Friday, April 28, 2017

consequences 53

Meanwhile in the True North
Meeting with The Travelers

Nittel was awaiting them on the road leading to the trading village. His expression was set, immobile, and, to Silva, more than a little aggrieved. The reason was seated on a horse while Nittel stood on the road. Norohman, sent to negotiate on behalf of Trevan of the True North sat his stallion, tall, graceful, with his ash-white hair flowing in the breeze. Elvan guards held back any other who would use the road, forcing mortals and elves alike to walk in the icy slush in the gully. Given the width of the road, the fact that all those people were being displaced on behalf of two individuals and one horse that required less than a quarter of that width, Silva and Federan regarded the elf with visible displeasure. Beyond those walking, to the left of the road, stood a person, possibly, certainly one of the fabled Wanderers. Whether it was a he or a she could not be judged by the garb. His head was wrapped around many times by a shaggy multicolored scarf, concealing all of the face but the eyes. His clothing was as thick and shaggy as the pelt of the tall creature that stood beside him. He wore a coat rather than draping himself in a cloak and it was belted to his body with belts that crossed his chest as well as around his waist. Below his coat tall boots reached from mid thigh to the ground, covered the entire lenght with loose threads. 
Silva shook herself and turned away from that odd sight. She was first to break the silence that had fallen between Nittel, Norohman and the new arrivals.
“Nittel, bright the day. I hope all has gone well with your commission.”
“Not in the least,” answered the elf. “The Wanderers refuse to deal with us.”
“More exactly,” said Nittel to SIlva. “They refuse to begin negotiations until they have spoken to you, yourself, Master SIlva.”
“It would be my honor,” said Silva before any other could comment. “Please take me to them at once.”
“Have them summoned to attend us,” interrupted Pri. “We are on the High Lords and the High Kings business.” Turning in his saddle to address Norohman he continued, “Tomorrow morning, after Suns Rising Ritual.”
“I shall speak to them now. It is early enough in the day to settle matters and then tomorrow we might depart,” said Silva. “Federan, be so kind as to give me the High King’s whisper-ribbon. He indicated he wished to know of the negotiations.”
“I shall not permit the authority of my uncle to be disrespected,” hissed Pri. “Norohman, I suspect the fact they are not here with you awaiting us is because they refuse to be useful, as their High Lord commands?”
Nittel was already shaking his head while Norohman nodded his. “It is as you say. They refuse to speak, to discuss any journey to the north…”
NIttel caught Silva’s eye and shook his head with more emphasis.
“The truth, Nittel,” said Federan, leaning forward. “They want to speak mortal to mortal, is that how matters stand?”
“THat is so, Federan. When I said they would be acting as guide and guards to a mortal Master they insisted they must see her first.”
“I will tolerate no disrespect to my uncle’s commands…” began Pri.
“Be at peace,” said SIlva, gaining the ground. “Their request is entirely reasonable. If you wish them to leave a place of relative safety and go further into the north then they are entitled to have their concerns addressed and rumors answered.”
“I command this expedition,” said Pri. “I will speak to them when they attend me, tomorrow.”
Silva sighed and, even though she was on the ground and Pri was still ahorseback, she appeared to look down upon him.
“Pri, Heir to True North, I greet you and, sadly, correct you. Your purpose here is to accompany me while I act on the commands of High King Eioth.”
Without waiting for his response she nodded to the waiting wanderer, who guesutred toward a strange conveince resting on the slush and snow. She gathered up the folds of her cloak to avoid draging in the soaking slush.Federan was close on her heels. The mortals and elves who were diverted from where Norohman obstructed the road also avoided the strange shaped vehicle and the large, square bodied animal waiting paitently in the traces. Instead of climbing immediately into the vehicle she addressed herself to the animal rumored to be necessary to the journey north. It was half again the size of her horse, its thick dull brown hair hung down near to it’s own knees. A set of spade-like horns arose over large, thick lashed eyes of near black. Silva studied those strange things for long enough that their guide laughed.
“Times come, with deep snow, our friends can dig us out.”
“Dig?” repeated Silva, astonished. “With those things and their heads?”
“Exactly so.”
“YOu jest, surely,” protested Silva. “Perhaps you collect the horns when your … creatures… pass from life but, while they live?”
“If we travel with you, and the snow is as deep as my grandmother declares, then you shall see it for yourself.”
“I hope you will chose to aid us,” said Federan.
“It may be,” said their guide and assisted Silva into the device but blocked Federan from following.
“Please let him up,” said SIlva. “He is my husband and the Heir to Senioa of the True South.”
Their guide pulled down the thick wollen scarf, revealing they were addressing a mortal man of mature years, and stared.
“You jest with me!”
“NOt in the least. My grandmother is delighted to have Master Silva as her granddaughter by marriage and, if you recall, I am half mortal besides.”
“Huh,” said the mortal, and pulled the scarf back into place. “Come up then but I warn you, say little while the women confer. My grandmother is easily offended.”
“Your grandmother must decide if you will help us?” asked Federan.
“My grandmother rules the clan. Nothing happens without her will. If she cannot decide herself she will call upon the other grandmothers and, you should pray she does not do so, for it will take many tendays for a matter to be settled if she does.”

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

consequences 52

Given the tension evidenced each day within the Synod hall EIoth was not pleased, nor reassured, when he received requests from each of the five elvan High Lords for a private conference that morning. He considered demanding they speak to him before the gathered Synod - including the mortal guard who represented the True South and the Healer who was the mouthpiece for the South East, but after being comforted and calmed by his Lady Halidan consented to receive them, all at the same time.
The High lords were somewhat disconcerted to be escorted into Eioth’s private office together.
“You wish to speak to me,” said Eioth. “If this is a demand I resign from my rank I warn you, that will not happen.”
“As it happens, High King, said Veranti, the High Lord of the South West, “I recently, received a letter from Germancy.”
“AS did I,” echoed the other High Lords.
“And what does that criminal have to say for himself?” inquired Eioth, inwardly cringing at the many difficulties Germancy could put before him.
Veranti placed his letter upon Eioth’s desk.
“He declares he is going into hiding until the archive of Hub Of Harmony may again be accessed. He declares that he withdraws the support of the archive from your rule. He declares, also, he shall be attempting to recruit true born elves to help him kidnap the archive and his intention to deny you that resource. He will, he says, find a person more suited to the rank of High King and asks us to hold ourselves ready to acclaim that person when Germancy returns.”
“Does he not recall the difficulty, the length of time it took to agree upon Eioth?” demanded Halidan. “And where, in this time of disorder, does he expect to recruit those necessary to assist him in these unreasonable ambitions?”
“GRanted,” said Trevan, of the True North. “Which is why we bring this to you, High King.  As a sign we acknowledge your continuation in your current place and our rejection of Germancy. At least, that was my thought on coming here today.”
Eioth arranged the letters in a row and rested his fingertips upon the pages.
“I thank you.” Eioth regarded the neat script without expression. “I do not, at this time, have additional guards to assign to guard the lake and our drowned capitol. However, I believe it would serve us well to support an enclave there. Support those who live at the nearest village. If we were to have those trained to scribe and some food supplies and a person authorized to direct the refugees away from the lake then if Germancy is there he will have difficulty recruiting any elves to his cause.”
Since this enclave was a proposal Eioth presented three times to the synod, and been voted down each time, the High Lords shuffled their feet and hesitated to answer. Eventually  Adarh, the High Lord of True East, shrugged.
 “As you will have it, High King. I will send a troop of my own guards and arrange for supplies and escort for refugees who wish to go to the True East. I consent to taking one in eight of those who present themselves in search of a home.”
“Family groups,” corrected Eioth.
“Family groups,” repeated Adarh, with a sharp inclination of the head. “If the others will give the same assurance.”
“The North West already does that, and more,” said Halidan, “but I shall send guards in support of yours, and additional supplies.”
“As you will have it,” repeated Veranti. “Although the journey back to South West might be burdensome.”
“Which is why I want guards set further south to direct those heading toward Hub of Harmony toward a closer sanctuary. Another enclave supported by, eventually, South EAst, and South West. True South does not yet have the resources to offer succor to others. I had expected to provide this support to the refugees tendays ago. Now will you consent? The only exemption I give is True North and True South, who have their own burdens.”
There was a general mutter of affirmation and they accepted their dismissal.
“Why now?” demanded Eioth, irritably, once the room was empty. “Why agree now?”
“Because seeing their prejudices and stubborness outlined in a letter so stupid and ignorant is a mirror they have no wish to look into,” said Halidan, wrapping her arms about him from behind.
“Germancy should write more often.” Eioth considered. “Should I send an arrest warrant for Germancy? He might still be near Hub of Harmony.”
“Leave him where he is,” said Halidan with a dry laugh. “He may be finding going cold and hungry and dirty a greater punishment than any you might levy upon him.”
***

