Elasia Peace Maker
Elasia explored the skies for two full cycles of the moon Minoi after she discovered her ability to fly. She learned about the different kinds of wind currents and befriended every bird she could find. She made a sport of chasing rainbows, learning quickly that they suffered from acute shyness. Their friendship would have to be earned, and she intended to do just that. She saw every color of sunrise and every shade of sunset, and the endless freedom still hadn’t grown old.
She had every intention of returning home, eventually, where she would have to face up to running off without a word… and there was also the matter of borrowing her father’s flute. The flute was a small thing. It fit in a pocket. One tone from either of its little silver branches, though, could reshape the world in ways she had yet to discover fully. She had only used it sparingly, at moments when she felt she most needed it, and each of those had come with surprises. The time when what was supposed to be a small fire was instead a throat of roaring flame as tall as the trembling pines, for instance.
There was also the matter of the Mreg. She had seen them only once, on a difficult day before she knew anything about what it meant to be her. They looked like giant spiders, and she knew that they lurked under the forest of her ancestry, but she had found every tunnel and opening blocked. Not just with silvery webs so thick that no amount of hacking away at them seemed to help, but with stones and mud, too. She knew the Mreg wanted nothing to do with her or her people, the Ean, but she also knew that the great rift between the Mreg and the Ean had been a mistake and she wanted to mend what she could. That would be a good way to return home, she decided. Her parents would be furious, but she could hand back the flute with tidings that they could safely come out from hiding. Perhaps even come back to rebuild the ruins of their once great city.
To do that, though, she would have to get the Mreg to speak with her, and that was proving difficult. She left gifts for them at anything that looked like an opening. Flowers, mostly, and when those failed to attract attention, piles of berries. Those disappeared, but she suspected they were being eaten up by rodents. She thought about the Mreg each day as she soared the skies. What did she know about them, beyond the wrongs they suffered when her father had suspected them of betrayal? She knew that they lived underground, hated the Ean, and had keen hearing. That was it! She wanted to communicate with them. Well, they were listening.
“My father made a mistake,” she said, starting with one blocked cave mouth and repeating it at each opening she found in the days to follow. “I want to find a way to make peace between our people again. I want to make right what was wronged, but I can’t help until I understand what happened to you. Please. Help me understand.”
The days passed, and though she had a constant feeling of being watched whenever her feet were on the ground, she saw no sign of the Mreg. She had always been a social child, and her solitude was weighing on her. She wasn’t accustomed to spending so much time in silence. Of course she could just go home and spend the rest of her days in hiding with her people. She’d have plenty of conversation, but she wouldn’t have the skies or the glorious sunrises and sunsets. And she wouldn’t have anything to show for her misbehavior.
At first it was a comment here or there, describing what she was seeing on her flights or the way that a pure fresh stream tasted at its source. Soon she was talking as if to an old friend, explaining her thoughts and describing what it was like to grow up with her parents, though omitting anything that would point to how to find them.
The feeling of being watched increased, and from time to time she thought she caught movement out of the corner of her eye, but still no Mreg. Finally it happened. She guessed that the Mreg was young based on its size. It was in the ruins of the palace in the old city, trying to scramble through one of the caved in openings that had once been some kind of elaborately carved entrances to subterranean spaces. The stones had shifted, apparently, and the Mreg could no longer fit through. The noise called Elasia down from the sky.
“Don’t run,” she pleaded.
The Mreg darted back and forth, looking for a way to escape her, and finding none, finally slumped down to the ground in defeat. Elasia wasn’t sure what to do. She’d wanted to talk to the Mreg, but not like this.
“Here,” she said, pulling the flute from her pocket and placing her fingers carefully over the holes. “I can shift the rocks to let you through.”
“You can?” the Mreg asked.
It threw its front pincers over a spot under its chin, and Elasia guessed that the gesture was meant to cover its mouth. She smiled. How many times had she done the same thing when she’d spoken out of turn back home? And she’d done plenty of speaking out of turn.
“I’ll try,” she said. “I’m not very good at this yet, so you may want to move away when I do it.”
The Mreg hesitated.
“Why?” it asked quietly.
“I’m only learning how to use it,” she explained.
“Why do you want to make peace with us?” the Mreg clarified.
The flute drifted down from Elasia’s lips. “Because none of this should have happened,” she said. “I’m too young to remember the war and nobody told me about it. I did learn that my father was wrong when he turned against the Mreg. He knows he was wrong, and he’s been living with that knowledge. In all my memory my parents have carried a deep sorrow that I could never understand. I love them. I want to heal that sorrow. And your people were wronged. I want to heal that wrong.”
The Mreg considered her words for a while, and eventually moved to her side.
