My Novel

An aspiring author, I am self taught, and still learning. I now have two fantasy novels self-published and will soon be publishing Maroz as an ebook.

If you read any of my books and enjoy them, please return to the place in which you got the book and leave a review. Every bit helps.

If You Plan on Reading One of my Books....
Please go to my Author's page Kenneth J. Ester and read "Hell in a Storm" first. I personally feel it is a better written novel than Maroz, and more likely to be enjoyed. Hell in a Storm is the first book in the Demon Siege Trilogy. Book two, "The Descent of Darkness" is now also available.

Maroz - The Novel
I appologize for any inconvenience. As a now self published author, I have decided to add Maroz to my published books list. I am presently going through the book and re-editing it, and boy did it need it. I cannot believe how far I have come since writing Maroz. However, I am confident that this will make Maroz for a much more enjoyable read and as soon as it is available for purchase, I will post it. As well as editing the story, I am also changing the names of many characters, as I did not feel the names we passable once I started reading it again.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Letter to my Readers

Dear Readers

First I would like to take a second and reveal a little about myself. I found I have a love for writing back in 2003. Before that I have never written more than a few demented Christmas poems. In 2003 I began my first novel by writing for a half an hour every day at lunch time at my job.

I have never taken any kind of creative writing course or class in school. Everything I know about writing a full length story comes from reading other novels and seeing what the other authors do. Although I am proud of myself for doing as well as I do in writing, considering I am completely self taught, I also realize I am failing in areas. After all, if I was great, I would be published by now. The problem lies in the fact that I am ignorant of where I am at my weakest.

Do I over analyze the story? Is it not descriptive enough? Am I screwing up my grammar? Are my characters too alike? IS the story in itself boring?

My greatest goal would be to someday be good enough to be published. However, I am a poor man as my career as an automotive engineer has come to an end due to the crumbling economy. I cannot afford to take a course or pay someone to edit my work. So the only way I will ever become good enough to publish is if I learn what I am doing wrong and fix it.

For this reason I would ask anyone who reads my book to critique it as well. Whether it be my grammar or my story telling or whatever. I will not say I will take everyone for his word and do everything I am advised, but I will take anything and everything into consideration and try to learn from it. So any help whether it be left in comments or emailed to me would be greatly appreciated. However, if you do e-mail me, please write "Maroz" in the subject.


I am mostly done with my new book, "A Storm of Demons". However, due to the stress of facing Christmas and being broke I have been having a hard time getting into the mood to write. Once that book is done, I will be sending a query letter to some agents in hopes of interesting one. If that fails, I will be placing that book on-line for all to read as I have done with Maroz. In the mean time I may be adding some small tidbits in the future.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Maroz 13 - Conviction

Ramos sat on his horse wondering how he could go on keeping away from where he saw Willim hiding. How in the world did he get in there? The only answer he could come up with was that there was another opening somewhere but he was sure if there was one they would have found it. For four days they searched the hill of stones and still the Lieutenant showed no signs of giving up. How long could Willim last in there?

The sound of a horse riding up brought Ramos out of his thoughts and he watched as the rider climbed down and walked to the Lieutenant with an envelope in his hand. Breaking the seal, Lieutenant Shaker retrieved the parchment of paper inside and read it. Reading it a second time he nodded to himself then threw it in the fire he stood near and did not walk away until it had been completely consumed.

“It appears,” the Lieutenant, said loudly, “that we have new orders. Corporal, gather the men and break camp. We have a long ride ahead of us.” It seemed he had no intentions of telling the men what the new orders were yet.

For nearly two weeks the Lieutenant pushed the patrol, allowing them rest only long enough to keep the horse from collapsing or to sleep for four hours before mounting up and riding again. Twice they were allowed to stretch their legs while men were ordered to search a town for Willim, though those searches were quickly done for another patrol was on its way to do the same thing. Ramos had the impression that they had no such orders to search any towns, but that the Lieutenant just wanted to be the one who caught him. Riding into the city of Golom they were given their first real rest and Ramos meant to take advantage of it. He had been to Golom a few times with his folks and knew of an inn where the best tasting Willowberry pie was. Taking a couple soldiers along with him they sat at tables and ordered the pie.

“It’s about time we got a break from riding.” Joni said with his mouth full. The purplish berry juice was dripping into his red beard.

“I only wish I knew what the orders were.” Ramos said.

Setting his fork down, Kline swallowed his bite of pie before speaking. “I heard the Lieutenant speaking to the Corporal.” Both, Ramos and Joni leaned forward with interest and Kline paused for more drama before continuing. “There is a town that Malok has found to be in contempt. He wants it burned down.”

“What did they do in this town?”
“What town?”

The two questions were in unison and Kline smiled as he tried to answer them both. “He blames this town for the troubles with this Willim fellow.” He said to Joni, then looking at Ramos as he answered his question. “The town of Devlin I think he called it.”

Ramos sat there in stunned silence as he soaked in the news. Devlin, his own hometown! This was not a case of punishing a village for delving into something evil or even for suspicions of treason. This was Malok getting revenge on Willim for defying him. Now here he was, not only in Malok’s army, but he was actually in the patrol that was sent to burn it down! Somehow he was sure that it was no mistake that it was his patrol that was sent but it did not matter. He could not, would not let them do it.

“Won’t let them do what?” Joni’s question snapped Ramos out of his trance. He had not realized he had spoken out loud.

“Malok doesn’t want Devlin burnt down for any crimes!” He said to the others though he still did not look up at them. All he could see was a vision of his home burning with his parents inside. “He only wants to get even with Willim and he doesn’t care how many innocent folks die for it!”

Joni’s jaw dropped open and his shock was evident on his face. “How could you know something like that Ramos?”

“Because I’m from Devlin, Willim was my best friend and Lieutenant Hostid knows that very well!” Standing up, Ramos did not even realize he had drawn his sword until the other two backed away from him, their chairs crashing loudly to the floor. “I have no fight with you two unless you stand against me. Don’t make me kill you!” Stalking out of the inn, Ramos shoved the doors open and almost ran over another young soldier before shoving him hard out of the way.

“What’s with you? Where are you in such a hurry to get to?”

“To kill the lieutenant, so stay out of my way!” As Ramos left the soldier behind brushing himself off, he could hear him ask Kline if he was serious. What surprised him the most though was when the same soldier ran in front of him and drew his own sword. “Get out of my way Raine!” Ramos did not slow down as he walked towards the other soldier.

“I can’t let you do it Ramos. You know I can’t!”

As Raine brought his sword up to point it at him, Ramos stepped quicker and swung his own with all of his might. Ramos was one of the strongest men in the patrol and Raine one of the smallest and the force of the blow nearly knocked the sword out of the weaker man’s grip. A thought crept into Ramos head that it would have been better for Raine if he had lost his sword, for maybe then he would not have to kill him. That thought died along with Raine as Ramos shoved his sword through his fellow soldier’s abdomen. “I told you to stay out of my way.” Drawing his sword out of the smaller man, Ramos did not bother to wipe the blood off of it as he pushed Raine to the side and walked on.

Turning the corner towards the patrol’s camp just south of the town, Ramos could see the Lieutenant with the Corporal and four other soldiers heading in his direction. The two officers were talking jovially until they saw Ramos walking towards them, blood still dripping from his drawn sword. The sight must have surprised them for they all stopped in their tracks before the Corporal hurried toward him.

“What is it boy? What happened?” The Corporal’s voice held real concern as he hurried to Ramos, though if Ramos knew the grizzled old officer, the concern was more for the relations with the town than for Ramos. He had probably thought Ramos had a run in with a civilian.

The Corporal’s eyes widened with shock as Ramos slid his blade under his ribs. “You will not kill my family!” Shoving the dying Corporal off of his sword, Ramos focused on the Lieutenant and shouted. “Do you here me! You will not burn my home!”

The lieutenant stood where he was, but the four soldiers moved towards him, spreading out from each other as they drew their own swords. The soldier in front of him must have expected him to hesitate when surrounded by four soldiers. It was his greatest mistake. Running forward, Ramos brought his sword around and though the soldier was quick enough to parry his strike, he did not expect Ramos to throw his weight into him. The soldier stumbled backwards several steps, his arms flailing about as he tried to catch his balance and before he could, Ramos swung his own sword again and laid the man’s chest open then kept running at the Lieutenant. With luck, nobody but the two officers knew of the orders to burn down Devlin and if they both died nobody would for months. He would have to trust his two friends not to say anything.

The lieutenant showed why he was an officer and drew his own sword before Ramos could close the short distance. He did not look surprised by Ramos reactions at all. Ramos threw his anger into his attack and though he knew the lieutenant was a much better swordsman, he did not give the officer any time to do anything but defend himself. Hearing footsteps coming up from behind him Ramos spun in a quick circle, swing his sword causing the other soldiers to jump back before continuing the attack on the lieutenant. Still he could not find an opening in the officers defense and what began as an all out onslaught to kill one man quickly turned into fighting four soldiers at once while the lieutenant backed away into safety.

Ramos could feel his muscles begin to burn with exhaustion as he continued to swing his sword from one soldier to another, not giving any one of them a chance to strike at him. One soldier, a tall thin man moved his sword to parry Ramos’s when his foot stepped on a larger rock, rolling his ankle. The man’s wince turned into a scream as Ramos ran him through, but as Ramos tried to withdraw his blade, it got twisted in the soldier’s ribcage and was yanked from his grip. Another soldier tried taking advantage of this and charged him with his sword leveled for a thrust. Stepping to the side, Ramos winced with pain as the blade slid along his left side, leaving a deep slash. Spinning on his heels, Ramos rolled around to the soldiers back and grabbed the man from behind, then pulled the soldier around as a shield. He had expected the closest solder to be slashing with his sword, which would have only lain open the soldier he now held as a shield, only to watch as the sword was thrust through his shield and into him.

The pain of the long blade sliding deep into his stomach seemed to spread out in waves. With all of his might he shoved the man he held away, drawing the blade from his stomach. Bending to pick up the dropped weapon, Ramos felt like lightning was striking him as another soldier laid open his back. Falling to his knees with the pain he watched helplessly as a short stocky soldier raised his sword ready to give the killing blow when the lieutenant shouted to stop.

“I want him alive! I want to make an example of him as to why one does not attack the officers of Malok’s army!”

Ramos still knelt there on his knees staring at the soldier in front of him. He looked on as the soldier’s face twisted in distaste at not being allowed to kill him. Then he watched as the soldier lifted a heavy booted foot to thrust the heel at his head and everything went dark.

