Path of the wind

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by HumanInfiltrator, Jul 9, 2006.

  1. HumanInfiltrator

    HumanInfiltrator The Book club lady

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    I've finally sat down and started to write. Would love to know what somebody else thinks of my effort. :littlethi
    Sorry if it is a bit long.

    The heat radiates depressingly of the dry grass between the scorching boulders. Even the incessant singing of the cicadas has wilted under the two blazing orbs in the sky. Sariandra carefully positions herself between two of the boulders before slowly raising her head above the skyline. They are here.

    Nothing is quite as inexplicable as the feelings generated by those who have given themselves to Gemka. In appearance they differ little from the woman studying them from the ridge, unless you are close enough to look into their eyes. In those blood red orbs you can see nothing but emptiness. The absence of feeling is enough to make you reel back, enough to make you want to feel pain, to feel anything as long as you feel. Of course if you are close enough to look into their eyes more than likely they will soon give you more pain than you could ever have imagined.

    1
    The wizened old man turns slowly to look at his charge. The ache in his bones making even this small movement a test of his will. Oh, to be so young again. Too look at the world with all it’s opportunities with eyes untamed by time. He shuffles to a chair and slowly lowers himself into it.
    “You want to leave.” The old man makes this statement without turning his head.
    “Yes. It is time.” The sounds coming from the old man cause a moment of concern before it’s identified as laughter. “Time, what do you know about time?”

    For a moment both of them contemplate their own thoughts in silence. “I suppose in a way you are right. Change is in the wind and it calls to you, the same way it once called to me. So what is it you want from an old man?” He turns to look at the youngling, eyes bright as his own had been when he left in search of his own destiny, ages past. In front of him stands the boy he brought into his home a mere ten years ago, wet and bedraggled yet proud. Also standing there is the man he has become, tall, broad of shoulder and still proud. The handsome young face splits into a wide grin. “A blessing, of course.” His eyes hold the only hint of his self doubt, a cloud that shows his true need – approval.

    “Ahh! Well, come, bend your knee.” The young man kneels in front of the old and still towers over him. His head bows while his curved shoulders show all his respect and love. Jasco lays his right hand on the dark hair and his left on the strong, wide shoulder.
    “Go with honour. Never act without thinking. Never think without feeling. Never feel without holding to hope.” A moment they stay thus, frail old arms pinning the strong young man to the ground. Then the young man rises to his full height and squares his shoulders. “Thank you.” Again it is his eyes that give the whole message, showing all the emotion that no self respecting man would ever express in words. I’m sorry, I’m exited, I will make you proud and I love you.

    A long time later a woman enters the room. She moves over too the window, intending to draw the heavy drapes. “No Catalina, leave them. Tonight I want to see the stars come out.” She moves over to the old man and seats herself on the chair next to him. “Then I will keep watch with you.” They sit in the slowly darkening room and watch as the sky’s colour drain out of it. With the dark comes a chill that causes the woman to draw a soft quilt over the old man’s knees. As the first stars blink into being, she turns to regard the man next to her. “At least you will have the peace and quiet you have been begging for, for the last ten years.” The old man turns his head and smiles ruefully. “Catalina, I’m afraid there will be too much quiet and no peace until he returns.” She returns his smile, gets up and moves towards the door. As she reaches it she turns. “Aye, but he will return.” With that she leaves the room and closes the door softly behind her. The old man sits and watches the stars as they carve their map across the velvet sky. “I will pray that he does. And hope.”



    “We will reach the city by moonrise.”
    The two men standing on the bow of the ship both glance at the darkened sky where only a steak of violet indicates where Banta, the second eye of god, has gone into hiding. They both turn towards the lit door that serves as entry to the bowels of the ship. As they walk they are constantly looking around, every small sound or movement searched out, identified and then ignored. Their shoulders are stiff and their hands never stray far from their weapons.

    Inside their quarters they seat themselves around the table, one watches the door while the other faces the window. In-between the watching they study each other’s faces, noting the changes that have imprinted themselves there. The widened eyes, red-rimmed and blood shot. The skin around the eyes is tight and the lips thin. The whole face is pale and bloodless. “Are you sure he will help?” The man who breaks the silence does not look like he should be wearing the mask of fear that has become his constant companion.
    “Will he help? That is a certainty. I just hope he can.” The second man also has the appearance of one who has little to fear in the world, but now he knows it as his constant companion. “If anybody will know what to do it is Jasco, but he is old and frail and I have not heard from him since before the winter.” Both men contemplate this as the boat dips and sways them closer to the current goal, Terestiun, Pearl of the Eastern Trading Kompanje.

    2
    There are no children amongst the Gemka. You can’t join until your majority and if they have any of their own, nobody has ever seen them. Sariandra runs her eyes over their camp again, taking care not to look directly at any of the individuals. There are twenty warriors, two shamans, six carriers and a lot of the carrying birds, the Tarkie. She nervously starts to bounce her weight from one leg to the other, and almost in the same instant freezes, aborting the movement. “Silly girl, why are you so uneasy around the old enemy? Surely you have controlled your fear of them a long time ago?” She examines her surroundings, looking for the cause of her unease.

    It’s their behaviour. She has never seen them in their own camp and they are behaving oddly. The only sounds are the hisses coming from the animals. There is no talking, no laughing in fact, no camaraderie at all. Mentally comparing it to her camp two hours run away this camp looks like it is filled with the risen dead. She watches from the corner of her eye as a woman struggles to place a heavy cooking pot onto the fire. The Gemka around her watches passively, but carries on with their tasks, nobody moves to help her.

    It’s time to go. The girl slowly lowers her head behind the boulders, pressing her lithe body down to the dust and dry grass. She holds still for a moment then eases around to regard the ground in front of her. Bunta and Serun are still above the horizon, and there is enough light too easily see her path. Slowly she moves down the slope, carefully placing her feet to avoid stepping on dry grass or a loose stone. As she reaches the bottom she finds Gero waiting with her spear and the Mayanti carcass. She signals him to stay quiet and pick up their kill. As he moves off she looks for any sign that may betray their presence; scuffs up some tracks, cover some blood spots, then follows. “We have to run Gero, their Gemka” The young man falters as his face goes pale. He is barely into his majority and has been accompanying Sariandra on the hunt since he joined the tribe. He will soon be a fine hunter.

    As they pickup speed and fall into the evenly paced lope characteristic of their people, she once again reflects on how well their society works. There are six clans, each with its own abilities and strengths. Her own, the Marahandra are the hunters, they travel the plains to bring meat to their people. Upon the night of naming Gero chose this tribe and thus received his name: Gerhanter Mentyhe. Ger for his child’s name Gero and han to signify his new clan. He was born in the dream caves to the west, with the clan of shamans, the Mentyhe, but obviously he belongs here. Each goya, travelling group, is made up of all six clans and works together to insure the prosperity of their people, the Gerenti. As a child Sariandra had considered joining the Mentyhe but during her spirit walk she realised that she was a child of the hunt. She would not be happy in the caves or with the largely sedentary lifestyle of the Mentyhe. And so, she came to the Marahandra and has been happy for the past four years.

    As the two runners round a hill they spot the smoke rising from their temporary home and unconsciously both speed up even more. Closer to the camp of hide tents they start to hear the sounds native to their people, laughing children, scolding mothers, boasting men and flirting girls. For once this sound makes their blood run cold. By the time they reach the central fire half the camp suspect something. When they sit down, out of breath, it is confirmed, hunters are never out of breath. Mothers start to look for their children, Kuriken, warriors, gather their weapons and the leaders gather, awaiting the news. Finally Sariandra squeezes the words from her gasping lungs; “Gemka.” The people around her are suddenly as eerily quiet as the Gemka camp. “They are two hours run to the south-west. It’s a skimming group on Tarkies, they have twenty warriors, two shamans and six carriers. They were setting up camp and it looked as if they were settling in for the night.” As the she speaks, the quiet people begin with their preparation. Children are dressed and fed, fires put out, belongings packed away and the carcass they brought salted and stored. The Kuriken leader sends out scouts while the rest of the goya council contemplates their options.

    An old shaman, with the blue headband of the Mentyhe, is the first to speak. “Will we run, hide or fight?” He looks at the Kuriken leader, Kuriyana, a strong woman in her late twenties and now, by default, leader of the goya council. She in turn looks at the older man to her right, “Maratam, is there anywhere to hide, or at least a more defensible position?” Her sharp eyes show no fear, only cool calculation. The Marahandra leader closes his eyes as he reviews his memory of the area. When his eyes open they are drawn and seem almost yellow in the light cast by the two setting suns. “No. Between here and the steam pools of the Dontenko is only open plain. The settlement is two days run away, and in any other direction but south-west it is open plain for four days run.” Quietly the council absorbs this news. The old Mentyhe speaks again, breaking the tense silence, “So Kuriyana, fight or run?”
    “It will have to be the choice of the goya.” These seemingly innocuous words, quietly spoken roll over the assembled council like a death sentence, a choice by the entire goya means there will be fighting, either way. “I will call the gathering.”

    Serun is dipping below the horizon, colouring the heavens a bright crimson. The light seems to deepen the apprehension that hangs over the gathering of the goya like a shroud. There is still plenty of light and all can see Kuriyana as she stands before them, straight and unflinching. Strong. A child starts to whimper, but is quieted by an anxious mother. Silence. Then the standing woman starts to speak. Her tone is even and her demeanour one of confidence and determination. Nobody interrupts her as she explains the choice in front of them.

    “A Gemka skimming group are two hours to the south-west. They have twenty warriors, we have ten Kuriken. We can run, but they have Tarkies. We all know the effectiveness of hiding from them on the open plain. While I know the Kuriken can take the warriors that will leave the rest of the goya vulnerable to the carriers and the two shamans. I do not think they know we are here. That can be to our advantage in two ways. First, it gives us the element of surprise if we should decide to attack their camp tonight. Second, it gives us the opportunity to make all haste towards the east, with some luck they may never even cross our trail. If we decide to run, it will have to be to the east, to the steam pools of the Dontenko. There is always a large contingent of Kuriken guarding the crafters and we may even run into patrol by the river Kiko. The drawbacks of running are that if the Gemka find us we will be tired and the goya may be strung out or surrounded, also we run with children and possessions. Drawbacks of attacking are as follow: whether we fail or succeed there will be heavy losses amongst the Kuriken, if we succeed that will leave the goya without protection, if we fail, all will die. The third choice is splitting up. The Kuriken attack while the rest of the goya splits into two groups and run. That leaves the goya unprotected but even if we fail one of the groups have a better than average chance of survival. The choice is the goya’s.”

    In silence the goya reflect upon its choices. Serun has sunk beneath the horizon and the sky seems to be covered in blood. Slowly discussion starts and several suggestions are made to all the options. Bury our goods, if we live we can return for them, if we die, what does it matter? Maybe we should run, but the Kuriken should not attack until the Gemka are a direct threat. Why not three groups? The Marahandra can help defend the goya and also disguise our tracks. As Bunta approaches the horizon Kuriyana again takes the stage. “Whatever we decide, we decide now, our time is running short. All tribe members have the right to vote, exercise that right by standing. The majority rules and we all serve for the survival of the tribe. Natye Donteko, please call the question.”

    As the old Mentyhe seats himself in front of the goya the rest of them follow suit. All look at the ground as the first question wavers through the air. “We stand and fight.” Sariandra hears a rustle as some of the goya rise to their feet. Her heart beats faster while her gaze stays riveted on the toes of her moccasins. “We run together.” The young woman struggles to regulate her breathing as she listens to some of her people casting their votes. “We run in two groups.” She carefully climb to her feet, counting a slow five while the vote is tallied, then sinks back to the ground. “We run while the Kuriken fight.” She hears almost no sounds at this question; nobody wants to be caught on the open plain without the protection of the Kuriken. She raises her head as the old shaman calls the close of the count.

    “It is decided. We run. We will divide into two groups of equal size lead by five Kuriken each. Each clan will divide in half and lots will decide with which group each family travels. All possessions except food and weapons will be buried; we leave as soon as we are ready. Make your preparations and report to the council. May the wind follow our footsteps and hide them from the enemy.” The old man turns and makes for his own tent where he starts to gather his herbs and powders. The rest of the goya rushes after him. Now that the decision has been made there is no more discussion, only fast and careful action. Sariandra heads for the tent she shares with the rest of the unwed Marahandra. She quickly gathers her things and organises to have the remnants buried with those of the others. With their blessing she hurries off the help the old Mentyhe for he is alone.

