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The End of Morentoff

The End of Morentoff

A Tale of the Sixth Lichaf
Of the Life of Eudo the Wanderer

________

In the center of the world
As the basis of your throne
I remember for your fortress
That you put your faith in stone

For you thought the stone was mighty
And the stone would never die
It resisted all rebellion
From the river and the sky

Can you see your foolish error?
How your power disappears
For your city has been weakened
By the passage of the years

You have said the stone is dauntless
In the face of all attack
But I spy a tiny sapling
Growing in a tiny crack

And beside the crack, the river!
For the dams have been destroyed
See the ending of the fortress
And the power you enjoyed

As I stand amidst the rubble
I am weeping many tears
For the evils of your tyranny
Have swallowed many years

But I smile in my sorrow
For the sun is rising high
And the stone was never living
So the stone shall ever die

From the presence of our footsteps
From our every joyous breath
From the echoes of our singing
Yes, the stone shall find its death!

And the stone that lies within me
Poisoned mind and poisoned blood
Still that stone shall find its ending
For my spirit is a flood!

We will find our treasured freedom
And the world will forgive
How we lost the path of virtue
And our souls shall ever
live

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Morentoff

Morentoff

A Tale of the Second Lichaf
Of the Life of Eudo the Wanderer

____

In the center of the world
In the center of the land
From the center of the people
Comes the shadow of command

From the ever-mighty city
From the endless halls of stone
Spreads a great and fearsome power
Far beyond mere blood and bone

Hear the roaring of the river
Hear the thunder of the sky
See the city still unchanging
For the stone shall never
die

I think I’m going to write the entire book without ever giving a physical description of the main character. All you really know is that his skin turns gray at the end of the 2nd Lichaf. But what color was his skin before? Were you assuming Eudo was white? Perhaps he was black, or brown or purple. Perhaps everyone in the book is black or brown or asian or turquoise or whatever. (Though they couldn’t be gray, as everyone regards gray skin as something only Derelicts can have.) Maybe there’s a wide variety of colors. Maybe there’s one particular color favored by the Federation, or maybe they’re exceptionally diverse. (All of this applies for other physical attributes as well, such as height.) Run that through your head for a moment: does the story seem any different when you imagine different skin colors? Why?

Just a thought.

Blog: Making Progress

Having published The Sickly Child, my total word count for the book now stands at 41,350.

yay =)

One thing that’s really helped recently is a new writing routine. My friend Brian and I are both working on books, and one day we both randomly decided to go to the library, sit at the computers they have available, and type for 30 minutes or so. This worked surprisingly well. (I came up with a time travel story.) The weird thing was that we weren’t actually talking to each other or otherwise interacting until we were done, so you’d think that it’d be just the same as writing alone. But somehow, just having a friend sitting next to you and hearing the clickety-clack of their keyboard helps motivate us to write. So we’ve been meeting at the library frequently, which has helped me with Eudo. I’ve also tried to understand the state of mind I get into during these sessions, so I can learn to trigger it even when I’m alone.

But anyway, I think I’m learning to make progress without actually stressing out, which is a very important thing to learn.

At this rate, it won’t be long before I hit 50,000 words and I can officially declare this “novel-length” (by the standards of NaNoWriMo). Once again, yay. =)

The Sickly Child

The Sickly Child

A Tale of the Third Lichaf
Of the Life of Eudo the Wanderer

Torches pierced the night, bobbing and shifting in the hands of their owners. The fires made a thin, shaky line in the distance. It was clearly a search party, though not a professional one. I descended from my perch in a tree and masked the various signs of my presence. I weighed the odds of discovery and decided to return to the tree branch. It was a leafy tree, as were all the others at this time of year, and if the searchers passed under me they would later confirm that I had never been here, that the rumors must have been false. I’ve always found it useful to disprove truthful rumors of my presence.

In time, three torches approached me; the rest of the line was spread thin across the forest. I could see for myself that the searchers were no soldiers. They were tired and uncoordinated, and wore simple clothing. They spent most of their effort looking at the ground, but I was confident they would not find my tracks. I watched in silence as they approached my tree without the slightest suspicion. That would have been the end of it, except for what I heard next.

“I don’t see anything.”
“Keep at it.”
“What about the western woods, I still say-”
“There’s no welek there.”
“There might be-”
“I told you before, there-”
“Feru, hey!”
“Its barleysnatch you oaf!
“No, no this one is different…”

They were moving south of the tree now.

