Happy Saturday and welcome to the Dog’s serialization of the novel Dark Soul. This is a work in progress, so if you have any thoughts or suggestions, don’t be shy about offering them up.
If you have just started reading this, you can find chapters one through three at the following links:
This serialization is only available here at Docudharma!
The Shadow turned and followed his companions into the building. He was not sure what kind of reception they would get, but he hoped that Tyrone and Brother Carlinus would have the sense to say a little as possible, until it became clear what was happening. Not that he thought Carli would, but one could always hope. He had noticed Tyrone’s attempt at charming the people they had walked by, and was happy that he had made the attempt, but it was not the Shadows style at all.
Inside, were the first pieces of art that depicted humans that the Shadow had seen since coming into the city. On the walls and the ceiling were paintings, murals and tapestries. They all showed scenes of what the Shadow assumed were the history of the Celesta.
To his right a battle was being fought before the gates of a burning city; three different armies contended with the defenders, many of whom lay dead or dieing. To the left a group of travelers, stretching away around a mountain, being lead by a woman with blond hair, and look of steely determination. On the ceiling, was a picture of men and women in robes, pounding on large drums, something in the way they looked said “Priests” to the Shadow.
The party came to the central room of the building. This room was also covered with art, but the Shadow wasted no time on it, before him was the Council of Elders of the City of Rushing Waters.
Before him was a semi-circle of stone benches, each with what the Shadow presumed, was one of the elders seated upon it. Behind three of the benches where several people, all dressed in colors similar to their elder. There where three men and two women, which surprised the Shadow, somewhat, and four of them looked the way that you would expect someone with the title Elder in their name to look.
Long white hair, beards for the men, slight, arms and legs thinned by age, but still with an upright bearing that spoke of remaining strength. Their faces were masses of winkled tan skin, with bright and clear eyes peering from between the wrinkles.
Their age and wrinkles only made the fifth member stand out more. He was in the prime of life and built on much larger scale. It was difficult for the Shadow to estimate his height as he sat, but he could easily be as tall as or taller than the Shadow. He was a heavily muscled man with broad shoulders, and a large chest that made wedge shape as it tapered to his waist. His arms were bare, and knotted with muscles that bunched and jumped as he slowly flexed his hands open and closed.
His hair was dark brown, nearly black, and fell down past his shoulders in tight curls. His eyes were a light brown, under heavy straight brows. They held a cold, calculating light, and the Shadow would be willing to wager that they missed little that passed before them. His face was mostly covered with a beard the same color as his hair, except for two lines of white that ran down on either side of his chin. His mouth was compressed into a mighty frown. Whatever this man saw in the traveler’s party, it was obvious that he did not like it.
From the bench in the center of the semicircle, a woman rose. She was of medium height, with gray eyes, and silver hair that fell to her waist. She stood before them and the Shadow could feel that this was someone that was used to giving commands and seeing them carried out.
“Astiabo ne’ Garshon, pe’ Tralevet, what have you brought before us?” she asked in a voice that rang through the room.
Astiabo stepped forward and bowed deeply from the waist. “Questoria, I bring travelers from beyond the mountain walls. I present Tyrone, Clan Hunt, Sept Costello; Carlinus, Clan Benedict, Sept Brother; and the Shadow of the Angle of the Depths, he is without Clan or Sept. ”
“You have no family, no sept to teach you, dark man?” asked the black haired man in a gruff voice.
“I do not,” replied the Shadow, “I am the last of my family, and we have not been part of a clan in many generations,”
“Do you search for one, is that why you came here? To gain clan and sept?” he asked again
“Enough, Trasbello, I will ask the questions here,” said the woman standing.
“I am Skoltrella, Questoria of the Celesta, from the clan Garshon, sept Sotho. While Trasbello is perhaps too direct, his question is still valid. What brings you and your companions here to the City of Rushing Water?” Skoltrella asked with a raised eyebrow.
