June 1, 2005
The Short Story
If you ever had the chance of being in my bedroom...
wink, wink, say no more...
You will notice that I have an fairly decent amount of paperback books. My favorite genre is medieval fiction. Most of the books are swords, sorcery and some kind of typical kingdom story line. Most are very similiar: A young man who doesn't realize how POWERFUL he really is - and someone mentors him and he saves the world from evil.
I enjoy writing, too. I started a short story, and if you like the genre, read on. If you don't - I wouldn't bother clicking the link. I only wrote 3 chapters so far, my main problem with writing is that my interest is very low when I get home from work to sit down and write. I need a good long vacation away from New York and on a island somewhere to get my creative juices flowing.
In the days of old, when the land was young and untamed, there was a region of the land known as Dariu-Akon. Its name was derived from the joining of two clans of barbarian tribes. One was the Dariu, a nomadic tribe of horsemen, who drove large herds of livestock across the great plains, known as the Friju Steppes. The other, Akon, were a proud, hunter-gatherer culture who formed the landscape to suit their needs. They have been one kingdom for almost two hundred years, and the bicentenial celebration was seven years away. The union was a difficult one, but one born of necessity, because they joined to defeat the Juern, an enemy of dark hatred, two centuries ago. Ever since the defeat of the Juern, the people of Dariu-Akon have lived in peace and prosperity. Unfortunately, that was all soon to change.
There is a small town, on the outskirts of the kingdom of Dariu-Akon, called Tiop. Tiop is a small fishing village, situated near a large grand lake called Ti. For many years the lake of Ti has provided large bounties of fresh water fish, and people lived a good life along those shores. The lord of this fief was known as Grusa, and he was a direct descendant of the princess of Akon, Hu'qas, which was eight generations ago. Lord Grusa was a kind man, who never took more from the peasants that worked the fief than was needed. He was also very shrewd man, who was careful not to overspend what he had, and in his twenty-five years of becoming the lord of his land, he had built up a considerable treasury. He was considered to be one of the kings most loyal noblemen, and upon occasion he is called to the capital city of Kuyic when his wisdom is sought.
It is on this day, on a beautiful spring afternoon to where Lord Grusa is riding his favorite chestnut stallion, Juin, along the banks of the river Ti. He is alone, and he gazes along the crystal-clear waters of the lake, looking upon the small skiffs and sailboats that dot the horizon. The sun glints off the water of the lake, with a dazzling effect, and a few gulls dive into the water, looking for a mid-day meal.
Lord Grusa sighs, for the beauty of the lake makes him proud and sad. His pride, is that of a father who looks upon a promising son, ready to take the title of the land and make his family proud. He knows that it was from his family, who were caretakers of these lands and waters that have allowed for such beauty to exist. But his heart still is sad with the thoughts that he is the last of his family, for he has not taken a woman to be his wife, and cannot share this beauty with anyone.
For a normal man, the courtship of man and woman usually is arranged by family members, as dictated by custom. A woman of suitable age, which is usually around her twelfth year, would be presented to the suitors family. The suitor was always older, a man who has served his two year conscription with the Friju Calvalry, usually around fifteen years of age. People from outside kingdoms, to where this custom is not practiced, look upon this with contempt and even revulson. But, the people of the Dariu and the people of the Akon have been arranging marriages long before the two clans came together, and were very talented at pairing a good woman with a good man. The custom was known as Mejuaq, and the two families that wanted to pair their children together would consult a Mejuaq Sage. The sage would interview the prospective groom and bride, and assess if the union would bring bliss or hardship. It was very rare that a family joined by a Mejuaq Sage would be unhappy.
Nobles, on the other hand, would not follow the custom of Mejaq. The king would dictate which noble married which, to ensure peace across the kingdom. The two clans were still getting used to the idea of their union, and the only way to make sure it would not fall apart was to make sure that the descendants of the Prince of Dariu and the descendants of the Princess of Akon would intermarry. Unfortunately, this custom was relatively new, and the kings were never as good as a Mejaq Sage.
