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01 - A Gift From the Sea

Chapter Two - The Flight of Gaia

Ardeth was a king amongst men, a warrior, an Elf-friend and known amongst all races. He was the leader of men in the Great War, and fought beside Sir Edge, the Lord of Men and Sorcerers alike. His skill with the blade better than anyone of the time, his knowledge of things that grew as great as the elf’s and he knew the secrets of The World Beneath more than any Dwarfs save those that were with him. He was the first amongst the men of the Middle Days to look upon sorcerers again and to be accepted by them. And in the ending of his days, became the only person to ever ride upon a unicorn! But this tale was before all of this occurred, this tale speaks of Ardeth, the Arakaynian.

It happened when the world was still young, not long after men had come from the East and North. 1054 T.A was the year, as the people of Guijan reckoned, for it was that long since they had come from the North West, and began keeping records. A great white-cloaked figure flew swiftly upon a serpent-like dragon over a raging sea, with a great storm about him. But his dragon-like beast, with his huge wings and claws were not the only creatures of such size in the storm that night. Far beyond there were other such creatures, though the robed figure could not count how many they were, were attacking the surface of the waters, like huge birds diving for fishes on a raging ocean. Seeing this, he urged the beast he was on to fly even faster, but the wind was against them.One of the great beasts flew down, delayed, and then dived down into the sea, while another came down to the sea’s surface. The cloaked figure raised the great staff he had in his hand and spoke in a language unheard of in this age. And the rain parted along the direction in which he pointed his staff like curtains falling away, the sea became calm and the clouds broke as if in response to the action of the staff, being a great knife that just cut through them, showing the night stars. The cloaked figure then collapsed, and the beast he was on came down, made a turn just above the waters, causing great waves to rise up as if to greet them before circling away. The creature then flew back in the direction it came from faster than the wind, moving just above the now calm water.

About a week later, on a calm sunny day, the children from the village of Arák were playing, as they usually do, upon the shores of the sea. Racing the waves to the shores, building wonderful things in the sand with sticks, or just cooling down under a tree, eating such fruits as they could find.

Arák was a small village north and northwest of Dorar, the main city of the Kingdom of Guijan. Arák did not belong to any of the huge kingdoms of the world, and its peoples pride themselves in that, for they were never involved in wars of the other men, yet Arák’s men were the best huntsmen of the region, and whose skill in this area are rivaled only by their neighbouring village. The villages population was no more than three thousand persons, and was located not far from the sea or Rhorim as they called it in their own tongue, the ‘ever-raging’.

While these children were playing, three of them being: Kari, daughter of Hebalb the Chief, Jama son of Jor, and Jorma, his younger brother, they saw something strange, like a huge dark shape, coming in form the sea. Usually, that is the way of the sea, to bring things unexpected, and more than likely, to take things whenever it wanted. But this caught the children’s gaze so because it was larger than most things they saw coming in from the sea. As it got closer, the children saw that it was a boat, or at least it was shaped like the boats they used, for the people of Arák were boat users and oft sailed upon the many rivers of the region, but the boat’s color was not that of a golden wooden brown, but black, like the hilt of a sword. This unknown figure seemed to be sinking, very little could still be seen above the water. Inside, they thought they saw a movement, like a man, though smaller, tring to steer his way to shore, avoiding the reefs that were no doubt just beyond the edge of the water.

The three Arákaynians ran from under their resting place of the shadow of the tree, to the waters edge. The only strangers that came from the sea were warriors from the northwest, to fight the people of Guijan, and usually, the Arákaynians would not hinder them. But this was one boat, and probably one person inside of it! Surely this was not a person coming to war. Jama, being the oldest and strongest, waded out to reach the boat, for the man inside was in need of assistance. But as he approched the boat, he realized that it was larger than he had previously imagined. Fifty people it could’ve held comfortably, with room for baggage. He tried to pull it ashore, but found that it was impossible to do so! “Ahoy!” He shouted. “Come ashore, Rhorim is shallow here. Be quick, before it swallows you too, along with your vessel.”

No answer came, but after a while, a little boy, about Jama’s age, peeked out. His hair and skin was wet, and wore strange clothing, even unlike those of the people of the northwest, across the sea.

