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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!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on March 13, 2015 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)

13 March 2015

Poet’s Corner

 

We return to Coleridge’s “Christabel,” reminding our readers that we just saw Geraldine dismiss the spirits watching over Christabel, with the claim that this hour belonged to her; we reminded our readers that this hour is the witching hour, giving us further reason to question this lady’s motives and purpose. Today, we see Christabel’s response to Geraldine’s action:

 

Then Christabel knelt by the lady's side,

And raised to heaven her eyes so blue—

Alas! said she, this ghastly ride—

Dear lady! it hath wildered you!

The lady wiped her moist cold brow,

And faintly said, ' 'tis over now!'

 

Again the wild-flower wine she drank:

Her fair large eyes 'gan glitter bright,

And from the floor whereon she sank,

The lofty lady stood upright:

She was most beautiful to see,

Like a lady of a far countrèe.

 

Christabel believes that her ‘ghastly ride’ at the hands of scoundrels has ‘wildered’ her, which is to say, driven her crazy, and so, Christabel offers more of the wildflower wine to calm and rejuvenate her. We are told that when Geraldine stands up, she looks beautiful (perhaps an effect of the wine, or her banishing the spirits?), and the poet adds a final simile to a far country, meaning that she is an exotic lady, nothing like those with which we would have been familiar at that time, ladies from places like Ethiopia, India, or China. Geraldine then makes the following declaration:

 

And thus the lofty lady spake—

'All they who live in the upper sky,

Do love you, holy Christabel!

And you love them, and for their sake

And for the good which me befel,

Even I in my degree will try,

Fair maiden, to requite you well.

But now unrobe yourself; for I

Must pray, ere yet in bed I lie.'

 

Geraldine tells her hostess that she is loved by all those who live in heaven, and for the good deed she has done, Geraldine will “requite [her] well.” We usually think of ‘requite’ as a reward for something, but there is more to it than a simple reward, something closer to an answer, or response, to what Christabel has done. She follows this with two things that don’t seem to go together: disrobing and praying, and the question becomes, prayer to whom? And for what end? To learn the answers, come back next week for another installment of the Poet’s Corner. In the meantime, good reading!

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 11, Part 2

Posted by gwermon on March 9, 2015 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (0)

9 March 2015

 

A ‘grumpy’ good morning to all! I’d bet most of us are a little groggy and irritable this morning, still recovering from the effects of losing an hour of sleep! Why anyone still thinks we need to adjust the clocks is beyond me, since all the farmers who used to benefit from this changes do their work from farm machinery that has brighter lights than most airports! I suppose that the argument now is that businesses save energy by shifting the day, so I say, shift the day once and leave it alone! Who cares where the clock is set, as long as no one messes with it further! Okay, I’ve had my rant, now let’s return to our story, in the serialization of the second book of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar. Last time, we left the army of the seklesem, pausing at the Crossing of Reema, in which we learn the story behind this ancient battlefield, and then the alarm bell rings out. . . .

 

Chapter 11, Part 2

Delgart shook his head slowly. “It is very sad,” he noted, “that people could be so blinded . . . ,” but what he thought was lost in an alarm bell that suddenly rang out. All their heads turned north in the direction of the bell, and the moment of silence immediately following the bell was rent by a roaring sound, coming from the same direction.

“Aperu!” Marilee exclaimed, “back to the others, quickly!” She ran back the way they had come; Grelsor and Delgart followed, running through the organized chaos of their camp toward their own squad’s place among the other squads of the Third Legion’s Eighth Company. Delgart noticed that both Marilee and Grelsor were looking, as they ran, in the direction the alarm and roar came from.

“What color?” Grelsor hissed to himself.

Then Delgart saw what he meant and what they were both watching for: a ball of red light shot straight into the air, and he heard both speak at the same time. “A red, which means fire breath.” Marilee unslung her bow and nocked an arrow; Grelsor took a small crystal vial from his belt filled with a silvery substance and, as they were running, put a drop on Marilee’s head and mumbled, “nemfagelu.”

“Take out your shield, Delgart,” Marilee said while Grelsor put a drop on Delgart’s head and mumbled the same word. Delgart felt himself surrounded by cold; he shivered and looked a question at Grelsor.

“Fire protection,” he noted, “to help protect us against the aperu’s breath.” He put a drop on his own head and mumbled, “nemfagelu.”

“The two maghem and the other kailu,” Marilee said, “are currently protecting the rest of our squad. When we return, we will form a diamond, with the maghem and kailum dispersed among us, half the squad with shields, the other half ready to shoot at the aperu as it flies over our camp.”

“We kailum” Grelsor added, “will reinforce the physical shields to help protect us from attacks, giving the archers opportunity to aim and fire at the aperu. The two maghem will also shoot ortheks at the aperu.”

Delgart could see other squads as they ran through their camp, doing exactly as Marilee and Grelsor described. They were near their own squad and could see them forming up, Marilee’s second, Rellik, organizing the squad while watching for Marilee to return.

“Ready?” she asked, as they ran up.

Rellik nodded. “Just waiting for you to put in an appearance,” he said, smiling. Rellik was of medium height and build, with reddish-brown hair that hung straight to his shoulders.

