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 To Know Storm and Calm: Part 1 (1 - 6)

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TerishD


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PostSubject: To Know Storm and Calm: Part 1 (1 - 6)   October 17th 2018, 7:44 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter One

(Hallith)

I stood by the grave crying.  I had not been present.  Honestly, I was seldom present in her life.  If there had been any constancy in our relationship, it was due to her devotion to me.  My focus stayed on the god who I had pledged myself to, and my life of traveling had continued.  Coming to what I called home, which was where Kierle resided, I found her children, my children, telling me that she was dead.  I started crying on the way to the grave, and stood there with tears continuing to flow.

Forthy, my oldest, said, "She spoke of you until the last.  She had me promise to always listen to you, and support you if you called for it.  You never gave me a cause to speak against you, so I made the promise without any hesitation."

There were four children, and I saw the other three at a distance.  Two girls worked to get my other boy to approach.  My second child had a hand on the lad, but I saw the other, my youngest, give up and simply start striding my way.  While I had a moment along with my eldest, I provided a response.

"I have done what I could for all of you.  This is not a bad land.  It is as King Dellarkin said it would be.  His son is attempting to continue the policies, and as long as he does you should support him."

As my youngest approached, she only got out, "Sire," before being stopped by a crack of thunder.

I felt a mist, but instead of being comforted I yelled out, "She was not water!  She did not worship you, Zetrullid!  She has always belonged to Aslerrida!"

Suddenly, a bright flame erupted from the grave of my slave.  I had never met the goddess of fire.  While I had met most of the pantheon of my world, Aslerrida had always allowed Kierle to stand for her.  She had been given to me to help me adjust to a more normal life after centuries of going from battle to battle.  I came back to my world not really knowing what a normal life was.  Kierle taught me that, and I was ever grateful.  I thus allowed myself to follow the rites of the goddess of fire when I returned to my slave.  King Dellarkin had requested for two of my immortal friends to settle in his kingdom, but Zetrullid had directed them elsewhere.  I was to go with them, but they needed time to assert their own influence over that territory, so I came to aid this land devoted to Bestolger, the goddess of life.  Since I was here, Kierle came here.  With her being a normal lady, she needed a normal home.  I was a champion of the god of water.  She was a gift from the goddess of fire.  We helped a realm to the goddess of life.  The other gods were taught to our children, but they grew up recognizing the depth a focus on any one deity would require.  There were blessings to such a level of devotion as well, and I looked to the bright flame wondering what Aslerrida would say now that her gift was no longer mine.

It was not the goddess that spoke, but a female hand blazing with the appearance of fire reached out to me.  I did not feel the heat, although sensed that the fire was real.  It did not bother me, as being an opposed element I sometimes had the grace of negating fire depending on a number of factors.  With the touch of the hand not intending harm, I found myself able to safely see the rest of the divine valkyrie.  I am sure that she was lovely, but I was at the grave of one who had shown me love.  I just considered the female form to be a pleasant representation of her gender, and waited for her reason to be with me.

"Kierle is indeed a fire, Hallith.  You are being summoned.  Come with me."

I obeyed.  I always obeyed.  If a portal opened, or a formal request came to me in another manner, I went to serve.  That was my life.  I only turned from the next battle once, and that was to face my god.  On that journey I gained Kierle, and learned that my god was proud of me.  That was all I needed.  I went back to obeying the call of others, and have not found a reason to complain.

Stepping through into a colorful existence where brilliant hues blazed around me, I felt a weight come upon me that I knew.  Kierle had not come to me as a virgin, but as a slave who served her master by gaining money by selling her privacy.  Her only blessing had been that she still had her youth.  The children I placed inside her took their tolls upon her body, as did her own efforts to restore her form to again appear pleasing to me.  I now however saw a much more youthful form than even I remembered, but the way it felt as it kissed me had me recognizing the lady.

Kierle's brown hair blazed in a manner having me think of gold.  Her brown eyes simply shined.  She was dressed in a gown of fiery red.  If she did not continue to touch me, I would have been afraid to touch her.

"My lord, this is wrong.  You deserve better."

I had to ask, "Kierle, am I dead?"

"NO!"  She threw herself upon me and kissed me some more.  "I was given to you to show you a normal life.  I have done that.  It is now time for you to be given a normal life."

"I do not have a normal life."

"But you should!  That was what I was given to you to do.  I was to show you what a normal life was.  What Aslerrida however told me was that you would still be denied, and that is wrong.  That was saying that I did not do my job.  I did my job!  IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO HAVE A NORMAL LIFE!"

I loved my slave, but I would not have her risk her own eternity.  "Kierle, I don't want to die.  I am not complaining.  My life is my life."

"Pesloe and Cornispe are immortal, and they are having a normal life.  Terish and Straekin continue their immortal lives.  You know of many immortal couples who have normal lives.  It is time for you as well."

She pulled me to a divan.  The colors were not only brilliant, but everything radiated.  It was almost difficult for me to look at my surroundings.  Kierle also glowed, but I also felt her love.  In her presence I felt safe, so sat on the divan waiting to hear what more she would say.

"You are a good man, Hallith.  I committed to you just as you did to your calling.  Unlike you, my life could end, and it did.  I did my job, however, and I want the blessing of my job.  It is not in these glorious halls that I feel my reward.  It is in you.  You need a normal life, Hallith."

"Kierle, I might now know what a normal life is, but that does not mean that I am ready to claim it.  The life I have is a good one.  I am doing a lot of good.  I could not ask for more, except for another like you – and there will not ever be another like you."

"YES, Hallith, there will!  There is more love in you.  I did what I could, but there has to be one that will love you even more than me."

I had to look around at the magnificent surroundings before again looking to her.  "I cannot believe that, Kierle."

"HALLITH!"

"KIERLE!"

That was the voice of another female.  My slave slipped from the divan to go to her knees.  I turned to see a magnificent lady who appeared to radiate like a sun.  I also went to my knees to show my respect to this female.

"Hallith, I tried to explain this conversation to Kierle but she persisted.  Another I might have dismissed, but her connection to you forced this response.  You are recognized as something exceptional, Hallith, and Kierle's connection to you caused me to recognize her as being exceptional as well."

