Title: The Talisman
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Her entire body shakes with cold as she takes shelter from the pouring rain by stepping inside the small tavern. The old wooden sign that hung creaking in the strong wind had said “The Fire Inn”. A name that had rung particularly well in her ears since she has been walking in the icy rain for several hours by now.
Her hometown is a very long way from this town, and her journey here has taken more than a few days. Had the reason for her travel been any different, she would never have started out in the first place. This however, is something she can’t afford to miss. She knows very little of her famous ancestors, and the visit of this particular storyteller may just be what she needs to learn more.
The bartender is standing behind the counter. He greets her in a friendly manner as he hands her a warm drink. She gratefully accepts the steaming liquid and asks him if he knows of the whereabouts of the storyteller.
As he raises his arm and points to the nearby fireplace, she sees an old man sitting in one of the cushioned chairs near the flames. She removes her soaked cloak and hangs it over one of the wooden spears to dry before approaching him.
Sitting down in one of the free chairs by the fireplace, she watches as the light of the fire dances across the worn features of the old man. His brown eyes are open, but glazed. It seems to her as if he is reliving something that happened many years ago, when he was still young. The creases in his face and his long, snowy hair and beard are evidences of his high age, but the soul-filled brown eyes still hold the spark of a young man. He seems troubled.
“Are you Thomas the Tale Teller?” She asks, watching with interest as the glazed look leaves the man’s eyes. His fixes his gaze on her, taking in her appearance before replying.
“That I am, if no one else.” His voice is rusty, another evidence of the years he has seen. However, she cannot help but notice the strength and energy in the creaky tone of his words.
She wonders about this man. On the outside he seems like any other old Xairadonian, but on the inside he is still as alive and vibrant as he must have been in his earlier years. She cannot hold back a slight smile as she remembers the words of her mother: “Nothing is ever as it seems.”
“I wish to learn of my ancestors.” She continues. “Can you tell me of them?”
“Very likely.” He answers with a grin. She is surprised to see that his teeth are intact and pearly white. “I know most beings in our country, both the living and the dead.”
“I desire to hear the story of Lady Robyn Tierra and Lady Aicha Corazón.”
“I should have guessed.” He nods, a pensive frown on his face as he takes in her long blonde hair and her chocolate brown eyes. “They have not been among the living for several hundred years, but I still see the essence of their beings in you.”
“Thank you for those words.” She says seriously.
“No need to thank me.” He holds up a shaky hand. “Now, if you will fetch me another drink, I shall gladly tell you what you wish to know.”
As she returns to her chair with another mug of warm red wine, she gives the drink to the man. He takes the offered liquid with a smile and sips some of it, his gaze once again fixated intensely upon her.
“Tell me your name, girl.” He says. Had this man been anyone else, she would have had his hide for calling her “girl”. She is a princess after all. Still, the look in his eyes and the tone of his words show that he means no disrespect. He is merely curious as to how the family of the greatest heroes of Xairadonia has evolved through the years.
“I am Rai.” She replies. “People call me El Corazón de la Tierra.”
“I see some names never go out of fashion.” His laugh is deep and warm.
“What do you mean by that?” She asks, intrigued.
“El Corazón de la Tierra was also a name people used for Lady Aicha.” The man explains. “It was mostly used for friendly teasing, but it was very true indeed.”
“What does it mean?”
“Lady Robyn’s family name was, as you know, Tierra, which means earth. The family name of Lady Aicha was Corazón, which means heart.” The man smiles at her and takes another sip of the warm wine. “So, your name, and hers, means The Heart of the Earth.”
“Because she was the one who held the heart of Lady Robyn.” She smiles.
“Very much so.” The old man agrees. “But also because Lady Aicha truly was The Heart of the Earth. A more compassionate and caring being has never existed in Xairadonia. Well, maybe except for Lady Robyn.”
“You make it sound like they were very much alike.” She says.
He laughs again. “Oh, on the contrary.” He chuckles. “Two people have never been more different. Those two could have been Night and Day.”
“So, tell me about them.”
“As you wish.” He smiles. “But first, do you know the story of our country?”
“I know some of it.” She replies thoughtfully. “But I’m sure that what I know is far from everything.”
“Most likely.” He nods, a pensive frown on his face as he stares into the flames, gathering his thoughts. “I shall start with the beginning then.”
She observes him as he watches the steam rise from his mug. Curiosity has grabbed her, and she is anxiously waiting for him to start telling the story. Still, she decides to let him take his time.
“Today is the first day of the tenth month.” He says. “ It is the year 665 A.B. Do you know why we use those letters?”
“After Blizzard?” She says.
“Correct.” The old man smiles and nods approvingly. “That is the description we use for the years before the first Queen of Xairadonia came to us from the other side of the Ice Mountains.”
