Paul C. R. Monk – Bloomtree

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Paul C. R. Monk – Bloomtree

Early contributor of "The Saga of Ryzom"


Exerpt from:

I started writing for the video game industry when I joined Kalisto Entertainment in 2000 as an in-house writer. Today I work on a freelance basis from my office in Bordeaux though will spend time on-site to help integrate the story, characters and dialogue into the gameplay.

My services include writing your : ⋅narrative bible, story, world background, character biographies ⋅interactive dialogs, in-game texts, quests, missions ⋅cinematics, cut scenes ⋅website content, chronologies ⋅user manual...

Here below is a selection of video games I have worked on together with some links. [...]

  • The Saga of Ryzom is a science fantasy MMORPG, published by Nevrax in 2004. Though much of the original creative team has gone onto other fields, the game is still being played.
When I arrived on Ryzom in April 2003, the game was a beautiful universe with breathtaking graphics, but there was no story! For two years, taking the lead from David Cohen's original idea, I wrote the storyline, lore, short stories and encyclopaedic texts, and just to blow my own trumpet louder still, I even wrote the place names along with their etymology, as well as the flora and fauna names with their characteristics. The game won 2005 Reader's Choice Best Story Award. I left full two years after first entering the world of Ryzom. It is still possible to see some of the work I did on the lore on the official website :
A great French fansite I much appreciate brings together a lot of the published knowledge of the Saga and is well worth a tour An excellent site for English speaking fans is


Incidentally, I've included two unpublished short stories at the end of the Novels & Plays section, hope you enjoy!!!

  • When Ubisoft bought the rights to Nightmare Creatures, they asked their then subsidiary Gameloft, a mobile game company, to develop the next opus. I was commissioned to write a treatment.
  • Kalisto was where I first cut my teeth on the creation of video games, and came to terms with the raw fact that not all projects make it to the shops! I worked on a variety of projects writing storylines, scripts, character biographies… from heroic fantasy to horror and cartoon. Here are a few cartoon characters from Kooky Dawgs and Superfarm. The latter was taken over by the zany and talented development team which with it formed Asobo Studio.

  • Prague, November 1869. Snow lies fresh on the ground, yet the breath of death increasingly plagues the air, bounds the population in fear and suspicion.
In a forest clearing outside the city, Bela, a young gypsy girl, wakes from another restless night to find the Raven waiting perched outside her wagon. On the counsel of her grandmother, she sets out, braving the strange and hideous creatures that haunt the forest, in search of her twin sister, Lucia, who disappeared the very night the bird of ill omen first overshadowed her dreams. Her quest will take her down the fiend infested streets of Prague, to the most lurid extremes of human behaviour, until at last the sickly truth unfolds when she discovers Lucia, nestled lovingly in the very arms of evil!

This was to be the third of the Nightmare Creatures series with the difference of this one being more orientated adventure horror than overt gore. The game was signed by Ubisoft. It may have been a bit of a bumpy ride at times but I enjoyed collaborating with such a high calibre bunch of professionals. Check out the game trailer, a few animated storyboards along with some 3D character designs by Pascal Barret on SDL's NC3 page.

  • When I joined the team on Sidhe, production had been in full swing for some time. My job was to fill out the beautiful universe with some narrative substance, rounded characters and together with the game design team, turn out a compelling storyline and dialogue. I was writing in my makeshift writing place (an unused sound proofed room) when Stephane Marché came and informed me of the board's decision to shelve the game. Nevertheless, here are some really great designs by Poupi and decor from Marc. It's worth adding that many of the artists, including our team manager have since broken out in their own right as renowned Bande Dessinée artists and script writers, producing some great French comics. Take a look at the trailer, along with a low def intro scene.


For any writing or translation projects, drop me a line and I'll be happy to get back to you.

Paul Monk

Phone : +44 (0)7722 747 764 (UK) or +33 (O)5 56 31 68 18 (France)


Ryzom stories

I thought I'd include some of the Ryzom short stories. These were published on the Ryzom website. It was amazing how, merely hours after being published, they were translated into French. It was fun reading feedback from fans on forums while having to remain incognito. I no doubt put a lot of myself into those stories and it was hugely enjoyable. Here I've included two other stories that do not appear on the Ryzom website

  • The Siege of Karavia
  • The Company of Loria
  • Monsoon Sunset
  • When the Walls Came Tumbling Down
  • Mabreka
  • The Spirit in the Hills
  • The Daïsha Stanza

The Ryzom Stories and Lore

The Siege Of Karavia

Par MoaVoa — Date de Création : Lundi,27 Février , 2006

= told by Pergio Vasti, a Matis military chronicler

Part One

Karavia, the Matis fortified city built on the site of the first Karavan-Matis encounter, had fallen to barbarian Fyros forces during the reign of King Noblis. Situated at midpoint along the water route linking the Lake Lands to Fyros territory, the city had become a vast garrison town providing armed cover to Fyros outposts running north and south. Three generations had not sufficed to quell our deep-seated humiliation wrought upon us by the infidel invaders that continued to grow fat on the holy land, our land.

But at long last, out of the ruins of our revolt-stricken dominions, came a new hope in the guise of the valiant warrior-king, Aniro III, second son of Danido the Decrepit. Aniro set out on a campaign with a contingent of faithful knights to reconquer the hearts of the people and to forge a new army to fight under the one banner against the common enemy.

One of those knights was Gioni di Tylini, a sure-handed colossus of Karavian stock, and a fervent believer in Jena. Tylini went on to distinguish himself in the battle of Thormes where he converted his tribal prisoners into loyal subjects. His return to Matia, the Matis capital of the old lands, was marked with great pageant and no sooner had the fanfare died down than he was summoned by the king. Time had come for the spurs of Matis knights to drive the heathenish imps from the holy land.

Moreover, victory at Karavia would open the road to the sea shores further west as well as giving a virtually unhindered passage to the proverbial riches of the Tryker lake lands to the south. However, the walls of the fortified city were strong and high, the occupants could hold out against a siege at least till Fyros divisions of relief troops brought support, which would reasonably take them a little over forty days.

"But, my liege," said Tylini, "by the time we have taken up our positions the Fyros will surely have sent the full brunt of their army from their homelands to Karavia to relieve the city. We shall be outflanked and caught between two armies..."

"Worthy Tylini, you would acquiesce that an essence to victory is knowing how the land lies. You shall be the bait to lure the Fyros to a battlefield of our own design!"

"With all due respects, my Lord, we shall be unable to maneuver and our strike force shall be reduced to half..."

"You would believe your King would lead you knowingly unto the jaws of death, Gioni di Tylini?"

"No, my Lord!" protested the knight.

"Then hear me out." The king rolled out a map on the long syre wood table. "You shall lay siege to the city of Karavia. Our informers tell us there is a permanent contingent of but 5000 spears. But even if you outnumber them, remember, you will first let time wear down the enemy's spirits, no Matis homin must be needlessly lost, wounded or even fatigued by futile raids. Our force of strike will depend on their good condition and by consequence the outcome of the greater battle. Now, you conclude as will Abylus that the Fyros shall have no choice but to rally to their defense taking the long march south from their northern homelands or face losing their vital water link to the Lake Lands. But your king shall be lying in wait in the forest set well back from the road. Our scouts shall watch them as they pass..." As the King's leather gauntleted finger traced the route over the map Tylini began to fully take in the king's plan.

