|Posted by gwermon on December 9, 2013 at 11:35 AM||comments (0)|
We return again this week with another installment from our epic fantasy, Chosen of the One, as we follow Blakstar’s ascent of the Mountain of Vision on a golden path that will test his readiness to become a full initiate of the kortexi order. . . .
Chapter 5, Part 2
Blakstar’s eyes jerked open. The golden line moved ahead through the misty orange world even as body and stone flowed through each other. He could stand the discomfort, he thought, more than he could the strange visions when his eyes closed, and what these images were or where they came from troubled him, for they were images of sin and he must avoid evil thoughts. He tried to ignore the chilly, oozy feeling, concentrating on where he went through the rock to keep his mind off the images, except the blonde wetha, who caused strange, excited feelings in his heart; he thought of her and wondered what her name was, and what the figure in white had meant when he said that Blakstar already knew her name–he had no idea what her name was, so he simply thought of her as his ‘princess.’ He noticed the temperature around him rising, saw the orange mistiness lighten, change to a red-orange glow directly ahead. He slid out of the rock and into a large cavern. Heat and the stench of sulfur crashed into him; rivulets of red-orange lava crisscrossed the space before him. Jets of fire shot up from the fire and molten rock, smashing into the ceiling high overhead and raining fragments of stone and gobs of melted rock onto the floor of the cavern. The golden line wound through the cavern, crossing over the red hot flows of fire and molten rock. The kortexi coughed as he walked, his lungs both oppressed and seared by the heat and stench of burning rock. The first rivulets of fire were narrow and easily stepped over, although the heat emanating from the surface scorched him. He thought he could see steam rising from his exposed skin, ruddy in the glow of molten rock. The rivulets turned into streams, and he found it progressively more difficult to cross them. The strength of his limbs and his resolve drained out of him, or perhaps, were boiled out of him by the oppressive heat. He leapt across the widest flow yet, holding tightly to the rod. A jet of flame and molten rock shot toward the ceiling, narrowly missing him as he crossed and raining shards of stone and hot ash onto his head. His coughing slowed his movement, in spite of his resolve, and the voice spoke again in his mind.
Do not slow! the command repeated, then the voice softened. You must trust me.
Blakstar tried to walk forward at his former pace, but the resistance to forward motion was greater, empowered by the heat and stench. He came to an even wider flow and leaped across, even though he knew it was wider than he could jump in his weakened state. He saw his foot fall short of the further side, felt the heat increasing as he fell toward the molten flow, felt the rod grow heavier as he pulled it down from the golden line, felt one foot seared by flames, heard the scream escape his lips, felt the other foot burning, heard the crackle and smelled the stench of his own flesh beginning to burn.
Feel the rod–trust in me! the voice commanded.
In the red anguish overcoming his mind, he noticed that the rod felt cool to his touch. His eyes turned to his right hand, and with Herculean effort, his arm raised the rod back into the golden line. He felt himself lifted, the pain in his feet ceased, his breathing eased, the air felt cool as it passed his lips and filled his lungs. He felt firm ground under his feet, although he knew he trod flames and liquid rock. No sensation of burning touched his skin; no smell of burning flesh and sulfur filled his nose; no sight of steam rising from exposed skin; no acrid taste on his tongue, left by the air he breathed. He noticed that he was surrounded by a blue glowing nimbus that protected him from the heat and burning. He looked down and saw that he crossed a wide pool of fire. Jets of flame were more frequent, lashing the sphere that surrounded him, curling around the blue-glowing nimbus without touching him. The golden line he followed swung suddenly toward the ceiling and again entered the rock.
As has happened here, began the voice, cool and pleasant in his mind, so shall your life be preserved until you complete your life’s quest, if you but trust me.
The rod and kortexi slid smoothly into the rock; misty, orange darkness replaced the red glow of fire. After a time of oozing through the rock, soft green replaced misty orange, water replaced rock. The glowing nimbus surrounding him now turned yellow and provided him with air, as his path wandered among coral formations, the path about two feet off the floor of this ocean within the Mountain of Vision. Fish swam past him of every shape and color imaginable; some transparent, shaped like umbrellas with long trailing ribbons; some round as a ball and covered with thorny spines; others flat like a carpet, skimming just above the ocean’s floor. Still others had noses like saws, some so small he could barely see them, while others were as large as houses. The fish avoided his sphere, swimming around it without taking any notice. For a time, Blakstar paced forward, awestruck by what he saw. The path left the coral and entered an open, flat area at the ocean’s bottom. He saw the wreck of a ship just ahead, most of its bow missing. There were many holes in its sides, with fish of various sizes and types, swimming lazily in and out of the wreck. Only jagged stubs remained of the masts. The path angled to the left past the broken bow of the former ship. As the kortexi passed the dark opening, large dark tentacles shot out of the wreck, wrapping themselves around his sphere of protection. Instinctively, he ducked, but quickly remembered the lesson of the fire realm. The pressure inside the sphere grew as the tentacles tightened their grip. Blakstar focused his attention on the rod, reminding himself that nothing would harm him as long as he trusted in the being who directed his path. The pressure eased as the tentacles lost interest, returning docilely to the darkness inside the wreck.
The path turned to the right on passing the wreck and moved toward a line of underwater hills. At the base of the one nearest to him, the kortexi saw a dark opening, slightly illuminated by the glow of the golden line. His path descended to the floor of this underwater cave, and he felt the give of wet sand under his feet. Looking back he could see the shape of his sandals imprinted in the sand. The glow of the golden line illuminated the cave floor, and his eyes were caught by things sparkling. Looking down, he saw gold and silver coins, gems, bracelets and necklaces, armor, swords, and weapons of every possible type. Their number increased until the floor was completely covered by wealth unimaginable. As he walked along, he felt something hard and cold get caught in the toe of his sandal. Reaching down with his left hand, he removed the object from his sandal and found himself holding an ornately carved, golden key of some ancient design attached to a fine, golden chain. He thought he heard a bell ring somewhere in the distance, and so without thinking, dropped the chain around his neck, felt its coolness, and felt the key clunk against his chest. The golden line he followed swerved suddenly into the roof of this underwater passage, and the kortexi oozed again into the stony orange mistiness.
After a time in the misty, rocky-orange darkness, light began to grow in front of him again, its brilliance blinding; the kortexi slid out of the rock and into a world of brilliant blue light and absolute cold. Blakstar shielded his eyes, pulling the hood of his white robe down over his face to protect his vision from the glare that he knew could instantly blind one who stared into its brilliance. He felt the rod warming under his hand, and caught a glimpse of red, the nimbus surrounding him with heat in response to the frigid cold of this elemental realm of ice. As his eyes adjusted, he could see through the cloth of the hood that he was surrounded by sharp, jagged formations of ice, pointing at him from all directions. His feet trod across the points of ice that formed the floor of the tunnel, and his shoulders and arms brushed past points jutting out from the wall; over his head, the ceiling was covered with more icicles, like a multitude of spears or daggers, ready to stab him from above, beside, and beneath.
The narrow tunnel through which the golden path moved, opened into a large vertical shaft. Blakstar glanced up as he entered this new space and saw the shaft had a domed ceiling high overhead, covered with what looked like from this distance, long, thin crystal icicles, the shaft itself was crossed and re-crossed by the golden path on thin and narrow bridge-like ice structures without any visible means of support. As he followed his path across the floor of this huge shaft, which was uneven and covered with broken chunks of ice, the entire room shook violently, and many of the icicles attached to the domed ceiling high above broke loose and came crashing to the floor, some of them smashing through the path as they fell, breaking away sections of the path and adding to the disorder of the floor. Blakstar swallowed hard, realizing that he had to cross all of the paths overhead in order to move on, and the cold of the realm was seeping into the protective nimbus surrounding him. Recalling what he had learned thus far, he concentrated on the golden rod, willing it to warm him, and with his free hand, he pulled his hood tighter over his eyes.
The shaft shook violently again; the kortexi did his best to ignore it, continuing to walk forward, trusting that the rod and golden line would lead him forward. Blakstar heard the chunks of ice crashing down around him, and felt the sudden impact when something struck his protective nimbus; he was shocked when he discovered that, for a moment, his forward progress halted: it was only a stutter in his movement, a mere hesitation of motion, but in the realms of this journey, such a hesitation could be enough to slow him down and ultimately stop him. He realized that he needed to know why his motion had stuttered; he loosened his hood slightly, enough so that he could see the activity around him. He continued to walk forward, striving to increase his pace, knowing that it would slow the next time he was hit by falling ice. The shaking happened almost at once, seemingly in response to his desire to see, and several large chunks of ice slammed against his protective nimbus, which flashed red in response, but for an instant, he and his protective sphere were completely encased in transparent ice several inches thick. In the moment he was surrounded by ice, his motion stuttered, then the crystal sphere shattered, and he moved forward again, although more slowly than before.
Trust me, came the words to his mind.
Blakstar thought for a moment; in the realm of fire, what he needed was to be cooled by the rod. Here, he needed the opposite, and the rod had been supplying him with heat, but it was insufficient, as it had been in the fire realm until. . . . The ground shook again, dislodging what seemed an endless supply of giant icicles from the ceiling, and the kortexi knew what he must do: he must become a living flame to counteract the cold of this realm; he willed the rod to warm, to heat, and to burn with red fire, and he was surrounded by flames that turned the falling chunks of ice to steam before they crashed into his protective nimbus. The path turned, climbed the wall of the shaft, then started to cross by one of the many thin, narrow bridges. Blakstar then noticed that his red, flaming nimbus had the same effect on the thin path beneath his feet as it had on the falling ice: the narrow bridge was beginning to steam and melt away. The kortexi drew a sharp breath, beginning to panic, not knowing how to protect himself from the falling debris that would stop him without obliterating the path upon which he walked. He started to slow, and realized instantly that this action was a mistake, as the thin bridge steamed away more quickly.
Do not slow! the voice came to his mind, but there was a hint of laughter in the voice, which surprised him as much as the disappearing bridge. Blakstar tried to protest, but the voice went on. Have I failed you? Has the path failed you? Think about from where the threat that slows you comes, and there was amusement in the voice.
“From above,” Blakstar replied.
So alter your shield, the voice laughed.
“Oh, yeah, I didn’t think of that,” he replied, and as he wondered how to protect himself only from falling debris, he felt the nimbus alter, and saw the bridge under his feet cease to steam.
Always turn your shield toward the threat, which is usually the simplest solution to most problems.
The path moved straight toward the rock wall of the shaft, taking him out of the ice and back into the misty orange of the rock that formed the Mountain of Vision. . . .
