Beol – Chapter Four (Pending)

Hey all!

 

So I haven’t written the next chapter to Beol yet for two reasons.  Firstly I’m focusing on my second book at the moment which is taking all of my writing time, and secondly no body actually seems to be caring or reading these episodic things, so will write it in the future for sure, most likely within this month when the editing of my upcoming book is hopefully done.  In the meantime, look forward to the upcoming novel Peace, Forgotten (which may be renamed). Thanks for reading!

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Beol: Chapter Three

Chapter Three: Beol Visits Port Yealfalt

Beol respected his master and remained one who was not for complaining, however he could not credit Mori’s timekeeping or his organisational skills, though he could applaud his enthusiasm. Even before they had left the tower the magician seemed excited about visiting the capital, but of course the preparations were long and hard, extended by the love of magic and all the strangeness which went with it. Before he even considered packing anything which the likes of common people would consider first (clothes, food, water-skins, money, etc.) he began by packing strange things, mystical and wonderful things which were unexplainable by Beol except as magical ingredients and implements.

The wizard had already packed three bags and began to pack a forth when Beol came into the library. Strange roots poked out of one bad, it was full of plants and roots which were wet and dried, then in another bag were glasses which seemed to show other lands and some showed images of dark rooms or were purely dark glass. In the third bag were jars which were sealed shut but Beol knew what was in them: powders of multiple colours, thick liquids, ash-grey flakes like skin only Mori assured the apprentice that they were not skins. The wizard was good in that respect, as Beol adored him for that. He was not one for using any animals for acts nor for his magic, he did not care for involving creatures who had no choice. Having thought that, Beol looked at the greedy creature Tokan, who lay lazily batting a ball of yarn with his tail while his master was too busy. Beol wondered if this creature was here voluntarily or if it, too, had some dark allignment with the wizard.

Yet as he pondered over this, Beol looked into some of the glass jars and seeing all the strange floating colours and weird, mystical powders, the strange objects and all the wonderful things, he could not help but wonder which of these were actually trapped spirits, or which of those seemingly empty jars had once contained such things. Occasionally among those strange, glowing jars Beol swore he saw an eye staring out here and there.

“Master, how would you trap a spirit?” Beol asked.

Mori smiled. “You have been busy with the mirror-spirit, haven’t you? You’re too inexperienced to learn something like that, Beol, it’s very advanced magic.”

“I thought you were meant to be teaching me more advanced magic.” Beol said, then quickly added “Master.”

“There are some things even the wisest do not seek to learn of, for it is beyond even them.” Mori said. “I will show you one day, but only when you are ready.”

“Well, you might as well tell me his name?” Beol asked.

“What did he tell you to call him?” Mori asked.

“Well Ginv calls him Bad Eye and Qo calls him White Face, but he told me to call him Spirit. I wonder why he chooses such strange names, and why he keeps changing them? Surely it’s easier to keep one alias, or two if he doesn’t want me knowing his true name.” Beol said.

“Easier for who, you or him? He’s just showing off, he’s very intelligent, doesn’t forget much. Likes to show his creativity and his memory. But its as you said, he doesn’t want you knowing his true name. If he wanted you to know it, he’d have told you.” Mori said. “Why you should care I don’t know, he’s dangerous and you should not speak with him anyhow!”

Beol looked disappointed but Mori was too busy packing a selection of twigs from different trees to notice.

He wondered all the more if Mori had more spirits stored away in secret places. The previous night the apprentice had taken the time to search in unusual hiding spots; under the stairs and in the cellars, but all he found were spiders and rats, none of which spoke to him. When he was given no information from Mori and found the door to Bad Eye’s mirror chamber locked, he went up to the observatory to pack his own belongings.

He had an old bag which he could pack his belongings into, though they were greatly fewer than the wizard’s. He packed a few sets of clothes, a few tomes and the one which Mori had given him, but asides from those, his runed shard and a walking stick, he felt complete as he stood.

Suddenly the wizard came into Beol’s quarters, appearing by the door to his observatory as quickly and silently as a cat.

“Grulf! You come from Baerukk Zaew, yes? How is this for the city?” he asked, presenting himself. His attire was golden and violet, silver laces tied his sleeves around his elbow but the wrists draped down a foot below his wrists. Atop his head was a jewelled circlet under a pale hood, across his hands a few rings which seemed to glimmer lightly. “Obviously I’ll not have my hood in court, just seems more mysterious for my arrival, you know? Sow the seed of wonder.”

“A touch over the top I should say, Master.” Beol said.

“Really? I thought I was lacking in something. Perhaps when I add a mantle it will be more complete. I have something for you too!” Mori presented a small sized grey and scarlet tunic with a pair of plain grey trousers. They were made from exquisite material, the finest cotton and velvet. Beol took them cautiously. “Keep them clean, they wear clothes like this in the capital, so I hear. I must say I’m quite looking forward to our visit.”

Mori threw the door shut, rushing back down the stairs. A moment later he returned wearing his travelling outfit, a long sleeved brown-grey coat over some very plain looking green and turquoise clothes. Even now he wore a pair of plain, brown leather travelling boots, but Beol noticed tucked under his arm was the robe which had hung separately. The wizard clenched the conical cap which had been dusted and repaired with very unusual and obvious patches where it was moth-bitten, the brim was particularly well worn and more difficult to repair, but Ginv appeared with the wizard, a pair of scissors and a needle about his person with a large smile on his face.

“The capital, Beol, how many days walk?” Mori asked.

“Days, sir? I cannot say.” Beol said surprised. He had assumed that Mori would use magic to travel there. “It is very far, Master. I should doubt we’d reach it within the month, perhaps longer.”

“Bah! Curse it! We’ll have to go buy some horses I suppose.” Mori said. “Beol! I’m going to pack the last items for our journey. Here!” he held out a coin purse full of gold coins and silver nuggets. “Go to Port Yealfalt and buy two horses. We’ll leave as soon as you come back.”

Mori turned to Ginv who still stood smiling. “Ginv, would you be able to repair this cap?”

“Cap will be patched.” Ginv said.

“It doesn’t matter how patched it is, just needs the brim tidying up.” Mori said, taking Ginv out of the observatory and, as usual, slamming the door as he left.

Beol donned his cloak, a brown hooded cloak which was surprisingly warm, then fastened the coin purse to his belt. Port Yealfalt was no more than a few miles from the tower, but it was no safe journey. He opened the door gently, a gust of wind pushing against it as though it wanted him to throw it open! Beol was one for respect, though, and respected doors as well as any animal or person. He held it firmly as to avoid letting it hit the wall behind.

“Oh no you don’t!” he hissed, dragging himself out and heaving the door behind him. The wind kept pushing against Beol’s pulls, but he would not give in. At last the door shut with an almighty bang when the wind suddenly ceased. He turned to face the wild, before him long fields of snow and ice, above him the tall, black tower looming like a sleeping giant. He could see no further than a few hundred yards and could not see the top of the tower, nor any higher than the next window from the base level, though this he only saw thanks to the light shining through. A blizzard had settled around the tower which blinded his view.

He hated the snow and the winter weather which Zhar was so prone to. With a flap and a quick wrist he pulled his cloak closer about himself, trying as best as he could to keep the warmth nearby to him.

“What does Mori want horses for anyway?” Beol asked himself, taking the first trudges through the thick snow. “Surely an all powerful wizard able to capture spirits and hurl lightning like a toy could find some other way of travelling?”

Beol complained loudly for a while to the blizzard, talking to flakes of snow about the selfish and useless wizard Mori. “And what’s more he keeps vanishing! Can’t stay still, can’t close a door quietly, no respect for anyone except himself. Maybe Bad Eye…” he wondered if the spirit could see him, then quickly corrected himself, “er, Spirit… is right. Maybe Mori did get the spirit’s cruelty and selfishness.”

He had come a way by now, soon the tower was just visible through the snowstorm. He kept on a way, hoping that he was walking in a straight line. He tried to look back at his tracks to see, but not too far off fresh snow covered the marks leaving a clear, smooth sheet behind. ‘Curses!’ he thought. ‘If Mori had’ve taught me advanced magic I might’ve been able to clear the snowstorm away!’

He stared down at the shard he held in his right hand, wondering how difficult it would have been to stop the blizzard. He lifted it high, taking a breath as Mori has shown him, then assumed a more comfortable stance. Magic was all about the movements of his body, after all, and Beol knew that the stances were among the most important parts of spell casting.

“Hmm, I wonder if it’d be a worded spell?” Beol asked a spot on his hand. “Bah, I don’t know what I’m doing! Lets just try it.”

He moved his hand across first, like drawing a curtain away. He tried to clear his mind first, emptying it of the anger towards Mori, though he felt it had not completely gone. When he was satisfied with his mind state he focused on the storm, as though imagining himself clearing it away.

He felt something surge through his arm, not quite as though his arm were full of energy, in fact afterwards it felt weaker. It was as though his arm was, for a moment only, much warmer than the rest of his body, though not unpleasantly warm. When his hand pointed down at the ground a shot of fire burst from the centre of the runic shard, exploding in an arc on the ground! Beol was almost caught in the blaze, though fortunately it spread no further than where he had stood. He stepped back when it came out.

“Whoa! Well, now I know how to do that, suppose that’s something.” Beol said to himself. “Best try that again, check I’ve got that.”

He tried again in the exact same way, only this time he started with his hand pointing at the ground and raising it up as he went, to try and aim higher rather than at his own feet. As he lifted his arm up the same surge ran up his arm, then another ball of fire hurled out, flying straight from him away from the tower.

“Hah, I’ve got it!” he cried to the wind. “I’ve got it on my own! I wonder what spell that is? There are so many focused on fire. Right, now I can light more than a candle. Let’s see about this storm.”

He held the runic shard high and tried to build the same thoughts in his mind in the same stance, only this time he moved his arm downwards, straight downwards with a different motion. He felt the same surge through his arm, though nothing came from the runic shard. By now Beol was becoming colder, his arm was worn and his footprints were covered by a fresh layer of snow.

“Damn it! I suppose I shall have to continue.” he told himself as nothing happened again and again.

He pushed himself on through the blizzard, snow falling behind his hood and down under his clothes. He cursed the snowstorm, hurling occasional bolts of fire out into it as practise and occasionally trying new stances and new arm moves to clear the storm. It had no effect.

Finally the port came into sight. Through the storm he caught sight of a few buildings right on the edge of the port. He placed the shards away and rushed into the town. There were no walls nor guards outside in the storm, the rugged wooden buildings looked as though a better storm would have brought them down.

