Saturday, August 04, 2018

Jewels Chapter

For no particular reason, a chapter from the WIP, 'The Jewels of the Elements.' This is Chapter Five, fairly near the beginning of the book, and is reasonably close to finished form.

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“I shall kill you both, of course,” Orro told them. “As a priest of Asak it is expected of me.” His eyes slowly moved from the one to the other, the man savoring his power over them. “Had I the time I would torture you as long as possible. The Lord of Death asks us to make the extra effort, when we can.”

He knelt and began to methodically search their bags. “I have sensed the Jewels’ presence these days, known one of you carried them, but could not tell exactly where they might be concealed.”

“You are a wizard?” asked the Mur. It came out as a raspy whisper.

“Some might name me so, but before all I am a priest, the servant of Asak. Ah!”

He must have found the Eyes, thought Saj. He would have thought of more things had not a cheerful voice called from somewhere behind Orro.

“Ho there, young man. I do not think those belong to you.”

Saj could see a smallish man, an old man, leaning on a staff. He was wrapped in a dark cloak or maybe it only looked dark because of the night.

The Ildin turned to face him. “Begone old man,” he snarled. “This is no concern of yours.” A scornful laugh. “Or do you wish to go to Asak as well?”

“Those jewels were a concern of mine long before you were born, priest,” answered the newcomer. “And, I suspect, they will be after you die.” He slipped the cloak from his wiry body and raised his staff. Hair and beard were white and curling and neatly trimmed short, Saj could see, and his features — the dark skin, the heavy brow. He had seen such features before.

“A Tesran?” murmured Marana.

Saj only nodded. Was this man after the Eyes as well?

Orro took a step forward. With a sharp drawing in of his breath he stepped back again. Someone — something — loomed behind the old man. Saj could only tell it was exceedingly tall and somewhat man-shaped.

Their visitor held up a hand for it to halt. “I’ll tend to this, Cory. Hmm, first those bonds.” A casual wave of his hand and Saj felt his arms and legs suddenly freed. “And now, introductions. I am named Im.”

“The great wizard? Impossible!” laughed Orro. “Dead centuries ago.”

Im — if that was who he truly was — laughed as well. “You are free to believe what you will, Lackey of Asak. But you should believe that I can best you in any contest of wizardry.”

Saj sat up and grabbed the poke containing the jewels, lying where Orro had dropped it. He did not like being in such close proximity to them but best he keep them safe.

“And I’m not bad with a blade either,” continued the wizard, eyeing Orro’s knife. He said a few words, held out his hand, and a long sword appeared in it. “Drat, didn’t want one that big,” Im grumbled.

The priest of Asak answered with a wave of his own hands. Saj could actually see the magical fetters he tried to fix on his opponent, glowing a sickly green. It must be the influence of the mystic stones he held. This was why he liked to keep his distance from them!

The wizard swept the bonds away as they were nothing. “Cobwebs,” he chuckled. He tipped his head and peered at Orro. “Oh, so you’re going to call on your god.”

Saj could see a glow growing around the priest, the same ghastly green hue as before. Im glanced toward the Mur and held out his hand. Saj knew what he wanted. But should he? Could he trust this Tesran wizard?

Yes. He was not sure why he chose his course but Saj tossed the Eyes to Im. At once, a glow sprang up around the wizard as well, a glow of four colors, the colors of the jewels, red and gold and green and blue.

The men advanced on each other, blades in hand, auras leaping above and around them. Saj could see the wizard’s companion move forward now. Not a man, that was for certain. Its skin shone, reflecting the magical lights, so he was not sure of its true color. He was sure it stood a head taller than any man he had ever seen.

Orro made a sudden cast of his dagger, cursing when it was deflected by Im’s aura. Im smiled and tossed his own sword aside. It disappeared a moment later, pulled back to whatever realm he had drawn it from. A dome of sorts was forming above and around the dueling pair, a dome of light and fire, the jewels’ colors contesting with the cold pale green that must come from Asak’s realm.

Now two great — creatures, shadowy, unreal, began to form above the two combatants. That of Orro was manlike but misshapen, horned and clawed and terrible. Saj suspected maybe it was the form of Asak himself. Or a form. Gods had forms, true forms, he knew. He had spent time around one.

The shifting colors above Im made it difficult to tell just what it was. The form was that of a man, though, that was certain, a man of white light, and a rainbow-hued sword in his hand. No, no, not a man. A woman. Wasn’t it? Saj had to turn his dazzled eyes away.

When he looked back again, yes, it was a young girl he beheld. Had she something to do with the Eyes or was she of Im’s making? A goddess? It mattered not right then.

Orro’s demon held a sword too, a black sword with eddies of poisonous green light creeping up and down its blade. Both avatars seemed to be growing more solid, while the men below them were locked into some sort of trance. Saj realized all at once that these were manifestations of an invisible struggle going on between the two sorcerers.

Could Marana see all he did? Saj had been born with the second sight. He was of wizard blood. Perhaps his natural talents were modest but that did not matter. He never intended to pursue the study of magic. A gift of foreseeing was quite enough.

Thrusts and parries, feeling out the opponent. Saj suspected Orro was doing most of the feeling out. The elderly wizard Im seemed rather sure of himself. Slabs of spark were thrown up when the swords met, crashing with the sound of thunderclaps. Then a great wide swing of the black sword. Rather than ducking away from the blade, the woman brought her own weapon up and against it with all her own force. Saj was blinded for a moment. Deafened, too.

When he saw again, the demon, the manifestation of Orro or Asak or both, was gone, and the priest himself lay inert on the sand. The aura around Im was slowly subsiding. “Here, you’d best keep these,” he called, tossing the little bag of jewels back to Saj. The Mur chose to hand them over to Marana at once. He would prefer not hold them more than necessary.

Im knelt beside his foe’s body, listening to his heart. Saj could see the wizard’s large companion better now but still had no idea what it was. It seemed to be reddish. “No, not dead,” announced Im. “Had I not chosen to strike the sword he probably would be.”

“You should slay him anyway,” came an incredibly deep rumble from the red creature. “Safer.”

“I think not. Better he return to his fellows in the high mountains and inform them who guards the jewels now.”

The thing’s chuckle sounded like distant thunder. “If there are any more decent wizards among them, they already know.”

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