|Posted by gwermon on October 24, 2014 at 1:15 PM||comments (0)|
24 October 2014
Last week we saw it begin to rain on the Mariner in Coleridge’s masterwork, and the storm continues to rage around the Mariner’s ship; he hears the wind howling around, but no wind touches the sails, and then the ship begins to move:
The loud wind never reached the ship,
Yet now the ship moved on!
Beneath the lightning and the moon
The dead men gave a groan.
They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,
Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;
It had been strange, even in a dream,
To have seen those dead men rise.
The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;
Yet never a breeze up-blew;
The mariners all 'gan work the ropes,
Where they were wont to do;
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools -
We were a ghastly crew.
This is the strangest moment thus far in this epic poem! The ship begins to move without the wind–which would frighten anyone nearly out of their wits during this time of sailing ships–but this is only the beginning: now the dead crew rise up and begin working the lines and guiding the ship. Oddly, although the Mariner calls this ‘strange, even in a dream,’ he has no trouble accepting this turn of events, for he grabs a line, standing “knee to knee” to a dead man he names “his brother’s son.” A macabre turn of events in this narrative, perfect for the season of spooks in which we find ourselves. Come back next week for another dose of this garish tale! Meanwhile, remember that our collection of Halloween poems, “Exhalations from the Grave,” with new poems, is on sale until October 31st from Smashwords. Use the following code for half-off: PT34E Enjoy this season in which we celebrate all things spooky! Good reading!
|Posted by gwermon on October 20, 2014 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
20 October 2014
We return to the serialization of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar: Book 2 of The Redemption, as the chosen pause to assess the armies about to attack the city before beginning their journey north to find Shigmar’s tomb.
Chapter 5, Part 1
Secretly smuggled out of Shigmar
the CHOSEN trail led north
to the home of the first headmaster
Shigmar, founder of great renown
seeking the powerful artifact
hidden in the first kailu’s tomb. . . .
from ‘The Great Year,’ a song cycle by Sir Kovar, written atno 3553
Shigmar, city of the kailum, lay nestled in a valley in the central part of the Monti-stethreu, or “Mountains of the Fallen Star.” Through this valley wound the Krystal River, named after both the lake which was its source, and the clear, pure water; the river ran from north to south through the valley. The city of Shigmar covered both banks of the river, which flowed into the central market, and there was diverted into the caverns beneath the city where the river became part of the city’s sewer system. The city sat at the southernmost point of the valley, with the school of the kailum perched atop the cliff-edge of the valley, just above the point where the river issued from the caverns beneath the city, falling five-hundred feet, in several stages, to the plateau below. The valley north of the city, on either side of the river, was covered with lush farmlands, which supplied most of the food for the city. The land closest to the river was the most fertile, covered with orchards and fields of vegetables; the rolling hills bordering the valley’s bottomland were sown with grains, and on the lower slopes of the mountains, livestock roamed where ash and birch grew in abundance. From its establishment, the people of the valley had been completely self-sufficient, and trade with other cities, beyond the villages and farmers living along the Krystal River, had not been established until the beginning of the second millennia, atno 1007, when the mountain trail leading to the valley had been expanded into a road over which wagons could pass. Once the wagons had begun to arrive, the city expanded from being the simple home of the school for kailum to a bustling center of trade.
Like all cities of the realm, Shigmar was surrounded by a stone wall with a single gate, a gate bridging the river, which had been dammed to create a small lake that helped to protect the city. The gate usually remained open while the sun was up, but on this day, when the sun rose, the gates did not open; the city guard manned all fortifications in and around the gate, refusing to let anyone pass. Word had gone around the city that the vanguard of an unfriendly army occupied an area to the northwest behind the first hill, and so out of sight of the walls. A detachment of horsed guards had reportedly passed through the gates in the time just before dawn, sent to scout out enemy movements. Many kailum had gone with them, including, if the rumors were true, Headmaster Myron himself. This rumor did little to calm the fears of many of the city’s inhabitants, since all of them had been awakened several hours before dawn by an explosion that rocked the city, coming from the eastern quarter, and rumor had it that one of the nicer inns there had been destroyed by the blast, and all who were staying there killed. As the sun rose, the soldiers manning the walls could see smoke rising beyond the first hill northwest of the city, west of the river. On the east side of the first hill northeast of the city, a small group of riders stood holding their mounts, waiting for the sixth and smallest member of their party to return.
When Klaybear finished telling Rokwolf what had happened since they had last spoken, the seklesi stood for a time in thoughtful silence before speaking. “All that has happened over the past few days,” Rokwolf finally said, breaking his silence, “seems to be a part of some larger plan of Gar’s that he prepared long before, especially the marking of some of us, mentally.”
They stood together holding the reins of their horses, with Thal holding Blakstar’s mount along with his own, while Rokwolf held the reins of Tevvy’s smaller pony along with his own. The kortexi moved between watching the shadows under the trees to the north, the way Tevvy had gone a quarter of an hour before, and moving to the west, where he could just see the enemy vanguard across the river.
Thal nodded. “I think you must refer particularly to the alterations made to the patterns of my mind,” he noted.
“Yes, partially,” Rokwolf replied, “but I was thinking more along the lines of plans put into place in the days of the founders.” He turned to his twin. “The disrupting of your vision, however, seems out of place, as if it were not meant to be. You both have told me that Headmaster Myron and Hierarch Kalamar indicated that there was something wrong.”
“Not in so many words,” Thal noted, “but there was something odd about my master’s behavior.”
“What?” Rokwolf asked.
“Before that moment,” Thal said, “if I started to lose control of an orthek, as it seemed was happening in this case, he would have stopped the orthek and asked me to clear my mind and begin again. However, in that moment, he was either so surprised by what happened that he did not act, or something prevented him from acting.”
“My master always spoke of your father,” Klaybear noted, “as the most powerful white maghi living. Who, or what, could have prevented him from stopping the orthek?”
“Only two possible beings come to mind,” Thal replied. “Gar, which would lend support to what Rokwolf is thinking, but I did not think he could approach our tower, for the teka fences protecting it, especially without first breaking those barriers, which would have alerted us to his presence. The only other possibility is the One, which may indicate that it was intended, but why would he ‘muddle’ my vision, or yours?” he finished looking from one twin to the other.
Blakstar moved toward the west, squatting behind a rock where he could see across the river.
“I’m not sure I understand the difference between your visions,” Rokwolf went on, “the orthek you used, Thal, sounds similar to ortheks used by the other maghi orders, which only reveal flashes of the future, just images.”
“The vukeetu,” Thal noted, “used by all maghem, as you said, give the maghi glimpses of future events in the maghi’s life. These glimpses help to shape his studies, help him to prepare for the future, help him to know what to do, generally. Anyone who tries to wrest specifics from them deserves everything bad that happens to him,” Thal smiled wryly.
A flicker of anger filled Rokwolf, but he quickly suppressed it. He turned to his twin. Blakstar looked toward the north, still watching for the awemi as he kept an eye on the enemy vanguard.