“We come following the steps of Father Delatora, who visited your people, some hundred summers ago,” said Brother Carlinus, “I am of his order, or as Astiabo said his clan,”
“The Wonderer had promised not to reveal our location. This we have heard from the Sczench of all three clans,”
The Shadow did not like the way that this was heading and decided that it was time to take control of the conversation. “Brother Carlinus found the writings of Father Delatora, who you name the Wonderer; it had clues that your people were in these mountains. The Wonderer was very old when he wrote these things. We came to see if we could verify his writings, and that brought us to your city.”
The Questoria considered this for a moment, her eyebrows and forehead furrowed, “So you came through the mountains, to a place you could not be sure existed, all on the writing of an old man, a long time ago? Have you nothing better to do? Are your clans so rich that they can send you to chase old tales?”
“Our people place value on hard deeds, finding new places and peoples. We do this for the honor that it would bring,” replied the Shadow, rather lamely.
“Hmm,” said the Questoria in a tone that said she was not yet convinced. “So you have found us now, what will you do?”
Brother Carlinus jumped in, with his unerring talent for saying the wrong thing, “We would teach you about our ways,” he said.
“And to learn, yours, if you would allow,” said the Shadow cutting him off. He struggled mightily to keep his voice calm, but the Shadow promised himself that the priest would hear about opening his mouth before he used his brain.
“Why would we want to learn your ways? Or you learn ours?” asked Trasbello. This earned him a hard look from the Questoria and a couple of the other Elders, it seemed that the Shadow was not the only one that had to deal with those who spoke out of turn.
“Surely, the Celesta do not know everything?” asked Tyrone, with a smile, “I know that we do things differently than you. Isn’t it possible that we will know better ways to do some things, while you will do better at others? Both our people might benefit from the exchange, but how could we know, without trying?”
This little speech gained a small smile form the Questoria, “Perhaps you speak in wisdom, Tyrone of the Costello. We will consider it. Astiabo will take you to a place where you can rest and eat. We will let you know what the council decides.”
“I do have a separate reason for being here, than these two,” said Brother Carlinus, “I am a representative of the One God, Lord of Lords, and I have come to share that with you,”
This statement struck the group like a storm on a beach, previously silent the three groups of people behind the elders began to mutter and whisper amongst themselves. The man seated to the farthest right, without a group behind him rose to his feet.
“Questoria, a question if I may?” he asked
“I think that I know your question, Getovan,” said the Questoria without looking
“Still, this is my stolvator, Questoria, and so I must insist,” said the man in a mild but insistent voice.
“Ask, Getovan, but be mindful of the consequence,” sighed the Questoria, “for it will not be only you that pays for poor judgment.”
Getovan, stepped forward and bowed to Brother Carlinus, the first gesture of respect that the men had received in the Council hall. “Carlinus, when you speak of the one god, is that the same as our god?”
Brother Carlinus took a moment to consider, which only meant that the Shadow and Tyrone suffered a longer moment wondering what he would say.
“There is only one God, my son, so it would seem that the God you know and the one that I serve must be the same,” said Brother Carlinus with a small pious smile. This set off the crowd once again. As the muttered comments rose, it was obvious that there was more than one opinion on this statement.
“Silence!” shouted the Questoria, “Are you untrained children, to speak out of turn, and without respect for these council chambers?” This stopped the muttering, but the silence was nearly as contentious as the talking had been. There were frowns and hard stares flying back and forth as the words had been just a moment before.
Getovan started to speak again, but was cut off by the Questoria, “You have asked your question, Saltori, and I am unwilling to allow another. Astiabo, take them to the House of Summer, they and their beasts should be fed and allowed to rest. Go, now,” There was no mistaking the command or the futility of trying to modify it, so echoing Astiabo’s bow the three men left following their friend.
The Shadow was in a high rage, but he would wait until he was no longer being observed by any Celesta to vent it on the foolish priest. Astiabo lead them back into the plaza, where they could hear the sound of laughter. The crowd had diminished, some what, but still there were people lining all of the sides of the plaza and across the streets that entered it.
