John W. Patterson
Word count: Approx. 2,924


Young Meer of Tuvik
(Sword and Sorcery Stuff)

   
  
  From the "Chronicles of Lost Icah" by Meer, scribe of the
  Chron:
       A tower stands nearly invisible, hovering above the
  Ebon Sea. Attempts have been made to scale the tower by the
  intrepid. All end in failure. Rogue waves, whirlpools, and
  tempest have all served to thwart the boldest. Many die in
  its shadow and so many fear the center of the black sea,
  avoiding the enigma of the nameless tower.
       One mission, that of the explorer Icah Hom, is more
  successful than those before him. He sails close to the
  bedeviled edifice and finds it still adrift, barely kissing
  the waves beneath its spectral base. Icah heard of the tower
  as a pillar of mirrored glass, reflecting the sky and waters
  about it. Its curved edges were indistinct, shadows of form,
  a pillar of mirages. Icah built a ship whose mast was
  tallest in all Tarnash and attached to the peak was a pole
  of Mirdathian skystone. Icah circled the tower as a howling
  wind rolled in from the south. Once close enough he ascended
  the mast and then the tower. 
       The seas boiled at the frothed base of the tower. It
  was like a living thing itself, aware and angered at Icah's
  intrusion. Icah reached the pole's bottom as the first
  explosion of fire split the sky above him. Thunder blasted
  him so strong he was thrown back down the mast of wood.
  Lashed with the shouts of his crew below and wind driven
  darts of rain, Icah climbed the meteorite metal pole. It
  reached into the heavens, an insect's barbed insult thrust
  into the darkening belly of a bull of Bashan. The demon sky
  roared again, a vortex of heated light, steam, and the smell
  of ozone filled Icah's throat. He kept climbing, looking at
  the tower, only a spear's cast away. Then as his sight
  recovered from the last flash of electric death, he saw a
  lighted window in the wall of nothingness, a hole in the
  blackened clouds. At a table sat an old man. He was bearded.
  He seemed to be reading, turning the yellowed pages of an
  ancient book. 
       Icah cried out to the man, "Ho! Oh sage, what is this
  tower? I seek knowledge!"
        Looking up from the massive book, the bearded mage
  shouted betwixt the storm rage, directly into Icah's
  mindsoul, "Speak of anything you have seen of me and you
  will feed the fish of darkness! Oh Icah, nice ship. You may
  leave now." He looked back to his writ, shaking his grey
  head as if disgusted with all the fuss.
       Icah's ship surged away from the tower of its on will,
  the crew vainly laboring beneath his shouts. Escaping the
  sudden squall Icah and his crew returned to port. Icah
  shaken, refuses to speak of what he saw. In town he is
  approached by a band of informed thugs that drag him down to
  the beach the following night. The vultures from the
  foothills of Squalor believe Icah hides word of treasure in
  the ensorceled tower room. Icah suffers legendary torture at
  their hands.
       Nearby a young slave by the name of Meer hears and sees
  all from a small boat. He was hiding there, planning to run
  away from his master, the cruel Baaldon of Orcen. Once Icah
  tells what he saw and swears of its truth, the thieves are
  angered. Assured he refuses to speak of treasure, they drown
  the senseless remains of Icah Thom, chaining him to an old
  anchor. He is cast off the pier near midnight. He feeds the
  fish of prophecy that night.
  