“With ours,” Klaybear began, “we, similarly, see glimpses of our own futures, usually revolving around our life’s purpose: what our role is in the plan of the One. My master saw images that led him to believe he was to search out the chosen. He spent many years in fruitless searching before he realized that what he was meant to do was to train two of the chosen, us,” he added, stumbling over the word and indicating Klare and himself, “and since he knew from the prophecy that two of us would be kailum, he reckoned he would directly train one and would influence the second. So he devoted his life to teaching, and he eventually became Headmaster, so was in a very good position to choose me as his apprentice, while his best friend, Master Avril, became master of healing and took Klare as his apprentice.”
Rokwolf’s brow wrinkled. “I still don’t see that they are all that different, since the flashes of the future can be misinterpreted, as they come simply as images.”
“It is not that they are different,” Thal put in, “but that in my case, the images were interrupted from outside, until the final image I saw was your older brother, wounded and about to be attacked by ghelem. From what your twin brother has told us, his was more than interrupted; he saw alternate outcomes for each image of the future, almost as if two people outside of him were controlling what he saw . . . ,” Thal’s voice trailed off, the maghi’s thought turning inward.
Klaybear picked it up. “With mine, though, the images were smashed together, melting into each other, so that I cannot tell where one ends and another begins. Even now, if I think about any of you too closely, the images associated begin to resurface and take control of my mind,” he finished, turning his eyes away and shaking his head. “And the vision should not be able to do that, meaning, usurp control of the individual’s mind.”
“You better come and see this,” Blakstar hissed, waving to them.
Klaybear gave his reins to Klare; Rokwolf wrapped the reins he held around a low branch. They both moved carefully over to where Blakstar squatted, joining him. The kortexi pointed to the other side of the river. A gray, shimmering arch, wide enough for five large men walking abreast, was clearly visible. First through the arch were a dozen black maghem, followed by as many red kailum, who took up positions around the gray arch and began weaving ortheks. A red dome of force blossomed to life, surrounding and covering the arch. Almost before the dome was in place, lines of ghelem and purem came through the arch, moving in all directions to form ranks around the arch.
Klaybear looked back to where Klare and Thal stood. “You better come and see,” he said.
“What?” Klare asked.
“The rest of the army,” Klaybear said, “coming through a doorway like Blakstar can open with his sword.”
“That’s very interesting,” Thal said, wrapping his reins around a low branch and joining the others, “especially considering the state in which we left his mind after severing those power links. I’m surprised that the morgle who has Melbarth’s rod could have repaired his mind so quickly and opened another archway.”
Now that the arch was surrounded by ranks of ghelem and purem, other creatures began to emerge: tall blue-skinned wedaterem whipped by their pura masters, purgle, servants of Nekerp, the Lord of Death, leading ranks of nekerpum, raised from graves across the realm, a handful of huge megatrem, wielding black and smoking swords, burning whatever they touched, several, nearly as large, krugle carrying giant hammers, and, just as Thal and Klare came up behind the others, a red aperu flew out of the arch, glided in a circle over the armies below, then landed on the hilltop straight across the river from them. Rokwolf pulled them all back away from the stone, sending both Thal and Klare tumbling.
“Hey!” Klare exclaimed, “be careful!”
“Quiet!” Rokwolf hissed through clenched teeth. “We have to get out of here before that beast starts looking around: the aperum have the eyes of eagles and could have seen us watching!” He crawled back to the horses, grabbing the reins he had wrapped around a branch. The others followed him, with Klare brushing grass off her robes and looking daggers at her brother-in-law. They heard the aperu roar, sounding like a furnace with too much fuel in it. Rokwolf began to lead his horse and Tevvy’s pony down the hill; the others retrieved their own reins and followed.
Blakstar caught up with Rokwolf. “What about the awemi?”
“He should be on his way back by now,” Rokwolf replied, “so we should meet him shortly. We can wait at the bottom of this hill for him.”
“I do not trust him,” the kortexi said.
Rokwolf resisted the urge to glare at Blakstar. “He comes from a good family,” Rokwolf replied, “and an academy commissioned by the Fereghen, himself.”
“He admitted that he was a thief,” Blakstar added.
“His profession requires that he sometimes do things you kortexem would find offensive,” Rokwolf said. “My advice to you, and I’m sure Headmaster Myron would agree, is that in the interest of keeping all of us alive, you should ignore those behaviors you find offensive, and focus on those that are helpful to our cause.”
“How can I do that?” Blakstar protested. “Whenever I look at him, I see a little thief, watching furtively for a chance to pick someone’s pockets.”
Rokwolf groaned inside. “Look,” he began, “I know it is not easy to accept, but from what the prophecy says, he is an equally valuable member of our group, of those chosen of the One,” he laid careful emphasis on those words, “to end Gar’s rule. We each have a role to play in that, and right now, your role is to bring up the rear, listen for sounds of pursuit, and if you hear any, urge us to greater speed. The Headmaster was very specific in his orders to me: I am here to see that the three key-holders, you,” he pointed at Blakstar, “my brother, and Master Thalamar, make it into Shigmar’s tomb without stopping to fight anyone, no matter what the provocation, and most especially,” he stabbed a finger at Blakstar, “you. If I have to hit you over the head with a rock and tie you to your horse in order to fulfill those orders, I will.”
The kortexi stopped, stunned in place, his face flaming. The others moved around him, continuing to follow the seklesi as he picked his way among the trees going north and down the hill. Klare moved up next to Rokwolf.
“What were you whispering about?” she asked Rokwolf.
Rokwolf glanced at her before responding. “The kortexi was sharing some of his prejudices with me.”
“Don’t be too mean to him, brother,” Klare said, laying a hand fondly on his arm. “He has had some very rough days.”
Rokwolf glanced at Klare again. “He’s not the only one,” he replied curtly, then moved quickly ahead of her.
We will return next Monday with another installment of our tale; we will follow the chosen as they travel north, suddenly interrupted by something unexpected. In the meantime, get a full ebook copy of the tale from Smashwords, Amazon, and other ebook retailers; if you prefer print, purchase your copy from CreateSpace. Good reading!
|Posted by gwermon on October 18, 2014 at 12:55 AM||comments (0)|
17 October 2014
Recall that when we last saw the Mariner, he had finally ‘paid’ the penance for his evil deed, and in that moment, he was able to pray and the dead symbol of his deed, the albatross, falls from his neck and sinks into the sea. We also remind the reader that the ship is still caught in the doldrums, without wind, without water, so what we see now is that the Mariner can finally fall asleep (how much time has passed is not made clear in the text, but we can assume a week or two), and while he is asleep, he dreams:
The silly buckets on the deck,
That had so long remained,
I dreamt that they were filled with dew;
And when I awoke, it rained.
My lips were wet, my throat was cold,
My garments all were dank;
Sure I had drunken in my dreams,
And still my body drank.
I moved, and could not feel my limbs:
I was so light - almost
I thought that I had died in sleep,
And was a blessed ghost.
