The Beginning is the End
by Timothy GeorgiLast Updated: 29 June 1998
Skyfall looked around. Everything looked totally different that what he was used to. He then looked to the sky and saw the blazing sun making it's way toward sun-goes-down. At least that was still the same.
"I'm not even sure where I am anymore," Skyfall said to himself with a small laugh. He looked back in the direction he had come, a river in a small clearing amid the giant, strange looking trees where he had touched down moments earlier. Then Sky heard his stomach tell him what his head already knew. Food was the pressing item that had brought him out of the clouds and down to the ground.
Sky turned back and started walking slowly toward a large group of tightly bunched trees, hoping for some game.
I hope I find something good this time. He pulled his bow from off his shoulder and an arrow from his make-shift quiver. The herds had been small and the animals scarce in many of the places he had traveled, mainly due to the humans. Sky looked around and saw no evidence of any humans, so things looked hopeful. Sky had visions of killing something the size of a longtooth, but he knew that his chances of that were next to none. He would take what he could find and thank the High Ones for it.
Skyfall knelt down on one knee as he approached the trees. He took his bow in his left hand and held the arrow loosely against the bowstring with his right, resting the bow on the ground. He then sat in silence and waited for something to move. Anything.
Skyfall looked at his bow and began thinking as he waited. He thought about the things that had changed during the turns that he had been away from Grey Falls. He thought of all the things he wasn't able to do before but was now.
Before, he thought, I could never hunt very well. Back in Grey Falls, Skyfall remembered that he could rarely be successful in a hunt. He usually just made things harder for the others. I was horrible with a bow. It had always felt awkward in my hand. He thought about how his time away from the Holt had helped him. He had usually depended on the hunters of the tribe, but now that he was on his own, he had to take the responsibility himself. Many times he had gone hungry due to his lack of hunting skills. His skills had gotten much better in the last couple of turns and was now a fairly capable archer. Skyfall wasn't sure if his skill was of the same caliber as some of the others in the tribe, but at least... Now I can hold my own, he thought.
Down on the far end of the grove of trees, Skyfall finally saw something moving toward the clearing on the other side. He took up his bow and trotted quickly and quietly over to the edge of the clearing.
Kneeling again, Skyfall glanced across the vast, green-covered expanse. There were small green plants and grass as far as his eyes could see. In the distance he could faintly see what seemed to look like a group of small mountains and a large loaf-shaped mountain. He also found what he had been looking for, a decent-sized clovehoof off to Skyfall's left. He steadied his bow, set up his arrow and swiftly aimed at his target. The pull back and the release went quickly. It sent the arrow through the air at lightning speed, cutting through the wind until it struck the clovehoof.
The clovehoof ran for a few moments and it finally fell next to a pile of small rocks. It didn't fall instantly, like it did for more skilled archers. Skyfall half-smiled.
Well, it gives me something to keep working on, he thought.
Skyfall jumped up and darted toward his fallen prey. He looked over the animal and noted to himself that his aim was a little off to the right. I'll correct that later.
Skyfall decided that he didn't want to tend to the clovehoof out in the open, so he hefted the animal onto his shoulder, then made his way back to the trees.
It's heavier than I thought. Skyfall stopped just inside the edge of the forest and dropped the clovehoof down on the ground with a thud. He sat down and rested a moment, massaging the muscles in his right arm. No, that was much heavier that I thought. When he was sufficiently rested, he pulled out his sword and quickly prepared and cut up the clovehoof. He had cut the major sections and packed it away in his pouch. He wiped his sword off on his leggings as he looked at the leftovers.
I shouldn't leave it here. He didn't like not being able to use all of the meat. It was against the Way, but the animals in the forest would come along and take care of what was left.
Skyfall sat back against a tree as he shoved some of the remaining meat into his mouth. He looked out again over the large clearing. The grass swayed back and forth as the wind blew. It looked like the waves of the Vastdeep, only more elegant. The movement looked smooth. Flowing like water.
It's beautiful. I wish this quest was over so I could enjoy it. His eyes followed one wave of grass until he saw the largest mountain again. He stared at the mountain as he chewed on a tough piece of meat. It was a fairly tall mountain in comparison to the other mountains in the chain. Then he looked harder. There was something there. Above.
Those are birds circling around the top. From the distance and how big the birds looked, Skyfall figured they had to be extremely large birds. He had never seen birds as large as those in his life, and yet...
