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.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Aresan Clan pt 110

Upon entering Anika’s home, Mill scanned the room and saw Anika sitting in a chair, fast asleep. A candle burned next to her and she breathed deeply. A glove that she had been knitting when she fell asleep, sat on her lap, with the needles inserted into it. When Mill reached forward and touched her on the arm, she was startled out of sleep, dropping the glove to the ground.

When she looked up and saw Mill, she leapt from her chair and wrapped her arms around him. She held him tightly there for a long silence, as a look of concern was released from her face for the first time in days. She appeared to have been considerably aged by this worry in the interim.

“God be blessed,” she exclaimed, “I thought you were dead. They’ve been saying the worst things about you. That you’re a traitor. That you’ve been excommunicated. They said you’d be killed if you ever came back. Why did you come back? You can’t be here? They’ll kill you if they find you. What happened to you? Where have you been?”

“I’ve been in prison in Waldoon,” Mill said, “It was horrible.” He elaborated on some of the horrors of his imprisonment: the long periods in the dark, the torture, the flogging.

“Why were you imprisoned?” Anika asked.

Mill hesitated a bit before he answered and then said, “They suspected I was a spy for the Omnia.”

Anika looked at him suspiciously and then asked him, “Are you telling me the truth Mill? Please. No more secrets.”

Mill sat down in a chair nearby and Anika returned to sitting in the one she’d been sleeping in. She looked at him intently, waiting. Mill lowered his face into his hands and ran his fingers through his hair.

Once he was ready, he began, “I am a spy for the Omnia. I was caught trying to kill Lipmon, the man from Still Creek. They held me for so long because they were torturing me for information.”

“You’re a…?” she asked, “You were…? But why would you…?”

Anika stood from her seat, walked towards him, hovering above him and looking down on him. She then slapped him as hard as she could across his face. Immediately after this gesture, she turned around and cried into her hands.

Mill stood up and embraced her from behind. He whispered many times, “I’m sorry. I can’t forgive myself. I’m sorry.”

After a long time remaining in this position, he finally whispered to her, “I can’t stay here in Orinda, and I want you to come with me.”

Anika turned around to look at him, her bloodshot eyes wide with surprise. She had to step back to get a full view of his expression.

Once she had determined that he in fact meant what he had said and was earnestly asking her to run away with him, she asked, “How can I do that? How can I leave everything behind?” She looked around in every direction at all the possessions she had in the room scattered in their various places. “I’m discovering that I don’t even know you,” she said, “You’re not what I thought you were. I thought you were some simple farmer who’d moved here from some tiny Fourth Order village. But, then again, I guess I should have known. The secretiveness, the spying, the fact that you could read, that you could write, that you were a terrible farmer, that you…” She stopped once again in mid-sentence and turned to him, looking into his eyes.

“That means you left your homeland to come here. You’re from Lamosa, I suppose. What reason could possibly compel you to leave, I don’t know. Duty? Patriotism? Love of country?” she asked. After a pause, she asked him, “And where would we go if I were to run away with you?”

“To Lamosa, I suppose,” he suggested, “Or perhaps to live in the wilderness. We can go wherever we want.”

Anika didn’t like this answer and she frowned. But instead of saying ‘no,’ she asked him, “Do you what it would be like if you were to leave and I weren’t to join you. It’d be like the last few days over and over again, day after day. I don't want to go through that again.”

<-- Go to Part 109         Go to Part 111 -->

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

Monday, January 28, 2013

Aresan Clan pt 109

At least to Mill’s nose, the strong scents that had been emanating from him for several days now had been erased after bathing. But he would need to do better for the nose of the Creature of Virtue, whose nostrils sucked in more and probed the air more deeply than his nose could.

He walked up to a tall pine and pulled away some of its bark, releasing the earthy sweetness of the sap. He rubbed his hands on the trees and then rubbed it all over his body. He found a bit of sap leaking out of another tree, and then, after warming it in his hands, smeared it on his skin.

Once he was dressed, he gathered handfuls of needles from the pine trees. He pulled them in bunches directly off of the trees, and then he stuffed them in pockets down his shirt. Any part of him that could carry the bunches was filled with needles, until his whole body reeked of the scent. This would have to be how he’d approach.

By the time he was finally ready, the sun had disappeared and the forest was black. Some flickers of light were visible in the city, and in particular he could see the fires that illuminated the sentry post at the town’s entrance.

He decided on a route that would lead him directly towards the sunsetward side of the Orinda Lake.  It would bring him to the back of Hassock’s pastures, which he could sneak across.  From there, he could wind his way through the city to Anika’s.

He took several deep breaths as he prepared himself for his long sprint, hopping up and down and moving his body around. A thousand doubts passed through his mind, but before he would let any of them stop him, he began to run. He sprinted at top speed across a distance that was far further than his legs could carry him at such speed. The town was only just visible in the distance when he started to run, and now, as he was passing through the territory of the Creature of Virtue, he could feel his legs beneath him starting to ache.

He now reached the shore of the lake and was turning to the right to circle around it. He was out of sight and earshot of the men who stood guard at the gate. Moments later he could see some of the crops in Hassock’s pastures rising before him. He darted down rows of wheat, moving towards a barn near Hassock’s home.

He could feel his legs weakening. His fear gave them the will and the incentive, but it didn’t give them energy or strength, and the longer he ran, the more that was sucked out of them.

He listened for the sound of the Creature, even though he knew that there would be no warning. The Creature was mostly silent as it stalked.

Fortune, though, blessed him with the slightest warning this time, the sound of the crops being parted by something behind him. He turned back, and all he saw was a black shadow flying through the airs towards him. He ducked and dodged, and the Creature soared over him. He changed directions, but still darted in the direction of the barn. The Creature was ready to leap again, just as he rounded a corner and was able to put a wall of the barn between him and the Creature.

The Creature still pursued, and he still to run, but she started to grow more cautious. As he neared the streets and looked back, he could see the Creature having come to a stop. The Creature made a whine and then growled angrily. She pawed at the ground, creating clouds of dust as she tried to stand tall and look intimidating. She was apparently trying to lure him towards her, afraid as she was to approach the city any closer, but Mill just continued to walk.

His aim was Anika’s. He wove through the city streets, which were mostly empty past the hour of sunset, and found his way, once again to the door of Anika’s home. He didn’t knock this time, instead simply slipping himself inside through the front door.

<-- Go to Part 108         Go to Part 110 -->

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

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Aresan Clan pt 108

Darma woke to a finger touching her lips. When she looked up and saw the black curly hair and olive skin, she smiled with recognition at Amida standing over her in the shadows.

Amida leant down and the two women shared a long kiss. As Amida retracted, she sniffed Darma’s skin with her nose, progressing down her neck to her chest, which was bare beneath the sheets. “You smell like Salles, don’t you?” She asked Darma, “Don’t tell me that it’s Salles I smell on your body?”

Darma gave a bashful smile and then she said to Amida in her characteristic way, “Please don’t be jealous. You know that it’s not the same thing with men. Men are more like useful instruments than lovers to me.” Darma laughed a little bit at her own words and had to restrain herself in order to avoid making too much noise.

“But you have a husband, and he is not him,” Amida whispered quietly, though in a tone of loud reprimand.

“Yes, but he is here to do what my husband can’t. Hopefully,” Darma said, “I don’t enjoy it. Well, actually I do, sort of. But only you have a place in my heart.”

Amida looked somewhat hurt when Darma said this, but she simply sighed and asked her, “Why do I put up with you?”

“I hope it’s because you love me,” Darma replied, and Amida sighed once again.

Mill and Strya had spent most of the remainder of the daylight walking towards Orinda. They plodded through unkempt pastureland and forest, remaining not just far from but completely out of sight of the road that connected Waldoon and Orinda.