The stable was empty, save a few frightened and cold horses and mules. The stable-keepers had all rushed into the inn, finding comfort through the blizzard with a few mugs of frothy ale. Beol knew how impatient Mori could have been and was keen to return to the tower, but he knew the stable-keeps would not allow the horses to venture into the blizzard, particularly with the untrusted apprentice of the mysterious wizard. Mori had given the peoples of Port Yealfalt more reason than most to dislike him, the stealing of a valuable mirror and introducing a Shadow Spirit to the port was the least of the troubles he had caused over the years. He was rumoured to have stolen children away from their homes at night, steal the hearts of women and have murdered many of the people who had gone missing over the years. Beol knew none of these were true, except perhaps stealing the women’s’ hearts, but he also thought it suspicious the number of missing people who had vanished since Mori’s appearance many years ago.

Occasionally they disappeared at night or wandered away during the daytime then were never seen again. People claimed that Mori kept their bodies in the cellars of the tower, or buried them in the snow, then some said he came down to the sea at night to cast them into the waves. There were even a few rumours that Mori devoured the bodies or fed them to a Shadow Spirit, which Beol began to question after meeting Spirit. Of course no one dared to question Mori himself, and none of them took up against him, most people knew they were just rumours made up by attention-seeking villagers.

Inside of the inn was warm and busy, it seemed as though most of the town were here today, tables were full and mugs carried back and forth, spilling red wines and beer across the floor. A minstrel stood up nearby to the fire playing a strange tune with her lute and singing a song which seemed to match the tune harmoniously, though it was very different. She was a Dreumar, not a race which was usually seen in Zhar, nor in any society of humans. At the bar a short, bearded Grulf stared over the counter, his mutton chops just showing from behind.

“What do you want?” he asked as Beol struggled to the front.

“I’m looking for the stable-masters.” Beol said.

“I don’t serve stable-mastered here, boy. You get beer, wine, ale, or mead. Which will it be?” the barkeep asked.

Beol looked across, he had been away for so long that he had quite forgotten some of the now familiar faces. He struggled to place them in their correct positions though, some he thought had been bargemen and others he thought were the old innkeepers, but he recognised none of them as stable-masters. He looked over them all one by one, placing names on those he recognised and trying to determine the positions of those he had never seen before.

“Here, aren’t you that kid works for the wizard on the hill?” the barkeep asked.

“I work for Master Mori, yes.” Beol said.

“Mori, the dark and infamous magician?” another voice asked as some people began to crowd around him.

Suddenly Beol was the subject of most interest in the inn and received titles as questions, most of which he had never heard before.

“The Ally to Spirits?”

“The Defiler of the Seas?”

“The Lost Soul?”

“The Dark Wanderer?”

“The Dark Mage?”

“Mori the Blackheart?”

“Mori the Fashionable?”

“The Heartless?”

“The Unfathomed?”

“The Unfathomable?”

Beol had never heard so many titles for one man, put atop that Master or Sir and such a name would exceed any Beol could think of.

“That bastard killed my daughter!” an older woman called.

“I promise you that Mori does not kill people!” Beol insisted. “Your daughter did not die by his hand. He’s a great respect of life!”

“What nonsense! He’s a wizard, wizards don’t respect anything except themselves, particularly that one.” an older gentleman by the bar called.

“I think he’s a wise man and very intelligent, even if a little harsh.” the barkeep said. “I don’t think he’d go around killing people without reason.”

“The rumours all say there is a reason!” the gentleman called.

“I think the rumours are nonsense! They’re made up to give the magician some aura of fear and respect, to make him seem powerful.” a younger man called.

“He’s already powerful, he’s a bloody wizard! You don’t get much more powerful than that.” the older woman called.

Beol stood astonished for a moment as the villagers began to argue among themselves over the alliance of his own master. The majority of the people seemed to think Mori was evil, but some argued his case. The argument quickly became something worse and Beol began to wonder if the inn was the best place to be. Soon the first person threw a punch, then the brawl began.

Suddenly there was a full out fight. Beol ducked as punches flew over his head and people were thrown about like hay bales. He edged across towards the door, pulling his cloak about himself and trying to hide as best as he could. Then, all of a sudden from the centre of the room there was an explosion of light and a puff of smoke. There, standing in his travelling clothes and holding a crooked, dragon-topped staff was Mori le Torne himself, the creature Tokan flying at his side with a half-hiss half-roar, revealing some its long fangs.

“The drink has taken leave of your senses!” Mori barked. His voice was like a thunderclap in the room and threw many hands up to their ears. “Ere I cut the light of this room you will heed your own words and realise your own faults before accusing me of mine! Such squabbles over rumours told by children, the most feared of your kind yet not the most fearful! Have you not had enough death and misery from the loss of your own kin?”

“It was your doing which made them go! Where did you hide their bodies?” the older woman called.

“Were that I knew where there bodies were, living or dead, I would have returned them to you. Know that I had no part in their disappearances, though you would blame me for the end of this earth in many aeons to come!” Mori roared. “I have searched for your children, but they are beyond my sight. Know that I will continue to look to bring some respect back to my name.”

Beol: Chapter Two

Chapter Two: Bad Eye Talks

“Shadow spirits should know better really.” Bad Eye said. “I was young at the time, so was he in fact actually. See neither of us knew each other until he started studying magic, then I found him particularly interesting.”

“Interesting?” Beol asked.

“Yeah, he’s kinda unlike other wizards. He seemed to care at least, while the others just wanted to be all powerful and devilishly cunning, he just wanted to make flowers grow as a child, then wanted to learn magic to help others rather than cause harm.” Bad Eye said. “Anyway, I followed him in disguise for a while, he was only a boy, maybe eight years old when I knew him. I always knew he had magic in his blood, so I stalked him in hopes of bestowing him some magical properties or knowledge. We’re very well learnt on magic you know, spirits. Don’t take much to cast flames and lightning as me, I’ll tell you that now!”

“Yet a mirror and a bit of dust can be your bane.” Beol said.

“Oi! Don’t get smart, kid, it doesn’t suit you!” Bad Eye hissed. “Well I followed Mori for many years, I even followed him when his parents sent him away to some magic school, a castle somewhere east. He spent many long years there, I followed him and I was his only companion really, not that he even knew I was there! He was a very troubled and lonely boy see, the others thought he was odd, even for a wizard. He had unnatural dreams and troubles, his care for life was beyond anyone, even me. At the death of such a simple creature as a spider or a fly I beheld him weeping like an infant, especially if he saw it die or worse if he had dealt the fatal blow, by accident of course. Its not easy going through life without killing anything, especially for something as big and lumbering as a human. He loved life so much I was flabbergasted! This was truly a man worthy of some power, I thought, with such respect for life and appreciation of it how could he be dulled and shunned so? How could power go to his head?”

“I never knew Mori was so caring. All he seems to care about these days is…” Beol began, before realising he might have insulted Bad Eye’s friend.

“Hah! Don’t worry, you can say it kid!” Bad Eye said. “He cares about himself and his fashion more and more these days, I dunno what went wrong there. I suspect I might have had something to do with it.”

Mori seemed the type of person who was always of that nature; proud, concious of himself and little else or nothing else, and more oft than not concerned in nothing save his own will, even when summoned by king or queen he considered it improper for them to ask him to abandon his work, or else did not regard the invitations at all!

“Yeah, anyway, he was a good kid growing up, but no one much cared for him. The other students of magic paid little attention, then mocked him, eventually he was cast out as a sort of, if you like, runt among them.” Bad Eye said. “But there was a difference, he was better. Much better. While those among them who wanted to be popular and awe inspiring, as well as all-powerful paid little attention to the lessons, Mori would sit silently and listen, taking notes and performing spells almost perfectly on the first attempt. He was brilliant, much better than any of those attention seeking snobs or childish, pretentious arse-holes! He cared, he paid attention, he actually wanted to learn for the benefits of it not just for himself or to feed his ego. Then one day he was being taught by an Elder, I think they said he was a monk.”

“An Elder?” Beol asked.

“Don’t interrupt!” Bad Eye hissed, then backed on his own words. “Wait, don’t tell me you didn’t know about them?” Bad Eye asked, then continued without waiting for the response. “Oh they’re an ancient race, almost extinct now but not quite. Live on Gorse now, most of them. People think they’re all gone, but they aren’t. Anyway, he brought all the boys into a field to give them the lesson. He was an expert when it came to daemons and fiends, and as it happened spirits. One of the lessons he passed on was the capturing of spirits. Well, I wasn’t following Mori that day, I decided to chase some teens and scare them that day, for the fun of it really. How was I supposed to know that the Elder would teach them how to capture spirits, and how was I to know Mori would be so good at it?”

“He captured you?” Beol asked.

“They laced traps and when I smelt that sweet fragrance I had to investigate!” Bad Eye said.

“So, how do you capture a spirit?” Beol asked.

Bad Eye smiled cruelly. “Don’t go getting any ideas! I’m not telling you, Mori will tell you in his own good time, and only when he thinks you’re ready to know.”

“You’ve got to tell me the full story!” Beol insisted.

“I don’t have to do anything. I can disappear from your sight entirely if I please!” Bad Eye said. “Anyway, look, Mori captured me. He caught me in a little glass jar and everyone was impressed. The Elder hadn’t expected anyone to capture anything more than a frog or a few dull spirits, but when Mori presented me the Elder was shocked, so was the headmaster of that school actually. I was presented to the school as a prize in a glass jar, unable to smash it for fear of what the wizards outside would do to me and for knowledge that I’d be captured in a heartbeat afterwards. Only Mori seemed less than impressed with his own accomplishment, he pitied me and wanted me to be free again, not paraded around like some trophy. Eventually the teachers took me and Mori into an empty classroom where they sat him down and told him that I was a dangerous spirit, far too dangerous to be allowed back into the open world and far too dangerous to trust to the hands of a student. They had a choice which they debated among themselves; either to keep me under guard and captured, or else to ‘destroy’ me. Mori pleaded that I be allowed to live, no matter the outcome of my freedom, I hated the wizards then who regarded me as an object to be destroyed while Mori was the only one who considered me a living creature.”

“What was their decision?” Beol asked.