"Mmm, and once they are past, your highness would send me word, close in on them from the rear and push them on to where we would most desire them." The king gave the great knight a comradely pat on the back.

"Have our battleground carefully prepared by your engineers, good Tylini, and the rest shall make noble reading in our history books!"

Part Two

There was one major obstacle to the king's plan, the march to Karavia would reasonably take two months meandering between the great trees, clambering through the dense vegetation; a march that would leave nothing of the benefit of surprise. However, Tylini, renowned for his resourcefulness, enrolled an extra company of two hundred craftsmen. Then, instead of heading northwestward straight for Karavia, the king and he took the three day march east to the great falls of Ria where the vast river widens out. In little more than a week, working day and night, engineers and crafters had felled over seventy tall bolka trees and turned them into fabulous rafts for transporting the army smoothly down the Ria. Between the vales of Bero and Ronda, riverside tribes stood amidst the luxuriant foliage in marvel at the awe-inspiring fleet of 300 vessels floating over 30000 homins, provisions, mektoubs and 150 trained ragus tranquilly down the Ria to war.

Within the week the army had arrived at the confluent of the Darone where they were forced to disembark because of the rapid waters there. The king, at this point, led his army north, Tylini headed west. The forest from there on became less dense and barely two days later Tylini had his army positioned at but a day's march north of the holy city. The whole journey had not taken twenty days!

Outposts and villages on the water route going south were surrounded, neatly silenced and razed in short sharp night attacks. Any enemy fleeing to the woods was systematically tracked down by ragus and executed. It was vital that Abylus did not get wind of the extent of the army that was awaiting him, else he would deploy double the force.

Before coming upon the holy city Tylini split his army into three divisions each consisting of upwards of five thousand homins. Moreover, Tylini was careful to display only a portion of the force, just enough to encourage the Fyros to stay put. At last, standing on a flat hillock where his tent had been pitched, Gioni could cast his eyes upon Karavia, the grand wooden towers, the elaborate edifices, and the massive living wall of prime roots that had so often played on his mind as a boy. All was as his grandfather had depicted and portrayed in landscapes on the walls of the family residence. That is, with the exception that the ground immediately surrounding the city walls had been cleared of vegetation and that the road leading into the main gates lie straight as a bolt. To preserve the city, and so as not to attract needless curiosity of the Kami things, Tylini decided that no fire lancers would be used for the assault. When the time came the city would be overrun by stratagem and pure force! Engineers devised siege engines, crafters began felling trees while soldiers set to work preparing the stretch of turf land leading some way beyond the city walls to the north. Thousands of spears were planted in the ground devised to spring up at a forty five degree angle to meet the Fyros relief warriors from the north in their course of attack.

The besieged Fyros in the fortified city were at first content enough to bide their time believing that an army would be sent in as soon as the administrators saw that the water convoys had ceased. But on perceiving the battle ground being carefully prepared as aforementioned they began to realize the extent of our determination. Underestimating our forces, they began making forays which they came to quickly realize could only result in mass suicide. Though the harassing ceased, many a Fyros was captured endeavoring to get through our water tight ring with the aim of making for Fyros homelands with tidings of our preparations. The culprits were invariably sent back to the city gates tied to a mektoub with their heads set in their laps!

It should be said that at this epoch the Fyros, having manifested disobedience as to the given Law, had fallen out of favor with the Karavan. Thus Tylini knew there would be no chance of any teleportation unit within the city. What is more, Jena, having given all homins of Atys the freedom of thought, her disciples had no right to interpose in homin affairs.

By the second week of the siege the battle field preparations were finalized, the homins were growing restless, news of the Fyros army was expected any day. But a twist of fate was soon to change the course of events.

Part Three

A bloody sun was rising and gradually cracking its ruddy hues upon the leafy high boughs above Tylini's tent and upon the vast green and brown sward yonder where the battlefield lay in wait. A rude hullabaloo was rising from the citadel where the pagans, peculiar to their inferior station, were giving themselves to summer solstice festivities as if to mock our heritage further. Tylini was contemplating the skyline and the thickening clouds when there came a galloping from behind accompanied by some commotion. Gioni turned to see a mounted mektoub give a heave of the head and collapse in shear exhaustion. The messenger, who had leapt off the mount just in time, true to Matis breeding, straightened his green and crimson tunic, gave a bow before stepping over to the great knight handing over a scroll whose seal was embossed with the flower of the baylona and tagged with a crimson silk ribbon. Tylini took the royal billet with slight agitation which visibly increased as he perused the contents. He then looked around at his entourage of knights.

"Sirs, by the love of Jena, our King sends us word: Today Karavia shall regain her dignity! Today we unsheathe our blades; today we ride on the winds of fortune!" He then pointed to the northern sky at the confirmation of the king's message: thick trails of smoke carried by the warm summer solstice winds were straggling over the sky from the northern frontier. "Fyros lands are raging with a conflagration of castigation! Providence is on our side today!" vociferated Tylini.

Indeed, what came to be known as the great Fire of Coriolis was raging over the Fyros wastelands, had cut off the water route and by consequence impeded Fyros troops from reaching Karavia. The great battle, for which the ground had been laid, would come later. Meanwhile, the smaller poultry was fatigued and cornered, now was the time to roast it!

Tylini sent in a mock siege engine force early that evening to hassle Fyros archers while a company of knights with trained ragus managed to get close to the wall where Tylini knew from his grandfather of a shallow part in the prime root foundation. The ravenous hounds dug away the shallow soil making a gap under the prime root wall. On the given order they then poured out on the other side creating havoc while the knights crept in and cut down the great wooden drawbridge.

The battle horn was sounded, the drums rolled in the dimming light and the Matis army charged down in a colossal, dark and glimmering wave to take the city by storm. Tylini spear-headed the surge hacking and thrashing his way perilously, boldly through the milling heathen mob which all night long put up resistance to the last. But by the light of the misty morn, once again Matis colors flew high and proud over the holy city of Karavia.

Standing triumphantly upon the steps of the keep, Gioni di Tylini turned his face to the heavens in thanks to Jena and large drops began to splatter upon his forehead. A deluge then broke the silence, he turned his bloody palms upward to cleanse them as all around heathen blood that swamped the holy city was being flushed away in rivulets. Tylini's heart swelled in the knowledge that these lands were now his as his gaze wondered south over the road to the Lake Lands...


The Company Of Loria

Par MoaVoa — Date de Création : Lundi,27 Février , 2006

told by Derry O'Darren, a Tryker Chronicler

Part One

For many a year our people prospered in the ancient lands of Trykoth in the force of the peace that our alliance with the Fyros procured.