Around the horses a small group of young men and women had gathered, standing at a respectful distance, with the exception of Traviso. The herder stood right below Orobasson’s head, trying to reach a strip of cloth that the black horse was holding in his teeth. The horse was tall enough that by tilting it’s head back was enough to keep it from easy reach of the boy. As the party walked up, they saw Orobasson tip it’s head down and then snatch it away as Traviso made a grab for the cloth. The crowd laughed again as his hand missed and he nearly lost his balance. Astiabo was less amused than the crowd and stalked up to the boy.
“Traviso! What are you doing?” he said shouted. Traviso turned and flushed a deep red, as he saw who called him.
“Uncle, the beast took my sling,” he said by way of explanation.
“Did not the Shadow tell you to keep your hands off of his horse?” asked Astiabo.
“Aye, and I did not touch the creature, my word on it Uncle,” said the boy.
Tyrone, knowing a little something about high spirited boys asked, “But touching would not include cracking your sling at Orobasson, would it, Traviso?”
The youth knew that he had been caught, having obeyed the letter of the law, but not the intent, and hung his head.
“Your Telethan shall hear of this, Traviso. I expect you will not a Stoch for very much longer,” said Astiabo in a hard voice.
“Astiabo,” said the Shadow, hiding a smile behind his hand, “It seems that Orobasson has taken a measure of revenge already. If you are willing, I would say that is enough punishment, considering the offence.”
Astiabo turned and studied the Shadow for a moment before nodding sharply. Turning back to Traviso, he said. “Again your luck and the kindness of others has saved your from just punishment, nephew. Do not try my patience nor your luck again this moon, or it will be a different story!”
“Yes, uncle,” was the subdued reply.
The Shadow walked up to Traviso and Orobasson. He patted the war horse on its neck and then held his hand out flat in front of its mouth. Orobasson shook his massive head from side to side, and then dropped the sling into the Shadows palm. The Shadow handed it to Traviso, saying, “I believe that this is yours?”
The boy took the sling, holding it up, so that the holes that Orobasson’s teeth had made in it could be seen.
“Look what he has done to my sling,” cried Traviso in a despairing voice
“Aye,” said the Shadow, “He must like you, boy, else those holes would be in your hand, instead.” This seemed to impress Traviso. “Let me introduce the two of your, so you might survive the next time your choose to taunt my steed. Orobasson, this is Traviso, a youth with more courage than sense. Traviso, of the Garshon, this is Orobasson. He is the son of a creature of darkness, and your recent playmate.”
Traviso, in all seriousness said, “I greet you Orobasson,” and bowed. The horse lowered his head, stamped and then snorted. It conveyed both greeting and amusement. Traviso’s customary sly smile lighted his face at the display.
“You are done here, Traviso, you may return to your duties in the field. Now” said Astiabo, dismissing the young man. He then turned to the travelers and said, “I will take you to the House of Summer, now. ” He gestured to a street that was perpendicular to the one they had come in on and urged them toward it.
The Shadow walked beside Astiabo, leading Orobasson, with Brother Carlinus and Tyrone following. As they came to the street entrance, the crowd melted back against the walls, to let them through. The people were still quite, and ready for anything from the strangers, but their demeanor seemed a little less threatening now.
“My friend Shadow, you did not have to intercede for Traviso,” said Astiabo in a low voice, “He broke your command and nearly shamed our clan”
“Ach, Astiabo, he is a boy, after all, we can’t expect them to act like men, can we? Besides, as I said, Orobasson took care of him. I think shame is a good punishment for boys that age,” said the Shadow
“He is a Stoch in the Garshon, and should act with more deliberation. How will the Kethlani under him respect him when he acts so? Still I thank you for your forbearance, he is the only son of my sister and I would hate to see her shamed by his loss of rank,”
“Stoch?” asked the Shadow, “What is that?”
“Ah, Shadow, I can not tell you, until the Council decides whether to welcome you or not,”
“What do you think they will decide, my friend?” asked the Shadow quietly.
