Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...
Part 6, Enter Chris
Chris walks in and says with only a little irony. "Hello, folks, I hope I'm not late. I'm trying to be here for a council meeting with Alvirin."
Daewen's smile bursts into a laugh. "Late m'dear? No. For That council meeting you're early, in fact. And for the other you're precisely on time. Tom has just suggested it."
Chris relaxes and smiles. "Oh, good. I think we're all close enough to sequence that no one will be discomfited. I thought it very important that I be here personally."
Chris's eyes scan the folk on the couches and chairs, taking in Tom and the silent Jeffy, and resting on Braeta.
Daewen stands. "Braeta, let me present Chris Marlowe. Chris, this is Braeta. Tom brought her here to discuss a problem."
Braeta rises slowly, standing close enough to Daewen that her height is unmistakable. "A pleasure, Mr. Marlowe." She offers her hand.
Chris takes her hand. "A pleasure, Braeta. Call me Chris."
Tom looks Chris over for signs of wear and tear, or any other changes.
Daewen continues her introductions, "And I'm not sure that you know Jeffé. This is Jeffé, the leader of the Marginalia. He is here for the council with Lord Alvirin."
Jeffy bounds up to his feet, looking even smaller and more child-like standing next to the two tall women. "Happy to meet, Mr. Chris. Not captive. Good. Good."
Chris replies, "I am happy to meet you, Mr. Jeffé. No, not a captive, thank you. I'll tell that tale when it's appropriate -- which may be sooner than later."
Daewen smiles and turns to Tom. "Well, I was about to say that I'd no idea, where Chris was or if he would make the second Council..." She smiles laughing ".. but here he is. And I'm enough of a believer in signs and omens to say that it would seem to be Just the time for your little First Council of Destine. Is there anyone else you'd like to summon up, or would you like to just begin by briefing Chris?"
Tom congratulates himself, now, on memorizing his first conversation with Braeta. It will be useful now. "No, Daewen, I can't think of anyone else to ... to wish for, off hand." Be careful what you wish for, after all. "Chris, it's good to see you. A relief, too." If Chris looks puzzled by that last remark, Tom won't ask about captivities that might still be in the future.
"Thank you. I'm glad to be here." Replies Chris.
"Chris, Braeta sought me out at our place on Helene -- United Earth Line -- because she has a problem that may be like that of the Marginalia. Hm. I could give you and Daewen a quick re-play from my memory to yours, if you like."
"I'd like to hear that."
"So would I," says Daewen. She hesitates a moment before adding, "If you think the details of the telling are important, then telepathy will be all right."
Tom makes telepathic contact with Chris and Daewen and replays Braeta's tale to them. When he's done the two are quiet for a couple of minutes, absorbing what they've "heard".
Daewen turns to Braeta. "The two of us have now heard your story exactly as you told it to Tom in the ranch back on Helene. I'll have to say that I was surprised to hear that there are many -- even a small number -- of the Nephilim still in the earth. I suppose that's rather silly of me, given how many of our people I know were still there for so many years. While I cannot say where they went with the coming of technology, I know there were many, especially of the low houses in the Earth until a couple of centuries pre-atomic.
"You say all the ones you know of went to Destine?"
"Not quite," replies Braeta, "I know that many did, and all of the ones that I know of disappeared during those years of colonization. There may have been multiple colonies like Destine, though it is the only one I've heard of."
Daewen nods. "Several people have suggested that a large number of our folk left during those years, too." She looks to Chris for confirmation or comment.
"And it is always possible that many of the others will show up in our new lands. As a group we're not terribly tied to any one earthly era, and there are rumors that might be explained by the existence of Lanthil out in the Chaos beyond Faerie. Alternatively, I have made a number of journeys back to help Jeffé's people in the days between first hearing of them and his arrival here."
"I don't know if Tom has mentioned it, but we have been in a rather desperate struggle to save his people, the Marginalia, from the Lilim. Unfortunately, from both of their perspectives, the Lilim preyed upon the Marginalia for aeons before we were able to save them. They will be joining us in Lanthil, though, if all goes according to plan. In fact, a great number of them are already there."