They neared the city as the sun was setting and its colors were spreading across the sky. As they approached, they saw Orinda begin to separate from the thick forests that surrounded it, the large house of the Arbiter, standing prominently on a hill, being the most salient feature.

Strya stopped Mill at a distance comfortably beyond the territory of the Creature of Virtue. He turned to him and glibly explained, “I trust you can find your way to Orinda from here. It’s that place over there. Point your eyes toward it and aim your body in the same direction and you’ll be there. Though, I would recommend taking a more roundabout approach to avoid attention. I have other work to attend to, so I’ll leave you. I already did my part. And more. You have your instructions from Anders. Go forth and do your duty.”

Strya and Mill shared a sober goodbye, in which Mill thanked Strya profusely. After this exchange, Mill watched Strya disappear into the woods.

Mill turned back to Orinda and considered carefully how he could successfully approach it without getting killed. He had always relied on luring the Creature away and then hiding behind a false scent. But what could he possibly use to lure the creature away? Catch some game and slaughter it? With what? He had no weapons or tools. And how could he cover his scent?

This question he thought he could answer. He would start by bathing. There was a fairly small river that fed into the Orinda Lake that would have to suffice. He travelled through the woods to the banks of this small river. It was small enough that he could almost step over it, but he hiked upstream to a moderately flat section where there was some pooling just above a cascading set of waterfalls. He dipped his hands into the frigid water, which came from high altitudes in the mountains and thus practically numbed the hands at the touch. He scooped up some of it and splashed it on his face.

He fully undressed, first thoroughly washing the now worn and stinking clothes he’d been wearing for several days now. He dangled them from the branches of trees to dry. Then he subsequently plunged himself into the water. The creek was not deep enough that he could fully submerge his whole body, only parts. He bathed rapidly, so chilled by the cold water that he began to shiver. All he could do to dry himself was to scrape the water off his skin and wait for the chilly early evening air to dry him as he curled his body up to keep warm.

<-- Go to Part 107         Go to Part 109 -->

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

Friday, January 25, 2013

Aresan Clan pt 107

After only three nights home, Dorin had to leave once again. Darma was there to see him off with all apparent sorrow, kissing him and hugging him tightly as they stood at the door.

Salles, wit them in the entryway of Dorin and Darma’s home, shook hands with Dorin and thanked him profusely for the generosity of letting him stay at his house. Dorin nodded politely saying, “Yes, yes. My wife has always been keen on supporting the Sages. She’s always taken pride in her Aresan lineage and loves Aresan cluture, even if she did end up marrying a non-Aresan like me. But, I’m happy to let her have her way in this. Besides you Sages are a good bunch. A bit over-educated, if I can be honest, but trustworthy and respectable, to be sure.”

Salles smiled uncertainty, not sure how pleased to be by this half-compliment and not really comfortably enough around Dorin to speak his mind.

Salles suggested that Darma walk her husband to the stables where Dorin had boarded his horse and then, after they stepped through the front door together, hand in hand, he remained behind, in order to give them some time alone. From the stables, she kissed her husband goodbye one last time, as he stood by his horse. He wrapped her in his arms and told her tenderly, “The thought that you’re back here waiting for me, gives me strength during those long, dull periods when I’m away from you. I just want you to remember that. I think about you daily.”

“And I think of you more than daily,” Darma coquettishly replied.

She helped her husband up in to the saddle, and they shared one last kiss before he trotted away out onto the streets.

When Darma returned to her home, she found Salles still waiting in the entryway, apparently anxious for her return.

“Was it a doleful departure?” he asked.

“It was,” Darma said, with an incongruously beaming face. “But don’t be jealous,” she said, noticing the tone of displeasure in Salles’ question, “He may be my husband and I may be devoted to him, but he is not the first man in my heart.”

“I’m not jealous,” Salles responded, averting his gaze and turning away from you. “And I can’t imagine why you would say that. How could I be the first man in your heart, a man you’ve known only for some nine days?”

“Did I say you were the first man in my heart?” she said, laughing playfully, “Maybe you’re not the one either. But then again, my husband did just say that I do love the Sages very much. So, why shouldn’t I be in love with a handsome charming Sage like you?”

Darma turned Salles towards her and took his hands in hers, edging her face towards him. She looked up into his eyes and suggested, “Why don’t we make love. Now. It’ll make you feel so much better. And, who knows? This might be your last chance. You don’t know when they’ll summon you back to the cloisters?”

Darma’s words turned out to be prophetic when early that evening Amida and Eloh appeared at the front door, both of them stooping from fatigue and eager to rest after a long day of travel.

Eloh hugged Salles tightly at his arrival, asking him, “So, young novice, have you become a man of the city now? You’ve been here so long, you must be master of the city by now?”

Amida and Salles shared a lighter hug and she merely said, “Hello Salles. Glad to see you.”

Darma, though, greeted them both with a jubilant and animated greeting, grabbing them in her arms and kissing them on the cheeks before she told them both, “Oh! So wonderful to see you, both. Especially Eloh, who it’s been far too long since I’ve seen. My, you only seem to grow more handsome as you age. I wish that were my fate. Yet, here I am. Not even thirty and my beauty already fading. Tragic to be a woman.”

Amida was forced to recount to Salles and Darma her entire ordeal with tracking the courier, being captured and held and finally being returned, while they sat over dinner. Darma could barely contain her emotion at hearing this harrowing tale and she congratulated Amida on surviving such an ordeal.

That evening, Salles, much to his displeasure, was again relegated to the windowless interior room he’d used when he first arrived with Noone. While he struggled to sleep, outside his door, the almost imperceptible sound of bare feet tiptoeing across the floor towards Darma’s room could be barely discerned from silence.

<-- Go to Part 106         Go to Part 108 -->

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Aresan Clan pt 106

Jesek, along with all the other scribes, ceased his work for the day close to the night point. He stowed his materials away while other scribes were doing the same, pushing the papers, ink and pens into separate places in the shelves on the wall. Jesek said goodbye to his colleagues and, along with them, left the Public House for home.

He and his wife, Selah, occupied an apartment near where he worked. He stepped off the street into a small quad shared by several surrounding apartments. He climbed a set up stairs rising from the street-level to the second-story front door of his apartment. When he opened the door, the first person he saw was his tiny infant son, nestled in a cradle on the floor.

Selah walked into the room and said, “Hello, my love,” as she reached down and picked up the smiling infant. The gorgeous young blonde wrapped her slender arms around him and nestled him close against her soft chest.

Jesek took his son in his hands, playfully raising him up above his head. “Hello, my little treasure box,” he said to the child in a cheerful voice, “You didn’t give your mother any trouble today, did you?”

After a few moments of playing with his son, he handed him back to his wife, and told her, “I had a personal visit from General Alles. He’s of course going to be going with the army when they leave in a few days. And he wants me with him.”

Selah gave her husband a distressed look, and asked, “You didn’t say you would, did you?”

“Now, hold on. I haven’t finished,” he admonished, “He told me I wouldn’t be fighting. I’d be far behind the battlefield. I’d just be helping out with navigation and strategy.”

“And you told him, ‘no,’ right?” Selah again interrupted.

“I'm not finished,” he again admonished, “He said I’d be paid well for my services, not to mention the prestige of the position. But, I said…”

“You said you couldn’t do it,” Selah interrupted once more.

“No, I said I’d have to ask my wife. It’s up to her,” Jesek said, pausing for a moment and bringing out his disarming smile, “So? What do you think?”

Selah didn’t say anything in response, but was clearly unmoved. Jesek was accustomed to being able to persuade a woman of anything he said simply by leaning in towards her, gripping her hands and looking deep into her eyes with a beguiling smile spread across his lips. He could never be refused. He was used to his serene handsomeness enchanting women and putting them under his power. He’d never mastered the art of persuading people with words—in the form of a letter or an essay. He was used to being able to use his body and his body’s language to persuade. His wife, though, had grown partially immune to his powers, so that when he grabbed her hand, locked her in his eyes and said, “This would be really great for both of us; I’ll come back alive and well,” it was ineffective.