Monday, April 24, 2017

consequences 51

Morae took Ionia up behind him on his horse and, with a small group of mortal and mixed blood guards retraced their path. IOnia clutched her cloak tightly to her and regretted that her boots only came halfway up her calves. When next she found a boot maker that mistake would be rectified.
“Fall asleep and I’ll like as not leave you on the ground,” said Morae, when her grip on his waist slackened.
Ionia snorted, resettled herself and rested her head on Morae’s back confident that he would not fulfil his threat. She could not sleep but she could rest her eyes. To be safe she tucked her hands beneath his cloak and tabard and into his sash. Morae swore and muttered as the cold air blasted his chest and neck and continued cursing until he’d arranged the cloak to cover as much of himself as he could while still permitting Ionia her grip on his belt.
A party of five rode back toward the boarder aware of the danger they faced, mortals and half mortals, without their elvan ‘master’. They had passed very few travelers during the day but Morae saw no reason to let that knowledge encourage him to lower his guard at night. Alert cries and signals were agreed upon, a circling arrangement of responsibility planned and the hour they would make camp - should they be caught short by dawn - agreed upon.  MOrae rode in the center of the group, with IOnia half dozing on his back, while the other four formed a ring of outriders. Even with caution and worry riding with them they reached the village before dawn.
IOnia tapped Morae on the shoulder as they passed a road marker next to a broad based and twisted tree.
“Here,” she said. “Let me off here. If I am not prevented I shall await your return two nights from now.”
Morae studied the tree and set its form and distance in his mind.
“Well enough. Go with the blessings of…”
“Light,” interrupted IOnia. “Since it still answers Master Silva’s call.”
“Light it is,” said Morae and set his heels into his horse’s flanks.
IOnia waited until he was out of sight then waited a little longer, until dawn light began to filter through the winter bared trees. Once she was certain, or at least fairly confident, that she would see someone approaching at the same time that they saw her she started walking, slinging her work bundle across her back. Although she was not overtired she affected the air of a herb-woman trudging home from a difficult birthing. No one, in her experience, mistreated or challenged a herb-woman thus fatigued and burdened.
She made her way down the main street toward where she remembered seeing merchants, intending to do combine her duty with a little shopping of a personal nature. There were only mortal women about this early in the day. One elderly woman glanced idly toward her, stopped, looked again, then, seized IOnia by her arm and dragged her into the shelter of an alley.
“Are you lacking in wit, or have you chosen to return to Unity?”
“I…”
The woman pushed her greying hair back under a headscarf that at one time had been blue but now was as faded as her hair.
“Foolishness. Foolishness. And me with no time for you today. The elves have planned a celebration out of season and we have to create out of seasons fruit out of pure Elements.” The woman spat on the ground, offending Ionia’s healer’s sensibilities. “Now I must deal with you.”
“Exactly how do you intend to deal with me, mother?” inquired Ionia with little courtesy.
To her surprise the mortal woman paled then reddened and began to cry.
“Oh, tor,” cried Ionia, “I did not wish to make you cry.”
The elderly woman embraced IOnia, pressing her face into IOnia’s neck until the storm of tears retreated. Then, to Ionia’s surprise the woman scrubbed her face dry and arranged her headscarf to conceal her reddened eyes.
“My daughter passed into Unity this tenday past. The elves prefer not to admit that mortality occurs therefore I have told them my dearest girl is working elsewhere in the HOuse and do her duties as well as my own, lest they drive me from the House.”
“Oh, tor.” IOnia reached to hug the woman again and again she was scowled at as the woman batted her hands away.
“Do you want to be torn apart? First flaunting your labor then tor this, tor that? Did your mother teach you no sense at all?”
“I am Ionia. My mother was Diat re Parkie, graduate of the Drifting Leaf Water temple, trained as a Herb-woman as was my grandmother and her grandmother’s before them.”
The woman stepped back both hands to her mouth. “Say not so.”
“I do say so and will say it before witnesses. I am a daughter of the South EAst, driven out at that foul creature, Chandri’s, order - long may the worms feast on his entrails. I…”
Before she could continue the woman put her hands over Ionia’s mouth.
Accepting the rebuke and demand for silence together IOnia nodded. The woman glanced about, snatched IOnia’s pack off her back and concealed it in the basket she carried before leading way out of the alley.
“I must get you withindoors before any other notices you,” she hissed. “Your clothes are too bright and you look…”
“Too healthy? Too young?” suggested IOnia.
“All that and more. Why are you here?”
“Chandri is dead,” said Ionia. “And the true High King has ordered that matters within the South East be put to right.”
The old woman fainted.
Ionia sighed, knelt beside her, reaching for her work bag for a restorative herb, even as the other mortal women left their labors and hastened over to carry the old woman out of the potential view of the elves.

