|Posted by gwermon on March 10, 2014 at 11:25 AM||comments (0)|
In today’s installment of the first book of our epic fantasy, Chosen of the One, we witness the first meeting of the three keyholders: Klaybear, Thal, and Blakstar; the kortexi heals a pair of their fellows, one of them Klaybear’s long-lost older brother. . . .
Chapter 11, Part 1
The kailu order is governed by the mekala, an assemblage of all kailum that can be gathered to the school within three days of being summoned. Full initiates into the order can only be tried and punished for crimes against the order by the mekala, while matters of school discipline are decided by the council only, consisting of the Headmaster, who chairs the council, along with the five masters. . . .
from Laws of the Kailum
The door opened, and the white-robed novice stepped out of the way, allowing the two young wethem to enter the room. The first was tall and gangly, wild red hair framing his long face; the second was nearly as tall but better built, garbed in white and gold, bearing devices Myron recognized at once as the symbols of Sir Karble, the first kortexi. To Myron’s eyes, the kortexi glowed golden, but there was a hint of darkness at his chest and loins. When Klaybear turned and saw the newcomers, he was hurled back into his chair by some unseen hand, eyes wide, staring, and blank. The wounds on his hand and forehead pulsed with angry red light; a low groan rumbled from deep within the fallen kailu’s chest.
Myron, followed closely by the kortexi, Sir Blakstar, rushed to Klaybear’s side.
“What’s happened?” Blakstar asked.
“Seeing your two faces,” Myron replied, “has thrown him into his vision, where he re-sees your parts in it.”
“Those wounds?” the kortexi asked.
“Given to him by Gar, himself,” the Headmaster replied, “and we have been unable to heal them.”
Without pausing to think, Blakstar removed the special flask from his belt, pulled out the stopper, and poured some of the contents into Klaybear’s open right palm. Klaybear went rigid, and the liquid in his hand started to steam and glow brilliant gold. In seconds the liquid evaporated, and the wound had closed, leaving only a thin red line in the shape of the mark. Myron took Klaybear’s head and tilted it back; Blakstar poured some of the liquid over the wound on his forehead. Again, Klaybear went rigid, and the liquid began to steam and glow. When it evaporated, the wound was closed and only a thin red line in the shape of the mark remained.
“Open his mouth,” Blakstar said.
Myron did, and the kortexi poured some of the liquid in; Klaybear swallowed eagerly, and Blakstar put a hand on his shoulder when the fallen kailu tried to leap to his feet.
“Peace, my friend,” Blakstar said, “the Waters of Life are potent to those who drink them for the first time.”
“Of course!” Myron exclaimed. “The Waters of Life, carried by Sir Karble and the answer to the riddle.”
“What happened?” Klaybear asked, looking around in surprise.
“No time for that now,” Myron replied and took the kortexi by the arm and led him to the two who lay sick. “Her first,” he said, pointing to the seklesa, “she has been infected longer.”
“Where is the wound?” Blakstar asked.
“She was forced to drink it, so her mouth.”
Blakstar nodded, and Myron opened her mouth, allowing the kortexi the space to pour some of the Waters in. Like Klaybear, she swallowed eagerly. Thalamar and Klaybear came and stood at the other side of her bed, watching. The seklesa went rigid, then started to thrash violently.
“Hold her!” Myron barked, grabbing her arm to keep her still, then added, “don’t use your right hand, Klaybear.”
Her convulsions lasted for a minute and then she went limp; steam and brilliant golden light emanated from her, and as the steam rose from her skin, her skin was whole and healed, but as the steam cleared, the blackness reasserted itself, and the right half of her face, although healed, deformed. The hair on the right half of her head fell out, the right side of her face wrinkled and shrunk. Blakstar tried the Waters again, pouring a little on her face. The liquid hissed and steamed, but a scream ripped from the twisted grin the right half of her mouth had become.
“No more!” she squealed, a high, tearing sound that was painful to hear. “It’s killing me!” She went suddenly limp and silent.
The four wethem stood stunned, not sure what had happened. Then Klaybear broke the silence.
“It is as I have seen,” Klaybear whispered.
Myron shook himself out of his momentary stupor. “We must help Delgart.”
“Is that wise,” Klaybear protested, “seeing what effect it has had on her?”
“He’ll die if we do nothing,” Myron replied.
Klaybear sighed and nodded. Blakstar and Myron turned to the other bed; Thal and Klaybear walked around the beds to the other side.
“At least we know not to apply any Waters after they have finished,” Thal said softly.
“Where is the wound?” the kortexi asked.
“Left side,” Myron replied, pulling the blanket off to reveal his bandaged side.
Blakstar waited until the Headmaster pulled up the bandage, then poured some of the Water over the wound. The Waters steamed and glowed, but before the wound closed, a thin finger-length rod of red metal slid out of the wound.
“What is that?” Blakstar asked. Thal leaned over the bed, then reached across to pick it up.
“No!” Myron exclaimed, and the white maghi’s hand jerked back. Myron knocked the red sliver off with the heel of his staff, and the sliver burst into flames when it struck the stone floor. Klaybear took the pitcher of water from the stand next to Delgart’s bed and poured it over the flaming metal sliver. The water hissed and bubbled, but the metal continued to burn.
“We cannot stop for that,” Myron said and turned back to Delgart. “Give him a drink, Sir Blakstar.”
Myron opened Delgart’s mouth, and Blakstar poured the Waters in, Delgart drinking eagerly. Delgart went into convulsions, the four wethem held him down, and after a minute, he went limp, steam with brilliant, golden light rising from the skin, healing Delgart’s flesh. Again, the darkness re-asserted itself. This time, however, the left side of Delgart’s face deformed, his hair falling out, mouth twisting, face wrinkling and shrinking. Delgart went limp. The metal sliver burned itself out, leaving only a black spot on the floor.
“At least we know one thing,” Thal remarked and pointed to the dark spot on the stone floor, “we know how this wethi was infected.”
Myron walked over to the spot and prodded it with his staff. “Not even any ash to examine,” he said to himself.
“Who would do this,” Klaybear began, responding to Thal, “and why?”
“Well ‘who’ is easy,” Thal said, “Gar through his agents. The ‘why’ is a bit more difficult, although if pressed, I would say to prevent us,” he pointed to all in the room but Myron, “from doing whatever it is we need to do.”
Myron looked up from the floor. “I think we know something else,” he said, then his voice grew cold and hard, “we have a traitor among us.”
Blakstar’s hand, having just finished replacing the special flask on his belt, went to his sword; Thal and Klaybear looked at Myron.
“How do you know that?” Thal asked.
“Did Delgart look like he did this morning, in this room, yesterday when you rescued him?” Myron asked Thal.
“No . . . ah, yes, I see,” Thal replied, “there must be a traitor in Shigmar, in this very place.”
“How do you figure that?” Klaybear asked, eyebrow rising.
“When I rescued this wethi–Delgart–from the ghelem, yesterday, and Myron brought him here, he was only wounded in the side, from the shipwreck, which means that he was given the disease by means of that metal sliver after arriving here in the school, so someone inside must have given it to him, during the night.”
“As I told Klaybear and his wife, earlier, he was fine when I left him in the sixteenth hour last night and found with the disease this morning in the 1st hour,” Myron said. “I sent Klare to inquire who had been in here during the night.”
Klaybear looked toward the door, an action that caused Myron to grin, but he covered it with one hand.
Thal noticed Klaybear’s action and looked at him. “Did you hear something?”
“No,” Klaybear replied.
“Then why did you look at the door?” Thal asked, eyebrows rising.
“My wife has perfect timing,” Klaybear replied, “she always shows up just when you need her, so when my master mentioned her, I expected her to walk through that door,” he finished, pointing to the door.
The door opened, but Klare did not enter. Master Healer Avril slipped in and softly closed the door. He looked at Myron. “I’m surprised you don’t have this room warded,” he said quietly.
Myron tapped his staff on the floor, whispered, and a gray shimmering globe expanded to cover the room. “We were healing, and I forgot to re-establish the ward.”
Avril winked at Klaybear. “That’s it then,” the Master Healer noted, a grin twitching on his lips, “first sign he’s slipping into dotage.”
Myron smiled. “I’ve had a few shocks this morning,” he said, “we all have. First Klaybear, then Delgart contracting the malady, these two showing up with the Waters of Life, and the Waters failing to heal them completely,” he pointed at each in turn and finished by pointing at the beds.
Avril moved to the beds, his hands now glowing with bright green light. As Klare had done earlier, Avril’s hands lifted the darkness for a moment from each body, but then the darkness slipped back. Avril’s brow wrinkled, then he moved to Klaybear, hands still glowing. A similar darkness peeked out of the younger kailu’s hand and forehead, then slipped back. He turned to the kortexi, hands going over his body and stopping over his chest. The same darkness rose from his chest for a moment before slipping back. Without comment, he moved to Thal, hands moving over him and hovering above his head, darkness slipping out and back. He turned to Myron.
