Shadowrun - Earthdawn - Mother Speaks

BOOK: Shadowrun - Earthdawn - Mother Speaks
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PART ONE

My Sons

1

My Sons,

Strange that you should ask me now about your father. Just a week ago I received a letter from him, asking if he could come visit. If he has written to you with the same request, I understand your need for more information. Decades of silence is strange enough; a sudden breaking of silence even stranger.

Strange is the only word to describe all of this. All of my love for J'role. All of our history as a family. All of J'role. The day you two emerged into the world his eyes filled with joy. They floated above his smiling cheeks like clouds against a blue sky. Yet he also remained hesitant, as if some secret fear ate at him. As with most of his past, he never revealed these concerns to me. Perhaps he will do so now if I decide to let him come visit. It's hard to say. I'm so old now.

Do I love him? I don't even know anymore. There is a point where lives become so intertwined that names and words and labels lose their potency. Although we have not seen each other since the Battle of Throal during the Theran War, he has always remained a presence in my life.

But not in yours. I know that your memories of him must be shadowy and uncertain.

Your letter said that someone told you of our first adventure together. I will tell you then of our last.

We spent several years after the discovery of Parlainth wandering Barsaive, exploring ancient kaers and deserted citadels. We guarded dwarven caravans between the kingdom of Throal and the Serpent River. We escorted mining expeditions to Death's Sea, and battled elemental creatures that rose from the molten lava to attack our employers. We watched the world turn green again after the devastation of the Scourge, the lush jungle growth returning to the world in splendid force. We were very much in love. Traveling together this way we saved each other's lives time and again, becoming legends.

J'role kept his secrets, but I could sense them, and often their intensity frightened me.

Occasionally the secrets revealed themselves, wordless, in your father's dark eyes as he stared off at memories I could not see. But he was charming, too, and brave, and as the years passed, the melancholy so deeply rooted in him when first we met began to lift.

You see, I thought I could save him from his darkness. I thought I had to save him.

Ah, hubris! It can lead one to fame and fortune. But in personal matters it is definitely a liability.

We decided in our mid-twenties to have a child. Our exploits had garnered us a small fortune that would have permitted us to cease our wandering if we had wished. And so we did. To this day I don't know if J'role spoke the truth about his desire to settle down, but we couldn't have been happier after the two of you were born. We considered ourselves doubly blessed by the Passions. The names we gave you, Samael and Torran, were those of friends we had made in the time of our adventuring. You were both so beautiful. Even after all these years, I can still see so clearly your small hands and fingers, constantly grasping and flexing, preparing to hold tools firmly. Even then, I suppose, your desire to grip a sword was strong.

Cries in the night. Stained clothes to clean. The constant feeding. (Two of you at the same time for me, remember!) All of these nuisances dwarfed by the intellectual demands of an infant turning into a human being, unleashed without warning into an amazing world that mystifies the child's curiosity. "Mommy, why is the sky blue?" "Mommy, why is Death's Sea all hot?" "Mommy, why five toes?” There is so much to explain and adults, who the child views as all knowing and all powerful, are expected to have ready and at hand all the answers to all mysteries.

It all seemed too much. Yet how we adults re-learn our sense of wonder through the eyes of a child!

Excuse me. Your father.

Can you tell I'm circling the subject? It's strange. The older one gets, the less one cares about embarrassments and mistakes, yet the more embarrassments and mistakes accumulate. In the balance I suppose it all comes out even. I feel like a fool in this tale, for so much should have been clear. I had only to look. I feel as if I failed you two, for I should have known better. The remorse comes to me late at night, and I wonder again and again how I could have been so foolish

I 'm going to tell you things you might once have known but have surely forgotten, and for good reason. But before you agree to see your father, you should know about them.

2

It was only months after you were born that J'role told me he must go with Samael to help search for an ancient sword. The abruptness of the departure surprised me j but I didn't try to stop him. He was gone for half a year, then returned with gems looted from an ancient tomb. Samael had stopped by during the intervening months, telling me he had simply given up trying to find the sword after the third month.

When I asked J'role about this, he laughed, held up the booty, and said, "Well, it wasn't a total waste of time!"

He stayed with us two months, then was off again, this time gone for three months. Then he only stayed two weeks before going off again.

Each time he came back I really believed that surely he must have purged whatever it was had compelled him to leave. Certainly, upon each return, he would hold me as if he never wanted to let go. He also would stand for hours and hours at a time, just watching you two sleep at night. And how he would play with you all day, swinging you in the air, tickling you, running around with first one and then the other of you on his back so you bounced and bounced and bounced. You laughed and laughed. He loved to—needed to—

make you laugh.

He kept the house clean, practiced juggling and acrobatics, and seemed so content.

But then would come another abrupt departure, and after awhile he would leave without even revealing his intentions. Months later he'd be back again, smiling sheepishly.

Finally I couldn't stand it anymore, and ordered him out of the house. He nodded sadly, telling me I was right. Hardly the reaction I sought. But he left.

For a while.

For years he would return as before, always telling me he wanted to stay. Apologizing profusely. Holding me in his strong arms, his eyes so full of open hunger for my love.

He never stayed. I started putting better and better and better locks on the doors, desperate for him to stop confusing me. But your father was one of the better thieves who ever lived, and it became a bad, grinding joke.

It would have been a boring joke, without variation, for the rest of our lives, had not a flying castle passed over our home one night and the Therans returned to Barsaive. You two were only seven. I don't know how much of the story you can recall. So I will tell as much as seems necessary for you to know your father.

