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Dustlifter - A Hero is Born (Chapter One)

Andrei Pambuccian
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"Magnificence? My boy, these roads were built by need of transportation, the alphabet by need of recording..." He pauses, speaking only with his hands in an oratory hiatos to replace the description of all things built within the last two decades. "These have been designed not in search for greatness, but by their necessity and usefulness. Do you even remember Red Calindra?"

There was a confident answer. How would he forget what he could see even from their end, that these years were to be the most profound, and, in his mind alone, beautiful of his entire life yet? "Wrong", came back from Menes. "You don't remember all things to be what you thought them to be then. Kali especially so. What do you remember of her? Obviously not what you thought in the beginning, and even then not what you thought at her last breath. Memory is the effect of its constant transfiguration, with new beliefs pelleting those old, and for they which are not able to suppress their new beliefs, writing is the only solution."

The middle-aged man began pondering things lost to another world, the sintar, Kali and all others today seemed as mere symbols of his evolution. He felt much like a chosen one, selected at birth and trained to perform a specific task. Was he? Menes would certainly have posed both the god with an index finger and the old, sapient mentor. Menes, was he perhaps? He felt not. The Menes standing before him was an old sapient, yes, still a ranting old sapient blustering bits of common knowledge and that philosophy he himself learned in the red years. Once Menes stood tall to him, a proud monument of achievement to be desired by the youth, but now the same Menes speaks... Constantly and continuously... No other gesture, an old, impaired man.

An old, impaired friend whose single joy was in speaking to him. He decided to listen, if only to brighten Menes' soul with his sense. "A solution, to a problem. A betterment. Innovation does not come for its own exposure, and if there is no problem to solve, nothing to make better, there is no worth in even attempting innovation." But speak? He had nothing to say. And even then... Many of his words after the red years were found nowhere else but in his library, his own diaries, and in conversation, whatever he would actually word through always came out as the hundredth echo of his grand, long-winded dialogs. His wit was still there when he spoke, only his mind made a difference: where with his hand he spoke the feats and tales of love, his mouth would remain airtight in any lady's company. Where his hundred plays held the skill of their master, in his own conversations he was laconic and unrefined, another mark of the red years. Thinking of all this, he tripped over the words "red years" more and more again, and always in circumstances of self-criticism, coating the words with the negative tone they bore as much of in any Calindric's heart. Still he knew that a moment ago the red years were the most profound, most beautiful, of his own life. And he saw the truth in that once again: there was beauty in them, the beauty of their dread. He felt that, had he not performed every single nearly-lethal mistake, had Kali not died out of his misjudgement, nothing around him would have been the same. And it was the same, the same perfect of his own library and of his life after the red years. For that moment alone, he felt fiercely proud of all his errors, and all it took was one moment of such kind to wish for it... A reverie, in the name of those dead long years ago. "Menes," he interrupted the man once his monologue had combusted entirely, "I thought for a while, and it'd be interesting if I put it all in writing." "Not this short speech, of course." the man felt a bit disgruntled, knowing there was no doubt in Menes' mind about his statuts as one of the greatest demagogues in Calindra. He knew better, had years to learn of Menes' undoubted belief of supremacy, and chose , against his best wishes, to grant this Menes-Library dialog a clip of his book. "Yes, this as well, but it's not what I had in mind." "And that is..." the man pointed both hands towards himself, Menes and finally the glass trinket on his table, a man riding a lizard, saying nothing all the while. "I'm afraid I've already written my own chronicle some time ago." said Menes with a low voice. "Not that." He spent a few seconds collecting his phrase, with Menes expecting calmly and patiently. "I want to write a book about myself and you in the red years. Nothing more, nothing as grand as your - the - chronicle of the red years. You made that out of the simple findings of rulers, warriors and whole cities, compiled to fit an accurate historical description, whereas this will be the work of two men, about two men. Our philosophies, ideals, whatever it is you- "And I'm as afraid I've already written my autobiography some more time ago."

The man sighed in acknowledgement of the hardships ahead.


