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Again it is hard for me to say precisely how many passages of Gaal we remained in that far off haven.

It was no longer so free of cares, and some part of us was eager to be away. While Aflatan and the dancers spent the passages smoking their plant and practicing new dances with their enormous amounts of energy, we of the Long North created fine things from the riches of that place. We enhanded all manner of interesting and useful objects from the hard wood, created juices from the fruits, wove new ropes from the long tough vines that hung in the tree limbs.

It was obvious that our intent was to return to Hal, though of this Aflatan said nothing.

His dancers slowly grew accustomed to the purple weed. Some were able to perform feats similar to Aflatan, though none could withstand the fire.

Aflatan focussed his company on a task, a new dance. It was amazing to belook: Gaalians jumped several lengths their own height into the air, whirling and twirling, then held their weights up in improbable ways. Aflatan masterfully directed it, taking part only in key moments and with added effect.

Seeing their feats with no fear of the weed’s dangerous side made a couple of our company curious, myself included. But we spoke not these thoughts, for the severity of Brendar was very great and we knew his word was true. He had awakened in us again the spirit of the Long North, which had been lying asleep in the pleasures of the land of Gaal.

But thus awakened, it was hard to feel the same about the land or its inhabitants, and we began to yearn to return home.

Then, to our surprise, Aflatan approached us, proposing we all leave that place, saying it was not right that we should allow its secret to remain hidden from the rest of the people of Gaal.

Aflatan had mastered much in the marketplaces of Tu’Vrahadith, for he then added:

–But we cannot expect to bring back our Karkin without constructing more Great Beasts, like your Hal.—

At this, Brendar was inclined to begin a dispute, for his ill feeling towards Aflatan had turned to a deep distrust. But I intervened first.

–what can we expect in return for aiding you in the construction of more watercraft?—

Aflatan smiled a wide smile. –Greater riches than are contained in the city of the golden towers you speak so much about.—he said.

In aftersight, it is an amazing fact that our greed, sated for so long in that empty land of plenty, still held a sway over our decision making process. For we thought on heaps of gold and fine things, and not about freedom.

So we agreed, knowing that the wood in that place was of superior quality and would be great for the creation of the finest watercraft to ever grace the open waters.

It was a surprisingly easy task to remove the trees needed from that vale to the coast. The Gaalian dancers, under the influence of their purple plant, proved tireless in their tasks. In the space of three passages we had two octens of tree logs arrayed on the coast. With the tools at our disposal, we would instruct the Gaalians, guiding their movements. When Gaal’s absence brought us to rest, the Gaalians continued, making great progress throughout the darkness.

I believe they only rested a short period in the mornings, before Aflatan roused them again. Critical thought and bodily limits seemed to diminish under the influence of the plant, and this, more than anything, else kept me from trying it.

I wish I could say the same of our company. I believe Fim was the first to try it, in the early absence of Gaal, when Brendar was not there. His loud and obnoxious hooting could be heard all that absence as he ran like a Wildman in the empty places.

He returned with Gaal, of sound mind, denying his deed though we knew well what had happened.

But we kept quiet, so as to keep the peace.

I wish I had not, looking back now. For it was the beginning of much sadness and woe.

Continue to Jonderen's account of the Long South - Part 9