The legender myths awoke.., p.1
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       The Legender: Myths Awoken, p.1

           Jason Link
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The Legender: Myths Awoken


  The Legender: Book I: Myths Awoken

  By Jason Link

  Copyright 2017

  to my wife Jessenia

  who is the hero of her story

  and to my son Mateo

  whose wonderful story

  has just begun

  Prologue

  With his carving knife, the craftsman etched the story of a war onto the rib bone of a great beast. The bone curved up from the floor and reached the ceiling of the craftsman’s shop, the carved story beginning at the top of the rib and concluding at the bottom where the craftsman worked. He etched the setting and characters in fine detail, forming the expressions on faces no bigger than his fingernails. Nothing was overlooked, not the slashes on the wounded or the jagged edges of broken spears.

  All about the shop sat countless other carvings, dusty carvings made from animal bones, each telling a different story of battle. They were the only company the craftsman had, and the etched characters watched him work with unblinking eyes and silent faces. He worked so intensely on his craft that he hardly noticed the passing of days and nights from the dark insides of his shop; it was as if he himself were in the battle he was etching. It seemed that nothing could break him from his work, neither sleep nor want of food. But then he heard a knock on his door.

  Chapter 1

  The Bone Carver

   

  It was the strange hour between morning and night when all colors were grayed and no one walked about the city. No one except for a young flower girl, a child of no more than twelve years. She hid in the shadow of an empty street, clutching to her last bouquet and shivering in the cool early air. The dress draped over her frail frame kept in little warmth. It had been a nice piece of clothing at one point in time, but there were dirty smudges in the embroidery and all the edges were tattered and frayed. The leaves and twigs tangled in the flower girl’s hair showed that she had slept in the city’s orchards the night before. She looked up and saw that hints of daylight painted the monoliths high above, the monoliths that stood on the top of the enormous tower in the center of the city. She did not have much time.

  She knew this and scouted out the marketplace square to be certain she was alone. It was a still and quiet place except for the shushing of the fountain and the distant bark of a jagg as it hunted for rodents in the gardens. Besides the occasional osarrow flying to and fro from the nests set in the façades of the library and temple, no other living creature stirred. Even so, the flower girl did not feel entirely alone as she ventured into the marketplace square. The city teemed with life in its architecture; gargoyles peered down from the rooftops and there were dramatically posed figures of warriors and lovers molded into the stonework of doorways and window ledges. The traveling merchant wagons, obscured by shadows, appeared to huddle around the square’s fountain like a herd of sleeping beasts at a watering hole. The flower girl crept across to the other side of the marketplace as if trying not to wake them. The closer she came to her destination, the tighter she held onto her flowers.

  Opalias, flowers that grew on the tops of Mount Serdacia just to the southwest, spread their petals out like a silver, seven-pointed star with white lining the edges. The front doors of every shop and home had a bouquet of opalias hanging from them, all except for one. Wedged deep into the darkest corner of the marketplace, a tiny shop made of mossy stones and clay shingles appeared outcast from the rest of the buildings. A harguar skull, the remains of a giant predator, jutted out above the doorway with a few of its vertebra attached to the wall as if to give the building a head. Within its sharp fangs it held a sign that read: Arkos’ Artifacts ~ Bone Carvings and Relics of a Wilder Age.

  None of the city residents ever went inside. Occasionally travelers from other parts of the world visited the shop, some coming from the desert far away in the south, others from the mountains that surrounded the civilized world, but no one knew of the business that took place behind the shop’s doors. The flower girl had heard that the shopkeeper talked to rocks and to the air as though they could understand him, and she had even heard stories that he stole away children and used their bones to make his carvings. But on that morning she did not let herself grow fearful of such stories. The other girls had sold all their flowers, and Darish the trader had promised to give her a whipping if she did not come back with money before breakfast. She had scoured the city for doors without bouquets, but she could only find one. Morning approached swiftly, and so she crept towards the bone carver’s shop.

