Meet the Ardeidal, Guardinals of the Pure Flow

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Of the Oceanus and its Birdlike Lords
by Tom Bubul

"It wasn't long ago, no it weren't, that I had to take a trip to down the Oceanus, and I met a most curious bunch of people... the ardeidal. Following is my little adventure down the river with them; I thought I'd write her down in case anyone'd like to hear... it's an interesting tale indeed, and the ardeidal are a right curious folk, if you plan on taking a trip on the river you'd best be knowin' about them.

It all started out when I was in Quietude on Elysium that one day. I needed to get to Arborea... I'm a botanist by trade you see, and I was studying these interesting flowers found on Elysium, but my guild (The Order of the Planar Heartbeat... a group of planar biologists, botanists and chemists) summoned me to Arborea to have a look at a poisoning in one of their high up members. Now, this was all well and good, but there wasn't a gate to Arborea (the Sensate's Headquarters to be exact -- I never could remember the name of the bloody place) anywhere for hundreds of miles, that is, any gates I knew of.

I sat on the banks of the Oceanus, staring out over its glistening, pure waters thinking that someone might die because I can't be there, when I saw his raft drifting ashore. There was some powers-awful singing and a banjo to be heard coming from the skiff. Soon, it skidded across the rocks in the shallows, and he stepped off and dragged it into shore. He was an ardeidal, a guardinal that watches over the River Oceanus, especially in Elysium and Bytopia (the eladrin do a good job of it on their own in Arborea). The merriest, most carefree folks around, or so it's said. As I was saying, he stepped off of the raft and dragged it ashore, and tied the structure to a big rock.

"That oughta do it," he said, and with a whistle, he walked towards town. Knowing he was an ardeidal, and that the Oceanus does lead to Arborea, I decided to ask him how I'd go about taking her.

"Excuse me cutter, but..." I started.

"Now, now, 'scuse me," he began in a heavy accent, "me name's Rasberry Phillip Phinn, most folks 'round here just call me Ras though," he gave me a slap on the shoulder , "I never seen you 'round these parts, new to the river?"

Now, I was quite baffled at the site of this ardeidal. At first glance he looked fairly human, except for his extraordinary seven feet in height. But now that he'd gotten close enough to see, his guardinal nature was obvious. He had straggly blond hair under a straw cap, he wore a pair of huge pullovers with suspenders, and no shirt. The hat had previously covered up his long beak, and his not-wearing a shirt showed off the feathers on his arms and legs. His feet ended in the talons of a fishing bird.... not the big slashing feet of an acherai, just clawed bird feet.

"Well, speak up then," he continued with a grin, "what's your name frien'?"

"Oh, I'm sorry.. my name's Emanuel Legis, I'm a botanist, and..."

He grabbed my hand and vigorously shook it with both of his, "Well, I do say I'm pleased to be of 'quanance, 'Manual Legis. What brings you to the river?"

"Well, I was just thinking. I need to get to Arborea in five days, but there's no portals to the spot in Arborea I'm heading to 'round here. I was hoping I can somehow take the river." I noticed how his friendly manner and dialect had already crept into my vocabulary, and how I said ''round' rather than 'around'. I was usually a rather proper person.

"Ahh! Ya'd like to ride the river than? I can take ya, yeppers I can! Just let me run to town for a bite to eat, and I'll be back in a blink of a eye, you'll love the river, yessir you shur will!"

And with that flurry of excitement, he ran to the town in an awkward bending of legs and tossing about of arms and feathers shedding in excitement... one could obviously see he was more competent on land simply by the way he waded so fluidly through the water on his docking.

He came back in a good ten minutes, with an old metal bucket with a bottle inside in one hand, and a loaf of bread in the other.

"All ya need on 'e river is a crust o' bread to eat your fish with. You can drink the river, and of coarse a bit o' wine for special 'casions," and with a grin, he walked onto the raft, "Hop aboard mate."

Cautiously, I walked through the reeds on the shore onto his wooden raft, I got aboard, and it rocked quite a bit. Just as I was about to fall in, he reached out an arm and with a grin, added, "Careful, she's a bit tippy now an' then"

"Right, thank for the help... I guess it's obvious I've never ridden on the river before 'eh?" I was rather embarrassed.

"Aww, think nothin' of it. We'll 'ave ya up to speed by time the trip's over."

He reached for a long pole that was leaning against the makeshift sail, and pushed off of the shore. The boat seamed lighter all of a sudden, as we rushed into the current. He laughed a bit, and pulled the pole out of the water, it was covered in reeds.

"Nothin' like the ol' push off, 'robably the most fun part of the trip. Looky here now, see these reeds?" I wasn't paying much attention, I was very wet and not in much of a mood for his babble, but I acted interested.

"Yes, what about?"

