Thaddeus and Sacerdotia
Asullus Anguli XIX ... Asullus’ Corner
Thaddeus and Sacerdotia
Well, now, several o’ our Gentle Readers ha’ been pressin’ this ol’ Mulee lately to know more o’ Thaddeus’ four, so-called, Feral Children—those he ha’ been identified as bein’ the father thereo’ at a time before he an’ the Lady Marsia ha’ made things all formal betwixt themselves. As those who follow these scrolls knows, the Four Feral ones comprise the Ordines in the Great Prophecy an’ are, therefore, necessary to all things workin’ out just so, don’ ye know.
Wi’ that in mind, yer old an’ faithful friend, Asullus, an’ the mighty Spritae Morphia ha’ done some research an’ come up with four tales occupyin’ the next four bits o’ our writin’s here. Hope they do go towards providin’ ye some enjoyment in yer readin’ time.
Thaddeus rode at a steady pace through the rain. He would need to seek shelter soon as it was getting late, and the light was perceptibly fading. He’d want an early start tomorrow, of course. It would likely take him another day or so to make the coast, next south for another part of a day, then home. By that time he’d be racing the White Eaglet--bringer of babies, according to Saphie, his only, so far--as to who would make it to the Tower first--him or the new arrival. He’d been on the road longer than expected, but at least most of the Westlands’ defenses were now in place, according to Silvestrus. That was enough for now--he’d done his part. So, to home.
He had passed this way before and recollected a clutch of caves up in this area. He slowed Viator to a walk and turned off the Northern Road into the forest.
An hour further on, a roaring and snarling brought him to a halt. Normally he would avoid investigating anything that sounded like conflict--he’d gotten soft, as Rolland of Fountaindale had said more than once. But peace meant a great deal to him these days. Still, if he was to bed down around here, it would behoove him to know what it was that transpired. He dismounted and tied Viator to a nearby tree limb and followed the sound of the disturbance.
Coming to a clearing, he espied a grotto abutting several cave openings. In front of one was the source of the disruption. Spelaeus! Standing tall and roaring fiercely was the largest cave bear Thaddeus had ever seen. It was a towering mass of fury fully five paces high. Bellowing and slavering, huge paws with terrible claws capable of ripping apart anything that opposed it, it stood astride the entrance to one of the caves. Between its massive legs two little cubs huddled together--a sow protecting her babies.
The focus of the great bear’s attention was a large brown wolf pacing an arc back and forth snarling between feinting forays to the cave’s entrance. It was clearly wounded, a great bleeding gash down it’s left shoulder and chest. Hobbling, it alternately eyed the grotto seeking a way to leave without being torn in half and the cave entrance--a dilemma.
Thaddeus wasn’t sure what could be accomplished here, but he’d never find a place to rest with this ruckus, not to mention being able to trust that his horse would not become an entree for these carnivores. While he thought Viator would probably give a good account of himself, nothing could stand against that bear. And wolves tended to travel with friends.
“Ursus!” he called in the Language of Those-Who-Hunt, “What do you here?”
The bear swung its massive head around to face him, though its eyes flicked back frequently to the cringing wolf. The wolf likewise gazed at Thaddeus, eyes widening momentarily, but quickly turned its attention back to its much larger adversary.
“Ha! Sorcerer! I smelled you coming, but first I must deal with this dog!”
“Tell me, Great Bear. What has this little one done to offend you?”
“It came into my home. I was resting, but my pups were curious. I awoke immediately. All should know it is death to come near my family.”
“Did it seek to harm you or your babies?”
“No. It lives still, does it not? If it had...”
“Yes, of course. I understand. I see it is gravely wounded. Perhaps it would leave you in peace, if given the opportunity?”
“I had thought that as well after I had given it that scratch, but it will not leave though I have given it several chances. Now, however, my patience is at an end, and it will die.”
“Great Bear! None are there who could fault your reasoning, yet preserving life may yield benefit. With your leave, I would speak with this intruder and understand better why it is behaving in this odd fashion. What say you to postponing its death this little while?”
Several moments passed as the great beast mulled over the request.
“Very well. You may have a small time to do this thing. Know that I do this only because I know you of old, though you may not recall a young cub who found a beehive kept by humans and what happened then. But none of your tricks, Sorcerer. Discover what you need to and end it quickly!”
