The Legacy of Lyth
Nùhana, 525 AFD
The Crystal Tower, Alchemy Library, 9 Ur“I hope you’re not busy,” Jakarrn said with a grin as she entered the library. “Never too busy to talk with friends, no.” Frehghan replied, with a slight bow. “What if it was with your friends from Saf-Athan Palace?” Jakarrn asked. Her male counterpart rolled his eyes and sighed. His shoulders visibly and, over-dramatically, sagged. “What could Carnael want this time and how long do I have before they arrive? I need about ten Ana to build up sufficient reserves of patience.” Jakarrn laughed. “Do remember he is King Carnael, my friend. My Bluebird apologises, but they are ascending the hill as we speak. He only found out by happenstance when carrying communications for others.” Great, Frehghan thought, the King has far too much time and not enough activity to fill it. “Well, the warning was appreciated, however short it was. Thanks, Jakarrn,” he acknowledged. “Not a problem. Shall I ask Klor'asq to bring some beverages?” Jakarrn asked. “I suspect, mere moments into the conversation, if I do not have a drink in my hand, I will wish I had!” he chuckled.
“Mere Moments” Later…"The new year brings a fresh perspective," the messenger pompously announced, "His Majesty, My Lord, commands that you create soldiers for a new army." Frehghan blinked, took a grateful sip from the wooden cup he preferred to drink from, then frowned. Purposefully leaving an awkward pause, he took another sip before choosing to reply. "Excuse me?" he asked, trying to hide his feelings on the ridiculous request. "Soldiers, who are ready for war and rapidly develop by adaptation. Make some. Were my words not clear?" the messenger retorted. "Oh, I understood the individual words you relayed from King Carnael," Frehghan replied, "I just don’t think you understand the implication of that request." "My job is not to question the intricacies of His Glorious Majesty, but to…", the messenger began to protest. "Relay to us the exact words conveyed to you so that you can keep your head?" Frehghan interrupted. The messenger coughed nervously. Frehghan set down his cup and unfurled the scroll he had been given. Glancing up he noticed his Kyadd servant, Farynna leaning against the door frame behind the messenger, sporting a similar smile to the one Jakarrn had "mere moments" ago, and he found it difficult not to laugh in front of the King’s Messenger. "Does the King not, let's say, 'create soldiers' from the ample humans in the Realm, growing them from mere babies into Warriors in the short time span of twenty Ana?' Frehghan asked the Messenger. "His Majesty, My Lord, says that humans are too flawed and rarely learn from their mistakes." Like their ruler, then, Frehghan thought. "Experience comes through making mistakes, including, which requests are reasonable to make of the Circle and which ones overstep our common moral boundaries." he stated. "Why do you say that?" the Messenger asked, speaking uncharacteristically off-script. "King Carnael is asking that we create life, something we have always refused to do. Aside from the unknown quality of that life, creating a being destabilises the natural order of things." Frehghan explained, his impatience showing through. "I was under the impression the Elements were in your control," the Messenger countered, testily. "We prefer the term 'influence'. At no point do we introduce new Power, apologies, energy, into nature. Any energy we utilise must be replenished to maintain balance. We shall not create life as the only way to stabilise the Elements would be to take life from another. I will not agree to that," Frehghan concluded, throwing the parchment onto his table. "Nevertheless the order remains," the Messenger curtly responded, "His Majesty, My King did not suggest a preferred solution to his desire for special soldiers. This means you can take any route which achieves that goal." Frehghan pulled his chair from under the table and sat down, frustrated, resting his head in his hands. "So King Carnael wants 'special soldiers' who adapt to 'learn from mistakes' and become better at what they do as a result?" he recounted. "That appears to be the core of the request," the Messenger affirmed, "oh, and he said not to rush. There is no need for the new reinforcements right now, nor even for nine years, a 'decàna' in your tongue." "By which time, the King will have grown his own generation of soldiers from our current crop of children and that by simply letting nature run its course. Then you can train them. Lesson one: learn from the mistakes of others and don't mess up twice." he despaired.
One Ur Later"He’s insane!" Frehghan fumed, "He needs someone to threaten war to let him escape from that tiny little mind of his! 'Make soldiers, humans are flawed, the order remains'. We are not the Erdénaii or Sénakii that we should make life, much less make a life that takes the lives of others. Carnael is so infuriating!" he concluded, banging his hand on the table. Farynna swiftly swapped his empty cup with a full one, which had been prepared with certain plant extracts that would help her master calm down. "The Sénakii are the Elements, yes?" she asked, "I’ve not heard you use that term before." Frehghan nodded and took a gulp from the special concoction the Kyadd had created for him. "It used to have other connotations, as I’m sure you can surmise from Foyiitùn, but 'Elements' is a perfectly rational translation these days," he explained. "Thank you, Master," Farynna said, bowed her head and returned to the kitchen. Just then, Jakarrn entered his library, still quite unable to contain her amusement. "I have to say, I did laugh when you pointed out that, if it took us ten years to create a soldier, he would have 'grown them' himself in the same time!” Frehghan smiled wryly. "Nine years, Jakarrn, remember. I have no doubt the Messenger would be too scared to relay those words to Carnael. What does he say? 'A fearful messenger is a reliable messenger'? Or some such nonsense." Jakarrn nodded then gently slid a scrap of papyrus across his table. Raising an eyebrow he lifted the worn sheet and read it aloud.
