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Journeys of Peregrine Trent

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* * *
I set off north along Grigori Beach. For two days, Nathan and I rode in relative silence. Except for the gulls crying overhead and the gentle, insistent sound of the sea, the beach was silent and we were alone. I found myself wondering if people had ever lived here, and if so, what they had been like.

Allow me to share a few of the legends of my people. We are called the Vatantari, which means "the house-builders" in our language. The origin of that title is lost in the depths of our history. We are a humble people. We ride chirkir and make our living herding sheep and cows. We have many towns but few cities. Our towns are ruled by a vomin and a vomana, a headman and a headwoman, who in turn report to the clan chieftains, of which there are many. Clans rise and fall, merge and divide, usually peacefully, but sometimes by violence. A given clan's territory might shift over the course of years, but all together, the territory of the Vatantari is fairly constant. We are bounded by the mountains to the east, the river to the south, the forested highlands to the west, and the plains of the Cinkori, our nomadic neighbors and most frequent trading partners, to the north. Our land is a great valley between the highlands and the mountains. It is a gentle, fertile land of rolling hills and small streams and lakes.

The closest thing to excitement the valley of the Vatanari offers are the ruins that dot our land. Here and there, built of ancient gray stone, are the ruins of ancient cities. We do not live in these ruined cities, or even enter them or touch the stones they are carved of when we can avoid it, but neither do we fear them. They are a part of our land, like the mountains or the hills. They are just not for us.

My people worship the Goddess of the Sun, the God of the Moon - who our stories claim created the world - and our ancestors. The Sun's temple is in the south of our land, the Moon's temple is in the north, and we worship our ancestors at the largest of the ruined cities, Saftar, in the center of the valley. Holy men and women make great pilgrimages across our land, visiting each of the holy sites in turn, but most people make due with a few visits in their lifetime and pray in small shrines in their homes.

I grew up in the shadow of Saftar, and it was the strange city, with its alien lines, its cool, silent stone, that first awakened in me a desire to see our world. Who built Saftar and the other cities? What happened to them? What will happen to us when we are gone?

Three days after leaving the Sandstone Palace, I came across the first evidence that beings other than humans live, or have lived, upon our world. At first, I took it for a rock formation, but as I drew closer I could not mistake it for anything other than what it was. A natural outcropping of gray stone - it must be natural, I cannot imagine how it was fastened otherwise - emerging from the sandstone cliffs had been carved into the shape of a face, staring eternally out, to the west, over the ocean. No gulls perched on its features. I stopped Nathan - this time remembering to dismount - and examined it.

It was huge, ten man-lengths high and half as many as wide. The features were strong and noble, with a high forehead, high cheekbones, a powerful, slightly hooked nose, and a narrow, pointed jaw. The scalp was carved to resemble either an ornate close-fitting cap or tightly curled hair. The resemblance to anything human ended there.

The head was oddly shaped. A ridge began shortly after the hairline, lifting the skull into a blunt point a few inches above and behind where the skull of a human being curves down into the back of the head. The eyes had gently curving pupils that made the shape of the letter 'w' and the ears had long lobes that dangled down to the level of the chin. Each lobe had three dots that I guessed represented either natural markings or, more likely, stud piercings.

I stood for a long time in contemplation. No one would likely undertake such an enterprise as carving the living rock into such a shape, so it was more than an idle work of art. If it was commissioned by priests, than it was the image of a god. The gods of my people are attributed with many strange features. the God of the Moon has a great curving sword that weights ten thousand tu, he has white skin, hair made of silver and teeth made of alabaster, and extra eyes on the palms of his hands. The Goddess of the Sun has wings made of golden fire wears robes woven out of eleven kinds of holy fire and a crown of liquid gold; her face is so beautiful she wears a veil of mortal fire to keep her magnificence from burning our world to a crisp. But, my feverish imagination reminded me, if this statue commissioned by a prince, then it was the image of a man. A man like no human in the world.

