Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Chapter 7

Chapter 7

Feast Day celebrations at the Wild Boar tavern are legendary, usually ending with half the patrons waking up in Constable Bandern’s jail and the rest greeting the morning sun with aching heads and stomachs. The din that faced Malcon as he opened the western door into the Council chamber rivaled anything that the Wild Boar could boast. Council members were hurling angry accusations at each other with such vehemence, Malcon was sure chairs could not be far behind. The rule against weapons in the Council chamber saved the room from being redecorated in red, he was sure. Malcon’s seat at the Council table was on the opposite side from where he’d entered, presenting him with the unpleasant task of weaving his way through at least a half dozen furious creatures, each flailing their arms about themselves as they berated each other. Normally, his dull black robe and status as a lowly human made most of the Council ignore his presence. Their current agitated state would only heighten his seeming invisibility, making the trek to his seat all the more troublesome. Liliandra, the Elven representative was his first obstacle. She was livid, vigorously shaking her finger at the Orcan councilor, Oogo. Her elegantly embroidered emerald silk robe, gold tasseled belt and regal circlet made her harsh berating of Oogo seem more like royalty condemning her serf than fellow councilors hashing out a particularly troublesome problem. Liliandra’s natural elven demeanor only added to the lopsided appearance. Elves tend to view other races as inferior, especially ones that are not blessed with the beauty that is common in Elves. On the polar opposite end of the beauty spectrum stands firmly the Orc race. Oogo was a perfect example of an Orc, strong, fierce, intense, and well, ugly. Mottled green/gray skin, a sloping forehead, a pair of two inch tusks protruding upward from his lower jaw, and a perpetually disheveled dingy green coarse mass topping his head marked him as a typical Orc. His clothes also spoke of his extreme difference from Liliandra. He wore dark leather pants and a plain russet jerkin, practical clothes for a life of hard work, as opposed to elven clothes that spoke of grace and leisure. Liliandra’s incensed accusation centered on an attack by a group of Orcs on a wedding party just inside Windwood Forest; she demanded to know what would possess Orcs to kill an innocent wedding party. Oogo might have had an explanation or might have even tried to understand what she was talking about, but his attention was elsewhere. Malcon, after slipping past Liliandra’s pointing finger, noticed that Oogo didn’t have a clue that Liliandra was berating him. He was bellowing at Cogsworth, the Gnomes’ presence on the Council. At three feet two inches, he was the second smallest member of the Council, but his usual impact on Council meetings belied his physical stature. A jesting, animated councilor, full of wit and wisdom, he was a credit to his race. Gnomes are sought out as court jesters and counselors because they seamlessly blend humor with sage advice. Today, however, was not a good day to observe gnomish virtues. Cogsworth’s normally serene yellow-hued face resembled a beet, Malcon observed as he squeezed by both Oogo and Cogsworth. Unfortunately for Oogo, Cogsworth’s strained expression had nothing to do with Oogo’s incensed claim that a group of Gnomes had ambushed and slaughtered three Orc children while they swam in Okoo pond. Cogsworth was focusing his ire at a gaunt, extremely pale creature dressed in a dark brown robe tied at the waste with a white corded rope. This creature was the Hurmink’s envoy to the Council, Beleeze. As the guardians of knowledge, Hurminks are usually somber, deliberate observers, seldom getting personally involved with other races. They are reserved people, speaking rarely, and then only in hushed tones. Malcon passed Beleeze as he neared the end of the council table, remarking to himself, that Beleeze wasn’t speaking deliberately in hushed tones today. The charges he was hurling at another councilor drowned out all of Cogsworth’s irate words about a Hurmink caravan destroying a small Gnome village, near the Hopsound River. He alleged that a survivor said the Hurmink leader bragged about “collecting knowledge”. Cogsworth demanded to know if murder and pillage were the way all Hurmink collected knowledge. Of course, Beleeze never heard a word of the gnome’s accusations, as his own voice carried above all the others. He needed to be loud, since he was condemning Anak, the twelve foot tall Giant member of the Council. Anak wasn’t a skinny twelve feet tall; he rather resembled a small mountain on legs. His arms were six feet long ending in hands that easily palmed a watermelon. It was Anak’s massive right arm that nearly ended Malcon’s journey to his council seat. Anak had swung his right arm around to punctuate a point he was making, nearly relieving Malcon of his head. Of course, Anak’s well-gestured point didn’t come close to answering Beleeze’s indictment of his fellow giants. Apparently, a giant had destroyed the Hurmink repository near Wang-Loo. Beleeze ranted incessantly about the senseless loss of years of knowledge collection by a stupid creature simply too self-absorbed to notice that the driving of posts for his new home was crushing the repository located in a cavern below. Malcon noted, after he was safely beyond Anak’s thrashing limbs, that briefly mentioned amid Beleeze’s relentless bemoaning about the loss of all that knowledge, the writings, the artifacts, the time spent collecting; two of Beleeze’s fellow Hurminks had lost their lives. It struck Malcon that Beleeze was more distraught over the loss of pieces of paper, wood, and stone, then he was over his own kin. Anak’s voice raised in anger would normally have punctuated the Council chamber so profoundly that all would have had to stop and listen, but as his voice was merely another in a symphony of furious voices, it succeeded only in making the Council chamber walls rattle slightly harder. His voice was raised and his arms waved not in response to Beleeze’s insulting indictments, but in condemnation of the Dwarf race. He addressed that condemnation to Joknor, the dwarf envoy. Standing at only 4”7”, Joknor should have been cowering before a enraged foe nearly triple his size, but even had Joknor been alert to Anak’s fury, there would have been no cowering. Joknor was a warrior and a craftsman, as most dwarfs are. Only his son, Angus, rivaled him in fighting. Joknor had dealt with a selfish giant before, one that had not understood the concept of sharing, and this giant, Kairn, made Anak look like a runt. If Joknor had been listening to Anak’s claims, he would have heard that a group of dwarfs had killed a giant near Pillstone Peak because they wanted his land to mine. Unfortunately for Anak’s desire for justice, Joknor was consumed with his own indignation. His indignation was focused on the smallest member of the Council, Moonstar. Skin darker than a moonless night, hair displaying the myriad of colors nature provides the Quie delegate stood only a few inches above three feet tall. Joknor’s indignant accusation was that a dwarf hunting party had been slaughtered, not in battle, an honorable way to die, however unlikely he considered that to happen in a battle with Quies, but they had been slaughtered in cowardly traps set up along the deer trail the hunting party had been following. Everyone knows that Quies, who seem endlessly to be asking “How and why”, are masters at developing traps, both benign ones that preserve the captives alive and deadly ones. It was Joknor’s turn to ask “why?”, but it appeared that no answer would be forthcoming; as Moonstar’s peevish voice was being used in railing against Paddersly’s Halfling kin. Her claim against the peace loving race was that a Halfling delegation supposedly in Quiestorm to mediate a dispute between a Quie merchant and a Gnome fur trading caravan had ended in the murder of the merchant and the caravan leader and the disappearance of the merchant’s money and the Gnome’s furs, as well as the “peace” delegation. Paddersly would normally have taken great care to find out all the details of such an affront to peace, as he considered the Halfling divinely given responsibility to peace a sacred duty; however he was presently consumed with righteous anger against Liliandra’s people for another affront to peace, the murder of Piddersly, his brother while on a mission to settle some in-fighting in Liliandra’s own home city of Avea.
As Malcon listened to Paddersly’s grief-filled accusations, he realized that he was near his seat, but it was presently being blocked by Paddersly. As he waited for some break in the madness consuming the Council chamber, he remarked to himself that it was the permanent members of the council embroiled today. There are eight major races, each one has a seat on the Council, and the remaining two are for the Others, as the lesser races are called. Those seats rotate among the lesser races, races like humans, animal-kin, goblin, and the like. Reminding himself that the remaining Other’s seat is currently held by Salmon-slayer, a Grizbar, Malcon looked for him. He found the Grizbar seated in an overstuffed chair near the main doors to the Council. Even seated, Salmon-slayer was an imposing figure. Well over seven feet tall, Salmon-slayer is a thick, hairy, creature with claws instead of nails at the end of his fingers, and a mouthful of teeth that gives any opponent pause. With his protruding nose and jaw, it’s no stretch to see the creature his race is kin to, the grizzly bear. Today, Salmon-slayer seemed less intimidating though, perhaps this is the result of the utterly confused look on his face as he witnesses the mayhem before him.
Malcon looks over the room again, amazed at the complete confusion and rage he observes. This is the mighty Council of Terrerth, the sole body dedicated to the preservation of civilization and it appears that civilization is about to explode into a bloody mess. There doesn’t seem to be anyone in the room, besides himself, possessing the state of mind capable of stemming the destruction of civilization and he has no desire to stop this meltdown. He absent-mindedly strokes a pendent hanging from a chain around his neck and a hint of a smile begins to form, when he sees that he’s wrong. He’s forgotten to look at the whole room. At the other end of the table, the head of the table, sits the Council’s leader, calmly smoking a long stemmed pipe, allowing smoke circles to rise slowly above his head. His name is Ban’helai, the High Priest of the all-Father, and there is not even a hint of confusion marking his face. Sadness and resolve are what Malcon reads on Ban’helai. The all-Father’s voice on Terrerth is dressed in a forest green robe accented by white circles. His shoulders are brushed with ebony hair that parts ever so slightly around his distinct elven ears. Beauty is often a word reserved for the females of the world, but the Elf race demonstrates that the word has a masculine side and Ban’helai clearly embodies it.
Malcon observes that while Ban’helai is clearly not happy with the uproar that has taken possession of the Council chamber, there’s no panic coming from the Council leader. Ban’helai leans forward a bit, bringing his staff, an ugly, crooked piece of wood, deliberately off the floor. Never moving from his seated position, Ban’helai raises his staff over the end of the Council table and calmly touches it with the staff’s end, speaking one word as if he were talking to himself. Roaring through the Council room with the ferocity of a hurricane, a peal of thunder shatters the cacophony of fury-laden voices and one word is plainly heard amid the thunder, “Silence!” The force of the command is so intense; Malcon almost falls to the floor. The insanity that has reigned in the room is dispelled by that one word and the angry voices are hushed. All the Councilors are looking at Ban’helai, stunned and unsure of what to do.
“Please take your seats. We seem to have some important business to discuss.” Ban’helai serenely instructs.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Laughter, applause, and cheers for more stories, the standard response to a Delmarf story, were absent this night. When this story finished, only the subtle noises of the island night and the gentle weeping of Riup marked it. No one spoke, Delmarf, lost in the story looking for the happy ending, and the Riverjumpers, absorbing the unsettling news of dark times so close to their humble home.
“brreep, The poor dear, brreep,” Riup ended the awkward silence, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief.
“brrraup, Friend Delmarf, brrraup, so the dark ones that did this are moving away from us? brrraup”
“Yes, friend Fribble, I think so. They were heading south when they left Awktowon, but I don’t know where they were going. This is why I must talk to Lord Bok. He might be able to find these creatures and bring justice for Wemael’s village.”
“brrraup, Yes, yes, friend Delmarf, you should visit friend Lord Bok. brrraup. He will see that they don’t do more of this evil. brrraup.”
“brreep, What of friend Wemael? brreep. Friend Delmarf, what do you plan for our little friend? brreep.”
“I’m not sure. I came for your advice and for help from the Colors that I know you can provide.”
“brreep, Friend Delmarf, brreep. I’m a healer, brreep, but I saw no other wound on friend Wemael than the one you tended to already. brreep. What do you seek of the Colors? brreep