       From the "Saga of Meer of Tuvik" by the same:
       Young Meer, shocked and terrified, soon pushes off into
  the night waters. He hoists a small sail once far enough
  away, hoping to snag a good wind. Slow deaths, suffering,
  cruelty, and evil are left two days travel behind him. He
  dreams of a lasting freedom. 
       Meer tried once before, two months ago, to flee
  Baaldon's kitchens. Meer tired of the preparing of man-flesh
  loaf for his ennui maddened master. Before that, it was snow
  gathered at the foot of the Urals, then laced with the
  leeched bloods of Tyrhyene desert lamia. Meer never enjoyed
  chasing the frozen clots back into the icy serving bowls.
  Ghastly enough work it was, without the lamia spitting
  fire-slime at you as you removed the dead leeches! Ah the
  lamia, they were so fiercely beautiful and oh so deadly.
  Meer remembered their lemur eyes staring him into freeing
  them, promises of lascivious delights day after day. He'd
  refuse the whispers of sizzling bloodlust. Fire-slime
  sprayed from behind jagged rows of obsidian teeth had
  scorched his neck for the last time.
       Meer watches in amazement as his skiff sails into the
  wind. Against the humid zephyr from the sands of Akhmemnoka,
  the little boat erratically careens across the waves. Meer
  felt as if his vessel of escape had its own safe harbor
  awaiting. He resigned to silently watch the ale colored
  waters pass hypnotic beneath his gaze of terror.
       Had Baaldon bewitched his travels? Meer thought back to
  his last capture.
       The bumbled beatings of the Blind Ones--what suffering!
  They flayed him with the weeds of Seven Agonies until the
  smell of blood was agreed strong enough. Meer lost an eye
  that day. After Baaldon had spared him from some hinted at
  death, he found himself chained for a month in the lower
  dungeons of Sadomus the Abuser. Meer traded a toe to
  Sadomus' pet snake-mole to be spared an acid slug's
  meanderings over his frail body. Sadomus spoke eloquently of
  the Hell pit wherein the eldritch Vermilion Abominations
  wandered. 
       Meer reeled in renewed horrors remembering the day of
  his release from the dungeon. Standing half blind and
  hobbling, he heard Baaldon swear that Meer should be lowered
  into the Hell pit at the first note of any problems. Baaldon
  reassigned Meer to dung shoveling. The royal kitchens were
  no place for recaptured runaways. 
       Meer deftly brained the stable lord three days later,
  stole Baaldon's scorpion-horse, and rode a path of
  destruction through Baaldon's gardens. Thirty  flowering,
  interwoven man-woods were mercifully trampled to death.
  Others wantonly pleaded for devastation as Meer spun about
  casting a brazier of fiery pardon to their rooted legs. Meer
  vowed death of his own choice before the agonizing slow
  death by assimilation into the necroplasm of the Hell pit's
  bloodied abomination. Baaldon be cursed to Kritych's
  brainrot!
       Wearied in his day and night journey without food to
  reach the Ebon Sea, Meer was easily lulled into a stupor of
  open-eyed sleep. He awoke later on a placid sea, adrift,
  sail limp above him. An empty cathedral sky of azure arched
  into the dimpled quicksilver mirror rippling around Meer. It
  was deathly wicked calm pressing down upon him. Meer fell
  back, nearly off the stern. Directly above the boat hung a
  sable black circle, widening. A hole in the heavens, it was
  filled with the stars of skies of other worlds. Meer
  stiffened against gelid winds pouring from unholy
  constellations. He turned away and frantically paddled his
  diminished humanity out from beneath the flickering mirage
  of alien night. A short distance away, he looked back for
  the thing. It had vanished. Meer peered intently at what
  wasn't there. Questioning his shaken sanity, he considered
  it a fever dream until the spectral outlines of a great
  tower wavered forth. An opal fire danced across its walls
  and beneath the enigma Meer perceived a shadowed circle on
  the still waters.
       By the Kyanite gods of Tuvik, it must be the accursed
  tower! That man was murdered in the shades of Tarnash for
  hint of its treasures. Meer stood, fixing his eyes upon the
  heights of the cyclopean edifice. He recalled the doomed
  adventurer's story of the aged man within the window now
  overlooking  his boat. 
       Meer cries out to the tower keeper, "Meer of Tuvik at
  your service! I seek refuge from the Abominations of
  Baaldon! Have mercy on me or be done with me!"
       Silence answers. Meer does not breathe--waiting for
  death of his own choosing.
       A drawbridge lowers itself out from its invisible seams
  extending out to the shocked Meer. His boat lifts from the
  water and hovers at the end of the drawbridge. Meer
  hesitantly steps out onto the glistening stones paving the
  path of entry. His boat falls away, smashing in ruin, upon
  the freshly troubled waters. An icy wind threatens to strip
  Meer from the pathway. He races into the dark recesses of
  the tower. He turns back to check the ceasing of the
  maddened storm gusts from outside to find only a wall of
  stone. His wet footprints still drip down the polished
  stones.
       A scuffling shuffle echoes in the torchlit maze of
  stairs spiraling overhead. Meer finds nowhere to advance but
  up into a whirling meander of fire and dancing shadow. He
  climbs the eon worn stairs of dank solitude. He choked on
  the moldering dust of lost days and endless nights.
       In the first torchlit section of stairs he spies
  footprints! He is not alone. His mind jumps into panicked
  readiness. He would go on. He would accept this destiny.
  Inside, he held the subtle and dwindling hope it was for
  good that he called out to the tower keeper in the first
  place. This had to be better than the wrath of Baaldon.
       He recalled the writhing death throes of Baaldon's
  prized scorpion-horse as he rode it into the poison
  mist-storms of Cocaigne. The flinching beast spoke to Meer
  as it choked on the dusts of death, "Some distant power
