by Gary Kealy
available on Amazon
“The past has flown away.
The coming month and year do not exist;
Ours only is the present’s tiny point.”
FOR A MOMENT KYY WAS between two worlds, the seen and the unseen and lay for a time in natural great peace. Then his thoughts returned, rushing in like leaves being blown in a strong breeze, swirling and dancing in every direction. He was aware of them, yet they were out of focus and he was unable for the briefest moment to think clearly. Emerging from that dream state with a lattice of thoughts and images arranging themselves he grasped at one, catching it, feeling its shape and texture and at once his day began. The wait was over; he would be leaving shortly. He swung round so that his feet touched the rug by his bed. His toes scratched and slid over the texture of the fabric and the sensation brought his body further awake. It was also more reassurance that he was no longer dreaming. He lit a candle, sending shapes and shadows to play on the walls. Now his eyes opened fully. They were the drivers in a kinetic process so beautifully complex that Kyy seldom considered it. Awake now, his attention turned to packing the last of his things for the journey ahead.
Kyy had been raised at the stables by his grandparents and with them he was much loved and cared for, and despite having lost both parents at the age of five, he wanted for nothing. Life at the stables showed him a world outside the forest and gave him a set of skills not available to the other children of Greywood. He learned much under the tutelage of his grandparents, but his focus was always guided towards the horses – how to ride and care for these noble animals of superlative grace and condition. Horses were his grandfather’s passion and this passion was passed down to Kyy. For most of his life Ealdar had lived on his stables where he bred and trained horses. These animals were highly sought after as they were regarded as the most finely trained horses in Calbura.
Under the guidance of his grandmother, who had a great affinity for nature, Kyy came to look upon the natural world as an entity unto itself, something to be treated with respect. It is the essence of everything we see and touch. To be detached from it, as so many are, is to be detached from one’s self. Narua always believed that life within the natural world should not be a struggle, but a harmonious existence of balance and joy. The people of Greywood Forest treated their home well, but also, often took it for granted. Narua never grew negligent in that respect and always reminded Kyy of the wonders that constantly surrounded him. Kyy and his grandmother would stay in the cottage during much of the Summer so that Kyy could play and form connections with the local children and be a more integral part of Greywood Village. Ealdar would visit often as the distance between the cottage and the stables was only a morning’s ride away. The life of a horseman was a full time job however, so he could not remain with them for too long at any one time. Kyy had spent the last year predominantly in the cottage as he completed an apprenticeship with the resident woodsman and spent time in the local foundry where he learned basic metal work. Now his time there was finished.
As Kyy pondered what else he would need to bring with him, he knew that he would miss the forest immensely. Equally, the thought of what he would experience at the stables this time gave him a real sense of excitement. With an energized flourish he flung the last of his things into his rucksack.
It would be a long walk to his Grandfather’s farm on the upper plains, north-east of Greywood forest. Kyy packed some food, enough for two or three meals and then sat down to his final breakfast at the cottage. Afterwards, he took a last look around the small house, ensuring all the windows were tightly closed and the latches fastened on the doors. He then gathered up his rucksack and stepped out into the fresh air. It was late spring and the day would be bright and pleasant. As yet the sun had barely awoken, but overhead in this small clearing the first hazy tendrils of light stretched across the sky, softening the ultra-marine morning as they reflected off the light, wispy clouds. A lone hawk sailed quietly above; its view of the sunrise was not obscured by the high trees and in the distance the sun had just begun to rise from the dusky red horizon. The thin semicircle of intense crimson illuminated the ambient atmosphere in shades of orange and yellow. In the small clearing where the house stood, the light had not yet penetrated fully. The morning was suffused with a blue-grey hue, mirroring the sky. All the flowers and trees reflected the morning’s mood, the atmosphere was tinged in half-light, and everything was still. Kyy felt calm and peaceful and so at first was reluctant to set off along the forest path. He took one last look back at the house he had grown up in. The small cottage looked serene and beautiful as it welcomed in the dawn. The thatched roof was in slight disrepair and dwarfed completely by the massive grey trees which rose up behind it for over a hundred feet to the canopies covered with leaves. The walls were partially covered in ivy, which grew up to, and between the windows. The long flowerpots on the windowsills that once had been so beautifully filled now sat empty. Kyy had not wanted to fill them since his grandmother had died.
