FAREN: A Dragon's Tale and related concepts are copyright © Maher Al-Samkari, Benjamin
Wallace and MODUS Productions.  All images here (unless otherwise specified) are copyright

© Maher Al-Samkari, and may not be removed without permission .


"(Blessed are) the (ignoble ones)!
though their minds be incapable of (articulating the chords),
their language is that of the wind.
Spoken breaths and intonations,
like the (cries of an infant) in the darkness
through which he cannot see . . . "
                                                  A'kithas'elem Golorad

FAREN: A Dragon’s Tale

Episode 1


Music: "Visions of Lein" By Evan Arnett
Based on the theme "Clutch" by Maher Al-Samkari



    A Bastion in the Darkness

Girl’s Voice:   Far Away . . . Beyond the realm of life and light and living that mortals
                    perceive as the "world".

                    In an endless, myriad chaos,  a beacon can be seen . .

                    it towers over a barren waste a million lem across, bathed in the glow
                    of a single shaft of light emanating not from the heavens above, but
                    from some mysterious splendor within . . .

                    It is a mountain--encompassed  by eternal night,
                    a solitary messenger alone in the Void . . .

                    What stars break the curtain of blackness above cast none of their
                    luminance onto the landscape below, for there is only the mountain--
                    massive and sheer, imposing, horrifying, yet beautiful.

                    An eastward wind blows in this place, a cold breeze which
                    transcends the supreme emptiness that fills the hollow valleys between the
                    ethereal peaks.

                    It is a mystic place,

                    it is a sacred place,

                    perhaps, it is a cursed place . . .

                    the name some have given it is "Bastion . . ."


    16th  century since Lur

    Before the Beginning, in a Place Near the End of a Life

     (The desert is dark, and cold.  Numbingly cold . . . not something one
would expect from the sunscorched planes of the Azarrian wastes, but a chilling reality nonetheless . . .)

Boy: (gasping)  . . .

    (in the dull blue of a frigid desert's night, a boy walks a stumbling gait,emburdened by a lifeless female
form cradled desperately in his arms. Harsh winds bite at the exposed flesh of his neck as he
pushes through ankle-high shifting sands,grunting forcefully at the hopelessness which seems to gnaw
at his resolve like so many rat’s teeth, and the exhaustion which ebbs at his joints not unlike an acid
tide . . .)

     (The moments seem to slip away with the fleeting nature of the windswept sands, much like the
diminishing shafts of life that recede from the girl's body with her every strained breath. The galeforces
that relentlessly blast at the pair’s tattered clothes are heedless of their plight as they persist to drive the
boy forcefully to his knees, impelling him to drop his precious charge to the ground below.

    For a moment, the child claws with confusion at the dirt beneath his fingernails, struggling to regain
his senses as strange patterns of light and darkness parade across his vision.  The temporary vertigo
caused by his fall is quickly dispersed, however, as he catches sight of the deathly still figure lying in
the sand barely an arm's length away . . . with a cry of desperation, he crawls to her, casting a strained
and helpless gaze down to her delicate, ashen features.  Pain seems to radiate from his eyes as he
searches for signs of life; her ghostly, glasslike skin illuminated by the waning moonlight cast upon
them both from the holy orb that watches pitilessly from on high. . .)

Boy:  Not yet . . . you can’t  . . .not yet!! We're not there yet!!

Woman: . . .

   (Struggling for a strength that has long since eluded him, the boy strains to lift the girl from the
shifting sands--his body fighting an already forfieted battle with exhaustion.  Coughing on the choking
airborn dust that burns the eyes and sears the lungs, the child realizes too late the futility of his efforts,
collapsing against her motionless form and  placing his forehead against hers; With a stammered
prayer, he clutches her cold face in his hands, gazing into her eyelids as tears gather from
behind his . . .)

Boy:  (moaning) Get up . . Not yet . . . GET UP. . .

Woman: . . .

    (There is nothing that can be done, however, as bit by bit, pieces of the girl's soul are broken free,
to be carried off by the howling winds . . .)



  13th century since Lur

  An Earlier Time

Boy’s voice:  (laughing)

Girl’s Voice:  Vay!!  VAY!!!  Stop Running!

     (A lush, green, everwood forest, bathed in the warm light of a summer day . . .

     Two sets of footsteps can be heard, bounding quickly through grassy undergrowth beneath the
shade of an expansive forest canopy . . .)

Boy:  (laughing) Why don’t you put some more effort into it??

     (also to be heard, accompanying the footsteps, is the sound of voices . . .)

Girl:  (incensed, panting) Why don’t you-just-slow down??  It’ll be easier for the both of us!

     (Through a clearing between the ancient leafy domes, for nary a second, the figure of a young boy
blurs by--weaving deftly like a spring fawn over roots and rocks with incredible swiftness, garbed in a
long red tunic and pants, with a bow and quiver tied securely to his back . . .)

Boy:  Easy for you, maybe! I thought you were swift on your feet !!

Girl:  (angry)  My feet will be swift when they kick your ass!  Now STOP!

     (An instant later, a second figure--this one, of a young girl --blunders past.
No less swift is she, although her form follows at a slight distance . . .)

Girl: VAY!

     (reluctantly, the young man comes to a gradual stop . . . turning on his heel to face his pursuer . . )

Boy:  What ever happened to trying to beat me?You used to have such a fight in you . . .

     (As he says this, an out of breath looking young woman--seemingly, not much past girlhood--steps
into view. Gasping for air, she brushes a tangled mess of short, dark hair from in front of her azure eyes,
glaring at the boy warily . . .)

Girl:  (panting) That  .. was last week . . . I’ve . . . grown up since then.

     (Vay returns the girl's look with a slight smirk, easing a long, hewn bow from its place on his back.
Setting it firmly on the ground, he leans on it, putting his face within inches of hers . . .)

Boy:  Maybe you're just getting fat . . . studying all day does little for your figure, I suppose . . .

Girl: . . .

     (At first, the girl's only response is a languid glare . . .)

Girl: NNggh!!!

      (. . .before, with a growl, she reaches for him--pulling on one of the long, slender, ilifin ears
protruding from his head . . .)

Boy: OwwOOWWWW!!!

Girl:  (shouting) Are you Deaf?  WHEN I TELL YOU TO SLOW DOWN,
                        YOU SLOW THE HELLS DOWN!!

Boy: Let GO!!  Owwww-HEY!! Let OFF!

Girl:  Hmmph!!

     (Grunting in satisfaction, she releases him with a final twist--stepping foreword from the underbrush,
into the clearing with her companion who, understandably, now clutches his ear . . .)

Boy:  Sorry . .ow . .did you have to--

Girl:  (interrupting) We’re almost a lem from the village.  That's far enough away.
                                    They WON’T hear you.  Play it.

Boy:  Give me a minute to rest . . .!

     (Rolling her eyes impatiently, the girl does an about-face--tossing her hair to the side . . .)

Girl:  You wouldn’t need one if you didn’t RUN so fast . . .

Boy: . . .

     (Cursing quietly to himself, the young ilif takes in the surroundings a bit, attempting to distract
himself from the painful throbbing in his ear .  The sun sits high in the dome of the sky, surrounded by a
blustery white expanse that is bordered by the very tops of the trees that line a break in the canopy far
above.  Somewhere in the clearing, mosquitoes buzz about in small, chaotic clouds over the puddles of
water that still remain long after the hiatus of the morning rains hours earlier . . .

    A moment later, the female ilif crosses her arms, turning at the sounds of her now fully
recovered companion . . .)

Girl:  (smiling)  so?  Let me hear it now.

     (Shaking his head, the ilifin boy chuckles to himself, grinning . . .)

Boy:  You can never wait for good things to come to you, sister.

Girl:   (pouting). . . so?

Boy:  Did you bring the ona?

Girl:  yes.

     (looking to her side, the girl produces from her pouch a small, oblong looking instrument--
a clay pipe of sorts, its back lined with 8 holes and offset by a quartet bridged strings on its top,
set in place along a slender piece of ivory colored wood  . . .

    The fine cords gleam like gossamer in the sunlight, as the ona is passed from the girl’s hands to her
sibling’s . . .The boy takes it expertly in his slim fingers, gripping it with a complex looking, yet
apparently well-practiced hold . . )

Girl:  Play.

Boy:  Be patient!  The song has to come to me first.

Girl:  Oh NOT this again?

