Chapter 21 – The Roots of Lost Wisdom

Thirteenth of Learning 1142

Dahr hurried away from the salon and made his way out the main gate toward the edge of the palace grounds. He didn’t want to be seen leaving so, as he had once before, he picked a place where he wouldn’t be noticed and walked through the wall. It was as easy as walking through air. One minute he was inside the palace boundaries and then he was outside. He reached back to touch the wall, but it was solid again.

He allowed his intuition to guide him toward the temples, along the same broad stone thoroughfare he’d taken the day he’d stolen the veresh. No one noticed him.

Flaming Parrot

He might have been a page or a palace messenger on some business for one noble or another. He walked, focused on moving quickly rather than taking in the area around him. He wanted to look like he knew where he was heading, even though he didn’t. He was following the path his god wanted him to take, but where that led, he had no idea.

A short time later, he reached the temple district. Some temples he recognized on sight, others he had only seen a couple of times and had no idea which gods were associated with them. The biggest of course was the Temple of Sylinar, which towered above the others. It was located exactly in the center of the area and could be seen from any direction. Though he wasn’t close enough to make out the details of the statues that surrounded it, he couldn’t miss the huge representation of Sylinar atop the structure, visible from everywhere in the square. The goddess’s gaze seemed to follow him as he went, making him feel like she knew what he was up to. He envied her that knowledge as Dahr had no idea.

As he drew closer, Dahr thought about her–the queen goddess. People called her the mother, for that’s what she was. The mother of all the other gods and goddesses. She gave birth to them. He tried to picture Sheba as a child, running and playing, being yelled at by a loving but stern mother, then laughed and shook his head. It hadn’t been like that at all.

Dahr knew that gods didn’t have gender, that they could appear in any form. Most of the earlier gods appeared as females, because most often Sylinar did, but there were no female or male gods. Sylinar didn’t physically give birth. That she was called the Mother was a way for humans to understand her. She created the other gods. And he was aware that gods had appeared in different forms to different people. Sheba had appeared to him as a wolf. That didn’t mean she was a wolf.

He had once asked a priest why so many of the more powerful gods took female form when dealing with the others, and had been told that the gods did it to honor Sylinar who herself most often appeared as a female, though no one knew why. The exception was Sarith, who appeared as a female only to mock the Mother, whom she resented. Dahr didn’t understand this.

Sylinar had given her life, and she had chosen to make a mockery of the Mother’s preferred form. Sylinar had created all the gods, gifting each of them dominion over some aspect of creation, be it magic or lore or combat. But Sarith had rejected that and declared herself the goddess of war and was worshipped as such to this day. Dahr had no idea how that worked. It’s not like he could just decide he was a king when he woke up one day, but that’s exactly what Sarith had done. And yet, Sylinar didn’t punish her for her insolence. Sarith was a god, and Sylinar had respected her decree.

Sylinar, he knew, was mostly worshipped by healers, but everyone prayed to her, because not only was she the mother of their gods, but also because everyone got sick or needed healing from time to time. Even he’d prayed to her when he was hurt. You couldn’t really worship Sheba without also worshiping Sylinar. Which led him to think about George. Did he worship George? Not really. Their relationship seemed different. More…casual? I mean he didn’t even know George’s name.

George didn’t have a temple here…or did he? He had just passed Sylinar’s temple and made a game out of trying to figure out which of the many temples around him might belong to his god. Did he know for sure George was a god? I mean with the power Dahr had seen so far, he’d have to be, right? Any being that could grant him the use of any skill would have to be powerful, but which god could do that?

He reviewed what he knew of the gods. He knew Sylinar and Arimen were out, as was Sheba, obviously. There was Iorana, the goddess of magic, Se Karn the god of Death, there were gods of storms, trade, thieves, art…most skill trades had a god. His reverie was broken by the sight of a temple that sent a chill down his spine.

It was made of a dark stone he couldn’t name, and a pall hung over it. It wasn’t the Temple of the Dead. He knew what Se Karn’s temple looked like. He wondered about it as he passed, hoping he wouldn’t have to go inside. He sighed relief as he passed it by.

So many gods. He was getting to the end of the district now, where the temples were smaller and closer together. He had no idea what any of them represented, and there weren’t many people about. When he past the temple district, he felt a pang of disappointment and realized that in the back of his mind, he’d been hoping he’d stop at one of them and finally learn who his mysterious benefactor was. But that hope was shattered when he left the last of the temples behind and continued on into the guild district.

Dahr had never been here before, but it didn’t matter. It’s not like he needed to locate a specific building. He was being guided directly to where he needed to go. That said, he couldn’t have missed it if he’d tried.

The building was a huge, sprawling structure with three wings jutting out from a large cylinder that rose a full six stories from the ground. Dahr couldn’t tell if it was made of dark glass, metal or something else entirely. The front doors seemed to be made of smoked glass and were closed, but he walked through without bothering to open them. He was in a large room with all sorts of people sitting at tables eating or talking. An expensive looking white desk sat just before the entrance. He walked up to it with a confidence he didn’t feel. As soon as the man behind the desk spoke, he knew exactly why he was there.

