Thursday, June 3, 2010

CHASING THE WIND - PART 7 ~ Barry J Northern of Harbinger*33 presents a mysti-serial

Chasing the Wind
 ~ Part Seven ~ 
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 and Pym have discovered how to Bind the Chaoswind within a drink called kohol, Walfrid the merchant drank some of the resulting potion and is still in a trance, while the clan's wind-chasers have ridden off to face the storm with the traditional Stone Sapphires. Unfortunately the Stones were not completely drained of power by the first potion and may not be able to stop the deadlier Aspects of the Storm. Aloethar and Pym race to produce more kohol with a new copper alembic while the storm rages towards them ...

     It felt calm and still back in the tent, and Aloethar realised now how windy it had grown outside. “We must be quick.”
     Pym helped Aloethar take out the two main pieces of the copper alembic and rest them near the fire. Then, under Aloethar's instruction, the two men lifted the bottom onto the tripod above the fire so that it sat above it like a large copper cauldron. It was about half the size of the old glass alembic, so Aloethar was glad that it was not too small for the tripod, although it was a close thing. Pym moved over to the top piece, which was shaped like the glass alembic had been; a dome coming up sharply to a thin peak, which bent down to form a long pipe leading to the floor. “This really is an impressive piece of metalwork, Aloethar. Your father may have been a master glass-blower, but you could fetch a handsome wage as a blacksmith in any town back home.”
     “Thank you, Pym. But leave that piece there for now. I have another job for you while I get this fire hot again. I packed some food on the cart for the journey, there is a bag of wheat-flour I was saving for next feast-day. I want you to make bread-dough. There'll be enough water left outside in the barrel we used to fill the pots.”
     “This is hardly the time to think of food, Aloethar. I'm hungry too, but there must be a more convenient snack?”
     “Yes, I have some dried dates in there, bring those out as well, but the dough is not to eat. Make it thick, and use the whole bag. We'll use it to seal the two parts of the alembic.”
     “Will it work?”
     “Have you got a better suggestion?”
     Pym conceded that he had not, and went outside to fetch water while Aloethar saw to the fire. When Pym opened the tent-flap, Aloethar could hear the not-so-distant howl of the approaching Storm outside. Soon, Pym waddled in carrying a large bucket in both hands. “Aloethar. Zakir and his men have ridden off to meet the Storm.”
     Aloethar put more wood on the fire. “God's speed to them all.”
     Both Aloethar and Pym cheered when the first drop of kohol pattered from the new copper alembic into a small glass. The glass was soon a finger-full, and Aloethar swapped in the larger khamra-kas when the dripping became a steady trickle. He raised the glass. “It’s the brewer's privilege to sample the first batch.” Aloethar knocked back the glass, sucked through his teeth, and blew. “Phew! That's good.” He smelt the glass. “It's clean. Purer than before. Smell.” He handed the glass to Pym.
     Pym smelt the glass, then held it under the new alembic's thin condenser tube. “I'd rather taste. Days like today turn a man to drink.” He too knocked it back in one, but unlike Aloethar stuck out his tongue and coughed.
     Aloethar clapped him several times on the back. “Strong stuff, eh?”
     Pym tried to say “yes”, but what came out sounded like a high-pitched yelp.
     They both laughed, but then the tent-flap blew in against a sudden, forceful gust of wind, and their smiles died. Aloethar shielded his eyes from the dust and sand, and secured the tent-flap. It was hard to make out anything out there, but he thought he caught a glimpse of Waldfrid, still kneeling down out there, staring into nothing with those black eyes. As he returned a thin jet of steam hissed from the join around the alembic. “Another leak Pym. How are we doing for dough?” The noise of the steam's whine was accompanied by the sputtering kohol as it splashed, no longer flowing steadily, into the container. Pym took the damp muslin off the bowl of dough, and brought it over to Aloethar, it was nearly all gone. They couldn't take many more leaks like this. Nevertheless, the leak was soon fixed, and the kohol returned to a steady trickle.
     The alembic worked fast, and before long they had to decant the khamra-kas into a bottle. After two more bottles, and with half-a-bottle's worth still in the khamra-kas, the stream of kohol stopped. Aloethar thinned out the fire, and left the alembic to cool, while Pym decanted the khamra-kas, and wiped it dry. Aloethar checked over his new invention, it was a little scorched on the bottom – it might need replacing more often than the glass variety, and there had been several more leaks, but it worked. And Aloethar had realised that the kohol it produced no longer had a sulphurous scent; something in the metal had reacted with the kohol, as Pym had predicted, but in a good way. It had made the stuff even purer. He wished his father was still alive to see it. Lost in his thoughts, he took a few moments to notice a change in the ambient sound. “Can you hear that Pym?”
     “No Storm.”
     “Nothing. It's all quiet.”
     “They must have done it!”
     Aloethar put the four bottles into a bag, along with two canteens of water, and gave it to Pym. “Here. I'll carry the khamra-kas to Bind the Stones in. We must go out to find them. We must have enough now to drain them all.”
     Outside, everything was covered in a fine layer of sand, so that all looked smooth and untouched, with no hard edges anywhere. Waldfrid had gone. Pym turned to Aloethar. “Do you think the Storm took him?”
     “No, look.” Aloethar pointed at the floor. “Footprints. He's gone south.”
     Pym squinted through the haze. “I really am going to need you to guide me out of the desert you know, Aloethar. I had no idea that was south. Without the merchants, I am lost.”
     “Let's hope they are not lost as well. They should have stayed with the clan. Let's head west.”