She pause for several moments, so obviously on the verge of saying something that none of the others interrupt her. Eventually, she continues, "I... I can't say I am at all happy to hear that kin of the Lilim -- even those who are much less malevolent -- are implicated in aggression against your people's Remnant, both out of sympathy for any people, and because our own folk have a considerable Remnant that are not yet accounted for."
"I understand, Lady." Braeta says and smiles softly.
"What about you two? Do you have any thoughts on all of this Tom? Chris? Can you think of anything more we should know or do before you investigate on Destine?"
Tom replies, "I want to know as much as I can about Dragons and Lilim. It sounds like Lilim are triple hybrids of dragon, human, and spirit. Do we know anything more about them? I've had brief brushes with them in battle, but nothing more. What powers do they have? Are they always enemies, or are there friendly Lilim? Are there divisions among them? How do Lilim relate to the Dragons?
"How about the Dragons? Are there divisions among them? Especially with regard to Nephilim and Lilim? Are there sub-races of dragon, as with the fay? There are beasts called "dragons" that don't seem sapient at all, for instance. Are those dragon-beast hybrids or the products of draconian magic, the way many fabulous beasts are related to fays? (Or so I've heard.)
"And how does Alvirin view any of these groups? In "Races of Earth," he seems on amicable terms with Patala, but that was a very long time ago. How do things stand now? Are there pro- and anti-fay draconian groups? Lilite groups?
"Anyone here know any of those answers, or where we could get them?"
Braeta smiles, "Well, that is quite a large set of questions. I can speak to some of them, but I certainly cannot answer them definitively. Perhaps one of you knows more and should answer first."
Daewen gets an odd look and shakes her head, "No you go right ahead, m'dear."
Braeta nods. "Very well." She pauses and thinks. "I suppose I have three sources of information on these matters: personal experience, ancient stories, and more contemporary science.
"Unfortunately, by the time I was born the Great Houses had for the most part moved their homes away from the Earth. Few of the Dragons, of any of their houses were among the Remnants. I have encountered a couple of the Lilim, however. They are much as demons and vampires are portrayed. They shift their shapes, though it is almost always humanoid or serpentine, not arbitrary. They are relatively immortal, though they can be killed. The often have hypnotic powers. They are more often creatures of night and shadow than of the day, though some have aspects of fire and inhabit the fiery deserts or volcanic areas.
"I think that much of what is said of vampires, demons and succubi may come from the Lilim. The true demons, the Great Powers turn to evil, the Lords of pestilence have long not been in the earth.'
She pauses for a moment. "Perhaps that is all a bit too strongly stated, though, as I have not met many of their kind, nor done so often. And it was a goodly time ago, in the years when all of the non-humans showed themselves more openly in the earth." She pauses again to give others a chance.
At Daewen's nod she goes on, "The oldest tales I know say that we are in the fifth age of the earth. The first was the age of creation, when the earth itself formed. The second was the age of the Great Powers and the first beasts when the things that walk, crawl, swim and fly came into the world. The third was the age of the dragons and their beasts. The fourth was the time of Faerie and their beasts, and the fifth is the age of man and his beasts. In later days the Ages were divided differently, but those are the oldest tales I know.
"I think that modern science would tell us that the age of the Great Powers were the Paleozoic and the Triassic. There are no tales of there being any folk at all in those days. The age of the dragons would be the rest of the Mesozoic. The tales say that there were the Great Dragons, dragon folk and dragon beasts in the world in those days. The Great Dragons left the world to the land of Patala, perhaps taking some of the dragon folk with them. The dragon folk and their beasts are long dead. The dragon beasts, I think must be the dinosaurs, pterosaurs and the like. Of the dragon folk I can say very little. In the age of man there have been a few dragons seen who were folk. One supposes they are the Remnant of Patala, but they could be Great Dragons, dragon folk, or perhaps even Lilim.
