Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Castle, The Dragon and The Mist

Imlet One

In the Land of Glem, beyond the Milkwood Forest and Vituscian Barrens, there sat a small plowman's cottage where lived a Germac named Dugnoland. He resided with his wife, Shesba, and their eleven children, spending his days in the fields and his evenings sitting upon the front porch he'd built with his own two hands, smoking his Nimrod pipe. They lived like all quiet Germacs, raising their crops, raising their children and raising roof beams as they added on to their humble plowman's cottage.

Fourteen Nemacs had passed since the reign of the Benevolent Emperor. Dugnoland was in his fifth era. He had robbed the cradle when he'd married, Shesba, for she was now only part way through her third era. Had they resided in the village, he would have been stoned or shunned, and the marriage annulled. But they lived among the Rough Areas, and were left to their own business. Shesba was hardly old enough to recall the Benevolent Emperor, but Dugnoland remembered well that time of prosperity and peace that pervaded the land. The Benevolent Emperor had lived well into his ninth era and his spirit had been carried off to the gods one terrible night as he slept. It was then that his evil son, known to all as Argus the Adversary, seized the throne, after which ten long nemacs passed in which prosperity turned to poverty, the brotherhood of Germacs turned to suspicion, deception and ill-will, and a cold wind blew in from the west.

Life improved somewhat after Argus the Adversary was overthrown, but not by much. The Adversary's daughter, Niptu, became his successor. She was a princess, but referred to herself as and demanded all address her as "goddess."

Dugnoland was readying to go into the cottage for the night, offer his prayers to the gods, and then get four or five shiptars of sleep, when he heard a disturbance in the bramble bush at the perimeter of the yard. A moment later, a figure stumbled and limped to the front porch. In the lantern light, Dugnoland could make out the robes of a Chazzmire priest, though they were ragged and ripped. The figure within the robes appeared bloodied and exhausted.

"Please," the priest wheezed. "The Chicane Riders pursue me!"

As Chazzmire priests were little bigger than wheat-node-drimwrecks, Dugnoland bent down and picked him up and carried him into the cottage. Shesba was just finishing tidying the sustenance area. She turned at the sound of her husband's footsteps. When she saw what he carried, her smile vanished. Dugnoland placed the harried and harassed Chazzmire beneath the roddam table, and set a chair in the way to conceal him. Dugnoland held his finger to his lips, silencing Shesba's queries. He then returned to the porch.

He was in the midst of reawakening his pipe when the sound of biphoards approached. It had been well over five nemacs since the hoof steps of a biphoard has been heard in these parts. They were large, strong riding animals. No Germac farm could produce enough food to keep a biphoard and feed a family, though even a sickly biphoard would be a valuable addition to any household.

Four Chicane Riders slowly approached upon steaming, huffing biphoards.

"You, there, Germac," one Rider called to Dugnoland. "I am Whipzhed of Tooloose."

"Greetings and welcome to you Whipzhed. I am Dugnoland, Master Shearer and Nimrod pipe smoker."

There were chuckles all around at this joke.

"We pursue a spinulum escaped from the Jibnab. Might you have seen any strange travelers pass your domicile in the past thirty shiptars?"

Dugnoland puffed reflectively on his pipe. "There haven't been any travelers through these parts in a weber's age."

"Is that so?" the Rider said, skeptical.

"My wife and I lead a quiet life, as you can see by the remote location we've chosen for our home."

"Would you begrudge some water for myself and my men?"

"Not at all. Bring your biphoards around to the back of the cottage and I'll have my sons water and grimesh them."

The Rider who had done all the talking dismounted, handing the reins of his biphoard to the Rider next to him. "Would you object to me passing along my gratitude to your wife, personally?"

"Of course not, please come inside."

The other Riders went around back of the cottage as Dugnoland led Whipzhed inside. Dugnoland introduced him to Shesba and then went up to the loft to rouse his two oldest sons. In the loft where his eleven children slept, Dugnoland found his boys already awake and roused. There was a moment of confusion, but then he noticed the ragged Chazzmire lying in his eldest son's bed. The boy, who was nearing entry into his second era looked frightened, as though he feared his father would be angry with him. He whispered urgently, "Mother brought him! She said to say nothing!"

Dugnoland put his finger to his lips, silencing his son, and a hand upon the boy's shoulder. "Come -- and bring your brother Shem."

Just then there was a loud crash in the sustenance area. Dugnoland, bounded down from the loft and found Whipzhed had ransacked the cupboards and storage chests, and had just overturned to roddam table. Shesba stood against the counter opposite him, frightened.

Whipzhed turned, hearing Dugnoland's rapid entry to the sustenance area. The Rider smiled. "Please forgive my rudeness. I'm on an urgent errand and must satisfy my own eyes."

Dugnoland clenched and unclenched his fists. There was a moment in which he thought to thrash the Rider, but knew it would be pointless with three others just outside. He would bring their wrath upon his household, doing much more harm to himself than to them. "Then you will forgive my rudeness," he said to the Rider, "and please depart my home immediately!"

Whipzhed gave a quick, condescending bow. "My apologies. We shall go."

Dugnoland had his two oldest sons help their mother reassemble the sustenance area and right the roddam table, while he went outside to see the Riders off.

Whipzhed sat atop his biphoard. "Once more, my apologies for unsettling your domicile at this hour."

"Good luck in your errand and know and remember that nothing relating to it can be found here."

Whipzhed gave a salute and then led the other Riders away from the cottage.

When Dugnoland re-entered the cottage the sustenance area and roddam table were all back as they should be. His wife and sons looked at him with stunned, frightened eyes. He led them into the front communal huddle parlor and they settled upon the comfortable waifsets. "The Riders pursued that strange man who claims to be a Chazzmire priest. He wears the priests robes, but I fear he may only be a highwayman who'd robbed and beaten a priest. Only he can tell us what we want to know." Dugnoland rose from his waifset. "I shall speak to him alone."

He ascended to the loft once more and found the Chazzmire quite well asleep on Rayment's pallet. He knelt down beside the tiny creature and gently roused him. The Chazzmire woke with a start and stared up with terrified eyes. "Tis only I," Dugnoland said gently. "The Riders have come and gone and you are safe -- for now."

A modicum of relief filtered into the Chazzmire's eyes.

"Why do they pursue you?" Dugnoland said. "You are small like a Chazzmire, but your robes betray a troubled story. I have kept you safe and put my family in danger. Tell me what you have done."

The Chazzmire priest reached up with a tiny hand and grabbed the lapel of Dugnoland's burlap tunic. His eyes were wide, crazed, inspired, horrified. The Chazzmire priest said, "The Benevolent Emperor lives! I have seen him. He is enslaved! He must be freed!"

Dugnoland could not have been more shocked at that moment if the Chazzmire priest had turned into a zipflingbee right before his eyes. These were the kinds of words the fueled delusions or revolutions, depending on how much truth they possessed.

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