He didn’t need her to speak to understand that her mind remained unchanged and he was quick to cut her off before she could speak, saying, “It’s also a matter of duty. They’ve done so much for us. We were taken in as refuges. Our baby was delivered here by an Aresan Mage. And they helped me find a job. After all that, we have a duty to do what we can for our adopted home.”

“You already did your part,” Selah complained, “You were gone for days. I was all alone. And now you’ll leave me alone again.”

“You’ve got friends here now. They’ll help you. And think about what we could do with the money. What we could do for our baby,” he said.

Jesek had intensified the force of his persuasive body language, slowing moving his face closer and pleading with his eyes as he said, “I will be back.”

Selah finally gave up, fatigued from the effort of resisting. She didn’t say anything, but he could clearly see it in the way her body relaxed and retreated. “It will be for the best,” he said, “For all three of us.”

<-- Go to Part 105         Go to Part 107 -->

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

Monday, January 21, 2013

Aresan Clan pt 105

When Strya Solis and Rock weren’t calling out to the assembled crowds they were complaining confidentially to one another: “This is the worst part about being a soldier,” “Why can’t they find other people who actually enjoy this rubbish,” “Think killing soldiers is tough? Try persuading these weak-kneed cowards to arm up and fight,” “We’re not even that good at it,” and so on.

The complaints came to a stop when Solis elbowed Rock in the side and gestured towards Alles, who was sauntering towards them. He had the posture of a chiseled statue and people slipped aside as he moved through the crowds. The whole character of the crowds changed when they saw Alles. He moved as if he walked above them, as if the soles of his feet tread upon their heads and they looked up at him with admiration.

Solis and Rock had the strength and confidence of hardened soldiers and could surely terrify any man who ran upon them alone and defenseless, but they couldn’t command veneration like Alles. They both straightened up when they saw Alles approaching and fell silent.

“Welcome General,” the men both said in unison.

“Has your recruiting been successful?” Alles asked.

The two men looked at one another and traded slight frowns before they looked back to Alles and said simultaneously: “We’ve been somewhat successful” and “We’ve gotten a few recruits.”

“Good,” Alles said, “Do better, though. I know this is not the type of job you have been trained for, but this is absolutely necessary. Let me assist, at least.”

Alles then turned around and looked over the crowd and announced in a booming voice: “Citizens and civilians, we are in search of recruits for our army. Your country needs you. Your friends and neighbors need you, in order to protect them against the invading hordes that threaten their lives and their freedom. Do you have enough metal in your heart to take up the burden of this responsibility? Do you? If so, come forth and give us your name and your commitment.”

Within moments of Alles finishing his short soliloquy, several men were already lining up before Rock and Solis. The two soldiers asked each man their name and which clan they belonged to; then they made a mark on a sheet of paper, by which they kept track of the number of recruits; finally they took a cup of ink and dipped the four fingers of the recruit’s right hand into it until the fingers were stained a deep purple.

“Don’t both trying to wash that off,” Solis instructed them after their fingers were stained, “We’ll call for you in two days. So be ready.”

Alles departed soon afterwards, walking towards where he had originally been headed, to the Public House. He walked in through the main entrance. Many people stepped aside and bowed to him as he walked through the colonnade to the Open Table. Off to the right, in a small scriptorium, he found Jesek, the man he was looking for. He saw the young refuge huddled over a paper, which he was copying. It was an official decree concerning the commandeering of horses for the purpose of the upcoming war.

When Jesek saw the general, he stood up. “Sit, please,” Alles said, and grabbed a chair to sit beside him. “I want you to join me again when we march,” Alles said, leaning forward and looking directly into Jesek’s eyes, “You won’t be expected to fight. You’ll remain in the back ranks, assisting with navigation and strategy. Your contributions will be invaluable. I cannot stress that enough. You will of course be compensated generously for your service. But I can’t force you to join on this time. It’ll be entirely voluntary. If you insist on refusing, I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do. But I very much want you to join us.”

A disarming smile spread across Jesek’s lips as he heard this, and he lowered his face and looked up at Alles with his soulful eyes. “For you Alles, I’d do anything,” Jesek said, “But I’ll have to ask the wife. She makes my decisions for me.” He produced a small laugh to express that he was joking, though he was only partially doing so.

<-- Go to Part 104         Go to Part 106 -->

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

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Aresan Clan pt 104

Strya dragged Mill through the streets, through many infrequented back ways and side streets to the point that Mill was so lost and dizzied by the endless turns that he had no idea where they were or to where they were progressing. They skittered through narrow dirt paths between faceless buildings, slipping across short stretches of paved road and darting through patches of grass-strewn yards and parks. As they travelled further and further, the spaces between buildings expanded, the sizes of homes shrank and they crossed, more and more frequently, tracts of farmland of growing size.

“We can’t use any of the roads,” Strya said as they cut across a pasture, moving in the direction that Mill could now clearly identify as summerward, “But I can lead you to where you want to go.”

Mill turned around and looked back at the retreating metropolis of Waldoon, which loomed so high above them. The whole city sprawled over the horizon, with the central citadel poking above the rest of the buildings crowding at its feet.

“I want to go to Orinda,” Mill said to Strya.

Strya only expressed the slightest bit of surprise when he heard this. Though he knew that Mill must surely know this, he felt compelled to explain, “You do realize that it’s dangerous for you to go there? You won’t be able to enter through the main gates, and I can’t help you get past the creature of virtue.” Strya shook his head as he said these things to Mill, who simply nodded in response.

“I’ll take the risk,” Mill said, “I don’t intend to stay. Just to get in and out.”

Mill looked uneasy as he said this, almost afraid, but Strya wasn’t one to interfere with another man’s plans, so he simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “Then I’ll lead you to Orinda.”

“And about that question earlier?” Mill asked, “Why you helped me escape?”

Strya laughed a little after Mill said this and replied, “Well, I had to deliver a message for Anders and I figured the easiest and most reliable way was to deliver it in person. But, you know, after going through all the effort of figuring out where you were, and how to sneak in, and then infiltrating that place and finding your cell and knocking out that guard, it wasn’t that much additional work to help you out. The hardest part was just finding you. So, I figured, why not. Besides, I think Anders would prefer to have you out. I’m pretty sure he’s got something he wants you to do for him in this message.”

Strya pulled the sealed envelope from his pocket and handed it over with the bag of gold. Mill popped open the seal and unfolded the letter, quickly reading through its contents with an ever darkening expression.

“I’ll have to find Erek-Monte and his tribe,” Mill said as he folded the letter.

“You can’t tell me any more about what it says?” Strya jocularly asked, “No fun. As for Erek-Monte and his tribe I haven’t see them in more than a season. You can find them of course. They’re always around, but, since they’re Itinerants, they’re everywhere. By which I mean, they’re nowhere. What I’m saying is, I won’t be able to help you. Though, I will take you to Orinda, as I said.”

Mill then nodded and turned forward, with a wordless gesture of “lead the way.”

In the streets of Lamosa, positioned on all of the most prominent avenues and squares, several recruitment posts had been set up. Usually two or three soldiers who stood in their armor, brandishing weapons and holding the reins of a giant warhorse, staffed these. They shouted repeatedly to the passers by, “Our armies need you, men. To protect our land and keep our borders safe. Do your duty for your clan. Three square meals a day and gold in your pockets,” and so on. The specter of the Fourth Order was frequently invoked and the glory of great General Alles also mentioned.

Solis and Rock had been placed in the Omnian Plaza. With their backs to the Public House and their gleaming swords shining in the sun, they tried to draw in the reluctant peasants in the crowd, who looked curiously at them out of the corner of their eyes but were too apprehensive to approach.

