An old man stands softly... listening to the words of his heart... and slowly, he turns to you... "So... it’s a story you want, eh?" ... his voice dark... raspy... you nod your head yes, slowly.... "What this time? Deceit, Lost loves... what?" ... you speak in a timid voice... "I.. just want to hear a story, Sir... there are so few good stories left," the old man smiles at you... "Then... you’re story you shall have, young one... "Arbana stood silently, her cloak billowing about her lithe form. She wiped the sweat from her brow, and continued on her journey upward. Climbing the backside of Mt. Illapse, Home of the Dreamers of Light, was no small feat. And of course, reaching this first small outcropping was but the first way station in her ascension. As she made her way up, methodically searching for handhold, foothold, handhold, foothold... her mind began to wander... back to simpler times... when all was well within the Dream... and the Dream itself worth Dreaming...
"Arbana screamed with frustration as Tajen’s foot connected solidly with her head. 'For the gods sake, Arb.... stay alert!!!!' She mumbled quietly under her breath, and lowered into a crouch, preparing for the next attack. For a moment, everything fell silent... She heard only the beating of her heart, the rush of the wind in her ears. Suddenly, she moved... her arm moving to block an attack that wasn’t there... or was it? She thought for a moment, that she had misjudged Tajen, and that another sharp blow was on it’s way to her head, or her back, or her ribs. Just as she was about to move to defend another area, that same invisible foot that left her dizzy a moment ago crashed into her hand. She locked down on the ankle she could not see, twisting it sharply, and throwing Tajen to the ground.
"Vision Alteror????... what is that," you ask the old man. He looks at you, "Quit asking so many questions, child... do you ask why the bird flies? I did not think so... just listen, and enjoy the story." The old man chuckles, and you settle yourself in again, to listen...
"She drank a charge from the Vision Alteror Tajen had given her, and Tajen appeared on the ground... holding his ankle. 'I’m sorry, Tajen... I didn’t mean to be so rough with you.' Arbana laughed quietly to herself, finding the sight of her great teacher, the proud warrior, lying on the ground cradling his foot... well, it was just amusing to her. 'Yes, laugh all you want. You did well, but one fenced off attack hardly completes your training' Arbana nodded. 'Will there be anything else today?' Tajen shook his head, 'I’ll find you when it is time for another lesson.' With that, he kissed her soundly on the lips and whispered to her... 'I love you...'
"She smiled at this...'I love you too...' and started her descent down Mt. Illapse.
"Arbana returned late that evening, quietly making her way inside her home, the Gathering of the Entranced. Her father would be quite upset knowing that she was out again with 'him', for whatever reason. She slipped through the Gathering Hall, and down to the Maze. She found a private little room down there, and quickly fell asleep, wasted from the day’s exertions.
"Arbana woke early the next morning, and strode into her Father’s study. Her father, Aramat, was Ruler of the Entranced. A wise, just man...but he was not entirely thrilled with the concept of his daughter spending so much time with that traitor, Tajen."
The old man coughs... "Ah... perhaps I should break now for a bit, and tell you... about the man... Tajen... what made him a traitor..." you shift anxiously in your seat, shivering with anticipation... The old man begins again, his eyes glazing over slightly... and he begins again...
"Tajen stood his guard at the facade of the Entranced. He was one of the few who could strike fear in the hearts of would be attackers, with not so much as a look. Therefore, this made him the logical choice for Guard Duty. He was also a kind man.... and that fearsome look, could as well melt hearts, if he chose it to. One that had caught his eye, was the Daughter of Aramat, Arbana. She was a goddess in his eyes, and could do no wrong.
"Arbana stood inside the House, peering over the walls at Tajen. She was but 16... but when you are young, love doesn’t recognize age. She was smitten, completely, and totally. Arbana finally gained the courage to step outside... not knowing herself what she intended to say to Tajen once she arrived at his side. She didn’t know what to say.... she didn’t care, because that was all she wanted.... to be at his side.
