Clyde B. Northrup

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Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on April 17, 2015 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

17 April 2015

Poet’s Corner

 

Welcome back to all our readers! This week we begin the second part of Coleridge’s “Christabel,” and we meet for the first time, Christabel’s father, Sir Leoline, in a rather macabre way–with the words her father says each morning as the bells ring:

 

Each matin bell, the Baron saith,

Knells us back to a world of death.

These words Sir Leoline first said,

When he rose and found his lady dead:

These words Sir Leoline will say

Many a morn to his dying day!

 

And hence the custom and law began

That still at dawn the sacristan,

Who duly pulls the heavy bell,

Five and forty beads must tell

Between each stroke—a warning knell,

Which not a soul can choose but hear

From Bratha Head to Wyndermere.

 

“Each matin bell . . . knells us back to a world of death,” words the Baron says each and every morning, ever since he awoke to find his wife (and Christabel’s supernatural mother) dead, a moment that must leave an indelible mark on anyone! In it, we learn something of the Baron’s view of life, that each day waking places and replaces him into a world of death, or a realm in which death holds sway; we would call this a fatalistic view, and one popularized in the last century by the absurdist school of theater. We also note that each sound of the bell is ‘doubled’ by a counterstroke, struck in between, which the poet calls “a warning knell,” (the sounding of the bell) that all in his lands “must” hear; this is the ‘custom and law’ of his land, to remember his dead wife each and every day, with forty-five rings/strokes of the matin (the first bell at sunrise that calls all to rise and pray). These forty-five rings of the bell seem to represent the age of Christabel’s mother when she died, each ring re-emphasized by the warning ring in between, for a total of 89 tolls of the bell (recall that the warning stroke is struck in between the others). At least the ‘sacristan,’ or priest, will get plenty of exercise each morning! Come back next week for more of this unfinished poem. Good reading!

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 13, Part 1

Posted by gwermon on April 13, 2015 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

13 April 2015

 

Good day to all! We return with another installment from the second book of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar, beginning a new chapter and discovering how our remaining heroes, without Sir Blakstar, escape from the realm of water. . . .

 

Chapter 13, Part 1

 

A search must be made among the people over whom we hold sway to find those unskilled persons matching the future quartet who will be called “chosen.” These will be sent, in groups of four–three wethem & one awemi–directly into the tomb of the original kailu; these groups must be placed under compulsions to return to us, should one of them succeed, after obtaining the secret artifact of enormous power hidden within. While it is unlikely that any of them should succeed, the small chance that one might is worth the risk and loss of life, for we could, in a simple stroke of good fortune, thwart the chosen long before they are even born, and enable our master to break out of this prison, enthroning him–the Great Lord–forever and toppling the realm of the usurper. . . .

 

from Archives of the Red Kailum, Records of the Magsamel,

Order#153-7625, issued atno 537

 

Blakstar’s sword thudded on the sand; Thal, Tevvy, and Klaybear stood looking at it, stunned.

“This isn’t right!” Tevvy exclaimed. “He was supposed to open a doorway back to Shigmar’s tomb; where are we?”

“No idea,” Klaybear replied, looking around. They were on a small island surrounded by green ocean, waves rolling in. There were scattered palm and coconut trees around them; the center of the island was a mountain that disappeared in the sky overhead. The sky was bright, but there was no source of light visible.

“I think,” Thal began, “that we are still in the water realm,” he finished, looking up at the mountain behind them. He turned back to where the sword lay and stooped to pick it up.

Klaybear was looking at the beach. “I’ve seen this before,” he said, pointing down at the beach, “in the dream I had before we entered this realm. And . . . ,” he started to say but stopped, remembering clearly what he had seen.

A brilliant white light flashed far out to sea, growing suddenly bright then winking out.

“What was that?” Tevvy asked.

“No . . . ,” Klaybear began but was cut-off by a rumbling sound that grew louder, approaching from the direction of the light. The ground under their feet shook for a few seconds, sending them reeling across the sand, and when the shaking ceased, the water withdrew down the sand.

Tevvy stood, shading his eyes and looking in the direction the water had gone. He turned suddenly, running toward the mountain behind them. “Run!” he shouted, “a wave is coming!”

Thal and Klaybear followed, Thal carrying the sword awkwardly. Tevvy scrambled over the rocks, trying to stay ahead of his larger companions; Klaybear caught up to him, scooping the small awemi onto his back, where Tevvy clung to his pack. They managed to claw their way to a shelf twenty yards above the beach when they heard the roar of the wave reaching the beach. Turning, they saw a wave that must have been fifteen feet high, rolling over the beach and nearly covering the trees, crashing into the side of the mountain below them, splashing and soaking them in spray. The first wave was followed by several more, the next few waves larger than the first, then the rest smaller, until the surf returned to what it was before. From their position above, they could see that things had washed up upon the shore, one of them shaped like a body.

Tevvy slid off Klaybear’s back just as the kailu started back down.

“No,” Klaybear whispered to himself as he jumped down from the shelf and slid down the rocky slope to the sand. He ran down the beach to where the body bobbed in the surf, grabbing the white cloak with gold trim and dragging it onto the sand. “No,” he said again, then stooped and rolled the body onto its back, saw the face he had seen in his dream. He heard the others coming near and put his hand on the chest; he was surprised to find that it was still warm, and put his ear against the chest, listening. He heard a faint beat, and he immediately rolled him onto his side, pushing on his middle to force the water out of his lungs. On his third squeeze, the wethi started to choke and cough, drawing wheezing breaths between fits of coughing. The wethi sat up, wiping the water and hair from his eyes. Klaybear looked at his pale face more closely, and he realized at once that it was not Blakstar, although the face was similar. He had seen this wethi before, but he could not recall where.

“There are scorched pieces of tentacle,” Tevvy said, coming up next to Klaybear, “and pieces of the wedoram the kortexi cut in half.”

“How are you?” Klaybear asked.

The stranger looked at him, then scrambled backward on the sand away from the green kailu. “Stay back!” he exclaimed, eyes wild with fright. “Stay away, wepanum!”

“We are not,” Klaybear said, a catch in his voice.

“Why do you think we are wepanum?” Thal asked.

“I saw you arrive, popping out of thin air,” the wethi replied, “as all wepanum come and go.” He continued to crawl backward until he came to a coconut tree. “You’ve come to torment me again, as if being trapped here is not enough!”

“How did you come here?” Thal asked.

His voice changed; his eyes looking far away. “We came here looking for treasure,” his voice sobbed, tears flowing, “poor sons of poorer fathers. We heard rumors of a tomb filled with gold, and a red kailu who wanted something hidden in the tomb,” his voice became flatter and duller as he spoke. “We all had girls we wanted to marry, but were too poor to interest their fathers. So we went to Belford, and we found the red kailu who started the rumors, hoping to attract someone to enter the tomb for him. He said we had to be inexperienced, and that he would send us into the entrance, with supplies to help us get through it. He told us how to activate the doors, what we would face, and how we could have everything we found, except for the special artifact at the end. We had to swear a blood oath that we would die if we did not bring the artifact to him. He told us that he had sent others, and that none of them had succeeded. While he spoke, he placed a geas on us without our knowledge, so we could not refuse.” He pounded the sand with both fists, his voice angry, eyes wild. “And what did we find?” he shouted. “Torment! Death! And madness,” he finished, his voice softer, a defeated whisper, his hands grasping the sand, lifting, and allowing the sand to leak slowly out.

“How many?” Thal asked.

Tevvy sidled slowly around, taking a small dart and a bottle out of his belt pouch, moving casually away and around behind the wethi while he was distracted.

The wethi’s eyes focused on Thal, then he went on. “We were four, four fools!” he finished with an angry shout.

“What happened to the others?” Thal asked, voice gentle.