     They didn't have to go far. A man, slumped over a plodding camel, emerged from the haze. His face was covered except for the merest slit for his eyes. It could have been any one of the men. As they drew nearer, Aloethar was encouraged by the strong glow glinting through the gaps in the bulging saddlebags, but his spirits fell when it became apparent that the man was alone. No-one else emerged through the haze.
     Pym held onto the camel's reins to stop it, and the man nearly slid from its back. Aloethar took hold of him under the arms and hefted him to the floor. He pulled the wrapped cloth away from the man's face. It was Zakir. His eyes fluttered open.
     “Yes, Zakir. Are you all right?”
     “Water.” Pym handed Aloethar a canteen from the bag. Aloethar gently trickled some water past Zakir's cracked lips. He coughed a few times, but when he spoke again his voice was clear. “We stopped it. It was the biggest Storm I've ever seen, but we stopped it.”
     “The Stone's worked?”
     “The ones you drained worked, but they were full before we had captured it all. Then we only had the red Stones left. At first we thought they were working. Ahmed got too confident. He was the first to be taken.”
     Aloethar cursed himself. If he had believed in himself and tried the copper alembic sooner, then perhaps Ahmed would still be alive. “And the others, Issam, and Basel?”
     “All gone. Damn that Storm! Struck by the red cords. Each time a man was touched by one, it disappeared, along with the man and his camel. Issam was the last to go, and after that the Storm was gone.”
     Aloethar had a sudden memory of he and Issam, as children, playing jump-rope on a Feast's Day, with both their fathers smiling on, daring them to go faster and faster until they fell over in the dust in a tangle of rope. Their mothers, preparing the food they would all soon enjoy, laughed along with the other clanwomen. His mother had been heavily pregnant with Sana'ah that day. Within weeks she had died bringing his little sister into the world. That Feast Day had been the last truly happy moment Aloethar could remember. His father and mother were gone, and now Issam too. He would be damned if he'd let the second storm-front take Sana'ah and Ibna. He put the canteen to Zakir's lips again, but the soldier knocked it away.
     “Why couldn't there have been one more cord?” He sat up, anger contorting his face. “I should have sacrificed myself before my men, like the Thard did for me!” He stood, and though he swayed on his feet, stumbled away from them.
     “Where are you going?” Zakir meandered forward as if drunk, dismissing Aloethar with a wave of his hand. Aloethar started after him. “Wait. You've got to help me. I can drain the Stones. We can go after the Storm and save our people.”
     Zakir stopped, but did not turn around. His voice had lost its energy. He sounded weary and beaten. “Nothing can stop it, Aloethar. I am done.” With that he crumpled to the floor.
     Aloethar dashed to his side. “Here, take some more water.” Then to Pym. “You've got to get him back to the tent. He'll die out here.” Pym came to Aloethar's side, and they helped Zakir to his feet. “Can you manage, Pym?”
     “Aren't you coming?”
     “There is no time. I must ride out against the Storm before it is too late.”
     “No, Aloethar! It is suicide. Four experienced men have died already, and Zakir --”
     “Zakir may die too if you don't get him undercover.”
     “But, Aloethar!”
     “No more!” Aloethar snapped, and then more calmly. “Pym, my friend, please, I must do this. I promise you I will come back and go with you to visit the scholars, across the seas to the wetlands of Tyntieri.” He clapped Pym on the shoulder. “Now go! Zakir needs you now. I shall see you soon.”
     Pym hefted Zakir's arm more securely around his shoulder. “Good hunting, my friend.” Then he set off into the desert haze, leaving Aloethar alone.
     Aloethar made his way back to the camel. Ignoring his usual trepidation around the animals, he reached out and stroked the poor beast's neck. “I'm afraid you must take me back to the Storm, my friend.”
First of all it was time to drain the Stones with his new batch of kohol. He took the five shining Stones out of the animal's saddlebags. The old bottles of black kohol clinked together as the bags sagged. He laid them out on the sand around the empty khamra-kas in preparation. He was about to decant the new kohol into it but had another thought. He took the khamra-kas over to the camel, and emptied one of the canteens of water into it. The beast lapped it up quickly. “Good boy. You are a boy aren't you? You've got big lashes for a boy.” Aloethar giggled. Then berated himself. He mustn't let his nervousness turn to panic.
When the camel had finished, Aloethar took the khamra-kas, set it down next to the Stones, and filled it with some of his new kohol. Every one of the Stones positioned ready around the khamra-kas immediately began to dim as their magical energy flowed into the liquid. He hadn't expected that, and wondered if he needed to decant the kohol at all. The liquid didn't bubble this time, but rapidly turned through a range of ever-deepening greens until it was as black as the old stuff. All five Stones were already much dimmer. He poured the black kohol back into its bottle, and then tested his theory by placing a bottle of new kohol amongst the Stones. They began to dim too, so he put the last two bottles, and the half-full one, amongst them too. It was hard to see the kohol changing colour through the bottles' thick green glass, but the Stones dimmed even faster than before, and within a minute shone no more.
     With no time to celebrate this success, Aloethar hurriedly packed the bottles, distributing them equally in the saddlebags on each side of the camel's rump, and then stood by the side of the beast. “Now. How do I get on?” He put one hand up high on the back of the saddle, held a rein in the other, and tried to pull himself up. The animal made a strange, complaining noise, and shifted. Aloethar feared the camel would bolt, but it clumsily folded its knobbly legs and sank down to a sitting position. “Thank you, my friend.” Aloethar climbed into the saddle, wrapped his shawl across his face, and pulled on the reins. “Let's go!” The well-trained beast rose up onto its feet, swaying, and nearly throwing its untrained rider, but Aloethar was able to hold on, and soon they were off, tracking Waldfrid's footsteps. Tracking the Chaostorm.

