Clyde B. Northrup

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Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 14, Part 4

Posted by gwermon on May 23, 2015 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

25 May 2015

 

We return on this Memorial Day and express our thanks to those who have given their lives to protect our freedom; we honor them! In this week’s installment from the second book of our epic, Staff of Shigmar, we see Delgart facing a new, larger enemy.

 

Chapter 14, Part 4

 

“You’ll need new swords,” Marilee stammered. Her voice grew stronger. “Archers, resupply and reform.” Grelsor walked toward her. “Klarik?” she asked, even though she could see the answer written in the lines of her chief kailu’s face.

“Broken neck,” Grelsor said sadly.

The corners of Marilee’s mouth twitched. “Form up!” she shouted to cover her feelings. She turned to see how the rest of the company fared, and she saw that they were just bringing down the last krugle. Her eyes moved past them to the megatrem and saw the elite guard around the Fereghen falling. To her right, she saw companies of the tall wedaterem turning from the battle with the Fourth Legion to come their way, but the Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Companies of the Third Legion were moving to protect the Eighth Company’s exposed flank. Up the pass, she saw the companies of nekerpum blocking the pass but not moving forward to attack. This caused her to pause momentarily, wondering why they did not attack. The First through Sixth Companies of the Third Legion were moving to attack the legion of purem driving back the Second Legion. Again, the Eighth Company was left to deal with the megatrem attacking the Fereghen, with their sooty red skin and flaming swords. Her squad formed around her, now four short.

“Let’s go,” she said, casting a glance at Delgart, whirling his two new sabers eagerly. The company quartermaster moved among the other squads, who had just brought down the last of the krugle. Marilee directed her squad to the closest of the three remaining megatrem. “Archers,” she shouted, “get his attention,” she pointed at the nearest of the three.

The archers in her squad directed several volleys at the nearest megatri who turned to see who or what attacked him. He roared with laughter seeing the single squad moving toward him; he strode forward, swinging his flaming sword, long as the height of two wethem. Where the krugle were nearly three times the height of the seklesem, the megatrem were four times as tall; one of them with a sword could cut down an entire squad with a single, well-aimed stroke. Unlike the krugle, the megatrem were accomplished smiths, so each one was heavily armored in sooty black iron plates.

“Spread out!” Marilee shouted. She could hear the shouts of the other squad leaders of her company behind her and moving her way. If they could just keep him occupied and stay out of his way, they just might survive this encounter. Her squad spread out, forming a partial circle around the megatri, just out of reach of his sword. The giant wore a great black helmet with a visor that protected his eyes; he laughed when volley after volley from the archers bounced of his armor and thick skin.

“Fools!” he roared. “Do you not recognize death when you see it?” He smiled wickedly at them. “Soon we will have your Fereghen, and my lord will crush him with his bare hand! Surrender, and we will spare your lives!” He lunged toward them with his sword, and her squad scattered away from the blade. He roared again with laughter. “You scatter like frightened mice!”

Out of the corner of her eye, Marilee saw someone moving. “Delgart! No!” she shouted, but too late, for the megatri had seen him.

“What’s this?” the giant asked.

“You do not frighten me,” Delgart shouted up at the megatri. “You are much like the fire from which you were bred: loud and noisy and nothing but hot air.”

“Have you come to die first, little mouse?” the megatri laughed.

“No, kaiwi,” Delgart retorted. “I have killed already this day an orange and a blue aperum, two of your krugle friends, and scores of purem and ghelem, without breaking into a sweat. I will kill you, too, kaiwi.”

The megatri threw back his head to laugh, which was a ploy to cover his attack: his sword whistled through the air toward Delgart. But the newest seklesi was counting on this action; he rolled forward between the megatri’s legs, coming to his feet and slicing left then right with his swords. The megatri’s greaves fell off with a loud clatter.

“I am too quick for you, kaiwi,” Delgart shouted up at him.

As the megatri turned, Delgart dodged his huge feet, slicing right and left with his swords, cutting the straps of the megatri’s huge leather sandals; the megatri stumbled, his feet tangled in the remains of his sandals, and again, Delgart darted between his legs and behind him. Marilee suddenly saw the wisdom of Delgart’s brash move: the megatri were so tall that the closer one was to the giant, the harder one was, for the sooty, red-skinned monster, to hit. Marilee looked up from Delgart, just as Delgart passed between the megatri’s legs, and she saw the second megatri coming toward them.

“Lookout!” Marilee shouted.

“I see!” Delgart shouted back.

“Archers all!” Marilee shouted to her squad, and heard the other squad leaders echoing her command. “Aim for the joints and the leather straps securing their armor!”

 

Next week, come back and see how this battle concludes, and what is revealed for all to see. Until then, purchase a copy of this novel from Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers, or if you prefer print, order your copy from CreateSpace today. Good reading!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on May 22, 2015 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

22 May 2015

Poet’s Corner

 

We welcome all our readers back and wish them all a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! Do not forget to honor those for whom this holiday is named, the many who have given their lives to preserve our freedom. Also, we remind our reader that our purpose in looking at these classic poems is to show their influence upon our own poetic and novelistic works, and Coleridge has been one of the most influential. Last week, we saw our heroine rise, feeling remorse for her sins–whatever those were! This week, our heroine leads her guest to meet her father, Sir Leoline:

 

The lovely maid and the lady tall

Are pacing both into the hall,

And pacing on through page and groom,

Enter the Baron's presence-room.

