Tales for Human Children

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Tales for Human Children is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.

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"How can a blind man see more than his companion, the hunter? What will become of the young ranger who inadvertly disrupts the balance of nature? How can a butterfly change a girl's life? And how can someone pass himself off as a mystical diviner and successfully get away with it?"

Nothing is quite as it seems in this collection of children's stories; so prepare yourself to be delighted and maybe a bit intrigued as you follow the magical transformations of body, mind and spirit that occur within them.

These tales have the color and vigor of the individuals they represent: a human girl, a warrior, an empoverished pair of elves, a young ranger. At the same time, they each remind us in different ways of how vast and mysterious Elanthia is, and how our lives can be transformed by the most unexpected circumstances.


Iter's Tale

Once upon a time there was a blind man named Iter who lived with his sister in a village at the edge of a forest. This blind man was very clever. Even though his eyes saw nothing, he seemed to know more about the world than people whose eyes were sharp as needles. He would sit outside his hut and talk to passersby. Sometimes, if they had problems, they would ask him what they should do, and he would always give good advice.

Soon, people began to stop by just to talk to Iter. If there were things they wanted to know, he would tell them and his answers were always the right ones. People would shake their heads in amazement, "Blind man, how is it that you are so wise?" And Iter would smile and say: "Because I see with my ears."

Time passed. One day, Iter's sister fell in love with a warrior named Wosh. After a short courting, he joined his wife in the hut by the edge of the forest. Iter's sister was very happy, except for one thing. Wosh had no time for his wife's brother.

"What use is a man with no eyes?" he would ask. To him, Iter was a little more than a nuisance, seemingly incapable of providing for his family. On top of that, Wosh was annoyed at the constant stream of people seeking Iter's counsel. His wife would try to make him understand that her brother was not just a helpless blind man, but Wosh remained impassive.

"He knows more about the world than people who can see," she used to tell him. Wosh would just laugh at that.

Every day, Wosh would go into the forest with his traps and weapons. And every evening, when he returned home, Iter would tell him, "Please, Wosh, tomorrow let me come hunting with you in the forests."

Wosh would shake his head and refuse. He would think to himself, "What use would this blind man be in hunting?"

Time passed. Every evening, Iter would ask, "Please, Wosh, tomorrow let me come hunting with you in the forests".

Every evening, the warrior refused. But then, one evening, Wosh was in a particularly good mood. He had returned home with a great big boar for dinner and they had enjoyed a fine meal. Suddenly, Wosh turned to Iter and said, "Very well, Iter, tomorrow you will come hunting with me."

Early the next morning, the two men set off together. Wosh was carrying his traps and weapons and leading Iter by the hand along the path between the trees. For what seemed like hours, they walked. Then suddenly, Iter stopped; he tugged Wosh's hand and whispered, "Shhhh, there is a mastodonic leopard!"

Alarmed, Wosh looked around, but he could not see the beast or signs of it. "There is a leopard," insisted Iter, "but it is alright… he has eaten already and he is fast asleep. He won't hurt us."

They continued on the path and there, sure enough, was a great leopard, stretched out, fast sleep under a tree. As soon as they had passed, Wosh asked, "How did you know about the leopard?"

Iter replied, "Because I see with my ears."

Further they continued, walking mostly in silence, and then again Iter tugged on Wosh's hand, "Shhh, there is a three-toed tegu!"

Again, Wosh looked about - and could see nothing at all. "There is a tegu, but it is alright… he is in a watering spot. He won't hurt us."

They continued on the path, and soon, sure enough, Wosh saw a great tegu placidly drinking from a small pond. As soon as they had passed it, Wosh had to ask, "How did you know about the tegu?"

Again, Iter replied, "Because I see with my ears."

They finally arrived at a clearing and Wosh declared that they would leave their traps in that spot. First he set his own trap, and then he showed Iter how to set his. When both traps were ready, Wosh said, "We will come back tomorrow and see what we've caught." They returned home to the village.

The next morning, they were up early again and set off along the path into the forest. When Wosh tried to lead Iter by the hand, he replied, "No need, I know the way now."