Boy:   Look, will you shut up?  You have to wait for it . . .

Girl: . . ?

Boy:  Oh, just be patient.

Girl:  did you really write it?  for me?

Boy:  I didn’t lie to you.  Of course. . .  oh . . .

     (At that moment, the boy’s eyes suddenly seem to narrow a bit, a placid look passing over his
youthful features .  The girl grows silent as her brother then smiles knowingly, placing the instrument to
his lips . . .)

Boy:  Sit.  Listen.

     (With but a second’s pause, his sister kneels in the soft grass, supporting herself on one arm and
looking up at her brother once more before shutting her eyes . . .

     Then, with one last, quick breath, he closes his own, and  begins to play . . .)


    A Sacred Place

    In the lands to the east, beyond the expanse of the great river Enoch,

    set at the very center of an arid, desolate Azar waste, at one of the very edges of the known world,

    there lies a mountain . . .

    Nearly a hundred lem across at its base, it reaches into the sky like a rocky spear--its immense size
defying reason, its top obscured from the ground by a halo of clouds which sit above its lofty peaks like
the ornamented crown of the world . . .

    As one’s eyes travel beyond this cloud layer to the uppermost portion of the earthy tower, they will find
a collection of hundreds upon hundreds of spires--stabbing upward in a sea of spikes that surround a
single, thick pillar in the very center . . .

    At the top of this pillar--indeed, near the very apex of the mountain’s height--the gargantuan shaft
splits into two smaller ones, the westernmost slightly taller than its brother  . . .  .

    A star-filled blanket of night now surrounds this behemoth as the light from a lonely crecent of the
holy moon, Camer, is cast down upon it--creating a wild play of shadows which dance on the cliffs,
crags, valleys and banks.


      14th century since Lur

      Another Presence

     (Farther away now . . . in a different time, in a different realm . . .)

Female Voice:  Has word of this not upset you, Oryn?

     (The voice is deep, imposing, yet unmistakeably feminine.  Posessed of a timbre unattainable by
human vocal cords, it fits well the disposition of its owner:  a beast which is gigantic in size, steeped in
power and age, and comfortably hidden by the shadows of the cave in which it now lies . . .

     Before her, a similar form--even more massive than her own--lies equally as still.  Its eyes, aglow with
a fiery amber that produces an eerie cast on the walls of the stone chamber, watch patiently as the
female speaks with words that are slow, deliberate, and substantial . . .)

Female Voice:  With every passing of Camer, the clutches grow smaller . . .

Oryn: . . .

Female Voice:  The higher one’s nests stagnate.  The eggs wither and die beneath
                            their mother’s watchful eyes. Our young lose the willingness to live in a world
                            they do not care for, and the memories of what remains of the great song dwindle with each new
                            hatchling . . . have you not heard all of this before?

Oryn: . . .

Female Voice:  We have reached our very last years upon this plane . . .

   (The response comes in a base rumble, a voice as old as the hollow winds which even now wind
through the ancient turns and tunnels of the cavern itself. )

Oryn:  I know of what you speak.  I was aware long before the knowledge was bestowed upon you.

    (The male's utterance is distinctly deeper in its carriage than that of his companion.  Indeed, his voice
so low,that the very cave walls resonate lightly with its tone, knocking free small pebbles and motes of
dust from their surface. . . )

Female Voice:  What do you and the elders plan, Husband?

Oryn:  What words I have with the council of 8 planes are of my concern alone . . .

     (At this, the female cocks her head to the side--her eyes growing narrow at the sound of the male's
rebuke . . .)

Female Voice:  And myself? Am I to be equated with those lower than you?  Your own mate?

Oryn:  I am aware of our Doctrines.  Do not tempt me.

   (The female snorts, shaking her head slowly . . . )

Female Voice:  Of course.  A trifle, I suppose?  If nothing is done, we will die . . .
                            we, who are among the very last . . .

   (She seems to stifle an indignant laugh, bemused at the irony of it all . . .)

Female Voice:  Is there any honor left in that?

     (Suddenly, the eyes widen as Oryn raises his massive head, thrusting his cowl forward . . .)

Oryn: Echelon will live on.  We have transcended the follies ancient ones, we live to surpass our own . . .

Female Voice:  Echelon?  But--

Oryn: (interrupting) I am weary of this.  You will leave me, at once.

Female Voice:  Perhaps this rock we cling to will persist-but we will not,
                            unless you intend to enrich its soil with our corpses-

Oryn:  SILENCE!!

     (The shout is enough to send small boulders tumbling from the cavern ceiling.
Humbled by the bellow, the smaller form lowers her eyes, curving her slender neck
away from her companion . . .)

Female Voice: . . .

Oryn:  I will decide what is best for our clan . .

Female Voice: . . . O . . .Of Course, my lord. . . .

Oryn:  Now . . . leave me. I will not ask again.

Female Voice: . . .

     (Without another word, the female averts her eyes, stepping away, slowly, from the aged leader  . . .

    the look on her face, however, is beyond humility or acceptance . . .

    rather,  it is one of sheer contempt . . .)


    Apex of the 15th century since Lur

    A World Aflame

Woman: (shrieking)

Soldier:  GET THE WOUNDED UNDER COVER!!  We’ll have to move them separately!

     (The sounds of panic and terror stricken humanity fills the air as dirtied, scorched soldiers and
civilians fill an emergency encampment on the edge of a remote and lonely forest . . . A thick soot
hangs low in the sky while, far in the distance, the night is set alight with the flames of a faraway
inferno:  beneath its grasp, a proud city is slowly burned in a seething wall of fire that stretches from
horizon to horizon, lighting the sky for miles . . .)

Soldier A:  Captain!!  The fourth regiment is reporting heavy casualties!!

Captain:  Order the men to fall back!  Defend the remaining survivors at all costs!!!

     (as the cries of uncountable pain and suffering pierce the night, A young girl--
an ilif, seemingly not far into womanhood--is brought in among the terror stricken
survivors of the blaze . . .

    The girl shouts desperately to the men in armor as she is born by the horrified crowd,
raising her arm above the stifling sea of humanity surrounding her . . .)

Girl: (shouting)  I’m A--AARGH!

    (The woman stumbles, steadying herself in the already thickening furor of the mob . . .)

Girl:  (shouting) Listen to me!  I can heal your wounded--- I'm a shaper!

    (Perhaps it is a work of chance, or the will of some mysterious chord of fate;  no matter the cause,
however, fortune seems to play in the girl's favor as at last, one of the men-at-arms takes notice of her
efforts through the chaos that surrounds them both . . . )

Captain:  You’re a healer?

    (The woman seems to throw up her hands at the ludicrousness of the situation . . .)

Girl:  Yes!

     (Without further question, the regiment captain takes the girl by the arm--pulling her to the outskirts
of the mob.  As she is born through the tangle of arms and limbs, the girl catches glimpse of the man’s
own bearded face.  Relatively young looking for someone of such high rank, his features are marred by
cuts and bruises, his nose blackened from the ash whisping through the air surrounding the burning
city.  These scars, however, do not belie as much pain as his eyes which, as they wildly search the
crowd ahead of him seem to have been the unfortunate witness to far greater horrors in the hours
past  . . .

    The ilif is given a much better glimpse as they at last clear the mob, and he turns, looking the girl
over solemnly before indicating the area behind . . )

Captain:  (paning) There are injured over here--the worst.

Girl:  Take me to them . . .

     (With a nod, the armor clad guardsman pulls her with him--making his way through the encampment
to one of the larger tents where, as alluded to the girl's aural senses by the cries which arise from the
entrance, the worst wounded have been placed . . .

     Once inside, the ilif’s eyes flare for an instant . . . .

     As she wades through them all, the girls lips tremble in silent prayer.  So wretched is the state of
suffering and death around her that stench of seared flesh is as prominent as that of the canvas which
comprises the structure itself; a sweet, bitter smell that turns the young healer's stomach on her trek
among the dead and dying  . . .

     She freezes, however, as she stops at the end of one of the makeshift benches--one of many which
have been hastily erected to hold the worst of the wounded--where a young boy dressed in rags, with
fiery green eyes and red hair, sits, bewildered by the chaos surrounding him . . .

     Almost at once, the young woman’s face contorts to one of insurmountable rage.  Without warning,
she grabs the child by his collar:  thrusting him hard against one of the heavy wooden posts supporting
the tent’s ceiling, the force enough to cause a small ripple to shudder through the canvas around the top
of pole  . . . )

Girl:  (shouting) Charge of hell's will!  I should have known!!