“You there,” they’d point these men out with their swords, “A strong man like you could do our nation proud. With a weapon in your hand you’d single-handedly make our enemies quake.”

<-- Go to Part 103         Go to Part 105 -->

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

Friday, January 18, 2013

Aresan Clan pt 103

When the door finally opened Mill curled up in the corner and hid his face, quivering and weeping with terror. Then he heard a voice, familiar from somewhere beyond Waldoon, asking him, “Mill?”

He peaked out to look and saw, emerging from the shadows, the face of Strya entering the room towards him.

When Strya saw Mill’s face he said, “Thank Anan it’s you. I didn’t want to have to break down another of these doors and I wasn’t entirely sure this was your cell. I guess this means you’re the only Omnian spy they have here.”

Strya was by this point helping Mill to his feet and pulling him towards the door. “Pack your bags, we’re going on a trip,” Strya joked as he pulled him through the door.

Mill stumbled behind him, his legs sore and still not feeling entirely awake. Out in the hallway, he looked to the side and saw a guard lying on the ground unconscious. Strya held onto his hand and jerked at it for Mill to move faster. Ascending the stairs, he practically dragged Mill up them as Mill falteringly followed behind.

At the top of the stairs, Strya halted and peaked down the hall. He held Mill back as he waited for a figure in the distance to disappear. Then he led Mill in the opposite direction and up another set of stairs.

“Aren’t we at ground level already?” Mill asked, groggily and bleary eyed.

“We’re going up,” Strya said, “No good exits down there.”

The stairs they ascended spiraled upwards through a cramped space they had to stoop through. For many steps they climbed, well beyond the point when Mill started growing fatigued. When Strya felt Mill’s energy flagging, he encouraged, whispering to him, “If you don’t want to get us caught, you keep apace.” Mills legs started to ache and his lungs to burn, yet Strya kept on pulling him on without yielding.

They reached the top and Strya pushed through a heavy door. A strong wind was blowing and the air was cool. When Mill stepped out, he saw an impressive view of Waldoon. He looked over the edge and saw that there were several stories between where they were and the ground.

Strya walked over to the far end of the roof, gave a quick look down and then tossed a rope over the edge. He watched the rope unfurl and stop still at a good distance from the ground. He shrugged a little when he said, “I knew it was a bit too short. Oh well, it’ll do.”

Strya turned to look at Mill smiling and said, “I climbed up here without the rope. What a rush. I didn’t think you were too skilled in wall climbing so I brought the rope. You can thank me when you get to the end of it and see how long you have to drop.”

Strya handed Mill a pair of leather gloves. Then, wearing nothing on his hands, he hopped over the edge, holding onto the rope and announced, “Don’t linger.”

Mill had an uneasy sense of vertigo when he looked over the ledge at the ground so far below. But, with a quick prayer to Anan and a few deep breaths he followed Strya over the edge.

Strya moved down at a rapid pace, dropping hand over hand as his feet walked against the wall. When Strya got to the end of the rope, he slipped down as far as he could, with his hands holding just the tip of the rope. Then he let go and dropped the last distance.

Mill could hear him Strya’s hard landing, though he didn’t understand what it signified. He slowly lowered himself, his gloved hands gripping the rope as tightly as he could. His hands grew sore and weak and felt as if they would give way at any moment.

Finally, he reached the end of the rope. He reached out a foot, thinking that it would just touch the ground, but it only met with empty air. He looked down, and saw that he was more than two body-lengths above the ground. He was so shocked at the sight, that he lost his grip and tumbled down through the air. He landed hard in the dirt, his body collapsing painfully to the ground. His legs, ankles and bottom were all sore, though none of them apparently injured.

He thanked Anan again and stood up, seeing Strya already impatiently offering a hand to lead him on.

“Why’d you come to rescue me?” Mill asked in a tone lacking in gratitude.

Strya replied, “Not now. We still have to get out of the city.”

<-- Go to Part 102         Go to Part 104 -->

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Aresan Clan pt 102

After being submerged in the water several more times until his lungs felt as if they could burst, Janake asked Mill, “Are you going to start being honest with me?”

Mill tried to fabricate more information.  This time he claimed he didn’t know the name of the village they were to attack but it was the one nearest to Still Creek in the sunsetward direction and that they planned attacking in probably less than ten days from the previous.  For reasons that Mill couldn’t discern this lie apparently had more of the ring of truth to it and Janake brought the repeated drowning to an end.  He asked for more information and Mill continued to fabricate, aiming for plausible vagueness and apparently succeeding.

Janake told him after hearing all of this, with a conspiratorial smile, “Here you were telling me that you know nothing, and yet, with the proper incentive, we find that you really actually know quite a lot. In fact, the more you tell me, the more convinced I am that you really are holding back vast stores of information.”

Janake then turned Mill vertical and had the guard remove him from the ring.  Water dripped from the entirety of his body and he was breathless and tired.  The cold water had aggravated the wounds on his back, which now stung with renewed freshness.  The guard helped him out of the room, while Janake told him, “That’ll be enough for today.  As reward for your cooperation, we’ll give you a break.  But we will be back tomorrow to continue and hopefully conclude this interrogation.”

The next day when Mill was brought into the room of interrogation, Janake again tied him to a chair, but this time he tied his hands in front of him and inserted his two thumbs into a small screw press that was placed over the knuckles of both of his thumbs.

“This one is really just a variation of the head press and the knee press,” Janake said as he turned the screw so that two wooden plates were pressed snuggly around his thumb-knuckles, “The people who design these instruments of torture aren’t really all that creative.  This one here will break your thumbs, if we have to continue tightening it for too long.  So, if you want to retain the use of your thumbs, I suggest you cooperate.  Right now I want you to tell me as much as you can about the Omnian strategy of conquest?  What regions are they trying to conquer?  How many soldiers do they have allocated for these missions?  Is it one dedicated company or several?  Are these troops active in and around Middle Park and Winter Park at present or have they returned to Sanlosslee Park?  How are they in communication with Lamosa?  Is there a line of communication?”

Mill gave what he thought would be plausible answers to some of these questions, but after a few sentences of hasty, stuttering confessions, Janake asked the guard to tighten.  The guard reached down and gave the screw a firm twist while Janake looked away.  The pain slowly rose in severity until it was at the threshold of Mill’s tolerance.  The two wooden boards pinched his thumbs like the clamp of a strong jaw.  Mill started to panic as the anticipation of even more severe pain overwhelmed him.

He tried to answer Janake again, tears now streaming from his eyes, but Janake wasn’t pacified, and another turn of the screw was applied while Janake cringed.  Mill now screamed with pain.  But the pain didn’t stop, it was steady and unremitting and only grew worse as the moments passed.  His bones were nearly at the point of being crushed and Mill desperately tried to persuade Janake that he was telling the truth.

“I like that you’re talking,” Janake told him, “But I don’t like that you’re still lying to me.”

Mill made some minor variations in the fabrications he provided and to his great relief these seemed to pacify Janake, who told the guard that he could loosen it a little.  Janake, though, still hadn’t had all his questions answers, and he repeated them.  Mill struggled to fabricate plausible lies.

Afterwards, when Mill was deposited in his cell, he rested his body on the floor and began to cry.  His thumbs were in pain and moved only with difficulty, but they hadn’t been broken.  He could only barely sleep in a light doze.

He was roused from sleep by the sound of a heavy weight being pounded against the door of his cell.  He was terrified of whatever it was out there and recoiled to the far end of his tiny cell, quivering with fear and crying profusely once again.

<-- Go to Part 101         Go to Part 103 -->

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

Monday, January 14, 2013

Aresan Clan pt 101

The day after Mill’s punishment, he still waited in his cell, anticipating the moment when he would be released. Yet, time passed without a word or any attention being paid to him. It had all the appearance of him being entirely forgotten.

