Meldrick's Tales, Chapter 4, Lajata Natala
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Meldrick the Elder
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Knight of Zantarni
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Mon Sep 10, 2007 4:36 am
Chapter 4

“Lajata Natala”

Meldrick had decided to take a walk outside of the gates of Edingtol, to stroll along the docks of the busy sea port. The ‘sights’ and sounds of the hectic-paced merchant sailors, always made him think of his first trip on a ship.

As he walked along, some of the dock workers recognized him and called his name. He waved in acknowledgement as the sounds of exotic animals that came through the port always delighted Meldrick. He recognized the calls of several varieties of parrot and song birds, as well as the chattering of monkeys and the roars of several big cats.

The sounds of the monkeys brought back more memories of that first boat trip. He found his way to the end of the pier where there were a few people fishing and they looked up at him as he came near them.

As always was the case, whenever Meldrick appeared, people greeted him and ask him to tell them a story and as always, he complied.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Meldrick had tried to not get under foot as the ship had made its short journey from the southern port of Zandor to the island of Zandor Zan.

He was able to explore the ship and still stay out of the way of the helter-skelter activity of the sailors he watched. He was impressed with the Captain and the First Mate. To Meldrick, it was obvious that they knew their ship and crew. As he sat on the forecastle, it almost appeared like a concert with everyone knowing their part.

He turned about and watched as the ship pulled in its sails as it drifted in to its berth on the dock of Zandor Zan.

He watched as the dock workers caught the ropes to wrap up and tie the ship securely to its berth. He watched as the crew made ready to unload its cargo.

As he sat there watching Marla approached him. “Meldrick, when we debark, I will be going to the market to get the spices we have ordered.”

She looked down at him and smiled “Remember to be on your best behavior and I need to have you back to the ship by noon tomorrow.

Meldrick looked up at Marla; ever since the accident when his mother had lost her life, Marla had taken him in, as she had done with others. He had been surprised when she asked him to accompany her on the spice run. Even more surprised when she had told him that he would have almost a day to explore.

“Yes, Mother Marla. Are you sure you won’t need my help with the order?” He looked at her.

Marla smiled, “I am sure, Meldrick, they have the stevedores who will bring the order back to the ship.” She reached out and lightly touched his cheek, “Besides, Aaron will be with me.”

Meldrick smiled at the mention of Aaron, who was a giant of a man at almost 7 feet tall and as strong as an ox. He always put on feats of strength when they stopped to entertain. He was always used as a bodyguard, whenever Marla or anyone else had to travel away from the caravan.

Meldrick had noticed that Mother Marla held a special place in her heart for Aaron, as he had been the first child she had taken in. Watching them together always made Meldrick smile as the giant always acted as if he was still a lad of 10 and Mother Marla always babied him.

“All right Mother Marla, I will back before we are to embark on the ship.” He got up from his seat on the forecastle and put on his pack. He had already placed his bone-handled dagger in his belt, as the call for passenger debarkation had just been announced.

He smiled as Aaron came to join them, Marla turned to him and took out a handkerchief and wiped the corner of his mouth, where Aaron had a bit of food stuck in his beard. He lightly blushed and smiled, “Mother Marla, I have your bag, we should be going.” He turned to Meldrick and reached out and jostled his hair.

“Lad, be sure to bring us back an interesting story, won’t you?” he softly chuckled as Meldrick’s tales were already a source of great entertainment.

Except for the tale of the sharlous, Aaron and others were never quite sure if Meldrick had made up his tales or if he really experienced the things he wrote about in his journal.

Meldrick smiled, “I will, Brother Aaron, take care of Mother Marla.” He knew he didn’t have to tell him, but he did so anyways, as he followed them down the gangplank, then following them to the market.

As they walked along, Meldrick noticed the many strange peoples of the island. There were human and elf alike, their skin and hair and eyes were very dark. The elves wore skirts made of grass, while the humans wore multi-colored skirts of cotton.

Among the crowds of the market place, there were other people of all kinds; merchants and sailors, entertainers who wandered through the crowds performing for coppers.

There were people of wealth with silken clothing, as well poorer peoples. There was music from instruments of a variety of which Meldrick had never seen before. There was an air of both the strange and the familiar as he walked through the cacophony of sounds.

