Immaculate-Part 1

King’s College rang to the chatter and tramp of students, flowing in currents to and from their classes or the library. Here and there could be seen a teacher, moving against the current in their bubbles of academic status and purpose. In one of these bubbles a tall man walked, brown eyed and dreamy, looking more like a poet than a professional Theologist and Lecturer.

“Now, what do we think, of thoughts?” The silence of utter incredulity reared its head.

“They’re…ideas?” Ventured one student.

“Chemical processes!”  Cried another, the self declared atheist of the class.

” Sometimes they are the will of God, if they are good.” Murmured one of those near the front of the hall.

“Mental energy, moving in waves.” Said one student, a bright one at that. Young Michael had a subtle, active mind, undoubtedly swimming in waves of energy.

“Indeed Michael, though all are right in one fashion or another. But what do you think of them?” With awesome speed, confusion and incredulity returned. What the hell did the barmy old prof mean this time, was what Dr Solomon got from it.

“They’re….random.”
“Chaotic, there’s little order.”

So it began again, until the room was alive with conflicting paradigms, not mere whimsical thoughts. Solomon smiled as these various thought groups did battle, were defeated or victorious. All changed though. Whether victor or victim, all changed.

“Class!” he cried, clapping his hands then spreading them wide, gathering their attention as one might a pile of clothes. “There is but one conclusive answer. Thoughts are energy, and what do we know about energy? It never dies, or ceases to be.” He drew a simple stick man on the pad before him, the projector rendering his sketch, much enlarged, on the screen behind him. Then came thought lines, radiating from the stick man. Would they understand this?

“Now how many of you have heard of Noetics?” No hands went up, no cries of assent were made. One nod came from Michael. Solomon knew that would come, and ignored it, as Michael surely knew he would.

“Really, for theology students, your reading is very limited if you’ve missed this subject.” Dr Searcher said solemnly as he continued his sketch, placing various dark, vaguely circular squiggles around the central stick man.

“Noetic science is the study of the human consciousness, and may one day provide that controvertial bridge between man, god and science.” A few eyebrows went up. He had their attention, and basked in it.

“Let’s consider our stick man…” He thought of Jonah then, who always had better words.

“Our stick man is you, or me, or anyone else anywhere in the world…” the lecture hall reverberated to a deliberate, measured knocking on the door. Surely not…

“Jonah! A pleasure to see you!” Exclaimed the professor mid-lecture, throwing rangy arms round a slight, gentle figure, dressed in a light grey suit, the color of country rainfall. The little Doctor looked up at the screen and announced in a modulated, refined English accent.

“Class! Turn your attention and intentions, to that screen.” His complete focus on the stage and the screen rolled over the room, till every pair of eyes was riveted as Searcher retook it.

“Let us continue with the assertion that thoughts are energy. Now, what can move energy?” a brief silence, broken, surprisingly, by Amelia, a dark, curly-haired beauty of a woman.

“Only more energy.” Solomon smiled, a wide and dazzling thing as he retrieved a pointer from beside the podium. Jonah had taken a seat at the front, next to the quiet christian girl.

“Indeed, so. Our man thinks a thought. Then he decides he wishes this thought recorded and expressed, thus, media, the written word, this.” He announced, holding up a small pen drive.

“However, there are many, many steps involved, all requiring energy, between the moment of thought, and the act of recording it, in all modern, mainstream media.”

Jonah watched his old friend as he led the class through a long, winding tale regarding the various spiritual leanngs of amazon tribes and their belief in the power of totems and crystals. The old boy’s favourite subject. Jonah couldnt surpress a grin as Solomon’s infectious energy moved among the class, not quite reaching all, but reaching enough. This lot would pass.

“So we can arrive at the conclusion, that it may be possible one day, to move that awesomely complex construct of energy that is the human consciousness, or soul, into another physical medium.” He eyed certain students.

“This, I know, is a delicate notion, and a line of science humanity should pursue only with great care. Now, I shan’t bore you any longer, go out there and soak up the sun, peace and blessing to you all.” He finished, aware that his last comment might just have inflamed a few of the more zealous attendants to his lecture. As students filed out, murmuring in quiet, serious conversation or looking deeply troubled, Jonah slipped trough the snaking procession and shook his friend’s hand.

“How is Daniel?” Asked Solomon. Jonah smiled, shaking his head disparagingly.

“Careful old friend, confidentiality is the word these days. But he’s well, nothing that won’t clear up in, oh, three to seven days.” Solomon grinned back and began putting away the lecture things in his slow-seeming methodical fashion. Solomon’s mind didn’t move on prosiac matters on most occasions, but even Jonah could see some trouble, quite real, beneath his lofty daydreams. Such are the mental defences of the academic.

“It is not just for him you worry?” Enquired Jonah, simply. The room echoed slightly to his words now though, lending them a ring of command. He knew though, in his heart, what the trouble was. Angelique.

“You know, old friend.” Solomon sighed as he raised the screen and flicked off the main lights, leaving only only the pale white striplights, glowing in the floor, health and safety harmoniously worked into the design of the building itself.

At the college gates they parted, the mighty figure of Solomon stooping to his shorter, slighter friend. With a final wave they headed their seperate ways, Jonah to his motorbike, Solomon to his own car, a hyrid engine Ford Fusion in excellent condition, the blue model with white stripes. The bleep as it opened felt like a death knell. The roar as it started, the sound of oblivion and as he pulled out of the car park and hit the main road, Solomon sighed and prepared for battle with the worst enemy a man can have. His wife.

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this first chapter of Immaculate. More will follow in the coming weeks, and the strange knowledge of Solomon and Jonah will take them to surprising places, into the very maw of a metaphorical whale that will alter their lives forever.

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A Magical Creation Myth

Below is some old work that I retrieved from the murky depths of my hard drive, my first real foray into a creation story. I’m publishing this more as a talking point than a fine work of fiction, so please do leave a comment. Thanks 🙂

In the beginning earth was a small, bright point of energy in the endless, ever twisting sea of chaos. Of the energy of chaos was born the Creator Queen. She looked down at the earth, swamped with chaos, and marked it as one of the places that would Be. Of her own being she birthed the three great Shaping forces. First was Sky, wilful, fierce and joyful, the master of storms, winds, sun and cloud. Second came earth, hard and solemn, unbending and unstoppable, slow to anger and slower to forget. His mastery was of all the earth and stone, of mountain and of swamp, plain, hill and valley. His tools were the deep forces that shaped all these things. Finally, there came Water. Of the three she alone was mistress rather than master. Hers was the dominion of all the waterways of the world. Every stream and lake, river and ocean was her realm and her being. Deep and calm she could be, yet when roused her wrath was swift and deadly.

