The Metalsmith was a man who took little interest in sunlight. Perhaps it was merely the fact that sunlight and iron combined to create nothing more interesting than warm iron. Maybe it was the persistent rumors that he could make mythical Sunplate armor, ten times as sturdy as pure iron and possessed of a radiant glow that blinded enemies, but for misanthropic reasons of his own chose not to. Whatever the reason, the Metalsmith seldom saw the need to interact with anyone who was not interested in his actual work and little need to empty his suncatchers.
As she hurried to these overflowing suncatchers, Lew looked above her at the crows in the trees, their black eyes glinting in the yellow-green light. She shook from her head the ridiculous notion that they were all watching her and kneeled before one of the ramshackle catchers, pried up the rusted top, and dipped her nightjar. With it full and bathing her in a healthy glow, she felt safer, but the crows remained.
In Lew’s bedroom, a shiny black crow settled on her windowsill. Eager for anything to distract from her reading, she observed it. It tilted its head as she met its eye, turning around to watch her with its other eye. It raised its glossy wings and caught the shine of Lew’s sunjar. Now Lew tilted her head. What is it doing? It scraped at the window, then tapped with its beak.
Lew looked around her at the tall shadows on the walls, and her feeling of safety left. She remembered what Father did, and stood to shut the curtains. The heavy barkcloth filled her hands and was slow to pull, but in moments, she was alone again.
But the tapping continued. Lew considered shouting at the bird, but decided she could just as well ignore it. She turned back to the desk, and she heard a croaking, high-pitched voice like nothing she’d heard before.
Lew spun around, and her drapes spoke again. “Lewellyn. Craw! Craw crakaw! Lewellyn!”
This bird spoke her language, or some tiny fraction of it. What could have compelled it to work so hard to get her attention? What had father said? That she would learn Crackaw when Kallen deemed her worthy? Maybe she would show him. Maybe the birds had deemed her worthy themselves and it didn’t matter what the old man thought. She whipped open the curtains and threw open the window. Along with a gust of cold air, the bird flew in and landed on the desk next to the book. “Lewellyn!” it screeched. “Lewellyn, History!” it tapped the book. “History! Craw! Gaw!”
Naively, Lew had assumed that she could pick up Crackaw immediately, having been too young to remember learning her own language and Chichu. In fact, the sounds the bird made sounded like no language she understood. No matter. In time she would understand. Then Father would see that she didn’t need Kallen to tell her she was worthy.
“Yes, that’s a history book. Can I help you?”
“Lewellyn! Lewellyn!” the bird bobbed its black head. “Lewellyn Daughter!”
“Lewellyn Greenwarden,” Lew corrected icily. To mis-name someone was not a slight easily forgotten, but she could forgive a mere bird. Once.
The bird bobbed its head again, eyes glinting. “Lewellyn warden. Lewellyn warden. Hero! Craw! Lewellyn Hero! Lewellyn History!”
It took its beak down to the pages and picked up a sheaf. “Hold on,” said Lew, shooing it away. “Do you want me to turn somewhere?”
“History! Craw!” The bird spread its wings. “History! Lewellyn!”
Lew shook her head, and took a page between her fingers. The bird bobbed, and she took another page, and it bobbed faster. She took more pages until she had a sheaf, and it bobbed so fast she feared it might fall and hurt itself. She turned the pages.
“Craw!” screamed the crow, and it flew right past Lew’s face back out the window. Lew shut the window behind it and closed the curtains. “What was that about?” she wondered.
She returned to her book and found that the crow had led her to skip a century. It had led her to an especially unusual section. The first thing Lew noticed was that the pages were smaller. They were a quarter the size of a normal page and looked like a separate tiny book bound into the humongous volume.
So, Lew learned about Wyn, the ancient hero of the Realm, and the only Pandoan ever to leave. He was an avid writer, and the first notes in his chronicle were of his journey to design and assemble his notepad and portable sealed ink container. His spelling was just as creative as anything written at that time, but he made a point of neat, legible handwriting, even when he journaled in a cave in a rainstorm in the light of his handheld suncatcher or hiding behind an outcrop from evil men hunting him and his friends down. His notes were sprinkled with mentions of people complaining of his strange compulsion to write at inappropriate times. The Wizard himself uttered such a memorable string of words that Wyn wrote them down.
And the Honorable Great Mighty Wizarde did divulge his personal opinionne that my “unceasinge torrent of journalistic diarrhea” did pose a most grave, powerefulle, and seriousse threat of ferryinge our humble groupe of companionnes to an earlye and violentte ennde.
For the first time since the fables of heroes, Lew could not stop reading. Time slipped away as she read of terrifying people that ruled the whole realm, enslaving anyone who could help them extract the land’s resources and torturing whoever stood in their way. Naturally, these were the demons, servants of the demon king, who was defeated by Wyn and his comrades in the year zero. Wyn never bothered to describe them as more than “eville men,” so she had to fill in the details from things she’d heard around Candon. Red skin, scales, horns, long barbed tails and cloven-hoofed feet.
Wyn, along with his companions Derry the rat, Blade the crow, and Lyncado the gryphon, were second in importance only to the Great Wizard himself. The crow wanted me to read this. It said “Lewellyn Hero.” Does it think I will be the next Wyn? Lew had to admit the idea carried a certain appeal.
At the end of each entry, Wyn wrote the same signature. Strangely, it was a children’s rhyme Lew herself had learned long ago and still heard in the nursery to this day.
Gouge my eye and stab my heart
If Pando and I should ever part
Considering that Wyn did not self-mutilate upon leaving the wood, the signature was even stranger. Nevertheless, it was the most consistent element of all of Wyn’s prose, particularly for a man who routinely innovated the spelling of common words, so when he went on one page from speaking of a strange animal called a “sheep” to the next where he told The Wizard about Pando’s trees without this rhyme in between, she felt a lurching sensation as if she had physically teleported from one corner of a room to another.
The smalle one did regale me of the animal beknownst to him as the sheepe. The sheepe on his farm requirede no pennes, for they did never trie to make egress. Once they had a pasture, so longe as it stayed greene, not one would seek a new horizonne.
Then, on the very next page
I did say to the honorable Wizard, “Indeede, our mightie Pando is all of one mind. The systemme of rootes are connected and each tree is but another branch reaching toward the sky.“
She looked back. Small one and sheep. Forward. Wizard and Trees. Mecklen was no stranger to meandering prose, but this was something else.
Lewellyn History, Craw! came the crow’s voice in her head. Lew squinted at the book and ran her finger down the crease in the center. Underneath, she felt the ragged edge of a page that had been torn out.
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