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Fourth episode in the Edendorn series, this chapter follows on from "The Reapers of Edendorn" and features the Blind Bowman character created by John Lynch.
The Elementals of Edendorn
A group of fifty or so men rested in the cave that was once the old dungeon for the ancient city of Edendorn. Marshall Urgan of the Sofian Templa guardsman led the band of mercenaries and warriors. Urgan wore the grey Templa desert uniform but the warrior men wore only hide skirts. Most were Terrikan tribesmen who lived in nomadic clans on the northern perimeter of the great desert that bordered the rocky land where the Sythe ruled. They had already lost ten men to the Sythe and two of the carriers had wandered off just before the sandstorm hit and no sign of them had been seen since. The rest were restless and sat sharpening or cradling their swords and axes eager for action and blood.
Urgan waited while the tracker walked around the cave bent over looking for signs of their quarry and putting together the sequence of events. Two warriors returned from their exploration of the remainder of the cave and hurried to make their report of what they had found. Urgan listened, shook his head silently and called the water carriers over and bid them go with the warriors.
The tracker approached Marshall Urgan; his dark tanned face had an ugly scar running down the left side from forehead to cheek in a vertical purple line that showed where a sword had once split his face apart. His eyeball though split in the same attack still functioned though if he closed his right eye there was a blind spot in his vision. Together his overlapping vision from both eyes still gave him a relatively clear view.
"The big man brought them here." The tracker reported to Marshall. "Then the two men were knocked out." He said, raising his fist and slamming it down hard into the palm of his hand. "Dragged through there and the children were tied up and hung off ground. Then..." The tracker hesitated and then brought up a Sythe bone. "He must have released them and they all came here. They ate a meal of Sythe and then they walked through that wall. Another set of prints are there too. A man wearing sandals. He came in here, stopped, and then went back through the wall."
"Find me the way through, Suju."
"That, Marshall, I have already done."
* * * * *
The blind bowman continued scanning the vicinity for any signs of the young royal Hallion, who had been kidnapped by one of the elemancer’s rock creatures. His super senses of hearing and smell could not penetrate through certain types of physical barriers though, such as the earth elemancer could erect. There was an unusual ripple through his internal vision as though a shadow were passing overhead and the bowman sensed the presence of another body nearby from the posture and facial expression of the jalugar and the girl.
Valeris! The great bundle of mass and muscle tightened his grip on the bow and gritted his teeth. Valeris the Airmancer could manipulate air particles to such an extent that she could move about unseen behind a veneer of atoms rebounding her signature frequencies or use them to create an illusion. She could also create any object from the atoms available in the surrounding air. Daggers of ice and methane have been known to materialise and pierce someone's heart before vanishing into thin air again. Valeris could also project herself and the bowman wondered whether it was really her or just her image.
The jalugar Zurvan watched the floating white figure bidding them to follow with a long white finger.
"Can you not see her Bowman?" He said sensing the bowman's unease.
The bowman shifted his feet uncomfortably. "Not when Valeris doesn't want me to. She is an Airmancer. She hides behind the air and can make you see what she wants or nothing at all."
* * * * * *
In the earth elemancer's underground chamber Hallion sat in the maroon armchair that dwarfed him. His sandalled feet dangled above the plush patterned floor rug as the robed figure took a seat opposite him, smiled and leant forward clasping his hands. Hallion felt the intense but somehow non-threatening aura of the elemancer and looked away from the mancer's gaze. He knew Elrok was an Earth elemancer who could manipulate matter, particularly natural non-living minerals and substances in solid form.
Maybe he can read minds too? Hallion thought, keeping his eyes averted from the dark-haired man. He looked around out at the long drapes covering the walls and wondered where he was now compared to the staircase where he last seen his sisters and companions.
"What do you want from me?" Hallion said without looking at the brown robed figure.
"Why nothing, my lord." Elrok sat back and crossed his legs and lay his arms on either armrest looking for all the world like a comfortable man of leisure. "I merely wanted to protect you."
"Protect me?" Hallion's head snapped around to look upon his latest in what felt like a long line of captors.
"Yes. Yes. And your sister Alexia too. I believe that is her name." Elrok stood up and swung around with a flourish that spun his cloak out like a hoop skirt. He walked towards the wall, stopped. He stroked his chin with his finger and turned around again.
"What are you protecting me from?" Hallion asked.
"There are four of us elemental mancers here. We came together seeking to unite the four elements. Apart from myself there came Valeris who controls the Air; Nass of Gurenheim who has the fire elemental under his will and Mareena the Aquamancer." He poured out two mugs of a blue liquid called Anoksa, a non-alcoholic but slightly hallucinogenic substance. It's potency lessened with continued use and the elemancer felt no effects. For him, it was safer than water.