 

These three the Creator Queen decreed would between them shape the land, seas and skies, ordering them as they saw fit. She however continued with the business of Creation, bringing into being the first fathers and mothers of bird and beast, shrub and tree.

 

Now the Shaper’s efforts to tame the unfettered forces neared their conclusion and they took council together to discuss all that they had shaped. Sky spoke first, his voice high and fair as the wind over peak, strong and powerful as the storm. “My greatest labours are done, the wind flows ordered, the storms are contained or set on their appointed paths. Yet neither bird nor beast may see these paths, nor look up at the sky and see its beauty, nor do they bring into being new forms of their own choosing.”

 

Next spoke Earth, his voice deep, rumbling and disgruntled. “Yea it is so. I have formed all that I can of rock, yet the beast that steps upon it cannot shape it save perchance, without order or design, and I grow weary of carving and shaping.” Finally, Water added her voice, the sound of the lightest streams and the crashing of the largest waves. “We three are agreed then, that the Creator, Our Queen and Mother has appreciated our works though no other being can. Shall we then request of her beings that can perceive, even if they cannot shape?”

 

All of this was heard by the Creator, who’s thought was at this time turned towards the earth anyway. She listened and smiled to hear her children speak thus, pleased she guessed the nature of their thought. Long and in secret had she labored, forming the crowning jewel of her designs, the very beings of which her children had spoken. Even as the thought of the Shapers turned towards her, so her thought turned towards the first babes, three of male kind and three of female kind for each of her Three Shapers. Water found hers first and rose up around their rocky, sandy place, a reef in the oceans vastness. When she made to descend on them however, to wipe their forms from the reef they cried aloud in fear. To her joy she saw that they perceived, fearing the crashing waves. The sky found his children next, high upon the mountain, born amidst a storm. His were born not to fear and reverence but to joy and mirth as they watched Sky hurl lightning among the clouds. Earth found his at the last, hidden away in a shallow cave where glittered seams of gold and gems of all colours, shimmering in the last rays of the sunset. Thus were the prayers of the Shapers answered, in the birth of Mankind.

 

In time the men and women mingled and sired more offspring. As they grew in knowledge and in learning Earth, Water and Sky taught them many things. One of the greatest blessings that the youngest and newest children of the Creator gave to the world, was names. They named all that they saw or smelt, heard or felt. Finally they began to construct new things, first of wood, which they took only sparingly, then of stone. For this Earth both thanked and cursed them, for thought they wrought the fair temples and their first stones dwellings rarely indeed were they pleased with what he offered to them freely, instead they delved deep beneath the earth, where the bright, living core of the earth seared his rocky domain, a place of heat and flames unending.

 

Finally they delved too deep and earth put forth his strength, so that the mountains blazed with fire and molten rock, cascading down their sides in fiery torrents of power and majesty. As he would have smote them from the world however the Creator Queen saw and spoke a single word. “Cease!” She cried, and for a moment, all was still.

 

“My son, why are you wrathful? Was it not your desire that the raw stone be reshaped into new and fair forms?” At this he agreed, then said. “Truly, but they have become greedy. They delve too deep. They are come close to the fires that do not die in search of my earliest craft, of which I had put little within their reach.” He spoke of the earliest of his devices,, one which was both powerful and dangerous, being formed of some of the world’s own energy, the metal he had shaped in his youth, Kharadite. He thought his Queen and Mother would be angry and cowered, awaiting her judgment. Instead she laughed aloud and said. “My son, you are Earth, the shaper of all that I made. You shall protect mankind from the peril of his own hand. Shape your domain!” Her words lifted and inspired him and instantly he went to work.

 

A new day dawned and though the mountains were scarred with black trails on their wintry sides men still lived. They returned to their quarries and deep delving to an awesome sight. The liquid rock of the world now flowed and burned at their depths. Where once there had been only stone, now their burned a great ocean of lava without end nor beginning. Thus was the Kharadite, the most dangerous and powerful substance ever known locked away. Those who had sought it at seam in the earth found either iron, gold or some common metal.

 

Hundreds of years passed by and with the passage of time the humans fell into order and balance. They learned, those who would, the arts and means of shaping, each according to one of the three Shapers. In this time of teaching and learning the Shapers discovered that, though the humans could shape their immediate surroundings, once they learned the way, it fell to them to restore the forces reshaped.

 

Now one of the children of Water as they called themselves, those who learned to Shape it took for herself the name of Ishaliasa, meaning Running Water. She had grown close to Water’s thought and learned to shape all of waters forms, from Ice to Stream to Sea. She grew in power and knowledge of Water until it held no mysteries for her. Unsatisfied with what she knew she set out to learn more of the arts of Shaping, and so journeyed to the temple of Sky. Throwing the great doors wide she strode, confident and powerful, her dark eyes and wavy black hair against robes of deep blue a magnificent sight. She marched towards the heart of the temple. The Spire, a massive spike of metal that rose from floor through the ceiling to pierce the sky was her destination. It was one of those few things formed of both Earth and Sky as a means for Sky’s mortal followers to hear his teachings.

 

The students who both studied, watched and guarded the temple addressed her as she stood before it, many grey-robed figures speaking with one voice. “Greetings Running Water, what brings you so far, high and distant from your domain.” Ishaliasa’s bearing was proud, even in this place where her power was virtually nothing. Those followers of Sky noted this. “I come as one reborn, noble followers of Sky, I come seeking to learn how to Shape the skies.” The six elders of the temple knew her request was doomed, yet they would not have her take their word on it. “We shall see what the Sky decrees. Approach the Spire.” She did so, laying her hands upon its golden surface.

 

Instantly she was sent flying as if by a hurricane, smashing through the double doors to sprawl on the temple steps. She remained there, the slowly falling snow rising to a blizzard. The blizzard grew, turning Ishaliasa’s robes snow white, the words of Sky still ringing in her head. “None may shape two of the forces. Your request is denied!”

 

Away beyond the stars and darkness, far beyond the ken of man, bird or beast, others had listened to Ishaliasa’s request. They were terrible, angry beings, formed of raw energy. They were Chaos, the myriad entities that existed outside the world, a twisting, ever-changing mirror of Order and Creation. The Creator and the Shapers knew of them, and over them Chaos held no sway. When the Creator had created the race of man however she drawn on all the energies of the universe, including Chaos. As such even mortals such as Ishaliasa could, if they chose, listen and hear the whisperings of those dark entities. It was as Ishaliasa stumbled on, shivering in the ferocious cold that her broken mind wandered, deep and far. She sat hugging her knees as the chill spread through her bones, teeth chattering between blue-white lips. What powers all things? What forces do the Shapers command to change the world we see?” Even as she thought of such things, her body failing in the withering cold, the myriad voices of Chaos spoke to her. She drifted between life and death in these moments, wandering in dark places as the knowledge of Chaos filled her mind.