In the fading light, a similarity between the statue and the ruined cities of my homeland struck me, quite suddenly. I ran forwards and began scrambling up the steep, crumbling cliff towards the statue. Nathan looked at me oddly and chirped questioningly, but I paid him no mind. Slowly, I made my way up the cliff. At last, as the sun sank beneath the sea, I laid my palm against the hard, cool stone at the base of the statue's neck, where it emerged from the sandstone.

It felt exactly the same as the cold stone of Saftar. Hard, unyielding, and cold, impossibly ancient but somehow alive. It buzzed under my hand with so much force that I jerked away and fell on my back on the soft sand below. Nathan chirped in dismay, ran to my side, and began prodding me with his beak.

"It's alright, my old friend," I said, laughing and pulling myself to a sitting position.

More than alright, I had stumbled upon one of the mysteries I had hoped to solve. I was no closer to an answer, but it was elating nonetheless, to stand in the presence of another work of the people who had built Saftar, and possibly to gaze upon their face.
* * *
I left the palace of Lord Quinn three days later - the Sandstone Palace, as I later learned it was called - my saddlebags full of food, a new knife resting in it's sheath on my belt, new maps and a plethora of new notes in the basket hanging from my saddle. Lord Quinn had even been able to supply me with shot and powder for my rifle.

However, Lord Quinn's most wondrous gift was this, the Book of Roads. Quinn gave it to me on my last night in his palace. The Book of Roads is a large leather bound tome, full of yellow parchment. It is heavy, but not unreasonably so, and quite durable. The book has a quality that makes it hard to determine its age. It is certainly not new, but it is still too sturdy to be ancient; and yet, there is something ancient about it. Some air that speaks of age and experience. Most importantly, the Book of Roads is the first real magic - Lord Quinn's fantastic tunnel aside - that I have encountered in my travels.

Lord Quinn explained it's functioning to me.

"The Book of Roads records whatever you write in its sister Book, here in my palace," he said. "If something unfortunate happens to you, your story will be remembered. If you need help, you can ask for it, but there is not much I can do for you once you leave my lands. The Book of Roads has infinite pages and will not tear or burn. The Book can translate what you write, but explain the names of things and any other terms in your own language that don't translate directly. The Book of Roads is not perfect."

I was aghast. This gift seemed more than I could ever be worthy of. I stammered, bowed my head, and finally muttered. "You have my thanks."

Quinn seemed surprised. "You will be giving me your story. Do you have any idea what that means?"

"And thanks to the Book of Roads, and thanks to you, my story will never be forgotten, no matter what."

Quinn's eyes sparkled. "I knew I choose well," he said. "Now, there is only one thing I would have you do for me." He handed me a small envelope made of yellow parchment and sealed with a blob of brown wax stamped with what I recognized as Lord Quinn's sigil.

"This is for Miriam," he said.

Miriam, the wild sorceress of wind and sea who Quinn loved, who was his wife but would not dwell at his side, for their magics made disparate demands of them.

"I may never meet her, Quinn."

Quinn shrugged and smiled, sadly. "You will. Sooner or later, you will."

And so, I set off from the Sandstone Palace along the gentle curve of Grigori Beach. The Book of Roads was a welcome addition to my load. There was a new smile on my lips and even, I believe, a new spring in Nathan's step. We had been traveling for some time, my bird and I, but now, I believed, my journeys have truly begun!
* * *
This is the Book of Roads, and I am Peregrine Trent.

As I have recently learned, stories are a powerful thing. And so, I will open this record of my adventures with the story of how this record began - Grigori Beach, the Sandstone Palace, Lord Quinn, and the Book of Roads itself.

Late in the afternoon, my trusty chirkir, Nathan, and I emerged from the forest to find ourselves standing at the shore of a large lagoon. To either side, the riverbank widened, becoming high, contoured yellow cliffs. Before us was the greenish water of the lagoon, the narrow band of beach sand that stretched between the lagoon and the sea, and beyond that, the sea itself.

