|Source: WikiMedia Commons|
“Paying homage to the Windlord, Chelinn?” Galbron asked, standing in the door. “I knew there was a reason your life is so charmed.” The priest grinned at his wet friend.
“And how did you receive your Windlord’s blessings without a thorough drenching?” Chelinn asked, then muttered something in a language only Ethtar understood.
The spindly wizard feigned alarm and made a warding gesture. Lightning flashed, and the Protector’s keep shuddered to the thunder, bellowing on the heels of the lightning. “Chelinn, you should not tempt the elements with your blasphemies,” he laughed.
Chelinn chuckled, not at all chastised. “I wasn’t sure that the elements could understand that language,” he said. “That you know it, Protector Ethtar, is somewhat of a surprise in itself! But I was asking Galbron how he stayed dry while opening his arms to the wind.”
“I didn’t.” Galbron smiled and crossed the room, pouring himself a glass of wine from the open jug. His hood fell back, revealing his drenched black hair. “I did wear one of those jackets the local sailors make, and that kept much of the rain off me. My boots, I left with the apprentice, and exchanged them for my sandals.” He lifted one foot and wiggled it. “Did I miss anything of import?”
Chelinn’s daughter Sarna moved over on her divan and gestured to Galbron to join her. “Nothing important,” she said. “But Protector Ethtar did tell the most fascinating story, about a world Made as a half.”
“Thurun’s world?” Galbron asked, surprising the others. “Oh, yes. Our Order knows that story well. As we tell it, Thurun begged the aid of the Windlord to establish that world’s weather patterns.” He sat down next to Sarna, getting a wary look from Chelinn that amused him. “He told you about the Makers? And the Great Nothing?”
“That I did,” Ethtar nodded. “But that is all I know. As I explained to the others, what the Protectors know, we have kept to ourselves. We are attempting to break Termag’s habit of hoarding knowledge, beginning tonight.”
“Ah.” Galbron sipped his wine several times, pondering. “Then I should tell one of our own tales. It concerns an ordinary man, on an extraordinary journey, across a most extraordinary world.” He sipped once again, then began.
Once, in the time of Camac That Was (Galbron began), on the world called Thurun, lived a man called Jakrom. The son of a common laborer, Jakrom was not thought to have great prospects, yet he was bold and clever. Many such young men have started with even less and yet prospered in the end.
Now Jakrom had in mind to woo Rakah, the younger daughter of a prosperous merchant named Larbam. As Larbam had no son to claim his inheritance, many poor young men sought the hand of either Rakah or her sister Arah. Larbam would listen politely to these suitors, then set them an onerous task; that was usually the last he saw of them. So when Jakrom came calling, it was the same.
“Very well,” said Larbam after Jakrom made his proposal. “I will give you Rakah, if you can prove your worth. Go to the Edge of the World, and stand on the Great Nothing. When you return, if she is willing, you may marry her.”
“If that is the price, I will pay it,” said Jakrom. “What shall I bring you as proof? I would not want to make such a long journey to have you say I only made up a story.”
Larbam cocked his head, for all other suitors only walked away when hearing of the bride-price. “A perceptive question,” he said at last. “You have the quickness of mind needed in my business. I make a counter-proposal: with no journey, I offer you the hand of Arah—again, if she is willing. It is only fitting that the older daughter marries first. Do this, and you will be my right-hand man and my heir when I pass on.”
“Arah I know not,” said Jakrom. “I have done business with Rakah, buying your spices, and she knows me by name and always smiles when she sees me. I am sure she will be willing to take me as her husband. For her I will go to the Edge of the World and bring you proof.”
Larbam was struck by an idea that made him smile. “Bring me a fragment of the Great Nothing,” he said. “Do this, and both of my daughters and my good name are yours.” Larbam knew that certain rich folk would pay a great price for a fragment of the Great Nothing, a price far beyond any gemstone or exotic spice.
“I will,” said Jakrom, then he departed, already thinking about what he would need.
“That suggests,” said Chelinn, “that the folk of Thurun seldom visited the Edge.”
“Of course,” Galbron agreed. “Thurun's weather is opposite our own, torrid at the pole and frigid at the equator. Its pole faced the sun; there was a vast steaming ocean surrounded by a tropical shore. Most folk dwelt in between. So Jakrom began his journey…”