Kyy turned back to the path and carried on. Although he was a little uneasy about leaving the familiarity and security of the forest he was very much looking forward to seeing his grandfather again. It had been several months since Ealdar had last visited, at which time he had only stayed for three days, most of which was spent travelling to and from the forest village as he always had much business to attend to with the Forest Council. Kyy, apart from his Grandfather’s position, had little interest in the politics and for the most part Ealdar never troubled him with such issues. Kyy’s main interests were forged out of his experiences growing up and through the influence of his grandparents. His grandmother especially had instilled a love of nature in him and always favoured a more holistic approach to education, choosing not to cloud Kyy’s mind with the current politics of Calbura. The history and geography of the world, however, did spark Kyy’s enthusiasm for learning and he had many books detailing the history and legends of Calbura and many other lands. He also had a large number of maps and although he had never travelled past Oggia, a fortified town about a league from his Grandfather’s farm, Kyy thought that maybe on this visit he would get the opportunity to venture further.
The day drew on, bright but temperate at first, especially within the forest. The huge silver trunks held abundant canopies in a hundred shades of green. This multitude of colour was made even more dazzling by the sunlight, which affected the surface of every leaf. Some were illuminated and others partially shaded, but each one contributed to the sea of green that swayed and rustled gently overhead and kept the heat of the sun at bay. Columns of light pierced through all around as if Kyy were walking in a giant spider’s web constructed of sunshine.
The old forest road was well worn and kept in relatively good condition. Woodsmen regularly cleared the fallen trees and cut branches which encroached too far onto the road and might cause problems for passing wagons and coaches. Many small flowers and shrubs flourished by the roadside as much more light filtered down there than in the deeper forest. An aisle of colour and vibrancy guided travellers through Greywood. The procession of flowers was rich and diverse and was in constant flux depending on the season. Now wild tulip, bluebells and poppies were but a few of the many flowers present. By the road-side was a wilderness just under control; wild flowers abounded as if nature’s imagination overpowered man’s attempt to constrain it.
Kyy enjoyed walking this road by the flowers in the sunshine but he preferred to wander off the path and follow it roughly from inside the forest where he would half lose himself in fantasy and daydream. He would pass trees quietly, step over rotting logs trying to disturb nothing and leaving as few tracks as he knew how. Kyy would imagine himself on some great journey or important task doing his best to remain concealed within the forest. Staying in the shade, he sometimes let his fingers pass slowly through beams of light as they shone through the dense forest, watching as in the haze the particles of dust and light swirled perfectly around his fingers. The slight breeze made by his hand would create beautiful tiny whirlwinds and he would be lost for moments and eternities in their splendour, then he would close his hand and move on. He had played these games of imaginary adventures with his friends when he was younger, pretending to be Forest Scouts patrolling for wolves, enemy soldiers or goblins. It had always been Kyy’s ambition to join the Forest Scouts and to maybe one day become a Wind Scout, or even a Storm Scout like his father Quaid. However, as one needed to be an Amalgam in order to be chosen as a Storm Scout, that was an almost impossible feat to emulate. He often thought of his father and his mother as he ventured through the forest.
Kyy was very young when his parents left. He was told later, when he was old enough to understand such things, that Quaid and Ori had left during the Iron Wars and had never returned. Anything Kyy remembered about his parents seemed to have faded, leaving a vague shadow of a memory. From his grandparents’ descriptions he felt he had an accurate impression of them, but it was not the same as a memory, which troubled him occasionally. All the information he had about his mother was that her name was Ori and that she was a beautiful and kind person. She hailed from the land of Nemuria, a country that lay far to the east. According to his grandfather it was one of the great kingdoms as Kyy subsequently learned from books. Narua was always upfront and open with him and even though Kyy was a small child he knew his mother had died. His grandmother’s love lessened the negative effect of his mother’s absence. With regards Quaid he did, however, have one overriding memory that had stayed with him from his time with his father. He remembered walking in the forest with him when he was very small, slowly exploring his surroundings with the energy and tenacity of a small child, struggling over the vegetation and completely absorbed in everything he saw and touched. It was during these excursions, when they would try to keep as quiet as possible, that Kyy would hear his father’s voice, ‘Every step a whisper.’
