Moon Over Suomi
by Lothe alVaria in Dark Ages
Why friends are here
Is always clear,
At your every smile or tear,
They are there for you.
I have been asked
Some times before,
To tell what friends are for.
Rays from the newborn sun danced and twirled on the dewstained grass of Alvars field. Shannon bent over and carefully, gently plucked a large, moist grape from the vines. The bright light of midmorning glittered on the wet surface of the globular fruit, and the young monk could not help but pop a particularly solid grape into her mouth.
She felt the purple globe explode in her mouth, the juice moistening her tongue. She closed her eyes and absorbed ever small bit of flavor the fruit had to offer. Shannon reopened her eyes, sliding the rest of the grapes into her small rucksack along with the cherries from Gorans field.
Shannon had lived her life in Suomi, though that was not to say she had lived long. Although only being in Temuair for about ten deochs, she had learned much. She was an expert in several fighting styles, and almost at one with the nature around her. Shannon held a light frame, making her all the more limber than she already was. Although somewhat short, the people who had once mocked her now knew to leave her be. Shannon had golden hair that imitated the shining sun in the Suomi summer, and brown eyes, the color of chestnuts in autumn.
The young maid then carefully trod about the vineyard, winding her way back to Alvars hut. The mundane gave her a fond smile: she was well-known and liked around her home town. She bowed and thanked him a few times, he blushed and chuckled a bit, telling her she spoke too highly of him. Shannon gave Alvar one more backward look and he smiled as she walked out the door.
Shannon seated herself at the simple oak table her father had built for her family, carefully unpacking the grapes and cherries she had picked.
"Ripe harvest," her father commented.
"Aye," Shannon agreed. "And I think Alvar gave me a few extra grapes." She winked at her father, and his azure eyes twinkled. "Even Goran was in a moderately good mood today," she chuckled. Her father laughed, a deep rumbling sound that carried a lifetime of happiness in it. He pulled Shannon up in a bear hug, and she giggled and tossed her skinny arms as far around her fathers large frame as theyd go.
At that point, Shannons mother walked into the room. She planted a light kiss on her husbands cheek, and then on Shannons forehead. Shannon backed up a little, bending down and laughing. Her mother let out a loving laugh that made Shannon giggle all the harder.
"And how was your day?" Shannons mother asked, in a very motherly tone.
Shannon laughed a bit and replied, "Fine." She smiled at her mother in a very innocent manner, causing the three of them to break out in peals of laughter. After catching their breath, her mother announced, "I shall have to make cherry pie soon!" Shannon grinned, her mothers cherry pies were the best for miles and miles. Even the mundane bakers admitted her pastries superiority.
"In the meantime," her father said, "what about lunch?"
Shannons father, Methusala, was huge. The moss-green tunic he wore was barely large enough for his bulky frame, and a mikly white beard bubbled from his chin like foam. He looked strikingly like Alvar the grape farmer, with hair colored to match his beard and a blad spot right at the top of his head. His eyes were the exact opposite of Shannons, a clear blue that sparkled like a well-polished gem.
The young monks mother, Kiri, was obviously where Shannon got many of her traits. Kiri was small and skinny, almost to the point of being frail, with swiftly aging skin. However, her mind was as sharp as it had ever been, it was hard to fool Kiri. Her eyes were an emerald-colored green, somewhat diluted with murky white, and a touch of jade at some spots.
Of course, some of Shannons looks and abilities were her own entirely: her eyes and her hair (for Kiris was a jet black), and her agility were all things she claimed for her own. Shannons family was pious, following both the Lady Glioca and Cail of Nature. Shannon seemed to be at one with the earth around her, she could concentrate deeply if she wished to, as though drawing strength form the worlds essence.
Shannon had led a happy and peaceful life for her short ten deochs of existence, living with her parents in Suomi. They farmed vegetables, and paid Alvar and Goran to pick grapes and cherries from their fields. Even Hadrien shared a few secrets with them, and Viveka was more than happy to have Methusula dine on ale at her tavern. Shannon realized that she would eventually have to leave her family and see the world; it was her calling. However, she had no idea how soon and with how much ferocity the seperation would hit.
Glass is fragile,
Throw no stones,
A key picked out
Among the bones,
And what help would be a friend,
To pick up the pieces
And start again.
The night was dark, but not particularly cold. Shannon slept lightly, as she always did, with the proverbial one eye open. Methusula was snoring loudly, which was a nightly sound Shannon had gotten used to over the deochs. Kiri was not quite such a heavy sleeper, but straddled the gap between Shannon and Methusula.