Iter walked ahead this time, and he did not catch his foot on a root or a tree stump; he did not miss a turn. They walked for hours, until they came to the clearing deep in the forest where the traps had been left the day before. Wosh saw right away that there was one bird caught in each trap. The bird caught in his trap was a small grey one, and the bird caught in Iter's trap was a beauty, with feathers of many brilliant colors.

"Sit here," Wosh said. "We've each caught a bird. I'll fetch them out of the traps."

So, Iter sat down and Wosh went across to the traps, and as he went, he was thinking to himself, "A man with no eyes will never know the difference."

And letting those thoughts get the best of him, he gave Iter the little grey bird, and he kept the other one for himself. Iter took the bird in his hands and got to his feet, and they set off for home.

As they walked, Wosh asked Iter, "If you are so clever, and you see with your ears, then answer me this: Why is there so much anger and hatred and warfare in the Lands?"

Iter calmly replied, "Because the Lands are full of so many people like you - who take what is not theirs." Immediately, Wosh was filled with bitter shame at what he had done. He took the little gray bird out of Iter's hands and gave him the beautiful bird with the brilliantly colored feathers.

"I am sorry," he said.

They continued on, walking back to the village and then Wosh said, "If you are so clever and you see with your ears, then answer me this: Why is there so much love and kindness in the Lands?"

And Iter replied: "Because the Lands are full of people like you - who learn from their mistakes."

From that day onwards, if Wosh heard anyone ask, "Iter, how is it that you are so wise?", he would put his arm around the blind man's shoulders and say, "Because he sees with his ears… and hears with his heart".

Zajai and the Butterfly

On the banks of the Locksmehr River, in a clearing in the forest, there once lived a human girl named Zajai. While the boys of the village fished and hunted with the men, Zajai and the other girls helped with chores in the home or in the nearby fields. Like the other girls, Zajai never stepped far into the forest. She knew that it was full of fierce creatures and harmful spirits, and that it was easy to get lost in there.

Still, she would listen wide-eyed when the elders told stories about that other world. And sometimes she would go just a little way in, gazing among the giant trees and wondering what she might find if she pressed farther on. One day as Zajai was sitting outside her home, she looked up and saw a big swallowtail butterfly hovering right before her. Sunlight danced like diamond reflections on its shimmering blue wings.

"You are the most magical creature in the world," Zajai said dreamily. "I wish I could be like you."

The butterfly fluttered its wings and dipped as if in answer, then slowly flew toward the edge of the clearing. Zajai stood up and started after it, imitating its lazy flight. Among the trees she followed, swooping and circling and flapping her arms. She played like this for a long time, until the butterfly passed between some thorny vines and disappeared. Suddenly Zajai realized she had gone too far into the forest. There was no path to follow, and the leaves of the tall trees made a canopy that hid most of the sun. She could not tell which way she had come.

"Mother! Father! Anyone!" she shouted. But no one came. "Oh no," she said softly. "How will I find my way back?" Zajai wandered anxiously about, hoping to find something that seemed familiar, something that might point her in the direction home. After a while she heard a repeated tapping noise.

"Someone must be working in the forest," she said hopefully, and she followed the sound. But when she got close, she saw it was just a woodpecker. Zajai sadly shook her head. "If only you were human," she said, "you could show me the way home."

"Why would I have to be human?" asked the woodpecker indignantly. "I could show you just as I am!"

Startled, but glad to hear it talk, Zajai said eagerly, "Oh, would you?"

"Can't you see I'm busy?" said the woodpecker. "You humans are so conceited, you think everyone else in the Lands is here to serve you. But in the forest wild, a woodpecker is just as important as a human." And it flew off.

"I didn't mean anything bad," said Zajai to herself. "I just want to go home."

More uneasy than ever, Zajai walked farther. All at once she came upon a shack, and sitting within it was a woman weaving a net. "Oh, wise one!" cried Zajai joyfully, addressing the woman with the term proper for an elder. "I'm so glad to find someone here. I was afraid I would die in the forest!"