“They debated and rowed for ages, perhaps three months was spent deciding what my fate should be while I was kept in the glass jar which had since been enchanted to prevent my escaping. Then, finally, Mori came and found me. The decision was made that I would be slaughtered at the hands of the Elder magician. Mori and I disagreed with their decision, so he stole the jar and ran. He ran for a long while, well beyond anyone I had ever experienced, and being chased by a handful of angry wizards. Sometimes they caught up with us but Mori was cunning and gave them the slip, he knew that this was not just a thing he was saving, it was a life. He ran and ran until one day he came to Port Yealfalt. It seemed like there was no escape, then Mori brought me into a shop by the waterfront full of old, torn furniture and instruments. Among all those objects, all those weird and shabby old things, was this single golden mirror.” Bad Eye looked down at the golden frame, saddened. “By then the wizards had surrounded the port, there was no escape, but Mori was intelligent and more powerful than many of them combined, even more than they anticipated. He took me out from the jar, made a bargain with me to save my life if I would give him power and abilities to aid others. I was out of choices, there was no means of escaping, so I accepted. The wizard, whether right or wrong, took most of my powers and knowledge which I still provide the strength for, and in exchange for that he imprisoned me in this golden mirror.”

“Surely the other wizards could have taken you out?” Beol asked.

“Not so easily as you may have thought. Even they were unaware of this magic, none of them had taught Mori. I knew as soon as he took my powers he gained something terrible, this selfish nature and this unruly side of him, almost naive and disregarding. The wizards were afraid then, even as perhaps twenty fully trained masters and arch-wizards stood before one of their own students they looked like sheep before a shepherd. One by one I saw them sulk away back towards their school, but of course I knew Mori was not welcome back there.” Bad Eye said. “I was taken here in the mirror, over time Mori added more mirrors and enchanted them so I may move and have more space, but it is never the same, it can never be. All I want is some freedom!”

“But surely they’d hunt you again?” Beol asked.

“I’ve been long forgotten! They don’t care anymore, why would they?” Bad Eye asked. “Now the selfish and dark nature I gave to Mori is keeping me prisoner. Ironic, ey? Its my own vanity and my own selfishness which is imprisoning me.”

“You can’t persuade him to release you?” Beol asked.

“Mori is still in there, but the man now is more proud of his accomplishments and wouldn’t risk it by releasing me.” Bad Eye said. “I hate him, but he is one of my closest and dearest friends too.”

Beol nodded. “Why are you stuck up here though, why not place your mirror in the hall, or the library, or the room downstairs?”

“He couldn’t have me distracting him in the library, the hall’s too draughty and busy, he considered the observatory for a while then the ugly one showed up.” Bad Eye was implying this name belonged to Beol. “For a while he put me in the servants’ quarters until that became too crowded and became more of a storeroom than living quarters. The room downstairs I tried to convince him to put me in, but he refused saying I’d frighten guests.”

“Draughty? Can you even feel a draught through the glass of that mirror?” Beol asked.

“You’ll feel my wrath if you carry on like that!” Bad Eye suddenly turned quite unpleasant and harsh in his tone. “Listen here kiddo, I’ve got a list of people I’m gonna smite when I get out of here, Mori’s nearby the top and I’ll put you on there if you ain’t careful!”

“Alright! Sorry.” Beol said quickly. “I was only asking a question, I’m trying to help you.”

“Bah! This’ the first time you’ve visited me, why would you want to help?” Bad Eye asked. “I bets you’ll start calling me Bad Eye the same as the big fellow does as soon as you walk away, heartless cur!”

“Ginv?” Beol asked.

“No you, you sluggard!” Bad Eye hissed. “The big one calls me Bad Eye but I don’t mind him! At least he visits, you’ll just walk away and come back maybe once in a while, whenever you need information like now!”

“How did you know that?” Beol asked.

“I can see everything from here! Well, nearly everything.” Bad Eye said. “And I can’t see it so say, I just see glimpses and hear things, I can see certain places but can’t move about to see them. I can see all the tower though, and some of Port Yealfalt.”

“That’s impressive.” Beol said in awe.

“Its rotten, imagine seeing everything and not being able to join in or move about.” Bad Eye said. “Now listen here kiddy, the brute calls me Bad Eye because I told him to, the little fella calls me White Face coz I told him to, Mori calls me my name because he has earned the right to know it. Now I told you to call me Spirit, so you call me that to all your friends and me, or you’re going on my list!”

“Alright, Spirit.” Beol said. “I suppose you know my name, if you can see all the tower?”

“Yeah. It’s Ugly.” Bad Eye hissed a terrible cackling laugh like fire spitting embers. “Or room stealer, the observatory would be a nice room to live in. Hey, if I get rid of you, I get to live up there!” he cried as though this had only just occurred to him as an idea.

“How about if I find a way to free you?” Beol suggested.

“I told you, the wizards of a school couldn’t figure it out, what makes you think you’ll be able to?” Bad Eye asked.

“I don’t know. I seem to be good at figuring things out.” Beol stared at the runic shard in his hand.

“Yeah, you using that is impressive I’ll give you that, more powerful than any other Grulf mage I’ve seen.” Bad Eye said. “And I suppose you’d be wanting something in return for this favour, ey?”

Beol had not thought that far ahead. The idea of freeing this creature went against his master’s will, he knew that, but perhaps it would also help Mori more than the wizard knew. Beol was not one for complaining, but this seemed the strangest of his master’s guests and friends, although not the least pleasant by far. At least this one took the time to speak with Beol.

“Well ok, I’ll tell you what then. You free me and I’ll show you how to capture spirits, on the condition you don’t capture me of course, and you free all the spirits you capture!” Bad Eye demanded these conditions more than ask.

“You seem very selfless for a Shadow Spirit, demanding these conditions for other spirits as well. Very well, I’ll agree.” Beol said.

“Great!” Bad Eye said. “Well Ugly, perhaps you’re not as bad as I first thought.”

“How about you stop calling me ‘Ugly’ while I’m trying to help you?” Beol asked.

“No can do, hairy man, deal’s already been struck you can’t change the conditions now.” Bad Eye laughed again. “Well, what are you waiting for, are you gonna go learn how to get me out or not?”

“You can’t rush me.” Beol said. “I haven’t even started learning advanced magic yet! You’re going to be in there for a while longer yet, mystic friend, might as well try to make you more comfortable before I start trying to free you.”

The door of the tower slammed shut almost three days later, hurried feet rushing up the stairs towards the observatory. Beol was sitting at a rough made pine desk reading the tome his master had given him, the desk, like many of the mirror stands in Bad Eye’s room, made by either the wizard himself or Ginv. Suddenly the door of the observatory burst open, Mori throwing the door without a care of how hard it struck the wall behind.

“Beol! I’ve returned.” Mori announced as though this were the most important news. “And I have exciting news for both of us, fantastic news for me actually!”

“Master?” Beol asked meekly.

“I received a summons from the king! He’s asking for an audience with me at his palace in Baerukk Zaew.” Mori announced very pleased with himself. “I haven’t learnt why he’s summoned me, must be for an enchantment on his sword or something, I don’t know. Means I’m going up in the world though, Beol! Not just a wizard in Port Yealfalt tower anymore!”

“That’s good for you, Master.” Beol said.

“Oh its good for you too! I said I’d teach you more advanced magic, can’t do that while I’m away, can I? You’re coming with me.” Mori said.

“That would be very kind of you, Master. Are you sure I wouldn’t be too much burden?” Beol asked politely.

“Burden? What are you talking about. True your a bit troublesome sometimes, but I can cope with that.” Mori said. “Wait here a moment, I’ve got to see about some clothes. We leave at first light, Beol, pack everything you need!”

The wizard rushed out from the chamber, leaving the door wide open. This usually meant he was quick to return, so it was this time.

“Oh, I almost forgot, did you find a spell?” Mori asked.

“I found this one which I thought seemed reasonable.” Beol showed the page to Mori.

“Lightning!” Mori burst quite surprised, then nodded. “That is quite advanced, I thought that book was simpler than to introduce lightning. Lets see.” He stood and read the tome for a minute, pacing up and down the room as he read it. Often when he came nearby to Beol the Grulf caught a whiff of some flowery odour. ‘No doubt some perfume made to entice spirits,’ so Beol thought.

“This is still quite advanced, I’m not sure you’d be able to perform it very soon.” Mori said. “But I’m nothing if not optimistic, I’ll help you try to learn it if you wish.”

Beol liked the idea of lightning more than he liked the idea of fire, it seemed less useful but somehow more powerful and instant. Mori read the book again, then handed it back to Beol.

“Have another look and see if there are any others, but if you’re sure we’ll try it.” Mori said. “Honestly I’m impressed you found one so challenging and I’m impressed you found any at all, considering how much time you spent disobeying me and wandering. Bad Eye is a good spirit, but don’t trust everything he says.”

Beol leapt to his feet to defend himself, but by that time the wizard had slammed the door of the observatory, himself on the other side. He stood astonished for a moment; had Bad Eye himself admitted to Beol’s visit? Surely the spirit would not have shared the information that Beol plotted to free him? Beol did not wonder over the matter for too long, as Mori himself did not seem too concerned. The call of the capital lured Beol to start packing, the promise of learning more advanced magic even greater in his heart.

Beol; Chapter One

Chapter One: Beol Meets Bad Eye

There were many things which Beol considered his master and often thought about for a long while, but honest and keeping to his word was not one of them. It was not that Mori meant to go back on his word, or so Beol thought, but the magician simply forgot easily and otherwise lacked interest in things, including Beol. The next day came and passed, the same as the next week. It was not until almost a month after Mori had spoken to Beol about teaching him more advanced magic that the magician came to the Grulf with a large dusty tome. He slammed the tome down on the table where Beol had been sat studying the ancient Daesir who used runic shards like his.

“Beol!” Mori cried almost as though he had not seen the Grulf. Beol stared up lazily, the lack of excitement from expecting to learn something came from years of disappointment when such opportunities and expectations occurred. This time, however, it seemed morel likely. “I’m going out for a while. This is a tome of more advanced spells. Have a read through and familiarise yourself with some of them, find one which you think you would like to learn. We’ll start off with one, try and get you in the frame of mind for this type of magic. I won’t start off teaching you how to burn a city, but find something more advanced than tinderbox lighting.”

“Will you be gone long, master?” Ginv appeared from no where, holding Mori’s travelling cloak ready.

Mori either pretended or failed to hear the Brult, despite such a deep voice which drew the attention of spiders on the other side of the room.

“Beol, don’t go wandering. Focus on your studies.” Mori ordered.

And with that the magician left his apprentice, heading down the steps towards the door. Beol heard the magician slam the door of the tower shut, all the walls shaking for a brief second.

“I have food cooking.” Ginv told Beol.

Behind the Brult was another of Mori’s servants and one which Beol had grown quite fond of as well as familiar with, a Mohgani called Qo. He was short, grey-white furred and wore a black morning star on his side as well as a rather fitting cloth tunic and trousers. One thing Beol liked about the Mohgani was his surprisingly endless amount of unique capes. Today he wore a crimson cloak which fitted well with his outfit, but yesterday he had worn one which was grey in colour and tattered at the base. The Mohgani was less of a servant than a soldier for Mori, he was supposed to guard the tower, but his services had not yet been required so instead he assisted the servants, particularly Ginv who he had taken a liking to.