The original deal was we'd supply Fyros cities in the north with water for their expansion, and they'd provide us with protection against our Matis neighbors who'd been blatantly casting their greedy eyes over our lands. Incidentally, this was about the time that the Matis had dammed the great Munshia river that takes its source in their territory and rolls on to the Fyros wastelands. So as it happened, not only would we be running a route through a sliver of their land but also nudging them out of the water business, hah... Still, I say it served them right for overtaxing their water in the first place. Just like the Matis to spite their own noses, no sense of commerce...

More than ten thousand free homins, Trykers and Fyros alike slogged away four and a half years solid carving a twenty foot wide aqueduct through 500 miles of flat bark along the Matis coastline. Thirty great mills along the way churned the water along feeding it in an endless flow from the Trykoth lakes to the Fyros desert dunes in the north. Settlements sprang up along the way many o' which grew into protection outposts or trade towns, it was the beginning of a whole new way of life.

The North-South water route paved the way for new trade, anything from silverweed sap and moon linen to auberwood resin and prakker grease. Those were the glory days as old pa used to say, bless his soul... Oh, no doubt it weren't all glad-rags `n' lily-paddlin' everyday, I grant you. There were some troubles, in the shape of the Matis mostly, as green as a sap-pickled toad, they were, and biting their fingers for being so greedy! But all in all folk lived a merry enough life; plenty of food `n' drink, dancing and dallying and not to mention bags of work all year round, what with upkeep, repairing and peddling...

Yep, everything was swell as a clam in a shell when the Fyros - never happy with their lot - as per usual went poking their noses where they shouldn't and inadvertently set off a huge fire stretching from Coriolis to Destranon.

Well, to cut a long story short, the new Matis king, Aniro III, took advantage of the Fyros being all caught up in fire and swept through the city of Karavia at midway on the water route killing everything that so much as raised an eyebrow! Everyone dead, gone, all in one night. Horrendous, it was, unthinkabubble... I get a lump just thinking about it...

T'was indeed sad times that befell our fathers. Well, after ploughing his way through water route villages and outposts, razing everything in his path, the dark Duke, Gioni di Tylini sent an ultimatum at our mountain gates for us to lay down our arms or have our wives and children cut to the marrow. Well, true to our life-loving spirit and always quick to adapt to a tricky situation, the Tryker tribal chiefs thought it best to stay with the livin' so as to fight another day!

That notwithstanding, though, many a Tryker took their chances in the hills that backed onto the great impassable wall of the Zorai. But once the Matis closed in on them they were like sitting game for the picking and the Matis made examples out of most of them.

We were herded off like yelks in our thousands, driven to the Matis territories where we were divided up and dispatched over the lands. We were set to hard labor making arms and general skivvying for over fifty days and fifty nights till the answer to our prayers came, not from the sky but from underground : Loria and her company of intrepid Trykers were to change our way of thinking, and bring out our true colors in a way that we would never have dreamed...

Part Two

Loria was the daughter of a beachcomber, a slight built but hearty maid who knew the underground caverns better than any who ever lived. Legend has it that before beginning the forced march under armed escort out of the lagoon region of Trykoth, one night she slipped out of the stockade, unshackled a burly bunch of beachcombers and led them clean past the Matis watchmen into the hills south. But no sooner had the sun began to rise and dissipate the summer mist than the Matis chief got wind of the escape and sent out a search party twenty strong on mektoub-back, spurred on by the incentive of reward if they brought back every head before nightfall.

Despite the Trykers wading up and across streams whenever possible to avoid leaving tracks and dropping their scent, the Matis were soon on their tails. By late morning, whenever the breeze lifted and shifted inland the unmistakable sounds of steady mektoub canter and Matis tongues came into earshot, meaning the pursuers were but an hour's ride behind! Still Loria pushed her company on keeping true to her initial course south by southeast, though not without having to give the company some reassurance. "Mountain to the left, Zorai wall ahead, Matis behind, to my mind we'd stand more chance heading west!" said Bodley Shaines, a stout fella who Loria knew from childhood.

"No, our only sanctuary lies where the Matis dare not tread," she replied, "where you see the great root springing forth yonder from the belly of Atys. From there we follow the galleries east under the great mountain into Matis land, to free our brethren!"

"We'd be more help to our brethren if we saved our own skins first, I say!"

"No, Bodley," said Bremen Layley, "Loria's right, the west of Trykoth is riddled with Matis gingo handlers hunting down runners." As if to second Bremen's reasoning there came a sickening howling echo from a hunt somewhere afar in the west.

"Well I'm stickin' with Loria," said Ticker O'Flaney.

"So am I," seconded Binney Torly.

"Trust me, Bodley, another hour's march and we're safe!" Loria insisted.

"Oh, well, I s'pose I ain't leaving you now. Besides, someone's gotta look after you, little princess!"

"Good, now let's save our breath for striding!" Without further ado Loria dug in her heels, lengthened her stride and fixed her sights on the high plateau yonder followed by Ticker O'Flaney, Bremen Layley, Binny Torly, Jeffy Payne and last but not least Bodley Shaines keeping up the rear. On they trekked, threading through the dense bushes and shrubs of the lowland forest, over grassy ridges and down slopes in the early summer sunshine that warmed the magnificent irin flowers deliciously enhancing their fragrance. T'wasn't always an easy thing to concentrate on escape and murder and such like in a land blessed with such natural harmony. At one point, Ticker O'Flaney couldn't help a whistle but was then rebuked by Loria when he broke out into song, you can't blame the fella, such is the Tryker love of free living, is it not?! Another time Bodley Shaines got a good scolding for picking scrath berries and general dawdling.

At last they found themselves at the top of the plateau in the middle of which was a deep cleft where the great stalk reached down into the forbidden bowels of Atys. All six Tryker homins stood in wonder at the great root that weaved its way up to the canopy, then they turned in unison to take in the view of the blue lagoons shimmering in the distance like silken spreads `neath the midday sky.

"Look yonder to the sea," observed Bremen Layley, "looks like our salt vessels are on course for Karavia."

"Maybe our folk are fleeing to Fyros lands..." added Binney.

"To join them to wage war against the invaders!"

"Three cheers for freedom!" rejoiced Ticker, but Loria held up a hand.

"Look again," she said solemnly, "the royal flags you see are of no tribe of Trykoth!"


"See the water route, see the droves down there being driven away to slavery..." As Loria pointed out the dark masses representing the thousands of Tryker prisoners, her ears were suddenly alerted of the galloping of mektoubs coming up the trail not nine hundred yards on the other side of the plateau behind them. The Matis knights must have spotted them and had taken the bridle track round to take the Trykers by surprise.

"Quick, to the cavern!" cried Loria.

"The slope's too far, we'll never make it in time!"

"To the edge of the cleft, there's a vine we can climb down!" shouted Loria. The Matis were but three hundred yards away as the Trykers grasped the vine, all swung over the ledge and began to slip down the fifty foot scarp, that is, all except one.

"Come on, Bodley! What are you doing?!" called Loria from over the ledge.

"Keeping the Matis from our backs, you follow the lads now, Loria, you'll be down by the time I've cut this through enough!"

"But Bodley!!"

