Wednesday, December 31, 2014

39 (700) - Get Him To Safety

Ili slithered in behind a pallet of blocks, flattening himself as small as he could get. He clamped his mouth shut even though he wanted desperately to yell.

“Amitza! Go after them! Jorasa, get the Coronet out of here, I’ll cover you!” Ilesias Mahid was backed up to cover the crack where Ili had hidden and he had to step forward to let Jorasa by. She had him by the arm and half way around the rim before he realized. Ilesias had his Sereniteer whistle in his mouth, his dart-tube out and his head swiveling scanning for any threat to Ili.

An answering whistle sounded from the Avenue of Statuary and from the Plaza, and as far away as the Boardwalk.

“I can run faster if you let me go!”

“No, here, in here.” She wrenched the door of a stalled express chair open, pulled the startled man out of it one handed and pushed Ili in. “Get down onto the floor!” It was right on the edge of the Plaza and Sereniteers were converging from all directions, in answer to Ilesias’s whistle. 

“Into the Steel Gate as fast as you can!” She snapped at the chair bearers and they hurtled across the pavement, zig zagged wildly up the grand staircase and into the Gate, frantically being pulled open by the guard, leaving Jorasa backing up, her darts in her hands, covering his back.

“Holy Lane... a rogue Mahid... Amitzas Mahid, and his bodyguard Captain, are going after him.” Ilesias, his face grim waved toward the Temple construction site where a lot of shouting was still going on, an enormous ‘BOOM’ shook the ground.

“The Coronet is secure,” Jorasa broke in.

“Get inside with him.” Ilesias ran toward the lakeside end of Holy Lane, though it didn’t go through all the way to the boardwalk.  There was a detour actually through one of the University buildings.

“Yes, Senior!”


Matthas stretched himself as thin as he could in the tiny service niche for one of the  cooling trees, the glass pipes pressing close all around him, chilling his sweating flesh. He couldn’t quite get the door closed and the vertical crack was a hot, bright bar across the side of his face, blinding in his staring, bloodshot eye.

He'd never realized that there even was a tiny space at the base of every cooling tree dotted around the city, until he'd been shown by another okas.
He couldn’t even turn his head but he heard the feet and the wheels of the Sereniteers all around the tree and pass on toward the lake, whistles fading.

The sweat was icy on him and he struggled to not gasp or shake. great...humble...working God. The boy recognized me. He recognized me. As Mahid.  I’ve sinned. I’ve sinned by attempting to learn Journeyman stonemason. I’ve failed by forgetting that I’m Mahid. Gods, Gods...the boy’s scream. Matthas Mahid.  Not Borfilas Fimas, okas. But I’m better as Borfilas.

He closed his eyes and suppressed the wave of cold itches running over his body with his chilling sweat. I... can give it up. I’m failed. I’m alone. I’m exposed. I'm not real anymore. I tried being the Unomas, the one, but I couldn't. My senior is dead. My family is dead, except for that...Imperator. And that boy.

My humble working God save me. I renounce being Mahid, I renounce being Aitzas. Help me, save me.

Monday, December 29, 2014

38 (699) - New Build in the City

The Special Edition announcing the presence of a new Spark of the Sun’s Ray changed the whole mood of the city.   Ili bounced in the chair, straining to see up ahead.  “A lot of the ‘Merciers’ have gone,” he said to the reporter next to him. “It’s made the square a nicer place.”

It wasn’t even an express chair, since he was going through the lane way between Feliras’s and the new University building that had replaced the one torn down for the abortive Shefenkas statue, and straight on to the building site where skates would have been worse than useless.

Kafiris Loren was able to keep up with the bearers, easily.  He’d been in the Marble Palace when Ili had gone by announcing to all and sundry that the new Temple addition was using house-donkeys in the cranes, rather than try to set up water-driven ones.

Two Mahid girls were out in front, and First Ilesias was behind, full-armoured. The burgundy red re-enamelled Mahid armour wasn’t onyxine any longer but it was hardly cheery bright. He had the open-faced helm on, which only pointed out how unhappy he looked. There were other warriors around, Ili knew, he’d spotted  Janirias just as he’d clambered into the chair.

“Coronet Regal,” Ilesias said.  “Perhaps we should have arranged a proper visit instead of just skipping your oratory class to go see the donkeys working?”