“They’ve all been afflicted,” he said, “although in different ways.”
Myron nodded in agreement.
“The kortexi has the mark,” Avril continued, “written on his chest, and a different mark above his loins.” He turned to Thal. “With him it is much more subtle,” he went on, “it is part of the patterns of his mind, hidden within the matrix and nearly impossible to detect. With the two in the beds, their faces together have been twisted into half the shape of the mark. Who else is supposed to be part of this group?”
“Klaybear’s twin brother, Rokwolf,” Myron said, “and Meekor and Varla’s son, who Klaybear found wounded outside of town last night.”
“That must be where Klare went,” Avril said, “I mentioned my suspicions and she must have gone home to check him or bring him here. If only there were more time,” the Master Healer finished to himself. . . .
Come back next Monday for another installment of Chosen of the One: Book 1 of The Redemption, or if you prefer not to wait, download the entire volume in ebook format from Smashwords; if you prefer print, purchase it from CreateSpace! Good reading!
|Posted by gwermon on March 8, 2014 at 12:00 AM||comments (0)|
7 March 2014
Friday Poet’s Corner
One of the features of the Petrarchan sonnet sequence was the insertion of ‘songs’ among the sonnets, most often written in iambic tetrameter (four beat) and rhymed couplets–a form still typical in music today. These ‘songs’ interrupted the flow of sonnets, usually injecting some form of strong emotion, like passion, into the sequence. Sir Philip Sidney followed this convention, unlike Shakespeare, and inserted eleven of these songs into his Astrophil and Stella. The infamous Fourth Song, is an example of this, and is one instance in which we actually get to hear Stella’s voice in her denial at the end of each of the six line stanzas: “No, no, no, no, my dear let be.” It is probably the source of the stereotypical female response to wooing: No! No! No! NO! Leave me alone! This denial by Stella follows Astrophil’s declaration, “Take me to thee, and thee to me,” which is most often interpreted as a Monty Python-esque aside, the “wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more!” familiar to those who have seen this particular Flying Circus sketch. Here is the second stanza:
Night hath closed all in her cloak,
Twinkling stars love-thoughts provoke,
Danger hence good care doth keep,
Jealousy itself doth sleep:
Take me to thee, and thee to me.
“No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.”
We all know that the best (or worst) wooing happens after dark, so Astrophil tells Stella that ‘we are hidden by shadows, and your jealous parents are not watching, so let us take advantage of the situation!” She, of course, is not moved by this rather lame argument, so he tries others, again, pointing to the dimness:
This small light the moon bestows
Serves thy beams but to disclose,
So to raise my hap more high;
Fear not else, none can us spy:
Take me to thee, and thee to me.
“No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.”
Again, we are alone, no one is watching, so let’s move forward! Her response, beyond her automatic denial, is implied in the stanza that follows:
That you heard was but a mouse;
Dumb sleep holdeth all the house;
Yet asleep methinks they say,
“Young folks, take time while you may.”
Take me to thee, and thee to me.
“No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.”
She ‘hears’ something, someone coming to stop them, and he replies it is nothing, all are asleep, and in their sleep they say we should ‘seize the day!’
Your fair mother is abed,
Candles out, and curtains spread;
She thinks you do letters write.
Write, but first let me indite;
Take me to thee, and thee to me.
“No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.”
Again, the same old arguments, with the same denial: mom’s asleep, and she thinks you are doing your homework; go ahead, but first let me ‘enlighten’ you with matters of love! Of course, such lame arguments do not convince Stella to sacrifice her virtue, but it is telling to note that such arguments, lame although they be, still form the basis of all male wooing of the female! Come back next Friday for another installment of the Poet’s Corner.
|Posted by gwermon on March 4, 2014 at 12:30 AM||comments (0)|
We first announce that this week, March 2-8, Smashwords has declared ‘read an ebook’ week, and to promote this, our ebooks are all half-price! Get them this week during this special promotion; stock up on all those books you have been meaning to read, including ours!
Welcome back to another installment of our epic fantasy, Chosen of the One: Book 1 of The Redemption; for the balance of the chapter, we continue traveling with Thal and Blakstar through rumepant, during which the former deduces the names of the other keys from the name of Blakstar’s sword. Also, we learn that sinister forces are already at work inside Shigmar’s school. . . .
Chapter 10, Part 2
More time passed to recover this time, both of them laughing and ignoring the patronizing looks both mounts gave them when both leaned on their horses for support.
Thal wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his robe. “Feeling better?”
Blakstar pulled a square of cloth out and wiped his face and nodded. “A little.”
Thal stood silent for a moment, while Blakstar tucked the cloth away. “I wonder if we can deduce something about the other keys from what we know about your sword and its name,” Thal suggested.
Blakstar’s hand went to the hilt of his sword. “What do you mean?”
“Well, from the sword’s name,” Thal said, “the will to fight, to have courage, or to have heart given from the One, seems to me to be a principle attribute of your order, along with strength and stamina. In my case, the case of a maghi, the principle attribute could be teka–the power to wield elemental forces, maghu, in the ancient language, or maybe knowledge, which is gnumu, or menu, which means ‘thought.’ So the Rod of Melbarth could be eli-maghu-ghebi, ‘teka giver of the One,’ eli-gnumu-ghebi, ‘knowledge giver of the One,’ or eli-menu-ghebi, ‘the One’s giver of thought.’” Thal tapped his chin thoughtfully. “There is a Rod of Melbarth in the tower’s atrium–the tower of the maghi school in Melbarth,” he added, “but it lies in a display case protected by many powerful ortheks . . . ,” he trailed off, still tapping his chin.
Blakstar laughed. “But which is it? and does it really matter?”
Blakstar saw Thal jerk when the kortexi laughed, bringing him back to the present. “I don’t have enough information to decide which it is, and the differences between them would change the rod’s inherent powers, so, yes, it does matter. I can only speak for my own order, but the symbols and their corresponding words from the ancient language are symbols of power. With them, a maghi can weave together ortheks that perform particular teka: change one of the symbols, or its position in the incantation, and the final result is completely different.”
“Maybe only the sword has a name like this,” Blakstar suggested, shrugging.
“If the three are keys that we need in order to complete our life’s quest, then it seems logical that they would have something in common,” Thal said.
“What if they are simply keys that open three different doors,” Blakstar noted, “my sword is the key that opens a special cabinet in the Mountain that holds my armor and equipment; what if they are like that?” Blakstar asked.
“Special cabinet?” Thal asked, suddenly eyeing him with more interest.
“The place where my armor was kept,” Blakstar replied, “the keeper told me that if I needed to replace anything, if something was lost or broken, that I was to return to the room and use my sword to open the cabinet where I would find replacement equipment.”
“How does it work?” the white maghi asked.
“There is a small slot,” the kortexi replied, “about the size of the blade. I simply slide the sword into it, and the cabinet opens.”
“Were there any markings on the cabinet or slot?”
“I don’t remember,” Blakstar said after thinking, “I was preoccupied at the time.”
“Too bad,” Thal frowned, tapping his chin thoughtfully with one finger, “it might help me deduce more.”
“Do you think that we will seek the rod first?” Blakstar asked after a short silence.
“There is no need to look,” Thal replied, “as the rod is in a case in Melbarth,” he repeated, forgetting that he had already mentioned this fact. Thal thought a moment. “No, since we are being sent to Shigmar,” he added, “home of the order he founded, I’d guess we will be looking for Shigmar’s staff.” He stopped and tapped his chin again. “The name of the staff is even more difficult than the rod. The principle attribute of a kailu is wisdom and what they do is healing; wisdom is a compound word in the ancient, wedhu, from weid, ‘to see,’ and dhu, ‘to set or put,’ as in setting something in motion or putting something into practice. In many ways, wisdom is putting knowledge into practice, so it combines knowledge and experience. But ‘wisdom’ is a late word, so in the time of Shigmar, it could have been, gnudhu, which is putting knowledge into practice. Healing is to make one whole, so the symbol for it is kailu, which would be the simplest--eli-kailu-ghebi--the ‘One’s giver of health.’”
Blakstar barked a laugh. “And we are still where we were,” he noted, “speculating, and no closer to knowing anything useful.”
The laugh again jerked Thal out of his musings. “You may be right,” he admitted, “but the more we know, the more prepared we are to face whatever Gar places in our way.”
The kortexi nodded, lapsing into silence; the red-haired maghi also fell silent, one finger still tapping his chin; the horses shifted and nickered in turn, joining their masters in the other-worldly silence surrounding them.