"I trusted you, now it's your turn to trust me! Go on now, I'll be alright long as you get a move on." Bodley continued slicing the vine with his penknife as the Matis closed in.

Part Three

The first knights wielding their swords were but ten yards from Bodley when he turned and threw a pocketful of prickly scrath galls in their road. The mektoubs reared on the prickles and threw their riders giving the bold Tryker an instant to see that the company had touched the ground and that Loria was already two thirds down the scarp, and then he too slipped over the ledge. A furious knight scrambled after him but on seeing the state of the vine turned to his chief.

"The wretch has cut the vine, it won't hold us, sire,"

The Matis chief advanced to the ledge. "Get back on your mektoubs," he ordered and swiped clean through the remaining strands of vine. "They're heading for the cavern! To the path on the other side!" he bawled before making off in a lightening gallop. Bodley was halfway down when the lifeline was completely severed. But the artful little fella kicked from the scarp wall at the last second to fling himself on a leafy flowering irin branch, so breaking the fall, but which then delivered him to the ground with a thud smack in the middle of a generous pile of dung! He got to his feet, pretty disgusted but none the worse for wear amid some laughter and cheering now that the Matis had been foiled. For the slope running down into the bed of the cleft was some three hundred yards on the far side, whereas the Trykers had just thirty yards separating them from the Prime Root entrance, and they all knew the Matis would never go against the Law and venture in after them. But Loria, the only one without a grin on her face, took the Tryker by his dung stained lapel, and gave his arm a sniff.

"Torbak, and fresh..." she uttered with a dark glance to the cavern of their haven. At the same moment there came from within a horrible roaring yawn that numbed their senses.

The Matis were racing across the plateau to the far slope and Loria knew they would be within the arena outflanking them in less than a minute. Bodley sank to his knees as much through moral exhaustion as despair.

"Get up, homin!!" cried she, "we're not done yet, get up, there's a greater battle awaits us. Now swallow your pride and do as I do, all of you!" She took a large Prime Root leaf, smeared it into the torbak dung and proceeded in rubbing it into her clothing. The others reluctantly did likewise as the Matis mektoubs came thundering down the slope. "Now, brace your hearts, remain calm and don't run, the scent you now wear will cover you." Loria then stepped forward as the Matis came charging over swords outstretched with the captain crying: "Only their heads!"

Unperturbed by Matis cries of slaughter, Loria continued her sure and steady progress towards the dangerous Prime Root haven with her company close behind all in one block. The Matis were but twenty yards from their heads as they came into the shade of the gaping cavern entrance when all at once, there was an appalling roar and a pack of five great torbaks pranced before them. Even one step from the jaws of death Loria did not falter in her stride, and led her company between the formidable creatures without them giving the Trykers so much as a sniff! The galloping mektoubs stopped dead throwing the first astonished riders into the path of the awesome predators who then lunged their saber-horns into the soft Matis bellies to secure each unexpected morsel before going on to the next in a frenetic binge of killing.

Only two Matis out of the whole party made it back to tell they had been trapped by a witch, claiming that not only had she the power to conjure evil creatures and set them on her enemy, but she dared breach the Law and descend into the forbidden caverns of the underworld!

The Company of Loria didn't hang around for the feast but continued on to meet their heroic destiny through the Prime Roots under the great mountain to the greater battle.


Monsoon Sunset

Par MoaVoa — Date de Création : Lundi,27 Février , 2006

told by an old Fyros Lady Mage

Part One

The Treaty of Karavia brought a truce in the feuding between peoples and trade routes soon paved the way for a new age of prosperity and understanding. For two generations our Empire shone in all its splendor brandishing the torch of discovery on the road to knowledge. Indeed, you know, even Zorai scholars came to find enlightenment in the great halls of learning of our capital city of Fyre.

Fyros settlements thrived along the Matis frontier where war once raged. The remotest though none the least important of these trading outposts was Colomo, which took its name from the aqueduct that tapped into the river Munshia at that point. Colomo was such an animated place what with trade fairs and convoys, traveling merchants and crafters with their tales of close shaves with wild beasts and such like.

But as they say, the more we are dazzled by the mirage of good living, the less are we given to focus on gathering evils. And indeed, the years of political discord over the running of the neutral zones situated between Matis and Fyros lands began to take its toll, for the border trails were becoming more and more dangerous with ruthless tribes holding up travelers for their wears and not always sparing their lives. No longer were merchants free to venture out as they pleased, the only sure way to travel was to stick to the timetable of the imperial convoys whose job it was to conduct groups of travelers.

So it was with some surprise that one fall evening the mayor of Colomo was alerted of the arrival of a lone Matis on a mektoub packer asking for board and food and permission to speak with the villagers. The mayor at first wondered how a lone traveler could have made it through tribe infested regions unscathed, that is, until he set his eyes upon him.

The Matis introduced himself as Angeli di Fabrini, and was clothed in the simple, homespun garments of his office, that's to say, those of a novice preacher. He'd been sent on an initiation mission to prove his commitment to the church of Jena. The mayor immediately understood why he hadn't been robbed, he quite simply had nothing to rob! Nothing to attract the scouring eye of a tribal scout, not even a single dapper piece to pay for his keep! The mayor then left him in the charge of Abecus, the joyous village mage, for the apprentice preacher to be entertained for the night before being conducted safely back to the nearest Matis outpost. In this way the mayor was reassured that the lad wouldn't go stirring up the population with his words of Jena. The last preacher that passed had only left dispute in his wake.

"Good, sir, I am most honored and would gladly accept your hospitality, but my mission is to speak with your people," said Angeli.

"Come, lad, we'll talk shop together first," said Abecus and led him away to his residence, a fine building of hues of yellows and blues contrasting beautifully with the ochre of the desert...

"Julea, tell tour mother to prepare the spare room, we've a visitor," called Abecus to his daughter on entering the cool vestibule. Julea, a headstrong girl of fifteen, stood riveted for an instant on the cool stairway leading down to the living quarters, it was the first time she'd ever seen a Matis in the living flesh. He stood tall and proud, his hands were slender, with long fingers and trimmed nails... He had an aquiline nose, fine fair hair swept back from his forehead with a boyish curl that kept dropping rebelliously over his left eye. Angeli di Fabrini spoke our language fluently with the singing accent of his people which flutters in the way the Kineli butterfly of the woodlands. He bowed rather pompously to her in salutation, she gave an amused smile then turned and continued down the stairs to give her mother the message.

Inside the main room, decorated with beautiful tapestries representing stories of bygone times, the temperature remained constant and dry despite the mugginess outside. The savory smell of mektoub trunk soup and spicy cactus wafted in from the kitchen. Abecus presently placed his young guest at table with his wife and two daughters. Silva, the youngest, a girl of twelve, and Julea. As soon as everyone was served the Matis cleared his voice which rose up in prayer :

"Praised be Jena, for this food you give

In every crumb do you help us live

Bless our souls as we work, rest and play

Till we earn our place on judgment day"

To this Abecus returned :

"Thank yee wife for these morsels here

Goes to show you love us dear

Bless your love that bears this table

And touches our hearts like there's no one able!"