I replied to the goddess, "Kierle was always something I praised you for giving to me, Aslerrida."

"And it seems that I underrated her place in your life.  I considered her nothing more than any other lady given to a man, but few come into these halls with such a tie, such a burden, as she came into my presence."

"Let Kierle know that she is immortal as well, Aslerrida.  She can allow the time to pass and see where my path leads me."  My slave hissed my name, which forced me to turn my gaze from the goddess to her.  "No, Kierle.  I am not complaining about my life.  You were a blessing, and gave me a joy in my present life that had not existed centuries before.  I was not seeking you, however.  Now, yes, I might find myself longing for what you taught me.  In the future, I might be ready to see what more a lady in my life might present to me."

"Then I failed."

"NO!"  I believe that I yelled out that word along with the goddess, but I was the one that kept talking.  "Kierle, you have to understand the centuries before you came into my life.  I was just as devoted then.  Without you, I would still be going from fight to fight with nothing in between.  Now I know what more my life can be.  Now I know what pleasures, what fulfillment, can come in the pauses between the battles.  Fine food and fine drink, and even fine women, do not compare with what you gave me.  Yes, I will miss you.  I was crying at your grave, Kierle.  You succeeded wonderfully at your assignment, but you have to understand how ignorant I was in my devotion until you came into my life."

She pressed herself against me while saying, "I loved my life with you, Hallith.  I served with as much devotion as you.  I will not fully rest in these halls until you find another who you can love and who will love you as least as much as what we had for each other."

"I don't believe Aslerrida has ever meant me any harm.  Even though she and Zetrullid are opposed in their aspects, she gave me you.  You should thus not feel yourself in a place that will speak against the love we had.  Trust Aslerrida, Kierle.  You always have, and I see no reason why you should not go into eternity showing her your devotion."

She kissed me once more, then broke to again face the goddess.  I saw something in the hues from Kierle change.  Something about them had them appear more white.  I did not feel that they were more brilliant, but only more pure.  I sensed that things were for the better with Kierle, so turned to face the goddess even as my slave spoke to her.

"I thank you for this time, Aslerrida.  I have always served you, but my service was toward Hallith.  I felt that I had a duty, and I wanted you to know that I would see it through to its completion."

The deity replied, "You have honored both Hallith and me, however much stress you have placed upon us both.  I have heard you, and an answer might have been found.  Hallith, this is however not a gift from me or from any of the gods of this world.  Thus, I cannot speak of any assurance.  Like Kierle, however, there might be something there more than I suspected.  It is up to you to decide."

I replied, "Until that journey where you gave me Kierle, I traveled from world to world.  Never did I find love elsewhere."

"As you have admitted, it took Kierle to have you understand certain possibilities.  Well, now it is time to honor her by acting on your knowledge.  This might not be it, but knowledge of what something is not should be yours as well."

"Of course, Aslerrida.  I did not refuse Kierle, and I will not refuse anything else from you."

"I told you, this isn't from me.  This is also the wrong realm from which to send you.  I am thus sending you back to Kierle's grave.  Take time to prepare, and see to any affairs that your slave might have left behind.  Three days, Hallith, a portal will open at nightfall.  I wish you well."

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Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.


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PostSubject: Chapter Two   October 22nd 2018, 7:46 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Two

(Hallith)

When I appeared back at the gravesite, all four of Kierle's children were there. They rose as if from praying, which they probably were. I did not know whether to join them or speak, but it surprised me to hear the voice of the younger lad.

"You spoke to mother?"

I never had lied to my children, or really anyone, so replied, "Yes, Henton, I did."

"And what did she say?"

The words sounded like an accusation, so I answered really wondering what my younger son wanted to know. "What do you expect? She told me that she loved me."

"A man does not get taken by a divine avatar to simply get told that his deceased lover actually loved them."

"A man whose lover was given to him by a goddess for a purpose does, especially when that lady blazed into the eternal realm demanding that she be allowed to finish her purpose." Hoping to help the lad understand, I added, "I do not have a normal life, and your mother was given to me to help me. That made her life abnormal as well, and death really does not end things for those of us with divine purposes."

"Well, uh, I'm glad that I saw. I really did not believe, Father."

Still hoping to help him, as well as the rest of the children, I said, "Your mother appeared wonderful – more wonderful than even I remembered her. It was her, though. The way she acted. The way she spoke. It was her. Anyway, I have three days. If there is any business that needs to be done, I have some time to assure that her things, which are really my things, are handled. I then will need to pass through a portal to whatever Aslerrida has for me."

Kermoil, my oldest girl, asked, "Will it be another wife?"

"Kierle was not my wife. She however entered the realm of Aslerrida demanding that such be given to me. We both had to explain to Kierle that she was now an immortal as well, and for us things do not happen, do not need to happen, with such speed. However, Aslerrida said that if Kierle indeed showed me what a lady could do for a man, then I should also have knowledge of when such blessings are not present in a relationship. I will try and return to let you know what I found, whether it is to your mother's desire or not."

My oldest said, "She did love you, Father."

"And I loved her. Being pulled into the divine realm because of her should be more than enough evidence of the relationship between us." I felt myself begin to cry again as I said, "I feel that she might have failed in her task, as I don't believe that I could love another or feel that another could stand closer to my heart than her. She wanted, demanded, a wife for me, but she was something special that I doubt any woman, even one worthy of being my equal, could match."

My younger boy rose as he said, "I have seen and heard what I needed. Go in peace, Father."

As he walked away, my older girl said, "He was angry at you for never being around."

I replied, "The immortal women, wives, that I know are able to travel with their husbands. Yes, children and such will tie them to a place for periods, but they still manage to share in the lives of their husbands. Kierle never could do that. She however did enable me to actually call a place a home, and that was something new in my life. She also blessed me with children, and I appreciated your presence when I came home. Thank you for giving me a sense of what life could be. Like I said, I have three days. Let me know what you want or need from me."

King Dellarkin and his family tried to tie up my time more than my own children. In a way, such was proper. I however did not allow myself to ignore the lives I helped bring into this world, and spent periods with each to assure that they were in a comfortable place in their lives. Of course with youths such grace is poorly conceived, so I worked to check on their beliefs about their goals to assure that they did have some chance to gain their desires. I used my time with King Dellarkin to hopefully set things in place for a good future for Kierle's children, and in doing such things felt that I could leave things without disrupting her faith in me.