A shadow detached itself from the corner of the small room, little more than a closet with a tiny desk; a tall, cloaked figure moved toward the green-robed figure seated at the desk. The seated kailu jumped when the cloaked figure’s cold hand touched the kailu’s shoulder from behind; the kailu apprentice wiped his sweaty face with a red silk handkerchief.
“About time,” he wheezed, “I was beginning to think you’d abandoned me.”
The cloaked figure pulled a chair around next to the desk, sitting and placing his fingertips together in front of his still hooded and shadowed face. The figure lounged rather than sat in the chair; his fingers drumming slowly together. The kailu wiped his face again, sweating even more under the silent scrutiny. The cloaked figure waited for a time before speaking.
“I had more important business to attend to, kerteradi,” the cloaked figure finally said.
“That is not my name!” the kailu protested.
“It is the name of those who sell themselves to the Great Lord, so it is your name,” the figure replied coldly.
The kailu flinched and compulsively wiped his face.
The cloaked figure leaned back and laughed, his mouth and chin, surrounded by a perfectly trimmed brown beard, were momentarily visible. “Never think that the Great Lord has forgotten you, kerteradi,” the figure grasped the arms of the chair and leaned toward the kailu, his voice becoming an ominous whisper, “the Great Lord never forgets those who have sworn into his service, never fails to reward the obedient, never fails to punish those who fail in their assigned tasks.” The figure reached with his right hand toward the kailu, index finger pointing and touching the center of the kailu’s chest; the kailu arched back in his chair, a scream exploding from between his clenched teeth. The cloaked figure pressed his finger harder into the kailu’s chest, causing more writhing and louder screaming, removing his finger a moment later. “Have you forgotten whom you serve?” he whispered.
The kailu still shook, panting and trying to speak. “No, Lord,” he croaked, “but someone might hear: many who saw you here would recognize you,” he managed between pants, “and I would be revealed, ending my usefulness here, to the Great Lord.”
The cloaked figure laughed again. “If that happens, I will kill you myself, but not before you have screamed yourself hoarse and after we have stretched you across the altar and let Mistress Melufa have her way with you, giving your still beating heart to the Great Lord. Do you take me for a fool?”
The kailu fell out of his chair, prostrating himself in front of the cloaked figure. “Never! I serve the Great Lord, and his favored servant.”
The cloaked figure kicked the kailu off his feet. “Get up, kerteradi, and give me your report. How proceeds the Great Lord’s plan?”
The kailu got painfully back into his chair, wiping his face with the red silk, then picking up a mirror off the desk. He looked at the place where the cloaked figure had kicked him, saw a bruise forming under his left eye. “Lord, if people see this bruise they will ask questions.”
“Then heal yourself, kerteradi,” the figure snapped.
“I . . . I cannot,” the kailu admitted.
“Then cover it,” the figure replied. “My patience is not unlimited.”
The kailu flinched, tried to wipe the sweat from his face, but tossed the red silk handkerchief, soaked with sweat, onto the desk. “I did as you instructed,” he reported, “I took my kailu master to the secret glade and showed him the altar.”
“And how did your kailu master respond?” he asked, a hint of amusement in his voice.
“As you anticipated, he was outraged,” the kailu continued. “I reminded him who was there last, and he vowed to take action. When we returned, he called for a council.”
“Does he have enough votes?”
“Yes.” The kailu wiped his face with the sleeve of his green robe. “The seeds have borne fruit.”
“When he is condemned, signal. The purem and ghelem will be unleashed against Shigmar.”
“But the seklesem?” the kailu asked, hoping not to upset the figure.
The figure laughed again. “Do you think you are the only kerteradi among the Great Lord’s foes? There are others, many others; they will ensure that Shigmar falls and that if the seklesem come, it will be too late even to bury the dead.” The cloaked figure was silent for a moment, tapping his fingertips together before his shadowed face. “What about your little job in the Infirmary?”
“I did as you commanded,” the sweating kailu replied; “it slid into the wound and disappeared, as you said it would.”
“Not even that meddling fool, Avril, will notice,” the figure noted with satisfaction. “You have done well, kerteradi. When the captives are dragged from Shigmar, the Great Lord will make sure you are rewarded with she whom you desire.”
“But what if something goes wrong? Headmaster Myron is notorious for having tricks up his sleeve: what if he pulls off another miracle?”
“Myron has one great weakness,” the figure assured his cringing servant, “everything has been set up to exploit his weakness.”
“What is it?”
“The law,” the figure replied, “he is a great believer in the law. He will not pull another miracle out of his sleeve when his apprentice has been tried and convicted according to the laws he holds dear. The plan can only fail if you fail, and I know,” the cloaked figure continued slowly, pointing at the kailu’s chest, “you will not fail, for you fear the pain of failure and desire the promised reward with all the fires of your lust: the apprentice’s witch will be yours.”
The kailu’s face lit up; a vision of Klare filled his mind. “You will teach me the red kailu way of mastering the will of another, so that she becomes my willing slave?” he asked in a breathy whisper.
“Yes,” the cloaked figure hissed, “think of her, your willing slave, ready to fulfill your every desire.” The cloaked figure paused, giving the implications time to sink in. “Now, kerteradi, there is one more thing.”
The kailu looked up at the cloaked figure, his cheeks colored with the visions filling his head. “What?” he asked, his desire plain upon his face.
“You must take me to visit your master,” the cloaked figure said.
The vision snapped shut; the kailu leaped out of his chair. “Are you mad?” he shouted.
The cloaked figure raised his arm, finger pointing and moving toward the kailu’s chest; the kailu stumbled backward, trying to avoid the pain he saw coming toward him. “You dare accuse me?” the cloaked figure asked, power and menace filling each word.
The kailu fell again to his knees. “Forgive me, Lord,” he choked, “the vision you called up in my mind distracted me, and your request caught me off guard.” The kailu placed his head on the floor in abjection.
The cloaked figure bent over the kailu groveling at his feet and brushed his fingers across the top of the kailu’s head, giving him only the slightest jolt of pain. “Get up, kerteradi, and take me to your master.”
The kailu got slowly to his feet, eyes on the cloaked figure. “May I ask why?”
“You may ask,” the figure replied, “and I may answer, depending on how quickly you fulfill my command.”
“We will go at once, Lord,” the kailu replied, moving quickly to the door of his room. He opened it only a crack, to view the hall.
“The Great Lord,” the figure continued, “wants to be sure all of the chosen now present in Shigmar are condemned to death, so I will become your master.”
“How is this possible?” the kailu asked in awe.
“To the Great Lord, all things are possible,” the figure replied, naked eagerness revealed in every word. . . .
Return again next Monday for another installment of our tale! In the next chapter we will see the first meeting between the principle chosen, and some of the early results of their new fellowship. Remember that the entire text is available from Smashwords for free! Also, for those who prefer print, get the second edition of the text from CreateSpace!
|Posted by gwermon on February 28, 2014 at 3:00 PM||comments (0)|
28 February 2014
Friday Poet’s Corner
Renaissance poets prided themselves on their ‘wit’, or cleverness, and would go a long ways to create a clever pun, as the following sonnet, in the Italian form, by Sir Philip Sidney, from his sequence, Astrophil and Stella:
My mouth doth water, my breast doth swell,
My tongue doth itch, my thoughts in labour be;
Listen then, lordlings, with good ear to me,
For of my life I must a riddle tell.
Towards Aurora’s court, a nymph doth dwell,
Rich in all beauties which man’s eye can see,
Beauties so far from reach of words, that we
Abase her praise, saying she doth excell;
Rich in the treasure of deserved renown,
Rich in the riches of a royal heart,
Rich in those gifts which give the eternal crown;
Who though most rich in these and every part,
Which make the patents [grants, titles] of worldly bliss,
Hath no misfortune, but that Rich she it.
Now if I tell you that “Aurora” and “Stella” refer to Lady Penelope Rich, do you see the extended pun on her last name? Notice also that Sidney cannot resist the witty end couplet, although this sonnet is in the Italian style, saying that her only problem is that she is a “Rich”–belonging to someone else–for all of her “riches!” Shakespeare does a similar thing in one of his sonnets, creating and extended pun using his first name, “Will”, an amusing exercise in linguistic gymnastics! Come back next week for another edition of the Poet’s Corner.
|Posted by gwermon on February 24, 2014 at 3:30 PM||comments (0)|
We rejoin Thal and Blakstar traveling through rumepant in this week’s installment of our epic fantasy, Chosen of the One: Book 1 of The Redemption; we remind our readers that when we last left these two chosen, they had been sent by teleportation orthek to Shigmar by Thal’s father, Kalamar, only moments before a legion of Gar’s soldiers attack Thal’s home, destroy his parents and are destroyed by the teka protecting the tower; just before the tower’s defenses seal the tower from all approach, a young wetha slips in, grieving for the loss of her family, her mistress, and her beloved. . . .
