The story of Osidarta
Chapter I - Son of Morning
Have you ever had the feeling that your life has been written before you were born, that no matter the decisions you make, no matter how hard you try, succeed or fail, your fate has been chosen for you, and that you can't even dream of changing it? I have felt this way half of my life.
The story I am going to tell you is not mine, even though I try to capture those endless moments in a few words. My life was entirely unremarkable, since it fact it only begun when that of many men ends, as I was slowly growing old toward an ordinary death. My life begun on the day my world crumbled, when I should have crumbled with it. My life begun when the suns descended on Frandum.
So I guess that to tell you about the Son of Morning, I first ought to write a bit about myself, however uninteresting my life has been, and I shall begin with the day on which fate chose me.
I was a sorcerer. Or rather, I was called a sorcerer, for my magic wasnt really powerful, even though it gave me a high rank in our small tribe. I should precise here that we lived on the fringe of the Tasaar Desert, the southern end of the known world, and that, with several other tribes surviving in this harsh environment, we used to call ourselves the sandmen.
So on that day, as every year in mid-Waterseason, I was coming back from a long journey in the mountains, to find out where their melted snow would flow, bringing the precious water to my people. The news were good, and I was hurrying to tell my tribe that we would be able to leave through Fireseason without anything to fear. But when I came closer to our settlement, I realised water would not matter for us anymore.
At first I saw a glow far away in the night, and my heart sank in my chest. I began to run as fast as I could, and soon the acrid smell of fire and fumes came to my nostrils, as I begun to choke on a dense, dark smoke. I lost all hopes but kept running, until I could hear nothing but the cracking of the flames, and I gazed upon my camp, our shelter. I dropped to my knees. Among the burnt bodies were those of my wife and two sons, among the ashes were our tent and few belongings, among the fumes our lives rose to the sky. In the middle of the camp, our chief had been spared by the fire: he was nailed to a wooden pole, and a sharp sabre was planted in his chest. I should have felt guilty, not to have been there to protect those I loved, but the gods gave me no time for grief, because they sent me a sign.
As I was crying, head in my hands, unwilling to behold the destruction of everything I had believed in, I felt a sudden flare of light which flowed between my fingers and pierced the protection of my eyelids, going straight to my soul. Gaping, I raised my head and opened my eyes, just as a huge fireball, like an eigth sun, was falling from the sky. I watched as it plumetted and, with a final flash, hit the ground. A few seconds later, a loud crashing noise reached my ears. And suddenly as they had come, light and sound receded, until the desert was quiet again.
I dont really know what went through my mind then: I first guessed it was the shock of what I had just witnessed, even though I know think it was rather Galanhir who guided my steps. Anyway, I suddenly rose and, without a thought for my family and my tribe, exhausted and stumbling, I began to head for where the fireball had ended its fall. I dont know how long I walked, but it took me the best part of what remained of the night, before I reached my goal.
The fireball had left a giant crater on the barren face of the mountain, vitrifying the sand in its tremendous heat. But my attention was drawn by something else, as my eyes rose to a small cave entrance on which the light of the rising suns was shining. There, lying on the bar rock, naked and alone, was a baby, a small boy.
He was maybe a year old and remained motionless, safe for his golden eyes which were drinking every detail of the landscape, and suddenly the light of dawn circled him, and the baby smiled and giggled. I knew then that the gods had given me a mission, and I carefully took the baby, cradling him in my arms. I decided to call him Daï-Sha, for he came with dawn, as those words in our language mean Son of Morning.
Chapter II - Daï-Sha
Daï-Sha was a curious child: he would often stare at the sky, trying to find meaning in the pattern of the stars. At times he would come to me with hundreds of questions, none of them easy, and we would spend hours, days and nights debating on whatever was on the boy's mind. He learnt easily, and I never had to explain things twice. He would even, more often than not, think beyond my knowledge and understanding, and he would actually teach me things. As I had sensed from the day of his coming, he was blessed by the gods, for he could cure diseases and bring light in darkness. When he turned 10 I began to teach him the little magic I knew, and once again he learnt quickly, so quickly that I soon gave up teaching him, and I began to watch him experiment his skills with amazing swiftness. But Daï-Sha was frail, and he grew slowly. Even though it was hard to find a living in the Desert, I gave him plenty of food, but he would not eat much and remained very thin. The light of the suns didnt seem to touch him, for even in the middle of Fireseason his skin remained ivory white. But he was never sick or weak, and this purity added to the awe that was building up within me. So we lived alone in the mountainous terrain marking the eastern end of the Tasaar Desert. Throughout the peaceful and enlightening years I spent with Daï-Sha, we never met any other human being. Even animals were few in this harsh landscape, and it was not before Daï-Sha turned fifteen that he met his first friend.
It was a cold night. The suns had set only a few hours ago. Everything was silent, save for the chilling Airseason winds that hissed between the mountains. I was awake, and in the process of making a fire to warm us, when Daï-Sha came up behind me, making signs for me to be quiet. I wondered what he was up to, but did as he pleased, and so ceased with the fire making. He stood silent for a while, as if listening. Minutes passed, and he didnt move a muscle, nor make any sound. I did likewise. Suddenly he sprang up on a cliff and ran away, leaving me breathless outside our little cave. I tried to follow, but my old legs couldnt leap in the same manner as his, so I had to find another path. While I was running, I heard mighty roars mixed with hissing and whining, and soon I would find myself in the midst of a battle between a wounded golden dragon and two greater black dragons, wielding terrible claws and teeth. The golden dragon was just a baby in comparison with the others, and his body was all bloody and rent asunderby the black ones' terrible power. I was soon to discover that Daï-Sha had sided with the golden one, and was casting mighty spells to keep the black dragons at distance. They answered with fire, but Daï-Sha was too fast for them, and as he swiftly evaded their attempts to sear him with flames or slice him with claws, he withdrew into a narrow pass where they could not follow. The black dragons hissed to one another for a while and let him go. Instead of chasing him, they went back to the golden one, whom they at first had attacked. I had followed them with what speed my legs could master, and I was now hiding behind a big rock, not able to see either Daï-Sha or the golden one. My heart was pounding hard and fast. I somehow knew that Daï-Sha was safe, but I didnt know what the future would hold due to his interfering with them. I knew that the dragons had lived in these mountains for ages, but as long as we didnt disturb them, they let us be.