We first note that one way sailing ships supplied themselves with freshwater was the rain barrel, kept open to capture the rains that often fell. Here, we see that the Mariner and his crew were so desperate for water that they put every bucket and barrel available on the deck in hopes of catching any moisture, so we must add these to the clutter (dead sailors) covering the deck of his ship; one can easily imagine that the Mariner, to move anywhere on his ship, had to step over either dead bodies or buckets, so he calls them ‘silly.’ He dreams that the buckets are all filled with water, and when he awakens, it is raining. He is so thirsty, so dry, that, although he drinks his fill, his skin continues to soak up moisture, and the feeling is so foreign, so wonderful, that he thinks, for a moment, that he has finally died, becoming ‘a blessed ghost,’ for a ghost has no need of food and water.
In the next weeks, we shall see just how appropriate this poem is for this season, as things will become stranger and stranger. In the meantime, remember that our collection of Halloween poems, “Exhalations from the Grave,” with new poems, is on sale until October 31st from Smashwords. Use the following code for half-off: PT34E Enjoy this season in which we celebrate all things spooky! Good reading!
|Posted by gwermon on October 14, 2014 at 12:10 AM||comments (0)|
13 October 2014
What a beautiful fall morning, a good time to read the next installment of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar: Book 2 of The Redemption; we will see the chosen escape from Shigmar and begin their journey north, seeking the tomb of Shigmar.
Chapter 4, Part 3
“We must be very careful here,” Klaybear whispered to the others. “Even though we only see one kailu on duty, there are many others in this building, including a lesser master. One shout from the person on duty, and everyone in the house will be here in seconds.”
They stood taking turns looking through the spyholes in a concealed hallway of the kailu teleport house. One spyhole looked into the room where the telepad was inscribed on the floor, a second into the hallway outside the teleport room, and the third, into the outer hallway of the main floor. The concealed hallway led down into the sewers to the doorway Tevvy had discovered earlier. The concealed door out of this hallway opened into the outer hallway, then they had to pass through a second door to enter the hallway adjacent to the teleport room.
“It is laid out well,” Tevvy noted, “making it easy to defend, but we should have no trouble getting past the kailu on duty, if someone can distract her for a moment.”
“Who is on duty?” Klare asked.
“Your friend, Sutugno,” Klaybear noted.
“Oh, no,” Klare said, her brow wrinkling. “I don’t want to get her into trouble.”
“She won’t remember anything,” Tevvy said, taking a very small vial from one of his many pockets, along with a small, feathered dart.
“You cannot knock her out,” Klare said.
“Of course not,” Tevvy replied, “this will only distract her.”
“What do you mean, distract?” Klare asked. The three wethem were watching through each of the spyholes.
“She will sit down in her chair and experience a pleasant daydream,” Tevvy replied.
“For how long?”
“I thought five minutes should be enough.”
“Someone has just come down the stairs,” Klaybear, who was watching the outer hall, whispered. He turned from the spyhole. “Someone must come down and check on the person on duty every fifteen minutes.”
“That should be plenty of time,” Tevvy said. “As soon as the person goes up the stairs, we will go out, Klare can knock on the door to speak with this friend. Get her to turn away from the door, and I’ll deliver the dart. She’ll grab the dart from her neck, but become distracted before she realizes what it is. Be ready to catch the keys, as they might slip from her fingers, and help her into her chair. Signal us when you can see that she is no longer paying any attention to you.”
“She’s just gotten up and gone to the door,” Blakstar, who was watching the hall outside the teleport room, reported. “I think he said that it was the four-thirty check.”
“One of us should stay here,” Thal said, watching the telepad, “until we get the door open.”
“She is going back to her chair,” Blakstar noted.
“And he is going back to the stairs,” Klaybear added.
Tevvy dipped the small dart into the vial carefully, then put the vial away. “Ready?” he asked.
“Wait!” Thal exclaimed. “Someone is appearing on the telepad,” and after a moment, “it’s the Headmaster.”
“She is going to unlock the door,” Blakstar added. “There must be a signal when someone teleports in.”
Klare and Klaybear both nodded.
“He’s come through,” Blakstar continued, “and she is writing something down. Now she is sitting again, and,” Blakstar paused, “I think he just put her to sleep.” The kortexi turned away from the spyhole. “He just looked straight at me, and beckoned me to him,” he finished, looking slightly puzzled.
Tevvy did not hesitate an instant. “Quickly,” he said, moving to and opening the concealed door into the outer hallway, “while we have a chance.”
They moved out of the concealed hallway and down the outer hall; Tevvy closed the concealed door softly behind them. When they turned the corner, they saw the Headmaster opening the door and waving them forward.
“Hurry,” Myron whispered, “we don’t have much time.” He held the door open until all five of them had entered, then closed the door. He handed the keys to Klaybear, who opened the door to the teleport room. “How did you know?” he asked, handing the keys back to Myron. The others filed into the room.
“Not here,” Myron said, “you take the others through, and then I’ll wake Sutugno and follow you.”
Klaybear nodded, and followed the others to the telepad. “Everyone needs to touch me, and I'll transport us through.” He waited until all had surrounded and put a hand on him, then he held up his silver symbol and invoked the teka, transferring them instantly outside of the walls. They stood in the pre-dawn darkness, surrounded by trees; they heard the sound of horses moving nearby.
“Klaybear,” came a voice out of the darkness, “is that you?”
“Rokwolf?” Klaybear replied, “what are you doing here?” They all stepped off the telepad to make way for Myron’s return.
“I’ve been sent to aid you,” Rokwolf replied, and Klaybear noticed the hint of both sadness and bitterness in his twin’s voice. Klaybear stepped toward the voice in the darkness, opening his arms to embrace his twin brother.
“What has happened?” Klaybear asked in twin, their private language.
“I lost my command,” Rokwolf replied in the same language.
Klare interrupted their embrace, pushing her husband back so that she could embrace her brother-in-law. “Klaybear,” she said, “you two are doing it again.”
Rokwolf held Klare for a moment, then apologized. “Sorry, sister,” he said, “it is an old habit, not easily broken.”
Even in the darkness, Klaybear could see the lines at the corners of his eyes, and the dark circles under his eyes. “What has happened?” she whispered.
“I was tricked by Xythrax,” he said, sadly, “and so left my assigned area. I was told that it led to an important young kortexi being captured and harmed by Xythrax.”
Klaybear exchanged a look with Klare. Klaybear turned to the others. “Let me introduce the rest of my companions,” he began, but Rokwolf interrupted him.
“The chosen?” he asked.
Klaybear nodded once. “This is Thalamar, son of Kalamar, white maghi,” he pointed to Thal.
Thal took Rokwolf’s hand and shook it. “Just Thal,” he noted.
“This is Telvor, son of Meekor,” he pointed to the awemi, “a scout.”
Rokwolf smiled. “Yes, I know him,” Rokwolf noted.
Tevvy nodded. “It has been, what, a year?”
