Memories and Maladies

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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.

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The Akarian Calendar

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As a preface, Tales from Atelinor is a side project to my main blog Geekritique. A way to help me hone my skills as a writer of fiction. I’ve been writing short fiction on and off for most of my young life, and the past few years I’ve been rather slack in productivity. But since I’ve focused more of my time reading and reviewing genre fiction in the past year, I’ve learned a lot about what makes fictional settings tick, how character arcs can and should be carried, and most importantly I’ve learned what I want to see in a story.

I’ve always envisioned myself creating a sprawling world of fantasy and legend and beauty, with many characters. Old, young, feeble, strong. It is my belief that for a fantasy setting to come alive, it need be a place I can see myself wanting to explore. And more poignantly, the characters involved must be engaging both in the extreme and the mundane. I want each character involved in my world to take a life of his/her own. There are many voices I’ve kept bottled inside, many ideas I’ve let grow in my mind, and I feel now is the time I let them free.

The short tales I post here likely won’t involve the true epic I wish to convey. When it’s time I let that take flight, I’ll know, and you will also. Instead I wish to build my world around some characters I never truly planned to incorporate, be they tertiary, on a different continent or landmass, or from a different time altogether. It is my hope that by spending the time needed exploring my world to its fullest degree, the true tale I wish to tell will be all the better for it. The Akarian Calendar is perhaps one of the farthest tales I wish to visit in Atelinor’s past, and it does tease quite a bit about the nature of the world.

———–

1st of Enasembra, 7AP

His calculations were less than a day off. Again. But he had finished. 2522 days have passed since the Beginning, and his work was near completion. Sol’Enasé sat at nearly the same Zenith it had all those many days ago. No, years. 6 years ago. Any moment now…

Bellar Akar adjusted his assessment. Not 420 days. No, it wasn’t quite so simple. It took just over that amount for the planet to fully orbit Sol’Enasé. 420.166 days. ‘But how could we note that? Perhaps… we add an intercalary day at the end of every sixth year? So a 31st day in Fourteembra? It’ll work…‘ Any moment now.

Bellar took down his final notes and put his pencil aside. He felt the weight of six years settle off his shoulders. ‘We have a calendar!‘ He smiled, which soon turned to laughter. ‘Had She not decreed we destroy all records and books, we’d have figured this out ages ago. And then She commissioned this calendar.’ He continued laughing, relief flooding him. He didn’t care about Her right now. He completed the calendar for himself. He stood up and walked outside.

Any moment now and Sol’Enasé would hit Prime Zenith, marking the new year. “Four hundred twenty days,” he spoke aloud. “And then some.” Sol’Enasé hit it’s peak, beginning a new day. Beginning a new year. The seventh year After Purge. The sky distorted in waves of color. No longer just the pale blue, but purple, and red, and corin, and green, and more. At Zenith each day the sky distorts to some degree, but at Prime Zenith it’s truly triumphant fanfare. The sound of revelry erupted from all around Bellar, as the masses welcomed in the new year with their clamor. ‘And now we have months to break up the year,‘ he thought with a grin.

Bellar waited a moment until Prime Zenith passed. ‘I must learn why it causes such a magnificent distortion some day.‘ He went back inside, collected his work in his pack, and exited again, back into town.

The town of Velundane was new, as were all towns. Only six years had passed since the Purge and there was nothing from before to build upon. Much of the homes were shoddy, not much more than huts or shacks. But some individuals still held memory of masonry, and tended homes of brick and stone. Streets were paved with nothing more than the trampling of foot on dirt. That would change eventually. Bellar strode down the end of the main street towards a large stone house, the greatest establishment yet built, commissioned by the Woman within.

Bellar paused before knocking. He was always unsettled by Her appearance, strikingly beautiful as she was. He raised his hand to the door, but it opened before he could do anything further. “Oh, I’m sorry my Lady… I…” Bellar struggled to find the correct words, and dropped his raised arm.

She beheld him without a hint of amusement, her pitch black eyes gleaming. “It’s alright. I saw you from the window.” She pointed to her left, and Bellar nodded curtly. “What brings you? Do you have news?”

“Better than news, my Lady.”

“Right, come in, please.” She turned back inside with her usual eery grace, and sat down by the fire. Bellar noted the metal strip atop the back of her head, attaching itself down her neck and following her spine just past her shoulder blades. Seven conical spikes of bright silver, each decreasing in size as the piece descended, sent awed chills down the backs of all who looked upon her. It was beautifully wrought and menacingly cold. It parted her pearly white hair, which fell down low on her back and draped over a dress which managed to be impressively whiter still.

“I’ve finished the solar calendar!” He said, spitting the words out faster than he would have preferred. She made him nervous, and with good reason. He splayed out the notes on the desk in front of her. The pages were littered with sketches, calculations, scribblings, crossing outs and other nonsense, but she saw where it came together after some perusal.

She smiled then. Bellar let out a breath he had not known he was withholding. “You’re a genius, Akar!” She jumped up to hug him, quite unlike her usual self. She straightened up then. Looking back to the notes, she mused “so today would be the first day of… Enasembra, year 7.” Bellar nodded. She hadn’t noticed. She continued. “You’ve split the year up by increments of 30. And…” She flipped over one of the sheets. “The lunar cycles don’t necessarily match up, but that’s well enough.” She looked up at him with a glint in her eye. “This is impeccable timing, Akar.”

“Please, my Lady, call me Bellar. And yes, my calculations finally made sense after Prime Zenith failed to occur yesterday. I knew it couldn’t have been exactly four hundred twenty days but just over that amount.” Bellar was oozing with pride. He knew no masonry, no carpentry. He was no fisher or farmer. He was born an intellectual.

Her demeanor slipped back into cool pensiveness. “Fantastic. We’ll make the announcement soon. You’ll be compensated handsomely for your brilliance, I hope you know.” She walked over to her window, looking out at the merrymaking. “However, let me be clear: your work for me is far from complete. The amount of satisfaction we’ll collectively receive from the knowledge of a finished Solar calendar will be overwhelming, but fleeting. We know little else about anything. And our people need educating. Our people need laws, order. We need maps, genealogies, histories.”

Bellar felt the heat rising in him then. He had finished his task. He raised his voice, saying “had we not burned all our pre-Purge records we’d know far more about our situation than…” She cut him off.

Silence!” She spat the word out, spinning to face him. “From this day forth we are not to speak of the Purge.” Her voice became more level, calculating. “I’m afraid we must change the era you’ve chosen for your calendar.” Walking back over to the table, she rifled through the notes until she found it. “After Purge. No, this will not do.” Her spikes moved threateningly as she crossed out the titling. “It should be After Prime, be it that each year starts after Prime Zenith, according to your calendar.”

All Bellar could do was nod his agreement. He couldn’t understand her fascination with starting everything entirely anew. ‘After Prime it was.

“Good. Now. Your next task will take a while longer. I have arranged plans to build a school. I need you to be at the heart of the project. You’ve made your mark on the world with this…” She paused to consider. “…Akarian Calendar. Now I need you to take it a step further.”