It was these words now which echoed in Kyy’s mind as he continued his journey. Quaid had lived much the same lifestyle as Kyy, spending his youth between the forest and his father’s farm. Ealdar had told Kyy many stories of Quaid’s upbringing and it was clear that he missed his son very much. It was Quaid’s skill as a tracker, hunter and woodsman that made him a perfect candidate for the Forest Scouts. Once he joined, he rose quickly in rank, becoming the youngest Wind Scout ever in Greywood. Growing up on the farm had made Quaid an excellent rider and horse trainer and it was these skills which allowed him to become the only Storm Scout ever to have come from Greywood. The story of how Quaid chanced upon his Hybridia and so became a Storm Scout had always been Kyy’s favourite. His grandfather had told it many times and Kyy never tired of hearing it, apart from the end. As he walked steadily onwards Kyy imagined himself sitting by the fireside at his grandfather’s farm listening to Ealdar recount the tale once more.
To become a Storm Scout you must have been a Scout of some description first. In these parts there are forests and plains and three major ranks of Scout exist: Wood, Forest and Wind Scouts. The lower the rank the less area one is responsible for and the fewer duties one has. It is the responsibility of all Scouts to protect their patrol area and to educate the people about the conservation of the land. When a Wood Scout progresses to the Forest rank he can then be called upon to aid neighbouring areas and even be recruited by the army if needed. With training, a Forest Scout can become a Wind Scout, at which point his patrol area is greatly extended to cover the whole forest and also the Lundar Plains. These Wind Scouts also serve as envoys between all lands, ensuring communication is maintained and the spirit of friendship and peace upheld. They are held in high regard and admired in their respective communities but no amount of training can earn the title of Storm Scout.
That only happens when one joins with a Hybridia, an animal who has the mark of dragons. The Storm Scouts are the Scout elite, highly trained and powerful; they are the pride of Calbura and have shaped this land positively for centuries. It is widely acknowledged that if an animal such as this accepts you, it is then your responsibility to use this gift to serve your people and land. This is not always the case but for your father there was no other thought.
Quaid had been a Wind Scout for three years; he was much loved in Greywood and a favourite among the younger and older Scouts alike. Usually it takes at least five years to even be considered for the rank of Wind Scout but Quaid’s skill was such, that within two years of forest duty he was promoted. One evening a message was sent to your father concerning a number of traders who had been bringing supplies from Arapallo, a mining town on the other side of the Crystal Mountains to Greywood. It was roughly a four day journey from Greywood and the traders reported strange activity on the plains. They were lodging at the tavern in Greywood village and Quaid went to meet with them at once. They told of unusual rock and soil formations that seemed to have appeared from nowhere. They also reported hearing loud noises, like explosions, in the distance. They explained where they had encountered these phenomena, an area Quaid knew to be a popular grazing area for wild horses.
These were not the first stories Quaid had heard about such things. There had been rumours weeks before that these horses were acting strangely. At first he did not take them too seriously, but given the traders’ most recent accounts he had no choice but to investigate. The Lundar Plains were also an important trail for traders and it was part of a Wind Scout’s duty to ensure safe passage for all travellers. It was a two-day ride to the Crystal Mountains and Quaid set out from Greywood the following morning.
The forest road that leads north out of Greywood eventually gives way to farmland and more open countryside. On the road north the Crystal Mountains begin to grow continually in stature until they dominate the horizon; they are the first mountain range of many that exist in North Calbura. The rich farmlands after one leaves Greywood in turn give way to the grassland plains of the Lundar. My land is the only territory in this area that still has natural grassland and so in this way the Lundar Plains still reach Greywood Forest.
Quaid made good time and had travelled further than he had anticipated by the end of the first day. That night he stayed with a family who lived on a farm that lay right on the edge of the vast Lundar grassland. They too had heard of the rumours and reported some strange happenings when out tending their livestock, much as the traders had done. One story from a young shepherd in particular intrigued Quaid. The boy had witnessed a horse moving incredibly fast over the plains. It was a white horse, the boy said, with a dark brown mane. Any other details were impossible to make out due to the speed it was moving at and its distance from him. When it disappeared from view he heard a massive blast, as if he was in a thunderstorm, yet the skies were clear.
On the beginning of the second day Quaid began to see signs that a large number of horses had passed through. Some of the taller grass had been trodden down and the tracks were very clear. He followed the tracks for the rest of the day as they led him closer to the Crystal Mountains. By the end of the second day the huge mountains dominated the landscape so absolutely that even their shadows felt oppressive. Quaid made camp at an abandoned hut used occasionally for shelter by farmers tending their herds and traders to escape the elements.
