The Travels of Con Marquarata, Vol. III, Entry 29

Standard

30th of Tredecimbra, 739AP

Despite my extensive travels, my readers may be surprised to note that this was indeed my first ever trip down to the southernmost reaches of continent Atlúma. After departing the small town of Karattra yesterday – a relief as my host family was a particularly tense lot, claiming their town was on the eve of battle with a neighboring tribe, or some codswallop – we made our way down a beaten footpath amid the rolling hills of that region. Eventually we came upon a straw hut, where a large, sinewy fellow came striding out shirtless. He did not speak our tongue with any casual finesse, but he managed remarkably well, accepting our coins happily in exchange for guiding us down the river.

He took us down a path behind his hut that carved around great mounds of purest green in the land. When I strayed to step upon them, for they appeared manmade, our guide would huff and fuss and, by the crook of my arm, drag me back down. I attempted this thrice, and on my third try he threatened to stop taking us. He did not have the words to describe the mounds significance, so my prodding here was useless.

Walking up a steep hill, we eventually found our way to its ridge, and, expecting to begin a steady descent down its southern slope, we were surprised to find it simply dropped off. The cliff face was sharp, and below we saw the very start of the Shattrakani forest. Indeed, Blarney and I had finally found ourselves in Shattrakan. The treacherous beauty of it all from up on high was diminished when our guide, Waky by name, attempted his hand at humor. He laughed diabolically as he mimed pushing us off the ledge and into the jungle below us.

After his gag was up, Waky took us to a place where wooden steps were built into the cliff face, which proved a most precarious descent. Upon finally finding ourselves below the canopy of the jungle, we could not ignore the potent humidity, thicker here than even the dankest days in Covetown had been. I suddenly sympathized with Waky’s shirtless state, and though I wished to do likewise, I merely removed my tunic. The pages of my journal absorbed much of the moisture, warping and pushing away from one another. I must remember to find a Fumarin anomalurgist who knows a thing or two about removing the damp, before mold sets in.

We found the river at the base of a hidden waterfall, which released its water from an underground river flowing out of the hillside. Brilliant. I had not seen such a thing in many a travel, and certainly not one so fine. Like a drainpipe it gushed its whitewater, spraying the air with a cool mist that somehow relieved our sweat-covered brows. Waky showed us where the boats were kept. Hundreds lined the river, each with its own unique markings, perhaps the names of its owners in the Shattrakani tongue. We walked a ways, over root and moist soil, making sure not to trip on the ropes which tied the boats to land. Waky showed us his boat, a blue vessel I was pleased to find, as this was made from the blue trees only found in this portion of the known world.

It took a bit of wiggling to get comfortable in the vessel, and Blarney nearly didn’t make the trip, what with his fat bottom and all. But we pushed off, our guide’s oars pushing gently through the wake.

It was early in the day, just after noon, when we caught our first glimpse of the fabled blue trees of the Shattrakani Peninsula. Marvelous, tall things. Skinnier than I had previously imagined. The base of the trees were no wider than the circumference of my leg, but they expanded as they grew up and out. The leaves, still wet with dew, shimmered a blueish green and hung low. The most remarkable part about them, as I had not known this until now, was that they grew in pairs of three. The hajta trees, as Waky liked to call them, grew together in a perfectly equilateral triangle. Some grew closer together, others were several stafflengths apart, but they always made up triangles in seemingly 60° angles, in proportion to one another.

I had to get a closer look. I stopped Waky several times on our journey downstream, making sure that he stopped on the bank so that I and Blarney could get closer looks at different examples of the hajta trees.* Even hajta seedlings, sprouting like no more than blue twigs from the ground, grew in pairs of three. It was something truly breathtaking.

We also witnessed an incredible breadth of wildlife and game. The birds this day were of particular note, those which made especially ludicrous sounds and mating calls. The large black eye of the colorful marqueep stared us down intently as we drifted along. The wings of the rathtalon beat viciously as we entered its territory, but besides giving us a quick fright it did not bother us.

