The place is suddenly crawling with civic law enforcement!”

They ran past the Lights Temple, along the Archery Military Camp, and cut through the street between Heaven Park and Officers District.

“I said, just talk to him, say the things, and get out!”, spluttered the gnomic girl.

“Which is pretty much what I did, girl!”, panted Brom, his face flushed and he truly felt tired, both physically and emotionally. And he was scratching the upper end of one leg, near the buttock, just where he couldn’t see.

“What is the matter with you?”, Tonic asked, her eyes wild now.

“I got bit.. Again!..”, spat Brom, and mumbled to himself, “This is the last time I fall for a cute face!”, as they heard someone shout “HALT!“, from behind them.

“Whot?”

“Never.. mind.. Not a story.. for now..”, Brom said with a harsh scowl.

RUN, THEN!“, hissed Tonic.WE CAN’T GET CAUGHT DAMIT! OW. MY. GOSH!

Aaaand the gnomic girl was about to get hit with a full-blown panic now!

Something neither of them needed at that very moment.

“Calm.. down.. girl!”, said Brom harshly, as he huffed, and puffed.

 

The marching footsteps were getting closer.

HALT! HALT I SAY! HALT IN THE NAME OF THE FIRST LORD!“, repeated the same voice from behind, but much closer now, than before.

 

“Can.. you.. disappear?”, Tonic gasped as she ran next to Brom.

“Umm.. Yes.. But only myself!”, breathed Brom heavily.

“Ok, then.. Go.. Shoo! Vanish! Scram!”, she said.

“NO! Not.. leaving you.. Not happening..!”, Brom breathed.

“I can.. take care of.. myself.. damit!”, snarled Tonic.

“Together.. or not.. happening.. I.. never want to.. face a Wraiven.. with you.. missing!”, he gasped.

“Damit!”, she said, produced two vials with green, vaporish something in them, and a tightly packed clay sphere out of her artificer’s satchel. “Here, drink this in ten!”, she said and handed one of the vials to Brom, as she tossed the clay sphere behind her.

“You know, disintegrating civic guards is not a good idea, Tonic..”, Brom said lightly.

There was a stunning bang, and the civic guards on their heels dropped to their knees and slumbered face down.

“Neat..”, admired Brom.

“Won’t keep them down for long. Now shut up and drink! The effects of this potion should last about an hour, possibly more. I am usually generous —or heavy-handed— with ingredients, depending on your point of view.. Meet you at the inn.”, she said and topped her own vial.. and suddenly, Tonic fell apart!

“I like you, Brom Bumblebrim.”, she said in a warbling, escaping, gaseous, and fading voice. “If you are so bent on martyring alone, I shall abide by your wishes. But you shouldn’t decide for Wraiven without bothering to ask her. That truly is cowardly. And not really any different than all the other animals out there who only see the pinks and never wonder what’s in it.. I made that mistake and it cost me—”

Whatever it had cost Arcantonic, she couldn’t say.

Her form drifted away in a hazy wisp of smoke!

 

Brom scowled after the now gone gnomic girl.

“Inserting a last word right before the disappearing act.. Cheap, Miss Tonic. Very cheap! Well, I am warning you now, girl, there’s a whole slew of pain coming your way..”, he said darkly and drank his own vial..

 

It was the strangest sensation he had ever felt.

It was like his whole body was flying apart into tiny, dust-sized bits! He felt the hair on his bushy head rise on their ends, accept he had no hair left either. Every part of him just.. puffed into smoke, and he got carried off with the slightest wind.

Now all he had to do was somehow steer himself in the general direction of the inn, preferably away from the scores of civic guards.

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

Had a good evening, did you?” asked Cora as she stood in the hallway up the stairs to their rooms in the inn.

Her arms were crossed.

She was scowling at the little hobbit.

And her lips had that pout again.

Brom was smart enough not to comment on how cute Cora looked when she pouted.

Or rather, when she pouted while she was angry!

“Ummm.. Had a good evening yourself, did you?”, replied Brom, as he peered into their room.

 

The room was a wreck!

Everything, including bits of the floorboards, the windows, the window sills, the curtains, the flower pots, the walls, the feather bed, the nightstand, the lamps.. were either broken to bits or were cracked beyond repair. Feathers from the bed matres and the former pillows floated about and covered everywhere while food crumbs, empty and broken plates, bowls, and further cracked mugs and bottles were tossed and scattered haphazardly.

“This is not mere destruction.”, thought Brom in awe. “This is very nearly art! I could literally write an epic on this!”

 

“What did you do, Brom Bumblebrim?”, she fumed from her nose as she loomed over the hobbit, glaring down at him with her glacial blue eyes.

“Again with the ultimatum name use! What is it with my name and ultimatums, girl?”, asked Brom, frowning a bit. “And, I could ask you the same thing, Cora Sleet!.. What did you two do here?”

“We had a girls night. What does it look like? Seressa said we had to wreck the room at the end, so we did.. Was fun like I never had in my life!”, she replied seriously.

“And did you wear pinks too? I know for a fact, neither of you had pajamas!”, smirked Brom.

 

Cora’s eyes blazed and her face pinked.. just a little.. Barely visible, really, and if Brom hadn’t known the barbarian girl for as long as he had, he would have totally missed it.

 

“So.. how did you like it? The pinks, I mean..”, he asked blandly, and secretly kicked himself for having missed perhaps the only chance he would have ever gotten to see a Cora Sleet in Seressa’s mini pinks!

“It was a bit drafty but otherwise comfy!”, she replied with a straight face.

“Any chance for me to—?”, he asked.

“Never happen!”, Cora replied and now she really was scowling. “WHAT. DID. YOU. DO. BROM? We left you so you can calm Tonic. Not make her cry more!”

Brom sighed. He’d really wanted this to be kept between himself and the gnomic girl. Just to preserve her dignity, if nothing else. He didn’t want the cute little demon, as she at times became, to be seen as a ‘break down’ or a ‘cry baby’ and hence, an unreliable ‘loose end’, but there was no going around Cora when she got stubborn as she did now.

“Best way is to pull at it fast and sharp, and get it over with.”, he thought, took a deep breath, and spoke his piece.

 

“Before, she was crying for dubious and barely justifiable reasons.. I, on the other hand, gave her a genuine reason, so now, she is crying for real!”, said Brom and sure as he was a short, bushy-haired hobbit, his voice was now quite low, unsophisticated, and kind. “I am sorry Cora, but the current storm is inevitable. Once it blows, however, she will be done. She will then thank me because she will be feeling much, much better, and be stronger for it!”

 

Cora looked down at the hobbit. But the ice in her glacials were gone and she was looking at him, not with her looming glare, but with the one that said..

‘You and I..’

‘We are equals.’

 

“Something happened.”, she murmured softly.

“No.. Maybe..”, Brom replied evasively.

“Must I drag it out of you, my friend?”, she said with part annoyance, part amusement, and part.. wonder, perhaps?

“I’d rather you didn’t. This one isn’t about me, Cora.. Please.. Let this one go..”, he said without looking up at her.

“Grilled you, did she? Alright, then, go.. You look beat. Missed me in pinks, though.”, she smirked.

“Yea. Missed a lot in pinks tonight.”, he mumbled quietly and left for his room.

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

Tonic, luv..”, said Seressa softly. “Do tell me what’s wrong. It pains me to see you thus.”

Seressa had silently entered the room they had planned on staying that evening like a whisper. She had skimmed the wooden floor, went over to the large, feather bed, scooped up her pair, and cuddled her in her arms.

And like a broken little girl, Tonic had clung onto her very tall, very dark pair and shook violently as she’d wept.

“Tell me, luv. I am your pair. We share.. Share me your hurt.. Please..”, she’d said into her ear.

Arcantonic Palecog clung to pair, spluttering with uncontrollable manic and desperate tears, unable to form words.

“He saved him.. He brought him back!”, was the only thing Seressa could discern out of her.

As to who had saved whom, or brought who back, Tonic’s comprehensibility had ended there.