 

The Baron rose, and while he prest

His gentle daughter to his breast,

With cheerful wonder in his eyes

The lady Geraldine espies,

And gave such welcome to the same,

As might beseem so bright a dame!

 

The Baron, Sir Leoline, greets his daughter warmly, hugging her tightly before he is aware that there is another lady in his hall; he responds as he should, giving her warm welcome to his hall, again, as is proper for a host. We notice the ‘pacing,’ repeated twice in the first of these two stanzas, conveying a sense of the inevitable, that neither page nor groom will stop or deflect them, that their whole purpose is to enter the Baron’s presence at once. However, it seems through this repetition, the poet conveys a stronger sense of purpose, as if the two ladies have some important mission that will not wait for anything or anyone. We further note the Baron’s ‘cheerful wonder in his eyes,’ and we can first attribute this wonder to seeing his daughter, likely another reminder of the spouse–her mother–he has lost. But then, by juxtaposing both daughter and guest, that ‘cheerful wonder’ is transferred from Christabel to Geraldine, and we can only assume, from what we saw earlier, that Geraldine’s appearance is phenomenal, almost as if an angel has descended from the heavens to grace his hall. The irony is that we know, or at least suspect, that Geraldine is not what she seems to be: not an angel from heaven, but a demon from Hell, her nefarious purposes in this hall are yet to be revealed! Come back next week for more of this strange, supernatural poem of Coleridge. Good reading!

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 14, Part 3

Posted by gwermon on May 16, 2015 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

18 May 2015

 

In this week’s installment of the second book of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar, we will see Marilee’s squad cutting their way toward the Fereghen, where they encounter enemies of giant proportions, and Delgart distinguishing himself with further heroic actions!

 

Chapter 14, Part 3

 

“Shields up!” Marilee commanded, and the same order echoed around her. The archers in her squad loosed another arrow each, then her squad tightened around her as shields were raised overhead. To her right and left, Grelsor and Lidelle raised their staves through the roof of shields and barked in unison, “aterskoit!” There was a flash of red flames overhead, and Marilee knew that any puri arrows that fell on her squad would be consumed by the flaming shield the kailum had erected over their heads. A crackling sound overhead indicated that the arrows had struck the kailu shield. “Wedge and shields!” Marilee commanded, as they were nearly upon the company of purem. Aranik, second shield, stumbled and fell, clutching the bolt sticking out of his thigh, his dark, curly hair looking as wild as his face. Marilee vaulted over him, saw Hranda and Delgart shift left to take his place. “Heavy archers!” she shouted. Lidelle left her side to help the fallen shield.

“Ahead and right!” Mitha, the tall and sinewy second sword, shouted; she had a white scar running along her jawline, right side of her face.

“Orthek!” Marilee shouted as her front rank crashed into the purem, cutting them down but slowing their forward progress.

“Wedro-pleugikel!” Hrelga and Luthina shouted in unison from behind her. A sphere of blue light flew forward and exploded at the center of the squad of heavy archers. Fragments of the sphere became many ice arrows that ripped apart the squad of heavy archers; only a few remained standing, although severely wounded. Marilee looked left to their company captain and saw her falling from her horse, hit by one of the last bolts of the heavy archers. She looked back at her front line, and saw that fourth sword Peltha had also been hit by the heavy archers; Rolva pulled her back and took her place, as Lidelle came back. Marilee swung her sword at the puri Peltha had been fighting, neatly removing his sword arm. Rolva lunged forward, taking the opening provided, stabbing the puri’s chest. Ice arrows shot past her, bringing down the last of the heavy archers. To her right, she saw that Delgart had slung his shield onto his back and picked up another saber from one of the fallen puri, and he was a blur of whirling blades that cut down any puri that came within reach of either arm. Marilee watched him for a moment, amazed at the effectiveness of his actions. Beside her, Grelsor and Lidelle alternated between crushing puri skulls and healing the wounds the shields received as they fought their way forward. Marilee moved forward to aid the left side of her squad, as the right side, solely on the basis of Delgart, was moving ahead of them. This brought her squad into the front rank of her company, and a clearer view of the battle below.

The enemy, because of the megatrem and the krugle, were now engaged with the elite companies guarding the Fereghen, and from what Marilee could see, the seklesem were withering under the advance of the megatrem and krugle.

“The Fereghen!” their company captain shouted, back on her horse, her left arm bound in a sling. “To the Fereghen!” she shouted, and her shout was heard all around them, as the other company captains of the Third Legion saw the Fereghen’s plight. Across the pass, the Fourth Legion was bogged down in a fight with companies of wedaterem, and the First and Second Legions had been driven back on either side of the Fereghen’s elite legion by other companies of wedaterem and purem. The Third Legion was thus left to come to the aid of the Fereghen and ground its way toward him, from the rear of the enemy. The Third Legion was led by the prowess of the Eighth Company, and the Eighth Company got its inspiration from the eighth squad, and the newest member of that squad, Delgart. More than ten years of hard living, a slave to pirates, well-prepared Delgart for battle, and the sword techniques he had mastered inspired his squad to redoubled effort, which spurred the Eighth Company forward, and the other companies of the Third Legion rushed after the Eighth. The Third Legion’s progress slowed when the Eighth Company engaged the squad of krugle following the megatrem assaulting the Fereghen.

“Spread formation!” Marilee shouted, seeing as they approached that the biggest danger with the krugle was the huge hammer each carried, which could wipe out a squad grouped tightly together with a single swing. “Archers!” Marilee shouted, “loose at will!”

