Home » Great Library at Hoeth » Book of Tales » Tales of Si'anelle » The Tragic Tale of the Noble Lady Si'anelle of Avelorn, Chapter Two: The Peerless Pearl of Great Beauty
|The Tragic Tale of the Noble Lady Si'anelle of Avelorn, Chapter Two: The Peerless Pearl of Great Beauty
|- By Lady Si'anelle
|With the forest dark and silent all about them Ae'thenal did follow Si'anelle at a close distance. Two days and a night's worth of weary travel were behind them which would sorely test her friend's words to Cedwyn Brighteye that they did only intend to hunt within the forest as an excuse for their absence. However there had been small time in which to dwell upon the archer champion's wrath when he did discover that Arhaindir Moonhand's wayward daughter had deceived him with a careful lie. The Great Forest of Avelorn was home to many twisted dark creatures who did hate the light of the sun and it had seemed more than once that whole companies of these creatures had gathered to dispute their passing. Two quivers of arrows well stocked to capacity at their leave-taking were now thinned enough to cause concern; - despite the care they had taken to recover undamaged shafts where they could. The most recent attack made by a pair of great shambling beasts that had stood upright on their hind legs, had been decided by her spear and the edge of Si'anelle's sword that had been her father's own sword before the Dark Kindred had brought his life to an ending. Though for all the mighty blow with his fist the beastman had laid upon her friend and the stone he had cast that had dented her helm Si'anelle's spirits were undiminished as she did continue to press on in her search.
The words were on Ae'thenal's tongue to suggest to her friend that they should take their rest and eat a little of the waybread in their packs when a shrill voice did begin to shriek abuse at them from among the trees at their left hand. The shrill voice suddenly begining to give vent to cries of a different nature when Si'anelle did notch an arrow to her bow with a quick hand and did loose it in the direction of the voice's owner. And when they did both investigate the voice's source with both caution and Elven steel in their hands they did find a small imp like creature soundly pinned by the coarse fabric of its jerkin to the trunk of a great tree.
"Fuddin bright eyed Elven bitches," it did squeak at them in outrage its sizeable mismatched eyeballs bulging from its head. "Stinkin up the forest, bringin sharp iron inya fists....." At this Si'anelle did lay the tip of her sword against the imp's neck which caused the creature's throat to bob wildly as it did rapidly swallow its abusive words.
"It is indeed sharp iron Small One," said Si'anelle as she did incline her head towards the imp in a deliberate parody of good manners.
"Wadda ya want?" demanded the imp its small and grievously ugly face breaking into a sly grin as it did run its mismatched eyes over their torn and stained cloaks. Their soiled boots and the thorn scratches on their legs and arms. "If ya lost ya kin go whistle."
"I would merely enquire as to the direction wherein the pool named 'Despairing' does lie Small One," Si'anelle did ask as she did raise the imp's chin with the tip of her sword. "And I would also ask if you do know of a great toad who does dwell by the pool."
Ae'thenal did expect that the imp would now find reason to cast yet more abuse at them and furthermore delight in both Si'anelle and herself being yet unable to locate the pool. However she could not have been more wrong in her assumptions.
"Why diddin ya say?" gave the imp as it did begin to laugh aloud. "Sure, I know this pool. Show ya the way too."
Laying her hand upon her friend's arm before she could carry out her intent to free the imp Ae'thenal said, "Perhaps you are too willing to believe this creature Si'anelle. How can we be certain that we shall not be led astray, even unto our deaths at fell hands." Making her grip the more firm to prevent Si'anelle from shrugging her aside she also did say, "Before Isha why should this imp aid us, - tell me that Si'anelle?"
"Suspicious bit ain't she," the imp did comment then which did small good to improve her temper. Turning now to face the imp Si'anelle's expression had become the more hard in its aspect which did cause Ae'thenal to hope that her friend had accepted her counsel.
"Before your gods of misrule will you swear that you do not seek to deceive?" asked Si'anelle her sword held in readiness in her hand.
"Sure and Amen," replied the imp with a wide grin. Which did cause Ae'thenal to sigh aloud at the desperate foolishness of their situation.
And as the imp did lead them both deeper into the forest, wildly capering and turning hand stands. Even walking for lengthy periods of time upon its hands shrieking with glee. Ae'thenal did indeed have leisure enough to wonder why this misshapen creature should trouble to aid them. Si'anelle for her part did seem to be oblivious to their potential danger. Her expression did only speak of her joy at soon being able to serve her Everqueen in the fashion that she had so long desired.
"Hurry, hurry bright eyes," the imp beckoned. "This way, be quick. Oh yes be quick." And it did dart off again bounding on all fours like it was an outstandingly ugly dog.
The shadows were begining to deepen when the imp did finally pause its wide nostrils quivering. Raising a skinny arm it did point out the way. "There bright eyes," it did say. "Walk straight, don't turn. The pool awaits."