He discovered, though, that he had not been forgotten when the day after his cell was visited by the same guard that had always visited him, and he was hauled out of the prison into the same room of interrogation that he had visited before.

Janake was again there and he again sat across from Mill and explained the situation to him: “Aleck, we have brought you here to ask you a few more questions. It is my belief and the belief of some of my comrades that there is some information that might be relevant to us that is still hiding inside your head. So, if we might begin, I would like to ask you if you know when and where the next attack by the Omnia is scheduled to occur? Which village are they attacking and approximately how long before this is expected to happen?”

Mill squirmed in his chair as he heard this question and shouted back at Janake, “What is this? You were supposed to release me. That’s what you said! ”

“And there you are entirely correct,” Janake said, raising his eyebrows and staring at Mill with a fixed stare, “We are going to release, once you divulge all the information you have. So far you have been cooperative and we have given you a very lenient sentence in exchange. If you continue to be cooperative, then you’ll be out of here in no time. Now, as I was saying: where and when do you expect the next attack?”

“I don’t know,” Mill said, now squirming even more violently as he tried to pull himself out of the restraints that held him to the chair he was seated in. Mill rocked the chair back and forth and the guard had to hold him in place while Mill screamed through gritted teeth, “I’ve told you everything I know. If you’d just open your ears and hear what I’m saying. They told me almost nothing. I passed on information to them. Communication was entirely in one direction. Do you get it?”

As Mill spoke, Janake focused on carefully inspecting Mill’s face, which was red with rage. Once Mill finished, Janake simply sighed and said to Mill, “You’ve held things back from us before. Why should I trust you?” Aleck then gestured to the guard and told him, “Let’s start with the drowning tank.”

The guard untied Mill and led him towards the back of the room where the instruments of torture were located while Mill vigorously struggled against him. Janake explained as they walked, “I’m being quite forgiving today. The torture you’ll have to endure will do no permanent damage. But bear in mind that if you continue to resist, we will have to resort to some of the more brutal tortures, which will permanently disfigure you.” Janake then pointed to a screw press that was wide enough to put two legs through and explained, “That one, for example, will break your knees. You wouldn’t be able to walk anymore. I’d hate to have to use it. It’s really unpleasant for me to watch.” Janake pointed to another screw press that had a round cup on top and another smaller cup on bottom and he said, “That’s one for your head. People who get too intransigent in that one tend to lose all their teeth. Really ugly stuff.”

Mill was tied to a large ring while he stood vertically, his wrists and his ankles both securely affixed. He didn’t understand what this torture was about and was terrified with expectation. The ring was rotated so that he was horizontal and a water tank was pushed beneath him.

The guard lowered him, ring and all, into the tank. He squirmed about in a frantic attempt to free himself and get his mouth above the water. As the moments passed, the pain in his lungs intensified as his body screamed out for breath. He was abruptly lifted and he took a few quick breaths, which gave him a short respite, but then he was dropped back in and the torment began again.

When he was lifted a second time, Janake asked him, “Now are you going to talk?”

Mill immediately started spouting out anything he could think of that might convince them. He thought he remembered hearing of a small village even further summerward than Still Creek called Walton, and so he said, through rapid breaths that Walton was the next target and that they would be probably attacking after about twenty or thirty days.

Janake looked at him skeptically and said, “I’m not sure if I believe you,” and ordered for Janake to be dunked back into the water.

<-- Go to Part 100         Go to Part 102 -->

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

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Aresan Clan Summaries

I have added a series of summaries, each summing up ten parts (parts 1-10, parts 11-20, parts 21-30, etc) of the Aresan Clan serial in about 400 or so words. You can see the lot of them, under the "Summary Label." So, if you want to go back and quickly catch up on everything that's happened, or just review what you've read, it's there.

Aresan Clan Summary - Parts 91-100

The Arbiter, Roderick, visits Lipmon, who is recovering from his injuries in luxury at the High Priest’s palace. Lipmon tells Roderick that he wants to recover promptly so that he can march with the army in a few days. Roderick then returns to Orinda, and, from his home, he summons the Creature of Virtue. He presents a piece of clothing from Mill to the Creature and tells her to kill Mill if he should ever near the city.

Chrissina, an Itinerant female, is in charge of taking care of Amida, who is still interred in the basement room, and the two women get along well.

Darma helps Annsi get ready for a dinner party at a wealthy friend’s place. Darma dresses her up in one of her own nicer dresses, and tells her of the importance of appearances and that none of the eligible bachelors she hopes to meet there can know she’s a soldier.

Strya unexpectedly visits Anders’ home in the early morning. Strya tells him that the Fourth Order is about to march with a large army in the direction of the Aresan Clan and the Omnia. Anders hastily organizes the Closed Table and they agree to organize troops for a defense immediately. A messenger is sent to Summer Park to speak with the Grand Royal of the Aresan Clan.  He also agrees to contribute troops and orders Alles to be put in charge of the Aresan troops.

Erek-Monte and his men meet with Noone and the Sages, and they exchange prisoners, returning Jule to the Aresans and Amida to the Sages. Noone is able to keep Jule’s collection of books.

Tine travels to visit the legendary General Burlingam, who lives a hermit’s existence on the far side of the Great Dunes in a cave. They try to persuade the General to lead their troops against the Fourth Order, and succeed by telling him that this will be a truly great war, one worthy of his greatness.

Out of Waldoon the Fourth Order armies begin marching. Lipmon, decked out in a soldier’s armor that he received as a gift joins them, despite the royal surgeon telling him that he is not fully healed and that he risks reopening his wounds.

<-- Summary of Parts 81-90              

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

Aresan Clan pt 100

Lipmon sat on his bed with his shirt off while Saurek’s personal surgeons sat beside him carefully tugging at the stitches in his side. The surgeon used a small blade to carefully cut the bits of string and then, with a pair of tweezers, he pulled the string out of Lipmon’s skin. Lipmon winced each time the string was pulled out, though the doctor tried to do it as carefully as possible. The pain caused Lipmon to clench his whole body, gripping a pillow in his arms and pressing it firmly against his chest.

“I’m going to tell you one more time that this is a bit premature,” the surgeon said, “We should’ve waited a few more days before I took these ought. I’m really afraid your wound’s going to reopen. And really you should be taking some bed rest. You’re not going to recover by marching through the mountains all day and spending your nights sleeping outside in the cold. As someone interested in your recovery I cannot recommend that you march with the army.”

The surgeon spoke these words as he continued to remove the stitches, and, during this time, Lipmon was silenced by the pain. But, once the surgeon, was finished Lipmon took a long deep breath and in a voice that sounded strained and fatigued he told him, “You’re absolutely right about everything you say. But I’m going anyways. This is all I’ve thought about for the past ten days. Nothing else.”

Lipmon turned his head and looked at the suit of armor that had been laid out for him: a personal gift from Saurek with a sword and shield lying beside it.

After rinsing off the wound, the surgeon advised Lipmon to cleanse the wound regularly and try to keep it covered. The surgeon himself tied a clean strip of cloth around Lipmon’s midsection to protect the wound, telling Lipmon to replace and clean the cloth every day. He last advised Lipmon to try and mitigate his physical activity as much as possible and to take as much sleep and food as he could.

Lipmon heard it all, but was focused on the armor as the surgeon spoke, and, as soon as he was left alone in the room, he began to array himself in the armor. He had to guess at the order that the pieces were supposed to be put on. He put the cuirass—a stiff chest piece made of multiple layers of leather, reinforced by an internal layer of tin—over his shirt, before he realized that the chainmail was probably supposed to be beneath it, since the cuirass’s chest was decorated by an ornate crest, which he assumed was supposed to be displayed. He the discovered that the cuirass had to be tied beneath the arms to make it fit more snuggly. He put on two leather gloves, which extended up and protected his forearms, before he realized he still needed his hands to put on the skirt and boots, which required the dexterity of his naked fingers to put on and tie in place. He put on his helmet last of all, a chainmail aventail dangling from its bottom to protect his neck.

