And now the final free chapter from Fearsome Devils. In this chapter the story returns from the bloody battle and returns focus to the village and its survival. The talkers take the stage again, discussing their own plans and what they’ll mean for the village. My favorite character is introduced in this chapter, Autumn. Her distrust for authority doesn’t change the way that she values the lives of the villagers. I think this speaks a lot of small towns as well. I grew up in a small community. Each person in the community doesn’t have to get along with every other for it to be a great place to live.
If you’ve enjoyed this novella up to this point, then grab a copy. It’s available exclusively on Kindle.
The Fearsome King
Each village exists because the Children of Edir are driven to survive. Lone existence in the forest is difficult, and survival depends on the aid of fellow Children. This need is unnatural for the Children because their own free will drives them. It takes a strong connection to set aside one’s own will for the purpose of bettering others, but knowing that each villager chooses to stay a part of society makes their contribution whole-hearted.
The biggest boon to survival in Edir is the enchanted life that’s scattered throughout the forest. Areas of enchanted life well up a spring of Joon that has many benefits, including healing the sick. Each area of enchanted life is different, many are even harmful. That is why the protection and understanding of these areas is so important. This reliance makes a village so necessary, as no one child can protect and understand enchanted life alone.
Fol had access to two areas of enchanted life. The pool of healing could reverse the ravages of combat on flesh; but more importantly it provided life to the ground around it, making farming possible in an area so choked with trees. The dried well was a cursed area used for protection. Any of those who breath its vapors have the air removed from their breast and are sent weakly coughing and stumbling away with visions of sadness in their minds. The well was extended into a trench by skilled preparers to protect an entire flank of the village.
The pool of healing has served as the second place of meeting since the village began. Its welcome waters beckon friendly exchange and make for a peaceful rest for the weary. Even the weary of heart. For this reason the bickering preparers retreated to the pool to discuss Merg’s plan to expand.
“We can dig this way,” one of the skilled men pointed out, seated on a gnarled root near the waters.
Another stood staring at the reflection of the leafy canopy covering the pool high above, and agreed. “As we bless and chant, the digging should not harm the life of the pool.”
“How wide? We might drain the water and destroy the pool,” a third questioned perched on a rock that formed the rim of a dirt ledge.
Stellaut removed her feet from the edge of the water. “We test how much is needed. Plants should grow with little of this water,” she suggested.
The conversation murmured on for a moment, but was silenced when the short whisperer, Autumn, stepped out from one of the trees along the water’s edge. Around her waist hung a thatched belt holding together a grass skirt. A netting of leaves covered her torso and arms like a cloak. She held in her hand a young sapling which remained vibrant and full of life from the glowing Joon that her palm provided it.
Immediately, she held the baby tree to the silver hair that crowned her head and began speaking. “I have overheard these plans but have not overheard any talk of the rules upon us. What would the devils say about our plans?” she quipped.
Her hand snapped downwards, whipping the sapling through the air. She continued, “To your benefit, I have listened to the musings of the kings and lords around us. There is an air of disapproval blowing through the winds. As you know the law, the king will not let us live without consuming the flesh of the lowly creatures. We must spill the blood of animals daily, as he commands, lest his wrath come down on us. He fears that we will break his law if we continue with this farming. Stop now, for your lives and your families!”.
The progressing desperation in her voice swept over the preparers. They did not know how respond, and feared the warning she gave. Each sat and gasped, then began to mumble amongst one-another.
Loy had been sitting at the path that leads back to the village center. He was reclining and eating a delicious fruit from a nearby tree. His mouth was too full to speak. He coughed the bite he had taken onto the floor and stood up. His arms stretched openly to show a friendly gesture.
Before Loy could open his mouth, Merg approached from behind Autumn. Merg’s hand began to glow again and he reached to pat the wise woman’s shoulder. The preparers stopped their mumbling and calmed, waiting for the talker to speak.
Merg spoke quickly, “Let us stay calm like the breeze we celebrate…”
Hearing his voice, Autumn jerked forward to dodge Merg’s hand, and avoid the effects of his magic. She kept her head low and barked out words in defiance, “I will not be calmed by you. My warning is sound and it should fly to the ears of everyone like birds.”
The talker watched as Autumn retreated behind another tree. She stopped to listen but remained out of sight. Knowing this, Merg continued speaking to the whole of those at the pool.
“If we are not certain that our actions will abide by the laws that we are compelled to follow, then we will consult the king himself. Autumn may listen to the chittering talk in the forest, but only we can consult with the destroyer,” he finished.
The attention of those at the pool was handed to Loy. Merg headed back to the village, but Loy stayed to keep peace among the preparers. Out of the corner of his eye, Merg could see Autumn following, although she remained out of sight. Bushes bent their branches beside Autumn to keep her concealed as she walked. The rustling that this made was not hard to track.
Evening darkness fell. The hunting party returned, healed their wounds at the pool, and delivered a new catch that they brought back from the return trip. Laborers followed along with the preparers to butcher the animals. The talkers talked amongst themselves as they prepared a fire in the ceremonial fire pit.
