Chasing the Wind
~ Part Eight ~
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 ...
Aloethar meets Zakir, the leader of the Storm Chasers out in the desert, who carried bad news. Zakir says that he is the only surviving clan warrior after their fight against one of the Storm fronts. The second front is heading towards the disbanded camp, towards Aloethar's sister and niece. Aloethar uses his new kohol to drain all the Stones, but now it is down to him alone to use them against the Storm. And so, he rides out into the desert, armed only with the Stones and his wits . . .
~ FOR Part One, CLICK HERE ~
~ FOR Part Two, CLICK HERE ~
~ FOR Part Three, CLICK HERE ~
~ FOR Part Four, CLICK HERE ~
~ FOR Part Five, CLICK HERE ~
~ FOR Part Six, CLICK HERE ~
~ FOR Part Seven, CLICK HERE ~
Aloethar saw the Storm before he saw Waldfrid. He had ridden through the desert haze, jouncing painfully in the hard saddle, for what seemed like several hours, but was probably less than one. The sand and dust and wind worsened, swirling around him until even he, a Medebic Clansman, a desert nomad, began to lose his sense of direction. Glimpses of the sun through the swirls became less frequent, and before long were gone entirely. Normally he would have camped and waited for a duststorm like this to pass before getting his bearings again, but this time he must ride into it. He reasoned that as long as the conditions around him got worse, and not better, he must be going in the right direction, although doing so jarred his every instinct.
Soon, though, he didn't need the light of the sun to guide him when he saw the first sign that this was no ordinary dust storm. Far off, a crackling sheet of lightning forked across the horizon, not only illuminating the air around him but charging it with a tingling energy that made Aloethar shiver. He rode on, and the energies grew nearer. The whole of the sky seemed filled with them, not just lightning now, but coiling columns that twisted chaotically like tornadoes, glowing and pulsing with multicoloured light. Thinner cords of energy permeated this alien milieu. These moved around languorously like strips of cactus weed in a cooking pot. Some were green, some yellow, some blue, but his heart leapt when he saw the dreaded red variety. These coiled together at the Storm's core, where the energies were thickest, snaking lazily around like the others, but Aloethar knew that if he rode too close, they would whip and snap around as quick and as deadly as a striking cobra. He was fixated on the cords when his camel stopped abruptly, nearly pitching him over the creature's neck.
“What's wrong boy?” He looked down and saw Waldfrid standing in his way, his back to Aloethar, watching the Storm as well. Aloethar pulled the shawl back from his face, and shouted to be heard over the howling, screeching, and crackling noise. “Waldfrid! What are you doing out here?”
Waldfrid turned, and came face to face with the camel. He looked at it for a bewildered moment, as if expecting the camel to speak again, and then looked up and noticed Aloethar. His eyes were no longer black. “Where am I?”
“We're close to the Chaostorm! You must turn back!”
“But I knew something. I touched the Source.”
Aloethar's natural curiosity took over. “What's the Source?”
“I don't know. But I remember something. I came here on purpose. I think I knew how to fight the Storm, but I have forgotten. Forgotten it all.”
“Not all, Waldfrid.“ Aloethar remarked to the giant Derlander that he was speaking perfect Medebic, right down to using Aloethar's particular clan-dialect and idioms. Waldfrid's bewildered look faded somewhat. “It taught me things. The Source was everything; it knew everything. When I touched it I saw everything, but it was too much. I saw how to stop the Storm, but I've forgotten.”
Aloethar made up his mind quickly. He had to ride off to meet the Storm before it overtook the southward caravan, assuming it hadn't done so already, but he wasn't going to leave Waldfrid here unprotected, despite all the trouble the man had caused. He sloped off down the side of his camel, landing awkwardly. Going to the saddlebags, he fetched out a Stone, and took it to Waldfrid. “I have four more. I am going to stop the Storm. As I get nearer it will be drawn this way, towards the Stones I carry. If it comes towards you, throw this one into it as far as you can, and run the other way.”
Waldfrid took the Stone. “No, that is no good.” He hefted the Stone in his palm. “I will come with you. You cannot do this alone. Besides, my memory is returning – your kohol was good. I remember now what I did. I would like to make amends for breaking your still, brewer.”
“Let's do it, Aloethar.”
Aloethar had panicked and thrown the first Stone too early. For one heart-stopping moment he thought that the Stone wasn't working, but Waldfrid pointed out that they were just too far away. Aloethar thought they might go faster on foot, but Waldfrid had said that the camel would likely travel faster away from the Storm than towards it, which was what really counted. And besides, the scale of the Storm was too hard to judge – there might be a long way to go yet. Aloethar saw the sense in that, and agreed that it was easier for the camel to carry the Stones and bottles of black kohol. They must take those as well, for a troubling thought had occurred to him. A back-up plan that he didn't like the taste of, but which he was loathe to preclude the possibility of.
They knew they were close enough when the Storm came towards them. They had been riding the camel, with the more experienced Waldfrid up front, for about twenty minutes. The Storm seemed to draw no nearer, but slowly began to change shape. The lightning still sparked, and the tornadoes still whirled, but those languorous cords began to stiffen. As they neared, the many-coloured cords sank in the sky, and as they drew nearer still, it became clear that the cords were whipping towards them. Waldfrid stopped riding and made ready to throw his Stone.
“Wait, Waldfrid! Hold here until I say, and then run as fast as you can parallel to the Storm front.”
The howling sound crescendoed fast. Waldfrid had to shout his reply, his eyes squeezed to slits against the blast of sand and wind. “Those things, those cords, are coming fast, why not throw all the Stones at once?”
