Seeing as how it’s Friday 13th – unlucky for some – I thought I might enlist Baral Favain and create a topical short story for the occasion.
Please note that I subscribe to the Hermit of the Southern Marches’ philosophy on the subject of luck, good, bad, or otherwise.
Thanks to Erin for the language lessons. If the theology is A-OK, I got it from George. If it’s wrong, it’s more than likely mine.
One fine spring morning, when the silvery-clean clouds scudded across the pearlescent blue sky that glows in the east just before dawn, and the dew lay thick and bright on the long grass of the plains, Baral Favain came to a small farm a few leagues from the mountain foothills where he dwelled alone. Leaning on the gatepost, he drank in the broad panorama of the early morning, and waited.
The sun had heralded her coming with fiery banners of pink and gold, orange and scarlet, but had yet to peek her haloed head over the far, flat horizon, sharper than a two-edged sword, when the door of the farmhouse flew open with a crash, and the boy Olik Petir emerged into the yard. He greeted his friend, but his words were quick and his tone wary.
“Olik Petir,” said the Shendi prince abruptly, “Wouldst thou come and walk with me today?”
“I have chores to do, Baral Favain.”
Leisurely, like a great cat at last tiring of indolence, the prince straightened, and stretched himself. “Mayhap I might help thee with thy chores, the sooner to have them finished.”
With some little hesitation, Olik Petir considered, “There’s the milk-beast to attend to. I suppose you can clean out a stall, and milk?” he added dubiously.
Baral Favain answered not the tone of mild contempt nor the slight insolence of the words, save with a barely perceptible raise of one brow and a curt nod. In silence, he turned on his heel and went into the long, low barn running along one side of the yard. Olik Petir gazed after him until his flame-colored mane of hair vanished away into the cool darkness, and then went about his other tasks. Before the sun was fully above the horizon, the boy had done, and came to the barn to find Baral Favain.
The prince knelt in the fresh-strewn clean straw lining the milk-beast’s stall, his strong hands skillfully wringing the last drops of milk into a pail. He glanced up at Olik Petir when he heard his footsteps crackling on the crisp golden straw.
“Hast thou done thy work? Well, then, we can go, thou and I.”
And as they sojourned both of them together, Baral Favain spoke not, yet Olik Petir was content, for they were comrades, and needed not words for each to enjoy the company of the other. Let it not be said that the twenty-some years that stood between them made their friendship less. For what is age but a measure of a little time, and what is time but an arbitrary distinction that shall for each man become less than meaningless as he passes into eternity? Suffice it to say, Baral Favain and Olik Petir were comrades.
Anon Baral Favain turned his face to the sky and spoke to one Olik Petir did not perceive, saying, “He’essai, avayane ame, abens alir. Vian karium ame, raman, av’raya i he’essai.” Olik Petir looked keenly at his friend, but did not ask the many questions he felt.
As they walked on, with the long grass sweeping past their legs, Baral Favain’s gait showed a hint of a restrained energy and controlled power, so that any modestly acute observer could have seen that he held back so to not leave Olik Petir behind who found the stalks of grass high to his waist, and the way difficult. Even the Shendi prince’s moderated pace proved too much for the boy, and he eventually halted in his tracks.
“Baral Favain, I need a rest. Can we stop?”
“Ay. I had forgot that thy legs are still small.” He paused, and his shrewd gray eyes studied the boy. “Didst thou eat this morning?”
“No. I was busy.”
“Ah. Olik Petir, what dost thou see before thee?”
By this time they had reached the lowest slopes of the wooded hills, and stood at the rim of a cluster of violet-flowered riyo trees, whose golden leaves glittered in the bright hot sunlight, and whose headily-scented blossoms stood out vividly against the darkness of the forest beyond.
“I see riyo trees, sir,” Olik Petir replied quietly.
“Hmm.” Baral Favain shook his cloak backwards, off his shoulders, for the day was warm and the sun strong. “An thou wast to go nearer, wouldst thou find fruit on the trees, thinkest thou?”
“No. It is spring, Baral Favain, and the fruit is still green. What do you mean by this?”
Reaching forth his hand, Baral Favain searched among the great flowers bursting from the trunk of the tree, flowers as large as a man’s hand fully splayed, and finally he smiled, for his search was rewarded, and he held one of the gourd-shaped fruits of the riyo-tree, lightly so not to break its brittle rind, and turned it in the light, admiring the sheen of the deep-purple surface. He tossed the fruit to Olik Petir, and, turning back to the tree, plucked another for himself.
“Friend Olik Petir, what callest thou this?”
“Luck,” asserted the boy. “You found an early bearer – there are a few, but the chance was slim. You got lucky.”
“Nay,” Baral Favain chid him gently, tapping at the rind of his fruit to open a hole in it. “This is kind providence, for we have neither of us eaten today.”
Olik Petir stepped backward in such haste he stumbled and only with difficulty regained himself, remembering anew his early fear of the prince. “You were talking to the spirits before,” he accused in shrill fear.