“Yes,” Rokwolf replied. “And you have graduated from your father’s school, with honors, I heard.”
Tevvy smiled. “Oh that, well I was the first to graduate, and we both received honors.” He turned to Klaybear. “I spent a year training with the seklesem; it was your brother who trained me.”
“And finally,” Klaybear pointed to Blakstar, “this is Sir Blakstar eli kerdu ghebi, bearer of the Waters of Life, Sir Karble reborn.”
Rokwolf took Blakstar’s hand.
“Please,” Blakstar said, “just Blakstar; I’m not used to the rest of it.”
Rokwolf smiled in response to the kortexi’s discomfort. “I look forward to practicing swordplay with you; I understand that the style of the kortexem is different from our own.”
Blakstar nodded. “Yes, I would like to learn your style. Had I not been accepted into kortexi training, I would have come to Holvar and trained as seklesi.” Blakstar turned away, hearing the whinny of his horse and going to check on him.
A light flashed behind them, announcing the return of the Headmaster. In the flash of white light, Klaybear saw his twin’s face clearly for the first time; he staggered back, pain burning his forehead and hand, as he was hurled into the gyre of his broken vision.
Klare grabbed his arm; Rokwolf saw him stagger, so grabbed his other side. The mark on his forehead pulsed with angry red light.
“What is wrong?” he asked Klare.
“This happens each time he sees one of us for the first time,” Klare said, “since his trip to the sacred glade.”
“That mark on his forehead,” Rokwolf said, “it is the mark of Gar.”
“Yes,” Myron said, stepping up beside them, “and he, along with the rest of the chosen, but for you, Tevvy, and Klare, were imprisoned and placed under the sentence of death. The three of you escaped only because you were not there, but each of you has a similar mark, although you three are like Thal: the mark is inscribed in the patterns of your minds.” He turned and looked at Thal. “Help her with Klaybear,” he said, “he should come out of it in a moment.” He took Rokwolf by the arm and led him off to one side. “Do not chastise yourself for what happened to Sir Blakstar,” he said in a quiet voice, taking and holding Rokwolf’s eye. “You are not in any way responsible. Had you not been pulled out of position by Xythrax, both of you would have been killed, and the kortexi would have been damaged anyway. Also, he does not remember what actually happened to him, so be careful what you say. You were, like Klare and Tevvy, under a compulsion put in place and controlled by Gar; that is why you fainted when you put on the verghrenum. The bracers saved your mind by putting you into a kind of stasis. Fereghen Wothgart was informed of this, and so he sent you straight to me, who could repair the damage, with the help of several others.”
“How was this possible?” Rokwolf said. “I’ve never seen Gar.”
“I do not know,” Myron replied. “Listen to me carefully; there is little time. You have to lead the others away from Shigmar without the army on the other side of this hill knowing they have left.”
“Where are we going?” Rokwolf asked.
“North to Kalbant, I think,” Myron replied. “They now know where. One final thing: do not engage in any fighting. If it becomes a choice between fight and flight, choose flight, even if it takes you far out of the way. I’m sure they have been given this warning, but it also shows up in the records kept by the headmasters of the school. To retrieve the second key, they must be completely inexperienced, or they will not succeed. This is especially important with Sir Blakstar: he will want to fight but you must prevent him, even if you have to knock him out or put him to sleep. They can give you the rest of the story as you travel.”
Tevvy stepped up and touched Myron’s sleeve. “Headmaster,” he whispered, “there is something else you must know. I was captured by a group of Gar’s soldiers inside the walls of the city. They are hiding in the northeast quarter of the city, just north of the sewer grate. They have a cache of weapons; I think they mean to open the gate and let the attackers in.”
“I’ll let Master Ghreis know,” Myron replied, then turned back to Rokwolf. “There is a monument in the central square of Kalbant; I’d check there first.”
Rokwolf nodded and turned to Klare. “How is he?”
“Coming around,” Klare replied.
“Can he ride?” Rokwolf asked.
“By the time we all get ready to leave, yes,” Klare said.
“Then let’s go while we still have some darkness,” Rokwolf said.
Until next week, when we will post the next installment of our tale, where the chosen discover, as they travel north, that they have not escaped the notice of their enemies, who continue to attack them from afar. In the meantime, purchase the entire tale in ebook format from Smashwords, Amazon, or other ebook retailers. If you prefer print, get your copy from CreateSpace. Good reading!
|Posted by gwermon on October 10, 2014 at 1:50 PM||comments (0)|
10 October 2014
This week we’ll take a break from Coleridge’s masterwork and instead announce that our collection of Halloween poems, “Exhalations from the Grave,” with new poems, is on sale until October 31st from Smashwords. Use the following code for half-off: PT34E Enjoy this season in which we celebrate all things spooky!
|Posted by gwermon on October 6, 2014 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
6 October 2014
Last week, in the last installment of our epic, Staff of Shigmar: Book 2 of The Redemption, Headmaster Myron told his apprentice that he would meet them outside the walls of Shigmar, at the kailu secret entrance into the city; this week, the chosen gather in their sanctuary and share what has just happened to each. . . .
Chapter 4, Part 2
“How did he know?” Klaybear asked. He and Klare had arrived back in their sanctuary after the others, who had shared what they had found with Tevvy. They had just related to Klaybear and Klare the door they had found that led into what they thought must be the kailum teleport house in the northwest quarter of the city.
“How did who know?” Thal asked.
“The Headmaster,” Klaybear replied, “how did he know there was a way into the house from the sewers, a secret way that could only be opened by Blakstar?”
Thal shrugged. “Probably the same way the founders knew,” he said, “or maybe they left him instructions.”
“That’s possible,” Klaybear said, “there is a book kept by the Headmasters, a book that only the Headmaster can read.”
“Well why wouldn’t they have spoken more clearly,” Tevvy noted, “you know, like told us exactly where to find the keys.”
“The One told us where to find the next key,” Klaybear said, “in the tomb of the greatest kailu, which we have reasoned to be Shigmar and his staff.”
“We also now know,” Thal added, “that the morgle who is attacking Shigmar holds the rod of Melbarth, so we know where both of the other two keys are.”
Tevvy shook his head. “Why do we need to leave the city?” he asked. “Isn’t Shigmar’s tomb here?”
“No, Tevvy,” Klare said sweetly, “he retired to his hometown before he died, so that is where he is buried.” Klare entered the room in which she had been sleeping.
“So now we need to go to the tomb of Shigmar,” Thal noted.
Blakstar stood on the other side of the table, looking at the things on the shelf. “And we need to leave the area around the city,” he said, “before the morgle’s army is fully in place, or we never will leave.”
“We don’t have much time,” Thal noted, “before the morgle opens another door with Melbarth’s rod.”
Klare disappeared from view, and they heard the sound of a door opening. The three wethem and one awemi, looked in the direction of the sound, then back at each other. Thal spoke.
“So now all we need is the location of Shigmar’s tomb,” Thal said.