“Friend Riup, it isn’t her body that I fear for, those creatures seemed to have wounded only her shoulder. What I fear for is her mind and heart. She’s lost everything, she saw everything. She’s seen things not meant for children. No, she’s seen things that no one should ever see and they haunt her dreams. She’s such a precious child; I want you to take away what she’s seen. I know you can make her forget. She needs to forget!” Delmarf pleaded, insisted, almost ordered Riup, behavior very much out of character for him.
“brreep, I can not do this, friend Delmarf. brreep” Riup reluctantly responded
“What do you mean you can’t do it? I know you can. I saw you make the thief from Huntersvale forget the location of the entrance to Lord Bok’s secret treasury.”
“brreep, Forgive me, friend Delmarf, I’m not being clear. brreep The thief took something that did not belong to him. I simply returned that knowledge to its rightful owner. brreep What you are asking of me now is not the same thing. brreep Friend Wemael must live with those nasty memories, brreep. She needs to not forget them. brreep The pain she bears today will be the power she will need tomorrow. brreep I must not take from her what the all-Father has chosen to give her, brreep though I long to erase all pain from her memory. brreep Friend Delmarf, you are dear to me and I wish I could do this, brreep but the all-Father has His way. brreep Don’t be sad, Friend Delmarf, brreep I can help our small friend in other ways and she is very strong in the Colors. brreep “
While clearly disappointed that Riup would not do what he thought best, Delmarf relaxed and listened to what she was offering, curious as to the nature of her help and even more curious about her revelation that Wemael was blessed with the Colors.
“brreep The all-Father meant for sleep to be restful. brreep I will give back to friend Wemael the sleep that was stolen from her. brreep I‘ll chase from her dreams the dark times, brreep and she’ll dream of only the happy times of her family. brreep” Riup assured Delmarf, smiling and nodding her head excitedly.
The enthusiasm and eagerness she was brimming with easily spilled across her face, robbing Delmarf of his frustration and infecting both him and Fribble with her sense of hope and exhilaration. She started muttering things that Delmarf couldn’t quite make out. It was clear that she was focused on whatever would be required of her to fulfill her promise. When Delmarf realized that she was lost in her own designing, and his hope of hearing her explanation of Wemael and the Colors was fading, he spoke up, bringing her attention back to him and Fribble.
“Friend Riup, friend Wemael is strong in the Colors?”
“brreep Oh, yes, friend Delmarf, brreep Didn’t you know? brreep”
“I didn’t, but I wondered. Arto listened to her as if she were his mother.” Delmarf laughed, feigning hurt. “Even after all these years together, he only listens to me when it suits his fancy or when I have a big carrot in my hand. Wemael had his ear and, I think his heart, the second she spoke to him. I figured the only way that happened was that she was Color-blessed.”
Fribble let out a big chuckle, then said, “ brrraup Friend Delmarf, you’re funny. brrraup The Colors had nothing to do with that. brrraup Friend Wemael is a Peacer, of course Arto listens to her. brrraup
“A Peacer? What’s a Peacer?”
“brrraup A Peacer is what you call a Halfling. brrraup I don’t know why you call them Halflings. brrraup, They aren’t half of anything I know of, brrraup, but you Two-footers have strange ways of talking anyways. brrraup”
“Hey now, watch it. We Two-footers have very good reasons for the ways we talk.” Delmarf feigned offense “We just don’t know what they are.”
He attempted to look indignant while stifling his laughter, generating a facial expression more comical than his words. It sent both the Riverjumpers into a brief spat of giggles.
“brrraup Friend Delmarf, if you keep up with the funning, you’ll never learn about your little Peacer friend. brrraup.” Fribble ribbed him.
“Ok, go on, I do want to understand this whole Peacer idea.’
“brrraup The all-Father made the Peacers or Halflings, the peace-makers for all Terrerth. brrraup He gave them two gifts that help them be peace-makers. brrraup One gift is what you thought was the Colors. brrraup When a Peacer speaks, you listen, brrraup and want to do what they say. brrraup There’s something about the sound of their voice. brrraup You hear them speak, brrraup and what they say sounds like your idea, brrraup like the best idea you ever had. brrraup”
“So Peacers hypnotize you, making you do what they want?” Delmarf asked, a bit unnerved by the thought.
“brrraup No, friend Delmarf. brrraup Peacers can’t make you do anything. brrraup Their gift just makes their suggestions sound very good to you, brrraup but you still do what you want. brrraup.”
“brreep People fight because they see only their way. brreep” Riup added. “Peacers make you see the other person’s way. brreep Their voice moves your way out, so you see the other clearly. brreep”
“I think I understand,” Delmarf responded, “So Wemael’s voice has been affecting me and I didn’t realize it?”
“brrraup No, friend Delmarf, brrraup friend Wemael is just a tad, brrraup her voice only affects animals now. brrraup”, Fribble continued, a wide grin animating his face, “brrraup I know she won’t end up in the river. brrraup”
“Very funny, friend. So what is this other gift?”
Fribble’s grin grew bigger, “brrraup What language has been spoken since you came here today? brrraup”
“Muckish, of course.” Delmarf answered quickly, wondering why Fribble asked such an obvious question.
Fribble said nothing, just sat there with a knowing grin on his face. Two minutes passed with no change in Fribble’s behavior. Delmarf began wondering if Fribble had forgotten what he was going to say, but that silly smirk suggested something else, something that was eluding Delmarf. A couple minutes more and Delmarf turned to entreat some help from Riup, only to encounter the same smirk and silence. He was about to demand that someone tell him what was so funny, when he got it. His eyes widened, his jaw dropped, a robin could have flown into his gaping mouth when he declared,
“Wemael is speaking Muckish.”
Both his friends laughed at his sudden understanding.
“But how’s that possible? There aren’t any Muckrakers south of Twin Rivers, other than you. She couldn’t have learned Muckish in less than an hour. It isn’t possible.”
“brreep That is the all-Father’s other gift. brreep Peacers can understand any language in Terrerth after only hearing a couple of sentences. Brreep”
“Now, that’s one gift I’d love to have. It took Ban’helai ten years to teach me the basics of the most common languages in Terrerth.” Delmarf chuckled. “So friend Wemael has these gifts and is blessed with the Colors?”
“brreep Oh yes, friend Delmarf, brreep friend Wemael is strong in the Colors. brreep”
“Does she know that she is Colors-blessed?”
“brreep Friend Wemael sees the Colors, brreep but doesn’t understand what she’s seeing. brreep She needs a guide. brreep”
Turning to her husband, Riup inquired, “brreep Father, what do you say about friend Wemael living with us? brreep”
“brrraup Welcome home, friend Wemael. brrraup” came his cheery answer.
Children at play, giggling and shouting put an end to this discussion. The tads and Wemael were in high spirits and on a mission. They ran, jumped, in a bee-line to Delmarf.
Digger actually knocked Delmarf off his stump, as he jumped into his lap and proclaimed, “ brrap It’s story time! brrap”’
Picking himself up and setting Digger on the ground beside the stump, Delmarf chuckled as he announced, “The storyteller is here. All who would hear tales of wonder and adventure draw near and be amazed!”
The tads quickly found spots on the ground near the stump, Lily pointing to a spot next to her for Wemael. Wemael sat down looking around to see where Riup was, and saw her slip into the trees, looking very much like she had important business elsewhere. Grinning, Wemael watched Fribble pour another cup of grasshopper tea and join the tads on the ground. He was just another avid story listener, eager for a new exciting tale. As usual Delmarf did not disappoint. He transported them to icy mountains, facing the wrath of winter wolves and abominable snowmen, to arid deserts and the warring tribes of Asaathi lizard folks riding Fire worms. They felt the cool morning mists lifting off the sweet grass plains of Alena, as Ubuti hunters stalked Moss snakes. Time raced with cheetahs’ speed and the sun was anxious to rest as Delmarf ended his evening of tales by recounting his defeat and befriending of the mighty red dragon, Blazewyrm, using only Riup’s delicious daisy bread and Fribble’s honeysuckle wine. The tads and Wemael pleaded for more, but Delmarf told them that even stories need their rest, else they lose their flavor. Her face aglow with accomplishment, Riup joined them in time to hear how instrumental her daisy bread had been and snickered to think that Delmarf would include that in one of his stories.
As the sun kissed the very tops of Kairn’s Keep Mountains far to the west, Fribble announced, “ brrraup Family, it is time for evening prayer. brrraup”
Delmarf motioned for Wemael to sit next to him and watch, she was about to see a thing of beauty. The family ceased talking and formed a small circle, Fribble being the focal point. For a minute nothing happened, the family was squatting in that circle, heads down, not making a sound. Then without warning, a low, thrumming sound began. Fribble lifted his head and looked deeply into the sky, the rich, sonorous music increasing in volume. Riup joined her husband’s upward gaze, adding her own voice, a sort of trilling that complimented Fribble’s thrumming. This unique concert continued for another two or three minutes and then the clearing was alive with activity and noise, as the tads joined the prayer. When the tads added their voices, the whole family burst into the air in a huge leap. The action was non-stop, jumping, ricocheting between various trees, dancing in an awkward, crouching, waddling manner. Even though there were no words for Wemael to hear, she was amazed at the music of the Riverjumpers’ prayer. She had all but decided that the family’s physical movements were just random, when Fribble pulled Delmarf into the dancing. When she stopped snickering at Delmarf’s dancing, his slightly paunchy belly flopping up and down, she saw the patterns. They were re-enacting the highlights of their day. This frenzied dance continued another ten minutes, Delmarf showing, not only that he was a human, but a poor dancer as well. With the utterance of a single word, “Tantoi”, the amazing prayer ended.
Wheezing and red faced, Delmarf moved back toward Wemael. When he was close enough, he leaned over and whispered, “You will be doing this soon, so stop laughing and help a tired man to his seat.”
Wemael struggled to stifle the giggles and helped him sit down. She liked this family and this human.
“brreep Time for bed, tads. brreep” Riup announced
“brree Mother, can friend Wemael sleep with me? brree” Lilly pleaded, bringing another smile to Wemael’s face.
“Brreep She can’t sleep in your bed, brreep but she can sleep in the bed next to you. brreep Hurry off now and get ready for bed. brreep Friend Wemael will be along in a minute. brreep”
As Wemael watched her new friends scurry off to their beds, her mind was a jumble, ‘What kind of bed did a Muckraker sleep in? Why didn’t Riup let her go with Lily? That prayer had been the most wonderful thing she could remember seeing…’
Breaking Wemael’s entangled mind, Riup announced, “ brreep Friend Wemael, I have a couple of gifts for you. brreep”
Wemael immediately saw one of the gifts and she almost cried. Riup was holding a small smock in one hand. Compared to Riup’s own lovely dress, the smock paled, but to Wemael, accustomed to the many plain shades of brown, it was gorgeous. The smock was made with white and Tiger lilies, woven together with lily pads.
“brreep You need something else to wear, brreep so I made this one for you. brreep I had to hurry, brreep so it is not my best, brreep but I promise to make you something better soon. brreep”
Running over to Riup, Wemael hugged her tightly, and between her soft sobs, thanked her repeatedly.
“brreep There now, little tad, no crying. brreep. Everything’s going to be fine. brreep The all-Father is looking after you, brreep and we’re going to have fun and be happy. brreep Here is your other gift. brreep It will help return your happy dreams. brreep”
Delmarf perked up at the mention of dreams, wondering what Riup had made. He was dismayed when she handed Wemael a necklace made from Mireweeds. Mireweeds were the most useless, annoying weeds in all Terrerth. They grew way too fast, smelled of the swamp, and were the bane of farmers everywhere. Why she had chosen Mireweeds was beyond him, but as he waited for Wemael to wrinkle her nose at the odor, he saw that she was actually smiling. She seemed to like the gift. After thanking Riup again, she rushed over to him, beaming. As she showed off her gifts, he noticed a tiny flower on the necklace, something Mireweeds do not have. It looked like a Summerstar Lily. He didn’t understand what Riup had done, but he said nothing other than how beautiful everything was.
“brrraup Friend Wemael, brrraup follow me and I’ll take you to the tads. brrraup Friend Delmarf, brrraup are you coming now? brrraup Your hammock is waiting; brrraup”
“Friend Fribble, I will be there as soon as I see to Arto.” With that, Delmarf grabbed a torch and headed off.
A short trip on a path behind Fribble’s drying nets, and they reached the tads. Wemael found herself standing on the shore of a small pond filled with giant lily pads. She had never seen lily pads this big. Most were three or four feet across and all had a lip around the edge about two inches high. Hopping up and down on a pad in the middle of the pond, Digger shouted to her, “brrap This is my bed! brrap This is my bed! brrap This is my bed! brrap”