The river rounded a long bend, almost a full 180°, to the point where it felt we were going back up north, but it corrected itself after a time. We eventually came to a clearing in the canopy layer, where the sun beat down at us imperiously. We were almost grateful to resume the humid shadows the jungle offered us.

Several hours after noon Blarney dozed off, snoring away as he does, fool man. We came upon our first encampment that looked inhabited. And it certainly was inhabited. Children came running out of their huts and out from under their root holes wearing naught but rags. The women of the tribe spared no thought into garbing their breasts, and the men but stared at us, weapons bared at their first site of swarthy men. Cautiously, we floated onto the bank, hands raised high, so that they knew we meant the tribe no harm.

*I’ve attached several drawings to the following pages so that you may get a better glimpse at the hajta trees remarkable growth patterns.

Bayo, Sixth of the Pack

Standard

24th of Entekra, 922AP

A chill night’s wind carried bits of sand from the black place. A place Bayo would not go. The dark sand was hot under paw by day, and by night it was like a reflection of the stars above. The glowing insects dug themselves out of their sandy holes, the ones that got into fur, the ones that bit and itched. No, the black place wasn’t a place for Bayo. It wasn’t a place for the pack.

Bayo shook the sand from his fur, and continued among the grass, which grew in patches here, so near to the black place. The rabbit’s scent was lost in the wind. Romu, fifth of the pack, strode by Bayo’s side, sniffing the dirt before his paws. He whimpered his annoyance. They were hungry. And Alpa, first of the pack, would not be pleased at their returning without kill.

The two padded along, conscious of the lights above. They moved slowly, watching the sky shift. Big White came into focus, the first moon, this night. It lit the plains, making their journey easier. Romu preferred to lead, being fifth of the pack, so he did, back to the pack.

There was a rustling in the bushes, just paces ahead of them. Bayo and Romu crouched low, feeling the grass brush their fur lined bellies. They waited. It moved again, ever so slightly. The bush was large and thorny, so they did not wish to pounce on it. They waited more.

The second moon, Small Red, crested over the horizon and into the night sky. A howl in the distance resounded. Alpa praised the night. And so howled others in the pack. Seven in total sent their cries to Small Red. Bayo wished to join his voice to the night, but feared scaring off his prey. Romu had no such reservations, and he raised his head to the sky, howling for his pack to hear him. So lost in revelry was he that Romu did not notice Bayo’s hesitation; did not notice the lurch of the bushes. Several rabbits bounded off.

Bayo would not lose them again. He growled as he joined the hunt once more, invigorated by the baying of his brothers and sisters. He closed the distance between the rabbits until they broke into three different directions. The largest, fattest rabbit went left. He chased it down, jerking to and fro as it bounced left and right between trees and bushes. It led him into a clearing without bushes or trees, and Bayo leapt for the kill. But a blinding blue glow disarmed him at the very last moment.

Romu, noticing too late his brothers hunt, chased after him. He didn’t see when the rabbits broke off. He followed the deep gashes in the dirt where Bayo had kicked off in pursuit of the rabbit. When he came into a clearing, he came to a quick halt, kicking up grass under his paws as he slid. There was Bayo, walking head low, with his tail between his legs. He crept over to a large ball of light that rested upon the dirt. A great sphere of blue, churning itself inside out. Romu didn’t like it. It hurt to behold.

He growled at Bayo, telling him to follow. Bayo looked at Romu, over his shoulder, but merely turned around again to stare at the blue thing. Bayo sat on his haunches, head still bowed low, but his tail no longer sat between his legs. Romu whimpered, stepping over to him, placing his head upon Bayo’s. Sixth of the pack paid him no heed. Romu barked at the blue thing, fearful of its power, but it too paid him no mind. It didn’t stir any more or less than its already wave-like form had.

Romu paced back and forth around the circular clearing, waiting for Bayo to respond. He didn’t. After a time, Romu fell into a restless sleep.