Friday, April 21, 2017

consequences 50

That morning as the processional mustered Mitash called all too attention, and standing on the back of a wagon, addressed them seriously. (Ionia, aware of his intentions, kept Kelor in his tent away from the speech.)
“My friends, this is where our work becomes dangerous,” said Mitash. “We must deceave all that we meet if we are to have a hope of sucessfully bringing South EAst back to the Empire. We believed that Chandri sent all mmortals out of his lands but the report of the guard, Kelor, is that there are some mortals kept as servants. I doubt that there are many half bloods walking about freely, given Chandri’s prejudices. Kelor also stated that male and female mortals were kept seperate. Therefore, so as to not to attract any more comment than necessary those of mixed blood shall wear helms. Ladies and gentlemen shsall occupy different carraiges. I appologise for this which will not continue any longer than necessary. We shall travel under the High King’s banner and permit those we meet to assume that Chandri is High King, until such time as I reveal the truth in the capital city of South EAst, a newly built city by the name of Pinnacle.”
There were shrugs and some conversation but no one protested the changes.
Morae and the professional guards were already in possession of helms and distrubted spares to those of mixed blood who were of other occupations. Within the hour Kelor’s tent was struck and the processional was in progress. Mitash directed that Kelor should ride beside him and again questioned him about life in the South East.
“I am astonished at the excellent quality of the roads,” said Mitash.
“Oh, there are teams of workers who do nothing else,” said Kelor, proudly.
“Wise to maintain the road on which traders travel. There can be no others this far from the center of the South EAst.”
“All of the Soouth EAst is well served,” declared Kelor.
“So I was informed when Chandri, himself, attempted to entice me to move here.”
“You should have come,” said Kelor. “Life here is all is should be,  for elves.”
“Who else lives here?” said Mitash, feigning confusion. “Oh, yes, you said some mortals were permitted to stay.”
“Yes, indeed. High King Chandri, in his wisdom, directed that only enough mortals should remain so to free the elves to conduct themsleves as serves them best. Poets are freed of the burdens of life to create poetry. Artists to create paintings and sculpture, all the burdens of life dealt with free elves to explore our natures.”
Mitash drew in a sharp breath but did not trust himself to speak.
Kelor misentrpreted his surprise.
“If you had accepted Chandri’s invitation you would have been assigned a mortal associate who would tend to the mundanintity of life so you might practice your magic and expand your abilities.” Kelor glanced over his shoulder toward the processional. “Although I see he has sent you with a number of servants. He must hold your mission in high regard.”
“As you say,” replied Mitash through tight clenched jaw.
“For the guards, given we are, as you see, on the edge of South EAst, we are permitted only those servants who are judged to be loyal and they do not serve as guards. Taht honor and responsibility remains with we who prevent any who would intrude and damage our way of life.” He laughed. “Soon all of the empire will share in our practices and see how well Chandri rules.”
“Tell me more. Obviously since I am assigned to act as herald I must know how to answer the inevitagble questions.”
“Of course. As to the practicalities, it is necessary for the females and the males to be kept far from each other. One does not want to have unnecessary numbers of small things underfoot and taking their service away from their elves. And should a mortal women be found to be with child by an elvish man, the punishment is commesurate with the degeneracy of the crime.”
It was all Mitash could do to prevent himself from filling Kelor’s wide cheerful mouth with his fist but he forced himself to listen to a dead madman’s view of a perfect life and refrained from asking the practical quetions such as, if the mortal men and women were kept apart and prevented from having little ones where did the elves of the South East expect to get their next crop of - call them what they truthfully were - slaves!
***
Entry into the first village was eastily made. The outriders - full blood elves all - rode ahead with the banner of the High King, and alerted the city mother’s of the processional’s arrival. Therefore had the market stalls been shifted from their places on the street into the gaps between buildings and the road left clear for their passing. Acting on Ionia’s advice Mitash ordered supplies to be purchased. IOnia, herself, and a few of the elvish and mortal women descended their carriage to move amongst the stalls.
Ionia passed along slowly. She had specific medications in mind to find but took the time to smile at the mortal women attending the stalls. Nearby sat Elvish women, drinks and sweetmeats near at hand, gossiping as they watched the processional. They appeared to Ionia to be bored and more than usually silly as well as not possession the slender forms which defined Elvish Traditional beauty. One caught Ionia looking at her and snarled a reprimand.  IOnia lowered her gaze and shuffled away. Her examination of the blacksmith’s cavernous workshop showed mortal men enganged in vigourous beating of metal. Mortal women labored in the bakery. There were elves, to be sure, mid-court and low-court, sitting about watching but none of them engaged in any useful work.
The elves came out to greet Mitash and Kelor and, a few, attempted to attach themselves to Mitash’s train so as to gain entry to the fabled Pinnacle. It was then that the processional realized that most elves of the South East did not have entry to Chandri’s city.
IOnia listened, watched and kept her own counsel.
Mitash called all to order and commmanded the processional onwards before the noon bell was rung - by a mortal.
**
Misinterrpting Mitash’s frown Kelor said, as they road out of town, “there are fewer mortals about in the more sophistaked towns. Here, where there are farms to be attended and more bucoloic activities, they are needed in greater numbers.”
Mitash turned in his saddle and regarded the elvan guard. “There is a farm north of this town. It has a building, no windows and one elvish guard at the door by night…”
“Oh, yes. They have near fifty workers and must watch them closely to prevent, well, mortals are lazy and will abandon their duties if they can.” Kelor sighed. “I have been called on to hunt more than one since my arrival here.”
“Hunt,” repeated Mitash, fearing the answer.
“Yes, I take back the body to be buried by the other workers, to serve as a warning.”
Mitash swallowed against a sudden nausia. “And all this is as Chandri orders?”
“Yes.”
“Excuse me,” said Mitash, turned his horse’s head and rode back to consult with Morae.
“Send enough of the guards who can be spared,” ordered Mitash. “Mixed blood might be best. Have them free the mortals who are imprissoned there. Instruct them to take what winter stores can be easily loaded on whatever carriages and carts are at the farm and send them off to True South.”
“And if they are too afraid to go?” inquired Morae. “If, as you say, they fear death for attempting to escape they might hesitate to try their wings.”
“One by one they might be captured by that set of guards we passed but as a group, and forewarned of their location…” Mitash paused. “I dislike sending imperial citizens to attack imperial guard outposts. It smacks of betrayal.”
“These South EAst guards have betrayed these South EAst citizens,” corrected Morae.
“True enough.”
“And, if you will be guided by me, I would suggest one of our guards be released from his duty to us to go with them, provide them with direction and aid.”
“Good suggestion, friend Morae. I approve. Let it be so and blessings of the true High King on them all.”
“They shall be so informed.”
*
“And what of the female slaves in the village?” demanded Ionia that evening when Mitash informed her of his actions - at the same time of updating the High King.
“They are unlikely to survive such a journey,” said Mitash, over his shoulder.
“Have you forgotten that Master Silva made just such a journey, in the rain, while protecting and supporting other refugees? And consider this, some of those men might have been husband to those women before Chandri issued his foul commands.”
Mitash winced. “I do not have a full troop of army to guide and protect and supply those women.”
Before Ionia could reply Eioth interrupted.
“I have observed that men fight harder to surive with those they love to protect. Have the women make their way to the farm and all of them, together, make their way to the True South. I shall warn Senioa that they come.”
“I hesitate to put more of a burden upon Senioa,” said Mitash, thoughtfully.
“She will welcome them but I warn you, Mitash, and you, Ionia, do not do this again. Difficult it might be for you to accept this burden but you must accept this obsenity. The further you go from the boarder the harder it will be for those you free to escape. Also, I want all the citizens of the South East to be freed. The elves must accept the mortals as their equals and accept that they must no longer be compelled to serve without respect, honor and pay.”
“There is no legal burden upon them to do so,” muttered Ionia but Eioth heard her.
“As my lady Halidan has informed me, repeatedly. Trust me, IOnia. Changes are being made even now!”
“As you say, High King,” said Ionia.
“Go, Mitash and free this vialliage and this village only,” ordered the High King then the light faded from the whisper ribbon.
“And how am I to do this?” demanded Mitash of the air.
“I shall go with a outrider. The women of the village will trust me, a herbwoman, mroe than any other messanger. Send another on a fast horse to instruct those who wait to free the farmworkers and tell them to wait another day.”
“Morae is with them and has a whisper ribbon.” Mitash frowned at Ionia. “I suppose I should give you one as well.”
“THat would be useful,” said IOnia. “The women shall leave the village and make their way to the farm. They and the workers can go tomorrow night instead of tonight.”
“As you say,” said Mitash and while Ionia prepared, dressing in her warmest clothing and taking up her working bag, he activated Morae’s whisper ribbon.
VEry carefully Mitash said nothing about the fact Ionia would miss the morning’s sex magic working. A night alone, perhaps two. What a relief!
Except he barely slept and when he awoke in the mornign, rubbing his forehead he realized that hte headache that had tormented him since the weather spells fell, had been dismissed by the sex magic working. Without Ionia, without the sex magic, the headache returned.
***

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

consequences 49

South EAst - I will organize this a bit better in the final draft.  less jumping about.



