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.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 75

“I shouldn’t be having conjugal relations with a married woman. It’s immoral,” Salles told her as she moved towards him. Without another word, though, she was already kissing him on the lips.

“I thought you’d be flattered to have a woman try to seduce you,” she said after the kiss, licking her lips and smiling as she eagerly looked into his eyes.

“I don’t like flattery,” he told her, but she still kissed him again, now pulling him to the floor and tugging at his clothing.

The light of the lamp still glowed in the sitting room, where a now naked couple lay upon the floor, Salles on his back staring up towards the ceiling and Darma cuddling close to him and clinging to his body. She rested her head on his shoulder and gently traced her hand across his chest.

“I think I’ll name him Donell,” Darma said distractedly, “Look at me. I’m already convinced it’s going to be a boy. If it’s a girl, I don’t know, we’ll think of something.”

Darma looked at Salles who didn’t appear to be paying attention to her or to have heard what she’d said. To attract his attention she asked him directly: “Why do the first born sons of the Aresan king become sages?”

Salles turned his head to her at this point and asked her, “What?” Darma had to repeat the question. Salles shrugged his shoulders in response and said, “It’s tradition. They’ve always done it. We’re supposed to be the principal advisor to the Chief Royal.”

Darma then asked: “Why did they start doing it? Why is it a tradition? They can’t have always done it that way.”

“Well, I don’t know for certain,” Salles replied, “But Eloh once told me that they used to just take the first born son away to an isolated school and put him through a strict mental and physical training in order to prepare him to be Chief Royal, since first-born sons were, at the time, automatically assigned to be successors to the throne. But then at one point a very crafty second-born son hatched a scheme so that he could seize the throne. He had a religious advisor declare that any son born during the first consummation of the future Chief Royal and his queen should be considered as a gift of the gods, and should be set aside to live a life of devotion to Anan. Since his older brother had been conceived precisely in this way, they did as he said, and that first-born became the first true Sage. Later some Royals tried to evade sending their favored first son by sending their first daughter, and eventually it settled on sending the first child.”

“So that’s how it began?” Darma asked.

“Well, it happened before Eloh was born, so who knows. We don’t have any written records of it. And besides Noone has a totally different story. She says it began because sometimes the future Chief Royal and his fiancĂ© would become pregnant and birth a child before they were married and outside of Madrus. Though our King and his concubines aren’t expected to respect Madrus, it was before they were married, and so it was considered more than a bit unseemly. In fact, it used to be that there was a formal engagement ceremony not long before the wedding when the two families first agreed to be wed, and it was common for princes to sneak into the bed of the princess before the wedding and sometimes impregnate her. To avoid the shame, they would deliver the child in secret and hide it away. Then as recompense for this violation of divine law, they would give the child to one of the secluded religious orders that we used to have, for life. It eventually became tradition for the groom to sneak into the bride’s bed immediately after the engagement and this became part of the ritual. Later they came to consider children born during this ritual sacred, and made the practice of cloistering tradition. Eventually, they just started to consider the first child of the king sacred no matter when it was born. All the secrets of the sages apparently come down from this original religious community.”

“Do you believe that story, then?” Darma asked.

“I don’t know,” Salles replied, “That’s the story Noone remembers. I don’t know if I trust her memory that much. ‘Memory,’ as they say, ‘shifts like the dunes.’”

“Yes, but isn’t it your job to preserve this history. Shouldn’t you have records of it, and know for certain what happened?” Darma asked.

“We’re supposed to preserve history, but this is not official history. This is not the type of thing were supposed to write down,” Salles said.

<-- Go to Part 74         Go to Part 76 -->

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 74

After the dinner was completed, Annsi and Alles departed. As they said their goodbyes at the door, Darma and Annsi arranged for a future dinner date between the two of them alone, and Alles reiterated his dedication to speaking with the Closed Table.

After they left, Darma dismissed Onur early for the night, and he promptly left, leaving Darma and Salles alone in her house.

Salles suggested, after he watched Onur go, that he should retire to his room: “I need to relax myself in preparation for sleep. If you don’t mind.”

“I do mind,” Darma told him, “I’m not ready for bed, and you’re the only one to talk to. Please, let’s sit down. Tell me about your life in the Cloisters. I assure you that this will be the last night you’ll have to be alone with me. My husband is supposed to return tomorrow. Tomorrow’s the first day of Madrus, of course, and he’s always prompt to drop whatever he’s doing to return to me for it. So, tell me all about the cloisters. It is, as I imagine a life startlingly different from that which I have here.”

“What do you want me to tell?” Salles asked her as the two of them walked into the sitting room, which was now only dimly lit by the light of dusk.

Darma lit a lamp in the room and said to Salles, “You know what I was wondering, especially tonight after seeing your daughter: how exactly did that daughter of yours come to be? Sages aren’t allowed to get married, am I correct? Yet she has a mother, I presume. She didn’t simply spring out of the ground from sperm you spilled in the dirt, did she?”

“No,” Salles said, settling himself into a couch, “That type of thing only happens in the stories of the gods. Annsi has a mother, Daysha. Her and I produced Annsi together. Daysha was a resident at the cloisters. She was one of the servants we permit to work there in exchange for food and shelter.”

“So, it’s permitted for Sages to have sex then?” Darma asked, sitting herself right next to him on the couch, close enough so that their legs touched.

“It’s only forbidden for us to marry and raise children,” Salles said, shifting in his seat.

“So, are the male Sages one of the employment benefits for residents? If a girl resides there, does she get the privilege of visiting the bed any male sage she chooses?” Darma asked, “Or is it the horny young sages who get to use the servants as outlets for their pent up sexual urges?”

“No,” Salles said, uncomfortably, “Neither of those happen. It was consensual.”

“So who seduced who, then? You don’t seem like the seducer type. So, I’m guessing its Daysha who was the aggressor. Did she corner you in your room, and then press you against the wall and kiss you so hard that it took your breath away? That’s what I’d do if I were her.”

“It was a mutual attraction,” Salles replied, “Her and I simply got along very well and developed a close intimacy.”

“Well it’s good to know that you’re fertile. My husband, Dorin, I think he’s sterile. In fact I’m pretty sure about it. He failed to impregnate me the last two Madruses. And we tried. Boy, we tried. Every night he was inside me. Sometimes twice a day. Wonderful as that was, I cannot afford another barren Madrus. My womb will not stay fertile forever.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Salles responded, “I imagine it might be quite frustrating.”

“Tomorrow I’ll seduce Dorin when he returns. We’ll have sex. And then, three seasons later, if I have a child, he’ll assume that conception was on that first night of Madrus we shared together, the luckiest night of Madrus on which to conceive, as it so happens. But the child won’t be his because he’s sterile. And it will have been conceived on the night before.”

“You mean tonight?” Salles asked.

“Yes,” Darma said nodding her head slowly and looking intently into Salles’ eyes, “You and I.” Darma touched Salles’ arm with one hand and his leg with another and leaned in towards him, craning her neck to reach up towards his lips.

<-- Go to Part 73         Go to Part 75 -->

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 73

Onur walked to the front door of Darma’s house, summoned by a loud pounding from outside. When he opened the door he saw a square-jawed soldier with a short beard and closely cropped hair standing next to a small, sensual woman with beautiful features and a tentative smile.

Despite that she looked like such a delicate creature, she had the short hair and toned arms of a soldier, and Alles inferred that it was Alles and Annsi and led them inside.

Annsi wore an elegant blue toga which fitted her well and complemented her beauty, even though the fabric was worn and the colors faded. Attached to a leather belt that hugged her waist, she bore a dagger in a sheath, partly concealed between the folds of her toga. Alles wore the same type of shirt and trousers that he normally wore, though he had apparently treated the event as a special occasions, since his clothes were freshly cleaned, he was freshly bathed, and he’d trimmed his beard and hair. Though he looked hardly any different than the forbidding soldier of the battlefield, he did actually look and smell clean for a change.

They were led into a brightly-lit sitting room, where Darma rose to greet them, kissing them both on the cheeks. She spoke with them at length, while they waited for the food, drinking from a cup as she talked. In the expression of her slow and fluid movements was the effortless grace of a person accustomed to having things placed in her hands when she asked, a person accustomed to being able to command and receive that which she wished for without any more effort necessary than the production of a gesture. At the tips of her fingers was a drinking cup resting on the table, and all she needed to when it was empty was to extend it forth for Onur to understand the command and refill it.

