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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Chapter Twenty Six: Of the Golden City of Crystal

(Note:  This is not official version and may be removed in the near future.  This do not reflect what is read in the podcast version, nor any other version you may encounter.  I have preserved the rough form for posterity -- or something like that.  This novel has since been rewritten.)

It was day, the sun gleaming above, casting brilliant yellow rays over Teirlin’pur. The rays struck crystal, cascaded down in all directions like leaves in the wind. The city could have been called City of Amber as far as James was concerned. It glowed like an enormous gold nugget. Tall snow covered mountains, clear blue lakes and rivers, and verdant, moss green fields, where thick groves of equally green trees made their home, paled in comparison to the impending beauty of Teirlin’pur.
They rode, James now turned away from the city as Mirdur’eth pulled him along, and before long they were at the mouth of a wide thoroughfare. They took it west, avoiding the minor roads nearby. Men lumbered along the sides of the road, pulling along barrels or other heavy objects; women laid out clotheslines, attended to children, or simply hustled through side alleys to business unknown. There were all manner of strange creatures that James had never seen before, even in fairytales. Serpents, birds, bovine, and things unrecognizable comprised these creatures, yet each bore a similarity to Humankind, walking upright, talking, and otherwise acting as though they weren’t strange at all.

James saw few Littlekind—no Elves, Brownies, or Moss People—and of the dozen gryphons perched on either side of the thoroughfare he gave the utmost attention to neither. He had experience enough with Tagron to know better than to address these gryphons. Thoughts of Tagron floated through his mind. He thought of the last words the gryphon had spoken to him. Beware the eye. Look to the western sunrise. Instinctually he did, peering delicately westward as if those words held more meaning. He wondered how Tagron had known what would happen, but then he had already learned that gryphons seemed to just know things. How am I supposed to beware the eye? He can see my future whether I want him to or not.
They stopped short of a tall set of buildings covered in what could have been strange engravings or intentional bird feet-like grooves. They were similar to both and James made no assumption as to which was the truth. The windows were worn and cracked at the seams, but otherwise the buildings were holding together.
Triska appeared at his side, kneeling to speak softly to him. Her face was warm with a faint smile, but James could see the worry in her eyes.
“There is a healer’s shop here,” she said, gently touching his arm. He winced. “They may be able to help you, or direct us in the right direction. Stay here for a moment.”
Then she was gone. James felt utterly helpless being unable to move without the help of the others. He couldn’t see where Triska had gone, or what lay in front of Mirdur’eth. People walked by, some noticing him and others either ignoring him intentionally or unaware that he was there or not caring whatsoever. A sense of bewilderment came over him. He had expected too much of the people of Teirlin’pur. He expected savages as evil and maniacal as Luthien, yet here he could clearly see that the people of Teirlin’pur were actually not unlike the people of Arlin City, despite the difference in races. People here seemed so alike to the people of Arlin City in how they moved and acted. They walked and talked amongst themselves as if no war had ever been started, as if they were oblivious to the reality of it all.
Someone rustled around behind him. He turned to look back but couldn’t see anything. When he faced forward a twisted face sat inches from his nose. He stifled a yelp and tried to move away, only pushing himself deeper into the gurney, and into pain. The face was human and yet not. It bore a long nose, wrinkled and broken in a number of places as if the man that owned it had been in far too many fights and lost, and two gleaming eyes that seemed to glisten and change color randomly. The skin looked sandpapery, bumped and covered in all manner of ugly imperfections. And when the mouth of yellowed, broken teeth opened, a foul odor slipped into James’ nose and he had to fight just to keep from cringing.
“Burns. Cuts. Wounds. Ever magic. Ever magic,” the non-human said in a slightly masculine voice. “Danger. Pain. Oh, such pain. Yes.”
“This is Bourlinch,” Triska said. “He’s a Spellweaver healer.”
“I am Daemonkind. Oh yes, so wounded. So wounded.”
Bourlinch took hold of one of James’ arms, examining it at an unnaturally close angle. James flinched and yelped in pain at the touch.
