Hi, Kate. I'm off holidaying in Norfolk all week,
so here's the next installment of Chasing the Wind
ready for Thursday. Thanks! :) - Barry
Chasing the Wind
~ Part Two ~
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.
~ FOR Part One, CLICK HERE ~
Aloethar sat cross-legged on the mat-strewn floor of his tent on the edge of the Medebic desert where the rare Mescal cactus grew. He'd drawn the door-flap against the cold night air, and pulled back the roof-flap that served as a chimney to let out the smoke from his small fire, and the vapours from the bubbling pot above it. He endured the laborious work of stirring the pot without break. He would rather be out with the men of his clan, chasing the Wind with the clan's Thard – but at least the harvest was over.
A large pile of mescal bud lay heaped in one corner of the tent, enough for at least three more pots like the one he had stirred these last five hours. The froth swirled on top of the green liquid, and the repetitive stirring motion had sent him into a hypnotic trance. The tent's door flapped back and he dropped the spoon, splashing some of the precious liquid over the side of the pot where it dripped, sizzling into the slow flames.
“I'm sorry, Aloethar, I didn't mean to startle you.”
Aloethar resumed stirring. “That's all right, Sana'ah.” Then he saw the look on his sister's face. “What's wrong?”
“The Derlander merchants have arrived early.”
“But I haven't finished the bitter water yet. Another hour, then it must rest overnight – and the still isn't ready. They were supposed to come next week.”
“I know, Aloethar, but they are here now, and they want kohol.”
“We only finished harvesting two days ago.”
“They are travelling through, on their way to Llyneirias. They will hawk the kohol on the black market – that's good money.”
“If Ahmed and Basel hadn't joined the soldiers to chase the Wind, we would have finished the harvest long ago. I'd have people to help set up the still --”
“Listen to me, Aloethar. The merchants can only stay until tomorrow evening. They have a messenger with them with urgent news for the scholars of Llyneirias, and he cannot delay. They will buy whatever they can from us then. This may be our last chance to make good money for a long time. They may be the last merchants we see.”
Aloethar frowned. “Why?”
“The messenger says the Binding is not going well.” Sana'ah paused. “He fears an increase in Chaostorms.”
Aloethar regarded Sana'ah for a silent moment. “I see, but I cannot produce kohol any quicker. It takes as long as it takes.”
“So father always said.”
“Without help I'll only be able to distil this one pot tomorrow.”
“One batch won't fetch enough gold.”
“Then perhaps they'd be interested in trading for the raw mescal bud?”
“Kohol may be tolerated, but to carry the bud outside of the desert, Aloethar – especially in Tyntieri . . .”
“Yes, Sana'ah, but they must pass through Glach to get there.”
“I don't like selling the bud.”
“We need the gold. It's the best I can do.”
“Thard Darwish would not approve.”
“Thard Darwish isn't here.”
In the end his sister had reluctantly conceded that Aloethar's plan was the only way to make enough gold for the supplies they needed for summer's desert crossing. She left Aloethar stirring his bubbling pot. He felt tired, but would have to get up early to set up the still.
As he stirred, his thoughts turned to the Binding, and the Chaostorms. The Four Mages had promised that the Binding would finally lock-down the chaotic magical energies that had plagued the world for so long, but if the Storms were increasing, it may be difficult -- or impossible -- for his clan to travel south to harvest the mescal cactus on the Sudmanican border. If that happened their situation would be more dire than missing a chance to sell the current batch at an inflated price.
Although he resented his men joining the soldiers and leaving him behind to work, he was glad that the Medebian Clans had finally stuck their heads above the sand-dunes and joined the Binding effort. Only if the whole world worked together would the scourge be tamed. Aloethar wanted to see the world -- his father had been master brewer all his life; had never left the desert. Aloethar was doomed to share his fate: stuck in a tent, stirring a pot. After another hour the vapour's scent was right – the acrid smell of the raw bud was gone, replaced by a sweet, nutty smell. He touched the spoon to his lower lip, just enough to leave the barest trace of the liquid there, which he touched with his tongue. The bitter taste overwhelmed his mouth. Grimacing, he drank from his canteen. The liquid in his pot had become aloethar -- the bitter water –-, his namesake. The night's work was done, but tomorrow would be another busy day. He covered the pot, and stepped outside to stretch his legs and take in some fresh air.
Aloethar looked out across the desert. Countless stars shimmered above him, the sand stretched away forever. He wondered what was beyond the horizon, whether he would ever see a forest, a mountain, or the seas. With a sigh, Aloethar returned to his tent to get some sleep before the early start. The extracted aloethar needed exactly six hours before it must be distilled. As his father had said; a brewer's day runs by the needs of the bud.
* * *
The red morning sun still hung low in the sky, yet Aloethar had already finished setting up his still in the main tent. He had mounted the large glass alembic on a sturdy iron tripod, beneath which there was room for a good-sized fire. The alembic stood chest-high when on its tripod, like a big bulbous tear-drop, tapering sharply at the top into a long thin tube, which bent right over towards the ground a sharp angle. This long, fragile-looking condensing tube was supported by a pair of joined copper A-frames, and lead down into the khamr-kas, a glass collecting jar, on the floor. The frames helped keep the alembic in place when it had to be turned on its side to be filled, which Aloethar had already done. He knelt down to start the fire when the Derlander came in.
The man said something in what Aloethar assumed was Derlandish. He just shook his head and shrugged an apology. The small pale man looked nervous and tired. He stepped forward. “Sorry. My name is Pym. I apologise for my poor Medebic tongue.”
Aloethar smiled. Pym's words were a little twisted. “No, no. You speak well.”
“Thank you. You are Aloethar?”
“Yes. Can I help you?”
“I am very eager to be on our way, but the merchants want to wait for your kohol. I cannot persuade them to leave without it, and I cannot travel alone this close to the desert. I was wondering how much longer?”
Aloethar sighed: someone else trying to rush the process. “It will be done in six hours. No more, and no less. Six is the magic number with kohol. Six to extract, six to rest, six to distil. You can take it then.” Pym looked away, agitated. Aloethar regretted being short with the man. Pym hadn't come here to be lectured on the brewer's art. “You are the messenger, yes?”
“I have to get word to the scholars that the Binding effort is in peril. One of the Four Mages has been working with the scholars to find new ways of Binding the Chaoswind. I hope they have found something we can use in the field.”
“My clan is out beyond the desert now chasing the Wind. They are using the precious stones.”
“The Star Sapphires. They can only contain so much power. Once they are saturated they cannot Bind more. There is more Chaoswind out there than we ever thought.”
For the first time, Aloethar feared for his clansmens' safety.
(c) 2009 ~ Author Barry J. Northern
Pencil Sketch by a fine artistic friend of Barry's
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
AUTHOR BARRY J NORTHERN is fantasy, fable, fiction, fun and fine finesse when it comes to the turning out of the churning thought, the written word. If you are enjoying Chasing the Wind you can email Barry at email@example.com and convince him to finish editing the first Chaoswind Chronicle Novel, "THE BIRTH OF MAGIC". Also, pop on over to experience all the amazing bells and whistles, sounds, sensations and enlightening lights at his energizing site, 21st Century Writer Barry J. Northern. Delve well into some of Barry's other writerly projects, take a chance at his Modern Fable writers' contest and be allured into his engaging interactive nature . . . ahhh . . . you'll see.
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