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> The Story of Kagham, New and improved!
Kagham
post May 11 2008, 09:37 PM
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(I've made parts of this in the past. Some people might remember it though it was pre-stratics MB days. This follows the core of the story, but is told differently. Feel free to reply or comment. I'll add more by editing this post, and at the same time, add a post saying I updated it. Enjoy!

Also: If you like my writing, you can find more of it on my website http://www.buffalo-man.com

A guild mate told me a few months ago that the presence of the Dream Journals was confusing (partly because they were dated.) So I will explain that. Assume the character kept a journal of his dreams as they happened. Like most journals, the entries were dated. What if later on, the character discovered that some of these dreams actually happened? That is what the Dream Journals are. Kagham, living a sort of imposed life, does not remember everything that happens to him. But sometimes he has remarkable dreams, and he records them. The date on the Dream Journals is the date on which he had the dream, not the date on which the event actually occurred. The story itself is in order (or is meant to be) and you could, basically, ignore the "Dream Journal" note and the date. If you simply skipped those two things and read on, you would be reading it the right way. However, the Dream Journal element adds, I think, an interesting flavor to some of the more supernatural scenes and explains how/when the "true" Kagham is acting compared to when the person he inhabits is actring.)

Intro

First off, I need to ask you as the reader a favor. Forget all the things you’ve heard about me. Or even the things you think you’ve heard about me. Regardless of if they’re true or not. Just as a favor to me.

I never set out to do the things that I did. I started by doing what I thought was right in fact. I had a goal and I was seeking to fulfill it. Maybe after a while I found myself doing things I didn’t like, but like everyone else, I’m lazy; I’m a creature of habit. By the time I noticed or cared, I knew what I was doing and it was easier to keep doing it than to change. If nothing else, I was good at what I did. People will cling to anything -any purpose- even if it’s horrific to give themselves drive to keep going. I mean, think about it; what if everything you knew or loved or had ever been involved with were taken away, but one thing was left? Assuming you didn’t just collapse, wouldn’t you at least do that one thing? I know I would. I did.

Now of the things, you know, the ones I asked you to forget, the things that you’ve heard, and even the ones you haven’t, know this: most of them aren’t true. Mostly because the true things seem impossible, so no one actually believes them and they don’t tell them, or because they’re so mind numbingly boring that no one cares whatsoever. I’ve heard tales of my own actions that were so disturbing that I had bad dreams of meeting myself in dark alleys at night. As for which of us was going to bloody the other one varied with the tale. I mean, they can’t all be true anyway; if half of them were, I’d be short 13 fingers. Or something like that.

So my story? I won’t tell you all of it. Like I said, most of its boring. Who wants to hear about eating breakfast at dusk 9 months in a row because you sleep in the day? Who wants to hear about roots in your back so often you develop calluses? I could tell you these things, but sometimes the boring stuff is exciting if you just mention it in passing. Like here. After you read this, I’ll only have to say something about boring stuff and you’ll remember this entire paragraph. This entire page. Everything that I’m saying you don’t want to hear should spring to mind. Stuff I don’t have to mention. So I won’t tell you about fields or door knobs or blisters on my foot or the smell of the gate keeper. The story will be long enough anyway. What I do tell you probably won’t like though. You’ll say to yourself “That’s stupid.” Or “No one can do that.” Or “Why did he tell us that?” and I won’t have a good explanation. I’m just telling it the way it is (minus the boring parts) so don’t expect it to be all that exciting. I didn’t think it was too impressive when it happened. Usually I was thinking something like “I’m gonna die” or “I hope they don’t look in here.”

A quick word or two and I’ll get on with it. Like I said, I’m pretty good at what I do. But more than that, I’m lucky. I bet at least one person laughed when they read that. They don’t quite get what I mean. I’m not talking good at cards lucky; I’m not talking about finding an open room when it’s raining outside. My luck? One time I was working as a scout for some engineers. I was heading back to camp; I slipped on a loose stone, fell down a ravine and broke my leg in 4 places. The guy who went out on my route the next day got killed by a lion. Another time I was working construction in town (no town you’ve ever heard of, this is in podunk nowhereville) and an iron bar falls 3 stories, hits me and goes through my left side, from just between my top two ribs and out just above my kidney. I’m lying there pinned to the ground for 10 minutes before they take me away. As I’m on the stretcher, they take me through a ditch to get to the medics. Apparently someone sets off some sort of an electric weapon, kills everyone within a mile. Kills everyone at the hospital site, kills everyone at the construction site, and kills the guys carrying my stretcher. Grounds out through the bar in my side when the guys carrying me drop me. If I hadn’t been in the ravine, I’d have been slaughtered by the blast. Ten minutes pinned to the ground saved my life, and the thing that pinned me there saved me again. This isn’t the sort of luck that most people pray for. This isn’t what people want when shooting dice, but I’ll take it over being dead any day.

Ok, that’s all I’m gonna say about it. I’ve hired some guy to fancy up my story, and he has, though I’m not sure what I think about it now that I’ve read it. Sure it’s the same story that I told him, but it feels like something that happened to some hero, not to me. I guess that’s why people treat me the way I do, but to be honest, I don’t feel like anyone special. Waiting in line, I’m just the guy in front of you or the gal behind ya. Things aren’t in the order that I remember them happening, but they’re in the same order that gets kept on a clock or a calendar. What I mean is, I don’t remember them properly, so he’s arranged them better. This makes some things a bit weird, because what comes first, I remembered last. Once you know more about me, you’ll know more about my dreams, but for now, I’ll just tell you that my dreams happen or have happened. My dream journals are real, though thankfully, are usually things that have already happened. Any time I have actual memories of the thing, I don’t bother to journal it. Not all my dreams are prophetic nightmares; I have the plain old normal weak-up-in-a-sweat nightmares as everyone else sometimes. Anyway, I’ve gabbed enough at you, here’s the story.

Kagham Ashenwood
May 29, In the 76th year of the reign of Lotor II

Chapter 1

Dream Journal
4:03, October 14, In the 74th year of the reign of Lotor II
I am on the path. I’m going. From behind me, to in front of me. I can look back and see where I’ve been. I can look forward and see where I want to get to. Everything else is dark. Shadowed. Dull like someone has turned down the lights in the room. Some places are brighter than others, as if a campfire had been lit far off my path and spread it’s flickering light toward me. But those are far away and where I’m going is so much brighter that when I turn away I have spots in my eyes. I don’t need to stop for those little points. I need to get to the bright place. I need to hurry because I’m not the only one trying to get there. I need to get there before somebody else does. I noticed what was happening before the others, so I managed to leave first. I’m not sure if I’m faster though. I can’t really tell if I’m getting closer to where I’m going, but where I’m coming from is fading. When I turn around and look, it is becoming distinctly reddish, as if it is being replaced by red hot coals, but instead of emitting light, it is consuming it. I do not know what causes this, but I know that it is why I left. I know when I get to where I need to be, I will know more.

After a long time, I can see that I am close. I am almost where I am going. But I can hear those others traveling my path. They are getting close. They have nearly caught me. I had friends who should be following me, but far more enemies. My enemies may have found and overwhelmed my friends. I hope it is not so, but I cannot take the time to check.--


Dream Journal
Dusk, Fall, In the 70th year of the reign of Lotor II
I am on the path. I am moving forward. A shadow passes me. I can only see it because there is a bright place is on my left and for a moment it is shrouded. A hideous reddish fog covers the light for a moment, and then passes it by. This happens again. And again. It happens many times. Then there no longer are breaks in the redness, but only in the intensity. Sometimes it is as if many shadows cover the light and I can barely see it. Sometimes it is almost as bright as it should be. I do not think the shadows can see the lights off of my path. They were only following me, but by now they can tell where I am going, and have left off tracking me. I have failed. I meant to escape, to warn them, but instead I have led the predators to them.

I smell a sulfurous stench only moments before I am struck from behind. Somehow I know this should not be possible. I cannot be hit in this place. But they have been studying me, they have found a way. They do not hit me again, but they do not need to. It is enough. I can see I will not make it to the bright place. I had friends with me, but did not know where they went. Now I do. They have fallen, just as I am falling. As I fall I can feel myself changing. I am not sure what the change means, but it is happening. Things are becoming brighter. The bright place I was going is becoming dimmer. In the Place Between, I realize something I did not know before. In the place I left, I had meant to run somewhere else. I had meant to run to help. To somewhere strong that could help me save my home. But I had reached out blindly and found a place, a place strong enough to help and I had gone to it. Only it was not a place, it was a time. I had jumped toward the future. The shadows had pushed me out of my time trip, I was falling too early. They were going to the future and were going to destroy it.--

Dream Journal
Dusk, Summer, In the 68th year of the reign of Lotor II
I am not on the path. I have fallen. I have been knocked off the path. I am sinking below the path. If I keep falling, I am going to die. It doesn’t matter though, I’ve already failed. I wish I could get back onto the path, but I know that can’t happen. There is a bright spot to my left. I can’t help anyone, but I still don’t want to die. I can probably make it to the bright place. It is a new path. It is not the right path, but it is a path I can move on. I am moving forward. Those who have sought to kill me will not have that. I will survive.

