Friday, 20 May 2016

Neil's Birthday Story 2016

As a lot of the 'keener' (or is it 'more keen'?) followers out there will know, some of my friends get a story, rather than a card or a present for their birthdays each year.  Mr friend Neil is one of these people.

Hope that he doesn't mind me sharing it with you... He won't, he's pretty chilled.


Arkon looked over his shoulder into the night, their camp was small and the torches that their bodymen had sunk into the ground only illuminated the pale sand directly below them. The Tyrnus Desert was a thousand square kintyres of featureless flatland. They were still a full day’s ride from civilisation; from the terminus of the first part of their quest.

“Lord Arkon?” asked Lord Bilthor, looking up from the firepit, “Are you sure that the seer will be in Forthang City when we get there?”

Lord Arkon nodded slowly, then took a long drag on his Yantha-bone pipe, “That’s where the Sand-Kin said he would be; I’ve had no reason to think they would lie.” The curl of pale green smoke from his pipe momentarily obscured the stars that made up the constellation of Jory the Merrywalker; Arkon waved it away before Bilthor had chance to remark on this new ill omen.  “Is Lord Teletorc in his tent?”

Bilthor nodded, robbed of the opportunity to point out the ill omen, “He’s still suffering from that nest of woodgrubs that he ate yesterday. I told him that he should have let his bodyman singe all the hairs off it before he ate it, but what would I know?” He made the complicated hand-gesture that meant ‘It is as something known by a child.’ In his native language.

“We will enter Forthang tomorrow, the seer will be on top of his pole in the market square and he will be able to tell us where we can get High-Lord Sehmbhy’s yearly tribute.

“I hope it’s easier than last year’s quest, the air was very thin at the top of the mountain. I lost three bodymen to that final avalanche…” both men nodded, “Lord Kalkreith’s wife still hasn’t recovered from losing her husband you know?”

Arkon pulled the tiny crystal vial from under his shirt, “I’ve still got the sample of the creature’s blood.”

“Does it protect you from harm?”

“Well, brother, I’m not dead yet.” The deep laughter of the two lords was interrupted by a bodyman bringing them each a glass of Jumen wine, which they drank silently and retired to their tents for the night.

The next morning was bright and hot. The three lords sat whilst the camp was struck, and packed carefully aboard their tame Yanthas. They headed towards the shining towers of Forthang behind its giant defensive wall of sand-glass. The strong legs and barbaric claws of the Yanthas ate up the distance as if it were nothing, and even though they had to stop twice for Lord Teletorc to be put back onto his mighty steed, it was just after Second-Prayer when they arrived at their destination.

The Lords’ bodymen cleared the way in front of them, as they made their way from the stables to the market square – and right to the base of the seer’s pole.

“Good Seer, I am Lord Arkon of the Guild of Tribute. We…” He looked at Lord Teletorc’s prone form, lying on the worn cobbles, “We three have travelled from far Ithnia to gain your counsel.” Arkon paused, but the seer just sat at the top of the pole, his eyes closed. “We have been sent so that we may know of what the High-Lord requires as his tribute this year.”

The seer’s eyes flickered open, their cloudy white pupils reflecting the harsh sun. He coughed, his mouth dry from not speaking for the three hundred days since he had last spoken. He fixed the lords with his blind stare, “The High-Lord requires one of the remaining two Chumchurras in existence. One is located in the highest tower of the Dark Citadel on the dead continent of Chumchurrasel. To reach it you must cross the Blood Sea, braving the ravenous Sea-Chibs who are known for their ability to separate a sailor’s head from his shoulders between breaths. Then, when you make landfall on the rocky coast of Koranth, you must travel across the Plains of Death, against the Mirror Wind that will show you your greatest desires to try and divert you from your task. And finally enter the Invisible Valley by choosing the one true door from amongst the eighty-three exactly similar ones, knowing at all times that the wrong choice will bring instant death.”

Arkon and Bilthor looked at each other and gulped. “Can I just stop you there, what about the other one? – You said there were two.”

The seer blinked, “What?”

“You said that there are two remaining – So how do we get the other one, claiming the first one seems a bit… involved. Not to mention dangerous.”

The seer deflated slightly, then he reached for the jug of ice-water next to him and took a long, slow drink. “There’s an Argos Extra on the corner of Hadras Street,” he pointed over their heads, back the way they’d come, “It’s catalog number 734/7624 – You get a choice of colours. Only one per customer though. You know, no offence, but I don’t think you’re really entering into the spirit of this ‘quest’ business.”