Chasing the Wind
~ Part Five ~
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 ~
The Wind Chasers grumbled as each man sat before a bubbling pot of stewing mescal bud. Zakir had put his men to work under Aloethar's supervision. Waldfrid had fled in the confusion, and Issam gave chase. Before long Issam returned reporting no sign of Waldfrid, but accompanied by a scout Zakir had left behind to track the Storm. It was not turning north as Zakir had hoped, but was beginning to turn southwards, deeper into the desert. Aloethar thought of Sana'ah and his little three-year old niece, Ibna, who he had waved goodbye to earlier, happy that they were heading south towards the Sudmanican border to safety. He had argued that emptying the Stones was the only option left to them. Zakir sent the scout out again, to bring back news of any further change in the Storm's course.
Aloethar had salvaged as much from the wreckage as he could, the alembic was destroyed, but he and Pym had managed to save some of the undistilled bitter water from the larger pieces. Aloethar had submerged the half-drained Stone in it, and while not as effective as kohol, it still drained some of the Chaoswind. He had convinced Zakir that if they could produce enough they might be able to drain the rest of the Stones. Secretly, Aloethar hoped that Zakir would be prepared to ride out with only the two Stones they had. He was doubtful that the new, faster batch of bitter water would drain the remaining Stones as well as the old batch.
Despite the evidence that the Storm was no longer heading their way, Aloethar still felt a sense of impending doom. For the first time he was anxious and impatient with the brewing process as he oversaw the soldiers stirring their pots, although he derived some satisfaction from the reversal of roles, and the sulks of Ahmed and Basel, who had left Aloethar to be soldiers, but now found themselves back at the pot.
Pym continued to help Aloethar clear away the debris from the great glass alembic. They worked in silence, for which Aloethar was grateful to Pym. Aloethar had helped his father make the alembic just before he died. The disease had taken him slowly, and he had been unable to work in the last few years. It had been a sad moment for both of them when his father had finally given over the tools of his trade to Aloethar, including this great alembic. His father had worked all his life as a brewer, and had become a master glass-blower in his attempts to improve upon the design of the still, and to produce ever bigger alembics, capable of distilling larger batches. On that day, his father had told Aloethar how proud he had a son capable of taking his work forward, that the quest to improve his art would not die with him, and that he felt at peace knowing that the tools he had cared for and developed over the course of his life would be in safe hands.
Pym helped him sweep the last of the broken glass into a pile outside the tent, and Aloethar had to ask for a moment alone outside before he could face going back in to see how the soldiers' pots were coming on.
When Aloethar returned to the tent, Issam looked up from his pot. “Brewer. Where have you been? We've been stirring these pots for two hours now.”
“Surely your arms do not ache?”
“I have a soldier's arms, used to wielding a sword, not a spoon.”
“The solution must be stirred constantly to break down the bud and release its juices.”
Zakir picked up the partially-drained Stone from where it had rested on the crate with the others. “I think we should try one of the pots to see if it works yet.”
Pym tried once more to explain Binding Theory to Zakir. “It is doubtful we'll gain anything from the process or purity properties of the solution yet. The rarity of the plant itself will have some effect, but no more than it did when we dropped the Stone in the crate of raw mescal bud.” That had been Aloethar's first idea. The Stone had seemed to react, but barely. Pym had surmised that the free-roaming Chaoswind itself might be drawn to the raw plant, but that it wasn't attractive enough to unbind it from the Stone, which, after all, had been regarded as the most effective Binding agent until now.
Zakir took the Stone over to Issam. “Well, it can't hurt to try. Dash your theories, we've got to try something practical.” With that he dropped the Stone into the pot. Despite his protests, even Pym stared at it with curiosity. The other men stopped stirring their own pots, and Aloethar was gratified when they obeyed his barked order to continue, though he was aware that he was probably only borrowing Zakir's authority now.
After five minutes the Stone was unchanged, and Aloethar removed it with the tongs. “It is as I expected, the hard husks of the bud don't begin to break down until around this point. We should try again in an hour.” Issam and the other men groaned, but Zakir repeated Aloethar's command to continue stirring.
After another hour the soldiers were in worse humour than ever. Zakir tried putting the Stone in Issam's pot again, but again nothing happened. Issam grumbled that the plan had failed, but Zakir ordered them to continue, which they did, though not without argument. In search of more intelligent discussion, Aloethar walked over to Pym, who was studying the khamra-kas, full of saturated kohol.
Pym looked up from where he knelt. “It's a fascinating substance. I wonder what applications it could have. The old scholars will be dancing around their desks like excited children when we show it to them.” Then more soberly. “Assuming we survive the journey of course.”
Aloethar knelt down beside him. “We should bottle it. Follow me.” Aloethar took a ceramic funnel, and two long-necked bottles from a large canvas bag on his cart, while Pym waited behind him. “Two more should be enough, Pym.” Pym ruffled around in the bag behind Aloethar as he made his way back to the khamra-kas.
“What is this, Aloethar?”
Aloethar looked around. “What?”
“These pieces of copper. They look like the curved sections of a ball.”