That morning as the processional mustered Mitash called all too attention, and standing on the back of a wagon, addressed them seriously. (Ionia, aware of his intentions, kept Kelor in his tent away from the speech.)
“My friends, this is where our work becomes dangerous,” said Mitash. “We must deceive all that we meet if we are to have a hope of successfully bringing South EAst back to the Empire. We believed that Chandri sent all mortals out of his lands but the report of the guard, Kelor, is that there are some mortals kept as servants. I doubt that there are many half bloods walking about freely, given Chandri’s prejudices. Kelor also stated that male and female mortals were kept separate. Therefore, so as to not to attract any more comment than necessary those of mixed blood shall wear helms. Ladies and gentlemen shall occupy different carriages. I apologize for this which will not continue any longer than necessary. We shall travel under the High King’s banner and permit those we meet to assume that Chandri is High King, until such time as I reveal the truth in the capital city of South EAst, a newly built city by the name of Pinnacle.”
There were shrugs and some conversation but no one protested the changes.
Morae and the professional guards were already in possession of helms and distributed spares to those of mixed blood who were of other occupations. Within the hour Kelor’s tent was struck and the processional was in progress. Mitash directed that Kelor should ride beside him and again questioned him about life in the South East.
“I am astonished at the excellent quality of the roads,” said Mitash.
“Oh, there are teams of workers who do nothing else,” said Kelor, proudly.
“Wise to maintain the road on which traders travel. There can be no others this far from the center of the South EAst.”
“All of the South EAst is well served,” declared Kelor.
“So I was informed when Chandri, himself, attempted to entice me to move here.”
“You should have come,” said Kelor. “Life here is all is should be,  for elves.”
“Who else lives here?” said Mitash, feigning confusion. “Oh, yes, you said some mortals were permitted to stay.”
“Yes, indeed. High King Chandri, in his wisdom, directed that only enough mortals should remain so to free the elves to conduct themselves as serves them best. Poets are freed of the burdens of life to create poetry. Artists to create paintings and sculpture, all the burdens of life dealt with free elves to explore our natures.”
Mitash drew in a sharp breath but did not trust himself to speak.
Kelor misinterpreted his surprise.
“If you had accepted Chandri’s invitation you would have been assigned a mortal associate who would tend to the mundanintity of life so you might practice your magic and expand your abilities.” Kelor glanced over his shoulder toward the processional. “Although I see he has sent you with a number of servants. He must hold your mission in high regard.”
“As you say,” replied Mitash through tight clenched jaw.
“For the guards, given we are, as you see, on the edge of South EAst, we are permitted only those servants who are judged to be loyal and they do not serve as guards. Taht honor and responsibility remains with we who prevent any who would intrude and damage our way of life.” He laughed. “Soon all of the empire will share in our practices and see how well Chandri rules.”
“Tell me more. Obviously since I am assigned to act as herald I must know how to answer the inevitable questions.”
“Of course. As to the practicalities, it is necessary for the females and the males to be kept far from each other. One does not want to have unnecessary numbers of small things underfoot and taking their service away from their elves.”
It was all Mitash could do to prevent himself from filling Kelor’s wide cheerful mouth with his fist but he forced himself to listen to a dead madman’s view of a perfect life and refrained from asking the practical questions such as, if the mortal men and women were kept apart and prevented from having little ones where did the elves of the South East expect to get their next crop of - call them what they truthfully were - slaves!
***
Entry into the first village was easily made. The outriders - full blood elves all - rode ahead with the banner of the High King, and alerted the city mother’s of the processional’s arrival. Therefore had the market stalls been shifted from their places on the street into the gaps between buildings and the road left clear for their passing. Acting on Ionia’s advice Mitash ordered supplies to be purchased. IOnia, herself, and a few of the elvish and mortal women descended their carriage to move amongst the stalls.
Ionia passed along slowly. She had specific medications in mind to find but took the time to smile at the mortal women attending the stalls. Nearby sat Elvish women, drinks and sweetmeats near at hand, gossiping as they watched the processional. They appeared to Ionia to be bored and more than usually silly as well as not possession the slender forms which defined Elvish Traditional beauty. One caught Ionia looking at her and snarled a reprimand.  IOnia lowered her gaze and shuffled away. Her examination of the blacksmith’s cavernous workshop showed mortal men engaged in vigorous beating of metal. Mortal women labored in the bakery. There were elves, to be sure, mid-court and low-court, sitting about watching but none of them engaged in any useful work.
The elves came out to greet Mitash and Kelor and, a few, attempted to attach themselves to Mitash’s train so as to gain entry to the fabled Pinnacle. It was then that the processional realized that most elves of the South East did not have entry to Chandri’s city.
IOnia listened, watched and kept her own counsel.


Monday, April 17, 2017

consequences 48

Silva sank into his embrace. “And you know, there will be some that refuse to use the ribbons. They will not know how to use it or decide to mistrust it. Even if half of those ribbons are used correctly the sound is so small that someone might hear the High King’s words and then announce some other decision of their own using Eioth’s authority!”
Federan let out a breath slowly. “Please, say nothing more unless it is your purpose to further destroy my peace!”
“Forgive me,” said Silva. “I am afraid. Afraid we shall fail.”
“Each life we save is a celebration,” Federan assured her.
**
The next bridge they reached was a wide, long thing, leaving the shore and arching up to touch down on an island large enough to be home for a small collection of houses before extending to the furthermost side. They arrived early enough in the morning that a chill morning fog covered the distant arch completely while rendering the island a shadowed mass.
“We wait here,” said Pri as one lone rider set off, slowly, across the bridge. “When there is mist there is a risk of ice. We must wait for the whole bridge to be declared clear.”
Silva dismounted and handed her horse’s reins to Federan and walked toward the river’s edge.
“There is a bridge here already,” shouted Pri. “No need for your fabled magic.”
Silva ignored him and went to stand near to where the bridge’s side rails ended. There, she was only a little surprised to see, was a single apple and single basket. She took off a glove, stroked the carvings and extended the very smallest amount on magic as she could, stopping the instant the color lightened. To her greater surprise the tiny ring on her finger also lit.
She pulled the gloves back on as quickly as she could. When the elvan rider returned they crossed the bridge. Silva tried to make her curiosity appear general but she did see, at both the island and the other side of the bridge that the apple and baskets were present and also very slightly glowing.
Fortunately the diffuse morning sunshine concealed that fact to all but herself.
**
Now that she was reasonably confident as to what she was looking for Silva found the basket-and-apple light sculpture in every group of houses, small village and town they passed through. They adorned old stone buildings, some occupied by the Water temples, some offical buildings and others personal homes. There was little pattern to their placements. Some were at street level, others high above. Likewise the size varied with the baskets reaching the size of two arms outstretched. Silva no longer dared to test them as the Fire Master road beside her, frowning whenever she pulled in light and shaped it into rope. Silva still followed Tormin’s sensible advice - to have light ready for magic at all times. The piled rope frustrated the Fire Master who, Silva knew, stole lengths of the solid magic when he thought no one was watching.
What he didn’t know was that whenever possible mortal servants, in Federan’s employ, stole them back again leaving the Fire Master with the impression that the light ropes faded away in the night. That idea left him smug and arrogant.
Silva did not like misleading the Master. She wanted him to respect her magic even if he couldn’t practice it. Could never practice it.
It was mortal magic. Definitely only mortal magic.
Which worried her more and more. If it were mortal magic why had she never heard of it. Where had it come from and why was there so many examples of it in the True North.
And the High King’s House.
That map.
She sat one evening by lanternlight examining the map she’d sketched. In Eioth’s House the map room showed the entire landmass wherein was found the Empire but only part of that area contained little light spots which matched, Silva suspected, those towns and villages and houses with the basket-and-apple sculputers.
She spread out the map provided by the High Lord of True North and compared the marked villages. There was a large and glaring discrepancy. Where her map had a line of villages along the westernmost side of the North Spine mountains, the High Lord’s map showed the area entirely devoid of all habitation. In fact there was a poison sign on the map where the North-South road deviated to run alongside the river.
Poison?
What could poison, she paused to measure the area and compare it to the distance legend on the side of the printed map - mighty Elements - an area almost the size of all the the True South Lowlands?














