Shree Sevlanti and the Numinous Lake
by Bosley Gravel
In a world haunted by the ghosts of men, where the roaming Created Ones refuse to battle in an ancient holy war, five intrepid brothers do the bidding of their priests in hopes of bringing an end to the Dark Age.
Kladius, groomed as a leader but inexperienced in the ways of battle, leads the brothers in a quest to find the Wheel within a Wheel, a sort of compass that the priests believe points to the Begotten Seraph.
Samuel, trained in the arts of combat, has learned the location of the Wheel from the Oracle Lokkje, also known as the Sly-One. In a fit of pique, Samuel has slain Lokkje, fulfilling his revenge for the Oracle’s taking their mother as a mistress. We join the five brothers on the verge of recovering the Wheel.
Part I: An Impetuous Gestation
On the edge of the old lake, under a crescent yellow moon, the brothers gathered in a semi-circle, much like they had in the womb: Kladius, Thadius, Samuel, Jonlok, and in the center of the half circle, the runt, Kalinon. They had come to retrieve the Wheel of the Old Ones from the bottom of the lake, but doubt had crept into their minds, and they argue among themselves.
Kladius: “It’s here.”
Thadius: “Perhaps, but I feel something darker.”
Samuel: “How can we trust the Sly-One? What say you, Jonlok?”
Jonlok: “I know nothing of prophesy, and care nothing for magic.” Jonlok scratched his beard.
Kladius: “What say you, Kalinon?”
Kalinon: “I say we consult Mother.”
Angry grunts from the brothers.
Jonlok: “She wants peace, none of this earthly toil, she deserves her rest.”
Kalinon: “Aye, but we know not what we summon, it could be the Wheel, or it could be something that wants flesh.”
Samuel: “Then call her, little brother, if you dare. She’ll not be pleased, she is still in mourning.”
Kladius re-tied the leather binding his ponytail; they knew better than to speak if he was in thought, for none were more dedicated, deadly, or stubborn than Kladius, the leader of the Last Warriors, first to fall from Helen’s womb.
Slow determined waves rippled on the lake, far off in the distance Kladius saw a light floating above the water. Perhaps the moonlight was playing tricks on the waves, but, no, thought Kladius, Kalinon was straining his eyes too.
Jonlok took his Long Eye from his travel bag and put it to his own eye, he struggled to find the smear of light, and then carefully focused in.
“It’s a Created One,” he said, “An Elephantine, on a raft, well traveled by the looks of him. He knows that we are here, he can smell us.”
Jonlok admired the creature’s hulking beauty from the blur of the Long Eye. The Elephantine flapped its giant ears as its trunk curiously probed the air. It stood like a man, seven feet tall.
Kladius: “We will wait, we can’t conjure the Wheel’s guardian with him on the water. Make fire, Warriors, we camp here tonight.”
More angry grunts, but they did not appear reluctant to obey.
“Cook enough for our Elephantine wanderer,” Kladius said, and took the Long Eye from Jonlok, and took a closer look, “Kalinon, stay here, your brothers will gather the wood for camp.”
The three brothers set their travel bags down and walked off into the night.
Kladius: “I want you to speak with Helen. Your brother is right, she mourns deeply for Lokkje, but I have no confidence in his prophesy.”
Kalinon said nothing. Instead, he bowed slightly, and began rummaging in his bag. Kladius eyed the Elephantine, the Created One’s lantern held by his arm as if illuminating the air he sniffed at. Yes, Kladius thought, it is coming for words with us. Perhaps the Created One knows what is at the bottom of the lake.
Kladius, with a Warrior’s ear, heard the three brothers in the woods laughing carelessly. He whistled like a night bird, and they quickly became silent.
Kladius: “With speed, little one, before the others return, before the Elephantine comes to have its words, before I change my mind.”
Kladius had never liked raising Helen’s ghost. He didn’t trust the dead; they had too much contempt for the mortal world and too little faith in humanity. Kalinon took a length of twine from his bag. He strung it between his fingers and, like a spider building a web from its own mysterious innards, began weaving. The rope seemed to do the impossible. It glistened like a fluid crystal hung with morning dew. Even under the faint moonlight the string held something corrupt and angry.
Kladius grunted at him; Kalinon understood.
Kladius: “Ten minutes, perhaps, before our brothers return, maybe less, I don’t want to incur Samuel’s scorn.”