 

Now the Creator watched all things at once, so to her Ishaliasa’s passing was as a dim light through thick fog, faint to begin with and soon gone. Water wept at her departure however, and had Ishaliasa known of her grief perhaps she could have turned away from Chaos. Water’s grief was great at the loss of one so close to her, her sadness welling up in floods and a mighty wave that spilled over the coast.

 

Meanwhile Earth watched with the eyes of the mountains, hills and plains. He found Ishaliasa, her body frozen hard, her life flickering, fading away. He observed her closely, watching as the last sliver of life drained away. Satisfied she had passed, he turned his gaze away and watched no longer. Sky however was not satisfied and spoke to his siblings. “Watch all the roads. Something evil stirs.” Sky watched all of his realm closely, observing everything within it intensely. Earth, whose heart had been troubled at Ishaliasa’s passing resumed his own watch. Water, her grieving finished, watched every waterway, from the vastness of the oceans to the tiniest mountain brook. In that time those who toiled in valley and plain, or sailed in little wooden boats felt the watchfulness of land, sea and sky as an eye, scouring everything under its gaze. Yet in this deed Chaos outmanoeuvred the mighty Shapers. Ishaliasa lived, though now her hair was as red flame, her eyes once full of joy and passion were cold now and full of dread. She walked among the trees and over the plains and hills in her snow-white robes, invisible to the Shapers. The creatures of the woods scurried away at her passing, and those few men who saw her cowered when they beheld her empty gaze, for she had looked where men should not. She had stared into the dark abyss and beyond to the swirling vastness of Chaos. She walked through storms, rain steaming from her back, the biting winds of the winter passing her by without effect, for she was the Prophetess, the Herald of Chaos, and its power was to change.

 

Time passed, and the watchfulness of Sky and Water subsided a little. Earth however remained on watch as a new person, one he had not seen before went about with her fiery hair and robes of white. She went from town to town, speaking with a voice as deep as the seas and high as the tallest peak. Yet all he heard was muffled or hidden as if he were listening with mortal ears through a wall or thick veil, yet no stone nor work of man could hide aught from him. He turned his thought towards her in earnest as she spoke in one town and at last the veil fell, her strange voice rolling over the crowd gathered to hear her. “Brothers! Sisters! The time for change is at hand! Too long have the Shapers commanded us!” Earth’s anger grew to hear these words, for at no time had the Shapers commanded men, unless to save them from harm as he had done. His rage spilled out into his realm, the fiery depths bubbling and rising through the rock to burst forth at his command in a cleansing torrent. “Yea, they hear me as I speak, the cowards who command you. Yet I ask you, where are there blessings?” One man in the crowd spoke up then, Earth’s wrath subsiding a little at his words. “They bless us daily lady, by keeping in check the forces they rule, lest storm and wave lash and rage across a blazing, shifting land.” Ishaliasa turned her gaze upon the man, and Earth sensed her anger. Instead of destruction however, which he sensed she could have unleashed, she laughed and said. “Truly, but my master,” Earth listen closer now, “has more power than all of them. Behold, the power to Change!”

 

She raised her hand, the very air around it warping and twisting. Sky’s thought was bent toward her in an instant, Water watching also as Ishaliasa declared her allegiance. Fire sprang out of the rippled air, flowing through her hands, rolling over and over into a long staff of black stone, shot with veins of green. Casually she tossed it to the man who had spoken. “Now do you doubt my masters power?” The man was silent, and Earth’s rage grew once more. “Now those of you who will follow me do so, though do not look for peace nor rest, for they will pursue us like hounds. Only those who desire true power should walk the path I tread. Now, follow!” Finally Earth could contain his rage no longer, fiery torrents erupting from the ground. Instead of fleeing as others did Ishaliasa threw out her hands, and Earth felt pain as the warping power of Chaos tore at his flames, wrenching them into a new form. To her followers Ishaliasa’s power seemed infinite as the molten rock fell upon her shoulders, face and hair as harmless water. She raised her hands high and spoke the words of Chaos and she and her followers were gone, vanished from sight. Instantly he called to the other Shapers to take council. Earth, who’s rage was visible as the ground trembled and cracked, spoke first. “Who is this woman? She wields a power not unlike our Queen, the Creator!” Sky countermanded him then. “Nay my brother, for she does not create, she can only change. There is but one power that can do that.” Water then joined the debate, her normally proud and passionate voice quiet and trembling. “I feel I know her face, though it is framed by the wrong hair, and wears the wrong eyes. That face once belonged to the greatest among my followers. Ishaliasa.” All three were silent then, as the situation became clear, their thoughts closed, yet identical. “How shall it be done?”

 

Ishaliasa, Prophetess of Change stood at the head of her followers at the base of the mountain stairway up to the temple of Sky. Those who followed chaos fervently could be marked out with ease by long manes of fiery red hair and bright, strange eyes, orange with catlike pupils. The power of Chaos was to change and those who had beheld their new messiah, their Prophetess had desire to be like her. The myriad entities of Chaos watched and listened through the eyes and ears of their Prophetess with glee. “Today my brothers, sisters, fellow walkers of the Changing Path, we shall take for ourselves this temple! We will reshape it to serve the ways of Chaos, as we shall one day do to the world. Now, forward!” They advanced marching grimly up the steps, dressed in clothes of white, many of them armed with black staffs, shot with green. As they neared the temple Sky beheld them and grew wrathful, so that a terrible storm built up around them. Yet his power could not undo them, for though a few fell to his lightning his other weapons, cold and rain, could not stop them. In desperation he spoke into the minds of his followers, teaching them all he could. The followers of Chaos reached the great stone doors and threw them back, to be met by a wall of lightning, roaring and crackling from the fingertips of Sky’s followers. A few of their number fell in the first assault, scorched and charred on the cold earth. The rest fought back. Once more the lightning struck and was transformed into formless wisps of green mist, which twisted into shards of black rock. Lightning struck once more as the temple followers attacked once again, their master’s new teachings ringing inside their minds as he taught them more and more. This time as the assault subsided Ishaliasa stepped forward, raising a hand she pointed at one of the unfortunate defenders. The man screamed his flesh sloughing away as the power of chaos coursed through his body, reducing his skin to water, his muscles to mist and finally his bones to dust. The shock of her terrible power unnerved the defenders. A moment later the followers of Chaos attacked in earnest, a hail of spikes hurtling towards them to spear them, or melting at their feet to become pools of molten rock that consumed and burned.

