Glanderxe – Chapter 1 (Part 2)

The sun shot through the small window in my room hitting my face with such a force that I shot up from where I had been sleeping.  It seemed impossible to get those final words of the beautiful Farah out of my head.  “Come for me now or not at all.”  Those eyes.  So pleading.  How pathetic she had looked up at me.  If only circumstances were different.  How could I leave Ma and sis… but how could I leave Farah.  I was convinced that if anyone had to leave it should be this nightmare, recurring night after night reminding me of the uncourteous bastard I must have seemed.  Why did she not understand?  Could she not acknowledge and respect the loyalty that I held for my family?
What little I could do about and understood of women had no matter now.  It had been six months since I last saw Farah and dwelling on it would not bring her back.  There were more important matters at hand. It may not be of great interest to me but today was an important day for Glanderxe. Sir Reuben was to arrive today and God only knows what profits his arrival.  The Duke of Dete Plych travelled to Glanderxe often as of late, and always on business of a political sort.  I suppose as a sworn servant of Her Majesty I should be more enthusiastic about those things that relate to her kingdom but I have never been much of a political man.  It profits irony that I now serve as a knight in the great city.  As the capital of Glanderxe Coessarde all that is important as it relates to politics happens within the confines of these walls.  I suppose, if nothing else, Sir Reuben is a respected member of the counsel, and as a knight of Glanderxe I embrace his arrival.  It would profit me if his news were pleasant, for memories of Farah have commenced my day in such a glorious fashion that I dare not endure any news of criminality.
I finished my morning preparations and proceeded to the kitchen adjacent the great hall as was my customary routine.  Among the many women scurrying about the room was my dearest mother, whose garb by this point was dotted with the remanence of preparation.  Spotting me she excused herself from her duties and came to me, kissing me on the forehead.  “Her Majesty has us working harder than ten-score oxen on a blistering day getting the preparations set for the Duke.  Why in the name of all that is holy should we continue to greet him as a favoured guest of the crown.  He has been here time enough to be considered for a regular setting in the grand hall.”
“Now, now, mother.  Despite his frequency, a guest he still be and it would not profit pleasantries to treat him as anything else.”
My words brought little comfort to her.  “Still, it must be understood the great work that he has caused us here in the kitchen since much pleasantries be desirous.”  She was not a hard woman but had no fear of speaking her mind.  If something was amiss, no guess work should ever be needed, for mother would be sure to let everyone know who had two ears to listen.
“I am sure that such need for pleasantries will subside in due time.  For now we must suffer politics with the greatest level of eloquence allowed our nature.”
“My nature allows for not much more, but suffer I shall.”  Grumbling, she bade me farewell with a wave of her hand and returned to the tasks of preparation.
Leaving her to her business I made my way toward the great hall to see how the preparations were coming when I was caught by Sir Yoyde.  “Mert, my dear boy!  How was your night?”
“I cannot say it was grand but no matter, the day awaits.” I brushed him aside as I continued down the hall.
“The day awaits!” Sir Yoyde repeated in disgust.  “Certainly it does but how can the day seem so fair it being a mere shadow of the night previous?”
“The night is an unavoidable casualty in the day as one’s duties are set aside in wait til the sun bids service once again.”
“Ay, there be much you have still to learn about the great city.  Perhaps in Coere Ghante it was as you say, but here the twilight lacks no indulgences.”
“I have no desire for indulgence.  What can the night offer but distractions from my duties.”
“Duties!  As men whose blood runs red indulgence is our duty.  If it were not for such, life would be understandably unpleasant. If I were but an ox, perhaps indulgence would pass me by, but as a gentleman I have a certain duty to the fairer of the race that cannot be denied.”
“And do the women consider you a gentleman or an ox for engaging so oft in indulgence?”  His constant nagging quickly got on my nerves.  He was but a twelve-year-old lad in gentlemen’s garments.
“Ah!” He let out a short laugh.  “You jest!”
Satisfied that our conversation was finished we parted ways as I entered the great hall.  Woman scurried about setting tables and preparing the decorations for the soon to arrive Duke of Dete Plych.  Candles were being lit and placed on tables amidst an elaborate array of fruit platters and other various decorative delicacies.  The great table was covered with a majestic red cloth which showed underneath the golden place settings complete with jewelled goblets that, later that day, would be filled continually with that scarlette drink that holds the power to turn the most proper of gentlemen into something of a scoundrel.