"'Hello, Arbana. Pleasant Dream today, isn’t it?' 'Yes,' she replied, failing horribly at hiding the excitement she felt when he called her by name. 'Are you well today, Tajen?' Tajen nodded slowly, smiling as he did. Tajen was, although one would never get him to admit it, completely in love with Arbana. It did not matter to him that he was easily 20 years her senior... she had an innocence about her, a sweetness, that most other women lacked.
"Tajen finished his Guard duty, and they walked together. Down the Basin, past the Trinity Fountain... the Hall of Commons.... she followed him endlessly, until they finally came to rest at the base of Illapse. He smiled wanly at her. 'So, now that we are here.. what exactly are we to do,' she said, a hint of nervousness in her eye. While she was innocent, she was not naive, and she knew how the minds of men worked..... at least most men. Tajen was different. He replied to her..'Why, of course... we climb.'
"Arbana was clearly shocked. 'Climb!?. Why climb this, when we can easily walk the trail up the front of the Mountain??'. 'Did you ask me why I climb?,' he said, looking at her in mock disbelief. 'I climb, for no other reason that, ... I can. There is no tangible reason why one would climb a Mountain, other than the fact that it is just... there.' And with that, Tajen started his ascent, not looking back to see if she would follow, because he knew, in his heart, that she would follow him..... and follow him she did.
"They climbed for what seemed like hours.... only to rest on a wide outcropping.. a plateau of sorts, easily 100 yards wide, and just as long. It was here that Tajen came to be alone, to rest his mind..... and Arbana was the first he had shared this with. They sat and spoke for many hours, and she was enthralled by his every word, as he was, with hers. As the evening drew to a close, Tajen looked her in the eye.... and professed to her what he had been wanting to tell her for so long.... 'Arbana... I love you, more than anything in the Dream at all...... more than I could ever tell you.' He looked away for a moment, the coldness in his eyes replaced by fear... that she would reject him. Arbana’s eyes lit up... she smiled, taking his hand.... 'I love you too, Tajen.. this is my promise to you. I will not let anything take you away from me.... even my father'.
"Tajen winced at this.... her father, Aramat... was his best friend. Tajen, while he was but an Initiate, carried more influence with the Ruler, than did the Guardians. He knew, that Aramat would not be happy with what Arbana and he had just shared.
The old man stops for a moment..... "There, child.... does that explain it to you now? He was not a traitor to his House, but to his friendship with Aramat." "Yes," you reply... hanging on his every word... the old man leans forward, folding his fingers together... and continues...
"Arbana stood at her Fathers side... smiling to him. 'How are things today, Father? Have you finished the final draft of the Entranced/Calenture Peace Treaty?' Aramat took her hand gently and said, 'Yes, perhaps we can finally put this to an end...' as he looked up at her for the first time this morning.... noticing the bruise on her cheek... "Aramat flew into a rage. 'You were with him again weren't you!!??' Arbana shrank back within herself, at her fathers anger... 'Answer me, for the gods sakes!!!!' Arbana finally gained the courage to answer him, and spoke up in a timid voice... 'Y-yes Father, I was...' He stood angrily, and looked at her, 'Child, he broke my trust in bedding you... If he were to do that to his best friend, what would he do to you?'
"'Father, he loves me... he would never intentionally hurt me!!'
"'Oh yes? Then what is this!?'
"Aramat touched the bruise on her cheek... 'He is teaching me the ways of the Warrior, Father... so that I might be able to take his place here now that you have banished him from the Basin'
"'If he betrayed me, he would betray his house. He was a liability to us now, and I have no use for those weak of will.'
"Arbana sighed, and turned on her heel...'You’ll see he is a kind man, father... that he did not betray you...' and left his study.