“brrraup Digger brrraup”, one word from his father dropped Digger into a fake sleeping position.
Wemael scanned the rest of the pond, spotting Rain in her “bed” about five feet into the pond on the left side. She smiled when she noticed a hammock tied to trees lining the shoreline close to Rain. She truly was Delmarf’s greatest fan. A small hand sliding into hers announced Lily’s presence
“brree I have your bed ready. brree Do you want to wash in the pond before wearing your new smock? brree There is a place over here, brree” Lily showed her a secluded corner of the pond. “Mother said you might want to be away from others when you washed. brree”
Lily held Wemael’s worn homely smock as she slipped into the cool water of the pond. Wemael always loved the water. She took only a few minutes to clean, wondering how she was going to dry off. She didn’t want to ruin her new smock.
“brree Don’t worry about getting this smock wet, friend Wemael. brree It won’t get messed up. brree” Lily said, as if she had been reading Wemael’s mind. “brree Mother told me that Two-footers’ clothes don’t take water well, brree so I should tell you not to worry about our clothes, brree they like water. brree”
Slipping her new outfit on, Wemael saw that Lily was right. It felt like the water on her skin just slid off the material. This smock not only was pretty but felt very good. Lily led her back to the rest of the family, pointing out a lily pad near the water’s edge.
“brree Just step in. brree It’ll hold you. brree” Lily urged her.
Cautiously Wemael stepped onto the pad, and though it shifted a little, it didn’t lower any in the water as she had expected. She sat down, as Lily bounded over her head to a pad right past hers.
“brree You like your bed? brree” Lily asked
Laying back and soaking in the wonder of the softness and comfort of this “bed”, Wemael softly responded, “Yes.”
“brree We can’t talk too much tonight. brree It’s late and Father wants us to let you sleep, brree but we’ll talk tomorrow. brree Happy dreams. brree”
Wemael was left alone with her thoughts as Lily rolled onto her stomach heading off to slumber land. At first, Wemael’s mind raced, thinking about all that she had experienced this day. A big grin owned her face, as she thought of the Riverjumpers and Delmarf. It wasn’t long though before dark memories crept to the forefront, warring with her body’s desire to sleep. She began to cry when a unique odor filled her nose. For a brief moment, it was unpleasant, but then, with intensity almost palpable, it changed to a sweet smell, floral and overwhelming. Wemael’s tear stained face smiled involuntarily, and then sleep found her.
It was an hour later when Delmarf settled into his hammock satisfied by a good day’s ending. When he glanced at Wemael, happy relief marked his countenance. She was sound asleep wearing a content smile; something he had feared would be a stranger to her for far too long for a child.
“Thank you,” Delmarf whispered.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Chapter 5

Wemael was fascinated with Fribble. She couldn’t get over how much he reminded her of those little frogs back home. Sometimes he would walk, well more precisely, waddle next to Delmarf. It was comical to see. Walking agreed with him about as much as boating did with Delmarf. When he couldn’t stand waddling anymore, he would leap off the ground to the nearest tree, bouncing back and forth between the trees just above their heads, and then he would drop back onto the ground. She noticed that his feet and hands were webbed with one long toe or finger extending beyond the webbing. He had some kind of pads on the bottoms of his toes and fingers, which made sticking to tree trunks or branches simple. She wanted to reach out and touch his skin; it looked rough, like a cat’s tongue. His sash didn’t have an emblem on it as she thought when she first saw him. What she had seen was a brooch, dark green with the letters, R R engraved in gold. The wrap he wore was made from lily pads woven in an intricate pattern. At one point, Fribble had gone on ahead some distance; she took this opportunity to ask Delmarf what kind of creature he was.

