A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 07byTaLtos6©
***We're back to the gang on the mountain in this chapter. By the way, the mountain that they're on is not the one referred to below. It's where they're headed to eventually. I've tried to be a little creative in trying to make use of features which I believe would likely survive the sort of things which have happened. Try to remember that from the viewpoint of the characters in this, something which you or I might just assume to be permanent would be ancient and many things have been forgotten. Four hundred years is twenty generations in human terms. The infrastructure which we all take for granted is largely gone. There are no highways. They've turned into the same sort of cowpaths that the many of the old well-built Roman roads are to us today. 0_o
Book of the Mountain Clan, Part 3
"Vadren's showed me his mage staff," Sariel said over dinner with the excitement of a child, "It's alive, and it looks so – "
"I know," Rachel smiled, looking past her son at the staff as it leaned up against the wall. It had been placed there out of his sight for fear that the boy wouldn't eat a thing because of his fixation with the article.
The entire thing had been fashioned out of one piece of wood, the roots of a particular tree where they'd grown down through the earth to wrap themselves around an ancient Drow shrine. No one worshiped there anymore, the particular city where it was situated had been cursed and looted ages ago and now stood empty and deserted, save for the fearsome beasts which prowled the forgotten streets.
The head of Vadren's staff carried an intricate carving of a female with her arms out from her sides as though flying. Over her back, three spiked prongs carried past her, as though they were the points where her will left her when a spell was cast using the staff. The small figure moved a little slowly all of the time.
"The tree was the home of dryads once," Vadren said, "and my staff carries the spirit of one of them. It was left in the place where it was made, and the journey to the place was almost the death of me many times. I did not know that it was there. It was not the reason that I went there at all. But I found that the tree's roots were being consumed by many nasty little things. I thought that it was wrong, and so I killed them all. When the last one died, the roots moved and the staff was handed to me by one of them.
It serves me well, though I have tried to release the figure there several times, thinking that she was imprisoned, but it came to me in a dream that it was not so and that the staff was a gift. She does not speak to me often, but she has in the past and she told me that she is my servant.
Lately, she has told me that I ought to seek a young learner, promising to yield two small wands out of the wood – one for the learner. He or she must be young and bright, having no wish to harm nature or her trees. But I have found no one."
"You have not exactly looked very hard either," Cha'Khah smirked.
It was all that she had the time to say before Azriel began.
"I will think on it," Vadren smiled as he held up his hand.
Much later, after Sariel was in his bed they talked. "He's a boy, and though he has some ability, I haven't taught him very much at all" Rachel said. "I haven't had the time or lately, the desire to. But I know that he'll need to know something one day. Both of us have a lot to teach, Azrael."
"Not only us," he said, indicating the others.
"He has a quick mind and a good eye," Cha'Khah smiled, "it would be a waste not to show him something."
They fell silent for a few moments. "It will not be long before the weather begins to turn," Vadren said, "It leaves us only a very short time in which to begin here where there is little to distract him. He should know at least the basics for one of his young age before you think to return to Cheyenne Mountain."
"And try to remember that not all of us can fly like you three," Cha'Khah said, "and the drowling cannot fly far as you both likely can. There are too many of us for you to take back in an instant with your magic traveling, Azrael."
"I know," he said, "but I gave my word to Rachel that we would stay here until the beginning of the winter."
Rachel shook her head, "There's still time," she said, "teach him whatever you think that he'll need – as long as it's within his ability to use properly and not burn down the mountain or hurt anyone. I said what I did hoping that it would give him and you the time to get to know each other and form the kinship that I think really needs to be there between a father and his son – especially a pair who only came to know each other recently. But the way that you two are going, I don't think that I should have been worried."
Cha'Khah excused herself to go outside. "There will be a fine moon tonight," she said, "I wish to make my prayers to the goddess to ask for her guidance for the drowling and if I should teach him."
She stepped outside and Rachel looked at Vadren, "What was that about?"