There are many roads going towards the palace, and all of them must make the choke through hundreds of narrow alleys strategically placed to confuse the unwary. Few wander through the tunnel-like streets, long overbridges and spiral stairs twisting nearly up to the rooftops, without knowing precisely where they go and where they currenlty are. For insiders, the city is a labyrinth accessible only as easily as memory summons and directions are given. For outsiders to Leahdazee, its sprawling roads and highways often had a riverman in some riverside tavern call it the Lost City. It is indeed a confusing, mysterious city, and with a palace to fit it. There are many roads going towards the palace, none of them end in an alley, on the last step of a stairway, the delight of a rooftop garden or the side of an overbridge. The journey's end is down, deep into the rock and sand of Calindra, built to serve as center of administration, high temple of the moon and, most importantly, the monarch's house. Almost no one is allowed into the palace, even still the few that know the way would never reveal it. Spies can't get in, for all spies in Calindra are known to their royal masters and either kept out of reach of Leahdazee or spied upon by the most trustworthy of all the King's men, while the citizens spend far too much time searching for the nearby bazaar on their maps to care about where the palace is. The king's house is sacred and secret, like all of Leahdazee, built for his pleasure among stone walls and cool underground canals of filtered water, though it has nothing to do with the jagged and random world above it: the exits are all guarded and placed by utility below key buildings, with linear corridors going from them to the palace vestibule, a great cylindrical room with no decorations except a few door guards' chairs and a staircase circling down to the interior, at the "front" side of the palace, into another, smaller cylinder, this one made as slim as the stairs allowed it. It is only one of the rings tangent to the concave side of a tall and wide stone hall shaped like the waxing moon, to which all thirty circles are attached in some way. Each circle is both an office and a home for those in close service to the king, and only one among them comes close to match the stairway in diameter. Not because it was built smaller than the others. It was, and is, just as wide, with the same lenght of its wall, though how much of that width and lenght was filled is another matter: the person here was not living in a home, but a whole library with a bed and desk. The creative magic of the high priest of the moon blessed the library with mechanisms by which it moves sections at a time, rows filp back and fall to the side, shelves slip from their places forwards and backwards, all at the motion of a single contraption. Other than that, it was a simple depth-library with a bed and desk wedged near the door, facing the only wall left alone by the gods of knowledge.

It was like this for ages. No motion, not even the telltale stream pouring through the hall's side canals, would lurch past the stone barrier sealed for a day less than a year. Though time was an unknown in the below-surface, the absence of any and all motion inside and around it gave it the air of an eternal mausoleum more than that of a well-used private chamber. Even the mice dared not chew on the high priest's mecanical wonders, while the diacons knew to keep away on this special eve: all knew in their deepest thoughts that tommorow, a miracle will come about.


"Truth!" The voices became stronger, louder, knocking on the door as the prelude to their holders' arrival. "The triad is no more a blasphemy than the Moon, the Orag and the many false gods that inhabit the minds of sweet Calindrics." Rapid fire was now being flinged around the corridor. "And if anyone dares deny it", the truth-attester continued, "let him show me truth, the forest and the many battles won through prayer to the orc spirit." "What about the moon?"

