Well would you believe it...I got myself up at 6:20 this morning... quite an accomplishment for how badly summer laziness has been setting in. Thank God for the sunniness this morning, because that is really what got me moving, when I looked outside and saw the sun working harder than I was. And thank you to whoever voted on my poll! You kinda make my day whenever you do that, because every vote over there is a vote of confidence!
Without further delay, the new version of some of the Okthin scenes:
After about ten days of traveling the four came to the great city of Okthin, the capital of the ancient empire which had gone to pieces. Here something was astir. It took no small amount of argument from Reiyen to convince the guard to open the door, including a threatening wave of the staff.
As the four passed through the gate they saw the reason that the gate wasn’t being opened: there was an armed conflict in the city. One group had taken possession of the walls and most of the city; the other had fortified themselves in warehouses, homes, and the city barracks. The city militia was with the minority group in the barracks, thus pitting the outer ring of the city against those on the inside.
Unlike the other towns of the region, Okthin was engaged in serious debate over which side of the great impending war to take. They had heard rumors from scouts and spies and wanderers that Nastar had built an army to come to the South, but Okthin was a strange city. In it could be found peoples from all over the South, even from the islands, and with them came many strange ideas and religions. Some were demon worshippers, others revered other spirits, calling them gods, and some even worshipped Nastar himself. Only few were remained with the White Cross and his cause.
After entering the city Reiyen’s face changed. He shoved his jaw forward and lowered his head, but did not speak a word. He and Achpollo had suspected that Okthin would be different, having journeyed there together a few times and Reiyen many times. Terin had only been there once with Reiyen, and Drune only close enough to trade his hunting wares at the better price that Okthin men usually paid.
Reiyen moved straight for the center of the city, showing the calm that only wizards show in such circumstances. The others followed wondering what he was going to do, but already suspecting that he did not mean to pass through quietly. When they came to the city’s largest public square, which was more like an open yard outside the militia barracks for practice, they found that around its perimeter the earth had been shoveled up and ramparts with trenches built. Apparently the city was one step from violent civil-war. Many men surrounded the green with naked swords in their hands and their belts.
Reiyen began to approach the green, clearly intending to cross into the center, but Achpollo seized his shoulder before others noticed Reiyen’s plan. “Don’t go exposing us yet. You have company that is ill prepared for fighting and it may be that violence can yet be averted. Seeing you cross over would certainly incite slaughter. Keep your head, Reiyen.”
Breathing heavily Reiyen turned into a side street. He did not answer Achpollo but addressed them all, “I will see if I a friend of mine will put us up for the night. This evening we shall decide what must be done about this city.” They wandered through several more streets, clearly not taking the most direct route. Listening behind them, Terin could tell that someone was following them, but knew better than to turn around.
After winding through street after street, and pausing at one intersection where it appeared that Reiyen had lost his way for a moment, they arrived in double-house, more or less a house tall enough for two to live in, one occupant owning the other renting. Reiyen knocked on the door with a few good raps while the others surrounded behind him.
The door did not open. Rather, a thin voice like that of a tired old woman drifted through the door, “I’ve given you everything you’ve asked. Leave me alone.” The last sentence had a ring of pleading to it.
“If you’d open your door you’d find there is no reason to be anxious, Laven,” Reiyen answered the voice by name.
The door opened suddenly, a hand reached out, grasping Reiyen by the collar, and throwing him inside. Seeing the other men the hand motioned hastily, and they all jumped in, Terin’s hand on his sword and Drune’s on his trusty knife. “I say, Laven, that’s quite a greeting,” Reiyen gasped out, as he collected himself and motioned his friends to unhand their weapons.
“With how much pressure I’ve been under to open up my home, you’d think that there were no other double-houses in the city. Did a thousand men move into the city or something? Why can’t all the militants just live at home in the other quarters of the city? Or better yet, stop being such radical oafs.”
Reiyen motioned her to silence. “You will be in enough trouble if you are willing to house us without drawing the anger of any armed man within hearing by your harsh words. Your walls are not so thick as to stop the sounds of your angry tongue, or to withstand a siege.”
As the excitement went out of Terin’s veins he finally began to study the one called Laven. She was astonishingly young for the voice they had heard, and remarkably tall, dwarfing Reiyen, who was not so tall himself, and causing even Terin to look up slightly even at a distance. Long blonde hair was tied behind her head into one long tail falling just behind her shoulders.
Laven sighed, “Ever wise, Reiyen, though I doubt you are so pacifist as you sound. You never seem to come but when there is trouble, which I suppose is when you’re needed most. Come, let’s at least sit down before we do any more talking, no matter the tone we speak in.”
They all shuffled over to a table shaped like a diamond, meant to maximize seating in a small space. At the one peak sat Laven, to her right side Achpollo and Drune, the left Reiyen, and the opposite peak Terin. After the pleasantries and introductions inescapable even under such circumstances were engaged, Laven asserted dominance of the conversation, “Before we say aught else,” she continued, “assure me of one thing Reiyen. Tell me that you did not come to increase the amount of turmoil in the city. If you did, you are welcome to get out and go find some other place to stay, whether it is a back alley or under the gate I don’t care.”
Reiyen pretended to stand up for a second, as though that were indeed his intention, but then sat down with his eyes wide open as they often were after he made a joke. “No, mam, I am never bent on causing violence between man and man; it is with demons that we must deal. I was on my way north when I passed through this city, and found it in this state. How is that I never heard of this fighting?”