“I truly do not know my friend, I truly don’t. I have not seen such upset in a council meeting in my life. Trasbello is beside himself, but he often shows more anger than he feels. It was a surprise that Getovan spoke out, the Sczench rarely speak in council, unless it is on a point of history. I will say that the Questoria liked Tyrone’s reasoning; that one could charm the birds from the trees, I think,” the hunter sighed and shook his head, “This is why I do not spend much time in the city, Shadow, I have no skill at this kind of calculation. ”
“Do not worry my friend; I am sure we will hear the council’s decision soon enough, “said the Shadow. He did not ask anymore as he could see that Astiabo was worried. The Shadow had learned enough of this man to know that he would not tell him why, if asked. So, rather than further burden him, he asked, “What is the House of Summer that we are going to?”
Astiabo actually blushed, at this question. “Well, we do not get visitors here, as you know, but there is a minimum requirement of hospitality, all the same. So the Questoria decided to put there. It is where the newly married spend their first moon together. It is said that being in the house helps to bring strong children into the world,” he said keeping his eyes down. “Shadow, I would not want you to think that we believe that the three of you wish to lay with each other, it is just that this is the only house that is not occupied, now. Please do not take offense, “said Astiabo. So earnest and pleading was his expression that the Shadow laughed out loud.
“Well, I will promise not to take offence at you quartering us in the house for young lovers, if you will do me one favor,” said the Shadow with a gleam in his eye,” You must let me tell Brother Carlinus,”
“I will take that deal, and gladly. But won’t Carlinus be upset by this? To say the truth of it, I was more concerned with him than you,”
“Oh, he will be very upset indeed. That is what I am counting on,” said the Shadow with a grin, “But I give you my word that he will be upset at me, not you”
Astiabo shook his head in disbelief, “You are as bad as Traviso, no wonder you let him slip from justice, the two of you are cut from the same cloth!” he said with a rueful laugh.
“Aye,” said the Shadow, “but mine is dyed much darker than your nephew’s.” Astiabo merely nodded as there was no doubt to him that the Shadow was much darker than Traviso. They walked on in silence, shortly coming to an alley that dead-ended in to a court yard, with a low wall surrounding it.
The house that sat in the court yard was almost a miniature of the City of Rushing Water. Not an exact copy to be sure, but it gave the feeling of the city, with many balconies, waterfalls, and fountains. The yard, itself, had apple and pair trees, their branches intertwined to form shaded arches. The walls of the house where covered in climbing vines, with the last flowers of summer dying amongst the leaves. The leaves themselves were turning from glossy green to a bright red, as the cool nights took their toll.
“The House of Summer,” said Astiabo, with only a little blush as he urged his charges past the low wall and the wooden gate that closed it off from the rest of the street. The men lead their horses through the gate and let them roam free.
“Is it alright for them to eat the bushes here?” asked Tyrone, as he held Julius back from the shrubs planted along the wall.
“Aye,” said Astiabo, “They are welcome to whatever they would like, unless they will eat the trees?”
“No, Julius will eat the any apples on the ground, but he does not try to take them from trees,” replied Tyrone.
“Then it is well,” said Astiabo, “please make sure that they stay here,”
“Do you have any idea how long the Council will take to decided what to do with us?” asked Tyrone
“It is sure that they will not be in accord before the dawn, Tyrone,” said Astiabo with a sigh, “And I will be with them. I must leave you here, and return to the council.”
Brother Carlinus was standing near and asked the question that the Shadow and Tyrone were, perhaps, too polite to ask, “And what will you tell them? Will you try to persuade the council to let us stay?” There was an embarrassed silence following the question, as the men looked at Astiabo and he returned their stare with a measured one of his own.
“I will tell them what I know of you, each of you. I will tell them that I have made friends of you, and that I would stand next to you in battle. That is what I will tell the Questoria, and the Saltori of the Clans,” said Astiabo in a serious voice.
Brother Carlinus opened his mouth to speak, only to be cut off by Tyrone, “More than that, honest men can not hope for. Thanks for tellin’ us, “he said and offered his hand. Astiabo gripped his wrist, and shook his whole arm, looking into his eyes.