“See how it’s sortof curled on the sides here?”

One torch approached another.

“It’s barleysnatch.”
“Are you sure? I thought for sure it was-”

“For the seventh time now, it’s barleysnatch! Welek is not barleysnatch. And if you’d ever seen welek before in your life, you’d know the difference!”

Clearly I had been mistaken; they weren’t looking for me but for a plant: welek, a rare shrub used in medicine. My face grew darker as I realized the implications.

“We should turn around.”
“We haven’t found it yet.”
“Who knows if we will find it? Let’s go back and get some sleep. We’ll search the western woods tomorrow.”
“It’s not in the western woods!”
“Fine, the southern woods, we’ll search them tomorrow.”
“There’s no time!”

I heard the urgency in his voice. I knew that someone was ill back at the village. I also knew that it was a poor village, because of the clothing of the men and because apparently they were forced to forage for welek rather than purchase it. The forest was massive and there weren’t enough searchers; their failure was almost certain.

I descended quietly from the tree. The three men were still arguing when I spoke.

“I can help.”

All three of them spun around in shock. One of them fell over and nearly dropped his torch. I quickly cut them off.

Don’t shout. No one would hear you anyway.”

This wasn’t necessarily true; the other small search parties I had seen might have been within shouting distance. But the men were shocked enough to take my word, at least for the moment. The oldest was a man of forty with a thick black beard.

“Who are you?”
“I am a Wanderer.”
“You are a Derelict!”
“Nevertheless, I can help.”
“Stay away from me!” he said with a shaking voice, and they all began walking backward.

I spoke in a sharp, authoritative tone. “Feru, you must listen.”

He stopped. Of course I had heard his name via eavesdropping, but Feru was too shocked to think clearly. He surmised that I had used some dark magic to divine his name, and the fear of that magic kept him obedient to my command. At least, that’s what I intended. I spoke again.

“I can help you. You must tell me who is sick.”

Feru said nothing for a moment, but another man spoke up.

“The Derick’s child!”
“What are the symptoms?”
“Fever, and her eyes…”

He meant that the whites of her eyes had acquired a tint. “What color are the eyes, red or yellow?

Feru spoke again. “Yellow.”
“Are you sure?
He paused. “Yes.”

That was all I needed to know. There were two types of porrius, and they required different varieties of welek to cure.

“When did it start?”
“Yesterday.”
“Then you have three days at the most. Keep the child warm and give her plenty of water. I will return with the welek.”

I stepped forward and issued a warning. “Do not betray my kindness.”

I left, fading quickly into the darkness. Over the next hour I changed directions frequently and masked my trail, before finally resting in another tree. I wondered what the men were thinking.

I rose early the next morning and moved quickly the rest of the day. I followed the river south until the rapids and stopped only a short while to rest and eat. By nightfall I had found the welek, as I knew I would. (I would have died years ago if I had not made a habit of memorizing the locations of medicinal plants, especially those which are deep in the wilderness and thus unknown to others.) I slept by the welek, and in the morning I cut a few sprigs of it. In my mind I pictured the path of the torches the night before, and reasoned out the location of the village. I began my journey back.

___________

That evening, the villagers waited nervously for me to appear. The sorcerer had only arrived an hour ago, hurrying as fast as he could from the post at Mara Bei. He kept his staff at the ready, and kept his profile in the shadows. He had ordered the villagers to stand all around, trying to act normal but surreptitiously watching the forest.

There was a brief rustle in the darkness, and the man who heard it froze with fear, trying not to raise suspicion and he slowly turned his heard towards the sound. It was Feru, the bearded man I had met before. For a time he scanned the darkness and found nothing, but then there was a small floating light…

“HE’S HERE! HERE! HERE!” He screamed and jumped out of the way. The sorcerer sprinted from around a hut and fired a great blast of fire from his staff towards the spot where Feru pointed. But of course, I wasn’t there. I hadn’t been in the forest for quite some time. I had waited silently on the roof of a hut, watching them all from above. And as the sorcerer fired his weapon into the wilderness, I was already descending upon his head.

We struck the ground and I was instantly bleeding, but he had it worse. My first target was the staff, of course. I sunk my teeth into his wrist and wrenched the weapon away with my hand, tossing it aside. He tried to kick me off but I punched him into the dirt and began choking him. He clawed and struggled, but after a few moments he began to go limp. I heard someone approach from behind. I reached into my pouch and spun to see Feru with a knife. But he stopped when he saw what I held in my hand. It was welek, just as I had promised.