I found a number coming to the castle as I prepared to leave. I considered it strange, as I had moved to and from the kingdom several times. I got the impression that the locals had considered my presence a part of their lives, but with the death of Kierle understood that I no longer had ties to their land. As an act of kindness for what I had done for the monarchs and them, a number of local citizens, including my children through Kierle, came to see me off.

Cheers sounded when the portal opened. That took me by surprise on a number of levels. In the first case I really did not think others could see the portals. If they could see them then they should have seen them several times as I left or entered on some mission for the gods. The thought of those more comfortable with facing the public came to me, but I did not emulate their moves. I knew if I turned my head with the intention of smiling before I left I would again start crying, as I had considered these people as close. I thus just signaled my horse to go through the portal in the usual manner.

I came out on a path through a forest. The trees were not thick and with little underbrush. My first thoughts in looking around were of being in pleasant surroundings. I knew better than to think that everything would stay calm. I just whispered a prayer to my god saying that I was grateful to have time to care for my horse. I listened for sounds of a stream, and turned my horse in a direction where I thought I could leave the animal in a place where it might survive.

Tears came to my eyes as I did find a nice place where my mount could get something to drink. I thought to tell Kierle of this place, then I remembered what I had planned to tell her when I instead needed to go to her grave. Thoughts of forcing myself to think of how she appeared in the home of Aslerrida did not stop the flow of water from my eyes. Kierle was dead, and I would not be able to share things with her for ages. Being immortal, I knew we would not see each other again for much longer than was usual. While just a slave, she had been a gift from a goddess. I treasured Kierle, and no longer having her in my life I felt to be a horrible thing. I only was able to dry the flow of tears by saying a prayer to my god telling him to let Aslerrida know how lonely I felt with the passing of her servant.

Rising I noticed that the sky was beginning to darken. Considering that I left right at nightfall, I found myself appreciating that I had any light for a time. I did not set out any bedroll or prepare any meal. That was not the type of life that I lived. I rose to get my sword and go through some routines preparing myself for whatever I would notice happening.

Screams, yep, that got me moving. It did bother me that I usually had to hear people yelling before I went into action. The problem with moving between different communities, often completely different worlds, was that I could not simply figure out things for myself. Those that knew what was unusual, or simply wrong, about things in the area needed to alert me, which was most often done by someone screaming.

I took off through the woods. I had noted the lack of underbrush, but I still encountered spider webs. The roots of trees were also a problem in places. None of that was new to me, so I handled the situations as I moved through the woods.

No tears were shed seeing a child's leg being bitten. It is not that I did not feel for the youngster, but I felt glad to have certain proof of who was my enemy. I was already running with my sword in my hand. With just a slight change of my path I rushed upon the strange cow-like creature and took off the head along with most of its right shoulder. Caught the child, then set it down while wrapping the leg with a cloth.

"Thank you, Mister."

I had more enemies, but my time of having children in the place I called home caused me to stop and speak. "Take care of that leg. It might hurt, but you need to keep that wound clean."

"I will."

That was all the time I allowed. Others were screaming, so I moved on. The bovine appearance of the first monster did not actually clue me in. I however came to believe that I was battling minotaurs. They were not a singular type of creature, but I felt that the town had been rushed by a whole group of the monsters. Some had horns and actually used large axes as I felt minotaurs should. Others were without anything growing from their heads, and swung staves or small weapons at me. They all were doing cruel things to the normal people, so I continued to use my time targeting the bovine creatures.

Being a large man and using a weapon that often had me needing a second hand to properly power a blow, missing usually caused problems. These minotaurs, if they were indeed minotaurs, were however rather large as well, so easy to target. Also, the buildings were constructed with solid lengths of wood used to frame the structures. If I did strike a wall, I found myself needing to pull free my blade and not pulling the whole building down when I did. A few times I needed to go inside a home, but on those occasions the damage to furniture could be blamed more on the monster than my own blows.

Whenever I found myself without a clear opponent, I rushed to the one in the direction that I heard screaming. In such a manner I moved through the town without any clear direction. I however felt that I had followed the proper path upon finding one set of monsters dragging people toward one creature larger than any minotaur I had seen. The horns on its head also did not resemble any cow that I knew. I looked at the monster that seemed to control the ones attacking the citizens, and rushed screaming at it how much I enjoyed killing demons.

There was a time I could expect help fighting such monsters. For over four hundred years I waged my battles with three companions. We had not really disbanded, but our separate personalities had caused us to split up. Sometimes I would find myself joining with Anerth and those he now mentored. In those cases I was a respected elder teaching those still new to the life of being a divine champion. Pesloe would often have me accompany her husband on some mission, and she would join me as well if things about the house would allow her. Chertish did not need to summon me, as he lived on the holy mountain of our deity and had an army to fight his battles. I found time to spend with him however, as he had declined the blessing of immortality so would one day also leave this plane of existence. In this fight none joined me in fighting the monsters, but after centuries the maneuvers and demands on the body were well known to me.

When the large being dispersed in an obnoxious cloud, the minotaurs suddenly lost their thirst for attacking the people. I saw them begin to leave the town. I killed those that tried to pass me, but soon the streets became clear of monsters. I thus set my sword back on my person, and waved to the people I passed as I headed back to my mount.

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Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
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PostSubject: Chapter Three   October 27th 2018, 7:47 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Three

(Slidell)

I listened carefully to what Zergus said as he prayed to our goddess. I felt his frustration in not getting a response. That had been happening quite a lot recently, especially to him. He had accepted my suggestion to ask our goddess for instruction, for a rational explanation, with strong promises to atone for any error. While I had listened as he did make such prayers, our goddess continued to not speak to him.

He returned to where I cooked some bread and eggs to say, "I really do not understand. Nemerry should be more than willing to speak. I mean, someone helped us. Surely she would want us to know a friend."

I had to reply, "Nemerry has not told me his identity either, Zergus. I have however heard her tell me that I should indeed consider that person a friend."

