Asking the Wise
The Feast of Samhain
Location: Felonwood Farm, Harkania March, Cymeria - farm belongs to House Stormdanovich
Timeline: 31 October 3550, early evening
The soft hum of the music danced on the cool autumn winds, and if one indulged in a little imagination, he might hear the voices of the hidden people echo through the chilly autumn mists. Or so Gero thought, as his eyes watchfully scanned over the people feasting on the grounds of the farm. Laughter, singing and a flash of colour from the lady’s dresses formed a swirl of happiness, that seemed to defy the chilly air or the mists that reminded him of the Night of the Hunter, who would ride through the mists of this night, to claim the colder days for himself.
“Don’t look so grim, Nighthunter.” Oreás had drifted close to him, handing him a warm cup. The wolf wyr was in an unusually good mood, and Gero ventured to guess that it had something to do with a certain pale-haired lady, who did grace the celebrations. “If the rider comes here, we’ll give him a chase he won’t forget.” Those almost fiercely happy words told Gero that Oreás was truly relaxed, ready to tackle any mysterious danger should it step from the woods, or to simply celebrate the time of the mists otherwise.
“The Wanderer is on his way,” Gero could not help it, the traditional words still came to him. “He took to the road as the mists rose…”
“... for it was a cold day and will be a wretched night.” Oreás finished the line, part of the old stories and of their belief in all those things that would wander the chilly forests of mist. “The Wanderer is on his way, and he will not find the fallen house empty. We’ll stand watch,” he added what they both had been thinking. For a moment the tall wyr became very earnest. “Do not worry, Nighthunter, this place is well guarded.”
Gero watched Oreás walk off, to join Lady Kerowyn for a dance. He smiled slightly, they were probably right. But he could not relax, something inside him was restless like he was waiting for something to happen. Again he studied the revelers on the grounds, many faces were familiar, others he knew in passing, but they all created a powerful sense of knowing, of belonging here, and all the stronger became the restless sense inside him.
A graceful lady walked out of the main hall into the cooler air, her presence attracted Gero’s attention at once. Her walk was graceful and strong, an elegant stride that hid strength and danger in equal measure. She seemed smaller and slighter than many Cymry but beneath that lay something more, something that made his senses tingle. Song Chai was a mage and one of considerable presence. Her echo made her stand out, to Gero she was like a bonfire compared to candles surrounding her, it made her stand apart far more than her exotic features, a legacy of her part-Xian heritage.
Xian, that word reminded Gero of the restless dream in the night before. Maybe he would always connect Xia with Eracane, for it had been on that ship bound for Xia he had last seen her. He could not tell what had become of her since, four centuries of silence stretched between them, and for all he knew she might have found a sailor to take her to the fabled Riesland, or across the sea of dreams. Still, only one night ago, in a laden, heavy dream he had seen her like she was standing beside his fireplace.
She had not been the young girl he had seen leave, she had been a grown Wyr woman, with scars and pains, her drawn features reminiscent of Sulbeith the Grim, their common relative. She had raised a hand to him and spoken in his dream, words that he had not recognized. Usa, Kurenai, Gero? Watashi wa kare hitsuyō. Twice she had spoken those words, before something had yanked him from the dream, waking up shaking and bathed in sweat.
He had penned down what he had understood swiftly, while the memory was still fresh. But it had not helped much. Gero was no stranger to tongues, he had picked up some them in his travels. But neither the tongue of the Vanir nor the tongues of Stygia sounded vaguely like what he had heard. Nor did the tongue of the Shyraki. If any tongue had taught Gero to listen and adapt to complex sounds it had been the language of Shyrakhan, that he had learned when he had been much younger. But the words had not sounded anything like it. Nor like any other tongue he knew.
