One of my favorite things to do in my crèche was to read the scrolls that the old Tocsin had written about the town of Hesper. I’m unsure if he copied older scrolls as the Acolytes did the teachings of their Order, or if he had some other means of discovery. I had begun copying some of the older work that had become increasingly fragile when I came upon the story of how the gates of Hesper were built, and how the villagers brought a curse upon themselves that the Cleric at that time was unable, or perhaps, unwilling to remove.
There are so many tales told to the young by those who are older than it takes a lifetime to sift through those which are true, those that are outright lies or told in jest, and those that have been retold without proof, and thought to be true nevertheless.
When the village of Hesper began building the walls around the town there was great concern as to how the gates were to be constructed. Even with the charms and spells of the Cleric, who was no small force with the Grace of Illumination, there was still great worry that some creature might gain the gates and therefore the village. The Magistrate, who did not overworry about such a small village so terribly far away from everything else in the world, nevertheless sent forth a man named Portus, and his skill was that of fashioning gates and doorways.
Portus studied the design of the walls, and bid the citizens to make the gates out of multiple layers of different woods, with no two layers matching another’s alignment, yet fastened tight to one another with bolts rather than nails. Instead of a solid oaken work he designed a device from more springy wood that would absorb great blows and bend rather than break. Yet the outer layers would be iron barked Oak which would not burn easily and would resist even time itself.
Now, even as the doors were being fashioned by those with their craft in wood, Portus knew he would have to attach the gates to the walls and with him he had brought a great forge and a quantity of steel and iron. Yet just a few months in Hesper had convinced him that if siege was laid to the town, or if some great beast assailed the gates, help would come from the Magistrate in time to witness the last carrion fowl lifting away from the bodies, if help came that soon. It was more likely, and Portus knew this in his heart, that one day there would be no word from Hesper and there would never be again.
At this point in the scroll there was a smudge that covered two or three sentences. I could not tell what had been written or why it had been so abused, but it was intent was clear enough; no one was to read what had been written next. But the story continued…
Portus began taking a large pack with him, and he began going with two guards into the hills around Hesper, and he took with him a Pixie as a guide. Three silver pennies he gave the creature for each day’s work and the people scowled at such wealth being spent on a Pixie that might yet turn on them. The Pixies that had lived around Hesper before the people had moved in helped them at first but resisted the idea of trees being felled and crops being planted. The wildness of the woods were what they loved most, but it was the building of the quay that they deemed most dangerous. Anything that resisted the River Motus the Pixies considered very dangerous and unwise to the extreme. Yet for their own reasons, the Pixies allowed one of their own to guide Portus on his search, and it was nearly two months deep into before he found that which he went to discover.
When I was a child, so small that the memory is as faded as one of the most ancient of scrolls, my father and I discovered a Waftspring. Just as there are places where water will come forth from the ground, rushing and bubbling, and frothing, so are there the Waftssprings. Here is where the purest of all airs are issued from the earth itself, and instead of dissipating like a vapor the Waftspring will instead create of pool of air, unseen yet the air within so pure there is no mistake of its boundaries. There are creatures within the world whose offspring must be raised in these places and by their presence alone can Waftsprings be tracked. However, jealously are these venues guarded and the incarnation of the Waftspring rarely brooks trespassers of any form. Yet the Pixie brought forth the incarnate of the Waftspring, in the form of a woman who was slight of form, fair of complexion, and with a mane of red hair. She called herself Dreama, of the Sky Canopies, and demaned that Portus leave. Portus offered to bring her two chests of jewels from the village, and to sully her Waftspring not at all with smoke or vapor, if she would lend him the air he needed to forge the hinges of the gates. For a week, and then another, Portus wooed Dreama’s Waftspring and finally, under the conditions that no smoke leave the forge, and no slag fall upon the ground, and payment be made when work was done, Dreama allowed the work to begin.
The heat of the forge was created by a single glowing ember being touched to the coal. Instead of smoke, the heat transformed red hot, then white hot heat without a trace or hint of smoke. Dreama’s air poured into the forge and melted the steel as if ice had been brought out into the Summer’s sun in the stony fields. For a month and another did the work go on and it was slow and painstaking, for not the first rise was smoke did Portus allow or would Dreama stand.
Who knows why it was done or if it was done with intent, or if it was done out of excitement for the finished job or if in some way, the restrictions put on Portus in such a strange and faraway place from his home had built up ennui or spite. On the final day of work Portus picked up a flask which held water and ran a stream of water onto the newly forged gates and a small steam arose. Worse, the water ran into the forge and a cloud of smoke arose. Dreama shrieked once and disappeared along with her Waftspring.
As the gates were being constructed, the hinges were hammered into the wood, and great oxen were to pull them into place, the Pixie approached the village and demanded that Portus make payment to Dreama, and damages for the Waftspring. Moreover, the Pixie demanded that the Steward of Hesper expel Portus from the town forthwith, and allow him to tarry no more in Hesper or allow him to return again.
The Steward of Hesper, Jubal, was a man just named to the position, loath was he to surrender any of the small amount of treasure secured to the town, and even less was he inclined to anger Portus who represented the Magistrate while in Hesper. And why, Jubal asked, would he involve himself in a dispute between two parties unrelated to the gates of Hesper? The village had made no deal with Dreama or the Pixie. Jubal refused to treat with the Pixie anymore and bid her begone.
