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Shamara's Story

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Shamara's Story

 

She was gathering herbs for her grandmother when she heard the boys coming

down the hill. Quickly she picked up her basket and looked around for a

place to hide. She recognized the loudest voice as Bork, the pig farmers

son, and had no desire to meet him and his pals alone in the woods. Glancing

across the small creek she saw a tree with branches low to the ground.

Hopping across the water she ran to the tree and climbed quickly up to where

the foliage was thick enough to conceal her and just in time as four boys

came into the clearing.

They were all near her own age, boys she recognized from the village school,

and sure enough the biggest loudest one was Bork. "There's nobody here,"

said the smallest boy.

"I saw her come down here" Bork replied. "You guys spread out and look

around. I bet she's hiding somewhere."

Shamara edged a little closer to the trunk of the tree and tried to breath

very quietly. Bork's father had already approached her grandmother about

making a marriage between her and his son. Grandmother had put him off but

according to the customs of their land, if a young man could capture the girl

he wanted and give her a child, she would be his no matter what her elders

said. Bork was the meanest boy in school, always teasing and tormenting the

smaller boys. The thought of having to spend her whole life as his wife and

servant made her feel like throwing up. The boy called Grot, Bork's best

friend and as big a bully as Bork, came and stood under her tree. She

shuddered a bit and the slight movement made her lose her balance on the

branch. She grabbed for the trunk to steady herself and as she did forgot

about the basket of herbs she had set on the branch. Horrified she watched

as it slipped off the branch and fell straight onto Grot's head.

"She's up here!" he yelled "in the tree!"

Shamara looked down into the mocking faces of the four boys. "You might as

well come down little wife," Bork told her, "we've got you now. Just come

on down and see what you're missing. We can have some fun." Bork put his

foot on the first branch and started to climb.

Maybe she could outrun them. Better to climb down on her own and try than to

be pulled down. If she could get across the creek before they caught her she

might have a chance. Shamara scrambled down the tree, dodged Borks reaching

hands and began running. But the boys were faster and worse, Bork had

circled the clearing and was cutting off her path to the trail. They were

sure to catch her if she tried to push her way through the underbrush. Bork

caught her arm and she could smell his sour breath. She watched his eyes go

wide and closed hers. She was caught. She would be a pig farmers wife

forever and nothing she could do to save herself.

"AAAAAAH!" screamed the smallest boy.

"Oh my god....run!" yelled Grot.

Shamara felt Bork loosen his grip on her arm and then suddenly all four boys

took off running. She slowly opened her eyes not sure what to expect. There

was a chuffling sound behind her and she turned to see a big brown bear

sniffing at her basket. It stared back at her but made no move toward her.

She slowly backed away up the trail and as soon as the bear was out of sight

began running for home.

 

The women back at the farm shook their heads and clucked their tongues when

Shamara told them what had happened with the boys in the woods. "It is

time" they told her grandmother. "The girl is not safe here any longer now

that she is a young woman."

 

So it was that the following day Shamara sat on the high seat of a trader's

wagon saying farewell to the only world she knew. "You will be fine. There

are different customs there and women are treated as equals and not as

property," Grandmother told her. "We have taught you all we know of

healing and you know the uses of herbs, but there is more. My friend's son

Morganwg has been there for some time now. Find him and he will show you the

way to those who can teach you magic. There is much for you discover in

Draia."

 

They traveled through woods and stony places and across the edge of a desert,

camping beside small streams each night. The traders were polite and Shamara

kept mostly to herself thinking about her future. She barely remembered

Morganwg from the time or two they had met as children. It was evening of

the sixth day when the caravan stopped to let her off. The trader handed

her down her carry pack and bade her godspeed. "If you go to the campfire,"

he said "there will be people there who can help you find what you need."

 

Shamara walked past a vegetable garden where all sorts of people were busily

harvesting pumpkins and tomatoes. A girl dressed in leather pants and shirt

passed her carrying a brace of rabbits and entered the tavern. She found the

fire with a group of people sitting around it talking. To shy to speak, she

sat a little apart listening to the conversation.

