Hello folks! Another sample chapter. This is chapter three of Rise of the Red King. If you find errors just remember, it is still in editing phase.
Supper was amiable but slightly subdued and especially late this night. Anet was visiting the citadel with her sisters. There were new faces here. Such as Yusanna, a feisty girl that reminded Anet of herself when she was younger. And Like little Lia, who in her talents for visions reminded Anet of herself. Lia, who at first was very withdrawn and cried most of the time for weeks seemed to finally be getting along quite well with the other sisters. Irtal, one of the shepherdesses of the citadel, and a candle-maker, had taken Lia under her wing. And when she wasn't with irtal, Anet often heard from Instructress Helga or Instructress Iddina that she and Yusanna would get up to mischief.
A meal of sliced lamb in spiced gravy over potatoes and an onion chutney and quass was delicious, as usual. Sister Madeah never lost her touch in the kitchen. Anet motioned for Irtal to hand her the bread plate and she took another oblong round of flatbread and poured a bit of olive oil upon it.
"I wonder what the king will say after all is said and done." Said Instructress Helga.
"I have no idea what to expect."
"It is good to have you be among us again, Anet. You are sorely missed." Helga actually permitted herself a slight smile.
"Are you sure? I was a bit of an imp."
"And we have plenty more imps running about the place but none so curious about the outside world like you." Helga smiled broadly now, her fine lines broke into a wave of happiness, a true rarity. Anet was delighted to see it. Though still dour Instructress Helga seemed happier and the word was that she was a little softer on the students these days.
In truth, the prophet Ilim, who now lived among the scions, had a new task, having to do with the city of Jhis. This was the most momentous and dangerous of his and her spiritual journeys. He had specifically asked for her to accompany him on this journey. He'd received a letter from the king and even showed it to her. written even in copper and gold ink and dripping with cryptic courtesy. behind the words were iron teeth. They both knew that. It had even come in an Egian made tinmak messenger. A golden dragonfly. Mother Berenice had first discerned the danger in the beautiful little thing but it did not miss Anet or Ilim either. It's delicate faceted glass and web wings were stained with the barest hint of subtle poison. Yet, they consulted Saujiah on it and he bade them go for they would give a sign that the end of Jhis had come.
"Let him think he has set his trap." Said the messenger. "He will see a vision of the demise of his house and judgment against him instead." So they prepared for the journey. In the morning they would be leaving.
"I have not yet seen or heard of the king we all await." Said Irtal quietly.
"He remains hidden for now but I know, and Ilim knows of his coming. He knows who he is. That is all I can say until the time comes and you know that sign."
"Very soon indeed." Said Instructress Helga. "Are you sure you will not need the warrior scions to accompany you both to the city?"
"No, no. We trust in Saujiah's word on this. But please make sure to send a group of sisters to Beth-Ayin. Afterward, Ilim will visit the faithful, as many as he can see. He will especially want to visit Beth-Ayin as the brothers and sisters there have not seen him in an age."
"I worry for him. His health is no longer the best."
"I know but he insists he must go to see them." They ate and talked in broken, muted conversation, at times light, at times somber. The youngest ones were all in bed. This was a last meal to send Anet off. She was grateful for the peacefulness and small company as she meditated on what lay ahead. Her dreams of running in the desert, of seeing the great city Assenna had come back sporadically. And also the disturbing dream of the dead queen. There were now other dreams, dark ones. She would have to do battle with this one, whoever it was trying to reach her. (Erol!) She ate the rest of her meal in silence, listening to the goings-on and gossip flying through the citadel and town. She wondered what Kaisha her old friend was up to.
. . .
They set off before dawn the next morning. Ilim was in a grumpy mood. Anet was glad for the camels instead of mules or donkeys. Even so, Ilim had something to gripe about. The camels, were, in his opinion too wide and fat. He was muttering about the current laziness and wretchedness of the people of the land, in particular the youth. And how so many had grown so fat and lazy that they now needed to breed "malformed animals" to bear their ever-growing backsides. The camels took these insults patiently stride. Anet had to admit she'd found these unusually large camels rather strange as well but thought nothing more of it as she had other things on her mind. Like what they could expect, what sort of welcome they would receive in Jhis. Frankly she was tired of hearing about the forsaken place and did not want to go. Her skin crawled just thinking about it. Someone powerful there, someone apart of the court was trying to reach her and they had ill intentions toward her. Though she had figured out that Taliat did not have any gift of reaching her through dreams, the way the dream had made her feel left her in no doubt that the queen, her own kin would have thought nothing of slaying her. In fact, she had tried to kill her, not knowing Anet was a relative. If Queen Taliat had known, it would have made no difference. And yet, another in Jhis, close to the king she surmised, was trying to harm her in dream. The only thing keeping this person out of her head and from doing true damage was Airend-Ur and for that she was forever thankful. Anet was so focused on this person was trying to infect her mind that she barely heard Ilim who was now fussing at her. His voice slowly faded in seemingly out of nowhere, finally rustling her out of her thoughts.
