Wednesday, 18 February 2015
The Wolf Pack Chapter 17 Translation
Yssa lay back in the bath in the Tower bathhouse and sighed. She was very tired. She had been up all night again trying to perfect the spell she was working on, but something was not quite right. She needed a good night’s sleep. The spell was one that was reputed to have been known in the distant past, but which had been lost during the time known as “The Forbidding”. Her speciality was researching these lost spells.
Once there had been a dreadful war between two groups of mages for power. Many innocent people had died as well as many mages. The king at the time had vowed that it would never happen again and had banned the practice of magic. The Forbidding had lasted five hundred years and had only been lifted one hundred and fifty years previously, and the mages were still trying to find or re-create the spells of the past.
Magic was still often mistrusted, although things were getting a little better, she mused. Mages were no longer burned, thank goodness, but in the past, this had happened to both mages and their spell books, hence many spells, had been lost. It was part of Yssa’s job to recreate some of these spells, but with only rumours passed down, and probably changed, by word of mouth, it was not an easy task. However, it was a job that she enjoyed, so was not worried at having to sometimes get little sleep.
Just then, there was a knock at the door of the bathhouse and a voice called, ‘Are you there, Yssa? There is someone asking for you in the Great Hall.’
Yssa recognised the voice as that of one of Tharron’s apprentices, a girl by the name of Soocardith.
She sighed and answered the girl. ‘Did this person give a name or say what they want?’
‘No. I-I’m sorry. Should I have asked? He’s a half-elf probationer. Tall, good looking, with auburn hair.’
Yssa needed no more information. ‘Carthinal! I wonder what he wants?’ she whispered to herself, then called out to the girl. ‘I know who it is, Soo. Tell him I was up all night working and must have some sleep. I’ll meet him in the dining hall in four hours time. Oh, and if Tharron doesn’t want you, you might entertain him for that time, please.’
With that, Yssa reluctantly rose from her bath, squeezed the water out of her long golden hair and after drying herself, dressed and returned to her rooms to fall into her bed.
Just before she fell asleep, she thought, ‘It will do him no harm at all to have to wait. I don’t suppose he often has to wait for females to come to him,’ and she smiled.
Carthinal was waiting rather impatiently when Soocardith returned with her message from Yssa. She could tell that the man was not too pleased at having to wait, so she said, rather shyly, ‘Yssa asked me to look after you until she came to meet you.’ She looked up at the half-elf. ‘My name is Soocardith. My friends call me Soo. What’s your name?’ She looked at Carthinal through her lashes, which were incredibly long.
He secretly appraised the girl. She was small and slim with big brown eyes fringed with incredible lashes. Her hair was a dark brown and she wore it shorter than many women, it not being much longer than Carthinal’s own, but he liked the cut and it suited her. Her mouth was eminently kissable and she had a cute little nose with a sprinkling of freckles. It would be pleasant to spend time in her company, and maybe kiss that lovely mouth too. Then Carthinal heard in his mind the voice of Mabryl.
‘Never toy with the affections of a young girl, Carthinal.’
He replied to her question. ‘I’m called Carthinal. Thank you for the offer of your company, but I’m actually here to work, believe it or not. While I’m waiting for Yssa, I’d like to go to the library and do some research.’ He saw disappointment cross her face, and continued, ‘I’m very new to the Tower, having only come here to do my tests in the last group. I’m afraid I don’t know where the library is. I’d be grateful if you’d show me.’
Soo’s face brightened at this and she took Carthinal up the winding stairs, chattering all the way. She expressed fear at the practical test and asked Carthinal about it. Was it true that someone had died in his group? Carthinal told her that yes, indeed someone had died, but if a mage were up to it, there was no real need to fear. All one had to do was keep one’s head. Anyway, the real blame lay with the master of that apprentice. It was obvious that he was not quite ready.
‘I’m sure Tharron would never allow an apprentice to take the test without being absolutely certain they were capable of passing, so I don’t think you have any need to worry.’
He smiled at the girl. She was really quite pretty, and he would have liked to spend some time in her company, but he told the truth when he said he had come to the Tower to work. He could not return to the Golden Dragon and say that, apart from seeing Yssa, he had wasted his time with a young, pretty apprentice.
They went up nearly to the top of the Tower, and eventually entered a long and curving corridor with a high vaulted ceiling. There were a number of bookcases in this corridor, and between these were doors. Soo explained that these all led to the same large room in which both students and their masters worked. They entered through one of the doors and found themselves in a very high and impossibly large room. It must have been a hundred and fifty feet across, and Carthinal, again, felt that it was larger than it should have been. There were, he saw, a great many desks, and these were separated into groups by tall bookcases crammed with books and scrolls. There were a large number of people in the room, of all levels of mage, from apprentices to even the odd magister. The room was silent except for the occasional rustle of a page turning, or a chair scraping as its occupant rose to either get another book, or to return one to its place on the shelves.