Continue to .... Maroz 14 - Promise of Vengeance

Friday, July 31, 2009

Maroz 12 - A City Lost

Blood running down his scalp and into his eyes, Marinek Shamil half ran and half stumbled into the city gates. The faces of those who saw him were of pure horror. What do I look like? He wondered. The answer didn’t matter to him for long before he fell, face first into the dirt. I must not die. I must warn someone. I have to tell someone, anyone that Death himself walks the earth. He struggled to open his eyes and warn them but darkness overcame him. The last thing he remembered was the feeling of hands grabbing onto him.

The next Marinek awoke was in a large room with multiple beds, some of them filled with people who were groaning. One woman in particular thrashed her arms about every few seconds and shouted something about a dragon. Documis Tor’s house! Documis, known by most to be a genius, was thought by others to be a mad man. Still those who were too sick in the head to be left out were brought to him where he treated them. There were many rumors on the streets as to what those treatments entailed and most would give one nightmares to think about. There were also those who were near death with disease and brought to him, and a few were seen again walking the streets as if nothing ever happened. Very few!

“Ah so you are awake!”

The voice was of a man up in his years though calm and gentle sounding. Turning to see the man looking at him, Marinek sat up right and backed away from him. “Don’t touch me! Where am I? Who are you? What are you?” The man’s face looked like it was blanketed in scars.

What might have been a smile or a grimace passed across the man’s face. “I am Documis Tor. I saved your life. When they found you stumbling into the city, you had lost a lot of blood. Your blood, at least I assume it was your blood, covered you nearly head to toe. Twice you had awakened, screaming frantically about death, but it seems to me you don’t have to worry about dying now.”

At the mention of Death, Marinek had to fight down the urge to scream and he looked down at the shriveled stump for his left arm. Until that moment he had forgotten what had happened and he felt like his arm was still there. “No! I am not safe from death Documis. Neither are you or anyone else in this city and maybe in the whole world!”

“Well,” said Documis, “We all die sometime. Sooner or late it is bound to happen.”

“I don’t mean death in general!” Marinek shouted the words at the scar-faced man though seeing it closer up he realized there were not so many scares. Documis had two large scares that crisscrossed his face. “I am talking about Death himself! He is in that shadow and his demons killed one hundred and fifty men I had with me. He told me to warn you that he was coming.”

“And tell me son, why would Death want to warn me that he is coming?”

“Not you, everyone! He said to tell them that our swords and axes couldn’t harm him. He said that you couldn’t kill death!”

“Tell me something would you please?” Documis still was not believing and it was evident in his calm tone as if talking calm might have an effect on his patient. “What did this Death look like?”

“Zeebulis! He called himself Zeebulis. His skin was a pasty white like he had no blood and he wore a cloak that was rotting away. His eyes…” The thought of Zeebulis’s eyes filled Marinek with fear and he had to stamp it down to continue speaking. “He had no eyes. Just empty sockets of darkness and when I looked into them I could see souls. Souls were screaming in agony. Every fear I had ever had welled up inside of me and… why are you looking at me like that?”

Giving himself a shake, Documis found a chair and sat down. “I have had some patients crying about nightmares of a man with no eyes. They have been begging me to take them away from here saying he was coming for them.”

“Some of your patients? How many of your patients have had these dreams?” Marinek had an eerie feeling he did not want the answer to his question.

“All of them!,” Documis mumbled, “Well all of the ones who have been touched in the head.”

Marinek was out of the bed instantly trying to grab Documis by the collar. Once again he was surprised to find he had no left hand to grab with and he was forced to grab hold with his one good hand. “Listen to me old man. Zeebulis is coming and you have to warn the city council! Do you hear me? He is coming!”

“My son, I can assure you I will do no such thing so long as you are pinning me to the wall like this. Now unhand me and I will go and talk to them. That is if you will come with me.”

The walk to the council building was a long one and more than once Marinek had the urge to just take someone’s horse and race away to safety. Looking off to the east he could see the sky was dark. “How long was I unconscious?”

Documis walked on another half a dozen steps before realizing Marinek had stopped. “Four days. Why?”
Looking up at the sun in the sky, Marinek was glad to see it was still early yet. “That darkness Documis,” he pointed to the east, “that is Zeebulis and if he is this close in four days, he will be here by morning.”

The city council building was one of the larger buildings and was made up of mostly one large room with some smaller meeting rooms around the sides. The council itself consisted of ten people, five women and five men. Marinek had never been in the building and would likely never remember it for how much he was paying attention. Even standing at the desk of the secretary he had not even realized he was inside until her words broke through his fears. “What was that?”

“I said sir, that the council is busy and the next I can schedule you would be two days from now.”

Without thinking, Marinek reached for the woman behind the desk. I’ll wring an immediate appointment out of her neck! He thought. Only when he did reach for her all she had to do is scoot back out of reach of the stump he shoved towards her. Before he could move to grab her with his one good hand though, Documis put a hand in front of him.

“There are ways to handle this and violence is not one of them.” Turning his attention to the woman once again Documis leaned gently towards her and smiled. “I understand that the council members are very busy people, my good lady. Believe me I would rather not have to bother them but it is of utmost importance that I do see them and immediately.”

The woman smiled back for a moment before replying. “I suppose I could get you in earlier.”

Documis’s smile was cut short when she continued. “Perhaps tomorrow afternoon?”

Again Marinek moved to grab her and Documis stopped him and smiled at the woman once more before speaking. “Dear woman. The bloody ruined stump my friend seems to enjoy waving in your face? He received that from what is in that shadow crawling towards the city. We need to speak to the council or this city will be lost by tomorrow. So please tell me which office I would find the council in or I am going to start searching them one by one while my friend here returns to sticking his stump in your face.”

The woman was not about to be seen pointing out the office but she moved her eyes to stare at one particular door. The two men wasted no time in pushing through it to face a startled four women and three men eating their mid day meal.

“What in the blazes is this?” The man who shouted was a short puffy looking character with a bald head. “I will have you two arrested and hung for…”

“Now my friend.” Documis said to Marinek. “I will let you handle this your way.”

An hour later the two men walked outside frowning. Marinek was sure they would see reason once it was all explained to them yet they showed no signs of worrying about Zeebulis. “I cannot believe they actually think these walls will keep them safe. Well at least they have given us two hours to leave the city before they call the guards.”

“You can use those two hours if you like.” Documis said. “Personally I plan on being away immediately. I do not think I want to trust those pompous idiots to keep their word.”

Marinek nodded in agreement and the two men went their own way. Unfortunately the older man was right and before Marinek could finish packing, guards busted in his door. His hands tied behind his back he walked along quietly. Somehow he did not think it would make any difference if he protested they had not given him his allotted time.

Ushering him down the streets, others stopped and watched as they went by. Twice someone made a joke at his expense and Marinek ignored them. Their laughter only slightly registered with him as he tried desperately not to look at the approaching darkness as he continued to wonder how to get away. Next door to the Council building was a small stone building with small windows and it was inside there the guards took him. Ten cells lined each wall just barely large enough to fit a small cot. At the end of the hall was a guard with red hair was sitting at a desk.

“What’s your name? Where are you from and what did you do?” The words were spoken without much thought and the guard never even looked up from his papers as he asked his questions.

“Marinek Shamil is my name Samel!”

Instantly the guard looked up to see his old friend standing there tied up. “Marinek, what are you doing here? What did you do now?”

“I tried to warn the council that the city is in danger is what I did.” Holding his stub of an arm in front of him so Samel could see it he continued. “See this? It was melted off Samel. Not cut or burnt but melted! One hundred and fifty men with swords and axes died out there in that shadow to the east. I tried to warn the council but they would not listen. Maybe if they sent the whole of their army they might have a chance at beating this but I doubt it. Now all I want to do is get away Samel. Get away before the shadow reaches us.”

Samel considered the rumors he had heard about the looming darkness to the east. “I’m sorry Marinek, there isn’t anything I can do. I have a family to feed. If I let you go I would lose my job.”

“You won’t have a family to feed if you don’t get them away Samel.”

Samel only shook his head before answering. “I’m sorry Marinek. I really am. I will try to talk to my commander. Maybe he can get you released, but that is all I can do.”

Being guided into a cell, Marinek watched as his old friend left to find his commander. With nothing more to do but wait, he lay down on the cot and closed his eyes wondering how close the shadow was getting.

When a scream sounded out somewhere in the city, Marinek opened his eyes to a dark cell. How long did I sleep? More screams sounded, then those were followed by many more. In moments it sounded as if the whole city was screaming in horror. Lifting himself up to a small window above his cot, Marinek almost choked with fear himself. Demons of all shapes and sizes were swarming over the city. People ran in every direction while the demons killed at will. From one house across the road Marinek could see three larger winged demons dragging a woman into the street where they began to peel the skin from her body. Her screams nearly drowned out the rest of the cities as the torture went on. The sound of the cell house’s door opening brought Marinek around and he backed himself up against the far wall as a large demon with a ruined looking face walked towards him.

“I knew you were here. I could smell you. Once I have a taste of something I never lose it.” It was the same demon that had torn the flesh from his arm.

Through the ceiling, two writhes descended towards Marinek, their shadowed cloaks waving in every direction as if made of mist. Marinek looked up just as the closest started reaching out a long thin hand towards him and screamed as it clasped onto him. Its other hand reached inside of his chest and he could feel his very life being pulled out of him. Pain enveloped him but not so much as he would have expected and the room around him began to fade into darkness.

“No!” Lozimum’s shout caused both writhes to pause as they turned to see him. “He is mine for now! When I am done with his flesh you can have his soul, but for now he is mine!”

Neither writhe liked it but they both knew Lozimum was one of Zeebulis’s highest demons and neither would face him down. Releasing Marinek’s soul they backed away, passing through the wall to find another soul to take.

Once released, Marinek collapsed to the cot in a sweat, shaking from head to toe. The feeling of having your soul ripped partially out of your body then released was more than he ever imagined it could be. Rolling over he looked up to see Lozimum wrench two of the thick steel bars to his cell out and toss them aside. “Why? Why do you hate me?” Marinek was still shaking visibly as he tried in vain to reason with the demon before him.

“Why?” Lozimum looked confused at the question. “Is there a reason to hate? Hate, pain and fear, they are all we know in hell. You will soon find this out.”

Marinek’s screams were heard throughout the city but nobody noticed them over top of their own.