    He gives her a sad smile as she starts to strike his tent, but makes no comment. They are joined by one of the young sons of the Donteko and between them they quickly gather up the last of the old man’s belongings. Everything is wrapped in the ground cover and moved to a grassy slope. They carefully cut squares in the hard turf and remove the grass, roots and all. The ground underneath is hollowed out and carefully gathered on a hide. The bundle is placed in the hole and the surface evened out with dirt. The grassy squares are then replaced and the excess dirt taken back to the camp where it is used to cover the scars made by fire, tent pens and human occupation. When they finish there is almost no indication that anybody has stopped here in many weeks. They move off to where the goya is slowly gathering and splitting into two groups. The boy makes his way towards his family. Sariandra hangs back, she has no family in this goya and she will fall into the group that shorts Marahandra. As she checks her pack and weapons she examines her heart and finds little fear there. This is not the first time she has run from the Gemka.

    Finally her lot casts her with the group that will travel due East. It is a shorter distance, but they are more likely to be followed by the Gemka. Also in her group are Kuriyana and Natye, she feels this is an auspicious sign. As they set out the skies’ colour has bled out leaving only a line of purple where Bunta has hid his face. They move in a close group, herding the little ones in the middle surrounded by their Kuriken guards. There is almost no sound as they start running. The children will only be able to maintain the pace so long, but the longer they run the more energy is spared by the adults who will carry them. For a short time they can see the other group moving away from them at a slight angle. Then they too are swallowed by the darkened sky.
     
  2. HumanInfiltrator

    HumanInfiltrator The Book club lady

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    Is it that bad, or that long?

    Nobody has any opinion? Not even a negative one?
     
  3. Wing Rider

    Wing Rider Psychotic Cybernetica

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    I've been trying to get round to reading it, but there is rather a lot of it and I haven't got round to finishing it. I've only read the first few paragraphs, and it is good, but it'll take time to read.
     
  4. HumanInfiltrator

    HumanInfiltrator The Book club lady

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    Thank you!!
     
  5. Wing Rider

    Wing Rider Psychotic Cybernetica

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    Finally got round to it...although I kind of skim-read the last few paragraphs, this is pretty interesting to read. I like the way you've divided the societies into clans and built up a separate world, it's very original and your style of writing is very good. (actually it's not that long, now I think about it, it's just that it's all put all into one post, unlike some of my colossal stuff :D)
    I'm curious to see what happens next, it's a pretty good read.
     
  6. BBallForLife

    BBallForLife New Member

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    It's pretty good so far. I like how you use a sort of theatre writing to tell what the characters are doing. Can't wait to see more. :)

    And to answer your question... It's not too long. It's perfect. The longer the better!
     
  7. Borael

    Borael Prophet of Arka

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    Im really tierd right now so I've only read a little bit but I like so far. It isn't to long but like I said earlyer im tierd. Reading what I have makes me want to read more though so I will deffinatley got to it I still have a lot of others to read also, so many good stories around here.
     
  8. BBallForLife

    BBallForLife New Member

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    Still waiting for the next update.
     
  9. HumanInfiltrator

    HumanInfiltrator The Book club lady

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    Sorry for the long wait. Here is some more.

    3
    The young man flinches as another drunkard bumps him from behind, slamming his ribs painfully into the counter. Finally he gets his ale and carefully makes his way to a quiet corner. He finds an empty seat, thankful not to have spilt either his own drink or anybody else’s. That would have been an inauspicious start to the evening. His eyes roam over the patrons of the inn as he sips his ale. Soldiers, sailors, adventures, traders and ne’er-do-wells share company around the rough hewn benches. The drink is flowing freely and so are the tales. The longer the night gets the taller the tales will become. He absently smiles as snatches of conversation reaches his ears, the same old stories with new heroes every night.

    His smile fades and his ears prick as he hears the word “Gerenti” from behind him. Slowly he eases back on his chair taking care not to turn his head and to keep on sipping from the pewter mug. The noise makes it hard to follow the two men’s conversation, but luckily they don’t seem to be concerned about being heard. “…like ghosts…speak no word…always watching…know them, from way…captain cancelled shore…” The second man’s voice is deeper, rougher and older. “Why…say that?”
    “…carried themselves…picked them…jetty…Miko, outside Donte…”
    “Gerenti…”
    “No…same as always. Who can tell with those savages?” The man’s last words falls like hailstones during a temporary lull in the noise. Some of the patrons turn to look for the speaker. Gerdon takes care to also turn and is rewarded with a glimpse of the two speakers. The one is a young man, dressed like a sailor on one of the river barges. The other man holds Gerdon’s full attention for the brief moment that he observes them. He is older, as his voice indicated, dressed well but conservatively, a look at odds with his appearance. He has lank, dark hair that falls over the collar of his jacket and his face is covered in an equally dark beard. The beard is scraggly, surrounding a thin, cruel mouth. His eyes are, however, what commands Gerdon’s attention. They are icy blue and devoid of any expression. Gerdon carefully turn his back towards the strange pair and takes another sip of his ale. He suppresses the urge to jump up and rush out of the inn; it will only draw attention to him. As he slowly finishes his drink a shiver of both excitement and trepidation runs down his spine, now he knows where he has to go.



    Catalina opens the door and stares. There are two men in front of her, the one she doesn’t know and the second she can barely recognise. He is a familiar visitor, a man of great humour and strength. It’s been nearly a year since his last visit but now he is only a shell of the man she remembers. He looks gaunt and his eyes are dark pits in his pale face. “Mister Wellenger?”
    “Catalina, you are, as always, a sight that lifts my heart.” For a moment his face looks more familiar as it expresses his pleasure as seeing her again. Then it returns to its new form, drawn and pale. “Is Jasco home?” His face is again returned to familiarity by relief as she nods her head.

    “Come in, he is in his study.” She takes their coats and hats with mixed feelings. She wishes no more bad news on her employer, but maybe they will distract him from his worries about his adopted son. “You know the way.” She gestures up the stairs as she moves toward the kitchen to enlist help to move their luggage.

    The old man starts at knock on the door, Catalina never knocks unless he has guests. “Enter.” There is an unfamiliar quiver in his voice. He looks in amazement as two men enter his old friend almost unrecognizable and his companion a complete stranger. “Terenze?” The big man laughs, “I guess I look a bit worse for ware. Jasco, it’s good to see you. It has been to long.” The two men embrace each other affectionately. “Jasco, allow me to introduce my friend, Martin Tessenber, Martin, Jasco Berten an old and good friend.” The two men shake hands while they size each other up.

    “Terenze, pour us a drink. You both look in desperate need of it.” The old man sinks back into his chair and gestures his guest to take a seat across from him. He watches closely as the younger man moves his chair so that he has a clear view of the door. Something is definitely wrong. He turns to watch Terenze as he pours the drink; there is a barely perceptible trembling in his hands. He serves the drink, sits down and turns in such a way that he can see the window from the corner of his eye. Very, very wrong.

    For a while the three men sip their drinks in quiet, the host allowing his guests a moment of reprieve. Terenze will speak when he is ready. The two younger men nearly jump to their feet as a log in the fire burns through with a crack. They both smile apologetically as they settle back down. Finally Terenze leans forward and rests his elbows on his knees. He stares intently at the old man, draws a deep breath, hesitates, let it out again with a shake of his head. When he finally speaks his deep voice is barely above a whisper and the old man has to lean forward to catch his words. The meaning claws through his memory and the glass slips from his fingers to shatters on the floor next to his feet.

    “The Gemka have raided over the mountains.”




    4
    It is still dark when Gerdon rises. He pulls his dagger from beneath his pillow and hastily gathers his things. He slips quietly from the room, a process aided greatly by the loud snoring of some of the other occupants. On the stairs he stops to put on his shoes and belt his sword to his side. He quietly slips out the kitchen door and slowly approaches the barn. He doesn’t see or hear anything suspicious in the dark as he stops outside the big doors. He stands for a moment and then moves through the doors. Inside he has to wait for a moment as his eyes adjust to the torch light. In the straw lies the young stable boy, fast asleep. Gerdon smiles as he looks for his saddle, another reason for quiet, the poor boy must be exhausted. In the half dark he saddles his brown gelding and fastens his bedroll to the saddle. He leads his horse outside, pauses as the boy stirs in his sleep, then move through the doors. He walks the horse to the street, where he mounts, carefully wrapping his cloak so that it doesn’t obstruct access to his sword. He turns his horse’s nose towards the west and slowly sets out towards the mountains, a dark figure in the moonlight.



    Sariandra drinks deeply from her water skin, then turns slowly to observe her companions. Most are exhausted. They have been running for five hours, carrying the children for the last three. Even the Marahandra are showing signs of tiring. It has been a long day. She slowly moves to where the Kuriken are huddling together. They turn as she approaches, their faces drawn with fatigue. “We should rest now, while we still have enough people able to stand guard.” Most of the group look at her with resentment; she has no authority in this goya. She quietly stands her ground, maintaining eye contact with Kuriyana. The older woman stares back, then slowly nods her head. Before her clan members can voice their objections she says: “Sariandra is right and you all know it.” Grudgingly they nod and soon the message moves through the goya. Lie down close together and get some sleep. If you can stand guard, tell Kuriyana. Sariandra draws first watch and carefully moves out to the perimeter with one of the Kuriken. She finds a shadow in the grass and sits, facing back along their invisible trail. The night breeze is faint and cool against her cheeks. The feint light from the sickle moon has turned the plain into a patchwork of shadow. The Kuriken settles next to her, his soft breath barely distinguishable from the rustling of the grass. They keep each other quiet company as the moon makes its way across the heavens. After two hours they rise, move back to the camp and wake their replacements. Carefully they take their places amongst the other sleeping bodies. Sariandra closes her eyes and quickly falls into a deep slumber.

    The goya sets out again just before dawn. Their pattern has changed now. Three parallel lines set out from the hollow in which they slept, two Kuriken next to the outside lines and one following the middle. Three Marahandra stay behind and try as best they can to disguise the tracks left by their goya. For an hour they each follow the trail and either disguise it or lay false trails. Then they run to catch up, as they reach their group another Marahandra stops to resume the process. Five hours later, when they stop to rest there is still no sign of pursuit. There is no relief from the tension, if there is no sign of the Gemka by nightfall, they will worry about their friends travelling with the other half of the goya. As they set out again Sariandra has another turn at being a sweeper. It is not hard, her people are wise in the ways of the plain. They follow outcrops of rock and animal tracks where they find them and even the children know to disturb the grass as little as possible. An added advantage is the fact that the growth is still young after the spring rains and the grass quickly bends back to cover most of the trail. Every now and then the young woman stands, shades her eyes and studies the horizon behind her. Once, she catches her breath as she spots movement, only to let it out slowly as she recognises the bulky shapes of a herd of dendos. She smiles as she realizes they will cross their path and obscure the trail even more. Then she turns her attention back to the task at hand.

    By midday both young and old falls to the ground, exhausted. Although their people can run for long periods of time they rarely do it at this pace or carrying extra weight. They huddle around a small pool, resting, drinking and eating a meal of dried meat and vegetables. When they set out again an hour later there is still no sign of pursuit. By necessity the goya now moves at a slow jog. The air is stifling, even the breeze seems to have evaporated under the blaze from the two orbs high in the sky. The small amount of dust raised by the goya’s stamping feet seems to rise straight into the air, scratching their eyes and obstructing their lungs. Sweat carves light paths across their faces while accumulating in dark stains down their backs. Soon they are slowed down even further as they are forced to take tired children on their backs. This job is shared by all but the Kuriken. Their rhythmic steps coupled with their exhaustion seem to force the group into a state of trance. Eyes begin to glaze over as they stare at the ever lengthening shadow of whoever is in front of them. Finally they stop. Some of the Gerenti simply collapse where they stand. It is sunset. And while they have seen nobody behind them and they should be safe, Kuriyana realises that she has made a mistake. Nobody will be strong enough to stand watch.