 

Of those who had defended the temple only one old man remained, one Ishaliasa recognized as one of the elders who she felt had rejected her. She stepped forward. Instantly a wall of air blasted her to her knees. Her followers cowered, some even fled as the man who would form the order of Stormweavers battled with the Prophetess of Change. Beneath the hurricane Ishaliasa’s rage grew, feeding her strength as the power of chaos built within her body. With a screech she stood up, her feet freezing to the rock, fusing with the stone. Erect now her hair flew back wildly, framing and complementing her terrifying, unnaturally bright eyes as she reshaped the air, roiling kaleidoscopic orbs of chaos rippling in her hands. Another scream and she hurled them at the old man, who pointed one gnarled hand at the spire. A whirlwind roared around it, dragging the chaotic orbs and a few of the followers of chaos high into the air. Ishaliasa barked a harsh laugh and raised her hands, now claw-like and twisted, her fingers as the talons of a bird toward the Spire. A terrible groaning sounded as the Spire twisted, the very top unfurling like a flower, roaring flames emerging from it.

 

“This temple belongs to chaos now!” She screamed as a wave of force rippled through it. Then the change began. The old man vanished, becoming one with the air as Sky carried him to safety. Everywhere and in every way the temple changed. Pillars split, twisted and joined together, fire springing into life around their bases. The entire building grew as rooms widened, consuming or squashing others. Finally the golden Spire, the landmark for miles around, rippled and flowed, the golden metal of its surface flowing liquid without heat until the flames burning at its top sank to head height, the roof of the temple rolling shut, an unfurling curtain of stone against the weapons of Sky.

 

It was not only the temple that changed. Around it the earth, water and air was altered. The mist that had shrouded the sacred building turned a hideous crimson. The plants that drew in this altered water were twisted and misshapen, so that mutated blooms of unnatural appearance sprang up, some with fangs or claws where petals had been, others that displayed oddly face-like growths in their centre. The Heart of Corruption was born.

 

Sky’s wrath knew no bounds and for days lightning assaulted the doorway of the temple, smashing at the doors and roof with impossible frequency, yet he could not break it. On the eighth day Earth felt his brother’s rage and despair, and the taint of chaos on his mountain. His fury near matched his brothers to see the temple, formed of his own substance so defiled. His rage was earthquakes and lava to split the temple asunder, the walls cracking under his relentless assault. For a time he appeared sure to triumph, then Ishaliasa appeared once more. Lightning thrashed around her, but she had her place of power now and over it the Shapers held no sway. “See now my brothers, the Shapers cannot break this place. See, our power is limitless!” The walls of the temple rippled, the cracks and fissures vanishing, or becoming new windows into that twisted place, that doorway to the abyss.

 

Sky’s rage, grief and despair was so great now he did the only thing he could, and called on the Creator. “My child! What has happened?” His pain spilled over as storms lashed the temple once more whilst continuous downpours swept away the mutated fauna and tainted earth, forcing many innocent villagers below the mountain away. “Chaos! Chaos has come and twisted Men! Chaos has twisted my temple!” Now the Creator Queen grew angry and every living creature felt her wrath as a shadow of dread over their hearts. The pain and despair of her son resonated in the soul of every living creature. Thus, with her mighty voice she cried. “Cease!” For a time, all was still. Reaching out to the others she spoke. “Now this is power of Chaos, which holds no power over you. However you hold no power over it. Only trapping it, containing it will spare others from falling under its sway and this world being consumed by it.”

 

So it was that the last great labour of the Shapers began. Sky kept the followers of Chaos penned within their temple, a wall of lightning proving too much for even Ishaliasa to defeat. Earth meanwhile drew up rock from the depths of his realm forming it into two mighty peaks, sheer sided and tall, with hearts of solid iron. Within the twisted temple Ishaliasa grew nervous as the windows of her temple darkened, the earth shaking and trembling as rank upon rank of sheer sided rock emerged from the mountain sides, a wall of stone on three sides. Sky ceased his barrage of lightning now and wove a great, everlasting fog over the mountains that shrouded the temple and its mountain-prison, hiding them from curious eyes. Finally came water, solemn and fierce, furious and cold as the darkest depths of the oceans, or the highest mountain glacier. Before she unleashed her own great work she spoke with a human’s voice, echoing and powerful as the crashing of waves in a narrow beach. “Treachery. Yours is rewarded, Ishaliasa.” Within the temple Ishaliasa and her followers peered out of cracked weird windows as a huge glacier, higher up the peaks began its long, steady descent, sliding towards them. The followers swung the doors shut, Ishaliasa retreating inside as others reshaped the stone, sealing themselves within as the glacier came on, breaking and melting as it moved until a vast wave of ice and water struck the temple. The walls cracked under the power of Water as the torrent filled the new valley, rushing around the twisted temple, beating at the walls and doors with fists of ice until at last a mighty, icy lake filled the mountain valley covering the temple completely.

 

Within those who survived treaded through the murky water, sliding themselves through cracks in the walls. Many swam towards the surface, thinking that the Shapers had come to offer them a chance to repent, only to find their path already barred. A sheet of Ice, ten feet thick and already partly covered in boulders blocked their way. Some, those less tainted beat on it with their fists to sink to the bottom of the lake, gasping on water. Others changed, sprouting webbed hands and fishlike tails to better explore their new dwelling.

 

The Shapers observed their prison in silence, as perfect a cage for any being as was ever made. Eventually Earth raised his voice. “Now it is done, I propose we build a new temple, a new place for the followers of Sky to hear you my brother. Then I deem we should retreat from the minds and affairs of men.” Sky, his aspect grim after the deed and forevermore agreed. “Verily, those who wish to hear us and learn from us will find us, yet we shall teach openly no more. The time for great works is done, now we must watch and preserve.” For the last time, Water spoke the name of Ishaliasa. “My followers have the names of their number written. Ishaliasa’s shall be struck from it, for she is gone. Only Chaos remains.” She paused a moment before continuing. “I too concur with the plan, but before we enact it, I propose that we teach all our followers the ways and means of protection, as Sky did. Then, should such horrors occur again, men can fight.”

 

It was agreed and all was done. Finally, the living spirits of Earth, Sky and Water drew back to their realms, never to emerge into the minds of men again, to watch and preserve what remained untainted. For those who followed the ways of the Shapers it was both a time of great learning and of great sorrow. Those who followed the ways of Water abandoned all written words, keeping only a few precious tomes of lore. Those who followed the way of Earth maintained all their methods, as like their master they had remained largely untouched by the power of Chaos. Over Sky’s followers however, the change was greatest. Their master had suffered greatly at the hand of Chaos, losing not only his temple to its power, but much of his joy. Where once his followers had been full of laughter and fierce joy, now they were grim, brooding individuals, rarely smiling and often angry. With the help of Earth before his retreat they built a new temple, high upon a mountain peak, wreathed in cloud and ringed about with ferocious storms.