But just as she stepped into the shack, the roof began to flap, and the shack and the woman together rose into the air. Then Zajai saw it was really a mirage created by a mystical griffin who had sensed Zajai's fervent desire to find help. It flew to a branch above. "Don't you 'Oh wise one' me!" screeched the bird. "How many of my people have your relatives hunted and killed? How many have you cooked and eaten? Don't you dare ask for my help!" And it too flew away.

"The animals here all seem to hate me," said Zajai sorrowfully. "But I can't help being a human!" Zajai wandered on, feeling more and more hopeless, and hungry now as well.

Suddenly, a fruit dropped to the ground. She picked it up and ate it greedily. Then another dropped nearby. Zajai looked up and saw why. A band of tree monkeys was feeding in the forest canopy high above, and now and then a fruit would slip from their hands. "I'll just follow the monkeys," Zajai told herself. "Then at least I won't starve." And for the rest of that day she walked along beneath them, eating any fruit they dropped. But her fears grew fresh as daylight faded and night came to the forest. In the deepening darkness, Zajai saw the monkeys start to climb down, and she hid herself to watch. To her utter amazement, as the monkeys reached the ground, each one changed to the form of a human.

Zajai could not help but gasp, and within a moment the monkey people had surrounded her. "Why, it's Zajai!" said a monkey man with a friendly voice. "What are you doing here?"

Zajai stammered, "I followed a butterfly into the forest, and now I can't find my way home."

"You poor girl!" said a monkey woman. "Don't worry. We'll bring you there tomorrow." "Oh, thank you!" cried Zajai. "But where will I stay tonight?"

"Why don't you come with us to the festival?" asked the monkey man. "We've been invited by the Lord of Monkeys."

They soon arrived at a large clearing. When the Monkey Lord saw Zajai, he demanded, "Human, why have you come uninvited?"

"We found her and brought her along," the monkey woman told him. The Monkey Lord grunted and said nothing more. But he eyed the girl in a way that made her shiver. Many more monkey people had arrived, all in human form. Some wore animal costumes of barkcloth with wooden masks. Others had designs painted on their faces with dyes of many colors. Everyone drank from gourds full of ale. Then some of the monkey people rose to begin the dance. With the Monkey Lord at their head, they marched in torchlight around the clearing, beating drums and shaking rattle sticks. Others sang softly or played bone flutes.

Zajai watched it all in wonder. She told her friend the monkey woman, "This is just like the festivals of my own people!"

Late that night, when all had retired to their sleeping straw mats, Zajai was kept awake by the snoring of the Monkey Lord. After awhile, something about it caught her ear.

"That's strange," she told herself. "It sounds almost like words."

The girl listened carefully and heard, "I will devour Zajai. I will devour Zajai."

"Oh wise one!" she cried in terror.

"What? Who's that?" said the Monkey Lord, starting from his sleep.

"It's Zajai," said the girl. "You said in your sleep you would devour me!"

"How could I say that?" he demanded. "Monkeys don't eat people. No, that was just foolish talk of this mouth of mine. Pay no attention!" He took a long swig of ale and went back to sleep.

Soon the girl heard again, "I will devour Zajai. I will devour Zajai." But this time the snores sounded more like growls.

Zajai looked over at the Monkey Lord's mat. To her horror, she saw not a human form but a powerful animal with black fur. The Lord of Monkeys was not a monkey at all. He was a fierce panther! Zajai's heart beat wildly. As quietly as she could, she slipped from her mat and grabbed a torch. Then she ran headlong through the night. When Zajai stopped at last to rest, daylight had begun to filter through the forest canopy. She sat down among the root buttresses of a modwir tree and began to cry.

"I hate this forest!" she said fiercely. "Nothing here makes any sense!"

"Are you sure?" asked a tiny voice. Quickly wiping her eyes, Zajai looked up. On a branch of the tree was a swallowtail butterfly, the largest she had ever seen. It waved at her with brilliant blue wings. "Oh, wise one," said Zajai, "nothing here is what it seems. Everything changes into something else!"

"Dear Zajai," said the butterfly gently, "that is the way of the forest. Among your own people, things change slowly and are mostly what they seem. But your human world is a small one. All around it lies a much larger world, and you can't expect it to behave the same."

