Tothelea: Chapter 18

Emathane showed them around the village, answering Trevor's many questions as
best she could.  He had never really imagined that he would ever meet any of
the Fair folk, living in White Sands, let alone that he would ever find
himself in one of their communities.  He found them to be a strange yet
graceful folk.  Comforting in a certain way.  Harmony, too, seemed quite at
ease here, despite the strangeness.  Of course, this place was no where near
the size of Merlon, which was just as well.  Trevor had found Merlon a little
overwhelming too.

Emathane introduced them to many of the villagers.  Their names, passed by in
a blur, difficult for Trevor's tongue to wrap itself around.  Near the lake,
Trevor spotted one of the fellows who had escorted them to the village.  The
one who had the staff.  He asked to go meet the man properly.  Emathane
introduced him as Faralien, and said that he was one of the best trackers of
game in the village.  That the party who had happened upon Trevor and Harmony
had, in fact, been out hunting.

Trevor turned to address Faralien directly.  "It is my hope that we will be
here in your valley for some days, and I see that you carry a staff.  Although
I carry a staff, too, I am not skilled in its use.  I would be very grateful
if you could teach me some of how to use it."

Emathane translated, and Faralien's head went back in laughter.  Trevor's
brows furrowed.  Faralien spoke, pausing while Emathane relayed his words.

"He says please do not take any offense.  He is not laughing at you.  Only, he
finds humor because he is no great staff master either."  Faralien spoke some
more, as Trevor's expression eased.

"He says that Jesethiel only selected him to return here with you because he
had a staff, not because he was expert in its use.  He only hoped you would
assume that.  He says it is funny, is it not, that you both walked along all
morning, nervous about the other's ability, when in truth you are both little

Trevor smiled, and couldn't help but chuckle.  Faralien extended his hand, in
the same way that they had seen Jesethiel do earlier.  Trevor clasped it, glad
to have a new friend.  Faralien spoke again while they locked wrists.

"He says that you don't need him to teach you.  You need Galethane, who is
Galembrion's brother.  He is old, but he is skilled."

Faralien went on to explain that he took lessons regularly from Galethane, and
would be pleased to have Trevor join them.  It seemed, to hear Faralein tell
it, that few among the Fair folk chose to learn the use of a staff.  Trevor
answered that it was not common among men, either, in his experience, but that
for him the choice had been made for him by circumstance.

"And do all men use iron staffs?" Faralien asked, using Emathane's words.

"No.  Iron is too heavy.  Only, I have the strength, so perhaps that can help
make up for my lack of skill."

Trevor agreed to meet Faralien in the morning, at a certain spot just outside
the village, for his first lesson.  Trevor was relieved, finally, to have the
chance to learn to use the darned thing.  He only prayed that they would be
here long enough for him to become somewhat proficient.

Emathane concluded her tour of the village, explaining that up higher in the
valley was another village.  Also of Fair folk, but of those who prefer the
forest.  Their village was built above the ground, high in the trees.  The two
villages, she said, were friendly to one another, traded much, and even
intermarried often.

"Word of your coming will have reached them by now," she said.  "Some will
probably come down tonight to meet you, or in the morning for sure."

Emathane found lodgings for them, too.  A hut that was--at least
temporarily--unoccupied, its previous inhabitants having recently gone to live
in the other village.

They were just carrying their packs from Beleden's hut to the other when
Beleden caught up with them.  Or rather, they saw him making his slow way back
to his hut, and went to meet him when he motioned them over.

"How are you two getting on then?" he asked.

"Very well, thank you," Trevor said.  "Emathane has been very kind.  We were
just moving our things to another hut."

"Good, good.  You'll need a place to stay.  There are some... mysteries that
need to be resolved, which may take some time."  He held up a hand to
forestall the rush of questions Trevor was about to ask.  "All in good time,
lad.  Let me not throw wild theories casually about before I have learned
more.  I must go home, and rest before the evening meal.  Join me afterwards
and we will talk more, yes?"

"We will," Trevor said.

They finished moving their things, after which Emathane left them to their own
devices, saying she would fetch them when it was time to eat.

"Trev, let's go see the gardens!" Harmony suggested.