Clutching something in one hand, she’d wept and wept until she’d slumbered right there in her pairs arms like a cotton doll, as the exhausting venture of the night, unbeknownst to her pair, had finally caught up to her.

Seressa had hugged her pair to her heart’s content, long, long past her slumber with all the love and compassion she could muster, then sighed, “My little luv. You mean the world to me. Please understand that.. And never cry. Be happy!“.

She got up, and lightly limped as she carried her pair, and slowly put her into her bed.

“Hmm..”, she frowned. “I could have sworn I had taken her shoes off before..”

Being careful with the left one, she unlaced her little, cup-sized boots, took them off, and put them down near the bed.

Then she went to the wardrobe and pulled down a heavy quilt and covered her pair with it. Tonic looked more like a sad little kitten, curled up the way she had. Even smaller, the way she slept in a feather bed six times her size and eight times her length.

Seressa walked up to the window and pulled the curtains and closed them. The sun would dawn soon and her pair needed sleep. So did she, for that matter.

The very tall, very dark girl wondered if her pair would mind if she curled right next to her. The feather bed was certainly big enough and the idea appealed to her.

It had been one hell of a night. If she’d known girls nights was this much fun, she’d have patronized Tonic into one, years ago. She did feel a bit guilty though. Her pair had been stuck here and crying all night while she and Cora had partied like there was no tomorrow. Seressa felt like she’d abandoned her pair at a moment of her dire need.

Then she inevitably smiled.

Damn, that barbarian girl knew how to party, though!

She thought she would also have to find a proper way to thank the hobbit, Brom, as well, for keeping Tonic company while she and Cora had dismantled a goodly part of the inn. Seressa loved her pair, but she was not totally blind to her shortcomings, either. She didn’t need to bet to guess her pair had probably made the hobbit’s life miserable during his stay with her.

 

Tonic sighed in her sleep and lost grip of the thing in her clutch. It rolled off the bed and dropped on the floor.

Seressa looked down and frowned.

It was a very, very old, tattered, and crumbled scroll now.

And it looked vaguely.. familiar somehow.

Seressa had a very good memory for things; what people said, their faces, and objects she’d seen, which was why she’d rarely bothered taking any notes back at the academy. She could recite the things her tutors and professors had said almost verbatim, and identify an innumerable variety of objects and readily label them.

It sure had drawn the envy of many of the other students to no end. Seressa had given them a good lesson on ‘humanity’ that being pretty and somewhat ‘silly’ and ‘honestly vain’, didn’t equivalate to ‘stupid’.

Seressa liked feeling ‘pretty’ and ‘beautiful’, and ‘pretty beautiful’, damit..

So, there!

 

Deep down, though, she knew her appearance was mere ointment for the blunt void she felt at never to have felt the love she desperately wanted. The love she wanted had to emanate from a man like the heat from the core of an oven. Like it had to be something that was tangible.

The only problem with that was, the oven was there, men just weren’t emanating the fire.

Only.. temperamental and ephemeral sparks..

Men, it seemed, were definitely into her. And that’s about it. They were never interested in what went through her mind, nor her heart. And none of them wanted a dark, lumbering klutz of a girl with horns, a tail, and a fetish for pinks looming over them for a mate. Only as a plaything, at best..

A curio.

Might as well be an obsidian doll!

Which is what she was now.

She didn’t mind the ‘play’ part. She was very nearly sure it’d be fun. But it was the ‘thing’ that turned the whole idea stale. She just refused to be a ‘thing’ for anyone.

And no one worthy should be seeing her as a thing anyway, right?

She’d gone after the pretty ones. When that failed, she’d gone after the smart ones.. Apparently, whether they were pretty or smart, neither equivalated to ‘heart’, where men were concerned.

But then, what did? What did really equivalate to a heart?

Seressa felt bitterly cheated in life.

And sorely confused.

She was given all these amenities.

They just weren’t of any use..

She perpetually felt like she was a beautiful flower who only attracted pests and wasps, but never the bumblebee..

 

She sighed, and silently she reached down and picked up the rather worn scroll and carefully, tenderly, even, she unrolled it, and with a shocked expression, she read the very old and tattered scroll that had somehow been preserved through centuries, persevered against impossible odds, and had traveled all the way from the depths of Ritual Forest, through a bloody, demon-infested war zone, to here, to find its way back to her pair..

 

“Dear, dear Bumblebrim..”, Seressa said softly with brimming eyes, and a curvy little smile, as she finally figured the ‘who’ in ‘whom’, and remembered too, when and where she had seen the old scroll before; some relative eight hundred years ago, when they were waiting for Tonic, and the Prince Gordigon had given this letter, rolled into a scroll, carelessly laced, but not cased, in the hopes that the ‘courier’ herself would read it!

“I have no idea how you did it, but you have given back my pair a life, and a world of joy.. Thank you, for you are truly, and inexplicably amazing, luv.”

 

 

 


 

 

 

 
 

Birthright (18+) (Doğum Hakkı)

Timeline:

 

Time.

 

You cannot see it,
you cannot feel it,
taste it, smell it, or hear it.

And yet, it wears the hand,
takes the sight and the sound
and bends the spine!

 

Time.

 

You cannot fight it,
you cannot resist it,
beat it, wound it nor slay it.

You can only yield to it..

 

Time.

 

It is cunning,
it is stingy, ruthless, pitiless
and sparse.

It turns a spark into a fire, and fire into ash.
It grinds mountains to dust.
It gathers trickles into oceans.

It gives birth to rebellions and liberties
and brings down empires..

It gives meaning to patience,
diligence, and vigilance.

It is the key to mortality
and the lock to eternity.

It precedes
and postcedes..

One day we are,
one day we are not.

It is hope and it is despair..

 

Time.

 

Never gentle,
and never kind.

It is what tells us
that the moment we are born,
we have started dying..

It is there,
it is inevitable,
it is unyielding and
unforgiving.

Tic by toc,
it graves away,
leaving less than what we were.

Whatever we have built,
it shall down.
Whatever we have done,
it shall sow..

One would think we’d give life
the meaning it deserves..

 

Time.

 

It is the link between places, spaces, events, and relations by the simple expedience of
relating the past to the future..

It gives meaning..

 

Time.

 

This story.

 

 

The events in this particular story take place over a vast stretch of time —relatively speaking. It starts shortly after
And Just Beyond That (18+)“,
and ends some eight hundred and fifty years later, in the dark, hidden, rundown, moldy basement of the local thieves’ guild of The Great Arashkan City, where all sorts of stolen goods, documents, and officious papers are kept for bribe and blackmail..

 

 

Ow damn..”, someone spat, followed by a string of black, blistering curses.

‘Tonic’, thought Cora. It was never hard to guess who was saying what, even in the pitch dark, as they were now.

When Brom spoke, he always seemed to need to precede what he wanted to say by underlining it with a note or two of his lyre.

When Seressa spoke, she said it with this wide-eyed, ‘always surprised’ tone. And if she was really surprised —or exasperated, she would start with, ‘Ow, for all that’s good and not..’

As for Tonic..

 

Tonic cursed!

At everything.

Every time.

 

If she wasn’t some midgety little gnome and wasn’t so cute, she would have made a great witch, Cora thought, what with all the cursing and all!

Then she wondered what her traits were. Or more to the point, what her friends thought her traits were.

It seemed people could, with quite ease, catch, kill, and skin the traits in others, but never themselves.

Funny how that went.

 

Cora Sleet blew out some steam and harshly whispered, “What is it now, girl?”

‘Girl..?’, she thought. She couldn’t remember any time she referred to anyone using that word, or tone in Ironfrost. Guess Seressa’s habits —and traits were rubbing on to her and Cora didn’t know if that was really a good thing..

“Girl..?”, snorted Brom, from off the other side. “I can’t remember you referring to anyone like that before.”

Cora scowled.

Then stopped.

‘Great, now I am scowling like the midgety gnome!’..

..and scowled some more.

For scowling!

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

My pack..”, Tonic groaned. “It’s gone!”

“It’s only a pack.”, said Seressa. “Don’t worry. We’ll get you a new one.. Once we get anywhere that is remotely civilized.”