It was not until the food was almost completed that Salles emerged from the kitchen and shared a firm handshake with Alles. He presented his hand to Annsi and then awkwardly tried to hug her.

When the four of them sat down, they were each presented with a plate of meat, bread and cheese, with a cup of a sour, fizzy drink that Alles didn’t recognize. He commented, “This is a great honor Sage Salles. I have never had the esteemed privilege of sharing a meal with a Sage before. It is reputed that your food has miraculous powers of longevity.”

“So they tell us,” Salles commented with a sly smile, “In fact, they tell us that there are three pillars of longevity: activity, nourishment and repose. But I can’t tell you about those because they’re supposed to be secret. And I understand you just returned from a mission yesterday.”

“That is true,” Alles replied, “But I can’t tell you about it either, since it too is a secret.”

“Marvelous!” Salles sarcastically replied with a small laugh, “We have nothing we can talk about.”

“If I might say something,” Darma cut in after a short silence, “directed at Miss Annsi here. I must confess that I find the idea of bringing women along as soldiers so odd. I can’t deny I was at first bothered when Salles told me about his daughter, since, well, you know the reputation that female soldiers have. But, after meeting this woman, I really have to admire her for being willing to surround herself with such hard brutes (no offense General Alles) in the lawless wild. That must take some daring.”

“It’s not daring, I just didn’t really have any other options,” Annsi humble replied.

“Why is that?” Darma asked.

“My mother’s a scullery servant. There weren’t many gentlemen banging down my door to make me a wife. Salles tried to arrange a marriage for me, but without any dowry, few men were interested. The army seemed better than being the wife of some poor laborer or working as an unmarried servant like my mother.”

This drew the two women into a conversation, and Salles took the opportunity to speak separately with Alles and segue into the topic he had brought him to talk about: “We had a very serious incident in the Cloisters just a few days ago. I only just arrived in Lamosa four days ago, shortly after the incident. Our main watermill was sabotaged. It was set on fire in the middle of the night.”

“By whom?” Alles asked, turning himself towards Salles as he lifted some food into his mouth.

“The Fourth Order,” Salles answered, “Some agent of the Fourth Order infiltrated the cloisters and set the fire. We’re extremely vulnerable out there.”

“You need more security,” Alles said as he chewed his food.

“Exactly,” Salles concurred, “But the Premier is stingy about these things and has his designs on trying to take us over by essentially putting troops in the cloisters and making us prisoners in our own home. He is not sympathetic to the Aresan Clan.”

“You should’ve told me sooner. I am always willing to help out my clan. The sages especially, who I have deep respect for. You are the true pinnacles of our clan. I will certainly speak to the Closed Table of this.”

“That would be wonderful,” Salles replied, “You are the probably the one person in the entire Omnia that Anders has to listen to.”

<-- Go to Part 72         Go to Part 74 -->

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

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 72

Once Saurek declared his intentions he turned around and proceeded in the direction of the citadel. He was flanked by two guards who shadowed his every step and followed him to the far side of the Congregation Hall where a door led to the path connecting Congregation Hall and the Citadel. The path was shaded by a row of trees, which represented the only plants situated within the central courtyard of the palace. Saurek walked over the uneven path, warped by the roots that grew from beneath the paving stones.

When he entered the ground-level temple to the citadel, the guards remained behind and left him to this sacred space alone. The room was dark, only lit by the light pouring through the single door that led into it and the hole in the distant ceiling far above his head. The citadel itself was shaped like a steep, hollow pyramid, with four walls of corbelled bricks that were only slightly slanted inwards. They extended upwards, gradually narrowing, towards a ceiling some hundred person-lengths high. In one end of the room was a raised platform with a table before it, upon which offerings would be made. In front of the table were two metal bowls raised upon long wooden rods. Within the bowls, aromatic herbs burned, their smoke extending up through the hollow interior of the citadel towards the ceiling.

Behind the platform began the stairway, which extended in a spiraling pattern along the hollow interior walls of this steep pyramid. With a prayer to God and a divine invocation in the form of the words, “May we meet when I reach the top,” Saurek began his long trek up the stairs. He stepped on the first step, which extended out from the wall like the thorn of a bush, followed by another step similarly jutting out, and another. He had one thousand steps to climb in order to reach the top. And only by climbing to that high rooftop temple could he earn the privilege of speaking directly with God and becoming its mouthpiece.

With each passing year, the trek took longer and the weight of his own body as he lifted it up the many steps only increased, gradually and inevitably progressing towards that point when he would fail to accomplish his duty and would have to step down as Prophet.

When he made it to the top, to the tiny Sky Temple, he could see the entirety of the great city of Waldoon spread out in all directions and the palace at the center of it. The Sky Temple itself was only a single narrow walkway, which circled around a central, square hole. It was a profoundly vertigo-inducing position, with nothing standing between him and a fatal fall and with furious winds constantly threatening to blow him from his perch.

All of this Saurek had to ignore, dropping to his knees and quieting his mind so that the words of God could enter. He asked God for advice on how to act in light of all the information he had received: he asked whether he should truly send the armies of the Order summerward to attack the Omnia and the Aresan Clans; he asked whether this man Lipmon was to be trusted; he asked whether the sacrilege of Elden and Still Creek-for was the reason for their destruction, whether it was a just destruction or whether reciprocity (in the form of slaying those who destroyed Still Creek-for and killed its citizens) was due for the crime of destroying this village; lastly, he asked what this status of this boy Tann was, whether he was a magician or prophet or something entirely new and unexpected.

The answers to the questions he sought, never came straightforwardly, and this time, the thought that popped in his head began with an image: he saw the face of Tann, innocent and beautiful, from which light flared from his eyes and silence spilled from his mouth like water. Then he heard the voice of God.

Saurek descended the stairs, a somewhat less strenuous trek. When he finally stepped out of the temple into the daylight, his secretaries were there waiting for him. Saurek simply told them, “I have spoken with God. He said to me, ‘The boy is special.’ That was it. But it’s clear to me what it means. Rescind none of the previous orders.”

<-- Go to Part 71         Go to Part 73 -->

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

Friday, November 23, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 71

In the courtyard, Roderick helped Lipmon to his feet and assisted him in walking towards the Congregation Hall. A circle of blood had already formed in the fabric of Lipmon’s shirt and he clung to his side, as the pain of moving with an open wound in his side was constant and piercing. Lipmon hadn’t quite fully recovered from his illness either, and now he felt the energy being sapped from him once more. Those thoughts by which he’d fortified his will during his long trek to Orinda flooded into his mind and he tried to focus on them, on his determination to avenge Tann and his determination to impress the deceased members of his hometown.

Due to or in spite of these thoughts, Lipmon limped along, moving towards the congregation hall, where Roderick expected to find a surgeon or a healer of some capacity. Across the great spans of the central courtyard, several persons ran towards Lipmon and Roderick to help them forward and offer assistance. Soon enough, Lipmon was being carried at a jog towards the front doors of the Congregation Hall and his body was being laid on a carpet inside.

A healer stepped forward and offered his prayers, raising hands in supplication towards God and touching his hands onto the bleeding wound. After him, Saurek’s personal surgeon approached with medical bag in hand. The surgeon grabbed Lipmon’s shirt and ripped open a hole to expose the wound. “We’ll need to close this up,” the surgeon said to Lipmon once he saw the bleeding cut, “I’m afraid this might be a little painful.”

The surgeon pulled out a needle and thread and doused them in alcohol. “A want you both to hold him down,” the surgeon said to two men who sat above Lipmon. They grabbed Lipmon’s arms and held them to the ground while the surgeon straddled his legs and held them in place by sitting on them. The surgeon placed a wooden cylinder in Lipmon’s mouth and asked him to bite down. Once all was ready, he pierced the patient’s skin with the needle. The sharp pain caused Lipmon to squirm and the men holding him down struggled against his strength while the surgeon instructed, “Keep him still.”

The needle pierced the other flap of skin and the thread was dragged through these wounds as Lipmon bit down hard upon the wood.

Saurek had been summoned and he now approached the crowd that gathered around Lipmon and watched the process of Lipmon’s skin being stitched together. The crowd deferentially parted out of Saurek’s way as he was allowed to see the red, contorted face of Lipmon as the needle again pierced his skin.

“An attempt on his life,” Roderick explain to Saurek, “By a citizen of Orinda-for named Aleck. Fortunately, it appears to have been unsuccessful.”

