A Crimson Shore 35.4 The Light and the Path

Iricah did not imagine the moment happening quite like this.  She had thought she would discuss Frank’s resurrection privately with him–la de dah–and perhaps she could sort out what had happened. Then, she’d find an explanation to it all. But when Frank had asked her point blank in the galley, standing there with dozens of pairs of ears leaning in to hear the tale, she was bereft of the ability to hide her answer. Those days seemed in the past now. The men and women around her had given nearly everything, many had lost loved ones, others permanently scarred or injured, so that she and her friends could attack the fiend known as Wrath and rescue her brother. In that moment, she had felt like she owed them an answer. Besides, she was a horrible liar. So she gave an answer, honestly.

A faun known as Krinklemouse grunted. “There hasn’t been a resurrection to the light conducted since before the battle at Ferroun’s Station!” He was a mercenary like many of them, and although loyal to the crown, he would have his limits. Stomping a hoof, he bellowed on.  “We were told none of us could be brought back to the light!”

Another pirate, one Iricah did not recognize–a human with a missing ear and a scar along his right neck carried on, “I guess us meant us which are less than a whole!”

“That is not the case,” said Genoran clearly trying to ease tensions. Nevertheless, he too looked bewildered. The look did not suit him, especially not at this moment with the eyes of his subjects upon him. He fixed his face, and continued, “I spoke truly.  Resurrections have failed these many months. Those who have returned to the light, have not returned fully.  They have not been dead entirely, but they are not fully alive either.”

“What are you trying to say, Genoran?” Laughed Portia. “Are they like unalive? Undead? Or something?”

Genoran paused, his face fixed in a purposefully blank stare. Iricah tried to imagine what it must be like for him to answer this, knowing what a loss the healing power of the Flame was to the realm. Genoran may have been misguided at times, but his heart was true. And she knew how much he loved the goodly folk that stood and fought for what he felt was right. To Celns, the Flame embodied what was right. It wasn’t just a thought. It was a literal protection from the dark, from the night, from danger. It was their guide in a savage world. Was it gone? Where would a lighted realm be, without it?

“Those we tried to return were something else, Portia. Something not what they were when the ritual was completed.  And they were not of the light–a chance I would not risk on any of you, my friends. As I said, I spoke true then and I speak true now.”

Genoran glanced at Frank, and Iricah saw the eyes of others do the same, like sights on a bow, narrow the eyes examined him intently. He was smiling a toothy smile, sitting in his chair. It was Frank in his Order’s armor, as he had always been to her, but he was more now–his red blazing eyes, his curling horns, his swishing barbed tail. She knew what Frank had been–what he had always been–and she loved him for it. But not all Celns thought as she did, even after leaving the dense cities of light in Cellinor proper. Suddenly, she grew worried for him and she wished she had kept the answer to herself.  The brownie is out of the bag now, lady.

Zy’an’s voice broke the quiet. A few people actually flinched and more than a few hands began the journey towards the hilt of a sword, or axe, or dagger before relaxing once more.

“I did not give you the power, Iricah.”

All eyes were examining the monk. He often spoke cryptically, in a somber tone. His way was simplicity itself, but that simplicity brought fears, fears of making the unknown known.  Sometimes, one didn’t want to know. Sometimes, fear of the known was worse.

“Where is your walking stick, Zy’an?” Asked Frank. “I have never seen you a moment without it.”

“I think it best if you come with me, Lords of Three Harbors. Quinn and I have something we wish to share with you.”

Zy’an’s eyes flashed in the candle light of the galley. It was getting late, and there was real work to be done in the morning. The work of saying goodbye to the lighted souls, who were now, they dared still hope, a part of the flame. Their bodies, as was Celn custom, would be given back to the sea.  And the ships, although there were less than an armada left, would leave upon the dawn for Far Realm, where Iricah hoped they were no longer needed.

There was a few grumblings and murmurs, but Genoran led them all in a final exaltation of The Ballad of Light and Darkness, and although many went reluctantly, the galley cleared of the officers, revelers and survivors of what was fast becoming known as the Battle of Host Bay.

