Chapter 5: Meu

Scurra stared into the distance as she stood over the hot stove. For a long moment, Soirja simply thought her daughter looked through the window and after the children, or watched the wheel and dart of the birds as they sang of the early mourn. Then, Soirja noted the hypnotized look on her grown daughter's face and realized she was likely suffering another one of her spells. "Scurra?" she said as she stood, and moved to intervene.

Most the time these spells were peaceful enough on the surface – but not always. Scurra was known to loose her balance and stumble a bit when she came out of them. One time, she was atop the barn when a spell struck. Soirja just happened to turn and see her daughter standing dangerously tall on the barn's roof – and then Scurra toppled and dropped like a leaf in the wind! Soirja thought her baby died right in front of her – but the fall resulted in nothing more than a busted leg, a bloodied lip, and bucket of tears. Considering the height, Soirja was all to happy to find her baby breathing and cognizant, much less able to move most her joints.

Scurra's spells were rarely so bad, which was not like the spells suffered by her brother. When Krumpus had one of his spells, he flopped about like a fish out of water and frothed like a madman. For many years, Soirja thought his spells would be the end of him, but as he aged, they dimmed and happened far less frequently. Indeed, she wondered after her son and if he still suffered these convulsions.

Soirja moved her daughter away from the heat of the stove and sat her in a chair. It was better to have Scurra there then in front of the fire, where she might come out of her spell and do something terrible, like dump a hot pan of sausage and grease all over herself.

Soirja shook her head and decided not to think about it. She continued to prepare breakfast as she waited for Scurra to snap out of her spell. After a minute, Scurra looked about the kitchen, noticed the gaze of her mother, then turned and hanged her head. "I wasn't myself," she said as she often did when these things were witnessed.

Scurra stood and joined her mother in preparation of the meal.

"What did you see?" Soirja asked.

Scurra shook her head. "Nothing," she claimed as she stared out the window. This was common. Neither of her children liked to talk much of the visions they witnessed as they suffered these spells.

Later that day, a letter came by post. It was from Krumpus. Scurra read it with a muttered curse.

"What is it?" Soirja asked.

Scurra passed the letter to her mother. "Your son is on one of his adventures again," Scurra stated. "I have to go west."

"For Krumpus?" Soirja's heart gave a jump. She had not seen her son since he left to help with the plague in Melmorahn. Suddenly suspicious, she eyed her daughter. "This has to do with that spell you suffered?"

Scurra didn't answer.

After a long second, Soirja's accused her, "You did see something!"

Scurra glared at her mother. "Crows," she said. Then, the anger passed, and Scurra pointed to the letter. "He has a request of me. Will you see to it?"

Soirja gave a nod. "You be careful. These spells are never what they seem."

"Except when they are," Scurra stated and hugged her mother.

"They don't have to be the future. They are only an invitation," the mother instructed.

"I gladly accept it – and at times I gladly reject it," the daughter answered.

Scurra rode out the next day just after sunrise with little more than her pack, a bow, her blades, and a coat that bore the family crest: an oak with a beast asleep at its trunk, done in silver and jade. Hers with an added crow.

~!@#$%^&*()_+ 5.2 +_)(*&^%$#@!~

Krumpus continued to dance, and the wyrm danced with him. He hummed and hawed and kept a respectful distance from the large creature – but the wyrm wasn't so interested in boundaries. The wyrm twisted, curled, and slowly extended itself toward the shaman, its movements in time to the song. The creature crept close in a calm and friendly manner, and Krumpus allowed her to loop about his arm.

As his humming and dance progressed, Krumpus allowed the wyrm to tangle about his arms and wrap his hips. Although the creature wrapped about his limbs, he thought of how he might kill it if the beast should attack, all while he noted the creature's cool, smooth, and supple scales. He thought it was a miracle that the creature should be so familiar! What a magnificent beast! Now if only he had a way to talk to with it...

Several times, Krumpus waned in his performance and thought to end the song and dance. His step slowed and his humming subsided – but there was a pleading in the wyrm's behavior. As he slowed, the creature became restless. It begged him to proceed. Driven on, Krumpus increased his step and song yet again, and wondered when and how this dance might end. Then, with no provocation, the wyrm suddenly bit him!

Krumpus struggled against the beasts coils – but she was so tangled about him and her grip was impossibly strong! Before he could do a single thing about it, he was trussed up like a sheep for sheering. He couldn't budge her at all, and she tightened the knots at will.

Krumpus stared back at the beast and got caught in the vortex of her emerald eyes. Hints of red and tan danced in the storm of her iris as stories from her past poured into his mind. He realized he knew things about the beast he could not possibly know. For one, he knew she was a female, and a good deal older than she appeared. She was also quite pleased to have someone dance with her. There was little music among her native people, and even less dancing.

He saw her home: jagged mountain peaks to the west and north. The Spires of Gendalou, she spoke in his mind.

How is this possible? Krumpus wondered back at her. Were the things he saw real and true? Was he simply suffering an hallucination brought on by her bite?

Almost as quick as he asked the question, he received the answer. It is the venom that allows us to peer into each other's mind and share our thoughts. It is for this reason that I bit you, she apologized, it might be painful, but it is awful convenient, no?

Krumpus had to agree.

