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ebooks: The Inshkin Chronicles – Chapter XIII
Chilliwack author Dennis Tkach has written an historical epic seeking to follow in the tradition of imaginative classics as diverse as Dune, Snow White, and Lord Of The Rings. The book, now available for the first time, is being serialized by Today Media Group.
Each week we will bring you another installment from this fantastic journey as the adventure unfolds, taking twists and turns, exploring a world which existed far before our own time but which, as you will discover, has many hidden parallels.
The Inshkin Chronicles takes its readers one million years into the past to time hitherto unexplored and undreamt of by archeologists and historians.
Once upon a very, very long time ago, there lived a little berry farmer by the name of Pynch Beamcheeks. Rising from the humblest of beginnings Pynch’s story tells of the making of a hero.
The Inshkin Chronicles is also the story of the first intelligent life on Earth, long before Adam and the coming of Man. It was a time when Chaos sought to plunge a dagger into the heart of a young world full of promise, a world of Order.
I am different from your kind, that is true. But do not see qualities in me that I do not possess. I am neither indestructible nor omniscient. I am a Guardian, an Adept of the House of Lehi-om, and yes, I even recognize, with a certain amusement, the title of wizard. I am as old as the elements that form this world and possess certain protections to shield me from aging as you know it. Yet, like you, when I tire, I must rest. If I am cut, I will bleed. When I am injured, I hurt. When hungry I must eat and when I thirst I must drink. What I am trying to impress upon you is this simple fact: we have more in common than that which sets us apart.
– a conversation with a wizard
Calabar traveled several leagues from Flinder before pausing for a respite. From the hill on which he now stood he had a sweeping view of Yarda and each of the six Inshkin townships, along with their bordering leagues of farmland, stretching out before him in all directions. Looking west, his eyes followed the deep blue waters of the Dune before a bright glint of light drew his attention to what he instantly recognized as the walls and spires of Castle Dagomar, caught in the light of the mid-afternoon sun. Although he took a few moments to take in the beauty of this, one of the most beautiful corners of Dawn, following the meeting with the Halfling the panorama did little to deflect him from the thoughts uppermost in his mind. Not the least of these was how surprised he was over the unusual feelings the lad stirred within him.
Calabar did not make close friends easily, nor did he wish to do so. Of course there were many, in his travels throughout Dawn, with whom he would gladly share a cup of fellowship and a warm hand of greeting. He could embrace them and call them friend without ever letting them near his heart. But long centuries of sharing his corner of Dawn with short-lived mortals taught him of the pain caused by emotional attachments. Sooner or later the Gray Crusade would summon all of those around him. While death came to everyone, it did not come for him.
It took a hard lesson during The First Age before he learned to isolate himself, avoid developing strong emotional ties. The exceptions to this self-imposed isolation of the heart were his king and the princess Kristafarra. They were, after all, his principal stewardship.
Calabar smiled, thinking of the royals. With Kristafarra on one side of her father and Calabar on the other, they represented the perfect example of an ideal monarchy. But a perceptible shift in his allegiance was gradually taking place. Although Aries was still Calabar’s principal stewardship, in Calabar’s eyes, Kristafarra was the hope for tomorrow. He’d always known that somehow, she was very important in the Plan of Creation and for the future of Dawn.
Whether sacred, arcane, esoteric, or temporal, as a student Kristafarra soaked up everything he offered like the dry earth welcomed a good rain. She had an insatiable curiosity, seemingly interested in everything under the sky, and answered questions served only to expand her horizons of thought, spawning yet more questions.
By the age of six, Kristafarra had mastered, both written and spoken, the language of the Ancients. The day was fast approaching when Calabar would give her access to the hidden mountain library of the Krall, a treasure trove of knowledge from The First Age. Unknown to her father and everyone except the Brotherhood of Order, Calabar had been schooling Kristafarra in the deeper arts of his craft. This knowledge and the skills were critical, for one day she would take the rite of passage and enter the temple in the Mountain at the Top of the World. There, she would be given the keys that would make her metamorphosis complete.
