Voxae the Mariner: Part II

Link to Part I

As I mentioned earlier, Voxae left the halls of the masters when he was seven (which was rather younger than the typical age of 10) in order to return with his father and mother to the East. He was enchanted already with the fire and passion of the Eastshores, land if the burning sunrise; though for a time that desire would lay beneath rather than atop the surface of his heart. Upon reaching the age of 13, Voxae announced to his father that the time for his Vilusa had come, and his father did not restrain him. Even though the Vilusa did not typically begin until the age of 20 (and for some even later), it was not a thing delayed or restrained by the fathers of the Aerni, and so to prevent or forbid Voxae from beginning his journey, even in his extreme youth, would have been a thing unheard of.

So Voxae left, more or less with his family’s blessing, and made his way swiftly and restlessly westward across the forests of Vhem, reaching and climbing the Haltassa (‘Great Table’; later the Deeprun Plateau). The sisu of Aern was hot in his heart and drove him on almost in a sort of fury, so that his mind and feet were sure and he rarely rested long in one place, even though the distances he covered with each leg of his journey were vast beyond the endurance of older men.

It was high in the passes of the Haltassa that Voxae first encountered the great jackal Onowaetha, and its obsidian eyes stalked him for six months waiting for him to tire, that it might devour him. But Voxae was tireless and fearless, and he evaded the Jackal many times so that at last the great Jackal itself became tired. One night as it slept exhausted, Voxae crept silently up and caught Onowaetha by the tail. Onowaetha awoke then and could not escape Voxae; and at length he relented. Now Onowaetha was ancient and very wise, and knew the stories and guise and language of many birds and beasts and men, and he tested Voxae with many tricks, riddles and proverbs of escape and elusiveness, but all of these Voxae resisted and answered, and finally Onowaetha was mastered.

From that day forward Onowaetha journeyed with Voxae. At times he would give him counsel or warnings, though Voxae was rarely quick to listen, preferring rather to follow his own desires and thoughts. One day it came to Voxae that he wished to learn the ways of the northwestern coastlands, so Onowaetha led him him up the Firehalen (Stairs of the North) to the frostbitten shores of Karche. Voxae lived with the Frostlords for two years; he fished in the ice-holes and hunted the great frost-wyrms and the terrible ivory bears of the north, and from the warlords of Karche he learned the sword and the spear, to beat an armed opponent when barehanded, and to calm oneself in the frozen, bitter wastes of the world; and in all these things the fiery spirit of Aern helped him greatly so that the Karchan Lords marveled at the southern man’s fortitude. But at the end of two years Voxae tired of the cold and the north, and he bade farewell to the lords of Karche, desiring instead to see the great subterranean fires of the Red Tuar.

So Onowaetha took him far south to the northern slopes of the Suroceshti (the Greypeaks), and led him through cavern and grotto to the very entrance of Sakhriathol, City of Fire, Mighty citadel of the Red Tuar. And the Jeweled Kings of the Greypeaks received Voxae and led him down, down to the hearts of the mountains, and there he saw the great smithies and fires of the Red Tuar, where molten steel and adamant ran hot and red like the waters, and great steams and smokes moved the engines of the earth. And he stayed with the Mountain Kings for three years, and he grew in craft and strength, and his eyes and mind were attuned to the deep places of the world so that he ever saw in shades of dimlight where other men might see only blackness; and from the Red Tuar he first learned of the terrible fire-mountains across the Eastern sea, in whose fearsome hearts it was said that deepsteel could be forged.

But at length he tired of the deeps, and so he left the Kings of the Mountains desiring instead to to see the Eastern edge of the North, and after long journey he came to the southern Ciryashar, the Ice Teeth and gnashing floes of the northern world. And seeing these terrible ivory obstacles looming up before him, Voxae burned with desire to enter the frozen ice to see the lost Grey Tuar; so Onowaetha led him sure-footedly across the great trackless spires, and there Onowaetha and Voxae together dared perhaps the greatest of all the dangers of the Western World, second only to the vast gaping desert-waste of Arahi in the far south. But the wisdom of Onowaetha and the great burning or Aern could not be conquered, and finally the two intrepid adventurers passed through the frigid Teeth and knocked upon the icy gates of Sorac, the last fortress-home of the forgotten Grey Tuar.