“He’s called a Muckraker, an animal-kin related to tree frogs. Isn’t he fun to be around?”

She had to admit that he was. She could tell that he and Delmarf were great friends, like her own father and Tomar had been. This thought suddenly darkened her mood. She hadn’t thought about the horrid events of the recent past since leaving the river. Tears threatened to begin flowing; when she noticed that, almost as if to match her foul mood, the island had become quite dark. The sun had been shining brightly when they left the river, but now she could only catch brief glimpses of sunshine. She realized that the trees had become steadily denser with denser foliage. There was a clear path that they were using and the sun occasionally burst through the trees giving patches of light to the path, but without these brief bright spots, they would have had to use a torch or lamp to follow even this path. She edged closer to Delmarf. Fribble was nowhere to be seen, but Delmarf seemed unbothered by either Fribble’s absence or the dim surroundings. They continued on for a while like this, Wemael’s mood growing progressively sadder, until, as if in a bid to lighten Wemael’s burden, the sun reappeared in all his brilliance. The cause for this revisiting of the sun was that they had entered a large clearing. Joining them in as they entered the clearing was Fribble.

“brrraup, The tads are coming back from playing, brrraup, and wife Riup is preparing for your visit. brrraup. Come, friends, my home is your home. brrraup”

He seemed so eager to please them that Wemael forgot her dark mood and began looking around the clearing. Directly in front of them, on the far side of the clearing, was a small hovel made of dirt and leaves built at the base of a very big cypress. Hanging from some of the branches on the left side of the tree was a familiar sight to Wemael, fishing nets. Apparently, Fribble was a fisher. She could hear someone jabbering excitedly, but could not see them. As they moved closer, the words became a bit clearer.

“brreep, oh, friend Delmarf has come, brreep, and he has a friend, breep, where is that daisy bread, breep, oh so much excitement, brreep, oh but dark times, brreep, that is what husband Fribble said, brreep, I don’t like dark times, brreep, friend Delmarf will want daisy bread, brreep, what will our new friend want, brreep, the tads should be back by now, brreep, fish stew for serving, brreep, what kind of dark times, brreep, draw the water, brreep…”

“brrraup, wife Riup is excited to see friend Delmarf and friend Wemael, brrraup.” Fribble laughed out loud.

As if she heard Fribble, out from behind the hovel bounded his mate. She took no note of the guests though, as they were still a short distance away. She busied herself with preparing a place to eat and with concerns of dark times and with displeasure at the tads not being present. In spite of the confusion of her thoughts, her actions were ordered and effective, by the time Fribble hopped in front of her to draw her attention to Delmarf, the meal was ready to eat.

“brrraup, Mother, friend Delmarf is here, brrraup.”

“Greetings, friend Riup,” Delmarf said with flair and a bow.

“brreep, you are such a funner, friend Delmarf, brreep. I am not friend Lady Oogi, brreep,” gushed Riup, clearly pleased with the honor.

“Ah, friend Riup, no, you are fairer than our friend Lady Oogi, and no one makes daisy bread as well, as the lady of this island.”

“brreep, stop friend Delmarf, brreep, you embarrass me, breep.”

Wemael had chosen to stay a step or two behind Delmarf. She was enjoying the exchange, and was admiring her hostess. Riup was a few inches shorter than Fribble, or at least she thought she was. It was so hard to tell, with the way they both squatted. Wemael thought Riup was pretty. Her skin was a softer shade of green than Fribble, but with no spots. Her mouth was ringed in a plum color that extended in a stripe down her neck, finding its way under her arms. Her eyelids were this same plum color. The hint of yellow on her throat quickly blended back into the green of her chest. Wemael was especially taken with Riup’s dress. Wemael had never own anything frilly or pretty, her clothes were all practical and drab. An explosion of color wrapped Riup. The bodice of her dress, which hung off one shoulder, was flaming scarlet water lily and bright white iris petals, attached to a skirt made of lily pads woven with deep purple water lily petals. Like her husband, Riup had a brooch, the only difference being her letters were F R.

“brreep, is this your friend, friend Delmarf, brreep?’ Riup’s voice so close startled Wemael.

“brreep, so many colors brreep, all the colors, brreep, look at the colors, brreep.”

The intensity of Riup’s words more than the words themselves registered with Wemael, frightening her a little. She stepped further away, as Riup seemed unaware of anything other than what she was so interested in.

“brreep, she has all the colors, brreep. She has it, brreep.”

“brrraup, Mother, you are frightening friend Wemael, brrraup. Mother, brrraup, do you hear me? brrraup.”

Wemael cold not move back anymore, she had backed into a tree. Riup was so close that Wemael could smell the daisy on her breath, but it was if Riup was not really looking at her.

“brreep, friend Wemael, forgive friend Riup, brreep.” Riup pleaded as she hopped back a short space. “brreep, I get lost in the colors and forget my manners, brreep.’

Springing quickly away from Wemael, Riup called out, “brreep, Come on, friends, brreep. Our meal is ready, brreep.”

Still shaking, Wemael was trying to make sense of what Riup had said, “Colors? What was she talking about?” Wemael pondered, hugging herself tightly. Wemael knew the only color she displayed was brown, in its many shades, from her tan skin and dark brown hair to the dirty brown smock she was wearing.

“brrraup, Come, friend Wemael, join us for some sweet daisy bread and fish. brrraup. Forgive, friend Riup, brrraup. She gets very excited and sometimes forgets that new friends should be greeted with less talk and more food, brrraup.” Fribble tried to encourage her.

Delmarf put his arm around her shoulder and whispered in her ear, “Its ok, Wemael. I’m here and everything’s going to be alright. Besides, they have spider stew.” He finished with a wink.

That did it. She started to laugh a little and headed over to the meal Riup had prepared, not sure of everything, but comfortable. It was at that precise moment that the tads appeared.

To say that the tads sounded excited is akin to calling a hurricane a summer shower. Their laughter and garbled words could be heard far before the tads burst through the tree line on the right side of the clearing. Wemael could only make out one word, as it was repeated throughout all the noise, “Delmarf.”

With a smile that seemed to engulf his entire face, Fribble said, “brrraup, It’s always the same, friend Wemael, brrraup, when friend Delmarf visits, brrraup. The tads forget everything else, brrraup, and rush to friend Delmarf, eager to hear his exciting adventures, brrraup. Friend Delmarf’s stories are very good and even I enjoy them, brrraup.”

Wemael watched as the three young Muckrakers rushed to see Delmarf, wondering if she too would get to her one of his great stories. She noticed that the smallest of the three looked like a tiny copy of Fribble, his skin coloring was identical. One of the others had the same coloring as Riup, a mini-Riup. The other one’s coloring was unique, to Wemael, it was beautiful. This one had the same light green skin as Riup, and had spots like Fribble, but they weren’t simple black spots as his were, but were ringed in plum instead, and the line extending from her cheek, down her neck was gray and plum with a few black spots. She figured that the youngest was a boy since he was dressed the same as Fribble and the other two with their pretty dresses were girls. It didn’t take them long to cross the clearing, and just as Wemael wondered what kind of greeting Delmarf would receive from these three extremely excited children, two of them noticed her and changed directions, heading toward her instead. The boy reached her first.

“brrap, Who are you? brrap, What are you? brrap, Who are you? brrap. What are you? brrap.” He rattled on furiously. “brrap, Who are you? brrap. What are you? brrap. Who are you? brrap. What are…


The other one had arrived, the brightly colored one, and with speed almost too fast for Wemael see, she had smacked her brother’s face with her tongue.

“brree, Friend, please forgive. brree My brother can be such a horsefly! brree” she said with typical sibling disgust. “brree, My name is Lily. brree. My pouting brother is Digger, brree , and my sister over there with friend Delmarf is Rain. brree.”

Wemael looked over at Digger before she answered and almost started laughing. Digger was indeed pouting and to see that face on a creature that looked so like a frog was hilarious, but she held her laughter in and responded, “I’m Wemael.”

Before Lily could say anything else, Riup told everyone it was time to eat and they all move to the food.

While Lily sliced the daisy bread, and Rain filled everyone’s bowl with stew, Digger slid over to Wemael. He pulled something from his pocket and plopped it on her lap, announcing with much pride, “brrap, I have a big worm! brrap”

Sure enough, squirming frantically in Wemael’s lap was a two inch long, fat earth worm. Most eight year old girls would have screamed and jumped up and acted the fool, but Wemael calmly picked it up, smiled at Digger and said, “That is a very nice worm, Digger. You should be able to catch a great big fish with this worm.”

Grabbing the worm from Wemael in disgust, he shook his head and said, “brrap, give my worm to a fish? brrap Why would I give it to a fish? brrap. I found it, so I get to eat it, brrap” He lifted the worm to over his head intending to slurp it down, when it disappeared from his hand. Ready to jump on Wemael for taking his treat, he received another smack on the cheek with a tongue, this one coming from his mother.

