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Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 2, Part 3

Posted by gwermon on September 1, 2014 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

1 September 2014

 

We return with the conclusion of Chapter 2 of Staff of Shigmar: Book 2 of The Redemption, and follow the chosen as they discover what happened in the dungeon of Shigmar after they left. . . .

 

Chapter 2, Part 3

Blakstar zoomed after the thicker, and still visible, white string, which was unraveling and fading. They flew again through the walls of Shigmar, through the city, and straight under the school, into the dungeon level. The string winked out as they entered the hallway leading to the cells, but they could see little, as the hallway was filled with dust and smoke. Blakstar moved them forward slowly.

Wait, came Klare’s voice, there is someone on the floor in front of the door.

Blakstar stopped and turned to see what Klare had noticed.

On the floor in front of the door out of the dungeon area, a figure lay just short of the door, coughing in the dusty air. Klare reached out with green-glowing mental hands to examine the fallen figure. The dust cleared slightly, and Klaybear identified him.

It is Ghreis Prokarts, his voice said, Master of Soldiers, and member of the Council. How is he?

Nothing serious, came Klare’s voice. What happened here?

Ghreis’s eyes widened, but then Blakstar heard his mental voice. Is that you, Klarissa?

Yes, she replied.

We used aneksaro to question the dead captain, Ghelvon, and his apprentice. When we enacted the orthek on Malkonik, something happened: a red globe of power came into being in his dead hands and exploded.

Who? Klare thought.

The Headmaster, Avril, Storga, and Wegex. They must be on the other side of the blast, although I fear for them. I think Avril dragged Myron into that strange side room, where you were. Who put you there? Ghreis thought to Klare.

Malkonik, she replied. Ghelvon was controlled by a kwalu.

Yes, Ghreis replied, we saw it hovering above the bodies, and thought it was responsible for the blast.

No, came Thal’s voice, I think it was a morgle who possesses the rod of Melbarth.

Who are you? came Ghreis’s voice.

Thal, son of Kalamar, white maghi, replied Thal. The kortexi, Blakstar, just severed a power link between the morgle and Ghelvon’s apprentice.

That must be why I, at least, am still alive, came Ghreis’s voice.

The morgle held open a door, Thal thought, that was allowing an army to pass through.

I notice your use of the past tense, Ghreis thought, are you implying that you stopped the army? How many got through?

It looked like only the vanguard, Blakstar thought, hiding behind the hill north and west of the city.

And you must be the kortexi, Sir Blakstar, Ghreis thought.

Yes.

And I suppose Klaybear is also with you? Ghreis thought.

Yes, Klare replied.

I would not let Storga or Wegex know that, Ghreis thought, they remain convinced of your guilt. You should move on and see to the others. I’ll send a detail here to begin clearing the rubble, and a company to attack the forces you saw.

Ghreis got slowly to his feet, leaning heavily on his staff, and went through the door. Blakstar moved them forward toward the rubble blocked passageway and into it, passing through to the other side. They passed the door to the guard chamber and saw a figure lying on the floor in front of guard room and entrance to the cells. Klare moved toward the body, mental hands glowing green.

It is Storga, she thought. She is alive, although badly injured and will need help soon.

Blakstar moved them into the guard room where they saw a second body on the floor near the grate through which they had escaped. Again, Klare moved forward with green-glowing mental hands.

Wegex is dead, she thought. We must go back and find Avril and Myron in the side room.

Blakstar moved them back to the rubble blocking the passageway, turning when all three of the others sent the thought to him. He moved to the right and into the small space that was Klare’s prison. They heard coughing.

Avril? thought Klare.

Avril is dead, Myron’s mental voice replied, filled with sorrow. He pulled me into this room, and he was between me and the wall when the blast struck us.

No! Klare’s mental voice sobbed.

Master? Klaybear thought, are you injured?

My right arm is broken in several places, his mental voice sighed, probably Avril getting back at me for breaking his arm when we were boys. How did you find us?

We have no time for that now, Headmaster, Thal thought, we found Master Ghreis near the door out of the dungeon; he was relatively unhurt. He left to send soldiers to begin clearing the rubble, and also, he went to repel the vanguard of an army north of the city, an army that appeared through a door opened by a morgle who possesses Melbarth’s rod.

Are you certain? the Headmaster thought.

Yes, Thal continued, we were all four awakened by the kortexi’s sword, humming. It appears that the three keys are connected to each other, so we followed the active thread and found the morgle holding a door open with a rod that can only be Melbarth’s. On the other side of the rubble, we found Mistress Storga still alive, but in need of immediate care; Master Wegex is also there but dead. I think we can get to her through the sewers, the same way we escaped the dungeon.

Where are you? Myron asked.

We are hidden in a secret chamber beneath the sewers, Thal replied, one that can only be entered using the kortexi’s sword as a key.

Is the awemi, Tevvy, there? Myron asked.

No, Thal replied. He went back into the sewers about an hour and a half ago to spy on some soldiers that we reasoned should not have been in the sewers.

He should have come back by now, Klaybear thought.

You let him go out by himself? Klare thought, after what happened to me?

Those were the instructions given by the One, Klaybear replied.

We cannot trust him, Blakstar thought, he is a thief.

A thief? Myron thought. No, he is a scout, and he was simply doing his job.

No, he admitted stealing things from people in the market of Shigmar, Blakstar thought, he must be punished. He has probably abandoned us.

I do not think so, Myron replied. His father and mother were both loyal to us; it is more likely that he has been captured by whoever is skulking around the sewers, which, I think, must be related to the attack on the city. The Headmaster paused for a moment, choosing his words carefully. There is no hint of evil in the awemi, if there were, I would have noticed it. You have to learn to trust him, Sir Blakstar. I can tell you from personal experience with his father and mother that he will save your life, using the skills for which you feel he should be punished.

But it is wrong! Blakstar protested.

Only in your world of absolutes, Myron replied. Is it wrong for the kortexem to murder people?

We do not murder! the kortexi exclaimed, appalled.

Do you not, as part of your job, deprive people of their lives? Myron thought.

Only those who deserve to die, for being evil and fighting against the good.

And how do you make that determination? Myron thought. How do you determine who deserves to die? Do you pause in the middle of the fight, asking a series of questions, carefully weighing the answers to decide if your opponent is evil and deserves to die?

There followed a mental snort. Of course not, Blakstar replied, we must fight and survive, in order for the good to survive.

So it is a case of kill, or be killed? Myron asked.

I suppose in battle it is.

So I ask again, is it not your job to deprive people of their lives?

Yes, he answered slowly, reluctantly.

And does the person want to lose his life?

Not usually.

So you are taking his life against his will, which is the definition of murder.

Yes . . . I mean, no. You are confusing me, Headmaster. I am not an intellectual.

I’m sorry to confuse you, but it is necessary that you understand why you must not punish Tevvy. Let me ask a different question. If you returned to Karble and showed your masters what is inscribed on your chest, what do you suppose would happen?

I don’t know.

What happened here, in Shigmar, where we are not so absolute as the kortexem, when the Council saw the marks more visible?

We were condemned to death.

So what would happen in the city of absolutes, the home of your order?

They would kill me.

The kortexi deflated; Myron reached out to Blakstar with his mental hands, surrounded by green light. The others followed the Headmaster’s example, reaching out to comfort him.

Are you suggesting, Headmaster, Blakstar thought, that there is no absolute good or absolute evil?

No, Myron replied, but it is dangerous to think only in absolutes. Look at what happened here in Shigmar. The Council, and many kailum, saw the marks on all of you and concluded you were all evil and should be destroyed. And yet, you fulfill all the signs of the prophecy: why else would Gar be expending so much energy and so many resources to destroy you? It is because he recognizes who you truly are, and he also recognizes the power of words and signs. What most fail to realize is that signs and words only have power to harm us if we give to the signs and words the power to harm us.

Huh? Blakstar thought, confused.

If we empower the word or sign, we attach significance to the sign; if the significance we attach is negative, then the sign becomes negative to us. However, it is not the sign itself that is negative, but the significance we attach to it. So, we harm ourselves by choosing to see a sign as negative, or evil, and so ultimately, we are harming ourselves; no one does it to us.

