Winter Sleeping, Chaser’s Day 2, Year of the Lion number 428; December 30, 1739 Agathon; Linne 182
Has it really been this long since I last wrote in my journal? Chalk it up to being busy and having nothing to say.
Which isn’t entirely true. I have plenty to say. I just haven’t been up to writing it all down. It takes time and effort. I started a few times but…
To be honest with you and myself, I don’t have a good excuse. Today, though I have something to write and I have time to write it. Yes, it’s been almost five months since I left Featherscar. Yes, many things have happened to me since then. I have had some good experiences and some bad ones. I’ve made some friends, some enemies, and lost both. Maybe I’ll come back around and fill in some of the blanks. I probably won’t. There are all kinds of things I’ve skipped over that I’d like to write about.
But not today. Not now.
A quick recap. Sometime back in August, as the locals call it, I left Featherscar. It wasn’t the next day as I had promised, but it was within a few days. I booked passage on a three-masted caravel called the Endless Sunbeam. It was a fine ship with a fine captain and crew. We traveled south along the eastern coast of Hammermaiden Island, also known as the Kenku country, Robgarde. Most of its eastern coast is mountainous, but there are a few towns and villages we visited. I can’t say it was hugely profitable, but this was one of the lesser traveled routes.
We finally arrived, after about four months, in Haglow, Wrige. Wrige is one of those places that just seems like a whole lot of nothing. Flat land, open plains, gentle rolling hills, a few winding rivers and streams, and generally isolated from the rest of the world, even though they are practically in the middle.
It’s one of the three countries in the world populated by halflings. I was kind of excited because Alani had talked about it with such longing, but my emotions were tempered with her memory.
Haglow is barely more than a port town with a lot of fishing and a few taverns. I stayed for a few days before heading west to Direnat. Unlike most of the human-populated countries, the roads were just paths through the tall grass. Wagons moved slowly and horses had to be careful where they stepped. The weather was generally mild, though the afternoons were hotter than I expected.
Two weeks later I arrived in the capital city of Direnat. Calling Direnat a city is a stretch. Halflings like to build their homes underground. Not in caves, but hollowed-out hills that are finished and adorned with comfort and utility in mind. The few structures above ground are meeting halls, taverns, temples, and the occasional mill or silo. If everyone stayed at home with their doors closed and locked, an army could pass through the area and not realize they’ve missed over three thousand people.
Today, when I arrived, it was just a few days past the start of the summer season. Fields were already planted and green sproutlings were just beginning to break the surface in their search for sunlight. I’m not exactly sure when I crossed the city’s border, but I was sure I had when several very small children ran circles around me, laughing and giggling. They were barely as tall as my knees.
In the distance I saw several above-ground buildings clustered together. There were no defined roads so I just set a path in that direction. I had no idea if I was walking over peoples’ houses or through their yards. No one seemed to care if I did. As I got close, there was a large field littered with trash and debris. Several halflings were cleaning up trash and piling it into a wooden bin.
On a bench near one end of the field a woman wearing a white robe sat with several others sitting in the grass around her. As she talked, one among the listeners would raise a hand to ask a question. I was curious, so I approached, though my intent was to find a tavern and book a room for a few days.
A few of the listeners seemed to notice my approach, but the speaker, the woman in the white robe, didn’t acknowledge me until she’d finished what she was saying. “My friends,” she was saying, “if your eyes are open, your entire body will be full of light and truth. But if your eyes are closed, darkness will envelop your being.” At this point, she smiled at me. “Welcome, stranger from a distant land. Please, sit. I am almost finished with today’s lesson. I’m sure you’ll have questions.”
“Teacher,” said one of the listeners, “What of the blind? If they cannot see, how can they know the light?”
The teacher laughed gently. “I speak not of the eyes on your face. I speak of the eyes in your heart. Does one who is blind, who cannot see a wall, still know that it is there? When you experience truth, regardless how it is perceived, you know it to be true. Judge for yourself what I say. If you know what I say is truth, you will see the light of which I speak.” She stood up. “That is all for today, my children. There is much work to be done in this world. Go help clean up the fairgrounds or whatever other duties require your attendance. It seems I have a stranger to welcome.”
