Deep in the forest outside of the village Charon, bare feet dangled thirteen feet off the ground. Runner Charonton lounged in the boughs of a great tree, surveying the wildlife underneath. Had they been worth it, she could have skewered every scurrying rodent, but she was hunting for the festival. Large game were her prey.
As she waited, the forest grew still and quiet with anticipation. Rising with great unease, Runner began climbing higher in the tree. Before she reached the top, the earth rumbled around her, igniting a fervor within her. About four hours away, smoke rose steadily from a newly-formed clearing. “Hunting can never go smoothly, can it?” With a few well placed jumps, Runner was back on the ground and sprinting toward town.
“Your mind had better be open, Faelyn. Something rather large crashed five hours out. You need to warn the Caller; I can only think this is the work of the Empire,” the brunette sent her thoughts toward a young elf woman in the village as she ran. Why would they choose now? Could they not wait for the dance to be Called? Most on this planet are innocent of magic; they could use the luck Festival brings.
Charon village was bursting with energetic people running about in anticipation of the coming Festival of Charil. Faelyn Ellyn weaved her way through the sprinting masses in order to get to the trader at the other end of town. She had some mighty fine hides to trade in return for the much needed supplies she had used in her last walkabout through the forest. Moving slowly through the crowded square, she was interrupted by a whispering from her old friend, Runner. Faelyn had made fast friends with the young woman who’d proved instrumental in saving the life of Faelyn’s sister years ago.
It seemed as though something big had crashed nearby and Runner needed Faelyn to warn the Caller. Now was not the time for such errands but, at the same time, it was what it was. Moving behind the row of businesses, Faelyn turned around and headed for the Caller’s cottage, sending a whisper back. “Headed that way, Runner.” Her message sent, Faelyn couldn’t help but ponder, Runner seemed urgent; could it be the Empire? and picked up her pace.
Still in the forest, Runner relaxed when her friend responded. Without the Caller, she would be nothing--have nothing. In the middle of a dark and desolate time, he found her and gave her an identity. Many nights, as she lie awake waiting for sleep to come, Runner had wondered what would have happened to her had he not found her and helped replace the memories she had lost forever. “Caller, Faelyn is on her way to you; I fear it may be time.” Her job completed for the time being, Runner let her mind be free and knew only the feel of her forest against the soles of her feet.
Silvery-and-blue eyes looked up from a plain porridge, widening with shock as his protege’s voice slipped into his mind with an urgent message. Illian is moving her plans forward... she must have determined Elindra yielded information. Smoothing ever-present crows feet with his thumbs, the old man stood and dumped the porridge out the window. I suppose things could be moving ahead of schedule... it’s been nearly two decades since those plans were made. From within a secret compartment on the wall, the Caller retrieved three walking packs--fully equipped with everything needed for a long journey.
He had long been planning to invite Faelyn to come along when the Empire arrived. She would be quite useful to the cause and, were any officials to hear of her whispering, the delightful young elf could be sent to prison simply by crime of birth. Family and friends could also be arrested simply for associating with and hiding a criminal. Yes, she’ll come. She hardly has a choice.
Lifting his bed, the Caller revealed a small cellar. Climbing down inside, he was able to gather all of the tools passed down to him from the last Caller. Before leaving, he would have to name his replacement. The village had known since his birth he would have to leave prematurely... he did not expect any trouble from his people. But just in case trouble comes... he gathered a number of bags these mortals are fickle, after all; we may need to flee to the stars.
Faelyn made her way to the trees on the backside of the village where she could meld into the forest. Faelyn was a tracker by trade and was adept at moving through the forest unheard and unseen. Light on her feet and soundlessly she trekked over the forest floor towards the Caller’s cottage. Making haste she soon found herself at the old man’s back door. Hesitating for only a second she sensed that he was the only one in the cottage. Lowering the bed once more, he felt a familiar presence brush his mind and waited for the tentative knock he knew would follow. Quietly she knocked on his door and he answered quickly with a polite, “Come in, dear. I expect we have much to discuss.”
As Faelyn entered the cottage she felt a familiar and safe feeling. As he closed the door and turned around Faelyn quietly relayed her message from Runner. “I don’t know if you know or not; however, Runner whispered me that something big had crashed about five hours outside the village.”
“A similar sentiment brushed against my consciousness not long ago,” he replied, indicating the three bags on the ground. “You’re a smart girl, Faelyn. What do you guess the arrival of such a large craft--crashed or not--means?”