"No name?"

"No. Not even any indication of what deity he claims. Someone who took on Eberthall, single-handedly, surely has a focus."

"Yes. The locals said that he just went right on up to him and took on the fight."

It troubled me that Zergus somehow managed to say those words while eating. Such was not the way of calm. There were times for all things. If he felt it was the time for eating then he should have done that. A mouthful did not take that long to chew, then swallow. It troubled me that he did not have the calm thoughts evident in his manners, and I wondered if it revealed a reason for Nemerry to not say any words to him.

I exaggerated my chewing and swallowing to try and remind him of proper behavior before I said, "And they said he was nice."

"And huge."

I had started to eat my own food. The words from Zergus however had me pause to look at him. He smiled seeing me look to him, then felt a need to explain what he said. I felt relieved that this time he spoke without having food in his mouth.

"I mean, well, a big man. Someone of his size and power should be known to us, and I mean besides hearing his name from our goddess." He went back to eating, then again spoke with food still in his mouth. "Why would Nemerry need to tell us that this guy was a friend?"

I swallowed before answering, "I don't know. Considering the way he comes and goes, maybe to prevent any confusion should we encounter him in combat."

"Probably will if he follows the minotaurs. Eberthall was only one of those stirring them up. We need to head north to Keverston. I believe that their focus is there. Bornima came to power after the death of his father, and I believe is working the storm, Thor forgive me should I be wrong, that drives the minotaurs."

I did not like those words, but understood enough to only want to hear them put in the proper perspective. "That is all?"

"Yes, Slidell, that is all. Of course, I cannot say that something else will come up. I swear that things are happening that we have not been told about. I am not causing these eruptions, Slidell."

There truly was no way that I could blame him for the situations we were handling. Never had I seen such a series of eruptions forcing our civilization as a whole from a period of calm. Something was not right, and it was my duty and that of Zergus to resolve them. The silence of our goddess did not help my attitude either, especially since it was calm that I desired. The unsettled events however did not speak to my heart, and with my acceptance of Zergus to have my heart I did find myself placing some blame on him for our situation.

I went to the water to finish my preparations before starting my day. I sought privacy as I removed my garments. It was not that Zergus had not seen, but my mood would not have me take pleasure in his gaze. The garments that I had worn during the night would not suffice during the day. The movement of my chest, while I did find pleasing, would distract me and others, especially the men. I thus washed my breasts in water that I knew to be from the grace of Nemerry, then put on the tight garments. After adjusting my womanly mounds, I pulled taught the laces, then put on the armor purposely made small to again assure that certain movements would not disrupt my day.

For more years than a normal human life I had fought for my goddess. While accepting the praise of others, I had come to feel that I was not understanding. Hoping to calm my mind, I found myself seeking the wisdom from others. Zergus did not bring me the relief I desired, but I did enjoy his perspective. I trusted him. Something however had gone wrong, but I could not say that it was truly his fault. I at least did occasionally hear the voice of Nemerry, while Zergus did not. I found myself confused, and the one I sought to share my life with was not able to direct me toward what I sought as a return to a normal human life.

I felt a desire to make my own plea to the goddess. My time was usually in the calm of the evening however. Before I released my body from the shell that enabled me to keep my focus during the day, I would speak to Nemerry of my thoughts of what I had done. Something still was not right in my life however. I wanted to make my plea to my goddess, but prepared for my day hoping for some guidance in a manner other than a conversation with someone divine.

The minotaurs had come from Chechavar, at least most of them. Some did try to hide in places where they could get a little better access to certain types of food. I knew a community existed in the ruins of the old town destroyed by a lava flow. The cooling magma had created rough ground both from its destruction of the existing buildings and its own rock twisting and cracking. The minotaurs actually moved over the broken terrain well, so had avoided those who had worked to clear them out. Food had been limited in that environment however, so they had come out from Chechavar with the promise of being offered the chance to claim better homes.

It took Zergus and me only a short amount of time to determine what route to take to Keverston. The paths we noticed some groups of them taking were not direct, but we felt the alternate paths were to gain the support of other minotaur groups. We both felt certain that the route of the main force to Keverston would be more direct, and spurred our horses on to hopefully catch up with the bovine people.

We kept a fast pace. The rate was one that was not unusual for our horses. They knew we would give them special treatment, so devotedly kept their legs moving. Seeing smoke ahead, then the screams of people, I kicked my mount to manage an even faster pace.

It was nothing more than a secluded community. They surely usually managed to survive the incursion of others by a minor wall, the devoted fighting spirit of the men, and no indication of wealth. The minotaurs however were seeking better places to call home, and the community probably offered more than they had in the ruins of Chechavar.

No gate existed in the levee around the settlement. At least what I saw the minotaurs using appeared to be a destroyed section of the earth barrier, and not just a broken set of gates. Zergus and I both felt that the opening would be a good place to mount our initial attacks. We used lances to slay those attempting to establish a front defensive position. With those minotaurs killed, we both established ourselves as serious threats forcing others seeking to enter the settlement to turn around.

One advantage to the bovine people was that they did not use range. They were larger than either Zergus or me, so any projectile would probably hit their own companions instead of us. They also trusted in their size and speed to give them the advantage. There were problems in the tactics of a storm. While the skies would rage, very little on the ground usually suffered. With planning, one could stay comfortable and dry. The same advantage could apply in battle, as Zergus and I displayed our skills to survive in spite of the threats.

After dropping a few of the beasts, I headed to a point on the wall other than the torn down section. Those of the settlement obviously felt their wall would protect them, but while completely surrounding their homes they had grooves for moving up and down the barrier. The hoofed hands and feet of the minotaurs did give them some deftness in rough terrain, but the handholds and footholds were made for men and not for other types of creatures. As the bovine people came back through their opening, I was climbing up the wall in a manner they could not.

Something had me turn my head. With all the noises from the community, I could not believe that the snort of a horse caught my ears. I however turned my head to see a mount quite different than mine or that of Zergus off in the woods in another direction. Wondering about who else could be present, I looked into the city. I noticed that a section of the settlement from the point where someone would have left the horse and climbed the wall to a place near the center of town was free of minotaurs. They were massed around the collapsed section of wall, and I turned my head realizing that while some sought to attack Zergus or me, most were simply seeking to flee from the cleared section of town.