My observations complete I found my way outside into the courtyard, hoping to enjoy some fresh air before being held within the castle for hours as the business of the Duke was attended too.  Lingering but a moment, I walked out into the streets of the city.  Men and women went this way and that hurrying to accomplish the business of the day while children dodged between their legs doing nothing of grave importance and holding the attention of no one except when getting in the way of those around.  I had not been mingling long when I heard the voice of one who I am embarrassed to say was so familiar to me.  Finding the darkest corner of the nearest alley-way I detected the source of the noise.  An argument had risen between a rough looking man and a woman whose delicate figure made the man look as if a giant in comparison.  Such a scene had become common to my eyes as of late but it did not get any easier to see.  This woman was my sister.  “Why do you bother me so?  Go away, Clive.”
“I will not leave until you give me what is rightfully mine.”  The rough-looking man, whose name had been revealed as Clive, was agitated to the point of rage.
“I gave you all that I wish to.  Now leave me be!”
“It is not wish that I come for, but the right of a man.  Why do you flirt with me so and then leave expecting me not to follow you.  Were the inventor of seduction called to court you would be found guilty of misuse.  Why tease if you have no intimate desire?” Clive reached for her, pulling her in for a kiss while she wriggled from his grasp.
I had seen more than enough to know the nature of such a disturbance.  I rested a heavy hand on the man’s shoulder and he whirled around to witness me staring him down looking more menacing than he in my knightly garb that luck had so favoured me with the opportunity to attain.  “I am afraid, sir, that you have picked the wrong lady to pursue this day.”
“Sending your brother to save you, eh Miranda.”  Turning back to her he shook his fist.  “This isn’t over!”  With that less than menacing promise he withdrew leaving my sister rattled, yet no worse for ware.
“Why do you persist in getting yourself into such trouble, sis?” I addressed her with a look of pity in my eyes.
“It was nothing uncomely for a woman as I am.  Just some harmless flirting, nothing more.”
“I see how harmless it must have been,” I said with a hint of belittlement.
“I am not a child anymore, Mert!  You do not have to treat me as such!  Other men in this city see me as a woman.  Why can you not do the same?”
“I fear that too many men see you as such, and if it were not so your trouble would be lessened.”
She stormed off in disgust, hopefully to wash off the stench of that Clive character which unfortunately continued to permeate the air.  No sooner had she left that the report of instruments of brass could be heard from the watchtower far above the grand city.  This signal of the arrival of the Duke hastened my steps to the front gate where I joined my fellow knights in welcoming Sir Reuben.  He was the first of the procession through the grand gate of the city, the chestnut mane of his steed blowing in the warm breeze of late morning.  He was rugged in feature his face hardened by many a battle fought.  Why such a decorated man of arms would get himself so heavily in politics baffled me.
The stable-boys were summoned and with good speed gathered the horses of the Duke and his company.  Sir Kherine, head of the guard, addressed the Duke and directed him to follow.  As we reached the throne room, Sir Kherine spoke briefly with the two guards at the door who motioned for us to proceed.  Bright light streamed in between the red draperies that decorated the great windows of the room.  A carpet on the floor of a similar colour led us to the throne ahead.  As we continued into the room we passed under the most elaborate chandelier in the whole castle.  Great chords of crystal stretched down from the ceiling, spreading out at the base where the lights were mounted.  The sun reflected off of the series of decorative prisms causing them to glisten like the sea under a setting sun.
We stopped in front of the throne where the queen sat with an advisor to each side of her.  The satin of her dress flowed down from her shoulders shaping her body as it went and gathered in as a pool of freshly squeezed grapes at her feet.  The gold filigree danced upon her chest slowly fading out as it spiralled downward.  Such majesty and beauty was unparallelled in the whole of the great city.  It is to this angelic goddess that Sir Kherine addressed his greeting.  “Lady Calwen, Sir Reuben Duke of Dete Plych here to see you.”  No sooner had the introduction been given that she motioned for everyone to leave the room.  I followed Sir Kherine and the others in company out of the room leaving only the Duke with my Lady.