“We made it easily through the earth realm,” he said, voice calm, looking away from Thal, “and managed to make it through the fire, although none are sure how. Then we got to this . . . ,” he picked up a stone and hurled it at the waves still rolling in. Again, his voice grew suddenly loud and angry, “this accursed realm! The wedoram came, becoming our girls, promising to fulfill our every wish, but Rax and me were not fooled. When the others started to follow those foul fish, we ran for it, hoping to escape with our lives.” His voice became soft again. “We almost made it.” Voice louder, angrier. “That giant squid got Rax, and I ended up here,” soft voice again. “I found the portal; there’s a trail back there,” he said, pointing over his shoulder.

Tevvy was now behind the man, ready to jab him with his drugged dart, but Thal discretely held up his hand.

“Why didn’t you leave?” Thal asked.

The wethi started to laugh, laughter that became maniacal, then trailed off into a sob. “Because the door will only open if all of us are there,” he replied dully, “so I have been stuck here, I don’t know how long. I used to dream of going to some tropical island as a boy, where I did not have to work but could relax and enjoy the sun, sand, and sea,” he said this in a dreamy voice, but then his voice changed again, becoming a whine. “But the sun never sets here: do you know what it’s like to be trapped in the same day, forever? I hate the sea!” he screamed, grabbing and throwing stones into the water. “I hate the sand! I HATE THE LIGHT!” he howled, then his voice became soft again. “I tried to drown myself when the wave came; I had climbed a tree when you wepanum appeared, but you saved me. YOU SAVED ME!” he howled again, leaping to his feet, hands clawed and starting at Klaybear. But Tevvy was waiting for just such an action, and the dart hit the man’s neck just as he started to run at Klaybear; he took three steps and fell into the kailu’s arms, limp. Klaybear eased him to the ground.

“Is that true?” Tevvy asked, bending to retrieve his small dart, wiping the tip off with the man’s cloak.

“Is what true?” Thal replied.

“That we cannot leave if all of us are not here?”

Thal shrugged. “Probably.”

“He said that he could not leave,” Klaybear added.

“What do we do about Blakstar?” Tevvy asked.

Thal looked for a moment at the sword he still held. “What can we do?”

“In my dream,” Klaybear said, “I thought I saw him, floating face down in the water on this beach, but it was this wethi,” he pointed at the wethi in front of him. “In my other visions, he appeared alive and well, doing things we haven’t yet done; he and Delgart will rescue you,” he nodded to Tevvy, “from the webs of a monstrous, spider-like creature.”

“But didn’t you also see a version where no one comes to rescue him?” Thal asked.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Klaybear replied with resignation.

“I saw him, too,” Thal went on “in my vukeetu, doing things we haven’t done yet, so I cannot accept that he is . . . ,” he hesitated, “gone.”

Tevvy held up his arms. “What about these?” he asked, indicating his verghrenum. “Didn’t you use them to find me in the sewers?”

Thal’s face brightened, and he held up his left arm, touching the symbol for the kortexi with his now glowing right forefinger. He held it there for a minute, his eyes traveling up; his brow wrinkled. He looked back at Klaybear. “You try it, and tell me what you see.”

Klaybear lifted his arm and touched the kortexi symbol, and his eyes, like Thal’s, traveled up. “The line goes straight up, disappearing far overhead.”

Thal frowned. He touched the symbol of the kailum, and whispered, “Klare.” His eyes traveled up. He then tried the seklesi symbol, and his eyes traveled up.

Klaybear recognized what he was doing, tried the same symbols, whispering the same names, with the same results. Then he touched the maghi symbol and saw a thick line going right at Thal.

“So what are you seeing?” Tevvy asked. “You both look puzzled.”

“What does it mean?” Klaybear asked Thal, ignoring the awemi.

“We are present in this realm,” Thal replied, “and he is not.”

“How is that possible?” Klaybear asked.

Thal shrugged, looking out over the waves. “I wish I had thought of it earlier,” he said softly, to himself.

“Why?” Klaybear asked.

“Will one of you explain what you are talking about?” Tevvy said, exasperated.

Thal sighed. “I think we explained before that the verghrenum we all wear are connected to each other, so that we can locate one another using them,” he began. “When we touch one of the symbols with teka, we can ‘see’ a white line leading to whichever one of us we are trying to find; that’s how we found you in the sewers.”

“I cannot use teka,” Tevvy interrupted, “so how does it help me?”

“That pair was made for you,” Klaybear noted, “so maybe you don’t need to use teka.”

“Good point,” Thal said, “since the founders knew you would be one of the chosen, surely they would have taken your abilities into account; try touching the maghi symbol.”

“The one that looks like that?” Tevvy asked, pointing to the chain around Thal’s neck.

Thal nodded; Tevvy touched the symbol and saw a thick white line going straight to Thal.

“Try the kortexi symbol,” Klaybear said.

“The water vessel with the eye?” Tevvy asked.

The others nodded; Tevvy touched the symbol and saw a thin white line going straight up.

“Now try the kailu symbol, whispering my wife’s name when you touch it,” Klaybear said.

“The hand with the eye?” They nodded; Tevvy did as instructed, saw another white line going straight up, then he tried the seklesi symbol, whispering “Rokwolf,” and saw the same thin line going straight up. He looked at the others. “So what does it mean? Does it mean that Blakstar is still alive, but he is no longer in this realm?”

Thal and Klaybear looked at each other for a moment, then Thal shrugged. “Maybe,” the white maghi said, “but we can only say for sure that he is not in this realm, whether alive or dead we cannot say for sure.”

Tevvy looked out to sea, then looked up at the sky. “He is alive,” he said.

Thal laughed. “How can you say that?”

“Just a feeling,” Tevvy replied. “If he were dead, since he is so important to our purpose, I think I would lose hope.”

Thal shook his head, then started to walk up the beach away from the sea.

“Where are you going?” Tevvy asked.

“To find the portal,” Thal replied.

Klaybear squatted next to the wethi on the ground and hoisted him over his shoulders.

“Why are you bringing him?” Tevvy asked.

“If he is right,” Klaybear replied after standing, “then we will not be able to leave without him. Besides, I cannot leave him here to suffer any more.”

Tevvy nodded and followed Thal into the shade under the coconut trees.

 

We will return next Monday with another installment from our tale; look forward to learning Sir Blakstar’s fate, as also the next elemental realm through which our heroes must pass in their ongoing quest to retrieve Shigmar’s fabled staff. Meanwhile, for those who wish to continue the tale without waiting, purchase a copy from Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers. If the reader prefers print, order a copy from CreateSpace. Good reading!

 

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on April 10, 2015 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

10 April 2015

Poet’s Corner

 

We return with the rest of the conclusion to the first part of Coleridge’s unfinished “Christabel,” recalling that, in the poet’s view, some supernatural event has taken place, for reasons unknown, and which causes our heroine remorse. The poet continues, telling us time has passed:

 

A star hath set, a star hath risen,

O Geraldine! since arms of thine

Have been the lovely lady's prison.

O Geraldine! one hour was thine—

Thou'st had thy will! By tairn and rill,

The night-birds all that hour were still.

But now they are jubilant anew,

From cliff and tower, tu—whoo! tu—whoo!

Tu—whoo! tu—whoo! from wood and fell!

 

We are told, or reminded, that Geraldine has imprisoned Christabel within her arms for an hour, in which she “had [her] will,” and what that means is left up to the reader, although there is an obvious interpretation to that phrase! However, we remind the reader that witches, as Geraldine seems to be, were notorious in their practices and appetites, capturing the unwary for these nefarious acts with little regard for who they grabbed. This moment is not an instance of proto-feminism; if it were, then the movement would have begun long before Coleridge, somewhere in the depths of ancient literature.

 

And see! the lady Christabel

Gathers herself from out her trance;

Her limbs relax, her countenance

Grows sad and soft; the smooth thin lids

Close o'er her eyes; and tears she sheds—

Large tears that leave the lashes bright!

And oft the while she seems to smile

As infants at a sudden light!

 

Yea, she doth smile, and she doth weep,

Like a youthful hermitess,

Beauteous in a wilderness,

Who, praying always, prays in sleep.

And, if she move unquietly,

Perchance, 'tis but the blood so free

Comes back and tingles in her feet.

No doubt, she hath a vision sweet.

