The Tooth of Dachrae
A long time ago, in a land far, far away, in the kingdom of Lethranium, in the province of Vacia, and in the yard of Caer Sollam a tall boy, by the name of David, was sweeping briskly. Nearby, someone approached- someone who would change his life- and the lives of many other people forever...
After he had swept the stable yard, David returned the broom to its place by the side of the stable. He patted the horses a quick good night and then moved through the deepening twilight down the path to the cottage where he dwelled. He was but halfway down when he sensed a movement on his right. The low green hedge, which he had clipped back himself that Spring, seemed to be moving. A frown on his face he moved cautiously towards the trembling leaves and with equal caution looked to the other side. To his astonishment a pale, dirt streaked face looked up at him. He grasped the person's arm and pulled them quickly up to their feet. It was a girl! Her matted mane of blonde hair flew wildly around her head, and her deep brown eyes were widened in surprise. Some innate sense told him though, that the girl was no real threat.
"Please, don't hurt me," the girl wailed, cowering back in fright, "I mean no harm...I, I..." her voice broke off, as David relinquished his grip on her arm. Suddenly the girls confidence seemed to grow, and smoothing out her filthy and tattered clothes, she demanded to know who David was. When he didn't answer she looked at him and frowned. He seemed not to know that she had even spoken. She tried again, "Who are you, and where am I?"
This time David apparently realised that she was speaking to him, and his eyes seemed to focus on her lips as she spoke. "So are you going to tell me or shall I stand here all..." she stopped short, and one could almost see the realisation dawning upon her. "Oh my goodness- you're deaf aren't you?" She spoke slowly and clearly, and this time David was able to follow her words. He nodded regretfully at her question and then slowly lisped out one of his own.
"Who are you? What are you doing here?"
"My name is Eilonwy. I am come to seek lodgings...and help...and food," she paused, as if debating whether to tell him something. "I'm in trouble. I am trying to escape from my mistress... Dachrae," she glanced behind her as if expecting her mistress to emerge from the trees. Her voice took on a desperate tone and although David couldn't hear it he could see the fear pinching her face, "Please- you must help me..."
"Why don't you come in?" David lisped carefully. Eilonwy's face brightened and she accepted David's arm as he helped her across the hedge. Once inside the cozy little cottage, David sat her down and put some water to boil. He then gestured to Eilonwy to wait and went to find his master.
Sollam was in his workroom pouring over a thick leather bound volume. The title of the book proclaimed it to be called 'The Charms to Be.' Sollam closed the book as he saw David and gave him a warm greeting. "Well my boy," he said softly, "What can I do for you?"
David signed to the old man, telling him of Eilonwy and the miserable state she was in. He spelt out the name of what seemed to be Eilonwy's main fear- Dachrae. Sollam's face became grave.
"I have heard of this woman." He rested his hand on the massive book and let his eyelids close over his piercing eyes. "She is rather clever, and although not as powerful as myself, she has the knowledge to be so. I understand she once owed allegiance to the Ancient Lords of Greath, but the most recent Lord Gorum of Greath betrayed her...I know not in what form." David read Sollam's lips, mesmerised by the knowledge his powerful master commanded. "I must think more on this matter...but first I should like to meet the girl."
Eilonwy rose indignantly when David came back. "David of Caer Sollam- do you not know that you are supposed to entertain ones visitors and not..." her voice trailed off as she noticed the wizened old man standing behind the object of her discourse.
"Sollam," she said gravely bowing low. "I finally meet you."
"And I you, Eilonwy," Sollam said, looking almost sad.
David was becoming increasingly confused. How had Eilonwy suddenly come to know where she was? How did she know that the man she stood before was Sollam? He watched in astonishment as Sollam suddenly kneeled before the bedraggled young girl and clasped her in a giant embrace.
"Oh child," he said, "what destiny now lies before us? All of us..." Sollam's gaze fell on David and he straightened up. "Put the tea on my boy. Eilonwy and I must talk." David turned away, rather perturbed by the strange exchange that had just passed.
Once the water was boiled and the tea made he took it to the table where he made his own confusion obvious. Sollam smiled regretfully at him. "I fear we have disturbed you my boy," he intoned gently. "Allow me to explain. I knew of Eilonwy long before you, just as she knew of me. Dachrae the woman Eilonwy eluded to earlier, is, as I told you, quite an enchantress. Her spells are not as powerful as mine own, but they are evil, and capable of doing great damage..." Sollam paused for a moment before continuing. "At least, they aren't yet as powerful as my own. But she has known for many years, how to strengthen her powers, and now the time draws near in which she may do this." David held his hands up questioningly. "To strengthen her powers Dachrae needed a child who was herself, in possession of great powers, and yet unable to use them. Eilonwy is this child. Her parents were both paladins of the highest honour, as well as skilled wizards. Their magical powers were imparted to their daughter at the time of their tragic deaths. She shan't be able to use them however, not even the simple magic spells- until she herself becomes a paladin.