For on the day that He-Who-Will-Not-Be-Denied decreed her duties as queen, wife, and mother finished, she would be ordained into the next phase of her existence as a Guardian of Order.
But that was far in the future, Calabar reminded himself. Now he had a little berry farmer that had breached his emotional defenses, and within an implausibly short period of time. Was it because the little one was “chosen,” or was it because the Inshkin would be sharing one of the most important tasks the Guardian of Order had ever been given? Perhaps, Calabar concluded, he should give up trying to analyze the why or the how and simply accept that this was going to be a rare and special relationship.
The wizard switched his attention back to his surroundings. Ahead loomed the vast forest region known as the Bolewood, home of the Wood Elves; above and beyond rose the magnificent snowcapped peaks of the Brothers of the Sun. Suddenly, before his astonished eyes, the horizon began to shimmer with the mountains, shape-shifting into a vision that sent a shiver of alarm down his spine. As Calabar watched, the granite pinnacles transformed themselves into a gathering of dragons. It lasted only a few moments, but before the image dissolved, Calabar sensed that he was the focus of their hungry and malevolent stares. It was yet another warning, a reminder to keep his vigilance on high alert. It unsettled Calabar to think of himself as a target, yet that was exactly what he was.
He set off once more, determined to put as much distance between himself and the Messenger as possible. He decided to veer north, staying in the Valley as long as possible rather than shortening this part of the journey by heading directly for the Bolewood. It would add several extra hours of travel, but he was determined to remain guardedly visible for whatever forces the Dark Lord was sending against him. For this reason Calabar went out of his way to hail and greet any travelers he encountered. With some he even held brief conversation, providing misinformation by telling them he was bound for an avenue through the Sisters of the Moon, far north of his true destination. Calabar knew that the passage of a Guardian anywhere always created a buzz of excitement among the locals; he trusted that, sooner rather than later, the news would reach the ears of his enemy.
His jaw clenched involuntarily as he remembered when he’d first set out to find the Messenger; how Irrodon, his great staff, sent a jolting current through his body, along with clear words of warning: You are being watched! Beware the bringer of shadows!
What knowledge of the Dark Lord he and his brother Guardians possessed was sketchy at best. This lack of information on so formidable a foe was very troubling. Negara Nor had come seemingly out of nowhere and apparently possessing skills and knowledge only a wizard should have. The fact that the Dark Lord had formed some kind of alliance with the forces of Chaos made Calabar shudder. For some inexplicable reason the image of his nemesis conjured old memories he would rather forget or leave buried in the past.
It took a sharp lance of pain on the back of his hand to jar him away from his dark reveries. The wizard looked down with annoyance, more with himself than with the thorny branch pressing against his flesh. Daydreaming had led him into a copse of beeble bushes.
As he licked the stinging pricks, a small flash of silver registered in a corner of his vision. Looking up, his eyes locked onto the strange silver-feathered bird wheeling overhead. Suddenly it swooped low, letting out a shrill screech as it passed so close, Calabar could feel the rush of wind through its feathers. Around and around it circled and dove and as it did, Irrodon began to glow and heat in his grasp.
So the eyes of the Dark Lord have finally found me, he thought. It will be interesting to see what happens next. Calabar felt himself tingling with anticipation.
A long minute passed before the bird finally lifted high into the air and set off south. He watched it until it disappeared against the purple haze of the Cemarian Mountains.
As afternoon yielded to dusk, Calabar paused while tramping through a lush field of chamomile to pick a pocketful, planning to use it later to prepare his favorite tisane. Looking beyond the field where he stood, Calabar could make out the dark, shining patchwork of Puddledubbin’s rice fields. He could even make out the township set on stilts, standing sentinel over the marshlands.
The sun was fast setting over the Low Mountains and a rising moon hung over his shoulder. Yarda, tonight you sleep in innocent bliss, while but a short distance away, an enemy of which you are totally unaware is plotting your doom, Calabar thought as he continued on. Enjoy such nights, for I fear they are numbered.