On the dark rippling waves the Elephantine’s skiff floated toward the shore . Kladius put the Long Eye down and sat and joined Kalinon in prayer. Their efforts were soon rewarded when the blurry form of Helen the Witch rose as a spectral vapor from the intricate weave spread between Kalinon’s fingers.
“Hail Helen, Mother of the Last Warriors,” Kalinon said.
“Hail Kalinon, my son, my murderer, hail Kladius, my son, my destroyer. Why do you raise my spirit from the earth? Where is Samuel, destroyer of my womb, destroyer of my lover, destroyer of Lokkje? I’ve rallied the dead against him, killer of all that was perfect and good. They have promised me that when he joins us he will be chained to the roots of the Buried Mountains for a millennium.”
Kalinon: “We quest for the Wheel of the Old Ones, for it can lead us to the Begotten Seraph, and with its freedom the priests say they can end the Dark Age, and the dead can learn to die. Lokkje said the Wheel is here, in this lake bottom, enclosed in stone, sleeping for a thousand years.”
“Hail the Begotten Seraph, hail the Last Warriors, hail the Sly-One, my lover, my husband,” she said, “What lies below is not eternal, not mortal, but not Created. Do not fear the Elephantine, fear the one you are forbidden to see.”
Kladius: “Mother, what is at the bottom of the lake?”
“Hail Kladius, the Last Warrior of the Last Warriors, that which lives in the lake, does not live, it sleeps.”
Kladius: “We seek your prophesy.”
“Hail prophesy, but it is dark: one of you will die tonight.”
Kalinon shuddered not with fear but with the awful truth in the premonition. He lost focus, and Helen began to fade. Kalinon worked the string back and forth trying to keep the spirit still.
Kladius fought the urge to reach out and grab the fading apparition and lock her into the mortal world, “Can it be prevented?”
“Hail Kladius, all futures are the same: fear death by water, fear the arrogance of True Men. Fear the one you cannot see. Fear the world where death cannot die when once it did.”
She faded quickly after her last words were spoken. Kalinon untangled the now knotted twine from his fingers, and jammed it into his pocket; he would put it back in travel bag later, and perhaps, if time permitted untangle the cord while his brothers rested.
The brothers came into the camp, each with a load of wood on their back. Jonlok, showing off his strength, carried a log the size of a grown man over each shoulder. Samuel set his bundle of wood down.
Samuel: “Bah, I smell your sorcery, Kalinon, you raised her spirit?”
Kladius: “It was my wish.”
Samuel: “The so be it, brother, we will all pay the price. That witch has never offered us advice that came to any good. What did she say this time?”
Kalinon: “She said—”
Kladius: “She said one of us will claim the Wheel this very night.”
Thadius: “Look, the Elephantine will be here shortly,” he pointed out over the lake. The creature pushed itself slowly with a long stick. On the flat raft, a Y-shaped branch now held his lantern. Each warrior felt and heard a percussive wave as it came through the air.
Thadius: “It’s the Elephantine, their eyes are poor. They can see with sound.”
Kladius: “Aye. Warriors, make fire; our guest is nearly here.”
Like the many arms of a Willow Beast, the three began building fire, each working on their own, each working in unison. Jonlok split wood with a hatchet, while Samuel shaved bark for tinder. Thadius took handfuls of tinder with one hand, and small pieces of split wood with the other, and stacked them neatly in shallow pit he had scraped in the earth. Kalinon sprinkled a powder from his bag onto the bark, dashed two rocks together, and the fire was instantly alive, hungry, eating the tinder quickly and spreading to the logs.
The Elephantine arrived at the shore and stepped off the raft. The creature’s head a riot of flesh and bone. Kladius walked toward the beast, with no fear in his heart, his arm up in the sign of diplomacy.
Kladius: “Created One, we are honored with our presence and beg you to join us for our nightly meal,” he bowed, and before the Elephantine could respond, Kladius assisted with pulling the raft to the shore.
The Elephantine turned to face Kladius, its eyes like two oiled pecan nuts stuck into a piece of gray clay, he blinked and raised his trunk. He bellowed an inhuman sound.
Kladius noticed there was damage to the left tusk, it was crudely shattered, the tip broken away. The Elephantine’s robes were worn, and showed much travel. Kladius suspected the garments were not made for an Elephantine at all, but cobbled together from human cloaks. No mention would be made of it, for it would be a source of shame to the Elephantine.
Kladius bowed again and offered his hand. The Elephantine took the offer of friendship, by laying a single digit of his three-fingered hand across Kladius’ palm. The finger was huge, rudely phallic, tipped with white half-moon nail.
