Sunday, January 26, 2014

Story Spinner

Part 1

Green silken curtains blow open as the Temple Story Spinner, Izon, storms out of Avatar Dashe's Temple on the top level of the Pax Fleet Aviary Tower. Avatar Dashe, her Commanding Acolytes, and the assembled ambassadors from Federation member cultures laugh in their ceiling hung swings and loose draped lace court garb at the raven nitrated curmudgeon. Humiliated by Sloegr, the oil feathered new Forecaster General of Pax Command, Izon's professional critique opposing Viceroy Floret's fool war was laughed down by effect of the ill aimed excrement of a half blind old bird!

That carrion breathed fowl was promoted to Forecaster General two moonspans ago, ending a triumphant career on the 3rd fleet flagship Dusk Lit Gossamer. Scouting the winds for the skyship and guiding then Captain Floret during his widely promoted crusades. Never doubt Sloegr was a genius of rare talent on the wing, with storm forecasting skills already legion in the songs of warriors and Acolytes alike, but it disgusts Izon greatly to see Sloegr, and her war thirsty Viceroy, in a place of honor at the Aviary of a fleet which was once founded to promote peace among the city states and land-races of the Organic Paca Federation. Now she has reduced Izon's critique of Floret's private war into a gross joke.

Bounding down the verdant stretched cloth hallway which wraps around the Tower's huge mycelium grown trunk Izon turns down five complete rotations of the steep hall to his personal chamber, along the way ochre robed young Dashe incarnation candidates bounce out of his way fearful of the thunderous tension twisting at the Story Spinners brow. Pushing through the wall flap and pulling it tight behind him he is alone at last.

Breathing in the solitude of the small chamber subsides the rage from these war debates. He steps along the springy floor to pour some water from his chamber basin and wash the bird waste from his long gray dreads. A few more deep breaths and the dark clouds of his rage begin to part, rays of clear thought shine through. Floret's scheme to capture a culture of webworms from the Nauskwa will be open for review for another three moonspans, today's outrage may still be overcome with a more rhetorically spun critique.

Avatar Dashe is the so called manifestation of Elemental Wisdom. Sadly her last few incarnations have been more interested in unspeakable pleasures and the accumulation of morbid curiosities dug up from the catabolis of the Later Oshkosh Culture; rather than actually learning anything at SolDashe library about the follies which made the curiosities of that once influential city-state's self consuming decline so morbid.

It is distressing that rather than mind Izon's compositions warning against military expansion during societies manifesting a 'seed casting phase', she would laugh enraptured by Sloegr's offensively normal humor. Until Sloegr's distracting presence in the Temple became common place this incarnation had been finessable, though it took a thugly patient listener, and usually a few vivid historical parables. Izon decides he will need strong tea to consider a more potent story.

As the glass phlogiston burner of his chamber heats water for ginkgo tea Izon looks out his window, greeted by one of the finest vistas in the know world. So tall is the Aviary that even five turns below SolDashe's crowning Temple, Izon's chamber window has a view 8 turns above all the remaining canopy of SolDashe. Another 21 turns from there to the wooden street suspended over the long flooded ground level canals that carry supplies to the city's 75025 citizens and untallied residents.

Izon smiles, taking in the beauty of his city, though fairly matched in trade and wealth with Inner Bay of the Mikinz Delta far over the Dusk horizon, no city this side of the Central Ocean can be compared with SolDashe in terms of beauty.

Its city center a tight canopied forest of towers: green rooms hang like silk leafs on structural mycelium trunks. Connected by many paths like jungle vines pulled taught between the towers bracing each other stable against monsoon winds, weaving a walkable canopy. Dawnside of the city is the shore of Hud's Sea and pleasant waters open to the Central Ocean beyond. On that shore stands a religious Wonder, though now dead, the tallest known sea flooded Shintry Cathedral, of intergrafted trees grown to an irreproducible proportion, matching Aviary Tower's height! Killed by salted roots during the most recent sea flood 233 and 55 and 13 years ago, preserved as a monument to the religious diversity of Paca history. Beyond the verdant city core extend hinterlands for a days ride Duskwise, stocked with modest bermed houses amongst food forests and content, agreeable residents. Beyond the bike trails of the hinterlands is a great ginkgo forest planted by the same Shintry missionaries as the Cathedral itself before the Old Paca Empire even expanded to these then barren lands.