“Have we captured the man?” Saurek asked.

“I don’t know,” Roderick replied, “We saw guards in pursuit, so there’s hope.”

“I take it that we don’t know what motivated this attack,” Saurek asked and Roderick nodded. “Lots of unpleasant possibilities come to mind,” Saurek said, “But I’m starting to think this unfortunate citizen may have been correct in urging us forward without delay.”

Saurek turned to see his two secretaries in red at his back bearing their pens and papers and ready to take down his instructions. “Send immediate notification to all away troops that we will be focusing our energies summerward. They are to return immediately and await further instructions. Additionally, arrange an advance party to investigate Still Creek-for. I want to see from their eyes what happened to the place. Tell them to use all speed.”

The two secretaries rapidly took note of Saurek’s instructions. Meanwhile, Lipmon, sprawled across the ground, was breathing heavily as the surgeon tied the stitches off and dumped some alcohol on the wound before giving Lipmon some follow up instructions.

Just as Lipmon finally could relax and let the pain subside, he suddenly burst into tears. A fit of sobbing convulsed his body and he covered his face with his hands. The crowd around him stopped in silence and those nearest Lipmon reached out to comfort him. After a minute or two the crying subsided and Lipmon told them, while wiping away his tears, “I’m alright. I’m alright now.”

After the silence, Saurek looked in the direction of the citadel and told his secretaries, “I’ll also need to consult with God.”

<-- Go to Part 70         Go to Part 72 -->

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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Aresan Clan Summary - Parts 61-70

Mill tries to ambush and kill Lipmon before he and Roderick leave Orinda, but he is unsuccessful, and has to secretly follow them to Waldoon.

That evening Jule sneaks out of the Cloisters to meet with a man from the Itinerants. The Sages have Jule under constant surveillance, and so witness the meeting. Noone orders Amida to follow this Itinerant courier. She hastily packs a backpack and pursues.

Anders has his three official philosophers of state, Apamix, Taney and Sidd, investigate the powers of Tann, the Prodigal Prodigy. They bring in two soldiers who are afraid of Tann and have heard exaggerated stories about his power to kill with his eyes. They expose Tann’s eyes to the two soldiers, who both have strong, emotional reactions. The philosophers conclude that the child has power to manipulate people’s feelings via eye contact.

Amida follows the Itinerant messenger all night, all the way to Erek-Monte’s camp. She tries to spy on them, but is captured and is taken by Erek-Monte as a prisoner.

Lipmon and Roderick arrive in Waldoon and travel to the grand Palace of Adrus where they meet with the High Priest, Saurek. Lipmon tells Saurek of the destruction of Still Creek and of Tann. Saurek reprimands him because they treated Tann like a prophet of God, whereas, according to Fourth Order theology, the High Priest is the only true prophet of god. But Saurek says he’ll investigate it, and get back to them. Lipmon is frustrated, since he perceives Saurek to be moving slowly wants prompt action.

When Anders returns to his Private House and reclines in his private bath, he is unexpectedly visited by Dylan-Nantes, who hands him the message from Mill. Upon reading the message, Anders is angry with Mill for not killing Lipmon.

At the Palace of Adrus, as Lipmon and Roderick depart, they are suddenly attacked by Mill, who tries to stab Lipmon. The palace guards capture Mill.

<-- Summary of Parts 51-60              Summary of Parts 71-80 -->

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 70

After Roderick finished speaking with High Priest Saurek in private, he exited the office and found Lipmon sitting grumpily in one of the long sets of pews that faced the front of the Congregation Hall. It was hard not to notice the overt and intentionally displayed sourness that Lipmon presented: his arms folded across his chest, his mouth contorted into a frown.

“I know you’re impatient,” Roderick said, “I, like you, feel as if this is taking too long, but I’m afraid the High Priest simply doesn’t see this as a priority, like you do.”

“I don’t mind. I can wait,” Lipmon responded in a way that clearly showed that he very much minded. Roderick sighed, walking forward and gesturing for Lipmon to follow him. As they walked along the edges of the Congregation hall, they passed a line of birds, carved in relief into the wall. Above his head a succession of candlelight chandeliers lit his way to the entrance. Pushing through the doors, he stepped out of the dark interior into the full light of day. They were now in the center of the great courtyard of the palace.

Though many people passed through this space, the vastness of the area ensured that the area was never crowded. One was unlikely to randomly bump shoulders with a stranger while walking there. Yet, as Roderick and Lipmon walked, they saw a hooded stranger walking in their direction and moving uncomfortably close towards them.

In a moment, before they even knew to react, the sun was flashing off the blade of a knife that had been drawn. Lipmon rapidly pulled his body away from the knife’s trajectory, which nonetheless tore through the fabric of his clothes and glanced off his side just above his waist. A gash was dug into his side, and Lipmon relived again the pain of his skin being sliced, even as the wound across his face and chest still felt fresh and hadn’t healed.

Roderick recognized Mill in the face of the hooded stranger, and as Mill tried to take another swing in Lipmon’s direction, swiping the knife towards him, Roderick grabbed Mill’s arm and twisted the knife out of his hand where it clattered to the ground. Roderick tried to hold onto Mill’s arm, but Mill was able to strip it out of Roderick’s grasp and speed away in retreat.

“Guards! This man has tried to kill someone. Seize him,” Roderick yelled in the direction of the two guards that stood at the doors of the congregation hall. Having partially seen the skirmish, and immediately understanding Roderick’s urgency, they left their posts without hesitation and chased after Mill.

The wide-open spaces of the courtyard were to Mill’s advantage in this pursuit. Mill had already a large distance between him and these guards, and the only other guards that occupied the place were even further from him. The guards, though, pursued undeterred, following him towards one of the exits where they knew they could find support among the men that manned those doors.

“Stop that man!” the guards yelled out indiscriminately in an attempt to bring some citizen to their aid, yet none was close enough to stop him.

The end of Mill’s escape came once he entered the outer building. The two guards that chased him were able to arouse the attention of their comrades manning that gate. In their attempt to grab him, Mill still slipped through their hands, but he was tripped just as he reached the top of the thirty-two steps. Mill careened forward from the top of the steps and rolled down over them.

When he finally stopped near the bottom, he wasn’t sufficiently master of himself to pull himself from the ground, covered in bruises and the feeling of supreme fatigue suffusing his body. He could hear the heavy boots and clattering arms of several guards jogging down the stairs to fetch him.

When one of the guards reached him, he asked the others, “Do we have something to secure him with while I take him away?”

“Just do this!” another guard said, raising the butt of his sword and striking it heavily against Mill’s skull, plunging him into unconsciousness just as the guard added, “That’s for making us run.”

<-- Go to Part 69         Go to Part 71 -->

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 69

As Anders entered through the outer gates that led into the grounds of the Private House, he passed two soldiers who guarded the high-walled entrance. A tall man with a broad, emotionless face walked besides Anders, a sheathed sword slapping against his leg as he walked. He wore thick, leather armor hanging down from his large shoulders and bore several weapons besides his sword. This bodyguard, named Silva, escorted Anders from the Public House (where Silva would lurk in the shadows while Anders conducted his public office) to the Private House. Once they arrived in his Private House, Silva would remain nearby, spending all night in the house in case of intruders.

Once the two of them stepped through the front door, where a servant was there to greet them, Anders removed and handed off his outer cloak to the servant and removed the boots, sauntering over the tiled floors in his bare feet. His bodyguard lingered behind, as Anders delved deeper into the bowels of the house, heading towards the private bath, which he expected to already be prepared for him.

The bath itself was set into the ground and was lined with blocks of granite, mortared together. It was large enough for about six people to sit within it, much smaller than the great public baths that one could find dotted throughout Lamosa, but also entirely private, built exclusively for the pleasure of the Premier and his family. Beneath the floor of the bath were hollow spaces fed with warm air created by a nearby fire, which was maintained by one of the house’s servants. Thus, as Anders, now naked, stepped into the bath he found it quite warm to the touch, and he had to lower himself into it slowly. But once he was fully submerged within it, he lay back and relaxed, savoring the warmth.

After only a few moments of sitting with his eyes closed, his relaxation was immediately broken off when another man he didn’t know was even present stepped naked into the warm water across from him. Anders’ eyes popped open when he heard the sound of the person stepping into the water and he was shocked to see a large, hairy-chested man with the long braided hair and long beard of an Itinerant Tribesman.