Iricah knew that this moment would cause not a few problems for them later. Celns were superstitious, and there would be no doubt that Frank’s transformation could not be explained away, nor overlooked because he had fought against their common foe. She tried to put these thoughts from her mind and took Genoran’s hand in hers.  Without a word, they followed Thrak, Frank and Zy’an towards the innards of the ship, until they arrived at the soft light sneaking out into the hall under the door of Quinn’s noisy work shop.

___________________________________________

The tinkerer was atop a stool next to a table, peering at Zy’an’s walking stick under a bright light. He looked like a chef preparing a dangerous dish complete in his apron and goggles.  Next to him lay his kit, laid out. The array of sharp, prickly, and blunt tools was as varied as the objects hanging on the walls around the workshop. A few of his assistants were busy at other projects, but each of them was clearly watching Quinn, more than they were attending to their tasks.

When Quinn saw the prince and the others enter, he asked his assistants to leave. He pulled up a few stools and invited his guests to sit. He held up the bow, Zy’an’s walking stick and said, “I believe this is what saved you Frank. I have seen it’s like only once before.”

Frank lifted his tail over the back end of the stool and sat down. “Leave it to me to be brought back to life by Zy’an’s walking stick, gang.” But nobody laughed at his joke, so Frank pushed on, still not able to help himself. “This is only the second walking stick you’ve ever seen?”

Quinn put his goggles on his forehead. “This is actually the second walking stick I’ve seen just like this, yes, Frank. If I am not mistaken, you’ve seen another as well.” Quinn wasn’t at all in a humorous demeanor. Iricah watched Frank study him, and she thought a realization passed his face. It was hard to tell with it’s transformation.

Iricah’s sarcasm filter was beginning to dissipate though. “I don’t get it. Are walking sticks just like this suddenly becoming popular? Do I need to get myself one?”

“Is it magical?” Asked the prince.

Zy’an answered. “It was given to me as a child.  I’ve carried it with me since that day. It has never shown the slightest hint of a magical nature.”

Quinn looked to the monk, and then to the prince. “Zy’an is correct. It isn’t magical, My Lord. In fact, in all the tests I’ve completed I cannot find the slightest trace of magic upon it, or within it.”

“But I don’t understand,” said Genoran. “If it isn’t magical, how did it save Frank? And why didn’t we see something, feel something?”

“I did,” said Iricah but it was barely above a whisper.

“I said I didn’t find magic on or within it. I didn’t say there wasn’t magic beyond it.” Quinn’s face lit up as it always did whenever he was pointing out a scientific discovery. “You guys seriously won’t believe the shit I have found on this thing! I mean in all my years, I’ve never seen a disguise this good! It took us all day just to find the concealing enchantments. I’m still not sure how to unlock them!” He was really into it now. “You could try and detect magic through any channel you could think of, and you just won’t find it. No dweomer, no nothing, people! I mean it’s like it’s just some kind of regular old walking stick. In every way. Except it isn’t. It’s much much more.  It’s magic isn’t within it, it’s beyond. But the thing is that it needs a key, you see! A way to unlock it!”

“Beyond? What does that mean, Quinn”

“I did,” said Iricah louder this time. She stood and spoke louder still. “I did feel something beyond me.”

“Iricah?”

Iricah walked towards Quinn and his table. “I tried…I tried to call to the Flame. The way I have seen you do Frank. I tried to reach for it, but it wasn’t there. I failed. And then I felt something else. It wasn’t inside of me, but it was a part of me. A part of me I didn’t know I had. There was power there. Incredible power!”

Quinn picked up Zy’an’s walking stick and handed it to the monk. Zy’an looked at it for a moment, and then held it out for Iricah to take.

She hesitated at first, but then reached out, taking the simple wooden staff in both hands. She wasn’t sure what she had expected, but when the wood touched her hands, a warmth spread through, and the feeling she tried to describe when she had brought Frank back came back to her. She could only describe it to herself as a goodness. Powerful, full.  And then light filled the little workshop.  Light like the sun, rays of such brilliance shone that left not a shadow. Iricah felt the light was coming from inside of her, as though she herself had transformed into a magnificent lantern of some kind. She looked around to see those watching her gasp, and watch her in stunned amazement.

“Iricah!” cried Genoran.  “Iricah, it’s true. Gaelon was right!”

