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White Gold Dollars
|Posted: Sat Dec 01, 2007 11:25 pm Post subject: The Tale of Dante Simjenson
|Part IV : Conclusion
There were dwarrows as far as the eye could see. Considering Dante stood several feet over all but the other giants attending, that was a considerable distance. Here and there, banners snapped in the fierce wind. The delegates of the kingdoms and peoples which they represented stood below them, many of whom were royalty come to pay respects to their peer.
In the center of the crowd lay the late king of the dwarrows, Ferax Snorlson. The priests had put him in Sorrow’s Child. Mjaellar and Gleaming Guard rested upon either side of the massive bier which had been constructed in front of the Gate of Maggido. Normally the ceremony would have been held in the Great Hall, but it was decided that no dwarrow would be excluded. The Blessed Parents had also been brought out for this occasion, carried on a sturdy platform by four S’en Golem.
The noise from the crowd had been a low drone, the gravelly, baritone voices of the dwarrows accounting for most of it. There was some sobbing, but it was rare. As the dwarrow ale was flowing freely, there likely not being a single cask unopened in all of Magoddar, quite a bit of drunken singing or boasting could be heard. Catching one particular piece of verse, Dante couldn’t help a slight smile. It wasn’t likely Uncle Ferax ever did that, especially after meeting Aunt Eysinde.
When Attem approached the bier, the susurrus briefly increased in pitch and volume and then died down, flowing in waves until it reached the outside edges of the crowd. More than one song ended abruptly with a hand over the mouth or an elbow in the ribs. However, all was quiet within the span of a few long breaths.
“People of Eiran,” the giant boomed, his voice echoing off the walls of Maggido behind him. “Today we say farewell to the greatest hero we shall ever know. We say farewell to a brother, a husband, a father, a mentor, and a protector. We say farewell to a dwarrow among dwarrow, the finest among us of any race. We say farewell to a king!” Attem shouted the last. In the pause that followed, a roar of agreement was shouted back.
“My brother was not born a king,” he continued. “Nor did he seek to make himself one. But as Simjen saw before him, Martovan the Wise saw that he was born to be one nonetheless. And for nigh on seventy years, so did each of us see that the dwarrow could ask for none greater!” The roar of assent from the crowd was deafening.
Attem made a gesture, and the Holy Chalice and a large pitcher of ale were brought forth. “Now brothers, fill your tankards. Unstop your jugs. We drink to Ferax’s memory. For my part, I drink to the memory of the first dark, miserably hot tunnel he dragged me into. We came out that night with both packs full of the finest silver you ever laid eyes on. And I swore then that he’d never drag me into another, not that it stopped him the next time.” The leader of the giants drained the chalice in one draught. Throughout the crowd arms lifted drink to enthusiastic lips. The phrase, ‘Like a sober man at a dwarrow funeral’ was used across Eiran to describe a person obviously out of place. Just as common was, ‘happy as a grieving dwarrow.’
Next came Eysinde, the dwarrow king’s widow. She drank to the memory of their wedding night, giving no more detail than that. Eysinde was followed by her sons, Snorl and Cullep. Each drank to the memory of lessons that taught them to be men.
Finally, it was Dante’s turn. Raising the Chalice, he said, “I drink to the memory of a man who treated me as good as his own son. I drink to the memory of the first time he took me up in an airship, even if he did pretend he was going to toss me overboard. And I drink to the memory of a king unafraid to go into battle, once taking down two ice titans by himself before I could even draw my sword.” As Dante relived in his mind the battle that saw him promoted to captain, he brought the Chalice to his lips and drank the dwarrow ale thirstily, as if it could fill the chasm left by Ferax’s departure.
Being the last to hold the chalice, the honor of drinking to the crowd was his. As each dwarrow shouted some great deed, it was Dante’s role to repeat it again and drink from the Chalice. It was when he unknowingly toasted for the third time the battle against Nephirthos’ minions that Attem gently took the chalice from his fingers, raised it one last time, and shouted, “To Ferax!”
A million voices shouted it back, loud enough to be heard beyond the mists. And then there was silence.
As Dante walked back to his seat with his uncle’s assistance, Acmon, Celmis, and Damnameneus approached the bier. With them came Lirellion, a dwarrow known throughout Magoddar for his ability to shape rock and earth like clay with his hands. Those hands carried the Shaping Hammer, the mighty sledge that was used to create Ferax’s Tower. The dactyls each placed a hand on Lirellion’s shoulder, and the four stood quietly with their heads bowed for several minutes. The crowd’s silence was nearly palpable.
Before they could hear it, they could feel it. A slow beat throbbed through the ground, emanating from the four concentrating figures. With each beat, the sound grew more audible and more intense, as familiar and strident as a smith hammering steel. People began covering their ears, and the circle around the bier grew in size. Even the late king’s family, knowing what was happening, instinctually took several paces back. The sound was now a physical presence, oppressive as the weight of mountains. Moments before hysteria descended upon the crowd, Lirellion lifted the Shaping Hammer over his head with both hands and brought it down against the earth precisely timed with the pulse.
The sound stopped.
Sighs of relief were released, coming from those assembled like one giant breath. Questioning mutters were soon heard, and someone shouted, “I weren’t cryin’, y’bastard.”
Before little else could be heard, the bier began to rise. Slowly at first, then picking up speed, a column rose up out of the earth, looking like smooth black glass streaked with red. It wasn’t long before the king was lifted up beyond even the tallest giant’s sight. Not a hair in Ferax’s beard was stirred by the movement. As the column grew taller, runes and pictures began to adorn its surface. Each scene depicted a moment of Ferax’s life, beautifully rendered and telling the same story that had been toasted minutes earlier.
When it finally stopped growing, the stele’s height rivaled the peaks of Magoddar. Even those responsible for its creation stood and admired it in stunned silence.
But the momentous events of this day were not yet over. Unexpectedly to all, the Blessed Parents began to glow like it did nearly sixty-four years ago. The light was blinding, outshining the setting sun, yet not a single person looking upon it felt any pain or diminishment of sight. So it was that every dwarrow, every giant, and every other being there that day saw the light shoot out of the Blessed Parents like a bolt flying straight to the column’s pinnacle. And so it was that a giant phoenix arose from the column and spread its wings as if embracing all of Magoddar. Then shouting a triumphant cry, the phoenix soared once over the crowd and flew north, in the direction of the Mists.
Part V : Epilogue
It was not without some regret that Dante set the golden sword down in Acmon’s hands. Celmis was holding the golden armor and Damnameneus the Shield of the Sun. Already he felt like he was stripping away familiar parts of himself.
“You are certain this is the path you want to take?” Damnameneus asked.
“No, wise one,” Dante answered. “I’m only certain what path I do not want to take. I do not wish to take the path that forces me to watch every one I care for, perhaps even every thing I care for, die. Nor do I wish to take the path of the tyrant, using my longevity and great ability in the pursuit of power.”
After a long, painful pause, Dante removed his father’s torque from his neck and took his mother’s book out of his breast pocket. He placed them on one of the many shelves ling the walls of the Great Library and said, “As Mjaellar reappeared to be claimed by Ferax’s heir, so will I find these again should I need them. And when the time has come, so too shall I return to who I was, wiser for the journeys taken. I hope to see you then, old friends.”
“And we you,” the dactyls said together.
The ritual was short, most of the work having been done in advance. When the final word was spoken, the Great Library stood empty of all but the promises of fate and the ghosts of time.
Said she, "What I get I get out of the fire,
So prithee, strike home and redouble the blow."