They hadn't been up that way yet, and it was as good an idea as any.  They
walked up the stream that fed the lake, to the plots laid out in neat squares,
each furrowed with straight rows.  Small channels led from the stream to the
plots, with simple but well-made wooden gates at the head of each channel to
control the flow of water.  There were several Fair folk, scattered about,
working the land.  Here, so high up in the Spine, the weather still had the
coolness of springtime, and it was clear that planting season was in full

Harmony looked at Trevor with a pleading look.  She didn't have to say what
she wanted.

"Of course!" he answered her, smiling.  "I'll wait here by the stream."

She trotted lightly to the nearest worker, a woman who looked only a bit older
than Harmony.  Harmony pointed at the ground and made some gestures.  Trevor
could see the woman talking, but couldn't they were too far away for him to
hear.  Then the woman handed Harmony a small pouch, and pointed to an area of
ground.  Harmony immediately set to work planting seeds.

Trevor watched her work, enjoying watching her enjoy herself.  It had been so
long since either of them had gotten to do anything simply for the joy of it.
She worked for a long while, returning with the other gardeners at the end of
the day.  Hands black with dirt, face grimy, Trevor had rarely seen her look

The gardeners washed up in the stream before returning to the village.
Emathane met them on their way back down, and led Trevor and Harmony to
dinner.  The villagers took the evening meal communally, in a large open space
between the clusters of huts.  Winter must make for lonely meals, Trevor
observed.  Unless, somehow, these folk were insensitive to the cold.  The food
was simple, different to anything in Trevor's experience.  It was very good,
too, although Trevor quickly gave up on asking the names of everything.  If it
smelled good, it was good, and Trevor ate it.  It was an odd feeling, too, to
have an abundance of food in front of him.  They had been living on carefully
rationed and foraged meals for so long, Trevor had become accustomed to a
degree of hunger in the background of his days.  Trevor took full advantage of
the situation, hoping that his hosts would be complimented rather than

After dinner, Trevor was so stuffed he could hardly move.  He was entirely
happy to escort Beleden, at the old man's slow pace, back to his hut.  They
entered, and Beleden lit a pair of oil lamps against the evening darkness.
Here in this valley, surrounded by mountains, the sun was hidden from view
much earlier than it had been in their earlier travels.

"Did you enjoy your afternoon?" Beleden asked, starting the conversation.

"Yes, very much," Trevor said.  "I met Far.. Faralien?" Beleden nodded at the
name, "who I can learn some staff skills with.  And--"

"I got to garden!" Harmony exclaimed.

"Hee!" Beelden laughed.  "And I'm sure they were delighted to have the help,
lass.  And I take it you enjoyed the evening meal?  Oh, of course you did!  I
should not waste time with idle chatter."

"What is it you wish to say?"

"I talked at some length today with Galembrion, Faralien, and the other Fair
folk who you met this morning.  Fair folk have different... perceptions than
we men do.  They see some things we do not, and see other things differently
than we do.  From what you told me this morning, and what they told me this
afternoon, I have an idea which, if I am right, would hold the key to
Aramathokoa's malice."

He turned to Harmony, and asked "Harmony, aperoitutaru yameol bolea sekir ol
delentirin?"  The foreign words rolled very naturally off Beleden's lips.

"Oh yes!" she answered.  "I have missed it.  When we left home, I thought--"

"That's all right," Beleden said, interrupting her.  "I thought as much."

"But," Harmony asked, "What does gardening have to do with this?"

Thoroughly confused, Trevor spoke up.  "Wait a minute!  Harmony, you
understood what he asked you?"

"Of course, Trev.  I'm not stupid."

"Harmony," he said, "he didn't ask you in Hardalan.  That was the speech of
the Fair folk."  He turned to Beleden, "Right?"

"It was lad, yes."

Trevor was still confused.  Had Harmony been born among Fair folk?  Lived with
them?  Then somehow, ended up orphaned in White Sands?

"If I am right," Beleden went on, "it will be... well, perhaps good news,
perhaps not.  That will remain to be seen.  But we will at least know what
we'll need to know in order to know what to do.  You understand?"

"No," Trevor said, shaking his head.  "I'm sorry, but I don't."

"Well.  Bear with me a while.  Let me tell you a story.  This is the same
story that Garron told you part of, the story of Aramathokoa's fall.  Only,
that is but a small part of the story.  Through my studies I have learned the
whole of it.  Listen, and let us see if by the end of it, things are not made
more clear."

Beleden cleared his throat, poured himself a cup of wine, and began to speak.