“Child, that is so.” After taking a deep draught of the sweet nectar from inside the fruit, Baral Favain hastily elaborated, “I spoke to… in thy speech, his name is T’Narxai, the great god. I asked him to bless our venture.”
“Is he a spirit?” Olik Petir asked in lively interest.
“Ay. The greatest. The ruler and creator of all – even T’Harexto, even death.”
“If T’Narxai is a good god, Baral Favain, how can he have made death?” asked Olik Petir in wonder, copying his friend and tapping a drinking hole in his fruit.
“Ah, Olik Petir,” smiled the prince, “To those who walk in the ways T’Narxai has ordained, T’Harexto comes as a welcome friend to bring them to their master’s house, where they shall at last meet him face to face.”
Drinking deeply, and raising his head, the lips stained deep with purple, “What about death by accident?” argued Olik Petir. “Surely that is misfortune.”
“T’Narxai calls each of us when he sees fit, and sometimes he will use what men see as an accident to accomplish his ends.”
“What if one is called who has not walked as T’Narxai bids?” asked Olik Petir idly.
“Then, for we are all his creatures and servants, such a one is still called, but to be punished for his disobedience, rather than rewarded,” returned Baral Favain impatiently, tossing aside the empty rind of his fruit. “Shall we walk on?”
And so they carried on into the forest, brushing here and there past the sweet-perfumed flowers springing from the tress, and sweeping aside low-hanging branches to allow of their passage. Every so often, Baral Favain would pause, and point out to his companion a curious outcropping of stone, or one of the brilliantly plumaged birds that dwelt in the forest, with which he was familiar by cause of long habitation in the hills. As they climbed gradually higher into the hills, Olik Petir heard a sound as of a clanging bell in the far distance, and he pulled at Baral Favain’s sleeve to crave his attention.
“Ay, I hear it,” replied the Shendi prince gravely. “Dost thou know that sound?”
Olik Petir nodded. “It is a riding-beast’s runaway bell, the sort that can ring only when the beast runs hard with no rider.”
“Well. Wilt help me to find it that we may restore it to its owner?”
Now ran they, swiftly through the thick trees, over the sun-dappled soft grass, and although Baral Favain was so much taller than Olik Petir, and twice the boy’s bulk, yet he ran with such a lightness and carefulness of step that he stepped not upon the hard burrs that litter the ground so thickly in those forests, nor did he trip upon fallen branches. At length they came upon the riding-beast they sought. It stood placidly, tired from running, cropping grass in a dim thicket, its roan flanks slick with sweat.
Gently, slowly, murmuring soft words in a fluid foreign tongue, Baral Favain approached the beast, and laid his hand to its halter that he might read the owner’s name tooled in the leather. And all this while the beast was quiet and docile. As Olik Petir stood in the edge of the thicket, his friend beckoned him to approach.
“I know where to find the man whose beast this is, but it is a way from here, and thou art weary. Wilt mount up and ride? He will not mind it, for thou art light.” So Baral Favain lifted Olik Petir into the riding-beast’s saddle, and took the halter in his hand, and led the beast out from the forests and hills back to the plains where men made and tended farms for their livelihood.
In the yard of the farm they halted, and Baral Favain hailed the master of that place in a loud voice. The man was pleased that his valuable riding-beast had been restored to him, and made to reward Baral Favain.
But the Shendi prince demurred, “I pray thee, friend, put up thy purse. I have need of no money.”
And so the man gave the gold pieces instead to Olik Petir, who was greatly glad of them.
Walking with Baral Favain out of the farm gates and back to the hills, the boy exclaimed, “That was lucky, to find that beast!”
But Baral Favain disagreed. “Nay. That was T’Narxai using us to bless the farmer, and him in turn to bless you. It is thus that all things conspire together for good to those who obey him.”
“What of when you rescued my father?” demanded Olik Petir. “Surely you cannot call that only the work of your great god.”
“Ay, I can,” quoth Baral Favain, “for my skill T’Narxai gave me and my sword is in his service to do his will, and so he prospered that endeavor.”
Olik Petir was silent for a time, pondering this in his heart. At length, after they had traveled some leagues, he asked, “You have said T’Narxai is his name in my tongue. Has he a name in yours?”
“In my tongue?” Baral Favain repeated, amused. “Ay. My people – they serve him for fear and not love – but they call him av’rascon daras i shilas, or saliinera te’ruis, or mei’in, or faran he’essai: the healer of souls and hearts, or the binder of peace, or the mighty, or the lord and master with great authority. He has as many names as attributes, and all are noble.”
By now it was dusk, and the golden shadows of the hill-forest stretched themselves, so that the faded image of one tree poured across the ground for many score of even the Shendi prince’s long paces. And so the friends bent their steps toward Olik Petir’s home.
At the gate, the boy turned to his friend, and asked humbly, “Will I walk with you again, that we may talk more of T’Narxai, and of luck?”
“Indeed thou shalt, an thou wilt,” Baral Favain assured him, and turned to stride rapidly back into the hills to his house there. As he went he called over his shoulder, “But know this, o Olik Petir. I do not believe in luck. I barely believe in coincidence. I believe in an all-powerful god working things out for good – his way.”