“brreep, what have I told you, young man, brreep, about eating treats before supper? brreep Now, I will have to give this juicy worm to Wemael since you were teasing her with it. brreep”

Digger looked devastated and watched his mother hand the sweet worm to Wemael, “brreep, Here, dear, I am sorry he was teasing you. brreep.”

“That’s ok, ma’am. I think Digger should have it. He did find it and I think he was just showing me his nice treat. He wasn’t teasing me.”

Riup smiled, “brreep, You’re a sweet girl. brreep Digger, you may have your worm after you eat your dinner.” With that she went back to her seat and they began to eat their meal. Wemael breathed a sigh of relief at not having to eat a worm.

No one talked while they ate, but silence wasn’t present at this table. Wemael couldn’t believe how loud these folks were when they ate. Smacking their lips, slurping the stew, everything that she had been taught not to do seemed to be standard eating procedure at a Muckraker’s table. She even stopped eating for a minute to stifle a giggle at the terrible table manners. One thing she did appreciate though was the meal. She was skeptical, at first, about the kind of dish a frog-looking creature would prepare, but those thoughts went away the second she took a bite of daisy bread. It was sweet and light, quite delicious and the perfect thing to eat with a spicy fish stew.

After the meal was finished and the place cleared, Delmarf settled against the big cypress tree and pulled out a long, thin pipe and placed it in his mouth. He did not put any tobacco in it, just kind of chewed on the end and stared off into the clearing. The tads quickly settled at his feet and Wemael joined them. Rain was the first to break the post-dinner silence,

“brree, Will you tell us a story now, friend Delmarf? bree”

“In a minute, friend Rain. I wonder if you three would take Wemael and see that Arto is alright. You know how he gets when he thinks we are ignoring him.”

“brree Yes, we almost forgot, friend Arto, brree” Lily replied as she jumped to her feet, grabbing Wemael’s hand. “brree Come, friend Wemael. brree Let’s go take care of Arto. brree”

Wemael quickly found her feet and rushed along with Lily and the others, excited by being with other children and glad to see Arto again.

As the children left, Fribble settled down near Delmarf, bringing his grasshopper tea with him, “brrraup, Mother, will you join us. brrraup I believe that friend Delmarf has a story he need to tell us, brrraup one the children need not hear.. brrraup”

Riup joined them.

“brrraup, friend Delmarf, I enjoy your stories, brrraup but I fear this will one I won’t ask to hear again. brrraup”
With that Delmarf related to them all that had happened over the last three days

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Dawn, when darkness reluctantly releases its grip on the world in the face of the sun’s relentless return, was Delmarf’s favorite time of the day. One of the pleasures of having a nomadic lifestyle is that he is often privileged to watch this daily occurrence. Of course, he usually enjoys it on a more firm surface. He will never be a water person. This trip has made that clear. Mastering the rivers seemed so easy before he actually tried it. It’s the morning of the second day since leaving Awktowon and they should’ve already reached Boknor, but Delmarf’s expertise on the skiff had resulted in them taking twice as long to reach their destination. He had gotten them stuck on the banks of the Mirator more times than he would like to think about, and then there was his intimate visit with the Mirator. Yesterday, just before dark, his pole got caught on some underwater obstruction and jerked him off-balance. He frantically grabbed for Arto, who decided that he didn’t need a bath and took a step back, allowing Delmarf to get personally acquainted with the Mirator. It was fortunate that alongside the bank was a small clearing. They pulled the skiff up onshore and built a fire so Delmarf could dry off. Since they were already relaxed, he decided they should get a little sleep here before completing the trip. The only good thing resulting from his dip in the cold river was Wemael’s laughter. She had slept fitfully that first night and had been solemn and withdrawn most of the day. She had begun to warm up to him just before he fell into the river, and the sweet sound of her uncontrollable laughter blunted his frustration enough to allow him to join her in the mirth. She helped him set up the fire and tended to Arto. It was interesting to see her with Arto. The stubborn mule was not cooperative very often, but Wemael spoke to him and it seemed like Arto would have done anything for the girl. Eager to visit his friends and find some true help for Wemael, he started back on the river a few hours later, having gotten a quick nap.
Now with the sun brightening the morning sky, he could see Boknor in the near distance. He had seen the docks a few times, as his friends were river folk. He always smiled when he saw Boknor. It was a small town putting on the airs of a big city. The ruler of this town was Lord Bok, a giant. He was 9 feet tall, standing far above any of the residents of Boknor, but he was a runt. He came from a family of giants that were normally 12 to 15 feet tall. When it became obvious that he would not live up to their standards in size, they rejected him. They felt he was a failure for something that he had absolutely no control over. He moved on, wandered aimlessly for a few years until he found a small village by the Mirator. The residents were in awe of him. They had never seen anyone that big and he was stronger than anyone in their village. He enjoyed their admiration, and found ways to impress them. He soon became the person they looked to for advice for any problem they faced. Even though he often had no personal experience in solving these problems, he came up with solutions. When his solutions worked, they praised him, when they didn’t; they thought that the problem couldn’t be solved. It didn’t take long for Bok to become their leader, then their ruler. He was not a harsh ruler, but the little village soon became his own town, not theirs. He changed the name to Boknor, “the home of Bok”. The residents stayed happy because he was constantly looking for ways to improve the town. He wanted to have the greatest city in the world, and then his family would know that they were the ones that were unworthy. His ambition was further fueled by the wife he chose. He married an orc named Oogi. She had spent many years working for the dwarves of White Mountain. The White Dwarfs were as renowned for their skill with stone working, as they were for their complete lack of pigmentation. She loved the fortress the White Dwarfs built into the side of White Mountain, and she drove her new husband to attempt to build something more impressive. Lord Bok and Lady Oogi had a problem though, this was not White Mountain and the folks living here were not White Dwarfs. There were skilled carpenters and stone masons and they strove hard to create a magnificent city, but they just couldn’t pull it off. The materials needed to build the city that the ruling couple desired just didn’t exist anywhere in the surrounding area and they could not afford to import all that much. So what Boknor ended up looking like was a piecemeal attempt at looking fancy. True, there was a great palace in the center of Boknor. Lord Bok used up all the available materials for this vital structure. The rest of the city was a hodgepodge of stone, carved wood, and simple wooded structures. The docks were a perfect example. The basic structure and design of the docks was impressive. There were mooring posts, beautifully engraved with the faces of Lord Bok and Lady Oogi, a loading area big enough to hold goods from a dozen fully laden ships. The warehouses though were crude wooden structures.
On the docks were a couple of guards, orcs in studded leather vests bearing the emblem of Lord Bok, a firtog tree. Lord Bok had chosen the firtog tree because it was the tallest tree known to exist anywhere. As he drifted within their view, Delmarf tapped his head once with his right hand and then tapped his left shoulder once; the guards returned the salute of Boknor, indicating that Lord Bok was head and shoulders above all his people.
Wemael woke as he was saluting. She stood and gave the salute also, something she had done many times before with her father. The guards seemed to be amused by her salute, and waved at her. She did not wave back, but scooted behind Delmarf a bit. There was very little activity on the docks this early. While work began early on the docks, it usually waited for the sun to be fully revealed on the horizon. They sailed passed the docks, Delmarf admiring one of boats docked there. He felt a tug on his shirt as they out the docks behind them.
“I thought you said we were going to Boknor, sir.”
“I am sorry, child. We are not going into the town, right now. My friends live just up ahead, that is where we are going.”
Delmarf could see Wemael straining to find a house or hovel anywhere ahead, but couldn’t see one. The expression on her face almost made him laugh, a little girl looking so serious and focused.
“Wemael, do you see where the river bends to the right up ahead?”
“My friends live on the island in the bend. Do you see that island?
Wemael scrunched up her nose and took a hard look ahead. “Yes, I see it.” She exclaimed with glee.
Wemael’s laughter was a welcome sound.
The left bank was gradually getting steeper, and would soon block any view of the walls of Boknor from his sight. The walls were another great example of Boknor’s true status. The bottom three to four rows were made of finely carved stone, followed by three or four rows of field stones, topped by spiked wooden planks.
By the time they had reached the island in the bend, the bank towered over them by about eight feet. The channel that ran between the island and the bank slowed down enough that Delmarf had to start using the pole again. He eased the skiff into the backwash behind the island and headed for the sand bar against the mainland bank. As they ground against the sand, Delmarf took note that his friend’s row boat was staked there, so he knew that he was home. He let Arto get off onto the sand, and the mule seemed as happy to be on solid ground as he was. Delmarf figured it would be some time before he would be able to coax his pack-toting friend onto anything that wasn’t firmly grounded on earth. Wemael got off the skiff cautiously, looking around, trying to understand where she was. Directly in front of them, there were steps carved into the side of the bank, leading to a large oak tree. Tied to the oak tree and spanning the backwash to a cypress tree was a bridge made of rope and wooden planks.
“Are we going up those steps?” Wemael quizzed?
“Yes, we are, but I need to do something first.” With that, Delmarf turned toward the island and shouted, “Flies are cool, but spiders make me drool.”
“Gross, why did you do that.’ Wemael asked with her face screwed up in a sour look.
“Wait a minute and you will see.”
After a minute or two, somewhere just back from the island edge came this response, “brrraup, spiders are my treat, brrraup, did you bring me some to eat, brrraup?”
Before Wemael could even think about questioning that response, the source came into view at the edge of the bridge. Wemael’s mouth fell open and her eyes widen. Standing, or rather squatting there looking at them was the strangest creature she had ever seen. She had seen similar creatures but much smaller, of course none of them could talk, and none wore any kind of clothes. The creature was about three feet tall, although since he seemed to be squatting, she was not completely sure. It had bright green skin with black spots. Starting at his green throat, a grayish stripe went down both sides of his body; the stripe also was punctuated with black spots. He had very large eyes which set up high on his head, almost on top of his head, with green eyelids. The green on his throat faded into a grayish-yellow as the color made its way down his chest. Across his upper body he wore a sash with some emblem that Wemael couldn’t make out and the lower half of his body was covered by some sort of wrap. She could not get over how much he looked like the little frogs that lived in the trees back home.
He suddenly leapt from where he had been observing them to right at Delmarf’s feet. Jumping the eight feet from the island to the sand bar took no more effort on his part than it took Wemael to scoot behind Delmarf.
“brrraup, Welcome friend, Delmarf and friend, Arto, brrraup, and you to, friend, little one, brrraup.”
“Good to see you again, friend, Fribble. It has been too long since we enjoyed a good spider stew.” Delmarf answered with a hearty chuckle.
This elicited such strange laughter; croaking and sounds that Wemael was sure that she would never hear anything to match.
“brrraup, you are a jester, friend, Delmarf, brrraup. Many times have I offered spider stew, brrraup, only to watch you settle for Mother’s daisy bread, brrraup.”
“Tis true, tis true, friend Fribble.” Delmarf managed through his laughter.
Regaining his composure, Delmarf introduced Wemael.
“Friend, Fribble, this is my new friend, Wemael. Black times have made new friends.”
“brrraup, sad to hear of black times, brrraup, but glad to meet a new friend. Welcome, friend Wemael, brrraup.”
“Wemael, this is my good friend, Fribble Riverjumper.”
Wemael had been hiding behind Delmarf, but the frivolity earlier had eased her uncertainty, so when Delmarf introduced Fribble, Wemael, stepped out to his side and curtseyed.
“brrraup, a lady, no less, friend Delmarf, brrraup, you bring me a lady for a visit.”
This brought a smile to Wemael’s face and lit it up.
“brrraup, shall we go now, friend Delmarf? brrraup, Mother and the tads will be most anxious to see our old friend and our sweet new one. brrraup.”
“Yes, friend Fribble, I am looking forward to seeing Riup and the tads.”
Delmarf removed his packs from Arto, putting them in a small cave near the steps that Wemael had not seen earlier, while Fribble jumped up to the oak tree and lowered a large sling. Wemael didn’t know how Arto was going to go up the steps, but then Delmarf led him to the sling and placed it under his belly. Arto might have resisted this, but he had done this many times before and while it was clear that Arto liked this about as much as a skiff ride, he endured it knowing that food was at the other end. Covering the cave with the vines that had hid it earlier, Delmarf led Wemael up the steps. When they got to the top, Delmarf helped Fribble crank the winch and raised Arto to them. Releasing Arto from the sling, Fribble slipped him a carrot, and then told him where a new patch of clover had grown since his last visit.
With Arto happily devouring clover, Fribble said, “brrraup, off we go to home and spider stew, brrraup.”
A new round of laughter accompanied them as they crossed the bridge.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Chapter 3-Globe of Ban'helai

