Sunday, August 31, 2014

Roads of Bone, Chapter 12: The Greatest Victory

(This is my 250th blog entry, I did nothing to commemorate this, and just continued with my random fantasy story.  Mostly because I have written 100+ blogs on my facebook before moving to this one so the idea of numerical milestones is a bit lost already.  Enjoy.)

I am doing a little experiment.  I am going to write a series of chapters in a fantasy world of my creation and see if it goes anywhere.  Since I have not prewritten this story and have no outline, it will probably end up a convoluted mess.  I do not know how often I will be able to update this or if it will ever finish.  This is the link to CHAPTER 1.  (I have also found that I have to go back and clean up very broken sentences in previous chapters.  This is why I need an editor.  I understand what I am writing, but I need to make sure other people do too.)

Chapter 12: The Greatest Victory
            "Apple," said Malachite.  "The first thing you must learn about being a soldier for hire, and I cannot emphasize this point enough: you never want to get into a fight."
            "What?" asked the girl.
            The day was hot, and aside from the flashes of the occasional fish the water was clear.  The Color Line was perfect for the sort of lazy lecturing every pontificating jackass never tires of.  As such Malachite was sitting in a wooden folding chair under a parasol drinking a bottle with a foreign label that looked beautiful with a fading wax seal and a shimmering, cloudy, and sweet smelling liquid in it.  Apple was sitting cross legged next to him in a big floppy hat that afforded her relatively the same level of cover, but she was drinking orange juice.
            "Fighting is an abhorrent activity," said Malachite.  "It is full of confusion, pain, loss, and death, far more death than anyone has any right to wish on anyone.  The key to being a successful warrior is to live a long time, collect a lot of pay, and tell great stories, none of which involves getting stabbed, burned, crushed, or having your foot cut off because you had the poor luck to step on something dirty while running thru a field."
            "But if you don't fight, what are you getting paid to do?"
            "The greatest victory is the battle not fought," said Malachite to the confused towheaded girl.  "So you have to do some calculation.  Which side is the one willing to fight the most?  Which side has the most troops?  Which side has the best fortifications?  The best weapons?  The best leader?  Or offers the most amicable peace?
            "If a group will fight no matter what, you want to avoid them, whether for or against, they will drag you into conflict that could be side stepped.  If a side has lots of other troops, then that means you are less likely to even be in the fight, you are insulated; same with fortifications.  You have to look at each situation and think of which side is going to win, and then just be there with a helpful little push, a rousing speech, that sort of thing.  Also helps if they have drab uniforms, allows you to make yourself look busy and everyone notices."
            "Isn't that cowardly?"
            "Sadly, yes," said Malachite.  "We live in a world in which physical conflict is glorified and lauded, so rational self interest is seen as a weakness of character.  I have been told more than once that the worst parts of hell are reserved for those who maintain their flexibility during times of great conflict.  Luckily, I have concocted the ultimate escape plan from such punishments, I have chosen not to believe in hell."
            "So are you going to teach me how to fight with a sword?" asked Apple.
            "I was getting to that part," said Malachite turning to frown at her a bit.  "But I needed to teach you the first best lesson: you never want to get into a fight, but if the other person is set, then you had better win."
            He let that hang in the air.  She was a little girl.  Surely she had had a hard life and understood the necessity of things, but fighting is a gruesome business, she should know that in the abstract before the immediate.  "And also, no you can't learn to fight with a sword yet.  You are too short for the one I have."
            Apple's mouth fell open in disappointment.
            "No," said Malachite.  "We'll have to start you out on a gun."
            He stood and walked over to a big long box.  Apple's mouth opened even wider in excitement and her eyes lit with delight.
            "Any damn fool can use a gun," said Malachite.
            The box was 4 feet long, 2 wide, and a foot deep, it had a gold name plate with the words "Blow Horn" written in the same swirling letters used on Malachite's "The Wonderful" codpiece.  Black with dings and scrapes the crate had two locks on it, each looked like they could weather raining blows from pick axes and not give up the treasure within.  "It is incredibly inconvenient but necessary for me to keep this secure to such a degree, so I am not going to teach you the numbers that unlock these, understood?" Malachite asked Apple.
            "Yes Uncle."
            As he popped each lock open Malachite took a second, strumming his fingers on the box looking across the water to shore.  This can't be a good decision.  But it isn't uncommon, I would have a squire already were I at home and this would be part of the training.  But I'm not at home, is this something I should just let be left there?
            "What?" asked Malachite coming out of his hesitation.  "Yes, let's get this show started."
