Happy Saturday and welcome to the Dog’s serialization of his 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 the previous chapters at the following links:
Dark Soul – Chapter One
Dark Soul – Chapter Two
Dark Soul – Chapter Three
Dark Soul – Chapter Four
Dark Soul – Chapter Five
Dark Soul – Chapter Six
Dark Soul Chapter Seven
Dark Soul Chapter Eight
Dark Soul Chapter Nine
This serialization is only available here at Docudharma!
The Shadow waited observing Trasbello as he rose from his bench and approached. The big man stroked his long black beard as if trying to choose between two things that he would rather not have in the first place.
“Well, Night Eyes, you will be spending a lot of time with me, from now on. I think that it would be best if you and your friends stayed at the House of Summer, though I have not talked to their Saltori, yet. Were you a young noy you would stay with your parents. You could stay with my wife and me if you liked, but a man of your years might prefer a little less scrutiny. ”
This gruff and tactful speech made the Shadow smile, seeing how seriously Trasbello took his responsibility in educating him. “I would rather stay at the House, if it is all the same to you. I have separated myself from my father, and to stay in a home would not be comfortable for me or you, I think.”
“Why do you no longer share your father’s house?” asked Trasbello in a disapproving tone.
“It is not I that left the house of my family, but my Father. He abandoned all we have worked for, and betrayed me to our enemies, all for his own comfort.”
“You speak truly?”
“Aye, not even a shade of untruth. He feared what would happen to him at the foes hands, and instead gave me up to them.”
“Craven, I say. He is a coward and without honor. One may fear the hands of his enemy, and even make a break with the way of his sept. But to surrender ones born-kin? That is the height of cowardice; you are well shut of him Night Eyes. I tell you now, that your clan will never treat you so. We may grow to hate the sight of you, to despise the words that come from your mouth, but we will stand with you against all foes. We will not be craven, or without honor.”
“How can you offer that to me? You do not know me at all, yet you say that you will stand by me, even if you hate me? Come now Trasbello; do not joke in such a way!”
The big man slowly shook his head, “No jest, Night Eyes. It is our way, the way of the clans that we will stand by our clan mates, come what may. If we do not put the welling being of all clan mates first, what is the point of the clan? We succeed or fail together, not separately.”
“I don’t understand, are you saying that you have no personal honor?”
“Not at all, personal honor is for within your clan, how you behave determines much of the position you hold with in the sept and clan. But when you are with others outside your clan, then how they treat you, is how we are all treated. Your friends are now ours, likewise your enemies, who so ever they be.”
“So you will fight my battles with me, eh?”
“That is part of it. But with any gain there is a price. You will be expected to fight our enemies as well. And there is more; how you act reflects on all of your clan. If you dishonor yourself, we are stained with the same brush. This is part of what we must be sure that you learn.
I will say this many times Night Eyes, before you earn your name back, but let this first time sink in and be as part of your soul; You are now Chositha, and will be whether you live in the City or are far beyond the mountains. When you act with honor you increase your clan, when you act without honor you damage us all. This is not something that can be taken back, given away or hidden from. You’re of us, and we are of you.”
“And seeing me as I am, you take this on of your free will? Don’t you worry what you have wedded to your clan?”
“Aye, I do, but I have heard what Astiabo says of you. You stir the pot at every turn, you pick where your mates are weak and laugh at their consternation. You can be cruel, and fierce, but I have heard the story of the pass.
You could have left Sly Tongue, and most certainly saved yourself. Instead you ran towards the trouble that confronted your mates. And before you start to give me some guff about it serving your interest, just stop. You did not think or consider, no, you ran to put your life on the line, without thought or hope of reward.
We work long and hard to instill that in our noy, and you come with it ready made. You have a loyalty that does not bend, or shirk and you give it completely. My job is to be sure that you want to give it to the Chositha. After that I have no worries, lest it is the enemies that you might attract.”
“Trasbello, I believe you. And I thank you, though I don’t understand how you can be so sure. But before I can let you commit to me completely I have to tell you that chief among my enemies is Yahweh, the god that Carlinus speaks of. It is a battle that no one should commit to blind.”
“Think you that all Celesti are pleased that we might have the attention of the god on us again? Do not. The god’s favor was a terrible thing, and it lead to the near destruction of the Celesta. We have not had priests nor spoken to the god in a thousand summers. I for one would keep it that way.
