The tale is told in the Scattered Worlds of the Daamin Unde Nes, who was not like others of her race. Unde Nes from a very early age loved the stars, and often would sit up late at night watching and charting them. In particular her fascination was stirred by the Rept Kretzlab, the Gap of Remembrance which split cosmic dust clouds and allowed a glimpse of the Core, and she longed for the lost homestars of her people.
In the time before Avethell rose, when she was still young as the Daamin reckon age, Unde Nes met one of the Galactic Riders on Nephestal. This Rider was of the race of the Bittalanen, a people who ruled briefly and came to maturity rapidly. Unde Nes became friends with this Rider, Sheltin kar-Nemeph, and together the two set off into the heavens to roam the Scattered Worlds. Many wonders they saw, and many tales are told of their adventures, but these are not part of their true story.
In these times some hint of the might of Avethell was heard, but the Gergathan had not yet come to fear the name of Aemallana, and there was more commerce between the Scattered and Gathered Worlds. At last the minds and eyes of Unde Nes and Sheltin kar-Nemeph turned toward the Core, and Unde Nes longed to see the close-gathered starry skies of Verkorra. So together they flew into Rept Kretzlab, and past the Curtain of the Hlutr, and so they came into the Gathered Worlds.
Upon several worlds they landed, and learned much . . . and rumor of their presence traveled far, even to Messilinia. And as the Gergathan was always on the lookout for those who dwelt in the Scattered Worlds, that it might pry from them the secrets of the Free Peoples, so it commanded that they be made to find their way to Verkorra, where some of its ships waited in ambush.
So came Unde Nes and Sheltin kar-Nemeph at last to Verkorra, and Unde Nes was eager for sight of her race's homeworld. But as the two made orbit, the ships of the Gergathan fell upon them and Sheltin kar-Nemeph was hard put to save the tiny craft from capture. The Rider, however, was one of the most skilled, and now her skill showed itself -- she brought the vessel to a safe landing in a snowy field at the foot of the Mountains of Kras Tenterb Nlan, the Great Glacier. The night sky was bright with the radiance of countless stars, stars of all colors Unde Nes had ever seen, and her emotions were lifted by the sight.
"We are dead, Unde Nes," said Sheltin kar-Nemeph, "for the ships that attacked us are surely those of the Enemy, and they have followed us down."
"Then let us flee, for now that I have reached this world I do not wish to give it up so easily." So they fled toward the mountains, as the Gergathan's ships settled to the ground nearby.
Then did Unde Nes face the Gergathan's vessels, and she composed her mind to peace, and she whispered prayer to Hesket, which in Coruman is the Hemmin Hesketen, a song older than the Pyslistroph (blessed be!). And Unde Nes' eyes brightened, and in their red depths appeared a tiny spark of icy blue. Then there sprang up a snowstorm, and under its cover Unde Nes and Sheltin kar-Nemeph were able to reach the mountains.
They climbed rapidly, and soon came to a cave in the mountainside; through cold and darkness they followed the cave's twisting passages until they were both very hungry, and each knew she could go no further. At last Unde Nes sat down and sighed.
"I can go no further, Sheltin kar-Nemeph," she said. "Calling the storm drained me of energy, and I cannot take another step in this cold and dark."
Now Sheltin kar-Nemeph, who was more rested, reached out to her friend. "If I may touch you, Unde Nes, then I shall carry you."
Unde Nes nodded, and thus it was that a lesser creature touched one of the Daamin and earned respect, not punishment. And in gratitude, it is said, those descendants of the Bittlanen who remain in the Scattered Worlds are ever exempt from the prohibition on touching the Daamin.
Sheltin kar-Nemeph carried Unde Nes, and her burden was not as heavy as she had anticipated. And as they stumbled on through the dark, Unde Nes laid her head against Sheltin kar-Nemeph's body, and cried out in weariness and hunger, calling upon Naervara and asking for one more sight of the stars before death or capture.
Then Sheltin kar-Nemeph became aware of a glimmer in the darkness, and she made for it. Soon she came to a large cave atop the Great Glacier, a cave whose roof was crystal-clear ice; and beyond the roof was the brilliance of Naervara's endless stars, filling the whole cave with cold white light. Verkorra's small moon was visible as a pale shadow against the brilliance of the stars, and nowhere were the ships of the Gergathan to be seen.
Then Sheltin kar-Nemeph put down her friend, and she curled up next to her, and the two of them slept.
(Next week: part two)
copyright (c) 2009, Don Sakers
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