Liope becomes aware of her new powers
|Chapter 3 Unexpected Powers
Scene1 of 3: Description of Liope and Valley.
Liope was the daughter of Orin, the Village Blacksmith. She was a big girl with red hair and Witchy eyes. Her eyes were not an unusual feature because all the women in the Valley had the same Not the men, mind you but the woman. The men had eyes common to those seen anywhere. To the men, these women did not appear unusual… they had longer hair, breasts, a different shape and Witchy eyes. These eyes changed color with their moods. They could be virtually any hue or blend depending on the emotions being experienced at the time. To an outsider, however, the difference was striking and took some getting used to. It was the signature of a Valley woman and told anyone who cared, that she was a part of the Coven.
The Coven was a sisterhood to which all the woman belonged. It ran things in the Valley and its influence extended well into the world beyond. Not surprisingly it was a matriarchal society with the exception, that to outsiders, the men appeared in charge. It didn’t matter if the female was a Witch or the nature of any gifts she possessed. The only criteria for membership, were the eyes.
Liopes mother was Cateyln. She was the Grand Mistress of the Coven. The Coven had four lines, each stemming from the four Kings of the Confederation. These were the Valley Men, The Listerian/Nobowian Elves, the Cisterian/ Latonian Elves and the Monrovian Dwarves. Each line had a Mistress and the Grand Mistress came from the Valley Line.
Cateyln was a Dark Witch as was Matilda of the Dwarves. Olivia and Miranda were White Witches, representing the Elves. The difference between the two was the source of their powers. For a White Witch it was the light from the sun and the stars. For a Dark Witch it was the elemental darkness of the moon and the earth. Many commonly think that a White Witch is good and a Dark Witch is evil. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that there is plenty of good and evil in both. The difference lies, at the risk of repetition, at the font of their powers and nothing more.
When Liope was six, Cateyln sent her half brother, Guiles, off to Military School. She left Liope with Orin to provide for his domestic needs as well as give her daughter an opportunity for a childhood and a grounding in the principles of human decency. Orin was a very principled man and Liope was her father’s daughter.
Liope knew her mother was a Witch because the women in the neighborhood said so. The kept her under a an unfettered but watchful eye. She was always asking questions like why her mother left and how could you tell if you were a Witch or not. Not wanting to interfere they tended to be evasive. They told the young girl she had been entrusted with the welfare, of the man her mother loved. That it was the tradition of the Coven for a First Daughter to serve her mother in the running of the Sisterhood…which was the reason Cate had to leave. With regard to knowing if you were a Witch, they told her the best way to find out was to ask the source. They were amused when they often saw her fancifully dancing about, waving a twig, invoking the power of the sun and the stars. To Liope it was no laughing matter... Try as she would nothing ever happened and she reluctantly concluded that she was ungifted.
Scene 2 of 3: Interview of Albiana and Galreath.
Albiana was Morgalic’s sister. When word reached her that a wounded Galreath had taken refuge in the forest she went to it. He had been attacked by eagles. His wounds were pervasive and would require weeks of rehabilitation; yet while painful, they were not permanent. When she arrived the bird perked up and began communicating.
“I am Condor. Three days past, just East of the boundary with the Empire, in the Valley of the Mists, home to the men, I was summoned by your brother.”
"We've been expecting him." she asnered, "did you leave him well?“
"My news is not good. When I left his life was in peril. He was chased by Snagar, eight by my reckoning, and they were closing."
Two days from the Tristan Forest.
"He summoned you?", she esked to continue the tread.
"He did," the bird replised, "and I alighted. Morgolic was heavy and I could bear him no more than ten miles."
A sense of forboding spread over her. " Where did you set him?"
"In a clearing 2 miles west of the Man Hold at Nirvana."
"And his lead…"
"Not more than an hour separated them."
"Did he reveal his state of mind?"
"He did not share his thoughts as I bore him East. However, upon alighting, his intent was to “Reconcile" whatever that means... and so he thought to himself. Then your brother gave his blessing, warned me of the eagles and sent me on my way."
"Where did the eagles find you?"
"Above the glacier… while his scent was still strong upon me."
A coldness settled over her and she trembled. Her brother’s intention to “reconcile” had an ominous connotation that gave clue to his intentions.
The bird was in great discomfort and shifted to find a more comforting repose,
“Thank you condor, she nelled, "your favor will not be forgotten."
"Nor your grace," he asnered.
Scene 3 of 3: Relationship of Liope and Mother.