Aloethar had forgotten about that. “It's a new still I've been working on. It's only an experiment. I think I should stick to glass like my father taught me. I fear it'll be a long while before I can fashion another alembic, and I doubt I'll make one as good as my father's. He was master glass-blower, whereas I always had an affinity for metal. One of my first jobs was to build and maintain the copper A-frames we use to support the condenser.”
Pym brought the bottles over. “But why copper?”
“It's malleable, but strong enough to be heated, and it's cheap.”
“Wouldn't it react with the mixture differently to glass?”
“I've no idea. As I said, it was a silly experiment.”
“Don't put yourself down, Aloethar. It looked well-made to me. Is there a chance we could put it together and use it?”
“All the parts are there, and I've checked they fit, but we've no way of welding it. I was going to wait until the end of the year to see if there was money spare for more supplies to finish it.”
Aloethar was glad that Pym asked no more questions about it. They used three of the green-glass bottles before the container was empty of the inky potion. Aloethar bunged them with wax, and bound the tops with muslin and twine. He forwent the tradition of putting a sprig of mescal bud in the bottle; this wasn't exactly traditionally-brewed kohol any more. After Aloethar carefully washed out the khamra-kas and put it away, there was nothing left of the still except the smoldering fire, the tripod, and the copper A-frames. Aloethar stared at it for a while, wishing he could go back in time before Waldfrid had destroyed his father's alembic, but such thinking was fruitless. It would be time to test the aloethar again in half an hour. That's what he should be focussing on.
Aloethar took hold of the three bottles with the intention of storing them on the cart. Issam looked up from his pot as Aloethar passed. “Hey! Careful with that stuff. I saw someone drop a fully-loaded Stone once. The tiniest piece chipped off, and the Wind escaped. If that potion contains the Storms from two Stones, then I don't want those bottles anywhere near me.”
Zakir joined in. “My camel is tethered outside. It's the one next to the clan standard. Put those bottles in its saddlebags. There's muslin in them, which I use to pack in the Stones. Make sure you swaddle them well. When you're done, come back and start packing the drained Stones as well. We may need to ride at short notice, and I don't want to leave anything containing magic behind.”
Aloethar nodded and stepped outside. Zakir's camel was tethered with the others near the centre of camp. As Zakir had said, he had planted the Thard's old tattered standard in the sand next to it. The animals looked docile and bored, but Aloethar still approached them gingerly. He had never had much dealings with the beasts. He put the bottles down, found the muslin, and wrapped the first bottle, nestling it into the corner of the saddlebag. He started wrapping the second bottle when he sensed the camels shifting around him. They seemed restless. He looked around and saw the crazy-eyed Waldfrid standing right behind him.
He surprised Aloethar by speaking a few words of Medebic, albiet broken. “Gone.”
“Others. Sellers.” He meant the merchants. “Left me.”
He still looked very drunk. Aloethar assumed the giant Derlander had wandered out into the desert after he fled from the tent. He wished the lumbering oaf had just carried on walking. “Look. I'm busy.” Aloethar packed the second bottle and turned back to Waldfrid. “Go back to the tent.” Aloethar pointed towards it, but Waldfrid just frowned.
His red eyes dropped to the bottle at Aloethar's feet. “Kohol?”
“No!” But Aloethar was too slow. Waldfrid belied his slow, lumbering appearance and deftly bent down and swept up the bottle before Aloethar could react. “Please, don't. It's not safe!”
Waldfrid shoved Aloethar back into the camel, which made as if to run, but only took two or three steps before slowing down against the pull of its tether. Aloethar rolled along the side of the moving camel and fell to the floor. Waldfrid stepped away backwards, his eyes on Aloethar. “Away! Mine! Mine kohol!”
Aloethar was sure the merchant wasn't as stupid as he appeared, but the language difference and his drunkenness made it impossible to reason with him. Aloethar found it hard explaining what was in the bottle to himself, let alone to anyone else. All he could do was try to wrest it free. He lunged at Waldfrid, hoping to catch him off-balance, and use the giant man's weight and inebriation against him, but he underestimated the man's need for kohol. Waldfrid dug in his heels, raising the bottle high above his head and out of Aloethar's reach. Aloethar dived at him, but just bounced of the big man's chest, then looked on, horrified, as Waldfrid unwrapped the bottle, and scraped out the wax bung with a finger.
Aloethar called out to the tent. “Help! Zakir! Issam! Anyone! It's Waldfrid. Quickly, help!”
He jumped at Waldfrid, and succeeded in striking his arm, and knocking the bottle away from his lips. Waldfrid pushed Aloethar to the ground, hard, making Aloethar bite his tongue. Salty blood filled his mouth. He spat it on the sand, and Aloethar was surprised to see a flicker of concern pass across the man's face. By this time, Zakir and his men were running towards them, but they were too late. Waldfrid raised the bottle to his lips, and took a hearty swig.
(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 stirring Fantasy
*AT THE BIJOU*
and fine staff of renown
Delve deep dear reader to the mystical mind of Barry ... and how he doth 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.
OR ... you could bring some FEAR TO YOUR EARS ~ Listen in @ CAST MACABRE. (Something's always brewing).
I'm feeling Barry's energy.
I'm desiring fresh kohol.