Kyy was always fascinated by this image. His mind painted a picture of the scene and he imagined the solitary figure of Quaid travelling beneath the huge mountains, examining tracks while leading his horse on foot. In his mind both were cast in silhouette, even the thin reins all black, as they neared the little hut that seemed completely insignificant, set against the majesty of the giant rock extending thousands of feet to the snow-capped peaks that scraped the sky.
It was on the third day that your father found what he was seeking. Close to the mountains the land becomes less flat as the ground naturally undulates, creating long shallow valleys rising to narrow hilltops. On foot now, Quaid led his horse up one of the hills, and from the ridgeline he spotted about forty horses peacefully grazing below. Quaid, ensuring he was down-wind so as not to give himself away, moved in for a closer look. He would not usually have been so cautious around wild horses, especially as he recognised this herd, but there was something different here. He felt it deep within, a nervousness he could not explain.
Quaid lay close to the ground, concealed in the tall grasses, watching for a long time as the herd grazed contentedly, unaware of his presence. After a time Quaid began to doubt himself and wondered if his reservations were misplaced. He could see nothing out of the ordinary and began to see no reason why he should not ride down for a closer look, when suddenly he heard a thunderous boom, which froze him where he lay and sent his horse fleeing in the opposite direction. The sound wave echoed off the mountains and resonated in his ears. To his complete surprise, however, the herd seemed untroubled by the noise and continued to graze.
Then in the distance Quaid saw the unmistakable figure of a horse galloping in his direction. He immediately saw how fast the animal moved and it quickly covered a huge distance. As it reached the herd the stallion pounded its front legs into the ground, sending jagged columns of rock jutting out of the soil. A huge bang, louder than before, followed instantaneously. The sound wave echoed again off the mountains and Quaid felt as though thunder was exploding all around him. This time the herd was noticeably disturbed but it was clear the horses were used to this behaviour. Quaid knew at once he was witnessing a Hybridia.
He felt an overwhelming urge to approach this animal, as if his thoughts and movements were not under his control. He slowly stood up and began to walk down the gentle slope. When the herd saw him they began to move away, yet the grey stood firm. Quaid kept his head lowered and eyes away from the horse, as he knew looking at the horse was threatening behaviour. As he got closer he sensed the tremendous power of the animal. The air around seemed charged with energy and every fibre of his being felt as though it were on fire. Your father was skilled in the art of horse husbandry, and had trained wild horses from that very herd before. He spent most of the day there, employing all of his skills to build trust with the animal. Finally the horse lowered his head and approached him. Quaid placed his hand on the horse and a surge of energy passed through him, creating an immediate and permanent bond between the two.
Quaid spent another two days and nights on the Lundar Plains training the Hybridia he had named Tremor. The young horse had supreme intelligence, and training him was not a difficult task, except when Tremor would occasionally unleash his considerable powers.
When Quaid returned he was tired but extremely pleased with his achievement. I had never before seen such a creature. No more than a year old, he was more powerfully built than any horse of similar breed. His coat was the brightest grey, almost white, and from a distance that is how he appeared. What was astonishing for a horse of that colour was his dark brown mane and jade-coloured eyes. The horse was infused with the power of the earth and it was as if his body shimmered with that energy. His eyes, especially, told of his uniqueness. They were bright green, full of life, and these, more than anything else gave a sense of the spirit within. Tremor had the ability to shatter rock and stone with a touch. By pounding his feet he could create localised earthquakes that would knock a man off his feet. He was considerably faster than even the quickest horse in my stables and Quaid learned new skills and discovered new talents every day.
Word spread quickly and within a month your father was made a Storm Scout, the first ever from Greywood. I saw Tremor develop into an incredible horse but Quaid’s Storm Scout duties meant that they were often away, so I did not see them as much I would have liked. It is something I always regret, for a little over three years later the Iron Wars took them both away for good.
The wind rose up and set the arbour alive as the immense canopies rocked to and fro, returning Kyy to his senses. He did not feel the gale directly as he was protected by the vast forest and he stood amidst the undergrowth, suddenly absorbed by the rustling of leaves overhead. It sounded as if an ocean was sending its waves crashing in around him. Kyy revelled in this sensation. He loved when nature sparked his senses so much that he was overcome and lost in the moment. This sensation lasted only a few seconds and soon the wind died down, bringing with it the stillness and peace of an ancient wilderness. The winds that seemed to signal change faded out. Now the only noises, apart from his own gentle footfalls, were the calls of insects and birds which blended and faded into the background helping to create the ambiance of the forest. Kyy realized that he had allowed himself to stray considerably from the forest road.
