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This text is a part of a larger plot. So it is better to read first «The Kiss of the Worlds», in order not to spoil it.
By Yichard Muni, elf bard
These days in Inworldz, February 2013, my Elven Home Boat moored in Cinnabar, Inworldz, where the Gypsies had settled camp. Hence the need, again, for some Gypsies-inspired story. I received inspiration just some hours before, of this story of Gypsies-like wandering Elves.
The Wandering Elves of the Sea were for millennia the main cause for languages and culture sharing in the whole Nyidiath world. They were led by inspiration and driven by opportunities, just like Gypsies use to do, selling jewels, music instruments and clothes. They lived and travelled on boats, complete with family cabins and handicraft workshops, long ago in the ancient ages. When they could set foot in some free land, they started long lasting kingdoms, havens of kindness and beauty.
((This paragraph is kept as it was told in the Inworldz context:)) This boat where you are standing is a Wandering Elves Home Boat, where several families used to live. Already in these times they had these modern shapes and rigging, even if the Human ships were more looking like the brown ship besides us. The castle on the stern is for receiving guests, when they negotiate with traders or show their products to customers. They also use this place for healing or spiritual counselling. If you go under the deck (sorry low ceiling, move your cameras down), the large room in the prow is the common room, with the kitchen, music instruments, etc. Along are rooms, where Elves use to store their pose balls :-). The large room astern is a workshop, which communicates with the castle through a hatch. Here the Elves use to do clothes, embroidery, necklaces, tools, gold or stone jewels, silverware, cutlery, etc. (They also do elegant gilded swords for themselves, but never sell any weapon).
((idem)) Still about this boat, she was made into Simonastick one year ago, but Inworldz technology is improving so fast, that she looks a bit outdated now, compared to the other boats in this sim. Also, Cinnabar suggested that I give her a name, and allow her to sail. I have some ideas, but I keep them for an official christening when I get her in better shape, with more details and vehicles physics, so that she will be able to sail seamlessly from here to the IDI land (Inworldz welcoming place). Stay tuned!
This trade allowed the Elves to buy food, raw materials and ship implements, so that they have a nice life on their ship, and seldom set feet on Human soil. In more, even if people despise the Elves, they were ready to pay anything elvish at a high price, as they think that there were lucky charms. So a simple linen knot for keeping hairs could be resold 1000 times the price of the linen! However the Elves were reluctant at this kind of crookery, always selling high quality products at a fair price, and really putting their benediction on all of them.
But let us go now to our story. In the time of this story, it was very hard to be an Elf. It was just about a hundred years after the Exodus, where the Elves where forcibly expelled toward the Dauriath, the world in the Sky. Those who were too slow to move were slaughtered. The few remaining ones were persecuted, sometimes lynched. These were the darkest years of the Nyidiath History, when the light of love was hidden for centuries, and beauty lovers had to live under cover. The beautiful elven boats were sold, to help covering the expenses of the Exodus. But as nobody knew how to build and maintain them, their elegant silhouettes soon disappeared of the sea horizon.
However there were still some Humans wanting to become Elves. Unaware of the danger, they were easily spotted, and the only way to escape persecution was then to flee on the same path of the Exodus, toward the Elven lands in the Dauriath. But the only path to the Dauriath is the Horiathon, which is in the middle of the ocean...
In order to help them, many Wandering Elves of the Sea choose to stay. But they had to hide, cut their wonderful hairs, wear Human clothes, and sail ordinary freighters or passenger ships with brown sail and more ancient rigging. Even by sea, they used to be like this, as Human guards were often boarding ships by surprise, to check the cargo for smuggled or forbidden goods, so that the Elves had to be constantly on their guards, and remove any elven artefact from their ships, and even from their cabins. Fortunately the Human kings had took considerable efforts to quench piracy of the sea, so that it was no longer needed to have armed ships. But it was still a good caution to have swords and even rifles aboard. Elven smiths were very good at making high quality rifles, but they hide them with the look of common rifles of this epoch, so that nobody ever suspected the existence of this industry.
Happily it was a common custom for sailors to have children and families aboard, so that the Elves did not had to hide them, and they could continue their ancient nomadic ways of life.
Most difficult thing to hide was their immortality: they had to leave to the Dauriath before their age arises suspicion.
