"Call of the Dragon, Part I"
"Call of the Dragon, Part II"
"Ruins and Hopes"
"Shield Maiden" Cornell #3
"Warrior Eternal" Cornell #4
"Childhood of a Fighter"
"The Pledge" Cornell #5
"The Rock of Discontent"
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"A Tale of the Gods"
"The Miracle of Solstice Day" Cornell #6
"The Pilgrims' Trial and Faith"
II. The Maiden <=== / ===> IV. An Empty Cave
“Ho there, brother, a new face!” Alyssa cheered.
Darawk, seated next to her at the stone table on the dais overlooking a small park, nearly dropped his pen in surprise. As it was, ink squirted from the pen and splotched onto the paper. “Dear sister,” the God of Knowledge sighed, “you pay so much attention to appearances. Who is it now that is wearing another face?”
“Nobody I know,” the hazel-haired Goddess of Love grinned.
That caught Darawk’s attention, and with a frown he raised his eyes to see the lone figure ambling down the road between the tall buildings. An old man, by the looks of it, wearing clothes that had seen better days. Not the way any self-respecting god would choose to look. Darawk himself appeared to be an elderly gentleman, but clad in fine clothes, with a cloak the color of darktime, but rimmed with iridescent lining.
“Neither do I know him,” Darawk shook his head. That was very odd. If another abode had decided to send an ambassador, should Decirius not have informed them all? One could always rely on Decirius to do so. Or could one? Had the old boy let this one slip by? “Have you heard of a visitor being announced, dear sister?” he asked, gracefully trying to wipe the splotch from his paper. When his sleeve failed to work, he sighed and removed it by his mind’s power.
Alyssa chuckled. “Who cares about announcements? It’s someone new, that’s all that counts.” She jumped from her chair, leaped over the balustrade of their dais – her dress fluttering up her long legs – and then looked up with a mischievous grin on her face. “Don’t you care about learning who this man is? I thought you’re the God of Knowledge, brother of mine?”
Darawk sighed again. His sister knew just how to handle him, didn’t she? Slowly he finished the line he was writing, then rose, rolled up the paper before him and tucked it into a pocket of his vest, then he took the stairs and walked over to join Alyssa and the stranger. The goddess turned her beaming eyes to him and joyfully announced, “Imagine that, Darawk, he doesn’t have a name!”
“No name?” Darawk pursed his lips and cast a questioning glance towards the old man, strangely aware that they were of about the same height though Darawk felt as if he towered over the stranger.
The old man shrugged. “It has never seemed important. I know who I am. Is that not enough?”
“A valid point,” Darawk allowed. “But for the sake of conversation it seems a necessity.”
“Does it really?” The old man smiled wrily. “As we speak at this moment, each of us knows who is addressed. The only time when a name is needed in conversation is when someone is not present. What is spoken of him or her then, when he does not learn the contents of the conversation?”
Darawk frowned, caught off guard.
Before he could try and reply, Alyssa chuckled and gently rubbed his arm. “My, my, my, dearie, it seems you’ve found somebody to talk to! Really,” she turned to the old man, her hand sliding down to entangle Darawk’s, “you sound just like my brother!”
“Your brother?” the old man inquired. “Forgive my surprise but I have found it odd to hear of such a connection between gods. That is more like a mortal’s way of observing the world.”
Darawk crooked his head. “It is who we are.”
“Well…” Alyssa drew out the word, pressed her brother’s fingers more closely. “He is right, you know. I’d never dream of calling Decirius my brother.”
“Of course not!” Darawk exclaimed. “He is our lord! Why would –“ He stopped himself, aware of the inquisitive glances of not only the stranger but also Alyssa. A shade of red crept onto his face, when he nodded jerkily and said, “Obviously you have more insight than I credit you for, dear sister. Please, pardon me for my arrogance.”
“Oh, you’re pardoned, you old parchment sniffer,” she laughed. “For now, anyway.”
“Be that as it may,” Darawk regained a bit of his composure, “it is a thought I will ponder more on. Thank you, stranger, for pointing out a topic I need to investigate.”
“It is an honor.” The old man nodded graciously. “Giving reason for thought, that is one of the prime functions of our existence.”
“Indeed it is.”
Alyssa was switching her glance quickly from one to the other, a smirk implanting itself ever more firmly on her lips, before she broke out in laughter and raised one hand to her chest. “You should see yourselves, you two!” she laughed. “You’re so alike, it is you who should call yourselves brothers!”
Darawk blinked, smiled irritatedly. “It is simply a similarity of minds, that is all.”
The old man nodded slowly. “After all, is it not the goal of all to find knowledge? To expand one’s awareness of the world?”
“Absolutely,” Darawk seconded eagerly. “Without knowledge, we are nothing. We are as the primal spark that first appeared in the void; it is knowledge that has filled the emptiness with being.”
“Ah!” The stranger raised his hand and smiled. “But what is being? Is it the state of existence, or is it the creation? Gods are, by our nature, creators. What of the mortals? What of the gargoyle that travels the skies of the mortal world, does it not create? The sight of its stony wings, aflight despite its weight, the trails it leaves on the heavens, that is also a creation. And what of the dragon? Let’s take an emperor dragon, with a breath so fiery that it turns coal to diamond. Is it not also a creator? The maker of something new and precious from what was mundane and ordinary before?”
Darawk disentangled his hand from Alyssa’s and paced up a few steps, his brow furrowed in thought. “Creation as the purpose of being, that is what you are saying, is it not? Creation of fresh knowledge, in a way. The quest for knowledge would remain of paramount importance, for without knowledge, the creation of something unique and new would be cast in doubt.”
“In doubt perhaps, but does that take away the beauty?”
“Beauty?” Darawk blinked.
“Yes,” the old man confirmed. “Consider your sister,” he nodded with a smile to Alyssa who immediately threw back her head and let her hazel hair fly, “her image is not a fresh creation, I assume, yet she is aesthetic and quite pleasing to observe. Beauty is a value of its own, it is not required to be new, or even unique.”
Alyssa laughed then, stepped inbetween the two and cast a firm glance on each of them. “I think the two of you will spend the next couple of millenia discussing one or the other detail. As for you, stranger,” she raised a finely drawn eyebrow, “this image is of my own creation. It is unique, and trust me, there is detailed knowledge in that image which would require a long time to learn.” With that, she pushed both of them further apart, stepping through them and walking away with a wide smile on her face.
The old man followed her with his eyes. “An interesting person, your sister is.”
“Interesting,” Darawk shook his head, “hardly describes her. A question, stranger, if I may ask? Do you intend to stay here long?”
The old man sighed, returned his gaze to the other god and leaned on his walking stick. “I do not know yet.”
Darawk nodded. “Then I believe we should quickly return to our discussion. Where were we?”
“The purpose of creation, and the quest for knowledge,” the old man answered with a sparkle in his eyes.
The same light burned in Darawk’s eyes, and with glee both of them continued their discussion which would indeed last a long while, though not the millenia Alyssa had assumed.
Read on in Part IV!