I am worried that you would attract the god’s attention to us by being a sworn enemy of his, but that is the most I worry over. Stand proud in your defiance and the Chositha stand with you.
And here your show yourself worthy of my trust, by not letting me take the clan into trouble without having all of the facts. Though I must tell you that Astiabo did mention that you have fought with and lost to an agent of the god, and that you are less able to contend than you were.”
“So, you were testing me?” the Shadow asked a little aghast, “And to think that I was fooled with all of the ‘we are one’ talk!”
“I did test you. I have the responsibility for the whole Chositha, and do not take it lightly, but I did and do mean it when I say you are one of us.”
The Shadow stared in to Trasbello’s brown eyes, trying to see the truth or deceit of his words. The man blandly returned his stare and waited for him to make up his mind. At last the Shadow drew in a deep breath and let it out in a long whistle. “You are a sly and sneaky man, Saltori. I think that if I am to fit in here, it would only be with one such as you. You will not be surprised if I wind up betraying you, nor will you let me do it easily. I will join your clan, if you will have me,” he said and held out his hand. Trasbello gripped his forearm in his large hand and squeezed hard while looking directly into the Shadow’s eyes, “Welcome to the City of Rushing Water, Night Eyes”
Brother Carlinus and Getovan came walking up as Trasbello released the Shadow’s arm. “Shadow, Getovan thinks…”
“I am called Night Eyes now,” interrupted the Shadow coldly, “We are to learn the ways of the Celesta, and this is one of them. ” he considered quizzically for a moment then turned to Trasbello, “Did the Questoria rename him? I recall her calling him a servant of the god, but surely that would not be a noy name?”
“She did not, “said Getovan stepping forward, “I did not think that it would be appropriate to treat Brother Carlinus as a noy since our sept is made up of those that have earned an adult name already. In any case we hope to have him teach more than learn,”
Brother Carlinus immediately took this to mean that his social position was higher than that of the Shadow’s, having learned to interpret clues such as these in the monastery, and smiled a condescending smile.
“As, I was saying, noy Night Eyes, Getovan thinks that we should have a tour of the city today, and then go to our septs starting in the morning,”
The Shadow did not miss the use of the diminutive term noy before his new name, but would not let Brother Carlinus trap him in a fight. Instead he nodded his head and looked back to Trasbello, “Is that fitting with your plans, Saltori?”
“It might be for the best. But let me confer with the other Saltori and I will let you know. ” He and Getovan walked a small ways away, signaling to Hadronat to join them. Tyrone and Astiabo came to wait with them while the clan leaders talked.
“See, Night Eyes! I told you that we would be welcomed,” beamed Brother Carlinus.
“Kidnapped is more the term Carlinus,” muttered the Shadow
“Pah! We wanted to stay and teach these people the glories of God, and he arranged it. All things good come to those that submit to the will of Christ”
“Were you listening to the same meeting that I was?” asked the Shadow, “We were given the choice of dieing or staying mayhap forever! That is in no way what I wanted,”
“I think you take that talk of killing too seriously, really I do, “said Brother Carlinus in a reproving tone. “They most likely said it to spur you choice. I am sure that had you refused, they might have beaten you, but kill you? Hardly.”
“Astiabo, you have been very quite during this conversation, ” said Tyrone, “Tell me true, clan mate, would you have killed us if we refused to stay?”
“Most noy do not ask such pointed questions, Sly Tongue. But clearly the Questoria has named you well. Yes, you would have been killed if you had not chosen to stay the year,”
Brother Carlinus gasped as the reality of this hit him. “What? You would have cut us down like animals in the forest?”
This accusation caused Astiabo’s face to darken, like storm clouds crossing the face of the sun. “No! We would not have shot you with arrows, nor thrown spears to pierce your heart. Men from each clan would have faced you in combat. Singly if you would, or as a group if that was your choice. Your have shown yourselves to be warriors and men of knowledge. We would not have dishonored you by attacking at a distance, facelessly.”
“See, Brother Carlinus, honor and bloody-mindedness need not be incompatible. Just because they have treated us well, does not mean that they would not have killed us. But that is all over now, isn’t it, Astiabo?” asked Tyrone.
“Aye, providing you are able to learn our ways. There is always the chance that you will break our laws and pay with your life for the crime, but that is a chance all take equally. So, my-not-so-young-noy, pay attention! A glib tongue will not influence the council twice I warrant,”
“As you say, Doci, “replied Tyrone with a smile remarkably like Traviso’s, “I will do my best not to have to face the wrath of the council.”