"So my pack is full," a young elf was saying. "Is there somewhere I can

store my extra things?"

"Yes," answered a blond woman who was wearing a white cape. "Raven manages

the storage at Grahm's village. You can take the boat to Lakeside and walk

from there. But you are young and it isn't safe there at night when the

gargoyle walks in the land. Better you wait till daybreak."

"But I have all these vegetables," the young elf protested. "I don't want to

just sit here with them all night."

"You can't put food in the storage anyway," the blond woman told him. "There

is no way yet of keeping them from spoiling there. Best just take them to

the tavern and sell them if you have more than you need for eating."

"How can we become strong enough to be safe from the gargoyles?" asked a

dwarf in a yellow shirt.

"Kill rabbits," answered a tall man wearing shiny armor, "and rats and deer.

You will gain strength and when you become stronger they will ignore you.

Gargoyles, like many of the creatures here, are bullies and only attack the

weak."

Shamara thought of Bork and wondered if the gargoyles were as ugly as he was.

She didn't really like killing animals but if it would protect her from

bullies she would have to. She wandered away from the fire in search of a

rabbit. There were bags lying around everywhere on the ground. She saw

others picking them up so she looked inside of one. Nothing but a bone in

it, so she left it and looked in the next one which had a rabbit fur and a

piece of meat which she picked up and put in her pack. Near a rowboat she

found several more bags that held bread and coins. An elf girl was picking

them up and offered to share with Shamara. "Go ahead," the elf girl told

her. "take some. They are gifts from the gods for us."

 

Shamara spent the night gathering vegetables and selling them. She killed

some rabbits. They were pretty hard to catch and harder still to kill but as

she practised she noticed that it began to get easier. Just before dawn she

spied a deer and decided to try and kill it. It was easier to catch than the

rabbits but one of its horns caught her under her right arm and she fell.

Then it's feet were trampling her and suddenly everything went black. When

she opened her eyes she was in a place of heat and flames. Bones lay on the

ground and the air smelled of sulfur. Her pack, which had been full with

furs and meat and some bread and coins, contained only a single tomato.

Looking around she saw a wounded warrior in chain mail striding past and she

jumped up and began to follow him. He wound through the rivers of molten

rock eventually reaching a stairway flanked by torchlights and went up it and

through a door at the top. Following him, Shamara opened the door and found

herself back beside the campfire, very hungry and feeling a bit bruised.

She ate the tomato, and as she was trying to decide what to do next, felt a

tickling sensation and suddenly her bruises disappeared. She touched her

cheek where the tip of the deer's horn had made a deep gouge and the wound

was gone. She looked around and saw a tall woman with blue hair holding a

wand and smiling at her. "What happened?" Shamara asked the woman.

"You were hurt so I healed you with magic" the woman replied.

"Thank you so much," Shamara said. Here was the beginning of the knowledge

she had come to discover. "How can I learn to do that?"

"You will need sigils to heal with magic," the blue haired lady told

her, "and health essences. You can buy all the things you need in the shops

on Whitestone where the boat takes you. But you must learn to heal yourself

before you can heal others."

 

All her money was gone....lost when the deer had killed her. Shamara knew

she would need more food too. The tomato had barely taken the edge off her

hunger. She headed for the garden. After filling her pack several times and

selling the produce, she noticed that the water next to the fence had turned

a soft gold color. The lamp in front of the tavern dimmed and went out. Day

had come and the gargoyles would be safely dormant now. She started down the

road toward the docks. She would find the storage place kept by the woman

named Raven and leave her coins safely there while she explored this new

land. Now that day had come she could see how beautiful it was. She wanted

to see more and to find the ways of magical healing.

 

In the next few days Shamara learned where to find lilacs and more vegetable

gardens. When she tired of picking vegetables she gathered lilacs to sell to

the lady in the flower shop. She busied herself harvesting and selling and

becoming more skilled at hunting. There were bears and foxes about but they

never bothered her and she knew better than to try and kill anything that

large after her experience with the deer. Some of the rabbits in Whitestone

were white and had the prettiest softest furs she had ever seen. At night

she returned to the first island and concentrated on earning more coins.