I waited a little while before sneaking out from my hiding place and going back to our cave, where I would find Daï-Sha tending the wounds of the golden one. The dragon was dying, anyone could have told, but Daï-Sha would not let him die. He repeated casting healing spells, but to no avail it seemed. The dragon was very young, indeed too young to have wings large enough to bear him. His claws were broken and he was bleeding terribly from mouth and belly.
For two whole days did he tend the dragon, but its condition would not change. With eyes filled with tears, Daï-Sha seemed to give up hope. Facing the sky, he spoke in rage, blaming the gods for his weakness. I had never before seen this side of him, this sad look in his eyes, these lips deprived of his usual smile. He knelt before the dragon and was about to say farewell, when suddenly the blood on the ground seemed to dry up and disappear. The dragon moved its legs slowly and a hiss escaped its lips. Daï-Sha looked up, facing the serpent. His lips once again carried a smile and he spoke to it, as if replying to the hiss: "I am Daï-Sha. I could not let you die. I sense something about you, something good..."
The dragon closed its eyes, and slowly opened them a while later, and the colour of its eyes seemed to have changed from murky green to bright blue. He hissed again and stood up. From his nose to the point of his tail, he was no more than 10 feet. Daï-Sha stood up as the dragon did, and spoke again: "Then I shall call you Hrin-Dorl. That is fate-sworn in our tongue, for your fate is to be with me until we both disappear from this world, and from this fate you shall not stray."
The dragon said nothing, and nor did I. The night closed in and we were soon to be slumbering deeply. The dawn came quickly. Usually, Daï-Sha would get up before me, but not this morning. At first I was startled by the look of a snoring dragon in our cave, but I would soon calm down. Fetching a canteen, I quenched my thirst and went outside to look for something to eat.
Leaving the cave, I would soon lay eyes upon half a dozen of black dragons, two of them being the ones from three days ago.
"Give us the golden one and we will leave you in peace, old man" said one of them with a hoarse voice. I fell down on my knees. This was too much for my eyes.
Daï-Sha came running out from the cave and was met by terrible hissing, among which could be heard words in the tongue known to the desert-people, addressing him: "Daï-Sha, I know not why you would aid the golden one of our tribe. You will hand him over to us, or we shall burn the old one before your eyes, and then take the golden away even against your will, despite your power and heritage: indeed no Lord of Light may stand in the way of Shezael's winged terrors!" With a stern look, he answered: "I know not how you know the name by which I am called, but I will not hand over Hrin-Dorl to the likes of you, fiend! Leave us in peace, lest I be forced to drive you away with force! My heritage has granted me powers far greater than you can ever guess." He was somehow aware of his heritage, and it grieved me that he had held it from me. But from the words of this elder dragon, I got the answer I had long guessed: Daï-Sha was a child of the Lord of Light. I was not allowed to think more of this, as a clawed hand beat me to the ground and threatened to crush me, should not the golden be handed over. I felt the bones of my body on the verge of breaking, and I couldnt breathe. The crowd of dragons hissed; some in anger, some in amusement. Daï-Sha cried out for them to leave me alone, but they would not listen. His voice now became very stern, and raising his hands he commanded the one crushing me to walk away, and to my surprise, it obeyed. The air became heavy, and the dragons moved anxiously around, hissing now fiercely and angrily. Daï-Sha stood still, not moving at all. I could breathe once more, but was paralyzed both with pain and fear.
From inside the cave I could hear the hissings of Hrin-Dorl, and it seemed that he was on his way outside. Daï-Sha raised his voice, commanding him to stay inside the cave. "You are a fool, Daï-Sha. He cannot help you forever. We will be back, and we expect you to hand the golden one over to us." Daï-Sha was silent. With great beating of their wings, the six flew high into the sky. Then everything went black, and I fell into a deep slumber.
I awoke when the suns were westering and their light was fading. I knew that I was carried, but I was not yet completely come to my senses, so I did not know by what, or whither. The soothing voice of Daï-Sha was telling me not to worry, so I relaxed and fell into this deep slumber once more. He had gathered our few belongings while I was unconscious and, taking me with him on the back of the dragon, he walked into the desert in search of another place to live in. Thus he befriended the outcast golden dragon, whom he named Hrin-Dorl, and their friendship would last ever after.
Chapter III - Prince of Tanith
The years passed by. Daï-Sha quickly grew into a fine man. His dragon friend was ever by his side, helping him with whatever he may. We drifted around in the desert, with no lasting abode, for three years. Hrin-Dorl grew fast, and at this I often wondered: dragons may live for hundreds of years and yet not be full-grown, but in these three years Hrin-Dorl grew vast wings that he may use to ride the warm desert-winds with Daï-Sha on his back; and he learned our tongue, that he could speak with me.
They returned from hunting one day, and Daï-Sha bade me pack our things. I was not given a reason before they flew away again, but I did as he said, deeming that he had a reason. He returned an hour later, and his mood was glad. "I have found a city not far from here. Load our things on to Hrin-Dorl and then mount: we shall drift no longer!" Excited, I loaded what things we had; spears, bows and long wooden staves we had bought from travelling merchants of the sandmen-tribes, and canteens and the few rags of clothing we also had bought from these merchants. Mounting the dragon, we were soon riding the sky with good speed.