What if her guardian spirit 'twere,

What if she knew her mother near?

But this she knows, in joys and woes,

That saints will aid if men will call:

For the blue sky bends over all!

 

We are next told that our heroine finally manages to sleep, escaping, for the moment, her remorse, although she has moments, while sleeping, where the tears flow anew. Opposite to this remorse, she has moments where she smiles/moves like a child, or an innocent, who has no knowledge or interest in the adult world & its problems. Next week, we will move onto the second part, where we finally get to meet her father, the Baron, Sir Leoline–an interesting name! Good reading!

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 12, Part 3

Posted by gwermon on April 6, 2015 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

6 April 2015

 

Welcome back and a good morning to all! We enjoyed our church’s General Conference this weekend, and have been inspired to renewed effort in all aspects of our life. We return with another installment from the second book of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar, and see our heroes as they enter and travel through the water realm, a realm that tries their virtue, their commitment to their current (for Klaybear) and future (for Blakstar, Thal, & Tevvy) wives. . . .

 

Chapter 12, Part 3

Klaybear found that walking was difficult, like wading through water over his head, with only his feet firmly on the stone path. He saw Blakstar speaking to him, but heard only muffled bubbling, as they tried, like children, to speak to one another underwater. He could breathe, but it was like breathing very thick air, or airy water. The taste was salty, and he found that he needed to spit often, his mouth filling with water as he breathed. Tevvy waved his arm slowly, then pointed down the path. He nodded, and saw Tevvy turn and try to walk forward. After a few moments, the awemi shook his head, then he tried something else, what looked to Klaybear like a combination of jumping, skipping, and floating forward, although his movements were slowed, and his hairy feet were off the stone longer than they should have been. Klaybear tried to follow, but his feet and legs moved faster than his body, and he started to fall slowly backward. He corrected his stance, leaning far forward, holding his hands and arms in front of him, and managing to skip, hop, and float after Tevvy. Blakstar and Thal followed suit, imitating the motions of their companions, and Klaybear soon discovered how difficult and tiring this motion was, for what could have only been a few hundred yards, felt to him as if he had run several miles uphill. Klaybear followed Tevvy and Blakstar into a circular area. Thal did not catch up until the others had already stopped, stumbling into the circular area where the water was thinner. Klaybear turned and watched him skip out of the path.

“What happened?” Blakstar asked, voice audible but echoing sharply.

“Didn’t you notice the fish?” Thal asked as he tumbled out of the pathway.

Blakstar looked a question back at Thal.

“They took no notice of the space over the path,” Thal whispered to minimize the echoes, “as if it were no different from the ocean around us.”

“That is because to us,” a new, female voice spoke from behind them, “it is water, whereas for you, it is air.”

Klaybear turned and saw figures swimming out of the water, into the circle, their forms altering from their fishy forms into the shapes of green skinned, green-haired females, shaking their long hair as they came to rest on the stone, the hair falling to cover their naked breasts and loins.

“Wedoram,” Tevvy whispered, staring in open admiration, “very beautiful wedoram.”

Blakstar flushed and looked down; Thal stood gaping, his mouth hanging open. Only Klaybear was unaffected by their appearance. He opened his mouth to speak, but one of the wedoram stepped forward and spoke.

“Welcome, my lords, chosen of the One,” her voice was pleasant and musical, “to the realm of Potwedi, Lord of the Waters. We are his daughters, and he has sent us to bring you to our caves, to give you refreshment and diversion until the Great One approaches.”

Klaybear raised an eyebrow, and a vision of Klare’s response to this offer floated into the front of his mind. He frowned.

“Diversion?” Tevvy asked, grinning stupidly.

“Yes,” she replied, “it is both our pleasure and good fortune to spend many hours diverting ourselves for our mutual pleasure, before our Father will see you.”

One of the others stepped forward, going to the kortexi and putting her hand on his arm, she said, “I get this one first; he has known the pleasure of mating.”

Blakstar jerked his arm away, backing up, face livid. “Pleasure of mating?” he replied in confusion, and his voiced echoed and re-echoed around them. “I don’t know what you are talking about,” he added, but his face colored.

“That is not true,” the one who had touched him said, “you have mated with a female and you did find it pleasurable; I can see it written in the lines of your face and your stance.”

“Liar!” Blakstar hissed through clenched teeth. He ripped his sword from its scabbard and pointed it directly at the wedora’s heart. “If you touch me again, I will slay you!”

The one facing Blakstar seemed nonplused by the sword pointing at her. “Well then,” she noted, “if my natural wetha form does not please you, then perhaps this one will.” Her form blurred and her skin lightened, turning white, her hair going from green to blonde and shortening, her eyes going gray, her lips full, red, and pouting, wearing a simple, worn and torn, black tunic that hugged her lithe figure.

“That’s her!” Tevvy exclaimed.

“Would you kill me, Sir Blakstar,” her voice had changed, “while wearing this form?”

The sword fell from Blakstar’s limp hand, clanking and echoing dully as it struck the stone; the kortexi staggered back as if he had been struck.

Thinking she had gained an advantage over him, she moved forward, holding her arms up, inviting an embrace. “I am she,” she said softly, “the wetha of your dreams.”

Blakstar took one halting step forward, and Klaybear misunderstood his action, his staff suddenly in his hand and glowing, moving toward the kortexi to stop him. But Blakstar’s halting step and stunned look changed; he leapt at the wedora, hands clawed and a snarl escaping his clenched teeth. His hands grabbed the tunic at the shoulders; the sound of ripping fabric echoed and reverberated around them.

“No!” Klaybear exclaimed, trying to get to and stop Blakstar, but something held him back. He turned and saw the first wedora keeping him from moving, and he was surprised by her strength. When he turned back to the kortexi, he saw Blakstar hurling the wedora from him.

“You’re not!” Blakstar snarled. “Where are the scars from whips on your back?” He turned, bending down and frantically searching for his sword. “Where?” Grabbing it, he rushed at the wedora, who had not fallen to the stone but floated in the air on her back, holding the torn tunic closed over her front and still smiling up at the kortexi rushing toward her with his sword held in front of him.

“You’d rather I appear in her corrupted form, scarred plaything of the red kailum, who raised her to be a kara?” she threw this question at him, still floating away and altering her form so that white lines appeared on her bare shoulders.

The kortexi slowed, but he did not lower his sword.

“I could tell you her name,” she said in a soft voice, “since you do not even know her name: it is Kathi,” she laughed, “because that is what she is: a cheap kara, daughter of a sailor and a prostitute,” and she was suddenly tied with leather thongs to a tree that was bent over, a few feet off the stone. She writhed as if she wanted to escape, screaming “no,” and “please,” and as she writhed, the torn tunic fell open, revealing the red mark of Gar on her chest, throbbing angrily.

Blakstar stopped dead, his sword sliding from his fingers and clanking on to the stone a second time, except that this time, the kortexi crumpled, covering his head and sobbing.

The wedora, recognizing that she had gone too far, blurred into her human female form. “Father, you promised!” she shouted.

The other two, ignoring the exchange between Blakstar and their sister, had changed into other forms: an awema, looking much like Tevvy, with a similar round, innocent face, curly brown hair; and the other, as tall and thin as Thal, with long, dark hair, each whispering to Tevvy and Thal, taking no notice of Blakstar, until their sister screamed. Klaybear did not notice that the wedora holding his arm had become Klare.

“You promised,” she screamed again, “that we could have the males, but the female chosen is not here, as the Great Lord said she would be.”

The stone beneath their feet shook suddenly, causing the three still standing to reel about, while the wedoram simply floated above the stone, resuming their greenish wedora forms, legs merging together to form fish-like tails. The illumination, although faint, was suddenly cut off, plunging them into semi-darkness. A rumbling, bubbling sound came from above them, and the four wedoram looked up, listening.

“We do not know,” the first said. She turned to Klaybear, her eyes green points of light in the darkness. “Where is your mate? Why isn’t she with you?” she demanded.

Klaybear suddenly understood why Klare’s family was attacked, understood why she had to stay behind. “She had things to do, and could not come with us,” he replied.

