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. Sorry this is posted a little later than usual. There were internet connectivity issues here at the Dog house.
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
Dark Soul Chapter Ten
Dark Soul Chapter Eleven
This serialization is only available here at Docudharma!
Tyrone and the Shadow followed Heltiase as he took them up a street that led deeper into the City. After they had walked for a few minutes in silence, Heltiase stopped and turned to look at the two men. “I have only one question for the two of you; is it your intention to kick over every bucket of swill in the whole City of Rushing Water, or only the ones directly in front of you?”
Tyrone could not help lowering his gaze and glancing sideways to see the Shadow doing the same. It was as if each of them was suddenly eight and had been caught stealing eggs.
The Shadow looked up and said, “No, Telethan, it is not. But there are some times in life where the bucket is too good a target to resist.”
Heltiase nodded and said, “That is about what I would expect of one so given to spelon, but you were not the one that started this trouble, were you Night Eyes? No, indeed it had to be one of my clan.”
“I stood ready to except your judgment before, and still am ready now. Tell me, clan mate, did I do wrong? If so why did you not say it before the Saltori and Pathri?” asked Tyrone.
Heltiase sighed deeply, then said,” Sly Tongue, what will become of you? Not in the City more than two suns and already in the middle of clan politics. You were right in your desire to defend the honor of your new clan, but you defended it in the worst possible way. You challenged the authority of a Saltori in front of other noy. Exactly how was I supposed to handle this? If I reprimand you, then I teach them that honor is the servant of rank, if I let you do this without reprimand I invite young ones, without your keen sense of right, to challenge the authority of those above them.
I am just a Telethan, with no desire to be Saltori, but you put me in the middle of a paradox of honor!”
“It was not my intention that you be placed there,”
“Oh, I know, it could have been any Telethan of the Garshon, but young Fleet Runner is my brother’s youngest son, so he came to me first.” Heltiase took a deep breath and then let out another long sigh. “Still it is not all your fault, as much as I wish it were. Getovan is known to be quite prickly about his position, and if the Hadronat had thought more he would not have sent you off with him.
But enough of this. I will require your promise that you will at least try to stay out of conflict with him. I ask this not as a Telethan of your Clan, but as one that your rashness has put in a tight place. May I have your promise?”
“Oh, call me Heltiase, I am not that amazed by my rank,” he said with a smile. This earned Heltiase a couple a grateful smiles in response. “So, what have you seen on your ill-fated tour with Saltori Getovan?”
“We have seen the dining halls, some of the pottery and that is about all,” said the Shadow.
“Well, I am sure that there is more to our City than that. First we must stop at the herbery; a Telethan can not just abandon his duties, even if it is for other duties. So come my fine big noy, our next stop is my workshop,” Heltiase turned and headed back the way he had been going.
As they trouped along the street, Tyrone found that a tour with Heltiase was much different from the one with Getovan. People called to the tall Telethan, who would take a moment here and there to stop and discuss small things. It was as if the city was suddenly friendlier, more smiles where given to and received from the Tyrone and the Shadow, than had been the case with Getovan.
The small party eventually came to Heltiase’s workshop. As they approached they were nearly run down by a boy chasing a girl, his clear intent to fling the bowl of colored water that he carried in his hands. The hunter, with his hair and tunic showing splatters of a most brilliant blue, so it seemed that his was a mission of revenge, rather than conquest. The girl was not watching where she was going and ran full tilt into the Shadow. She fell to the stones of the street, and looked up in shock, for in this city it was not everyday that one ran into someone that they had never seen before.
As profound as her shock was, it was nothing compared to the realization that she had run into men that were in the company of her master. She immediately stood up and bowed her head in respect. The boy, to his credit, did not try to run or hide his part in this ruckus, but instead came to stand next to his partner in crime.
“What is all this then?” asked Heltiase rhetorically. When no answer was forthcoming he followed this question with another, “So, who started this?” both of the children pointed at the other, but neither said a word. “Hm, let me see if I have the right of it; both of you being done with the work that I left you, decided that it was time to run and play? Is that it? For I will tell you that I do not think that it would reflect well on the Garshon, if you were to have started to play without finishing your work, do you?”
Two barely audible “no’s” were the only response to the question. Heltiase shook his shining head in apparent exasperation, “Well, it is hard to fault those that have performed their duty, before perusing their fun. Now the two of you go and prepare your work areas for my inspection. Once I have settled these two men, I will be by to see the quality of your work.”