The birds broke their circling formation and all went different directions. Skyfall watched as he tried to think about how he knew about the birds. He stopped watching the birds after a few seconds and started staring at the ground, caught up in deep thought.
Someone had told a story. Skyfall paused. He pushed his long, white hair out of his face as he rested his head on his hands. Large birds. Large bir... He paused again as he remembered.
Kaylamale! Skyfall sat back up. Kaylamale had told stories about the large birds used by his tribe while he was in Grey Falls. Skyfall wondered if he was getting closer. He smiled at the thought of possibly finding a link to his search.
The smile was quickly replaced with a look of awe and shock as Skyfall looked up and saw one of the large birds approaching the group of trees he was in. He instinctively grabbed his things and hid himself amid the trees. **((Describe the bird!))** Skyfall was mesmerized as his eyes followed the large bird's movement. Incredible! His trance was finally broken by an unknown object.
High Ones, what was that? Skyfall couldn't tell at that speed. He could tell that it was a long, thin object that came from above the bird and shot toward the ground. That was it.
Well, where did it go? Skyfall traced down the invisible mental line the object had traveled to it's point of impact on the other side of the grove. It struck a large male clovehoof in the back and pinned it to the ground, killing it instantly. Skyfall jumped back as he realized what had happened.
Back to my original question. What was that? Skyfall tried to see what the object was. He had to squint a little to get a better view. After a moment, he was shocked at what he found. It was a long, dark brown spear with some colorful feathers attached to the end.
Skyfall stood wide-eyed for a moment. If there is a spear... He looked back toward the bird. ...than that means there must be someone or someTHING on that bird. But the bird was gone. He made a quick search of the sky. Where did it go? He made a quick search again. Nothing.
Skyfall then heard the deafening screech of the bird as it landed a short distance from him. The sound of the bird's call rung in his ears for several moments. He studied the bird and tried to see if there was a rider, but the bird landed alone. He stared at the bird, puzzled.
Where did the spear come from? He continued to stare at the bird until he heard something behind him. He spun around quickly and saw something coming down out of the trees.
It came down with such grace and finesse, cutting through the air until it landed with a perfect two-point landing just next to the clovehoof.
Skyfall was once again awe struck as he realized what it was that came gliding down from the treetops. It turned around, with a knife in hand, and looked toward the bird.
It was an elf.
* * *
High Ones, is this what I've been searching for? The elf pulled the spear out of the clovehoof's back. Skyfall was so overwhelmed with the thought that his search may be over, he wasn't sure what he should do next.
Skyfall jumped slightly as an open send broke his concentration. It had come from the elf and was apparently intended for the large bird.
*We got a good one, Streamer!* the other elf continued. *Come in closer, so I can get the animal tied up and get it back to the mountain.*
The bird complied with the instructions of it's rider. It glided over to the other side of the trees and then walked in as close as it was able. The elf glided over and got some rope from a pouch on the large bird's back. He then returned and started to tie up the clovehoof.
Skyfall stared at the glider and wondered what he should do. Should I wait for him to leave and then follow him? Should I approach him? Should I... The thought cut short as his instincts decided for him. He glided quickly over to the other side of the forest and stopped just short of reaching the other elf, making sure that he was still concealed by the trees. He landed silently and stood next to a large cottonwood tree, waiting for his instincts to tell him what to do next. After a couple of seconds, he had his answer.
*Would you like some help with that?* Skyfall sent in a quiet open send.
The glider was startled at hearing a sending so close. He dropped the rope in the middle of a knot and, in a spinning move, grabbed his knife and turned toward Skyfall in a defensive stance.
*What?!? Who's there?* the glider sent with his knife ready to strike, a tinge of panic and alarm on the edge of his send.
*I don't mean any harm,* Skyfall sent as he took a few steps closer to the glider. *I was wondering if you would like some help. I'm fairly good at tying things.* He stopped walking as the glider switched his knife from his right hand to his left.
*What are you doing here, outsider?*
*I'm a traveler, searching for something.*
*You won't find it here stranger. There are no outsiders here.*
*I may find it despite what you think.* Sky paused and wondered if that was a wise thing to say. But it was too late now. He wiped some sweat off his forehead then wiped his hand off on his leathers. He was getting a little nervous but he had to continue. *I'm looking for my home. And you could be my link back to where I cam from.*
*Why do you say that, strange elf?* The glider slowly started to change his standing position, from one of defense to one of attack.