"Most of our people worship a nasty spider goddess," he said, "one who rewards cruelty and intrigue. The society is ruled over by females who hold all power, something like ants. I do not care who holds the power, I only wanted not to be treated as dung because I was born a male.
There are few of us, but there are some Drow who live on the surface. They tend not to follow the spider-faith and many choose to follow a different goddess, one who does not hold males in contempt. I am coming to feel the want to see for myself one night soon. If we are quiet and offer respect, we may go to watch my cousin. She dances in the moonlight for the goddess."
"Your cousin?" Rachel asked, "That's the second time that I've heard you refer to her that way. She says the same thing when she refers to you, but from what I see you're a little close to use that word as though you were at a family reunion. You're almost distant enough not to be cousins at all."
He shrugged, "We are cousins several times removed. We did not know each other or grow up together, and we are far enough apart to wed if we wished to. It may come to that one day," he smiled, "There are few chances that we have found for our hearts otherwise. Neither of us wanted to remain where we were for much longer."
They went outside to watch Cha'Khah as she danced with a sword in her hand. Rachel fell in love with it immediately. She'd never seen anything so beautiful to watch, and it went on for a long time before she stopped.
Cha'Khah trotted over to Vadren, who had already begun to make his way to her and they walked off a little way before they began to kiss and before long, she had him out of his clothing and onto his back. Rachel saw her friend's red eyes regarding her as she rode Vadren with a smile of pleasure. Rachel felt a little silly, but she offered a small wave of encouragement as she walked away holding Azrael's hand.
The urgent part was over and Rachel lay on her side while Azrael was behind her with his arm over her. "Well that was quite a day," she smiled, "I met a pair of pretty different people thanks to you and I'm glad they're here."
"They are different, next to most humans, I suppose," he said, "to me, they're just my friends and –"
"Business partners?" she asked.
"Yes, fellow adventurers and business partners. I see that you and Cha'Khah have become chummy," he said.
"She's wonderful," Rachel smiled, "I've never met anybody like her. I don't mean for what they are, Azrael. I mean for who they are. Cha'Khah's so much fun to be around. I find that I'm happier just to stand near her."
"Both of them are really good to have near you if you need someone in your corner," Azrael said quietly. But if you're somewhere sticky and things aren't looking too good then just give her a bit of room, Rachel. She gets things messy really quickly."
"I think I'd like to ask her if she'd teach me," Rachel said as she felt him beginning to harden against her. She wiggled her backside to let him know that she was definitely interested. "It couldn't hurt to know and the way that she can move so gracefully is beyond any words that I have to say it with."
"You know that even though she's a Drow, she's a kind of elf, right?" he asked, "I hate to tell you, but there is no one who can move as gracefully. But you go on and ask. I'm enjoying seeing this side of her. I've never really seen it before in her. I think that it's doing her good, and it can't hurt you to learn what you can.
They're both a little different from the usual, run-of-the-mill Drow," he said, "Though I guess that there are some things which won't ever change. Have you noticed the way that she teases me as though I was her master?"
"Yes," she said, "why is that?"
"Well, it's probably because of the way that they all live, always having to watch for the knife that might come from out of nowhere for them, but Drow are always suspicious. They can't help it. I helped them to get out of where they lived trapped, but even so, Cha'Khah used to entertain a sneaking suspicion that I must have done it so that I'd gain a pair of confederates in my business. That's what they ended up as, but it was never my intent. She just always likes to call me her master – as if she'd ever allow anyone to wear that title ever again."
Rachel lifted her leg and moved it back to place it behind his legs so that he'd have better access to her. She reached to move his erection to where it would do them both a lot more good and she tried to keep the groan in her from coming out as he slid inside of her again. "It sure hasn't hurt her shape any, this business of yours," she sighed as he began to move slowly.
They were silent for a few minutes, just fucking slowly. "You've had her, haven't you?" she asked, wanting to see what his reaction would be.
"Yes," he sighed, "but it was only a couple of times after getting done with jobs which were tight scrapes."
