Fireside Tea

Fireside Tea

A Chapter by Tanner Wright

Chapter One

Chapter 1: Fireside Tea

This was the seventh traveler this fortnight to stay in the longhouse, an unusually high number for the Hearty Gauntlet in Spring. Slink had to work late into the night thrice to keep the hearths lit for the guests, so his reflections of them were sour. The cook, Harn, was in an irritable mood as well, no doubt from the heavy appetite of the travelers, and had become stubborn with his current rations to the housefolk. Even his dear friend, Kyrta the lovely house singer and entertainer, had been giving him the cold shoulder the moment the first traveler came through the door. All of them had been pompous men with several packs of goods to show the house folk what they couldn't buy: gems, knives, clothes, perfumes and potions. They were all on the same path as well, bound for the same destination; the Capital of the kingdom, Karshin, for the Raz Festival.

Each had different accounts of how the festival had been thirty years prior, but the conclusion was all the same, they were all returning once more. The tales they told when the mead had gotten to their heads were bold and scandalous, being mostly of how they seduced foreign maids and fought with ruffians in the streets. The ceremonies of the festival sounded interesting too, with open markets on every street, tests of strength and speed, full contact melees and a tournament of champions all ending in a grand feast with fires on every rooftop. Apparently a blessing from the sun god, Raz, is bestowed upon all celebrating when the sun sets, but Slink thought little of such things.

He was drawing some sheep’s milk from a jug in the larder when the longhouse keep appeared in the doorway with a distant frown. His thick gut and round face were not appeased by the look on his brow, and when he saw the youth he looked as if he were going to ask a question. He must have second guessed it, for he blinked and changed to a more stern frown. “The guest in hearth one needs it lit and a pale set to boil. Right to it now, he’s paid up for the night and doesn't want to be bothered.” A nod from Slink turned the keep back to his business, grumbling under his breath.

This was no surprise to the young woodsman, who had been out gathering wood all day for such times, so he gulped down his half cup of milk and headed for the woodpile he had so neatly stacked earlier. The hardened mud steps before him were covered with a green rug that continued down the main corridor. He made his way up, taking note of the of the emblems sewn into every third step of a gauntlet grasping a flagon. When he reached the top, he pushed through a similarly embroidered blanket made of thick wool and leather, and into the night.

The path that all the travelers came down lay in front of the longhouse entrance, but his woodpile was behind him in the stables. The building had been erected above the lodge to conserve heat during the winter. His stack lay behind the hay and when he entered, the red haired stable boy was on his cot asleep, along with the horses and sheep. He crept by them all with ease.

After collecting some small starter pieces and larger, lasting logs he made his way to the door, stopping to gaze at the strangers steed. A thick haired and thick muscled pony standing to his chin quietly rested, unaware of his spectator. ‘Strange, all the other travelers came on proud stallions and beautiful mares. This pony is a common man’s work steed,’ thought Slink as he continued out the stable and back into the longhouse.

Hearth one was the simplest of the six rooms available, complete with a hearth, water pale, bed, table and chairs. It was the easiest room to haggle for when it came to the keep. He made sure that whomever stayed in his Hearty Gauntlet got exactly what they paid for, so his shortness that evening could have been made from a bad trade. No matter, everyone with a room got a fire, and it was Slink’s job to collect and provide firewood for the lodge as well as lighting the hearths for the guest.

The entrance to the first quarters had a simple plank door concealing the chamber within. A twisted rope had been fashioned into a handle by looping it through both sides of the last plank. The young man rapt of the wood with his knuckle while he held the wood under one arm, and waited for a reply. Nothing for several seconds, not even movement within. Slink was about to knock again when the door jolted at him, stopping only a hand length away from the wood he had packed underarm, giving the youth a sudden fright.

“Sorry there, lad, stumbled at the door on my own foot!” The traveler announced with a chuckle. His beard was very grey but had black stands blending into it around the mouth. The wrinkles around his eyes and on his forehead were not to prominent, the straightness of his posture was extremely well, and the muscles around his shoulders were thick and lean, so Slink judged he was around sixty years old. His head had been shaved bald, giving this traveler a different look from the previous ones that fortnight. “Come on in and light the room, I can hardly get my bearings.” He stated as he turned back into his quarters.

“Surely, sir. Travelers don't usually appear at dusk, so your room was not ready for you.” Replied the youth, trying to sound helpful, “I apologize for the darkness on my part.”

The traveler gave a loud 'Ha' as he sat himself on the chair by the hearth. “How could you have known, lad? My wandering is not convenient, I assume no quarterly service if my timing is odd.” He began as Slink entered and placed the wood down by the hearth. “No apologies needed for me when wrong has not been done.”

‘This traveler is rather pleasant, humble to say the least.’ Thought Slink as he went to a knee and grabbed dried twigs and wood chunks to light the hearth. “What brings you this way, sir?” Asked the youth to spark more conversation.

“Well…” began the traveler as he folded his hands together and leaned back into the chair. “Currently, I'm on my way to a village east of here, Tark Town if you've heard of it.” The youth nodded in answer as he finished placing the kindling, “An acquaintance of mine has kept some valuables for me and I intend to retrieve them.”