The arrows did little damage to the krugle, their skin being thick and hard, like the elemental ice from which they had been formed, but it caused one of the giant, bearded krugle to turn and face them. Delgart darted in, swords swinging and cutting at the legs of the giant. The krugle roared in fury, swinging his hammer to crush the insolent fly stinging his legs. Delgart was ready for this, darting to the left as the hammer came down, the head sinking to the handle in the ground. Delgart swung both sabers in quick succession, striking at the krugle’s wrist. The giant released the handle of his hammer, now roaring in pain. The archers of the squad loosed arrows at the krugle’s face, while the other swords and shields darted in to slice at the giant’s legs, but first sword Klarik, thin and wiry with limp brown hair, dodged the wrong way and was hit by the krugle’s flailing left fist; he flew ten feet behind the giant and did not get up. The giant tried to grab his hammer a second time, but Delgart was waiting, swinging both swords as before, shearing off the giant’s right hand; the blue-blood dripped onto the ground, freezing immediately. The krugle staggered back, howling in pain and holding the stump of his right arm. Delgart darted forward between the giant’s legs as he staggered, swords swinging and cutting the tendons behind the krugle’s knees. The giant crumpled to the ground; Delgart rolled to his left and onto his feet, leaping onto the chest of the fallen giant. Reversing his grip on both sabers, he drove them both into the chest of the krugle, who struggled for a moment before going still.

A cheer erupted around them, but Marilee’s shout cut through the sound: “Lookout!” she shouted at Delgart.

Delgart used his two sabers, still stuck in the dead krugle, to vault himself back toward Marilee, but one of the sabers stuck when he tried to pull them both free, and he narrowly missed having his left hand crushed by the krugle who had come to the aid of her comrade. Because she stretched forward as she swung to crush Delgart, the newest seklesi found himself beneath the attacker; he heard the sound of crunching bones as the krugle’s hammer struck the chest of her fallen comrade. Grabbing his remaining saber with both hands, Delgart drove the point straight up and into the chest of the krugle, who was leaning over him, just beneath the wide band of fur covering her breasts. He had just enough time to leap out of the way before she slumped to the ground, leaving his saber behind. Marilee looked up, surprised to see that all the krugle had turned toward Delgart. This gave the other squads of the Eighth Company opportunities to dart after them, hamstringing them as they had seen Delgart do to the first ice giant. Delgart rolled left, then right, escaping the hammer blows meant to crush him. The krugle still standing had to turn and face the other squads of the Eighth Company, giving the eighth squad a few moments to rest and resupply from the company quartermaster, who had caught up to them, leading a laden horse. Marilee again shouted at Delgart, calling him a fool and then throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him. She looked up into his eyes and released him, suddenly noticing how much he looked like Rokwolf. She flushed and turned away.

 

Come back next week and see Marilee’s squad face an even more formidable foe! In the meantime, purchase the full version of this epic fantasy from Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers; if you prefer print, order a copy from CreateSpace. Good reading!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on May 16, 2015 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

15 May 2015

Poet’s Corner

 

We greet all on this lovely (so far) Friday! We return to Coleridge’s “Christabel,” a supernatural, if unfinished, poem about a lady and her tormentor. Last week, we saw Christabel awakened by Geraldine, who looks better today than last night, calling subtle attention to the fact that she now has some hold over our heroine, who now rises:

 

And in low faltering tones, yet sweet,

Did she the lofty lady greet

With such perplexity of mind

As dreams too lively leave behind.

 

So quickly she rose, and quickly arrayed

Her maiden limbs, and having prayed

That He, who on the cross did groan,

Might wash away her sins unknown,

She forthwith led fair Geraldine

To meet her sire, Sir Leoline.

 

With tones both ‘sweet’ and ‘faltering’–an odd combination–our heroine greets her guest; we are told the reason for her ‘faltering’ tones is a ‘perplexity of mind’, caused by ‘dreams too lively.’ We must ask ourselves what would be considered ‘dreams too lively,’ and we must look to the time of Coleridge to answer. Lively dreams would have been ‘naughty’ dreams, causing her to be, not only perplexed, but also to ask for immediate forgiveness for ‘her sins unknown.’ We also learn, with this declaration of the cross and washing away sins, that Christabel is Christian in her beliefs and actions. However, we still must ask what are these secret sins? We cannot but help associate these ‘sins’ to whatever happened between the ladies on the previous night, as they lay down to sleep. ‘Sins’ of this kind, sins known only to the sinner, are not unknown, for there is a second party/participant in these sins, and so, in spite of all that anyone does to hide the sins, they always come to light and at the worst possible moment! One needs only look to the realm of politics and popular figures to see this scenario repeated over and over again. We live in a world where information rules, some call it the “Age of Information”; in such an age, there are no secrets, no matter how carefully we speak, act, and write, all our worst, most secret acts and ideas are laid bare for all to see. The only way to avoid such public revelation is never to do anything we don’t want others to learn about us, to live exemplary lives–a difficult proposition during the best of times! Come back next week for more of this strange poem by Coleridge. Good reading!

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 14, Part 2

Posted by gwermon on May 8, 2015 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

11 May 2015

 

We return to the battle near the Crossing of Rema in the serialization of the second book of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar, as Marilee, with Delgart, learns what it means to be chosen of the One. . . .

 

Chapter 14, Part 2

 

“Have you seen?” the captain asked as they gathered around her. The captain of the Eighth Company was a tall wetha with a regal face beneath her straight, black, and short-bobbed hair.

