The Aresan Clan is published four times a week (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun). You can see what's been written so far collected here. All posts will be posted under the Aresan Clan label. For summaries of the events so far, visit here. See my previous serial Vampire Wares collected here.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Aresan Clan Summary - Parts 31-40

Erek-Monte and his tribe attack Alles’ soldiers. A soldier named Orick sees Annsi sleeping apart from Alles and thinks that he has rejected her and is no longer providing her protection. Alles and his soldiers try to repel the Itinerants, but they are too quick, escaping with Tann. Erek-Monte kills a soldier, named Lee, who tried to attack him, and after the Itinerants are gone, they bury Lee.

Once Alles realizes that Tann has been taken, he gathers a few soldiers, including Jesek, and they run off in search of Tann. First following a false trail, Alles and his men finally track down the Itinerants, all of them asleep, and they stealthily steal back Tann. But one of Alles’ soldiers, Sorn, decides to take revenge on the death of Lee, by killing one of the Itinerants. This sets of an alarm and the Itinerants pursue.

Lipmon has been saved by a farmer named Merek and is being nursed back to health by him and his wife Maya. Before Lipmon tells anyone, Mill, one of Anders’ spies, living in Orinda, sees Lipmon and hears his story. He considers killing Lipmon (since it will prevent Lipmon from telling anyone of the destruction of Still Creek), but recoils at the idea of murder, and rationalizes not doing so by telling himself that Lipmon will die of illness. Instead, Mill promptly departs Orinda, saying goodbye to his Lover, Anika, knowing that this information about Lipmon needs to be immediately sent to Lamosa. He takes measures to protect himself from the Creature of Virtue, depositing some meat to attract her and making himself smell like tree sap.

After a crude attempt to negotiate, Erek-Monte and his men attack Alles’ soldiers. Alles’ soldiers successfully protect Tann, killing one of the Itinerants, but Dylan-Nantes, an Itinerant, takes vengeance for the death of their comrade by killing Sorn. After this, the Itinerants flee, and though Alles’ men want to take revenge for Sorn’s death, Alles tells them they need to march on.

In Lamosa, Noone and Salles meet with Anders at the Open Table and ask for fortifications. They are rebuffed, but afterwards Noone tells Salles that he is to remain and is to try and meet with his daughter, Annsi, and use her to try to get Alles on their side. Noone then begins to walk back to the Cloisters with Amida, leaving Salles alone with Darma.

<-- Summary of Parts 21-30            Summary of Parts 41-50 -->

You can see all parts of The Aresan Clan written so far collected here.

Aresan Clan pt 40

Anders asked Noone, “And who is this young gentleman you bring with you?”

“Thank you Premier Anders. This is Salles, an acolyte of our cloisters. A student of Elder Eloh, who I believe you have met before. Salles will be representing the Aresans for a short time. I have just come to bring him here, introduce him to you and return with Amida today.”

“What a shame,” Anders replied, “If you had remained I would’ve been delighted to invite you to a feast at the Private House”

“I would’ve been honored. I must apologize,” said Noone, “But let us begin to discuss the matter at hand.”

“By all means,” Anders nodded, “The Premier recognizes Eldest Noone of the Sages, speaking on behalf of the Chief Royal of the Aresan Clan.”

“Thank you Premier. The vulnerabilities of the winterward border of the Aresan territory have become recently untenable, and we would request of the Premier and the Omnia aid in building fortifications there. We have faced harassments both from the Itinerant tribes, and most recently from the Fourth Order. We were the victims, less than two days ago, of a callous act of sabotage by agents of the Fourth Order, who set fire to our watermill. We would only temporarily require your help with manpower and materials to help construct this wall within a reasonable amount of time.”

Anders nodded thoughtfully, and then suggested, “If I could make a better suggestion. Perhaps I can station some troops within the cloisters. I think this would be better for protecting against any potential acts of sabotage, as well as thefts and vandalism from any of the itinerant tribes and the Fourth Order. With the permission of the Aresan Clan, of course.”

“I don’t think we really have the facilities and resources to house troops within the cloisters. If we could build the wall, I’m sure we could temporarily house any visiting workers, but we couldn’t possibly permanently take on any extra persons.”

“I’m afraid providing the resources to build a wall may not be possible for some time. You’re going to have to ask the your own Chief Royal for grants like that. We really can’t spare it at the moment. Our own cities here in the valley are, as you may have noticed, expanding rapidly and themselves demand large amounts of manpower and materials.”

“Perhaps other members of the Closed Table might be more amenable to our suggestions,” Noone suggested.

“The Table and I think that it is a great suggestion and are wiling to help,” Anders answered, looking to the other members of the Closed Table that sat in their chairs on either side of him, adding promptly, “But it’s a matter of timing. And at present it’s not possible.”

As Noone, Amida and Salles walked back towards Darma’s house, Noone remained unperturbed by the conversation with Anders. “One thing that should have been very clear from that meeting acolyte,” Noone said, “and that Amida and I have long been aware of, is that Anders is trying to do whatever he can to gain control over the Sages. That’s the reason he wants to troops stationed at our cloisters. He’s thinking that if he gets troops under his command in our cloisters, he can apply pressure to us and influence decisions. And he’s probably right.”

“Why the Sages?” Salles asked.

“He wants control over the Aresan Clan. We’re the inroad. And so long as we have a weak and decadent king on the throne, we’re vulnerable, since our king won’t be able to stand up for us. He’s probably thinking that we can talk the king into joining the Omnia, if he just applies the right pressure. Your main goal while you’re here: keep Anders out of Aresan business.”

After arriving at Darma’s house, Noone and Amida began to pack for their long walk back to the cloisters. While Noone packed, she continued to provide instructions for Salles.

“You have two direct assignments acolyte,” Noone said, not looking at Salles while she talked, “First, we are interested in transcribing and comparing whatever sable myths you can. Alles was expecting to find a sable in the town he’s investigating. Darma knows a rhapsode who can tell you one. I want you to transcribe it and bring it to the cloisters when you return. Transcribe whatever you can find of any others as well.”

“And second?” Salles asked.

“Your daughter Annsi is with Alles on his mission. How well do you remember her?”

“I do remember when she decided to become a soldier. We met once over wedding arrangements. That’s about it.”

“Your second and more important assignment is to meet with her,” Noone said, “Use her to get close to Alles. And if possible, see if Alles has more sway over Anders. Alles has power; there are a great many loyal soldiers, among the Aresans and the Omnia, that will follow him and will die for him. He’s one of the few people that can compete for power with Anders. He’s our best chance. But he’ll be a hard man to convince. I wish I could say any of us has any influence over him. But your daughter might.”

<-- Go to Part 39         Go to Part 41 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 39

Noone was up early preparing breakfast for herself, Amida and Salles. She was letting three servings of porridge cool, when she lightly tapped on Salles’ door, which startled him from his sleep. Salles rose from his bed to see why someone would be interrupting his sleep in what he presumed was the middle of the night, and faced Noone telling him to get downstairs in the courtyard for exercise. There was no sense of night and day in a room without windows, but as soon as he opened the door he realized it was dawn. The sun wasn’t fully risen, and there could be seen the first glimmers of sunrise when he arose from bed and entered the main upstairs living room. Noone rose early to both cook and exercise away from Darma’s curious gaze.

The three of them exercised briefly, and Noone made Salles promise that he would exercise on his own this afternoon in the privacy of his room, not permitting Darma or anyone else to watch, and would follow this pattern for as long as he remained here. This prompted Salles to ask, “How long am I going to be here?” To which Noone smiled and said, “Not too long. Alles will be back very soon, you know. And when you’ve worked things out, then you can come back to the comfort of the Cloisters. Amida will be your courier, so be sure and keep us informed. Being here in the city will be difficulty for one used to the stability and comfort of the Cloisters. I know from experience. But we won’t leave you here for long.”

The three of them ate lukewarm porridge, and Noone poured some brewed beer and served from a cheese that she had brought from the cloisters. They finished breakfast before Darma awoke. She was glowing even this early, with a flowing morning gown and a smile on her face. “Should I prepare breakfast for you, or have you already eaten,” she asked. After they said they’d eaten, Darma called on her servant, Onur to prepare her breakfast. In the interim, they chatted about Lamosa and about their upcoming meeting with Anders. Darma insisted that Salles let her show him around town, but Noone said that she would prefer if he didn’t.

