Monday, 31 May 2010

Jallat's Encounters with the Wolves - Part One


Following is a sample of an episode from the story for 'Bloodlines of the Magi.'

It's a first draft, and this particular text will almost definitely not form part of the final book in anything like this form, though it does give you some idea of events during the story.

This particular episode takes place when Jallat decides for reasons he can't share with the other Magi, (or even with his colleague and lover Reyalde,)  to make a journey that is so important that the whole future of Yvoronay relies upon it.

It's in two parts, This is part one and I'd like any comments now if you have any.


Jallat's Encounters with the Wolves - Part One

Jallat, son of Gallanar and Magus of Yvoronay was awake.

He didn’t open his eyes right away. That was not the way of The Magi. In the few seconds before he gave over his awareness to his physical senses, he would first employ his Magus talents: the special abilities that he’d learned to trust more than his own eyes and ears, as a result of his own experiences, and of the memories of those of his ancestors. Those memories, those very experiences, had been inherited and even now were ingrained in his mind, in somewhere other than his conscious or his sub-conscious, deep in a place they shared with the thoughts of his ancestors: with their feelings and their opinions. It was as if every Magus of his bloodline who had lived before him, lived on within him, as part of his being, their personalities existing forever, in his mind, in his soul, alongside his own.

So in the few seconds before Jallat’s normal senses became active, first he made himself aware of the presence of any imminent danger, or threat to his survival. There was none, surprising to Jallat, as his last waking memory had been of being in a dilemma where his life was certainly in danger. Had he been rescued? Such was his faith in his Magus senses that he trusted what they told him and convinced himself that he was in no immediate peril.

Next, he scanned his own physical state. He knew that he’d sustained some injury before he lost consciousness, but these wounds were in the most, superficial, and even without him being conscious of it or in control of it, his Magus talents would have gone most of the way to healing those as he slept. He was aware of the remains of those wounds, but was also aware that his body, even now was healing; he summoned his healing talents, and weaved them in the air around him in order to speed the healing process. He would be fine soon, and fit enough to continue his journey.

Each of the Magi had powers and abilities that they knew of as ‘their talents.’ The source of this power was in part a mystery to every Magus: They knew that it was inherited from one of their parents, but nobody at all, amongst the hundreds of living Magi had any clue as to where these talents had originated.

These talents were many and varied; Certain Magi were more adept in using some of them than they were others. A Magus that Jallat knew was particularly good at casting illusion, convincing everyone around him of anything he wanted them to see or to hear. All Magi could do this, but Jallat’s colleague was so expert at it that he was the only person Jallat knew who could be sure to fool everyone, including other Magi.

Jallat’s particular expertise was with healing, which was the main reason that he’d partially recovered from his wounds during the time he’d been sleeping. Most Magi were skilled enough to heal such wounds, on their own bodies at least, but most of them would have had to make a wilful effort to do it. Only someone as rich in healing talents as Jallat was, could heal his own wounds as a matter of reflex, with no need of his conscious attention.

Jallat was a healer. He was known and respected for it, not only amongst the other Magi, but among the people too. His name was well known amongst the Tanfehlian, his own people, and among their neighbours on the plains: the Somnehlian, there were few that hadn’t heard of him, Even the Loniantehl herder folk, may not have known his name, but they knew there was an expert Magi healer living at Midcrest with the mountain people.

Jallat’s skills as a healer meant that he saw it as his duty to provide care to those that needed it, whatever their race, Magi or not, whenever and wherever it was required. If the people called upon his healing talents, he would use them as best as he could. Among the other Magi though, he could provide more than that. He and his ancestors before him had tuned their skills and trained themselves to search with their minds for any Magus who was injured, sick or in need of care; this was the third thing that Jallat had done during his waking moments ever since he had first come into his Magus talents.

Only now, he resisted doing that. This journey he was on was personal to him, and also important to him. It was his intention to search for something that if found would affect the future of all the people of Yvoronay, but it would also reveal things that he only now suspected: information he knew was not safe in the minds of the other Magi. It was something that none of them were destined to learn for centuries yet. He knew that, for he had seen the future, but for his own personal reasons, it was something that he had to discover now. He had to defy fate, or one day there would be no future for them.

So Jallat withstood the urge to search for the minds of his fellow Magi. They would have to deal with their own illnesses for now. Not only could he not afford to turn away from his mission, even for the wellbeing of his colleagues, but also, in searching their psyches, he would also be revealing himself to them. It was best that the others had no idea whatsoever of where he was or where he was going.

He considered at least searching for his beloved Reyalde, but considering the state of mind he had left her in, he knew without much doubt that he would discover that she was in need of him as much now as she had been then. Even she did not know what his mission was, and could not know. He wouldn’t turn away from it even for her. No. Her chances were best served by him completing his quest and returning to her as soon as he could.