Glanderxe – Chapter 1 (Part 1)

INTRODUCTION

Whether truth or fiction, every tale must be told.   Some are tales of history, others of the present age and still others a prophecy of times still to come.  All tales from all times tie together creating what this author calls a story.  Tales of old provide cultural information about the land and peoples therein while prophecies give insight into what is to come.  Though past and future are vital to a story, every story must begin in the present.  This is where characters are introduced and developed.  A story without characters is said to be bland and lacking character.  The character that this story begins with is one of common heritage.  He was raised on a farm, knowing what it means to work.  His father trained him up as a man until he was old enough to recognize what made him one.  It was at this point that his father grew ill and passes into a place and time unparalleled to this.  The baton of provider was passed to him as his mother and sister remained.  It was at this time that he ran into his first bit of luck.  Loyal as he was to his family, he did not go unnoticed by those around.  News of his loyalty reached the ears of the queen, at which point he was recruited for her personal order of knights.  No longer did his common heritage define his status, for his family was moved into the capital city of Glanderxe.  It is within this great city that our tale begins.

CHAPTER 1

I am sure that if it were not for the portions that I had become accustomed to at the queen’s table, this common meal would have been delightful enough.  The stew was watery and tasteless yet held all the nutrients the body desired.  Not long ago were the days that this staple meal was common at the Whatley house and my days in the castle had only spoiled my taste-buds, not my etiquette.  “The meal was delightful Mrs. Bailey.  I thank you for entertaining me as your guest this evening.”
“Nonsense,” came her reply, re-entering the room after clearing away some of the dishes.  “I am sure that your time at Glanderxe has spoiled you for what is common.”  She, with a hint of shame in her voice, looked around the humble little shack that the Bailey family called their home.  Mr. Bailey reclined in his chair, sipping on a pipe that had long since been lit while Farah timidly sipped her tea.
Attempting to lift the spirits of my former neighbours I replied with grace and tact.  “On the contrary, my good lady, I am of common heritage myself and it has been good to leave the glories of the city for a time and enjoy the luxuries that have been so common to me but of late.  Home is where the heart is, and my heart remains with you fine folk here in Coere Ghante.”  I slipped a glance at Farah who lingered but a moment then coyly turned away as my eyes met hers.
“Such kind words from an esteemed knight of Glanderxe.”  It was difficult to discern whether Mrs. Bailey spoke with a deep sense of pride for a former resident of her home town or that of disgust behind a thick veil of sarcasm.
“I would hardly consider myself esteemed.  I have been in service to her majesty but a moment compared to the time that I have spent here.  My status in the great city is not yet fully realized.”  I searched for the words to bring myself to the status level that in my own eyes I was still considered to be.  I still share a great bond with the people of this village and it would be beneath me to consider them less than myself.  It is but luck that has bestowed such a status upon me and to consider myself any greater than them: I would be a hypocrite of the worst variety.
Either by lack of conversational tact or enmity toward my newly acquired “superior” status, Mrs. Bailey let my words hang in the air not offering a reply.  Perceiving such silence, Mr. Bailey took the time to remove his pipe from his lips and cleared his throat.  “My dear boy, I understand that it has been but a time that you have not been with us, and I wonder how Mrs. and Ms. Whatley are adjusting to their new life in the castle.”
“My mother, as can be imagined, is not too keen on life in the big city.  Her heart still rests here.  As for my sister… well, let’s just say that her youthfulness shrouds her better judgement far more oft than I would like with the freedoms that Glanderxe has to offer.”
“I imagine that she is a handful,” Mr. Bailey replied showing great amusement.  “Concerning Mrs. Whatley, do not be overly concerned over her lack of adjustment as the soul of the late Mr. Whatley remains with us here at Coere Ghante.  Not even the grave can easily separate those who have been joined in matrimony.  It is for this reason that marriage remains for the young.  As senility begins to overtake you, eternal silence grows ever closer.”  Mr. Bailey turned to his pipe for a brief reprise before continuing.  “What of yourself, Mert Whatley.  Your adolescence is wayward and maturity has discovered you.  Are there no alluring young maidens in the great city of Glanderxe?”
What a blundering position that I find myself in.  If only this same man who speaks to me now was not the very same who has fathered Farah throughout her childhood to this point where her womanhood has blossomed.  “Oh, my good man, alluring maidens there be but not of the sort who share such pastoral sympathy as I possess.”
“Pastoral sympathy you say…” Mr. Bailey appeared to be in deep thought and after a long draw of his pipe he continued.  “If love of the country beckons, your return to Coere Ghante may glean more than a simple hot meal and the company of acquaintances.  There is many a young lass in such a borough as this that may share much the same rural sympathies as you seek.”
