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Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 9, Part 2

Posted by gwermon on January 26, 2015 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

26 January 2015

 

Here we go again! We return with another installment in the serialization of the second book of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar. We continue to follow our heroes as they struggle through the elemental realm of earth.  Blakstar soon discovers that the power of his sword to overcome his foes does not come without a cost. . . .

 

Chapter 9, Part 2

 

Thal stooped where he was and picked up one of the orange gems. “I think I saw another fly off over there,” he said, pointing. He held the gem in the palm of his left hand and passed his glowing right hand and rod over it. “There is a hint of teka, but I cannot tell what it is; I need more time to study it.” He slipped it into one of his pockets.

Tevvy walked in the direction Thal had pointed, and, after a moment of careful searching, he found a second gem, looking it over carefully before pocketing it.

“Why do you want that thing?” Blakstar asked.

“It’s probably worth something,” Tevvy said shiftily.

Blakstar turned away shaking his head.

“We ought to collect as many of them as we can,” Thal added. “They might have useful elemental properties when we return them to our own plane.”

“Even if they don’t,” Tevvy said, “they look to be quite valuable.”

Rumbling and cracking still sounded all around them, sometimes distant, sometimes close by, sending clouds of thick, stone dust rolling over them.

“Those stone men would be difficult to handle,” Tevvy noted, “if the ground were shaking beneath us. I suspect they would not be bothered by it.”

The others nodded, looking around warily. Rumbling and cracking sounds came from the distant west, and then all fell silent.

“I don’t like that,” Tevvy noted, looking around, his voice sounding shrill in the unnatural silence, “it doesn’t bode well.”

They looked around again, watching for signs of what the oppressive silence signified, many slow breaths passing before anything happened. The ground beneath them gave an almighty heave, hurling all of them from their feet, then the ground shook more violently than before, the sound of boulders grinding around them deafening, the sand beneath them churning, the stones of the former stone men quickly moved to the edges of the sandy clearing, consumed by the boulders grinding around them. All tried to get back to their feet, made more difficult by the sand flowing like water toward the edges of the clearing. Thal managed again to create his floating disc, shouting for the rest to come and hold on. Klaybear and Blakstar were closer to Thal, and so were able to get close enough to grab onto him; Tevvy was too far away, although more agile, he was keeping his feet, running as fast as his legs would go, but he was slowly moving closer to the edge and the grinding boulders. Thal shouted, and Blakstar let go of Thal’s ankle, both moving and allowing the flowing, churning sand to move him toward the struggling awemi. Klaybear turned, and, in spite of the insane steps of the dance to keep his feet, he tried to push Thal and the floating disc closer to Tevvy; the sweat was running freely down the white maghi’s face in his effort to keep his disc floating. As the kortexi neared Tevvy, he turned and started his legs moving back toward Thal, sure that his forward momentum would carry him to Tevvy before his body changed directions. He stretched his hand toward Tevvy’s reaching hand, their hands met and clasped, and Blakstar heaved Tevvy toward him. As soon as the awemi was close enough to Blakstar, he clambered up the kortexi’s back as before, and Blakstar ran back toward Thal and Klaybear. But the intelligence behind the churning sand and grinding boulders increased the fury of the shaking and churning. Although Blakstar had initially succeeded in moving closer to Thal, the increased flow of the sand toward the grinding boulders carried the running kortexi inexorably toward crushing death. Klaybear saw what was happening, so whipped out his staff with his free hand, stretching it as far as he could while still holding onto Thal. Blakstar lunged forward and caught hold of the end of the staff, but instead of pulling himself and Tevvy away from the grinding rocks, he pulled Klaybear and Thal closer to him and the spinning, clashing boulders.

Thal released his floating disc and, before it faded and he fell, shouted, “steighudnes!” and pointed his rod up. He started to rise, pulling Klaybear, and then Blakstar, with Tevvy clinging to his back. He grimaced when Klaybear’s weight pulled on his legs, and he groaned out loud, and Klaybear also groaned, as they lifted and dragged Blakstar up and across the churning sand. When the kortexi was directly beneath him, his strength faded, and he was dragged slowly down. The churning and rumbling sand and rocks slowed, and then stopped, and Thal surged upward when Klaybear released his legs. He lowered his rod and sank slowly down, stopping next to his panting and coughing companions, as thick clouds of dust rolled over them. Silence reigned when their coughing ceased.

Tevvy was white with fright. “Let’s get out of here before it happens again!”

The others looked around, listening, troubled by the total silence.

Klaybear looked up from where he sat on the sand. “Have you got some rope?” he asked Tevvy.

Tevvy was looking around. “Yes,” he said after a moment, although his voice still quavered. “It is thin and light, but very strong; I use it for climbing,” he explained. “What did you have in mind?”

“After what has happened,” Klaybear said, “I think we should rope ourselves together.”

Blakstar nodded. “I agree. That way, if it happens again . . . ,” he began, but Thal interrupted him.

“When it happens again,” Thal put in, “although it might not happen again for a while.”

“Why do you think that?” Blakstar asked.

“Whatever force controls this place,” Thal replied, “sounds, by the silence, to have expended all the energy it had, so I don’t think we need to worry until we hear the rumbling again.”

“Might I suggest,” Tevvy said, “an alternative: if we are all tied together, fighting will be difficult. I’ve got a couple of short pieces, and I can cut more, if we need them. I’ll give each of you a piece that you can tie around your waist, tie a loop in the other end, then coil the excess and loop it under your belts. At a moment’s notice, you can toss the loop to someone else, who needs only to put the loop around his wrist, Thal to Klaybear to Blakstar to me. Then, we are free to move as necessary while fighting.”

“Good idea,” Thal said, “but we should hurry, since every second we wait is used by our enemy to gather strength for another assault.”

The others nodded; Tevvy pulled several small coils of rope from his pack. “I can hand them to you, and you can tie them on while we walk.”

They moved forward in this manner, passing through three more clearings, becoming highly proficient at dispatching their stony opponents and roping themselves together following each battle to be lifted by Thal above the sand while it flowed like water beneath them. After the third encounter and earthquake, the kortexi fell to the sand, looking gray, coughing and gasping for breath, unable to move.

“What is wrong?” Klaybear asked, kneeling beside the fallen Blakstar.

“I’m spent,” Blakstar hissed between coughs. “This sword may bring my opponents to their knees,” he went on, wheezing, “but it has nearly drained the life out of me. I fear I cannot go on.”

Klaybear cursed under his breath. “Rokwolf hinted to me that this might happen,” he said, turning to the white maghi. “You are better at this kind of thing, come and show him how to draw energy from the sword: it is the reason why Rokwolf, and the morgle, could use the keys without becoming exhausted.”

Thal looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”

Before responding, Klaybear took his staff, drew energy from the air around them, and funneled it into the fallen kortexi. “The kortexem,” he said, slipping his staff back into the space between his back and pack, “are forbidden from using teka-enhanced weapons and artifacts, and so are not trained in their proper use.”

Thal’s face lit with comprehension. “Yes, of course,” he said, “that explains a lot.”

“Is that right?” Klaybear asked Blakstar.

The kortexi was sitting up, his breathing eased by the energy the kailu had given him. “Well, yes,” he said, “we are taught to depend on our physical strength and skill alone.”

“So all of your focus,” Thal said, “is on mundane weapons and armor.” Thal knelt on Blakstar’s other side. “Take out your sword,” he said, and when Blakstar had done so and placed it across his knees, all could see the pommel stone glowing and pulsing brilliantly; Thal laid one of his hands on the hilt over the kortexi’s hands. “Now, remember how we discovered the morgle’s door?”

Blakstar nodded.

“We will do the same thing,” Thal continued, “only we will be staying inside the sword; concentrate on the stone and its golden brilliance,” Thal noted.

The kortexi focused his eyes on the golden topaz affixed to the handle and concentrated.

After a moment, Thal spoke in Blakstar’s mind. Do you see that pool of power?

Yes, Blakstar thought.

Draw that back to yourself, Thal thought back, which should happen as soon as you touch it with your mind. Thal watched until Blakstar had drawn all of the energy back into himself. Do you see how it is done? he asked.

Yes, the kortexi replied.

Remember to do that after each battle, or as you need it. The more often you do that, the easier it will become, until you do it without thinking, Thal added.

Blakstar stood and put his sword away. “I feel great!” he exclaimed, and the color had returned to his cheeks.

Tevvy came back from where the path among the boulders moved forward. “We have a problem,” he noted.

