Geoffrey Blackpool in Caverns of Chaos (6_66)

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Blue Mountain Goat Cheese

by Kiri


This story dates back a thousand years before the Great Kingdoms where formed. A tiny mountain range in the region we call Black Blood Mountain Ridge today was very different back then ...

In those days the peasants lived in villages free from tax collectors or kings and fended for themselves against monsters and mages alike. One village in this harsh mountain range was called *Blugard.* The people were simple farmers, miners and traders. The mines ran day and night and the village's blacksmiths turned the raw ore into swords, shields, plows, knives and the like. But a few of them turned the rarer ores into lovely chains of silver or pendants engraved with organic flowing patterns. The wares of Blugard were in high demand in other villages without the resources to mine ores for themselves. The jewelry, quite plain and un-bejeweled by today's standards, was still far ahead of it's time and in as high of a demand.

The village was wealthy and wise. The farmers fed the miners and blacksmiths and they paid happily for the support. When a particularly bad winter befell the village, the local witch foretold of a great wasting that would fall upon the village ... the fields would burn by day and freeze by night. The sky would withhold it's precious rain and the ground would crack and split in pain. She said that something had upset the Gods. (Yes, they did still believe in Gods back then, as silly as it seems today.) She told them that until they learned how they had offended the Gods and made appropriate apologies ... the village would suffer.

The witch's apprentice, Jar-Geari, had heard of her master's vision and knew it to be a lie. she'd seen the spells her master had been preparing. She was going to cause the pain to the village and then solve it to increase the power she wield over the village. As it stood, the people came to her with food and little trinkets of jewelry or herbs she needed when they needed her help. Potions to helps the ill, to aid in childbirth ... or talisman for the labors to protect them in their daily lives. Now ... the villagers provided food and tools to her the rest of the time too ... They just brought special things when they needed her help. She wanted more. She wanted power.

Jar-Geari had been born in Blugard and her family still dwelled here as farmers. Their fields lay high in hills near the mountains. Jar-Geari begged her mistress to allow her to visit her parent's during the winter and to *report back to her* about the Gods* wrath. Filtara agreed, happy to be getting rid of her annoying young apprentice for the winter. Jar-Geari ran home to her family but didn't tell anyone of the witch's plot. The first snows fell and Jar-Geari's family was trapped in the upper reaches of the village as it always happened during the winter. She spent her days cooking and cleaning and telling stories about the magics she was learning. She even cast a few simple spells for her family's amusement. She lit fires, summoned little animals from their wintery homes, and caused little warm breezes to dance through the house causing the babies to laugh and chase after it.

Her family raised sheep, cows and goats while they farmed. The men and boys tended the fields and then helped with the animals while the women and girls tended house and the animals. Jar-Geari went out into the pens where the animals were kept during the snows often ... she fed them and spoke to them as if they could speak back. Her little brothers and sisters thought her insane but they loved her still. One morning as she brought the animals their feed, she felt a great weight pressing down upon her chest. She knew it was the dark secret she kept. So ... with the babes asleep and not but the animals for company, she told her mistress* secrets to the animals and mountains. The cows stood and chewed silently. The sheep nibbled at their feed and nipped at each other in play. The goats ignored their feed and spoke to each other around the pen. Jar-Geari sighed as the weight had not lifted and went back to her chores unhappy.

The trees which stood around the farm rustled and told the story to the trees farther from the farm ... and those told others ... The story of what Filtara planned reached the ears of the Goddess of the Weather. (Well, it is a legend.) She grew angry that a mere witch would upset the balance that She had set. She decided that punishment was the only way to handle such a rude witch. She appeared before Jar-Geari's animals. *Cows ... your task is to lean against the posts holding the goats in their pen until they fall. Sheep ... your task is to paw at the soil around the posts to loosen them to help the cows in their efforts. Goats ... you must go to the cave which lies at the steepest face of the mountains above. Hide there until Jar-Geari comes for you ... I will provide for you until then. Cows ... sheep ... for your aid I will make this valley in which you live green and warm all seasons.* And with that She vanished and the chill winter air stopped and the snow ceased falling.

The sheep used their tiny feet to dig through the thick snow blanket to the hard ground. Then they beat at the frozen ground until it broke and the posts were loosened. The sheep fled as the cows approached. They threw their sides against the posts. They didn't move. They threw their weight against them again and again. The posts wiggled. The posts groaned. Then with a mighty push, they fell. The goats raced off towards the mountains ... The sheep's feet ached but the ground in the pens became soft, cool mud as the snows melted ... The cows sides ached but the first warm breezes eased the pain.

Jar-Geari came out to milk the cows to find the fence destroyed and the goats gone. The weather surprised her and her family ... but Jar-Geari quickly grabbed a sack of feed for the goats, food for herself and set off after her missing goats. Their trail was easy to find in the melting snow and then in the sticky mud. She climbed over rocks, through thorny bushes and crossed streams that had swollen into small rivers of mud and murk. Finally she reached the base of the steepest cliff face in the mountain range. The trail of her wandering pets did not go to either side of the cliff ... they dead ended into it and the dried muddy marks of their feet marked the cliff rocks. With a groan born of dread and fatigue, she began to climb. Three times she nearly fell to her death, but some unseen force pushed her gently back against the rock face and to a handhold. Jar-Geari was too tired to think about it and merely climbed higher until she came to rest at the mouth of a cave.