I can see time spreading out beneath me. I was so close to where I needed to be. I can see those who meant me harm digging into where I meant to go. I can see that they are in the future. I grin with ironic hope. They have placed me in their past. They will arrive in a place I have already been. I know them. I know what they will do. Everywhere they place their feet, I will already have set a trap. Everywhere they reach to steal, I will drop a sword. By knocking me from the path, they have set a noose around their necks.--



I was born in a small woods cottage near Jeel 27 years before King Lotor II took the crown. Eleven years before he was born. My mother died during the birth, so I never got to know her. Her name was Aise, but my father rarely talked about her. We didn’t have any pictures of her, so I’m not sure what she looked like. My mother had a sister who lived in Vrethpool, and apparently they looked a lot alike, but she died during an orc raid when I was 9. I had only seen her twice in that many years. My father’s name was Gil. He was a good man. He liked to talk and work and tell stories. He was a woodsman mostly, living on what he hunted, and maintaining our home on his skills. We traded a bit with people in Jeel for what we couldn’t make. When I was 16 he got a deep cut in his leg from a trapped boar. It got infected and nothing either of us did helped. When he lost consciousness and I could not wake him, I walked to Jeel to seek the herbsman. When we returned to my home, it had obviously been attacked. The door was bashed in; the single room was a mess. I found my father dead on his bead, his throat had been slit. I pray he died painlessly.

It wasn’t that weird for a 16 year old to be living on his own then. Certainly no one in Jeel ever suggested that I needed an adult to watch over me. I think a few of them expected me to crawl into town some day, begging for help, looking for handouts. Most definitely were glad that I managed to keep myself fed. There were at least four other orphans living in the woods near Jeel, and probably twice that many in town. I saw some of them from time to time, setting traps, checking wild berries, or just sitting in a field doing something boring. The others were definitely younger than me, so they sort of looked to me as a leader. I only ever talked to two of them, a girl about 15 named Sara, and a boy about 13 named Mark, but let it be known that I had food and any who needed it could take some. Truth be told, I really enjoyed hunting, but wasn’t going to kill an animal just for my entertainment, so if someone needed some food, I was glad to share. Usually I sold hides to the tanner in town, lumber and kindling to the carpenter, gems or anything I could find to the jeweler. The smith in Jeel was an unusually surely sort and after I talked to him once he suggested that if I ever set my head inside his door again, he’d smash it with his 10 pound hammer.

Things were good for a while. I was a bit lonely at times, in the house by myself, but I had friends in Jeel that I kept in touch with. I honed what skills I had at trapping and tracking. I added a cellar to the house to store things in. A lot of my dad’s stuff went down there. I wasn’t going to throw it away, but it hurt to be reminded daily that he was gone.

They elected a new major in Jeel named Fisbold Pence when I was 17. Very shortly after that another isolated cabin was ransacked. No one survived, so they were really unsure when it happened. Mayor Pence was very concerned. He thought bandits might be in the area. So he worked to increase the number of guards and the size of their patrols. The citizens were concerned about becoming something like Hothbra; what the people called a “fortress town.” The mayor brought most of the orphans into town, placing in one home or another. The two that I knew came and stayed with me since neither of them had an actual building to live in. It was nice having people around again. We weren’t like a family or anything, but at least I didn’t go for weeks without talking to anyone.

The attacks didn’t stop though, and two more farms were raided that summer. We weren’t particularly afraid at my house, but we enlarged the cellar and started sleeping down there. Not only was there only one way in, but it was cooler in the summer.

The mayor had been raising taxes to pay for the guards. After a while, they came by my place. Now I didn’t know where some of the men he hired came from, but they were a far rougher sort than the friendly folk of Jeel, especially the tax collectors. My dad had saved a bit of silver stored away, but I didn’t exactly bring in materials that the people in town were going to give me enough coin to pay taxes with. Of course, they weren’t interested, so I gave them the silver, but I told them I wouldn’t be able to get any more for at least a year, if not quite a bit longer than that.

Mayor Pence began to speak in town about people not paying the taxes, or about complaints he had received from people about how much money it was costing to keep the guards around. He said some of the guards had quit because there was not enough money to pay them. About a week later another farm was razed and he took the opportunity to point out the dangers of not having enough guards. He said collectors would be coming by yet again to raise funds to bring back the men who had quit. He said he knew it was hard on everyone, that he himself had forfeited any of his pay as mayor beyond what he needed for the bare necessities. I could tell people were worried about this, but I took it all in stride. The men knew I had no more silver, so I did not think they would bother coming by just to hassle three orphans.

I was coming back from Jeel with some tools that I had traded for. We had decided to start tanning our own leather, which would hopefully be tradable for more than just the raw skins were.

It was near dusk and as I came around a hill, I could see men with torches by my front door. I thought it was a patrol. Sometimes they came by to check on the farms, see if anyone needed anything, and to suggest that we move into town for greater safety. When I got closer still, I could hear loud voices. The men were in a semi-circle in front of my house. I was surprised to see that about half were on horses. All of them were well armed and dangerous looking. Mark and Sara were out front. I couldn’t make out what they said, but Mark was plainly yelling. One man stepped forward, yelled something back and with a quick step, lifted Mark and tossed him backwards. Somehow Mark turned in the air and landed on his feet, knife in hand. He turned and made a quick thrust at the man’s outstretched arm. The man was plainly surprised and attempted to step back, but stumbled. He fell toward Mark and then went down in a heap. I heard a shout and a sharp twang that I knew well, followed by another. Mark fell to his knees, staring in shock, not at the arrows sticking out of his chest, but at his dagger, stuck hilt deep into a man, now lying still on the ground, the glaze of death already coating his eye.

Mark collapsed backwards and Sara shrieked. She threw something at one of the men who had shot the bow, but I couldn’t tell if she hit them. She took a step toward where Mark lay and two men ran forward to grab her. A man wearing gleaming armor and sitting on a huge horse dismounted and stepped up to Mark. He leaned down and it looked like he was whispering to him. Then with a malevolent gleam in his eye, he took a heavy hammer from his belt and brought it down in two quick strokes. I was close enough to hear Mark scream. I couldn’t see it, but I had no doubt that the man had broken Mark’s legs, probably his knees. Even if he miraculously survived the arrows, Mark would be a cripple for the rest of his life.

The man gave a shout and a wave and remounted. Men ran forward. Some tossed torches onto and into my house, while others grabbed the body of their fallen comrade. They tied Sarah to one of the horses and started onto the pat, heading right toward me. I quickly dropped what I was carrying and ran into the brush on the side of the road. I don’t think they were expecting to see anyone else, so they didn’t look very hard as they passed by me. I could have tripped some of them men; they passed so close to me.

When they had gone, I got up and ran to Mark. Both arrows went into his left side, one in his chest, the other in his abdomen. Somehow he was still awake, but his breath was coming in short ragged gasps. He saw me and as tears ran from his eyes he said “I didn’t mean to. I didn’t mean to. I only…only—” he coughed as his body tried to expel the blood filling his lungs. I checked his heart rate and immediately knew only powerful magic could heal him.

“Shh,” I said, “Be calm. Be at peace.” With bitter tears, I lifted his knife from where the men had thrown it. Though terrified, my hands did not shake as I drove it into his heart. One look at my house showed that it too was lost. We had no well and there was no way for one person to haul enough water from the nearest stream to save it from the flames. I rolled over and lay on the grass next to the still warm body of my best friend and cried as I watched my father’s house burn.

Dream Journal
Very early morning, May 1, In the 33rd year of the reign of Lotor II
An icy wind hits me. My skin is coated with sweat. I don’t know where I am. My friend is next to me. They are dead. Dead and they will never come back. I can almost see their spirit leaving them, escaping with the steam that rises from the hot wet hole. It rises and disappears into the cool fog of early morning that clings to the earth like a lover. Or a ghost. The woods look dark and haunting nearby. The trees are unfamiliar. I do not know these forests. They are not the forests of my home. The dagger in my hands erases all thought of the forests. Now I remember. My friend…the one I had to kill. This was my doing, but not my fault. I killed him because I loved him. He was closer than a brother and…it was the better way. The only way. I look to my west. Toward Jeel. The dog that did this went that way. I know where he will be and I will make him pay.