"You will not complete your task then?" asked Si'anelle as she did frown into the shadows.
"Tis done," the imp did reply and again it did point the way. "No harm here brighteyes," it insisted as it did squat on the bole of a fallen tree. "Stick to the path, Toady's there awaiting."
Ae'thenal did not like the imp's manner as it did sit in silence watching them as they both did take their first steps upon the muddy path that ran like a ragged score in the earth between the tangled roots of the great trees. For the formerly insolent creature was now almost solemn and also far too watchful as if afraid they would abandon their intent in wishing to seek out the pool and its toad guardian. Which did cause Ae'thenal to wonder if on their return there would be a fell host waiting for them on the path to claim the pearl; since, if the tale be truth, it did seem none save one of pure intent could bring the pearl away from the pool.
Ahead of her Si'anelle did make her way with quick steps her sword naked in her hand. That the runes wrought upon the blade, Elthrai and Ceyl, did smoulder with a red heat did not a thing to sooth Ae'thenal's spirit. Now she did sling her spear upon her back and did draw her sword. Her own sword did not possess the pedigree of her friend's, though for all that she was willing enough to carry it ready in her hand.
The shadows had become deep indeed when they both did find the pool named 'Despairing'. That night itself was close upon them was a matter for concern, for the clearing in which the pool did lie was not a place Ae'thenal would ever wish to willingly chose as a camp site. Above the pool the branches of the ancient trees had grown knitted together blotting out the sky, and from those branches long pale tendrils of fungi did hang sickeningly luminous in the quickening dark. The air was also dank and did stink of rotting things and mould, but it was the pool itself that did steal away the eye. Like a blank sheet of dull metal it did lie locked within its banks of greenish slime. And of the branches arching above its chill still waters there was not a single sign as if all light falling upon its surface was instantly swallowed up without a trace. However as they did both step into the clearing, foul mud oozing from beneath their boots, both she and Si'anelle did near turn and bolt back the way they had come. For from the waters of the pool 'Despairing' immediately did rise the sound of many voices joined in a chorus of sighing and wailing to chill the soul, as if within the pool a host lost to all hope did dwell therein.
"This is an ill place Si'anelle," said Ae'thenal as her heart did threaten to pound itself loose from within her breast. "What good may be found here? The lady courtier's words are proved to be false beyond question." Only it did seem Si'anelle had calmed her first fear at entering the circle of ancient trees that did ward the pool. For now her face did once more bear witness to her resolve.
"I shall not leave Ae'thenal," she did say even though her voice did catch in her throat as she did speak. "Not until I have seen the pearl with my own eyes and have judged its worth as a gift to our Everqueen."
"If the pearl and its toad keeper do exist Si'anelle," was Ae'thenal's reply as she did begin to survey their surroundings, her sword held in readiness in her hand. In this she did not lack for light, for as the night had laid claim to the forest, so had an eerie and baleful luminescence arisen from the waters of the pool. The voices within the pool had now quit their chorus, but the individual sighs and moans that still did escape its waters were chilling enough.
"Ae'thenal." Si'anelle did stand alert her eyes upon a shadowy place that did lie cradled by a tangled mass of thick roots beneath an ancient tree of the ward circle. As Ae'thenal did narrow her gaze she did also see the shape of the thing Si'anelle had seen.
"The great toad," said Si'anelle her voice quiet as she did sheath her sword. The look her friend did give her then did tell her that she should also put aside her sword and with reluctance Ae'thenal did obey Si'anelle's silent request. As her friend did now take a step towards the place where the toad did wait Ae'thenal was consumed by a sudden nameless urge to seize Si'anelle's arm and drag her unwilling as she might be from this clearing with its dread pool. Only now Si'anelle had taken a further step and was beyond the reach of her outflung arm. Where it did seem Si'anelle was unhindered by the clinging mud, for her part she did have to fight to make every step as she did pursue her friend. As she did make an attempt to speak aloud her friend's name her throat did tighten and all she could manage was a croaking whisper. However for both oaths exchanged in the innocence of childhood and for the sake of their long friendship she would not permit Si'anelle to come to harm while she did still draw breath. And so she did continue to lift each booted foot from the thick and clinging mud and drive her weary body to obey her.
As a pale arm did suddenly thrust itself from the mud and did wind itself around her right leg Ae'thenal would have screamed aloud if her voice had still been her's to own. Her swordarm did also fail in its intent to draw her blade as her will did of a sudden die within her. "No Ae'thenal, daughter of Telimis who is of the Dead, you shall not prevent her." As her chest did rapidly rise and fall in her terror and with her eyes on Si'anelle who did still continue to skirt the pool's edge with her careful step, Ae'thenal did know at once that the sharp hissed words spoken by the pale thin naked female creature who did hold her fast had been heard by her ears alone.