“Will you kill me?” The boy asked. He seemed very cautious. “Of course not, quickly now!”

The other boy then jumped from his boat, landing beside Jama. And even as he landed, his boat was engulfed by a surging of waves behind him, swallowed up by the Rhorim. “I am Jama.” Jama said. “And those are Jorma, my brother, and Miss Kari,” pointing to the two standing on the shore and curiously looking at the boy, “who might you be?”

“I don’t know, …” answered the boy, struggling. He had hit his head, but there was little trace of blood, for the sea had took that too, and seemed to have forgotten everything.

Then, for the first time, Jama looked upon the youth, and saw that,partially visible, beneath his soaking clothes was a medallion. “Perhaps that may tell,” he said pointing to the medallion, “such a thing is only worn by Chiefs and Kings, you may be one, or the son of one, lets see.”

The boy pulled the medallion out from under his shirt. It was made of pure gold. It had a circular shape, and in the center was engraved the picture of a mighty castle, if that was what it was, with may towers and turrets, the one in the center being the tallest, reaching all the way to the skies. Around this castle was the raging sea, as if the castle was an island upon it. They were words upon the top and bottom of the medallion.

“They are words here,” Jama said, “ written in the common tongue, but I cannot tell you what they are…”

They two had already begun walking to shore slowly, while they were talking. Jama was fast and strong, while the other boy lagged behind,seeming weak, for every wave disturbed him. The boy was now looking at the medallion, as if for the first time.

“Here it is written ‘Lord Ardeth O’Atlantia,’ and in the bottom, ‘No powers are there like those of a raging sea.’” The boy said. “I guess I am Ardeth.” Jama turned around. “You can read?”

“I guess so… Why? Can’t you?”

“No, only our Chief’s scribes can, and I guess the kings and wise men of other kingdoms, you are smart, you Ardeth. Ardeth you say? What a peculiar name, but suits you, for in our tongue it means ‘the one who escaped death,’ which it seemeth you did.”

Before Ardeth reached the shore, he fell, his knees were weak, he knew he had not had anything to eat for a while. Jama and his brother took Ardeth to the shades under the tree, and then instructed his brother to run to the village to tell the village elders about Ardeth. Away Jorma ran, for he knew the path very well, and was also very anxious to relate the news.

“You will be safe with us.” Kari said. “My father will see to it that you are well taken care of, and someday I will help you find your kingdom young prince, if that is what you are.” It is with great regret that I say that Kari was not there when Ardeth finally came upon his great kingdom in the end.

None could move as fast in the forests as the Arákaynians could, and with the excitement cursing through Jorma, he ran faster than ever. The leaves and twigs whipped against his face, but he did not care. Occasionally, other Arákaynians in the forests, perhaps others children like himself, or adults hunting, would ask him the reason for his haste. “Rhorim has brought us a gift! Go see!” He would reply, and continue on his way.

It was not after a long time that he came upon his village. It was in a clearing, bordered by tall trees like a huge green wall. The village itself was large, and the houses were made of woods cut from the same trees. In the center of the village was the largest house, the Chief’s, which served as a meeting place when needed. Other houses spread out from here, and even around these were flat lands for farming and hunting training. Very few houses were on the border of the village, though there were other buildings that served as guard huts and protected the village against the numerous wild animals in the vast forests. A very small stream ran beside and through the village before turning north from its westward direction emptying into the sea. This stream came from deeper in the forest, and connects in some larger way to many other streams, one of which is used by the men or Dorar and their transportation route.

Jorma knew where he was going; he wanted to speak to his father, a very respected man in the village, and an advisor to the Chief. He ran straight to the center of the village, and through streets of grass, until he came upon his own home. It was not much larger than the others, and similar in construction, with wooden walls and a thatched roof. It was not very high, and though the people of Arák were not very tall, the tallest could stand comfortably upright under his roof.

Gasping for breath after the long run and with beads of sweat running down his face “Mam!” Jorma cried, “mam!”

“What is it?” A woman came flying through the door, a look of worry on her face. “What is the matter? Where is Jama? Is he hurt?”