Oh, how can I write of the Sea so that one who has never seen it can understand it's Beauty? It's Magnificence? The Sea stretched on forever, all blue and white and silvered by the sun. Above the Sea was the vast expanse of the Sky, pale blue and faintly hazy. The smell of the sea and the lagoon mingled and rose up around me, a combination of the high, sharp salt of the sea and the musky, pleasantly living rot of the lagoon. The sound of the sea was soothing and repetitive. The crashing waves came from the sea before me and reflected off the cliffs on either side, so that it seemed to surround me. I sat astride Nathan for a long time, contemplating the endlessness of the sea.

I must remember to write so that any reader may comprehend what I have written. Lord Quinn has told me that the magic of the Book of Roads will record the essence of what I write, regaurdless of language, but that I must still be wary of words for which there may be no easy translation in other tongues.

A chirkir is a large bird, a little taller than a man, with a long neck, small, flightless wings, slender but powerful legs, and a long, pointed tail that stick straight out behind it. My people use them as riding animals. The name, 'chirkir,' comes from the noise they make, a high-pitched and surprisingly expressive chirping. Males have small crests behind their heads, which they raise when angry or passionate, and are of more intense colors than females. A chirkir has a thick, heavy beak - for crushing roots, leaves, grasses, and the occasional insect or small lizard - but their real strength is in their kicks, which can shatter a man's back with a single blow. Most conveniently for me, the feathers of a chirkir are more than suitable for use in quill pens.

Nathan is tall and clean-limbed, with lustrous midnight-blue plumage. The exposed scales on his lower legs are gray, as is his beak. Nathan is somewhat heavy-headed for a chirkir, with proportionately large sky-blue eyes. Nathan wears a fringed leather bridle covered in ornate beadwork and a comfortable padded leather saddle. He has been my companion on every step of my journey, and I love him as a brother.

I like to think that Nathan and I cut an impressive figure, standing at the edge of the forest, before the endless sea. I am no small man, standing just under two rods tall and weighing almost nine stone. My skin is fair, my hair - short, but a little ragged, having been cut with my belt knife - is a dark, sandy blond. My brown eyes are weak. To compensate, I wear a pair of lenses fashioned to wires such that they are suspended in front of my eyes. Among my people, this device is called a vashon. When I rode out of the forest, I wore a jambiyani, which is a square of thick embroidered woolen cloth with a hole in the center for my head, worn draped over my shoulders, over a cotton shirt with some delicate embroidery at the cuffs. My riding trousers were soft leather, tougher on the inside of my thighs and calves, to better withstand Nathan's tough, prickly feathers.

My gear was limited. I knew I would be traveling alone, with no promise of resupply once I left the boundaries of my country. Behind me, secured to the saddle, was my bedroll and blanket, both made of tough oiled wool. Hanging from my saddle were several small pouches, containing the makings of the snares with which I caught the animal components of my meals, spare food, the mementos of my travels so far, and other precious things. To my left, on the saddle, was a basket, in which I kept a large bundle of hollow bamboo tubes. These were my most prize possession, my collection of travel notes and the maps I had taken with me and made along the way. Before the bamboo tubes I kept my long rifle, with its narrow bayonet affixed. I avoided using the rifle whenever I could, since my supply of powder and bullets was limited. To my right, balancing my rifle, hung my long-hafted ax, equal parts weapon and tool.

Nathan broke my reverie with a quiet, reproachful 'chirp,' reminding me that in my rush to reach the sea before sunset, I had ridden Nathan nearly all day without stopping.

