The Silver Princes Awash in Crimson
Bedtime Story 1
Away from the walls of Meliora Posi, in a tiny clearing in the jungle, there was a small stone shrine. The light of a campfire flickered within.
“Are you full, children?”
They looked up at him and nodded, their eyes reflecting the firelight. He saw the lids were heavy, ready for sleep. The Boy yawned, revealing a small piece of tonight’s stew meat (jerky, boiled and seasoned until soft) stuck in his teeth. For some reason, the sight inspired a feeling of peace in the older man.
“To your beds, then, and I shall tell you a story.”
They laid down on the cool curves of the earth-work beds, bundles of old clothing used for pillows. He felt their ears waiting for him, as he stirred the fire. In the beginning, they had been too saddened, too weary to show curiosity. As their hunger was defeated, their aches eased away, and a sense of safety returned, this changed. But knowledge must come with time, and so the man had deflected and evaded their questions about himself, sharing only his name and his purpose. Now, he felt, they were ready.
“There is a land far away, over the great mountains that my people call the Fire Peaks, and yours call The Thousand, and others call the Burning Spine. It is a land of sand and stone, of wind and fire. You can walk for days, and never once will you see a tree, or hear a stream, or feel rain on your skin.”
“Is that where you come from?” Li-nah asked, and The Boy shot her a look of something akin to envy.
“But there is life there,” the man continued, as though he had not heard the question. “By the light of moon and stars, in the cool shadows of caverns, beside precious wells and springs, it is possible to live. The things that live there must be strong. They must be fast, and cunning, and tough as…,” he searched his mind for a local word, “elephant hide. Yes. That is how one lives out there, in the great desert called the Glitterflame.” He stirred up a fountain of embers.
“But there was a little girl who was not fast, nor cunning, nor tough. She was but a newborn babe, and her eyes… they could not see. In that harsh place, the laws said that the blind, and the crippled, and the weak should be sent out into the desert, to be taken by the sands.”
“That must have made her mommy sad.” This time, her comment was acknowledged.
“Oh yes, and her father, too. In fact, it made him angry. The law was old, and their tribe now had food and water to spare. Besides, the girl could still be strong like her father, even if she was blind. Her mind and her voice could still be strong, even if her body was not. And so her father challenged the chieftain.” The man finished banking the fire, and sat back against the stone column between the two beds. “He lost. And so, he too was sent out into the desert, with his daughter in his arms.”
The children were quiet. They had seen too much horror and felt too much heart-ache to still shed tears for the story, but he could sense their sympathy. But more than that, they suspected the story was not yet finished.
“Sir,” came the wary voice of The Boy, “Did the sands take them?”
The man let the question hang in the air for a full minute, before answering.
“They were only a few breaths away from their last. But a Calibration miracle occurred, and saved their lives. The Desert herself spoke to the father, and gave him the power he deserved. She taught him her miracles, so that he might go out into the world, and show the broken and the oppressed that they too can be strong. His daughter was the first to feel those miracles, and now she can see the world that her father is building. The tribe who cast them out, they soon felt those miracles as well. Now they see the girl and her father in a different light. By the grace of the Desert, everything was made right.”
Li-nah closed her eyes and snuggled closer to her makeshift pillow, seemingly content at the happy ending. The man could feel that The Boy was still watching him, though. That was good.
The story ended, Guldur adjusted his robes to make the sitting position more comfortable, and drifted off to sleep.