Chasing the Wind
~ Part Six ~
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 Mystical Story So Far ...
The warriors of a Medebian desert clan have failed to capture a rampant magical energy storm, which is sweeping the desert towards the clan's emcampment. They capture the storms with special stones, but all their stones are full to capacity. Aloethar the brewer has discovered a way to capture the energy in a special potion, which can drain the stones ready for a renewed fight against the storm. However, things go awry when a drunk visitor, a Derlander merchant called Waldfrid, swipes a bottle of the magic-laden potion and begins to drink ...
~ FOR Part One, CLICK HERE ~
~ FOR Part Two, CLICK HERE ~
Zakir and his men stopped running, kicking up a cloud of dust and sand. Aloethar scrabbled away and ran wide around Waldfrid to join them. There was no knowing what would happen next. Waldfrid swilled the liquid around his mouth, and then swallowed. When he licked his lips, Aloethar saw that his teeth and tongue were black. Aloethar guessed it still tasted like kohol, because Waldfrid sniffed the bottle, and then took another swig. He was about to take a third when his eyes shot open-wide. He swayed for a few seconds and then dropped to his knees, still clutching the bottle, which dug into the sand beside him at an angle, though not sharply enough to prevent a trickle of the black liquid from leaking out. Then Waldfrid began to cry. He put his big, meaty hands to his face and cried, a high-pitched whimpering cry from the back of his throat. The kohol bottle continued to leak its precious contents, and Aloethar risked rushing over and snatching it away. He stashed it in the saddlebag – he'd have to bung it in a minute with more wax from the tent – but right now he wanted to get it away from Waldfrid. He gave the sobbing man a wide berth again, and joined Zakir and his men, who had backed further away as well.
Zakir looked at Aloethar with sober respect in his eyes. “That was brave saving the bottle like that, Aloethar.”
Aloethar would have smiled under other circumstances. “Brewer's instinct.”
“What's happening to him?”
“I don't know.”
Issam pointed to Waldfrid. “Look at his eyes!”
Waldfrid, still kneeling on the sand, had stopped crying and was looking at them with oil-slick eyes; no whites nor iris, just black. His face was pale and impassive. He didn't move his lips when he spoke to them. “I've seen the Source.”
Aloethar turned to Zakir. “Did you hear that?”
“He's seen the Source.”
“But he spoke in Medebic.”
“I don't think he spoke at all. It was more like a voice in my head.”
“A voice in all our heads,” said Issam. The others mumbled agreement. They looked as worried as Aloethar felt. They watched, enraptured, for another minute, but nothing happened. Aloethar's thoughts returned to the bitter water, stewing back at the tent.
“The aloethar pots will spoil if we don't get back to stirring them.” No-one replied. “Hey! Did you hear me?”
Zakir ran a hand across his face and blinked, as if he'd just woken up. “Come on men. The Storm is turning south, and if it can change direction it can change speed. Let's get back to the tent and try to prepare those Stones before it gets away from us.”
The men filed back to the tent, but Issam was worried. “What shall we do about the Derlander, Zakir?”
“Nothing. It's not safe to touch him. We don't worry about him unless he moves, or speaks into our heads again.”
“What is the Source?”
No one answered the question. Aloethar wondered what the Chaoswind-infused kohol had done to the man, and couldn't help feeling partly responsible. He hoped whatever it was would wear off eventually, and leave Waldfrid with nothing worse than a hangover.
Pym had stayed behind in the tent, and Aloethar was glad to see that he had done his best to keep stirring the pots of aloethar. The soldiers settled down to stirring again, but Aloethar could tell by the smell that the mescal bud had broken down and would be mostly released into the water now. It would soon be time to test how well the bitter water drained the Stones. Meanwhile, Aloethar told Pym what had happened with Waldfrid outside.
“. . . but then he just sat there on the sand, staring at us with those black eyes.”
“No more voices in your head?”
“No.” Aloethar lowered his voice. “Do you know what the Source is?”
Pym shook his head. “Perhaps the scholars do, but I'm no scholar. Just a messenger who has only learnt a little here and there. We should ask them when we take the kohol to Tyntieri.”
“You must come with me. The scholars will demand a demonstration, and I don't have the skill. You're the only one who can brew kohol.”
“There are many other clans. Most have a master brewer. The scholars can buy kohol on the black market and try it for themselves. I sold most of the last season to Derlander merchants bound for Tyntieri.”
“But we still haven't tested it on aged kohol. For all we know it might only work while the kohol is fresh. No, it must be you. We have enough raw bud left to take with us.”
“Must we cross the seas?”
“We will have to cross the silt-lands to Glach, and then sail a short distance north across the Channel to the continent of Tyntieri. Then there's the Burning Lake itself of course, the quickest route to Llyneirias, where the scholars study at the University there.”
Aloethar smiled. “Sounds like more water than I ever thought I'd see.”
“Then you'll come?”
“Only if we stop this Storm.” He then turned to Zakir. “It's time to see if this undistilled aloethar works.” The impromptu brewers, Issam, Ahmed, and Basel (whose right eye was still puffed up from Waldfrid's punch, and turning black) dropped their spoons and grumbled that it was about time. Aloethar and Zakir each took one of the full Stones, and Issam took the Stone that had only been half-drained. Each man held his Stone over a simmering pot of aloethar. The rising vapour played across the Stones' brightly glowing undersides. Aloethar gave the word. “Lower them in.”