“What is it?” Klaybear asked.

“The path goes forward a short way,” Tevvy replied, “then splits, going in two different directions.”

“Is there anything to indicate which way to go?” Klaybear asked.

“Without actually following them, no,” Tevvy replied, “which I am leery of doing alone, as I do not think I could survive an earthquake without help. However, the left path looks like it opens into a clearing, at least, I think I could see it opening up.”

The others raised their eyebrows, exchanging glances. “What do you mean?” Blakstar asked, his suspicion aroused.

Tevvy shrugged. “I don’t know how to explain it,” he said, “but the left fork appears to open into a clearing a short way down the path leading that direction. I could be wrong, since this place does not seem to follow normal rules; I have thought before that the path ahead was short, but it took longer to cover that space than it should have.”

Blakstar shook his head; Klaybear and Thal exchanged another glance.

“There is something strange,” Thal said, “about the way distance and time behave here. I have noticed that, although it has taken longer each time for our enemy to recover enough strength to attack us, we have been attacked by stone creatures and earthquake immediately upon entering any clearing.”

“I had noticed,” Klaybear agreed.

“So what do we do?” Tevvy asked.

Klaybear thought for a moment before responding. “I think we should go forward on the short path, just to see what is there, and then decide.”

The others nodded, and all moved quickly onto the path. Almost as soon as they entered the left way, a clearing opened, different from the others: this one was a depression, like a shallow bowl, with rocks like standing stones around the rim providing cover, as if they were supposed to see into the bowl without being seen by any who might be below. They took cover behind the rocks, looking carefully down. They could hear clinking sounds, and a rhythmic grinding sound that they soon discovered was stony chanting. Below, they saw a flat area at the bottom of the depression, a stone pillar at its center, surrounded by a score of the stone creatures, who appeared to be dancing and chanting around the stone pillar. Next to the pillar stood another stone creature, waving a rod topped with some kind of feathers. The stone pillar was revolving slowly, at the same speed as the creatures who circled, but in the opposite direction, and sinking slowly into the sand. As it turned, they could see chains binding something to the pillar, then they saw what was clearly a female figure, which caused them all to watch the pillar more closely.

 

Tune-in again next week and discover who is bound to this strange pillar, about to be sacrificed by the creatures of this realm to their god . . . or so it appears! Meanwhile, get your full ebook copy of this epic fantasy from Amazon, Smashwords, and other ebook retailers, or if you prefer print, order your copy from CreateSpace. Good reading!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on January 23, 2015 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

23 January 2015

Poet’s Corner

 

Last week we left Christabel praying beneath an oak tree in the woods at midnight–all bad signs–and she jumped to her feet, hearing something that disturbed her prayer:

 

Hush, beating heart of Christabel!

Jesu, Maria, shield her well!

She folded her arms beneath her cloak,

And stole to the other side of the oak.

What sees she there?

 

There she sees a damsel bright,

Dressed in a silken robe of white,

That shadowy in the moonlight shone:

The neck that made that white robe wan,

Her stately neck, and arms were bare;

Her blue-veined feet unsandaled were;

And wildly glittered here and there

The gems entangled in her hair.

I guess, 't was frightful there to see

A lady so richly clad as she-

Beautiful exceedingly!

 

'Mary mother, save me now!'

Said Christabel, 'and who art thou?'

 

After a reminder by the narrator of this strange tale that our heroine should calm down, we see her moving around the tree, and she sees another young woman, dressed in white silk, her skin whiter than the robe (another symbol of beauty), with bare arms, legs, and feet, and gem-filled hair. She is a ‘lady’ we are told–as if we could not tell from the description!–another woman in the woods at midnight, beneath the same oak tree, and yet, this woman seems unprepared to be out at night, clad only in what we might call a silk nightgown–attractive, but hardly appropriate for the cold night! We should realize that her purpose in being here cannot be good; also, the fact that Christabel does not recognize her tells us that she is not from this place, meaning she had to travel some distance to get here, and she is in no preparation for such travel. Where is her horse and carriage? Where is her clothing and baggage? Where are her servants? No lady of quality, during Coleridge’s day, would be out at night, alone in the woods. Either she has been abandoned here–which means we should pity her–or, she is some kind of supernatural creature, and such a creature in the woods at night, waiting under an oak tree for our heroine, hints at some nefarious purpose yet to be revealed! Come back next week for more of this poem! Good reading.

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 9, Part 1

Posted by gwermon on January 19, 2015 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

19 January 2015

 

On this day we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, and his important contributions to our culture. In the next installment of our story, the second book of The Redemption series, Staff of Shigmar, we rejoin our heroes as they begin to journey through the elemental realm of earth, facing the strange creatures of this realm. . . .

 

Chapter 9, Part 1

 

Although dimensional slices reflect the values of their tekson creator, one cannot remove the influence of Gar; I fear that if left to themselves, over time, any created dimensional slice would fall under Gar’s influence, altering the conditions of its creation, even though their personal nature would prevent him or his minions from entering directly. . . .

 

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

Lecture by Sedra Melbarth

 

They stood at the center of a small, sandy clearing, surrounded by jagged chunks of stone, from the size of a clenched fist to the size of a small house. The sky was dark, lit with an orange hue, devoid of stars, or moon, or sun. The sand of the clearing around them was empty of plants or animals, and they only heard distant rumblings, punctuated by the sounds of cracking stone coming from every direction; the sound echoed and reverberated hollowly, as if they were inside a large stone dome. Clouds of red-brown dust billowed around them from time to time, making it difficult to breath; Tevvy and Thal were coughing, and the awemi pulled his hood up around his mouth, as he had done in the sewers of Shigmar that seemed to be an age and universe away. The others took cloths from pockets, tying them around their heads to cover their mouths and noses, having learned from their experiences in the sewers under Shigmar. The ground beneath their feet shook suddenly, making them, and the stones around them, reel to and fro like an inn’s common room filled with drunken farmers and merchants trying to dance. The sharp retorts of cracking stones pierced their ears, painful for its closeness and loudness. The sand beneath their feet started to boil, as if pushed up from below, pebbles and shards of stone coming up out of the sand, while pebbles and shards of stone already lying on the sand moved out from the center of the sandy area to be ground under by the twisting and rolling boulders surrounding them, throwing up new clouds of dust that rolled over them, obscuring their view. Each quickly closed his eyes when the thick dust clouds rolled over them as the gritty dust stung the eyes. As quickly as it started, the shaking ground and grinding boulders stopped, the sounds echoing away into silence, returning as distant rumbles and cracks. The sand ceased its boiling, and they saw, churned up from the depths, a broken hilt, part of a belt buckle, and the broken stock of a crossbow, all of them pocked with holes and scoured clean. Blakstar nudged the broken hilt with one boot.

“That’s ominous,” Tevvy said, voice muffled.

Each had managed to keep his feet by using his weapon to help steady him.

“Did you notice what happened to the path?” Blakstar asked, pointing to the only way out of the sandy clearing.

“I was a bit busy,” Klaybear noted wryly, “trying to keep on my feet. I think if one fell down during one of those earthquakes, one would be carried straight to the edge of the sand and be eaten by the boulders.”

Blakstar nodded. “That is exactly what happened to the path,” he said, “only problem is the path is so narrow that a single stumble to the right or left . . . ,” he left it hanging.

“This might be challenging,” Klaybear said.

Even though his hood covered the lower half of his face, they could tell Tevvy’s mouth was open.

“Challenging?” Tevvy repeated, hardly believing what he had heard. “Are you crazy? We’ll be lucky if even one of us gets through here alive!”

Thal seemed to ignore Tevvy’s outburst; he was tapping the cloth covering his chin.

“We are meant to pass through this,” Blakstar said, turning without another word to follow the path.

Tevvy leaped after him. “Wait!” he exclaimed. “You don’t know if it’s safe!”

“It isn’t,” Blakstar replied without turning.

Klaybear touched Thal’s arm. “We better follow them,” he said, “I do not think we should get separated in this place.”

Thal came out of his thoughts. “You are right,” he said, “we should not linger.”

“Let’s hope we do not get another earthquake while we are crossing this narrow path,” he noted. Rumbling and cracking echoed from the east, then south-southwest, northeast and closer, west and farther away.

“There may be a way,” Thal mumbled.

“You have an idea?” Klaybear asked, as they hurried to catch Tevvy and Blakstar. Rumbling and cracking echoed from the southwest and very close; they paused on the narrow path as thick clouds rolled toward them.