Izon looks out on faithful citizens walking across on the wind swayed translucent paths stretched between the many lesser towers of the city canopy. He then looks deeper down beyond the canopy paths at the canals and heavy built foundation levels where catamaran merchants and local craft people trade to support this suspended city. Between the foundations and the canopy the middle layer hosts crafts people working the shipyards. Silk tailors are refurbishing phlogiston bladders, or perhaps retiring over worked cloth to make more suspended rooms, awnings, or paths. Fire warders paint their green quartz jelly on the fabric rendering it safe from sun and fire, and impermeable to phlogiston. Bamboo twisters are weaving expandable frames to support Skyship bladders or build structural supports for ship decks or canopy rooms.

“No doubt those workers would be happy for the call to charity should Floret's proposed 3rd fleet retrofit go through.” Izon muses to himself, recalling that there is more than spiritual inbreeding and birds hungry for the spoils of battle which now has a taste for war. Over Izon's life shipyards have expanded considerably and produced the most skilled work of all the city's charities. Pax Fleet has grown considerably over his career, but thus far the expansions have been argued for to defend the Organic Paca Homeland of the Great Lakes in the outer territories from Soma interference. Floret's proposal goes further, raiding the distant Nauskwa culture which produces these vast supplies of silk, stealing a culture of their webworms and developing a Paca based websilk charity to support the fleets.

Izon pours a bowl of tea. He blows on it looking out on the beautiful miracle built by these foolish war expenditures; 'beauty and foolishness love each other dearly' goes the old saying. SolDashe thrives with the calling to build these fleets, yet many other Cultures grow sick of paying road dues to purchase so much websilk. At the same time, none are willing to surrender the Organic City of SolPaca, and most likely the entire Lake Territory, to the toxin sired Soma of the Mispi rain forest.

Above head float 8 skyships over the city, including the Dusk Lit Gossamer. All returning from the front lines for get general repairs and more fragmentation grenades for their crusades. “Another pointless battle” thinks Izon, turning back to the stove to pour more tea. “To Soma living in the thick Jungle, what matters the offensive droppings of clumsy birds?” Izon gazes into the clouds as a new thought comes to him, “ambassadors sick of buying websilk may be easily swayed by the Viceroy Floret's fool headed scheme, but only if they can think of no other way to resist the Soma.”

Part Two

Taking the bowl of tea away from the window's view, Izon looks at his tabletop and decides to spin a story for insight on the Soma. Candles are lit around the room, the doors of his curiosities cabinet are opened, prayers and the offering of a burnt ginkgo leaf are given before these relics and Source Books. Izon sits at his tabletop story spinning wheel, glass beads in hand. He spins the central disc Sunwise and casts the colorful beads moonwise. The beads bounce and skip until they find a resting place around the disc edge. Bead positions tallied, they start to draw on long passed down yarns and call forth story patterns memorize during Izon's strenuous apprenticeship. Emerald beads in the 13th position and the 3rd, that draws on a yarn 987-1597 years old; the era before the Ashen Dog's Age Winter. It disturbs Izon that the waining era of the Old Paca Empire would come up and feel so appropriate. Before that greatest Winter the Old Paca Empire had already become irreligious, following the Elements vainly, as their way of life spread by force of the greatest conquest in the records of the Westenhem.

A few spins more and much composing of old stories and Izon starts to be drawn into the plot of General Lunbada's long chronicled conquests. Izon's legs feel the ache of the cyclist dragoons that dominated those long decomposed battlefields; teams that rode across frontiers further than the settled territories of the current era; as far outwards as the Shenadoh Jungle and inward to the coasts of the Central Ocean; from the Dawn Coasts over swamps, planes, deserts, forests, and mountains to the Dusk Coasts of Bering shore. Another spin narrows the scope of this session to the Battle of Savage River, where General Lunbada's conquest came to a mysterious end, and the Paca culture learned fear of the Soma. Izon takes out from the shelf the Source Book of Huten, 987 years old, spun during the first year of the Ash-born Winter, reads its knitted charts, and beholds its eerie lens-cast color images.

