A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 21byTaLtos6©
*** This little part of the whole began far differently, and when I had it down, I went on with other sections. After a while, I came back to it and decided that it was just not good enough, because I liked the character of Billy and the end that I'd written for him was a little too ... much of a summary ending to him. I knew that I could do better and felt that he deserved it. So here it is, the truth about Billy.
Oh, name pronunciations in this:
Beyl'eth = "Bayl-ETH" or "Bail-ETH,
Ayt'han = "AYT-han" or "Eight-han"
Book of the Dragon Part 6
Yuan woke on the third morning. She looked around and as fragile as she felt, she got to her trembling knees first before she rested a few minutes and managed to make it all the way to standing a little unsteadily on her wobbly legs. She hobbled off to use the hole in the floor.
When she returned, she looked in all of the rooms and found no one. A thought to herself and she knew that her prayer to the mother spirit of the dragons had gone unanswered. But after a moment, she knew that it was not quite so.
She listened for a moment to some curious sounds. Following the noises, she walked outside onto the great stone ledge where the old settlement had been built. Not all that far away, there was a ring of stones which had quite obviously been made for a large fire. Inside the ring of stones, near to one edge and not in the middle, a smoky little fire burned and not for the warmth of the one who sat on her haunches next to it.
Yuan walked slowly closer and saw her demon friend, looking very different than she'd appeared when she'd last seen her. The girl was still so lovely, but now she looked as though she could walk out into the snow and disappear. She sat with her eyes closed and there were tears streaming slowly down her cheeks as she chanted and sang, one hand worrying her own wild hair and the other making some subtle motions over the little fire, releasing some sort of root or twig fragments so that they would fall into the fire and make the fragrant smoke that hung in the air.
Yuan carefully stepped to the other side of the stone ring and watched so as not to disturb her friend. She noticed that the leather collar was back on the girl's leg today and she wondered about it. After a few minutes, the demon's eyes opened but they weren't seeing. Yuan almost gasped at the changes to her eyes. Her friend now wore a very haunting visage as she looked off into the distance. Yuan didn't know the specifics, but she knew enough. She wasn't seeing anything nearby or even out there in the snow-covered distance. She was seeing far, far further than that with those eyes.
At length, the eyes closed and the hands were still. A soft and different song escaped those lips for a few moments and then she opened her eyes and started to see Yuan there.
"What are you doing out here?" she asked, as she got to her feet and almost knocked Yuan over to hug her.
The pretty lips fell open as Yuan replied in exactly the same speech, "I woke and had to make water," she said with a smile, "On the way back, I heard your sweet singing. I am so happy to see that you live, but I do not know how it can be."
"You can speak as I do!" the demon laughed, "How? I can easily say the same as what you have told me. When I left you not long ago, there was more death to you than life."
She held up her hand suddenly, "Wait! I must know. What is your name?"
"Yuan," the other chuckled.
"I am Beyl'eth," the demon grinned.
After a brief conversation where Yuan explained that she seemed to have been given a gift of many ways to speak, Beyl'eth hustled Yuan out of the cold and back inside, taking her straight to the 'kitchen' where she promptly began to feed her as best she could, offering broth, soup or promising to make her some stew, since she'd just found a few potatoes and liked the taste after a nibble, so she'd throw them in, she said.
She kept a wary eye on Yuan and they talked for most of the day.
"Where is Billy?" Yuan asked after a time, "I thought that he must be out hunting, but he does not return."
"Billy?" Beyl'eth asked, "You mean the male?"
Seeing Yuan's nod, Beyl'eth looked down, "He said that he may return in a few days, but, ... I think that he will never come back. I woke from my sleep and found him over you. I thought that he was hurting you or had harmed you in some way and I attacked him, not knowing what he was. I ... I also insulted him very badly. It only came to me very early today. What I did, not knowing him, made him withdraw -- and he was already withdrawing."
"What did you do?" Yuan asked, surprised at the expression that she was looking at.
Beyl'eth pointed to the leather strap which she wore. "I could not know, and he looked human. I had no time for anything anyway. I could not have changed what happened. There was no time."