“As you say, Great Bear." Cub? Bee-hive? Oh, yes...
The wolf had slowed its pacing and now stood shaking in one place, head lowered and panting heavily.
“Lupus, what do you here in this place?”
“I was traveling west...seeking someone...it was important to me...was in my other fur...got caught in the rain...went into the cave...smelled of bear, but I thought it was gone...my smelling is poor in my other fur...put my pack and staff down...cubs came to me...they were so cute...knew I should have left sooner...then Herself appeared...more than I bargained for...wanted to run, but I must have my staff and pack...they’re still in there...can’t leave without...I’m so cold...feel dizzy...”
The wolf collapsed to the ground, head rolled back, tongue lolling.
Pack? Staff? Then it came to Thaddeus. A demi-wolf! He moved cautiously to the limp form and examined it briefly.
“Great Bear. This one is severely injured and near death. She lingered only for some rags and a stick she left in your home by error--for which she is truly penitent. They are important to her, however. If you have no need of them, I ask to be allowed to remove them, so they disturb you no further. Also, I ask to be allowed to remove this dog from your presence as well. I am willing to see to her remains.”
“You ask too much, Sorcerer! The bitch will die! I will rend her corpse as a reminder to all who it is that rules here! As for the trash she has left in my home, I will shred it till none is left!”
“I understand your anger, Great Bear. And, truly, it is justified. However...I wonder if you would be willing to consider an exchange?”
“Exchange, Sorcerer? How mean you?”
“Perhaps I have something you would find of value. I ask to be allowed to present it to you. Then, if you deem it of worth we would exchange and I would be allowed the dog, rags and stick I have spoken of.”
The huge cave bear snorted. “You have nothing I would find of value--unless you mean that horse I smell on you. I do not mind horse. I have not had any for two seasons. They are skittish and prone to run when I approach. All right, then. Bring me your horse. If it pleases me, you may take the cur and her garbage and depart immediately. I grow tired of this charade, and when I am tired, I am likely to become irritable.”
“Ah, Great Bear, of course you would like my horse, but I find, unfortunately, I have some further need of it just presently. In its place, however, let me offer this…” Thaddeus gestured and spoke. “Fiat Mel!”. There was the familiar roaring and rushing sound.
The cave bear’s eyes widened, and it began to drool. “Well done, Sorcerer! Take what you need and leave us. Now!”
“Of course, Great Bear! As you wish.”
The mother bear lumbered back into the cave. Thaddeus ducked as the demi-wolf’s back-pack and staff sailed out of the cave in a high arc, landing near him and the wolf with two thumps and a bounce. Thaddeus slid his cloak off his shoulders, gently laid the wolf upon it, tossed in the slivered staff and ripped pack and dragged the lot carefully backwards out of the grotto to where Viator waited, never letting his eyes leave the form of the stupendous beast and her cubs until he and the injured wolf were safely away.
After assuring herself the meddlesome human and wolfish intruder had truly left, the mother bear grunted, signaling her pups to join her. They came quickly and were soon sitting on the ground, one on either side of their mother, who had already dipped one of her great paws into the Sorcerer’s wondrous gift. As she licked up the sticky, wax-flecked, golden treasure, she reflected that while mercy was said to be its own reward, compensation, on occasion, was tolerable as well.
Viator presented not at all pleased with the addition to their party but seemed less concerned once he appeared to understand the wolf’s condition posed no threat. After a brief search of the area, Thaddeus discovered a suitable cave a safe distance away from the bear’s grotto. Besides its proximity to a rushing stream, it had other advantages--chief among these that it was uninhabited. After they settled in, he turned his attention to his new charge.
With care, he dressed the semiconscious wolf’s wounds. She seemed to bear the ministrations with patience--still on his cloak--far back in the cave away from the elements. He considered giving the animal a sleeping draught, but as he was about to offer it to the wolf, the creature opened its eyes and spoke.
“It is all right. I do not require your drug. I will sleep well this night, and I am grateful. Thank you, Father." And with that, she drifted off to sleep.
Dawn brought continued rain and a remarkable improvement in the demi-wolf’s condition. And information.