Klaybear shrugged. “The record only says that he was heading north when he left, carrying a cloth-wrapped, staff-sized bundle. It’s possible he returned to his estate in Kalbant.”
“How do we know he actually went there?” Tevvy asked. “How many supplies did he carry? Was he traveling by horse?”
“Those are odd questions,” Thal replied.
“Not really,” Tevvy said, “since if we knew how he traveled, and how many supplies he carried, we would narrow the area we need to search for this tomb.”
Thal raised one eyebrow. “Good thinking,” he said.
“Klare said that he was buried in her hometown,” Tevvy went on, “so with the knowledge of how much he carried, we could search the map for towns within the circle of distance he could have traveled. That would help us focus our search.”
“There is only one town,” Klaybear said, “that I know of, that is north of Shigmar: Kalbant, on the shore of Krystal Lake, where the Krystal River leaves the lake and flows south to Shigmar.”
“He could have turned another direction after getting out of sight of the city,” Tevvy said, “we cannot depend on him going straight north, since there is no record of him reaching his estate. For all we know, he could have turned south out of sight and circled the city, going somewhere else; that is why knowing how he traveled and how many supplies he carried will help.”
Klaybear shook his head. “As far as I recall from my history studies, the record does not give us that information.”
“Of course not,” Tevvy quipped, “that information might actually be useful.”
Klare stuck her head out of the door. “What information might be useful?” she asked.
“Well,” Tevvy said, “how Shigmar traveled from the city when he retired, how much food he carried, maybe even the location of his tomb.”
“Horse, one day, and Kalbant,” Klare replied with a smile. They all looked at her, stunned.
“How do you know?” Tevvy asked.
“Because,” she smiled, “he came from Kalbant, and so did I. Didn’t my husband share that information with you?”
“He did,” Thal replied, “but knew of no record that he actually arrived there.”
“That makes things easier,” Blakstar noted.
“I require the presence of my husband,” Klare said, still only showing her head in the doorway.
“What for?” Klaybear asked, suspicious of her request.
“I’ve just found the bathing rooms attached to this, our bedroom,” she replied, “and thought to take advantage of them. Since you, husband, have just been digging in the dirt, and are covered with both dirt and sweat, I thought bathing might be wise.” Her eyes went to the others. “I’m guessing that the other bedroom also has a bath, and I refuse to travel with dirty males, short and tall, handsome though they might be.”
“Don’t be fooled by the sugar,” Klaybear said to the others in a quiet voice, “her honeyed requests are not so subtle commands.”
“Klaybear, don’t be mean!” Klare replied even more sweetly.
“We don’t have time,” Blakstar noted.
“You said,” Klare smiled, “that we still had more than an hour before we needed to meet the Headmaster outside the walls, which gives all of you plenty of time to clean up.” Her head disappeared, but her voice followed. “Coming, dear?”
“Enjoy your baths,” Klaybear whispered as he walked to the bedroom.
“I’m becoming impatient,” Klare’s voice called.
Tevvy looked up at the white maghi and the kortexi. “If I ever begin to consider marriage,” he said softly, “say one word to me: Klarissa.”
Thal snorted; Blakstar shook his head and frowned. “I recognize that tone; my mother used that tone on me all the time. We better do what she says.”
Come back next week when our heroes attempt to leave the city by the secret way, coming up from the sewers and into the kailu safe house in the northwest sector of the city of Shigmar. In the meantime, purchase the full ebook version from Smashwords, Amazon, or a print version from https://www.createspace.com/4523632" target="_blank">CreateSpace. Good reading!
|Posted by gwermon on October 3, 2014 at 2:05 PM||comments (0)|
3 October 2014
Last week we saw the Mariner attempting to pray, failing, and then feeling guilt as viewed through the accusing looks of his dead crew. This week, we see the moon rise, casting a shadow beside the ship into which shadow the Mariner gazes, seeking answers, and sees the shadow of the ship burning red like blood:
Beyond the shadow of the ship,
I watched the water snakes:
They moved in tracks of shining white,
And when they reared, the elfish light
Fell off in hoary flakes.
Within the shadow of the ship
I watched their rich attire:
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,
They coiled and swam; and every track
Was a flash of golden fire.
O happy living things! No tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware.
The selfsame moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea.
The Mariner sees water snakes frolicking outside of the ship’s burning shadow, the trails of these snakes through the water ‘shining white’; I hope the symbolism here is easy to see–the color, shining white, a sign of their purity. This leads the Mariner to exclaim on their happiness and beauty, unlike him who is slimy, and two lines tell us that he ‘blessed them unaware,’ and this ‘blessing’ of these creatures frees him from his guilt, so the dead albatross falls off and sinks ‘like lead,’ a base metal; the use of ‘lead’ here indicates a purging of the Mariner’s guilt, and now, he can pray! I should note that gallons of ink have been spilled arguing over this moment, and how the Mariner could be freed from his ‘hellish deed’ if he did it unconsciously? What matters here is that he did, and that act of blessing these creatures, that many consider ‘slimy’–they are snakes, after all!–released him from his sin, a symbol for forgiveness. Come back next week and we will see what happens now that the Mariner has paid his penance! Good reading.
|Posted by gwermon on September 29, 2014 at 11:55 AM||comments (0)|
29 September 2014
In this week’s installment of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar: Book 2 of The Redemption, we return to Klaybear and Klare in the partially collapsed dungeon of Shigmar’s school.
Chapter 4, Part 1
We have long studied the effects of trauma or violence on the mind; most often, the victim suppresses the memory, such that he, or she, no longer remembers the incident. For lack of a better explanation, which continues to elude us, some have called this forgetting ‘a gift of the One to victims’. . . .
from Annals of Melbarth, Ninety-seventh Series, Guest Lectures
Lecture by Headmaster Sheldu
Klaybear walked carefully down the hall, stopping a moment in the doorway to check Master Wegex’s body, to be sure he was dead. He found that, similarly to Avril, Wegex had broken his neck when he hit the door to the cell area. As he passed further down the hall and approached the rubble blocking the passageway, he began to hear the sounds of moving rock from the other side of the rubble. He guessed from the distance he had traveled down the passageway that the opening where Klare had been imprisoned, and where his master was now trapped, could not be very far from this side of the rubble. He crawled carefully up the pile and started to shift some of the stones on the right side of pile, while keeping a wary eye on what was left of the ceiling. After about ten minutes, he heard the sound of rock clinking to his right, and he guessed Myron must also be shifting rock from his side. Another ten minutes of shifting rubble and Klaybear found the opening that led into Klare’s former prison. He stopped to wipe the sweat and dust from his brow and was surprised when a larger piece moved from the opening, and he saw his master’s sweaty, dirty face through the gap.
“Good morning, master,” Klaybear said. “It’s a strange place you have appointed for us to meet.”
The Headmaster smiled slightly. “You’re in better spirits then when I last saw you, dragged off in chains to a cell that must lie somewhere behind you.” Myron shifted another rock. “How is Klare?” he asked.