But there was something much likely. Eracane had gone to Xia and if… if that dream meant anything at all, then the words might be in the language of the far off continent. If… could he even assume that the dream meant something? He had sometimes dreamt of his family, of his father Hendric who hunted the moon with the Selkies up north, or of his ancestral home at the bay of Echoes. Such dreams had no meaning, the presented a memory, a longing, that was natural to all beings, even if it was weak in most of his line. So why did he assume that the dream meant something?
He could not say, but the simplest answer would be to find out whether the words made sense, or if they were just that - weird sounds that he had dreamt up. It felt foolish enough. Gero pushed himself to leave the shadows where he had been standing. Sometimes one had to be a fool, and sometimes one had to forget about dreams. Slipping past some hearty revelers, he approached Mage Song Chai, as she seemed to have just taken a moment of quiet.
Long trestle-type dining tables had been set up inside Felonwood Hall as well as in its courtyard and gardens to accommodate as many of the local populace as possible. Song had been wandering the celebration, catching snippets of conversation, and making sure to note anything of substance that might need to be passed along to others later. Inside Felonwood’s hall, the great fireplaces blazed with continually stoked fires to provide a warm environment for those that could not withstand the chill outside. Song found it cloistering and decided to return to the outside.
Pausing outside the side door to the hall and in a very cat-like move, Song stretched languidly as she inhaled the crisp air and released the breath along with the noisome smells of the crowded house behind her. She was about to start prowling the grounds again, perhaps look for a mug of hot chai tea when she spotted someone she knew. Moving quickly, she sidestepped a couple of revelers and arrived at the man’s side just as his companion headed for the area set aside for dancing. Bowing gracefully from the waist, Song straightened with her palms place together and drawn toward her chest, the fingers first pointing outward and then upward. The gesture was a traditional salute used by those of the Theurgy Guild, a greeting of profound respect.
“Good eventide, Master Gero,” Song said. The accent she had learned from her Xian father, who had spent the most time teaching her, had never completely faded. It lent her a faint aura of mystery. “I am pleased to report all seems quiet so far. Still, there is something more than revelry in the air. I am sure your Wyr, whose senses are far acuter than mine, are keeping alert.” She flashed the older man a smile full of affection and no little humor. An elegant gesture indicated the dance floor where a tall, handsome Wyr danced with a beautiful silver-haired woman. “Except maybe Master Oréas. Perhaps he has more on his mind these days?”
Gero bowed, both hands flatly crossed against his shoulders, the ancient gesture of respect of a Wyr greeting one of the wise. “May the winds of night bless you, Mage Song.” his eyes sparkled at her comment about Oreás, glancing over to his friend who was still dancing with Lady Kerowyn. “You speak truly there, my lady,” he replied, “though I am sure, should something appear from the mists, his Lady will always know before he does.” That she too felt something out there, was worrying and it also confirmed Gero’s own suspicions. Her senses, vastly different from the Wyr’s may even pick up on things that would always be closed to a Wyr.
For a moment he hesitated to speak on, half tempted to ask her to dance and simply forget about the dream of the night. “I would not wish to keep you from celebrating,” he said eventually. “Though I ask your indulgence for a moment. There is something I need to ask, and I apologize should the question be impertinent to your person.”
"Why, Master Gero!" Song exclaimed with a soft chime-like laugh, "I cannot imagine you would ever be impertinent to those that have earned your friendship and respect!" She held out her hand and assumed a flirtatious air, "Walk with me? Moving targets are harder to overhear, and it can do nothing but good for my reputation to be seen being escorted by such a handsome man of the Court."
Gero bowed slightly ere taking her arm to walk with her. “Or you might see me accused of stealing one of our most beautiful ladies, from her admirers,” he replied, with a warm sparkle in his eyes. As they walked further away from Felonwood Hall, the music behind them picked up another dance, two fiddles beginning the swift light tune of the Lady of the Mists, laughter mingled with the dancers joining in the merriment. Gero’s eyes were more directed on the darkness, the shadows, the people keeping at the fringes of the events. Nothing stood out for the moment, and he knew that Lady Song Chai probably was as watchful. “It may sound strange to ask, but did you learn your father’s tongue, the Xian tongue, when you grew up in his house?” Gero tried to phrase it in a way that did not make it sound like a failure of any kind, had her father chosen to not teach her. Living in Aquitaine, he had probably been careful to adhere to whatever his chosen homeland expected of its citizens beyond obligatory conversion to their faith.
