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TWR: THE CRANE



    The hazed light turned the sky grey, as if it had wanted to rain all that day. But by the time his classes were over, the skies had cleared into a beautiful mid-summer's day again. His father's home was on the other side of the sea port city, along the northern cliff, perched with its own view of the empty docks below. By the time he had reached the old marina, evening fell.
   Every late-afternoon he would unclasp his red cloak just before leaving Mithar's weathered, grey tower to walk home alone. Now, it was near dusk and he was eager to hurry along, leaving his booted prints in the wet sands along the beach. The shoreline along the bay was his favorite route to take.

   Fayendar looked like your average youthful student, loaded down with parchments under one arm and a polished-walking stick in the other hand.  Shoulder length blond hair, braided on both sides as the rest blew in the occasional breeze.  He enjoyed looking out on the gulf waters.  In the bay, the shrimpers fished in their rickety round Ka’nath boats while being waylaid by seagulls, as the sinking sun painted its majestic backdrop.
     Idho was his real name.  The name his family gave him on his first birthday, before that it was just ‘baby’ as was tradition in the Bay area of Lindon, his parents first home.  Back, when he remembered running barefoot through the streets of Mithar with his best friend Branthen, things seemed so stress free.
   Fayendar, which meant Beloved-brother, was his mother's nick name for him; in an attempt to foster better relations with his older brother.  A name that was not taken as it was intended, for he and Calan had always been rivals it seemed. This was another reason why he enjoyed his solitary walks home.  It was also an excellent way to end an already stressful day.  Though today was no different than any other, Fayendar had no idea that it was all about to change.
 

   As he made his way home, he rehearsed the events of the day over in his mind again. Fayendar was a ministerial student, studying for the priesthood; the desire of his father for him to follow in their family’s tradition.  Yet, more and more the student was becoming disillusioned with his teachers. They are long winded, and overly given to details that bore everyone to tears, he thought to himself as he picked up a small branch and threw it into the water.
   His head was full of questions, unasked and therefore unanswered. Fayendar knew for sure the elders would have admonished him immediately, and changed the subject back to their own rambling of dates and conflicting theories. He knew that if he had he raised anything remotely resembling disbelief they would have turned the whole incident around, and would have made him appear to be the foolish one in front of his class mates.  “How dare you grow a brain, and think for yourself!” he mockingly said to himself aloud, then quickly glanced about to see if anyone had possibly overheard him.  So, he just resigned to keep quiet.
    Fayendar enjoyed the long walks home because they gave him time to figure these things out for himself.  Still, for some reason the lessons made more sense to him while he was there studying, among his peers in the watchtower's grey sheltered-chambers. Yet, when he was left with his own thoughts, like now, the certainty of their doctrines unraveled in his mind. For instance, he never quiet understood why it was they were to be so excited about staying in the world, if it was true that their forefathers had originally come from heaven. Or, why they alone were entrusted to be scholars and teachers to lesser men; or --