Yes, I see, master, Klaybear put in. I saw that happen in Klare’s mind, after we severed the compulsion placed there by Gar, himself. As I, with the help of the One and others, knit the pattern of her mind back together, I saw that the pattern had been subtly altered, and so no longer appeared to be the sign we associate with Gar, and evil.

What compulsion? Klare’s voice asked.

Nevermind, Klare, Myron thought. You have to go and help both Storga and Tevvy; I do not know how you will get past the soldiers that I am sure Ghreis has sent into the sewers looking for you.

Thal interrupted. I do not think he will send any. Before he left, he warned us against Mistress Storga and Master Wegex, saying he did not think they were convinced of our innocence, but that he was.

That may be true, Myron thought back, but do not trust anyone you meet, for I fear that very few, if any, will be convinced that you are anything other than evil. Send Klare, or Tevvy, if you run into anyone. We still have to get you out of Shigmar and on your way to collect the second key, and we have to do it before we are surrounded by hostile forces.

I need my horse, Blakstar thought, and the rest of my equipment.

We all need horses, Thal added.

When I get out of here, Myron replied, I will see if I can get them somewhere outside the city, near the waterfall.

We cannot get out that way, Headmaster, Thal said, the path has fallen away.

Then I’ll get them out and near our private entrance to Shigmar.

It shall be as you say, master, Klaybear thought.

Take us back to our sanctuary, Sir Blakstar, Thal thought, we have work to do.

 

Come back next week for another installment from our tale; we will return with the chosen to their sanctuary where they realize that they must search for Tevvy and help the injured in the dungeon. Purchase a full ebook copy from Smashwords and enter the code JZ42F to receive 50% off. If you prefer print, purchase your copy from CreateSpace! Good reading!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on August 29, 2014 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

29 August 2014

Poet’s Corner

 

Last week was saw the Ancient Mariner commit an evil, arbitrary act in killing the albatross that had led them from the ice; this week, we begin to see the consequences of this act. The crew vacillates between blaming the Mariner for killing the bird and lauding him for the same act. The ship is caught in the doldrums, a windless space which causes them to use up all their water, and we get the most often quoted verse of Coleridge’s poem:

 

Water, water, everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, everywhere,

Nor any drop to drink.

 

Dying of thirst, and followed by a ‘spirit’ that haunts them, the crew finally decide to punish the Mariner for his “hellish deed,” hoping that a penance by the Mariner will release them from the doldrums:

 

Ah! wel-a-day! what evil looks

Had I from old and young!

Instead of the cross, the albatross

About my neck was hung.

 

This action by his shipmates is an attempt to shift the blame from themselves to the Mariner, in token of which they hang the dead albatross around his neck. The idea that this action–bearing the dead albatross–is a kind of payment for his crime, comes from the contrast: instead of a cross, a Christian symbol for the Savior’s death and a reminder of the death on the cross worn by some Christians, they give him the dead bird, an object which, by this time, must have become quite fragrant! It is a symbol of his evil act, to remind him again and again of his “hellish deed.” But this action does not appease the powers that hold their ship in the doldrums. Instead, the windless sea continues, and all members of the crew become more and more thirsty, until one day they see a ship in the distance, which is were we will take up the tale next week. Until then, good reading!

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 2, Part 2

Posted by gwermon on August 25, 2014 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

25 August 2014

 

Welcome back for another installment of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar: Book 2 of The Redemption! We return to Blakstar, asleep in one of the rooms of their underground sanctuary, deep beneath Shigmar, where the kortexi is awakened by something unexpected. . . .

 

Chapter 2, Part 2

Blakstar woke suddenly, sitting up in bed. He had dreamed as before, disjointed images of the hooded, blonde girl, whose name he did not know, the two ponkolam, and the bony figure of Xythrax; he again found himself in the glade next to the Mountain of Vision, but the girl did not come to him there. He began to hear strange, echoing sounds, as if several people were shouting but their voices were muffled, their words incomprehensible. The marks on his chest and above his loins burned uncomfortably. A strange humming sound, growing louder, underscored and finally interrupted his dreams, waking him, a strange golden glow filling his mind; he looked around and saw Thal lying asleep on the bed next to his, golden light flashing feebly from the hilt of his sword and the golden topaz affixed to its pommel. The door to the room was ajar, and he thought he heard soft voices fall silent, but then remembered that Klaybear was alone, so the voices must have been leftover from his troubled dreams; he stood and quietly opened the door, looking out, and his eyes met Klaybear’s. The kailu was coming out of the hallway that led out of their sanctuary.

“What is it?” Klaybear asked, noting the concern on the kortexi’s face.

The door to the other bedroom opened, and Blakstar heard Thal stirring behind him. Klare looked out, meeting the eyes looking at her.

“Did you hear a sound?” Klare asked.

“What is that sound?” Thal’s voice asked from behind the kortexi at nearly the same moment as Klare.

“It started when I opened the door,” Klaybear said.

“It’s coming from over there,” Klare added, pointing at Blakstar.

“It is here,” Thal’s voice spoke at the same time as Klare, “in this room.”

Blakstar turned; his eyes went to where his sword in its scabbard leaned against the head of his bed and the dim light flashing within the depths of the pommel stone. Thal’s eyes had fallen on the sword at nearly the same time. The kortexi moved forward, grabbing the belt of his sword with his left hand, then grabbing the sword by the handle with his right; when his hand gripped the handle, the stone flared golden, filling the room and their faces with its now brilliant light. He looked over at the white maghi. “It’s my sword,” he said; “it’s humming.”

“Humming?” Thal said, puzzled. The sounds of rustling robes preceded Klaybear, and then Klare, entering the room, both frowning.

“And glowing,” Klare noted as she entered the room, covering her eyes with her arm.

Blakstar released the hilt and took hold of the scabbard, the glow diminishing, moving the handle toward Thal. “See for yourself,” he said.

Thal reached out and touched the hilt, causing the golden light to brighten, holding his hand there for several moments, before speaking. “I think it’s trying to tell us something.” He let his arm fall, and when his fingers no longer touched the hilt, the light dimmed again.

Klaybear and his wife moved closer. “The sword?” Klare said.

Thal looked up at the kailum. “It is an artifact of great power.”

Klaybear shrugged. “It’s possible.”

Blakstar was more puzzled. “My sword?”

Thal nodded. “Sit down on the beds.” Blakstar sat next to Thal; Klaybear and Klare sat on the other bed. “Now stand your sword in the center between us, so that we each can touch the hilt; you grasp it with your right hand.”

Thal’s request seemed odd, but he complied, recognizing that Thal probably knew more about teka-enhanced artifacts than he, the light brightening as each hand touched its handle.

“Now, Blakstar,” Thal continued, “immerse yourself in the sword; let your mind fall wholly into both the light and the sound.”

“Uh,” the kortexi said.

“Concentrate on the humming sound, and focus your vision on the pommel stone,” Thal said, “and exclude all other thoughts; imagine yourself falling into the sword.”

“It might help,” Klare noted, “if you allow your eyes to close once they are filled with the golden light.”

They sat quietly for several moments before the kortexi gasped: he had succeeded in switching his level of awareness to one wholly mental. He suddenly saw the sword surrounded by golden light; the floor of the room glowed softly white. He saw a light green string attached to his sword and going off to the north, and a bright white string, thick as a rope and vibrating, going off just west of north.

“What are . . . ?” he started to say, but the mental awareness started to fade as he tried to speak.

Just ‘think’ what you want to say, came Thal’s voice in his mind, and we will hear you.

What are these strings? Blakstar thought. And why is one green, one white, and why does my sword glow with golden light?

The color of the light, Thal’s voice said, indicates the kind of teka: the green is kailu teka, the white, maghi, and the golden, kortexi teka.

But we are not tekson, Blakstar thought.

He heard the sound of soft laughter in his mind. Surely you have seen other examples of kortexi teka, Thal’s voice said.

Blakstar remembered the golden glowing line that led him up the Mountain of Vision.

You see, came Thal’s voice, you have.

We can see your thoughts, came Klare’s voice, answering his question.

Right now, Thal’s voice, overriding the others, focus on the white thread and follow it with your mind’s eye, and we will follow you.

Blakstar felt his body nod, then moved his “mental eyes” along the vibrating white string. His mind seemed to leap forward through the wall, and passing through the stone brought to mind his journey through the stone of the Mountain.

