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Southern Wands

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  • Southern Wands

    BOOK ONE

    Chapter One
    In Which a Certain Unease Surfaces

    Life was good. Jot Kidderth turned in bed, slowly, joyfully; careful not to wake her up as he rested his hand on Toleenh's shoulder. The touch of her dark Forni skin sent shocks of pleasure up his arm, and he knew that a poem had to be encarved in the Cave of Jehkorte.

    The door opened ajar, and Kidderth watched Tjem H'h Corry's face appearing amongst the gold ornaments that snaked up the door and down the casing, producing an artificial ivory of sparkling yellow against the crimson walls.

    "Don't have me for a fool," said Tjem after a few seconds, "you're awake, and you think I'm spying on you."

    Kidderth giggled. "Well, aren't you, my tasty Corry?"

    "As always," said Tjem, opening the door wide and bowing lavishly. "After all, what interest does the world offer but your gracious self?"

    "You're a nuisance, Corry." Kidderth reluctantly withdrew his hand from the Princess' earthy touch, and swung out his legs as he sat up in bed to rub his eyes -- those famous eyes of a dark blue hue that no human had ever been known to have before. "You're a flatterer, but still a nuisance."

    "I am aware of that, Master." Tjem seemed to hesitate for a part of a second, which puzzled Kidderth a bit, tergiversation not being a familiar trait of Tjem's. The servant picked out a bit of straw somehow caught in the golden ornaments of the door, and carelessly pocketed it. "Perchance I had better leave."

    "Indeed, my dear Corry. Why has the idea never occurred to you before?"

    Kidderth stretched and writhed on the edge of the bed, feline fur carressing his feet. He got up and relished in the tiger skin that protected his feet from the cold of the marble.

    "I might," Tjem said. "I... might."

    "Never." As Kidderth got up, the warmth of the sun fell into his eyes. He went over to the herb shelf and produced himself some leaves of mint and ss'hern. "I could picture you killing. Arsoning. Even lying. But leaving? Don't be ridiculous. Where would you go?"

    "Outside the Palace, I suppose."

    "Outside the Palace?" Kidderth laughed. "Now, there's a novel idea."

    "What am I here for, if not to entertain you, my Lord?"

    "True, my dear Tjem, so very true." Kidderth. with his glance, carressed the earthen beauty sleeping in the bed before striding out past the fanciful servant, who followed him onto the Balcony of Mahogany.

    Kidderth went over to the Fountain of Fresh Water at the top of the stairs, and splashed some refreshing handfuls of icy liquid into his face, feeling the energy of pure water entering his pores. The world was truly a perfect place. He felt in a good humour, and turned back to his servant, rubbing his face with a piece of bear skin.

    "And what do you have in store for me today? Not the usual Dancers, I hope." Kidderth summoned all his strength to look severe and not let his eyes twinkle as he looked back at Tjem.

    The mock reproach had its effect. The little man with the square face cringed under his master's glance, so determinedly stern. Kidderth almost felt sorry for him.

    "We have something new, my Lord. The m'Hreeh."

    Kidderth shrugged. He was beginning to feel bored. "And what is that?"

    "A creature that wishes to produce harm, my Lord."

    "Harm?" said Kidderth. "How do you mean?"

    "It's hard to explain... harm is like... something you do not want."

    "Something you do not want?" Kidderth felt amused again as he went down the wide marble staircase. "What on Earth could I not want?"

    "The m'Hreeh, my Lord." Tjem followed Kidderth down the stairs. "It's in the Great Hall."
    "If the environment were a bank, we would already have saved it." -Graffitti.

  • #2
    Southern Wands

    Chapter Two
    In Which Kidderth Is Amused

    The vestibule was deserted but for Th-Nglep Ounce who had climbed up the central statue and was hard at work dusting the left ear of Jehkorte herself. Kidderth strolled from the feet of the stairs towards the doors to The Great Hall, then stopped to watch the old man slip and kick back the ladder at his feet, so that it seemed to stand upright for a moment, swaying a bit, as though it could not decide whether to comply back to the proper feet, or fall disastrously to the floor.

    After a while, it seemed to decide on the latter venue of action, and clattered its wood back and forth on the blinding floor, until it finally came to rest, and Nglep's feet went kicking in the air, his arms flung around the goddess' ear.

    Kidderth stopped to watch the senile's workings and laughed heartily at the slapstick. He clapped his hands, shouting, "Ounce, you clown! What are you going to do now?"