"But if I can't understand the forest," cried Zajai, "how will I ever get home?"

"I will lead you there myself," said the butterfly.

"Oh, wise one, will you?" said Zajai.

"Certainly," said the butterfly. "Just follow me."

It wasn't long till they came to the banks of the Locksmehr. Then Zajai saw with astonishment that the boat landing of her people was on the other side.

"I crossed the river without knowing it!" she cried. "But that's impossible!"

"Impossible?" asked the butterfly.

"I mean," said Zajai carefully, "I don't understand how it happened. But now, how will I get back across?".

"That's simple," said the swallowtail. "I'll change you to a butterfly." And it began to chant over and over,

Wings of blue, always true.
Wings of blue, always true.
Wings of blue, always true.

Zajai felt herself grow smaller, while her arms grew wide and thin. Soon she was fluttering and hovering beside the other.

"I'm a butterfly!" she cried.

They started across the wide water, their wings glistening in the sun. "I feel so light and graceful," said Zajai. "I wish this would never end."

Before long they reached the landing, where a path led back to the village. The instant the Zajai-butterfly touched the ground, she was changed back to human form. "I will leave you here," said the butterfly. "Fare well, Zajai."

"Oh, wise one," cried the girl, "take me with you. I want to be a butterfly forever!".

"That would not be right," said the butterfly. "You belong with your people, who love you and care for you. But never mind, Zajai. Now that you have been one of us, you will always have something of the forest within you."

The girl nodded and waved as the butterfly flew off. "Goodbye, wise one!"

Then Zajai turned around and headed home, with a heart that fluttered like a butterfly’s wings.

The Great Diviner

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In this story, the ball of life bounces in the right direction at the right time. It is a story of a dream world, that of hope and expectations, where things do happen as we wish them. But we know better: it is a desperate man's hope, not a reality. One may listen to this story and yet experience a momentary vicarious triumph and solace... with the feeling that all is not lost.

Long, long ago, there were two young men, nicknamed Stone and Toad. Stone was very intelligent and resourceful, while Toad was rather slow but sly. Both of them were very, very poor.

One day, resourceful Stone conceived some ideas to try to reverse their financial dire straits. He told Toad, "Toad, life is so hard for you and me because we have always been so poor. Let's do something so that we, too, can live a little more comfortably. What do you think, Toad?"

"You are right, Stone, but what could we do? I can't think of any workable ideas," said Toad.

"Well, Toad, as a matter of fact I do have an idea."

"You do?"

"Yes, I have a splendid idea! Would you work with me, Toad?"

"Surely, if you think I can," replied Toad.

"Of course, you can. From now on, you are to become a diviner."

"A diviner? Said Toad doubtfully. How can I act as a diviner when I cannot even divine where my next meal is coming from?"

Toad did not understand, but Stone smiled and said, "Relax, Toad. There's nothing to worry about. All you have to do is to follow my instructions exactly. Now, listen carefully. Today I am going to sneak into Moot Hall and steal the clerk's log. Then, I am going to bury it under the old tree in Town Square Center. When the time comes, you will go to the mayor and say that you are a diviner and that you can solve the town's grave problem. Say to the mayor that you can tell where the clerk's log is. After its recovery, you are sure to be rewarded generously. Then, you and I will share the reward. How about it?"

"That sounds great, but...what if you get caught?" asked Toad, looking very worried.

"Don't worry about me", insisted Stone. "No one else besides us knows about this great plan."

That night Stone slipped into Moot Hall, stole the log and buried it under the tree. Everything went well, as planned. Next morning, there was a big commotion in the town over the stolen log. The mayor issued a stern order to his officials that the log be recovered at once. But the mayor's men had no idea about where the log might be or where to even begin their search for it. As days passed, they became more and more worried over their inability to recover it. Much speculation and rumor abounded. Some said the Krolvin had sent spies to take the log and use the information to mount a great invasion against the town. Others were sure that a ghostly apparition had made off with the valued book, obviously to deliver it to some powerful dark force, which would use the knowledge found within to put a fatal curse on the town and its inhabitants. The more cynical individuals smirked and said the clerk had obviously misplaced the log and was creating all this ruckus to make himself feel important.