"If she doesn't become one, her powers will be vanquished with her own death. Dachrae however has the magic to steal and use these powers, as long as Eilonwy is sixteen when she dies. For this reason she stole Eilonwy from her parents when she was scarce more than three years old." The strange tale caused both David and Eilonwy considerable astonishment. Eilonwy's face was pale and her fingernails dug into the palm of her hands when she was finally able to talk.
"Sollam, Sir, who were my parents, and...and what happened to them?" Sollam looked surprised at this question, and then his face darkened.
"You mean you don't know?" He asked. Eilonwy shook her head.
Sollam sighed. Your parents were the honourable Rakeesh and Aziza of Dalephenaan. They..." Sollam was cut off by a sharp cry from Eilonwy.
Her eyes filled with tears which she tried gallantly to hold back. "Rakeesh and...Aziza?" Her voice shook with emotion. "Surely you don't mean the...the same Rakeesh and Aziza that...that were, were tortured by Lord Gorum because- because..."
her words were broken and her speech became almost incomprehensible as Sollam nodded in affirmation. Eilonwy's parents, Rakeesh and Aziza were indeed the same paladins that had been horribly tortured and eventually mutilated by the evil Lord Gorrum and his minions, one of whom had been Dachrae, because they refused to give him the secrets they alone knew that he needed in order to take control of the entire kingdom of Lethranium. Their refusing to give the information had thankfully saved the kingdom from destruction, and their names were sung with praise throughout the land. Unfortunately it had also sealed their deaths.
Eilonwy's tears cursed down her cheeks. She didn't know whether to be happy or sad. For as long as she could remember she had always dreamed about who her parents were, and what evil fates had left her with Dachrae. In some ways it was a relief. At least she knew they hadn't abandoned her. But thinking of their awful deaths made her feel sick. Suddenly she leapt from the table retching violently. David made to follow her, but Sollam motioned to him to remain seated. After some time, Eilonwy returned.
"Please Sollam. You must forgive me. I just...it was a shock...," her voice still trembled slightly as she spoke, and her eyes were red and swollen from crying.
"My dear girl. There is no need for apologies. I understand what a shock it must have been... I am sorry."
"Thank you Sollam, Sir...Now if you please- I came here to enlist your help. You must stop Dachrae's evil powers- she is vile. Her magic is all black. I know already that she has plans to cause havoc in Lethranium. I just didn't realise she was planning on using my own powers to do it..."
"Eilonwy," Sollam cut in, "You must defeat Dachrae yourself. I can not do it for you." Eilonwy blanched as she heard this. Was she hearing right? Sollam was putting the whole fearful task on her shoulders? Visions of herself standing up to Dachrae in fierce battles of magic. Light against dark... and the dark winning...
It was Sollam's voice that jolted her back to the present. "The one thing I can offer you is guidance."
"But what good is guidance if I do not succeed. I don't even know where to begin...I..." Eilonwy sank her head to her hands began to sob. Without thinking David knelt beside her chair, draping his arm across her back. Sollam watched the two quietly for a moment. He appeared to be in deep thought, and many emotions passed across his face. It was some time later before he ventured to speak again.
"Eilonwy- you must understand. I will do everything within my power to make it easier for you...to start with, I shall allow David to accompany you on your quest. Do you agree to try?" David did not notice this remark, as he was looking worriedly at Eilonwy. Eilonwy herself however sat up and looked with determined resolve at Sollam. "I'm sorry...I thank you, yes. I shall do this myself, and yes I would be very thankful to have David with me."
Once all had been explained to David, the little cottage of Caer Sollam was thrown into turmoil. David walked around looking rather bemused, as he gathered the few items he needed to take. Sollam began bottling mysterious blue potions while Eilonwy packed up food. By nightfall the two adventurers were packed and equipped. They sank into punnets of hay with sighs of relief, and drifted off to sleep.
All of the occupants of Caer Sollam were up at dawn, and breakfasted quickly, so as to get a good start. Once they were finished Sollam began explaining carefully to them what they must do to stop Dachrae.
He told them of a tooth, hidden in the Mountains of Faek. The tooth he said, was the most important possession of Dachrae. It held her magical powers, and guarded them against the rest of the world. It was also her most feared object. The tooth of Dachrae was the one thing that could destroy her. Once the tooth touched her skin, her death would come quickly. The nearer she was to the tooth, the weaker her powers. By the time the tooth was upon her, she would be powerless...and dead.