Thal nodded, shielding his eyes from the dust. “Maybe,” he noted, “there is an orthek that creates a disc of air that floats above the ground.” Rumbling and cracking from the distant south, southwest and closer, southeast and distant. “This orthek allows the maghi to float above the ground, and when I’m more skilled, I can move the disc around.”

“How does that help us?” Klaybear asked. Rumbling and cracking from the far distant west.

“I can float on the disc,” he said as they caught up to the kortexi, and the ground beneath them shook violently. Thal shouted the words, “pleudkweklo,” and he was floating about two feet off the ground. “Grab onto me!” he shouted. “I cannot lift you, but at least I can steady you!”

Klaybear grabbed Thal’s ankle with one hand, dancing insanely as the sandy path boiled beneath him, moving his feet inexorably toward the grinding boulders on either side. Blakstar did the same thing, holding onto Thal from the other side, doing a similar crazy reel. Tevvy could not reach the white maghi as he floated, so he simply crawled onto the kortexi’s back, clinging there as would a child. Thal shook from side to side because of the vibrations passing through the two holding onto his legs, but his floating disc held steady, although beads of sweat formed on his face as he concentrated on keeping the disc afloat. As suddenly as it had come, the shaking stopped, the boulders stopped rolling, and the sandy path under their feet stopped boiling. Klaybear and Blakstar let go of Thal, who released the orthek and floated slowly back to the ground.

“That was useful,” Klaybear noted.

“You can get down now,” Blakstar snapped, irritated.

Tevvy unclenched his hands and slid down the kortexi’s back. As soon as his bare feet touched the sand, he ran forward as quickly as he could to the next clearing.

Klaybear started to laugh, but his laugh turned quickly into a cough as the air around them was heavy with stone dust.

“I think he’s got the right idea,” Thal mumbled, indicating that Blakstar should hurry after him.

The three of them jogged after Tevvy, soon entering the clearing. They stopped dead, seeing the awemi hurl one of his daggers straight at a pile of stones walking toward them. There were half-a-dozen of the creatures moving toward them, each about six feet tall, each looking as if some nearly-blind god had taken stones and piled them together to form legs, torso, arms, and head, then animated them. Tevvy’s dagger hit the closest creature in the chest where a person’s heart would be; the dagger shattered into a hundred pieces falling harmlessly onto the sand.

Tevvy turned to look at his companions. “I think we’re in trouble!” he exclaimed, backing toward the others.

Each of the creatures had only a single hole at the center of its head, which head was smaller than the companions’; the hole was filled with a gemstone that glowed with orange light. The creatures paused and shook, filling the clearing with the sound of many stones clunking together.

“I think they are laughing at me,” Tevvy said, moving behind his companions.

Blakstar leaped forward, brandishing his sword, the stone glowing and the blade licked by golden flames; Klaybear followed, swinging his mace, which glowed with green flames. Blakstar deflected the arm of the lead creature with his shield, swung his sword in an overhand stroke, severing the other arm of the lead creature. The blade scraped between the chest and arm in a shower of golden sparks and a flash of orange light, the stony arm fell to the sand. The creature fell onto its knees in front of the kortexi, who stood momentarily stunned by its behavior, prostrate in front of him as if it were suing for clemency. A green flaming mace swung down, shattering the stony head; the creature fell apart.

“Didn’t I tell you,” Thal noted from behind Blakstar, “that we’d be in for a surprise the first time you used that sword?”

“Go for the head!” Klaybear shouted, “it seems to be holding them together.” He stepped to Blakstar’s left, bringing his green flaming mace down upon the head of the creature on that side. For the second time, a stony head shattered, and the creature of piled stones fell apart.

Taking his cue from the kailu, Blakstar again leaped toward the next creature, swinging his sword cross-body and aiming at the space between head and chest. The flaming blade scraped between the stones, golden sparks flew, orange light flashed, the stone head fell off the creature’s chest, and the body prostrated itself on the ground before the kortexi. For the second time, Blakstar paused, stunned by the behavior, and as he stood there, Tevvy darted forward from behind the stunned kortexi, stabbed his dagger into the eye hole of the stone head, and popped the glowing orange gem out of the eye hole. The creature fell apart in a flash of orange light, and Tevvy darted back behind Blakstar.

Thal raised his glowing rod in one hand and held up his other hand, open with palm outward. “Ghesorsista!” he shouted, and pieces of yellow light gathered to form a hand of yellow air in front of one of the creatures. This creature paused to look at the transparent yellow hand, then tried to walk through it. Thal staggered back as the creature walked into the hand of air, and the hand wavered. Thal pushed himself forward, pushing the creature back momentarily, but then the creature started forward again, pushing both hand and maghi back. “I can’t hold it long,” he hissed through clenched teeth.

Blakstar moved toward one of the creatures, one closest to him not blocked by Thal’s orthek. To his left, Klaybear moved toward the other free creature. Instead of swinging his sword to sever head from chest, the kortexi lunged forward and stabbed at the glowing eye, crushing the orange gem and putting out the light. The creature fell apart. Klaybear crushed the head of the fifth creature moments after Blakstar stabbed his. Thal released his orthek just before the creature pushed him into the sharp boulders surrounding the clearing. The kortexi stepped to his left, intending to stab the final stone creature, but Tevvy hissed from behind.

“Cut off his head,” the awemi said, “I want to get one of those stones intact.”

Blakstar altered his steps, swinging his sword in a wide arc. The flaming blade scraped between stony head and chest, causing another shower of golden sparks and a flash of orange light; the body fell forward, the head fell back, and Tevvy darted forward, leaning on the head while trying to pry out the glowing orange gem. The head and body started thrashing around, hurling Tevvy from it. Klaybear stepped forward and crushed the head.

Tevvy stood and brushed himself off. “I wanted that one whole!” he exclaimed.

Klaybear shrugged. “Sorry,” he said, “I thought you needed help with it.”

Thal stooped where he was and picked up one of the orange gems. “I think I saw another fly off over there,” he said, pointing. He held the gem in the palm of his left hand and passed his glowing right hand and rod over it. “There is a hint of teka, but I cannot tell what it is; I need more time to study it.” He slipped it into one of his pockets.

 

Look for further adventures in this dimensional slice of earth next Monday. In the meantime, purchase the full ebook version of this epic fantasy from Amazon, Smashwords, and other ebook retailers; or, if you prefer print, order your copy from CreateSpace today! Good reading.

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on January 17, 2015 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

16 January 2015

Poet’s Corner

 

Last week we began Coleridge’s unfinished poem, “Christabel,” and saw the young lady, by this name, alone in the woods at midnight to pray for her man who is away. We continue with more of the beginning, further setting the scene and giving more details about what is going on with this lady:

 

She stole along, she nothing spoke,

The sighs she heaved were soft and low,

And naught was green upon the oak,

But moss and rarest mistletoe:

She kneels beneath the huge oak tree,

And in silence prayeth she.

 

The lady sprang up suddenly,

The lovely lady, Christabel!

It moaned as near, as near can be,

But what it is she cannot tell.-

On the other side it seems to be,

Of the huge, broad-breasted, old oak tree.

The night is chill; the forest bare;

Is it the wind that moaneth bleak?

There is not wind enough in the air

To move away the ringlet curl

From the lovely lady's cheek-

There is not wind enough to twirl

The one red leaf, the last of its clan,

That dances as often as dance it can,

Hanging so light, and hanging so high,

On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.

 

Christabel moves through the forest, sighing (of course!) and stopping beneath an oak tree. The poet reminds us again that spring has started, for the oak tree is bare (recall that oaks do not lose their leaves until the new leaves begin to grow), but for the moss and mistletoe. Now, to Coleridge’s audience, these details–of the oak tree, the mistletoe, and midnight–cause a shudder of fear, for these are all pagan symbols associated with druidic worship, and what we should recognize is that, although she is a Christian, following the beliefs and practices of this religion, we find her in the woods (bad), during the witching hour (worse), praying under an oak tree covered with moss and mistletoe (worst!), acting more the pagan than the Christian–there is, we now see, something strange going on here! Suddenly, our heroine jumps to her feet (she was kneeling), hearing something–a moaning sound–that frightens her; could it be the wind? she asks herself, and realizes there is no light, the poet focusing on the last leaf, noting that there is not enough breeze to stir this last leaf, which means a dead calm. What, then, made the moaning sound? Come back next week for the answer and more from this supernatural poem of Coleridge! Good reading!