The rumbling, bubbling sounded again. The wedoram listened intently, then looked back at Klaybear. “Is she waiting in the tomb?”

“No, she could not come with us.”

Rumbling, bubbling overhead. “This is regrettable, for she was promised to our lord.”

“She belongs to me,” Klaybear replied, “and I will not surrender her to you or your lord, nor would she,” he snorted, imagining Klare’s quixotic response. “More likely that she would . . . ,” he went on, but stopped suddenly.

The rumbling, bubbling sound overhead shook the stone under their feet. The glowing eyes looked back at him, tinged with red. “Then your lives are forfeit,” the wedora screamed, lunging forward.

Before he could even defend himself, he heard Thal singing the words, and a brilliant globe of light blossomed behind him, momentarily blinding the wedoram, who were revealed in new forms, large and shark-like, swimming directly at them, teeth-filled mouths gaping. Thal’s light gave them the instant they needed to get out of the way and take out their weapons. As he rolled to his feet, Klaybear heard Thal’s tenor voice, singing another orthek.

“Pleu-gi-pur,” Thal sang in ascending notes, and an arrow of fire exploded from the end of his rod, knocking him backward. It struck the wedora attacking him, engulfed her in roaring flames, and she exploded with a squeal of pain. Thal’s eyes were wide with astonishment.

Tevvy had rolled under the wedora attacking him, slicing open her belly with a dagger that had appeared in his hand as he rolled, her momentum carrying her past Tevvy even as her entrails slid out. Blakstar had moved the swiftest, grabbing his sword and cutting the wedora in two, and before the two halves could separate from one another, the kortexi had leapt toward Klaybear, splitting the wedora attacking the green kailu with a mighty overhand stroke, golden flames encasing the blade as it sheared through her flesh and scales. He moved on, swinging his sword and splitting the wedora Tevvy had sliced open.

“Nice work,” Tevvy noted.

But Blakstar did not look at the awemi; his eyes were fixed overhead, where the light of Thal’s brilliant magluku showed something large and dark floating above them, with many tentacles surrounding the dome of airy water over the stone circle.

“What is that?” Tevvy asked, voice high and frightened.

The rumbling, bubbling sound increased in its intensity, and seemed to be coming from whatever was floating overhead.

“Potwedi,” Thal said, “and I get the sense that he is not happy with us.”

The tentacles, and there were hundreds of them, felt their way down and around the dome, as if they were seeking a way to enter the protected space.

“Great!” Tevvy shouted frantically, “that’s just great! The Lord of the Oceans not happy with us! Boy do you have the gift of understatement! My old granny was right: she said I’d come to a bad end if I took up with the likes of you!” He looked around, panicked, hoping to find a way of escape.

“Keep your hair on!” Blakstar shouted back. “It is not as if we are defenseless.”

Tevvy threw up his hands. “Another one!” he shouted. “Maybe it hasn’t gotten through all that steel surrounding your head that we are at the bottom of the ocean, a dome of air the only thing between us and being crushed and drowned by an angry Lord of the Oceans,” but Tevvy stopped suddenly, hands going to his ears. “Ah!” was all he managed before collapsing on the stone.

“What happened . . . ?” Blakstar started to ask, then felt the pressure around them increasing. “He’s trying to crush us!”

“Over here,” Klaybear shouted, moving over the fallen awemi. “Quickly!”

Thal and Blakstar moved next to Klaybear, who held up his staff and sang, as Thal had done, “kwek-lo-pla-ka-skoit,” waving his staff in an arc over their heads, then tapping the heel on the stone beneath them. A dome made from seamless stone flashed into existence over their heads, easing the pressure around them.

“Keep humming the words,” Thal noted, and Klaybear continued softly to sing the words of the orthek.

After several moments, he inhaled sharply, his singing almost faltering. The stone under their feet shook, and Klaybear could feel the pressure upon his shield ease. Tevvy groaned and sat up.

“Drop the shield!” Blakstar exclaimed, “we have to know what he is doing!”

Klaybear released the orthek, the stone winked out of existence with an orange flash, and they saw hundreds of tentacles piercing the dome of air, wriggling toward them from all directions. The kortexi leaped toward the nearest, swinging his golden flaming sword and hacking off all the tentacles that came near him. Thal raised his rod, pointing it overhead and sang the same words as before. A second time, an arrow of pure flame exploded from the tip of his rod, shooting up and striking the underside of the Lord of the Oceans. The stone under their feet shuddered; the rumbling and bubbling creature overhead roared in pain.

Klaybear smiled. “Let’s try a hotter fire,” he noted, raising his staff and singing, “stal-na-kai-lig-ater!” A pillar of green kailu fire erupted at the apex of the dome, and for a moment, the tentacles faltered. The sound of rumbling bubbling pain increased to a fever pitch.

“Quick!” Tevvy shouted. “Open a door back to the tomb!”

“I don’t think it will work,” Thal said, “as it disrupts the test that we are in.”

“The test has already been disrupted!” Tevvy shouted back. “There is no way out of this circle, not even the way we came!”

Blakstar turned from the tentacles that had momentarily withdrawn, concentrated a moment, and dragged the point of his sword over the stone in a circle, lifting it to form the arch when he had drawn the circle. The gray arch flared to life. “Hurry!” he shouted, “before he recovers!”

Tevvy leaped through the arch, followed closely by Thal, Klaybear, and then Blakstar, but as the kortexi stepped through the arch, several tentacles reached inside, grabbing him and pinning his arms to his sides, pulling him back through the arch. His sword slipped from his fingers, its golden light going dark, falling to the sand where his stunned companions stood; the arch winked out.

 

Come back next week and see our heroes struggle with the loss of Blakstar! If our reader cannot wait until next week, purchase an ebook copy from Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers. If our reader prefers print, order a copy of this volume from CreateSpace. Good reading; may we all be better today than yesterday!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on April 4, 2015 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

3 April 2015

Poet Corner

 

We certainly hope all have survived the obligatory April Fool’s pranks, some of them too convincing! We return to Coleridge’s unfinished poem, having finished the first part with the two ladies in bed, Geraldine casting some spell on Christabel that fills both with remorse, but what this “spell” is, no one really knows, although many have tried. This week, we will begin with the conclusion to this first part, which begins with a short review of what has happened:

 

THE CONCLUSION TO PART I

It was a lovely sight to see

The lady Christabel, when she

Was praying at the old oak tree.

Amid the jaggèd shadows

Of mossy leafless boughs,

Kneeling in the moonlight,

To make her gentle vows;

Her slender palms together prest,

Heaving sometimes on her breast;

Her face resigned to bliss or bale—

Her face, oh call it fair not pale,

And both blue eyes more bright than clear,

Each about to have a tear.

 

A recap of the beginning of the poem, painting a swift picture of things before Geraldine appears and messes everything up, and the poet skips all that happens after Geraldine appears, turning his attention to the present moment (in the narrative):

 

With open eyes (ah woe is me!)

Asleep, and dreaming fearfully,

Fearfully dreaming, yet, I wis,

Dreaming that alone, which is—

O sorrow and shame! Can this be she,

The lady, who knelt at the old oak tree?

And lo! the worker of these harms,

That holds the maiden in her arms,

Seems to slumber still and mild,

As a mother with her child.

 

The poet inserts his editorial comment here, or perhaps his judgment, calling our attention to the fact that the sweet, virtuous girl praying under the tree, is now sleeping fitfully, her sleep disrupted by her sorrow and shame over what has happened, which is still undefined. There are some who argue that these two women represent the old, medieval view of women: that all women could be divided into two types, the virgin Mary, who would never stoop to physical relations, and mother Eve, who was seen as a fallen temptress. Others claim this moment is one of initiation–the mother/child figure–in which the experienced woman introduces the innocent girl into womanhood, a rite of passage, so to speak. While these two views lead to some interesting conclusions, I think the storyteller had no thought whatsoever for these issues, since they don’t actually appear until the 20th-century, long after Coleridge’s time, and long before even the first glimmering of a women’s movement. As Coleridge elsewhere explains, his interest is in the supernatural, and as such, the most likely explanation is that of a witch casting a spell on the maiden for nefarious purposes yet to be revealed. More next time, but in the meantime, good reading!