A little time later, a gathering of white tents and even houses could be seen in the distance. Daï-Sha bade Hrin-Dorl descend, and he dropped us off outside the walls of the city. We both dismounted and unpacked our stuff, but would soon find ourselves surrounded by a hundred men, keeping distance and wielding scimitars and spears, and they were garbed in white robes. "Move not, friends of the winged beasts!" a tall man shouted. Daï-Sha, fearless, looked at the tall man and walked towards him. There was some shouting and a few men threw their spears towards Daï-Sha, but they could not hit him. Seeing their fear, he stopped and spoke with a mighty voice: "People of Tanith, fear us not, though we come in the company of one of the mighty race of the dragons!" Hrin-Dorl yawned and curled himself up on the ground, as if preparing to sleep. "How know you the name of our city, dragon-friend?" quote the tall man. "I am Daï-Sha, and I know many things, Friend. I know of the city Tanith and I know your names and fears. I was led here by the Lord of Light, and my services will be to your favour, should you put your fears and doubts aside and trust me!" There was some murmuring among the men. I stood still, wondering what he meant by this. Though I felt safe, for I knew that I could trust him. "Explain your relations with the dragon, and I might accept your services" said the tall man. "That I will" replied Daï-Sha: "This is Hrin-Dorl, sworn to help me in whatever cause I may choose to partake in, and he was once of the tribe of dragons that has been oppressing your people for so long. I saved him from the claws of their elder, and thus he is bound to me. As I said, I know your worries, and I shall do anything in my power to aid you in your struggle!" Then, sheathing his great scimitar, the man spoke: "Then we shall welcome you among us. I am Denmaren, Chief of the City of Tanith. You know much, you say, and wisdom as well as power we shall need if we ever are to break loose from the dragons grip. They come to our city, stealing our children and claiming our gold and jewels for ransom, threatening to destroy us to the last man if we do not yield the little wealth we now have left. Our power is not great enough to defeat them, so we submit to their will. Your aid is welcome, Daï-Sha." The men lowered their weapons and three of them slowly approached Hrin-Dorl and me, unloading our things from the back of the dragon. Hrin-Dorl had now fallen asleep, and he laid there the whole day.
Tanith was a great city. It was surrounded by a thick wall, both high and strong, made of white stone, and in its four corners and middle of its four sides were even taller towers where sat bowmen with keen eyes and great bows. Far they looked in every direction, yet not even their marksmanship was enough to prevent the dragons from entering the city. The many houses of Tanith were of the same white stone as was the wall, but the most people lived in tents, white as the houses; and there were great squares where merchants sold what little stuff they had managed to keep from the dragons. At the centre of the city was a great palace where lived Denmaren with his family: his daughter and son, and his four brothers with their wives and sons and daughters. Denmaren's wife was dead since the birth of Lerima, his daughter. The palace bore a dome which could be seen from any corner of the city. It was blackened and carried great marks of claws; no doubt was this where the dragons descended when they came to ravage the city of the remnants of its wealth.
Into that palace were we led, as honoured guests, me and Daï-Sha. Hrin-Dorl lay outside the walls and would not enter the city. We were both given chambers of our own close to Denmaren's, so great was the impression Daï-Sha made on him.
In the next days we would eat and drink good and get acquainted with the people of the palace. Daï-Sha would become a great friend of the chief's daughter and his son Dhewimer, valiant with the spear and skilled in hunting. Lerima's lore was great, and her deep brown eyes held wisdom such as even I, thrice her age, still marvel at. She was also skilled in magic and they said that her power was such that she might heal any wound or purge any poison known to man, and, indeed, she had never failed in this.
The weeks passed, and the three of them, together with Hrin-Dorl, often journeyed together in hunting, or ridding the land of the constant threat of the terrible sand-worms: a hundred feet they were, full-grown, with many teeth like countless spears. Yet they were no match for the long spear of Dhewimer or the fire of Hrin-Dorl, and none withstood the terrible might of Daï-Sha's spells; and ever were they protected by the magic of Lerima.
There came a day when Daï-Sha would not go hunting, and he bade Lerima and Dhewimer stay in the city. I asked him why he would not hunt today, and his eyes met mine and I perceived that he was indeed anxious. "They will come soon, I know it. I will not slay another sand-worm as long as the main threat remains - the threat of the black dragons! Be prepared, dearest of friends!" He then went away to seek Denmaren, and I followed. To the throne-room we went, and there Daï-Sha spoke to Denmaren: "Lord, I know their minds... the dragons' minds. They will come soon, and I bid you give me a sword, for I know not what damage my spells will cause them. Greater foes are they than sand-worms." Denmaren, looking worried, answered: "A sword you shall have, and no ordinary blade shall it be." He then rose and bade us follow him, and so we did. Down he lead us, even below ground into chambers we had not known before, until we came to a great door. "Achelnaar!" he shouted, and the door opened. What this word was, he never told.
We entered a small chamber, in the midst of which lay, on a stone-stand, a blade of brightest silver on which was inscribed ancient runes of power. Long was its blade, and sharp its edges; its hilt was made of dragon-horn and big enough to be wielded with two hands. Beside it laid a fancy crystal scabbard, its pure and simple beauty in contrast with the sword, yet fitting it. Denmaren stepped aside and spoke: "Beware, I say! It is written that this sword aids only those whom it was made to slay, and those are dragons! I know not if this sword will help you in combat, but aiding your Golden Friend, it might do so. But I ask you not to trust it, and should it fail you: flee! Give me your word that you have heeded this warning, and I shall give you the sword, for no dragon after Hrin-Dorl shall ever be the friend of Tanith, I deem." Though I knew much of old legends and myths of the desert, I had never heard of this sword, and Denmaren would speak no more of it. Daï-Sha nodded slowly. "I heed your warning. I will not let this destined dragon-bane be my bane instead" he said and, walking to the stand, picked up the sword and the scabbard, and spoke: "It is a mighty blade, Denmaren. And I shall return it when I am through with my work." In that moment the whole palace shook. I was thrown to the ground, but Daï-Sha stood firm. "Go somewhere safe, both of you!" he commanded before running away, as fast as the wind. Denmaren helped me up and we hurried into the throne-room, where were now many guards ready to protect Denmaren. "Where is Daï-Sha?" asked Denmaren. "We tried to stop him, but we could not do so! He left the palace with Lerima and Dhewimer, and he was wielding a great silver sword that I have never seen the likes of before" answered a tall man with a high helm. He was the captain of the guard. That not even he knew the sword seemed strange to me.
"The three of them cannot stand against the dragons, and the rest of the soldiers are not yet organized! Why have you not followed them?" said Denmaren in an angered voice. "We were only waiting for your command, Lord" said the captain, bowing. He turned around and left the hall with thirty strong men. Denmarens lifeguard, a dozen men, stayed in the throne-room, and were amazed to see Denmaren draw his curved blade and cry "For the people of Tanith, soldiers, I go to battle! Though this may be my final hour, I bid you despair not: Dhewimer will rule in my stead, should I fall today. Now follow me, those who will!" He left the hall, and with him went his lifeguard. I stood alone in that great hall. The shaking had stopped, but the screams of the city's men, women and children would not escape my hearing. I would not stand there, doing nothing. My spells were not very powerful, but if I by any means could help Daï-Sha, I would.