Keep your mind on the white string we follow, came Thal’s voice, or else we could be trapped here.

His mind followed the white string up through the sewers, and he felt the others with him. They passed quickly through the ceiling into the city, passing through houses and still moving a little west of north, then through the walls of the city.

Slow us down, Blakstar, came Thal’s voice again, we are getting close.

They passed into a hill north and west of the city, the white line thicker and vibrating faster.

Other side of this hill, came Klaybear’s voice. Lift us up to the top of the hill, so we can see what is going on below.

Blakstar thought himself up, and watched the white string get small as they rose through the hill to its top. When they came out of the hill, he could still see the glowing white string passing among torches and going into a gray shimmering arch. The sky was still dark, although beginning to get pink in the east. The sounds of clinking metal and squeaking leather came from the area dimly lit by torches, but the archway caught his mental eyes, as he had seen this kind of archway before.

It is like the archway . . . , the kortexi began, but was stopped by a thought from Thal.

Softly, came his whispered thought, there are undoubtedly people below who can hear us, including whoever is wielding Melbarth’s rod. Move us carefully closer, so we can see who it is.

Blakstar started them moving, and, even though he had never entered this mental realm before, his combat training caused him to move toward the rod-wielder, as if he were physically moving from one piece of cover to the next. He stopped when they had a clear view of a creature, on the other side of the archway, holding to the ground a white-glowing, diamond-topped rod tinged with sickly green, keeping the archway open so that more creatures could pass through.

A morgle, came Thal’s voice.

The creature was tall, with skin that was deep green in the glow of the rod. The hands holding the rod had two fat fingers and a thumb, just visible below the sleeves of the dark robes it wore. Its head was large and bulbous, like a squid’s, with small black eyes, slits for nostrils, and tentacles hanging below the nose slits where the mouth of a human would have been. As the creatures passed through the arch and passed by the morgle holding the rod, Blakstar and his mental companions saw in the glow of the rod glimpses of ghelem, purem, an occasional red kailu, and black maghi.

Be ready to take us back quickly, came Thal’s voice.

Blakstar felt a rushing around him, as if some large creature were drawing breath, then the breath concentrated and flew toward the morgle holding the rod. The mental attack caught him by surprise, but morgle were one of the most proficient races in mentalics, so it managed to raise a shield against the attack, but it could do no more than hold the attack at bay. For several moments, Blakstar’s three companions poured mental energy into their attack, striving to breach the morgle’s shield, but it was too powerful to be overwhelmed in this fashion, and Blakstar could see it beginning to form a counter-attack.

What can I do? Blakstar thought.

Do you see the green thread going from the morgle toward Shigmar? Thal’s voice asked.

Yes, Blakstar thought, noticing the thread.

Your sword is still in your hand, Thal thought back, reach out with your sword and cut that thread. We cannot hold him much longer.

The kortexi felt his mental fingers raise his sword, glowing golden before his mental eyes. With a single swift stroke, he slashed through the green string going from the morgle into Shigmar. The morgle snarled as his shield began to weaken when Blakstar cut the white string; the kortexi saw the string begin to unravel swiftly, saw also that it was two strings, although one of them, much thinner and not diving so deeply under the city, faded before he could do more then take note of the direction. The morgle lifted the rod from the ground, the arch winked out, slicing any who were on its threshold in two, and he heard screams of pain suddenly cut off.

Quickly! came Thal’s voice, follow that string!

 

Come back next week for another installment of our tale, in which the chosen, traveling through the mental realm, discover where the mental string leads them. Purchase a full ebook copy from Smashwords and enter the code JZ42F to receive 50% off. If you prefer print, purchase your copy from CreateSpace! Good reading!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on August 23, 2014 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

22 August 2014

Poet’s Corner

 

As much as I’d like to ‘delude’ myself into thinking I could share the entire “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Coleridge here in the weekly poet’s corner . . . but that would go beyond the purpose of these posts: to share and talk about the poems and poets that have influenced my own writing. I must content myself with sharing excerpts, and leave it to my readers to read the “Rime” in its entirety. Last week, we saw the Mariner catch a wedding guest with his ‘glittering eye’, holding him in place to tell his story. He relates that the ship left port and headed south to sail around the tip of South America and turn north into the Pacific. Blown into the ice of Antarctica by a storm, the Mariner and his ship encounter an albatross, seen as an omen of good, who leads them from the clutches of the ice:

 

At length did cross an albatross,

Thorough the fog it came;

As if it had been a Christian soul,

We hailed it in God's name.

 

It ate the food it ne'er had eat,

And round and round it flew.

The ice did split with a thunder-fit;

The helmsman steered us through!

 

And a good south wind sprung up behind;

The albatross did follow,

And every day, for food or play,

Came to the mariners' hollo!

 

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,

It perched for vespers nine;

Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,

Glimmered the white moon-shine.'

 

'God save thee, ancient mariner!

From the fiends, that plague thee thus! -

Why lookst thou so? ' - 'With my crossbow

I shot the albatross.

 

The Mariner, and the sailors, befriend this bird, almost taming it, as it leads them away from the snow and ice, and then the Mariner, for no reason ever explained (although many critics have tried to reason it out), raises his crossbow and shoots the albatross. This evil, arbitrary act lands the ship and its crew in much trouble: the worst thing that could happen to a sailing ship is for the wind to stop blowing, and that is what happens to this ship–they are caught in the ‘doldrums’ for long enough that their supply of fresh water runs out, their food runs low, and they turn on the Mariner, hanging the dead albatross about his neck to remind him of his “hellish deed.” Come back next week for another edition of the Poet’s Corner. Good reading!

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 2, Part 1

Posted by gwermon on August 18, 2014 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

18 August 2014

 

In this week’s installment of Staff of Shigmar: Book 2 of Th Redemption, we visit the seklesi fortress in Holvar, where Marilee and Delgart have

 

Chapter 2, Part 1

In our collaborative research on the creation of artifacts of power, Headmaster Shigmar and I have discovered how these special artifacts can be brought into a sympathetic relation with each other, enabling subliminal communication between; it is our belief that this communication might, by prior design, become conscious, opening many possibilities. . . .

 

from Annals of Melbarth, Seventh Series, Early Lectures of the Hierarchs

Lecture by Sedra Melbarth

 

“Put these on,” Delgart said. “And you must always wear them; they are artifacts created by the founders of the elder orders to protect each of the chosen from the mental manipulation of Gar. They are called verghrenum, which means ‘hider of thoughts.’”

Rokwolf looked puzzled. “The chosen?”

Marilee stood off to one side, her face overshadowed by her hood. “Have you forgotten the prophecy of Shigmar?”

Rokwolf looked toward her, while slipping one bracer on. “Do you refer to the prophecy by Shigmar concerning those who will end Gar’s realm and rule?” When he slipped on the second, a flash of white light surrounded Rokwolf, focusing on his head; the seklesi’s eyes went blank, then rolled up into his head, and he started to fall. Delgart grabbed and held him up, then dragged him over to his bed.

“What happened?” Marilee asked, “I was looking away.”

“When he put on the second bracer,” Delgart replied, “there was a flash of light, and he started to fall.”

“That did not happened when we put on ours,” Marilee noted. “Do you suppose it means something?”

“I’m sure it does, but what, I do not know.” Delgart shook his younger brother gently, seeing if he would wake. “It’s like Tevvy and Klare.” He looked at Marilee, who now stood next to him, looking down at Rokwolf. “You don’t suppose he also could be under some sort of mental compulsion?” Delgart stooped to tighten and tie the laces on Rokwolf’s verghrenum.

Marilee shrugged. “Those who might tell us are sixty miles away.”

“There are no kailum here in Holvar?” Delgart asked, finishing the first and moving to the second.

“There are,” Marilee replied, “but I’m not sure we could trust them; we are, after all, outlaws.”

“But the One said that we would be alright,” Delgart began, then stopped when someone knocked on the door; he looked at Marilee. “Isn’t it a bit late for visitors?” he whispered.

“Holvar never sleeps,” she replied, as if it were a maxim.

