It was late Autumn when it began. The last of the topaz, ruby, and mahogony foliage hung onto the wind whipped branches of the trees surrounding the village. It was in this small village of West End, once the capital city, for the Kings and Queens of old resided here. It was in the country of Sha'anae Doas, which in the Old Tongue had meant The Twin Golden Doors, that destiny would reach out and shape a young woman's life.
It began as Sha'ara sat in her bedroom and ran a brush through her thick auburn hair. She sat in front of an ornate mirror, which had been her Mother's and back through generations so that it had been in her family in the time before the Breaking of the Doors. As she dreamily groomed, she noticed a song being sung that she had never heard before, but as Sha'ara listened she realized with shock that it was infact her own voice.
She sang the song as though she had known it for hundreds of years. The words of the song called to her, but soon she heard another voice. This voice spoke to her, so the singing faded and she began listening to this new voice. Her eye automatically turned to the mirror, only to see images forming in it. Images that held her attention.
Though wilt remember; before the Breaking ever happened, the Kings and Queens of Sha'anae Doas lived in harmony with the people of Sha'atirna. The Twin Doors that led to their realm remained open for hundreds of years. They have been awaiting The Doors to once again be made whole, thus healing the rift between our worlds.
As Sha’ara listened, a scene unfolded in the mirror. She saw her beloved village, but it seemed different somehow, and she saw the Doors opened and an alliance made between the immortals and the King and Queen. Then the mirror went blurry and became clear once again. A new scene unfolded and as Sha’ara watched she noticed that time seemed to have passed since the last vision for now, here, a new King and Queen, traipsing along the Willow Labyrinth with one of the immortals, Prince Moy’rain, also called The Meadow. Their daughter the Princess came out with them and ran after Moy’rain, face alight with laughter. He caught her up in his arms and twirled round and round.
You know this man and he knows you, though you know it not.
Sha’ara could not believe her eyes, so enchanted by the face she knew. Yet there was no possible way she could know him. The Doors had been broken for so many years that The Oldest had not witnessed it in her lifetime and neither had 10 generations of Oldests. In fact, no one living remembered The Doors, where they were or what they were for. Even so, she knew that however impossible it seemed, the voice spoke correctly.
Remember who you are, remember who you once were, remember who you will become. Now you bear The Mark. You are Shia’din! You hold power you know not of, but soon you will rise up and take back that which is yours.
Sha’ara woke up with a gasp! It was mid-morning and magical orange light from the sun, which hung low in the horizon, poured into her room making it warm and dreamy. She could hear excited voices outside her bedroom window, from the Square. She slowly rose from her soft bed and became puzzled to see it unmade.
“That is odd, I do not recall going to bed for the night,” Sha’ara said out loud in a raspy voice. The sound of it startled her, and she had little time to put her morning clothes on before she was nearly startled again.
“Well sleepy head, come and get breakfast!” said a voice beyond her door. “After you help thy brother deliver th’ punch to the Bright Wind Inn for the Festival, you may see to the Square.” The voice continued.
“I am come, Fatha.” Sha’ara answered. “Is it so late as that?”
“Aye,” Her father replied, “You should see the storm of crowd that has gathered at the Inn.”
After Sha’ara had broke her fast with fresh bread and eggs in the bright and airy kitchen, she went to get dressed more appropriately for the cool autumn weather and prepared to go into the barn where she heard her brother Jonah as he fiddled with the cart and desperately tried to quiet the horse, which had a good healthy coat the color of roasted chestnuts. She let out a stifled laugh even though she endeavored to be silent enough to frighten him (a favorite game between them). Jonah saw her but pretended he hadn’t and kept fiddling with the horse until finally he managed to attach the cart with a sigh of relief.
“By the Hawk of Le’ethio!” he gasped while staggering slightly backwards. At that moment Sha’ara came by him and touched his hand slightly, resulting in Jonah hitting his head on a low beam.
“Oh, I am sorry,” Sha’ara said with wide eyes, “will you be alright?” She asked, somewhat tickled.
She smiled somewhat crookedly at her brother and wondered, not for the first time, if he looked like their mother. Sha’ara could hardly remember what her mother looked like, since she had left them before the girl was old enough to walk by herself.
“Come Brother, we must hurry to the Inn and deliver the punch to Master Tain, so he will not have leave to yell at us about the Celebration!” She sounded exasperated as they led the cart-horse apparatus out the barn door and headed to the road.