 

The leader of the temple of Sky took for himself the name Faerosil, the Brewing Storm. His followers and the followers of Sky came to be known to the less devout folk as the Stormweavers, though in truth few of them followed the Storms path. One evening as the bright, lightning lit lanterns burned low in the temple Faerosil sat, deep in thought, cross-legged on the hard stone considering all that had occurred. He alone of the Shaper’s followers had survived Ishaliasa’s attack. He knew in his heart though that had she turned all her might against him, he would have fallen. She had once, a long time ago been the favored daughter of Water, a mistress among Weavers, as the followers of the Shapers became known. Her knowledge of Shaping had been great indeed. A plan began to form in his mind, growing to fullness in heartbeats. Swiftly he sent messages to the other temples. The three masters met, four days after the summons in the shadow of the Iron Mountains, a place where all the powers of the world united. Here they took council and Faerosil told them of his plan. Tarandin, the Burning Mountain opposed it however. “Why should one not learn all they can? Surely that is as the Shapers intended?” Faerosil looked at his ally grimly. “Indeed, before Chaos came I would have laughed and agreed. Now however I say this. The power of chaos is to change, and in this it has succeeded. We cannot, not even you, be unbending in this. We must meet chaos with order, even if order means change.” Selinashi, the Crashing Wave spoke next. “Truly you speak wisdom Faerosil. If one should wield as much power as the Prophetess did once again, another temple, perhaps all of them, will fall.”

 

Thus it came to pass that the teachings of each of the three temples were divided into three, the sacred number. Those with talents on a particular path would study its ways to perfection, yet never could they learn the ways of another. Sky had its Stormweavers, few in number yet deadly nonetheless, for lightning, thunder and hail were theirs to command. The Cloudweavers came next, masters of fog, mist and rain. Last and greatest in number were the Windweavers. For them the air itself was their tool, gentle and soothing, assisting the people, or fierce and harsh, hurricanes and whirlwinds to strip the land of evil.

 

Of water there were the Iceweavers, wild and dangerous. Theirs was the dominion of Ice, Water’s solid form, from the frost of winter’s early morning to the frozen glaciers in the mountain peaks. Next, there were the Streamweavers. They commanded the fresh water of the world, the tinkling streams and the wide rivers, able to raise them into flood, or calm them to a safer course. Finally, there were the Seaweavers. Their realm of study was the ocean and its ways, and among Waters followers they were the most revered by the coastal peoples, for their words and whims could command the tides or alter the currents, destroying towns or providing bounty.

 

For the Earthweavers the division was difficult, yet in the end it was done. There was the Peakweavers, whose mastery was the mountains and the stone. They could raise up the hills or bring them crashing down with their gestures. Next came the Plainweavers, who were deemed the gentlest for they often smoothed out the plains or blunted the rocks. Yet they could also sharpen them, or break the plains in two with their words. Finally, there were the Deepweavers. These men and women commanded not the earth that men delved into, but the fiery, liquid depths on which it rested. Their power was deemed immense, for they could bring it to the surface in blasts of fiery destruction, or summon its power through their own bodies. Yet they were also mighty craftsmen, aiding the other Earthweavers by bringing up more stone from the depths, if only for a time, for all stone returns to the earth, no matter how tall the building.

 

The division proved a boon in more ways than one. It created a deeper sense of community among the weavers, for each was dependant on the other for aid. The Peakweavers could do nothing without the Plainweavers assistance, nor could they smooth down the hills without the Peakweavers permission. Finally the Deepweavers, masters of earth’s most destructive form were indebted to the others where their powers marred their works, and the others could not create new hills or mountains without the Deepweavers fresh, liquid rock. It was just so with the others as well, for each branch of the temple depended on the other for their strength, and as such it became rare to see one of their number travelling alone.

 

Thus was the world made, the Weavers taught, and their various orders established, and for several millennia the world enjoyed order and comparative peace. Yet over time the Weavers retreated to their temples as they observed the slow, steady change in people. For Men had been the only creations to be darkened directly by the power of chaos and though the Prophetess and her evil coven had been chained beneath Earth, Water and Sky one of their objectives, change, had occurred. For some men turned from the path of Weavers, devolving somewhat to believe that only their desires and the fulfilment of them mattered. Some too forgot the lessons of the Shapers in the early days and resumed their destructive ways, delving the Earth for riches. Others still dammed the rivers or altered their course to furnish their desires. So it was that the shadow of Chaos, the Taint, fell on the hearts and minds of many.

 

The soldiers paraded across the square in their bright steel armour and tall helms, adorned with plumes of black swan feathers glimmering in the sunlight. From the steps of his palace the King watched on. He was very old now, so old only the design of his palace, a cunning work when the Weavers had moved about more freely among men, could keep him warm any more. Even standing at the door the unnatural cold was settling in his bones. Yet still he stood, his body strong eyes a piercing, intelligent blue. He watched as the formation of soldiers executed a tight quarter turn to face their lord. The captain at their head drew his sword, a foot and a half of gleaming steel and raised it high. “We serve the King! Long live King Turgan!” Turgan raised his own, the same length, inlaid with gold and silver designs, crossing and interweaving on the blade. Salute complete the soldiers turned on the spot and marched towards the gates at the opposite end of the square to go about their daily duties. Turning away Turgan marched back through the palace, sheathing his blade as he walked. His men thought him invincible, such was his legendary reputation and magnificent appearance. Yet in truth Turgan was a troubled man. His personal guard bowed their heads as he entered his private chamber, surprisingly Spartan for a man such as him. Three white stone arches, beautiful etchings carved onto their surface in abstract symbols that appeared to be a language led to his balcony. A rumour had been started among Turgan’s men that his entire palace was protected by the power of Earth, something Turgan was glad of. Whenever it reached the ears of one of his rivals or enemies their anger would cool considerably. Very few indeed had any protection from any of the three temples anymore. Although most people addressed their prayers to the Shapers few could follow them as the Weavers did. Turgan shivered when he thought of their power. Now there was a force to be reckoned with. No one had ever attacked one of the shapers temples, no one would dare. He had once seen one of the Earthweavers annihilate an attacker, a madmen who thought he was a demon, simply by raising his hand. The way the molten rock had consumed and burned the poor man made Turgan wince. No, very few indeed would be crazy enough to challenge the Weavers. A sad fact though was that few did exist. He sighed when he thought about it. Many of the people in the various kingdoms throughout the land were slowly forgetting the Shapers. His kingdom enforced their worship strictly, but other places were not so hard on their people. He heard of the princedom of Lathures taking to worshipping their own gods. Gods of fire. Foolish really, considering it was the whim of the skies whether the sun rose to cloud or clear sky and to worship fire was just plain stupid. Fire wielded no power, it could not create, only consume or destroy. He wondered how the Weavers would take to this.