    The old man's white whisks of hair fell down his shoulders, and his hands seemed to fold in prayer to Jehkorte above her ear as he yelled in wordless prayers to her.

    Kidderth applauded appropriately as he watched the old keeper glance into the crimson paint of Jehkorte's eyes, before his grasp failed, and he slid onto her shoulder, bounced, and plummeted the full nine feet to the floor. There was a crunching sound.

    Kidderth slapped his thighs and howled with laughter. His servants seemed to constantly come up with new ideas to entertain him. He turned as Tjem's hand fell on his shoulder, and rubbed a tear from his eye. Behind him, he heard Nglep groan.

    "Yes," said Tjem, "Ounce works hard to please my Lord, and he certainly deserves more attention than he's accustomed to. But there's something you should see, Master Jot. The m'Hreeh..."

    Diverting the attention of the crown prince from his pleasure was not something that anybody would do in the Castle d'Yidd Hrrteh, but then Tjem was not anybody. He propelled his Master to the double doors leading to The Great Hall.

    "Gramercy," was all Kidderth could stutter forth as his vision closed in on the red velvet covering the iron gates. They flung open in front of him, the sentient metal of their hinges sensing his presence and identifying him, and he was looking into the familiar vastness of The Great Hall.

    Across the floor, fourty yards from the doors, sat Shdric on his throne, tall and dark and powerful, raised on a four foot high dais of mahogany, his eyes fixing on the prince. Along the carpet between Kidderth and his father, rouged faces of standing nobles turned to look at the prince, and he gathered the flowing white silks and golden trimmings of his night-gown to look as dignified as possible as he entered the Hall.

    Between Kidderth and his father, near to the dais, there was a navy blue blur in the air. Trying to focus on it, Kidderth almost saw it dissolve and vanish, but when he looked to the side to greet Lady Khrlotinh or the Count of Messing, it seemed a solid figure at the corner of his eye. A lumpy parody of the human body all in dark blue and turquoise, it turned around, and turned around, and turned around. He turned his vision back on it, and the thin probosces on its smooth and naked body, the featureless and transparent sphere in the place where a head might be expected, seemed to slender and retract, leaving a halo of hardly visible marine about it.

    Kidderth walked towards it, curiously, looking up at his father. The King smiled at his son, but today there was something unusual about his smile. Kidderth knew neither how to describe it nor how to interpret it. This smile was full of love, but there was something about the pleasure in it that was puzzling, even... Kidderth grasped for words to describe it to himself... missing?

    "Good morning, my liege," said Kidderth merrily. "Who, or what, is this strange visitor you have today."

    "It's the m'Hreeh," answered Shdric in a strange, toneless voice. "It has come to see you, my beloved son."

    Kidderth arrived at the m'Hreeh, and looked at it. "What a weird thing," he giggled. "Is it made of a special kind of air?"

    The king fell silent.

    Kidderth put forth his hand to touch the m'Hreeh. For a moment he had a strange feeling that held him back. His arm stopped, and he looked back at Tjem who was still right behind him.

    "Is this a hallucination you put in my ss'hern, Corry?" Kidderth asked.

    Tjem shook his head with an expressionless face.

    Kidderth turned back to the m'Hreeh that still seemed to turn around itself whenever he didn't look at it directly. "You're right, Corry, this really is something new. Unique! How do you keep coming up with these things?"

    With an effort of determination, he pushed his hand forward. His arm went right through the m'Hreeh as though it were pure air.

    He laughed. "This IS a hallucination. How very clever, Corry!"

    And then his arm was stuck in the m'Hreeh.

    His elbow was fixed in the place where the m'Hreeh's heart might have been expected to be, and his hand protruded on the far side. He giggled again.

    Yet, the unusual performance had only just begun. Through the m'Hreeh, Kidderth watched his hand move on its own volition. It turned around, it writhed, it moved it fingers in the air in movements of patterns and flowing choreography.

    The hall, Kidderth suddenly noticed, was unusually quiet.

    He turned to laugh at the Lady Khrlotinh, yet for the first time in memory she did not laugh back at him. Her eyes were fixed on his hand. He turned back to follow her glance.

    The hand-- he hardly thought of it as his own hand by now -- palm up, held a short, very slim, black stick in it.

    Kidderth was fascinated. This was the most innovative entertainment produced for him in a very long while. "What's it going to do, father?" He shouted joyfully.