They nodded. “We could cut our way through,” the tall, thin, dark-haired leader of the first squad noted, “but it would take many days, and I do not think Shigmar can hold out that long.”

The stocky, brown-haired leader of the second squad spoke next. “We would suffer huge losses in the attempt,” she said, “and I fear we would not have the strength to repel the enemy attacking the kailum.”

The youngest leader, of the tenth squad, a female of medium height and golden hair, looking too pretty to be a warrior, asked: “Is there no other way to approach the city?”

“There is a trail through the mountains to the west and north, on the other side of the river,” the captain noted, “but we would still have to cross the last part of the pass, just southeast of Shigmar, and that would place us in the middle of two armies, I fear,” she finished, looking to the north.

“Captain,” Marilee heard herself saying, “there is another way into Shigmar.”

All the leaders eyes fell on her.

“What way?” the captain asked.

“It is a closely kept secret of the kailu masters,” she went on, “but there is an entrance into the sewers beneath the city.”

“Surely not,” objected the first squad leader, “that is only a legend.”

“Two days ago,” Marilee said, “when I was in Shigmar, I walked out of that legend and looked on the head of the falls of the Krystal River. My newest shield, Delgart, was with me and can vouch for me.”

The captain looked down at her messenger. “Go to the eighth squad and bring Shield Delgart to us.”

The messenger scurried off, returning half-a-minute later with Delgart in tow.

“Can you vouch for your squad leader’s claim of an entrance into the sewers of Shigmar near the falls of the Krystal River?” the captain asked Delgart.

Delgart nodded, using the nod as an opportunity to shoot a glance at Marilee.

“What were you doing in the sewers?” the leader of the second squad asked, looking first at Delgart, then at Marilee.

Delgart could not cover the glance that he and Marilee exchanged, but he could tell that Marilee was at a loss to explain their presence in the sewers. The truth would force them to reveal what had happened to them, especially the marks upon their faces. Having experienced firsthand the response of the kailum to the ways they had been marked, and the way it had been glossed over by their seklesem leaders, he knew he must alter the facts to keep the true reason for their presence in the sewers hidden. He lowered his voice. “The kailu Headmaster, Myron, was trying to smuggle us out of the city. Are you aware, captain, of the illness that afflicted both of us?”

His words touched something in their captain; she nodded.

“There were questions about both our illness and the manner of our healing,” Delgart went on, “that the Headmaster wanted to keep secret, believing the time not right for their general revelation. I can only say that we were healed by a special elixir that was only in the possession of the first kortexi, Sir Karble, but has re-emerged in the hands of a new kortexi, who also carries the original sword of Sir Karble.”

Several of the older squad leaders, including the captain, recognized what Delgart was telling them, and their eyes widened.

“That was how we were able,” Delgart continued, “to travel so quickly from Shigmar to Holvar, although we stood looking at the waterfall this side of Shigmar the day before yesterday.”

Marilee glanced once at Delgart, thinking he had gone too far. “There is a problem with this entrance,” she said, trying to divert them back to their immediate problem, “there was a narrow trail along the face of the cliff, but part of it has fallen away, so we would either have to bridge that section somehow, or maybe build scaling ladders to climb the face of the cliff to the ledge that leads into the sewers. There is a locked gate, but I think we could get past that, if we can get up to it.”

“I will pass this information onto our legion commander,” the captain said, cutting off further discussion, “in the meantime we should fight our way toward the center below; the vanguard has been pushed back into the legion surrounding the Fereghen by a company of wedaterem along with a squad each of megatrem and krugle. They must be dealt with before any other plans can be made.”

The captain waved her arm dismissing them, turned, then raised her arm and signaled the squads to get ready to move. Marilee turned and jogged back to her squad, not speaking to Delgart for fear of being overheard. Delgart did not speak until they neared their squad.

“That was some story,” Marilee whispered, slowing to a walk.

“Why did you tell them about the sewer entrance?” Delgart asked. “Didn’t you realize that it would lead to the awkward questions they asked?”

“I did,” Marilee said, “and I have no idea why I told them about it. Something took over at that point and spoke the words before I could stop myself.”

Delgart looked at her for a moment before speaking and smiled. “Then I guess you now understand why I attacked the aperum.”

“I . . . ,” she began, her mouth falling open, but she could not say anything.

“Being chosen,” he whispered more softly than before, “is more problematic than we thought. Wasn’t there something in the prophecy about this,” he asked, “that we would cause things to happen, merely by being present?”

Marilee could not answer, as they had reached their squad. “Ready?” she asked Rellik as Delgart moved back to his position.

“Ready,” Rellik replied, moving back to his place.

Marilee raised her hand in a fist, signaling the captain her squad’s readiness; a few moments later, the captain signaled they move, and after they started forward, signaled that the archers prepare to loose on the purem just below and ahead of them. Several other companies from their legion, the Third, were already engaged below and to Marilee’s left. Their captain signaled the archers loose arrows at will, and Marilee issued the command. Fewer of the purem ahead crumbled, compared to the ghelem they had just scattered, being better protected, but their arrow storm had the effect of turning the nearest company of purem to face them and offer its own volley.

 

Come back next week for more of this battle where we will see Marilee and her squad move to rescue the Fereghen. Until then, purchase a full copy of this novel from Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers; or if you prefer print, order a copy from CreateSpace. Good reading!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on May 8, 2015 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

8 May 2015

Poet’s Corner

 

We’re back with another piece of Coleridge’s unfinished, supernatural poem, “Christabel”; the guest awoke first, and dressed, then wakened our heroine:

 

And Christabel awoke and spied

The same who lay down by her side—

O rather say, the same whom she

Raised up beneath the old oak tree!