   Suddenly, a group of annoying seagulls disturbed his private thoughts. They had begun flocking overhead and squawking for someone below to feed them. As he looked out on the long stretch of beach, Fayendar noticed, several yards ahead of him, a dark figure dressed in a heavy dark-blue cloak standing by himself. The man's hood was up, with a high point in the air, and his back turned toward the approaching youth.
   The figure was intent upon looking down at the ground.  For, something in the wet sand seem to have caught his focused attention.  The man was using the end of his oak staff to poke at it; yet, the closer Fayendar came to him he realized that instead of poking, he was drawing in the sand. Presently, standing just a few paces behind the now squatting stranger, and almost looking over his shoulder, Fayendar could see the details of what he was doing.
   It was the design of a bird -- a crane, drawn in exquisite detail. The stranger stooped over his drawing, and added dry colored-sand to its wet  trenched-lines. Then after some whispered words and a few unusual waves of his hand, something under the sand began to move about just beneath the surface, blending the colored sand together. Suddenly, there burst out of the packed mud a real white-crane, violently shaking itself clean; looking from side to side.  After a brief glance up at Fayendar's astonished expression the bird flew off, in the direction of the fishing boats.
   The artist stood erect and laughed aloud to himself as he slowly turned around, acknowledging Fayendar's presence with a smile, "Greetings, Beloved-brother."
   "H- How did you know my name?" The bewildered youth quickly asked.  His clear grey-blue eyes grew even larger, as the silver ring of the Priesthood griped his carved pine-staff even tighter.
   "I know more about you than you think." The face was that of an older gentleman who appeared to be in his late eighties, though his yellow-green eyes hinted at a much wiser brain.  His round face was covered beneath a smartly trimmed beard, and broad smile.  His eyes now bore through Fayendar like piercing daggers.  Yet, the stranger's voice was warm and friendly, with a haunting tone, "I know you enjoy -- hidden secrets." He looked back at the disturbed sand-drawing, then at the scrolls under the student's left arm. "Like the crane, you too will achieve heights beyond the confines of that tower's shadow."
   "You disapprove of the Valithdane Elders?" Fayendar said, looking through strains of his golden, wind blown hair, as he took a wary step backward.
   Smiling, the stranger stroked his peppered-grey chin. "I merely said that you will rise above where you are now."  At that moment a strange breeze caught the edges of his cloak, briefly revealing a large buckled sash, embossed with an Eye sigil on it.  Squinting at Fayendar, he continue, "For the days are fastly approaching when all you know will change. The very world around you will cry for you to listen."
   "Who are you, sir?" Drawing his red, ankle length cloak about himself, Fayendar became very intrigued.
   "I have been called by many names: Drocthuk by the dragons of the north, Silvermane by Men of the east, Balthenorn by the southern folk, and Meirith by those in the west." Smiling, Meirith withdrew a small velvet bag with a draw string, and handing it to the young man said, “As a token of this meeting, that you would not forget, I wish to give this to you.  It is a Blithvere; made by the same craft that created such gifts as: the ancient rings of power, the crystal seeing globes, and the healing leaf-stone gems.  A Blithvere is a Well of endless ink, call its name to command the color you wish.” After accepting the bag and inspecting it contents, Fayendar’s interest in the capped container grew.
  Meirith ended their conversation with a mysterious voice, as he began to walk past Fayendar, adding, "I am just a wanderer, one who journeys south to visit the dwarves even now."
   "Dwarves? They're a lonely sort."  His brows caved in, and lips pursed, feeling a little apprehensive again, Fayendar almost whispered, looking about the deserted shoreline, "The elders say we are not supposed to talk about such things."
   The stranger stopped, whirled back around, drawing up his own garments as if cold, and said loudly, "To avoid people, young Fayendar, does not mean they cease to exist. The dwarves knew much of your people - long before you were called The Fallen. Remember the appearance of the White Crane, for it is the key to your true home."  Meirith stopped his close approach toward Fayendar, letting his stern expression soften to a kindly smile again.  Then briskly turned away.  The full length of his smoke-like cloak went rippling behind him like a shadowy version of a cape as the elderly man strolled away with a slight limp, walking southward.

   Feeling his heart pounding harder in his chest, Fayendar quickened his own pace toward home.  After about ten steps or so, he turned back around with another question on his mind, but was suddenly confronted with the fact that he was all alone on the open beach.  Noticing that even the stranger's footprints and the disturbed sand drawing had vanished as well.  A slow chill crept over Fayendar causing him hurry back down the trail, quickening his march to his father’s house.

   Only years later did the young ministerial-scribe realize just how much that one incident had changed everything in his life.  From that time onward his questions about their traditions, and the world around him, would never be quiet the same; like the singing of a bell unable to be unrung.

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VENTURE INTO MY WORLD

VENTURE INTO MY WORLD
The Watcher's Book of Books