“Are you a pelt trader?” Inquired Slink, intrigued to know more about the infamous trading post known as Tark Town.

“At times, yes, but that is not my goal this venture,” he stated bluntly, as if his words could not be questioned.

“Oh, well where do you come from, if I may ask?” Questioned the young woodsman as he produced the flint and steel from his belt pouch.

“Darshin was the last major stop I made, keeping me nearly all season. Alas, I have errands and duties to fulfill so onward I go.” He answered, taking sudden interest in Slink’s doings. “Do you plan to make a smoulder cloth for your stack, lad?”

Slightly irritated at the sudden condescendence, Slink sat back and looked at the traveler, who seemed genuine with his question. “Um, no sir. I have never had need of such things to get a fire lit. Just some small bits and pieces.” He answered, curious to why it even mattered.

“My apologies then, I struggle to this day to get a flame from piles like such. Please continue.” He was now bent forward and was watching the youth with his head cocked. Slink nodded and turned his attention to the kindling pile. ‘The pieces are no larger than normal, strange old man.’ He leaned over it and began striking his steel square against the flint in a downward motion toward the twigs and debris. Sparks flew immediately with every strike, showering the pile in tiny, bright lights that disappeared moments later.

He had to strike the flint only four times before a smolder began on a small wood chunk. He bent down until his face was merely inches away from it and blew softly. In only a few short breaths, the chunk was ablaze and spreading through the pile. The woodsman snuggly began to place larger pieces on the fire when the traveler interrupted the silence.

“That was extraordinary, lad! Where did you get that flint?” Asked the traveler intently.

Slink was rather taken back by this and forgot to speak for a couple moments, “There’s a rock in the forest that’s loaded with it. Why?”

“Who collected and gave it to you?” Inquired the stranger, dodging the question Slink posed.

“No one gave it to me, I go collect more when I need it. Why do you ask?” The tone of Slink’s voice was bordering defensive.

“You are just extraordinarily well at using that flint. Tell me lad, who are your parents?” The older man was leaning closer now, and the eyes that looked dark brown before now were revealed to be a deep shade of violet.

“I, uh, I never…” he was having troubles processing the question as the strange eyes shone at him. “...never met them. I've been living here as long as I can remember.” The elder nodded but was not satisfied as he raised a brow for Slink to continue. “Kyrta and the House Keep say an entire village was on the move one winter and left me in the night as they fled. The old woodsman here taught me how to provide for the longhouse to ensure my worth here, but he passed several years back leaving the work all to me.” The thought of the only father figure he had known stung his heart, but he was beyond showing the pain on the outside.

“He was a good man? Taught you to make those fires?” Inquired the traveler as he held Slink’s gaze.

“Aye, good enough to care for me when the Keep wouldn't.” He paused to breathe for a moment, chest heavy. “It was a thick winter and I was one extra mouth to fill, so I can't grudge him for it. As for the fire starting, let’s just say I taught him. Soon, I was the only one lighting hearths here because I was so quick at it.”

“When was it that you were abandoned here?” He asked as he began notably scanning Slink’s face. The word abandoned sounded very harsh in the youth’s ears.

“The year of the frog I am told, though my birth year is earlier by Kyrta’s recollection.” Answered the young woodsman as he pieced together the fragments he had been told growing up.

“That was seventeen years ago, so by the looks of you I’d say you were born in the year of the pig. Though, you might be on the cusp of being a falcon.” The thoughts of his origins made Slink want to change the subject.

“So we have speculated, yes. But I have no need to know where I am from,” began the youth forcibly. “I have purpose here and nothing would change in me knowing anyways. The winter was bad, so my guess is the tribe died in the snow.” Slink stared back into the violet eyes of the traveler without fault as the flames danced behind them.

“Let me see your eyes in the light, boy.” Commanded the elder as he squinted his own. Slink was taken back by the request but he stood and took a step away from the fire to give the man a better view. Their gazes met again and Slink could tell the wheels were turning in the elders mind. Then, without warning, his face relaxed and the traveler said happily, “You have a wonderful green in your eyes, like an emerald!”

Slink blinked twice, unaware of what was going on. “Thank you?” Stated the woodsmen, who had many questions bursting into his head. “You have a reddish tint in yours,” began he, trying to bring the chat away from himself, “that’s something I never knew could happen.” Truth be told, Slink had heard of a northern clan with blood red eyes, but their physique was supposed to be frail and their hair whiter than snow; features this traveler lacked.

“Aye, garnet eyes are rare in these parts.” He started as he lounged back into his chair and surveyed the room. “But once we were many, outnumbering any tribe in the east. We controlled the trade to and from Raine.”

The last statement puzzled Slink as he tried to remember the tales of the past. “You talk as if you were there, but Raine has cut off trade to the Anglamorish for over two hundred years now.”

“Aye, and my ancestors fought with the Rainish in the battles to follow, nearly wiping my bloodline from existence.” Slink was in sudden mental distress, never had he heard of an Anglamorish bloodline fighting with Raine during the conflict. It was common knowledge that the Trean and Quo-Lent families had been exterminated by the Anglamorish army, but this man was making him question the history of the conflict.