Sigils and health essences were expensive she had discovered, but undaunted,

she set about the business of becoming ready to use magic. She had seen

nothing of Morganwg and the few people she was brave enough to ask about him

didn't know him at all.

 

It was late one evening. Shamara had discovered a book sitting beside the

fire and was reading the story written there when she felt a touch on her

shoulder. Looking up she saw a young man with a pleasant face and dark

hair. He was wearing leather clothes and he smiled. "You must be Shamara,"

he said. "I am sorry I could not get here sooner. I was delayed in

trading."

She could see in his face the traces of the boy she remembered slightly, but

this was a young man, no boy. She felt her heart do a little flip flop when

she looked into his kind eyes. "Morganwg," she said and smiled up at

him. "You have grown."

"As have you, milady," he replied sitting down beside her.

They talked until the lamps dimmed and daylight began turning the sky pink.

Morganwg was a trader in these lands, had traveled widely and knew the best

routes to go safely from one place to another. "There are some parts of this

world where brigands and thieves lurk to rob unwary travelers," he told

her. "It is not only the goblins and gargoyles that are a danger." Sometime

during their conversation, Morganwg took her hand and held it in his and she

did not object. It felt so nice to have a friend.

 

Morganwg had to leave her at the dock while he went to complete a trade in

the Valley of the Dwarves, but they arranged to meet by Raven when the sun

was noon high. Shamara arrived a little early and sat under a tree watching

the people come and go by storage. One of the bears wandered past, then

stopped and looked at Shamara. She looked back and seemed to see an

intelligence in its eyes. The bear walked over to her and sat down, laying

its head in her lap. Amazed she could only stroke its fur softly and wonder

and that was when Morganwg came up to her. "You have a friend," he said. "I

don't think I have ever seen a bear do that before." The bear blinked at

the sound of Morganwg's voice and shook itself. It stood up and ambled off

into the woods.

"My grandmother says bear is my totem animal," Shamara told him. "A bear

saved me once...." and she told him about the incident with Bork and his

friends.

"No," he told her when she was done. "You do not belong on a pig farm, nor

in the arms of a brute like Bork." He slid closer to her and put his arm

around her shoulders. "I am very glad the women sent you here."

 

She was picking up bags again on the first island. Mostly she found only

bones and sometimes meat and furs. But now and then the gods gift bags

yielded coins or armor or essences and one time a sword. She had discovered

a bag containing a goodly number of coins and some furs and essences and was

about to pick it up when a dark haired elf came rushing up to

her. "Bagjumper!" he said sneering. Shamara stepped away from the bag and

looked at the elf, startled.

"What do you mean?" she asked wondering why he looked so angry. "The gods

give gifts to all.....you can have these things if you want them so much..."

The elf snatched the bag. "They are my things!" he exclaimed. "I lost them

when a deer killed me. People like you make me sick stealing death bags

like this." And the elf gave her a last angry look and strode off.

Shamara was horrified. She had never intended to steal. She remembered her

chagrin when all her hard work had disappeared after she was killed by a

deer. No one had told her about death bags and she had not known it was

possible to go back and reclaim items dropped when someone died. Her first

impulse was to go to storage, get the sword and armor she had found, get rid

of them somehow. She was not a thief and the idea that the things she had

believed were gifts from gods were stolen from people who died made her want

to run away and hide somewhere. Hanging her head she wandered to the dock

and went to Whitestone. She was too upset to read or harvest, too upset to

think. She was a thief, a common thief and it made all her hard work seem

for naught when she considered that accusation.

 

It was in that state of mind that she came to sit beside a pool with an

island in the middle. She had heard that a god lived on that island and was

considering how to find the god and ask how to make amends when Morganwg

found her. He saw the tears still lingering on her cheeks and asked what was

wrong.