Entranced, Izon could smell the reek of swamp and fear passed down from that sad quagmire. Deep in the meditation Izon feels himself as Yeoman Huten. Too enmeshed in the story now to be concerned with the politics behind this long lamented offensive, Izon casts beads now only hoping that Huten might get back to his home in SolPaca from this dreary campaign. Izon forgets even the beads, the many colored disc, and his own spinning and tallying, as a story of Huten fills his imagination.

The terrifying beauty of the Soma songs, menacing vined trees, cloudy skies, and bitting bugs fill the scene. Soft hilly ground makes Huten's war-bike nothing more than a cart to be pulled over puddle filled ruts, it carries his pack and piece, it is left in a stack of bikes as Huten tries to find a dry spot to set up his tent. Sir Tellir, his team leader, stomps around the muddy camp site, listening to the songs emanating from every deep dark nook of the Plutoned forest. “The vile animals are mad to be happy in this corrupted waste!” Tellir yells out loud. “Born of outlaws who defied the Organic prohibition of entering the Plutoned forests, they have been made addicts to their mad poisons.”

In evening light the team leader turns his back to the forest and swells up to inspire his team. “None of us like to approach these dark places, not even I. Be it best such beasts keep their polluted habitat, but then at least then they should leave us to our habitat! Nay, their siren sows have seduced away foolish lads from SolGwall. Few salvaged from the Soma are ever the same, and none who stay a over the dark night of the new moon in these ever rotting woods again live an Organic life with the Elements as we do. That darkness, and whatever Plutonic mysteries fill it, turns them into an addict always an addict. Any one of us, if consumed by this forest, might in years time be found by next years expedition amongst their madness slinging gangsters, as Addicted to this forest as they are.”

Tellir continues. “At dawn we enter their domain, our armor halts their tiny darts, and our pieces can drop their bark clad hunters at 55 strides. Be present, and trust your team will pull you out of this forest should a dart find your flesh. They have an encampment not far from the forest edge, and our observation balloon has mapped the brood where the SolGweel lads are. You will know them because they won't have the Soma forehead scars yet, they may resist your attempt to separate them from their siren captors, we have tranquilizers if needed. If you see those scars on any face, as otherwise sun touched as it may seem, you are looking at a Soma now, and you are to cap it.”

Huten listened to Tellir and could feel the huge eyes deep and dark of the Soma radiating their gaze at him. The Soma never attack a clearing, but anyone who steps under the forest canopy does so in fear of their darts, which corrupt the mind of those struck. If not taken from the forest the victim will surly be taken by the forest. Huten prepares for a long night disturbed by their haunting music.

Izon's trance loosens slightly as he stokes his courage for what visions long past the spinning wheel might spin from the Huten Source Book.

With Dawn the music quiets. Sir Tellir prepares his team to enter the forest, Yeoman Huten is assigned to take point. A rear guard holds the camp, and several other commanders join Sir Tellir at General Lunbada's command yurt. When Tellir comes back he grabs Huten's shoulder and says “Permanent culture in SolGweel is counting on you to bring that town's future back to it, eager swoll lads are the limiting Element to maintaining the town's systems. General Lunbada thanks you personally, without thugly borderland raised gangsters like these captives his Army itself would lack the Elements to protect the Avatars of the Elements and their Organic work recombining the Elements into Vibrating Ecolies.” Tellir's eyes have a moment of sadness in them, like the true man's persisting image in Izon's Source Book, “Yeoman Huten, your team is the first to enter the forest. Be safe.”

Before Hutan can process the dire implications of his leader's sad eyes he is a few strides into the clearing, leading a line up of 12 men. Sight is limited to a few strides in any direction by thick brush and vines. The sounds of Soma movement is all around, no one can see further than ten strides in any direction. Even the tracker hound is scent blind in this rotting forest, sensing movement above the beast panics. That's when silent darts fly in through the thicket, and drop down from the canopy far above.

Izon's beads land strangely, the automata of 'lust' looks back from his spinning wheel through many glass eyes.