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 8, Part 3

Posted by gwermon on January 12, 2015 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

12 January 2015

 

Welcome back! In this week’s installment of the serialization of the second book of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar, we rejoin our heroes as Klaybear equips his new weapons and armor before they move on to the next stage of their quest for Shigmar’s staff, discovering what they will next face in order to fulfill their quest. . . .

 

Chapter 8, Part 3

Klaybear smiled as he looked at his new weapon, then looked back at Thal. “I was leaning on the crate when I reached in,” he noted.

Thal looked puzzled. “Maybe the two combined?” he suggested, sounding at a loss.

Klaybear shrugged and walked over to the crate, reached out carefully, and gingerly touched it, jerking his finger away as soon as he touched the wood. When nothing happened, he put his hand on the crate. “Nothing,” he spoke softly.

Thal shook his head. “That is quite odd,” he said, looking at the crate and its contents.

Klaybear nodded. “Not much we can do about it now,” he said, eyeing the contents of the crate, “except put on this armor and get going.” He smiled at his companions and laid the mace carefully on an unopened crate; he removed his robe, then reached in and lifted out the leather jerkin, pulling it over his undershirt. He pulled out the shirt of brass rings, then stopped, looking at his companions. “What?” he asked, seeing the expressions on all their faces.

“You sure that you are all right?” Thal asked, voicing the question in all their minds. “We have had, after all, several difficult days, with little rest, and you were just accosted by your vision.”

“So?” Klaybear asked.

Thal looked at Tevvy and Blakstar, who both had shot a glance toward the other side of the room, where the cots rested. “Well, some of us are quite tired,” Thal went on, “so we were thinking of resting before we move on.”

“Not me,” Klaybear noted, throwing the shirt of rings over his head, which made a clanking sound as the rings slid over his helmet. He buckled the shirt in place, then reached for the belt. “I feel great!” he said, wrapping the belt around his hips and buckling it.

“Of course you feel great!” Blakstar snapped. “You just drank the Waters of Life!”

Thal and Tevvy looked suddenly at the kortexi, while Klaybear took out the leg greaves and buckled them over his shins.

“Why can’t we,” Tevvy asked, “drink some of these Waters?”

Blakstar was surprised by the question. “You’re not hurt . . . ,” he began, but Tevvy interrupted him.

“But we are tired,” Tevvy noted, “wouldn’t drinking the Waters give us energy? And aren’t we in a hurry to find the staff?”

Blakstar looked from Tevvy to Thal, then back to Tevvy again; Klaybear was now strapping on his arm greaves. “I don’t have much left,” he said, “shouldn’t we save them for a worse moment, when one of us lies dying?”

“I thought you said,” Tevvy went on, “that there was a fountain in the tomb? Couldn’t we refill it there?”

Without thinking, Blakstar turned to the portal that would lead them forward. “It is somewhere ahead.”

“Klaybear didn’t drink very much,” Tevvy said, “and look at him.” They all turned to look at the kailu, who was pulling out the breastplate.

“I’ll need some help with this,” Klaybear noted, holding it up.

“He looks quite energetic,” Thal noted, looking back at the kortexi. “And isn’t this the reason why you carry those Waters?” he asked.

Blakstar’s face fell suddenly. “I’m sorry,” he apologized, “but I fear that our haste and my tiredness has clouded my thinking; I should have suggested it sooner.” He offered the skin to Thal. “A swallow should be enough,” he added as Thal took the flask and unstoppered it.

The white maghi took a sip and held it in his mouth before swallowing; his eyes lit up, and he dropped the skin. Tevvy caught it and took a swallow, and he smiled widely, taking a second mouthful.

Blakstar looked down from Thal and took the skin from the awemi; Tevvy’s eyes had gone distant.

Thal’s eyes, then Tevvy’s, came back to the present and focused on the room; both smiled, then said together, “Let’s go; I feel great!”

Blakstar smiled weakly back at them, then drank from the skin. He swallowed and put the stopper back in, returning it to his belt. His smile mirrored Thal’s and Tevvy’s.

“If you have finished grinning at each other,” Klaybear said, a note of impatience in his voice, “then maybe one of you can help me put on my breastplate?”

They laughed before Blakstar and Thal went to help Klaybear; Tevvy went to the portal that led forward.

“There is another inscription here,” Tevvy said, as Klaybear picked up his new mace and hung it from his belt. He picked up his shield and strapped it to his right arm.

 

 

 

 

Thal moved over to where Tevvy stood looking at the portal. He looked over the inscription, then turned toward Klaybear. “How would you translate repindo?” he asked.

Klaybear thought for a moment. “Snatching, or maybe seizing,” he replied.

Thal looked back at the inscription under the arched portal. “It says, Thrown from a heart of fire, creatures who are made of stone, seizing those of flesh, corrupted by contact with evil, swiftly takes them to the gate of the house of death, I think,” Thal added as he finished, brow furrowed.

Klaybear pointed to one of the words. “Isn’t that the evil one?” he asked.

“Oh, yes,” Thal said, “corrupted by contact with the evil-one, it should say.”

Tevvy looked puzzled. “But who is seized, who is corrupted, and who is taken to the gate?” he asked.

“Well, it is poetry,” Thal noted, “so it is the stone creatures who are corrupted by evil, and who seize creatures of flesh and take them to the gate, or I should say, kill them.”

“And that is supposed to help us?” Tevvy asked. “How?”

“The arch,” Thal said, pointing, “is a portal. Notice these symbols,” he pointed to various parts of the arch, “around the arch. Each symbol activates the portal, opening a doorway to different places, depending on which symbol is activated.”

“So how do we know which to activate?”

“Earth,” Klaybear said; Thal nodded.

“How do you figure that?” Tevvy asked.

“Creatures of stone,” Klaybear said.

“And Shigmar told us above,” Thal added, “that we had to pass through the elemental realms and be tested in each.”

“But it also mentioned fire,” Tevvy protested. “Couldn’t it also be fire?”

Thal shook his head. “The stone creatures were thrown from the heart of fire, and they are doing all the actions, so it must be earth.”

“What happens if you are wrong,” Tevvy asked, “if you choose the wrong symbol?”

Thal shrugged. “Anything from nothing,” he replied, “to instant death.”

“Fine,” Tevvy quipped, “you won’t mind if I get out of the way before you try?”

Thal ignored him; Klaybear pointed to a symbol on the left side of the arch. Thal reached out one hand, the end of his index finger glowing white. “Has everybody got everything?” he asked before touching the symbol. “Everybody ready?” He waited for their nods.

“Do I have any choice?” Tevvy asked; he had moved to stand behind the kortexi.

“No,” three voices spoke together.

Thal touched the symbol for earth, !; the portal flared to life, filled with a gray shimmering similar to the archway opened with Blakstar’s sword. They turned to look at Tevvy.

“You first,” Klaybear said, “followed by Blakstar, then me, then Thal. Weapons ready, I think.” Three nods were followed by the sound of Blakstar’s sword and Tevvy’s short sword sliding from scabbards; a dagger appeared in Tevvy’s left hand; Thal slipped out his rod, spoke a word, “kreska,” and the rod lengthened and thickened into a stout quarterstaff, although still gray; Klaybear held up his mace. “May the One hold us safely in His hand,” he prayed and nodded to Tevvy, who grimaced and stepped into the portal. He disappeared from sight; Blakstar followed, then Klaybear, then Thal, and the light of the portal went out.

Come back next week for another installment of our tale as this group of chosen begin to journey through the elemental realm of earth in their quest for Shigmar’s fabled staff. In the meantime, get the full ebook version from Amazon, Smashwords, or other ebook retailers; if you prefer print, order your copy from CreateSpace. Good reading!

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on January 10, 2015 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

9 January 2015

Friday Poet’s Corner

 

We apologize for missing last week’s post–the days seem to have gotten away from us! We recall that one purpose of this blog is to share with our readers some of the poems & poets that influenced us; last time, we finished Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner,” and this time we will continue with Coleridge, since his work has had a profound influence upon ours. We turn to what is undoubtedly his strangest work–yes, stranger than the Mariner, an unfinished poem called “Christabel.” Here’s how it begins:

 

'Tis the middle of night by the castle clock

And the owls have awakened the crowing cock;

Tu-whit!- Tu-whoo!

And hark, again! the crowing cock,

How drowsily it crew.