    "It's going to take from you the most valuable treasure," answered Shdric in a flat voice.
    "If the environment were a bank, we would already have saved it." -Graffitti.

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    • #3
      Chapter Three
      In Which the m'Hreeh Pulls a Neat Trick

      The Great Hall filled with a dim blue light in which blinding sparkles of no colour jerked around. Kidderth couldn't help thinking it all looked a bit inspired by Ounce's famed Midsummer Fireworks, all set against the marble, limestone and dark, reddish wood dominating the king's precense chamber. The m'Hreeh seemed to twirl around itself ever faster, until its movements seemed to be just a shimmering in the general profusion of light. Or maybe, Kidderth thought, it had been standing still all the time, the shimmering lending to it an impression of rotation.

      He moved his upper arm. He could move it left, and he could move it right. Yet, however much he worked his body and limbs, the hand now seemed to be working on its own. Around the short stick in its grasp, sparkles flew out and danced in artful patterns, twirling upwards and upwards in a helix of shit how am I going to look into this it hurts it hurts, my eyes are hurting, help me Jehkorte, oh, please, release me from this pain, my eyes hurt and I’m afraid to be blinded forever.

      Kidderth fell onto his knees. There was a pain in his body that he had never known before. A pain so intense that the pleasure of the durbar dissolved into more sparkles, glistening with bright red, yellow, blue, magenta, crimson, orange.... the small stars all seemed to fly around the m’Hreeh and join an artful dance around Kidderth’s right hand and the stick held in it.

      “Help me, father!� Kidderth cried.

      “I can’t,� replied Shdric in a voice of sorrow. “I have tried. Oh, how I have tried.�

      Kidderth cried. His vision was blurred with tears as his left arm grasped his right one, and he watched, on his knees, his trapped hand turning in circles, commanding the multicoloured small stars around it going upwards into the blue light that had filled the hall.

      Glistenening with fanciful colours, the sparks formed an outline above the stick in in Kidderth’s hand. It was the outline of a female body. And inside it, Kidderth watched the figure of Toleenh emerging like a ghost, her black skin turned white, her pale face staring into oblivion like those of a marble statue’s.

      Then, the yellow, orange and red sparks gathered up around Tollenh’s image, and she seemed to catch fire.

      The Princess burned in Kidderth’s vision, and the m’Hreeh caught fire, too. His own arm was scorched, and he pulled it back.

      The arm was free now. Kidderth threw himself onto the floor, trying to quench the fire in his elbow by quenching it, throwing his body over it. He turned on his side and hiccupped.

      It all went more quiet now. His arm was free, and cuddled in his foetal position. The pain was vanishing quickly, and he turned up his glance to watch Toleenh’s image turning and going up in a point of white light, drawing all the coloured sparks into it.

      The m’Hreeh wasn’t there anymore. Kidderth wondered if it had ever been there, or if it had been a hallucination caused by his morning ss’hern. He found he was lying sprawled on the floor, and got up, slowly, his right arm numb, and his left arm being the only help to raise him off the floor.

      Toleenh’s image had gone into a tiny point of light, along with the m’Hreeh, as though they were both whisks of coloured smoke drawn into a point of nothing. Kidderth felt a strange sensation taking over his body.

      He was standing now, and his eyes flamed at King Shdric. “This was a tasteless joke,� he cried, as he turned to shout his curses at Corry. As he was turning around, his right arm seemed to slug. It was heavy, so very heavy, and he had to catch it with his other hand. It had turned gray and numb... and so very heavy. It seemed, now, to be made of stone.
      "If the environment were a bank, we would already have saved it." -Graffitti.

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      • #4
        Chapter Four
        In Which Kidderth Feels Indisposed

        "It has been done," King Shdric's voice boomed behind him as Kidderth staggered a few steps before loosing his footage and falling into Tjem's arms that caught him adroitly. The prince flung his arms up to get a hold around his servant's shoulders. He had to put all his strength into lifting his right arm in the desired direction, and it sailed through the air with an inertia which made it impossible for him to stop it again before it hit Tjem squarely on the left side of his head, and the little man was knocked off his feet.

        Caught in an embrace of reciprocal dizziness, the two men fell onto the floor. Prince Kidderth was in a turmoil inside and hardly noticed how Tjem turned in the fall to get between his master and the floor. They hit the the beautiful, shining marble with a thud, and it was like a breeze through the presence chamber when all the gathered nobles drew in their breaths at the same time.

