CHAPTER I: RETURN

A SANTHARIAN POETIC NOVELLA

 
The Tales of Chyrán   
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Introduction. In the first chapter Chyrán introduces us into the queer yet magical world of "The Ring", where beginning and ending, arrival and departure, home and far-off places are inseparable and two sides of the same thing, of the "contraditions" of life as we know it. Chyrán links the existence of the single being to the sea leading up to a refrain that will be picked up again and again later in the text. This introductory passage will be quoted, expanded and transformed, adding depth and meaning. It is sort of a pluse that will permeate the rest of the "Ring" experience.
 

and ho! Land ho! All hands on deck! A-all ha-ands o-o-on deck!"

Could it be? Ciosa already? For a moment I freeze in my chores.

There, I hear the mate raising his voice again: "Land ho, land ho! T' Foggy Old Lady's all aglo-ow!"

From way down in the hold up through the open hatch I peek, just to get a glimpse of the crow's nest from where had sounded the yelling. The lookout waves avidly down at us. Is he joking? Well, from here there's no way of telling.... But only a few moments later loud cheers ring through the whole ship and the thrill and the excitement of arrival spreads like wildfire. I drop my ropes as well, enthused, no less amused by the gay emotions among the men, then head off towards starboard: Here's someone who needs to have a look, firsthand.

Brooding Jepp

View picture in full size Picture description. The famous Starcharts Astrendum of Ciosa. Image drawn by Seeker.

Aye, so it is: Ciosa... The splendour of Port Cael! – I barely recognize her though through the early morning haze, said Old Lady, the ancient Avennorian metropolis, town of many cultures, voices, colours and creed, Sarvonia’s gateway to the other continents, that stalwart bastion defying the ever changing sands of time. Gently she emerges now out of the remnants of the night, and then, resplendent and sublime, she’s revealed in her scantly lit glory. Keeper and seeker she is of many a heroic story, and thus the still dreamy town begins once more to shine again, the moment day finally breaks. In wait for more of the same from her deep slumber she awakes.

Ah, there it is indeed, the long awaited sight of the quay: Next to it, in the fading moonlight bathed, the waters are shimmering, and rocking along the docks are droves of tiny fishing boats. The fellows are already getting out, packed in heavy coats, the lamps attached to their bows still eerily glimmering. Fully laden, there’s no doubt that the catch had been truly blessed: Bone-weary they finally have returned; now their wives take over, quickly rub the fish with salt, for on the markets coins want to be earned.

A couple of traders are moored on the quay too, some of them full-rigged brigs, even heavy bareks and tritons one finds interspersed. As the day calls commotion also picks up on the single whaler, it’s the most prominent of them all, the largest ship. Aye, and here and there I spot the occasional sailor, who, while preparing for his own trip, stops for a bit to point out at sea – to greet the newcomers, that’s us, of course: Vigorously they’re waving at my crew and me. As we head for shore we sport a smile as we look back at them, thinking of the millennia old, indubitably proven piece of lore: that "To those who catch the day’s first fish Baveras will grant a heartfelt wish!"– Ah, Ciosa!

The closer we draw, the more the city’s rolling hills slowly peel out of the twilight’s curtains, and with them arise the majestic walls of the Astrendum overlooking the city. Then, what we’ve only sensed so far, we’re about to see for certain: Somewhere in the far distance – still hidden yet, but there he must be, indeed, look! –, there’s the guardian; this is he, the familiar face of Jepp, good old Jepp. Always watching, always knowing Brooding Jepp, the gargantuan stone-face, dominating the nearby quarry. For ages and ages he has been serving as the warden of this ancient Avennorian port, unchanged, gigantic, adamantine, withstanding wind and weather, holding the fort. Perhaps his frown is a mere whim of the Gods who decided to create a face out of that mass of stone? Maybe it was once hewn into the mountainside by a tribe now unknown? Or the quarry's features are remnants of a living giant that never aged, once petrified by wizards when the War of the Chosen raged? – Who would know? Could even be the colossus will rise again when the spell wears off someday, at least that’s what the most superstitious among the Ciosans say. Whatever the truth, Jepp's always here – to bid you well on your ways, he’s here to greet returning souls, be it morn, bright day or eve. He knows your path, that’s the commoner’s belief at least, he knows your quests and goals, the worries, doubts, your grief – whether bliss or woes, the giant knows – don’t ask why – but sure he knows.