Sir Leoline, the Baron rich,

Hath a toothless mastiff, which

From her kennel beneath the rock

Maketh answer to the clock,

Four for the quarters, and twelve for the hour;

Ever and aye, by shine and shower,

Sixteen short howls, not over loud;

Some say, she sees my lady's shroud.

 

Is the night chilly and dark?

The night is chilly, but not dark.

The thin gray cloud is spread on high,

It covers but not hides the sky.

The moon is behind, and at the full;

And yet she looks both small and dull.

The night is chill, the cloud is gray:

'T is a month before the month of May,

And the Spring comes slowly up this way.

The lovely lady, Christabel,

Whom her father loves so well,

What makes her in the wood so late,

A furlong from the castle gate?

She had dreams all yesternight

Of her own betrothed knight;

And she in the midnight wood will pray

For the weal of her lover that's far away.

 

Coleridge begins by setting the scene, which is midnight outside the castle of one Sir Leoline, the silence broken by the owls, waking the rooster and causing it to crow–a rooster crowing at midnight does not bode well for what follows! Further, he mentions this knight’s favorite dog, called a “toothless mastiff,” meaning the dog is quite old; this hound also wakes at night, barking every 15 minutes, but not loudly enough to wake anyone, just mark the hour like some kind of chiming clock–an odd figure. He goes on to describe the night, chilly but not dark, for a thin mist is all that obscures moon and stars. We also learn it is the beginning of April, and spring is just beginning to awaken all the plants. We finally come to our heroine, the lovely Christabel, beloved of her father; so what is the lovely, beloved girl doing in the woods at midnight–nothing good happens in the woods (think of every fairy tale you’ve heard), and even less at midnight! Why is she here? To pray for her lover, since she dreamed of him the night before, or so we think, although as you have learned, things with Coleridge are not so simple! Return again next week to find out how things for this girl change for the worse! Good reading.

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 8, Part 2

Posted by gwermon on January 5, 2015 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

5 January 2015

 

Somehow we managed to forget our normal Friday post, owing–no doubt–to the Christmas holiday, and the fact that everyone was home everyday, making it appear to this author to be always Saturday! We return to the eighth chapter of the serialization of the second book in our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar, in which we discover what the light was, and where Tevvy has gone. . . .

 

Chapter 8, Part 2

 

They saw a flash of light, illuminating for a moment the passageway, which was about thirty feet deep, but they saw no sign of Tevvy. Blakstar started to climb down quickly; Klaybear followed, with Thal bringing up the rear. While Thal waited for Klaybear to begin climbing down, he spoke the word and sent a glowing magluku down the vertical shaft. It hovered near the bottom, and Tevvy’s face came into view, looking up while shielding his eyes from the light.

“I’m okay,” Tevvy said. “There is a strange doorway down here,” he noted as Blakstar reached the bottom and Thal started to climb down. “I did not want to get too close to it, so I tossed one of my sling bullets through it: that is what made the light.”

“What exactly happened,” Thal asked as he climbed, “as it passed through the doorway?”

“It sort of hung there,” Tevvy explained, “pausing for a moment in the doorway, light flashing around it, then it flew through to the other side. The odd thing,” he added, brow wrinkling, “was that I did not hear it hit the ground; it is very solid and heavy.”

Klaybear reached the bottom, followed shortly by Thal. They stood in a hallway-sized passage, going southward about fifteen feet until the arched doorway.

“The hallway is clear,” Tevvy said, “so you can safely approach the doorway.”

Thal stepped up to the archway, his magluku following him, and as he approached it, the stones forming the arch began to glow softly with purple light. He stood for a time simply looking at it, then ran his hands carefully over the stones of the archway, his hands glowing with white light. After having moved his hands over the entire arch, he turned back to the others. “It is a portal, but it does not move a person from one place to another, as I would expect a portal to do, at least, I don’t think it does. I think it ‘reads’ whatever passes through it.”

“It reads?” Tevvy asked, surprised.

Thal’s brow wrinkled. “The runes that I can discern are those that refer to reading and study,” he replied, “so, I’m thinking this must be how the tomb determines how powerful the opposition inside should be. It is similar to the geuskeldu, the archway we enter to test our progress and advance our skills.”

“Is it safe to pass through?” Tevvy asked.

“I think so,” Thal said, turning to face the portal, reaching out to touch it. “It activates as one approaches, then it begins to read you as soon as . . . ,” his voice broke off suddenly, as his fingers touched the space inside the arch. The light flashed around him, pulling him forward into the archway, holding him there for a split second, then all light within the portal went out.

“What happened?” Tevvy asked, his voice shaking.

“He activated the portal,” Klaybear’s voice spoke in the darkness, “and was pulled through to the other side.”

They heard Klaybear moving toward the portal. “What are you doing?” Tevvy asked.

“Going through,” Klaybear replied, “it is the only way forward.” The stones glowed in response to his approach, the light flashed as he touched the portal, and he disappeared with the light.

Blakstar started to move forward; Tevvy grabbed a strap hanging from the kortexi’s pack as he passed, and was pulled forward. The stone glowed as he approached, light flashed, and Tevvy was pulled through with Blakstar. They appeared in a square room, softly lit; the others were looking at them; Tevvy shivered.

“That was awful!” Tevvy exclaimed. “I felt as if I had been stripped down, and not just my clothes: skin, flesh, and bone, stripped down to nothing!”

Thal nodded. “Yes, that is partially how the geuskeldu works, but it also tests us, whereas this one only reads us.”

Tevvy looked around the room; there were crates stacked along one wall, cots along the opposite wall, the portal behind him and another ahead of him. “What is this place?” he asked. “We are not anywhere near where we were before.”

“I think we have been transported to a different plane of existence,” Thal said.

Tevvy looked back at the portal they had come through, then he moved closer to it. “It’s not glowing,” he noted.

“One-way,” Thal said, “so the only way back is forward.”

Tevvy looked at the walls around the now inactive portal and noticed an inscription. He pointed to it. “What does it say?” he asked Thal.

Thal looked at it for a moment before responding. “It says, roughly, ‘You have entered my death house, or tomb, if you are not chosen of the One, you go to your death.’”

“That sounds like a threat,” Tevvy noted.

“Not to us,” Klaybear said, “as we are the chosen.”

The kortexi put one hand on the hilt of his sword. “At least we can now fight whatever we encounter,” he noted softly, taking off his pack. Opening it, he pulled out his helmet, a shield that strapped to his left arm, a pair of greaves, and a breastplate.

Tevvy looked surprised. “No wonder that pack of yours is so big!” he exclaimed. “Where do you keep food and water?”

The kortexi smiled at Tevvy, then bent to strap on his greaves. “There is plenty of room for other supplies.”

Thal had moved to the crates, looking over them. He stopped at a crate that had the kailu symbol of life on its lid. Opening it, he looked inside then called to Klaybear. “I think this is for you,” he noted, still looking into the crate.

Klaybear was helping Blakstar strap on his breastplate. “What is it?” he asked, buckling the last buckle.

“Armor and a weapon,” Thal replied.

“How do you know they are for me?” Klaybear asked.

“Symbol of the kailum on the crate,” Thal said, “and the armor glows softly green.”

Klaybear walked over to Thal, looking into the crate, his eyes lighting as he saw inside. There was a shield, helm, leg and arm greaves, and a breastplate, all green enameled with brass trim, the kailu symbol etched somewhere onto each piece. He also saw a shirt of brass rings, padded leather jerkin, and matching leather belt. His eyes were drawn to the mace that was at the bottom of the crate; he reached into the crate, but as soon as his fingers touched the handle, pain exploded in his right palm and in his forehead, hurling him back from the crate and onto his back on the floor. His forehead and hand pulsed with angry red light, flashing in time with the beating of his heart. Blakstar and Tevvy both rushed to his side, kneeling on the floor beside him; Thal stood next to the crate gaping down at him.

“What’s happened?” Tevvy asked, voice frightened.

Thal closed his mouth, then reached into the crate and picked up the mace. “He touched this weapon,” Thal said, “then he was hurled backward, as you saw.”

Blakstar grabbed the special skin from his belt and unstoppered it. “Help me give him some of this,” he said to Tevvy.

The awemi grabbed Klaybear’s jaw and opened his mouth; Blakstar poured some of the Waters into his mouth; Tevvy closed the kailu’s mouth. The effect was immediate: the pulsing red light faded, and Klaybear relaxed and opened his eyes.

“What happened?” Tevvy asked.