“I’m afraid it could possibly be that the Empire has made it’s way here. I cannot imagine what else it could be.” Pondering for a moment Faelyn spoke softly again, “If it is the Empire, as you know, no magic wielder will be safe here.”
The old man nodded sadly, “Thankfully most of those in the village with magic have hidden their abilities enough that they will not draw suspicion. Others will take my premature leave as a sign to flee as well. You, however, could come with us. I have a pack readied for you in either case; too many know of your whispering.”
Faelyn listened as the old man spoke, thinking on her family and the danger they would be in if she were caught. She knew the Caller was right. Village Charon was the only home she had ever known. It wasn’t that she was scared that caused her hesitation. Although she didn’t see her family often, they were still her family. Precisely the reason she had to go with the Caller. At last she looked at the old man and softly said, “I will go with you. It is really my only option.”
He nodded and clasped his hands behind his back, “It will be easier for them, my dear; I’m sure of that. This will also be easier on you and Runner than going separate ways, I think.” Sitting, he took out a small book and began scanning images onto it with a pen. “Did Runner happen to mention how far away she was when she contacted you?”
As Faelyn watched the Caller she knew he was right. “Runner said the crash was about five hours out. She didn’t say where she was.” She continued watching as she relaxed a bit knowing that he had a plan and that it would be forthcoming when he got ready.
The old man nodded, his brow creasing with frustration, “She will have closed her mind in order to run faster. We will have to assume she is at least four hours away.” Sighing, he paused and looked up at Faelyn. “Your personal name is common enough but if we’re going to hide, your family name will need to change. I will be known as Eleric Riannon. Perhaps we could pass as kin?”
Faelyn listened intently to the Caller who just gave himself a name. What he said made sense to her and she would go to any length to protect her family. “Yes, Eleric, I think it would be nice being kin to you,” she said with a slight chuckle.
With a flick of his wrist, Eleric added one line of text to the book, Faelyn Riannon, and handed it to her. “I believe it is most believable that I be your grandfather. Your elven heritage is no doubt obvious but I look rather old,” his ears began to elongate into a fine point, “even as an elf. The father of one as young as you would not appear this old. We’ll have to say I fell ill. There are enough... abnormalities in my blood to fool a simple scanner.”
Faelyn took the book from Eleric and glanced at it swelling with pride seeing her name as Faelynn Riannon. As he spoke his ears began to grow to a point. She looked at the book again knowing being Eleric’s granddaughter was for the best. “Grandfather it is,” she said, handing the book back to him. “I believe I will call you ‘dadae’, an old elvish name for grandfather, when appropriate. Otherwise I will stick with ‘Eleric.’”
Nodding, the old man began work on another book. This one bore the description Arun Baster. When finished, he placed it in the front pocket of the largest pack. “If we are to wait for Runner, we should at least make ourselves productive. Rickon Tilly is young to be the Caller... but he has enough training to manage this year’s Festival. Plenty of time for the villagers to train him before the next one needs to be planned.”
Faelyn nodded to Eleric. She knew the boy and his family. He was a fine boy and kept out of trouble. Although she thought he was quite young to be the Caller of the Dance. “Don’t you think he’s a bit young to be the Caller of the Dance, Eleric?” Faelyn watched as he pondered what she had said.
Finally, the old man shook his head, “His duties for this festival are simple enough. Though the most important to celebrate, the Festival of Charil is the most simple. He has only a couple of lines to say--which he has already memorized--and a lot of food to enjoy. As I have already planned the festivities, he has only the night itself to worry about. And until he’s ready for full responsibility, I trust the other elders to guide him.”
“In that case I feel your choice is a wise choice. Rickon will make a fine Caller one day.” Faelyn pulled out a chair and sat beside the fire. “Could I trouble you for a cup of tea, Eleric?”
With a silent nod and kind smile, Eleric moved to the cabinet next to his fire and took down one cup, his jar of tea, and a jar of sticky, amber liquid. “I received this honey from the Fair Folk. Seems a waste not to use it. Yen, I think, was the name of the lady who gave it to me. Very sweet. The blondest of hair.” The open kettle above the fire was always filled with water so he would be ready in the eventuality that a visitor might come. “The fact I have not already offered you a glass shows my absentmindedness. Forgive me, my dear... but I have been preparing for and dreading this day for many a decade.” Even after pouring his friend--now granddaughter--her tea, the old man could not find it in himself to be still. “We shall wait a bit longer for news from our dear Runner... but if we have not heard from her soon, we should hurry on to Rickon.” He gave her a sidelong glance then. “And I suppose you want to trade those fine hides as well. There is rarely time for trading when running from a corrupt law.”