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Monday, October 09, 2006

Twilight Time

This story was originally written about several characters I had in the online video game, Ultima Online. The place names are taken from that game. Character names other than my own, have been changed.

Night fell softly over the island of Moonglow as a young girl eased the window to her bedroom open. As silently as she could, she crept down the trellis near her window and landed on the ground, the only sound a whisper of the wind in her hair. Her dark eyes gleamed in the moonlight as she looked up at her home with a small sigh of regret. Her face formed lines of resolve as she shouldered her pack and turned resolutely on her heel away from her house, her home, her mother, her life. As she made her way slowly to the Moonglow moongate, she thought on the past days events which had brought her to this pass. A small sigh escaped her as she wandered along the familiar trail from the Lyceum where she had lived the 15 years of her life.

"If I had just not asked again, maybe I wouldn't be running away," she chided herself with regret. "I have to find him though, I just have to know if he's really the sorry bastard she said he is..." She turned her back on her home once again, this time not looking back. She could still hear her mother's words echoing in her memory.

"Your father, Storm? Your father is a sot, a womanizer and a lunatic as well as a coward! He doesn't care about you or me! He cares only for the bottle of ale and whatever pretty face he sees in the tavern. He stumbles home in a stupor more often than not and missed our anniversary! Some ridiculous story no doubt cooked up between himself and his friends to save him from my wrath! Well let me tell you something, Storm, you go right ahead and go look for the sorry bastard. He lives outside Skara Brae on the foul side of the moongate. Go to any bar and ask for Shadowdancer of Clan Aerie, they can direct you. Or ask some floozy on the street! Go for all I care and damn you!" Her mother's demeanor had shattered at that point, she broke into tears. Weeping, she ran into the house and slammed the door shut.

I'll find him, Storm thought, I'll find him and make him love me. With that thought in her mind, she entered the moongate and walked into a life far different from that which she had known.

The wind swept her long hair and carried odors with it as she rode the ferry boat from the Skara Brae mainland. The ferryman was looking at her in a way she knew well, that low brow, low rent, low intelligence, orcish kin reject way of all of his ilk. She pretended to ignore him, but was aware when he stopped the boat midstream made his way slowly toward her. Her hand gripped the hilt of her dagger slid it silently from it's sheath. It was a plain blade, but made of the finest steel crafted far under the mountains by dwarves, the edge honed to perfection. It was a deadly blade indeed. His hand crept toward her breast but met cold steel instead. Without turning her head, she twisted it drawing a thin line of blood.

"Remove your hand, churl, or lose a finger or two.. Perhaps more, if you draw too close."

He withdrew his hand swiftly, assessing the damage to his hands. "You bitch! You'd be lucky to have a man like me!"

She stared at him til he withdrew to the far end of the boat started to pole across again. On the far side, she walked past him with a swish, lifting his purse as she went. The dagger came in handy for more than drawing blood, it was good for cutting purse strings as well. She secreted the purse inside her cloak as she stepped onto the dock. The dock master his men leered at her laughed at the ferryman's blustering.

"What's wrong, Pete, she want more meat than you've got?"

"Maybe this one prefers a pretty boy... hmm?" One came up to her, a little too close, trying to impress her.
"Hey, missie, you want a real man?" His voice rose to a girlish pitch at the last, for she'd reached out, grabbed the crotch of his pants in a firm grip. She looked him in the eye and squeezed.

"No, I like a man with more balls than you've got. When you grow up, sonny, perhaps you can find a real woman, til then, the doxies are all you'll have, for you'd not get any lest you paid for it." With a final squeeze, she left him.

She turned her back on the jeers and cat calls now directed at the dock worker and made her way to Sanctuary. She'd heard there was a tavern there which her father had visited. It seemed as good a place to start as any. Now truly she was on her own, but well paid, the ferry man had done good trade today and hadn't been to the bank. Fat fool. She grinned and walked to the lights she saw ahead of her.

The sparkling lights beckoned her onward as her steps slowed, unsure now of her destination. Suppose he wasn't there. Suppose he was?! Suppose no one knew him. Suppose they all did. Suppose they laughed at her, suppose he didn't care to love her. Her steps faltered as she tripped over a furrow in the field she was crossing without seeing it. Making her way more carefully, she walked with more resolution than she felt to the lights ahead. She heard laughter, voices, music and singing, making her feel all the more left on the outside.

As a child, the same. Her playmates (she could not call them friends) chided her since she had no father. "Bastard brat" their mothers called her, she was shunned by all for her father's absence. No one believed her mother had been married for none had met her father. Did she face the same rejection here? She hesitated on the steps of the tavern, hand out to the door, irresolute, afraid. The decision to open was made for her when the door swung wide hitting her in the face. A young man stepped out and greeted her.