“No, damit. That pack was where I kept the lot of all my good stuff!”, she groaned again.

In fact, it was more of a moan than a groan.

So much so that her voice trembled like she was about to cry.

 

That got Cora’s attention.

She couldn’t imagine the little gnome crying. Lot’s and lot’s of non-stop cussing and swearing, yes, but a crying Tonic?

Crying was so.. out of sorts for Tonic.

‘Out of sorts?’, she thought. Damit, I did it again. I used Seressa’s words..

‘Damit?!’, I just used Tonic’s word. Bloody hell—

Cora decided this was a good time to shut up!

 

“The good stuff? That sounds ominously like some sort of contraband..”, noted Brom.

 

Thank you Brom. Go on, ask her all the relevant questions..

‘Relevant?’, —damit!.. Ow hell!.. Just did it again..!

 

“What? No, damit. Some of my very important gadgets and hardware were in it. Like my duo-meter, pseudo-emissioner and..”, she stumbled.

“And..?”, asked Brom, as if he knew what a duo-meter or a pseudo-emissioner was. Though he could proudly tell the difference between a hammer and a wrench as one was good for pinning nails while the other was not.

“A letter..”, said Tonic, her voice strained.

“A letter? Who was it from? Didn’t know you received letters. I never do..”, signed Seressa’s voice.

“It wasn’t a letter for me. It was someone else’s letter.”, blushed Tonic’s voice.

 

There was a collective, pregnant silence.

 

“Oookay..”, said Seressa, stretching the word.

“Damit, girl.. If you must know, that silly boy gave it to me so I could give it to his father.. There.. Happy now?”, blazed Tonic.

“Boy? What boy?”, asked Seressa, sounding totally baffled.

“That Gordigon boy..”

“Ahhh.. Prince Gordigon.. had a chat with him in private, did we?”, asked Seressa with an insincerely innocent voice.

“Casting yourself in the third person now, are you? The boy was going to go all out and fight for us against half a hundred ogres just so we could getaway. The least I could do was to take his bloody letter to his father.”, admitted Tonic, but not as vehemently as she made it sound like she wanted to.

 

Seressa paused.

So did Brom.

Cora had shut up, so she didn’t even bother to pause.

 

“Ahh.. Well if you did have a private moment with him, luv, I wouldn’t have blamed you. He was a rather handsome devil, he was. And want him to be as you might, he certainly was not a boy. I know boys. That gnome was giving you the kind of looks no boy can imitate. That comes with time, hardship, and on a ‘first sight’ bases.”

“It was not a ‘first sight’ thing, alright? There were no ‘first sights’, no private moments, and no ‘just one kisses’.. or anything else whatsoever going on.. He gave me the letter, and I nearly brained him for it!”, blustered Tonic.

“No, dear luv, you didn’t nearly brain him, you fully brained him! But even if you did any or all of the ‘whatsoever’s, I’d would’ve said the same; Why not? For all that’s good and not, girl, really, why not? I would have been happy for you if you did. I mean, I can see you blush from where you are, right now. You are literally glowing in the dark! It’s so cute, I could pounce you right now!”, said Seressa with a supremely smug voice.

“I am not blushing. It’s just hot! And there will be no pouncing, thank you very much!”, replied Tonic indignantly, trying very hard to suppress a growl.

“I totally agree. You certainly are hot.. for that ‘boy’!”, said the very tall, very dark girl with a very happy tone.

“The hell I was..”, said Tonic and this time, she did growl.

“Alright..”, butt in Brom, knowing full well he would be very sorry about it in the end, but he just couldn’t help it. “..so it was just a letter from some guy to his father and it got lost. Nothing to worry about, then?”

“Nice..”, he heard Seressa’s voice in triumph.

 

Tonic shut up. A bit like Cora.

 

She was a smart girl with an artificer’s degree. But she knew when it came to mouthing off, she had no chance against Seressa. Her pair was just too good at it and had, had an ‘early start’..

And now, she’d teamed up with the bloody hobbit!

“Taking sides with the unscrupulous little weasel now, are you?”, she croaked.

“Heey..!”, objected Brom, but Tonic ignored him.

Her heart plummeted for she felt betrayed.

But not for long..

Very long, very dark arms came at her from nowhere and she never saw them coming. They came, they wrapped and they held her like clamps.

For the first time, Tonic felt the touch of her pair.. and her smell.. and damit, she smelled so nice! Very much like those pink flowers, whatever they were called —she’d hated herbology at the academy and it had merely been one of those classes she’d been burdened with, just to have filled up her ‘total hours’.

In fact, Tonic thought, her pair smelled exactly like those flowers, but innately, intimately and infinitely warmer.

As for her touch, Tonic refused to comment on it, not even mentally..

 

“Tonic, luv..”, Seressa said quietly to the little gnome caught in her vast, mind-numbingly warm, enthralling embrace, “..right or wrong, I am and will always be on your side. If ever a side is to be taken, without any doubt or reservation, I will be on the side of my pair, gales and gallows.. But if you felt something for the boy, do not deny this to yourself. Do not deprive yourself of the beautiful feeling that you felt, nor demean his sacrifice by defying his.. As short-lived as it was, he came to you openly and honestly, without deceit or trickery.. Do yourself the same courtesy, if not to him..”

 

Seressa’s voice was kind, tinted with the beckoning hand of tenderness..

Tonic swallowed.. hard.

Her pair was getting near one of those subjects she’d sworn off years ago, after her stupid uncle Arcanton did what he did and was cast out and banished, lepering his whole, extended family in the eyes of the world.

Since then she’d disliked and eventually, hated everything and everyone. She hadn’t even wanted to have anything to do with the silly pairing ritual, the academy had foisted on her.

And here was her pair, literally smoldering that hate and drugging her with her pinks and flowery fragrance —what was the bloody thing called, damit? Creeping Loks? Creeping Flocks? Well, it certainly was creeping her out.. Creeping Phlox.. Yes, that’s what it was called; Creeping Pink Phlox!

 

While she was struggling with pinkses and phloxes, something dawned in Seressa’s mind and she finally got it.

And so did Brom..

..the true significance at the core of Tonic’s ire and grief.

Brom did not say anything, but Seressa did.

 

Tenderly she whispered.

“Oh, my dear girl, you read the letter..”

Tonic did not answer.

Tonic could not answer..

Only a bitter sob escaped her.

“Yes.. Stupid of me, reading someone else’s letter like that.. Stupid, inconsiderate, rude and.. stupid..”, she finally said when she could, with a broken voice.

‘Wow..’, thought Cora, ‘..for Tonic to declare herself ‘inconsiderate’, ‘rude’ and ‘stupid’ so seamlessly and find a fault in her own, she really must be hurting.’

 

“No, my dear, the letter was barely for his father.”, Seressa disagreed softly. “Why else would he have given it to you? He could have handed it over to anyone in his company. They were all trained military. Any number of them could have carried it to his father and we were going nowhere even remotely near Silent Hills. Considering the importance and the time constraints of our mission, he had to have known that you would never have had the chance to take the letter to his father.

No, baby girl, the letter really only had one intended recipient, and she got it. Hence, it was, in fact, for you..”

 

Tonic sobbed again.

“I am so, so happy for you..”, Seressa said with genuine elation.

“Then why? Why would he do this to me.. or to himself?”, she asked, her voice lost in Seressa’s embrace.

 

“Because the moment of our birth, is not who we really are. That is a mere chance. It is the moment of our death, we see who we really are. For the great few, that is choice.. When it comes, it comes at the moment and time, that which is the culmination of our actions and our deeds.. And all the choices we have made thus far..

Gordigon sought a fine, honorable, and beautiful death by carrying out an impossible mission given to him by the Heavens to help us break through the hordes of Themalsar.

He hoped to find a fine, honorable, and beautiful girl to share what life he had was left remaining to him, be it a day or a century..

Wished them both, he did.. and was granted both.

At the same time!

He must have been the luckiest man if there ever was one!”, Seressa breathed to her pair.

 

Tonic sobbed some more..

