Tenlyres Chapter 40 – The Mission

Tim here.

Writing is going well. New stories are in the works.

Now, back to Tenlyres.

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Previous Chapter

 

Ilsa has been wounded by the mysterious First, who also captured Tirica. Ilsa and Lemuel retreat to the village nearby.

When humans stand united, we can face any challenge and succeed.

 

Once a warrior had dug out the bullet, Siuku healed the wound in Ilsa’s stomach with a few careful presses of her hand. A bruise remained, painful and black, an artifact of the internal damage caused by the shot. Ilsa gave Siuku a grateful nod as the keeper replaced her veil. It hid her face except for her weary red eyes.

The keeper left the small room where Ilsa lay and went out to the parlor.

They were in a house in Atalem, with probably four hours until dusk. The Oshomi were making camp south of the village. Siuku had gathered forty riders from the bands they had encountered on their way east. Almost all of them were planning to stay near Atalem. From the village, it was only three days’ ride to Chogrum on horseback.

Ilsa groaned as she thought over the plan, lying on her back on a bed in the low-ceilinged Filami house built from packed Earth and tower grass. One of the few companions who would have gone all the way to Chogrum had just disappeared. She swore she would do everything she could to find Tirica.

She did not want to think of what her father’s apprentices would do to the girl if Ilsa took too long. Target practice looked optimistic, the way she saw it. Tirica had survived so much, and she had come so far. Ilsa would not let Black Powder just snap his fingers and have her killed.

She swung her legs off the bed. Voices came from the parlor, one obviously Siuku because of the monotone. The other belonged to Lemuel.

“I won’t just let them take my sister.”

“You cannot save her alone.”

“You think Ilsa won’t agree with me?”

“She may. But I suspect she will see things my way. We have a mission to ally with Chogrum.”

“My sister has saved me more times than I can count, keeper.”

“I am sorry about your sister. Truly. Right now we must do the greatest good we can.”

Ilsa made her way to the doorway of the parlor. She ducked her head to step out of the windowless bedroom. The parlor was almost as shadowy as the room she had just left. Only one small window let in sunlight. The door to the street out front was closed. Good. The villagers did not need to hear this argument.

“They could kill her,” said Lemuel softly, just as Ilsa stepped into the room.

Both Lemuel and Siuku’s eyes moved to look in her direction.

Siuku said, “That woman could have killed her already if she wanted. It would have been easier.”

Lemuel’s gaze remained on Ilsa. “Please, Ilsa.”

A cold pain mixed with the churn of her stomach to make her feel sick. “Lemuel. I hate to say it, but the keeper could be right.”

“Or she could be wrong,” said Lemuel.

Ilsa touched the egg-like locket hanging around her neck. “I can contact Blue, ask her to scout for Tirica’s mind.”

“We must move on,” said Siuku. “The Prince of Chogrum holds Hathani’s True Red staff. If it’s powers are anything like the True Blackwood, we will gain more than an army once Chogrum is our ally.”

“I don’t like it,” said Ilsa, eyes downcast. “But it’s true.”

“We can save your sister while we save the rest of Yr. Trust me, Lemuel.” Siuku managed to soften her voice just a little with the last word.

Lemuel sighed and shook his head. “I understand the stakes. Promise me you’ll help me find her once we have Chogrum on our side.”

“I promise,” said Ilsa.

“As do I.” Siuku bowed to Lemuel. “We leave at dawn. Let us give this family their home back.”

They left the house and went out into the street.

Lemuel turned to Ilsa. “Are you alright? It looked pretty bad.”

“It doesn’t hurt as much as Ferdinand’s lance, but its close.”

He nodded. “I’m sorry. You were hurt, and all I could worry about was my sister.”

“She’s in more danger than I am. Thanks to Siuku healing me.”

Lemuel nodded. “You put yourself in so much danger for your mission.”

“The mission is important. That doesn’t mean it is all I care about.” She put her arm around him. “We’ll find her. Believe me.”

“I believe you more than the keeper. She seems so cold most of the time.”