The other man's interruption was muffled a short "clack!" sound, followed by the groan of a stone slab being pushed. "What about it? It's there, in the sky, just as our woods were once here with us. And dare I say it..." the two were joined in chorus: "...with the invincible goddess." Their silhouettes were now visible in the lamplight behind them. One man was a bit short, thick with muscle on his naked arms, stepping light-footed in his hard leather boots. The other, an ash-haired, bony giant with his feet reaching out through his long sandals, took something out from his shirt and, planting it inside a small vase perched somewhere above the door, settled near the bed watching the fires come out. "Here, then, is your true miracle." He pulled a brick away from the stone wall and place his hand within the hole just now created. In an instant the bookcases shuffled, the rows flipped back and fell to the side, shelves slipped from their places forwards and backwards, backwards and forwards until a small pouch was produced on the fourth row of a case next to the bed. Gesturing to the shorter man in invitation, he continued his own discussion with eyes locked onto the ample lamplight above him. "Tell me, how was religion this year? Did our lady the Moon provoke any significant trembles in her philosophy?" the irony was obvious. It had to go back the same way. "She told us to accept the people far south, but not to trust them. She also insisted we stay united under her, her king and her Nation." The awareness of his mistake came with a mallet, ringing nerves throughout his body and hauling every drop of sweat out of his face. Menes did nothing but laugh, in the thought that the irony in his friend's statement was intentional. He laughed on for a few moments, obviously too amused to see a grim face next to him. "Her king... Oh my life, years wasted before hearing this! Her king?" his loud, daggering laughter would not stop. "I.. I claim the right to these words... By mandate of our king, and ours not only... for I shall write them on the cover of... What? The gods' kings? No... Our Gods and their kings?" The middle-aged man was angry enough not to reply, his tongue paralysed by the slap, as light as it was, which he received. What had started as a discussion on religion became a debate, and from then forward a source of Menes' arrogant laughter. True that laughter did not bother him most of the time, but this was far from most of the time. The man held great belief in the existence of Calindra's gods, even though he was in full agreement with Menes on the priesthood and temple. He knew the ignoble, lying, often contradictory preachings for what they were, for he knew how to read, and read them all, the legends and parables on war, those on peace, for one that said trust your neighbour there was one other to defy it, and two more to come into service by next year. It would take clever eyes to unmask the subtle, yet hypnotic influences these preachings had on the untrained, and for that he felt proud, felt witty enough not to be mocked at by the old man. "Menes", he marshalled all his strenght to say, "please stop."

It was enough for Menes. With his head back from the world of merriment, he quietly pointed to the pouch, now in the man's hands, overwhelmed by the innocent shame of having made an insult. He would've not hesitated in giving an apology, but his mouth was shut in pain. His eyes would tell his sorrow instead of words. With his gesture, the man handed him the pouch. Business was at hand: Menes refreshed his eyes, gathered his voice and opened the bag. "The memories you wanted." The man was counting gems inside. "How many of them are there?" "Many, many. All of them, in fact. Still none of them unless you know how to use one." "So we're set?" "Oh no, my boy. I'M set. And don't make me beg for what I deserve, you've got a lifetime to finish this one." The man agreed. True, Menes shared lifespans with the world, but of all these lifespans one day every year clipped it all to nothing. It was worth him to write, and certainly he had no greater desire in life - this room was his library, one many times greater than the greatest known, and many more times than his own twenty shelves. "You may hereby begin. You'll find me with the diacons if you need anything. Don't." Menes needed to laugh, and that he did unsanctioned. He stopped only as the door was slammed once again, to start what he could only finish in the silence that once again took the library.


Many years before, above the tall forests of Calindra there was a night without shadows. Below this starless, moonless night, in a hidden grove close to the river Leah, a girl was holding the fruits of her agony. In full darkness her soft, hasty breath was barely heard against the baby's shrieks and cries, the sweet music of life that kept her own standing. She held with both hands, feeling with part curiosity, part instinct and wondered at the beat of a heart that once belonged to her. Then came the daggers back, seeping slowly, surely and calmly into the shreds of her quick heart, breaking her curiosity, her wonder, but not her insinct. With trembling fingers she touched... And kept touching... Until she found the link. Her hands stopped in pain, unable to rip it apart, she tried to think of another way before opting for the last, worst of her pains. She failed. Grappling the baby upwards, she came her head close to the cord and, feeling it there, snapped its teeth on the mix of flesh, blood and birth fluids, pulling them for one last stance before collapsing into the arms of sleep. She failed again. In her torture she ripped it - chewed it - off of her, spat away the piece kept in her mouth and fell down, lost to the sensation with the baby still in her hands. She shook, the baby cried, she cried and the baby shook in anxiety, young to be spared from the knowledge of his mother's pains. The sensation was gone, but she still felt it inside of her. She WANTED it there, the burden to replace that of the questions she would ask herself next. Sheltered in her suffering, she clutched the baby to her chest and whispered in soft, hasty words a prayer to her lord the Sky, that next would never come.