Marilee took her place at the center of the formation; Grelsor steered Delgart to a position behind Marilee’s right shoulder, Grelsor standing just behind and to her left. Delgart looked around, then shifted his shield, holding it up and ready as he saw the other members of his squad who held shields, facing north. Delgart turned his eyes north, trying to get a glimpse of the aperu; seconds ticked slowly by in silence, then he saw a flash of red light to his left at the valley’s head.

“There!” Tregla, who was first shield, pointed and exclaimed; the first shield was a stocky female who had limp brown hair, matching her eyes, her hair cropped short just below her ears.

Something happened then that stunned them all to momentary silence: to the west of where the red aperu attacked, a ball of yellow light shot skyward, followed immediately by a ball of orange light and a ball of blue light to the east of the original sighting.

“Yellow aperu west of north!” Rolva, third sword, exclaimed; she was wiry with an olive complexion, her hair black as midnight and tied back at the base of her neck.

“Blue aperu east of north!” Hranda, third shield, exclaimed. She was young and lithe with blue eyes and curly blond, shoulder length hair.

“Orange aperu north-northeast!” Peltha, fourth sword, shouted, “moving our direction.” The fourth sword was broader than the others, with thin brown hair also cropped short.

Delgart heard similar shouts echoing all around them, as the other squads took note of the new alarms.

“Track them,” Marilee noted, “so we know how to alter our preparations.”

“Aye,” Tregla, Rolva, Hranda, and Peltha replied in unison.

“Should we,” Grelsor asked, “alter our protections?”

“No,” Marilee replied, “let’s wait and see which passes over us; you can alter your shields according to which one attacks us.”

“Maybe some squad will get lucky,” Luthina, second maghi, noted wryly. She was of medium height with brownish blonde hair and a pretty face; her gray eyes had tiny wrinkles of concern revealed when she smiled, which was seldom.

“Not on the first pass,” Marilee said with a shake of her head.

“It will take a while to break down their teka protections,” Rellik added.

“Red moving toward us,” Tregla said.

“Blue moving away,” Hranda said.

“Yellow moving away,” Rolva said.

“Orange, nearest, and moving toward us,” Peltha said.

Delgart watched, eyes darting from one aperu to another. He could see each colored shape moving in the light of the sunrise, and the flashes of colored light, matching the particular aperu in color, issuing from what must have been the mouth of each. He heard the shouts of the squads under attack, along with screams of pain, knowing that some of his fellow seklesem had been injured by the attacking aperum.

“What are the archers aiming at?” Delgart asked Grelsor.

“The wing joints,” Grelsor replied, “trying to disable its wings and bring it to the ground.”

“So be prepared to run at a right angle, in the direction I command,” Marilee noted, her eyes still watching the sky.

“If it looks like it will crash directly on our position,” Grelsor added, “and the command is simply, ‘scatter’, then you go right with Marilee while I will go left.”

“And after it hits the ground?” Delgart asks.

“The archers will aim for its eyes, trying to blind it,” Grelsor replied, “the shields try and get close enough to strike at it with swords. Watch out for the tail, especially on the orange and the yellow, as both have poisoned spikes. So the shields only close with it when it is distracted by others. If we can surround it, we can usually keep it distracted, turning this way and that, giving the shields time to dart in and strike.”

“Watch for its head, too,” Marilee added, “it can still breathe on us. If its head points toward you, fall back and try to cover the archers.”

“How do we kill it?” Delgart asked, but was interrupted by those tracking the aperum.

“Red turning away,” Tregla said.

“Blue turning toward us, but still distant,” Hranda said.

“Orange turning away,” Peltha said.

“Yellow turning toward us, but distant,” Rolva said.

“We do enough damage to it,” Grelsor replied, “that it collapses.”

“That could take a long time,” Delgart noted, “and many of us could suffer serious injury.”

Grelsor nodded.

“Is there a faster way?” Delgart asked.

“There is,” Grelsor replied, “but only a fool, or a hero, would try that way.”

“What is it?” Delgart asked.

“Simply run onto its back, and drive your sword to the hilt at the point where its neck meets its wings,” Grelsor said.

“And pray to the One your sword severs its spine,” Marilee added, “before its tail crushes you.”

Delgart could now make out the shape of the nearest aperu, looking like a lizard flying on bat-like wings, and he could see the ortheks cast by each squad’s maghem at the attacking aperum. He could see the orange swerve as blue bolts of power shot toward it. He saw red bolts streaking toward the blue, which also swerved to avoid the bolts of power. The other two aperum were still too far away to see more than flashes of light, but he could see that they, like the two which were closer, were breathing on the seklesem they passed over.

“Is it my imagination,” Grelsor noted, “or does it look like the aperum are looking for something?”

“Orange turning this way, bearing down on us!” Peltha exclaimed.

“Blue turning away,” Hranda said.

“Red turning toward us, but distant,” Tregla said.

“Yellow turning away,” Rolva said.

“Change our protection,” Marilee said.

Each of the two maghem and two kailum touched those nearest and around her or him with rod or staff. Grelsor touched his staff to Marilee first, mumbling “patorake,” and then he touched Delgart and mumbled the word, then Rellik, then Rolva, then Kreega, the third scout, who was a thin, small wetha, her long brown hair braided down her back. When Grelsor touched him, Delgart felt as if he were surrounded by something cool and slick.

