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.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 93

“Now let’s just get you out of that toga,” Darma said, taking Annsi by the hand and leading her into her bedroom. When Darma opened up a tall oak wardrobe, it was stacked high with beautiful garments, with several glowing dresses hanging beside it.

Darma first removed the pins that held Annsi’s toga in place, and then unwrapped the cloth from around her. Annsi was clothed only in a loincloth around her waist, and she shyly covered herself up with her hands.

Darma pushed her arms to her side saying, “You don't need to be bashful. It’s just us women. Besides these are some remarkable ornaments. It’ll be hard to fit you in any dresses of mine with a mountains this high.”

Darma cupped one of Annsi’s breasts in her hand and said, “We’re going to have to find a dress to hold these up these heavy lumps of flesh. You’ll want to accentuate them. They’re your weapons. And so many men will be your enslaved prisoners by their destructive power. But surely that’s what every woman wants, isn’t it? A captive husband to take care of her?”

Darma pulled several dresses out of the closet and laid them out. She ordered Annsi to try each one of them on in succession. As Annsi tried on dresses, Darma lectured. “We’ll have to put some effort into making you as feminine as you can. The army’s made you fit and trim, but hasn’t exactly accentuated your feminine curves, though you have a beautiful shape. Of course, we won’t be able to tell anyone you’ve been in the army. We’ll have to make something up. Maybe we could say you’ve been staying at the Aresan Court or you’ve been travelling for a long time. Unfortunately, those men want us women brand new like a loaf fresh out of the oven—fresh and virginal and untouched by any other man—and it’s hard for them to believe a woman who’s served in the army could possible be one of those. I can confess to you that I was not married off as a virgin, though I did an excellent job of convincing Dorin that I was. If you don’t mind me asking, is it the same with you?”

Annsi nodded her head as she pulled the third dress onto her and showed it off. “Some handsome young soldier?” Darma asked with a smile, adding with an even bigger smile, “Or perhaps several young handsome soldiers?”

“Just General Alles,” Annsi shyly admitted, “Only him.”

“Oh wow!” Darma replied with admiration, “You don’t have low standards at all. You go straight for the best. We might have trouble finding a man that’ll suit your high standards.” She laughed and then told Annsi, “Just kidding. The men will be yours for the choosing.”

“I should confess though that, in the course of my relations with Alles, I may have become impregnated,” Annsi said, looking down at her belly.

Darma tenderly touched Annsi’s belly and said, “That is exciting. That’s some great child growing in your belly, with an enviable pedigree: the child of Alles and the great-grandchild of whatever Aresan King who was Alles’ father. I hope this was recently.” Darma commented on the last of the dresses that Annsi was wearing, a shiny silver dress that fit closer than the others, “Now that one looks nice.”

“Yes, most recently,” Annsi replied.

“Then you’ll have perhaps until the end of Madrus before you start showing, and three seasons from now until it pops out. If we can get you married soon enough, then you can talk your future husband into thinking it’s his. We might be getting ahead of ourselves, but, of course, when the time comes to fulfill your wifely duty, you’ll have to pretend you don’t know what you’re doing. So long as you can remember how clumsy you were your first time, you’ll be golden.” Darma laughed a little at her own comment.

“But I won’t bleed,” Annsi admitted with some apparent shame.

“We’ll worry about that later. Now we need to take care of your hair. As I said, we want to make you as feminine as possible. And we’ll have to hurry, lest we’re late for dinner.”

Annsi and Darma arrived at the perfect time to Arianna’s dinner, only just barely late enough to be the center of attention of all the guests who’d arrived on time as they entered, but not so late to be irksome. Darma was the star of the evening, as usual, but as the piece of jewelry hanging on her arm, Annsi dazzled by her association with her. With Darma there to aid her in conversation, she said interesting things, made humorous jokes and made herself memorable enough that, by the end of the evening, she already had more than one interested suitor.

<-- Go to Part 92         Go to Part 94 -->

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

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 92

The Creature of Virtue was a frightening animal as she approached close to Roderick, who was unarmed and unprotected, but she lowered herself submissively when she saw him standing there waiting for her. She bent her forelegs to lower her head down to the ground while her tail still remained high in the air lilting slowly. The large feline waited, and Roderick tossed a large piece of meat in her direction. She snapped up the meat off the ground, exposing the sharp, white teeth as she chewed.

Roderick cautiously moved forward and touched his hand to the head of the cat. She was covered with a thick layer of gray, striped fur, and as he felt through her warm coat, the animal rumbled with an approving purr. He held out the garment which contained Mill’s scent before the nose of the animal and she gave it a sniff.

“He is banned from the city,” Roderick explained to the cat as he touched her head, “If you should smell him, kill him.”

Roderick then dropped another piece of meat for the animal, and she gobbled it up just as quickly. Then he clapped his hands twice and said,” Now off you go,” and the animal departed through the entryway from which she came.

Amida found her time of confinement to be something of a recreation. She was able to reestablish her schedule: sleeping when she wanted to sleep, exercising when she wanted to exercise, and eating when she wanted to eat. And with no duties or chores that she was bound to daily perform, as was the norm in the cloisters, she had more free time to relax and meditate.

The female Itinerant, Chrissina, who had been left to attend her, brought her food. The food, at least from Amida’s perspective, left something to be desired, since it mostly consisted of freshly caught meat. It was not the round and varied diet of the cloisters consisting of several carefully prepared and processed meals.

That being said, Amida liked this woman Chrissina: she was large, strong, tough and generous. Chrisssina provided bounteous plates of food for her: catching the game, cooking it over a fire and stuffing a hearty portion through the window for Amida as she called out sweetly to her, “The food is ready,” in her own language.

Chrissina didn’t know a word of Omnian so Amida would struggle to communicate to her with her limited command of the language. “Thank you for the food. It tastes wonderful,” Amida would tell her as she took the meat and would slowly gnaw at it with her hands.

The room itself was stocked with artifacts that the Itinerants had collected for trading: bits of ancient brickwork and cement, fragments of wood and bits of glass, metal tool, utensils and coins. The most valuable pieces were works that harkened back to the forgotten craftsmanship of their forebears: small statues, painted ceramics and fragments of design and lettering from the walls of buildings.

After being delivered her latest meal, Amida called out to Chrissina, “Hey beautiful. When am I getting out? You hear anything?”

“I am not beautiful,” Chrissina said, peaking a smiling face through the window. She was a young woman and had a vigorous liveliness in her face, “But they’re sure to take you back soon. We don’t want to hold you here forever. It’s a lot of work to look after you. I mean nothing bad. I like you. Just that I could be helping my tribe.”

Amida nodded in understanding when she heard this and replied, “No hurry.”

When Annsi showed up at Darma’s house and was led in to see her, Darma’s first reaction, when she saw Annsi, was, “Oh no! We can’t take you to Arianna’s house looking like that.”

Annsi was wearing the same outfit she’d worn when she’d dined with Darma and Salles and she looked down at herself self-consciously. Darma had to immediately explain herself when she saw the way that Annsi looked so hurt and dejected. “No dear. It’s not that you don’t look beautiful. You do look beautiful. It’s just that when you go to dinner with people like these, it’s not enough to just look beautiful. You have to have to look expensive. You have to make the men think that if you were a trinket they were buying off a shelf, they’d have to pay a high price for you. These men, you see, are not looking for a bargain. You’re already beautiful, but these men are looking for something beautiful and costly.”

“But I’m not costly!” Annsi objected, holding out the somewhat worn fabric of her toga.

“Oh, but when we dress you up, you will be,” Darma said.

<-- Go to Part 91         Go to Part 93 -->

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

Friday, December 28, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 91

Lipmon lay upon a bed, his head propped up by several soft pillows as a young female servant set some food down beside him: steaming chicken stock, with a chunk of bread, some slices of beef and berries. He looked at the food eagerly and thanked the servant with a smile.

Roderick entered the room just as the servant was leaving and found Lipmon plopping a few berries into his mouth with great pleasure.

“I've never eaten this good in my life,” Lipmon commented when he saw Roderick enter, “And all it took was for me to witness my entire village destroyed and almost be killed twice.”

“The merest trifle,” Roderick replied sarcastically and smiled along with Lipmon who at least presently seemed to be able to see it all in a positive light. “But I was arriving to tell you that I am going to be returning to Orinda-forr for a few days,” Roderick continued, “I would take you with me, but your doctor recommends that you not be moved. I should think that you won't mind staying here, since the luxuries that the High Priest can provide are far superior to those you would find in my more modest home.”

“I’ll stay,” Lipmon said, “But it’s not the luxury that makes me want to stay. It’s that I need to recover quickly so I can join the army. From what I hear, they march soon, perhaps in only a few days.”