A few days after the log was stolen, Toad went to Moot Hall and said calmly and confidently: "I am a diviner. I will try my best to locate the stolen log, if you allow me to." Toad was immediately welcomed by the relieved officials who, at this point, felt they needed any help they could get. Toad was then led into the mayor's office. He sat down, closed his eyes, and occasionally blinked rapidly several times. Then he took out several pebbles which he had picked up from the road on his way to town. He examined them closely, peering intensely at them as he had seen fortune-tellers do. Then, all of a sudden, he exclaimed, "Aha! This sly old tree! Standing innocently like that but it can't trick me!" The surrounding officials looked at each other, puzzled. With a guileful display of innocence, Toad stood up, walked out of the offices and straight to the old tree in Town Square Center and started digging under it. Lo and behold! There it was, the town's official records - a bit dirty with soil but otherwise intact.

The mayor was much relieved and pleased, and rewarded Toad generously. Toad and Stone shared the loot, and having enough silver to go adventuring for a long time, Stone bid farewell to Toad and set off to explore on his own.

A few days after this, however, Toad was in for trouble, for he was summoned by the mayor when a thief stole the Goddess Lorminstra's symbol from the temple, an ornate gold artifact much revered by the faithful. This time, it was not his friend, Stone, who had stolen it. Toad was at a loss. Not knowing what to do, he just strolled around the temple and adjoining graveyard, head bowed, pretending to be waiting for divine inspiration. He walked back and forth all day, and that night, too, strolling and regretting his earlier participation in Stone's scheme. Just then, someone suddenly appeared in the dark. It was a young woman, who kneeled in front of Toad and bowed her head politely.

"Who are you? And what are you doing?", asked Toad.

She lifted her face. Toad could see tears in her eyes.

Choking back the tears, she said, "I know, Sir, that you know everything about what happened. Please, don't pretend that you do not know."

"Lady, I do not understand what you are talking about," replied Toad in a calm voice, trying to hide his puzzlement.

"It is I who stole the holy symbol and hid it under the wooden floorboards behind the altar," said the maid, pointing to the temple . "I thought I could make myself important by finding it later." She sobbed. "Sir, please, be merciful. Please, do not tell this to anyone."

Hearing all this, Toad felt quite relieved, convinced that she was telling the truth. "Yes, yes, child! I've been waiting for you to come forth and ask for forgiveness for your outrageous deed. I am glad you came to me tonight. Never again do such a shameful thing!" Toad admonished her gently, putting on a straight face.

Early the next morning, Toad went before mayor and the High Priest, bowed deeply and said, "My Lords, I have located the precious symbol. This time, the culprit is the wooden floorboards around the back of the altar. I will lead you there." Reaching the location pointed out by the maid the night before, Toad started carefully lifting floorboards and produced the gold symbol, much to everyone's amazement.

After this second divination, Toad became famous, and his name became a household word throughout the town. His reputation eventually reached towns far from his home. A noble baron from a faraway land wished to meet Toad, the famous diviner, and an arrangement was made by the mayor, who invited the noble to visit his town, as he,too was eager to bask in Toad's fame as well. Toad was once again summoned to demonstrate his remarkable divination abilities for the important and noble visitor.

Pointing to a stone on top of a small mound of earth the mayor said: "Toad, what is hidden inside the mound? Tell us what it is."

Toad almost fainted. He felt as if the whole world were collapsing on him. He thought he would not see another sunrise. Until then, he had been simply lucky, but how in the world was he going to be able to tell what was hidden under that heap of soil? He bitterly regretted the lies he had told, as he finally realized that nothing good could come from deceit. He was sure he would be sent to jail, or worse.

Tears were welling up in his eyes as he considered what his fate would be when he was found out as a deceiver and a fake. He hoped desperately that somehow he could be saved, but he knew it was just impossible to get out of this situation. Toad lamented inside, remembering how everything had started: "Stone! Because of you and your scheme, I am about to be discovered and punished, maybe even killed. Had it not been for you, Stone, I would still be poor but I would not lose my freedom or perhaps even my life. And...." When his inner lamenting reached this point, he could not help being overcome with sorrow and resentment, and finally he shouted out aloud: "Toad is dying because of you, Stone!" and he fell to the ground in utter despair. Just then, loud cheers and much applause exploded from the mayor, the noble, and his entourage. Toad was speechless...what could they possibly be cheering about?