Anders was turning to call out for his bodyguard when Dylan-Nantes spoke up in a broken rendition of the Omnian dialect: “You no need to call for your man. I come with no harm. Just a message. I am courier.”

“If you mean me no harm,” Anders vociferously objected, “Then this is the most impertinent way of going about it.”

“I don’t know what those words mean,” Dylan-Nantes admitted, “But this most secret way of doing. It’s private message. For you only.” Dylan-Nantes pushed the piece of bark that Mill had scribbled his words across the Anders, who picked it up some reluctance. “Mill send it,” Dylan-Nantes explained, “He has stuff to do in Orinda. He pay me send.”

Anders looked over the note, which succinctly explained that a single survivor from Still Creek, who was ill and bed-ridden and near death, had arrived in Orinda. Mill also stated that he needed to return to Orinda to prevent Lipmon from divulging any of what he knew to the Fourth Order.

Anders tossed aside the piece of bark in disgust when he finished it. “What is this?” he asked in frustration, not directing his questions to Dylan-Nantes, “Why didn’t he just kill the man immediately? He doesn’t explain why he didn’t just kill him when he first found out. Instead he went out of his way to find someone to send a message to me?” Anders then looked at Dylan-Nantes and said directly to him, “Tell Mill the next thing I should hear from him is that this Lipmon is dead, else he shouldn’t expect a warm welcome when he returns.”

“Kill Lipmon or no warm welcome,” Dylan-Nantes repeated, “More message?”

Anders shook his head, “Nothing more. Now leave before I make things unpleasant for you.”

“You pay me to message?” Dylan-Nantes asked, opening his hand in supplication.

“No,” Anders said, very annoyed and impatient to get rid of this unwanted intruder, “Just go.”

“Nice bath,” Dylan-Nantes said with a smile, “I go now.” He pulled himself out of the water and walked away, to dress himself back into his clothes and sneak back out of the house and out of the compound.

Anders remained in his bath steeped in contemplation. He stewed in anger at Mill, until he realized that Mill was only cleaning up after Alles’ mistake. “Alles was ordered to sanitize the village of everyone except the boy. He failed. But Alles I can’t really reprimand. He’s far too powerful,” he said to himself. He considered the possibility of punishing Alles or, even better, simply getting him out of the way, but dismissed it as impossible to achieve.

As his mind drifted he also remembered a line he’d heard of Maarta’s prophecy, which seemed particularly relevant. “A lone survivor will thrive thrice,” were the exact words as he’d remembered them. It had never made sense to him. It still didn’t make sense to him now. Yet, it seemed to bear upon his situation, in some mysterious way. If only he knew the whole of that prophecy.

<-- Go to Part 68        Go to Part 70 -->

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

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 68

Roderick waited for Lipmon to respond, turning to him and providing him ample opportunity to speak.

“The soldiers attacked because of Tann,” Lipmon finally said, “A boy in our town. A very special boy.”

“He’s Possessed of powers?” Saurek asked, “I wasn’t quite clear on this detail in the note that I received from Roderick. Perhaps, Mr. Lipmon, you could clarify. Were you suggesting that this boy demonstrated some miraculous powers? And what exactly were those?”

“He healed the sick. He made our crops thrive. He brought favorable weather,” Lipmon listed off, as Saurek nodded in understanding. “Most importantly he spoke with God,” Lipmon added last of all in a tone of reverence, “He was our own personal prophet.”

Both of the men writing abruptly stopped and looked up at Lipmon when he said this. Saurek took a long time to compose himself before he responded, and Roderick sat uncomfortably in his chair.

“Elden was his name, right? Your Priest?” Saurek asked. Roderick nodded. Saurek explained, “Elden surely must have been remiss in the religious instruction he provided your community.”

“What do you mean?” Lipmon innocently asked.

“I do not blame you for your ignorance,” Saurek told him, “That was why Elden was supposed to be there: to enlighten you; to raise you out of that well of ignorance in which we'd originally found you when we entered your town many years ago and accepted you into the Order of the Fourth Road to Divinity. Though I wasn't there to witness the situation in your town personally, I have seen many others like yours: burdened under the stifling weight of the most perverse and contorted superstitions. It is as if the word of God has gotten to these villages, but it has become so confused in the process of transmission through so many intermediary ears that it only bears the vaguest resemblance to truth.”

“I still don't understand,” Lipmon replied, thinking he had perhaps missed something in Saurek's monologue.

“Forgive me for speaking at too great a length,” Saurek said, “All I wanted to explain to you is that there is only one true Prophet living at any one time. The office of Prophet has been passed down for generations since the days of Adrus. Currently I am the one who must bear the role of this Deathless Prophet, a role that, though I am not worthy of it, I have still sought to perform as well as any flawed human can. And when God shall deem me no longer able, then I shall pass it on to another person equally as undeserving but fully as devoted. It is for his reason that I know that this child, Tann, is not a prophet.”

“But he did speak to God,” Lipmon objected, “Elden confirmed it himself. He spoke to the boy. Elden was the only one that Tann spoke directly to, because he was our chosen priest. And Tann healed the wounded and made our crops thrive, brought us perfect weather.”

“Mr. Lipmon I have told you I will forgive you for your ignorance, but if you persist in it, you will make that forgiveness impossible,” Saurek reprimanded.

Lipmon immediately fell silent, lowering his eyes.

Saurek took a deep breath and stared at Lipmon’s lowered eyes while he thought. “Nonetheless,” he began, “even if this child is not a prophet, you would still like us to attack those who destroyed your village (something that no one can doubt is an abominable crime) and at least bring some measure of justice to those who have been killed?”

“No, not for them. Most of them deserved it. Just for Tann. He’s worth all of them combined,” Lipmon replied.

“We will investigate this case thoroughly and in due time. If we discover that your complaints are valid, we will certainly be willing bring the full force of our military upon the Omnia. For the moment, I need to speak with Arbiter Roderick alone.”

“We can't wait for an investigation,” Lipmon objected, “We haven't time for this. We need to act now. I've already been forced to wait too long.”

“Good day, Mr. Lipmon,” Saurek pleasantly replied, ignoring Lipmon's objection, “God be with you. And we will certainly speak again soon. If you could just please wait outside.”

Lipmon reluctantly raised himself from his seat in the room. He stared at the four men in the room, moving from face to face. “Thank you,” he said after a moment of silence and then stepped out of the room.

“I must confess that it appears that our servant Elden was up to some serious misbehavior in that town, if he should be telling the citizens that some mere child was the incarnation of the Deathless Prophet,” Saurek said, “It is difficult to imagine what designs he had and it only seems fitting that he should be thwarted in so impious a deed. That being said, though, if this man is honest, I have a hard time seeing how war with the Omnia can be avoided. That have done something which simply cannot be let to stand unpunished.”

<-- Go to Part 67         Go to Part 69 -->

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

Friday, November 16, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 67

When Roderick and Lipmon arrived at the front of the Palace of Adrus, they looked up a long set of crowded stairs to the entrance. A stairway surrounded all four sides of the palace, a continuous set of thirty-two steps that led up to the exterior colonnade, which topped the stairs on all sides. After Lipmon and Roderick ascended the stairs, they entered through a tall open entryway into the interior of the outer palace. To their left and to their right a corridor extended into the distance and turned a corner. The corridor, flanked by rooms and offices throughout, continued all the way through this outer building, which formed a square around the central courtyard. When Lipmon and Roderick exited this outer building into the courtyard, they were presented with a massive enclosed area, which, like the exterior, was bordered by an unbroken colonnade and a single, omnidirectional staircase. The size of this courtyard was so extensive that Lipmon imagined that his entire village of Still Creek, farmland and all, could fit within it.

Two massive buildings were placed within this courtyard, two buildings, large as they were, which still left plenty of open space remaining to look up and see the sky within the courtyard. The building nearest them was the Congregation Hall, where Roderick and Lipmon were expected to meet with Saurek, the High Priest. Four paths, representing the Four Roads to Divinity—Observation, Dreams, Holy Writ, and Prophethood—extended outwards from this building in the four cardinal directions. The road of Prophethood, led out of the Congregation Hall on the far side and connected it to the other major structure in the courtyard, the Holy Citadel, with its tower extending up into the sky and its temple of worship at the base.

Roderick and Lipmon entered the grand and intricately decorated Congregation Hall doors next, where the high ceilings and stained-glass windows created an air of tranquil grandeur and divinity. Roderick led Lipmon down the central aisle towards the podium, which was now unoccupied. From there, they veered off to the side and Roderick encountered a pair of guards dressed in black with great broadswords held in their hands resting on the ground.