..with an uncharacteristically broken heart while her pair held her as if to shield her from whatever the world might throw at her, with a steely determination that only bespoke the fact that what her pair felt, she felt as well..

 

Later..

Quite a bit later, really, the little Tonic girl sniffed loudly.

 

“If.. if you pick me up or try and coin purse me, I will hurt you, girl..”, she threatened. She knew she couldn’t, or rather, wouldn’t hurt her pair, and be damned if anyone tried.. No, she would never hurt her, not any more than she’d already done in the past two years, but she was not going to get into a coin purse, damit!

“No, luv. I shan’t. Not that I wouldn’t want to, mind you. In fact, there’s nothing I’d love more, but pairs just don’t rob each other off their dignity.”, whispered Seressa with a smile and unlocked her pink, flowery fragranced embrace, and let go of her little gnome.

 

“Sooo..”, Brom said, trying to skip over the awkward moment, “..about the letter.”

“There’s nothing that can be done.”, Cora finally spoke and felt she had once more found her own voice. “We move on. I can feel we are being hunted. They are moving fast and they are impressively light on their feet, but the wind is on our side. The orken are upon us!”

They started moving again and picked up the pace as much as Brom and Arcantonic could endure.

They made late camp that night, putting as much distance between their pursuers and themselves. They ate cold rations and snuggled under the harsh, military-grade blankets they were given. Soon, everything went quiet, and fell asleep.

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

“That was an awesome speech..”, said Arcantonic quietly into the night.

Seressa did not say anything.

“When do you even think of these speeches, girl?”, the gnome asked in a whisper.

“I never do, luv.”, replied Seressa after awhile. “I say them as I feel them. Preparing such a speech precludes a certain amount of pre-intent and interest, hence, ‘falsehood’ and ‘hypocrisy’, neither of which have I ever entertained where you were concerned. I don’t want anything from you, but everything. Because that is how I define friendship.. You give your all for them, becoming whole and more than what you were..

And, you can never burn with the passion of a prewritten speech, because it’s never just the words, luv. It is the honesty, the sincerity, and the.. fire..

It is very much like the vast difference between simple irritation and.. WRATH!“, said the very tall, very dark Seressa, with a voice that burned.

Tonic blinked.. and fell silent.

 

There was a long absence of any sentient voice as Tonic thought of her pair.. and a certain boy. And perhaps for the first time in her life, she felt genuinely wanted. She, who had been a top case for ‘undesirable’ all her life, felt an indescribable, fervor elation..

And she felt brokenly happy as a wet smile appeared on her small, diminutive face.

Happy for having the former by her side, with all the encompassing meaning of the word, and happy for having had the later, as short-lived as it had been.

She listened to the hooting of an owl nearby, the chirping of countless nightcrawlers, and quietly stared at the only part of the starry sky that she could see through the small gap in the thick canopy of the Rituel Forest.

 

Gales and Gallows..?“, whispered Arcantonic into the night.

“Thought you might like it..”, whispered Seressa back, her illustrious voice somewhat drowsy and slurred, now.

“I loved it. It was so.. beautifully said. Did you make that up too?”

“It came to me, then and there.. and I meant every word of it..”

“Gales and Gallows, huh?”

“Gales and Gallows, luv, Gales and Gallows..”

 

Arcantonic silently cursed and raged at her well damned and idiotic uncle, her family, the community at large that she’d been forced to endure, the leperdom at the bloody academy while she mentally throttled the unscrupulous little weasel of a hobbit as well, just so he wouldn’t feel left out, but not the boy she’d barely known, but felt something.. something throbbing.. and aching.. love, perhaps?, nor the very tall, very dark girl that was her pair..

..then bagged them all; her rage, her stubborn little rain cloud, her mental punching bags, her happy moments of incinerating the academy, and more. They wouldn’t be gone. A lifetime of traumatic mistreatment does not just go away. It could, however, be bagged, and that is exactly what she did. Yes, she would certainly let them out for some fresh air and to blow some steam. That kind of pressure couldn’t be ‘just bagged’, either and Tonic had no intention of fooling herself about it. But this prophecy of theirs seemed to promise a lot, by way of ‘depressurizing’ her pend up wrath. And if it helped clear their path off some unwanted obstacles in the form of orcs, goblins, and possibly an ogre or three, it was a win-win, wasn’t it?

“Alright..”

..spoke Arcantonic with a voice that said a lot, and a bit more.

“Gales and Gallows, it is..”

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

Bu taraftan.”

Darly Dor, yanında Aager, Inshala, Gnine, Laila ve Merisoul olmak üzere, Büyük Arashkan Şehri’nin bilinmeyen yeraltı dehlizlerine gelmişler, oradan da saklı Hırsızlar Lonca’sının sadece yüksek mertebeli olanlarının bildiği, pis, küf kokulu, karanlık bir mahzenine inmişlerdi.

Darly, Lonca dışı kişilerin buraya gelmeleri için gerekli izinleri üstlerinden alabilmek için, elinde olan ve olmayan ne kadar mal varlığı ve kişisel statüsü varsa kullanmıştı. Ama sonunda buna değecekti. Anglenna yılanı arenada elinden kurtulmayı başarmıştı, ama bu sefer değil.

“Bu sefer değil, Felishia, bu sefer onu yakaladık!”, diye geçirir içinden.

Yanlarında Anglenna’nın olmamasının sebebi de buydu. Udoorin’in bir şerifin oğlu, Lady’nin bir tapınak muhafızı ve prensesin de, eh, bir prenses olması, dolayısıyla da ‘onlar için uygun olmayan bir yer’ bahanesi, gerçekte Anglenna’nın gelmesini engellemek içindi..

Darly, grubu birçok kilitli ve tuzaklı kapıdan geçirmiş ve en sonunda onları, kaynağı belirsiz loş bir ışıkla aydınlatılan oldukça büyük, küf kokulu, havasız bir odaya getirmişti.

Oda, yerden tavana, duvardan duvara raflarla diziliydi ve rafların hepsi de tıka basa eskimiş parşömenler, dokümanlar, ağızları bağlı bohçalar ve farklı boylarda, ama taşınabilir sandıklar, kutular ve tahta kasalarla doluydu.

“Dur tahmin edeyim..”, der Laila, hicveder bir sesle, “..bunlar çalınmış yemek tarifleri değiller, öyle değil mi?”

Darly sırıtır.

“Çalınmış yemek tarifleri gibi bir fantazin olduğunu bilmiyordum, İzci Onbaşı.”

Laila kaşlarını çatar ve Darly’ye pis bir bakış atar.

“Ama merakını giderecek ise, evet, burada çalınmış gizli yemek tarifleri de var..”, diye daha da sırıtır Darly.

“Buraya neden geldik? Bizi Arashkan Hırsızlar Lonca’sının şantaj odasına getirmek için sarf ettiğin çabayı göz önünde bulundurursak, bu senin için kişisel olmalı..”, der Aager sessizce.

“Şantaj..”, der Darly, “..çok çirkin bir kelime. Biz ‘ikna’ ifadesini tercih ediyoruz.”

Aager cevap vermez. Sadece Darly’ye bakar.

“Sizi buraya getirdim çünkü bu odada olan her şey gerçek. Bu oda yalan konuşmaz. Siz, Gar Thalot’u bulmak istiyordunuz, onun nerede olduğu da buralarda bir yerlerde yazılı. Ne yazık ki ilgili belgeyi bulmak için onu biraz aramamız gerekebilir.”, der Darly biraz utanarak.

Aager, Gnine’a, Laila’ya ve Merisoul’a bakar.

Laila kaşlarını çatık bir şekilde binlerce doküman, sandık ve bohçadan oluşan yüzlerce rafa bakar, sonra, ‘yapacak bir şey yok’, der gibi omuzlarını silker.

Merisoul biraz şaşkın bir ifadeyle muazzam odayı süzer. “Ölümlülerin birbirlerini kazıklamak için gösterdikleri çaba gerçekten hayret verici!”, der ve o da omuzlarını silker.

Gnine’da omuzlarını silker ama yüzünde analitik bir ifade vardır.

