autotelic, autistic, assonance-hole©.

Peeking through the shell – iii

The ambient light inside the temple came as much from the multicolored glass panels along the walls as the soft candlelight that flickered at intermittent points. Sibilant mutterings guided the un-named from the entrance into the alter room, the massive, sunken area appearing through graceful arches as they moved down the long, flat stairs.

From beneath the marble upon which they walked, soft amber light rose, dappling the room, meeting prismatic beams that drifted downward through the stained glass of the ceiling.

Small gasps of awe echoed through the chamber as hatchlings craned their heads up in unison, following the light upward to the scenes of history and honor depicted in the great concave reaches of the room.

Images of Lunus and Helian leaders, poised before the great hordes of old, gem and gold and scale glittering as one, shedding soft rainbows over the small crowd that stirred restless and nervous below… images of beings for which the hatchlings had no name, for which racial memory remained strangely quiet… their forms, strange and regal, their glassed eyes imperious and terrible even in depiction, they stood higher, at some distance, looking down upon the dragonkin as their limbs stretched over… seeming to somehow encompass, embrace, protect.

From the far side of the altar, humanoid forms emerged, telltale markings indicating dragonkind. These ancients in different form stood out among the young ones, to draw their eye. The phalanx proceeded behind a female who, tall and noble, silenced the murmurs of the acolytes as her sapphire eyes swept over them as one before settling on some unseen point beyond them.

Lifting her hands gracefully, she gestured to the room and began speaking, “Welcome, little ones, welcome to the day of your naming and to The Temple of Light,” her lithe form swayed lightly as she moved forward, distancing herself slightly from the remaining scribes before continuing, “To each of you, a scribe will arrive, to hear your words and record your oath of kinship and your chosen name within the world. Think well upon your place within the world, and in careful contemplation set your spirit upon the words of your ancestors…” Her words trailed off into silence as her hooded companions moved forward.

I glanced about the room, counting a score of hatchlings including myself, and before each of us, a robed one stopped. My scribe knelt briefly, speaking in a low but clear and lilting baritone, “I am known as Jaim,” He lifted his hood, revealing bronzed features and wavy, close-cut, raven hair, “Speak to me of your ancestors and make your name known…”

The age-old etiquette of this ceremony flooded naturally into my mind, the first words coming with ease and grace as I paid homage to the temple, those who serve, and my lineage, ‘With humility I come into the halls of light, and with grateful spirit do I submit to The Ones who watch, who protect and guide, and those who serve them. With pride I thank the ones who came before, their sacrifice and service preparing my place; Silent Driena, my first grand-dame, who, despite her muteness, served with honor through The Great Schism… Brave Syorcia, my first dame, who helped rebuild the temple and served quietly to heal the wounds of those returning from battle with the Withered Aegis… Gentle Altena, who yet serves as scholar and spellcrafter in the School of Ancients and who gave me life.’

Images of the last three generations flipped and twisted through my mind as the names and deeds of the three matriarchs who preceded my birth were given to the scribe to honor them as well as to confirm my birthright.

The scribe nodded solemnly, the quill moving magically upon the parchment that rested in the air between us as I spoke, his ability controlling it as he stood both as witness and recorder in this ceremony. “Your lineage gives you right to choose your naming among our people, and has been confirmed. Speak now your chosen name, and by it be bound to your people and this world…” His golden eyes rising to meet mine, I thought I detected a flash of pride, and, for a moment, I wondered… could this be my father?

Helian society is matriarchal in nature, and though the brave males of our culture are noted throughout our art, our writings, and our history, the nature of our race is not to build bonds of a familial nature. Even the line of matriarchy brooks little in the way of emotional ties, hatchlings are nurtured and guarded through birth and then, taken to their naming ceremony only shortly before being delivered to the School of Ancients for the long and rigorous preparation for their place in the world.

Fathers are not noted within the histories and mothers only so to confirm one’s birthright, the presence of race memory that constitutes the priviledge of choosing one’s path in life and hence, the right to choose one’s name. Hatchlings who do not demonstrate the gift are named by their dames and proceed through schooling no differently than myself, but barring special acts of bravery or courage, cannot hope to receive a place in the histories of our kind.

