RIPPLES IN THE DREAM POOL

A SANTHARIAN MYSTERY TALE

 
The Tales of Monsonius   
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Introduction. On the eve of battle a young wounded soldier is visited by a comrade, bearing expected news: He relates that an elven town will need to be defended from approaching enemy forces - and every hand is needed. Struggling with the inevitability of his situation the studied youth tries to find solace in the Gods, and lying on his sick bed he finds surprising parallels between human and elven faith. But by doing so he also discovers a fear in himself - that he might be just a ripple in a Goddess' Dream pool... Is he?

 

er face appeared calm and serene. And yet it was of an unfathomable elegance in its pure existence, shining in the brightest of white, the hair around it flowing, features so soft, almost indistinct. In a way she didn't seem to be there at all with her closed eyes and a mouth which was a mere line, nothing more. Her expression was neither sad nor was there a hint of a smile. Perhaps she was contemplating, or just contented the way she was there, perchance trying to forget, or maybe already far, far away on a journey only she could take - an observer would never know. The white marble she was hewn from made sure that her secret stayed encased within, a secret, which seemed to be destined to remain as eternal as her beauty.


Ripples in the Dream pool...


"Murmuring to yourself now?"

The booming voice brought the young man out of his reverie. The approaching heavy footsteps came to a halt and the figure they belonged to sat down on the bed next to the youth. He was clad in soldier's clothing - a chain coif around his neck, ring mail covering his breast, and a sword dangling from the sheath on his side. The man looked questioningly at the youth. "Murmuring to yourself now?" he repeated.

"I..." The young man he had addressed stuttered, unsure himself. Finally he looked up. "Ah, it's you, Koros. The Twelve with you! Well, about my muttering..."

"It's alright, Naeth, no need to explain yourself. From time to time we all have to convince ourselves that we're doing the right thing." His eyes met his companion's. Naeth had barely reached his eightteenth cycle, and his first encounter with the enemy had already left its marks. The youth's ear was wrapped in bandages and a long, barely healed scar ran along his cheek.

"You know... Why I'm talking to myself... I just looked at that statue, Koros," the young man began in a melancholic tone. "And I began to think..."

"What about?" Koros let his gaze wander through the wide entrance hall of the monastery. There were several statues of Gods and saints and small niches with altars in them. Now that the hall had been converted into a sick bay to tend the wounded they seemed out of place somehow, like a petrified reality of the past, artifacts of another time. The hustling and bustling of the healers and mindsmoothers disturbed their silence and they didn't seem to want to listen to the moans and groans of the soldiers on their beds either. Rather they were lost in their own world in midst of all the commotion, where there was little place for worship as it used to be in times of peace.

 

Koros' gaze arrived at the statue Naeth had mentioned.

"They say it is Jeyriall," Naeth pointed out, "She, who is the Fruitful One, the Wombmistress, she, who giveth life. She has her eyes closed to consider the future of the newborns. And in a way she is like Seyella, the Blind One, our Goddess of Destiny, when She does so. They both have so much in common, it's almost as if they are one and the same. I can't help but think about it."

"So? And what do you make of it?" the older solider replied.

"I was wondering, Koros... Does she know when I'll die as well? Like... if I have to return to battle tomorrow and get pierced by an orc's lance? Does she know that today might have already been the last time I watched the sun drown in the Burning Sea? And has she shown up here for the sole purpose to share this moment with me?"

"You needn't be afraid," the older soldier answered. "You will live, don't think too much about it," he added briefly, but then fell silent.

Naeth let his head sink. "You don't say much, but you have something in your mind, you can't fool me. Why else would you have come?" He sighed and then looked his friend right in the eye. "You have come to make sure that I am able to join the fight tomorrow. They've sent you to check on me, isn't it?"

Koros looked away, but nodded. "I've talked with the smoothers. They will let you go, and the commander needs every able man. The scouts leave no doubt that the enemy prepares on the outskirst of the woods. I have to take you with me when the day breaks and the troops set out."

"So it happens as I said," Naeth concluded and starred into nothingness, disillusioned. "My last sunset - I might have seen it already. The onslaught might be tomorrow then already, and so the Gods don't rule in our favour, we will perish, dying for the cause."