Clutching my staff, I went outside. The air was hot and filled with a thick smoke, smelling of sulfur, and I could not see much. The beating of wings could be heard, and screams even more so. Bodies lay broken and burned on the streets. The stench was awful. Casting a spell of improved sight, I was able to descry Denmaren's company not far from me, and high in the air flew great dragons, five at least, all of them black. Like great stormclouds they flew, yet even more perilous. There was no sign of Daï-Sha or Hrin-Dorl. I hurried to Denmaren with the intension of finding out where Daï-Sha was, but no answer could he give me, so I went instead for the city gate. Everywhere, people were screaming and trying to escape with their lives. It seemed that the dragons were not here to plunder, but rather to destroy the city and kill its inhabitants. Perhaps they knew that Daï-Sha and Hrin-Dorl were there?
I kept on running, not heeding the people and their struggle to leave the city, and I came finally to the gate and through it outside the city. Many had succeeded in coming this far, and soldiers were organizing the people's flight from the burning city. Then suddenly there was a change in the air. I could hear Daï-Shas voice hurling incantations and cursing the dragons, and using spells to improve my sight even further, I could now see clearly into the skies: there flew Daï-Sha on the back of Hrin-Dorl, hewing black dragons with powerful strokes of his sword. Though he was outnumbered, he seemed to put up a fight that the dragons were not sure to win. A loud roar was heard and one of the greater dragons came falling from the sky, his throat severed into shreds, his eyes void of life and his mouth spewed fire no more. I could now only see four black dragons in the sky, one of them undoubtedly being their leader. There was a flash of lightning and another dragon fell, a rain of burning blood pouring down over the roof tops. No fire seemed to bite on Hrin-Dorl, nor did Daï-Sha pay heed to the great blasts the serpents belched forth through their terrible maws. More and more people escaped through the city gates, and it seemed that there were no more enemies but the dragons, now three black ones, in the sky. Kneeling, I prayed to the Lord Galanhir, and my worries were lifted as I felt him smile at me.
I stood up and saw Lerima coming through the gate, carrying a wounded man. I ran to her and bade her tell me of the damages the dragons had caused. "The city is a mess and the dead are in such numbers as we never even imagined in our darkest nightmares! My brother has fallen and my father is nowhere to be found, but not all is lost: Daï-Sha fights valiantly, and a great power is helping him, I feel." I understood what this power was, but said nothing. "Get this man to a medic" she said, handing the wounded man over to me. "Im going to find my father." She turned around and ran into the city again. I did as she asked, and as soon as I had brought the man to the medics, a terrible wail was heard and the mightiest of the black dragons came falling from the sky, his wings and horns broken and his body crushed and shredded. But he would not die without causing more destruction. He crashed into the great palace of the city, and took it with him in his fall. There was a great rumble and the earth quook. Then silence reigned. The last black dragons fled in terror, and Daï-Sha did not pursue them. No one spoke, but bowed their heads in sorrow. The palace was the oldest and greatest building of all Tanith, and it was mourned ever after.
Hrin-Dorl landed not far from me and instantly laid himself down to sleep. He had not a single wound and Daï-Sha was not with him. I ran back into the city, which now was filled not only with fire and smoke, but with dust and rubble from the great palace. On top of the ruins I could descry Daï-Sha standing, holding his sword in one hand and his other hand stretched into the sky. Before him lay the great elder dragon, and he lived still. I crept closer, and saw still a malicious flicker in his eyes. He spoke in a low voice: "Daï-Sha... I underestimated you and your Lord. You are a worthy opponent. In death I understand... this battle we could not win." He breathed heavily. Daï-Sha stood silent. "That... sword? I should have known it, and I should have feared it more than I did. It was made with the blood of my father, the half-brother of Frayth, guardian of Drago; and in it resides his restless and tormented spirit. I beg you, powerful enemy... end my life! Release my soul... I beg you." Daï-Sha looked at him. "I will end your life. I wish not to torment even the vilest of creatures. Your death shall be swift, and may your cruel Master show you the same mercy as I do." He lifted the sword above his head, and blood was dripping from it, as if it was weeping. With a swift thrust, he drove the sword through the head of the great serpent, and the flicker of its eyes went out. But the sword was shattered into thousands of pieces, and a pale smoke-like substance escaped from it and joined the spirit of the dead dragon. So were their evil spirits set free from their prison of flesh, and they lingered in the air a while before disappearing. "Fare free, perverted souls" said Daï-Sha and closed his eyes. A moment later he turned to me. "Let us set things straight here, and then move on. They will need our help in rebuilding the city, but other matters call me."
We went to the gate together and found Lerima kneeling by two men. One was Dhewimer, and his body had been torn by the mighty claws of the dragons. The other was Denmaren, and his legs were crushed and he was bleeding badly from a wound in the head. Not even the healing spells of Lerima could save him, and for the first time would her skills fail her. Denmaren struggled to speak his last words: "My son is gone, and I will be gone soon as well. Lerima, beloved daughter... Lead this city on. Rebuild it and make me proud. I go now to join your brother and your mother, and we shall await you in the Heavens. Farewell, sweet Lerima... Tell Daï-Sha that I thank him. Farewell." He closed his eyes and spoke no more. Lerima rose, not a single tear in her eyes. She turned to Daï-Sha. "You heard him. He thanks you. And so do I, mighty friend. But for your courage, our whole city would have been destroyed. It would be an honour if you would agree to help me rebuild Tanith and once again make it flourish" she said. He took her hand but said nothing. So they stood for a while, gazing deep into each others eyes. Then he turned and left her. The people returned to the city, and under the leadership of Lerima and the aid of Daï-Sha (whom they officially declared Hero and Guardian of Tanith, and also Prince of Tanith), they laboured to restore Tanith's former glory. The bodies of Denmaren and Dhewimer were buried in the centre of the city, where the old palace stood.
In the following years no dragon apart from Hrin-Dorl, for whom was built a high tower in the city, returned to the city. Under the administration and wisdom of Lerima and Daï-Sha, they managed to rebuild the palace and the citizens' destroyed homes. Also did Daï-Sha perform many a good deed as High Captain of the Guard, and he received a great artifact from Lerima: Zaimph - the Veil of Tanith, which he would carry even long afterwards. And the greatest smiths and enchanters of Tanith assembled to forge a shining sword, Reghemal (meaning "Desert-flame"), for him to use, though he rather trusted to his magic than to his swordplay in battle.