"Things have not gone so well." Elrok said crossing the room and placing the other cup in front of Hallion before stting and crossing his legs again. He sipped his drink. "We came in good faith, each willing to share to create something better and more stable. Alas we have fallen into bickering and fighting and now....."
"Now everyone wants to take control of all the elementals believing that is the only way achieve the next elemental level. They have been recruiting souls to form their armies but I will have no part in this. For now we are safe but if one gains control of the other three elements I will have no choice but to sacrifice myself." Elrok threw back the remainder of the contents of the container and swallowed them down.
He beamed at Hallion and poured himself another cup. Hallion had been sipping the Anoksa unaware of the hallucinogenic effects, which had yet to hit him. His feet and hands had begun to go numb though he felt clear-headed and happy for the first time in a long while.
"So my lord," Elrok said smiling. "What shall we do?"
Hallion had a moment of inspiration. "I could sing for you." He said brightly.
* * * * *
In another part of the city of towering gold spires and glittering tombs, Naas of Gurenheim, the firemancer shook some powered bone into a circular iron dish mounted upon a metal tripod.
The tall thin mancer, dressed in black leather pants, undershirt and jacket crossed the small room, one of the crypts of an ancient queen Wiskeei. He walked with a slight limp owing to the fact his right leg was slightly shorter than the left. He also wore black gloves and boots and black leather mask and hood to cover his short red hair and a birthmark in the form of a purple discolouration across his left cheek and forehead. Three holes in the fireproof fabric were for his intense yellow eyes and small slit of a mouth. Though he limped slightly when walking, Naas was extremely fast and agile. His hand movements as he collected some potions and powders were lightning quick and sure. When he was satisfied with the mixture Naas began to chant a summoning spell.
"That which is immovable and stable; visible but soul-less; never becoming any more or any less - Such is Earth!" The fire mancer threw a handful of dirt into the saucer shaped dish and these popped like corn and then sunk into the liquid.
"That which is the spirit of friendship; reconcilable only to itself; borne on the winds and being the wind - Such is Air!'' Naas took a deep breath and blew it out across the substance that began to simmer and then bubble ferociously.
"That which is the nurse of generations; cohesive & strong; purifying in its lightness and adaptability - such is Water!" He said, tipping a jug over and the letting clear liquid splash into the brown mixture that swirled and boiled and hissed like an angry serpent.
“That which moves with swiftness of motion, violent & sharp, so that it cuts whatever it meets. Such is Firrrrrrre!" Naas slapped his hands together as he finished the fire summoning spell and the handclap echoed around the small chamber as the pedestal and the mixture erupted into a ball of red, blue and green flame.
Swirling up out of the flames came the ghostly shapes of tormented souls. All were children who had died young of some vile crime and whose souls still burnt fierce with the spirit of youth. Fifteen figures swept down and took on a charcoal like form on the floor of the ancient queen’s tomb. They were black as coal but their skin had large cracks and what looked red lava oozed beneath the charred exterior. Their eyes were red with yellow slits for irises. Flames licked over their bodies in yellow, red and orange waves. They were called Sparks or Fireflies or Furieflys or just Furies depending upon who you spoke to. They crackled in the silence until the leather clad Naas spoke.
"You three, find Bowman. Tell him that Mareena is on the warpath."
Mareena of Rinuscus controlled the elements of water. She too could summon minions called Wisps. These were constructs of water molecules and could assume solid, liquid or vapour form. They were invisible to the human eye though the bowman could sense them. He could also kill them. A shot with his flaming arrow would dispel the compulsion and set the soul free again. Mareena was livid with the bowman for he had taken many of her charges and the aquamancer was looking to exact some revenge. Naas knew this but had other plans for the blind goliath.
"The remainder pair up and search for the earthmancer. He is hiding the boy somewhere nearby."
* * * * *
"Why would she show herself to us and not you?" The foreigner Chi asked coming to stand beside the jalugar and the girl Alexis who still held to the jalugar Zurvan. The Bowman shrugged.
"She is bidding us to follow." Chi continued. "Should we trust her?"
The Bowman shrugged his mighty shoulders again. "I don't trust anyone." He said. Suddenly he tensed and swung around to his right.
"The boy. Like a bird. He is this way." And then he was off at a gallop. The others were still flat-footed watching the floating white female and wondering whether to follow her. As they saw the Bowman speeding away through the tombs they decided it was best to follow him.