Klaybear sat up suddenly, looking around. “I touched the mace,” he said after a moment, “and was hurled into another vision. I saw figures of stone, flames, water, ice, and air attacking, stone crushed, flame doused, water steaming, ice shattering, air drowned; I saw each of you crushed by stone, burned to ash, turned to ice and shattered; I saw Blakstar dragged under heaving waves, then I saw Shigmar’s walls falling, the city in flames, and some kind of shock wave roll over the city, killing everyone it touched, leveling the buildings, and the faces of those who died flew past me, howling in pain. I knew, somehow, that I caused the destruction and all their deaths.” He stopped, looking up at them, eyes hollow and wet.

“Were the images,” Thal asked, “crushed together, as before?”

Klaybear nodded.

Thal held out the mace. “Let’s see if it happens again,” he said.

Klaybear winced, but reached out to touch the weapon anyway. He looked up and grasped the handle. “Nothing,” he noted.

Thal turned and walked back to the crate. “Let’s see if it happens with something else from this crate.” He took out the conical, green-enameled helm, then walked back to where the kailu still sat on the floor. “Try this,” he said, holding out the helm.

Again, Klaybear winced as he reached for the helm, but nothing happened. So he passed the mace to Blakstar, then he pulled the helm onto his head, flattening his brown, curly hair.

“Nice hat,” Tevvy said, smiling.

Thal turned back to the crate. “Perhaps it was the crate itself,” he suggested.

Blakstar reached out his free hand and pulled Klaybear to his feet.

“I don’t think so,” Klaybear said, taking the mace back from the kortexi and giving it an experimental swing; green flames surrounded the head of the mace as it swung through the air.

“Wow,” Tevvy said, “must be teka-enhanced.”

Klaybear smiled as he looked at his new weapon, then looked back at Thal. “I was leaning on the crate when I reached in,” he noted.

Thal looked puzzled. “Maybe the two combined?” he suggested, sounding at a loss. . . .

 

Return again next Monday for another installment of our story! In the meantime, purchase the entire text from Amazon, Smashwords, and other ebook retailers; if you prefer print, order your copy from CreateSpace! Good reading!

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 8, Part 1

Posted by gwermon on December 29, 2014 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

29 December 2014

 

We bid all welcome to this last blog of 2014, and we wish all a Happy New Year! In this week’s installment from the serialization of the second book of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar, we begin the eighth chapter as the chosen enter the strange building that is supposed to be Shigmar’s tomb. . . .

 

Chapter 8, Part 1

 

There are many possible dimensions beyond that which we currently inhabit, many of them nearly identical to ours. Further, we believe it possible to create slices of a single dimensional reality, slices dominated by a single elemental force, giving us the opportunity to study the inner workings of each elemental force. Besides study, it seems to me highly likely that we can find other uses for such dimensional slices. . . .

 

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

Lecture by Sedra Melbarth

 

The square interior of the white marble building was lit by magluku floating in the four corners of the room. At the center of the room was an altar, also of white marble, square and ornately carved; in front of the back wall they saw the same statue as they had seen in the square of Kalbant, the twelve foot high figure of Shigmar. As they moved forward, following Tevvy as he searched the floor for traps, they saw words carved into the flat surface of the square marble altar:


“What does it say?” Blakstar asked.

“Shigmar, kailu of the One,” Klaybear replied and pointed to the first word, “that is how his name looks in ancient.” His voice was hushed.

Blakstar pointed to the surface of the altar, over Shigmar’s name. “That looks like the place in the wall of the sewers, where I put my sword to open the door. Do you think it opens a door in here?”

“It must,” Thal said, “since I do not see a staff anywhere.”

“Or any other way to enter the tomb,” Klaybear said.

“I thought this was his tomb,” Blakstar said.

Klaybear shook his head. “No, this is only the entrance to the tomb,” he replied. “The tomb is somewhere below, after we pass through whatever protects the tomb and staff.”

Thal pointed at the altar. “There are two other holes in the surface,” he said, “one next to Kailu, and a smaller one next to Eli. The larger one looks about the size of a staff, and the smaller, the size of a rod.” He looked at Klaybear, face wrinkled in surprise. “How can we enter the tomb to retrieve that staff, if we need sword, staff, and rod to open the door?”

“We don’t,” Tevvy said from the floor behind the altar, “there is a catch here, at the base of the altar that, when released, allows the entire altar to slide back. There is probably a ladder descending into the tomb beneath the altar.”

“Then,” Thal said, “what function do these openings serve?”

Blakstar reversed his sword. “Let’s find out,” he said, sliding the sword into the slot above the first kailu’s name.

When the sword slid into place, both the altar and will-giver’s pommel stone glowed brightly with an unearthly light. Pieces of light gathered over the surface of the altar, forming into the head of the figure whose statue looked down upon the altar. The head constructed of light opened its eyes and spoke:

“Chosen of the One, although the words I speak sound strange in my ears, I know, by the power of the One, that you will understand me, speaking out of what will be your distant past. I greet you, knowing that you are well-prepared for what lies ahead, and that you have come here seeking one of the three keys, my staff. It lies below, and I’m sure your klitodweri has already told you how to move the altar and open the door. As you have been told, to succeed in passing through the elemental realms below and to retrieve my staff, you must be inexperienced in your orders, as opposition to test you is placed below according to your experience. Melbarth created the ‘proportion,’ as he called it, so that the more experienced one is, the opposition is that many times more experienced than the one who entered, so in your case, inexperienced, opposition will be equal, or also, inexperienced. It does not make any sense to Karble or I, but Melbarth assures us it will prevent Gar from entering the tomb, or sending anyone into the tomb to steal the staff. Perhaps your maghi can understand what Melbarth has done, but I wander.”

They looked at Thal, who only smiled and nodded.

“Only the three key holders, along with your klitodweri should enter my tomb. The Fereghen and Feragwen, and the bane of the Fire Queen, three of the younger order, and the beloved opener, the second chosen of my own order, would not survive the test, dooming your quest before it begins. If any have insisted on coming with you, he, or she, can safely remain here until your return. However, knowing, as I do, the workings of the One, I’m nearly certain that only four of the chosen are here listening to me.”

Again, they exchanged glances, but no one spoke.

“This building, now that you have entered and closed the door, will no longer appear in the material world, but any of the chosen may use one of the keys to enter here directly, the method learned from your kortexi. As your maghi has probably already surmised, there is more than one message stored here, information that will aid you in your labors at the appropriate time. Chosen, use your weapons well, sing your ortheks boldly to the One, and you will find what you seek. May you be cradled in the hands of the One.”

The light filling the altar winked out along with the pommel stone of will-giver; the pieces of light forming Shigmar’s head separated and faded from view. Blakstar withdrew his sword, re-sheathing it with a familiar steely hiss.

Klaybear turned to Thal. “So, do you understand what Melbarth meant?”

Thal nodded. “I think so,” he replied. “If we converted our level of experience to a number, say one, and you raised that number, one, to the same power, the answer would be one, making the opposition equal to us, or, as inexperienced as we are. If, however, the number equivalent of the person’s experience who entered was, say, five, then you raise five to the fifth power to determine the number, or experience level, equivalent of the opposition placed in the tomb, which would be,” Thal thought for a moment, “three thousand, one hundred and twenty-five.”

Blakstar and Tevvy were completely puzzled by Thal’s explanation; Klaybear was silent for a moment, thinking hard.

“So, what you’re saying,” Klaybear said slowly, “is that if Gar sent one of the ponkolu into the tomb, it would face opposition thousands of times more powerful?”

Thal shook his head. “More like a million, or maybe even a billion, times more powerful, depending on how you fixed the experience level of the ponkolu who entered.”

Blakstar was shocked. “Now I can understand why Rokwolf threatened to knock me out if I tried to fight.”

Thal nodded. “Even equal opposition will be difficult, for we have no idea how long the test will be.”

Klaybear shook his head but did not speak.

“What did he call me?” Tevvy asked, after a moment of stunned silence.

Thal looked at Tevvy. “It was, I think, klitodweri,” he replied.

“What is that?” Tevvy asked.

“Well,” Thal said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, “the last part of the word means ‘door,’ the first part is more difficult, as it has probably been contracted from something longer, probably the word that means ‘to listen to,’ so we might translate the word as ‘one who listens at doors.’”

Blakstar snorted. “A spy,” he noted.

