Dagger Of Kija
Chapter 1

Copyright© 2003-06-09

"BONG!" went the clock.

The two elegantly dressed ladies glanced upwards in response to the sound from the tower. One of the ladies, although white-haired and bent over her crooked wooden staff for support, stared up at the clock with clear-eyed expression suggesting a girl barely out of her teens. Some otherworldly energy seemed to emanate from her, similar to yet essentially different from the frenetic madness many mages of great power radiated.

She shrugged at the clock and grimaced as if pained by more than just the noise.

The second lady shook her head and sighed. Although some slight traces of gray showed in her intricately braided hair, she stood as straight as a ship's mast.

"She's late." Wildhair said, grimly.

The older lady smiled at this show, however restrained, of impatience in the Anamchara Elder and began to unfold a ground cloth.

"We might as well be comfortable, Elder Wildhair," she eases her old bones down onto a corner of the cloth, then leaned back against the large stone monument that "explained" the existence of the clock tower. "I brought tea and through an interesting variation in a fire spell I was recently taught, it will heat itself."

Wildhair grimaced again, turning to examine the colorful stone monument. It featured two figures familiar, yet different somehow from the couple she had known for Yuris. The lady's image seemed at this moment somehow unbearably smug.

"I can guess from whom you learned it," she said, folding her legs beneath her gracefully on the opposite corner from the elderly dusk Shaman.

"Isn't this convenient?" she remarked, pouring a steaming cup for her Elder. Her slightly twisted fingers still lifted the teapot effortlessly and not a drop was spilled.

Wildhair accepted her cup with a nod and sipped delicately. She shifted her gaze from the smug image of the lady to the squatting depiction of a warrior. Although there were obvious differences between this image and the Gareth she knew, there was no mistaking him. Although she never recalled seeing such splendid armor, emblazoned with a sun and tiger - that was far from the most notable difference. This Gareth held a sword unlike anything anyone had ever seen. The rainbow colors of the rock seemed to radiate from the short fat blade. The strained thin-lipped smile on Gareth's face seemed to imply the effort it took to hold such a blade. Not even during the early days of the kingdom, when Sagu held the dreaded Darkstaff, had she felt such awe from a weapon.

"It's just an image!" she exclaimed, tearing away her eyes from the monument. The elderly Shaman gazed at her with sympathy and offered her more tea.

"A God-graven image," she clarified, as if that explained the power of the object. Unlike the clock tower, which somehow had the appearance of crude hand craftsmanship, the monument was distinctly otherworldly. No hand carved these images.

Of course, it didn't help anyone that the subjects depicted were as confused as everyone else. They remembered that day as clearly as everyone. Recalling standing for the first time before the monument, both PteriDae and Gareth related the same feelings to Wildhair. It was as if the images both were and were not them. Gareth told her once many Yuri's later that he sometimes saw a man's smiling face when he stared too long at the stone. More than most, Gareth was fascinated by the two artifacts, Wildhair had reports of him crawling about inside the clock tower, filling sketch books with drawings. A wildly held belief that this place was a Holy site had developed, until now even the town guards chased away youngsters, although they showed no such protective instincts towards anything else in Kugnae.

The Elder had often caught Gareth staring raptly at the monument and she noticed the difference more acutely. Never a tall man, nor even of medium height, yet the real Gareth seemed taller somehow than the image, as though whatever weight that rested on his image's shoulders never stressed the real Gareth. The image's armor-clad form seemed as powerful as a bull, full of barely restrained rage belied by the humor in his eyes. There was none of that in the real Gareth. Dressed as always in simple garb he seemed more slender and athletic, his training as a Do granting him grace at the expense of might. Perhaps his fists couldn't knock down walls, like the image's suggested, but no one willingly risked even one blow from the edge of a Do's hand.

"Speaking of Do," the elderly Shaman's eyes twinkled, "our last guest has arrived."

Wildhair raised a suspicious eyebrow at the seemingly innocent old lady, then glanced up at the newcomer. New magics, indeed!

Master of the Do Path and Gareth's guide, Hannajo looked like a simply dressed ordinary woman approaching middle age. Perhaps her wrists were a bit thicker than expected and the way her simple gown rested on her shoulders implied that there was more strength there than there should be. If you looked very closely indeed, you might notice scars and calluses on her hands unlike those of a farmwife. Only a master swordsman would collect such a variety, one that trained with swords, axes, polearms, throwing daggers, perhaps even broken wine bottles. If it could be used as a weapon, she has wielded it. In reality, she was one of the most powerful members of the Warrior class.

Wildhair watched the Do Guide stare quietly at the monument that had held her own attention for so long.

With perhaps a trace expression of hunger, Hanna examined the blade Gareth held, as if just from the image she could glean its attributes.

"The Rainbow Sword," the elder Shaman cackled, and Hanna started. Her eyes narrowed slightly as she considered the old lady. Perhaps sizing her up as an opponent, perhaps merely embarrassed. Perhaps both.

You never know, with a Do, Wildhair thought.

"Yes, that is its name," Hanna agreed. "Maybe now you will tell me more of it?"

The old lady poured another cup of tea and handed it to the Do, who held the cup gracefully balanced on her palm unconcerned as to the heat of the tea. She bowed slightly to the Shaman.

"Sometimes, Hanna, I regret telling you even that much," the Shaman withdrew from her bag a plateful of cookies and an ornate silver box. The cookies smelled of aromatic ginger and were undoubtedly Gareth's recipe. The box was book-sized and immediately caught Hanna's attention. "I should have known someone with such a keen mind would wonder how I knew what everyone else had forgotten."

"What do you mean, forgotten?" Wildhair interrupted. "None of this ever happened."

She indicated the monument with its cryptic inscription, "Saviors of the Kingdom, Y45".

"This is Y50, in case you both hadn't noticed," she waver her arms in exasperation, nearly spilling her tea. "Y45 came and went... nothing happened!"

"Yes, dear," the elderly Shaman agreed. "Nothing happened. This time, that is, but the last Y45 was very exciting!"

With exaggerated care, Wildhair set down her teacup.

"What do you two know that I don't?" She stared down both the elderly Shaman, technically her junior and the powerful Do, who sat unconcerned, worrying a small piece of cookie lodged between two teeth.

"Don't get so worked up, Elder," Hanna replied, taking another cookie. "Unless I miss my guess, our mysterious Shaman friend invited us both here to tell us about her diary."

Wildhair visibly relaxed and spent a moment straightening her gown.

"What does a Shaman's diary have to do with Gareth?" she asked. "And while I am at it, what has everyone forgotten?"

Ignoring her Elder's questions, the old Shaman moved the silver box to the center of the ground cloth. Touching the side popped the lid, revealing a smooth tablet and an odd quill pen, made of a glasslike material. Neatly stenciled on the top of the tablet was today's date: Moon 4 Day 15, Yuri 50.

"It always knows what day it is," the Shaman smiled and picked up the pen. Without explaining more, she wrote in her flowing script..."Today I met with Hanna and Wildhair to discuss Gareth's treason."

Then she set down the odd quill, obviously magical, as it left perfect black letters with no ink visible, and shut the book

"Now watch," she instructed smugly.

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