“There has been a lot of talk,” the Mreg said. “Our Tik’ha’she’tuk, um, Philosophers, want to speak with you. They believe that it is worth teaching you the history you don’t know. If you can understand, then maybe you can find a path for righting the wrongs that fell upon our ancestors. There are more though who say that all of our troubles were caused by allowing our Philosophers to lead. They are deciding now which way to turn. My parents are Philosophers. We will leave if the decision goes against us.”
“I didn’t mean to cause more trouble,” Elasia gasped. “I only wanted to help.”
The Mreg made a movement much like a shrug.
“The Mreg weren’t just betrayed,” it said. “Many of the Philosophers were held captive and… worse. Whole families died. Lines of our histories were forgotten. I don’t know if this is a wrong that can find a right.”
Tears spilled from Elasia’s cheeks onto the flute forgotten in her hands. What good was a flute that could start fires and shift around stones when the real needs of the world were the scars knitted into time itself? There was no tune that could bring those families life again. No breathy note to heal the pain of generations. She didn’t know when the war had happened, but she knew that the Ean had long lives. The way this Mreg had spoken, and by the way the forest had already reclaimed so much of the destroyed city, she guessed that this betrayal of her father had happened too long ago to be forgiven. Where did that leave her?
“I’m sorry,” she whispered through her tears. “I don’t know what to do.”
The Mreg didn’t say anything for a while.
“We’ve been listening to you,” it said at last. “You’ve made friends with birds and deer. Even the rainbows like you, they just haven’t told you yet.”
Elasia let out a choked laugh.
“Perhaps the way to start is with one friendship,” the Mreg said. “You may call me Ha’sha.”
“Thank you Ha’sha,” Elasia said, wiping her cheeks and sniffing through a smile. “I had asked to understand and now I do. You have already taken the first step toward friendship. I hope you’ll find me worthy of the same.” She laughed as a sudden thought occurred to her. “You weren’t really trapped out here were you?”
Ha’sha gave her another shrug.
“There is another entrance not far from here.”
Elasia laughed in earnest.
“What will happen to you and your family if you have to leave?” she asked after a minute.
“We won’t be alone in leaving,” said Ha’sha. “There is talk of traveling to the coast and making a new settlement there.”
“If that happens, might I be able to come with you? To learn what I can? Just because I can’t see a way for peace today doesn’t mean that there isn’t one.”
“I think you would be welcome,” Ha’sha answered.
“Thank you Ha’sha,” Elasia said, tucking the flute back into her pocket.
“And thank you Elasia,” Ha’sha replied.
A twig snapped nearby but Elasia didn’t see anything. When she turned back, Ha’sha was gone. She went to investigate the noise she had heard, and was surprised to find a cloth bag pinned to a young tree with a silver broach that she recognized as belonging to her mother.
The bag contained several astonishing things, but the biggest surprise was a letter penned by her father.
“Elasia,” it said, “your mother and I could not be more proud of the young woman you have become. We have watched over you for some time now, and it is our opinion that you are ready to move forward in your life without us lurking in your shadow. You are courageous and good. Use those qualities to make this world a better place. The flute is my gift to you. I have included instructions and some tunes that I’ve found helpful. You will create your own music, and I look forward to hearing it for myself someday. You always know where to find us. Know that you are loved and always welcome where we are – though I believe you are on the path to finding your own home. You are a daughter of light, Elasia. If ever you find yourself surrounded by doubt and darkness, simply shine my child. Bring forward the love that springs out of you and you will transform the world into the place it needs to be.”
Elasia glanced around, but there was no sign of her parents. That feeling of being watched was no longer there. She smiled and held the letter to her cheek. They had known where she’d gone. Of course they had. All this time, they had been watching over her, letting her make her own choices and explore her freedom. They had watched and listened through her efforts to reach out to the Mreg. They had been only a few trees away during her conversation with Ha’sha. They knew what she was trying to accomplish and they wanted her to succeed. Everything suddenly felt possible. Whether the Philosophers overcame the fears of the rest and began a conversation with her here or she ended up traveling with them to set up a new settlement, she would do what she needed to so that peace could come. If not today then possibly tomorrow. Someday, peace would find the Ean and the Mreg again.
She breathed in the fragrance that filled the air. Forest had reclaimed much of the ruined palace already and the scent from the trees was sweet and soothing. It was perfect somehow. A flavor on the tongue that sings songs of comfort, hope and home to your senses. Someday she’d have to figure out what that song might be, and play it on her new flute.
~ ~ ~
The new tik’ha’she’tik settlement wasn’t constructed the way Mreg settlements had been built for time unknown. They had traveled as far west as the old Mreg tunnels would take them, and found inspiration at a collapsed entrance. The tunnels they traveled had been carved in the last age, and many of the stories they found spiraling from floor to ceiling were beloved to the point of mythology. They camped near the collapse and wove thick walls on every side so that their conversations would not be overheard.