Finally after bidding farewell to Marla and Aaron, he made his way to a covered area where an old storyteller was weaving her own tales of the strange and unusual, the serious and the hilarious. She had made mention of many strange lands and of mythical creatures that she claimed to have seen with her own eyes.

Meldrick smiled as he felt a kinship with this dark lady with the snow-capped hair.

As her story wound down, a few placed coppers in her basket and she smiled and blessed them for their kindness, then she turned her dark brown eyes to Meldrick. “Do I know you, young elf?” She smiled and Meldrick saw her many gold-capped teeth and it made him smile.

“No, Mistress, I am but a first time visitor to the island of Zandor Zan.” He moved closer and reached out his hand, “I am Meldrick of the gypsy elves and I enjoyed your stories.”

She looked at his proffered hand and took it in her won ebony hand and shook it. There was a strength to her grip that had surprised him. She noticed the scar on the palm but did not mention it.

“I am Lajata Natala of the Razan Tribe.” As she stood, Meldrick reached out and helped her up. She smiled as she slipped the coppers into her change purse. Meldrick reached down to pick up her basket.

“Well young Meldrick, would you like to join this old lady for a bite to eat?” There was a twinkle in her eyes as she looked at him.

Meldrick couldn’t explain it, but there was something about Lajata Natala that had made him very comfortable. “I would love to join you Mistress Lajata.”

Lajata Natala giggled, “Young Meldrick, our people say our family names first, my name is Natala.”

He blushed a little, “I am sorry Mistress Natala, I am sorry if I offended you.” He knew that some people took the use of there names very seriously. He silently kicked himself for not asking about things like this before opening his mouth.

Natala giggled again as she rested her hand on his shoulder, “Think nothing of it young Meldrick, this old woman has been called much worse.”

Meldrick walked along with Lajata Natala, not knowing where they were going, as they took a path that led away from the port and into the jungle.

“May I ask where are we going, Mistress Natala?” He asked more from curiosity than from concern; although he couldn’t help but notice the heads that turned and the looks on the faces of the people they passed.

She smiled and laughed, “Young Meldrick we are going to the best place for island food in all of Zandor Zan . . . we are going to my house.”

Meldrick felt at ease now knowing their destination. “Mistress Natala, may I ask a question?”

She smiled, “You just did.” She laughed and continued, “of course you may ask.”

He laughed as he realized that she was correct. “Mistress, why do the people stare at us as we walk together?”

“Because they are not staring at us . . . they are staring at me!” She stopped and looked him in the eyes. “They believe I am a witchy woman . . . and that I eat children.” Her eyes piercing him, awaiting a reaction, “They love my stories, but they fear the unknown. They have heard rumors of my past and believe them to be true, without ever asking me the truth of it.” She closed her eyes as if remembering something long hidden.

Meldrick returned her stare, “Mistress Natala, I don’t believe for a minute, that you eat children.”

He smiled and touched her shoulder, “Shall we continue on? I am curious to taste the island food, as I have never had any before.”

Lajata Natala opened her eyes and smiled, “I thank you young Meldrick, it does this old woman good to know that this has not scared you off.” She turned and started walking again.

“We have a bit more to go,” she chuckled, “I do prefer my privacy.”

He watched the path, noting the wide variety of palm trees, as strange animal sounds filled the air. “I can understand that Mistress Natala. I too prefer my solitude whenever I can find it.”

He could hear a waterfall in the background and smelled something sweet wafting in the air that made his mouth water. “Mistress, is that wonderful aroma coming form your home?” He smiled as a small bamboo hut came into view.

“Yes Young Meldrick, it is.”

Looking about the jungle around them, he turned to her. “Is there someone else here Mistress?” again looking about the lush greenery, “I would think it a bit dangerous to keep a fire unattended way out here.”

“Tsk, tsk, young Meldrick, I hope you aren’t thinking this old lady has and addled mind.” She smiled, “of course there is someone else here . . . Rho, my monkey dragon.”

“Monkey dragon? I have never heard of a monkey dragon before.” He smiled as excitement grew in anticipation of meeting a true rarity.

“You mean to tell me that they do not talk of the monkey dragon where you come from?” she chuckled, “Rho! . . . Rho, get out here, I want you to meet someone.”