Roderick nodded in the direction of one guard and said to him, “Good day sir. It’s Arbiter Roderick of Orinda-for here to see His Majesty. I should be expected.”

“Certainly, sir,” the guard responded looking at Roderick and recognizing him, “If you could just take a seat, he’ll only be a moment.”

After a few minutes of waiting, a man emerged from the room with High Priest Saurek following and offering a handshake before the man departed. Saurek appeared to Lipmon as an aged man with thinning white hair and an intense, prickly demeanor. He was clearly a domineering figure whose surplus weight and deep voice were useful in bullying his opponents into submission.

When he patted his guard on the shoulder, the guard nodded in Roderick’s direction, saying, “Arbiter Roderick.” Roderick and Lipmon had risen from their seats and both gave a deep bow of respect before the High Priest.

“Come in,” Saurek gestured, leading the way into his office.

Before they entered the room, the guard asked the two men, “Surrender your weapons.” Roderick handed over a small dagger and then the guard felt around to make sure there was nothing hidden. Lipmon simply shrugged his shoulders and the guard felt him up as well too, though his clothes were limited and thin.

As they stepped into the office, the long gold cloak that the priest wore trailed on the ground behind him, its intricate fringe sparkling from the gold woven into it. He removed it and placed it on a chair, to reveal a many-layered set of robes that he wore underneath.

At the table they were led to, two assistants were already seated, wearing a set of red robes and bearing on their heads hats that could only be described as ridiculously oversized and garish.

“So I understand that this man is Lipmon from Still Creek-for and that his town has been destroyed by the Omnia. That is a most serious charge if it is true,” Saurek said as he gently lowered himself into his seat. He gestured for the two men to sit and they sat opposite Saurek, while his two red-cloaked assistants flanked him on either side, quill pens scratching on the papers that lay in front of them.

“I believe the soldiers were from the Omnia,” Roderick noted.

“So, why would the Omnia come all this way to destroy your town, Mr. Lipmon? It is certainly not the town nearest to Lamosa that we have converted to the Fourth Road to Divinity. So why there?” Saurek asked in a soft and delicate voice.

<-- Go to Part 66         Go to Part 68 -->

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 66

The young sentry picked up Amida when she didn’t reply immediately, grabbing her by her cloak and pulling her to her feet. He then pushed her forward towards the center of the camp, jabbing the tip of the stone dagger emphatically into her back. Amida raised her hands to show she wasn’t armed, and in this posture she approached Erek-Monte who had been sitting while he talked with his courier, Holge-Sant.

“What is this?” Erek-Monte commented as he saw the meek but defiant woman entering his camp, “She looks hefty enough to be one of ours.” He got a riotous agreement in the form of roaring laughter from his men after he said this.

“Who are you?” Erek-Monte asked, enunciating slowly.

“Amida,” she replied.

He gestured for his sentry to bring her forward to him, and then he reached out and touched the fabric of her cloak. Amida recoiled energetically, but he grabbed her ankle to stop her. Then, feeling the muscles of her legs, he commented, “Yes, definitely sturdy enough to be one of ours.” His comment inspired many cheerful assents from his soldiers.

“You are a Sage, then?” Erek-Monte asked her. She didn’t understand the word he used for “Sage” and looked at him perplexed. Erek-Monte said, “A Sage. First child of the Aresan king, living out there in that cloister where ‘Jule’ is, reading and exercising all day while your servants do all the hard work. A Sage.”

Amida understood the gist of what he said and nodded.

“And a spy too. You know that word, don’t you? Creeping through the woods, hiding, listening in on what we say so you can tell your Sage friends about what goes on the vast uninhabited mountains between you and the Fourth Order. Yes, yes, you don’t need to answer me. You are a spy.”

Amida remained motionless, trying to catch all the words that speedily poured out of Erek-Monte’s mouth but failing.

“And you are young for a Sage. And nice to look at,” he commented, and his men agreed with their shouts of assent.

“I am not young,” Amida replied in the language of the Itinerants, “I am six eight. Six tens and eight years.”

“Whoa ho ho,” Erek-Monte shouted with surprise, “You’re an old crone. But still beautiful, right? In fact you’d make the perfect prostitute: young-looking enough to tempt a virile boy, but old enough that your womb is already withered up and dead.” His men laughed uproariously at this.

Erek-Monte had to calm his men down before he could continue: “If you didn’t understand everything I said, understand this: we’re taking you prisoner. That means we tie you up and drag you round with us, and we won’t let you go until we say you can. We won’t kill you. No reason to kill you until you give us a reason. Right? You do what we want and go where we go. A prisoner. Ha! That’s you.”

“You are our prisoner,” Holge-Sant interjected in the Omnian language at this point.

“I understand him,” Amida replied bitterly in Omnian. Then she said to Erek-Monte in his language, “I am a prisoner. I do whatever you want.”

Upon hearing her say this in her thick and exotic accent, the men shared a coarse, throaty laugh among them.

The glories of Waldoon, the capital city of the Fourth Order, located in the heart of the great valley of Summer Park, surpassed anything that Lipmon could’ve ever imagined. The buildings seemed to stretch so high that, as Roderick helped him along that morning, he wondered how they did not already touch the ceiling of heaven. He recalled being told that in Ancient times, before the downfall of the Five Cities, there were buildings, not just among the Five Cities, but in many great cities, that were tall enough to make the buildings in Waldoon appear as a man next to an old pine; so he figured that even the buildings of Waldoon would require many more stories before one could climb up into heaven from their rooftops. Nonetheless, they were, he was told, closer to heaven than any other building currently standing on the face of the earth.

Roderick helped him into one of the small rickshaws designed to navigate the narrow streets of Waldoon, and towards the highest of those buildings they headed. That building was the central citadel of the Palace of Adrus. It stood on a hill in the center of the city and was visible from all parts of the city. The buildings around it seemed to reach up towards its glowing, marble surface, yet still fall well short of its height, so high did it stretch up into the sky.

There in that building were they to find the High Priest, who Lipmon was supposed to tell about Tann and his former home of Still Creek-for.

<-- Go to Part 65         Go to Part 67 -->

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

Monday, November 12, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 65

As soon as Samuel’s hood was removed, Westerly screamed for help. When he looked into the child’s eyes he be began to hyperventilate with terror. Samuel looked back at him curiously, not quite understanding what was going on, and reluctant to do anything. Westerly sense that he could not breathe only made him more terrified. He collapsed on the ground, and Samuel was immediately hooded clearly disappointed that he couldn’t see this little adventure through to its conclusion.

Westerly had to be helped out of the room by Rock and Jyorg, who also guided him to his private quarantine in a nearby facility.

Apamix, Taney and Sidd asked Eldeba to take the child away, so that they could discuss the boy in private. Eldeba took the hand of Samuel in his and led him out through the door of the room, the small steps of the child scrambling to keep up with Eldeba’s long gait.

Apamix began: “As supposed before, the child’s medium of influence is apparently through direct visual contact with the eyes. The shielding of his eyes appears to completely neutralize his powers.”

Taney added: “And as supposed, he controls his targets through an empathic manipulation of their emotions. He controls their feelings and uses that effect to actuate his desires. For example, it seems doubtless that the child seeks to escape and that he is trying to use our subjects to achieve his objective.”

Sidd further: “Though it is curious that the child appears to have different effects on different subjects. I was quite surprised myself to see how different the two subjects’ reactions were. Either the child was trying out different approaches or, as I suppose, the effect is really more unpredictable than we would’ve expected.”

The three philosophers nodded in unison as they each spoke in turn, all three concluding that further research would be necessary, though the results of this initial study were promising.

Amida spent the whole of the night following the trail of the unnamed courier who she’d seen speaking with Jule. They descended to the bottom of a valley and passed along a stream for much of the night, before the courier began to angle uphill and head up and over a pass and continue along the leeward slope of a mountain.

Amida did everything possible to avoid being seen, taking extra caution to maintain ample distance between her and the dark figure that was always but a tiny shape in her field of view. In the early light of morning, after walking the whole night without rest, she saw the man approaching what she could clearly identify as the smoke of a fire, probably a campfire. She hustled forward to broach the distance, and then as she neared the campfire, and could begin to smell the smoke and even the scent of what appeared to be cooking meat, she proceeded with even greater caution.