  preserves you, Meer. I was kept from piercing your shriveled
  neck with my own poison and casting you down--dead before
  you hit the ground! Baaldon is my master and no other has
  ever ridden me and lived until today! And now I die, driven
  past Cerberus by a fool! May Baaldon find you soon as my
  naked Ka flies now under the merciless gaze of the Furies!"
       His musing on alternate deaths by Sadomus was cut short
  as a small stone bounced off his shoulder. It had come from
  the narrowing vortex of flickering lights above. Meer saw a
  tall shadow momentarily swallow each torch glow as it neared
  the tower's abysmal loft.
       Stairs beginning at the tower's base, progressively
  recede into the bare wall as Meer nears the top. Meer hears
  the sliding stones beneath him and races up to avoid
  plummeting to his doom. The stairway ends far beneath the
  ceiling. As the last step slips into the wall, the
  scrambling Meer screams, gripping the bas-relief carvings of
  the wall. He finally loses his grip and falls to an
  invisible floor, inches below where the stairs ended. He
  lies there amazed at his bizarre luck but soon notices the
  transparent layer of support is rising upwards to a ceiling
  studded with jagged stalactites--like the final kiss of the
  lamia.
        Meer races around in circles stomping on the thin air
  beneath him and kicking the walls in desperation. Nearing
  the longest stalactite, he manages to pull it free of its
  brittle neighbors. He whirls about smashing away at a rough
  circular area. Stalactites are snapping and splintering all
  about him as the ethereal elevator continues its inexorable
  advance.
       Meer kneels in the center of his hollowed out cage, the
  echoes of exploding fragments fill his ears, rock-dust
  floods his final breaths. Looking up he sees the rough stone
  ceiling going in and out of focus as if a mirage. Reaching
  up into the diffuse spot, his hand passes out beyond his
  vision and within the stone. He stands, head and shoulders
  barely fitting through the impossible portal.
  Pulling himself up into the dawn-lit chamber, he backs away
  carefully from the unseen opening at his feet. The roar and
  rumble beneath the periwinkle and rose agate tiled floor
  ceases. Meer walks over to test the spot he extruded himself
  from and it is solid. It is just as solid the nothingness
  that just lifted him up to this chamber.
       Something moves past Meer unseen but brushing across
  his back. He whirls madly away, leaping as shadow flees
  light. He hides, pressed hard against the cold firmness of a
  pillar set close to the wall. Twelve carved columns
  encircled the Chaldean floor mosaic of the twelve houses of
  the sky-vault. Meer held fast and sweating upon the Bull,
  crowned with the Pleiades. Opposite Meer, across the room,
  the great Scorpion of fiery sardonyx seemed to stare back in
  anger, enraged with the death of Baaldon's prized hybrid
  horse.
       "Who is there?" Meer shouted, his cry answered with
  echoes, "there . . . there . . . "
       "Stop shouting so," came a raspy reply, interspersed
  with Meer's echoing gasps.
       An ancient ruin of a man drifted forward from beyond
  the edge of the torchlit pantheon. He was robed in emerald
  satin, veined as fine marble with silver strands of
  starmist. His beard floating in a light breeze of unknown
  origin, danced about his broad smile. An embroidered
  skullcap of pearl and diamond graced his elongated
  forehead--a wrinkled brow etched by years of musing over the
  affairs of Man.
       "Meer of Tuvik, I am the Keeper. I hold the secret of
  Chron, the great book. I was your safe arrival where all
  others were turned away," the old one spoke, pacing a circle
  past each pillar. Meer watched in awe as each imaged column
  squirmed into fleeting, animated life as the Keeper passed
  them.
       "Why am I here, old Keeper?" Meer began.
       "Destiny, whim, fate, spilled ink, all reasons but not
  the answer you seek," the Keeper said, continuing, "It is
  time I am replaced and go on. You are now the Keeper, Meer
  of Tuvik. Follow."
       Meer stirred from the shadows and raced after the
  swiftly departed Keeper. This old man moved like the wind.
  Looking over his shoulder, Meer swore the Pillar of Taurus
  winked at him.
       "Keeper, I am not sure of  this choice. I am unlearned
  and skilled in only staying one step ahead of death. Baaldon
  is searching for me and his sorcery--" Meer called after the
  Keeper.
       "Baaldon is dead, Meer, and you are blamed. A curse
  meant for you, fell back on Baaldon by my approved design,
  after the Chron's higher order. All of Tarnash, Tuvik, and
  Orcen honor your name in the streets but the Word of Rotide,
  the Law-Prophet demands your death. There is no safe haven
  but here, as the new Keeper. At least here, you can guide
  justice rather than suffer its blindness. You are free to
  leave now or stay until another comes to replace you," the
  old sage of Chron elaborated, pointing out the tower window.
        Meer silently nodded acceptance, sitting before the
  great tome of Chron. He flipped through its pages of the
  Past and leafed ahead, squinting at the faint text of "Yet
  to Be". Beside the book, rested an hour glass inkwell. In it
  stood a pen of bone. A spiral candle burned without heat or
  trace of smoke. Meer saw a small sketch of his likeness on
  the last clear page. Beneath the figure he read of his
  recent journey. 
       In that moment Meer understood his call to the tower of
  the Black Sea.
       Tattered clothing of Baaldon's enslaved fell away as
  the robe of the Keeper wrapped around him. He turned to
  offer thanks for the clothes and ask what to do next. Before
  Meer could speak, the ancient one, now clothed in light,
  ascended into a great expanse of stars presently opening at
  the apex of the tower's roof. The prior Keeper shrank into a
  point of light, lost in the phantasmagoria of stars. Meer
  felt as if he'd witnessed his own, "Yet to Be". He smiled,
  turning back to lose himself in the keeping of the Chron.
  