From out in the darkness there was a low growl. Shannon paid it no heed, even though it woke her slightly, since all wild areas made sounds like this during the night. However, only a moment after, there was another growl. Shannon lept lightly and landed deftly on her feet with barely a sound. She slid over to where her father lay, giving him a short firm tap to the forehead.
Methusula woke amid grunts and queries, this was not the time he normally woke up. Shannon swiftly quieted him, and Methusula nodded silently. His daughter was small, but she did not make this sort of fuss over nothing.
"Listen," she hissed in the darkness. A few minutes and the growling came again, this time decidedly closer. Methusula nodded at it.
"Lets wake Kiri," he told her. The two of them crept over to where Shannons mother lay. She needed no such firm tap as Methusula did, as soon as she sensed something amiss she had woken.
"I heard," she confirmed. "Let us go downstairs and investigate."
Methusula stopped them at the doorway. He reached up to a huge plate at the ceiling, which supported a sword of enormous size. The blade was a bluish that looked like a crystal-distilled sky, and the handle was inset with several gems which burned a fiery red; not rubies, but something else which Shannon couldnt identify.
Her father hefted the blade and took a few brief practice swings, slicing the air before him. He then nodded as though satisfied, and told them to continue downstairs and put him at their fore.
As the family reached the bottom of the stairs, they saw nothing wrong. They proceeded into the front room, where their simple wooden door remained shut. Still pensive, they looked around the room. Suddenly the growl came once more, from just beyond their door.
Methusula pulled his sword up. Shannon dropped into a fighting stance. Kiri backed off behind the two.
At that point the door exploded inward. In a fury of growls and roars, a huge beast stood at their doorway. It was huge, larger than anything Shannon had ever seen, but resemble one of the tiny cats she had once looked at wandering Vivekas in search of rats. The creatures eyes burned white, which seemed to penetrate Shannons soul, even though the thing was not looking in her direction.
"Shikami!" her mother shrieked.
"Fiend!" Methusula rasped.
"Kelberoth," Shannon obserbved.
Methusula and Shannon shook themselves out of their trance and went into action. Shannon concentrated, mentally drawing a bullseye over her target. Her fists flew, pummeling the cat right behing the neck. The beast gave a fearsome yowl, trying its best to bite back--only to find that Shannon was suddenly behind it.
Methusula brought his sword down on the Kelberoths angry orange hide, creating a huge red gash. The beast screamed in fury and clawed Methusula. He shouted and fell back. Then the beast sensed Kiris prescense.
To the Kelberoth, Kiri was only prey--prey that was weak and could be easily overrun and taken down. In a blast of light and roaring, the Kelberoth was behind Shannon and Methusula. It spent half a second collecting itself, then leapt once more, heading straight for Kiri.
Time seemed frozen at that instant, and then the dam broke as the Kelberoths huge paw slammed down against Kiris skull, the latter letting escape a scream of fear and pain before falling eternally silent.
Methusula, despite his wounds, was suddenly thrown into a fury. He brought his blade down against the beast again and again, flanks and back and head, not stopping for anything. The creature ripped and clawed back at him, but Methusula seemed impervious to pain. Finally he drove the sword into the creatures back one last time, and it gave a terrible gurgle as its death knell.
It was then that the full effect of Methusulas wounds washed upon him, a wave breaking against a crumbling shore. He suddenly crumpled in pain, blood coursing from the rips and cuts and gashes made the by the huge cats fury. Shannon bent down over her father, holding him and begging him not to die. He rasped a few breaths, and she heard his final words:
"I love you."
Shannon suddenly burst into tears, the small droplets running burning rivulets down the contours of her cheek, streaming from her eyes and dropping small wet spots onto her fathers tunic. She spasmed with racking sobs, until the sound of her own crying finally lulled her to sleep.
The next morning she awoke, stiff and sore from sleeping with her head on her fathers soft tunic. She pushed herself up to the ugly reality she now had to deal with. Shannon looked around the room, seeing the plain oaken table and the three simple chairs surrounding it, all made by her father. She saw the gently sculpted honey jars and knew her mother had spent hours crafting and painting them. She looked at the forms of her parents, mostly cold except the spot where her head had lain the night before.
She did her best to dig graves for them, which ended up being a bit shallow, and laid them in the twin holes, in front of the house they had lived in and loved for so long. As though in mockery of Shannons mood, the sun shined bright and happy that day.
Shannon returned to her house, her parents house, built almost completely by her fathers handiwork. She found the small sack she had gathered grapes and cherries in for deochs, filling it with food and supplies. Then she went in turn to each of the mundanes, telling them her story and how she was now going to leave Suomi for whatever lay in the rest of Temuair. Viveka was unhappy for having lost the best customer shed had in deochs, and packed Shannons bag with bottled water and some wine for making potions with.
