The Tale of Ander Collins: Chapter Thirteen

Fiction By LoriAnn // 6/26/2009

 

“I can’t believe it,” Ander said in shock. “All those books…” Books were immensely valuable, and Ander knew it well. How many times had Cook carefully wiped spilled ingredients off of a treasured cookbook, anxiously checking to make sure that no permanent damage had been done? The thought of Celzara callously destroying so many rich tomes was enough to make Ander sick.
 To make matters worse, now that the books and the shelves were both reduced to still-warm ash, they had no clue where to even begin looking, for the Vial.
Shyllen looked equally horrified. “How could she?” the dragoness asked no one in particular, her voice thick with disgust. “These were Uncle Thraluic’s prized possessions.”
Ander picked up a dented buckler and began to shift through the ash. “She probably knew that,” he said bitterly, tossing aside a pile of charred pages and blackened leather. “Come on,” he added, squatting down and beginning to work in earnest. “We have to find that Vial.”
Shyllen shook off her despair and grabbed a relatively unhurt shield. She joined Ander in digging urgently through the ash, until the disturbed particles filling the air forced them to back away, coughing.
Ander looked up at the distant ceiling with a groan. “There’s got to be a better way to do this,” he said. He glanced at Shyllen. “You might want to go tell Thraluic that we’ll be here a while.”
She nodded and dropped the shield on top of a treasure heap. “I’ll be right back.”
Ander watched her go, quickly disappearing into the darkness. Absently, he kicked a small gemstone, and watched it bounce across the floor. Looking around at the devastation Celzara had wrought in Thraluic’s once-fine treasure hall, he felt like he had been punched in the gut. This was all his fault, Ander realized mournfully. If he had never shown up, if Celzara hadn’t seen him arrive and found out who he was, if he hadn’t fallen prey to her sorcery that day in the woods…But maybe she still would have attacked Thraluic, intent on regaining the Vial.
Ander gazed off into the blackness of the cave; untouched by his puny – and now, sputtering – light. Over there was the wreck of a carefully-stacked collection of hunting spears; the scattered pile to his right had once held a thousand bright emeralds; and there were the rumpled and singed remains of the curtains Ander had claimed as his bed. All broken, lost, strewn about, or outright destroyed. He could picture in his head exactly what it used to look like – perhaps someday, after this harebrained mission to find his uncle was over, Ander could return and help Thraluic return the cavern to its former glory.
Ander toed a crumbling leather book cover. He grimaced at the smell – what he had at first mistaken for that of burning meat. He held his torch higher, and glanced over the expanse of ash they still needed to sift through.
Something glittered.
Ander sucked in a sharp breath, hardly daring to hope. Could it possibly be so simple? He moved the light, and the small reflection winked out.
Carefully testing each footstep, wary of red-hot coals still hiding under the ash, Ander moved toward the small point of light, moving his torch back and forth to keep the object shining. It was near the back wall of the cavern, and Ander recalled in excitement the books stored there. Hadn’t there been some about dragons? He couldn’t remember.
He was nearly on top of the sparkle now, but a thin layer of cinders obscured his view. Nudging the object gently with the toe of his boot, Ander gave a shout of exaltation. It rolled away from him with a tinkle, the silvery, rose-shaped top glowing warmly in the red light.
“Shyllen!” he shouted. “I found it!” Casting about for something to pick up the Vial with – after all, he had no desire to touch the foul thing again – Ander grabbed a shred of tooled leather. Gingerly wrapping it around the glass Vial, he lifted the small thing out of the ashes and cradled it carefully in his free hand.
Turning to walk back across the field of dead and dying books, Ander caught sight of Shyllen hurrying back. “I hadn’t even gotten outside yet,” she said, a relieved grin brightening her face. “I’ll be glad not to have to break this news to my uncle alone.” She sobered a bit, her eyes taking in the dusty spectacle again. “But you found it? So quickly?”
Ander nodded, and gave her the threateningly dimming torch. “Hold this, will you?” he reached down and pulled a length of velvet from his one-time bed. Using it as an improvised tie, he proceeded to wrap the Vial tightly within the leather, knotting the cloth securely. “There,” he said in satisfaction. “That should do it.”
Shyllen nodded, casting a dark eye at the sputtering torch. “We should go,” she said.
Ander couldn’t have agreed more.
 