(06/01/08)

In the morning, I placed wood on the coals and put my friend upon the makeshift cairn. I fanned the coals and fed the fire until nothing was left. When the sun was almost straight up, I stumbled to a stream and washed Mark’s blood off myself. I then set out on the path back to Jeel. I easily could have tracked them for a ways; they made no efforts to hide the horse’s tracks. I was sure the skilled men in town could find the base and lead a party to wipe the bandits out.

The carpenter saw me as I walked in to Jeel and said it was good, if odd, to see me twice in as many days. I nodded listlessly and went into the town hall. The Mayor was there and was most distressed by my story. He said that while he wanted to help, his resources were stretched thin. He obviously couldn’t take guards away from town, and the rest could only cover so much ground in a day. He said he’d have someone go by as soon as they could, but explained that there was not much that he could do. He said that if we had moved into town it might have been safer. He suggested that I consider the welfare of other people before I do anything, or before I buy anything else for my own selfish profit.

It took a moment, but I realized he was talking about the equipment for treating leather I had bought the day before. I explained that we had given an entire year’s worth of income and were only poor orphans. If we were looking to make more, then we would only have more to give in the future.

He said that was true, but if we were truly concerned about giving more, we would have moved into town and taken up a trade or sought apprenticeship, or found some work to do at one of the nearer farms. Instead we insisted on staying on our own, stretching the resources of the town and providing a tempting target. He said they would definitely look for Sara, but did not hope for much. “Hopefully,” he said, “Others will see the real danger. See the truth of their selfish actions and move closer to Jeel where they can be safe and benefit everyone.”

I was shocked. I didn’t know what to do or say. We had given everything we had to help pay for guards and now were being denied their help. Nothing was going to be done. The men who had killed my friend, who had killed my father and burned his house, the men who had kidnapped somebody, were going to remain free and unpunished.

The door opened and heavy footfalls announced a man walking toward us. I turned and looked, only to see the impossible. The man who had broken Mark’s knees was walking across the town hall. Mayor Pence smiled and said, “Kagham, I would like you to meet Captain James Bryer. He is the leader of an elite unit I have hired to turn this bandit problem around. Specifically problems like the one have. He is tasked not with defending, but with offense. His job is to hunt out and destroy this raider menace. If there is hope of finding your friend, it lies with him. Perhaps you should tell him what you have said to me.”

With numbness spreading through my mind, I explained what I had found, expecting the man to lash out and slay me any moment. Instead, the man flourished his hand and pulled back his cape. With grave sincerity, he said, “This tragedy is unacceptable. I declare now, I will take no pay until justice is served. We will pursue these brigands to the ends of the island if need be.”

I then doubted myself. I had only seen some men at dusk by the inconsistent flicker of torchlight. Perhaps this was not the man I had seen there. Perhaps I had been wrong. In truth I did want to believe him. Then he said “If the girl lives, though with this sort of bandit I imagine she would rather not, then we will rescue her. Peace will be returned to Jeel, this I so swear.” He cut his hand with a knife to seal his oath and my heart burst. In my despair I had not mentioned Sara to him. Unless he already knew, there was no way for him to have said such a thing.

I mumbled my thanks and tried to stand. The world spun and I struggled to stay upright. I saw a wicked gleam flash across the captain’s eyes. I saw Mayor Pence stand and grin at my weakness. As I lay on the ground, sounds faded and color dulled to black.--

Dream Journal
May 14, In the 44th year of the reign of King Lotor II
I am rage. I am pain. I am a vision of destruction. Those who rise against me are struck down. Their crimes demand justice. The blood of the innocent cries out for revenge. I paint the walls with their penance. I am the judicator of the wronged. I am the protector of those on whom the wicked seek to prey. In me a shield is found. Here stops the horror. None of their evil breed may pass. They are not even chaff to be burned for warmth. They are sandy soil in which no good thing grows. They must be cleansed.--

Dream Journal
December 2, In the 32nd year of the reign of King Lotor II
I am standing. I am in a room. It is the town hall in Jeel. I am in the office of the mayor. The bodies of men are around me. I know that if I go into other rooms, more bodies will greet me. They look like men, but I know they are not. They are beasts. They are vile creatures. They prey upon people; they are parasites upon peace and civilization. As evil beasts they seek to destroy or consume all that is good. As evil beasts they deserve only death.

A lamb lies at my feet. The beasts meant to feast on the lamb. It is for the lamb that I have slain the beasts. The lamb trembles before me. The lamb recognizes me, but is afraid. I am not the shepherd, but the shepherd is dead. It is also for the shepherd that I have slain the beasts. I can hear men outside. I know they are true men. They will care for the sheep, but they will be upset with me. They thought the beasts were men. The lamb is my proof though. The lamb knows they were beasts. It will tell them.

They will still be upset. They do not understand what must be done with beasts. I do not blame them, I only learned recently. The beasts showed me, but they are now dead, and so cannot show anyone else. This is a good thing though; it is not to anyone’s benefit to learn from a beast. The people may want to hurt me. They are very upset. I do not want to hurt them, but I cannot let them harm me.

(7/27/08)

The sheep is speaking to them. It says one beast lives. One of the head beasts in fact. The fat, weak one. This is good I say. He can tell them. He knows about the beasts. The fat one would say he is a man like them, but I tell them it is a lie. They will see. I can show them that he is a beast.

The sheep begs me not to, so I don’t. I explain that he is only a beast and I will have to kill him anyway, but it would be better if the fat one explained about beasts first. They say he is a man as well. They say they will not let me kill him. I find this amusing. They cannot stop me, but I do not tell them that. I do not want to scare them.

The sheep tells them. The sheep explains that the fat one is certainly a beast and not a man, but sheep are only sheep and do not know what to do with beasts. The sheep says to drive the beast away and to never let it come back. This is the way of sheep. Sheep understand running and chasing, so I am not mad at its suggestion, but I tell it that this will not work. It is a beast. If they chase it away, it will not run for its life, but will find more beasts and return. I tell them that if they want to chase it away though, that will work for now. I will stay and kill the beasts when they come back.

The men are not happy at my offer. They say if he is a beast, how do they know if I am a beast or a man? I wonder about this. Certainly a beast can spot the differences between man and beast. And of course a beast would kill another beast if it were convenient. They are men, and men cannot tell the difference between beast and man. The sheep can though; the sheep knows.

I ask the sheep, but the sheep is afraid of me. The sheep says that I was a man, but does not know what I am not. I tell them if they think I am a beast then they should kill me too. Once I kill the fat one, I will not stop them from doing so. If I am a man I should live. That is what men do. If I am a beast, I should be killed, because beasts only live to destroy and be destroyed. They say that is not the attitude of a man, but of a beast.

I say they are right.

They say they will neither kill me, nor the fat one. They say they will drive us both away and we must never return. I tell them that this will not work. If they drive us both off, he will come back and there will be no one to kill his beasts when he returns. I tell them it is right that I leave though. If I may be a man, it is best to let me live. I wish them no harm and will not come back. But they must kill the fat one. It is not right for beasts to live among men. The very best choice is for both me and the fat one to die.

They do not listen. They say that I must leave. They say that the fat one must leave. They say we must never come back. I tell them a beast will always come back. It is their nature. However, they are men, and I may be a beast. It is not the place of a beast to argue with man, so I leave.

The sheep says it is sorry.

I tell the sheep that a sheep is never wrong with regards to a beast. Sheep do not know better. Men know even worse. It is not their fault that their nature is not meant to deal with beasts. I tell the sheep that it is wrong for a sheep to feel sorry for a beast. Even such a poor beast as me that could not kill a fat weak beast when it needed to be killed.

The fat beast insults me. I remove his hand. This makes the men very angry. They tell me to go right at that moment and never return.

I left Jeel. It wasn’t hard to do since everything I cared about was gone. I tried to live to the north east of Jeel, but found the forest creatures becoming increasingly hostile. No matter where I tried to stay for the night I would be awakened by the sounds of hunting animals. It was as if they knew I was not a native to the forest and were seeking to drive me out.