He picked up the metal sword and it felt heavy in his hand. He swung it around clumsily and had difficulty holding it steady and maneuvering it where he wanted it to go. He picked up his round shield last, much lighter than the sword, since it was made of a thin sheet of metal wrapped in several layers of leather skins. Fully decked out, he stood himself in the battle stance he’d seen other soldiers make, with his knees bent, his eyes peaking out over the top of his shield and the sword pointing upwards next to it.

Moments later he was walking hastily towards the Adrus Palace courtyard, the pain from his wound preventing him from moving any faster. When he arrived there, he saw the masses of soldiers departing, their numbers flooding up the stairs and out of the palace in long and regular rows. A continuous stream of them was marching through the archway and the remaining blocks of soldiers were being unwound into this stream.

He walked up to an officer who was overseeing the soldiers and told him, “Lipmon from Still Creek-for, here to join the march.”

“Yes, I know about you,” the officer said, looking him up and down, “You don’t need to be fully armored yet; we’re not in battle. You can stick with me. We’ll join in at the tail, just ahead of the supply carts. Glad to see you could enlist with us. You’re a real patriot, you are.”

“Just here to do my part,” Lipmon said with a smile, while he removed his helmet.

<-- Go to Part 99         Go to Part 101 -->

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

Friday, January 11, 2013

Aresan Clan pt 99

“You walk through the Dunes every day?” Tine asked the General in wonder, “But they are holy ground. And also there’s the blank spot. Because the dunes are always shifting, no one knows precisely where it is. No men dare enter the dunes. Aren’t you afraid?”

“You think there are blind spots in the eyes of God?” General Burlingam laughed good naturedly, “To Anan, the dunes are holy ground, and I walk barefoot, and am always under his protection. If there could possibly be a place where the all-seeing eyes of Anan cannot see and where death could take you instantly down into the underworld to join the ranks of his army for all eternity, then our God should not be so great as I believe he is. And that I cannot accept. The eye of Anan sees all. He saves all from Death. There cannot be any real battle between Anan and Death. The contest between them would be so lopsided to be ridiculous. We humans go into battle to prove which side is the stronger. Between God and Death, no proof is necessary.”

Tine delicately tried to interrupt General Burlingam’s monologue without offending him. He began, “Sorry, but we’ve actually come to ask you to lead the armies of the Omnia. The Fourth Order is launching an attack and we need to organize a defense.”

“When are they expected to attack? And when are our armies expected to march?” the General asked, shifting his line of thought as soon as he heard Tine.

“We expect the Fourth Order to march any day, and we’ve decided to march in four day’s time.”

“Four days?” General Burlingam said, “That’s too soon. Far too soon. What time will there be to train the troops? Training is essential and it can take months to really shape a mass of independently-minded men into an organism with its own unified will. Four days is not enough. We certainly can’t go into war without training. Training is the root and stem of all military strategy. To take any plan I might form in my mind and spread it out onto the battlefield, I need men that obey my will and are capable of doing the things I ask of them. I need to be able, should it be necessary, to send them straight towards death, running and with their eyes wide open. I must have my weapon shaped and ready before I go to battle, and I’m afraid four days is simply not enough time. I will be merely playing in the sand. I’ll be like one trying to plant his flag atop the dunes.”

“Please General, we need you,” Tine pleaded, again trying to delicately interrupt him.

“I know you do,” the General chuckled, “But the question is: do I need you. What does a man need in his waning years more than anything? Immortality. To be saved from the afterlife. But since that isn’t possible, then I can at least attain immortality by means of an undying reputation. I want my name carved onto the surface of eternity. I want it carved onto the wind and onto the flowing streams so that every moment that flows by people will be reminded, ‘General Burlingam served his country and he did it masterfully. He was a man we should calibrate our actions to. Whatever direction he walked, that direction was towards something higher.’ Do you understand what I mean? I want to do something truly great. I’ve had a distinguished military career so far, but true greatness has eluded me. That is what I’ve been waiting for.”

“This will be your opportunity,” Tine said, with quiet earnestness, “It may the beginning of a great war. The biggest in more than a generation most likely.”

“I’ve decided to reserve myself in these final years for a truly great endeavor,” the General confessed, “Is that what this is?”

“Yes,” Tine assured. Tine had to admit to himself that he didn’t quite know what high standard precisely General Burlingam was aiming for, whether this would be great enough to qualify by the General’s standards. But he certainly knew that two large armies would be meeting in battle, and he couldn’t think of any battle so big since he was a child. “Can we expect your leadership, then?” he asked.

“All day long all I can think about are battle strategies,” General Burlingam said, “I think about lines of attack, lines of defense: movement and countermovement. I’d like to see how my ideas respond to reality.”

Tine smiled and said to the General, “We’ll help you pack.”

<-- Go to Part 98         Go to Part 100 -->

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

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Aresan Clan pt 98

After word had spread that Alles would lead the Aresan troops, Anders ordered General Burlingam to be invited to lead the Omnian troops. He told Tine, “Alles is a fine commander, undoubtedly, but if we can persuade General Burlingam… I mean, if you can persuade General Burlingam, since I’d like you to go talk to him. If you can persuade him to lead our troops, we’ll be in good shape indeed. Bring some men with you. Be quick about it.”

“I don’t know where we can find him,” Tine replied.

“Far side of the Great Dunes, so far as anyone last heard,” Anders said, “He should be there still now.”

Tine, with soldiers Orick and Jyorg, departed Lamosa on horseback soon thereafter, galloping fast. They aimed themselves directly for the glowing hills of sand located sunriseward from Lamosa, the Great Dunes rising prominently above the valley floor, the Walking Mountains constantly pushed and reshaped by the winds that streamed across the valley.

As morning approached noon and they neared the Great Dunes, the three riders steered summerward to circle around them. Once they’d reached the other side, they turned winterward, heading up the river valley between the dunes and the mountains.

“Everyone tells me his abode is easy to spot,” Tine said to the men, “He has a big red flag on the entrance, apparently.”

They trotted up the valley, keeping their eyes fixed on the slope to their right, which was covered in low, thinly spread shrubbery, that patchily covered the bare face of the rock. After a few minutes of riding, they saw there a red cloth flapping in the strong winds and approached it.

The red cloth was secured on all four corners against the furious wind that blew against it and constantly tried to pull it away. It was all that appeared to be there, but, lifting one corner, which had been affixed to the ground by a hook, they saw that it was the door to a cave dug into the ground.

The three of them entered, calling out General Burlingam’s name, but hearing no response. The space was dark and dusty, but apparently had been fitted out nicely for living in. A mattress lay in a far corner for a bed; a small nook had been carved out at one side, and been fitted out to serve as a fireplace, complete with chimney; and the room was stocked with food. Most notably the room was strewn about with handwritten pages of notes, along with a small desk with ink, plume and more blank pages.

While Tine looked about, Jyorg announced, while standing at the entrance, “There he is.” Jyorg pointed towards the dunes, and the three of them, as they squinted, could see the figure of a man walking down the near slope of the dunes in bare feet. He carried shoes in his hands, and when he arrived at the bottom, he stopped to put them on. He crossed over the river, and ascended the slope to where he saw, with surprise, the three men waiting for him at the entrance to his abode.

“General Mikkei Burlingam Tode,” Tine said to him as he approached, “We have come to speak with you on urgent business.”

“Tine, is it?” General Burlingam said, as he looked at the old soldier. Tine nodded and introduced the other two men with him.

General Burlingam moved at an unhurried pace and seemed to have grown accustomed to a solitary life of idleness and ease. He moved with the deliberate elegance and grace of a choreographed dance with a body that looked every bit as large and imposing as he was when he first started as a rank and file soldier in his youth, though the years had weathered and perhaps slowed him down a bit.