Come back next week for another installment of our tale, as Blakstar continues to climb the kortexi’s sacred mountain; if, however, the reader cannot wait until next week, the reader can download the full book for free from Smashwords, or if the reader prefers a print version of the text, buy it from CreateSpace’s estore, here.
|Posted by gwermon on December 2, 2013 at 11:55 AM||comments (0)|
Well . . . , it has been a memorable week, two nights and a day spent in the hospital . . . wired & waiting for the right doctors to show up and read all the tests. . . . Not exactly the best way to spend Thanksgiving, although the SyFy channel was having a Bond marathon, so I had something to distract me from thinking too much. . . .
This week, in our next installment of our epic, Chosen of the One, Blakstar begins his ascent of the Mountain of Vision, his final test before becoming a full initiate into the kortexi order. . . .
Chapter 5, Part 1
For the kortexi, all sin is unforgivable, unless by the One, Himself, but such has never happened, and probably never will. . . .
from the Kodex Kortexem by Sir Karble III
Blakstar groaned and rolled onto his back, but the action only increased the pain throbbing in his head and the aching over his entire body. He managed to open his eyes but could see little, his vision blurry, clouded by tears. He lay for a time blinking at the sky, until the blurred lines sharpened, and he saw a dark line of twisted trees, a jagged demarcation between the shadowed trees and the Mountain of Vision drenched in the golden light of the setting sun. He saw a face outlined on the mountain and rubbed his eyes, thinking that the tears must still be clouding his vision, or, since he found himself in the place he had been in the strange dream, still caught in his dreams. When he looked again, the face still looked back at him from the stone, through deep blue eyes that seemed to open into the infinite depths of space; the blue eyes reminded him of the eyes of the girl who he had seen in his dream, the girl who was meant to be his future wife. The mouth smiled and opened, as if the figure were beginning to speak. Blakstar felt, rather than heard, the soft yet piercing voice within his mind.
“Sir Blakstar,” the voice called, “I have been waiting since the beginning of time for your arrival. Even now, I wait at the mountain’s summit. Climb quickly, that I may place your feet upon the path of your destiny.”
“But Lord,” Blakstar spoke aloud, rolling painfully to his knees and trying vainly to cover himself with the tattered remains of his clothing, “I cannot remember how I got here, or what happened to me, how I got these wounds . . . my clothes . . . I fear . . . ,” he sobbed, unable to continue as he noticed his tunic and hose had been torn open from his neck down to his knees. He saw the red line inscribed on his naked chest and loins; he felt an unfamiliar ache in his groin, almost a sharp pain, and there was something wet and shiny on his front. Clouds moved in from the northwest, blocking the sun’s last light, but the face in the stone glowed with its own light. “I feel filthy,” he went on after controlling his emotions, “and defiled, but I don’t know why . . . I was trapped for a time in my own dreams, but someone came and . . . ,” he trailed off into silence.
“Do not be concerned over what might have happened. Climb the mountain and be cleansed of my son’s forced violation.”
Blakstar lifted his head and saw tears filling the eyes and falling down the cheeks of the face in the stone of the mountain. The face faded, and Blakstar felt warm drops splashing his face and arms. He stood, face turned toward the clouds, as the drops fell faster, quickly becoming a downpour. The warm rain washed the blood from his wrists–cuts he did not notice until the rain washed the blood away–from the lines inscribed on his chest, and belly, and the stains from his whole body. The raindrops eased the pain of his wounds, the ache of his head, and touched his spirit with peace. When his burdens no longer troubled him, the rain stopped. He turned toward the mountain, and as he turned he noticed aches in his legs and buttocks, sore muscles he did not know he even had.
“Thank you, Lord,” he whispered, his voice cracking, “I will come.”
Blakstar gathered up the broken strips of leather lying beneath the bent and broken tree and used them to tie his breeches, hose, and tunic closed. Not up to his mother’s high standard for repairs, he thought, but good enough to keep them on. He looked around the clearing, wondering what had become of Wingfoot and saw his steed tied to a tree at the clearing’s edge. He moved toward the horse and the clouds parted, the last golden rays lighting the mountain. In the fading light, he saw that Wingfoot had been stripped of all his gear; breath exploded from his lips and trailed off into a sigh. He did not relish the idea of trying to return to Karble without tack or harness, and what little money he carried was in his missing saddle bags. Wingfoot nuzzled Blakstar, sensing his master’s mood. Blakstar absently scratched the horse under his muzzle, his mind on the strange dream and the elfin face of the girl with golden hair, before untying the rope and leading him toward the mountain hovering overhead. Other strange images flashed across his mind, including the golden-haired wetha in a black robe along with flashes of a pura and a pair of ponkolam that he somehow knew were related; he also saw the image of a girl named Marta, daughter of friends of his parents, and something about her image caused his cheeks to color. He jerked his thoughts back to the present.
Blakstar passed through the twisted, burned trees, which gave way to living pine, cedar, and fir, growing green and normal. Within ten minutes he reached the foot of the mountain, and he circled west toward the sea. A breeze blew into his face, bringing the smell of salt and fish; gulls cried overhead, and the sound of their voices mingled with the sound of surf rolling onto a beach. At the place where forest, mountain, and beach met–a corner of the mountain jutting into the sea–a hut had been built and supplied by local farmers, marking the starting point for a kortexi’s ascent of the mountain. Blakstar led Wingfoot into the corral next to the hut, filling the manger from supplies stored under the hut’s overhanging roof. Wingfoot drank deeply from the trough before sniffing the hay and grain and giving his master a whinny of approval. Blakstar scratched him behind his ears as he contentedly munched on the grain; Blakstar secured the gate, looking up at the mountain looming overhead. The Mountain of Vision looked like a large, rectangular block of granite set on one of its smaller ends by some giant hand. It four faces were sheer, and it could only be climbed by the teka path created for the kortexem. His masters had told him not to be intimidated by the mountain’s size, as the ascent took much less time than one might suppose. The teka path passed through the elemental realms before ending on the flat summit. The journey’s length, he had been taught, depended on how quickly the kortexi learned the lesson of each element, and his masters taught him that faith and trust were more important in these tests than physical strength, stamina, and skill. He entered the hut and began to eat a cold supper from the dried food he found stored within.
When he finished his meal, he removed his tattered clothes and boots and donned the simple white robe and sandals that would be his garb for the ascent. On the wall of the hut that butted against the mountain was a small round depression, chest high. Blakstar took the small token he had been given from a secret pocket inside one of his boots and placed it in the wall’s small depression. The token, looking like a small piece of carved obsidian, glowed with golden light and was slowly absorbed into the wall. When the token disappeared, Blakstar saw a door outlined, which he heard and saw grind slowly open. He passed quickly through, the door beginning to close as soon as it was fully open; it shut with a hollow thud, leaving no sign of a door. Magluku glowed along a short, rough-hewn hallway, leading to a vertical crack in the mountain’s west face. He came to the crack’s innermost limit and saw that iron rungs had been driven into the wall, forming a ladder in the living rock. As he climbed the ladder, the sound of the surf and gulls grew. The ladder ascended nearly one-hundred feet, ending on a ledge that ran out to the mountain’s west face. He could see a few faint stars winking in the sky over the sea, and the hut looking very small directly below him. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, the last magluku well below the top of the ladder, he noticed a faint golden glow emanating from a rod of iron that floated horizontally in the air. The rod was about as long as he was tall, round, and an inch in diameter. This glowing rod brought to mind the words of his last master, who prepared him for the ascent of the mountain: When you place your right hand on the rod, your sight will change: you will enter a monochrome world, neither night nor day, in which the rod becomes a golden, glowing line. The line is your path up the mountain that will lead through the realms of the elements. Do not let go of the rod! It is your lifeline; it alone opens and maintains the path. Do not be alarmed by anything you see or pass through: the rod and line will protect from harm and allow you to pass safely through every obstacle. Once you begin to move do not stop or turn from the path: walk forward at an even pace, ignoring the forces that seem to assail you. The rod will protect you from harm. It is best in some places along the path to simply close your eyes and continue to walk forward. You will understand what I mean and what the rod represents when you walk this path.
Blakstar stood next to the rod and grasped it firmly in his right hand. The world changed. Darkness turned to grayness; the stars stopped twinkling and became white spots in the gray sky. The mountain turned black; the sea rolling onto the dark gray beach turned to a shade of gray lighter than the sand and darker than the sky. The only color in his world came from the rod: a golden line above and next to a path not before seen, shot from the rod out of the crack and curved to his left. He started to walk slowly forward, and the rod glided smoothly along the golden line. On leaving the crack in the mountain’s west face, the path and line turned to the left and began to climb the northwest face of the mountain. The path was clear for the first quarter mile, gaining elevation quickly through a series of switchbacks. Blakstar turned another corner and faced a bulge in the cliff that blocked his path. The golden line passed through the rock, becoming hazy inside the stone and regaining its brightness when it left the rock. His first impulse was to try and step around the rock, but as he moved to the side the rod left the line and grew suddenly heavy; his vision returned to normal darkness and the path under his feet faded. Remembering the words of his final lesson, he stepped back to the path pulling the rod back into the line of golden light. Monochrome vision returned; he saw the rod sliding into the rock. The rock faded, turning misty orange, as the rod followed the golden line, and the kortexi reached forward with his left hand to touch the rock’s surface. He was surprised to see his own hand begin to fade and turn a misty, golden-orange, more surprised when the same hand seemed to slide into the rock, even as the rock seemed to slide into his hand. As he moved slowly forward, his forearm faded and entered the rock, turning the same misty golden-orange as his hand, even as the rock entered his forearm. His left foot stepped forward and into the rock, fading as the rock faded, turned misty orange, and entered his foot, and for the moment he was inside the rock, his monochrome world became misty orange, returning to monochrome as he left the rock. He pressed forward, feeling the rock passing through his body as his body passed through the rock. He shivered as he left the rock, wondering how he could have walked through a stone. The path ahead turned into the face of the mountain, and the kortexi involuntarily slowed his pace, thinking of how unsettling the feeling had been of oozing through the rock as the rock oozed through him.
Do not slow down! a voice in his mind commanded, lest you have not the strength to go on!
By force of will alone, the kortexi strode forward, closing his eyes as the rock face faded to orange mistiness under the rod’s touch. He pushed the rod forward, knowing that if he did not push it to the side, it would follow the golden line. The rock oozed through him; the kortexi slid through the rock, but the darkness in his mind was pierced suddenly by flames, a ponkola face flowing into the face of Marta, a girl from his childhood, changing to the face of the girl in his dream blond hair bare skin lashed by white scars red blood his blood claws raking flames “b” rune inscribed in blood burning screaming pain Marta-ponkola head back face ecstatic hips shuddering flames clawing blood flames bloodpainflames screamingbloodflamesflames. . . .