Huten stops cold, captured by fear as a song comes from all the forest, it sings in voice of Soma calls and twisted remains of once Paca words. A great terror fills the team, and they begin to run back to the clearing, busting caps into the targetless forest. Yeoman Huten calls to his line up “Escape! Take the fallen, we can't leave them!” Huten picks up Neache, a junior yeoman, over his shoulder turning back to the clearing, as the boy screams and struggles to escape Hutan's grasp, craving the shelter of a fallen mossy log. Turning, Huten sees, crouched on a large branch, a Soma siren, wearing a cedar bark skirt and cowl. Wooden thorns piercing her forehead's deep scar tissue, deep round eyes, thick hips, soft jowls, and long breasts, her terrifying beauty makes him despair. The song grows deafeningly loud. Huten lifts his piece, ready to cap her, and sees embedded in his wrist a dart.

Izon casts all Hutens beads that he might escape that fabled song which has tormented the Paca soul for all the years since the scattered half mad remains of General Lunbada's campaign first composed this Source Book so long ago.

As the beads jockey for place in the discs groves the trance is shattered “Krrrrawwwwk-raaa ak.” interrupts Sloegr standing in Izon's open window.

Part Three

Izon snaps back to the dim chamber, while he was entranced Sun turned around the Central Ocean and below the horizon for his brief summer absence. Making the room far dimmer than Sun's business elsewhere was the uninvited arrival of the raven Sloegr. The old Story Spinner thundered at the bird “Take your blood bathed beak and leave me! Your sweet bonded one, Viceroy Floret, has argued eloquently enough to twist the ear of our newly incarnated Dashe to your ill hatched dream of treacherous warfare.” breathing in deeply, letting the calming effect of his home chamber back into his turbulent heart Izon tempered himself “I am busy at the moment Madam Forecaster. Why do you disturb my work? I pray you leave me, that perhaps a more... economical means of dealing with the Soma incursions can be spun from these Source Books on our history of resisting their expansion.”

Sloegr's good eye gazes into Izon's frustration. “Waaar” cries the bird, uninterested in the old man's games and stories. “Waaar” she repeats, recalling the flavor of a battle's spoils, and the sweet tenderness Floret showered her with after every storm avoided, and after every victorious crusade. She did not care about her Viceroy's arguments at all, but she understood well his wants: he wants to start a new thing among the Paca, a thing that needed a special thing from a distant and dangerous people, and war tools to take the sample with. The Viceroy's wants, those were what Sloegr understood best of Paca, and cared for deepest. Sharing in danger and sharing in victory, this overcomes even the barriers of culture that separate them. Izon knew that much, because though he never shared a danger or a victory with a raven, he had often faced the unbreakable loyalty of the Captains who had.

Izon could never guess how a raven might take his words, some things they understood better than any human listener, and others they we completely oblivious to, but which were which was not to be predicted. “Viceroy Floret's plan is a good battle plan. His fleet would likely find a victory. They would take the worms.” he said trying to earn favor “but we don't even know what those Nauskwa breed worms look like, why their silk is as strong as a spider's web, or how to raise them. If they embargoed us, we will have no websilk for our ship rigging. No new ships, no war, no battles, no spoils. We would be weak.” Sloegr's good eye gave no hint what was or was not understood, but seeing it Izon suspected that it mattered little if his words were understood or not.

Feathers flash a blue glint as she bounds to Izon's open cabinet of relics, and takes in beak the mauve polymer icosahedron with black Pre-Catabolis numerals etched in its sides. Die in beak she looks for Izon's reaction. His heart aching with anxiety Izon calms his voice as best he can “Forecaster General, I insist you put that relic back on my shelf, it is very improper to move a relic entrusted to another Aviary Character. Should something happen to it you would be an irredeemable iconoclast.” Izon fixed his gaze on the raven, trying to seem stronger than he felt.

The Forecaster General tossed the die to herself and hops on Izon's shelf, flapping her wings as though to take off. Izon realizes that trying to guilt a raven is a fools errand, and attempts to be soft instead. “Clearly we have different agendas you and I. But it is in good taste that even rival characters should work out their differences as peaceably as they can. I am cast as but a humble Story Spinner, and advisor to Dashe in the Source Books of history. If there is some grievance you still have toward me, then let us work it out in good faith. Won't you set that die down?”