"My apologies, old friend," I said, patting Nathan on the side of his head and dismounting. The ground was sandy beneath my boots. Taking the bridle in one hand, I led Nathan forwards and out from the sheltering overhang of the forest. It took us a while to find our way around the lagoon, which stretched nearly from the cliffs to my right all the way to the cliffs on my left, cutting us off from the beach. To the right, however, I eventually found a place where the lagoon was shallow enough to allow us to wade. The cliffs, I discovered, were made of a soft stone that crumbled away into extremely fine sand under my fingers. Tiny, brightly-colored fish darted about our feet. Nathan wriggled his head inside his bridle, wanting a chance at catching one of the fish, but I held him tight, wanting to find a place to rest my weary legs before I let Nathan go forage.

I found a place to rest not long after reaching the far side of the lagoon. A deep, sandy-bottomed cave was dug out of the bottom of the sandstone cliff. There, I unharnessed Nathan and let him go run up and down the beach. I gathered driftwood, built a fire in the sand, and stretched out my legs. I was asleep within minutes.

I woke many hours later. The sun had set, and my cave was dark, the fire having died out so long ago the ashes were cold. Nathan was a feathery lump somewhere in the shadows. The sliver of sky I could see between the roof of the cave and the sea was dominated by a huge silver moon and scattered with stars. The light of the moon was all I had to see by. I did not have long to marvel at the sight, because I quickly noticed a pair of man-shaped silhouettes at the cave mouth.

I stood slowly, grasping at my long ax. For a long moment, the two silhouettes did not move, leading me to wonder if I had mistaken rock formations for men. Then, I heard a voice.

"Who are you?" It was an authoritative voice, not cruel, but also hard, clearly coming from a man who was used to being obeyed. I have translated the voice's words for this journal, but the language he spoke was only distantly related to mine, which my people call Tiskani, having qualities in common with the ancient forms. Fortunately, as a scholar, am familiar with many ancient forms, and a few other languages besides.

"My name is Peregrine Trent," I said, trying to control the equal measures of fear and excitement that rose within me. I spoke slowly, so that he would have a chance of understanding me. "I am an explorer from the East, from Taskan. I am not a scout or a spy. I mean you no harm."

"We mean you no harm," a new voice said. This voice was younger, higher-pitched and possibly female.

The first voice broke in. "You are a trespasser in the lands of Lord Quinn," he said. "You need to come with us."

For the next few minutes, I fumbled about in the darkness, harnessing Nathan and gathering my gear. The two soldiers - as I was sure they were - watched me. I was terrified that they would misinterpret an action as an effort to gain an advantage over them in combat, and I am sure that they suffered from the same fear. Of course, my fear made me clumsy. The process took more than twice as long as it should have, as I dropped items and had to search for them, spooked Nathan and had to soothe him back into compliance, mistied ties, mislaid buckles, and otherwise made a fool of myself.

Eventually we were on our way, me leading Nathan, the two soldiers walking on either side of us. In the open air, I got a better look at them. They were both tall and rangy sorts, with long legs that took them swiftly and confidently over the flowing sand. I could tell that they knew the terrain well, trusting as they did to the light of the moon and stars to guide them. The first was, indeed, male; an imposing figure with a scarred and craggy face and a faint stubble. The moonlight leached all the color out of him, leaving me guessing as to the shade of his hair, the caste of his skin, and the colors of his uniform. The silver light of the moon also made it difficult to discern his age, rendering him ageless. I imagined him a guardian stone come to life. If he was a standing stone with a rough-hewn human figure, his companion was a caryatid. She was young and beautiful in the way that a sword is beautiful.

The soldiers led me down the beach, away from the lagoon, and towards the sandstone cliffs. Among the cliffs, the soldiers found a staircase carved into the rock wall, and we made our laborious way up.

Chirkir are not made for climbing. They are creatures of my homeland's vast savannas and endless grasslands. While Nathan is a particularly intelligent and even-tempered bird, neither are chirkir easy-going animals. While the soldiers watched with what I imagine was a mixture of impatience and bemusement, I struggled to coax, cajole, push, pull, and threaten Nathan up the steep stair. At last, when the top of the stair was only a few steps away, Nathan decided he had had enough. With a lusty squawk that shattered the sacred silence of the night, he leaped into the air, delivered a warning kick to my chest that sent me sprawling onto the sand, flapped his nearly useless wings a few times, and landed on the top of the cliff.