Chapter 3

A man sits alone in a small room. The one door from the hallway opens into a room that is approximately twelve feet wide and fifteen feet long, furnished with simple furniture, a bed, a small bedside table, a wardrobe cabinet and a fairly good sized table with two chairs. On the opposite wall hangs a window that offers a pleasant view of the city and the river that rushes pass just outside the city wall. The room is one of a dozen or so that make up the second floor of this building, all of which are occupied. Some of the other guests have added better quality furnishings and all have decorated their rooms with keepsakes from home and personal items. The man in this room is not like the others. His room is Spartan and one would be hard pressed to figure out where this man calls home from a tour of his room. The only thing of significance in the entire room is a large map spread across the main table. The map displays the entire known world. Scattered, for no apparent reason on top of the map, are a handful of ordinary looking pebbles. It is late afternoon and the shadows begin to fill the room, so the man lights the oil lamps that adorn the walls. He had earlier pulled the bedside table close to the map and had placed a unique lamp on it. The lamp had the normal base of an oil lantern, but added to all four sides, just above the flame were four highly polished three inch long metal plates. These plates were attached at such an angle, that when the lamp was lit, the light hit the plates and cast off a more brilliant glow. Returning to the tables, he lights this lamp and retakes his seat before the map.
So engrossed is he in his study of the map that it takes four attempts of loud knocking before he is aware that he has company.
“Enter,” he calls out.
A tall, fair skinned, human enters the room clad in a chain mail shirt, black leather pants, black leather boots, and a dark blue cloak. Walking with the stride of a confident warrior, he carries his six foot long spike with him into the room.
“You have a visitor, sir,” the guard announces.
Without moving his gaze from the map, the man behind the table says in a tone dripping with rebuke, “I thought my instructions were clear, Borban. I am not to be disturbed.”
“Yes, sir,” the guard replies, “your order was clear, but this visitor is most insistent. Also, this morning I heard you asking for this visitor, mentioning that she was overdue in reporting to you.”
As soon as the last sentence left his lips, Borban knew he had made a critical mistake.
The man behind the table stood quickly and fixed a hard glare at the guard.
“So, now, your duties include listening to my conversations, do they?”
“Uh…no, sir…I…uh...was just…,” the guard stammered, trying to explain himself when the man behind the table cut him off.
“Silence! I will deal with your error momentarily. Tell me who this visitor is.”
“It is Flit, sir,” the guard informed in a much subdued voice.
“Ah, yes, Flit, Send her in and then go and bring Iltor to me.”
At the mention of Iltor, Borban’s expression changed dramatically. He went from looking like a hardened soldier to looking like a ten year old boy facing down a pack of war wolves. Terror was not simply written on his face, terror was the very fabric of it.
“Don’t just stand there, do as you are told. I wouldn’t want to have to add more subjects for Iltor to address with you,” the man behind the table barked.
As the guard scrambled out the door, the man returned to his seat. He was playing with the pendent on his necklace, which seemed to have a calming effect on his facial expressions, when Flit entered the room.

