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Panick's Life ...
[This article was originally presented in the Oct. 1, 1997 Issue of the Dragon Fire Chronicles, entitled "Panick's Life" by Panick.]
I was born in a small village called Pretalia at the base of the Great Mountain. Its true name I do not know, as my time there was short and I was very young. But life there was idyllic, the days filled with gathering food, making the necessities, and of course, lots of laughter and merrymaking. The nights were filled with fellowship and the telling of many stories around the fire. I cannot remember many of them, for at our age my brother and I were bedded down early.
My father Gerault was a servant and priest of Sa. I can recall the magnificent robes he wore on holy days, its mystical runes glittering in the sun. My brother and I were taught at an early age to honor Sa and his tenets. I can recall the lessons, the endless lessons, when Trist and I wanted nothing more than to be released to the afternoon to go hunting for mushrooms and the tiny silver fish from the river that flowed nearby. My mother Dreion was, most of all, kind and wise, and my father adored her. I can still see her face shining down on me when she pulled the bearskin up to my chin at night, smiling as Trist and I said our prayers at day's end, singing soft lullabies to keep the darkness at bay.
My memory of the Trouble is a bit jumbled, and it pains me to retell it. I recall a day much like all the others, when my father returned from a trek up the side of the mountain. He was more upset than I'd ever seen him. We gathered around him to find out what the matter was. Visibly shaken, he said he'd had a visitation from Sa Himself and had been warned of a terrible danger that was to befall the village. He trembled as he told it, saying Taath's minions were gathering as we spoke and our days there were numbered. My mother wept, I remember, saying surely this could not be true! My father strode out to tell the others in the village of his horrible vision.
A meeting of the village elders was quickly called. It was decided that all in the village would pack their belongings and leave for the forest until the terror had passed. Furious preparations began; all but the tiniest Drag-als were pressed into service gathering up those things most important to us. Taath might come, but in our stead he would find but an empty shell of a place. We worked tirelessly for two days. On the second night we rested, ready to leave our happy home the next morning until the danger had passed.
The day dawned misty and cool, I remember that. All was going according to plan, when a chilling sound rang out from but a short distance away. It was the low moan of a battle horn, I was to realize later. I had never heard such an eerie, terrifying sound before. Then all around me turned to chaos.
A horde of Taathians materialized out of the forest on huge destriers with nostrils flared, wielding cruel weapons of a sort I'd never seen before. Their torches blazing, eyes wild with bloodlust, they swept down upon the town and began slashing and burning with great abandon. Although our warriors fought with great courage, they were no match for the evil force that had descended upon us. One by one they fell, until there were none left to fight. I watched in terror as my family's hovel filled with smoke. It was all was like a horrible dream. Dazed and disoriented, I somehow found a small crevice in a rock and hid, crying and praying that Sa's might would visit these barbarians and turn them away.
Alas, this was not to be. I watched,
paralyzed with fear as my village was looted and destroyed,
my kinsmen brutally murdered. It seemed the shrieking and
cruel laughter would never stop. In dark hours even today it
rings though my head till I can barely endure it.
After what seemed like hours, I emerged from
my spot to look for my family. What I saw sent a chill
through me like no other I've ever felt. I came upon my
mother's broken body lying amid the ashes and debris outside
our home. Beneath her was my dear brother Trist. He, too, had
breathed his last. She had died trying to save him. Sick with
the sight, I stumbled across the ruined village barely able
to see, so aggrieved and terrified was I. Near the other end
of our tiny spot I made yet another horrible discovery: My
father had fallen in the battle as well. I stroked his head,
hoping for a word from him. He stirred only slightly, his
life ebbing from him rapidly. I leaned my ear close and with
his last breath he said to me, "I love ye, Panick. Never
forget it. Honor Sa. He will prevail."
As a young Drag-al whose family had just been
brutally ripped away, this enraged me at first. How could I
honor a god who had forsaken me and all I held dear? It was
beyond me to imagine my father remaining loyal to this Sa!
But my love for my father and family made me resolve to
follow his entreaty. Still kneeling, I begged Sa to show me
what to do, for I was but a child. An odd sensation came over
me then, as if a huge pair of arms had enfolded me. "All
are children," a deep quiet voice said. "Ye are
smaller than most, but I shall care for ye."
Unconvinced, I railed at Sa, flailing my arms and weeping at
my misfortune. "Why, why?" I cried. "Why did
ye let this happen?" The voice replied, "It is
Taath that caused this, and he shall be reckoned with another
As I closed my father's eyes for the last
time, I reached into his pocket and took his blue lapis pipe
for a remembrance, for there was nothing else left. Fingering
its intricate carvings, I wondered what would become of me. I
had heard many stories at his knee as he smoked the pipe.
Perhaps it would keep him near to me.
Completely helpless, I knew not what to do or
where to go. I was utterly alone. Would that I'd been a bit
older so I could have left that place and made my way to
distant relatives. As it was, I wandered around in the ashes
and devastation crying for my family and friends, knowing my
life, if I were to survive, would never be the same.