They all three left for the Public House late in the morning. Noone spoke to Salles the whole way, coaching him on things to say, telling him relevant information about Alles and his mission and about Anders and the Hooktends and the Public House and proper protocol and everything she could think of.

When they entered the great room of the Public House, Salles was amazed at what he saw: a room so expansive and with such finery and beauty. At the far end of the room was the raised platform where the fourteen chairs stood empty. Stairs led up the platform, and at the foot of the stairs was the open table.

Many private citizens loitered around the room, eager for a chance to be heard, but the three Sages were given priority since they were already on the docket. They walked up to and stood waiting on the side of the table opposite the throne.

Shortly after they arrived, a man of long grey hair walked up to and sat in the chair of the Brotian Guild, decked out in costly furs and bearing a staff, capped by a salvaged piece of metal that appeared to be the corner of a large metal box. He nodded at Noone, who nodded back. Noone then whispered to Salles, “That’s Bale, of the Brotian Guild. He has a very distinguished family lineage, which he can trace all the way back to the seven kings. He is friendly to the Aresans. He’ll help you if you need.”

Eleven of the other chairs were soon after filled. Tine arrived next to last, sitting in the chair of the Sevedin Sept, and Anders followed immediately behind him, arriving just at the scheduled time and seating himself in the central chair, which was capped by the seal of the Hooktends.

Anders addressed Noone and Amida: “Welcome Eldest Noone and Elder Amida, “It is nice to see you in town again Noone.”

<-- Go to Part 38         Go to Part 40 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 38

Alles was not a man who lied easily, and he suspected that a lie was suited to this occasion. He made no outward sign that he was in thought, as his face remained motionless and his body was frozen in his poised position. He remained in this position for so long that his own soldiers started to look at him with confusion. Finally he opened his mouth and shouted back, “He is a survivor. He is a witness. He saw a town destroyed. We want him for what he has seen.”

Erek-Monte didn’t seem to quite understand Alles’ words, and he quietly conferred with the men next to him, and between them, they were able to decipher it. Finally Erek-Monte replied, “Like criminal you use him. I see. Like criminal. My mind say you lie.”

“He is the child of our enemies,” Alles replied, “A child of the Fourth Order. He is still a prisoner.”

Erek-Monte again quietly conferred with his men, before he shouted, “You our man kill. Your soldier,” Erek-Monte said, pointing to Sorn, “He kill. You give boy as trade for our man kill.”

“No,” Alles shouted immediately. Erek-Monte didn’t need to confer to understand Alles this time. He shouted in reply, “We kill every you.”

Alles grinned broadly when Erek-Monte said this and shouted forcefully, “Try it! Go ahead and try! We’ll cut you down. You’ll see what it’s like to chip away at a wall of hardened soldiers.”

Alles was not a man who lied easily, and he suspected that a lie was suited to this occasion. He made no outward sign that he was in thought, as his face remained motionless and his body was frozen in his poised position. He remained in this position for so long that his own soldiers started to look at him with confusion. Finally he opened his mouth and shouted back, “He is a survivor. He is a witness. He saw a town destroyed. We want him for what he has seen.”

Erek-Monte didn’t seem to quite understand Alles’ words, and he quietly conferred with the men next to him, and between them, they were able to decipher it. Finally Erek-Monte replied, “Like criminal you use him. I see. Like criminal. My mind say you lie.”

“He is the child of our enemies,” Alles replied, “A child of the Fourth Order. He is still a prisoner.”

Erek-Monte again quietly conferred with his men, before he shouted, “You our man kill. Your soldier,” Erek-Monte said, pointing to Sorn, “He kill. You give boy as trade for our man kill.”

“No,” Alles shouted immediately. Erek-Monte didn’t need to confer to understand Alles this time. He shouted in reply, “We kill every you.”

Alles grinned broadly when Erek-Monte said this and shouted forcefully, “Try it! Go ahead and try! We’ll cut you down. You’ll see what it’s like to chip away at a wall of hardened soldiers.”

Erek-Monte didn’t bother trying to understand Alles. He looked at his men and shouted at them in his own language. They split into three equal groups. One group of four immediately sprinted to Erek-Monte’s left and one sprinted to the right, disappearing into the trees.

“They’re trying to flank,” Alles shouted, “Encircle the palanquin. Keep the non-soldiers behind the soldiers.”

The soldiers at the end of the line began to back up until their line wrapped all the way around the palanquin with the staff of attendants within the circle, up against the palanquin at the center.

Erek-Monte shouted “attack!” in his own language as Erek-Monte’s line was reforming. He hoped to catch the soldiers off-guard in the middle of this change. The groups attacked simultaneously in a coordinated three-prong attack. They rushed at the line, hurling their bodies at the soldiers shoulder-first before the soldiers could repel them with their swords.

Erek-Monte shouted at them in his own language as he ran beside them, “I just want the boy. We get him, we go.”

Alles’ soldiers tried to put their sword points into the raiders, but found that Erek-Monte’s men were slippery, always managing to slip away from their grasp, and move out of the way of their thrust. Even Alles, who wrangled with Erek-Monte himself, struggled to touch his sword to his opponent. Erek-Monte’s men were armed with several daggers, but they kept their weapons sheathed, trying to push their way through, and it was all Alles’ men could do to prevent Erek-Monte’s men from slipping through the line and reaching the palanquin.

This bloodless battle abruptly burst through into violence, when one of Erek-Monte’s men, Jesep-Sante slipped by Annsi and, pushing through two attendants, put his hand to the door and opened it. Annsi was unhesitant, when she pushed the tip of her sword through his back. The sharp metal slid into his body, as blood leaked out onto the surface of the blade.

A momentary chaos unfolded as Erek-Monte pushed through the scoop his fallen soldier off the ground and rush from the camp. In the confusion, Sorn’s life was also taken. A young soldier named Dylan-Nantes, who recognized Sorn as the one who’d killed Erek-Trent, drew his stone dagger from his arm and thrust it into Sorn’s side just below the rib cage, pushing violently upward and twisting it to open wide the wound. Then he removed the blade and slashed across the neck to assure that he was finished.

Dylan-Nantes then fled with the rest of his companions, wiping off his bloodied blade and then resheathing it as he ran. Blood dripped from the tip of Annsi’s blade too, which she still held in ready. After watching Erek-Monte’s soldiers disappear, she wiped it off on the ground and sheathed it, immediately turning to the palanquin and looking inside to check if Samuel was alright.

Some of Alles’ soldiers started to run after the fleeing raiders, but Alles shouted at them, “Stop! This is enough! It’s over!”

Jyorg objected, “But they killed Lee and now Sorn. We can’t let that stand.”

Alles replied “We can and we will. This is not part of our mission. And you will follow orders. Now we bury Sorn, we pack up and we march.”

<-- Go to Part 37         Go to Part 39 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 37

Mill knew all the tricks for evading the creature. He would many times annually leave Orinda through the creature’s hunting ground to trade communiqués with Strya. He had done it many times without incident, but it still was dangerous. The creature was, as he well knew, an unpredictable and ungovernable servant, who wasn’t so much commanded as coaxed into performing her duty.

The first step in evading the creature was to lure her away with a distracting scent. This involved taking the innards of two freshly slaughtered sheep and leaving them for her to find. He pulled out two small sacks he’d purchased from a neighbor filled with the hearts, livers, intestines and stomachs of a couple of sheep. It was cheap, since usually this meat was simply ground up and spiced to cover up the unpleasant flavor of the meats. For the Creature, though, it was a savory and irresistible temptation.

Walking to the edge of the town, Mill cast the two sacks deep into the forest far away from where he would be leaving. Tearing through the cloth sacks would give the creature trouble, but the sweat aroma would keep her trying. As soon as she caught the scents, if she hadn’t already, she would be pursuing them.

Mill then pulled out a bottle of essential oil, which he distilled himself, made from the sap of a fir tree, and poured it over himself. The forest smell was a very pleasant one to his nose, though it had an overwhelming pungency when he covered himself in it. It helped mask his human scent from the nose of the creature. The large quantity of oil would overwhelm the creature’s delicate nose and give Mill cover, so long as the creature didn’t see him.

After all this preparation was completed, Mill, who smelled like a walking tree, gathered up his stuff and cautiously jogged in the direction opposite the meat.

Alles entered the camp at full speed shouting as he ran, “Everyone to arms. We’re under attack! Form a line! Form a line!”