Of course it did. Her lord the Sky brought the Sun about in the hour of dawn, against her prayers and the cries of her child that, touched by the warm rays, was becoming aware of his new sense of sight. Grappled in with his immature curiosity, he could do nothing but cry as the great red monster - which he saw as a great red spot - looked back at him with its own puzzled eye. Most children, as rituals to the forest dictated, must be born near a spring or river, bathed by the menastatch in the late hours of night, for the Sun to bathe the child once more the next dawn, the body in its radiance, the eyes in its astonishment. All children, in fact, except those that were not meant to exist. But the sun watched patiently for any menastatch to come, therefore concluded none was there. The baby was indeed not dry from last night, wet with his mother's blood and sweat, crying about it and whatever else confused him. Knowing its own traditions and why it placed them there, the Sun called out to its father the Sky, implored that he summon clouds to cover it from the eyes of the sleeping mother. Its wish, and hers as well, was granted, for what else could he make in that part?

Then came midday, the winds unraveled their brother's garments and a patch of light stepped down to the grove, waking a girl from her troubled sleep. Lifting herself she stood on the lenght of her dirt-coated knees, embracing her baby tighter than yesternight. In her long sleep she had found the strenght to control her trembling, though the daggers still danced in her inside. She stood like this, kneeling to the Sun, staring wide-eyed at the life in her hands, a teardrop finding its way to her cheek. What was she to do? This thought dilluted within the others in her head, swirling in chaos and confusion that brought her no sense, but powerful, uncontrollable emotion. She felt as if a tree had collapsed on her back, keeping her caged below it days before she'd die starved, as if the sky fell down and the earth gave in to a hole made for her, in these moments she felt as if the world, even the gods she would pray to, have abandoned her spirit to hardships that would not end. They had to... With ever-quickening breath to suit her heartbeat, she crawled on her bare knees towards the closest rock, and where once her eyes delighted an absent look now stood. Her crawl was slow, and consumed on it she could not see her trembling and hear sprouting moans from her distanced lips all the while as the baby slept dearly in the cradle of her arms. An inch forward, and another, she stood before the rock, in ignorance of her own breath which by now had been growing into a loud series of gasps and hissing, focused on one thing moving among her arms. A blank stare forward, her bruised, bare arms raised the quiet child above the rock, whispering a prayer for her soul barely discerned amidst her breathing. With her mind raging at the curse she had born, she dropped the tears on her cheeks to mix in the raindrops now falling from the sky. Watching the child, realising what she was about to do, the shame sent in new daggers in the hole left by the old ones: the horror of her child's death was now greater than any test about to be placed around her. The arms retracted, her dry lips touched the child's soft head and with them came promises and soothing words. In their midst, the word love was chanted as many times as she had breathed, the word that gave Lian its name. Rain was now downing full gallons, but she kept her baby in its path, so that he may receive the blessing of their lord the Sky - for she found it a certainty, holding the precious life in her hands, that her blessing had already come. Kneeling on a patch of dirt, her child embraced, she ignored the rain, her troubles, her fears, to her the fabric of the world around was ripped away by a moment of happiness. To him, the stone door's slam had been nothing more than a rude interruption from his prankstering. Taking a mere moment to break away, he gazed and saw the middle-aged man coming towards him, looking as if he meant to speak. "He returns! His resolve unbroken, his joy unhidden, for he had ventured forth into the dark pits of a blasphemous priesthood... Or diacon... And comes now living yet more to tell the tale!" He meant to speak no more. There was a faint blush of his cheeks, and a blink of his eyes would have ended the amused Menes' remarks any other time, but not then.

"Tell me, is your father still alive?" The man's face turned for an exhasperated stare. He replied in an innocent squeak. "What have you done with my father?" "No, no, not your father. I have prepared a most excellent position for his Lordship in the fourteenth-or-so chapter, but still, there's one small problem that needs taking care of before his ascent. You see, you never knew your father..."


"Fiction!" They laughed on about the irony, each in his mind plotting to place many traps and falsehoods upon the other long before the end is written.


Dustlifter, chapter 1 - A hero is born © Andrei Pambuccian

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