Nay, fairer yet! and yet more fair!

For she belike hath drunken deep

Of all the blessedness of sleep!

And while she spake, her looks, her air

Such gentle thankfulness declare,

That (so it seemed) her girded vests

Grew tight beneath her heaving breasts.

'Sure I have sinn'd!' said Christabel,

'Now heaven be praised if all be well!'

 

We learn through the eyes of our heroine that Geraldine this morning looks better today than she did last night, and our heroine attributes this improved state to a good night’s sleep! However, we know that Geraldine is, like Christabel’s mother, a supernatural creature, perhaps even a witch, and she has used her magical powers on our heroine, to what end, we are not sure. The poet draws our attention to this fact, with a hint of something more, by noting that this morning Geraldine’s vest fits less well than the night before, which is odd. And then, Christabel tells us that she has “sinned,” and we cannot help but tie this declaration to the overly tight vest in the previous line. Perhaps Geraldine, the witch, is reminding Christabel that she now has some hold over her, owing to the spell placed upon her the previous night. We are left to wonder, as we often do in this strange poem, what is going on between these two ladies. Come again next Friday for another installment of this supernatural poem by Coleridge. Good reading!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on May 2, 2015 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

1 May 2015

Poet’s Corner

 

Happy Friday to all! We return to Coleridge’s supernatural poem, “Christabel,” and join the ladies as they wake up and prepare for another day:

 

The air is still! through mist and cloud

That merry peal comes ringing loud;

And Geraldine shakes off her dread,

And rises lightly from the bed;

Puts on her silken vestments white,

And tricks her hair in lovely plight,

And nothing doubting of her spell

Awakens the lady Christabel.

'Sleep you, sweet lady Christabel?

I trust that you have rested well.'

 

Geraldine wakes up to the sound of the bells, perhaps because she is unused to the daily ringing of the bells at sunrise. We see that Christabel sleeps through this daily morning racket, as she is used to it, and so no longer hears it. On the other hand, considering the supernatural character of Geraldine, this witchy character would not be able to sleep through any bell ringing, for as we noted in an earlier post, bells were used to drive away evil spirits & creatures. We are reminded of this in the line, “Geraldine shakes off her dread,” referring back to the “merry peal” of the bells. We also take note of the ‘spell’ Geraldine has placed upon Christabel. Notice how Geraldine carefully dresses and fixes her hair, assuring herself that the spell, whatever it is, is still working before she wakes Christabel–why? What does this order of actions tell us about Geraldine? We will find out more next week as we continue to examine this unfinished poem by Coleridge. Good reading!

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 14, Part 1

Posted by gwermon on May 1, 2015 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)

4 May 2015

 

We hope all enjoyed their weekend! We come back with the newest installment from the second book of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar, taking up the battle between the seklesi army sent to aid Shigmar and the forces of Gar. . . .

 

Chapter 14, Part 1

 

Each seklesi squad consists of two squad leaders, two kailum, two maghem, and four each of scouts, swords, and shields, all ranked according to ability and experience. Each company is made of ten of these squads and a command squad consisting of two of each type–leaders, named captains, kailum, maghem, scouts, swords, and shields–plus a messenger and quartermaster. Each legion contains ten companies and a command squad with two messengers and a quartermaster who oversees a quartet of quartermasters responsible for the supplies of the entire legion. . . .

 

from The Higher Orders, written by order of the Fereghen, atno 1739

 

Marilee gathered her squad and prepared to move forward, following the orders conveyed by the company’s messenger, instructing them to attack the enemy from the right flank. She set them all jogging forward, following the squads of the Eighth Company around her under the same orders. The front of the seklesi army was trying to contain the enemy within the pass, but several companies of purem and ghelem had broken out to the sides, attempting to flank the seklesem’s forward positions and cut-off support from the rear, in order to kill or capture their leaders. As the Seventh and Eighth Companies jogged forward, many of the seklesem wondered why the aperum had made straight for the eighth squad’s position. They had all witnessed the strange behavior of the aperum, flying over their forces, almost as if they were looking for that squad. Even more astonishing was the behavior of the newest member of the eighth squad, although few knew his name, many had witnessed his single handed killing of two aperum; rumors sailed among the ranks, the most common being that this new seklesi had been trained separately and secretly from the rest of them as a “secret weapon” against Gar.

Marilee had a fairly shrewd idea of why the aperum had attacked her squad, but neither she, nor Delgart, mentioned their suspicions. She wondered how Gar’s forces had known that she and Delgart would be here, and how the aperum had picked two chosen out of the entire army. Both kept the marked halves of their faces hidden, precisely so they would not draw attention to themselves. She was furious at Delgart for his actions, but she also recognized that many seklesem would have died, had he not acted, in their attempts to bring down the aperum, and it would have taken them a lot of time, time that the enemy could have used to flank and cut-off the forward positions and kill their leaders, including the Fereghen. She wondered what would happen when her squad, more particularly, herself and Delgart, engaged the enemy ahead. She did not have long to wait, as the Eighth Company was coming up to edges of their enemy’s flanking forces, easily cutting down the scattered stragglers who had left the main group.