            The box opened to reveal an abus gun.  Abus guns were first used by the Caliphate as tiny siege weapons, larger catapults would just get lost moving thru the desert and anything smaller wouldn't be able to knock down a door thru repeated or concentrated firing.  The gun Malachite had was made with some upgrades to style.  The barrel was gold plated and had flowing red lines swirling across is eliciting the gun smoke, or the spray of a hit artery it was also slightly smaller than most, firing a stone or led shot that was only 3 inches across rather than most that were in the range of 4 to 9.
            "Apple," said Malachite.  "this is the smallest gun they make that qualifies as a siege weapon, any smaller and it would be a rifle, since it is intended to be shot at walls and door, known for being stationary and huge, this thing is maddeningly inaccurate and should only be firing at something equally large.  Like a formation of troops.  At least when you are using a normal shot, I have made some modifications."
            The barrel was affixed to the wooden stock by silver rings and the butt of the stock had golden engravings of the Hasenburg two headed bull.  This was also one of only a handful of breech loading weapons in existence, allowing fresh ammunition and charge of explosive powder to be loaded via a trap door near the handle, rather than thru the muzzle like most guns.  "Let me show you how to load it."
            The rest of the case had gun powder that was black, different than any Apple had ever seen before.  "Why are you carrying soot?"
            "That is black powder," explained Malachite.  "It fires with less smoke and more power than the typical stuff, it was only invented in the last decade by the court wizard of the Shah of White Sand, a city in the Caliphate.  Getting that stuff and the formula to it was the week I ate nothing besides soup and harem girls.... Forget that last part."
            "You ate people?" Apple was aghast.
            "I misspoke," said Malachite backpedaling.  "I meant... You know what I can't think of anything to cover that.  When I said I ate them I meant that I kissed them.  Don't tell anybody that, I am confident there is some kind of death penalty in place for them and me if anybody finds out she met the Wonderful Malachite."
            The next thing Malachite removed from the box was a tripod covered in the same gold engravings.  "This thing is always a bitch to keep clean.  Every grove ends up with mud in it, but if I didn't take my fancy one into battle I couldn't bill whoever hired me for its use and clean up."
            "Also makes for a better story to have the best looking weapon," said Apple.
            "You're learning," said Malachite affixing the gun to the tripod and pointing it out to the river.  "An abus is a small cannon and should only be fired with a tripod to anchor it in place, the kickback of firing this one is less than most, which means you can aim, fire, and load quickly, but unanchored the kick will damage your shoulder and make the thing so inaccurate you might as well just throw the gun in anger.  More likely to hit something that way."
            "So never fire without the tripod?" asked Apple.
            "Never say never," said Malachite attaching a set of metal pieces and a lens to the top length of the barrel.  "If someone is standing as close to you as I am now, and he intends to hurt you, fire the fun, hope it hits, and expect a lot of blood to get on you."  Malachite paused a bit while aligning the lens.  "Also, if you are sprayed with blood remember to clean the gun soon after.  Blood is corrosive."
            "Corrosive?" asked Apple.
            "Between you and the wizard its like I am teaching letters," said Malachite.  "Corrosive means that it damages metal that it is left on.  So you clean it off before that happens, it is important to keep stuff clean."
            "Like boots," said Apple.
            "Precisely," said Malachite.  "Now let's continue," pointing to the lens and the metal bits he had attached to the silver rings along the barrel.  "These are sights.  Using them is said to improve accuracy.  Most people without sights just point the gun in the general direction of what they want to hit and fire the gun, but if you look down the barrel, so that the front sight sits between the tines of the back sight, and you make sure that a target is just behind those then you will almost certainly hit what you are aiming at.  Unless they move, there is too much wind, the bullet is misshapen, something gets in the way, the gun fails to fire, or any number of other stupid things that invariably happens just when you don't want it to."
            At this point Apple was salivating at the thought of getting to fire the Horn Blower.
            "Alright little one," said Malachite.  Good or ill, here we go.  "Try and hit that tree on the bank."
            Apple stood behind the gun, looked down the sight and listened as Malachite told her a hundred little things, "Move your foot here, no here" "Hold it tight to your shoulder" "Now look at the lines on the lens, if those cross over what you want to hit that is good, now look at the front and back sights..." and after what seemed an eternity of anticipation he said as softly as possible, "Remember every part of this, we're going to do it a hundred times before we are off this boat, but ultimately it needs to start here, because one day this will mean life and death... Now, FIRE!"