     (Stunned, the soldier shouts at the girl in disbelief . . .)

Captain:  What are you doing!?!?

     (the girl does not take her eyes from the child she holds as she shouts back . . )

Girl:  Why did you let him in here?!?

Captain:  What on Lein?  Have you Gone MAD, woman?

Girl:  You little bastard.  Glenden wasn't enough, was it??  It all makes perfect sense now . .!

     (Without warning, the girl slams the surprised boy against the post again, drawing a short, curved
dagger from her belt . . .)

Girl:  Don’t you understand?? Don’t you know what he is??  It’s HIS fault all this happened!!

Captain:  STOP!

     (before the man can react, however, the ilif lunges--embedding the blade above the boy’s chest with
an audible shattering of bone, and the sickening crunch of muscle . . .

     For an instant, the world seems to fall into a silent lull, as all three participants in the spectacle fully
realize what has just occurred . . . The boy, silent, stares at the dagger protruding from his chest in
horrified surprise, as does the veteran captain of the city guard, who has fallen motionless in mid-
stride . .

     Most surprised of all, however, seems the girl herself . . .

    Indeed, she stares at the slowly reddening cloth around the ilifin knife with a greater disbelief . . . not
for what she has done,

     But, seemingly,  for the simple fact that the blade has actually entered . . . )

Boy:  Aer .. I . ana . ..

     (The whispered word rises from the boy's throat with a rasp akin to that of dry leaves as he looks into
the eyes of his executioner, a trickle of blood welling up at the very corner of his lips. The ilifin girl can
feel her skin grow cold as she watches his own eyes glaze over-- and he falls, clutching weakly to her
robes as he slips to the ground to the cacaphony of screams rises in unison from the terror stricken
occupants of the tent surrounding them all.  .  . )

FAREN:  A Dragon’s Tale

Episode 1:  "Forgotten Movements"


    Eighty years ago . . .
   Dawn of the 15th century since Lur
    Yashas, the season of the Southern Harvest

    Glenden, Signet of Eludrian Frontier

     (A turbid fog inundates the air over a dry, windswept landscape with a moist haze as a new day’s sun
rises from behind bow-shaped hills in the east . . . A blanket of warmth washes over the Eludrian plains,
filtering through grasses and trees in the countryside and tumbling over the dales and valleys that give
this land its form. It is in the wake of this rebirth of heat and light, that the city of Glenden begins to

        Beyond the humble fortifications that comprise the retaining walls surrounding the burg, there lies a
sprawling collection of houses and cottages on the bare outskirts of city center.  It is only as one
approaches nearer the inner edges of the metropolitan expanse that dirt paths which connect the modest
structures conglomerate and widen to become cobblestone roads, and smaller, singular structures are
replaced by two and three-story dwellings of wood and hewn stone.

    The weathered roofs of these modest dwellings, slick with rain and dew from the slowly receding
night, creak as the glow from the morning star causes the moisture that has collected on their surface to
evaporate.  This vapor, in turn, rises in twisting columns that collect above the tops of the buildings in an
opaque, incorporeal cloud that dissipates quickly into the quickly warming air.  It is directly below these
lofty city roofs that Glenden's avenues slowly fill with people preparing to begin their day’s work:  every
last one doing so under the watchful eye Mount Echelon, whose titanic base can be seen  thrusting
upward from the Azarian desert in the east like an earthy spire; many lem distant and obscured by the
yet still-clinging mists. . .

    Within a matter of an hour or so, accompanied by the calls of the crows that sit perched atop the
highest steeples in the burg, the sounds of life begin to fill the streets of the ancient city:  those once
solitary figures soon joined by a living, bustling crowd of workers and market-goers . . .)


     (In the heart of the daily market . . . among the rows of merchants, fruit sellers and smithies,
a small, odd looking figure wades through the crowd . . .

     (He walks at a much slower pace than the rest--barefoot and dressed only in a single, ragged piece
of cloth wrapped haphazardly about his shoulders and draped over his waist.  It is a boy is of early age;
no older, seemingly, than late adolescence . . .

     He moves about the crowd with an immeasurable sense of curiosity and care, an almost naïve
wonder dancing excitedly on the edges of his features . . .)

Vendor:  (Shouting) Enta’i shoots!  Fresh grown, low priced!

Vendor B:  Fine Iskandrian silks! Most luxurious in all the land!

     (As the calls from the market fill the air, the boy looks quickly about.  Brushing unkempt red bangs
from atop emerald-colored eyes, he steps out of the path of milling peasants oblivious to his miniscule
presence, making his way through the mass of citizenry toward the source of the voices . . .

     As he reaches the nearest cart to hold his interest--a clay pottery merchant who has organized his
wares on a straw mat in a small semicircle about himself --the boy looks curiously at the odd looking
collection of squat shapes spread out on the ground before him. It is with a particular sort of
facetiousness that the child notes how closely they resemble the squat form of their owner:  an older
man sitting among the piles of basins, pots, and crocks that picks idely at the bits of dry clay and mud
stuck beneath his fingernails whilst muttering to himself of the humidity.  Another moment passes
before the shopkeeper even takes notice of the boy, uttering a word of greeting and smiling toothlessly
at him.

    The child steps back cautiously at first as, with a wave of his hand, the man indicates a collection of
earthen bowls stacked high on one side . . .)

 Image by Maher Al-Samkari

Boy: . . ?

Merchant:  (gruffly) Cheapest pottery in the city.  1 guilden for 1 crock, 3 for 4.

Boy: . . .

     (looking at the shopkeep curiously for a moment, the child hesitantly takes one of the empty stone
bowls in hand--turning it about in his fingers, running them over the texture of its bumpy, hand-hewn
surface, before taking it and placing it over his head.

    Bewildered, the shopkeeper looks on as the child raps on the peculiar hat with his fist, a smile of
satisfaction spreading across his face. . .)

Merchant: . . . ?

Boy: . . . What is a "crock" ?

     (almost at once, the vendor begins to laugh uproariously--snatching the item from atop the child’s
head and pushing him away from the cart . . .)

Merchant:  (laughing) I’m not in the market for a fool, boy!  Peddle your stupidity in the bazaar!

     (The man has one final chortle before returning to his wares.  Somewhat surprised, the boy looks on
him for a bit, then shrugs,  turning toward the crowd once again and walking back into the heart of busy
populace . . .)


     (Elsewhere . . . at a rzan vendor’s cart on the other side of the city . . .a transaction of a
different sort is unfolding . .)

Aerianna: What? Twenty three guilden? For ONE bag?  You’ve got to be joking!

     (A young girl--seemingly, no more than 19 years of age--stands defiantly before the immense, hairy
bulk of the local spice dealer . . .

    She, too, is set apart from the group, by the silvery blue locks that flow down the back of her head,
by the deep blue in her spirited eyes . . .

and by the long, slender ears whose tips peek out from beneath her hair on either side of her head . . .)

Aerianna: That’s almost a week’s pay! Last week you were charging half that--and even that
            was too much!

Vendor:  Take it or leave it, that is my price.

Aerianna:  "Your price" Stinks. . .  And I don’t see you charging anyone else that much!

Vendor:  Are you a fool?  Or have those substantial ears of yours gone bad?

    (The girl takes a step back, her almond-shaped eyes forming narrow slits . . .)

Aerianna:  (quietly) You’re  going to overcharge me because I’m an ilif . . ?

     (her voice is quiet, almost flat, as she speaks . . . with an audible grunt, the man nods in reply . . .)

     (Then, however . . .)

Aerianna: (sternly) I never thought you so low that you would resort to extortion, Javro.

Javro: . . hmph.  You will pay what I charge you--the war has not been easy on my crop lately,
            you understand . . . The drought has been of no help, either!

    (the man snorts, indicating his merchandise with a wave of his hand. . .)

Javro:  The gods have not been kind . . . So why must I be

Aerianna:  (interrupting) Shut up.  It’s because of greedy pigs like you that I have to spend
                                   ALL my money just trying to stay fed.

     (With this, the girl flings the overpriced bag of spice at the man, who catches it,
roughly, in the face . . .)

Javro: You don't like my price?  Leave my cart then, girl!  Make way for paying customers--

     ( the ilif does not so much as flinch as the shopkeeper bellows this,
pointing a large finger toward the street . . .)