“Ready stone shield,” Marilee said, “but do not raise it unless you are sure the orange is about to breathe on us, so the archers and the maghem have time to attack.”

“On my word,” Grelsor said.

“Ready,” Lidelle replied. The second kailu was tall and thin, with hawk-like features beneath a cap of thin black hair, spotted with gray.

The orange roared suddenly, a deep bubbling sound, then dove toward them.

“Orange diving toward us!” Peltha exclaimed.

“Blue turning this way!” Hranda shouted.

“Red turning this way!” Tregla exclaimed at the same time.

“Yellow turning this way!” Rolva also shouted.

“Archers ready,” Marilee said, pulling the feathered end to her cheek, taking careful aim, and shouting, “loose!”

Bowstrings thrummed in unison; two bolts of blue light shot from the upraised rods of the maghem, following their shouting, in unison, “pleugikel!” For an instant, they thought that their missiles had some effect upon the orange, as it pulled up, slowing its forward motion, but then they realized it was preparing to land on the piece of ground they occupied, talons opened wide to grasp and crush any too slow at getting out of the way.

“Scatter!” Marilee shouted, leaping to her right.

Grelsor had opened his mouth to signal Lidelle, but moved with his half of the squad to the left. holding his staff behind him and shouting, “plakaskoit!” Lidelle mirrored Grelsor’s actions, shouting the same word and raising the same shield to protect his half of the squad. The ground shook as the orange landed, and the aperu moved its head left, breathing a stream of acid on Marilee’s half of the squad, but Lidelle’s shield did its job, sending the stream of acid bouncing back at the orange. The grass between Lidelle’s shield and the aperu smoked and turned instantly black. Lidelle dropped his shield as the aperu turned toward their half of the squad.

“Archers!” Marilee shouted, nocking an arrow and raising her bow. “Loose at will!”

“Ware the tail!” Rellik shouted from behind the orange. “Shields, attack as you can!”

Delgart drew his sword, and heard his fellow shields do the same; the arrows loosed only bounced off the aperu’s thick, scaly hide. A loud thud, followed by a scream of agony, came from behind the orange, and Delgart knew one of his fellows had been struck by the orange’s tail with its poisoned barbs. The orange threw back its head and roared in pain; its tail thrashed violently, and someone else behind the orange screamed. Delgart heard commands from around their position, and he knew that other squads of the Eighth Company were moving to aid them.

“Blue diving!” someone shouted from behind the orange.

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. . . .

 

Come back next week and see what happens after this monster lands, and see Delgart become the hero of the battle! Until then, buy your own copy of the fantasy novel from Amazon, Smashwords, and other ebook outlets. If you prefer print, order your copy from CreateSpace today. Until next time, good reading!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on March 6, 2015 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

6 March 2015

Poet’s Corner

 

Here we go again with another installment of the Poet’s Corner. Recall that last week we left our heroine and her guest as Christabel offered wine made by her mother, and we noted that her mother had some strange powers; this week, we learn more of Christabel’s mother:

 

And will your mother pity me,

Who am a maiden most forlorn?

Christabel answered—Woe is me!

She died the hour that I was born.

I have heard the grey-haired friar tell

How on her death-bed she did say,

That she should hear the castle-bell

Strike twelve upon my wedding-day.

O mother dear! that thou wert here!

I would, said Geraldine, she were!

 

We learn that Christabel’s mother died in childbirth–a common occurrence during this time–and further, the mother claimed on her death bed that she would ‘hear the castle-bell / Strike twelve upon [Christabel’s] wedding day.’ We have to wonder how this is possible, since the mother is dead, and this declaration lends weight to our supposition that the mother did have strange powers. The poem takes another strange turn following this stanza, when it appears that Geraldine can see the mother’s ghost:

 

But soon with altered voice, said she—

'Off, wandering mother! Peak and pine!

I have power to bid thee flee.'

Alas! what ails poor Geraldine?

Why stares she with unsettled eye?

Can she the bodiless dead espy?

 

And why with hollow voice cries she,

'Off, woman, off! this hour is mine—

Though thou her guardian spirit be,

Off, woman, off! 'tis given to me.'

 

Something strange just happened! Not only can Geraldine see the spirits of the dead, she also has power to send them away–what is this lady Geraldine? And why does she tell the ghost that ‘this hour is [hers]?’ Remember which hour of the night we are in, and what creatures rule this hour after midnight! What follows cannot be good, especially when Christabel’s ‘guardian spirit’ has been sent away! Come back next week for more of Coleridge’s unfinished poem, “Christabel.” Good reading.

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 11, Part 1

Posted by gwermon on March 2, 2015 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

2 March 2015

 

Good day to all! We start a new week, a new month, with a new chapter from the second book in our epic tale, Staff of Shigmar, returning to Delgart and Marilee, on their way north from Holvar to attack the army surrounding Shigmar; the battle, however, begins long before they reach Shigmar. . . .

