The Spaces Between (A Drunkard's Journey)

BOOK: The Spaces Between (A Drunkard's Journey)
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THE

S P A C E S

BETWEEN

 

A DRUNKARD’S JOURNEY

PART I

 

MARTIN GIBBS

 

ISBN: 9781465915672

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Spaces Between

 

By Martin D. Gibbs

 

Copyright 2012 Martin D. Gibbs

 

 

 

 

Dedicated to my Father. Your dedication to humanity, your courage, your passion, your love, and your teaching will keep a part of you alive forever. Your knots were undone too soon. I love you and I miss you.

 

 Map

 

From a land where warlocks and mages seem to conjure energy from thin air, this is the best map that could be found. It was stuffed under a child’s mattress.

 

 

Part I

A Fairly Typical Beginning

 

 

In which we meet our first three traveling companions, who come together in a most non-unusual manner and embark on a seemingly pointless and misguided quest for knowledge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1 — Points of No Return

 

 

When a journey begins, it is the start of both a knot developing and a knot unfolding. For you unwind your past as you travel, and yet your experiences and challenges become new knots in the fabric of your soul.

 

Prophet Vron’Za, IV Age

 

 

Zhy looked back at the mountain of equipment and sighed. It was hot. Too hot for this time of year, too hot to endure this crippling hangover, and too hot for a no-good mercenary who had duped him into this stupid journey. Magic. Ha, magic! The burly lout had claimed some rusty old warlock in the far north was capable of teaching him magic, and now Zhy found himself padding along Crown Road with horse loads of stinking gear, leather, and sweat; and they had barely reached Forshen.

Only to Vronga
, Zhy had reminded himself. But a quick retreat at Forshen—a town a little over halfway to the large city—was looking attractive.

Qainur. That was his companion’s name. Qainur. With a Q, not a K. A large, muscular, dim-witted brute who cracked his Sacuan-blasted knuckles every three seconds. Qainur... who names their kid Qainur?

“What’s wrong, Zhy?”

“Just thinking, that’s all.”

“You’re not regretting this, are you?” he asked, face beaming as he scanned the canopy of vibrant maple trees.

“A little.”

“I see.” Qainur cracked his knuckles again.

The horse’s hooves crunched on dry leaves. Zhy thought back on their encounter in Belden City, now several miles behind, the stranger in his usual seat, and the endless cups of ale that flowed forth from the innkeeper’s tap. Kahl, the bushy and cantankerous owner of the inn, had made several suggestions that Zhy should go, that Qainur was clean, that it would do him good to get out and travel. Why would such a greedy, avaricious old fool want to part with Zhy and his money? Zhy scratched his throbbing head in wonder and gripped the reins until his knuckles were white.

“Yeah, yeah,” the mercenary muttered absently.

Zhy patted the inside of his shirt, making sure the coins where there; in a deeper, more concealed pocket, he had tucked away a lycanum, his last piece. It would be enough to buy a small village in the north, he remarked with a crooked grin.
Only to Vronga,
a tired voice reminded him.

“It is a long way, even to Vronga, or Reldan,” he said after they rounded a bend. The road stretched onward and vanished in the thin blue line of the horizon. “Or even Forshen,” he whispered.

“Aye, but I have traveled the distance before—in the south, mind you—and it really isn’t that bad. Kahl’s a good man, that innkeeper. Full of greed and fat, but he knows folks. You may be a complete drunk, but Kahl must’ve seen something in you, to recommend you.” He cracked his knuckles. “I wish I knew what it was!”

A scowl worked its way across his face, but the man was right. What
had
Kahl seen in him? Why, and to what end would the innkeeper suggest that Qainur take him along to the far north... to learn magic—magic!—from an exiled warlock? And as the big man had laid out his travel plans, Kahl had stood there and offered tips and pointers about the different villages, had asked questions about equipment, and had almost fawned over the stranger. Against his burning desire to sit on the bar stool and drown himself in booze, Zhy had agreed to follow—if they stopped enough, or as much as Kahl had suggested, there would be plenty of ale, and little to worry about.

Ale. Mead. Brandy. As long as Zhy had access to these, he would survive... but even thoughts of such items turned his stomach. It was too hot.

Qainur sought a warlock in exile. He was harmless, probably warded by some strange magic, or maybe even another warlock or mage. Nothing to fear.

Zhy could only laugh.

“We’ll do fine, don’t worry.”

“Sure.” He thumbed his earlobe, then ran his hand through his long, stringy hair. Zhy made a mental note to get a haircut, though it was doubtful is brash companion would want to pause at all on his mad rush to the north..