“Seeing to Mistress Storga,” replied Klaybear. “Her injuries were severe, but I think we have her stabilized. Klare continues to heal her behind me.” Klaybear shifted rubble on his side; the opening was nearly wide enough for the Headmaster to pass through. “How’s the ceiling on your side?”
“Not very stable,” Myron said, moving more rubble, “so I stayed as close to this wall as I could, thinking it would be more stable.”
Klaybear smiled as he struggled with a larger chunk of rubble. “The Headmaster of Shigmar is known far and wide for his great wisdom.”
Myron chuckled. “Your mood has improved much, my son,” he said, “probably related to the fact that you found your wife whole and well.”
Klaybear’s face fell. “It was a near thing,” he said, shoving more rubble aside and further widening the opening. “If Tevvy hadn’t gotten us out when he did, if Blakstar had not insisted on retrieving his sword, we would not have been looking through the grate and down this hall when Ghelvon and his apprentice came into the hall and opened the door. Even then, if the kortexi had not gone berserk and killed Ghelvon, I do not think we could have rescued her, weaponless. They intended to . . . rape her,” he finished, struggling with the last words.
Myron reached through the opening and touched his apprentice gently on the arm. “Do not dwell on what could have happened,” he said softly, “you rescued her in time by the intervention of the One.”
Klaybear’s face paled at Myron’s mentioning the One. He recalled what had happened after they discovered the compulsion Gar had placed on Tevvy and Klare, the way he and Thal had cut the strings tying them to Gar, and how he had nearly failed to knit the pattern of her mind back together. Had it not been for the One, and those he brought with him, Klare would be. . . . No, he must not think about it; he must follow his master’s advice.
“You look troubled, my son,” Myron’s voice cut into his thoughts.
“We have not told you all that has happened,” he said, “not even Klare knows.”
Myron frowned, then looked at the small passage they had forced through the rubble. “I think if we move a little more, you can pull me through,” he noted, “then we can talk.”
“Well,” Myron said after hearing his apprentice recount what had happened to them after they left the dungeon, “your account has interesting theological implications.”
Klare sat in one of the guard’s chairs, silent and pondering all that her husband had told her, since she could remember nothing of the experience after the compulsion was severed.
“What kind of implications?” Klaybear asked.
“Maybe implications is the wrong word,” Myron replied. “I should have said, ‘interesting facts,’ to be more precise.” Myron sat on the other guard’s chair, one hand on his chin, tapping thoughtfully.
“Facts, like?” Klaybear asked again.
“He referred to you all as his children,” Myron replied, “which had been interpreted figuratively, but the fact that he has a mate implies that we should have taken the reference more literally.”
Klare came out of her thoughts and snorted. “Only a chauvinistic fool could not have reached that conclusion!” she exclaimed.
Myron and Klaybear both looked at her for a moment before Klaybear spoke.
“What do you mean, dear?” Klaybear asked with care.
“Klaybear! I’m shocked!” Klare replied, grinning. “Are you telling me that after a year of marriage, you are still naïve as a schoolboy?”
Myron moved his hand from holding his chin to cover his mouth and hide his grin. Klaybear sat with his mouth open.
“Of course,” Klare continued, “I sometimes forget that you were raised by your father without the benefit of your mother, so things of the ‘female realm,’ as you often call them, are beyond your experience. But surely, your master would have explained these things to you before we were married?” Klare glanced at Myron and saw that he was struggling not to laugh; Klaybear still sat with his mouth open, so she plowed ahead mercilessly. “You know how, often, when we are alone, we start to kiss, and our kisses become more passionate, and you start to disrobe me. . . .”
“I know about that!” Klaybear exclaimed, interrupting Klare. His face glowed red.
“Of course you do, dear” Klare went on, sweetly, “and you have become quite proficient.”
Klaybear interrupted her again, his face pulsing with blood. “Could you get to the point before the soldiers clear away the rubble and rush in here to arrest me?”
“No one is going to arrest you,” she replied, an edge to her voice, “I won’t allow it.” She continued before he could interrupt her again. “You realize, of course, that while intimate play is quite pleasurable for us both, it does, on occasion, have another purpose, which is to produce children, and that act of producing children requires both a male and a female. So that, since we are literal children of the One, he,” she emphasized the word, “ would require a she, to produce us,” she finished smiling wickedly at Klaybear, which caused more color in his face.
Myron could hold his laughter no longer, so he let it burst out. “Klare,” he said after a moment, “now is not the time or the place to instruct your husband in the subtleties of the ‘female realm,’ although I do enjoy a good laugh, now and then,” he said, wiping a tear from the corner of one eye. “It does remind me of my own mate, who has been gone for many years.”
Klare’s face fell, and her mood changed instantly. “Forgive me, Headmaster,” she said, “I did not mean to cause you grief.”
Myron shook his head and smiled at Klare. “The grief is mine; you did not cause it. Remembering is not a bad thing. However, the view you have expressed, Klare, implicitly accepted by most wetham, is not widely accepted among those who hold power, so I would be careful about who you mentioned them to, as also, what you have learned about the One. There are further facts, and maybe these are why I said, ‘implications,’ in the beginning. If we are literal children of the One, as what you have related indicates, then we must be, on some level, divine and immortal. That idea alone could get you put to death in some locales, just like what has happened here.”
Klaybear’s face looked less colored when he nodded; he noticed, out of the corner of his eye that Klare glanced his way and grinned wickedly.
“The other side of this idea,” Myron continued, “that we are his literal children, and so that we are divine, is that He must be, on some level, mortal, which will get you killed almost anywhere. The dogmatic among us down through the ages have constructed an unbreachable wall between the One and his children. So again, I would caution you about where you say such things, or to whom you say them.”
“I understand, master,” Klaybear said. He looked at Klare. “I wonder how the others are doing?” he asked.
Klare, still smiling, touched her now glowing finger to the bracelet on her left wrist, and whispered, “Blakstar.” After a moment, she lifted her finger. “They are northwest of us, moving, probably, back to our sanctuary.”
“We better get back there, then,” Klaybear said.
Myron looked at them curiously. “What did you just do?” he asked.
Klare pointed to her gold bracelets. “These are verghrenum, made by the founders and left for each of us,” she pointed to herself and her husband, “and the other chosen. They protect us from mental manipulation by outsiders. . . .”
Myron interrupted her. “I know what verghrenum are, and what they do,” he said. “I meant, how did you use yours to find where the others were?”
“I’m sorry, Headmaster,” Klare said.
“Yes,” Klaybear put in, “you were preoccupied with your clever arguments to embarrass me.”
“You be careful, dear,” Klare noted, “or I’ll come up with new ways to punish you.” Again, she smiled at him wickedly, causing his face to color for the second time. She turned back to Myron. “Master Thalamar discovered that these verghrenum are connected to each other, so that we can actually locate each other using them.”
“Interesting,” Myron said, rising to his feet. “Shall we go, then?” he asked.