“He is ok, he is with Kari. Where is pap? I have things to tell him, we have a guest, and a new friend, where is pap?”

“He is with the Chief in the Great Hall, but take heed, many men came back today from their journeys and the Chief and your father may be busy with them. It is not wise to disturbed the learned from gaining knowledge, as the saying goes. And wherever you go, come back soon, for the afternoon meal will soon be ready!” “Ok, mam!” Answered Jorma, and was off again, continuing down the same road he was running on, to the center of the village.

Into the Great Hall, he ran. The building was the tallest and largest in the village. The hall itself is frequently used to discuss matters, though none more important than the news of the wide world. At the back of this building was an adjoining home, where the Chief and his family lived.

Men were there, as they always are, talking of their travels, for Arakaynian men love to travel, and even loved more the opportunity to tell of his tale. The Chief and other men were listening to them, saying, “Indeed, never have we heard of such things. The men of Guijan are afraid, they think northern folk have something to do with this…”

In the center of the discussions sat Chief Hebalb. He was a short man, like all the people Arák. With dark hair and a round face. He appeared to be plump, wise and learned , though Jorma knew he was also gentle and kind. The Chief wore little clothes different from the others of the village, but also wore a great chain around his neck, a gift some said, from a race of shorter men than the Arakaynians to a previous Chief for acting as an outer defense for their village, though none ever saw them since, everyone thought they had eventually all died from that war they were fighting. A great leader was Chief Hebalb, and that all could see.

On the Chief’s right hand sat Jorma’s father, Jor. A wise man too, he was. He was the only councilor to the Chief. Their two families, Jor’s and the Chief’s, were closely related, Jor was the Chief’s fourth cousin on both their father’s side. Jor was a leaner man than Chief Hebalb, but not much taller. His hair was just as dark, and as long. The only difference was that by Jor’s side was his blade and bow, with a quiver of arrows, for he was also a hunter.

“Father!” Jorma shouted, bursting into the council, seeing his father, “father, come see. We have found someone! A Prince, Kari says. He came from the Rhorim, come see!”

The men looked angry at being disturbed, but the Chief and Jor were calm. At length the Chief then spoke calmly, for he was a kindly man. “Prince you say, where is he now, and what is his name,what kingdom is he the prince of? You bring news young Jor, Jorma is it? Surely you have the answers to these questions” The Chief was apparently in a good mood, and felt like jesting, even in front the large crowd of people present in the chamber.

“Ardeth is his name, and he is from Atlantia, wherever that is.” Jorma answered. The Chief had suspected that the Prince of which they spoke was from the north, and having such a person in their custody would mean that the men north would find a reason to go to war with their village. But Atlantia was not anyplace in the north, as far as the journeys of his villagers have reported. Indeed he never found out where exactly Atlantia was.

“He is with Jama and Kari, next to the Rhorim.” Continued the boy.

“Jor!” The Chief declared. “Jor, let us go see what problems our children have landed us in! All those who want to follow us may come. Men…” He got up, and directed his speech to those he was talking with. “We shall continue this some other time. As great as your news may be, a prince among us is far greater, let us all go see!”

And with that the procession headed out of the Great Hall and down the streets, towards the wall of trees, through which there was an opening, through where a grassed path led to the sea. Many people looked out of their houses to see the large group of people go by with the Chief, and wondered what had happened. Even Jorma’s mother looked out, and when she saw the group led by her son she thought, “why did he not listen. This better be worth the time of all those that go. Jorma will get a sound trashing if it is not so.” Even Jor thought the same, looking at his son proudly leading the group of people. Luckily for Jorma, it was worth it.

In the short while that Jorma was gone, Ardeth had fallen asleep. Jama had gone scouting for fruits in the trees while Kari was left to look upon him. Not long afterwards, Jama came back with a handful of mangoes and any other fruit he could find. Along with him came three younger children of the village who were about in the trees. With Ardeth still asleep, Jama recounted the tale to the young ones, and added a few details, of how he had to swim beyond the reefs to save Ardeth from drowning, and that Ardeth was a prince who could read not only the common speech, but all languages as well. The children looked up at Jama, as well as Ardeth, full of awe.