I found myself on the road to Hothbra one day and decided it wasn’t a bad plan to follow it. I wasn’t meant for forests or wilderness. Even when I’d lived on the outskirts of Jeel, I was dependent upon the city for many things that I simply did not know how to make. I thought I would get a job with the blacksmith or perhaps at the tannery. I had dealt a fair bit with skins and it seemed likely that they could, at least sometimes, use an extra hand with some skill. As it turned out, a local carpenter needed someone to chop wood for him. He’d pay by the log and even offered to buy my first axe for me. I didn’t know much about being a lumberjack, but I could tell most trees apart.

Seven days passed in exhausting labor. I worked with a few other more experienced woodsmen who showed me how to get the most out of my effort. Even with their help, at the end of each day, when we camped down for the night I fell asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow. Apparently the woods were slightly safer near Hothbra, and tenting in a larger group seemed to help as well, but they told me the local wildlife had indeed been acting strangely.

The woodsmen went to town once a week to bring the carpenter the lumber they had chopped, sharpen their axes, and get any other supplies they needed. When we approached the gates though, the guards pulled me aside into one of the gate houses and put me into a holding cell. Sometime later, maybe a few hours, a wooden slat on the door opened and a pair of eyes looked in that I would have recognized anywhere. I heard Mayor Pence’s voice say “That’s him. That’s the murderer.”

The trial was very fast. Apparently I had been seen killing a variety of people near Lotor’s Castle and New Korelth over the last few weeks. They told me I was a fool for thinking I could hide in Hothbra. However, instead of killing me outright as they did with most murderers, Mayor Pence stood and spoke. “While certainly this boy is guilty of murder, he is but a child. I knew his father when I was mayor of Jeel and he was a good man. If it pleases the court, I would beg that he not be hanged, but instead given a sentence of labor.” I don’t know if the entire thing had been set up by the ex-mayor of Jeel, but it didn’t seem beyond possibility.

A carriage took me to New Korelth where I was to be a prison-laborer in the mines under the city. Mayor Pence had put on a good show of arguing on my behalf, but the mines were little better than a delayed death sentence. Even in Jeel we knew that everyone who went into those mines died there.

We worked on a rotation, the other prisoners and I. We didn’t have clocks or anything, but the rotation was three men to a bed, one sleeping, two working, so it seemed likely that it was 16 hours on, 8 hours off. We got 4 breaks a day for water and food. They fed us surprisingly well as long as we worked hard. Even so, I was always hungry. It was hard, but it was prison and I didn’t expect it to be anything other than back breaking. The work wasn’t terribly interesting and most of the time I was incredibly bored.

I learned a fair bit about stone and ore and a little about gems. I learned a lot about people. The sort of things someone learns when he has to depend on others for everything. How to deal with people who are so filled with hate that even though they’ve been sentenced to a long slow death in the mines will try to take it out on anyone smaller than they are. I learned how to make a weapon out of almost anything and how to use my bare hands to hurt a person badly.

They’d let us celebrate the New Year twice, so I’d been in the mines at least a year. As far as the New Korelth mines go, I was an old time veteran. The people who had been bullies when I arrived were now dead and cold. People who tried to make life hard for new people met the sharp end of my pick, or one of the few who I’d gathered around me. I enforced a type of martial law on the prisoners and the guards didn’t mind. As long as we produced the ore, they didn’t care much what happened to the prisoners. Things didn’t get better, but at least they didn’t get worse.

You quickly lose track of time and days under the ground. I’m not sure exactly what day it was, but I’d guess it was a couple months before my 20th birthday. We were digging in one of the deep shafts looking for thrallenite. The guy to my right swung his pick the same way he’d done a thousand times before and the same way he would go on to do a thousand times more. But that one time, one quarter of the pick shattered sending shrapnel everywhere. Most of it only caused cuts. A guy behind us took a piece in the butt and couldn’t sit properly for two weeks. My luck was slightly different.

We had been doing well recently and I had managed to trade for some light weight linen instead of the durable burlap we normally wore. It was lighter, spread heat better, and wicked sweat away more effectively. Unlike cotton, it remained tough enough that it lasted almost as well as the burlap too. A thumb sized shard of hot flying axe flew across my inner left thigh and completely severed the femoral artery as it passes close to the surface. Maybe the burlap would have been heavy enough to matter. Maybe not. The linen was no help at all. I could feel my blood pressure drop so quickly it felt like all my weight had liquefied and was draining out the bottom of my feet.

The pain alone would have made it difficult to stand, but beyond that, I didn’t have the strength to stay on my feet. I leaned against the rock wall and slowly set myself onto the ground. People were yelling, but were growing remarkably quiet. They were running around. People jostled me. Before everything faded away entirely, a face looked down at mind. He was saying something, but I never found out what.

Dream Journal
March 29, In the 20th year of the reign of King Lotor II
I had found a place. Now I can’t stay there. I’m not sure why or even what that means. I am not on a path, but I am not falling. I am somewhere between paths. Memories of my youth rush by me. There seem to be two sets. One of me in Jeel, but another set very different from the other. I can see it is a different life. A life I somehow know. A life I am moving towards. I can see differently into lives now. They are patterns like a masterfully woven rug. I can add or take away from them, but I must be careful or they would unravel.

I look at my life in Jeel. I see that it helped, but it was not enough. Not nearly enough. If I somehow lived one thousand thousand lives and only made changes as small as I did in Jeel, they would not add up to enough. “I must know more when I am alive,” I think. I arrange it in the pattern so I will have more of my knowing when I live again. I must be quick, for I am accelerating toward daylight…

Chapter 2

Near Josody

I opened my eyes to see the smiling faces of Tam and Amara.

“I thought we’d lost you,” Tam said. “It seemed that your spark had gone out, but then it came back. Count yourself lucky to not walk in the halls of the elders.”

I was confused for a moment. I remembered a mine, a pick-axe exploding, coldness… At the same time, I plainly recognized the two elves standing before me. I know who they were and knew who I was. Memories and purpose rushed through my head, intertwining two lives into one life. Then I remembered we had been trying to disable a magic device that was causing animals in the area to become overly aggressive. The memories faded and I was left with only myself, lying on the ground, in a forest near Josody. Something was different, but I didn’t know what it was. “Did it work?” I asked.

Amara flashed one of her brief smiles, which was quickly replaced with a reproachful stare. “Oh, it worked,” said she. “For about five seconds. Then it compensated and the discharge threw you 15 feet. What were you thinking? A 40 year old knows better than to try to craft a counter-rune inside an existing enchantment. Forget that this is one of the most powerful pieces of constructed magic I’ve ever seen. Forget that you have what, a grand total of four years of magic schooling. Forget that you were expressly told NOT to try doing this. ‘Did it work?’ he asks.” She trailed off, shaking her head in a mix of amusement and disgust.

“Look,” I said. “You’re right, I don’t know much about magic, but I know runes. I know I can use them to take this thing down. Besides, I’m fine, aren’t I?”

Tam haruffed. “Have you looked at yourself?” He asked. “You’ve got half a dozen broken bones and at least that many open cuts. You feel ‘fine’ because I put a pain reducing spell on you. Maybe I should have let you wake up in agony first…”

“Alright alright,’ I said.”The important thing is that it worked at all. I think I know how it runs now, so next time I should be able to take it out completely.” As I said this, I realized I did know exactly how the device functioned. My previous assumption of how to disable it seemed startlingly naïve. My method would have worked, but the power required to blatantly disable the thing was staggering to think about. Almost as an afterthought, I took off my pack and dug out a large flask of thick blood red oil. I opened it and let a drop of my blood fall into it. A dark swirl formed at the top and started to work its way into the fluid. Holding the flask in my left hand, I pressed my thumb to the rune pattern etched into my left bracer at the same time as I said the command word. The flask instantly became so painfully hot that I let go of it by reflex. Before it hit the ground, it exploded, sending glass shards everywhere. I screamed in pain and collapsed, grasping my right side where a large piece had deeply cut into me. The pain passed immediately and I found that my ribs no longer hurt, the open cuts Tam had mentioned were sealed without a scar, and my breathing was full and easy. The jagged cut from the glass was similarly repaired.

“What is wrong with you?!” Amara yelled.

“Actually, I think I really am fine now. It was an experimental new healing potion I’m working on. The healing aspect is undeniable, but I need to find a way to stabilize the catalization of the bloodroot. As you can see, it is a bit violent when used in its current formula.”

“You’re insane, you know that right?” she said. Then she dangled a bottle of thin milky grey-white liquid in front of me and asked, “What is wrong with these healing potions? Not potentially fatal enough for you?”

“Ok, the exploding bottle was admittedly a less than desirable result. However, the current line of so called ‘healing potions’ are a disgrace to alchemists everywhere. They are weak, slow, hard to make, have nasty side effects, and taste awful. I’m sick of everything tasting like ground chalk.”