    5
    Gerdon’s journey is uneventful along the road to the mountains. Three days out, beyond the last crossroads, most of the traffic seems to be going the other way, not that there is much. Traders returning to civilisation seem to be made up of two groups, young and old. The younger men carry a look of satisfaction, trade has been good. The older men’s faces, however, hold his attention as they pass. Though their trade seem to have been equally good, there is a weariness, a sense of unease outlined on their faces. Something is wrong in the mountains, something that plays on their deepest fears. Every so often they turn to look back along the trail and even in the absence of any perceivable threat, they shiver and hurry along their way.

    As the suns approach their zenith they seem to beat down on the earth. Gerdon stops, swallows some water and rinse out his horse’s mouth. In the distance the heat waves turn an inn into a dark shapeless form. Perfect. He remounts and sets off again, slowly. When he reaches it the place seems quiet. A caravan is watering their mounts and filling their own water skins. From the inn a young boy brings a bag that the men open to distribute the food. They pay and set out. Most of the men form part of the second group, the older traders. Gerdon also waters his mount and looses the cinch before entering the inn, leaving his horse to forage for himself. The inside of the building is also quiet. The same young boy serves him lunch with wide eyes. His response to a query regarding the adults is surprising, they are packing. This is these people’s home, where on earth could they be going, and why? When Gerdon finishes his meal he asks the boy to call his father. After a time a broad man enters the room, red faced and sweating. “Can I help you sir?”
    Gerdon looks at the man for a while before he replies “I hope so. I’m travelling towards the west and would like to know what I’m getting myself into.” The man pales. “Why would you ask such a question sir?” He wipes his face and sinks into a chair.
    “All day I’ve seen the traders moving east, moving with all haste and the look of people who has seen their nightmares manifest in daylight. Now I find that you are taking your family from their home, and I ask myself, what could cause this?” The man avoids looking directly at Gerdon, wringing his hands. Finally he mumbles something under his breath. “Sorry?”
    “You will laugh sir.” Gerdon studies the man for a moment, “Man, speak plainly, this is obviously not a laughing matter.” Finally the big innkeeper turns to face him, slowly speaking the words that send the blood tingling through Gerdon’s veins.

    “The Gemka has raided over the mountains.”



    The old man lies in his bed staring up at the dark ceiling. Tonight more than old age keeps him from the dream realm. The Gemka. The purest form of human evil, enemy of the Gerenti, myth of the eastern realms. They have raided over the mountains. This unprecedented occurrence is the cause of his two guests’ terror.

    They had been travelling with a group of traders moving south along the mountains after trading at the Dontenko settlement. Although slower going than the main road, the trail is crossed by many streams and covered by the shadow of the high peaks for parts of the day, making for a much easier trip during the summer heat.

    On their second night out their single sentry’s blood curdling scream woke the camp to utter horror. In seconds half their number was down, bleeding their life into the grass. The two friends stood back to back fending of the ferocious attack. As quickly as it began, the attack ended, leaving four members of a party of twenty staring wildly into the night. Ten bodies laid scatter around the camp with gaping wounds, more disconcertingly, six men were gone, vanishing during the brief fight. As quickly as they could, the remaining members of the party set out, back towards the settlement. When they reach it their story sparks various reactions. A group of Gerenti Kuriken sets off, back along their trail as if chased by dogs from hell. Young eastern traders worry about bandits and slavers, while their older compatriots quietly finish their dealings and leave the area with uncharacteristic haste. Small groups of Marahandra set out towards the plains, heavily guarded by Kuriken. The Dontenko suddenly seems to become weapon smiths and trade in metal is brisk, however, they will sell none of their creations. The Gampo’s songs and stories tell all about the Gerenti’s old enemy, the Gemka, and of all battles waged, those won and lost. As night settles old Mentyhe can be seen around their fires, busy in their old, secret ways. The two friends only heard the word Gemka once, before the older man dragged his companion to the barges on the river Miko. It is the quickest way back to the East, to Terestiun. And so they came to Jasco, barely four days after the attack. The question is, what is he to do about their tale?
     
  10. BBallForLife

    BBallForLife New Member

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    It's still good.
     
  11. HumanInfiltrator

    HumanInfiltrator The Book club lady

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    Hello! Just a little something to keep you entertained over the weekend:

    6
    Sariandra rolls over wildly stabbing with her knife; it hooks, holds for a moment and then comes free. She swings her head from side to side, straining to make sense of the chaos around her. As a child runs past she grabs the small hand, roughly pulling down, in the same movement rolling onto her feet to crouch over the fallen shape. The cool night air is pierced by pain filled screams and shouts of anger. In the dark it is almost impossible to distinguish friend from foe. As the child starts to struggle she speaks in the soft tones of her people, she quiets down. In all directions people are running, this is bad, running makes you the perfect target. She hesitates for a split second then screams at the top of her lungs. “To me! Gerenti to me!” She anxiously watches as the shapes closest to her start to move. Trying to tell who is approaching her she gives another call. “Marahandra!” A shadow to her left answers with Dontenko and the one behind her with Mentyhe. The shape in front of her makes no sound. She drops lower, her knife held next to her thigh. She twists to block with her left shoulder, hoping to keep her right arm free to strike. As the man moves within arms reach she feels the numbing cold of metal against her back, a chain. She drops her right shoulder even more before turning her entire torso, striking low and to the centre of the dark mass that looms over her. Her sharp blade cuts deep into his abdomen, but still he makes no sound. Gemka.

    After that she has little recollection of the fight’s events. Minutes later the Gemka disappear back into whichever hell that spawned them. The toll on the goya was high. Two women and four children are missing, taken by the carriers. All five the Kuriken had perished along with a large number from the rest of the clans. Of the six people who are left two are wounded. The little boy had sprained his ankle running away, which probably saved his life, while a Marahandra man had suffered a deep cut across his chest. The little group huddled through the remainder of the night. There was no more sense in running, the Gemka had got what they wanted and would not return.

    The next morning Serun is shy to show her face, she is hiding behind a cloud, the sky a blushing pink. The Tahina woman suddenly jumps up and points into the braking dawn. Fear returns to their hearts as they make out the dark shapes approaching. Weapons are drawn and prayers said to the gods. They watch quietly, shading their eyes against the brightening dawn. Relief makes the group collapse within itself as they recognise their own people. As the group comes closer they become recognisable, a patrol of Kuriken and Marahandra. Sariandra nearly cries as she realises the meaning. They had been mere hours of safety without realising it.

    The two groups greet each other with great reserve. There is little to say beyond the story told on the plain around them. The patrol asks no questions beyond the names of the dead and the missing.



    When they set out towards the Dontenko settlement they leave behind the rest of the goya. They have been returned to the plain, each clan to its own grave. The Dontenko face east, towards home, the Tahina face down into the ground whose bounty they gathered, the Marahandra face the suns that were their guides in life and the Kuriken face south, to keep an eternal vigil against their enemies.



    7
    Gerdon looks around in amazement as he enters the Dontenko settlement. He had been listening to Jasco’s stories for more than ten years but the place still seems alien. The first thing you notice is how clean it is. The streets between the buildings are free of mud and refuse and the air smells of smoke, wood and clean air. Even the smallest eastern towns carry the smell of dung and the grandest castles have the various consequences of human and animal habitation lying in the corners or alleys. Second are the people. Every person is dressed warmly if plainly and looks healthy and well fed. There are no beggars, no street urchins and they all have light hair. Gerdon’s earliest memories are of fights over his hair colour and rubbing soot on his head to darken it. Here the first thing to make him stand out in the eastern lands is the one thing that makes him blend in with the people.

    He finds the inn of the side of the small market place and steers his horse to the stables behind it. A small boy assures him that it will be cared for and if he steps inside his mother will provide a warm meal. Gerdon has to bend to pass under the lintel of the back door. As he straightens he blinks at the dark then finds his eyes stretching wide. He knew that the Gerenti were short people, but the woman in front of him seems tiny. Seeing him staring she raises an enquiring eyebrow. The young man blushes, looking down at his big feet as if seeing the scuff marks on his boots for the first time. Her laughter deepens the red on his cheeks but he can’t help looking up at her with an answering grin on his face. “Is it your first time visiting the Gerenti?” Her accent changes the trading tongue into a softer more exotic sounding language. He answers her in her own language, “Tam mahiya, corobe ye kinde.” Yes lady, excuse this outsiders lack of courtesy. Her eyes widen as she stares at him in surprise.

    When they finally stop laughing she motions him to a large chair at the head of the table. “So kinde, what can I feed you?” He returns her smile as he settles himself “Anything mahiya. My name is Gerdon.” She busies herself at the fire and says over her shoulder, “Tihikia Dontenko. So where does a kinde learn to speak to the plain?”
    “I learned from a good man with a great respect for it. His name is Jasco Berten.” She nods her head but carries on with her preparations. They share a friendly silence until she returns to the table with his plate and takes a seat next to him. He starts to eat finding the food tasty although unidentifiable. “His name is known as a friend to the Gerenti, although it has only been heard in the Gampo’s songs for a long time. Is he still walking?”
    “Yes, but slowly for he is now an old man.” She nods her understanding.
    “What brings you here Gerdon kinde?” She waits patiently as he finishes his meal.
    “That was wonderful, thank you Tihikia.” She removes the plate and returns to the table with two mugs of steaming tea. The young man folds his hands around the mug breathing in the flavour. The tea smell as good as the food has been, but is equally unknown. He looks up and finally answers her question. “The wind. Its carries the smell of change and opportunity.”



    8
    It’s midday when the community suddenly flurries into activity. Gerdon had been spending his time with Tihikia talking and listening. The quiet is suddenly shattered by calls outside and dogs barking. They run through the inn out into the street. Gerdon notice people looking at him and then turning their attention back down to the plains. Although they are standing at the back of the small crowd Gerdon has no problem seeing what the source of the commotion is. He shares his observations with Tihikia, taking care to watch her face for hints of what they mean. A group of people are approaching up the path. Four broad men are carrying a makeshift stretcher. As they get closer he can see that there are actually two groups of people the first is heavily armed and moves around the second, much smaller group. Upon hearing this Tihikia pales and whispers the word “survivors”. The crowd waits, quiet now, showing the same strain on their faces as Tihikia.

    When the group stops in front of the people some men and women bearing blue headbands move forward. Four take the stretcher and move back into the town the rest move to talk to an old man, also wearing the blue headband, in the group. Two more break away, carrying a small boy with them. After a while the old man steps forward, he stops, tilting his head back and closing his eyes. Gerdon finds himself kneeling with the Gerenti.

    “Let it be known to the people. Our goya was overtaken by the Gemko.” Around Gerdon the people react with indrawn breaths and small wails of fear and sorrow. “We fought but we were too few. Hear now the names of those no longer walking with us and the names of those carried away to the south. Kuriyana Kuriken, Kendro Kuriken, Kukenda Tihina, Denkur Dontenko…” Gerdon listens as the list of names gets longer noting the tears and sorrow that comes to different sections of the crowd as they recognise the names of friends, family and clan members. When the list is finished, Gerdon knows that he is the only person present who is not affected. His mentor’s words return unbidden, “The Gerenti is like a single, large, extended family. They are all connected and all dependent on one another. To touch one is to anger all; to befriend one is to befriend a people”. This had sounded like heaven to a lonely boy who grew up on the streets of Terestiun. Looking at the crying women and stern faced men around him he feels anger stirring in his heart. What kind of monster can cause such pain and sorrow with such impunity? He had heard of the Gemko from Jasco never believing that they were the devils described to him. But now he has met the Gerenti, he has seen their sorrow, he has talked with Tihikia and now he is angry. This must not happen again, he will…

    Gerdon forces himself to take a deep breath, hold it and slowly let it out again. As the anger seeps out of him he shakes his head in wonder. Where on earth did that come from? He is not one given to emotional outbursts and anybody who had served with him would have vouched for that. He had spent the Kompanje’s two years of public service in the army and had stayed on for another year as a Lieutenant. Never in that three years had he reacted like this.

    The young man is still perplexed by this strange occurrence as he climbs to his feet with the rest of the people. He falls in step with Tihikia as she makes her way to the small group of survivors. As they approach he studies them, the old Mentyhe, a woman carrying a Tihina belt and a little girl holding the hand of a young woman.

