Chasing the Wind
~ Part Four ~
By ~ Barry J. Northern
"Chasing the Wind" from THE CHAOSWIND CHRONICLES, an original fantasy set in the mystical world of Cryl, a land struggling to contain the chaotic magical energies that were unleashed upon the world when the last god was murdered.
The Story So Far ...
A group of Medebic clansmen are out in the desert attempting to quell a magical storm by containing it within a set of special stones. Meanwhile, back at the clan's camp, Aloethar the brewer talks with a visitor from Derlander about the progress of the war against the chaotic magic that is plaguing the world of Cryl ...
Ahhh, and then clarity upon clarity
he gets an IDEA ... Let's listen in, shall we?
~ FOR Part One, CLICK HERE ~
~ FOR Part Two, CLICK HERE ~
~ FOR Part Three, CLICK HERE ~
Aloethar and Pym returned to the main tent pulling a laden cart. When they had returned to the centre of camp, the Derlander merchants had gone (except for Waldfrid, who was crashing around the pile, looking for kohol), and Zakir was alone, overseeing the decampment. Some people had already left. Zakir spotted Aloethar, and told him to start off south as soon as possible. Aloethar told him he hadn't yet packed his still and equipment. Angry, Zakir ordered him to take his cart to the tent and pack. Aloethar saw his chance, and with Pym's help, they shifted the crate of Stones over onto his cart while Zakir was busy shouting orders to someone else.
Aloethar had to work quickly, but Pym wanted an explanation.“Help me to get the crate open, Pym, and I'll show you.” The crate's lid had only been nailed in the corners, and came off easily. When Aloethar slid the lid back, and pulled back the rags the Stone's were bundled in, a bright light shone, as if the crate held pieces of the sun. It was bright outside, but Aloethar still feared someone would notice. He squinted against the brightness. “Are they safe to touch?”
Pym answered him by reaching in and picking one up. “You'd better put that lid back on.” Aloethar did, and the light inside the tent died down, though the Stone still shone through Pym's closed fist. “Now what, Aloethar?”
“Bring it over to the still.”
They walked over, and Aloethar automatically checked the still. The fire was still hot under the alembic's bulbous base, too hot really; the khamra-kas was nearly full. Aloethar knelt down beside it. “Bring the Stone.”
Pym knelt down beside him. “Here, take it, it's quite safe.” Aloethar did. It was too bright to make out any features, but it felt hard and smooth, with no angular edges like he'd expected. He could feel a shallow pattern etched into its surface, and remembered what Pym had said about the carvings making it a more effective container. He dropped it into the kohol.
Pym made to grab it. “What are you doing?”
Aloethar put a hand on his wrist. “Wait. It was what you said about rarity and purity attracting the Chaoswind . . .”
“Yes, but I --”
“The mescal cactus is a rare plant, I'd say rarer than those plants in the forest you talked about, and the distillation process has purified it.”
“There's no reason to believe that this will work. The scholars of Tyntieri have spent years researching ways of Binding the Chaoswind. They've had alchemists working on theories for years, and . . .” he tailed off. “Oh my.”
Aloethar followed his gaze and dropped his grip on Pym's wrist. The Stone was only half as bright as it had been, whereas the previously clear kohol had taken on a rich, dark-green hue. The potion glowed, but only very faintly. Even as they watched, the Stone carried on decreasing in brightness. Aloethar grinned at Pym. “It's a shame, then, is it not, that kohol is outlawed in Tyntieri?”
After moments the Stone no longer glowed at all, and the Chaoswind-infused kohol was a deep blue-green, which swirled and fizzed as if it was simmering over a gentle heat. Aloethar took a pair of tongs from his equipment bag and fished it out. He dried it in a rag before daring to touch it, afraid of any possible magical effect that the liquid might have. He could see the intricate carvings on the gem's translucent blue surface, reflecting light on his palm. “It is cool to the touch.”
Pym held his hand over the khamra-kas. “It must be the Chaoswind that is making the liquid appear to boil. I can't believe it, Aloethar, you've found a more effective way of Binding the Chaoswind than the Stones.”
