Arbiter in Darkness

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Arbiter in Darkness
Status: Alive

Background

This story was originally posted by Gamemaster Armifer in the Guild Events folders of the Moon Mage folders of the Dragonrealms forum on 10/7/2008.

Arbiter in Darkness

It is said that long ago, on a night much like this, a shaman rode far from his tribe. Foresight and cunning drove him across long miles, for the stars were right for a great conjuration. The shaman sought to call upon a powerful ancestor and bring its spiritual power into the world.

The shaman found the predestined site with three nights left before the stars would shift again. The site was far from any tribe, marked only by a small but steady-flowing stream and a hermit. Angry words and dazzling magic easily cowed the curious hermit, who huddled in his yurt while the shaman worked.

Chanted words hung heavily and overly long in the air, while the smoke of the shaman's sacrifices swirled up into the moonless night. Finally, in latest hour of the night, the shaman was visited by a spirit composed wholly of frigid starlight. It was shaped like a Human, but without gender or even a face.

The shaman said, "Great ancestor, I have recalled you to the world of living men and flowing grass! You are among your breathing kin once again."

The light-being did not respond.

"I have given you great hospitality. You were outside, and I have brought you under the starry walls of my yurt; you were hungry, and I gave you life; you were hoarse, and I have given you a voice!"

The light-being did not respond.

"You have a voice!"

An alien thought echoed across the plain, heard in the mind but not the ear: 'Not as such.'

Unrebuked, the shaman went on, "For this great hospitality, I request your aid."

The light-being thought: 'What do you seek?'

"Strength! Strength to crush the D'Reathor under me! Strength to raise my tribe above all others!"

'So be it. For your hospitality, I will give you the strength that you seek.'

Then the shaman disappeared in a great crash of noise. Beside the hermit's yurt could then be found a great hill, tall and wide enough to support a village.

The next night, a second shaman came upon the site. He had arrived there following the same prophecies as the first, and his encounter with the hermit went much the same way. At the conclusion of the second ritual, the light-being appeared again.

The second shaman said, "Great ancestor, I humbly request a boon for the hospitality I have shown you."

'What do you seek?'

"Only knowledge, great ancestor. I wish to know the secrets that our tales have forgotten. I want to know the lay of the stars, the beginning and the end."

'So be it. For your humility, I will give you the knowledge that you seek.'

Then the second shaman screamed. He howled for many hours, unheard by any except the forgotten hermit. He pulled out his hair and slammed his fists into the grass, finally crying out, "But that is not me!"

'You are the children of the Fall. You willingly took it as your inheritance, and you have used it poorly.'

"But, but...the end? I asked for the end! How does it end?"

'I grant you the endurance to know it.'

"I do not want to be like this forever!"

'Not forever. Even the stars will one day fade.'

The second shaman screamed and begged, but the light-being was gone. Before the morning was old the second shaman fled on his horse far away from all men, to whatever solace his perfect knowledge could find.

At the third and final night, no other shaman came. The hermit was filling his skins with water, eager to set out in the morning, when the light-being came unbidden.

'And what is it that you seek?'

The hermit snorted, not looking up, "If you are an ancestor, your blood was foul. Away with you, demon. If those were shaman, then say I am not wise enough to fall for your tricks."

'I did not trick them.'

"My horse is eating off the first one!"

'He asked for strength beyond men, and it was given to him.'

"The last one nearly smashed through my door in a frenzy!"

'He asked for knowledge beyond men, and it was given to him.'

"Your gifts are as cruel as we are."

'What do you seek?'

The hermit threw his water skin at the feet of the light-being, "Will I be rid of you if I say I seek quiet, or will you merely deafen me?"

'What do you seek?'

"You can't give me what I want."

'What do you seek?'

"For the good it'll do us both! I lost my wife to a Skindancer spear six months ago."

'You seek her restoration. You seek power over life and death. You seek-"

"No!"

The light-being fell silent.

"Give me the strength to finally cry."

The light-being regarded him for a time before its thought echoed through the night: 'So be it.'

Then the hermit cried. He sat there alone for a very long time, recovering the parts of his soul he'd left for dead. Then, when it was his proper time, he rode back to his people.

In the years to come, the hermit became known for his wisdom and mastery. He led his people into the greatest share of wealth among all the tribes, and told the tale of his encounter with the judge of men's intentions around many fires. He passed after a full life, and his tribe gave him the final honor: ever after they took his name for themselves and were known as the Benesu.