I will let you go now, she said. I will not hurt you further so long as you do not hurt me.

And why would I hurt you? Krumpus replied.

Some men are quick to seek revenge, she answered as her warm color returned and she slowly untied herself.

You grant telepathy, and I'm supposed to be angry? He replied. Do you think my pride is so easily injured? A mere bite is a small price to experience such wonder! I would suffer a thousand such bites to speak in the minds of others!

Alas, it is only my mind you will hear – unless I decide to bite another, she smiled. Her fangs showed between her thin lips. My name is Meu, she said as Krumpus extricated himself from her coils and lifted himself out of the dust of the road. Thank you for your song. You have a good voice – and yet you only hum. Why do you not sing words?

Krumpus thought of the seizures he still suffered from time to time, and how they caused him to chomp as he thrashed about. He thought of the thick scar tissue that swelled his tongue and made it difficult to make proper sounds.

Ah, I am sorry for your troubles, she said. What brings you to this land?

A flower, he thought. I found it in droves the last time I was here, but now I see none of it, Krumpus shared his memory of foxbane.

I know this flower, Meu confirmed. There is much of it around my home where others cannot reach. But where the slopes are gentle, there are others that hate this flower and rip it from the earth wherever they find it. They are foul and twisted beasts and prefer their own noxious vegetables. She remembered her occasional encounters with this type of beast, which were always unpleasant.

Bugbear, Krumpus spat on the ground. Indeed, I have encountered their traps.

And why do you need this flower? Meu asked.

There is a plague in Melmorahn and the flower cures it, Krumpus answered. It does not grow so far north. Now, I think it is because there are bugbear around Melmorahn.

I know Melmorahn, Meu said. I am sad to hear her people suffer. Still, I cannot imagine these bugbear have ripped all the foxbane from these mountains. You should find some soon enough.

And where do you go? Krumpus asked.

I am heading south to visit my daughter. She has birthed a clutch and I wish to see them before they abandon their mother and venture out on their own. Meu stated. I am hoping some will come north and live among the Spires.

Are there a lot of wyrms in the world? Krumpus asked. How many colonies are there?

Around the world? Meu shrugged. How should I know? How many colonies of men are there?

I don't know. I've just never seen any of your sort. I should think you are extremely rare.

Rare in your quarter, she noted. We're all over the spires.

But you know of men, Krumpus observed.

Our races have more to do with each other than most humans – and most wyrms – will ever know! Meu laughed. Our community was close to those of Salyst. We are sad to see most of them slaves to the Ministrians or gone beyond the Red Desert – though I am happy to say several hundred survive among our caves, she sighed. We certainly do not speak with the Ministrians.

Speaking of missing people, all these towns and villages are deserted. Krumpus noted. Where are the Bouge that used to live here? It has happened recently. I was here some years ago and the land was dotted with their settlements.

It is the Ministrians; up to one of their strange machinations, no doubt, Meu shook her head, I've not been through this area in years, and I have barely paid attention to news of the area. I merely hope to pass through. She shrugged. But enough of such sad speculations! The light of day warms us. Let us dance once more, I beg it! We shall have plenty of time to discuss the grief of the world after a bit more entertainment!

You wish only to dance? Krumpus replied.

It is not all I wish, Meu smiled. But I love music, and all that are capable of making it. It has been a long time since I had occasion to dance, and now I realize how much I have missed it!

I don't know that I have it in me, Krumpus hedged. I certainly cannot dance for another hour, especially if you should try to wrestle me again.

Just a few songs, but one or two... Meu begged. If you do not do it, I shall have to bite you again, and then I will make you! She flashed her fangs and fanned her impressive wings.

Krumpus took a step back. You cannot make me.

You'd be surprised, Meu smiled and her thoughts went black as she coiled about him. For a moment he wondered if such coercion might not be possible. Her thoughts returned promptly.

I will not, she continued. Instead, I shall simply beg of you. Please, please...

Krumpus hopped a step and considered which song to chant. In a few minutes he was right back into the swing of it. He hummed and hawed and stamped at the ground. They danced once more, one song bled into the next, and two became three. Krumpus was in the middle of a long traditional song, that told the history of the Broken Legions and their flight into the Bunderhilt Mountains. He stomped about as if he was at war and used his staff as a prop. It was an energetic and forceful dance, and Krumpus meant for it to be his finale. As the two danced, the wyrm suddenly climbed up his staff as her wings beat the air. Krumpus wondered if she meant to take flight and abandon him. But Meu did not leave. Instead, she froze upon the staff as she wrapped her body tightly about it. Her maw hung open in a vicious snarl and her wings were fanned in a dramatic display. Her body went dark and became hard and still as stone – just the way she was when she bit him – no wonder he could barely budge!

Krumpus stared at Meu and gently rubbed her smooth metallic face. Her eyes were like jade and she refused to budge or quiver. He wondered how long she could keep up such a trick.

My best is three days, she noted. I apologize, but we are interrupted, my darling. I only just now saw them myself... Meu sighed.

Krumpus turned. Several Saot soldiers sat upon their horses and stared at the Trohl. They were far too close for comfort as they approached around the same blind turn in the winding mountain road. They stared at the Trohl with confused disdain as they bristled with weapons – and Krumpus realized he'd never get to his horse before they got to him.