Alvar offered her some grapes in case she got hungry, the baker stuffed in some baguettes and even Goran offered his condolences and best wishes on her journey. He also gave her some free cherries, though he pointedly made a fuss over how much he was going to lose in profits for it.
Then Shannon departed Suomi, knowing that she may not come back for a long time.
The first time she stopped was early midday, for she had eaten no breakfast and the hunger was beginning to gnaw at her. She sat down on a rock under a large shady tree. It was a weeping willow, bending over her protectively as her parents had done only a few days before. Quietly, Shannon ate her lunch, selecting some ripe cherries and ripping off a bit of baguette. It wasnt a large meal, but it would do.
She then continued on, up Undine's sharply angled roads. She saw few people, which she was used to, having been raised on a remote farm in Suomi. Eventually night fell, and even Shannon had to find rest. She located this in the form of a small inn just off the road.
The building was somewhat broken down, but a bed was a bed. She walked up to the innkeeper and handed her a few coins. The mundane looked at her, somewhat surprised to see such a young child traveling on her own. She pushed the coins back toward Shannon.
"You look beaten, young one."
"Tonight you shall sleep for free, provided in the morning you tell me what brings you here."
To this Shannon nodded greatfully, plodded up the stairs and collapsed into a bed.
In the morning Shannon awoke. She told the mundane her story, who only nodded silently as if in confirmation. Then the young monk again began working her way through Undine, in search of she did not know what. Eventually she came to the towns edge.
There she found a small dock. Shannon knew that every so often, ships came to take people to Abel and deposit other at Undine. She decided she would take one of these ships. She flagged down a passerby and asked him if he knew when the next ship was due to arrive. He smiled slightly when he saw the young but confident girl that had asked him the question.
"Yer in luck," her replied, and Shannon deteced a slight accent in his voice. "The next ship comes in tday. I think tis due in about three hours."
Shannon nodded and thanked the man, then sat down for the long three-hour wait.
Soon Shannon did indeed see a ship cresting the horizon, its mast poking up above the waves and then the figuredhead at the prow braving the way. Shannon jumped up and waited patiently for the ship. That was, as patiently as she could after sitting and trying not to die of boredom for three hours.
Finally the ship arrived at the dock. She paid the fare, then boarded the ship. A passenger looked kindly at her, and informed her the ship wouldnt leave for another hour, and it would be about three days before they got back to Abel. Shannon thanked this woman also and started wandering the ship.
It was a large wooden contraption, which didnt look as though it should even float, much less sail. However, it obviously did, and had been doing so for a long time. Shannon stood at the prow and looked down at the crystal-clear water beneath her, spreading out for as far as she could see. This held her in a trance for a long time, until suddenly the ship began to move.
It was a long journey. Shannon, however, was inheriently likable and seemed to have no trouble finding company. She told several people her story, some nodded and some offered sympathy or commisuration. She chatted with several people, on any number of topics. A few people told her about Abel, what to see and where to go. She thanked each one politely, delivering a bow as well.
Eventually, Abel came into sight. It was a bustling port city, a place busier than anything Shannon had ever seen. Squat buildings crouched at every corner, hunched-over weapons shops and all number and form of other goods seemed to be sold there.
Shannon disembarked her sailing vessle, standing carefully for a few moments on the ground so she wouldnt suddenly pitch forward after being on the ship so long. Then she walked forward a bit, marvelling at the structures and goods in this city.
Suddenly she was knocked into. "Oh! Im sorry!" a female voice called. It was a voice only a tad older than Shannons, prehaps 15 or 18 deochs old. Shannon looked up to the sounds source, finding another monk. Her hair was a deep blue, a sort of burnished version of Abels concrete. She had ice-blue eyes, yet they radiated kindness. "My apologies," she added.
Shannon nodded mutely for a moment, and then finally uttered, "H-h-hello." The other monk smiled at her and giggled. This forced Shannon to smile as well, and before long both of them were grinning and laughing as though they were sisters.
Finally, Shannon managed to gain back enough breath to ask the monk, "Whats your name?"
"Seeiyou," the monk replied. "It is in the native Abelian language, which has been rather lost with the advent of the Milethian tongue. It means, light bringer."
Shannon looked at her and said, "Thats a very pretty name."
The other monk smiled at this and said, "Most people just call me See."
Shannon nodded, trying the name a few times on her tongue. Then she asked See if she would show her around Abel a bit.
