“So long as you remember me, this and here will always be.” – Children’s rhyme, origin unknown
Photo Credit: Hans
The ending. For the beginning, start here.
“Guided by Sambar the Most Holy, Rufata of Nukta uncovered here the Sacred Staff of Akatala. So is Layor reborn, by divine intervention. So are continued the ancient traditions, may they be remembered and venerated for all time.”
—Inscribed on a stela in the Galakor ruins
* * *
Manaka stopped to get a better grip on her skirt, and resumed running through the forest after her dog.
“Izzi, come back!”
The girl whistled loud and long—she whistled like an old sailor, her father always said, although she’d never even seen the sea. The dog bounded back, jumped against her leg and yipped, and darted off in another direction. Manaka yipped in response and followed, leaping over roots and jutting stones almost as nimbly as the dog.
Izzi was good at finding things, out here in the forest. Things from the old city, from a hundred million thousand years ago. (Stop exaggerating, her mother always said.) Well, a long time ago. That’s where the stones were from. The broken ones that were left. The big ones were all carted off to the city. And some to her village too, like the stones around the base of her family’s house from way back before her family lived there.
Plus the tall pointy stone with the writing on it that she couldn’t read. That was where Jayanta Rufata found the grand staff of special magic god power and it made him jayanta of the whole land, back in the long-before days. Her grandfather had seen the staff once. He said it was as tall as him, with a huge fan of gold feathers on top that sparkled in the sun. Whenever Manaka found a branch with yellow leaves, she would hold it high to make her own fancy god staff.
There was other stuff out here sometimes, too, not just stones. Mostly shards of broken things, like pots and tiles. Manaka liked to make up stories about those. Sometimes she found a bit of jewelry, like the little green bauble that she decided probably came off the necklace of the jayantarat of all of ancient Layor. Her mother always said there never was a female jayanta of all of Layor, but that was obviously so ridiculous, it couldn’t possibly be true.
One time Manaka found a key. At least she thought it might be a key. It was too rusty to tell. In the stories she made up, it was a key—and not just any key, but a magic key. Obviously. She hid it in her secret place under the loose rock in the back wall, along with her other treasures. Manaka never asked any adults about it. They might take it away from her. She wasn’t going make that mistake again.
Manaka figured that if there was one magic key and one piece of a magic necklace, there was probably a whole lot of other stuff just as good, if she kept looking. And Izzi was her helper.
So far today, Izzi had found two squirrels (one alive and one dead), some dried poop that Manaka broke open to examine, some wet poop that Izzi rolled around in (yuck), a prickles bush, and another arrowhead. This was the short black kind of arrowhead, not the wide flat ones or the long black ones with the rings cut into the bottom. She was getting to be quite the expert about arrowheads, her father always said. She already had lots of the short black kind, but she put it in her pouch anyway.
On her own, Manaka had found a bird’s nest—she didn’t show Izzi that one, he wasn’t very good with birds—and a rock that looked like maybe it had writing carved into it. It was so faded, it was hard to tell if it was really writing or just the grooves of the rock. Manaka decided it was ancient writing, and that was why it was so faded. Wizard writing, probably. Special wizard writing from the big castle, the one that used to be here in the old city, that was built up so high and high that it touched the clouds.
Izzi was furiously digging up another hole when Manaka found him again. “What’s that, boy? What did you find?” It looked like maybe a gopher hole. She hoped it wasn’t a snake hole. Izzi and snakes was even worse than Izzi and birds.
He had one end of a stick pulled out of the ground, but it was stuck, so Manaka took hold with both hands and pushed away with her feet. Suddenly it came loose and she fell back on her bottom, right on a sharp rock. Ow! Stupid rock.
Manaka moved out from under the trees to examine their new discovery in better light. It was twisted, like a regular stick from a tree, but smooth and hard, like it was polished. Maybe it got that way from being underground for a thousand hundred years. Ooh, and that part looked like a little notch, where you would attach something to the end of it. This was clearly a very special stick. Was that carving on the side? Little designs or maybe… writing? She squinted. Yes, she was sure of it now. Ancient fantastical marvelous designs and writing.
“Look Izzi, we found a magic wand!” She waved it over her head and made pronouncements and cast fabulous spells. She tried to make Izzi grow as tall as a tree, but he wasn’t cooperating. She warned away the bad guys, because now that she—Jayantarat Manaka, the Big and Powerful—had her magic wand back, they were all going to be dust!
Izzi barked and barked, jumping to get at the stick.
“Okay, your turn to play with the stick. Go get it!” Manaka stood at the edge of the clearing and threw the stick as hard as she could. It sailed end over end, all the way across the clearing. She was a good thrower, she always said. Izzi raced after it joyfully and came scampering back, dropping it at her feet just as joyfully.
Manaka threw it again. And again. And again. Until one time Izzi came back and half the stick was dangling from his mouth, barely hanging on to the other piece.
“Izzi, you broke the magic wand!” Manaka frowned at the dog in mock anger, then laughed and scratched his ear to let him know that all was forgiven.
She twisted the two ends back and forth until the last bit holding it together cracked. Holding the two ends out ceremoniously, one in each hand, she put on her very serious face. “There. Now the power of the evil magruk ruler’s spell is broken for forever and ever, the end.”
Manaka threw the pieces high into the air. She had already spun away before they hit the ground.
“Come on, Izzi, let’s find another stick!”
* * *
“I concur that the ruler known as Valbur or Fellibor existed and was, as you argue, mortal. However, I cannot understand your continued faith in the extraordinary myths about his staff, much less the tale of how it was lost. Such an epic betrayal makes for an entertaining play, I grant you, but the entire story is almost certainly apocryphal—a fable, nothing more.”
– From the letters of the scholar Elsibi to the Guild at Karkasan.
* * *
“So long as you remember me, this and here will always be.”
– Children’s rhyme, origin unknown