Sharran, King of the Padgalans, stood at the foot of the Tatr Fluus (The Mountain of the Fliers). A dark evening mist was rising up from the valley. King Sharran looked out over the battlefield solemnly. They had lost. His staff was firmly placed on the ground, as the wind began to whip through his long gray hooded cloak.
He was looking out over the Lonr Braigall (The Fields of the West), where the terrible battle had just ended. The evil Dragon Rass, who had claimed the peaceful village of Padgala for a nest and forced the good Padgalans living there to flee to the caves southeast of Padgala, had sent his slaves to do battle with the Padgalans.
Rass' slaves were once Padgalans, but Rass had changed them into mutations. Normal Padgalans are generally a handsome sort of creature, strong and sturdy, with pointed ears, and small, very sharp pointed teeth. But the evil dragon Rass had produced a host of mutant Padgalans, with the heads and claws of Dragons.
The mutants had managed to do away with a full three-fourths of all the Padgalans. Only the men had been in battle, but when a Padgalan dies, the wife or husband also dies. Then their child, now an orphan, must cross the Valr Cory River into the Fields of the Borderlands (the Lonr Fair) where the ancient Padgalan called Voll takes care of him.
Even the greatest of the warriors of the Padgalans, Torrod, had been mortally wounded in the battle and was about to die. He was helped back to his home-cave by his young son Torrais.
Perhaps all the Padgalans would have died that day, but King Sharran had taken the spear of the leader of the mutant Padgalans and pierced him through the heart with it. At that all the mutants fled, leaving only six Padgalans left alive there.
Aforrad the Poet had warned King Sharran that such a battle was bound to happen sooner or later, because of a legendary sword: the Sword of Shal, the Dragon-slayer. Only King Sharran, because his family name was Shal, would be able to lift and wield the Sword of Shal and kill the Dragon Rass. King Sharran did have a very young son, named Sharrit, but he would be far too young to use the sword.
As he was standing there looking out over the Lonr Braigall, Aforrad approached him wearily, holding his thick, heavy cloak and cape of dark brown wool tightly around himself.
"I warned you, King Sharran," Aforrad said. "You know what they were after, don't you?"
"Yes, I know," King Sharran answered. "They were after me, because of that legendary Sword of Shal you speak of so often. But I am still not sure it is real."
"You still are not convinced? Even after all this? What will it take to make you believe that the sword is real?"
"But I have never seen it. and no one I know has ever seen it."
"But the Ancient Ones! They have seen it. Or don't you believe in them either?"
"Of course I know the Ancient Ones are real! I've never been to their home at the Cagr Clavarl, but I know many others who have been to the cave to see them: you, Torrod, Bearral, Lirros,..."
"What became of Lirros? I saw Torrod hurt and dying, and I know Bearral was unharmed, but I have not seen Lirros."
"Poor Lirros, the most handsome of all Padgalans. A spear through the neck. With the last bit of life in him he fled from the battlefield. He knew he was about to die, so he ran away so Bearral would not try to help him, but would continue to help those who would have a chance of living instead."
"That is sad to hear. and Lirros had a little boy too, didn't he?"
"Yes. Poor little Lirrin! He was my son's best friend. He was the only Padgalan boy younger than Sharrit."
"Yes. It is sad for both of them."
"Sharrit will be heartbroken when Lirrin must go to Voll in the Lonr Fair! But there is no possible way Lirrin could stay here, is there?"
"No, I'm afraid not. All orphan Padgalans must go to Voll, the kind and gentle Ancient one. He is, after all, the one appointed to take care of all orphan Padgalans, in the Lonr Fair. Such decrees of the Olden Times, when the Ancient Ones walked in the world as we do now, are not within our power to change in any way."
"Must Lirrin go immediately?" King Sharran asked him.
