New Star RisingbySnork Maiden©
OK, this is the opening chapter to my little novel – I think the prologue may have been a little confusing but it was really just to set the stage and background, hopefully this is a bit more straightforward. Any feedback is greatly appreciated this is the first time I have actually written anything major, although I do have my roughs from college the whole story is slowly coming back to me and I thought it was time to put it to paper.
Snork Maiden 22-04-2002
* * *
New Star Rising.
Nestling in the valley of the East Gadllyn foothills, lay the small and peaceful village of Prer. With a population just under three hundred and fifty people, Prer was simply put, an agrarian community. Most of the families had ancestry dating back for generations, though many people had left for the cities and towns after the East Gadllyn caravan route had opened up the interior of Dewyll to the traders of Lyvria. The village was built along the small stream, known locally as the Ruene Wash and it wound its way gently southwards towards the Crystal Sea.
The farmers of Prer were well skilled in crop growing and animal husbandry. Providing good food, ale as well as providing winter fodder for the animals, Prer operated as a simple co-operative with respect to it own whilst raising revenue by selling carefully managed surpluses to the passing traders from the caravans which occasionally stopped by. These traders would spend their money freely, purchasing the fine local brewed ales and taking a few days to rest and feed their animal trains before heading on into the less hospitable Hygrdal wastelands that separated the coastal region of Dewyll from the citadels in the north.
It was in this village, that Tradryll, the local blacksmith ran his modest business. In fact business was very good for him as there was never a shortage of repairs to carry out on farm equipment and horseshoeing to administer. This trade didn't raise much in the way of riches for most times he would take payments in food supplies and of course the old worn materials, which he would smelt down and refashion. Yet this was the way of the simple community. The caravans however provided him with a much more lucrative business, the merchants often paying him with other goods, such as clothing, blankets and other items not found locally. Occasionally he even got paid with silver.
Tradryll was a tall man, just over six feet in height, broad and with a muscular upper body and arms developed from his hours of toiling over the scorching furnace of his forge, his brows often singed by the heat and his face furrowed and pitted from the sparks of hot metal and the sweat generated by the effort he exerted as he hammered the glowing iron. Watching it turn from yellow through to cherry red as he hammered and shaped the bars and strips on the large anvil which stood in the center of his shop and then reheating it, turning it deftly with the huge iron tongs. He was a popular man, not least with the farmers who relied on his craft to maintain their tools and horses, but also by the local youngsters who would come to watch the big man at work. He would often take breaks and sit with them, telling them old stories of the sphere, and of the guardian dragons. Such stories would hold the children in awed silence, as they listened open mouthed at the adventures and tales of the old times. Some of the older children would work the billows for him as he hammered and always he handed out the buns and cakes baked by his wife, Keriquen, specifically for them.
Tradryll had met his wife, a Lyvrian, some years earlier during a Caravan assignment to into the neighbouring province. He had been hired by a particularly wealthy Caravan owner to maintain his wagons and horses, which were carrying a very important cargo into Jufran, the Lyvria capital. Although Tradryll never knew what the cargo was or even really worried to ask. He had met Keriquen in the marketplace; she was then barely twenty years of age. The attraction between them had been almost hypnotic and spontaneous. He had been attracted by her deep blue eyes and long jet black hair. She had a way of looking into him he felt at the time, almost as if she knew him completely. Over the few weeks he was in Jufran, they spend more and more of their free time together, she working as a market delivery girl and himself shoeing the and preparing the wagons and horses for the return journey to Dewyll. So it was that when the time came for him to leave, she agreed to travel with him back to Prer to become a blacksmith's wife.
As it turned out, he discovered she had another talent, one which had not been realised until she had settled in the small stone cottage he had built on the edge of the village. She was a natural at cultivating and preparing herbal remedies. She would bake cakes and flavour them with angelica and mint, whilst producing ointments and oils used not only to cure the village people, but also the animals as they fell ill. She found great pleasure in her accomplishments and in the spirit of the community only took payment in kind, sometimes eggs, sometimes flour or beets. In any case she would bake them into cakes and give them to her husband to pass on to the village children. There was something else she had found since marrying Tradryll and moving from the busy citadel to the rural lands of Dewyll. She sensed a new affinity with the world around her, the plants and stones she knew, not by their man given names but by their natural unspoken and unwritten names. It was a feeling of complete oneness and a sensation of intense serenity and security. She had never been as happy in her life as she was living in this idyllic village and it's simple uncomplicated and unselfish way of life.
Tradryll had been working hard the past 6 months and saving earnestly all the silver he could from the caravan commissions. Keriquen was heavy with child and due to give birth within the next few months. He had spent a lot of his free time gathering stones and building an extension on their modest cottage. A nursery for the new member of the family. Being a weekend, Tradryll had taken the day to help his wife around the cottage. She sat on a stool in the back yard milking Abyss, a mountain goat that had wandered into the cottage the winter before and having sampled much of the furnishings had decided that she would like to stay with this family. At the time Tradryll had not been overly impressed by the goats actions, but the laughing and smiling face of his wife as she had retrieved his half chewed pants from the goat, soften his anger. Abyss turned out to be a fine asset, providing milk that Keri would use for cooking and even turning into cheese, flavouring it naturally with selected herbs from her garden.