 
Out in the sunlight – bright and hot at midday - the dim cavern below seemed much less unsettling. Ander climbed from the rocky crevice a little awkwardly, impeded by the bundle clutched in his left hand.
Thraluic raised his head on the other side of the clearing. “You found it?” he asked with a hopeful rumble.
Ander held the bundle aloft with a triumphant grin. “Got it,” he said. Walking across the debris field, he looked up at the black dragon more seriously. “But, Thraluic…” He wasn’t quite sure how to break the news.
“She burned your books, Uncle.” Shyllen’s ever-blunt voice was tempered by sympathy. “There’s hardly anything left.”
Thraluic closed his great, golden eyes for a moment. “I thought she might have,” he sighed. Looking at them again, he rattled his wings. “In the larger scheme of things, though, it hardly matters.”
Ander was about to protest, but Shyllen sent him a warning glace. She shook her head just the tiniest bit.
“Now,” Thraluic continued. “We should leave. Did either of you think to fill your pockets while you were in there?” Shyllen nodded, and Ander silently scolded himself for not thinking to do the same. Save for his few meager possessions, and the Vial itself, he had nothing.
“Then we shall depart at once, before the queen returns with a force to defeat us. Hop on board lad.” Thraluic extended a black forepaw to Ander, and cocked his scaly head. “Did you get a haircut?”
Ander exchanged a glance with Shyllen. “Er…”
“Never mind,” Thraluic shook his horns. “But if I were you, I’d ask for my money back.”
 
 
 