No footfalls betrayed Flit’s entrance into the room, as a mater of fact, the only sound preceding her, was a soft whirring sound. The man behind the table smiled as he watched Flit enter. He always enjoyed the way she moved. Flit flew into the room about five feet from the floor. She darted about, not with aimless movement, but with the steps of a dance with an unseen partner. It was as if she were dancing with the very air. She waltzed with the air for a minute or two and then lit on the back of the chair opposite the man behind the table.
“Did you miss me, my friend?” Flit asked, her four wings making an almost melodic sound as they beat quickly.
“We will speak in your language for now.” The man instructed.
He thought that the similarities Flit bore to her animal kin, the dragonfly, were remarkable. She was about twice the size of a dragonfly, almost one foot long. Her body, wings and head were proportionate to that size, but in keeping with a dragonfly’s basic body make-up. Her coloring was beautiful, a sleek jet black tail ending in a gold tip, her body and head were various shades of red and black and her wings, shimmering, translucent silver. Unlike the dragonfly, her wings were not only a flight necessity, but they were a protective devise. Their apparent flimsy look belied the reality that a drakonfluer’s wings were one of the hardest substances known. If one was able to kill a drakonfluer, not a task many creatures accomplished, the wings proved not only a good luck charm, but a welcomed addition to any armor.
“Very well, if you think you can keep up, my language is not for the tongue of many earth-walkers. They are such slow-tongued creatures.” Flit responded with a snicker, although the whole exchange sounded more like an impatient person tapping on a table.
“You will find that I am unlike any earth-walker you have ever met, my swift friend.”
The man behind the table leaned back a little in his chair, not to be more at ease, but to focus more on Flit. He had engaged the services of this drakonfluer soon after arriving in this town. Drakonfluers serve one basic purpose in the civilized world. They are messengers. Twenty years ago, the head of the Council of Twelve, Ban’helai of Arnavenia met Flaze Duskdarter, leader of a clan of drakonfluers living near the Council’s town. Learning of the drakonfluer’s ability to learn languages and appreciating their amazing speed, he asked Flaze to join the Council of Twelve and be their official messenger, a post of both honor and great responsibility. Flaze accepted immediately, recruiting the rest of his clan to serve as the core of the Council’s Messengers. Since then, drakonfluers of different clans have joined the Council’s Messengers, while others serve individuals. Flit is of the Flaze clan, but refused to join the Council’s Messengers, wanting the freedom to do as she pleased and right now it pleased her to help this man.
“Do you what day it is?” the man behind the desk asked with a hint of displeasure.
“Is that honeysuckle, I smell? I believe it is. A very good choice, though it smells a bit overripe, of course that can’t be avoided now, can it? But I guess it will serve your purpose better than the lilac scent you were using when I left you.” Flit needled.
“Your purpose here is not to critique my choice of scent. You do know that you are three days late in reporting.’
“Honeysuckle really is the best choice I believe. It’s strong enough to mask…oops, I mean compliment any other scent that might be present while still being pleasant to experience. You really should stay with the honeysuckle.”
No one that knew the man behind the desk would have dared ignore his questions, much less insult or rib him, but Flit was not like anyone else and she knew that while the man behind the desk brooked no insubordination, he enjoyed her little needling, or at least tolerated it.
“Are you quite done, my dear Flit? Do you need more time, perhaps you would like to comment on my decorating skills?”
‘Oh don’t get me started on that, you have less sense of décor than a millworm.”
Neither spoke for a minute after that, Flit savoring the ribbing and the man behind the desk merely waiting for the report that he knew she was now ready to give him.
“Your friends are sometimes too thorough and then sometimes they are wholly ineffective.”
The man behind the desk folded his arms over his chest and shot her an exasperated look.
“Don’t get all excited, big guy. I will give this report the way I want and you will just have to live with that.”
Flit paused a moment, not liking the look on the man’s face. On he surface, it was the same, ‘Oh, get on with it already’ look he always gave her, which she enjoyed. But beneath the surface, there was a clear look that told her that this earth-walker would only tolerate so much nonsense and defiance and she was too close.
“The group you sent to the Boknor area was too thorough. They totally destroyed that little marsh Halfling village, but left no one alive to tell the tale. What a waste of destruction.”
“Where are they now?” the man questioned her, apparently not as upset as she thought he would be.
“They’re twelve miles south of Boknor. They’ve avoided Boknor so far, as they’re still just ten creatures. They’re looking for other fun things to destroy. Perhaps you should remind them of their true mission.”
“Allow me to deal with my friends actions. You stick to your mission.’
“The group you sent to Kairn’s Keep has met with a slight set back.”
“A slight set back?”
“Well, more of a total defeat.’
“What?” the man sat straight up in his chair, “What happened?”
“Seems that while they were having fun with that family of orcs the dwarfs have befriended, they met some dwarfs that didn’t like the way they were having fun. Three dwarfs, I think a father and his sons, wiped out all five of your buddies. What magnificent fighters those dwarfs were, and the weapon the father used was amazing, some kind of hammer that he could throw and swing around. What a mess he made of those guys…”
“Jocknor’s son, that meddlesome dwarf!” the man bellowed as he sprang to his feet, sending his chair sprawling on the floor behind him and causing the pebbles on the table to jump into the air as he smashed his fist onto the table.
Flit dashed off her perch as soon as she saw his anger rise. She was hovering a few feet away from the table now, amazed at his anger. He was livid and the honeysuckle scent had curdled with the rise of his fury.
Almost as if he had thrown off a dirty coat, the man behind the desk regained his composure. He picked his chair back up, stroked his pendent and sat back down.
“Forgive me, my dear Flit. I apologize for my outburst. It was most unbecoming. I just don’t like dwarfs and when they stick their noses where they don’t belong, it irks me.”
Flit waited a minute more before returning to her chair, not believing for a minute that that was a momentary outburst or that he was as calm as his words tried to convey. Flit was convinced that this was one earth-walker to be wary of. She also knew that while no earth-walker could hope to catch a wary drakonfluer, this earth-walker just might be an exception.
“Do you have anything more to report?” The man asked with a forced restraint in his voice.
Flit hesitated; she knew that he was not going to like what she saw at the end of the fight. There was something not quite right with his friends. She had no explanation for what the last attacker had become right before its death, but she knew that this would set the man behind the desk off even more if she told him. She chose to omit that detail and simply tell him that she had left when she saw that the battle was over.
“You need to go back to Kairn’s Keep. I need to know what that bothersome dwarf has done with my friends’ remains, and what he plans to do about the attack. Take someone with you that you trust, send them back with the report and you stay with that dwarf. I want to know everything he does. Follow him into the Keep if you have to, but I want to know everything.”
Flit had never seen such intensity on the man’s face before. She was beginning to regret choosing this man as an employer, but she would see this through.
“I will take my brother, Dar.”
“Go now, do not delay.”
As Flit started for the door, the man said with an icy calm, “I am depending on you, Flit. You would be wise not to let me down.”
Flit vowed that this was the last time she worked for this man as she passed a 7’ tall Minotaur and a squeamish-looking human approach the door. She was barely passed those two when she heard the man behind the desk say in disturbing voice, “Now, this will make me feel better.” Then the door to his room slammed shut.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Second part of the story from the online class

“Mom, are you sure it was Robbie? I mean, you haven’t seen him since he was a little boy?” Beth pressed her mother as they sat at the kitchen table. Catherine had called her daughter the day after the robbery, babbling that she had to find the son she had lost twenty years ago.
“Beth, I know my son!” Catherine said indignantly. “A mother knows these things.”
Beth didn’t argue with her, but she knew that if she hadn’t given her the picture that she had discovered when she was researching her family history, that her mother could have been sitting across the table from her son and wouldn’t have known him. From the information she had dug up, her mother had been a full-on drunk when Robbie was a little boy. Catherine couldn’t remember where she had lived right before the divorce form Robbie’s dad, and the following two years were a blur also. She decided to listen to her mom, and help her, if she could.
“Mom, relax. I believe you. Robbie was the guy who hit you and robbed you.”
“Beth, he didn’t know it was me. If he knew, he wouldn’t have done any of those things.” Catherine’s voice showed how much she wanted to believe what she had just said.
Beth bit her lip, she didn’t know her step-brother, but from her mother’s description of the robbery, she was convinced that Robbie Jr. wouldn’t have acted nobler if he had known the woman he was terrorizing was his long lost mother.
“Beth, I need to find him. He needs me!” Catherine whined.
“Ok Mom, do you have any idea how we can do that?”
Her mother paused then and her head dropped a little. “I don’t know, Beth. He has to be living around her somewhere.”
“Mom, do the police know what he looks like? Did you give them a description of Robbie?”
Catherine’s eyes flashed, “Of course not, Beth, I told them some Mexican robbed me. I can’t have them arresting my baby. I would never be able to take care of him then.”
Beth held her tongue again, but it was getting harder to do. Her mother was so prejudice and maybe a little delusional when it comes to Robbie Jr.
“I know what I can do,” Catherine said, her face shining like she had just discovered a cure for aids. “I could report Robbie Jr. missing. Then, instead of arresting Robbie Jr., the police could help me find him. What about that? Your mom’s a smarty, right?”
Not wanting to burst her mother’s bubble, but feeling she had to help her mother, Beth, sighed and said, “Mom, I think that Robbie may not be looking forward to a visit from the police and the police might already be looking for Robbie, and you don’t want to help them with that.”
“Oh, yeah.” Catherine sighed.
“You could call, Robbie’s dad. I am sure he knows where he is?”
With a look that could slice a person’s throat, Catherine practically screamed, “Never! I swore I would never speak to that man ever again, and my mind hasn’t changed!”
Beth reeled back in her chair. It had been years since she had seen this kind of wrath from her mother, but it still affected her the same way. Catherine sat silent, her chest heaving. Beth looked down at the table, her face a twisted picture of mixed emotions. Finally Catherine broke the silence.
“I am sorry, baby. That man just makes me so angry. I know you are only trying to help me find my other baby.”
Beth did not return her mother’s gaze for a minute. She was trying to avoid the tears that would come if she looked at her mother right away. She knew her mother was trying to be sincere in apologizing, but she also knew that it wouldn’t take much for her to fly off the handle again.
Catherine spoke again, “What about hiring a detective, like they do in the movies? They always find whoever they are looking for.”
“Mom, that costs money, a lot. You don’t have that kind of money.”
“I have a little saved, you know that.” Catherine pleaded.
“Mom, you have saved a little money for Brianna’s college, at least that what you told me when you opened the account.” Beth remarked a little hurt that her mother would throw the money she was saving for her granddaughter for a long shot chance on reuniting with a son that probably did not want to see her.
“You’re right, baby.” Catherine said. “I did promise to help your daughter go to college. She is such a lovely girl. I really love Brianna. Ok, we can’t do that. But there has to be some way.”
Catherine kept glancing at the cabinet over the fridge, wishing she could have a quick visit with her friend in there, Jack Daniels. She knew Beth would not allow it, so she let it go.
Like a light bulb had been turned on in her head, Catherine lit up. “What about that AOL internest thing you used to check on the family before. You always tell me that you can do all kinds of things on that computer of yours.”
“Mom, it is called, INTERNET.” Beth corrected, looking down at the table. She paused a minute. She really wanted her mom to be happy, but she didn’t think Robbie would be good for her. She knew she could probably find out where Robbie was by searching some things online. Reluctantly, she finally responded to Catherine, “Yes, Mom, I can try to find out what I can online, when I go home.”
“Oh, thank you, baby,” Catherine cooed as she stood up and kissed Beth on the forehead. She continued standing, looking at Beth expectantly.
“You want me to go home and do it right now,” Beth asked with surprise.
“If you would, sweetie, I really want to find Robbie Jr. I know he needs me and I can help him.”
Catherine looked so eager and expectant that Beth decided that she wouldn’t try to dissuade her, so she stood up, grabbed her purse and kissed her mother goodbye with a promise to call her as soon as she had any information.
Watching Beth leave, Catherine realized that Beth really didn’t want to help her. As that realization settle in, Catherine began to get angry. Why can’t she be happy for me? Is she so selfish? She wants all my attention on her and Brianna. Well, she can’t have all my love. Robbie Jr. needs me and I will find him.”
The more she thought about it, the angrier she became. Then she saw the picture of Brianna on the fridge and smiled. Ok, I know Beth loves me and she loves Brianna. She is only doing what she thinks is best. I will find Robbie, and I will accept whatever help Beth will give me. But I am not helpless. I know a few guys who might know Robbie Jr. They always hang out at Bennie’s bar. I think I could use a drink and Bennie’s sounds just right.
As Catherine got dressed for her own little bit of detective work. She rehearsed what she would say, how she would act, and what she would do. Slowly, though, she kept thinking about one thing, how she had left Robbie and Danny alone while she went out and got drunk when they were babies. She began to weep. She put down her make-up. The tears flowed freely, and she fell in a heap on the bathroom floor.
“What am I thinking? I have no right to even try to find Robbie Jr.” This line of thinking continued and her crying deepened. She crawled out of the bathroom and slowly pulled herself back to her feet at her dresser. It didn’t take her long to reach the kitchen. She went above the fridge, and grabbed her friend. Screwing the cap off and letting it fall to the Mexican tiles, she took a long drink, and said, “I will go to Bennie’s tomorrow.” No one responded to her procrastination as she shuffled back to the bedroom.
As the numbness washed over her and the bottle falls with no sound onto the thick bedroom carpet, Catherine muttered, “Robbie Jr., where are you?”