Tuesday, April 11, 2017

consequences 47

Meanwhile on the road to True North


For the first two weeks they made steady progress toward the north. SIlva, with Federan’s steady support and constant attendance avoided contact and conversation with Pri and his tame Fire Master as much as she could. There was no way she could avoid the teaching sessions mandated by the High King. While she tried, unsuccessfully, each evening to teach elves her particular branch of magic, during the day she kept her eyes open for something, anything, that would equate to the markings on map she had taken from the High King’s floor. Since they were traveling swiftly, and at the command of both the High King and the High Lord of the North, avoiding towns as much as possible, it wasn’t until the third week of travel that they passed through a town but only because this town also contained an important bridge. Now they were in the True North it was Pri who commanded. Instead of politely working their way through the locals and refugees guard rode in front, ordering all afoot to one side or another and arrogantly pushing their way to the head of any line they encountered.
Federan caught Silva’s scowl and reached out to cover her hand with his own.
“Pri is Heir. HOw he conducts himself within his demesne is his decision.”
“Curtosey and consideration should be universal,” said Silva, who well remembered being one of those refugees afoot and desperate. “It was not so long ago you punished an elvish family for doing exactly what we are doing now.”
“True, my dear Master Silva, but that was in my home demesne. Here I have no more voice than any other citizen.”
“Then use it!” snapped SIlva. “Or I shall.”
Taking her threat with all the seriousness it deserved Federan encouraged his horse to move forward until he was side by side with Pri.
“I know we are in haste, Pri but we can spare the time not to ride over those we seek to protect. A few moments moving gently with the crowd will not harm our cause.”
Pri glared at him then glanced about as if, until this moment, he had not realized they were on a crowded road.
“In addition to the respect I… we are owed,” said Pri, “we travel with supplies and therefore should exercise caution lest those who observe us also chose to rob us. Tonight I shall set extra guards to ensure we are not approached.”
Not satisfied by the answer Federan turned his horse’s head, just in time to jostle Silva’s mount. The creature dodged, and near unseated the less experienced rider. Silva flailed, clutching at the poor horses’s mane and the saddle and ended up almost sideways to the horse. As a guard rode forward and caught her about the shoulders she looked up and saw the exact same row of white-grey fruit and the woven basket as was within EIoth’s House along the outside of of a house. She accepted the aid in regaining her seat, breathing hard. Her near accident gave her a good excuse to appear dazed and confused. Federan fussed about her, apologizing for his part in her loss of balance. He dismounted and came to hold her horse’s reins until she was safetly settled.
“Dearest one, are you harmed at all?”
“No. No. Suprised, and, I think, loss of dignity is the only injury.”
“Hurry along,” cried PRi, already a fair distance ahead of them. Guards were arranged, outlining hte path they should follow. But, given that the number of their guards were finite, there were gaps here and there and some refugees were begining to push through.
Silva straightened, nodded to Federan who returned to his horse. While he was thus engaged Silva examined the house beside her. It had not aways been a house. The line of fruit and baskets had the air of being older that the building, given that there were gaps between the fruit and the building it enclosed. At some time, she could not calculate when, someone had built a house inside another structure.  They nudged their horses into motion and SIlva saw that next to this odd structure was an open square and fountain. Oh, if that was the case then this was an older, and probably disused, market square. As the village grew into a town likely the market moved into larger quarters.
Three days later, when they approached another small town Silva consulted her map then intentionally searched for any sign of a row of fruit and baskets. Again she found it, a single pole this time, twined about with the fruit with four  baskets, each pointed in a different direction, in the fountain decorating the center of the still used market square.
Well, that proved the age of the magic, as well as the age of the villages.
Old.
Very old.
The question remaining was, what was the purpose of the fruit-and-baskets? And just how old was old?

***
“YOu are lying,” cried the Fire Master.
“I am not,” said Silva, sullenly. “I explain how I see firelight. You do not believe me.”
“Light does not appear that way.”
Silva slammed her hands down on her knees and came to her feet. This argument had been repeated each night of their journey thus far and she was no closer to teaching another person how to see Light Magic than before their journey. This afternoon she had received a message, via Whisper ribbon that there was a child, a girl, a mortal child, who possessed the same potential for light magic as she and that filled SIlva with solid resolve.
“This magic, Light Magic, is mortal magic. Must be mortal magic just as elemental magic is elvish. I cannot teach you because you are looking at the firelight with elvish eyes. Not mortal eyes. You are wasting my time and yours with this effort. Go, sleep. Don’t bother me again.”
“YOu cannot refuse,” cried the Fire Master, and reaching to seize her by the arm, pulled her around to face him. “You will obey…”
At that point SIlva merely turned and stared at him.
“I obey orders that make sense,” said Silva, mildly. “It is pointless to teach a child with no affinity to Air or Fire or Water or Earth the rituals of either. Likewise, if you have proven you cannot see Light the way that is necessary to work Light Magic is is pointless to try and teach you.”
Silva turned and made her way to her tent. Federan looked up from his copy of the Sex Magic book and smiled at her.
“I was just speaking to Eioth. Senoia has alerted him to the existence of that little girl, Gemmia? Yes? From his tone he needed that encouragement.”
“He is troubled? Has something happened?”
“For the good news, his scrying shows the wanderers we are seeking are still at the trading village. We should meet up with them within four days. Eioth has spoken to Nittel. He arrive tomorrow and will make the arrangements.”
“And the ill news?”
Federan’s lips twisted. “The Synod,” he said, and sighed.
“Oh.”
Silva found a camp chair and sat. Really, what was there that could be said? In all this chaos and confusion, death and loss, one constant was the obstruction of the Synod.
“Eioth is still trying to convince NOrth EAst to accept refugees - they claim they have no safe place. They are, the High Lord insists, too close to True North’s ill weather. Nor will Full East to send more supplies. They say they have started to move the supplies but too little. Far too little. Neither will they accept more refugees. There are barriers all along the North South road and the guards demand proof that they have relatives to stay with before a family is admitted.”
“Why? And How? So many have lost all they own, including their papers. What can be proven?”
“Eioth is convinced that if he can but speak directly to those who live within the various demesnes then they shall be moved by compassion to do the work but, would you believe, the Synod voted today that the hundreds of small whisper-ribbons you created for just that purpose shall not be distrubuted. Then they discovered Eioth had already sent the ribbons out and they took a vote to censure him for that unilteral decision.”
“Why?” cried SIlva. “Oh, why are people so stupid?”
“More frustrating for EIoth is, these people are his supporters. They have voted with him for years within the Synod. For them to now turn against him cuts him to the bone. The guards along the North South road no doubt assume they act on His orders, the High King’s orders…” Federan sighed. “I begin to think we should be speaking to the citizens we meet, tell them what Eioth expects of all of them… perhaps they shall spread the instructions he gives us.”
“Pri will prevent it,” said Silva. “And, since he is Heir, should he demand we should be taken as prisoner, prevented from speaking and deny that you and I act at the command of the High King, what proof can we produce that he lies?”
Federan groaned. “I am troubled that we go so far from EIoth’s influence. Pri will obey his uncle sooner than hold to Eioth’s plan.”
“I do not recall. What does Trevan require? The rebuilding of roads and bridges? In that he does not deviate from the HIgh King’s plan.”
“He demands the complete rescue of all his citizens, for which we do not have the time,” said Federan. “We should watch, and as far as possible, hold to what we know is his command. Until an absoulte breech is necessary we should give them the impression we are not in conflict.”
Silva smiled at him. “Perhaps now is not the moment to tell you that I declared I would no longer teach the fire master what is obvsiouly mortal magic,” she finished with a self consious shrug.
Federan winced then reached over to hug his wife. “Well enough. You need your rest and conflict with the Fire Master does not aid you.”