Come back next week for more of Blakstar’s ascent of the kortexi Mountain of Vision. If you cannot wait until next week, you can download the entire book for free from Smashwords; if you prefer a printed copy, you can purchase it from CreateSpace’s estore.
|Posted by gwermon on November 26, 2013 at 12:10 AM||comments (0)|
As this week is our American celebration of Thanksgiving, I must pause and express my gratitude to all of my readers for continuing to read! Also, I must express my thanks to the Father of us all, who gave me this gift, enabled me to train it, in the process of which filled my mind with the best that has been thought and written, and then gave me the opportunity to spend my strength & time using this wonderful gift, and sharing it with all of you! Thank you all!
Now, when we last left Klaybear, he had encountered a disguised Lord of Evil, who marked Klaybear with his sign; this week, we will witness the consequences of that mark, and how it corrupts Klaybear’s vision of his life’s quest. In this section, I chose to use ‘stream of consciousness’ throughout his corrupted vision in order to express its corruption: the vision is ‘crushed together’, one image of the future smashed into the next, and the next, and so forth. The visions play and replay, forward and backward, confusing the future more than revealing it, which is the point. As I counsel readers in the Author’s Preface to this volume, just let these images flow over you as you read them, knowing that, like Klaybear, little meaning can be gleaned from them at this point in the narrative. However, the farther you read (in all 7 volumes of The Redemption series), more and more of them will make sense; in later chapters, Klaybear, with the help of his master and others, will try and make sense of them, realizing that there are two distinct visions, although smashed together, and that each of these shows different outcomes for future events. These corrupted visions have the entire narrative of this series as their scope, so most of them will not become clear until later. Read on, then return to this section as the story continues to unfold, and in the end, the reader will make sense of these visions, even as the characters of our story do so!
Chapter 4, Part 2
Klaybear inhabited a shadow-world. Almost the moment consciousness returned, from long habit, a magluku flashed overhead, but its light was wan and pale. He felt himself rolled onto his back and saw a shadow reaching toward his right hand. He flinched when it touched his palm and arched in pain as his palm burned. He tried to cry out in anguish but felt his air blocked, his voice mute. His limbs did not respond to any command his mind issued, his body limp, numb but for the burning. He felt the shadow release his hand and the burning became less sharp although it lingered. Another shadow, pulsing with blackness, moved toward his forehead; his voiceless shout to flee went unheeded by his body. The pulsing shadow stabbed into his head, a dagger of pure flame slicing into the center of his mind. He wanted to scream, howl at the darkness, but his air was stopped. He heard only a slight moan escape his mouth in spite of the violent contraction of his diaphragm. His forehead screamed with agony where the shadow touched, and he again tried to will his body move away, to flee this torture, but his limbs remained limp. The shadow pulled away from his forehead, but the pain increased within his head. As if across great distances of time and space, he heard words that slammed into him like boulders falling from great heights: Now your waking will be little better than the nightmare of your sleeping. Awake, the sign will mark your separation from those whom you would save. Asleep, the sign will open visions of your future, and the horror of your visions will leave you sleepless. Then, perhaps, you will truly taste the bitterness of being chosen. The shadows withdrew, and a point of light blinked on, racing suddenly forward and entering his mind through the wound he had just received. Images crashed into every corner of his thoughts, leaving him momentarily stunned by the speed and disorder with which they accosted his brain.
Young haggard older dead brother father crawling trailing blood fluid leaking staining sand wind beach tattered cloth jagged splinter blood red gushing arching agony sliding eyes open vacant red masses hair flying wet rain running gheli yellow grinning teeth curved steel flying slicing flesh rolling red hair trailing blood stopping body headless eyes vacant staring skyward black hair hanging muscles straining bonds sapling arched slicing cloth naked ponkola gyrating hips mounting bound figure clawing vainly shouts voiceless arched dagger plunging chest heaving heart dripping blood eyes vacant crackling blue-black hair fighting alone slain wethem fallen under puri steel biting flesh withering stream blood bubbling drinking potion bottled agony body shrunken aging seconds crackling blue-black hair falling bald beauty withering sweating blood eyes sunken vacant flesh rotting falling round face curly brown hair feet entangling webs shuddering struggling vainly voiceless shouts misshapen monstrous spider-shape puri face slicing skin limbs consuming eyes vacant staring empty sockets purgle robed black bony hand shooting fire red hair flaming brother flying flaming falling sword exploding bony cage robe withering purgle brother eyes open ashes falling vacant crumpling body naked swollen lying lashing red hair honey slicing belly blood klare face hollow eyes blood vacant empty staring unchild empty vacant staring eyes green blood red vacant spilling staining green trampling grass laughter echoeslaughterblood painlaughter staring vacanteyeslaughter bloodbloodblood laughterpain painpainpainpain. . . .
A soft voice, barely heard, called to Klaybear three times before he opened his eyes. He saw the tumbled altar with its new mark, a sign whose presence on the now fallen altar to the One stabbed his heart with fear. Every muscle ached. He pulled himself along the ground to the altar’s defaced top, grabbed a jagged piece of stone, and tried vainly to scratch out the sign still smoldering in the granite. He remembered the pain of his hand and forehead, recalled the fire still smoldering in palm and forehead, and again passed painfully into darkness.
Older brother lost staining red tattered rags carrying shadow light rain soaking grass lightning flashing massed red hair passing crystal wind gheli tripping rolling head yellow teeth headless grimace red hair maghi holding brother lost blinking out black hair kortexi straining sapling ponkola gyrating hips arrow piercing blood throat gushing death stumbling blue-black hair falling life waters kortexi black mist rising beauty webs entangling awemi struggling older brother curved swords ice raining misshapen monstrous spider-shape puri face falling kortexi blade glowing slicing webs falling black-robed purgle rising bony hand shooting fire red hair flaming brother lunging flying sword exploding bony cage robe withering purgle brother eyes open ashes falling vacant crumpled body naked swollen lying lashing red honey hair slicing belly blood klare face empty staring eyes hollow green staining staff rod sword flaring belly whole lashes green white gold fire smoothing searing flesh blood chest moving eyes filling voice calling smile wicked robed evil dagger arching chest plunging open dead god laughter echoes blood stops dagger vanishing closing wound healing breath returning whirling black door Void thrusting evil robe anguish crying beyond timespacefalling closingdrawnoutscreamsclosing silence. . . .
Kindly face white hair beard smiling eyes deep blue stars opening eternity mouth moving “thou art chosen art thou chosen chosen thou art art thou bitterness chosen thou art chosen bitterness” weeping mother rebel brother faithful world forming chaos oceans flowing mountains rising fountains trees plants fruits growing filling land grasses animals chewing swimming fish crawling mud insects flying people walking council voices dividing rebel brother falling inside rock confining light red sickly glowing tunneling rocks breaking surface taking children torturing purem bodies fires horns blackness red burning anger fighting brother kindly mouth “thou art chosen art thou chosen chosen thou art art thou bitterness chosen thou art chosen bitterness” interrupting bitter rupturing chaos staff rod sword shigmar melbarth karble kings seklesem evil rupturing order chaos opposition sustaining chaos order rupturing “bitterness chosen art thou bitterness thou art thou chosen thou art chosen art thou” kindly brother anger burning blackness horns trace bodies purem torturing children surface rocks glowing sickly falling rebel dividing council walking people flying insects swimming fish chewing animals grasses growing fruits plants trees fountains mountains oceans chaos world faithful rebel mother weeping “bitterness chosen bitterness thou chosen thou art chosen” eternity stars deep eyes smiling beard white face silence screams closing space time crying anguish evil void door whirling breath wound vanishing dagger blood echoes god dead open plunging dagger wicked smile voice eyes chest blood flesh fire belly sword rod staff hollow eyes staring empty face Klare blood belly slicing lashing swollen naked crumpled vacant falling ashes eyes brother purgle exploding sword flying brother flaming hair fire bony purgle falling webs face puri spider-shape monstrous raining ice sword curved brother older awemi webs beauty mist black kortexi waters hair stumbling death throat blood piercing arrow gyrating ponkola sapling kortexi black brother maghi headless rolling gheli wind crystal hair massed lightning grass rain light shadow rags red brother lost red rags carried. . . .
Klaybear wrenched himself awake, escaping for the moment the ebb and flow of his second vision. His right hand and forehead throbbed in time with the heavy beating of his heart. He again drew energy from the air around him, turning it upon the pain in his palm and head, trying to repair the damage suffered under the hand of the strange messenger. A deer fly buzzed past; the birds twittered above; the burning in palm and forehead cooled, charred flesh replaced by whole skin, but the mark remained, a black stain in the new pink skin of his palm. He altered the energy focused on his palm, using green kailu fire to erase the mark inscribed there. But the touch of his healing fire upon the mark only increased his pain, the wound widened, and blood flowed red across his palm and down his wrist. He moved like a three-legged dog to the stream, thrusting his hand into the water. The heat felt so intense that he expected steam to bubble out of his palm, but the clear, cold mountain stream merely washed the blood from his hand and arm. The mark shone darkly within his palm; he again turned the energy to healing, closing the wound, repairing the flesh. The crystal surface of the water calmed, giving him a sudden reflection of his face; the new pink skin highlighted the stain of the mark inscribed in his forehead. He turned his hand in the water, accidentally bringing the mark in his palm into the reflection of the mark on his forehead. When the reflection merged with the mark in his palm, red fire exploded from the water, striking the mark on his forehead, knocking him off his knees and onto his back, his head hitting one of the stones from the fallen altar.
. . . shadow rain grass lightning massed red hair crystal wind gheli rolling headless grimace maghi holding brother black kortexi sapling ponkola gyrating arrow blood throat death hair life waters kortexi black mist webs awemi curved blades ice glowing kortexi stabbing monstrous spider-shape puri face falling webs purgle bony hand fire red flaming brother sword exploding purgle brother eyes ashes vacant crumpled body naked swollen lashing red honey hair slicing belly blood klare face staring hollow green staff rod sword belly whole fire searing flesh blood chest eyes voice smile wicked dagger chest open dead god laughter echoes blood dagger wound breath whirling black door void evil anguish beyond timespacescreamsclosingsilence. . . .
Young older brother father blood fluid sand wind beach cloth jagged splinter blood agony eyes vacant red hair wet rain gheli grinning teeth steel flesh rolling hair blood body headless eyes vacant skyward black hair muscles bonds sapling slicing cloth naked ponkola gyrating mounting bound clawing voiceless dagger chest heart blood eyes vacant crackling hair alone slain comrades purem steel flesh stream blood potion agony body aging crackling blue-black bald blood eyes vacant flesh round face curly hair feet webs voiceless misshapen monstrous spider-shape puri face skin limbs eyes vacant staring empty robe black bony fire green red brother flaming sword exploding robe purgle brother eyes ashes vacant crumpled body naked swollen hair honey slicing belly blood Klare face hollow eyes blood vacant staring unchild empty staring eyes blood vacant green grass laughter echoeslaughterbloodpainlaughterstaringvacanteyes laughterbloodbloodbloodlaughter painpainpainpainpain. . . .