Master Tain had a habit of yelling at the two, yet with a hint of joviality and always had a smile for them. He was a quiet man often preferring books to people, and could usually be found in the back room of the Inn, which he called his library. His wife Miss Eliza’ bet was very pretty, with black hair which usually had to be put up in intricate braids and twists because of its length. She was quite the favorite with the children because of her motherly ways.
Jonah’s mouth curved in a mischievous manner as he made a sideways glance at his sister. “What do you think Cryss will say when he sees you in your new dress?” Jonah laughed and continued, “I think he will ask you to dance the Wold Star with him.”
Sha’ara gave him a face that clearly meant back off and so they traveled the West End Trail in silence. Jonah knew better than to mess with her after being given one of her looks; once a few years ago he had been teasing her about the Drrygs, he kept on even after receiving that look, went too far and received a sound lashing from her tongue. So from then on he knew when to stop.
The young girl looked around while they were walking and could not help being enchanted, as always, by the scenery. West End Trail was the longest road in the village, which wasn’t saying much, and had beautiful trees all around it and shrubbery that sported the most brilliant flowers and intoxicating aromas. By the time she came out of her reverie, they came to the end of their trek and stood in front of the Bright Wind Inn.
“Jonah, Sha’ara, nice to see you again. Come, have a bite to eat.” Miss Eliza’bet said while she gave each a hug and kiss. “How is Master Roux?” She queried as they went into the Inn.
“Fatha is good; his leg is healing marvelous much since the Wisdom came the other day.” Sha’ara answered.
“Well glad I am to hear it; he gave us a fright worrying about him.” As Sha’ara and Jonah dragged the wheeled cart containing the barrels of punch to Master Tain, Miss Eliza’bet kept them company and told them about the various peoples who had come for The Day of Dawning.
“The Inn can hardly hold all the people who came. We have a gleemaker here and several magicians, and peddlers with their wares, and the Council has gathered in the Hall because they think a couple of our guests are dangerous” she whispered. Meanwhile the trio clamored their way to the back of the common room.
“Here we are Master Tain!” Jonah said as his lanky form entered a room in the back which was lined with bookshelves on three of the dusty, green walls.
“Jonah, Sha’ara, ‘bout time you two came!” His voice rumbled as he took his eyes from the book which lay on the desk before him. Even though he greeted them thusly there remained a twinkle in his eyes. “The Day of Dawning is hardly two days away and already we are crowded with guests.”
Sha’ara and Jonah said their goodbyes to Master Tain and followed Miss Eliza’bet back through the common room and into the kitchen for a morsel to eat. While they made their way they spotted Raphe, Taryn, and Armaelie seated each at a different table, and then also Cryss, at which Sha’ara could be seen to have color on her porcelain cheeks.
“Now then, let’s get you two properly fed, shall we?” The voice of Miss Eliza’bet said as they entered the loud and steamy kitchen.
There were several crocks of boiling something or another, gleaming pots and pans of various sizes hanging on racks, and the smells which lingered in the air were enough to ravage the stomach.
“Here we are,” her melodic voice carried as she loaded two plates with boiled meat, vegetables and bread with fresh butter. She then proceeded to get hold of two goblets and filled each with a draught of fresh milk. As Miss Eliza’bet led them back into the big common room, Sha’ara seemed bothered by something she remembered, and did not answer when her name was called.
“Sha’ara, come sit with me,” shouted Armaelie, but the invitation got no answer.
“Sha’ara, Sha’ara?” Then what after seemed like minutes, she came to herself and looked in the direction from which the girl’s voice came and meandered toward her, as if in a waking dream.
“You’ll never believe what I found out about who’s here for The Dawning!” Armaelie burst out. Sha’ara reached the table at which the girl had been sitting, and switched seats with Armaelie’s younger sister Patra.
By then Sha’ara seemed to have come back to herself, and wondered what her friend meant by who was there, but did not get a moment to ask, for Armaelie started spouting again after they had addressed themselves back to their meal.
“I saw them put their horses in the stable, and Raphe says he talked to them and they keep to themselves mostly. There are some people in this village who seem to be afraid of them and say we should have nothing to do with them, but I think that’s just plain silly, they haven’t been even slightly unfriendly to anyone and they seem nice to me.” By the time she finished this Armaelie was quite out of breath and gulped down her water.
“Well, who are they? Tell me already.” Sha’ara said, anxious to know this bit of news for reasons unknown to her at the moment.
“The woman is a Shia’din! The man with her is said to be some kind of tracker or the like. Can you imagine? What is a Shia’din doing in West End?”
“Shia’din?” Sha’ara murmured to herself, and speculated that she had heard the word very recently somewhere but could not remember. The history books at the Hall? Maybe but she did not think so.