“I was told that the Rainish surrendered at Rarshin when the Lightning Swords executed the Prince of Raine along with the remaining Trean family. It is told that a traitor to the Rainish cause let the group in during the night to begin the slaughter.” Inquired the youth who found the talk exciting.

“It’s true. Farp Longbelt gave the Lightning Swords a way in during the Rarshin siege.” The traveler’s violet eyes lost the happiness in them, though his face remained neutral. “My ancestors were the first to be slain, starting with the house patriarch for siding with Raine. The history won't tell you that though, for such atrocities are buried by the lies of the victorious.” This time he turned his face to the hearth and never took his gaze off the flames. “Tell me lad, have you ever heard of the house Jostow?”

The young man took a second to think before answering the traveler with a sheepish no. “That is because the Anglamorish have refused to spread the memories of us due to our betrayal to the crown. His fists were now clenched in tight balls as he stared into the fire. “Scholars will say that a sickness took my house to extinction, but it was the swords of our own brethren that drove the remaining Jostows into hiding.” He took a long, deep breath before meeting Slink’s curious gaze. “I might be the last Jostow this world will ever see, my bloodline ends with me.”

Slink was unaware of how far his jaw had dropped until he shook his head and regained his thoughts. “Who are you?!” Was the only question the woodsmen could give.

“Call me Beph,” began the traveler with an introductory bow of his head, “procurer of rare and ancient objects, such as myself.” Slink smiled at that and Beph gave a chuckle before continuing, “but who are you, lad, with that incredible flint at your hip.”

‘The flint and steel again? What is this man’s obsession with them?’ Thought the youth but he replied accordingly, “I'm called Slink, just a woodsman and hearth builder. Like I told you, I have no memories before the Hearty Gauntlet.” He was going to end the statement there but curiosity got the better of him. “What interest do you have in my flint and steel? There's nothing special about ‘em.”

“That may be true, lad,” Beph started with a respectful bob of his head, “but they may be more unique than you know.” He then rose from the chair and held out his left hand. “Mind if I try striking it?” One eyebrow was cocked as he waited for a reply.

The curiosity within the youth was overwhelming. He could not deny that the flint and steel worked well, but for him that was common. “Of course, prove they are as special as you say.” Slink retrieved the flint and steel from his pouch and handed them over, confident that it was a normal set.

Beph politely grabbed them and took a step toward the hearth. He first gazed at the flint’ s edges and chips, then at the steel as tossed it up for a moment. He then bent to one knee and struck the flint with sufficient force. Only a few specks of light shot out, a rather disappointing show, but he continued with force increasing at every strike.

“Are you holding it properly, flint at a sharp slant?” Inquired the youth, trying to sound helpful but not arrogant.

“Well, I believe so.” He looked down at his hands for a moment before striking again, this time with more emphasis on the downward strokes. The effect was basically the same and the elder was clearly becoming frustrated by the fact. “Strike it lad.” He said with a stern tone as he whipped around with the set in hand. A couple small beads of sweat had formed on his forehead.

“Of course,” he took them from Beph and bent down to his level. He then held them out in front of them, displaying the proper grip on both flint and steel. “Holding like this, you must glance it off ever so…”

“Don't explain it to me, just strike it!” Interrupted the traveler rudely. Slink was confused by the sudden outburst. “Sorry lad, I just want to watch you do it again.” He said, backpedaling his anger, “Just watch.” Slink nodded but grew hesitant.

When the first strike was made, the two met eyes and Slink knew that something was amiss. The shower of sparks that flew from the flint were more numerous and brighter than any Beph had made. They seemed brighter than normal, even for Slink. “See, if you're holding it like this…” he began to explain but Beph cut him off with a quick hand swipe before rising and returning to his chair. A thoughtful scowl was upon his brow but he said nothing as he stared into the corner. ‘What did I do to make him so?’ Thought the youth as he placed a couple larger logs on the fire.

“I'm sorry, sir, I did not intend to upset you.” Slink started and the traveler’s thoughtful glaze cleared as he looked at the speaker. “No one has been able to create a fire faster than me, but this is normal flint. I broke the chunk off a couple seasons ago.”

“Enough of this sir talk. I told you my name so you could use it.” Slink felt put out by this, but Beph’s tone and face were kind so he put his feelings off to the side. “You are correct though, the flint is as plain as dirt. I have seen some incredible things on the road and I thought your flint and steel might have unique properties, but I hoped for too much.”

“Unique properties?” Slink repeated, curiosity at a peak once more. “Like magic?”

Beph gave an amused snort before replying, “Ha, in a sense, yes. Some things in this world are more than they appear, surely ‘you’ could agree with that.” He gave a wink at that, but Slink was puzzled why he emphasized you. “Like I said before, I collect rare and ancient objects that some may consider to be supernatural.” He then paused and seemed to go deep into thought. “Have you ever drank Rokan tea, lad?”

“I’ve never even heard of it, what is it brewed from?” Inquired Slink, who was not overly fond of tea.