So, the Wandering Elves were still faring the oceans, looking like many other sailors or ship companies, transporting goods or passengers to earn a living. Which they did with some success, as of everything they commit in. However their true purposes were totally different.
They were the vital link between the few remaining elven communities, carrying messages, moving people, hiding victims of persecution, sending them to the Horiathon. They were like Resistants, with some real risks if they were caught, like torture or long years in jail. Alas this happened several times, but not as often as we can expect. Elves are hard to catch!
So let us look at an old freighter with decayed paint, a prow castle and a stern castle, two mast with brown sails, moored at some distance of the shore in the harbour of Hongelat. This harbour was busy, but the lowering of the ocean in the Nyidiath was threatening it of closure, and already large ships had to avoid it. So there were few new buildings in Hongelat, and the town was looking bad, with old dark wooden houses along muddy streets, where remained poor people unable to move. Especially rain was falling since two weeks, piercing the dark grey shingle roofs and making streets impassable.
The boat was called «Kitten Ivy», a very likely name among Human boats. Three and a half families of sailors were living in, with their children, under the official command of captain «Joe Dargh». It had unloaded oil and wheat, and boarded precious wood and coal, a new fuel of which forges were more and more hungry. It was ready to sail since several days, but was waiting, officially to board passengers. This was not wise, as the heavy rain was entering the hatches despite all cautions, threatening to rot the structure. Fortunately this evening it had subsided, but heavy rain loaded stratuses were still running fast and low in the sky.
This is what was written on the harbour registries. The truth was slightly different. And even very different.
First, «Kitten» was an euphemism for Shelenaë, the Elven Goddess who had started the Elven lineage millennia ago. As the Elves do not have cats, it was a good hiding.
Second, the real name of Joe Dargh was not Joe, but Tarkun. And he was an Elf. No way to guess, with his tanned face, black captain hat and copper buttons vest. He had fooled so many Human guards that hiding had become a second nature.
Third, Tarkun was not the leader here. He commanded the manoeuvre, but not where or when to go.
They were waiting in this unpleasant weather, because Garauda, the elder lady, was waiting for «somebody», without explanations. Garauda and Tarkun were officially married, but they did not slept together. It was just a cover. And soon their age would betray them, so that they were preparing their «retirement in a tropical island», another euphemism for the flight to the Dauriath.
Garauda, although not officially a medium, often had instants of superconsciousness. So, everybody was heeding her demands, even if it entailed the boredom of waiting one week locked into their cabin under the unpleasant weather, and getting up at night to empty buckets under leaking roofs. They should fix this, but they had to wait for a better weather.
Elshimer and Navaïsha were younger, with two daughters, 8 and 12 years old. So, when they were not on duty, they made school to their children, and also to the 13 years old son of Misha. The later was a new Elve, who was abandoned pregnant by her boy friend, when he saw her turning elvish. These children were already sea trained, and a precious help, even if their lack of force did not allowed them for some manoeuvres.
The night was fallen, and the wind bitter, but it was a relief to be on the deck, after one week locked inside. Garauda had anyway requested to take watches, as she said she expected her passengers soon. Elshimer and Navaïsha imagined some skiff approaching from the harbour, but they had no idea of what was to happen. Tarkun, long ago accustomed to Garauda's enigmatic ways, had commanded the last couple, Myster and Elenia, to prepare the bathroom, clothes and warm water, with the help of their 21 years old son Nasmyth.
Elshimer first did not paid attention to a water noise, as of a wave. But it persisted and went closer. Focusing his keen eyes, he ended to notice specks of white foam. With the light of the harbour behind, he had not his night vision, so he could only guess a darker shape into the water, approaching slowly. Then he understood, and wanted to shout... but he realized that he could be heard from the shore. So he ran to the captain cabin and warned: «people at sea!» «Swimmers approaching!»
Tarkun went out at once, to see them. They heard a woman coughing weakly, and started to guess arms moving in swimming. Two persons, with probably some floaters.
«No lights» commanded Tarkun at low voice. «Throw them a line»
Navaïsha took a spare line, attached one side to a tab, and threw the other end toward the two swimmers.
«Kitty loves Blackie, Blackie protects Kitty» murmured the woman in the water, while a man accompanying her was panting with the effort in the cold water.