“Archers,” Marilee shouted, hearing the same call echoing around her, responding to a signal from their captain, riding ahead of them, then she added, “prepare to loose.” She kept her eyes on their captain, saw her raised arm move forward, and issued the command, hearing it repeated around her. “Loose!” she exclaimed. She heard the twangs and the hissing of the arrows as they flew in a high arc toward the purem and ghelem ahead, so intent on their maneuver that they had not noticed the seklesi companies approaching from the south and their left flank. Marilee knew that an error like that could cost them the battle. She saw the flank of the enemy crumble, heard the shouted commands, saw her captain signal again, and issued another command to the archers. “Loose at will,” she shouted, hearing the same command repeated around her.

The enemy ahead was turning to meet them. “Shields ready,” Marilee shouted, as the distance between them shrank to about a hundred yards. The captain signaled. “Wedge and swords!” Marilee shouted in response to her captain’s signal. Her squad shifted around her, the archers slinging bows onto their backs, taking out shields and swords. The captain signaled again, and Marilee shouted, along with the other nine squad leaders. “Attack speed!” They sprinted forward, crashing into the ranks of purem and ghelem before the enemy had time to get set. Her squad, to the right flank and in the third rank, crashed into a company of ghelem, still trying to turn and meet them. The shields in front of her swung swords right and left, killing ghelem with ease. The shields allowed a few to slip past, giving Grelsor, to her right, and Lidelle, to her left, targets to attack with both mace and staff. Hrelga and Luthina, her squad’s maghem, right behind her and the two kailum, shot arrows of ice to the squad’s sides and rear, killing any ghelem that escaped the swath of death her squad created among the company of ghelem. The ghelem, being the least of Gar’s creatures and creations, seeing themselves overcome so quickly and easily, broke for the mountains to their north. “Archers!” Marilee shouted on the signal from their captain, “loose at will against the ghelem. Squad left!” Her squad’s archers swapped weapons while the entire squad turned, following the other squads toward the pass and the front of their army. Marilee looked to her left after they turned and saw the Ninth Company coming up behind them to follow the fleeing ghelem into the mountains. She looked to her right and saw Delgart swinging his sword and cutting down any enemy coming near his side. Still amazed by his prowess, she wondered where he would have been in their ranks had he come to them at the normal age. She looked back to her captain, saw the signal to slow, and shouted the order, hearing other squad leaders echo her command.

They topped a rise in the terrain, looking down toward the pass’s entrance and the heaviest fighting. Most of the enemy on this flank were destroyed and fleeing back toward the pass, although there were still several companies of purem between them and the pass. The captain signaled they stop, and she issued the order, knowing they were halting to determine their next move. To their right, they could see the pass choked with purem and ghelem, and several companies of wedaterem, tall, blue-skinned, hairless, wielding huge clubs. Following them, further up the pass, Marilee thought she could see ranks of nekerpum, animated corpses and some of the worst of Gar’s forces, raised and controlled by purgle. She immediately recognized their predicament. Their captain signaled, and Marilee turned to Rellik.

“Take over and hold here,” Marilee said, “the captain wants to meet with us.”

Rellik nodded once, stepping up to take her place. Marilee jogged toward the captain, following the other nine squad leaders. . . .

 

Come back next Monday for further adventures with Marilee, Delgart, and the forces sent to rescue Shigmar, stalled near the Crossing of Reema! Meanwhile, buy your own copy of this book from Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers. If you prefer print, order your copy from CreateSpace. Good reading!

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 13, Part 3

Posted by gwermon on April 24, 2015 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)

27 April 2015

 

We return with another installment from the second book of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar, and discover what terrible thing happens to one of our heroes. . . .

 

Chapter 13, Part 3

 

Several hours seemed to pass as they picked their way carefully through this first tunnel of ice, with each of them getting caught several times by the ice after slipping. The path ended as it started, blocked by ice, and Klaybear bashed their way through into another stone circle under mountains of dirty, gray ice. As they approached the center of this circle, hearing the sounds of cracking and falling ice, they heard a new sound, a squelchy sound, like that of a foot being pulled from the mud, but there was also a ringing sound, as if the foot was made of brass or glass. Looking around, they saw figures emerging from the walls of ice surrounding the circle, figures that were reminiscent of the stone creatures of the earth realm, but where the stone creatures were rounded, these figures were jagged and sharp, as if pieces of ice had broken from the cliffs and piled together to become upright creatures, walking forward on jagged legs of ice, cracking and grinding as they walked. One came from each of the four cardinal directions, waving arms that ended in chunks of ice like huge cudgels. Blakstar strode toward the nearest ice creature, taking out and swinging his sword; Klaybear took out his mace, moving toward the creature nearest to him. Daggers appeared in both of Tevvy’s hands, one dagger flying from his hand in a smooth, overhand motion. The dagger struck the creature nearest him right in the single, glowing blue eye, causing the creature to stagger back, its head shattering in a brilliant flash of blue light; the remaining pieces that formed the creature fell apart, slid toward the wall, and were immediately absorbed back into the cliff walls. Thal, seeing Tevvy’s success, raised his rod and sang, “pleugipur,” and an arrow of fire shot from the end of his rod, striking the creature nearest him, instantly turning its head into steam that turned into ice crystals a second later, falling harmlessly to the stone. The remaining pieces fell apart, slid toward the wall, and were quickly absorbed by the walls. They turned to watch their companions dueling with their icy opponents. For Klaybear, every time his opponent swung one of his cudgel-like arms at the kailu, Klaybear responded by smashing the cudgel-end of the arm with his green-glowing mace, until the creature had no arms left, and the kailu’s mace swung down, crushing its icy head. Blakstar, to their other side, sliced off pieces of the creature he faced, his golden flaming sword passing through the ice as if it were water with a crackling hiss. Like Klaybear, when the creature had no arms left and lay prostrate before him, the kortexi swung his sword in an overhand arc, slicing into the jagged, icy head, which burst when the golden flames surrounding the blade touched the glowing blue eye, just after Klaybear smashed his. The parts of both creatures fell to the ground, slid toward the walls, and were quickly absorbed by the dirty gray cliffs surrounding them. Tevvy moved to where his creature had been, looking for his dagger; he could see a glint of metal in the ice wall, but no other evidence of his dagger. Blakstar walked over to Thal, slipping his sword back into its scabbard, and whispered something to him, and the white maghi slapped his head with one furry mitten. He beckoned Tevvy and Klaybear closer, and when the four of them stood together, although each continued to move his feet to keep from sticking, he raised his rod and whispered, “kwyeskoit.”