“Oh a variety of leaves and stems found in the wild. I was planning on enjoying a cup, if you could fetch me a pale. Would you like to try some with me?” Slink felt a little stupid at that, ‘He has already asked the Keep for a pale to boil.’

“I am so sorry, sir, I mean Beph,” he began with a quick tongue trying to appease this odd traveler. “I’ll go fetch that for you right away.”

“Don't hurt yourself in the haste, the night is still very young.” He stood and walked over to where his saddle packs lay to retrieve a small cloth ball bound by twine. “And don't you mean for us?” The way he held his head indicated that it was a sincere gesture. “It’s good for the muscles. Builds strength.”

“Sounds great!” He said hurriedly as he move to the door, “I’ll be back in a quick jib,” and out the door he went. The hallway was quiet but light broke through from under the doorway at the end of the hall. He climbed the steps leading back into the night and made for the stone well beside the stables.

The wooden bucket used to carry water was resting beside the low wall and, in the darkness, the youth could see another bucket hanging from the roof erected around the well.

‘There’s no such thing as magic,’ came a voice from his past. The old woodsman had been telling Slink old folk tales of wizards, monsters, and magical stones when the child had asked if they were true. ‘Anyone who tells you otherwise is either being deceitful, being deceived, or being absent of clairvoyance.’

Slink lowered the roped bucket down, tipping it to one side to collect the water. ‘This odd traveler did not refute the idea of magic, he merely changed its meaning to suit his words. He is a queer one no doubt.’ He thought as he hoisted the bucket back up with hand over hand pulls. ‘The last Jostow? Seems a little far thrown to me. His family has been in hiding for two hundred years but he can tell a stranger who he is like a common greeting. And why does his line end with him? He could still father a child.’ The young man transferred the water between buckets and headed back to the old man to see if he could get some of his questions answered.

When he reached the hearth door, Slink backed into it with the bucket held firmly against his torso. The moment Beph saw him, he began to speak. “It brews best with fresh rain water, but ground wells serve well enough.” Slink turned about to find that Beph had placed the iron boiling pale on the stone before the hearth and the cloth ball was within. “Let me do the work from here, lad.” He finished as he grabbed the bucket and stood above the pale, bucket held up about eye level.

“Shouldn't you boil the water before steeping the bag?” Inquired Slink as he stood there waiting for Beph to pour.

“Not with Rokan tea, it has three steps,” answered the traveler as he began to pour, directing the stream onto the wrapped cloth. “I’ll pour just enough for a cup each.” He continued as he stopped pouring, leaving the waterline right above the bag. “And now we let it boil.”

“What is the second step?” Asked Slink as he watched the elder hang the pale on the metal rack within the hearth.

“You're seeing it. The boiling comes after the pouring and before the cooling,” He stated bluntly, as if it were common knowledge. “It’s a delicate process,” he added.

Slink shook his head in befuddlement. ‘Sounds like normal tea to me, how hard could it be to make?’ was the forethought in his mind but he simply said, “I see, well now we wait.”

The traveler’s brows went up and he began nodding in approval. “Indeed. Come, sit down here with me, I have something to show you.” He gestured with an open hand for Slink to sit as he moved to the chair he had previously sat in.

Slink agreed with caution and placed himself on the opposite side from the elder, where the fire glowed behind him. “Is it something ancient, from times or places forgotten?” He was curious once more, this traveler had a way of hooking the youth in everytime.

“No, no. I made this an age ago,” he replied. Then, looking at the ceiling for a moment, he continued with a smile, “So yes. Ha, ancient.” Reaching down, Beph stuck his hand in a leather pack that the youth just noticed. “It’s an alignment board,” he said as he pulled out a dark wood disk about the size of both his hands and placed it in the center of the table. “And I carved it myself,” he finished proudly as he watched Slink observe it.

Around the outer ring, about twenty hole were carved into the board at regular intervals. An inner ring had a similar set up, though significantly less holes were carved here. In the center, a singular, larger hole was carved out and sprouting from it came lines that connected to all the holes. The inner and outer rings also had thin lines connecting, then with crossing ones at regular intervals in the center. It created the look of squares stacked on top of each other like parchment stacked awkwardly, but the entire appearance was similar to a flower with many petals.

“It’s a fine piece for sure,” began Slink thoughtfully, “what does it mean?” He was puzzled by the appearance which seemed to attract his eyes like flies to light at dark.

“It doesn't mean anything,” he said as he stuck his hand back in the pack. “The alignment board assists me in spacing my stones when I lay them.” Again he was blunt and vague, and the youth wondered why he might be withholding something. “Here we go. Let me show you,” he said as he place a rolled cloth bundle on the table and unravelled it like a map. The inside was littered with pockets of varying sizes and locations, and were all containing some sort of lumpy objects. “I like to start with quartz.”

Beph smiled kindly at the face Slink made, so the youth asked anyways, “What is quartz?” Instead of using his voice, the elder used his hands to produce the answer. “Oh, that's a clear crystal. Not very rare as I'm told,” the woodsman said. The crystal was about a fingers length and two wide, and had six sides leading to a dull point. The base was a murky white with no definite sides or edges.