“Gray Gorge,” Qainur said suddenly. “Can you believe it? Through Gray Gorge... and... and into Welcfer itself!”

“... And in the middle of winter!”

Qainur waved his hand. “Oh, it won’t be that bad.”

Even as Zhy wiped the sweat from his brow, he grimaced.
Oh, yes it will
.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2 — Sparks and Shards

 

 

Magic is an unfortunate consequence of our world. Those who wield magic and practice the arcane arts possess the most complex of knots and must learn how to tie and untie not only their own knots, but also the knots of the plane that exists between this world and the next. True magic draws as much from the Light as possible. Demonic magic, while drawn from the twisted and hardened knots of the underworld, can be used to protect the world. But it all comes at great cost. For the mind can only know and work with so many knots. As the knots of the magical arts grow in number and complexity, so too does madness lurk closely behind.

 

Cleric Bertrand, founder, Holy Order of the Knot

 

“W
hat else do you know about magic, mages and warlocks?” Zhy asked as they rode. For now they were taking their time with the heavily-laden horses, not daring anything faster than a trot. They were passing through a field of tall prairie grass, and tall green blades stretched high among round purple flowers. A light breeze whistled through the field, creating a small wave that carried with it the smell of mint.

“Well, not much more than I told you last night. I have worked with a mage or two, but they keep to themselves. Buggers aren’t interested in teaching me anything. I wish I knew more… a lot more,” he muttered.

“I see.”

“What about you?”

“Nothing,” Zhy replied. “Although I remember father saying that they were nothing more than skilled carnival magicians who knew how to hide their real actions.”

“What did he mean by that?”

“I’m not sure.”

They rode in silence, enjoying the warm sun as it slowly edged across their faces. Zhy’s head pounded, but he was thankful for the quiet.

“Well, sometimes...” Qainur began after a moment, then stopped, scratching his head.

“What is that?”

“Oh nothing,” the mercenary replied, his gaze on a brilliantly-yellowed maple tree.

But there was something, Qainur thought, something
odd
about mages, warlocks, and magic. They’d all told him he had no ability and that magic was a special gift. But he’d seen and heard things others didn’t, whether it was a light hum around a tree or a crackle from water—these were things he thought the mages and warlocks could see and use. But he only heard the whisper and the echo. If this Ar’Zoth could teach him how to use the powers... he started thinking about how he would explain himself to the warlock, when Zhy nearly leapt from his saddle.

“Great Sacuan’s scrotum!” Zhy blurted, grimacing at his own outburst. Father had talked like that, and irked him each time—now
he
was spouting off such nonsense.
Never mind, never mind.
“What
is
that?”

“What’s what?” Qainur asked, jolted from his thoughts.

“That!” Zhy pointed ahead of them.

Through the birch leaves, he could see flashes of blue light exploding up into the autumn sky. To Zhy it looked like a miniature lightning storm in the small field, except that the light was a deeper blue than the Opal Sea, and tiny tendrils of light were flickering up into the sky like a horde of tiny worms trying to fly.

Qainur looked up and laughed mirthlessly. “Great grinding goats! That’s magic!”
If only I could—

A man screamed. Qainur and Zhy kicked their overloaded horses and hurried to the commotion.

 

* * *

 

The little mage was surrounded by wild boars; lightning streaked from his fingertips, crackling as they smoked through the air. His tiny legs were a blur as he darted among the stinking hogs, loosing beams of light, cursing loudly. Fur singed and scorched in a stinking cloud of burning hair, and the tufts of dry grass ignited where the magical beams missed their target. The man was deft and light-footed, but he was outnumbered, and losing control.

So that is what magic looks like
, Zhy thought to himself, thumbing his earlobe nervously.

Qainur swiftly unsheathed his sword and sprinted at the animals. For a large and burly man, the mercenary moved extremely fast, his sword a flash of steel as he launched himself into battle with the beasts, seemingly oblivious to the streaks of lightning that sizzled and exploded around him. With a set jaw, Qainur sliced a boar from ear to ear, then spun his sword impossibly and blocked an attack from behind. His blow was fierce enough to nearly sever the poor creature’s head. The wounded animal fell to the ground with a sickening thud, ambled in circles aimlessly as blood gushed from its throat, then finally collapsed to the soiled ground. He grunted, glanced around for others, then quietly wiped his blood-soaked weapon in the grass and sheathed it. He didn’t appear to be winded as he stood nearly stock-still and stared at the ground.

BOOK: The Spaces Between (A Drunkard's Journey)
10.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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