“Do you suppose that it is safe to release pigeons when there is such trouble as this going on? You’d have no house to come to if I had tried that, and you’d be lucky if the bird got anywhere.” Terin and Drune both realized at this point exactly how it was that Reiyen always seemed to know everything before anyone else, and why he and Achpollo were so conscientious to feed birds so frequently, even in the city.
“Aahh… well then, suppose you just tell me straight what caused all this.”
Laven rolled her eyes, “You know that no city can sit without government for any amount of time without experiencing anarchy of this sort. It doesn’t help either to have blood-loving Nastar worshippers and other such creeps…” Reiyen shot her a glare because her voice was rising again, “…other such delightful villains.” she said softly with a cruel smile, her knuckles turning white as they gripped the table. “One day two men came into the city through the North Gate, then asked if they could speak to those in authority in the city. They had asked one of the Nastar worshippers, who immediately directed them to Mythron’s house. They both went in, then a few minutes later one jumped out the upper story window with a cut in his face. He was found by some of the militia leaders, and from them I hear that they both came bearing news that Nastar’s armies have swollen in size in the North, and that they have slain a few advance scouting teams and spies coming south already. They doubt that Nastar will long delay his attack.”
Reiyen nodded his assent, obviously intensely processing what he had heard. Laven leaned in close, asking, “Do you know who those northerners are? They did not seem like the usual country folk, and to have such news… and to escape from the house of Mythron? They must have been something special…”
Reiyen ended her questions, “Yes, I know, but no one else needs to.” Laven sat back into her chair. He continued, “Do you have any idea how long before the tension breaks?”
“As long as no one recognized you then maybe we have a chance of survival.” Her sentence was heavily punctuated to make the point she had more subtly stated all along.
Reiyen was not happy with her tone, “Well in the future I will take greater pains to investigate the loyalty status of Okthin before venturing near her walls.”
Laven was not easily cowed, even by Reiyen’s harsher tones, “That might do you and me both a lot of good, not to mention preserve peace in the old capital city.”
“Is there really peace when thousands only wait for the opportunity to slay hundreds?”
“There is peace when they haven’t started the slaying yet, but when it appears to the thousands that a wizard of violent renown has come they may hope to strike fast.”
Achpollo had had quite enough of the verbal brawl between the two, and of the raised voices, and so cut in, “End of the first duel, perfect tie, no champion. Quiet down and hold your peace and there might just be a chance that we can maintain that peace outside. No need to bring war in upon ourselves.”
Reiyen and Laven both let out what remained of their breath. Drune sheepishly asked, “So where does all of this news exchange leave us? Maybe we should start with a nice neutral question, like, where do we sleep tonight?”
Terin added, swinging his pack onto the table in front of them and reaching inside, “And when do we eat?” Drune grinned at this addition to his humor routine, and reached his hand out. Terin took the sword off of his back, and handed it to Drune. No one in the Red World eats with others while still carrying weapons. Reiyen handed over his little knife. No one could ever tell what fold in his cloak or what pocket he drew it out of. Achpollo drew out, equally mysteriously, a throwing hatchet.
Terin began bringing bread and meat-paste out of his pack. Seeing this, Laven spoke up with a light toss of her hair, “I imagine you haven’t had seasoning on your food any day lately, being a pack of wild men. May as well have it today.” She stood up and went into her back-room to find something to blend in with the dehydrated meat grounds. When she came back she saw a most unusual sight.
Terin was holding an oddly shaped and furry ball in his hands. Laven exclaimed, “Do you carry animals in your pack, too? Most furriers take the skin off of the animals before selling!”
Terin chuckled quietly to himself, and then bit onto one end of the balled mass without explaining. As the horror rushed into Laven’s face, and stomach, a blue foam began to burst out of Terin’s lips, sealed around the ball. He quickly removed his mouth and pointed the bit off end at a large mug. Holding the ball with one hand, he cupped the other over the mouth of the cup as the juice spurted in.
“I’ve only got a few of these left, but if we’re making this meal special with flavoring you may as well not skip one of these.”
Laven was rarely surprised by odd shows from anyone, but usually it was wizards or spiritists that tried to confuse her, not woodmen, “Pray do tell us what ‘it’ is then, especially to assure our stomachs that it is not some animal’s carcass.”
Terin laughed, “No, never was an animal. It’s a fruit, a very tasty one at that. The plant makes these fruits and starts filling them with the blue juice, and its seeds. Ordinarily, the fruit will burst, scattering the seeds and fruit everywhere, but if you pluck the fruit before that it will stay sealed and under a lot of pressure for any amount of time. Very tasty, very good.”
“Well, Reiyen,” Laven sighed, “I will never put it past you to know the weirdest people of all the Seven Worlds. I suppose next you will bring out a ghoul-hunter from the West? Or perhaps a singer of the South?”
Drune now understood clearly that he was the least informed of inter-world affairs, and sighed to himself. He had hoped that maybe this new contact might take the place of least scholarly companion.
I could only really give you half of this one, because otherwise it would have got really long. To make it up for you, though, I will try to get the other half up yet today, as a bonus post!
And by the way... to whoever actually reads clear to the bottom of this... there is a new project afoot. Well, not really new, but newly revealed. We are planning a film... does anyone want sneak views of the script?