"By the age of Faerie it is said the dragons were dead or withdrawn to Patala, except for few that lived in the bowls of the earth and were seldom seen. This Age, it is said started with the Great War in the heavens, when the Great Powers warred against themselves, the lords of Pestilence and the Lords of Order fought, and while they fought they did not attend to the Plan and the earth and the creatures within it were scourged. Amidst all this death and chaos, as time itself was torn, Faerie arose. Scientifically, this must be the Tertiary.
"It is said that Patala withdrew from the earth because of the War and the death of the folk and beasts of their age. All of the Nine Kings and the Nine Queens were in agreement that they should withdraw and not involve themselves in the war of the great Powers. All, that is, but one Queen, whose name is not spoken, but who was later called ..." She pauses on this, as if unused to or unwilling to say the name, "... Lilith. Of her husband, the False Leviathan, little is know. He may have been of the Great Dragons of Patala, or the lesser dragon folk. Some say that he came later, that he was one of my father's folk or of the Mazikim of the Mountains of Kâf. Whatever his origins, she promised him great things and the kingship of the earth.
"I have at times wondered from the diversity of the earliest tales wondered if there might not have been several False Leviathans, of different folk. The Lilim that I have known reminded me somehow of the Mazikim, but she herself is from a time long before them, so perhaps she had husbands and consorts from each age. Some say that her husband was one of the Lords of Pestilence, but I do not believe this. She is always the stronger figure.
"What is clear in all the tales is that she felt that she and hers should have the earth and she hated mankind for being granted it. She is a figure of wrath and vengeance. They say that the Great Powers drove her from the Earth, or that it was the great Powers and the Old Gods. They did not drive them all off, though, for the monsters who shared the blood of the Lilim and of the Old Gods stayed a long time in the earth.
She stops a moment creasing her forehead and continuing. "They say that when she turned her back on Patala, the seventeen turned their backs on her and never again did she have a name to them or would they speak of her. Still, when the Word came and the Remnants were forced out of the world, they say that Patala joined the Powers in expelling them because they demanded fairness. Their own kind was forced out, so should the other Great Houses be. Some say that they include in that the expulsion of the Lilim, but none can say, for Patala will not speak of her."
Tom has produced a notepad and pen, and started taking notes. He raises his head. "Excuse me," Tom interrupts. "I want to be very clear on this. Patala helped expel the Remnants because they felt it was only fair that the other Remnants be expelled the way the Dragons were at the end of the Mesozoic? And maybe they consider the expulsion of the Lilim as part of the expulsion of Dragons?"
Braeta nods and continues, "They say also that she or hers returned to join the forces of the Powers and Patala in expelling the others, that she did so in hopes of winning them back. I do not know. I do know that the monsters who owed some blood to her did join in battling the Old Gods and Young, as if they were on the side of the Powers. Thaeoundaeawar himself told me so, before he died fighting Wolf and Serpent."
She pauses as if returning to her surroundings from the memories her tale has stirred. "So, there are many sorts of dragons, and the Lilim arise from them and are not acknowledged, but in their secret hearts the dragons may still regard them kin and may have been moved to act in part on their behalf, or at least in some way to balance accounts for them. The Lilim themselves are various in nature and origin, but descend from and owe allegiance to She Who Was Once a Dragon, one of their Queens, in fact. She and they hate and resent to others who have had the earth for theirs. I think she hates Faerie for the Faerie Age, but that they have tried to remain aloof from her and hers."
When Braeta has finished, Daewen speaks in a soft low voice. "And she's no love for our folk, for me and mine."
Braeta's gaze focuses intently on Daewen.
"I... When first word came back through the folk my daughters and Glorian were rescuing of Jeffé's people and the way that they had suffered, I decided to do something. Inaction was driving me mad, and all these folk were coming here, and treating me as something special and important, calling themselves my people because my daughters had used my name while rallying them to leave the false Ennorath. I wanted to get away from it all and to actually do something, something on my own, in my own name. I guess I felt that I should either live up to the name they were trying to give me or to fail and prove them wrong. I don't know. It just all seemed too much and these little folk needed help.