 

Chapter 11, Part 1

 

The best way to defeat an aperu is to avoid it, although this tactic is not always possible. . . . Never attack an aperu with less than an entire company, deployed to surround the beast and attack from all sides at once, with maghem and kailum ready to protect against its breath; even with this approach, casualties will be high. Pray to the One that one of its fellows does not come to its rescue, for if one does, the aperum will triumph. . . .

 

from the seklesi Manual of Enemies, origin unknown

 

The army of seklesem jogged through the night, stopping at sunrise to rest for a few hours before climbing into the Mountains of the Fallen Star on its way to rescue Shigmar. At sunrise, it crossed the Krystal River at the ford of Reema, making a temporary camp in the narrow valley between the river and the mountains. A scouting party left as soon as the army stopped, going north to check the narrow pass that would lead them to the besieged city of the kailum. Marilee, once she had established a camp for her squad, led Delgart back to the ford.

“Why is it called the Crossing of Reema?” Delgart asked as they walked among the camps toward the ford.

“I keep forgetting that you spent the last ten years a slave to pirates,” Marilee noted before answering his question. “There is much we need to teach you, so that your knowledge of the land is as great as your skill with the sword.”

“I am amazed that you learned so much, as a slave,” Grelsor put in. Grelsor was the son of Ghelvon, who was the Master of Fighting Arts on the council of Shigmar; he was almost an exact duplicate of his father, bulky and strong, short black hair sticking like wire out of his round head with cherub-like face. He was a kailu attached to Marilee’s squad. “How did you learn to wield a sword while a slave?”

“I was first a galley slave,” Delgart replied to Grelsor, “and the pirate cook was lazy, and he would beat his slaves if they failed to prepare meals that pleased the captain and crew. I saw at once that something needed to be done, so I organized the galley slaves, in order to avoid punishment. The cook saw immediately my value and put me in charge of his slaves; he had to do little work and got all the credit from the captain. After a year, he bragged to the captain about how good I was; the captain was suspicious of the cook, so he came and observed our preparations, watching me, I later learned. He was so impressed by the way I directed the galley slaves that he took me from the cook for his own. The captain trained me in all operations of the ship, then placed me in charge of all the slaves, used me to create duty schedules and manage most of the ship’s operations. He was not a cruel man, but a rigorous and demanding master, so I learned much from him, including weapons and fighting. For many years I was in this position, but there were members of the crew who were not happy with his choices, and who grumbled that a slave was telling them what to do. I warned him several times of this, but he felt secure in his position and did not heed my warnings.” Delgart paused, his face becoming bleak.

“What happened?” Marilee asked.

“They killed him,” Grelsor put in, “didn’t they?”

Delgart nodded. “They put me in the hold, manning the oars, and in the bilges, manning the pumps, on short rations. I nearly died, but in my moment of extremity, I thought I saw my father. He came to me in this vision, told me I had to hold on a little longer, and that I would rise to a level of greatness beyond my wildest dreams. I protested that I could not, would not, survive. He replied that, although a slave, I was in control of my destiny. I was so angered by his words that my anger forced me to go on, enabling me to survive. His words often came back to me, but several months passed before I finally understood what he meant: I could not choose how I was treated, but I could choose my response to it, my attitude, and in my misery, I smiled. My captors sensed this change in me, and, fearing that I might incite a rebellion, took me off the benches and locked me in the bilges, manning the pumps to isolate me from the other slaves; they only brought me out one time, during the storm that wrecked the ship, and put me back on the benches. I was the only one who survived the wreck–I survived in spite of all they did.” He stopped speaking and shook his head. “You still haven’t answered my question.”

They were standing next to the ford. Marilee looked horrified by his story, but recovered quickly.

“Your tale put your question out of my mind,” Marilee said, apologetically.

“That is my fault,” Grelsor noted. “I am still amazed at how well you wield weapons, and that you would be sent into the field immediately following testing. There is normally a time of training with the uwonti before seklesem are sent into the field.”

Delgart exchanged a quick look with Marilee before Marilee replied. “I was told that his age and his abilities made the decision to send him into the field, rather than keep him in Holvar for training,” Marilee replied, only glancing at Grelsor once as she spoke.

Delgart raised an eyebrow, but did not mention his own suspicions, thinking that their superiors had good reasons for withholding the whole story. Both kept their faces covered, hiding their disfiguring scars. Taking a cue from her, he did not mention what had happened to them both.

“I’m sure there were other reasons,” Marilee went on, “but they did not share any of them with me.”

Grelsor nodded. He pointed across the ford to the other side. “That mound is the burial site for those who died in the battle here, two-and-a-half millennia in the past. And on this side,” he pointed to a spot to the north of the ford, “is the place where the purem and ghelem who died here were burned.”