Morning’s light shined before long. Romu awoke and found Bayo still in the same position. The great blue orb still worked its power over him. Romu walked toward Bayo, cautiously. He gave a bark. Bayo turned to face him, eyes red. He howled into the sky, and fire leapt from the earth at his paws, licking up his arms. Bayo did not fear it though, nor did it burn, or even hurt him. Romu took a submissive stance at Bayo’s fiery approach. Their roles reversed, Romu realized he was now sixth of the pack, and that Bayo was five.

“Brother,” Romu heard within his mind. “Come, we have much to discuss with the pack.”

Memories and Maladies

Standard

14th of Triabra, 27AE

Dakrithel was a painter, thinly built, wavy brown hair, with an awkward affinity for the arts. Ember was, well, a number of things, finding each profession more loathsome than the last, but she found joy in simplicity and beauty. She had dark, curly hair, with a short, athletic build. The two had lived a happy life together, mostly.

Every year, on their anniversary, they held a tradition of buying each other a number of gifts. They tried not to go over the top with exorbitant and lavish purchases, but more often than not it became an expensive season. Tiny gifts would suffice, sometimes useful, other times funny, and oftentimes quite meaningless; it was the thought that counted most, and thoughts were what made gifts special.

You see, every gift comes with a story. Every gift involves some thought or intention. They would share the gifts and then laugh or reminisce about the thoughts behind their purchasing them. Sometimes the stories would involve how they thought the gift up, or how embarrassing their conversation was with the clerk upon purchasing certain items, or even about how difficult it was to hide the gifts from each other until the day of. She enjoyed wrapping the gifts, while he preferred merely pulling them out of a bag.

And each year they would weigh the value, both sentimentally and thoughtfully, of the combined bounty of their gifts, thus making contest of who could come up with the better surprise.

Not all gifts needed to be purchased, however. Some were crafted. Some were grown. One year Dakrithel’s only gift to Ember was a bouquet of flowers: firepetals, Aelin smiles, and lilypeons; all of her favorites. He won that year. The reason being he just wasn’t the type of man to ever get a girl flowers, saying it was too clichéd and meaningless, a point she argued and chided him over for many years to come. Upon their ninth anniversary, he had grown flowers for her, in secret, in a neighbor’s yard, and she loved them.

For their tenth anniversary Dakrithel chose to make something special for Ember’s final gift. He decided the story he wished to tell was one they had shared long ago. He pulled out his creation from the bag: a green crocodile, made from stiff cane fibers weaved and folded together. He painted it, gave it a face, and was quite happy with his construction.

“What’s this?” Ember asked excitedly.

“A crocodile,” he said. “Bring back any memories?”

“Uhh,” she said, racking her brain for memories of crocodiles. “No, not that I can think of.”

“Think way back,” he said, the grin on his face masking his growing disappointment.

“Okay,” Ember said. She looked up at the ceiling, twiddled her fingers, and bit her lower lip, all proof that she was thinking very hard. “I’ve got nothing.”

Dakrithel’s smile slipped. “Alright. D’you remember our first date?”

“At the Ruins of Velundane Museum?” She asked, now truly perplexed.

“No, no. Before that. Before we even knew we were courting.”

“Your mother seemed to know we were,” she added. “But I’m sorry, I honestly don’t remember what you’re talking about.”

“Enasembra the 8th?” Dakrithel asked. “The 15th year of the Second Age?” ‘This surely will jog her memory,’ he thought.

“Why do you even remember that?” she asked, now growing defensive about having no memory at all as to what he was referring.

“When you were a baker?” he said, growing desperate for a spark to light.

“I still bake!” Ember exclaimed, teasing him. “I baked you that cake, didn’t I?” she said, pointing out the half eaten cake on the table.

“When you were a baker at the Large Red Bakery,” he said at last. The Large Red Bakery was one of her many previous occupations over the years.

“Oh!” She said, finally getting it, sort of. “I just don’t see how that night has anything to with a crocodile.”