“One class skipped is not going to make me a stumble-tongued lack-wit, as my brother says.  It’s not going to make me that much better a speaker if I did.  Besides I’m going to be a uncle now and it’s not as important.”

“You’re happy about the announcement?” Kafiras managed to make a note, even as he kept up with the chair.

“Oh, yeah.  I think it’s GREAT! And Ilesias, it’ll be FINE.  You’re all good bodyguards.  I mean I figure that Captain Janirias is going to do really well in the Trials and nobody is going to get past Elsha and Amitza.  And you!”  He bounced in his seat again, making the chair sway and pulling the bearers slightly off balance.  “Oh, sorry, fellows. We’re at the fence.  Why don’t you let me off here instead of all the way around.  There’s a construction gate right here we can go in!”
Ili opened the door and the bearers, bowing to the inevitable, stopped to let him step out.  “A two silver link tip, for these men, if you would, Ilesias.”

“Naturally, Coronet.”



The boy grinned.  “From an Ilesias to an Ilesias!” He turned and unlatched the construction gate, as the chair trundled away down the lane.

The Temple construction site had once been the Great courtyard of the University and the Professors who’d had office windows on the precious open space in the centre of the city, had howled fierce protests against the designs but the Temple, with this new requirement of pilgrimage for children, desperately needed the space. The Assembly had barely debated a tenth before approving the appropriation of University grounds.

The Fenjitzas and the Fenjitza had graciously ceded a Temple-owned lakeside garden to the University for a retreat space and suddenly everyone was happier about the whole thing.

The hole immediately behind the Temple was shored up with timbers all the way around so the press of buildings all around didn’t cave in the building site. The foundations were already almost at ground level all the way around and immediately next to the Avenue of Statuary Gate... across the site, two double cranes creaked around and around, one lifting pallets of stone up from street level to just the top of the wall there, while the other brought workers and empty pallets back down.

A ten of ladders were braced all around; gangs of okas stripped to loincloths and headbands chained small blocks up as fast as the apprentices could pass master masons the next trowel and kept the mortar coming. Fessas overseers waved building plans or beckoned to underlings, here and there men stepped out of the line for water.  A handful of okas stood near the Master who spoke to the Fenjitzas himself, who was there to bless every stone with holy water.

The Gods hadn’t said to Minis if the new wing of the Temple would be... well, as divine... as the old.  Everybody had seen it in its glory with Shefenkas, and it had defended Minis but no one knew how the divine favour spread.

In the middle of the floor a pile driver pounded, the stone drivers raised and lowered by sweating rows of okas.

“Are the okas still saying that only human labour should build the Temple?” Kafirias asked.

“Nah... at least I don’t think so.  They petitioned Minis to block the donkeys, but he said that every God had their favourite animal and that rather than ban any, they should bring representative creatures on site so that none of the Ten get offended.” Ili ducked under a scaffolding, forcing everyone else to go round because they were too tall to follow him.

“Ilesias Aan, do not do that!” Ilesias called as he caught up to him.   

“Look at that!” Ili stood by the great wheels that drove the cranes up and down. “The donkeys have shade and they’re in the middle of the wheels and they even have room for a buddy if they’re hauling a big load!” Ili turned toward the trestle table where the Master and the Fenjitzas stood, conferring when there was a panicked shout from the diagonal corner. A jolt through everyone’s feet.

“Look out!”

Something had shifted, the Temple shuddered and from the roof one of the cleansing vessels tipped, spilling black down the shining wall. A burst of water from below began washing at the new wall and the old Temple behind it.  Men ran, shouting to one another. Someone levered a gigantic stone block into the hole and miraculously the flow of water slowed.

Ilesias had grabbed Ili the instant the noise started and hustled him toward the street.  They came face to face with an okas carrying a sheet slab of marble, sweating in the heat and Ili began to scream in earnest, scrambled out of Ilesias’s hands to swing behind him.

“MAHID! ROGUE MAHID! ROGUE MAHID!  MATTHAS MAHID!” Ili was screeching loud enough to turn  some attention away from the building accident.

Ilesias’s first dart was slow and smacked into the marble slab a hair away from fingertips and then he was ducking, backing to cover Ili, as the slab was hurled straight at him.