Part Two

The mage's wife gave a blushing wave and gestured everyone to stop standing on parade. The young Matis missionary ate heartily and without so much as a slurp on his soup and took up his heart of cactus at the tips of his fingers, breaking off little delicate morsels before filling his mouth, which made Silva laugh. She was rebuked directly.

"Oh, I am not offended, but tell me, what gave her cause for laughter?" said Angeli.

"The way you have your fingers do the work of your teeth!" said Julea. "Here we pop the whole pulp into the mouth, so we don't get our fingers messy, see?!"

"My way is the observance of Jena. As I observe the different parts of the cactus to better judge how it has grown, so Jena seeks into our heart and soul to examine our overall worthiness."

"Well, here we are accustomed to tasting the cactus heart as a whole, tasting odd bits will only distort the overall picture. In the same way, a homin has many humors, to take only the one will make him your sweetest friend or your bitterest enemy!" returned Abecus all in good humor.

"Yet fully appreciating Jena's creation enables us to make pertinent offerings to her Karavan disciples."

"Hah, Jena, Jena, a figment of the imagination!" laughed Abecus.

"But, noble mage," returned Angeli in all seriousness, "then from whence do you derive your magic?"

"Not from the spirit of Jena, I can assure you! No, it is born of the knowledge of objects, thinking about them, learning how to look at them so that a science can be physically built up around them. I am sure that not one of your lot has ever seen Jena! Let a lone found out where she comes from!"

"Jena is in the breeze that caresses, the gusts that derange, the emotion that moves the heart. Thus we may feel though we cannot see. Only such sensations can allow us to suspect there is life after death on Atys," returned Angeli.

"You answer well, Angeli, but with respect, Jena has no place in this house! And when the Matis come down from their cloud to...."

But the words of Abecus were suddenly drowned out by a great howling.

"Gingos in these parts?" questioned Angeli.

"No, that's the wind of the desert monsoon, when it howls like that through the storm-sounder it means we're in for a burst of rough weather, it means too you'll have to hold up here till it passes. It will do you no harm to learn our ways. Now, I must go warn folk to keep their mektoubs inside tonight, before Jena, disguised as the wind, comes to ravish them away!! But stay, young friend, I shan't be long, Julea will give you conversation. She is to step into my shoes, it will give her a chance to air her learning."

So under the watchful eye of the matron of the house, Abecus left the young novices. And they talked till late each testing the other's grounds of reasoning, prying into one another's cultures.

"Is it true that the Matis keep their lower castes from learning to read and write to more easily bend their minds to your laws?" popped Julea.

"It is the Law of Jena, but the answer is yes, one must first acquire the necessary training to affront the doubts of this world. Needless knowledge is a danger to the simple homin only leading to torment and misery and finally to perdition amidst the jaws of the dragon," replied Angeli.

"So you predicate blissful ignorance!" mocked Julea gently.

"Well, I suppose, if you put that way..."

"And what of equality, I suppose Jena's Law doesn't account for it..."

"Yes, it does, but it is up to every homin to learn it! A place near Jena must be strived for, deserved, else it would be enough to wander through life as a common carpet seller!"

"At least you don't dodge my questions like others of your race, Angeli, and though I cannot adhere to your ways, the honesty of your faith seeps to my heart," vowed Julea.

"And I, Julea, though I share it not, bow to your sharp wisdom," was Angeli's reply.

Such was the tone of their conversations and despite the divergence of opinion each brought the other new matter to further their learning. For three days the burst of the autumn monsoon drenched the desert delta where life was soon returning in all its glory. But the weather all too soon abated and the Matis was shortly to be making tracks with the imperial convoy.

On the eve of Angeli's departure, having exhausted their capital of learning, the young homins sat silently on the dune overlooking the now flourishing desert delta. The beautiful monsoon sunset huddled around them in silence, a silence clad in the hue of friendship, a mutual friendship whose thoughts needed no robe of words...

Part Three

At that moment in time, I promise you, Julea would have followed wherever which way in the footsteps of Angeli di Fabrini, be it to Jena or to the Dragon, what suddenly counted was sharing the journey... Then, beyond all her hopes the young Matis turned to her, his beautiful eyes were glistening...

"Julea," he said, softly breaking the purple silence. "I believe my feeling for Jena is not that of love, for that feeling you have taught me, and I would exchange my religion for its supreme power..."

"Hush," said Julea raising a hand and smiling gravely, she touched the tear that now spilled from his eye and then the brow where she smoothed back his curl. Their arms enlaced, their lips touched, the warmth of the day exuded from their bodies, keeping the chilly monsoon wind at bay.

"I must speak to your father," said Angeli at last.

"Wait, Angeli, this is too grave of consequences to be taken lightly, let the night weigh upon our hearts and bring counsel, and then we shall see, my love."

Julea's sleep was fraught with dreams of repudiation and disownment by both her and Angeli's people, and of Jena condemning them to a nightmare journey to the underworld of the Dragon. Even so, she rose to the new day ever more determined as to the path she was set to follow. But with the morning came another nightmare, a living nightmare that would change the face of the world.

The great village bell was sounded giving the alert of some imminent bane. Messenger yber birds had been sent across the dunes with news of a terrible march of monsters creating havoc in the west. The emperor was calling for all able homins to join the imperial armies to fend off the dreadful legions of kitins, while children and homins unfit for battle were evacuated towards the north to rejoin the city of Piros in case rebel tribes launched an assault in the absence of warrior protection. Angeli was told he'd better leave for his homeland, there would be little chance of the rebel tribes impeding his journey now, they would have received the news and their eyes would be elsewhere.

Amid the commotion the two novices could only find a moment of seclusion where they embraced and exchanged lockets inside which each placed a lock of hair. Angeli swore he would be back just as soon as the menace was over. But alas, if Julea knew then what she knows now, she would never have let him take that cursed road back, where the kitins would march but hours later razing every trace of hominkind in their path...

Julea? She survived, yes, to another monsoon sunset, to another destiny... Yes, young homin, you guess right, t'is indeed a lock of fair hair I have inside my locket.


When the walls came tumbling down

- A Kitin tale told by an old Zoraï lady - 05/25/2004

I am from Zoran, the ancient capital of our people. I well recall our beautiful magnificent city that spread over miles of jungle, and my house in the old medina where the first Zoraï temple stood to the glory of the first Kami enlightenment. Morning and evening we would be called to worship by the chimes of the great syre wood bells whose sound was deep and tender and touched the heartstrings. One autumn, we were giving thanks for the exceptional harvest when the great bells tolled unexpectedly, for the last time?

My father's first fear was that the barbarians in the north had somehow escaped our guards attention, found a blind spot in the great wall securing our territory and had launched an attack. He swept me off my feet while my mother took my baby brother and we sped home as the city doors where being banging shut. When he left us to stand ready with his guild I had a pang in the heart and wouldn't let go of his leg. He nearly became cross and my mother had to pull me away. I watched him from the window run down the road toward the main entrance, skinning knife in hand. I had a sinking feeling I would never see him again.