“You want to join the army?” Roderick asked, a bit surprised, “Why?”

“Because, if our army meets any resistance from the Omnian armies, then the man who gave me this scar will be surely among them,” Lipmon said, touching his face, “The same man who kidnapped Tann.”

“I can do nothing to discourage you,” Roderick replied shrugging his shoulders with disappointment, “Though you should be told that war is neck-deep in horrors and you are not a trained soldier. If they should give you a sword and let you out onto that battlefield, then certainly you can make the attempt and I hope luck is on your side.”

“I will,” Lipmon said with resolve, “And I won’t fail.”

“Then I may not see you again,” Roderick conceded, “Since you’ll probably have marched by the time I return.”

The two men shared a sober parting, and afterwards Roderick walked from the room. He exited from the High Priest’s castle, which was directly adjoining to the palace complex. He took a rickshaw to the house where he’d been staying in Waldoon and where his carriage waited. His baggage had already been prepared and the horses harnessed and ready, such that he merely had to step into the carriage and his driver immediately put it into motion.

It took most of the day for him to travel to Orinda-forr. He was driven over the bridge and through the gates of the village, waving to the guards that currently manned it. The horses were led up a sloped road, which approached the spacious home he occupied overlooking Orinda-forr. The house sprawled across the hill, its upper stories peaking up above the trees and it’s bottom story fronted by a set of stone columns.

The driver pulled directly into the stables. Roderick hopped off immediately and told his driver, “I’ll send someone to grab my trunk,” as he promptly walked towards the side entrance to his home.

A servant was there to open the door and deferentially said, “Welcome back, sir.”

“See to it that my luggage is brought in,” Roderick said, handing the man his jacket. The servant bowed and said, “Of course, sir.”

Roderick passed through the house and entered a room on the ground floor at the back known as the bestiary. The room was cold since it opened to the exterior. He put his lips to a mouthpiece attached to the wall, and, with all of the strength of his lungs, he blew. The mouthpiece connected to a pipe that spiraled upwards and opened as a large horn, which spewed its sound into the forest.

Roderick’s wife, Esma approached, though she didn’t enter the bestiary with him, instead speaking through a barred window, “Nice to see you back. What’re you calling the creature for?”

“Aleck has been excommunicated,” Roderick said as he reached into a leather sack and pulled out a piece of clothing that had been taken from Mill. A few minutes later a great lynx ran into the bestiary. She halted when she saw Roderick standing there waiting for her.

<-- Go to Part 90         Go to Part 92 -->

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 90

Mill languished in his cell: hungry, cold, bored and anxious over his fate. When his door was once more opened without prelude and the guard entered and told Mill to get onto his feet immediately, he thought this might be the point when his fate would be finally resolved.

“Hurry to your feet. You’ve been tried and you’re going to be sentenced momentarily,” the guard said, “I ain’t letting you keep them waiting.”

Mill tried to promptly lift himself to his feet, though his muscles were stiff and sore. He followed the guard out of the cell, through the prison, and up the stairs to a window-lit hallway. This time he was led out outside, through a door into daylight.

When he stepped down the stairs to the dirt-covered street, he saw that crowds lined the thoroughfare that he was being led down. As soon as they saw him they launched into an onslaught of booing and yelling curses in his direction. Soon rocks were being launched at him, small ones mostly, cast at his body, bruising him on the arms and on the side, even a few striking his head.

“You’re not allowed to throw stones at him,” the guard shouted halfheartedly after several stones had already struck Mill, and the stones were brought to a halt.

Mill was led to a square, which had been cleared. In the center of it were a pair of parallel posts that protruded out of the ground. To these, Mill was led. As soon as he arrived, his shirt was stripped, leaving him topless before the crowd. Then one of his wrists was snatched and it was wrapped in a wrist strap attached to one of the poles. His other wrist was affixed to the opposite pole, and then ropes were pulled until his arms were fully splayed. His ankles were next affixed as well until his legs were spread, leaving him almost no room to move.

At this point, a crier who stepped forward read out the sentence. Mill could see the man just to his side and he shouted to the assembled crowd, from memory, a statement as it had been related to him: “Citizen Aleck of the city of Orinda-forr has been found guilty by a duly assembled court of law of having committed espionage on behalf of enemies of the Order of the Fourth Road to Divinity. Citizen Aleck has been cooperative and helpful in providing information to the Order, and for this reason leniency has been sought and granted. Citizen Aleck will be punished with a mere forty lashes to be administered immediately, and will be subsequently permanently excommunicated from all lands, cities and villages of the Order of the Fourth Road to Divinity from hereon and to the end of time.

“May it be the will of God that all punishment be just and that every man be punished in proportion to his crimes. Let the punishment commence.”

At this point Mill saw the crowd erupt in cheers. He could only turn his head to see behind him, and it was just enough to see a man bearing a large, leather bullwhip approaching. He clenched his body as something of a defense against the whip, and that long and unendurable period of anticipation began. It was then that he saw what appeared to be Kayla standing in the crowd, looking at him with a look that appeared to convey empathy for his plight.

When the first blow struck, he entirely went limp as energy was sapped from him by the agony. A long stinging line stretched across him after the thin tip of the whip violently slapped his back. The pain lingered and a red mark was left. The man gathered up the bullwhip, and, as soon as he’d done so, he swung it out to its full length. It again slapped him across the back, creating an agony that not only equaled, but stood on the shoulders of the one before.

More whips came in close succession. The pain of each lingered, like an echo, and as the number of whips increased, the echoes amplified into a cacophony of suffering. Mill’s skin was split open, leaving long bleeding wounds across his back, which dripped in red drops and made his back a mass of spattered red.

By the time the forty whips were finished, Mill didn’t have the strength to stand and he had to be carried from this square back to his cell. There he was dumped on the ground and left to suffer the still potent pain of his many wounds. At the time, he did not have the presence of mind to notice that he wasn’t being immediately released and banished from town, in accord with his excommunication.

<-- Go to Part 89         Go to Part 91 -->

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

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Aresan Clan Summary - Parts 81-90

Kayla asks Mill what he knows, claiming that she has been specifically asked about the Omnia’s plans of conquest. Mill doesn’t deny that what he said before about the conquest. Afterwards, she is released from prison, revealing that she was a confederate of Mill’s captors.

Erek-Monte drags Amida to a basement-level room from some ancient building and locks her within in order to secure her so they don’t have to drag her around with them. In the Cloisters, because Amida hasn’t been heard from, the Sages decide to put Jule in an improvised holding cell in the Cloisters’ storage cellar.

Alles, as promised, speaks with the Closed Table in private and lays out why securing the northern border is strategically and militaristically sensible. Though Anders and his faction oppose him, a majority is in favor, and the Omnia agrees to assist in fortifications for the Aresan Clan. Anders is infuriated, and starts contemplating how he could quietly get rid of Alles, especially since he is the major barrier to forcing the Aresans to join the Omnia.

Dylan-Nantes visits a farmhouse where he had slain the entire family simply in order that he might steal the father’s clothes and thus blend in when he had entered Lamosa. He changes back into his Itinerant clothes and leaves.

It is the first day of Madrus, which is a feast day. At the cloisters Noone and Eloh join the Sages and the residents of the cloisters for a large feast, at which Arrs and Sanda are seen flirting. Salles shares the feast with Darma, whose husband, Dorin, has recently returned to spend the first evening of Madrus with her. Unfortunately, Dorin eats profusely, making him tired and making it difficult for Darma to persuade him to sleep with her that night. Meanwhile, Annsi spends Madrus with her mother, who encourages her daughter to marry.

In Waldoon, Robair returns, reporting to Saurek that Still Creek is destroyed and it is the fault of the Omnians or the Aresans. Saurek communes with God, and then gives a speech to the gathered armies to the effect that the Fourth Order has come under attack and they will conquer their heathen opponents.

Mill is taken from his cell and is sentenced to forty lashes and excommunication. It is administered publicly in front of a large and hostile crowd. After being whipped, fatigued and in pain, he is thrown in his cell again, with no indication that he will soon be released.

<-- Summary of Parts 71-80              Summary of Parts 91-100 -->

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

Monday, December 24, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 89

Robair galloped upon a fatigued horse through the cramped streets of Waldoon at such a rapid pace that people had to leap out of his way. When he pulled up to the front steps of the palace he immediately dismounted and ran up towards the entrance.

When he entered into the main courtyard of the palace, he found it not sparsely crowded as he usual would, but now packed with troops. The troops were lined up in rigid rows of parade formations and were being marched about. Their discipline and order was admirable: the arms and legs of hundreds of men moved in unison and they maintained the straight perpendicular lines as they moved.