*Because you are a glider,* Skyfall replied.
*Yes. What does that have to do with it?*
*Well...* Sky paused quickly to think about what his reply should be. *Well, I'm a glider also.*
Skyfall stood and waited to see the result of what he had said. At first all he got was a blank stare. Shock? He wasn't sure. Then he got something he didn't expect. the elf, in a quick sweeping motion, threw his knife at Skyfall's waist. Sky instinctively jumped up and glided out of the knife's path. He hovered in the air for a moment and then landed, contemplating whether to retaliate. then he was the large smile on the hunter's face. He seemed to be pleased with the result of his...
*Test?* Skyfall murmured as he realized what the hunter elf had done. The hunter glided over to the other side of the grove to where Sky had landed and pulled his knife out of the tree it had stuck into.
*Interesting,* the hunter said as he put his knife back in the sheath on his belt. He looked Skyfall over and then extended his hand as what seemed to be a gesture of friendship.
*My name is Alyzen,* the elf said as Skyfall clasped his hand with the hunter's. *And this,* he said, pointing to the large bird, *is Streamer.*
My turn. Skyfall quickly thought about how to introduce himself. Should I use my Wolfrider name or should I use the name I found with the help of Yharren and Stone? He decided on the latter to keep from causing confusion. He knew that the elf was a pureblood and that they'd be using elfin names. And he didn't want to reveal anything about Dark Tree or Grey Falls just yet.
*I am called Lykos,* Skyfall replied, to finish the introductions.
*Where do you come from?* Alyzen asked as he glided back over to the clovehoof. He untangled the unfinished knot he had dropped and then resumed to tie up his fallen prey, waiting for Skyfall to respond.
*Actually, that is my quest,* Skyfall started. He glided over to the clovehoof and then continued. *I don't know where I am from. I've searched for turns and turns for the answer to that question. I've never been able to find anything close to the answer...*
Alyzen looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
*Until now,* Skyfall finished, as Alyzen began to carry the clovehoof over to Streamer. Skyfall grabbed one side and helped Alyzen with his task.
*You mean you don't know where you're from?* Alyzen asked with a puzzled look on his face. As they reached the bird, they both used their gliding abilities to heft the animal up onto Streamer's back. *Where are your mother and father?*
*I'm not sure,* Skyfall replied as Alyzen used a piece of rope attached to the black leather harness on Streamer's back to secure the clovehoof. *I know nothing about them. I don't remember their names. I don't know where they came from. I don't know where they are now. I don't even know if they still live.* Skyfall stared up into the treetops as a slight wind began to pick up. Alyzen was now looking at him with curiosity.
*I've only met one other elf with powers like mine in all of my travels.* Sky pushed his long white hair out of his face and looked back at Alyzen. *He was a traveler also. He was the last survivor of a tribe of elves that were destroyed by a group of humans. And you are the second,* Skyfall said with a slight smile.
*I am one of many,* Alyzen replied with a sly smile as he finished his task and made ready to return.
He looked back at Skyfall. *I can take you back to the mountain if you would like to continue your... quest... there.*
The offer was enticing. Very enticing. Skyfall's instincts kicked in and told him to be careful, but his curiosity was too great.
*Yes. I'd like to see inside the mountain. Maybe there's another link there.*
*Well, let's ride Streamer back,* Alyzen replied as he motioned for Skyfall to come and sit in front of him on Streamer's back.
*What? Ride on... the bird?* Skyfall questioned as the feeling of curiosity came over him.
*Of course. That's what Streamer is trained to do,* came Alyzen's reply. *Come on!*
Skyfall hesitated slightly. Should I go and get my things? He quickly decided not to. He didn't want to seem threatening to the glider. He looked back in the direction of the river and where he had left his things. He decided that he would come back and get them later, if they were still there when he returned. He then turned and glided up above the bird. He landed and sat in front of Alyzen as the hunter commanded the bird to return to the mountain. The bird took a few steps to get a start and then they were airborne.
Sky was hit with a blast of cool air which pushed his hair out of his face and caused it to flow behind him. It was a feeling he had never felt. Even though he could fly himself, this was different. It was thrilling. Exciting. Exhilarating.
*I've heard stories about these large birds, but I never thought I'd ever be riding on one,* Sky sent as he took in the thrill of the experience.
Skyfall could feel the strength and power that the large bird had as it flapped its wings in perfect rhythm. It was almost unreal, like he was in a dream.