She rolled her eyes. “Maybe if you spent less time in graveyards you wouldn’t get attacked by ghouls so often and have to drink so many of them.”

I put my pack back on and said, “Look, there are certain plants that only grow-“

“Enough!” Tam interrupted. “You two bicker like children. Come, we do have actual work to do and we must hurry back to tell the elders what we have learned. We must report the number of Astari we have seen moving through our lands.”

We returned and told the Elven elders of our progress with the device, though certain details of my experiment were omitted. They listened with little interest. Ours was a minor project in the scope of the troubles facing the Elves. News of a human prince set to take the throne of Krythan made them wonder where the humans would send their armies if they united into one nation. Rumors of the Orc tribes ending their blood wars and increasing in number stirred memories of the orc hordes that ravaged the lands in the Rune Wars. The Thepa high shaman had vanished and they had left their ancestral lands, becoming little more than bandits. The Gnolls had retreated into the rocky highlands and mountains. They had closed passes and talked to no one. Now the Astari had been spreading in great numbers, especially into the Westland forests. The elders worried that their younger kin might awaken great evils in the forests which the Elves had kept watch over for millennia. And recently these devices had appeared, making once peaceful animals become savage and violent.

The elders said all signs showed that a second Great War was coming. Just as the first one was not the Elves’ war, so was this one a war to be fought by the armies of other races. They would take their people and leave. They would flee to a safe place and when the war had died down, they would return.

This triggered something in my mind. A sense of panicked rage shot through me. I knew I had tried to do what they were proposing. I knew it had not worked. I told them they could not run from their troubles. I explained to anyone who would listen that the only option that offered hope of survival for our people was to join forces with the other races and fight back against the coming evil. I told them we must learn to respect and trust the Astari. Time had made them wiser and if we shared some of our ancient secrets, perhaps they might even help us safeguard the forests from danger. We must learn to be patient with Mankind. The Elves always have trouble associating with such a short-lived race. Everything they do seems hasty, but they had strength of purpose that other races could never match. I showed them that we must let ancient grudges go and try to trust those Orcs who had sought a way of life beyond warfare. Certainly they were warriors unmatched and if we set them on a righteous purpose, they could bring work great things.

The reply was that to do what I proposed would end thousands of years of Elven culture. They said they had a duty to their people and to their people’s heritage. They had to protect not just the Elves, but their way of life as well. The elders said what I had proposed was the same as leading their entire race to slaughter. But they would not force anyone to go. I could spread my idea to any who would listen. They wished me luck.

Tam, Amara, and I worked to disable the devices and unite the people for two years with little success. The clear understanding of their function that I had felt earlier still remained, but I saw no way to generate enough power to be effective. Then one summer, the young human prince turned 16 and ascended to rule, being crowned King Lotor II. The elders said a human ascending to the throne of Lotor was the last sign they needed. Within months, almost all of the high elves in Dransik had left. Gone. Hidden.

Tam had a large family and when the elves set to leave, he went with them, but Amara believed in the things I had said to the council and stayed, along with a few others scattered throughout the westlands.

Elven scouts are by nature solitary. They have to be or else they are unable to tolerate the months or years they might be required to spend virtually alone in the woods or swamps. Amara and I had worked together as scouts and trackers for decades though. We were close, knowing each other’s talents and quirks. The new isolation from our own race forced us even closer. If we had been human, we might have been said to have fallen in love, but love among the Elves is an entirely different thing. Certainly all races feel the passion and excitement when someone they love is near, but the expression is different. For the short lived races, it is often more physical than mental. Their highs carry them through their lows. For the long lived races, for a race that might easily live many times the length of a human’s short 60-100 years, the expression is more of a knowing the person on a deep and personal level. We might stalk a deer for hours and as we crossed an open field on opposite sides, catch a half glance at two bow shot’s distance, but then go a week without talking. We would sleep back to back so we would be ready at any threat or intrusion. It is not slowness when compared to men, for these small gestures mean the same thing as a warm embrace after a week’s absence, or a tender kiss when sitting under the lilacs beneath the spring-time glow of the moon and stars. They are signs of care and devotion and togetherness that elves hold deeply and cherish.

We were not so bold as to attempt any further action against the devices, but instead sought ways to protect those whom the animals now threatened. Especially with the elves gone, the forests had grown even wilder. We taught peasants the signs of a maddened creature so they would know which ones were dangerous. We crafted quality arrows and bows which we gave to farmers as well as townspeople and gave them basic training in the use of ranged weapons. As the beasts of the land grew more and more violent, we were forced to cull their numbers, sometimes significantly.

In the end, none of it played a significant role in saving anything of what we had loved. The elves continued to flee and farmers of other races vanished from the fertile farms of the westlands. The trees quickly took back the fallow lands, leaving little trace. We found ourselves living somewhat near Josody as much for safety as for convenience. We traded with the humans who now lived there, and occasionally with the trolls west of the city who had not all gone mad yet.

My kin would have said what happened was inevitable. They would have claimed without our guiding influence, the Astari would grow reckless. I do not know if this was true, but perhaps they would have been right. It took less than a year for the Astari to grow openly resentful of the humans in Josody. Many were becoming outright hostile and sometimes aggressive.

So it happened that a group of Astari decided to remove what they called “the invading humans,” by force. We had been watching for such a thing and, feeling loyalty to our friends, went to inform Josody of the impending attack. When we reached the gates though, we found them bolted shut and guards posted. We were known by many in the city, so I revealed myself and hailed the gate.

“Good men,” said I. “What troubles the city?” For it was not yet dusk and traffic through the gates should still have been flowing at a steady pace.

“Unrest inside the city,” came a clear voice from the walls. “Who approaches?”

I made myself known and a man stepped out of the sally port. The gate captain was a good friend of ours and took my hand in greeting when I reached the walls. “Trouble it is my friend,” he said. “Three hours past, armed men took all who were in the bank as hostages. Despite protests from the Astari, word was sent to the King. Not but twenty minutes ago, Royal Guards teleported in over by the portal there. They stormed the bank. Word has not reached me of what fate those inside met as of yet, but a grim feeling settles on me. Innocent blood has been spilled I think.”

I nodded, saddened by the news. “I hate to add to your worry,” said I. “But you know the tensions as of late.”

“All too well I know them.”

“Whether it has some part of your current trouble I do not know, though it reeks of conspiracy, but you must know that three hours south of here, a force of armed Astari march on Josody. It is their intent to remove any humans from what they feel is their land. They mean to use force.”

“Add worry to evil it does,” he said his voice full of frustration. “Though we take your telling us well enough, we would rather know than not know. What do you mean to do? As I must tell you I have orders to let no one in or out.”

“We would fight for your city,” Amara said. When she spoke, the captain leapt almost a foot into the air, even wearing his breastplate and chainmail as he was, for he had not heard her approach behind me, and I had not announced her when he had asked. “For our city and for our friends. Barring that though, I think their hate is for you, not us. They resent our people, but if we stay away I doubt they will hunt us down just to do harm over a slight annoyance.”

A messenger came for the captain. He read what looked to be orders and a heavy weight seemed to settle onto his shoulders. His breathing slowed and he glanced at us several times, his eyes questioning something with which his mind wrestled.

“Yes. Go then,” said the captain, his voice strained as if speaking caused him great pain. “It would be best for you to not be caught between us and the Astari. When you go, do not approach the walls for some time, if they still stand, after the battle ends. Not all my men can tell elf from elf, if you catch my meaning, and may send a shaft at you.” We shook hands again, in the human custom, and Amara and I vanished into the woods.

It was a strange luck that saw us into the woods that day. Almost a decade, and two lives, had passed before I learned what had weighed the captain that day. Those hostage takers in the bank had been humans. The response of the humans, Royal Guards of the human’s very own king, had left three astari dead, only one of which was by the hostage-taker’s hands. Apparently the humans had also noticed the Astari unrest. Mages had worked to set up magical watch eyes through the forests. Knowing of the dead Astari in the bank, the approaching army, and the generally tense atmosphere in the city, the Royal Guards, by order of the mayor (though they likely used their right to issue edicts in the King’s name and forced him to give the order) gathered up the remaining Astari into a barn. This upset the Astari, but being so imprisoned, there was little they could do about it. No doubt the orders were to gather all elves, and it was only by a loose interpretation of his orders mandating the collection of those “within the city” that we walked away free from the gate. Later, during the battle, a flaming arrow fell upon the barn. It burned down, killing almost everyone inside. Still, it may have been better odds had we been arrested and put into the barn than we had by being set free.