"Whoops! Hello miss! Be ye all right?" He peered at her in the light from the inside. "Come in here, we'll put a poultice on it for you. Oy, Miranda, I've slammed a lassie with the door! A poultice if you please!"

A pretty, dark haired woman approached her and looked her over carefully. "Yes, I see that you have. Please, miss, come inside where we can see to you better." Her firm grip was gentle, but compelling. She smiled brightly at Storm.

"I'm Miranda, proprietress of this tavern. Please come in let's see to that bump." She raised her voice to call over the noise of the crowd, "Alli, a cool cloth if you will! Hellfire's slammed the door into this young lassies' face!" She turned in mock anger on the young man. "You should be more careful! You could have seriously hurt her!"

He looked playfully abashed and bowed his head to her. "Aye, my lady," he groveled and sniveled. "I be only an ignrnt fisherman and b'aint be knowin the better ways of manners an such like. Spect tis the only way I'll find me a woman is to beat her senseless and drag her off! Hey lassie, I'll be getting my uncle in here, he's a healer of some skill, he'll put ye to rights." With that, he bowed his way out, this time opened the door more carefully.

Miranda had propelled Storm towards the bar, pulled up a stool, pushed her gently down onto it and smiled. By that time, the other woman had returned with a clean, damp cloth and they applied it to her cheek. The other woman spoke, "Tsk, Miranda, I think twill bruise up badly if that healer hasn't something in his bag!" She smiled warmly at Storm. "Well, lass, you'll look like you've been in a brawl when all's done!"

Storm managed a smile, but it cost her in pain. "Ohh, I think it knocked a tooth loose!" She managed to mutter through bruised lips. The door burst open suddenly. In rushed Hellfire accompanied by a dark skinned, silver haired man in green leather armor.

"Where's the patient?" He bustled up to the bar. "Ah, there she be." He held her head firmly in his hands and raised her face gently to the light. His hands were strong, broad and calloused like a warrior but moved with the dexterity of a healer. His touch was sure and light as he examined her.

"Fresh, warm water please." He spoke to no one in particular, but the command in his voice was unmistakable.
Alli walked to the back and returned with some warm water from the hearth. He tested it with his little finger, nodding sharply.

"Aye, that will do nicely" He handed a small parchment packet to Hellfire. "Nephew, since this is your work, you will help. Open that, pour it in the water and stir til it's dissolved. Work fast before the water cools."
Hellfire did as he was bidden. The healer took the clean cloth proffered by Miranda, set to work on her face. The solution stung a bit at first, but as it dried, left her skin tingling and feeling pleasantly warm. He formed the cloth into a small folded square and handed it to her.

"Hold this on there a bit longer, twill draw out the fluids gathering there and force the blood down." He washed his hands in the bowl of water and dried them on Hellfire's cloak. The younger man looked as if he were annoyed, but said nothing, as the healer's face left no room for comment. "You're lucky, nephew, she'll heal quick she's young."

Miranda smiled at him. "Thank you, Glada. She said she thinks a tooth got knocked loose, can you check it?"

Again the healer's hand went to her head, tilting it back. She opened her mouth and he prodded the teeth on that side. His hands tasted vaguely of mint and some other herb she couldn't put a name to. He let her go, standing back from her.

"Nay, but it's bruised in the jaw I warrant." He turned to Hellfire, "I'll say this for you, nephew, you did a thorough job of it."

He frowned at the younger man, washed and dried his hands in the same manner as before. He nodded sharply again and turned to leave as suddenly as he'd come.

Storm managed a swollen lipped "Thanks" which came out much more like "fanks" at which he and all the others smiled. Dragging his nephew by the ear, he strode outside.

A smiling, dark haired, bearded fellow by the bar spoke up, a chuckle in his voice. "Well, lass, nothing like entering with a bang! However, we've seen thee poked and prodded but still do not know thy name!" He reached across the bar to take her hand in his and bowed over it solemnly. "I am Keith Kannan at your service."

She managed a one sided smile and tried to form the words. "I am Storm of Moonglow. Pleased to make your acquaintance." It sounded more like Stawm of Moongwow than she would have liked, but they understood her.

"Moonglow, is it!" said the man Keith Kannan. "Ah, a fine city of mages and such. Are ye a mage, lass?" His smile was charming and his brown eyes glittered with friendliness. Better not to tell her true profession just yet, so she chose the answer most readily in her mind.