Chapter 10, Part 1
Traveling through rumepant is an eerie, unsettling experience, best done in silence, but if one must speak, it should be done beneath a dome of silence, lest the echoes drive all in one’s party mad, for the echoes of a single sentence can last for hours. . . .
from the Annals of Melbarth, First Series, Early Lectures of the Hierarchs
Guest Lecture by Headmaster Shigmar
Their eyes adjusted slowly, the bright white light of Kalamar’s orthek fading to gray mistiness. Blakstar felt that they were moving, standing on a round slab of obsidian bearing the same symbol as the one upon which they had stood outside of the white maghi’s tower, but no breath of air cooled his cheeks. He stood holding Wingfoot’s reins, his mount on his left and Thal to his right, who was holding Marble’s reins. The place they were in was not dark, but there was no single source of light, no way to establish direction, no sun, moon, or stars, only the stone under their feet. The air was neither warm nor cold, without scent or moisture; the stamp or snort of the horses echoed strangely, as if they were inside a hollow stone tube.
“Where are we?” Blakstar asked and heard himself ask several times before his echoes faded away in the distance.
“Do you understand the four dimensions?” Thal asked, and re-asked.
“Do you mean length, width, height, and time?” the kortexi asked, and re-asked.
“Maghem name this the fifth dimension,” Thal said, then waited for the echoes to fade. “Here, everyplace is the same distance from every other place.” Echoes fading into the distance, then Blakstar heard the echoing whisper of his first question beginning to return; the horses stamped and shifted, their ears rotating. “Shigmar to Karble to the Mountain to the tower: all the same.”
Wherearewe wherearewe wherearewe wherearewe wherearewe wherearewe. . . .
“How far?” Blakstar asked shortly and in a low whisper in an attempt to minimize the echoes, now hearing more of their conversation returning. The horses shook their heads, blowing and stamping, as if they were trying to shake off the sounds.
Doyouunderstandthefourdimensions doyouunderstandthefourdimensions. . . .
“About an hour,” Thal replied, frowning at the sounds of his own voice returning. Echoes repeated and faded, then other words returned, hissing whispers filling the mist around them; moments passed slowly.
Doyoumeanlengthwidthheightandtime doyoumeanlengthwidthheightandtime. . . .
Thal turned to Blakstar. “I never got to examine your sword,” he said, starting more echoes.
Maghemnamethisthefifthdimension maghemnamethisthefifthdimension. . . .
“Can’t you do something about the echoes?” Blakstar asked, covering his ears to stop the echoes now getting louder; both mounts shook with fright, their ears laid back.
Hereeveryplaceisthesamedistancefromeveryotherplace hereveryplaceisthesame. . . .
Thal smacked his forehead. “Of course!” he snapped. “I forgot. In the excitement of leaving . . . ,” he began, but stopped, as the sounds of their voices multiplied about them; Blakstar winced. Thal raised his rod, whispered, and a silver globe grew out of the rod’s tip, expanding to surround them; all sound of the hissing echoes ceased as the dome covered Blakstar. “I forgot the first rule of rumepant,” Thal said, and no echoes followed, “a ward to allow conversation.” The shimmering silver globe now covered both them and their mounts, the horses’ ears going back up, both heads moving to look around.
“Rumepant?” Blakstar said, eyebrows raising.
“That is the name of this place in between the normal reaches of space and time,” Thal explained. “Your sword’s power to open doorways to other places confirms the theory of a further dimension, in which all places exist in a single place and time, although the explanation for its existence seems to be too convoluted and complex for casual conversation. I think it more likely that your sword somehow punches a hole in reality, drawing your position and the place you want to get to next to each other, so that one can simply take a single step and cross large spaces.”
Blakstar shook his head, looking quite confused, and drew his sword, reversing it and offering it to Thal. “You wanted to examine this?”
Thal’s eyes came back to the kortexi and his sword. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I sometimes get distracted. . . .”
Blakstar shrugged. “What can you tell me about my sword, which is the first key?”
Thal accepted the sword, holding it up. “It is marvelously light,” he said, “belying its large size. I’d expect it to be much heavier; its lightness is likely an effect of its teka.” Thal was silent for a time; he closed his eyes for a moment before continuing. “It is odd, however, that it only has a slight dweomer of teka; I’d expect a much stronger aura, considering its power to open doorways to other places.”
“The keeper told me that my armor would grow in power as I grew in experience,” Blakstar said, “do you suppose that includes my sword?”
Thal nodded. “Very probably.” He moved the hilt closer to his eyes, noticing symbols on the cross guard between the gemstones embedded in it, one for each of the elements. “There is something written here,” he began, then flicked the fingers of his free hand and a globe of light blossomed above his head. “That’s better; I can make them out now: eli-kerdu-ghebi, which is also your second name. The first part, ‘eli’ is the ancient word for the One, ‘kerdu’ is ‘heart,’ and ‘ghebi’ is ‘giver,’ so the name of this key must be heart-giver of the One.”
“That does not make sense, heart-giver? What does that mean?” Blakstar asked, feeling very confused by Thal’s interpretation.
“It is a metaphor,” Thal replied, “the sword is the preferred weapon of the kortexi, so a sword that is a ‘heart-giver’ must be a giver of courage, in this case, the sword literally gives you heart–courage–or the will to fight.” Thal tapped his chin with one finger, thinking. He stood after a moment and held up the sword with both hands in defensive position. “Stand and fight!” he shouted.
Blakstar stood, confused, then laughed. “What? Are you kidding?”
“Don’t I frighten you?” Thal asked, crestfallen.
“No, not really,” Blakstar replied, “your stance and grip are not quite right.”
“What? Oh, sorry,” Thal said, “you can tell I’m not really a swordsman.” He clumsily turned the sword around and pushed it toward the kortexi. “Here,” he said, “you try it.”
Blakstar took the sword. “Huh?”
“Assume the stance that you would if you meant to attack me,” Thal replied.
Blakstar raised a single eyebrow. “Why?” he asked.
“Just testing a theory,” Thal answered.
Blakstar still felt confused, but shrugged. The sword came up, held in his right hand, point toward Thal’s throat; both the blade and the gemstone on the pommel glowed suddenly with golden light.
Thal’s eyes widened; he stepped back into Marble, covering his face with his arms. “Put it down, please!” he implored.
The kortexi complied, letting the flat of the blade rest on his right shoulder; the light surrounding the blade winked out, but there was still a glimmer of golden light from the yellow stone set into the pommel. “And?” he asked, wondering at Thal’s behavior.
Thal breathed a sigh of relief, not speaking for several moments. “A sword has the literal ability to ‘take the heart’ from another, by killing the opponent. Your sword has, not only the literal ability to take someone’s heart, but also drains his courage, his will to fight. When you aimed the point at my throat and the blade lit up, I suddenly felt fear, even though I knew you did not mean to attack me. Your sword, the heart-giver of the One, apparently has the power to cause fear, or at least drain courage from your opponent.” He thought for a moment, again tapping his chin with one finger. “I think it might be better translated as will-giver of the One,” he mused, “yes, that makes more sense to me.”
“Are you telling me that when I face someone in battle,” Blakstar began, frowning with the effort, “my sword will make them fear me?” he finished, feeling mildly shocked.
“I won’t know for sure until you actually fight someone with it,” Thal replied, “but yes, I think that is what it does.”
The kortexi’s brow wrinkled. “Well, that hardly seems fair,” he noted, “I draw the sword to fight and my opponent is suddenly afraid of me.”
Thal barked a laugh, then coughed. “You are facing say, three ponkolum,” Thal posited, “do you still think it unfair that they are frightened by you and your sword?”
At the mention of ponkolum, Blakstar’s face drained of color, recalling his dreams; he carefully slipped his sword back into its scabbard, then sank to the stone. Inside, he heard the laughter of the ponkolam, saw the blind but hungry eyes of the pura whose face blurred into the face of Marta, felt the burning flame of desire, the flaming pain across chest and loins where the mark of Gar had been somehow inscribed; unconsciously, he reached up to cover his chest, and he saw the face and form of his mate-to-be, heard her anguished cry to see, felt again the pain across his chest and loins; harsh ponkolam laughter, eyes hungry with desire, guilty flames burning low in his belly, flaming pain over his front, leather thongs digging into his wrists and ankles, sharp pain at the base of his skull, anguished cry, “Let me see him! Let me see him! Let me see. . . .”
His eyes snapped back into focus on the form shaking him by his shoulders, the long face, filled with concern and framed by wild, red hair; Blakstar was panting and scratching at the pain in his chest.