The Astari army came to Josody’s west gates with little trouble. I watched from the forest as, to my surprise, they gave the humans one full hour to leave the city peacefully. Humans, of course, are notorious for their disproportionate responses. Such ultimatums make them behave as if they were little more than armed savages. Later, tactical analysis would say that the defenders had not wanted to let the Astari form proper ranks for defense. At the moment though, it looked like a hail of arrows fired from hundreds of bows. The barrage was maintained for at least three volleys. The two who had stepped out to parley were viciously cut down.
The rage such disrespect lit in the Astari was little aid during the fight. The Royal Guards already in the town certainly helped in that first half hour. What truly wrote doom for the Astari was the three mages who had teleported the hostage response force into the city. Not wasting their time with simple combat, the mages teleported to Lotor’s Castle. In the next hour, armed men and women arrived from the castle as well as Parian and New Korelth. More troops arrived shortly after that from Hothbra, Valmond, and Etherea. It took only four hours for the mages to increase the defensive force to well over three times the number of attacking night elves. The human counter attack, lit by magical fire, completely destroyed the hostile army outside their walls.

The next day put Amara and me to work tending wounds of those few Astari that survived. They numbered less than 100, not counting the dozens who died under our care that day. Death had turned their hate into sadness.

We had not stayed to watch the carnage, but judged two days long enough to hazard a return to Josody. The battle had taken place out of sight of the walls, but there was a killing ground where the first bow shots had been exchanged in front of the gates. We were skirting the open area as we moved toward the city. We could see a much higher than normal number of guards on top of the walls and were being cautious. Amazingly, some of the Astari who had taken wounds first still lay on the ground, dying slowly and unable to help themselves. The sight sickened me, though I knew my own people were capable of viciousness to equal the humans.
Our skills in woodcraft were honed as only those of our people could ever be. Still, I never saw the root or rock I tripped on. Perhaps there was no root, rock, or anything else, but only luck of one kind or another. I fell a short ways, colliding with Amara, pushing her into the clearing abruptly. She turned to help me up, and as I regained my feet, the amused look on her face vanished. She jerked forward into my arms, a confused grunt escaping her lips. A yard shaft stood out from her back, disappearing beneath her soft elven armor.

When one spends enough time with the wounded or treating wounds and serious injury, that person becomes adept at picking up subtle signs. The rasp of breath when blood is clogging its passage ways sounds just *so* when a person will recover, but also sounds just *so* when a person is going to die. The way a body moves, the way they look around, the tension in muscles, they all tell the difference between an injury that someone will recover from and one that will slay them painfully. To anyone who knows, there are a thousand signs, though they are strange and boring to relate to one who does not know them. I knew from the way she became limp as I dragged her to the relative safety of the shadowed woods that the wound was a mortal one. The only comfort I had was that it would kill her quickly and she would not feel pain for long. I knew she would not survive, so as I laid her down I removed the arrow from her back. She did not even wince as it tore its way out.

As her skin grew cold and pale, she struggled to speak. “I’m sorry,” was all she managed.
“No, no, no no no no,” I said. “You have nothing to be sorry for.” I was as unable to say anymore as she was.

She nodded and smiled, swallowing blood, though it clung to her teeth like grimy brine. “Sorry…that I’m leaving you…alone.” She tried to breath, but choked. I laid her on her side, not because I thought it might save her, but to save her the pain of racking coughs. Neither my medicinal skills nor meager magic would save her. We both knew the truth. I kissed her forehead, now clammy and still. She smiled, or tried to, her lips slow and unresponsive. She tried to speak again. I drew close, trying to hear her weak words. Her breath came out slow and hot against my face. No air made the trip back, as she had died.


I held her a minute and then stood. A memory washed over me there. The memory of a beloved friend dying. Of a mercy killing. My mind reeled. It had not done this since…since that day…things become clear. Since the day that I died. Since the day both of us had died. The grayscale whites and blacks of the forest seemed to slip out into the rest of the world, like a tide flowing out from my small pocket of reality. Pale ghostly whites and dark sickly greenish blacks replaced all light, all color, they replaced all things. Right at that moment, I knew. I could see the pattern. The withdrawal of my people, the hated between man and elf, this battle, so much more and so much less too. Tiny crimes, pointless taxes, aggressive foreign policy, logging businesses, the closing of farms, too many things to count, on too many levels to comprehend. Everything had been planned, arranged, orchestrated. And it had taken Amara’s life. I could see it, like a web, lines of scheming, of deceit, of plans within plans, of ulterior motives and double dealing…all leading back into Josody. It did not start there, but it was being harbored there. I looked at the gates and helplessness tore at my heart. I did not know what to do.

Dream Journal
Noon exactly, January 3, In the 7th year of the reign of Lotor II
The blood is growing tacky on my hands as the platelets congeal. I look and see them, small bits of cells connecting to one another, forming a barrier against liquids. Not that they need to as their host has already lost use for them. They do catch the cold though, the cold of a wind that rushes past me, blowing around and over the forest and plain and city. It flies, light, weightless, and free, across the killing field, effortlessly scales the walls, and sails over Josody. It follows a pattern of death. A pattern of darkness. I see how easy it is for the wind to make such a climb and simply follow it. Now I am atop the walls. I can see from the stunned look in the eyes of the man next to me that this was unexpected. Blood does not touch his body, but death lies upon his hands. He has shot his bow in hate recently. A sudden understanding fills me with sadness and revulsion. This is no man, but merely a beast. A pawn of some greater filth.

I place a blade between his fourth and fifth ribs on his left side. It cuts his heart clean through. The quickest and cleanest death I can give it. Better than a beast deserves.

I check my thoughts. I do not kill the beasts out of hate, but because they must be killed. It is simply the way of things. I do not care about his pain or the revenge that distantly beckons me. This is not about justice for innocents, though that does have some value. This is about safety. The shepherd does not hate the wolf, but loves his flock, and so must slay the wolf.

I understand now. I am not a man that much is clear. I am also not a beast, though I can know them and understand them. I am not the shepherd either, but serve such one. I am the hand that kills. I am the blade that cuts.

Dream Journal
Late night or early morning, October 22, In the 19th year of the reign of Lotor II
I stand upon a wall of death, surrounded by death. Behind me shapes dance in the limelight, vague shadows of form shifting in and out of reality. To my left a pair of shades rush me. An arrow from my bow chases the knife I throw, each weapon slaying one, before either fully realize one of their own has already died by my hand. Their deaths would be a painfully slow thing, each one falling to the soft stone ground like flies trapped in sap, slow and all too aware of their problems. I do not wait out their hour long deaths.

Am I that fast? Are they that slow? Is this something I have caused, or does some greater power act on my behalf? It does not matter of course, but remains a curious thing.

From beyond me, from in front of me, the seduction of the Beastmaster, the Spinner, reaches me. It is a horrible thing. My heart quivers in my chest though my ears hear nothing. Not something that one hears or even feels, the call of the Spinner corrupts the soul. It has already corrupted so much…

I can end this. The Beastmaster cannot stop me. I walk down the wall and into the town. Many beasts hide in the crowd, hoping I will not notice them. I do. Then the beasts lie dead on the earth.

The Master’s lair is no special thing. A building. A house maybe. Even as I approach many beasts are visible around it. I kill them and pass into the Beastmaster’s domain. If many Beasts were without, then an uncountable number huddle within. Some are a clever thing, not man-Beasts, but something strange. When blood leaves the strange one’s bodies through blade made holes, they die like man-Beasts though. This is good enough for me.

Dream Journal
Sunrise, December 14, In the 33rd year of the reign of Lotor II
The frosty chill of death nips at me, accompanied by the bitterest of winter wind. I find myself confronted by something I had hoped never to see again. “This is what I came to stop!” I say, or maybe think. The Spinner does not try to hide from me. Such an attempt would have been a wasted effort. But even more, it does not think it needs to. Perhaps it does not think at all. The Spinner is a black space, or hole in space, resting next to a man whom I know to be the mayor. It whispers to him, telling him lies and half truths. Seeing it now, again, and remembering, the thing-Beasts make more sense.

I set to do what I have come for. I attempt to kill the Spinner, but nothing happens. When I withdraw my blade though, its awareness shifts to me. It knows I am here, but does not know what to do about me. It growls, a low sound that I am not sure is actually audible, or sound at all. This reveals its mouth, which it opens menacingly. Inside its mouth, I can see its throat. Throats bleed. Bleeding kills things. Even as the thought occurs to me, I see that my blade will not be enough. My hand though…I grab for the Spinner’s neck and find only mist. I press on, pushing through a nothing that resists my assault, to find hardness in the center. I grab it and lift the Spinner by whatever I have managed to grasp. Coldness spreads through me. Not the coldness of ice or even death, but the chill of passion lacked, of life without purpose. It is the cold of something that does not and cannot feel. The coldness of something that hates those who can.

