Chapter 7 – Myths and Legends
Kathri’s walk back to the library was a slow affair, deep in thought as she was, trying to process all that had happened and that she head heard.
Voadia is alive.
That would take some getting used to, after all the time she had thought her dead, and the mourning she had done for her.
The Mages do not care for the feelings of others it seems, when considering their plots and stratagems, if they are willing to let the friends and families of those that they have taken believe that they are dead.
There was a cold, calculating cruelty there, and no matter how noble their goals, Kathri could not, and would not, believe that it was the right course of action.
When she at last returned to Esarrio and Braethir in the library, she found them working on the book. A pile of parchments spread out around them on which Esarrio had scribbled out notes and translations. As she approached, she felt the belligerent part of her rise to the fore, sparked by the events surrounding Voadia. Even self aware of it as she was, she struggled to contain it, to rein it in.
“It seems you have not been entirely honest with me,” she said to Esarrio, staring hard at him. Her words came in a low, firm tone, an edge to them from trying to restrain from saying anything too provocative.
The two men looked up at her from their seats. A frown creased Esarrio’s brow, though Braethir’s expression remained oddly detached. Kathri caught a flicker of motion from his as his hand drifted towards the magekiller at his side, coming to rest lightly on the grip.
He really is as dangerous as Voadia said.
Her words had obviously came out a touch harsher than she had meant or realised, and he had reacted instinctively to it, sensing the prospect of danger in it.
“In what way?” Esarrio asked.
Kathri pulled out a chair, reversed it and sat down upon it, resting her arms on the back. “Meaning that you could have simply arrested me and still have me work for you. Why threaten to arrest me to get me to work for you then?”
She saw Braethir relax, his hand returning to the table, though he still watch her closely. Esarrio blinked a few times and she could see him consider the matter before he came to a conclusion. “Ah, you ran into your old friend did you? Consider that a gift that few others are afforded.”
“Why not simply ask for my help?” Kathri inquired. “I would have helped out given it was to aid Astiara.”
“I have my reasons. Know this, though, that I did not this not simply for your friend. There will be other tasks that I must have your services for and I must have your co-operation. I would not wish to do so, but if you refuse I will be forced to hand you over to the Mages. Work with me on this and we will forget all about your misdemeanours and you will be free to go.”
“You really do not trust the other Mages, do you?”
Esarrio favoured Kathri with a long stare, and for once she could not make out what he was thinking. “As I said, have my reasons. This is neither the time and most certainly not the place for a discussion in such matters. As it is, the timing of your return was most fortuitous. We may have found what we seek.”
He isn’t going to budge on the matter, Kathri realised. Abandoning the line of questioning, she asked, “What have you found?”
“It took us a while to translate the relevant parts of Sischiye’s work enough for us to glean some answers, but we came across one hopeful reference. ‘And so did the great Emperor go up to the places of fire, and there he wrestled with the scion of the wyrm and threw them down, shackling them within the long rest that he had prepared for himself until no more could they be found in the land. The did he go up to the place of the light and laid down the burden of his days and was laid out unto his long rest and set a watchful guard upon the scions.‘”
“The scion of the wyrm? They were fireblooded like he that he had entombed with him?”
“No, though it is easy to see why some would think that. The belief that the blooded are in some manner related to the species of dragons is a common one, and in some way explains why they are mistrusted, yet there is no proof that it is actually so.
Kathri’s brows rose as she stared at Esarrio. “No proof?” she replied. On the surface, the statement seemed outrageous, and never one that she had heard before. She had the blood of drakes in her veins, of that she had no doubt. “For each of the species of dragons, there is a corresponding type of the blooded; drakes for the earth, wyrms for the fire, feathered serpents for the air, wyverns for the skies, hydras for the swamps and so on.”
“It is certainly true that there is a correspondence,” Esarrio admitted, “More than mere coincidence can normally explain. That is not proof though. As it is the phrase scion of the wyrm has for the Tsiala a very specific meaning, and not in reference to the fireblooded. What do you know of the ancient tales of the dragons, of their origins and myths?”
Kathri looked aside to Braethir. The blond man sat quietly, just watching. “As much as most,” she replied. “I know of the myths as told by the Briothans, the Vigosans and the Hajanri, which the Digarans mostly share. Not so much those of the Tsiala.”
“Most of those are wrong, as are those of the Tsiala. They were spawned in more recent history, from the imaginations of story tellers and dreamers. The truth, now, that is harder to pin down.” He pulled another tome from out of the pile and across in front of him, a great big heavy book with a curious cover that looked as if it had been made from reptilian hide, the buckles and hinges of which were made of iron wrought into claw like forms. “This is the oldest of the books we have on the dragons, and even that is but a copy of an even older book, written by the near mythical Ngawarra. Much of what we know comes from them, and their writings. How much of it is myth and how much is truth we can not say for certain, but the more we learn, the more we discover that what they state is the truth, or as near enough to it as not to matter.”