Without a word, both of the children turned and ran back into the workshop. Heltiase turned to see both the Shadow and Tyrone grinning at the disappearing children. “Heltiase, do you think that they had finished their tasks?” asked Tyrone.
“Ah, well, young Shandal, he almost certainly did. He is a studious young man and will be a fine herbalist, if he decides on that for his direction. As for Killain,” he paused to sigh deeply, “I fear that she is not cut from the same clothe. She is more like our Night Eyes, than an honest Celesti should be. Still there is a place for all, if they can follow the rules and not dishonor their clan or sept.”
The Shadow bristled at the comparison and said, “Help me, Heltiase. I do not deny nor try to hide my nature particularly, yet all in the City seem to know that I am what is the word you use, spelon? How is that? Do you all share gossip so quickly?”
“There is something to what you say, Night Eyes, after all, for us, there are only those that have been born and raised here in the City of Rushing Water. Any new person is a prodigy to be talked out for at least a moon, but that is not what how your nature is known. You glow darkly, as do all that have more spelon than olitao in their nature. It takes only a glance to see this. Is this not the case with your people?”
“No,” said Tyrone,” we do not see this glow you mention. That does not mean that you would not be able to see that my friend Night Eyes is trouble. His manner is often enough to warn a person.”
“But that is not the same as knowing that I am of the Dark. Any man may wear dark clothing, or carry an enchanted sword,” persisted the Shadow.
“Aye, but none have the Flames embedded in the flesh of their arms, do they?” quipped Tyrone.
“I am more interested in this ‘dark glow’ that Heltiase speaks of. Tell me, do all of the Celesti see this aura?”
Heltiase nodded and said, “To some degree or other. When we ruled our first lands, only the priests of the god had this sight. But over time, all of the blood lines have mixed and mingled. So now, it touches us all. I have always had a keen ability to see whether a person was out of balance in one direction or the other. For me, it extends into plants and animals as well. It is a great help in being an herbalist, for some spelon plants can be very helpful in the healing of fevers. By finding the ones that are most intensely spelon, I can make more effective treatments.”
“Is it magic then?”
“No, not the way you seem to mean it. It is just something that you have or do not. There is no skill in learning to use it, any more than it is a skill to see.”
The Shadow did not like this answer for some reason, but Tyrone did not have a chance to pursue it. Heltiase motioned them in to his workshop. They stepped through the door way to find a small room, the walls lined with shelves and benches. From the ceiling beams hung drying herbs and plants of all descriptions and types. So thickly was the space over-head filled that neither man could see the actual ceiling. When Heltiase came in he had to duck, slightly, to avoid brushing the bottoms of the plants with the top of his head.
Outside, Heltiase had seemed a kind if somewhat befuddled older man, but inside the workshop, his manner changed. He took in all of the activity in the workshop with a single glance. As he led the men deeper into the workshop, he spoke to each of the five apprentices as he passed. He did not stop nor did he ask questions, but merely walked by and gave corrective advice to each one in turn. As they came to the back of the workshop, Tyrone had decided, for at least the one hundredth time, not to underestimate any Celesta. Whatever else he might be, Heltiase was a master in his craft, his quite assurance and confident manner in the shop made this more than clear.
The two young miscreants were both at benches on either side of the door at the rear of the room, and both were working with great concentration and industry. From what he had said in the street, Tyrone expected Heltiase to stop and check there work. He was surprised then when the master herbalist did not even acknowledge the children, but instead pushed the curtain that covered the door aside and entered the room beyond.
The Shadow followed Heltiase quickly through the doorway. As Tyrone waited his turn, young Killian noticed him standing there and watched him with surreptitious glances. Tyrone caught her looking and gave her a conspiratorial wink before following his friend. He was not sure, but he thought that he had been rewarded with a shy smile from the girl.
Inside the room, a quick glance showed that this was the work space of the master healer. There were beakers of strangely colored liquid, mortar and pestle for crushing plants, crucibles and a bronze stand that held them over a thick stub of a candle. Heltiase was perched on a tall stool, with his feet off the ground and his shoulders hunched slightly forward, look for all the world like some monstrous marsh bird. Tyrone repressed a smile; he had caused this Telethan enough trouble today, without teasing him about his appearance.