Jonlok approached, he raised his hand, and formed intricate gestures in the air. The Elephantine mumbled what almost sounded like words, and returned the gestures. The Created One extended his trunk and blew the lantern out. The appendage was delicate, but somehow fearsome, the tip seemed to move with its own life; almost magically transforming into tendrils, and then became flat again. What it lacked in precision with its fingers, he made up with his trunk.
Jonlok: “He says he will gladly join us.”
Kladius: “Then it is good! We are honored with the fruit of the Old Ones.”
Jonlok gesticulated a subtle nuance of the conversation, and the three walked back toward the camp. The Elephantine had a limp, Kladius noticed, as he trailed behind Jonlok and the Created One.
At the fire, the three brothers were busy stewing herbs, and warming flat breads on rocks. They stood, bowed deeply, and humbly introduced themselves. The Elephantine vocalized an almost pitiful sounding reply, and began make signs with his trunk and arms.
Jonlok: “His name is Shree Sevlanti, Herd of the Ganesa Hills, created in the years of the Old Ones.”
Kladius introduced Jonlok, and himself, the Elephantine bowed. Kalinon ceremoniously brushed off a log and offered Sevlanti a seat. He blinked his tiny eyes, took the offer, and waved his trunk toward the sweet smelling soup and bread.
Thadius: “Aye, my friend, you are welcome to share our meal. Our soup will be done soon. I would be honored to fix your tooth, if you will allow me.”
Sevlanti raised his ears, wagged them in the firelight, and blew a quiet moan from some where inside his head.
Jonlok: “He says be gentle, the wound is not more than fortnight old. I told him you were the kindest healer in the kingdom.”
The brothers sat as Thadius thoughtfully removed his healing tools, from his bag, he asked Samuel for a hand saw he used for building shelters, and carefully he pruned the tusk back until it was flat, and no danger of the splintering to creep up.
Kladius: “Created One, we would hear your story of how you came wandering across this enchanted lake, once our healer has done his work.”
Jonlok translated the reply, “He asks to hear our tale, while Thadius works, why we gather at this lake. He asks if we too are Created; he supposes we five are all formed from the same clay.”
Kladius: “Not Created, but born of True Men. We are the five that were one, split in our mother’s womb into five souls. It is no surprise that she died birthing us.”
Sevlanti nodded and grunted, it was almost a word: “Yesh.”
Thadius finished sanding the tusk, and carefully oiled it with a rag. He crushed some fresh herbs in his hands and packed it up where the tusk met the flesh of the gums.
Thadius: “It will burn for a moment, and then become cool.”
Kladius: “We quest for a Wheel within a Wheel, tombed in stone, said to be in the bottom of this lake. But we sense evil in this place.”
Sevlanti spoke and Jonlok translated, “He says he senses something too; he senses a servant of the Oracles, but he also senses the Wheel.”
Kladius: “Very good, then perhaps we will raise this servant and slay it; the world would be a better place for it.”
Thadius was searching through his travel bag, he pulled a thin sheet of metal out and rolled it, carefully measuring the truncated tip of the Elephantine’s trunk. His expert hands folded it into a crude replacement for the great tusk. He pinched the metal together, scoring it, then removed it and rolled the edge sharp. He placed it on a rock in the fire where it soaked up the heat quickly turning an angry red.
Samuel handed soup out in little clay cups, the brothers sipped theirs slowly. Sevlanti took his cup with his trunk and carefully poured it in to his mouth.
Kladius: “Sorry my friend, you’ll find no meat in this broth, we do not eat the flesh of other creatures for daily meals; it is contrary to our training.”
Sevlanti nodded in agreement and made a sound of pleasure as Samuel filled his cup again, this time placing a large chunk of flat bread in the broth.
Thadius set down his supper, “Our friend’s new tusk is almost ready,” he carefully pulled it out the fire with a small tongs, he pulled his penny-knife from its sheath and worked little decorations into the metal. He made the mark of the five brothers on it, a crude sun with five crooked rays.
Jonlok: “He says he thanks us all for the food in his belly. He is honored to share his adventure with us. He says he was out on the plains, returning from a summer of meditation in the Shadow Mountains. On his way to meet his herd, he was taken by the Saddle Witches.”
Sevlanti lowered his robe and turned his back to the brothers, revealing horrible raised slashes with fresh scabbing criss-crossing his flesh. Thadius gasped.
Thadius: “We heal those next, my friend.”
Copyright © 2006 by Bosley Gravel