"What is he then?" Yuan asked, "What is so insulting about that thing?" Her eyes grew wider then as a thought arrived, "You saw him just now, did you not?"
Beyl'eth nodded sadly, and when she looked up, Yuan saw that she looked about ready to cry again, and wanted to ask about the tears that she'd seen.
"I did not know then, but he knows much inside him, even for what he is. It was a very dangerous moment. We could have killed each other so easily. In my surprise he defeated me.
He is the same as I am," she said, "We are Tarkroth, mountain demons. I do not know him, but if I am right, then I know of him. I am even related to him through his mother, but not closely."
Yuan watched as Beyl'eth looked off into space while she spoke very quietly, as though she was talking to herself.
"We are of different clans. I am Rohn, and if I am right, then he is a Ch'arnn prince. I think that by now, if the lowlanders had not come, he would be my king." Her eyes opened a little and she shook her head, "I have insulted and hurt the one who I should bow to. How much more wrong could it have gone? Little wonder to me now the way that he bested me."
She looked at Yuan again, "I did not know him. I was spawned maybe three years after him as many were, the parents all hoping that their girls might have a chance at the heart of the younger brother -- the one who would be the next king.
I am named for his mother, a little. It was the fashion then, for she was known to all, and came from my clan. Narreth, her name was, and I am called Beyllix Narreth -- Heart-spirit of Nerreth. We sometimes shorten our names, so I am Beyl'eth."
She sniffled a little, "Only, there are no Rohn any longer. I am the last, and there is no living Ch'arnn but him. All are dead; the clans, the tribes, the people. There are no Tarkroth children to sing their songs to the mountain spirits for there are no longer any Tarkroth in the mountains and the winds blow cold and angry. The lowlanders know nothing of what they have done and the snows reach closer to them every winter. Their punishment comes to them one day when there is no summer anymore and nothing will grow to feed them. I was a slave and I saw no others like me.
"This," she said, pointing to the leather on her leg, "this is a Rohn wedding band. Single girls of marriageable age carry their unused wedding band always against the day when the right one comes for their hearts. It is an old barbarian custom, and the band does not come off the leg easily, for each of us sets a test or series of tests for any males who might seek us out. We may like the boy, we may even love him, but the test must be given and passed. Many males perish in the attempt. It can never be easy, or the girl's parents kill the boy at once.
My kind has always been the wildest among the wild ones of the mountains," she said, "To give our hearts is to give our freedom a little, so there must be trust. To take a male with no band causes the girl to lose her ability. The magic fades from her, and it is the same as to kill her slowly. The band is the sign that we are taken, but never owned."
She smiled at the floor for a moment, "What male would want that? If he was that stupid and meek, then he could buy a slave at the market, and she would lie for him calmly." She looked up, "That is not what we are famous for, among other things.
I was taken when my Quarn - my village - was overrun. It was the first stroke to conquer us. With us gone, the way to the Quarn of the king was a long way off, but the way was clear then. We were attacked by many kings of the lowlanders.
I was brought back to the place where the Quarn of the king stood to search for something of the queen's among what was left a year later. They wished to use me to find something with which to chain her spirit. When we die, our spirits often live on, and hers was mighty. If there were many of us left, she would be as famous in death as she was in life.
When her Quarn was falling, and her male was failing under the crush of so many mages and fighters, Narreth began to sing to the mountain. The Ch'arnn have always lived in the shadow of a famous mountain with others nearby. She fought on beside her male as she sang. There were other females there who were Rohn, and they joined the song. Soon, the Ch'arnn females joined in. They had little magic to us, but it all helped. Rocks and stones flew to their aid and killed many lowlanders. The females called the mountain down and killed the cruelest king of the lowlanders, along with most of his army.
The mountains lie fallen there, and the Quarn lies under them, along with the Ch'arnn and Nerreth, who lies beside her male, the king.
I alone know the tale, because her spirit came to me as I looked. She called to me by my name and gave her band to me after leading me to where her body was buried. There was much stone over her, but her band came to my hand then as I stood, and I walked away before the place was seen. I put it around my leg as though it was my own and I hid mine under stones."