"She ran... stopping to locate every few seconds, hoping the Mind Blank that Tajen used when he was meditating would wear off... after a time, she was becoming frustrated, and came to rest at the Sanctuary in the Valley. She sat, considering her love for Tajen... and her father’s hatred for him... she wept. The two men she loved most in the world, at odds with each other. Just then, Tajen stepped into the Sanctuary... he had been following her, playing a game with her. But he stopped short, when he saw her tears.
"Arbana explained to him what had occurred with her father, and at that moment, Tajen took her hand. 'My love', he explained, 'I am causing your family great pain... I want you to walk with me for a moment...' She nodded, and followed him..."
"But... but sir... if he loved her so much, why does it sound as if he’s ready to give up??" The old man glares at you... "This is my story, just hush up, and let me tell it." You nod... and he begins again...
"They walked for a time, deep into the Valley, until they came to Albino Caves. They rested there, in the Sanctuary that was the Entrance. '’Bana..... I am doing more harm than good... I am your lover... your father... is your father. You are still young... still under your father’s control. I really don’t understand why he has allowed us to see each other for so long. Perhaps, it would be best... for your family’s sake... for your sake, if we were to part ways.' Arbana began to cry over this... 'I won’t ever let you go, Tajen... I love you... I just can’t turn it off'. He held her in his arms... 'I know that, but we can’t continue this.'"
"Arbana stood, and swore to him.. 'As long as you and I still walk the same Dream, we will be together. Nothing will keep us from each other:' Tajen sighed, knowing this to be true. 'Then.... I will leave'
"Tajen wiped an errant tear from his cheek... 'It is for the best, Bana' ...and with that, he pulled two small fire-dims from his cloak. He pressed one into the palm of her hand, 'Bana... I am going to leave the Dream, to keep your family whole... it is better that way. Your father is a great man.... I don’t want you to lose him like I did. These stones will serve to remind us, even though we are not together, of our love for one another.'
"Arbana wept, the tears flowing freely... but she didn’t care. She only wanted her love to stay with her. 'I can’t stop you, can I?' Tajen shook his head. 'No, I’m sorry... I must leave...' And with that, he whispered one last time... 'I love you...' as his avatar dissolved around him..."
The old man wipes a tear away with the back of his hand, and continues...
"Arbana fled back to her home.... she stormed into her father’s study... I hope you are happy. Tajen is gone. Because of you. She left, still weeping, her eyes red and sore from the tears...
"Aramat died that night, he took his own life, after seeing the pain he had caused his daughter. How it happened isn’t important.... I will only say that the Entranced mourned for 6 months his passing. Arbana did not see this....
"Everyone she loved was gone... the Dream held no more magic for her... and she knew what she must do...
"Arbana stood silently, her cloak billowing about her lithe form. She wiped the sweat from her brow, and continued on her journey upward. Climbing the backside of Mt. Illapse, Home of the Dreamers of Light, was no small feat. And of course, reaching this first small outcropping was but the first way station in her ascension. As she made her way up, methodically searching for handhold, foothold, handhold, foothold... her mind began to wander... back to simpler times... when all was well within the Dream... and the Dream itself worth Dreaming... she continued upwards, until she came to the Area that she and Tajen had spent so many hours, days, together... loving, sharing each other’s bodies, and souls...
"She quickly inscribed a codex, and set it on the ledge. Clutching the foredoom stone against her breast, she breathed the words, 'I love you Tajen... I love you, Father... perhaps we might be together again one day', and stepped of the ledge... falling. Her soul liberated itself, she was without fear as she fell the hundreds, thousands of feet to the bottom..."
The old man stopped... "It is done... now, leave me, child... You stand, giving whatever thanks you can manage... Sir... I have but one question... what became of Tajen?... the old man looks you in the eyes... I said leave me." You nod, and slowly walk away, the tale weighing heavily on your mind.
The old man reaches inside his shirt, and removes a chain from his neck... on the end of the chain, a small pendant... he gently fingered the stone inset, a brilliant fire dim, and whispered, to no one in particular... "Yes, some day we will be together, my dearest Arbana... some day..."
- End -