Book of Tae
Something pulled my ear. Most disagreeable. I awoke from my nap to see a small pixie fluttering by my nose. Of course, I demanded to know why she woke me up, and she said I was late for the Elder Meeting.
I explained most forcibly that I had merely needed a nap, and the pixie appeared most upset and begged my forgiveness, which I charitably granted. I heard a rumbling snore at my back and turned around to see that My Bear had sprawled upon the ground next to me. Ah, I would have scolded My Bear for not keeping watch on the valley bears as he was supposed to, but it was difficult to work up an anger for such a lovable creation as My Bear! Of course, bears were my only creation, and I was quite pleased when they formed the collective spirit known as My Bear. I really saw no need to create more life after that. I think bears and My Bear were more than adequate. I’m not like the genius Bollikin who created so many of the creatures in the world. No, I’m happy with creating the one perfect species of bear.
I prodded My Bear awake who apologised for falling asleep. He reported that the valley bears had discovered what could be a danger to some of Bollikin’s smaller creations, like the rabbits and squirrels and foxes. Apparently, there were swarms of stinging bees living in enormous hives filled with honeycombs. The bears and My Bear had to destroy these hives to protect the small ones. This sounded very interesting to me, so My Bear showed me the hives which indeed were filled with honeycombs - or at least a few honeycombs, as the bears and My Bear had eaten most of them to drive away the bees. Not wanting the bees to return and cause mischief, I decided to help them out by removing some of these dangerous hives myself.
Something jabbed my back, which made me wake up with a start. My belly was nice and full from the work done at removing the hives, and I had been enjoying a small, well-deserved nap. I looked up and saw White Hart standing over me, poking me with his antlers. I looked around to see if White Hart’s creator was around, but Charune was nowhere to be seen, which was unusual since they were usually together. I demanded to know why White Hart had awoken me, and he said that I was late for the Elder Meeting.
I patiently explained that I had to help the valley bears and My Bear with a very important project, but really White Hart was as oblivious to the importance of what I did as was Charune or even Charune’s brother Centaubi. It must run in the family. When White Hart reminded me that Bollikin had been waiting for me, I had to put my foot down and severely reprimand White Hart for keeping me away from this important meeting.
I recalled Bollikin telling me how concerned he was about what went on in this meeting, so I told White Hart that I had no more time to deal with his shenanigans. He bounded away, seeming rather upset that I couldn’t give him more of my time. How temperamental he was! I searched out with my senses until I found Bollikin, who was waiting for me in the Towers of Xyl. I folded myself over to Bollikin and into the large central crystal chamber.
Everyone had been gathered already, the First Circle were all together in the centre stage, and I had folded in next to Bollikin who grinned at me. I picked him up and gave him a nuzzle, then sat him up on my shoulder, which was my favourite spot to carry him. As everyone was looking at me for guidance, I walked up to the platform and introduced the Firsts to everyone. I know they were a funny looking lot, but I thought it wasn’t very polite that so many were laughing at them. I noticed Charune was shaking his horned head at me. So like White Hart! Bollikin pulled my ear and whispered, “Dear Tae, look over there! It’s Crumkane!”
Ah, indeed, it was our good friend Crumkane: a jolly, rolly fellow, surrounded by sugar sprites and spice pixies, and other lesser awakened spirits who flocked to him. And why shouldn’t they! I considered him the most notable and important member of the Fourth Circle. I immediately greeted him by name and Crumkane smiled in delight at seeing me. He sent over his servants to me with platters of his artistic creations. I frowned as a few Elders took some of my presents off the platter, but I guess I could forgive them, as Crumkane’s works of art were difficult to resist. But once the platters were before me, I took possession of them and thanked Crumkane for these gifts. I gave a few strawberry tarts to Bollikin (his favourites), and nibbled on the rest.
“Are you quite settled, Tae of the Seventh?” Meridian asked me from the centre stage where the other Firsts were standing.
I told him I was and motioned for him to continue. He looked rather shocked as though he couldn’t remember what he was saying and everyone laughed at him. I couldn’t help myself, he was so funny looking that I laughed too! His sister-mate Amberle whispered something to him, which must have calmed his nerves because he smiled and nodded politely to me.
“As we were saying,” said Meridian, “the Fifth Circle has studied confirmed and reconfirmed that indeed what is coming towards us are the Heralds of Magnora, our distant cousins. We have not seen or heard of them since the Great Silence, when our beloved Dynara left in search of the Son. The question arises of why they are coming here.”