“Aye, further known as Clear Quartz.” Beph then placed it down on an inner-ring hole with the tip pointing outward. “They grow like this, did you know that?” The shake of his listeners head continued his speech, “well they do, and I like to place them…” he paused a moment to grab a few more, “to place the quartz like so,” and he laid three more similarly sized crystals on the board in a compass sort of fashion.

“Now, what does that mean?” Inquired Slink, trying to get more informative answers out of the mysterious man.

Beph shrugged his wide shoulders and answered as vaguely as possible, “Oh, it balances things out.”

“What sort of things?” Furthered the youth, attempting to get the elder to yield more information.

“Tea is at a boil, hold that thought, lad,” he said with hidden dismission. ‘What are you up to, crazy, bald kook!?’ thought Slink.

Once the pale was off the rack and set too cool, the traveler sat back down with two clay mugs in hand. “Do you prefer honey in your tea? It doesn't impact the Rokan’s strength at all.”

Tea was not oftenly offered at the Hearty Gauntlet, let alone honey to go it in. The thought of the sticky, sweet substance made Slink’s mouth water but he said coolly, “No doubt, give me a helping to speed it down.”

“Haha! That’s a lad,” he began with joyous eyes and raised brows. “Nothing better than a warm cup of Rokan tea while you lay some stones out.” He then produced a small handful of red pebbles, about the size of a fingernail each, and placed one on an outer-ring dot. “Will you assist me here lad? Place a stone every third dot until you complete the chain, while I get the cups ready,” he said and held out his hand for Slink to take the pebbles. He stood once they had been retrieved and grabbed the streaming pale of tea, pouring out the liquid into the two mugs. Slink gazed at the red pebbles, he noted that they were polished smooth but reflected no light.

“What are these?” came Slink’s inquiry as he laid the stones down on every third dot.

“Jasper!” He said with wonderment as he placed the empty pale on the floor and placed his hand back into the pack. “Not the most precious of stones but it has value all the same.” He then produced shards of a yellow colored substance and, without hesitation, dropped them in the tea with an audible plop. “Hardened honey. Helps for traveling, it'll soften up,” he finished finished as Slink placed the last Jasper pebble down, noting that there were twenty one holes on the outer ring.

“Is this what you were meaning?” asked the youth with an impulsive need for reassurance. Beph glanced at the board for a quick moment before fulfilling that need.

“Perfect, Slink. Let me stir your tea before we finish,” he produced a wooden ladle and proceeded to mix the two mugs. “Ah, there we go. Try it, you find it to your liking,” he finished as he handed the mug over.

Slink held it before his mouth, letting the warm steam fill his nostrils. ‘It has a plain smell, rather earthy,’ he thought as he brought it to his lips. The first sip made him squint from the heat, but the tea was both sweet and blann at the same time. “That's not too unpleasant!” He stated quickly before taking another gulp, this time aware of the heat to anticipate the rush.

“Not too bad at all. The honey really helps it go down,” he replied as he made a draft. “Now let me see…” he started flipping through pockets, looking up at Slink’s inquisitive face ever so often. The youth took another, longer drink from the now cooling mug. “Ah-ha!” Beph exclaimed as he produced a rough, green rock from a larger pocket. “The scholars call this one Calcite, green Calcite to be precise.” He held it up to where the light reflected within, revealing a lighter shade of green throughout.

“Very pretty. Is it a type of diamond?” asked Slink who was trying to sound more knowledgeable. The way the traveler laughed and negated the question made Slink wish he had said nothing. A strange sense began tingling behind his eyes, like a constant vibration digging into the back of his sockets. He gazed into his mug, ‘Only a quarter left, could I have drank it too fast?’ he thought as he placed the mug down and shut his eyes hard.

“You alright there lad?” came the strangers voice with compassion and when Slink opened his eyes, the elder’s face was compassionate as well.

“My head feels…” he stopped as he realized the vibration followed the rock every time he moved his head, shifting from his eyes to his temples. “Strange,” he finished as he gazed at Beph. “What is in this Rokan tea?” he asked, placing a hand on his forehead to relieve the sensation.

“Like I said, various leaves and stems from the wild with Rokan root added for effect.”
“Effect?” Slink drew back in his chair, “what does that mean? What did you did to me?!” an edge of panic crept into his voice.

“Calm yourself, Slink, the sensation will pass,” he stood and came to stand by Slink’s side, placing one hand on his shoulder. “Here, take this Calcite, it might soothe the head rush.” Slink peered up at Beph, who was holding the green rock close to his own hand. The vibration within his head was excruciating as he glanced at the translucent rock, but he put trust in the old man and grabbed its rough, uneven edges. The vibration the Calcite had given to his head immediately transferred to his palm where the rock was gripped. A dull vibration still came from the table, but his thoughts were in bewilderment of what what was in his hand.

“How? It’s… What? Its shaking?” he said in astonishment as the elder stood back and studied the youth. “I can't see it moving, but I can feel it.”

“Aye, the ancients found this helpful in some way or another.” He reassured his grip on Slink’s shoulder before saying, “could you place it on the center dot, lining it up as neatly as possible?”