Continue to .... Maroz 13 - Conviction

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Maroz 11 - Water and Earth

Opening his eyes Willim took in a long deep breath as if to reassure himself that he really could. “Oh man, I thought that was the end for sure.” He spoke the words in a near whisper to himself.

“It likely would have been if I had not laid my pride aside and begged for your life.”

Turning his head, Willim was surprised to see the Lieutenant standing there in the doorway. “I kind of remember something like that before I blacked out. I owe you.”

Walking the rest of the way in, Lieutenant Cleese sat in a chair beside the door, his feet barely reaching the floor, as he ran his short fingers through his near black hair. “You don’t owe me anything lad. I did it for the good of the army not for you. Word reached me that two of our three elementals were killed in an ambush on patrol. If he had killed you I would have only had one left.”

Sitting up on the bed Willim once again took another deep breath. “So what is my punishment for insubordination? I mean I defied the Emperor to his face. That must come with some consequences.”

A worried look came over Cleese’s face. “Oh it will boy. You can bet on that! But he is a sly one Malok is. He will hit you where it hurts most when you least expect it. As of yet he has not issued any discipline.”

So for three weeks Willim worried about what the emperor would do to him and nothing happened. He trained with the others part of the time and trained with Tremores the rest of the time. After a long workout with his sword, Willim’s body was dripping with sweat and he grabbed a towel to wipe himself down as he studied the city down below. Even after all this time he still could not get used to watching a city from up above it. The practice yards were high up on the plateau with the palace and from his position he could see the whole eastern side of Maroth.

The sounds of boots stomping on the packed ground brought Willim around to find a middle-aged soldier wearing the corporal’s raven pinned to his collar walking up to him. Willim had never seen this man before and didn’t much care for him right from the start. Too skinny to have seen much exercise in recent years he had a hard look in his eyes that gave his face an insolent look. “You have orders soldier Pillar. You are to report to Jenks at the west wing of the palace. Remember, the west wing. If you are seen anywhere else you will be punished by death.”

Willim only nodded to the man and waited for him to make his way away from him before sliding his shirt back on. The west wing from what he understood was the janitorial wing. Supplies for construction, tools, anything dirty was kept in that wing to keep the rest of the palace clean. The walk was a long one as the practice yards were on the east side of the palace and he had to make his way around the outside to enter through the western entrance. Willim didn’t mind the walk though. It gave him time to think on what he might be heading into. Jenks? Who was Jenks and what rank was he? He had never heard the name before. What would they need him there for? Probably gonna give me the task of burning some trash! The waste was kept in the west wing as well and the thought of smelling old trash burning didn’t set well with him. Fire! I would have to have the ability to manipulate fire wouldn’t I? Why couldn’t it be something useless like spirit or something? You never hear too much about elementals who use spirit. Willim had never seen either of the guards who now stood outside of the western doors but they definitely knew him by the way they nodded as he passed them. Pushing through the doors, he walked along the silent halls listening to the sounds of his heels echoing away as he searched for anyone who could give him directions. He should have asked the guards but he still had a hard time dealing with the way other soldiers stared at him because he was an elemental. Since his run in with Malok, the looks were far worse.

“Took you long enough boy!” The voice was that of an older woman and Willim smiled as he turned to ask her where Jenks was. He had barely opened his mouth before the old woman cut him off. “Malok said you were a strong shouldered one and you will need to be for this job boy. Now throw on one of those aprons and come with me. You have some work to do.”

Grabbing an apron from a rack on the wall the old woman pointed at, Willim tied it on as he followed behind her. “I was supposed to report to Jenks ma’am. I am not sure what rank he is or what he looks like but…”

“I am Jenks boy. Garnera Jenks! I am definitely not a he and I have no rank, but you will be working for me this week!”

Willim followed her for another ten minutes in shocked silence. A week? Doing what? I am supposed to be a soldier not a cook’s helper. Not that I want to be a soldier but that doesn’t change that I am. On and on his thoughts whirled as he followed behind Garnera Jenks as they walked down hall after hall and descended a dark stairways. I sure don’t want to be a cook’s helper either! What kind of chore am I… The thought froze in his mind as they entered into a large room two levels lower than where he entered the palace. A walkway went from the door along one wall keeping them higher than the water that filled the floor of the room and the stench nearly made him toss the lunch he still hadn’t eaten. The sewage room!

“See those holes along the far wall?” Garnera asked as she pointed them out. “Those are gutter holes. Any rain we receive runs through piping and into this room to help wash the sewage out.” Pointing at a large tunnel in another wall that was blocked off by barred gates, she continued. “The water is supposed to wash it out through those tunnels and down to the bay!”

As Garnera was still explaining, darkened water fell from a hole in the ceiling to splash loudly into the flooded room. Looking closer, Willim realized there were several of the holes throughout the ceiling of the large room. “The water doesn’t seem to be moving to me.”

Garnera gave him a sarcastic look as she continued to speak. “You are to clear the tunnel of debris so the water can flow out. Once the water is out you are to wash the debris out as well.”

Holding a set of keys out she waited patiently for him to take them before continuing on. “There are gates every one hundred feet to keep out intruders. Be sure to lock them up again when you are through each day. I will send Claire to bring you food at lunch. Boy, I don’t know what you did to deserve this, but Malok sure has it out for you.”

Watching the woman walking away and laughing, Willim gave her a stare of death, though in truth he knew it was not her fault. She doesn’t have to laugh at it though! Along the wall were a few sets of wide boots that would come up near the length of his legs and he slipped them on before grabbing the long rake, which leaned against the wall next to the boots. Of all the chores he could have been given, Malok made sure he had gotten the one he could not use his ability with fire. Of course Malok did not know he had no desire to twist any elements anyway so it was all for the better.

Minutes turned to hours as Willim lost himself in the work as much as he could. For five days he worked deep into the tunnels pushing waste further along and more than once had the pleasure of some more refuse falling on him while cleaning the debris from the room. The odor that was so horrible at first became nearly unbearable as time went on.

On the fifth day he had finished locking all of the gates and was cleaning waste out of his hair where the fresh water rushed in when the door opened admitting the old woman again. “Looks like you are about done here and not a minute too soon either. There is another job for you. It seems you have let birds and squirrels in through the tunnels and now you will have to comb the west wing for them and get them out.”

“You are kidding me right?” Willim drew himself up to his full height and tried to look down at the woman with authority as he spoke. “You know very well I did no such thing Garnera. Now if you don’t have anything of any real importance for me to do I think I will be going.”

Placing her fist on her hips the old woman gave him a hard eyed look as she spoke; her gray bun almost falling out did nothing to take away from her demeanor. “First off, I am Jenks to you. Nobody calls me by my first name! Secondly, you will be doing no such thing! And don’t even try taking that stance with me lad it won’t be working here. Now dry off and get to work!”

Willim opened his mouth to argue but shut it again as the woman walked away from him. It would do him no good to argue with her back and he was already sure the woman would not turn around if he shouted at the top of his lungs. “Set right from one demeaning task to an even more meaningless task!” Stepping outside of the room he turned and shut the door tight when he saw something in the corner of his eye. A large net with a long handle leaned against the wall next to the door.

The next three weeks were much the same. As soon as he finished one senseless task he was set on another until one day he had just finished cleaning the glass of his thirty-seventh oil lamp. Setting the glass back in place he turned and walked right past the rest of the dirty ones and went to find Jenks. After only twenty minutes of walking and back tracking and following bad directions from others he met, he found her in a large library sitting and reading. The sight of her lounging around while he worked his butt off only added fuel to his already boiling anger. He had lost weeks of sword practice that he could never get back now.

When Jenks saw him she stood up and put her fist to her hips again. “What are you doing here boy? You are supposed to be…”

“I am supposed to be doing the endless task of cleaning the lamps that any of the rest of the help could do!” The whole time Willim had been walking he had been ready to shout at her but seeing her kicking her feet up changed that. His temper went from boiling to a cold fury and his words came out calm and as cold as he felt. “I am supposed to be learning how to be a soldier not hired help for the palace. If you want the lamps cleaned you will have to find someone else to order around or clean them yourself. I am finished here.” Turning around he walked away, ignoring every word the old woman shouted at his back.

“Where have you been Willim?”

Stopping and looking around, Willim was surprised to find he had already made his way out to the soldier’s grounds. “Oh, hey Ramos, I have been busy in the palace. Malok has found it amusing to have me set to senseless deeds these days.”

Ramos ran his fingers through his blonde hair and chuckled as he stepped along side of his friend. “Yeah I heard about that story of you and Malok. You are sure popular with the other recruits and even some of the soldiers. So what happened? He get bored with the game and send you back here?”
“Nah, I just got fed up with it and walked out.”

Willim had walked another half a dozen steps before realizing his friend had stopped. Ramos just stood there for a moment before letting out a long low whistle while running his fingers through his long blonde hair. “You do like to dance with a dragon don’t you?”

“Aw give in Ramos. Malok only wants to harass me and I won’t play that game with anyone even if he is an emperor. You know very well you wouldn’t either. I’m sick of how everyone hates Malok but nobody will stand up to him. Anyway, what is he going to do? He won’t kill me because I am too valuable now remember? Come on; let’s go practice some sword work. I haven’t practiced in too long.”

As he turned towards the practice yard, Ramos followed along shaking his head. “I’m not so sure if you have a lot of brains Willim but you got courage, that’s for sure.”

For two hours they worked out when Tremores showed up at the yard calling them to hold up. “You did it this time Willim. I just heard orders come in to Captain Hanier to have you shackled and put in a dungeon. Malok is livid with you for some reason.”

Willim and Ramos shared a long knowing look before Willim turned back to Tremores. “Nobody is shackling me! I will die first! I can’t stay here anymore. There is no way I am going in a cell and nobody will stop me from leaving!” Remembering that Tremores was an elemental and a much more experienced one, Willim looked at the man and asked. “What about you Tremores? Will you let me leave or am I gonna have to fight you?”

Tremores grimaced as he shook his head. “I don’t want to fight you Willim, not any more than I think you want to fight me. But if they send me after you I will be forced to keep my orders. I’m sorry! But I will do this for you. I will tell them I haven’t seen you and they will search for you in the camp first. That will give you a couple of hours, head start.”

It only took Willim ten minutes to pack his bag and say good-bye to his friends before riding out on the best horse he could find. The sun was setting as he rode out of the main gates of Maroth and headed east. He knew some of the lay of the land to the east and had less of a chance of being cornered. The last thing he wanted to do was fight anyone.