Outside there was a tremendous crash followed by a sudden movement of the crowd and people started shouting and screaming that monsters were upon us. There was another sickening bang and a rolling of dust as the towers and the north city wall collapsed.

We watched the scene from our upper terrace and through the dust we saw the first giant kitins clambering into the city. Mother grabbed me, we ran downstairs, "pour the trapper liquid over yourself, quick, it'll cover your scent!" she cried as she dowsed my brother and herself. We poured a whole container over the floor then lifted the cellar trapdoor and descended to where my father did his skinning, and it was none too late neither.

A thousand feet drummed past the upper cellar window that looked onto the street at ground level. An obnoxious smell then filled the air as on the floor above our heads we heard some dreadful scratching about. My mother held my hand over my mouth for the first five minutes in anticipation of my screams, I was petrified. And then the rummaging above our heads got louder?

My mother made signs for me not to make a sound, and I did my best to swallow my sobs for my father who must have been killed. Then there was fierce banging on the door and this time I couldn't help let out a frightened yelp. My mother put her hand over my mouth again as upstairs all movement ceased, there was a kind of electric sound and I knew the monster was searching the air for sound vibrations. I swear my heart beat so fast and so loud that I was sure the monster could hear it!

But then the sound of rummaging moved away, the creepy-crawly steps were leaving our house, and I collapsed in my mother's arms. I don't know how long we slept, maybe four hours, all I remember is that outside it was getting dark when I awoke and my little brother giggling at a moth. My mother sat bolt upright from her slumber and hushed him for fear of kitins nearby. But though we couldn't see out of the window for the dust and dimness, we felt that all was quiet about. We cautiously took our first steps on the creaky cellar steps leading to the trapdoor in the floor. As my mother turned the handle there was a sudden awful clamor outside the door and this time I couldn't keep in my cries. My mother barely had time to sweep both me and my brother up in her arms?

The door was thrust open and there stood a tall silhouette that I knew peering down at us : my father! He pulled all of us out in one lump and squeezed us in his great arms. It was then on looking round that I realized that our house and our neighbors' houses, the whole city was in ruins like after a wild flow of water. My father had made it to the house of a fellow guildsman when the kitins broke through the wall, he pushed the whole family down into the cellar where they were waiting for us now. He told us how he had done as he'd often told my mother to do in case we were besieged by beasts when we lived in the open jungle. My father told us later that it was the only way to escape as many had died fleeing at the other end of town where the doors were not wide enough, many were trampled under foot before the kitins even got to them. It is for this that our villages today have no walls.



Par MoaVoa — Date de Création : Lundi,27 Février , 2006

told by Gangi Cheng-Ho, a Zorai Sage

Part One

After the destruction of the rainbows during the kitin war I had taken to the bush with my family and a dozen survivors from our village. I still recall the continual pang in my stomach, the anxiety, the insecurity. We roamed from one shelter to the next oft times sleeping in trees whenever the smell of kitin was still thick in the air. We had been living this precarious life for full four years when one day tidings came to my father from a Kami of a road that would take us to new lands, where the rainbows had delivered our brethren.

"We must leave before the hot summer sets in," urged my mother clasping her hands in hope when my father announced the news to all the group.

"But there's a problem, the road lies in the northern regions."

"Then we cannot go," said Si Li-Ching, our village spiritual elder.

"But why?" my mother implored. The deception in her plea shot like a bolt through my heart.

"Because it would mean crossing Matis and Fyros territory."

"The old one is right, Lian, not only would we have to avoid the kitins, but also the blade of the barbarians. He knows, he has seen the wars between the three peoples, their thirst for blood has no end..."

"For many seasons now, the relentless force of the Kamis and the Karavan has been bending the kitins in their resistance, and like the tallest tree in high winds, before long they will be completely broken, before long these lands will be ours again to rebuild..."

"But when, your reverence?! How much longer must we endure?!" pleaded my mother who then turned to my father with a hand on her swollen belly, I'd never seen such fire in her eyes: the desperate passion of a mother for the life of her children. "No," she said, "this may be our only chance to start afresh, we must leave, Leng. Look at us, we become more like savages everyday, nothing is clean here anymore! I go, and I go now, Leng!" My mother turned on her heels, sped round our makeshift quarters like a whirlwind gathering things together and took off out of camp with my little sisters tagging on her dress behind her. I turned to my father whom I loved dearly, but what son could leave his mother alone in the wilderness?! So I skipped off to join her myself despite him calling me back. To my relief we hadn't traveled three hundred yards when my father was level with us. He tried to reason with my mother but her eyes were blazing before her and she marched on as mulish as a madakam.

"Lian, listen to me!"

"No, Leng, I won't fester in these lands no more!"

"Wait, Lian. Hold on!!" My father took her by the arm and then perched his large hands on the rounds of her shoulders. Her eyes fired their determination at him.

"I'm determined, Leng, I want to live under a roof, I want my children to have a proper education, a future..."

"Lian, my dear Lian, but you're going the wrong way, the north is in the opposite direction! Besides, the night will soon be upon us, better head out in the morning..." My mother, now that she took in the full meaning of his words, slung her arms around his neck and pressed her head into his chest.

Part Two

The next morning we left amid tears for the life we were leaving and determination for the new one beyond. The others of our village would not be persuaded to join us, preferring to stay behind in the lands where they were born.

Before we set out my father pulled me to one side: "Son," he said gravely, "in the jaws of strife every homin is equal, you must be brave and now learn to be as good as your elders." He then gave me a dagger which I tucked into my belt like a sword. "I want you to watch over your mother and your sisters at all times. My hands will be full with finding resources and nourishment and steering the mektoubs through the barbarian lands to the great road."

It took us a full season to reach that road. Fresh new colors danced before our eyes and strange whooping and cackling played on our ears as we threaded our way through the lush forest where we learnt to pick berries and fruit. My father provided venison with his magic, some of the game we found there bore a likeness to that of the jungle often differing only in the color of the hide.

The desert was hardest going of all and the fat of the land was oft times pretty thin there. Worse than this, the Kami had told my father that we would come to a `line of water' that would lead us west to the great road, but when we arrived at the given place guided by the stars, we found the river had run dry. We could but trek on along the barren riverbed though my father was none too easy about riding like this in open country, especially as our mektoub packers had become strangely restless as if they sensed something following us over the ridge of the bank. Fearing we were being tracked by some wild beast or barbarians, he spent many a sleepless night keeping watch over us. One morning the mektoubs were particularly jittery, my sisters were placed on the beasts so that we could lengthen our stride before the heat sapped our energy. "The river must resurface somewhere yonder," he said, " the Kami could not have been mistaken. Besides, I can almost smell it in the air." We trudged on along the soft dry ground as best we could sucking coral pebbles to deceive our thirst and humming songs to take our minds off the droning insects and our aching legs. It was my mother who suffered most.