“Though we chose to leave, and the others have taken the way of passivity, I don’t wish to remain in a world where they can hear us,” Ha’sha’tuk said. He had been accepted as the leader of the tik’ha’she’tik faction that had left their Mreg cousins behind when the vote had removed the tik’ha’she’tik from power.
A muttering of agreement filled the tunnel.
“I say we begin building here, leaving this looking just like this,” Ha’sha’tuk said. “We can build our new city on the other side of it.”
Ha’sha, Ha’sha’tuk’s daughter, slid herself through a network of roots to the left of the collapse and returned a few minutes later.
“It’s only a hall with three rooms on the other side,” she reported. “It looks like they were only just started before the collapse.”
“If the stone collapses here, we should find somewhere else, with good, solid stone,” said Sha’she. “Why was it abandoned?”
“I can answer that,” Ha’sha said. “The carvings spoke of the life of Ebelus and Kinad.”
There was a collective sigh of understanding. All but one of their number, that is. Elasia, who was still learning how to understand the percussive language of the Mreg, tapped out her question with terrible grammatical pauses.
“What the is this of the Ebelus and in additions of the Kinad?” she asked.
Elasia was not Mreg. In fact, she descended from the Ean, who the Mreg had many reasons to distrust and hate thanks to a violent history that Elasia was still learning. She had come to travel with this group because of a friendship she had sparked with Ha’sha, and though she felt the distrust and anger around her every day, she didn’t for a second regret her decision. She couldn’t help what had been done by her ancestors. She couldn’t help the fact that these tik’ha’she’tik, a word that meant Philosopher, had been cast out because they supported the idea of speaking with her and the Ean to find roads to peace. What she looked for, every day that she traveled with them, was a way that she could help.
“Ebelus and Kinad were warriors in the Shadow War,” Ha’sha explained enthusiastically. “Every Mreg grows up with their tales. The Shadow War covered the whole land. So if historians of Ebelus and Kinad were here, well, they were probably swept up into the fighting.”
“We will check the integrity of the stone as we carve,” Ha’sha’tuk decided. “I believe this will make a fine new home for us. Except, I wish for our lives to be free of Mreg ears. I say we dig deep and refrain from tunneling listening holes.”
A murmur of surprise buzzed around the closed in tunnel.
“We’ll be deaf to the world,” someone said.
“Cut off,” another agreed.
“We’ll be safe,” Ha’sha’tuk said, “and free to engage the world where and when we choose. We will listen to the tunnels, and any echoes that filter down from them. That is all.”
Agreement didn’t seem to be resounding, but the tik’ha’she’tik got to work without any argument. Progress was swift and efficient, with a stone removal line that rotated with regularity. Unable to dig into stone like the Mreg could, Elasia made herself useful stacking the brick-sized blocks of stone that filtered up from the tunnel. Within a day the first room was filled completely. The second day saw to the next room and the third day filled the last. A meeting was held that evening in the newly created hall deep under the earth. Tall smooth columns supported a ceiling still rough and unfinished. The effect made it seem as if the columns were being rescued from the stone instead of carved out of it. The air was thick and heavy.
“We need to expand,” Ha’sha’tuk said, “and conceal our progress. Ideas?”
“We’ll have to send out scouts for natural caves,” Sha’she suggested.
“Yes, good,” Ha’sha’tuk agreed. “We cannot expand until we have a solution. Tomorrow we send scouts.”
The next day, and the next, and the one after that, too, Elasia climbed up to the surface with a handful of scouts that disappeared into the forest above in search of caves that could be filled. Each day they all came back empty-handed, though hunting was accomplished while they were out. The tight quarters developed a sour aroma and those who stayed below began to argue with each other. Elasia felt the need more than ever to make things better for her new friends, so one day, when she discovered a cart path, she followed it.
When the trees cleared to fields she saw a village nestled between two rises ahead, and past it, the ocean beyond. She walked to the village and found a circle at its center, where a few stands were set up for trade. The village of Azminan, it turned out, had been founded originally by Tarlains, a small people who were adept at trade. Now a mixture of species lived there, and wagon trails connected it to other villages to the South and East. Even with the many species present, the existence of the Ean had been forgotten to the world and all she encountered assumed that Elasia was a human child, though she was neither. Within the Ean she had been considered young at a few hundred years, but her parents had blessed her departure into the world and the adulthood that followed with it. She was old enough. Because of her youthful appearance, however, she had a hard time getting anyone to listen when she requested an audience with the mayor. Finally she succeeded.