After riding the night through, the sun was just climbing over the horizon when the wind picked up a bit bringing the sounds of horses from behind him. Stopping at the top of a slope he watched his back trail until he saw them. At least five hundred men had been sent after him and they had ridden the night through as well. “I hope you are not with them Ramos. You to Tremores.” Turning his horse he kicked it into a trot and stayed to as much grass as possible to keep the noise down. It wasn’t enough!

From behind him he could hear the horses coming hard and he dug his heels in, laying low against the horse’s neck. Stealing a look back over his shoulder he was surprised to see the soldiers falling behind as his horse stretched out for speed, yet somehow he knew his horse still had another gear if it needed it. “They will never catch me on this horse! The thought was barely into his head when the front right leg of his horse went into a rabbit hole with a sickening snap, sending them both into a tumble. Head over heels Willim fell before coming to a stop on his back, looking up into the dusk sky.

Rolling over, Willim got to his hands and knees and scrambled to where his horse lay, still struggling to get up on a leg that was broken in half. Grabbing his bag from the saddle he drew his belt knife. “Sorry horse. I never even had a chance to name you.” Running the edge of his knife along the horse’s throat, Willim scrambled back from the blood that flowed out. It all only took a moment but Willim could hear the soldiers getting close so he got up and ran to a small stand of trees. In the distance was his objective, a large hill of rocks and large boulders he might lose himself in, but without his horse he would not get there. As he ran past the first tree he heard the soldiers shout that they had seen where he went.

“Let’s just see how willing they are to come closer to an elemental.” Placing his hands against each other out in front of him he spread them wide apart. A large flame sprouted up from the ground half way between him and his pursuers and fanned out to make a long wall of fire the soldiers could not cross. “That should hold them for a few.”

Snatching up his bag, he ran again towards the hill of rocks, the sounds of soldiers shouting orders and horses whinnying from beyond the fire filled his ears. Pain began to pound in his sides as he ran with each breath becoming a labor to draw in. Placing a hand to his ribs he realized he must have cracked a rib in the fall.. Still he ran with one arm pressed against his side until at the base of the rocks he could hear the pounding of hooves behind him. Turning to look back, he stretched out one hand toward the oncoming soldiers, spraying hundreds of small spheres of flame toward them. The soldiers who were struck fell off their horses in a panic as they tried to frantically put out the fire while others horses reared and turned. By the time they got their mounts under control again, Willim had made his way into the safety of the rocks.

Scrambling up the rocks, Willim had to stop and catch his breath from time to time and it was at one of those times he turned and let his back press against a tall flat rock to rest. As soon as his weight went against it, the rock fell over to slam hard against another boulder. Catching his balance, Willim found himself staring at a cave that had been closed off by the upright boulder. A small spray of fire was enough to light up the inside of the cave and Willim was shocked to see there was a set of steps that led down from the opening. Makes one wonder who was hiding this cave? Then another thought hit him. Or what they were hiding! Looking around him, Willim made a decision then. With the darkening sky, the soldiers would have a hard time finding this cave, yet it would provide a good place to hide while they looked. If they do find it, they will see what fire can do in closed quarters!

The steps were covered in years of dust and dirt blown in through small openings around the boulder. Holding a small ball of fire ahead of him, Willim descended to the bottom to where it opened up into a large room. Adding to the ball of fire he lit the room up to see what he thought he never would. The room had a large oak table in the middle that was big enough to sit eleven men of who ten were still sitting in their high backed chairs. At least their bones were. Each, skeleton ass slumping either over the side of the chair or over the table and had a pewter cup in front of him with one large pitcher in the table that Willim could only imagine had held wine. Next to the pitcher was a smaller vile lying on its side. It was enough to tell him that they must have been poisoned. At the far end of the room was a large round platform with ten stone blocks set in a tight circle; each block having a thin rectangular slot cut through it in an angle upwards so that the openings on the inside of the circle was higher than those on the outside. The far wall held a mural of a man standing naked inside of those same stone structures with men standing at each of the blocks. The men on the outside of the blocks were thrusting swords through the slots and into the man in the center. Must be some kind of sacrificial ceremony! Suddenly Willim’s eyes were attracted to the two sidewalls, which held the most exquisite swords he had ever seen.

On one wall there were five while on the other there were only three swords, though he could see the mounts for two more. What had happened to the other two swords?

Striding over to one of the walls he lifted a sword from its mounts and looked it over in awe. The handle was wrapped in black leather and the blade was long, slender and as black as the handle with gold etching along the blade in some foreign language. Holding the blade out he tried a few of the forms he had been taught in his short stint as a soldier. Though he was far from an expert swordsman, he knew immediately the balance on this sword was perfect.

The sound of rock falling drew his attention and replacing the sword he hurried up the steps to see where his pursuers were. Only fifty paces away from him were a half dozen soldiers climbing straight at him. He had to do something he knew for if he let it go they would climb right into the cave. He could probably defeat them if they all tried rushing down the stairs but he had no desire to torch men alive unless he had to. What do I do? I have to do something. I have to! If only I was strong enough to move this boulder back in place! What am I to do? I don’t want to kill anyone!

A small scraping sound drew his attention and he looked down at the bottom of the boulder. Dirt had furrowed from it when it had moved a couple of inches. For a long time Willim just stared at the boulder. I felt it! I felt something when that moved! Concentrating on the boulder he willed it to move again and it did. Again he focused and this time the boulder slid across the opening. I did it!

For nearly a half an hour Willim stood staring at the boulder in front of him while listening to the soldiers coming closer. I can manipulate two elements! Soon the soldiers were searching just on the other side of the stone barrier from him. Two! As the soldiers went on past him, a tired depression seemed to set over him. I never wanted one and now I can control two! I will be more famous than ever if this gets out. Another hour crawled by as he sat there on the steps in the dark considering his options before he finally made up his mind. Complaining about set backs wouldn’t get him anywhere. Learn to accept them and move on and do the best you can. Nobody can ask for more. Willim’s mother used to quote that to him more often than he liked. Now it seemed the advice made sense though he was sure she would claim he was just growing up finally. The more he thought on it the more he realized the abilities would likely save him at times in the future. Until then it was not as if he had to tell anyone he could control even one much less two elements.

Descending back down the steps he created another ball of fire and looked over the room again. The soldiers would likely spend another day looking for him and he had nothing better to do until they left. At one corner of the room there stood a small writing table with a bottle of ink, a pen, paper, a large book and a lamp. Using his first ability, Willim lit the lamp before he even reached the table then sat down to look at the book. Turning over the cover the first thing he found was a single sheet of loose paper and he turned it over to read the writing.

I am sorry! I just do not believe I am the one they thought I was. I could not go through with the sacrifice for I do not want to die. The plague may be the darkness in the prophecy but I am not He! I can only control four, spirit being the one I am without and three of the four are nearly weak enough that I may as well have no ability at all. Yet they insisted the spirit must be there and we just cannot see it. Forgive me for putting the safety of the world at risk out of fear of dying. Forgive me for what I did to my friends.

Willim read it again then turned to look at the table with the ten skeletons. “Explains what happened to the missing two swords.” Then thinking on it, another thought hit him. “You were right about the sacrifice friend. You were not him! The plague has passed a long time ago, but it doesn’t excuse you from killing your friends. Then again if they were going to kill you, you had every right.”

Turning the pages in the book, Willim skimmed through until he came to a page with a title at the top. Prophecy! His attention being thoroughly trapped he read on.

Death will come, riding on a black horse to swallow the world in his shadow. They and He of the five will bind together and the sixth will defeat the darkness.
The ten will take up swords and his blood on the blades will reveal. Each must speak the words for his fate those words will seal.
Death he will face twice. Once to avoid and once to fight. His faith in the sixth will defeat the shadow.

It made sense to Willim why they had thought the plague would be the ‘darkness’. He had heard that nearly one fifth of the population died from the plague so they must have believed Death truly was covering the world in its shadow. Reading on he became engrossed in the book as it went on to explain the ceremony and the sacrifice along with different philosophers explanations as to why there must be a sacrifice and such. A long jaw-cracking yawn forced him to pull his eyes away and he realized he must have been reading for hours. A little sleep would not hurt right then. Yet sleep would not come for a long time as he leaned back in his chair staring at the dead ten, the stone pedestals for the ceremony, the mural as well. Why would they build this one room under ground?

Startling awake, Willim was surprised he had fallen asleep. The room still stood the same way around him as when he fell asleep, the glow of the lamp giving it a warm and cozy illusion. How long have I been sleeping? Making his way drowsily up the long stone stairs he paused at the boulder blocking the opening. After a long moment waiting he was about to move the giant rock aside when a boot crunching in the dirt near by froze him. How could they still be looking for me?

“I’m telling you ‘Chapes’, he is nowhere to be found. We have been combing this hill all of last night and now most of the day and he just isn’t here.” A small crevice near the bottom of the boulder allowed Willim to peak out with a very limited view. Neither the speaker nor Chapes was in view.

“Well the ground is flat for miles around this hill Sokoris. He has to be here somewhere!”

The top of a helmet appeared in Willim’s view as someone else climbed upwards towards the other two soldiers. When the head came in view, Willim was surprised to see it was Ramos. The shock of seeing his friend in armor was enough to give him just enough of a pause before pulling away from the opening and Ramos’s eyes met his. He wouldn’t give me away would he? Immediately he felt shame for even allowing the question to make its way into his thoughts. Ramos had been his best friend for years. There was nobody he would trust sooner. The two stood staring at each other for a long moment.

“I’m talking to you soldier! Any signs of him?”

The rough voice of Chapes snapped Ramos’s eyes away. “I’m sorry sir. I was just lost in thought. No sir, I haven’t seen hide or hair of him. I don’t think we will either. Willim is good in the hills sir. He is also a very fast runner. As far as we know he may well have crossed that distance to those trees while we climbed up this hill.”

“Well if he got away then he got away soldier,” Chapes was saying, “but if he is hiding we will find him. Keep looking.”

Another day passed by and the soldiers still searched the hill while Willim sat in silence wishing they would leave. His mouth was feeling like it was filled with cotton and sand and with every minute the pitcher of poisoned wine on the table became more tempting. If there was any wine in it! He had never looked inside of it. With the hot sun beating on the rocks above, the room grew hot as well throughout the day and his sweat dripped from his brow as he dreamt of drinking water. Oh how sweet a little rainwater would taste right then.