“The Chaoswind flowed from the Stone to the kohol. It must prefer it –- be more attracted to it. I wonder how much it can contain? If we can drain the five Stones we have, Zakir and his men will be able to capture the Storm!”
Pym and Aloethar, both grinning like idiots, ran over to the crate and took a Stone each, not bothering to put the crate lid back on now. They returned to the khamra-kas, the condenser still dripping into it, and Pym dropped his Stone in first. He looked up at Aloethar like an excited child. “Put your Stone in too, Aloethar!”
“No. Let's see if the kohol – or whatever it is now – drains this one first.”
They watched, and the Stone grew less bright just as quickly as before. “Oh, Aloethar, I can't believe how effective this Binding is. It might be more than just the rarity of the ingredients, and its purity. It's like the carvings on the Stone. It's the process, the thinking that goes into producing the kohol.” The Stone stopped glowing, and Aloethar took it out as before. Then the tent-flap snapped back, and Zakir came in, with Ahmed and Basel -- Aloethar's old apprentices -- and a childhood friend of Aloethar's called Issam.
“What in the hells is going on?”
Aloethar stood up. “Zakir. I might have found a way to stop the Storm.”
“Have you been drinking your own wares, brewer? Why haven't you packed the still? You should have been on your way by now. We saw a light. The Storm could be here by sunset. I –- what is that you're holding?” Issam had noticed the open crate. Aloethar and Issam had been friends when young, but had grown apart when Issam had started his soldier training. He was well-built and sun-baked, like all the soldiers, even Ahmed and Basel. Once Aloethar and Issam had been simple clan-children, playing in the sand.
“He's taken some Stones, Zakir! Sieze him!”
Aloethar stepped forward, raising his hands to show them the empty Stone he held. “Issam, please let me explain what I'm doing.” Issam scowled –- they had endured an awkward silence for years. Aloethar had the impression that breaking it had annoyed Issam more than the apparent theft. Before Aloethar could say anything more, Ahmed and Basel grabbed him from both sides. Aloethar dropped the Stone, but Pym quickly picked it up.
“Wait! Please! Zakir, here, take a look at this Stone. It is drained of Chaoswind. We may have found a way to stop the Storm as Aloethar said.”
Zakir took both Stones from Pym, and turned them over in his hands. He looked surprised, then turned to his men. “Unhand him a moment. Here, look at these Stones.” The Wind Chasers crowded around Zakir.
Issam checked the crate. “There are only three Stones in here. Those must be the ones we brought back.”
Zakir turned to Pym. “How have you done this?”
“It wasn't me. It was Aloethar's idea.”
Zakir laughed. “The brewer? What does he know of the Wind?”
Pym frowned. “Let him show you.”
Aloethar, rubbing his arms where his one-time apprentices had man-handled him, walked to the crate. “Excuse me, Issam.” Issam looked to Zakir, who nodded, before he moved aside to let Aloethar retrieve another Stone. “Please. Watch this.”
They were startled by a loud clatter outside, and then shouting. Zakir responded instantly. “Ahmed, Basel, carry on marshalling the camp out there. Issam, stay with me.” Pym, Issam, and Zakir crowded around the khamra-kas, and then Zakir knelt beside it. “What's in that potion?”
Aloethar held the luminescent Stone over the khamra-kas. “This potion was only a fresh batch of kohol I'd been distilling this morning. It now contains the Chaoswind from those two Stones.” Pym began to explain the theory behind how they thought this worked, but Zakir grew tired of his talk. “How many Stones can you drain?”
Aloethar lowered the Stone into the potion. “We're not sure.” The Stone plopped in, and Aloethar stood back. “The light usually dies quickly.”
They watched the Stone, and although it dimmed, it did so less rapidly than before. Zakir expressed his doubts about the Stone's brightness, as the potion was now a very dark green, almost black like oil, but then, after Aloether lifted it out with the tongs, he had to concede that the Stone had indeed become substantially dimmer.
