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Science Fiction (General)
Action & Adventure
By L. S. Kyles
E-Book (available as PDF files)
About the Author
In the Words of Good Living, the holy text by which Amian disciples live their lives, Owndiah promises each of his followers a peace that surpasseth all human understanding. And when Brine the disciple leaves his homeland and travels to the desert monastery of Valley Rock to serve Owndiah and to walk in the footsteps of Amontus, he thinks he will obtain this peace. He is wrong—Dead wrong. It is only after ten years of trying—and all but giving up on the ineffable goal—that God decides to call. It happens as Brine is reading a mysterious letter from his homeland, feeling the presence of God envelop him so sweetly, so utterly, that there is no other way to interpret the sensation than as a calling from God. Owndiah wants Brine to go home, wants him back in the Kingdom of Jashandar. Could the peace that surpasseth all human understanding be there? Jaysh the woodsman—ardent recluse and current subject in the Kingdom of Jashandar—would have to say yes. For even though Jaysh knows nothing about monasteries or prophets or powerful feelings from his dreams, he knows a lot about peace. He knows it comes from living in the hills and valleys of the kingdom and from spending time with a scroungy, little cat-like creature named, Zeph. Or at least he used to know this. Here of late, Jaysh’s life has been less than peaceful. Ever since the Kingdom of Jashandar began to wake, tranquility is hard to come by. There are disfigured animals, defiled rivers, that large and voiceless creature peeking at him from the bushes… Jashandar is a mess.
In the desert of the F’kari, many blistering leagues south of the Kingdom of Jashandar, an Amian disciple was starting an adventure by dropping his travel bag on his cot and running to the window. This might, on the whole, seem counterproductive to the start of an adventure, but in this case it was not. In this case, the Amian disciple had heard something in the courtyard outside and was rushing to identify the source of the noise. Because if the something outside turned out to be the bad something that he feared—and there was every reason to believe that it was—his adventure would be over before it ever began. Pushing back the shutters and shoving out his head, the disciple scanned the blurry shadows below for any sign of the bad thing strutting across the hardpan. If the bad thing were there, he would see its fluttering shape without the slightest complication and out the door he’d spring, racing down the hall and hurtling to the courtyard. As it turned out, though, the pre-dawn oblivion in the courtyard below appeared to be a bit drearier than usual, a tad more blurry than normal. It was almost as though he were trying to see without his— Uggggh! With an irritable groan, the disciple scrabbled at the pouch on his belt, withdrew something like a glass coin from its depths, and shoved it in his eye. He clenched down on the clear disc with his brow and cheekbone and quickly resumed his search. Now, thanks to the miracle of his seeing lens, the shadows below appeared much sharper and clearer and he could tell right away that he had absolutely no idea what was lurking therein. There might have been one of the winged monstrosities scratching about the fissures of the hardpan in search of yesterday’s feed, or there might have been nothing at all. He cocked his head to the side and listened. His eyes might be halfway to worthless, but his ears functioned like those of a panicked jackrabbit watching the shadow of a hawk pass across its glade—So keen, in fact, that he could hear the sound of a beetle chewing the pages of his Wogol from the other side of the dorm, a talent that had spurred his fellow parishioners to bestow upon him the honorary title of Bat Ears. But old Bat Ears, he thought, uneasily, leaning back from the windowsill and chalking the noise up to the wind, doesn’t hear a thing. The wind didn’t come much to the Valley of the Rock, but when it did come, the sound of sand blowing across the hardpan was very similar to the noise he had heard. Or it might have been one of the moon-skinks that inhabited the area. They, unlike the diurnal followers of Amontus, only came out in the cool of the night, and it wouldn’t have been the first time that one of them went skittering across the sill and scared him half to death. Now that he thought about it—now that his heart had stopped racing and his mind felt a little clearer—he thought the chances were good that the disturbance had been one of those scaly devils and not a roaming member of the barnyard community. But for how much longer? he chided himself, directing his monocle to the east and squinting at the soft yellow glow swelling in the sky. In the surrounding monastery, huddled black squares were emerging from the gloom and he could just make out the clay shingles and stucco walls. Further out in the F’kari, out in the flat reaches beyond the Rock, the cacti were taking on shape and giving dimension to the desert. Jamming the monocle in his hip-pouch, he spun towards the cot and uttered the world’s briefest prayer, something along the lines of, Oh great and mighty Owndiah, please close the beak of the cockerel as you did the mouths of the lions in the days of the prophets. Then, thinking better of the prayer, he added, Or you could stop the movement of the sun as you did in the time of Aemelaiesheth, back when the battle against the infidels raged on and the holy soldiers of Amontus needed additional light to take the victory. Either one would suffice. But had the disciple time enough to sit and reflect upon his Wogol studies, he would have realized that the prophets and soldiers benefiting from those miracles hadn’t been breaking any of Owndiah’s commandments at the time of the miracle. None of the prophets had been deceiving their brethren, none of the soldiers had been disobeying their leaders, and—without question—neither party had been disregarding the Time of Peace. The last faux pas was a biggie, he knew, but it wasn’t like he wanted to break the commandment. He wasn’t skipping the Time of Peace because he did not value his time of communion with Owndiah. He was skipping because he did not value the plethora of questions his brethren would ask at the sight of his travel pack. Owndiah might forgive at some point down the road, but he wasn’t so sure about the brethren. Dropping to his knees, he snatched his bag from the cot, held it to the edge of the mattress, and scraped the last of his possessions inside, slowing only as he came to a finely-polished flute and a leather-bound tome. The flute he slid in delicately to one side—hoping with all hope that it would be in one piece at the end of his journey—and the tome he placed on top of his belongings, a symbolic act of respect indicating that it came first in his life. With those two items carefully stowed, he grabbed two corners of the sack’s opening, drew them taut so as to tie them in place, and then stopped… He stared down at his hands as though he’d never seen them before, feeling like a man who’d just awoke from a very stressful dream. You know what this means, don’t you? You know what this might lead to, do you not? When he’d first read the mysterious letter lying on his nightstand, these were the thoughts that had danced in his mind, annoying mental gnats that he had dealt with by telling himself he had no choice in the matter. The information in the letter was dire, he had to respond immediately, and that was that. But now, as he stood mere moments away from charging out the door and making real those great and awesome consequences, the mental gnats had swelled to the size of buzzards, and they were circling him. And the scrawl he had read in the mysterious letter looked very distant and faded, indeed. Forever’s a long time, he thought, and dropped the folds of the knapsack. He turned to face his room and felt like he did at the many funerals he and his brethren oversaw for the local peasants: the numbness in his cheeks, the quiescence in the walls, the negative emotions in his heart growing brittle and cold. His eyes flitted to the corner where a wooden table had been shoved back as far as it could go, its position in the room giving the impression that its owners had not been very fond of it. The table’s splintered surface—bare save for the solitary figure standing at its center—gave a similar impression. The figure—or figurine, as it were—was of a bearded man in a set of beggar’s robes. He had his head bowed to the ground and his arms thrust to Glory. At first glance, he appeared to be deep in the throes of supplication, but this notion quickly passed as the beholder took notice of the short-handled scythe in his left hand and the squirming weasel in the other. The disciple’s eyes lingered on the weasel.
L.S. Kyles lives in the North Central Midwest with his wife and children. He is approaching middle age and enjoys jogging and gardening and reading as much fantasy and horror as is humanly possible. With experience in public education and community counseling, the author thoroughly enjoys all religious and existential issues related to achieving peace and harmony in the human condition. If you would like to contact the author, you may do so at email@example.com .
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