Friday, April 7, 2017

consequences 45

A bare half dozen hours later the lead outriders returned and reported to Morae. Mitash was shaken out of his introspection to hear their report.
“There is a village ahead, Mitash,” said Morae. “As well as several large farming communities arranged about it. Once we cross the hills ahead they will see us.”
MItash nodded absently.
“Should we proceed we shall have to stop, stay the night,” continued Morae with a nod toward the west. “Should we attempt to go onwards this close to dark they shall wonder at it. Likewise, travelling as we are with the banner of the High King they will wish to fete us and there will be questions.”
Mitash winced. “A risk we should not take.”
“Making camp here likewise carries a risk.”
“We shall go back a lei or two and camp within the woods. Hopefully we shall be settled and able to claim disinclination to move by the time we are observed,” said Mitash. “That is, if we are lucky enough that our outriders were not observed.”
“We were careful from the moment we saw the first of the farm buildings,” said the outrider.
“It may be that someone was looking out of a window,” said Mitash but the outrider shook his head.
“There were no windows we could see and high walls about the whole farm complex.”
Mitash frown, staring at the elvan male.
“No windows?” Mitash shook his head. “That makes no sense. The weather this far south is not so severe as to require that degree of enclosure. And, I hear, is warm enough in the summer as to require good ventilation.”
“Perhas all we saw were storage areas,” suggested the elf.
“I believe I should like to view these,” said Morae. “I shall ensure I am not observed.”
“Take no chances,” said Mitash. “We shall await you further back.”
**
Mitash’s tent was barely raised when Ionia appeared at the flap.
“Have you not duties?” demanded Mitash, rising to bar her entrance.
“Attended to,” she said. “Our friend Kelor shall receive a mild sleeping tea with his meal and any small injuries incurred in this day’s travel are already mended. And yourself? Are you well? Is there aught you need?”
The smile she cast him sent a burning blush to Mitash’s ears.
“Nothing? No. Nothing.”
“Not even this?” She moved a corner of her vest aside to show him the corner of that damned book.
“How comes it you have my book?”
“Oh, be calm,” Ionia took a step forward and Mitash retreated into the shelter of his tent. “It was obvious to me that there were more spells in this than the bonding ceremony. This morning I could tell, that was a spell, wasn’t it. We raised the power for that morning rain?”
“Yes,” said Mitash, gesturing for her to lower her voice. “By the High King’s command we summon rain each morning for those refugees who do not have clean water to drink.”
Ionia nodded. “Good.”
Mitash snatched the book out of her hand. “You should not have taken this.”
“Perhaps not but how was I to know what it contained if not? It was not as if you would tell me.”
“You do not need to know.”
“Ah, then you have found another, a woman you will do this magic with? At the High King’s command, of course.”
Mitash scowled at her.
“No? Then you have discovered a way to conduct these rituals alone?” IOnia touched a fingertip to her soft full lips. “Ah, but the book says that will not work.”
“Have done,” growled Mitash. “Obviously I have no choice but you. YOu already know and I have no wish to discuss it further.”
“Ah, such a burden it is to have a woman agree to aid you,” said Ionia with no shred of false sympathy. “I read the description of the ideal partner for this. I speak well, know the languages and do not stutter.”
“One thing you are not is immediately attractive to me,” said Mitash, drawing a gasp from Ionia.
“Huh.” She put both hands on her hips. “Just for that I should leave you alone tonight and let you explain to the High King why the spell is not cast at dawn. YOu had time to find a skinny whisp of an elvish woman to lie with you but did not. Now you must endure me.” She moved her hands down the curves of her body. “I will tell you, you will have no pity from other men should you complain about that particular burden.”
Mitash snorted. “Have done. We shall do the magic together.”
“So gracious an invitation.” Ionia settled herself in a camp chair. “What is the spell I must learn for our arrival at Pinnacle?”
“There is not spell to compel obedience from a whole demesne. That shall require logical arguements and appeal to imperial loyalty.”
It was Ionia’s turn to snort.
“Failing that…” he sighed. “The threat of the High King’s displeasure.”
“In this time of disorder the High King is not able to send troops to compel obedience beyond the fact that, in all the history of the empire that action has not been taken.”
“I know. I know.” Mitash cast a disgruntled glare toward her before sinking into the matching chair. “EIoth sent me knowing I am an excellent administrator but I am no warrior. I cannot think of how to bring a whole disobedient demesne to …” He sighed. “How is it to be done? Magic will not serve. Appeal to empathy will not be answered.”
“What did the High King recommend when you told him of your concerns?”
“Ah, he reminded me of the time I said it was my ambition to bring mischief and disorder.” Mitash sighed again. “In truth I did not press him for guidance. He has the rest of the empire as his burden. I am expected to take control of this demesne and use its resources to bring aid to others. How am I to do that?” He waved toward the outside of the tent. “With only half a dozen guards and assorted mortal craftsmen at my back.”
“Obviously you are expected to recruit those of the South East to stand at your back.”
“Likely they shall do that while escorting me to an execution ground, once they discover their beloved High Lord is dead.”
“First of all, how do you know that Chandri was beloved?”
Mitash raised his head and stared at her.
“Well?” she pressed.
“I… I…” Mitash shrugged. “I have not considered.”
“Exactly. Did you love him?”
“Him? Arrogant, stupid, selfish. I despised him.”
“I do not believe you are alone in that opinion.”
“But this is his home demesne. Here he is…”
“Better known than elsewhere,” interrupted Ionia. “I have heard that CHandri hired a large number of elemental masters, the better to bring down the weather spells.” She paused as Mitash nodded. “How do you imagine he paid them?”
“I…” Mitash fell silent, considering.
“You know better than any the salary of a Master. What bribes did Chandri render to bring them from their homes? Do you know?”
“Actually, yes, I do. I was approached and so were several others all in Eioth’s employ.”
“MUltiply that by all the masters you know answered Chandri’s call. HOw could any High Lord offer that much money without bankrupting himself?”
“By raising the fees he charges those who are served by his Masters. But I know he lowered the fees. No. And he could have no other income except from his home demesne else I would have heard of it. No. There is  nothing else. He must have raised taxes on those of the South EAst.”
“While promising them something in return. What, we do not know but we do know Chandri is no longer in the position to fulfill his promises.”
“REminding his people of that will only increase their anger.”
“They were tricked and abused by a power hungry fool. REmind them of the abuse and promise to relieve it.”
“I cannot, for I am here to increase their losses. I am ordered to have food taken out of their stores and sent to the True South and South West to feed the refugees. Seed to be sent to aid regrowing the damages lands. I shall be stealing their excess and their winter safety to provide aid to half elves and mortals they have always despised.”
“I think, my dear Mitash, you must let someone else write your speeches.”