Owen sat around the pit, counseling Syrel and Inedar. His rebuke of their skill sunk into the soil of Inedar’s mind, but was rejected by the clay of Syrel’s. Despite this typical behavior, Owen always found joy in instructing the younger lightfoots.
The meat was finally ready, and the villagers who had subsided on plants for their noon meal had stomachs that roared with excitement. Hardly a word was spoken as the entire host of Fol ate.
Syrel, having grown weary of the lecture, volunteered to take food to Autumn’s hut. She never joined into village gatherings, but instead, watched from the outskirts of the huts, perched in her tree house. The roots of the trees listened at the campfire for her, and carried the message back to her ears. Only whisperers understand the constant gossip that trees never cease to speak, and they are experts to take advantage of it for their own leisure.
Syrel climbed the branches that formed steps to the hut. Autumn welcomed him in and took the clay bowl from him. She sat and ate quietly with one hand. The other hand stayed securely on the trunk of the tree, listening to its words. Syrel stood by for a moment but decided to turn and jump down.
She spoke before he could leave, “You better hurry. A talker seals your fate now.”
The lightfoot gave a puzzled look and jumped down without seeking an explanation. He knew that Autumn never speaks except to strike fear into the heart of her audience. Engaging in conversation would only lead to more of the like.
Loy, Eloo, and Merg stood encircled around the campfire. Eloo and Merg stood silently raising their hands in the air. Loy stared directly into the fire and began speaking in a strange language. Each word was long and began with a low growl and ended with a high screech. After speaking his side of the conversation, the talker paused for a response, which was not heard by anyone else.
The conversation continued slowly. The villagers began to retire to their huts one by one. Loy finished and dismissed the two other talkers to their homes. It was his custom to sleep after speaking with a devil. He felt that the words he heard would not have true meaning without a dream to explain them. Merg and Eloo had never been able to convince him otherwise. Once again, they patiently complied to discuss the ceremony in the morning.
A morning bird sang in the sun. As the light peered over the horizon, Loy rose from his mat of straw. He reached for his bowl of rain water from the last night and slurped it down. His fingers ran through his hair and he let out a yawn.
After letting out that low bellow. A dream from the night climbed back into his mind. In his dream Loy saw a horned creature, one of the docile beasts used for cattle in other villages, except in the dream it was enormous, and towered over the forest. He saw it running through the forest, fleeing from hunters. He remembered the dream ending when the giant creature turned, bucked, and crushed one of the hunters under its mighty weight.
The talker shook his head and slapped his cheek. The jolt of pain brought him into the foggy morning air. Loy stepped out of his hut and paused to listen to the forest around him. The rhythmic chirping of the birds set the pace of his foot as he walked to the town center to meet with his fellow talkers.
Eloo and Merg were already there. They had gathered bread for all 3 of them to eat as they talked. Lacking powdery flour and traditional ovens, bread in Edir is made from doughy lumps of meal cooked into crispy cakes. Loy smiled and approached, snatched up some bread, and took a big bite.
The three exchanged pleasantries and Loy cleared his throat to speak. He relayed his dream to the other two. Merg asked questions to get as many details as possible, but Eloo simply sat and listened attentively. By this time the dream was becoming fuzzy in his mind, so Loy was unable to give Merg the detail that he desired.
Once talk of the dream was finished, Eloo looked over at Merg, looked back at Loy, and spoke up. “What of the talk last night?”, he asked.
“The fearsome king was not quick to answer my question. I expected moss to grow on my ears,” Loy jested back. All three paused to laugh and he continued, “The king believes that we are planning to violate his rule. He could see our discussion at the pool, which means we have already offended his law. The only reason we have not felt punishment is a bargain that he wishes to make. If we deliver half of our crops of the earth to be consumed in his boiling pits, he will grant us our wish without punishment.”
The three knew the significance of this. Fearsome devils see and hear from their eyes and ears like any normal creature. It is only when one of their laws are broken that they can catch a glimpse of the crime being committed, like a daydream. This magic makes them aware of any infraction on their authority, and it compels them to act. That action is punishment, which may be withheld if the devil so desires.
Merg looked shocked. Eloo simply took another large bite of bread and observed Merg’s face. Flushed red with embarrassment for suggesting the change to the pool, Merg asked further about the conditions.
“That is much food. After we deliver the food, will we be free to expand?”, he asked with a mix of bashfulness and anger.
Loy responded carefully, recognizing why Merg felt taken aback, “We must make this sacrifice again on each new moon.”
Eloo choked a little on his bread after hearing this. He coughed and recovered himself to speak, “That means that we will have to expand our farming just to make up for this. We have no choice now.”
Each took a moment and considered the implications of the new command. They came to terms with what they had to do and spent time deciding who would make the first journey.
Eloo and Merg left to update the scrolls to record the change of rules that they had been given. Loy approached the center of the village. As villagers passed, he made them aware of the new duty that they had to undertake. Anyone who had been chosen was told to prepare for a journey. Nobody was more shocked than Syrel when he was told to gather his gear for the long trip.
©2014 Caleb Abbruzzese