"I went into the Marches at night on one of our best horses, one of Alvirin's Marcher breed, and set myself to find these folk. I took Twilight and dressed in spidersilk and chain. I found my way to them, but back to their early days, the days when the Lilim were first preying upon them. The were decimated and far more. They cowered and hid, but when they saw I wasn't of the Lilim and that I meant no harm they welcomed me. They didn't seem to hold out much hope that I or anyone could save them, but they put that aside and welcomed me as someone different. They were eager to hear of other folk and other worlds and would not talk of their own suffering and loss.
"You can't imagine how grateful I was for that. They made no demands, and had no expectations. They were resigned to their fate but still could welcome me. For a few days it was wonderful. But then Lilim came. It was a small party, and the first struck and were carrying off the little ones before I could get there. When I did, though, I fought. I killed one and injured a couple of others. At least I drove them off, and those that left after I arrived went away empty taloned.
"As you can imagine, though, it was a lost cause. On my own I couldn't stand against many, though at the peak of it I think I went a bit mad. The hopelessness, the unfairness of it and the overwhelming danger drove me, or I drove myself. I remember standing on a hill with no idea how I got there, disflorger and Twilight in hand. There were dead all around and the wind brought the screams of little folk being carried away, and the weeping of the ones that hid in the woods. I was badly wounded and just stood there for a while afraid that if I moved I would collapse."
Privately, Tom thinks, "Conscience? Ethics? Oh, no I've forgotten them. I'm a High Elf, aloof and remote. Yeah, right, sure." He pictures Daewen standing above a heap of smoking dragon carcasses -- the image forms very easily. Compunction and gratitude and sympathy drove her there, by her own account. Maybe she is no longer conscious of her conscience in the same way, but Tom has no doubt it's there and alive and well.
"I left shortly after that, to get help. I took one of them with me. When I got back we met a group of 'the people' coming into Vinyagarond. They brought more word of your encounter with the Lilim and the Marginalia, and I realized how far in the past of that I had been. That meant I could not succeed in the time when I first visited them. I did what I could to prepare the one who came with me, because he insisted that he must go back. I promised him that some day we would rescue them. You fulfilled that promise, Tom."
Tom nods and sighs gently. He now knows a little more about his place in sequence.
She goes quiet for a while. "I've encountered them a few times since, in the Marches, and we have fought. I take it others have done the same, and I suspect that in our new home we may find the such things continue. We cannot have endeared ourselves to them."
Daewen stops and turns to the two men. "Can either of you add more about the Lilim or the dragons? Chris, Tom asked specifically about how Lord Alvirin feels about them. I have never broached the subject with him, nor even spoken with him much. You and Nick have dealt with him more. Can you shed any light?"
Tom clears his throat. "I have only a speculation," he says, "but we may have been involved with Lilith and the Lilim for longer than we realized. Braeta tells us that Lilith fell, or revolted, or whatever, because the age of dinosaurs ended. We almost undoubtedly ... helped with that. I don't know if it makes any difference. We probably can't be any worse enemies than we already are."
Just as Chris is beginning to speak, Angel comes running into the room.
"Lady! Lady, he comes!"
"Who comes, Angel?"
"From the Great Lord. Comes with a message."
"A messenger from Lord Alvirin?"
"He comes. He on a horse."
"Yes, yes. He comes from the Great lord. On a horse."
"Well, then, perhaps we should go out to meet him." She turns to Tom and Chris, "Do you mind, m'dears?"
They shake their heads.
The three make their way through Vinyagarond, talking quietly along the way.
When they arrive at the front door, they find the messenger standing beside his horse, helmet in hand, the sun glinting off his chain mail. As they come out the door, Chris and Tom's view of him is somewhat blocked by the horses head, but they can see that he is tall, with a slender elven physique, black hair and pale skin, much like the many of the Eldar that live around Vinyagarond.
"Good day, Lady Daewen. I bring the greetings of Lord Alvirin." He bows and steps forward.
When he rises from his bow, Tom is surprised to find that he recognizes the messenger. It's the young man he met in garage back on Helene.
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.