“Blakstar, what’s wrong?” Thal asked, face wrinkled with concern.
“When you mentioned . . . , when you said . . . , I . . . ,” he stammered, “I recalled the dreams I had last night, filled with images I did not understand and a feeling of overwhelming guilt suddenly filled me, but I do not know its source.” He jerked to his feet and turned away, grabbing Wingfoot’s neck and pushing his face against it to stifle the sobs trying to escape from his mouth. Moments passed before his breathing returned to normal, and he felt himself regain some control. He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned, his face a stony mask.
“Has something happened?” Thal asked.
Blakstar shrugged once. “I don’t know,” he replied, “but the dreams and recalling them, makes me feel as if I had done something wrong–very wrong–enough to cause me to lose my place in the order . . . I am tormented by sudden guilt that I don’t understand.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” the maghi asked, sounding concerned.
The kortexi shook his head and looked away. “They’re just dreams,” he shrugged.
Blakstar felt Thal stand, Thal’s hand still gripping his shoulder. “Blakstar,” Thal said, then paused a moment as if considering what to say. “Perhaps if I tell you a little about myself, it might distract you from these troubling dreams and feelings.”
Blakstar sighed, then shrugged.
“I’m not actually the son of Kalamar and Nelle,” he said.
Blakstar looked up suddenly, surprised by this declaration. “What do you mean?”
“I’m the son of a kara who died when I was very young,” Thal continued. “I joined the urchins of the street, begging and stealing enough to survive. The people of the village put up with us, feeling partially responsible for our wretched state; I think they actually left food out for us. When I was nearly six, a couple of years after my mother died and left me alone, I noticed a wetha who came to the village regularly, trading her farm goods for other useful items. I learned that she was a white maghi, living with her husband near our village. One day, I felt quite bold and asked her to show me some teka. She smiled at my request, snapped her fingers, and a delicious looking apple appeared out of thin air, I thought. This went on for more than a week: I would ask for teka and she would snap her fingers and give me some piece of fruit. In the evenings, I would brag to my fellow thieves that I was learning to become a great maghi, who would soon not need to steal food, as I would be able to conjure it out of nothing. After having had their fill of my bragging, one of the thieves asked the obvious question: ‘If you are learning to be a maghi, why are you still here with us?’ The others laughed and joined her in teasing me, made worse as I knew she was right. The next time I saw the maghi, my companions’ teasing prodded me to ask her to take me home with her and train me as a maghi. My request startled her, but she took me by the shoulders and stared into my eyes for a time. I felt embarrassed by it, feeling that she was looking inside of me. She let go, said, ‘Oh my,’ and then left. Later that day, she returned with her husband. He took me aside and placed one hand on my forehead. I was watching his face, so I saw his eyes widen in surprise, then he smiled at me. He told me later that when he saw my potential, the One whispered in his mind that I was the apprentice he had been seeking. They went to the village council and adopted me on the spot as their son and heir. What a strange turn of events this was in the life of a would-be thief!”
Thal glanced at Blakstar before going on. “I spent the next six years being educated: learning to read and write, grammar, history, philosophy, theology, astronomy, everything but teka. I learned to milk cows and gather eggs, weed the garden, clean out the stable, and so on, but did not learn a single orthek. During the time, I was upset by this fact, and pestered my adopted parents constantly about teka. Their answer was always the same: we’ll teach you teka when we decide you are ready, which to a young boy meant, never.”
At this, Blakstar laughed. “That sounds familiar,” he noted amidst his laughter, “the same is true of a kortexi. Only difference is we did more manual labor and constant exercising, and running: oh, how I hated those daily, five league runs!”
Thal nodded and smiled, glad to see his companion laugh. “Of course, I now realize that what they taught me through those early years provided a foundation for learning teka, just as all that running made you strong enough to wear armor and wield a sword. I spent the last ten years learning teka, and the frightening part is that I’ve barely scratched the surface; I might be able to light someone’s boots on fire, if they weren’t wet, or raise a shield that would deflect an arrow, uh, fired at long range, that is,” Thal paused, then he added, “by a nearly blind archer.”
Blakstar looked at Thal, saw him smiling, and burst out laughing. For nearly five minutes, he continued to laugh, unable to stop, not because Thal’s joke was really very funny, but for the release of tension that had been building within in him since he started riding toward the Mountain.
Thal looked surprised. “The joke wasn’t that good; in point of fact, it was quite awful.”
Blakstar wiped the tears from his face. “It was the last twig that broke the donkey’s back,” he whispered hoarsely, borrowing a popular phrase. “The last week, or so, has been quite tense,” he added, “to laugh that hard helps relieve some of the tension.”
“That is good,” Thal said, “you were beginning to look quite somber; I was afraid for a moment that you might actually turn to stone, which, I suppose, could have certain advantages for a kortexi,” he went on, a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth, “very difficult to stab.”
“Please, no more bad jokes,” Blakstar said, laughing again, “I might not be able to stop; how would it look if we arrived in Shigmar, both doubled over with laughter?”
“They’d be quite impressed with you,” Thal laughed, “Sir Karble come back as the laughing kortexi: he attacks his foes with his fear-instilling sword, then tells them bad jokes until they laugh so hard, that they die of a cardiac arrest.” . . .
Return again next week for another installment and further adventures of Thal & Blakstar as they travel to Shigmar. The full text of Chosen of the One is available from Smashwords for free! For a printed copy, go to CreateSpace and purchase your copy today!
|Posted by gwermon on February 21, 2014 at 9:30 AM||comments (0)|
21 February 2014
Friday Poet’s Corner
This week we give you one of our favorite Shakespearean sonnets, #130, an example of what we call an “anti-Petrarchan” sonnet: recall that the Petrarchan conceit, whether sonnet or some other form, celebrates the attributes and character of the beloved (emphasis on the attributes), praising the beloved for all her charms–as, for example, “her eyes are like pools of sapphire radiance, lighting my night.” In this particular sonnet by Shakespeare, the poet takes this convention and turns it on its head:
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why her breasts are dun [dirty brown];
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked [variegated], red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go [walk, although in this case, float],
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare [extraordinary]
As any she belied [misrepresented] with false compare.
Notice how each of the typical Petrarchan comparisons–eyes, lips, breasts, hair, cheeks, smell, voice, and walk–are reversed, which is closer to reality, and that is the ‘problem’ in this sonnet: the mistress is all too ‘real’, and, to borrow a common phrase, ‘reality sucks!’ Thus, when all is described, the poet prefers his real mistress to those constructs of Petrarchan lovers, seeing only the good. Here, the poet admits that his mistress is imperfect, but he prefers her to all those ladies (mis)represented by the typical love poem, which is why the wise man does not choose only for appearance! Good looks fade with time, (as we showed in a previous week’s sonnet from Shakespeare, #18), and one remains in love based on other things, but holds in memory the beauties that first caught our eyes.
Return again next Friday for another edition of the poet’s corner!
|Posted by gwermon on February 17, 2014 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
We return with another installment of our epic fantasy, Chosen of the One: Book 1 of The Redemption, with the conclusion of Chapter 9, and the first casualties in Gar’s war against the land, against the chosen. . . .
Chapter 9, Part 3
Thal staggered to the outer doors leading his mare, Marble, pushed them open, and crossed the yard then went through the front gate. He led Marble past the front door to the tower’s west side and onto the telepad. Kalamar walked next to Blakstar.
“Sir Blakstar,” he began.
“Please, Hierarch,” the kortexi interrupted, “to you, just Blakstar.”
Kalamar smiled, then repeated, “Sir Blakstar, I would be grateful if you would look out for Thalamar until he comes into his full power; his curiosity often gets the better of his good sense and leads him into trouble. I hope it is nothing that you and your companions cannot handle. Trouble not over the past; always keep in mind who and what you represent; may all your dreams be fulfilled,” he finished, clasping the kortexi’s hand. Blakstar looked surprised by the Hierarch’s words, but led his mount onto the telepad next to Thal and his mount when the old maghi released his hand. Kalamar’s eyes glistened as he turned to Thal. “I’m sure your mother gave you some good advice: remember it, and follow it. Don’t forget to study daily, so that your powers continue to grow. Save your ortheks like a miser until the last moment, then use whatever is necessary to overcome what you face. Finally, be true to the promises you have made to the One.”
“Thank you, father,” Thal said, voice shaking. “I will return when we have finished the task for more instruction. Give my love to mother.” He held up his right hand, palm outward.
Kalamar also raised his right hand. “Our love and hopes go with you, my son.” A tear ran down his cheek. “Our thoughts will always be with you.” He raised his rod and tapped it twice on the telepad, causing the symbol to glow brightly with white light. “Verataint-torekwe-rumepant-adshigmar!” he growled, and the young wethem disappeared in a flash of white light and a thunderclap. Kalamar leaned heavily on his rod and pulled a white lace handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his eyes. He turned at the sound of pounding hooves and the creaking of a cart. He saw Nelle ride up to the tower and jump down before cart and horse had completely stopped.