I jumped from the wall to the roof of a home. The door had been broken in, as had a window, but the tiles over the structure were still in place. The top of the levee did not give me much to gain some momentum before jumping, but the distance was not that far. The leap was not one of my best, but the tiles were of wood that had dried and cracked, so I did not slide off as I might had done if it had been made of other materials.

Scrambling to the top, I looked over to see the cleared area. There were some minotaurs massed as if to fight someone. I ran down to gain momentum to help power my jump to the roof of the next home. Moving to the top of it, I looked down to see into the cleared area.

The man was big, and he wielded a rather large sword. Two minotaurs had been skewered, and I saw him set them against a wall as if to provide even more of a barrier. The sight frightened the other minotaurs, and they held back. The man bent over and signaled, then I saw a child climb out from some broken boxes. While large, I still felt the man should be worried about the number of remaining minotaurs. He however darted to grab a ball and roll it in a direction. A doll was picked up to be handed to the child, then it ran in the direction the ball had been sent. I saw the man actually smile as he gained his sword by jerking it from the bodies that had sheathed it before returning to the battle.

He was not storm. He was not rain. He did not rage. He did not seek a quick end to the combat. He moved with the practice of regular training, but performed little stunts to take advantage of openings in combat or to have a minotaur suffer from a mistake that it made. The large weapon did move long or wide at times to cause damage to property, but I could tell that he did show concern for his actions.

Hearing my name, I turned back to aid Zergus. He had been holding his own, but his tactics had been expecting my presence to work with his steps. I apologized, only admitting that I wanted to get a sense of the opposition. Zergus accepted my words, and as I fell into the rhythm he had established neither of us worried about the commitment of the other.

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PostSubject: Chapter Four   November 1st 2018, 7:50 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Four

(Hallith)

I was not taken after battling the monsters. When I was with the Quartermasters, that was what happened. After we finished wiping out one great evil, a portal opened and we would be taken to another world where great evil was working its influence. Anerth was back out doing that with some other champions. These were not all devoted to Zetrullid, but they also were not unaware of their decision or the requirements of their calling. I had been summoned however to help these new Quartermasters adjust to a life of stressful situation after stressful situation. I arrived to hear them huffing and puffing. I took to the combat joking with Anerth only to hear the others mention that I had not been days already weary from combat. A few days later I was still joking with Anerth while they could barely keep their eyes open or lift a weapon. They however had stopped griping, but accepted the requirements of their new occupation. Hearing that, Anerth and I called for a stop after we finished battling the monsters we were presently up against.

Panting, the champion of Kakellar asked, "That’s all we had to do? Call for a stop?"

Anerth set into the man letting him and the others know the possible results of the rest. He spoke of the evils we had battled in the days I had been with them. He mentioned the people we had helped. He then asked them, in tones letting them know that there was no need to answer, about what those people would have suffered if we had not helped them. He then spoke of who we possibly might not be helping as we took a rest. I prepared to leave as I heard all three now traveling with Anerth tell him that they would not rest for long.

The new female member was a champion of Bestolger, and she asked me, "Hallith, you don't care about these people?"

"They are not my people and do not worship our gods," I replied.

"But they have lives and loves as well as those of our world."

"You do not have either as a Quartermaster. I now have both. At present my love is just a slave given to me by Aslerrida, but I do treasure her presence in my life. I am not going to leave her. It is not the breaks that I treasure, but what I have in those breaks. I am here for you, Quartermasters, should you ever need me. I however am no longer a Quartermaster. This is a great life, but I have not considered it to be my life. Anerth does, and I will ever treasure his friendship. He is a good man, and I feel all of you will become good people traveling with him. Should you eventually however feel a void in your constant struggle to rescue the oppressed from evil, remember the very gods who sponsored you. Feel able to return to them for instruction and direction to your life."

At my call a portal opened, and I traveled back to the home where Kierle cared for the children. She was now dead, so I had no one to return to. After battling the monsters, I realized that they were moving on. Not having anything else to do, I decided to follow them and not call a portal back to my world.

I thought of my life with the Quartermasters as I followed the minotaurs. There were times when we followed a force of monsters. We considered those pleasant periods, as we could rest in the saddle. The stress of that life was constant with us considering things calm when we were not directly engaged in combat. It became a time of us resting in the saddle while our mounts carried us, then the animals resting while we risked our lives in taking on those we followed.

One thing about the life I now had was the access to things. No longer was my mount simply some convenient animal that I claimed. The stress of my life as a Quartermaster often took the lives of the animals I chose to carry me. Now I could take the time to choose my mounts. I also had access to those who trained horses for a life of moving between worlds and facing unknown dangers.

Coming to the holding I felt that the horse needed a rest. It was a good animal, so I did try to do things for it to keep it satisfied with its life. I set it in a place where it could graze. I did not remove the saddle and other things it carried, as I felt it might need the protection. Assuring the horse that I would stay and talk with the people if at all possible, giving it time to rest and eat, I left it to battle more minotaurs.

I actually enjoyed battles where the monsters were clearly distinguishable from the regular people. The hardest battles were those where good and bad were just in their motives and actions. It helped that I did not get called in to solve normal disputes, but true manifestations of things being very wrong. My life now allowed me to speak with those who battled injustice in lesser forms, or simply chose sides in situations where no true evil existed. While I felt more knowledgeable about the range of situations that could disturb a normal life, I still preferred facing those dilemmas where the opposing sides were easily distinguished from each other.

There are those who do not enjoy combat. I never met those as a Quartermaster. We would enter areas where there was a serious problem, and it took directly facing the threat to remove it. Often it would be admitted to us that one reason for the evil to have grown was that no one dealt with the situation in its early stages. Since leaving the Quartermasters, I became aware of communities where those not wanting conflict allowed for minor disturbing influences to continue unpunished. I would however confront those involved in such activities, although had found myself in return facing those who thought combat was the wrong solution to their problems.