       Final notes from "The Keeper of the Chron":
       Meer begins his first day on the job with just a slight
  intervention in the affairs of men. He takes a pen and
  details notes for Sadomus the Abuser. The entry added into
  the book of Chron is dated as for tomorrow. As Meer flips
  ahead in the fainter pages, he prepares for an armed
  intrusion, a flotilla of warships from distant Mirdath. Meer
  inks in that there will be great tsunamis in the sea of Ebon
  on that day.
       Meanwhile in the future, it is whispered in the inns
  and brothels of Tarnash, of Sadomus the Abuser mysteriously
  levitating for a full hour above the Hell pit of the
  Vermilion Abomination. The necroplasmic spew of the creature
  below the pit's mouth eventually covered the horror ridden
  man. He descended into the Hell pit a piece at time. Sadomus
  remained fully conscious during the entire period of
  dissolution and assimilation. 
       Baaldon's manor and gardens of atrocities were suddenly
  destroyed by a wall of water that crashed onto the southern
  coast lands of the sea of Ebon a week later. Curiously, a
  splintered junkyard of Mirdathian vessels was found
  scattered near the slums of Niorg. Villagers stripped the
  twisted pile in two days of all salvaged items. Wert,
  council head of Niorg declared all wood as free firefuel for
  the impending two-year winter of the Cacodaemon Tsorf. A
  grand celebration was held to thank the gods for destroying
  the blight of Baaldon and sending the goods of Mirdath in
  such timely fashion.
        
        As for now and later, Meer, the Keeper, enjoys his
  destiny and everyone else's.
  
  
      ( . . . with thanks to Jack Vance and Michael Shea)

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