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Roads of Bone, Chapter 11: Grandfather

I am doing a little experiment.  I am going to write a series of chapters in a fantasy world of my creation and see if it goes anywhere.  Since I have not prewritten this story and have no outline, it will probably end up a convoluted mess.  I do not know how often I will be able to update this or if it will ever finish.  This is the link to CHAPTER 1.  (I have also found that I have to go back and clean up very broken sentences in previous chapters.  This is why I need an editor.  I understand what I am writing, but I need to make sure other people do too.)

Chapter 11: Grandfather
            Apple found Pasgard at his own table in the common area of the ships hold, with what appeared to be 3 human sized troughs filled with heavy stew and half a pitcher of sparkling juice.
            "Master," said Apple.  "How should I address you?"
            "Good question," said Pasgard, taking a minute to roll his shoulders and straighten his back.  "When I took my first apprentice I was still working as Caliphate, and was worried for rank and title, I had they call me Master.  My number two did the same because of habit.  Then I became a Vizier so I used that for the next three, keep it simple.  When I left being a Vizier they call me Pasgard, like everyone else, but some just calling me Master anyway."
            Pasgard paused for a while and looked at no particular thing on the table.
            "You might be my last apprentice," said Pasgard.  "What did you call, Lord Malachite?"
            "He had me call him, Uncle," replied Apple, still unsure what to call the wizard, and having a hard time following his broken speech, it seemed to be getting worse since she had first heard him talk to Uncle Malachite.
            "Hmm," hmm'd Pasgard.  "Don't think I could be 'Uncle' at my age.  How about grandfather?"
            "I would like that," said Apple.
            "I am glad," said Pasgard.  "Now let me start your first lesson."
            Apple beamed and took the seat opposite Pasgard as he gestured her to sit.  He slid the food aside for a moment, a reprieve not a pardon.  And then in his hand was a roll of paper.  He splayed it out across the table and pinned it down with little tacks that again appeared from nowhere.
            The paper was a series of circles and connections with words written in the Caliphate language.  "Do not worry little one, today will not require too much reading," his open hands then began to wave in circle gestures over the paper and all of the circles began to turn like gears in a clock.
            "This is what magic is," said Pasgard.  "Each circle is a part of the world, and each touches the next and pushes it and feel's its own movement slowed by the push.  This push can be followed back thru all of time to the first mover, a being we call Primal, the light of creation that shines into each of us.  It is what animates us, just as water causes a ship to float, the Primal light of creation makes us all live.  Do you understand?"
            "We are light?" asked Apple, more just mesmerized by the turning of the circles.
            "Yes and no," said Pasgard.  "We are the matter that the light animates, and we are the light which animates the matter, and the light within us is the same as the light in all others, just as the matter is all the same matter, only different because of how it is put together."
            Apple realized Pasgard no longer sounded like he had.  His words flowed like he had been a native speaker his whole life.  "Grandfather, how..." How do you ask without sounding rude?  "Why do you sound so differently?"
            "Apple," said Pasgard.  "We are speaking on a deeper level, you will learn this soon.  It is the Primal language, it is closer to the Primal Light, and thus understood more deeply than the languages of man.  It is as if we are souls speaking to one another.  If you look closely at my lips, you will see, they are saying something just a bit differently."
            They were.  His lips moved out of sync with the sounds he spoke.  "Uh," was all Apple could say, it confused her deeply to notice the break between the speaker and the spoken.
            "Relax little one," said Pasgard.  "It is just the fastest way to learn about this, and it will be how I teach you to read.  You will be able to read the light below the words on a page, you will grasp a deeper meaning.  I keep a little book filled with words I have learned, trying to keep them and understand the finer glow of them and the meanings of those who spoke them.
            "On the deepest levels, true understanding of the whole of creation is to be found, and the ability to awaken briefly in others the ability to see the rich light of creation."
            "Like the fish," said Apple.  "Back at the cafe you made everyone see their light."
            "And much more," Pasgard leaned back and began gesturing to the paper like coaxing mist from a censer, and the words began to float from the page turning in the air, glowing, and Apple could read some of them.  "Give me time, and you will understand."