Lord Grusa has been waiting for many years for the king to name him a bride, but his wait has been due to one dilemma; there are not enough noblewomen from the clans of Dariu to go around. There are two suitable candidates currently. One is from the western forests, whose tribe is almost considered its own clan, for years of inter-marriage have caused a slight problem of inbreeding, and a lot of their offspring are albino. The king decided against giving one of his most loyal men such a wife from a disreputable family. The other, was a widower, whose husband killed himself after years of not being able to make his wife pregnant. No one was quite sure if the husband or the wife was to blame for this problem, and most noblemen are afraid to marry the widower, for fear she is barren.
It was on this spring day, that Lord Grusa was thinking of his future, and lamented if he would ever have a son to pass his lands to.
Out on the water, there appeared a shadow, just below the waterline. The sparkle of the sun on the water dimmed, and Lord Grusa could see the shape of a creature. His eyes narrowed, and he positioned his horse to get a better look.
It was definately something. He had heard of large fish, triple the size of a human which would beach themselves upon the shores of Lake Ti. But this was no fish. Out of the water, slowly rising up was the head of a woman. Her eyes were blue, like the color of the deepest part of the lake. Her skin was very pale, with exception to a slight blush in her cheeks and the rose color of her full lips. One of the most remarkable things was her hair, and it was not for its long length, or the way it seemed to perfectly frame her face, but it was pale green in color, and no human ever had green hair. The woman floated in the water, looking at Lord Grusa, with her large blue eyes.
Lord Grusa was, to say the least, flabbergasted. Here before him was the most beautiful woman he had ever laid his eyes upon, but he knew at the same time that this was no ordinary woman. His remarkable intelligence did not get him so far in life to not notice that something was definately wrong, when a woman, with green hair, were to suddenly appear from out of the water of the Lake Ti. He knew that he had to be cautious.
Lord Grusa shifted in his saddle, and called out to the woman.
"I bid you a good day.", he said.
The woman with the green hair looked at him and turned her head slightly to the right as he spoke. A faint smile played upon her lips and she spoke back, with an accent that Lord Grusa never heard before, it was like the sound of water lapping against the shoreline.
"Good day to you, mi'lord."
Lord Grusa was startled that this woman would identify him as a lord, but his face showed nothing. Many battles were lost or won not only on the battlefield but also in the courts of the king, which facing someone in the field of diplomacy. He continued to speak to this strange woman the same way he would have spoken if a townswoman had approached him.
"What brings you out upon these shores today?", he inquired mildly.
She answered back, "To meet with you, Lord Grusa."
"Oh? I am at your disposal. Please, approach and make your case."
The woman with green hair smiled, showing her pearl-white teeth, and seemed to think a moment.
"I do not think that your lordship would want me to approach.", she said.
He answered back, "Because...?"
"I am without proper clothing, mi'lord.", she answered.
Lord Grusa's eyes widened slightly, and his jaw lowered a bit, the events of this strange encounter testing his composure. Keeping his expression begign he straightened his chain mail vest and said, "I see. Perhaps it would be best to convey your thoughts from where you are then."
"As my lord wishes.", the woman said, while slightly nodding her head.
She continued, "My name is Ci'suo, I am one of The Kur."
"In Luipa's holy name!.", thought Lord Grusa, but his expression showed a degree of mild interest.
"I know what your people think of us.", she said, "There have been many fables about our kind over the years. We are blamed when your fishermen do not return. We are thought to be the terror within this lake, of which all is not true."
Lord Grusa listened intently. This woman, Ci'suo, was as fascinating and fearful as the predatory mountain cats of the Upper Rqen Mountains. He had heard tales about The Kur, every child from this part of the kingdom was terrorized by older siblings with tales of how fishermen would be dragged under the waters by The Kur to become their next meal. Lord Grusa waved off such tales, mostly placing lost fishermen as lost due to poor sailing or too much drink before work. Now those beliefs were shattered, and here he was, actually speaking to a creature of legend.
While he thought of this, she spoke more, "In fact I come to you today as an ambasador of my people. We seek to establish formal relations with your kingdom, and also bring you very important and distressing news."
He said, "This is most amazing. Most incredible."
She nodded and said, "Our people hold yours in the same fascination. We have been observing your tribe for many years, which is how I knew you. I know that had I approached a simple fisherman, the reaction to my inquiry would have been quite different."