Sky nearly forgot that Alyzen was there behind him as they got closer and closer to the mountain. He turned around to look back to where they had come from. As he turned his head, he caught a glimpse of another glider next to Alyzen and the flash of the metal hilt of a sword as it hit him in the forehead. Sky's head quickly snapped back and he fell into the feathers of Streamer's back. The world slowly faded away into blackness as he lost conscienceness.
* * *
It was dark.
It took Skyfall several moments for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. He slowly pushed himself up into a sitting position. Immediately he realized that sitting up was a bad choice as his head began pounding with pain.
Sky rubbed his eyes and looked at his surroundings. The room was basically empty. There was a table off to one side against the wall. There were two small candles on the table that were almost melted away. The wax from the candles had oozed over the edge of the table and had hardened as it hit the floor.
Over on the other side of the room there was another small table next to a large wooden door. On the small table Skyfall noticed his leathers and sword. The sword had been removed from it's sheath and the handle was hanging over the edge of the table.
Sky looked down at himself and noted the change of clothing. He was dressed in some dark blue trousers which were loose around the legs and tapered off at the ankles. His shirt was light blue and long sleeved with a v-neck and white trim around the edges. The fabric seemed to shimmer slightly in the pale light of the candles. There was a dark blue sash tied around his waist and black fir-lined boots on his feet.
The clothes were different. They weren't what Skyfall was used to. He preferred clothes that fit a bit more tightly, but he was grateful for a change. His leathers were old and had been through many turns worth of use.
Sky looked around for other objects in the room but there were none, just the two tables, the two candles and his belongings. He was staring at the candles as a large gust of wind entered the room, which caused one of the candles to go out. He noticed another light in the room, a much brighter light, as he turned around. A female elf dressed in the same color outfit as Alyzen had entered the room with a torch. She quietly began closing the door as Skyfall noticed the guards standing off to the side of the door. She assured the guards that she'd be all right as the door clicked shut.
"Greetings traveler," the woman said as she turned and faced Skyfall. She was a tall elf, about the same height as Sky, with long black hair flowing loosely about her shoulders. Obviously a pureblood. The light of the torch shimmered in her eyes as she walked closer to the center of the room.
"Gree...ouch" That hurt. Sky's head hurt too much to even speak. *Hurts,* he sent as he put his hand to his head. He touched his forehead where he had been hit by the sword. He found that he had a fairly large bump on his head. He quickly took his hand away from his head as even the slightest touch caused more pain.
"Yes, Alyzen told me what happened. Dorinn has a tendency to be a little overbearing. I'll take you to the healer later." The elf women placed the torch in a seemingly invisible holder on the wall.
"So, your name is Lykos," she continued as she came and sat down on the platform where Sky had been lying.
*How... How do you know...*
"Alyzen told me that also," she said with a smile. "My name is Tiari. I'm one of the hunt leaders here."
*Where... where am I? What is this place?* Sky asked as he turned to face the huntress.
"How about a trade?" Tiari asked with a hopeful look on her face.
Sky returned an inquisitive look. *What do you mean?*
"I have some questions I'd like to ask you," she said, placing her hands in her lap after brushing away some of the stray locks of hair from her face. "I'll answer your questions, then you'll answer mine."
Skyfall marveled at the boldness of her order, but decided that he had nothing to lose. *All right. Agreed.*
"So, you'd like to know what this place is. It's a very old story. Told many times. I'm not as good a storyteller as some of the others here, but I will have to suffice," Tiari said, adjusting her position on the platform. She pushed aside what Sky figured was this tribe's equivalent of a sleep skin. Sky sat forward and looked attentive as Tiari started her story.
"The story begins in the time of the High Ones. It was back when few of the original High Ones still lived. There were many disputes and disagreements between the remaining High Ones as to how our race was to survive. One of those was a High One named Imris. He wanted to find a way to reclaim the Palace. Others said that elves needed to fight for their position in this world. So a group of first and second born elves with the same desires as Imris broke off from the main group. Imris led them to this mountain where the rockshapers burrowed into the living rock. Imris then established this colony with the sole purpose of uniting all elves and reclaiming the Palace." Tiari paused to catch her breath. In the silence, Skyfall pondered what Tiari had said so far.
In his life, he had made it close to the Palace once and had heard many stories about elves that had attempted to find it when he had traveled in the Evercold. But he had never met anyone who had actually been there.
Copyright © 1993-98 Timothy Georgi.