Sloegr's wings spread and she hops, die in beak, to the tea table by the window.

Humbled and frightened Izon no longer played the role of Story Spinner, but was a frightened old man “Please! That is the earliest known artifact from the forefathers of the Story Spinning craft! It is no less than 2584 years old, an irreplaceable talisman from before the catabolis” tears soaking his wrinkled umber face he “Have your war for all I care, and every day in the Temple of Dashe relieve yourself on my head, but by the Organic breath of all the Elements together I call on you to put that down.” Izon knelt and begged by his tabletop, but the bird who feasts on the fallen of battle cast the die out the window.

Prruk-prruk” purred the fiend stretching oily black wings to take leave of the Story Spinner, but before she could take flight, Izon takes in hand the central disc of his spinning wheel and lets it whir with all strength at the cursed bird. 'Crrrk' it strikes Sloegr solidly in the neck. The Forecaster General falls dead to Izon's floor.

Part Four

Izon bounds to the window even as the disc still rolls by the dead raven. Looking down he sees that as the tower widens a room extends to the moonwise side of his window the turn below, and another extends to the sunwises side at the canopy level eight turns lower. But between those rooms and under his window an arm-span wide path goes all the way to the shallow canals that flow under the city. A mauve die amongst chalky pea gravel, it may still be recovered!

To kill a Forecaster, let alone the Forecaster General, Izon would be lucky to be sentenced with drowning, and disposal in the undecaying Artificial graves. Looking down on the dead bird, his mind numb his cheeks wet, Izon sees there is no hiding this crime. “Detective hounds will find your scent here tomorrow.” Breathing deeply while he puts back the disc in its spinning wheel Izon considers the weight of this event. Now there was no chance to prevent Viceroy Floret's scheme, Sloegr is a martyr, and the loudest voice opposing it, his murderer. Izon said to his slain enemy “I cannot live with this guilt, I made that fool war unavoidable. Be glad at least you don't have to live on after abusing a relic.”

Thinking of the only known American Wizard's die resting in shallow water, engenders a new courage in Izon's will. His heart abandons any commitment to the Temple roles he can no longer play, Izon's will starts to recast itself around the recovery of that die, and where ever that may take him. He grabs his coarse hemp gray cloak -not worn since his journeyman days traveling unassuming among the normals learning their story telling customs-, the Source Book of Hutan, his purse,and his travel wheel. Tender will go fast buying his way out of town, but with a travel spinning wheel Izon can spin for his meals. Looking back at the former Forecaster General Izon considers what to do. “I am sorry I have murdered you, come with me, we have to get that die back.” and Izon put Sloegr in a wool sack which he hung around his neck under his robe.

Quickly Izon slips into the now dark hallway and begins to move down the tower, after three turns he walks past the motley dressed guards, who greet their old friend in jest “Getting into trouble so late?”. Sincerely laughing Izon replies “The contrary actually. Have a restful watch Cowkee. You as well, Pulen.” Izon felt like a young scoundrel again sneaking down the levels of the tower trying to ignore how heavy a burden hangs under his robes.

After another five turns a skinny Junior Yeoman quires him “Old man, what are you doing down here?” Izon turns toward the lanky fellow, flipping back the hemp cape reveling his Story Spinner robe and in a quiet but deadly sharp voice bites back “What a fool thing to ask!” The Yeoman seeing the shinning Temple robes stammers an inarticulate apology, and hurries away. Now under the canopy level Izon takes a short bridge to the main shipyard, to use its ladders as shortcut to the canal level. Support cable in hand Izon realized that in his lazy age he hasn't actually left that tower more that twice since the last Dark Solstice. Crossing the bridge he can feel the Raven's stink on him, blowing threads of his story to every detective hound and raven in the city. “Please don't give us away before we find that die.”