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Roads of Bone, Chapter 10: Uncle

I am doing a little experiment.  I am going to write a series of chapters in a fantasy world of my creation and see if it goes anywhere.  Since I have not prewritten this story and have no outline, it will probably end up a convoluted mess.  I do not know how often I will be able to update this or if it will ever finish.  This is the link to CHAPTER 1.  (I have also found that I have to go back and clean up very broken sentences in previous chapters.  This is why I need an editor.  I understand what I am writing, but I need to make sure other people do too.)

Chapter 10: Uncle
            Apple took to her role like an arrow takes to a quiver.  Fit, ready, and when used by a master devastatingly effective.  She had two instructors, the flashy uncle and the somber dark skinned grandfather and they taught in entirely different directions.
            On the first day of the ship ride West she was shown how to clean and polish shoes, so she shined every shoe on the ship.  In return she was told stories the whole time by Malachite, and then by each member of the crew in turn while their boots were polished.
            Malachite always stood by, greeting each member of the crew, analyzing them, and addressing them by name two or three times each while they told their stories, asking for little bits of information or details.  Each time asking Apple if she had any questions for the story teller, and suggesting what question she might ask when she couldn't think of any.  "Apple, ask Sid here what he was smelling when he walked under the peer looking for the lost dog."  "Apple, ask Jonus what his favorite song he heard that night was."  "Apple you should ask Lance if he has ever eaten a finer meal while in a dress."
            By the end of the evening there was not one blemished boot on the whole boat.  And as Malachite said to the last sailor, "Have a goodnight Chester, that was a fine story, you tell that one at every little town?"
            "No sir," said Chester.  "You're the first to hear it in years."
            "That is a crime," said Malachite.  "You should be using that bit of heart wreck to win the sympathies of every lady on the Color Line."
            "I prefer men sir," said Chester.
            "There are many young men that would find you tasty as peach nectar after hearing that  little tale."
            "Thank you sir."
            "Call me, Mal" said Malachite, shutting the door.
            "Did I do good, Mal?" asked Apple.
            "You can call me sir," said Malachite to the girl.  "Uncle if you prefer."
            "Yes, Uncle," said Apple.  "Did I do good?"
            "Yes," said Malachite.  "Let me ask you, Apple.  How many of the men on this boat do you think you could name?"
            "I don't know," said Apple.
            "Well," said Malachite.  "Close your eyes and try to remember each story, who told it, what their boots looked like, anything you can remember and pretend you have to tell all the stories to someone one after another."
            "That would take all day."
            "Yes it would," said Malachite.  "But just try to remember each story, and the name of the person who told it, then say the names as titles for the stories."
            "When you are trying to remember someone, think of what you know about them, who they think they are and what they told you about themselves.  Make their story, your memory of them.  Then when you see them, you will be able to greet them by name and remember what they want you to know about them," said Malachite.  "They could have told you any story they wanted, but they chose the one they did because they thought you would like it, or maybe they wanted to impress me, or maybe it was the only story they knew that would last while you polished, but they chose it for a reason, it is the impression they chose to make."
            "Uncle," said Apple.  "You want me to remember everyone on the ship.  That is so many."
            "I can name every person who came thru here," said Malachite.  "I could tell you what their story was, or close to it.  And I am sure I could ask anyone of them for a favor and they would help me, and I would pay them back big later.  This is how you make friends, and friends are important.  People want you to hear their story, but they really want you to remember it, to feel for them.  Think about that okay."
            "Okay," said Apple.
            "Now you should go eat with Pasgard," said Malachite.  "I think he will want you to call him Master or Wizard, ask which he prefers when you see him.  This is important, you make sure his plate is never bear, and his glass is never empty... That would be a task difficult for any man, a legendary chore for a squire or apprentice, you might barely get any chance to eat at all, but he is your teacher, you serve him, and listen closely."
            "Yes, Uncle."