I have no especial talent for the telling of stories. I have known Waterwanderers far greater than myself who could lay the path of a tale and somehow keep it twisting and turning for the listeners’ enjoyment. How they do this is beyond me. I have always known victory by going straight for the point in a quick manner.

And so I am afraid my story of the Long South must be. I hope a Songweaver will make it more surprising and grand in a future passage.

By now it is no secret that Aflatan was a very powerful individual and our company were better off not challenging his authority. His abilities had reached beyond the obvious, and I am not ashamed to admit that I personally marvelled at him.

Like all who are made for high authority, Aflatan knew how to cloak his true purposes. So he did for us.

The tireless Gaalians with our aid built three watercraft in the space it would take a seasoned company of our Folkin to make one. They were large, heavy craft, beautiful though rough to look upon, and easy to direct.

And so we began the long and slow journey back along the coast, a small armada lengthening slowly along the coast, Gaalians tirelessly plying their oars. Aflatan had laid in a prodigious store of fruits, fresh liquid and, of course, his purple weed.

It was not very many passages before we had reached the first Gaalian hamlet. They were amazed to see us, returned in such splendour and health, and they came out as one group to see the Great Beasts, drink our liquid and eat our food.

The customary welcoming party began, and that is when Aflatan showed his carefully crafted dance. It was more impressive before an audience than in the lonely paradise, for the Gaalians put their greatest effort into its performance. They had yet to begarb themselves in the ceremonial clothing and armour that Aflatan would later provide, and still the hamlet Gaalians were overwhelmed. They came forth to pay respect and homage to their brethren who welcomed the worshipful attention and turned it into a great communal dance that lasted till the appearance of Gaal.

Then, instead of staying the traditional three passages, Aflatan announced he was departing, inviting the strongest of the hamlet the chance to join their company.

His manner of doing this was a foretelling for his later methods, for he spent the period of Gaal’s journey in a muddie, while members of his company espied the best of the hamlet to invite them, one by one into the muddie. Every member left, a dazed look of the weed in their face.

We of the Long North watched all this from afar.

–He will recruit every best Gaalian from here to Tu’Vrahadith.—said Brendar to our group settled next to the open water.

–and beyond, most-likes.—Deren added.—He will have a host of weed-eaters at this command ere long. And then the entire coast will belong to him.—

–And what does that matter to us?—I remember Fim saying in reply.—we will be treated like princes, mayhap better.—

–To me, a golden cage remains a cage.—replied Brendar.

I would that those words, spoken by Brendar, were never uttered, for as it is said:

When Leel’s writings are spoken,

they form a pact that can never be broken.

Continue to Jonderen's account of the Long South - Part 10