Aerianna:  (loudly) Did you tell your Paying customers that their Merchant is as corrupt as he is ugly??
                            Or do you actually entreat them with exactly how much extra salt you have added to
                            each bag? I'm sure they will be quite curious to know, since you charge by the
                            weight, Shlomo!

Javro:  (shouting)  How dare you!  You know nothing of spices--

       (As if giving him an indication to the contrary, Aerianna thumbs her nose at the man--)

Aerianna:  Yeah, well, my "substantial ears" aren't the only things that are sensitive!

    ( . . .as onlookers gawk, curious, the girl pulls the edges of her cloak
around her, turning away,  in a huff, from the string of curses coming from the irate rizan dealer . . .)

Aerianna:  This is pathetic . . .

    (only a moment later, when the cart and merchant are finally out of sight,
however, the girl’s tough demeanor seems to fade away, replaced by one of intense frustration.
With a wild wave of her hands, Aerianna kicks at the dirt, uttering to herself disdainfully  . . .)

Aerianna:   No more rzan this week . . . Absolutely wonderful . . .Really great how you
                Handled that situation, Aerianna. . .

    (Shaking her head, she slouches a bit as she walks.  Though somehow emburdened by the
realization of the week's coming hardship, the girl still seems to move nimbly through the bustle of
the midmorning crowds, swiftly -- and almost subconsciously-- avoiding collisions with oncoming

    As her stride takes her  beyond the circular commons that make up the city center, the girl considers
what the week's cuisine will now hold for her, in light of her confrontation . . .

    and she cannot help but make a face .. . .)

Aerianna:  (to herself)  Salted meats . . . no more tea . . . how can it get any worse?

     (Aerianna lowers her gaze, coming to a stop in the middle of the bustling crowd . . .)

Man’s voice:  Aerianna?  Aerianna Goodtree!? I should have recognized that hot temper when I saw it!

     (only to stop in her tracks at the sound of a familiar voice calling her name from not
ten paces behind . .)

Aerianna:  H . . Hugh?

    (The girl's eyes go wide with recognition as she turns, coming face to face with a much taller, much
older looking young man. . .)

Hugh:  Of all the people to bump into at the market . . .

     ( Forgetting, for a moment, the ordeal with Shlomo, the ilif takes a step back--taking a long moment
to regard the stout moose of a man that stands before her, his frame at least fifteen stone and towering
easily above hers. )

Aerianna:  Goddess!  Hugh!  It's been forever!

Hugh:  How are you doing?

Aerianna:  look at you!  Wh--you--What are you doing in Glenden!? Is that really you!?

    (With a bearded smile, the man nods. . .)

Hugh:  It's Hugh Darvin, now.  The Atavi have made me one of their own.
          Glenden has the largest summer market this year.  Joachem Kurric sent
          the lot of us down here to purchase his . . um . . . supplies. . .

Aerianna:  You're still working for that old fart? Oh, I don’t care! Nara be praised it’s good to see you!!!
                 The last I spoke to you . . . you were little more than half my height . . . Goddess  . . you
                kids grow up like weeds!

Hugh:  And you haven’t changed a bit . . .

    ( Exhaling forcefully, the girl taps her chest, shaking her head . . .)

Aerianna:  I'll have you know, you half scared the life out of me!

     (Elsewhere . . . at the opposite end of the market . . .)

Boy: So. . . Do you . . . eat these things?

Vendor:  Ha! If you wish to experience the wonders of  the dead, yes.

Boy:  I don't understand what you mean?

     (The child cocks his head to one side as the vendor shakes hers, pulling a dried, shriveled and
knotted tuber from his hands . . .)

Vendor:  Didn’t your mother teach you that blackroot on your tongue is death itself?

Boy:  No . . . ?

Vendor:  It is used for killing pests and such!  They are attracted by its sweet and strong
            scent . . . insects, rats, when they eat, they die.

Boy:  So--this is for killing pests?

Vendor: Have you no wits about you, boy?  What did I just say?  They eat your food,
            bring disease, soil your home and even bite you in your sleep . .

     (The boy seems to contemplate this for a moment, brushing the tangle of hair
out of his face yet again . . suddenly though, he frowns, nodding)

Boy:  So then . . . I am a pest?

Vendor:  What?

Boy:  the man in his cart over there called me a pest . . . I ate some his food, and he told me
            I should run off and eat yours--

     (The woman’s eyes flare for a second, before she shakes her head, motioning the boy away
from her place of business . . .)

Vendor:  Get away from my cart, you stupid brat!  If business wasn't so bad perhaps
                I wouldn't think twice about making you taste--

Boy:  But--

Vendor:  Be off!

    (The boy complies, backing away from the hanging tubers with raised hands.

    What the beguiled woman does not see, however, as the child walks gingerly from her stand,
is the wry grin that has alighted his face. . .)

     (On the opposite end of the Marketplace, Aerianna and Hughwalk together . .  though the ilif regards
the young man with an obvious fondness , it is not, seemingly, one of adult companionship . . .)

Aerianna:  You haven't been keeping in touch, Hugh. . . you promised you would learn how to
                write, remember? And leave messages with the couriers when they come to this city . .

Hugh:  I was a slow learner .  .  . and bribing the Eludrian messengers costs much more
            than it used to . . .The capital is a bearable place only when the land is fat, you see.
            Men are far less giving when they are starving. . .

Aerianna:  Is that why you're still with Kurric's men? Because you still don't like dealing with rules?

Hugh:  That's part of it . .

Aerianna:  (grinning) you were never a bright kid. . .But you were a sweet one . . . and a horny one.
                            You could be very pleasant, when you weren't stealing looks at maidens way
                            out of your league . . .

     (As the girl’s thoughts tread in the darkened forests of her past, for an instant, a single
image surfaces from the whirl of memories spinning about her mind . . .

         A vision of a young boy in tattered clothes, weeping and alone,
        standing in freezing rain on a stranger’s doorstep . )

Aerianna:  Still, you were a good boy . . . also a very quiet one . . .

Hugh:  So . . .dare I ask how have things been going for you, these days?

     (The ilif slowly shifts her gaze to the street, attempting to mask the look
of obvious disdain in her eyes . . .)

Aerianna:  They are going as well as can be expected, I guess . . .

     (Stopping in his tracks, the man frowns . .)

Hugh:  Miss Aerianna. . . .

     (The girl comes to a halt a few steps later, shutting her eyes)

Aerianna: Did your feet stop working . . . ?

Hugh:  If it’s gotten that bad for you, why not leave?  They . . . they could use a healer with your
         skills in the north . . .

Aerianna:  And where in the north would you suppose I go ?  Hugh, please don't pity me.

Hugh:  Um . . .

     (As she says these words, The ilif turns, wearing a look of frustration on her face
for the second time that day. . .)

Aerianna:  Don’t you understand? Do you have any idea what you’re saying?  You of all people
              should know that there is nothing left for me there."The return of the prodigal".
                That's what they'll say.

    (Hugh cringes, having obviously struck a chord . . .

     . . .and, as she sees him begin to squirm, Aerianna's look softens somewhat . . .)

Aerianna:  I’m sorry . . . Glenden is my home.  Like it or not, these are my neighbors . . .

Hugh:  How are they your neighbors if they treat you like an outsider?

Aerianna: . . . Hugh. . . if I am used to it, what does it matter?

     (The young man shakes his head, looking to the girl once more . . .)

Hugh:  How many of you are there left here, anyway?

    (The ilif does not move as she answers . . . her voice flattens a bit as she
recitesa list which, mentally, she has gone over many times in far more trying circumstances . . . )

Aerianna: Eight.  (matter-of-factly) Two old men at the shrine; a woman and her child--I don’t
            know their names; two younger boys working for a wood-carver; and a man named Riff working
            odd jobs for the dirt farmers. . . and myself . . . See? I'm not alone . . .

Hugh:  Eight.  In a city of how many?  A hundred thirty thousand?

    (Shrugging, the girl gives a weak smile--)

Aerianna: (mumbling) never learned to count, I see . . .

Hugh:  You once told me that you are never truly unhappy, so long as you live
            for yourself, and the ones who care for you . . .

Aerianna: . . .

Hugh:  . . .tell me then:  Where are the ones who care for you?  How many of the
        people you help actually seek to return your kindness?

Aerianna:   . . . since when did you become so sappy?
              I thought the Atavi were made of sterner stuff. . .