"Nay, sir, I am training as a warrior, fencing." She lisped a bit on the sibilants, but again they understood her.
Miranda smiled warmly, "What brings you to our village, Storm of Moonglow?"

Storm swallowed, pausing a moment. Now was the time she had been looking forward to and dreading all at once. "I.. I.." her voice trailed to a whisper. "I seek my father. I am told he lives here by and so I came seeking one who might know him and direct me."

Keith smiled broadly, "I pride myself on knowing everyone here bouts, what is your father's name, lass?"

She took a deep breath, speaking with more confidence than she felt, "Shadowdancer of Clan Aerie."

There was an unexpected pause. Keith's brow furrowed slightly. "Shadowdancer, you say?" He looked around at the other people. Did his eyes linger a bit on the man in the corner of the room? "I don't recollect him mentioning he had a daughter........do any of you?"

The room collectively shook their heads. She looked stunned, this wasn't going as she had hoped, they stared at her like a freak!

She rose hurriedly to go. "I'm sorry, I must have made a mistake." Tears welled in her eyes and she brushed them angrily aside.

Gathering her things, she started toward the door when a man gripped her shoulder firmly from behind. She started toward her dagger, but thought better of it in this company, instead she turned and looked into the dark gray eyes, eyes so very like her own. He studied her face from every angle, frowning, his eyes boring into hers. Suddenly, he grabbed her by the shoulders and wrapped his arms tightly around her, hugging her to him.

"By the gods, I'd not have believed it if I'd not seen it myself!" He held her away from him, looking at her face again. "Aye, she's so very like her mother, but the coloring, it's all wrong..... well different."

She looked at him as if he were a lunatic.

He smiled, "Ach, child! I am your father, I be Shadowdancer of Clan Aerie and if I am not very much mistaken, your mother is Eliandra of the White Mages, am I correct?"

She made a small nod of affirmation. "Aye, my mother is called Eliandra. Of White Mages no longer, sir. The guild folded some time ago. She is now Eliandra of Moonglow."

The while she looked at him thinking, "This is my father? He's neither a sot nor a womanizer as I can see...."

Shadow held her, his arm around her shoulders. "Gentles all, may I present my daughter, Storm of Moonglow, nay Storm Dancer! Drinks for everyone Miranda, on me!" He slapped a bag of gold on the counter. "Keep them coming til that runs out!"

He turned to her again, looking at her longingly. He swallowed hard and spoke in a tight voice. "How is your mother, lass? Does she speak of me?" His eyes looked so hopeful, she could not tell him the horrible things her mother had said of him these last 15 years.

"Aye, she does, sir. That she does, often." She looked down, not wanting to meet his penetrating gaze. His love for her mother showed there, she could not let him see the betrayal of her mother in her eyes.

He smiled, tears in his eyes. "I think of her oft too, my girl. I regret what happened between us." He signed. "All on account of the healer who was just here. All his fault and none at all.... But I speak in riddles. Come sit here, tell me about your mother... how is Elly?"

Storm had never heard her mother referred to by this pet name it took her by surprise. "She is well, sir. She has studied long at the Lyceum and has become a Grand Master of Magery and of Scribing. She studies now the arts of meditation among other pursuits..." her voice trailed off. "Can it be as she said, sir, that you did not know of me til now?" Tears threatened to flow once more. "Is that why you spent so many years agone and never sought me?"

His eyes softened, "Never til this night did I know of you, my girl, else I'd have been at your side all along. I tried to find your mother after she left, but she had hidden herself in the Lyceum and would not answer my letters. I went seeking her, but the good monks and scribes would not let me enter. They had posted guards to keep me out. Not once did I see Elly nor did I hear from her. Not a word heard I of her, for her family did not know me, save for her brother, him long gone to wars far away."

He shook his head sadly. "Tis no wonder now that she was so angry with me that night. I was certain sure she had news for me, but I never dreamed this was the case. She left the day of our anniversary, nearly 16 years ago." He sighed heavily. Miranda set a glass of cool water in front of him. He picked it up and toasted Storm with it. "To you and your mother," he said. She looked a bit surprised to see him sipping water only. He smiled a bit, "No doubt your mother told you I'm a heavy drinker." She nodded dumbly.

"And so I was back then, but I've been sober now," he paused, "For 14 1/2 years. I fear after your mother left, I went somewhat on a binge. I can't remember much of those days....months even. But now tis water or milk for me, no more of the spirits. But now, my lass, tell me about yourself........"

1 comment:

Diana said...

Ooh, GOOD STORY!! But I want to know the rest of it! :)