“She can seem that way, but I can tell she cares.” Ilsa looked after Siuku. The keeper made her way over to a group of villagers and warriors. “It was her idea to offer protection to the Filami, and her compassion doesn’t end with them.”

Lemuel nodded. “She even managed to make peace with the people who killed her family. I might not be able to do that.”

Ilsa nodded. She had done what they were talking about, but she didn’t want to say so. Her mother had done the same. Chogrum had taken a lot from Ilsa’s family, and her father, though only partially Chogrumian, threatened to keep doing so.

 

A few paces beyond the last house to the east in Atalem, Ilsa reached out with her spirit. She strained to connect to Blue, over two hundred kilometers to the north. She had never reached so far with conscious intent, even to her mind eater friend.

She focused on Blue’s mind, her gregarious manner, her enthusiasm combined with her discipline.

Her friend met her mind to mind.

“Ilsa, you seem upset. What’s wrong?”

“One of my father’s apprentices captured Tirica.”

“How? When?”

“She out-shot me, I guess. It was just this afternoon, less than two hours ago.”

“Did you get her name?”

“She told me to call her ‘First.’ Said I had met her before. I don’t remember her.”

“That’s not too helpful.”

“She got away. Blue, can you help me find her?”

“I doubt it. I can only connect to you at this distance because of that temple locket. But once we both get to Chogrum, maybe.”

“How far out are you?”

“Just two days ride.”

“You’ll probably get there first. Oh, the Flowering Lyre is still sealed.”

“That’s good news,” said Blue. “So far, it looks like the Gray Lector has only managed to gather a couple thousand Uzan from the middle lyres.”

“Only… Well, two less, as of today,” Ilsa said.

“You killed more of them?”

“When First attacked. I shot one, and Tirica killed the other. She actually got the first one.” Ilsa’s mind darkened. “I’m worried about her, Blue.”

“We can’t help her right now. You’ve always been good at focusing, Ilsa. Use it.”

“Right. How are things going with Ashnia?”

“I’ve got her suppressed.” Blue’s mental presence rippled with frustration. “She can’t break out, but I wish I could talk to her. She’s so close, and I keep remembering more about my time in the temple.”

“Anything from before that?”

“Not yet, Ilsa. I don’t know if I’ll ever get that far back.”

“Good luck with her, Blue.”

“You too. How’s Lemuel holding up?”

“He’s worried about Tirica. I don’t blame him. But there was one other thing…”

“What is it?”

“First told Tirica she was a good shot. That’s true. I guess it’s not impossible Black Powder, my father, may want to recruit her.”

“They’ll be in for a surprise if they think they can control her,” said Blue. “She’s as stubborn as Ashnia. And that’s on our side.”

“I don’t know. Black Powder offers things to gunfighters they can’t get without him, the deepest form of weapon bond.”

“Bonded to the spirit. I wonder why it seems like no one else can figure that out.”

“I wish I knew.”

“Hold it together, Ilsa. Oh, I think we’re losing connection.”

“Stay safe.”

“You too.”

Their mind drifted apart. Ilsa opened her eyes on the edge of the village. When they met up in Chogrum, she would have a prayer to find Tirica again. But her mission remained, to prevent the war from consuming Yr. She may not have much respect for her mentor, Koor, any longer, but her goals had not changed. She would fight for a greater peace, as paradoxical as that seemed.

#

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Tenlyres Chapter 37 – Across the Divide

Tim here.

Tenlyres: The Complete Serial Edition is out! For five dollars, get the complete story. Buying my ebooks is the best way to support the free content on this blog and help it continue.

Also, at the top of the sidebar of my website there is an email list sign-up form. You can also sign up at this link. Signing up is also a great way to support the serial and show you want to keep seeing it.

Sign up for the mailing list at either location, and you will receive my new short story in the Tenlyres world, Mount Higatha, as well as a copy of Tenlyres II, for free!

Download Tenlyres I for free!

Buy Tenlyres: Complete and read the rest of the story right away!

Previous Chapter

Some time after the battle of Howling Pass, Ilsa and a small group of allies ride east toward Chogrum.