“Her name was Queen Xai, was it not?”
“Indeed it was. Before she and her sisters, Aira and Doni, crossed the mountains that make out our northern border, our country was merely a nameless wasteland, covered in snow the whole year round. Our people were barbaric tribes, constantly at war with one another.
Those three sisters were powerful Mages. They used their magic to change our climate, making it warmer and better to live in. The southern part of our country was made the warmest, while the snow still fell up north during wintertime.
The sisters debated amongst themselves, and it was decided that Xai should become Queen. Although she was the youngest of the three, she was also the wisest. Xai however, refused to accept the offer unless the country was named after all three of them.”
“Xairadonia.” She nods. “Xai, Aira and Doni.”
“Very good.” The old man smiles. “ So, Xai ruled over the people of our country with firmness and justice. Aira ruled the animals and Doni was given the task of guiding people and helping them sort out their thoughts and emotions.
Due to their magic powers and prolonged lives, the three of them was soon considered to be Goddesses rather then humans. I suppose it has some truth to it, Xai knows they were not like the rest of us.”
“In which way do you mean?” She asks, placing a hand under her chin as she leans forward in the chair.
“In many ways, child.” He replies. “For one, a normal lifetime for us is around 80 years, while for them it was closer to 400. Their smooth skin, platinum hair and crystal-blue eyes were also very different from the gruff appearances of our people when they first arrived. Besides that, the three of them found love with women and had the ability to have children with them as well.”
“But is that not normal?” Her brow furrows.
“It is now.” He smiles. “But back then, if one desired offspring, one had to mate with a person of the opposite gender. That is still a possibility of course, but many women today choose to spend their lives with another female.
For the first few years of the existence of our country, only the Three Goddesses could have children with another woman. Aira found a mate in a mortal woman with the name Tierra, while Doni took a Corazón woman as her wife. Their gift, which is now called The Gift if the Goddess, was not passed on to their daughters through blood, but given later in life if the children so desired.”
“So Lady Robyn and Lady Aicha were descendants of Goddesses?” She asks, her eyes widening as she hears this new information.
“They were.” The man nods. “That was why the Glass Claw saw it as a necessity to dispose of their families when it took over the throne of Xairadonia.”
“The Glass Claw? The sexless beast that ruled from 362 to 370?”
“The one, and thankfully also the only.” The man shakes his head at the thought. “It was cunning and clever. It waited until Aira and Doni had both died before kidnapping Queen Xai and holding her captive. It knew that as long as it had Xai in its power, no uprising would come. The Queen was loved very much by her people.
It then set out to destroy those who could become a threat to its throne. The first target was the Tierra family. Their home, Tierra Hall was taken one night in 362, when Lady Robyn was 14 years old. The young girl was forced to watch her father tortured and her mother raped before they were both killed. Lady Robyn herself was then taken away to become a toy for the sadistic ruler. However, the horse she was tied to was a magical creature.
Since Lady Robyn had grown up with magical creatures, she knew the language of the magical horses. She spoke to the white stallion in its own tongue, and it managed to escape from the guards and take her to the safety of the Shelter Forest.”
“What about Lord Thomas?” She asked.
“Ah, yes. The Lady Robyn’s younger brother.” The man smiled. “Remind me to tell your History teacher what a good job he is doing.” The man cleared his throat and took another sip of the now cooling wine. “Lord Thomas was 11 years old when his parents were murdered. He had hidden in one of the many chambers of the castle, and had not been captured. After the guards had left with his sister, he snuck out from his hiding place. He spent 3 days burying his parents before he allowed himself to mourn the loss of his family. You see, he thought his sister dead too.”
“Did they ever meet again?”
“Indeed they did. It was around 6 months later.” The man said. “Thomas was living in the forest now. He couldn’t stay at Tierra Hall, since it was now considered to be property of the Claw. He was out hunting when his sister rode up to him. She was of course overjoyed to see him, since she had thought him dead also. He was so surprised at seeing her again that it took him several hours to dare believe it was truly her. But when he did, the two of them teamed up together and soon became the leaders of all the outlawed people living in the forest. They were much younger than their followers, but gained their respect and loyalty due to the goodness of their hearts and the efficiency of their minds.”
“What about the Lady Aicha then?” She asked.
“Well Lord Corazón, the Lady’s father, knew that they would also be a target for the Claw. He took his family, which consisted of only himself and his daughter since the Lady’s mother had died a few years earlier, away from Corazón Castle. They hid in the Southern Forest for almost 3 years before a troop of soldiers from the Claw’s army captured the Lady Aicha and took her to Xai Hall where the Claw resided.”
“What happened then?”
“That, my dear,” the man smiled, “is merely the beginning of the story.”
Continued in Chapter I (coming soon)
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