The door opened, and a messenger in royal livery stood in the doorway, a small wethi with stringy brown hair, narrow face, and long nose. “The Fereghen, Wothgart, requests the presence of Rokwolf and his guests.” There was a simpering quality to the messenger’s nasal voice, owing to the perpetual smirk the small wethi wore.

“Rokwolf just fainted,” Marilee pointed.

“Ah,” Nuwenty, the messenger, said. “He has been waiting to hear his sentence and was overwhelmed by guilt and fear when I knocked. . . .”

Marilee interrupted him. “He fell before you knocked; what sentence?” she ended, changing directions.

“He was suspended for the fiasco in the forest,” Nuwenty continued, “in which much of his command was lost, including the fatal wounding of his second.”

Marilee threw back her hood, although she kept the wounded and bandaged half of her face away from the messenger. “I appear to be alive and in good health,” she noted wryly.

“Yes, well,” Nuwenty stammered, “your condition was unknown, and your miraculous recovery will do little to change his loss of command.”

“We’ll see about that,” Marilee replied, pulling her hood back over her head. She nodded to Delgart, who pulled his brother into a sitting position. Each took an arm, stooped, and placed it over their shoulders, then lifted the fallen seklesi to his feet.

“Very good,” Nuwenty said, his smirk widening. “Follow me.”

###

In a room next to the audience hall, Skerapi, the Fereghen’s kailu, examined Rokwolf. The Chief Kailu was shorter than the Fereghen, thin, with a wrinkle across his forehead that made him appear to frown constantly; his dirty gray hair fell in sheets across his face as he bent to examine Rokwolf. Wothgart, Marilee, and Delgart stood by; the Fereghen had silver, curly hair, a tall and well-muscled body, and a deep, rich voice when he spoke, contrasting Skerapi’s higher voice. Skerapi’s hands glowed green as he moved them over Rokwolf’s body. As his hands passed closer to the fallen seklesi’s head, white light glowed brightly, preventing the kailu from actually touching Rokwolf’s head. Skerapi’s hands fell to his sides.

“You say he fainted after he put on these bracers?” Skerapi asked.

Delgart nodded.

“Something prevents me from examining him more closely,” Skerapi said, “and I must conclude it is the bracers, but I cannot touch them.”

Marilee stepped forward and tried to unlace and remove Rokwolf’s verghrenum. “I can touch them,” she said, “but I cannot remove them.”

Skerapi frowned. “That is odd. Can you remove your own?”

Marilee reached for one of her verghrenum, untied it, slid it off, then replaced it. “Easily.”

Skerapi turned to Wothgart. “My Fereghen,” he said, “there is little I can do for him, although it does look as if something positive is happening.”

“I think we should send him to Shigmar,” Wothgart noted. “Let Headmaster Myron deal with him, since my instructions were very clear: release Rokwolf from punishment and send him to Myron at once.”

Delgart and Marilee exchanged a glance. Marilee turned to Wothgart. “My Fereghen,” she began, “that was one message we were instructed to give to Rokwolf.”

Wothgart nodded once, then spoke. “Show me your faces.”

Surprised by the abrupt request, both hesitated before lowering their hoods and unwrapping the bandages covering the marked half of their faces. Skerapi looked sidelong at Wothgart, then moved forward, hands glowing green again. Wothgart put a hand on Skerapi’s arm and stopped him. A look of irritation flashed in Skerapi’s eyes.

“My Fereghen,” Skerapi began, “let me heal them.” He stopped speaking, seeing steel in the Fereghen’s eyes.

“They both just came from the best healers in our kingdom,” Wothgart said, “do you think to do something they have not?”

Skerapi flushed. “My Fereghen!” he protested. “I saw their wounds . . . I acted out of habit, since healing is my job.”

Wothgart smiled. “That is why I stopped you,” the Fereghen said, “part of my instructions,” he added.

Skerapi relaxed and let his hands fall; he gave the Fereghen a half-smile.

Wothgart looked at Marilee and Delgart. “You two wisely hide the marks on your faces, particularly noticeable when you are together.”

Marilee nodded; Delgart inclined his head.

“Marilee,” Wothgart continued, “you will return to your former company for assignment; you will temporarily be reduced in rank and take charge of a squad. Rokwolf has other work to perform.”

“Thank you, my Fereghen,” Marilee stammered, her face coloring, surprised by her reduction and his words. She bowed to the Fereghen.

Wothgart turned to Delgart. “I understand that you have been a slave to pirates?”

“Yes, sir,” Delgart replied, “for more than twelve years.”

“What sort of work or training did they give you?” Wothgart asked.

“I first worked in the galley, then I was a cabin boy for a time,” Delgart said, “and my first owner,” the word came out filled with bitterness, “gave me some careful training in the use of pirate weaponry.”

Wothgart raised an eyebrow. “That is an odd move, for a pirate.”

“He did not trust his men,” Delgart explained, “so when I grew tall enough, he trained me as a sparring partner, that way he did not have to spar with his men.”

“How did you end up on the benches?” the Fereghen asked.

Delgart laughed. “I was first a galley slave to a lazy cook, and because I was a great organizer, I came to the notice of the captain, who took me for his own and trained me, as I said. I was a great sparring partner to him, until the crew mutinied, killing the captain. They locked me in the hold for several days, and I think they would have let me starve there, until the new captain ordered me to the benches; I was there until the storm, and the wreck. . . .” Delgart’s voice trailed off.

Wothgart nodded. “We will test you to see where we should place you for further training. Since you have some weapons skills already, we soon should be able to bring you up to speed and into the field.”

“Thank you, sir,” Delgart replied, bowing. “It was my childhood dream to become a seklesi.”

“We will send Rokwolf, with a messenger to see he gets to the right place, to Shigmar for healing and his new assignment,” Wothgart said cryptically, causing his Chief Kailu to stare at him in surprise.

 

Come back next week for another installment of our tale; we will return to the others and see Blakstar and Thal awakened by his sword. . . . Purchase a full ebook copy from Smashwords and enter the code JZ42F to receive 50% off. If you prefer print, purchase your copy from CreateSpace! Good reading!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on August 16, 2014 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

15 August 2014

Poet’s Corner

 

Another favorite of mine of Coleridge is “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” which was the principle poem in the 1798 edition of the “Lyrical Ballads.” At that time, Coleridge was the known poet and Wordsworth unknown. Coleridge later noted that it was his part of the project to deal with subjects ‘supernatural’ in a manner similar to Wordsworth’s poetry of everyday life. People were so puzzled by the original “Rime” that they asked Coleridge to publish a new version with explanatory notes, so we have an edited version of the poem, now in seven parts, with marginal notes explaining the text. Here are the first five stanzas of Part 1:

 

It is an ancient mariner

And he stoppeth one of three.

- 'By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,

Now wherefore stoppest thou me?

 

The bridegroom's doors are opened wide,

And I am next of kin;

The guests are met, the feast is set:

Mayst hear the merry din.'

 

He holds him with his skinny hand,

'There was a ship, ' quoth he.

'Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon! '

Eftsoons his hand dropped he.

 

He holds him with his glittering eye -

The wedding-guest stood still,

And listens like a three-years' child:

The mariner hath his will.

 

The wedding-guest sat on a stone:

He cannot choose but hear;

And thus spake on that ancient man,

The bright-eyed mariner.

 

Coleridge chose to use what is called the ballad stanza, an older form most often used by the traveling minstrels of Medieval times, who passed from place to place telling stories using this form. This form, however, is much older, found in ancient poems like those by Homer, Coleridge using many Homeric devices. Basically, the ballad stanza consist of four lines rhymed on the second and fourth lines; lines one and three are tetrameter (four beats) while lines two and four are trimeter (three beats). Later in this long poem, Coleridge makes ballad stanzas longer than four lines while maintaining the same metrical pattern and rhyme scheme throughout. Why he chose this form baffled Wordsworth and other readers, but the choice creates a musical, and an feeling of oldness, as if this mariner’s story happened long ago, and he is still telling the tale (out of a compulsion that comes much later). This mariner has a strange power–the ability to ‘mesmerize’ his listener, such that, although the wedding proceeds apace, and the stopped guest protests that he must join the feast, he never is able to escape the gaze of the ‘bright-eyed mariner!’ More coming next week, until then, good reading!