Matthas Mahid leaped up on top of the crane wheel that had stopped in the confusion. One of the girls managed a dart that caught in his flaring loincloth as he jumped over the partly completed wall, darted into  Holy Alley just ahead of a cobble flung by Janirias who plunged in after him, armour scraping the narrow walls.


Friday, December 26, 2014

A Completely Different World

This is the opening scene from a new world I'm working on.  Please tell me what you think.


Fawning Courtiers

Magic is indifferent to consent.  One does not, cannot, say no when magic takes over one's life.  Just as the Great Wolves and Bears, the Tigers of the Djinn and the Leopards of the African Kings do not ask permission of the grass-eaters they pull down; just as the Sleek Teeth of the Ocean do not ask permission of the fish they devour; just as the long-nosed Walking Mountains or the Sea of galloping Stripes and Spots do not ask permission of the grass they tear and devour, or the trees they strip, so does magic prowl through the blood and bone and skin of humanity. Taking us, giving power to us, just as rape sometimes gives pregnancy.

Our Kingdom, in the Faire Lands, is middling sized and we call it Faire just as one calls an armoured knight ‘Your Grace’ or the ugly old Baba ‘Gracious Lady or Honourable Grandmother’.  You daren't be any less than polite. Otherwise they might kill you. Or turn you into a frog, or a beast of burden, or any other thing they desire.

To be honest, this wet, cool land truly is fair, as fair as it is dangerous.  Magic is what gives this bright and shining painter’s fantasy land its shadows and depth.  It pools under evergreens and gives the edges of mountains their definition and majesty.  Silly, credulous children called out for magic in their lives and offered us up to magic's ravishment.  One does not refuse a King when he calls you fair.

You see, for every swine-herd who saves and wins a princess’s hand there are a herd of brothers along with the pigs.  Or older brothers who must lose to let the youngest, least wanted, win.  For every goose-girl who becomes a princess, or a Queen, there are the others.  Relegated to ugly sisterhood, or envious friends or servants.  It is a wonder indeed that any widow marry for a second time at all, the risk is so high that one will become the wicked stepmother, or the replacement Queen who will one day command her Huntsman to bring home her hart.  Yes, you read that correctly. Hart, not heart.  It is an easy mistake to make.


The Queen laid her quill down and read over the smooth, creamy page. She wasn’t sure why she was writing this but it felt right and in a world with magic successful sorceresses followed their feelings.

She was beautiful, with skin like smoothest chocolate, eyebrows like slashes of night, black hair in a thousand braids, each tipped with shining gold and blue faience beads, brushing her shoulders, clicking and chiming. The King had seen her, on crusade, tending her geese, and brought her home to be his bride, and mother to his only child, by the Royal Princess who had first laughed in his presence. So, the Swineherd become King, took a goose girl to second wife and only the beautiful child with true royal blood.

The summer breeze was warm, but thick with moisture and she felt as though she were drowning, even as she welcomed the heat that was more like home.  Her clothing was cotton and silk, in this land where even in summer it grew cool enough to require furs on some evenings.

On the breeze she could hear the belling of a stag in the forest and smiled.  Even when he was given surcease from thinking, from worrying, he retained enough to stay close.

She rose and walked out to the private garden her husband had built for her.  It was only partly enclosed, the lower orchard dipping down to the stream where it seemed to become part of the wyldwood that, once well away from the mostly cleared castle hill, flowed green and thick and dark all the way to the mountains.

As she went, she drew the magic around her, so that every jewel she wore, every ring, every band of metal glittered with it, so she shone in the darkness, gold against dark skin, a golden outline of a crowned woman.

The breeze followed the magic that cuddled around her like a house cat, but she didn’t trust it, seized it by the bonds she’d laid on it when she’d first come into her power, made it attend her like chained leopard. Leaves and flower petals danced around her in the darkness, only the sound of their softness brushing against the ground and each other marking where they were.

She stopped at her overlook, a stone bench set in a half-circle, facing out over the view. Her hand reached up to pluck an apple from the tree set in a circle of semi-precious stones, and it seemed to shiver as her fingers caressed the twigs before breaking the stem.

The smell of apple wafted around her hand and wreathed around her face, despite the coiling breeze and she drew it into her lungs with an enormous, slow in-breath. She held the scent in her lungs and remembered the feel of the King’s flesh against hers, his ardor, his humanity. His smile.  She smiled, in turn and let the breath of apples, of home and of her, whisper out through barely parted red lips. “Maximillian.”

