This World, This Tale

“Anaia will relent, eventually,” Tyrrhen says,  watching as Aymeri pulls at the weeds around their flame fruit plants with unnecessary force. Most of their clan had left the eyrie early in the morning for a hunt on the mainland, but before Aymeri could open his lips to ask permission to join them, Anaia had ordered him to stay behind to help tend the small garden that Tyrrhen, as their clan’s sole earth dragon, kept.

“I don’t care about missing a hunt,” Aymeri says, working the soil with a gentler hand, “She treats me like a juvenile.”

“Aye,” Tyrrhen says, smiling fondly, his memory full of mornings like these with his reluctant young helper. He almost expects to find Terhanis and Seryn hiding in the rushes, giggling as they watched their clutch mate work, sometimes joining him, trying to make a game of it. Though it never sat well with Tyrrhen that Anaia would use his beloved garden as a punishment for the wayward youth of their clan, he made the best use of it he could by trying to instill some patience and discipline into his charges, whether their aid was voluntary or forced. “It seems only yesterday that you were a child,” he muses, “And Anaia only knows one way to do things.”

Aymeri grunts his agreement on that point. Anaia was a stone who could not be moved by force or persuaded by reason. And like the water of a stream, he had learned to simply flow around her to get where he wished to go.

“Don’t take your frustration out on my plants,” Tyrrhen instructs him with a gentle laugh, “Dig under the dirt to pull the weeds out by root, as I taught you. Don’t pull from the top.” Getting down on his knees, the elder dragon nudges Aymeri aside, tending to his plants himself, as he’s always preferred. “Here, take some of the fruit to Tearhen,” he says, handing Aymeri several of the spicy fruits, warm to the touch. Grown only on dragon eyries, the flame fruits are the sole sustenance for young dragonlings before their teeth come in, and are a special treat for the mostly carnivorous older dragons. “Anaia and the others won’t be back before nightfall; there’s no reason you have to work with me the whole day.”

Pocketing the fruit, Aymeri pauses before taking his leave.”Does the earth sing to you?”

“Sing? That’s an odd question,” Tyrrhen stops his work to look up at him, “What do you mean?”

Aymeri shakes his head, having the answer he needed. Water dragons rarely talk about the water’s song to each other, let alone discuss it with dragons of the other elements, and broaching it with Tyrrhen was a mistake.

Tyrrhen takes up a handful of loose soil which he lets falls between his fingers. “You think it is solid, and still,” he says, “You walk on it, and it holds your weight. But it is always moving, beneath the surface.” He lays his palm flat to ground, causing it to tremble beneath their feet, the smallest of tremors, and just a taste of an earth dragon’s power. “The earth roars, son. She does not sing.”

Released from his duty, Aymeri does not go straight back to the nest where Terhanis and their young son wait. Taking the path up to the rise that shields the hollow below from the ocean winds,  he stops at the cool, green pool of fresh water.

The song is different since his return from the Undersea, her voice clear, calling to him by name.

He can’t go back to the Undersea, not without losing time here. But he must answer Icovellauna’s call, and see her again.

Anaia forbade him to leave the eyrie, and there was no way to transform into his dragon form and flying to the mainland without drawing notice, but Aymeri no longer needs his wings to travel. The water will take him anywhere he wishes to go, and he will not be missed here for several hours at least.

Stepping waist deep into the pool, he sends a silent response to her call, and then submerges, closing his eyes and letting the song direct him back to the waterfall in the enchanted forest.

She is there when he emerges, waiting for him.

“This world has aged greatly since I last ventured out of the Undersea,” she muses, not waiting for him to greet her.

“I spent only an hour with you in the Undersea, but I lost a full three days here when I returned,” he answers, “Does your sun move at a slower pace than ours?”

She stands silent for a moment, confusion writ on her face. “The Undersea lies on the dawning edge of the Dusk.”

She had told him that in the Undersea, when he had asked where they were. “But how many hours does it take for the sun to rise in the Undersea?” he rephrases his question, “How long before it travels to the opposite horizon and night falls?”

“If night is falling, you have traveled to the Dusk,” she answers with a smile, “The Undersea is where the sun is rising.”

A dim understanding settles itself in his mind as he remembers how the sun had hung unmoving in the dawning pink sky of her realm. There is much he could learn from her, but one question presses him, demanding an answer.

“The water’s song, your song, has it changed, or am I just hearing it differently since I’ve returned?”

“It is my song no longer, but ours,” she says, one hand enclosing around his wrist as the other reaches to caress his face, “Just as we are no longer two separate beings, but one, united in our song.”

Her words surprise him, but the truth they speak does not. When he looks into himself, he sees her looking back at him, no longer the shadowy mist he could not quite grasp, the mystery he sought to solve. Like the clutch bond, it is a union that cannot be denied or broken, no matter the distance that might come between them.

Flittering across realms of light and shadow, Moth makes his way to the Dusk to light on Tania Summerdream’s outstretched palm.

“What news do you bring of the world beyond, dear Moth?”

Taking his more cumbersome form, Moth floats above the ground before her.

“Icovellaunahasleft theUndersea,” he tells her, words jumbling together in an excited rush, “Shehastaken herdragon.”

“Ah,” Summerdream sighs, a crooked smile on her lips, “So a new tale is to be woven, and the world will change once again.”

“ShouldI awakenAuberon?”

“Not yet, sweet Moth, not yet,” she answers, “Let him dream his dream for yet another while.” This world had been spun from the tales Auberon had whispered, and it was at long last moving to its end. This world, this tale, would be hers to tell.