“I forgot I could do this,” Thal apologized, “and Blakstar just reminded me what I had done before.”

“No echoes,” Tevvy said, “that bring down the ceiling or walls.”

Thal nodded.

Blakstar drew a packet of dried meat out of one of his pockets. “We should all have some of this,” he noted, rocking from side to side and passing the packet around; each of them took a piece of the dried meat. “And take a drink from your water skin,” he suggested, taking a piece and replacing the packet in one of his pockets, “and we should keep moving.”

Tevvy nodded. “I notice the cold more when we are not moving,” he noted, slipping his mittened hand under the flap and biting off a piece of dried meat.

The others nodded, also biting off pieces of dried meat under their hoods, moving off in different directions to find the path forward.

###

They passed through a second tunnel of ice, in the same way as the first, and into a second stone circle, the walls of which expelled eight of the jagged, icy creatures. Tevvy, losing three daggers, and Thal, using a variation of the fire arrow, together managed to destroy six of the icy creatures in the time that Blakstar and Klaybear destroyed two. They ate more dried meat before entering the third icy tunnel. Thal stopped them at the end, creating a dome of silence again, so they could speak.

“If they double in numbers,” he said, rocking from foot to foot, “I do not think we can handle sixteen.”

“I’m running out of daggers,” Tevvy put in, “I have only three left.”

Blakstar nodded, giving himself a moment to think. “Will they follow us into this tunnel?” he asked.

Thal shrugged. “I cannot tell from what we have seen.”

“They are not difficult to defeat,” Klaybear noted, “but you are right, if they double, I doubt that we can destroy them all before one of them gets one of us, which would be fatal to all.”

Tevvy was looking at the partially blocked opening into the next circle. “I think I can slip through the ice there,” he said, pointing, “then I can sneak around to find the way out, then you can crash out of here, heading to wherever I am. Thal can blast the creatures who are nearest the opening, Klaybear can open it, and we can all slip through: they have looked too big to move through these tunnels.”

All three looked at the awemi for a long moment before anyone replied. “And if they can follow us?” Blakstar asked.

“The tunnels are quite narrow,” Tevvy shrugged, “so only one or two of them could attack us at once.”

“Maybe,” Klaybear said, “but I think these tunnels are difficult enough without having to fight off the ice creatures, and if someone sticks to the wall, how can we get him free while fighting one of these moving ice blocks?”

“I could,” Thal said, hand where his chin would be, “set off a fireball after we enter the tunnel. That would discourage pursuit, maybe even bring down the cliff walls on top of them. I think the space is large enough.”

Tevvy raised one eyebrow warily. “You think it’s big enough? What if you are wrong? What happens then?”

Thal shrugged. “The space is large enough that, at worst, some small amount of flame could enter the tunnels, but I suppose if I set the center closer to this side of the circle, most of the flames would shoot down this tunnel, and not the one we will be in.”

Tevvy shook his head. “I have a bad feeling about this,” he mumbled to himself, then looked up at the others. “Forget I said anything.”

Blakstar looked from Thal to Klaybear, then back to Thal. “I think it is a workable plan.” He turned to Tevvy. “All right, thief,” he said, “let’s get you quietly through the ice so you can locate the way out.”

###

With the kortexi pushing, Tevvy managed to slip through the ice blocking the end of the tunnel, grumbling to himself about how he should learn to keep his mouth shut.

“Wave your arms when you find it,” Blakstar whispered past the ice, his voice light.

Tevvy strode off to his right, cursing the kortexi silently under his breath. He moved cautiously and silently around the edge of the stone circle, hoping that he would not trigger whatever caused the ice creatures to appear. The sounds of cracking and grinding ice surrounded him, causing him to pause frequently and look up, making sure the cliff above him was not about to fall on him. He found the opening about halfway around the circle; stooping, he looked through one of the wider cracks near the base and could tell, from what little he could see, that this pathway was different from the others: instead of going along level, this path climbed steeply just inside the opening. Curiosity flared inside Tevvy, so he waved to the others, pointed at the opening, then dove through one of the wider cracks.

###

The others watched Tevvy disappear to their right, then waited for him to reappear further around the circle. When the awemi stepped back into their field of vision, they saw him moving slowly and cautiously, pausing and looking up frequently.

“Hopefully,” Thal said, “he won’t get buried by the cliff.”

“If he does,” Blakstar noted, “he will be lost, and we will be trapped here forever.”

“He’s quite agile,” Klaybear added, “so I think he’ll be all right. Besides, we thought you were lost in the last realm, but a way was provided for us to continue; we are, after all, meant to pass through this test and reach the staff.”

