Record of Lodoss War
The Gray Witch, Chapter 1: The Adventurers, Part 1.
from Haniwa's translation of Mizuno Ryou's Haiiro no Majo.
The white marble walls of the Temple of Marfa shined radiantly in the spring sunshine that had finally arrived. Numerous blades of tender grass were poking through the remaining white layer of accumulated snow. Both sides of the road leading from the temple to the town were bursting with yellow flowers.
The town of Tarba is the northernmost town on the island of Lodoss. More than a hundred people lived in these plains surrounded by the White Dragon Mountains. It was a cold land where ice fairies gathered and spring came much later than in other places.
Other than the dwarven Kingdom of Stone and the temple of Marfa, the great mother goddess of Lodoss, in the vicinity of this small town there was a vast evergreen forest that reached halfway up the mountain. All the things the townspeople needed to live on came from this forest and through the trade of crafts with the dwarves. The donations brought by the pilgrims visiting the temple of Marfa were also an importance source of income.
After spring arrived and the accumulated snow that had blocked the passes melted away, a continuous stream of young men and women from all over Lodoss came here together to seek the blessing of Marfa, the protector of marriage.
For the temple's highest priestess Neese, it could be said that spring was the busiest season.
- - - - -
"Are you going on a journey?"
Neese was receiving a guest in the temple. She was wearing the pure white robes of a Priestess of Marfa. On the left side of her chest was sewn in green the symbol of the great goddess. Her fifty years had already engraved the trails of a human life on her face, but her torso remained upright as she sat in a chair. She didn't seem old at all, and one need only be by her side to feel the abounding strength of life.
She sat in front of a small round table and peered sadly at her guest.
"That's right, I'm going," replied the guest curtly. He had only the height of half a normal person, but he was very stout. On a face that seemed too big for his body, he had a thick, gray beard that reached down to his green-clothed chest that swayed when he spoke.
The guest was a dwarf—there was no other race in the world that had this build. His skin was dark brown and his tea-colored eyes stared up at Neese.
"Why?" Neese stood up and knelt by the craftsman's side.
"I want to go on a trip, that's all." This impenetrable tone was a reflection of the dwarves' stubbornness, though perhaps it was because of this trait that made them such brilliant craftsmen. They were able to turn rough, raw stone into beautiful gems, and then fashion exquisite goods out of them.
Neese understood well the personality of dwarves, that obstinacy in which they did what they said they would do.
"If you're concerned about Leylia, then you don't have to worry. I've already given up on her."
Though she said this, Neese still couldn't help but show sorrow on her face. If her body ever displayed fatigue, it was probably only when her daughter Leylia was brought up.
Leylia disappeared sever years ago. In the spring of that year, she battled with intruders of the temple and afterwards it seemed she was abducted after defeat. At the time, Neese had left the temple to treat the wounds of Ghim, who'd been in an accident at the sulfur mountain.
This had saddened Neese, but it hit the dwarf even harder. Afterwards, Ghim would regularly stay in the temple, hoping to help Neese out with anything.
Hearing Neese ask the following, Ghim was speechless, for dwarves couldn't lie. All they could do was remain silent.
"Ghim, it wasn't your fault that you were in injured in an accident. It was an unfortunate coincidence that the temple was attacked at the same time. Why must you shoulder the responsibility? This was an outcome even the goddess Marfa was unable to predict!"
Ghim didn't break his silence.
"Whether my daughter is alive or not, or where she is, I don't know how many times I've asked the goddess Marfa about these things," said Neese thought back to the answer she received from the goddess every time.
"How did she respond?" asked Ghim calmly.
"With a mysterious riddle, 'She is still alive, yet does not exist.' That's how she responds."
Ghim couldn't help but look at Neese with sorrow.
He knew that since she was a child, Neese had been a gentle and resolute woman. But after the Leylia's disappearance, her face became full of grief. Ghim also knew that the fault didn't lie with him, but he still felt that he had to find Leylia and bring her back. Since he empathized with the agony in Neese's heart, he couldn't spend his days in a stone cave as if nothing had happened.
"I can't solve this riddle, since I'm not good at such things, but I have confidence when it comes to contests of strength. I simply want to rely on this to train myself and I'll bring back that mischievous child on my way."
It was that unyielding tone again. However, dwarves were a kindly race: not only were they passionately righteous, they were also true to their own convictions always.
Neese was quiet for a moment as if she wanted to say something, but in the end simply closed her eyes and nodded before she opened her mouth.
"Thank you, Ghim. Please find my Leylia."
"Leave it to me. I will bring her back for certain, and when that happens the goddess's riddle will solve itself," said Ghim with a raised tone.
Neese embraced Ghim delicately with both her arms.
"When do you plan on leaving?"
"Hm, I'll probably set off right after I make a trip back to my house."
"It's very dangerous out there. It may not be as bad it was in my time, but you must still be careful. I will pray to Marfa for your safety."
When Neese was younger, she went on journeys of her own, but it certainly wasn't for recreation. It was a journey of battle. At that time, the Demon God who'd been sealed in the Deepest Labyrinth in the mountains of southwestern Lodoss had been released, causing a dark period of death and destruction all across Lodoss. To drive away the Demon God, she had to do battle with a sword at her side. After an intense fight, they finally triumphed over the Demon God, and the people sung the praises of her as one of the Six Heroes who saved the world, though the fame wasn't worth much to her.
"Thank you, Priestess of Marfa. May I bring back your daughter, and may you find the solution to the riddle in your prayers, since praying is not my forte."
"Where do you intend to go?"
"I'll begin with Zaxon since I'll have to go there before anywhere else anyway. Also, I have an old friend there named Slayn. I don't have plans after that. The way will make itself clear when the time comes."
After a while, the dwarven craftsman Ghim set off southward on his journey. The sky to the south was shrouded in mysterious dark gray clouds.