I pulled myself to my feet, rubbing my sore chest with one hand. When I was sure Nathan had not broken anything - I was well aware that he could easily have killed me with one kick - I looked around.

First I marveled at the sight of the sea. By night, the sea was a darkling expanse of undulating shadows, the tips of the waves painted with shards of moonlight. Only the roar of the sea was the same. The exact sound that had excited me by daylight and lulled me to sleep only hours before now seemed sinister, like the snores of a giant, like the end of the world. Then I turned to see where the soldiers had brought me. By night I saw what I did not see by day. A second set of cliffs rose into the night. I guessed - thought in the moonlight I could not be sure - that their landward sides were forested. The seaward side, however, was fashioned into a huge palace carved into the living stone itself. Lights burned in all the windows, casting a warm radiance out over the sea. The very tip of the cliff came to a point, and on that point, burned a single flame, tiny, but persistent, like a star come to earth.

"What is this marvel?" I breathed.

"This is the palace of Lord Quinn," said the male soldier.

"And this Lord Quinn... is he a shunkar? A makresh?" I paused. "A nuvenaire?"

"Lord Quinn is a sorcerer," the male soldier replied. He began to lead the way towards the castle's gateway.

I hesitated for a moment before gathering up Nathan's reins and following. A sorcerer? I had heard many legends of such people - such beings - but I had never met one. In stories they are also called magi, mages, magicians, wizards, bisanti, and witches. They are mortal men and women with the power and the inclination to bend the laws of nature to their will. The only common thread in the stories I had heard was that they were not to be trifled with, and that those who dealt with them, more often to not, came to grief.

The female soldier behind me cleared her throat. I shoved my fears away and began to walk. I had no choice in the matter.

The material Lord Quinn's palace had the same appearance as the stone that made up the cliffs; pale yellow with bands of darker yellows, tans, and browns. Here, however, the stone was much stronger. Instead of crumbling away at the touch, it had a firm, if grainy, surface. On the inside, the stone had been polished until it shone, reflecting the warm light of the torches that lined the walls, and adding its own warmth, so that I felt I stood inside the sun. The experience was pleasant, however. Had it not been for my fear at being in the home of a sorcerer, I would have felt quite safe. As it was, I found myself smiling almost against my will.

I noted that the torches were merely sticks of wood, with no heads of cloth wrapped in pitch. A gentle white flame engulfed the uppermost part of each torch, giving light without consuming the torch or giving off the oily smoke that torches are famous for. The stone walls above and behind each sconce was perfectly clean. Confronted with the unnatural, my smile faded. I was reminded that I was in the palace of a sorcerer.

Nathan and I were led through the palace for some time, past doors on either side and through open gateways. When we reached the end of what I supposed was the great hall - a great stone staircase sweeping up into a second floor gallery, parting as it approached the ground floor to make room for a stone throne that, in turn, swept up out of the ground. The floor around the throne was inlaid with alabaster, forming three concentric circles pierced by wide sweeping lines and surrounded by figures that I supposed were letters or numbers but could not name. Here, Nathan was taken from me and led away, chirping his displeasure, into one of the empty doorways. I was led upstairs to a small room, with a small window overlooking the sea. Here there was a narrow bed, a chest, a desk and a stool, and one of the strange smokeless, heatless torches.

The female soldier tried to explain something to me - I believe it was the secret of controlling the amount of light the torch gave off, but I could not understand her - and then I was left alone.

Judging by the stars, I was left alone for a little more than an hour. I did not even try to escape. I knew I would not get far without Nathan, and my captors clearly had superior knowledge of the terrain, and probably riding-beasts of their own. Instead I took out ink and quill and the small notebook I keep in a pocket and began to write, recording the events of the past day in shorthand.