I long wondered what these "other matters" that he spoke of were, but when seven years had passed, though it did seemed that I had not aged a day since we came to the city, he came to me and told me that his work here was done, and that it was time to leave. But he would not say where, and I did not ask.
Chapter IV - Osidarta
We left Tanith in late Fireseason. We went with the blessing of Lerima, Lady of Tanith, and headed south. Many men would have come with us, but Daï-Sha forbade it. We came alone, and would leave alone. And alone we wandered for weeks under the gaze of the seven suns. Hrin-Dorl flew above us and provided us with shadow. We did not meet a single soul during these weeks. Until one day. Hrin-Dorl came down from the sky and told us of a settlement a few hours ahead of us. We had by this time walked a great deal south, and the last three days westward. Checking our packs for stuff that we could use to trade, we continued west with moods on top. We had food from Tanith, still quite much left, and some stones of little value.
Three hours later we approached what was the camp of a nomad people. There were many men and women, but few children, and camels there were plenty of. Many white tents had been raised, making it look like a small village rather than a travelling band of nomads. Hrin-Dorl would not follow us inside, but waited a league or so from the camp. Not only did his body improve, but also his mind...
In the center of the camp was a huge wooden tank, presumably containing water. It was set upon a wheeled wagon, to which were bound no less than twelve strong camels. People were gathered around this tank, seemingly discussing something of great importance. There were loud voices, obviously opposing each other. We sneaked into the back of the crowd and listened.
"We cannot stay here! Not only are we running short on our precious water - which you promised would be enough to keep us alive this whole year! - there is also the threat of the sand-worm sighted close by! Let us move north and find another spring, before we become worm food or dry out!" Many cried "Aye!" and many angry voices cried "Nay!" Another speaker raised his voice: "And how would we protect our women and children against the worm if we don't stay here and prepare for the attack? If it catches us unawares, who will save us? The water is enough for another couple of weeks, and we have to believe that this time will be enough for the worm to attack!"
I saw Daï-Sha smile and close his eyes, before opening them a few seconds later, with an even wider smile. The men kept debating for a while and agreed at last to vote: "All those in favour of staying, make your voice heard!" one said. Many voices were raised in unison, before the speaker, presumably the chief of the tribe, continued: "All those in favour of leaving north to find a new spring, make your voice heard!" Many cried, but there was no doubt that the first option was accepted. "Despite the lack of water, we stay here until the worm is dead!" shouted the speaker. "I would not worry about that" another voice said.
It was Daï-Sha. The crowd turned to him and saw him smile. "And who are you to barge in and raise your voice at our meeting?" said the speaker. No anger was in his voice. "I am Daï-Sha, Son of Morning, and I counsel you to leave this place and go north as soon as your people is ready." "This we will not do. The counsel of a stranger is not to be trusted without questioning. We stay here until the threat of the sand-worm has been taken care of. Until we leave, though, you are free to dwell among us." "We thank you, chief. But neither we nor you will stay here more than a couple of hours, that I know", answered Daï-Sha, smiling.
In that moment a shadow passed over the camp. Hrin-Dorl was flying high in the sky and a moment later a once mighty sand-worm came crashing down from the sky, burned black by the fires of the dragon. A murmur rang through the crowd, but strangely the people remained calm. Daï-Sha smiled still. "So, are you ready to depart?" he said, his smile now a delighted laugh, and went to the northern margin of the camp. I followed him, and so did the chief, though not before ordering the men to get ready for departure.
"I do not know who you are, but I can tell that you are powerful. Indeed, to tame one of the dragons of the north-east demands quite a lot of power as well as courage. I am Worrin, the chief of the sand-men tribe" said the chief, bowing before us. "As I said before, I am called Daï-Sha and come recently from Tanith in the far north. I shall help you lead your people to prosperity. Though the way is long and hard, you will have to go north as soon as possible, for there will be a long time before you will find another spring. Save your water as long as you can! And never, ever lose hope, whatever befalls." Worrin looked a little worried, though not as much as he looked amazed. He bowed once more and went back into the camp to prepare for the departure. I wondered what Daï-Sha had in mind with this.
Within a few hours, the whole camp was ready to move on. The great tank was easily moved by the twelve camels, and many other camels drew carriages with the people's belongings. About five hundred men and women were there, but no more than a hundred children, and at least a hundred camels.
We travelled north, as agreed, for four days, not resting more than a few hours every night. We moved rather slowly compared to what we were allowed to when it was only the three of us, me, Daï-Sha and Hrin-Dorl, travelling the desert. Without the great amount of camels, this would have been an impossible task. The Seven Suns burned strong, as one would expect from them at this time of the year, granting the day an incredible power to wear us out. The nights were dark and cold, and every new morning was worse than the one before. I spoke much to Worrin during this time, and we swiftly became good friends. Daï-Sha was not to be seen very often. He was, during most of the time, scouting the area for possible threats. Sand-worms were a constant threat, as were dragons and bands of robbers. The greatest enemy, though, was the heat, and had we been travelling with any other people, we could not at all have kept this pace. These nomads were luckily very enduring of the warmth and the travelling.
It happened that we in this fourth night, not long after the the setting of the Suns, found a great cliff standing alone in the vast sea of sand. There were caves in the rock, seemingly dug out, but since long abandoned by their creators. We decided to stay in there for the night, and for the first time thus far rest the whole night and the whole morning, using the roof of the caves to shield us from the Suns morning rays. Considering ourselves hidden from danger in there, no more than a few guards were to hold watch. The opening of the cave was too small for Hrin-Dorl to enter, though the camels and the water tank did manage to get in. The inside was made up of one great hall, from which could be entered two lesser halls, yet in no way too small to fit the whole tribe and its beasts of burden. Hrin-Dorl stayed on top of the cliff, where he slept soundly, providing us with further protection from threats.
For the first time since we found the tribe, me and Daï-Sha spoke long. He told me a little about where we would travel, and what would happen once we had indeed finished travelling. "We still have a couple of days left to walk. The water will without doubt be enough for where we are going. Though I sense there will be further obstacles. I do not yet know what kind of obstacles, but they will come, and we will have to face and conquer them."