"Well now, if ya bite them like so," he bit into a reed, "they make a nice whistle that the ol' song sharkies jump for joy when they hear. Watch." He blew into the reed, which was now riddled with holes, and sure enough, a delphon downstream leapt out of the water. I was amazed, and this ardeidal had my interest again. They really were clever.

"Well, that's a trick! How's it work?"

"An in'eresting fact 'bout these weeds. They grow on the backs of Spiraloids, a shellfish that lives in the shallows. It's a sym'iotic relationship you scientists call 'er, the Songstems eat the bugs and germs off the shells, and the shells impart their power of control of the ol' sharkies. Neat 'eh?"

"Yes, wondrous! Why hasn't anyone harvested this power before?"

"'Cause it's tricky business blowing the ol' whistle. Give her a try."

I blew and I blew, but nothing came out of the reed except a bit of water. I sputtered, "Why can't I do it?"

"Well, if ya live on the River long 'nough, ya'll learn these tricks."

"Right, right. Interesting stuff, that."

"Just wait frien', you 'aven't seen anythin' yet."

I took out my book, and scratched a few things down about the Spiraloid and the Songstems. I thought this'd be interesting stuff for the folks back at the laboratories to chat about.

I suppose I dosed off for a bit then, because when I woke up, Quietude was nowhere to be seen, and the sun was high in the sky, beating warmly down on us. My companion Rasberry Phillip Phinn was fast asleep himself, with a fishing pole in hand, his feet drifting in the water, his back slumped against the mast, and his hat pulled down over his eyes, so all I could see was his beak poking out. I took off my boots, and stepped across the deck, which was now quite hot from the beating sun. I shouted, and Rasberry jumped up out of his trance and looked around anxiously, and then saw me. A grin crossed his face, and he slumped back down.

"Ahh," he chuckled, "I forgot about you for a sec, I got quite a scare, I thought I'd hooked the Kraken," a big grin crossed his face, "Come, have a seat over here, and I'll tell you a story 'bout another frien' of mine who actually did hook a big fish... the mother of 'em all."

I tiptoed quickly across the deck, and had a seat right next to him, he was almost two heads taller, even while seated. I dipped my feet into the water, which was moving at a rushing pace even though it felt like we were just crawling along, and looked up at him intently.

"There're two things in life an ardeidal loves, not countin' the ol' river: fishin', and talkin'. The best is when we all get together, and tell stories about fishin'. Now, one time we was all together, and ol' Birch Samson (a right old ardeidal, he has me beat by some two hunderd years) tol' us 'bout the time he hooked Ol' Dell herself, the mother of all song sharks. Of coarse, he didn't mean to, Ol' Dell's a good fish, like the rest of her kiddies, but anyhow, he 'ooked her. Would ya like to 'ear the tale, or jus' have a look out at the river for a bit?"

I wanted to hear his story, I was becoming more and more intrigued by these ardeidal every moment. "Yes, yes, do tell, I'd love to hear her."

"Well yippee doo, you're in for a treat then. Now sit back and relax, and I'll tell you the greates' fishin' tale as can ever be tol'.

"Birch Samson, like I said, is a very old Ardeidal. He's so old, he's been around since the river flowed the other way so to speak. Anyhow, Birchy was out fishin' once, about this time o' the year, and he fell asleep. He wakes up, and sure enough, all the bait and his hook were gone. He figures it got snagged, so he just strings up a new 'ook and keeps a fishin'. Sure enough, it happened again... and he saw what it was.... a huge sharkie. An ancient prolly. So, he thinks he's not supposed to fish for sharkies, cause we're frien's with them, but he does anyway. He sticks a Spiraloid on his hook, which was extra big, and happens to be irresistible to sharkies. So, he casts off, and shur enough, its huge dorsal appears on the water's surface, floppin' around like, and he's reelin' her in. So he gets her close to his boat, and she takes a big ol' bite outta it! Right outta the stern! It's startin' to keel over so he runs to the other side to balance her, still holdin' his pole with one han', and the giant sharkie jumps right over his ship, smashin' his mast off! So, now Birchy hadn't any idea what to do, but he still isn't lettin' go o' his rod... he gave it another jerk, and the ol' sharkie he had hooked wheeled around for a third time. Then, he did his famous little pulling spinning reel in (no other ardeidal knows how to do her), and he cuts out one of her teeth, which is huge. It comes back across, now that she's unhooked, and stops right by his boat, and pushes him to shore with a little grin. She even says to him Ol' Dell was her name. Now, he claims she's the legendary Ol' Dell, mother of Song Sharkies, and that he caught her. Interesting eh?"

"Why yes, quite... is there an actual Ol' Dell?"

"Why o' coarse there is! She's queen of the sharkies, she is! Birch claims he caught her, like I said, but I dunno. Maybe... interesting enough though. I like that story, it shows how we're frien's with the sharkies."