Glancing at Farah, she gave me an embarrassed smile before turning her attention back to her tea.  If only this opportunity were to come at a different time.  I am still in transition from rural to urban and the new responsibilities that I hold in the great city leave no room for a bride.  All these excuses flooded my mind as I targeted the heart of the issue with my next statement.  “If only time were controlled by the wills of men.  Though it be true that maturity has found me and the maidens of the town be fair, a wife would not prove profitable for me at this time, sir.”
“Oh?” Mr. Bailey revealed his shock, reducing his recline as if coming to attention for my explanation of such a bold statement as this.
“Though time be short and maidens be fair, Mrs. Whatley be of an age where great care be needed in the common areas of life, and Miranda, my dear sis, whose wanton passions have no restraint, needs great direction in the areas of morality and decency.  How can I be so ungenerous as to leave my family to start another when there be no patron gentleman to attend to my kin.”
“Are there not those in Glanderxe who, for service, would attend to the needs of Mrs. and Ms. Whatley?”
“Most certainly there are, but what uncourteous a man I would be to leave the affairs of mine own to one of hire in order to pursue such desires as my manhood may suggest.  If I were not to provide for my own kin, how can a wife be suggested unto me with even the remotest of sincerities?  Would not such a wife, becoming kin herself, be of comparable importance, and my actions concerning them considered, be just as likely to be given up to some patron for hire instead of cared for by my own hand?  No, as you can see, it simply would not do to take a wife even if desirous passions thus inflame.”
“Your words ring true, my dear boy.  Though peculiar it may be, your words claim logic in their own right.  Although I do say, many a maiden be saddened by such, if not their fathers as well, for no greater man there be as to lift a family such a mine, having no beneficiary of blood, from the status fate has handed them.”
These words hit me at the heart.  The truth of his words be undeniable and my feelings for Farah had not gone unnoticed.  “Fate plays a cruel trick, yet luck desires to duel with fate and holds triumphant.”
“For some this be true, but not all are favoured by luck as you have been.”
I had clearly reached an impasse with Mr. Bailey.  Addressing the issue at any greater length would have crossed the conversational line of cordiality.  After a brief lull in the conversation that, at this point, would have been unpleasant for any who consider Adam to be their oldest ancestor, I excused myself, thanking Mrs. Bailey again for the pleasant meal.  Exiting the Bailey house I found my way to the post to which I had tied my horse previous to the engagement.  Farah had slipped out the back way as I said my farewells to her parents and was now waiting for me.  Though her garb was plain, lacking the elegance of the clothing of those more fortunate that my eyes had now become accustomed to, it held greater beauty to me than logic could explain.  Golden tresses fell upon her shoulders spreading to both sides before descending down her back a short distance.  Amidst all this beauty, it was her eyes that caught my attention.  The calm waters that her eyes did usual reflect had now risen into a tumultuous storm that if tried would crush even the most seaworthy of vessels.  Such indignation crashed down in my direction manifesting itself it a mighty slap across my face.  I would not have known that such delicate beauty could cause such pain if I had not experienced it first hand.  “How dare you persist in waxing elegant yet scheming such crude offence!”
“My dear Farah, I have schemed nothing of the sort.”  I attempted to grab her hand but she pulled away with such ferocity that I scarce recognized.
“Do not call me dear, for only my love has such a right.”
“But, I do love you Farah.  You must understand…” She cut me short, clearly not willing to listen to reason.
“I understand nothing!  I have shared such love for you ever since I knew the meaning of the word, yet you spit at the very core of such a feeling.  Were love to have limits I would not claim them, yet your love for me has such limits that it is beyond access.  You know that my father is aged and that mother and I will soon be much the same as your own.  How rare it be for a father to beg for a gentleman caller, yet mine has done just this.  If your eyes be for another then give me courteous knowledge, but if they be mine then let them be mine!”
“You know how much I long for you and my heart is truly yours. …Yet, I cannot claim you as my own in this present time.  My words have not been of plain courtesy, but truth be at their core.  Know that my heart beats true for you.  Accord me with the knowledge that yours remains a mirror as of my own.”
With pain in her eyes her head fell to look at her feet.  “I cannot accord you such.”
My attempt to grab her hand was this time successful and touching her chin I raised her eyes to meet mine.  The storm had broken and now a waterfall began, cascading down her cheeks and creating lakes upon her dress.  “I will always love you.  You must understand that.  when the time is right I will come for you.”
Between the tears her stubbornness remained.  “Come for me now or not at all.”  Her lips met mine, prodding the fire in my heart with excitement and leaving me longing as she pulled away and ran.  Mounting my horse I gave one last parting glance, tears beginning to well up in my heart.  My departure kicked up dust which covered the shallow lakes left on the ground by Miss Farah Bailey.