Full darkness had arrived by the time Calabar stopped on the bank of the Wet River to gaze upon its slow-moving surface. It scintillated in the moonlight like a million shards of a broken mirror. Lifting his arms up to the starry firmament, the Guardian whispered the words of an ancient magical mantra. As he did, he felt his body lighten to what felt like little more than a feather. Fighting to hold his balance against the gentle breeze that threatened to whisk him away, Calabar stepped off the grassy bank onto the cool surface of the river and glided smoothly over the water to the far side.
There, his eyes sought and found the telltale leafy tops of a cluster of wild turnips. Minutes later, his empty stomach grumbled a welcome as Calabar chomped on one of the juicy tubers. As he ate, the Guardian remembered the succulent fare offered at many a lavish feast at Dagomar. Despite all the delicious images that conjured, he would not trade that fare for the taste of the humble turnip in his hand.
Calabar kept walking through the young night and by the time he munched his last munch, he arrived at the bridge. To the valley dwellers it was known simply as the Wet Bridge. Its timeworn stones spanned a point on the river that held far greater importance during the early history of the valley than it did now. Today the crossing was little used, except by local farmers or wayward travelers who strayed off the beaten path.
For the Wizard of Shen Rothor, the bridge was more than a point of passage—much, much more. He gazed at the traces of chiseled imagery, all but worn away by the elements, and found himself smiling as he paused midway across the arching span at a large brass plaque, also dulled and beaten with age. Dear memories flooded back as his fingers traced the ancient words set deep into its surface. To others, the words represented a strange riddle. But not to him.
The sentinel guarding the gate keeps vigil o’er the changeless
measures marching across time’s golden flow.
20,117 47 180 200 250 276 320 738 480 17
Calabar closed his eyes, allowing himself to be transported back to the time when the bridge was young. During that First Age, this part of the valley was a hub of commerce and part of an empire that no longer existed. When the bridge was built, a queen ruled the land and Calabar was her Guardian. He could still recall the words of his queen at the dedication of the bridge, when she declared that it would stand as long as time itself, as long as their mighty empire drew breath.
On the other side of the bridge Calabar encountered a small group of valley dwellers who announced themselves as citizens of Windy Gates, on their way home from a trading visit with one of the northern seitches of the Wood Elves.
Whenever the wizard heard the name “Windy Gates” it made him chuckle. The eastern part of Yarda could indeed be windy, especially in late afternoon when cool air was drawn down from the mountains. However, the Inshkin community did not get its name from the wind. That honor was attributed to the town’s founding patriarch, a colorful Halfling by the name of Phylo Bozillia Gates who, from the time he was a young boy growing up in Milktown, exhibited a remarkable ability. He turned his love of garlic-baked beans into a manifestation of flatulence beyond belief. As he grew to maturity, so did the size and power of his explosions, until both friend and family gave him an ultimatum: give up the beans or go off to live by himself. The town council gave Phylo one day to decide.
He accepted the twenty-four hours to consider his plight, though he had already made his decision. For the rest of that day and long into the night, the Inshkin stuffed himself with his favorite food. The following morning, as the citizens of Milktown gathered in the town square for market day, Phylo Bozillia Gates climbed onto the speaker’s docket and gave his answer.
It was later said by all present that on that day the thunder rolled, the earth shook, and all the grass and plant life within a dozen measures of the flatulent Inshkin withered and died.
And so off went Phylo Bozillia Gates to a remote corner of Yarda, and the present site of the town named in his memory. Many years later, when Lehi-om called the founding father of Windy Gates to join the Gray Crusade, all three hundred of the townsfolk executed his dying wish. As Phylo Bozillia Gates was laid to rest, every man, woman, and child turned their cheeks in the direction of Milktown to deliver their patriarch’s final, sonorous goodbye.
Finally, with the moon high and the night at its thickest, the weary wizard gathered his cloak about him and settled under the spread of a redwood tree, where he fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.
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