Like a breath of their shadowed bedroom, overtones of sex and perfume, the scent flowed out of her, over the luscious red apple, fell in a stream down the hill and out into the forest, seeking, luring, beseeching, demanding.

“Maximillian. Come home.”

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays!

I was going to try and do another post today (and yesterday) but it's Winter Solstice... I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas, hope you had a happy Hanuukah, Joyous Festivus, Bright Kwanzaa.  I'll be posting again after Boxing Day.

Joyeaux Noel!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

37 (698) - Appallingly Typical

Grey spots swam in front of Sofonisba’s eyes and she couldn’t catch her breath. I WILL not throw up. I will NOT throw up. I will not... she clenched her teeth hard against her rebellious stomach and went after Amitza who had just checked her hard enough to spin her around, snatching after the disc that had been knocked out of her hands. I WILL do this. I will.

She and Alaria were still on their skates, still fighting to keep up with the Pelutas line. Sulatesha was being examined by Akminchaer’s apprentice, newly arrived from Haiu Menshir. She looked as wide-eyed and shaken as Sula did. Melforasha lay flat under the first line of benches, just behind the box, spread-eagle.  She’d miscalculated a flip turn and knocked the wind out of herself a moment ago.

Jorasa took the pass from Amitza and Sofonisba could see her teeth flash through the bars of her helmet as she grinned, dug into her skates and prepared to zoom past her and try for another goal.

From somewhere Sofonisba drew an extra flash of speed, spun into a check worthy of Elsha as a Thumper. She couldn’t see what happened to the Captain as she fell past, tried to tuck and roll, get her breath back.  Everything flashed black, just for an instant, and then she saw the disc loose, rolling past. She snagged it just as Ilesias’s whistle blew for end of game.

“That was an excellent check,” Jorasa said, a little breathlessly.

Sofonisba sat down right where she was but wouldn’t unbend enough to sprawl, even though Alaria lay right down in the middle of the bowl.  The Mahid watching whistled their applause. “One check.  I’m not good enough for the team,” Sofonisba said, more bitterly than she intended.

“You went from not skating at all to laying a solid hit on me in a very short time.  I think you all have potential.”  Jorasa got up, dusted herself off and coasted off to return the disc to Ilesias and to consult with him.

Potential. Huh.” Sofonisba managed to get up on her shaking legs and wobble over to Alaria.  “Come on.  The captain says we have potential.” Jorasa nodded sharply at something Ilesias said and then pushed off to soar up over the lip and around to her coach, to consult with him.

The dowager Imperatrix and her wild-haired, wildly-clothed old guest had come in sometime during the testing game.  How much had they seen?

She gave Alaria a hand up. She was shaking all over and covered in sweat, but managed to build up enough speed to make it out of the bowl by herself and not need to be hauled out by net. I am not stopping even if they say I’m not good enough.

“Mahid!” Coach Arenas called them all to attention.  They had changed so much in the past year that they were actually speaking to one another, a whispered rustle of brand-new opinion. But they were all still Mahid enough that silence fell almost immediately. Sofonisba pulled her helmet off, slowly.  She was too tired to do anything fast.

“You two,” he indicated Mel and Sula.  “You aren’t ready for my team.  However.  I declare that we have a need for a minor-league training team. You two are the first of the S-level.  I will be recruiting girls for two S-lines. You will be playing against the Solas and Fessas S-levels.  The Onyxine Razors will have the best feeder lines in the City or my name isn’t Arenas.”  He turned to consult with Ilesias and Jorasa again.  Borasa murmured something from the bench.

“Sofonisba Mahid. Alaria Mahid. You are going to be sitting on this bench for a very long time before I let you in as subs for injuries.  Your training is going to be full-day from this day forward and you two are going to eat, sleep and breath faibalitz.”

Alaria grinned and pumped both fists in the air, and Sofonisba stood up, then wavered and sat down again.  Elsha had the basin under her face as the heaves caught up with her.  “Not to worry,” she said.  “Throw up, get it out of your system. And be positive about it!”

Sof wiped her mouth and looked up to Coach. “Thanks, Coach.” Out of the side of her mouth she said to Elsha “That sounds appallingly typical.”

The Thumper grinned at her and passed off the noisome bowl to a servant. “Oh, it is.”