If we are to ride for any reason, let us ride as one people.

 

Ilsa rode the dappled gray steppe horse into the Filami village. Over the past month, she had become used to the animal, though it was completely unlike any strider or runner. In a way, that seemed fitting for a ride to Chogrum, a city where she had never been before. Everything became strange at once.

The village was tiny, as were most of the Filami settlements on the plateau of Yr. And like the rest, it was located in an area rich with underground plant piles. Atalem, however, had a dire distinguishing feature. It was the closest settlement of any kind to the Eastern Lyre, the place where Uzan slept closest to Chogrum.

If an attack was going to surprise the Prince of Chogrum, it would come from the lyre south of Atalem. The maps of the Oshomi called it the Flowering Lyre. The nomad warriors who rode with Ilsa assured her she would understand why they did once she saw it.

For the first time in years, she rode without Blue close by. Her friend was with a group of nomads further north, but also on their way eastward. They would reach Heaven’s Lyre, located just a little further west than Ilsa was now, and make certain the Gray Lector and Black Powder did not try to raise another demonic army from it.

Even so, her friend felt close.

Ilsa touched the egg-shaped locket that contained a bit of plant pile and hung from a string around her neck. It had once belonged to Ashnia Haram, but Blue had repurposed it to amplify Ilsa’s sense of spirits, at least as it applied to humans.

She had been skeptical at first but learned that if she focused a little, Ilsa could send a short message to Blue over seemingly any distance. Useful, in keeping their two groups in contact with each other while not sending out radio signals or messengers.

Her horse snorted as they passed a bale of Filami winter root. The hottest part of summer was approaching, but evidently, the people of Atalem still had some of their winter crops left over. Winter root could grow deep within piles and be extracted without damaging the rest of the organism if one knew where to dig.

Ilsa supposed the Filami here had mastered that sort of knowledge long ago. She pulled on the reins to slow her horse. That had taken some adjustment, as opposed to a whisper or flex of posture which would have sufficed to control a strider.

Siuku, the Keeper of Tenlyres, caught up with Ilsa, riding bareback with no reins, and brought her horse to a stop in the center of Atalem’s main street. Villagers emerged from some of the nearby houses with caution. Some even held firearms, though none had the weapons readied.

Ilsa understood their caution. Oshomi like Siuku and the rest of the band riding with Ilsa sometimes raided the Filami villages near them for goods and supplies. Still, she doubted it would come to violence here, and if it did, Ilsa could quickly disarm the Filami without killing them. She doubted any of them had weapon bonds, and she was confident she could out-shoot unbonded marksmen.

Siuku called out to the villagers in the steppe’s trade language. “Do not fear. We are not raiders.”

A murmur ran through the Filami. A few of them came closer to the keeper.

Siuku continued, “I am the Keeper of Tenlyres, and I seek to protect all of Yr from the awakening of Asurdeva.”

More murmurs. One of the Filami elders waved his arm at Siuku. She turned toward him. “What is it?” Her voice lost much of its grandeur. When she lowered the volume it went back to its usual monotone.

“You are Oshomi. When have the Oshomi protected anything?”

“I speak for all Oshomi now, not those of the past. In the coming days, we must all act as one if we are to survive.”

The Filami exchanged glances as more Oshomi from Ilsa’s group rode into the village, and along with them, Lemuel and Tirica Chollush. The scholar Ilsa loved, and his sister made their way toward her on their own horses, having also traded their striders to keep better pace on this ride east. She glanced in their direction.

Lemuel gave her a nod, more confident in their relationship after their time in the mountains. Ilsa felt the same way about things. They had held together under pressure without collapsing inward. She turned and rode to the keeper’s side.

Ilsa raised both her branded hands. “She speaks the truth. I am a priestess of the Unification. I am not Oshomi, and you can trust the keeper’s words.”

Another elder shook her head. “I have heard the Keeper of Tenlyres rides the lands in the center of the steppe. Peaceful or not, why should we believe you are who you say?”