“They come to fight!” bellowed Krokano of the Second. “We should meet them with fire and steel!”
Other members of the Second Circle shouted in approval, some even raising weapons into the air. I didn’t like this display and took Bolli off my shoulders and wrapped my arms protectively around him. He shivered so I held him tighter.
“Peace!” said Amberle, standing next to her brother-mate Meridian. “The Heralds could be lost and confused. They could be drawn here to the First World as we were. They are older than us, and know things beyond what we can imagine. Maybe they have a deeper insight into what happened to Dynara and Magnora. We must welcome them as our distant kin, not as our enemies.”
The other Firsts clapped in approval. From across the chamber where the Fifth Circle sat, Mugowumpois stood up and waited until Amberle nodded to her.
“As much as I would hope the Heralds would share their insights with us,” said Mugowumpois, “there has never been any indication that they have been well disposed to us. Indeed, they often were known to...”
“Destroy us,” offered Orlachmar after a long pause.
“Yes,” nodded Mugowumpois. “That was Magnora’s purpose and the purpose of the Heralds. To destroy. We suspect that their nature has changed.”
“It is wise to be cautious,” said Amberle. “And so shall we be. Rather than wait for the Heralds to come to us, we will instead go to them. The First Circle shall go forth to greet these lost kin of ours, and to gauge if any threat exists.”
“The entire First Circle?” bellowed Clangorum of the Second. “This is the duty of the Warriors! Who knows the Void better than we do!”
“This is not a mission to seek out and battle an insane half-formed or unstable manifestation,” said Aslarn of the First. “This is a mission of diplomacy. And the entire First Circle wouldn’t be sent. I and a few others will remain behind.”
“At least send some of the Second Circle to go with you,” said Terentia of the Second, striding forward. “In case something goes wrong.”
Almost the entire Second Circle of Warriors shouted agreement. Orlachmar, Hajamin and Loboshi stepped forward to volunteer. But Amberle raised her hand, calling for silence.
“That would be sending the wrong message,” she said. “We don’t want any misunderstandings. We don’t want to seem like a threat. Also, the entire First Circle won’t be going. Several of us will stay behind. My mate Meridian, for example, will stay behind so that I may send a transmission of all that transpires through our bond. You will be able to monitor everything.”
“Besides,” laughed Fain, “I think we of the First Circle can handle ourselves in a crisis.”
“I respectfully submit,” said Xyl of the Fifth Circle, “that this is a much more dangerous a mission than the First Circle may have calculated. My monitoring of the approach is showing a very disturbing darkness that surrounds them. These are primal beings that preceded us and we may not fully understand their nature.”
“But some of these primal beings are among us,” said Fain. “Not all became Heralds. There are Dracnoris and Keph, at least! And yet we have lived in harmony with them.”
“They were chosen by Dynara to remain with her,” said Xyl, “unlike the Heralds who were sent to Magnora to help her...destroy.”
“Even so,” said Fain, “we cannot discount that some of the primal gods are with us.”
“I see none of them here,” commented Tauro, crossing her arms.
“True,” said Fain. “Indeed, the only members of the Third Circle present are the hamadhi.”
“Where are the rest of the meditators?”, Fain asked, turning to the hamadhi, those few of the Third Circle who had devoted themselves to caring for the half-formed. “Why have not Dracnoris or Keph come to our summons?”
The hamadhi murmured among themselves, their long robes rustling. Finally, Lantra came forward, her slim form gliding across the floor. She bowed before Fain.
“The others of the Third Circle are so deep in their meditations that they cannot hear the summons,” she said. “Indeed, in order to delve into the cosmic mysteries as deeply as they do, they tell no one, not even us, of how to reach them.”
“It may be prudent to get their counsel at this time,” said Xyl.
“Awaken the Sleepers!” shouted Mugowumpois.
Her cry was taken up by others, until it became a chant that caused the crystal chamber to vibrate. “Awaken the Sleepers! Awaken the Sleepers!”
“Very well!” boomed Meridian, raising one hand up for silence while the other held the hand of his sister-mate. “It is a good suggestion to seek advice from the Third Circle who remain in their deep sleep. But you heard Lantra of the Third. They have hidden themselves. How do we reach them?”
“I can awake my brother, Lacostian,” said Elcyrion of the Fifth. “We are close enough that we have formed a bond between us.”