Suddenly I heard the sound of a destrier
smashing its way through the woods. Terrified, I tried to
hide before it made the clearing, but this was not to be.
Riding the beast was one of the marauding band, returning for
I knew not what. He leered at me menacingly. Although I ran
from him, he made chase and quickly dispatched me, tossing me
roughly upon the back of his steed and taking me away to
their accursed camp.
If I was frightened before, it was nothing
compared to the terror that gripped me as I arrived at the
Taathian camp. Loud and arrogant, their victory cries came to
my ears as an insult to all I'd known in my short life. I was
tossed off the back of the destrier then, in the center of a
circle of my captors. Appalled, I watched as they sifted
through the belongings from my village, too small and weak to
exact revenge. They leered at me and spoke insults,
ridiculing my race and appearance. They dubbed me SheDevil,
thinking it an amusing way in which to make sport of my
allegiance to Sa. My feet were hobbled so I could not run,
and I was pressed into service as a slave.
The days blurred into one another as I grew
older. For a short while I found a friend in a young Leuian
that had been captured in a raid. We spoke of many things
together and my heart thawed a bit; he was later tortured and
killed for sport. From that point on I resolved never to
allow myself the luxury of having a friend again. The tearing
away was much too painful.
My heart became like a stone, hardened
against the cruelty that surrounded me. My life was filled
with nothing but grueling servitude to those I despised. In
the beginning I was good for little more than fetching water
and feeding the animals. As I grew older I became adept at
many of the necessary skills I felt I would need to survive.
The hobbles finally came off. I kept my head down and
performed my duties during the day, never speaking or looking
anyone in the eye. At night I prayed for guidance. My hatred
for my captors burned inside me, and a plan began to emerge.
Little by little, I managed to lay aside some
meager supplies which I hid in a tiny hole in the floor of my
quarters. It was done very gradually, without drawing
attention. This was not particularly difficult, especially if
done late at night when the evil ones were unconscious from
drink and the embers of the fire were low. I managed to
obtain a bit of hardtack and dried meat, a flint and steel,
and most fortunate of all, a blue quartz dirk inadvertently
dropped from a bag of loot. A tiny flame of hope began to
burn inside me at the thought of being free from my captors.
The beatings would stop. My head would stop ringing. I could
be free, and perhaps find some sort of life for myself.
Thus emboldened, I waited until very late one
evening when their disgusting snores could be heard echoing
across the square. Mumbling one last entreaty to Sa, I
wrapped my treasures in an old scrap of cloth and crept out,
knowing not at all where I'd go or what I'd do when I got
there. It did not matter. I disappeared without a trace, but
not until I quietly released every horse I could find. I
could not ride out on one, since I did not know how I'd feed
even myself. But with luck the beasts would wander off and
make pursuit more difficult.
The terrain around the town was rough and
difficult to navigate. With a small compass I was able to
make certain I didn't wander in a circle and return to the
Taathians. I pushed my way deeper and deeper into the forest,
slowly descending to the lower elevations in an attempt to
find someplace safely away from them. I knew nothing about
the lands outside my village. I trusted all to Sa and the
My plan worked well; I never saw the lawless
Taathians again. But the land was not hospitable to a small
Drag-al traveling alone. I eventually found myself on a vast,
barren plain with no idea which way to go. I wandered about
aimlessly for many days, my food dwindling to crumbs. There
was no wood for a fire, no animal to capture for a meal, and
I grew very weak. A chilly wind blew constantly, and I began
to grow delusional as my fast lengthened. Sa was with me
then, telling me I would not perish. In my despair I begged
him to let me die. Surely I had had enough suffering to last
a long lifetime; there seemed no reason to go on, no reason
to live even a moment longer.
It was then that Sa brought my father to me
in a fitful dream. Clad in all his glorious robes and
headdress, my father spoke to me. He admonished me to stop
feeling pity for myself and look to serve the Master. I was
told not to despair, for my services would be of value to Sa.
Weeping tears of joy at the sight of my father, my heart
leapt and, for a moment, my soul rejoiced. A fiery dragon
appeared in the eastern sky, and I knew the direction in
which I was to travel.
I set off the next day feeling rather curious.
Had it all been a dream? I could not know for sure. But I
knew I had no better plan, and east I went. The terrain grew
more verdant as I traveled along, and I gathered berries and
tender roots to eat. A tiny brook appeared and I again had
fresh water. I had been in this beautiful land only a couple
of days when, settled down at camp one evening, a visitor
I'm afraid I was not a hospitable Drag-al to
the stranger. Upon hearing someone creeping up to my camp I
leapt up and hid behind a rock, dirk readied. Ironically,
having seen many throats slit by the Taathians, I was
prepared to do the same to this intruder. From behind a tree
emerged a being unlike any I'd ever seen. He was old and
stocky as a tree, with a huge white beard that nearly covered
his entire front. His skin was tinged blue, his gnarled
fingers held tightly to an intricately carved walking stick.
