What Letters Name (Quest)
Part 68 of Quest
(Preceded by: What Child is This?)
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“He must miss his mother.” Anasril patted the head of a baby almost twice as tall as her. “Do you know where his mother is?”
Henneth shook his head. The woman was probably dead since he’d found the child in a sorcerer’s cave. However, saying that aloud seemed cruel given the miserable state of the child in his arms, so he left it unsaid.
Mountains sang his woe,
bounced echoes of his shrill cries,
extended their range.
The baby continued to cry and the mountains bounced echoes of his distress, throwing them miles in every direction. With luck, there were no ears lurking close enough to hear the shrieks. Good thing they had no need of stealth, not by day anyway. The Undeem Horde couldn’t hunt in daylight. Not when sunlight burned them.
He glanced at the sun glowering at them from his cerulean throne. Night lay many hours distant and so did relief; only Undreal, who also could not tolerate daylight, could quiet the unhappy baby. She couldn’t take physical form for another six hours at the very least. Henneth exhaled frustration and the baby started up with the wailing again; his little fingers extended towards Henneth’s shadow where Undreal rode safe until sunset. Fat tears slid down the babe’s cheeks.
“She’s coming back. She didn’t leave you. She just can’t take the sunlight,” he told the baby who blinked eyes at him and then resumed his interrupted crying jag.
“What about Barren?”
Henneth blinked at the unfamiliar name. Had he missed part of a conversation? “What about it?”
“As a name for you know–the baby.”
The baby shook his head; mucus, mixed with tears, streamed down his red face but he didn’t scream. Either his fit had wound down or Anasril had hit on a distraction. Why shouldn’t this baby have a preference for his name? He’d already demonstrated that he understood more than he should.
What letters name him,
catch his spirit with their sound,
contain his being.
“You don’t like that name in particular? Or you don’t like names that start with the letter ‘B’?” Anasril scrutinized the baby’s expression which changed to a scowl at her second question. “Okay, he doesn’t like ‘B’ names.”
She looked to Henneth, her blue eyes implored him to play along. For his eardrum’s sake he scrounged around in his memory for ‘C’ names.
“Corvair?” Head shake. “No ‘C’ names either?” More head shaking. Picky baby.
“What about Daren? It’s a good name.”
The baby curled his lip at the suggestion. Henneth and Anasril exchanged glances as they sought ‘E’ names.
The baby didn’t like that one either. What kind of name started with ‘F’?
~ ~ ~
Chero ranged out over the spine of the mountain range seeking a fast pathway down to the enchanted forest carpeting the valleys on each side of it. So far none looked promising, not for an older man carrying an armful of misery. A wail pierced the quiet startling him. He hung in the air for a moment as the still air bounced echoes back to him. A flash of orange at the edge of the treeline sent him diving towards a cairn for cover.
He planted his boots on a grave marking the passing of some unfortunate traveler and peeked over the topmost stone on the cairn. A half dozen people hit a switchback path that wound out of the enchanted forest and into the mountains. Air punched out of his lungs. Panic gripped him. That shade of rusty orange only one order wore–the Seekers of Truth. They hated magic in all its forms, especially those born of the magic, like Chero and Anasril and probably the baby too.
Haters of magic
Seekers of Truth that destroy
Chero stayed put. Every instinct hollered at him to flee. The muscles between his wings itched as if someone had an arrow trained on his back. He would not look behind him. He would not lose sight of the enemy, not until they reached the junction three-quarters of the way up the mountain’s face. Not until he saw which direction they turned. Then he would go back and warn his friends but not before, not while chance still could turn the Seekers in away from his friends. Better to have your enemies in front of you than behind.
“Ah but you know where they’ve been,” said the Watcher of the Moon as that godling appeared, sitting cross-legged by the cairn.
“What do you mean?”
Chero could see the Watcher in his peripheral vision as a dark blur. He’d left the Watcher with Henneth, Anasril and the baby except that worthy hadn’t stayed left behind. Nor had he guarded them. Damn, Chero had to go back. Anasril wasn’t a fighter and neither was Henneth despite the sword he carried. Undreal couldn’t even help; she was stuck a shadowy limbo between this world and wherever formerly dark things went when the sun was up. His friends were defenseless.
The Watcher pointed to a circular clearing deep into the enchanted forest. “See what lies there.”
Chero did see. His vision expanded as the magic in his blood reached out to that clearing; it framed it in shimmering green hands and captured a still image of a scene of carnage and then rendered it in the fore of his mind, clear as if he stood there himself.
The Hallowed Tree smoked in the clearing’s center, its golden grass lay lank and seared almost to the ground. No magical protections sparked around it; it stood naked and ruined, its bark wizened and whitened as if lightning had struck it. Nothing stirred. Not a single creature ventured out of a colony that he and Anasril had last seen only days ago.
“No!” Chero said before he could stop himself. He clapped a hand over his mouth to keep further protestations penned where the Seekers couldn’t hear them. Was his family still alive? Was Anasril’s?
Hallowed Tree stands dark,
like a candle extinguished,
its smoke mourns lives lost.
~ ~ ~
Find out next tomorrow when Quest continues.
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