Where the bridge meets the shipyard a skyship sized scaffolding tent, near the tower, it's gray bearded silk armored guards Makol and Yulin nod at Izon as he walks too them, then patting the back of the Story Spinner's arm as he passes Makol whispers to Izon “Be sure friend, we won't tell a soul of your inspection.” catching himself against showing any surprize Izon replies “Many thanks old friend, since we were lads I have trusted you.” with a truth that says nothing.

Entering the hanger, Izon is shocked to see the floor below a buzz with activity. The scaffolding walkway wrapped walls 21 turns high surround a wooden floor, down at road level level, twice as broad and thrice as long as the walls are high. In this giant space he can see many of the components described in Viceroy Floret's retrofit proposal already half finished, the high altitude phlogiston bladders, pressurized crew space, even the cold draft thruster sheaths.

Izon is shocked for a moment, but then laughs to the bird. “Our debates were just for the Temple's entertainment. We fought to death over a done deal.” A tear flows down his cheek as he crosses the scaffolding and descends a covered ladder to the floor. At each layer of cat walk there is a gap through which to behold the events below. In the middle of the floor is Viceroy Floret lambasting a indentured boy for spilling a bottle of jelly solvent. Even among the normal workers he stands wearing his ridiculously over-sized phallic blue hat and long raven wing shoulder guards. Reaching the ground floor Izon quietly walks out through an open door while its guard is away grabbing a bottle of solvent for the furious Viceroy. “Thanks to your Viceroy my friend. He has, in his special fashion, given us aid in our flight, no doubt paying the debts he owed to you.”

From on the quiet wooden streets of SolDashe Izon and Sloegr are alone in the not yet awake city, Izon walks down a tall and filthy granite stair case near a smaller tower. It takes him under the street level to the true entrails of the city. Underneath the tense green walls of the city one can see in each canal locked stone island as many as 13 mycelium trunks are rooted, each grown in a single season from an inoculated mixture of waste grade silk yarn and mason-reishe digestable wood pulp. At the base of each trunk the granite foundation extends higher, nearly as high as the heavy wooden platforms and roads that make the road level floor of the city. The cavernous area is lit by beds of bioluminescent slime molds which have been tended since the city was a small phlogiston station for observation balloons, and the occasionally the phlogiston heated lime signal lanterns of passing ships.

Izon walks on to the granite foundations of the city where day and night dock workers carry cargo from the entire Organic Paca Federation to feed the endless appetites of SolDashe's charities, citizens, and residents. It is still relatively peaceful as the vendors have not yet come down from their burrows in the foundation wrapping cob hives, where the city's sub road level residents sleep, to set up their stands for a days business. Those sleeping among abandoned equipment, without even a burrow to stay in, and canal workers moving supplies up to Citizens on the road level are the only activity before dawn.

Clear canals with limestone gravel bottoms surround each stone foundation, preventing sour seas from corroding the city's underbelly. Several cargo catamarans float through this underworld pulled by small ceramic phlogiston powered steam tugs rented out at the harbor. Izon enjoys his canal side walk to the canopy gap under his window, knowing that one way or another he will never see this place again. The layers of pathways crossing at many different angles are most alive from below. Half the sky filled with wooden bridges, wherever roads meet the frame hosts bat colony, and guano stained floor, which keep orphans feed selling it as aquaponic fertilized to the clear film covered phlogiston farms floating in the brackish waters between the city and the sea. Above that the soft green bridges cross the night sky, blocking stars and glimmering slightly in the half moon's light. Izon feels a tinge of regret that he didn't come down to stand amidst the cities innards near often enough since becoming SolDashe Temple's Story Spinner. “I wonder, Sloegr, how those soft tense rooms made my imagination soft and tense.” he thinks as his feet remind him what a solid walking surface actually feels like.

The city canopy above starts to glow with an old leaf green light as the sun hurries back from its trip around the Central Ocean. Walking up to the waters edge Izon crouches down and fixes his eyes on the only place where the die might have fallen, waiting for a light that might show it. “If you dropped it anywhere else, it simply isn't to be found by us.”

At sun rise, long raking rays of light reach deep into the city's under-story, and Izon blinks his eyes closed for few breaths. His eyes open on a point of mauve under the sun lit water. “Good, the die is recovered. Now you can decompose Organically, and my debt to you is payed Sloegr.”