“Not exactly,” Thal said. “In the prophecy we read, Shigmar called you the ‘cunning mouse,’ and what we have to understand about all language is that it is metaphoric,” he said, and seeing their confused faces, added, “symbolic, meaning that the words we use stand in place of the things we refer to. Let’s take a relevant example,” he said, pointing to Blakstar. “His order we name kortexi, which has been contracted from the original, koro-teks-na-eis, which means, literally, ‘the maker, or craft, of holy war,’ expressing something of what Blakstar does, and what he represents, a holy warrior in service of the One.”

“So,” Tevvy began, speaking slowly, “he did not mean that I am someone who simply listens at doors, but someone who gathers secrets and information, in the service of the One,” he finished, his face lighting with delight.

“A thief by any other name,” Blakstar mumbled to himself. He looked away, toward the statue. “Shouldn’t we be moving on,” he said in a louder voice, “since we know how to enter the tomb?”

“Right,” Tevvy said, smiling. “I’ll release the catch, if you will slide the altar that way,” he pointed toward the statue, then stooped. “Push now,” he said after a moment.

Blakstar bent over the altar and pushed it toward the statue. It slid smoothly over the floor, revealing an opening with steel rungs driven into the stone wall of the square shaft, on the side nearest the altar. Tevvy moved over to the side with the ladder and started to climb down.

“Do you need a light?” Klaybear asked.

Tevvy paused and looked up; he shook his head. “I can see better without the light,” he noted, and he started down again. “Give me a moment, then follow.” He disappeared into the darkness below.

Blakstar set his foot on the first rung.

“Hang on,” Thal protested, “he said to give him a moment.”

“I’m just getting ready,” Blakstar replied sheepishly.

They saw a flash of light, illuminating for a moment the passageway, which was about thirty feet deep, but they saw no sign of Tevvy. Blakstar started to climb down quickly; Klaybear followed, with Thal bringing up the rear. . . .

 

Stay tuned for the next installment of this tale, coming to you next week, as the chosen penetrate deeper into Shigmar’s tomb, in search of the first kailu’s elusive staff, the object that will save the kailu school. In the meantime, we remind our readers that there are a few days left to purchase Books 1-6 of this series for half-price from Smashwords! Find the coupon codes in an earlier blog (12/10/14).

Friday Poet's Corner

Posted by gwermon on December 27, 2014 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

26 December 2014

Poet’s Corner

 

We hope all had a Merry Christmas, and we wish all a Happy New Year! We finally come to the end of Coleridge’s tale of the Ancient Mariner! As we left them last week, the Mariner took the oars and rowed the boat ashore, avoiding the whirlpool created by the sudden sinking of his ship; the boat’s occupants are all in various states of stunned disbelief, one of them thinking the Mariner must be the devil himself. As soon as they reach the shore, the Hermit leaves the boat on shaky legs, and the Mariner immediately confesses his ‘Hellish deed’, begging for forgiveness:

 

'Oh shrieve [forgive] me, shrieve me, holy man! '

The hermit crossed his brow.

'Say quick, ' quoth he, 'I bid thee say -

What manner of man art thou? '

 

Forthwith this frame of mine was wrenched

With a woeful agony,

Which forced me to begin my tale;

And then it left me free.

 

We are informed that the Hermit, by his words, does not know what to think of this strange man, and then we learn that part of the Mariner’s penance is the telling of his story, ‘a woeful agony,’ he calls it, which then compels him to tell his story. When he finishes his tale, he is ‘free’ from what we must assume is the compulsion to tell his story. Why? He goes on to explain to the Wedding Guest–that guy he found when this poem began:

 

Since then, at an uncertain hour,

That agony returns:

And till my ghastly tale is told,

This heart within me burns.

 

I pass, like night, from land to land;

I have strange power of speech;

The moment that his face I see,

I know the man that must hear me:

To him my tale I teach.

 

The Mariner’s penance is thus never over, not really, since each day he sees that one person to whom he must recount his dreadful story, the agony returns, not leaving until that person hears his tale. We also learn what we have suspected from the beginning–that the Mariner has a strange power over this one person each day, forcing him to listen to the story, caught by the Mariner’s ‘glittering eye.’ Come back next week for another installment of the Poet’s Corner. In the meantime, we remind our readers that Books 1-6 are half-price from Smashwords through January 1st! Get the coupon codes from an earlier blog post. Good reading.

Staff of Shigmar, Chapter 7, Part 3

Posted by gwermon on December 23, 2014 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

22 December 2014

 

Merry Christmas! May we all remember the true gift of Christmas, and the true spirit, and give of our selves to help and serve others. We return with the end of the seventh chapter in the serialization of the second book of our epic fantasy, Staff of Shigmar; we will see what happens as the four chosen approach the strange white building they believe to be the entrance to Shigmar’s tomb. . . .

 

Chapter 7, Part 3

“Not a soul anywhere nearby,” Tevvy said.

“Any bodies?” Thal asked.

Tevvy shook his head. “None beyond the beach.”

“That is odd,” Klaybear said.

Blakstar nodded. “Very odd, since they were waiting for the signal that we were about to arrive. I would think that they would only put a few soldiers on watch, while the others would be in their camps, waiting. But it looks like there was no one left in the camps, that all had come to the beach, which doesn’t make sense to me.”

“Nor me,” Tevvy said. “There is something else,” he said, looking wary.

“What?” Thal asked.

“The shock wave that hit us on the lake,” he said, “was very large. If it came from the building on the hill, I would think that an explosion of that size would also flatten the nearby trees. Yet, not a single tree around the hill has lost even a needle.”

“The teka explosion could have been directed only this way,” Thal said, “so the trees would not have been affected.”

“There is still a problem with that,” Tevvy went on, “if it was directed at the troops only on the beach, where are those who would have been waiting in their camps?”

Thal thought for a moment. “There are three possible explanations,” he began. “Those remaining in the camps could have seen their comrades destroyed by the teka, and been so frightened that they ran away.”

“Why would they put out their fires before leaving?” Tevvy asked.

Thal shrugged. “There could have been something that attracted all the troops from their camps when the building appeared,” he went on.

“Again, why would they douse the fires?” Tevvy said.

“In that case,” Thal replied, “because they knew we were coming, the signal of the building appearing, then they went to investigate whatever appeared afterward.”

Tevvy shook his head. “You’re stretching, I think. And the third possibility?”

“Some kind of teka that does not affect plants,” Thal answered, “that only targets the creatures of Gar.”

“Have you ever heard of such an orthek?” Tevvy asked skeptically.

Thal shook his head. “I cannot even imagine how to weave the elements together to create an orthek that was selective in its destruction.”

“So, what you’re saying,” Tevvy said, “is that there still could be someone hiding in the shadows above, since that is the simplest way to explain what has happened here?”

Thal shrugged. “We used the time while we were waiting for you to return,” Thal said, ignoring Tevvy’s question, “to look for teka wards around the hill, and we did not find any, at least up the slope of the hill.”

Tevvy shook his head and went to the pile of packs, pulling out the smallest and strapping it onto his back. He started up the hill, looking for any non-teka traps. The other three put on their own packs and followed him to the top of the hill, where they crouched.

“Wait here,” Tevvy whispered. He dropped his pack and moved to the left, staying just below the brow of the hill.

From where Klaybear, Thal, and Blakstar waited, they could see the white marble building directly in front of them, the green light shining from the center of its front. The hilltop was flat without trees; brown grass, flattened by the snow, covered the hilltop, although they could see new green shoots just poking through last year’s growth. There were several short, scrubby bushes growing randomly around the hilltop, with old grass growing up and partially covering the bushes; dead brown leaves, blown there by late fall winds, lay piled around the bushes, now stirred by a light breeze breaking the calm, blowing from the south.

“It is a place of great power,” Thal whispered, “but I do not see any wards preventing us from approaching.”

“Nor I,” Klaybear said softly.

Blakstar stood and started to walk toward the building.

“What are you doing?” Thal hissed.

The kortexi paused and looked back. “You do not see any wards,” he said, “and we are the chosen. I say that it is safe for us to approach.”

“What if someone is hiding out of sight?” Thal whispered.

Blakstar shrugged. “I expect that you will put me back together, if he leaps out and blasts me apart.” He turned and walked forward; they could see Tevvy approaching from the other side, so they got up and froze, seeing one of the clumpy bushes shaking and not from the breeze. The kortexi passed the bush, and a huge figure rose up out of the leaves and grass, many aspen leaves clinging to his dark red skin, but Klaybear could see the horns and wings of a huge ponkolu, head and shoulders taller than Blakstar. Before the kailu could shout a warning, the ponkolu slammed into Blakstar from behind, knocking him to the ground and sending will-giver flying in another direction. The huge ponkolu knelt on top of the kortexi, knees on his back, and pulled back his head with one hand, pressing a wicked-looking, curved dagger against Blakstar’s throat; the huge figure pulled the fallen kortexi around, turning himself at the same time while keeping one knee on Blakstar’s back to face Klaybear and Thal; Blakstar stopped struggling, the dagger scratching his throat at the edge of his mesh suit and beneath his chin, his head was bent back so far by the figure.