To his surprise, there were a few gnomes scuttling around, removing books from unoccupied desks where the occupant had left them before leaving, and replacing them on the correct shelves. He looked at Soo and raised an eyebrow. She quickly interpreted his meaning.
‘Librarians,’ she whispered.
Carthinal nodded. Yes, it made sense to have these people. They were industrious and learned, even if not magical. They were clever inventors and scientists, but did not look down on magic or claim, as did some, that science was the new magic, and that magic would die eventually.
Soo continued in a whisper and got a severe look from a passing gnome. ‘They work here in return for being allowed the use of the books for their own research. I believe they are working on some mathematical model of the flight of an arrow. Don’t know why. If an arrow flies, it does, and if it doesn’t, well, keep practising or get new arrows.’ She shrugged, dismissing the problem. ‘What section did you want?’
‘Ancient History,’ replied Carthinal.
‘Over there, on the third shelf to the left,’ the girl whispered back. ‘I see now why you want to see Yssa. That’s her speciality.’
Soocardith smiled to herself. She had wondered if Carthinal had wanted to see Yssa to make some romantic assignation. Yssa was certainly beautiful with her delicate elven looks and long golden hair, but it seemed he only wanted her for work. Maybe she, Soo, stood some chance with him then. Provided she played her cards right.
Carthinal resisted the temptation to express surprise at the revelation of Yssa’s speciality, and nodded instead. After all, he should know about such things if he was asking to see her. He then made his way over to the shelves and began to examine the books there. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Soo sitting down in a seat where she could easily see him. He sat down in a vacant seat, picked up the quill pen that was provided on the desk, examined the point, found it was sharp, then dipped it into the ink and began to make notes from the book he had taken from the shelf.
After he estimated four hours had passed, Carthinal took his notes and rose. As he walked towards the door, he saw Soo casually rise, stretch and wander towards the same door, carefully not looking at him.
As they neared the door, she feigned surprise and said, ‘Oh, Carthinal! Are you going down to the dining hall? So am I. I just realised how hungry I am. “It must be lunchtime,” I said to myself. Do you mind if we walk down together?’
Carthinal entered the dining hall with Soo. He looked round for Yssa, but could not see her, so he and Soo went and got something to eat and sat down. While they were eating, Yssa entered and waved across to them, went and got something to eat for herself and then came over to them. Carthinal stood and kissed Yssa on both cheeks twice, as was the elven style, drew out a chair for her to sit on and then sat down himself.
‘I’m sorry to make you wait,’ smiled Yssa, sitting down, ‘but I was dog-tired. I was up all night researching a lost spell. I hope Soo has been good company.’
‘I’m sure she would have been excellent company, Yssa, but the truth is that I deserted her for the library, I’m afraid,’ replied Carthinal, smiling at Soo.
‘Not very gallant of you,’ Yssa smiled back. ‘Let me finish my meal and then you can tell me what you wanted to see me about.’
The three of them ate and talked until Yssa said, ‘Let’s go outside, Carthinal, and you can tell me what you want while we walk in the grounds. It’s such a nice day and I’m fed up with being shut inside. Thank you for your help and company, Soo.’
‘Sorry to desert you again, Soo,’ Carthinal apologised, picking up his cloak from the back of the chair, ‘but I must discuss my business with Yssa now. Thanks for being such help. I hope we’ll meet again sometime.’
He shook her hand, and Soo walked away to where some other girl apprentices were waiting all excited to find out whom the handsome stranger was that she had spent so much of the morning with.
Yssa and Carthinal left the tower and wandered through the grounds. It was a mild day, and the earliest spring flowers were beginning to come out. There was a hint of blossom on some of the trees, and the sun was at last getting some strength. They could feel its warmth on their faces.
‘I have been given a job,’ Carthinal began to explain. He went on to tell Yssa about the quest that he and his friends had been offered and how they had agreed for the moment to do research but not to undertake the quest. He went on to tell her about the finding of the secret room, and the book with the archaic writing in it. Yssa listened in silence, her eyes bright with interest.
‘So, I’m looking for someone to translate the writing,’ concluded the young man.
‘You’ve found her then,’ replied Yssa.