He wasn't much taller than I. Instinctively I felt drawn to
his kind countenance; an aura of peace and serenity emanated
from him, unlike anything I'd felt since the days with my
family. Perhaps because I was so frightened and lonely, I
revealed myself to him.
"Who are ye?" I managed to stammer,
"and WHAT are ye?" (I could not be sure he wasn't
made of ether and yet another vision!) Smiling warmly, he
looked at me for what seemed like an eternity before he spoke.
"I am Krollan, and I am Hithual. Ye are Drag-al and not
very old, from what I can see...." "Yes, I replied,
'tis truth." Krollan, to his credit, did not immediately
press me for details, but invited me to his home for a good
meal. My defenses had fallen. For the first time in many
years, kindness was offered to me. I agreed to go with him
and he led me away.
I do not know why, but he took me in and
gently nursed my spirit back to health. Little by little the
horrid past was replaced with laughter and kindness. The
mirthful Drag-al inside me slowly began to emerge. I suspect
Krollan eventually began to believe he had created a monster
after some of the practical jokes he had to endure. I will
always fondly remember him, and would have stayed with this
kind hermit forever, so happy was I to have found such warmth.
He spoke to me of many things, as he was wizened and had seen
much in his long life. Krollan became like a grandfather to
me. I grew strong and sure under his care, and wished for
nothing more than to serve him as he lived out his days. He
lived at the foot of a mountain as I had; it seemed as close
to a home as I'd ever find.
But Sa in his wisdom had other, larger plans
for me, and it was after several months that he visited me
once again. "Now ye are strong," he said. "Now
ye must cross the land to the north and travel to Spur, where
others who follow me reside. I shall not leave ye, nor have I
all these years. Go now, for your life awaits ye there."
I told Krollan of my vision. He nodded sagely
and, though he was not a follower of Sa, placed great import
upon such visitations. I was to spend another day making
ready and we'd sit for the last time together over evening
repast. Next day I set out for the north and whatever it
might hold, tears in my eyes, alone once again. Yet it was
not the feeling of desolation I'd known for all those
horrible years. I knew, somehow, that all would be well.
My journey was long and hard, but not
terribly eventful; I was attacked once, by bandits lurking in
a deep draw. I managed to best them, but almost completely by
accident. I had fought them off with my dirk until two of
them grabbed me and held me down on the ground. Completely by
instinct, I breathed a spout of fire on them and singed them
handily! I had not remembered fire breathing prior to that
moment. Thankfully they were as surprised as I and ran
shrieking into the countryside.
Chuckling at my good fortune, I began to grow
more and more curious about this place called Spur, and
eventually wandered up the main road into the Town Square. I
was amazed to find a place filled with creatures of every
type, most of which I'd never seen nor heard of. Some were
kind, others not so kind, but this was not a lawless place
and I felt safe at last.
I am but a simple Drag-al, and that is most
of my story. I have traveled the Spur for quite a long time
now, gaining friends but keeping a distance, always alone,
always in service to Sa. It has given me great joy to be able
to help the weak, as I know too well the despair of
helplessness. This life has suited me well, though my heart
of hearts seemed destined to remain closed forever. There was
simply too much sadness inside it to ever share with anyone.
It was too painful to contemplate.
Ye may know that today I am no longer alone,
and it is due to yet another Hithual. Evidently I was
destined to be blessed by an alliance with their noble race
by powers greater than my own. I met the Hithual Armonius
shortly after my arrival in Spur, but only in passing. He was
in training to be a great warrior and I had my duties to
perform under Sa's tutelage. Although he and I spoke briefly,
I found myself embarassed and uncomfortable, for Armonius'
gaze seemed to cut right through me. I heard a strange voice
inside my head say "he will remember ye." I
redoubled my efforts for my master then, and saw him very
rarely. I had but one goal, and was well on the way to
becoming a devoted sword cleric.
When my skills had advanced sufficiently and I could travel alone, I began hunting assassins and wraiths. It was then that I again ran across Armonius, skillfully pointing his finger and turning the undead. He was kind to me, which still was difficult for one so closed as I. Although I resisted, he slowly gained my trust and we grew closer. He told me he wished a bond with me. I could only flail wildly and shriek at the idea! Sitting in temple I
asked Sa what I was supposed to do. "Follow your heart, Little One" was all he'd say. (I can nearly swear I
heard him smirking...)
Had Armonius been anything but a dogged Hithual he'd never have succeeded. It was he that encouraged these details out of me, urged me to write them so some record of my family would remain beyond my time. I have been richly blessed, for I now have a mate who has thawed my heart and made me part of his family. I hope someday to find other traces of my kin, but absent that, I shall live out my life here with my friends and adopted family, in service to Sa and his followers. I still have the lapis pipe from my father, and once again it waves around the fire as stories are told. Surely, this is what he would have wanted.
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