We will not create life. But ever have our powers been used to modify it. That approach may please the King and not pierce our consciences. If the Great Oak of the Forest of Doon once grew from a tiny acorn, a soldier could be grown from something appearing equally insignificant. May the Elements protect you. Polarnis.
Setting the paper down, Frehghan sat back in the chair and crossed his arms. "I'm glad that Polarnis can provide information that doesn't also bring a moody storm cloud with it. But he has the right of it. We could take a tiny life-form and adjust its learning mechanism. But I'm not comfortable with this, Jakarrn." "Neither am I, but I also agree that Polarnis is correct. Unfortunately, most of the work will be Alchemic, rather than through the Crystals." "What you mean," Frehghan frowned, "is that I am in for a lot of hard work?" Jakarrn laughed. "Through our work, the King gains another day he does not have to work. Is that not reward enough?" "Thanks for that 'encouragement'," Frehghan grumbled.
What had begun as a pill-bug was now larger than his forearm. Gently, he lifted it out of the water and set it down on the ground in front of him. The creature croaked and leaped onto Frehghan’s shoulder and nuzzled his ear. “That tickles,” he laughed. Just then, Polarnis emerged from the top wall of The Well. “Did my Water incantation help, my friend?” he asked. “Indeed it has, which sped up its survivability in wet climates.” It had taken years of research and note-taking. Each day seemed harder than the previous one and, more than once, he had asked Farynna not to tidy the library so as not to forget which pages the books were left open at. But by the end of next Ana, the creature should, in theory, reach an acceptable height for a soldier of Qal'ath. In theory. "So what has it learned so far?" Polarnis asked, sitting down next to Frehghan on the dry grass. "It had to learn to kill and be able to find its own food so it would survive. Pill-bugs are usually scavengers, you see. Then it had to learn to grow beyond its natural limits, which was really complex." Frehghan recounted. "Without the ability to reason, how could it learn that?" Polarnis asked. Frehghan grimaced. "It had to eat a common butterfly. I couldn’t watch, it was horrible." "So does it form a chrysalis for each growth stage?" Polarnis wondered. "You are almost correct, but the pill-bug is more lizard-like under its shell. The consumption of the butterfly manifested more like several extra layers of scales, which sadly broke the shell. It then only shed one of those layers. That has been repeated many times over the last Ana." "Ah, so it’s more about growth than transformation. Do continue," "Without the shell, I realised it needed to have a different defence against predators. So, I kept and fed it in the Crystal Tower until it was half a hand’s length. And I fed it crickets for a time." Frehghan recalled, "that’s how it developed those strong back legs. I took a risk and carried it to a part of Doon where I knew various types of creatures would gladly feast on it. In all cases it evaded capture. It took a great interest in the birds, in fact." Polarnis chuckled. "You’re not ready to risk it flying then?" The creature leapt down to Frehghan's knee and looked up forlornly at him. "Sorry, my friend, but I don’t know how well that would work out for you,” he responded gently stroking its domed head with his forefinger, "though interestingly it did not learn to fly from the butterfly. That means it cannot yet learn too much from one single source." "And before today’s swimming lesson," he resumed his explanation to Polarnis, "it learned to climb from some small lizards that infest the cliffs near Bezélan." "So, what’s the next step?" Polarnis asked. "Several things at the same time. I need to accelerate its growth and prepare it for Winter, so it needs a fur coat." "What about speech? It can't learn that by eating sentients!" Polarnis exclaimed, feeling nauseated at the thought. Frehghan shook his head. "It already understands me, I think, so all I need is to research a balm for its mouth to render it more supple and therefore more able to formulate words." "Eaaat," the creature croaked as though in answer.
"No, wait, stop!" Farynna cried as the creature jumped up onto a shelf, knocking plates onto the floor with a deafening crash, "Get down from there!" Klor'asq ran in and narrowly avoided cutting his foot-paws on broken pottery shards. "What hùlàn is going on in here? The Circle will need to be able to concentrate tonight, and they can't if the world is being destroyed right underneath them," he grumbled. Farynna pointed up to where the creature was crouched, trembling. It was now the length of the shelf and almost too wide for it. "Eaaat, need foooood," its gravelly voice responded. "Ever since Polarnis, Hera'llyn and Jakarrn 'talked' with this creature, it’s been more aggressive and harder to control.” Farynna explained, "It bit my hand-paw the other day and I only just stopped it trying to eat through some of Frehghan's alchemy ingredients. I don't know what to do." Klor'asq frowned up at the creature. "You can’t stay up there, you will have to go out of the tower to hunt. We can't feed you," Klor’asq growled, "and you will not feed on us either." "You think it’s wise, just letting it out?" Farynna asked. Klor’asq shrugged. "Do you think it's wise they made this thing in the first place?" he asked pointedly.