At first the light from the Stones, two bright, one half so, wavered and shone through the bubbling aloethar, but did not dim. Aloethar held his breath, no-one spoke. Then Aloethar swore he saw a change. “Is it working?”
Pym squinted. “It's hard to tell.”
Ahmed grunted. “It had better work, Master Brewer. I've been stirring that pot for four hours.”
“It takes six usually, but all the mescal bud should be in the liquid by now.”
Issam looked away from the pot. “Don't tell us you want us to stir for another two hours. The Storm will not wait!”
Then Zakir shouted, “Look!”
The men stopped arguing and looked at the pots. The light was definitely dimmer now, hardly anything emanated from the pot containing the half-drained Stone, but the light from the other two was not only dimmer, but had changed colour. Whereas before it had been a bright, blue-tinged white, it now glowed a deep red.
“I don't know.”
Pym rubbed his chin. “Perhaps not all Aspects of the Chaoswind have been Binded.”
Zakir frowned. “What?” Aloethar was curious too.
“It's like the way you described the Chaoswind when you first came back. Like a dust-cloud filled with lightning and cords of multicoloured energy. Those different coloured cords are the different Aspects of the Chaoswind. I think the scholars know little more than that, for their job is to find ways to Bind all the Aspects, but it's said that the Mages can channel the Aspects to perform different magicks.”
Aloethar was the first to realise the implication. “So if the Stones still contain one or more of the Aspects then they won't stop all of the Storm?”
“One assumes not.”
The red light from the pots underlit Zakir's face as he took up the tongs. “They are not growing any dimmer.” He lifted one of the previously full Stones out. Now it looked more like a ruby than a sapphire. “We cannot ride out against the Storm with these. It was one of the red cords that struck Thard Darwish. You have failed, brewer.”
Zakir and his men fished out the partly-drained Stones from their pots of aloethar, wrapped them in rags, and took them out to pack in Zakir's camel's saddlebags. Aloethar protested, but Zakir said he had heard enough of his talk today. He intended to ride ahead of the Storm and lead the southward-heading caravan away to the east, into the desert where it was barren and least likely to be attracted. “And it's better to have these Stones with me than nothing at all,” he said. “I suggest you and Pym ride north from here. Take your experiments to the scholars. Leave the fighting to us.”
It was then that the scout galloped into camp on a camel, which looked about to collapse. Aloethar felt like a child, looking up at the men, high up on camel-back, as the scout gave his news. “The Chaostorm has broken apart. It now has two main fronts, the larger front is still heading south, following the trail of the south caravan.”
Zakir banged a fist into his palm. “And what of the other front?”
“It is at my back, maybe only ten or fifteen minutes, and it'll be upon us.”
The men cried out, and all began to ask questions at once, but Zakir silenced them with a raised hand. “How big is this splintered front?”
“I'd say it is nearly twice as large as the Storm that took our Thard.” The hubbub began again, but this time it was the scout who silenced them. “Wait! I have more news. I recovered this.” He swung the leather bag he wore across his chest around into his lap, and took out a bundle of rags. Something glowed within, and shone like the sun when he moved the rags aside. “The Thard's Stone.” Zakir dismounted, and took it reverently from the scout to place in his own saddlebags with the others. “If the Thard had not sacrificed himself trying to stop the Storm with this Stone, then I would wish it were empty. But tell me, how can the front heading our way be twice as large if the southward front is the larger of the two?”
“The Storm is growing, Zakir. The Storm-front heading south stretches east and west for as far as I could see. I can't rightly say how big it really is.”
Zakir could not stop his men arguing after that, and so Aloethar left them. He had an idea. It would mean eschewing tradition, and moving fast – two things his father had cautioned against – but these were desperate times. He took Pym to one side. “I need you help to put my copper alembic together. The aloethar is no good, we need kohol.”
“Didn't you hear the scout, Aloethar? Part of the Storm will be here any minute.”
“If it's as big as the scout said, then Zakir and the others will be able to stop it with the two-and-a-half Stones we have already drained, but we will need all five Stones to have any chance of saving my sister and niece. We have to try. If we can distill all the aloethar we have in the tent it may be enough.”
Pym nodded. “I will help.”
Aloethar clapped Pym on the shoulder. “Thank you my friend.”
As they made their way back to the tent they passed Waldfrid. “Look, Aloethar, has he moved?”
“No. He's been kneeling like that since he drank the black kohol.”
“What will happen to him when the Storm arrives?”
“Let's hope it doesn't get this far.”
(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 ~
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AUTHOR BARRY J NORTHERN is fantasy, fable,fiction, fun and fine finesse when it comes to turning out churning energy thought ~ ala the written word. Since you are enjoying Chasing the Wind kindly email Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org and convince him to finish editing the first Chaoswind Chronicle Novel, "THE BIRTH OF MAGIC". Also, Barry welcomes you to pop on over to experience magic on the rise in words, sounds, sensations and enlightening glimmer at the mystical energizing site, 21st Century Writer Barry J. Northern.
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