Before Astiabo could say any more the three Saltori returned, Hadronat leading. “It had been decided that you will all stay in the House of Summer, for the time being. You will be assigned dining hall places within each clan, and will rotate with septs you are training with. For now, the Sczench will show you the lay of the City. In the morning, Sly Tongue, you will report to me at the top terrace and we will start your training.”
Trasbello nodded and said, “Night Eyes, I will be working at the forge in the lane of Hammered Metal. I will see you there shortly after the morning meal,” then both men turned and left.
Astiabo also took his leave, saying that he must report to his sept, and then would be spending some time with his wife. He assured the men that he would see them all soon, and Tyrone most specially, then left himself.
This made the party Tyrone, the Shadow, Brother Carlinus and Getovan. The Sczench Saltori made a shallow bow to the men and said, “Well, I will be acting as your guide around our City today. I dare say that this will be the first time in our history that this has happened. I hope that I am adequate to the task. ”
“I am sure that you will do a more than adequate job,” said Brother Carlinus, smarmily, eliciting a two pairs of rolled eyes from Tyrone and the Shadow. The party trooped out of the Council chamber and made there way into the square.
“This is the primary market and meeting place of the City. It is here that the Saltori are chosen and the clans give their allegiance to the council and their Saltori.”
“How are the Saltori chosen? Is it by birth?” asked Tyrone
“What do you mean?”
“Well, most of our leaders are the children of the one that lead before. They are born to their rank,”
Getovan’s face was slightly confused, for a moment but then returned to it’s natural neutral expression. “Ah, that is a most unique way of deciding leadership. We do not do that. Each Celesta has the possibility of rising to the Council and even the rank of Questoria, though of course few actually do it. It is a long road to get the head of a clan, and not everyone finds that they have the desire nor the skills needed to succeed.
But as to the way that one becomes a Saltori, first you must obtain the level of Methodenon. From there you would need the support of some or most of the other Methodenon in your clan. Having secured that, you would challenge your current Saltori. The Saltori would then have the option of the method of challenge. It could be a challenge of skill, competing at the skills learned in each ones sept, with judges’ form the sept deciding the relative worth of the work. There could be a challenge of wit, words and puzzles or there could be a challenge by combat.”
“Is the combat to the death?” asked the Shadow
“Rarely, though it does happen, if the challenge is particularly rancorous. Usually it is enough to disarm your opponent, but all of that is agreed upon in advance. And all challenges are preformed before the clan, and as many of the other clans as would care to see. It is the only way that we have found for those lead to be sure of the quality of there leaders.
By challenge, and the support of the Methodenon, there can be no doubt that the one most able leads the clan. The Chositha, have just replaced their Saltori this last spring. It was quite a challenge, as Old Hesteveth was also a smith, like Trasbello. He made a challenge of skill, and they worked for three days and nights on their projects. But in the end, Trasbello won, his work being judged just the smallest bit better.”
“And what happened to Hesteveth?”
“He became an honorary Bethainal, as is the case with all those that lose in the challenge. He teaches the young of his clan, though I hear that Trasbello often asks his thoughts on issues that confront the clan. This I esteem as wise.”
As they had been talking the party had crossed the square with it’s stalls of goods. There was a wide selection of crafted items, but there seemed to be very little food, which is what Tyrone always thought of as the main purpose of a market.
“Saltori Getovan, where is all of the food?” he asked
“What do you mean Sly Tongue?”
“The market does not have any food, only made things. How does one of a septs get their food? I understand that the Sotho are the growers of food. Is there a Sotho sept in each clan?”
“Ah, you wish to see how each sept is fed?”
Tyrone shrugged, confounded by Getovan’s obtuseness, “I guess that would answer my question, yes.”
“Follow then, and we will see. It is a good time in any case as it nears time for the midday meal,” said Getovan turning away from the party and striding up one of the streets.
The trip along the street was very different from the one they’d had even that morning. Now they received open smiles and there were not small groups of tough eyed watchers anymore. There were calls of “Hail” to either Night Eyes or Sly Tongue from the members of their respective clans. In it’s own way the complete acceptance of them was nearly as unsettling as the silence that they had endured when they entered the City.
As they walked Getovan kept up a continuous stream of commentary, explaining the names of the crafters of this arch or that aqueduct, giving a detailed explanation of things that happened hundreds of summers ago, as though it had happened just this last week. Tyrone let it flow in one ear and out the other, figuring, quite rightly that he would be able to get all of this from his training in Garshon.