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 12, Part 2

Posted by gwermon on March 30, 2015 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

30 March 2015

 

A good day to all! We return with another installment from the second book of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar, where we discover Thal’s response to Klaybear’s apparent ‘fit’. . . .

 

Chapter 12, Part 2

Thal took Klaybear’s head in his hands, staring intently down at the fallen kailu, his eyes looking into Klaybear’s mind. His hands flew off Klaybear’s head, and he slid away from Klaybear, as if a strong blast of wind were pushing him back. Thal crawled forward slowly, fighting against the forces that had shoved him away. The maghi clawed his way back to Klaybear, jaw clenched, sweat streaming off his face. Blakstar and Tevvy watched, dumbstruck, feeling none of the forces Thal struggled against. The maghi finally got close enough to Klaybear to grab his head again with both hands. Klaybear jerked and shook; Thal panted, gasping for breath as he held tightly to Klaybear’s head. Slowly, Klaybear shook less, then went still; after a few more moments, Thal released his head, and slumped onto the floor beside him, still panting.

Tevvy’s eyes were wild; Blakstar reached for the Waters of Life before he remembered that there were none left. Before either of them could open their mouths to speak, Klaybear opened his eyes and sat up; he looked around, then looked down at Thal.

“What did you do?” Klaybear asked the white maghi.

Thal wiped the sweat off his face before reaching out with his left hand; Blakstar took it and pulled him into a sitting position. “Every time your internal vision has sent you into unconsciousness, I’ve wanted to look at what was happening in your mind, but I’ve always been too far away, or the moment passed so quickly that I did not have the time to see,” he said. “This time, however, it happened twice in a row, so I switched into the mental plane to observe what was happening in your mind.” He paused, for a moment, to think.

“You can see into someone’s mind?” Tevvy interrupted.

Klaybear nodded. “I had forgotten that you were,” Klaybear said, stopping to search for a word, “asleep, for lack of a better word, when we found and removed the compulsion placed on your mind, and Klare’s mind.” He looked at Thal. “What did you see?”

Thal shook his head. “It looked as if your whole mind had been wrenched from all its moorings, and I saw it spinning and rolling in all directions at once. What was amazing about it was the amount of energy released from it, enough to hurl me from you the moment I switched into that plane, but the strangest thing about it was the sound: I could swear I heard many voices singing, and it seemed that the singing was causing your mind to spin and roll, causing the spinning and rolling to increase in speed.”

“Singing?” Tevvy noted. “I’ve heard singing every time we have passed through one of those arches, and I’m sure I heard singing right before each earthquake in the earth realm, and the entire time we were in the fire realm.”

“Singing?” Thal asked, one eyebrow rising slowly.

“I heard no singing,” Blakstar said.

Klaybear touched the kortexi’s arm. “Remember that the awemem have sharper hearing than we do.”

“Can you remember the quality of the singing,” Thal asked, “what it sounded like?”

Tevvy’s brow wrinkled as he thought back. “Well, when we entered the earth realm, the sound of the singing was slow, deep, and very low, so that it rumbled,” he said, “like a group of wethem with very low voices. The fire arch also sounded like wethem, but their tone was higher and faster,” he paused in thought, “and more frantic.”

“What about the archway into this room?” Thal asked.

Tevvy though for a moment. “That one sounded more like many different voices, both very low and very high, all singing different things in harmony.”

Thal got to his feet and started to pace across the room, rubbing his chin. “Didn’t the simulacrum of Shigmar . . . ,” he started to say, but was interrupted by Blakstar.

“What’s a simulacrum?” the kortexi asked.

“The ghostly image we saw when you slid your sword into the altar above,” Klaybear noted.

“Yes,” Thal said, stopping to look at the others. He started pacing again. “Didn’t Shigmar mention that we should ‘sing our ortheks well,’ as he finished his message?”

Klaybear thought for a moment before answering. “He did, and I thought, at the time, that it was a strange way to describe the casting of ortheks.”

Thal stopped and tapped his chin for a moment. “What was that song we used to sing as children, about the boy and the girl running up the hill, didn’t it go, ‘daa-da-dum?’” he asked, singing it.

Blakstar smiled; Klaybear laughed, and added, also singing, “daa-da-da-dum.”

“That’s the one,” Thal replied.

“What are you thinking?” Klaybear chuckled.

In answer, Thal slipped his rod from his belt, holding it up, and instead of saying the word for light, he softly sang it, using the three notes from the children’s song: “maa-glu-ku.” A globe of light winked on at the end of his rod, but its quality was different from the magluku lighting the room; they were brighter, blue-white in color, meant to illuminate the room; his was softer, more diffuse, like sunlight under a canopy of leafy green trees on a summer afternoon.

“Extraordinary!” Thal exclaimed, looking at the others, a grin lighting his long face. He looked back at his light, smiling as it evoked feelings of being young in the summer. “Neki,” he said, canceling the light. “What if I . . . ,” he began, and lifted his rod again, singing the same orthek using three ascending notes: “ma-glu-ku.” A second globe of light blossomed from the end of Thal’s rod, growing brighter and brighter, causing them to cover their eyes. “Neki!” Thal shouted, canceling the second magluku. His grin grew sly. “Let’s go on,” he noted with obvious enthusiasm, “I want to try this out.” He turned toward the archway.

“Wait,” Klaybear said, “you still haven’t told me what you did to my mind.”

Thal stopped and turned back. “He distracted me,” he said, pointing to Tevvy, “with the singing.”

“I didn’t bring up the singing,” Tevvy protested, “you did. You can’t blame me.”

Thal opened his mouth to reply but was stopped by the kortexi.

“He’s right,” Blakstar said, “you did mention the singing first.”

“Never mind the singing,” Klaybear said, irritated, “what did you do?”

The irritation on Thal’s face vanished. “When I managed to get back to you, I slowed the spinning and rolling to a stop, then re-attached your mind to its moorings with the strongest mental threads I could create; that should prevent your, uh, fits, for a while, anyway.” He turned back toward the arch, walking forward and reading the new inscription:

 


 

“Correct me if I make a mistake,” Thal said to Klaybear, “but I think it is, the near complete source of life, all are bound to it to sustain them, thirsty are those who lack us, they eat silt, they crawl away, they change into parched earth.” He looked at Klaybear.

“Better than I could have done,” Klaybear smiled.

“Water,” Tevvy said.

“Why do you say that?” Blakstar asked.

“Thirsty and parched,” Tevvy replied.

Thal nodded and smiled. “You are quite right.”

“How do we breathe?” Tevvy asked.

“I would guess,” Thal said, “that like the earth realm, or the fire, we did not pass directly through the stone, but were surrounded and attacked by stone, so in the water realm, we will not pass directly through it but will be surrounded and attacked by it.”

“What if the water simply covers us to drown us?” Tevvy asked. “How would we survive?”

“There is a protective orthek,” Klaybear said, “that will surround us with breathable air.”

The kortexi nodded. “That is what happened when I passed through the water realm on the Mountain of Vision: I was surrounded by air.”

“Only one way to find out,” Thal said, touching the symbol for water on the arch.

###

“Did you hear the singing?” Tevvy asked, but none answered immediately, as his voice echoed and reverberated around them. They stood upon a circle of dark green stone, surrounded by a dome of blue-green water. Thal could see colorful fish of all shapes and sizes swimming around them, but none came near the dome.

“Faintly, I think,” Thal said in answer to Tevvy’s question. He spoke softly to minimize the echoing of his voice.

Tevvy also lowered his voice to a whisper. “They were voices both male and female, singing high and low, respectively, sounding bright and light, like the sound of running water.”

Blakstar snorted; Thal smiled. “That makes sense,” the white maghi noted softly, “since this is the water realm.”