He ran directly towards the palanquin and, opening it up, he gingerly deposited the still sleeping child within. As he set him down, his hand brushed against Samuel’s bare skin, and he momentarily froze with fright. The child seemed to be stirring, so he quickly closed the door and locked it. His mind spun, as he half expected some instantaneous change wrought by his contact with Samuel. Was he going to be under Samuel’s control? a willing servant devoted to him? Was his mind irrevocably biased in favor of him? He looked around to see if anyone had seem him, then, not sensing any change, he turned around to prepare himself for an attack.

Jesek, Imann and Jyorg arrived in the camp soon after Alles with Sorn trailing at the back, running desperately to the protection of the crowd of tents where their companions were just beginning to stir. Sorn desperately pounded on the tops of the tents, shouting to the soldiers inside, “Get up, get up get up! God damnit, this is an attack! Do you want to die in there?”

Soldiers began to groggily emerge from their tents, mostly only lightly dressed in a shirt and some boots, with only their swords in hand to defend themselves. As they emerged, they mumbled questions, “What’s going on?” “What is it?” “What’s the emergency?” Annsi alone emerged fully dressed for battle and ready for a fight, donning her armor and carrying both her sword and dagger sheathed at her side.

The soldiers’ questions were answered when they saw sprinting down the slope towards them Erek-Monte and his horde, hollering battle cries at the top of their voice while they ran. They raged with a fiery energy, kicking through the undergrowth with their boots, creating a cloud of dirt and leaves that preceded them.

“Form a line in front of the palanquin,” Alles shouted, and his groggy soldiers, now fully awoke, lined up shoulder-to-shoulder with swords drawn in preparation. The line directly faced the approaching horde shielding the palanquin and the other attendants, which remained behind them.

When Erek-Monte saw the line of soldiers before him, he finally stopped in his tracks and brought his soldiers to a halt with a loud command. He then called out to Alles, in halting speech, as he sputtered out his attempt at an Omnian dialect. “Hello. Boy, what worth is you? Why you want?” Erek-Monte shouted to Alles across the gap of only several paces that separated them.

Alles didn’t respond for a long time as his mind contemplated exactly how to respond.

<-- Go to Part 36         Go to Part 38 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 36

Lipmon still wept into his pillow, with his back to Mill while Mill stood over him, knife in hand. Mill had never killed a man before. He didn’t want to, but it was implicit in his orders, sent down directly from on high: to protect the security of the Omnia. No other opportunity to hide the secrets of Still Creek would ever arise again. Yet he waited for resolve that didn’t come.

What did come to him was Lipmon’s smell. There it was again, the smell of sickness. Lipmon wouldn’t survive, he told himself. He was convinced he would die of his illness. He wouldn’t have to kill Lipmon himself. That was enough for him to step out the window and resheathe his knife. Lipmon would die on his own, he told himself. There was no one who was going to be told about Still Creek. He didn’t have to perform the heinous act of killing since illness would do it for him. Everyone would understand why he did what he did.

Mill would have to report this information to Anders in Lamosa immediately. Ander’s courier, Strya, visited him every twenty days, but Strya had only just passed through two days ago. Mill would not be forgiven for waiting eighteen days for the courier. Anders needed to know now so he could respond.

Mill returned to his home and packed a very large backpack. The journey would be unpleasant and leaving his adopted home would be even more unpleasant. And there was the all too grave possibility that he might not be able to return to Orinda, since his absence might expose him.

He had to make one visit before he left, and he darted secretively between buildings until he arrived at the fence of a scrupulously attended garden attached to a modest home in the middle of the city. A short brunette, Anika, kneeled upon the ground and, using a small shovel, overturned dirt with her muscular hands and arms for planting. He made sure she was well alone before he approached.

She leapt up with glee, squealing, “Aleck!” as she saw him approach and ran into his arms, grabbing his head to kiss him. She looked old beyond her years. Her face had been weathered by the many days spent in the sun and the many nights spent worrying about the toils and struggles of all those she knew and cared for. When Mill, reluctantly, had to dampen her excitement, telling her, “I have to go away,” in his characteristically flat tone, she felt the strong pull of that

All her excitement immediately left her as she asked him, “Where? For how long?”

He hid his sadness and tears behind a veil of stiff formality when he said to her, “To Lamosa, for I don’t know how long. I don’t want to go, and I’ll certainly want to return as soon as I can, but I don’t know if I will be able to.”

“To Lamosa?” she asked perplexed

“I shouldn’t have said that to you,” Mill retracted, “Forget you heard that. Don’t tell anyone that’s where I’m going. Tell them I went to Still Creek. No, don’t tell them anything. Tell them it was a family emergency and that I departed winterward.”

“Why?” she said with frightened confusion.

“Me being able to return to be with you, depends on these people not finding out who I am,” Mill said.

“Why?” She asked, “Who are you?”

“Not now. The less you know, the better. You’re too honest,” he said, laughing nervously.

A stern look of anger rolled across her face and Mill quickly interjected, “I’ll tell you all my secrets when I return. I will. It’ll be safe then. It’ll be different. I can say no more of what I am today. For now, I simply must leave.”

“Why do you have to go?” she was now in tears as she spoke, “Why can’t you tell me?”

“Please, I only want to ask two things of you. First, please forget your questions just for now and, second, still love me when I return.” He kissed her tear-wetted cheeks and kissed her shaking lips and then walked away, holding her hand until she was out of reach.

He had to turn away and put her in the back of his mind. He grabbed his backpack from his home and set off.

The easiest way to leave the town was through the main gate since it avoided the creature who was trained not to attack passengers entering along that road during day. But Mill couldn’t leave that way since it was conspicuous and guarded and the road pointed in the opposite direction from Lamosa. It would be better if no one realized he was gone for a while, and it would take far too long to try to circle far around to avoid the Creature’s hunting ground. He had to take the back entrance, directly through the Creature’s hunting ground.

<-- Go to Part 35         Go to Part 37 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 35

Maya was back with the sour milk and stock and she encouraged Lipmon to drink the milk first “You drink that now. You aren’t getting better any other way. But not too quickly. You’re stomach’ll be all upset and we’ll be having you getting sicker if you aren’t careful.” Lipmon took some small sips as he sat up a little. “You’re a good boy,” Maya continued, “and you’ll be taking some of that stock too. It’s some good stuff, you know. Make you strong as a bear in no time.”

“Stop pressuring him!” Merek said to her, “He’ll get better at his own pace if you don’t try to make him well too soon.” Merek turned back to Lipmon, “You take you’re time and you’ll be all better faster than you think.”

Maya snapped back and the two started arguing back and forth. They’re accents were very odd to Lipmon. To him they sounded like exotic foreigners with their staccato syllables, rolling letters and rapid speech. Merek turned to Lipmon and said, “Don’t mind us. You just drink your soup and we’ll leave you to it. I’ll be back to check in on you. Holler or something if you need help, or make some noise somehow. Anyways, I’ve got some things to haul indoors and some repairs to make and Maya’s got to tend to some of the animals and the cooking. But we’ll be within earshot if you need anything.”

The two departed and Lipmon continued drinking. He felt the food entering him and his starving body opening up for it. He drank the milk and stock slowly as she advised and then set down the empty cup and bowl besides the bed and relaxed again. His sight was weak so that when he turned he thought he saw a person standing in the window. The person was balanced on the windowsill, squatting inside the window frame, motionless and staring. All Lipmon could see was a silhouette and he tried to smile and greeted the shadow very weakly, with a horse voice, “Hello. Why don’t you com in?”

The man in the window was known as Mill in Lamosa, but the town of Orinda knew him as Aleck. He stared at Lipmon with narrow eyes that were better at concealing emotion than evoking it. He was approaching middle age, but his face had none of those lines drawn on the face through the habitual expression of emotions. His face instead looked smooth, flat and inaccessible.

He’d already deduced that Lipmon was from the nearby village of Still Creek (the accent gave it away, even if his voice was week and hoarse). Word had gotten around that Lipmon had arrived here barely alive, and had survived an attack from the creature. Mill could smell from where he stood that Lipmon reeked with illness.

“My name is Lipmon. And who are you?” Mill got another chance to hear the accent and was certain that Lipmon was from Still Creek. In his last communiqué from Strya, Mill had been warned that Alles was going to be leading an expedition to Still Creek for reasons that were unclear.

“My name is Aleck,” Mill said, “What news do you bring us from whatever parts you come from?”