«The password! Said the captain Tarkun. Get them!» As we expect, Blackie (a common dog name) was another euphemism for MakTar, the other God of the Elves, and spouse of «Kitten» Shelenaë!
Garauda briefly appeared on the deck in a kind of night gown. «Caution, they have lice. Get them in the bathroom, in the warmth.»
Lice or not, They had to pull them up to the deck. The woman was shaking with cold, and the man moaning with cramps.
They were wearing tramp rags, which wet gave an awful smell. After a second of disgust, the Elves dragged the still cramped man down to the bathroom, into the warmth. The woman was able to walk, but barely able to speak with shaking.
«I... am... Zet... Zetna... him... is... Jai... Jaime... we were... crooked and stolen all our goods... Please help» she said.
Their clothes were so bad, and drenched with cold water, that the only way was to make them completely naked, while laying the man on the laundry table. The lady, Zetna, was put directly in the warm tube, that she needed so bad, from cold and from dirtiness as well.
Slowly, under the expert massage of Garauda and Elenia, the man stopped cramping and moaning, so that he could speak in turn. Navaïsha commanded her two daughters to help washing then (and shaving them too, for the lice). To avoid any embarrassment, the men left.
«Set the sails» commanded Tarkun to the remaining men. Then to Zan, the son of Misha: «cast moors». Tarkun risked the straight to get out of the bay, as their keen eyes could guess the coast, now that they no longer had the glare of the harbour in their sight. Typical elvish manoeuvre which could reveal them, but Tarkun also knew that few Human eyes could guess them in the darkness of the heavily clouded night.
Soon, the reassuring noise of the water flowing along their hull filled the ship, with Elshimer at the helm. Now that they were away of the harbour, navigation rules commanded them to light up their lanterns, but they did not: Elven eyes can see through the darkest nights, and this is safer to avoid any collision. One time or two, they crossed other illuminated ships, but kept a safe enough distance not to be dazzled, but also not to be spotted.
Somewhere into the rounded hull, Jaime and Zetna were crying and telling their stories, that I explained some years ago: two lovers wanting to become Elves, but separated and stolen by crooks. With nothing left, they each led a tramp life, as of so many poor people. But just this evening, by a formidable stroke of luck, they met again in Hongelat, into a kind of hospital for tramps and poor workers. They both had dreams telling of what to do, where to join the Elves, and of course the password!
They showed to be both handsome persons, once stripped of their rags. Once warm and bathed, they also showed kind, and very shy of being found by true Elves, after their unpleasant adventure. Soon the bathroom filled with giggles and cheers, and they were sure to have found at last what they were looking for!
They were given good clothes, while their rags were put in a bag on the deck, until they would be dry enough to be burned in the stoves. When they left the bathroom, the three children washed it, without being ordered to.
They were offered a small planks cabin with an improvised bed of linen and straw, and in this way they became «married». It was just too obvious to the eyes of everybody.
They had three days of quiet sailing, and even got some sun at last.
Jaime and Zetna were very interested at knowing as much as they could about the Elves. Tarkun and Garauda were keen to explain a lot of elven culture and historical facts, especially of the atrocities his parents saw in the Exodus. But they eluded many revealing details, about what they were doing: the least is known, the least can be said, especially under torture or treason.
Tarkun and Garauda had some meetings several times a day. Sometimes they invited Elshimer and Navaïsha, who would take the lead once Tarkun and Garauda would leave to the Dauriath.
They unloaded their coal to the Alsyn harbour, the usual trade partner of Hongelat. They stayed here for two days, while the men and Navaïsha went to do shopping, with a part of the money they earned from their travel. They came back with a full cart of food, grains, oil, dried vegetable, and fabric, that Jaime and Zetna needed. Later, the men and Elenia went to fetch materials for embroidery. There was a fair selling a lot of good coloured fabric and thread. Prices were higher, but they could find rare colours not usually available in retail shops.
Zan and Misha carefully avoided to get out of the ship, and even to show on the deck. This was because there still was a strong prejudice against celibate mothers, and they were known into Alsyn. So that they could be harassed, and even beaten, even if they were not guilty of anything. In other places, Misha used to say she was a widow, and Tarkun often declared that if he met the swine he could easily arrange for this to become true. (Not to speak of what happens to whoever betrays the love of an Elve, that it is better not to repeat)
Jaime and Zetna were astonished of these prejudices, knowing that it was not Misha's fault if she was abandoned by her lover. Also, each trip in town never brought more than one woman, and never less than three men, and only at day. This, Zetna understood, her who had been raped by the crooks. In these ancient times, few places were safe for lonely women...