“Thank you, Ginv.” Beol said at last, forgetting himself. “I suppose it’s not much past dusk, ey?”

“Sunset just been.” Qo said. He struggled with the language of humans, but was learning well. His tutor was a being Beol rarely spoke with, a friend or creation of Mori’s who occupied the hall full of mirrors. Qo called him ‘White Face’, Ginv called him ‘Bad Eye’ but Beol had only seen the figure once in the night and had never spoken with him.

“I’d better get this done a bit quick.” Beol stared at the tome. It was almost as tall as he was and as wide too. He wondered how Mori had managed to pick it up. “Don’t think it’s going to be a quick skim, actually. Maybe I’d better eat first.”

“I’ll bring your food up.” Ginv said quickly, keen to be of some use.

“No, I’ll come eat downstairs with you.” Beol insisted. “Qo, you’re joining us, aren’t you?”

“Yes, let me bring White Face food.” Qo said.

“Bad Eye doesn’t eat.” Ginv said. “I sort him. Go, you have food below!”

The servants’ quarters were less pleasant than most of the rooms of the tower, but were not as worn as the entertaining room nor as cluttered as the library. Mori kept no servants devoted to cleaning, he liked his disorder and dispised people who moved things too much. There was one rule for the servants and Beol; ‘clean your own area or don’t, but don’t touch anything besides’ was Mori’s only rule. So far, Beol had only broken the rule three times, once when he restacked the books of the bookshelves in the library, once when he tried to repair one of the chairs in the room below, then once when he dusted cobwebs away in the cellar while looking for wine. Mori was very keen all the mess, even the wild creatures like spiders and flies seemed to please him. The two pets he kept were treated better than Beol; the black cat had the entire bookshelves to itself to sleep on, all warm and pleasantly placed in the view of the window where the sunlight often shone through, then the other creature, Tokan, was kept close by to Mori most all the time, save when he went on trips. Even now the strange creature was no where to be seen, Beol assumed the magician had taken it with him.

Ginv lay a set of plates down on a pine table, the top of the table marked with scratches, chips, and strange little holes as though someone had burnt into it. The entire chamber seemed like that, in fact there were no beds but more tables which Ginv and the other servants lay blankets on top of. He was the only servant who was constantly present in the tower, Qo only assumed his duties for four or three days a week, the others came and went almost as they pleased. Mori hardly seemed to notice the shifting servant patterns. Still, everyone seemed grateful that Ginv was always in the tower, everyone liked him for different reasons. Beol liked him because he was friendly and a good cook, plus he always welcomed strangers and seemed opening minded about everything. Qo liked the big lumbering beast, a two-foot tall Mohgani compared to the twelve foot Brult was quite a sight and the Mohgani liked climbing up his hairy back to see the world from his view. Mori, Beol supposed, liked having a servant who was loyal, although he also thought it was because Mori liked having someone less intelligent than himself, or even of very little intelligence, who could be ordered around and told things they did not know, even if they would forget it only a few moments later.

“Potato skins again, Ginv?” Qo asked.

The Brult lay his own plate thick with crispy potato skins doused in herbs. Qo was given a lamb stew, the lamb reared, slaughtered, butchered, and cooked by the same hands. It was among Qo’s favourite meals and he wasted no time in handing out the forks. Beol fetched some goblets and water for the companions, his own plate laid with a variety of vegetables and a large hunk of beef. The cattle were also farmed by Ginv out in the fields which bounded the tower, all part of Mori’s land.

Beol watched the companions who sat down for their meal. Ginv took a forkfull of potato skins and crunched into them so loudly Beol thought he ate the fork as well! Qo’s lamb fell apart on his fork, it truly looked delicious, so much so he had to leave the table to find a spoon. He looked at them all and wondered how any living humanoid could vary in size so much, even from different species. The Mohgani, who were often so shy, seemed nothing like either of the other two. His nostrils sat flat against his face like a serpent, but ears were hidden well below the thin layer of fur, and two wide yellow-green eyes stared out offering no warmth. The morning star at his side suited his size perfectly, but Beol had also seen him with a sickle which he used like a scythe, and a wooden shield at one point. The Brult dominated the table, his stocky build like an ox on legs. He greedily had the most on his plate, but finished it quickest and still complained of being hungry, going after the meal to cook some eggs. As for Qo, he failed to finish his meal, made for a human-sized portion.

Then there was Beol, the Grulf, three foot tall with a two foot long ponytail of reddish-brown hair and a beard tied decoratively with two fine plaited beads running down the length from beneath his mouth and many little metallic rings and bells hanging in it. It was a thick and heavy beard which suited him, hiding the face which for years he had cursed for being deformed. It was normal for a Grulf face, but he felt it ugly compared with the faces of Mori and his many friends and relations.

“How long Master Mori be gone?” Qo asked after their meal.

“Several days, no doubt.” Beol said. “I think he’s afraid something’s going to happen.”

“Like what?” Ginv asked.

“Nothing bad happen, my arm protect you!” Qo called clanging his mace against a metal stud on his trousers.

“He said something about a sorcerer around here.” Beol said. “I don’t know, he doesn’t seem himself to me.”

“Bad Eye will know.” Qo said.

“I don’t talk with Bad Eye, I dunno what he’s like.” Beol said.

“Imaging talking to yourself.” Ginv said. “Its a little like that. He’s not entirely there, if you know what I mean.”

Beol thought he did. The stories he had heard from the servants about Bad Eye the Mad and Bad Eye the Incomplete lead Beol to believe this creature was not entirely of sound mind, if at all. The more he considered it he decided the creature must have some sanity, being able to teach Qo to speak the human language.

“Suppose I’d better go see him then.” Beol said, staring down at his plate of meat grimly. He hesitated, the idea of visiting a madman was unpleasant for Beol. “Still, how would he know any more than us? He doesn’t even leave the castle!”

“He doesn’t need to.” Ginv said. “Go see him, he’ll tell you.”

Beol ate the meal quickly, Ginv seemed rushed for him to go and see Mad Eye. The servant did not wait to finish his own meal before washing Beol’s plate and cutlery. The Grulf sat back for a minute, smoking a pipe as he did after a meal while Qo and Ginv spoke about the gossip from Port Yealfalt. The most exciting piece of gossip was the upcoming Red Day, which boasted to be the most exciting in years. The Red Day was the celebration of the greatest battle which took place in the waters just beyond Port Yealfalt. It was a war concerning the Grulf and sea-faring Utrelm men, whose ancestors had betrayed Har and they themselves lived in hostility with the kingdom. The war was began by the Utrelm men, who waged war against all of Zhar in an attempt to gain some advantage over Har and as the greatest kingdom for soldiers, Zhar seemed an obvious choice. The Red Day was the day of the greatest battle, which took place beyond the port where over fifty thousand Utrelm ships came to attack a measly five thousand Grulf ships. The battle would have been long and bloody, slaughtering the entire population of the port if not taking Zhar itself, until a magician, called Torris, invented a ward which was cast by all the greatest of Zhar’s magicians around the port.

On the day of the battle, all the Utrelm ships set sail for the port, but no Grulf ships came out to meet them. The Utrelms thought they were offering a surrender, so set forward as close as they could. But when the ships hit the ward, all the front was caught in an unstoppable blaze, then it spread from ship to ship, even those which did not touch the ward were burnt away by jumping flames. Not all the ships burnt, the soldiers still had to fight, but when the ward had ended only three thousand Utrelm ships remained to the five thousand Grulf, and the soldiers on land. It was still a long battle, but one which was best remembered as their greatest victory. The day was given a name Red Day and was celebrated annually as a holiday and a festival in Port Yealfalt. There were two offered concepts as to why the day was called the Red Day, most of the peoples said it was to commemorate the flames which burnt a deeper, more burgundy red than usual, though some people say that the day was named for all the blood in the water when the sharks claimed those who tried to swim away. Either one Beol disliked.

That evening as the moon was just beginning to rise over the horizon, an icy stare spreading across the land, Beol came to the room full of mirrors and stood hesitant outside the door. Ginv was busy downstairs clearing away the servants’ quarters; whenever Mori left the castle Ginv liked to clean as much as he could so the wizard may only scold him once rather than every time he was caught. Qo had retired for the night, and another of Mori’s servants, a Grulf who brewed ale in his spare time, was busy with something in the cellars. Standing before the wooden door Beol felt stuck; the pull of his curiosity was far too great not to look inside at least, and to hear what Bad Eye knew about the sorcerer, but the fear of what he may find was greater still.

At last he plucked up his courage, straightened himself and gave a quick huff of determination. ‘Its a room full of mirrors and Qo’s teacher, how bad can it be?’ he asked himself, lifting the lantern he held in his left hand.

The room was pitch black and the door creaked unpleasantly as he pushed it to. There was no need nor way to knock, the latch on the door had been broken long ago. Beol came forwards, the room was cold and unwelcoming, but he found a few dusty braziers at the sides of it and lit them with the only spell he knew for fire. The first few braziers lit easily enough, revealing dark reddish-brown walls as though they had been revealed to an abnormally large amount of smoke, which Beol could understand from the braziers so close to the walls. Then the forth brazier refused to light! Beol held out the runic shard and as per usual a small shot of flame struck the oily brazier, but there was a light fizz and hiss then the flame died.

“Come on! Light damn you!” he hissed at the hissing wood.

It flickered for another moment, then died. Beol could feel a slight breeze nearby to the brazier, but nothing strong enough to extinguish the flame. He cursed it, trying again and again but the wood refused to catch.

“Bloody thing! Be that way, I’ll find another.” Beol said, giving it a slight kick.

The next brazier along the wall ignited almost instantly, then the next. Soon he had most of them ignited, a few which he left as the room seemed bright enough, some were placed directly under stained and blackened windows, ash and soot seemed to have piled up for several years against the glass! Beol took a rag from his side, he always kept a piece hanging from his belt for ready use, and wiped the windows until the moonlight shone in.

At last there was enough light in the room to see. In total Beol counted almost eighteen mirrors in the room, excluding the broken ones which were even more. Some of those which he thought of as broken were simply cracked across their length, others were shattered into thousands of pieces and some were scattered across the floor.

There was no person inside of the room, however, not even any traces or signs that anyone had been in here, besides of Qo and Ginv’s footprints which were trodden through thick layers of ash and dust on the floor, as well as Beol’s own. There was nothing to indicate that Bad Eye was here.

“Huh, I suppose he must’ve left while we were eating.” Beol thought.