"Right, it does show the camaraderie."

With that, we trailed off, he went back to his fishing, and I to my drawing.

We continued on down the river, at a steady enough pace, when Ras woke up with a start.

"I've got a bite!" he exclaimed, jerking at his fishing pole, pulling in slack, whipping it around, and drawing it quickly back in, like an artist splattering paint about his canvas. He continued reeling and pulling, until with an unceremonious plop his rival landed on the raft.

"A right nice catch! Lookit 'er, an Oceanid Rainbow, and nice size too! Thing 'bout Rainbows, they're impossible to catch as they camouflage perfect like with the water on sunny days like this. A rarity, believe you me, she'll make good eatin', an' it'll be somethin' to tell the others about, not even Birchy can catch a Rainbow with such ease as that," he winked with that last statement.

It was a nice fish... and I didn't know much about the sport. She was about a foot long, and rainbow coloured all over... I'd never seen a fish quite like it.

He suddenly lost interest in his catch and said, "Ya know, we're rather close to the planar borders... you might wanna hang on to somethin' if you ne'er travelled by the Oceanus. It might be a crazy ride."

I didn't see anything but miles and miles of Elysium ahead, so I started "I don't see any..."

Suddenly the air grew a deep shade of purple, the colour the sky turns towards the end of sundown, or that early twilight of dawn. Imagine, if you can, all of the sites and sounds of Elysium shredded into zillions of tiny pieces, and then sprayed in your face. I closed my eyes at this, it felt like the entire plane was blowing its very existence at us, and it was passing right through me. I felt almost liquid for a moment, and suddenly, it stopped. I looked about, behind and ahead, but all that was now visible was long, infinite savannas with their scattered trees... we were in the Beastlands now, Krigala to be exact.

The constant, harsh noontide of Krigala was a big change from Elysium's perfect weather... I'm a Cager, and my eyes are pretty well accustomed to the dim light of Sigil. This powerful sun was almost too much.

"Welcome to the Beastlands," Ras chuckled, "She is a bit bright, ain't she?" I noticed that he was taking his pole out of the water for the first time.

"Unnaturally bright. How do you Out-of-Towners stand it?" It was a rhetorical question... his grin and big straw hat answered the question for me.

"It's a developed skill, a developed skill. I suppose you Sigilers just ain't used to the sun, ahh well."

"Yes, it is rather dark up there... it's easier on the eyes if you ask me." I have eye trouble, I'm as blind as a bat without my specs... bright light causes bad glares. "Anyhow, didja get sick of fishing?" I wasn't in the mood to fight with a guardinal while on his boat over whether Sigil had better lighting than the Beastlands or not.

"Ahh, no. Tough thing about the Beastlands is that if you fish, alot of times you might get in trouble. A Warden Beast or even the Fish Lord might get mad.... so we respect them and don't if it's for sport. Ardeidal can go quite a while without food ya know... so fishin' is usually just for the fun of it. Besides, there's other things to do here that're just as fun."

"Like what for example?"

"Well, you for example, could prolly have a very merry time drawin' pi'tures of those li'nes there.... you don't fin' them in Sigil, no sirree." He pointed out across the plateau, and sure enough, there was a pride of lions out sunning themselves.

"An' me, well, I love everything 'bout the river, but if we run into any 'gaters, that's always exciting." He gave me that big, carefree grin of his from under the shadow of his hat, "Yessir, 'gaters's are crazed sometimes."

I almost shuddered at the thought of alligators biting at my feet, but I decided to forget about it. I decided to draw those lions, like Ras suggested... and then I fell asleep in the hot, constant sun of Krigala.

I woke with a start, as the raft was lurching a little. Ras was standing with the pole, we were in knee deep water...

"'Gaters?" My voice cracked a bit.

He laughed, "Hardly, we just ran aground... the water's a bit low... and an elephan' just crashed through... I had to do a little detour."

Sure enough, there were elephant tracks in the grass... I sighed with relief.

"Not too much time left here on the Beastlands, you slep' through it mostly... but that happens with folks new to the river. We're gettin' close to 'Borea, get your things together, it's almost time for the last leg of the trip... see the boundary comin' up there?"

"No, but if you say so..."

With that, our short stay on the Beastlands came to an end, and we lurched into that liquid space between, emerging on Arborea for the last few miles of our trip.

The savannas we rode across for the past few hours disappeared quickly in the rush of space and time that brought us out in the cool breeze and rapids of the Oceanus on Arborea. Rasberry Phillip Phinn worked at his steering rod like the master that he was, we dodged rock after rock, and the raft escaped the crazy rapids it entered Arborea in without any damage at all. Ras paddled us into the calm again. The Mount loomed in the distance, but closer lied the Guilded Hall in its shadow, no more than 20 or 30 miles away... as we drifted closer, another raft pulled into view.