“Can you prepare the medicine?” I asked. He stared in silence for a moment, until a woman cried out “I can!” and took the welek from me.

I returned my attention to the limp sorcerer, putting my hand by his mouth. He was still breathing. Good.

I stood up. “Take care of the sorcerer. When he wakes up, tell him I was wounded and ran off. Don’t mention the welek.”

Feru dropped his knife. “Sir…”

“My name is Eudo.”

I walked towards the edge of the forest, but turned and spoke one last remark before I departed.

“I don’t blame you for not trusting me. I didn’t trust you either.”

StarFather

StarFather

A Tale of the Fourth Lichaf
Of the Life of Eudo the Wanderer

I fell to my knees, but scarcely realized that I had done so. Then I felt the earth strike my face, and writhed incoherently. This is the end, I thought. I had reached my limit, and part of me nearly smiled at the prospect.

In the first days after I had discovered the massacre, I could scarcely move. But in the weeks that followed I had never run so far and so fast. I knew then the full fury of the Federation, knew how much I enraged them by refusing to die all these years. And because they still could not find me, they had attacked my people instead. I should have expected it would happen eventually. Perhaps I had expected it; I could hardly tell.

I ran, fast and far over all terrain, constantly changing my paths or leaving false trails. For weeks I continued this frenzied routine, resting as little as possible, sometimes sleeping only in the day and running in the night. I knew from many signs that soldiers were still afoot; I saw their tracks or heard them in the distance. Feverishly I tried to predict their movements so I could avoid them.

It is true that I feared for my life, but not in the way one would expect. My deepest fear was not that I lacked the means to avoid death, but rather I lacked a reason to try. There was never any hint of survivors. The Federation had been thorough.

So it came one night that my body finally mirrored my mind, and I could scarcely force my lungs to breathe. I heard a group approaching from behind a hill, but managed only a few extra steps before I collapsed. My thoughts were chaotic and foggy. I almost smiled at the prospect of death. I thought perhaps I should kill myself before they captured me. I also thought I should kill one of them in my final stand. I managed to cast a brilliant red shinon with one hand, but I had no strength to control it and no clear idea of what I wanted from it anyway. The shinon flailed wildly in the sky before vanishing, and the world turned black all around.

I dreamed of an endless howling fire, producing a thick black smoke which spread across the world, finally smothering the fire itself. As I began to awake, I heard distant voices. Oh gods, I thought, I’ve been captured.

“StarFather?”

It was the first clear word I could hear, though it had no meaning for me.

“StarFather, can you hear me?”

Slowly I opened my eyes to see a girl, maybe twelve years old. A harrowin? I thought, Maybe a captive?

She smiled. “You’re awake.”

I gave an involuntary groan and closed my eyes again. My whole body ached. Distantly, I wondered what was happening.

“Drink.”

I opened my eyes to see the girl holding a small basin of liquid in her cupped hands. I struggled to open my mouth as she awkwardly tried to offer it to me. Most of the liquid spilled down my cheeks, but I managed to swallow some. It was warm and thick, and tasted of ginger. Medicine? Why?

I fell asleep again. When I woke up there was a woman, perhaps sixty years old, studying my face with intent.

“Can you hear me?” she asked.

I gave a small nod.

“I am WiseWoman of the Sasenei.”

“Where are the soldiers?” I managed to whisper. The room seemed to spin.

“There are no soldiers.”

I wanted to turn my head and study my surroundings, but it was too difficult. I tried glancing around the room with only my eyes, but even that was painful and dizzying. I closed my eyes again.

“I haven’t been captured?”

“You have been rescued. You were nearly dead when we found you.”

I found him!” said the little girl from before. It sounded like she was near the far wall.

“Hush, Sherunai. You’ll get to talk later.”

WiseWoman turned back to me.

“Who are you?”

I hesitated. “Just a traveler.”

“Do you have a name?”

“Why would I tell you?”

“We need to know.”

Ah, so that was it. They weren’t sure of my identity; probably they had heard conflicting rumors. Perhaps they surmised I might be some other Derelict, and they feared making a false report of finding the actual Eudo. Wearily I considered my options. WiseWoman spoke again.

“There was a light before we found you. A small red light flashed through the sky. Can you explain it?”