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 1, Part 2

Posted by gwermon on August 12, 2014 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

11 August 2014

 

We return this week with the second part of the first chapter of Staff of Shigmar: Book 2 of The Redemption. We take up the story with the masters of Shigmar’s school and their attempt to wrest the truth from the dead, using a powerful and dangerous orthek with disastrous results. . . .

 

Chapter 1, Part 2

Mistress Storga shook her head. “I cannot understand, Headmaster, how you can still defend your apprentice after seeing all this,” she said, waving her arm over the devastation in the dungeon guards’ common room. “Master Ghelvon and his apprentice killed, the contingent of soldiers manning the dungeon all killed, your apprentice and the others escaped, set free by the two soldiers on duty: how can you still believe they are not agents of Gar?”

“Ghelvon’s neck was crushed,” Master Ghreis noted, “the renegade kortexi is certainly strong enough to have killed him.”

“But there was no mark on his apprentice,” Myron said, “and his heart lying on the floor nearby: how could any of them manage that? And what about the room no one had ever seen? How did they create that?”

Master Wegex shrugged. “They were obviously deeper into the evil of Gar than we would have thought.”

Avril shook his head. “You are not thinking,” he noted, “how could they have deceived all of their masters? If there had been even a hint that they had become corrupted, we would have known.”

“Perhaps,” Myron said, “or perhaps not.”

Avril looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”

“We had a traitor among us that no one recognized,” Myron replied.

Storga laughed. “Yes, your apprentice, Headmaster. How can you deny the evidence?”

“I think, Storga,” Myron began, “it is you who are denying the evidence, although it is right in front of you.”

Storga snorted; Ghreis shook his head, but Wegex was outraged. “How dare you accuse us of ‘denying the evidence’ when you will not admit the possibility that you could have been wrong about your apprentice?”

“The chosen did not kill anyone in this room, or on this level of the school,” Myron said. “Look just at this room,” Myron pointed to the corpses, moving his arm in a circle. “Look at the way they are all circled around their captain, who lies at the center, his sword arm burned, as if he had. . . .”

Mistress Storga interrupted. “There is a way to answer this question.”

“What are you suggesting?” Master Ghreis asked.

She spoke hesitantly. “We could use aneksaro,” she whispered.

The others looked at her suddenly. Only Avril spoke.

“That is dangerous teka,” Avril said, “and we are one master short.”

Myron looked around. “That teka must be used soon after death, so we do not have the time to raise someone to master.”

“We are strong enough,” Storga said.

“We have a quorum,” Wegex added.

“Then let us vote,” Myron said. “All in favor, raise your right arm.”

Storga and Wegex raised their arms immediately; Ghreis followed. Avril took and held Myron’s eye for a moment before speaking.

“I am opposed to this action,” Avril said, still looking at Myron.

“Do you doubt our strength?” Storga asked, still holding up her arm with the others.

Avril shook his head and turned his eyes on Storga. “I do not doubt our strength; I feel there is a threat close by, one that we have not recognized, one that is waiting for its moment.”

“Yes,” Myron agreed, “there is some threat nearby.”

“The only threat nearby,” Storga said, “is your escaped apprentice, and the others you name the ‘chosen.’”

“Do we use aneksaro?” Ghreis asked.

“It will give us a clear answer,” Wegex said.

Avril again looked at Myron. After a moment, Avril raised his arm very slowly. Myron sighed. “Very well,” the Headmaster said, “form a circle around the corpse.”

Myron stood at the head of the fallen captain, Avril at his feet; Wegex and Ghreis stood on his right side; Storga on his left; all planted the heel of each staff sharply against the stone floor. A circle of green fire flared to life on the floor around the corpse from the heel of each staff. When the circle completed itself, a shimmering green dome of transparent light covered and encircled the corpse. Myron spoke the word of power, “mortiswera,” then asked the question, “How did you die?”

A breath of air circled the room, causing things around the room to move slightly; a low whispering sigh came out of the ground, moved around the circle, then entered the green shimmering dome, then the corpse, causing the dead captain’s chest to rise, as if he were taking a breath. As the chest fell, the sigh came out of the corpse’s mouth, forming words: “the kortexi’s sword, I drew the kortexi’s sword.” The magluku lighting the room winked out, plunging them into momentary darkness before winking back to life; the sound of two boulders slamming together shook the floor of the room, causing the five masters surrounding the corpse to sway.

Storga asked a second question. “How did the others die?”

Again, a breath of air circled, followed by a whispering sigh; the chest filled, then emptied slowly, forming the words: “the sword exploded.” The magluku winked; the sound of boulders slamming together shook the floor; the five masters swayed. Myron lifted his staff, ending the orthek.

“He has been dead many hours,” Myron said, “we dare not risk further questions.”

“We did learn something important,” Avril added, “the kortexi’s sword is genuine: artifacts of great power generally take care of themselves.”

“We did not learn the sword was genuine,” Storga protested, “only that it is an artifact of great power; the kortexi is still a renegade, in my mind.”

Wegex nodded his assent; Ghreis looked puzzled.

“Let’s try the others,” Storga suggested, “perhaps we can get more from them, since they have been dead only a few hours.”

Avril shook his head. “We must be very cautious,” he said. “Ghelvon was powerful in life; if we question him too long, he could return as a powerful purgle.”

Myron nodded. “His behavior during the trial was odd, unlike his normal self.”

Storga snorted. “Only odd because he accused your apprentice. We know of the rivalry between your two apprentices, involving Avril’s apprentice.”

Ghreis rubbed his gray stubbled chin. “Yes, but Klaybear won that contest, so reason for revenge would have motivated Malkonik, Ghelvon’s apprentice, rather than Klaybear.”

Myron looked up at Ghreis suddenly, pieces of a puzzle falling into place, but still not enough to detect the pattern, or what it meant; he looked at Avril, then frowned.

Avril shrugged. “A few questions only, I think,” he said.

The others nodded, then all moved out of the guard chamber and down the dungeon hall to where Ghelvon’s body lay, head turned in an odd angle. His apprentice lay a few yards away, his bloody heart nearby. As they had done before to the captain’s corpse, so they surrounded Ghelvon’s body, Myron at the head, Avril at his feet, Wegex and Ghreis to his right, and Storga left. The five staff heels clunked against the stone floor, circle of green fire flaring to life, completing and creating a dome of shimmering green light that surrounded the corpse. “Mortiswera,” Myron commanded, and a breeze raced down the hallway, became a low sigh that entered and filled the lungs. As the chest rose, Myron asked, “how did you die?”

The chest fell slowly, the moan becoming words. “I do not know. I remember Malkonik coming to my study, a red haze, then I stood beside my broken body as you see it.” The words trailed into a sigh; the magluku lighting the hallway winked out, followed by the sound of boulders crunching together; the magluku winked on; the five masters swayed.

“When you saw your body lying here as it is,” Storga began, “did you see anyone else in this hallway?”

A breeze slid down the hallway, becoming a low moan that filled the corpse’s chest; the chest fell, and the moan formed into words. “Malkonik lay where he is; I saw his beating heart hit the ground.” A breeze became another moan; the chest rose, and the moan formed words. “I saw a kortexi flung into the wall, limp. Then I saw others coming down the hall; Myron’s apprentice went into this strange room.” Another breeze, another moan forming words. “He came out of the room leading Avril’s apprentice, then all went back down the hallway toward the cells.” The chest fell, the magluku winked out, boulders crashed together, and the magluku winked on; the five swayed.

“How long, Ghelvon, since your apprentice came to your room, and you saw the red haze?” Storga asked.

The breeze came howling down the corridor this time, and the low moan became a howl of rage; the corpse twitched, hands clenching, head turning, dead eyes opening, and a snarl beginning to form on the dead lips.

“Release the orthek!” Avril shouted.

“No!” Storga countered. “We must know!”

Ghelvon’s corpse started to sit up. Myron lifted his staff and broke the orthek, but the corpse continued to struggle to rise. Avril leapt forward, feet crashing into the corpse’s chest; his staff in one hand, and the symbol of Shigmar in the other, both brightly glowing with green light, thrust toward the corpse.

“Remoryet!” Avril commanded.