Siuku bowed her veiled head. “I would not ask you to trust me on faith alone. Have you anyone with cuts or wounds among you?”

The second elder’s lined faced pinched into a frown. “The young occasionally cut themselves on the digging blades. What are you suggesting?”

“Bring me anyone with an open wound, and I will heal them.”

After a few minutes of jostling and whispers and then some talk among the elders, a young man with a bandaged forearm walked forward.

Siuku climbed down from her horse and unfastened one side of her veil. She carefully opened up the bandage with deft hands. Then, she touched the exposed wound in front of the crowd of Filami. Light flickered beneath her fingers.

The young man’s eyes went wide and he stared at the smooth skin left behind from Siuku’s touch.

“It’s true,” he exclaimed. “The Keeper of Tenlyres can heal the wounded.”

Siuku held out her hands, fingers streaked with small traces of the young man’s blood. “I have been given this power by the spirits. Please, trust that I will not betray you.”

The villagers crowded closer, their fear abated. A miracle has a way of convincing, Ilsa thought.

She suspected Siuku’s abilities were more similar to the powers of a mind eater or other magus than the keeper herself did, but the evidence was light. For one thing, Siuku’s mind did not seem to cloud with the after effects, which was a difference between her and any type of magi but the ones referred to as mind eaters.

Her powers had physical influence. That meant if she was a magus she should be emanating traces of illusive fog as well when she used them. But that never happened either.

The Keeper of Tenlyres remained mysterious to Ilsa, even after being healed by her more than once.

Siuku healed more wounded villagers. The elders inspected each one and eventually motioned for the other Oshomi to dismount. After that, many of the villagers left to prepare a feast. Others stepped forward to help the Oshomi tend to their tired horses. The band of the keeper was welcomed to Atalem with food from the local stores of crops.

As the meal came to a close a few hours later, and most of the nomads and villagers had finished eating, Ilsa and Lemuel were sitting on a wooden bench facing south, where sunlight spilled down from a cloudless sky. Siuku was talking with the village elders at a table nearby, and Ilsa caught a familiar word one of the Filami said in a soft voice.

“…Demons…”

Ilsa rose from the bench and looked toward the table, sharpening her ears to better listen in.

“Uzan,” said Siuku. “They can be difficult to detect. But you say they moved about in the night?”

“Yes. South of here, by the field of flowers,” said the elder. “There are not many of them, but there need not be to threaten our village.”

“I understand,” said Siuku. “My people will investigate the place at once.”

“You are generous, Keeper of Tenlyres.”

A rumble of agreement came from the other elders.

“If we are to be friends, we must share what we have. And I have warriors.” Siuku bowed to the elders. When she raised her head, she did not look in Ilsa’s direction, but motioned her closer to the table with one hand, eerily aware of Ilsa’s location.

“Priestess,” said the keeper. “It seems our visit to the Flowering Lyre must be today.”

“It makes sense,” said Ilsa. “I can look into it right away.”

“I will send a few of my warriors with you.”

Lemuel and Tirica approached behind Ilsa. The Chogrumian siblings drew Ilsa and Siuku’s attention.

“With respect, your holiness,” said Lemuel, “But my sister and I have studied this lyre before. We should go as well.”

“A good idea,” said Siuku. “Go now if you can. I will send a group of warriors to join you once I have them readied.”

“Thank you, keeper.” Ilsa glanced at Lemuel and Tirica. “Are you sure? This could be dangerous.”

“You know how to kill Uzan.”

“That doesn’t make it easy. Or safe.”

He shrugged. “Nothing out here is safe. Chogrum will be sending troops to fight Ayoch and Dal any day now. And who knows how many Uzan there will be.”

“Fine.”

“You can’t get rid of us that easily,” said Tirica with a grin.

“I know.” A smile tugged at the corners of Ilsa’s lips. “We’ve been across half of Yr together.”

“Damn right,” said Tirica.

They went to retrieve their horses. Once mounted, they rode south toward the place where wild flowers bloomed from the plant piles. The easternmost artifact of Tenlyres.

#

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