The creature was surrounded. Hera'llyn, Polarnis and Claris all had their brands pointed at it and none of them wanted to make the first move. "This is getting too much, friends. It adapts too quickly and I'm surprised we’ve kept it from consuming conjuring parchments," Polarnis wheezed. Hera'llyn agreed. "Every time it breaks or kills something it gets more out of control. It's only a matter of time until our rune-shield collapses under the strain of its efforts." Just then, the creature caught sight of a figure running down the hill towards them. "Masssster, heeeelp meeee," it whined curling into a ball, pushing its spines through the silky, downy fur on its back. "Lyth! What happened?!" Frehghan asked. "You named it after the snaking pass to the West?" Hera’llyn asked through gritted teeth, "the word means evasive, which is ironically, very accurate." Frehghan stood helpless as his friends kept their weapons trained on the creature, his mind racing. "Polarnis, your incantations won’t work on him," he realised, “you can lower your brand. He isn't just resistant to physical Water." Tutting, his friend did as instructed. "Claris, what were you going to do when your attunement can only create, instead of destroy?" he asked. "Temporarily blind the creature, so we could bind it, or stun it," Claris responded. Frehghan shook his head. "He can stare at the sun for hours without harm. Turns out, eating things is not the only way it learns, sometimes observation is enough," he dejectedly explained, "and Hera, dear, what was your plan, suspending it in the air if stunning failed?" The young mage nodded. "Or work with Jakarrn to send it far from here," Frehghan considered that for a moment. "But you always struggle to land something accurately the further away you send it." he reasoned. "Well, maybe the fall would destroy it and thus spare the masses. To do so would be justifiable," Hera’llyn countered. "Don’t let them kill me, Master," Lyth pleaded. "How much longer before it actually kills someone?" Claris asked. "The King wanted a soldier who could kill people, didn't he?" Frehghan spat, "I don’t know what he thought would result from this. But," he paused, calming down, "I can't bare to think what would happen if he outsmarted Farynna. I couldn’t live with that." he added sadly. "Cat skin did taste good," Lyth growled, uncurling itself and flicking its barbed tail, "a pity I only got a scrap." Frehghan hung his head in shame. Lyth was a marvel of biology, alchemy, spell-craft and natural adaptation. But it was hopelessly out of control. "The one thing I could never work out was how to get him to learn to follow orders. He will do as I ask, but that's only because I'm like a parent to him. But as with all children, he learned independence. Now 'instructions' are processed as 'suggestions'.” he moaned.
Frehghan trudged along the icy, gritty path - each step heavier than the last. By his side, on all fours, Lyth scuttled with him, a rein of pure fire around his neck. The rein did not hurt the creature, as it was protected by an inner ring of ice, cast by Polarnis, but served to restrain him. They reached an overhanging, rocky outcrop and Frehghan stopped and knelt down next to Lyth. Had it been able to stand on its hind legs, it would have reached his shoulders. "You know why we're here, don't you?" Frehghan asked mournfully. "You are casting me out. This is my new home." it stated. "We have no choice. Anywhere else and you could endanger many people," Frehghan explained. Lyth snorted and shook its head tendrils. "You had a choice, once, from what I remember." it countered. Frehghan turned his face away from his creation. Lyth was a well-spoken monster, but a monster nonetheless. He closed his eyes and despaired. The King must never be allowed to make these irrational requests again, he determined. "There are animals and other scurrying creatures for food in the Pass," he said, opening his eyes again and turning back to the creature, wanting to change the subject. "But you will not be permitted to leave just yet." With a word of command, the ice-and-fire collar dissipated with a hiss. "I nearly broke your boundary yesterday. Given time, your collar would have snapped. That pronouncement will not last." Lyth responded simply, then leapt up two levels of the sheer rock-face with grace and ease. Frehghan stood and looked up at it. Then, as though Fire burned through his whole body, he said. "No it will not last. One day you will see justice done and right the wrongs done to you. One day, Lyth, you will get a new name. And one day, you will feel that who you are is enough." As the inner flame of prophecy died down, the cold of Winter hit Frehghan like an avalanche. Pulling out his brand he commanded a small flame into being until he warm enough. "It’s a pity you Paràntii haven’t developed fur," Lyth called down bitterly from his perch. "No, for some reason we’ve lost that over the years." Frehghan noted with regret, while also silently realising the creature now understood two languages. "Humans are too flawed and rarely learn from their mistakes," Lyth answered.