    Sariandra looks up and finds her eyes drawn to a towering young man in the crowd. She has seen other easterners, and they had been tall, but next to this man they looked like children. She stiffens as their eyes meet over the heads of the people between them. They gazes hold as he moves closer, then little Miro tugs her hand demanding attention. The little girl points at a woman approaching through the crowd, her aunt, her closest family. As they make their way towards each other Sariandra is unsettled to find that the tall young man moves with the woman they are approaching.

    Gerdon and the young woman watch as Tahikia bends down to gather the little girl in her arms. As he listens to the soothing words another emotion overcomes him, sorrow. When he had been left standing alone there had been no-one to turn to, nobody had cared.

    Sariandra watches as a cloud moves into his eyes that are no longer watching the people in front of him. He looks up and again their eyes meet, they study each other, each recognising in the other something familiar, an oldness in the eyes that comes from having experienced great pain.

    Tihikia looks up from her niece’s face as she feels a wind twisting around her. The two people in front of her seem unaware of the ribbons of wind that bind them together as they regard one another. She looks back at the little girl, takes her hand and rise to her feet. “Kinde, Marahandra, come, it is time for the midday meal.” She turns, walks off to her home and hears with satisfaction their following footsteps. At the inn she quickly organises her guests, Miro is to set the table, Gerdon kinde is to cut wood and if the Marahandra mahiya could please cut and roast some meat?



    They share the meal around the table. Little Miro is talking incessantly now that she feels safe. She has lost her mother, father and two brothers in the attack and now has to come to terms with it. Almost breathlessly she recounts their flight and the fight. Realising that the mahiya had saved her niece from certain death Tahikia inclines her head to the woman, a thank you, that doesn’t interrupt the young girl. The young boy listens in rapture, this is better than any Gampo’s story and he can’t wait to recount it to all his friends. He will miss his family, but like all young boys his hunger for excitement is much stronger than even the fear of death.

    As they start to clear the table the girl’s talking turns to questions. What will become of her, will she stay with her aunt, where will she stay and will Sariandra stay with her? When all these questions have been fielded she turns her attention to the stranger. The women smile at his bemused look as the questions wash over him. Who is he, why is he so big, why does his eyes look like pieces of sky, is he a monster or maybe a ghost? While they drink their tea she decides that he is probably human and definitely friendly and so crawls onto his lap where she proceeds to talk herself into an exhausted sleep. He smiles down onto the tiny form feeling a deep contentment. After a while he follows Tihikia to a room where he puts the tiny creature into a bed, reluctant to part with her friendly warmth. Never has he felt so accepted, not even in Jasco’s home. They return to the kitchen to find the boy gone and the other guest nearly asleep in her chair. “Sariandra, you are more than welcome to a bed. Our family owes you a debt for returning Miro to us; it would be an honour if you would stay with us until you follow the wind again.” The woman nods tiredly and follows Tihikia up the stairs.

    Gerdon stands by the door looking out over the woods that cover the slopes of the mountains behind the inn. He tries to sort out his heart for it has been in turmoil since the group of survivors have arrived. He has come so far without knowing exactly why and now he has to decide upon a course of action. He feels lost, more than ever before in his life, yet with a driving passion to do…something.

    He turns as he hears Tihikia’s footsteps behind him. She asks “Gerdon kinde what will you do now?” She laughs at his bemused face, “Come, I will take you to somebody who can help you to decide”.


    I need constructive critisism please. I can take it.
     
  12. BBallForLife

    BBallForLife New Member

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    Wow, it's your best yet! Keep posting!!
     
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  13. HumanInfiltrator

    HumanInfiltrator The Book club lady

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    Thank you BB. If there is a problem following the following chapters regarding the predictions made, let me know and I will attach a picture of the whole set up. Enjoy!

    9
    Jasco studies the faces of his two guests over the breakfast table. They seem more relaxed than the previous evening their rest must have been more satisfying than his. As they finish he tells them that he would like for them to accompany him, there are some people they have to go and see about the situation.

    As they gather their capes and hats the carriage is brought around. They set of into the city away from the harbour, up the hill towards the castle of the city commander. They pull up in front of an imposing building across the square from the castle gates, the university. They slowly make their way up stairways and down long halls, Jasco cursing his old bones all the way. Finally he stops in front of a door in a dusty old corner of the building. The door is opened in reaction to their knocking by a young man. “Yes, can I help you?” He seems stunned by Jasco’s request to see Master Kepender. “Of course, please come in.”

    The room is small and smells of dust, ink and old tobacco. Against all the walls are book shelves, stacked with books, papers, scrolls and artefacts. Much of the floor space is taken up by two large tables covered in a mad collection of paper, quills, pipes and other miscellaneous objects. A withered old man rises from behind one of the table’s, “Jasco, old friend, it’s good to see you.” The two old men embrace each other with careful back slapping then stand exchanging news, queries and good wishes. “Marcio, I see they finally gave you an assistant.” “Ha, they say it’s in reverence for my old age, but I know he is here to make sure I don’t lay dead in this forgotten corner until somebody notices the smell.” The young man stoically ignores this jibe and inquires if he can bring anybody tea. He quietly leaves through the door, shutting it behind him.

    “So Jasco, now that the spy is gone what brings you to me?”
    “My young friends have a story for you.”
    “Good, good, let me get some paper, find yourselves some seats gentlemen.” When they are all settled Jasco nods at Terenze to tell his story. The old man happily starts scribbling the story on to a piece of parchment but after a while sits staring at them in disbelief. When the story ends his eyes are glistening with tears. “Jasco, this…this is…”
    “I know my old friend, you may finally get your proof. But now we need your help.” The two younger men look at each other incomprehension wrinkling their brows. Jasco smiles at them then turn back to watch his old friend. Marcio finally seems to pull himself together. “You know my input will only cause derision and mockery, what could you possibly need from me?”
    “You have said that the Gemko has come over the mountains before and that this resulted in the Great War. I need to know what we can expect if this wasn’t just a random occurrence.”
    “You know that my theories are only conjecture, based on old stories and ancient writings, there is no proof.” The last bit is said with derision.
    “I know. I also know that most travellers and traders would not discount your theories as easily as the academia has. If the Gemko are coming, and I think they are, what do they want and what can we do to stop them?” Marcio sighs.
    “Well, if they are coming nobody knows why. I do know what they will bring, death, destruction and fear. Little is known of the cause of the Great War all that is left is the stories.

    The red eyed devils came over the mountains to bring death to the east. They gave no warning, no reason taking woman and children on sight. The evil joined in their darkness, the innocent hiding throughout each night. At last the kingdoms joined forces. Following the light of the north, their songs and their stories, to drive the night back over the mountains. The kingdoms claimed glory ignoring the voice of the light. Beware, darkness returns just like the night.”

    The group sits in silence contemplating the implications of their old bedtime stories. Finally the old man starts speaking again. “I’ve come to believe that the night is the Gemko and light the Gerenti. They have always fought the Gemko and should have knowledge on how to fight them. I would say that our salvation lies in gaining their help. The problem remains, how to convince our leaders that the threat is real.”
    “I’m sure the Gemko will do that for us.”
    “Yes, but at the cost of how many lives?” They sit again in silence. They start as the door opens and the assistant comes into the room with a tray. They drink their tea in silence. Finally Jasco looks up, “I’m too old for this. Let me know if you think of anything else.” Marcio nods. The three visitors get up thank their host for the tea and start to leave. At the door Jasco turns, “Marcio, why don’t you come for dinner tonight, I’ll send my coach for you.” The old man nods. “Six o’clock?” “See you then.”

    The three men carefully make their way back to the street. In the coach Jasco says, “Let’s report the incident to the authorities. Leave out everything about the Gemko, let them assume there are bandits in the mountains. Maybe they will increase the border and trade route patrols, which certainly can’t hurt.”



    10
    Gerdon stares at the old Mentyhe in front of him. When Tihikia had said that she would take him to see somebody who could tell him what to do he had expected to meet a leader, not a shaman. He is surprised when the old woman laughs “I’m Jamenty Marahandra, the wind singer. Who else did you expect to tell you why the wind blew you to us?” She laughs again at his dumbfounded expression. “Come young kinde, take a seat and let Jamenty tell you what the wind is whispering.” Reluctantly Gerdon seats himself on the floor across from the old woman. “I’m not one of your people…”
    “Bah, your hair looks like summer grass. Maybe you are of our people, maybe not, but the plain definitely has a hold on you.” He watches in amazement as the old woman starts to unwrap a package in front of her. Inside is the strangest collection of objects he has ever seen, feathers, seed pods, animal hair and smaller packages that reveal what seems to be dirt. Patiently the old woman spreads an old piece of honey coloured leather on the ground between them. Patterns have been dyed onto the one side of the leather, some of the symbols are familiar, but he can make no sense of their meanings. The woman picks up a sharp knife and Gerdon pulls pack apprehensively as she leans forward. “Kinde, I just need some of your hair.” He bends towards her and she expertly cuts about a finger breadth piece of hair. She settles back down and starts to gather some of the other objects in her hands while muttering under her breath. Then she sits, hands closed over the piece of leather, eyes closed, all the time mumbling words that he just can’t catch. He stares at her expectantly, but nothing happens.

    When she moves the effect is startling, a breeze has entered the tent through the open flap behind him and it whips past. As it touches the old woman’s hands she gives a shout and tosses the contents in the air. As suddenly as the breeze came, it is gone again leaving the impression that it had been called and dismissed. Gerdon stares at the piece of leather where several of the objects have settled. “Now young kinde let’s see what the wind has written for you.” She bends forward, a crooked old finger tracing patterns over patterns, never touching either the objects or the leather. Finally she settles back and studies the young man in front of her. His face is calm and posture relaxed but his eyes are bright and questioning. Good, he has learned patience but not acceptance of whatever fate will bring.

    When she speaks her voice is low and soft. “The wind took the ochre which means you have no family, but it left earth in the centre saying that your roots lie with the people of the plains or that you will put our roots down with us. The human hair surround the earth for you will make friends in all the clans. The owl feather, mayanti hair and Tarkie feather cluster around the western star, this is where you should go next. If you hurry you will find something there that is very important. The rest is clouded, unclear and unsettling. The raven’s feather crosses the sign of the Gemka, they will be your enemy, but they are also the keepers of your destiny for your own hair lay there too. You will find shelter with the Marahandra and there is lots of interaction there. The stories of the Gampo holds lots of meanings but what they are I cannot tell for I have never seen this configuration. The last pattern is the most perplexing. The soot covered the southern corner meaning that there will be much death around you. Yet, on top of the soot lies the Kenti feather meaning that the death will bring you much happiness or help you to fulfil a dream. Whether this is good or bad is unclear.” Gerdon waits, but the Mentyhe says nothing else. Hesitantly he asks a question, “What does the western star mean?” “It can mean many things, but for you I think it signifies the western pass or whatever lies beyond it.”
    “So I should travel to this pass.”
    “Hmm, tonight we will be asking the wind about all our people. I think your path will be clearer then.”
    “Thank you Mentyhe. Much of what you said is unclear to me, but now I at least have a star to guide me.” The old woman cackles at his joke.
    “Kinde, you lighten my heart. You would have found your way eventually if you kept following the wind. All things will be as they should if you always do that.” The last is said with such intensity that Gerdon is sure it has some hidden meaning, but whatever it was it passed him by. He carefully comes to his feet, bows to the old lady and move out of the tent.

    The old woman stays seated staring at the wind chart in front of her. She has never seen its like. It’s filled with strong signals whose meanings are obscure and on the edges lays hints of greatness or wickedness, only time would tell which.
     
  14. BBallForLife

    BBallForLife New Member

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    It's still really good, and I would love to see the pics.
     
  15. HumanInfiltrator

    HumanInfiltrator The Book club lady

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    Oh its just a design of the mat. If you teach me to do attachments I'll load it up.:duh:

    I will be on holiday for the next week so that is why I'm uploding a much longer piece than normal. :littlethi :gbounce: :ybounce: :draught:

    11
    Sariandra looks around her with satisfaction. She is amongst her people. All have gathered in the open air for the coroze, the meeting of decision. She seats herself between Tihikia and the tall kinde with little Miro in her arms. She looks at the stranger and wonders again at his alien familiarity. Decides again that it must be his hair for the colour reminds of the grass at high summer. Her thought turn to why the Mentyhe had invited him to this gathering of the people. Around them people are seating themselves, talking softly. It quiets down as the council arranges themselves in front of the gathering, it is time. The meeting starts with a welcome to those newly arrived and then it is on with business. Everybody is told of Gemka movement, a tally of weapons and food stores is given and massages from other settlements recounted. Then old Jamenty Marahandra moves forward. “It is a time of bad omens. We all know that we have to do something but the path is shrouded. Before we decide I think that we should ask for the wind’s guidance.” The gathered people call their consent. The old Mentyhe gathers hair from the council members as representatives of the people.