"Oh yes. Father was adamant we learn both his language and our mother's. As we were at the inn so much, we also picked up a smattering of other tongues too," Song replied, always happy to speak of Aquitaine and her family despite the fact that Cymeria was her home now. "He loved Xia and was often homesick, but the constant conflicts there..." she shrugged. "He said it was a young man's game and not one he cared to engage in. Why do you ask?" Song's tone implied curiosity only.
Her knowledge of many tongues might be helpful… if those words from his dream had any real meaning at all. “There is a phrase, some words, that I am not sure what tongue they are in, or if they are a tongue at all. They might not be, but if they are, there is a chance that… that they could be Xian.” Gero replied. “But I never heard enough of the spoken tongue, to even guess if the words sounded any like your father’s tongue.”
Song tilted her head so she could look at Gero, “I cannot, of course, guarantee I know it. There are many dialects in use in Xia.” She laughed, “My father always said the favored language rose and fell as often as the Khans.”
Vaguely Gero remembered Eracane claiming that the roots of the oldest languages might still be found in Xia, in their whirling teeming masses of hundreds of tongues. Not a very helpful thought. They had come to a darker edge of the grounds, turning to the side to not stroll off into the night. Inwardly Gero recalled the dream, seeing Eracane standing by the fire and her voice, trying to reproduce the words as precisely as he could. “Usa, Kurenai, Gero? Watashi wa kare hitsuyō.”, the words seemed unwieldy in his own voice, strange and mangled, making him doubt even more that they had a meaning.
The words had the ring of familiarity in them, inflection reminiscent of things Song had heard her father say. She continued to pace next to Gero, her eyes cast to the ground at their feet as she mouthed the words softly to herself. Glancing at Gero, she repeated the phrase, “Usa, Kurenai, Gero? Watashi wa kare hitsuyō. or…” she changed her inflection to emphasize Kurenai, “Usa, Kurenai, Gero? Watashi wa kare hitsuyō.?”
Gero listened to her speaking, when the words came from her, they sounded so much more like the ones from his dream. “The latter,” he confirmed. “What you said last… that sounded exactly like them.”
“Then you are, indeed, lucky, Gero,” Song replied with dancing eyes. The words themselves come from a couple of sources including an ancient, rather obscure trade tongue. My father was a merchant. The languages of trade were his bread and butter, and one had to know which one particular Khan preferred.” She glanced at him to see that he understood what she was trying to explain. “The phrase as you stated it was Where is Kurenai, Gero? I need to find him.. Kurenai means crimson in an ancient dialect and is only used in recent times as a name. By recent, I mean for the last few hundreds of years.”
Gero looked at her, amazed and surprised, not only surprised that the words from his dream truly had meaning, but also that Song had been able to read so much from so few words. “Lady Song, you are truly a marvel of ancient knowledge,” he said, admitting to his amazement. “And I thank you deeply for your wisdom. You have given me a surprising answer… and a greater riddle even in turn.” He was very grateful she had taken the time and patience. Not every scholar was willing to ponder strange questions or stranger words.