"Of course!" See replied happily. "I grew up here, and we dont get a whole lot of company--everyones just going someplace." The two girls spent the rest of the day together, then See gave Shannon the coins to pay for a night at the inn, telling her shed be there in the morning for her.
As promised, Seeiyou was waiting at the main room of the inn, seated at one of the tables, when Shannon walked down. She stretched and yawned a few times, then walked over to where See was seated, pulling out a chair and plopping down in it.
The mundane turned from them, as long as they werent disrupting the patronage or tying to talk to her she was disintrested in them. Seeiyou looked at Shannon for a moment, then told her, "Youre not from around here. Whyd you come?"
Shannon pulled a breath inward for a moment as though she were going to say something, then let it back out in a sigh. "I come from Suomi," she told Seeiyou.
"Long walk," the other monk obserbved.
"Why I am here is quite simple. I have nowhere else." If Shannon had been expecting for a gasp or some other exclamation of surprise, it did not come. Seeiyou merely nodded and said, "Go on."
"About a week ago, a Kelberoth broke into our home and killed my mother and father. I buried them, packed some belongings and here I am." See nodded somberly.
"I have heard all too many of these stories," she said. A tear trickled down her face, leaving behind it a moist and decidedly bent trail. "But prehaps there is something we can do. Running away from it will nay help ye. Return to it. I shall accompany ye to Suomi, I have more than enough fare."
Shannon contemplated this a moment, then put on a dejected face. "But what is there to return to?" she asked.
"What of your cabin?" Seeiyou responded.
"Nay," Shannon said. "Surely the mundanes have taken it apart and burned it for firewood by now."
"Nay!" Seeiyou protested. "I know mundanes well from living in this city. They have a deep respect for the past, and would never harm something that is not given up. Or even some things that have been."
"Then we shall return to Suomi," Shannon said quietly. "I have nought better to do, at any rate." Seeiyou nodded. "Theres a ship coming in two days from now," she said. "Well take that one." So they set about two days worth of preperation.
Finally, it came. Another three-day ship ride, but at least this time around Shannon had steady company. The two of them told stories or found new people to meet. The three days passed far quicker going than coming.
Eventually they made landfall at Undine. They spent a full day journeying steadily until they reached the edge of the town. They realized they would have to camp that night, so they chose a shady tree and set up a tent. There they promptly fell to sleep.
The next morning was bright and cloudless, the sun beating on them as they packed up their tent and began into Suomi. Shannon told Seeiyou it was not far then until they reached her small cabin. As they walked, Shannon explained the culture and legends of Suomi and its people.
At about midday they reached the cabin. Sure enough, the house was still standing, exactly as Shannon had left it. The two small stones Shannon had implanted in the ground still marked where her parents now lay. The door was still splintered, there were still small crimson splatters on the floor.
As soon as Shannon set foot inside the house, the sobs came once more. Vivid memories of her parents, both in life and in death, flooded her. Seeiyou stood in the doorway a few minutes, watching and looking about the house. Finally, after what seemed an eternity of minutes, Seeiyou stepped forward into the house.
Shannon felt a consoling arm around her, and tried her best to calm her bursting sobs. She pulled up an arm to wipe away the wetness on her tearstreaked face, and saw Seeiyou looking down at her. She stood up a little, coming closer to eye-to-eye with her friend. She asked her a simple question: "Why? Why did they have to die and leave me?"
Seeiyou looked at her a moment longer and then said, "They may have died, but they havent left you Shannon."
"Yes they have!" Shannon shouted, suddenly exploding. "The Kelberoth killed them! Theyre gone! Gone!"
Seeiyou again placed a hand on Shannons shoulder, calming her. "Theyre not gone," she repeated. "Theyre watching. They know you miss them. But just because their physical bodies are gone doesnt mean their spirits are."
Shannon looked at the monk a moment, thinking about what she had just been told. Silently, she started wandering the house.
That evening, the two of them sat on the grass by Shannons cabin, looking up at a cloudless sky and a moon the shined down brightly on them. Shannon looked over at Seeiyou and said, "Maybe I will live here after all." Seeiyou smiled and responded, "But youd better come visit me."
"Of course!" Shannon giggled. "As often as I can."
"Good," Seeiyou said. "Id hate for you to leave me!" and they both fell down giggling.
Then Shannon regained her breath and propped herself up in the grass, which tickled and poked at the bare skin of her arm. She stared up at the moon, which was a beautiful murky white, and she could feel her parents smiling down at her.
Now you know the answer to
What you asked of me before
Ive told you once
And would again
Just what friends are for.