Lipmon looked at him lazily, “Bad news. Such bad news. I saw my whole village destroyed with all the people slaughtered a few a days ago, except for me and a little boy, and they kidnapped the little boy with them. His name was Tann,” Lipmon said, his eyes full of tears, “That boy Tann was my whole world and I want my revenge upon the lot of them. I’ve got to spread the message to the whole Fourth Order and bring them to Tann’s salvation. I’m the only one that can. What’ll they do to Tann? Why him?” Lipmon was in tears and he sank into his bed and wouldn’t say any more. Lipmon’s emotions, exaggerated in his vulnerable state, overtook him with sobbing.

These were the first words that Lipmon had spoken coherently to anyone in Orinda. Mill knew since he’d been watching the house closely. The opportunity was too perfect. He suspected Lipmon was right about him being the only one. All memory of Still Creek could be erased for good with Lipmon gone. If Alles had, as Mill suspected, destroyed the town no one would know for a long, long time that the small town of Still Creek was no longer in its appointed place in an isolated valley if Lipmon were killed. The people of Orinda actively avoided the place out of fear.

Mill pulled a knife out of his sheath and he stepped down from the window into the room. “You’ll save us all much trouble if you’re simply disappeared,” Mill whispered to himself.

<-- Go to Part 34         Go to Part 36 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 34

“I guess the creature of virtue didn’t like the taste of you one bit, did she?” Lipmon could just hear a voice speaking in the distance, “She’s a temperamental girl. She’s supposed to do what she’s told, but does what she wants instead. I’ve never understood her, but…”

Lipmon was starting to open his eyes. He felt all the pain of his sore muscles and his open wounds, both the long sword slash from Alles and the scratches of the creature. He could also see a man looming over him, with a thick shaggy beard and tussled, curly hair, both graying and dark. The man wore a brimmed hat that shadowed his eyes a little. He had been talking, as if to nobody as Lipmon returned to consciousness, but he abruptly stopped as he saw Lipmon’s eyes opening.

He then shouted over his shoulder, “Maya, you’ve got to come in here. I think he’s waking up!” The bearded man then turned back to Lipmon, “You got a bad fever boy. I could never tell whether you were awake or not, since you talk so much in your sleep. Mostly gibberish. Mostly names of people I don’t know. Maybe they are friends of yours. But you talk about them constantly. You’ve clearly had a rough trip, and it would’ve been too horrible had that creature been the end of it for you.”

Then Maya entered, draped in her kitchen dress and wiping her hands on the fabric, “That boy right there’s awake? What a sight he was!” She then said to Lipmon, “I been thinking you were going to make it, but not Merek here. He’s a pessimist if I ever saw one. Saying over and over again, ‘That boy won’t survive the night. I can see Death looming over him, impatiently tapping his feet.’”

“I said no such thing,” Merek piped up, “I’ve been nursing him like this because I knew he was going to make it, and I could never abandon a man in need.”

“Never abandon a man in need?” Maya interrupted, “Why you wouldn’t have gone out there to fetch him if I hadn’t goaded you.”

“I was waiting until the creature was well away. You never know about those temperamental things. They’ll turn on you in a second,” Merek said, now turning to Lipmon, “That’s what I was just telling you before you woke up. The creatures are so temperamental. They do what they want, instead of what this town needs. I don’t know how the Arbiter controls her.”

“Don’t lie. You would have just left him there, if I hadn’t nagged you to go out there and fetch. You would’ve been waiting until he was well dead and there was nothing to bother over. There’s no good in that,” to Lipmon, “By the way my name is Maya. If you don’t feel strong enough to speak don’t strain yourself. I’ve got a warm bowl of beef stock you can drink. And a little bit of sour milk, if you like. Of course, I’ll go get it, since my husband never does anything.” She then left the room.

Merek looked somewhat relieved and began to speak confidently with Lipmon, “All the better reason to get well quick. She’ll badger you to death if you don’t get healthy, nagging you about why you aren’t getting well sooner. Now, mind you, I was a little bit hesitant to out and fetch you because I was worried about the Creature. It’s a savage and deadly animal and I wanted to wait until it was out of sight. I never seen the Creature leave someone to live like she left you. That creature will leave me be so long as I stay in my fence, but as soon as I step outside of it, she can’t tell me from some intruder. So I don’t want her chomping my guts out and leaving me for the rodents. But when Maya started goading me to get you, I was more afraid of her than I was of that Creature. If you’ve ever been married, you probably know what it’s like.”

Their cabin had two rooms: a large main room with the stove where food was prepared and where they slept in the winter, and a smaller side room where they slept in the summer and where Lipmon was now lying. The bed was far softer than he was used to, stuffed with hair and feathers. To Lipmon, coming from a small, poor farming village, Orinda-forr was a town of luxury and wealth.

<-- Go to Part 33         Go to Part 35 -->

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 33

Alles realized now that the water drip had been oriented to deliberately mislead them. As the sky grew brighter he could start to make out the traces of footprints that had been carefully swept away. They’d traveled upslope and winterward.

“We’re going to move quickly and quietly,” Alles whispered to his fellow soldiers, “We don’t want a fight. They probably outnumber the five of us, and it’s doubtful any of us will survive if we have to fight them. And even if we try to run, they’ll catch us.” They then began to jog upslope in the direction of the tracks.

Alles and his men came upon them much sooner than they expected, only a few hundred paces from their previous camp. And what they found was more than a little bit surprising, especially to Alles and Jesek who were familiar with the habits of the itinerant tribes.

The first members of Erek-Monte’s tribe that Alles and his men encountered were two night sentries, both asleep. Such dereliction of duty was ill-tolerated and usually harshly punished among the generally strict itinerant tribes and it greatly surprised Alles.

Alles and the other soldiers tip-toed noiselessly by the sentries. Within several paces they came upon the camp and found Erek-Monte and all his men, women, and children asleep. This was even more surprising than to see the sentries asleep. Itinerant tribes never slept in so late into the morning, and it was surprising to find them sleeping when Alles was on their tail. It was evident that they hadn’t taken any time to build the camp, with everyone simply sprawling out on the ground with only a blanket to cover them. Even more shocking, at the center of the camp a fire still smoldered, as if it had been tended throughout the night and then left to burn out. Itinerant tribes usually only built fires in the early evening and early morning, to minimize visibility.

Why they had so uncharacteristically built and maintained the fire was inexplicable. Yet, laying there beside the fire, bathing in its warmth was little Samuel. Erek-Monte lay besides Samuel, holding him with a protective embrace and sharing a blanket with the boy.

Alles indicated for the men to wait for him and not make a sound. Then he began to tiptoe into the campground, quietly stepping over sleeping bodies and progressing towards the boy. There was the sound of heavy breathing all around him and even the quiet drone of some snorers. Alles stepped gingerly over these motionless shapes towards Samuel at the center.

Alles had to gently pick up the arm Erek-Monte had draped over Samuel and lay it on the ground. Then he had to carefully pick up Samuel in his arms. Samuel’s eyes were still closed, and Alles was careful not to let his bare skin touch the child’s bare skin.

Alles pulled Samuel to his chest while the child dozed on his shoulder. He then began to tiptoe back towards the other soldiers.

Alles silently signaled his men to depart, and they followed behind him in single file. Sorn alone surreptitiously remained.

When the rest of the group had moved on Sorn drew his sword from its leather sheath, and pointed it at one of the two men who slept, a young soldier named Erek-Trent. He pointed the tip at the soft of the neck of this soldier.

“Perhaps you’re not the one who killed Lee, but you unfortunately are going to be the one to pay for it,” Sorn quietly whispered to himself. Sorn slowly touched the sword to Erek-Trent’s neck, readying his hands to force the blade through the neck with a sudden thrust, but the cold steel woke Erek-Trent from his sleep. As soon as Erek-Trent saw the sight hanging over him he sounded the alarm with a loud cry. Sorn tried to abruptly silence the soldiers with the forceful thrust he’d been planning, sending the blade directly through the throat and unleashing a torrent of blood.

But it was too late, and the rest of the camp started to rise. Sorn was immediately on the run, bolting downhill towards Alles and the others. When Alles heard the cry and saw Sorn approaching from behind, he gave Sorn a swift look, then he turned forward and began to run. They ran between the trees, leaping over roots and fallen logs downhill in the direction of their camp, where, they hoped their superior numbers would bring them safety.