Taking great care, he began to turned the aged pages of he tome until he came to one that bore the image of a reptilian form, one long and sinuous, twisting amongst the stars. “According to the Ngawarra, the oldest of them all were the dragons, and the eldest was the Star Drake who travelled the heavens beyond the worlds. He came upon our world and found it pleasant to behold, but empty and so he deposited eggs upon it, letting them fall in various places, some in the seas or marshes, among the cloud swept heights, the hills and forests, the dry lands of the earth and the fires that burned within. There they grew, drawing on the essence of where ever it was that they lay.”
He turned another page, this one revealing a wyrm, the image that most associated as being a dragon, even if it was but one type of them. It lacked the sinuous grace of the star drake, being instead a brutal form of wings and claws, scales and fangs and fiery breath. “First to hatch, nurtured by the flames that burned within the world, was a beast of scarlet and gold, the first wyrm, The Wyrm Queen. She looked across the world and saw it was good and desirable and so sought dominion over it and all that lived therein. Wishing no rivals, she began to hunt down the other eggs before they came to their full growth. Many she destroyed before they could hatch, taking from them their essence and power as her own. Yet her quest to destroy them all failed and so in time hatched the first drakes, sea serpents, wyverns, basilisks, hydra and feathered serpents. Alone they were not enough to stand against her might, but by working together they were able to overcome her and drive her far away, into the shadows of the world. There she brooded in her anger and wounded pride, to scheme and plot. Taking the simple creatures of the world, she poured her power into them, giving up much of what she had stolen to shape the, to twist them into new forms. The first were the insectmen, and these she bound to her will, her purpose being their purpose. And so it is with insects to this day, that they for the most echo this, with queens who rule over workers. These new creatures proved useful yet limited, unable to think for themselves. Over them she raised another, and for these she twisted the snakes of the lands and her malice was in their veins. Cold blooded and cruel already, this was heightened by her power. The aeschar they are called, the jagunda, the aschintii and many more names beside, but above all they are called the scion of the wyrm, the Wyrm Queen’s chosen children.”
“The insectsmen I have heard of,” Kathri said after Esarrio was finished and had closed the book. “I have even met them. You run across them sometimes out in the wild, a small clutch living far from the lands of men, but these others, the aeschar, they I have never heard mention of.”
“And nor should you have,” Esarrio told her. “Like all snakes, they prefer to remain hidden, striking only from the shadows, but those strikes are deadly, fuelled by poison and magic.”
“Be that as it may, there are a couple of issues I have with that myth. The insectmen I have met and heard of do not follow this Wyrm Queen, and nor do they appeared to be controlled in anyway. Each clutch has its own queen, and they are intelligent, after a fashion, each with their own views and opinions.”
“There is that,” Esarrio admitted. “The myth, as I said, may not be entirely accurate, but it is good enough for our needs. And the second issue?”
“How do the other wyrms fit in? If this Wyrm Queen brooked no rivals, how did they survive her early purges, and if they did, why did they not assist the other dragons in the defeat of this Wyrm Queen?”
“Those are questions I can not answer. The Ngawarra did not mention such things as far as I can see. We can only work with what we do know, and that is of these aeschar, which the Hajarni called the jagunda. There were tales of them in the early days of the Empire but they disappeared early on. It may be that the aeschar went into hiding, or it may be that the Hajanri somehow defeated them.”
“You think that Ajanathad captured some of these aeschar and that was what was entombed with him, as well as what escaped?’
“I am thinking that would be the most likely answer. The aeschar were creatures of poisons and shadows and an almost hypnotic power to twist the minds of their victims into doing their biding, if what we have read of them is correct. Their victims were left in a state much as how your friend is in. Few victims survived, if left unaided, instead slowly wasting away as the poisons ate away at their mind. Those found in time though, they could be restored.”
“Then there is hope for him?” The more that Esarrio had spoken, the less hopeful Kathri had felt, fearing for the worst, but a glimmer of hope now rose within her.
“There was always hope,” Esarrio told her. “Now that we know what has happened to him it will it be easier to cure him, to bring him back to health. I can not do it though. It is a task beyond my skills.” He looked across to Braethir, his face tightening up. “We need the help of one expert in that area. Cosatia Banarrio.”
Braethir pinched at the bridge of his nose and shut his eyes. “There are others we could approach,” he said, though his voice had a resigned aspect to it. For one so good at masking their thoughts and feelings, the almost raw emotion that came from the man surprised Kathri.
He does not appear happy about asking her. Not so much the meeting, but the asking.
“Cosatia is the best of them,” Esarrio replied, almost gently. “We can not do this without her, and more so, she will remain discrete whereas others won’t. We can trust her.”
Braethir nodded, though his face had the look of one less than happy with the answer. “We can.”
Kathri felt her curiosity more than piqued but the exchange, and although she wanted to ask questions about it, she knew better than to do so.
Braethir pushed back his chair and rose to his feet. “If we are going to do this, then let us get it over with.”
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