By the time I entered the holding, the locals had been overrun. Whatever defenses they had established had been overcome by the minotaurs. I climbed over the wall to find the monsters in the streets with only a few fools thinking they could still claim victory. Most were in conditions of extreme weariness, although I could not fault them for still having fight in them. A few innocents were trapped. I rescued or relieved those I could while moving through the holding ridding it of those who had invaded to ruin what lives the local had sought for themselves.

Finding themselves facing serious opposition, the minotaurs fled. To help convince the monsters to move on, the locals who had been cowering came out to show they could still put up a struggle. I did what I could to assure the locals that no minotaurs remained, then thought to go back to my horse.

"You're not storm?"

The question came from a man who had taken up the fight with me. The phrase however had me look to the sky. There were clouds, but nothing that appeared to be a coming rain, much less a storm. I thus decided it best to return a question to the man.

"What would I do if I was storm?"

"Go after them."

The response actually made sense to me, but I let him know that I felt my job was not yet finished. "I probably will, but you need to assure that you can return to your life. Anything you would like for me to do to help you restore things?"

A lady asked, "Mister, are you hungry?"

I only nodded, considering that the food would need to be prepared. I also felt that there was work to do. While surely not my work, I did feel a need to help these people return to their lives. I only guess that she noticed I did not follow her, but I considered it a good thing that she did not speak of the food.

"It's calm. Do you seek the storm?"

I looked to her to say, "I seek to assure that there is a resolution. You have a life here. While it was disrupted, I feel a need to see that you can return to your life."

"Who is this that seeks concern for our lives?"

"I am Hallith."

A man who was checking the frame of a doorway called out an explanation, "She is asking what god do you support."

"You would not know him. I am from another world."

A number of the locals turned their attention upon me as the lady asked, "Why are you here?"

Not really having an answer, I did my best to explain. "I was one of the Quartermasters. We went from world to world battling evil. It however was not a life, and I sought to learn what life was. One taught me. A very special lady that was a gift from another god showed me what a normal life was. I am not a normal man however, so found myself wondering what type of life I could have. I was supposedly sent here to see if there was something here that would satisfy me."

An elderly lady said, "We know of the Quartermasters. They are of the storm."

Feeling that I was gaining a sense of a certain use of terminology, I replied, "Yes, it is a rough life. You go from serious battle to serious battle. The only pauses are when the conflicts are centered in governments or leaders, and you have to face the issues troubling the people in order to find the one truly causing the problems. I am not ashamed of those centuries, but it was not my life."

The lady that had asked me if I was hungry said, "Life? Ha! What god is it that cares about life?"

"My god is Zetrullid, a water deity. The one that taught me was however Aslerrida – fire."

"We only have one fire god, Vulcan. We however have two of water: Thor and Nemerry. Storm and the gentle rain. Same with wind. There is Typhorsh, the strong wind, and Myriah, the gentle breeze or maybe even no breeze at all. We thus constantly pray for a balance, and constantly have our prayers unanswered."

"And yet you have people like me fighting hard to assure that you keep what you have, and wishing that we had it ourselves."

The elderly lady said, "Come, eat, Hallith. You helped us, so we are willing to help you. Maybe we can see each other in better times. If not in this life, the next."

"I am told that there is movement between the worlds of the next life as well. If you ever meet a lady by the name of Kierle, let her know about me. She was a wonderful gift, and I miss her."

"I doubt that I will make it to the next life, so as you eat I will tell you of myself. That way when you meet this Kierle, you can let her know about me. In that manner, I can live on in some fashion."

As morbid as it sounded, I felt it to be a good thing. I did want to hear the stories of others. That was one blessing of this life I now had. I thus ate and spoke with the locals of this holding before leaving to return to my horse and chasing after the minotaurs.

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PostSubject: Chapter Five   November 6th 2018, 7:33 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Five

(Slidell)

It bothered me that I did not see the man behind us. The words of the people came back to me saying that he was nice. The memory mixed with my own vision of him stopping in the midst of battle to grab things for a child. Realizing that the people would barely even know that we were there settled on me. I found myself wondering if I would rather be that man.

"Slidell," Zergus screamed at me, "pick up your speed!"

I pulled the reins on my horse while yelling back, "We are not storm!"

He had to stop his mount, then have it canter back before replying, "What? No!" He turned in the saddle to point while stressing, "They are storm! Think of us as just a pleasant shower blown along by Typhorsh."

"There is something wrong, Zergus. I can feel it."

"Slidell, there is more than something wrong, and we need to stop it."

I could not think of one time I stopped to help a child or pick up a toy. Even when I truly had calm, I dealt with matters of court and politics. I thought back on recent memories, and found the vision of the man helping the child to be something I lacked in my life.

"There is something wrong with what we are doing, Zergus."

"Listen, could we discuss this another time – like when people aren't facing death? I mean, come on! After this we just leave this life. Calm will be our days."

His words struck me as true, but they did not bring me peace. I in fact considered the weight that things were wrong to be stronger in my mind. What the strange man had done meant a lot to me. In the midst of the fight, he had helped a child. I thought that to be a wonderful thing to do, and in all my years I had never considered it. Zergus worked to speak words about us needing to bring peace to others while I wondered about my own heart.

"Slidell, really, the minotaurs are pulling ahead."

"Uh, yes." He was correct about the threat needing to be stopped, so I started my horse moving but not at a rate that would prevent us from speaking to each other. "Why do you want us to travel at such a rate of speed?"

"What?"

"You are saying that we need to ride as if blown by storm."

I felt it a good sign that he allowed his horse to match the pace of my own. "We don't live as storm, Slidell. We fight with the intensity of our opponents, but we fight as calm. The same can happen with our rate of travel. There are steps, maneuvers that we do that storm will not."

Unable to recall any act of kindness done while in combat, I said, "No. We fight as storm."

"Slidell, this is no time to reevaluate combat moves. It is time to get ready for combat."

I signaled my steed to again gallop. While Zergus sounded his support for my action, I sought to mentally consider our location and where the nearest temple to Nemerry would be. Realizing that it was far on the other side of the city we were racing to aid, I settled my mind and body to blend with the motions of my galloping mount.

We came upon another rear group of minotaurs. As we fought them, I found myself wondering about my life. I however could not fault my actions, accepting that I acted as taught. Seeing myself facing a young minotaur, I however wondered if my training was correct.