“Did you just send them off?” Nelle asked.
Kalamar nodded and made his way slowly toward her and the front door to the tower. “Just now.”
“That was close,” Nelle said. “I just crashed through a horde of Gar’s creatures prowling about the teka fences. They attacked the village: I saw the smoke and returned, hoping you had gotten them off before the noose tightened around us.” She reached her husband’s side, took his arm, and helped him into the tower. They started up the stairs, climbing to the top floor. When they stood beneath the trap door leading onto the roof, Nelle spoke the word of command, “rumandu,” opening the door above, then raised her platinum rod. Kalamar touched her rod, then Nelle said, “steighud-nes,” and they both floated up through the trap door and onto the roof.
“I have known since the melting of winter,” Nelle began, “that the end was near; it has been difficult to conceal from Thal.”
Kalamar nodded, and turned to the east, his eyes going distant. He turned a full circle, then smiled. “Gar must really fear us.”
She shrugged. “We have known that for many years.”
Kalamar touched his wife’s arm, fondly. “He sent three ponkolum, along with a legion of purem and ghelem.”
Nelle looked surprised. “Three? And a legion?”
Kalamar nodded. “If they raise their hands against us, we will cross over knowing that we have diminished his waning supply of his favorite servants; there will be fewer left after today.”
Nelle smiled, and kissed Kalamar’s cheek. “They will raise their hands against us,” she noted. “They will lose most of their forces breaking down our teka fences. They could not return to Gar without attacking us.”
“I feel the fences weakening,” Kalamar noted, “we will not wait long.”
They turned to the northeast, where most of the assault was concentrated, and saw smoke rising.
“It is a shame to burn the forest,” Nelle said.
“It will not last long,” Kalamar replied, “the storm they hit us with last evening will ensure that,” Kalamar said.
A red flash followed by a booming concussion shook the stones under their feet. Hordes of ghelem driven forward by purem, who were in turn led by the three ponkolum, rushed out of the smoking forest northeast of the tower. The two old maghem of Melbarth hurled exploding fireballs at the ghelem; the ordered ranks of the ghelem ripped apart, leaving nothing but steam and ash where the fireballs landed. The outer edges of the gheli ranks were hurled from their feet by the blast, and the few who survived lay charred and steaming. The purem and their trio of leaders were unaffected by the flames, being creatures half of fire, and they surged closer to the tower. Kalamar and Nelle held their arms toward the purem, fingers spread, and multi-forked bolts of lightning shot out, slicing through the lines of purem, reducing any touched by a bolt to gray ash and smoke. The ponkolum waved the bolts aside. The two maghem atop the tower joined hands and raised their rods to the sky. Clouds gathered from all directions while the remaining purem marched forward. In moments, black clouds hovered over the attackers; lightning flashed as the clouds grew higher and darker. As the purem and their leaders neared the stable yard, melon-sized chunks of ice fell on them, tearing through most of the remaining purem; the ponkolum raised shields of fire over their heads, deflecting the huge hail, which then destroyed all the purem around them. The few survivors broke and fled for the safety of the trees, but the ponkolum raised their arms and beat their huge, leathery wings, dispersing the clouds.
One of the ponkolum laughed. “Old fools! Can you not see that our power is greater than yours? Surrender your son,” he snarled derisively, “and we might let you live.”
Kalamar laughed in turn. “Gar will not be pleased with you, losing all of your army. But I think he would be more displeased if you got yourselves destroyed! Leave now, before the light of the One consumes you.”
“You cannot frighten us with your empty threats!” the first shouted and the other two continued to laugh. “Surrender your apprentice, and your death will be quick.”
In response, Kalamar sent more bolts of lightning at the ponkolum, but there were fewer forks than there had been before. The ponkolum easily turned them aside, still laughing; what they failed to see was that in the moment that he sent lightning at them, Nelle pulled a fist-sized blue ball out of the air and lobbed it toward the ponkolum, occupied with the lightning. The blue ball grew as it passed over them, sinking gently in the air to a point about four feet behind them at the level of their shoulders. Nelle jerked her rod up; the ball exploded hurling razor sharp shards of ice at the ponkolum’s unprotected wings and backs, tearing large holes in the wings and embedding themselves in their backs, where the fragments of ice hissed and steamed. The ponkolum howled in pain, staggering forward several steps.
“Nice one, wife,” Kalamar said.
Nelle smiled. “That should do the trick.”
The three ponkolum then combined their power, creating a huge ball of pure, red flames that hummed like a nest of angry wasps. After the ball was as wide as the tower, the three, in unison, threw their arms and bodies forward, and the red ball shot toward the maghem on the tower. Two platinum rods raised a wall of liquid green force, slightly angled, so that the ball of power shot heavenward, bursting overhead. But the force of the ponkolum’s fury had done its work: both maghem were thrown from their feet and hurled backward, sliding across the tower’s roof to the other side, Kalamar striking the parapet.
Nelle rolled to his side and took him in her arms. “Husband?”
Kalamar’s eyes barely opened; he whispered: “At least we will cross over together.” He managed a weak smile, mirrored by Nelle.
Before the last rumbles of the previous ball went silent, the ponkolum combined power again, creating a second ball of humming red force, filling it with the rage and pain they felt, and hurled it at the tower. It struck the roof and the maghem, just as they smiled at each other. Most of the roof and the two maghem, still holding to each other, were destroyed in the blast.
The ponkolum started to laugh, but stopped suddenly when the light on the hilltop dimmed, the color fading from everything. Dead silence followed; mist descended on the hilltop. The ponkolum looked around. A crack of thunder split the silence; the hilltop rumbled and shook in response. The few surviving ghelem and purem bolted for the trees, fleeing and hoping to escape from they knew not what. A point of brilliant white light winked on at the top of the ruined tower, growing in size and intensity until it was brighter than one-hundred suns. When the tower was obscured by the blinding brilliance of the light, it exploded from the tower, consuming the ponkolum, who had turned to flee, and the remains of their forces, wiping the hilltop clean, so that no trace remained to show anyone that the ghelem or the purem had ever been there. The elemental fences surrounding the tower began to renew themselves; purple light began to emanate from the tower beneath the damaged roof, and the area immediately around the tower–gardens, stable, and henhouse–to establish a ditistas. Hands invisible to the naked eye began the slow process of repairing the damaged roof. At sunset, a lone wolf howled mournfully in the distance to the north, marking the passing of Kalamar and Nelle, white maghem of Melbarth; a shadow moved under the trees, passing the teka fences before they closed completely, approaching the tower and canceling the ditistas, the figure now mourning the loss of family, mistress, and beloved, all in a single day. . . .
Return next week for another installment where we rejoin Blakstar and Thal as they travel through rumepant on their way to Shigmar and the school of the kailum. You can download the full version of Chosen of the One from Smashwords for free! If you prefer print, purchase the book from CreateSpace!
|Posted by gwermon on February 14, 2014 at 2:30 PM||comments (0)|
14 February 2014
Friday Poet’s Corner
Happy Valentine’s Day to all those who are, or have been, in love! To mark this occasion, we give you a sonnet, in the Italian form, that is most often mistaken for one of Shakepseare’s sonnets, one I often used on quizzes to keep the students honest, so to speak, remembering one key idea: that Shakespeare never used the Italian form, always the English, so that clue alone should be enough to identify the following sonnet:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints–I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!–and, if God choose,
I shall love thee better after death.
This Italian sonnet, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, is a classic love poem, one that is well known throughout the world. There are several features, beyond the form, that trip students into thinking it is Shakespeare–capitalizing words like ‘being’ and ‘grace’, as also the use of the archaic ‘thee.’ There is, however, another feature that disqualifies it as Shakespearian, or from the English Renaissance, the repeated use of enjambment: Renaissance poets never used this device, except by accident, while those of the Victorian period used it heavily, which ‘hides’ the end rhymes. Notice lines 2-3: “I love thee to the depth and breadth and height / My soul can reach,” and how the ‘phrasing’ of these lines carries over from one to the next (as does every line ending without a punctuation mark) causing the reader to pause, or at least hesitate, drawing attention to the three dimensions mentioned and consider just how deep, wide, and tall her love is, answered as the ‘thought’ continues in the following line.
All technical matters aside, this sonnet expresses her love for Robert, removing all possible limiting factors, and lodging in our minds as the ideal love poem. Enjoy on behalf of any and all who have loved with this same kind of devoted passion!
|Posted by gwermon on February 11, 2014 at 12:35 AM||comments (0)|
We return this week with more of Chosen of the One: Book 1 of The Redemption, as Thal wakes the following morning, going about the normal duties of the day, until something changes, and his parent, Hierarchs Kalamar and Nelle, send their apprentice and Sir Blakstar off to Shigmar. . . .