He walked up to the nearest mirror. They were all different in many ways, some were round and others were square, but most of them were stood upright in the middle of the room, some on their own suited stands, others made on rough stands built by Mori or Ginv. They were all dusty too, save one on the farthest wall, where all the footprints of Qo and Ginv lead. That one was dusted, and frequently it seemed. It lay in a golden frame, around the edges the glass was decorated into some form of pattern, but the centre was plain.

“Why do they stop here?” Beol asked.

“Why do you ask so many questions?” a voice replied. Beol stared up, the voice came from the mirror! In the image he could see himself, then behind him appeared a figure. “Its very irritating, you know, and I’m already in a bad mood so please just go away or be quiet!”

Beol spun around expecting to see the figure behind him, but there was nothing there save the mirrors and the door which stood ajar. In the reflection of the golden mirror Beol could see the figure, and his reflection spread to all the mirrors in the room too.

“Who are you?” Beol asked.

“Took you long enough to come here! Four years you’ve been that cruel wizard’s apprentice yet you’ve only been in here once, and thought I wasn’t even worth talking to!” the reflection of the figure sounded very insulted and horrified. He half-screamed and half-whispered in his voice, as though he were trying to sound angry when his voice was lost.

The figure was unlike anything Beol had seen on Illé Nirl; it looked more like to a floating wisp of spirit, but it had a white face which Beol could not begin to describe, for it seemed formless. There was a greyish-black mass which moved as its mouth and two which seemed to make eyes.

“The little fellow calls me White Face, he’s kind but strong. I don’t like him much. The big one calls me Bad Eye, so do his friends, but he is an easy opponent to manipulate and loyal, he may be of use to me. I like him. Mori calls me by my name, but he is my captor! A pox on Mori and all of his kind! You are a magician too, you are like to him!” Bad Eye said.

“What is your name then?” Beol asked.

“You shall learn it in time. For now you will call me spirit.” Bad Eye said.

“How about if I smash that mirror, you tell me your name then?” Beol asked.

“I have all these other mirrors to dominate, you destroy one and I shall go to another. Watch.” Bad Eye said. He vanished from Beol’s sight, then something called behind him. The Grulf spun around to see Bad Eye hidden behind a layer of dust on one of the round mirrors. He stayed there for a moment, then disappeared and returned to the golden mirror.

“What happens if they all break?” Beol asked.

“Then I’d be free, I guess, or die.” Bad Eye said. “I haven’t tried it to find out, not that I can anyway. Tell you what, why don’t you ask Mori? He seems pretty good with that sort of thing.”

“Qo and Ginv seemed to think you know a lot.” Beol said.

“Sure I do, but a lot ain’t everything!” Bad Eye said. “I know you’ve waited four years to come and see me, even to wonder who I am! You always knew I was here, that’s what irks me. At least the lumbering beast has some manners, he visits once in a while. You know how lonely it gets up here, and how boring it is not being able to move out of a mirror?”

“I’m sorry.” Beol said. “I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“You’re not sorry! You’re sorry that I mentioned it, but you’re not sorry you haven’t been. I terrify you, don’t I?” Bad Eye asked.

“Well, yes really.” Beol said.

A sort of smile appeared on the mouth of Bad Eye. “Hehe, I love it when I scare them. Mori was afraid too, to tell the truth. He had no idea what he’d caught, just thought I was another sprite.”

“Caught?” Beol asked.

“Cmon kid, add two and two! What, did you think I was born here?” Bad Eye asked.

“No, I just…” Beol began.

“Didn’t think, basically? Trouble with you and your kind, you don’t think, or at least don’t think about anything besides yourself! I hate Grulf, I hate greedy selfish Grulf who don’t think about me for a change!” Bad Eye hissed.

“And you’re not selfish? All you’ve gone on about while I’ve been here is yourself, how everyone should be bending backwards for you!” Beol hissed back.

“I’m allowed to be! I’m an evil spirit, it’s my job to be selfish and rude.” Bad Eye said. “Well, not really evil, just untrustworthy. You never know whose secrets I’ll share.”

“You say your a spirit? What kind of spirit?” Beol asked.

“Err, there are many kinds of spirit, O ugly one. I happen to be a shadow spirit, which makes me sound more evil than I am.” Bad Eye said. “Them calling me Bad Eye doesn’t help, but I like it, it’s quite a cool name I think.”

“A shadow spirit? What can they do?” Beol asked.

“Mori’s right, you are full of questions!” Bad Eye said irritibly.

“I’m allowed to be, I’m an apprentice.” Beol tried to sound clever.

The spirit laughed, his voice something terrible which shook the room.

“Yeah, don’t do that kid.” Bad Eye said. “Well shadow spirits can haunt peoples minds really in different ways. I like to make myself look like other things beside myself. Before Mori imprisoned me I could move forward and back in time too, it’s why I’ve learnt to speak like this. They speak like this in the future, y’know?”

“Speak like what?” Beol asked.

“I dunno, words like that and yeah. You heard anyone say yeah before?” Bad Eye asked.

Beol certainly had thought the spirits language was strange. Yeah, kid, cool, these were all words which were either foreign or else incorrectly placed in sentences for him. He could understand that this ‘yeah’ sounded remarkably close to ‘yes’ and supposed it was some shortened version. Kid was an entirely foreign word to him, he supposed it meant something alone the lines of person. Then cool was a means of saying between hot and cold, the use of that word in that sentence seemed completely improper.

“And of course spirits have much more powerful magic than humans. Why I hate Mori, he stole loads of my power from me!” Bad Eye hissed.

“Stole power?” Beol asked.

“Yeah, that’s what I said, cotton ears! He took some of my time power and shapeshifting! I can still assume some forms, but nothing like before. Curse him, that bloody wizard.” Bad Eye said.

“Can you tell me why he captured you?” Beol asked.

The spirit looked faintly annoyed, but also a touch happier to have some company and someone to talk to. He pointed a chair out to Beol who pulled over a rather uncomfortable wooden armchair from the corner.

“It began ten years ago…” Bad Eye began.

Beol the Lightning Hand – Prologue

Hey all!

I hope this will turn out to be a sort of episodic book posted to you guys perhaps monthly, or twice a month?  I haven’t decided yet. Anyway, here’s the first chapter or the prologue, which I also haven’t decided yet.  As I’ve written this in roughly 24 hours it hasn’t been edited and hasn’t been scrubbed and polished.  Enjoy! – K. W. Rose.


The Host

Beol was not one for complaining, he liked all of The Master’s friends and companions, but these ones were different. The Grulf stared up some three foot to the faces of the strangers, long faces with pointed chins and tall, winged circlets around their foreheads. They were beardless, lithe, tall, and very gaunt in face. Beol thought they needed to eat more, but they seemed to consider him rude and irritible.

“Go and find your master.” one among the strangers ordered Beol as though he were some lower class servant.

The Grulf stared at that one hard for a moment, trying his best to unnerve the man. The gaunt faced man stared back, only his stare succeeded in unnerving Beol, it was like staring into two crystals, but they were as wide as the moon!

“Go and tell him that Forfile and his company have arrived.” the man ordered.

Beol stood silently for a moment, then opened the door wider for the company to enter the tower.

There were five of them in total, Beol could not count them as they rushed in all at once out of the rain, but counted the soaked cloaks which landed on top of him as they hurled them down. They were multiple coloured cloaks, all made from very fine material. From the feel, Beol guessed they were silk. He hung the cloaks on a rack beside the fire in the bottom chamber to dry, the company following him expectantly. He wondered why they trailed behind him like flies, obviously they thought he was taking them somewhere.

“I hope you have suitable accommodation, and a room in which your master and we may speak privately?” the gaunt man asked.

Beol stared at him again. He was a very proud man, and seemed less pleasant with every passing minute. Beol took them to the only room beside the chamber and hall of the ground floor. It was a large enough room with an open fire and suitable seating. As soon as the last of the gaunt people entered the room Beol shut the door, rushing to the flight of stairs which lay on the other side of the chamber.

Such people were not to be kept waiting, Beol knew, but he also knew his master disliked being disturbed all the more. He came to the top of the flight where the servants’ quarters were above the entertaining room below. The next flight was longer and wound right around the inside of the tower, appearing on a small level with one room again, this one was The Master’s quarters. Above these was the library, then above that a room full of strange, magical objects which Beol was only just beginning to learn what were for, then above that a room full of mirrors, above that a room full of candles and lanterns, then the last level of the tower gave Beol’s own chamber, shared with The Master’s observatory.

The Master was in the library today, he had gone in there the previous night and was not seen since. Ginv the Brult stood outside the library door, a tray in his hands.

“They’ve arrived, Ginv.” Beol said.

The twelve foot tall Brult stared down at Beol the three foot Grulf, a massive smile on his face so large Beol was afraid he would rip his own lips if it came any larger. The Brult was among Beol’s favourite of the servants in the tower, he always smiled even if he lacked few words. Beol liked that.

“Master’s not done.” a deep, shaking voice came from Ginv’s mouth. “His food’s gone cold.”

“Did you knock on the door?” Beol asked.

“Master’s not done. He said not to disturb him.” Ginv said.

The Brult had a good heart and was loyal to a fault, such a fault that intelligence was deeply lacking. His body was covered from head to toe in long, thick brown hair like fur of an animal, but he wore a leather outfit too and an apron on top of it.

“That was last night, Ginv. I’m sure he’ll want to be told that they’ve arrived.” Beol said.

He knocked thrice on the door, which upset Ginv who thought this was wrong. A few moments passed which the two stared around nervously. Finally, the doors opened ajar, two bright blue eyes staring out like sapphires.

“Beol! Get on with your studies, I’m busy!” a chilling voice called from nearby the blue eyes.

“Master Mori, your guests have arrived.” Beol said.

“Guests? What guests?” the voice asked.

A ringed hand came out from the door, gesturing for Ginv to clear off. The Brult looked disappointed but obeyed the unspoken command, bringing the tray back down to the cellars.

“Some gaunt people, snobbish type.” Beol said.

“Daesir?” the voice asked.

“No, not young enough, one of them isn’t anyway.” Beol said, remembering the gaunt man. “Ugly people, well dressed, circlets with wings.”

“I haven’t got time for guessing games, Beol! Who are they?” the voice asked.

“Said they were Forfile and company.” Beol said as though it were a question.

“Never heard of them.” the voice said, and the door slammed shut. Beol waited a moment, almost knowing what was about to happen. Then, all of a sudden, the door burst wide open and the magnificent figure stood ready behind. “Forfile! My cousin, here in Zhar? How unexpected!”