The vision of her mother, brought back a flood of memories to Liope's mind. To the young girl, Cateyln always had a dark look and forbidding nature. Beneath it, however, was a love for her daughter that could not be concealed. Often she would take a moment and set Liope upon her knee and begin chanting as she swayed back and forth. The incantations made little sense to the young girl but they had a meter and musicality that made the words easy to remember.
Eyes in pools of darkness, draped in shrouds of time,
Where chaos rules eternal and spirits reign sublime;
Through mists of dark creation, by pools of oily scum,
Canyons carved by tempests, where endless rivers run
Drip drop, drip drop on the stones they plop.
On and on a cycle, that never seems to stop.
Where ackmars (acids) simmer waiting, something to begin,
And musilicks (molecules) pad endless their unrequited swim.
Eternity sits idle in the darkness of her keep.
Silence weighs eternal, while winds of darkness sleep.
In caves eroded barely noted, quarried cold and deep.
In bowels of nature's caldron, where bubbles brew and pop.
Where origins of life itself, the tread of time forgot.
Where recollection's miracle, for endless eons slept,
Etched onto the very stones where runes of life are kept.
To unrelenting stillness where nothing comes to pass,
In endless combinations of liquid stone and gas.
To wonders of beginnings when life declared its name,
In heat of sun, gust of wind and flood of driving rain.
Cateyln had simply walked out of their lives one morning, taking her brother, Guiles, with her. Orin was distraught and in the night, LIope often heard his anguish. To the townspeople, however, it was not very remarkable. It had happened before and would no doubt happen again. Such was the manner of the "Strays" that came down from the hills, stayed awhile and then returned to the highlands from whence they came. Seeing her mother, through the eyes of Morgolic, standing before him on the outcrop, left her dumbfounded. Then to see her plunge backward into the river was more than she could bear thinking about.
"Did she survive the fall? she wondered, "and what became of Morgolic?"
Scene 4 of 3: Liope Argues with Father.
Liope picked up her basket and walked out of the guardroom. The storm had passed and there was a freshness in the air. As she walked home she passed a youth. The young man splashed rudely asided, intent upon his own thoughts. She wondered what he was thinking and suddenly the rush of his thoughts spilled into her mind.
"Cow! " he thought to himself, "Why do you walk down the middle of the street when there is ample room on either side?"
Then sweet memory sent a vision from his heart. It was the girl he loved and it flashed brightly into his imagination. Liope recognized the girl as one of her friends, Lucinda. He was kissing her on lips and fumbling with the tie around her collar. Lucinda reached up and brushed aside his hands scolding,
"First you must say again, how much you love me."
The vision ceased as the two moved apart.... it was like hearing a conversation in passing and having it fade with distance.
"Cow? He called me a Cow! Is there really such a likeness?"
Liope hung her head wishing she had never intruded. When she arrived home, she went immediately to work following the routine taught by her mother long ago. She was just taking bread from the oven when her father returned home. She served him his dinner, bread, grease and a broth of hot soup. He ate in silence and when he finished, spoke,
"You gave me quite a fright… what were you doing so far from town?"
Before she could answer he went on,
"Haven’t I told you, over and over, of the dangers of straying to far, and have you ever listened?"
In her silence, he answered for himself,
"No! you don’t listen, not to me or anyone else, you just go about doing as you damn well please without regard to anyone."
Liope was amazed. She had seen her father’s mind from the moment he walked through the door. Further she had a physical empathy for his emotional state and watched through dinner as he rehearsed his intended words of admonition. Before he spoke, she could easily have mimiced his entire speech, and had Orin looked closely he could have seen his words being mimed on her lips. Under other circumstances, she would have quailed before his tongue lashing, but seeing his love for her and feeling the power of his emotions gave her an understanding never before realized. Reading minds and feeling the emotions of another was entirely new and the wonder of it welled up in her heart. Her eyes filled with tears as she appreciated as never before the boundlessness nature of her father’s love.
Seeing her thus, the Smith felt a pang of guilt for his harrange but resolved to remain firm so as to make a lesson of it.
"Are you just going to sit there with that stupefied look? What would your mother think if she were here now? Orin! she would say, You've done a poor job raising our daughter. You will have much to account for when I get home! … and I would have no lame excuse to offer. A husband is what you need. To scratch that woman's itch and tame your restlessness."
Having said this he paused. She could see in his mind that these words were without truth. For that matter, his greatest fear was revealed… that she would take a husband and abandon him to a life of loneliness and despair.