The moment’s curiosity surprised me, and somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind, I heard a chuckle of distinctly feminine variety, veiled quickly.

“Little One…,” The soft voice breaking into my revery, I returned to the matter at hand, seeing the gentle humor in the scribe’s face, I had grace enough to shift restlessly before schooling myself to somber silence and continuing the ritual, ‘I have heard the voices of my ancestors… their words, their lives, and their dreams have been given to me…’

I began slowly, proceeding more confidently as the feeling of certainty rose and solidified within, ‘…I am one facet of an ever-larger jewel, a reflection of my people and their shared dream, like and yet unlike, I absorb the history of my ancestors and then, choose my own path through the world in hopes of honoring them as well as myself.’

The golden eyes across from me flickered momentarily… surprise? shock? I could not tell, and it did not seem to matter as I continued, ‘Like a gem before the light, we strive to be the best reflection of the ideals and virtues that have made our culture strong, that have permitted us to visit beauty and joy and life upon this world.’

The feeling of certainty growing within me was almost as strong as the sense of destiny that filled me as I felt as well as saw the name rise from my memory through my heart to shine before being voiced into reality, ‘I choose to be known as the crystal that grows, changing, reshaping and ever seeking newer facets to reflect the light. Like the precious gems of the horde, amythest, sapphire, emerald, ruby, I shall be rich with light, with joy, and with hope to prove a worthy name within our history.

I will be bond to the duty and honor of my kin, and by my name shall this oath be made. In the histories of our kind I will be Beryl, Helian by birth, gem by nature, and bound by honor to be guardian of this world and all who live within it.’

The scribe smiled softly as the quill whisked and dipped between us. The last flourish completed, the tome and quill glimmered for a moment before fading into nothingness, the scribing to be transposed later into the great book of our people by the Temple’s Anointed. He reached out to take my shoulder with his pale hand, and smiled, “Welcome Beryl, may your breath scathe our enemies as your wings protect our allies, and may your chapters in our history be written in light.”

And then, suddenly, the world went dark.

I awoke groggily, shifting upon the straw of the nest and for the life of me, hungry beyond all belief. As my senses sharpened into consciousness, I could smell the food somewhere in the room, turning with a groan, I allowed my nose to lead me to it… half-seeing, stumbling, I leapt upon the meal and fed with vigor.

Altena’s voice drifted to me from the other side of the room, ‘It is about time you awoke, Beryl…’ I nodded absently as I lingered over the meal, ‘You’re late for the first assembly, you know…’

Her voice trailed off as I stiffened, swinging about to look with horrified eyes at her, seeing her humor-filled nod, ‘You should count yourself fortunate that I am not your teacher,’ Her tone sharpening briefly, ‘Although I must say, I think Gayen will possibly be even less tolerant than I…’ She trailed off to let her words sink in, watching me bolt for the doors with a laugh, ‘No need to break your neck getting there, dear… the strain of the naming ceremony has been an acceptable excuse for many a Helian.’

I looked at her curiously and she grinned, ‘You don’t think you actually left this room, do you?’

I could feel my jaw drop as she pointed to the fecund evidence that indeed, I had not left this room in at least two days. As my gaze swiveled back to her, she shrugged lightly, ‘It does no good to try and explain to a hatchling how to get to the ceremony. We simply tell you to follow us and either you can or you cannot.’ My gaze sharpened slightly and, seeing the unspoken question, she continued, ‘Hatchlings who have the memory, but who are unable to reach the astral manifestation of the temple for naming are removed from the histories and live their lives out much as any other dragon.’

She smiled, ‘But you were strong, Beryl. I am proud of you.’

I opened the double doors of the hatching room and looked out into the courtyard… the open expanse was much the same as I had ‘seen’ it, the pond with the fountain, precisely where I had envisioned it, the lazy foliage draped over the walls just as I recalled it did… but across the way from me lay not a temple, but a squat, wooden building with the same large, double doors as those from which I peered.

‘Another hatching room, dear,’ She said, ‘This entire wing is nothing but hatching rooms. The school is a good five miles to our west,’ She chuckled softly, ‘Something you might do well to remedy, as the morning is almost done.’

The reminder pricking me like a nettle, I nodded briskly to her before beginning the walk… no… the run to class.