Felton and the Wolf: Chapter V
In the year of the Wolf-mark, 978, Saul crossed over the Trepiscane Mountains in the mid of winter, losing nearly a quarter of his troops in the journey. The Queen, completely surprised by such an unexpected appearance in the season of warfare’s rest, was routed at the Trimides Gap after a long battle. This was the same battle in which Anmides, King of the Eagles, was mortally wounded after appearing from the South, with his clan, to aid Saul…
So began “Chapter the Seventh” of the brown-leather book that Grandpaw had given to Felton. Felton did not recognize any of the names or places cited throughout the history, but he could follow the basic gist: there had been an invasion of a land, Elandor, and a great warrior, a fox named Saul, had appeared to lead a resistance against an evil wolf. Beyond that, the details were too confusing and Felton had to put the great volume down as he felt his brain was buzzing with too many bees.
He had arrived back home long after sunset and said little to his family, who thought it best not to ask too many questions straight away. Felton stayed up late, reading into the night. At first light, he was up with the sun to meet Grandpaw.
The abandoned church was just that, decrepit and empty in the gray morning haze. Felton stood in the middle of the courtyard just outside the church, poking around a bit and wondering if and when his Grandfather would arrive. Just as he decided to sit, he jumped back as two loud noises startled him out of his fur.
Felton curled into a ball and rolled to his side, then breathlessly looked about him in fright. Lodged in the ground just feet away were two long arrows, their tips buried deep in the soft ground.
“What…?” Felton cried, but before he could say anything else, Grandpaw emerged from a shadow of the church’s roof and, with surprising agility, bounded to the courtyard fence and then to Felton on the ground.
“You must never take a position that leaves you defenseless,” said the old fox.
Felton gaped, his mouth open. “Grandpaw!—what are you talking about? Why did you shoot those arrows…what if you had hit me?!”
Grandfather laughed. “I don’t miss. And that was what some call an ‘object lesson.’ Lesson one is that you must always become aware of that which you are unaware.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Getting you ready, that’s what I’m talking about! Didn’t you read the book?”
“Yes, I read the book…most of it, anyway. What does that have to do with shooting arrows at me?”
Grandpaw looked at Felton for a long moment, then smiled and shook his head. “Of course, Felton. I’m sorry. I’m always getting ahead of myself, thinking every one else can see the pieces put together. Come with me, young one, and I will fit the pieces together for you.”
They walked down to a creek which ran the length of the wild meadows. The sun only now began to rise over the east, the western sky inking into a deep and peaceful blue. Grandpaw motioned Felton to sit as they approached the creek’s edge. The cool green waters swirled in silent eddies, and while Grandfather paced in yet another of his long pauses, Felton threw a rock into the current, waiting.
Grandfather turned to Felton at last. “I know you have many questions for me, and I know that all I will tell you now will be difficult to believe. But the time is running short, and there is no time left for—for waiting. He is not waiting, I assure you.”
“Who is he?” asked Felton.
“Markanus. But I will get to that,” said Grandpaw, and he sighed with a great weight on his shoulders. Looking like an older Mortimer, Grandpaw carefully retrieved his pipe from his pocket and said, “If I asked you, ‘What lies beyond the borders of Birchwood?’ what would you say?”
“Well, more valleys and mountains and towns, I suppose,” answered Felton. “And then cities.”
“Yes, that is right,” said Grandpaw. “And beyond those mountains and beyond those towns and cities?”
“Well, more mountains and towns and seas all the way around the world until the circle of the globe would bring you back to Birchwood.”
“Hmmmm…you are right. You are quite right, of course. But things are not always as simple as they seem, and they certainly aren’t as simple as they are taught in books. There are other things you have not seen or will not read about—things that can’t be written down because not all animals, or men, even, have seen them or could understand them. Look at that mountain in the distance.”
Felton looked at the twin summits of Mount Bendleway— “The Bull” as it was more commonly called by the Birchwoodians, because of its long sloping summit.
“What do you feel when you look at it?” asked Grandpaw.
