Knight of ZantarniZantarni NPC
Tue Jul 21, 2009 7:05 pm
Meldrick smiles, "The inspiration for this story came from this picture of the Newhaven, Essex, breakwater and lighthouse."
Chapter 16 The Lady of the Light
Meldrick smiled as he could hear the foghorn’s low bellow. He knew that the fog was rolling into the harbor as he could feel its moistness on his skin and as he breathed in the chill salty air.
Nearby there were children playing and imitating the foghorn sound they just heard; as well as discussing a possible future where they would be the lighthouse keeper. The idea of keeping the harbor safe appealed to a couple of the children and they thought to ask Meldrick if he knew what it was like to man a lighthouse. He smiled as memories came back to him of one particular lighthouse. . . .
The caravan had stopped deep in the Northern Territories at the outpost known as “Trader’s Town”. They had stopped to purchase ivory and other rare items found only in the Northern Territories.
Meldrick had not been sure that he would have time to do any exploring as they had only expected to be there for the night; when Mother Marla interrupted his thoughts. “Mellie, it looks like we will be here for at least another three days as some native traders were due in at that time with some rare medicinal items, so if you want to do a little exploring, you can.”
Meldrick perked up, “Thank you, Mother Marla, I have heard stories of a lighthouse nearby, they say it’s haunted.” He hugged Mother Marla and ducked into their wagon, grabbing is already packed gear and his two skeleton handled daggers, just in case. Then rushed out of the wagon and hugged Mother Marla again.
“Now you be careful , Mellie, especially when it comes to spirits.” She knew he would be careful, but she always told him so as it was part of their normal ritual.
Mother Marla kissed Meldrick’s forehead and he kissed her cheek, and as he headed off he told her he would. He smiled broadly as he headed out following the directions he had been given by a native worker from the main trading post. Following a trail that led northward over rolling hills.
Meldrick could smell the salt air, as he approached the final rise, as well as see a few large sea gulls gliding in the upper thermals. What he saw as he reached the top of the rise took his breath away, for below him stretch a walled pathway that led over a jetty out to an ancient-looking lighthouse. The walls appeared to be cut limestone and resembled the walls of a castle.
As he stood there staring, he noticed that there appeared to be a guard house on the jetty that stood just before getting to the lighthouse. Meldrick wondered at such an arrangement as he had never heard of a need for a lighthouse to be guarded.
He could also make out a stone stairway that led down to the water and a small dock on the leeward side of the walls. He noticed that there was no ship docked there and wondered what the inhabitant of the lighthouse used the small dock for if he did not have his or her own boat. Meldrick took it all in as he watched for any activity, before starting down to the walled pathway.
As he approached the entry to the walled pathway, he noted that there was no gate or guardhouse at this end of the jetty making it more curious as to why there appeared to be a guard house way out on the jetty yet none here at the entrance. Finally reaching the entrance Meldrick realized he had been right in that the walls did appear to be cut limestone. He marveled at the thought of whoever had built this incredible structure, as they had to have brought the limestone some distance as Meldrick had not seen any evidence of a limestone quarry on his journey here.
Meldrick knelt to examine the pathway, which was truly more of a road as it appeared that two wagons could drive side-by-side down the length of it. The construction of the road itself was interesting, too, as it appeared to be a crushed and compacted stone that gave the roadway a very smooth surface. Looking down the length of the roadway he could only see to the first curve of the walls. Looking back to the way he had come he smiled and then started down the walled roadway out towards the guardhouse and the lighthouse.
After reaching what he determined might be the halfway point, Meldrick took a break to drink some water and eat a bit of jerky. He felt that he was being watched but could never actually see anyone nor anything but the occasional sea gull and pelican. Looking up at the walls, he wondered if it had been made to protect the roadway from the sea or if it was to protect it from something else.
The break ended and Meldrick started off towards his final destination. As he walked along the roadway, the strength and beauty of its structure impressed him as it was obvious that the builders had taken their time in constructing it. The native at the trading post said that it had been here for as long as his people could remember.
