Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 8c

Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 8c

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Although Tanfardi had never before seen one of the great World Trees, he was very familiar with the lore associated with them. The trees were one of the things about this world that made it vital it be protected from the drake. The trees were a bridge between the physical realm and the realm of spirit. They were manifestations of the creative forces of the universe, perceptions of time and space were a non-constant within close proximity to the trees. That which was observable was not necessarily quantifiable. He found the tree to be beautiful in the same way that the multitude of stars within the dark depth of the cosmos were beautiful. He felt a profound reverence.

He and the Grand Magus stood on the threshold of the grove and looked at the tree. Eventually Tanfardi’s companion broke the silence, “I have business in the here and now. I will leave you to your conversation. I hope you have better luck than I had, getting answers from him.”

“What way should I address this elf? As Watcher?”

“As good as any, from my experience.”

Tanfardi saw no reason for further delay, he crossed the threshold into the grove then activated his cloak and flew to the top of the great tree, where the elf sat watching the world around him. The only indication the elf was aware of his arrival was the slightest shift of an eye, otherwise he continued his observations of what was happening in the city below.

Across the top of the tree many ephemeral creatures flitted about the leaves, some a wisp of a dream, others with the presence of colliding worlds. The elf sat casually on a branch too slim for the weight it bore, his attention locked on events below. Tanfardi waited respectfully. The air was easier to breathe there, sharp and clean as if they were at the top of a great mountain. After a long while the elf shifted, but his attention went to the west and as the sun slowly set he sang a song so beautiful that Tanfardi was moved to tears. When the song was done the stars were bright above them and the elf’s attention shifted to the dreams of the city. Quietly, Tanfardi waited.

The sun rose and the elf sang again. The song was subtly different, though just as moving as what he had heard the evening before. With the brightening of the new day the elf’s attention returned to the city. Whatever it saw Tanfardi had the impression it was invested, intently interested in what transpired below. Patiently, Tanfardi waited.

Dusk came again and in its course the dawn followed and yet again the world revolved through its cycle and each time the light came and went the elf sang.

After the third sunrise, Tanfardi waited no longer, “Watcher. Will you not acknowledge me?”

Startled the elf looked over to him, “I thought I had. Is there something I can help you with?”

“I seek my people, or those that remain. Do you know where they dwell?”

“Some are here, others there. But to the essence of the question I can only say, no.” He returned his attention to that which he had so long observed.

Tanfardi contemplated the answer until the next sunrise, when the elf had finished singing he asked another question, “What is it you observe?”

The elf turned to him again and smiled with a warmth and openness that humbled Tanfardi, “I am watching the love of my life.”

Confused, Tanfardi asked, “The city?”

“No, a story teller. A human woman, near the end of her days. Her moments are few now and I must cherish them all.”

Taken aback, Tanfardi contemplated this until the sun rose again. “Watcher. If you love this woman so much, then you should bring her here. This tree would sustain her for many more years.”

“I offered her that nearly a century ago.”

“She turned you down?”

“No. She said she had to live a full life first. To gain some experience and some perspective.”

Tanfardi scoffed, “A century is no time at all.”

“To you or I… perhaps not. To her it is a lifetime.”

“Still, she would be as a child compared to the life you live.”

“You do not understand love, nor humans, if that is what you believe.”

“I am not here to try and understand love or humans. I seek the last of the ellodran. Will you not tell me where they are?”

“I can not. The ellodran are of little interest to me. You may find answers in Swampdon. One of my kin, he watches there and he has had many dealings with your people.”

It was not what Tanfardi had hoped to hear, but a lead was better than nothing, “Very well, Watcher, I shall seek out your kin. Perhaps his wisdom will be more salient.”

The elf gave a slight nod and a tight smile, “You are as a child to us, young one. Do not be so hasty to dismiss another man’s wisdom. You might do well to consider the value of love and not to be judgmental of those you share the world with.”

Tanfardi accepted the rebuke, “As you say Watcher. Thank you for your wisdom. I will leave you to your love.” He left the treetop and flew to the boundary of the grove. The wall opened and he stepped beyond. The world seemed pale, washed out, frayed at its edges.

When he returned to the Arcanium he bathed, ate and slept.

Tanfardi awoke, feeling refreshed and ready for what was to come next. He looked into Swampdon, first checking the library. He found a lot of references and a fair number of maps. There was little in the way of accurate charts however and great variation within the accounts of the city and the surrounding regions. Once again, a reminder of the primitive conditions these people were reduced to.

Swampdon, as best he could tell, was further north than most other human cities. It also seemed to be one of the oldest human cities on the continent. It was best known for being built within a group of large trees in the middle of a swamp, for the export of medicinal plants and for having been around for thousands of years before GreensBridge was established. It meant the city had an unusual resilience as compared to the majority of human civilizations.

Despite the amount of information, none of it was accurate enough for him to navigate there on his own. There were contradictions within the information and he could not find coordinates for a gate. He was going to need a guide. The two humans he had come here with were well outside the city by this point, heading north. Although he could easily catch up to them there was no guarantee they would be interested in taking him to Swampdon.

After considering his options, Tanfardi decided to seek out Gethelrad Jindesh.

She found his proposition amusing, “I’ve spent decades looking for where the Ellodran are hiding. Even assuming this Watcher in Swampdon knows where they are, what makes you think he will be willing to tell you?”

“I do not know that he would be willing. Conversely, I do not know that he would be reticent with such information. I also thought it might be a good way for us to see if there is compatibility between us.”

“Ah, so this is your idea of courtship?”

“It seemed practical.”

“Very romantic. How could I refuse?”

“So we should prepare to leave then. I can be ready within the hour.”

She had difficulties containing her mirth, “I will need a bit more time than that. It might also be a good idea to let the Grand Magus know of your intent.”

“Alright. I will do so. Do you know when you will be ready to depart?”

“I should have my loose ends tied up by the end of the eight-day. Should we book passage to Brisken?”


“Well, how are you intending to get to Swampdon?”

“I thought we would fly.”

“Oh! Alright. I’m assuming you do not mean via an airship. When you are talking to the Grand Magus, perhaps you can ask him to allow me the use of an artifact that will allow me to fly as well.”

“Ah. I was unaware you did not have such. I shall inquire then, on your behalf.”

Leaving her to attend to the preparations, Tanfardi sought out the Grand Magus. The master of the GreensBridge Mages Guild was initially confused, “You do not need my permission to have a relationship with Miss Jindesh, I’m also not in the habit of handing out artifacts as wedding gifts. I am however very interested in any efforts the two of you undertake to reproduce. Or, more to the point, if you are successful in any such attempts, I would very much like to know. I’m also unsure how this relates to Swampdon?”

Tanfardi explained himself again, in context with the discussion he had with the Watcher. He was unsure if this issue with communication was his fault, if their crossbreeding had affected their reasoning abilities, or if this was part of some human mating custom.

“Well, I’m not sure I’d be too keen on losing one of my more potent mages for very long. I expect the Tannican armies to be here sometime next spring. Will you be able to return by then? Not to mention the knowledge in your head would be very helpful to us. I was hoping to convince you to stay, maybe even have you join the guild.”

“I see no reason why we should not be able to return in the spring. If all goes well, then perhaps I will be able to return with a number of my people. Certainly if you had an artifact to allow Gethelrad to fly, then our travels would be much quicker.”

The Grand Magus stroked his beard as he considered Tanfardi, “Alright then. I’ll see what I can dig up.”


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