Hugh:  . . . You told me these things!

Aerianna:  I’m surprised you actually listened at all! So busy chasing after every girl you saw . . .
              Humans have such a hard time listening, expecially with those tiny ears of yours . .

Hugh:  Well . . . I remember quite a bit of what you taught me . . .

Aerianna:  Mostly just words to comfort a frightened orphan . . .

     (Her companion frowns, shaking his head)

Hugh:  Words that meant a lot to him.

Aerianna:  (laughing weakly)  Yeah . . .

     (Meanwhile, a little further up the street . . .)

orcan:  (shrieking)

Handler: SHUT UP, you smelly old fuck!!

     (In the less populated district of the city, a group of 3 men tend to a wagon of
exceptionally large proportions. . . indeed, it is so wide, it is pulled by a
team of 3 horses . . .)

orcan:  (Shrieking)

Handler B: (shouting)  Watch the strain on that axel! If I have to repair the wagon again,
                                it's coming out of all your asses!

    (Inside, locked down by chains cuffed to its hands and feet, a beast nearly 10 feet in height
bellows angrily as it is pushed slowly through the streets in a cage mounted on a horsedrawn workman's
cart, sans horses. . . . The creature’s grayish skin is mottled by dozens of bruises and cuts, the bony,
sharp features of face distorted, puckered, and swollen from multiple blows.

    As the orcan continues to screech, it struggles about its cage, shaking the entire wagon on its axles.
It is not surprising that the road seems to clear a fair distance around the carriage on its journey to the
town centre, what curious onlookers there are taking a special care to spectate a safe distance from the
beast's wails . . .

    Spitting, the lead man signals to his comrades to resecure the ropes binding their charge to the
wagonbed.  For a moment, the men and gather at the cart’s end, thankful for a moment's respite even as
it is continually rocked back and forth by the cargo it carries . . . )

Handler C:  How much further??

Handler A:  Dyo's is 7 buildings down from here . . .

Handler C:  Yeah, well, he better pay good for this much effort. . . .

Handler B:  And what does he do with these things?

Handler A:  Something about linaments . .ointments and bone tea . . .

Handler B:  (snorting) "Linaments"?  What kind of bullshit is that old fart up to?
                                        No one buys that kind of crap!

Handler C:  I Don’t know, and I don’t care.  As long as he pays good
                Guildens for them, I’ll do the job . . .

     (As the creature hollers yet again, the third and largest of the men takes a large stick from beside the
cage, poking it sharply through the slats of the walls containing their meal ticket . . .As the beast recoils
with a howl, the man turns up his nose in disgust . . . )

Image by Maher Al-Samkari

Handler C:  (grunting)  No matter how awful they smell!

Handler B:  And if he doesn’t pay?

Handler A:  (straining) Then he goes in here with ugly, and I’ll sell what's left to the highest bidder!


     (Elsewhere . . .)

Aerianna:  You promise . . . this time . . .you’ll take care?

Hugh:  Indeed I will.  Aerianna . . .

Aerianna: . . It seems you've made a good man of yourself, Hugh.  I'm glad. It's a rare thing these days.

Hugh:  If you’re ever in the northeast look me up.  Let me return the favor, for once.

Aerianna:  You’re forgetting what I've always told you. . . .

     (The young man laughs to himself, nodding complacently)

Hugh:  I had to try . . .

Aerianna:  Go, if your men are waiting for you . . .

Hugh:  You’re sure you’ll be okay?

Aerianna:  (firmly)  Go with your Atavi. . . and keep in touch.

     (As Hugh merges with the crowds, he waves, calling after her . . .)

Hugh:  Leave if they don’t treat you well, Aerianna!  They don’t deserve your skills as
           a healer if they don’t respect you as a person . . .

Aerianna:   . . .

     ( The ilif returns the gesture with a slight chagrin, muttering quietly through grit teeth as the man at
last disappears into the throngs of the marketgoers yet again . . .)

Aerianna: Draw even more attention to me. . . Poor little dummy.  Twenty years old and you still
                don’t understand the ways of the world. . .


     (Across the street, as the farewells are bespoken between the two, the odd looking, red headed
little boy has seemingly turned his attentions to pestering the silk merchant . . .)

Vendor:  No, boy, I told you!  Men do not wear these--such finery is meant for the women only!

Boy:  why?  Is it cursed?

Vendor:  What?  Of course not! It is merely forbidden by our decorum for men to dawn Nabikis silk.

Boy:  Ah, then why can’t your men wear them?

    (The vendor snorts, exasperated at the strange child's persitance .  .  .)

Vendor:  I’ve no time for this!  If you have no money, then leave my store.

Boy: Hmmph . . . If I had money to spend, I doubt I would use it on your cursed cloth . . .

     (It takes little more than a now familiar looking, dismissive wave of the man’s hands to send the child
on his way . .. the boy, rather than deal with the next merchant, instead decides to step into the
street--across which the cart of a meadseller seems to have caught his eye . . .)

     (His progress is interrupted, however, by the sounds of screams . . . and the mad screeching of
panicked horses . . .)

Boy:   . . .?


Aerianna:  Hell's teeth!--

     (Sound of shrieks)

Aerianna:  . .!!!

     (the words of prayer falling from Aerianna Goodtree’s lips become silent, suddenly, as the reason for
the screaming quickly becomes horribly apparent . ..

     From down the street, a massive inhuman beast--nearly 10 feet in height and covered with
muscle--makes its way relentlessly through crowds of hysteric market-goers. . . its hands run with the
blood of those unlucky enough to be in its path as it trapses through the hoard; indeed, enough so that
the gore runs down its wrists, dripping wet off the iron cuffs of its broken shackles as it swings
treetrunk-like limbs angrily, leaving a gruesome path of death in its wake. . .

Image by Maher Al-Samkari

     As the orcan lumbers up the road, groups of people scatter to either side, desperate to avoid the
maddened beast as it rampages through the eastern quarter with the random ferocity of a wild animal. It
is but a matter of seconds before the entire road is practically empty . . .

     Save, however, for one small boy . . .)

Image by Maher Al-Samkari

Aerianna:   Hey!!  Get the hell out of the street!!

     (Aerianna shouts, desperate, to the child--a redheaded youngster, who seems more fascinated with
the creature than frightened . . .)

Aerianna:  (shouting)  GET OUT OF THE WAY!!!

     (Casting her own sense of self-preservation aside, Aerianna drops her bag to the ground, running into
the street in an almost blind desperation.

    Her efforts come far too late, however . . .)

orcan:  (howling)

     (The boy remains oblivious to the danger he is in, even as the orcan swings--
the blow to the child’s small body is strong enough to shatter stone; knocking the
wind from his miniscule form as it sends him tumbling into the air, limbs aflail like those of a rag-doll . . .)

     (He has not the time to make so much as a sound as he is born mercilessly from his feet--The
coherency of the moment lost to him along with his senses in the sudden spiral of vertigo that engulfs
him with the swing's deadly impact. . .)

Aerianna: !

     (Aerianna, too, finds herself rendered breathless, though not for the same reason.  The ilif comes to a
grinding halt, recoiling as she shields herself from the broken young body that slams into the earth in a
twisted heap before her, kicking up small clouds of dust and dirt as it rolls to a stop . . .

Image by Meiharu Arashi

    As she shuts away the sight, the sounds of swinging steel accompanied by shrill animal howls fill the air,
the latter dying away in garbled shrieks as quickly as they rise.  Aerianna squeezes her eyes shut,
pressing her fingers into the lids as if to drive out the sight of the limp body crumpled lifelessly not a few
feet away. Somewhere, beneath pounding of her heartbeat and the rush of the adrenaline searing through
her veins, the girl's more rational senses takes note of the arrival of the local guard, whose swift swords
make quick work of the beast, overwhelming it in sheer number as they hack it mercilessly to
pieces . . .)

     (A moment passes, the roadway rendered deathly quiet as the reality of the situation dawns upon all
present . . . Indeed, it is a long time before the first cries of lamentation can be heard from further up the
street, as those in the beast’s wake snap free from their collective shock and turn their attentions to the
wounded and the dead . . .one by one, voices ring out in the silence, breaking its numbing spell with the
horrid reality of a tragedy that has beset the Glenden marketplace without admonition, mercy, or
prejudice . . .