Chapter 9, Part 2
Thal sat up in bed, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He looked around and suddenly realized the light in his room was much brighter than it should have been: he’d overslept. No surprise, since his rest had been disturbed by strange dreams and the arrival of Sir Blakstar. He jumped to his feet and dressed quickly, knowing that the animals would not wait. Pulling on his boots, he left his room and crossed the hall, tapping lightly on the door before opening it slightly, since he did not wish to disturb the kortexi if he were still sleeping. One glance told him what he needed to know; he closed the door softly, turned, and went down the stairs.
Nelle was in the kitchen, just putting bread into the oven.
“Good morning, Thal,” she said without turning, closing the oven door. Her long white hair was up in a bun at the back of her head, as was usual when working in the kitchen.
“Good morning, mother,” he replied, grabbing a basket and the milk bucket waiting next to the door. “You should have awakened me; I did not intend to oversleep.”
Nelle turned from the oven and smiled at Thal. “Well, son, your rest was disturbed, so I did not think that a little extra sleep would hurt.” She moved to her work table, beginning to clean and put away her bread making implements. Before she turned to the table, Thal noticed that her blue eyes did not twinkle with mischief the way they usually did, and there was a slight tightness at the corners of her eyes and mouth, signs that she was concerned about something.
Thal frowned. “Your sleep was also disturbed,” he said, “yet you’re up at the normal time.”
Nelle smiled at him over her shoulder. “I’m older than you; I no longer need as much sleep as you.” She placed her dirty things in the large mixing bowl, then carried them to the washtub. “Is our guest still sleeping?”
“Yes, and he will probably sleep for quite a while,” Thal replied. “He was very tired when I let in him, so tired, in fact, that I had to help the mighty kortexi climb the stairs. The odd part about it was that his horse looked well-rested. When I pointed that fact out to him, he said they came to the tower directly from the Mountain, which I reasoned must be why we heard no signal when he passed the teka fences.”
“But there was no teleport signal either; so how did he come directly?” Nelle asked as she was pouring hot water into the washtub from a large copper kettle that had been steaming on the stove, returning it to the stove before Thal spoke again.
“He told me that he opened an archway here with his sword,” Thal said. The bowl of bread making tools crashed into the washtub. “Mother, are you all right?”
Nelle stood leaning on the washtub, her back to Thal. “You better see to the animals, Thal: the cow was starting to complain.” Nelle started to wash her bread making tools. “When you’ve milked the cow and collected the eggs, hitch Plodder to the cart; I’m going to Artowgar as soon as you get her hitched. Your breakfast, and a tray for our guest, is in the dining room. Father has already broken his fast and is closeted in his study; he wants to speak with you, once you have finished the chores and eaten.”
“I’ll see to it,” Thal replied in a slight daze.
Thal left the room, descended the stairs, and entered the stable; the cow lowed at him. “I’m coming.” He grabbed the milking stool and dropped the basket near the doors, then moved next to the cow, sat on the three-legged stool, and began to milk. His mind ranged freely while he worked, mulling over his mother’s reaction to Blakstar’s name and the news that he had used his sword to come here. He wondered why these two things had upset her but set these questions aside, as they could not be answered without more information. The sword was another puzzle; it did not feel that powerful when he had taken it from the kortexi and placed it on the table, and yet, for it to do what Blakstar had claimed, since kortexem did not use teka, it would mean that it was an artifact of extraordinary power. Only one kortexi had ever borne those devices: Sir Karble, the first kortexi. The fact that Blakstar now carried them seemed to indicate that they were Karble’s devices, probably his very equipment, meaning that the sword probably was the legendary sword of Karble, reportedly lost after he died and rumored to have strange powers. Why would Blakstar be chosen now to carry it, along with the rest of Karble’s equipment? Thal thought he better stop by the tower’s library; he was sure there must be something there that would tell him more about the sword, the devices, and what they might mean.
Thal finished milking and carried the bucket to, and set it by, the door into the tower. He went to the outside doors and threw them open, picking up the basket and crossing the yard to the henhouse. His mind traveled a different path, recalling how he used to brag to the other street urchins that one day he would become a maghi, and simply cast an orthek, conjuring up his meals. When he first came to the tower, after Nelle had found him, he thought he would immediately begin to learn teka, but he was surprised when his first assignments were gathering eggs, weeding the garden, cleaning out the henhouse and stable, mending fences, and so forth, chores he thought beneath the dignity of a maghi. When he had completed these daily chores, he sat with Nelle learning history and grammar until noon. Following lunch, afternoons were spent with Kalamar learning math and the reading, writing, and speaking of the orthek language, or ancient. The evenings were spent discussing philosophy with his adopted parents, and stargazing from the tower’s roof after dark. One day a week was spent doing larger chores, like wood gathering in the fall, or preparing and planting their large garden in the spring. The first six years were spent in this manner, without learning a single orthek. Thal now realized that those years gave him the foundation for deeper study; without them, he could not have learned even the simplest of ortheks. He carried the now full basket of eggs across the yard and into the stable, stopping to throw several handfuls of dried corn into the yard, where the hens were now scratching. He checked the mangers before leading Plodder from her stall, hitching her to the cart, then leading her and the cart to the tower’s front door. Nelle stepped out before he stopped, beginning to load their excess farm goods into the cart.
Thal went back into the stable, then back into the tower, and met his mother in the kitchen. He emptied the bucket of milk into a clay pitcher, then placed the pitcher in the tengle. Nelle took the basket from him, removed four eggs, and added them to those already in the tengle. She took the rest to the cart, followed by Thal carrying the rest of the goods she would trade in the village’s market. Thal helped her cover the cart with a square of canvas, and was surprised when Nelle embraced him fiercely before climbing up.
“Thalamar,” Nelle said, holding him by his shoulders and looking directly into his eyes, “there is more in the world than you can perceive with your senses; there are things whose existence cannot be proven or disproven empirically or logically.”
Thal laughed. “Mother, we’ve had this argument before . . . ,” he began, but she cut him off.
“Remember what we have taught you, what you are and may become, and remember that this tower will always be your home.” She kissed him on both cheeks, then climbed onto the cart.
Thal handed her the reins and laughed again. “You speak as if I were about to leave; have the plans changed . . . ?”
“You are,” Nelle replied, “Sir Blakstar’s arrival is the signal.”
Thal looked puzzled. “But I thought I wasn’t going to leave until the fall, and then it changed to early this spring, but I haven’t left yet, why?”
“Plans change,” Nelle said. “Something delayed the kortexi’s arrival after it was moved to this spring, which is why we told you to be ready at a moment’s notice.” She sighed. “If anything should happen to us. . . .”
“Nothing is going to happen to you,” Thal said firmly.
“If it does,” Nelle continued, ignoring him, “remember what I have said and who you are; the enemy knows you and your potential, and your weaknesses. He will try to trip you up and prevent you from reaching that potential. Goodbye, my son.” She shook the reins and drove off.
Thal stepped out of the way and leaned on the door, stunned. Before he could consider what Nelle had told him, he heard a window swing open overhead and his master’s tired sounding voice.
“Son! Have you eaten yet?” Kalamar called and asked.
“No,” Thal replied.
“Wake the kortexi and eat,” Kalamar said brusquely, “there is very little time.”
Thal stumbled into the tower and up the stairs, still stunned by what was happening. He forgot to knock, entered the room, and found Blakstar buckling on his belt and sword.
“Good morning,” Blakstar said cheerily, then he turned and saw Thal, whose face was pale. “Is something wrong?”
“I . . . uh,” Thal stammered, “I’ve just been told that I’m leaving today, and my mother spoke as if I would not see her again.”
“This is unexpected?” Blakstar asked.
Thal shrugged, nodded, then shrugged again, feeling unsure.
Thal noticed Blakstar eyeing him before he spoke. “The keeper on the Mountain told me before I left that you were to be one of my companions and that we were to travel to the valley of the kailum where we will meet the others. He also said that our first task would be to retrieve another key, and that to be successful in this task, we must all be completely inexperienced when we enter the place where the key is; this may explain the sudden change of plan,” Blakstar said, one hand on the hilt of his sword, the other fingering one of the flasks at his belt.
Thal started to think, and the color returned to his face. “My mother said that the signal for my departure was your arrival, something we were not, at first, expecting until fall, but then the date was changed to earlier this spring.” He looked up at the kortexi. “Did something happen to delay your departure?”