She rested there before going into the dark cave. She summoned a torch to light the way and was surprised when it did not appear. She tried a few little spells ... none worked. Afraid, she continued into the dark cave carefully feeling her way. The cave was warm and wet and she slipped several times. Finally a faint light shone from ahead. When she stepped through the thin opening, she found a green field of emerald green grass, blue clouds and bright flowers. The goats were playing and romping around in the paradise she'd found. A breeze blew her hair into her face and she turned towards it's source. The Goddess of the Weather, Ariellie, stood smiling at her. Jar-Geari dropped to her knees before the Goddess that controlled the Winds, the Rain and the Sun above. Ariellie smiled and forced her to raise.

*Child of Man ... Touched with Magic ... Named Jar-Geari ... you told me of Filtara's evil wish to undo my great work. You carry the weight of her guilt as she can't feel it's weight. This is not to be.* The weight in her chest lifted and was gone. *Jar-Geari ... take your goats back to your home. The winter's are over for your valley ... Spring eternal for your telling me of the secret ... But ... You must do something for me.*

*I will obey.*

*Speak slower. You do not know the risk involved.*

*I will obey.*

*So mote it be, little brave mortal, so mote it be. When the pass leading to the village is clear of snow when the true Spring returns, you must take cheese made from the milk of these goats back with you. Do not eat it without purifying it with heat lest it's magic effect you as well. I know Filtara loves cheese and will eat any that is brought. You will bring this cheese down and place it in her pantry. When she eats it, she will sleep for 3 days. During that time you must undo her spells and potions covertly. Add a drop of pure water and a pinch of salt and a pinch of sand to each potion ... each spell lays written and prepared to cast ... you must change a few words ... you will know which ones. Now go little witch. Filtara will destroy herself trying to destroy me. You must go now ...*

Jar-Geari herded the goats to the cave and outside. The goats found a path down that Jar-Geari could travel easily and they returned to her family's farm. She told her family what happened and only the strange weather that surrounded the house convinced them. Winter passed slowly in the lower village and when the snows melted with Spring's arrival Jar-Geari came back to Blugard with the cheese. She placed it in Filtara's pantry along with a few other things she brought from home. Filtara ordered her to go clean the witch's house and she went to obey.

Several weeks passed and Filtara had not yet cast the spells. Finally at dinner a few days before the Planting Festival , the cheese reached the dinner table. Jar-Geari baked it into some bread and then sliced some for Filtara. The witch ate heartily and thanked Jar-Geari for bringing the rich cheese down from the hills for her before retiring to her bedchambers. That evening after making sure Filtara was asleep, Jar-Geari climbed the stairs into the witch's spellchamber. The pure water, salt and sand were added to the potions and Jar-Geari whispered a prayer to Ariellie. The potions turned bright blue for a moment then returned to their original colors. Jar-Geari went to the spell scrolls and studied the complicated symbols upon the scrolls. As she watched certain glyphs glowed bright blue and changed into a similar glyph. Jar-Geari fetched the ink well and plume and began changing the glyphs one at a time.

The witch awoke after 3 days and although she was confused as to how she slept so long ... detected no spells on her student. She left to prepare to cast her spells. The potions were poured into her cauldron while she chanted the spells upon the parchments. One potion, one spell. Over and over. As she poured the final potion and uttered the last word of the spell, the cauldron boiled over ... Thick black smoke rose from the cauldron and filled the witch's chambers. Jar-Geari was cleaning in the kitchen when she heard Ariellie's voice on the breeze ... *run ....* She needed no further encouragement. She fled the witch's home as the smoke began to craw down to encircle the house in a dark embrace. Filtara's screams of anger could be heard throughout the village .... the townspeople came to see what was happening.

The smoke blocked out the house ... hiding it from view and Filtara's screams ceased. Jar-Geari told the townspeople of Filtara's deceit and the tale of Ariellie ... They backed away from the witch's home and hurried back to their fields afraid of the Goddess** wrath. The smoke cleared at night fall ... the stones glowed from the heat trapped within ... The ivy that had clung to the house was black and dead .... It was dawn before the house grew cool enough to enter ... Jar-Geari entered alone to search for her teacher. No living thing still lived within the house. Herbs were black and useless. Wooden tools were warped. The fabrics were brittle and black and smelled of foul smoke. Each room bore the signs until she reached the spellchamber. The spellchamber was untouched ... The books and scrolls of magic still rested on their shelves. The magical ingredients stood in their covered pots neatly arranged ... But Filtara was gone. The cauldron was empty, the scrolls holding the spells she'd been casting were ashes ...

Jar-Geari rode back to the mountain and climbed back up to the cave. She found the same field ... but Ariellie did not appear.

*Ariellie ... please. What happened to Filtara? She was greedy but I am sorry she could be retaught.*

*She is being retaught ... little witch ... go ....* Ariellie's voice drifted to her on the breeze. She looked around hurt. Then left ... and never returned. The cave closed behind her as she left and no one has ever found a mortal entrance to Ariellie's Glade since then. The goats* milk still made the magic cheese. And when those goats bred with normal goats ... the milk was not diluted. The rich cheese is highly prized even today., although the herds of goats who are it's only source have since been driven far to the south to what became the Great Kingdom by the horrid changes to the Northern lands.

Blugard still exists ... if you were wondering. It lays within Blackpool's realm. It's name has changed ... as has the ground and the people. The land is as harsh now as a Blackpool's heart (Sorry, Galen.) The rich mines are still plundered day and night but now they are slaves working for Blackpool and not free men working to make themselves rich. The blacksmiths are still the most skilled in any kingdom, but the art of jewelry has been lost to the art of war and it's weapons.

And Jar-Geari? She returned to Blugard and lived out her days casting spells, making potions and protecting her home. She married and bore children ... and they bore children ... as did they ... It's said Jar-Geari is the mother of many of the lesser mages and magic-users. Others say Jar-Geari did not die, she was taken to Ariellie's Glade to serve Ariellie as faithfully as she had before.


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