Presently, the host led by Jorma came into the clearing. “There they are!” Declared Jorma, pointing to the group.

The group of men came up to the sleeping Ardeth, and Kari, Jama and the three smaller children stepped aside, looking from the Chief to Ardeth. “This a prince?” Asked Chief Hebalb, jesting once again. “Arise child!” He called in a loud bellowing voice.

The events that followed were forever made into jokes and told in that village for as long as it endured. Ardeth, though seemingly in a deep sleep, awoke with a rush, forgetting all that had happened. Seeing the face of the Chief above him, he reached for the blade that was sheathed by his side, though none had seen it before, and slashed at the Chief, his blade ringing and polished in the afternoon light. The Chief, who was once a hunter in his youth, in the days when his father was Chief, still had his reflexes, and dodged the blow, or almost, for the tip of the blade scratched his face and left a scar that could still be seen years later, even at the time of the Chiefs death. Ardeth, then seeing what he had done sheathed his sword and moved backwards, falling from the stumps he was on, unto the sand, headfirst.

The men were unsure of what to do, and most drew their swords, while Jor quickly fitted an arrow into his bow and aimed it at Ardeth. Kari and Jama were ready to defend Ardeth, for they knew that the Chief had frightened him. After a while, Hebalb laughed, and everyone put away his weapon, except Jor.

“Startled him, did we?” Hebalb said wiping the blood away from his face, the others laughed. “Get up son!” He said, stretching a hand to pick up the fallen boy. “You have a sharp blade there! I may well want to know where you receive it, and to learn of your name before I judge whether you should repay what you have done.”

“Sorry sir.” Ardeth spoke, getting up, refusing the Chief’s help. “I am Ardeth, of the land of Atlantia, or so it is said here…” And with that, he took out the gold medallion from his shirt and showed it to the Chief. It did not glitter, but seemed very bright in the afternoon sun, all the men around gazed at it, for it seemed wonderful, and they began to accept that this boy was indeed a prince, for none other could own such a thing. Even the Chief knew this, he also realized that it was made of the same material as his own medallion, but he knew that different people made them. The Chief leaned in closer to inspect it, while keeping one hand upon his breast, where his own jewel lied.

“Ardeth. A peculiar name that is, for in the tongue of our forefathers, it meant escaper of death, though we seldom now use that tongue.”

“Escaper of death indeed he is.” Declared Jor, examining the boy. “For you came here from the sea, without fins or wings, and survived. Few are so lucky.”

“But he did not swim, pap!” Chimed in Jama, seeing that his tale of the story might fit in here. The older men turned towards him. “He came by a boat, and a weird one too.” And with that, he told the entire tale of how he rescued Ardeth O’Atlantia, while Ardeth confirmed everything. Kari and Jorma chimed in whenever they felt like.

“We’ll have to find that boat sometime later.” Jor said, looking out to the spot where they described the boat sank. “What material it was made of, I wonder. We might have learnt a lot from it.” Then he turned to Ardeth. “You lost your memory, huh? If you could’ve told us where you kingdom was young prince, the village might have been very thankful with such an ally. Try to remember, what happened before you came here?”

“Ah…” Began Ardeth. “It was dark, like night. And it was raining,there was thunder and lightning, loud and frightening. We were in a boat, me with others whose faces I cannot see, it was too dark. We were trying to get to a city of lights, but that seemed too far. Why we were trying to get there I don’t know, for the boat was not sinking, nor was the raging sea a bother to us. Then I saw it, like a bolt of lightning it came out of the sky, aimed at us. It was a huge winged creature,emitting a smell that was fouler than rotting flesh, it then hit the boat, as if to sink it, touched the water and flew up again. It had friends too, circling high, and every once in a while, one would come down upon us, aimed at me, it seemed then.” Ardeth paused, as if trying to remember. “It is faint, like a dream, but I think one came down again, and someone stood up his back facing me, with his sword gleaming in the night, his long hair flowing in the storm. This person slashed at the creature, which then shrieked, loud and piercing, flapped its great wings, and knocked the man into the sea. It then plunged after the man. I remember looking over the edge of the boat, looking for that brave figure that had saved me, and before I could turn away, another came from the sky hit me on the head, back into the middle of the boat. All slowly got dark, but before that happened, the rain stopped, the clouds cleared and the sea was calmed again. Stars shone brightly, and that lifted my hearts, but none were left in the boat. I remember no more.”