As Meldrick turned the last corner, the guardhouse stood off to his right and the lighthouse stood there on a raise platform of the crushed stone with a ramp as access between the level Meldrick was on and the level of the lighthouse. Meldrick estimated that the lighthouse stood a good hundred feet above the land it stood on. It appeared to have been made of the same limestone material, but it seemed to have been painted with some sort of whitewash.
Meldrick slowed as he approached the guardhouse. Half expecting to find a liveried soldier on duty, he was surprised that there was no one ‘on duty’. The door to the guardhouse was open and Meldrick could tell that interior had a well-used appearance, which meant that there was someone who occupied it, but not at this time.
“You there. . .who are you and what are you doing here?” Meldrick was surprised at the sound of the deep tenor of the voice as he turned to look upon the one who questioned him. There standing before him was the tallest man . . .elf . . .being he had ever seen. He was even taller than his brother Aaron who was 7 feet tall. The person before him stood almost 8 feet tall and had skin like well-oiled leather. His hair was white as snow and he had a long, walrus-like mustache and his eyes were as black as coal.
Finding his voice, Meldrick answered, “I am Meldrick of the Gypsy Elves and I came from the ‘Trader’s Town’ to see if the stories about this lighthouse were true.”
The giant harrumphed and shook his head, “The stories. . .” He chuckled a deep bass chuckle, “The stories are for the weak-minded; though the truth may be even stranger than the stories.”
The giant looked back down the roadway as if he was expecting someone, then turned back to Meldrick, “Hmmm. . .you say your name is Meldrick. . .of the Gypsy Elves. . .that name sounds familiar to me, but I am not sure why. . .” The giant ambled towards the guardhouse and as he pushed open the door he looked back at Meldrick and motioned for him to follow him. “By the way, I am Gal Dura, Keeper of the Flame.”
Gal Dura stopped at the entrance to the guardhouse and reached over on the wall, turning a small valve. There was a short hissing sound followed by a soft whoosh as several wall lights lit up.
Meldrick was about to say something, when Gal Dura smiled and said, “You may want to watch the lighthouse young elf.” Without a moment’s hesitation, Meldrick turned just as the light of the lighthouse lit, the flame rose about 30 feet above the top. The whitewash of the lighthouse seemed to reflect the firelight as it seemed at first glance that the lighthouse was engulfed in flames.
Smiling broadly, Meldrick looked back at Gal Dura, “Thank you. . .it’s truly beautiful.” Gal Dura smiled, “I have seen it light up for more than a millennium and each time I see it, it is like the first time.” He then turned and entered deeper into the guardhouse and sat down on a well-worn leather chair.
Meldrick followed him into the building and smiled as the color of the leather chair was only a shade darker than Gal Dura, himself.
Gal Dura opened his hand and invited Meldrick to sit. Meldrick noticed the webbing between Gal Dura’s fingers, which to Meldrick’s mind might explain why there was no boat moored at the lighthouse dock. Finding a chair next to Gal Dura, he sat though his eyes were still on the lighthouse that he could see through the window of the guardhouse.
The Keeper softly chuckled as he knew how captivating the light could be better than anyone. “She is beautiful, isn’t she?”
Meldrick smiled, “That she is, Gal Dura.” He smiled at the Keeper’s use of the feminine pronoun for the light. Watching how both the fire and the light seemed to dance and as he watched the flames gave the appearance of hair while the lighthouse itself, appeared to be the body of the Lady. He smiled again as he realized that the stories of the ghost had to be more of the way the lighthouse shone rather than it being haunted by spirits.
“And what seems to have tickled your fancy, young elf?” Gal Dura asked, breaking Meldrick’s reverie.
Meldrick blushed a bit at being caught up in the moment, “I was just thinking that I understand the stories of the lighthouse being haunted after watching how both the light and flames dance. . . “he paused a moment, then continued, “From a distance it truly must look like a lady dancing on the end of the breakwater.”