<-- Go to Part 32         Go to Part 34 -->

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 32

Jesek’s announcement sent a shiver through Alles’ blood. He turned to look at Annsi, who had been knocked down after her pursuit and who was now being led forward by Lee. With his eyes he expressed that she had failed to guard the palanquin. She could feel that deep pang of shame as he looked at her. Everybody saw that withering look that he gave her, while they waited for his instructions.

“They’re a tribe of wandering scraps,” Alles said, with all the derogatory emphasis, “They move quickly. We can’t track them easily in the dark, but we’ll have to. Jesek, grab three men you trust and follow me.”

Annsi stepped forward, “I want to come with you. Samuel will feel more comfortable if it’s me who brings him back”

“No,” Alles said, “Rest. You’ll make sure the men are orderly while I’m away.”

At those words, Alles with Jesek and his three soldiers of choice, Sorn, Imann and Jyorg, ran in the direction where Alles had stumbled across their camp.

Erek-Monte himself had pulled little Samuel out of the palanquin when Annsi was lured away. He found Samuel curled up in the corner, wrapped in a sheet, with only his piercing blue eyes peaking out. Erek-Monte bundled him up in those sheets and took him in his two arms, carefully closing the door in the hope that they wouldn’t notice he was missing. He fled upslope to their camp as swift as a diving bird and immediately announced to his men that they must depart.

By the time Alles, Jesek, Sorn, Imann and Jyorg arrived back at Erek-Monte’s camp, it was already emptied and cleared out. There was very little to indicate that anyone had camped there: some footprints, some flat spots on the ground where they’d sat and set down bags and possessions, some ashes from a fire, and nothing more.

Looking at the camp, Sorn spat out his vitriol and muttered, “Baby-stealing scraps,” speaking to himself, “We should kill them all when we find them.”

Alles looked through the trees around the camp in search of an item known as a “water drip.” The water drip he expected to find would be composed of a small bark cup hanging from a branch holding about as much water as could be held in two hands. The water would be stained with the juice of a berry and would slowly leak out through a small hole pierced through the bottom of the cup. It would take about three or four days before the cup would be dry, and it would be hung on a branch that pointed in the direction the tribe had departed in. It was meant as a secret signal between the itinerant tribes, a sign indicating that they’d camped here, how recently they’d departed, and which way they’d gone. It helped the various itinerant tribes follow each other through the mazes of peaks and valleys as they wandered in sporadic patterns foraging, hunting and pillaging. It permitted them to meet, congregate, trade, exchange and pass on news. This was why Alles now sought it out. When Alles found the bark cup, he was quite surprised that he’d found it in the dark and even more surprised they’d left it after such a quick retreat.

Alles and his four followers pursued in the direction indicated, silently trekking through the night. Jesek, their only guide to this region, was unfamiliar with these slopes, and Alles struggled to find any sort of tracks in the dark. He’d always been able to rely upon his skill at tracking, even in difficult times and places. Now he was failing and he acutely felt the gravity of this failure. If the itinerant tribe was let to escape, the child would disappear forever, lost among the several tribes that aimlessly wandered this region.

As they moved further with no sign, Alles began to reconsider the guidance of the water drip. Even though the itinerant tribes moved quickly and stealthily, they normally took no precautions to make themselves untrackable, yet he could see no human tracks on the ground. He began to think that they mustn’t have gone in this direction, and decided that the five of them should turn around.

As the beginnings of dusk were just beginning to show a changing sky, Alles feared he’d been bested, since Erek-Monte and his compatriots, due to this misdirection, had a huge head start. The time Alles had given them was more than sufficient for them to stretch their legs across several peaks and over several valleys. But he returned to Erek-Monte’s former camp and invested himself in inspecting the ground in hope of continuing the pursuit. In the faint light of early morning, Alles saw that the tribe of raider had gone to some measure to hide their tracks around the camp.

<-- Go to Part 31         Go to Part 33 -->

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 31

Annsi alone guarded the palanquin, clothed in the sheet she’d inexpertly wrapped around herself when she’d hastily left the tent. This scanty clothing, which signified to Erek-Monte’s men one fresh from the bed and all its lasciviousness, led them to linger around and surround her. They were trying to speak her language but their diction was strange and their accent was alien. Their words came out as a garbled mix, which she could only partially recognize. Their intentions were clear, and, though they zeroed in on the palanquin, they seemed less interested, at the moment, in its contents.

Alles only watched Annsi’s plight from a distance, not intervening. As the men closed in more tightly around her they grabbed at the sheet, laughing, touching her body, as she slapped them away. But she held fast to her post, still barring the small entrance to the palanquin and still standing firm, even after her sword was knocked out of her hand, rattling to the ground.

Orick soon leapt in to knock the men away. He tried to grab hold of one man and pushed at another two in the process. The two quickly darted away, and the first quickly wriggled out of Orick’s grasp before running away himself. Annsi then picked up her sword and chased a man away while Orick tried to catch another.

Only moments later, a booming shout was heard across the camp and the raiders started to disband. There was no apparent order to this surrender, as the men darted into the dark woods in all directions. Some of Alles’ men ran after them, but they lost them in the dark. Their eyes adjusted slowly to the darkness beyond the confines of the camp, whereas the raiders simply switched their eye patch and found their way with the already dark-adjusted eye.

Alles alone kept on the tale of a pell-mell raider who darted upslope from the camp in a quick, meandering path. The raider led Alles back to Erek-Monte’s small camp, where a tribeswoman named Chrisina stepped forward without Alles even noticing and swiped a long, thick tree branch across his chest with such force that he fell off his feet and tumbled to the ground. She turned to finish him off with a dagger thrust to the neck, but he’d already stood and was running back to his camp.

When Alles got back to the camp, he found Lee wounded through the stomach and bleeding profusely. Blood coughed from his mouth and Jesek held him up. Jesek poured some water in Lee’s mouth, but he spit it out and shouted with pain. Lee started to murmur a prayer, over and over again, “Anan, save me from Death. Save me for eternity and all the hereafter.” He repeated it a number of times. Jesek looked on helplessly. Finally, Lee fell limp, and Jesek closed his eyes. Alles murmured, “May Anan, great adversary of Death, save him for eternity and the hereafter,” as Jesek rested him upon the ground.

They planted two torches at the head and foot of his grave, then began to dig the hole into the ground. As a warrior, he was buried standing up, with a small shrine of stones stacked above his head, to help Anan find him for the hereafter.

The mechanics of burying a soldier properly were somewhat challenging. To properly put him in his hole, they dug a long, thin trench, with one side sloped so the digger had room to move and could easily climb out of the hole. They then lowered the body into the trench, with a rope around his chest to keep him upright, while the digger quickly filled the hole in. While the hole was being filled up, Alles took a loaf of bread and broke it above Lee’s corpse, letting the crumbs sprinkle over him. He then took one half, and shared it among the men, then took the other half and tossed it in the hole. Once the hole was filled, they put the stack of stones on top, And Alles announced, “May Anan save us all from Death.”

Just as they were about to return to bed, Jesek announced in a loud voice, “Samuel’s gone!”

<-- Go to Part 30         Go to Part 32 -->

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Aresan Clan Summary - Parts 21-30

Salles and Noone arrive in Lamosa. They will be staying at the house of Darma, a housewife married to a wealthy husband who’s away on business. Darma already provides accommodations to Amida and when Noone and Salles arrive, she happily provides them with rooms. She confesses to Salles that she is interested in knowing some of the secrets of the Sages, and that Noone isn’t forthcoming.

Eloh, remaining behind at the cloisters, is charged with investigating who is responsible for the fire of the watermill. While the residents of the Cloisters rebuild it, he investigates three likely suspects, Arrs, Jule and Sanda, the three most recent persons to arrive. All three of them are non-Sages residing at the Cloisters, providing service in exchange for room and board. He tries to engage in conversation with them and subtly discover the information thereby, but discovers little.

That evening, Jesek, a refuge from Orinda, explains his story to Alles’ soldiers, how he came to be their guide to Still Creek. He explains that he got his girlfriend pregnant outside of Madrus, which is a period of time when it is okay to have sex and bear children. Doing so during other times is a great sin, and Orinda is guarded by a large trained feline, called the Creature of Virtue, which protects the forests around Orinda from invaders and to whom violators of Orinda’s laws are fed. Knowing that he and his girlfriend will be fed to the Creature of Virtue, Jesek flees with her to Lamosa. On the way, he sees the citizens of Still Creek worshipping Tann, and carries the story back to Lamosa. In his tent, Alles refuses to let Annsi sleep with him, fearing that she may be corrupted by Tann, and that it might rub off on him.