  Crossing into the shade that darkened the outside of the shop, the flower girl immediately felt a chill brush against her skin. With every step the large door drew closer and closer as if ready to swallow her. Going no further than she needed to, she reached out and tapped a pale fist against the dark wood of the door. Her knocks echoed in the lonely marketplace, and the flower girl jerked her hand back in surprise, looking around to make sure no one else had heard. She had no desire for rumor to spread that the bone carver had taken a servant or a spy; no one would buy flowers from her or talk to her again. When she was certain that she was still alone, her eyes were drawn up to the harguar skull that loomed overhead. It looked fearsome, forever smiling in death, with fangs each a finger long. If she or any other children had wandered into this corner of the marketplace, it was the sight of the skull that chased them out. But upon closer inspection, the flower girl saw something she had not noticed before. Engraved designs and spirals flowed all over the contours of the bone, working their way around the eye sockets, over the forehead and down the length of the face until they were stopped by the vacant nasal cavity. Only an artist of great skill could have embellished something so ornately. The flower girl’s gaze moved to the sign held in the jaws. It had been made out of the top of a wine barrel. There were two crossed sabers attached to the back of the sign, elegantly curved blades that shined with bright silver. All of it together looked like a makeshift crest for one of the families of renown. The flower girl’s gaze dropped from the sign to the doorway, and a yelp of fear escaped her mouth.

  She had not heard footsteps or the door open, yet in front of her stood the bone carver. At first her instincts told her to flee, but upon seeing him, the beatings of her frightened heart began to calm. It was not the monster from the children’s tales that had come out to the street but a man, and there was nothing at all sinister about his appearance. He was thin and tall like a tree limb, his hair like the grain in wood—the flower girl also thought she could see strands of very deep green. The hue of his skin looked earthen, and the dark greens in his clothing brought forests to mind. Sleek features marked his face with a slash of brow to shade each of his eyes, which were grayish blue like polished bits of a rainy sky. He appeared as ageless as a wind carved rock. If the sign above his head was to be trusted, Arkos was his name.

  At first his brow was furrowed in mild irritation, a sign that he was being interrupted in the middle of things, but the furrow quickly disappeared as he noticed the flowers.

  “Opalias,” he said flatly. “Merhala draws near.”

  “Yes,” the girl replied. “It begins tomorrow and yours is the only empty door.”

  The bone carver stuck his head further out the doorway and looked slowly around the marketplace. It was just as the girl had said; in preparation for Merhala, all the shops had flowers hanging on their doors.

  “Merhala begins tomorrow?” he asked.

  The flower girl cocked her head in confusion. Merhala was the single most important gathering of people to take place in Tierrion, which meant it might very well have been the most important gathering in the world. Merhala came only once every five years. The people looked forward to it the same way they looked forward to the f
irst break of heavy rain after a long dry season. Friends and relatives who had not seen each other in years would reunite at Merhala. Wars would cease and lands would come to peace. To not know when the festival occurred was absolutely unthinkable.

  “It is not too late,” the flower girl replied. “Hang your opalias now and you may yet receive good fortune.”

  “Good fortune?” the bone carver asked slightly amused. “Why would they bring me good fortune?”

  “Surely you must know why.”

  “I have heard many stories regarding the opalias, but none that make such a promise.”

  She eyed him suspiciously, unable to believe he could be so ignorant of the tradition. Everyone knew, even children. But his expression showed genuine interest.  

  “It is said that during Merhala the legenders come out from hiding,” she explained, “and they wander the city at night seeking opalias, for the smell reminds them of those they lost in the great war long ago. If they stop before your door, you will be blessed with good fortune, which is why we hang them so.”

  “That is what they say now,” mused the bone carver. “Do you believe that there are legenders in hiding?” he asked, turning his gaze on the flower girl.

  “Of course not,” she replied as she lifted her chin up and stood importantly. “It is a tale for children.”

  “Of course not,” the bone carver repeated, more to himself than to her. “How much for the flowers then?”

  “Twelve lankas.”

