Shree Sevlanti and the Numinous Lake
by Bosley Gravel
Table of Contents|
Part I, installment 1
and installment 2
appeared in issue 211.
Part II: A Transmuted Death|
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.
The Last Warriors were raised by the Priests of True Men. In their holy temples, under the priests’ tutelage, Warriors learned endurance, bravery, simplicity, and running.
Endurance and bravery came naturally to them, simplicity less so; the priests had decreed a Warrior’s only battle weapon would be a penny-knife, a small dagger no longer than a grown man’s index finger. From a young age the brothers were trained to run not fast but far, and in their youth they often took the job of humble messengers running hundreds of miles in days.
Tonight, however, Kladius ran fast, following the trails both physical and aural that led into the night. He had been running for thirty minutes before he found them, just before the ridge that ended the valley. Beyond was miles of plains, with waist-high grasses and rare trails.
“One of you will die tonight!”
The second creature had coiled itself into a mock cave in the canyon wall. It blew liquid at them from its salamander face. Jonlok was creeping up the side of the wall, hand over hand, while Kalinon taunted the thing with rocks and then dodging its attacks with amazing feats of acrobatics.
Kladius understood the plan, Jonlok was to loosen some rocks above the creature, creating a avalanche, and hopefully crushing it or pinning it so a kill would be easily achieved. The second creature’s throat also glowed somber red. Kladius could see Kalinon’s feather tucked into the end of his pony tail, glowing blue from the moonlight.
Kladius: “LO! Kalinon, the beast still lives?”
Kalinon: “Not for long.”
Kladius picked up a stone the size of his fist, aimed carefully and hit the creature between the eyes, but it struck like a serpent. Kladius attempted to reproduce the other creature’s demise by jumping on its head, but it was not to be. It moved too quickly, and Kladius nearly fell on some loose rocks. Kalinon had found a long branch that he now poked at the creature, slapping it with the leaves.
Jonlok: “AIYEE, HO, BEAST!!”
A great boulder teetered on the rim of the shallow cave, the rock balanced unnaturally above the beast. From the woods behind the Warriors, temporarily lost in the material world, came the ghost of the first beast gnashing the air. It immediately joined the flesh with the second creature, the union generated a split second of clarity, and the beast shot skyward, avoiding the boulder. The two brothers, now facing a landslide of rocks and debris, dodged to the sides as the stones came tumbling down.
The beast came around a second time and set its sights on Kalinon.
“One of you will die tonight!”
Thunder in the sky.
The creature dove downward — now shrieking — its body livid with double the magic, twice the determination, thrice the venom. Kalinon flipped backwards, almost comically like the King’s acrobats might. He pulled his penny-knife before his feet touched the ground, with a Warrior’s yell, he charged the creature as it grazed the ground where he had once stood.
Kladius scrambled across the loose gravel, his legs failed him and he fell down hard, smashing the side of his face, bringing sparks to his vision.
Kalinon, the runt, the magus, the sorcerer, last to fall from Helen’s womb, mounted the beast, driving his knife deep into its flesh. It rose up, screeching, and took to the sky — now empowered with true flight from the union with the first creature.
“One of you will die tonight!”
Kladius repressed an anguished howl, as he tried to get his sight clear. He hoped he had been knocked into a hallucination from the blow to his head, but he knew he had not. The beast rose skyward, Kalinon holding tight to some tendril of flesh while he repeatedly jammed his penny-knife into the back of the things skull. The blade was small, and it had no obvious effect.
Up the beast went, up into the open sky of the plains. Jonlok was already climbing the edge of the ridge, and Kladius followed. Its head start was too much, Kladius thought, his mind in a knot of hopelessness — any but Kalinon should die tonight.
Jonlok and Kladius climbed out of the valley into the edge of the Witch’s Plains. The beast slithered upward on nothing but air, leveled off at a dizzying height, circled back, and began a pattern, and higher and higher it went. Kladius, watched with a sickening fear that brought a weakness to his muscles that he had never known before. Kladius almost collapsed, Jonlok supported him, assuming his injuries had disoriented him.
Behind them the sun, with her golden rod hair, broke the edge of the horizon; it was dawn. In the distance a wave of pastel colors came forward, the earth itself trembling before it. Finally the beast was gone, gone forever into the heavens with Kalinon on its back.