The day turned to night then back to day again and he lay on the steps considering giving himself up if they would give him some water. Why don’t they just give up already? Yet they didn’t give up and he laid there thinking he would die from his parched throat before he gave himself back to Malok. Rain! I just need it to rain, is all! Just a little rain!

The air in the room suddenly began to grow humid causing him to desire the rain all the more. Then a loud crack sounded from outside and he could hear the sound of rain spattering off of the hard ground. The rain fell heavier with every minute until soon it began to puddle up near the crevice at the bottom of the boulder. A small river poured in down the steps and Willim could only stare at it for a long time before scooping some up to drink. As soon as the water went into his mouth he spit it out for it had so much dirt mixed in with it. Running down the steps he grabbed an empty mug from in front of one of the skeletons and ran back up the steps two at a time. Manipulating earth to move the boulder aside just enough Willim reached the cup out and rinsed it out several times before finally letting it fill to drink. Cleaning out three more cups he let them fill with rainwater as well before the rain stopped. Making his way back down he sat in the chair and closed his eyes. Water! He had felt himself draw the rain clouds to him. Fire, Earth and now Water! Three elements! This time it did not upset him so much as he gratefully sipped the fresh water in the mug.

Continue to .... Maroz 12 - A City Lost

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Maroz 10 - A Match With Malok

Sitting with his back to a log, his head tilted up to let the sun sooth his face, Willim wondered how his mother was doing. His father would be fine he was sure, the man was always fine however hard things got, but his mother seemed to worry about everything. Willim’s mother would likely worry every day and night about his health if he knew her well enough. Someday he would see her again and nobody would stop him. Not even Malok himself. I didn’t ask to join this blasted army!

Footsteps sounded, coming from in front of him and he opened his eyes to look, though he did not spend the energy to lift his head up until he saw who it was. “Good morning Captain Hanier Sir.” Willim spoke the words while getting to his feet. “I thought you were one of the men bringing me food. They bring it out to me sometimes rather than leaving it on the stump.”

“They are in awe of you right now Willim. You have become the talk of the recruits and some want to get a look at you I suppose.”

“I suppose that would be it.” Willim replied in a sad tone. Five days of manipulating fire had not quenched his disappointment at becoming an elemental.

“So lets see how you have been doing son. I have seen the flames from a distance and some have been impressive, but now I would like to see what kind of control you have with it?” Pointing to a clump of trees, Hanier continued. “The tall one there, with the long branch hanging at an awkward angle. Can you burn it at the base of the branch and extinguish the flame before it hits the ground?”

Raising his right hand towards the tree, he still did not know why he did that but it made it easier to control the flames when he used his hands, Willim let a flow of fire consume the branch just at the base. As the branch broke loose he drew the fire out of it again and the branch hit the ground as cool as it was before he had begun. “What else would you like to see sir?”

For over two hours the captain gave him tasks and he completed them with more ease than even he would have expected. Still two hours had gone by and the captain showed no sign of finishing. Burn a four-foot circle on the ground. Drop a shower of fire over that circle. Throw a ball of flame as high into the air as he could. Once, as he was doing a task, the captain pulled out his pipe and Willim lit it for him before being asked. Still Hanier continued to ask for more until Willim’s anger finally got the best of him.

Throw ten fireballs one after another as fast as he can? William spoke up then with sarcasm in his tone. “Ten Captain? Ten would be too simple and too hard for you to see as well. How about fifty?” Raising his right hand, Willim never made any throwing motion, but one after another a ball of fire a foot in diameter shot from his palm so quick, the only way to be sure the captain could see they were balls was to move his hand from side to side to separate them. Raising his left hand in a different direction Willim continued to throw the spheres of fire. “Or how about more?” Suddenly as many fiery spheres began to shoot from his left hand as well. “Why burn only one tree captain? Why not burn the whole blasted patch of them?” Suddenly each tree in the small woods bursted into flame each tree burning separately and all the while he continued to shoot balls of flame from his palms. “Oh I know! If you like rings of fire, lets have real rings of fire.” A ring a flame that encircled them sprung up among the glowing displays of flames. Then another larger one and then another and another until Willim suddenly heard the captain shouting at him to stop.

The chaos of flames disappeared so quickly the captain had to blink to gather his senses, his eyes still adjusted to the brightness of the fires. “It seams you have adequate control of your gift Willim, but I would suggest you gain control of that temper of yours. I will not allow this kind of behavior and disregard of authority do you understand me?”

Willim had lost his temper and more so than ever before that he could remember. “I, I’m sorry captain. I don’t know what came over me.” There just was nothing else to say more than a quick apology.

Looking Willim in the eyes, the Captain finally nodded. “Get to your barracks son and get a bath. You smell like a burning barn.”

Watching the captain walk away, Willim wondered why he had not been called down harder for his display. Maybe Tremores was right. Maybe they would practically treat him like royalty now that he had become an elemental. He could see the good in it, but at the same time he did not like the idea of it. He had no desire to be any different than anyone else.

The walk to his barracks was as long of a walk as Willim had ever known. The distance was quite short but every step of the way the other soldiers and recruits all stared at him, whispering too low for his ears while watching him pass. By the time he turned down the row of buildings where his bed was, he wanted to run the rest of the way, but he would not let himself. He would not run from them. Closing the door behind him he let out a long sigh of relief before stripping his shirt off and rinsing some sweat from his body. The captain was right, he did smell, and he did want to get to the bathhouse. But it still felt good just to rinse some of it off right then. Dipping his head he splashed water onto his face then grabbed a towel to dry off when the door opened.

“So you are the new elemental are you?” The voice was not familiar and Willim took his time drying his face before he answered. The speaker did not give him the chance though. “I hear you are quite strong too. Fire is it? Good! I believe fire can be the most useful in warfare.”

Willim finally took the towel away from his face and turned to look at the intruder. He was not someone he had ever seen before. This stranger was taller than Willim himself and held an air of authority like none he had ever seen and though he was older and thin, he had wide strong shoulders. The man’s black and silver hair was well groomed and his clothes were extremely finely cut. The sword at his side was no ordinary soldiers sword but fancy like something a Lord would wear; its sheath was black and had gold writing in a different language. “May I ask who you are sir?”

“Of course you do not know me, but you do know of me I am sure. My name is Malok and I am your Emperor.”

The shock of it all sent Willim’s head into a spin. He would never have expected the Emperor himself to come to his barracks. Taking a couple of steps back, Willim let his mouth drop open before slamming it shut with a loud click of his teeth. He knew there was something he should do right then but he could not think straight. What is Malok doing here?

A savage look that appeared in Malok’s eyes was the only warning Willim got before he was swept across the room and slammed hard against the far wall. Rather than falling to the floor though, Willim stood straight up against the wall, his feet a few inches above the ground. Malok had him pinned with air. “When you come face to face with your Ruler boy, you are supposed to bow.” As soon as the words were spoken the air around Willim shifted, forcing him to bend over into a deep bow.

As quick as the air grabbed him, it disappeared and Willim felt free to move again, the jolt of his feet hitting the floor causing his teeth to click hard together. Instead of staying in the bent position, Willim stood up straight again, meeting the Emperors eyes stare for stare. “I have never bowed for anyone but a lady before a dance sir. I will not start now. Not even for the emperor! Especially after being treated in such a manner!” Willim did not know exactly why he decided to stand up to Malok. There was just something about him that didn’t set right and to bow to him felt wrong, still a small voice echoed in Willim’s head that he was a fool for doing so. That voice may as well have screamed in his head for all he paid attention to it.

Lieutenant Cleese was suddenly beside Malok, a worried look in his eyes. “Please don’t kill him your highest. He is very valuable and more so now with the latest news I have received.”

Before Willim could brace himself, he felt the air grab him again and he was lifted up and thrown through the window into the street. Head over heels he tumbled before he came to a stop face down, spitting sand and dirt out of his mouth. More than one person was now watching though they all knew Malok had gone inside and stood out of the way as they watched. Malok and Cleese came out through the door and he could hear the Lieutenant saying something about two of the other elementals but the man’s words were lost in Willim’s fury as the blood rushing through him drowned out most of the sound. “I will bow to no one!” The words were shouted as he flung his hands forward throwing a large ball of fire three feet across at Malok.

Cleese dove for cover when he saw the fiery sphere coming but Malok stood his ground and calmly waved a hand in front of him. As he did so, the flames dissipated in front of him. “Is that all you have boy? Did they not explain to you that every element has its counter element? Your flames are useless against me for they need air to breath. Water will turn earth to mud, Air has no effect against earth, fire will evaporate the water. Simply put boy, I own you!”

Once again Willim could feel the air around him change but rather than turn solid to throw him again, it thinned out then disappeared. Opening his mouth wide he tried desperately to draw in a breath and could not. His eyes began to water as he began to franticly throw fire at the Emperor but his flame would go out as soon as it left his hand. Pain slowly formed in his chest then quickly spread out over the rest of him; he could feel himself squirming around on the ground but could not seem to stop it. Air, he thought, I need air. Oh my God I’m going to die like this! “Don’t kill him sire. Please don’t kill…” The lieutenant’s words faded away with his consciousness as darkness drew him in.

Continue to .... Maroz 11 - Water and Earth

Monday, July 27, 2009

Maroz 9 - Florencia

Keen Vass stood on his terrace looking to the east. The setting sun painted a golden red glow over the evening sky, broken only by the horizontal streaks of clouds. “Have you had word from Tomas yet Caralla?”

Thinking about Tomas made Keen feel much older than the sixty-three years he truly was. Tomas would be twenty-two the day after tomorrow and had been a new recruit when Keen had taken the throne. At the young age of only fourteen, Tomas showed the first signs of being able to manipulate water and though it was highly irregular, the previous ruler had allowed him to join his army. That recruit had become his most trust worthy officer and had left on an expedition over three months earlier and had been expected back weeks ago. Word had reached Keen that something evil was happening in the far eastern coast of Maroz but Malok showed no interest in finding out what it was. Still some of the rumors had been disturbing and Keen had decided it would be best to know what was happening.

“Husband, you know well that I would let you know the moment I hear anything. Tomas knows what he is about. He will be fine. Besides, you ordered him to investigate but to not take any chances that even might put him in danger. He will not go against your orders.”

Keen turned around to consider his wife. Shorter than most women, Caralla was still a handsome woman even into her years. Her dark red hair cut above her shoulders and her green gown only added to her air of royalty. Without her, he would have failed as a king a long time ago, but she pressed him to keep a level head and to consider his options. A wiser woman he had never met and if he should ever die, she would be an excellent Ruler in his stead. “You are right my dearest. I am sorry. I did mean nothing by asking. I only worry about him is all! Tomas along with what evil might be out there. I have a bad feeling about it.”

