Of Endings and Beginnings

Earth and Sky

Ishiro sealed the letter for delivery to the Silent Fist. He handed it to Satchel, along with a small package.
“Give Lu’Sun my regards brother,” Ishiro spoke only slightly louder than a whisper. “And apologize to him that I could not deliver this myself.”
Satchel nodded and placed his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “How long should I tell them to wait?”
Ishiro looked up at Satchel, and smiled.
As Satchel turned to leave the Ashen Order, he hummed a little tune. Outside he placed the letter and package into his pack and withdrew a set of drums. The humming turned into words, and the drums began to tap out a steady rhythm. The air sparkled blue around Satchel as Selo’s song hasted him on his journey.

Master Puab waited for him at the gates.
“There is a change in you.”
Ishiro extended a hand in greeting. Puab continued, “I suspect it will be long before you grace my house with your presence?”
“Do not hold a place for my return,” Ishiro said, unable to look his former teacher in the eye.

The tunnel carved into the mountains was empty. East Commons Bazaar they once called it, but magic had long ago taken the traders and their goods to the moon and the stalls of Shadowhaven. The sound of metal sliding against leather was easy to pick out of the spring afternoon air.
“I heard rumor your leaving Freeport for good?”
Ishiro turned to face the sergeant and let his pack slide to the ground. “Wanted me to show you a few more things before I did?”
Slate lightly tossed his short sword from hand to hand. “Nope,” he said, twirling the blade and sliding it back into its sheath, “just wanted to make sure I said my good-byes.” He spit into the dirt at Ishiro’s feet, then walked away whistling a jaunty tune.

A dark elf woman waited for him atop the pyramid. She waited patiently as he crossed the grass field and climbed to the plateau.
“Late,” she remarked.
“As always.”
Ishiro opened his pack and rummaged around within, finally withdrawing a dark stone, translucent, but filled with a swirling smoke, a dragon etched on one side. He passed the stone to the woman who examined it, turning and rubbing it.
“From Erudin?”
Ishiro glanced over his shoulder back toward Freeport, “I suppose. I’ve obtained a few from there in my days, but from other sources as well. That is one of three I have remaining.”
The woman crouched down and cracked the stone against the edge of the pyramid. She pushed a finger through the pieces and dust and pulled out a small red flame that danced on her finger as she moved her hand.
She smiled at Ishiro, “There, now we can begin.”
Ishiro sat next to her as she muttered the words of an ancient tongue. The air around them became still, in an absolute fashion. Then slowly, the world seemed to crack, to come apart like a puzzle, each piece sliding across the rest of the world, spinning around them, blurring. The color flowed around them, a sphere of swimming pigments, rushing this way and that. The words continued on. Finally one chunk of color stopped in place, having finally become its proper hue and fallen into its proper place. Chunk by chunk the world stopped moving, and when it was done, the world was something entirely other.
The tier dal stopped muttering and sighed, “Here we are.”
“Thank you,” Ishiro beamed a smile to her.
“Its been so long,” she began, then paused. “Good bye, Ishiro.” She snapped her fingers and vanished.

There was nothing here but earth and sky, and precious little earth as that. The islands hung precariously attached only to each other with enormous chains that screeched when the islands moved in the wind. Ishiro moved towards the edge of the shore and hung his toe off into the sea of sky before him.
From his early youth the dragon had haunted him. He had sought the answers to his visions from one end to the other. In the halls of Skyshrine. In the books of the Plane of Knowledge. But somehow, he had always known that the answer he looked for would only be found in the last place one ever looks: Within.
Ishiro laid aside his pack, and sat down at the edge of the ocean of clouds. He folded his legs in the way Master Lu’Sun always had, and placed his hands upon his knees. Staring outward, he looked inward in search of the key to his riddle of dragons.

The wind blew, and the chains screeched out a song into the sky.

Wind and Water

Lu’Sun stood at the edge of the lake and waited as the letter had requested. Hadden had been by, fished the waters for a few hours and then gone. The night drew upon him, enveloped him, and passed him by. In the morning light a figure appeared from the woods and knelt down by the river.
The Silent Fist master approached quietly, but not unnoticed.
“Morning, Lu’Sun.”
“Eyes in the back of your head. Like your brother.”
“It was not eyes that gave you away, but the scent of your silk, cured with a solution of kiola.”
“Quite right,” Lu’Sun mused.
“Besides, if anyone is like my brother, it is you, and the monks of the order that trained him, not I and my ways of forest and green.” Orihsi turned and faced the master, “Good to see you again.” He smiled and embraced Lu’Sun.
Lu’Sun noted as he always did, the twins Takagi were of night and day. Ishiro had always been one of light weight arms and clean appearance, while Orihsi has favored his leathers and bearded face.
“I take it my brother is the reason for you coming out her?”
Lu’Sun pulled a small package from his waist pouch and offered it to Ori.
The druid smiled but didn’t take the offering. He turned instead back to the lake and began to rinse himself off in its waters. “He could have had Satchel bring it himself. I’d have even met with Kirrin, or Kwan. Hell, I’d have even gone to Freeport and seen our father Huonen if he’d asked.” Ori shook the water from his hands then wiped them against a cloth around his waist. “But that was never his way, was it?”
Lu’Sun laughed, “No, I suppose he always had to be complex. There is probably some subtlety here that we are supposed to notice and enrich our lives with, but between you and me, I don’t see any.”
Ori finally took the package from Lu’Sun and placed it in his sack.
“Don’t you want to open it?”
“To be honest… No.” Ori sat down and pulled off his boots and socks and began to wash his feet in the lake. “I gave him something once, about the size of that package, told him I never wanted it back.”
Lu’Sun sat down beside him. “And you think he’s giving it back?”
“I know he is.” Orihsi finished washing his feet and began washing his socks. “Something about embracing your past and your mistakes. Owning them. Making them yours and learning from them.”
“You don’t believe that?”
“It was his way. My way is to move on. You pick up the pieces that you can, and leave behind what you can’t. Some things are broken because they need to be or… because they want to be.”
Orihsi laid out his socks to dry in the sun. The Master of the Silent Fist stood and dusted the grass from his silks.
“When I took in your brother, it took me a long time to make him listen to me.” Orihsi stood, sensing that Lu’Sun was about to leave. “Its taken him almost twice as long to make me listen to him.” Lu’Sun extended out his hand.
Ori pushed the hand aside and embraced the master monk.
Lu’Sun began to make his way back across the Qeynos Hills, but paused a moment, and called back. “Orihsi… and what of things that no longer want to be broken? If we leave them behind, who will fix them?”
Not waiting for an answer, Lu’Sun crested the hill and disappeared.

Orihsi finished pulling on his boots and started to recall the chant for the circle of Cobalt Scar. His hand slid into his pack in search of breakfast and found instead twine and paper.
He pulled out the package and laid it in the dirt.
For the next hour he poked and prodded at the gift, turning it around and flipping it over, trying to determine if it needed to be opened… if it wanted to be opened.
The twine slid off the corners and fell into a pile on the lake shore. The paper unfolded slowly on its own. Orihsi’s fingers shied away from touching it. Finally he pulled out the gift from the packing and stared into familiar eyes.
The morning light glinted off the glass and crystal frame. It encased a painting of their mother, as fresh as the day it had been painted by one of the artisans of Qeynos.
His heart didn’t want to be broken anymore.
Orihsi held the picture to his chest and whispered a prayer for his brother.

The wind blew, and the water rippled a song against the shore.

-4 Jun 2003

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