Dakrithel sighed. “Alright, I’ll start from the beginning.” And so he told his tale. She didn’t interrupt. She merely listened, smiled and laughed.

“This was back in Westriff. I had seen you only a few times prior. We met through friends and, after a brief correspondence, I learned you worked at the Large Red Bakery down on the corner of Hafalass and Steelboot.

“Well, after I finished work one day, I decided to visit you. I think we both had an understanding about our feelings towards one another at that point, so I wanted to finally voice my feelings to you. It turned out that I was very unceremonious with my timing. The owner of the bakery had just left and you had, just minutes prior to my arrival, closed up shop.

“I knocked on the window, and saw you jump with a start, broom in hand. You smiled and opened up for me. You were actually getting a head start on baking cookies for the next day, and you asked if I could help. I had never baked before, a point that seemed to amuse you. Needless to say, many cookies were burnt that night, and even more came out in odd shapes.

“But we talked. And we talked. And did I mention we did a lot of talking? Hours went by. We spoke of our lives, our hobbies, and our passions. We laughed and smiled, and got to know one another on a level we didn’t expect to so quickly. I brought up how, yes, my mother assumed we were a couple thanks to gossip through the bramblevine. We spoke in length of how you were planning a prolonged trip alone to Guyvara for a charity effort, something that stood out to me as quite brave for a young girl like you had been.

“Little did I know you were trying to get rid of me by saying, “I don’t know when I’ll be back, so maybe we shouldn’t start anything serious.” But by that point I had already realized I found my wife to be. I said simply, “I can wait.” I’ll never forget the look of speechlessness on your face.

“To make a long story short, at one point during the evening you made for me a miniature crocodile molded from parchment paper. I placed it atop the counter, next to a plate of cookies, thinking it playful and funny.

“I used the restroom in the back of the shop, which doubled as a storage closet – a fact I thought was really unsanitary for a bakery. At that highly inopportune time, the store owner walked in; do you remember her? She was furious at you for keeping the store open so late. We hadn’t known this until after the fact, but she had been watching us talking at length through the windows. She began shooing you out of the store so that she could lock up.

“All this while I was stuck waiting for an appropriate time to come out of the closet/bathroom. There was none. Eventually I had to come out, attempt an explanation and an apology, but nearly got kicked, literally, out of the shop. It was incredibly embarrassing, for both of us. And she kept going off about the “stupid crocodile” on display.

“That night, we got to know more of each other than any other single night, well, save for our wedding night. But you know what I mean. It’s one of my fondest memories. It’s also the night I got you fired.”

“I was thinking,” said Dakrithel, “that we should name this crocodile Malady, for all the trouble it caused.”

“I think that’s a great name. Thank you.” She kissed him deeply, remembering all too well the night he told tale of.

Ember had a similar gift up her sleeve though. When it was her turn to share her final surprise, she pulled out an old coin, with a deep groove down its face. She smiled, knowing it was a good one.

“A coin?” he asked.

Her smile faltered. “Don’t you remember?”


Prompt taken from the Daily Fantasy Writing Prompt, March 14, 2016.

A Brief Paradox History

Standard

A long time ago, before the foundations of the world were yet lain, the Great Colossi were woken from the deep. They caused a purge unlike anything humanity had yet seen. All memory of prior history was lost. Atelinor was thus born.

In so doing, the Colossi created a rupture in the structure of reality. In response to the Purge, which many today believe to be but a myth, anomalies began to appear all over the world of Atelinor. Paradoxes of varying size, intensity, and color, that warped the world around them.

Humans began to study paradoxes, learning the secrets each type unlocked, and opening pathways through their minds to previously impossible abilities. For there were 7 known anomaly types: Cantoleers were blue, Fumarins were red, Sarleers were green, Crintoleers were brown, Yeeleers were yellow, Læxileers were white, and Mæleers were black. Each appeared randomly in nature. Some types were rarer than others. And still some individuals claimed there was an eighth paradox type, but this has never been proven.