"Anet! Do you not hear me? Something is wrong! Can you not feel it?" She looked around quickly, now on alert. Ilim had his own perceptive powers. Finally Anet felt it, like a force moving just under the sand. Even their animals were becoming nervous. Anet put her hand on her sword tied beneath an old sash around her hips, ready to spring from the camel at a moment's notice. Her breathing became still. She scanned the area. Nothing but sun and sand and pink-orange sky. They were both silent. Ilim then glanced at her with alarm. She heard it, like a sigh beneath the sands and then they were upon them! Two figures shot up like fire bugs out of a dune about fifty paces before them. Anet immediately lept off her camel, her eyes trained upon them. They were difficult to see, disappearing in the air like moving glass pieces. Ilim detached his staff from his side and swung it in front of him, ready to do battle. One of the figures landed beside her and within the same moment she was upon it, feeling the low whirring energy coming from it ride over her in long pulses of power. She lifted her wide bronze blade, her body both rigid and ready to bend. she felt herself being filled with fired sparks of energy. At first they looked like men but as the figure came down upon her she could see that it was mechanical, a skeleton of human bone and iron dressed in leather armor. Anet swing her sword in a powerful arc nearly cleaving the skull from the bone man's spine. Pieces of metal flew off into the air. It lifted a foot to kick her. Blades shot out from its big toe bones. Anet lifted her robe and it billowed in a wide arc. She swung it over her body and whirled away, quick as a sand snake. The boneman's toe blades sliced through her robe, just missing her torso. She raised her sword arm and struck the creature full on with the blade making a hairline crack in the skull and then she came in again, bashing the boneman in the side of its head, cracking the skull. It fell, dislodging completely from the body and tumbled on the sand but the body itself continued to fight. However, it was now slowed. Sweating, she deftly avoided the boneman as it swung round clumsily with its thin sword to strike her. She bashed and hacked away deftly at it, breaking through bones and shearing off bits of metal but she was tiring. Seeing what looked like fire and light and tubes within it in, a fit of fearlessness she reached into the ribcage and grabbed a hand full of tubes and wires, They burned her hands and she cried out, pulling the mass out with all her might. The skeletal figure shook and jerked, went still for a moment and then went crashing into the sand. She dashed towards Ilim who was now standing uphill on a sand dune, blocking each strike of the other boneman. Anet crept up behind only for the second boneman to whilr from Ilim to her and it went striking her down. She clashed swords with it but it was strong, stronger than the other one and it forced her nearly to the ground. Ilim swung his staff hitting it on the head.
"Ilim, father, its chest! It is the weakest part!" Ilim immediately attacked the ribcage witht he point of his staff, breaking two rib bones. The figure swung its sword down upon him and he scuttled back. Anet leaped up and hit it in the chest, driving with all her strength and broke another rib bone. They both rained down blows upon it but bone man did not go down, returning nearly blow for blow. They would soon tire while seemingly this thing could go on forever. Ilim snatched off his head mantle and threw it over its head. This slowed it somewhat and Anet in a moment went for the chest, tearing out the copper wires and tubing and pulled it out. It finally fell. They both stood staring in amazement. Ilim turned to her finally.
'What in the world were those things? I have never seen such things before?"
"It would seem someone has taken the concept of tinkering machines to a new plateau."
'Those. . . were tinkering machines?"
"That is the only thing I can think of. I have never seen them either. I did once see a man who had a mechanical heart."
"Juhi!" Cried Ilim.
"Yes. But he was a real man." She said. His face darkened into a black scowl.
"I think those were once men, Anet. It must be the work of Black Alchemy."
"Another import from Egi we do not need." She said.
"As we get closer to Jhis things might get even more interesting. And I am getting too old." He said. He took her burned hand into his.
"Child. I am sorry I have been dragging you into this for so long."
"Do not worry over it, father. I have some salves and solutions to clean and mend it. It is not too severe." It looked worse than it was. Their animals had run away and they had to walk a league before they caught up to them. After mounting their camels again they were both quiet for most of the journey. The rise and fall of sand dunes and the scuttling of scorpions was the only excitement they met up with afterward but they remained on high alert all the way into the city, wondering how far and how black Jhis had become and who had sent the mechanical men and the poisoned wing after them into the desert.
"It is someone of the king's court. But not the king. I have heard it through the voices of the sands that the king keeps company with a powerful alchemist." Ilim said one night. They were a day's journey from Jhis now. Anet wrapped her torn robe close around her, shivering against the cool night air.
"The king's sword they say is a black sword of flame and smoke. Fearsome thing. They say it is the star sword of Ishuye."