“Slink was reluctant to break from the strange feeling the stone was giving him but he agreed and moved to put it down. The moment the Calcite struck the alignment board, the world around him melted away and reformed within a second. Slink jumped back in surprise as the table was replaced with open air and the only thing from the room left was the green rock in his hand. Hard stone cut into perfect slabs created the scene around him and he noted that there was a breeze coming from behind him, ‘I'm dreaming.’

Turning about, he studied his surroundings, completely crazed at how real the dream felt. The ceiling was high and came to a sharp peak; the room was round but everything on the walls were obscured by darkness. The only light came from a large opening with a balcony stretching beyond. Without hesitation, Slink strove for the opening and peered out. The moon was lighting the platform ahead, but small yellow light could be seen far beyond and below.

He took a step out but stopped, holding his breath. A figure in a dark blue cloak stood to his left, no features were visible in the night. The figure did not sense him yet so he made a step backward. ‘I wonder if he’s friendly. After all this is a dream,’ he thought and decided to confront the being.

“Hey!” he called loudly. No response came from the figure. “Hey! What is this place?” he furthered, making a few bold steps forward. The cloaked stranger began to turn around slowly, so slowly that Slink stopped his advance. When the figure had completely turned, its hood revealed no features in the darkness but a pale, wrinkled hand stretched out toward him. The being took a step forward and Slink tried to cry for help but a lump caught in his throat and he stood paralyzed. The hooded figure was only a pace away when the youth felt a firm hand on his shoulder yank him backward intensely.

Suddenly, the night sky around him was replaced with dirt walls and a roaring fire between his knees. ‘Why am I on my back?’ Beph stood over him, worry spread across his face. “What happened?!” exclaimed the woodsman wildly as he flailed to his feet and edged away from the traveler.

“What did you see?” Beph asked making a step toward the youth; a strange gleam shown in his violet eyes.

“What do you mean? Is this some sort if trick or illusion? What have you done to me?” He continued frustratedly, now more angry than afraid.

“You saw another place in the world, at this very hour,” he began ominously. Slink noticed the Calcite was on the floor where he had previously been. “That was a foresight alignment grid, used by the ancients to find objects or places far away. Without direction, the stone placer may see anything within this world at its present state. Now, tell me,” he said with a step forward, “what did you see?”

Slink was both frightened and confused but he recalled the events of the dream. Beph’ s eyes widened when he heard the youth say that the figure saw him.

“Remarkable, you have a gift lad,” he said with encouragement, “let me help you with it.” Something in Beph’s gaze made Slink’s tension ease slightly, but many questions were still racing in his mind.

“How is any of this possible? Magic stones are for child’s stories,” was the first statement he could make, his perception of reality now faltered.

“It’s not magic. Natural powers run deep in all parts of this world and stones can be powerful, but only to the right wielder.” He was putting the vagueness back into his speech again. “I made an assumption based on your appearance that the Green Calcite would produce the desired effect but…” Beph trailed off as he went into thought.

“But what?!” Cried Slink, “I had an impossible vision! Is that not the desired effect?”

“It was indeed,” he replied gruffly, “only, better than I had ever imagined. How did the stone ‘feel’ before you placed it?” The way the traveler said feel gave Slink the indication he didn't mean the surface textures.

“It shook, like the handle of my axe when I make a hard strike, only it was constant both in my head and in my hand.” Now that he spoke about it, the dull vibrations became apparent to the youth once more.

“Rokan tea assists in finding a stone’s energy, but only if the person can use it.” He sat back down, making Slink ease his mood even more. “The energy becomes a physical sense that helps in finding which stones a person can wield naturally, a power within every man and woman.”

“You mean to tell me that anyone can do what I just did?” Inquired Slink in puzzled wonder. He sat back down in his chair to steady himself, limbs feeling weakened.

“No, no,” Beph began dismissively, “I can not even complete this grid. Your eyes reminded me of a man who could use green Calcite efficiently. Though, if your foresight is that keen, you might have more ability than that old fool.” He made a bothered wave of his arm at the idea of the mentioned stranger.

“What do you mean by my eyes?” Slink thought for a moment and continued, “Does that mean you can, uh, use violet stones like Garnets?” He stumbled across his words to use the correct terms for such conversations.

“Good guess there, lad.” Beph said with a smile. “Yes, Garnets are my forestone, but other one have proven to be useful.” He gleamed at the youth with a proud aura. “It’s too early to tell if the green Calcite is your forestone. I wouldn't doubt it.”

Slink burst out a sudden thought that he couldn't keep contained. “The flint! Could that be my forestone?” ‘It all makes sense now, the flint is special but only in my hands. The thought gave him goosebumps running down his arms.

“From my experience, I would give you a questionable no.” Slink’s heart began to sink but Beph continued, “Without knowing where you come from, we can never truly know why you can access the flint’s properties. Somewhere in your bloodline, a flint empowerer must have married into the family. Strangely, you were passed this gift though the common features of such individuals are not present in your face or build.” Beph then began picking the stones off the board and returning them to their appropriate pockets.

