The Shovan Chronicles — Part 10
The Council of Guardians
The Kedshine pointed towards the rock face. “The Council-of-Guardians is assembled.”
“Who are you?” asked Quench, trying to sound self-assured.
“I am your assistant. I will take you to the the Council.”
“Who will preside over the ceremony?”
“Our Elder is Lasrun. He will preside over the Rite of Transition.”
“That seems satisfactory, please lead the way.”
That shows authority, thought Quench, if only I could speak with a firmer voice.
Unfrar and Gineferod rose. Their assistant turned his palm in their direction. “You cannot follow. Wait here.”
“They are needed at the Great-Gathering,” Unfrar replied.
“Where and when they are needed, is for others to decide.”
“We will look for you later,” said Wendy, as they were led into the opening in the cliff. The other Kedshine followed.
Quench clasped Wendy’s hand as they followed their assistant along the dark tunnel. They bowed their heads to pass under the low ceiling. The daylight grew dimmer behind them. They could see only darkness ahead.
“I don’t like small spaces,” said Quench. He tried to hide his fear, but Wendy could feel his hand tremble. She stroked his arm to reassure him.
“I can hear the sound of water,” she said. “We must be near the end of the tunnel.”
“It’s a cavern,” said Quench.
“It’s pitch black,” said Wendy. “How will we find our way in this darkness?”
“What’s that noise?” Quench was baffled. “Someone is chanting.”
The tunnel was drenched with light. “What!” Quench let out a cry as he and Wendy stumbled back, startled by the river, its water flowing, points of light shining from under the choppy surface, lighting the cavern. On the far side, the water rushed past a sheer wall of rock. On their side, a path followed the river, alongside an incline of broken rocks, leading up to the arched ceiling. The light was deflected by the moving water, creating a flickering dance of light and shadows across the rough surfaces.
“Come.” Their assistant led the way.
“What was that strange voice?” asked Quench, still shaken at the sudden revelation of the river. The assistant ignored the question.
“There is a creature clambering over the rocks,” said Wendy
“I feel it too, it’s following us.”
“It’s left my Aura now.”
“Mine too, now it’s back, gone again.”
They continued into an entrance in the rock wall and up some narrow steps leading into a cave with corridors leading off in different directions. They continued along one of these passages and came to a doorway.
“I will return soon.”
They were alone.
“Look,” said Quench, “the walls are covered with chisel marks; this chamber has been hollowed out of solid rock. It must have taken years.”
“They have left some garments.” Wendy picked up a white cloak from the table. “One white, one black; I think we are expected to wear these.”
“I thought the Black and White Redeemer thing was our plan. We’re losing control again.”
“But it seems to be going well,” said Wendy. “We have been accepted and will begin some kind of ceremony which will mean we are crowned the Black and White Redeemers.
“The Aura is very strong here,” said Quench.
“I can feel the Aura of many creatures; it’s very loud, cluttered.”
“I wonder what makes the Aura strong.”
“Probably lack of sunlight.”
“Are you ready? One of the Kedshine was standing at the entrance. “The assembly awaits your presence.”
“In due course,” said Quench.
“That’s right,” whispered Wendy. “Remember, we are the ones in charge here. Every time we speak we must sound important.”
“I have an idea,” said Quench. “You will speak for me. Instead of me answering, I will whisper to you and you’ll talk.”
“ I’m not very good at being important.”
“Anyone can be important; you just need to practice.”
“Please, I really don’t think I can do this.”
“OK, said Wendy. “It’s probably a good idea as it gives me a role, in case they decide that I don’t really exist.”
“As the White Redeemer; we made that up, remember.”
Gineferod opened his eyes; squinting from the sun, already high in the sky.
Efelpeck was walking in his direction. “Come, it is time for your mission.”
“Where is Menna?”
“She went to gather her herbs, ready for the next patient. Always healing the sick and comforting the wounded. She’s such a bundle of energy that sister of mine, such a perfect creature.”
