This is the first adventure one of my hero characters, Hasser, has ever embarked on. He is acting as a messenger for his superiors at the priesthood of the Desi in the city-state Diya'hum. Part 1
A Colorful Situation pt4
“I understand you have read the message.” Rant’s voice was somewhere between excited and anxious. “The people of the Esson are curious to know what the Ouvari think of its contents. How can you help us?”
To this Hasser sat back in his cushioned chair. He was all attention before, and he even seemed delighted and not offended by Rant’s questions about the Desi’rin but now he was a representative. And he thought well before he spoke.
“The letter caught us by surprise. Some of the message was destroyed by exposure to the elements, but we were able to read parts of it. Truthfully had it not been for your seal we would not have pieced together where it was from. Except that one of you kind had been taken by the snows. As luck would have it the merchants were familiar with your titles having done trade at Shal’ikur and once they explained to us that such were Weltithe titles and not those of the Lords of Shal’ikur, we realized that the boy died crossing the mountains from the other side and not the north.” Rant wished he would dispense with the formalities and explanation. What could the Ouvari do for him?
“The message does mention someone you are having some sort of problem with. “The Grays”? We are not familiar with these people, although we are quite familiar with this land. We spent quite some time here before it was settled by the Weltithe. The city-state has no desire to expand its borders now though. We are self-contained with our religion and the Venn-Dire. Some trade with your empire at the outpost has been lucrative though. So while we came not only to deliver the boys body, we need more information.”
Unversed, more information. This could mean further delays in assistance. Already it had been two months since Elyion had been dispatched and things in the Esson had not yet take a turn for the worst, but fears had more than surmounted they might. In fact all signs pointed to it. The people had grown into a different people, no longer did Rant or those who actually lived in the Esson know who their neighbors were. Rant began to elaborate, his face full of reminiscences of some time dealing with the ordeal.
“I admit, a name like the Grays is not really worthy of a people. We have little contact with them in fact. I couldn’t be more precise unless you would count encountering each other in the Esson regularly. It isn’t through any will of our own. As a boy, I remember being afraid of them. They were an elusive people. Their skin is of gray complexion, hence the name, and so they blend in very well with the swamp. I used to have trouble spotting them and I always thought of the stories of assassins when I thought of a gray man standing flush against a tree, unable to be spotted perhaps for hours while we sat foraging or fishing. They are not merely stalkers, of course. They don’t usually sit in silence around us. They used to toss large stones into the swamp water when we approached near to them, letting us know they were there and if you ask Bairn, letting us know we were surrounded. I’m not sure he would be far off the mark either.
“Really, they were nothing more than that and whatever the imagination could concoct for as long as we’ve lived near them. Eccentric, but nothing more. Their territory is well marked. They use the insides of a rather dull melon that by contrast has a bright pasty fruit inside. They would draw stick figures on the trunks of trees. The stuff dries hard like a plaster and it’s quite weather resistant. Anyway that began changing near a year ago now. The behavior of the Grays has been distraught, unpredictable, and to the villagers, scary.”
Hasser had a perplexed look on his face. Rant wasn’t sure he followed. He wondered where he had lost him. Hasser inquired.
“The Grays, the Esson. These aren’t terms we use in Diya’hum I think. It is a swamp you say, full of people alongside yourselves?” How could Rant be so silly. The Ouvari had their own language, their own writing system. No doubt they had their own maps and everything he just named may as well be made up for all it meant to anyone among them that wasn’t very well traveled.
Rant stood and walked over to the hearth. There on the mantle was a pinewood stand painted black with six racks stacking upward along the wall. It was not very ornate but carved in simples curves to better hold the maps set on it. He fingered through each one and when he got to the third rack, he nodded to himself and brought the map back to his chair. Hasser looked around wondering where he intended to unroll the map and Rant realized he did have a table there. Benjaffe who was once again silent at the chamber entrance realized it as well and he grabbed a large chest with jingling brass locks and pushed it over in between the chairs. It wasn’t as wide as a table, and it might be a little awkward to set the whole map on the surface but it would do.