Kindly face white beard smiling eyes blue stars eternity mouth moving “thou art chosen art thou chosen thou art thou bitterness chosen thou art bitterness” weeping mother rebel faithful world chaos oceans mountains fountains trees plants fruits land grasses animals chewing fish swimming insects flying people walking council rebel falling rock light sickly glowing rocks surface children torturing purem bodies fires horns burning anger brother mouth “thou art chosen art thou chosen thou art thou bitterness chosen thou art bitterness” evil order chaos staff rod sword shigmar melbarth karble kings seklesem rupturing chaos order chaos order “bitterness chosen thou chosen bitterness thou art thou chosen thou art chosen art thou” mouth brother anger burning blackness horns fires trace bodies purem children surface rocks glowing sickly light rock inside rebel voices council walking people flying insects swimming fish chewing animals grasses growing fruits plants trees fountains mountains oceans chaos forming world faithful rebel mother weeping “bitterness art thou chosen bitterness thou art chosen thou art chosen art thou” mouth eternity stars deep eyes smiling beard hair face kindly silence screams closing space time crying anguish robe void door black whirling breath healing wound dagger blood echoes laughter god dead chest dagger wicked smile voice eyes chest blood flesh fire gold white green lashes whole belly sword rod staff green hollow eyes staring empty face Klare blood belly slicing hair honey red lashing lying swollen naked body vacant ashes open eyes brother purgle robe bony sword brother flaming red green fire hand bony purgle robed-black webs face puri spider-shape monstrous misshapen older brother curved ice raining awemi webs beauty mist black kortexi waters life hair black-blue death throat blood arrow gyrating ponkola sapling kortexi black lost brother maghi red grimace headless teeth head gheli wind crystal red massed lightning grass rain light shadow rags red lost brother older lost. . . .
Klaybear groaned as he rolled onto his stomach, levering himself onto hands and knees. He crawled slowly, painfully to the stream, putting his face close to the water, drinking deeply. The crisp liquid cooled his parched throat, filled the emptiness, refreshed his soul. He rolled carefully onto his back, looking at the cedars towering above, slowly replenishing his energy. His palm and forehead burned as he drew energy to himself, but long before he could refill his empty reserves, the pain and burning rose to a fever pitch. He stopped the flow, still feeling weak, unable even to ward off the simplest elemental attack.
“My Lord!” he moaned. “It’s not supposed to be like this.” Tears welled in his eyes, flowed hot down his cheeks and into his ears. He sobbed. “It isn’t suppose to happen this way! How could I be chosen, marked as I am with the sign of thy rebel son? Who will believe me? Who will allow me to help?” He sobbed again. “Of what use am I with the sign of thy enemy emblazoned in my right palm and forehead? My Lord!” He rolled onto his side, cradling his aching head in his forearm. Tears flowed and sobs wracked the young wethi robed in green--a kailu of Shigmar, servant of Elos, loyal son of the One, marked with the sign of Gar, the One’s rebel son. . . .
Next week we will return to Blakstar and his ascent of the kortexi Mountain of Vision, the final step to becoming a full kortexi. If, however, you cannot wait until next week, the entire first book of The Redemption series, Chosen of the One, is available from Smashwords for free. If you prefer print, you can purchase this book from CreateSpace’s e-store here. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
|Posted by gwermon on November 18, 2013 at 11:35 AM||comments (0)|
This week’s installment of our epic fantasy, Chosen of the One, introduces the third of our main characters, Klaybear, an apprentice kailu, as he goes to and enters the sacred glade of the kailum, the final step in his apprenticeship, where he is to receive a vision of his life’s mission; however, he meets someone unexpected, and then everything goes horribly wrong. . . .
Chapter 4, Part 1
. . . then Gar went north
to Shigmar taking the disguise
of a kailu long absent from revered
halls of learning to enter the sacred
glade of visions where evil had never
walked before. . . .
from “The Great Year,” song cycle by Sir Kovar, written 3553
A lone, young wethi wandered the forested slopes of the Monti-stethreu, or “Mountains of the Fallen Star,” the range forming the northern border of the valley of Shigmar. The tall and broad shouldered wethi threw back his hood, revealing a mass of curly, brown hair. He placed one brown booted foot on the trunk of a fallen larch, cradled his wooden staff in the crook of his right arm, and hooked his left thumb in his wide leather belt. His brown eyes gazed at the forest surrounding him, seeing occasional patches of snow in sunken hollows and fresh new growth where the sun touched the forest floor. Squirrels poked heads out of holes, inspecting the world they had left in the grip of winter and seeking fresh morsels to satisfy the hunger born of a long winter’s sleep. The morning dew glistened and steamed wherever the sunlight touched; birds sang songs of renewal, passing overhead as they gathered twigs for new nests. The young wethi inhaled deeply the air heavy with the scents of fir and pine. He sighed as he exhaled. For him, the forest was paradise, his place to go for gathering strength and peace. He inhaled again and let the air escape slowly before stepping over the fallen larch and moving deeper into the forest.
His footfalls made no sound as he walked on the spongy mold of decaying leaves, needles, and bark. The path he followed climbed closer to the granite cliff face jutting out of the forest, winding and turning back on itself as it climbed toward the cliff. He heard the sound of water falling, growing to a roar as he left the trees and approached the cliff. He paused at the final switchback, admiring the line of cascading water issuing from a cleft overhead and falling to a small pool some fifty feet below. The sound of the water, swollen by the spring melt, drowned out the chatter of the birds bathing in the mist. He reluctantly turned from the view, climbed the last fifty yards, and entered what appeared from the distance to be a crack in the granite cliff. A short, damp tunnel ended in a smooth wall, which he tapped seven times with the end of his now green-glowing staff. With the seventh rap, faint silver lines appeared, tracing intricate designs that surrounded the symbol of Shigmar about chest-high in the stone face. He pulled a silver amulet from inside his green robes, hanging from a chain around his neck, and placed it on the glowing symbol. The silver lines flared before fading, and the stone became transparent as a doorway opened into the glade. Still holding the silver amulet before him, he stepped from the darkness of the tunnel into the sunlight filling the glade.
The clear blue sky bent down to touch the jagged, snow-capped mountains above him. Tall, ancient cedars filled the secret glade, blocking all other views. After Shigmar came to the valley to form his order of kailum, he received a vision of this secret glade and what he must do to enter. The first kailu found the waterfall and the narrow opening, and he created the orthek that would open the doorway and prevent the uninitiated from finding this secret place. In Shigmar’s order, the glade served as a place of vision and testing similar to the maghem’s Tower of Testing and the kortexem’s Mountain of Vision. At the end of his or her apprenticeship, the new kailu would go to the glade to be tested and perhaps receive a vision of his or her life’s work. Klaybear leaned on his staff and closed his eyes, drawing inner strength from the peace and solitude of the glade. As his vision turned inward, he felt the very air of the glade alive with elemental energy, and where the air touched his skin, the hair on his hands, face, and head tingled as the energy flowed from the surrounding air into his being. He shivered. Opening his eyes, he saw his hands and staff pulsing with power in time with the beating of his heart. Flash-flash, Flash-flash, Flash-flash . . . Flash-flash . . . the beat slowed, and he knew he had drawn too much energy. Flash . . . flash. He raised his staff and shouted the words, releasing a pillar of green fire heavenward, splitting the silence with reverberations that shook the ground and caused the ancient cedars to sway away from the fiery pillar, as if avoiding the unnatural concentration of elemental energy released by the kailu. Klaybear leaned heavily on his staff, swaying with the trees and again drawing energy from the air around him. He stopped the flow sooner this time, careful not to draw in too much. The last, distant rumbles of his fire faded, and he could almost hear the trees sigh patiently at another novice mistake, caused by the concentration of elemental forces in this sacred place.
“Forgive, ancient ones,” Klaybear said with a bow.
“They are used to it,” a new voice replied.
At the glade’s heart lay a small clearing with an altar of stones. Behind the altar, a boulder, shaped like a chair, held the wethi who had spoken, dressed in similar green robes, hood, tunic, and breeches. One black-booted foot rested across the other knee; the boots were shiny, without a spot; the robes crisp and ironed; the wethi’s dark brown hair and beard groomed perfectly, and his eyes blue and bright, like his smile. Klaybear moved slowly toward him, renewing his connection to the elemental forces of the glade without drawing any to himself.
“I am impressed by your childish display,” the stranger said; “do you often trouble the sky with such an ostentatious display of raw force?”
“I was warned of the energy filling this glade, although unprepared for how quickly it would over-replenish my reserves,” Klaybear replied. “So you are right in calling it ‘childish’; it was a novice mistake.” Klaybear halted in front of the altar, leaning on his staff. “Who are you?” he asked, “I don’t remember seeing you at any of the annual gatherings of the mekala.”
“A messenger, simply garbed in a manner that would be familiar to you,” the stranger replied.
“Who sent you?” Klaybear asked.
“No one,” the wethi said, and the blue of his eyes deepened, approaching violet.
“Then. . . .”
“I am both sent and sender, message and messenger. I am come to both open and close your vision, to inform and confuse, clear and cloud all the issues of your life.”
“What?” Klaybear asked, confused.
“You came seeking a vision, I sent and came myself to grant you a vision.”
Before Klaybear knew it had happened, his link to the elemental forces surrounding him was severed and the energy he held within himself drained away. His knees gave way, hands slipped from the staff, and his body sank into darkness.
Gar rose from his seat, eyes now a deep violet, and passed around the altar to where Klaybear lay in a heap. Stooping next to the fallen kailu, he grabbed the kailu’s right hand with his right hand; the unconscious Klaybear flinched at the touch of Gar’s hand. Smoke squirted from between their hands as the Lord of Evil continued to squeeze the fallen kailu’s hand, until a moan escaped from Klaybear. Then Gar released the hand, which continued to smolder, grunted some words, and Gar’s hand pulsed with red light. He pressed his glowing right hand against Klaybear’s forehead, the kailu arched in silent agony, and smoke again squirted from under Gar’s hand and between his red-glowing fingers. When the glow faded the Lord of Evil lifted his hand and examined the sign inscribed by fire into the fallen wethi’s forehead.
“Now your waking will be little better than the nightmare of your sleeping,” Gar said. “Awake, the sign will mark your separation from those whom you would save. Asleep, the sign will open visions of your future, and the horror of your visions will leave you sleepless. Then, perhaps, you will truly taste the bitterness of being chosen.”
Gar raised himself and faced the altar. His right hand held a ball of flame that he tossed onto the altar. The ball grew, brightened, and surrounded the altar. Sparks exploded from the altar’s flat surface, sizzling on the wet turf. The altar tumbled; the flames winked out, leaving the glade in mournful silence. The flat stone that had been the altar’s top now bore a mark, inscribed by flame from the same hand, similar to the mark, still smoldering on Klaybear’s forehead. Only after the fall of the altar did the Lord of Evil smile, his eyes becoming bright blue again. He gestured with his hand and a black archway opened in the air before him; he glanced once at the fallen kailu before stepping into the archway, which vanished as soon as he had passed through. . . .