    Gerdon watches as the whole process repeats itself. He’s too far away to see much detail, but he thinks that there are some different objects present at this reading. This time he is not surprised by the gust of wind that blows from behind, in spite of the fact that the wind has been coming across his left cheek since he sat down. He turns his attention to the people around him as the old woman begins her reading. Most of them seem calm, just waiting for whatever was to come. Some, especially the younger Kuriken seem excited by the prospect of a fight. The mothers are the ones who carry on their faces the look of fear. He turns his attention back to the front of the gathering as Jamenty starts to speak.

    “The plains are covered in soot for the Gemka are coming in full force. The fighting will spill over the eastern mountains plunging the kinde in darkness. It is time for the clans to come together and there are two paths before us, west to the dream caves and north to the ice falls. Cry woe and arm yourselves for the time of war is upon us. Hold high your heads for we are the Gerenti and we will stand against the darkness, for it will pass as does the night.”

    The Gerenti mutter and stir at this announcement. They quiet down as the leader of the Dontenko stand in front of them. “I call for suggestions.” He calls on some of the leaders and people to voice their opinions, everybody listens attentively. “I call the question.” Sariandra motions the kinde to bow his head and whispers to him, “You have been invited therefore you have a vote, When they call the option you agree with rise to your feet and keeping your eyes on the ground count to five then sit down again.” Gerdon listens in amazement as the vote is cast. Never has he heard of such a thing, all the people deciding what is to be done. “We go west.” He hears movement but follow the order to look at the ground. “We go north.” Again there is some movement. “We split up. One group goes north the other west. The Marahandra, Kuriken and Tihina spit in half, the rest of the families choose their destination, as long as the numbers remain almost equal.” Carefully he rises to his feet feeling the young woman next to him also move. He counts the slow five then seats himself again. “We spit into several small groups, each making its own way north or west.”

    “The count is closed.” He hears a soft sound as all the heads come up together. “It is decided. We will divide into two groups and leave at first light. Ready your homes and decide on your destinations. The group to the north will gather at the head of the path, while the group heading to the west will meet in the square. Any problems with group size will be sorted out then. The majority has decided and we will serve for the survival of the tribe.” Immediately the people start to move off. Gerdon is still contemplating this unconventional method of decision making. Finally he turns to the young woman next to him. “Can I ask you some questions?” “Off course, just as long you keep on moving.”
    “Why does everybody get a say, surely not every person can be trusted to make a sound decision? Do you not trust your appointed leaders to make the right decision for all of you?”
    She laughs. “We chose this council for their ability to organise a settlement. Nearly a quarter of the people here tonight have served as leaders for goya’s at one time or another. Besides, each person knows what he or she thinks is best for the people, they would be insulted if ignored and that could lead to conflict. This is how all the decisions affecting the tribe are made; we all serve only for the survival of the tribe. Now we know that yes, I got to say what I think is right, but if this is what the tribe wants I will do what ever I can to make sure that the tribe is provided for. Why, how do your people make such decisions?”
    “Leaders are appointed by the ruling council and they make decisions that the rest of the population follows.”
    “And everybody is happy with those decisions?”
    “No. And often the decisions are made to benefit the rulers, not the people. I can see how your way is much better, but there are just too many people back east for it to work. In Terestuin alone there are more people than there are Gerenti, it would be chaos to get every person’s opinion.”

    They walk the rest of the way in silence. After a while Gerdon picks up the tired little Miro who mumbles in his ear then falls asleep. Again he feels an inexplicable peace settle over him as he holds her close. Back at the inn he and Sariandra help Tihikia to pack away everything that won’t be needed on the journey. Behind the house is a hidden trap door that leads to an underground storeroom. They put most of the things in there, bringing food and camping equipment back into the inn. Tihikia’s young son is almost beside himself with excitement as he carefully arranges his own pack for the trip.
    “Tihikia will there be enough water on the western way for my horse?”
    “I think so, Sariandra?”
    “Probably, it is still early in the season and we won’t be moving to fast due to the weight. But it would be an insult if you rode him on the plains, why not let him go?”
    “I know, but I thought with all the extra weight, if we rigged a travois he could carry some of the supplies.”
    “It is a thought, Waro, run to Jamenty and ask her if that would be acceptable. Also ask if she needs any help because we are nearly finished here.” The little boy runs of, chest puffed up at this important task. The adults continue with their chores as they wait for him to return.

    A while later they are starting dinner when the boy returns, out of breath. “She...she says…it would be fine. And…thank you…but she…has already taken care of her things.” They wake little Miro and enjoy their simple meal in quiet. Afterwards, Tihikia questions her guests about their plans. “Gerdon kinde, you will go west?” “Yes, it is apparently where my guiding star is leading.” He smiles again at this simple play of words. “And you mahiya, what are your plans?” “We will go north, my brother is with the Gampo and he should know our sister’s fate. And you Sariandra?” “I will go west for I still worry about the other half of our goya, my serxo is with them. We should meet them along the way.

    After dinner Sariandra helps Gerdon to make the travois. It is not an unknown devise, many of her people will be pulling one on the journey, but this is the firs time she has seen one that will be pulled by an animal. They work companionably, finding themselves at ease in each others company. When they finish she watches Gerdon as he tend to his horse finding the large animal intriguing. She knows hunting dogs but she has never been this close to such a large, living animal. Gerdon shows her how to brush the horse and then checks its shoes. Luckily they are in good shape, who knows when he will see a blacksmith again. They return to the inn and their beds followed by a faint feeling of excitement. Tomorrow they leave.




    12
    Catalina studies the faces of the men as she serves the tea. She’s only seen so many morose expressions at a funeral. After inquiring if they needed anything else she leaves, closing the door behind her. Whatever is going on she doesn’t want to know about it.

    Jasco also studies the faces of his guests. They have circled around the issue all night, but now it was time for decisions. Earlier the magistrate had assured them that an attachment would be sent to investigate the attack. His manner had however failed to inspire trust; he was just another bored bureaucrat, intent only on doing whatever served him best. Finally he breaks the silence, “I think our next move is to contact individual traders. To find out what they know and think. What do you think?” He looks expectantly around the room. Terenze finally answers him. “That sounds fine, but what is it that you hope to achieve?”
    “The same thing you hoped for when you came here, that somebody will tell me what to do next.” They sit in silence for a while, each occupied with his own thoughts. At length Marcio speaks. “I wish I was a young man. I would travel to the west to see what will happen, to simply be there when it does. I’m happy to know that my theories about the Gemka may finally be validated but distressed by the price I’m sure we will pay for this knowledge. There is one other you may try to contact Jasco, the old Lord Santobar. In his youth he was a traveller and he was quite upset by the dismissal of my writings about the Gerenti. He is no longer active in the political scene, but he may have some idea of what we could do.” They discuss their plans for the morning before Marcio takes his leave. After that the meeting breaks up, each man heading for his room and his own thoughts.



    In the darkness men of the night meet. There is chaos in the air which could offer quick men many opportunities. In hurried whispers they review their options. If change comes they will be ready to act.



    13
    It’s dark when Tahikia wakes him. He gets dressed and gathers the last of his possessions before making his way down to the kitchen. The two women quietly pack up the last things while he saddles his horse and fasten on the travois. They carefully load some of the extra food before waking the children and eating a cold meal of trail rations. Then they make their way outside. In the street they say a tearful farewell, little Miro is especially upset at having to part with her new friends. Gerdon watches quietly as the group move of towards their rallying point in the west. He joins Sariandra as she reports to the group in front of them. Somehow leaders have already been appointed and they are welcomed. Learning that there is more space in the travois it is quickly filled with weapons and food.

    After a time it becomes apparent that there are too many Dontenko in their group and too few Tahinia. The leaders quickly converse with the relevant groups and a contingent of Donteko sets of toward the west, they have barely left before a similar group of Tahinia approach. They wait for a few latecomers and when it is clear that all have assembled they set out. As they reach the path they can see the other goya making its way down the trail. He watches as the group reaches the bottom of the trail and moves of to the north. When they reach the plain Sariandra makes her way to one of the leaders and starts a short exchange. He can’t hear what is said but when she returns he is told that he should move with the centre group. He stares as the goya starts to divide into three almost equal sized groups. There is no announcement, each person just naturally drift along the desired course. The Kuriken takes up positions around all three the groups; leaving enough distance to allow the people a reaction time should they be attacked. Gerdon follows along the trail of the centre group while observing that the group are moving about ten horse lengths apart. They are moving at a brisk pace and he is glad that he had exchanged his riding boots for a pair of moccasins.

    As they move he observes their formation, the middle group contains mostly children and old people. They Kuriken serve as lookouts and guards. His face reddens as he realises that he has been grouped with those who cannot protect themselves. He angrily turns to the young woman next to him, “Why am I with the defenceless, surely I can be of more help with the fighters?”
    “Because they are defenceless and you are inexperienced. You will stand with me and some of the others as the last line of defence, besides we do not know your abilities you have yet to prove your worth.” He nods grudgingly at her logic. “Sorry, I guess I have become so accustomed to leading that I make s bad follower.” They walk for a while when he sees some people falling back from the groups. “What are they doing?” “They are covering our trail. The Gemka are good enough at finding us without us drawing them a picture.” “Do you think they will come?” “They always come, though rarely this far north. But if this is to be another war they will follow us all they way to the ice falls.” “What is it they want.” “People, we don’t know what for. Some think they eat them or offer them to their blood thirsty gods another idea is that they keep them as slaves.” Gerdon think on these depraved ideas while his eyes wander over the children marching along in front of them. Another question comes to mind. “How long will the children be able to keep this pace?”
    “As long as you, if not longer.” She laughs at his doubtful expression. “They are Gerenti while you are a rider of animals.” He shares her laughter. “Touché mahiya, but I will have you know I spent three years marching up and down the eastern coast. I may still surprise you.”

    By midday he seriously doubts his earlier claims, he is tired and footsore and he gladly sinks to the ground when they stop for their midday meal. He shares the food with Sariandra who openly laughs at his weariness. When they set out again she disappears to the back of their group to take her turn at sweeping. He finds that he misses her company and speeds up to fall into step next to an old Mentyhe. They walk for a while before the old man speaks to him. “I hear you know Jasco.” “Yes, I was raised by him.” “He is a good friend. While he was with us we spoke through many nights.” They march on. “You kinde have some strange ideas.” Gerdon laughs. “So he has told me time and again.” They walk along for about an hour before Sariandra returns. She is sweating and slightly out of breath after running to catch up to the group. He offers her his water skin but she waves it away pulling out her own. When she has her breath back he starts to ask her about their surroundings and pretty soon she finds herself lecturing not only him but to a small group of the children as well. Some of what she is telling him they know, but especially the younger Dontenko children seem fascinated by a lot of what she is saying. They while away the rest of the day in this fashion. It is near sundown and their shadow lay long at their feet when she decides to test them. The children do well, but it is the young kinde who surprise her. He seems to have absorbed her words and what’s more, make accurate deductions based on the knowledge he has received.

    They make a cold camp that night since there is enough cooked food in their packs. They settle down in the grass after drawing the last watch, it seems that Sariandra has been designated his keeper. They are woken just before first late and make their way over to the northern end of the encampment. Gerdon watches closely as she chooses a spot just under the ridgeline, where a large clump of grass casts a shadow. He takes his seat next to her and they sit together watching the rising of Serun out of the corner of their eyes. Across the plain he can see things coming alive as the sunlight touches him. They notice the odd movement at the same time, grabbing at each other to indicate attention. They watch in silence, waiting for the sun to define whatever is in front of them. When Sariandra grasps who is approaching she jumps up with a shout. Gerdon finds himself on his feet with his sword half drawn before he realizes that it was a happy shout. He sheaths his sword watching as the woman takes of over the plain at an astounding speed. He turns back to the camp to see that he was not the only one startled into action. He quickly goes back and explains that apparently there is nothing to worry about. He returns to the ridge to see that she has covered more than half the distance to the other group of people. He is startled by a voice next to him for he had not heard anybody approaching. “It must be the other half of her goya. It looks as I they came though without trouble.” Gerdon turns to find that it is old Jamenty. “Yes, what will we do now?”
    “We will send them an escort and keep going, but slowly. They will catch up, but they are tired and if we wait we will be put back by more than half a days travel.” The young man nods at the wisdom of the decision. The Mentyhe speaks further, “You should join them.”
    “Why?”
    “Because the wind is blowing that way.” She returns to the camp laughing at his dazed expression.