Instead he tried very hard to get the feel of the layout of the city. It would take some time before he would be able to find his way with out a guide, but if he could pick up a few land marks it would make the process of creating a mental map much easier. Soon he could smell cooking meat, and then Getovan stopped before a cloth draped doorway.
“This is a dinning hall of the Pathri, of clan Chositha. We will take our meal hear as guests of Night Eyes,” said Getovan as he swept the curtain aside and motioned for the men to enter. Inside there were long tables constructed of heavy pine boards. Each table was flanked by a sets of benches long enough to seat several men. Boys and girls, in their early teens were setting out pitchers and cups on all of the tables.
An older girl saw them and came to greet them. “Hail, Sczench Getovan,” she said in an inquiring tone.
“Hail, ah, …”
“Zelibothir,” provided the girl
“Of course; Hail Zelibothir ne’ Garshon, pa’ Zhetkho!” said Getovan a little abashed at not knowing the girls name. “I bring one of your new clan mates and some guests for midday meal,”
“Welcome to our dinning hall, Night Eyes,” said Zelibothir graciously, “You and your guests are most welcome, ”
The men found seats at the table that she indicated Tyrone pulled the jug on the table to him, sniffing at the contents. He smiled and poured himself a large mug of the contents, and then without a word, drank off most of the mug. “Ah, beer at last,” he said with a sigh. Tyrone topped off his mug and then offered to pour for the other three.
They each tasted the beer, which was made of wheat and was light and weak, as is appropriate for a meal in the middle of the day.
“Every time that I think that I know the measure of this place, it just gets that littlest bit better,” said Tyrone enthusiastically. Zelibothir returned from to the table leading two boys and a girl. Each of the children had a platter of some kind in their hands. They set the food in front of the travelers and left without a word. Zelibothir turned to leave as well, but Getovan stopped her.
“Emilrat, if you have time, please eat with us,”
“I would be honored,” said Zelibothir
“Forgive me,” said the Shadow, “I thought that your name was Zelibothir?”
“And it is, Night Eyes,”
“But Getovan called you Emilrat?”
“That is my title, not my name. I hold that position as part of running this meal hall,”
“Ah, well, I hope I can keep up with both the names and the titles,” said the Shadow.
“I understand that you are as noy. For you, it will be acceptable for you to call any of us by our name. Though if you can remember the title as well, it is all the better.” She looked at the table and began loading her plate with items from the platters. There was flat bread, roasted goat meat on the bone, and a bread and fruit stuffing that was heavy with spices. The men also followed suite.
Brother Carlinus bowed his head and said, “Holy Father thank you for your bounty this day. Bless all at this table and bless this food. Amen,”
This drew a shocked response from Zelibothir. “You ask for the god’s attention? For a meal?”
“Why, yes, don’t you give thanks?” asked a stunned Brother Carlinus.
“Thanks yes, to those that made the food, to those that grew the food, but you did not thank the god, you asked for his blessing, on the food and us! We have spent many, many years trying to stay out of the god’s sight and you casually call his attention to us? Sczench, how can you allow this? Is not this man in your care?”
“Zelibothir, you are being rude,” reprimanded Getovan, “This man is a servant of the god, you should show more respect!”
“Respect? Have you forgotten what it was like when we had the god’s attention on us? The constant war, the bloody hands and hearts? You are Sczench! It is your place to remember why we gave up our relationship with the god!”
“It is not your place to reminded me of the duty of my sept, Emilrat. And I will remind you that you are speaking to a Saltori, and should show the proper respect.”
“With all respect, Saltori, you are not of my sept, and a dereliction of duty needs to be pointed out, regardless of the rank of the person failing in that duty. If you have a question of honor with me, you may be sure that I will not demure when my Saltori comes with the challenge offer!”
“Zelibothir, you are making too much of this,” said Getovan soothingly. “These men have been Welcomed to the City, in the name of all the clans and the Council. They are staying here so that we may learn their ways, as they will learn ours. When Brother Carlinus asked this blessing, it was just an example of his way of acting with the god. You should take it as so.”
“Saltori, you speak from two different faces in the same sentence. You say that they are here to learn our ways, then say that it’s fine for them to break one of the key facts of the Celesta life, that we do not, ever, call upon the god! So, I ask you, which is it?”
“You act as though there is only one choice or the other, cannot it be both?”