Great schools were created with the intent of unlocking all paradoxical secrets, but there was none greater than the Akarian Scholaria. To open ones mind to a paradox type became known as siphoning. But, though much studied, it was never discovered how to unlock the knowledge gifted from the seventh paradox type, the black paradox known as a Mæleer.

And So the Great Rot Spread

Standard

28th of Fourteembra, 87AP

Old Farmer Giles beat his hoe into the dirt, but the dirt did not have enough life in it for the hoe to stick. “Damn,” he said. The soil, once so moist and brown, had become black with rot. Dryer than should be possible.

“It’s just rained!” exclaimed he, quite agitated. “How can this be possible?”

With his eyes he traced where the roots of the rot made their way into the brown moist dirt. Like a sickness it spread. A great large spot upon the face of Atelinor’s green face, with writhing tendrils eating away at the ground around it.

“Soon this will eat away at my fields whole,” Farmer groaned. He turned to see the rest of his crops, glistening in the light of Sol’Enasé, which bounced off their wet leaves. It was a sight he’d never grow tired of beholding.

The tilled earth at his feet was useless, however. He was wasting his time and he knew it. This soil would not grow. It was high time he reaped all he could from his crops, and left.

After all, there was untended and unowned land for hundreds of kiloters north and east of here, nearer the world’s coasts. Soon the rot would be upon his beloved harvest and he’d need to find new land to till.

He had come out this far, past rivers and mountains and thick forests, to escape the terrible wars of men. And a peaceful sanctuary it was. He and his family had built a fine home for themselves. His wife bore him seven beautiful children in quick succession. And then last year, over the tors and through the fields, the rot became visible. It crept by night, shrinking back only slightly in the sunlight, but made more headway than not. It took it longer than a year before it had overtaken them.

But here it was now. An evil malice of unknown origin, staring in the face of all he’d made of the land. Old Farmer Giles had tried cultivating the black soil numerous times, but seeds only shriveled into dust themselves beneath its dark layers.

“Yes. It’s ’bout that time then.” He had known this day would come. He’d warned his missus, and told the children fanciful tales of the land beyond. Of green, free, and peaceful fields as far as the eye could see.

But it was clear there was a price to be paid for peace. Whether that be an allegorical excuse he’d told himself, or the truth, he did not know. But that seemed the only answer he could conjure.

Old Farmer Giles began the process he so dreaded. He harvested what could be reaped, more than enough to feed their family of nine, and then some to be dried out for seeds. He began his preparations for his journey northward.

But how long until the rot overtakes their new home?


Prompt taken from the Daily Fantasy Writing Prompt, Mar. 7, 2016.

Assent of the Whale

Standard

4th of Enasembra, 1219AP

The man and the boy pushed the boat into the bay, ankles deep in the Shattrasi. When the water came up past their knees they knew, without a word between them, it was time to jump in. It rocked, but held their weight, and the momentum carried them past the breaking waves. The water was rougher than usual today.

The two had done this many times prior. In the boy’s young life, he knew he had been out at sea more days than not with the older man. Their suncharred skin vouched for that. Many in their small village would starve if not for their work in the Shattrasi.

Two sets of oars were knotted to the boat’s sides, one set in the front and the other towards the rear. The man took the bow, and the boy took the stern. They pushed on, the boy keeping stride with the man’s rowing. He watched the rhythmic rippling of the muscles on the man’s back as he pulled, tugged, and pushed his oars into the water. They shifted underneath his agemark tattoos. Each new agemark was awarded at the start of the year, just after Prime Zenith. The boy saw the latest mark, denoting the man was now in his 31st year, was still red around the ink. The boy’s own back stung under Sol’Enasé’s light, just under his left shoulder. He was proud of the sensation it brought him. It was his first large agemark, awarded for his 10th year.

Behind them the Shattrakani shores shrunk as they went further out, its blue canopies becoming but a blue line over light sand.