Meldrick turned and watched the door. As it opened the creature that came out, did indeed look like a monkey. As it came closer to him, he could see the differences. The monkey dragon had brown scaled skin and true dragon wings on its back. At the end of its tail was a small paddle shaped tip and when it opened its mouth it revealed its razor-sharp teeth.

Rho came over to Lajata Natala, half running half flying as it wrapped its arms around her. She smiled, “Young Meldrick, I would like you to meet Rho.” Rho turned to Meldrick and extended its ‘hand’ to him.

As Meldrick extended his hand to Rho, but before he could shake Rho leaned over and sniffed Meldrick’s scarred palm and it leaned back and held Lajata Natala tightly, as she looked at him.

“Young Meldrick might I be asking what caused that scarring, I have never seen Rho like this.” She continued to rub Rho’s arm and try to calm him down.

He looked at his palm and then told her the story of the Great Red Dragon and it’s marking him and making him a ‘blood’ brother.

“A Great Red you say, no wonder Rho is acting this way. The monkey dragons have been preyed upon by the Great Reds for centuries.”

Meldrick looked at Lajata Natala, “If you want me to leave, I understand.” He turned preparing to leave.

“Wait, young Meldrick, what kind of a host would I be if you went back to town hungry?” She smiled as she continued to pet Rho, who seemed to be calming down as she did.

He stopped and smiled, “Yes Mistress, I would hate to have come all this way, only to be sent packing this close to having tasted the best food on the island.”

Natala giggled, “Young Meldrick that would truly be a shame, for I have brown sugar, pineapple pork cooking in the pot.”

At the sound of the name, Meldrick’s mouth again began to water, as she asked him to sit at the outside table.

“You sit right there, and Rho you behave for my guest, while I get the food.” Meldrick was about to offer to help, when one look at Lajata Natala told him she would prefer he not enter the house at this moment, so he sat there looking at Rho, who still looked warily at Meldrick’s hand.

He laid his hand on the table top, palm up, “I won’t hurt you Rho, I am a friend.”

The monkey dragon sniffed at the open hand and then looked at Meldrick. Meldrick held himself still as Rho then sniffed up his arm and smiled, his teeth sharp and his tongue lightly touched the skin on Meldrick’s arm.

The tongue felt rough, almost cat-like as Meldrick reached out to lightly touch the dragon’s head and stroked it. Rho moved closer and sat on the bench beside him gently rubbing his head against Meldrick’s hand as Lajata Natala, came out with some plates and the most delicious-smelling pot and set them on the table.

She smiled, “I knew you two would be good friends.” She gently rubbed Rho’s head and then went back to the pot and ladled out some of the sweet concoction onto their plates. He could tell there was pork and potatoes and pineapple and more.

He waited till Mistress Natala sat and started eating, spooning it to his mouth, the taste was sweet and wonderful. He could tell there was also squash and some other fruit he couldn’t identify. He found that he could not stop eating and that each mouthful was better than the last.

Mistress Natala giggled “Ah young Meldrick, does that mean you like my food?”

He stopped and smiled, “Very much so, Mistress, this one of the best meals I ever had!” he took another spoonful as Rho jumped down from the bench to roll around on the grass, in obvious pleasure.

Meldrick smiled at Rho’s antics as he again mounted the bench and jumped and rolled in the grass.

“It’s a little game he plays when he is happy.” Mistress Natala said, “Whatever you did with him, you made him happy . . . and that is no small task, he hardly ever takes to strangers.” She smiled as she continued to eat.

As they ate, Rho continued his antics all through the meal, to the delight of both Meldrick and Mistress Natala. As they finished up he thanked her for the wonderful meal and offered to help her remove the dirty dishes.

“Tsk, tsk, you just sit there young Meldrick, I will handle it.”

He smiled as she carried her load back into her house. Rho had fallen asleep at his feet so he didn’t move for fear of waking him. Looking about, at the familiar and unfamiliar items in the yard, a wheel barrow and rake, a two wheel contraption that made no sense to him, a boiler like he had seen used to distill spirits. As he looked about, Mistress Natala called to him from the house. “Young Meldrick can you come in here, I have something for you.”

He smiled as Rho stirred at the sound of his Mistress’ voice, running ahead of him and disappearing inside the house. Meldrick followed, full of curiosity as he slowly entered the house.

There was a heavy mist at the doorway that he had to walk through and when he cleared the mist he was I a room much larger than the house itself appeared. As he looked about the room a chill ran up and down his spine.