Instead of striking as I should, I backed to instead block as I asked, "Did you come to die, or gain the honor of combat?"

"You will die."

His words sounded as nothing more than the youth repeating lines he had heard. While he probably intended to be scary, he did not have the size, the poise, or even the expression that would have me concerned for my life. Wanting him to understand that he was involved in something bigger than him, something that would probably result in his death, I considered ways of helping him. Wanting nothing more than to help the youth, I considered how I might get him to fear what he was doing.

I sheathed my sword. I then just checked the location of my flail. The shield stayed at the ready, but I held up an open hand when I spoke again.

"Okay, go for it."

One of the elder minotaurs thought to take advantage of the opening. My shield however came across with its edge meeting the handle of the flail the minotaur wielded. The blow to the wood length jarred the grip on it while the metal head simply plopped on the top of my shield. I quickly grabbed my own flail, and sent it through the opening into the jaw of the elder minotaur.

As the youth watched the more experienced of its race drop, I set my flail back into position as I said, "Still waiting."

I saw unease in the stance of the young minotaur as it said, "We were hungry."

"Yes, but there is a cure for that. It is called food. Combat does not fill the stomach at all." Before he could speak further, I added, "I did not see the others raiding the food bins, but just killing people."

"We will eat you."

Another phrase he probably intended to scare me with, but I held my place as I said, "Food bins do not fight back."

Another minotaur spoke to the youth, "Don't listen to her. Attack. I will flank, as will others, and we will overcome her."

I pulled my sword while making a step to the side. With a thrust I seriously hurt the one that spoke. Lifting my shield, I smiled hearing the pound of it stopping another weapon. Knowing that there was an opponent in that position, I turned while pulling the sword out of one minotaur then using my spin to provide the momentum to send the edge into another. I then sheathed my sword while again taking a position in front of the youth.

"I'm still waiting."

The minotaurs broke and ran. I saw the youth join them. They however did not run in a direction stating that they were leaving the battle, but rushed to catch up with the main force.

Zergus came to me and asked, "What were you doing? Showing off?"

"Trying to save a youth," I replied.

"A youth? He will just grow up into another minotaur."

"We're not storm! We can trade with the minotaurs. There can be peace. I was trying to give the lad a chance to direct his life to calm."

"I think they are innately storm. I certainly do not remember minotaurs that wanted peace."

Attempting to get Zergus to understand, I stressed, "Then we are at fault."

He did not say anything, but simply turned to head to his horse. Not really wanting to argue either, I also began moving to my mount. As I did, I thought of myself as helping a child. Wanting Zergus to hear me, I said my thoughts out loud.

"That was fun." I suddenly had a thought, and found myself looking to see if the man had his eyes directed at me while saying, "I can also talk about that."

"What?"

"With other people, I can talk about what I did with the young minotaur. That is a story that I can relate."

He had a look of attempting to make sense of my remarks as he replied, "Yes, I guess. I guess that you would want things to speak to others about while you tend to a house."

That response confused me. I had been looking to ending my service. I however planned on having Zergus with me. He could understand my remarks. He could listen to my stories with the knowledge of knowing what was truly important. What confused me was that I wondered what he expected to talk to people about.

Once again I did not start a gallop, but only had my horse manage a leisurely pace while I asked Zergus the question that had come to me. "You will be about the house as well. Why don't you want things to talk about?"

"There will be work to do. Not housework, but things about the property. I will talk about that, along with discussing the movements of animals to judge when to hunt or fish."

Attempting to make a point, I asked, "Will that be enough for you? All these years, and you do not consider them worth discussing?"

"We faced those problems and dealt with them. There is now nothing to discuss about them. We served willingly, we served the greater good, and we found love with the desire to serve each other. There will be things to discuss, Slidell, but these years will just be memories of us rising above most others to keep life worth living."

"But we are heroes because of our work in facing those problems."

"The fact that people will speak of me as having earned my station will be enough. I will not brag on my past glory, but on what I am doing to maintain my life."

His answer did not satisfy me. I thought of the strange man I had seen. I felt that the reason I had yet to see him was because he stayed and spoke with the people and probably even the minotaurs. The words of the people telling me that he was nice again rang into my head, and I thought the only way that they would know was if they had spoken with him. I had been too far away to hear, but I felt that he spoke to the child. He probably also heard the calls of others, which was why he rolled the ball in the direction he did. I wondered if people would consider me nice. Not being certain did not have me satisfied with my own life.

Zergus said, "Come on, Slidell!"

Those words had me realize that I did not think of him as nice. He was not mean, but I could not say that he was nice. Zergus treated me well, and he treated others with respect, but I could not say that he was nice.

I felt a need to say, "We have not wasted our lives, Zergus. We should be proud of what we have done, and want to speak of these events to others, especially our children."

"I guess. I mean, yes, they probably should want to follow us. It would be good to have them take on this life."

The emotions I was feeling caused me to say, "And I would like for them to be nice people. Even if they are working to keep things calm, they really should be nice."

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PostSubject: Chapter Six   November 11th 2018, 7:46 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Six

(Hallith)

In my opinion, minotaur was too close to human in appearance to allow me to eat them. Considering on this world the race of the bovine people were said to actually have been conceived from humans mating with cattle, that just settled the issue with me that eating a minotaur would be improper. In any event, the food they served me was prepared long before any of the bovine creatures were killed. The locals however did ask my opinion as I set myself to leave. I told them my opinion, and I believe it settled their minds not to eat them.

The locals had given me directions concerning the movement of the main force of minotaurs. I really did not know this world, but I had looked at the terrain enough to assure myself of basic directions. The locals told me of rumors concerning some disruptions in the larger cities, which had set up conditions for others to assert some influence they usually would not have. In speaking of the one I ended up fighting, the information agreed that the minotaurs were minions of some other power and not ones that were usually a threat. I had no reason to argue with the locals, so accepted their directions and took off expecting to fight some more.

My horse and I were ready for a break when we came upon a number of dead minotaurs. There was a mention of others also fighting some of the monsters near the destroyed section of wall. I thus had to assume that another encounter had occurred between the minotaurs and those that opposed them. No dead humans, so I felt that they were a skilled group. Wondering if I would meet them, or a larger army prepared to fight the bovine invaders, I mounted my horse and signaled for a return to our movement.