“I’m not sure I’m strong enough to go on a mission.”
“Come, come, the fresh air will do you good. Now look at this. It’s a map of the forest. I’ve marked some of the villages. You will visit each one and hang one of these notices on the public square.”
Efelpeck handed Gineferod a bundle of parchments. “Now make haste, we must inform all the villages by nightfall.”
Gineferod climbed to the top of a tree and launched himself skywards. As he flew across the canopy he heard the tramping of feet. The tall undergrowth below was being pushed aside. It was a line of troops. The Palace Guards are coming to attack the outcasts, he thought, I must warn them.
As he came into land he saw Efelpeck and Kernow in conversation, reading from a parchment. A Wikwik was standing on the ground next to them. It must have brought the message.
They looked up, surprised at his arrival. “We are in danger,” said Gineferod, breathless. “The Palace Guard is heading our way.”
“Do not fret,” answered Kernow. “It is Rivek coming to support our revolution.”
“But how can that be? Rivek is the King’s close adviser.” Gineferod was confused.
“Complete your mission.” Kernow was impatient. “I will explain later.”
Gineferod flew off, his mind racing. He needed to think. “Where is Menna?” He desperately wanted to speak to her. Maybe she understood what was happening.
Gineferod followed a stream winding its way through the forest until he came to a cluster of dwellings. He landed in the village square and hung a notice on a tree. A few of the villagers, all with the small, stocky build, typical of the Reton, wandered over and read the message. A game of Catchturn was announced. The travelling Game-Players would challenge a team of villagers to a game. A generous prize was offered.
Gineferod heard footsteps running his way.
“There he is, the fugitive. Catch him.”
Gineferod flapped his wings, but, still weakened by his recent injuries, could not launch himself skywards. He fell back to earth. The gleeful villagers jumped on him, pinning him to the ground. Others took hold of his wings and legs, and tied them with a rope.
“Quickly, send a Wikwik to the castle. The reward will be ours,” said one of the villagers. “Speak! Where are you holding Yemin?”
“You are making a terrible mistake. Yemin is being held by the King. I long for her release more than any creature in Shovan.”
“You lie. Tell us where she is.”
“She is in the King’s dungeon. If you come to the game of Catchturn, all will be revealed. There is a letter written in Yemin’s own hand that confirms all I say.”
“If what he says is true, then this is all a charade,” said one of the villagers.
“What does it matter? If there is a reward then we should take it,” said another.
“Hand an innocent creature over to an unjust fate? I won’t be complicit in this travesty of justice.”
“Let’s hold him till the game players arrive. If they can prove his innocence we will release him. If not, we will claim our reward.”
So it was decided.
Gineferod was thrown, still bound, into an empty hut. One of the villagers had been left outside to guard him. She too was an Insbar. They met in the Aura.
“Are you really the Wing-Soldier that everyone is talking about?”
She sounded young.
“I am, but don’t believe the stories you hear. I didn’t abduct Yemin. I’m in love with her. The King is jealous. When they came to arrest me, I fled. I thought they were going to kill me.”
“If your friends can prove the truth of your words, you will be released.”
“I am not sure who I fear most, the King who has caused me so much sorrow, or my so-called friends who are using me to further their schemes. They want to overthrow King Megron. They organised the game in order to gather the villagers in one place and persuade them to support the revolution.”
“And should we not?”
“The revolutionaries talk of freedom, of opening the great seats of learning, but they are now collaborating with Rivek, the King’s adviser. He seeks power. I cannot believe he has any real concern for the welfare of Shovan’s citizens.”
“How is it to be a Wing-Soldier? I will be one soon.”
“War is coming. If your fellow villagers support the insurrection against King Megron, you will find yourself fighting against him, not for him.”
“What will you do?”
“I want only to be reunited with Yemin, and return with her to our village. I will leave others to determine matters of state.”
“How will you be reunited?”
“When I am released from here, I will fly to Wingrin. Maybe, with the prospect of civil strife, the King will have changed his attitude.”