She was currently on fairly flat terrain, in the midst of a coniferous forest of sparse density. The ground was covered in exposed bedrock and limited underbrush. Amida used this limited cover to hide herself as she approach, crawling in on her hands and knees at a sluggish pace along the needle-strewn floor, slowing bringing the sounds of the camp within earshot.

As she approached closer, she heard laughter and the indistinct sound of voices. She recognized the language of the itinerant tribes, a language she could understand with some facility but which she would hardly call herself competent enough to speak.

At first she heard conversations about eating and drinking, then she heard the leader of the group greeting someone, apparently the person Amida had been following. She peaked over the hedges she hid behind to catch a glimpse of what she heard, and recognized the courier, now more detailed in her sight. She now could see his overgrown beard, braided hair and the animal-skin clothing that covered his chapped, leathery skin.

The courier said something along the lines of: “He burned the watermill; no one knows it was him, but they might be suspicious.” Then he asked if Jule should leave or do more damage. The leader of the group said to the courier what sounded like, “Tell him to stay.” And then offered the courier some food.

Amida was ready to retract at this point and return to the cloisters, when a pair of feet loudly stomped to the ground from above right next to her. When Amida rolled over the see who it was, she saw a young man in animal skins with a stone dagger pointing at her neck. From his lips she heard a familiar question that she could easily translate. “Who are you?” he shouted, as he threatened her with the dagger.

<-- Go to Part 64         Go to Part 66 -->

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

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 64

Imann, hard and menacing soldier in the face of enemies, trembled visibly in anticipation of the exposure of the child’s eyes. Some rumors had already circulated among the soldiers that Samuel could kill with a glance. It was said that if Samuel stared hard enough at someone’s heart, it could be made to explode within the chest, and if he stared at someone’s mouth he could steal the breath until the person suffocated. Two of Imann’s colleagues, Rock and Jyorg, stood guard to the side in order to provide security and protection should Imann grow unruly or should he be compelled by Samuel to do anything unexpected.

“You were among the soldiers that were on the mission to fetch Samuel, is that correct?” Apamix asked. Imann nodded as he looked nervously at the three philosophers, each holding a wax table and stylus in hand to take notes upon. The two soldiers and the three philosophers stood in a recess to the side, from which they could watch Imann unimpeded, while at the same time being invisible to and unable to see Samuel.

Taney added: “We are going to unhood the child in front of you, and we ask that you look into the child’s eyes. We please ask that you not avert your eyes. We assure you that you are in no danger.” Imann nodded, apparently uncomforted by the philosopher’s words.

“And we want you to pay close attention to your own feelings when you see his eyes. It is very important for us to get an accurate record of the way that he effects your emotions,” Sidd further added, and again Imann nodded, while he swallowed uncomfortably.

“Eldeba, you may proceed,” Apamix instructed.

Eldeba, standing behind Samuel, removed the hood from his head, and then untied the blindfold and removed it. Imman winced and turned away as soon as Samuel’s eyes were exposed.

“If you could please look at the child for a moment, we need to know your reaction,” Taney asked politely.

Imann turned his head in Samuel’s direction but pointed his eyes at the child’s mouth, avoiding his steady gaze.

“Please look directly into the child’s eyes, if you please. Do not be afraid. There is no harm,” Sidd reassured, a bit more firmly.

Imann looked into the little boys large blue eyes, which observed him with piercing curiosity. When Imann saw those eyes, which stared with such innocence that they seemed to glow, he couldn’t help but be immediately soothed, and he wanted to soothe them as well.

“Seeing his eyes is so reassuring,” Imann said to the philosophers, “I feel a perfect calm.”

When Imann changed his position within his chair, putting one foot on the ground and resting his elbow on one knee, Samuel tried his best to imitate him, mimicking his movements and trying to mirror his position. Imann smiled and laughed a little, which Samuel silently mimicked.

“That will be enough,” Apamix said, and Eldeba hooded Samuel suddenly. Imann was flushed with a sudden anger at the researchers. He lunged at them shouting: “This is monstrous! What are you doing to this poor child? He doesn’t deserve this. Release him. Please. He shouldn't be here, not like this.”

Imann had to be restrained by his two colleagues, who dragged him out of the room.

We will take your opinion in advisement,” Taney politely replied.

“But he’s obviously not a danger,” Westerly pleaded, “Can’t you see that. Clearly can’t you see he’s not a danger?”

“Thank you. You have been most helpful.” Sidd added, gesturing for the soldiers to lead him through the door. They escorted Imann to a jail cell where he would be kept in quarantine for many days.

After some wait the next subject was brought in: a younger soldier named Westerly, who was a new recruit soon to leave for the winterward forts for an extended away mission. The boyish-faced, clean-shaven soldier, unlike Imann, wasn’t simply nervous when he entered the room, but was downright terrified. The stories he’d heard about the prodigal prodigy were even more terrifying than those Imann had heard. People had told him that the reason the town of Still Creek worshipped Samuel was to placate his rather temperamental wrath. Some even said the child’s eyes were two Blank Holes through which Death might reach and snatch him into the Undergrave, a land permanently apart from the blissful afterlife promised to the followers of Anan.

<-- Go to Part 63         Go to Part 65 -->

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

Friday, November 9, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 63

Anders’ three official philosophers of state, Apamix, Taney and Sidd arrived at the Private House soon afterwards. They all wore the black velvet robes and purple hexagonal caps with gold tassels that identified them as learned doctors of philosophy. They were like three figures from the same mold with only slight variation, each with white wisps of hair sticking out from beneath their caps and identical trim grey beards. The three only really varied in girth and height, with Apamix being the tallest, Taney the fattest and Sidd the in between.

“We have come to collect our subject,” Apamey said to Anders’ servant Eldeba.

“The so-called ‘Prodigal Prodigy,’ as he’s known,” Taney continued.

“Or, Samuel, as he’s more properly addressed,” Sidd added.

Eldeba, who was dressed formally, bowed stiffly and showed them to the room where Samuel was eating. The child was inexpertly stuffing the food into his mouth with his hands and chewing away loudly at it with large, smacking bites. He seemed to take glee in the simple act of eating by himself and relished the delicious meal. After he was finished Eldeba wiped off the child’s hands and put the hood back on his head, and then led him from the room by his hand.

“How old is this boy?” Apamix asked as they walked, directing his question at Eldeba.

“Six or seven years of age, I would estimate,” Taney replied instead.

“I’d estimate some five or six years, based on his height and cranial size,” Sidd added.

“That’s probably about right,” Eldeba said, “But we don’t know. They never found his mother. Tragic thing, isn’t it?”

“Yes, especially when we consider the outcomes that result when a child is deprived of a proper mother,” Apamix commented.

“Undoubtedly,” Taney added, “Perhaps that may account for his expressive aphasia.”

“A plausible theory,” Sidd concurred, “Parents are essential for language acquisition, and, without such linguistic models, he may have been permanently deprived of speech.”

All three philosophers nodded their heads in agreement at the conclusion of these words.

They led the boy, with Eldeba’s assistance, to their school, the Monaster Scribnal House, a school of advanced education founded by the Scribes of the Monaster clan over a century ago. The grounds of the school directly abutted the grounds of the Premier’s Private House, such that the walk was short.

They led the boy into the doors of the white-stone building through the halls of their august institution to a lab where they’d already set up for their experiments. The windowless room they entered was filled with all types of curious apparatuses and substances contained in many earthenware jars and bowls and small sacks strewn throughout many rooms. The room was bordered with four cold grey walls, and, though carpets that hung upon the walls and were spread across the floor softened these walls, the room was cold and had a cavernous reverberation when anyone spoke.

The philosophers sat the boy down in a chair in one end of the room and began with some direct observation, measuring his proportions, examining his skin, checking his tongue, his nails, even seeking samples of his excrement. All the while, Samuel remained calm, the black hood covering his face.

After completing these tasks, the philosophers took notes on their wax tablets and discussed the significance of the observations. Eldeba let the child stroll around the room during this break. Samuel couldn’t see a thing through the hood, but this didn’t prevent him from moving around the room with careless abandon, his hands outstretched to search out walls before he hit them, running around as if he really didn’t care if he ran into anything. The philosophers dodged out of the way, so he didn’t run into their legs, and all the while he snaked around the room in circles, bumping his arms and elbows occasionally against the walls, but continuing undeterred nonetheless.

After this respite, the philosophers took a hold of Samuel’s small hands and led him back to his chair. The next phase of their investigations would be to see the effects that the child’s eyes had on human subjects.