They soon left the battle-wracked clearing far behind them, flying low over the Denwold toward the BarikSea in the west. Ander sat comfortably, nestled into a comfortable dip between Thraluic’s wings. He absently stroked the soft blue side of his flannel sack, which now also housed the Vial, along with his own things. Ander opened the sack, and pulled out his mother’s wedding band.
He now knew, according to Thraluic anyway, who his parents were. It was a good feeling, to be able to say, “Yes, my father’s name was Percival, and he was a minstrel. And my mother was Robyn, of royal fey blood.” Forgetting for a moment the fact that his mother was the granddaughter of royalty, and that therefore Ander was one-fourth royal himself, it was simply nice to know where he had come from. There were several boys in the kitchens, Ander knew, who would have been thrilled to simply know their father’s names. He was extremely lucky to have a history – and such an exciting one – as well.
Ander slipped the ring onto his finger, admiring the way it caught the high light of the sun. The ring was a pretty, delicate thing; a simple gold band inset with a tiny diamond, and surrounded by a stylized vine. He had often wondered who his mother could have been, to afford such an obviously expensive, yet unostentatious ring. Now he knew – the daughter of a princess, and the wife of a minstrel. Amazing.
They flew for several hours, over dark stretches of pine forest and paler birches and maples; their shadows flickering across small meadows and smaller brooks. As Ander watched the land roll away beneath them, he felt an odd sort of excitement, mixed with dread. Every wing beat carried him further and further away from everything he had ever known, across more land than most of his friends would see in a lifetime. It was thrilling, and frightening at the same time.
The sun soon fell in front of them, a blinding yellow sphere that filled the horizon and made the dragons have to squint in order to see. Ander tried to keep watching ahead, but the painful light brought tears to his eyes. Finally, he simply closed them, realizing that he wasn’t the one who needed to see, anyway.
However, even Thraluic gave up at last. “We need to land,” he called to Shyllen, a frustrated burst of green flame flickering over his nose. “I can’t see a thing, and we’ll have to find a place to camp for the night anyway.”
She nodded, and Ander thought she looked relieved. “There’s an open area ahead,” she pointed with one wing. “What say we try there?”
In unspoken agreement, Thraluic dove for the place she had indicated – right into a nest of trouble.
“Heya!” cried a low, gravely voice. “What’s this then?”
Ander peeked over Thraluic’s shoulder.
Four creatures stood in the clearing, a few plates and cups scattered on the ground as though they had just leapt to their feet. Ander gaped at them – they were unlike any creature he had ever seen.
Warty and green-skinned – though not bright green, like a leaf, but more deep green, like the depths of a still forest pool – three of the beings were obviously adult, as they were larger, and more muscular than the fourth, but there the similarities ended.
“What are they?” Ander asked in a low, cautious voice.
“Ogres,” Thraluic responded in the same tone. “We must be wary now.”
Ander gulped, all the old stories he had heard immediately rushing to mind. Ogres were beastile, vulgar and uncivilized. They were reported to eat anything they caught – including humans, according to some stories. They were nomadic, traveling through the unsettled regions of the world like wild creatures, barely intelligent and moved more by instinct than by logic or reason. They attacked villages in the dead of night, leaving no one alive, and soldiers sent out to take vengeance rarely found any trace of the elusive wanderers.
Thraluic nodded respectfully at the eldest ogre, whose algae-colored hair was turning brown around the temples, and thinning on top. “Greetings, comrades,” the dragon said soberly. “My apologies for intruding on your camp.”
“You are forgiven, dragon,” the ogre replied in a shockingly cultured voice. “It has been long since we conversed with one of your kind.” His tawdry finery glittered a bit in the fading light.
Ander simply stared. Where were the violent, animal-like monsters he had always been told about?
The ogre cocked a hairy brow at him. “You bring a human among us, dragon?”
Ander shrank back as the ogre peered at him. “I vouch for the boy, comrade,” Thraluic assured them. “He is no threat to you.”
Nodding, the patriarchal ogre turned to Shyllen. “You are welcome as well, dragoness. Allow me to introduce my family. I am Grigly, and this is my son, Bonter, and his wife and son, Herma and Jagsod."
The only female ogre in the group nodded at Ander with a little wink. She didn’t say anything, but she looked almost kind - if a seven-foot creature of rocky, grey-green wartiness could look anything other than frightening.
Thraluic nodded at each ogre in turn. “I am Thraluic,” he said when Grigly had finished. “This is my niece Shyllen, of the Forgath Mountains; and the lad is Ander from Kelner.”
“Enough formalities,” Bonter said, smiling a yellow-toothed smile. He narrowed his eyes at Ander. “I’m presuming that you dragons are the intelligent ones of the team?” he asked politely.
Shyllen snorted. “You might say that.”
“Now, Shyllen…” Thraluic shook a wing in his niece’s direction. “The boy is intelligent enough, comrade Bonter.”
The eldest ogre sighed. “Forgive my son,” he said with a knowing wink. “He’s a little…biased, you might say.” Grigly sank back onto the log he had evidently been sitting on before the travelers arrived. “Ah, it’s not like the old days, now,” he said, picking up a spoon and twirling it deftly. “Back when I was a lad, humans kept to their lands, and we kept to ours. Now we have them all over the place, and there’s nothing an honest ogre – or dragon, for that matter – can do about it.”
“Yes, yes…we’ve heard this lecture a thousand times, Granddad.” The youngest ogre, a shaggy-headed male, said hastily. “There’s no need to go on about it in front of guests.”
For some reason, Thraluic relaxed at his words. Ander considered climbing down, now that the ogres seemed to be in a conversing mood – as opposed to a devouring mood – but he decided not to chance it just yet.
The young ogre – Jagsod – smiled up at Shyllen. “Besides, I’ve never seen a dragoness before. Pardon my forwardness, comrade, but you have lovely scales.”
Shyllen preened a bit. “Thank you, comrade Jagsod.”
He bowed from the waist, and Ander couldn’t hold back a snort of disgust.
Before any of the ogres could say anything, Thraluic spoke, with a little warning nudge to Ander, who still sat on his back. “We’re on a journey of some importance, friends,” he told the ogres. “Perhaps we might share your camp tonight? My niece and I are weary with flying, and the boy at least needs to eat.”
With an expansive wave, Grigly smiled in what Ander hoped was supposed to be an agreeable manner. “Of course, comrades,” he said jovially. “We always welcome a guest with a story or two to tell.”
Ander tensed, but said nothing when he spotted Bonter’s marble-like black eyes fixed on him. The ogre didn’t seem as accepting of them as his father and son did. Ander swallowed his objections and smiled nervously at Grigly.
“Thank you,” Thraluic said. He lowered himself to the ground, wincing a bit at the pain from his burns. Ander slipped – reluctantly – to the mossy clearing floor, stumbling slightly as his cramped legs took his weight.
Jagsod cast a curious glance in Ander’s direction. His mother smiled, and nudged him over. He glanced over his shoulder at her, as if to say “do I have to?” but she simply waved him onward and went to stand with her husband and father-in-law, where they stood talking to Thraluic. The young ogre made a face, but walked toward Ander.
“Hi,” he said in a surprisingly high voice for his size. “I’m Jagsod.”
“I’m Ander.”
They stood like that for a moment, awkwardly casting about for something to say.
“So, where are you –“
“Do you live –“
They spoke at the same time, with the instinctive desperation of two people who have no idea how to talk to each other. Jagsod smiled carefully.
“You first.”
Ander toed the ground. “I was just going to ask if you lived here, in the forest.”
The ogre shrugged. “Here and there, but yes. Mostly around the Denwold. Why?”
“Just wondering. What were you going to say?”
“Where are you three going? The big dragon said you were on a journey.” There was honest curiosity on the ogre’s face. Ander looked over at Thraluic, whose sensitive ears had no doubt heard their entire – meager – conversation. The black dragon met his gaze, and nodded slightly.
Reassured, but still wary, Ander motioned to a nearby fallen log. “You want to sit down? It’s kind of a long story.”
Jagsod agreed. “Let me get you some stew though,” he said, motioning toward the glowing campfire. “Mother’s a great cook.” Seeing the look on Ander’s face, he chuckled. “Don’t worry – it’s rabbit.”
When they were seated, Jagsod cocked his head at Ander. “Before you start,” he said, “tell me this – is that a normal hairstyle among the humans now?”
Ander tugged on his scrappy hair in embarrassment. “Not as far as I know.”
The ogre shrugged again. “Sorry to pry. You were saying?”
So Ander told him their story – or, some of it anyway. He tried to leave out any mention of Celzara; though he could tell that the young ogre suspected that he wasn’t getting the whole tale. Ander was also careful to say nothing of the Vial, or of Uncle Ravin’s importance in all of this. Overall, the tale came off sounding more like a simple quest to find Ander’s remaining family; rather than the desperate attempt to save the feielves that it was.
By the time he had finished, the stars were peeking through the leafy canopy overhead, and Ander’s eyes felt like leaded weights. Jagsod asked a few questions, but when his guest turned out to be too sleepy to answer them satisfactorily, he let Ander return to the dragons’ side.
Ander felt a little edgy still, at sleeping in the encampment of creatures that he had been warned against all his life, but his weariness caught up to him quickly. He curled up beneath Thraluic’s sheltering wing, the moss cool under his cheek; and was instantly asleep.