He said, "They would have either ran away or attacked you."
"Which is why I come to you today, mi'lord.", Ci'suo said. "You would be the one person who would listen and heed my words. To the north, far beyond the banks of the Lake Ti, as you call it, is a land called Yulsa's Range. You know this place?"
Lord Grusa nodded and said, "Yes. It was the place where the Dark Templars of Gunia's Legion were crushed in the Battle of the Damned, about two hundred years ago."
"And ever since that day, since Gunia's Legion was scattered to the winds, your people have lived in peace.", Ci'suo said.
"Yes, our people have flourished.", Lord Grusa said.
"And so have the people of Juern.", said Ci'suo.
Lord Grusa's eyes narrowed, and said, "You can't mean..."
Ci'suo cut him off and said, "Yes. I do mean that while your people have lived these last two hundred years with those battles a distant memory, the Gunia have, on the other hand, been preparing their revenge. And they are not alone."
Lord Grusa's head filled with many thoughts, and quickly said, "We are wasting time. If what you say is true, then we have to make haste to the capital and inform my Lord, King Dulcan."
Lord Grusa got off his horse and removed his cloak. He held it out in front of him, and turned his head away from Ci'suo.
"Come, wrap yourself in this, and we ride to my keep. I will have proper clothes for you there.", he said.
Ci'suo slowly waded out of the water, and stood at the edge of the Lake, with the water lapping at her feet. If Lord Grusa was looking, he would have seen the most stunning woman of his entire life, and a fully naked one at that. Ci'suo smiled to herself, and uttered a few cryptic arachaic words. Out of the air formed a simple dress, made of sea spider-silk, and around her neck was a small necklace of shells. She also had a small pack over her shoulder and a dagger made from the tooth of a striped Suti sheathed on her belt.
"I appreciate your gesture, but I think I am dressed appropiately. My excuse for not exiting the water before was just in case our people judged you wrong.", she said with a small smile.
Lord Grusa slowly turned his head, lest he actually see her naked. Once he realized that she was properly clothed, he breathed a silent sigh of relief. He put his cloak back on and saddled his horse, extending his hand to her.
Ci'suo looked at him, then at the horse. She shuddered a moment and said, "Is it safe?"
Lord Grusa looked around, and then down at the horse. He said, "Oh, your people must have never ridden before. Hmm. This is a horse, it is used for transport for our people. This horse in particular is named, Juin, and he is like a friend to me. Take my hand and sit behind me. Hold yourself on to the horse with your legs and put your arms around my waist. I promise you will not be hurt."
Ci'suo slowly extended her hand, and Lord Grusa pulled her up on to Juin. Juin adjusted for the extra weight and let out a small snort. Lord Grusa patted Juin on his neck and said, "Ok boy, lets show her a nice time for her first ride."
Ci'suo smiled, and wrapped her arms around Lord Grusa's chain mail vest. Lord Grusa gave a small kick with his heels and Juin cantered along the shore of the Lake Ti, towards the Keep of a'Jasv, the ancestral home of Grusa's family.
"Stop dipping your shoulder!", barked Ulst.
Hunad straightened himself up, and readjusted his stance. This was Hunad's fourth week as a squire, and he did not like it much. His days were filled with martial art training, cleaning weaponry, running errands, and worse of all - grammar classes! He was only doing this because his father, Duke Xavious, made all of his male heirs do so. As it happens, Hunad was training with the knights of Lord Grusa.
Ulst walked over to Hunad, taking his wooden sword from him, and showing him how to properly swing.
"See, come high with the blade, turn your wrist, and come through with your hips.", Ulst instructed.
"Yes, sir.", moped Hunad.
Ulst grunted, and handed back the wooden training sword to Hunad. He looked around the courtyard, and observed the other squires and knights. He saw Yue training with the commoner from Tiop, Gragar.
"Quite odd, to let a commoner train to become a knight", Ulst thought, "But if Lord Grusa commands it, then let it be done."
Ulst turned his attention to Josol, the knight commander, and his squire, Devaz. He looked upon the squire with envy, for Devaz could pick up very quickly on training, and after four weeks of training, Devaz was able to read amazingly well. If Ulst didn't know better, Devaz could be a knight in less than two years, well before the normal four year training period for most squires. Ulst sighed, and turned back to his own little troublemaker, Hunad.