"You know as much as I do that it is necessary to save the lives of those elves up there before it's too late. Not just for the sake of the elves, but for all men - to protect the whole of southern Sarvonia from the advancing enemy. The battle is inevitable. So are time and place."

"And it has to be us who fight this battle?" Naeth's expression turned bitter. "I wonder... Years ago men fought the elves as if they were the source of all evil, and now it's on us to defend them. It never ends." The youth's hand touched the statue next to him and his fingers glided hesitantly along the Goddess' cheek.

"You know... When I lay there all night and day I thought about the elves as well when I looked at that statue. It's not just that Jeyriall reminds me of Seyella, that's just a superficial observation. But the elves believe in a Goddess we don't worship at all, one who stands above all the others, don't they? It is She, the High Goddess, who dreameth all things that happen, even the other Gods and their deeds, and the deeds of those who worship them, and even those who choose not to. And it struck me that we humans have named one of our months after the Sleeping Dreameress, but that we actually mean Jeyriall, she, who giveth life. Is it a coincidence? Is life just a dream?"

Koros smiled. "I never thought of that, my friend, but what do I know? Wouldn't I be just a soldier in that dream anyway?" He laughed heartily for a moment to release the tension. "However, just in case you are right - this might be one more reason why we have to return victorious from battle and get you back to your books where you belong!"

Naeth didn't join the laughing of his friend. "You said it, Koros... If the elves are right and there is that one High Goddess above everything else... Then... then we might all be just a dream..." Naeth almost whispered now. "And if the Goddess dreams that it is our turn to die, well, then there's nothing we can do. It's in the Goddess' dream. We are no more than ripples in the Dream pool as the elves use to say."

Koros didn't answer for a while, but then stated firmly: "You are not an elf, my friend. You were blessed by Jeyriall when you saw the light of the Injèrá for the first time, and while she considered your future, she put it in your very own hands." He stood up, the chain coif jingling. "We will triumph tomorrow, don't occupy yourself with matters of belief! Now have a good night's sleep and I'll fetch you early on to set out for the woods."

Naeth looked up, his voice was trembling. "I'm afraid..."

But Koros didn't hear him anymore. He had already turned around and headed out, making his way through the makeshift beds of wounded soldiers to leave the monastery.

Naeth leaned back, closed his eyes. There was that one thought that wouldn't let go of him and he repeated the sentence over and over, approaching and questioning it again and again. No way would he be able to get some sleep this night, no way.


Ripples in the Dream pool...


There was a warm sensation, then a bright light and the smell of fresh cha filling the room.

When the eyes slowly opened they were greeted by a delicate hand slowly moving over hair and cheek, caressing both of them, and there was a soft voice which reassuringly whispered again and again: "Stasaiá, línen'avá, stasaiá! Keep still, little one, keep still! You needn't be afraid!"

The little girl sat up and pushed back the blanket. She was still breathing heavily. Her small hands wiped away the tears from her eyes. Eventually she squintingly accepted the sunlight's presence in her small wooden chamber. The Injèrá was still burning strong outside, but she was on the brink of retreating for the day.

"It's still early, my dear, but you know, you need to be rested tomorrow!" the soft voice said.

"I... I couldn't sleep... I couldn't sleep..." The girl sobbed. " And then I..." She couldn't finish the sentence, but was glad that she wasn't alone anymore.

"It was all full of soldiers, cará," the girl then began to explain to her mother. "But they weren't clad as such. They lay on beds and mattresses spread out on the ground in a large hall made all of stone. They weren't like us. Some of them were still bleeding, others just lay there, asleep, or said nothing at all. They wailed and whined, and some of them prayed. And there were even more and more streaming in. The healers didn't have any space for them anymore."

Her mother had moved a water bowl next to the bedstand and now dipped soft moss into it to clean the girl's face from the sweat. She nodded and motioned her daughter to continue.

"And... and there was a man with bandages around the ear and a scar on his cheek! He thought about where he would have to go tomorrow. That he'd have to go into the woods and help other soldiers. To a battle, a big battle. And he was afraid, cará." The girl's breath became heavier again. "I could sense his fear... It was so close!"

"Calm down, línen'avá, calm down. It is still today and not tomorrow. The shadow hasn't lengthened yet, and only the Gods know that it will and when."