A dead end; they had seen my shinon. If only I had refrained from casting it…but really, what chance did I really have in the first place? It was a bitter irony for the end; being saved and given medicine just so I could be killed.

I paused for a long time. I considered lying, but I hadn’t the heart for it. I was done with all their games. I was ready to die. I opened my eyes and spoke again to WiseWoman, tension rising with every word.

“The light was mine. I created it. I use magic without the aid of a staff. I am a Derelict.”

Quietly, defiantly, I looked into her eyes. “My name is Eudo.”

I’m not sure what I expected. An attack, perhaps, or at least a scowl. But WiseWoman only gave a deep look of concern.

“We have heard of you.”

“Then you know what to do.” I said bitterly.

“Two years ago I witnessed a meteor shower. It was joined by colored lights like I had never seen before. Was that you?”

I didn’t understand her question at first. I was so resigned to a fowl fate that I could scarcely recognize the meaning of her tone. But after a moment I searched my memories, and remembered the night of the Dancing Stars. “That was me.” I paused again. “Your people were on the eastern hill, weren’t they?”

“We were. And then you were gone, and we wondered about you. We have heard many rumors, and now we see your true face.”

“What are you getting at?”

“You are StarFather.”

It was then that I suspected that I had deeply misjudged the situation. “StarFather?”

“It is your name among the Sasenei. It would have been StarMother, had we discovered you were female. But you are not, and so the matter is settled.”

She looked light she might say more, but then stopped herself. “You should rest, StarFather. We will speak again when you are ready.” She stepped towards the doorway.

“What…what do you intend to do with me?”

She turned “You will stay with us, of course.”

____________

It was nearly noon when I awoke, and the first thing I heard was that word again.

“StarFather.”

The little girl, Sherunai, was at my bedside again. She gave me more to drink and eat, and I found that I was very hungry now, though food still stung my throat when I consumed it. I finished the food and lay down again, still feeling dizzy and still needing rest. After awhile I heard a small noise and turned to see Sherunai still standing in the middle of the hut, watching me. She seemed polite but impatient, like she was waiting on the edge of a question.

“What?” I asked.

“You’re a wanderer, right?”

“Yes.”

She stepped closer and whispered expectantly. “Tell me stories.”

I felt confused. “What?”

Stories. What’s it like being a wanderer?”

I gave a long hesitation, and I wondered if she understood the expression on my face. “Later,” I said, “later…”

I rolled the other way, and did not move again until she was gone.

WiseWoman returned an hour later, brining another dose of the ginger-tasting medicine. I consumed it in silence.

“StarFather…”

“Don’t talk to me.”

She said nothing else, and left me alone.

Several more days went by like this. I spoke as little as possible. WiseWoman arranged so that only she and Sherunai could see me personally, though that didn’t stop the curious from peeking through the doorway at times. I always pretended to be sleeping. My strength slowly returned. For exercise, I preferred to pace about the hut, and when I went outside I always waited until dark. I kept my shinons and my stories to myself, despite Sherunai’s requests. But her pleas grew ever more heartfelt.

“Just a story. Just one story, please.”

I looked down at her, the girl with great innocence and little understanding. I felt guilty for all the help she had given me, far more guilty than she could guess. Could I really deny her this small repayment? I relented.

“Tonight. Come back tonight at sunset.”

Sunset came, and Sherunai arrived with several of her friends. WiseWoman stood in the back, watching silently as the children picked places to sit. Already I felt overwhelmed.

Sherunai acted as the leader. “Now we will hear stories!”

“Tell us about the ocean!” said a young boy.

“The lights! Do the little lights like before!”

“Have you been to Gorehto?” said another.

“Start from the beginning!”

That last idea struck a chord with them.

“Yeah, start at the beginning!”

“When did you start wandering?”

“How long have you been like this?”

“I…I…”

Tears stung my cheeks. A hush came over the children. I watched as their faces filled with confusion and concern. I turned and wept, for reasons I knew but could scarcely explain. WiseWoman rose and told the children to leave, saying that I needed rest. She paused at the doorway on her way out, looking for some sign that I would speak with her. But I gave no sign, and she left me alone.

____________

I was restless that night. Then, as dawn approached, I hastily collected my few belongings. I left the hut without even checking my path, leaving the village in a random direction. But I passed WiseWoman’s hut, and I heard her voice behind me.

“StarFather.”

“Eudo,” I replied with unnecessary sharpness, “my name is Eudo.”