I did not worry. I knew that we would conquer these obstacles, no matter what they were.
After a couple of hours speaking to him, I was reminded of the long way we had been travelling, and the long way we still had to travel, and decided to go to sleep. So did Daï-Sha. But we would not sleep for long. Instead we were abruptly awakened by the shouts of the guard: "Bandits! Bandits!" Daï-Sha rose quickly and grabbed his sword, running towards the opening. He turned around before leaving the hall and called to me: "Sibeis! Take care of the women and children, and do it fast!"
The hall was aroused. Women were screaming, children were crying. The men with weapons ran into the entrance hall, where the camels were all resting, though at this time they too had been aroused. I grabbed my staff and shouted to Worrin, who was just leaving the hall as Daï-Sha had done only seconds earlier: Gather everyone not capable of fighting in here, and I shall see to it that they are safe! For some reason, I was now confident. This would be the obstacle, or at least one of the obstacles Daï-Sha was talking about, and we had to conquer it. Worrin said a few words to three men by the opening of the hall, and then left. The three men followed him, but returned shortly, though not alone, but with some fifty women and children that had been sleeping in the other lesser chamber. "In here everyone! Hurry, hurry!" I heard one of them shout. There seemed now to be no more defenceless people outside this chamber.
I went up to the opening and shouted an incantation of great potency. I was amazed by it all, for I did not know that I had this power; I did not consider myself a powerful magician. However, I was able to cast the spell, and an invisible wall of force was erected, making it impossible for anyone to enter, or exit. Exhausted I leaned on my staff, nervously watching the battle in the main hall.
The sibeis were plenty in numbers, but wielding crude weapons and wearing torn armour they were not as formidable opponents as one would expect. Daï-Shas sword cut through their scaly bodies as if they were jelly, and when not slicing them, he would fry them with his magic or with this one glance within his eyes which could make them flee. Hrin-Dorl never joined the battle, not even to feed on the poor few that actually managed to escape Daï-Shas wrath. With a sigh of relief, seeing now that the sibeis were all fled or destroyed, I passed out on the floor.
The next day I woke up with the light of the suns in my eyes and Daï-Sha smiling at me. "Good morning!" he said, his voice the joyful sound of sweet laughter. I smiled and sat up. I would soon notice that I was riding in a big wooden cart, drawn by eight camels. Together with me on the cart were Daï-Sha and at least ten injured men, their wounds tended by the skilled hands of Daï-Sha.
"How long was I asleep?" I asked, searching for my staff. "No more than twelve hours, which would be rather normal, considering what magic tasks you performed last night. I am impressed, my friend! It was your quick initiative that led these people to safety. No lives were lost among our ranks, luckily. It would have been different, had the unarmed been running around, confused, trying to find safety. You should be proud!"
At this moment, I had found my staff and with its help climbed to my feet. I was still tired, but Daï-Sha's words strengthened me. "You flatter me, Daï-Sha. I did only what you told me to do. We were saved because of your valour in battle, and you know it." I said, smiling again. "Nonsense!" he replied, turning and walking to the front of the cart before continuing: "I think we are almost there." It was closer than I had at first imagined... He turned to me again, this time with a slightly more serious expression. "There will be other obstacles." I said nothing.
We travelled the rest of the day, and slept the whole night. We had only been travelling for a few hours the next day, when Hrin-Dorl returned from the skies and landed next to Daï-Sha, who since the attack went with us and not with Hrin-Dorl. Hissing to Daï-Sha, Hrin-Dorl explained that there was a settlement a little more to the north, no more than half an hour of walking. "Keep your distance then, Hrin-Dorl. They will most likely consider you a threat. Wait for my signal, and then approach slowly", Daï-Sha said to the dragon. Lowering his great head in understanding, Hrin-Dorl spread his great body out on the ground and rested. The rest of us proceeded.
Reaching the top of a hill of sand, we began to see some activity by the foot of its northern side. There seemed to be lots of big creatures there, but we saw no humans. A few buildings had already been raised, and greater and lesser blocks of stone could be seen in huge heaps, being material for hundreds and hundreds of buildings like the ones already complete. "Let me and Worrin take care of this. Stay here for a while", Daï-Sha proposed. Worrin agreed, and the sand-men obeyed. I, however, decided to go with Daï-Sha.
Approaching the settlement, we found that the creatures were the ones building. They were in fact sibeis, with the general shape of a human being, but a scaly skin, lidless eyes, and very powerful muscles. They seemed strong and capable of putting up a good fight, should they desire it. None of them said a word, they just looked at us as we walked through their city-to-be, searching for their leader.
Eventually, we came up to their greatest building, and entered it. It had no door, nor curtain before its entrance. I waited outside, but I was still able to see what was going on inside, where were two sibeis, seemingly discussing some blueprints lying on a stone table. Daï-Sha cleared his throat, attracting their attention.
"Greetings, lizard folk. I am Daï-Sha, and this is Worrin, head of a sand-men tribe in search for a spring of water. We spotted you from distance and decided to speak with you in private before we proceeded our journey. As I said, we are in search for a water spring where the tribe may stay for a while, in peace. The fact that you chose this place for your city implies that there is one such spring nearby, and we were wondering if you might be interested in some sort of trade: we offer our services in building your city, and you let us stay here among you and use your spring. How does that sound to you?"
The sibeis were silent for a while, before one of them spoke a few words I did not understand to the other, who then left the building. Turning to Daï-Sha, the remaining creature spoke: "Greetings yourselves, humans. We are the a proud tribe of sibeis, and I am Guamar, the chief. We were sent deep into this desert to enlighten its people. We are missionaries of Reset, the God of Balance. We will be happy to have you dwell among us, but you must do this obeying the laws of Reset. A spring we have yet to find, but do not worry about that. We have water enough to last us at least a couple of months, so there will be plenty of time to find a spring. When we do find one, we will be more than happy to share it with you. What do you say? Are you interested in enlightenment?"
Daï-Sha was silent, knowing this to be another obstacle. "Yes, we will help you. We have heard faint words of your god, and we will be happy to learn more of him from you, and to help you build the city is more a privilege than it is a price", answered Worrin, to Daï-Shas surprise. "Good choice, my dear Worrin!" said Guamar. Daï-Sha left the building, and I hurried after him.