Standing on the shore, in the morning light Izon takes off his hemp cloak, silken robes, and wool pouch in one motion, leaving them all on the shore, concealed in the gray cloak. His purse with the Source Book and Spinning Wheel inside, is tucked into the cloak as well. Izon, in just his slip, wades in and reclaims the world's lone D20 from before the Story Spinners Guild, the worlds oldest continuous guild, first formed during the Great Catabolis. As he stands in the water, appreciating the relic, a small cargo catamaran slows beside him. “Nice rock you find? What doings might a wealthy old geriatric have to be doing in a canal before daybreak?” called the long faced skipper in a distinctive SolPaca accent.

Not quite a rock, Skipper, but close, an old mojo piece that fell from my window. It holds old memories, ones worth wetting my slip for!” Izon called back “That ship looks sea worthy, how much for a successful Story Spinner to stow away? I am thinking of a retirement in SolPaca.” He reached for shore and pulls up Che token from the cloak's pouch and presents it to the skipper.

Oh no, I am seeing it, you have deep trouble around you. Maybe if you be holding up another of those too.” The skipper replied with a toothless grin.

How about the token, and as much Story Spinning as you fancy to SolPaca?” Izon said digging the spinning wheel out of the purse, and holding it up.

Then ok, I hire you as personal Forecaster, those beads better be sincere, or you are going to be swimming a lot.” said Skipper stopping the tug engine, and hoping on shore to help the old man load up.

Beyond the city, in the shadow of the Shintry Cathedral, Izon puts back on the gray cloak. Sitting on the back of the ship while the Skipper payed for the tug's fuel he unwrapped the Sloegr's body from the silken cloak, and looking into the shallow water he gives the bird to the scavengers of the sea, who bring Sloegr to rest in a shark attended wake, like so many raven attended wakes following great battles.

Izon turns hearing the Skipper hopping back on board “Yesterday delivering, spends enough fuel to use that whole token, you know it? I should hire orphans with sticks next time, at least I could feel good about the expense!”. Izon helps the old mariner raise a the ship's three masts, and the soft breeze starts to take them out to open water.

Part 5

With sails set the Skipper is eager for a Spun Story. In the small cabin, with a single round table and a cot on each side Izon spreads out his wheel and beads, but leaves his candles away, not wanting to risk a fire with the bamboo and the non-jellied cloth in the slowly tilting room. A lantern over the table works as well. The Skipper looks through the pages of the Source Book of Huten. “Story Spinner, these Soma your book is drawing are not the Soma who are filling the canopies of my home land. They are forbidden by their mysteries from speaking the sounds of another breath, or teaching their song way to the uninitiated, this is true. But playing along with our species' doings is part of their life. Their sirens do take the seed of our men. Rarely though they want the seed and more rarely an initiate to their people. Only when they deem a man as having great acheivment to their values. I was once so honored, and though I never did learn what earned me the honor, I do recollect that honor proudly Story Spinner. Maybe these things have been changing from this book's setting. Does the Goddess living in your tower know better than this old war story in waging her war on the forest?”

Izon listened carefully to the Skippers slow words and spinning the teak disc replied “I have never been privy to the understanding of the Goddess. But raised in the Temple city's isolation, even a living Avatar of an Organic Element can only compose stories with elements received by experience. That is why Story Spinning was traditionally done in a group, that the Elements of many minds can be spun together.” Izon tallied some beads and spun more with a soothing rhythm. Together the Skipper and Izon started to be drawn back to a long forgotten time, recomposed from the Elements available through their shared experience. Huten's experience again began to come together around the wheel for Izon and the Skipper felt Huten's presence through Izon's rhythmic spinning, tallying, and subtle acting.

As the Story Spinning begins to cast its effect the narrow dart sticking out of Huten's wrist is felt by Izon with each turn of the wheel. The Skipper starts to see Huten's toxic confusion in Izon's face as though through the eyes of the dart maddened youth Neache; though not entranced like Izon, the Skipper is completely drawn into the scene.