Beyl'eth looked off, staring into the distance, "She called me kinswoman and begged me to wear it. She asked me to live true to my name, and I said that I always have. When I had it on me, she blessed me and after her kiss, I was alone."
Beyl'eth looked at Yuan and shook her head, "Ayt'han saw the ring on my neck."
"Ayt'han?" Yuan asked.
"Yes, Ayt'han," Beyl'eth nodded, "That is his name. It was known three days after his spawning by every Tarkroth in the land, and dreamed of by every Tarkroth girl close to his age in her prayers at night for a time. I did not ask, but I do not need to. I had not thought of it all then, but I saw the pain which I gave him in his eyes when he saw it.
Any child of a Rohn female knows the wedding band around his mother's neck better than he knows his own hand. He sees it every time that he suckles as an infant and it is among the very first things that his little hand closes over when she holds him. In a room full of them, any of us could find the one belonging to our own mother with ease. We know that one by sight. We smell her in the leather. We feel her in it by only the lightest touch.
He looked at me and saw his mother's band.
I looked at him and saw the arrow in his heart.
He looked as though he wanted to kill me for it, as though I was a thief.
He is one of the lost princes. There was him and his older brother, Laish. When a queen spawns, she thinks of what will be, and they always spawn twice when they think to what must be for the people. The first, girl or boy, will be the protector until the one comes into his own. That child may rule, but never while the one lives, and even then, a new king must be found. When the brothers disappeared, the king and the queen prepared to step down to make the way for another, not wanting to spawn another pair, but the people would not hear of it."
"What if the second child is a girl?" Yuan asked, and Beyl'eth grinned, "The same process happens at the level of the leaders of the clans, but a girl may rule there. My mother died when I was spawned. My father died when we were overrun. For a short time, I was leader of my Quarn and we made the lowlanders pay blood for every home that was burned, but there were too many. For queens, the second child is never a girl. We are witches, no?"
Yuan looked over, "How do you know that the one who gave his name to me as Billy is not Laish, the older one?"
"I know it because Laish is dead. Ayt'han carries the death on him still. I am a witch," she said, "this shows itself to me. He does not see it, but Laish did for him what was needed, whatever it was.
I do not know much at all of what he carries or how he came to be here, maybe the same way that I came," Beyl'eth said, a little of the emotion in her beginning to come through again, "but I know that he is Ayt'han. He knows Rohn customs. He knew the speech at once, even though my dialect is a little different from his -- it shows that he had a Rohn mother when he shifted it easily to match mine. He has such strong magic that he knows little of.
He has come of age and he has no one. He blames himself for Laish. He was already withdrawing. It is a sign in us when we can go no further. I have been there before. Others make noise or appear to withdraw, but when a Tarkroth can go no further, we always grow silent and withdraw. After that, we find a way back, or we find a way to go on.
He is the last Tarkroth male, Yuan," she sobbed a little, "And I showed him plainly that his mother is dead. I wore the proof right here and there was no mistaking what I saw in his eyes. He touched his mother's band, so he felt her.
Family is everything to a Tarkroth. When the two were lost to us, the whole nation mourned and searched. I was little, but I remember that my own family was upset. It is hard to live where we do. The cold outside here is as nothing to us. That is our spring and half of our summer out there. We females do not take child easily in a place like that, and there are many ways to lose one's young. When a single babe is born, the whole Quarn and the others nearest to it celebrate. When one dies or is lost, the hardest grown males weep. We all weep then, because we all feel the loss.
I proved to him that his mother waits for him, Yuan, and he knows that the brother Laish waits to welcome him too. The male that I saw is very tired of his life. I have enough on my own back, I do not wish to have a hand in his choice."
There was silence for a moment as Yuan watched a tear run from the demon's eye.
"He was not, ... as you are then, was he?" Yuan asked, "I only saw him as a human."
Beyl'eth nodded absently, "I saw him that way, but he didn't look like the humans that I saw on the islands. He was so angry, but even so, he was good to look at." She sighed, "It is my failing. I should have known. It happened so fast."
"How would he look then," her friend asked, "would he look as you?"