The mayor promptly walked up to Toad, and helped him up to his feet again, gazing at him with pride. Then he led Toad to the mound, where he quickly lifted the stone and, reaching inside the soil pulled out a big, brown-spotted toad. Toad was aghast. He could not believe it. He was happy and relieved to have made it out of yet another divination, and made up his mind never to try another.

Out of admiration, the foreign baron rewarded Toad with a heavy gold and emerald pendant and an invitation to be his guest at his castle, anytime he wished to visit his part of the world.

Some time passed without incidents which required Toad's famed skills. However, the next time that the mayor summoned Toad, the officials found his home quite empty with just a short note on the table that read: "Off to find the Stone on the road".

The Grateful Fenvaok

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Also known as "The Fenvaok's Gift."

This is a story of heroism and retribution. A young, aspiring ranger kills a snake in order to save a nest of fenvaoks, thus disturbing the balance of nature. A companion snake then lures him into a situation where she wants not only to exact revenge for her mate's death but also to teach the ranger an unforgettable lesson about the circle of life…and death. At the very last moment, the ranger is saved by the young birds, repaying his naïve kindness with their own lives and restoring the way things were intended to be all along.

It was a long, long time ago. A bright young ranger lived in a small, remote village surrounded by mountains. After many years of training and study and much toil, he was finally ready to embark on a long journey which would bring him to the thriving town of Wehnimer's Landing where he would join his profession's guild. He was excited about this rite of passage, which he had worked so hard to attain. He walked for several days, from dawn till dusk. On his journey, he passed through numerous villages and hiked through the forests and climbed twisted snowy mountain passes. He was eager to reach the town as soon as possible, and he knew he was getting closer when he arrived at the coastal areas.

Knowing that he was within a day's march of his destination, he started out earlier than usual. After several hours of walking through scraggly, rocky paths and just as he was about to turn around a thick growth of bushes, he heard the agonizing crying sounds of a bird. "Caw! Caw! Caw!" Thinking that something tragic was happening to the bird, he ran toward the area. He stopped just below a tall modwir tree and looked up. The sound came from a fenvaok's nest on top of the tree. His instincts told him to investigate the situation closely. Slowly and stealthily he climbed the modwir. There he found a large snake ready to attack a fenvaok that was guarding chicks in her nest. Making use of his great archery skill, he swiftly took his bow and an arrow from the quiver on his back and aimed at the snake. The snake was hit and fell to the ground, lifeless. It all happened in a matter of moments.

The young man felt bit guilty at first, but soon, continued on his way, satisfied that he had done a good deed. After all, he had rescued the birds just in time from being swallowed by the snake. He kept on walking, without even realizing that it was getting dark rather quickly. Soon he found himself deep in the rocky coast with no village in sight. After it became completely dark, he could hardly see anything other than the moonless night sky. With exhaustion and hunger pressing down on him, he could hardly take another step. Suddenly he was a little anxious as he looked around on this unfamiliar terrain.

"Where shall I spend the night?" he thought wearily, remembering the snake he had slain earlier. He couldn't shake the feeling that he was being followed, watched. He looked around in the dark, hoping to find some type of shelter, when his eyes caught a faint lamp light quite a distance away. Mustering all his strength, he stumbled toward the light. Eventually he found himself in the middle of what seemed in the darkness an abandoned fishing village. As he got closer to the source of the light, he noticed that it came from a large, stately house with a well-tended façade. Who would have expected to find such a nice house in the midst of a ruined village?

"Hello! Is anybody home?" He pounded at the door, shouting with all his strength. "Hello, is anybody there?" After a while, he heard someone opening the door. It was a beautiful young woman with bright emerald eyes.

"It got dark on my way to Wehnimer's Landing", he said, almost out of breath. "I'm going there to join the ranger guild", he added. " Would you be kind enough to let me stay overnight?" he pleaded.