Robair hastily crossed the courtyard to the congregation hall, cutting through the crowds of soldiers. As soon as he entered, he found the pews now crowded with devotees silently praying. He progressed to the door of High Priest Saurek’s office, and the guard opened it up as soon as he saw him approaching. Inside, the High Priest was speaking with a few of his advisors and had his secretaries flanking him on either side. But he came to an abrupt stop as soon as he saw Robair enter.

“You saw Still Creek-forr?” Saurek asked, focusing the intense stare of his wrinkled face upon the recently arrived scout.

“Ashes,” Robair reported, soberly nodding his head as he spoke and lowering his eyes out of respect, “All the buildings: gone.”

“Itinerants? Onutians?” Saurek asked, furrowing his brow in an interrogative countenance.

“Definitely from the Aresans or the Omnians,” Robair replied, “We found the remains of a goat that had been sacrificed in the style of that region. It’s unmistakable.”

Saurek sat back in his chair. He looked like he was trying to present the displeased expression of one disappointed that fate had forced him to take such extreme measures, but a small smile sneaked onto his face. “Close the doors to the temple. We are at war,” he announced, “And I shall have to consult with God. I’ll address the crowds afterwards.”

After Saurek stepped inside the ground-level temple, the great metal doors were pushed closed behind him. The only light remaining in the room was that of the small flames on the pedestals and the natural light that entered through the distant ceiling.

He made the ascent, and during this time crowds began to gather around the citadel. Slowly the soldiers fell out of formation as they were ordered to gather to hear some words from the High Priest. Attracted by these crowds, many others joined, and gradually the crowd around the citadel swelled.

As Saurek made the descent he stopped at a door that was some few dozen steps above the bottom step. The door opened to a small balcony, which overlooked the courtyard and now looked down upon the spontaneously assembled crowd.

“Citizens and adherents of the Order of the Fourth Road to Divinity. It is on this day that I announce to you that the boundaries or our sacred dominion have been violated by foreigners,” Saurek began to speak, sending his capacious voice out over the crowds, “Nay, our borders have not simply been violated, destruction has been perpetrated upon our land. A village has been destroyed. Every building in it burnt to ashes. Every citizen killed mercilessly. And for what? I will tell you. Because the Omnia and the Aresan Clan seek conquest. They seek to conquer this whole land. And they will not stop until they succeed. I know this because God knows all and He communicated it to me.

“Now, what does God ask us to do in response, you might ask. Well, when I was atop this citadel just moments ago and I communed with God, He presented me with a vision. I saw a vision of valleys submerged in the blood of our enemies. I see their blood dripping through the ceiling of Darholl, where, after we slay them, they shall be sentenced for all eternity for their wickedness. They believe in false and foolish teachings: that there are many gods there to protect them. But I and my predecessors have spoken with the one God and know that He does not favor those who reject him. There is no blessedness for them in the afterlife.

“Too long their godless ways have obstructed the path of the righteous. We shall bring God to their lands at the tip of a sword. The tips of the swords of you soldiers here, and the many others we are gathering together to attack. With our strength and with the strength of God behind us, we shall be victorious.”

Applause and shouts of approval spread across the crowds at these words.

<-- Go to Part 88         Go to Part 90 -->

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

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 88

Darma sat at a dining table richly spread with food: a whole cooked goose, potatoes, corn and sweetened rolls. She wore a sparkling blue dress that shimmered when she moved and brought out the brightness of her eyes. She looked eagerly at the food, impatient for her husband to join her. Salles sat opposite her in the same beige frock he always wore, inspecting the food with a look more resembling confusion and apprehension: this was not the type of food that a Sage would normally consume and he wondered how this rich food would agree with his stomach.

Onur came in and placed the last of the food on the table, a sweet potato pie still steaming with warmth.

“Thank you, Onur. This looks wonderful. I'm sure we'll love it,” Annsi gushed, “And we won't need you anymore tonight. You can go home and spend the Madrus Feast with your family.”

Onur bowed and said, “Thank you mistress,” and then he disappeared from the room.

Moments later Dorin entered the room, dressed formally and cleanly shaved. He was a short man, a bit round around the middle with a dull, expressionless face. His eyes seemed to be staring at something far off into the distance and his mouth was permanently fixed in a flat, neutral position, partly open. As he walked, he leaned his head back and pushed his paunch forward, like one trying to show off his well-fed belly as a proud achievement.

“How do I look?” he asked his wife as he came forward and kissed her on the cheek. She simply nodded and said, “Good.” He sat down and began to grab food and place it on his plate. “Good thing you were here to keep my wife company while I was away. Thank you,” Dorin said to Salles.

Salles simply nodded as Dorin started filling generous portions onto his plate, Darma reached out and gripped his hand with hers and then told him gently and sweetly, “Don’t take too much. You know how tired you get after dinner when you eat too much.”

“I can eat as much as I want,” Dorin replied in a deep, commanding voice, “It’s a holiday. It’s my obligation to eat generously, in honor of Madrus.”

“But what about the other duty of Madrus?” Darma asked gently and sweetly, “Don’t you want to … tonight … together.”

“Please Darma,” Dorin replied, “These things shouldn’t be discussed in front of our guest. Especially a Sage. They’re celibate, aren’t they? They’re supposed to close their mind to all those worldly cares. Such thoughts cloud a man’s mind, you know.”

“You don’t have to worry about me,” Salles said, “We aren’t actually celibate. We are simply forbidden to marry. I actually have a daughter.”

“See, he can handle all of this talk,” Darma said, “He’s an adult.”

“Still, it shouldn’t be talked at the dinner table, no matter whom we’re eating with. Would you talk about it if your mother was around?” Dorin asked. He had by now stuffed some food in his mouth and was trying to speak while he held the food in his cheeks, and the clarity of his words suffered as a result.

“Of course, I would,” Darma said with a playful smile, “We talk about it together. She gives me advice.”

“Alright, that’s enough of this. Surely we can conduct conversation at the table without having to revert to the basest topics.”

“Of course, my dear,” Darma said without apparent guile or sarcasm, “We can speak about whatever you wish. What is it you’d like to talk about?”

“I don’t know,” Dorin said, his mouth still stuffed. He, in fact, didn’t appear to want to talk at all, since it only seemed to be interrupting his eating, so they ate in relative silence. Darma told Dorin about some of the recent events: the visit from Alles and Annsi, and the horrible murder of their neighbor’s daughter.

Meanwhile, Salles ate cautiously, mostly confining himself to the goose and the corn; Darma sampled from everything, but only took small portions; whereas Dorin ate generously and unconstrainedly.

By the time the dinner was completed, Dorin was stuffed and had to slowly waddle into the living room to relax and let the food digest. Salles excused himself early, saying he was off to bed, allowing the two of them to be alone. Afterwards Darma flirted profusely with her husband. She coaxed, seduced and cajoled, never stinting, never giving up, always trying to aim him towards sharing their bed together, even as his body tilted him towards sleep. She reminded him many times that it was the luckiest night of Madrus on which to conceive, and only with great effort succeeded in her efforts.

<-- Go to Part 87         Go to Part 89 -->

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

Friday, December 21, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 87

“And how would one read a book where the letters are as small as the eyelash of a flea?” Eloh asked.

“Our ancestors had machines that would make the letters appear full size. Like the way that an object appears larger in your sight as you approach closer to it. They would bring you so you appeared so close to the letters that they were as large as those in a regular book,” Noone explained.

“But without the technology for enlarging the letters, all that knowledge would be lost,” Eloh said. He had finished filling the water clock and set his buckets down.

“And there you’ve struck the very center of the target,” Noone said, smiling like a teacher whose student has just grasped a difficult concept, “That is very probably what happened. In all of the ruins we’ve scoured and salvaged artifacts from could’ve been hidden mountains of knowledge in plain sight. All the lost knowledge (the lost technology, the lost history, the lost literature) vanished simply because of our inability to read it.”

Eloh looked at the sundial and noted, as the shadow pointed directly at the night point, “Looks like it's high time for dinner.”

They walked down a set of stairs into the courtyard and through a corridor that led into the dining hall. All the residents and Sages were seated on benches before a trio of long tables. In front of each person was a plate and silverware with bread and a cup of fizzy, sour milk. A few of the residents started to bring out the food, in large bowls of stew from which the food began to be served.

At one end of the room Arrs was sitting next to Sanda. She leaned in close against him and teased and cajoled while he laughed and flirted back. Noone and Eloh sat down and had servings put on their plates.

Noone then stood up and raised a glass and said to the assembled crowd, “To Madrus! May it bring you fertility and may your children grow up healthy and strong.” Everyone raised their cups of sour milk and drank to this toast.