Those that gave me directions mentioned that it would be at least two more days to reach the destination of Keverston. They confided to me how the minotaurs would usually not travel at night, so I could use some of the dark hours to gain upon them. As the sun went down I relayed that information to my horse. I really did not believe the animal understood me, but it calmly allowed me to continue on its back until it was just too dark to see when our route had us pass under some trees.

I brought the horse out to a place where I could tell grass grew. As I unloaded the animal and tended to it, it calmly fed letting me know that it did not sense any predators. Some fires could be seen in the distance, but not near the number I felt should be present in such a setting. Accepting that the locals probably knew things, I munched on what food I had been given while using my blankets for warmth.

My centuries of going from one trouble to the next taught me not to get too much sleep. Periods of deep slumber were appreciated, but otherwise I would rest during moments of the day. One reason I preferred traveling by horse was that it allowed me to doze off while still maintaining my mission. Kierle learned the very first night we both spent with each other that I would sleep little, but being fire she did not mind the constant activity. Alone in a strange environment with only a blanket for warmth, I did not sleep long and awoke feeling the need to get back to moving.

As the sun rose in the sky, I saw a form appearing unsteady as it sat on a log. I rode up to see a large bull minotaur wrapped in a blanket. It was obvious that he was old. One horn had been broken at some time in the past. The other appeared thick as if he had covered it with substances to protect it. There was gray in the hair on his face, and I saw it rippled as if the skin beneath had wrinkled. It looked at me as I approached, but did not get up from the log.

"If you are going to kill me, I ask that you make it quick."

I dismounted while asking, "Will I be doing you a favor, or just doing something efficiently that is going to happen anyway?"

"I swear I felt Vulcan's heat when the call for this battle blazed through our community, but I just cannot feel the fire any longer."

"I was not with my slave when she died, but she was fire as well. I loved her, and I have no doubt that she loved me. Since you are fire, I will stay with you for a time."

I got out some cheese, then looked to him to ask if he wanted water or wine. He told me that water would not help him, so I brought a bottle of wine as well. I filled a glass for me, then offered him the bottle. He took it while saying that he was not hungry.

After taking a drink, he asked, "Are you going to kill me?"

"If I do, it will be out of kindness. My mind however is not satisfied that is what I will be doing however, so I figured we could talk a while. You might just be feeling the weariness of a cold morning, and once your body warms up be ready to face life for another day."

"Then you will kill me for another reason?"

"No, then I will just ride on. You won't be there for the main battle, and you might do everyone a favor by talking some sense into those youngsters who survive."

He just stared at me for a time, then drank some more of the wine, then stared at me a while longer before saying, "We need more level heads like that. What I hear, now that I have time to think about it, is all foolishness."

"What are they saying?"

"That the gods are going to be killed. They say that the balance is being challenged. People are attempting to make things all one way."

I almost asked about good and evil, but then remembered the way these people thought. "I assume those that support the storm are believing they can eradicate the calm."

"No, but the other way around. Can you believe it? This war was started because those desiring calm gained the fire to challenge those that like the rage."

"So, your people are supporting the rage?"

"I believe that was how it started, but the one preaching did not find us listening. He then changed the message to one of us needing to establish ourselves in a better place. He spoke of this being a changing time, and of us needing to assure that we were in a good position before a new age established its order. That is what built the fire within us."

I ate some of my cheese while he talked. He did get offered some, but shook his head. After washing it down, I felt that he had said all he had to say.

"Well, it sounds like the situations where I get involved. I will thus be going."

"I think we were being lied to. Not entirely, but what was said sounded less like empty promises but more like outright lies. I don't think the one causing this is from our world. He just seemed to think differently. That is how he fooled us. He spoke in a manner we were not used to."

I went to my horse, then pulled out another bottle of wine, and as I handed it to him I said, "Now this definitely sounds like something that involves me. I am not from your world either. What you said really does not help me understand the words of the one that sent me here, even though I do not believe that I was lied to. Still, I thank you for talking to me."

"The one that sent you here, what did he tell you?"

"She – Aslerrida, the goddess of fire, the one my slave worshipped. She told me that now I had been taught what a normal life was, that I might be able to find someone to actually share my life with. She however warned me that it was my heart, but that since I now knew what a normal life was I should be able to recognize when it is not."

"If you were taught that there is something like a normal life, you were lied to. There is no such thing – or the reverse, all lives are normal. We all live normal lives, whether we like our lives or not."

Those words caused me to tell the aged minotaur more about myself. "I loved her. She was nothing but a slave, but I gave her what time I could and she gave me all she had when I had her, then took care of what I left in her presence when I was away. She set a pretty high bar for what I will consider a normal life."

A hand left its hold on the blanket. I saw that it moved upon its person. When it came toward me, it held something.

"This is the icon of Vulcan. Our fire god should respect one sent by a fire goddess. When you see Vulcan, or just enter one of his temples, you show him this, tell him where you got it, and what words you said to have it given to you."

I took it, but replied, "I, personally, am not fire, but water."

"That is between you and Vulcan. Do not trust our water gods, because they are opposed. Thor is storm and Nemerry is a gentle rain. Neither is good."

Did not really know how to respond to that, but I felt that I needed to try. "Well, if there is one thing I have learned, my god is a good one. He has treated me and others that I know more than fairly. Aslerrida, while an opposing aspect, has done a lot for me. Met many who worshipped other gods, of my world and others, and I have found that most were good. I thus will keep your words in mind, but will listen to others."

"Those ahead of you were lied to. Of that I am now certain. If you find them starting to question how their fire is burning, allow them to return. Whatever you do, don't support the lie."

Sounded like good advice to me. "If I know what one thing is then I should be able to know what it is not. That is why I had to talk to you. Thank you for your time."

"Thank you as well. I needed to speak to someone with a level head. That is not what you are going to find on this world. Either the storm or the calm. One always hopes for some balance, but the gods pull the souls of the people to one extreme or the other. There is something wrong there, but I have never figured it out."

"Well, I hope that we are both honored for at least trying."

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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