As the milk jets hit the pail making their familiar ringing sound, Keri turned to her husband. 'You know we really should try and find a nice boyfriend for Abyss,' she smiled back at the goat, 'You'd like that wouldn't you Abyss, a nice boy goat to keep you company?'
As if understanding her, the goat bleated.
'That's the last thing we need,' Trad retorted, 'can you imagine the damage two of them goats would cause unattended.' He looked at the chain he had made to prevent the goat from late night snack expeditions and smiled at his creation. 'You can't chew through that can you,' he thought to himself, recounting the number of times the goat had nibbled its way free of the ropes they had tried to secure her with.
'Besides,' he continued, 'you can't milk a male goat'
'Hmmm,' Keriquen replied thoughtfully, 'Does everything have to have a purpose?' She continued to milk the goat, 'Don't you worry,' she said softly to the goat, 'I'll find you a friend,' she patted the goat gently as she finished the milking, rising from the stool she carried the pail into the cottage and placed it on the oaken table which stood centrally on the stone floor of the kitchen.
Outside Tradyll continued to lift the stone blocks into place forming the last of the walls of the extension. Soon he would be looking to lay down the beams for the roof, but that would be a week or so away. He had already arranged a wood felling session with Fresk one of the local farmers, for now he would be content to get these walls finished.
Pushing some small stones to lock the larger ones in place he stood back to admire his handiwork. Even though he was a strong man from his usual work, lifting the rocks and placing them had given him some back ache, He pushed his hands into the small of his back and pushed backwards, letting out a low groan.
'Are you Ok!' Keriquen called from the kitchen, she was pouring the milk into a large copper pan to boil it on the stove.
'Yes I'm fine,' he called back, 'I think I just strained my back a little that's all'
Keri popped her head around the door of the cottage looking at the tall man standing with his back arched back as he manipulated the small of his back. 'Here come on you big Ox,' she smiled, 'let me rub some liniment into it, that'll help, you should rest a bit as well you're not going to be much use to me if your doubled up like an old man'. She walked over to him ushering him into the house.
Taking a seat on one of the wooden stools he waited whilst his wife prepared the ointment. As she rubbed the pale green/yellow tincture into his skin he could instantly feel the relief as it warmed his sore back. 'ooo, that feels good' he said 'yeah yeah, just there that's it aaaaaaaaaaah,' he sighed as her nimble fingers massaged the tight muscles and aching bones. The rest of the weekend was spent leisurely, Keri tending to her garden and taking short rests whilst Trad did his best to keep out of her way and allow his sore back to recuperate.
The following weeks passed quickly. The extension to the cottage was completed in good time, with several of the local village men helping Trad to construct the roof and thatch it with straw. Towards the end of the summer, Keri's water broke and she gave birth to twins. The eldest a girl, her head already covered with fine black hair and deep blue eyes just like her mother, the youngest a boy with fine silver blonde hair and brown eyes. Trad and Keri were delighted with their new family. Trad ordered beer and food for a feast and invited everyone from the village to toast the mother and babies. The festivities lasted late into the night and everyone sat around in the warm night air drink and singling and dancing.
The night sky was clear and the stars flickered like flecks of silver on a black velvet cloth. Low in the west a new star twinkled. It was a small star, an insignificant star. Most would not have even realised it was new at all and it went unnoticed by all the guests at the party. In Vargatria however it was a different tale, the star pulsed in the eyes of the astrologers, It shone with an ominous foreboding, it stared back at its observers with a mockery. It was a sign, the sign foretold by the prophecy, so it was that the Goredarin, the elite agents of the Vargatrim, set forth into the lands to seek the new born infant.
A little later that year, a stranger had arrived in Prer. Spending much time wandering around, particularly around the small cottage on the outskirts of town. The stranger was dress as an old woman, she walked with a stoop and used a gnarled stick to aid her. Around midweek, Tradryll was called away on an emergency. A caravan had collapsed and required new wheels to be fitted some two days out of Prer. The job had good price attached to it and the extra money would be useful for Keri and the new babies. Around midday that same morning, the old woman approached the tranquil cottage, Keri was singing softly to the babies as she played with them, their eyes following her in unison as she dangled toys before them. The babies giggled and gurgled gleefully, their little shrieks of joy bringing a smile to Keri's face. It was just after mid day when the woman knocked on the cottage door, it was open slightly and she looked around its edge into the tidy kitchen beyond. Under her arm she carried a wicker basket.
'Is there anyone home?' the old woman called out. Hearing the voice Keri hurried from the nursery where she had just finished tucking the children up for their afternoon nap.
'Hello,' she said, with a friendly smile, acknowledging the old woman, 'can I help you?'
'Do you think you could spare an old woman a stool and some refreshment?' the old woman asked.