Rant unfurled the map and held both ends to keep it from rolling back up, it was rather detailed. It showed the estate on which they were not meeting near its western most edge. The western most object were the Eastern Barrier Mountains, a fact that Rant would contest with the mapmakers one day. Further east beyond a short area that was the farthest reaches of the Jade Plain was a small bit of land and lettered in black ink across it was “ESSON”.
Rant explained the area as Hasser looked on at the map, and he become more aware of what was being talked about. After the explanation he said, “The Depensai, the Rising Deep.” He was pointing to the Eastern Barrier Mountains and the Northern Chord as a whole. He pointed to another area commonly called the Dragon Buttes and said “Therylydrath. Bones and Blood of Dragons.” Lastly he pointed to the Esson, ignoring the reast of the detailed areas on the map and said, “Thdorin’arit. Hear of Roots.” Rant nodded and after gesturing to Hasser if he still required the map to which he replied with a shake of his head, Rant rolled it back up and placed it back on the map rack.
“Blood and Bones of Dragons.” He stopped a second, “Well in Therlydrath,” Rant barely stumbled over the foreign word, “The Grays as we call them,” Hasser interjected for one second.
“The Dralyth.” Rant nodded.
“They have changed much in the last few seasons. As I was saying they used to make their territory markers very bright and noticeable and then we would know not to enter where it seemed we were not wanted. We tried for years to get along with them, but they just avoided us. I recall my father telling the tale of when he led a welcoming party to meet them in the Esson. He said they didn’t show any hint of anything. One merely said, uh…he said…Buk’rar’muir. I think that was it.” Hasser fumbled through the saying in his head it appeared. Buk’rar’muir, buk’rar’muir.
Hasser’s face lit up, he had translated the meaning. “Buk’rar’muir. It means like, relishing in the facts. But as a foreigner.” He looked to Benjaffe who went through the words in his own mind with a finger to his temple and nodded, they were in agreement. “That is an old language, one they teach at the Desi, yes. I’m very surprised by this, but then, they are an old people. With perhaps less ambition than those of Diya’hum. Always in the swamp, and the foothills.”
Lord Rant was glad they seemed to be making some progress. “And that is what I was getting at.” Rant sat straight forward, “No more are they so reclusive. They post their markers further out than ever, closer to our village. That in itself wouldn’t be so distressing but the manner of the markings has changed. Undoubtedly they are at some inner conflict. They have begun to use the mutilated corpses of animals to mark their territory. As yet there have been no attacks, but who can say how long that will be the case. They cake blood all over the trees and biting insects swarm them. It is a nasty sight.
“Being the man that I am at first I thought, let them commit their rites as they see fit. But Bairn, blast him he isn’t here, he seems to think it is a sign of change in leadership. As I said, of inner conflict. For us we fear this means expansion, perhaps into our village. Already I have arrested many villagers, self-proclaimed Shamans of the Esson who began a doomsday rant when the troubles seemed to last. They stirred the town up quite a bit. That was the last straw.
“The Grays wander closer than ever, to the village line even. Still of course saying nothing, doing nothing. Gedlow, the village procurer believes he has caught many of them trying to steal food or take shelter near the village. But who knows what this can spell out. All too quickly a peaceful, elusive people has turned into a much different one. As a leader, I cannot ignore these signs and it is for this reason that I solicited help from the Ouvari. We have the barest militia. Most of the villagers are merely foragers spending their time recording new finds in the wilds and testing them for industrial purposes. To that effect we have an alchemical weapon or two to supplement those few with swords or pikes. The stock of course is limited, the empire takes large caches of our finds when they send the caravans south.”
Hasser was all seriousness again. Speaking on his knowledge and offering his own emotion before but again he was a representative now. He pressed his hands together and he looked Rant in his eyes. He looked at his hands them placed them under his chin and looked at the cieling that for the first time he noticed was painted in gray, black, and white scenes of trade, guardianship, and court. This was not the artwork of an uncivilized nation but the Weltithe it was known, had gathered much of their lands through conquest.
Beneford Andrews is the pen name of Andres A. V. Meza III. He writes fantasy fiction, short scenarios, and is trying out short stories.