  The bone carver disappeared to the back of his shop to find some coins. The flower girl stayed outside, but as she waited there, curiosity nudged her towards the entrance. She gingerly placed one foot inside and peered into where few children had dared to go. The inside was dark, but as her eyes adjusted she began to see a vast collection of bones turned to art: femurs, shoulder blades, breastbones, and even a rib reaching from floor to ceiling. It was the rib of a kolosorus, a massive grazer that could not be tamed by man. The bones held scenes of warriors fighting monsters and scenes of armies engaged in battle. There were also countless pieces of ancient weaponry and armor that lay about with the carvings. The flower girl shuddered when she saw the breastplate with a large hole punctured into where it would have guarded the belly. Silence pervaded the shop, but with all the violence around her the flower girl did not feel at peace.

  “My coffer is starved,” the bone carver said as he returned from the backroom, “but here is something that will serve.” He produced a white flower and showed it to the girl.

  “Sir, I have plenty of flowers,” she scoffed. “I’m far from need of another.”

  “Take it.”

  Arkos handed the white flower over to her, and in the darkness of the shop its paleness seemed to glow.

  “It’s made of bone,” she gasped in amazement. “But how? It looks so real.”

  The bones of a lithenbill—a bird that went on great migrations across the sea and that needed a light and elegant skeleton to do so efficiently—were perfect for making something so fragile. One of the bird’s long and slender wing bones had become the delicate stem that turned in the flower girl’s fingers. Fragments of its white beak made the circle of petals that overlapped and curled in on one another. The shards of bone used for the leaves were inlaid with intricate lines of cormantle to appear as veins, and precious ovalad stones borrowed from other treasures throughout the shop made up the flower’s center. 

  “What beauty,” the flower girl whispered. “Yet why bone? Why not something more civilized?”

  “Will you trade for it or not?”

  “But it is too much.”

  It was true. With its ovalad and cormantle, the bone flower was more than Darish the trader demanded that morning, much more. By the flower girl’s guess, it was enough for her to pay off her debt and end her days of indentured servitude.

  “Are you putting me under a ruse?” she asked.

  The bone carver shook his head.

  “But the opalias will wilt and die,” the flower girl pointed out. “Your flower will last much longer.”

  “Now you see why I use something so uncivilized as bone.”

  The bone carver took the opalias from the flower girl and completed the trade. The flower girl smiled and ran with excitement down the street, disappearing from the bone carver’s sight as she turned a corner.

   

  Arkos the bone carver was left alone in the marketplace, and he put the opalias up to his face to take in their perfume, eyes closed as if in prayer. The scent of the opalias stirred his imagination and took him to the only place where opalias grew, a high up place where his bare feet felt the velvety mountain grass springing up between his toes. It was there the opalias grew in the thousands bowing their heads in the wind and coloring the mountaintop silver and white.

  “Morning’s bread! Two lankas a loaf! Morning’s bread! Five lankas for three!”

  Arkos’ daydream was interrupted by the monotone call of the baker rolling his cart down the next street over. Arkos no longer pictured the silver and white mountain but looked upon his sublunary storefront. The door was still open, and he was about to go back inside to return to his work but stopped and remembered the flowers in hand. The bright silver on the opalias and the crisp feel to the morning air made the dust and gloom of the shop more profound. He decided not to go inside and began looking for something to occupy his time, something other than going back to his carving on the rib bone. He remembered that the barrel for uncarved bones was nearly empty and decided that it needed filling. Locking the shop door behind him, he left for his errand on the other side of the city. Before he left, he tied a string around the opalias and hung them on his door.

   

  The monoliths of the Avahorn had been the first to catch the morning sunlight. The heights of the massive tower glowed with a shade of orange while the rest of the city was still in shadow. High on the rooftops, high enough to see the beginnings of the sun peek over the horizon, was an old chimneysweep with a beard as gray as soot. Normally he would have crawled down chimneys to the mouths of fireplaces, cleaning as he went, but since Merhala would start the next day, the city had recruited him for his skill in the high places. Decades of traversing the roofs of the city made him the expert at marking the boundaries for the grand race in the sky that would take place during the festival. He climbed up a stone wall and a spire with the skill of the marmakins that dwell in the trees and scurry up the branches. Once he reached the top, he pulled a red banner from a satchel on his side and tied it to the tip of the spire. The banner caught the breeze and displayed a white image of a winged creature sewn onto the red fabric. The old chimneysweep climbed down the tower’s peak onto a much larger rooftop below and once he was safely perched, he pulled out a map of the city from his belt and plotted where he needed to place the next banner. After he determined where he needed to go, he tucked the map back in his belt and then placed his portable footbridge of planks across the span between two rooftops. As he was about to cross he looked down to see the bone carver in a square examining a kudan tree.