The demon nodded, trying to imagine it for herself, "He would look like me, only larger and male. The Ch'arnn males are the largest of the Tarkroth, the quickest and the strongest. Very deadly, they are, especially their kings, for they receive their magic from their Rohn mothers."
She sighed not noticing it, "Their males are the finest of all to see and to love with, my cousin told me. Her mate was a Ch'arnn. I often hid myself among the rocks after seeing him. I would go where there was no one and hide myself. If I sat in a squat and leaned against some stones, I could move my hair to hide what I did there. It is winter, so he must have the same mane."
"The same eyes?" Yuan asked.
"Not quite as light, but the Ch'arnn I remember had light eyes too. Most Tarkroth carry gray eyes. Rohn carry the lightest of them all. Ch'arnn eyes are silver -- when they wish to show it, bright, full of humor then, quick to laugh, and impossible for a Rohn girl to resist, it is said."
She shrugged with a helpless look, "Many males of the other clans seek for a Rohn girl, but we love only Rohn boys -- unless the one who comes to seek for our heart is a Ch'arnn male. All of them are fine to our eyes. It has always been this way. We are mighty in magic and wild in our ways. Rohn males understand this and allow it."
She laughed a little, "They have no choice. They seek the sweet little things which we carry between our legs and cannot help themselves. Yet our little things are what will rule their lives. Many Rohn girls are happy with that."
She smiled a little impishly then, "But Ch'arnn males seek us for it even more and match us in the joining. They are the only males who can. This is known to Rohn girls. It is also said that the Ch'arnn can rule the Rohn in the same way."
She chuckled and nodded, "So there lies a double-trap which the pair leap into if they find love for each other. Those pairing last to death and beyond, it is said."
"Then there is much to do," Yuan smiled at her friend, "and we need time. This ability that you have, can you do anything to place a thought in him? Anything like that?"
Beyl'eth nodded a little slowly, "I can send feelings to him -- if he would take them. Why?"
"First," Yuan grinned, "I must eat to get well, and you must send the feelings. Can a wild one as you are share a little? You are the last, as is he. I like him too, and Beyl'eth, I am more than the last. I am the only one like me who ever was. The Tarkroth here should make their lives together -- even if it does not suit to begin with, or a wonderful people will be utterly gone. Do you think that you are the only one here with just a little wisdom? I am a dragon -- partly, and I am quiet about it, but I have much."
She set her spoon down and leaned on the snow ghost's shoulder so that she could look into the most beautiful light eyes that she'd ever seen. "Nerreth saw her heart-spirit when she gave you this band. I do not know how it was that you both came to be here, but perhaps with the clear sight of her death, Nerreth saw where her boys had gone. Perhaps she could see into the future as well.
It may be only pure luck, but I must believe -- as should you -- that this was meant by her that you have and hold her band. I am sure that, if she had the need, she could have killed the lowlanders there with you that day if she had wanted it and set you free.
But it would have placed you somewhere else on the day that you would be brought here by the strange thing which happened. I do not think that Nerreth does this, I think that she used the circumstances of what was to happen."
Beyl'eth looked doubtful and Yuan shook her gently with a grin. "Think, Rohn girl. If there was to be an ending to your kind and it was you who were the dead witch spirit, who would you wish to give to your lost child, if not the most perfect choice that you could in the only other last one? From what you said, the Ch'arnn and the Rohn seek each other. He was to be king. You were to lead your tribe. Nerreth would have known of you anyway."
The demon nodded, "I met her once while she lived. Her sadness had not come to her yet and I was very small, but I remember that she picked me up and said that of all of the girls who carried her name, I was the one who had truth to mine."
Yuan threw back her head and laughed, "Oh, this is perfect! There can be no blind luck to this."
Beyl'eth blinked and stared at her friend and then she sighed and smiled, seeing it.
"Now," Yuan began, "Can you share him a little? I can accept it if you say no, but, ... I like him Beyl'eth. You are the right one for him, but I am female as well, and I am half-human. Their blood blends easily -- I am living proof of it. I have a dragon living in me. If you agree, the Tarkroth could begin a clan here one day. A little strange perhaps, but some of the little ones might even look a little like me."