“How are you doing this?” says a voice behind me. “How are you here?”

I turn and see a man. No, more than a man. It is a Shepherd. This pleases me. I answer his questions. I can see from his eyes that he does not understand.

“You assault the Spinner,” he says, giving me a grim look. “This is new. I have tried to stop it for many months now. You slay the Beasts, can you also slay It?”

This is not truly what he says, but it is what I understand him saying. I realize he does not know about Beasts and Shepherds and all the things that are happening, so I tell him.

Then I wonder if I can even kill the Spinner. I examine it and feel the same horror I always have known when confronting such a thing. A perversion of the gifts of Kuthos.

“Runes were never meant to be used this way,” I say. He clearly does not understand. His ignorance is a blessing. “I cannot kill it, but I can make it leave.”
He seems truly amazed. “This is the same thing to Men. And to me.”

I tell the Spinner to leave, and it does. It has no other choice. When it is confronted with the fact that it should not exist, the Spinner simply ceases to be present. Perhaps it is dead. Perhaps not. It is not my place to question the desires of Men, let alone those of a Shepherd.

The man looks at me in awe and asks who I am. I tell him and he seems, if possible, more shocked yet. His next question is the one I feared he would ask. “Do you know who you are?”

I do not. I tell him such. Somehow, this seems to comfort his worried state. He then says something I do not understand. Something changes. I realize he is one of the mages who came with the Royal Guard. This is strange to me. I had not realized that a Shepherd could be a human. Or a Man at all.

He says I must leave Josody. He asks if I can do so. I know I must leave. It is always this way with Man and Beast, and certainly I am more Beast than Man. Men do not understand Beasts, but it is not their role to do so. “Is the wind still blowing?” I ask him in answer to his question. I do not wait for his response. I am gone, over the walls, and back into the forest, before the body of the first Beast I killed, the Beast who shot Amara, falls dead atop the walls. Not even a second has passed.


I built a mound for Amara near the swamp, so her body could nourish the earth. The Astari buried hundreds of their dead nearby in the same way, for the same reasons and I help them. It was an interesting bond between us, to see each honor the dead in the same way. We did not talk during the weeks that it took to pile dirt and stones for the fallen.
When we were done, one of them, whose name I did not know and never learned, turned to me. “Come with us to Whisperdale,” he said. “Your place is with your kin, even cousins as we are, not with Men.”

I nodded. “I thank you for your offer. In time I may make my way south, but my work is not yet done here.” I knew the truth of what they said. I could already feel the absence of Amara as a hole in my heart; in my life. No other Elf-folk remained in the north of the Westlands. My only bonds had been cut. Still, it wasn’t right yet. Maybe it never would be.

I wasn’t sure what I was meant to do and so wandered south for a few hours. I realized I had absently made my way toward one of the crystal machines Amara, Tam, and I had been studying for years. I don’t know why, but I decided to make the hike up the short hill it rested on.

The crystal sat in the middle of a clearing. All of them were that way. Perhaps they needed the space, or perhaps whatever had placed them simply cut away the forest for aesthetic purposes, though that seemed unlikely. When I came to the edge of the undergrowth, where the well cut lawn-style grass started, even with my meager magic skill I could tell something had dramatically changed. Caution slowed me, but eventually I approached the horrible thing. Where once it surface was slick and shiny, like oil on a pool of water, not it appeared dull and black, like tarnished silver.

“It’s dead…” I whispered to myself.

Fire shot through my back, following a sharp twang. I fell to my knees, seeing a wolf calmly standing not 5 yards from me. There was no sign of the madness in its eyes which the strange crystals had been spreading.

My strength continued to drain out of me. Looking past the wolf, I saw a farmer man in rugged clothing. He carried a staff and led a pack of sheep that already had begun to graze on the trim healthy grass of the clearing. A shepherd then. In his hands rested a short bow exactly like the ones Amara and I had taught the poor desperate survivors of the Westlands to make and use.

I think the shepherd saw me then as I collapsed to the ground. A sort of gallows humor came over me as I considered how none of those we had equipped ever became very good either at making their bows or shooting them.

“What strange fate,” I thought. “To be shot by probably the last farmer in the West, who is using skills I taught him, to hunt a wolf that is no longer a threat.” As my breaths became slow and painless, I could not bring myself to be angry at the shepherd. The shepherd loves his flock, and while may value the wolf for his strength, knows the wolf values his flock as food. The shepherd must slay the wolf to protect what he loves. While I lost feeling in my hands, it occurred to me that maybe we should have taught them to use slings instead of bows.


Chapter 3

Things are clearer now. Three clarities linger together. First is the clarity that always comes when I leave one life and return to this in-between place. I have my sense of purpose and being restored. Second is clarity of understanding. This is new, and bigger than the other two clarities. I know better what needs to be done and understand how to go about doing it. Third, there is a new openness to the place I am returning to. As if part of a veil has been pulled aside to let light in on this dark land. This is part of my task. I know this entire place should be well lit and easy to travel, but it is not, and that is why I am here.

Even as I rise into the darkness, I can still feel reality quaking at the change I have forced upon it. Still, ever in the back of my mind, I can hear the mental echo. “Not enough! Not nearly enough!” Knowing the truth of my thoughts does not drag me down. I am buoyed by my victory. Though not the great victory I fight for, it is victory nevertheless. Besides, it is a victory close to my heart.

I am, of course, an elf. Before the Parting of Ways, when the elves broke into their smaller tribes, over one thousand years before even my time, we were a strong people. In my time, the split had been much more recent than it is now. The wounds were raw and jagged, fresh wounds upon the spirit of my race. Some had thought unity of race to be our greatest strength, a mistake many beings have made over the millennia. So when the Astari clans split off, they saw the doom of all our ancient lines. The many thousands of years since the Rune Wars have cooled the hearts of all elf folk. The issues that split us apart died both to time and to that war. My heart thus rejoiced to see not one, but two vibrant cultures descendant from the ancient clans.

To aid them, to strike any blow against our enemy when it tried to strike out was like being part of the fight again. Fighting in the old days with sword, hand, foot, and bow. Making an attack without politics to restrain me, without my friends as well as my enemies trying to stop me. It felt good.

My second life – my first life having been lived during the Rune Wars – the life as a human, near Jeel, had discouraged me. This third, more recent incarnation, this … inhabiting, whatever it might be called to have influence in these partial lives of others, this time, it was an elf and had boosted my morale. I was alone on this journey between worlds, a single being in an army with only one unit, and as such, my morale was quite important.

So I had hit my enemy. I had attacked one who attacked me and my people.

Of course, as I saw before, it was not, could never be, enough. The clarity I now had made the truth of this all the more certain. I, one being, could not enter reality, any reality, in any way, and make a battle or war with a big enough scale to matter. My enemies were legion and could simply drown any heroic acts I performed, no matter how big or powerful they would be, with a whirlwind of small evils. In a thousand-thousand such lives, I could not fight all of them on my own.

The answer was thus obvious. I would need others to fight for my cause. Others could not be sent from my time, so they must be recruited from those on hand. In doing so, I would expose my presence, my activity, to those I fled. They knew when/where I had gone. Indeed, by my flight through space and time I had shown them the very path by which to follow me. So intense would be their observations no way could possibly exist for them to fail to recognize my activities. I could only hope to slow their actions, distract their attention, and mislead their minds. At best I could escape for a while before they closed on my like a pack of starving wolves.

Subtlety would be my new weapon and invisibility my best defense. My plans must change at a moment’s notice and my methods become entirely unpredictable. Guerilla warfare would wear down their strength since I lacked the power of arms to mount a direct attack.

As an unexpected bonus, the human mage had shown me I was not entirely alone in knowing the danger my enemies posed. He knew they existed and recognized what harm they might perform, but possessed no method by which to act. So I must teach them these methods. Others would certainly be willing and able to learn.

The biggest problem in doing so is one of perspective. My two interventions had made it abundantly clear that only in extreme situations would my true self’s knowledge comes to bear. Like a treasure buried on a hidden beach, my powers became trapped within the mind of my host/tool. I knew this did not need to be the case. It would not be terribly difficult to inhabit a person entirely. What’s more, I could create a body to live in, so I need not even eliminate another’s life/free will to take on such a state. The danger was the simple danger all living things take for granted. If I invested my whole self into a body, I would then BE that body. My life and my fate would be tied to it. If my form then were slain, I would die with it.