Aloethar placed the Stone back into the khamra-kas. “It's not draining as fast as it did before.” They watched for another minute, but nothing changed; the Stone remained at half-brightness.
Pym rubbed his chin. “I think we have found the kohol's limit, Aloethar. Have you any more?”
Aloethar fished the Stone out of the inky liquid, and carefully used the tongs to dry it on the rag. He didn't want to risk any of the liquid touching his skin. Gods knew what that power could do. “I have no more stock, but there may be some personal supplies among the clan. One of the Derlander merchants – the big one, Waldfrid – came in here earlier looking for kohol. If there're any bottles in the camp he may have found them. We should find him before he decides to get drunk.” Zakir sent out Issam to look for Waldfrid, then spoke to Aloethar.
“Can you make more?”
“I have the mescal bud harvest here, but it takes twelve hours to prepare it for distillation. Won't two-and-a-half Stones be enough?”
“You didn't see the Storm. My description did no justice to its immensity. I'd stride out before any other Storm confidently armed with two Stones, but this one –- I don't know. What would happen if two weren't enough? I'd rather take my chances in the desert. It is likely the Storm will travel north, towards Derlander Country.”
“That's my home,” said Pym. “Let me take the Stones if you won't!”
Aloethar joined Pym. “Yes we must try! I have never seen the forest, but I hope to one day. We can no longer afford to ignore the lands outside of the desert.”
“You dishonour the Thard's name with such talk! He gave his life protecting the world from the cursed Wind!” He rounded on Pym. “And as for letting you take the Stones -- never -- it takes more skill, and sheer strength, to chase the Wind then you give us credit for.”
Aloethar had an idea, one he knew his father would not have approved of. He raised his eyes to the heavens in silent apology. “Zakir. We may be able to produce a kohol faster. The bud only takes two hours before it begins to break down, then another hour or so before it can be sifted. I could try to distil it without leaving it to rest. It'll taste like camel urine, but it might still drain the Stones. No-one will be drinking it after that anyway.”
The tent-flap snapped back before Zakir could respond. Issam entered, propping up a very drunk-looking Waldfrid. “He knocked Ahmed out when he tried to stop him from disturbing the pile of supplies out there. He says he's already drunk the half-bottle's worth he found and was looking for more.”
Aloethar couldn't believe it. “Half a bottle!” Did the man not know how potent kohol was?
But before Zakir could say anything, Waldfrid wrestled free of Issam's grip, and stumbled forward. He squinted at the alembic, and shouted something no doubt incomprehensible even if had spoken Medebic, but one word was the same: “Kohol!”The lumbering drunk started towards the khamra-kas, but tripped, and fell forwards, barrelling into the alembic's tripod and A-frame supports. The large glass tear-drop rolled over, seemed as if it would stop for a breathless moment, and then toppled to the floor, cracking open under its own weight, and spilling what little remained of the precious raw aloethar, where it soaked into the sand amongst the great curving shards.
(c) 2009 ~ Author Barry J. Northern
Pencil Sketch by ~ Artist Jon Taylor
C H A S I N G T H E W I N D
~ To Be Thursday*Continued ~
W A T C H F O R N E X T I N S T A L L M E N T AT THE BIJOU
THANK*YOU MYSTICAL BARRY
for pure energy of FANTASY's realm
*AT THE BIJOU*
and fine staff of renown
Delve well, delve deep dear reader into what the mystical mind of Barry is all about . . . when it comes to conjure ~
AUTHOR BARRY J NORTHERN is fantasy, fable, fiction, fun and fine finesse when it comes to turning out churning thought ~ ala the written word. Since you are enjoying Chasing the Wind kindly (quickly - fast as the wind!) email Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org and convince him to finish editing the first Chaoswind Chronicle Novel, "THE BIRTH OF MAGIC". Also, pop on over to experience magic on the rise in words, sounds, sensations and enlightening glimmer at his energizing site, 21st Century Writer Barry J. Northern.
I'm feeling some of Barry's energy.