“And if not?”
“I am aware of the risks, but I have to do it. Otherwise my life has no value.”
“Can I come with you?”
Gineferod was surprised. “Why would you do that?”
“I want adventure. As a village Insbar, I have nothing to look forward to but a life gathering fruit and herbs in the forest. For us, being a Wing-Soldier is the only highlight in an otherwise dull existence. I do not want to spend the rest of my days regretting that I did not take this one opportunity to do something exciting.”
“As things stand, you and I are not going anywhere.”
“If you let me come, I’ll release you.”
As dawn broke, Gineferod and his new companion took to the skies.
In the distance, above the trees of the forest, Gineferod saw another Insbar soar into the sky.
“Be careful,” said Gineferod, “he could be one of the King’s Wing-Soldiers, or one of the rebels. Either way, no good will come of the encounter.”
“Aren’t you curious to know who it is?” asked Eyit.
“Of course, let’s fly closer, but be prepared. If I see he’s hostile, I’ll give the word and we’ll drop in a defensive spiral.”
Eyit laughed. “You are forgetting. I am not yet a Wing-Soldier, I have no idea what a defensive spiral is.”
Gineferod began to feel the Aura of the unidentified Insbar. He let out a cry of joy.
“It’s my best friend, Fendok!”
The two friends approached, excited, but unable to embrace during flight, they flew around each other in circles.
“I came to find you. Unfrar told me you were with the other outcasts.”
“But why aren’t you in the citadel?
“Rivek tried to draw me into his schemes, so I fled. I fear that many of the Wing-Soldiers have joined the rebels. Most blame the King for their misfortunes.”
“We were on our way to Wingrin, I must find Yemin.”
“And I must find Menna.”
Gineferod laughed. “You scoundrel! You teased me ceaselessly about Yemin, but said nothing about your own infatuation with Menna. She told me that she was in love with an Insbar, but I never guessed it was you. Why keep it a secret from your best friend?”
“Menna swore me to secrecy; I think she was frightened of Rivek. He grew up in our village, and was raised by Menna’s parents. They treated him cruelly. She feared he would take revenge on her and her brother. I must go and find her.”
“We need allies,” said Fendok. “Let’s start with Unfrar. I’ll take you to him. He is with the Piple, they have been revealed as the Redeemers.”
Gineferod, Fendok and Eyit flew to the valley. They made for a column of smoke rising from a distant clump of trees.
Unfrar looked amused as the three Insbar landed one after the other.
“I thought it was raining Insbar. Is a creature to get no peace?”
“I hear you support neither King nor rebel,” said Gineferod. “What do you intend to do?’
“I intend to sit here and wait for the Piple to return. They are with the Kedshine now and will be soon be declared The Black and White Redeemers. They are the force that can stop both Megron and Rivek.”
“The Black Redeemer. Can this be true? I was the one to discover the Piple when they came to Shovan.”
“This keeps getting better,” said Unfrar. “Your persecution was not only because of your love for Yemin, but also as discoverer of the Black Redeemer. The King has further revealed his duplicity. By trying to imprison, you he wanted to keep the existence of the Black Redeemer a secret from his subjects, so there would not be an opposition to his cruel regime.”
“I don’t think that’s true,” said Gineferod.
“Truth, what is truth? There are many truths. What the citizens can be persuaded to believe is the only truth that matters.”
“I know nothing of this. I must rescue Yemin and Fendok must be reunited with Menna.”
“Yemin is imprisoned in the citadel, you cannot rescue her. Just hope that during the conflict, she is somehow released. As for Menna, her brother Efelpeck is involved with the rebel leaders, Kernow and Rivek. It will be hard for her to leave without her brother.”
“What is Kernow’s involvement?”
“Kernow is a Kedshine. Rivek has offered him high office in the new regime; he will oversee the opening of the ancient schools of learning. The archives of the Kedshine are hidden in the caves that dot the hillsides behind us.”