"People say so many things. It is why I have lived off and on among the tribes. Too much noise, kingly propaganda and weavings of lies in cities. It pollutes the mind. You cannot see or hear anything else but their lies."
"There is something you must know, Anet. I once said to you that I would tell you about your family." She snapped to attention then.
"I know it has been so long and I should have told you before. Both of us were so busy that I could not." He was quiet for a moment and then he looked at her again. "Your father was a minor nobleman of the Aishanna-La. His name was Omri-Kuyin na Kuyin, of the family of Kuyin. A respectable, upper-class family in Jhis. They were also faithful worshipers at the temple. Good people. Your mother was Egian nobility."
"Egian." Anet said quietly.
"Yes. You have perceived this because of your dream?"
"I was not sure at first but I have come to know it."
"Well, now you know."
"She was related to the former queen."
"Yes. You are descended from the House of Kuyin and of the House of Seht, Anet. They were sisters. Lady Eilannat had three daughters. Anetarieth was your mother's name. She was the eldest by ten years. Taliat was the youngest. There was another daughter, younger than your mother and older than Taliat, Eilat. She died young. Anyway, your mother defied convention at the risk of death and married someone that did not have her family's approval. The Seht family, like many Strabian people, disdain anyone who is not Strabian like themselves, even if they are from noble blood. The fact that he was Aishanna-La made the insult worse as they did not and do not like this religion. It is the very opposite of their own rites and beliefs. She ran away and when her father's men came to claim her back and punish her the only thing that stopped them was a bride price seven times bigger than any nobleman would normally pay for his bride. That and most likely the protection of God Himself. Your father paid it and prayed fervently over the matter and that saved her life. So they started out with very little but soon he was blessed after a few years and they grew in wealth and influence and then they had you. Your mother was a courageous woman and your father always supported her. She had made a name for herself as a kind and generous woman and often worked to help the poor in the city. She made clothes and fed many people and was a faithful woman. She converted to her husband's faith soon after marrying him. But she was always at odds with the Golden Temple priesthood. Women were not allowed into the temple and she would go inside anyway as she was well versed in what the holy book said and what it did not say and they could not lie to her on this matter. So they resorted to trying to shame her which did not work either. Nor did it work on your father as he once even denounced a priest for catching him coming out of a brothel. One day she had come in for prayers and they dragged her out and had her publicly whipped. Enraged over this, your father withdrew his support from the temple and many others who saw what happened withdrew from the temple as well in protest. This angered and created fear in the Ainash priesthood. You see they were gaining in influence over the Aishanna-La community Anet. It is my belief and the belief of others that one night they hired thugs to burn down your parent's home. To put an end to this growing challenge to their authority. An old friend of mine, Eliaz happened to be visiting their home when it happened. The fire happened so fast that there was little time to escape. You were only a small babe at the time. Eliaz grabbed you but could not get to your parents for the raging fire and he fled from the house. Your parents burned to death in that fire. Eliaz happened to grab a few valuable things in your room for safekeeping. They were in a safe box. A deed and a seal and a ring, your mother's ring from her mother given to her. The priest Zarhaz was given them for safe-keeping. Whether these things will be useful to you I do not know, but there it is. Your name, in full, is Anetaliat na Seht-Kuyin, as your mother kept her last name."
"She kept her last name?"
"She did. Unheard of but she never did anything just because others did it. She had her own mind. As you do. And your father was ever loyal to her, as you are loyal to me and to God. You have all the good qualities they had, Anet. And you are not common. Not that there is anything wrong with the common man or woman, but you have more than one great destiny laid out before you, child." Anet was stunned at this news. She asked for more but Ilim had told her all he knew.
"That is all I know."
"Now I can know truly where I came from and where I am going." She said softly.
"Yes. It is all in the name." They were both quiet after the revelation.
Ilim went inside the tent and went to sleep. Anet kept watch that night for a few hours longer before going to sleep. She watched the moons as they made their voyage across the sky. Even though the last regime was gone and the dark queens of the moons were defeated they were not dead and the moons here in Hybron seemed alien and distant. How far and different was her memory of them when she was a child so many years ago, first learning how to fend for herself when she looked up at the moons and thought of pleasant, wonderful things. Now they seemed cold, like blind snake eyes. Watching. Her mind sometimes wandered into the territory more and more of marriage and children. What it would be like to be in love and be in the arms of a husband. She closed her eyes and prayed fervently to keep her mind on what lay ahead. She, for the first time in years, was not sure what to expect or sure of her destiny. Some times it was pure joy and sometimes it was just too much. She had come to a fork in the path. We the little people, the ones who are ruled, by the seasons, by portents, by culture, by the gods or by the mighty men of fame and power. We are the beasts with all the burdens.