“Welcome to the Rish branch of the Adventurer’s Guild, what can I do for you young man?”

The man behind the desk was small and slim, with a pencil thin mustache and a beard that was so light as to be barely visible in the not-so-brightly lit room. The man had small eyes, a small nose, and a mouth that seemed disproportionately wide compared to the rest of his face. It was curved now in a welcoming smile, with just a hint of a smirk in it, probably because he wasn’t used to dealing with anyone as young as Dahr. Dahr, however, planned to change the way this man regarded him.

“I would like to register a guild.”

The man looked amused. “Would you now?”

“I would.”

“You realize that you can’t register a guild if you haven’t transitioned.”

“But I have.”

“What’s your class then?”

“My god does not wish me to reveal my class.”

The man stared at him, surprised. “Do you have some skill, then, that you can display?”

Dahr smiled, impishly. “Did you have a specific skill you wanted to see?”

The man shook his head, as much in confusion as anything else.

“It doesn’t matter what I want to see, I just need some evidence that you even have a class.”

Dahr shrugged. “What’s your favorite skill? Rather what’s your favorite skill that could be cast safely here?”

The man looked perplexed, but then his expression settled back into amusement. “Okay, I saw a man summon a parrot made of fire once.”

Dahr shrugged. “Like this?”

Without any kind of incantation, Dahr performed a dramatic flourish and a flaming parrot flew down from the ceiling and landed on his outstretched hand. The man behind the desk gawked.

“How did you…you didn’t even say anything!”

Dahr smiled, enjoying himself. “I can cast spells without using an incantation.”

The man shook his head. “That’s not possible.”

“Sure it is,” said the parrot, matter of factly.

The man’s jaw fell open.

“Do you think he’ll let you apply for a guild license now,” asked the parrot.

Dahr shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t know the requirements for registering a guild, but I strongly suspect this man isn’t going to be the one who decides if I’m worthy.”

“That’s a fair point,” agreed the parrot. “He seems to be broken.”

The man was stammering something, but what came out made no sense. He tried again. “The parrot, it’s talking.”

The parrot looked him over, shook its head and turned to look at Dahr. “Maybe you should ask to speak to his manager.”

Somehow, Dahr kept a straight face. “So, I’d like to register a guild. What’s the process?”

The man shook himself and found his voice. “I’ll need a bit of information first.”

He opened a desk draw and rifled through several papers until he found the one he was looking for. He placed it on the desk, uncovered an ink pot and dipped a quill lightly into it.

“What’s your name?”

“Prince Dahr of Twyl.”

The man lowered the quill. “Say again?”

“I’m Prince Dahr of Twyl, son of King Terrence. You might have heard of him.”

The receptionist’s face darkened, when another figure who’d entered the building strode toward the desk.

“Prince Dahr! What are you doing here?”

“Oh hi, Veloran. I’m here to register a guild.”

The man behind the desk gawked. “High Priest Veloran… you know this young man?”

“Indeed I do. He is very important to my goddess. Is there a problem here…I mean besides Prince Dahr being away from the palace without an escort?”

Dahr smiled sheepishly. “I had stuff to do that I didn’t want anyone to know about, so I came here myself.”

“Dahr, how did you get out of the palace without being stopped, or seen?”

Dahr chuckled. “Is this really a question you want me to answer here? Publicly?”

Veloran smiled, wryly. “You are a handful. So you’re trying to register a guild?”

“Yes. Eric told me how the Adventurer’s Guild protects its members. It’s another level of protection. And guilds have chapters in every city, even in distant countries. There’s no telling where we might end up.”

“Well that’s true, and well thought out. It never really occurred to me. Who will be in this guild?”

“So far, me, Prince Eric and Princess Chari. As a familiar I don’t think Kalutu needs to be registered separately.”

Veloran turned to the man behind the desk. “Perhaps you should summon someone to handle this request. I don’t think it should wait.”

“At once, High Priest!”

The man fled the room as fast as decorum would allow. Dahr followed his progress away from the desk with amusement.

“I hope you know what you’re doing, My Prince,” said Veloran.

Dahr looked up at the larger man. “Let’s hope George knows. I’m just following orders.”

Veloran nodded curtly. “Do you have a name for your team?”

“Yes. I’m going to call it Lost Wisdom.”

“Interesting name.”

“I like it.”

Sensing he wouldn’t get more from Dahr on the name, Veloran changed the subject.

“And would you like to explain that?” asked Veloran, gesturing to the flaming bird currently sitting on Dahr’s shoulder. It made Veloran uncomfortable, considering how close the flames coming off the bird were to the young prince’s hair.

The parrot chuckled, and looked right at Veloran. “I’m right here, you know. If you wanted to know something about me, you could have just asked. Rude!”

Veloran’s mouth fell open and he looked from the parrot to Dahr and back. Finally, finding his voice, he spoke. “So are you a friend of Dahr’s?”