The people looked on at Ardeth with wonder, never have they heard of such things. At length, Jor spoke. “A great tale, but I’m sure it was only a great nightmare, brought on by the sea, it does that sometimes, or so I have heard. Come now Ardeth, you seem tired, let’s get you some rest.”

That was true, Ardeth was tired, but more so, he was hungry and thirsty, for naught he had eaten during his journey aboard his craft. He looked at Jama, who then handed to him the fruits he had picked. “Thank you, kindly.” He said, and began eating them like a man who had never tasted things as sweet. Indeed he never had tasted anything like these fruits, and as sweet as they were, his hunger made them a thousand times sweeter.

The Chief laughed, seeing this, and turned away to talk with Jor, away from the ears of Ardeth or the children.

“So what do you think Jor?” He asked. “We have to give him food, the least.” “Yes we must, we must. Whether he be a prince or not, I don’t think that the warmth of the people of Arák should be less than it always is.”

“You are most certainly correct. But what of where he shall go thither? Should he stay with us? I seek your counsel in this, Jor.”

“What if he is from the north? Us keeping him could call war upon us?” “Or bring peace. No doubt a kingdom would praise us for keeping their heir safe, if that is what he is.”

“Surely.” Jor said, finally putting away the arrow that was still in his hand. “But never-the-less, we have witnessed that he came from a kingdom or warriors, see how well he had used his blade?”

“No more of it, Jor. You said it yourself, prince or not, our warmth should not decrease. He will stay with us, until someone claims him, or he grows up to leave on his own. But he will grow up as one of us.”

“Very well, I will take care of him. If my wife hears that I was so against it, I would not hear the end of it. I will raise him as one of my sons, and he will become an Arakaynian like them, when they do.”

“So be it.” Said the Chief, turning to the crowd, who were now asking Ardeth questions, none of which he answered, whether because either his mouth was full, or because he did not know their answer. “Everyone!” The Chief spoke loudly. “Ardeth O’Atlantia will be welcomed into the village, and will stay amongst us until he is rescued. Jor here has agreed to take him into his home.” Jama and Jorma began to celebrate, for they now have a new friend. “Come along now, Ardeth. Let us show him the way to Arák!”

With that the company set out through the path that Jorma had run through, the same path the Chief and his men came through. Jama, Jorma and Kari were proudly leading Ardeth in front of everyone else, telling him of what they could do together. Upon arrival, a meeting was immediately called for all the people of the village by ringing a huge bell that echoed to the ends of the village. Most of the elders and some children came, and after they seated themselves, the Chief spoke to them, for he wanted to let the other villagers know that Ardeth was now one of them, and none should treat him otherwise.

“Peoples of Arák, listen. In keeping with our village’s principle of hospitality, we have accepted to keep Ardeth here amongst us, as one of us. And none should treat him otherwise, for that would be a crime against my ruling, and the ruling of my court.” He then called Ardeth to step forward, and everyone looked upon him and cheered. “He will stay with us until such time as one of his kindred comes to claim him, of he chooses to leave on his own free will.” “Thank you.” Ardeth said, and bowed. The people were not accustomed to this act of courtesy, but enjoyed it very much.

“Some say that he is a prince.” Continued the Chief. “But whether he is, or not, we can all be sure that great things are in store for him, and thus, in for our small village. From this day forward he will be known as Rhogan, our gift from the sea!” There was more applause.

And so it came to pass that Ardeth O’Atlantia, now Rhogan, came to the village of Arák and was accepted by its peoples, or at least most of them, and live in the house of Jor, amongst Jama, the greatest hope for the Arakaynian huntsmen. He became a popular figure in the village while growing up, and his tale of his arrival was never forgotten. Many used his new name, but none forgot his old, Ardeth, for it reminded them of the great status the boy had probably held.

--Dhabih 16:03, 29 January 2006 (UTC)

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