"So all we need to do is fetch the tooth and touch it to her!" exclaimed Eilonwy.
"It is not quite as simple as that." Sollam smiled gently. "You must first find the tooth, and Dachrae will not permit you to travel through the Faek Mountains easily. She will know by now of your intentions, and while ever she is apart from her tooth her powers remain strong. I give you now my last words of warning. The Frozen Pass to the mountains is magical. It will wear you of your will to continue."
David signed quickly to Sollam. "Then we must not go through there. We will go another way around."
"No my boy. The only way is through that pass. You must go through it- though I know not how. Go now, for I can speak no more." Sollam ended abruptly and rose to return to his workroom. David and Eilonwy saw themselves out, gathering their things at the door. As David saddled their horses Eilonwy studied a map that Sollam had handed her the night before. She traced her finger towards the Faek Mountains. Their journey would take them probably just over a week, if they didn't get in too much bother. After following the base of the Hygrath Peaks for a few days, Eilonwy decided they should probably take a day to rest in one of the small villages, before they would have to cross the vast emptiness of the Pryndell Plains. From there they would have to somehow cross the River of the Esplende and then they would have to face the perils of the Frozen Pass. But better to think more of that later Eilonwy decided. For now all she cared to do was set off, leaving Dachrae and her memories far behind her.
The pair set off at a steady pace, following the base of the Hygrath Peaks on a rather overgrown track. They had felt it best to keep off of the main tracks, in the interest of concealing their whereabouts from Dachrae as long as possible. Their horses were fresh and eager to be moving and they made good time, despite the dense of the growth on the track. Eilonwy was a much better rider than David had expected and after a good hours travel, when the track broadened out and became slightly clearer she motioned to David telling him she was going to gallop.
Leaning forward she urged the horse Sollam had given her into a gentle canter and then quickly into a gallop. David watched her neat little form balanced easily on Orion's gray back, and then urged his own mount Gwestra, to follow in the same fashion.
Eilonwy saw David urging Gwestra along side of her and he soon caught up. The
animals began racing neck and neck. Eilonwy perched even further forward over
Orion's withers, and slowly she felt him pull in front. She gave a whoop of delight as she felt the tremendous power beneath her, revelling in the knowledge that she was literally flying as free as a bird for a few precious moments. Then reluctantly both began to slow their animals down, until they were trotting steadily side by side. Eilonwy took the opportunity to start a conversation with David, and the two were soon in deep discussion about their lives.
Eilonwy learnt that David's parents had been very poor peasants, and unable to cope with looking after a deaf child, along with the rest of their many children, they had taken him to Sollam when he was but two years old. Sollam had taken him, but rather than using him as a servant, as had been the agreement with his parents, he had educated David, taught him to lip read, and some very basic sign language. David boasted proudly to Eilonwy that he also knew how to read, and Sollam was currently trying to teach him Latin.
Eilonwy smiled when she heard this, and then nonchalantly asked him in Latin if he enjoyed it. David reading her lips smiled in surprise and then asked how she had learnt it. She shrugged and seemed to avoid his gaze for a moment. He looked at her curiously and she shook her head with a rueful smile.
"I found a book one day, while I cleaned Dachrae's workroom. She was outside somewhere, practising a spell to steal the song of the birds. I took the book and hid it in my chamber. I used to study it every night before I went to sleep.
"Eventually I knew quite a bit. I started sneaking other books of Dachrae's.... until one day I discovered a piece of paper. It was different to the others- it seemed to have a magical quality of it's own. I took it and read it....it was the spell for stealing my own powers. I knew then what she was planning for me. But somehow she knew I'd read it...she caught me and..." Eilonwy winced at the memory of the beating she had received. The raw red marks on the back of her neck were a constant reminder.
"She locked me up after that... but something happened. Sollam was wrong when he said I wouldn't be able to use my powers till I was sixteen. I remember sitting there in my cell. I was trembling, but not from fear- from rage. All of a sudden I grew incredibly hot, and all I could think of was how much I wanted a chance for revenge on the woman who had ruined my life.... And then suddenly I was outside- in the woods behind Dachrae's house. I wasn't sure what had happened but I wasn't going to wait. I ran! I remembered the tales I had heard of the powerful enchanter, Sollam, so I made my way to Caer Sollam to seek him."
David shuddered silently. Images of Eilonwy's tormented life flashing before his eyes. He did not say anything though, and the two friends rode on in silence.
© 1999, 2000 Copyright held by the author.
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