“So stone empowering happens throughout generations?” Slink asked slowly, checking his words before speaking them.

“Aye, it’s called disposition.” Now when he spoke, Beph did not sound as if he were talking to a child. “It is like ones eye or hair color; families pass on the ability to use certain stones to their children.” He paused for a moment with a distant look before returning to Slink. “Even the smallest traces of blood can cause a person to be disposed to a stone or stones, but they have to know it. In this case, I used the Rokan root to help you see your connection to the Calcite. Can you still sense its flow?” He gave Slink an inquisitive look as he held up the green rock.

The moment the youth gazed upon the stone, the dull vibration in his head focused on it though more distant than before. “Yes,” began Slink with a hard blink at the sensation. “Not as strong as before, but I can still feel it… shaking.” He put a hand on his temple but Beph removed the stone from sight and the feeling almost disappeared, though not completely.

“The effect will last a while longer, but it will fade,” Beph reassured as he finished both his and Slink’s mugs. “Me? I just love the taste,” he added with a grin as he put the empty mugs and alignment board back into his pack.

“Do you feel ‘em?” Asked the youth, trying to pry for any more secrets.

“Not of those ones, but these Garnets call to me greatly.” The gems he produced from the largest pocket were deep shades of red and violet, most capturing the light completely before it escaped the otherside. They varied in size as well; from pupil sized pebbles to a flat palm sized one with an intense crack running through it. “Magnificent, aren't they? Just marvelous to gaze at.” Slink felt a small thrum in his head when he looked upon them, but it was almost unnoticeable.

“What do they do for you?” asked the youth. To his surprise, Beph did not seem prepared to to answer that question as he huffed for a second in dismission before reluctantly giving in.

“Being my forestone, I can use Garnets to ward off poison or infection in the blood, though it has other useful effects.” Slink gave a silent gasp at the thought of such things happening, ‘Nothing is impossible now.’ “For instance, it helps me create new ideas and clears my wandering mind when I need to think.” Beph seemed relieved to get the information off his chest.

“Your the last Jostow, can anyone else use a garnet’s effects?” The youth was curious to no end now and wanted to elaborate more on the subject.

“No, they have a wide spread disposition.” Beph said as he put the garnets away and folded his hands on the table. “No one possesses the forestone ability I have though, as far as I have seen.”

“What of the green Calcite? What’s its properties?” furthered the youth, suddenly excited to find out what powers he might have hidden within himself. ‘What if I can see the future or close a gaping wound?’

“Green Calcite is strange. When it’s the centerpiece of a grid, like we did, the effect is vastly different. Alone, the stone increases the flow of natural energies, becoming a beacon for those seeking power.” As he continued, Beph produced a hard lump of bread and began biting off it between sentences. “Furthermore, it will assist in maintaining the energy balances when things are chaotic. Also, green Calcite is known to create a bond between the physical and astral bodies when projecting into the Astral realm.”

“What is the Astral realm?” Slink asked, befuddled by the crazy term. He wanted to know how he might be able to use the stone.

“It’s the world behind our world, mirroring what we see in the physical realm,” Beph replied educationally. “Beings who have reached higher level if power will go there once their time is through,” his voice grew ominous, like a scary storyteller. “The beings are trapped forever, as far as we know, so ancient heros and heroines still roam this world-within-worlds.”

“And we can see this world?!” Blurted out Slink in astonishment.

“Some can, yes, but the grid is complex with many different stones,” he replied, seeming to dislike the conversation, “and the likelihood of finding what you seek is near on impossible.”

“That reminds me, how does that alignment board work and what are grids?” The vision was still vibrant in his mind and he wanted answers.

“Well, it’s simple really. Place stones down in patterns and the natural energies combine to create an effect. The purity of the effects is determined by the stone placer’s disposition.” He paused a moment to see if Slink comprehended before continuing, “The main power stone must be disposed to the person who completes the grid. If that is the only disposed stone in the cluster, then the effect will be minimal; the more stones a person can access, the greater or more predictable the effect will be.”

A story from his past came rushing to the youth, so he started gingerly, “There's a tale, A Beggar at Dusk, ‘bout a man placing stones in a pattern around a city that was rejecting his entry. When they finally let him in, he destroyed the city by placing a final stone in the city square.” Slink was dismayed by the smile on Beph’s face but not discouraged, “Is that story true?” His eyes were bright.

“All folktales have some basis in truth. If so, the event was in ancient times, possibly before man wrote history when knowledge was passed by word of mouth.” Beph’s answer was as solid as stone but something behind his violet eyes made Slink believe he was withholding details from the youth.

“I see,” he said but came up with another question to pose. “If the flint and Calcite aren't my forestones, then what do you think could be?”

“There is no way to tell at the moment, you would have to find it.” This form of answer was expected from the elder, but he continued with something completely unexpected. “I have a cache of gems in the capital, I have no doubt you could find one or two that call to your disposition.”
“Are… Are you,” Slink gulped and felt a thin film of sweat appear below his chin and arms. ‘This is the only place I know, save for the surrounding woods.’ His fearful side was battling his adventurous side as he thought of what could go wrong on if he pursued this path.