“Like Nub,” he said behind clenched teeth.
Triska nodded.
Bourlinch leaned forward and sniffed James’ arm. He tried to get his arm away but couldn’t. The man gave him the chills.
“Farthland stench and…other. Not Angtholand.”
“I told you Bourlinch, we’re from the north.”
Bourlinch sniffed the air. Mucus vibrated in the back of his nostrils. “Farthland stench. I smell it. And other. I smell other. No matter. Inside. Come.”
Then Bourlinch hopped away and hobbled out of view. Darl and Iliad helped James stand and guided him around Mirdur’eth and into one of the tall buildings. Pea scuttled to the side while Triska tied the horses and Blaersteeds up and closed the door.
Once inside Bourlinch forced James onto a long wooden table. He took in his surroundings. Rugs and all manner of woven materials hung from every wall, every support post on the ceiling, and on just about every surface in the place, none of which bore any designs that looked remotely interesting. There were small tables and broken chairs in one corner of the room. Above the door was a single round porthole, the only window in the whole place and the only spot where natural light came in.
The faint smell of burnt fabric struck James’ nose. Then he sensed magic, little streams of it shooting up from Bourlinch. He watched the crooked looking non-man. Bourlinch had his eyes closed, his arms up over James as if silently reciting a prayer. The burning smell grew stronger, and so did the magic. He could sense it moving so smoothly as if he had always been aware of it. He wondered where this sudden clarity came from, and why he had it. And he wondered how long it would last.
Then Bourlinch leaned close, his putrid breath falling over James, and said, “Ne’lan.”
Everything became blurs and blackness. He could fell all the magic pushing into him and over his wounds. Sensations like when Triska had entered his mind came and he tried to force whatever it was out. It was Bourlinch; he could tell in the magic, as if there were a distinct signature there that gave away Bourlinch’s intentions. Bourlinch wanted information. James hid it, trying to push out Bourlinch. Pain shot through his body even worse than before, so strong that he came frighteningly close to losing consciousness. But he held on, even as his vision saw nothing, his ears heard nothing, and only his mind and body could feel or sense anything at all. Wounds closed all around him, sealing up against their better nature, forced into healing at speeds unnatural. Powerful, precise magic, controlled and measured.
He managed to close off his mind, putting up a barrier of magic. Bourlinch would figure it out soon enough, the sensation of probing fingers within his mind giving the impression of an octopus trying to get into a jar with a fish inside. His wounds healed further, feeling coming in mind bogglingly painful waves on his hands. The wounds there healed too, sealing up like a zip lock bag. Then the barrier broke in his mind. He raced to defend himself, but it was too late and the invisible fingers were gathering information—words, images, and thoughts. Then, suddenly it was all over. His mind closed off, the magic dissipated, and all sensation returned anew. Pain still attacked him, but he could feel his body beyond it and when he opened his eyes he knew immediately that he was mostly healed. There were scars over many parts of his body, but most had disappeared. He flexed his fingers; they were stiff but moved. He bent his arms, moved his legs, and sat up. Everything seemed to work fine, good enough so he could function properly.
Then he looked up, ready to thank Bourlinch, despite what he had felt in his mind. Deep down he made the assumption that all Spellweavers were like this, always grabbing for information they didn’t really need. He wondered if Nub had done the same to him while he was unconscious. But upon seeing Bourlinch he instantly received a different impression. Bourlinch curled away angrily, his arms and hands raised limply by his face as if they were protecting him from something he hadn’t expected. His eyes were wide, bloodshot, and dilated, making his already crooked Daemonkind face wicked.
“No!” Bourlinch said, shifting around uncomfortably, looking from James to Pea, back to James, and back to the others one by one. He pointed a long wiry finger. “Not here. No. This is other. Other! Get back! Stay!” His voice trailed off into mumbles and incomprehensible words.
“He knows!” James cried out. “He searched my mind!”
Magic suddenly flowed, Pea pulling it all up in an instant. Bourlinch launched into the air, tried to scream but couldn’t as all the air left his lungs with the impact. Then the crooked man struck the wall and remained suspended halfway to the ceiling. Pea moved to a better position with his right hand raised, fingers slightly crooked and pushing small streams of magic to keep the spell going.