"Oh, of course. Step inside, please" answered the woman. "You must be very hungry and tired. I'll prepare something for you to eat." Soon she came back with a delicious meal for him. After eating his fill, the young traveler was overcome by exhaustion. Night was getting deeper. He fell sound asleep.

Sometime later that night the young man was awakened by the sudden feeling of being stifled and choked. He realized that he was being slowly strangled by a huge snake that was completely coiled around his body, staring at him with malevolent, emerald eyes.

"Help! Help!" he said painfully. He could hardly breathe.

The enormous snake just hissed, its hypnotic gaze studying him slowly. "No one is around here to save you" it seemed to be telling him. The young man knew immediately that the beautiful woman who had been his savior from the dangers of the night was in fact this very snake.

"Did you really think you could get out of my domain safely?" The snake hissed in his ear. The ranger was petrified with fear, but managed to say: "I do not understand. What have I done?" The snake stared at him impassively and hissed: "Think!"

Amidst his panic, the ranger began to think, uneasily remembering again the snake he had fatally shot earlier that day. He was sure that his captor was somehow related to it and that she had lured him into this house in order to exact revenge for its death. Things now became clear to the young man. "I am in deep trouble. There is little hope that I can get out of this situation alive." He thought desperately.

The young man begged in a trembling voice. "I did not kill that other snake out of hatred, but I did so only out of pity for that fenvaok and her chicks." The reptilian eyes betrayed nothing, but the snake swayed its head back and forth, as if listening.

"I am now on my way to the Landing to take my place in the guild and to further train in the ways of rangers," he continued slowly. "I have worked toward this goal ever since I was a boy. Please, do not treat me as an enemy. If you spare my life, I will never forget your generosity. Please, have mercy on me."

The snake did not waver; instead, it constricted his body even harder. He was now gasping for each breath and his ribs ached. He pleaded once again with tears in his eyes.

"You are your own enemy"", the snake hissed, "Life and death are inexorably intertwined. How dare you interfere?"

The ranger's eyes lit with the sudden realization that the snake was right. He need not have intruded upon the snake and the birds. He had upset the balance of nature. Almost imperceptibly, he nodded.

Satisfied that the lesson had been learned, the snake hissed once more: "I will spare you, if you comply with my wishes."

"Listen carefully. Deep in these cliffs, there is an old abandoned temple. No one lives there now. In that temple, you will find a huge bell still hanging from the ceiling. If you toll that bell three times, I will let you go."

"That cannot be too difficult" gasped the ranger. "I will do as you ask."

"You are too eager to agree" came the loud hissing response. "You must ring the bell from here, from right where you are now. That is the only way you can save your young, naive life."

The young man silently pondered his impossible situation. "By no means would it be an easy task even to find the temple in this pitch-dark night, but toll the bell from here, a captive of this snake…it cannot be done." The young man resigned himself to his fate and closed his eyes and waited.

All was very quiet for a while. Then, suddenly the silence was broken by the sound of a bell tolling in the distance:

Ding.... Ding.... Ding...

Exactly three strokes of the bell resounded one by one through the night. No sooner did the snake hear the bell tolling than she transformed into an emerald-eyed dragon, leaving the young man free of her deathly embrace. Surrounded by thick smoke, the creature outstretched its leathery wings and with a thunderous roar, flew into the dark sky. At the same time, the illusion of the grand house disappeared and the ranger found himself inside an old, dilapidated hovel.

Everything happened so fast that the young man was in a daze. "What a strange happening! Who tolled the bell?" He asked himself.

Soon it was dawn. Still bewildered, but determined to discover what had occurred, he set out to find the abandoned temple. After a few hours of exploring in the cliffs, he found a half-ruined temple with its belfry still intact. Just below the ancient bell, there lay three blood-covered fenvaoks, dead, as they were meant to be the day before, with their beaks and heads smashed by the impact of bird against bronze.

The young ranger gazed at the scene for a few seconds, before turning around and starting back towards his destination, aware that the lesson of the previous night was learned best through one's own experience.