“Thank you, my friend,” he said, “I will make sure that food is sent to you. I ask that you do not leave these grounds, until I come for you,”
“For you, we will stay,” said the Shadow, “If you can, send word if it is going to be longer than tonight, it would make our day easier,”
“If I can, I will,” said Astiabo, “But I must go now. Good sleep.” He then turned and left.
“Well, if we have to spend the night, at least it will be in a bed!” said Brother Carlinus rubbing his hands together in glee. As he turned to go into the house, the Shadow said, “We will be unpacking the horses, before exploring our new home, Brother” With a long suffering sigh Brother Carlinus turned back to unload his mare.
The three men made quick work of unsaddling the horses, and after the Shadow had admonished Orobasson about eating the fruit in the trees or the trees themselves, they each carried their saddles and belonging into the house. The front room of the house was a large entry hall with steps leading to the upper floors, on both the left and right hand sides of the room. Straight ahead was an arched doorway, through which a hall could be seen with several doors opening off of it.
Without discussion each of the men chose a different direction, the Shadow going left, Tyrone going right, and Brother Carlinus taking the hall. Each was looking for the same thing, a room to place their belongings, and a little time away from the others.
Traveling with a small group can be very wearing, the constant day to day grind, without break takes it’s toll. Add to that the fact that these three men did not get along very smoothly, and the tension of being in a city where they only knew one other soul and it is easy to see why they looked for rooms as far apart as they could find.
Tyrone climbed the stairs to the second level. At the top of the stairs he set down his gear and continued to explore. A hallway ran through this side of the house and out to a balcony. As he headed down the hall, he found a stairs that took him up to a single room.
The room had large windows on three sides, and a bed next to the door. The sills of the windows were only knee high leaving wide open space through which views of the city could seen. Tyrone walked up to one of the windows, which faced the street that they had come to the house by. He could see that the crowd had disappeared, presumably going back to their day to day tasks. He leaned forward and was rewarded with a view of the court yard and the horses chomping contentedly on the ground falls near the pear tree.
Looking farther out, he could see the cross street, where people were walking back and forth, attending to their tasks. After a moment he saw what he had expected, three or four men, not doing anything, and most assuredly not looking towards the house. That did not mean that they would not notice if he tried to leave, Tyrone was sure. He did his best to visually retrace the path they had taken coming into the city, but the aqueducts and the walls of the buildings made it an impossible task. Sighing he ran his hands through his hair and tipped his head back.
As his gaze rose above the window to the ceiling, Tyrone noticed a handle recessed in a depression. Never being one to resist the satisfaction of curiosity well scratched, he reached up and turned it as far as it would go. He heard the sound of stone moving on stone, then the gurgle of water, as if it was running over a bed of small stones. He was even more bemused when the view out the window was covered by thin streams of running water. It made an effective curtain, without blocking out any of the light.
Laughing in wonder, he looked for and found similar handles near each of the other windows. Wasting no time, he turned each and had a repeat of his earlier experience. The afternoon light, that had been streaming through window to the right, was caught and split into a thousand rainbow glitters, filling the room with moving sparkling light.
Tyrone was a warrior, his life was mostly doing unto others before they could do on to him, but this display was so beautiful, so unexpected the it melted even his hard heart. His breath caught in his throat and he slowly backed up until the backs of his legs hit the edge of the bed. He sat down, and then lay back looking at the play of light and shadow. The sound the water made was so in tune with the lights that Tyrone assumed that it had to be intentional. It was so captivating that he did not notice the bed and mattress that he lay on for several minutes.
The mattress was so soft that it could only be stuffed with feathers, and was coved in a very tightly woven cloth, so that none of the quills poked through. On top of this was a blanket of brightly dyed wool. It was knitted in a wave pattern that changed color as it moved along. Tyrone’s family had had many sheep and he could see that the skill with which this was made, was very high indeed.