I had only just finished when I heard a knock on the door, followed by the door opening. It was the female soldier.

"Lord Quinn will see you now," she said.

I blotted the page carefully, closed the notebook and replaced it in my pocket, folded and stowed my blotter, and stood. She led me back through the halls of the palace until we stood again in the grand hall, with its strangely decorated throne.

Here, a terrible fear filled me. I turned to the soldier and asked, in a voice that shook slightly, "what sort of lord is Lord Quinn?"

I had to repeat my question before she could understand me well enough to answer. She smiled warmly.

"Lord Quinn is the best sort of lord," she said, "just in all things, level-headed, patient, and merciful, but fierce in defense of what - and who - is his."

I frowned, breathed deeply and tried to collect myself.

She patted my arm. "You have nothing to fear."

I nodded to show that I believed her - though in truth, I only wished to - and followed her as she led me through another doorway and down a spiral staircase. The staircase spun down into the living rock, until I was sure we were beneath the level of the beach, beneath the sea itself. Then, abruptly, the staircase stopped spiraling; stopped, in fact, being a staircase at all. Instead, we now walked through a tunnel leading at an angle down into the earth. I could not tell by now whether we walked towards the sea or towards the land.

The light was provided by the same torches as lit the rest of the palace, only here they were spaced more distantly. The stone here gave the impression of age. It was darker overall than the stone of the cliffs or the palace. Like the stone of the palace, it was grainy, but did not give way beneath my questing fingers, and was polished smooth in places. The passageway branched in places, and I could see other pathways cutting their way down into the earth.

As I walked, I noted that there were elaborate carvings on the walls, ceiling, even the floor of the passageway. They were in a language I did not recognize, a strange, pictographic alphabet that was both strange and beautiful. It seemed that I could understand the writing, even though I knew that I had never seen such a thing before. And yet, I knew what the writing was. It was stories, endless, interwoven stories, carved in spirals and whorls, into the living stone, far beneath the earth. Some stories were simple, some profound, some both. Some were short, some were long, and some were epic beyond imagining, extending from where I entered the tunnel to further than I could see. Some were mystical, almost nonsensical, but they were all captivating. Where there were choices to be made, the stories branched. At every such juncture, every possibility was told. Where stories became functionally identical, they came together, forming a single line of text out of two, or three.

But could it be that instead of converging, the stories were diverging, but in the other direction? Were some of the stories meant to be read backwards, ascending out of the earth, rather than descending into it? I tried it, and found that every story could be read both backwards and forwards. I shook my head and carried on, trying my best to ignore the writing on the walls and failing. It was too beautiful by far.

Eventually, I heard a sound other than my footsteps. From far ahead of me I heard the sound of steel on steel and steel on stone. I walked as if in a trance; the spiraling stories had robbed me of all power of self-determination. I could not stop. I needed to follow the stories to their conclusion, to all conclusions, to Lord Quinn the sorcerer himself.

It was the soldier's hand on my shoulder that stopped me. She squeezed until faint pain brought me back to myself and whispered in my ear "Lord Quinn."

I looked ahead of me. Standing in the passageway was a tall, broad-shouldered man dressed in robes of white, red, brown, and gold. His thick, abundant hair was braided so that two braids hung forwards from his temples and many more fell behind him to dangle between his shoulders. His face was tanned and his features were noble and strong. His eyes were like molten gold, flickering in the light of the torch that lay on the ground at his feet. I suspect they would have flickered, though, in any light. In one hand he held a simple steel chisel, and in the other, a sturdy steel mallet. Behind him, the stories stopped, and a few feet beyond that, the tunnel fell into shadow. It was Lord Quinn, then, who had made these carvings. I found myself oddly surprised. Somehow, I had come to believe that they had always been there.