Blakstar’s eyebrows wrinkled. “Yes, but I don’t know what. The Wesento called me to his study three weeks ago and told me to be ready to leave the following morning; he did not tell me why the plans had changed, only that urgency was required. Then things happened to delay my departure: problems with making armor and my horse going lame. I finally left eight days ago.”
Thal nodded and looked away. “You said ‘another key,’ which implies that you already have a key: what is it?”
The kortexi drew his sword. “This is the first key.”
“Am I right in guessing that your sword is the sword of Sir Karble, the first kortexi?”
“May I examine it?” Thal asked, holding out his hands.
The kortexi reversed the sword, holding it out for Thal. Thal started to accept it, when Kalamar’s voice shouted from above.
“Thal, have you two eaten yet?” Kalamar asked. “When I said there was little time, I meant that you needed to hurry,” he went on sounding impatient, “that there was no time for conversations or questions: hurry!” he repeated with more insistence.
Thal jumped, jerking his hands back. “Sorry, Blakstar, my desire for knowledge. . . .” He left it hanging.
Blakstar smiled, slipped his sword back into its scabbard, then tucked his gauntlets behind his belt. “Lead the way.”
Thal turned and ran out of the room and across the hall, then moved into the dining room. Blakstar followed him into the room in time to see him remove a purple aura, a ditistas, Thal noted, to keep the food fresh and hot, covering two trays, both heaped with food. Thal pulled out a chair for the kortexi, then made himself a sandwich with eggs, bacon, cheese, and some new lettuce.
“I’ll just grab this and go find out if there is anything else to be done before we go,” Thal said, and took a bite of his breakfast as he turned to go.
Blakstar nodded, then began to eat. Thal ran up the stairs to the fourth floor and tapped on the door to his father’s study, then entered.
Kalamar leaned back in his chair and rubbed his temples. “I dreamed last night of Melbarth; he came to me to bring me a message about you and your future companions. He told me that you are the chosen of the One, and that I should send you directly to Shigmar this morning. I asked why you should go by an orthek that uses much energy, and he told me that you, the chosen of the One, had to be inexperienced to complete your first task: if you travel by normal means to Shigmar, you will gain too much experience, and the more experience you gain before entering the place of the task, the greater your chances of failure. The teka was created to prevent Gar or his servants from retrieving what has been hidden there since the beginning.”
Thal sat down hard on his usual chair in front of the desk. “The kortexi was told exactly the same thing,” he said in a surprised whisper, “and also that we are going to retrieve a second key, his sword is the first key: how many keys are there?”
Kalamar pointed to the sandwich, forgotten in Thal’s hand. “That won’t give you any sustenance, if you don’t eat it. You’ll need to gather your things, along with a portable reagent pack,” he said, pointing to the worn leather case sitting on his desk.
Thal took another bite from his sandwich, chewed fast and swallowed. “But that is yours, if I take it, what will you use?”
“I have no need of a travel pack,” the old maghi replied, “you will need it far more than I. The time to gather your things and saddle your horses should be enough for me to finish my preparations.”
Thal took and swallowed another bite while his father spoke, struggling to digest more than just the food. “You haven’t answered my question,” he noted petulantly around another mouthful.
Kalamar sighed. “Three–three for the three original orders; the seklesem came later. Now gather your things, and do not forget your study books.” Thal thought his father looked grayer than normal as he turned his attention back to the scroll he studied.
Thal knew better than to question further, although many questions occurred to him, one rising to the surface of his thoughts: why so sudden? He closed the door quietly after picking up the leather case, then moved into his own study. He gathered his things while still biting from his sandwich, pondering the question, and descended to his bedroom. There, he washed his hands, having finished his breakfast, grabbed some spare clothes, his bedroll, and stuffed it all into his saddlebags, which he found sitting on his bed: trust his mother to think of everything, as he found the things he had forgotten already inside. She had even left a belt--her old traveling belt--with his rod already there. He buckled it on, then picked up his saddlebags and left his room. As he passed the dining room, he said that he was going to the stable to saddle the horses. He started to saddle his own horse, a white and chestnut mare named Marble, as he was more familiar with her harness. By the time he had finished, he heard Blakstar enter behind him, and turned to find him carrying another sandwich and a mug.
“I thought you might want something more to eat,” Blakstar said, “and I thought you could eat while I saddle Wingfoot.”
“Thanks,” Thal said, accepting the mug and sandwich, “although as host, I should be doing that for you.” He took a drink of milk and a bite of the sandwich.
Blakstar smiled and moved to his mount. “Since we are going to be traveling together for a long time, likely most of our lives, I did not think that I was really a guest and you my host.”
Thal laughed. “Sound reasoning, I should have thought of it.” He continued to eat and drink while Blakstar saddled his horse. “I did learn,” Thal said between bites, “that there are three keys–one for each order–and that my master is sending us to Shigmar with a teleport orthek.”
Blakstar was just buckling his saddle. “But aren’t there four orders?”
“I misspoke,” Thal answered, “I should have said, the three original orders, as the seklesem came later,” Thal replied. “Since the first key is your sword, and it is the sword of the original kortexi, I’d bet that we have to retrieve something of either Shigmar or Melbarth.” Thal finished his sandwich and milk before continuing. “Kailum of Shigmar carry staves, so I’d bet that one of the keys is the Staff of Shigmar, which would mean that the third would be Melbarth’s Rod.” Thal’s eyes went wide. “Do you suppose . . . ,” he began, but was cut-off by the voice of Kalamar as he stepped into the stable behind Thal.
“We don’t have time for your supposes, Thalamar,” Kalamar said. He turned to the kortexi, who had just finished saddling his mount. “Welcome, Sir Blakstar eli-kerdu-ghebi. I wish there were time to hear your tale; I’d love to know how you came to bear the devices and gear of Sir Karble.”
Blakstar looked surprised, but still managed to bow. “Greetings, Hierarch. I had no idea this was your home.”
Thal was stunned for the second time that morning. “You know each other?”
“Yes,” Kalamar replied, “we were introduced when the Great Council met last fall in Karble.” He turned from Thal to Blakstar. “We had an inkling that you might be the one, but we have not time to discuss this further. Lead your mounts around to the telepad.” . . .
Come back next week for another installment when we will see what happens at the tower after Thal and Blakstar leave. Chosen of the One: Book 1 of The Redemption is available as an ebook from Smashwords for free; a print version is available for purchase from CreateSpace. Good reading!
|Posted by gwermon on February 8, 2014 at 12:40 AM||comments (0)|
7 February 2014
Friday Poet’s Corner
This week we look at the second sonnet form, the English, or Shakespearean, and we choose a favorite by the man himself, Shakespeare, from his sonnet sequence. The writing of a sequence of sonnets was popular during the Renaissance, used by Sir Philip Sidney–Astrophil & Stella–Edmund Spenser–Amoretti. Each of these sequences involves someone the poet loves, so the sequence chronicles the ‘love story’ from the beginning to its most often ambiguous conclusion–the poet’s desire is thwarted in some way, leading him to write the sequence. The most common rhyme scheme of the English form is ababcdcdefefgg–notice the division into three quatrains (4 line stanzas) followed by the final couplet. Similar to the octave in Italian form, these three quatrains set up the poetic problem; the final couplet ‘resolves’ the problem, and this reveals why so few poets use this form: the need for a witty couplet that resolves the problem set up in the three quatrains. Few poets had/have the ability to do this. . . .
Also, as previously mentioned, Petrarch is the source of the sonnet, and sonnet sequence, and we call any sonnet “Petrarchan” that praises the virtues/attributes of the poet’s love. To illustrate this, we share one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, #18, a well known example of a Petrarchan sonnet:
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometimes declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed [summer becomes fall, and the beautiful summer clothes are lost];
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession fo that fair thou ow’st [owned];
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st: [enduring poetry]
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
A typical English and Petrarchan sonnet! Again, divided to draw attention to the structure–three quatrains followed by a witty couplet. The problem? Like a summer day that will end, replaced by autumn (old age), and winter (death), the beauty of the beloved will fade with time. The second quatrain reinforces the idea of fading beauty, for summers can be hot, withering beauty before its time, and the inevitable march of the seasons. In the third quatrain the poet makes the boast that he can and will preserve that beauty forever in these lines, or the poem itself, which will outlast both poet and beloved, as expressed in the final witty couplet: as long as there are men who can read, as long as the poem lasts, men will remember the great beauty of the beloved. Notice that over 500 years later, we still read this sonnet, we are still touched by the beauty of Shakespeare’s ‘beloved’, who is unknown, in spite of many theories: the first 126 sonnets were written to this mystery person, the rest to the ‘dark lady’, who is also unknown.
We will return next week with another romantic sonnet, one of my all time favorites and an example of the ‘anti-Petrarchan’ sonnet, also by Shakespeare. . . .