In Daysha’s kitchen, Annsi stirred a pot of bubbling soup. The pot hung over an open flam in the fireplace. A loaf of bread was cooking in a separate brick compartment to the side of the pot, which was also being heated by the fire. Annsi looked unhappily at the bread, as it had risen poorly and felt a bit too hard and tough when she poked at it. It didn’t have the crisp, golden shell around the soft interior that would normally characterize her mother’s bread, and she frowned in frustration.

At that moment, her mother entered through the front door of her apartment and called out, “Annsi is that you?”

“Yes, mom. I’m in the kitchen,” Annsi replied.

Daysha entered the kitchen and reached out to give her daughter a hug. Daysha was a beautiful woman, but, having just returned from her job, she was decked out in her dirty work clothes and looked tired and worn down. It was apparent that one was the mother of the other: the round, blue eyes, the thin nose, the frizzy, blonde hair, the heart-shaped face and the sweat, little smile.

“It smells like meat,” Daysha said, looking at the pot.

“It’s the feast of Madrus,” Annsi said, “So I got us some meat. Besides, the military pays me well. I had a generous payday after our last excursion.”

Daysha grabbed a wooden spoon and took a taste of the soup. She gave a slight wince after it touched her tongue, commenting, “The military hasn’t improved your cooking. That I can tell.” She then looked at the bread and shook her and head, saying, “Definitely not improving.”

Annsi groaned a bit and complained sarcastically, “Thank you, mother. I always hate to hear words of encouragement.”

“What you don’t need are words of encouragement,” her mother replied, “What you need is to learn how to cook, that is if you expect to get married. So, are you going to make me a grandmother this Madrus?”

“I won’t need to cook, if I have a servant to do it for me,” Annsi said, raising her eyebrows.

Daysha sighed and merely replied, “Women like you and I need to settle. Last Madrus you didn’t settle, and now you’re still single. And you only have to look at me to know that your prospects only get worse each Madrus.”

After Daysha was given a chance to salvage the food as best she could, and it was finished, they sat at a small kitchen table and Daysha told her daughter, “Happy Madrus!” before they began to eat.

<-- Go to Part 86         Go to Part 88 -->

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 86

Dylan-Nantes was so frustrated by the overwhelming stench that he shouted, “Stop smelling!” at the father’s body and kicked it, but this did nothing but unleash a cloud of flies that swarmed on the body. Flies were everywhere, buzzing in swarms and infesting the air. The father was mostly naked lying on the floor, and Dylan-Nantes undressed himself, tossing the clothes of the farmer, which he had borrowed, onto the naked body and again upsetting a great cloud of flies.

It had been such a modest home: only two rooms to this cottage, with a single oven to heat the whole place and a large bed, which all five of them shared. When Dylan-Nantes had first encountered them, the parents had appeared worn down by their labors and the children in ill health. It was not a killing for pleasure, more something done out of duty, out of necessity. The bodies had been left where they’d fallen: the father first near the front door, just after he’d opened it for Dylan-Nantes; the wife next at the other end of the house where she’d fled; the three children last in their bed cowering in fear, the oldest son huddling over his two sisters to protect them. There were knife wounds on their torsos and blood had been spattered everywhere when they had been stabbed, leaving patterns of red drops dried upon the walls.

Dylan-Nantes carried the turquoise necklace that he’d taken from the teenage girl of the knight before and put it around his neck. Then he found his own outfit where he’d left it in the bedroom. The outfit unmistakably identified him as a member of one of the Itinerant tribes, but he supremely preferred it to all others: a loose outfit of animal furs and leather, free in movement and protective.

After he was changed he carefully stepped over the bodies, back through the house and left the place for good.

Noone stood on the roof of the cloisters with Eloh, where a great, stone gnomon, almost twice as tall as Noone herself cast a shadow. The sundial, of which the gnomon was a part, indicated that the day was nearly at the halfway point between midnight and midday, the so-called, “night point,” when day would transition into night. It was at this night point when dinner would be served at the Cloisters and Noone watched the sundial to assure herself they would make it to dinner on time. Eloh was filling up their water clock, which consisted of a large stone bowl, perforated by several regular lines of holes. The water clock would leak through these holes at a regular and consistent speed, which allowed them to track the time during the hours when there was no sunlight by which the sundial could operate.

“Somewhere out there, in the mind of some inventor, presumably not yet born or long ago deceased, is the idea for an ideal timepiece,” Noone said as she watched Eloh performing the strenuous labor of lifting and pouring the water into bowl, “The water clock is cumbersome, it has to be regularly filled and has to be kept clean, else the holes shrink and it looses accuracy. The sundial is perfectly accurate and easy to maintain, but it only works when the sun is up. A moondial wouldn’t work, since the moon doesn’t have the same cycle as the sun, and isn’t even always up at night. None of these are ideal. Our ancestors apparently used vibrating crystals.”

“Vibrating crystals?” Eloh asked incredulously as he heaved another bucketful of water into the water clock, “Where would one find such a things? How would it work?”

“They had mechanical device that would count the number of vibrations and that’d tell them how much time has passed.”

“I don’t know whether to find such fabulous technology wondrous or ridiculous. But if it’s less work than these, then I’m for it.”

“They also had miniature books. Now that is something wondrous. They could write a whole book on a piece of paper as small as the tip of your pinky finger,” Noone said, holding up her pinky for illustration.

“How did they write so small?” Eloh asked, still more incredulous.

“The way they did everything: with machines. These were done with tiny machines that could write at that scale.”

“But how would you tell the machine what to write?” Eloh asked.

“Well, you’d have a small, mechanical homunculus with an ear and a mouth, and you’d tell it what to write. And then it would whisper into the ear of an even smaller homunculus, and then that homunculus would whisper it into the ear of a third, extremely tiny homunculus that would write out the letters on the tiny piece of paper. And there you have it. Simply enough in principle.”

<-- Go to Part 85         Go to Part 87 -->

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

Monday, December 17, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 85

Anders was finally able to cut in and speak, and he announced with an exasperated breathlessness, “General Alles, I do appreciate you coming, but I and this Table have heard too many times from the Aresan Clan and its representatives about the need for fortifications. I’m afraid this is not the responsibility of the Omnia. You need to petition your own leader for such assistance. We have offered legitimate help, and …”

“I’d like to request a vote on this question. As I’ve said it’s a military matter, and we shouldn’t forget that we face threats, serious threats, on our winterward frontiers, and should cooperate, the Omnia and the Aresan Clan together, to neutralize these threats.”

“This is unnecessary. We don’t need to…”

“I concur,” Bale interrupted, “Let’s vote on it.” A few other persons raised their hands, also announcing, “I concur.”

“The Table has spoken,” Bale said, turning to Anders, “I’d say we have enough voices to consider a full vote. We leave the floor to you, Premier Anders, to conduct the vote.”

Anders had leaned forward in his seat and had his hands on the table, which were clearly clenched. His face was taught as he announced, “All those in opposition to providing assistance to the Aresan Clan, in the form of funds, materials and manpower, for the creation of winterward fortifications, announce your opposition.”

Anders started it off by raising his hand and stating, “I oppose.” There were five other members of the Closed Table that invariably followed his lead, and they all, in one voice, announced, “I oppose,” as they raised their hands.

Anders then asked, “All those in favor of providing assistance to the Aresan Clan in the manner stated, announce your concurrence.”

Bale started it off by raising his hand and stating, “I concur.” The remaining six members of the Closed Table raised their hands in turn, with flurry of voices announcing, “I concur.”

Anders settled back in his chair at hearing this. He announced, “With seven votes concurring and six votes opposing, it is the will of this Table that the Omnia will provide assistance to the Aresan Clan to create winterward fortifications.”

Then, to everyone’s surprise, Anders stood from his seat and headed towards the door. As he crossed the room, he announced, “This meeting is adjourned. All other business scheduled for today is to postponed until tomorrow.”

He opened the door that led out to the sand garden and closed it behind him. Out in the sand garden, the austere emptiness calmed him. He heard the door open and close and heard the sound of Tine approaching him from behind along the boardwalk.

“It’s too bad, sir,” Tine announced.

“That it is,” Anders nodded his head, “It’s too bad.” He then looked over the sand, which was being gently carved by the wind and he noted, “Alles is daily becoming less of an asset to the Omnia. Do you not agree?”

“Not every citizen is willing to selflessly work for the benefit of the state,” Tine replied in agreement.

“An idea just came to me,” Anders said, turning to Tine, “I think I know someone who could help us. Someone surprising. The difficulty is finding him. Do you think you could help me?”

Tine nodded.