As the rest of the line up flees to the edge of the jungle, where the toxic dart's effects can ware off under the treatment of Paca apothecaries, Huten stumbles forward and falls to the ground dropping Neache to the ground. Fever dreams punctuate the time before the Yeomen wake up in the Soma camp, as Neache stirs awake a Siren given him a bitter tea.

Through Neache the Skipper describes what he imagines of Soma brood, something rather ambiguous in Izon's Source Book. “The brood is in the dark and deep forest, hidden from Sun's heat. Soma are sitting all about, on the ground and on the many levels in the over-story they made for themselves. The branches of massive trees were tied so they grew into platforms, and connect to paths on ground and on high. All the Soma are singing, some of them doing it loud like nobody believes, others do it in a soft hum, but they are all singing. Some old Sirens are making their bark cloth with wood mallets, over a log, others twist rope and bend growing branches. Holes full with different potions and salves are carved in the living trees, the right tree for the right salve. Huten, you and me, we are in a strangler fig root hut. The Players, they sing in sitting circles, and they cut on each other's forehead's, they pull the skin up, wearing thorns of all kinds, they are using their tree salve on the incisions.”

Izon feels it soak in as Huten wakes with a spin of the beads. Neache is next to him, just watching the Soma, who do a good job of ignoring their guests. In the dark dark woods Huten can barely feel the brutal heat of the open lands, and appreciates the wonderful cool under tree branches. Then he notices that he is tormented by bug bites, and the silver skinned Siren he saw in the tree branch before collapsing approaches him, and humming a soft lulliby starts to put a salve on the bug wounds. The Soma music is very calming, he thinks, as the bug itch subsides. Across the way some young Players, are blowing darts back and forth at each other like a game, until a iron skinned elder Siren, throws a stick at the child hitting him in the face. .

Neache gets up from the bead feeling slightly euphoric, but still hazy, and staggers forward, quickly a cobalt young Siren with multiple cheek folds and an especially richly scared forehead catches his arm, and helps him walk around the clearing, pressing close. The singing is joined by drums and the tempo of the forest starts to build. Huten looks on the scene, especially Neache and his nubile assistant, and smiles noticing the euphoric sensation as well. He considers joining, but can feel his legs are too weak still.

Following the echos of drums to the far side of the small clearing Neache finds that the SolGweel captives, scarred and unscarred alike, lie with Siren den mates, sleeping in woven, fig root hollows. A bit further on he finds that gray bearded nose wrinkled Soma are covering piles leaf litter with sand; Neache's eyes now notice that the forest is littered with the such piles, some already dug open for the various nutritious and medicinal myceliums they cultivate. The shouts and singing grows louder, and gradually closer. He turns back to where Huten still lies, but in the darkness it is hard to even see so far.

The Skipper locks his eyes to Izon's as he builds up the scene of what Neache might have found so long ago, and Izon smiles thinking of the what beautiful lullabies such a dark dwelling people might have.

The canopy shakes with activity as Players, some born Soma others with foreheads still scabbed from initiation, climb down the fig root ladders cultivated through out the forest. On their backs are troops from the rear guard, including Sir Tellir and General Lunbada unconscious from the darts.

Izon's hand falls still, the wheel stops spinning, and he sinks into the old mariner's imagination.

Now all the Soma are clapping and singing as the proud Players present their spoils to the group. Chortles and boos, hisses and clicks, claps and hollas greet each Player as he dances with and sings to the not quite awake candidate. As the candidates are sorted the song softens to a roast garlic rich requiem. The sponsored are placed on fig root and leaf bunks, hastily prepared by which ever Siren was impressed by the prospective candidate. The unsponcered are softly put to bed together amongst heaps of sand, each one throughly blanketed with forest litter before the next is tenderly tucked in over him and blanketed.

"Do you think I could meet the Soma near Paca city? I must listen to them, know how they tell stories... they must tell stories?" asked Izon, pushing the D20 toward the Skipper "I would need you to take this gift though, sell it to a Story Spinner Guild member that it be safe, just in case no Siren is interested in my spinning wheel and glass beads."

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ray

    If you send an email to, I'll send you my comments. I'd prefer not to comment publicly. That's just my quirk and has nothing to do with your story.