“Saatler, sürebilir. Ama bu sadece de iyimser bir tahmin. Günler bile alabilir.”, diye makul bir tahminde bulunur. Sonra Darly’ye döner. “Bütün bunların listesini tutan, bunların bakımını yapan biri yok mu?”, diye sorar ona.

Madem herkes omuzlarını silkiyor, ben de eksik kalmayayım der gibi, Darly de omuzlarını silker.

“Buranın eski bakıcısı, Arashkan Üniversitesinden atılmış eski bir profesördü. Neden atıldığı meselesine girmeyeceğim. Kendisi bir kaç yıl önce öldü — tamamen doğal sebeplerden dolayı.. Yani, aşırı ucuz alkol tüketimini ne kadar doğal kabul edebilirsek, o kadar doğaldı. Ondan sonra ise burası için gerekli vasıflara.. ve güvenilirliğe sahip birisini bulamadık açıkçası. Takdir edersiniz ki, çalınmış gizli yemek tariflerinin yanı sıra, burada Arashkan’ı, ve başka bazı şehirleri daha yerle bir edecek kadar çok bilgi ve belge var.”, diye sırıtır..

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

Aradan saatler geçmiştir ve Darly kendi istediği ‘belgeyi’ çoktan bulmuş ve ceplemiştir zira onu oraya yıllar önce kendisi koymuştur.

Ama sözünde durarak ve yaptığı şey fark edilmesin diye, diğerlerine Gar Thalot’un yeri hakkında gerekli bilgiyi bulmalarına yardım eder.

Aager, Gnine, Darly ve Laila, Gar Thalot hakkında birçok bilgi kırıntısına rastlar. Ne var ki bilgiler ya eskidir, ya da fazla muallaktır. Inshala ise bütün çabalarına rağmen yazıları anlaşılmaz bulmuş, en sonunda da küçük bir topak halinde bir köşede sızıp kalmıştı. Bunun gören Aager hiç sektirmeden omzundaki pelerini çıkarır ve kızın üstüne serer. Gnine’dan onunkini de rica eder ve topak ettiği ikinci pelerini ise kızın başının altına yastık yapar.

Darly ise bu olanları çaktırmadan, hayret ve hayranlıkla izlemiş, içinden ‘Bu küçük kız ve bu adi herif.. Hala inanılır gibi değil!”, diye geçirmişti.

 

Merisoul, içi krema dolu bir fıçının içine düşmüş kedi gibi, çılgınca bir heyecanla eline geçirdiği bütün belgeleri okur, değerlendirir ve hatta bazılarını, zihnindeki gizli bölmelere;

 

Arşiv No. ARZME-1012237 – 2nd_lord_correspondence.zip
Arşiv No. ARZME-1012238 – cutter_contract_for_ff.docx
Arşiv No. ARZME-1012239 – angrlln_cursed_gift.jpg
Arşiv No. ARZME-1012241 – secret_recipies.txt
Arşiv No. ARZME-1012242 – stoln_artifact.zip
Arşiv No. ARZME-1012243 – new_orkn_sightings.avi

 

..şeklinde kodlayarak yerleştirir.

 

 

Aradan yine saatler geçer ve Inshala esneyerek uyanır. Üstüne serilmiş battaniyeyi kaldırdığında, karnının olduğu yere yumulmuş bir fare ailesinin, onun sıcaklığı ile uyumakta olduğunu görür.

Inshala gülümser ve onları uyandırmadan sessizce ayağa kalkar. Sonra bir yavru kedi gibi, kayıtsızca tekrar gerinir ve Aager’e hafif mayhoş, kayık ve utanmış bir bakış atar.

“Dalmışım.. Arena tahmin ettiğimden fazla yormuş beni.. Snare çok şeker bi dal, ama çok büyük. Çağırılması biraz yoruyor..”, diye bir fısıltı duyar Aager zihninde.

“Sevgili Inshala, arenada hepimiz iyi iş çıkardık ve yorulduk. Ama aramızda muhteşem olan bi sen vardın..”, diye içten cevabını geri yollar Aager.

Inshala’nın yüzü pembenin harika bir tonuna bürünür..

“..uykuyu ve çok daha fazlasını hak ettin. Gelmene gerçekten gerek yoktu ama. Handaki yerinde daha rahat ederdin.”

“Taş üstünde uyumaya alışkınım ki! Ayrıca kız kardeşinin benden pek de hoşlandığını sanmıyorum. Sanırım kendisine sormadan saçlarını örmemden alındı biraz..”

“Lilly.. Lilly’nin biraz zamana ihtiyacı var. Onun için bazı şeyler yerli yerine oturuncaya kadar, sanırım hepimizin göreceği tek şey onun çatık kaşları olacak.”

“Ama öyle yapınca bütün güzelliği mahvoluyor!”, diye hayret içerisinde ünler Inshala. “Ayrıca çok pasaklı.. Bremorel abla bile bu kadar pasaklı değildi. Ve elbiselerinin hepsini yanlış giyiyor!.. Kim elbiselerinin hepsini yanlış giyebilir ki? Temiz ve düzgün giyebilsin diye, dün akşam hepsini alıp yıkayıp tamir etmek istedim, bana öyle fena bi bakış attı ki, odadan kaçmak zorunda kaldım..”

Aager istemsizce, ve hafif acı bir şekilde ‘fırk’lar.

Drashan, mutlu, ‘doğru giyinen’ insanların doğduğu, ve öldüğü bir şehir değildir. Ve Aager, yeni bulduğu kız kardeşinin geçmişinin de kendisininkinden daha mutlu olabilmiş olduğunu düşünemez. Drashan, erkek çocukları öldüren, kız çocuklarını ise.. ‘değerlendiren’ bir şehirdir..

 

Odanın diğer yanından Gnine sırıtarak sessiz bir zafer hoplayışı yapar.

Tam o an da Laila’dan da benzer bir ses gelir ama onunkisi zafer değil, mutlak bir şoku ifade eden ‘Ohaa!’dır.

“Sanırım buldum.”, der Gnine.

“Sa.. sanırım ben de bi şey buldum..”, der Laila, zorlukla.

Aager, Gnine’ın ona uzattığı belgeyi inceler.

Neden sonra, “Evet.. Tarihler ve yerler tutarlı gibi. Sanırım onu bulduk. İyi iş çıkardın Efendi Büyücü.”, der Aager.

Suratında garip bir ifade olan Laila, sanki küçük dilini yutmuş ve dikkat çekmek ister gibi elindeki oldukça eski gibi görünen belgeyi Aager’e doğru şiddetle sallamaktadır.

Aager, Laila’ya bakar ve bir kaşı kalkar. Uzanıp Laila’nın salladığı parşömeni alır ve okumaya başlar.

Aager elindeki kağıdı okudukça, diğer kaşı da yükselir.

Neden sonra, “Huh!”, diye bir ses çıkar Aager’den.

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

 

 

 

Sevgili Kralım Drine,

Korkarım bu mektubu benim geri dönmemden önce aldıysanız, sarıldık, iyi bir mücadele verdik ve toprağımızı da, atalarımızı da hak ettik, demek oluyor.

Gök Varlıkların bize verdikleri kutsal bir görev için yola çıkmıştık. Lanetli Themalsar’ın güçlerini yararak geçtik ve iblislerin ruhu bile duymadı. Askerlerinizle övünmelisiniz zira elflerin prensi Grandarelen bugün hala ayakta ise, bunu tamamen sizin askerlerinize borçlu. Ne var ki Ogre’s Foot bölgesine yetiştiğimizde büyük bir baskına uğradık ve bu mektubu aceleyle yazmak zorunda kaldım.

Sevgili Kralım ve Babam, biliyorum ki benim için hep iyi şeyler istediniz. Bunu şu anda çok daha iyi görebiliyorum. Bana her zaman rahmetli annemle sizinkisi gibi bir aile kurmamı telkin etmiştiniz ama bu güne kadar sizin annemde bulduğunuz vasıfları taşıyan birisini bulamadım.