consequences 46

**
Morae took one guard with him on his scouting trip but only to hold his horse. The elvan guard sneered as Morae departed into the darkening woods, bent low and moving as carefully as he could but Morae ignored him. He’d been ignoring such looks for years and was content to keep his opinions to himself. Sliding through the shadows he made his way to the edge of farmed land. The ground was rutted and uneven, covered with the debris of a harvested field. A few small animals scuttled away from his feet as he ghosted along the edge of the worked land. There was no hedge, as was a common landmark in northern farms. Then again it was odd that there should be a farm here in isolation. People, Morae observed in his travels, tended to gather with other people. Even farmers.
Twilight was falling so Morae put the setting sun at his back and explored the farm buildings. It was odd. Most odd. There was a very fine manor house set near the well maintained path that joined the farm to the main road. Far, far beyond it, hidden by a bank of trees were a cluster of buildings contain the plows and harvesting equipment. Horses stamped and complained in their own building. Morae frowned into the growing dark. It might, he considered, be the usual arrangements of a farm of the South East to have a farm but no housing for the workers when he heard a loud cough. He froze, straining his ears. Not too far away someone coughed again, spat and shuffled his feet.
Not a good idea to go on guard with a cold, thought Morae he waited. A few moments later he heard footsteps and watched as a single figure came out from the shelter of a tall windowless building. As the guard turned Morae saw the silhouette of a slender figure topped with flowing hair. The elf took a few paces back and forth, stomping to warm his feet before returning to an alcove set into the wall near a doorway.
Morae studied the one building that was deemed worthy of a guard in a farm. No one was watching the horses or the cows or the manor house. Why was this building watched?
And where were the workers? Did they live in the nearby town? That made no sense. Farm work started early and continued late and it would not make sense for workers to arrive fatigued by a journey.
Morae retreated and made his way around to the other side of the odd building. It was not a storehouse. There were grain solos and hay ricks in their usual places and with their traditional shapes. Over the door of the nearest grain store was a preserve spell that, finally, Morae had learned to read. Another hour of searching and Morae knew that interesting building was the only one not decorated with blessings and preserve spells. He settled back on his heels to think. Finally he made his cautious retreat back to where his horse waited. The other elf muttered impatient complaints about food and sleep which Morae ignored.
***
Mitash relaxed when Ionia departed his tent but his relief was short lived. She returned shortly thereafter with a servant bearing two trays of food and another burdened with Ionia’s personal packs. She directed the arrangement of her belongings, the placement of the food and requested the delivery of two pails of hot water for bathing before dismissing the servants. Mitash, respecting his own skin, remained silent until they were alone.
“Tor, please explain this presumption. I have not invited you to share my tent.”
Ionia paused in searching a pack and looked at him over her shoulder.
“Indeed, it is my understanding that the rain spell must be cast each morning, yes? In order that refugees elsewhere in the empire shall have clean water?”
“Yes,” said Mitash slowly.
“Could it be your expectation that I shall rise from my bed in a tent shared with the other female servants, hurry across the camp, enter your tent and your bed before dawn so as to perform the necessary sexual act that accompanies that spell?” She paused. “You think that is appropriate for my dignity, and yours, that I should behave in such a manner?”
Mitash blushed. “No.”
Ionia huffed out a breath and continued her search. After a moment she glanced over at him again. “Have you selected another partner?”
“No!”
Ionia nodded, pulled out a towel, package of soap and nightclothing, then selected a sheet, fastened it to the roof frame of the tent and disappeared behind it when the pail of hot water was delivered. He expected her to make use of the screen for her privacy – and his peace of mind, but she began undressing where he could witness the process. First she began unwinding the colored fabric that covered her hair. Accustomed as he was to the elaborate twists and colors of the mortal women’s head coverings this uncovering seemed more personal, more exposed than any other glimpse of skin and flesh. The hair uncovered was not the smooth ash pale of elvish beauty nor the flat browns and black he has seen on mortal men. Ionia’s hair sprung wild and twisted as it escaped from its bindings, a mass of twisted red and gold and the glowing brown of water covered rock. Not neat, no, not by any measure. It curled. It writhed. It wrapped around itself and around Ionia’s fingers as she fluffed up the mess with a sigh of pleasure. Mitash stared at its vibrancy, its energy. Now freed her hair added another finger length to Ionia’s height. “How do you keep it under the scarf?” demanded Mitash before he realized he was about to speak.
Ionia laughed. “Oh, I do battle with my hair daily. It will have its own way somedays and will cast of my scarf if not tied exactly right.”
She shook her head setting sparks flying and the curls separated into yet more tiny twists.
“Why do you, oh, yes, Lady Regent Halidan said it was mortal custom out of shame for not possessing elvish beauty.”
Ionia’s expression changed from calm and relaxed to fury in an instant.
“I am in no way ashamed of my hair, my person, my status as a mortal or any other matter you might suggest. In the event you have not noticed, it is cold today and my scarf and the way I arrange it is a particular enhancement of my beauty. At least, for those who have eyes to see and manners to appreciate the art!”
She caught up her bathing items and vanished behind the screen.
Mitash avoided her gaze for the remainder of the evening. When she returned, her body encased in a loose flowing robe of thick green cotton and bedsocks of brillant red she placed the copy of The Use near his tray and retreated to the bed. A quick glance toward it showed several ribbons acting as bookmarks. Mitash brushed the book aside, finished his meal, took his own pail of cooling water to refresh himself. When he emerged from behind the curtain she was under his blankets, taking fully half of his already too narrow bed with her back turned toward him.
Mitash glared at her back, then retrieved a bundle from his own packs. He set out the ritual items he carried with him from his youngest years. He had to count on his fingers to work out how many days had passed since third harvest. Once content with his calculations he inscribed a rough circle on the dirt, lit four candles and began the invocation and activation of his improvised altar.
He was reciting the End of Day prayer when a light voice joined in. He winced automatically before realizing her voice was on pitch, her pronunciation perfect and timing correct. He wanted to object, to silence her but, in truth, he did not have the right.
She watched without comment when he finished the ritual, put the items away. She did not ask if he felt the elements stirring during the invocation. She only watched silent and calm as he undressed and climbed in beside her. Without a word he rolled away and pulled his blankets tight. He missed the warmth of fire spells. Of proper walls and comfortable Houses. Missed the security and reliability of the Elements.
He bit his lip and cautiously tugged the blanket up over his shoulder. He was tall, she was small. He needed more blanket.
Braziers, not matter how many were placed about the tent, still left him chilled. Then a soft body spooned up against his back, warm legs intertwined with his and an arm draped itself across his shoulder. He stiffened, some parts of his disobedient body more than others but, he commanded himself to dismiss the arousal and lay still and silent. How dare she? Was she not taking half of the bed without imposing herself upon him? He pushed his hips back hoping she would take the hint but her soft body yielded. She shifted a little, stretching herself along the length of his back, finding a more accommodating curve of his waist to place her arm, the best location to rest her hand, her knee. Before he could protest the invasion of his personal space he noticed that he no longer shrank away from the cold. She rested her cold nose against the back of his neck, huffed out a warm breath and settled. He felt the warmth of shared blankets envelope him and relaxed into sleep.
**
An unmeasured time later he awoke and sat up, almost overturning the bed.
Voices, hard voices arguing outside the tent.
Ionia also rose, coming to her feet and reaching for her shoes.
A voice outside the tent hissed, “They sleep. You cannot awaken them.”
“Probably for me,” said Ionia in the soft rough voice of interrupted sleep. “Too many calls for a herb-woman begin at night. I will attempt to return in time for the spell.”
“It might be an attack,” said Mitash, reaching for a short sword.
Ionia glanced toward the voices. “Not angry. Not urgent and no sounds of fighting.”
Mitash considered then called, “we are awake. Name yourself.”
“Morae Noname,” came the reply. “I have a report.”
“That cannot wait until morning?” whispered Ionia.
“Enter alone,” said Mitash, positioning himself to the right of the tent flap and nodded to Ionia to unfasten the ties.
She obeyed then hurried back the far wall of the tent.
Morae entered, took in their preparations with a nod then extended his open, empty hands toward Mitash.
Mitash stepped outside, spoke briefly to his guards, confirmed that the balance of the camp was quiet then returned. In that short span of time Ionia has stirred up one of the braziers and was offering Morae a steaming cup.

"What is of such interest, Morae, that it could not wait until morning?"
"There is a very strange arrangement of buildings between us and the first village that on first viewing," Morae paused shaking his head then resumed, "one first comes upon a rather fine manor house. Three stories, fine glass windows, painted with a good solid roof and decorative garden surrounding it. Then one goes through a small wooded area, not even an orchard but ordinary trees, and then one comes to an extensive farm. The plowed fields are settled in for winter. There are cows in the close fields. And all the structures you expect to see in a well-maintained farm, except…" Morae frowned. "In the stables generally one finds rooms above the horses for the stable hands. There were none."
"No rooms?" Asked Iona.
"No rooms. No stable hands."
Iona and Mitash exchanged a puzzled look.
"How are...? How could...?" Mitash rubbed that his chin. "That is odd. Most odd. Perhaps they live in the manor house."
"There is no large kitchen, no large dining area as one would expect from a building in which lives workingmen," said Morae. "There is however, one strange building. The one that the outriders saw. It is tall, perhaps three stories within, but no windows at all and only one door. Near the door there is a chimney which suggests that there is a kitchen within. And, more importantly, there is a guard outside."
"Guard," chorused Iona and Mitash.
"Elvish," said Morae. "I watched for some time. I know a farm of this size requires many workers but there is no other place upon the farm wherein that number of workers can dwell. There is a small hut I suppose you could call it built into the side of this tall house. After a while another elf came out and the first one went into rest."
"Perhaps this is a prison farm," suggested Mitash.
"With only two guards? With a fine manor house set so it cannot see the prison or the farm?" Asked Iona.
"I agree," said Mitash. "This is most odd but for now I believe we should go around it rather than investigating. We have a destination to achieve and if we show too much curiosity about how things are managed in the South East we may find they become more curious about us in return."
"That is true," said Morae.
"But we should be very careful," said Mitash. "I do not trust this strange arrangement. The outriders who watch our back trail must be as careful as those who precede us. And tomorrow when we ride through that village…"
"We shall stop and purchase supplies," interrupted Iona. "For one thing, it will do as well to obtain more supplies. For another, well, we do not yet know how those of the South East are responding to the changes in the weather. This may be our chance to begin to introduced the idea that Chandri was not working in their best interests."
"We shall listen," corrected Mitash. "We shall not ask questions! We shall not cause trouble!" He stared intently at Iona who smiled,
**