The Keeper smiled as he gently stroked his walrus mustache with his webbed fingers, “That she does, Meldrick.” He turned and looked out the window again, “Please don’t think me rude, but I must be about my duties. You are welcome to stay the night.” He stood up and moved towards the door. “There is food in the larder, back there as well as stairs that lead to a loft as well as to the roof.”
He smiled as he stepped outside, “Help yourself and don’t mind Trinka or Keetza, they are harmless.” With that he closed the door.
Meldrick sat there puzzled as to who or what ‘Trinka and Keetza” were. After a few moments he stood up and decided to explore. Moving to the back of the room he found both the larder and the stairs and decided to climb the stairs to check out the loft.
As he reached the loft, he smiled as there were 2 large, feather beds. The one was obviously Gal Dura’s, so he set his backpack down on the other bed and then headed for the stairs to the roof; but before he reached the stairs he heard a flurry of motion behind him.
“Now who are you and why did you disturb our sleep?” “Yes, who are you, and why did you disturb our sleep?”
Meldrick turned and smiled at what he saw. There on the bed were two ball-like creatures, with no visible hands or feet. The larger of the two looked at him and repeated.
“Who are you and why did you disturb our sleep?”
“I am Meldrick of the Gypsy Elves, I am a guest of Gul Dura and I am terribly sorry that I disturbed your sleep.” He paused and added, “Are you Trinka and Keetza?”
The larger of the two turned to the smaller, “Did Dura tell you we were having company, Keetza?” The smaller replied, “No Trinka he did not!” They both turned back to Meldrick and Trinka bounced off the bed, followed by Keetza and they both bounced over to him.
Meldrick smiled with glee at the interaction and the movement of the two creatures, then a word came to his mind, “. . . ORBIES!!!. . .Oh my, you are both Orbies. I had heard stories about Orbies from my Uncle, but I never thought I would have the pleasure of ever seeing or meeting you.”
The Orbies looked up at Meldrick and at his words puffed up a little bigger. Keetza turned to Trinka, “He said it was a ‘pleasure’ to see and meet us. . .a ‘pleasure’, Trinka. . .no one has ever said it was a ‘pleasure’ to meet us before.”
“I heard, Keetza, I heard.” Trinka turned back and looked up at Meldrick, who was now kneeling on one leg before them, to get a better look. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Meldrick, welcome to the Lighthouse at the edge of the world.” “Yes, welcome Meldrick, welcome.” Keetza piped up.”
Meldrick smiled, “The Lighthouse at the edge of the world. . .I would have thought she was called the ‘Night Dancer’ or something more lively.”
Trink and Keetza both giggled, “We see you have seen ‘the Lady of the Light’ and we only call the Lighthouse that because we are at the edge of the world.” They giggled again.
Meldrick chuckled, “Oh I understand now. . .and speaking of the Lady of the Light, Gal Dura said I could get up to the roof from here. I would love to watch the Lady dance some more.”
“The roof. . .” Trinka said. “To the roof. . .” Keetza said. “Follow us.” Both Trinka and Keetza bounced off happily to the stairway at the end of the room. Meldrick turned and followed them, smiling as he watched them bounce across the room and then up the stairs. When they reached the top of the stairway, Trinka bounced against the handle of the door and it swung open.
Meldrick smiled at the imagination it took for the door to be set up so that these Orbies could use them. As he stepped out on the roof, the sky was noticeably darker, until he turned around to face the “Lady of the Light”. She lit up the area far out into the sea. As she moved her hands, the light from the flames focused farther away from the body of the lighthouse and as she twirled around, the light shown away from her, lighting up the sea, showing the way of safe passage.
Moving to the parapet, Meldrick sat and watched the dancing of the Lady of the Light, smiling as it was truly magical to see. As he sat there, Trinka and Keetza bounced up into his lap and he absently rubbed the Orbies, who cooed with his touch. There skin felt like soft leather and their cooing was like purring, as it could be felt as well as heard. The Orbies seemed to enjoy watching the dancing light, too.
After sitting there and enjoying the dancing light for who knows how long, Meldrick heard a softly rumbling coming from Keetza. He looked at her as Trinka spoke, “It seems the little one is hungry. . .do you know how to cook, Meldrick?”