Dylan-Nantes still wore the Omnian outfit he’d been wearing the previous day, and it was now starting to aggravate him. He’d worn the outfit all night, even slept in it, and it was only growing more repellant to his nose as the day wore on. He was eager to get back into his own clothes, and hustled towards the house where he’d stowed them when he’d first arrived.

It was a small farmhouse located in the middle of a modest plot of pastureland towards the winterward edge of Sanossless Park, an isolated home that could be depended on to remain quiet and undisturbed at least for a few days while he explored the city. The house was now shuttered up, and the chimney was quiet. The walls of the home were made of baked mud, and a brick chimney stuck out of the top of the vaulted, wooden roof.

When Dylan-Nantes opened the front door, he was confronted by an even more repugnant smell than that of the overpopulated city of Lamosa and his stifling clothes. It was the smell of five rotting bodies that were strewn around the house.

<-- Go to Part 84         Go to Part 86 -->

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

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 84

Jule looked around him at the crowd of sages that hovered over him in the storeroom: a nearly complete spectrum of ages, from a young boy to the aged Noone were represented, and they all looked down at him with a look of contempt.

"This is our improvised jail cell,” Noone said, spreading out her arms and looking around the storeroom, “We don't normally have to deal with criminals or criminal behavior. It's not a part of our way of life. We don't have the means to mete out punishment, but we'll improvise if you force us. You almost killed Eloh, here. Something that should be severely punished. But all we ask is that you help us get Amida back and we’ll let you go."

"If something has happened that has nothing to do with my people then it's out of my hands,” Jule said, trying to maintain a confident and arrogant demeanor, but still showing some of his considerable apprehension, “You know the wilderness out there is a dangerous place. Some mean people out there. Mean animals too. Mean plants even. Plants that'll kill you if you try to eat them. Then there's the cold at night. It’s the meanest. And bad things can happen to you if you don't find food or water. If she's been lost due to things out of my control, then what'll happen to me?"

Noone looked around at her companion standing around her. She then told him, "Just help us get back Amida and you have to worry about the answer to that question."

The chair at the head of the Closed Table that Anders occupied was larger than all the rest, with a back that extended high above Anders’, smooth, coiffed hair. The chair was cushioned with wolf and bear furs laying in the seat and draped over the back. As he sat and even when he would speak he would lean back in this chair while the rest at the group tended to lean inwards over the table while they listened and spoke.

He was the last to arrive at the current meeting, and crossed the room as all the other heads of the clans of the Omnia rose from their chairs out of respect. When he sat and relaxed into his chair, the rest of the room, sat, including Alles, who was not a member of the Closed Table, but had been given the opportunity for a private audience after he had said that his presentation would concern military matters.

As everyone came to their seats, there was silence as the room waited for Anders to begin the proceedings. There were fewer formalized rules of conduct for the private meetings of the Closed Table, but Anders was given the power to open and close the meetings, and this time he did so with a simple hand gesture and the word, “Alles?”

Alles stood and directed himself to the assembled company by looking around and making brief eye contact with all of them. “Distinguished gentlemen,” he began, “I have come here, as mentioned on an errand concerning important military matters. As you may or may not have heard the Sages’ Cloisters were recently the victims of an act of sabotage, an attack, which managed to inflict severe damage upon their home. Their watermill was burned and one of the sages was almost killed. Only by fortune was the community able to stave off even more severe damages to the watermill and save their companion from the brink of death. But what is most troubling about these events is the ease with which the Cloisters were penetrated and attacked. It is for this reason that we would like to request the assistance of the Omnia in fortifying this region.”

“We have already heard this many times, I’m afraid,” Anders abruptly interrupted, “I have on multiple occasions offered to station Omnian troops in the cloisters, which I’m sure would prevent any such attack.”

“We want to maintain our independence,” Alles interrupted back, cutting off Alles, who fell silent as soon as Alles began to speak, “I’m afraid that the presence of troops that are not our own in such a sensitive place could not be tolerated. What we are asking for is assistance from the Omnia in helping us build our own fortifications, which we could man without Omnia interference.” Alles had to raise his voice, to prevent Anders from interrupting again, “This would benefit the Omnia as well, since it would add to the winterward fortifications, as it is well known that this is the most important front and the area from which we are most likely to face a threat.”

<-- Go to Part 83         Go to Part 85 -->

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

Friday, December 14, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 83

Amida had been tied by Erek-Monte and his men with a long piece of rope wrapped around her torso. Three loops had been made, one about her neck, one about her chest beneath her arms and one about her midsection around her arms just above the elbows. From here, the remainder of the rope extended like a leash, the other end of which was being held by Erek-Monte, who tied it around his wrist. It was done such a way so that the ropes could by be tied fairly loose, without it being possible for her to easily remove them, while at the same time still restricting her arm movements. “We want you to remain comfortable. We Itinerants treat or women well,” Erek-Monte had told her in his language when they were tying her up. Nonetheless, as the second day of Amida’s detention wore on, the ropes were growing uncomfortable—they chafed against her skin. The coarse hemp texture of the neck rope in particular, though it hung loosely like a necklace, scratched her skin all day as she undulated back and forth while she walked, leaving a red ring around the base of her neck.

The tribe had been leading Amida on almost unremittingly since she’d been captured and she still trudged wearily along with them. She’d missed her regular exercise, her regular rest cycles and food and felt tired and cranky.

Finally, near the height of day, Erek-Monte brought them to a stop. He stood before Amida and she had difficulty seeing what was in front of him, such that she had to lean to the side and look around Erek-Monte to see what had brought him to a stop. What she saw was a hole descending steeply down into the ground. Erek-Monte slowly led the way, stepping down a set of grey, cement stairs that were embedded into the ground. After about twelve or so steps he stopped again and pushed hard at a rusty, metal door, which only opened with difficulty.

When the door was opened and Erek-Monte entered, Amida saw a bare, dusty room, with a thin shaft of light peaking in through a window that was near the ceiling of the room. Two hallways led out of the room, but the ceilings of these corridors had both collapsed long ago, creating a ceiling-high barrier of dirt and rubble.

“Your cell,” Erek-Monte said in the itinerant tongue as she entered, “Your jail, your prison, your place of internment.” He untied the rope from his wrist and dropped it to the ground, turning around to leave.

Amida looked around the room, which was empty and dirty. The walls, floor and ceiling were all made of solid cement. The single window in the room was devoid of glass, but too small to crawl through. All that was in the room were a few artifacts that were lined up against a wall. Once she turned around and looked through the room, she asked with surprise in the itinerant language, “What do I do here?”

“You are to wait,” he said, “You are like a salvaged artifact. We find you. We trade you to a buyer for whom you are worth something for food and supplies. Right now we’ll stow you here, so we don't have to drag you around. We must keep moving. But someone will stay here to take care of you. You understand? Please don’t try to leave. We don’t want to have to kill you. We like you.”

Erek-Monte then walked back to the door, and with great effort pulled the heavy metal door shut, leaving Amida in the room alone.

At the cloisters, Noone stood in front of Jule’s door and knocked. When the old weaver opened his door, he saw in the hall Noone’s weak, old body standing at the head of a mass of sages, who flooded into the room as soon as the door was open. Jule hastily tried to run towards the window, but they were quickly upon him. In a moment, eight hands were gripping him from all directions and he was being led out of his room.

Noone walked them through the kitchen and down into the cool dark of an underground storeroom. Sacks of grains, barrels of beer and many rounds of cheese were stacked along the rough-hewn bedrock walls.

Jule was set down on the ground, and Noone stood in front of him and said to him, “It’s going to be a long time down here for you if you don’t help us. We know you destroyed the mill. Or tried to. And we think you may know something about why Amida hasn’t returned so far. And even if you don’t know anything, you can find out. Can’t you? It’s not asking too much, is it?”

<-- Go to Part 82         Go to Part 84 -->

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 82

Kayla looked terrified as she described the tortures and Mill couldn’t help sharing her discomfort.

“Just tell them what you know. Forget about the Omnia,” Mill told her, “You don’t have to protect them. You’ve done your duty.”

“I did tell them. Everything,” she said, “But they think I’m holding something back. They were asking about some attack from the Omnia. They were saying that the Omnia is trying to move its borders further winterward into the disputed territories and is destroying Fourth Order villages. I haven’t heard anything about it, and I told them so, but they just kept insisting and started torturing me to get me to talk.”

Mill clenched up as soon as she said this and he felt an unpleasant feeling rising from out of his stomach and his skin silently warming as a bright red flush spread across his face. After a moment of silence, he simply told her: “All you have to do is just tell them it’s true. That’s what they want to hear.”

“Why?” she asked, that expression of terror abruptly leaving her face, “Is it true?”