Come back next week for another installment, when we will experience, with Klaybear, the full consequences of his encounter with Gar. Or, if you cannot wait until next week, download the entire novel from Smashwords for free!
|Posted by gwermon on November 12, 2013 at 12:15 AM||comments (0)|
For those of our readers, friends, and family who would rather read paper than digital versions of my works, we are in the process of making them available in print; the first, our collection of love poems, Words Fail, is now available in CreateSpace’s web store! Others will shortly follow, as soon as they are formatted to my satisfaction–we will let everyone know as soon as they are available!
This week’s installment of our epic, Chosen of the One, concludes Chapter 3, recounting the meeting, in the realm of dreams, of Sir Blakstar and his future mate, Kovaine, a meeting that doesn’t go as well as our kortexi might have thought. . . .
Chapter 3, Part 3
“Do not be afraid, Sir Blakstar,” a kindly voice, filled with concern, spoke beside him, “you are not losing your mind.”
Blakstar jerked his head around and saw a figure, cloaked in white, standing beside him, the only thing visible in the darkness, and the only sound audible in the silence; the figure’s head was covered with a hood of the same light, brilliantly-white material that overshadowed his face, so all that the kortexi could discern of the figure was that he was of a lighter build than Blakstar and as tall.
“Who . . . what . . . how?” Blakstar stammered, his lips not capable of asking all the questions in his mind.
“This is the world of dreams, Sir Blakstar,” the figure answered, “and your mind has fled here to escape the horror your body is about to suffer.”
“But . . . I don’t understand.”
“If you knew what happens to you,” the figure went on, his voice more kindly than before, “what my rebellious brother has perpetrated upon you, you would be incapable of acting at all, let alone fulfilling the mission our Father has reserved for you, and my brother would win by default; for this reason, I have brought you here, to protect you and protect the future.”
“I still do not understand,” Blakstar said, “who are you?”
“I am . . . ,” the figure began, then hesitated before continuing, “a friend, someone who has your best interests at heart, and there is a place I must show you, and someone you must meet–a young wetha, about your age, who will one day become your mate.” The figure pointed, and a column of light illuminated a second, smaller figure, huddled on the ground; all Blakstar could see of this second figure was her golden hair and the shiny black silk of her robe. Blakstar suddenly realized what his ‘friend’ had said about this new figure; he turned to look at the figure in white, and felt his own chin drop, then he rushed forward and knelt beside the fallen wetha, carefully taking one of her small hands, surprised to feel rough calluses on the palm and fingers of the hand that looked too pretty to have ever done any work.
“My lady,” he spoke in a soft voice, “are you injured?”
She pulled her hand from his, the hand going to her temple. “I . . . ,” she tried to speak, then pushed herself into a sitting position, “. . . someone hit me,” she continued, looking around blearily.
Blakstar stared at her elfin face, her blue eyes, noticing that her mouth and lips seemed slightly too wide and large for her small face, but her eyes held him, seeming to him to be two blue sapphires; he took her hand and held it gently, smiling down at her.
Her eyes continued to look around, finally focusing on him and his dark eyes staring at her; she gasped and crawled backward away from him. “You!” she hissed, looking at him in fear and anger. “Where am I? What have you done to me?” She scrambled to her feet, continuing to back away and crouching with her hands out in front.
“Do not be afraid,” the figure in white spoke in the same, calming voice. “You have joined us in the world of dreams.”
“This is a dream?” she asked, relaxing only slightly.
Blakstar stood and started toward her.
“Stay where you are!” she snapped, seeing him move toward her.
“Please,” Blakstar implored, “I mean you no harm, you of all wetham.”
“I don’t believe you, kortexi!” she exclaimed. “I know you’re trying to trick me into lowering my guard: you kortexem kill all my kind on sight for what we are!”
Blakstar shook his head and held out his hand to her, inviting her to take it. “All I know of you, my lady,” he said, “is that you are my destined mate.”
She snorted. “You’ll change your mind about that,” she scoffed, “as soon as you find out what I really am.”
A musical sound interrupted them, and both Blakstar and the wetha turned to the source of the sound and saw that the figure in white was laughing, a happy and infectious sound that seemed out of place in this shadowy realm.
“You are very amusing,” the figure laughed, “considering that before you joined us, you attacked two ponkolam to assert your exclusive right to possess Sir Blakstar for yourself, and you were so insistent in asserting your right to him that you attacked them without a weapon,” he added, still chuckling to himself.
The wetha blushed furiously. “How do you . . . how could you . . . that doesn’t matter!” she stammered and finally exclaimed heatedly.
“A blush from you, my dear girl?” the figure asked, amused. “Why, I don’t think you have blushed since you were a small child!”
The wetha tried to respond, but the figure’s words had flustered her; Blakstar took a hesitant step toward her, his hand still held out.
“Please, my lady, I assure you that I mean you no harm,” he said, “that I would . . . ,” he started to go on, but gasped suddenly and clutched at his chest. He felt a burning, searing pain there, as if someone were drawing lines on his chest with fire. He tore open his white robe and saw red lines burning brightly across his chest; he heard the girl gasp and looked up to see her pointing at him with one hand and covering her mouth with the other, but before he could ask her what was wrong, he saw both her hands fly to her own chest, and she cried out in similar pain. She tore open her own robe, and Blakstar caught a glimpse of red light before he averted his eyes as it was improper for him to look at her bare chest before they were married. He heard her gasp again.
“What is happening to me?” she cried. “Why is the sign of Gar burned with fire onto my chest? Has he sold himself to the Great Lord, and dragged me with him? I want nothing to do with Gar or anyone who associates with him!”
A feeling of dread filled Blakstar, and he looked again at the symbol on his own chest and realized that she was right: it was Gar’s sign burned into his chest. He opened his mouth to deny that he was Gar’s servant, when he felt the area at the bottom of his belly and the top of his loins burn with similar lines of fire. He opened his robe further to see new lines, but he could tell at once this was a different sign, and he heard the wetha stifle another scream of pain. He looked up and, chancing a glance, saw her hunched over, her hands in the same place on her own body as the new sign on his own, then she suddenly straightened, her hands going to her lower back; Blakstar hastily turned his eyes back to himself, realizing that it was a ‘b’ rune written in fire on the lowest part of his belly. Curiosity drew his eyes to the girl once more, and he saw that she had pulled her short robe up and off her bottom, which made him cringe, but there was the same rune written in fire at the base of her spine. She was glaring at him over her shoulder, having noticed the rune inscribed on the lowest part of his belly; he hastily closed his robe, which caused her to grin mischievously.
“This is your fault!” she exclaimed, the grin sliding off her face as she stabbed a finger at him, causing him to jump. He tried to look away, since she did not bother to close her robe. “You have the same marks on you!”
“It is not his fault any more than it is yours,” the figure said, still speaking in the same calm voice. “It is the fault of my rebellious brother, Gar, who seeks to thwart the plan by marking you both in this way.”
“I don’t believe you!” she denied. “I don’t even know who you are, so why should I accept anything you say, since this is only a dream?”
“Ah, but this is a special dream–a special place,” the figure replied, and they could just see his smile. “I understand how you feel,” he went on calmly, “but you must trust me, else Gar has already won.”
She started to protest, but the figure raised his hand and stopped her; Blakstar was surprised that she obeyed him.
“There is little time left,” the figure went on, waving his arm. The darkness around them shimmered and became a clearing in the forest with the kortexem’s mountain towering nearby. This clearing was blackened and burned; twisted trees surrounded it. Near the center and turned toward the mountain, a blackened tree, more twisted than the others, grew at an odd angle to the ground; it curved away from the mountain, staying close to the ground, as if some giant foot had crushed it when a sapling. The branches on the trunk had been broken off, leaving foot long stubs seared clean by whatever fire had blackened both the tree and the surrounding glade.
“I show you this place so that the two of you will know where you can meet when you dream,” the figure went on. “Here you will come in your dreams; here you will be able to get to know one another, and I exhort you to look past your differences, for you will find that you are more alike than you are different.”
The wetha opened her mouth to retort, but her form suddenly flattened and began to shrink; Blakstar ran toward her.
“I will find you and rescue you!” he shouted to her. He could see that she heard him, but she looked troubled, less sure of herself as she faded from view. Blakstar turned to face the figure in white. “I never got her name,” he said, and felt himself flattening and being pulled out of the world of dreams. As his mind went blank, he heard a voice speak, as soft as an echo, the voice of the figure whispering to him.
“But you already know it. . . .”
Come back next week when we will meet the third of the principle chosen, Klaybear, an apprentice kailu of Shigmar as he goes to his order’s sacred grove to receive a vision from the One of his life’s mission, although he finds someone he did not expect, waiting for him. If you do not want to wait another week, download the entire book from Smashwords for free!
|Posted by gwermon on November 6, 2013 at 2:20 PM||comments (0)|
In Sunday's edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a short review of our books; find it here!
|Posted by gwermon on November 5, 2013 at 12:20 AM||comments (0)|
We must first express our thanks to Ginger Meurer, who reviewed one of our books in yesterday’s edition of the Las Vegas Review Journal. As soon as we find the link, we will post it here for all our readers!
This week’s installment of Chosen of the One, introduces a character of vital importance to our kortexi, Sir Blakstar, one who will play a significant role later in our epic. Her name is Kovaine, a slave of the red kailum, daughter of a Belford Madame and a sea captain, both of whom will also appear later in the story. Enjoy!
Chapter 3, Part 2
Kovaine stood slowly, the pain from whip lashes still sharp although she had applied the ointment she had stolen from one of the red kailum–a fair exchange for how rough he had been with her. She had slept late, much later than usual, as she had been kept awake by her masters, beaten for refusing to join the Magsamel’s group of favored karam; it must be past noon, and she felt a rumble in her stomach, but the thought of eating made her ill. She belted on a silk robe, hoping that it would irritate her sore skin less than the rough-spun wool of her normal work clothes. She wished that she could get a message to her mother across the river in Belford, asking her to bring a supply of healing herbs and salves when she visited the red kailu fortress in three days; it was only her mother’s relationship with the Master of Arms that gave her any relief from the horror of her life as a slave to the red kailum. She looked at her face in the small mirror above her washstand and saw dark circles beneath her blue eyes along with the dirty tracks of her tears; her blond hair looked stringy and dirty, and her scalp itched terribly. She recognized that she should wash her hair and face before leaving her cell, but she ruthlessly put down the urge, reaching into a clay pot she kept hidden behind the wash stand and pulling out a handful of ashes, shared it between both hands, then artfully tossed the ashes onto her head and hair. With the ash still clinging to her fingers and palms, she dirtied her face, covering the tear tracks, then ran both hands through her shoulder length hair, ensuring that the golden color did not show through the ash and oil. She looked at her small wardrobe and considered throwing the dirty black dress over her silk robe, since she would be beaten again if anyone caught her wearing silk to work in the kitchens. Her mother kept trying to convince her that her beatings would be fewer if she would become pliable and do what her masters wanted, which included frequent baths and attention to her appearance–to attract their notice, her mother often said. Their notice was precisely what she was trying to avoid, as she had nearly become one of the Magsamel’s favorites on the previous day. She shuddered at the thought, knowing that few survived the attentions of the head of the red kailu order for very long.