'Of course, please do come in and take a seat'. Keri indicated that the old woman should sit at the table, 'I was just about to make some Alder tea myself would you like some'.
'That would be lovely my dear, its so kind of you,' the old woman croaked. Moving to take her seat she spied the cots in the nursery. 'Are those your babies?' she asked, moving quickly forward into the annex before Keri could stop her. 'Oh my, they are beautiful,' the old woman crooned, peering into the wooden cradles, 'You must be so proud of them?'
'Your very kind to say so, Yes I am very proud of them,' Keri replied, 'but I have only just got them to nod off,' she indicated that the woman should move away from the cots for fear of waking them. 'Please, do come and sit and have some tea, it nearly ready,' Keri continued
The old woman turned from the cots and paused thoughtfully, looking at the girl she dipped her head slightly in acknowledgement and took a seat at he oak table. Keri poured the tea and hand a cup to the old woman before taking a seat opposite her. 'So how far have you travelled these passed days?' Keri asked, 'From where do you come?'
'Don't you know?' the old woman replied throwing her hood back and revealing her face.
'Mother!' Keriquen exclaimed, somewhat surprised and confused, 'What's with the disguise? And why are you travelling alone? ,' she glanced at he basket the old woman had placed on the floor
'Have you not read the skies Keri my dear?' Variquen asked,
'No no of course you haven't, still I hope you are not too busy to give your Mother a hug after all these years'
'Oh Mother,' Keri replied moving quickly to her mother's side wrapping her arms around her and hugging her tightly. 'It's been over two year since I last saw you, but the disguise, why are you disguised?'
'Sit down Keri,' her mother said quietly, 'You need to sit and listen to me very carefully to all I have to say to you'
Keri and her mother re seated themselves and Keri looked deep into her mother's eyes. In all her years she had never known her mother to look so worried or serious.
'Do you remember the stories I used to tell you when you were young? the old legends about the Celvynog, and of the Dark Sphere and of the five Gems?' the old woman asked.
'Yes, I remember them, but they are just legends, why are you so worried?' Keri replied.
'No Keri, more than legends,' the woman's voice was low and earnest, she looked about nervously. 'The skies Keri, the star and the babies, more than just a legend, more than just a coincidence, you see I never told you before know because you didn't need to know?'
'Know what, Mother you are frightening me, what don't I know?' Keri asked.
The old woman glanced at the cots, the two babies lay in peaceful slumber oblivious to the world and it's troubles. 'You Keri, you remember the stories I told you of the Celvynog, and how they had been destroyed by the dark forces of the Vargatrim.'
'Yes, I remember, mother, it was a very sad story,' Keri replied,
'Well,' her mother continued, 'they didn't all die. A young baby girl called Marfariquen was rescued and hidden by a kindly nomad family and kept safe from the Vargatrim. She is your ancestor, Keri, yours and mine. For centuries we have been continued in our line, each baring just a single child, girl like yourself to continue the Celvynog line. Until now, now there are twins. The ancient prophecy tells of how one day a leader would be born to reunite the four tribes. His birth would be heralded by a sign, the sign Keri, is in the sky. A small star in just to the south of the great constellation of Youlif, the snow fox'. The old woman's voice grew low. 'You are in great peril, you and your babies,' she looked directly into her daughter's eyes. Agents from Vargatria are searching the lands for your children. If they find them they will kill them. This must not be allowed to happen to your babies, it is vital they escape to safety'.
Keri glanced nervously at the cots, 'But how Mother how can I hide them, how can they escape?'
'With the help of this,' her mother replied, lifting the wicker basket onto her lap and drawing back the blanket to reveal two small babies, a boy and a girl. 'I have brought these, they were given to me by their mother. I was acting midwife and the mother died in child birth, but before she passed she drew me near and whispered in my ear. It was not the voice of a dying woman, but the song of the serpent saying 'Take these children my child that my children's safety will be assured,' then she died. And so I come to you know,' the old woman paused and looked at her daughter. 'Keri, you must take these children and substitute them for your own, love them as your own, tell know one of this meeting, not even Trad. I will take your babes to a safe haven,' then touching her hand to Keri's forehead she continued with our speaking, 'understand my daughter, ours it is but a small part to play, small but important, the lives of your children are the most important consideration in this world,' she removed her hand and nodded at Keriquen.
Keriquen bowed her head, her eyes beginning to flood, 'I understand'.
Fetching the two sleeping infants from there cots she exchanged them for the two orphans. Her mother finished her tea and rose from the table, pulling the hood over her head she looked up at her daughter, 'peace of the serpent protect you child, and remember, not a word to anyone'. The old woman covered the babies with the blanket and left the cottage heading down the dusty lane. Some hours later, three dark riders on horseback entered the small sleepy village of Prer clad in red and silver uniforms.
That night when Tradryll returned home from his work he found Keriquen and his two children lying dead in the little cottage on the outskirts of the little village of Prer. He gathered the two babies in his arms and sitting in the middle of the kitchen on the cold stone floor cradled his wife's body and wept bitterly.