"Look upon your friend and truely see Ae'thenal. For Si'anelle, daughter of Arhaindir Moonhand who is of the Dead, alone is worthy of the gift."
Her terror did ebb within her then as the pale creature did release her grip and slip down into the mud, the oozing filth closing over her terrible staring eyes and wild matted hair and swallowing her down into the earth. Raising her head Ae'thenal did see her friend walking as if surrounded by a nimbus of protection, the dank mist heavy air and baleful light from the pool unable to touch so much as a hair of her head.
"Worthy by right of her maiden's virtue......" Came the whisper to Ae'thenal's ears. "Worthy by right of the love she does hold for her Everqueen.......Worthy by right of her pure intent.....Worthy alone to own the pearl Ae'thenal Oathmaker......" A chill touch did then caress her spine and Ae'thenal did tremble where she stood. "Go then Ae'thenal and prevent your friend if you will for the sake of oaths made in the innocence of childhood. For it is long since we who do dwell within the pool did have a living soul to torment and we do hunger."
With her tears wet upon her face Ae'thenal did then know the fate of all others who had trod the path to the pool 'Despairing'. And did know in truth the source of the wails and moans that still did arise from the chill waters of the pool. "For oaths made," she did then whisper to herself and gathering her resolve she did force herself to follow after Si'anelle. Placing her booted feet in the marks made in the foul mud by her friend's own feet in the hope that this would aid her progress.
Now she could clearly see the great toad that did squat among the massive roots of the ancient tree. The creature was huge, the size of an ox, its green brown hide rough with fist sized warts and its great eyes did watch Si'anelle as she did make her bow before him. "Great One," Ae'thenal did hear her friend say, "I do come seeking a gift I may give to another." The toad did make no move nor did it speak, but its eyes did blink slowly once.
"Si'anelle!" Ae'thenal did call out then, but as her friend did turn her face towards her with a questioning expression she did see the light of her joy in her eyes and her voice did fail her.
"Worthy......Ae'thenal Oathmaker" And Isha give of your mercy she did shake her head and stand dumb while Si'anelle did return her gaze to the great toad.
"Great One, I would give my gift to Alarielle, Everqueen of Avelorn," she did hear Si'anelle say and she did hold her breath while she trembled as if she was but a leaf in the wind. For a time the toad did not give any sign that it had so much had heard her friend's words, then it did loose a breathy sigh and shift its great bulk. And as it did ponderously shamble away quitting its nest among the tree roots a blaze of white light did burst forth driving back the dank mist. Laying bare the clearing and silencing the voices of the lost ones within the pool.
In awe Ae'thenal did watch as Si'anelle did drop to her knees and take up the pearl in her hands. Filling her cupped hands and like a sphere made of the purest alabaster the pearl was perfection without flaw. Rising to her feet Si'anelle did turn to her and it was like she did bear the full moon in her hands. All sign of bruising and fatigue had left her friend's face and her delight and joy did blaze like the sun as she did offer the pearl to her. "Take and hold the pearl Ae'thenal," she did say to her. "For as I did take it in my hands all my hunger, thirst and weariness did leave me."
Putting out her hands she did accept the pearl filled with wonder as its light shone out from between the fingers of her hands. Sweet music did fill her soul, easing her weariness, quenching her thirst and satisfying her hunger. "Oh Si'anelle," she did say as her tears did begin afresh, "I have been a fool to you, and no help in your quest. Will you find it in your heart to forgive me?"
Closing her hands over her own, so that now they both did hold the pearl Si'anelle did make a gift of her smile. "No dearest Ae'thenal, you must not weep. And there is no act of yours that I do have need to forgive; - for together we did win here to the pool 'Despairing'." With the pearl's pure light spilling from their hands, and its sweet music alive within her blood Ae'thenal did look upon her friend's face knowing her joy as if it was her own. She did feel as if with one whispered word she could rise up into the night and soar upon the winds that did search the mountain peaks bordering Avelorn.
Si'anelle's finger did lightly brush away a tear upon her cheek, "It is my true hope Ae'thenal that our Everqueen will also speak your name within the secret glades in the aftermath of the giving of my gift. For have you not also faced the same fears and dangers that I have faced, and have fought at my side against the many fell creatures that did dispute our passing these past two days." And in that moment Ae'thenal did know shame, because if the pearl had been hers to own she did know she could not bear to gift it to another of her free will. Gently Si'anelle did then lift the pearl from her reluctant fingers her gaze speaking her understanding. Though her friend's eyes also did neither accuse nor blame her for her weakness of spirit. As Si'anelle did begin to wrap the pearl in the fine sky blue silk she had brought with her for this very purpose the pearl's light and song did remain undiminished despite its covering. Placing the beautiful treasure within her pack her friend now did say, "Now all that does remain Ae'thenal, is for us to return unscathed."
"And also with the pearl still in your possession Si'anelle," Ae'thenal did reply with a following sigh.