I had to wonder where my fears were centered. Was this the simple fear of death? Or was my fear in that if I died, I would no longer be able to fight against the demons? Perhaps they were the same fear. I had no way to judge what the fear of death would be like. Elf-folk were long lived in the extreme. Not truly immortal like the Builders or the gods, elves eventually age and die, though several millennia would pass before the elf withered as some of the shorter-lived races do in less than a century. It occurred to me it was possible that some had survived from my time during the Rune Wars, it was unlikely in the extreme. The life span of any elf might vary by thousands of years though, much as some men and women die after mere decades, while some make it to a century in passable health.

My belief, though, was that the very purpose of the great experiment, the method by which I existed in this half-life, had been to “unbind” me from my body. Many elves had died to allow me to hope from life to life such as I now could. While my life (or un-life as my current condition was closer to undeath than life itself) was my own, to do with as I wanted, it seemed a sort of insult to the work of those people if I simply tossed away what had been done.

New

Additionally, one of the greatest annoyances I had felt in the pseudo-lives I had during my trips into the “real world” was my limited grasp on reality. While I was fully aware, I did not always remember what I had done. It was a bit like how some elderly people start to lose their grip on what they are doing. I might cook dinner and eat, but then when someone would come into my home they would ask if I had food or if I had eaten. I would say I had not cooked, nor had food, but when they would then check the ice box, they would find the food I had made. This happened a lot actually. More irritating was when someone would notice. One time a local man named Jude, whom I was decent friends with, came up to me and started having a conversation about how his wife was having an affair. He talked as if I knew quite well about it, perhaps as if he had talked with me about it already. I gave him a blank look, said I didn't know what he meant and he then left. Or at least, that's how I remembered it happening.

In truth, Jude and I were good friends and we spent at least a weeknight together at the bar drinking and singing. We had talked at length for some weeks about how his wife was cheating on him. I was the person who had brought the matter to his attention. When 'he came and talked with me about it and I told him I didn't know, he took it as a hint that we should not talk about it in public. So we went inside and talked for almost an hour. Then we went back outside and Jude left.

Mind you, I ran and operated quite nicely without my actual attention, but the difference became painful after a while. I wasn't much affected as an elf as we were quite solitary, and having lived most of my human life at a young age and then again mostly alone, it rarely became a true problem, but I knew if I were going to recruit heroes to my cause, I would need this to stop. However, if I put my entire consciousness into my body, I might fix the problem. I was certain that being fully incarnite would allow me full and constant control over the inhabited body.

The matter did not receive as much though as one might expect. As with most big decisions in a person’s life, I knew my choice early on. Only one choice for success existed, and so ultimately I must take it. I must inhabit a body, and this remained the best opportunity in the near future for several reasons. The new boy-king Lotor II was the sort of leader people dreamt of. His royal lineage brought the nobles behind him and his natural charisma gathered the support of those less concerned with his line of descent. The up-coming years offered prosperity and stability. If an army of heroes could ever be forged, this would be the time.

My main concern with what I should do was one of race. With my own people removed from the lands, becoming an elf would only draw attention to me. To be Astari … no. Even the other races distrusted the pale night elves. The work I needed to do would only be made harder if I took the easy comfort of becoming one of my cousin-race. To be any of the minor races, Tundrian, Knoll, Thepa, or Brimidian, would never work. Most had hidden themselves, and those who had not were generally outcasts. It would be far worse to be one of these than to become even Astari. The only real option was to take the shape of a Human, though my heart disliked the idea. I liked humans, but my previous experience being one was somewhat unpleasant to say the least. Compared to my normal state, being human made me emotional, angry, and prone to acting before thinking things through. However, seeing as human help is what I sought, human is what I had to become.

I knew what must be done to make a body. Really it was relatively simple. Even placing my whole awareness into it would not pose much of a challenge. I suppose the only reason I waited, the reason I hesitated, was the lingering fear. Not the death such an action made inevitable, and relatively soon as a human, but of so totally living. I feared being so completely enveloped in life and experience. But I had no choice.

As I said, making a body is a simple process if one knows the trick. As an amusing/ironic ode to my own relative past, I placed the body near Jeel, about half way between the city’s east side and the Crypts of Kargoth.

This post has been edited by Kagham: Nov 9 2010, 02:35 AM
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Erudite
post May 12 2008, 08:49 AM
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ive always said, you're such a good writer kag! very vivid
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Kagham
post May 13 2008, 12:29 AM
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I made an edit! There is more! Be amazed.

I'm glad you enjoy it eru.
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Kagham
post May 15 2008, 01:57 AM
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It totally didn't add a post when I added more! Ok then. So...I added more!
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Erudite
post May 16 2008, 05:16 AM
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ill save you kaggie! *erubunnie to the rescue!*
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Toasty
post May 22 2008, 11:33 PM
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Dude, you rock!
You're writing ability is fantastic! Really enjoyed it, thanks!

Hope there's more to come (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif)
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Kagham
post May 24 2008, 02:42 AM
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Thanks a lot! I always like to hear that people like what I write. Yes yes, more is coming. I am looking at about 20 pages of written material on my desk, I just have to type it up (and that's not the entire story either!) I am building a set for a dance company's spring show, so I'm short on time at the moment, but I should be good to go by wednesday.
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Kagham
post Jun 2 2008, 11:21 AM
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I know it's been a while, so here is everything I have typed at the moment! I aim to type up more not today or tommorrow, but the day after.
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Maniac
post Jul 7 2008, 01:17 AM
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Love the story and your writing.

Also, and I know we've already discussed this, but, OMGZ KAGHAM!
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Kagham
post Jul 11 2008, 07:33 AM
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So I hate typing. This has always been my bane. If anyone knows any good software for converting handwriting to type, suggestions are always...err...I'm always happy for suggestions? Something like that.
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Burzum
post Jul 12 2008, 12:30 AM
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very good, i find myself up at 3:30 in the morning reading it, and i want more hehe.
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Desty
post Jul 24 2008, 01:37 PM
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Wait a minute, Kagham isn't real! This is all a lie!

The cake is a lie!
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Kagham
post Jul 27 2008, 02:25 AM
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1) The cake IS a lie

2) The Kagham is NOT a lie

3) I wrote something entirely unrelated to this, but much more importantly related to things I care a lot more about. (I'm writing things. This is one of those things, but a short types sample.) You can see it at http://www.buffalo-man.com as that is where I put it.

4) I typed more of this story. I posted some of what I typed. I don't like the next part, so I'm not posting it. Maybe I'll change it a lot. I've sort of stalled on writing it since I don't know where I want it to go.
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Desty
post Aug 6 2008, 12:09 AM
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I still vote that Kagham isn't real since he hasn't been on the MSN addy that I have him added on in like, 2 years.
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Kagham
post Aug 7 2008, 10:00 PM
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Well dest, it's true that in the past you have annoyed me sufficiently that I may not have allowed you to see when I was online. Or if you're using my Kagham@hotmail.com name then perhaps the fact that I hadn't used it for almost 3 years has been preventing you from seeing me. I've been using it lately, so try readding me. Otherwise, I'm sending you my address via pm...message board...thing.
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Kagham
post May 6 2009, 05:30 PM
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Holy nuts! I added more! It's amazing!

I lost what originally came after what I had posted before. So obviously I had to rewrite things, which was good because I didn't like the way it went before. But I like this. This is good. I've been writing it again (go figure, school ends and I have time to write!)

I put a giant "NEW" where new stuff starts.


Stay tuned for chapter 2!
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Kagham
post Jun 4 2009, 04:54 PM
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More! Again! I'd type more right now, but I'm going to write other stuff for a few hours until the coffee shop I write at closes. When I get back, I plan to type more. Yay!
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Kagham
post Jun 10 2009, 02:47 PM
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Here's what I typed the other day! I finished proof-reading it, so now you can read it too. Stay tuned! 10 more pages in chapter two, then on to chapter three!
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Kagham
post Jun 15 2009, 01:13 AM
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I added more. I had planned to write longer, but I'm tired and am going to bed. Sorry for only 2 pages!
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Kagham
post Jun 17 2009, 05:24 PM
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So I've relaunched my website at http://www.buffalo-man.com/ and will be posting additional stories there. If anyone is interested. I will put up the full Kagham story there as well as here, but once it is complete, it is possible I will remove it from the forums here and post it entirely on my website only.

Thanks to everyone who is reading and loving the story. Sorry for not having an update at the moment, but for posting. I know it's gonna get people's hopes up and confuse them.
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