Better not to be too obvious, she thought, taking the black wool work dress from her wardrobe and preparing to pull it over her head.
Her door crashed open, and a magluku flared in the doorway, momentarily blinding her.
“Are you certain this is the right one?” a voice that clanked like old bones asked.
“Yes, my lord,” a simpering voice that sounded familiar to her replied, “this one is the daughter of the kara across the river–the one who is a favorite of Master Lufekuro and visits each week, bringing several. . . .”
“I don’t care about her filthy habits!” the bony voice interrupted. “As long as this is her daughter, then she is the one I want; bring her!”
Rough hands grabbed both her arms and dragged her from her room into the hall; before her eyes could adjust to the dim light in the hallway outside her room, someone blindfolded her, then pulled her silk robe off her shoulders and arms. Her arms were forced in front of her and bound tightly together with a leather thong.
“She is quite dirty, my lord,” the simpering voice noted, “should we wash her?”
There was a pause as if the other was considering the question.
“We should at least rinse the dirt out of her hair,” the bony voice answered. “Our master does want that wretched kortexi to have some idea what she looks like, beyond her naked body,” he finished and began to laugh, which sounded to her as if someone were shaking a bag filled with old bones. Several other voices laughed along with the bony voice. “You!” the bony voice snapped imperiously. “Grab that pitcher of water from her room–it is all we have time for.”
“Bend over kara,” the simpering voice whispered next to her ear, “although the only surprise you’ll get is from the water!” he laughed wickedly, causing other voices to laugh.
“Keep on task!” the bony voice snapped. “You can play with her after we have fulfilled the Great Lord’s orders.”
She was roughly bent forward and the contents of her water pitcher were slowly poured over her head; someone else scrubbed at her hair and scalp while the lukewarm water was dumped on her hair; it splashed on the stone floor and wet her feet and legs up past her knees. The strong hands jerked her upright, and the water still on her head began running and dripping onto her shoulders and back, causing the lash marks to sting.
“He’ll be most impressed with her,” the simpering voice noted sarcastically.
“Get that robe on her,” the bony voice growled, “we don’t have time for your usual nonsense!”
“Yes, my lord,” the simpering voice replied, and the hands threw an itchy wool robe onto her shoulders. She drew a sharp breath, feeling pain from her neck to her buttocks; the robe was belted tightly around her, pinning her arms more closely against her front. The hands pushed her forward, holding her up when she stumbled, and she passed through something that felt like a curtain of ice, stepping from stone onto rough ground. The scent of pine and fir filled her nostrils, with an undercurrent of smoke and salt. They stopped moving.
“Wait here,” the bony voice said, “I will return with our guest within the hour.”
“As you wish, my lord,” the simpering voice replied then fell silent.
Kovaine heard sounds around her, and she soon realized that the sounds were not coming from the space immediately around where she stood blindfolded but were more distant, as if the place where she stood were avoided by the life around it. She recognized several familiar bird calls, but the one most prevalent was that of gulls, and if she focused her attention to her left, she could make out the sounds of waves rolling onto a beach. The scents told her that she must be in a forest near the sea, but where that forest was, or which sea, she had no idea; the nearest forest to Belford was a swamp, nowhere near the sea. Her thoughts shifted back to the conversation of her captors, and she wondered why they came looking for her, specifically, what they meant to do with her, and why this kortexi? She only knew that the order was a northern one, filled with prudish zealots, worse than other northerners, who were some sort of holy warriors that would kill a kara on sight–what did she have to do with any northerner, let alone, a kortexi? Her wounds hurt, and she wanted to sit down, at least, if her captors would allow it.
“Can I sit down while we wait?” she asked in her most polite voice.
“No, I think not,” the simpering voice replied.
“It is too bad we don’t know how long that purgle will be,” a second, rough voice noted, “then we could amuse ourselves while we wait–she is quite pretty, for a kara slave,” he added, laughing gruffly; two others laughed with him.
“Yes, too bad,” the simpering voice agreed while the others laughed, “but Lord Xythrax would obliterate us all, if he caught us.” His statement stopped their laughter, and silence returned, but for the natural sounds, for several moments.
“I’d like to obliterate him!” the rough voice exclaimed suddenly. “I can’t stand him, or any of the others like him!”
“That kind of talk will get you transformed into one of his toy nekerpu,” the simpering voice replied. “Would you like to do his bidding for the rest of time?” he asked.
“Grr!” the rough voice answered, and Kovaine could tell that he was afraid. “The thought makes my blood turn to ice!”
“It should, unless you are stupid,” a nasally voice noted. “Besides, none know where he has hidden his soul–if we could discover that little fact . . . ,” he let his voice trail off, and the rough voice snorted.
“Aye, if only,” the rough voice said, “but you are more likely to see me as Magsamel first!” Three of them laughed at this idea.
“Quiet! Someone is coming!” the simpering voice hissed.
“Where is Xythrax?” a purring, female voice asked, but there was a note of challenge and roughness in the voice.
“Off retrieving our guest,” the simpering voice replied; the others laughed at this response, but their laughter sounded strained.
“So, she is the one,” the female stated. “She doesn’t look like much to me, but then, I am no kortexi, and who can understand their taste in females?” she asked, a hint of laughter mixed with a note of sarcasm in her sultry voice; the red kailum holding her laughed raucously.
“She is one of our kara slaves,” the simpering voice noted when the laughter died away, “the daughter of a prominent kara of Belford.”
“How fitting!” the female exclaimed. “The kortexi and the kara–a perfect pair . . . once we have finished with them both,” she went on after a slight pause and igniting the laughter again.
“Does she know?” the female voice asked.
“She has been told nothing,” the simpering voice answered.
“Now is the time to tell her . . . ,” the female voice began, then paused, “but only enough to start her wondering.”
“Xythrax never told us to . . . ,” the simpering voice tried to protest, but the female cut him off abruptly.
“He told you only what you needed to know,” she snapped, “and now I will tell her what she needs to know: the kortexi is your destined mate; it amused the Great Lord to find you, and bring you to this kortexi, your future husband, only to separate you again, without either of you really knowing anything about the other. This will make his search more . . . interesting,” she added, her voice more sultry, almost a purr, before she laughed wickedly; the others joined her.
“Me? Marry a kortexi?” Kovaine said. “He will kill me as soon as he learns what I am, what you have made me into.”
The female voice laughed again. “He might just do that,” she said, “which will make his pain, on realization of what he has done, all the more sweet.”
Kovaine tried to pull away from those holding her, but her struggling only caused them to grip her tighter; she stopped struggling in order to stop the pain from their vise-like hands. She tried slumping in apparent defeat, to get them to relax their hold on her, but they only laughed harder and pulled her to her feet.
“Look!” the nasal voice exclaimed, stopping both their laughter and her struggling. “Our master returns!”
“I must fetch the breeder,” the female said.
Kovaine heard the sounds of the female voice leaving, then heard the sounds of many heavy feet, soon followed by the bony voice speaking, which must have been Xythrax.
“Yes,” Xythrax’s bony, deep voice began, “I have loosened my hold upon you, but only so that you may struggle against your plight and cause yourself further injury. Remember that I, Xythrax, right hand of Gar, Great Lord of the Universe, hold you a finger’s width from your personal hell. The Great Lord commanded your capture, chosen of the One, the would-be mightiest warrior to ever walk the land, but being chosen is to become a lodestone for evil: the brighter your light shines, the greater the darkness that will surround you and snuff out your light. The Great Lord commanded that we give you special treatment, for you will create the instrument of your own downfall. Behold,” he said, raising his voice, “a pura breeder.”
The sounds that followed were too soft for Kovaine to distinguish what they were, so she focused instead upon the words; she wondered what Xythrax meant by calling this kortexi chosen of the One, and the other things about lodestones and lights. Then another thought occurred to her: if these kortexi were as prudish as she had heard, how would this one, her future mate, feel about being forced to have sex with a pura? Her thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of ripping cloth, followed by a new voice so loud it echoed around her.
“No!” the kortexi shouted in denial of what she guessed must be happening, then his shout became a howl of anguish that tore at her insides; she felt sorry for the kortexi captive, remembering how it felt to be forced.
“Remember,” Xythrax said, “you must not resist, lest I plunge you into the flames of your physical hell. We give this service to all would-be kortexem who fall into our hands.”
“Claws, not hands,” the female voice purred. “You will give me much pleasure, young one, once the breeder has finished with you.”
“Rupansa!” a new female voice cracked like a whip. “He is mine,” the voice hissed, “not yours! I was chosen for this!”
“Demansa, dear sister,” the first female voice–Rupansa–simpered, “I was merely preparing him for you. . . .”
“Lying potuka!” the second, Demansa, snapped. “Our master will feed you to his pet if you do not follow the plan, especially with this one, and the plan says I have him first–the strongest seed produces the most powerful offspring.”
Rupansa laughed. “Not in one who has never . . . ,” she paused, for Kovaine had screamed and broken free of her captors, hurtling herself at the ponkolam, although she could not see them.
“No! You won’t have him!” Kovaine screamed. “He’s mine!” When the second ponkola, Demansa, had appeared and started speaking, something awoke deep inside Kovaine, a feeling that she had never felt in all her life, a feeling of jealousy, and with it, a desire to possess the unnamed northerner for herself alone. As the feeling of jealousy grew, her anger grew with it, until the moment when Rupansa laughed. Since the attention of her captors was on the two ponkolam, Kovaine managed to jerk her arms free of their clutching hands and leap forward; one of the red kailum reached out to snatch her back, catching her hood and pulling both hood and blindfold free. Kovaine saw both ponkolam looking at her, looks of surprise mingled with amusement on their faces, neither making any move to protect themselves, and then her eyes met those of the kortexi, his straight black hair disheveled, his clothes torn open revealing a well-muscled chest, stomach, strong thighs and loins, but instead of feeling a surge of desire when her eyes met his dark eyes, she felt a wave of fear and panic that caused her to stagger to a halt; an instant later, the heavy hand of one of her captors struck the side of her head, sending her body sprawling and her mind into darkness. . . .