"Land ho! Land ho! Hoi, hoi! How're things up there, Jepp? Just for a change: Won't you look down below?" I hear the sailors chant, and thus round and round the teasings go, yet the stone-face won’t even signifying a "no".

And so our ship reaches the harbour and the dock, ends its voyage, comes to a rest, while out of the nearby huts the workers flock unloading cargo of the unexpected guest.
 

Brooding Jepp

View picture in full size Picture description. Ciosa's breathtaking landmark, the ever present Brooding Jepp - a millenia old stone formation on the east side of Hawkeye Quarry resembling a giant's face. Image drawn by Jordy.

"Land ho! Land ho! Hoi, hoi! How're things up there, Jepp? Won't you look down below?"

A smile my mates earn, though join in I shan't, just grab my things, and off I go – up and about, spreading my wings. Aye, back I am, it's my city that calls, far too long I've been away. Too long I've missed those grey, yet proud and trusted walls, and the farther away, the more I’ve longed to stay.

Returned they are, those tired feet, from labour strained, they've plodded through the cold, the heat. Returned they are, welcomed home, in the distance gone are all those places they once set out to find, explore, to roam. Now the pier where I once left lies quiet, mysterious and calm, bathed in the morning breeze – and yet there’s already business going on. The sailors' to and fro I barely notice as I go, and constant cobblestone beat accompanies my leave. Slowly – almost unnoticed – the nearby market comes alive. The bakers lay out their rolls, divers present their pearls, and fresh fish are put on ice. Kegs are carried, sausages varied are sorted, cut and hung, and with an eye's twinkle pastries turn sugar-sprinkled, and happy tunes are being hummed. The smell of spices fills the air: from tangy, bitter, sharp to the oddest fare they range – some are common, others rare, from every tribe and place a share.

I shoulder my seaman’s chest and move along. A nod here, one there, then I purse my lips to whistle a song. Through still dim and shady alleys I stroll, and then there's Sneaker's Ave, the place where poor Knupp once found his death, and I observe myself sneaking up that very lane, as a personal tribute – well, to the Sneaker's disputable fame. Another lane, and after that one more, all up Skandvansk hill I walk, past stalls and taverns, inns and seedy places – many a stranger I meet, amongst them also a couple of familiar faces.

Once on top, I pause, let my feet rest. I turn around, look back and catch my breath. For a while my gaze drifts over all the hustling and the bustling, and as I look down I can't help but sigh – 'cause my eyes follow all those people moving, from here to there, up, down and around. As if they all know what they want, as if what they seek is only a matter of when it’s going to be found – and in all that: a sense of purpose, determination abounds. It’s like a recurring celebration: Once more the Injèrá has circled, a day has risen, and with it life in an ancient harbour town. My gaze wanders back to sea from where I’ve come: By now the early morning wafts are almost gone, chased by the sun, their misty veil replaced by dawn.

"How're things up there, Jepp? Won't you look down below?"

The crew's blitheful ditty comes to mind as I look down at our vessel – unreal, distant, tiny, appearing like a toy. And now that I'm up here myself, on the porch of the world, I let my eyes drift, over the town, the port, the ships, the sea, and think about that cheerful song: Up here now it's almost as if they're addressing me – as if the sailors wave and laugh and ask what I see. With a smirk I turn to find Old Jepp in his own way now awakened, the sun’s brilliant light finally has brought him back – it's hard to notice, but in all the morning glory he's as alive as a face in a rock might ever get. Still, while he sees it all his eternal wisdom remains unspoken, never he seems in the mood, he just observes, contemplates and broods... And somehow I understand. Thus by the same token I follow his example, watch and wonder, I reminisce, dream and ponder, however I keep things to myself. What other wisdom might I conceive at this very moment anyway other than how great it is to be alive and greet the day? So I say to myself and eventually I turn, and, well, in that spirit walk away.

It’s not far from here, just a few corners. Already I've reached my street – there's the well, the giant oak and Tinker's Square, the place where we as children used to meet. Ah, what memories it holds! Well then, just a few steps more and I’m home at my humble, ever patient abode waiting ashore.
 