Meldrick smiled as he felt his own stomach rumble a little and remembered Gal Dura’s offer of having anything from the larder. “Yes, Trinka, I can, shall we go check out the larder to see what is available?”
“FOOD!!” Keetza yelled out and bounced from Meldrick’s lap to bounce ahead of Trinka; through the door and then down the stairs. Meldrick chuckled at the little Orbies exuberance. Trinka giggled and followed. Meldrick still couldn’t get over watching how the Orbies bounced and moved about, it was a pleasure to watch them.
As Meldrick finally reached the larder, Trinka and Keetza turned to look up at him. He rubbed his hands together and looked about at what was available. “Do you two have any preference? Something you really like?”
They both started bouncing up and down excitedly, “Bacon and greens!! Bacon and greens!!” Meldrick chuckled as Keetza bounced to where the fresh greens were and Trinka bounced to where the bacon was kept.
Meldrick found a big cast iron pot to hang in the small fireplace, then went to where Trinka was and took out the bacon. Finding a cutting board and a knife, he cut the bacon in strips and placed them in the pot, it immediately started to sizzle. He then went to where Keetza said the greens were and found mustard greens, he also found some green onions. Looking about he found a pot and put some water in it to clean the greens and onions, then put them on the cutting board and chopped them up. He emptied the water pot and placed the chopped greens and onions in it, then taking a wooden spoon, he went over and stirred the bacon, making it sizzle even more.
All the while, the Orbies bounced about in sheer delight, checking out each step that Meldrick did, all while still chanting “Bacon and greens!!” Meldrick couldn’t help but smile as he kept an eye on the bacon and the grease it was making. As the bacon got crispier, Meldrick started to add the greens and green onions, making the pot sizzle and steam a bit.
“Where does Gal Dura keep the plates?” Trinka smiled and replied, “In the cubby by the larder, Meldrick.”
It was the first time either had said his name and he smiled as he momentarily left the cooking to find the plates. He took 4 of them, in case Gul Dura returned and found two forks and placed them on the table in the corner of the room. He wasn’t sure of the proper etiquette for the Orbies, but figured they would let him know if he got it wrong. He then went back to stirring the bacon and greens, smiling as the scent of it cooking wafted throughout the room.
Checking the greens, on last time he smiled and took a potholder and removed the pot from the fireplace. “Dinner is served, “Meldrick said as the two Orbies followed him to the table, eagerly bouncing up on to it.
“Be careful, the pot is hot!” he told them as he sat in down. He stirred it once more and ladled a medium size portion on the Orbies’ plates and his own and then sat down. The two Orbies looked at him as if waiting for something.
“Did I forget something?” The Orbies looked at each other then back to Meldrick, “Dura always give thanks to the goddess of the Hearth.”
Meldrick nodded, “Keetza, would you like to do the honors?”
Keetza beamed, “Me?. . .I’d love too.” Trinka smiled and winked at Meldrick as Keetza started, “Oh goddess, we thank you for the bounty of the land; we thank you for bringing us to Gul Dura who we share this place with and we thank you for bringing Meldrick to us, so that we could share this meal.”
Meldrick smiled at the last and Keetza looked up at him and smiled as she finished with “Let’s eat.” She giggled as her tongue shot out of her mouth, froglike, to capture some bacon and greens. Trinka smiled and began devouring her own bacon and greens.
He was still smiling as he shared the meal with them. The Orbies complimented him several times during the meal and even had seconds. As they finished, Meldrick took away the plates and set them in the sink.
"Meldrick, since we have some left, can we take some to Dura?" Trinka asked.
"Of course, Trinka, does Gal Dura have a container we can put it in and take?" Meldrick wondered.
Keetza bounced down off the table and headed for the larder and stopped in front of the cabinet, "In here, Meldrick, in here." Meldrick smiled and open the cabinet. Finding the container, he went to the cooking pot and filled it with the bacon and greens, then placed the cover on it.
Picking up a fork, he turned to the Orbies, "And where will we find Gal Dura at this time?" The Orbies bounced up and down, "He is under the lighthouse. . .where else would the Keeper of the Flame be?"