"Wasn't she any good?" Rachel whispered, "I mean, I know that she's looking for someone to really love her."
"She was really good," he whispered in her ear, "but I'm not the one that she's looking for, though I guess that I could have been if I wasn't always sad the way that I was before."
"Why were you sad?" she asked as she moved herself to thrust back against him in the deliciously slow way that they'd found a few nights ago.
"I'm going to sound like a sappy idiot here, but I never got over losing what you and I had. You may have noticed that I'm pretty happy these days," he whispered.
"Ohhh" she sighed, "I have. Sorry about the dumb question. It's a shame that she can't be happy with Vadren. I know that I'm not what he'd want, and I'm a kid's mother and all of that, but if things were different and we weren't together, I'd probably be really interested."
He chuckled softly as he stretched to kiss her ear. "You do know that we're twins, you and I, right? Have you forgotten? There's nobody in the world who knows you better than me. You are interested in your quiet way, I can tell."
Rachel felt a little foolish. "But I'm not in love with him, Azrael. I'm in love with you. I have what I want and it's this. I was just wondering."
"I know that too," he said, "I always wondered about Cha'Khah myself. There's no harm in wondering. Rachel. I know what we have."
"Good," she said, as she began to thrust harder, "Because I think it's pretty fantastic. You just let me know if you want to do this another way. I'm fine just like this."
He moved his hand a little to get to one of her nipples and Rachel moved her pillow to keep any sounds that she might make quieter.
The spring turned into summer as the pair of Drow taught their new pupils. Sariel amazed Cha'Khah at how quickly he caught on to anything that she showed him. All that he lacked was the size and strength of an adult in most cases. Still, there were mishaps, but Cha'Khah showed Sariel right from the start what it was that she expected of him.
She knelt and passed her hands over the slight wounds and scrapes in his young body as she healed them and then she looked into his eyes, reaching out to wipe away the tears from his cheeks.
"Listen well, Sariel," she said quietly, "If this was where I come from and if you really were a drowling, you would find no comfort to be had crying over these little hurts that come from what I have to teach you. To show that one is hurt there is an invitation for more abuse, both from one's fellow learners and from the teachers, never mind from the parents if it was known that one showed it. To show that you are hurt is taken as a sign of weakness and Drow never show weakness – never," she said, "It is desirable to show that one can take punishment, but also, it is to prevent others from taking advantage of it. Remember what I said when we met; we use everything to our advantage. If your opponent is hurt, you must use that as you can as well.
Be glad that we are not there, young one. But even though this is not that place, there is something for you to learn here. You may be hurt or injured, but the best thing while you are in action is to hide this until after. That is the time to examine and take stock, understand?"
Sariel nodded, sniffling, "I know, Cha'Khah, but it hurts."
"Of course it does, my sweet one," she smiled, "It serves as a lesson not to allow the hurt to be repeated. You may hear my hard words as we train together, but I seek to drive you to give only your best – never anything less, for your life will often depend on your success."
She reached out and he found himself a little crushed against her armor as she hugged him, and then she kissed his young face. "I find that I am becoming so much like an aunt to you, but not in the way of the Drow, for one may expect little but a good kick from one's aunt there, even before she says hello. I love you as the dalharuk that I have not had yet, and likely never will, so please pardon me if I expect much from one so young. It comes out of my love for you and my desire that you stay alive.
"Here," she said, reaching behind her, "I think the time has come for this. I have spoken with your mother and we have agreed that you have worked hard enough to earn this." She held out a small blade to him, haft first and she grinned at the way that his eyes opened in surprise and delight.
"This is as sharp as any other blade that I have. I even expect that you will cut yourself a time or two as you learn of its uses. But I ask that you show care with it, or I will have to suffer the shame of taking it away from you once again. You do not wish for that to happen, because that will delay the beginning of my teaching with the bow. Hold it for a moment and then, when you think that you have the feel of it, hand it back to me the same way that I gave it to you and I will show you only some of its uses."