Walking to stand in front of her husband, Caralla had to tilt her head up to look him in the eyes. His black hair was thinning and was being replaced with as much gray as black. His beard was neatly trimmed and now had far more gray than black. “Tomas will be fine Keen. He is an elemental remember and possibly the strongest ever to manipulate water. I myself have seen him draw water from a rock.”

Sliding an arm around her waist he turned to stare to the east once again. “Do you think the rumors could be true?”

“That an evil arises from Mt. Caldor? I suppose they could be true and likely they are, but what is more important is what kind of evil? Is it an army gathering, or some strange creature? Something darker?” Snuggling tighter to his side she considered it all. She always felt safer when he held her closer. “Some rumors have it that this evil will not stop until it consumes the world. God willing it isn’t so awful as that.”

“What of my decision to send Nikoli with Tomas? I cannot help but to wonder if I have spread us thin.”

Caralla chuckled slightly, a low and deep chuckle for a woman. “Keen, you have asked that question every day since you made the decision. I agreed with it the first day and I agree with it now. Malok shows no sign of wanting to attack us and has not in years. We have been on friendly terms with Aries for twenty years now as well. It was more important to give Tomas the best men we have, to give him the best chance possible of a successful mission. Nikoli is not as strong with air as Tomas is with water but he is still strong nonetheless and two elementals together have a much better chance of coming back to us. We do not truly need an elemental here in Florencia at the moment anyway.”

When a knock sounded at their doors, the two separated and waited for the guard to enter after the allotted time. “Tomas is asking for your presence Sire.”

Finally! Though Caralla was still in her day clothing, Keen was in his robe and slippers and he did not want to bother getting dressed to go down to the sitting room. “Send him in if you would please.”

The guard made a formal bow, his head almost touching the floor. “I would please Sire.”

The wait was not long before the door opened again admitting Tomas, the dust from the long travel still on his coat. Short and wiry thin, Tomas was the image of quickness, his slightly darker skin hinting at some foreign blood but the man insisted that he was born and had grown in Florencia. His father had raised him and he had little memory of his mother. “Tomas, please have a seat. You must be exhausted from your journey.” Waiting only long enough for Tomas to get a glass of wine and have a seat, Keen began to urge his captain to tell what he had learned.

“It is not good Keen.” Keen and Caralla had long since done away with the formalities with Tomas when alone with him. “There is a, a darkness growing from Mt. Caldor that is quite unnerving. Men have gone in to investigate and in a couple of cases had gone in larger numbers with weapons. None have ever been seen again. Nikoli and I went to have a look and…” Seeing the look on the Kings face, Tomas quickly amended. “We did not go into the darkness, only up to it. The sun was bright that day with not a cloud in the sky, yet one hundred paces ahead of us the ground looked as if it was under a large shadow. We studied it for a full day and I was about to head back when Nikoli noticed the shadow had grown. I had been focusing on looking for movement within the shadow and had not paid enough attention to the shadow itself. He was right of course. The shadow had moved. So for three days we watched it and every day it continued to move steadily, just enough that you could see it move if you watched it.”

Lifting the glass to take another drink, Tomas was surprised to find it empty. Standing up he strolled to the table where the cooled pitcher stood and poured another glass before continuing. “We asked around and there are some who say that it grows when it takes a life. One man said he left his village with his wife and child before it reached it and practically had to outrun the shadow as it swallowed his village. He swore that once the shadow swallowed the village, it began to grow fast enough to almost catch him and his wagon and he whipped his team of horses for three miles before it slowed down again, if he speaks the truth. I do believe he exaggerates though, I do think that kind of strain on his horses would have killed them. There is also another story of an old man who had left his village when the darkness began. He claims that Death himself with his minions was behind it all. Personally that sounds like foolish talk to me. Even more so than the former.”

Keen sat down in a chair beside Tomas considering the news. “If this darkness is not stopped, it might swallow the world. How much will it grow if it reaches a city?”

Draining his second glass, Tomas thought about a third then decided to set the glass down. All the wine in the palace would not quench his thirst right then and it would not help any if he became drunk. “Yet how do we fight it when nobody seems to return once they go inside?”

Keen tilted his head back and rested it against the back of the chair. “We don’t yet. At this time it is more of a threat to Maroz than it is to us. We cannot risk a war with Maroz by sending more men into this darkness unless we are sure we ourselves are in danger. For now I am afraid we will have to wait and see where this takes us.” As the silence between them extended, Keen could not help but to wonder what would happen if they waited too long. Yet he dared not do more than wait for now.

Continue to .... Maroz 10 - A Match With Malok

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Maroz 8 - The Warning

The city of Crook was not as large as most, yet people usually crowded through its streets. Today was different for word had spread of the old man who had seen his village swallowed by darkness and what waits in that darkness. The story was almost too much to believe. Death himself has come in the flesh? Demons from Hell literally tearing humans apart! The sky being as dark as night at noonday! It was too much! The only reason anyone gave the stories any credit at all was that they had been hearing rumors of darkness, to the east for weeks now. Still, there were those who did believe and were either busy packing or already traveling west, leaving the city just a little less crowded. Marinek Shamil had it in his mind to find out exactly which of these rumors were true though.

Standing seven inches more than six feet he was a very large and powerful man and most seemed to turn to him for direction just simply for that reason. Marinek was not as bright as most but his size had given him an air of confidence that most men ignorantly took as a sign of intelligence.

“I aim to take as many men who will go with me into this so called shadow!” He shouted from the steps of a large pub, a mug of whine still in his hand. His hair had long since receded so Marinek had gotten into the habit of shaving his head bald. “We will find out what is truth and what is lies. We will find out what this darkness is all about!” A large crowd of near a hundred people stood listening to him and more than a couple cheering him on. “If this Death character is really there, we will show him what real men, healthy men, can do! We will drive him and his so called demons back to where he belongs. We will run him right back into the sea of death!”

The crowd grew and grew as he spoke and for the most part the men shouted agreement. There was one who did not cheer though. Standing near the back of the crowd was the old man who had started the stories. “You’d be a fool to go in there, mister.” Jeck Henley spoke loud enough to be heard and every head turned toward him. “And every one of you who follow him will be fools right to the moment you die!”

“You must be the crazy old goat who came rushing into Crook, scaring our women and children with your stories huh?” A few of the men chuckled at the confidence in Marinek.

Jeck did not flinch at the words. “Old goat I am mister. Old fool I am not! Those were not stories! They were warnings. I saw Death himself and I have never known fear until I looked into his eyes, well, where his eyes should have been. Nothing but empty sockets was there! Thousands of winged demons killed my neighbors and a few chased me to the edge of the shadow. Almost got me too!” Jeck could hear a few snickers around him and though he knew it would do no good, he turned on the crowd. “Go ahead and laugh if you want to, but if you go into that shadow you won’t be laughing then. I warned my friends something was wrong and they wouldn’t listen and now I am giving you one chance as well. Me? I’m leaving here before that shadow has a chance to get here, and if you were smart you would follow me out!”

Marinek stood in silence and watched with a smirk as the old man made his way through the crowd. Once he was gone Marinek raised his voice again. “As I was saying, I plan on taking healthy men, not old men. If something is in there we will do away with it. What creature will fight fifty armed men? Or a hundred armed men! Most of you know me and you know I can fight. Be it with weapon or bare hands I will beat most men.” Pointing to a hard looking man with reddish blond hair hanging below the shoulders with a bulbous nose and wide shoulders, Marinek continued. “Jonah, you are a good man with an axe and the two of us alone would make a powerful duo. Can I count you in with me?”

Jonah only thought for a second before taking in a deep breath and straightening his back. “I be in with you Marinek! We’ll clobber anything we face!”

Most men respected Jonah with his axe and with his statement of going more men began to shout they would go as well. As more men clamored that they would go, others who were doubtful began to join. Soon Marinek stood in front of a group of one hundred and twenty men, all clapping each other on the shoulders and talking loudly how they would defeat Hell itself.

Less than two hours later the large group of self made warriors rode out of Crook holding every kind of weapon imaginable. For the most part they wore swords at their waists but many had long bows and short bows, Halberds and spears, staffs and axes. A few of them had even driven spikes through clubs because they were too poor to own a decent weapon. Out the gates they rode and crossed the barren plains that surrounded Crook for the first three miles before reaching trees. Once exiting the other end of the trees though, every man came to a stop and stared at the darkness to the east. Night was not yet setting on the land but an unnatural shadow crept towards them just fast enough for the naked eye to see it moving. A few of the men began to mutter to them selves that maybe the old man was right but Jonah heard the whispered fears and spoke up trying to give encouragement. Once an army was beaten mentally, the physical battle was already over and he would not allow that to happen. “Aye the old man might have spoke some truth but no doubt he be exaggerating. I no be old and decrepit, least no the last time I looked in a mirror. Marinek may be getting there but no me!” The men began to chuckle at his slight towards Marinek and the fear that thickened the air moments before seemed to thin out and dissipate. “Me thinks I’d like to see what’s really in there. In fact, maybe if I see this Death fellow, I be asking him to drink with me before I cut his wee head off.” Without waiting for any agreement Jonah carelessly put his horse into a walk, knowing all too well his casualness would bring the others behind him. The sounds of the other horses’ hooves clopping against the hard ground told him he was right.

Inside of a three hundred paces the small army went from a shining sun to a moonless night; the only light coming from the daylight behind them. Torches came out and were quickly lit before they ventured any further. Together the men grouped tightly as if afraid of the darkness surrounding them; the torches casting a ghostly reddish tint to everything it reached. Marinek was considering how calm and peaceful it was, after all if demons were killing everything alive, how peaceful could it be, when one of the men whispered and pointed. Fifty paces ahead of them a small; almost man like creature with ribbed wings was engrossed with tearing the flesh off of a squirrel. A younger man who Marinek did not recognize lifted his bow and loosed an arrow at the same time the creature looked up and saw them. The arrow took the small demon hard in the chest and carried it a few feet back before it stopped dead.

“Let’s go see that thing up close.” Marinek said as he gave his horse a nudge forward.