3

Hours before the castle floated over our village, the three of us were at Horvak Smith's.

His new forge needed to be prepared for firing, and I had taken you two along with me. It had just rained (when in Barsaive had it not just rained?) and the ground was soaked and muddy. Torran, you splashed through the mud outside Horvak's home, while daring Samael to imitate you. Within minutes you were both covered in mud—but that was the way of it. I had only so much attention I could give at any one time, and you knew I was busy using magical powers to ready Horvak's forge.

I believe that back then I was still wearing my scarlet wizard robe, the one festooned with silver and white birds taking sudden flight. At that time I needed it to protect me from the Horrors when casting spells. It was a temporary solution to the shambles the Horrors had made of astral space, and we've done better in the intervening years. But back then, a magician's robe was the lifeline to magic.

I was busy at work on Horvak's furnace, drawing on my knowledge and power to make it hold flame and heat longer than its fuel would normally allow. I had to keep watch for Horrors seeking me out on the astral plane, while also keeping an eye out for Horvak's fingers and for you boys. From the distance came the laughter of children, like metal chimes in a very light breeze. I thought nothing of it until I heard the children laughing and shouting as they ran by Horvak's. But even these thoughts amounted to little more than, “Hmmm, something is happening that children like."

It wasn't until you two came into Horvak's shop and Samael jumped up and down and shouted, "Mama, Mama, the clown is here!" that I actually took notice The clown.

My thoughts numbed and I dropped my connection with the astral plane, giving up the ritual for the moment. I stood up straight, and Horvak's mouth formed into a disappointed pout.

Your little bodies stood a few steps away from me. You each stretched an arm toward me, but the rest of you leaned away, as if you were already on your way to see the clown.

And in a way you were. For the past three years the clown had shown up every few months, to the delight of the village children and to my displeasure.

But you didn't know about my displeasure, and you didn't know it was your father. You had not seen him as your father for at least four years. “No," I said. "I'm here now, and I must take care of the furnace."

Torran began stomping around the mud, purposely splashing it up to his chest.

"STOP IT!" I screamed. I'd just done the clothes that day. "Stop it!" But you didn't stop, Torran. You just continued to parade around in the mud, raising your knees high and slamming your feet down hard. Samael, you eyed your brother carefully, weighing the risk, and then decided to imitate him.

I tried to grab you both, to somehow settle you down. But you moved like weasels—an unflattering comparison, and I mean it that way. You squirmed with ridiculous energy. "I wanna see the clown!" Torran demanded. You ran in wild circles around me, and it seemed you would never stop. Villagers on their way to see the clown stared at our little circus, and I felt so ashamed. Why couldn't I keep control of my two boys?

I tried to reason. I stopped chasing you, lowered my voice to a calm tone. "Please. We're not going. I must finish this."

Samael came to rest, knowing that my tone meant I felt bad. But Torran placed his hands on his hips, a gesture stolen from me, and stared back defiantly. "I wanna see the clown."

"Too bad."

A shriek ripped from Torran's throat. He raised his hands skyward and raced around as if possessed by a Passion. He screamed and screamed and screamed. A headache seized my temples. I could fight it and waste hours, or give in just to get some peace and quiet. If only I could have rested sometimes, had someone to share the burden of raising you two, I'm sure I could have been stronger. But I didn't. "Yes," I said finally, "we can go."

I explained to Horvak that I'd return soon, and taking one of your hands in each of mine, we headed off toward the clown.

We walked along the narrow path through old Jayara's rice fields, and made our way to the clearing at the edge of town. The big leaves overhead glistened bright green, sparkling with the special radiance of life that rain brings. The sky above cut clear blue, not a cloud marring the sky. At such moments I wondered—and still do—how our lives had become so complicated with sadness. I had steady work as the village magician, I had the two of you (troublesome, perhaps, but the lights of my life), and the world around me, so beautiful in its colors and shapes. The Universe held me like a mother holding a babe, cradling me in the crook of its arm, cooing to me with delightful, gentle sights and sounds.

Why can't we be content with simply being alive?

Your father had a crowd of children around him, at least two dozen. They sat on the damp grass, rolling back and forth with laughter, slapping the ground and looking around at each other to confirm that yes, indeed, this clown was very funny.

He wore a costume of black and white patches sewn together in a criss-cross pattern.

Around his right eye he'd drawn a dark-blue diamond and on his left cheek, a small red heart. The tiniest bells jingled on his boots, tinkling almost inaudibly when he approached to pickpocket someone, but loud enough to give him a challenge. Challenges drove him like the lash of a whip.

He juggled three small balls of wood and one knife. As the knife flipped through the air hey grimaced at it with panic, completely ignoring the three balls he also kept in circulation. The two of you wanted to get close but I held my ground. I did not want to give J'role the impression I wanted to get closer to him. You both leaned forward, bodies hanging limp as I held your hands.

Then J'role saw us. His eyes met mine across the distance. For just a moment something unspoken and undefined passed between us. Then, as if we did not know each other, J'role was back at work, shrieking in terror as the knife approached his right hands then his left, over and over again.

I wanted so much to be stern-faced and to show how displeased I was with him. But he was too good. I couldn't help but smile.

He finished the juggling routine, set his props asides and then, as if noticing the children circled around him for the first time, gave a huge smile. He clapped his hands together and sighed an exaggerated sigh. It was clear he loved nothing so much as entertaining children. Just as clear was his desire to make sure the children knew it.

BOOK: Shadowrun - Earthdawn - Mother Speaks
5.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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