“We will be back on our tour in moment, “said Heltiase, “I just need to finish this infusion, and give my chief apprentice some instructions. Both Tyrone and the Shadow nodded and casually looked around while they waited.
True to his word, Heltiase sifted two kinds of dry leaves into a beaker of bright yellow liquid, set it on a shelf and dusted off his hands. He then walked quickly out to the main workshop, motioning for the Shadow and Tyrone to stay where they were. When he had left the Shadow turned to Tyrone and with a single raised eyebrow said, “I have to hand it to you Sly Tongue. I was truly dreading spending the day with our friend the Saltori. I could not have come up with a better way to be rid of him, if I had a month to plan. Tell me; did you know it would work?”
“Ach, I think that you give me too much credit. I did not have a plan, just plain Irish stubbornness. That stuffed shirt Getovan had better learn that he does not push a son of the Costello’s around without a cost.”
This made the Shadow laugh quietly, “Even better, then, I hope that all of your fits of stubbornness have such a happy ending.”
“Well, it tends to be about half the time,” said Tyrone, ruefully as he scratched at the side of his nose, “My Da always said that the only thing that kept the Irish from ruling the world was our stubbornness and our bickering. He may have been right.”
Heltiase came back into the workroom and motioned to the men, saying,” Come my fine fellows; we will see the rest of the City of Rushing Water!” Tyrone and the Shadow followed him.
Outside the shop they turned left or up the sloping street once again heading to the upper rings of the City. As the wound their way deeper into the City, Heltiase pointed out the workshops and craft halls of the Celesti. Unlike Getovan, they did not seem to have a set route. Instead they wandered, stopping to talk to people that Heltiase knew, looking into whatever work area they where interested in. As they came to the second smallest ring of the City, Tyrone noticed that unlike the last few rings this one had an additional smaller ring projecting out on the side of the city nearest the river. This small bulge had only a single building on it.
The building was taller than those around it and was topped with an open patio, it’s roof held up by four thick columns. Around the outside, two separate staircases wound around the corners of the building. Each staircase was made with deep wide steps. As Tyrone looked at it, it seemed that five or six people would be able to walk abreast with no problem. “Heltiase, what is that building?” he asked pointing with his whole arm.
“That? Ah, you might find that very interesting. That is a replica of the Temple of the god, in our old city. When we still spoke to the god, it would have been the center of government and commerce. This is where the god’s drums are stored. Would you like to see it?”
“Will we run into Getovan and Brother Carlinus?” asked the Shadow suspiciously.
“I do not think so. The Sczench were our priests, once upon a time. They did not rejoice in our setting aside the gifts of the god and so are not encouraged to go where the temptation to call on the god is so great. It seems to me that Saltori Getovan will wait until he is surer of how your Brother Carlinus will react to them. Come, we have time to see that and then we will call it a day.”
Heltiase strode away, fully expecting the two men to follow, which, of course they did. While they did not alter the pattern of speaking to all those that hailed Heltiase, they did not indulge in long conversations, either. In a fairly short time, they had arrived at the replica temple and started up the stairs. The whole building turned out to be made of marble, white as the snow, with thin lines of black and gold streaking through it. Each block was intricately carved. But unlike the Council hall, there was no representative art, no scenes from the Celesta’s past, in fact nothing that could be said with confidence a bird or a tree or an animal.
Long wavy lines stood side by side with complex geometric designs. As they past by Tyrone ran his hand over one of the designs, and marveled at the sharpness of the cut edges. “When were these made?” he asked Heltiase.
“The carvings? Why I could not say. Each panel is set into the wall itself, the Kirecti are the ones that maintain the Temple. They are the stone smiths of the Celesti and in addition to the quarrying of stone and maintenance of the City; they do all of the work on the Hall. When a panel is no longer up to their standards, why, they just replace it. If you like I will introduce you to a Methodenon of the Kirecti that my wife grew up with, he would be able to tell you exactly for when each of these panels was made and any other general knowledge that you would like to know, for more than that, I am afraid that you will have to join the Chositha, since the Kirecti are of that clan. Do you want to make such that change? It is allowed for noy to change their clan, once in their education.”
“You wouldn’t be tryin’ to get rid of me, now would you Telethon?” asked Tyrone with a lopsided smile.
Smiling himself, Heltiase replied, “I? Now who would I be the kind of man that try’s to run troublesome noy off to other clans?”
The look of fake innocence on the tall man’s face caused the Shadow to laugh out loud. Both Tyrone and Heltiase glanced at the Shadow as he chuckled to himself.
