Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2002 5:00 pm
Location: Exeter, UK
[G&E] The Old Wolf
The Old Wolf
The old wolf watched intently as an eye, a mouth, and a mere rock traveled across the sky. The mouth was full, the eye a sliver, and the rock was lit for half its length. Their stately progress drew reflections from within. Were he another, he might have wondered, “When will the eye close?” or, “What does the mouth eat?”, but he already knew the answers. The only real mystery was the rock. He howled, because he was a wolf, and because to be a wolf, here and now, was to howl. He had much practice at being a wolf; as far as he knew, he was the third oldest still living.
The position of the objects would have meant little to most wolves, but to this one it meant that the time had come to leave. He turned and loped away, whisking through the trees faster than almost any animal could in this terrain. His long strides made the ground flow, and a lithe frame and natural agility allowed him to keep from mishap among the rocks and trees. Other creatures would have long since hurt themselves at the pace he kept, provided they could keep it at all. However, once he left the trees for flat ground, a horse could likely have outdistanced him.
Knowing this, the wolf became a horse.
This was a horse built for speed, and he joyed in the run. He whinnied, because to be a horse, here and now, was to whinny. In the distance, rocks and trees streamed past, but none could threaten him here. As he galloped on, he approached a cliff ahead. The horse would have lamed a leg on a rock before him if he hadn’t briefly become a goat to go over it, but he was at the edge mere moments after it appeared to him.
Leaping off of the cliff, the great roc that was once a horse and once a wolf and once many other things spread his wings and cried into the night sky. He glided past eye and mouth and rock, needing only the occasional sweep of his immense wings to keep him aloft. In lazy arcs, the roc sailed around the mountains ahead. The vast bird felt the air part in front of him and stream over his feathers, and listened to the wind whistle past his head. In the light of the three moons, he allowed his soul to quiet and peace to enter his mind. This was no mean feat, given the difficulty of his work, but the roc had much practice at this as well.
His strong predator’s eyes noted the clearing that he approached, and the roc descended. Before he reached the trees, the huge roc became a tiny spider and allowed a ribbon of silk to extend from his spinnerets. His descent thus slowed, the spider landed safely in a tree next to a woman who was sitting on a rock. He dropped to the ground and, rather than wait for the man to become a spider, he became a man himself, seated with his ankles crossed and his hands upon his knees.
“Hello, master,” said the grove’s occupant, “Your control of the forms is as impressive as ever.”
“I do not control the forms, Rown, I allow the forms to control me. True mastery comes with the knowledge that you are not the master.”
“But, have you not said, ‘True knowledge is the knowledge that you know nothing?’” asked Rown Yscar, grinning.
Unfolding, Yscar the Elder responded, “Literalism is your folly, as always. You show much potential, but you’ll never learn to take and leave the forms as you could without deeper understanding. You’ll only ever manage your trivial magics.”
“Trivial? Master, I control the wind and the rain! I make the beasts and vermin dance, and you call it ‘trivial’?”
“You can command the weather, but you should control your own being. You bear the Mark, but you fight it. When Schifta fights Dwelien, Rown, neither wins, and it is the mirror that loses."
Yscar the Elder changed the subject, saying, “However, this is a lecture you have heard before. We have other business this night. First, I would hear of your progress with the mission. What news have you of our wayward children?”
“I’ve seen signs of one, although he hides himself from me. I followed the tracks to a group of these resistors in the kingdoms to the west. I’ve joined their fighting in hopes that I can narrow the search further by becoming one of their fellows.”
“And this is why you brought me here? You spoke of allies.”
“Yes, master. I believe their cause is just, and one of their leaders has knowledge that may be useful in our own fight. He seems to have uncanny insight into the ways of monsters.”
“If he can be used for our war, then that is well, but we must be careful not to embroil ourselves in his struggle. The destruction of the Bascarites is of primary importance.”
Rown, obviously struggling, kept her quiet for a moment. Acquiescence to the master was deeply ingrained, but her own beliefs were warring with her upbringing. Unable to keep her thoughts to himself, she said, “Master, I’m not sure that our own war with the Bascarites is the most important labor any longer.”
Raising an eyebrow, Yscar said only, “Oh?”
“Yes, master,” Rown continued, “The world is coming apart at the seams. The free peoples are under assault from all sides. The Elves will commit genocide never before seen in their thirst for revenge. The Nothrog legions run rampant over lands that once held themselves apart from conflict. The Deverenians sacrifice more and more to their quest for power, and they themselves are beset by these new ‘Dwarves’. I’ve heard that the entire city of Phrygai was purged of its natives and renamed, and if these creatures intend to devour the rest of the world as locusts would then they, too, must be stopped. I don’t know where to begin, but Denska seems as good a place as any.”
Yscar said, “Remember our purpose. These are not our battles. The Bascarites must be destroyed.”
Rown replied, “Master, remember yourself: when Schifta and Dwelien stood apart it was as good as joining the Dragon. What are we fighting for, if not freedom? Stopping the Bascarites is a means to that end, and not an end in itself.”
The master said nothing.
“We cannot stand alone any longer. No one can. The world divides upon itself and there must be a place where the division stops. We can be that place.”
The master said nothing.
“I am not asking that we give up who we are, and march to war with lockstep legions, master. We will fight as we have always fought-in the shadows, and from behind. We’ve always harried our enemies, and they have not brought us down yet. I believe that, if we keep to what we know, the Denskans’ enemies can’t bring us down, either.”
Yscar thought, and he continued to think. He seated himself again, hands upon his knees and ankles folded. Eye, mouth, and stone passed from view before the sun, which itself disappeared. Rown occupied herself, used to her Elder’s long meditations, and she tried to ponder other things while she awaited a decision. Very few had ever spoken in such a manner to the master.
The four objects in the sky had risen and vanished twice more, but only the eye was visible when Yscar spoke. He opened his own eyes, and looked at Rown, firm in his decision.
“I am convinced, Rown. We will fight. Contact your Narawat friend, and I will summon the family.”
Laurence J Sinclair