Unfrar pointed down the green valley as it sloped away to meet the mountain ranges beyond.
“Their scholarship continues to this day. The ancient scripts are being studied and new dissertations are being written. The kings of old feared this knowledge. The Kedshine have always believed that one day they would be free again to spread their wisdom. The Kedshine are split; not all agree with Kernow. Some see Rivek as another dictator whose interest in scholarship is completely mercenary. They do not trust him to deliver on his promises. I agree with them.”
“We should seek out these other Kedshine.” said Gineferod. “They could be a force for compromise, presenting a third way.”
“That’s exactly what I am proposing,” said Unfrar. “With Quench and Wendy, the Redeemers, on our side.”
Kernow was angry. “We were foolish to think we could trust Gineferod.”
Scouts had reached the village and brought back word that Gineferod had left with one of the village Insbar.
Efelpeck tried to reassure him. “We have no confirmation that he has returned to Wingrin, and even if he has, there is no reason why he should tell the King of our intentions. He wants to save Yemin; he still sees the King as his enemy.”
“We must change our plans. We do not have the time to muster support through the game.”
Efelpeck was disappointed. “Am I not to act? It was to be my greatest performance!”
“Rivek will need to arrange a different kind of drama.”
“Rivek is undoubtedly a creature of many talents, but I was unaware that his acting skills outshone mine. Am I to be dragged, once again, screaming and shouting from the footlights?”
“Your preposterous imagination does you proud, but on this occasion we need a different performance.”
Quench pulled the Black robe over his head. The delicate fabric fluttered against his skin. He looked at Wendy in her shimmering white dress. “You certainly look pretty.”
She smiled and gave him a friendly squish.
Their assistant entered the room. “Please follow me; the council is ready.”
As they were led down a corridor, the Convener asked, “I couldn’t but help notice the gesture you just gave, is that the secret sign?”
“Gesture? Sign?” Quench was flustered for a moment. “Oh yes, the squish. Um, as you surmise, that is the secret sign.”
“The squish, I see, we will be overjoyed to finally have the secret of the sign revealed.”
They passed through a doorway. Quench’s heart jumped; the circular wall of the huge cavern was crossed by row upon row of terraces, each with a low barrier, behind which sat scores of Kedshine.
The Aura of a multitude of creatures fought for his attention. “Block them out,” said Wendy, “else they will overwhelm us.”
“There is so much light in here,” said Quench. “I’m dazzled.”
Wendy looked upwards. “Sunlight is coming through openings in the ceiling. Mirrors are reflecting the light.”
They were led to a platform on the floor of the amphitheatre. Two chairs had been placed in the centre, one draped in black, the other white. They took their places.
Facing them sat an aged Kedshine, his grey robes trimmed with gold and silver.
“That must be Lasrun,” whispered Quench.
Lasrun raised his hand, the crowd fell silent. He spoke to Quench. “Your Holinesses, we welcome you back to the Land of Shovan. You have left the embrace of Shimhan, and, braving the danger of the Mid-World, have honoured us with your presence. Pray tell the purpose of your sojourn among us.”
Quench nodded his head, as if he had fully expected the question. He lent over to Wendy, “What am I supposed to reply?”
Wendy, too, had put on a serious face. “I will speak. Pretend you are asking me something.”
Quench mumbled something into her ear.
Wendy turned to address the crowd. Suddenly her mind was empty, she couldn’t think what to say, she felt her body stiffen, then the words flowed. “The Black Redeemer announces his return. The time will soon come for the parting of the ways. Each Kin will return to its own, the time of the ascension shall be upon us. Those who refuse the ascension will be cast aside.”
Quench looked at Wendy, tying not to look too incredulous. “What was all that?” he whispered.
“I don’t know where that came from.” Wendy was frightened. “Somebody was putting words into my mind.”
“And the sign, please give us the sign.”
Quench whispered to Wendy, “I think he means the squish.”
Wendy looked to the crowd and announced, “I give you, the squish.”