Marilee nodded and took up the story. “The ford was named after the merchant who discovered it, in the fourth century of the first millennium, atno 456, Reema. She wanted to trade with the kailum of Shigmar, so she came north from Rykelle and discovered the ford and a narrow mountain pass that led into the valley surrounding Shigmar. In the beginning of the second millennium, atno 1007 as I recall, the path, only wide enough for a single rider or pack animal, was widened to a wagon road, making it easier to trade with the kailum and the others living in their valley. In atno 1013, after the road was completed, several legions of Gar’s forces floated down river from the Iorn Gate, on their way to attack the city now named Holvar, taking the city by surprise and forcing the seklesem to flee north toward Shigmar. At Reema, the kailum army arrived just in time to stop the purem and ghelem’s northward march. The battle raged at Reema for many days until Sheldu, Headmaster of Shigmar, challenged the ponkolu leader of Gar’s forces, Ragi, to a duel. They stood on the waters of the ford, wielding teka forces that shook the ground, until Sheldu’s staff was broken, killing him. While Ragi was momentarily stunned by the forces released from the breaking of Sheldu’s staff, an awemi, hiding in the rocks at the edge of the ford, darted forward and leapt upon Ragi’s back, slitting the ponkolu’s throat. Ragi’s blood covered the awemi, incinerating both. The fall of their leader in their moment of victory disheartened Gar’s hoards, and they were driven back and slaughtered; only a few escaped to bring tidings to Gar. The Krystal River ran black for months, because of the blood spilled during the battle.” Marilee sighed and looked into the distance.

“The ford was renamed,” Grelsor went on, “to honor the many who had fallen in battle. But that is not the whole story: a group of purem and ghelem left the main group before the attack on Holvar and took the city of Komfleu, northwest in the Medyoake River valley. In the midst of raising the cairn over those who had fallen here, a messenger, who had been sent to Komfleu, returned to report. The people of Komfleu would not believe that the purem and ghelem were attacking, so refused to send any aid to the Fereghen. The messenger was driven from Komfleu, and had to travel far to the north to avoid Gar’s forces sent against Komfleu. He knew that the city had fallen, being unprepared for the attack. The survivors held a council, and many argued that the people of Komfleu should be left to their fate for refusing to send aid. Wulfrik, the Fereghen, although wounded, rose from his bed; all in the tent fell silent. He gave an immortal speech of liberty, asserting that as Komfleu was part of his realm, he would free them from the oppression of Gar, in spite of their refusal to send aid. All assembled in the tent were moved by the simple eloquence of Wulfrik’s speech, and they agreed to gather what forces remained and were healthy to go to the aid of Komfleu. The city was easily retaken, and the leaders were tried for willful rebellion against the Fereghen. New leaders were appointed by the people, and all in the city reaffirmed their loyalty to the Fereghen. However, as soon as the liberating forces were out of sight, the people and their leaders returned to their previous attitude, which still holds sway down to this day.”

“How do you know?” Delgart asked.

“Because my family was driven from Komfleu,” Grelsor replied, smiling wryly, “when I was very young.”

Marilee nodded. “My family also lived in Komfleu, for a time,” she added, “but my father moved us when he could see that the people were content with what they had and were: average non-achievers.”

“We get the word, ‘mediocre,’ from there,” Grelsor said, “from the name of the river, ‘Medyoake,’ which means ‘in the middle of the oaks,’ a description of the valley where the two rivers meet at Komfleu, which is ‘confluence,’ and the people are content to be ‘lost in the middle of the oaks.’”

Delgart shook his head slowly. “It is very sad,” he noted, “that people could be so blinded . . . ,” but what he thought was lost in an alarm bell that suddenly rang out. All their heads turned north in the direction of the bell, and the moment of silence immediately following the bell was rent by a roaring sound, coming from the same direction. . . .

 

Come back next week to learn what the alarm bell, and the roaring sound, mean for our army of seklesem! If you wish to continue the story right away, purchase an ebook copy from Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers; if you prefer print, order your copy from CreateSpace. Good reading!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on February 28, 2015 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

27 February 2015

Poet’s Corner

 

Happy Friday to all! We return to Coleridge’s strange, unfinished poem, “Christabel,” in which the narrator begins to describe the lady’s (Christabel’s) chamber; we remind all that last week we saw the two ladies ‘sneaking’ through the castle, so as not to wake her father, concluding with the strange description of ‘walking’ as ‘pressing down upon the floor.’ Now we see the moon shining into the room, revealing the fanciful carvings upon the wall:

 

The moon shines dim in the open air,

And not a moonbeam enters here.

But they without its light can see

The chamber carved so curiously,

Carved with figures strange and sweet,

All made out of the carver's brain,

For a lady's chamber meet:

The lamp with twofold silver chain

Is fastened to an angel's feet.

 

The silver lamp burns dead and dim;

But Christabel the lamp will trim.

She trimmed the lamp, and made it bright,

And left it swinging to and fro,

While Geraldine, in wretched plight,

Sank down upon the floor below.

 

O weary lady, Geraldine,

I pray you, drink this cordial wine!

It is a wine of virtuous powers;

My mother made it of wild flowers.

 

First, we see that the figures carved on the wall all emanate from the ‘carver’s brain,’ which tells us that they are fanciful & fantastic, but appropriate for a lady’s chamber: unicorns and dancing sprites come immediately to mind! Further, there is a lamp with a double-chain, hung from the feet of an angel–likely another of the fanciful carvings adorning the walls (which must be made of wood). Christabel lights the lamp, and we see the weary and wretched Geraldine sinking onto the floor. Our heroine, as a good hostess should, offers refreshment–a cordial wine, made by her mother from wild flowers. This figure is curious, for it hints that Christabel’s mother was something more than wife, mother, and woman, that she somehow had the power to imbue this wine in such a way that it will restore Geraldine’s health. Hm, strange, but we will have to wait until next week to find out more! Good reading!