Ras cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled to this other raft, "Hullo!"

The reply was long coming, but the boat slowed up quite a bit. After a few minutes, someone shouted back, "Hullo!"

We drifted closer and closer, until we came to another raft like ours, but one much larger. This was a cargo carrier, or a ship for a big crew. It turned out to be the former, piloted by a bralani (of the eladrin race) with a few coures flying about in it's vicinity.

"'Ello, what's yore name frien'?" said the bralani to the ardeidal.

"I'm Rasberry Phillip Phinn, but most folks call me Ras. This here is 'Manual Legis... pleasure to meet ya..."

"How rude of me, the name's Seamus Dunn. So, what brings ya to 'Borea?"

"Him," he pointed to me. "He's gotta get to the Guilded Hall right quick, somebody ate somethin' sour and 'Manual here is a doctor and a botanist and has to divine a cure, so I says to him 'Sure, I'll be glad to take ya down there'. I figures I can pick up a bottle of spirits while I'm hear too... best wine on the river, here in 'Borea. So, whatcha got in the crates?"

"Ahh, just a bit of produce. Nothing to exciting, you know." He lifted the cloth covering off of a huge crate of strawberries, as big and red as I've ever seen. "Ya like to come aboard for a bit, we'll have a bite to eat?"

I grinned hungrily at the idea, and Ras picked up on it, "Sure... I 'spose your boat runs a bit faster in these waters anyway. Go ahead 'Manual, climb aboard then." He more or less picked me up and handed me to this Seamus, and then stepped across himself. He tied his raft up to the back of this bralani's, and then joined us at the helm. "There, she shouldn't cause to much drag, and even so, we'll still get there faster."

Ras was right... we were ripping through the water. I let my bare feet dangle off the side, and I listened to Ras and Seamus talk while I nibbled on a strawberry bigger than my fist.

"Perfect weather for a ride on the river, eh? I haven't gone boating in sun like this in ages."

Ras replied, "Ya, 'tis lovely weather. Matter o' fact, back on Elysium yesterday, I caught me an Oceanid Rainbow... and you know how tough that is."

The bralani visibly perked up, "Really? I've never seen one before, do you have it with you? It should still be alive if it's only been a day out of the water, right?"

"Yeppers, she's sittin' in a basket full o' water right now, didn' want her to die, or the other boys wouldn' believe me. Want me to go get 'er?" Ras was beaming with the pride of his catch.

"Yes, sure, I'd love to see her!" Seamus said, and with that, Ras bounded to his boat, grabbed the basket with the fish, and brought it back over. "Oooh, look at her shine... I've never seen one before. You couldn't have been luckier if you caught Old Dell."

Ras winked at me, "Ya, I was just tellin' 'Manual 'bout Ol' Dell. A frien' of mine caught her by accident once, I should tell ya 'bout it sometime."

"Definitely, I'm stopping at the Guilded Hall too... you can tell me there."

"Right, will do. Hey, these are darn good 'berries, where'd you pick 'em up from?"

"Most are from the hills on the other side of the Mount, some of 'em are from around Quietude on Elysium. Been there?"

"Why sure, matter o' fact, that's where we came from, isn't that a coincidence. I guess it gives me a good enough reason to go on back then, eh?"

"Oh, definitely. I always liked Quietude... it's a pity I don't get there often, you know, duties on Arborea and whatnot. Ahh well, what's that prime saying, 'Absence makes the heart grow fonder' or some such."

"Barmy bunch, primes, always saying the darndest things." Ras laughed after he saying this... something must've stuck him as funny.

The two of them went on with such small talk for about an hour, until we docked on the banks of a little tributary of the river outside of the Guilded Hall. I rushed inside, and Ras followed close at my heels.

"You came but a moment to late Master Legis, it seams it was just a bit of food poisoning. A bit of regurgitation, and she's all better now. Sorry to have bothered you, but I must say, you did get here awfully fast." This was the news of the situation the clerk in front told me.

"Well," I said to Ras, "at least it was a fun trip, eh?"

"They call this 'irony' up there in Sigil don't they?" we both had a hearty laugh, and he continued, "Yes, it was a lovely trip. You weren't in the way much at all... we should do it again sometime, look me up next time you're in Elysium. 'Til then, I'm off to Quietude, I just need to pick up some o' those 'berries."

He waved goodbye, and awkwardly did his half run back to Seamus' boat. After helping him unload (and telling him Birch's fish story), he cast off down the river, on his way back to Elysium.

The Ardeidal

Meet the heron-guardinal in its full feathery glory in the Mimir.Net Monsterous Compendium

Copyright 1998 by Tom Bubul,
artwork by Jeremiah Golden , Tom Bubul and Jon Winter

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