There Voxae stayed three years, for he was grown great beyond the pale of men in strength and knowledge, and he was become a master of cold and fire, sword and hand, speech and lordship. There in the forlorn northern seas he wrought many great works under the dominion and grace of the mist-like Grey Tuar; and here he learned of the second realm and of the spirits, and of the great evil that terrorized that plane, and how to recognize the ancients by name and perception. He delved the ice and built mighty towers and walls and great rafts against which the glaciers cracked and melted; and the Grey Tuar showed him terrible artifacts of the Tuar wars and their many battles with the Devourer and his servants. And at the fullness of his might he wrought from the ever-ice crystals of the north and the rubies of the Red Tuar the legendary Raxecirye Qualcerne (the Ice-gem of Blazing Fire) that is also called the Ciryacerne (Iceflame), which never melted and brought warmth and cold to it’s bearer as desired.

This great effort consumed Voxae for nearly two years, and when it was complete the Grey Tuar were aghast and even alarmed with the beauty and subtly of the artifice of this man, unheard-of, and unlooked-for. But when the great Gem was complete and three years with the Grey Tuar were ended, Voxae grew tired of the Icy Sea, desiring at last to return to the warm south and to seek mastery of still greater things. And Onowaetha was with him as he again journeyed south, and they were nearing the great inland waters of Keadsili (that is, the Eyelakes) when suddenly they were waylaid by a company of Black Tuar, coming in many hundreds from a recent raid, and Voxae was overmastered and taken deep into the dungeons of Zukazalir, below the Silver Mountains that rise above the Keadsili. There they daunted him for days, seeking to wrest from him the secrets of the Ciryacerne, but he would not divulge a word to them even under torment of pain, and despair near to death.

Even as he cried in his last anguish, and his eyes dimmed and his end seemed close around him, Onowaetha stole silently into the heart of the fortress, and slewing the guards he came upon the Ciryacerne and swallowed it, and finding Voxae at last he rescued him, suffering many wounds in the doing, and devouring many of the Tuar he led the weakened man finally to the surface and the shores of the Keasili; but he did not tell Voxae he had devoured the great gem.

When they had journeyed for almost a day and again reached near to the shores of the greatest of the Keadsili (called Kedir Gorgon, Greateye), Onowaetha knew that death was come upon him. Now Voxae was recovering from his wounds but bitterly mourning the loss of the Ciryacerne, and did not know that Onowaetha had devoured it to save it. Onowaetha then revealed to Voxae that he had devoured it, and that even now the Iceflame was sustaining his spirit though his body was dying. And he gave Voxae then a terrible choice: to abandon the Ciryacerne, restoring Onowaetha to life, although there was no certainty for how long; or to reclaim the gem and surrender Onowaetha to death, allowing his spirit to depart the world forever.

Now Voxae loved Onowaetha, but he loved the Ciryacerne even more. And he lied to Onowaetha and said “I relinquish the jewel!” But even as he did Onowaetha perceived his heart, and he spoke and said “No, Voxae, for you have decided. Indeed did I myself decide this when I submitted myself to you on the Great Table seven years ago. Take back what is yours, and I shall depart.” And Onowaetha’s spirit departed from his body, and lo, there was the Ciryacerne in the Jackal’s mouth. But when Voxae laid his hand upon it, the Jackal bit his hand and would not release it. And the spirit of Onowaetha spoke to Voxae and said “As it was fated, so it has happened. And this artifact is now bound to you as is this wound; that on the day you lose it you shall lose your very life; and it alone shall stop this wound from spelling your death.” And Voxae prized apart the laws of his friend, and taking the Ciryacerne, he arose and left that place- but despite his efforts to staunch it, his hand bled freely so that he thought he would soon surely die of it.

Indeed, before the sun set on the day after Onowaetha’s death, Voxae swooned as he strode and fell face first as one dead, upon the earthy shores of The Greateye.

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