Sariel looked at it carefully and then he closed his fingers around the haft to grip it. After a moment, he handed it back.
His eyes opened in amazement as it became a blur in Cha'Khah's hand, a silvery globe that spun in what looked to be all directions as she moved it easily. "The balance between the blade and the haft is very important," she smiled, "or this would not be possible so easily. There is are enchantments on this which I will not show to you yet until you master some of the simpler movements, but see that old stump there?"
She pointed with her free hand at an old half-rotten stump not far off. Sariel nodded, keenly aware that nothing that she did took away from the way that the knife shone and glittered as it spun.
"Watch then drowling, and see only one of the tasks that his blade knows," she smiled.
He barely saw her movement, but he knew that the blade was gone, seeing the dull blur of it as it thudded deeply into the rotten wood. Within a second, the blade fell to the ground and the stump's decomposition was almost complete, the blade finishing what nature had begun in only seconds. He got to his feet to run for it, but she held him back.
"No. To touch it now would cause the same to happen to you, my sweet boy. The blade must come to learn your touch. Let me get it, and we will teach it together so that you are safe from it."
"He's going to cut himself, you know," Rachel said as she watched her son walk away with the knife a few minutes later.
"He might," her friend replied, "but he knows that Vadren or I can heal anything that he does to himself with it. You are not here now to think about Sariel. You are here to begin with the bow today." She looked at Rachel, "but I already see a problem."
"Problem?" Rachel said, "What sort of problem? I know that learning this will be hard, but I've always been a little jealous of Azrael and how he can shoot. I'm willing to try hard, Cha'Khah," she said as she nocked an arrow. She was about to draw the bowstring back fully when Cha'Khah cried out, "STOP!" and Rachel froze.
"What have I done wrong so soon?" she asked.
"Oh, nothing yet, my lovely friend," the Drowess smiled, "but you were about to learn two things the hard way, and I seek to prevent the flow of a few needless tears from those eyes."
Rachel was confused. She hadn't done much of anything yet, but she stood with the bow half-drawn.
"Here," Cha'Khah said smiling and Rachel felt the Drowess' fingertip against the side of her breast, close to her nipple. "You chose to come here to learn today in this beautiful demon-like form of yours. I never use the bow anymore unless I am wearing my armor. It saves a lot of pain from the bowstring grazing my breast when I release. It does not happen often, but I have learned this pain myself – and you are a little bigger than I am. In one form or another, you will need to bind these beauties before you begin. Also, you need to wear this," she said, holding up the guard for the archer's bow arm.
"Without this little thing, you will find your interest fading from you after only a few arrows." She strapped the guard to the inside of her friend's forearm. "Now hold your arms high above your head, Rachel, and I will bind your breasts for you. I thought of this and brought something for it. It is a common learner's mistake among adult females. I began as a girl, and it was not until I matured that I realized my peril quite painfully."
A few minutes later, and Rachel was losing arrows all over the meadow while her friend cheered her on, promising to help her find them again afterward.
"When can I begin to learn to use the staff?" Sariel asked, careful not to show any impatience this time. The last time that Vadren had detected that impatience, it had cost the boy a week, during which the Drow mage had refused to show him anything. Azrael and Cha'Khah stood by watching as did Rachel who sat on the front step.
"When I decide that you are ready, my young learner," Vadren grinned, "and not a moment before. You already know for yourself that both the wand and the staff are only ways to focus and direct what comes from within. It magnifies and brings intensity to what you do with your mind. Begin with the staff too soon and you will never be a mage with much power, and maybe worse, you will think that you are and have to lug around a piece of lumber for the rest of your days.
Do it my way – as hard as it seems, " Vadren grinned, "and you will become a force to be reckoned with. Now, we left off with you learning the incantation for The Strength of the Many. If you can, then say this to me, but do not use your hands. You are not to cast anything, only show me that you know the words, understand? We will do that in a minute."
Sariel began to speak the arcane phrases in a quiet voice, just loud enough for the mage to hear and understand what was said.