"Welcome, strangers," Rhissa read a small plaque on the wall of a
house. "I've seen this somewhere before..."
8. A gift and a door
After they walked the path for several hourse, it descended into
a valley; just near a small lake a beautiful gray house was built,
made of fine marble. The door was not locked. Besides the plaque,
written in Thalen, they saw nothing unusual. A small garden
surrounded the house. The windows were curtained and no sounds came
from inside. Yet the valley did not seem deserted.
Nlaminer knocked. The door immediately opened. "Come in," a voice
called from within. As they stepped in, Nlaminer had time to notice
the plaque had vanished without a trace.
"Come in," the voice was pleasant and resonant. They passed down
a wide corridor and entered a hall, decorated with runic inscriptions.
A low end table stood near two large windows; the host of the
house was sitting on the floor. He was robed and first they saw
nothing but a humanlike figure. Then he stood and turned to them.
Rhissa saw a wisened old Haans, with darkened scale and
vivid, flaming eyes. Nlaminer saw a Marrkes sage, with snowwhite fur
and gray eyes. The host sat and gestured, inviting them to sit,
too. Cozy wooden chairs appeared beside them. The host went
to the windows and pulled away curtains. Sunlight filled the hall.
"I am rarely visited here," he said. Rhissa heard hissing
overtones; Nlaminer heard resonant 'r's. "Well, first I think you
should tell me your names."
"I think you know them," Rhissa stood up and Nlaminer rose, too.
"I'm Rhissa Thalasshes and Shiora, the Cleric Watcher and High Priest
of Naata. This is my friend in Unity, Nlaminer rad Haorsst." Nlaminer
shuddered when he heard her spelling 'friend in Unity'. "But
our titles and abilities are nothing to you, Ezoxu the Wise."
The figure laughed. "No, you are wrong. You earned your titles;
besides, you are the ones mastering the fate of your world now. No,
Rhissa, it's just a tradition. I do not use my powers of knowledge
here at home."
Nlaminer shuddered again. "This is your home ?" he asked with
Ezoxu nodded. "My race left this world long ago; it was left ever
young and glorious. I doubt there is anyone of my race
near. But the world still lives and I live here, too."
Rhissa bowed slightly again and stood silently. Nlaminer felt
as if he were in a dream. Ezoxu sat. "You
are guests here; no need to pray to me. I hear you quite well."
His eyes narrowed as he smiled. "Speak to me as you'd speak to
any other, Nlaminer. If you think gods only sit on thrones
casting mighty spells, you are wrong. We all were mortal beings
like you. I like living here just like any of you would. So
don't be afraid. The task you are solving is great and probably you
will return some day to your world. Until then, be my guests." He
stood and added, "Please excuse me; I will return soon." He walked
noiselessly out of the hall.
Nlaminer said in a low voice, "You never told me that you are a High
"Well, you never asked me," and she laughed. "If you think it's
quite usual for me to speak to gods, you are wrong. I'm also
feeling like I am in a dream. If he came with thunders and flames,
roaring his words and being a hundred feet tall, I would be less
astonished. But he never uses lightnings and flames. His
domain is knowledge."
"I know," Nlaminer replied thoughtfully. "I feel I could question him
day and night. He would soon become tired."
Rhissa smiled mysteriously. "We shall see."
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