The next morening, Lipmon approaches Orinda. But as he comes within sight of the city, he is attacked by the Creature of Virtue, which pounces on him and scratches him. She doesn’t eat out his organs, as she normally does, since Lipmon reeks of sickness.

<-- Summary of Parts 11-20            Summary of Parts 31-40 -->

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 30

The creature immediately leapt to pin Lipmon to the ground again, so heavy and lithe and quick. Limpon pushed the creature’s paws away, which dug a large scratch in his skin, and then Lipmon rolled to the side to escape, but the creature again leapt upon him and again pinned him to the ground ready to sink her mouth into his flesh.

Strangely, though, the creature suddenly stopped for the first time as her nose came close and smelled Lipmon’s odor. Her nostrils flared as she snorted in his scent. She then turned away and left him on the ground. She leapt directly off of him, her rear paws digging into his chest as she launched. He had large scratches all over him and the last of his strength left him. The voices in his mind started to say to him, “Hold your eyes open or the birds will carry you up into the sky and let you fall.” Then the world grew dim and his eyes closed. He didn’t know it, but a farmer named Merek had been watching in the distance.

Annsi woke abruptly out of her cold bed. She was stirred by a noise that she immediately knew was coming from near the palanquin, and she rose aiming to go to the palanquin and make sure Samuel was safe. A soldier named Orick peaked his large head into the tent abruptly, calling out to wake up Alles. He was a little surprised to see Annsi in a bed in the middle of the room so far away from Alles, but he tried to pretend he didn’t notice. Annsi nonetheless recoiled a little bit in shame.

His wide jaw flapped, “Alles, there’re raiders in the camp.” Alles blinked a few times and then leapt from his bed, merely pausing to secure the wrap around his waist and pick up his sword. Annsi followed behind him immediately, securely wrapping around her a large sheet. Orick watched her with heavy eyes, trying to catch glimpses of her nudity as she stood up and covered herself, but she was too hurried to be stung by his importunate staring. As she rushed by him, he leered intensely at her.

The palanquin was beside their tent, but the chaos was spread throughout the entire camp, as men ran in every direction. Erek-Monte’s men were clearly distinguishable, shirtless, armed with hip, forearm and leg sheaths, each with a separate blade, and all wearing a leather patch over one eye.

Annsi saw men from Erek-Monte’s band nearby, toying with some of the soldiers. She saw Lee lunge at two of Erek-Monte’s men with sword drawn and the men — their metal daggers still in their hip and leg sheaths and their stone blades securely fastened in their forearm sheaths — dodged his thrust. Annsi could start to hear voices from other parts of the camp speaking in their strange tongue. She assumed it was some sort of attack, but Erek-Monte’s men, being chased by soldiers in all directions, weren’t using their weapons, and simply seemed to be taunting the soldiers and the packmen.

Alles noticed this too and whispered to his men to simply keep an eye on them, and not chase after them, “They’re raiders, and they try to steal. You don’t need to try and attack, or kill any of them for now.” The raiders darted this way and that, between men trying to catch them and the swipes of swords and clubs and spears that outnumbered them, but still avoiding being caught.

Ignoring Alles’ advice, Lee followed Erek-Monte looking for an opportunity to attack. He saw Erek-Monte, who clearly was interested in neither spoils nor attacking and fleeted through the camp quickly inspecting the place. Lee ran after him with sword in hand.

Erek-Monte’s clothes gave him away as a man of distinction, and he bore himself like a proud and powerful man. Lee thrust at Erek-Monte from behind, thinking he had been unseen, but Erek-Monte was far too quick for the young soldier. Erek-Monte dodged the approaching blade, grabbing Lee’s right hand, which held the sword, and pulling Lee towards him. Erek-Monte swiftly unsheathed his hip dagger and led Lee’s stomach towards its point. He then pulled Lee’s sword from his hand, stabbed him again with it, and in another moment ran away with the sword still in hand.

<-- Go to Part 29         Go to Part 31 -->

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 29

The sun was setting over the ridge amid sounds of birds in the trees, while a large eagle floated above and twirled through the air and Lipmon walked forward, feverish and delirious. Without paying much attention to where he was going, he nonetheless headed in the right direction.

“Just over this ridge I’ll be able to see the town,” he thought to himself, and when he got to that ridge, there was still another ridge yet higher. “Each slope has its final crest,” he said, repeating an old proverb. When he got to the next ridge, there was still a further ridge even higher. “Just over that next ridge,” he thought to himself.

Only a few ridges more and he reached the top of Orinda Pass and could finally just see the valley of Orinda-forr. He couldn’t yet see down to the bottom where he thought the village was, since the ground sloped down gradually below him and the trees were in the way. “Just over that next ridge he thought,” as he approached it.

As Lipmon persevered in this way, he didn’t notice he was being stalked. The Creature of Virtue was approaching from his left side, just slightly upslope, moving in the same direction as he moved, but silently edging closer to him as he approached the village of Orinda-forr.

Gradually the valley opened in front of him, but he still could not quite see the village. “Just over that next ridge,” he thought, now moving easily on the slightly descending slope.

Moments later he saw the village all at once, though his attention did not immediately capture it. Dim lines of smoke gleamed in the low sun reaching high above a cluster of squat buildings mostly hidden beneath the trees. A few modest sized swaths of land had been cleared and he could see part of a small lake hidden at the edge of the city. He could even see a grand road entering from the far side of the city, which led up to a bridge into the city crossing over a river that emptied into the lake. He assumed this might be the primary entrance to Orinda, but he didn’t want to bother circling around unless there was a wall or something impeding his entrance. His weak body sought the path of least effort, occasionally tripping and rolling himself down this slope half-alive. He only thought of hopefully collapsing on the foot of the first doorstep he could find.

He coasted down the slope toward the valley floor, starting to feel confident that he might be able to make it. His fever was bad and he’d slept poorly the night before and sometimes he would hear voices speaking to him as if he was slipping into a dream. He began to lose sight of the town as he came to the floor of the valley and was now surrounded by the trees, but he was so close that he let himself fantasize even of laying down to sleep under the warm of a thick sheet and nourishing liquid touching his lips and a voice talking to him, and him even pouring out his story to his rescuer. He dreamt the whole Fourth Order mustering troops for the salvation of Tann, and him leading them to Still Creek-forr where they would chase after the troops that kidnapped Tann and rescue him back. He dreamt of the child in his throne once again, touching Lipmon’s shoulder in thanks as he bent before him. He planned out everything in his fantasies, all the way forward to the child’s salvation and his deep gratitude.

Lipmon thought of water washing away the dirt from his skin. He thought of the touch of food to his mouth. He thought of the warmth of a fire and sleeping and dreaming and letting himself wile away the time once again.

He didn’t know that at that moment the creature was nearly upon him. He was moving as quickly as he could, but he was still stumbling as the swift-footed creature sauntered slowly beside him approaching closer.

Only moments later, the creature leapt into the open and roared. She lunged from a rock above Lipmon directly at him. Lipmon was knocked down but his instinct to live was still alive. He struggled with the creature and pushed her to the side, grabbing her head and pushing her off of him. The creature rolled over once, but sprang onto her feet before Lipmon could even begin to pull himself up.

<-- Go to Part 28         Go to Part 30 -->

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 28

“I was fleeing, with Selah, my wife. Not yet my bride at that point,” Jesek continued, “She was pregnant, just barely showing, and the beginning of Madrus was nearly a year away. In Fourth Order cities, Madrus only happens one year of every five years. That means four years of no sex, no childbirth, complete abstinence. And there’s a creature waiting in the woods for any misbehavers.

“Selah and I had been secretly sleeping together before her menarche. I remember when she first started bleeding, during her seventeenth year. It was like a curse. But when she stopped bleeding, it was even worse. I was admittedly ignorant about these things, about childbirth, and we found out everything from her grandmother, who told us we had few months before it would become obvious she was pregnant, and then it would be over. They’d put us in the woods and leave us for the creature.

“I got lucky, though. An Orestian feast was less than two months away, and this one would be Hirams’ rite of passage. I befriended Hiram and helped him with his preparation. When the feast day came I was there with his parents as they watched him off, praying that he would return still alive. Selah and I and then snuck away.

