Chapter 24

The next morning, they began to head north in search of the Canari lair. As they marched, Commander Sidrahkir told King Belgrave and Naiya’Nal about their rescue.

“At first we didn’t know you were still on the mountain,” he explained. “We waited until after the avalanche to follow you down, but when we reached the bottom, all we could find was Naiya’Nal’s shield.”

Naiya’Nal laughed. “I wouldn’t have let go, but I looked back just as we went over that cliff and lost my balance.”

“And then I had to go back and save her,” Belgrave added. “It was probably the two of us being on my shield that protected us from being crushed against any rocks.”

“That and prophecy,” Sidrahkir stated. “When I realized you were lost, I had no idea where to start looking for you. Fortunately, Princess Fluxeena of the Canari arrived with a group of dogs to see if you needed any assistance. I doubt that they would have succeeded in finding you if you hadn’t sent up that lightning.”

“Someone wanted me to do more lightning,” Naiya’Nal asserted, “but I told him that I didn’t want to hit anyone who might be searching for us.”

“It would have been safe if it went straight up,” noted Sidrahkir. “The Canari dug in from slightly downhill. You were deeper than we expected so it took them awhile.”

“I have no idea how long we were down there,” Belgrave said.

“Too long,” Sidrahkir answered. “You were both asleep from the cold and a little longer probably would have killed you.”

“We did what we could to stay warm,” Naiya’Nal said.

“We noticed,” Sidrahkir discreetly replied. Belgrave opened his mouth, but couldn’t think of anything to say. “Anyway, once we had you down from the mountain, we worked on warming your bodies. That is when you finally woke up in the tent yesterday.”

“At least we’re safe,” Belgrave finally said. “Tell me about the Canari.”

“What can I say?” Sidrahkir asked. “They came and dug you out.”

“Yes, but what compelled them to come?”

Commander Sidrahkir smiled. “Wait until you are face to face with Queen Vaersheena. I am sure that she will be able to answer your questions.”

They arrived at the Canari lair the following afternoon. It was a wide area with burrows where the Canari lived. Dogs lined the path and bowed as King Belgrave walked past. The path ended at a large jagged rock jutting from the ground. A large hole descended beneath the rock. Rexorg was there and stood beside another dog that King Belgrave knew had to be Queen Vaersheena.

The dogs bowed and Queen Vaersheena looked over King Belgrave. “You’re younger than I had anticipated,” she noted. “One expects a king to be aged with wisdom, but you are still in the years of youth.”

“It is often forgotten that prophecy is not bound by the expectations of the world,” Rexorg added.

“The world is wise to seek out the signs and not its assumptions,” Queen Vaersheena finished. “I am pleased to finally meet the one who has been so long awaited. Welcome to our land.”

King Belgrave briefly nodded. “I am pleased to finally meet the queen of the Canari. You may have expected me to be older, but I had not expected one of the three races to be talking dogs.”

Queen Vaersheena made a soft laughing sound. “Normally I would be offended by such a remark, but I will make an exception since you did know who we were. It is true that we do bear a resemblance to the lesser intelligent creatures, but there is purpose in such coincidence.”

“I am sorry,” King Belgrave apologized. “I am glad you are willing to overlook my ignorance about your culture.”

“It is to be expected at clashes between such dissimilar cultures,” Rexorg explained.

“Yes,” Queen Vaersheena added, “I was very amused when I heard how you wished me many pups. However, I recognized your good intentions and lack of knowledge concerning our culture. Come inside; Rexorg and I would be pleased to spend some time to get to know you and your queen.”

“Is there a place nearby where my soldiers can set up camp?” asked King Belgrave.

Queen Vaersheena glanced at Rexorg and then back at King Belgrave. “There is a large field behind our lair. They may set up a camp there. If they wish to amuse themselves, I am sure they will find plenty of pups willing to play.”

King Belgrave laughed and turned to Commander Sidrahkir. “You heard her. Go set up a camp and go throw some sticks or something.”

The Commander bowed and turned to lead his men. King Belgrave and Naiya’Nal then followed Queen Vaersheena and Rexorg into their lair.

It was a pleasant day that they spent with the Canari. Belgrave had a splendid time listening to the stories and fables the Canari recited around the fire that evening. After a while, he was beginning to grow tired and could not remember much of what he heard, but one of his favorites had a very catchy phrase that he could not forget.

Paws, paws, claws, claws,
Pitter-patter, clitter-clatter.

The Canar moved along with stealth,
His body formed in perfect health,
A hidden shadow in the dark,
Stalking silently, not a bark,
He liked when he could move in tight,
And so release his fearsome bite.
Devoid of every small defect,
An innocent he would detect.

Paws, paws, claws, claws,
Pitter-patter, clitter-clatter.

The Canar struck with savage speed,
No one would hear about this deed.
His jaws clenched tight around the neck,
No blood would fall upon the deck.
Sharp teeth held tight to hold the foe,
Until it fell, head, tail and toe.
The dog let go as something hissed,
The shadows showed what he had missed.

Paws, paws, claws, claws,
Pitter-patter, clitter-clatter.

No quick retreat, another came.
His tail dropped between his legs,
Here was one with teeth of steel,
A bite he feared that he would feel.
The new one gave a daunting cry,
The dog jumped high as it drew nigh.
Two mouths of bone and claws of stone,
They shattered bones and both were prone.

Paws, paws, claws, claws,
Pitter-patter, clitter-clatter.

One may wonder which dog was right,
For consequences were not slight.
In retrospect spirits take flight;
We feel for one dog’s small plight.
A dog was wrong and murdered one,
Another right, but now is gone,
The lesson is we must defend,
Every Canar, every friend

Paws, paws, claws, claws,
Pitter-patter, clitter-clatter.

Queen Vaersheena explained that the poem came from the ancient times soon after the creation of the world and, as with the rest of their literature, passed from generation to generation.

What Belgrave found to be most interesting was that despite the almost animal-like lifestyle, the Canari seemed to have a much more sophisticated culture than those of men or Barbidons. It was very late when Belgrave and Naiya’Nal returned to their camp.