When they left Alsyn, they felt free to speak, laugh, and wander on the sunny deck. The Elves had sewn a beautiful dress for Zetna, and an elegant trouser and vest for Jaime, probably the best they ever had. But the rhythmic noise of the pedal sewing machine did not stopped: once the sewing was started, they had to use the four reels of fabric, so that they would sell the clothes in the next harbour. The hold had been thoroughly cleaned from coal, and embroidery canvas extended here for work, so that the empty hold could still be useful as a workshop, before another cargo was loaded.
Then they went through a week of complicated navigation path, as to avoid being followed.
One day, as they passed near a small island, Tarkun commanded everybody to get in the cabins, starboard side. Jaime, Zetna and Misha wondered why. Suddenly they heard a sharp bang noise against the wooden wall of the castle, followed by the distant cracking of a rifle. Somebody shot at them from the island!
They heard the captain: «Zan raise the blue flag»
Then: «everybody can stop hiding. Elshimer, bearing to North North West!».
They went on the deck, wondering what happened, who attacked them.
But it soon appeared that it was not an attack at all: a long bronze bullet was stuck in the wall, and Zan was pulling on it to recover it. Then he brought it to the captain's cabin. It had a screw on the back end... A moment later, Zan brought it to the small kiln they used to cast metal, and started the fire.
Nothing was said, but the meaning of all this soon appeared obvious: the bullet was a way to exchange messages! But with who and why, only Tarkun and Garauda knew.
That evening they landed in the harbour of Belen. They were unsuccessful at selling all their clothes, but they still got enough money for buying more fabric, fresh food and fresh water. A gold trader also went in the stern castle, discussing lengthily with Elshimer and Myster. Nothing went out of their agreement, but later in the evening a poor looking cart went bringing some potatoes bags. Probably one contained some pricey stuff, the others being only to hide it.
They all seemed to love this wandering life, never touching the ground for months. However they knew that Humans like Jaime and Zetna could not bear so long a time aboard. Nobody ever asked any question to Jaime and Zetna, on the reason of their apparently useless presence aboard, which doubled the food needs of the whole boat. In addition, Jaime and Zetna were of poor help, doing only some chores and simple handicraft. This was the Elven hospitality! The only thing they knew is that they had to bring them somewhere. Where, they would know in time.
Indeed, they soon had a nice surprise for them.
After an usual day of contorted navigation path, they landed on a small harbour, which seemed to be the main town of a low island. Probably it emerged only recently of the lowering ocean, and as usual it was owned by the first able of forbidding its access from further settlers. It looked as of any other medieval town, just cleaner and well tended, with good clothes and no poor people. And these people were fast to build houses, docks and castle, on a previously bare extend of rocks. Then, with passing years, meadows and fields emerging from the ocean progressively allowed for the autonomy of the new island.
Several ships of various kinds were already in the harbour, and others were arriving.
It was an Elven secret island, disguised a some independent human Barony!
Jaine and Zetna could get out of the ship and walk in the grass, and discover this wonderful Elven community playing at being Humans!
But this gathering was not at random: It was a large elven festival, and jaime and Zetna could enjoy the wonderful hospitality and human warmth of the Elven Kin. They stayed here several months, to learn the Elven ways. Their only grief was the departure of the «kitten Ivy», the boat of Tarkun and Garauda, continuing their endless journey. The boat where they first expressed their love... they never saw it again.
But this island was also a gathering place for the Horiathon! One evening, soon after night fall, a dark rounded submarine-like silhouette stealthily sneaked into the harbour... The mysterious Horiaton crossing ship was here! A joyous hustle seized the whole island, while eight hundred passengers with luggage and food were crammed into the rounded tar smelling hull... Jaime and Zetna where invited in, together with the other passengers who also arrived some days or some weeks before. And soon before dawn, the ship left the harbour, toward a new world of pioneers, toward a world of freedom and beauty, toward the wonderful world of the Elves!
(The arrival of jaime and Zetna in the Dauriath is told here)
Scenario, graphics, sounds, colours, realization: Richard Trigaux.
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