Normally, having satisfied his Magus senses, Jallat would have turned his awareness over to his human senses; there was something still bothering him though, as if missing within him, as though it had been taken away from him: something he couldn’t identify; something that had always been with him since he’d first become a Magus was now gone from him. But what was it?

Jallat had been awake for only two or three seconds now. He didn’t decide that it was time to open his eyes; it just became natural to open himself up to his ‘mortal’ physical senses, and even these were more finely tuned than others could hope for.

The first thing he became aware of was the hard ground below him, though there were patches of cold moist vegetable matter beneath him too. Dead vegetable matter: probably bark or dead leaves. Someone had at least tried to make him comfortable in his unconsciousness.

Then the smells: a damp woody smell that couldn’t be explained by just his bedding, made him realise that his entire surroundings were abundant with plant life, both living and once living, now dead.

The other smell that he detected was an animal smell, though not something he was used to. It was nothing like the smell of horses. Suddenly his mind was filled with thoughts of his horse. He’d last seen Meadowstorm, his mount, as she’d galloped away between the trees early in the ambush, in an attempt to lead away some of his attackers. He’d fought on, hoping that she would be safe, but having to battle for his own safety against those of his attackers that remained with him.

Now at last he realised what it was that was missing from his mind. Meadowstorm was no longer there. That horse had been his father’s, linked to Gallanar until the moment he had been slain, when it then became bound to Jallat himself in the same way, just as his father’s memories, his feelings and his talents had also passed to Jallat. But now the presence of the horse that he’d been aware of in his mind since that moment was gone. It could only mean one thing: his horse was dead.

Sounds came to Jallat’s ears; quiet sounds like those of light breathing, and occasionally the sound of soft footsteps padding to and fro, but always at the same distance from his ears. He was not alone.

Jallat opened his eyes.

It was dark, but his acute, Magus eyesight could see well enough, though probably not as well as what he saw before him, some twelve feet away.



It had been wolves that had attacked him. He’d been ambushed by a small pack of them at the edge of the forest. He’d been reluctant to use his talents to fight them because he was still trying to keep his presence here a secret from his fellow Magi, but when he’d tried to escape from the trees, his route had been cut off. He had been forced to turn and ride deeper into the trees, in the hope of shaking off his attackers.

That had been a mistake. His assailants had pursued him, and though they couldn’t possibly have hoped to catch Meadowstorm on the open plains, in the restricted surroundings of the trees, they kept up very well; well enough at least to steer him where they wanted him to go, right into the path of more of their kind.

He turned and somehow managed to escape between the two packs of wolves that now pursued him. Meadowstorm galloped as fast as she was able, swerving between trees as Jallat did all he could to cling on with one hand, as he tried his best to withdraw his sword from its scabbard as he rode. Eventually a break in the trees came into sight and Jallat hoped beyond hope that he was free of the forest. He knew that he hadn’t ridden all the way through it: the forest was vast and covered a large area on the border between Yvoronay and the Empire of Ar. There was no possibility he’d been chased through to the Ar side just yet, but he supposed that Meadowstorm may have taken more turns than he thought and somehow found her way out of the forest near to where they entered.

He was mistaken. They were merely in a large clearing. Meadowstorm stopped, even though their pursuers were not far behind. Jallat knew immediately what his horse’s reasons were. Their thoughts were linked. Jallat looked around to find a tree that he could climb easily enough, but also one that would be too difficult for the wolves to scramble up to get to him. He spotted one and quickly dismounted. He slapped Meadowstorm on her flank, and she galloped off into the trees, back the way they had come, not directly toward them so as to confront them, but at an angle so that the wolves would be aware of her passing close by them.

Jallat ran toward his chosen tree, and began to climb the trunk toward the lower boughs just as the first of the wolves broke into the clearing. He heard their snarls almost on top of him as he scrambled to reach the tree bough and put some distance between him and the ground. He realised that this wasn’t an ideal solution, because he would have no route of escape, but the immediate concern was to avoid the wolves attack.

Behind him, he heard one of the wolves seemingly much closer than before. It jumped for him, and he felt its claws in his back as he heard it snarling in his ear. It dragged him down from the tree trunk and he felt its hot breath on his neck.

The wolf attacked him and for a moment it was surprised. As a Magus, Jallat instinctively protected himself whenever he was under attack. Despite his attempts to not draw attention to his whereabouts by using his talent, he had subconsciously summoned air around him and woven it with his talent of compulsion to form a kind of shield around him. It gave only about as much protection as decent leather armour would, and it wouldn’t deter the wolf for long, but the beast wasn’t expecting it, and momentarily recoiled from Jallat’s neck and raised its head from his back.

That was enough for Jallat. He braced himself upward, throwing the surprised wolf from his back; he rolled over, finally managing to draw his sword, and swung it, slicing across the wolf’s muzzle. It fell aside dead or maimed, Jallat wasn’t sure, but he was able to regain his footing, just as the remaining wolves crossed the clearing toward him. They were a little more cautious in their approach now, seeing the sword in Jallat’s hand and their brother lying bleeding on the ground.