“Pay him no mind, Telethan; he is always one to expect the worst of anyone. It makes it even harder for him to be civil when he is sure that he is right,”
This set the Shadow off again, and rather than wait for him to gather his dignity back together, the other two continued up the last set of steps to the open pavilion at the top.
The first thing that Tyrone noticed was the view. He could see all of the lower levels of the city, across the terraced fields, and even had a view down the river and to the high hills that boarded the valley. The scene looked so peaceful and pastoral that an involuntary sigh escaped his lips. Feeling Heltiase’s eyes on him Tyrone turn, slightly embarrassed by his reaction. Instead of the sardonic comment that he expected, Heltiase said, “You seem, I don’t know, impressed is close but not really correct. I would say that you looked like a man that has met the woman of his dreams for the first time, but that could not be right, could it?”
“I don’t know what to tell you. I have traveled all over the lands of Europe, but I have never found a place that I thought I could be happy living in. There is something about Ireland that makes everywhere else seem … less. Less vivid, less friendly, less comforting, but standing here looking out over the City and the Valley, I think that I can no longer say that only Ireland is fit to live in,”
“I see what the Questoria sees in you, Sly Tongue. It matters not at all that you where born in ‘Ireland’, you have been a Celesti all your life. So far, you, of the three the traveled here are the one that I can believe will be here after a full turn of seasons has come and gone,” Tyrone would have surely asked why Heltiase felt that way, if the Shadow had not arrived then.
“So you would leave your traveling mate alone, undefended? And this from the man that has already challenged the honor of a Saltori? Ha, I say, Ha!”
“You seemed safe enough,” muttered Tyrone
“Come Night Eyes, “said Heltiase, “This is the Hall of Drums, the height and center of the god’s temple.” The Telethan gestured expansively around the Hall. The pillars where each carved to represent one of the four elements; fire, water, air and earth, each represented in the lines and shadows of the carvings. That is not to say that they depicted the elements, no, instead the carvings on each gave the impression of the element, or to be more precise the essence of each element. As Tyrone looked up to follow the pattern of the air pillar he noticed that the pattern for each pillar was continued on the ceiling above, filling a diamond shaped quadrant with the design.
Where the patterns met, in the center of the ceiling, they merged and formed a swirling pattern. Tyrone let his eyes roam freely over the pattern and suddenly the pattern resolved itself into the image of a huge eye. It shocked the warrior, first with it’s appearance, but then as he studied the image, it seem to shift in intent. At first the eye seemed to be probing him, looking for fault and cowardice, the eye of a general sizing up a new captain, and not sure at all if he liked what he saw.
Then the eye softened, and it seemed as though it was the eye of an aunt that had knew Tyrone all of his life. Someone that knew and accepted his misdeeds, loving yet ever so slightly disapproving of the choices he had made.
As he was absorbing this wonder, the eye changed yet again. This time it was like the eye of an older brother. It held love, yes, but a challenging love. As if it said, ‘Sure, you have some skill, but are you as good as I?” It’s gaze filled Tyrone with an urge to prove himself, to be the best at all he did, just to answer that challenge.
He was about to ask Heltiase about the eye, when it changed yet again. This time the eye was that of a child. Trust, love, pride and confidence seemed to radiate from the carving. It was as if the child of a sister had told Tyrone that she had a problem, and not only was she sure he would solve it, she was sure that he was the only one in the whole world that could solve it. If the view of the city had filled Tyrone with joy, this filled him with hope and purpose, it made his heart swell and his eyes well with emotion.
He made himself look away, not sure if his mind could take yet another intense emotion spurred by the carvings changing patterns. He noticed Heltiase watching him with a small happy smile. “What is it?” he asked breathily
“It is called the Eye of the god. I should apologize for not warning you, but I wanted to see if it affected you as strongly as it has affected us. This is the only part of the temple that is the same, no mater how many times it is replaced. So what do you think of it?”
“I, … um, I don’t know. But I can tell you this; it is one of the most amazing things that I have ever seen.”
“And you Night Eyes? What do you think?”
The Shadow looked from the ceiling to Heltiase. His face was not filled with the joyousness that glowed in Tyrone’s, but it did hold wonder. “Your people are very skilled. I have seen art designed to evoke emotion, but rarely have I seen it’s like. I can understand why you have named it the Eye. It does seem to be watching and judging you. But I am sure that there is no ethereal being here, neither Yahweh, nor the Dawn Bringer, nor any of their minions. This is the work of men, and only men. As such, I think it wonderful.”