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 10, Part 3

Posted by gwermon on February 23, 2015 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)

23 February 2015

 

Welcome to all! We return to the serialization of the second book of our epic, Staff of Shigmar, and leave Klaybear and company to return to Kalbant, where Klare watches over her mother and sister, the only survivors of the village’s destruction, and Rokwolf watches over Klare. . . .

 

Chapter 10, Part 3

Rokwolf was uneasy; it was too quiet. Although he had watched over Klare through the night, making frequent sweeps around the area to be sure no one was nearby, he still felt a threat approaching, but he could not decide what it might be, or where it was coming from. He looked down at Klare, whose eyes were red and face streaked with dried tears. Her sister and mother lay beside her, unmoving for most of the night, but there were moments when her sister stirred in her sleep, as if she were struggling against something; her mouth worked, but she spoke no words, as if something prevented her from speaking. Rokwolf wanted to move from here, but Klare’s mother had not stabilized, Klare had told him, enough to be moved. Rokwolf ground his teeth and occupied the time between sweeps dragging the bodies to one of the buildings that had fallen, where they could all be burned together.

“Any change?” Rokwolf asked Klare, kneeling beside her.

Klare looked up, but did not answer right away. “No, no change,” she said after a few moments. “She is still . . . ,” Klare faltered, unable to continue.

Rokwolf put one hand gently on her shoulder. “Klaybear told me that you were the best young healer at the school,” he spoke in a gentle voice, “and I can see that you have done all that could be done: it is in the hands of the One.”

Klare looked up at her brother-in-law and smiled weakly. “Thanks,” she said, “it’s just that . . . ,” she started to say, but bowed her head and sobbed, “I never had the chance to tell her that she’s going to be a grandmother,” she finished, burying her face in her hands, her body wracked with sobs she could not control.

Rokwolf wrapped his arms around her and held her until her sobs subsided.

Klare sniffed and wiped her eyes. “Sorry,” she noted. “Anything?” she asked.

Rokwolf shook his head. “No,” he said, eyes scanning the area around them, “but there is something, some threat approaching. We cannot remain here much longer.”

Klare nodded. “I know,” she agreed, “but we should wait a little longer before we try to move mother,” she added, looking down. “I wonder how long Klaybear will be gone,” she finished, turning to look to the north. “I was a little worried when that big wave crashed into the shore and the ground shook, but now I feel he is fine.”

Rokwolf followed her gaze, also looking north. “I’m glad you think so,” he said. “I am concerned about them; they are not experienced, and that worries me. I shared my concerns with your Headmaster, suggested that I should go with them, but he told me that if I did, they would fail.”

Klare touched his arm lightly, bringing his eyes back to look at her. “I’m sure he had very good reasons. I think he was the wisest person living, except for my master,” she said, and her face became bleak, eyes filling with tears. “Oh, Avril! I’d forgotten!” she sobbed, bowing her head again.

“What did you forget?” Rokwolf asked.

“My master,” Klare replied, “he died yesterday, but it seems like long ago, or that he’s not dead.” She sniffed and shook her head. “No! I must not, mother needs me,” she went on, looking down at her charges. “I have no time for grief,” she finished, dashing the tears from her eyes.

Both looked up and to the east.

“What . . . ?” Klare started to say, but Rokwolf silenced her.

He scanned the east, trying to find the source of the sound they both had heard. He stood silently and unslung his bow, nocking an arrow. Klare reached with her right hand and grabbed her staff, which had been lying beside her on the ground; as silently and smoothly as Rokwolf, she stood and faced the east, holding her staff ready. Seeing her standing ready, Rokwolf nodded to the east, indicating he was going to investigate, then he moved swiftly and silently, eyes taking in everything. He disappeared around the corner of a fallen building, making a sweep of the area but finding nothing; he returned shaking his head but did not speak until close to Klare.

“There was something,” Rokwolf whispered, “I am sure, but I cannot find who or what it was, or any traces.” He nodded to Klare’s mother and sister. “Is there any way we can move her?” he asked. “We are too exposed here,” he added, “we have to find some cover, before whatever is out there discovers us.”

Klare looked at her mother, then looked around. “Maybe if you found something flat,” she noted, “like a wide plank; we could slide her onto it and move her, but we dare not go very far.”

Rokwolf looked around. “I’ll find something,” he noted. “There is space in the cellar, if we could get them in there, you could stay there with them, out of sight, and I could draw whatever is out there away from you, erasing all traces of your presence.” He stood and slung his bow over his shoulder, sliding the arrow back into his quiver. He circled the rubble, then remembered the door he and Klaybear pulled off of the cellar entrance; it was bulky, but he was sure he could drag it with Klare’s mother on it. He carried it back to where Klare waited, laying it next to Klare’s mother. He knelt beside Klare, across the cellar door from Klare’s mother.

“If we pull by the clothes she is lying on,” Klare said, “we should be able to slide her carefully onto the door.”

Rokwolf nodded, and they both took hold of her clothes. When Klare nodded, they slowly slid her mother onto the door, which caused her to wince in pain.

“Careful!” Klare said needlessly, and she moved to the end of the door, at her mother’s feet.