The young man who shot the arrow galloped ahead and climbed down to pick it up. Holding it up by the shaft of the arrow he smiled. “Looks like its got some sharp claws and teeth but other than that it don’t look all so dangerous. I bet they…” His words were cut off as the long tail of the small winged animal fell off and burst into ash before it reached the ground. Before the young man could react, the rest of it slid off of the arrow and fell in a shower of ash as well.

Marinek was only half the distance to the lad when he held up and twisted in his horse looking around. He heard something in the surrounding darkness but what ever it was, it still had not come close enough to touch the penetrating light from their torches. The other men walked their horses right on by him though, either not hearing what Marinek heard or not caring. Suddenly from out of the darkness, nearly thirty of those creatures swarmed over the young bowman and the lad began screaming as he swung his bow and beat his hands at them. The screaming, as horrific sounding as it was, only lasted seconds before they left and his flesh-ridden skeleton collapsed to the ground. Every man in the make shift army stared in shock, their mouths hanging open for a moment before they also began to scream as the winged demons swung towards them. Swords, axes, staffs and clubs were swung in defense, killing the creatures that turned to ash before they ever hit the ground. Within minutes they had lost twelve men and the swarm of creatures still looked as thick as when it first appeared, even thicker as more of the winged beasts came from the darkness.

Marinek had just finished slicing one of the demons in half when he heard another sound. Not the same as the first time but deeper and more guttural sounding. Then from out in the darkness came more demons, only these were not winged and were larger than most men. In all different appearances some had muscular arms and legs while others looked thin and sinewy. Some had badly disfigured faces while others had features that were practically human. More demons emerged from the darkness looking more like the smaller flying ones only these were as large as most women were and much heavier in the muscle. There was not much to their color, usually black, gray or a very dark red, though some had stripes while others were spotted or a solid color. Horse and man alike were being pulled down and shredded by their claws.

One particular demon with a face that looked like it had been pulled out of the fire charged Marinek but when Marinek swung his sword at the beast it picked up one of its smaller counterparts and used it as a shield. The blade stuck half way through the smaller creature and before he could pull it free, the sword was yanked out of his hand so hard it nearly unseated Marinek from the saddle. Grabbing onto the pommel of the saddle, Marinek tried desperately to turn his horse to run when it whinnied in a high pitch and fell, causing Marinek to tumble away from it. Before he could gain his feet, the large man felt an even larger hand wrap around his neck and lift him up. It was the demon with a disfigured face that held him up with one hand.

Marinek tried to scream when the beast raked the claws of its spare hand down his arm tearing the flesh from his bones, but all that came out was a strangled choke. That clawed hand reached up once again to cover his face and Marinek could feel the claws slicing deep into his brow and cheeks.

“Stop!” It was one word and not spoken very loudly but every demon stopped, even the one that held Marinek. As the large hand came away from his face, Marinek felt blood flow freely from the wounds. “I want him alive!”

The large hand released Marinek and he fell hard to the ground. With his one good hand he wiped the blood from his eyes to see who had saved him and immediately wished he had not. A large man on a black horse stood before him wearing a dark cloak that looked like it had been rotting away for some time now. Its hemlines hung in shreds and in some areas there were holes eaten through its material. The cloak moved around on its own accord as if it was a windy day though the leaves in the trees stood completely still. The man’s skin was a pasty white and gave one a sense that he was dead and the empty eye sockets made Marinek believe that maybe the horseman really was. Fear like Marinek had never felt before, swept over him causing him to lose control of his bladder and even forget the pain that throbbed heavily in his shredded arm.

“Who..” His throat was parched from the fear as well and he had to start a second time to get his words out. “Who, are you?”

“I am Zeebulis! I am the Lord of Death! I am Death!” Reaching down, Zeebulis wrapped his long bony fingers around the injured arm of Marinek and squeezed. Marinek’s screams intensified as the heat and pain flowed through his arm and he watched in horror as his arm literally melted off, leaving a withered stump hanging from his shoulder. “You will not bleed to death now and you will live.”

Marinek’s screams died away as the words slowly took on form and he realized he would not be killed. “Why, why me? Why do you let me live? You want me to serve you is that it? I won’t! I would rather die than serve you!” Zeebulis grabbed Marinek again by the neck and lifted him up in the manner the demon had before. His feet dangling a foot off of the ground, Marinek could do nothing but struggle to breathe.

“In some matters you have no choice. If I wanted you to serve me you would serve me! If I killed you now, you would serve me from the grave you worthless worm. I am letting you live, not to serve me, but to go back to your pathetic race. Tell them I come and they cannot run nor hide or fight me. They have but one choice alone. They can die! Your useless weapons of steel cannot hurt me. My minions that you have killed, they only need be brought back from the pits of Hell. You cannot kill the dead!” Dropping Marinek to the ground he waited for the man to catch his breath before continuing. “Go now before I change my mind. Go now and warn them if you wish, but go now before I decide I would rather melt the rest of your limbs off just to watch you squirm around.”

Marinek scrambled to his feet and began running. Small winged demons flying past him raked their claws across his shoulders, back and face, laughing at his clumsiness as he fell over and scrambled back to his feet. Out of the dark shadow and all of the way to the city he ran before collapsing at the gates where guards who recognized him carried him into the city for medical help.

The large demon with the scar-covered face held its fists clenched tightly as it spoke. “Why Master? Why let him live? It would have been more entertaining to kill him slowly.”

“Because, his survival serves me Lozimum! If none of them return they will only send a larger army next time and that serves nothing but to entertain you. With my warnings and man’s talent for exaggerating, maybe they will try sending elementals to fight me. Now that would serve a real purpose.” Zeebulis stared off in the direction that the human had run, his charcoal gray cloak waving behind him as a warning to others that he was not in the best of moods. He never was! “This body grows weak Lozimum. I need more elementals.”

Continue to .... Maroz 9 - Florencia

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Maroz 7 - The Lord of Death

As the people of the village fled for their lives, a few ran toward him, begging for mercy he supposed, but he paid them no attention. Humans meant nothing to Zeebulis, the Lord of Death. He had one mission, one desire, and that was to destroy anything living. Once a very long time ago, he had the chance to experience life, but God had denied him of that. Now he hated anything that lived. The Lord of light had taken all from him and had given him what he despised and he would do the same to all that the Lord of light cared about.

“The process is slow master!”

Zeebulis showed no signs of hearing Corruption, his first in command. Standing over seven feet tall, Corruption was a mass of muscle that would enforce Death’s will. People ran from his fiery red eyes and yellow fangs as much as his size. After a long silence, Zeebulis smiled and turned to consider Corruption who waited patiently for a reply. “The process will be slow until we find them Corruption. As I consume them I will become stronger here and the pace will pick up.”

“There seem to be so few of them master, and even the one we…” Corruption went silent not wanting to bring up the one who they did find. An old man who had escaped them was the only human they had found who could control the elements and he was very week. Still it was not wise to remind Zeebulis of the one who got away. His fury over that had been like Corruption had never seen before. The minions who had chased the old elemental had been destroyed. Not sent back to the pits of Hell where they had come from, but had been destroyed as if they had never been. “We will find them master and they will be stronger than, well they will be strong. We have barely gotten started after all.”

Zeebulis’s upper lip lifted into a snarl at the thought of the old elemental getting away. “We will find them soon Corruption! We had better!” Without having to tell the black horse to do so, it moved away from Corruption. Zeebulis never had to direct the horse; it always did as its master wanted.

Zeebulis rode through the village while his army of demons was still torturing their victims, his dark cloak flaring out around him as if a wind had kicked up. There was no wind. The rotting cloak was not affected by anything other than his mood and right now he was irritated causing the cloak to flail about. When he had first learned of the old elemental getting away, his cloak looked as if a strong storm had come upon them, its harsh winds throwing it in every different direction. Those who saw him now shied away in fear they might give him reason to become even angrier.

Once out of the village, Zeebulis rode out towards the edge of darkness and stared out at the lighted world. The fools! How could they let him get away? Far out in the distance his eyes fell on a wide stand of trees. It was after those trees when they would find the city of Crook. With so many people crowded together it was only simple logic there would be an elemental or two if not more. That many people alone would build his strength, if only slightly, but the elementals would be like feasting. Crook was not a large city but still it was a city and was bound to have an elemental.

His mood soothed to a point and he rode back through the village with his cloak hanging limp once again. A woman lay screaming with her arms stretched wide, pleading to him for mercy as his demons stripped her of her skin, but he paid her no mind. If anything the sight only soothed him a bit more. He found a sort of solace in the agony of the living. Sometimes he even enjoyed killing them himself rather than letting his pets have them.

The air next to Zeebulis seemed to change, everything beyond it becoming blurry and he sat his horse waiting. After only a moment’s wait, Lozimum stepped through the air to kneel before him. Stepping through the air was how his higher demons would travel though they usually did so in this manner only if it was of utmost importance. Nodding his head to Lozimum he waited for him to speak.

“Master! We have found one.” Lozimum’s voice was harsh and deep and befitting his stature. His thick arms and legs clashed with his thin bony like body and his face looked as if it had been set on fire as a daily occurrence. “It is just a boy child master but he has the power in him. He had been hiding in a cellar.”

Following Lozimum to a small farmhouse there were two more demons holding the boy as he struggled and screamed. A touch of a smile seemed to quirk across Zeebulis’s pasty white lips as he looked at the boy. He would enjoy this immensely; there was something about the innocence of youth that Zeebulis loved to destroy. Though the boy was small, the spark of the ability of an elemental was strong with in him. He would likely have grown into a very strong elemental if he had not been found.

Placing a hand to each side of the child’s head, Zeebulis lifted the boy from the demons grips. His legs kicked around wildly as he grabbed at Zeebulis’s wrists but the Lord of Death ignored it. Then as the boys face came within inches from Zeebulis’s, his arms and legs went limp as fear rippled through his inner being and his bladder let loose. Opening his mouth, Zeebulis began to inhale deeply, breathing in the boy’s soul and his strength in the elements. For a long minute Zeebulis drank in the spirit before finally letting go. The boy’s soulless body collapsed to the ground like a bag of wet sand and took another two breaths before going completely still, as if the body had tried to live on without its soul.

Continue to .... Maroz 8 - The Warning

Friday, July 24, 2009

Maroz 6 - New Found Powers

Thunder seemed to shake the ground as Willim’s feet splashed through puddles. The rain that had poured for three days straight had him drenched from head to toe but he paid it no mind. All of his focus was on the man in front of him. Rohan Cleese was a master with the sword and he was not taking it easy with Willim in his lessons this day. Twice the man had nearly run him through with the wooden staves that made up the practice sword and likely would have if Willim had not twisted aside as he tried parrying his teacher’s blade. More than a few bruises had marked his ribs and back from when he had been too slow. When another crack sounded as the wooden blade found its mark again, Willim’s anger took hold of him and he charged Cleese, only to find himself suddenly on his back in the mud, his teacher’s sword pressed against his throat.