“Indeed, awaken Lacostian,” nodded Meridian to Elcyrion. “But it is most important to get the advice of the primal gods, Dracnoris and Keph. Does anyone know how we might awaken them?”
Ah, all this talk was making me sleepy and I was getting bored. If Bollikin hadn’t been interested in this discussion (he was gripping my fur tightly), I may have had a little nap. But he thought this was important and so it must be. There was a long stretch of silence as no one seemed to know what to do. Well, as usual, Tae would have to save the day.
I stood up and stretched and walked over to the Circle of Firsts, placing Bollikin on my shoulder. Everyone was of course quite awestruck when I walked up to Meridian and Amberle and moved them aside to make a speech. Bollikin kept asking me what I was doing but I smiled and gave his foot a gentle squeeze.
I gave an eloquent speech, summarising the entire situation and the need to awaken the Sleepers of the Third Circle. Wrapping it up with a motivating poem, I said that I would awaken Dracnoris, who would undoubtedly solve all problems and put this little matter to rest. There was an appreciable gasp of amazement and I basked in their admiration.
“What’d he say?” asked Meridian to Bollikin. I guess he was too intimidated by my presence to speak to me directly.
“Tae!” Bollikin pulled my ears in his excitement. “Do you really know where Dracnoris is?”
I explained that a group of really big bears was sent by My Bear to a nice lovely large mountain in the southwest, where we thought there would be some caves that they’d like to make a home in. These really big bears loved living in deep comfortable caves. Unfortunately for them, one of these caves contained Dracnoris, who sent them terrible dreams so we had to be move them. I think we moved them to a little snowy valley in the east where there were lots of nice caves, but I may be confusing them with some very handsome white bears. Anyway, Bollikin and Meridian didn’t seem to be interested in that (though it got me wondering what happened to those white bears), and wanted to know if I could find the Dracnoris’s cave again. I said that of course I could.
Thus, it was that Bollikin and I were sent off to find and awaken Dracnoris. Also accompanying us was Xyl, who Meridian thought might be of some help. I wasn’t so sure how much help he could be, but I graciously accepted his company anyway out of politeness.
I knew the caves we were looking for were very warm, and it took us several days before I recalled that there was some rumbling in the mountains of the one particular cave we were looking for. Xyl called this type of mountain a volcano (he’s always labelling things, even mountains!). It wasn’t long from then that we were able to traverse deep within the volcanic caves. Bollikin and I found the heat of these caves very uncomfortable. Xyl didn’t mind the heat and was even able to wade through the lava pools to scout around, so I suppose he was good for something.
Xyl seemed to get quieter and quieter the longer it took us to search for Dracnoris’s cave, and kept staring at me as though he needed some help. However, every time I asked him what was the matter with him, he shook his head and wouldn’t answer. I felt sorry for him that he was so shy, so I began singing him a few cheery songs to lift up his mood. It seemed to work because he began searching with a lot more enthusiasm.
Finally, a tunnel opened up to an enormous cavern, which was all aglow with a red haze from the lava pools. And there in a corner of the cavern was exactly what I was looking for. I stopped everyone and declared that our search was over.
“What exactly did you find?” asked Xyl.
I pointed out dried dung from the big bears who had once lived here. Obviously, Xyl wasn’t as smart as everyone thought he was because he couldn’t figure it out, so I patiently and slowly explained to him that this marked the cave where the big bears had slept.
“If this is the cave, then where is Dracnoris!” he shouted, gesturing around the empty cavern.
I couldn’t help it. I laughed! Xyl was supposed to be one of the brightest of the Fifth Circle! What an idiot he was turning out to be! I was laughing so hard, I had to sit down. Even Bollikin couldn’t contain himself and began giggling too. Xyl stomped around the cavern, turning some interesting shades of pink and green.
“Tae! Tae!” gasped Bollikin. “Why are we laughing?”
Oh, I had to tell them, of course. Once I caught my breath, I told them that it must have been a long time since they saw Dracnoris. He could never fit into this cave! We were standing on him. (Or at least we were standing on part of him). Once Xyl tapped the floor and realised I was right, he told us to stand aside while he woke up Dracnoris.
Several weeks later, Xyl still hadn’t woken up Dracnoris. He tried all sorts of tricks to awaken him. After his telepathic summons didn’t rouse Dracnoris, he built a bunch of crystal gewgaws, calling them strange names like empathic amplifiers, psionic relays, vibrational focal generators, and whatnot. After awhile, he just began calling Dracnoris all sorts of really mean names but even that didn’t wake him up.