“I’ve long wished for an opportunity to study a Sable first-hand,” Apamix admitted to his two colleagues, “To see the true extent of their powers.”

“They are a natural manifestation of the divinity’s power on earth, gentleman,” Taney added, “Today’s investigations will provide evidence for it, I am sure.”

“I myself have long been skeptical of their existence,” Sidd admitted, “I always assumed they were pure myth. I am still not convinced this boy is truly one of them.”

Eldeba stood behind Samuel in his chair, when the three philosophers called in their first test subject, Imann, and asked him to sit in a chair facing the still hooded Samuel.

<-- Go to Part 62         Go to Part 64 -->

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 62

The raider Noone and Amida saw appeared to have been hiding within the grass, having stood up, in anticipation of Jule’s arrival. In the faint starlight, they saw that it was a large, strong man, wearing a vest of animal skin and bearing on his body the three sheaths that indicated he was a member of one of the itinerant tribes.

As soon as Jule approached him, a few words passed between them, well out of the range Noone and Amida’s hearing. Noone hastily whispered to Amida, “Go to your room. Pack a bag. You’re following that man!”

Amida hesitated for only a moment, somewhat surprised by the sudden command, before she sprinted back to the entrance and towards her room. While she was away, Noone tensely watched the two figures, whispering to herself, “Hurry Amida. Hurry. They’re not going to be there forever.”

In her room, Amida was pulling out the backpack that she’d just recently used to transport her meager possessions back from Lamosa. She immediately dumped the contents out onto the bed and picked the few items that she thought would be useful: a heavy cloak, leather boots, a blanket, and a dagger, among other things. She ran to the kitchen, snatched a loaf of bread and a block of cheese, and, wrapping them in a cloth, plunged them into her bag. With the bag on her shoulders, she raced down the hall.

While Noone watched the meeting between the two men in the distance, a quick handshake passed between them, and Jule started to ascend the slope back towards the wall of the cloisters. The other man didn’t wait, and immediately started to walk briskly downslope towards the floor of the valley. Noone could see the faint shadow by starlight as it slowly shrank, becoming more and more indiscernible in the shadows of night.

Just at that moment, Amida reached Noone’s side, a bag on her back and ready to run.

“There! Do you see him? Keep him in your sight!” Noone said pointing to the small, moving shadow in the distance. Amida squinted, just barely able to see the tiny object that Noone pointed to.

Amida started to run, when Noone grabbed her and gave her final instructions, “Follow him! Be stealthy. He’s assuredly just a courier. Try to overhear what message he passes on. Importantly, see who he’s with. And then get back here. And most important of all: be safe!”

Amida nodded her head and replied, “Yes, Eldest,” before she turned and started to run down the slope in the direction of the disappearing shadow. As she started to broach the distance and moved closer towards the distance shadow, she started to slow down, and keep her steps as silent as possible, while she stalked him from a distance.

As the light of dawn began pour through the windows of the Private House where Anders resided, the servants and staff began to rise from their beds and prepare the house for morning. The house itself sprawled out from the center of a large garden in the heart of Lamosa. Four two-story wings extended in each of the cardinal directions around a central hub, which was capped by a round dome.

In an interior room within this home, Samuel slept. One of the servants, Eldeba, opened the door to this room and peaked inside. A black cloth had been placed over his head and secured around his neck so that he couldn’t remove it. This cloth-covered head Samuel upon a pillow and breathed heavily while he slept.

Eldeba told Samuel to get up, and when the boy didn’t respond, he stepped forward and touched his shoulder, causing the boy to jolt and rise from his sleep. Samuel silently reached out a hand to touch the person who had awoken him. Thin, cotton gloves covered his hands, and with these he reached out and touched the face of the servant.

“Your breakfast is here,” the servant said, as he set a tray of food on a table next to the bed. Eldeba then carefully removed the head covering from the boy’s head. The sweet innocent face of the boy was exposed, but he still had another cloth wrapped as a blindfold around his eyes. Eldeba helped Samuel’s hands to find the food. Once Samuel recognized the texture of food on his fingertips, he leaned down and inhaled the warm aroma of the food and gave a broad smile.

“You’ll want to eat well, my boy,” Eldeba added, “They’re going to be testing you today. Nothing harrowing, I hope. But you’ll need your strength.”

<-- Go to Part 61         Go to Part 63 -->

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 61

Mill bolstered his determination as an unendurably long wait transpired; he encouraged himself, insisted to himself that the feat that was so difficult to perform before, would now be easy, that he would simply need to slip the blade into its place in Lipmon’s stomach and flee, and then it would be all over. He imagined the scenario in his mind again and again, as he listened for the sound of Lipmon and Roderick passing on the road.

But instead, he heard a surprising and disconcerting sound in the distance coming from the square. It was Roderick speaking with his driver as he stepped into the cab and helped Lipmon enter behind him. Mill peaked out from behind his hiding place and saw it clearly: They’d already arrived at the carriage and were boarding it as he watched them. They must have approached by a different road than he’d expected and had managed, by pure accident, to avoid the trap laid for them.

Mill cursed, and quickly hid away the blade, as he determined to run for the carriage. The carriage was a four-wheeler, with a large seat, ample enough for three in the back, and a small seat up front for the driver. The top was open, with a canvas awning that protected the passengers from the sun. Baggage was carried on a wide shelf on the back, which was now bearing the trunk that Roderick had brought. Mill aimed for this little shelf, discreetly running towards the carriage.

Whether anyone in the town square noticed his approach, he couldn’t tell, but none of the persons aboard the carriage took any notice when he hopped on top of the trunk and stretched his body lengthwise just as the horses were being whipped into motion. Apparently the clattering of the horse’s hooves and the rattling of the wheels on the stone street was enough to conceal the sound of Mill moving into place and putting his body and small bag into a comfortable and manageable position.

From his position he watched the streets retreat behind him and the buildings on either side retreat into the distance. He thought about how each step took him further and further away from his love and began to drift out of consciousness as the jostling of the road rocked him to sleep.

From the shadows, Noone sat, her frail body hunched over as she watched the door to Jule’s room, staring down the dark, starlit hallway. She waited for movement, any movement that might wake her from this tiresome and tedious task. She could see also the courtyard obliquely through a gap in the wall, in case Jule were to depart through his window and across the courtyard.

Almost noiseless footsteps approached from behind, and Noone turned to see Amida gingerly walking towards her. The tight, black curls of Amida’s hair were splayed in all directions like the branches of a bush, and, as she briefly ran her fingers through her hair, the hand only temporarily flattened it, before it sprang up again.

“Nothing?” Amida quietly asked. Noone silently shook her head and began to rise, ready to head to the too long delayed sleep that her body ached for, while Amida simultaneously began to sit down in her place.

Just then, both sets of eyes were drawn in the direction of Jule’s room, where the sound of a door opening could be heard. Both women immediately flattened themselves against the wall and remained still, concealed in the shadows. They saw Jule emerge, his large hands gripping the door and quietly closing it. After he looked in all directions to make sure that no one saw him, he began to walk down the hall away from Noone and Amida. They silently followed behind him, until he exited into the courtyard and began climbing the exterior wall.

“We’ll go around,” Noone say, pointing her and Amida towards the gallery. They exited through the main entrance, passing by two sentries who looked at the two sages and were about to speak before Noone gestured for them to remain silent.

By the time Noone and Amida had circled around the exterior of the cloisters, they saw the large form of Jule dropping from the wall. He walked down hill, and they watched him shrink into the distance towards what unmistakably appeared to be an itinerant raider standing up from a place of concealment.

<-- Go to Part 60         Go to Part 62 -->

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

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Aresan Clan Summary - Parts 51-60

Noone and Eloh search the rooms of Jule and Arrs. They find nothing suspicious in Arrs’ room, but Jule seems probably to be the perpetrator since he possesses a dark lamp that has been recently used. Noone is intrigued by his massive collection of books.

In the woods south of Orinda, Mill encounters Erek-Monte and his tribe. Not wanting to take the news all the way to Lamosa, he pays Dylan-Nantes and writes a message for him to take to Anders. Mill then heads back to Orinda to be with his lover, Anika while Dylan-Nantes heads to Lamosa.

Darma takes Salles to a dance hall in the evening in an upscale part of town. There is dancing and music and Salles struggles to follow the steps of the dance, but Darma has a great time.

