The Aresan Clan
Joseph Kranak
When Alles, a general in the powerful Aresan Clan, is sent to kidnap a silent child worshipped by ... Show More
Genres:
Adventure, American Gothic, High Fantasy, Literary, Other
Tags:
Epic, Adventure, Post-Apocalyptic, Mythology, Religion

Still Creek-forr

Alles wiped some morning dew from the shoulders of his cloak, returned his stick to its position in front of him, bowed his head, and continued moving forward into the valley. In the absence of sight, gravity pointed his feet toward the bottom of the valley where a handful of tiny homes were clumped together besides a creek. The sensation of the changing of the texture of the ground signaled to him that he was entering a village. Paths softened by foot traffic radiated outward into narrow fields around the small center and he could hear the increasing sounds of human life. The small village was alive with the bustle of daybreak preparations, and he heard the movement of many feet in many directions.

His steps led him to the center of the village where more and more people distinctly perceived the presence of this cloaked and hooded stranger. He could hear the pause of feet around and beside him. It wasn’t long before a certain quiet radiated around him and he sensed the eyes of the curious that watched while he continued his deliberate, persevering step.

A man stood beside him and tapped his shoulder, and Alles felt the tentative touch. The man spoke not quite loud enough for anyone besides Alles to hear: “Hello sir, I’d like to welcome you here. My name is Elden. Can I ask your business?”

Alles tried to disguise his accent and spoke hoarsely in the local language, “My name is Alles. I’ve come to meet the boy. This is the home of the young prodigy isn’t it?”

There was a murmuring in the crowd. Elden spoke a little more loudly, but still cautiously, saying, “We don’t receive that many visitors. No one really comes by this way, except outlaws and highwaymen. Has word of the boy really spread that far?”

“There are rumors. Some people are talking. They say the boy is special. They say he’s possessed of extraordinary powers.”

Alles spoke loud enough for the few around him to hear, and they gave an almost unanimous groan of assent. One of them said, “He’s something special, but he’s nothing magical.” And another spoke, “We love that dear boy like a son.”

Elden spoke again and said, “You don’t sound as if you’re from nearby. And you came all this way without your sight, only led by this stick?”

Alles replied, “I’m used to traveling long distances. I can hear, smell, touch. Meeting this child is very important to me. Perhaps he can help me.”

Elden spoke again, “We’ll let you meet him. We enjoy the company. But we’d rather that the boy’s reputation stays here. We don’t have too many visitors. We’re part of the Fourth Order, though the Fourth Order’s protection barely reaches so far out here, which leaves us vulnerable.”

Alles merely said, “Thank you,” in his hoarse voice, and Elden gave him an arm to lead him, while Alles shuffled forward crouching over his stick. They led him to the center of the town, and he could hear the knock of wooden dishware on long wooden tables. Around him were small fires that crackled under attentive cooks, poking and prodding while the scent of food spread from above them. Alles was set down in front of one of the tables and the bustle of preparation continued near and around him.

Alles reached out to grab the arm of someone walking by and he asked, “Is it some special occasion today? It sounds like a feast. If I am intruding, you needn’t be over-welcoming for my sake.”

The voice of a woman spoke out, “No, sir. No special occasion this morning. We’re providing for the child is all.” And then the possessor of the voice could be heard to walk away.

Alles waited for a few minutes until a voice he recognized as Elden’s, asked him gently, close to his face, “Do you want to be taken to the boy now? I think we can let you. You can meet with him, perhaps even ask him a question before the breakfast gets started.” Elden waited for a response with his hand on Alles shoulder. Alles turned his face with his closed eyes towards Elden and nodded.

Elden gave Alles a hand to lead him. They moved a step forward and Alles bumped a shoulder on a post. They took another step, and Alles nearly tripped on the bottom stair. He felt the soft of a fur under his feet as they climbed the stairway. After a few steps, the man stopped.

Elden moved Alles’ hand forward to touch the shoulder of the boy. Alles carefully moved his other hand forward until he touched the head of the boy. The boy’s hair was thick, dusty, disheveled and knotted.

As Alles heard the sound of Elden retreating a few steps back, he said quietly to the boy, “I want to take you out of here. Do you want to leave?” The boy was silent, but for many long moments Alles waited for him to respond.

“Well, even if you’re not going to respond, you better get ready anyways,” Alles whispered, “Because we’re going to leave.”