The young woman in a torn tunic and long brown braid falling to the cave floor sat carefully with her back against the etched rock wall, away from the small fire. Her left shoulder was swathed in simple bandages. In her lap was a wooden bowel half-filled with broth. Between measured dips and sips from her spoon, she related her story. Thaddeus squatted nearby, his arms resting on his legs and hands clasped loosely in front of him.
“Mother named me Sacerdotia, knowing I would become a priestess. Concerning you, she told me she knew you from the beginning--right after she returned to where she and her pack had killed the Ogre. She kept track of you and decided to see you in person. The local townsfolk, of course, recognized her from her other form, but the village demi-wolves all knew who she really was, of course--their Golden Pack Leader. Then came the incident with that mad, religious fanatic, and there you were. She was immediately attached, and the rest you know, I am sure. And, so, here I am, the result--a Druidic priestess, half-wolf, shape-shifter, gone looking for her Father. I had heard about your Tower and thought I’d pay a visit there.”
The girl took some more sips, then shifted her position slightly with a wince. “I had been making fairly good time walking. I had my Oaken staff of Relevance, and my magic paraphernalia in my pack. But then it started pouring... That was a near thing yesterday, Father. Your arrival was timely. Of course, I knew you right away--family scent, you know. I was relieved, but so surprised to see you there of all places, coming in as you did. I was thinking this morning that there must be more to this than appears on the surface, but I have not yet recovered sufficient strength to parse it all out so far. I do acknowledge, though, that it has saved me a longer journey. I’ve always wanted to meet you, and...” her voice trailed off as her eyes widened.
“What is it, Sacerdotia?” Thaddeus asked.
“Father, you must away soon to home. Your family needs you.”
Thaddeus, alarmed, stood casting about, but the comely hazel-eyed brunette reached up and placed a gentle restraining hand on his arm. “It is all right, Father. I did not mean to disquiet you. You are needed because it is near Nature’s time for your tall woman. Rest assured, all will be well. Not only for this one, but for the next--and the next--and the--oh, my. Twelve, all together. Oh, my." The girl’s eyes widened again and then she giggled. After a moment, and with some obvious effort, she got slowly to her feet. “Father, you go on. I will rest here a bit and tend to the camp. With my staff and pack, none will disturb me. I am truly well now, and you are needed elsewhere. I have achieved my purpose." She stood on tiptoes and kissed his brow. “I shall tell Mother that I found you and that you are well, and all the rest. She will be amazed, and pleased." She frowned briefly. “And I will probably get another lecture about woodcraft and animal-animal inter-relations. Oh, well. She’s a parent, and that is what they do, is it not? Goodbye, Father. This has been very special for me.”
Thaddeus kissed his new-found daughter’s brow in return, retrieved his belongings from the cave and strode out to where Viator was waiting. He untied the tether, mounted quickly and with a wave of farewell rode down from the forest. Without difficulty, he found the Northern Road again and resumed his journey westward. The rain had stopped by now and the sun shown bright with promise.
As he rode, Thaddeus considered what his daughter had said. Twelve? And now he had met the fourth of his four Fey children. He wondered briefly concerning the others of his kind. Was this true of them as well? This thought led him to think of Silvestrus. His mentor had never mentioned in detail this aspect of a Sorcerer’s Ethos, only to say they rarely married and settled down with just one person. And he did have an Age on him--centuries, it seemed. Was spreading the seed of Sorcery widely a part of his plan? Did it have something to do with other Sorcerers who had followed? Did it have something to do with himself? He must give this some thought. He would mention it to his ‘tall woman,’ as Sacerdotia had called her. It may be she could offer some perspective. But perhaps not right away. First things first. And that was going to include a lot of changing cloths. He grinned and nudged Viator into a canter.
To the East, a young woman wearing a sling crumbled herbs into a small pot of boiling water, with other ingredients, then gazed into the ferment. Long she looked, her expressions changing from one to the next. First pleasure, then turmoil accompanied by great danger--then anger and retribution. At the last, she saw great joy, then peace. But peace for whom? That was the problem with visions--they could be vary non-specific. She would have to parse that out, too. When she felt better. For now, weighty events and earth-shaking cataclysms would have to give precedence to a nice long nap.
So, that be the matter o’ how Thaddeus first met his growed up younger daughter, Sacerdotia. An’ ne’er fear, there’ll be much more concernin’ this lass an’ her father in the later scrolls. Howe’er, until that time…
The Great North Tower, Northfast