Meldrick smiled, "Where else indeed..." "Come Meldrick, follow us" The two Orbies took off, bouncing out the door and headed to a stairwell to the south of the lighthouse. The one that Meldrick had thought led to a small dock. Once he was on the stairs he could see that there was a small dock. . .but there was also what looked like a door. he chuckled as Trinka bounced against the handle and a door opened. She bounced through the door followed by Keetza.
As he stepped through the door, the heat hit him like a blast furnace. He had entered a large cavernous room and in the center of it stood Gal Dura, who seemed to be working some sort of valve assembly.
Gal Dura turned as the Orbies had reached him, "Bacon and greens, Meldrick made us bacon and greens." Meldrick chuckled, as Trinka and Keetza bounced around Gal Dura, doing their little 'bacon and greens" song.
Meldrick moved to the center of the room as Gal Dura smiled, "So, my friends tell me that you've made bacon and greens." Trinka and Keetza had settled on the floor next to Gal Dura. He chuckled, a deep rumbling sound. "In case you couldn't tell it is their favorite."
Handing the food container and fork to Gal Dura, "I had a feeling that it was, since they really gobbled it down." The Orbies giggled and looked up at Gal Dura who had opened the container and was tasting the culinary delight. Meldrick looked to the pipes and valves in the center of the room as the giant sat cross-legged and ate.
“Seeing this, I understand a little better now your title as ‘Keeper of the Flame’. Do you have to watch over the valves throughout the night?” Meldrick walked around the pipes and valves, looking up and realizing he was looking up through the body of the lighthouse. As he was looking up, he bumped into the railing of a spiral staircase that appeared to go all the way to the flame itself; then blushed a little as he realized he was looking up the skirt of the Lady of the Light.
Gal Dura chuckled a bit at Meldrick’s apparent blushing. “Don’t worry, most blush when they think of the Lady of the Light when they are down here looking up. . . and yes, this is my nightly duties. During the day, I clean the nozzles at the top when I have the gas turned off.” He took a few more bites and finished up his bacon and greens, then gently petted both Trinka and Keetza, who responded by happily bouncing around him.
“I thank you for bringing me the food. My little friends know I usually get hungry about this time.” He looked about as if he were going to reveal top secret information, “To tell the truth, I usually sneak out a bit for a little food and dip in the sea.” With that Gal Dura went back to the valves and showed Meldrick what he was doing and how he adjusted the flames based n the wind and the way the Lady of the Light was dancing, as he explained that she danced differently, depending on the weather and the wind and the phases of the moon.
Meldrick spent a few hours with Gal Dura, listening and learning a little about the Keeper of the Flame and his love and dedication to his calling. He then bade him good night and he and the Orbies returned to their house and back to the roof to watch the Lady of the Light dance a bit more before retiring.
“Wake up Meldrick, wake up!” “Yes, wake up Meldrick, wake up!” Meldrick smiled as the two Orbies bounced about, “Come On Meldrick, you don’t want to miss it.” “Yes, Meldrick you don’t want to miss it!”
“Miss what, Trinka?” He looked at them quizzically.
“The end of the dance, Meldrick.” Trinka said.
Meldrick hurried up and quickly got dressed and followed the Orbies back onto the roof. The sky was getting lighter and he smiled as he saw the Lady of the Light in her dance. Then as if on cue, the flames went out and it appeared as if the Lady bowed to those watching. Meldrick couldn’t help himself as he stood there and applauded, he could have sworn the Lady looked him and winked.
The Orbies bounced about as Meldrick stood there still clapping and looking at the lighthouse, with a big grin on his face.
“I see you caught the end of the performance, my young friend.” Meldrick turned to look towards the stairwell just as Gal Dura came through the door.
“Yes, it was as incredible as the start of the Lady’s dance, I thank you all for sharing it with me.” Meldrick smiled as did Gal Dura.