    . . .  As her fingers slip slowly from her eyes, it is through asymmetric blotches and indistinct stars
which obscure her vision that the street once again comes into focus.  The ilif at last turns, her gaze
falling first upon the bloody, gutted corpse of the creature:  its limbs lay splayed out all manner of
directions as it lies in a  heap in the middle of the street, surrounded by nearly a dozen armored
swordsmen joined by one or two  armed civilians, their faces stained crimson by the creature's vital
fluids;  rust colored blood which, even  now, wells in a slowly expanding pool beneath the guardsmens'
feet . . . )

     (As her gaze fall to the second corpse lying in the street, however, the look on the young ilif's face
twists, first, to one of revulsion--and Aerianna Goodtree finds herself doubly regretting having opened her
eyes at all. . .)

Boy:  (groaning)

Aerianna:  . . by the Goddess . .  he's still breathing . . . ??

    (At first, the girl shudders at the thought of a horribly mangled creature still clinging to what shreds
remain of his life:  the prospect of having to end such suffering by her own hand sending a particularly
cold shiver traveling quickly down her spine . . .

    . . .this  notion is quickly dispelled, however, by a sight that causes even the ilif to step back;

     for the child is very much alive and, even moreso,

     he speaks to her as he struggles to stand . . )

FAREN:  A Dragon’s Tale

Episode 1:  "Forgotten Movements"


Female voice:  FAREN!!  FAAREEEN!!  Where are you!?

     (The scene is a mist enshrouded, verdant hillside abutted on all sides by columulous clouds . . .
around its towering  peaks and sheer embankments, an almost endles expanse of white stretches
for almost as far as the eye can see . . . )

Female Voice:  This isn’t fair, you little jerk! How am I supposed to find you in the middle of the day!??

     (As a warm wind billows over the lush cliffs, gurgling streams, and flowing
terraces, the sound of a girl’s voice calling in desperation (and a hint of aggravation)
can be heard reverberating through the  steep crags and valleys which line the very
edge of the mountain . . . at first, a lonely echo is the only response to the irate calls . . .)

Female Voice:  I can’t believe you would be this mean to me!!  Faren, I swear, I’m going to-

Male Voice:  Going to What?

     (high above the green terrace, on a rocky embankment jutting out from the inner crook
cliffside, a lithe, almost  reptilian form can be seen.  The shape is obscured by the light of the morning
sun as it stands lazily from its perch, glaring down at the source of the disturbance with a particularly
caustic leer. . .)

Female Voice:  Were you up there the whole time???

Faren:  You didn't finish your sentence.  You're going to "what" ?

Female Voice:  . . .

Faren:  Either I’m good at hiding, or your eyes have gotten older before
            the rest of you, Vasha . . . you're no good at this game!

Vasha:  They have not, you Pest!!

     (as she says this, the owner of the searching calls steps out from behind
the cool shadows directly beneath the rocky purchase. . .

    As the sunlight strikes her pale hide, the dragon returns the sneer, glaring up at the creature
now stretched out lazily on the stones high above . . .)

Vasha:  What are you waiting for?

Faren: . . ?

Vasha:  Come DOWN here, you imbecile!

     (at the word "Imbecile", the male dragon shifts, turning his eyes away.)

Faren:  Carcea says that it is improper for hatchmates to use big
            words with each other . . . it inflates ego .

    (the serpentine's words bely an almost palpable boredom, precipitated by the well-practiced
drone of the words he speaks even as his attention sways from the irascible young girl below to
the lazy clouds that surround above. . )

Vasha:  Will you SHUT UP about that old crone!??

Faren:  You’re the one doing all the talking.

Vasha:  I’ve been looking for you for two days!!  You didn't even bother calling me
            when the game is over!!

Faren:  Who said the game was over?  Have I surrendered to you yet? You're just slow.

Vasha:  (frustrated ) I FOUND you

    (As she says this, Vasha's wings swell with emphasis, stretching to their full berth at the word 'found'.

Faren rolls his eyes, however, betraying a condescending sigh at the girl's display . . .)

Faren: No--I LET you find me.  This game gets very boring when you make winning so easy . . . but
            the game is never over.  You should know better than that!

Vasha:  Hmmph! You were never good at hiding OR lying!

Faren:  Fine then.  If we agree you found me . .

Vasha: . . .?

     (The girl turns a cynic eyebrow up at the other dragon as he
rises to all fours, glowering down directly at her. . .)

Faren: Then---We have to fight!!!

Vasha: . . . fine!

     (There is no more warning as the young girl raises her horned prow with a
shout--and the very air seems to crackle, as strange lines of light coalesce about the protuberances that
adorn her crown, dancing this way and that about their length before, with a thunderous climax, they leap
free: unleashing a rippling shaft of brilliance that completelyobliterates the ledge upon which Faren
stands . . .

     in the instant before it hits, however, the young dragon leaps from his purchase--his wings
catching the shifting winds for a moment, allowing him to glide safely to the ground below . . .

     As he faces his sister, she growls--the triad on her head glowing with a
particular brilliance as the notes of a second enchantment  fall from her lips; this time,
however, they are a quiet utterance  . . . though their effect is not nearly as so.)

Faren: (yelping) OoooaAAARGH!

     (The young male is not prepared as the ground beneath him begins to rumble, then tear--
ejecting a pillar of stone into the sky, with him atop it . . . regaining his senses, the dragon leaps from
the rock at the apex of its ascent--bulleting toward Vasha with incredible speed . . .)

Faren:  (snarling)

Vasha:  . .!!!

     (As the two collide, the force of impact knocks the girl from her feet--she
and her brother are sent tumbling to the ground in a heap, rolling for several seconds
in a chaotic tangle of claws and feet . . . )

     (The last sound to be heard as the dust from their fall clears, however, is not that of
continued combat . .

    it is that of youngsters laughing . . . and the completion of their game . . .

    As the playful air dies away, and silence again descends upon the two, they separate--
regaining their footing as the dust from their 'battle' begins to clear.

    Finally, the male rises to his feet, stretching his wings before regarding his clutchsister with
somber eyes . . .)

Faren:  Vasha . . . will you be returning to your studies, now?

Vasha:  For a while, yes.  Why?

    (the red dragon nods, glancing over his shoulder before meeting her eyes again)

Faren:  I have a favor . . . Something I need to ask of you.

Vasha: . . . A  favor?


Boy:  (coughing) o . . . . ow . . .

Aerianna:  How  . . . How on Lein can you be alive?!?

Boy:  What . . .what .  . ?

     (In the dusty streets of eastern Glenden, Aerianna Goodtree finds herself staring down
at a boy that, for all intents and purposes, should be very dead . . .)

Aerianna:  But . . I saw the strike . . .!!

     (Still filled with disbelief, the ilif falls to her knees-clutching the child about his
shoulders, looking him over . . .)

Aerianna:  . . .

Boy:  Unnh . . .Who are you . ..?

     (She does not answer, however, as she begins to feel his arms--squeezing
the muscles gently with a practiced care. . .)

Boy:  What . . .Are ..  .you doing?

Aerianna:  don't talk!

     (with this, she turns the confused boy around--tracing the curve of his back
with her fingers, shutting her eyes as she feels his spine . . .

     when she finishes, she looks again, taking note that the boy’s rags have been torn to shreds . . .

     Yet his skin remains intact …)

Boy:  Let me be!

Aerianna:  Calm down, child . . . calm down . . Nara's grace must be upon you, to have not been killed!

Boy:  killed??

     (Turning the boy around once more, she looks him in the eyes . . .
they are a deep emerald, and, strangely enough, piercing, in their gaze . . .)

Aerianna: . . . What is your name?

     (The child looks at her cautiously, then shakes his head . . .)

Boy: . I . .

Aerianna:  Come now.  Surely, you have a name!

Boy:  They call me ‘boy’.

     (despite the situation, Aerianna almost laughs . . .the child, meanwhile, can only return a look of
incredulousness and little else . . .)

Aerianna:  That blow did something to you!  Listen to me, that is not your name . . . that is just what they
              call you.  Unless you fancy yourself a street jester . . .

Boy: (irate)  why does everyone keep saying that!?

Aerianna:  . . . ?

     (sensing something odd afoot, the ilif looks about herself . . . where,
around the two, a crowd of curious onlookers has begun to gather . . . )

Aerianna: (thinking)  Crap . . .

    (Stammering, the girl stands, taking the child by the hand . . . )

Aerianna:  Clumsy--servant!  We still have shopping to do, I don't have time for your stupidity!!