Bourlinch gasped for breath, finally found it and started to speak in even more incoherent sentences. “Left. Long wind. Right. Powers be gone. This is end. This is here. Anywhere. Anywho. Anywhen.”
“Someone shut him up,” Darl said, slipping over to the door to lock it. “He’ll rouse soldiers.”
Triska’s magic suddenly flowed as James got to his feet and moved next to Iliad.
“Zagra. Legends. Powers that be. North. One. Seventeen. Savior lost. This is end. Zagra. Down the blackness. Coming. Ending.”
Then Bourlinch suddenly went quiet, mouthing words that never came from his throat. For a moment Bourlinch seemed oblivious to it, then the sudden realization of silence kicked in and he fell still.
“We can’t keep him there forever,” Iliad said, slipping his bow back over his shoulder.
“Tie him up,” James said.
“That won’t do any good. He’ll still have control of magic.
Triska shook her head suddenly. Pea looked at her.
“You have to.”
“No,” Triska said. “I can’t.”
“We might be here for a while. I can’t keep him there forever. Neither can James. Disable him.”
“You know what you’re asking? Invasion of the mind to cripple.” Her face grew red and her eyes glistened as if she were going to cry.
“I’m asking you to keep us out of danger.”
James didn’t quite understand what was going on. He couldn’t remember if he had read anything in-depth about healers in the etiquette book. Can healers really cripple someone’s mind, he thought. The idea of it frightened him, not only because he didn’t want to end up crippled one day, but because of how it was affecting Triska. A single tear fell from her face and she bit back sobs. The idea of it all was breaking her down.
“He’ll kill us if you don’t do it,” Darl said, trying and failing to sound sympathetic.
Bourlinch struggled with his magical bonds, opening his mouth to speak, but getting nothing more than air to come out. He acted upon the conversation, becoming more erratic and frantic.
Triska sniffed back her tears, her sobs, and her fears and said, “Okay. I’ll try.” Then she raised her right hand.
Her magic flowed, the feeling of it vibrating in James’ mind. He could sense her mind moving out and her eyes became tightly closed slits. Bourlinch struggled and then his eyes closed too. He fidgeted, twitched, and a silent grunt escaped his lips. His face curled, folded, and contorted with what could have been concentration or pain, James couldn’t tell which. Triska, too, seemed in the same state, only occasional tears fell down her round cheeks to the floor.
Minutes went by and both Triska and Bourlinch were silent with horribly painful looking expressions upon their faces. It seemed as though neither could push away the other. James could only imagine what it must be like to enter someone else’s mind with the intention to shut down their ability to use magic.
Triska suddenly sagged and would have fallen to the floor if Iliad had not come to her side and grabbed her under the shoulders. She panted and tears streamed down her face.
“It’s done,” she said.
Pea let Bourlinch drop to the floor. Bourlinch crumbled into a heap, sobbing and holding his head.
“You did good,” Darl said.
“Oh yes, very well indeed,” she snapped. “You have any idea what it’s like? Wandering into someone’s mind, pushing down their barriers, trying to find the center of their magic, and then breaking that part of their mind in two?”
Nobody said anything.
“I didn’t think you would understand that. I can hear the screams and cries of pain as it happens. I feel it like it’s a living being struggling in my hands, like a newborn child being bent over itself.”
James stepped closer to her. He wanted to hug her, to make her feel better, but he was afraid, afraid that his presence might make her worse. The others were already fearful of him and his abilities. He took another step, then stepped back.
“I’m sorry,” he said, for lack of anything better to do.
She glared at him for a brief moment, and then let it fall from her face.
Near silence befell the room. Bourlinch continued to sob and Triska slowly fought away her sadness.
Then James said, “Should we tie him up?”
Iliad and Darl did the deed, lifting the sobbing Daemonkind from the floor and tying him tight to a chair.
Triska took a seat nearby and James sat next to her.
“So what happens now?” he said, putting his hands in his lap. His thoughts fell on Laura, lost somewhere within the main walls of the city, in one of the many towers.

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1 comment:

  1. Whew! Thank you for visiting my site so frequently... And just visited yours just recently.

    Good luck on your novels, and I guess I must learn more even to cover the basics. I've put a link to this blog in mine, for my shortcut to visit this blog more often.

    Come forth, Paladins! Fulfill your destiny! - Andry Chang