Hunad practiced his sword swinging with the target dummy, but couldn't twist his wrist correctly. After a few tries, his arm started to smart, but he continued, lest he incur the wrath of Ulst.
Ulst saw that Hunad was not swinging his sword correctly and also knew that Hunad's arm would start to hurt if he kept it up. Ulst was a good man, just quick with his tongue, and he found training someone difficult. This was his first squire, Ulst himself just became a knight 2 years ago when he turned eighteen.
The commoners, by practice, serve with the Friju Calvary when they turn fourteen and it is a two year tour of duty. The nobles, by practice, send their children to various schools, from learning the clerical arts, or apprenticing with the mages, or becoming a squire. Some of the very lucky ones, and usually the very rich noblemens sons, become a page in the kings court, learning the arts of diplomacy.
Ulst would have gone kicking and screaming into the service of a page, even if his father commanded it to be so. No, the life of a knight was his calling, and his father knew this when he sent him to train under the knights of Lord Grusa. Now he has brought honor to his families name, since becoming a knight of the finest Order in the land, The Order of Ti.
The Order of Ti existed well before the union of Dariu-Akon, they were originally known as the Ti Marauders, the best fighting force of the Dariu clan. They were skilled with the use of swordsmanship, bowmanship, and could out wrestle any man in the land. They lived by a code, called Reoni's Logic, which dictated five very simple laws: Protect those unable to defend themselves; Walk the path of honor in words and actions; Give your life for your King and kingdom; Take not more than you need; Destroy evil in all forms.
It was Ti Marauders who were crucial in the Battle of the Damned, for it was their ten knights who were able to flank the enemy positions and in one day they killed two hundred Dark Templars, including Gunia himself. It was the act that saved this kingdom from utter destruction. When the Prince of Dariu and the Princess of Akon wed, it was upon their wedding day that they created The Order of Ti, which was the first Order of the new kingdom. Every knight of that Order would be given special provison by commoners and nobles alike, and treated as if the king were in their presence. It was not uncommon for knights with The Order of Ti to rise above the ranks of knight and find special duties within the kingdom. The kings personal guard is headed by one of The Order of Ti, Derol, who has served faithfully for 19 years. Those within the order were easily recognized by their coat of arms, and their black surcoat with a white star on their chest, which represented the light that keeps the darkness of evil at bay.
Ulst turned to Hunad and stopped him from swinging his sword.
"Why don't you take a break Hunad.", Ulst said.
"Yes, sir.", replied Hunad.
Ulst walked over to Josol, and tapped him on his shoulder.
Josol turned around, and looked upon his friend Ulst. Ulst was a large man, standing six and a half cords in length. He has long blonde hair and green eyes, like the people from the northeast shores of Ti usually had. His skin was copper, dark from working many days outdoors. Ulst was Josol's squire only two years ago, and that bond made them like brothers.
"Hey Ulst, how is your training going?", Josol said mirthfully.
Ulst grunted and said, "Not as well as yours. Hunad needs a bit of work."
"Don't worry, Hunad will suprise you. His brother, Kiven, was the same way.", Josol said.
Ulst looked across the grassy courtyard to Kiven, who was busy training his own squire, Liran. Kiven was a quiet fellow, but his battlefield prowess and deadly accuracy with a bow made him the unofficial strategist for the Order. When a battleplan was needed, Kiven would always come up with something amazing.
"Maybe I should get Hunad started with a bow?", Ulst said.
"Now you are thinkin'.", said Josol, "I'll bet Hunad will be a better shot than you in three weeks."
Ulst snorted, "Sure, what is your bet?"
"Twenty royals.", Josol replied.
"Done!", said Ulst, almost feeling those coins in his pouch already.
"Now, watch what I taught Devaz.", Josol said, "Draw your sword."
Ulst drew his sword, the sound of metal against his sheath making a hissing sound. Josol backed away, and drew his sword also. Josol then turned his sword around and handed it to Devaz, who was waiting patiently for it.
"Wait, he is unarmored, Josol.", Ulst said urgently.