"The deathbags," she told him haltingly. "I have been taking them, thinking

they were gifts and I was so wrong." She could not keep back the tears. "I

am going to talk to the god out there and find out how to make it right."

"Not all the gods are good," Morganwg told her. He sat down and put his arm

around her shoulders and took her hand and held it. "The god on that island

is a god of greed. You will not find the answers you want from him. You

didn't know and there is no way to find those whose bags you took to return

the things so long afterwards. And now that you realize it is stealing you

will not take bags again. I am sorry. I didn't even think to warn you

about deathbags." They sat by the pool and talked for a long time until

Shamara felt calmer. She resolved in her heart never again to take anything

that was not clearly and freely given to her.

 

During the next months Shamara grew stronger. Before long the deer were no

longer able to hurt her and she saved enough coins to buy the sigils she

needed not only to heal herself but to heal others. She worked and bought

the books she needed to learn how to make her own health essences and magic

essences. When she had completed the lessons required to harvest emeralds,

Morganwg said he would show her the mine but she needed a magic cape to

protect her from the orcs and skeletons that guarded the catacombs. He was

going on a trading trip for a few days and when he returned would try to

locate a cape for her so that she could safely go to the emerald mine. The

green cape she needed was not sold in any of the shops but could only be

found by killing some monsters that were much too strong for her. Still

Shamara decided to try and find a cape on her own so she could surprise

Morganwg when he returned. When she inquired about capes in the market, the

men there laughed at her. The traders used special words for things, words

she did not know, and they mocked her and pretended not to understand her

questions. She wondered if perhaps these men were the brigands and thieves

Morganwg had warned her about. They reminded her of Bork and his gang with

their bad manners and rude comments. She did manage to glean from them the

information that the green cape, if anyone had one to sell, would cost her

about 6000 coins. Books and sigils and essences had depleted her money so

she set off to harvest yet more lilacs. She was beginning to be tired of

the scent of them after gathering so many, even though they were sweet

smelling. She had managed to accumulate about half the needed coins for her

cape when a very tall and rather severe looking person came and stopped

beside her. He had white hair and beard and a fierce looking face, not quite

human and not elf or dwarf. She stared at him wondering what he wanted. The

big fellow chuckled at her look "I am orchan" he said and he handed her a

package. "Go ahead. Open it," he encouraged her. "Your grandmother has

sent you a gift, which I am pleased to deliver."

Carefully, Shamara untied the string and removed the paper to find inside a

note from her grandmother and a bright green cape! "Oh!" she

exclaimed, "But how did she know? It is just what I need!"

The big orchan just smiled. "Enjoy" he told her and disappeared.

Her grandmother's note explained that a dwarf staying at the womens hostel

told them about the magic cape and how it could allow one to travel safely in

Draia. So the women had sent money to purchase and deliver what

they knew she would need. They hoped she was doing well in her studies and

would try to send her other items from time to time as they learned of her

needs. Oh and that pig farmers son, Bork, had finally found a girl to

marry. She came from one of the villages to the north where the women are

warriors. Rumor had it that she made him do all the housework and cooking

while she hunted and fished all day. The neighbors said they could hear her

in the evenings screaming at him for forgetting some household chore.

Shamara had to giggle a bit at the thought of Bork being pushed around by a

woman.

 

With her cape, Shamara gained the freedom to travel in new parts of the land.

So long as she stayed away from the places where thieves lurked, she was safe

from any monster. She began to be recognized as a healer and sometimes when

monsters invaded the land she went and healed the warriors wounded defending

their home. And always she watched for Morganwg, who had found a strong

place in her heart. But Morganwg traveled further and further in his

trading. Sometimes she did not see him for weeks at a time now. And when he

came he grumbled about the changes in the land. It was becoming increasingly

difficult he said for a trader to make a living here. One night she stood by

the window in one of the taverns waiting for hours and looking at two places

set at a table. They were supposed to have dinner together. Morganwg never

came that night and not for several nights after. When she finally saw him

again he was distant and distracted and he did not hold her hand.