I remember noticing her feet were swollen with so much marching in the dry silt. She never complained though I knew she was in pain and that it would do the baby inside her belly no good. We'd halted in the shade of a badoa tree to take refuge from the scorching sun a while until it abated. I slipped up the bank in search for takoda leaves to bathe her feet despite my father calling me back. Over the ridge of the bank my eyes were met by the sight of the ruins of a deserted settlement. Carefully, dagger at the ready, I sneaked to the nearest tumbledown dwellings. There wasn't a soul to be seen, just the sound of the wind playing on the creaking bits of doors. From what I could make out it had been an outpost of some kind and I must have hit upon a guard room. Under a pile of rubble I caught sight of the tip of a boot. I pushed the debris away and found its double, just the thing for my mother! I tugged at both boots till they came loose to reveal the bony feet of a skeleton no doubt belonging to a guard buried under what must have been the roof. I gave a yelp, tucked the boots under my arm and bolted down the embankment as fast as my legs would carry me.

My panic and fright was well worth my mother's delight, though none too feminine, the desert boots fitted her like a glove though I didn't say who they'd belonged to! I remember how she clapped her hands just like a child. It suddenly struck me that, beneath her mothering ways, there still resided in her the little girl she had been at my age. I was swollen with pride in the secret knowledge that now she knew she could lean on me. And at the grand age of seven and a half I felt as tall as my father.

When I told of the outpost my father gently clipped the back of my head. "Come, brave little frippo," he said, "I've a feeling your outpost has another surprise in store for us. Where there's a homin settlement there's a water well!" We all pushed up the bank to the highest point of the dune, and there, on the other side of the village, not fifty paces from where we had been trekking along the dried river bed, a beautiful shimmering ribbon of water thread its way as far as the eye could see from the east to the west. It in fact turned out to be a narrow canal five paces wide that must have been dug by the hands of homins. "This is the water line the Kami spoke of!" exclaimed my father. "To think we've been walking virtually parallel to it, which explains the mektoubs' restlessness. They've smelt it for the past days!!"

But our high spirits were quickly dashed on perceiving a dark spec way yonder where the dust was kicked up which, we figured, could only be a large company of barbarians making their way too to the grand route. "We need not fret," concluded my father, "they are at least half a day's march ahead of us and have their sights fixed as do we to the west. We shall ride along the water line as long as we keep our distance."

So thereon we followed the water canal which assured us of fish and refreshment, virtually all the way to the grand road. What is more, we no longer needed to worry where to set up camp for the night, we simply had to follow in their footsteps, we even became reassured by their presence ahead. For the way was no longer an unknown passage as we could see with our own eyes others preceding us, be they barbarians they were still homins with similar needs to us. That much we'd grasped on walking through the ruins of the ravaged outpost. Rummaging through them instructed us as to their desert ways and their ingenuity never ceased to make us marvel. On settling into camp one evening, my mother found an ingenious instrument for peeling succulent cactus fruit that the barbarian convoy had left behind.

Relief and jubilation filled our bodily fiber when at last we came upon the first sign post as promised by the Kami that pointed the way to the newfound lands. Every sign post thereafter never failed to lift our spirits in the knowledge that there would be an end to our ordeal, just as long as we pushed on. We knew too that it would take many more seasons for us to reach our final destination, and that no doubt heartache and anguish lay in wait. I well recall one incident in particular that came to give us another vision of hominity...

Part Three

We were traveling over some grueling terrain following a canyon ridge when the trail forked off into two tracks. From where we were standing we could see that one sloped round the canyon to the bottom and up again. The other track cut a path to a wooden bridge spanning the ravine to the other side. We were desperately lacking water at that point, it was sweltering and we were tired. Across the bridge the going looked all the smoother, the vegetation so much greener and there was a waterfall glistening in the scorching sun. But what really made my father's mind up was seeing the silhouettes of barbarian mektoub cavaliers ahead on the slow track in the distance climbing a hill, brandishing their swords, then riding back up towards us. "We have at least a two hour start on them, we can make it to the bridge if we hurry, once over we'll cut it down, it's our only chance!"

We hurried on towards the bridge with the barbarians at our heels and closing in fast. I couldn't make out why they were so determined to catch us, though I had no time to dwell on the thought, I had all my energy fixed on moving my legs and controlling the sinking feeling that we wouldn't make it. We were but fifty paces from the bridge and the galloping of mektoubs rumbled louder in my brain with every step. "Don't look back, run for the bridge!!" shouted my father.

We pushed on, I looked back despite myself to see three roaring riders brandishing their swords not four hundred paces behind us. The bridge was but thirty yards ahead but then our mektoubs became panicky, started to rear up, and my father reached for my sisters just in time before they bolted! Still we pushed on, we were barely twenty paces from the bridge, but then as we passed an alcove in the canyon wall horror struck twice!! In the form of two great kirostas, kitin soldiers, that had been lying in wait!

They came lumbering at us clicking their enormous powerful pincers. My father stood alone before them trying to hold them back with his magic as we got to the bridge only to find that planks were missing making it impassable.

My father was weakening before my very eyes, his spells now failed him, and his mace was becoming slower, the kirostas would soon be on top of him. I expected the barbarians to halt in their chase on seeing the creatures but they broke into a faster gallop and came storming towards us. I drew my dagger and stood before my mother and sisters as suddenly arrows, spears and magic unknown to us went hurtling through the air then hitting the monsters full on. The riders jumped off their saddles to fight side by side with my father sinking their lethal weapons into the chinks of the kitin carapace to finish them off.

A great Matis barbarian strode up to my sapless father who had sunk to his knees in shear fatigue. The Matis warrior whose name was Matini, took him by the shoulders and lifted him back onto his feet.

"Homin," he said, "never have I seen such a show of magic."

"Never in my life have I seen one homin hold off two kitin soldiers!" said Kalus, the Fyros.

"I thought we'd never make it to yous in time," said Bremmen, the Tryker.

Though the words we did not thoroughly understand, the meaning was plain to see. It was plain too that my father was moved by their fraternity.

"We've been following your progress since you joined the water line at the ruins of Pekith. We saw you take the bad road, we tried to signal warning of the kitin ambush, then we doubled back."

"Homins... brothers, now I see clear, how can I repay you?" gesticulated my father with his right hand on his heart.

"By riding with us to the newfound lands, in unity we shall stand better chance," said the Matis. "Come, we must be on before other soldier kitins appear, the area is infested, there is a Prime Root opening nearby where they nest."

"There are many more of our company yonder, we shall give you food and drink," reassured Kalus.

"By the way, I hope you liked the cactus peeler, madam!" winked Bremmen to my mother. "My wife thought it would come in handy for you."

Our mektoubs were retrieved for my sister and mother. "Come, there is room for two," said the Matis to my father and heaved him onto his saddle. My youngest sister took place behind the Fyros, and I had a great time traveling with Bremmen, the bravest and wittiest of homins there ever was.

My baby brother was born on that road amid homins of every race. As a tribute to our peoples united my father named him Matini Bremmen Kalus Cheng-Ho! Though we called him Mabreka for short!