        There was nausea, there was anger, there was puzzled helplessness of not being able to command the movements of his arm properly. Kidderth had never felt so bad in his life and wailed out as he sprawled across the groaning Tjem. "What's going on? Help me, damn you all, help me!"

        At last, there was movement around him. The nobles unfroze and rushed in to help their prince getting to his feet. Kidderth felt the Count of Messing put his muscular arms around him and pull him upright. He swayed on his feet and wanted to throw up, hobbling somewhat towards his right as the Counts slowly released him from his grasp, making sure bit by bit the the prince wasn't going to topple over again.

        Tjem put a hand against the floor, pushed, and hoicked to stand upright, dusting off his red sleeves with a few firm pats, and arranging the white carnation in his lapel. Then he turned his eyes with concern of his master who was still being supported by the Count of Messing and, soon, Palsgrave Pequo who was rushing to his aid.

        "Are you all right?" asked Tjem.

        "No!" Kidderth replied to the silly little man. "I'm far from 'all right'! My eyes hurt, I feel sick, and my arm is disobeying me!"

        "The Prince needs some solid nourishment," the Palsgrave interrupted. "His weight feels like that of somebody who has been living on ss'hern for weeks."

        Tjem crossed his arms and looked up and down Jot Kidderth who was slumping, held up only by Messing and Pequo holding each of his arms. "Oh, well," the short servant said. "Let him go. He'll have to stand on his own feet sooner or later."

        "But master Corry!" The Count of Messing protested. "Consider what has just happened! The m'Hreeh..."

        "Yes, yes, I know," said Tjem impatiently. "Release him, and let him walk! He'll meet challenges worse than that soon enough."

        The Count of Messing let go of Kidderth's right arm which he had been holding in a firm grasp. Palsgrave Pequo, more reluctantly, let the prince's left arm slide bit by bit from his grasp.

        "At least promise to feed him properly for a change," said Pequo. "Some lamb cutlets or sirloin stakes would do him good."

        "I know what he needs," snapped Tjem, catching the staggering Kidderth and holstering him up, putting his left arm around his own shoulder. "Don't talk to me about his needs. I've had my fill with them soon."

        "A prince has his needs."

        Tjem stopped at the sound of the king's bass voice resounding through the hall. About to turn around and half-carry Kidderth out the Hall, he gave up and looked at Shdric's countenance.

        "Lady Khrlorinth!" The king snapped his fingers. "Mistress Medlenh! Make my son comfortable!"

        Lady Khlorinth broke free of the crowd and rushed to help Tjem carry the prince out of the room. Mistress Medlenh added her help as best she could, kissing Kidderth on his cheek and stroking his hair as Tjem and Lady Khrlotinh dragged him out of the presence chamber, past the statue of Jehkorte, up the stairs, and back into his quarters.

        With a sigh, Kidderth let himself be put back into bed. The mattress and the carpets welcomed him. He rested his numb arm on the orange silk sheet and let Lady Khrlotinh tug it in. The weight of it seemed less important now.

        Mistress Medlenh sat on the edge of the bed at his side, threw her blonde hair back over her shoulder, and looked into his eyes. "My poor prince!" she exclaimed. "I think the m'Hreeh gave you quite a shock!" She leaned over him, and he felt the warmth of her body against his.

        Tjem was standing at the end of the bed now, as the women were trying to comfort their prince. For a moment there was a strange look in his eyes, and Kidderth didn't know what it meant. Was Tjem being jealous? Or worried? Or was he suddenly trying his hand at that weird game called Morals that a Western preacher had been bringing to the Castle d'Yidd Hrrteh a little while ago? Whatever, it was only there for the glimpse of a moment before Tjem sat down on the bed and stared out the window at the morning sun still rising over the green hills. He sighed wistfully.

        Lady Khrlotinh leant over Kidderth and kissed him on the mouth. It suddenly occured to him how large were here breasts. "My poor darling," she said. "Nobody knows your pain."

        Kidderth was beginning to forget the cold and weight of his arm and feel pleasure coming back. He looked into Lady Khrlotinh's eyes, giggled, and turned his head to the left.

        He realized that the Princess must have got up. There was an empty place beside him, across which Mistress Medlenh reclined, and the red and yellow silk sheets were hanging ruffled over the edge of the bed. He smiled lazily.

        "Where's Toleenh?" he asked.