    When the escort leaves about half an hour later a lot of the travois’ contents had been removed. Most of what was left was food. As Gerdon trample over to the smaller group he finds that he misses Sariandra’s easy company. The Kuriken around him are friendly enough but they maintain their distance from the kinde and his animal. His muscles are stiff from the previous day’s punishment and he finds their brisk pace painful. The goya had followed the larger group’s example and had set out towards the west. After about an hour he feels the pain lessen as his stiff muscles warm up. After another hour they reach their target. The pace slows down considerably and it is obvious that especially the children are drained. He falls into step next to Sariandra and mentions that there is space in travois for the extra baggage. She nods but they keep on moving for about another two hours before halt is called. Everybody drinks some water and packs are lightened as sleeping rolls and extra food is piled into the travois. When they set out Gerdon finds he is again holding a child. The small boy promptly falls asleep, the physical and emotional strain of the last few days have over come him. Although the boy is not heavy Gerdon’s arms are screaming in protestation at the unaccustomed weight. He gladly hands the boy to his mother when they stop for a meal.

    The gently rolling plain and the slight angle at which they are moving had long since taken the larger group from view. When they set out they fall into the normal protective pattern of a travelling goya with Marahandra sweepers bringing up the rear. When Sariandra takes her turn he falls into step with a Gampo who is performing the dual function of teacher and entertainer. Gerdon listens to the woman’s stories with the same interest as the children around them. When she finishes the tale of how the clans were established he asks a couple of concise and perceptive questions. She studies the young kinde, his questions where those she would expect a good serxo to ask. Her next tale is more abstract and actually above the comprehension level of most of the gathered children but she can’t help herself, she has to test him further. She is again impressed by his insight and his almost instinctive understanding of her people. She responds with some of her own questions about his background. He is vague about a lot of his past but the revelation of his education by Jasco Berten clears up where his understanding comes from. She asks if he would like to hear one of the stories that have been made about his mentor. He responds with great enthusiasm and listens in rapt attention how Jasco had been attacked by a Patoke and how he made his way across the plain for three days before being found by a passing goya. This is one of the children’s favourite stories and they happily recount parts of it as the Gampo calls on them.

    As Gerdon listens to their story he feels his chest swell with love and respect for the man who had taken in the young ruffian that he had been. He thanks the children for the story as they finish watching with satisfaction as their faces beam with satisfaction. He responds with a story of his own. It recounts how Jasco had cleverly tricked a corrupt bureaucrat. A lot of the concepts are foreign to his audience and the tale takes twice as long because he is constantly explaining some ambiguous cultural meanings. Explaining a harbour turns out to be half hour lesson about oceans and ships that leave the children either wide eyed or giggling at such absurd ideas. He shares a smile with the woman over the children’s reactions and notice something in her eyes that he cannot identify. As he carries on with the story, the Gampo marvels at his patience and his attention to detail. He is in fact a very good story teller and she has a feeling that he will also be an excellent teacher. Being thus distracted they walk comfortably through the rest of the afternoon.

    They stop early for the evening meal. They need to make a fire and while you can disguise smoke during daylight it is almost impossible to hide the light at night. As Gerdon returns to the fire after tending his horse he finds himself face to face with one of the Kuriken. He is a broad man of middle age with a stoic face. “I need to know of how much use you would be during a fight.” Gerdon studies the expressionless face. “Well I could tell you that I can hold my own, but that would not help you much.” The short man nods. “Can you use any weapon but that sliver of metal?” Gerdon nods. “Pikes, bows, spears, quarterstaffs, knifes, sticks and stones.” There is a barely perceptible twinkle in the man’s eyes. “Come.” He turns and walks off to the travois. He chooses a staff and indicates for the stranger to do the same. As they move over to a relatively flat piece of ground each man swings his staff and upper body to stretch his muscles. Gerdon intently studies the shorter man’s movements, they are quick and economic, an indication of great ability and experience. He had chosen a longer weapon to compensate for Gerdon’s reach, but that would probably not slow him down.

    They square off each waiting for the other to make the first move. Gerdon shrugs with a twisted smile and feints towards his opponents head. The man sidesteps and brings the edge of his staff to bear on the back of Gerdon’s knee. Gerdon drops one end of his staff down to block, steps forward and drives the other end to the man’s throat. The fight is joined. The rest of the goya gathers around them to watch the show. The two men expertly circle, dodge, feint and attach. The illusion that they are involved in some exotic dance is only broken by the sharp cracks of wood knocking on wood. Their movements start to slow as fatigue sets in, both still unable to land a blow. Gerdon decides to end the bout. He goes into an attack, leaving a small opening in his defences. As his opponent knocks his feet from under him he rolls with the movement bringing his weapon around, grounding the other man. They lay on the ground gasping for breath. As Gerdon rolls over and sits up he hears the other man’s deep throated laughter. They sit on the ground regarding one another. “You’ll do. You’ll do quite well actually.” They pull each other to their feet and are immediately surrounded by chattering children. As he moves towards the camp the rest of the Kuriken shakes his hand in the traditional greeting of warriors, hands clasping forearms. He is one of them and therefore worthy of respect and trust. Gerdon again feels the unfamiliar sense of belonging that has overcome him on several occasions since he met the Gerenti. Rather than examining the feeling he just enjoys is, whatever the cause, he will get pleasure from it for as long as it lasts. He joins in the meal, talk and laughter without reserve, unconsciously ingratiating himself further with these gregarious people.

    The next morning he finds himself the student of the children as a Tihina woman test their knowledge of the plants around them. He feints several misunderstandings and an exaggerated display of stupidly that leaves them gasping for air after enormous fits of laughter. Today they are moving at a brisker pace that allows them to cross a larger amount of ground. It is almost possible to forget that they are actually fleeing from a bloodthirsty enemy for the relaxed atmosphere is broken only by the sweepers falling behind and the watchfulness of the Kuriken. They stop for the midday meal by a small stream that is soon left behind again. As Sariandra fall into step with him, he gives her an idiotic grin that causes her to laugh out loud. “And now kinde, if you look like a boy who has stolen his first kiss?” “I’m happy. Your people have welcomed me and for that I will be forever grateful.” She nods her understanding. “You have made it easy for us to do so, a rare thing for a kinde.” They walk in companionable silence, smiling at the children’s antics until it is time to stop for the night.
     
  16. BBallForLife

    BBallForLife New Member

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    Great update. Can't wait till you get back! :)

    P.S. I don't know how to upload links.
     
  17. HumanInfiltrator

    HumanInfiltrator The Book club lady

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    I'm Baahack. :halo:

    So little has happend in the last week.:eek: :eek: 14
    “I fear that my youthful indiscretions have come back to haunt me in my old age.” The other old man nods in agreement. “Ah, yes, but without them the long nights would be empty.” Jasco laughs with his distinguished host. “Oddly it’s those same indiscretions that bring me here to you today.” Lord Louis Santobar waits patiently for his unexpected guest to continue. “In my younger days my travel took me over the mountains to the Gerenti. I spent almost two years in their company and came to know them quite well.”
    “I’ve also had the pleasure, truly remarkable society from which we could learn much.”
    “Yes, did you ever have the dubious pleasure of meeting their neighbours, the Gemka?”
    “Thank goodness, no. My visit was rather uneventful.”
    “I take it that you have heard of them though. I have recently received some rather unsavoury news about them. I wonder if you have heard that they have raided over the mountains.” From the sudden paleness of the old Lord’s face it is clear to Jasco that he had not heard and that he had a pretty good idea of the consequences of such an occurrence.
    He waits patiently as his host gathers his thoughts.
    “When?”
    “About a week ago, understandably we informed the authorities of the attack, but not who the perpetrators were. I chose to avoid the automatic questioning of my mental ability that would accompany such a claim.”
    “A wise choice sir, most of these bureaucrats wouldn’t recognise a threat if it kicked them on the behind. I wonder though, how did it happen that you came to me?”
    “Oh, advise from an old friend at the university, Marcio Kepender.”
    “I know him, a good man who has been treated rather badly by his peers. What was it you hoped to gain from talking to me?”
    “I don’t know. Advice, ideas, anything that can help me to avert the disaster I fear will befall us quite soon.”
    “I’m afraid we will need more information if we are to get anybody to pay attention to our claims.” Jasco feels himself relax at the word “our”, they have gained another ally and if his expression is anything to go by, a rather formidable one.
    “I know, we were planning on visiting some of the traders known to do business with the Gerenti.”
    “Good, I will contact some people who I know will treat this situation with the proper attention. Please, let me know if you find out anything more. I will do the same; just tell me where to send the messages.”
    After giving the old Lord his address Jasco takes his leave and heads towards the trade quarter with his two young guests as escort.


    Catalina stands in the parlour, wringing her hands. It seems that the world has gone mad since young Gerdon had left and no matter how hard she tries to ignore it circumstance keeps pushing it under her nose. The whole morning messages have been arriving some of the messengers insisted on waiting for an answer or even to give her the message. Then just after the morning tea her sister showed up at the servants’ entrance, husband, children and household in tow. And where is master Jasco? He has been out of the house for almost two straight days, more than in the last two months.

    She gives a small scream as the front door opens causing the three men crossing the doorway too look at her with concern. “You startled me, sorry.” They nod in understanding.
    She moves across the floor and takes her employer’s heavy overcoat while saying: “Sir, there has been some messages while you where out. I put most of them in the study, but some of the messengers said they had to wait for a reply; they are in the kitchen awaiting your convenience.” She follows Jasco through the house to his study, supporting him up the stairs, all he while relating various important matters. “Chef would like to know how many for dinner and what would you like on the menu? The stable boy reported that all the horses have been shoed, they are all ready for riding except for the black mare that is in foal.” She hesitates as they enter through the study door. “And then there is a personal matter.” Absently the old man asks, “What is it Catalina?”
    “Well sir, I don’t want to make an imposition, and if you feel it is impossible or if…”
    “Oh girl, get on with it.” Jasco starts to open the messages only listening with half an ear as his housekeeper continues.
    “Well, my sister has arrived, with her whole family and they need a place to stay, just for a few day. I was thinking that there are quite a few rooms open in the servants’ quarters. They really will be out soon. My brother in law is an innkeeper, and while he won’t tell my why they came east I do know that they have some money put…” She is shocked when she is rudely interrupted by a now very attentive Jasco.
    “The west, they came from the west? Where?”
    “The…from the trade route, to the east, beyond the last cross roads.” She stares at the man in front of her as he starts to cackle with glee.
    “Find them beds girl, and send that brother in law in here. I want to talk with him straight away.” She turns to the door, her heart cold with fear for her employer’s sanity as she hears him whispering. “The tide is turning, we will get them yet. Ah, good, good Lord Santobar…” She hurries of to find her brother in law, the messengers, will just have to wait a little bit longer.