 

Far away, in the foothills of a vast, lonely mountain a small boy played in the rain. He loved to play alone, particularly in the rain or the storm when even his parents would huddle around a warm fire and mutter darkly about the Weavers being angry. He never saw the rage his parents did, only the joy of playing in the rain. He ran about over the green hills. He tilted up his head, letting the drops of water fall into his mouth. Then he cried out with wonder. Above him he could make out a grey mass, moving slowly through the air, against the prevailing wind. He had heard of rogue winds, but they happened at sea or in the high ranges, not here in the shadow of the Sky Weaver’s mountain. Yet as he watched the grey mass divided into six smaller objects, all grey and fluttering, shreds of cloud heading away from the mountain, over the rolling plains and dense forests.

 

In the realm of Lathures a watchmen sat lazily on a chair overlooking the southern gate to the mighty city state. The vast city was a marvel to behold, tall spires and beautiful works of art, nude females in many forms and poses etched on walls throughout. The watch fires, supposedly sacred things in braziers of soot-blackened gold burned bright against the shadows of the night. The watchmen gazed out sleepily over the plain, musing on his life, when a ferocious gust came out of nowhere, extinguishing the brazier. Quickly he grabbed up flint and oil, desperate to get the fire lit. His boss would see him flogged if it stayed out. Hurling oil over the charred kindling he quickly relit the flames and relaxed. This time though he looked out over the plains, his eyes narrow. A thick blanket of fog seemed to be moving towards the city in a wave across the ground. This could not be, for the nearest lake was in the north and would go over the city first, rather than up to the southern wall, yet it was so. The fog rolled on, thick and dark. A slow breeze propelled it, causing the brazier to flicker and flare. The watchmen quickly blew a bugle hung on his belt, calling to his fellows.

 

“Hey! What do you make of this?” The captain of the watch, a strong, heavy set man with small greedy eyes looked out over it, his face troubled. “No idea. Not normal. Build the fire high and pray for the sun to make her way here fast. She’ll deal with this fog.” The watchman nodded, then screamed as a great bolt of lightning lashed the stone nearby, sending chips of stone hurtling to earth. Another flash, the great gold brazier glowed red hot as lightning struck it, hurling burning wood in all directions. The fog reached the wall and began to build, thickening and darkening, rising up the wall, a hungry wall of grey swallowing the firelight in obscuring mist.

 

Prince Lathures woke, his concubines naked beside him. Standing he padded over to a chest of drawers, drawing out a fine shirt, inlaid with fiery patterns and a pair of red britches. Once clad he walked out onto his balcony, and gasped. His high patrician face beheld a spectacle of incredible, undeniable majesty. His whole city was shrouded in fog, fog which continued to crawl up the tallest spires, winding around them slowly, snakes of mist creeping up his own palace like strangling serpents. Ducking back inside he quickly found his blade, an ancient heirloom, sporting the device of his house, a mountain in flames. Hurrying down to his chamber he found most of his court already gathered. Garsha, master of Commerce spoke as soon as he took his throne. “Lord Lathures, you have seen the fog. We cannot trade in this. Our carters are getting lost, messengers have to travel as much by feel as by sight. I tell you, we must do something.” Next spoke Furir, The High Priest of the Temple. “Your majesty, the omens are bad. Even in our temple, sacred as it is to the holy flame, the candles flicker and die. We must make obeisance to the gods of fire if we are to survive. We must make the sacrifice.” Lathures sighed, the long slow exhale of someone about to lose their temper. “Stop for a moment. What sort of sacrifice. Do I not set aside a tithe of sheep, food and lumber for your temple already?” The priest looked up from his own chair, a simple high backed chair with long armrests so he could rest his aging body. His red dyed beard wagged as he spoke.

 

“Indeed. Perhaps the Flame grows hungry for new meat. Perhaps it requires a being to feel its power…” The prince knew his line and slammed his fist on the arm of his own throne. “No! I will not offer up our people. The flame will not be fed on man’s flesh.” The priest appeared to have expected the rebuke, and replied, his words carefully considered. “Perhaps then my lord, you will consider…the heretic.” Lathures almost replied before considering. The heretic was not a fully fledged citizen of his realm, this was true. In fact the man had been one of those who lived under the shadow of the Stormcap Mountain, the location of the temple of Sky. He might well be what the flames required. First though, Lathures would question him himself. He might be the way to shed light on the situation.

 

“Very well. First though bring the man here. We will question him to see what he knows of this unnatural fog.”

 

Half an hour later and two guards brought the man into the palace of Lathures. Though they held him by the arms his bearing was still proud. His long hair was lank and damp against his skull from walking through the fog, his clothes stuck fast to his thin body. Lathures waved the guards away and the man stood before the prince and his three counselors. “Heretic. You who have defied the sanctity of the flame. You will be purged by fire. before this I would have you answer our questions.” The man regarded Lathures with no awe, no fear, only a cold certainty in his eyes, which the prince found slightly unnerving. “You have angered the powers of sky. That is not difficult to do. However, you have enraged him further by worshipping the flame. I hope for your sake the Weavers of Sky outside your walls are not listening to you speak here.” Lathures’s hands gripped the arms of his throne so tight his knuckles whitened. Around the room color drained from faces as the man they regarded as a heretic told them quite matter of fact that outside their walls were the followers of sky. “You…are you certain of their presence?” Prince Lathures said. The High Priest interrupted and railed against the man. “Only one who brought them here could be so sure of their presence. I shall have you roasted slowly for this treachery. My lord, there is no long any need to listen to this madman-” Lathures cut him off as Tormra, the Grand General, coughed for attention. A giant of a man, Tormra always stood before he spoke, in the manner of a council of war. “It would seem my lord, that this man is a strategic asset, at least until he is burned, which is your will.” He turned his steady gaze on the heretic. “You say the followers of Sky are here. I am not so,” he glanced sideways at the high priest “confined by my fervor as to believe you personally called them but on what basis do you say they are here?” The heretic looked at the general, his eyes softening slightly. The High Priest scrutinized them. Did the man recognize something in the General?