“Eudo, then. Where are you going?”

“Elsewhere.”

“Why?”

“Why did you keep me here?” I said with tension in my voice.

“You were never kept against your will-”

“Why did you take me in?!”

“You were dying.”

I paused. “So what? I’m always dying. I haven’t stopped dying since I was a child…” My voice became soft, and my mouth moved incoherently. I turned away.

She stepped closer. “Then you need someone to help you.”

“I don’t need your help. What do you know about me, anyway? You saw my skin; I could have murdered you all in your sleep.”

“But you didn’t.”

“It was still stupid to take that chance.”

She paused. “Eudo, I only met you recently, but I’ve heard of you. There have been many rumors of a man called Eudo the Wanderer.”

“Eudo the Derelict, you mean. Eudo the Traitor, Eudo the Criminal.”

“I have heard those titles too…but they are only the words of the Federation.”

I turned to face her again, she stepped closer. “I used to travel when I was younger, I visited the Geomar, several times. I had friends among the Geo Mandre.”

“And now you’re asking me to stay.”

“Yes” she said softly.

“Why?!”

“Because you are always alone. And you have never deserved it.”

“Don’t do this…” I whispered, then turned and started walking “I won’t let you do this!”

“Eudo-”

“YOU’RE MONSTER!” I shouted, and in the back of my mind I knew that this was wrong, knew that the Federation had twisted me once again, mixing truth with lies and turning me against myself, but I could fully grasp the thought. “How dare you show me pity! Do you want to die?! Do you want those children to rot in open graves?!” My voice dropped to a whisper. “Do you want this on my conscience? …Are you trying to kill me?…”

I wept, and sank to my knees. WiseWoman tried to approach me but I wouldn’t let her. I forced myself to stand and turned away. With tears in my eyes, I started walking.

“StarFather!”

I stopped. It was Sherunai. She ran towards us from her hut.

“StarFather! Where are you going?” She passed WiseWoman and stopped just behind me.

I turned and looked down at her. “I can’t stay here, Sherunai.”

“Did I do something wrong?”

I wept again, and after a long moment I crouched down and hugged her tightly. “No…my dear girl…you did nothing wrong…you did nothing wrong…”

I thought of her often, in the days and weeks to come. And sometimes, at random, I whispered a single word to myself: “StarFather.”

The Chrysalis Mind

The Chrysalis Mind

A Tale of the Fourth Lichaf
Of the Life of Eudo the Wanderer

I was walking through the woods of Gendic when I chanced upon a tiny chrysalis. I stared at it for a long moment, feeling the edges of a unknown thought…

Does a caterpillar sleep inside its little casing? Does it dream? Is the creature awake, or maybe half-awake? And if so, what does it think of?

I knew, of course, that caterpillars do not think in the sense that humans think. But there was something in my musings that kept my interest. I sat upon a large rock and continued to stare at the chrysalis.

It cannot know for certain what will happen. And even if it knows, does it believe? Is it confident, and hopeful for the coming form? Does it bristle with impatience, waiting to fly? Or is there impatience of another kind, born of a frantic desire to stop changing, for the process is frightfully strange and it cannot know for certain what will happen? Yes, perhaps the creature is frightened and confused. And perhaps it is hopeful, all at the same time. And these various thoughts and feelings are bounding against each other in chaos, for the mind cannot fully comprehend itself. Ideas are formed and then forgotten, and then formed again and then half-forgotten, and the motion of it all is fast yet slow, for it is always changing but never in the same direction, two-steps-forward-one-step-back, so it is only slowly, so slowly it seems, that anything really changes.

I had long since begun to sense this in myself. Certain thoughts were hard to think; they required great effort to process or remember. Slowly, so slowly, I had learned to sense my thoughts and proto-thoughts, most importantly the ones that ran counter to my own intentions. And with that knowledge, I hoped to discard an old form in favor of a new one. It was not an easy process.

And all these frantic discordant thoughts are bound into this tiny thing, this little speck of life in a forest full of creatures. The caterpillar mutates, its mind races, but to the outsider there is no sign, not a hint of movement or life from the chrysalis. And even if there were interest, there could be no words. There is no reassuring call from the outer world, and the creature is lost in itself.

Gently, very gently, I took the chrysalis into my cupped hands and moved it to another spot, where it would be better protected from the wind. I whispered “You’re welcome”, for I felt that we were kindred spirits.