"Hey wait!" Zurvan called letting go of Alexia and running ahead of the other two to try to catch the Bowman although the jalugar run was more of a long skip. It was an energy efficient style and though he couldn’t keep up with the power-packed bowman in a sprint he could outlast him over long distances. He tried to maintain a distance halfway between the Bowman and the two trailing figures through the twisting turning alleys that thinned as they neared what seemed to be the centre of the City at the Centre of the Sun.
Chi kept the hand of Alexia firmly held in his. The others had run off madly though he could see the jalugar ahead was doing his best to keep an eye on them. Chi would have carried the girl who was tiring quickly but she was too big and it would have slowed him down even more. He would just have to...
Thump! Chi and Alexia hit some invisible barrier and rebounded to fall onto their backsides. The shock left them dazed and Alexia groaned softly.
The jalugar stopped to look back as he saw the bowman disappearing ahead behind a huge marble column. He saw the two figures lying on the ground a fair way back in the middle of the space between the ornately decorated tombs. Something was wrong. Zurvan decided he had better return to help them. He looked up at the huge black statue of the Sythe that stood guard over the entrance to the white Temple of Kiami realising he had run right into the heart of the great city of tombs.
He felt a cool breeze on the back of his neck and then his mind was filled with the vision of a huge Sythe skull peering back at him and talking in some strange tongue before his focus became dizzy and he blacked out and crumpled to the floor.
* * * * *
The boy had stopped singing but not before the bowman had pinpointed his position and plotted a path through the tombs and tunnels to his location. Whether he could break through when he got there would be another thing. The blind bowmen swept the area behind him to check on the others progress and skidded to a halt. He stood bolt still.
There was a distortion in the atmosphere, which was definitely Valeris's doing. A barrier of air had been created, but beyond that he sensed more motion. Others were coming down the staircase. A large group of men. Warriors, probably Raiken or Terrikan half-castes worked as mercenaries for the Sofians.
The Bowman hesitated. Should he find the boy or assist the others? It was then that he sensed the tear shaped droplet falling from one of the towers above him. The grey blue bubble was about a metre in diameter and reflected similarly to the way the walls of the cavern did. It landed with a loud plop and squashed down into a flat viscous pool that began to congeal and out of the puddle rose the water elemancer Mareena. Her skin was a liquid grey-blue colour, ever fluctuating in the torch fires light. Her pale elfin face had a sharp nose and chin, pointed ears and high strongly defined cheekbones. Long light blue hair tinged with yellow and green near the tips of her flowing tresses framed her features. Thin dark eyebrows and purple lips stood out like punctuation marks and her purple tongue darted out regularly to lick her lips.
Mareena wore a green full-length wet-dry suit made from the skin of a large otter-like creature called a Fehgeru. The contoured body suit insulated her from any extremes in climatic conditions. The bowman admired her strong light boots, made from the hide of the grey mauler, a leviathan that dwells in the Jungaian oceans.
Her eyes flashed wildly and the Bowman sensed himself surrounded by her Wisps. He counted twenty of them and knew he had only thirteen arrows left in his quiver. A moment later another five appeared on his radar.
Quicker than the blink of an eyeless socket, the bowmen drew three arrows from his quiver, dropped to one knee and fired as they lit. The three projectiles struck three invisible forms that fell backwards in unison and shattered like glass. Mareena screeched and two Wisps wielded ice swords at the Bowman who blocked them with his bow. Another Wisps slashed at him from behind cutting a gash across his back. He jumped through the attackers in front grabbing their ice swords, the only material part of the creatures but they dissolved into vapours and the Bowman ran between two others as he reloaded and the arrowhead burst into flames.
Instead of firing he ran directly through the next two Wisps holding the bow out in front of him and ramming them with the arrowhead which fizzled out as they crashed and smashed to smithereens under him and then relit again before he skewered the second Wisp creature.
Two Wisps directly ahead threw ice-spears at the rampaging goliath, one he avoided, while the other grazed his shoulder. He fired directly into one of the Wisps as soon as the flame sparked to life on the tip. He reloaded while running and ducking another ice spear and shot the Wisp before it could escape behind a stone pillar. It appeared momentarily in visible light and then exploded into crystalline fragments that melted into vapours. The bowman then stooped to retrieve the three arrows from the first three Wisps he had dispatched.
The Bowman ran forward and reached down to pick up another arrow but it burnt his meaty palm and he tried to pull his hand free. Mareena had frozen it though and his hand froze solid to the arrow as he soon as he took it in his grasp. The arrow was fused to the ground as well as to the Bowman's hand. The Aquamancer and her Wisps circled and the closed in for the kill.
* * * * *
Like the grasses showing tender faces to each other, thus should we do, for this was the wish of the Grandfathers of the World.