“If you gentlemen would join me inside,” General Burlingam said, slowly entering his cave. He sat down on the ground as the two men followed and he stretched out his legs to rest them and then removed his shoes and began to massage his feet.

“I walk through the dunes everyday,” he explained to his visitors, “It awakens the mind. Lets it flow like the dunes.”

<-- Go to Part 97         Go to Part 99 -->

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

Monday, January 7, 2013

Aresan Clan pt 97

Jule was led up the stairs and out of the storage room where he’d been held. When he reached his room, the door was opened and he was let inside. A crowd of Sages lingered about him, making sure he made no attempt to flee. The spritely old weaver moved around the room quickly gathering up his possessions into his bag.

When he began to pull the bed away from the wall, Noone told him, “You can take everything except for the books.”

Jule looked at her with a truly pained expression and complained pathetically, “But these are my most valuable possessions. You don’t understand what it takes to collect this much. I’ve been building this collection for years.”

“I do understand,” Noone replied, “Which is exactly why I want to keep these for the Cloisters. Consider it payment for the watermill. Besides, what do you need such books for?”

“To learn. I can read, you know,” Jule said with great pride, “And I learned the languages I know through reading these books. I learned my Omnian by reading (and by listening, of course). I learned the Aresan dialect and the Fire Tongue.”

“I take it you didn’t acquire these by legitimate means,” Noone added.

“I couldn’t afford that,” Jule said with an apologetic smile, “Many thefts over many years. I’m going to miss these books, I can tell you that. You better take good care of them. These things are valuable. They ought not to be manhandled by the grubby fingers of young novices. They should be handled by people who appreciate them for what they are.”

“We’ll take good care of them,” Noone said, leading Jule out of the room with his bag in hand. The crowd of Sages remained on all sides as they moved through the hall, into the gallery and out the door.

They walked Jule downhill to the base of the valley and continued in that direction. In the distance they could see a crowd of Itinerants walking towards them. At the center of this crowd was Amida, dressed in her same brown frock and bearing on her shoulder the bag she’d packed when she’d left.

The two groups stopped once they were within vocal range. Noone told Jule, “Tell him: Welcome, we’re pleased to meet him.” Jule translated, shouting the words in the Itinerant dialect.

Erek-Monte who led the group gave a hearty laugh, and, as soon as he laughed, the rest of his group followed. He shouted back at Jule, in his own language, “And welcome to you too.” He gave a mocking bow towards Noone and laughed again. He asked, “So, we’re going to exchange then? You send our guy over, we send your gal, and from hereon there is no bad blood between us? All is forgotten?”

After Jule translated, Noone nodded and agreed, “All is forgotten. So long as it doesn’t happen again.”

Jule translated for Noone, but decided to add, on his own, in both languages, “I just want to tell everyone that Noone took my books. All my books. All of them. I loved those books.”

Erek-Monte simply smiled and laughed when he heard this, commenting quietly to his men, “Such lot of weight to carry round those were.”

Noone nudged Jule forward and he began to bridge the gap between the two crowds. Amida was released and she simultaneously walked towards the Sages. “Lovely as ever,” Jule said, as he passed by Amida, “I’ll miss your pretty face.” Amida didn’t say anything, merely turning her face away from him with the intention of denying him the sight of it.

“May I ask you why you destroyed our watermill?” Noone asked in Erek-Monte’s direction once Amida arrived. Jule translated and Erek-Monte listened to him, but he didn’t have anything to say. “For the Fourth Order,” Noone added, “You did it on orders of the Fourth Order, right?”

After hearing these words translated, Erek-Monte immediately replied, in Omnian, “Yes. Fourth Order,” shouting at Noone with a big smile on his face. “Money,” he added with a hand gesture to emphasize the point.

Just to make it clear, Jule said, in Omnian, “The Fourth Order hired us to commit an act of sabotage. They paid us handsomely.”

“Yes,” Erek-Monte said again, in Omnian, “Fourth Order.” He and all of his men seemed to be holding back the laughter as he said this. “Good bye,” Erek-Monte shouted in Omnian, turning around and ordering his men to follow him.

Noone didn’t reply, ordering her own crowd to follow her back to the cloisters.

“Do you think he’s telling the truth?” she asked Eloh who walked beside her

“Not likely,” Eloh replied.

<-- Go to Part 96         Go to Part 98 -->

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

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Aresan Clan pt 96

“Our armies?” Chief Royal Sirr interrupted the messenger, spitting as he talked, “What do you they need them for?”

“For defense against the Fourth Order,” the messenger repeated, continuing where he had been interrupted, “Who it is believed will begin marching summerward with a sizable army in less than two days time. The object of their attack is unclear, but since they most certainly intend to attack either one or both of our nations, then it is imperative, per the terms of our treaties, we unite in defense as near to immediately as possible. We request as many soldiers as you can muster in five days from today, armed, equipped and ready to march winterward.”

The Royal gave an exasperated sigh at this and said, “Certainly. Our armies are yours. Tell someone who cares about these things that I give over our armies for this defense.” Sirr looked around the room for someone who might respond. He added, “I think you can put Alles in charge of the Aresan Clan’s armies. Have someone send him a message or something. And also have someone who knows were all of our squadrons are stationed have as many as possible brought here. And it wouldn’t hurt to bring in some more recruits. We can put aside some of the treasury for some recruiting. As many as you can get. And they’ll need arms or whatever. See what we can do about that. Yes, that sounds good. That’s about the limits of what I can suggest. Put someone in charge of this who knows what they’re doing.”

The Royal spewed his words in all directions. The servants, guards and courtiers that crowded the throne room, though, took note of what he said, and many of them peeled off to perform what they perceived as their assigned tasks.

Then Sirr looked directly at the messenger and he said, “You messenger! If Alles is in Lamosa, you get the message to him. Tell him he’s got an army to lead and he should get here now. He’s probably in Lamosa. He’s not around here, I don’t think. I haven’t seen him around. Does anyone know where Alles is?”

“I believe he is still in Lamosa, your majesty,” the messenger replied.

“Excellent,” the Royal replied, “Then tell him all that. And tell the Omnia that we’re the last clan to try and worm out of a treaty. Our armies will be ready to stand beside theirs and fight off those Fourth Order hordes and send them all to Death with swords through their gullets.” Sirr pointed his finger directly into the air to enunciate this point. After doing so, he returned his hand to the woman sitting next to the throne and she continued to massage it.

“Now if this is all that needs to be done, then you’re dismissed, messenger. I might as well dismiss myself too,” Chief Royal Sirr said.

“Thank you, your majesty,” the messenger bowed and then retreated.

Sirr began to pull himself out of his seat. His already round, red cheeks, grew even redder at this exertion and sweat began to bead on his skin. The women offered some help, holding onto his hands and then helping him along after he finally stood up and walked out of the throne room.

The room he ended up in after a short walk was his boudoir: a warm, beautiful room filled with many young women prancing about. In the center was a heated pool in which several women swam, and in one corner was a massive circular bed, sunk into a recessed alcove. Several bowls of beer sat on table, ready to be served from and generous quantities of fruit were laid out beside them, ready to be eaten.

Sirr walked towards the massive bed, stripping off his clothes as he walked, dropping his royal robes to the floor with indifference. With his huge round belly exposed, he lay down on the bed and let women swarm around while he told them, “Sorry girls. Affairs of state have to be taken care of. I wouldn’t mind so much, if they weren’t so tiring. But I’m back. Time for fun.”

The women giggled as he grabbed at some of them and started to play.

<-- Go to Part 95         Go to Part 97 -->

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

Friday, January 4, 2013

Aresan Clan pt 95

As soon as Strya was gone Anders left the study and told Silva to get word out immediately to the Closed Table that they would need to be at the Public House as soon as possible.