Lacing his fingers behind his head, he took a few deep breaths and let himself relax and watch the show that water and light were performing for him. After a while the sun moved on and the room darkened slightly. Sighing, Tyrone forced himself to his feet and went down to complete his exploration of this wing of the house.
He found six more rooms, and two more balconies, one with it’s own fountain. There were strange handles in some of the walls and ceilings, but he did not try them at this time. After seeing all of the rooms, he took his belongings back to the waterfall room and set them there. He had always liked to sleep next to running water, so he would claim this room for himself.
After had his gear settled, Tyrone decided to look for the other two. Even though he was enjoying being away from them, they were his only allies in a city that did not seem completely friendly. It would be a bad idea not to know where they were if there was trouble.
Tyrone was just coming into the entry hall when he heard a voice from outside.
“Ho! Travelers, in the house!” it shouted.
Tyrone glanced around to see if the Shadow or Brother Carlinus was around. Seeing neither of them he walked out to the court yard. At the gate of the yard, stood a woman, balancing a large basket on the gate itself.
“Ah, so there are living men in the House of Summer after all,” said the woman with a mocking tone.
“Excuse me?” asked Tyrone, confused.
“Well, I usually do not have to call several times, to get a response,” she said arching one eyebrow over startlingly blue eyes. “I had thought that perhaps you did not want this food, but then I decided that you must have been exploring the house, and so could not hear me.”
“That must be the case, “agreed Tyrone as he looked at her. She was no great beauty, her nose being too long and slightly hooked, but her mouth had red, generously full lips, and the way the way her eyes flashed beneath her dark eyebrows, stirred something in Tyrone.
“So was I right at first? You don’t want this food?” she asked.
This shook Tyrone from his reverie, realizing that she might leave with the basket, he said, “Uh, no!”
“Well, then, “she said with a laugh, “Are you going to invite me in or not?”
“Yes! Of course,” said Tyrone, crossing the yard to put words into action. While he was embarrassed at his lapse in manners, he did not act contrite for his staring at her. Tyrone had not been nervous around women ever since one of the daughters of his father’s men had showed him the way of the world in his twelfth year. So smiling his smoothest smile, he opened the gate and said, “Enter, and be welcome”
His companion smiled broadly and swept into the court yard as grandly as any queen come to her throne. Her laugh was low and musical, and seemed to be designed for just such situations as this. She walked over to one of the stone benches that were scattered around the yard, and set her burden down.
Turning to face Tyrone she said, “I am Krenchi, ne’ Stafovsian, pa’ Zhetkho, and you would be Tyrone, ne’ Costello?”
“Just Tyrone, that is unless I am in trouble. My Ma would always call my whole name when I was in trouble. But how did you know? I am sure that I would have remembered seeing you in the Council chamber,” he said smoothly.
“I do not doubt but you have a good memory for the women, Tyrone,” Krenchi said in a mocking tone, “but news spreads quick, and I do not think that you are the fat one, nor the one that rides the steed of darkness, so who else could you be but the other one?”
“Well, I have made quite an impression if I am called ‘the other one’!” said Tyrone ruefully. This earned him another of those remarkable laughs from Krenchi.
“It is your own fault for traveling with men of such distinct appearance, ” she said. “So, do you like the House of Summer?” she asked looking up at the house.
“What I have seen of it is amazing,” said Tyrone sincerely.
“I see that you found the waterfall room,” said Krenchi, pointing the room on the third floor with the water still flowing past the windows.
“Yes, I did. I have never seen anything like it. Have you been there before?” asked Tyrone
“I’ve had reason to stay there before,” she replied with tone that said she was sharing a joke. If there was a joke there, Tyrone had no idea what it was.
“I must return to the bakery, perhaps I will see you again,” said Krenchi as she walked by. Tyrone watched her walk away, noting the lithe movements of her hips and the sway of her braided hair. As she moved into the shadows of the street he sighed and shook his head. What a marvelous city this was! He picked up the basket and walked through the doorway with a large and silly smile all across his face.