“I'm not sure exactly how the cords behave, but when something's coming fast towards you, momentum usually carries it past. If we throw all the Stones in a pile, the threads might overshoot before they are attracted back to the Stone. I don't want to be running away along their path. It think we stand a better chance of avoiding the Storm if we run parallel to the Storm front, and throw a Stone behind us whenever the threads come near.”
Without warning, Waldfrid drew back his massive arm and threw the Stone further than Aloethar thought possible. After that he kicked the camel into a run. “A good idea. Pass me another Stone.”
Aloethar reached down into the saddlebags behind him and passed another Stone forward. He looked over his shoulder. The cords that had been shooting towards them had indeed overshot, and some of them – mostly red ones – had curved round and continued to pursue them. Aloethar feared that his plan wouldn't work, but just as he was about to tell Waldfrid to throw the next Stone behind them, the red cords curved back on themselves and joined the others, which, along with the dust, wind, and tornadoes, were being sucked into a single point, which was steadily growing brighter, like a star. Aloethar remembered being out in the desert once, on the journey from the north to the south fields, when he was a boy. The ground had shaken, and the old ones had said it was a small earthquake. As he had watched, a far-off dune had suddenly collapsed. When they travelled past it later that day, sand had still been falling into a hole that had opened up deep down under the desert. The effect of the everything being sucked into the Stone reminded him of that, and as the Storm approached, the ground beneath them shook like that earthquake too.
Aloethar felt Waldfrid shift, and then turned in the saddle to see another Stone flying off into the Storm. It already began to glow bright before it even hit the ground. Aloethar was glad that Waldfrid had been looking forward, and he made a decision to not to look back any more. He handed Waldfrid another Stone. “Two more after this. It's working.”
“We're not going fast enough.”
“The camel. It is tired, and slowing down.”
They had not traveled as far as last time when Waldfrid was forced to throw the third Stone. The camel dropped to a walking pace while Aloethar was retrieving the fourth Stone. Waldfrid shook the reins, and dug in his heels, but instead of picking up its pace, the camel just stopped. Aloethar handed Waldfrid the fourth Stone, and took out the last for himself. “Look, the Storm is splitting. Most of it is still being sucked into the three Stones behind us.”
“But the Stones attract it, Aloethar, and we carry two. The rest of the Storm is still heading our way.” At that moment there was a great flash of light, and a deep, cracking noise, so loud that Aloethar felt pressed in by it from all sides. Both men, and the camel, fell to the floor. The howling Storm appeared suddenly muted. Aloethar's ears rang, and his head ached more than his worst hangover. He looked up from where he knelt and saw that the sand only a few feet away had been turned to glass. Waldfrid lay on his side, unconscious, his Stone a few inches from his outstretched arm. The camel lay on its side as well, one of the saddlebags crushed underneath it. It's hide was blackened and smoking. Aloethar could smell roast meat and burnt hair. With a sense of dread, he crawled over to Waldfrid and turned him over, expecting to see similar burns on the merchant too, but apart from being unconscious he looked unharmed. Aloethar checked he was breathing, and then shook him by the shoulders. What strength he had left did little to shift the man's bulk. He picked up Waldfrid's Stone, and then cast about in panic for his own before finding it near the camel. Then, holding one in each hand, he pitched them both in a large overhand swing towards the Storm.
Lightning struck again, the same booming noise once more knocking Aloethar to the ground, but this time the lightning hit the Stones. Aloethar was relieved to see the energy consumed by them. The tornadoes, sand, and snakes of energy curved down towards the last two Stones. Aloethar was too weary to run, and stayed next to the camel, hoping the five Stones would be enough, not wanting to contemplate his back-up plan if they did not. At that he crawled over to the uncrushed saddlebag. He threw back the flap, and breathed a sigh when he saw that the bottles of black kohol had not been broken.
The noise around him was unbearable, even with his hands pressed hard against his ears. It vibrated through his whole body. His headache, worst behind his eyes, had spread to his joints and gut. Aloethar guessed the entire Storm had an ambient energy to it as well as the energy in those cords. He could see nothing but sand, whipped by a chaotic wind, threaded with multi-coloured cords of energy, and the five bright stars they had left in a trail behind them. Their brightness worried Aloethar. Surely they were almost full, and yet the Storm still raged about him. He was in the centre of it now. The Storm front had overtaken them, but apart from the ill-effects he felt, none of the energy-cords came near him. They were still attracted to the Stones. Aloethar took out a full bottle of black kohol and hugged it to his chest, watching the Storm.
His ears rang, but he swore the howling of the Chaoswind grew quieter. There were less cords, less energy in the wind than before. The Stones shone as bright as the sun, which he could now see again, along with snatches of sky through the Storm. Then suddenly the behaviour of the remaining cords – most of them the dreaded red variety – changed. They were no longer being pulled towards the bright Stones, and snapped up into the air. Aloethar knew they would try to latch on to something else, and that would likely be himself, and Waldfrid, who remained prone and motionless beside him. He pulled the stopper from the bottle, and stood. Two snakes of energy lashed towards him, and, covering the top of the bottle with his palm, he dived to one side. The energy of the Chaoswind was drawn to the saddlebag. Aloethar realised that the two bottles he had used to drain the Stone were probably not yet saturated with the magical energy, he had not observed their colour through the dark glass, but as he watched the red cords flowing into them he knew the liquid within would soon be as black as that in his hand. With no other option, he put the bottle to his lips and drank back the black kohol, hoping that Waldfrid was right, that the Source would tell him how to stop the Storm, and that he would keep his wits enough to do something about it.
(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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Sensating Barry's energies are contagious. They draw me in. But I won't drink the kohol . . . yet.
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NEXT THURSDAY ~ AT THE BIJOU~
SEE YOU FOR THE FINALE
NEXT THURSDAY ~ AT THE BIJOU~