Bollikin and I occupied ourselves the best we could, exploring the caves and mountains outside. We made a few trips outside to the side of the mountain to take a survey of a few of the bushes. I liked the bushes that grew red berries more than the bushes that grew blue ones.
Eventually, we would go back to the big cavern and see what new strange thing that Xyl created, and then we would curl up together and take a nap. It was relaxing for a time but I began to miss My Bear and was wondering if there weren’t any more dangerous beehives that I needed to take care. But we had a job to do and Bolli said we had to stay and so we did.
One day while Xyl was using a very large crystal rod to pound against the floor of the cavern, Bollikin and I were lying around at the mouth of the cave, tossing rocks into one of the lava pools.
“Why have we never created anything here, dear Tae?” asked Bollikin.
Hmm. I told Bolli that I really wasn’t sure. I don’t think any us of the Seventh Circle ever created anything in the lava caves. Oh, I know a few experimented in the cooler, danker caves, but no, not in these caves. I told Bolli it was probably because there was only rocks to eat.
“Of course, dear Tae!” said Bollikin, clapping in excitement. “They would eat rocks! You are a genius, as always!”
I blushed and squeezed Bolli’s ears. I know I am uncommonly smart but it’s embarrassing to have him point it out. Bollikin, of course, was smarter even than me and so we began experimenting with creating something that could live in these caves. Bollikin used some rocks to meld together a small creature, and sent me to gather some lava to use as blood. Together, we breathed life into the squabbling creature, which immediately squirmed to life and breathed a gout of steam. Bolli giggled and began to feed it rocks, which it immediately began crunching in its funny little mouth. I said it was pretty ugly.
“Oh, maybe we can get Isune or another of the Fourth Circle to pretty her up,” laughed Bollikin. “Come, dear Tae! Let us make some more, maybe these will awaken old Dracnoris, biting him like little Viravain’s fleas!”
Ugh! I never liked those flea things and never understood why should we make such a stupid creature, but Bollikin laughed again and went to work creating dozens more of these little rock-eating creatures, which were sent burrowing into the floor. Xyl came over after awhile to watch, and seemed to be impressed with these little “rock fleas” as I called them. Personally I wasn’t that impressed with them. Bollikin had made much more cuddlier creations than these.
Just then the floor erupted beneath us, throwing all of us to the ground. Dracnoris was awake and raising his head! The whole top of the mountain was splitting apart, and Xyl surrounded us with protective forcefields which made us bounce through the air, as Dracnoris roared and shrugged himself out of the mountain. I wasn’t kidding when I said he was huge, and now Bolli and Xyl were beginning to understand.
Dracnoris shook his head, dislodging several of the rock fleas. His scales gleamed in the dripping lava. He was taller than many of the smaller mountains around us. Six legs with claws as large as trees and great saucer eyes that gleamed like molten gold. He used these eyes to stare at us, unhinging his jaw and working it back and forth as if loosening it up to make up for his thousand year sleep.
Finally, he coughed, sending clouds of ash and fire streaming into the air. His enormous brow furrowed as he used one claw to pick out one of the rock fleas that was trying to burrow into his jaw, and popping it into his mouth to crunch down on it. Indeed, they were like fleas to him! He blinked again at us.
“Well, well,” he rumbled. “Are the Soulless Ones here already?”
We were all shocked that he knew why we woke him up. He lazily shrugged himself out of the rest of the mountain as he listened to Xyl explain everything that was going on with the Heralds and needing him to advise the others. But then Dracnoris suddenly growled and pinned Xyl down onto the ground with one claw.
“Did you say the First Circle is going to ‘greet’ the Heralds?” he hissed.
“That is what they were planning, yes,” said Xyl. “This was weeks ago. They may have already...”
“They must be stopped!” he roared, almost deafening us.
Dracnoris leaped into the air, his two pairs of wings spreading out behind him, almost blotting out Father Sun’s light. With a speed that was blinding, he shot off into the sky.
The falling rocks left from his wake rained down upon us for several minutes. A few of the surviving rock fleas burrowed and disappeared into the mountainside. Bollikin shivered and I picked him up and hugged him. Xyl shook his head and looked at us helplessly. I then said those five prophetic words that would be repeated for ages yet to come.
“Me thinks bad times coming,” I said.