“If we’d been a bit sneakier, if Hiram’s parents hadn’t seen the two of us sneaking through the shadows, maybe the whole flight would have sat easier with me. But they did see us. They were used to just sending the creature for everything, so this time they were caught off guard. They didn’t want to send the creature after us and risk their son’s life. They eventually sent off two young men who were fairly swift on their feet after us. They would’ve never caught me alone, but Selah was slow. Her and I started running even before we were aware we were being followed, because we knew Hiram’s parents had seen us.

“I heard the four legs of the two men running after us, and I thought it was the four legs of the creature. I thought they’d sent it after us without concern for their son. Even when I realized it was two young men from the village, I was worried, since Selah struggled to keep up. We managed to weave and change directions enough so that they had difficulty tracking us, but we couldn’t keep it up forever. They simply wouldn’t stop looking. We could hear them in the distance the whole time and we moved quietly enough that they couldn’t get a fix on us. But then at some point I heard this violent sound, and I heard one of them running off at lightning speed toward the town. Then I heard a great lynx gnawing at one them for a minute, and then it sped off and started running back towards the town for the other one. I reached over and covered Selah’s ears and pulled her against me to quiet her crying. Eventually I had to drag her to her feet, to start us running again. When we far enough away to take a rest she just collapsed on the ground and wept.

“After that first night, everything was easy. Still Creek-forr is not far from Orinda-forr. Of course, there are people just as afraid of Still Creek-forr as afraid of the creature. I wasn’t willing to test my luck twice. I knew we’d pass near it, and I wanted to observe it from a distance, but I didn’t want to get close. And Selah waited patiently with me.

“But I’ve mentioned all that. When I got to Lamosa, I was able to meet with Premier Anders, and he got me a place to live. Selah’s hiding away right now, but she’s well provided for. We know some understanding people who don’t care that we’ve broken Madrus. I guess that’s enough of my story.”

Annsi went to Alles’ tent after hearing Jesek’s story. Alles was already undressed and lying on his bed off in the corner of the tent, with the curtain closed. He had laid out a bed in the center of the tent some distance away from his sleeping spot. The message seemed clear: there was where she was meant to sleep. She cautiously approached him, reaching out for the curtain, already thinking of the warmth of his body against her skin, and she heard from behind the curtain: “I have spread out your bed in the center of the tent. That is your bed this evening.”

Annsi set herself down upon the floor in the tent. Removing some of her remaining clothes, curling under the covers and huddling herself close against herself, bundling into a small shape under the warm fur and still feeling a little bit cold.

<-- Go to Part 27         Go to Part 29 -->

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 27

“The great lynx will chew your insides out so quickly that you’ll probably still be alive to see it finish its dinner when it leaves you to let other animals finish you off,” Jesek said, continuing his description, “In Orinda this is the beast that we tame.

“We have a person we call the Arbiter, who raises and tames one of these great lynxes from a young age and commands it. A creature is captured in infancy, raised to about the age of three, and then we use it, for about six years before we retire it. We use the creature to enforce our laws and protect us from strangers. Anyone who sentenced to death is simply let out into the woods and the Arbiter sends the creature after them. Or, if you enter into our woods without acquiring safe passage in advance, the creature will usually find you and lay you down indiscriminately. It’s a comforting thought, at least for most of us, knowing that the creature of virtue is stalking the woods that surround our little town and protecting us.

“Some of the older people who aren’t so well comforted by the creature will sometimes tell you — very cautiously and in hushed tones — about a time, well before I was born, when they were young, when one of the creatures went bad. They say that its Arbiter was ruthless and cruel to his creature and the creature one day turned on him. She killed the Arbiter first and his son, and a whole lot of other people before somebody finally managed to kill it. The creature entered Orinda and pounced on person after person, ripping out each person’s guts in one violent bite and then leaping to the next so quickly that even though they rushed to kill the creature and quickly succeeded, it’d already killed twenty people by then. The creature of virtue is not really an animal that likes to be tamed.

“Anyways, we don’t worry about that as much any more because the Arbiters have learned to be kinder. They’ll tell that story to their son to scare him into being nice to the creature, but we’ve got a pretty good handle on the creature now.

“So, when I left it was the day of the Orestian feast, when the Arbiter goes out to retrieve a new creature, which I had deliberately chosen as my day to flee. The same creature that keeps every else out also keeps us locked inside, but on the day of the Orestian feast, they keep their present creature locked up to protect the Arbiter.

“This particular Orestian celebration also happened to be the final rite of the Arbiter’s son, a young boy named Hiram. As part of the final rite, Hiram had to capture an infant lynx himself. He’d been preparing for this for years. In preparation, he’d spend month seeking out and tracking new broods and tracking their mother’s patterns. The mothers are very protective of their infants, but they do leave the little ones around twilight to dig up a few rodents and brings them back to their kittens. I had been helping Hiram track the mother lynx that he was going to steal the infant from. We saw her once feeding her young. Most of the rodents she didn’t manage to capture alive, but she did manage to capture one. She dropped it in front of her little ones and they chased it around ineffectually, while the mother danced around preventing the rodent from escaping. She finally had to kill it after lots of fruitless chasing. The kittens just weren’t quite fast enough yet.

“The Orestian feast is timed so that the infants are old enough to start learning how to hunt, but not too old that they can’t learn to befriend the arbiter. If the kittens are too young they just feed on the mother’s milk and she almost never leaves them, and if they’re too old, they become too difficult to indoctrinate. Apparently, some of the arbiters have tried to capture two creatures to mate them inside our confines, but it never works. They just don’t. We’ve even tried to permit a tame creature to breed out in the woods, but as soon as she became a mother she wouldn’t let us near her brood and became very hostile to the arbiter. So, unfortunately, the only way we can get a new creature is by stealing it as an infant.

“It was Hiram’s night when I decided to flee, close to twilight. The creature was locked away and Hiram was creeping through the woods to steal a female kitten as his rite of passage.”

<-- Go to Part 26         Go to Part 28 -->

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 26

Alles visited Solis next, who was still being attended by Jesek. The murmuring and conversation that filled the crowd that huddled around, came to stope as Alles approached. Alles asked about his patient, who lay across a blanket on the ground with his head cushioned and a fresh bandage wrapped around his ankle. Jesek said: “He’ll probably recover soon, but he really needs to be attended to by a more professional healer. We ought to return as fast as possible.”

“And how many more days have we until we return?” Alles asked.

“Just this afternoon, we passed the place where we had camped three days out from Lamosa on the way to the village. If we up our pace, maybe we can arrive in two and a half days.”

Alles nodded his consent and then left the camp, returning to his own tent. After Alles left, the silence that had spread across the group dissipated and conversation rose again. Conversation died down again, when Jesek finished attending to Solis and began to tell the story he’d promised, about his departure from Orinda and encounter with Still Creek.

“I grew up in Orinda-forr,” he began, “which is about a day and a half’s journey from Still Creek-forr, where we found the boy. This is why I know the area. I passed by Still Creek on my way to Lamosa when I was fleeing from my hometown. I’d been warned about Still Creek, so I stayed away from it. The people in Orinda were, quite frankly a little bit frightened of Still Creek. Two men left to visit the town on separate occasions and neither of them were ever heard from again. Incautious rumors about the town were everywhere, including everything from worship of the devil, to cannibalism, to human sacrifices. When I visited, I discovered that devil worship came closest to the mark.

“I planned on passing close by it because I realized that the quickest route from Orinda-forr to Lamosa was in fact right through Still Creek. I wanted to find out what was going on in that town, and where those men had gone. So, along our way, I sat down and I watched the town for most of the daylight, all morning and afternoon. I realized first of all, that the two men had apparently simply settled down and still lived in Still Creek. But even more surprising, I saw the citizens of Still Creek worshipping a small child, who they sat on a pedestal surrounded by a ring of burning torches. I saw them laboring all day in the fields and in the workshops and then just throwing heaps of gifts upon that little boy.”

“And that was the story that I carried with me when I got to Lamosa. I had no concept of what a Sable is. We don’t have that legend in the Fourth Order. But, by the way I saw them worshipping him, I’m confident that the boy we nabbed is capable of great things, and is also incredibly dangerous.”

“Why did you flee your hometown?” Solis asked Jesek.