Come back again for the next installment of the first book in our epic fantasy series, The Redemption, in which we will see Blakstar & Kovaine’s first meeting, facilitated by Elos while all three share the same dream, distracting Blakstar from what Xythrax and the ponkola sisters, Demansa & Rupansa, are doing to him. Or, if you cannot wait for next week, go to Smashwords and download the entire book for free!
|Posted by gwermon on October 29, 2013 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
In this week’s installment of the first book of our epic fantasy, Chosen of the One, we meet the kortexi, Sir Blakstar, and follow him on his journey to the Mountain of Vision, the final test for the initiate to become a full member of the order. Enjoy!
Chapter 3, Part 1
It is not the hidden trap–the one we do not see–that catches us, but the one hidden in plain sight.
Attributed to Fereghen Wulfrik, ruled 983-1027
As the sun cast its pink rays on the village of Artowgar, the young kortexi mounted his white and gray stallion, Wingfoot, and set off at a trot on the final leg of his journey to the Mountain of Vision. His thoughts were troubled, although he smiled and waved to the innkeeper, while he pondered the words of his master, the Wesento of Karble. On a similar bright morning, eight days before, the Wesento carefully uncovered his montista. The aged senior kortexi peered intently into the clear depths of the fist-sized stone, as was customary before sending the newly made kortexi to the Mountain for final testing. The Wesento turned pale.
“It cannot be!” He covered the stone with his hands, closed his eyes, bowed his head, and prayed silently. After a few moments passed in silence, the Wesento opened his eyes, removed his hands, and looked again into the depths of his montista. He drew breath sharply; tears wet his eyes and wrinkled cheeks. He raised his eyes slowly and with difficulty to the new kortexi; he pushed his long, white locks back from his face.
“Blakstar,” his voice cracked, heavy with age, “I cannot see the full measure of your greatness; you will accomplish things that kortexem since Sir Karble first established our order have dreamed of, but the path to that greatness leads through such misery and anguish that my heart nearly failed me to glimpse it. You are surrounded by an ocean of foes that howl for your ruin. They have become so powerful that even the One himself may not be able to protect you from them all. You walk barefoot upon the edge of a sword: to stray would lead to our utter ruin, to walk this path will be as painful to you as walking the blade’s edge.” The Wesento stopped and sobbed, covering his montista with its golden velvet cloth. “Remember, you are the lump of coal that yields a diamond following extreme pressures and heat, for a diamond you will be, though all the fires of Kolu come to torture and refine you, though your suffering pushes you to the threshold of death. Be bold but cautious: the happiness and lives of generations yet unborn depend upon your successful transformation from coal to diamond.”
He had been at first shaken by the Wesento’s words, starting at every shadow and sound of approaching travelers. Yet no sea of foes had attacked him: his journey thus far had been quiet and pleasant, belying the Wesento’s words. The road south from Karble to Dolvert, by ferry across Misty Lake to Outlag, and from Outlag to Artowgar were as peaceful and free from incident as any traveler could wish. The seklesem patrolling the way told tales of tranquil travelers, unmolested by rogue bands of ghelem or marauding purem, as if all forces of evil had been withdrawn. However, Blakstar knew that many creatures of evil walked unseen to normal eyes, creatures that, as his skills matured, he would be able to detect. Perhaps they were the sea of foes seen by the Wesento; then again, perhaps his foes merely waited somewhere ahead, when his path left the main road and the people traveling it for the way through the forested slopes of the coastal range of rolling hills bordering the Western Ocean. Seklesem patrolled this area heavily to protect the young kortexem as they journeyed to the mountain, but the seklesem, although the best soldiers, foresters, and trackers, could not be in all places at once. An ambush needed only seconds to occur, and the young kortexi would lay by the trail, dead from a quick knife thrust or silent arrow. Many tales of this kind were told in Karble, as also tales of kortexem rescued from ruin at the last moment by a company of seklesem tracking their assailants. Blakstar frowned; his eyes searched every shadow, caught every movement; his ears strained at the sounds following him, listening for any hint of hostile pursuit. He saw farmers and farm wives headed into their fields, shepherds leading their flocks into the hills, and heard the sounds of other travelers on their way south. A light breeze, from the west, stirred the grass and caressed his cheeks, bringing with it the scent of fir and cedar mixed with the salty tang of the sea. The day promised to be hot.
Shortly after midmorning, the road and river turned to the east, and the kortexi left the road and found the ford, crossing the Misty River and entering the narrow trail that led to the Mountain. The trail climbed into the coastal range next to one of the many streams that fed the Misty River. Blakstar stopped beside the stream to rest and water Wingfoot and drink the clear running water. His teeth ached as he drank the ice-cold water, thick with minerals, and a cone of cold formed below his heart, low and left in his chest. He splashed water on his face, head, and neck; he shivered as water droplets slid down his back beneath his tunic. Wingfoot stamped and blew before he joined his rider for another drink from the mountain stream. Blakstar felt an odd tingle between his shoulders, but it was not from the water; Wingfoot jerked his head up, ears rotating. The questing kortexi looked across the stream, leaping to his feet and drawing his sword. They stood this way for a time, straining to find the source of the sound that startled them both. The horse, chin still dripping, sniffed and blew, with his ears pointed across the stream. Momentarily satisfied, Wingfoot lowered his head again to the water to drink, ears still trained across the stream. Blakstar saw nothing, heard nothing more, yet he still felt the tingle, now in the center of his sternum, as if he had been touched lightly by an unseen hand. Wingfoot startled a second time, looking behind them; Blakstar now felt the tingle in his back and chest, no matter which way he turned. He grabbed the reins and mounted quickly, urging Wingfoot to a trot up the trail.
Noon came, and Blakstar’s sense of watchfulness increased. He felt, rather than saw, enemies before and behind him. He believed they increased in number as the tingling in his back and chest increased in strength, such that he felt those behind pushed him forward while those ahead resisted his progress. He stopped again to water and rest Wingfoot and allow the stallion to munch on some grain while the kortexi chewed dried meat and hard, wheat flour biscuits. Both, however, became restless after only a few minutes passed; Blakstar could not finish the strip of meat he held, and Wingfoot, blowing in his nosebag as his ears rotated one way then another, finally stamped impatiently and shook his head. The kortexi removed the nosebag and stowed it in his saddlebags with his lunch. As he tied closed the flap of his saddlebags, he felt an odd heat about his person, a heat he immediately recognized. He reacted according to the formula drilled into him by his kortexi masters: turn toward the feeling, duck, and roll in a direction perpendicular to the source of the feeling. But the maghi whose will guided the orthek anticipated such a move and merely directed the red shimmering net to fall on the kortexi as he rolled, entangling him in its glowing lines. When the texarti encircled Blakstar, his limbs stiffened suddenly, frozen in the act of drawing his sword, and, half-risen to his feet, he fell, a statue on its side.
“Well, well, well,” clanked a voice, laughing at Blakstar’s plight. Black shoes and robes came into Blakstar’s view, cheek pressed against the grass, eyes staring at the ground. “Another mighty kortexi,” the voice continued, mocking, “captured by one of the simplest, yet powerful, ortheks.” Blakstar felt the web alter as it conformed more closely to the shape of his body, wrapping tightly around his arms, legs, and head. Suddenly, Blakstar found that he was standing alone in darkness and silence, and he was gripped by an icy fear that he had not before known. . . .
Come back next week for the second part of this third chapter in which we introduce a character who becomes vitally important for our kortexi, Sir Blakstar. And if one cannot wait for another week to read the continuing story, one can download the entire book for free from Smashwords!
|Posted by gwermon on October 25, 2013 at 2:45 PM||comments (0)|
The fifth book of The Redemption series, Xythrax's End, is now available, with a provisional cover, from Smashwords, and other ebook retailers!
|Posted by gwermon on October 22, 2013 at 12:00 AM||comments (0)|
We continue this week with the second part of the second chapter of our epic fantasy, Chosen of the One, in which we introduce another teacher of the chosen, Headmaster Myron, called by Hierarch Kalamar to the latter’s tower, to take the person Thal is going to rescue back to Shigmar for healing. While waiting for Thal’s return, they converse upon matters relating to the chosen, and their fear that something has gone terribly wrong. . . .
Chapter 2, Part 2
When the tower door slammed shut, Kalamar stood and walked to his study’s west window and watched the red-topped white smudge that was Thal streak toward the west. He turned from the window and pulled a talisman from his robe. His hands whispered drily, as he rubbed the small round object between his aged palms. Opening his hands, the old maghi breathed upon the object, spoke a single word, and watched it rise from his hands to float before him.
“Perepod-Myron,” Kalamar said in a clear voice. The small talisman disappeared with a snap, like the sound of two flat boards slapped together. The old maghi left his study and turned away from the stairs toward the ladder leading to the tower’s roof. “Rumandu!” Kalamar cried and the door above flew open. “Steighud-me!” He pulled his white, silver-trimmed hood over his head and, pointing the tip of his platinum rod toward the opening overhead, began to rise slowly. Passing through the opening, he stepped lightly upon the wet stones. All the storm’s fury did not touch the frail-looking maghi standing on the roof. Kalamar held out his rod and spoke a single word, “kresko.” The rod grew in his hand until it was as long as the maghi was tall; the rod’s tip glowed with orange light. He hummed as he drew a symbol on the stone. When the circle was complete, he rapped the roof once with the rod; a symbol of power flared to life where before there had been only wet, black stone. Kalamar leaned on his rod and waited for Myron to finish his own fiery symbol many miles to the north in Shigmar, connecting their two present but separate realities to a future hypothetical reality in which the two occupied the same point in space. A kind of doorway would open and remain so until one or both of the symbols were erased. It was teka he and Myron had invented. Kalamar turned from his glowing orange symbol and looked west, seeing Thal pass easily through the dome of protection. He looked beyond his apprentice and saw the force sent to test both his teka fences and his apprentice. The old maghi sighed and cast his gaze around the teka fences looking for weaknesses and other threats. To the east, he saw, but didn’t see, something lurking, hovering at the limit of his view. He could only see it at the edge of his vision, like a shadow that flitted out of sight when directly confronted. Kalamar reached out with his mind, trying to discern what he saw and didn’t see, but each time he tried to touch whatever it was, it disappeared, as if nothing had ever been there. Finally, he purposely looked from where it was, pretending to reach away but suddenly turning upon the shadow. He got a glimpse of black horns tinged with flames and a whiff of sulphur. He started to reach a fourth time, but stopped when orange light flared before his eyes. He braced for a mental blow before recognizing that the light came from his symbol as it joined with Myron’s symbol, and the kailu of Shigmar appeared within the circle.
The green robed figure, of medium height and build, stepped from the circle of orange power and clasped Kalamar’s hand. The old maghi looked long at his friend before speaking, noticing his blue eyes as bright as ever, even if his kindly face was more worn than before.
“You received my message?” Myron brushed rain from his prominent, hawk nose.
Kalamar’s smile went limp. “Message . . . , no.”
“Then why did you. . . ?”