“Don’t be afraid young Meldrick, this is a place of sanctuary and peace that few outsiders ever get the privilege visit.”

He turned to the direction of her voice and there sitting on a dais was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her long raven hair and ebony skin glowed in the light of the torches spread throughout the room.

She saw him staring and she giggled, “Yes, it is me, in my true form and I told you the truth before, I am a witchy woman . . . a 500 year old witchy woman. Welcome to my haven from the madness of the world about us.” She motioned with her hand for him to sit on the cushion by her feet.

As he moved closer to her he looked into her eyes and knew that this was not an illusion. His eyes told him that she spoke the truth that this truly was Lajata Natala.

She giggled again as recognition had dawned on him; and as he sat at her feet she reached out and gently caressed his hair, “Young Meldrick, it was no accident that we met today. I rarely go to town, but I knew you would be there today . . . and I knew that you would come back here with me to my home.” She shifted in the seat a bit as she crossed her legs, her hand still caressing his hair.

He sat entranced as she touched him and spoke softly to him. “Our paths were destined to cross and I have something that was meant to be yours from the time I wove it as a very young woman.” She reached over to the small table beside her and lifted an onyx amulet and placed it around his neck. He reached to touch it and it softly glowed, the string the amulet was hung from was silky soft and braided, it took a few seconds for him to realize that it was braided hair. Meldrick looked down at it and then back to gaze into Mistress Natala’s eyes.

“This is your own hair, isn’t it?” She smiled, her teeth pearly white, and nodded, “Yes it is.”

“Mistress, you said that you wove this when you were very young . . . and that it was meant to be mine.” He looked confused, “Why would you have made this for me so very long ago?”

“Because, you see Meldrick, that is a betrothal amulet and you are to be my husband.” She smiled and lightly batted her eyelashes at him.

Meldrick looked into her eyes and saw the love that was held there, “But mistress . . . Natala, we have just met, and I am not quite the age of eligibility . . . how can we marry?”

She giggled and leaned forward kissing him on the forehead. Her lips were soft and tender as he closed his eyes, breathing in the sweet scent of her, like cinnamon and lavender. “I do not mean we are to be married now, Meldrick, but in the future, when you are older.” She lightly touched her lips to his and smiled.

He did not question her again as she told of things to come, of things she had done and places she had been, as he shared his stories with her.

Before too long the night had passed and it was time for him to leave, as he stood he reached out and took her hands in his and kissed them, “Natala, I look forward to our next meeting.” She smiled and kissed his hands, “As do I Meldrick. Rho will show you to the road. Have a pleasant journey.”

With that she disappeared just as Rho took his hand and led him out of the house, showing him the path to take.

Meldrick leaned down and gently petted his head, “Watch out for her Rho, she is a special lady.” With that he turned and headed back towards town.

The journey was a quick one as he mulled over all that he had seen and experienced, wondering to himself if it had been a dream.

As he neared the dock he saw Mother Marla and Aaron and waved. They smiled and waved back.

“So have you come back with any good stories” Aaron teased.

Meldrick smiled, “Brother Aaron, I have tales of an old story teller and monkey dragons and a witchy woman and of my future bride!” He said as he stroked the soft braided hair of his amulet. Aaron laughed and patted him on the back.

Mother Marla looked into his eyes and smiled as they boarded the ship, “Your future bride? She must be someone very special.” She said as she jostled his hair.

“She is, mother Marla . . . she truly is.” He smiled as they stood by the railing as the ship prepared to leave port.

Meldrick looked to the dock and there she stood, for only a brief moment and blew him a kiss, then she was gone . . .
- - - - - - - - -

Meldrick smiled as his hand absently stroked the silken braided hair of his amulet.

_________________


Sit back and I'll tell you tales of Faeries and dragons.

HH

HH
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Mon Sep 10, 2007 7:38 pm
Such a wonderful tale, Sir Meldrick! I look forward to hearing more of this tale in the future. Smile
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Thu Jan 31, 2008 4:24 am
Selena grinned as the story finished. "She sounds wonderful, Sir Meldrick. I'm really wondering how this piece of your past turns out!"
Celestrya
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Knight of Zantarni
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Wed Aug 13, 2008 2:03 am
A monkey dragon? What a rare sight to behold. Smile I am curious to see when you next see Lady Natala.
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