Boy: My name isn’t serv-- What- are you-!!? Hey!

     (The child can say no more as the ilif pulls him through the crowd at a
hurried pace, ignoring his confused protests . . .)


     (Moments later)

Boy:  Why did you call me that?  What are--hey now, stop!

    (It is only after looking back to ensure she has not been followed that Aerianna slows the pace of her
strides. Even then, the girl is obvious in her attempt to remain inconspicuous, pulling the child to the very
edge of the road before ducking into an alleyway nestled between shops . . .)

Aerianna:  It was getting too crowded back there.  These people are likely to hurt you more than that
             orcan, if they suspect you of something fishy!  Humans have a strange sort of superstition . . .
              like children.  Spend enough time with them, you learn to predict it.

Boy:  Why would you help me then? Won't they suspect you?

Aerianna:  (snorting) They suspect me of everything already, so it doesn't matter.
                            at least have the sense to get out of the way when a wild ogre charges me.

Boy:  . . .

Aerianna:  Where are you from, anyway?  You don’t look like an easterner, your eyes are too slender . . .

     (Iincensed, the child pulls his arm out of the girl's grip, taking several steps back . ..)

Boy:  Who are you?  And why do you ask so many questions?  I am just another 'street urchin' . . .

      (Recognizing the callousness of that particular statement as being a constant of the marketplace,
Aerianna mumbles in retort . . .)

Aerianna:  Hmph.  Did Javro the rzan dealer teach you that?

Boy:  As a matter of fact--

Aerianna: (interrupting) Be polite!  I probably saved you hide from another beating!

Boy:  (mumbling) so what. . .

     (the ilif stops in her tracks, looking at the child)

Aerianna:  What did you say?

Boy:  (closing his eyes)  I didn’t say anything.

     (Aerianna bends over, indicating the slender ears peeking from behind the hood which lies
draped over the sides of her head)

Aerianna:  (smirking)  These aren’t just for show, you know.

     (embarrassed, the child looks to her for a second, then lowers his gaze . . .)

Boy:  You . . . You're different from the rest of them?

Aerianna: Well, we know your brain still works partially, at least.  Why don’t you come with me?

Boy:  to where?

Aerianna:  My home.  We’ll give you something to eat, I can take a closer look at you,
                and do something about those clothes . .

Boy:  Why would you help me.  Can you not see I have no money?

Aerianna:  No, you don't exactly seem gainfully employed to me . . .but you could say
                I have a soft spot for the wierd ones.

Boy:   . . . And what are wrong with my clothes?

    (The woman begins to chuckle at the ludicrousness of the statement--
until, by chance, she catches glance of the curious look in the boy's eyes.

Aerianna:   Goddess, you’re serious . .

Boy: . . .?

Aerianna:  That blow must have really messed with your head. . . .

     (Meanwhile, in a place far from Glendenium lands...

    Yystennan, the largest city of Iskander and the political seat of the realm.

    Viewed at a distance from the foothills of the Elkads, Yystennan resembles nothing so much as an
ornate white flower perched at the terminus of a green stem, ‘the Arm of Rohnor’, a peninsula projecting
out into the Sea of Isthak and partially enclosing  the Bay of Eskigal.  On closer approach, the ‘flower’
resolves itself into the tall white walls and numerous gleaming towers that have earned Yystennan its
other name, in the bardic tongue, ‘Majestic’.  Indeed, perhaps nowhere else but in the Old Cities of the
North are artistry and functionality blended to such a degree as in the strong fortifications of the
Iskandrian capitol.  Beyond the walls, the broad avenues of Yystennan divide the city proper into twelve
districts, with all districts and avenues converging upon the Royal Compound of Yystennan.  The
compound comprises two walls beyond those enclosing the city proper,  with barracks, stables, and drill
grounds for the Royal Army located in the fields beyond the first wall, and the Elder Palace itself and
attendant buildings beyond the second.

    There is a great deal of excitement this day in the Autumn Wing of the Palace, where a richly garbed
throng of courtiers and nobles mills about gently in the broad corridor, attendant upon events now taking
place in an adjacent salon.  One by one, heads turn towards the salon’s large, red-enameled doors, as
the rising din of angry voices from within draws the attention of all in the hall.

    Suddenly, with a hollow boom, the doors are thrown back, jarring violently on their hinges, and a tall ,
broad form is silhouetted against the threshold.  His eyes flash over the startled multitude before him
with undisguised contempt as he gathers his floor-length crimson robes into one large fist and strides
quickly and powerfully through the crowd.

    From behind him, within the salon, comes a cry . . .)

Voice: Sire! Wait!

    (. . .Followed by the appearance of a small man at the threshold of the room.  This figure, seeming
greatly encumbered by his heavy state robes, nevertheless hurries after the fleeing king with such
energy that he manages to catch up to him before he reaches the exit of the hall. The irate  king comes
to a sudden halt as the ambassador, much out of breath, bars his further progress. . .)

King Harcon:  Oranion, what are you doing?  We told you, we are leaving.
                      What is this ridiculous display?

Ambassador Oranion:  Sire, forgive me for my impertinence...

King Harcon:  Not another word!  We understand clearly the intentions of the
                       Iskandrians in this matter...the dogs!  Eludria will not be debased
                       by our remaining at the table of negotiations when it is clear that that
                        vulture of a regent, Talgriff, wants no cessation of those hostilities that
                       have long caused our lands so much sorrow!

Ambassador Oranion:  Sire, that is not so, I feel sure of it!  Talgriff is a reasonable man...

King Harcon:  Reparations!?  He speaks of reparations that must be made, when our
                        countries bleed still from the wounds they have inflicted upon one another!
                        Oranion, your obsequiousness is surpassed only by boundless ineptitude. . .

  (Suddenly, at the far end of the hall, Harcon catches sight of the Iskandrian diplomatic party...Lord
Talgriff, the Iskandrian regent, is among them, with his charge, the young emperor-apparent, Kardec.
The sight of them, watching from the entrance of the negotiating room, seems to inflame the king all the

King Harcon (shouting):  Talgriff!  Do you hear us?  You’ll not have the port of Olkeme from us!
                                    It was Eludrian in our grandfather’s time, and we shall not part with it
                                    while we still breathe.  The mothers of Iskander will weep for your folly,
                                    to take their husbands and sons from them in continuance of bloody war,
                                    ‘Lord of Carrion’!

  (As the king spits the last of his statement, the murmur of indignant protest fills the room.
Around the hall, Iskandrians bristle at the insult to their regent, seemingly causing Oranion's desperation to grow to
a fever pitch . . .)

Ambassador Oranion:  I implore your highness, do not do this thing!  Do not endanger the peace
                                    that we have so recently won!  Let them have the port, and call it fair price
                                    to pay for an end of conflict!  Think of your people...

King Harkon:  And is this an end of conflict for them?  No, perhaps we shall buy our peace again
                        and again, and each time at the cost of another portion of the Empire!
                        We shall not see Eludria diminished!  The Sons of the Raven will stretch
                       out their arms once again and crush Iskander, if we so command, rather
                        than face this humiliation!

Ambassador Oranion:  Will they, sire, will they really?  When those arms are so weak from famine
                                    as to scarcely move at all?  Talgriff offers to finalize the Treaty of Urbek,
                                    and with it, as a gesture of good will, he makes us gift of twelve-hundred
                                    jelak of grain to ease the suffering of the peasants!  He must have Olkeme
                                    to pacify the Council of Eight, though, sire!  They will not have
                                    forgotten Konlef!

      (The words of the ambassador find purchase...King Harkon winces at the name of the
infamous battle...at once his greatest victory and deepest shame.  Kundushite mercenaries had been
hired by Harkon to bolster the Eludrian ranks, and Eldreth-baan, the Iskandrian Emperor and father of
Kardec, had fallen among those ranks.  Any of the Eludrians would have known from long tradition that
the Iskandrian Emperor was of the old royal line of Eludria, and therefore not to be touched, but the
mercenary Kundushites had slain the young emperor and stripped his body before any knew what had
happened.  King Harkon had not known, until later, what had so demoralized the enemy at the very
height of battle that he was able to rally his forces and carry the day...had not known that he had
unwittingly caused to be shed the sacred blood of the Eludrian kings.  It was tragedy that he had never
forgiven himself for, though it had occurred almost seven years ago.

