Chapter XXI

(A) The Break Of Deay
By: Dru Driver

Deay awoke from the comfort of her warm, soft, moss bed at the rise of the full blood moon. Pale, red light streamed through the open window from the rising orb and seemed to dance on her skin. Deayís heart leapt with joy. She playfully tried to catch the thin shafts with her long thin fingers. Somewhere in the long gone-by past, Deay knew a moon such as this had risen. The window was like a frame to her world. She could see globs of moss hanging from the huge water trees casting dark shadows upon the still waters. The moonlight pierced through the lacey strands of overhanging evergreen foliage as ghostly figures formed from the coolness of the water and the warmness of the air, reached up to touch the branches. Her eyes sliced through the darkness and saw the fog rolling in from the sea located north of the swamp. Deay always understood the balance of nature and these signs told her it was time to start a journey. Her mind raced at the thought of the adventures that were waiting for her. She smiled and her smile lit up her pale face. She knew she would be traveling light and she had need of only a few things and was quiet capable of managing a good living from the lay of the land. Living in the swamp had made her very resourceful.

Even with Karnackís omnipotent evilness, Deay feared no man or immortal. Her wisdom spanned the many millium. After all, a mere twenty-five years of this newest form was a fraction of a second when compared to hundreds of gone-by years. Because she was born on the cusps, between the end of winter and the beginning of spring, under the signs of the fish and ram, she was the recipient of many gifts that most mortals never knew existed. By being able to manipulate the balance of her universe, Deay felt as if she could alter history or change the face of things to come. She turned from the window, went to the cupboard and laid her hands upon a small gold box. Brushing aside two small handmade human figures, she brought the box down from the shelf. She opened the box and dumped out the contents on the table. "Seeking" bones scattered on the wooden surface. The bones, each having a name and a personality all itís own, were a gift from her motherís motherís mother and had proved invaluable throughout the generations. By gazing upon them, the young woman could see things to come, places to go and what to know. Of course, it was a matter of deciphering the patterns laid out as the bones scattered, as well as the meaning of the symbols and shadows of the textures on the bones themselves, but Deayís skill at reading them was unsurpassed. The small fragments were covered with marks and symbols each holding a different meaning and significance. Deay appreciated the subtle interplay between each symbol and quickly grasped that she would have to head south. She pushed the unruly strands of her long raven black hair back behind her ears and peered intently upon the bones. As the pale red moonlight hit the fragments, the form of a red griffin seemed to appear on one particular boneís face. Deay looked puzzled. As a child of the swamps, she had never ventured passed the watery quagmire. She gathered up the fragments, her long slender fingers quickly placing them back in the golden box. The lid closed with a snap.

She sighed quietly, encircled the box with her milky arms, rested her chin on the cold lid, and thought of her mother.

Deay had only been four years old when her mother had began the training, and even now, despite the loud chorus of swamp creatures, her motherís words rang in her ears. She closed her eyes and listened.

"Child, you are a special one. You have been given many gifts and you will be able to tip the balance of nature. I see that already! Your intuition is strong. The blood moon is your ally. It watched over you on the night you were born, as did the fire and water stars!

"Deay, my little goddess, you will rule the swamps!" She remembered how her mother used to lift her up and twirl around. "Out of all I have fashioned and casts spells upon, you are my best creation! You have your fatherís fire, and my coolness and all elements will submit to you."

As a child, Deay believed everything her mother said. In her eyes, her mother was perfect and there was not one thing that her mother could not do. Her mother had provided her a home, a talent, a history. But one thing (and Deay felt cheated on this) her mother had not provided was a full-time father. She had been told stories about her father, but she had never laid eyes upon him. As she grew into a teenager, she wondered if her mother had lied to her about her father and resentment, although the girl did not know why, began to grow.

When Deay had been younger, she loved listening to her motherís stories. The endless train of words painted pictures in the girlís mind and kept her entertained, but the Great Evil came and those stories stopped. Stories about an evil man began to penetrate the swamp-- a man whose evilness permeated the entire Phantom Realms.

It was during this time that a young man had entered the swamps and had brought news about the outside lands. Though Deay was only fifteen at the time, she gave her heart over to him the day she first saw him. Their love was fresh, young and innocent, but became corrupted by the evilness. Deayís mother seduced the young man. The event, ten years past, had cut the young girlís heart deep, but bitter tears had long been cried out and she felt that the anger had turned her heart to stone.

"I will never be vulnerable to another man. I will not give a man the chance to hurt me in such a vile way again," she said with determination, lifting her head and sitting up straight. A sad, faint, smile graced her dark red lips as she thought about the two little dolls she had fashioned from swamp moss and oak galls, hidden away in her cupboard.

"Enough of this!" She slapped her open hand on the table, "Iíve got to get ready for my journey."

(B) Out Of The Swamp

Beneath a low hanging willow branch of the largest and oldest tree in the swamp, amidst the cattails, surrounded by blankets of thick green algae, embedded in mud and hidden by the ferns, was a boat abandoned long ago. No one but Deay knew of its existence. The vessel was a simple dugout, molded and shaped by a people unknown to the young woman. On the sides of the boat were faded symbols. Deay traced one of the symbols, a picture of a blue crystal, with her finger. She wondered about the significance of the picture and thought about her lover. His eyes had been such a hew of blue.

The murky water was up to her black waistband, which had a head. The "waistbandís" emerald eyes and cotton-white mouth flicked a black tongue just above the waterís surface. Deay looked down at the thick black rope formation wrapped around her waist.

"Yes, my friend, it is time I was on my way," she smiled and continued, "Iíve had a mostly pleasant stay."

And as she dug her bare feet into the muddy bed and strained to unleash the craft from the embankment a tune she learned from her mother began to play in her head. She slung her leg over the boatís rim and in one fluid motion, her lithe body followed. Her long blue dress, wet and almost black in the shadows of the night, clung to her body. The snake uncoiled itself from Deayís waist and stretched out in the moonlight. Deay lowered her hands into the water and gently pushed. The boat silently slid south.

When she had reached a clearing, she looked into the heavens and saw Mars, the fire planet, and she knew it was a good sign.

"Venus and Mars are alright tonight," she said to her companion. The snake flicked its tongue with acknowledgement.

A few days and nights passed before the small boat reached solid land. Once on land, Deay made her way to a long rutted trail. It was obvious because of the wear on the trail that she was on the right course. Apparently, many were traveling in the same direction. She traveled night and day rarely stopping. She was amazed at her ability to move at such a steady pace without feeling the least bit tired. Finally, the young woman reached an interesting looking building.

Sounds of laughter, music and conversation rang in Deayís sensitive ears. The sights, smells and sounds were intrigued her. Strange aromas filled her nose and she was reminded that she had not eaten anything substantial for days. In fact, she recalled her last meal being a gigantic grasshopper that had blundered into her path. Her stomach growled and rumbled and her mind was snapped back to the scents floating on the breeze. Like a fishermanís bait, Deay was lured into the tavern called The Red Gryphon Inn.