Mill thought carefully about his answer before he replied. He was tempted to admit to her it was a lie, with a smirk and a sly wink of “damn fools for letting me shovel that crap into their ears,” but he stopped himself before he spoke. He instead replied, “It is,” and said no more. Neither did he want to admit that he was responsible for this misinformation nor did he want to place the burden of lying onto her. If she believed it were true, she’d be more persuasive, and since this apparently was what her interrogators wanted to hear, it could only mitigate her torture.

“Really?” she replied, somewhat skeptical.

“You’re not supposed to know,” he told her, then repeating what he told Janake, “It’s a liability for people like us to know such secrets without reason.”

“But they did tell you,” she said, now taking on the tone of one interrogating a distrustful subject.

“I was stationed nearby where an attack was taking place,” he said, “And I know very little about all this, just the basic details.”

“What else do you know?” she asked, “They apparently trust with you much more than me. You must be a man of some importance.” She had a small coquettish smile on her face as she said this.

So, Mill told her the whole story of Lipmon as he’d experienced it. He told of Lipmon’s arrival from Still Creek, Mill’s hasty communiqué via the itinerants, his first attempt on Lipmon’s life in Orinda, his ride on the carriage to Waldoon and his failed second attempt in the palace courtyard. Beyond this the only fresh intelligence he had was that which he’d collected concerning Orinda politic prior to Lipmon’s arrival. He mentioned a few interesting tidbits that came to mind. Mill told the story in an engaging way and it seemed to amuse her.

She had begun to relax and find herself at ease with him, sitting on the ground with her legs crossed beneath her and leaning towards him to catch every word.

After his account was completed, he asked her, “Do you still want me to kill you?”

She replied with a smile, “No, not today. I think I’ll be alright.”

He joked with a sarcastic smile, “You sure? I could just squeeze your neck with my hands. You’d be dead in no time.” As he said this he touched her neck, in a somewhat flirtatious way.

“No,” she said, “You’ve already done enough.”

Then, much to Mill’s surprise she stood up and knocked on the door of the cell, shouting through the slit in the Fourth Order tongue, “Let me out!” Promptly a guard was at the door and Mill could hear the sound of him removing the door beams. She turned back to give Mill another smile as the door was opened and said, “Thank you,” in the Omnian language. She blew him a kiss and then walked out the door

Once the door was again closed and locked, Mill settled back on the ground with a now even greater feeling of discomfort in his stomach.

<-- Go to Part 81         Go to Part 83 -->

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

Monday, December 10, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 81

The guard picked up the poker examined it and approached Mill, pointing the red, glowing tip at Mill’s face. He applied it to Mill’s neck, and as Mill shouted out with pain, Janake winced, and partly turned away. Mill then screamed, “They're attacking!”

Janake gestured for the guard to stop, and, after the poker was removed, Mill began to sputter out the words: “They’re pushing their borders winterward … expanding their territory … by destroying small Fourth Order villages … quietly … to move into the buffer zone.” He breathed heavily and could still feel the lingering pain of the burn, which he would reached out to touch if his arms weren’t restrained.

Janake frowned when he heard this, not because he didn’t believe it, but because it sounded troubling. “Honesty isn’t too hard, now is it?” he said, the frown still pulling at his mouth, “It’s interesting how torture can really disarm one’s ability to lie. Even just the slightest pain made you more honest.”

After a moment of thought, Janake gestured for the guard to take Mill away. The guard untied him from the chair, and dragged him back down the stairs and into the darkness. He was tossed into his cell and the door was again closed behind him.

Mill was, after an unknown amount of time, again woken from a sleep by the sound of the door being opened. A fleeting moment of hope crossed his mind as he thought he might be let free, but it was short-lived. Instead, another prisoner was shoved into his already cramped space.

He backed away to give the prisoner room, seating himself with his back to the wall. He could only see a silhouette of the figure, who squatted on the ground, watching him cautiously, apparently poised in a defensive posture.

Then out of the silhouette’s mouth, a women’s voice emerged, speaking in the Omnian dialect. “You’re not one of the dangerous ones are you?” she asked, “Why’d they put you here?”

“I tried to kill a man,” Mill admitted, replying to her in the Omnian dialect. It’d been so long since he’d used his first language. When the word’s spilled out of him, he was reminded of that wonderful feeling of being to express himself in his natural voice. It was like being able to walk again after having to crawl through a tunnel. The words were sincere and effortless and he liked to say them and hear them spoken.

He smiled to her, though he didn’t know if she could see him. She approached towards him tentatively and he could finally see her face as it was exposed through some dim light that leaked through a slot in the door. She had a stunning face: large, almond eyes, with a round nose and a small mouth that smiled with big red lips.

“I’m Kayla. And you’re from the Omnia too, aren’t you?” she said, “You’re not a murderer are you? I mean you’ve never actually succeeded in killing anyone, have you?”

“No, this is the first time I’ve ever tried it,” he told her, “I didn’t want to have to. And I wasn’t very good at it.”

“Why’d you do it then?” she asked. As she spoke, she began to move herself towards him, kneeling on the ground and scooting herself forward. He could see that she only wore a raggedy shirt and a pair of trousers and as she leaned forward the neck of the shirt hung open enough for him to see down to her chest.

Mill restrained himself from looking. He answered her cagily, “It was for the Omnia. For the good of the Omnia.”

She nodded her head and fell into silence at these words. When she finally spoke, she said, with grave intensity, “If you can kill someone for the Omnia, then you can kill me too. I want you to kill me.”

“Why?” Mill asked, with surprise.

“They’re going to torture me,” she replied, a genuine tremble of fear in her voice, “They’ve got me here because I know things. As you can tell, I’m from the Omnia. I’m here in Waldoon to gather information. Now they’ve caught me, and they want me to tell them everything. They’ve started the torture. Just a little bit. They pushed needles under my fingernails. They burned my skin. I have secrets I’ve held onto, for the Omnia. But the torture only gets worse. They have a machine that stretches out your body until your arms and legs are pulled out of their joints. They have one where you’re hung upside down, and they dip you in water until you almost drown before they pull you out. They’ve got spiked clubs that they’ll beat you with, burning sheets of metal they’ll press against your skin, blades to peel of your skin, and more. I don’t want to ever experience that. I’d be better dead than to live through that.”

<-- Go to Part 80         Go to Part 82 -->

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

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Aresan Clan Summary - Parts 71-80

Lipmon is only injured and is sutured by Saurek’s personal surgeon. After seeing Mill get nearly killed, Saurek decides to hasten the investigation, sending an advance party to Still Creek immediately. He climbs to the top of the tall Citadel tower where he is able to talk with God. Saurek hears God telling him that the boy is special and interprets it as a message to send armies to attack the Omnia and the Aresan Clan.

Alles and Annsi join Darma and Salles for dinner at Darma’s. Darma gets along well with Annsi, and Alles is easily persuaded to help the Sages with the issue of fortifications. He promises to speak with the Closed Table, the leaders of the thirteen tribes who confer in private and make decisions for the Omnia. After Alles and Annsi leave, Darma seduces Salles, telling him that her husband, Dorin, is infertile. Dorin will be returning the next day, which will be the first day of Madrus. She will seduce her husband and if they have a child, he’ll assume it’s his. After sex, they lay on the ground and Salles tells her about the origin of the order of Sages.

Meanwhile, Dylan-Nantes wanders the streets looking for a house to invade. He is tempted to enter Darma’s house, but, seeing the light on, he decides against it. Instead, he breaks into the house of Darma’s neighbor, enters the room of a young girl and then slits her neck after waking her.

The Fourth Order advance party, led by Robair, hastily rides to Still Creek to investigate Lipmon’s story. They find, as he said, the place destroyed and in ashes. Robair discovers the remains of an animal that were sacrificed in the Omnian/Aresan style, indicating that it was they who attacked.

Mill is imprisoned in a dank dungeon. He is then brought before an interrogator, Janake, who asks him what he knows about the attack on Still Creek. Mill tells Janake what little he knows, but Janake thinks he’s holding something back. He burns him with a hot poker. To stop the torture, Mill tells Janake the Omnia attacked Still Creek as part of a plan of widespread conquest of the region. Janake returns him to his jail. A woman named Kayla who claims to be a spy from Omnia like him joins him in his jail cell. She says she has been tortured and wants to die to avoid more torture.

<-- Summary of Parts 61-70              Summary of Parts 81-90 -->

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

Aresan Clan pt 80

The man, named Janake, sat opposite Mill and maintained a fixed stare, squeezing his brow together in the attitude of intense and concentrated effort. He bore nothing in his hand with which to take any notes and seemed to be concentrating in particular to inscribe everything he saw and heard onto the interior of his mind.