Şunu bilesiniz ki arayışım bugün, bu savaş alanında sonra erdi.

Siz bunu okuduğunuzda, ben çoktan ölmüş olacağım. Ama beni ölümümle hatırlamayın. Beni, hayatını vermeye değecek bir kızı bulmuş birisinin sevinciyle hatırlayın ve teselli olun, çünkü ben bu teselliyi kendimde buldum.

Sizi seven oğlunuz,

Prens Gordigon Tinkerdome
4. Gnowitzer İstihkam Alayı Komutanı
Silent Hills Tahtının Varisi

29.11.6853 B.Y.S.

 

 

 

 

Prens Gordigon Tinkerdome’un veda mektubu
(Dokümanın aslı)

 

 


 

I

Tik tak
Hırsız zaman
Kat kat
Örtünün altından Çaldı gitti çocukluğumu.
Bir melek
Masumiyet
Örnek Büyüyüverdi anlamadan
Emekleyerek, yürüyerek, koşarak

II

Tik tak
Hırsız zaman
Kat kat
Yorganın altından
Çekip aldı gençliğimi
Bir aşk Heyecan
Deli kan
Bıyıkları terlerken
Hevesle, hovarda, coşkuyla

III

Tik tak
Hırsız zaman
Kat kat
Anıların arasından
Silip geçti olgunluğumu.
Bir hırs
Çaba
Koşturmaca
Hayatta kalmaya çalışırken
Ev, eş, evlat, baba, anne, can

IV

Tik tak
Hırsız zaman
Kat kat
Toprağın altından
Ne çalacak geride kalandan?
Bir ömür
Ölüm
Son nefes
Secdeden kaçacağın son an
Secdesiz namazın kılındığı
Zaman…

 

—Nezih Dolmacı

 

 

 
 

And Just Beyond That (18+)

Timeline:

The prophecy has been heralded.

The choice has been made.

The die has been cast and fates, sealed.

The ‘Chosen Four’ have been sent, through place and time by the proxies of the Celestials to right the wrongs of the unholy Outsiders.

In a wild cacophony of tumbling and painful sliding through the jagged and jarring madness of time, the Tundra Walkers find themselves disoriented, in a place and time quite out of their own..

..by a gross number of centuries.

 

This story starts 16 years ago, in some tattered tent full of wispy old hags, at a place far, far north of the Great Northern Tundras, in a small village called Star Watchers and ends in the misty haze of the forgotten past, some 820 years further in the line of history.

This story is the (relative) continuation of
Kocakarı Hikayesi (18+)..

 

 

What the bloody hell is this?”, the sour voice of the little, pale gnome grudged as she lay flat on her back. “No one said anything about this much hazard! Hells bells, has the term ‘precaution’ or even ‘risk assessment’ ever occur to those stupid old farts? No wonder people seldom return from the past!”

“Old farts?”, snorted a boxy, feminine voice in the dark, from somewhere behind her, also lying on her back.

“Yea, picked it up at the academy. Some of the ghouls used to use that kinda slang. You wouldn’t know..”, she said with a groan.

“I know, what an ‘old fart’ is”, sniffed the voice in the dark, “what surprises me is the fact that you’d be into such vulgar slang. And the proper word is ‘nerd’, not ‘ghoul’..”

“Nerd, ghoul, same difference. Boys who have zero social lives who live underground, play weird games with imaginary characters and cooked up monsters and carry rule books with more reverence than they would carry their holy writs..”, bit back the pale gnome.

“Yea?”

“Yea..”

“Sounds fun. What was your character?”

Arcantonic Palecog scowled.

“If you must know, I had a very tall, very pretty barbarian girl with thick, white braids and jugs, that smashed everything in her path with a mindless rage..”, she said and hastily added, “..no offense intended!”, giving a sidelong gaze at Cora’s direction.

The squeaky snort of a hobbit came from off, the other side.

“Some taken..”, replied the tall barbarian girl with thick, white braids.

There was a bothersome pause.

“Umm.. Which part?”, asked Arcantonic, tentatively.

“Will let you know when I want something —in mindless rage!”

“Well, shit!”, grumbled the gnome.

“You truly surprise me at times, girl..”, snickered Seressa Wraiven as her dark face appeared over the gnome. “Are you hurt? Other than your head, you seem all in one piece.. Could carry you if you like..”

“You wish..”, said Arcantonic sourly.

“Very much.”

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

Someone’s coming”, Cora Sleet whispered harshly as she sprang up and helped the little hobbit to his feet.

Brom Bumblebrim dusted off his pants and coat and mumbled a silent thanks while the very tall, very dark figure of Seressa pulled up her pair.

Arcantonic did not thank.

She just scowled..

..some more!

 

The slow, irking hiss of a blade was heard as  Cora drew her long, great blade off her back and spread her legs, ready to fight whatever it was that was coming.

Out in the darkness, the marching of many boots in perfect order drew closer and a platoon of tall figures appeared.

Without a pause, the platoon split in two and surrounded the Walkers and than held their ground. They gave no sign of aggression, only that of determination.

They all wore similar, very elaborate and very beautiful plate armors, high winged helmets and carried a quiver of arrows, a short bow, a half size kite shield, and a long, slender, almost fragile-looking sword..

 

High Elves, thought Cora for a moment.

High Elves?, she baffled in the next.

‘Great Heavens, where are we?’

 

“Greetings, Messengers of the Celestials..”, said the leading elf with a curt, formal nod. “If you would be so kind, I pray, follow me and we shall take you to our lord. It is he, with whom you shall speak.”

Cora nodded back, more out of reverence than a formality, for these were High Elves, the highest and noblest of elves.

Without waiting for a reply, the leader of the high elf platoon turned did a quick hand motion, and walked off, back into the darkness..

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

The sight was ghastly. That was the only word Cora could think of.

Ghastly!

They had traveled with the high elf platoon for the better part of sixteen hours, trooping, running, hiding, sneaking and.. fighting..

..and there was less than half of the platoon left.

Cora thought she knew how to fight. But what she knew was nothing like what she saw with these elves in their shiny, beautiful armor. One particular young elf had caught her eyes. He had had an angular face, a straight, noble sort of nose, a dedicated, rich mouth, prominent high brows, and long, braided, pale gold hair.

Cora was never the type of girl to lust over boys, even before the destruction of her village. But the look he had given her with his beautiful, soft, pale green eyes had been solemn, honest and.. flattering.

 

The young man had died in the next encounter with what she thought were mountain trolls. The brutish monsters had rushed right into the platoon and one of them had crushed the elf with his eight-foot club that had been thicker than Cora’s waist..

Cora had never seen a mountain troll before.

Cora would never see the young, beautiful elf again after that..

 

Tired and bloodied, they were met by more elven platoons and soon ushered to the top of a hill where stood a tall, deep maroon colored tent surrounded by more high elf guards in even greater looking armors, carrying long, curved, two-handed elven scimitars in silver embroidered purple mantles. Up at that hill, Cora and her friends saw the extent of their prophecy.. and the extent of the devastation taking place down below..

Row upon row of elven warriors in tens of thousands stood before and around the hill.

There, far across a very bloody field was another army of row upon row of orcs, goblins, ogres, giants, trolls, and what Cora surmised to be shambling ghouls, broken skeletons, moaning zombies, and barking demons and their numbers seemed to stretch as far as she could see.

And between the two armies was a field of death, all burned, scorched, even, and pitch-black smoke rose from broken and mutilated bodies scattered everywhere.

The sight she looked was nothing less than ghastly..

..and the more she looked, the more her face paled;

The hill they were standing on, was very much surrounded!

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

On the hilltop, Cora and her companions beheld the bloody battlefield below as thousands of arrows formed an arching bridge over them and fell into the ranks of the enemy horde while elfish wizards and sorcerers launched their deadly spells, raining fire, fist-sized hails, and swirling multi-colored arcane missiles. Batches of temple guardians walked among the wounded, doing their best to keep them alive as groves of druids of many races sent bolts of lightning and hurricanes into the demon ranks.