“Drop your weapons!” the ponkolu hissed, his voice sounding oddly slurred. “Put your hands on your heads!”

As Klaybear and Thal complied, they saw that the figure’s face was covered in blood, as were his arms and torso, and his features looked strangely blurred, as if they had endured a great heat; leaves and grass covered the figure, sticking to the blood covering him.

“Where is your rat?” the ponkolu growled, looking quickly around. “Show yourself, rat, or I will slit your friend’s throat!”

“He, uh, left to scout the area,” Thal lied.

The ponkolu made a choking sound that must have been laughter. “You are a poor liar!”

“You’d better run!” Klaybear said, nodding toward the white building. “I think the tomb is about to finish what it started–see the light is increasing in brilliance, you have only moments before it strikes again.”

The huge ponkolu laughed again, a choking sound. “Then we will all burn!”

“I don’t think so,” Klaybear replied, “since we are meant to be here, and you are not.”

The figure growled and shoved Blakstar’s head and face into the ground, removing the dagger from his throat and stabbing the kortexi in the back between his shoulder blades; the blade snapped, foiled by Blakstar’s golden chain mail and mesh suit. The ponkolu hurled himself backward away from Blakstar, throwing the handle of his now useless dagger at Blakstar and hitting him on the back of his head. Blakstar hissed in pain; the ponkolu opened a black archway and disappeared into it just as a green beam of elemental force shot from the tomb and exploded against the closing archway.

Klaybear sighed audibly. “That was close,” he said, looking over and seeing Tevvy moving cautiously out of the shadow of the white building, the green light now concentrated in a single star-like point at the center of the side facing them.

“Too close,” Thal agreed, and both of them started moving to where Blakstar still lay on the ground.

The kortexi rolled onto his back but did not rise, groaning with the effort.

“Better get will-giver,” Klaybear noted, kneeling beside Blakstar and placing his green-glowing hands on the kortexi’s forehead.

Thal nodded once and moved off even as Tevvy stopped and glared down at Blakstar, Tevvy’s face a storm cloud about to burst.

“Nice waiting for me,” Tevvy quipped, and there was suppressed rage behind his sarcasm.

“They saw no wards,” Blakstar responded. “I reckoned it was time to move.”

“It’s a good thing,” Tevvy said, sarcastically, “that you have a scout to go before you and make sure the area is clear of traps, so you don’t end up in a pit filled with poisoned spikes, or a pit that is the lair of some ravenous creature who’s been waiting for its dinner, or to discover the ponkolu hiding under the bushes and leaves!”

Blakstar shrugged. “Klaybear said he, and others, had been all over this hill before, and no one had ever fallen into a pit.”

“How do you know,” Tevvy said, “that the triggering of the appearance of this building did not also set a number of traps, like the explosion that killed everyone?”

Blakstar looked puzzled, now reclining on his elbows. “I survived,” he said, “that’s how I know there were no traps.”

“Besides the huge ponkolu, who nearly slit your throat!” Tevvy shook his head. “I meant when you stood up to walk over here,” he said. “How did you know it was safe?”

The kortexi sat up and pointed to the building in front of them. “The same way I know there is a fountain of the Waters of Life somewhere inside that building,” he replied, “I could feel that it was right.”

“And did you feel the ponkolu hiding in the bushes?” Tevvy asked, not concealing his anger.

Blakstar shrugged and climbed slowly to his feet, brushing off the grass and leaves. “The ponkolu would have crushed you the moment he grabbed you,” he noted calmly, “so it was better that I walked past him first.”

Tevvy shook his head and turned away. “What am I doing here?” he asked himself. “I could be somewhere else, making a profit, rather than being abused by a kortexi.”

“You are one of the chosen,” Klaybear said, “you are meant to be here, even as we are meant to be here,” he turned and glared at Blakstar, “you both would do well to remember that.”

“I do remember,” Blakstar said.

“We each have necessary labors to perform,” Klaybear went on, looking from one to the other, “so we should recognize that fact and stop fighting with each other.”

“I will if he will,” Tevvy said, turning back to glare at Blakstar.

“I haven’t started fighting,” Blakstar retorted, glaring back. “I just saved your life!” he hissed through clenched teeth.

“Only in your . . . ,” Tevvy began hotly, but stopped when Thal and Klaybear both burst out laughing.

Tevvy and Blakstar stopped glaring at each other to look at their laughing companions.

“What is so funny?” Tevvy asked, now angry at Thal and Klaybear.

Both had trouble controlling, let alone, stopping, their mirth. After a few moments, Klaybear managed to speak. “If you could only see yourselves,” he said between laughs, “you look like a pair of boys on some playground, glaring at each other over the sandbox.”

“It is quite amusing,” Thal added, wiping tears from the corners of his eyes with his sleeve.

Neither of them looked amused, but they did stop glaring at each other.

“If you two can get control of your laughter,” Blakstar said, sounding slightly perturbed, “perhaps we can get on with our jobs.”

“Sorry,” Klaybear said, putting one hand on the kortexi’s shoulder.

“My apologies,” Thal said, bowing to each in turn. They turned to look at the front of the building. A porch about six feet deep sheltered the front, which was ornately carved. The green light was at the center of the front, part of the symbol of the kailum. The symbol of the kortexem was carved to the left, the symbol of the white maghem to the right, the crown symbol above it, and the symbol of Tevvy’s order beneath it, but there was no sign of a door. On the stone floor in front of the symbols were carved the words: enatat kwosi pukeni alteso leret kwoine pneumoni.

“What does that say?” Tevvy asked, pointing to the words carved into the porch.

Thal looked at it for a moment, then frowned. “It says, Go in as if a child else you will leave a,’” he stopped and looked at Klaybear. “What do you make of those last two words?”

Klaybear looked at theme a moment. “Well the last one,” he replied, “is spirit or breath, but the one before that, not-body, it means literally.”

Bodiless,” Thal said, “bodiless spirit. So the whole must be, Go in as if a child else you will leave a bodiless spirit.”

“That sounds like a threat,” Tevvy concluded.

“It is,” Thal said, “but not to us, since we are supposed to enter here.”

“You did not mention any exception for the chosen,” Tevvy noted.

“That must be why Rokwolf threatened to knock me out,” Blakstar noted.

The others shot quizzical looks at him, but Klaybear spoke.

“My brother threatened you?” Klaybear said, eyebrow rising.

Blakstar nodded. “He said that your Headmaster told him not to allow any of us to fight anyone we met, because we had to enter the tomb without any experience.”

“That is what the first part means,” Thal said, “to enter as if we are children, which is to say, children in our orders, and that is certainly true.”

“Why?” Tevvy asked.

They shook their heads. “No idea,” Thal said. “Did Rokwolf say any more about it?”

“No,” Blakstar said looking back at the building. “So how do we enter?”

Klaybear started to move forward but stopped, looking at Tevvy. “Any traps on the porch?”

Tevvy answered by squatting in front of the porch and examining it closely. “No traps,” he said after a moment’s inspection, “and no door.”

“I have an idea about that,” Klaybear said, stepping onto the porch and lifting up his kailu symbol. He placed it against the green light glowing at the center of the larger version of his symbol carved into the white stone. The green light flared brightly, then winked out suddenly. A section of the wall, door-sized, started to move. Tevvy moved forward and squatted in front of Klaybear, carefully examining the floor just inside the door. By the time the door had opened completely, Tevvy had stepped into the well-lighted interior, stooping to examine a new section of floor. As he moved forward, Blakstar followed, unsheathing his sword. Klaybear handed Tevvy’s pack to Thal, taking out his staff and the mace hanging from his belt, then followed the kortexi inside. Thal looked around, sliding his rod out of his belt with his free hand, then followed Klaybear inside.

 

Come back next Monday for the last installment of 2014 and beginning of the eighth chapter of our tale. Remember that Books 1-6 are half-price at Smashwords, to celebrate the season and the release of the final book of The Redemption series, The Final Sacrifice. Find the coupon codes on an earlier blog! Good reading!


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