The snarl turned into a wail, sailing away from them down the hall; the magluku went out; the sound of mountains crashing together shook the hallway, hurling the five masters from their feet; flakes of stone and dust fell around them. The magluku stuttered, then grew from dim spots of light to their normal brightness. The dust was lit suddenly by a bolt of green power, shot from Avril’s staff toward the ceiling.

“What are you doing!?” Wegex spat; he knelt next to Storga, examining her. “Are you trying to bring the ceiling down on us?”

“Kwalu,” Avril hissed through gritted teeth.

“Here?” Ghreis coughed.

“I saw it hovering above us,” Avril said, “as I fell, watching us.”

Myron got slowly to his feet, then reached out a hand to help Ghreis stand. “That would explain much,” he noted, reaching out to help Avril get up.

Avril nodded as he stood. “Particularly, why he could not remember what happened to him after his apprentice arrived, so he must be the traitor.”

Wegex’s hands glowed green over Storga’s head, then she coughed and opened her eyes. “Are you all right?” he whispered.

“Yes,” she replied, “just knocked out from the concussion.”

Above them, the other three continued to speak.

“I caught a glimpse of something as we fell,” Ghreis was saying. He looked at Avril. “Are you sure it was a kwalu?”

Avril nodded. “I am fairly certain.”

“That would explain the heart,” Ghreis said, “since that is a kwalu trick.”

“Ghelvon said he saw a kortexi nearby,” Myron mused. “Isn’t it odd that he did not recognize Sir Blakstar?”

“How do you know it was he?” Ghreis asked.

“There was no other kortexi in the school,” Myron replied.

Wegex was helping Storga to her feet. She brushed the dust off her robes before speaking. “How do we know it was not another kortexi, who entered the dungeon from the sewers and released the traitors, causing all this devastation?”

Avril laughed. “Can you honestly imagine,” he began, still chuckling, “any kortexi sneaking anywhere? It is against the kortexi creed!”

“All right,” Storga replied, “I was reaching.”

“Ghelvon also said,” Myron went on, “that he saw Klaybear lead Klare out of this strange room; what was she doing here?”

Storga pointed to the lifeless form of Ghelvon’s apprentice. “I’m sure he can tell us.”

“With a kwalu floating around,” Avril snorted, “you want to try again? Have you lost all sense?”

“He was only an apprentice,” Storga said. “Four of us could make him speak, while the fifth keeps the kwalu at bay.”

“We need to recapture the renegades,” Wegex said. “They will answer our questions before they are punished.”

“Have you been asleep, Wegex?” Avril retorted. “They are not renegades! Their trial was orchestrated by a kwalu possessing Ghelvon; are Myron and I the only ones who noticed how odd his behavior was, how he out-thought the son of Kalamar? Ghelvon was never that smart!”

“How dare you accuse another member of the Council!” Storga exclaimed.

“Are you all so blinded by fear,” Avril went on, “a fear woven so neatly together by one of Gar’s most trusted servants? Open your eyes and see what is right in front of you!”

“Enough, Avril,” Myron said softly, but firmly. “We will solve nothing by bickering. We must enact the aneksaro again to have our answers.”

“No, Headmaster,” Avril began, but stopped when he looked at Myron.

The Headmaster held his friend’s eye for a time before releasing him and turning to the others. “Avril will guard against the kwalu. The rest of us will enact the orthek.”

For the third time they surrounded the body, with Myron at the head, Storga took Avril’s place at the feet, Wegex to the left, and Ghreis to the right. The four staves clunked on the floor, green circle of fire flared, completed the circle, and a green dome shimmered and surrounded the corpse. The Headmaster spoke the word, and a breeze moaned down the hallway, circled the dome, then filled the corpse’s chest. The Headmaster opened his mouth to ask the first question but stopped suddenly, hearing the corpse’s choked laughter. The corpse was raising both arms, holding a ball of red power, a ball that was humming and growing. Disembodied laughter came out of the ceiling, then trailed away, covered by the growing sound of the ball of pure elemental force.

“Run!” Myron shouted, and felt himself pulled away by Avril, who was pulling them into the strange room. They both barely erected shields before red light filled their vision, and the wave of force slammed into them, hurling them against the wall of the small room. . . .

 

Come back next week for another installment of our tale! Purchase a full ebook copy from Smashwords and enter the code JZ42F to receive 50% off. If you prefer print, purchase your copy from CreateSpace! Good reading!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on August 9, 2014 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

8 August 2014

Poet’s Corner

 

As our vacation bequeathed to us a miserable cold, making any kind of thought difficult, we will share one of our new poems, written during our week away from home. We visited a place called Silver Creek Falls, along with several other groups, including many small children, whose laughter echoed brightly within the narrow bowl carved from ancient basalt. . . .

 

Cascading Water

 

Cascading water whispering

pines echoing

happy

voices holiday out little eager hands

to feel

touch of spray

behind the waterfall

bowl carved from ancient lava flows

patient water

empty sockets only evidence

of trees surrounded & consumed

rivers of liquid roving

flowing

inexorably toward the sea

splash of green across cliff face

tenacious moss

clings

to craggy cliff face

slowly

ever so slowly

chipping away carving dense basalt

tiny fingers finding every crack

widening

cracking

falling

into yawning chasm deep pool

joining

water cascading to the distant sea.

 

Until next week when we hope we are feeling better! Good reading.

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 1, Part 1

Posted by gwermon on July 25, 2014 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

4 August 2014

 

In this week’s installment of Staff of Shigmar: Book 2 of The Redemption, we begin the story proper, witnessing a meeting in the sewers between soldiers from Shigmar’s school and servants of Gar, a meeting Tevvy tries to discover. . . .

 

Chapter 1, Part 1

 

While it is true that we can force the dead to answer our questions, it is dangerous to use this power, especially when the corpse was a powerful tekson in life. . . .

 

from Annals of Melbarth, Third Series, Early Lectures of the Hierarchs

Guest Lecture by Headmaster Shigmar

 

Atno 3524, “The Great Year,” Spring

“You are late,” the hooded figure said, stepping out of the shadows. The voice was muffled; the eyes gleamed in the dim light.

The two soldiers stopped, turning to face the now visible figure. “We had to wait until the barracks cleared,” one hissed, “you didn’t want us followed.”

The hooded figure growled, but then fell silent for a moment; the two soldiers shifted restlessly. “No,” the hooded figure said, finally. “What report?”

“All goes as planned,” the same replied. “The chosen are imprisoned, and the Headmaster discredited. The master,” the word caused him pain, but he went on, “went down about an hour ago to rape the witch. We subverted the right guards, so all is in readiness.”

“Excellent,” the hooded figure replied, “the plan . . . ,” he began, but his voice trailed off. His body jerked to one side, as if he had been struck; he was suddenly encased in red light. The two soldiers stepped back, afraid of what was happening. After a few moments passed, the light went out, the hooded figure sighed and slumped onto the stone floor. The two soldiers made no move to help the hooded figure rise, waiting for him to recover on his own. The hooded figure climbed painfully to his feet, swaying where he stood. He took a moment to collect himself before speaking. “I have new orders from the Great Lord,” he said weakly. “The chosen have escaped and are hiding somewhere beneath the city. We must move up our plans and attack as soon as the hordes arrive.” He looked across the underground river and sewer of Shigmar. “Now, there is a mouse lurking nearby that we must capture. From him we can extract the location of and access to the others.” Grins widened on the two soldiers’ faces.

###

Tevvy flitted from shadow to shadow, making not a sound. The hood covering his head and face fulfilled the double function of hiding his face from the dim magluku illuminating the passage and filtering out the stench of the sewers beneath Shigmar. The leather of his suit had been tanned and dyed to be non-reflective, so that with his eyes, hands, and feet blacked-out, only the gleam of his eyes could be seen in the dimly lit passages as he glided silently north. The silence of his movements contrasted the volume of his thoughts; his mind raced, and the wise, though dry, inner voice screamed warnings. He was a fool, the voice told him, over and over again, giving many sound reasons why he should abandon the sewers, Shigmar, and the group of wethem waiting for his report, hiding in a secret cavern beneath the sewers of Shigmar. He should climb down the rope he left tied just outside the sewer exit, a ruse to trick those who wished to catch the wethem waiting for him, make them think the wethem had left Shigmar, and never again let his shadow, or his feet, touch any part of the home of the kailum.