The gates were erected with great ceremony and there was celebration. Yet on the day of the celebration there was a slight, slow, rain of the floating seeds of the dandelion plant, a rare herb used to treat compulsion in children. There were not over many, nor were they a nuisance, but all noticed the seeds floating in the wind, and wondered if this were a good sign, that so rare a medicine might fall from the sky. But there was word from one of the outliers, one of the peoples who lived in the hills around Hesper. He came in and said there was a woman, red of hair, slight of frame, and pale of skin, who stood upon a rock with a dandelion plant in her hand, and she blew the seeds towards Hesper. When the Cleric of Hesper heard of this he held his staff on the walls of Hesper and cried aloud in a language both harsh and incomprehensible to the people below. A red glow came from the floating seeds and the people cheered, ignorant of what they had just witnessed.
The Cleric made haste away from Hesper and found Dreama floating within the tops of the trees near Hesper, and upside down she was, and supported by vines cleverly wrapped around her body.
“What is it you have done to my people?” The Cleric demanded.
“I have extracted payment for my services.” Dreama replied without anger. “Will you gainsay my work or my will?”
“I will ask of you what it will take to cease.” The Cleric said evenly. “For they do not know anything of your power and less of your will.”
“Treble payment for my work and my worry, Cleric. And at the very moment they hold to their words I will cease my curse.” Dreama demanded. “And they must live with what I have done to them as I must live with their damage to me.” And with that she floated away, and none saw her again.
The Council of Elders of Hesper and the Cleric met and discussed the curse. The Cleric bid them to pay, and quickly be about their business, but none would budge on such a loss of treasure without first understanding the nature of the curse, and they beseeched the Cleric to try to remove it first.
“Nay!” exclaimed the Cleric, “This I cannot and will not do. For if I alter such powerful magic with mine then by right the Waftspring can seek help in this matter and we know not what she might bring upon us, and in good truth, we know not what she has done. Gold and silver can be replaced. But to tempt the wild power found in the woods and hills is short of madness, but not by a full measure. I bid thee to pay this creature and hope she feels charity towards us and will undo ever it is she has done already!”
But the Elders of Hesper would not hear the Cleric.
Nothing happened in a month, nor in a trio of months, and finally the long winter set in. Life went on as it did usually and most forgot the Waftspring and her payment. Yet the wife of the Tavernkeeper, Vinshaper gave birth to a child nine months to the day of the curse and more than one marked this passage of time. Eagerly, Vinshaper told the Cleric that a Blessing of Good Health was in order and the Cleric obliged, for why would he not? Yet there was no doubt there was something odd afoot. The child was bright and merry, even as an infant, with the bluest of eyes and the fairest of skin. Both of the Vinshaper’s were as dark as night of both eyes and hair.
When the Quaymaster’s wife gave birth a month later, the child was ad dark of eye and of hair as the Vinshaper’s were but the Quaymaster and his wife were as fair as the noonday sun. Throughout Hesper there were whispers of curses and infidelity and when the daughter of the local Miller stopped her monthly course the Miller ran wild with rage. His daughter was not married and he kept her close inside his own home or the mill, and none dared cross his wrath. He demanded that the Elders punish her for wantonness and demanded of the Cleric that he use his Illumination to reveal the father of the child. It was at this time the Cleric called a Gathering in the town of Hesper, and all were required to attend.
It was a year nearly to the date of the curse of the Waftspring, and the Cleric spoke to all and said his concern that the damage to the town of Hesper could not be revealed. It was the Cleric’s thought that the seeds that the Waftspring had released into the air were a symbol and device that the seeds of the men in Hesper would be tossed as if into the air, and none could guess where they might have found fertile ground. Indeed, many thoughts of the villagers were of this mind and there was much pushing and shoving as to whose child this was or another might be. But the Cleric had a full measure of the Grace of Wisdom and declared that it was known full well that children could be and often were born without the hair or eyes or faces of their true parents, and, in this he lied, he spoke there was no magic that might decide the true father to any child born in Hesper to another father.
Yet the Miller demanded justice for the chastity of his daughter and she plead her innocence. The Cleric knew the pregnancy might be the workings of Dreama, the Waftspring, but it could also be that a young man had slipped about and coupled with the daughter. Not a year away from the Rite of Marriage she was and many a younger girl had given birth. Indeed, the thought had occurred to the Cleric that the Miller’s daughter might have tarried with Portus, for there was a great fear of the Miller inside of Hesper.
The Elders had no choice but to accede to the demands of the Waftspring. They emptied the town’s treasury and took the chests to the place where the Waftspring had first been found, and discovered her awaiting them. But even as they began to speak both she and the chests were whisked away on a great wind and they were all left standing there with their gold and their hats, forever gone.
The Miller’s daughter gave birth to twins in due course and the Cleric had sent for Portus with a letter to the Magistrate demanding he be made to stay if he was the father to the children. Portus arrived and great restrain had to be given to the Miller for his accusation was one of rape, or seduction.
Portus proclaimed his innocence, and he had brought with him a small amount of jewels to help offset the offence given to the Waftspring, but the Elders were angry still, and the villagers not assuaged. The Cleric took a braided chain of flowers and placed them upon the head of the Miller’s daughter as she held her children. He chanted aloud and the flowers arose from the girl’s head and hovered for a moment. Tiny points of light arose from the children and then the braided flowers began to drift as if blown by the wind, towards the Cleric. Portus stood to his left, with strong men on both side of him.
“The Flowers will rest upon the head of the father of these children!” The Cleric said in a loud voice and the flowers drifted straight towards Portus and then alighted on the head of the Cleric.
There was no more information on the scroll.