    15
    They have been travelling for nearly a week when Sariandra starts training the children for a Gemka attack. The whole thing had started after one of Haega’s, the Gampo, stories told of the first attack by the Gemka. The children where disturbed, realising again how vulnerable they where. Sariandra seeing their fear, decided to share some of her experiences. “It can be very scary when the Gemka attack, but if you know what to do you can be quite safe. I myself survived a Gemka attack when I was still a child.” Gerdon finds his attention as riveted as those of the children. “The key is not, as one might think, to have no fear. It lies in using your fear to help you survive. Fear is like the brisk, cold wind that tells you a storm is on the way. It is unpleasant and it can cause many problems, but if you recognise it for what it is you can find shelter from the storm. The Kuriken are here to warn you of an attack and to protect you. Much like a storm shelter though, it is of no use if you are not inside. If you wander off they can not protect you. Also a tent pole and tent pens are only efficient if used together. You must always walk together; no one must ever be by themselves, for that makes it so much harder to survive. The Gemka are like the Patoke, they only attack if you are prey or an enemy. That’s why, during an attack, you must fall to the ground right were you are. You and your partner must keep as quiet as possible and hold each other tight. The only time you make any noise is if somebody picks you up. Then you must call as loudly as you can “To me, to me!” and your clan name. How many of you carry knifes?” Almost half the boys and two or three of the girls indicate that they are so armed and proudly pull out a wide assortment of skinning knifes and small daggers. Sariandra inspects all these weapons making appreciative sounds. She also indicates a few which she thinks should be replaced, just for the time being, with smaller versions. “You remember how I said the Gemka only go after pray and enemies?” The children solemnly nod. “Well, I do not want you to even draw these daggers, for that would make you a target. But, if they do pick you up and nobody is close enough to help you, you must use them to protect yourself. When we stop tonight I want those of you who do not have daggers to choose one from the extra weapons we carry. I want you to hide these weapons someplace where you can easily reach them, like in your shoe or under a sleeve, ok?” Again she is answered by the serious bobbing of heads.

    “Now I want us to practise. Every body must find themselves a partner or even two. This person will from now on walk next to you, sleep next to you and you will do your chores together, understood?” There is a furious burst of activity as friends sort out who will be partnered with whom. After sorting out a few misunderstandings and disasters, she explains further. “When I call “Now!” I want you to pretend the Gemka are attacking, ready?” The children wait anxiously for the call, and when it comes, throw themselves at the ground clutching at each other. The woman walks through the tangled mass inspecting the reactions. “You all did very well. I want you to lie there for a second and tell me how hidden and comfortable you are.” The few seconds pass in silence. “Ok, now get up we have to catch up to the rest of the goya. I want you to think of the positions you were in. I know I said fall where you are but if you fall on a rock and lie there you can hurt yourself and you will not be able to lie still for very long. You all know how to walk without damaging the plain, but from now on I want you to also watch for safe hiding places. During the day we are going to have several practice runs and then we’ll see if you can find good places to fall.”

    During the rest of the day they had several more practise runs and all the children showed a marked improvement. After the second trail run some of the older children had the inspiration to ask the Marahandra about camouflage methods. After a bit of pestering the Marahandra obliged and shortly afterwards children sported various inexpertly applied disguises. Muddy faces, grass headdresses and dusty hands are proudly displayed, to the adults’ great amusement. Gerdon can only shake his head at how well the children were reacting to the situation. He thinks back to his own adjustment to the street life and realise that for the first time he can look at this part of his life objectively. The children’s simple plans and ambitions are not so different from what he had done at their age. Just watching them seems to be acting as a healing salve to his wounded self. He feels the gentle touch of a warm, grass scented breeze on his cheek. It seems to be caressing his face with a benediction similar to a mother’s touch.

    He is brought back to the present by an instant tugging at his breeches. He looks down into the eyes of a young girl, probably about five years old. “Yes little one?” “Kinde, tarajang ye kindre mozei kai dendos idara tarkie.” Gerdon looks down at his dusty travelling gear realising for the first time that the durable weave of dark blues and black really makes him as visible as one of the big lumbering animals. He raises his eyes to meet the serious gaze of his young accuser, his face still drawn in a blank look of surprise. They stare at each other for a while before she succumbs to a fit of giggles that soon has the whole troop smiling and laughing. “Young mahiya, I’m afraid you are entirely correct, but out here, there is very little I can do about it. I also think that it will be hard to find somebody to borrow replacements from. After another fit of giggles at the though of him parading around in the clothes of one of her kinsmen Sariandra interrupts, “You will just have to make some new ones”. The look of absolute incredulity on the young man’s face descends the whole group back into helpless laughter. “Woman, have you any idea how many innocent animals will have to die in order for me to get enough leather to cover this fine specimen of a body?” This remark, made with great dignity and poise, leaves some of the children lying on the ground gasping for air and many of the adults in no better a position. Sariandra, who by some miracle has managed to maintain her composure, retaliates: “None, we have to hunt anyway, you will just have to contribute. By the way, how good a tailor are you?” The goya’s reaction to the look of pure horror on Gerdon’s face leads to an early stop. The mirth continues as hunting parties are sent out with detailed instructions as to what they must bring back to camp: mayanti and only big individuals. Gerdon is sent out with Sariandra and her serxo, Gerhanter.

    They set of away from the camp in single file. “So kinde, what do you know of hunting?” Gerdon can’t help himself, “Oh, it’s happened to me a couple of times. You know how it goes; you’re out scouting for the enemy when you come across something alive that isn’t the enemy. So, you kill it and drag it back to the camp.” The woman in front of him stops so abruptly that he doesn’t have time to follow suit and they end up on the grass in a tangled mass of arms and legs. He finds himself staring into a set of brown eyes lit up by flames of anger. “You disrespectful oaf, how dare you…” Sariandra’s words trail off as the big man above her starts to shake, his eyes dancing with mirth. As he climbs to his feet, carefully lifting her with him, he burst into loud laugher. “My but you fell for that one. Mind you, you had it coming after getting me into this situation in the first place.” Sariandra looks towards Gero for support but finds him desperately struggling to maintain a straight face. She turns back to the subject of her wrath, trying to preserve a look of superiority that soon flees before his dancing blue eyes. “I guess I did.” As they set of again, Gerdon assures the young woman that he is reasonably able, but that his skills may be useless in the openness of the plain. He describes the forests and hills of his native land and the methods involved in finding prey to illustrate this. The two hunters listen in amazement at the description of an alien world where the horizon is obscured by the vegetation. They amiably discuss techniques, weapons and the habits of their prey until they come across a herd of mayanti. Gerdon stays behind to observe the two hunters as they stalk the herd and expertly kill two of the antelope-like animals. When he reaches them he notices with a wry expression that it is two of the larger specimens. He holds them up while the hunters slit their throats to bleed them dry and gut them to prevent the meat from spoiling.


    Maybe I will get a second reader this week. BB, thank you.
     
  18. Merlinsbeard81

    Merlinsbeard81 Living in Calaspia

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    Erm, that's a mamoth thing, but I'll try and get round to reading it at some stage. I'll probably save it all to my laptop, so I can read it when I'm not online, then give you comments when I've read a bit. If that's ok :)
     
  19. HumanInfiltrator

    HumanInfiltrator The Book club lady

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    Erm, sorry, I should have warned you. But really take your time. In reality I'm up to 38 A4 pages, typed.

    I just need to know whether I should keep going or stick to my day job.
     
  20. HumanInfiltrator

    HumanInfiltrator The Book club lady

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    Is anybody still reading or am I wasting space?? Just let me know if you are reading.

    Pls note: I changed the badguys name from Gemka to Pakrash

    16
    Catalina leans against the kitchen wall to catch her breath. Around her the kitchen bustles with activity as her family members dish up, clean plates and arrange the next course. They had been pressed into service when it became clear that the household staff where unable to handle the increased workload created by the large dinners held by her employer. There had been more people in the house in the last three days than in the previous year. She gathers herself and walks over to supervise the serving of the dessert, then heads the procession out to the dining room.

    Around the large table is the strangest gathering she has witnessed in a long time. The household and its guests are joined by other acquaintances and various strangers. There are academics, politicians, soldiers, traders, adventurers and nobles. Men, young and old, eat and drink while discussing various topics from the current political situations in different lands to some theories regarding the Great War. Master Berten gives her an absentminded thank you as she places the bowl of sweetbake in front of him then turns back to talk to the grey old man next to him. She quickly finishes serving and makes her way back to kitchen where she starts to organise the brandy that will be served in the sitting room. Her young nephew is sent to stir up the fire and light the candles as she moves back to the rowdy group to see if they are in need of anything else.

    When the men are finally settled in the sitting room she leaves them in the care of her brother-in-law. He is more experienced at handing out drinks and for some inexplicable reason seems interested in whatever the men have to discuss. Personally she doesn’t want to know a thing and wishes that young Gerdon would return to put an end to all this foolishness. All this excitement can’t be good for her old employer’s health and there is an unfamiliar brightness in his eyes and flush to his cheeks. She shakes her again in apprehension and heads of to supervise the clearing of the large table.


    “So Lord Santobar what has your friends in the Kompanje found on the borders?” Jasco turns to regard his new acquaintance with bright eyes. “Well, not much. In fact they are thinking of calling off the patrols.” There are several disturbed outcalls at this announcement and the old man lifts his hand in a call for silence. “The only point of interest is the fact that traders are reporting that the Donteko settlement has been abandoned. There are no signs of violence, all the homes have just been emptied out and closed up. The best guess is that they left about five days ago.” This time the talk is excited and men lean forward in their chairs to catch every word and gesture. Jasco turns to another old man, his friend the academic. “Marcio, what do you think?” The rotund little man wriggles in pleasure at the attention that is finally turned his way. “Well, this is an entirely unheard of occurrence. Since it was founded the Donteko village has never been abandoned, as far as we know that’s about eighty years now. Obviously something is happening out on the plains that either requires the gathering of all the clans or has left the crafters feeling vulnerable. Both of these support our fears and it may be that both are applicable. In my opinion we need to get somebody into that village to serve as lookout and possible liaison should some of the Gerenti return.”
    “That will also serve a secondary purpose.” The speaker is a burly looking man in his forties dressed in a soldier’s uniform. “That is currently also the most important place to defend. The settlement lies in the biggest pass between the plains and the western lands and has ample water and food. But where will we find two platoons, because that is the very least necessary to hold the pass, to go up there and watch the grass blowing in the wind?” Lord Santobar answers: “Maybe, until we can convince the standing army to post people there we can reach a compromise. What about a small group of men with fast horses? They can serve as lookouts and early warning post.” For a while the room busses as options are discussed and opinions voiced. Finally Jasco calls them to order. “Let me see how does this sound, five men with horses will keep lookout. They will have pigeons with them to make for speedier reporting and they should have access to a barge. Replacement horses should be kept at regular instances so that they can get replacement mounts and somehow they have to leave the city without arousing suspicion. Now the question is who will these men be and how are we going to get them to the Donteko village?”

    The discussions last until deep in the night. When the visitors take their leave the moon is high above the silent streets. Jasco returns to his house guests to find the sitting room shrouded in blue tobacco smoke and the fire burning low. He stands just inside the door leaning on his cane, studying the faces of his young friends. The have lost the drawn, harried look they carried when they arrived at his door and instead carry expressions of resolve. “Are you boys sure you are ready for this? Nobody can force you to go.” It’s the young Martin that answers: “Nobody needs to, our honour won’t allow us to sit back and wait for whatever tomorrow may bring or to leave our defence in the hands of others.” Terenze nods.
    “We need to reclaim our courage. If we start hiding now we will never stop fleeing from dangers, real or imagined. Besides this is the moment in time that will decide all our futures and we have never been the type to let fate take its course unchallenged.”
    “Then it is decided when will you leave?”
    “Tomorrow we will gather supplies. We will leave early the next morning.”
    “Very well, let us get some rest.” The men carefully make their way up the stairs, each retiring to his room. Their heads are filled with questions, doubts and plans. Their dreams disturbed by what may come.


    They gather in a dark room with wall made damp due to the closeness of the river. Violence lends a darker shade in the dimness that surrounds them as they share their menacing ideas. Excitement lends sharpness to the dank air that surrounds that surrounds the object of their attention. The dark haired man shares promises of blood, fear and gain in a voice that would make lesser men shake in apprehension. It is coming.



    17
    They had been travelling for nearly two weeks when disaster struck. Their trek has carried them halfway across the plains into a region with gently rolling hills and tall grass. It is early, just after the third watch when the goya is awakened by a blood chilling scream. The children react instinctively, rolling together and keeping very quiet. It is the adults who forget themselves, jumping to their feet, looking for the threat while calling to those around them.