“More of a work colleague you could say,” replied the parrot.

*

Dahr walked beside Veloran, happy to have registered a guild team. He made himself the team leader, because as the only member present that was the only way he could register the team, with the understanding that it could always be changed after the fact. He had little doubt Eric would end up running it, but at least he got to be leader for a short time.

Veloran was humming to himself as they walked along the streets. His presence had greatly streamlined the process, particularly when it came time to pay the fee, since Dahr didn’t have any money with him, and even if he had, he wouldn’t have had enough. Who would have thought registering a team cost eight gold pieces! But Veloran paid for it without a word of complaint, waiving away Dahr’s promise to pay it back.

“If you really want to pay me back,” he had said, “you won’t leave the palace unescorted again.”

Dahr told him he would try, but that sometimes his god had other plans for him. It was something Veloran could readily understand, and so he let the conversation drop.

As much help as Veloran had been to the process of registering the guild, the flaming parrot hadn’t been quite as helpful and, after a word from Dahr, had winged himself through a wall never to be seen again. Dahr wasn’t sure how he felt about that. He was quite entertained by the creature, though he thought that continued proximity might become tiresome.

When they got back to the palace, they entered through the main gate, partly because Veloran couldn’t walk through walls, and partly because there was no need for Dahr to sneak in. The process of registering a guild had taken longer than he thought it would, and he returned to a very irate arms instructor, who had to be talked down by Veloran.

While this was going on, Dahr spoke to Eric and Chari.

“Where did you go?” asked Eric. “I thought Maynor was going to explode when he sent out pages, and no one could find you. You caused quite the commotion.”

“Well, I’m back now, and you’ll never guess where I’ve been.”

“Did you sneak out of the palace again?” asked Chari, reprovingly.

“Yes, I did. But it’s okay, Veloran found me and brought me back.”

“From where?” asked Eric, frustration beginning to slip into his voice.

“The Adventurer’s Guild. I registered a team.”

“You did what!” said Eric and Chari in unison.

“Team members are protected by the Adventurer’s Guild. You told me that, Eric. And I thought, we could use all the protection we could get. It doesn’t matter if we’re active. We’re a team.”

“Oh we are, are we? You didn’t think to ask us?” Dahr was getting used to seeing that look on Chari’s face.

“George is the one who led me there. Am I supposed to ask you for permission every time my god tells me I should do something?”

“You could have discussed it.”

“I didn’t even know what I was doing till I got there. Anyway, we’re officially a team, just the three of us.”

“Does this team have a name?” asked Eric.

“It’s called Lost Wisdom. I sort of named it for my mom. I hope you don’t mind.”

“I think it’s a great name,” said Chari before Eric could respond. “I’m sure your mother would be proud.”

Eric nodded. “It is a cool name. And you’ll be a fine leader.”

“Me?” asked Dahr. “Why me? Shouldn’t it be you?”

“I don’t think so,” said Eric.

“What about Chari then?”

Both of them looked at Chari, who shook her head. “Not going to happen. I’m too reckless, but I’m not protected the way Dahr seems to be. I’ll end up getting someone killed. I think it should be Eric too.”

Eric shook his head. “If I were the team leader, you’d be team leader, Chari. If you haven’t noticed, I defer to you. It’s like the relationship my father and mother have. He’s like you and I’m like her.”

“I guess that’s a compliment, I think,” she said.

“It is.”

Dahr looked at Kalutu who had watched the whole conversation without a word. “What about you, Kal? Do you think I should be team leader?”

Kalutu stared at him. “Kal?”

“Well it’s shorter than Kalutu.”

“Yes, but it’s not my name.”

“I thought you said I was your master and I could call you anything I wanted. Well, you said that to Eric, but I assume the same rule applies.”

Kalutu looked like he wanted to protest. “As you wish, Dahr.”

“So back to the question, do you think I should be team leader?”

Kalutu looked thoughtful. He studied Eric, then Chari, then nodded. “Of the three of you, I believe you would be the best choice. Eric and Chari are in a relationship, and that would affect decisions. You don’t have such attachments.”

“That’s a good point,” said Eric.

“It’s also why an equal vote wouldn’t work,” continued Kalutu. “It is more likely Eric and Chari will side with each other, rather than either of them with you.”

“How do you know so much about relationships?” asked Chari.

“Owls have very close relationships. We have families, you know?”

“I didn’t.”

“Where do you think baby owls come from?”

“I mean I know you have families… oh never mind.”

“So, team leader, what do we do now?” asked Eric.

Dahr grinned. “We hope Veloran manages to calm Maynor down, while we track down some food. I’m starved.”

Eric clapped him on the back. “That’s an idea worthy of a leader.”

The four looked back at Maynor and Veloran, still deeply involved in their whispered conversation. While Maynor was distracted, they snuck out of the courtyard. Dahr strongly suspected that this was going to cost him down the road. He was just so hungry, he didn’t care.

 

Forward to Chapter 22 – Two Good Eyes

Return to Chapter 20 – The Other Other Realm Revisited

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