Story beginning from an online class

This one part of a story that I am writing for an online writing class. I would love to hear anythng y'all care to say about this. Critique please. The next post will be the second part.

Catherine drained the amber liquid from the glass, listening to the ice clang back to the bottom. She enjoyed the bite of her drink, knowing that the numbing effect she craved would soon follow. As she filled the tumbler again, she replayed the incident this afternoon that was driving her to renew her friendship with her once constant companion, Jack Daniels.
She hadn’t noticed the man when he entered the store. The door chimes that had so annoyed her when she started working at the Stop-n-Shop five years ago were now nothing but background noise. She was engrossed in her book with the Fabio inspired cover art, so she didn’t bother with the customers until they made their way to her counter.
He made his presence known by barking at her to put that trash down and get to the counter. Ordering Catherine Angela Harris to do anything was a big mistake. She doesn’t take orders well, not even when they come from the man who signs her paycheck, but the man’s main mistake was addressing her with that one word that will raise the hackles on any woman. Catherine’s two ex-husbands never got away with that kind of disrespect and there was no way some redneck in a convenience store was going to get away with it. She didn’t care what Mahir would say later about how she treated the customer, she was going to tell this little creep off. She jumped off the stool, sending Fabio crashing to the floor and turned to face the man. She started toward the counter when she saw the man’s hand, and what he had in it. It was nickel-plated and cocked.
She froze, not daring to look at his face, afraid that if she did, he would have no choice but to eliminate a witness.
“Give me the f*#@ money now!” He ordered.
Her hands shaking with fear, she opened the register and drained the contents into a small paper bag. She grimaced when she realized that it wasn’t all that much. She had just come on shift, and she hadn’t had many customers yet. Her fear intensified, worried that the robber would take out his frustration with the small amount of cash on her.
“Now, give me the poker machine money!” He demanded.
Still fearful, she felt a little better, knowing that the poker bag held two thousand dollars. Surely, he would be satisfied with that haul and not hurt her. She also was glad he had asked for the poker bag, because now she could call for help without him knowing. The panic button had been placed right next to the lock for the drawer where the poker machine money was, so that they could push it with less of a chance of a robber catching them alerting the police. Catherine fumbled with the keys, dropping them once, before getting the key in the lock. She was just about to push the panic button, when the man spoke.
“Hurry up; this ain’t getting the baby no shoes!”
Catherine stopped. She knew that stupid saying. She hadn’t heard it in over twenty years, but it was as clear to her as when Robert, her first husband, had said it every time she was running late. She had come to hate that phrase, almost as much as she hated Robert. Robert, the man that had taken her boys away from her, and kept them away from her all their lives, simply because she had a shot or two of Jack Daniels every now and then. She had to look at the man now. There was no way this could be Robert, but she had to be certain. She pretended to fumble with the lock again, while she looked directly at the man. It wasn’t Robert. This man was in his thirties; Robert would have been in his fifties. As she was about to finish getting the money and push the alarm, she met his eyes. She stopped again. She knew those eyes; they were Robert’s eyes, but this wasn’t Robert.
“No, this can’t be. It can’t be.” Catherine screamed at herself in her mind. She looked at his face again. It was pock marked and showed a life committed to alcohol and drugs, but she knew the face and her heart broke.
“What are you doing down there? Hurry up or you will be sorry!” The now familiar man bellowed.
“What am I going to do?” She agonized. She abandoned the panic button; she could not bring the police here, not yet. Quickly, she got the poker money bag and placed it inside the other bag. As she gave him the money this time, she looked directly at him, hopping that she was wrong. Even as he backhanded her, telling her that she shouldn’t look at him if she wanted to live, she knew she was right and shame now replaced the fear she had been feeling. She had fallen to one knee from the slap and he told her as he was leaving that she better stay down, and not call the cops or he would come back and kill her. Then he was gone.
She burst into tears, not from fear or pain, but from shame and loss. She sobbed for a few minutes, but she knew she had some things to do, so she wiped her face clean and got started. Before she pushed the panic button, she went into the office, thankful that she had been promoted to assistant manager; otherwise she would not have been able to pull the tape in the surveillance camera. She took the tape and put it in the suitcase she called a purse. The cops wouldn’t look in there, so she would be ok. She pushed the button and waited, glad that the robber had not actually touched anything at the counter except the money bag. The rest of the day was a blur. After the cops left, Mahir sent her home.
Now, as she drained the glass again, she wiped the tears away from her face. She put the glass on the table and picked up a photograph. It was a snapshot that Beth, her youngest daughter, had given her a year ago. It showed two men in their thirties, obviously brothers. As the numbing effect that she had been longing for washed over her, the picture slipped from her hand and drifted to the floor.
“Robbie Jr, I am so sorry,” she slurred as the man from the store stared back at her from the photo on the floor.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Chapter 3(a)

A man sits alone in a small room. The one door from the hallway opens into a room that is approximately twelve feet wide and fifteen feet long, furnished with simple furniture, a bed, a small bedside table, a wardrobe cabinet and a fairly good sized table with two chairs. On the opposite wall hangs a window that offers a pleasant view of the city and the river that rushes pass just outside the city wall. The room is one of a dozen or so that make up the second floor of this building, all of which are occupied. Some of the other guests have added some better quality furnishings and all have decorated their rooms with keepsakes from home and personal items. The man in this room is not like the others. His room is Spartan and one would be hard pressed to figure out where this man calls home from a tour of his room. The only thing of significance in the entire room is a large map spread across the main table. The map displays the entire known world. Scattered, for no apparent reason on top of the map, are a handful of ordinary pebbles. It is late afternoon and the shadows begin to fill the room, so the man lights the oil lamps that adorn the walls. He had earlier pulled the bedside table close to the map table and had placed a unique lamp on it. The lamp had the normal base of an oil lantern, but added to all four sides, just above the flame were four highly polished three inch long metal plates. These plates were attached at such an angle, that when the lamp was lit, the light hit the plates and cast off a more brilliant glow. Returning to the tables, he lights this lamp and retakes his seat before the map.
So engrossed is he in his study of the map that it takes four attempts of loud knocking before he is aware that he has company.
“Enter,” he calls out.
A tall, fair skinned, human enters the room clad in a chain mail shirt, black leather pants, black leather boots, and a dark blue cloak. Walking with the stride of a confident warrior, he carries his six foot long spear with him into the room.
“You have a visitor, sir,” the guard announces.
Without moving his gaze from the map, the man behind the table says in a tone dripping with rebuke, “I thought my instructions were clear, Borban. I am not to be disturbed.”
“Yes, sir,” the guard replies, “your order was clear, but this visitor is most insistent. Also, I thought I heard you this morning asking for this visitor, mentioning that she was overdue in reporting to you.”
As soon as the last sentence left his lips, Borban knew he had made a critical mistake.
The man behind the table stood quickly and fixed a hard glare at the guard.
“So, now, your duties include listening to my conversations, do they?”
“Uh…no, sir…I…uh...was just…,” the guard stammered, trying to explain himself when the man behind the table cut him off.
“Silence! I will deal with your error momentarily. Tell me who this visitor is.”
“It is Flit, sir,” the guard informed in a much subdued voice.
“Ah, yes, Flit, Send her in and then go and bring Iltor to me.”
At the mention of Iltor, Borban’s expression changed dramatically. He went from looking like a hardened soldier to looking like a ten year old boy facing down a pack of war wolves. Terror was not simply written on his face, terror was the very fabric of it.
“Don’t just stand there, do as you are told. I would not want to have to add more subjects for Iltor to address with you,” the man behind the table barked.
As the guard scrambled out the door, the man returned to his seat. He was playing with the pendent on his necklace, which seemed to have a calming effect on his facial expressions, when Flit entered the room.