"Bite my tongue!" he thought wishing to retract his words. Angry, more at himself, he slammed his fist on the table and she saw wrath in his eyes. Ordinarily she would have seen it aimed at herself, but this was no ordinary day. There was an uncomfortable a pause and to escape its grip the smith rose abruptly. She saw the fear he had of losing her take final vent in his admonitions.
"Do you have nothing to say for yourself, except to stare wide eyed and stupefied?"
Liope had the mask of a severe looking contenance which was common to the women of the Valley. It concealed a powerful and deep seated intellect, a quality not esteemed by men. What husband could abide a clever wife and women learned early that like modesty, intelligence was an attribute best kept under wraps. Fortunately the look was well ingrained and held its grip on her face. In other places however, she was taken with weariness. The toll of the day both physically and emotionally was catching up. Her defenses began to waver and the unrelenting pressure exerted its influence. It was suddenly too much to bear, and her will began to shut down. She wanted to laugh and sob at the same time and her breath hickuped in quick intakes. A shiver passed through her body, while her bust heaved, racked by stifled breathing.
Orin saw her struggle as she tried to compose herself. Her hands covered her face and she trembled with anxiety.
His heart went out to her struggle. He waited, not sure what to do next. At length Liope began calming down and the jerking sobs began subsiding. She spoke.
“I'm so sorry father, for the anguish I've caused you. I've been selfish and it's time I became more responsible. I promise to mend my ways and do a better job, living up to your expectations… just as mother would have wanted..”
These words surprised her for they did not come from her heart. Rather they were in response to what her father wished her to say. Unbidden, they had just blurted out of her mouth and the bald insincerity shocked her. It wasn't that they were untrue, but because they bespoke a contrition that wasn't there.
"He'll never fall for this malarky," she scolded herself.
Yet he did. For her words were exactly what Orin was looking for. They vindicated his harshness.
"I finally got her attention," he thought... As a peace offering his attitude softened,
“We all make mistakes, but in these dangerous times, a single one can be disasterous”
“So I've learned. I'll not disappoint you again.”
“See that you don’t!“ he answered gruffly.
Scene 5 of 3: Kulrick and the Council.
The High Council met to find out what happened to Morgalic. They had gathered soon after the news from the Galreath. It was composed of five elves sitting beneath an ancient willow. It was an informal setting with the jurors gathered around a justice who ran the proceeding. His name was Kulrick and he was agitated. Bobbing his head, he brought their minds to order and began speaking in silence. In the meld of their collective awareness, the details of all that was known were arrayed in an orderly fashion. Unlike, as in a council of men, there was no need rehash what was already known because everyone already knew it. Rather, its purpose was to find out what was not known about Morgalic’s disappearance.
Kulrick began to channel and his thoughts coalesced in the imaginations of those around him.
“These are ill tidings of Cracious and his men. Now it appears that Morgalic has also fallen. Sad enough is losing two young men of such promise. Worse that both departed unbred. The loss of two bluebloods cannot be replaced by more Elvenhume birth statistics. Putting them at risk was a mistake, cast plainly in retrospection. There'll be hell to pay for our complacency, you can wager that. With each setback our enemies grow in confidence and become emboldened. They give boast to their strength, and ridicule our weakness. With virulent and unbridled contempt they kill our people and steal from us the thread of our spirits and power of our stones. In recent years we have convened many times to measure the Empire’s mischief and consolidate our losses.”
A messanger walked up, his mind cloaked, and took a knee before them.
“Give your report," said Kulrick.
The mind of the messanger unfolded with these tidings.
“There is rumor from the Western border. The Valley of Men is abuzz with tidings of the Snagar. In Nirvana, they are passing the nights on high alert and their Magistrate has confirmed signs of combat, carnage and blood trails.”
“So noted, “ Kulrick scried (replied) and the messenger withdrew.
Summoning his strength the Chief Justice breathed deeply and gestured to a young woman. "Albiana, come forward and take yout seat among us." When she was seated he continued.
“We are sending a party West to determine the full truth of what happened. You will be their beacon. Varnack will lead the patrol, but you will be responsible for the work, once you get there. As Morgolic's sister you have equity in our loss and the edge of your thoughts travel far. Stay east of the Empire and return report, as you discover things of interest.”
“I will be diligent in my posting,” she asnered
Scene 6 of 3: Liope examines contents of pouch and puts on scarab.
