A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Artemus, Two Moons Over Ninevah, part iii

[The Beginning] [The previous bit]
---------------------

The next town proved no more hospitable than the last, nor the one after that. By dusk, Artemus was ravenous, and many miles beyond the last village he had been politely asked to not stop at. In one of the villages, Artemus had seen a small contingent of guards from Ninevah-- minotaurs and elves with their axes and bows-- but even with the added security of the city guard, the villagers were not interested in hosting Artemus for the night. In another, a pack of dogs had chased him out of the town for several miles.

On the plus side, Artemus knew he was making excellent time and getting closer to Ninevah proper much quicker than he had expected. On the minus side, his stamina-- which had seemed inexhaustible earlier in the day-- was waning, and his stomach was rumbling so loud he was afraid one of the passing peasants might mistake it for a wild animal. Ruefully glancing about in the gathering gloam of evening, Artemus realized he had little to fear on this account-- he was alone on the road.

As the sun set, the larger of Romendor's two moons became visible against the darkening sky. Nearly full, the moon bathed the road with enough light for Artemus to continue his journey. With the sun's descent, the heat and humidity of the day seemed to fade as well and Artemus caught his second wind. His hunger still gnawed at him, but his exhaustion diminished, and his pace picked up as he headed north in the increasing darkness.

Shortly after full dark, Artemus spied a garden near one of the larger farmhouses, and his massive hunger forced him to pause. As he gobbled the fresh tubers and berries growing in the ripening garden, Artemus also did his best to pull the weeds wriggling their way amongst the neat rows of vegetables. It was small compensation for the quantity of food he devoured, but it was the best he had to offer. Feeling guilty, but somewhat refreshed, Artemus returned to the road just as the second smaller moon breasted the horizon. It too was waning, only a few days past full.

Artemus continued that way through the night, stopping to eat berries or apples or vegetables when necessary. He tried to earn his repasts as best he could by the light of the twin moons. At one stop he stacked wood for his unknowing hosts, while at another he gathered the ripe pears he did not eat into a neat pile. Several times, he attempted to stop, but guard dogs chased him back to the road.

There were no other travelers on the now cobble-stoned roadway, and Artemus kept his ears and eyes alert for signs of the savage beast rampaging through the countryside—and for brigands and cutpurses. He doubted the beast would venture so close to civilization or that the brigands would frequent the well-patrolled Southern roads out of Ninevah. But it did not hurt to be careful.

While his legs took him further from the hinterlands of Ninevah Island and toward the mighty metropolis at its center, his mind wandered. He imagined what his former life might have been like—manufactured a history for himself where none existed in truth. Perhaps he had been an apprentice wizard, working in the cold, mountainous northern realms of the magi. Artemus tried to picture himself fashioning the finely crafted golems and gargoyles that the region was known for, and the image just seemed incongruous. Likely not a wizard, then.

Perhaps, a ranger, tracking through the woods and hills of Quarnin. It had a more natural feel to it, than had the thought of being a wizard. Artemus felt comfortable outdoors, more so than he did indoors, and his senses were keen. Still, the elves and dwarves of that region were a reclusive group, suspicious of outsiders, and Artemus knew that with his height and broad shoulders, he would never be mistaken for either race. It was not unheard of for humans to mix with the races of Quarnin, but it was not a common occurrence, either.

His skin wasn’t swarthy enough to be from the jungle regions of Eeko-Yah-Ap, nor sunburned enough for the volcanic areas of Visk-vashto. Which left the barbarians of Kiaq, the warlocks of the Underearth, or the knights of Isles of the King. Out of hand he discarded the barren lands, where the undead reigned and only the foolhardy and the desperate went. He still had blood in his veins. Life was still his, even if memory was not.

Instinctively, he rejected the idea of being a warlock. He was uncertain how a magician should feel, but he was reasonably certain that magical ability was not one of the things lost to the void of his memory. Besides, the warlocks were viewed with suspicion throughout the lands—purveyors of powerful magics and artifacts, they were knowledgeable and powerful. And completely untrustworthy. When you make a deal with a warlock, the old saying went, count your fingers after you shake hands to seal the transaction. Such duplicity and secretiveness did not seem to be part of Artemus’ nature. Well, at least it did not seem to be part of his current nature. He chuckled wryly to think that his understanding of his own nature appeared to be based on less than one week of experience.

Perhaps he had been a rogue, living off the land and the unwary? An overlord, holding sway over the blind hordes of troglodyte slaves? A murderer? Was that why he couldn’t remember—were the memories too traumatic? Too bloody?

He shook his head to rid it of such thoughts. For now, he must assume his character before was much like his character now—it was the only reference point he had, after all. Though powerfully built, he did not feel he would fit in well with the barbarian hordes of the rocklands. His speech seemed to be somewhat cultured, and his clothing was not made of animal hides as those of the tribes in the mountains were said to be. Which left the Isles of the King, where the knights resided and the peasants worked the fields. Of all the lands, the islands seemed the most likely to be his home, and he thought again of how the outer regions of Ninevah Island had reminded him, distantly, hauntingly, of a home he could not remember. The islands of King Brachtus were his most likely bet—but thinking about life as a squire, or monk, or even a young knight did not spring any memories from Artemus’ mind, and he could not be certain.

He sighed and continued his moonlit journey through the gradually less rural areas of the island, headed for the mighty city of Ninevah, built on the large bay on the northeastern edge of the island and easily the largest metropolis in any of the seven lands.

As the first rays of sun washed over the horizon, Artemus found himself high on a ridge overlooking a dazzling sight. Spread below him were rolling fields of golden grain, arching green groves of ancient trees and the sparkling azure of the Anhuztal River. A few billowy white clouds drifted on the faint breeze, their bottoms tinged with pink from the newborn sun. Several major roads bisected the fields, and already people were moving along them. All of the roads, including the one Artemus was on, eventually merged with a large thoroughfare that cut a straight North-South swath through the fields and trees. At the northern end of this road stood the shining white walls of Ninevah, like a beacon of hope to all outside their confines. For a moment, time stood still for Artemus as he gazed over the beauty of the scene. He was able to forget his troubles. Lose himself in the fresh scents of early summer, and the gentle washing of the wind amidst the boughs of stately elms and oaks.

Then his stomach rumbled, and suddenly Artemus found that he was weary. He felt spent in his every fiber, ready to sleep for a year. Perhaps forever.

Summoning strength from somewhere, Artemus slowly trudged down the road. At the bottom of the ridge he had been standing on, was another town-- almost a city in its own right. Artemus hoped that fears of the savage beast in the countryside did not extend to settlements this close to Ninevah. He needed a room, a meal, and lots of rest. Ninevah was only a few hours away, but he was in no condition to get there now.

As his fingers played with a scrap of paper in his otherwise empty pockets, he hoped also that he could work for his room and board after he rested.

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Comments:
All right, we're getting there! Now you have to start writing new stuff. :->

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Building up nicely ^_^

OK, so now I'm wondering how Artemus will face up to discovering that he's the beast. Yeah, don't make us wait too long :)
 
Hi Nick:

About the background i promised you- i hope to get it to you in the not too distant future. But i am accidentally employed full time for a year or so, so my time is limited

Feel free to use this as an excuse to write slowly ;-)

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