“What do you mean, what do I feel?” asked Felton. “I can’t feel anything.”
“No, Felton, not with these…” he touched Felton’s paws. “What I mean is—what do you feel—here…and here.” He touched Felton’s chest and forehead. “What kind of feelings do you have, and what do you think of? It is a majestic mountain. Where do you go when you look at it? Here, close your eyes. Now picture the Bull in your mind. What do you see and what do you think of?”
“Well, it makes me think of the eagles who live there.”
“Yes, that’s a good start. Now what else do you think of? What does the mountain make you feel?”
“I think of all the deep woods surrounding it that have never been explored. That animals say are haunted. And of the river at its base, from the winter snow. I wonder what’s on the other side of The Bull and the river.”
“Yes, excellent. Now try hard and tell me not what you think, but what you feel.”
Felton sat in silence a few moments before he continued, not quite sure what he was supposed to say. “I feel—well, I want to go and see what is there, and see all that is out there beyond it.”
“And?” prodded Grandpaw.
“…And, I wonder so much what it’s like that I want to stop thinking about it because maybe I’ll never see it.”
“Yes,” said Grandpaw. “Good. And?”
Felton kept his eyes closed, “I think…I think it makes me a bit sad. But it feels…mysterious, too.” Grandpaw smiled as Felton continued. “It’s a mysterious feeling which is good, but it is also aches a bit to wonder what is out there,” Felton concluded, somehow knowing it was time to open his eyes.
Grandpaw smiled proudly, his lips pursed. He continued slowly and deliberately, “What you felt just now was the beginning of a world beyond our own. I will ask you something else: how did you feel when you heard stories of Artie Squishell’s vanishing when you were a young fox?”
“I felt scared,” said Felton.
“Exactly! That’s exactly right, just as I imagine you felt frightened crossing the dusty woods that lead to my tree. It is a dreary place, is it not? But you crossed them anyway because you were looking forward to something, weren’t you? There was a mystery you wanted to unravel—my letter and all that--and it was worth being afraid for. Is that right?”
“Well, now—we’ve just explained something very complex in a very simple way, and I want to explain something else to you, and you must understand and believe me. Felton, there is a world out there beyond the mountains, beyond what you can see with your eyes as you know them. Of course, there are the towns and the forests and seas and a great ocean, just as you said. But there is another realm which is harder to describe. It is mystery—the mystery of all that is bright and good. But it is also a place of darkness, a place of fear and of shadows, like the feeling a fox gets looking into the waters of a black lake.
“Felton, just now, as you sat with your eyes closed, you felt waves from that place. You felt the beginning of that beauty and that mystery. You also felt the beginnings of fear. Right?”
Felton hesitated before replying, feeling like a dog led along a path he doesn’t know. “Yes, that is right,” he answered, hoping that Grandpaw would continue and that all this would begin to make some sense. Instead the old fox leaned back and puffed on his pipe as if they had concluded their conversation.
“Grandpaw, I still don’t understand anything you’ve said,” Felton said after another anxious pause. “What are you trying to tell me?”
The old fox stood up and began pacing again. Felton rose, too, and they began walking along the stream as Grandfather spoke. “Long ago, Felton, before this--our own world--came into being, there was a different place, a world full of promise and of mystery. It is the ancient place which many think has passed away. In our tongue, it is called Trounisia, but really the place has more names than we could possibly know or understand. There was a king—a great king--who ruled over all the dominions of Trounisia. He, too, has many names, far beyond our comprehension, but in our tongue he would be called…” Grandpaw paused and lowered his voice before speaking the name, “…Traynon.” As Grandpaw pronounced the king’s name, Felton almost thought that the wind stirred the leaves of the trees roundabout. “Now King Traynon,” continued Grandpaw, “was worshipped and praised and hailed as lord of all. He was fair and good.”
elton interrupted, “But was he—the king—Traynon—was he a fox, a wolf, or what? An Eagle?”