"Thank you, Esther," Quinn said to the soldier. His voice was thick, dark, and melodious. "You may go."

The female soldier - Esther - bowed crisply and turned to go, leaving me alone in the tunnel with Lord Quinn.

"My Lord, Quinn," I said hastily, bowing. "I must apologize for intruding upon your lands, I had no idea-"

Quinn silenced me with a hand. "You did have no idea. No idea that these lands were mine. No idea that you were trespassing by walking upon them unbidden. How can I punish you for being what you are, Peregrine Trent, explorer?"

"I am an Explorer, yes, if it please you, Lord Quinn" I said.

Quinn smiled. "You are an explorer whether or not it pleases me, I am sure. And if it please you, call me simply 'Quinn.' You are not one of my people, and I am not your lord."

He gestured to the ground, inviting me to sit. I hesitated, for I had always been taught that the common folk do not sit while nobility stands. Eventually, I sat. A moment later, Quinn sat as well, settling himself cross-legged on the floor of the tunnel. He lay the hammer and the chisel crossing each-other on the floor in front of him.

"I will not harm you," Quinn said. "In fact, I would like to help you. You are an explorer; it has been too long since someone endeavored to see the world and to map its furthest reaches. You will fail, of course. The world is infinite. But you will try. You will witness its wonders, and inspire yourself and others to greatness."

"And that suits your purposes," I said, remembering the stories I had heard of sorcerers.

Quinn's smile revealed white teeth. "Yes," he replied, "it does."

I thought about this for a long moment, remembering the stories I knew, remembering how those who meddled with magicians - or were meddled with by magicians - lived short and painful lives. Then I looked at Quinn's face, and said "you have my thanks, Quinn. I will accept your aid."

Quinn nodded. "Tell me of your travels," he said.

"All of them?" I asked, disbelieving.

"Please," Quinn replied.

Now it was my turn to smile. What man could mean me ill who wanted to hear of my travels? Of all the people I had met, only a few had wished to hear more than just the news of the next town over. No one had wanted to hear of the wonders I had seen. No one had cared for my endeavor, to see the world and all that is in it.

"Really?" I asked.

Quinn nodded, and waited, patiently. So I began.

We talked long into the night. I told Quinn of all I had seen in the past year. I told him of the Owl-Cats of Kasman-Hu. I told him of the Singing Forest of Shinfar, and the Sighing Desert of Marrakar. I told him of the Island of Cress, in the Great Inland Sea, where the women dance with snakes and the men dance with bulls.

And Quinn told me stories. Ah, such stories! Such stories as make me wish to this very day that I had time to record all he said, not just the feeble notes I was able to record. He told me the tale of the Lambent Pool, the Lay of Barquas, the Bane of the Black Blade. He told me the story of Shinji and the Roof of the World, the Song of Moon and Stars, and the creation myths of the Fox People, the Crow People, and the Turtle People who dwell in distant lands. He told me a small portion of the Hundred Year Story and the Epic of Kandar. He told me stories that made me laugh, and stories that made me weep, and stories that I will tell myself, in my heart of hearts, until the day I die.

But most of all, he told me his own story.

Of all the stories Quinn told me, this is the one I would most love to remember, and it is the one I least can. I recall that Quinn was a scholar in a distant land. I recall that he had many good friends, now almost all dead or scattered to the winds. If his story is true - and I hardly doubt that it is - he has performed many great deeds in his time.

Most of all, I remember that Quinn loved, with a great and awesome love, a woman of the wind and the sea. His magic, he told me, comes from his palace, and from the stories he carves in the dreaming earth. Her power is of the Sea, and it comes from wandering where the wind takes her. And, though they are as different as Earth and Sky, as Day and Night, their love is undying, and from time to time, she will come to visit him in his palace, and live with him as his wife, until the Wind sweeps her away again.

I spoke with Quinn until weariness slurred my speech and made my eyes heavy. Then, I simply listened until sleep claimed me at last.
* * *