Out from the library the figure came, Beol’s master and the wizard of Port Yealfalt, Mori Ie Torne. Mori was unlike Beol had pictured a wizard until the Grulf came into his service; he pictured an elderly man hunched and well learned, perhaps a touch on the gaunt side or else more broad around the waist, aged and slow until the time came for speed. Mori was not like that; he was young, perhaps in his early thirties or older twenties, and already mastered magic as though it were second nature. He was boisterous, flamboyant, experimental, and what he did not know he liked to pretend he did, or else discover for himself. Mori despised being taught how to do anything, he preferred to learn on his own. While he was well learned and read up, he was neither gaunt nor broad, rather lithe and slender though healthy appearing. He was quick too, much too quick for Beol’s liking, he never stuck to one objective but rather had at least three things to do at once, switching almost instantly between them. Atop his head was a large crown of curly dark brown hair, his face was bearded for not having shaven for business though usually he favoured a clean shaven face. For half a year he assumed a moustache, then for another half a year he tried having a small patch of beard on his pointed chin, but neither suited the wizard. As for his attire, the man’s wardrobe was larger than the library of books. He was keen on the fashions of all the lands, though most times he favoured a blue and red tunic with matching trousers and pale yellow-brown shoes. Beol rarely looked in Mori’s chamber, but when he had done he saw a robe hung separately to all the other clothing, and a conical cap sitting among spiders webs in the corner.

Today, however, he wore a red velvet outfit with long sleeves and purple lining, a handful of silver bells hung around his sleeves and the feet of his trousers, his shoes were blue slippers. The man certainly looked nothing alike to his cousin, by his attire or his physical appearance.

In a heartbeat Mori bounded down the steps two or three at a time, leaving behind the open door and the book he had been reading. Beol watched as a ghost-like figure followed the wizard moving faster than any human could have hoped to move. Inside the library, Beol saw all the books which had once been on the shelves tossed across the floor like worthless paper, many of them torn and thrown down open, pages bent and ripped. Up on the top of the shelf, in his usual place, a black cat lay sleeping where it was warm against the ceiling and down on the floor, looking through Mori’s satchel for some food, was a foot tall creature which Beol could not begin to remember the name of. It looked to all the world like a cat in its face, though atop its head, just behind the ears, were a pair of tall, slender white-grey horns. It was legless and its body was lengthened somewhat like a wyrm, but it unnervingly seemed pleasant and came something between a purr and a hiss when content. Now, it was anything but; Beol had disturbed it searching for food, quickly snatching the satchel from under its own mouth.

“Tokan! There’s nothing there for you!” Beol snapped.

The cat-wyrm hissed, revealing a fine pair of wings which had been hidden on its furry back. All across its back and sides was the same fur as its head, but its front was scaled so it may slither across the floor.

“Get out! Go on! You’d better run before I boot you out!” Beol hissed back.

The creature pushed itself up with its tail, flying about the room for a minute as though boasting, then when Beol reached into his pocket and withdrew a small shard of glass, the creature flew out as quickly as it could, escaping down towards the servants’ quarters.

“That’s better.” Beol told the satchel. “Maybe he’ll think twice next time.”

He followed Tokan out of the chamber, placing the satchel gently down on a table beside the door before he left.

Downstairs the company gathered in the room, and Beol could hear loud voices speaking. Master Mori had often spoken of his cousin, but never mentioned a name nor their exact relationship. Oft times he quoted as a great friend, then sometimes Mori spoke as though his cousin and he were in a feud with one another. Now, as Beol listened, he still struggled to determine whether or not he should expect lightning bolts to hurl out of the door.

Ginv came beside Beol not long after he arrived in the hallway, the Brult carried a handful of crunchy potato skins which he shared with the apprentice.

“I think they’re friends.” Ginv said when Beol asked. “They talk a lot and write a lot.”

“What’s Forfile like?” Beol asked.

“He annoys me. He is rude.” Ginv said with a mouthful of potato skins. “Sometimes they fight, nothing more than a family row, but that means magic for magicians.”

“Forfile is a magician too?” Beol asked.

“Eat and keep quiet.” Ginv said, passing Beol a few more potato skins. At that moment the door opened and four members of Forfile’s company came out, their heads bowed and walking very gently and gracefully. As soon as the last was past the threshold of the door, Beol heard it slam shut.

“Mori doesn’t like doors much, does he?” Beol said.

Ginv smiled. “No.” was the only answer he got.

The members of the company came up to Beol and stood beside him. Three members of the company were men, two of them were somewhere between fifty and sixty, the third was just shy of forty Beol thought. They wore grey, green, and blue attire with cloaks which did not match in colour yet, when worn, seemed to compliment the outfits. The fourth company member was the only female, a woman somewhere nearby to her mid twenties whose gaunt appearance rather fitted her and gave an element of beauty. She had dazzling fire-red hair and an artichoke green dress to match, with wavering jade patterns woven into the fabric. She was the only member of Forfile’s company who seemed to show any notice of the servant and the apprentice, even offering them a smile, though none of the companions spoke, not even to each other. The men stood besides Beol with bowed heads, waiting and remaining almost entirely still. The woman stood on the end of their line, her face raised but her hands clasped together at her front, also waiting patiently.

“Ginv! Show my cousin and his company out at once!” Mori called through the door, before throwing it open in quite a rage. Forfile came out of the room, his face red with anger and his hands clasped like fists, though Beol saw a redness about them too as though they were heated. When the company were shown to the door by Ginv, and their cloaks had been given back to them, Mori called Beol across into the hall.

The apprentice came into the room, it was darker than the other rooms and the furniture was worn and tattered. Mori liked old things, especially furniture and things which others would have deem unworthy or no longer useful. He liked to take old broken tools and repair them, or old things and give them new use. The furniture was well fitting to the room though, regardless of its wear.

The figure of the wizard stooped over the open fireplace, his blue eyes staring deep into the flames for an answer.

“Sir down, Beol.” Mori insisted.

Beol came forwards, the nearest chair to him was a large armchair which Mori had taken from a king’s chamber long ago, the red leather was worn and torn in places but was the most comfortable chair of the room. The others were old church pews and garden benches painted a similar ruby red. Beol loved colours, knowing the names of colours and looking them up. Every name seemed to have reason or lore behind it, Beol liked that.

“How long have you been my apprentice, Beol?” Mori asked just before Beol sat down.

“Perhaps four years, sir.” Beol said.

“Four years and three months.” Mori said. “To the day.”

Beol thought for a moment, suddenly realising that his master was right. The apprentice looked back over those years in a flash, remembering everything he had learnt. Now it seemed like so little. The first year of his apprenticeship was spent trying to discover what sort of magic he could use, for there were many types. Mori tried him on a staff like the wizards of old, but the cane split and caught fire when Beol touched it. Mori said the cane hated Beol, but then he tried a more advanced staff which seemed more like Beol’s type of weapon, though Mori said it was too powerful and was overly fond of the Grulf.

Mori tried time and time again to teach Beol hand spells as the magician himself used, but these did not agree all that well with Beol and he failed to master the basics of them. There were even more types of magic which Mori tried, some which even Beol had not heard of before. Apparently there was an entirely different form of magic devoted to using tools such as ladles, then another for using forks and one for using musical instruments! Beol found easiest the instruments and one which used a sword, but Mori was unsatisfied with the results Beol gave. At last, a year after taking on the apprentice, Mori gave Beol a pair of crystal shards found in the ruins of an ancient catacomb by Mori and some companion wizards years ago during their training. The shards looked like glass only would not break by any magic nor hammer, they tried dropping the shards from the top of the tower only to find them unchipped at the base, they even placed them in a giant’s lair where the mighty beast sat on them, but apart from leaving an imprint on his buttocks the crystal shards were unaffected. Covering the shards were ancient runic markings, believed by Mori to be old Daesiric, though Beol had been taught differently.

The magician never discovered the use of the shard until he gave them to Beol. He gave them to the Grulf and ordered him to try some of the spells which had been taught. Using hand spells the shards became hot and burnt his flesh, using sword spells they jumped out of his hand as though it were not right for them, but then Mori learnt of some Daesir who had used such shards and similar objects to perform magic, so taught Beol that way and, sure enough, the Grulf could perform magic through using one shard in each hand. ‘The key is in your palm,’ Mori had said, ‘hold the shards only with the tips of your fingers, but keep the runes nearby where your palm is, facing out of course.’

One year was spent discovering the type of magic Beol could perform, then another year was spent with Mori explaining the basics of it and its origins which seemed very vast and dull of Beol. The third year, Mori taught Beol some basic spells, but it took a year for him to master those to the extend which made Mori happy. Such basic things as lifting pens without physical interaction, or being able to blow out a candle with air produced from the shards was difficult for Beol. He mastered them quickly, or so Mori said, but a year seemed like a long while for Beol. The forty year old Grulf was almost twice the age of the magician, but felt as though he were a child being taught how to write. It was frightfully patronising, but he knew it needed to be done. It was only in the last few months that Mori was satisfied enough to teach Beol how to cast a flame. Not enough to burn an enemy, or set ablaze to cities, but enough to light the candle he managed to snuff out.

“Its a long time isn’t it. Do you know how old I am, Beol?” Mori asked.

“I never learnt sir, but I guessed you were nearby to twenty.” Beol said.

The magician smiled. “So kind of you. I passed that age long before I took you into my service. No, I am twenty seven now.” this still seemed young to Beol, but he said nothing. “The average human survived up to seventy before plague or the winter kills them, already a third of my life would have passed if I had not discovered magic. Grulf, you may live to be two hundred or more. How old are you, forty? That’s a fifth of your life. If you think about it, you and I are the same age, nearby.”

“If you say, sir.” Beol said.

“My cousin came today, you saw that, didn’t you?” Mori. “Yes, of course, you told me. He came here from Turge, a fair way off, isn’t it? Where do you come from, Beol?”

“Port Yealfalt has been my home for nearby to fourteen years, previous to that I lived in Baerukk Zaew, where I was born.” Beol said.

“And your parents came from there?” Mori asked.

“My father was a travelling merchant, my mother was born and lived there all her life.” Beol said, nodding.

“As for me, my parents came from Har. You know of Har, don’t you? Not many people in Zhar do, strangely.” Mori said. “My family were fishermen, or so they came from the family of fishermen, hence they came to Zhar on a fishing trip. I was born down here, my father met a woman down here, a human but not alike to those from Har. My cousin was my father’s nephew, not my mother’s. His mother was a woman from north of Har, far north where the Grulf are plentiful and the humans few and far between. Now he comes here demanding that we side together.”

“Is that bad?” Beol asked.

“Forfile is a necromancer, his ideas of magic involve the raising of dead and meddling with death itself. Notice how gaunt he is? He’s been avoiding death for almost one hundred and twenty years. He helped my father and my mother avoid death too, for a good long while, its why he’s so much older than me.” Mori said.