Grandpaw smiled, “On no, Felton—he wasn’t a fox or a wolf, or even an eagle. He wasn’t an animal at all. He was the ancient one. Made of light itself, I guess you would say. In Traynon’s land--in Trounisia--all was bright. All was pure and all was alive. The trees walked and talked with men and animals, the stars sang choruses back and forth between the great spaces of sky. This was a very long time ago, indeed. The King himself was too glorious to look upon. If he were to unveil his beauty, all would be destroyed. So Traynon would only reveal himself at certain times and, even then, with most of his being garbed and hidden.
“As time passed, the King--being consumed with the desire to love—looked for a bride. But none could be found. There was no one like him—no one that could understand him or share love with him. It was then that Traynon planned to create a new land in which he could fully reveal himself, without threat that his glory would destroy the world. There he would show himself fully, and the Trounisians could see and know him.
“And so Traynon laid plans to create a new kingdom in the midst of a great sea. It would be the new seat of his throne. To create such a place, however, all the other lands of Trounisia would be destroyed, for the whole world would shake with fury as four seeds of life were planted. For a time, all would turn to darkness, for, then as now, death must precede life. Once the new kingdom had been created, three great seeds would grow, planted in the three kingdoms of Trounisia—North, South, and East, and they would restore green health to all the land. One seed, the greatest seed of all, was to be planted across the sea in the west, in the new kingdom. Traynon called this land Elandor.
“Traynon, prepared to begin his work, took the inhabitants of Trounisia to a land of mountain lakes where they could be safely hidden while the seeds were planted. But there were some who began to doubt Traynon. Among them was a wolf, Markanus. He started out as a simple house servant. But he was undeniably brilliant. And fiendish. Markanus hated Traynon, and he lusted after the King’s power. “Why will Traynon not reveal himself?” “Why will Traynon not give US his light?” His grumblings won many followers. Soon, in the south, Markanus led a rebellion.
“Meanwhile, Traynon was planting the three seeds in the three eastern realms. These seeds were made from Traynon’s very being, the virtue of light. This was a risk, for Traynon’s own being and immortality would be bound up in the seeds. Their fate would be his own. Not only was Traynon subjecting his creation to darkness, he was submitting his very being. If the seeds did not take root, the strength of Traynon’s life would be lost with them.
“When Traynon was weakest, having expended his energy in planting the seeds, Markanus struck. By now his followers were many, and a great war began. The wolf sent half his forces to the north, where Traynon’s subjects were hidden in the mountains, waiting for the re-creation that was to follow the darkness. The other half fell upon the King himself. Traynon was faced with an awful choice. If he chose to rescue his subjects, the seeds, beginning to sink into the ground, would be vulnerable to Markanus’s attack, but if he stayed to protect the seeds, his followers would be vulnerable to Markanus’ army. Without a moment’s debate or hesitation, Traynon abandoned the seeds and rushed headlong to protect the Trounisians.
“There, in the northern mountains, a great battle was fought. Traynon, weakened as he was, and his subjects finally defeated the wolf’s northern army. But in the meantime, Markanus had begun an evil work. Secretly, he had sent three small forces to different corners of Trounisia. The seeds, which were taking root and were already beginning to bud, were unearthed and hacked with swords. Wounded, their power began to spill from them, all their fertility made impotent. And even as Traynon’s subjects rejoiced over their victory in the North, and as he smiled over them, the King began to weep. They could not understand his sadness until, fading in brightness and strength, the King laid down and died.
“Markanus and his followers, though scattered in retreat, rejoiced. Traynon was dead, and the rule of the kingdom would fall, by force of power, to Markanus, for already the wolf was amassing a new army. Markanus promised his legions he would bring back the ancient ways and hidden secrets of the world. He would unleash the power of the old ones who long ago had been defeated by Traynon and buried beneath the world.
“And then Markanus began another great evil. Knowing that he was mortal, he sought out the most ancient power long buried by Traynon beneath the mountains. I will not utter his name now for fear the wind would rebuke me. The earth’s memory is strong, even now.