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        • #5
          Chapter Five

          In Which Cucumber Sandwiches Make Their Mark

          "Toleenh has gone," Tjem said, still looking out the panorama windows that made out the Western wall of Kidderth's room.

          "Gone where?" Kidderth struggled to free himself of Mistress Medlenh's omniprecent body parts. He managed to sit up in bed and throw a stern glance at Tjem. His arm was still heavy, and he let it rest on the sheets beside him.

          "The m'Hreeh took her."

          "Don't be silly, little man," Kidderth patronized Tjem. "The m'Hreeh was a hallucination. Very clever, I grant you, but how can a hallucnation have taken Toleenh?"

          "The m'Hreeh took her," Tjem repeated, staring out the windows with his exasperating calm.

          Mistress Medlenh was stroking Kidderth's arm, surprising in the coldness that met her palm as she handled the stone thing that was now his lower right arm. Her eyes widened in surprise that didn't seem all original, and she bent down to kiss it.

          Impatiently, Kidderth tugged at his arm. It was cold, heavy, and numb. With his left hand, he pushed Medlenh aside.

          "What do you mean, took her?" He was getting impatient with Tjem. "Where's Toleenh?"

          Corry turned his glance away from the panorama of the windows, and met Kiderth's eyes. "The m'Hreeh TOOK her. That's what the m'Hreeh always does. It's the old deal that Jehkorte made with her."

          "What?" Kidderth spluttered. "Took her? Where? Why?"

          "To keep the country happy, every Prince of d'Yidd Hrrteh must sacrifice the thing most dear to him to the m'Hreeh. It's the way it's always been done, it's the way your father gave your mother to the m'Hreeh."

          "My mother?"

          "Yes," said Tjem. "Your father did not do so lightly, but in the end, he gave your mother to the m'Hreeh. It's the deal, you know. To keep the country happy, the King must have given his most valuable treasure to the m'Hreeh. So, Shdric gave the m'Hreeh your mother... and now you have given it Toleenh."

          "My mother?" splurted Kidderth.

          "Is this a repeat?" Corry snapped. "Yes, Shdric gave your mother to the m'Hreeh. It's taken out the pleasure of his life. But it was what the m'Hreeh wanted in return for peace in the country."

          "My mother!" Kidderth sat up, dragging his arm into his lap, and stared at Tjem. "Are you saying that the m'Hreeh took away my mother, and Toleenh as well? What's it doing with them?"

          "That's a question better not asked. Anyway, one none of us can answer, really. That's the merciful thing."

          "But that's awful!" Kidderth shouted. "My mother... Toleenh... we must free them from the m'Hreeh!"

          "Even at the cost of the m'Hreehs wrath... at the cost of your country's happiness?" Tjem asked.

          "At any cost," Kidderth answered.

          "That's not going to be easy..." Tjem said. "You're a fool, master Jot."

          "So be it. The m'Hreeh is holding my mother and Tolleenh prisoners? Let's go and free them, at once!"

          "Hmmm... yes... go ahead." Tjem sat and watched Kidderth get out of bed, dragging his stony arm around, and making a song and dance. At the end, Kidderth's frustrations turned into confusions, and he sat down.

          "Tjem," said Kidderth, "I want to get my mother and Toleenh back. At any cost."

          "Any cost?" asked Corry. "Well, then, it can cost you the prosperity of your country. The m'Hreeh took them for that, you understand?"

          "Whatever. We must free them!" shouted Kidderth.

          Tjem looked around. "This is a decision, I suppose. It's going to cause misery for thousands and thousands of people in your country. Are you sure that's what you want?"

          "The m'Hreeh are keeping my mother and Toleenh prisoners, so you say! How can I outweigh anything against them."

          "All right," said Tjem. "I can't do much to help you... except telling you where you can find your best weapon against the m'Hreeh."

          The little dark man clapped his hands and shouted, "Pequo!"

          There was no reply.

          Tjem clapped his hands again, and shouted louder, "Palsgrave Pequo!"

          The door opened ajar, and Pequo's face popped in. "What can I do for you, master Corry?"

          "Some Cucumber Sandwiches for the Prince," Corry said. "Immediately."

          Pequo's face lightened up. "Right away. I make the most sought-after cucumber sandwiches in this realm!"

          "Thank you," said Kidderth. "You were always the most loyal of servants."
          Last edited by Jagged; 02-04-2014, 03:42 AM.
          "If the environment were a bank, we would already have saved it." -Graffitti.

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