The space was not dark, but neither was it light, the illumination coming from somewhere far above, colored by the water and ever shifting with the movements of the currents around them. A narrow, green stone path was the only way off the circle Thal could see, save for entering the water. They moved toward the path, stopping as they neared it. Thal reached out to touch the dome surrounding the green circle.

“It is solid,” Thal said after testing it, “I cannot put my hand through it to touch the water.”

Thal turned his attention toward the path. Just past the edge of the stone circle, the arched space over the narrow path grew hazy and green, like the water around them. Thal stuck his hand into the space of the path, held it there for a moment, then withdrew it, looking at it closely; he looked at his companions.

“It feels both wet and dry,” Thal noted, sounding puzzled.

“How can it be both wet and dry?” Tevvy asked, skeptically.

“Try it yourself,” Thal replied with irritation.

Tevvy raised an eyebrow, stepped forward, and stuck his hand into the space of the path. His eyes widened suddenly. “I see now what you mean,” he remarked, pulling his hand back and looking at it. “Both wet and dry,” he mumbled.

“Which means?” Blakstar asked.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Tevvy replied.

“Can we walk through there, or do we need Klaybear’s air orthek?” Blakstar said, with some irritation in his voice.

Tevvy shrugged, and before anyone else could answer, the awemi stepped forward into the haze, and his face and form became greenish and indistinct. After a moment, Thal saw him waving to them, but the motion was slow, and saw him speak, but his voice only bubbled.

“This could complicate things,” Blakstar noted, “not being able to understand one another.”

Thal’s brow wrinkled. “What effect will it have upon our ortheks?”

Klaybear shrugged. “We are meant to pass through here,” he said, stepping forward to follow Tevvy.

Without thinking, Blakstar went after him, leaving the white maghi standing there, first to touch the space but last to enter. Thal sighed and followed the others. . . .

 

Next week we will continue with our tale as our heroes journey through the water realm on their way through Shigmar’s tomb to find Shigmar’s fabled staff. In the meantime, for those readers who don’t want to wait, purchase a full copy of this ebook from Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers. If the reader prefers print, order your copy from CreateSpace. Good reading!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on March 27, 2015 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (0)

27 March 2015

Poet’s Corner

 

We return with the final stanza of the first part of Coleridge’s unfinished poem, “Christabel.” We remind our readers of last week’s strange scene, as Christabel watches Geraldine undress. . . .

 

Yet Geraldine nor speaks nor stirs;

Ah! what a stricken look was hers!

Deep from within she seems half-way

To lift some weight with sick assay,

And eyes the maid and seeks delay;

Then suddenly, as one defied,

Collects herself in scorn and pride,

And lay down by the Maiden's side!—

And in her arms the maid she took,

Ah wel-a-day!

And with low voice and doleful look

These words did say:

'In the touch of this bosom there worketh a spell,

Which is lord of thy utterance, Christabel!

Thou knowest to-night, and wilt know to-morrow,

This mark of my shame, this seal of my sorrow;

But vainly thou warrest,

For this is alone in

Thy power to declare,

That in the dim forest

Thou heard'st a low moaning,

And found'st a bright lady, surpassingly fair;

And didst bring her home with thee in love and in charity,

To shield her and shelter her from the damp air.'

 

We notice that Geraldine hesitates, as if indecisive or regretting what she is about to do, before joining Christabel in bed and trapping her within her arms; she then casts a spell upon her, which confirms our earlier suspicion that she is a witch, but this incantation elicits further questions that cannot be answered: what is Geraldine’s shame and sorrow that Christabel will know tonight and tomorrow? There are several possibilities, all of them unpleasant, and these possibilities could at least contribute to Coleridge’s abandoning this poem. We will begin to learn more of this strange moment next week as we begin to look at the conclusion to part 1 of this unfinished poem. Good reading!

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 12, Part 1

Posted by gwermon on March 24, 2015 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

23 March 2015

 

Greetings to all! We return with another installment in the second book of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar, rejoining Klaybear and company in Shigmar’s Tomb. They have survived the fire realm miraculously, beginning to take stock of their situation before moving on. . . .

 

Chapter 12, Part 1

 

The symbology of dreams is tricky and ever changing; attaching meaning to the symbols and figures problematic. Many try interpreting their dreams, but dreams in my experience are best forgotten on waking. . . .

 

from Lectures of the Headmasters, ‘Shigmar’ Volume

Lecture by Headmaster Shigmar

 

A gentle sound of water falling filled Klaybear’s ears, waking him. He inhaled deeply, smelling water, sage, and pomegranates; opening his eyes, he found himself sitting in the shade of a date palm, an empty gourd by his left arm. Looking around, he saw more palm trees and a clear pool with a small waterfall, but the space beyond the trees was indistinct and hazy. As he stood up, he heard the sound of someone crying, but the sound was hollow and echoed strangely, as if the person were inside a tunnel, crying into a blanket. He moved slowly around the stony outcropping, from which the water issued, and saw a figure kneeling, a figure who had long, honey-flecked brown hair he recognized as belonging to his wife. He rushed forward and saw that she was weeping over a larger than normal white rabbit wearing a frilly pink apron. He saw Rokwolf standing behind her, holding his bow with an arrow nocked; he was speaking to Klare, but Klaybear could not hear the words. The feathers on the arrow were smoking flames. Klaybear reached out to touch his wife, but she blurred and vanished in a cloud of mist, and his surroundings swirled and were replaced by a battlefield, covered with smoking debris and twisted bodies. On a rise that was suddenly in front of him, he saw Delgart, standing over the broken body of Marilee, facing a megatri whose red skin smoldered and smoked, flames erupting from the ends of his hair and beard. With one huge hand, the megatri grabbed Delgart and crushed him soundlessly, tossing the remains onto Marilee’s lifeless form; a broken crown rolled to a stop between their heads. The megatri threw back its head and howled in triumph, but the sound was muffled and indistinct.

His surroundings swirled and blurred and were replaced by a seashore, waves rolling in, but the sky was wrong, like the sea was inside a hollow sphere. A body floated in the surf, and he walked over the sand, approaching the body bobbing in the waves; it was clad in gold with a white surcoat. Waves crashed into him, but he did not feel wet; he grabbed a handful of the surcoat and dragged the body onto the beach, turning it over. He gasped, seeing the bloated face of Blakstar. Staggering back, he tripped and fell through the ground, his surroundings swirling past and becoming a hilltop overlooking Shigmar. A battle raged before the gates. He watched helplessly as a huge iron battering ram, wielded by megatrem and krugle, crashed through the gates, destroying them. Hordes of ghelem and purem ran into the city; the creatures wielding the battering ram held it up in triumph, and Klaybear saw the iron head of the ram, bearing his own face and grimacing in pain, with the symbol of Gar flashing red on his iron forehead. He felt his staff pulsing in his hand, and, raising it, he spoke words that sounded like mumbling in his ears. Light flashed and a wave of destruction moved out from his staff in a circle; the once green valley became a desert, the walls toppled, the buildings crumbled, and everyone in the path of the wave, friend and foe alike, turned into dust. He stood on the hilltop, the only spot of green, living vegetation surrounded by an empty desert, and Klare lay before his feet, very pregnant, her eyes open, but unseeing, and dead. He fell to his knees trying to scream, but no sound issued, and he felt as if he were choking. . . .

Klaybear sat up, gasping for breath; he was lying on one of the beds in the room of Shigmar’s tomb with the archway. He looked around and saw Thal, Blakstar, and Tevvy sleeping on the other beds. He swung his legs off his bed and sat up, rubbing his eyes and trying to clear his mind of the images he had dreamed. In spite of the troubled nature of the dreams that had awakened him, he felt well-rested. He searched his memory but could not remember how he had gotten out of the realm of fire and into this bed; he remembered giving the last drop of water they had to the dying wethi; he remembered the wethi dying, but everything that followed was a blank until he dreamed of waking in the desert oasis. The images troubled him; he knew he had seen Klare crying, but over a dead rabbit? He knew that she hated rabbits, as her family had raised them for food, so he could not imagine her crying over a rabbit, which must mean that the rabbit symbolized something else, but what it could be, he could not decide. Then he recalled what they had found when they reached Kalbant, and he wondered if that part of the dream meant that her mother had died. But then her father and brothers were dead, so maybe, by some strange series of connections created in dreams, it meant that she was mourning over her father, or her brothers. What did Rokwolf have to do with it, and why was he standing with his bow ready? Maybe they were in danger. He stretched and stood up, but was prevented from further reflections by the sound of someone yawning. He turned and saw Tevvy sitting up in his bed.