Waves of percussion rippled through the air, as the pastel wave came closer.
Kladius glanced back to the sky, a speck became visible, and larger and larger as it fell, finally, as the sun shed more light, it came drifting into his reach, the smallest feather, the Elephantine’s gift to Kalinon, lay in his hand.
The plain became a sea of noise, as the wave moved closer to the brothers.
Jonlok: “It’s the Elephantine’s herd.”
Indeed it was the Elephantine herd, in all their glory, colored in every muted shade of the rainbow. The earth itself shook as they came forward in a kind of languid march. Kladius pushed the anguish of losing Kalinon from his mind, tucked the feather away, and regained his posture.
Kladius: “I’ll go back to camp, you meet them and explain Sevlanti has taken shelter with us. Samuel can no longer travel with us — his recklessness has ruined his leg, see if they will take him as a guest, and when our work is done we’ll return for him.”
Jonlok: “Aye, I will honor my teachers.”
Kladius took a deep breath, as if he might begin to sob, but instead jogged to the ridge and made his way back down into the valley, toward the enchanted lake.
On the plain, Jonlok watched the sea of color move his way. He undid his hair and ran his fingers through the tangled mess it had become. While watching the herd approach, he tied it back again. They would be here soon; his shirt was tattered and stained from the fight, he turned it inside out and tucked it into the waist of his pants. The Elephantines respected finery, but he had no such luxury today.
He could see the grass rustling before them like a great wind. And soon he saw the hundreds of plump gray mice like a living carpet. He smoothed down his hair, as they flooded around him. The herd was perhaps a hundred feet away now. The earth shook before him, the mice turning and twisting, the snaps of low wave sound reverberated through his body. He wondered if he could truly hold his sanity with this wicked overload of his senses.
The colors, he thought, surely were created, because he had never seen them in nature before. Like Sevlanti, they were huge creatures, perhaps seven feet tall, with headdresses of gold embedded with fine jewels topping their huge heads, but it was their skin — each a different shade of a pastel rainbow — blues, greens, pinks, yellows, grays, and other colors of which he did not know the name, that took his breath away.
The mice slowed their pace, and surrounded him on all sides. He raised his arm, and made a motion that meant he was trained in the arts of diplomacy. Like a pebble dropped in a pool of water, a note of acceptance rippled through the herd as they trumpeted a mind-boggling roar. Jonlok fought to keep his mind focused while the sounds and smells of the herd overpowered his consciousness.
Finally they were there. The new day’s sun shimmering red, reflecting of the jewels of six hundred traveling Elephantine. Thousands of their mice servants gathered around, now standing on their hind legs sniffing the air, and running their paws across their whiskers.
Jonlok raised his arm a second time, the first Elephantine to reach him (for the Created have no leaders) wrapped his massive trunk around his arm with the gentleness of a mother putting her infant to feed at her breast, and squeezed once and pulled away.
Jonlok: “I, Jonlok, Brother in the Five that are One, son of Helen, fathered by none, am honored to know you.”
Another roar from the Elephantines shook the sky itself.
* * *
In the twilight of the new morning Samuel chewed on a piece of root that Thadius had given him. Thadius had built a makeshift cast from mud, bark and pruned tree branches. They had built the fire back up.
Samuel’s eyes looked wild by the light of the flames; his pupils had expanded twice the normal size. Sweat dripped down his forehead, as he sat too close to the fire, baking the cast to a sculpted hardness. The Elephantine sat, its eyes closed, its legs crossed, perhaps mediating on the contents of the box pulled from the beast’s throat.
Samuel: “Why didn’t you give me the root sooner?”
Thadius: “We needed you aware while we set the bone.”
Samuel: “It would heal quicker if you sawed it off.”
Thadius: “Aye, perhaps, but it is not my way. You will walk again.”
Samuel: “I blame Lokkje for this wound.”
Thadius: “Aye, clearly it was not your own doing.”
Samuel “Kurak to —”
Kladius came into the camp, he broke his run, and spoke, his breath no different than if he’d been sitting next to the fire with them all evening.
Kladius: “Kalinon waits for us in the Heavens.”
Samuel: “And the beast?”
Copyright © 2006 by Bosley Gravel