Are you sure? I know you’re very busy with your own work at the moment,’ Carthinal was pleased that Yssa seemed to want to do this, but did not want to tear her away from her own work.
‘Try to stop me! Anyway, although I say it myself, I’m the best here for knowledge of archaic Elvish. Yes, I’ll come with you immediately. Are you ready?’ and with that, she started for the gate.
‘Yssa,’ called Carthinal after her retreating back.
She stopped and turned to him.
‘Aren’t you going to get a cloak? It gets cool in the early evening at this time of the year,’ he reminded her.
‘Oh! Of course. In my excitement I forgot.’
She hurried to the Tower, and within a short while she was back. Then the two of them made their way to the Palace and the secret room.
Lady Randa was there in the library, reading a scroll. She looked up as they came in. Carthinal introduced Yssa to her. The Duke’s daughter gave her a brief glance, and turned back to her scroll.
‘Did you find anything further, your Ladyship?’ asked Carthinal.
‘No. Nothing,’ was the brief rejoinder.
‘Then I’ll go and show Yssa the book we found. With your permission, that is. She thinks she may be able to translate it.’
‘How in the name of the gods does she know that? She’s not even seen the book. It may be beyond her,’ said Lady Randa imperiously.
Yssa was rather annoyed by this young woman who was speaking as though she were not present, but masked her feelings.
Instead she told Lady Randa, ‘I’m an expert in archaic Elvish. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I’m the best, and that’s no boast. If I can’t translate it, no one here in Hambara can. Maybe not anyone in the known world either.’
Lady Randa was just about to make a rude reply when a voice sounded from the doorway.
‘She’s right, Randa. Yssa, my dear. Welcome to the Palace.’ The Duke walked quickly to Yssa and kissed her on both cheeks twice. ‘Yssa, it has been far too long since you came to visit me, but I suppose you’ve been busy. However, fifteen years is a long time.’
‘Not for elves, Rollo,’ replied Yssa, smiling.
The other two could not help noticing that she called him by his given name, and did not use the usual courtesies given to a duke.
‘However, I apologise for my remiss. I’ll try to visit more often in future,’ she continued.
‘Please do. You may not change, but I’m not getting any younger. One day I’ll be dead and gone but you’ll still be as young and beautiful as ever,’ the Duke told her. ‘But I think you’ll be visiting me more often in future when you see in that room.’
The beautiful carvings around the walls amazed Yssa, when she entered the rooms deep beneath the ducal palace, just as they had amazed everyone else who had seen them. They allowed her to examine them thoroughly as they knew exactly what she was feeling seeing them for the first time. Eventually, though, she approached the table and saw the books. Carthinal and Lady Randa stood back to allow her to examine them in her own time. She picked up one at random, much as Carthinal had done. She opened it with great care as it was obviously very old, and once she began to read it, she gasped, looked up at the others and then back down at the book in amazement.
‘Carthinal, pinch me please ’ she requested.
‘What?’ replied the half-elf. ‘Pinch you did you say? Why?’
‘Because I think I must be dreaming and if you pinch me I’ll wake up.’
‘What is it, Yssa?’ Lady Randa, after realising that the elf was a friend of her father’s, was rather more respectful than usual.
‘These books are priceless. They are the spell books of a mage from ancient days. Many of the spells in here have been lost and we are trying to re-create them. With great difficulty, and an enormous expenditure of time and money, I may add. When translated, these books will save us years of work, centuries maybe. So that’s what your father meant when he said I would be visiting more often!’
Carthinal interrupted her.
‘I can understand your excitement, Yssa, but these were not what I wanted you to translate. The problem lies in this smaller book here.’ He indicated the book where they thought they had found the name of Sauvern.
She picked it up and looked at it. ‘The first part seems to be full of all sorts of notes. They don’t make much sense at the moment. Random jottings of experiments etc. What exactly did you want me to translate?’
Carthinal pointed out the part marked with the paper. Yssa glanced at the poem, and then put it down on the table, sat down on the chair, and picked up a pen and paper. She then began to read. After a few minutes, she looked up at the other two.
‘Do you know who wrote this?’ she asked, her eyes lit up with wonder. ‘No, I don’t suppose you do. It seems to have been written by none other than Sillaranoshedes.’
‘Who?’ exclaimed the other two in unison.
‘Sillaranoshedes. Otherwise known as Sillaran, the elf who was Sauvern’s counsellor.’
If she had said that Kassilla had written herself it herself, they could not have been more astounded.
They both looked at her in silence, until she laughed and said, ‘Close your mouth Carthinal. You look like an imbecile.’ Then she became serious again and went on, ‘Yes, I am sure, before you ask. Please would you not speak to me now, as some of the words are not very easy to translate. I’ll read the whole text to you when I’ve finished.’