Waves on open sea

Picture description. Waves on the open Adanian Sea. Image drawn by Quellion.

A lock, a key. A step. The door falls shut...

I take a deep breath. One moment I pause, look around, take in what I see.

The well, the giant oak, Tinker's Square, a street ahead that beckons me. And though I tarry as I stand, I feel excited, adventurous, prepared and ready – my heart will tell me where to head. Let my feet be my trusted guide, bold or hesitant, cautious or confident, delight lies in the will to stride. Whatever they may stumble upon, I trust my feet will find their way – it's by the Gods’ fancies they’ll abide, I never fear they’ll lead astray.

Dawn has long broken as I start out, no need to look back. Past the stone-faced guardian I go, sowed like a leaf in the breeze, towards the market's to and fro, cobblestone beat accompanies my leave. The nightly shadows now have fully retreated, even Sneaker's Ave is suffused with rays of light. Once again Ciosa's pride has emerged undefeated, well, a rimmer howls in a corner – probably just out of spite.

Wherever I look, more and more the streets become alive. I grab my chest, in it only a few things – an apple, a bottle, a knife, there’s a deck of cards, maps, some books and clothes – just the stuff a sailor needs to board, pass time, survive. Through alley after alley I walk, run down a flight of stairs, on passing I can’t help but pick up some latest talk, along with vendors incessantly praising wares. Fare thee well then, Jepp, fare thee well, Ciosa, a chapter is closing, a new one begins, so let's hear that brand new tale fate is now about to spin.

And then I find myself back where I once stood, where I’ve always been standing, or so it feels. The baggage tucked away, my hand on the railing, mind wandering. For quite a while now the sails have been set, I catch a last glance of what I left, and while I might once return I know that there's never ever a going back.

Thus I stare out there, listen to the creaking of the planks, I feel the sea's eternal breathing, the heaving and the splashing, watch the passing of the banks. The anchor is now hoisted, it's right here with me, and we're heading together out there, the air – once cold and foggy – again smells fresh, smells free... – Aye, there's a place somewhere we don't know yet, my anchor and me, but it's the place we'll find and maybe conquer, the place where we're both going to be.

Let bygones be bygones, I have to remind myself. Smell the breeze of what's becoming, new things are on the verge. Be brave, I hear myself talking, face the change. A world's ahead, a shore wants to be reached! Onwards then, traveller, towards and with the teachings of the sea. Fear not, just listen, look and learn: On and on, arrived then gone – a wave is but the wind's next pawn. Far out there in midst the deep blue sea, forlorn, reborn, and still, oh wave: I harken thee. Thou, fleeting soldier among soldiers, ordered around and around, on the move from here to there. Nowhere you've really been, but yet you wish to be everywhere.

Aye, some say a wave is always on the run, your will is not your own. A moving spot is your existence, a spot you confuse with home. Lacking ground, how could you ever be profound? But trust me – in me you've got a friend, my comrade: I'm the one to rejoice in your mumbling and your grumbling, whether you're quietly gurgling or rushing aloud, merely drifting along under glistening sun, get enraged by the odd stormy cloud. May a gale pick you up to dance and twirl, make you sink back, let you rise, toss and whirl, may you be a maelstrom's pet, aye, even split by a ship, on and on, arrived and gone, ever on, just a pawn – on that endless, endless, endless trip. Ah, how I feel with you, how I live and breathe your gentle swaying, I, sailor in deed, sailor in heart. We might be close, we might be apart, wherever we are, whatever we see, whenever we are out there, admit it, my sibling, we both do agree: 'cause we share more than a pulse, but a notion, a need, fear, longing, a hope and a dream – that's us, a wave on its way and that sailor, that's me. Be my companion and I'll be yours: Horizons far, horizons wide, weren't we all chosen to be in for the eternal ride? Bleak and dreary or gurgling, cheery, the command is given by the tide.

I am but a wave. A wave I've been, a wave I'll be, a wave that rocks on open sea.
 


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 Date of last edit 23rd Dead Tree 1674 a.S.

Mystery Tale written by by Artimidor Federkiel View Profile