“Necromancers are evil, aren’t they?” Beol asked.

“Power is not evil, only those who use it and how they choose to use it.” Mori said. “Necromancers aren’t any more evil than any other magician or person, just fewer pleasant necromancers than there are pleasant ones. My cousin is not a pleasant one, but means no one any harm really.”

“Why does he want to side with you?” Beol asked.

“Full of questions today, aren’t you?” Mori sighed irritably. “Rumours, and he’s always wanted me to be a necromancer, dunno why.”

The young man spun from facing the fire, his face blankly staring nearby to Beol.

“He came here to warn me more than to align with me. The Grulf of Zhar are hunting for a certain mage south of Baerukk Zaew, he thought they may come for us.” Mori said.

“A mage? Who?” Beol asked.

“Just some sorcerer, I wouldn’t worry about it.” Mori said. “Beol, you’ve been with me for four years, I’ve been holding you back. Forfile’s visit made me realise that. So I’ve decided its time for you to learn some more advanced magic.”

“Really? Thank you, sir.” Beol said.

The Master smiled briefly. “Tomorrow. Now, I’ve a delivery of Veroot and Black Eye coming in to the port from Gorse. Do me a favour, go collect it will you? I’ve got to sort some books out.”

Of My People, There Are Many

I wanted to have a go at posting something like episodic fantasy, so I might post a chapter a month or something for you to read. I don’t yet know the story, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s going to be an introduction to my fantasy creatures, realm, and ideas.  So before I show you the realm and the creatures in action, I thought I’d introduce you to a few of the peoples you are likely to meet and some places you are likely to see or read about.

Creatures: The creatures I am going to introduce you to now are the Grulf, Daesir, and Astral-Spirits, who are some of the more commonly featured races in my fantasy, but are not the only ones and are not always used.

Lands: The lands I’ll introduce you to are Illé Nirl, Har, Dolge, and Zhar.

Some more lands and creatures may be introduced later in a different post like this one, otherwise just generally introduced in the story.  Some others you may hear of will include Malur (which will definitely not be featured), Lizzands, Half-Avians, Harabians, Riveldar, Utrelm, and Mohgani, just to name a few so you know I’m not making them up as I go along. 😉

 

Grulf: Humanoid creatures which are the only known humanoids asides from a few fiends to have originated in Illé Nirl.  Grulf are divided into three separate ‘species’: the Common Grulf, Wild Grulf (also known as Silver Grulf) and Dolgar Grulf (also known as Dark Grulf).  The Common Grulf were found and began life in the north and southern regions of Illé Nirl, appearing as if from the earth itself.  They stand at an average height of three to five foot tall and have supernatural strength when compared to their size, matching that of similarly built (though taller) humans.  Because they were found as if appearing from the earth they are often associated with moles and mining, but there is no evidence to support this claim as they are no finer nor more keen on mining than humans.  What they are renowned for is their ironmongery, having created their own metal known as Grulf Iron which is strong, heavy, blackish in colour and immune to rust or corrode.  Grulf Iron is only forged by Common Grulf and Dolgar, though it is one of the strongest known metals it cannot be reshaped after being heated and is so difficult to forge many of the items produced of it appear to have a rippling effect where it has been pulled or hammered too extensively.  Common Grulf fortresses include the hidden city Khemenem, North Hammer the capital of North-Western Illé Nirl, and Baerukk Zaew the mountain city.  They are the primary residents and the rulers of Zhar and Giuleshire.

Wild or Silver Grulf are a nomad Grulf who originated in the lowlands of North-Eastern Illé Nirl.  They are neither peaceful nor hating of any humanoids, save the other Grulf.  Because of their wars between the other Grulf peoples the Wild Grulf are hostile towards most allies, but rarely seek conflict.  Generally the Wild Grulf are smaller than Common Grulf, their average height is two to four foot tall.  They also lack the ironmongery skills of Common Grulf, but make up for this with their resourcefulness and their capabilities with raw materials.  They are some of the only humanoids without marked settlements on maps, occupying deserted havens and cities or else keeping to their own barricaded settlements from previous wars.  The Wild Grulf assume tribes and occasionally have wars against other tribes.  The name Silver Grulf came from the Wild Grulfs’ characteristic silvery skin.

The Dolgar or Dark Grulf are the residents of Dolge.  They are the only Grulf who are openly hostile and aggressive towards most humanoids, including humans themselves and both other species of Grulf.  They consider themselves a pure breed of Grulf and others unworthy to rule.  They are a similar height and stature to Common Grulf but their range of height is far greater; recorded Dolgar Grulf have stood from little below two foot up to little below seven foot tall.  They have similar ironmongery skills as Common Grulf, but lack the tactics of the Common Grulf on the battlefield, considered unnaturally unintelligent by nature.  To aid their disadvantage they often seek the leadership of other creatures.

Daesir: A race of humanoid creature who came to Illé Nirl on ships the same as humans.  They reside across all of Illé Nirl though they never seemed to stray far from the western regions where they live in the largest numbers.  They are one of a few creatures considered to be immortal, immune to the effects of age like humans and other creatures.  Though even Grulf had extended lifespans and could easily live beyond two hundred, the Daesir are one of only a few races who have survived for thousands of years.  Their appearance is similar to humans, though as far as their aesthetics go age does not effect them past twenty or thirty years, though their hair and fingernails will continue to grow, though more slowly than a human’s.  They stay strong and intelligent through older age and they are renown for being beautiful beyond humans, though few can say the truth of this when met with one.  All Daesir have magic unlike to humans who only a few of can harness magic, and have even founded some spells and magical objects.  They dislike humans and humanoid creatures’ interference with the natural world, appreciating life much more than humans in all its forms.  It is said when they came to Illé Nirl that they vowed only to take what they needed to survive and otherwise what was provided by nature; fallen branches rather than cut for example.  Their dislike of humans also came from humans who thought Daesir suspicious and snobbish, remarking them cruelly and even waging war at times gone by.  Nowadays the Daesir are at peace with humans, though a few still treat Daesir without respect or decency.

Astral-Spirits: The first humanoid creature to come to Illé Nirl and rumoured to be the first to have lived.  These creatures are formed of pure magic, untouched by the humanoid creatures magic did not take the form of fire or lightning, instead remained a pure matter invisible in small quantities as humans and Daesir used but clustered together created the Astral-Spirits.  They are spirits alike to others of the realm and are not physically capable to touch or be touched by anything solid, instead limited to the use of magic.  They are also speechless although some studies and reported cases have suggested that they can communicate with each other and other magical beings, as well as a few reports of mental communication.  Their images are humanoid except their lower limbs which assume the form of an upturned flame, the matter of which is a deep blue as is the colour of magic.  It is said to appear almost motionless and fading into the aether where the tip of the flame would be.  Astral-Spirits do not assume attire, naked and their bodies are the same deep blue-black, mixed with the colours of the universe which their bodies reflect.  Therefore their very bodies are never still, instead shimmering with light which would twist and hurl like a mirror of the universe.

Though they are humanoid in appearance, they are without gender and do not reproduce.  They lack emotion which other humanoids show including fear and misery, but aim to achieve what they deem as right.  They do not understand nor engage in any form of sexual activities nor do they feel pleasure or happiness.  They are bald and some people have reported the spirits taking a more womanly than manly form, and vis versa.  Their base blue flame will never burn but gave a chilling feeling when touched and could light a room as well as any red fire.  It is described as a rather refreshing and pleasant feeling, but something otherworldly.  Astral-Spirits came from the Astral-Plain, a land between the earth and the universe first believed to be the blue of the sky by day.  From the surface of Illé Nirl, the plain is completely invisible save on certain days and with certain conditions (the moon, stars, sun, time of year). The plain has only been travelled to by a select few humanoids, including the first magician.  It is reported to be made entirely from the same raw magic as the Astral-Spirits, which are said to return to the land when they die and new Astral-Spirits are built of it when one is dew to be born, thus they have no need for reproduction and their population remains consistent, never growing nor declining.  The land was covered with rivers and waterfalls of the matter, thin transparent paths and strange, disc-like islands which sparkled like the universe.  The water which fell down towards the earth faded away into the aether, supposedly transforming into the magical particles which mages used.  The plain is too high for clouds, able to see the universe from its surface regardless of the time of day.  It is airless and those few who have travelled their needed to aid of the spirits to survive.

The Astral-Spirits are transparent, can fly and cannot walk on the physical land, and can move through objects including creatures.  How the Astral-Spirits die is unclear.

 

Illé Nirl: Refers to the continent of kingdoms collectively and also nearby islands.  It is a large continent in the western world, which is often believed to be the last mainland of the sea.

Har: The kingdom and empire which dominated Illé Nirl.  The kingdom was once part of an empire which ruled over most of Illé Nirl save a few kingdoms in the north and Zhar, now it is reduced to four kingdoms: Har is one of the kingdoms of the empire, Giuleshire is another, the Har Desert is in Eastern Illé Nirl, and the kingdom called Turge was also part of the empire.  Har, also called the Har Plains, is a mountainous kingdom which mostly consists of plains and fields.  The people of Har are primarily humans but also Common Grulf, Daesir, Brult, and Half-Avians live in large numbers.  It is considered the main kingdom of Illé Nirl, along with Zhar.  According to a prophesy claimed by the Elder scholar Tùrillyn ‘Whoever shall rule Har, Zhar, and Saeluinn at one time could, and will, control all the earth.’  To this day no single leader has ruled all three kingdoms, though they are at peace with each other.

Dolge: A kingdom bordered by Har and the Dolge Sea, in comparison to Har Dolge is only a fraction of the size.  It is surrounded by a natural U shaped mountain range, any gaps in the range covered by massive volcanic stone walls which were naturally coloured a glossy black.  The kingdom was once part of the Har Empire until it was taken by Dolgar Grulf.  Now it is considered a wasteland and of no threat nor use to Har, so has been left for the Grulf, though it occasionally poses a threat when the Grulf raise an army.  It is a bountiful and prosperous land, the rumours of it as wasteland are false, rich in metal deposits and fruits of the land.  Naturally inhabiting creatures include game, deer, elk, bears, black panthers, giant spiders, and elementals as well as once being home to dragons.  There are only two gates in the mountain range which open into the kingdom; the Derë Gate in the north-west and Shiaki in the northern corner.  It is rumoured to be a land of darkness and ash, though in reality it is very beautiful and plentiful with plant life.  It also mostly consists of plains as Har does.