"I have to go away for a while" Morganwg told her. "I will be passing by

your grandmother's hostel if you want to send anything to her."

Shamara sent a letter with Morganwg and some fire essences and silver rings

she had made. And she found that the land seemed empty without the chance of

a meeting with her friend. In her travels she often passed places they had

been together and tears would come to her eyes knowing he was no longer near.

Morganwg had wakened a part of her she had not known was even there and his

absence dimmed the beauty of the land for her. So when she heard of a new

land being discovered she decided it was time to have a look at someplace

not so full of memories.

 

The new land called Irilion was even more vast and beautiful than the places

she had seen so far in Draia. Few people had discovered the secret

way there and she often wandered for hours without seeing anyone at all.

There were new flowers to see and lands with snow and strange creatures.

She found new places to mine the minerals and ores she needed to make her

healing and other magic things. As time went on she returned less and less

often to Whitestone and the lands around it, going only when she needed to

shop for things not obtainable in the new lands. Each time she returned to

Iriliion she felt a deep peace of being home again. And there were no

memories of Morganwg in the new land to haunt her, so she began to feel

cheerful and started to make new friends. She was becoming stronger all the

time. She could carry more weight, kill stronger creatures and best of all

she had grown in magic enough to be able to teleport, which saved her hours

of walking. She learned to call foxes and wolves to keep her company and

hunt for her while she harvested and always she practised the art of healing

whenever she saw a person who was injured.

 

One day Shamara received an urgent message from a warrior she knew slightly,

one she had healed many times. He said she must come to meet with him.

Puzzled she agreed to go to Mynadar. When she arrived there was a small

group of people awaiting her, all of them smiling. They were tough grizzled

warriors, men and women who had stood the test of many battles, who were not

afraid of the places where thieves lurked. They stood around her and looked

to the warrior who had invited Shamara to come. He cleared his throat "You

have healed us many times, Shamara," he said and all the group around her

smiled and nodded. "So we have decided to give you a gift in appreciation,"

and the warrior presented her with a crooked staff embedded with a

jewel. "It is a mage staff," he told her "a fitting gift for one who so

freely shares her magic with others." Overwhelmed, Shamara could only smile

and say thank you. Her heart felt full at the recognition and honor she was

being shown. The warriors took her to one of the thieves lands where she

felt safe with their strong protection all around her. She watched them

practise their battle moves and joke with one another until it was time for

her to return to Irilion again.

 

It was several months later that she was doing errands on Whitestone and

caught a flash of dark hair and red shirt and her heart leaped. Morganwg!!

He looked tired and a bit travel worn but dear and familiar. "Come to

storage with me," he said when he saw her. They sat facing each other and

he took her hand and looked into her eyes. "I must give you some things" he

said and he began pulling items from his pack and piling them around her.

There were rubies and emeralds and swords and ores and flowers. As the pile

grew larger her heart began to sink and she started to cry.

"You are going to leave me," she sobbed. "Morganwg....you can't go..." and

she held tight to his hand. "All these, these things.....I don't want

them.... I would rather have you."

Morganwg gently withdrew his hand from hers and continued adding things to

the pile....armor and rings and essences, his fortune at her feet. "I cannot

stay," he told her gently. "For long now my trading here has gone badly. I

only came back to give these things to you. I know you will use them well.

You have grown in strength quickly and you have friends and honor here. It

has been a pleasure to help you on your way, but it is time for me to move

on." Morganwg finished piling treasure at her feet and closed his storage.

He stood and tipped his hat to her, kissed her hand and vanished, leaving her

with tears dropping onto his pile of treasure.

 

Irilion was a consolation for her once again.....a place of no painful

memories. Shamara threw all her energy into her studies and weapons

training. Younger students asked her for advice and friends invited her to

attend their weddings. But Shamara was alone and it suited her to be alone.