"But they will come, cará, they will come," the girl said with a trembling in her voice. "You know it as I do that they will come. - Will it all happen tomorrow?"

"I don't know, my dear, I can't say when the wind will rip our leaves from Eu'reóll and let them sink back into the Earth to make the tree blossom again. We are the leaves, not the wind, and how could we ever understand him?"

"Windersingers do!" the young one interjected adamantly.

Her mother smiled wrily. "Yes, but they've lived already for a long time before they do and are wiser and more patient than all of us together. We have to trust the judgement of the elders and listen to the voices of the Gods which speak through everything that is."

"Do the Gods also speak through humans?"

"They sure do, línen'avá. The Gods speak through everything."

The little girl's eyes widened. "Then the Gods must also send those soldiers here. It must be the Gods' will! Say, and if the humans come... If they fight on our side in the battle, cará... Will they defeat the darkfriends? Will they make a difference?"

Her mother fell silent for a moment. Then, when she wanted to talk again, her daughter had already been quicker: "I'm afraid, cará... I'm so afraid..."

"Still, línen'avá, still," her mother whispered and kissed her forehead. "Do not worry, we're all part of the same Dream. Do not worry, because you are not alone. We're all the ripples in the Dream pool, and without us the Dream pool would be naught. It has to be that way."

Finally she tucked the little girl in again and said: "But you need to rest now, there's a long day ahead. Do not worry, dream something nice instead, my dear. Dream of a day when our sorrows are all over and when you are one of those who sets out to finally sing with the wind yourself, a long, long time away from now - in a century the Dreamer has already seen right now."

"Good night, cará, I love you."


Ripples in the Dream pool...


"Murmuring again to yourself?"

The old man startled. Caught in the act he quickly lifted his head from the open book he had been lying on. He looked up with a guilty expression on his face. Still drowsy he tried to collect his thoughts. "I... I... must have dozed off..." he attempted an excuse.

"What you don't say, dear sage... Trust me, I've noticed," the young elf next to him replied. She had her hands full of ancient tomes, which she now deposited on the old man's desk, next to various maps and scrolls, which decorated the table almost to a degree that one could think it would give in any moment to the weight it had to carry.

"Thank you, thank you," the sage replied, pulling one of the volumes closer to inspect its cover. "Ah... A treatise from the famous O'dosía on the subject at hand! This will indeed be helpful for my researches!"

He leafed through a few pages, then addressed his assistant again. "You know, I just had the strangest dream," he began. "Even when I don't work it all comes back to me in a way when I'm resting, going around and around in my head, little bits and pieces connecting as if they were all parts of a greater puzzle I hadn't been aware of yet in full. It's as if my mind is trying to unearth something that happened millenia ago, and it all seems so real and clear.

Just consider this: There was this thought I had, or maybe it was just a moment, a glimpse into a world that seems distant and strange when you look at it from afar... You know, I dreamt of what I had been researching all day, the battle at the Bolder as it happened at the beginning of the Third Sarvonian War. It was when the human soldiers of Voldar set out to defend Ranndár, the heart of the Aellenrhím settlements in the Bolder woods, from the orcs moving south. The northern territories and the Calmarios forest had already fallen prey to the Children of the Fire and the situation was hopeless. The elves had no other choice as to beg a human king for help, and this time around their plea was finally heard. It was the first time our race supported yours against a common enemy. Wasn't that something?"

"That's where it all began, yes..." the elf agreed. "So your dream was about that famous Battle of Ranndár?"

"No, no, not exactly, my dear. It was quite different to what you might imagine. Ah, you must be thinking the old man's just rambling..." the sage chuckled. "But what happened was that I dreamt of a young human soldier and an elven girl on the eve of that fateful day. That day when the orcs stormed the town. Somehow they were both present in my mind, all at the same time, aware of each other as I was aware of them. Only that I could look back on it now that millenia have passed with the knowledge I have today."

"With the knowledge you mean that Ranndár was nearly destroyed in the fire the orcs had set? That thousands of humans and elves died trying to defend the city? That even the sanctuary of the monastery of Agadin was completely eradicated? And that only mere luck saved the forest itself and the Aellenrhim therein from extinction?"

"Indeed, you've said it," the sage nodded.