"No, not today, if that's what you mean. He can stay with you for a few days if you wish, but no more than that! Voll will be waiting for Lirrin. But there will be many new orphans crossing the Valr Cory in the next couple weeks because of this terrible battle, so I do not think Voll will mind if you keep Lirrin here a few days first."
"And what of Torrais? Shall he go to the Lonr Fair, or stay here?"
"Torrais is an odd case. He is of age for the battlefield, yet not of marrying age. So he is in between, neither fully a child nor an adult. I do not know what the Ancient Ones may decide in his case. I will go to the Cagr Clavarl and consult with them."
Then King Sharran and Aforrad turned to the Lonr Braigall, where the bodies of the dead Padgalans were beginning to disintegrate (as the bodies of the Padgalans always do after they die). One by one the slain Padgalans vanished, until all that remained on the field were piles of empty armor, spears and shields. Aforrad then turned silently and walked away, as King Sharran remained alone, leaning on his staff, looking with a heavy heart out over the desolate field.
After a few minutes, King Sharran noticed a messenger crow flying overhead. He waved his staff back and forth to signal to the crow, and it came and landed on his arm.
"I want you to fly to my home, the Cagr Shal, and tell Sharreh and Sharrit: 'King Sharran is unharmed and will return home before the day is done'," King Sharran said to the crow. The crow nodded and flew from King Sharran's arm, south to the Cagr Shal. Then King Sharran started down from the edge of the Tatr Fluus, and started for his home-cave.
King Sharran walked to the Cagr Shal along the Valr Cory River, which runs from the Tatr Fluus south behind the caves which the Padgalans were using for homes. The Valr Cory is a beautiful river and makes a very pleasant walk.
About half-way to the first cave, the Cagr Dalfluus, King Sharran paused for a moment, when he noticed someone sitting a little way down the river. It was a little girl Padgalan, somewhat younger than his son Sharrit. She was sitting all alone on an old tree trunk, taking off her slippers.
King Sharran knew what she was doing there: she had to be one of the newly-orphaned Padgalans, getting ready to cross the Valr Cory to the Lonr Fair to see Voll.
She was completely silent, but there were streams of tears flowing down both her cheeks. She looked so lonely and sad sitting there, King Sharran wanted to do something to help her feel better. There was a grayflower growing near King Sharran's feet. He bent down and plucked it, and brought it over to the girl.
King Sharran recognized that the little girl was Pairrooh, the daughter of Pairrog. That was all he knew about her, there was nothing outstanding or memorable about the Pails. King Sharran handed Pairrooh the grayflower and smiled to her. Pairrooh held the grayflower near her chin and squeezed it, squirting the watery gray liquid up under her neck as perfume, as girl Padgalans like to do. The gray liquid has a powerful, almost intoxicating sweet fragrance.
Pairrooh didn't feel quite as scared after that. Now she found the most important of all the Padgalans giving her a grayflower, and she didn't feel so alone any more.
"I have to go now," she said to King Sharran in a solemn tone. King Sharran picked up Pairrooh in his arms and carried her from the tree trunk to the bank of the Valr Cory.
"You'll be alright," King Sharran said to her as he set her down on her feet at the edge of the river. Then he kissed her on the forehead and stepped back.
Pairrooh picked up a smooth stone and threw it as hard as she could into the river. Then two otter-like animals, known as corycors, came out of the bushes and into the water. They swam up until they were directly in front of Pairrooh, and turned over and floated on their backs perfectly still. Pairrooh carefully placed her bare feet on the corycors' furry bellies. Then the two animals swam very gently across the Valr Cory, taking Pairrooh to the other side of the river.
When she reached the Lonr Fair on the other side of the Valr Cory, Pairrooh pulled out two small locks from her long black hair, one for each of the corycors, to thank them for taking her across the river. The corycors like to use the Padgalans' hair to make their nests. The corycors took the hair, splashed their hind feet in the water to show their appreciation for the hair, and swam back across the Valr Cory to their own side.
End Chapter 1
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