 

“Only they can reweave the clouds into fog, or bring down the lightning that lashed the city so precisely last night. Furthermore, I would say that there are six of them, as only so many could bring about such a great mist.” Lathures sat back in his chair, the general sitting once more. Six weavers! That was a force to be reckoned with. Normally they did not emerge in such numbers. “Very well. Furir, have your priests burn this man. Let the Sky know we do not bow to him, or his weavers. ” With that two red garbed retainers, serfs to Furir, stepped forward and grabbed the heretic, dragging him out of the chamber, Furir and Lathures following. They pushed the doors wide, got down three steps and stopped. There in front of them stood six grey figures, seemingly apparitions of the fog itself each with a single hand raised. As one, they brought their hands down. With that motion the fog began to rise, darkening and thickening, forming mighty black clouds that hid the sun, which the priests hailed as the indestructible and all powerful flame. All was dark in the city then, the populace crying out in fear of this awful storm above them. Then the clouds spoke. Thunder boomed and a fork of lightning swept down, annihilating the two retainers, leaving the prisoner untouched. Lathures and Furir were thrown from their feet by the force. For Lathures, the moment was truly terrifying. His father had long been a follower of Sky, and when he died the young Lathures had turned away from that power, believing that it had failed him at the hour of his father’s death. As he had grown older he had learned more and realized that his father had led a decadent lifestyle, indulging his every vice his every whim, exotic wine, foul narcotics and women of loose virtue were all present in his court.

 

All around the city lightning descended, lashing at the stones. Children ran screaming whilst their parents cowered or hid themselves in fear. The wrath of the Sky was brought forth, and with its wrath came over five millennia of barely suppressed violence.

 

Far away in various other realms kings, princes and lords offered greater and greater supplications to the three Shapers, praying fervently to avoid the terrible fate the Princedom of Lathures was to face.

 

Back on the steps to his palace, Lathures watched as the heretic advanced towards the six robed figures, his arms open in greeting, he fell to his knees. One of them stepped forward and threw back his hood, revealing a face that was both hard and serene, at peace in the storm or the breeze. Gently he laid a hand on the heretics shoulder and spoke, his voice soft. “Come, wise man. Gather those who follow the way and lead them here, for here will be the heart of the destruction, the eye of the storm.” The heretic ran off into the now clear streets, calling out. “The Sky Weavers have come! Follow me, follow me!” Furir had regained himself and stood before the six figures, his beard bristling, his eyes alight with fervent, zealous fury. Quiet suddenly, one of the followers of Sky spoke. “Your beard and hair, are they dyed?” The priest said nothing, only smiling slowly, the grin of a man who has had his treachery discovered and cares not. “Ah now, that would be telling. Let me show you the answer.” Furir opened his palm, a small flame flickering there. With a flick he hurled the flames towards the six figures, who raised a left hand each, a wall of air blasting the fire aside. fast as thought Furir unleashed another ball of fire, this one splitting until a swarm of orange flames hurtled towards the weavers, They retreated, the swarm of fire sending chips of stone flying where it landed. Forming a circle as more of the followers of Chaos arrived the Sky Weavers made ready to do battle.

 

Lathures watched on as the six figures and the Flame priests fought, nursing a bleeding, broken arm from a fragment of stone sent flying, via lightning bolt. The wind rose and fell, redirecting blasts of fire. the priests of the Flame had long been skilled with fire, but never before had Lathures seen them call it directly from air or earth. Furir threw out a clawed hand, flames engulfing one of the robed Sky Weavers, consuming and killing. Rage and sorrow filled him as he watched them fight on. Rage at Furir, who had encouraged this fire worship and sorrow at the fact that his people had been so misled by their own Prince. He had to be able to do something, before Furir and his acolytes could finish off the Sky Weavers. He did the only thing he could. He prayed. He prayed to the power of the Shapers and to the Creator above them. Then it came to him as if, he would later recall, from outside himself. His father in his prime had often recited a poem, a poem he was said to have received from nine weavers, three from each temple. They had been on a mission to cross the mountains and reach those people still living in the shadow of chaos. With his broken arm paining him, his lungs burning as Furir launched great streams of fire in all directions, he began to recite:

 

great creator birthed them,

of her all things came,

she who is wild untamed,

she who chaos broke for them,

her power is greater,

her mind is sager,

her reach is longer,

Creator, Creator!

show us the way,

to hold all the powers of chaos at bay!

 

Again and again he recited the poem as the Weavers and the Temple of Fire fought on. Now those of the populace the so called heretic had gathered had returned. Dismayed by what they saw some hung back, but most leapt to the defense of the weavers. All the while Lathures recited the poem. He saw a man run by him, his skin melting off his frame in large fatty gobbets. With all of his force, all his being he chanted the poem once more. The screams and the dying continued as the lightning grew more fierce, the priests responding with a great wall of fire, ringing the Sky Weavers. Yet Lathures heard and saw none of this, for at that moment he was not there.

 

He was stood in a garden, but a garden like none he had ever seen. Before him was a pool ringed with stones, and behind it a large tree. The roots were in the water and the earth, the wind sang in its branches. He knew then what he beheld. From nowhere he could see a voice spoke, female to his ears, yet stronger than any warrior, prouder than any Prince and more powerful than any King.

 

“Child. You are so young. So naïve and foolish. It grieves me that it should be you who is first to come here and return. Yet it must be so.” The Prince shivered slightly at the sound of the voice, so strong and so motherly, affectionate and passionate all at once. “My children who follow the way of the Sky are angry beings and mighty, but they alone have not the power to best chaos. It is time now for my power to be made known. So See!”

 

Furir cackled as a whip of flame incinerated a mob attacking one of his priests. The Prince could be dealt with later, now he was enjoying changing living men into smouldering ash. He lashed out at another group, his hand clawed, forcing the flames into being in the very earth. He struggled as the power coursed into the stone. Why was it so hard? He threw two hands out, his brothers closing ranks around him as he called on all his rage, hatred and fear. Finally a flame leapt forth, only to be swallowed up by a root. Stunned Furir watched as the root coiled around the tongue of flame, smothering it completely before retreating. What power could do this? He looked about, then heard a sound alien to a battlefield. Birds singing.

 

All was quiet as those present beheld Lathures’s rebirth. He stood, his fiery garments vanishing so that for a moment he was naked, until long streams of ivy swept down from the palace, wrapping him in a green robe.

 

“Furir,” he said in a voice that was not his own “your foolishness has brought the fate you now face upon you. Before you stands my first follower, one reborn. He shall be the first of many, the bright light against the darkness, for he has a power greater than thee.” Furir screamed and lashed a tongue of fire at the prince, only to have the twittering flock of birds wheel into the way, charring slightly but not dying. “Here, foolish mortal, stands the first of my Weavers, the weavers of Creation.” The Prince threw out a hand, his index finger pointed at the earth. From it emerged a great tree, filled with life as it grew, grabbing up priests in its grip, immobilising them with root and branch.” He cannot kill you, but he can and will heal, or save.” More trees grew from the paved earth, snatching up priests of the flame or blocking the paths of their attack with their tough, flame resisting forms. The Sky Weavers had dropped to one knee in the presence of the prince. In no time at all Furir stood alone. The light that filled Lathures’s eyes dimmed, but did not die out completely.