Monday, April 3, 2017

consequences 44

It was not difficult for Ionia to escape Mitash’s tent with his copy of The Uses in her possession. They were both awoken by some strange nagging sensation just before dawn. Mitash, his eyes still half closed and groggy with sleep, reached for her, carressing her with passion  and mummuring softly in her ear. Ionia was willing enough to cooperate with early morning sex for its own sake but when she woke enough to understand his words she realized he was chanting. She concentrated, eyes widening when she worked out the intention of the spell. WHile passion rose between them and their breathing became ragged Ionia took up her share of the chant, caressing the elf until he groaned and arched under her ministrations. She laughed, watching his face flush and listening to his suffering as her fingers explored his previously virgin skin. She turned him onto his back and crawled over his body, taking him within her for the ride. His eyes rolled up and words no longer came. Ionia continued the chant even as she kissed her way along with underside of his jaw, licking the pounding pulse. His pleasure came with a power that seized her, collapsing her, gasping, upon him. For a moment she feared to faint then understood the spell was cast, done and gone. Mitash reacted, as many men did in Ionia’s experience, by sinking into snoring unconciousness. Ionia gatyhered her strenght then blinked up at the canvas roof as the steady pounding of rain began. She stared back and forth between the slumbering Mitash and the roof. If that was not a coincincne it was the most amazing display of magic she had witnessed.
Participated in.
She placed a kiss on Mitash’s parted lips and set about preparing for hte day. A bucket held out in the rain allowed her to give herself a quick sponge bath and she was shameless about using his toothpowder and comb to repair her appearance. And, before taking her leave, she took up the scandelous book, wrapped it in waterproof cloth and departed.
Siince Mitash did not come in search of her she assumed either he did not notice the hated book’s absence or he consented to her reading of it. Once the rain ended she took her place in a transport wagon, with their prisoner slumped along a wooden bench nearby and settled in to read. Kelor came to himself near noon, clutching his head and groaning.
“My head aches,” he whispered.
Ionia nudged a bucket she had prepared toward him with her foot. “THe consequences of your own folly,” she said, unsympathetically. “Drinking wine from the far north? To excess? Did your father not warn you that the Northerner’s warm their blood with strong wine?”
Kelor raised his head to try and stare at her, only the wagon hit a rut in the road and he clutched the bucket to his bosom and retched.
The other passengers in the wagon winced and looked away until the regreatble noises ceased. Ionia profered a water jug to the suffering elf and waved it off when he attempted to return it.
“Drink. Drink only water until you are more yourself. You have slept two whole days and nights,” she lied easily. “We began to fear you would not wake at all.”
“No more,”groaned Kelor. “No more wine.”
“I quite agree.”
Kelor drank more water. It was not until he finished the bottle that he took note of his surrondings.
“You. You are a woman.”
“That is observant of you. Well done!”
Kelor dragged himself to a seated position. “And a man, there is a mortal man beside you.”
Ionia looked at the man and nodded. “You are correct. Well done, your vision is clear.”
“Separate at once,” demanded Kelor. “It is not permitted.”
Ionia laughed. “If you think you have the strenght to push either my friend or myself from this cart have at it, otherwise I suggest you make yourself comfortable and sleep a little longer.”
“I shall complain to…” Kelor blinked and shook the water jug in search of inspiration. “Mitash. Yess, Mitash. I shall complain to your master. He should know of your disobedience.”
“Mitash rides at the head of the processional,” said Ionia. “Near half a lei in advance of us. If you think you can run that distance and render your complaint, again I say, have at it.”
Kelor tried to rise but the rythym of the wagon’s movement defeated him. WIth a groan he lay down.
“I shall see you beaten,” he muttered as he closed his eyes.
Ionia nodded as her potion took effect. The bucket was emptied and washed out, for the comfort of the other passengers, and set back beside the elf’s head. Ionia rose, tucking the fascinating book away and climbed down over the wagon. Ignoring the fact it was still in motion, she jumped to the ground and jogged forward. MOrae noticed her first and road ahead to bring her behavior to Mitash’s attention. The adminstrator rode back to speak with her with laudable speed, for all that she beleived he would rather not.
Mitash blushed as he dismounted and looped the horse’s reins about his wrist.
“Morae said you wished to speak to me.”
“I have no idea how he came by that idea,” Ionia said, “for I did not speak to him. But, as it happens, yes I do.”
Mitash’s blush deepened. NOt inclined toward mercy Ionia laughed.
“Yes, I was seen leaving your tent. And no, I am not reading your mind.”
Mitash snorted and turned away from her, continuing to walk as if her presence at his side was the merest happenstance. “What do you want?”
Ionia chuckled then before Mitash could faint from blushing said, “Kelor has awoken. He is confused and believes he is suffering from a severe case of over indulgence in strong wine.”
Mitash turned startled eyes in her direction.
“Yes, indeed,” she continued. “It can take some people that way. If he does recall your converstation it is as a strange, disjointed dream. If you take care not to compell him to recall it he may not realize he is a prisoner, or your true loyalties, for a while.”
“But a guard would be wise,” said Morae from behind them. “In the event his memory improves there should be someone near at hand to bind him.”
“Agreed,” said Mitash.
“DId he not demand a servant be assigned to him?” inquired Morae.
“An attendant,” corrected Ionia. “Apparently the story of all mortals being driven out is not completely correct. Some are held here and compelled to serve the elves.”
“Slavery,” spat Mitash, and Morae, together. They shared a glance confirming their opinion. With a nod to Morae Mitash continued, “you know our party best of all, Morae. CHose someone strong and clever to act as his attendant and keep close watch over Kelor.”
“Half-bloods offend him,” said Morae.
“And he is forbidden to have anythign to do with mortal women,” added Ionia.
“There is one I might assign,” said Morae. “I shall make it appear I am giving this Kelor a choice.”
“Wise,” said Mitash. “If I understand his rambling from last eve correctly, he is angered at his father for not giving him a servant…”
“Attendant,” corrected Ionia, again.
“Yes, and if we not only give him an attendant but appear to honor him by giving him a choice he is likely to disregard his odd memories longer. Long enough, I hope, for him to guide us to this Pinnacle.” Mitash considered. “How long shall he sleep?”
“Overnight. The potion I gave him will relieve his headache and further confuse his memory.”
Mitash gave her a narrow eyed glare and Ionia laughed again.
“Oh dear, what a look. What? You fear me and my potions You think one day I shall weaken your memory?”
“The potions exist,” said Mitash. “Whyfore do mortals need such a thing?”
“It is a pain reliever used when someone has suffered a significant injury. Not only is the pain gone but it is not remembered and that can be all to the good.”
Mitash’s puzzled expression had Ionia frowning. “A painful surgery or difficult birth is when this potion is needed.”
“Childbirth I had heard as painful, but surgery?”
“Amputation when a limb is crushed by falling rock in a mine?” suggested Ionia. “Removal of a cancer that a Water Healer refused to treat when it was yet small.”
“Enough,” said Mitash paling. “I conceed your point.”
Ionia nodded, then turned her head. The caarriage she was sharing with other members of the processional had caught them up. She cast a smile in Mitash’s direction by way of a fairwell before waving to those still aboard.
“Do you ride?” asked Mitash.
Ionia gave a laugh that passed through Mitash like the raised power of a ritual, then she gave him a smile that spoke of lust.
“Oh, yes,” she sighed. “Many times. Many ways.”
She gave him her back and extended both hands to the guards aboard the carriage. They grinned and hauled her up.
Mitash turned away, determinded not to stare at the woman. He stalked along the roadway for several moments before the sound of a throat being cleared above his head caught his attention. He looked up to see Morae, aboard his horse, smiling down. Mitash suddenly remembered he had a horse of his own but riding now had an entirely new meaning.