“Why would anyone in town be frightened of them? There is not any reason they would do us harm.”
“I don’t know,” Armaelie answered. “Even the Wisdom takes unkindly toward them. But I think it is terribly exciting having strangers here during The Dawning.”
By that time Taryn had come to their table and sat down next to Sha’ara, and listened as the conversation rolled along, all the while her face grew stonier.
“The Wisdom has a reason! We do not fear any one, and if we do there is a very proper reason I am sure!” She said in a huff, for Taryn was an apprentice, learning the ancient profession as to become the next village Wisdom. Under her handmade violet hat, the tell tale sign of a Wisdom in Training; her long straw colored hair drawn up in tiny braids and into pig tails that trailed behind her.
“But why should they raise fear in people, have they done anything in their history to warrant it?” Sha’ara sounded agitated, for the memory lingered softly in her mind of the voice a few nights before. “It is simply childish to fear any peoples because of silly superstitions and wives tales, even if it comes from our old stories!” And with that she rose from her seat, said adieu to Armaelie and scanned through the crowd for her brother, spotted him, and waited to catch his attention as to make it known that she would be going to make her way to the Square. Jonah was sitting among Raphe, Cryss and a stranger.
“Sha’ara, this is Master Shay,” Jonah started.
“Please, just call me Shay.” The stranger replied.
Jonah nodded as he continued, “He came this morning with the -”
“Not the place.” Shay cautioned, cutting Jonah short. “I came with Bri’nna for The Dawning.”
But something in his hazel green eyes told Sha’ara he wasn’t sharing the real reason they had come to her village. She stood there a moment entranced, looking at this stranger. He had eyes that shone like the brightest jade, hair the color of caramel which was long enough to be kept back by a thong of leather, a thin but sturdy build, well tanned skin, and his manner of dress was simple yet had a strange sort of elegance. His eyes were strong, and yet had a softness he reserved for only those he grew to trust. Sha’ara decided at once that she liked Shay, and she could not wait to see what Bri’nna was like.
“Well ‘Shay’, it was nice to make your acquaintance, I trust I will see you later and at The Dawning, of course?” Sha’ara questioned. Then she took her leave of her brother, Cryss, and Shay, and headed for Miss Eliza’bet.
“Ah, back for seconds are we?” guessed Miss Eliza’bet.
“No actually. I wanted to thank you for the food,” said Sha’ara. “I will be going to the Square now. I just met Shay: he and my brother were talking. I wonder what Bri’nna is like. Some people here seem to be afraid of them. I think that is quite silly.”
Miss Eliza’bet laughed. “Well, I met them both coming in and they were very nice and friendly. She is wise beyond her years, and her speech is a bit different from West End folks.” She finished, while taking from Sha’ara the plate and goblet she held in her hands. “So I told them to come to the Inn, bring their horses to the stable, get dry and I gave them rooms for the Celebration.” She then gave Sha’ara a big hug and sent the girl on her way.
Sha’ara made it out of the Inn and down the West End Trail. She traveled only a little ways before spotting the small trail that lead to the Square, and the Hall where was kept the histories of their village and all of Sha’anae Doas, down to the oldest known ancestor. She felt the need to look up some things in the Hall Library, but she wanted to see what the commotion at the Square was first. It wasn’t long before she stood in front of it, took a seat, and began listening to the talk around her.
“This is the way we have always d-”
“These decorations over here have been ruined. We do not have time to ma-”
“Quiet! If we talk one at a time, please we can get this done before Eve of Dawning,” came the thick voice of the mayor, Master Han. “Now, if we work together the festivities will go as planned without a hitch.”
“Who are those two strangers? Why are they here?” A voice in the crowd said. At this Sha’ara twitched and started listening with great interest.
The rotund Mayor stated clearly to the crowd, “we are not here to talk about them, and the Council will decide that not you.”
All of a sudden Sha’ara remembered something and left the Square for the Hall. About halfway there she ran into someone.
“Ugh, oh I am sorry,” she said to no one, then looked up. “I…I am s-sorry, I... did not see you there.” Sha’ara stammered.
“It is quite alright child. You are Sha’ara, no?” The woman’s voice was melodic and soft, and to Sha’ara it seemed to hold a hidden secret.
Sha’ara stared in disbelief; there in front of her stood the most beautiful women she had ever laid eyes on. With eyes of deepest ocean, skin of pale alabaster, hair of dark vermillion, kept long and curly. The clothes were rich and colorful and lay very nicely and had shiny buttons on the cuffs. She had an ease about her, but also authority.
This was Bri’nna.