He shook his head, trying to stop the thoughts that distracted him from his present purpose: to find out what those two soldiers were doing in the sewers. Both of the kailum had said that the soldiers, especially since they entered the sewers from their barracks rather than their guard tower, should not be in the sewers at this late hour. Tevvy reckoned that it must be three hours past midnight, although his reckoning was surely off, since they had spent at least an hour in the Chamber of Stasis, the cavern where the wethem waited, with the door closed. This meant, according to the maghi, Thal, that it was the same time outside the room, when he left, as it was when they entered. Tevvy did not pretend he understood the teka, or how it worked; he was not sure he even accepted that it did work; it was another reason to flee while he had the chance. The wise voice, reminding him of his grandmother, continued to remind him that he was a fool for accepting anything he had heard or seen since he had fallen in with the wethem, but the Voice had called them the chosen of the One. His father had told him something about it just before he left, speaking of the chosen, and the prophecy concerning them. He was not sure what it meant, other than a lot of trouble. There was the prophecy of the first kailu, Shigmar, that they said named him the “cunning mouse who penetrated all secrets.” He liked the sound of it, “cunning mouse,” and thinking about it made him smile.

Run away! his grandmother’s voice shouted at him, run away while you have the chance! He jerked himself back to the present: the sewers and the two soldiers. If he continued like this, he would be caught and end up imprisoned, or worse. The wethem would then have to rescue him, and he could see the gloating smile of that wretched kortexi, who, he believed, still did not trust him; he would gloat and tell the others, See! Did I not warn you that the thief could not be trusted?

Damn the kortexi! his grandmother’s voice shouted. Yes, he thought, he’d like to, but the others, even the females, liked and believed him, so that line of thinking was useless. But the wetham liked him, too, Klare and Marilee; they had both treated him very well, but one of them had gone back to Holvar with the kailu’s older brother, Delgart. Those two had been oddly deformed by the curse and sign they all wore: half of the sign had been written on each of their faces, so that if they stood cheek to cheek, one could see the whole sign. He had noticed that they were careful not to stand that way, as completing the sign caused them pain, and an angry red pulsing like he had seen in Klaybear’s hand and forehead on the night he had found Tevvy in the ditch. That had frightened him; he was sure he had been found by a villain. You should have run then. Perhaps, but he needed healing, and the kailum of Shigmar were the best, most trustworthy healers, and after all, his father had meant for him to join Myron’s apprentice, who had been the one to find him. Odd how these things worked out. He suddenly realized that he was standing at the center of crossing passages, unmoving and completely in the light. He jumped back and into the shadows.

You’re headed for trouble, the voice told him. He was indeed, if he kept on like this; he needed to shut off his thinking. He looked carefully down each passage, searching for the soldiers’ tracks, hoping that he had not confused them by moving forward distractedly. He saw them directly ahead, still moving north through the sewers, heading to the northern parts of the city. He slipped silently across, passing a passage to his left, and then one to his right; the passage ahead became a bridge over the east branch of the main sewer. He approached the edge of the bridge carefully, stopping and listening for voices; he heard only the sound of water moving and dripping, echoing strangely in the confined stone space. He looked carefully around the corner to his left, toward the area where they had heard voices earlier. He saw the central point of the sewers, an area that was open and visible across the river, with stairs leading up and the river cascading down to the sewer level. He reckoned that about half-an-hour had passed since they had entered the sewers, forty-five minutes since the kortexi had gone berserk and killed Ghelvon, which meant he had barely fifteen minutes before the guard in the dungeon changed and the bodies were discovered. The alarm would follow, if it hadn’t already been raised, and the sewer would be filled with soldiers looking for the chosen.

Escape is still possible: just go to the nearest sewer exit, the voice whispered to him. He could, and leave the chosen to their fate. It would be easy; he was sure he could pick the lock on the sewer grate, slip out, and wait by the city gates until they opened, then slip out with the rest of the merchants leaving. He could probably even get a job with one of them, scouting out the road ahead; it wouldn’t be a great deal of ghelwum, but it would be safer than staying here. That kortexi did not trust him; he would be trouble, always asking questions and accusing him of breaking the law. He’d probably turn him in, the first chance he got, and he, like all his order, had a rigid set of values that would get in the way of Tevvy’s work. One had to “bend the rules” in order to find out secrets; wretched kortexi! He would constantly get in the way! On the other hand, if he went berserk like he did in the dungeon, he would be very useful in a fight; and that power of his sword to open instant doorways–that would be even more useful. Tevvy sighed, and he saw an image of his father, face filled with disappointment that his son and most gifted student had run away from the opportunity he had been given. He wondered what his father would say, if he told him that he was the one spoken of in the prophecy, at least that is what the voice they had heard said, a voice the others identified as the One. He sighed again, pulled his thoughts back, and silently cursed. He wondered how many of his precious minutes had been lost while he mused, when his mind registered a sudden, sharp pain, and then the passage whirled and went dark. . . .

###

“How long has it been?” Klaybear asked, looking up from the scroll he was reading.

“Huh?” Thal replied, looking up from a different scroll, his face confused.

Klaybear raised one eyebrow. “I asked, how long it has been?”

“How long,” Thal began, brow wrinkled, “since . . . ?”

“How long,” Klaybear said, trying to keep his voice level, “since Tevvy left?”

Thal looked around, then looked back at the kailu sitting across the table from him. He then looked down at his scroll and rolled out what he had read. “At least an hour, maybe a little more.”

“What are you reading that has so thoroughly occupied your mind?” the kailu asked.

“A treatise on the fundamentals of teka,” Thal replied, “written by Melbarth. I’ve picked up several ideas that we have lost, subtleties of using teka that I’d like to try. And you?”

“Shigmar’s narrative on how all things came to be,” Klaybear replied, “the creation of the universe.”

“Melbarth has referenced the work several times already,” Thal said. “The powers we wield are directly related to the elements out of which each race was formed; as we were created from the elements of earth and water, the working of teka using these two elements comes easily to us, and we are capable of more intricate and more subtle works with these elements, either individually, or when mixed together. When using the element of air, our teka is more crude, more a release of raw energy, and we have less control over the teka, and so we must be very careful in its use. We can add the greater elements of fire or frost, or the powers of light and Void. . . .”

Klaybear interrupted. “I only wanted to know how much time had passed, and should we begin to worry about the awemi,” he said. “I did not expect a discourse on the fundamentals of teka.”

Thal was stunned. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I just got a little sidetracked when you asked me what I was reading. . . .”

Klaybear laughed. “Yes, and you took that as an opportunity to discuss it.”

Thal grinned sheepishly.

“Should we go looking for Tevvy?” Klaybear asked.

“I would just start retching,” Thal said, “if I went back out there.”

Klaybear shrugged. “So I’ll go looking for him.”

“Yes, and the first soldier who sees you would raise the alarm, grab you, and drag you straight to the headsman,” Thal noted wryly. “Besides, neither one of us has had much rest. . . .”

Klaybear interrupted him again. “So we just sit here doing nothing?”

“We need the others,” Thal said, looking first toward the room where Klare slept, and then toward the room where the kortexi lay. “Blakstar would have a better chance of taking care of himself, and Klare would draw less attention. . . .”

Again, the kailu interrupted. “I’m not sending her out alone.”

“I’m not suggesting it,” Thal replied, “but they are both asleep, and we are unrested.”

“Don’t you know some orthek that would clean the air? or prevent you from being sick?”

“Those are issues of health,” Thal replied, “so, wouldn’t they be more in your realm than mine?”

Klaybear shrugged. “Perhaps, but it is beyond my present ability; I hate sitting here doing nothing, just waiting.”

“Our studying these ancient manuscripts is not nothing,” Thal countered; “it is the best use of our time,” he stopped, suddenly realizing the answer. He leapt out of his chair, knocking it over.

“Quiet!” the kailu hissed. “Are you trying to wake them up?”

“Sorry,” Thal said, stooping to right his chair. “I just remembered that time is at our fingertips.”

“Huh?” Klaybear replied, confused.

“The awemi is late returning from his spying and misdirection. We need the kortexi and your wife to go look for him, and they both need to finish resting before they could go looking for Tevvy. Since he is outside this room. . . .”

“We close the door,” Klaybear continued, “freezing the awemi where he is while giving Blakstar and Klare the time they need to rest,” he finished. “Is it safe?”