“The sign was given . . . , I sent for you.”
“I received no sending,” Myron said. “I came because Klaybear went to the sacred glade this morning, which is my half of the sign.”
Kalamar nodded; his rod diminished to its normal length. “You sent it in the normal manner?”
Kalamar walked to the west edge of the roof and looked over the parapet. The black stone telepad, carved with arcane symbols was bare but for the rain. “Nothing,” Kalamar said.
Myron’s forehead wrinkled. “Odd . . . it has never failed before.”
Kalamar pointed in the direction Thal had gone. “Tell me what you see.”
Myron closed his eyes. “I sense the evil force and its purposes. Thal approaches. The storm is lifting.”
Kalamar lowered his voice. “Now look in the opposite direction . . . , suddenly.”
Myron nodded, keeping his eyes closed. He turned quickly around, casting his thoughts to the east. “I sense . . . , nothing?” his voice rose as he questioned his own declaration. “There was something, but it disappeared before I could touch it.”
“Exactly what I didn’t see.”
“Does it have anything to do with our messages?”
“What else could intercept and prevent teka that has not, before today, failed?”
“And, it happens on the day the both our apprentices choose to act.” Myron sighed and shook his head. “Does Thal understand what he does?”
Kalamar shook his head and sighed. “Not clearly.”
Myron frowned. “I was strongly told to reveal nothing but the essentials to Klaybear.”
“It would not matter if I had told him all,” Kalamar said. “Thal is headstrong,” he sighed, “he believes in nothing but what he can verify by his own senses. If he cannot see and touch it then it does not, for him, exist.”
“Yet, he uses elemental power that cannot be seen or touched by most. How does he respond to that criticism? Since I’m sure you have mentioned it.” Myron smiled at Kalamar.
The old maghi nodded. “He would say that because he wields the power himself and knows of its existence, what others say is irrelevant . . . for his belief.”
Myron laughed and clapped Kalamar fondly on the back. “He is certainly your son!” The kailu’s laughter stopped suddenly; his voice lowered to a whisper. “That may cause some problems later on.”
Kalamar nodded sadly. “It is something he will grapple with . . . in time. We have, Nelle especially, tried to instill some doubts in his mind, some cracks in the fortress of his logic that will allow for . . . faith.”
The Headmaster smiled crookedly. “It’s going to be interesting when the logician meets the others!”
Kalamar smiled and let another sigh escape. “I sometimes wish I could be there.”
“I know what you mean, my friend,” Myron said, laying his hand on the maghi’s shoulder and giving it a firm squeeze. “I fear I will only see the first encounter.”
“We will be standing with you, though you see us not.”
Silence fell upon them as they waited for Thal’s return. The storm lifted, and only a moderate drizzle continued to wash the walls and roof of the tower. Red beams of light pierced the clouds as the sun sank slowly into the western sea. The west wind, heavy with salt and moisture, barely ruffled their robes. A gull cried in the distance marking the end of the unnatural storm. Myron broke their silence.
“Are you certain?”
“We have known since we were joined . . . when the kortexi comes. . . .”
Myron looked at him and drew a sharp breath. “He is not supposed to leave for the Mountain until fall . . . ,” he protested.
“Plans change,” Kalamar interrupted, “and his arrival is overdue. Were you not as surprised as I was, this morning, when your Klaybear and my Thal chose–on their own–to act as they have, giving the first sign?”
Myron looked away.
“Sir Blakstar the kortexi is not far away. In fact, we think he should have been here by now.” Kalamar sighed, shook his head, and then pointed to the west. “Part of the reason they are here is to probe our teka dome.” He jerked a thumb toward the east. “And there is a shadow hovering, waiting. I did not tell you I got a glimpse of him, complete with a whiff of sulphur!” Kalamar shrank; his voice crackled as he spoke. “Our time is nearly gone.” He sighed. “Did you find anything in the secret histories?”
Myron turned slowly to face his friend. “A single note at the end of Shigmar’s record,” he said, “but what it means, I don’t know. I’ll make sure my apprentice gets it at the proper time.”
Kalamar frowned, his entire face wrinkling. “His words may not make sense to you or me,” he said, “but they will to the chosen.”
Myron shook his head slowly. “I really thought I’d find more, something useful, anyway, not just some cryptic comment about a house,” he fell silent, shaking his head again.
“There is one other thing,” Kalamar frowned, breaking the silence after several slow minutes had passed, “Thal’s vision was . . . interrupted. I’m not sure how to explain it, but his vukeetu was split during his seeing by lightning that opened a second window filled with images: images smashed together and so compact, it was difficult to distinguish one from another.”
“Did Thal see these interruptions as out of place?”
“No, and I nearly stopped the vision for fear that he was losing control of his orthek, but his mind was undisturbed, calmer than when he began.” Kalamar looked to the east. “I have never heard of the orthek behaving in this manner.”
Myron twisted his staff in his hands. “I might be surprised, under other circumstances, but that I had the strangest desire, about the time Klaybear would have entered the glade, to fly there instantly and rescue him from some peril.” Myron gently tapped his staff on the floor. “I even tried to open a teka window to view the glade.”
Kalamar looked at his green-robed friend and smiled. “What did you see?”
Myron laughed. “Nothing,” he replied, “the window opened to nothing! Whatever has happened I could not–was not allowed–to interfere.” Myron smiled crookedly. “Perhaps, had you tried to stop the orthek, you would have been thwarted. Yet I fear, for all our planning and preparation, that things have gone awry.”
Kalamar shrugged. “Perhaps this is the way it was meant to be.”
Thal melted into the shadows of the trees as the setting sun broke through the storm. He saw that the ghelem outnumbered him six to one.
“If only I could cast an illusion orthek,” the young maghi mumbled to himself. “A red aperu, flaming and swooping down upon them would send them running all the way to Melbarth!” However, illusory aperum were far beyond his present skill. He reviewed his list of offensive ortheks, an act that took half a breath, and discarded them as ineffective against so many. He cursed his lack of experience, but stopped, mid-curse, when he suddenly remembered the old peddler who had befriended him as a child. The old wethi taught him many things and left him in the nearby village of Artowgar, a village that would look kindly on an orphaned child. The wandering outcast taught him a simple air orthek that would cause the sounds around his person, including his own voice, to echo and multiply, making his single horse and cart sound like a herd of horses, his voice like the voices of an army.
“Jaylethe! Robero! Garik!” Thal shouted. “Attack from the left! Markelle! Brian! Erik! From the right! We four will move in from here. Remember, anyone we capture will be staked in the sun!”
Thal mumbled the words of the simple orthek and began to crash back and forth through the brush, shouting as he stomped. The sounds he made echoed and multiplied, giving the ghelem every indication that a patrol of wandering seklesem was about to attack them. Ghelem are not brave, being the least of Gar’s twisted creations, useful only to fill the lowest ranks of his armies. They seldom grew taller than four feet and had the intelligence, according to Gar, of a stone. When aroused, they were extremely strong for their small stature. Gar prized them for their ability to tunnel and work with stone. It is said that an army of ghelem could pull down the walls of any city in a few hours, if aroused and in large numbers.
Thal noticed the ghelem dropping their weapons and turning to flee. “After them! A ghelwu for every head!” The gangly maghi grabbed a fallen branch and used it to beat back the brush as he ran in the direction of the fleeing ghelem. When he turned toward the wounded wethi, his eyes met those of a single, uncommonly large gheli, not fooled by his chicanery.
“Filthy lone wethi,” the gheli’s voice hissed passed his yellow teeth. His face was vaguely pig-shaped; he reeked of dung. “I no fool tricky voice! I gut you hang you stink flesh! Crows eat you!” The gheli rushed Thal with his sword swinging.
Thal mumbled, “podstolon,” and a root rose from the earth, tripping the charging gheli. The maghi easily parried the sword stroke with his stout branch, then broke the branch on the gheli’s thick skull. The sword fell from the gheli’s now limp fingers. Thal took the sword, swung, and separated the gheli’s head from his shoulders. The white maghi looked once at his handiwork, turned and took two steps before the contents of his stomach stained the grass of the glade. Thal continued to retch until he managed to crawl away from the dead gheli and his foul smell. Thal’s stomach continued to churn as he stumbled to the wounded wethi. The wethi was tall with sandy hair and gray eyes and looked familiar to Thal–the second seklesi in my vukeetu, he thought. His clothes were filthy and tattered and hung loosely on an emaciated frame.
“Many thanks” the wethi croaked. “I thought I would be tonight’s gheli feast.”
“My master’s tower is near,” Thal said, “if you can put your arm over my shoulders . . . ?”
The wethi sucked in air as Thal squatted and tried to lift the wethi’s arm onto his shoulders. “The pain!” he hissed through gritted teeth.
Thal stopped and thought for a moment. “I will cause you to sleep and call for assistance.” Thal cleared his mind, touched the wethi’s forehead, and spoke the word: “supno.” The wethi sighed and relaxed, falling at once into a deep sleep. Thal slipped the wethi’s arm over his shoulders, wrapped an arm around the wethi’s waist, and straightened his legs, easily lifting the wethi. He lifted his iron amulet with his free hand. “Master, I have him.”
Yellow light flashed to life, surrounding the young maghi and his wounded companion. The light lifted them slowly into the air and carried them above the treetops to the tower’s roof where Kalamar and Myron stood waiting for them. Myron quickly examined the wounded wethi, his hands glowing green as they moved over the wounded wethi. The Headmaster’s hands moved to the wethi’s forehead, where the kailu poured healing energy into the wethi; his color changed, looking more healthy.
“The wound itself is not critical, but much time has passed since it occurred. His mind is also weak from years of slavery. I will take him to Shigmar and place him with the healers,” Myron said. The kailu headmaster carefully took the wethi from Thal.
“Take good care of him, my friend,” Kalamar said.
Myron nodded. “Goodbye, my friends. Until we next meet.” The green-robed kailu stepped into the glowing circle and disappeared.
Kalamar waved his rod over the symbol. “Neki,” he said, canceling the orthek, causing the flames to dim and wink out. “A levitation orthek is active,” Kalamar told him, “descend with your rod.” The old maghi did not look at his apprentice as the flame-topped scarecrow held out his clay rod, took a breath, and stepped into the opening. Thal floated slowly through the trap door, disappearing from view. Kalamar flicked a final glance to the east, catching a fleeting glimpse of the threat waiting, hovering just beyond detection. An image of Nekerp with his sickle flashed across Kalamar’s thoughts. The old maghi sighed and followed his son and apprentice through the trap door. The door clunked shut, reminding him of the closing of a crypt. . . .
Come back next week for another installment of our epic, when we will introduce another of the chosen, the kortexi, Blakstar, as he travels to the Mountain of Vision, an initiation all kortexem must pass through before becoming a full member of the order. If one cannot wait until next week, then download the entire book for free from Smashwords!