“Yes, that is close to how I feel about it. Even so, it never fails to get a reaction, even from those of us that have lived with it our entire lives. Come let us look at the Drums, “Heltiase said. He walked to the open space between the air and fire pillars, at the space the looked out over the city.
There, stone rings held four enormous drums. Two of the drums were in holders that kept the open bottom of the drums a few inches off of the floor. The other two were mounted in holders that pointed their heads at an angle to the two on the floor, one on each side.
The heads of the drums were made of very thick leather, darker in the center where the drum sticks had landed more often. The leather was riveted to the body of the drums with finely made brass pins. The heads of the pins was inscribed with strange symbols, none repeating. The body of each drum was painted in red and black, long slashes of color alternating with deep, colorless black.
Something in the drums drew the Shadow forward. As he approached he could feel power flowing around and through the drums. It was like the power that he wielded when he still practiced the Black Arts, and it was like the power that Michael exerted on him to prevent him from that practice. But where each of these powers had its distinctive feel, good or bad, this power had no such feel. It was strong, yes, but it was neutral.
“What are these?” he asked.
“They are the Drums of the Celesti. It was by playing these drums that we summoned the power of the god in battle. The Celesti never lost a battle, when the drums were played. Even when our kingdom fell to treachery and murder, we were able to escape using the drums to help even the odds. Without them, there would have been no City of Rushing Water.”
“Aye, but if you had not had them in the first place your empire might not have gotten so large that your enemies felt they needed to destroy it,” replied the Shadow.
“That is true, and that knowledge is what led us to stop asking the god for help. Intervention from the god had too high a cost. The god would not protect us all of the time and that being the case, we could not have the god’s help at all.”
“I continue to be impressed at how practical your people are, Heltiase. It is not everyone that can turn from help of a god so easily.”
“Do not think that it was easy, Night Eyes. Nine of every ten Celesti died on the night we were betrayed. Of those that survived another two of every ten died before we came to this valley. It was in no way easy, for us to make this choice. It was a near thing in the council that convened to decide our future after we escaped. If it had not been for Sheridrial and her powerful words, we would not have left the god’s favor. And it would have surely been the end of us.”
“Telethan, I am sorry. I see the marvelous city you have created, I see the happy people in service of no other-worldly being and I am envious. So my thought is that this was easy for you. I should have known better, knowing Yahweh as I do. Please accept my apology for my careless words.”
“Thank you, Night Eyes. I accept for all of the City. But I think that you could have been named Sly Tongue, had not your friend already had that name.” The compliment made the Shadow smile ruefully.
“So, what do they sound like?” asked Tyrone.
“I can’t say, I have never heard them. No one in the City has ever heard them. The last time they were played was to cover our retreat from our fallen land.” This revelation left the three men standing in silence as they contemplated what it was like to have the music of victory played on the day of total defeat.
Tyrone, never one to like unpleasant silence asked, “Was it the playing of the drums that called the god’s power to your army, or did you have to play something special?”
“A good question, Sly Tongue. It is said, by the Sczenchi, that when first we were chosen by the god any playing of drums would call the power. As time went on and the Sczenchi learned best what pleased the god, a certain rhythm was defined and that become the way that the god’s power was brought to the battlefield. Like the drums we do not use this rhythm anymore. ”
“It is hard for me to believe that no one has been tempted to call the god, in all of this time. I know back home in Ireland, if we had such things, there would be someone that could not resist, whether for power or curiosity.”
“I can not say if any have been tempted, but none of the Celesti would endanger the rest of us. It is one of the things that are taught, early and constantly, to our children. They know that to use these drums to call the god’s attention to us would be the end of their life with us. In all the time that we have lived here, there has not been even one that would put the satisfaction of their curiosity over the safety of their clan or people.”
“I have heard you speak of the teaching of your children, is that done within the clans?” asked the Shadow.
“No, the children of all clans go to school together, until they are ready to become noy. Then their education is the province of the clan and sept they join. Would you like to see one of our schools? It is not very far away.”
Both the Shadow and Tyrone nodded. Heltiase led them away from the Hall of Drums, but it seemed to Tyrone that they had not really finished with this place. He could see that the Shadow was disturbed by the drums, but he did not know why.