Then in one quick motion, with one hand still on the head of the boy, to gauge the boy’s position, Alles swept off his cloak and completely covered the boy inside of it, so that the boy’s face was submerged beneath it and the cloak covered him on all sides. Alles opened his eyes and raised his hand in a rapid wave towards the hills behind the boy. He turned to look finally on the kindly voice, who now stared at him with wide, surprised eyes. Elden was tall and pale with a certain intensity in his eyes. Alles grabbed him and pushed him off of the pedestal with a strong, effortless shove. Elden fell down across the path of furs that led towards the throne, knocking over one of the standing posts that formed a circle around the pedestal. Each standing post was crowned with a small torch that poured black smoke skyward in thick dissipating strings. Just outside the circle a long table filled with food, flanked by the two cooking fires, stood between him and the frozen faces of the townsfolk, now looking at the exposed leather sheath hanging at his side and the bold brawn of the warrior on the pedestal besides their veiled child.

The first person to run towards Alles was a man named Lipmon, a short, skinny man with thin hair and an under-nourished hollow in his cheeks. Alles quickly unsheathed a metal sword and slashed a gash across the chest and arms of the short, pallid figure in one seamless move. Elden quickly pulled himself up off the ground and shouted for the men to attack Alles as his debilitating shock suddenly transformed into rage. Several men lunged forward, shabbily dressed and equally as thin-armed and thin-chested as Lipmon. Alles thrust cleanly through the belly of the fastest, kicking him away and turned, scooping up the child.

Alles leapt from the pedestal and ran toward the hills holding the child gingerly in his strong arms while the tail of his cloak trailed behind as he ran. Alles moved toward a just now appearing band of soldiers—Lee, Sorn, Annsi, Solis, Orick, Rock, Imann and others—who ran at full speed towards the town.

He shouted at them, “Wipe the town out! Kill all of them! I want no witnesses!”

As he passed through them, they launched a volley of spears, which sprung as a cloud in the air and fell heavy on their targets, only a few spears landing in the dirt without being bloodied. Alles stopped to watch them fall upon the frightened townsfolk, who scrambled in bleating disarray. The town’s unarmed foregaurd was swept aside with thrusts of red. The glowing crowns of fire were snatched from their pedestals and thrown onto the thatched grass roofs of the small wooden hovels.

Alles announced to them, “We must make it look like the town burned to the ground, and leave only dust behind. If the Fourth Order should ever discover we attacked one of their towns and kidnapped one of its citizens, the retaliation would be severe.”

Silhouettes darted between the quickly fire-consumed homes: crying children, crying mothers and fathers and the soldiers that chased them. Livestock scattered through the streets, and shapes laid themselves soundlessly down on the blood-soaked ground. Alles pulled the child’s head tightly against his chest to muffle the sound of the town’s collective shriek. The boy reached out and wrapped his arms around Alles’s neck, and Alles walked slowly towards the town.

Alles’ soldiers chased stragglers with their long rapiers, their small leather sheaths swinging freely at their sides and the neck coverings of their leather helmets bouncing with their running steps. Alles’ one female soldier, Annsi, stood before a line of townspeople—including men, women and children—kneeling with their backs to the inferno. Annsi said to him, “These people have surrendered, what do you want me to do?”

“Harboring prisoners isn’t feasible, and I said, I don’t want any witnesses,” Alles said to her with the boy still clinging to his neck. Though the villagers couldn’t understand Alles and Annsi’s speech, Alles leaned close to her ear and whispered, “See what they know about this boy, or if any of them knows his mother, then kill them.”

Alles walked away and Annsi asked them a few questions with visible trepidation in her voice. None of them spoke. She hesitated then she methodically kicked each one to the ground and drove her sword into each successive faceless back. She couldn’t help feeling the sting of each one of the murders she was forced to commit.

Alles howled orders to throw all the dead bodies they could into the hottest burning houses and some of the men who’d been wandering aimlessly looking for any more survivors suddenly became active dragging bodies into the hot cores of some of the highest flames. Alles howled orders to expedite some of the dying fires and to make sure this town was nothing but a pile of ashes quickly swept up by the wind when they were done. Some of them began to pull down the standing poles around the throne and use them to prod some of the burning houses. New torches were made and the fire was spread to the still uncharred sections of the village. The pedestal was stripped of its throne and its surrounding pedestal and these were given to the central fire. Rock scooped up the furs and took them as a souvenir.

Alles took the small boy that he’d been carrying around veiled the whole time and he tied him like a bundle in his cloak and rested him atop the former pedestal, leaving Imann to guard him while he continued ordering the soldiers around. The boy sat down inside his little sack without struggle and waited patiently.

The tables had been sufficiently undisturbed that most of the food was still edible, and, though men had been grabbing quick bites as they passed them it through all the bustle and fighting, there was still a small feast spread out on the tables.

Alles asked the men if they’d caught any livestock, and one of them, Lee, said ‘aye’ and pulled out a large goat with its legs tied, still struggling while he held it under his arm. The goat was set down before Alles, while Lee held it down. Alles grabbed the horns, held the neck back and cut the throat of the goat, catching the dripping blood in a bowl. The goat’s hind end was raised to facilitate the flow of the blood while it kicked out its last breath of life.