“What are you doing?” Rokwolf asked. “I think it is too heavy for you.”

“How do you plan on moving her?” Klare asked.

Rokwolf shrugged. “I’ll pick up one end and drag it around back.”

“You must not,” Klare replied, shaking her head. “Her condition is too fragile; one bump would kill her.”

“I don’t think you can lift it,” Rokwolf noted.

“I’ll have to try,” Klare said.

Rokwolf squatted to lift his end; Klare did the same, lifting when he nodded. He lifted his side easily, but he could tell that Klare was struggling with her side.

“Are you okay, Klare?” Rokwolf whispered.

Klare nodded. “I can’t go far,” she replied through clenched teeth.

Rokwolf started to back in the direction of the cellar, looking behind him and looking back at Klare. He could tell after a few steps that it was too much for Klare at this point: the strain of several hard days, losing her master, and now her father and brothers, and no sleep through the past night had all taken a toll on her. On a normal day, he knew that she would have no trouble, but this was not a normal day. A few more steps and he could see her fingers slipping.

“Set it down before you drop it,” Rokwolf said, stopping and squatting slowly.

Klare gasped as it touched the ground, wiping the sweat from her eyes.

Rokwolf looked at her and thought for a moment as she caught her breath. “I have an idea,” he said when her breathing slowed. “I think we should save your strength to help me get her down into the cellar. I can carry her by myself.”

“How?” she asked, skeptical.

“On my back,” he replied. “Your mother is not that heavy, so if you can help me get the door onto my back, and then you can steady it as I move her.”

Klare looked down at her mother lying on the door. “How can you get this onto your back? I cannot lift it there.”

Rokwolf shook his head, slipping bow and quiver off his shoulders and setting them on the ground. “No, but you can hold up one end, allowing me to get under it.”

Klare again looked skeptical, but did not speak.

Rokwolf lifted his end, holding it at waist height. “Come and hold it up,” he said, and she came to his end and took one corner. He slipped under it on his knees, putting his back against the door. “Let it down,” he said, putting his arms and hands over his shoulders and behind his head, gripping the edge of the door. “If you would lift and steady the other end, I will get to my feet and start to move.”

“Ready,” she said and lifted her end slowly, and Rokwolf got slowly to his feet. They started to move toward the cellar.

“Are you okay?” Klare asked softly.

“Fine,” Rokwolf replied. “It is easy, once it is on my back and I am on my feet.”

They moved around the house to the back, stopping when they came to the cellar entrance.

“We’ll set it down the same way,” Rokwolf said, “steady it while I kneel, then set your end on the ground, then come to my end and lift it off my back while I get out from under it.”

As Rokwolf started to kneel, they heard a muffled scream from the front of the house.

“Jally!” Klare exclaimed, turning to look and losing her grip on the door.

Rokwolf had made it to one knee, and the door tilted to that side, and Klare’s mother started to slide. The scream came again, louder and more frantic. Rokwolf could tell by the shifting of the weight that something was wrong, so he tried to compensate dropping the arm opposite the leg kneeling. His sudden movement stopped the body from falling off that side, but then it slid the other way, too quickly for him to compensate. He flattened himself to the ground, shortening the distance to the ground.

“Klare!” Rokwolf exclaimed, hoping that she would see and stop her mother from falling off, further injuring her.

“No!” Klare exclaimed, rolling her mother onto her side; her hands glowed green, as she passed them over her mother’s body.

“What was the scream?” Rokwolf asked, heaving the door aside.

“My sister’s run off,” Klare said, a note of panic in her voice, “go after her!”

Rokwolf jumped to his feet and ran off, pausing to pick up his quiver and bow, slinging the quiver over his shoulder then nocking an arrow. A quick glance over the ground told him what he needed to know: the direction she had gone, running toward the central square of the village. He darted between the wrecked buildings, following her tracks while at the same time looking for enemies; something had awakened and frightened her into running. As he came around the last building before the square, he caught a glimpse of something lying face down about ten yards from the buildings. In an instant, he dove to the left and rolled, hearing something hiss past through the place he had been a moment before. Flattening himself against the wall out of sight of the village square, he heard the missile strike something hard, turned toward the sound, and saw a crossbow bolt quivering in a beam that had fallen from the building next to him. He turned the other way, back to the square, and could see that Klare’s sister lay motionless on the ground, bloody, steel-tipped bolt sticking out of her back. From its position and angle, he knew there was no hope. He cursed under his breath: this was all Klare needed, another death of a family member, and from what he had seen before he left Klare, he suspected that her mother would not survive much longer. He looked back at the now still bolt, imagined where Klare’s sister must have been hit, then looked back along what must have been the trajectory of both bolts. On the opposite side of the square, there was a two story building, still standing, the two windows on the second floor were broken, but he could not see anything in the dim light just before dawn. He scanned the area around the building, and as his eyes searched, he heard voices, the sounds of scraping wood and tinkling masonry, of things being shifted in the rubble.