The students stood and went their separate ways. The halfling woman stepped forward, gently took my hand and said, “Welcome Kabize of the Tabaxi. My name is Alamosa Tumblewatch. Come! Come!”
“You know my name.”
“It is a simple spell. When you begin to understand all things, you realize that magic is but a minor, almost insignificant component to the Universe.”
“You understand all things?”
Alamosa laughed as she led me toward one of the structures. It was a white-washed A-frame building. The emblem over the doorway was not one I’d seen before. At first, it looked like a sword pointing downward in front of the sun, but I realized it wasn’t a sword. It was just two pieces of wood. She waved her other hand at the door and it swung open for us. It was a small temple with seating for no more than twenty. Other than us, the place was empty of people. The raised altar at the far end had a couple tall candle stands, but the candles were unlit. She sat down on the bench nearest the door and invited me to sit across the aisle. “There is only one who understands all things.”
“The witch, Propheta?” I offered.
“Dear me, no. She is powerful and she sees the future. She is most certainly gifted in ways that I am not. Yet she devotes her attention on the here and now. Not where it truly matters.”
“I cannot say His name, for I do not know it. He is like a god, but greater than all the gods we know. He is truly the creator of all things.” It seemed light shone from her face as she talked, but I think it was my imagination.
“I don’t understand. I know nothing of the gods of men, elves, dwarves, and halflings. I met with teachers and clerics and priests and – “
Alamosa reached across the aisle and tapped my knee. “You know nothing of these gods for there is nothing to know. Those gods are all false. They were once men and women who walked among us as mortals. They learned to harness the power of magic and bend it to their will in awesome and terrifying ways. Yet, they are not creators. Sure, they could call to the realm of the dead and return a soul to our plane, but they could never create a new soul out of nothing. We see the stars in the sky, and while they could make them move to their will, they could not create new ones. There is only one who has that power. That is the God I worship.”
“This god with no name,” I surmised.
“The God whose name I do not know,” She corrected.
It was my turn to laugh. “This is overwhelming. I came to Direnat to meet new people, experience a new culture, and to write about it in my journal.”
Alamosa stood up. “Yes. I perceive you are a traveler. A wanderer. If I younger, I would endeavor to travel by your side and experience the awesomeness of God’s creation. However, my place is here among these people. I would very much like to read your journal, and if you find your way back to Direnat, I would enjoy reading the updates.”
I reached into my pack and pulled out the first volume and handed it to her. I had no reason not to trust her with it, but I realized that this would be the first time I’ve allowed it to be in someone else’s hands. Before I let go, I said, “This is the first part.”
She smiled as she accepted my book. “It will be safe with me.” She waved her free hand over the volume and muttered some syllables under her breath. For a few seconds she concentrated with her eyes closed. When she looked up, she said, “It is now protected. No mundane harm shall come to it.”
“You enchanted it?”
“Again, it’s a simple spell. Infusing magic into an item and holding the concentration for enough time will cause the enchantment to become permanent. My powers are meager, but sufficient for these purposes. Another caster can easily overcome this protection spell, but it is my hope that there would never be cause.” She bowed to me as I stood up. “The Fellow and Belle is suitable to your needs. Tell them you have my blessing and they will give you a modest discount.” She laughed. She seemed to laugh a lot.
As I crossed the threshold, she said behind me, “Go safely, traveler. If you’re still in town in two days, we celebrate the first day of the new year. You’re welcome to join us.”
I found the inn and paid for room and board. The prices were reasonable that I didn’t need to invoke Alamosa’s name. The staff was friendly and the food was excellent. When I retired to my room, I relaxed and realized how long it had been since I last wrote in my journal. I thought a lot about Alamosa and her unusual ideas. In a way, I feared for her life because in some places, she’d be executed for her heresy.
As it is, I think I’ll stay in town at least a few days.
Previous: Through a Cat’s Eyes: 16.2
The lesson Alamosa was teaching is drawn from the Sermon on the Mount, detailed in Matthew 6:22-23. While it’s been a month since my last posting in this story, I realized that I need to advance things a little more quickly. Kabize’s story spans approximately 12 years, and I’m not even 2 years into it; and am on chapter 17. I don’t want this to be 100 or more chapters!