Zhar: Also called the ‘Southern Kingdom’ in Western Illé Nirl, Zhar is a kingdom primarily of Common Grulf and is considered the strongest military kingdom in Western Illé Nirl, though not the largest or the most commonly fought for as Har is.  It borders three kingdoms in its northern bounds and three seas in the south; Har is directly north of it, to the north-east is the kingdom called Nah, and west is Turge.  East of Zhar is the sea called Cath’ih Sotgaor, to the west of the southern edge of the kingdom is the Saeluinn Sea, and directly south is the Great Sea which meets both of the others.  Zhar is described as a snow desert; it is a low lying kingdom compared to Har but no less mountainous with taller and wider mountains.  It has only one woodland in the south-western corner against the sea and most of the region is frozen, even during the summer.  The exceptions to the extreme cold are the northern region which borders with Har (typically the first snows are met just south of Baerukk Zaew, the capital of Zhar which lies two and a half days walk from the edge of Har), a region called Little Rsad, and Swefalm Marm, a small stretch of wasteland on the south-eastern corner of the kingdom.  The tundra is vast, almost twice the size of Har, and has the fewest settlements per square mile of any other kingdom.

The Rails

boots-181744_960_720.jpgI took the first step out from my front door, the railway not a stone’s throw from me.  In the air was that humid, summer smell; pollen and hay, not freshly cut grass which lets off that pungent but homely smell, rather the smell of water when it hadn’t rained or the smell of the sunlight, though it does not smell.  The stench of heat perhaps.  It smelt earthy, it smelt wonderful and clean.

I came down past by garden, the deserted toys and rotting fabrics the last signs of my childhood.  Beyond my fence was the railroad tracks, some from old steam trains which no longer ran.  There was no grass nor weed growning beside the tracks, the stones which centred themselves between the steel and the sleepers were frequently sprayed, though I liked to pretend the trains still ran and kept the growth down.  At the bottom of my path I stopped dead, staring at the track.  My inner child called for me to follow it down, out into the wilderness with nothing more than my shoes, trousers, shirt, and a flat cap which my father left me., as well as a twenty pound note which had been in my jeans since before I cared to think.  The question of when they were last washed still stuck in my mind since before I came back home.  Then at last I set out, down the track heading out into the country.

I had plenty of time to think as I walked, plenty of time to consider everything in a more clear and full picture.  First I thought about my love life, well don’t we all?  I was twenty four years old, my girlfriends had been something of few in number, I liked to pretend of course that I’d had more, but four seemed plenty in mind for me.  My friends told me it had been too few, I questioned how good friends they were, but I often lied and said there were six or seven.  The first was always the hardest for me; I was young and stupid, I didn’t know how to ask girls out, heck I’d done it once before and look what happened then!  Turned out she was a lesbian anyway, so I couldn’t feel too bad.  Nope, I asked my second girl out, a girl called Lucy.  She was like a dream, the kind of girl people dream of finding and then realise how insane they are.  She look stunning, I’ll give her that; she had this deep auburn hair which looked closer to fire than a lit fag, a brilliant white smile like she’d drunk a tin of dulux to get it that white, and eyes so blue the only thing comparable was the sky and that was darker.  She was younger than me by a few months, maybe three, but that seemed perfect for me, you know?  Some men like younger women, some like older.  I always thought it was the same with women, I dunno; I’ve never tried being one.  Well Lucy was like the dream girl, you know, the one you picture yourself spending your entire life with.  I spent almost a year with her before I learnt that she was one of the bad ones.  Turned out she thought I’d been cheating on her, which made me laugh really.  I hardly had the nerves to ask her out in the first place, how was I meant to ask another girl out while dating her?  But one thing I learnt, one very important thing, you cannot argue with a woman and win, even if your right.  I thought I had won that one, until I found she’d put about five litres of water in my car’s fuel tank, set fire to my father’s grandfather clock and decided that she’d cheat on me as revenge for me doing nothing.  Well, when the grandfather clock went I didn’t care anymore.  That was enough of that for me.

The second girl I thought of was called Sarah.  Sarah was like no one I’d ever met: she was beautiful but didn’t let her looks get the better of her.  She was intelligent too, much more than I was I’ll have to admit, and more than that she listened which is more than I can say for most people I’d met at that time.  I don’t know what attracted her to me, but for some reason she liked me.  I like to think that it was my looks, in part I think she liked being the intelligent one in the relationship, but when people ask not I say it was because I listened to her too.  I listened really well actually, I could answer her questions quickly and I could remember everyone she worked with, everyone she had quarrels with,. pretty well everyone she mentioned really.  Sarah was a great person, and I can’t fault her, but we weren’t in love.  We’re still friends, but nothing ever came of what we had.  I guess we were just two souls looking for love at that time, neither could find it with the other.  Later I heard she’d found herself a man and had a child, I think he was named after me, but I won’t tell him that.

My third attempt at dating was the shortest of the three.  She was actually someone who I wouldn’t have ever thought myself going out with before.  There was no reason I wouldn’t or shouldn’t have, I just never considered it really.  She was a woman with dwarfism called Betty.  I remember our first date, she wore this little red dress and had a fake diamond earring her brother gave her.  I think we would’ve been good together really, but we only had two dates.  Our first date was on a Friday night, the second was nearby to Easter on a Thursday next, but on Easter Saturday a lorry knocked her off her moped.  She died two days later.  I wasn’t invited to the funeral, but I lay flowers there every Easter, I’ve got to don’t I?

Then, just a week ago there was my third girlfriend.  That one hurt most.  Her name was Maisie, she and I were the same age excepting a month, we had the same deep brown hair and green eyes, we were even a similar height.  I met her almost four months ago, we spoke for a while as friends then eventually I just asked her out, and you know what?  She said yes.  You know I felt something for Lucy as though she were growing on me, but it took a year to feel it.  I felt something with Sarah as though she were like to my own sister.  I even felt something of care for Betty briefly, before she died.  Maisie, no, I didn’t feel any of that.  That was definitely love I felt for her.  It came on quick, she made me laugh and I cared for her more than anything in the world, even myself.  I’d have done anything for her, I’d have burnt my favourite things in the whole world if she needed me to, but I didn’t.  I loved her, I loved her more than I can say and more than anyone whose loved could ever understand.  Thing is it takes a long time to say these things, you can’t say them after four months, it’s not right, it would be too soon.  And Maisie, well, she just wasn’t willing to wait.  I went to her house one night to surprise her, but she surprised me see, so did the man she had wrapped her legs around.  It broke my heart, and if you don’t know what that’s like you’re the luckiest person whose ever lived, or too young to understand.

Its like fire. Tastes sour in your mouth and twists your insides like the worst indigestion.  I can’t even describe it, worse than when you go to see the dentist having forgotten to clean your teeth for the last few months and you have to lie to them, or when your mamma told you off when you was little.  You know the worst thing is some people just accept it and move on, some people get angry for the betrayal and some people try to recover their relationship.  Me, I just turned right around and walked out.  She called after me but I didn’t hear what she said.  I knew it was over then, no use getting angry or trying to mend it.  All I wanted to know was why, and what I had done to be deserving of this.

After I thought about my love life I’d come a way down the tracks.  My house had disappeared over the horizon, I was nearby to the countryside by then, I could smell the cattle and the fields which seemed so sweet but dung like.  I wasn’t sad then, it was sunny and warm, it felt like I was a new person, like I was young again.  Well, having thought about my previous girlfriends I decided it was time to start thinking about my family.

Of course I had a family, a large one too.  My eldest brother worked as a nurse.  He’d tried to be a doctor but failed in school, so trained to be a nurse and managed to scrape through his studies, with my other brother’s help of course.  Paul was his name, turned out he was exceptionally good at being a nurse and he even managed to catch some people stealing medication, they was selling it on the internet.  Paul got himself a promotion, earned a lot of money and in his spare time he liked to go fishing.  A very simple person with simple pleasures.  Got married, had two children, lives over in Wales now.

The next brother was called Phil.  I never liked that name, but for some reason my grandparents did, so my parents were pressured into it.  Phil was a strange child, he preferred his own company to anyone else.  When he grew up he became one of those computer people, you know the type who can do anything with computers but take it apart and they haven’t got a clue?  Yeah, that sort.  He learnt everything before he was fifteen, then went to college to learn how to take it apart and see what everything did.  He died when he was twenty though, cancer in the brain killed him.  I miss him now and then.

I had myself three sisters: Sue, Vera, and Rosy, they all learnt to be musicians and got themselves married.  I don’t hear from them much now.  I’ve one other brother too, Garry, he’s the black sheep of the family so they say.  We don’t hear from him now.  I wonder how he turned out sometimes, but sometimes I don’t want to know.  I’m afraid of what I’ll learn.

That just leaves my folks I suppose.  Well not long after Phil died my mamma got real sad.  The doctors gave her pills which made her happier, but they didn’t really help I don’t think.  By that time most of them had left home anyways, I was old enough to too.  She just had enough, found a gun somewhere and one day decided she’d had enough of life.

As for my dad, he died when I was too young to remember him.  I know I was older than I think I was, when I hear stories that other people remembered from when they were five or four it makes me sad how I can’t remember those from when I was six or seven.  I don’t remember anything about him, not even the colour of his eyes.  I’ve seen some pictures, but it took one of my siblings telling me that was my own father for me to know who the strange man was.  I hate that.  More than that, I wonder how he’d feel about who I’ve become.

You know life is a lot like the railway tracks.  Not like the train, I mean like the tracks themselves.  Sometimes you get these real peaceful times when you can sit back and listen to nature, just relax and enjoy everything happening around you, then suddenly you get a whole load of weight come crushing down on you, straining and stressing you.  Nothing lasts forever, not the strain nor the peace, until eventually by one means or another you break.  It’s not a matter of when you do, everyone knows your going to, but where first.  The railway tracks are a good place for me, I love coming out into them, watching the fields and the birds, hearing the children playing a way off.  Sublime.  It gives you time to think, time to clear your head.  Some of my family were Christians, I don’t know what I believe, but I like to think that something else is on the tracks.  There’s never a single track, there are always two metals, two sets of wheels on either side of the train, you know?  As I balance on one side, I like to think someone else is on the other side to walk beside me.  Whether you believe that’s God or a ghost, maybe my father who I never knew, my mother who cared too much as they do, Phil who did not deserve to die, or Betty who died too young, its nice to think that even in your solitude you’re never completely alone.  Someone’s always there to support you and to tell you its time to go home.

There’s not much I can recall of my childhood, but I know that I visited these tracks before.  I remember playing on them with my brothers and my sisters, even as I walk alone on them I feel as though I’m paying homage or something.  All I hope is that in fifty years time I’ll come back here and remember everything again, and feel everything again.