Thal shrugged. “It should be for a few hours, anyway,” Thal noted, “long enough for them to rest.” The maghi smiled. “And it gives us the time to study more of these texts,” he added, then stood and moved down the hallway to close the door.

 


Return next week for another installment of our tale; we will return to the sanctuary beneath Shigmar, where the masters of Shigmar's school enact a rare orthek with catastrophic results. . . . Purchase a full ebook copy from Smashwords and enter the code JZ42F to receive 50% off. If you prefer print, purchase your copy from CreateSpace! Good reading!

Staff of Shigmar, Prologue, Part 3

Posted by gwermon on July 25, 2014 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

28 July 2014

We return this week with the third and final part of the Prologue to Staff of Shigmar: Book 2 of The Redemption. In this installment, we learn what Delgart’s life was like as a slave of pirates shortly before the shipwreck, which he, only, survives. . . .

 

Prologue, Part 3

 

Atno 3523, Fall

The drum beat endlessly, pounding out the rhythm, stroke by stroke, of the constant misery of existence, of sweat and stench, of continual rotation: two hours at the benches, two hours chained in the hold to rest; but no rest was ever possible for the drum beat, heard through the cracks in the planking overhead, felt through the soles of the feet as it vibrated through the entire ship, monotonous, never changing, ever present, ready to call one back to the benches and the torture. The cruel masters thrived on inflicting pain upon their slaves, and they cared not for any who fell, nor for those who sickened and died: these were unceremoniously tossed overboard, only to be replaced by a seemingly endless supply of new ‘recruits,’ torn from their families, dragged from their villages, to keep their masters’ ships moving on the seas, whether the wind blew or not. Few survived longer than six months; even fewer lasted a year; only one had ever survived for multiple years: a young wethi, strong, tall, with long dirty blonde hair, who rarely spoke, but when he did, spoke well, and he would help the others when he could. Rumors said that he had once been a cabin boy, grown up serving a captain but had fallen out of favor and had been consigned to die on the benches. Somehow, he survived.

A storm lashed the ship; this tall, young wethi had been kept at the benches without a break all day and well into the night, and eighteen hours of rowing in a storm were beginning to take their toll on him. He was not the only one: only one-third of the oars were currently manned, and most of the pirates were in their hammocks, too ill to work their stations. An hour before, the pirate captain had finally admitted defeat and had turned the ship toward a safe harbor where they could weather the storm. A shout, followed by the sounds of the anchor, and the drum beat stopped; those few still at the oars slid off their benches, gasping for breath. The slave master moved forward to unchain the slaves from their benches and move them back into the hold. As he moved down the port side, the captain came in and whispered something to the slave master, after which both looked to where the young wethi had slumped over his oar, the dirty rags he wore soaked with sweat, spray, and rain, his dirty hair hanging over his face and dripping onto his feet, the chains, and the deck. The captain stalked away; the slave master moved on, down the port side, skipping over the young wethi, then back up the starboard side, and without a backward glance, led the line of exhausted slaves down the stairs and into the hold. A few of the slaves kept glancing back at the young wethi, but none of them mentioned him, knowing that to do so would evoke sharp retribution from their masters. The young wethi was too tired to do more than glance at his fellows as they were led away before he slid onto the floor.

Two hours before dawn, the storm had only lessened slightly; one of the younger pirates was aloft in the crow’s nest scanning the horizon for signs of pursuit. Below, the bosun lay on the deck in a swoon, supposedly on watch but overcome by the rum he had drunk to give him courage to stand watch and face the storm. The one slave chained to his oar still slept, his breath wheezing, and he constantly twitched, as if his dreams were unsettling; his hands were raw and covered with dried blood, his ribs visible, and his lips were dry and cracked; his cheeks were hollow, and there were dark circles beneath his eyes. The space beside him shimmered, and a figure, half of shadow, half of light, formed in the air beside the young, unconscious slave, a figure so insubstantial that one could see the other oars and benches through the figure. A single point of light shot from the ghostly figure up to the crow’s nest, circled the pirate twice, then winked out, and when this point went dark, the pirate above slumped, instantly asleep. The ghostly figure lowered his hood and looked up, making sure the pirate above him had gone to sleep; the face revealed resembled the young slave who lay sleeping on the deck, although the figure was not as tall as the living wethi.

“My son, wake up,” the ghostly figure said in a voice that was barely more than a whisper, but seemed to penetrate the sleeper, who stirred and rolled from his side onto his back. “If you continue in this stupor much longer,” the figure whispered, “you will die. Wake!” the figure commanded, and the young wethi moved again, pushing himself painfully into a sitting position, leaning heavily against his rowing bench.

“Wh-huh?” he croaked, struggling to open his eyes and focus them on the figure floating in the air before him.

“You must wake up, or you will die,” the figure repeated. “It is not your time to die; there is too much for you to do.”

The eyes opened wide. “Father?” he asked. “Is that you? But you are dead: I dreamed that you died.”

The figure smiled pleasantly. “Yes,” he replied, “I have died, and I was your father in life, but do not be frightened by me now: I have not come to torment you, but to give you hope. You have to hold on a little longer, and if you do, you will become greater than you can possibly imagine, the greatest of anyone in our family, you and your twin brothers.”

“But Father,” the young slave interrupted, “I cannot hold on any longer; I know you have seen how badly I am treated: I will not survive, I have already survived longer than anyone ever has. It is only a matter of time before . . . ,” he hesitated, and in that moment the ghostly figure spoke again.

“Only you control your destiny,” the figure said, “no one controls it for you.”

The young wethi laughed, which started him coughing; it was several minutes before he could speak. “I am a slave,” he croaked, “my life, my being, my destiny, as you put it, is controlled by my masters.”

“No!” the figure denied. “Have you learned nothing from your experiences?” he asked. “I did not raise you to give in, to give up; I did not raise you to be a slave to someone else.”

The young wethi was angered by these words; he held up his manacled and chained wrists and shook them at the figure. “Look at these!” he shouted. “These are the chains of a slave! I have no choice in this.”

“Iron chains do not make a slave,” the figure replied in the same soft, whisper, and he pointed to the young wethi’s forehead. “The chains are in here; you always have a choice, my son: you are still in control of your destiny,” and with those words, the ghostly figure shimmered and vanished.

The young wethi was so angered by the words that he roared out loud, waking both the bosun and the pirate in the crow’s nest.

“What is it?” the bosun shouted.

“I don’t know,” the pirate above replied but stopped, “wait, I see something.” He lifted the spy glass to his eye and pointed it in the direction he had been looking when he woke. After a moment, he saw what they feared: a ship bearing the banner of the Fereghen, coming toward them. “Another ship!” he shouted. “A ship of the Fereghen, in pursuit,” and the bosun rang the alarm that sounded below. Shouts were followed by running feet, then the clinking of chains, as pirates ran up from below, and a line of slaves was hurried into place from the hold. The young wethi was taken back to the hold and finally fed and given water, which he hardly tasted as he ate, his thoughts filled with the last words he had heard, and the words caused a great anger inside, an anger that did not find a release until two hours later, when it was his turn to be led again to the benches. Each stroke, each beat of the drum, reinforced the words: Iron chains do not make a slave; the chains are in your mind; you always have a choice; you choose your destiny. Again, and again, with every pull of the oar, with every thud of the drum, the words burned through his mind, feeding his anger and powering his every stroke. His father did not know, could not know, what it was like to be a slave! How could he understand the misery, the endless days, the constant torment of the lash, the monotonous thump of the drum that haunted every moment, whether awake or asleep, of every day of his life? The drum beat on, and with every pull of every oar, and every lash of the slave master’s whip, he moved farther and farther away from the ship of the Fereghen that symbolized freedom. The chains were in his mind? The sting of the whip brought him again back to reality, his reality, and he thrust the words back into a dark corner of his mind, but the anger drove him on.

 

Come back next week for another installment of our tale; we will begin the story proper, meeting some of Gar’s servants, and see Tevvy as he tries to discover why there are soldiers wandering through the sewers. . . . Purchase a full ebook copy from Smashwords and enter the code JZ42F to receive 50% off. If you prefer print, purchase your copy from CreateSpace! Good reading!


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