“Well,” Jesek said, pausing to gather his words, “The day when I left was on the Orestian holiday. It’s a feast we have for an important ancestor of ours named Orestia, who taught us how to tame and domesticate the wild animals — the cows, the horses, the sheep. The Orestian holiday comes every year, but once ever six years it’s particularly important, because we go out and capture a new creature — the creature of virtue. The animal we call the great lynx, since its eyes can see inside you and see your wickedness. Many of them live in the forests near and around Orinda. When we capture it and tame it, it becomes the creature of virtue, our protector.

“The creature is by far the most dangerous animal that man has ever domesticated. It’ll hunt and kill a human. And not in the most friendly way. It’s a solitary animal, but very territorial. It looks like a great cat, silently walking on its four paws while its tail swings behind it. If it catches your scent, it’ll stalk you through the woods. When it gets close, it pounces on you from above, knocking you down. Then, while holding you to the ground with its big forepaws, it digs its jaws right in your gut, and it gnaws at your innards as you try to get to your feet to get away. Whether you manage to stand up or not, it’s too late. It’ll knock you down easily again even if you manage to get up. It only eats the meat around your belly — the liver, intestines, kidney, heart, etc. — and then it leaves you for the wolves and the birds and the bears.”

<-- Go to Part 25         Go to Part 27 -->

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 25

Eloh found Sanda last, walking through the grass pushing a wheelbarrow of debris out of the mill to an organic refuse pile. She was a woman approaching middle age, a bit past her prime in terms of beauty, but still alluring and sensuous. She had round hips and large breasts and she smiled with full, red lips when Eloh addressed her.

She confessed with a generous smile after Eloh asked her, “I am definitely tired. I was up late last night with a man. And before you jump to any conclusions, we were just talking. A very engrossing conversation with that handsome young man, Arrs.”

“Arrs?” Eloh asked, with raised eyebrows.

“Yes, the young farrier who recently arrived. A polite man, though I must confess he can sometimes ask the most impertinent questions. Last night he asked me if I knew how to make a soldier’s sponge. I was quite offended. I told him the only people who know how to make those are soldiers and prostitutes and do I look like either.” She then emitted a little laugh as she told this to Eloh.

“And was Arrs with you the whole night?” Eloh asked.

“Now you’re asking impertinent questions,” Sanda replied, taking mock offense, “Though I may inspire a lot of rumor-mongering by having a man in my room after bedtime, he was gone before the fire woke me. Some may not think so, but I do respect the sacred duty of every woman to remain celibate except during Madrus. Of course, I can’t deny that when Madrus begins, I will go perhaps a little bit wild.” Sanda gave a smile and a wink, adding, “But for now I am dutiful.”

“And you’re not in need of a rest,” Eloh asked.

“Not immediately. But probably by the time you come by to ask me again I will. I know you sages are sticklers about proper sleep, and I promise to do better from now on.”

Eloh smiled and agreed, “True enough,” and walked away.

He returned to helping out in the work himself, transporting wood to the mill and shaping it into workable planks. But while he worked, his mind was in motion. Arrs seemed to him like his most likely suspect, but there hardly was sufficient evidence for him to be confident in his suspicions. The next step, so far as he could see, would be to find his way into their rooms when they were absent, Arrs most especially, and see if he could uncover anything relevant therein.

After the soldiers were settled and camp was being built for the evening, Annsi finally told Alles about her experience inside the palanquin, only excluding from her story the moment when she opened her eyes and looked at the boy: “I didn’t want to abandon Samuel so instead of fleeing like the others I decided to climb onto the palanquin. I thought Samuel might be in danger, if the wolves could break into the palanquin somehow. And I was the only one who hadn’t entirely fled. While I was on top of the palanquin, I realized that it wasn’t going to be high enough to protect me from the wolves, so I impulsively leapt inside with Samuel, judging it to be the only option I had available.

“Inside, I felt an unusual level of calm. I don’t know for sure, because I couldn’t’ see him, since I’d closed my eyes tightly, but I felt as if Samuel was completely without fear. But what was strange was that not long after I’d sat down, he started to imitate me, imitate my movements. I touched his face and his eyes were tightly shut like mine, and he reached out and touched me on my face, and seemed to be seated in the same posture as me while I did this.”

Alles interjected, “You touched him? On the face? Your skin touched his face? And he touched your face with his hands?”

“Well, I was wearing my gloves,” Annsi lied, recoiling.

Alles only said in response to her, “Samuel might be a sable-touch. Take no more risks. And keep away from me and the other soldiers for a while,” before he walked away to attend to some of the other soldiers.

<-- Go to Part 24         Go to Part 26 -->

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 24

In the Sage’s cloisters, living alongside the six or seven sages that usually resided there, were a much larger multitude of residents — visitors, servants, pilgrims, outcasts and others — who in exchange for menial labor, would be able to reside beside the sages and partake of their salubrious lifestyle. As Eloh stood at the desk of the Eldest’s office and inspected her records, he could that see that forty-six residents were currently occupying the cloisters, along with the six now present sages. The Eldest’s office, sparsely furnished and decorated, containing only a single desk alongside shelves of folios, sheets and rolls, had little to distract one from its beautiful view, which looked out on the valley below. The Eldest therein held the names of all of residents of the cloisters on a stack of lined sheets of parchment that’s oldest sheets pre-dated not only her tenure as Eldest, but even her birth. Every resident that had ever lived in the cloisters had their name recorded, their occupation, their date of arrival, their assigned room and their date of departure. Next to that was some room for miscellaneous notes, which offered further details about their guests. For example, he could read a few pages into the past that one resident, Daysha, had resided in the cloisters for over a year and, as was noted besides her name, that Salles had fathered a daughter with her named Annsi.

Surveying the records of the forty-six who currently resided in the cloisters, Eloh focused on those who had recently arrived, since, as he suspected, it would be among these that he would find the saboteur responsible for the destruction of the mill. Three names were of particular interest: Jule, a weaver by profession who’d arrived six days ago; Arrs, a farrier by profession who’d arrived fifteen days ago; and Sanda who’d arrived twenty days ago. Sanda’s profession was listed as house servant (undoubtedly the profession she’d told Noone when she arrived), but Noone had added a miscellaneous note: “prostitute?” to the side. The next most recent arrival after Sanda was sixty-four days ago: a long period for a saboteur to lie in wait, Eloh supposed. So Eloh decided to confine himself to investigating these three and left the office to find them. He recalled clearly what Noone had told him about letting none even suspect they were under investigation and he considered carefully what he would ask them.

Almost the entirety of the cloisters, sages and residents were involved in reconstructing the watermill and Eloh walked in that direction to find them. He knew all three of his suspects by sight. The community of the cloisters was intimate and he remembered when all three of them arrived. It always took him time to put names to the new faces, but it was hard not to know any face in a community of only some fifty persons.

He sought out Jule first, a man past his fortieth year with sallow, wrinkled skin and grey hair. He had keen, narrow eyes and strong hands and appeared skilled at handling and manipulating the tools he was using to affix boards of wood to the fractured walls of the mill. As Eloh approached, he was pounding iron nails through a board to repair one of the walls. Eloh nodded in his direction and said, “Jule, isn’t it? How are you doing?”

“Doing fine,” he replied.

“You don’t need a break or anything?” Eloh asked, “You’re not tired.”

“Can’t complain,” he said, “Fighting the mill fire last night did interrupt my sleep, but I’m rested. I haven’t been working too long, and I do love working outdoors.”

“Good to hear,” Eloh nodded, adding, “See me if you need anything.”

Next on his list was Arrs who’d been assigned to fixing the large gears that transferred the force of the massive water wheel to the large stone mill where the grain was ground. Arrs was securing one of the gears that had been dislodged by the fire into place. He was a young man, barely over twenty. He had long hair, which he swept back away from a youthful, vibrant face while he worked. He was small and lanky without much physical strength, a man built for the life of an aesthete rather than for hard physical labor. He seemed to have a rather delicate constitution and when Eloh asked him if he was tired, Eloh was unsurprised to hear the young man admit, “To be honest, I am. Didn’t sleep well last night.”

“Do you need to take a break?” Eloh asked

“I’ll take my break whenever you say sir,” the young man replied with a charming smile.

“Why don’t you take a short break now?” Eloh suggested and Arrs gave a relieved sigh, saying “thank you,” before walking off to grab a drink of water and sit himself on the grass.

<-- Go to Part 23         Go to Part 25 -->

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