 

“Weavers of Sky, do as you will.” With that the Weavers separated, fanning out to stand beneath the new eaves of the trees that held the followers of Flame. With faint crackling sounds tiny bolts of lightning leapt from upturned palms, streamers of fog suffocating others, whilst the remaining Windweaver stole the breath from a foul priests lungs. For Furir though, they gathered together. The High priest of the Temple of Flame stood dumbstruck as the five grey clad figures advanced, all hooded and cloaked once more. No fire could come to him now, no power from the heat of his anger. Against their unified strength, he had nothing. As one the five remaining weavers raised their hands. A wind grew, spinning. None had witnessed a whirlwind in Lathures before, and the ferocity of the one before them was great. Howling it rocketed into the sky as Furir languished within his darkening prison, awful realization dawning as he noted the storm cloud hue of the swirling vortex.

 

The flash that followed was burned onto the eyes of many for days afterward. The full power of a storm had been unleashed on a single point no more than a few yards across. Now it was Furir, who was naught but smoldering ash.

Souls to Thresh

Wandering the moonlight maze
lost in shadows adrift in dreamy haze
She sought an escape to dreary dull days

This powder, that pill
contorted her will
till all her coins, her money did spill
into dealer’s hand who sold her fill
of this pill, that powder, stuff to time kill
till debts brought trouble, pain, the old Bill.

Thus in the dark of graveyard cold
in a street of the dead she lay on the mould
bruises sore, though many weeks old
cover by her feeble blanket unrolled
healing slow as on the stones she lolled
done with deceit and being controlled
for death she waited, calm, foretold
of freezing death, and to death she sold
her soul, on life she released her hold.

Shivering dark descended
vision clouded, thoughts distended
misery’s avatar she waited to be ended.

“Not this night, my dear sweet
your not meant for this quiet street.”

One stinging touch on gentle flesh
she clung to life, renewed, a-fresh
for the reaper’s scythe had other souls to thresh.

His Night, Her Need
Abandoned By Darkness

Abandoned by Darkness

Power and pain
flower’s stain
touches her inner self insane

nights and nights she waited, grey
grieved and shunning the day
as she waited for his lordship to play

within the darkling child sleeps
without the darkened mother creeps
shivers bewildered, shakes and weeps

there! grand, gross amid the grime
one she’d thought hers, sublime
powerful still, strong, in his prime
yet it is not her against him this time

a soul’s scream is bodily pain
for one who’s lost love it becomes plain
what is this life, but loss and gain?
she’ll never come for him again.

Homeward bound she stumbles
between fear and fury door’s key she fumbles
failing, falling upon the step
knowing loathing then, for her womb’s secret kept
from the dark
someone crept
another! How long had he slept?
‘neath her window when she wept?
he was hungry, he could take her,
she was not strong, this late riser
could be her end, her un-maker.

A stare, a hiss
prostrated bared it comes to this
she awaits, oblivion’s kiss

denied! into the night
flees this one from the coming light
on her step, she sobs with fright
darkness made her and  broke her tonight.

 

His Night, Her Need

His night, Her need.

Shadows surround
and on the ground
a heart beats a sweet tempo

in the shadows it bounds
across  the grounds
she awaits the night’s crescendo

from the shadows he flies
lord of night skies
her taste an airborne spur
he reaches her
and leaches her
for them all things blur

young, ancient hands know no fear
her instincts plan a message clear
sweetly, swiftly, Dawn is near
lust rage and greed meet bloodily here

in the shadows touches see the shape
in the darkness ecstatic faces gape
gasping, growling, moaning, howling
terror to other’s whom the night are prowling.

Tattered and torn, spiritually spent
she leans on his body, feeds on his intent
his mark she bears, blood and seed
as night’s ranks recede
she dreams of the deed
of the next warm night he is to feed.

Soul’s light

A proud, frosted rose in fresh winter sun. Gods she really was beautiful, set against the cold background of the trees. Gold-green eyes blazed with her souls light, brighter than sun-lit snow. In truth he knew he shouldn’t be seeing her. He should not gaze with animal lust upon her soft white skin. He should be busy working, gathering roots which his master would make into powders and potions to strengthen and invigorate against the winter cold. She cast around, searching eyes scanning the trees before kneeling and digging through the snow with hands, exposing a tiny patch of bare rock.

She could smell the iron in this mountain. She thought this mountain was a little like her, soft and white and pale on the outside, hard and deep inside. Even her own tribe scoffed at her sometimes for her little obsession. She couldn’t really explain to them though, couldn’t really make them see. She knew there was iron in this mountain, enough for her children’s children to make tools and weapons for all their lives, and where there is iron, there are gems. From her belt, a simple rope woven from Frostreed she drew a small pick and chipped away at the bare rock, trilling a light, rapid tune as she did so.

The youngster sat in his trance for a long time then, listening to her sing, punctuated with the tap of her pick. He was well hidden behind one of the wider trees. Once more he caught himself, then submitted to the beauty assailing eyes and ears:

Mountain white, mountain old,

Forgive my work with pick-axe bold,

A tricky one you’ve been to me,

Now must I break you just to see,

Have you wonders?

gems for me?

The tune was unknown to him, but it took his heart with it, carrying it to sit beside her as she worked the stone. He tilted his head back, immersing himself in the pure joy of the moment, a truly untroubled soul amidst the struggling masses.

“By the Ancestors, boy, where have you been?!” Young Tule dared not speak the blissful truth. “Sorry master, I dawdled in the woods…” he studied the earthern floor “dreaming.” he finished. The old master snatched the assorted plant parts from Tule’s belt pouch, picking through them on his small stone table with vicious, rapid hands. “I’ve no patience for dreamers boy…your blood is thin, boy and the Ancestors are not strong within it.” Tule bowed his head and turned to leave, his masters voice fixing him once more. “Nevertheless, I expect you here tomorrow!” Tule continued into the village as a small plume of blue smoke coloured the night above the shaman’s hut. He’d wanted so bad to tell all to his master, to reveal the secret of his lover in the wilderness, but what would the old shaman say?

He’d ask questions for sure, mused Tule as he entered the village proper. A small cluster of houses, many in various states of improvement made up his whole village. But how much did Tule know? Not a lot, he thought suddenly and laughed, attracting strange looks from some children up far too late, scampering up the slope to get at the moonblooms on the higher slopes.