(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 ~
for pure energy stirring
~ Absolutely*Kate
        and fine staff of renown 
Delve deep reader to the mystical mind of Barry, a talented conjurer as magicks go and let fantasies fiction flash and flow ~
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 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.  

OR ... you could bring some FEAR TO YOUR EARS ~ Listen in @ CAST MACABRE. (Something's always brewing!)

I sensate Barry's energies are contagious. They draw me in. But I won't drink the kohol . . . yet.

       ~ Absolutely*Kate


Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

Funny, as I comment the radio plays, "See the pyramids along the way ...". You've sure got some kind of *majik* Barry! (Well, we all knew that)

Aloethar is such a nice guy. I'm rooting for him and his discoveries to be worthy success drives. I just love a camel who kneels down for the getaway. You sir, make the desert come alive at a wink of a camel's well-lashed eye ... and touched I was at the Festival reminisces of boyhood - very KITE RUNNER feeling going on there.

You were made for legend-tales Barry. Thanks so much for showing this wonderstrocity (I too can neolog new words my friend)here, AT THE BIJOU, where writers' raves become readers' faves.

~ Absolutely*Kate
and the fine staff of renown

Barry J. Northern said...

Thanks for these lovely comments, Kate. I just hope people are enjoying this story. We're getting near the end now, so I'm looking forward to hearing what people think of the whole thing. Will they like the ending?

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

How could it be otherwise Mr Northern?

Anonymous said...

Barry, this is coming along nicely.
Thank you for sharing this with us.

Harry said...

Looking forward to seeing how Aloethar fares against the chaos wind. Great tale so far Barry!