"You know, that these sibeis followed Reset troubles me. There is only one god that is good, and that is Galanhir. I do not want the sand-men to walk without his protection. Reset might be just as terrible to this tribe as Shezael would be. I expect no less", Daï-Sha explained to me when we were half way back to the rest of the tribe. However, once we reached them, he instructed them all to head down to the city. I do not know why he did it, since he obviously didnt believe Reset to be right for them. Perhaps he had thought of something he did not mention. He then went for Hrin-Dorl, but told me to go with the others and await him among the centaurs. And so I did.
We entered the city and were distributed among the already completed buildings and the tents the sand-men had brought. The sibeis chief spoke to the sand-men, explaining the situation. Apparently he was the only sibeis here that knew the sand-mens language. We were all given different tasks in the building of the city. No one seemed to be complaining, so I played along, though I did not like that Daï-Sha was not sure about this thing.
Daï-Sha did not return that day, and not the next. On the third day, however, he returned on the back of Hrin-Dorl. He landed in the middle of the city, making the sibeis panic and go for their weapons. Worrin desperately tried to calm them, but their chieftain ordered them to attack the dragon. Spears were raining down on Hrin-Dorl and Daï-Sha, but they were unharmed. Dismounting, Daï-Sha went up to Guamar, who by then was surrounded by fifteen strong sibeis, all wielding short spears.
"Why do you attack us?" Daï-Sha said, calmly. "Dragons have no room here! It will be the death of us all, should we allow one like that to dwell among us!" Daï-Sha chuckled and said: "You are not being very open-minded. Do you know anything about this dragon?" A little angered, Guamar answered: "Do we need to know anything more than the fact that it is a dragon? In our town you follow our rules, or you leave! Have I made myself clear?"
Swiftly Daï-Sha replied: "is that what Reset preaches? We are not those that are to be welcomed in this town, you are the ones that are to be welcomed in this desert!" Now Worrin, who stood close by, opened his mouth: "now who is the narrow-minded, Daï-Sha? You know the dragons are considered threats wherever you go! If this is how you are to deal with situations you cannot control, then perhaps you should find yourself another people to guide!"
Obviously hurt, Daï-Shas eyes turned to Worrin. "... fine. I shall do as you wish. But heed this warning: you will find no peace under Reset!" With those words, he turned and left them. I hurried to Hrin-Dorl and was just in time to catch him flying away with Daï-Sha on his back. We flew west for a couple of hours before landing in the shade of a hill. I watched him walk around in a circle, thinking, occasionally turning his gaze to the sky and mumble. We did not have a lot of water, but enough to last the two of us a day or so. Hrin-Dorl seldom drank. Eventually, I fell asleep beside the, at that time, already snoring dragon. Daï-Sha was up all night.
The next day went on as the night before had done. Daï-Sha walking, thinking and mumbling. I went with Hrin-Dorl to gather food and find some more water. We stayed in the same spot for ten days, and in the evening of that tenth day Daï-Sha finally stopped his walking and mumbling. He now was completely still, not even blinking. I was glad to see some change, at least, though it could have been better. He still hadn't spoken to me in ten days. That night I went to sleep early, and I woke up early, even before the dawn, the next day. Daï-Sha was still not moving or speaking at all. I ate a little food and drank a little water, and then I rested a bit more.
"Do not just sit there!" a smiling Daï-Sha exclaimed, startling me. I had fallen asleep. It was now mid-day and Daï-Sha had stopped his thinking. I scrambled to my feet and brushed off some sand. Daï-Sha chuckled and told me to get ready for departure. Hrin-Dorl was still asleep, but it would not be long before Daï-Sha woke him up by mounting him. "We're going back to the sibeis!" he shouted, and Hrin-Dorl hit the sky in one great leap.
In an hour or so, we were once again in the centre of the town, where now even the women and children were working hard, building houses for the sibeis and themselves.
As last time they entered in this manner, spears were hurled towards Hrin-Dorl, but we were all unharmed. Though, this time Hrin-Dorl never landed, but Daï-Sha jumped off his back and drew his sword to defend himself from the sibeis, who were now not only throwing their spears, but thrusting them against Daï-Sha, who easily avoided them with a swift step to the side, or cutting them off with his sword without hurting their wielders. Approaching Guamar, who this time, as the last time, was surrounded by fifteen strong sibeis, Daï-Sha stopped and was suddenly engulfed in a blinding white light, forbidding anyone to look at him, and thus also making him safe from any possible attack.
"Guamar! I command you to cease what you have begun, and leave this desert at once!" Daï-Sha shouted in a harsh voice. "Daï-Sha!" the voice of Worrin called. He was close by, shielding his eyes from the light around Daï-Sha. "You cannot ask that of me! This is the will of Reset! I answer not to you, but to Reset, and Reset alone!" Guamar replied, and scorn was in his voice. "I do not ask it of you. I demand it!" "Who are you to make such a demand? Being the companion of a dragon, but having such power over the light, one could mistake you for being both Shezael and Galanhir. But I assume that you are neither, and it does not really matter: all I want to know for sure is if you are an enemy or a friend; if I should let you run or if I should have you slain in the name of Reset!"
Daï-Sha sighed. The light around him seemed to disappear. "Is there no way out of this without the shedding of blood? I am Daï-Sha, the Son of Morning and of Galanhir! I have always been a bringer of peace, but if peace is not to the liking of Reset, then I will show him the true meaning of its absence. Will you not reconsider your words, for obviously am I now your enemy having stated my heritage?" There was a long silence. Everyone seemed to be waiting for the sentence of what would certainly be the death of either Daï-Sha or the sibeis tribe. At length, Guamar spoke, now able to look at Daï-Sha: "You would not be our enemy, had you not stormed in here with your dragon. But I now have no choice. Seichaa!"
With that last word, countless spears were hurled towards Daï-Sha, who in one graceful whirl avoided the spears as well as decapitated three of the guards of Guamar. Grasping a spear, Guamar himself went to attack Daï-Sha, but would soon find his throat impaled by the sword of Daï-Sha, in the same moment as the rest of his lifeguard fell to the ground, burned to ashes by some powerful spell. Daï-Sha withdrew his sword from Guamar's throat, and with a second blow severed his head before sheathing the sword.