Something very large groaned and with an earth-shaking thud, a hut sized rock landed in the middle of a platoon and instantly killed and buried the elves caught under it.

More boulders landed haphazardly into the elfish ranks. The crushed didn’t even have the time to scream.

Orders ran up and down the elf ranks and the first half of a dozen line of elves drew their swords, pulled up their shields, and started out as the following ranks crouched close behind them, bearing long halberds and glaives.

The demon horde charged..

“This way, if you would please.”, said the platoon leader and led Cora and her friends into the tent at the top of the hill.

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

The tall elf guard in purple mantle opened the tent’s flaps for the company, then, without a word, turned and left for his post.

Although the inside of the tent was dimly lit, it appeared to be surprisingly comfortable and richly decorated. The ground was covered with a thick, red carpet that had elegant designs inlaid in it, barely a shade or two darker, or lighter than the base red. Many embroidered tapestries hung on the inside of the tent. There were two comfortable looking divans, many stools, and a large, portable table placed at the far end, covered with parchments, maps, markers, quills, and writing feathers.

A young, beautiful young elf girl slept peacefully on one of the divans. She had a striking figure, full and healthy. Her face had soft features; smooth skin, rich, vibrant, inviting lips, long eyelashes and brush free, slightly wavy, honey-colored hair and she was sleeping in her tight, elf woven lorica.

Cora heard a stifling sound from the other end of the tent, and for the first time, she saw the elf lord, sitting behind the portable table.

Cora did a double-take and silently ‘woa’ed for this was the most beautiful face in a living being that she had ever seen. She just stared at the elf lord..

 

“So, the Celestials have sent another batch of messengers.”, said the elf lord, in a barely hidden contempt. He had a beckoning voice, rather masculine and resonant but somehow musical in nature. If Cora heard this voice in any other male, she would likely have snorted. With this elf, however, it felt ‘just right’.

“A tundra elf barbarian, a hobbit from Bowling Hills by the looks of it, a half-demon and a deep gnome..”, he said.

“It seems the greats above shall not even bother to hide their pun!”

Cora and Brom bowed before the elf lord.

“We have been sent to right a wrong by the Seers of the Star Watchers, my lord.”, Cora said, in her soft, somewhat throaty voice.

And right then, Seressa and Arcantonic both produced something made from fine leather and folded from their belts, flipped them open, and showed the elf lord, a strange, arrogantly carved badge.

The elf lords eyebrows shot up.

“And what business interests does the Academy of Melshieve have here, in this blasted, forsaken battlefield?”, he said in a voice that sounded more tired than of any particular interest.

“Academy business.”, Seressa replied curtly, which was very much unlike her.

“We two are here to observe and preserve.“, added Arcantonic, in a similar curt tone.

“Of course you are..”, replied the elven lord bitterly. “Couldn’t have sent a few of your airships..”

“We are here only to observe and preserve.”, Seressa repeated her pair, speaking with a kindlier voice this time.

“I see.. You are free to observe. There will be no preserving done here today, or anytime soon, I am afraid. The situation stands thus; we are surrounded and outnumbered at a critical level. We can barely open small gaps in the enemy lines at the cost of too many lives that I’d care to count. A few months ago, we sent word to Koruxan, Vodgar, Palantine, and Durkahan pleading for their support. So far, we only have a quarter half of Arashkan forces here, dwarven armored platoons from Scowling and Elder Hills, wood elf support from Dim Woods, druids from Ritual Forest, and gnome sappers from Tinker Hills and Silent Hills.”, said the elven lord quietly.

He paused for a bit as if to gather his thoughts, took a deep breath, and continued.

“We had a great start. Our.. our own rangers kept on harassing the enemy lines from the sides and managed to get to their rear as well. We held the enemy at bay for three years and made them pay a good price for every step they took in any direction. But that was up until some two months ago. Our gnome sappers discovered something we never expected. Turns out, while we were entertaining ourselves up here, they were diligently digging miles and miles of tunnels right under and around us..

We destroyed all the tunnels we found, but not soon enough. And now, they are all around us and their numbers have been growing steadily every day.

For weeks we send messengers to the other cities and yet, no one has responded. I am afraid, we will not last the month. Enemy warlocks have warded the area, making it impossible for us to open portals for new troops to teleport in or take our wounded out, not to mention near to non of our summoning spells work, hence we can get the support of neither the elementals nor the fey.

I will be honest with you. You are not the first Celestial messengers that have arrived here. There were six other groups, though never this many at once. You are the seventh group and they all said it was their destiny to right a wrong. I hope your prophecy was better than theirs.”, he said in the same tired voice and Cora finally recognized the nuance.

The elven lord wasn’t just tired. His was the voice of a man who had lost all hope. It was a defeated man’s voice.

Cora felt a lump at the pit of her stomach.

And she felt a vast sympathy for this beautiful elf.

“If it is possible to reach these people, we shall..”, she said in fierce determination.

The elf lord looked up at Cora and for the briefest of moments, a smile appeared in his handsome face.

“I had heard our long lost brothers and sisters up in The Great Northern Tundra’s never gave their word for simple tasks. They gave them only for the worthy ones.. and always kept them. Had I, but a thousand like you..”

Cora tried very hard not to, but failed.. and blushed.

 

Just then, the tent flaps opened and an elf runner dashed inside and in a rushed, terror-stricken voice he said, “My Riverin Grandaleren. Themalsar approaches from the south..”

“What?”, said the elf lord in a shocked voice. “How?”

“By ships. He landed troops to the south by ships!..”, said the runner, his face even more drawn now.

“My Lord, they come!”, he whispered.

 

Riverin Grandaleren’s shoulders slumped. He turned to the four standing before him.

Cora’s mind reeled..

‘Riverin?’

That was a very old elven name for ‘prince’. It had never really been used by her people, only ‘Rive’ which meant something along the lines of ‘king’ or, more like, ‘chieftain’..

‘Good Heavens..’, she though. This was no mere elf lord. This was ‘her times’ Ri Grandaleren Feymist of the legendary Bari Na-ammen himself..

..and since he was warring this Themalsar, it had to mean, they had been sent back some 820 years, to the first Battle of Themalsar, as the humans called it..

It was better known among elves as;

“Maeth -o Nev Evan escence”

BATTLE OF NEAR EXTINCTION..

 

Some innate instinct also prompted Cora that they were at the very northeast edge of the Ritual Forest and that meant; just to their north was the Trapped Mountains.

Her mountains..

And just beyond that, her Ironfrost..

It was still there, ‘now’..

Her mother hadn’t been born yet, but her father had. He would be younger than she was now.. but alive..

None of her friends would be around for at least seven hundred years yet, but her home, her Ironfrost would be there.. Now..

For the first time since the death of her beloved father, her beautiful mother, her friends, and her people, the true impact of her loss hit her.

Cora Sleet’s eyes teared and silently, she mourned for Ironfrost and everything that it meant and encompassed for her.

It was so damned close. It was ‘this’ close.. Within her grasp to go, and to see.. And perhaps even to..

..reclaim.

 

If she could just go there, and perhaps warn them of their coming annihilation, even at the cost of being branded as a mad woman..

A hard two weeks trek right now would get her there —much less if she left alone! Yes, these strange ‘soft’ people had fought alongside her, but she owed them nothing..

Certainly not her Ironfrost..

 

And that is when it hit Cora; she was not with them because of some untold, unnamed or unpaid debt. She was with them because this was her future. This was her now and there really was no going back. These strange, soft, very much unbarbaric people were her new friends..

Her new family.

Her new.. Ironfrost!

And as if on cue, a small, warm, delicate hand reached up to her and held hers.

She looked down to see Brom Bumblebrim looking up to her, his eyes also glistening. He smiled at her and kindly patted her hand, squeezed it once, and let it go..

Yep..

This was her new Ironfrost, alright..

 

Brom, her talkative little brother who never shut up. Tonic, her grumpy little baby sister who hadn’t yet gotten passed her ‘NO’ phase, and Seressa, her other sister.. the odd one in the family. Every family had one of those, right? She had been the odd one in her family, hadn’t she? Many people had said so.. Yes, she certainly hadn’t been odd at Seressa’s level, nor had she ever worn laced, pink, almost see-through.. things! But there really was no scale for odity, was there? The moment you stepped out of the boundaries of common, you were odd.

