Distant Reaches - Mother Silver: A Thorn in the Side of Sindar

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Mother Silver: A Thorn in the Side of Sindar

Mother Silver: A Thorn in the Side of Sindar
One of the dozens of frescos of Mother Silver in the Enethor temple.

From The Pantheon Fantastical, by Silvana Rhinebeck

Silvana Rhinebeck was a Binder, Professor Emerita at the Magist Imperial University, and Imperial Magus to the Emperor. Her life’s work culminated with The Pantheon Fantastical, a rigorous encyclopedia of the Uncanny Beings of the Meridian. Although it is unfinished due to her sudden disappearance, The Pantheon Fantastical remains the foremost authority on Uncannies and is a key text for all students, scholars, and professionals engaged in the study of the Meridian.

A creature haunts the mountain’s peak
With polished wings and bladed beak.
An egg that hides amongst the stone,
She guards in an eternal home.

But listen well: What might entice
Is not worth the highest price.
Do not go near where rock meets sky
Lest you fall prey to deadly eye.

Excerpt from a Sindarian folktale, ~1135 NAE

While writing my second volume, I found myself itching to visit an old University colleague and friend. Contrary to popular belief, retirees need vacations, too!

I hiked far into the Sindar Mountains, intending to take Breakneck Pass up and over the Western summit to reach Enethor, a village tucked away on the downward slope. As is customary, while traveling I trapped a few rabbits to present to the village elders upon my arrival.

I knew it was a more dangerous path, but I believed I could handle whatever I might face. As it turned out, I’m not accustomed to assaults from the sky.

Halfway through my hike, a large shadow appeared above me, weaving through the clouds. I hid behind a boulder and thought it missed me — until the figure nosedived, revealing metal-gray feathers and a plumed underbelly as it plucked me off of the ground by my game bag.

It was only after we were hundreds of feet in the air and I narrowly avoided shitting my pants that I realized what she was: Mother Thornbeak (locally known as Mother Silver).

First appearing in local oral folklore around 1200 NAE, Mother Thornbeak is a large carnivorous bird with a two-foot long, razor-sharp beak; a ten-foot wingspan; and three hooked talons on each foot. Her cave at the peak of the Sindar Mountains is likely the only home this species has ever known, and it shows.

Human skulls littered the cave floor next to towering piles of animal bones, seemingly glued together by a brown substance. The air inside was fully saturated with the stench of bile and something acrid and burning. Mother Thornbeak sliced the game bag from my belt with terrifying accuracy and busied herself at the center of the cavern. I slowly backed against the cool cavern wall, trying to make myself as unappetizing as possible.

She skewered all three rabbits with her beak and swallowed them whole before regurgitating them back onto the floor covered in her saliva. Within seconds, the dense fur separated completely from the flesh and melted, pooling on the floor in a foul, shiny-sticky goo.

Choking back bile of my own, my eyes found the pile of rocks behind her. There, a round egg, gray with flecks of gold, sat delicately on top.

I focused on the facts: Only once every fifty years is an egg laid. After fifty more, the previous mother dies. Always born female, such a beast is able to fertilize her own eggs and live in solitude until her hatchling is old enough to continue the cycle.

Mother Silver picked the bones clean, then dipped them in the goo one by one to gingerly glue them to the bone pile nearest to her. When satisfied, she turned her beady eyes towards me and stalked forward, her talons clicking sharply on the stone floor as she pointed her beak directly at my chest.

There have been few moments in my travels when dread settled so deeply into my bones. Perhaps I’m just not a fan of birds.

I squeezed against the wall and begged, “Wait! I have more food. In my bag.”

My eyes closed as I felt her beak poke my chest — just over my heart — before she sliced the strap off of my shoulder, tearing through my shirt and grazing my skin. The satchel tumbled to the floor, contents spilling into the goo. Hands raised where she could see them, I slowly sank to my knees and grabbed a bag of dried fish and eel, presenting it to her as her eyes bore into mine.

It was only after I arrived safely to Enethor, fresh out of rabbit and my wits, that I learned of the village’s enamor with Mother Silver. Due to the establishment of trade and shipping routes up the Boern River to Lake Kine and through the Eastland, human traffic has increased significantly, creating hazards to both human and bird alike.

No one would take their wares up the mountain if it meant they’d be skewered, and the bird just wanted to be left alone. This is apparently an emotion not universally understood, so Enethor became her silent protector by creating alternate travel routes and spreading words of warning to visitors through handy pamphlets. Enethor also avails Mother Silver with regular food offerings to maintain appeasement (subsidized with any rabbits presented to the elders).

If you learn anything, let it be this: Never forget the rabbits. They aid overconfident thrill-seekers or lost souls on their journeys, as they did mine, because, in the accurate words of my colleague: “Who do you think the rabbits are for?”

Be better than me, dear reader. Listen to the old tales, will you?

A merchant’s path should never stray
Past Crooked Stream or Summit’s Way.
For Breakneck Pass and Heaven’s Gain,
Your punishment is in the name.

And without rabbits one will find
Bloodthirsty wrath not far behind.
Do not give to faster route:
Mother Silver is resolute.

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