"Don't you worry, just keep your sword up, and defend against his attack, alright?", Josol said.
"Fine.", Ulst prepared himself, and wondered if he needed his helmet.
Devaz twirled the sword in his hand, getting a feel for the balance. He nodded once to Ulst, who nodded back, indicating he was ready. Devaz quickly thrusted with his sword, and nimbly disarmed Ulst's weapon with a flick of his wrist.
"Well I will be damned.", Ulst said.
"Amazing, isn't he? He is like a sponge, everything I teach him he learns like this.", Josol said approvingly.
Devaz retrieved the knights weapon and gave it back to Ulst without a word. He then returned Josol in the same manner. After that was done, he picked up his wooden sword and started practing against his target dummy.
Ulst looked Devaz over and said to Josol quietly, "I guess a trade is out of the question?"
"No, its not. Just as long as you can explain to Kiven why you don't want to train his brother, Hunad, anymore. I am sure that after Kiven pummels you to the ground, you will have renewed interest in making sure his brother is given your utmost attention.", Josol said happily.
Ulst looked worried for a moment and quickly said, "Don't tell Kiven I said that. I was only kidding."
"I know, but Kiven is not the kidding sort. He might think that you are dishonoring his family by not wanting to train his brother.", Josol said with mock seriousness.
Ulst remembered the last time Kiven lost his temper. Kiven was not a person who spoke much, nor displayed his anger often. But he did become angry, once, when he saw a drunk fisherman slap his wife in public. After Kiven was through with the drunk fisherman, that man was never the same again. Ulst shuddered at the memory.
"I think i'm going back to train Hunad.", Ulst said while he hurried away.
"Good luck.", said Josol cheerfully.
Gragar watched his master carefully, as he shadowed his master's swift actions with the sword.
"There ya go, boy.", Yue said softly, like a schoolteacher to a pupil, "You are doing fine, fine."
Yue had an accent from the eastern city of Shein, which historically was called the Eyes of Akon, for it was the first city to protect Akon against attacks from Dariu in the old days. Their people were considered to be very brave, and quite proud. From the day the city first stood, it never fell into enemy hands. It was their people who were hardest to convince of allowing the marriage between the two kingdoms, it took gold, ale and a few discreet murderers (usually in the form of bar room brawls) to finally get the majority on the king's side. Some of the people still grumble, but mostly it is the the vagabonds or the uneducated. Most nobles have warmed to the new alliance, for the last eight generations have been kind to their coffers.
Yue's family, led by Lord Hulstra, in particular have benefited from their city changing from the first line of defense to the first line of commerce. What were once hordes of charging Dariu calvalry have changed to throngs of trading Dariu merchants. Shein has become the economic powerhouse of all Akon, and many think the king should move the capital to within its very walls. Lord Hulstra is the guildmaster for Guild of Textiles, and sent his second born son to Lord Grusa as a political move, hoping to capitalize on having his son in the ranks of The Order of Ti if the time was ever needed to have someone in such a prized position. What Lord Hulstra didn't quite grasp would be the effect The Order has had upon his son.
Yue laughed, and gave Gragar a sound slap on his shoulder. Gragar smiled a bit, then looked to the ground, embarassed. Gragar was not used to attention like this, nor was he used to people complimenting him. It made him very self conscious, and as much as part of him liked it, the other part did not.
Gragar was a large boy, fifteen years of age, but could easily pass for one of the knights, his chin showed the blonde beard stubble of a man twice his age! His arms were like the limbs of a maple tree, and his legs could bear as heavy a load as an ox. He stood just shorter than Ulst, and was two stone lighter than the northern knight - and he wasn't finished growing. For all the size of this mighty giant, he was as quiet as a barn mouse.
He was an only child, and had two very wonderful parents, his father ran a profitable fishery, paying his taxes like a honest citizen to the Lord. His mother, was a midwife, helping deliver other children in town. When he was first born, they did not know that little Gragar would grow so large. By the time he reached the age of five, he was a full head taller than other children his age.
This had sad consequences for Gragar, because children are cruel to those who are different, and would tease him quite often. Many would have expected that Gragar would have lashed out and used his size to intimidate those who teased him. But it was just the opposite.