“You are coming with us,” Klare asked, “leaving Mistress Storga behind?”
Myron looked over to where Storga lay wrapped in a blanket and surrounded by a purple nimbus. “Since I know how thoroughly you do your job, I’m sure she’ll be fine until I can send someone to carry her back to the Infirmary.”
Klaybear nodded. “There was one other thing,” he said, pulling a parchment from inside his robes and handing it to Myron.
“What is it?” Myron asked. taking the rolled parchment.
“It is a rubbing Thal made of the original stone upon which Shigmar inscribed his prophecy,” Klaybear replied.
“You never mentioned that,” Klare noted.
“We discovered it while you were sleeping,” Klaybear said.
“And who was right?” Myron asked, slipping the parchment inside his robes.
“Shigmar made the changes to the copy,” Klaybear said.
Myron nodded. “You go first,” he said to Klaybear, pointing to the open grate.
Klaybear started to climb down. Klare moved over to follow him, but she could not resist baiting him again.
“You keep your eyes down, dear,” she said. “I don’t want to embarrass the Headmaster with further displays of your country manners: no leering up at me as I climb down.”
Klaybear opened his mouth to respond, closed it as his face colored, then spoke. “Yes, dear,” he said meekly, starting to climb down the ladder. “I’ll only leer when he is not looking,” he said, then slid the rest of the way down the ladder to avoid her response.
“After you,” Myron’s voice said, “and I’ll turn away, so I do not notice his ‘country manners,’ as you named them.”
“You are as oafish as he is!” Klare’s voice exclaimed, then she climbed down.
When they reached the side passage where they had heard the soldiers enter the sewers, Myron turned aside. “I think I can get the horses to the private entrance in a couple of hours.”
“But how will we get there?” Klaybear protested. “The path by the waterfall has fallen away, so we are still trapped inside the city.”
“Well,” Myron said, clasping one of his apprentice’s shoulders and grinning crookedly, “given the careful preparation of the founders, I’m sure they prepared another way of escape,” he added. “I’ll meet you near the private entrance, outside the city walls in two hours.” He turned, opened the gate, and climbed the stairs into the lower level of the barracks.
Return next week to see the chosen reunited and making their way carefully out of Shigmar through the sewers and the kailum’s secret entrance/exit to the city. In the meantime, purchase the full ebook version from Smashwords, Amazon, or a print version from CreateSpace. Good reading!
|Posted by gwermon on September 27, 2014 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
26 September 2014
We return to Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” with the Mariner naming himself a ‘slimy thing,’ an obvious reference to his “Hellish deed,” of slaying the innocent albatross. The Mariner, thinking himself at his lowest point, turns his eyes upward:
I looked upon the rotting sea,
And drew my eyes away;
I looked upon the rotting deck,
And there the dead men lay.
I looked to heaven, and tried to pray;
But or ever a prayer had gushed,
A wicked whisper came, and made
My heart as dry as dust.
He, as King Claudius in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” is unable to pray; instead “a wicked whisper” comes from his mouth; like Shakespeare’s king, the Mariner still holds to his sin, his evil deed, as symbolized by the dead albatross around his neck. Again, his eyes fall on the dead crew, their looks still accusing:
The cold sweat melted from their limbs,
Nor rot nor reek did they:
The look with which they looked on me
Had never passed away.
An orphan's curse would drag to hell
A spirit from on high;
But oh! more horrible than that
Is the curse in a dead man's eye!
Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,
And yet I could not die.
Thus he remains for a week of torment, seeing again and again the accusation written in the eyes of his dead crew, longing to join them and be released from the agony of his life, from the consequences of his “Hellish deed.” Come back next week for more of Coleridge’s master work, when things turn even more strange! Good reading
|Posted by gwermon on September 22, 2014 at 11:10 AM||comments (0)|
22 September 2014
In this week’s installment of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar: Book 2 of The Redemption, we return to the search of the basement and learn what Tevvy, Thal, and Blakstar discover, as also another secret of the founders.
Chapter 3, Part 3
Without a second look at the others to see if they were moving, Tevvy stooped and began searching the black maghi’s clothing and body. He did not stop to examine anything he found, but he simply took everything and slipped it into a small bag he produced from one of his pockets, then tied the bag shut, slipping it into his pack, resting on the floor where his captors had tossed it.
Fools! he thought. Amateurs! Not even taking the time to go through it! He shook his head, hearing the sounds of crates being opened nearby, and knew that Thal was working. He knew he needed to hurry, so he would have time to look through the crates for concealed spaces. He made a thorough, although quick, search of the small room, then moved to the larger storage room.
“Looks like foodstuffs,” Thal said when he entered the room.
Tevvy took out a dagger and went to the closest crates, looking inside. He pulled the top off a barrel inside the crate, revealing the contents as coarsely ground flour. He slid his dagger into the flour and felt the point hit something hard about four inches down. He brushed the flour to one side around the edge, moving it until he found two rings. He hooked a finger through each ring and pulled carefully. Part of the inside of the barrel lifted out, revealing a compartment underneath filled with swords.
“How did you know to do that?” Thal asked in surprise.
“These are not trustworthy people,” Tevvy said, “and untrustworthy people in a place like Shigmar always have something to hide.”
Tevvy carefully replaced the flour and the top of the barrel. He then softly tapped each barrel in the crate with the hilt of his dagger, smiling each time he found another barrel sounded different in the lower part. Only one barrel of the six in each large crate contained what it was supposed to. He turned to Thal. “There are enough weapons here to supply a small army, inside the walls of the city.”
“We have to get this information to the Headmaster,” Blakstar noted, “especially since we saw the vanguard of an army arriving just north of the city.” He looked overhead. “We cannot be far from the gates; their intent must be to assault the gate guards and open the gates, allowing the attacking army inside the walls . . . ,” he stopped, looking at the door. “Someone is coming,” he hissed, waving his companions toward the doorway and stairs going down. Tevvy was there, almost before the kortexi stopped whispering; Thal was caught flat-footed, and so hesitated before moving, then tripped on one of the crates. Blakstar ran and pulled him to his feet, dragging him toward the door. The handle moved as he went through the door with Thal, pausing only to close the door as softly as he could while still moving down the stairs. They halted in the darkness at the bottom of the stairs, listening for the sounds of the person overhead. Tevvy heard the handle rattle, and the door start to open.
“Cover your faces!” Tevvy hissed, “and don’t either of you look up!”
A dagger slid silently into the awemi’s hand, and he stood poised to throw it up the stairs. The door above opened.
“Pumar?” came the harsh-voiced query from above. “What are you going back into the sewers for?”
They heard shuffling boots; Tevvy saw legs silhouetted at the top of the stairs, and lifted himself onto the balls of his feet, ready to spring forward and hurl the dagger, praying he could make it up the stairs before whoever was there toppled over, dropping the torch he carried.
“What are you doing?” came another voice from above.
Tevvy held still.
“Checking on the maghi,” replied the harsh voice at the top of the stairs.