“Looters,” Rokwolf whispered to himself, and he hoped he was right, that it was not another army of ghelem and purem, looking for them. For a moment, he listened to the sounds; it could not be more of Gar’s servants sent to capture them. For one thing was certain, they would not make so much noise, especially if they knew there were enemies about. He could not move; the space between these two buildings was in clear view of the windows, and he did not know which one concealed the archer, maybe both. He looked at the building next to him; there was the wall across from him, partially standing. If there were something there he could disturb, he might be able to distract the invisible archer long enough that he could get back to Klare before others found her, since he knew there had to be others nearby. He could see nothing in the next building, but just beyond it, he saw a chunk of ceiling plaster, maybe two feet square, dangling from a beam. He slipped the arrow he had nocked back into the quiver, slung his bow over his shoulder, and grabbed a shard of pottery from the ground. He took careful aim, then lobbed the piece of a broken pot toward the dangling plaster. He watched the shard fly toward its target, ready to spring as soon as something happened. The shard hit the dangling plaster, knocking it free; it struck the ground with a resounding crash, and Rokwolf leapt out of the shadows, zig-zagging his way across the open area. He almost stopped when he heard more crashing behind him, as more of the building had fallen. He darted out of sight of the central square, running back to where Klare was. He arrived out of breath, and pulled up short when he saw Klare’s face turn toward him, eyes red, face streaked with tears, and he knew that her mother had died. He knelt beside her, laying one hand upon her shoulder.

“I’m so sorry,” Rokwolf croaked, then he went on before she could say or do anything. “There are looters in the village,” he said, “we have to take the horses and get out of here before they find us.”

“What about my sister?” Klare sobbed. “Where is she?”

“They killed her when she entered the square,” he replied, “and nearly killed me. We’ve got to go.”

“I can’t leave my mother here, unburied,” she sobbed, “unmourned.” Her face was hollow, filled with grief.

Rokwolf looked into her eyes, thinking hard. “We’ll put her body in the cellar, then set fire to the ruins, then no one can desecrate her body or your home.”

Klare’s eyes filled again with tears; she choked back her sobs, nodding.

Rokwolf gently lifted her mother’s lifeless body, descending the stairs into the cellar. Moments later, he emerged, carrying a golden chain and locket, and handing it to Klare. Klare took it, looked at it for a moment in her open hand, then her hand closed tightly over it. She looked around.

“I think I lost my staff,” she noted, her voice tight and unnatural.

Rokwolf jogged back to where Klare had spent the night, kneeling beside her mother, and returned holding her staff. She accepted it from him and turned to face the ruins of her home, holding up her staff.

“Stalna-kailigater,” she said in a firm voice, and pointed her staff at the ruins of her family home. From somewhere high overhead, a beam of green fire descended, striking the ruins, and setting all of the rubble on fire at once. Rokwolf covered his eyes until Klare released the orthek. She started to slump, but Rokwolf caught her in his arms, lifted her, and carried her toward the place where their horses were tethered, shedding tears of sympathy, knowing exactly how it felt to lose one’s parents.

 

Next week we will pick up the story with Delgart and Marilee, as the seklesi army heads north to meet the attack on Shigmar. Meanwhile, for those who wish to continue the tale, purchase your copy from Amazon, Smashwords, and other sellers of ebooks. If you prefer print, order your copy from CreateSpace. Good reading!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on February 20, 2015 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

20 February 2015

Poet’s Corner

 

Last week, we saw the weakness that filled Geraldine as she crossed the threshold into the castle, and we noted this weakness was a sign of evil, for evil creatures cannot enter hallowed spaces without someone on the inside. We also saw the family dog’s negative reaction–in her sleep–as Geraldine enters, and now we will see them as they pass through the hall, going to Christabel’s chamber:

 

They passed the hall, that echoes still,

Pass as lightly as you will!

The brands were flat, the brands were dying,

Amid their own white ashes lying;

But when the lady passed, there came

A tongue of light, a fit of flame;

And Christabel saw the lady's eye,

And nothing else saw she thereby,

Save the boss of the shield of Sir Leoline tall,

Which hung in a murky old niche in the wall.

O softly tread, said Christabel,

My father seldom sleepeth well.

 

Sweet Christabel her feet doth bare,

And jealous of the listening air

They steal their way from stair to stair,

Now in glimmer, and now in gloom,

And now they pass the Baron's room,

As still as death, with stifled breath!

And now have reached her chamber door;

And now doth Geraldine press down

The rushes of the chamber floor.

 

Here we see another sign that Geraldine is not what she appears to be: as the two women pass through the main hall, where the ‘brands’–wood burning in the fireplace–have all but fallen to ash, a single tongue of flame flares, as if in response to the presence of one who can master the elements. Christabel reminds us, and Geraldine, that her father sleeps poorly, so tread softly. We next see them passing through the castle, the moon illuminating them as they pass from window to window, and when they pass the baron’s room (Christabel’s father), the poet notes how they pass “as still as death, with stifled breath,” meaning that they held their breath as they passed so as not to disturb the sleeper. The poet concludes this stanza with an odd turn of phrase, not saying that she entered the room, but that her feet now “press down / The rushes of the chamber floor”–an odd way to describe it, while calling attention to the fact that the floor is covered with ‘rushes,’ which were aromatic branches cut to both insulate the floor and freshen the sometimes stale air within the chamber. Next week we will see how things proceed after the two women enter the chamber of Christabel! Good reading!


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