Even from an early age of five, Gragar was just as wise as he was strong. He would not provoke anyone who teased him, and merely kept to himself until they stopped. Children began to realize that teasing Gragar was no fun, because he would not cry or fight like other kids might. Soon, the children not only stopped teasing him, but also made him an outcast, whispering that he was "born funny".
All of this just made Gragar more of a loner, and as the years passed, Gragar spent his time working with his father in the fishery, putting those large muscles to work on the docks. It was one day that Yue was travelling in town on business that he crossed the paths of Gragar, and saw him working on the docks. Inquiring with the locals, he heard about the gentle giant, and the stories that surrounded him. Yue then returned to Lord Gragar, telling him about the young townsperson, and suggesting that the boy be allowed to join The Order. Lord Gragar agreed, and put Yue in charge of his training. It was highly unorthodox for a commoner to join The Order, but it has happened twice in the last two hundred years since the kingdom was founded. Word was passed from Yue to Gragar's parents, and the young boy found himself only a week later in the care of the Lord, training with the legendary Order of Ti.
"Yue, a question if I may?", Gragar asked.
Yue looked up, in slight surprise. This might have been the fourth full sentence Gragar has spoken since he arrived a week ago.
"Yes, Gragar?", Yue replied.
"Are you sure you wanted me for The Order? I'm not noble born, and really do not enjoy fighting or killing.", Gragar said.
"I am sure that you were meant to join. How I know is not important for now. As for your rank of commoner, that is something no one here would question. We know who are right to join our ranks, and in time you will understand how that is. For now, just know that you were meant to join The Order, and that no man enjoys killing another. We are who we are to save lives, not destroy them."
Gragar nodded, and turned back to his training, his mind thinking Yue's cryptic words, but suddenly interrupted by the sound of a horse's hoof clattering on the wooden drawbridge.
The knights and squires stopped their training, looking towards the drawbridge, to see their Lord crossing the threshold riding Juin with the most beautiful and exotic woman they have seen.
"Look at that woman! Her hair is green!", exclaimed Hunad.
"Silence, squire.", barked Ulst. Hunad clammed up immediately.
"Attention on field!", commanded Josol, snapping to a formal stance of the right arm behind his back, and the left on his sword hilt, with his legs together. Everyone in the courtyard followed his lead crisply.
Lord Grusa approached Josol, first getting off his horse and helping Ci'suo down.
"What an exilirating ride! Thank you Juin.", said Ci'suo as she gently stroked the stallion's neck.
Lord Grusa smiled briefly, and nodded to Josol, "At ease. This is Ci'suo, she is one of The Kur and has some important news for our King. The Juern are rising again."
Josol's face hardened and answered back, "I knew it. Remember those reports we have been getting of so-called highway men to the north? Rich mineral caravans disappearing without a trace, no word of a ransom from a captor? No mere bandit crew was doing that, what would they need with 2,000 stones of iron?"
Yue approached and quietly added, "So, lets send a scouting team up there while you go to the King? It would be a good exercise for our new recruits."
Lord Grusa nodded and said repiled softly, "Just as I was thinking, Yue. Are your squires ready?"
"Some more than others, but there is only so much practice you can get on a stuffed target.", Yue said.
"Fine. I will be taking Iulin, Regar and Quin with me. You three go up there and carefully find out what is going on. Take your squires, and report back here in three weeks.", said Lord Grusa.
"Aye, sir.", said Josol. "Squires! Gear up, three week mission, full battle dress and supplies.", he shouted.
The squires quickly scrambled to their barracks, to get ready.
Ulst smiled and said to himself, "Finally a good battle!"
Posted by Furey at June 1, 2005 11:11 PM
Please tell me how you came about the names in your story. I am interested where you came up with the name 'Lord Hulstra'. Hulstra is my family name, and as such very, very rare, even in my home country of the Netherlands. Could you let me know?
Posted by: mokum at September 14, 2005 10:57 AM
I just made it up. I have read many fantasy novels over the years and it could have been from reading them. It really was just a name I pulled from thin air. I probably sat there thinking of a name and was going, "Mulstra. Volstra. Kulstra. Hulstra! Yes, Hulstra!"
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