“For the attempted murder of one of our citizens within the holy confines of our palace, the maximum penalty is death,” Janake began, “But if you provide us with useful information, we will be able to reduce your sentence to a more bearable punishment. Do you understand?”

“More bearable punishment?” Mill asked, “What does that mean?”

“It’s not up to me to decide,” Janake shrugged his shoulders, then suggested tentatively, “But perhaps forty lashes and permanent excommunication. If your information proves valuable.”

Janake continued, “For reasons we cannot disclose, we believe that you are a member of the Omnia and that you are acting on orders provided by them. Can you either confirm or deny this information? And bear in mind that I see clearly from here every movement and expression that you make.”

The two items in Mill’s mind that were being weighed against one another—his fidelity to his homeland and his love of his own life—were far from evenly balanced. Whatever patriotism had originally led him to abandon his home and settle in this faraway land as a foreign pretender had long since evaporated, whereas his life, though he would willingly sacrifice it for something or someone who deserved it, he valued greatly. And for him in particular, as for any man who is loved, his life was not entirely his own; he refused to believe that he was free to dispose of it as he liked. He had to preserve himself for Anika. So, when Mill heard Janeke’s words, he confessed openly: “I wasn’t acting on orders. Not explicit orders, at least. I’ve never been told to kill anyone. But I provide information to the Omnia and am charged with protecting their interest. Killing Lipmon seemed in the interest of the Omnia.”

Janake nodded contemplatively as he said: “That clarifies how they were able to get an assassin this far so quickly. Then you knew what information he possessed? You knew something about this village of Still Creek-for?”

“I overheard him talking about it in Orinda-for. That’s where I’ve been living these past five years.”

“But how did you know that the Omnia was involved in the attack he described?” Janake asked, intensely furrowing his brow, “Lipmon certainly wasn’t aware it was coming from there. We haven’t even determined that fact for sure yet.”

“The courier I contact with told me an attack was coming, that they were hitting some tiny Fourth Order village nearby. I didn’t know why or even where they were attacking. When I heard Lipmon’s account, I filled in the gaps,” Mill answered. But as he gave this answer he looked, more so than in his previous responses, nervous and uncomfortable. This wasn’t due to him having something to hide, since he in fact told all he knew, but, rather, due to him having so little to say, something he feared might displease his interrogator and lead to some unpleasant consequences.

Janake, though, interpreted the nervousness unfavorably. He turned around to look at the instruments of torture that sat behind him in the shadows unused and said, “I don’t like to use those machines back there. I genuinely feel the pain of others when they are tortured. I can’t help it. But I need information and, if you don’t give it to me, if I sense that you are lying, that you are holding something back, we will have to resort to it. Do you understand?”

“They don’t tell me any more than I need to,” Mill said now growing even more nervous, “They only told me this much because it was happening in my vicinity. They’d prefer I knew as little as possible. It’s a liability.”

Janake sighed with disappointment and then gestured for the guard, telling him, “Grab that metal poker back there,” pointing towards a blunt, handled rod lying on the table. “Put it in the flame to heat it up,” Janake instructed, indicating the large flame of the lamp that illuminated the room. The guard strode forward and did as he was told.

As the poker heated up within the flame, Janeke looked at Mill with fixed, intent eyes and waited, unmoving, for him to speak. In Mill’s mind he scrambled for an answer, some plausible lie to say that would convince his interlocutor that he was being cooperative.

<-- Go to Part 79         Go to Part 81 -->

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

Friday, December 7, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 79

The day before, after being knocked out, Mill had awoken while being dragged by two guards, carrying him by his arms down a set of stairs. His hands had been tied behind his back by a piece of hemp rope that pinched so hard against his wrist that it hurt and his head was sore from the blow that had been struck there.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, he had been dragged through a dark, dank hallway, where had been audible the sound of water dripping through the ceiling into stinking troughs of water mixed with human excrement and blood, the sound of rats scurrying away from the new arrivals, and the sound of the plaintive wails of prisoners left in agony in this underground prison.

A wooden door had been opened before him and he had been shoved through, landing on the ground before it closed behind him. “What about these ropes?” he had shouted to the guards, but there was no response.

The room in which he sat was almost completely black, but he had been able see the outlines of the space, and it was a tiny room, with a low, arched roof that he could almost touch his head to when he stood up and walls close enough to one another that he could probably touch both of them at once if he could stand up and spread his arms out.

But he hadn’t been able spread his arms out, since they had been tied behind his back and had been growing more sore and cramped as they remained in that position. As he had sat upon the floor, he had tried to extract his wrists from the bonds by pulling at the ropes, but he had been unsuccessful. He had tried to pick at the knots with his fingers, but, even after much effort, he had been unable to make progress.

He next had attempted to try and bring his hands from his back to his front. This had proved both painful and difficult. As he had sat upon the ground he had tried to push his wrists around his buttocks without success. He had then rolled onto his back, curling his body and stooping his shoulders to the point of great discomfort and still had only just barely been able to squeeze the rope around. Now his wrists had been linked just below his knees and he had had to somehow squeeze his legs through. This part had been easier, but no less unpleasant. As before, he had pushed the flexibility of his muscles as far he could and had only just made it. He had pressed his knees against his chest and then, one at a time, had pushed the rope over his heel and then over his toes, straining with what little strength he had. One leg had come through first, then the other.

Now he finally had had his bound wrists in front of him. He had continued to pick at the knots, but now with his ability to use his teeth to bite into the tough, scratchy material, he had been able to make some progress. Gradually the knots had loosened until the ropes finally fell to the ground. His wrists were sore and purple with bruises.

With no concept of day or night, but tired from his long exertion, Mill had lain on the ground, resting his head upon his hands as a pillow and fell to sleep.

He woke up what he presumed to be the next day to a guard kicking him in the stomach. “Get up!” the guard shouted at him as his foot impressed itself firmly in his stomach. Mill woke with a wheezing gasp, but leapt to his feet as fast as he could to avoid any further abuse.

The guard led the way back up the long flight of spiraling stairs, which gradually emerged into daylight. Around a corner and down a hall, Mill was shoved into another room, an interior room devoid of decorations or of windows. The light in the room came from a large, coal-burning lamp that hung on the wall and produced a prodigious flame. It illuminated a single man in a white robe who sat in the room and the machines of torture behind him. Mill could see a large wheel, and a flat bench that a person was apparently tied to and laid upon, as well as a table full of hand-held tools for the cutting, poking, pinching and burning of flesh.

Mill was put into a chair, where his arms were pulled behind him then tied to one another and to the chair.

The man who sat opposite immediately began to speak as the guard retreated into the background. “I hate going down into the dungeon,” the man confessed, “So, I brought you up here instead. What I’d like is for you to, perhaps, clarify some questions we have about your activities.”

<-- Go to Part 78         Go to Part 80 -->

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

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 78

In the early morning hours, some traces of dew still remained on the grass, which the horses’ hooves swept away as they galloped down the road connecting Waldoon and Still Creek. This road was little more than a half-grown-over dirt path that wound through the mountains and into the valley of Still Creek. Nonetheless, this was all that the Fourth Order advance party had to use to guide them there, since it was a place none of them would ever have any reason to know how to find.

Their leader, a pale, scruff man named Robair, led the way galloping on his horse, his long black hair bouncing with the horse’s stride. Four other mounted scouts followed behind him, each of them hunched forward as their horses advanced at a full gallop, making the greatest haste to reach their destination. He had told his men discouragingly when they first departed from Waldoon, “This is all a waste of time.” As they neared the village, on the verge of coming into sight of it, he repeated this same complaint over and over again to himself. “This is a huge waste of time. It’s all the delusions of some backwater, ignorant country peasant, sending us off to capture clouds,” he said, reciting a familiar maxim.

Once the village began to come into view and Robair could see the destruction, his mouth dropped in shock. Much of the harvest was still left in the field, but it had been eaten into by the black jaws of the fire. It was evident how far the fire had reached before it had burned itself out, since it formed a wavy and imperfect circle, in the center of which were the charred remains of the village.

As they got closer, he could start to see the footprint of the village stamped into the ground, the lines of tiny streets between the buildings and the wreckage of the buildings themselves, mostly just piles of ash blown away into the wind and bits of blackened wood. The only part untouched was the mound where the child had sat and by which a small creek flowed.

Robair and his four men brought their horses to a stop at the edge of the village. The place sounded of death. A hollow wind blew through it and all that was left when this died down was silence. Not even the quiet sounds of the forest—the birds and the insects—were audible in this desolate place.

“Search for anything that might give us hard evidence that the Omnia or the Aresan Clan were here,” Robair told his men as they dismounted and started to walk into the village.