The mayor was an old Tarlain woman who stood to Elasia’s shoulder. Her lavender skin was creased and deepened to a dark purple across her face and hands from years spent laboring outdoors. Her hair had faded to silver and hung in thin wisps over her shoulders. Her shrewd eyes studied Elasia with doubt.
“You wish to build a house,” she repeated after Elasia made her request. “Do you have gold to exchange for this land you want?”
Elasia thought of the few belongings she possessed. She had a few silver treasures but she knew those to be far more valuable than any trade could buy.
“No,” she said. “I have no gold or silver to trade.”
The mayor looked her over from top to toe and shook her head.
“There is a village to the South,” she said. “There’s a woman there who could use a girl to help…”
“Excuse me,” Elasia interrupted, “but I would like to build my home here. I don’t need much space. I’ll make it a nice home and I can help keep up gardens around the village. I have a talent for helping plants grow. I have…”
The mayor’s eyes had narrowed at the interruption and she interrupted Elasia right back.
“You intend to work off the debt of land?” she asked.
“No,” Elasia said. “I intend to trade for it.”
“Then you do have items of value,” the mayor said, studying Elasia’s simple and forest-worn clothing.
“I’m certain I do,” Elasia said. “What is considered valuable here?” She thought of the stockpiles of stone and the rough road she had come in on.
“Gold,” the mayor said, sitting back in her chair. “We fish for our meals and there’s plenty of wood. What we don’t have in the way of pelts and meats we trade for. A wealthy town, though, has gold, and I intend to make this the wealthiest town in the world. What we don’t need is homeless children,” she added.
“I agree,” Elasia said with a sweet smile. “All the more reason for us to agree on a plot of land so that I can build a house worthy of a wealthy town.”
The mayor had finally given Elasia what she needed to know. The woman had ambition, and the image of the town was more important, Elasia wagered, even than the mayor’s wish for gold. To Elasia, true wealth was the forest she had recently left behind. Its riches were lush, green growth. Bustling life. A smell that was equally earthy, sweet and clean. She wanted to learn the ways of the world, though, and she had the feeling that the dreams the mayor nurtured for her village were well founded. The land was welcoming and beautiful. The large circle in the center of the village was unique, and Elasia already had ideas as to how it could be made into something special. A place that people would travel to see. Elasia was looking at two solutions.
“I can bring in stone,” she offered. “I imagine stone streets would help Azminan to be recognized as a wealthy town.”
The mayor gazed at her with a mixture of suspicion and new interest.
“There is no good stone near here,” the mayor said. “We’re sitting on old sand. The hills around us are all sand. Where will you bring stone from?”
“I’ll worry about that,” Elasia said. “With enough stone to pave the streets of Azminan, as well as the roads to the nearest towns, how much land may I have?”
The plot was sizable, though Elasia suspected she should have received much more for the advancement that her stone would bring to the town. Even so, she had land that she could turn into a home above ground, and her Mreg friends could continue to build their city in secret. She made her way back to the tunnels, and to the new settlement.
Her friend Ha’sha stood waiting for her with a torch.
“I was worried,” Ha’sha said. “You’ve never been out after dark.”
I’ve found a place to put the stone you carve out,” Elasia announced.
Ha’sha blinked at her in surprise. “A suitable cave?” she asked.
“Better,” Elasia grinned. “An endless supply of space, and a way to listen to the world without being found.”
She explained her actions to the tik’ha’she’tik that night, as well as her suggestion that they might build a listening tunnel to the basement of her house once it was built.
“You have done well, Elasia,” Ha’sha’tuk said when she had finished. “Those of us who continued to nurse doubts may well wish to see you with fresh eyes. Thank you, friend to the tik’ha’she’tik.”
So it was that the child named Elasia came to live in Azminan. Many legends have arisen around her through the centuries, such as the stone house that was erected overnight, and the stone roads that followed in the same way. The people of Azminan assumed it was magic, but they weren’t ones to complain. Soon the intricate patterns of the central circle were a sight merchants traveled the continent to see. Trade boomed, and a stone statue of the mayor appeared just as suddenly and mysteriously as the rest. Where Elasia went has been lost to history. It was said that she traveled often, though her house always seemed well-kept. At some point Elasia’s daughter arrived and took up residence, and her habits were just as odd as her mother’s had been. So it went, generation after generation, oft-traveling mother to oft-traveling daughter, until the world shaper Exasia took up residence.
But that is a story for another day.
Written by W. C. McClure. This may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure. This is a work of fiction. None of the characters or events depicted are meant to represent anyone or anything this side of dreams. Comments are welcome! Also, please help support this indie author by telling your friends about the excellent short story blog at
http://www.farsideofdreams.com and buying W. C. McClure’s books at http://www.wcmcclure.com. Thanks for reading!