Quench stretched out his arm and with two bent fingers, squeezed Wendy’s nose.
The crowd burst into ecstatic applause, “Squish, squish, squish…”
…to be continued.
About this Episode
- Shovan: An unknown land, the location of The Shovan Chronicles
- Wingrin: The capital of Shovan, seat of King Megron
- The Fortress: A castle and tower in the centre of Wingrin, housing the Court of King Megron
- The Shovan Forest: The thick forest that covers much of the Land of Shovan.
- Kedshine Archives: Catacomb where the Kedshine library, the repository of all recorded knowledge is stored.
- Quench (Human): Formerly a serving lad at a seafarers’ inn, now a sailor, accompanying Wendy and The Professor on their voyage.
- Wendy (Human): Formerly a pupil, now accompanying her father, The Professor, on his research mission overseas.
- King Megron (Reton): King of Shovan
- Rivek (Mixed Kin): King’s Adviser
- Garbhan (Reton): Commander of the Palace Guard
- Elfrot (Kedshine): Jail Keeper
- The Professor (Human): Zoologist, Wendy’s father, lost
- The Captain (Human): Captain of the sailing ship, lost
- Gineferod (Insbar): Wing Soldier, Yemin’s childhood sweetheart
- Fendok (Insbar): Wing-Soldier, Gineferod’s comrade in arms
- Yemin (Reton): Kings concubine, formerly Gineferod’s lover
- King Fighek (Reton): King Megron’s father, deceased
- Efelpeck (Mixed Kin): Menna’s brother, an actor, lives as an outcast in the forest
- Kernow (Kedshine): An elder, scholar, lives as an outcast in the forest
- Menna (Mixed Kin): Eflepeck’s sister, a healer, lives as an outcast in the forest
- Tenshin (Reton): Officer in the King’s Guard
- Unfrar (Reton): Outcast. A former officer in the Kings Guard
- Lasrun (Kedshine): The Elder of the Council-of-Guardians
- Eyit (Insbar): Rescues Gineferod from the villagers, and then escapes with him, hoping to be recruited as a Wing-soldier
Different types of creature, know as Kin, inhabit the land of Shovan:
- Piple: Humans (not native to Shovan)
- Insbar: Flying creatures, thin bodies with large wings. When not in the Kings service are forest dwellers, scavenging for food in the upper branches of the tall trees.
- Reton: Stocky, human-like. Are the most populous Kin in Shovan, and perform a wide range of roles and professions.
- Kedshine: Tall and thin, a scholarly Kin, they are the archivists and teachers of Shovan
- Toilers: Criminals, doing hard labour to atone for their sins. Can belong to any Kin
- Dragettes: Heavy, four legged beasts of burden
- Wikwik: Plump, feathered, flying beast with a wide beak. Used to carry messages.
Rituals, Religion and Titles
- Catchturn: A game played between two teams on a large three dimensional platform
- Black Redeemer: A leader and saviour, according to the lore of Shovan. Also, the central role in the game of Catchturn. The title was bestowed upon Quench.
- White Redeemer: The Black Redeemer’s consort (role invented by Quench bestowed upon Wendy)
- Third Redeemer: An additional Redeemer (role invented by Quench, bestowed upon the Professor)
- Shimhan: A mythical world, the highest state of existence
- Spirit of Shimhan: A deity that dwells in Shimhan.
- Ervases: The underworld. A place of evil, the antithesis of Shimhan
- Middle-World: The Land of Shovan. Between Shimhan and Ervases
- Guardians: The curators of the Kehdshine Archives
- The Council-of-Guardians: The ruling council of the Guardians
- The Rite-of-Transition: The ceremony at which the Guardians anoint the Black Redeemer
- Seize-Nets: A heavy net, fired from a catapult, used to attack Wing-soldiers
Calendar and Seasons
- Moon-Cycle: A Shovan month. The Shovan calendar is based on the movements of the moon.
This was the tenth episode of The Shovan Chronicles. Look out for the next installment.