“Idiot!” came the response, “do you want to eat your own hands? ‘Cause Pumar will cut them off and feed them to you if you disturb him!”
“I thought I heard someone moving around down here.”
“Probably the sounds of the rat he is questioning.” Tevvy could hear the sound of harsh laughter from above; he considered killing them, for calling him a rat. His grandmother’s voice told him not to be stupid; he waited.
“I just wanted to be sure.”
“Suit yourself,” came the response, “they are your hands.”
The figure at the top of the stairs mumbled, turned, and the door above closed. Tevvy let the breath out he was holding.
“That was too close!” he whispered to the others.
“Let’s get out of here,” Blakstar noted, “before someone discovers that you are no longer being questioned.”
“Should we go help the kailum?” Thal asked.
“Where are they?” Tevvy asked.
“Back in the dungeon healing one of the council members,” Thal replied to Tevvy’s question.
Tevvy snorted. “Isn’t that slightly dangerous? Does Klaybear want to get back into his cell?”
“Why don’t you check where they are?” Blakstar suggested.
Thal nodded, touched the symbol on his wrist, and said, “Klare.”
“Why Klare?” Blakstar asked.
“She is more likely to notice, since her verghrenum are against her skin,” Thal replied. “Then both of them will know that we are finished, since we are inquiring after them.” Thal lifted his finger. “It appears that they are still in the dungeon.”
“I wonder what that means?” Blakstar mused.
“What are you two talking about?” Tevvy asked, confused by their talk.
“Thal discovered,” Blakstar went on, “that we can locate each other using the verghrenum, which is how we located you,” he finished with a smile.
“Did you notice your verghrenum warming several times over the last fifteen minutes, or so?” Thal asked.
“I was a little pre-occupied, hanging there waiting to be tortured,” Tevvy said wryly, “so, no, I did not notice.” He looked around. “Uh, how do we get out of here?”
Thal was looking at one of his bracers, tapping it with the finger of his right hand. He looked up, face coloring. “Sorry, I was thinking about. . . .”
Tevvy interrupted him. “Never mind what you were thinking,” he noted wryly, “I wouldn’t understand anyway. I don’t see how we open a door here.”
“No, probably not,” Thal said, “since it is activated by teka.” The white maghi raised a glowing hand and touched the center of the wall at chest height. The section of wall slid back, and the odor of the sewers crashed into them. Thal quickly covered his mouth and nose with the cloth hanging loose around his neck. The kortexi wrinkled his nose, then stepped through the now open portal. Tevvy imitated Thal, then followed Blakstar. Thal stepped through, then looked back to watch the door close.
“Can you reset the traps?” Blakstar asked Thal.
The white maghi squinted at the now closed portal, then shook his head. “I would probably set them off, if I tried.”
Tevvy was looking south down the passage. “Where are we?” he asked.
“Northeast section of the sewers,” Blakstar replied, pointing and moving south. The others followed.
“From which direction did you come?” Tevvy asked.
“North from our sanctuary,” Blakstar said, “then east, then north through the central area, then east.” They stopped at the crossing passage.
“Right though the center of the sewers, then,” Tevvy said. “We should probably go straight west from here, then south.”
“Why?” Blakstar asked. They turned west, walking slowly and quietly.
“In case anyone sees us,” Tevvy replied. “As long as they do not see us in the same part of the sewers, we won’t arouse suspicion. Also, we should take the opportunity to explore more of the sewers, in case the founders left us any more surprises.”
“Sound reasoning,” Thal remarked.
They followed the passage west, pausing when they came back to the passage running north from the center of the sewers. They turned north, then west again, following a passage that would take them to the west side of the sewers and Shigmar, presumably to the north-south passage that ran past the entrance to their sanctuary. Tevvy was closely watching the walls and floor for any similar sign. They turned south, heading directly for the doorway to their sanctuary. Tevvy stopped suddenly just as they approached the bridge over the west branch of the river. His eyes traveled over the floor and up the west wall.
“There,” he said, pointing.
Blakstar and Thal looked where he pointed, saw another slot and vessel symbol in the wall. Tevvy had already moved to the wall, looking for the hand-shaped indentation. The kortexi stood behind the little rogue.
“The slot is here,” the awemi said, “but I don’t see any spot for our hands.”
Blakstar looked at Thal. “Should we investigate?” he asked.
Thal smiled. “Definitely,” he said. “I want to know what other surprises the founders left for us.”
The kortexi slid his sword out of its scabbard slowly, trying not to make any noise, then slipped it into the slot. A section of wall swung slowly back, revealing a passageway lit by ancient magluku. The passage turned to the right after about thirty feet. Tevvy stepped into the passage, looking for any signs or symbols on the walls. He found the kortexi’s sword blade sticking out of the wall next to the door.
“The slot goes through to this side,” he noted, “so we can open the door from inside.”
“See where it goes,” Blakstar said, “and we’ll wait here.”
Tevvy nodded and moved away. Blakstar spoke to Thal. “Since the passage turns, you should probably go down and stand at the corner, so we know what is happening to the awemi.”
Tevvy glanced back and saw Thal coming toward him; he looked carefully around the corner and saw a short hallway becoming stairs going up. Tevvy moved down the short hallway and began to climb stairs about forty feet from the corner. The awemi found a door at the top with spyholes, one of them at his level. He looked through and saw an open room with a symbol inscribed on the floor. He smiled to himself and went back down to where Thal waited.
“What did you find?” Thal asked when Tevvy returned to the corner.
“A secret entrance into a house, I would guess,” he replied, “in the northwest part of Shigmar. There were spyholes looking into a large room that had some kind of symbol painted into the floor.”
“What kind of symbol?” Thal asked.
“Like the symbol of a telepad,” Tevvy said, “although it was hard for me to see, since only one of the spyholes was at my height, and the angle made it hard to see the symbol clearly.”
Thal smiled, then walked back to where the kortexi waited; Tevvy followed.
“Where does it go?” Blakstar asked.
“I think we have found our way out of Shigmar,” Thal replied.
“What do you mean?” Tevvy asked.
“Both Klaybear and Headmaster Myron,” Thal explained, “have mentioned a ‘secret entrance’ of the kailum, somewhere in the northwestern quarter of the city, one that allows the kailum to bypass the gates, or enter and exit the city when the gates are closed. It appears that the founders saw our future predicament, and so prepared a way for us to escape the city, in case the river exit was blocked.”
“So this passage leads to that secret entrance?” Blakstar asked.
“Very likely,” Thal replied.
“We should go back and tell the others what we have found,” Blakstar said.
Tevvy nodded, moving out of the secret hallway and turning south; he heard the door close behind him and the kortexi’s sword sliding into its sheath.
Come back next week for another installment of our tale! Next week we will return to the account of Klaybear and Klare as one works healing on the kailu master who most dislikes them, while the other moves rock to release his Headmaster from where he is confined. In the meantime, purchase the full ebook version from Smashwords, Amazon, or a print version from CreateSpace. Good reading!