“I just had the most wonderful dream,” Tevvy said as he sat up, seeing Klaybear standing nearby.

“Did you?” Klaybear said.

“I found myself in a beautiful, golden city, floating on the clouds,” Tevvy said, “and all of you were there, with Klare, Marilee, Delgart, and Rokwolf, and all of your masters, with two others, who I did not recognize, one standing next to Blakstar, blonde and beautiful, and one standing next to Thal, her hair was dark, and she was just as tall. We were standing in a courtyard surrounded by shining white pillars, with a fountain at the center. I listened to the music of the water, and the music of many voices; there was another pair there, they must have been the king and queen, but both seemed to me to be more royal and dignified than anyone I have ever seen. I think they were old, but both looked as young as we are, with bright golden hair and kindly faces, and his eyes were blue, like the sky and as deep. They gave me a drink from the fountain, dipping a golden cup; it was the sweetest water I’ve ever tasted.” He paused, his eyes distant. “I turned and saw,” his face flushed, “a friend, who rushed forward and, uh,” he hesitated, “greeted me. I woke up then, but I can still hear the sound of the fountain and the chorus.”

Klaybear smiled, but said nothing. He moved next to Blakstar, gently touching his shoulder. The kortexi’s eyes opened and he sat up, looking around.

“How?” Blakstar asked, puzzled.

“I do not know,” Klaybear replied.

Blakstar’s brow wrinkled. “I remember falling onto the burning stone,” he said, slowly, “and then, I remember feeling arms, strong but gentle arms, lifting me from the stone; their touch was cool, and calming.”

“And then?” Tevvy asked.

“And then,” Blakstar went on, “I felt a touch on my shoulder, and I woke up, here.”

“No dreams?” Tevvy asked.

“None,” the kortexi replied.

“Too bad,” Tevvy said. “I had the most wonderful dream,” and he began to relate again what he had seen.

Klaybear went to and touched Thal’s shoulder, waking him. The maghi sat up slowly, looking around and sighing. His eyes looked slightly puffy.

“Are you all right?” Klaybear asked softly.

Thal nodded once.

“Did you sleep well?” Klaybear asked.

Thal shrugged.

“Did you dream?”

Shrug. Thal turned his attention to Tevvy, who just finished relating his dream.

“She was blonde, you said,” Blakstar said, “the one next to me. Did you see her face?” he asked, sounding eager.

“Yes, but . . . ,” Tevvy began, but the kortexi interrupted.

“What did she look like?” Blakstar asked eagerly.

“Like the queen at the fountain,” Tevvy replied, “fair, beautiful, but her eyes were gray, rather than blue.”

Blakstar looked disappointed by his description. “Can’t you give me more details?”

Tevvy shrugged. “No, wetham all look the same to me.”

Blakstar saw that Thal was up, and turned to him. “He saw a girl next to you, too.”

Thal looked puzzled.

“In his dream,” Blakstar added, looking at the awemi. “Tell him about her.”

Tevvy frowned. “She was tall and thin, like you, with dark hair, and her eyes were deep, deep brown.”

Thal flushed. “You dreamed this?” he asked.

Tevvy nodded.

“Strange,” Thal whispered to himself, his eyes going distant.

Tevvy looked at Klaybear. “So how did we get back here?”

The kailu shrugged. “No idea,” he replied. “Last thing I remember was passing out after the wethi took his last drink. Then I dreamed I was in a desert oasis,” and he started to relate to them what he had seen, but when he mentioned Klare, kneeling on the ground and crying, his voice choked, and the image of Klare crying became Klare pregnant became Klare dead on the hilltop, wave of destruction destroying friend and foe and land and walls and homes and animals and Klare dead howling laughter crashing walls screaming livestock faces flying at him, faces filled with pain and anger, the faces of purem and kailum and farmers and ghelem and wetham and children, all flying at him, all contorted with anger and pain, all rising from the wave of destruction moving outward from the staff clenched in his sweating hands, shouting accusations as each was absorbed by the staff held in his hand. He screamed. . . .

. . . and heard his own voice, echoing in the small chamber. Blakstar, Tevvy, and Thal kneeling on the floor around him, faces concerned.

“What happened?” Tevvy asked. “You mentioned Klare kneeling on the sand, crying, and then you swayed and fell to the floor.”

“Klare?” Klaybear said, blankly, and his eyes lost their focus, his body went limp. . . .

 

Come back next week for another installment of our tale and see how Thal reacts to Klaybear’s apparent fit. If our reader cannot wait until next week, then purchase the full ebook copy from Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers. If our reader prefers print, order a copy from CreateSpace. Good reading!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on March 21, 2015 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

20 March 2015

 

Last week, we saw our heroine, Christabel, and her ‘rescue,’ Geraldine, getting ready for bed, with the latter stating that she could not go to sleep without praying, so she does (but we must wonder to whom this strange lady prays!). Christabel responds:

 

Quoth Christabel, So let it be!

And as the lady bade, did she.

Her gentle limbs did she undress,

And lay down in her loveliness.

 

So they both pray, undress, and lay down to sleep, but Christabel, for some reason, cannot sleep:

 

But through her brain of weal and woe

So many thoughts moved to and fro,

That vain it were her lids to close;

So half-way from the bed she rose,

And on her elbow did recline

To look at the lady Geraldine.

 

So many thoughts keeping her awake, and what, we must ask, are these thoughts? We get a hint when she leans up and looks at Geraldine. Again, we have to ask, why? What is it about this strange lady that so unsettles our heroine? What is it that attracts Christabel to Geraldine? The next stanza gives us a hint, but what a hint!

 

Beneath the lamp the lady bowed,

And slowly rolled her eyes around;

Then drawing in her breath aloud,

Like one that shuddered, she unbound

The cincture from beneath her breast:

Her silken robe, and inner vest,

Dropt to her feet, and full in view,

Behold! her bosom and half her side—

A sight to dream of, not to tell!

O shield her! shield sweet Christabel!

 

We should have sultry music playing, a raunchy saxophone, with a throbbing, steady drumbeat! For that describes what just happened: Geraldine undresses, making sure that she is under the light, and in full view of Christabel, and the poet adds that this vision of loveliness is one from our dreams, one not shared openly because of its nature. Most readers, at this point, stop and expostulate, what the heck just happened!?! Recalling that this is the 19th-century, what Coleridge is suggesting was beyond forbidden, and would have gotten him dragged into the street and stoned! Today, we just shrug our shoulders, wink, and grin. However, the fact that it was forbidden territory supports our early suggesting that Geraldine is more than she seem, likely some kind of supernatural/witchy type character who is here to destroy our heroine. This sense in reinforced by the final line, asking someone–most likely the spirits earlier banished (including Christabel’s dead mother)–to come and save our imperiled heroine. Come back again next week to learn more; until then, good reading!

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 11, Part 3

Posted by gwermon on March 17, 2015 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

16 March 2015

 

In this week’s installment from the serialization of the second book of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar, we return this week to Delgart and the seklesi army, battling aperum. . . .

 

Chapter 11, Part 3

At the same time, horns rang out from the north, signaling an attack and call to aid, but the squads on the right flank had their hands full, with one aperu on the ground, one diving, the other two still flying but closing on their position. Delgart could see past the orange to the blue that was diving to land in the space occupied by the other half of his squad.

“Scatter!” Rellik shouted.