“You let your anger get the best of you. All that will come from letting your anger loose will be your death. Don’t let it run loose like a rabid dog lad, learn to focus it. Wild anger will get you killed but a focused anger can become a weapon. A focused anger will give you strength you never knew you had.” Pulling the practice sword away from Willim’s throat, Cleese stepped back. “Now go get cleaned up. I have more important matters to attend to than to teach you all day.

As the Lieutenant walked away, Willim climbed to his feet but did not move to get cleaned up. Most every hour for the recruits were spent in training and each recruit was given an extra hour a day to train in what he wanted to learn the most. Every day Willim came to the swords to practice and quite often would practice the forms even after Cleese had gone. Today would be no different.

Picking up his wooden practice sword, Willim took a long breath and slowly let it out to clear his head. Bringing the blade up, he thrust it out and brought it back again, dropping the point towards the ground. One form led into another and before he knew it he had lost himself to the practice. He was only working the forms a short time when a rough voice sounded from behind him. “I have been in need of some practice boy. Let’s see how you do with real steel.”

Willim recognized the voice immediately and turned to face Madolin Gills. The man still had not forgotten how Willim had bumped into him and wanted revenge for looking bad when the elemental tied him up. “I told you I was sorry Gills. Why do you press me so?”

“Because I don’t like you boy! Do I need a better reason?”

Before Willim could reply, Gills advanced with a real sword in his hands. As he was wondering how he would ever defend himself with a wooden practice sword, someone shouted his name. Turning his eyes to look, he was just in time to see another young recruit throwing a sword in his direction. The sword landed a few feet behind him, the blade sticking into the ground. Willim grabbed the hilt as Gills charged and it was all Willim could do to fend him off. ‘Flight of the Dragon fly’ turned into ‘Strike of the Adder’ and after ‘Whispering Death’, Gills went right into ‘Windmill in a Storm’. Stepping back, Willim looked down at a small slice in his left forearm. Only a slight scratch, but it could have been much worse. ‘Dragon’s Tail was defended by the ‘Whirling Windmill. Over and over again they came together only to separate with Willim bleeding somewhere new. Gills had been playing with him and Willim knew it, his forms just slow enough for Willim to defend while taking a small cut to a shoulder or a short slice to a thigh. Suddenly Gills eyes seemed to light up with anticipation. He would go for the kill now.

Gills’ sword seemed to come from every direction at once and some how Willim countered each move his actions almost without thought, then suddenly Gills sword twisted and flicked, pulling the blade out of Willim’s hand and sent it spinning through the air. Willim tried backing up hurriedly and losing his balance he stumbled backwards and fell to his back. Gills stood above him with a wicked smile. “Give my best to the writhe for me when he takes your soul boy!”

Lying on his back helpless while seeing Gills turn the point of his sword towards him and drawing it back, Willim knew the man was going to run him through. A small hint of surprise made its way through Willim’s feelings as he realized he was not afraid but angry. He did nothing to deserve this and he had been nothing but respectful to this man. He had been walking with a tinge of fear in the corner of his mind for weeks, always keeping an eye out for Gills and now the man would kill him for something as simple as accidentally bumping into him. I don’t deserve this!

“What was that boy? Speak quickly before I kill you!”

“I said I don’t deserve this!” Willim shouted the words as loud as he could and rebelliously threw every ounce of anger into them and at Gills. “I did nothing to you! I don’t deserve this!”

There were more recruits watching than Willim had thought and most of them began to gasp at the same time Gills began to scream. Dropping his sword, the man grabbed at his head, his eyes wide with pain as flames spurted out of his mouth and nostrils then from his eyes. Within seconds Gills whole head was engulfed in fire that grabbed at his clothing and strove to cover the rest of his body. Willim kicked and pushed as he scooted away from Gills as fast as he could and watched as the man fell to his knees then onto his face. The screaming ended moments before the thrashing legs stopped moving and all Willim could do was to stare in shock as the flames chewed away Gills flesh.

The others around them began muttering and telling each other what they just saw as if the one they were telling had not just seen the same thing. Willim tried to ignore them as he stared at the now charred remains of Gills but one word kept grabbing at his attention. “Elemental!”

Trying hard to convince himself they were talking about someone else Willim shook his head, but he knew. He knew all too well the fire had come from him. He did not want to be an elemental though. All he wanted to do was get through his term as a soldier and head home. Once someone was known to be an elemental they were forced to stay in the army or be hunted down. Rumor had it that Tremores had been in the army for twelve years now. Twelve years! Again the word ‘elemental’ caught his ears and Willim jumped to his feet, rounding on the crowd around him.

“Stop saying that! I’m not an elemental do you hear me? I don’t want to be!”

Every last one of them snapped their mouths shut in fear of drawing his anger. Especially the veterans who understood more than the recruits that a young elemental could lash out with his newfound power, out of anger before he realized what he was doing, as Willim had just done to Gills. More than a few of them stepped back, wetting their lips in fear.

“Son, I think the first thing you need to do is relax.” Willim recognized the voice and turned to face Tremores himself, but the veteran elemental continued on in a soothing and calming voice. “I know I wouldn’t want you to do anything that might hurt anyone on accident and I am pretty sure you wouldn’t want to either. But if you do have the ability to control fire as it would seem that you do, well anger is one emotion you want to stay away from. Believe me!”

“I don’t want to be an elemental Tremores. I just want to live an ordinary life when my term is up.”

Tremores nodded understandably while wrinkling his nose. “Let’s take a walk lad. We can talk somewhere more private and I would prefer to get away from this stench. Gills smelled bad enough when he was alive, but this is more than I can handle.”

The two men turned to walk and stopped as Captain Hanier and another fellow came walking up to them. The other man was someone Willim had never seen before. His thick long mustache seemed too large on his bony thin face, yet the man carried an air of authority that even over shadowed the captains. Tremores spoke in a hush voice that only Willim could hear. “Laine Askew, Malok’s personal advisor when it comes to military matters, though Malok never consults him. Just let me do the speaking.”

As the two men reached them, Laine spoke up first. “I hear there has been an incident Tremores.” The man’s deep voice was shocking in comparison to his thin features. “A new elemental it would seem.” Of course the man already knew. Malok had spies everywhere in the city, especially here in their campgrounds. Someone must have gone running as soon as it started for Laine to be here so quickly with the captain.

“Yes sir.” Tremores answered. “He had no idea he had the ability until Gills tried to kill him.”

Laine turned his attention to Willim, his hard eyes firing arrows at the younger man. “I suppose this is him? What’s your name boy?”

Willim stared for a second before realizing he had to answer. Dropping his eyes to the ground he spoke almost too quiet to be heard. “Willim sir, Willim Pillar.”

“Speak up boy. I am not in the habit of straining to hear what soldiers say to me.”

A small spark of anger rose up in Willim. Though he knew it was the last thing to do he wanted to shout his name in the man’s face. Lifting his eyes to meat Laine’s, Tremores saved him from his own desires when he spoke first. “Forgive him sir. It is quite the shock the first time one manipulates an element. He is still shook up over it.”

Silence seemed to stretch before Laine finally answered. “Very well Tremores. Help him as much as you can. We can always use another elemental around here.” Before he was even finished speaking, Laine began to walk away with the captain at his side.

“Don’t you worry too much about Laine, Willim, the man can be insolent as hell but he won’t cause much of a problem for you knowing you can twist an element. You are too valuable now.”
“Can I stop it?” The surprised look on Tremores’ face urged Willim to explain. “I don’t want the power or the fame Tremores. I want to stay normal. Can I be cured from this?”

A hard chuckle escaped the older elemental’s mouth before he could stop it, then considering it a second he let his laugh out freely as he reached up and around Willim to grab the tall younger man’s shoulder. “You are not sick lad. It is nothing to be cured. Can a woman be cured of womanhood? No, she is just a different kind of human than man is. You are not sick, just different.” The glum look on Willim’s face spoke volumes and Tremores knew he had to cheer him up. “Many creatures, including humans go through changes in their lives that they do not like. Yet they don’t spend the rest of their life unhappy do they? You will get use to it Willim, the day will come when you don’t think twice about it anymore, you’ll see. Don’t fight it, just accept it and you will be much better off.”

As they walked past a cook fire, Tremores reached down and grabbed the end of a small twig. A flame still licked at the other end. “Let me show you something lad. Hold out your hand.”

Holding out his hand, Tremores put the flame under Willim’s hand. As soon as the flame touched his skin, Willim jerked his hand away with a curse and glared at Tremores as he moved back a step. “What in the blazes was that for?”

A mischievous look fell over Tremores as he smiled and answered. “That was a simple but very important lesson lad. However well you think you can manipulate, twist or control fire, it can still burn you if you do not have control over it. You would be surprised at how many elementals have died because they thought they were safe from their own powers. Now for your second and final lesson, follow me.”

At the edge of camp, the two men stopped, staring out at a barren field. Nearly a mile across, there were relatively few clumps of trees with a few small ponds and here and there a patch of charred ground where nothing had begun to grow back and likely would not for years to come. Curiosity got the best of Willim as they stared at the field and he asked Tremores the obvious question.

“It is the learning grounds Willim and your home for the next week. Every time a new elemental discovers his powers, he is a threat to all those around him until he can learn to control it. Even another elemental that has the same ability cannot do more than show him what he can do. He cannot on the other hand show him how to do it. Manipulating the elements is more like breathing than riding a horse. It’s not something to be taught, you just do it.”

“What about food and fresh water?” Willim asked.

“Every day you will be brought food and water. Men will leave it on that stump out there.”

Looking at the dejected young man, Tremores felt a pain for him. “Look Willim, I know it sounds bad, but it’s not really. Just spend your time trying to master your abilities. Soon you will be back in camp and others will look to you as a king in some ways. And trust me; you won’t have anymore like Gills bothering you either.”

Willim stared out at the field and sighed heavily. He did not want to be treated as a king and he did not think he would ever just accept his abilities. “Some how I think I would have been better off to let Gills kill me.” Tremores opened his mouth to reply but Willim didn’t give him the chance before he started off without looking back.

Continue to .... Maroz 7 - The Lord of Death