Ever since he was a child he had been drawn to the forest lake which now lay just beyond the tightly packed trees ahead. Wildflowers carpeted the forest floor until they melted into the trees that ringed the lake. He hadn’t planned to visit the lake on this journey but knew that this diversion would not cost him too much time. He would still be able to reach the stables by nightfall. Akura Lake was a beautiful secluded area that Kyy visited often throughout his life. He had a deep reverence for this place and had spent much time staring into the cool waters that reflected the colours of the world so perfectly. The trees of Greywood grew right up to the edge of the lake, and surrounded it, creating a natural amphitheatre of wood and water. The lake was fed by an underground spring and was on high ground compared to the majority of Greywood. The river that carried the water away from the Akura Lake was born out of a waterfall narrow and high, a hundred feet above the lower forest. From this gap where the river began Kyy could see over the treetops of Greywood once he arrived at Akura Lake. An ocean of leaves and life flowed and interacted with effortless complexity and almost infinite abundance. Such a huge ecosystem exalted nature’s brilliance. Animal and plant life synced so closely that their energies merged, separated and merged again just out of the eyes’ comprehension. The creatures of Greywood thrived in the dense forest; their range and diversity was quite staggering and the complexity of their interdependence astonishing. Some of the grey leviathans seem to touch the sky and the sea of patchwork green stretched to the horizon. All this splendour welcomed Kyy as he sat by the lake, took off his boots and bathed his feet in the waters. Dragonflies zoomed and darted across the clear water chasing down prey, as the sunlight reflected off their slim bodies in deep greens and blues. All along the edge overhanging branches reached out to the water, touching it in places. The forest was also reflected in the lake and at times the surface would resemble a giant mirror until it was disturbed briefly by the fish coming to the surface. Here the sun was free to shine, no longer obscured by the dense forest all around and it felt warm and pleasant on Kyy’s face. The lakeside was alive with the energy of so many living things and vibrant with colour and spirit. In this setting Kyy could easily imagine that a dragon could appear again from the lake as it had done when he was a young boy. It had been this experience that drew him now to this place and had done throughout his life. As he sat touching the crystal blue water, gently letting the ripples emanate from his fingers. This place, now more than ever, felt like home and it was here more than anywhere else that his spirit could rest. He took deep cleansing breaths and like the gentle waves of a calm ocean, with each breath peace washed over him.
Because it had happened so early in his development it was now difficult for Kyy to remember what he was like before he had encountered the dragon. The abilities he acquired felt as if they had always been part of him and it troubled him sometimes that people did not see things as he did. This resulted in Kyy feeling isolated and slightly out of place in his community. He possessed a heightened sense of nature, an ability to perceive the energy that flows freely and constantly through the natural world with a fluency and complexity that was quite staggering. The spirits’ influence bound him to the earth in such a tangible way that he felt it like a second skin. His experience with the dragon had shown to him an alternate reality, a world of pure love and energy as valid and real as the one he lived in. Kyy could not immerse himself fully in this world for long, but it seemed that when he faded back from the Realm of the Spirit many bridges of light stretched out to bind one world to the next, creating a permanent link between them. Now when Kyy experienced things in the physical world he also gained a strong sense of their spirit and energy. His body felt more connected to the earth; he was a direct extension of it and moving through the forest and even through the water became much easier after his encounter with the dragon. He wondered if the dragon had awoken an inherent ability in him, or if it had bestowed it fully as a gift. As Kyy sat there contemplating such things he became conscious of the sun’s course through the sky. He was behind schedule and the need to get moving was made even more pressing due to the change he could see in the weather. From his vantage point he could see the clouds gathering on the horizon, a tempestuous mass growing in shade and vigour. Already the distant trees were consumed in darkness and the plains and entire forest would soon be under a heavy shadow. The temperature had dropped slightly and the wind picked up. It was still pleasant by the lake but Kyy knew he would be lucky to reach his grandfather’s house before the storm that was now brewing and had seemed to come out of nowhere reached him. He did not mind being out in such conditions for a short time but he was aware that his grandfather would be worried and he had enough to concern him without adding a lost grandson to the list. Kyy, continued his journey in haste.
action & adventure
metaphysical & visionary