She was not blind to the advances and smiles of some of the young men, but

she pretended to be and they found other ladies to sit with at storage. With

all notions of romance put aside she found it was easy to be friendly and

even affectionate to those she trained and studied with. Sometimes she spent

hours in deep conversations with one friend or another and sometimes they

shared their hearts concerns with her.

 

She did not even notice that she was spending more time with any one than

with others. She did not notice until one day she was walking along and she

heard her heart singing a little song with his name in it. "Pardu," her

heart said "Pardu." He was a man she had talked with about many things, a

man with a way of making her smile, a good friend, just a friend, nothing

more. But her heart kept singing its song and doing a little dance when she

saw him. They visited beautiful secret shrines and waterfalls and talked of

everything under the sun. They sat on the dock together and watched the

sunset and talked some more. Shamara told her heart to hush, told her heart

he was a very nice man but only a friend. When she saw him sitting at

storage with another lady, she told her heart again about how he was only a

friend. And they still sometimes talked and watched the sunset and sometimes

she would see him sitting with his lady friend in the mine and smile and

visit with them both. Shamara told her heart how happy she was that her

friend had found romance and her heart hummed quietly to itself. And every

time she saw Pardu with his lady friend, Shamara's heart pinched her.

 

It is very hard to ignore a heart that keeps pinching you, so Shamara began

to avoid seeing Pardu when he was with his lady. That stopped the pinching

and she was learning to ignore the humming. She visited with other friends,

studied hard and grew stronger. Sometimes she could not avoid running into

her friend and his lady and she would see him sometimes watching her hurry

away. And she began to wonder why it was, when they had shared so many

conversations and sunsets that he had never wanted to hold her hand. Because

they still shared sunsets sometimes and it always felt so comfortable just

being together. Shamara wondered about that for a long long time until one

day she happened to run into Pardu at the mine when no one else was around.

Her heart gave her such a hard pinch that she just blurted out "How come you

never wanted to hold hands with Shamara?" That was when everything changed.

Turned out he did want to hold her hand after all, but had been fooled by her

careful distancing. "I didn't think you would be interested," he told her.

The things they said to each other then were sweet and private and Pardu held

her hand.

 

After several years of studying and learning, Shamara began to feel a little

restless. She was too timid to continue with her warrior training. There

were thieves and brigands in more and more of the land and even her green

cape was no protection from the likes of them. Many of her friends had

completed their studies and moved on to wider worlds. One day she started

to enter the magic school and the door was barred. She contacted the dean of

students and asked why. "Oh it was something an elf said," the dean

replied. "You know we have tightened the rules because of all the thieves

that are around now." The dean went on to explain that an elf had brought

allegations of thieving against Shamara from that time, so long ago, before

she had learned about death bags. "We must enforce the rules, Shamara, and

cannot make exceptions. No bagjumpers may enter the magic school."

 

Shamara walked away from the school in a daze. No more magic studies? How

could that be? It seemed so unfair to hold against her something that had

happened so long ago. She tried to lose herself in harvesting and mining.

She talked for hours with Pardu about what she might do. Nothing interested

her very much and she stopped going to the taverns and storages where

conversations were lighthearted. Sooner or later someone always began to

talk about magic and it hurt too much to be on the outside. More and more of

her closest friends were departing....some banished because of the new

enforcement of rules, some just ready to explore beyond the boundaries of

Draia. Shamara began to wonder whether it was time for her to

broaden her horizons. One day she strapped on her pack, filled it from

storage with things she thought she might need on her journey. She knew what

road some of her friends had taken. Perhaps they had found a land without so

many thieves, where rules were kinder and a mistake could be forgiven. She

told Pardu of her plan and he kissed her and said he would probably be coming

to join her soon as he finished up a bit of business.

 

Shamara walked down the familiar roads. She passed through Whitestone at

night and the gargoyle snorted as she went by but left her alone...no more

need for her green cape with him for a long time now. She was no longer

weak. Draia had taught her much and opened a whole world of

wonderful things she never imagined. It was hard to be leaving, even knowing

she would probably return one day. As she neared the docks two bears came up

and paced beside her and she touched her wand and vanished.

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