RAZE - a weekly fantasy web serial

RAZE – 024 – Nice to Be Recognized

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It appears that Lonireil’s Master of Truth has taken an interest in my writings. I overheard that there are some aspects of my account which do not align with those they have collected. They wish for more of Lonireil, and so my execution must be stayed until they receive some answer or other.

It occurs to me to cease writing, to allow their curiosity to rankle them, but if my execution goes as I suspect it will, they will have far more pressing concerns than the stories of an old man.
So instead, I will leave my tales of Lonireil for a time. You will have to wait, Master of Truth. Now, there is a pretentious name for oneself.

In service to Lonireil, I learned the first lesson, Passion. I clung to a black rock in the cold water of my mind, my spirit, and I became hard and cruel and, I thought, powerful. My power was a house built on shifting sands, however, as I found many years later, when my training was progressed, my ultimate intentions taking form, my abilities at their peak. It was not by simple Passion, nor by Position. It was in the Open Way, in losing all and, thereby, gaining everything.

It was a mere seven years ago. I was sixty years old, and I was as you have heard of me: I was Raze, the Unmaker. Blue-turbaned, tall as a carriage, broad as an ox, with a sun-scorched face and beard black-and-silver. I wore Khalughnoran steel etched with patterns and whorls, with lapis insets from Bulai, tied with braids of azure. I bore a shield from Narsal that had borne a god through the Wood of Weeping Clouds. The shield was called Summit. In my right hand I wielded Wind, the sword that was tempered in the twin hearts of the khren called Leuvesuis, the Tooth of Ulara. It was a scimitar of black metal, Jedah steel, with a scrolling silver grip. Script etched in silver stood out along the blade.

That is how the story goes, however, it has been somewhat exaggerated. I’d lost my godsdamned sword and shield in the ocean, where I had also cut away my armor rather than sink. I was soaked, bedraggled, beaten by waves. I awoke on a cool beach, my bruised face down, blowing bubbles with my breathing. I took a mouthful of sandy pebbles when I woke too quickly and sat up,sputtering into my beard, cursing like the pirates I had just sunk, my ass in the damp sand and my clothes audibly drying to crust from the salt as if I was an old roasted fish.

When I recovered, I looked around me. A fair shore of gray pebbles, with the mouth of a spring rolling over gray rock. A cool breeze, too cool for my soaked old bones. Mist. A rising forest of black-needled cedar trees and craggy stone and ferns. Down the beach lay smoking bits of wood, tattered sails and nets and barrels and the like. A trail of smoldering wreckage bobbed on the waves, showed my path from a red glow on the ocean horizon under the black clouds. I sat back, beard full of pebbles, laughing. Red Kharcos’s fleet was stolen, the fleet of Captain Turov sunk or sinking. I stood up, groaning and clutching at old wounds and new, still chuckling. A fine month’s work come to an end.

I turned to the spring and did my best to look dignified as I approached it. By that time, as I said, I had learned much. My training was my own, complete but for what I could learn alone, for no warrior in the world was my equal by then. Some dozen people watched from the treeline, skillfully hidden. Their breathing sounded between the waves. Their feet snapped cedar needles or brushed ferns, and so I knew they watched me.

For all of my boasting, I admit I had no fucking guess as to where I had landed. I could hazard several, that is, but the islands and countries in that part of the world were manifold and less known to me. I would find out soon enough, as soon as the watchers revealed themselves.

With great grace, for an old man who has been exploded and then carried by waves and wreckage, I went to the spring and knelt and drank, scooping water up with my right hand. With my left I took hold of a piece of broken ship, a pole of some kind. I also never learned the names of ship parts so well. Everything that is called one thing on land is given another name by sailors, so that they may feel intelligent for once when no one knows what they call any given thing.

The pole, or whatever part it was, was blackened, the end still glowing deep inside and dusted with ash. It was a stout beam, though, a good size for my grip, soaked black from Skertah alchemical water-sealant, smoking a little. I took it as a walking stick and pushed myself up with it, supporting myself most visibly on it. I noted, as I stood, that it was about the length and thickness of a Toji greatsword. Such a weapon I had used well before.

I faced the forest, the dozen folk who watched me. I heard bowstrings. So it should be. My stomach grumbled, for it was some time since I had eaten – who knows how long? – and I pressed my lips in annoyance. How long would they stalk me if I went into the wood? Following the spring would bring me to people sooner or later, but here stood a dozen, preparing to fight me. I adjusted my turban. Perhaps they would recognize me and avoid making the error of shooting?

No, they would not. As soon as I let the stick lean against my side and set my hands to re-wrapping my headwear, they attacked. They loosed arrows. Others rushed from the woods, leaping from rock to rock in near silence, bearing axes and ball-headed clubs. One rode out on a great elk, a white beast with fuzz on its antlers and black marks down its throat. They howled. The arrows shrieked toward me.

I sighed and flicked my walking stick into my hands. A lesson they would have, then.

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