“In the deepest recesses beneath the rock, the evil one gave to Markanus unnatural strength and length of life, even immortality. In exchange, Markanus gave the evil one his will and his desire. Seeking only power, he was soon blind to all else. If he could capture all of Trounisia, he thought he could convince the old ones to reveal all their ancient mysteries. Perhaps he even thought he could become like one of them.
“Strengthened by his new power, Markanus gathered his newly arrayed army and set off at once for the northern lands. There the Trounisians were still in mourning over their fallen king. Though the world had become dark, they struggled to re-create some sort of life, some sort of way of living. They did not know that Markanus was coming, to kill or to enslave. He arrived at daybreak as the first day of winter set in. The chronicles do not say exactly what happened next. What is clear is that the eagles, who in those days had no king of their own, came in homage to mourn Traynon. The Trounisians, greatly outnumbered by the wolf, fled, and the eagles helped them escape. Many died. Those that survived fled on eagle’s wings across the sea, to Elandor, the land to the west, newly created by Traynon. Markanus was livid, but he did not yet have the strength to cross the ocean, for in those days it was even more untamed and treacherous than it is now.
“There was one thing which Markanus did not know. He knew of the three lesser seeds, but he did not know that Traynon had planted a fourth seed in Elandor. Its power was not destroyed, but the world, ravished by the loss of the three other seeds, could not spark the fourth seed to life. So it lay dormant, hidden without power beneath the ground. Even after the world recovered some strength, the seed lay dormant beneath the dirt.
“When the skies did not blacken completely, Markanus realized the existence of the fourth seed. Outraged, he vowed vengeance against the Trounisians or, the Elandorians, as they could now be called: those who were the last vestiges of the old Trounisia. In Elandor, the strength of the fourth seed, weakened as it was, protected the land. It kept Elandor from Markanus’s darkness and allowed the light of the sun to reach it. In Markanus’s land, which Markanus re-named Domitia, the wolf gathered his strength, feeding on the power of the most ancient one beneath the mountains. He promised his followers that they would soon rule all the earth, that Elandor would fall, and that those who were faithful would be given great power in his unified kingdom. Even as the wolf fell more under the power of the most ancient one, Markanus’s followers adapted to his rule. They were rewarded for obedience and given death for the slightest sign of disloyalty. And, steadily, Markanus’s strength and power grew.
“Yet Elandor remained. Markanus could not take it. As years passed, he could not cross the sea. Around him, inevitably, his followers died. Yet Markanus aged slowly, no doubt drawing on some dark power from beneath the earth.
“Finally, when he was strong enough, after many years, and after many generations of his followers had passed away, he finally attacked. No one looked for his attack from across the sea. In fact, most Elandorians had forgotten about Traynon and no longer remembered his ancient story. They did not know Markarnus, nor did they know, until the moment of attack, that there was a land across the sea. They only knew they were under dread assault, and it appeared that Elandor would fall.
“These, however were the days of renown, when a warrior arose to champion Elandor. The warrior, Saul, drove out the dark Wolf-lord and the queen which he had brought to rule Elandor as his pawn. The queen was slain, Markanus fled, and Elandor was saved.
“Still, Markanus, chased into flight, was not destroyed. He returned to Domitia. Eventually, his body did grow old and he lay down to die, but by the workings of the evil one, his spirit was allowed to wander the dry places until a new body could be found for him. The dread one beneath the earth preserved him and made sure that he would live again.
“Markanus has been waiting through the lives of many generations to exact his vengeance. While others have passed away and forgotten the ancient ways, he has not, and in those ways there is much power. Indeed, Markarnus has been kept alive by that power. Now in Elandor almost all memory of the ancient things has passed away, and the land has become weak and vulnerable. Markanus will attack again, and he has no doubt that he will finally succeed. He now has a new body and the strength to do the one thing he lusts after: to destroy the fourth seed, to wield the power which has been forgotten, and to submit Elandor to his rule. He will not stop until he has done it. And once he has done so, he will attempt his most wicked deed, which he has long desired.”