“I hope you are right,” Blakstar said. “He’s found the opening,” he added after a moment. They saw Tevvy stooping, saw him wave and point, then dive into the opening. “What’s he doing now?” Blakstar asked, sounding irritated. He pulled out his sword and smashed through the ice, leaping forward into the stone circle. Thal and Klaybear followed before the ice covered the opening. As soon as Blakstar took three long strides across the circle, they heard the squelching, ringing sound all around them and saw ice creatures forming from and stepping out of the dirty gray cliffs surrounding them, more than double the number they faced in the last circle.

“That’s more than double,” Blakstar noted, and was surprised not to hear the echoes, as Thal had forgotten to cancel his orthek.

“Two dozen,” Thal said, “to be exact.”

“We have to get to the opening,” Blakstar said, “it is our only chance.” Swinging his sword, the kortexi leapt forward to attack the creatures between them and the opening. Klaybear brandished his mace and followed, while Thal shot bolts of fire to the right, then left, then behind them, trying to keep the creatures off their backs. This slowed the closing of the circle of icy creatures, giving the kortexi and the kailu time to hack off limbs and smash several heads, clearing the way to the opening. Again, Thal shot bolts of fire to the left and right, giving them time to get to the archway and smash the ice blocking it. Blakstar and then Klaybear jumped through the opening; Thal paused long enough to gesture with his rod back over his shoulder before leaping through the now closing arch, tossing a tiny point of red light back toward the opposite side of the circle. He turned and sang, “kweklopur-patno.” The point of red light flashed brightly and began to grow, brightening and filling the circle, a roaring sound echoed around the circle. When the expanding flames reached the icy gray cliffs, the flames expanded upward covering the opening, consuming the ice creatures, and melting the ice covering the opening. As the flames started to enter the ice tunnel, Klaybear raised his staff and sang, “plotoskoit,” creating a shield of water that immediately froze, covering the tunnel behind them and blocking the flames; the wall of ice glowed with an angry red light. They moved up the tunnel, stopping when they saw the light wink out, but the ground under them shook violently for several seconds, then they heard a rumbling sound, heard the ice shield shatter, and were covered with a spray of ice crystals.

“What was that?” Thal exclaimed, glad he had not canceled his shield of silence.

Blakstar shrugged and took a few steps back down the passage and found the way back blocked.

“I think your orthek brought down the cliffs,” he said as he returned, “blocking the way back.” The kortexi stopped, looking up the ice tunnel, noticing light coming from somewhere ahead. “Where did the thief get to?”

The others looked up the tunnel. “He probably went scouting ahead,” Klaybear replied.

“Yes,” Thal added, “since he saw himself outmatched by the ice creatures.” He chuckled, and Blakstar joined him. The kortexi turned and started to climb the sloping tunnel; Thal and Klaybear followed, and the light grew brighter.

Blakstar stopped and turned back, reaching up to fold the narrow flap over his eyes down, covering the slit in the hood for his eyes. “Better put your visor down,” he noted, “since it looks like we are moving out into the open. The light reflecting off the snow can blind a person, if he looks at it for only a few seconds without the visor.” Thal and Klaybear imitated Blakstar’s action, and discovered they could still see the outlines of the tunnel, and as they got closer to the surface and the light grew more intense, they could see clearly the opening onto the surface, and the awemi standing in the opening without his visor down, eyes wide, but seeing nothing.

 

Next week we will return to Delgart, Marilee, and the seklesi army, stalled near the Crossing of Reema; they have defeated the attacking aperum, but the bulk of the opposing army remains to be fought before they can come to the aid of Shigmar. In the meantime, purchase a copy of this ebook from Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers; if, however, the reader prefers a printed copy, order it from CreateSpace. Good reading!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on April 24, 2015 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)

24 April 2015

Poet’s Corner

 

We’re back with another installment from Coleridge’s unfinished “Christabel.” We remind our readers of the phrase Christabel’s father says every morning, “Each matin bell . . . knells us back to a world of death,” and note that along with this daily custom, the bell is tolled 45 times, with a counter stroke between each sounding. Now we meet another member of Christabel’s household, the bard, who comments on the tolling of the bell:

 

Saith Bracy the bard, So let it knell!

And let the drowsy sacristan

Still count as slowly as he can!

There is no lack of such, I ween,

As well fill up the space between.

In Langdale Pike and Witch's Lair,

And Dungeon-ghyll so foully rent,

With ropes of rock and bells of air

Three sinful sextons' ghosts are pent,

Who all give back, one after t'other,

The death-note to their living brother;

And oft too, by the knell offended,

Just as their one! two! three! is ended,

The devil mocks the doleful tale

With a merry peal from Borodale.

 

Bracy the bard, commenting on the complaints against this daily tolling of the bell, says, simply, ‘let the bells ring, and who cares what anyone says!’ The bard goes on to remark that there will be no lack of complainers no matter where, or how often the bell tolls, and he adds a ‘mini’ story–he is a bard after all!–of the ghosts of three sextons (minor officers in the church, those who take care of the building and grounds), sinful sextons, who are ‘pent’, or contained, by the tolling of the bell. Recall that the bells are sounded, both to chase away the night, and send the spirits–good or evil–back to their rest, and these spirits include the devil himself. However, to make this mini story a cautionary tale, the bard reminds Sir Leoline that in spite of the power of the bells to contain these spirits of the night, the devil still responds with a ‘merry peal’ from a nearby village, an odd thing for a bard to tell his patron; one can only assume that he does this to lighten the mood of our brooding baron. We will share more in the coming week, and get back to our heroine in peril! Good reading!

 


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