“Aye, come with me lad. I want to help you find… yourself.” Beph had extended a hand toward Slink now as if he were on his back again, while also raising his brow in a friendly manner.

‘This could all be a farce, a cleverly played trick, but I can't deny what I saw,’ Slink thought to himself. ‘Could I be a sorcerer like in the tales of old? And how does he know I will find disposed stones in Karshin? Calcite could very well be my forestone.’ The youth got bubbly all the sudden and burst out, “Will we be there in time for the Raz Festival?!” The woodsman could already see himself striding down alleyways, purchasing rare goods, and testing his speed against foreign competitors.

“Presumably, yes, if the road does not slow us.” ‘He speaks as though I have already said yes,’ thought Slink as he squinted at the old man. “What is the issue lad? Leaving someone behind?”

“No!” Slink exclaimed defensively. Kyrta was the only person he liked here, but her treatment toward him of late made him bitter. ‘There’s nothing to lose,’ he decided immediately, ‘and a world of opportunities to gain.’ “This has been my home forever, I don't know anything beyond the forest.”

“That is where you can help me,” he said with gleaming, violet eyes, “I need a companion on the roads ahead, one with a sense for the wild. I tire easily in the wilderness, but a strong buck like yourself could serve useful!”

Slink could not get the Raz Festival out of his head, ‘I’m going to see the capital at its finest.’ The approval must have been written on Slink’s face because Beph gave a wide grin and his extended arm, indicating that Slink should grasp it.

“I will agree to accompany you to Karshin, but from there I make no promises.” The youth took hold of the elder’s hand firmly and shook, creating a verbal pact to help each other along the way.

Chapter 2 Preview:
"When I struck the flint, how come I could use its power without knowing it?" Slink had asked at one point, trying to catch a flaw in the elder's teachings.

"Were you 'intennding' to start a fire with it?" rebuttalled Beph, elongating the word 'indending' for affect. When Slink had approved, he had went on to say, "You know that flint creates sparks and that alone was your intention. So, the stone acted on that ability through your unknowing willpower."

© 2018 Tanner Wright

Author's Note

Tanner Wright
Don't be easy on me, I need to hear the truth. I want to know if I should proceed with this entrance and/or how I could change it.

My Review

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Ok, here are the bad bits first so I can finish on a high note; 8,000 words for an opening chapter seems quite long for a first chapter - the first chapter is there to wet the readers taste for what is to come in your story, I personally feel this could be shortened a little. I also don't really understand why you spent so much time writing about the youth lighting the fire; I do commend you for writing in such detail that this chapter is can easily be imagined, but spending so much time on such details when you clearly have a far more interesting story ahead just seems like padding. I would recommend putting your writing into lots of mini paragraphs - as just when I clicked on this chapter the big blocks of writing just were not appealing to read - not that your story was not, however, as you had a strong start with "This was the seventh traveler this fortnight to stay in the longhouse, an unusually high number for the Hearty Gauntlet in Spring.". I really liked how you went straight into it and instantly I could see where the scene was taking place. The second part of this chapter grew to be really very interesting and I enjoyed reading it overall, the above are just a few of my thoughts to make it even better. I am by no means the best writer there is - nor do I claim to be, but I hope that what I have learned so far may be useful to you. Thanks for the friend request and directing me to your book, I look forward to seeing how it continues - feel free to send me a read request when the second chapter is up!

Posted 11 Months Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Tanner Wright

11 Months Ago

Thank you, the fire starting has a lot larger role later on but I understand what you mean.


Ok, here are the bad bits first so I can finish on a high note; 8,000 words for an opening chapter seems quite long for a first chapter - the first chapter is there to wet the readers taste for what is to come in your story, I personally feel this could be shortened a little. I also don't really understand why you spent so much time writing about the youth lighting the fire; I do commend you for writing in such detail that this chapter is can easily be imagined, but spending so much time on such details when you clearly have a far more interesting story ahead just seems like padding. I would recommend putting your writing into lots of mini paragraphs - as just when I clicked on this chapter the big blocks of writing just were not appealing to read - not that your story was not, however, as you had a strong start with "This was the seventh traveler this fortnight to stay in the longhouse, an unusually high number for the Hearty Gauntlet in Spring.". I really liked how you went straight into it and instantly I could see where the scene was taking place. The second part of this chapter grew to be really very interesting and I enjoyed reading it overall, the above are just a few of my thoughts to make it even better. I am by no means the best writer there is - nor do I claim to be, but I hope that what I have learned so far may be useful to you. Thanks for the friend request and directing me to your book, I look forward to seeing how it continues - feel free to send me a read request when the second chapter is up!

Posted 11 Months Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Tanner Wright

11 Months Ago

Thank you, the fire starting has a lot larger role later on but I understand what you mean.

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Added on February 2, 2018
Last Updated on February 2, 2018


Tanner Wright
Tanner Wright

Writing has always been on the back-burner for me, but I want that to change. When people asked me what I wanted to be as a child, I never thought of writing as a viable answer. The story I have withi.. more..


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