Holding up the dead sibeis head, he shouted in a great voice: "Worrin, people of the sand-men tribe: this is no life for you! Your women and children should not be working, chained to their tools and bound to laws that tell them to work or be punished!" The sand-men started slowly to approach him. The remaining sibeis were fleeing, head over heels. Hrin-Dorl landed and I dismounted. I now saw that all the sand-men were indeed chained to their tools! The law of Reset was in this case that everyone, even women and children, and the old, was to be working for the good of everyone. The sibeis did work too, but their strong bodies had no problems with it. It was too hard a life for the sand-men.
"We noticed this too late, Daï-Sha... too late", Worrin said. "I am sorry. I should have listened to you he continued." "No! You should not have listened to me, but to your hearts. Reset was never for you." Throwing Guamars head long and far, Daï-Sha raised both of his hands into the sky. Suddenly the chains around the peoples wrists snapped, and everyone rejoiced. "You are not finished yet, sand-men. You will not be finished until the building of this city has been complete. And then, it will be your city!"
Finishing his speech by, once again, raising his hands into the sky, he made the ground where Hrin-Dorl first had landed open up, and water to pour out from it. There was no end to the people's cheering, and I started to understand Daï-Sha's long wandering and thinking: he was expecting the sibeis to introduce these laws to their new-founded society, and he was simply waiting for the people to realise their own mistake, and then liberate them.
In time, the city of Eberzan, which means "Freedom" was built and the sand-men tribe thrived. They thanked Daï-Sha and offered him to lead them, but he refused. Though he did leave his mark on them: he introduced them to the worshipping of Galanhir. Thus the people believed him to be sent by Galanhir, and they named him Osidarta, meaning Messiah, in the ancient tongue of their tribe.
As the city grew, he laid down his sword and veil of Tanith, leaving the task of protecting the city to Hrin-Dorl.
There came a day when I spoke with Daï-Sha, asking him of the future. He wouldnt give me his usual smile, but instead a grave look, as if the answer either scared him, or would scare me. He then left the room.
Chapter V - Keeper of the Faith
The days passed by in peace, swiftly becoming weeks and even months. The city was completed in a year and a half after the banishing of the sibeis, and they did not return. Other nomad tribes were welcome, and the city grew more and more each day. At first, Daï-Sha had been in charge of the building, having some experience in the matter after rebuilding Tanith, but would later retire and put other people in charge. From Tanith came people with wide knowledge on the construction of cities, and great buildings were raised, not only for people to live in. The pride of the city was to become the temple dedicated to their precious water. Though water was not really worshipped as Galanhir was, it was no less precious to the people.
Seeing that the people managed to live in peace with each other, and putting up a society well to his liking, Daï-Sha decided to move on. I had up to this date no clue what he had in mind next. I started to feel old, and was actually quite satisfied with my life here. Though, would he ask it of me, I would follow him wherever he went. I would probably do that even if he did not ask it of me.
So, one day he summoned me into his house, which was no more than a standard home, though he could have had a palace built for him if he had asked for it, and we talked a long while about what we had experienced so far... and what the future would hold. "As you might have figured out already, it is time for me to move on again. There is nothing more here to be done. The city flourishes, and I cannot help them anymore. They will live just as good without me. I will not ask you to follow me, however. In fact, I will ask you to stay here." At this I was startled, and went deep into thought. "W-what do you mean?" I said at length. "I mean that I am being summoned now by Galanhir. I am to return to him. My tasks on earth are complete. I am going to Eden. And I am going now", he said, leaving his chair and walking out of the room. I followed him. "Is there no other way?" I asked, following him. He did not answer.
Once outside, he summoned Hrin-Dorl and Worrin. "I am leaving, Worrin. Tonight. My stay here has been most pleasant, but the time for me to move on has finally arrived. I am being summoned by Galanhir, to watch over you from Eden." Surprised, Worrin sent one of his advisors, who had followed him when he was summoned, to gather the people in the great square of the city. "Why must you leave now, Osidarta?" he asked. Osidarta he was now called by all the sand-men. It was an honorary name, and there was no way that the sand-men would call him anything else. "I am no longer needed here. You have grown as a people. You do not need my guidance, and you havent been needing it in a long time. I have stayed far too long, actually, and I have done so in love of you all, and of this city. I beg of you, do not make this parting any harder than it already is."
He brought Hrin-Dorl with him to the square, where he would be saying farewell. Worrin and I followed, and when we got there, all the people had already gathered. He was indeed loved. As soon as the word spread that Osidarta Daï-Sha was leaving, everyone stopped their activities, whatever they were, and hurried to the square.
The two of us said our farewells in private, before he spoke to the crowd. I felt a tear slowly tracing its way down my cheek and to my lips. Its salty taste was nothing compared to the bitterness of this parting. He shook hands with Worrin, and thanked him for their time together, before turning to the crowd. Worrin, too, had tears in his eyes.
"People of Worrin... I am moving on. I cannot remain here any longer. Though my stay has been most pleasant, and it has been a joy seeing you all grow to become this fine people that you are today. I am proud to have been among you. I am now being summoned by Galanhir, the Lord of Light, and my father, to sit by his side as the Keeper of Heaven and of the righteous souls of the world. We will all meet again in Eden. On that I swear!" The people were silent, as if in mourning. And in mourning they were. Daï-Sha turned to Hrin-Dorl and mounted him. The suns were sinking, marking the end of the day as well as the end of one great hero. At least that is how I felt it. Though deep in my heart, I was comforted by his words. We would meet again. He looked on the people he loved one more time, before once again turning his gaze away.
He came with the rising of the suns and departed with their flaming descent beyond the western mountains. On the back of the shining Hrin-Dorl he flew into the sky, and on the ground two thousand sand-men watched in awe and silence the great dragon and its rider dissolve into thin air, hearing only the voice of Osidarta Daï-Sha, their Messiah, echoing in their minds: "We will meet again in the afterlife, when in Eden you walk. No worries there exist, and you shall discover the true greatness of Galanhir, Lord of Light, and live forever happy in a place devoid of evil."
Thus ends the tale of Osidarta Daï-Sha, the Son of Morning and Hero of Tanith, Keeper of Heaven and of Faith; the son of Galanhir, Lord of Light, ascended to Heaven with Hrin-Dorl, his dragon friend, in the year 1565 of the Third Age of the world. Tell now this story, as I have told it to you.
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