  

Comments

Orges

Nice.  Polite orges? Wow...I must say that's different.

Julie | Sat, 06/27/2009

Formerly Kestrel

Aww, c'mon.  I always knew

Aww, c'mon.  I always knew ogres weren't all bad!  I like Jagsod.  But the BOOKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  How could you destroy so many beautiful books???????????????????

Bridget | Sat, 06/27/2009

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya

I like the ogres.  Jagsod is

I like the ogres.  Jagsod is my favorite too. They whole family seems familiar. Like we've met before. Very nice job. And good job with describing the destuction in Thraluic's cave. Very nicely done.

airlia | Sat, 06/27/2009

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived."
General George S. Patton

Oh lovely. I like

Oh lovely. I like Grigly...mainly because I like saying his name...Grigly, Grigly, Grigly, Grigly--okay you get the point. Although, when you said that they were ogres I thought of Ella Enchanted and the part where he say, "I am the Ogre, Nissh..." Ha. So funny. Also, I was listening to The Last Samurai soundtrack while reading the part about the destroyed cave, and it gave it a nice effect. Of course, reading the part about flying, and listening to Enemy at the Gates was not quite as nice...in fact it was depressing me and I had to turn it off.

Anyway, good job. Get the next one up soon (which means tomorrow).

The Brit | Sat, 06/27/2009

Ogres!

I'll admit, they aren't what I expected. :)

Anna | Mon, 06/29/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

Actually I'm really starting

Actually I'm really starting to like the name Grigly too.

Bridget | Mon, 06/29/2009

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya

LOL

Glad the ogres are a success. I'm really enjoying writing about Jagsod  -he's different than the rest of the charies, which makes him interesting to work with.

Anyway, I have up through chapter 15 written now, so I guess I'll go ahead and post 14. Enjoy.

LoriAnn | Tue, 06/30/2009

Hm... Ogres

I never knew they could be nice, so far anyway I suppose. You need to post the next chapter too. SOON!

Kay J Fields | Tue, 06/30/2009

Visit my writing/book review blog at http://transcribingthesedreams.blogspot.com/

Civilized ogres!

Grigly is almost urbane, he's so polite! Very cool.

KatieSara | Mon, 09/28/2009

Katie:-)

"Are all humans like this? So much bigger on the inside?"
-Idris/TARDIS