"So what happened then to the ones in your dream?" the elf wanted to know. "The girl and the soldier? Did they survive?"

The sage frowned and sighed. "I don't know, my dear, I really don't know. How could I? What importance would it have if I did? I barely got to know them in this fleeting vision. - There are those that might say: It was just a dream anyway. Yet to me it was a glimpse at another point in time, at a moment that felt real as I became aware of two sides at once. It all was wrapped in an aura of the foreboding, which would fulfill itself and become what we now know as an event in history, an event like so many others, which we teach from generation to generation.

Well, isn't it a pity? That such moments, such sentiments and fears of people on the eve of the unavoidable are nothing that would ever be found in any history book? As in those chronicles the events are just passed down to us as if they always happened, inevitably, out of causes, necessities that lead to a consequential outcome. Be they good or bad, full of hope or the forboding, but this seems to be the course and curse of history, isn't it? Only now that we are standing on the other side we can look back at them, and we just pick out those events which matter to us."

The sage paused for a moment before he went on. "Ah yes, all those events are like buildings that you go by day by day in our beloved New-Santhala, errected in ages past, however they've always been there for you and you never think a moment that they might not have always stood there. But many a hand was involved in building such halls which now harbour the libraries of the Compendium, dozens over dozens, even hundreds, who built them, even at times when these halls served entirely different purposes. And sometimes I think all those hands, their efforts, even their questions and doubts are much too easily forgotten. But every single one of them has a part in it why we are here right now, even though we might not be aware of that..."

"Now you are rambling a bit, my dear sage," the elf replied with affection. "What is it you are trying to say?"

The sage smirked back at the young elf and put on his gnomish made eye-glasses. "Sometimes, my dear, it helps to dream - to dream, just to understand reality a bit, you know. I guess that's what I've learned today. But I assume that you, being of elvenkind, already know that, right? It's just that we humans sometimes need a little reminder."

The sage didn't wait for an answer now that he had made his point. Rather he grabbed his quill, dipped it into his ink pot and began to scribble down a few words.

The elf nodded and smiled, then silently headed out into the archives. For now the sage was busy again, but would soon require further material on the beginning of the Third Sarvonian War - the war which had managed to unite the seemingly irreconcilable elves and humans until this very day.

The archive the elf entered was full with tomes, but not only that - aside from books and scrolls there were also artifacts and crates with seemingly endless research materials sent from all over Sarvonia to New-Santhala. It was a true treasure trove for anyone interested in history, the arts, magic, botany, zoology, languages, cosmology, well, just about everything.
An unexpected shout from the study made the young elf spin around. "Rayne?"

"Yes?" Rayne shouted back. "What is it, Artimidor?"

"There are some more books I need! You should find them in the archive somewhere near the area covered with white sheets - at the back! You know, there's all that stuff from the crates containing valuable fragments of the excavations near Voldar. I'm pretty sure I left those tomes there. Can you have a look and fetch them for me?"

"I'm on my way, be there in a moment..." the young elf confirmed and looked around, already spotting the white sheets the sage had mentioned. Indeed, the books were lying there next to a mysterious shape covered all in white. Rayne quickly grabbed the books but couldn't help to wonder for a moment what was buried there under what now looked like a mountain of cloth. Curiously she approached the shape and lifted one of its ends...

There was the torso of a sculpture under the cloth, and while the piece was broken from the neck down, the head was practically unharmed. The elf threw the sheets back and studied it carefully, realizing that it belonged to a woman:

Her face appeared calm and serene. And yet it was of an unfathomable elegance in its pure existence, shining in the brightest of white, the hair around it flowing, features so soft, almost indistinct. In a way she didn't seem to be there at all with her closed eyes and a mouth which was a mere line, nothing more. Her expression was neither sad nor was there a hint of a smile. Perhaps she was contemplating, or just contented the way she was there, perchance trying to forget, or maybe already far, far away on a journey only she could take - an observer would never know. The white marble she was hewn from made sure that her secret stayed encased within, a secret, which seemed to be destined to remain as eternal as her beauty.


Ripples in the Dream pool...

 


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 Date of last edit 6th Molten Ice 1672 a.S.

Mystery Tale written by by Artimidor Federkiel View Profile