That evening, after the house was set in order, Liope returned to her room and sat down on the bed. It had been a long day and certainly the most exciting of her life. Her senses were awash with everything around her. Her ears could hear the treading of a cockroach along the floorboards and the breeze through the window carried a multitude of scents… most of which she could not name. To her surprise, as the sun set and darkness settled around, she saw her vision undiminished. Except for the green hue, she could still see the shape of things to the full limits of daytime.
Taking the pouch from around her waist, she laid it on the nightstand. As she did the light went out of her. This is to say that her senses returned to normal. The room was now dark, silent and once more as she had always known it. Picking it up again there came to her fingers a tingling sensation and to her mind returned the hightened state of awareness.
Liope poured the gems out onto her night stand. Then she reached inside the pouch and removed the Scarab and gleaming silver chain that attached it to the setting. Laying it aside she began examining each of the gems in turn. There were eight. There was a ruby, emerald, sapphire, pearl, golden topaz, amethist, and two diamonds. As she fingered each in turn she felt a slightly different sensation. This is to say that each responded to her senses in a different sort of way. It was like her senses were strings on a musical instrument and each of the stones played a different tune. The last she held was the ruby. It was the smallest and the sensations she experienced from holding it were the most acute and delightful She returned them all to the pouch and tossed it over onto the bed. As she did her senses returned to normal.
At this point she turned her attention to the Scarab. The insect seemed to be asleep inside the setting that imprisoned it. She picked up the silver chain letting the relic swing back and forth before her eyes. "I wonder," she thought. Laying it aside, Liope began dressing for bed. Her gown was unbuttoned from neck to hem and she imagined how the heirloom would look about her neck. "Why not find out," she concluded. Taking the chain, she put it on, carefully trying to avoid waking the slumbering insect. It was a beautiful necklace and as she gazed in the mirror she felt the prickle of sharp spindly claws. A feeling of revulsion came upon her as her heart skipped she watched entranced. With a grimace she felt a sudden skitter of spiny legs and prickly feet as they raced between her breasts. Then, there came a sharp pain and she stiffened with dread. It stung biting hard and she felt the chill of venom race through her bloodstream. Standing up she took it gingerly and tried to lift it off. When she did, the intensity of the pain became so unbearable that she turned it loose and began hopping about the room. At a complete loss for what to do she began fanning her hand back and forth over her breasts. Then she began blowing downward with her lips. At length the pain began to subside and wanting no repetition, decided it was best to leave matters alone. Looking down she could see blood oozing from beneath. With a shudder she buttoned up her night gown. Turning down the bed she put the purse under her pillow. Shutting the incident from her mind the young girl resolved to deal with the matter in the morning. It had been an exciting day and with a yawn she snuggled down under the coverlet and was soon fast asleep.
Scene 7 of 3: Malita Sets out on Recon.
The Magistrate set out the next morning with a company of Militia. He led his men at arms to where earlier he had seen the signs of mayhem. He kept the formation spread wide because he did not wish to disturb the sign any more than necessary. The paw still rested where he had seen it the night before. Scattered about they say bits of flesh, hair and chips of bone but mostly blood spots soaked into the ground. Going further he saw again the blood trails. Bodies had been placed on what appeared to be skins or shrouds of canvas. These had been dragged off to the West along the main trail. Keeping the formation spread to either side, the Sheriff and his Deputy walked down the center path following the sign. They tracked in this manner until at nightfall when they reached Shallow Lake. This marked their Western boundary with the Empire.
There the search ended and they stopped to make camp on the high ground. The Magistrate was named Orphious, and he set the watch and returned to the campfire. There he seated himself and began reflecting on the days events. Dumar, his deputy, broke into his musing.
“What do you make of it all?” he asked.
"The Snagar were after something and it appears they caught up with it."
"What do you think it was, a unicorn or a bear?"
"I think it was a party of Elves."
"Because, by treaty, Snagar are forbidden to enter our lands. A unicorn or bear would not have been worth the risk."
"But the scent of Elves would make the temptation unbearable."
"That’s how I see it."
"You have seen the Snagar?"
"When Boaroff was sheriff, before the treaty, we encountered a party of them."
"I'm told we got the worst of it."
It's true we lost men, but as the struggle raged, we held our ground."
"What was it like?"
"They're bigger than men, faster and have look of a feline. They are unbelievably quick and grapple with claws and teeth."
"And we stood up to them?"
"Together, arm to arm and shield to shield we owe them no apology, but when they come on us by surprise, spread out and unprepared, a single man has little chance against them."
"Perhaps we should draw in the perimeter?"
"A good idea. See to it. Position the men in twos and tell them one is to be awake at all times. You take the first watch and I'll relieve you at midnight."