Glanderxe – Prologue

Here is a teaser prologue that is meant as an artsy representation of the book as a whole

What if you could see the future? To pass beyond all conception of time and space, transcending this reality of life itself: that would be a gift indeed. Time has never been my friend. She tickles my neck, tantalizing, breathing sweet mysteries into my ear. That great deceiver caresses me with her voice, enlivens me with her touch, and tempts me with her power. She hears my idle fantasies and tempts me with possibility… for a time.

She has me by a chain now, wrenching me back into her arms. Submit to her once, I will be hers forever, and only Death will save me. She tortures me with visions of the past, visions of the future, visions of pain. That tempting breath on my neck turns fowl, stinking of cold sweat and long deceased tears, promising one thing, giving me another, but it is too late. I am held back by her chains: the chains of memories.

“If only I could go back.”

“But you can’t!” she screams, laughing while I struggle to run from her clutches. Memories’ chains are taught on my throat as I am caught in a fool’s attempt to flee. Time has bound me, and only Death will free me.

Death comes in many forms, but which one will I choose. Time has played a cruel trick, but can Death be trusted? This God of Death has seen my past, can see the future, and watches my present suffering. Time gives him no restrictions. He hunts me down from the plane beyond life itself, but what is his intent? He has seen me beyond the Void, that place of death to Death itself. No spirits are born there, and no spirits die, but mine he has seen. He hunts me for what I know, hunts me for who I am.

“What is beyond the Void?” His voice almost sounds soothing, but I know it to be a lie.

Death and Time battle for my will, but this war of gods is not mine. I run from the duelling deities, but they are ever with me. Time haunts me like a shadow in my mind, pulling me from myself. Death stands ahead of me, a lightning-storm in the night. His purple streaks of power shoot through the darkness, lighting my way.

“Come for me now, or not at all.” He teases, forcing me to make a choice. Death’s knife is in my hand, but can I make the plunge?

“My name is Mert Whatley, and Death will not claim me!” The knife is bloody in my hand as I seek release. I cast my spirit to the ground and pull myself from Death’s grasp. The light of Death’s storm fades, as I fade from his view. He sees my spirit lying there, still dripping with life’s promise, but I am gone.

Time throws memories ahead of me. I trip over them in the dark, stumbling over my past without knowledge of the future. Time is the darkness around me now. All I can do is wait and hope. Hope that I wake from this nightmare that has become my life.