Iricah didn’t know what to say! This was absurd. She was an archaeologist. She was a bard, and if she were honest with herself, she couldn’t even properly tune her lyre without help! Sure she had dabbled in magic, the magic that came from the tune of the world around her so to speak.  But this was abundantly stupid! She wasn’t some hero of lore. She didn’t know what to say, and so she made a joke. “Uh, can someone stop me from glowing now?”

“You aren’t glowing Iricah,” Said Quinn who had put his goggles back on his face. He pointed at her hands. The stick was no longer there. Instead, Iricah held a lantern, a magnificently wrought lantern made of hardened wood. Inside, a beautiful light shone outwards. It was warm. It was beauty. It was soft as her heart felt holding it.

A long moment passed. After some time, Genoran spoke first. “We were right. Your brother was right. You are a bearer of light, Iricah! One of the four, standing here before us.”

“Listen fellas, I love the present, but are you sure….”

Just then the chamber door flew open and instantly Thrak’s axe, Frank’s mace, Genoran’s sword, Zy’an’s fist shot outwards towards the opening-even Quinn held up a wrench of some kind.

But there was no danger in the doorway. Instead, several soldiers stood there. They were clearly out of breath, panting. Iricah recognized them as the scouting party that was sent to investigate the shores from a smaller vessel. There wouldn’t be much time before the morning winds picked up and Genoran and the other commanders knew the Host’s army had included some mercenary forces. The prince wanted to gather as much information as he could before leaving.

“What is it?” Asked the prince, dropping his sword.

“My Lord! We have found a chamber, just like the one on First Isle, just like the one in Far Realm, just like the one in the heart of Cillandar! There lies another ark in the heart of the Circle. This one remains closed.”

“Closed?”

“Aye, My Lord.”

Quinn looked to the prince. “You’re aware of the timing of this, my Prince.”

Genoran didn’t look to Quinn. He stared at the floor instead. His dark hair fell around him, hiding his face, covering his shoulders. Iricah saw before her a much older man, than the one she first fell in love with. It wasn’t his age she thought then. It was the toil his crusade was taking upon him. He hadn’t just carried the weight of the Realm on his shoulder–he had put it there himself. “I am aware, yes.” he said.

Iricah watch the light from the stick, now turned lantern dissipate. She didn’t know how she was doing it, but in some way it read her thoughts. No, she discerned. Her analytical mind struggled to keep up with all of this.  Not my thoughts. Not my mind. It’s reading me. My heart.

In just a moment, the lantern’s sides had spread outwards, wrapping themselves into one long piece, before taking the shape of the walking stick once more. She looked to Zy’an who nodded as if telling her that he understood she would be keeping it.

“Send for Captain Thaedron. Tell him by my orders, I wish for anchors up. Tell him we will navigate the Lady of Light as far to the shoreline as we can safely row. Tell him I wish for several longboats ready for a predawn expedition to the site.”

The man stood still and didn’t answer.

“Do you understand my order, lieutenant?”

“Aye my Lord, but my apologies.  The Lady of Light, sir?”

Genoran’s face, which had been a stern bastion of sincerity and importance, immediately lightened. His face broke into a broad grin. “That is our ship’s name, lieutenant.”

It took a couple of seconds for the man to comprehend what he had just heard, and when he did, his eyes grew wide.

“Aye my lord!” Shouted the man, and he left quickly through the galley door.

Genoran turned to Iricah, and she saw the handsome boyish face come back to her. “The Lady of Light?” Groaned Iricah.

“It was either that or I was going to name it after the lizardman,” joked the prince.

Thrak hissed. “What’ssss wrong with naming the ssssship after me? I’ll never understand you Celnsss,” he grumbled.

The others chuckled and Iricah had to remind Thrak that he already has a ship named after him. Frank agreed, and so did Quinn that no one should ever have more than a ship named for them, and it was about then that a single yawn gave way to many more. Iricah knew there were precious hours before the dawn, and there were more than muscles and bones that needed rest. She watched the cleric and the lizardman meander out of the doorway, their tails swishing in unison behind them. So too did the others walk out to catch a bit of shuteye.

She got up herself, and said goodbye to Quinn who didn’t look like he was going anywhere.  Then, Iricah took Genoran by the hand, holding the magical lanthorn out before her. a soft light shone on his face. The boyish face she had come to love once more.

“Come on, My Lord, I’ll make sure you find your way to your room.”

 

 

 

 

 

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