    Gerdon finds himself next to some of the youngsters, his training keeping him low to the ground, sword drawn. Next to him Sariandra vainly whispers for quiet and calm. Then the plain comes alive towards the north, dark shapes hurtling down the hill in eerie silence: Pakrash. They hit the Gerenti like a wall sweeping people of their feet and trampling them under their tarkies’ claws. The Kuriken sweep in from the sides breaking the formation, but the damage had already been done. Gerdon finds himself carefully making his way between the children’s still forms, the woman by his side. He waits for one of the dark shapes aiming for the centre of the group while she moves of to the right and plants her sturdy spear like a well trained lancer. Then all thought leaves him as he ducks out of the way at the last instant, raising his sword to allow the attacker’s own momentum to do the damage. He ignores the falling shape moving to his left to attack the next dark shadow from behind. He drives his sword deep into the attacker’s back, withdraws his sword and moves on again. He is surrounded by the noise of battle and fear but within himself he carries the quiet acquired by the experienced soldier. A thin cry behind him disturbs his progress down the line. He turns to find a mounted form swinging a morning star almost on top of him. He starts to duck out of the way knowing that he may escape the claws, but not the weapon. At the last instant the swinging ball falters allowing Gerdon to strike at the exposed spot beneath the raised arm. His attach unseats the form and it hits the ground dead. The young man pushes the child that rolls free back to the ground and returns his attention to the fight.

    There is very little fight left. Gerdon finds Sariandra next to the group of children inspecting the body of Gerdon’s first attacker. He starts to speak to her then sees what has been holding her attention. Although he had inflicted a deep abdominal wound the man had survived and apparently started to crawl towards the children. The disturbing fact is that he was apparently slain by a knife wound to his throat. “He came after my partner.” Gerdon raises his eyes to look at the boy who spoke in a quivering voice. His little face is pale and drawn and he is clinging desperately to a somewhat younger girl. “You did well. Your partner is lucky to be teamed up with such a strong, brave young man.” Gerdon gives the small shoulder a firm clasp then moves on to inspect the rest of the goya.

    There are several wounded, mostly adults who had gotten in the way of the charging attackers and the Kuriken on watch to the north had been killed. But nobody had been carried off. There is a sense of elation in the air, a feeling of hope. Gerdon studies the face of the Marahandra girl as she praises the children and soothes their parents. During the past two weeks she had been couching the children on and off about attacks by the Pakrash. Gerdon had assumed that the knowledge was communal, something that all Gerenti learned as children. But, the reactions of the adults to the attack had clearly shown that not only had they not been taught they had also not listened while she taught their children. He follows her through the encampment to where the Kuriken are gathered, discussing what went wrong. Again these people surprise him, as expected there is a lot of blame floating around. Unexpectedly all off it is aimed inwards with each of the fighters trying to explain what they did wrong or could have done better. In the end they reach the consensus that they mistakenly ignored the possibility of an attack from the north. The Pakrash raiding party was apparently returning to their own lands when they came across the goya. When they start to discuss how defences should be changed Sariandra steps forward. She ignores some of the glares coming from the Kuriken and addresses their leader. “Kentan, we should leave this place and its memories. Nobody is going to sleep anyway so why don’t we move out and stop earlier tonight?” The older man frowns, looks over to the restless goya and nods.
    “You are right. Come on people, let’s get going.” As Gerdon turns to follow the young woman he hears soft mumblings that are cut short by a harsh command from Kenton, all of the Kuriken does not seem happy with what just happened. He lengthens his stride to catch up to the young woman studying her face out of the corner of his eye. Her face is set with resolve as she tells the people to start packing and the children to stay close to their partners. Gerdon follows her orders and starts to gather his own belongings. He finishes quickly due to years of experience reacting to the move out call.

    As they trek over the still dark plains Gerdon looks at the girl. “Can I ask you something? If you don’t want to answer that is fine.”
    “Sure, what is it?”
    “You seem different from the other Gerenti. The Pakrash has been a threat for a long time yet you seem to be the only one who has any knowledge of how to react to an attack or how to prepare for one. Why?” There is a long silence after the question and Gerdon again studies her face. There is a look of resigned acceptance on her face when she answers. “You fit in with us so well I forget that you are Kinde. My story… Let’s start with the fact that you are right about me being different from the other Gerenti. That is because my history is different. It is true that the Pakrash is an old threat, but they are also, for most of us a distant one. Most goyas remain in the north steering clear of the threat to the south. There are a couple of families who venture south and are equipped to deal with the threat. I come from such a family. I am also the last survivor of that family.”

    “It was the summer of my sixth year. We set out towards a gathering ground known to my grandfather who was a Mentyhe. He needed to gather herbs that grew at the place where the earth bleeds black and to show to some of the Tihina where and how to gather the herbs. He was getting old and it would have been his last trip.” They walk in silence for a while, the young woman lost in her childhood memories. “My family were very close and normally our goya was made up of family members that belong to the different clans. My father was Marahandra, my mother Tihina and my older brother Kuriken. My uncles where Dontenko and Mentyhe, their wives Gampo and Marahandra. We were a self-sufficient family and proud of it. For most of the year we travelled south of the midlands to hunt and gather. During the cold months you could find us nearly anywhere. Every year we travelled to another settlement to visit family members who were busy as serxo or teachers. My father said we followed the old way. Other families settled down, married within their own clan and tread the same piece of plain year after year. We followed the path of the wind.”

    As she falls silent Gerdon turns his head to study her face. It’s a dark shadow against the plains but the moonlight lights a silver path down her cheek, silent tears. Her voice is unexpectedly deep when she continues her tale. “We were thought lucky. We survived a few attacks and avoided many others through diligence and alertness. Our luck ran out on that trip. The watchers fell before they could give warning and the Kuriken died before most of them could draw a weapon. Our tent was tipped over just like the others, my parents slain as the Pakrash pushed their swords into every bulge. I was saved by the pack against which I slept the sword left only a shallow gash across my back. What I remember best was the silence. It was broken only by the shuffling of Tarkie feet and the dying screams of my family. I made no sound either not even after even those occasional sounds died away.

    I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I remember was the heat. I could barely breathe, smothered by the thick hide of the tent and the dust in the little amount of air left to me. I crawled slowly, carefully until I found the edge of the leather and lied there gasping for air. Nothing happened. When breath returned it brought with it thirst and I crawled over to the stream not looking left or right. A quenched my thirst to find the need replaced by hunger and I raised my head. I stared straight into the dull eyes of my cousin. He was a serxo for my father and had been like an older brother to me. I don’t know how long I lied there, staring into those eyes. Sometimes I still see them in my dreams.” She pauses again, taking deep, slow breaths. “A breeze blew dust between us, breaking my reverie. I crawled back to the tent and pulled my pack from under the heavy leather. It must have opened up my wound because my back started to burn as if it was on fire and I could feel the wet stickiness of blood seeping down my back. I went to my grandfather’s tent and fetched bandages. There must have been bodies and blood everywhere but I didn’t see any. Now I think that my mind simply refused to acknowledge what my eyes where seeing. I took of my clothes and lied in the stream allowing the water to clean the wound. I couldn’t see it or reach it so I simply wrapped bandages around my whole chest not applying any medicine.

    I remember talking to my family as I gathered up the things I would need. Asking their advice arguing with my aunt over how much of her stock I could carry. All the time I was moving through the camp I must have seen and touched my dead relatives but I can remember only the body of my cousin. It is a blessing for now I have only memories of them alive, walking, talking and smiling. Instinct must have taken over when I left, for I remember nothing of my travels that day. That night I made camp in a hollow next to a shallow stream, again keeping the sorrow and fear at by talking to my lost family.

    I woke the next morning with a fever and a throbbing pain in my back. The wound had become infected; hardly surprising considering it had been dealt with a Pakrash weapon. Again I bathed it in water and wrapped it up tight. I added some of my grandfather’s medicine to my tea. He had shown me a lot of the simple treatments and I took something to fight off fever and infection. I travelled that day aware of every step. Taking care to leave no trace of my passing and clenching my teeth at the ever increasing pain in my back. I stopped several times during the day to drink more of the medicinal tea but by late afternoon it was clear that I was in trouble. It was dark by the time I found a camp site suitable to my needs, a rocky outcrop next to a stream. I built my fire next to the rock making it very big and hot. I was facing a more imminent danger than anything the light might draw to me. I heated a flat piece of rock over the fire after carefully washing it. It should have been one of the most frightening situations I could have faced, but lying back onto that rock, feeling the searing heat cutting into me felt like a cleansing. I cried myself to sleep lying on a second rock covered with a medicinal ointment I had prepared beforehand.” Gerdon stares at the young woman striding confidently next to him feeling his stomach clench. He had suffered a few wounds requiring cauterization and the idea of a young, frightened girl treating herself in such a manner is almost inconceivable. Again he feels the now familiar anger pushing up through his chest the constriction of his muscles making it hard to breathe or think straight. Thankfully it subsides as she continues her story.

    “I had passed out several times during the procedure, but thankfully I never got dirt in the wound.” For the first time there is a tightness in her voice that indicates to the young man that the pain she suffered that night at her own hands is still a very vivid memory. “I continued the next day still running a fever but the pain in my back had a different feel. Instead of the throbbing, deep ache it was a sharp, healthy pain. The pain kept me conscious and attentive to every step even though I had imbibed a very strong mix of anaesthetic and infection fighting medicine. That night I didn’t make camp. I simply slept after collapsing from sheer exhaustion. The rest of my trip is a haze of walking with the sun burning on my head, drinking with my face buried in the water and pain. Later we worked out that I must have stumbled over the plain like that for more than a week. My one constant memory throughout that hazy time was the feel of the wind pushing me from behind. Maybe it is my imagination but I feel that the gods pushed me in the direction of my people, of safety.

    My next lucid memories are of giving directions to my parents’ last camp. I had been found hobbling along a stream, stopping only when I fell over after walking straight into the Kuriken man trying to talk to me. The goya had split in half. Some stayed to care for me while the others made for the campsite. They never told me what they found, only that my family had been returned to the plain and would now rest easy. They took me back to the caves of the Mentyhe where my oldest cousin was busy teaching her serxo. Two weeks later I was back on my feet following my cousin and her serxo everywhere like a ghost. They held a special ceremony for me to acknowledge my experience but all I said was thank you. I thanked my family for what they had meant to me while they were alive. I thanked my rescuers and my cousin for taking me in and I thanked the gods for bringing me to safety. I answered all their questions with an “I don’t remember.” All these years I have kept my story to myself. They never found my trail over the plain. Even in my worst condition the lessons drilled into me by my family had guided me to leave no trace of my passing. Or maybe it was the guiding of the wind, guess I’ll never know.”

    She falls into a contemplative silence as they watch the first rays of the rising suns creep over the horizon. As she turns towards him her face is outlined by the pastel colours of the sunrise. Her eyes are visible only as glinting pools in the shadows of her face. “I don’t know why if told you all of this. For twelve years I have carried this tale, not sharing it even with my closest companions. I don’t know why I would share it with you, a complete stranger.”
    “Maybe that’s why.”
    “What?”
    “Maybe you felt you could share this with me because I am a complete stranger. Because I’m someone who would listen and feel with you, but not for you and maybe because I will leave taking the memories with me.”
    “Take them with you?” The ever increasing light turns her face into a landscape of light and shadow surrounding eyes like liquid pools filled with uncertainty.
    “When you share your story you would never be able to look at that person again without being reminded of what you had shared with them. I will probably leave allowing you to push the memories to the back of your mind.” The young woman nods her understanding of what he is saying.
    “But why would I tell anyone?” There is a questioning quiver in her voice.
    “”Because a journey is not complete until it has been shared.” He turns towards her, squinting into the now blinding light. Her face is an unrecognisable silhouette when she turns towards him.
    “I think you are both right and wrong. Right about me needing to share what I have gone through but wrong about me choosing you because I think you will be leaving. Gerdon is surprised to find that they had come to a stop as she turns him so that he doesn’t face into the sun. “It’s because of your eyes. They hold the same shadow that resides in mine. The haunted look of longing and loneliness.” They stood there staring into each others eyes for what might have been a moment or a lifetime. They watched the play of light and shadow in each other’s eyes with an understanding born of an understanding that surpasses mere knowledge of others histories.

    As Gerdon stares deep into the brown eyes in front of him, he again feels and inexplicable feeling of belonging rising up suspending his heart in an almost uncomfortable way. “I don’t remember my parents. There is this…” He is interrupted by a loud shout from the Kuriken scouts to the north. They both turn to find themselves quite a distance from the goya and start running to the source of commotion.

    They reach the goya on the crest of a hill towards the north of their path and stop in shocked silence. In front of them are the remnants of another, smaller goya. Survivors are sitting huddled between flattened tents and the bodies of their companions. A baby’s thin cry is all that breaks the silence.