Alles and his men finish another day of marching, arriving now within sight of the Outer Bulwark, a high outer wall around the edges of Sanlosslee park, the valley in which Lamosa is located. Sharing the tent with Alles one last night, Annsi is told by Alles that she needn’t sleep with him, and that he would always protect her as a fellow soldier no matter whether she slept with him or not. Spontaneously, Annsi decides that she wants to have sex with Alles without her soldier’s sponge, in the hope that he might impregnate her.

The next day, the soldiers arrive in Lamosa and Salles meets with them and invites Annsi and Alles to share dinner with him and Darma at Darma’s place. They both consent.

Mill, worn out from walking for more than a day straight without rest arrives back in Orinda and immediately visits Anika. She tells him that Lipmon is recovering his health and is leaving with Roderick for Waldoon that day. Mill realizes he has to stop Lipmon immediately.

<-- Summary of Parts 41-50              Summary of Parts 61-70 -->

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

Aresan Clan pt 60

“Goat shit!” Mill swore with some bitterness. Anika cringed a little, and Mill apologized, “Excuse my speech.”

Mill stood from the bed, pushing Anika out of the way. “By Death’s Head, I don’t need this!” he swore again, walking towards the door. He stopped and looked back at Anika, who appeared to be hurt and confused.

“Excuse my swearing,” he said, “I promise I’ll be back. I promise, when I get back, I’ll tell you everything I’ve been keeping from you. These secrets, they gnaw my insides, and I need to spit them out. I just don’t have any time to waste right now. In fact, if you know anything about when Lipmon is leaving, I need to know.”

“I worry so much about you,” Anika said, some tears welling up in her eyes, “I know you’re involved in something dangerous. I know it. Know that I love you and I trust you, but I don’t want you to go. Something terrible is going to happen, and you’re not coming back.”

Mill paused and took a deep breath. “I love you too,” Mill said, taking her cheeks in his hands and looking deeply into her eyes, “And I don’t want to go either, but I have to.”

As he ran to the through the door, Mill said, “I promise I’ll be back.” Once outside, he zigzagged through the streets of Orinda at a rapid pace. He ran directly to the back of Merek and Maya’s cottage to look into the window through which he’d earlier seen Lipmon resting. But as he peaked within, he only saw an empty room, with a freshly made bed where Lipmon had rested.

Immediately, Mill turned around and ran to the front of the cottage. Just as he rounded the corner, he saw Lipmon walking out the front door, with Roderick providing assistance to the sickly man. Mill immediately hid out of sight of the two. Several attendants followed behind Roderick bearing a heavy, wooden chest and a bag of food.

As Mill watched this small procession, his mind began to rapidly consider his options. Lipmon had to be killed. Mill knew he was a damn fool for not doing it earlier. Mill drew a dagger from his bag and readied it in his hand. But he couldn’t do it here. He needed somewhere where Lipmon wasn’t surrounded by others, so that Mill could run up to him, stab him, and flee. Perhaps he could ambush him near the gates of the city just as Roderick and Lipmon were leaving. No, that wouldn’t work. Roderick would probably not be travelling by foot. Roderick would probably use his carriage. The road to Waldoon was flat and well maintained – ideal for travel by carriage. So he’d have to do it before they boarded the carriage. But where would they be boarding the carriage? The carriage wasn’t nearby. The streets were too narrow here. It would somewhere not too far, with wide enough access that a carriage could be moved in and out. Where could that be? A few options came to mind, but the town square seemed the most likely.

Mill left his hiding place as they faced away from him, darting across the street and hiding behind another building, as he edged his way towards the center of town. He ran down streets and cut through yards, all well out of sight of the more direct path that Lipmon and Roderick would assuredly be taking.

When he reached the town square, he peaked around a building to make sure that the party had not arrived. The square was an open space in the middle of the city where the ground was paved with stone and where many merchants set up their stalls daily to sell their wares. Waiting at the center of the square was a driver with horse and carriage. The wooden exterior of the carriage had been elegantly decorated with bright colors and intricate patterns. Leaning against it was the driver, holding a long driving crop in hand and impatiently waiting for his master to return.

Mill decided that the best place to ambush them would be just as Roderick and Lipmon were entering the square. There was a narrow, shaded path that intersected with the road where he expected them to pass. Hesitating no longer, he sped across the square and took a few steps down this path, until he was out of sight.

Perched behind a tree, he gripped the handle of the still-drawn blade, his sweat-wetted hands fidgeting and squirming in anticipation of the soon-to-arrive receptacle of his weapon.

<-- Go to Part 59         Go to Part 61 -->

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

Friday, November 2, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 59

Annsi asked Anders, “Who’s going to take care of Samuel? You sure you don’t need my help, do you? I’ve had a chance to get to know him over these past few days.”

“Don’t worry,” Anders interjeted, “We’ve got people for that. And I should add that it’s important that you don’t grow too attached to him. As I understand it that’s part of his power. It’s really by using our natural sympathies against us that sables are able to coerce us.”

“Of course,” Annsi retracted, “You’re right.”

Salles at this point tried to step forward and speak with Annsi, but the line of guards stood firm to block his way, telling him, “No one passes, stand down.”

“I just need to speak with Annsi,” Salles insisted, “She’s my daughter.”

At this point Annsi noticed Salles being repelled and walked towards him. She asked, confused, “Father? Is that you? What are you doing here?”

“I was told you were here,” Salles said, “And I just came here to meet with you and perhaps invite you to dinner.”

Annsi pushed through the line of soldiers to stand face to face with her father, who she looked at as a stranger. “You know it’s great to see you here,” Salles added, trying to break the awkwardness between them, “I so rarely come here to the city and rarely have any chance to see you. This is Mistress Darma. She’s been my host while I’m in the city. Her parents are members of the Aresan Clan. The dinner, if you can join us, will be held at her place. Perhaps you could even invite your commanding officer, Alles, to join us. I will be preparing Sage cuisine, so I’m sure he’ll regard it as an honor to sit with a Sage and share his meal.”

“I would be honored as well, father,” Annsi said, bowing, “If you’ll excuse me a moment, I’ll ask Alles.

Annsi walked to Alles and tapped him on the soldier and began to speak with him. She pointed in Salles’ direction and Alles turned to look at the distinguished sage. After that he nodded his head and then Annsi looked in Salles’ direction and nodded her head.

Darma leaned towards Salles and whispered in his ear, “She’s not like I imagined her. She’s very beautiful. There’s an elegant woman behind that armor. Dinner should be good.”

Salles simply nodded in agreement.

Mill took a wide route circling around Orinda to avoid the hunting grounds of the Creature of Virtue. He arrived at the far end and, stepping onto the main road into the city breathless and fatigued, he finally walked directly into the city. He hadn’t given himself any chance to sleep through the previous night, so much in a hurry to reach Orinda was he.

He looked ragged and unkempt as he shambled across the bridge into Orinda. The two guards who stood atop the gates of the city looked down on him, asking, somewhat surprised, “Aleck, is that you?”

“Yes,” he replied, “I’ve made quite a journey over the past two days. I’m so tired, I can barely stand.”

They opened the gate and he shuffled through. Though he knew that it was his duty to immediately check on Lipmon, he felt compelled to make his first visit to Anika, in the hopes that her sweet smile would lighten his disconsolate mood.

When he reached her house, he stepped through the gate and walked up to the door of the small, white wall cottage, where a trickle of smoke emerged from out of the chimney. Mill pounded on the door, and the pleasant, young woman was there at the door in a moment.

When she saw Mill she shouted with shock, and grabbed him in her arms, correctly perceiving that he was ready to collapse. She helped him over to a bed and lied him down, touching his forehead and asking, “Oh, dear Aleck, what’s wrong? You look terrible.”

“I’m just tired. So tired,” he said as his body stretched out and his heavy eyes began to close. “But I have to ask you something,” he groggily inquired, barely awake, “Whatever happened to that man from Still Creek? Lipmon, or whatever his name was.”

“If you’re tired, just sleep. I can’t see why you’d possible need to know now,” Anika replied.

Mill opened his eyes, and, looking up at her beautiful face with a pitiful expression, he said, “Just tell me, please. I need to know.”

“All I know is that he’s leaving today. I think Roderick is taking him to Waldoon. Apparently he witnessed an attack and they need him to report to the priesthood. It seems he saw something very important.”

Mill immediately sat up in bed and swore.

<-- Go to Part 58         Go to Part 60 -->

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