By the time the sun was just separating from the horizon, Anders was standing before the Closed Table while they all turned towards him waiting for him to speak. He looked at the mural on the wall—Hieronymous capturing and expelling Char-Sensa-doon after Char-Sensa-doon’s failed attempt to infect William Sirr in order to effect the fall of the Five cities. Just as Hieronymous stood as a bulwark against the encroachment of evil, he too imagined his role as leader as similar: to prevent his wicked enemies from infesting his lands.

Anders began speaking as soon as the last straggler hastily ran into the room and sat in his seat. “I have it under good intelligence that the Fourth Order will be marching summerward with a large army within days,” Anders said.

Indistinct voices all began speaking at once around the room, but one question came out loud and clear, “What are their intentions?”

“We think they are hostile,” Anders responded, nodding his head, “We don’t know their exact plans, but the size of the army being organized and the direction of their march indicate that it is more than simply an attempt to secure the disputed territories. They apparently expect military resistance and thus must be intending to march far enough summerward that they will meet it. They may be marching against the Aresan Clan, in which case we will have to provide military support, or they may in fact intend to march around their territory and head straight for Sanlosslee park. Either way, we need to immediately begin to organize our armies and be prepared to meet them. Unless there is any dissenting voice, I think we are in agreement that all the clans of the Omnia will need to contribute soldiers and weapons in full abundance. We will immediately contact the Chief Royal of the Aresan Clan and ask the same of him. And we should understand that our timescale is on the order of days. If the Fourth Order marches in two days, their armies can be at the Outer Bulwark in as little as eight days from now. We want to be able to march in five with an army sufficient enough to meet them. Is everyone seated here capable and willing to meet these demands?”

Anders saw several heads nodding around the table, but seeking something more definitive he said, “concur?” He heard all of them announce, “concur,” in clear voices that sounded throughout the room. “May it be recalled that there was unanimous concurrence to these requests,” Anders said and the men all again silently nodded.

Just as the sun was at its highest, a messenger was arriving at Plats Castle, the home of the Chief Royal of the Aresan Clan. It was located in the summerward-sunsetward corner of the massive Summer Park, the land of the Aresan Clan, a valley nearly as large as Sanlosslee park. Plats Castle was nestled in the shoulder of a prominent hill that overlooked most of the valley, surrounded by a wall of white, peppered granite that skirted the base of the hill.

The messenger passed by a bevy of armored guards as he entered this outer wall, slowing his tired horse to a trot as he ascended the hill towards the castle. He moved up the streets of a densely packed and crowded city that surrounded the castle, crammed with many large and expensive buildings. The castle itself, rising above the city, had its own high, windowless wall, which formed its exterior, made of a chalky limestone that glowed in the sunlight. A dry moat had been dug around the castle and itself lined with limestone, which created smooth walls on both sides of the moat. A drawbridge, currently lowered, permitted passage for the messenger, who urged the horse forward

A servant was there just inside the wall to take the horse and the messenger hastily dismounted. The messenger was a young man, quick on his feet and lean, with wiry, frantic energy. When he entered the throne room, he was recognized and a personal guard ran off to fetch the Chief Royal from his boudoir.

The messenger knelt before the throne and waited. His knees were growing sore on the hard floor, by the time he heard the sound of Chief Royal Christo Rabeus Sirr entering the room from behind the throne. Looking up, he saw a massively obese man, who swayed as he walked with two beautiful young concubines helping him along. After he tumbled into his chair, the women remained at his side and held onto his hands, gently stroking and massaging them.

“A message from the Close Table of the Omnia for Chief Royal of the Aresan Clan,” the messenger began.

The Chief Royal urged on impatiently, “Yes, yes, get on with it,” in a voice like the strident trumpeting of a crane.

“We request the full assistance of your armies for defense against the Fourth Order,” the messenger said.

<-- Go to Part 94         Go to Part 96 -->

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

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Aresan Clan pt 94

In the early morning hours, Anders' bodyguard, Silva heard a gentle knocking coming from one of the backdoors of Anders' Private House and cautiously approached to investigate. The door was located in a hallway near Anders' bedroom and led out to the main garden on the side of the house opposite the main entrance. Silva cautiously approached the door, drawing a sword for defense.

He pulled it open rapidly and stepped back lest there was a person on the other side ready to attack. Instead he saw a motionless figure in a hooded black cloak whose head was stooped forward to hide his face. When the figure raised his eyes the thin face of Strya appeared.

“Strya,” Silva said, “Didn't know you were coming.”

“This is an unscheduled visit,” Strya said, “I had to take unusual precautions to avoid being seen. But I take it that Anders is here.”

“Certainly,” Silva said. He led Strya to Anders' study and left him there. Then Silva found Anders in his bedroom. Anders was wrapped under the warm sheets of a capacious bed with his wife beside him, quietly snoring. Silva stepped towards him and gently touched him on his shoulder.

Anders opened his eyes and looked up at his bodyguard asked, “Did I oversleep?”

“No sir, I'm afraid you have an important visitor,” the bodyguard said quietly.

“Can it wait until I'm awake?” Anders asked groggily.

“I think not,” the bodyguard said, and Anders rose from his bed.

He disturbed his wife when he moved and she asked, “What is it?”

“You don't have to get up,” Anders said to her, “Get your sleep.”

Anders left the bedroom with Silva leading the way. When he was presented with Strya sitting in his study, his previously sleepy demeanor and foggy mind immediately opened into wakefulness. “What brings you here at this time?” Anders asked.

“It couldn't wait,” Strya said, “The Fourth Order is organizing large numbers troops in Waldoon. Probably most of their army. An estimated fifty thousand troops. The troops are moving summerward soon, perhaps in a day or two. It seems clear they intend to attack.”

“Do you know why?” Anders asked, “I mean, why they claim they’re going to war?”

“You destroyed one of their villages and Saurek is publicly proclaiming that you’re out to conquer,” Strya responded. “Why they think you’re out to conquer I don’t know, but probably because they take the destruction of Still Creek as evidence enough. They're already prone to distrust you,” Stya speculated, shrugging his shoulders to show his uncertainty, “You could’ve sent them a message trying to explain yourself to them, if you hadn’t wrecked what was left of any sort of amicable ambassadorial dialogue long ago. You tell them now you have no intentions of conquering, they'll take it confirmation that you are planning to conquer posthaste.”

Anders' remained stiff and unspeaking as he listened to Strya's words. A great army was going to be descending upon his empire and he had to meet it with considered action. In perhaps as little as eight days they would be bursting through the gaps in the Outer Bulwark and flooding into Sanlosslee Valley with weapons raised and battle cries on their lips.

“I'll leave you then,” Strya said after a prolonged silence, “You have other people to summon and consult I expect. I'll keep you apprised of relevant intelligence.”

“Yes, thank you,” Anders replied absentmindedly. Then, as Strya stood up to leave he announced suddenly, “Wait, one more thing. Can you get a message to Mill?”

“It should be no more difficult than before,” Strya replied, shrugging his shoulders.

Anders crossed the room to a desk and he pulled out a piece of parchment. He hastily wrote out a note to Mill and then folded it up. He sealed with a few drips of wax and then took a small stone cylinder to leave his insignia upon it. The cylinder was rolled through the soft wax, leaving the imprint of his family insignia in the wax. It depicted a sun rising over a mountain, an ear of corn and a sword interlocked, and a great tower with many windows touching the clouds.

Anders handed the sealed letter to Strya and he said, “For Mill and for Mill alone.” He then handed Strya a bag of gold and said, “Give this to Mill. The letter will explain how he's to use it.”

“Is this a priority?” Strya said, looking skeptically at the letter, “Delivering this could take time. I won't be able to bring intelligence as promptly.”

“Yes,” Anders replied, “It takes priority.”

<-- Go to Part 93         Go to Part 95 -->

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