As the men dug through the rubble, they found many human remains—the bodies black and shrunken by the fire. Bits of metal and leather could be found among the debris, but they could find no weapons or pieces of clothing that appeared to be from the Omnia or the Aresans.

“Nothing,” Robair’s men reported to him as he sat at the edge of town and oversaw this activity.

Robair finally dismounted himself and walked into the village to assist them. He pushed through the rubble, in search of a knife or a sword or even just a spear point that might point Summerward.

He was unsuccessful, until he pushed aside a large chunk of roof from one of the houses and noticed a burned and blackened goat among some human remains. It was something he wouldn’t have otherwise thought anything of. Surely some of their animals might have been killed in the blaze, but he decided to ask his men, “Did you find any livestock?”

All his men unanimously replied in the negative. If they could, the livestock would’ve all fled from the fire, or the attacking soldiers probably would’ve captured them. Perhaps this goat had been lame or tied up, or already dead.

Then Robair looked at the legs. The legs were all pinched together, almost as if they had been tied. If it were tied with a rope, the rope would probably have burned in the fire. Robair kneeled down to examine the legs more closely. And that’s when he saw it: the scanty, charred remains of a rope wrapped around the legs. The goat had been tied up and thrown into the fire as a ritual offering to god.

“The people of Still Creek weren’t into animal sacrifices were they?” Robair asked his men. They simply shrugged their shoulders and one of them replied, ‘If they’re part of the Order, they shouldn’t have been.”

“Any of the Itinerant tribes?” Robair asked.

“They’d consider that the height of wastefulness,” a soldier replied.

“But the Aresan Clan and some of the tribes of the Omnia are. There the only ones aren’t they?” Robair said to himself, and then he loudly announced, “I think I found some evidence.”

<-- Go to Part 77         Go to Part 79 -->

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

Monday, December 3, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 77

Dylan-Nantes regarded his knife with some pleasure, admiring it for having been able to pull off what he half-regarded as a magical feat. After he stepped through the window into a dark and empty room, he kept this magical instrument drawn and began to explore.

The interior of this large home was completely dark, with only the dimmest traces of light peaking in from outside. He could hear nothing except the occasional distant sound of a person passing by on the street outside and the gentle swaying of the wind. He crept up the wooden staircase, and each step squeaked under his pressure as he ascended. He randomly decided to follow the hallway to the right at the top of the stairs and when he reached the first door he opened it slowly. Its hinges squeaked and he had to move the door slowly. Inside the room he saw a large and luxurious bed with a red quilt spread over the top. Beneath the quilt two long person-mounds were visible, the two heads buried in the feather pillows and breathing slowly. He turned away. He would prefer to enter a room in which only a single person were present.

There were several other doors in the hallway, which either didn’t lead to rooms or were empty. When he reached the next occupied bedroom he found a somewhat smaller room with a teenage girl wrapped beneath sumptuous sheets and breathing the slow breath of sleep. He entered the room silently and closed the door behind him.

As he approached her, he noticed a piece of turquoise hung around her neck upon a chain. The stone was a piece of the sky meant to keep her close to god, to protect her from Death. “It’s not working,” he thought to himself with a smile. Then he realized, “No, that’s not quite true. After I kill her, Anan, from heaven, will still be able to save this girl from Death,” recalling what he knew of the theology of the Omnians and the Aresan Clan, “When her body is meat, God will reach down his hand and lead that part of her is still not dead into heaven. Or so they believe.”

To restrain her and keep her from moving, he laid his entire body on top of her, putting his two legs on either side of her legs and pinching them together while he planted his elbows on either side of her arms. The girl immediately woke, and he planted one hand firmly on her mouth and with his other he held his knife to her neck. She could smell the filthy hand that was on her mouth, redolent of soil and blood, even taste it on her lips. “Silence,” he whispered to her in Omnian, with his thick accent, “Or die.”

The girl looked up at him with wide panicked eyes. From so close up, Dylan-Nante could see the lustrous green of those eyes composed of many flecks of color; he could see the short lines of yellow color extending outward from the now large black pupil in the center like the corona of the sun. And while he watched those eyes, he pushed the edge of the knife into her neck and cut a furrow through her skin. Her whole body squirmed: her legs tried to kick, her hands to free themselves, and her mouth to scream. But he held her in place and watched the panic growing in her eyes—the pupils growing even wider and the color disappearing from them. The blood squirted from her neck in spurts and poured down onto her sheets, and she grew weaker, her muffled screams less forceful, her kicks losing their power. Finally, her body began to relax: her legs no longer kicked; her scream faded into silence; and her eyes, previously fixed upon him, slid to the side without the motive force to hold them in place.

Dylan-Nantes stood up this point and again admired his knife with fascination, his own totem of divine power. “Don’t worry, Anan will save you from Death,” Dylan-Nantes whispered, as some sort of prayer over her dead body, “He’ll save you from becoming another member of the armies of Death, or whatever it is you people here believe.”

He then took the necklace as a souvenir and turned around and quietly snuck out of the house the way he came in.

<-- Go to Part 76         Go to Part 78 -->

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

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 76

By the time dusk had ended and the city of Lamosa was fully wrapped in darkness, Dylan-Nantes started to think that, for a man who’d spent his entire life exploring the world of mountains and forest, he’d gotten a handle on the city. He’d only just arrived early that morning, had paid a visit to Premier Anders and had spent the rest of the day exploring. Though, perhaps wandering would be the more appropriate term, since he’d explored entirely without method, frequently coming upon forks and picking his path entirely at random. He’d spent the day carving out a meandering and irregular circle through the heart of the city, and now found himself in Darma’s neighborhood, wherein, for the first time that day, he’d decided to loiter.

He was supposed to return to his tribe immediately and he wouldn’t normally hesitate to escape into the fresh air of the wilderness, but he wanted to take advantage of a final chance to amuse himself before he left. The city didn’t have the virtues of the forest: the streets stank of too many humans pushed together, and it was almost impossible to find a place to escape from the eyes of the omnipresent persons and be entirely alone with oneself. Like Erek-Monte he thought to himself that someday, if he could, he would bring this whole city crashing down and let the forests reclaim it, as they had reclaimed the ruins of the ancient cities long ago destroyed and left behind.

The neighborhood that he’d ended up within, he could clearly tell, was one of the wealthier in the city. It contrasted sharply from some of the poorer one’s he’d passed through. For one, the sidewalks were paved with stone instead of dirt and were cleaner. The tenants here also usually had servants in attendance and they glittered and shone in the daylight with nice clothing and jewelry. Most noticeably, the houses were larger, made of more durable materials such as stone and brick, and usually had walls around them, with enclosed well-tended gardens.

It was into one of these walled gardens that Dylan-Nantes decided to venture into. Compared to infiltrating the compound of the Premier’s Private House this would be rather easy to accomplish. He waited as the only person in sight, a lantern-bearing pedestrian, disappeared, and then leapt up to grab the top of this wall. It was barbed in the form of jagged rocks poking out of the top of the wall, but Dylan-Nantes was able to resist the pain and pull himself on top. There in front of him stood the magisterial abode of Dorin and his wife Darma, a sprawling multi-story home with a columned portico, many shuttered windows and a flower-lined garden around it.

Once he dropped into the garden, he began to walk around the exterior of the house, in search of a way to break inside. As he saw it more closely, he realized, with increasing certainty, that it would the perfect type of house to enter uninvited: the house veritably flaunted the wealth and luxury of its occupants.

But disappointment soon overwhelmed him when he circled around to the back side and noticed a light glowing from within. It was on the first floor, and he could see it through the cracks of a window that had been shuttered from the inside. Light betokened still-awake occupants, and still-awake occupants betokened danger to himself if he were to enter without permission.

He waited impatiently, hoping that perhaps the occupants were mere moments from departing for bed, opening the way for his undisturbed entrance, but the light persisted. Finally, he gave up, heaving himself painfully over the wall and walking to the nearest neighbor, an equally stately house with a similar wall and garden. This house, he discovered as he circled around it, was completely dark and probably entirely asleep. Not the faintest trace of light leaked through any of its many windows. Though part of him felt that he was settling by choosing this house and that the last house would be significantly more amusing, he advanced forward anyways.

Dylan-Nantes stepped up to one of the windows, currently secured by a pair of ornately inscribed wood shutters, that he moved towards and examined closely. He was not unfamiliar with shutters like these and pulled a knife from one of his sheaths and inserted it into a gap in the center of the shutters, feeling around. When the knife caught some sort of impediment (which he figured was the hook that held the shutter closed), he pushed at it and moved the knife around until the impediment was cleared. Dylan-Nantes was then able to pull the shutters towards him and open the window.

<-- Go to Part 75         Go to Part 77 -->

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