And now she was given the new position as the eldest sister. Seressa had merely swooped down and happily claimed her abandoned seat!

Here, some eight hundred years in the murky mists of a forgotten time, in one of the bloodiest battlefields in known history, up against impossible odds, Cora Sleet had found her new family, and in doing so, she found herself.

 

GO.. NOW.. Our time is up. If Themalsar gets here, we will lose any chance to break any openings for you.”, said the prince harshly. He turned to the runner. “Get Selvius Brightleaf, my general, and Aramlerien, my master wizard here immediately. Then go and ask Master Cathber Gwet’chen Bolgrig, the head of the druid groves and General Drills, the gnome sappers’ general, if they would be so kind as to join us. Send for Decona Dwarwic, the dwarven dreadnaught leader as well. We will need her ‘meatgrinders’ sooner than planned.”

The prince paused for a notable breath.

“Please inform Archangel Priceptine of the situation and ask him if he would grace us with his presence and wisdom..”, he added somewhat grudgingly.

“At once, my Riverin..”, the runner bowed and dashed back out of the tent.

“Well, I suppose this was a short-lived encounter.”, Grandaleren said, with an ironic and bitter voice. “I would know your names if you would honor me.”

“No!”, jumped in Seressa. “No names.. I am sorry Riverin of Bari Na-ammen. But those are the rules; under no circumstance may our names be revealed nor recorded!”

“It appears the academy has an answer for everything. Just no solution. So be it. You will be noted as ‘a tundra elf’, ‘a hobbit’, and ‘an academy pair’ who were here to observe and preserve! Now, go..”

Cora and Brom bowed once more to the Prince of Bari Na-ammen and turned to leave.

 

And that is when Cora realized something else;

The beautiful elf girl sleeping on the divan in her linen-like lorica had not moved, at all..

In fact, she was not breathing.

 

The hoarse voice of the prince of the high elves came from behind them.

“Selendenien Sindarin.. My sister. She.. she was killed late last night by Themalsar himself. Her life ebbed away by Malocchio, an entropy death curse, particular to his master.. She was the heart of High Woods and the jewel of Bari Na-ammen. The Sunlight of Selendenien shall never bless this world again..”

Riverin Grandaleren choked.

“Now please.. Go.. Give this man a few moments of peace to grieve over a beloved one..”

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

The company moved silently and swiftly, hidden among burly dwarves and nibble gnomes.. That had been the plan; if they were to escape through the encircling army, they would have a better chance with the dwarves and gnomes, in particular, since the enemy was seeking high elves..

..And they had to use the tunnels dug by the gnome sappers.

Seressa had given one look at the small, tight, gnome size tunnels and groaned.

“Ow bugger..”, she’d said, “..not again!”

That had cheered Tonic a bit.

 

For three days, they ran, hid, slid, rolled, and tumbles through dark, musty, stuffy tunnels, and then over and under heavy brush and mud and reached somewhere near a cluster of rolling hills known as Ogre’s Foot, at which point they got ambush by half the ogre population living in the hills.

 

“Here..”, said a young, handsome gnome; the captain, of the gnomic company and the de facto leader of the dwarven contingency, as he handed a sealed, rolled-up parchment to Arcantonic. “..if you ever manage to get the chance, give this to my father please.”

Arcantonic just stared at the gnome boy.

“Who the hell are you and why are you giving this to me? You don’t even know me..”, she inadvertently blurted out.

Seressa smacked her forehead with her hand.

If the handsome gnome was taken aback by Tonic’s language or her brute attitude, he showed it with a dazzling, infectious smile.

“I, the hell, am Prince Gordigon Tinkerdome. Son of King Drine Tinkerdome and the apparent heir to the throne of Silent Hills.”, he said.

 

Arcantonic ogled at the gnome.

All things considered, he was a rather handsome devil. Pretty, even.

If the gnomes smile was dazzling, however, it certainly flew right past the gnomic girl standing before him.. and the infection failed all efforts on her as well.

 

“It is likely this is where you and your friends will depart, as we are surrounded, outnumbered and outsized, but not quite bested. We need to make enough of a ruckus here, so they won’t go looking for your, there!“, he said pointing at the general direction of Dim Woods.

“Hence, it is unlikely any of us shall survive. You, on the other hand, must, my lady!”

Arcantonic ogled at the gnome..

..some more!

Somewhere deep inside her mind, a squeaky, irritated voice said, “Did you.. Did he just ‘lady’ us?”

“Thought I’d give you this letter to be handed to my father, in case of an unexpected demise on my part, and if you would, I would also like to have your name, my lady, and your hand, of which, I promise, I shall keep only one, though I would very much like to keep both..”

“Yep..”, the squeaky voice in her mind confirmed. “..the idiot just ‘lady’ed us —again! And he wants our hand. Why does he want our hand?”

“I.. I can’t give you my name. That.. that is forbidden. And what do you want my hand for? Are they dirty?”, stammered Tonic as she blushed with a tone of pink that would have made her pair proud.

“Oh, for everything that’s good and not..!”, exclaimed Seressa with an exasperated voice, and smacked her forehead with her other hand..

Brom snickered from the side and Cora just stared at Tonic like she was some kind of strange contraption and she just couldn’t figure out what its purpose was.

“I do not know.”, smiled the gnome prince. “Hard to see from here. Must look at it from a closer angle.”

Whatever was going through Tonics mind at that very moment, it was hard to say.

Her face, however, said ‘What the hell kind of an idiot is this?’

Or perhaps, ‘Why is it always the weird ones?’

 

The prince reached out, took the little gnome girl’s hand, gracefully bent over and..

Seressa held her breath.

 

Brom bit his knuckles.

 

Cora cocked an eyebrow and eagled down on them..

 

..And Tonic smacked the prince of the gnomes..

..over the head..

..with her wrench!

 

WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!“, she blared. “MY HANDS ARE DIRTY AND YOU WANT TO SNIFF THEM? WHAT KIND OF AN IDIOT ARE YOU?

With that, she stomped off..

 

The combined company of gnomes and dwarves burst out in gleeful laughter as the prince picked himself off the ground, very much dazed, obviously in pain and thoroughly embarrassed, he said “I suppose, I had that coming.. But wow, that there is one blazing girl and very hard to get; the best kind there is.. Too bad my times up. I would have loved to have stolen a kiss of ‘farewell to life’ from a girl as beautiful and fiery as her..”

The laughter died and every dwarf and gnome picked up their weapons and shields.

“Dwarves at the center. Sappers cover the flanks.. and careful with the mortars and the gnowitzers.. I want carpet-bombing thirty paces in front of the dwarves at all times. No need to be shy with the ammo.. Artificers, with me.. Boomsticks at the ready..”, he barked his orders.

Prince Gordigon Tinkerdome, son of King Drine and apparent heir to the throne of Silent Hills gave the still scowling Tonic one last, toothy glance than shrieked like a hawk.

“CHARGE!”

 

 



Ri:
elvish for king.

Rise: elvish for queen.

Riverin: elvish for prince (usually used for the likely future Ri).

Riserin: elvish for princess (usually used for the likely future Rise).

Selendenien Sindarin: one of the three children of the current king of the high elves of Bari Na-ammen, Ri Lienierre Moonlight. The eldest of the three is High Lady Angrellen Sunsear, followed by Riverin Grandarelen and the youngest, Ranger Marshal Selendenien Sindarin (Sunlight).

Malocchio: ‘Evil Eye’, in Italian. In-game terminology, an evil, forbidden, very destructive, and an almost always deadly spell. Anyone caught casting or possessing the spell is instantly executed in the Kingdom. Requires a complicated ritual to cast. The end result can vary depending on how it was cast, the intensity of the intent of the caster, and how badly the caster wants the intended to die. The end results can change from something as simple as a heart attack to causing the heart to physically explode, ripping open the rib cage of the person..