Jallat had his back against his chosen tree, but knew now that he wouldn’t have a chance to scale it: he couldn’t afford to turn his back on the animals that now stood before him, snarling, some of them with foam dripping from their muzzles. Jallat estimated that there were about fourteen of the beasts facing him, though he had no idea how many more there might be, and if any had circled around the clearing to attack him from around the tree he now stood against.

He glanced around himself, never letting his gaze leave the wolves for more than a fraction of a second. The clearing was surrounded on three sides by trees, which grew so close together that he wouldn’t have a chance to escape between them, even if the wolves hadn’t been so much faster than him. On the side of the clearing to his left, was a stone outcrop rising from the forest floor. The wolves were obviously aware that there was no escape in that direction, because they spread out in front of him, favouring the route to his right.

Maybe he couldn’t escape that way, but if he was going to have to fight these beasts, he would rather have that rock behind him than have his back to trees. He estimated that the rocky wall was about twenty five feet away from him, much too far from him to make a dash to, then to turn and defend himself before the wolves attacked.

Of course, if he’d been willing to use his talents, he could have despatched each of the wolves by now, or had them fleeing in terror from him by just suggesting that to them. He decided that in order to survive he would have to turn to his talents, at least in part. He thought about using his talents of summoning. Bringing down fire of any kind was out of the question. It would do as much harm to the forest in this situation and he’d probably find himself trying to escape from a burning forest with angry wolves in pursuit.

He decided that if he used his talent of compulsion he could instil fear into the wolves; using the method enough to make them retreat would undoubtedly be detectable by every other Magus within miles and he wanted to avoid that if he could do, so he decided to cast a weaker compulsion on them, not fear but caution, which might be enough to make them hesitate when their chance to attack came. That would probably gain him some time, but wouldn’t be enough. He decided to summon air too, in such a way as to create a sudden overpowering gust of wind, almost like a pulse of air to push them away.

Of course he would have to do this at the same time as he sent the compulsion. He’d often woven together two or more of his talents to achieve his purposes, but using two of his talents independently of each other was difficult at the best of times, and if he was to make as little an exhibition as possible to any other Magi, he would have to control both talents carefully.

He concentrated: first he summoned air, using his power to draw each of the light breezes running through the trees around him until the air actually felt as though it thickened and began to form a fragile wall in front of him; then he sent out his compulsion to every wolf in the clearing; he could feel in his own mind that each and every one of them suddenly became unexpectedly wary of him. A fraction of a second later, he took control of the air in front of him and pushed outward with such a force that it punched toward the wolves.

They were taken by surprise, some of them even lost their footing; many of them backed away a few paces under the combined forces of the air shock and their new found caution. Jallat seized his chance. He ran to his left, diving and rolling and then rising to his feet again directly in front of the rock wall. He turned just in time as the first wolves to recover sprang toward him.

Jallat swung his sword as well as he could, concentrating his efforts on the wolves that were closest to him. He wasn’t an accomplished swordsman, but knew that swinging and cutting in this way was his only hope, even if it did give the odd wolf the chance to duck in under his sword. He knew that fighting by thrusting his sword would be a big mistake since he’d be fighting only one wolf at once, and that would make him vulnerable to attack from every one of the others.

Again his shield of air helped him to begin with. A number of wolves thrust forward when his sword cuts allowed it, attempting to sink their teeth into his leg or his side, and expected only weak human skin. They were surprised by the resistance he had to their bite. After some time, only four wolves lay dead at his feet, but he was still standing. He realised that he didn’t have the strength to withstand the attacks of the remaining dozen or so for very long.

Suddenly from the opposite side of the clearing, eight more wolves appeared. These were larger than the ones already attacking him, and darker brown in colouring, in contrast to the greyish brown wolves he was engaging in battle right now.

Jallat’s heart sank. His fate was sealed with the appearance of these reinforcements. His journey would end here. His quest was over, doomed to failure. He would never see his lady Reyalde again, let alone be able to save her from the fate he was trying to avoid for her. Not only that, but he firmly believed that the fate of Yvoronay itself was decided. His land’s future was sealed. He had been determined to help the chances of the man who represented their only hope, but now that man would be lost, and his enemy’s will would more than likely prevail.

Suddenly a wolf overcame his Magus shield and sank its teeth into his thigh. He dropped to his knees as another savaged him from the other side, ripping at his torso. Jallat dropped his sword in agony, and after a moment wondered why the rest of the wolves hadn’t followed up the attack. He looked up and noticed that the larger brown newcomers seemed to be doing everything they could to get closer to him, snapping at the grey wolves as they forced their way between them. He heard one of the browns snarling and thought he saw it falling viciously onto one of the greys just as he lost consciousness, falling over onto his back, still breathing, but as good as dead and at the mercy of the wolves.

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