“I am delighted to have been of service,” Song said. “And while your praise is greatly welcomed and appreciated, I should say it is not so much a marvel when you consider how much time I spend reading the ancient texts while searching for hidden arcane meanings and artifacts.” Again her eyes sparkled with light and good humor, “The Sanctuary will be pleased to know all of the years spent training me has merit.” She was curious to know more, why Gero was receiving a message in a mix of Xian dialects, but she deemed it inappropriate to ask
“The Sanctuary should be glad to have you,” Gero replied, he had considered approaching Song to join the Ravens in the past. She was strong, smart, loyal and very very capable, her knowledge of languages was yet another aspect of her skills. “And I still do very much appreciate that you took the time to help me. To be honest… I had not expected the words to make any sense since they came from a dream. Now after what you have told me, I… I can only guess that this dream was more than just that.”
Now, Song was definitely curious. “You are more than welcome to my skills and knowledge any time you have need of them, my friend. Forgive me if I am too forward, but is dream sending an art amongst the Wyr?”
“Your wisdom, and even more your questions are welcome, Song.” Gero was almost glad that Song turned her sharp mind to his riddle. “What you ask… is a myth. A legend. A story from the elder days. Legend has it, that Lifthrasil sent dreams to guide lost clans across the burning lands, and that Arakaine of Stormhunter Pride sent a dream to his blood brother to warn him of the black hunter.” He shook his head. “Songs and stories, legends that we tell our children when they are alone in the dark. My father, Hendric, once claimed that the Selkies of the North, send children away who showed signs of intruding upon their clan’s dreams. He did not really believe those children were doing what the Elders claimed. I can honestly say, that I have never met a Wyr who could dreamwalk. And yet…”
He sighed, shaking his head. “Last night I had a dream, a dream that felt heavy… laden, like pressure, weight. In that dream, I saw my sister, Eracane standing in my room by the fire. She was not young, not like when we parted, but grown, older, grimmer. She reached out to me… and when she spoke it was the words you heard. Then there was a light, and the dream ended. I woke, feeling like I had run around the castle all night.” Now that he spoke of it all, he was almost sure he had seen another shape in the room. Another cat. But he was not sure if that meant anything at all.
Song remained silent for several moments as she considered Gero’s measured words. “Such things are known, Master Gero. Your dream sounds like more than the mere sending of a message. The feelings it left you with upon awakening sound as if a geas has been laid upon you to find this Kurenai of which your sister spoke.”
Her words gave Gero an aspect he had not even thought to consider. Up to this moment, he had assumed that the dream, if it was anything at all, was a message. Now he had to wonder if it was far more. “If I had the faintest idea of whom she spoke, I might try.” He replied, dry humor in his voice. “It was already a wild guess that she spoke in a Xian tongue, for Eracane went to Xia almost four hundred years ago.” He forced himself to quiet down, to not speak on, just to let it settle for a moment, turning to what she had said again. “Song, is there any way to know if a geas, or other marks, has been laid upon a person?” He had to ask, he had heard of geas more than once among Cymry, it was something of their ways, but he had never asked how to test someone for one. Or did one simply know it was there?
“Most often, a geas takes the form of a compulsion to do something, pursue a certain course of action or even not to do it. If you have come under a geas to find this Kurenai, you will be moved in the direction you need to go, in both large and small ways. It may be as simple as feeling the need to be included with the High Lord’s hunting party.” Song paused to study Gero carefully, extending her arcane senses to try and read him, to discern if his aura had changed in any way. Finally, she shook her head, “I see nothing, but in the case of a well-laid geas, that is not unusual. This means it is likely benign.”
Gero listened quietly to her explanations, appreciating her sharing her wisdom. “So the best I can do is wait, and see when such a nudge may find me.” It was all that could be done, but if this dream held truth, then Eracane must have had reason to assume that this Kurenai, whoever he might be, might be in Gero’s reach somehow. What quarry or enemy was she pursuing? Only time could tell. “Thank you, my friend, for listening to my strange tale,” Gero said to Song. “and may I ask for a dance once we return to the feast?”
“I would be honored to share a dance with you, kind sir,” Song answered, slipping her arm through his in a companionable gesture. “Tell me the news of the Wyr as we walk back?” She said, as always hungry for the news of the lands that had become her home.