  Sitting in the palm of bone carver’s hand was a smooth, blue stone. There was nothing unusual about the stone except that the bone carver talked to it. The chimneysweep listened in but could not make out what the bone carver was saying. He was certain it was something of a suspicious nature. Everyone took it for truth that the business of the bone carver was dark business and if it were done before daylight it would be doubly so. Uneasiness came over the chimneysweep, and he felt a need to leave that place as quickly as possible.

   

  Arkos paid no attention to the creaking bridge as the chimneysweep hurried to the next roof. The kudan tree in front of Arkos interested him too much. He examined it thoughtfully and ran his hand over its smooth bark.

  “Much time has past since we last walked this part of the city and stood before this tree,” he said to the blue stone resting in his other hand. “A sapling then, thin as a finger, and gre
w but a few leaves. Now look at it. Its branches spread out wide and hang low with its fruit.”

  After studying the tree for a time, Arkos returned the stone to its pouch on his belt and entered a nearby alleyway. Rubbish piled high against one of the walls; fruit cores and peels, eggshells and husks among other filthy things covered in mold. Within the narrow confines of the alleyway, the stench had festered so greatly that the air felt sticky.

  Arkos rolled up his sleeves and put his hands into the depths of the pile where the prickly legs of tomb-wigs and other insects crawled across his arms. When he pulled his hand out of the pile, he produced the jawbone of a croac thrown away by the butcher shop around the corner. He turned the bone over and over in his hands while his eyes studied it not as a piece of garbage but as what he could make of it.

  By the time the sun peered over the lowest of rooftops, Arkos left the alleyway with a collection of bones bundled up in a rag and went to the nearest square. Like every square in the city, a fountain spouted from the center. It had massive tiers of green stone with statues of women pouring water from their jars. Arkos dunked his head into the fountain pool, washed the dust from his face and scrubbed the rubbish stench from his arms. When he finished, he watched his reflection slowly reform itself as the water grew still. The square was also still with the wooden shutters of all the windows shut and no one walking the cobblestone streets.

  When Arkos was certain he was alone, he held his hand out a little less than a finger’s width over the water and swayed it back and forth as if he were conducting a gentle piece of music. He never touched the water, but ripples began pulsing out under his hand. Then the water grew more turbulent, and distinct shapes began to swirl about. The silent rhythm increased in speed creating a tiny whirlpool that gurgled and foamed. Arkos lifted his hand in the air and a clear fish sculpted out of water jumped from the pool and dove back in. Again and again the fish-like splash leapt from the water under the guidance of Arkos’ extended hand, and each time it left the water it looked a little more detailed than the time before. As Arkos perfected his creation, little things like the scales and the ridges on the fins became more and more defined. When he was satisfied with the way his water-fish appeared he had it paddle its fins as fast as it could across the fountain pool. A little wake rushed across the surface, and then the water-fish jumped so far that it leapt out of the pool and splashed onto the flagstone ground.

  Arkos stepped over to where his water-fish had landed and began to measure with his footsteps how far he had sent it. All that was left of his creation was a little puddle, yet when he looked at it he noticed something very unusual.

  As far as anyone was concerned the language the heavenly realm was dead, known only to a handful of scholars whose vocabulary of it was very limited. So the way the puddle had shaped itself on the ground would have held little concern for anyone else but Arkos who could tell that it spelled a grouping of the ancient words. He studied it for a moment and then read it aloud.

  “From the splinter comes a war.”

 
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