Randa then suggested that they leave her to get on with the work while they go to continue in the library. Carthinal, however, could not seem to settle. His mind kept wandering to the room below where Yssa was working, and wondering how long it would take her. It seemed Lady Randa was in the same frame of mind as she too kept glancing at the door to the stairs. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only about three hours, Yssa emerged from the door. She looked tired, but elated. Before leaving the Tower, she had bound her hair, but it had come loose from its bindings and tendrils hung around her face. She pushed them back, irritated.
‘Are you ready to hear this now, or do you want to wait until later?’ she asked them.
On hearing her footsteps on the stairs, the two had sprung to their feet. Carthinal strode over to her and was solicitously leading her to a comfortable chair.
As he was doing this, he said, ‘Yssa, don’t tease. You know we’re anxious to hear it as soon as you’re able.’
‘Well stop treating me as though I’d just crossed the Mountains of Doom on foot,’ she smiled. ‘I’ve been sitting down all the time I was working down there. Although I must admit to feeling rather tired now, and this comfortable chair is rather more conducive to sleep than Sillaran’s. I could easily sleep here, you know.’
She leaned back and closed her eyes.
‘Yssa! Stop it!’ Carthinal scolded.
Yssa opened one eye. ‘Still here? Well then, I suppose I’d better read it to you or I’ll never get any sleep will I?’ She opened the paper she had in her hand and began to read.
‘“Diary Entry of Sillaranoshedes.
“This day, the fourth day of the third week in the month of Candar, in the 2,268 year since humans began to measure time, is the worst of my long life. Today, my king, my friend has lost his life.
“I am distraught. It should not have ended so. Not yet 50 years old! True it is that humans have brief lives, but Sauvern should have reigned for another twenty or thirty years, long enough for the boy to grow to manhood. A child as king!
“Already the accusations begin from those seeking power. Witchcraft, poison, and fingers will be pointed. I do not need magic or omens to foretell that war once more will visit this land, yet omens tell me that your enemies will revile your memory and your body, my king.
“But, my lord, my friend, you must be treated with all honour in death as in life. I will take your body and your Sword, and together with some true knights, we will take you to where you wished to rest for all eternity. We will travel to…”’
Yssa paused and looked at Randa and Carthinal. ‘The page had crumbled away here,’ she said. ‘I’m sorry.’
Carthinal swore a blasphemous oath, and then, remembering himself, looked at Lady Randa and apologised. She looked at him with steel in her blue eyes.
Yssa went on, ‘There is some more. Should I go on?’
The others agreed and she continued reading.
‘“Over the mountains we will go to the forest that you declared must be enchanted, so beautiful did you find it, with its mysterious mists and sudden sunbeams. By the lake where you loved the nymph, I will lay you to rest.
May the gods look on you with favour, my king, until such time as your Sword is needed once more. I will now seal this room with magic so that it can only be opened by…”
‘The page has again crumbled here.’ Yssa told them, but it finishes…
“...clues I have left which will only be found when the world is again in grave danger. Guardians I will put to watch over you. Your Sword is safe by your side and you may rest in peace until that time when the wolves roam free.”
‘And there the entry, and in fact the whole book, ends,’ concluded Yssa.
After a few moments of silence when they stood looking at Yssa, Carthinal spoke.
‘This is incredible. A diary of the elf, Sillaran! We must re-read it so that we can fully digest what it says. What about the rest of the books, Yssa?’
‘I think that the books had better not be moved. The atmosphere down there seems to be just right for them to have been preserved in near perfect condition,’ she replied. ‘Moving them may do irreparable damage. I will ask your father, Randa, if I may come here to translate and study them.’
Randa looked non too pleased that Yssa should call her by her given name as though she were just any young lady and not the heir to a dukedom. Then she remembered that her father, the Duke himself, had not turned a hair when the elf had addressed him thus, so she supposed that she should forbear from making the sharp retort that had sprung to her lips. Instead she replied, if a little coldly,
‘I’m sure he will be pleased for you to come and work down here, Yssa isn’t it?’
Lady Randa went off to look for her father to tell him what they had found.
After re-reading the translation, Carthinal turned to Yssa and asked her to have dinner with him that evening as a thank you for her work. She had just graciously accepted, when the Duke and his daughter returned. The paper was again read, this time to a visibly excited Duke Rollo.