The boat’s white paint had begun chipping away, revealing more of the pronounced blue wood they so revered in Shattrakan. It was far more buoyant than other varieties, which other peoples of Atelinor chose to favor.

The man stopped his rowing, as did the boy. The boy knew to fully remove the oars from the water while the man performed a calming. He pushed the butt of his oars all the way down to the bottom of the deck, and locked them in place under his legs. The last time he let one slip while the man performed a calming the oar had snapped in half. He wouldn’t let that happen again. The waves were choppy, an issue common on windy days such as this. It would not be an easy calming.

The man leaned forward, over the bow, and placed both hands in the water. Long ago the man had taught himself to use the knowledge unlocked by a Fumarin, a large red paradox he had found deep within the Shattrakani Forest. The man wasn’t the best anomalurgist the boy had ever known, but one who used his abilities to reach his end the best. With it he pushed out to calm the waters beneath the boat. The man understood water to a degree infinitesimally greater than your average man, when he opened his mind to it. He knew the water. But on days such as today, where water chose to be disagreeable, calming wasn’t quite so simple.

Minutes passed and the man grew tired. He arms shook, the calming taking much of his strength. But at last, the rough waves around the boat quelled. Soon even the ripples silenced. Placid waters circled them, not giving way to the heave of the waves outside of the circle. The man removed his hands and the boy pulled him in, asking if he was alright. The man nodded, not letting his concentration waver, even slightly.

Several more minutes passed of silent waiting for the boy and intense concentration for the man. The man’s eyes were shut, and he shook as more and more of his strength was relegated to the calming. The boy leaned over the starboard side of the boat, peering into the smooth depths.

Eventually it came. A shadow passed beneath the boat, large and ominous. He called to the man, deep in his concentration, to hold the calm a while longer. The shape beneath the water appeared again, much closer this time, stopping just underneath the ship. It wouldn’t be able to break through the calm, but it was still a threatening site to behold. A large eye stared up at the boy, who nodded, before the eye blinked and the beast left.

The great whales ruled the Shattrasi and all seas, and it was by their blessing alone to allow men the right of fishing within them. The calming was only a formality.

The boy patted the man on the back, allowing him to close his mind to the anomaly. He was glad to do so, and the boy saw the tension fade from his muscles and ease from his mind. Slowly he opened his eyes, and the circle of still water became like it previously was. The man held up a fist, in wait once more.

A large tail kicked up out of the water some distance from them, spraying the air with a salty white mist. If the whale agreed to their fishing today, it would wave them forward, or simply sink its tail back into the water with no splash. If it decided not to allow them to fish today, it would let them know, slapping its tail on the surface of the Shattrasi. It hovered there for a moment, before making its decision. Whether for dramatics or for true consideration, the boy never knew, but he readied the nets regardless.

The whale waved its tail forward, and let its flukes sink into the depths without a splash. The man yelled for him to drop the nets, but the boy knew well enough already. He dropped the net, and he saw the shadow of the whale pass below them again. Behind the whale, a school of comparatively tiny fish swam after it. And the small net caught what it could manage with those fish swimming nearest the surface.


This is a brief tale I chose to write today. I just watched the Star Wars Rebels episode, ‘The Call,’ which had space whales in it. Inspiring, I know. Afterward I learned that it was World Whale Day today, so I decided to make this brief piece. It’s only 1000 words. Hope you enjoyed. I haven’t got to explore the more tribal life of those southern Shattrakani yet, so this is a start.

Removing Some Stories from Tales from Atelinor

Standard

As I’m finding it more likely that my tale with Saivé is going to become a full novel, I will be removing the three chapters already previously posted, including The Forbidden Color, Journey to Maradane, and Her Next Step.

I’ll be needing some beta readers, and will need a lot of help along the way, I’m sure. If you’re eager to read the work I’m removing, and/or wish to see/learn about future progress, please reach me via email @ geekritiquer@gmail.com

Thanks,
Dakota Lopez