At the same moment, the orange opened its mouth to breathe on them, and Reena, first scout and archer, loosed an arrow that found its mark in the orange’s left eye. Instead of breathing on them, the orange screamed in agony, shaking its head wildly. Delgart saw both the opportunity, and the urgency, of their situation, as the light in the orange’s left eye went out. Time slowed around him as he leapt forward, brandishing his sword and slinging his shield over his left shoulder; the blue reared back, opening its talons to land and rend any seklesi too slow to get out of its way; Marilee’s shout, slow and slurred, echoed behind him. Heedless, he ran up the orange’s foreleg and onto its back at the wing joint, whirling his sword around, point down, both hands gripping the hilt. The orange swung its head left, feeling, rather than seeing, something climbing onto its back. Delgart’s eyes were focused on the point Grelsor had described, and he saw the thick scales lift as the aperu twisted its neck, and he drove the blade into the orange’s neck. The other half of the squad scattered; the squads moving to support them from that side pulled up short. Delgart’s momentum carried him forward, over the orange, which crashed to the ground, suddenly limp, and into the face of the blue just landing. He rolled over the fallen orange’s neck, releasing his left hand from his sword, wrenching the sword out of the orange’s neck with his right hand as he landed on his feet facing the blue, which reared back its head and opened its mouth to breathe on him. He dropped to his knees, grabbing his shield with his left hand, holding it between him and the blue; he saw the blue, icy breath issuing from its mouth, bracing himself and hoping the heat of the orange he had just killed would moderate the cold breath about to engulf him. Instead of going blue, the light around him turned red as he was covered with flames; he heard hissing and cracking as the blue’s icy breath crashed into the flames surrounding him. The red light winked out, and he looked up in time to see the blue head, mouth open, moving toward him. He rolled to his left and onto his feet and dropping his shield; turning back, he grasped his sword with both hands, swinging it over his head with as much force as he could muster. The blue’s head struck the side of the dead orange at the same moment as Delgart’s blade cut into its neck, sheering through hide, flesh, and bone. The headless blue body reared back, wings beating the air and flipping it onto its back. The squads approaching from behind scrambled out of the way of the death throes of the blue.

A momentary silence fell on that part of the valley after the blue’s body stopped twitching; the seklesem, stunned by the results of Delgart’s actions, stood staring at him, but the silence that had fallen was rent by the roar of the red, diving toward Delgart, mouth open to incinerate the fool who had killed two of its comrades in seconds.

“Form up! Shields!” echoed around him, as the squad leaders around him tried to prepare for the attack of the red.

Grelsor sprinted toward him, brandishing his staff as the flames issued from the red’s mouth. Sliding the last distance, Grelsor held up his staff and shouted, “plotoskoit!” At the same moment, he and Delgart were surrounded by flames and water, and his ears filled with the sounds of hissing and steaming, but the water shield was stronger, and, although the ends of their hair burned and their clothing smoked, they were otherwise unscathed. The red flew over them, rising and turning to the north. But Delgart’s performance inspired the seklesem who had witnessed it to even greater effort, and the red shuddered as it turned, every arrow finding the chinks in its armored hide. As it tilted on its left side, bringing its left wing closer to the ground to turn and fly north, the left wing joint became to the arrows as a lodestone is to iron: several arrows pierced it together, breaking the joint. The outer half of the red’s left wing folded back; the aperu screamed in agony as its left side dipped closer to the ground. The right wing beat frantically, trying to keep it in the air, but this only turned the aperu onto its back, just before it struck the ground.

“Scatter!” came the frantic shouts of the squad leaders to their west, as the seklesem tried to get out of the way.

The red aperu tried to right itself, but the suddenness of its overturning had confused it, so it tried to lift its head, which brought it more quickly into contact with the ground. The head caught on the ground, and the body flipped over again, breaking the red’s neck and slapping its belly hard upon the ground with a hideous crunching sound. The concussion knocked down the seklesem nearest to the place where the red crashed. Before they could even take in what had happened, the scouts, who had been watching the yellow, shouted a warning. “The yellow is upon us!” many voices exclaimed.

The yellow, however, had witnessed the fall of its three comrades, so it did not dive, but opened its mouth and let its breath escape as it passed over them, a yellow stream of smoke that sank slowly to the ground, spreading as it fell. Its breath was, in some ways, more powerful than the breath of its comrades, for its breath poisoned the air, killing any who inhaled it. The squad leaders shouted, “gather,” and the seklesem who were not injured lifted their fallen fellows and carried them to circle around their leaders, all squads dividing in two and grouping tightly together. Each part of the squad included one of the kailum, who would surround each group with pure air. Meanwhile, each maghi, one with each part, would try and conjure a gentle breath that would waft the poisonous fumes away from them.

“South!” one of the leaders shouted.

Grelsor stood with Marilee, leading Delgart back to stand beside her. No one spoke, but all looked closely at Delgart as he passed. Grelsor lifted his staff. “Kweklo-kenawet-patno,” he stated firmly, and they were surrounded by the freshest, sweetest air Delgart had ever breathed. The yellow aperu turned north, beating its wings and gaining altitude. Hrelga held up her rod, facing north, and whispered, “gheusmelth.” She turned and pointed her rod to the south. A gentle wind stirred, then began to move the yellow mist hovering around them. As other maghem used and repeated the same words and gesture, the yellow mist was carried from their midst, thinning as it mixed with the breezes conjured by the maghem. Once the air around them cleared, the kailum released their ortheks.

Marilee rounded on Delgart. “You fool!” she exclaimed, throwing her arms around his neck and giving him a fierce hug. “My heart nearly stopped when you leapt forward! I don’t know whether I should kill you for your foolishness, or kiss you for saving us!”

Delgart shrugged. “I saw an opening and took it,” he noted. “It is not my fault that the blue chose to stick its neck out, within easy reach of my blade.”

“Followed by the red,” Grelsor added, “not to mention the yellow.”

“And they were precisely the reasons why I acted,” Delgart said, “I could not see us surviving with four aperum attacking us at once.”

“Fool!” Marilee repeated, smiling, then she kissed his cheek. “Don’t ever do that again,” she whispered, releasing him. “Casualties?” she asked, looking around, becoming again business-like.

“Tregla and Gelvik,” Grelsor replied, “they were both hit by the tail and poisoned. We have administered an antidote to each, but it only slowed the poison; both need more aid.”

Marilee nodded to her first maghi, Hrelga, a rail thin female with gray-streaked black hair bound at the nape of her neck. “Send them back to Holvar.”

Hrelga returned her nod, moving off to where their two fallen fellows lay, Luthina in tow, the second maghi glancing back at Delgart, a strange look in her eyes that made him uncomfortable for reasons he did not comprehend.

Marilee turned to Rellik. “Find out what the alarms were,” she said.

“No need,” Rellik said, pointing to a horseman moving their direction, “here comes our captain’s messenger.”

“Report?” Grunsle asked as she rode up; the messenger had gray hair and a stern face.

“We managed to bring down three of the four aperu,” Marilee replied, “the fourth, the yellow, flew off to the north.”

“Casualties?” Grunsle asked.

“Only two, poisoned by the orange,” Marilee replied, “and the poison has only been slowed by the antidote. I have sent them back to Holvar.”

“The Eighth Company is forming up and flanking the enemy,” Grunsle said. “Prepare to move on the signal.”

“Who attacks?” Marilee asked.

“The four legions to which those aperum were attached,” Grunsle replied, riding off to pass the word to the rest of the group and collect more reports.

“Form up,” Marilee said, crisply, “and prepare to move out.”

As they prepared to move, Grelsor spoke in a soft whisper, only heard by Marilee, Delgart, and Rellik. “Those aperum were looking for us,” he noted. “Any idea why?”

A swift looked passed between Marilee and Delgart, but Marilee shook her head. “No idea,” she lied smoothly; Delgart kept his face relaxed.

Grelsor shook his head, turning with the rest of the squad to watch for the signal. . . .

 

Next week we will return to Klaybear, Blakstar, Thal, and Tevvy and learn what happened to them in the fire realm, and how they miraculously survived. In the meantime, purchase your copy of the full text from Amazon, Smashwords, and other ebook retailers; if you prefer print, order your copy from CreateSpace. Good reading!


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