‘How I wish I were younger, and didn’t have all these responsibilities. I would love to go on the quest to find this place where Sauvern was buried. I had a number of adventures in my youth, you know; before I married, and had Randa, and before my father died and I inherited the title. I sometimes wish that my brother had been the elder and that I could have gone on adventuring for longer. What a life that was. Excitement and danger. And fun; yes, lots of fun and companionship too. Also sadness at the death of friends. But in spite of death being an ever-present companion, and the danger, or maybe because of it, those were the times when I felt most alive.’
Here that Duke’s eyes took on a faraway look as he remembered past times and companions. He suddenly seemed to come back to the present and asked to read the translation that Yssa had in her hand. She had also brought the poem up in case the Duke thought it was of any importance. He firstly read the poem, and after a comment about bad poetry, he put it down on the table. He read the diary entry and became excited again. We need a map to see if we can work out where this may possibly be, but not tonight. It’s getting near dinnertime, I think. Yssa, would you do me the honour of dining with me this evening? We can reminisce about the days when you were a regular visitor to the Palace.
Yssa smiled. ‘I’m sorry, Rollo,’ she replied, ‘But I’ve just agreed to have dinner with Carthinal.’
‘Not to worry,’ replied Rollo, nevertheless looking rather disappointed, ‘There will be other times, I’m sure.’
‘Most certainly, Rollo,’ replied Yssa. ‘I’ll be working here for some time to come, I think.’
The Duke visibly brightened at that prospect.
Carthinal picked up the translation and with it the poem and put them in the pocket of his robe.
As he and Yssa walked away towards the library door, Rollo called after them, ‘Carthinal!’
The half-elf stopped and looked round at the Duke, who said, ‘Use that letter I gave you to pay for dinner.’
Carthinal grinned at him. ‘I intend to, sir,’ was his reply.
An hour later found Yssa and Carthinal in a secluded corner of the dining rooms in the best tavern in Hambara. At first, Yssa had objected, saying that Carthinal could not afford those prices, but Carthinal had replied that maybe he could not run to it, but the Duke certainly could, and it was the Duke who was paying. Yssa had laughed at that, and then made no further protests. So here they were in the most expensive eating place in the city, enjoying a meal and each other’s company.
After the meal, Carthinal told Yssa that he would walk her back to the Tower. It was a pleasant night, and both moons were in the sky. Lyndor was waning, shining gibbous in the sky, and Ullin was just past full. As they passed through the gates, Yssa asked Carthinal if he would like to go to her rooms for a last drink. Carthinal declined, saying that he must get back before it was too late, and suggested a walk in the grounds instead, as it was such a beautiful night. They strolled through the trees, and talked of this and that, each acutely aware of the other, until they came suddenly on a small summerhouse set on a slight mound in the middle of a clump of trees. The moons shone down through the trees and the moonbeams played over the little building.
Yssa shivered. ‘It may be nearly spring,’ she said, ‘but it’s still a little chilly. Let’s go in and sit for a while.’
Carthinal thought about going back to the inn. He had not heard the striking of the hour bell and had no idea of the time. However, it was a beautiful night and he enjoyed Yssa’s company, so the two went into the summerhouse. There were large windows along one side, which just happened to be the side where the moons were shining. They cast a silvery light on the room inside. Yssa sat down on a wicker sofa that was set next to a fireplace. There was wood ready, and a fire set in the grate. Yssa explained that this hut was used by some of the mages to get some quiet, and was used summer and winter. There was always wood and a fire set ready for lighting. Carthinal knelt down and lit the fire. A cheery glow soon permeated the small room, and a feeling of cosiness and contentment filled the pair. Carthinal knelt back on the rug and looked at Yssa. She had removed her cloak, and her hair tumbled down her back having been freed from the restraints of the hood and the braiding she had put in before going to the Palace. Carthinal thought how beautiful she looked with the combination of firelight and moonlight on her golden hair. He stood up and went over to where she was sitting and bent down to kiss her. She responded to his advances and they made love on the floor of the summerhouse.
Afterwards, Carthinal apologised, but said he must leave. They walked hand in hand to the door of the Tower. Once there, Carthinal bent to kiss Yssa once on each cheek, and then once on the lips for good measure. He then turned to walk away towards the gates.
‘Carthinal… You remember what I said last time…?’ Yssa began as he left.
‘Yes. I know. No strings,’ was his response, and he disappeared into the shadows of the trees.
‘Yes. No strings. I said that, didn’t I?’ sighed Yssa to herself, looking with infra-vision at the reddish shape that was Carthinal until it disappeared. Only then did she seem to come to herself and with a shake of her head she entered the Tower and closed the door behind her.