“She dances for those who love the sea and only want safe journey. . . .Many who see here, believe her to be a ghost, and apparition brought on by their long sea journey.” Gal Dura paused a moment and looked landward, “The locals respect her, but also believe her to be a spirit from the netherworld.”
He smiled as he sat on the parapet, and looking out at the sea. “The Lady and I have been together a long time and sometimes she speaks to me. . .not in words or even thoughts. . .I am not sure I am making myself clear.”
Meldrick thought a moment, “Do you mean like some people feeling as one with a thunderstorm, feeling the power and the energy of the storm and feeling re-energized by it?”
Gal Dura smiled, “Yes, something like that. . .sometimes when a storm is blowing, I can feel her hand on mine, as I turn the valve to give the flame more gas. . .and sometimes when I take a break and watch her, she seems to be only dancing for me. . .her turns and spins follow me. . .” He closed his eyes as remembering a special moment.
He chuckled as he saw Meldrick’s face, “I suppose you wonder why I am telling you these things. . .” He looked back to the lighthouse, “. . .I know that you can feel things about you, perhaps it is that touch of dragon in you. . .or the faerie dust that lightly drifts in the air wherever you go. . .” He stretched a bit breathing deeply of the sea air.
“For someone so young, I can tell you have seen things and done things that most have not experienced in a lifetime of searching. These ‘adventures’ happen to you for a reason. . .you have been chosen by Fate to be a ‘Keeper’. . .just as I have been chosen to be the Keeper of the Flames. . .You have been chosen to be the “Keeper of Stories. . .or Tales” so that the creatures and people and things you have seen and met are never forgotten. . .” He smiled, “Make sure that she is never forgotten, Meldrick.” Meldrick nodded as Gal Dura offered his hand and they shook. “I will do my best, Gal Dura, I promise.”
The next couple of days passed quickly, as Meldrick settled into a routine of exploring the lighthouse and surrounding area with both Trinka and Keetza, during the day. They showed Meldrick several secret passages that had been included in the breakwater wall as well as showing him were to find rare shells, which he knew his brother Aaron would love; as Aaron collected shells.
The Orbies even took him to a small area by Gal Dura’s dock that he hadn’t noticed before. It was a sandy area along the rocks and the sand was a darker shade of black than he had seen on the other northern beaches. The Orbies explained that the darkness was due to the presence of ‘black star sand’ and that the sand was actually the skeletal remains of tiny prehistoric creatures. Meldrick smiled as he had examined the sand and its almost perfect star shapes. He had filled two small apothecary jars...one for himself and one for Mother Marla, knowing that she would love it.
He spent the evenings helping Gal Dura in the room below the lighthouse. On the last evening there, Gal Dura even allowed Meldrick to watch the valves while he took a midnight swim. The thought that Gal Dura had confidence in Meldrick’s ability, even for just a little time, had made Meldrick very happy.
And of course, every evening, he also took the time to watch the Lady of the Light. Each night he watched the more he realized how alive she was and how special it was that Gal Dura had allowed him to stay and work around her.
On the last morning, as everyone had gathered on the roof to watch the final moments of the Lady of the light’s performance, Meldrick had already gathered his things, knowing that he had to return to ‘Trader’s Town’. He watched in growing excitement as the Lady of the Light pirouetted and stopped facing Meldrick, Gal Dura, Trinka and Keetza. She stood still for a moment as her dress seemed to settle around her then leaned over into a ballerina’s deep bow.
Meldrick broke into applause as a tear flowed down his cheek; and as the Lady of the Light stood, her hand reached across and her finger touched the tear on his cheek before she vanished. He stood there smiling. . .a moment frozen in time.
Meldrick smiled as the children all were very quiet. “Shortly after, I said my goodbyes to Gal Dura and to Trinka and Keetza. When I reached the top of the rise I looked back at the Lighthouse on the edge of the world and waved.”
“Meldrick, can you tell us what the Lady of the Light’s touch felt like?” One of the boys who had been talking about becoming a lighthouse keeper asked.
Meldrick smiled, “Her touch was like a warm feather and she smelled like a fresh sea breeze.”
Sit back and I'll tell you tales of Faeries and dragons.