of the Last God
(Book II of the Oerth Cycle)
(C) 2000 BY
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"Daddy! Come see the sunset!" Farrah called.
Smith looked up from the forge, panting a bit from the heat. "I can't, Farrah. I'm still working on the plates for the new boiler. If we're going to have our boiler finished so we can be warm in the winter and your mother can use her new sewing machine, I-"
Bootie leaned in the door to the smithy, holding Little Tinker in her arms. "Smith, you get out here right now and sit with us and watch the sunset. We're not in the Wild Wood anymore - we're in the Lands of the Mus. If we're going to get along with them and learn to be their friends, we have to learn to do the same things they do. You're the village leader, Smith - and you should lead by example. Come," she said, and smiled at her mate.
Smith smiled back. "Alright - just let me damp the fire and put this plate aside to cool."
A few minutes later, Smith stepped out of the smithy, and looked around. Bootie and Farrah had already placed chairs out to sit on, and apparently all the mice of the village were out, sitting, watching the sunset, and chatting quietly. The distant silhouette of Lord Xaa's castle gave a dramatic point to the darkening horizon, and a soft breeze quietly ruffled the long grass of the rolling plain before them like waves over a green ocean. Far to the southwest, the Laughing Wood lay dark and quiet, only the faintly visible curl of smoke from the central cookfire of the mustie village revealing that their evening dances had begun. Smith sat next to his mate, and nuzzled her lovingly. For a long moment, Smith simply sat and watched the sun slip lower on the horizon, the sky reddening.
"Hoyo, Smith, Bootie, Farrah! May I join you?"
Smith looked to the side, and smiled at Potter. "Hoyo, Potter! Have a seat."
"Sit here, Potter!" Farrah chittered, patting an empty chair next to herself. Potter grinned and did so, and for several moments thereafter, Farrah and Potter simply gazed at each other, their eyes sparkling. Smith glanced at the two, and grinned quietly.
Bootie looked to see what her mate was smiling at, and smiled briefly, herself. Smoothing her face, she put a stern expression on, and spoke up. "Now, Farrah - you're supposed to be watching the sunset. It's a zen-thing. We have to learn the ways of the mus, if we're to be their friends," Bootie scolded - though not too harshly.
"Yes, momma," Farrah replied, and turned her attention to the reddening western sky. Bootie smiled and pretended not to notice when Farrah quietly slipped her paw across to Potter's, and gave it a gentle squeeze.
Potter smiled to Farrah for a moment, then gazed at the sunset again. After a long, quiet moment, Potter sighed. "There's so much to learn, though... We'll never be real warriors, like the musties are."
Smith nodded. "Probably not, Potter. We're too small, really. We'd have to learn to fight the way the musties do - and that would take years. They learn it starting from the day they can walk, with every rough-and-tumble game they play. Yes, the musties are teaching us to shoot, and we'll at least be able to put up some resistance if the cats come by, but we'll never really be as good as the musties are. And from what I've learned so far, I can tell you there's far, far more to being warrior-caste then just knowing how to fight. To the mus, there's learning how to manage a fief, how to manage their relationships with their servants, their vassals, their allies, and their liege, and how to manage all the million-and-one things that could go wrong on any given day. It's similar for the musties - though they must learn how to estimate the population of game in their territory and how much of it they can hunt, the skills of woodcraft and survival, and many, many more things," Smith replied, and shook his head as he continued.
"No, you're right - there's simply too much to learn. Most of us here this afternoon, watching this sunset, will simply be servant-caste in the service of Lord Xaa while we learn the ways of the mus and try to build our library. It's far more important for now that we write everything down that we know, while it's still in living memory - and that may take a decade or more. But someday... Someday, we will fight side-by-side with the mus and the musties, as warriors. Not today, not tomorrow, not even in a thousand tomorrows, Potter. But someday..." Smith said, and looked down at Little Tinker as he lay in his mother's arms. Little Tinker blinked his dark eyes, his whiskers twitching, then yawned sleepily.
Bootie smiled, nodding to her mate. "Yes, Smith. Someday."
Chapter One of the third book in this series, "Ayre of the Last God", will be posted monday morning.