The telling of tales
It’s January, dear reader. And today I’m fulfilling a promise to return stories to the blog.
In some ways, I would have liked to start with something longer. But the stories on my mind right now are in a location relatively new to my blogs (the one story I’ve shared desperately needs rewriting…). So, let’s start with a vignette featuring a traveling companion we’ll experience the town with…
“Wa’s he doing unpacking that stuff now?”
“It’s better not to bother him right now.”
“We’re supposed to reach Haystack today…”
Saeth lifted the brazier out of its satchel. The ashy black inner bowl drank in the morning light. The polished bronze of its outer surface reflected the tinge of red in the morning blue.
“I’m just saying if we get there early we could-”
“He’s the boss, ain’t he? And a happy boss’ more important than an extra mug if you want to survive long. At least working for this outfit, it is.”
Saeth set down the brazier and went back for the charcoal and cage.
“Still, wa’s he doing?”
“Ritual stuff. Their stuff.”
“This ain’t my first gig with house Pollona. Most of them don’t do this.”
“Not their stuff.” The voice fell silent.
Saeth felt eyes on him as he poured the charcoal into the brazier. He stood and walked to the not quite dead remains of last night’s fire.
“This isn’t family stuff,” the voice said. “Priest stuff.”
Saeth found the smoldering branchlet he’d left at the edge of the fire for just this purpose.
“The Fathers don’t do this kind of stuff. And the Order, they do theirs at night. Saw that in my army days.”
Saeth picked up the branchlet and headed back toward the brazier.
“Not them.” The speaker spit. “He ain’t no Father or soldier of the Order.”
“He’s one of them.” A long breath followed. One usually did. “He’s a Congregationalist.”
Saeth stopped at the brazier and looked toward his men. The two black leather clad enforcers stopped watching and found something to do.
“Just be glad he ain’t asking us to help,” one said. “We got enough to do breaking down the camp.”
“Would he ask us to help?”
“Just break down the camp and don’t act interested.”
Saeth kneeled by the Brazier. He focused on the branchlet. The smoldering ember revived. One of the enforcers yelped.
“Told you we got other things to do.”
Carefully, slowly, using all his focus, Saeth lowered the branchlet into the coals. A thought spread the fire faster than nature alone.
His mind and body relaxed. The warmth of the fire balanced the stress of the act, the tightness that always came since Aable- Saeth shook his head. It had been a mistake. The Aaron Son hadn’t needed to respond with such harshness.
Saeth turned to the cage and opened it. He only became aware of the dove’s cooing when it stopped.
Aable had always looked after the birds. He loved them. He’d kept birds on his family farm until the gift came, until the day he scorched his blankets and nearly cooked his brother.
They brought him to the temple the same day they brought me. He manifested late and from an unknown bloodline. Saeth stroked the bird’s head and neck. My family traded one training for another. He twisted the bird’s neck. They say it had to be done. They gave us both to the temple.
Saeth drew his knife. Not the fighting knife he kept in his sleeve, or the one secured to his calf. A family knife wouldn’t do. This was a job for the Aaron Son’s knife, the one they gave him when he passed his temple training, pattern steel inlaid with silver.
The dead eyes of a man long gone watched every move as Saeth skinned the bird. Dead ears listened to every word Saeth prayed as he parted the dove’s flesh. Saeth smelled his teacher’s breath as he made the last cut.
He remembered the price he’d payed to avenge his teacher’s death.
Saeth laid the bird on the fire piece by piece in the proper fashion, just as his teacher had showed him. My parents left me entirely to the church that day. The thief, the murderer, was a servant of house Pollona. The dove’s flesh hissed and seared on the coals.
Faith versus family. They should have understood. The meat cooked. The smallest bits began to char.
If the uncles hadn’t interceded… Based on information I gave them… Because their thief crossed my mission… When the moment was right, Saeth picked a piece of breast out of the fire and consumed it in two bites. He didn’t taste it.
The bird is to me as I am to them… He watched the rest of the bird blacken and char.
Saeth took a long, slow, breath. Except, I’m not a bird. I’m a gifted. I am of the touched. Not free, but not a dumb animal either. He sent winter chill into his hands, enough to injure a man, or protect him from the fire.
He dumped the coals on the ground, then drowned them with water. Another thought cooled the brazier enough to put it away.
Saeth stood and gathered his things. Haystack awaited. And held things beyond church and family.
His men watched him. It didn’t matter, not even their words. “Be glad he didn’t ask you to help.”
This story is the beginning of a series on linked but separate stories we'll be hosting on the blog. As things progress previous stories will be linked in this area.
About the Author
When he’s not lost in a world of his own, Farangian writes and edits for Forever Mountain Publishing and on freelance projects. In additions to novels, how-to material and short fiction, he writes, edits, and plays role-playing and strategy games; builds chain-mail and other shiny objects; collects (and uses) modern and historical weaponry; and has yet to have a vacation lasting longer than 12 hours.