I have collected a few tales from Norrathian bards and entertainers, involving the mephlin. They might prove helpful in understanding these creatures, or perhaps I will find that they are simply tales meant to delight or frighten with no basis in reality. Only time will tell!
Chief of the Tribe
“Long live the chief!” his fellow mephlin shouted, triumphantly, over and over again. It rang his ears and gnashed his teeth. Even if it hadn’t been echoing off the walls of the obsidian cave they marched through it would have felt just as oppressive to Hukt. “What has Resz done that is so great?” He mumbled to himself. “I am much smarter and would make a much better chief!” He knew not to voice this last statement, but it didn’t stop him from thinking it. They were just returning from a successful raid of a neighboring tribe, and Resz had once again walked away with the most impressive prize.
Sometimes the prize was a stolen weapon, ripped from the hand of the enemy, other times it was a totem revered by the enemy’s tribe, but usually it was a head, or horn, or wing. This is how Resz kept his figurative crown, of course, for this jopal tribe had long picked its leaders based upon their successes in war and trophy hunting. “How does Resz keep getting the good stuff?” he asked himself, while glaring at the ruby-handled dagger being flaunted about by Hukt. He brandished it, like a torch or a war banner, waving it about, while leading the tribe back to their lands.
Hukt went to his nest that night, unwilling to think of anything else. At some point during the night the answer came to him. Resz is lucky, but his luck will be no match for Hukt’s smarts during their next raid!
Weeks went by before Resz marched the tribe to their next raid, which gave Hukt plenty of time to prepare. He carried with him an inconspicuous pouch, nothing that would spark questions. During the heat of battle, while so many were distracted, he cast a spell upon an ordinary stone. Then he waited. He waited until Resz came out of the thick of the fight carrying a golden shield, eliciting the predictable “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” from his fellow jopal.
“Wait until they see this!” Hukt thought. He let out a scream of excitement that brought all eyes upon him, and as he lifted the luminous gemstone above his head, the din of his kin subsided. It had worked! The tribe was in awe of his trophy. The gem was bigger than his head, and dazzled with light reflected and focused by its exquisite cut. “Long live the chief!” they began to chant. Finally, Hukt was about to get the adoration he deserved!
Resz approached Hukt in shock. He dropped the shield that just a moment before had been the focus of all. “This is it! This is the moment I have long known would come!” Hukt thought, as a smile he could no longer contain, spread across his face. Resz stood before him now, and took the gem into his own hands with such care one would have thought it a hatchling. He examined the gem, looking deeply into it, turning it this way then that, dazzled by the display of light through it. Hukt looked up as this was happening, towards Resz’s towering figure. He was standing so close to Hukt as the light of the gem was shining in his eyes, Hukt never saw what happened.
Resz brought the gem down upon Hukt’s skull with such force, it split bone and flesh, killing him instantly. It was an easy enough feat for Resz, as he was the biggest, and strongest of the tribe. He wiped the gore from the coveted gem, and held it high for all to see. The shouts broke out immediately, “Long live the chief! Long live the chief!”
A Mother Earns Her Wings
Brena woke with a start. That sound wasn’t normal, and she knew it. The dwarven mother raced to her infant’s cradle. The babe didn’t look upset, and it was still wrapped in its blanket, but that sound… She hadn’t dreamt it! Should she call a healer? No, she knew what he would say. “You’re worrying over nothing. First-time mothers do that.” And admittedly the babe seemed fine. She took a breath, and felt a bit calmer as she looked upon her baby’s sweet face. She couldn’t have described the peace and hope that welled up inside her since this little one came into her life.
Maybe the babe didn’t need reassuring right now, but Brena did. She lifted the wrapped infant tenderly, but found that it took more of her strength than she remembered when she had put the babe to sleep. “Oi! I didn’a feed ya that much!” She adjusted her weight to accommodate, as she cradled the babe to her breast. “Or ‘ave ya been sappin’ me strength, my little stone?” That’s when she noticed a bit of moss in her baby’s hair. She looked down into the cradle and saw a few more strands glowing brightly, from within the shadowed bedding. “Lightmoss!? I haven’a been ta those caves in years.” What was going on!?
Brena looked at the near-by window of her hut. There she spotted more of the luminescent moss. She looked again at the babe in her arms. Its eyes opened and held hers for a moment. That was different. There was more to this baby dwarf than she could see. She felt her babe’s skin. A dwarf knows stone when they touch it. “Switched!” The thought struck her like Brell’s hammer! “Gods damn those green-winged beasts!” She cried. There wasn’t a moment to lose! Brena swaddled the heavy babe to her, like a bandolier, allowing her arms to remain free. She grabbed her axes and helm, and ran out the door toward the lightmoss caves.
She had heard the warnings, of course. “Keep an eye o’er your babes, lest vekerchiki come and take ’em!” The mephlin were real Brena knew, but she had always thought the stories of child abduction to be tall tales. Now she knew otherwise, and she wasn’t about to let those damned creatures take her wee one back to their earthen plane! She raced into the cave mouth, fueled by adrenaline and dwarven fortitude.
There she saw a group of vekerchiki, huddled together, as another waved its arms and chanted, opening a portal back to their realm. Brena had no time to spare, and no need for it. She continued barreling towards them, interrupting them with her axe heads. Their cries of pain and alarm were short, as was the battle.
She found her babe there, in the middle of the huddle, wrapped in large leaves and sound asleep. “Bless ya, Brell!” Tears rolled down her cheeks in sweet relief as she lifted her babe. Roused by its mother’s touch, the wee one woke, and reached towards her face. She couldn’t see much through the continuing tears, but she didn’t need to. She knew the feel of her child’s grip upon her beard. The babe curled her beard hair between its fingers and fell fast asleep.
Brena walked back to the village, her naturally born babe in one arm, asleep, holding tight to her beard, while a second babe, her adopted stone-golem child, remained swaddled tightly across her chest. From that day forward the two were raised as siblings, one of stone and one of flesh, warmed by a hearth over which hung a large pair of emerald wings.
Lessons of Flight
Not long ago now was a stormrider chick,
hatched in a high nest of vine and of pitch.
So jealous it was of all of its kin,
their feathers weren’t clotted, their wings frail nor thin.
They rode on the wind, through clouds in the sky.
It watched and it said, “I wanna’ do that! I too, want to fly!”
It took a deep breath. It took a big leap.
Nothing would stop it, it would accept no defeat.
But one cannot fly on hopes and a prayer,
It takes magic or ability to soar through the air.
So, down the chick fell, right down to its end.
Or it would have, if not for its strong gusted friend.
An elemental of air had noticed its plight,
had seen its struggle, when it attempted its flight.
It caught the poor chick in its swirling embrace,
and cleaned off its feathers, and tears from its face.
The pitch that had weighed its wings to the ground
was no more a problem. There was none to be found!
The chick stretched about, giving its limbs a good test.
Then lifted right off, to flit and flutter, right along with the rest.
The elemental took note of its friend’s pure delight,
doing something it had taken for granted, all day and all night.
It needed no thanks, expected no accolade,
If tables were turned, it would want just the same.
A boost from a friend, or even a stranger,
is all it might take to clear a path out of danger