“As easy as our victory may have been, we still must thank Anan,” Alles said to his troops and he raised the bowl up to the sky and he said, “To the divinity, We thank you for this victory,” and behind him his fellow soldiers said their “thank you” with him. Alles walked to the large pyre of the burning town and threw the blood and bowl together into the fire.

They flayed and cut out the choicest organs, muscle and fat from the goat and skewered them over the now simmering cooking fires. Alles and Lee each took two feet of the remains of the goat, and they flung the goat into the heart of the burning village.

They quickly plunged meat and soup and berries and roots into their mouths while the town behind them burned and while the child sat quietly upon his pedestal waiting patiently beneath Alles’ cloak. They ate quickly since they had eaten poorly while they traveled and they were also in a hurry to leave.

After the soldiers were feasted Alles approached the boy and looked over the quiet lump hidden inside the sack. “I must check one more thing before we go,” Alles announced out loud, “I need to hear him speak.”

“So far as I know, the boy’s a Sable-eye, his powers are only in his eyes,” Jesek said, “Anyone who looks into them is under his control. But I’ve never heard of a Sable that has two powers. Only his eyes can captivate.”

“We’ll need to be sure first,” Alles said.

“I don’t think the boy even talks,” said Imann, who’d been standing guard over him.

“I’ll get him to talk,” Alles said, now walking towards the boy. “You all keep out of earshot, and cover your ears,” Alles said to his soldiers as they retreated from him. He picked up the boy and walked him further out of earshot, shouting to his men as he receded, “If I do anything unusual, tie me up or something. This boy’s going to be impossible to deal with if he’s also a Sable-tongue.”

Alles set the boy down upon the ground as his men put their hands over their ears. He knelt down and got close to the boy and he spoke softly and father-like to the boy. “Do you have anything to say to me?” he asked. The boy sat motionless. “What’s your name? What’s your mother’s name? How old are you? How do you feel?” The boy gave still no response.

“As you can probably hear and smell, your village of Still Creek has been burning for some time. In fact, now, at this moment the village where you grew up and which contains all your memories and everyone you love, is ashes. Your family is surely dead, if they were among these people. And I’m the one responsible. Do you have anything to say to me? Some insult perhaps? Some unkind words?” Alles paused. The boy still said nothing.

“What’s your name boy? You do know your name?” Alles waited and the boy was silent. He touched the shape under the cloak and it felt like the same boy he’d first veiled on the pedestal. The boy did nothing at Alles’ touch except for turn its head towards him and reach a hand out to touch Alles’ hand, trying to grab his fingers from under the cloth.

“You do know how to speak don’t you? Do you say anything? My name is Alles. I am the one it is your duty to loathe. Maybe if you just want to scream angrily at me.” But the boy was still silent inside his black pouch. “Well if you don’t have a name, we’ll give you a name,” he said, now picking up the boy and walking him back toward his group. They stared closely at him, their hands still over their ears.

Alles spoke out loud, “The boy doesn’t speak. We’ll leave it at that. We needn’t worry about him, but we’ll give him a good buffer while we carry him. And I also want you to be wary of touching him, in case he may also be a Sable-touch. And definitely we must keep his eyes covered at all times. But before we go, I want a thorough search of the surrounding area. Make sure no one has survived.”

Several soldiers walked off and scoured the areas around the village with no new discoveries. There were surrounding fields, but apparently the morning preparation for the boy had kept them from their farming and everyone was in the village when they attacked. So far as Alles and his soldiers could tell there were no survivors, no witnesses to report the destruction of Still Creek-forr. The village had quietly disappeared and would be soon forgotten.

The soldiers grabbed some few livestock they could capture, and they walked as a group in the direction of the sunrise up and over the hill, which had concealed their initial arrival. They reached the stash of their supplies where several attendants and servants idled around quietly, consuming a meal of their own from the supplies.

A small, dark palanquin waited empty for the small boy. It was black, cushioned on the inside, and had two windows with narrow, angled slits so the boy could see out and no one could see in. They’d also added in a small slot through which to insert food. Two long poles were put through notches at the bottom of this enclosed chambers, and thereby four soldiers could lift the palanquin and carry it over the slopes and passes of the mountainscape through which they traveled.

Alles placed the boy inside the palanquin and unwrapped the cloak, while closing his eyes. He slid the door in place and locked it with a large, wooden bar. “You’ll be safe in there,” Alles said to comfort the boy.

The party gathered itself, aimed itself in the direction from which it came and departed up out of the valley towards the nearest pass.
Message from Author:

Thank you for reading my JukePop serial! It’s readers like you that help keep my serial alive.

If you enjoy it, also check out my other novels, The Elixir of Flesh and The History of a Secret, available at Amazon
Log in to add a comment or review for this chapter Chapter updated on: 7/15/2014 5:20:25 AM
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