Hunter and the Dreamer (book)

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The Hunter and the Dreamer

by Isaura Aibyouka

I will tell you now a story that's as new as the rising sun and as old as the sun itself. The tale of Tejanik the Hunter and Amaris the Dreamer, set over a thousand moons ago in a place deep inside the looming mountains of Eu's land.

There were hundreds of winding tunnels, home to a tumultuous and nigh-constant howl: the Windhowl hub. From this Hub came two souls as different as Night and Day -- one the Hunter and the other the Dreamer.

Tejanik, the Hunter, had battled warcats and arzumos, pursued and killed firecats, all to win the favor of Amaris. In vain, however, for Amaris cared nothing for such things. Her gaze passed over him again and again without pausing.

Amaris, a mage of moonlight, had repeatedly cast the runes and had seen dark omens that filled her soul with dread. And then she experienced a vision, a glimpse into a hidden canyon, and deep within it, a cavern lit by the luminous glow of a White Tiger.

The soul of Amaris was struck with awe: all Prydaen knew this to be the form of their Goddess, Tenemlor, Guardian of the Blessed. An ancient mosaic of Tenemlor in the Windhowl Hub depicted her also as a tall, white-furred lady, regal and beautiful but for one burned, withered paw. That hand was the one She stretched forth, shining with holy light, when one dared disturb the peaceful rest of the dead.

When Amaris was recalled to herself, the smooth bone rune in her hand had changed. It had been transformed into the sinuous form of a Dreamer's Rune. And when she gazed on that Rune, Amaris, mage of moonlight, felt a shiver in her soul.

For that symbol was one worn only by those Prydaen whose lives had been profoundly touched, and not simply touched but changed by the Three. And so, she wondered, why was it now in her hand?

Compelled to seek out the meaning of her Dream, Amaris went to the Elders of the Hub. After much discussion, the Elders revealed to her that she would find the answers she sought within Selif Canyon, far to the south. And when they told her this she could see the weight of worry in their eyes, and knew that what she sought now was of grave importance.

And so the pair -- for I'm sure you guessed who it was that volunteered to accompany our young spellcaster -- journeyed through the mountains. The Hunter and the Dreamer reached the mouth of the canyon after a moon of travels and travails, a story of their own and one for another day.

But here, just outside the cavern, they met with disaster. A Shadowbeast had made a lair near the mouth of the cavern, and attacked! But for Tejanik, Amaris would have been lost, for she had no such skill with the blade as the Shadowbeast had with its jambiya.

With wide eyes she witnessed the struggle, titanic it seemed, until at last the Hunter roared his victory. Victory yes, but not without cost, for the crimson rivulets ran down the grey fur of his leg and spattered onto the rock beneath. For the first time admiration touched her eyes, and she wondered what it might be like, to give her heart into his keeping as he so dearly wished.

But again the whisper of an ancient evil stirred, and the pull of urgency from within the cavern took her mind away from such thoughts. The Dreamer entered the cavern, Tejanik limping slowly at her side. Deep within, their progress was halted by an unfriendly laugh, the sound skittering around them and bouncing against the stone walls.

The echo of that shrill sound chased its tail through the winding hallways as the two stood together against their invisible foe. An instinct compelled the Hunter to step forward, and a deeper instinct caused the Dreamer to halt him with her arm. Lifting her face, she took that fateful step. This was her task, she knew.

Another eerie wail broke itself into laughter. And then words emerged from the mouthless, sourceless laughter. "Without being lighted, I am bright; without being rapped, I resound; without being poked at, I fall."

Her heart pounding within her chest, the Prydaen girl twitched her ears in deep thought. Drawing deep within, she found an intuition below thought, and knew at once the answer: "Lightning, thunder, rain."

A low, harsh growl replaced the laughter, rumbling through the stone as if they stood in the very throat of the beast itself. Again it spoke. "I am lighter than a feather, but faster than a horse. I wear many-colored robes at dawn and then at dusk. Plants drink when I am many and feast when I am not."

Dawn broke beautifully over the face of Amaris. This she knew, this she did not even have to look within in order to find an answer: "Clouds."

Again a snarl, this time furious, small stones falling from the ceiling and dust filling the air as the very rock itself vibrated with the bass roar. "My mother gave birth to a thousand thousand children. In the early morning, I and all my sisters die."

Ah, but the mage of moonlight knew this too. Did she not spend much of her life gazing skyward, divining their secrets, learning their dances, singing their songs? Her voice was strong and clear: "Stars."

The wave of rage that broke over their heads was beyond anything they could have thought possible. A scream was torn from the throat of Amaris, ragged and full of agony, and then another, and another as fast as she could draw breath. Tejanik could find nothing to fight, could only hold her as she twisted and gasped for the breath with which to shriek.

When it was over, she huddled in his arms, holding tight her hand to her chest. And as the dust cleared, the Hunter could not suppress a shudder at the sight of that hand. It had been torn, and not just torn but shredded, until almost nothing was left. She took a deep breath, her eyes dry despite her pain. "It is time."

He helped her to rise, and together they stepped forward. No sign of the riddle-beast could be found, only within the cavern's end a shelf. And on that shelf, a bone case carved in the style of the shaman generations past. Etched into the case was a scene similar to the mosaic of her Hub: a white-furred lady, her hand aflame, gently cradling a fallen warrior.

With her remaining hand Amaris reached out for that case, her fingers brushing lightly its surface. But instead of a surge of triumph, she felt instead only the cold creeping of a terrible fear. Slowly she opened the case, and inside there was a piece of parchment.

Tejanik helped her to unroll the parchment, and though he could not divine them, she could read the words that lay there. Emblazoned in fiery letters was a spell against the undead, a spell whose name was "Hand of Tenemlor."

Deep in her heart the mage of moonlight trembled. What did it mean, that a weapon against the undead would come to be of such vital importance to the Windhowl Hub? Her eyes sought Tejanik's, the fear in them was plain.

Tejanik covered her hand with his. "Together," he nodded, holding her eyes, his spirit rising to this challenge.

And Amaris took a deep breath, finding strength in his gaze, finding strength within her soul. "Together," she whispered.

But the bone case beneath her hand seemed very cold indeed. And now, at last she understood the meaning of the Dreamer's Rune, and knew the symbol for what it was. The path of the priestess was before her feet now, and the path of the mage of moons behind.

Side by side the Hunter and the Dreamer left the copper canyon, and never again were they parted while in the lands of Eu.