“For me, no it cannot.” Zelibothir turned her angry face to Brother Carlinus and said, “I will thank you, Sczench-noy, to not practice your ways in my dinning hall, on the Celesti in my charge, or on the food we make. You may want the god’s attention, but I most surely do not!” She then turned away and applied herself to her meal with a fierce intensity.
There was an uncomfortable silence at the table. Tyrone could see that Zelibothir had made Getovan very mad, but the Sczench was trying to act as if there was nothing wrong. Tyrone wondered that Brother Carlinus had not moved to defend himself and the church, but perhaps this young woman intimidated him. Her willingness to argue and accuse one of the rulers of the City showed that she would not hesitate to turn that sharp tongue on others.
After a short time, the Shadow asked, “Is this where all of the Chositha eat? It hardly seems big enough,”
Zelibothir looked up and the change in her face was remarkable, where there had been a raging force of nature, now was a calm and interested young woman. “Hardly, Night Eyes. The Zhetkho have many such halls, in each area of the City. In those places where the Chositha have most of the shops, then there will be at least one dinning hall for them. The same applies for each of the other clans.
As a Chositha you may eat at any of them, though it is better to be invited, as some septs use their dinning time for training or discussing the knowledge of the sept. They would not hide their knowledge from you, but you should not be seen as trying to gain the knowledge of the sept without permission.
You could also dine with any of the other clans, you will not be turned away, for we are, or were all Celesta, “she paused to give a hard look to Brother Carlinus and Getovan, “But it is polite to be invited. It is very common to be invited to dine with another clan or sept. Everyone has family in other septs and clans, and dining with them is a fine way to stay in touch.”
“You are not born into your clans?” asked Tyrone.
“No, Sly Tongue,” answered Getovan, “Each clan does a particular kind of work. Just because one of the parents does that work does not mean that the child would be good at it or even want to do that work.”
“Aye,” agreed Zelibothir, “My mother is a Chifalow, in the Chositha. But I have no skill with the flow of water. My Father is a Tralevet of the Garshon, too much time alone in the woods is not something that appeals to me. So, when I was noy, I went to the Stafovsian. There I found that I liked to feed people, I have a talent for making just enough for those that eat in my hall. I have been told that my meats are some of the best in the City.”
“It is important that each child do what they are best suited for,” Getovan broke in. “It is part of what makes us Celesta, all work for the good of the all of the City of Rushing Water.”
“But there must be some jobs that no one wants to do. How are those handled?” asked Tyrone, “Do you make some do it as punishment?”
Both Getovan and Zelibothir looked shocked at this question. “We do not make any Celesti do a job that they have not chosen” said Getovan, “Before becoming noy, our children are schooled in every clan, exposed to the work of every sept. This lets them see where they would fit in best. Then when they join a clan, they are again schooled by each sept, so that they might define where their talents are. This guarantees that they will do a task with skill and pride,”
“As for punishment, if a Celesti is found to be acting against the Clan, or sept, there is only one punishment, death. To break with the good of the people is to stop being Celesti, and therefore to die,”
This statement brought another silence to the table. After a time the Shadow asked, “Surly there are must be some of your people that are not good at hunting or smithing or cooking, what do they do?”
“They become Sczench,” muttered Zelibothir. The Shadow and Tyrone both laughed at the jab.
“Our Emilrat may have said it in jest, but it is true. Those that cannot find a happy task in the material world are often very successful in the work of the Sczench. We are the ones that must think of the past and of things that are not so, …practical.”
“It is very much the same in our lands,” said Brother Carlinus. The monk and the Saltori both frowned as the other three all broke out in laughter again.
“It seems that your people have the same problem as mine, Brother Carlinus. Only a very few have the mental capacity to answer a higher calling than making things all day,” said Getovan with frosty dignity. This did nothing to slow the laughter that was coming from the other side of the table. “I see that we have all finished, so it is time to continue our tour. Zelibothir, thank you for your table,” He then got up and walked straight out the door. Brother Carlinus quickly followed, without a word.
Tyrone looked at the retreating backs and pulled himself together. “I too thank you Emilrat Zelibothir, the food was wonderful, as was the conversation,”
“Yes, your candor made this one of the most enjoyable meals I have had in the City of Rushing Water,” agreed the Shadow with a slight bow.
Zelibothir smiled brightly and nodded her head in acceptance of the praise, “Night Eyes feel free to bring your friend Sly Tongue to eat here whenever you like,” The men nodded and left, hurrying to catch up with their tour.