    Villified, King Harkon looks at his ambassador through narrowed eyes.)

King Harkon:  You know how we hate the mention of that day, Oranion!

Ambassador Oranion: (dejectedly)   Of course, sire...My life is forfeit, by royal decree,
                                                        for my indiscretion.  But I plead with you...understand
                                                       that there are many in Iskander that have denounced
                                                        these negotiations...that vilify Talgriff for his efforts to
                                                        reconcile Iskander to Eludria under any terms!
                                                        He has risked much to invite us here, and risks much more
                                                        with the terms he offers!

King Harkon:  But...a whole city for grain and peace?!

Ambassador Oranion: (humbly)  What Iskander offers is what Eludria is most
                    in need of, sire.  Olkeme is a small port, too near the range of the
                    Atavi pirates, anyway.  It is many, many lem from Ristania, sire.
                    Compared to what we stand to gain . . . a niusance.  A trifle.  Sire . .
                    Let them have it.

King Harkon:  That almost sounds like a command, Oranion...

    (though almost toneless, these words seem to strike a particular horror into the ambassador's diminuitive frame . . .)

Ambassador Oranion:  Sire, I would not presume...!

King Harkon:  Enough!  Perhaps our father would have killed you for what you have done
                    here today, but we shall not...you speak with reason. We will not sacrifice the
                    peace we have gained, and we shall prosper together, Eludria and Iskander,
                    and bury the dead of the Old War once and for all.

Ambassador Oranion:  Yes, sire!  We shall go to Iskandrians at once...

King Harkon:  You will go, Oranion. We are yet too much like our father to return to
                        that room after what has been said.  Go, our ambassador, and arrange all
                        things according to your sense.  We give you full license to act in this matter.
                        Return to us when all things are complete, so that we may leave this place.
                        We are sick of being displayed.

Ambassador Oranion:  All shall be as you say, my king.


Boy:  What is your name?

Aerianna:  Aerianna.  Aerianna Goodtree.

Boy:  Good-tree?

     (The ilifin girl laughs at the boy’s seemingly endless naiveté.)

Aerianna:  Yes. It is the kind of name the we ilifi give to one another.

Boy:  Why?  Are you good with plants?

    (Aerianna turns up her nose . . .)

Aerianna:  Of course not, dummy.  It's my family name.

Boy:  Then your father was a farmer?

Aerianna:  No.

Boy:  Then perhaps your grandfather was good with plants?

Aerianna:  I know where this is going--it is JUST a name.
                It holds no special meaning, save for the girl who wears it.

    (The child reluctantly shrugs his shoulders, pawing the ground with his foot . . .)

     (Casting her eyes back to the road ahead, the ilif sighs with a comfortable familiarity for the
surroundings--open streets, far from the claustrophobic bustle of the market square, are a
welcome sign to Aerianna despite the multitude of odd questions the boy has begun to assail her with. )

Aerianna:  Well . . .we’re almost there . . . Tell me. . . should I even bother asking about your parents?

    (The boy’s face suddenly rises with a start, almost as if he has been shocked . . . blinking several times, he finally mumbles--)

Boy:  Parents?  I . . . I have no parents . . .

Aerianna: (flatly). . . I suppose your mother died when you were very young,
                        and your uncaring father abandoned you to the whims of the streets . . .
                        we can pick that story by default if you wish, I've heard them all . . .

Boy:  (confused)  Huh?

Aerianna:  Never mind.  No name, and no parents . . .Right . . .

Boy:  . . .

    (Aerianna shakes her head, resolving to humor the child for at least a little while longer . . .)

Aerianna:  Well, I will have to call you something.  "Boy" will do for now.

Boy: But that is only one name--

    (The child halts in mid sentence, though, as the ilif suddenly stops--raising her eyes to the somewhat
dilapidated building sitting at the end of the path before them . . .

    It is a humble sort of house, set aside from the main road and nestled a comfortable distance away
from its nearest neighbors.  A cursory glance is all one needs to fully grasp its neglected state:  wood panels
in dire need of repair,  a straw roof in need of patching, and windowglass in need of replacing.  Indeed,
even the footpath appears to cry out for attention;  its surface worn and cracked and overgrown with briars . . .
high above, as if to complete this vision of disrepair, the torn canvass sails of the inert windmill mounted
atop the cottage's roof  flap languidly in the breeze,  the dozen or so empty birdnests which lie in the
crooks and along the spine of the structure intimating its many years of disuse with their own somber irony. . .   )

Boy: Wh .  .what’s this place?

    (Aerianna chuckles lightly as she makes her way toward the steps of the building, taking care not to
catch the edges of her dress on the weeds that have sprouted up between the cobblestones . . .  It is
only with slight chagrin that she looks back at the boy, who seems hesitant to follow her into the cabin.)

Aerianna:  What do you think?  It is my home. . .

Boy:  You live . . . here?

    (The girl's eyes narrow into slits as she regards the uncertain child cooly . . .)

Aerina:  Say what you like, "urchin" . . . it's far warmer than the street.

    (Meanwhile . . . in a place far removed from Glenden, Eludria, and the rest of the human race. . .
in a cave situated in the highest regions of mount Echelon, bathed in the obscurity of an unnatural
shadow, a behemoth lies, still as the dead night, and equally as silent . . .

    Its immense size and bulk dwarfing even the enormity of its surroundings, the creature shows no
movement, no sign of life save for the low, basal rumble that is its breathing:  a tremulous echo easily
mistaken for hollow drafts and cave winds which moan through the shafts and crags of the timeless
stone chamber.

    It is the colossal form of an ancient dragon--her body massive beyond words, blanketed in the stone
and dust of several millenia.  Like a sculpture of animated marble,  it is indistinct as where the cave rock
surrounding it ends, and the flesh and scales of the beast itself begin.

Image by Maher Al-Samkari

    Before it, half encased by the darkness which permeates the grotto, sits a much smaller, yet
strangely, almost equally imposing figure . . . )

    It is that of a full grown male dragon-- Its blue hide has taken on the hue of a pale gray in the dwindling
light from the cave opening . . . the play of shadows upon its face only seems to enhance, however, the
deep furrows above the creature’s brow . . . and the enraged scowl that has twisted its features . .  .)

Oryn:  I will not ask again, ancient one.  What did you tell him. . .

Shakre: . . . And I shall not answer you, once again.  I suppose then that this conversation is,
            at last, at an end?

Oryn:  Not until I have my answers, old one.!

Shakre:  . . .

Oryn:  What manner  of altruistic nonsense did you fill his head with?

Shakre:  The words that have passed between myself and your child, Oryn,
              I hold in careful regard . . .as carefully as those which pass in confidance between you and I.
              You, who values the sanctity of words. Were, that you were to force me to
                break the trust he has placed within me, who is to say what, or who, may come about. . .

Oryn:  There is no sanctity in what you speak, for I know of what is shared.
          You speak to him of the forbidden -- pollute his frail mind with ludicrous ideals
          and extinct prospects which violate the code by which we now live.  Do you argue this,
          ancient one?

Shakre: . . . You believe his mind frail, for embracing the ideal?

Oryn:  You yet still refuse to answer. Very well.  Tell me nothing, then. speak in riddles and
            circles until you waste away, that seems to be all that you are good for.
            Return to your torpor, your time has not come yet.

Shakre: . . . Lord Oryn, be not hasteful with your words.  When the eastern zephyr and the
          western airs meet in the tallpeaks, the winds created are the winds of chaos, into which no one
          may safely enter.  Regard this situation with that of your son in a similar manner thus, away from
          the air of extremes.

     ( His mien now a mask of bound rage, the dragon turns away from the one called Shakre,
growling under his breath  . . . )

Oryn:  I will find the truth myself. . . Our fragile clan state shall not be weakened by
            the foolish actions of  my own blood . .

     (With a hastened gait, Oryn  makes its way to the cave openingwhere a painfully bright light awaits
to greet the dragon king. This light exists indicative  of the threshold between the shadows held within,
andthe illuminated world which exists outside . . . A small cloud of dust rises to see off the leader of
the eight as he leaps from the perch, tearing through the thin air beyond the cave's lip, catching the
updrafts with proud wings  and beginning a fast descent. )

Shakre:  Compassion, leige.  Compassion for innocence.  Compassion for the brash of youth.
              Lest you prove that our people are truly living their last days upon this plane.

  To Be continued . . .