The Spirit in the Hills

I was raised in the old world where I lived with my family on the hillside overlooking our village. My pa was a water bearer on the water route to the desert lands. Many a time he came back home from an expedition with presents from the Fyros country. Once I got some fine desert boots, that was for my eleventh birthday. Another time I got a real Fyros axe which, as it turned out, probably saved my life.

I remember one day, in the autumn it was, I was getting in wood and ma was busy baking chestnut cakes for the winter store. All of a sudden I heard some rumbling like distant thunder and on looking up I could see a cloud of dust being kicked up in the distance. I first thought it was wild mektoub being hounded by a pack of gingos, and thought nothing of it. But the rumbling got louder and soon I could make out that it weren't wild mektoub but pa' and uncle Kegan galloping back home on their packers with the others galloping behind. I called my ma and she instinctively held me tight to her bosom like I was still a bairn, without a word we both sensed there was something seriously up.

Sure enough, pa, who was on his way back from a delivery of water, had got word that the Fyros were being attacked by hordes of monsters and we all knew what that meant. We'd learned from past experience that as soon as the Fyros were prevented from giving us protection in came the Matis to invade our lake lands. Well, I grabbed my axe and stood with pa and uncle with some other villagers expecting to see the Matis appear over the horizon, and sure enough, there came the unmistakable colors of an army of Matis cavaliers.

From the hillside we had a fair view of the main road and the surrounding country for miles around. It was my little sister who spotted it first. There, not a mile behind the Matis army another cloud of dust, but even bigger. We knew we were done for, my uncle said with such an army, we wouldn't stand a chance, that we'd have to give ourselves up or face certain death. My pa stood silently for a minute scrutinizing the second army. I will never forget that look of horror that spread across his face. “The second front ain't no Matis army, and surrender is no longer a viable option,” he said. “Watch, the second army's closing in on the first…”

The Matis were now well in sight and we could make out their proud march forward like they already owned the place. Then a most horrible sight made my heart sink and I stood frozen to the spot. The second army was now barely two hundred yards behind the Matis who still hadn't seen what was coming to them. My father took a step forward, I could see he wanted to shout a warning to our very enemies but they were too far away. Then a Matis soldier must have sounded the alarm for their mektoubs were suddenly set to the gallop, not to charge but to flea the dreaded mass of giant kitins now snapping at their heels.

It was appalling, the whole battalion before our very eyes became a mangled mess of kitin fodder, and the cries, the sickening smell brought to us on the wind… While the kitins were snapping through the bodies we galloped down to the village to give the alert. Some took the road west others went south where they knew of an opening in the great wall of the Zoraïs. Pa figured our best chance was in the highlands and we gathered what we could and pushed on up into the hills.

From our morbid viewpoint we could see waves of kitins pouring into the main roadway hacking through our village like it was made of cardboard. We trudged over the hills cross-country for days hardly stopping to rest for fear of kitin scouts picking up our scent. Lucky ma brought the chestnut cakes else we'd have starved. One night one of our mektoubs was mauled by a torbak and the others broke loose. Morale was getting really low when my uncle, who always went ahead to make sure the coast was clear, came running back.

Uncle Kegan said he'd seen a spirit who came to him in a vision and who told him to lead us east where we'd find a rainbow that would take us to safety. Pa thought at first he'd been puffing on weed again but he insisted so much that we could but follow on. Then, one afternoon as we came over a peak, there was the rainbow large as life. It was a sight to see I can tell ya. There was a group of homins, Trykers and Matis, and even a couple of yubos going through it and just vanishing. My ma weren't so sure about going through it then something appeared behind us which gave us no choice.

Two great monstrous kitin kinchers came lumbering up behind us with their great pincers snapping the air like they were testing their technique. My pa and uncle kept them busy with their arrows while I took my ma and sister by the hand and we ran as fast as our legs could carry us towards the rainbow. We weren't fifteen yards from the entrance when my little sister let out a desperate cry and fell to the ground in shear exhaustion. I picked her up while pa and uncle Kegan managed to hold the evil creatures off with their last arrows. We were nearly there when out of the blue came a third monster who blocked our way to the rainbow and just waited there like a provocation.

I admit I was petrified, I just froze senseless, couldn't lift a finger. Then pa's voice coming at me brought me to my senses : “Your axe, son, throw your axe at its eye!” Shaken from the nightmare, I took aim, flung the axe straight as a die. “Now run!” I heard pa shout, “don't look back, run for it!” I picked up my sister, took my ma by the hand and we ran round the monster's legs as it strived to rid itself of the Fyros axe embedded in its right eye, and the three of us made it through the rainbow. I know my pa saw us escape, I swear I felt his gaze upon us...


The Daïsha Stanza

During the authority of Lin Cho, the Fyros carried out an incursion on Zoran, the ancient Zoraï capital. The Fyros were successfully pushed back and the great wall thereon was extended to encompass all frontiers with barbarian dominions. Thanks to the impressive observation towers, the city bore hardly any damage though the little damage that was inflicted sunk like an arrow into the heart of Zoraï culture. Indeed, the fire blasting of the national library – whose holdings included many centuries of scriptures inscribed on mektoub parchment – made the grand council of sages realize the fragility and the bulk of their files of learning.

High magicians came together and a stanza was devised to reduce the volume of the parchments into spheroids thus allowing greater expanses of knowledge to be transported more easily. But there was a drawback, resisting properties were lost or weakened in the process and a container was needed to protect the spheres from the ravages of time and fire.

So it came to pass that, by order of the high authority of Lin Cho, master crafters throughout the land were summoned in the event of a competition to find a new non perishable means of storing the wisdom of the ages.

By and by the day approached and villages and towns all over the land were sending their prime candidates into the village of Taï-Toon where the new library was to be set up. About fifty master crafters in all with their apprentices were soon adding their final inspirations to their fabulous fabrications amid much ceremony. There were finely carved magical boxes, urns and jars of every shape, color and size made for the storage of the spheres of knowledge.

One young crafter by the name of Hari Daïsha, from the remote village of Din-Tin, had opted for a more rustic style and had ingeniously hollowed out a bodoc horn so that it could contain up to five spheres of knowledge. On the eve of the grand day, squatting outside his tent, Hari was busy applying the final coat of his fire proof potion to the horn when a well known city crafter stopped by and cast and amused eye.

“What is this, young homin? The musicians' quarters are nearer the exhibition grounds, up near the podium!”

“No, Master Seng, this horn is my competition piece. See, it closes the spheres of knowledge in with this watertight flap, it is resistant to fire and, best of all, can easily be dissimulated in nature in case barbarians come looking…”

“Amazing! A stack of bodoc horns, how deceiving!!…” jibed Seng who then perched a heavy hand on the young crafter's shoulder. “Heed my words, sages will always enjoy a pretty design. If you want them to cast so much as an inquisitive eye at your effort, I'd brighten up the coarse exterior!” With that Seng continued on proudly to his own camp where his chela was giving a last polish to a magnificent box of amber.

The young Zoraï looked down at the crude bodoc-horn receptacle. “Mmm, old Seng may be right, tomorrow the jury must study many innovations and then pronounce their verdict before the great assembly. I'd better add a little extra sheen to it to make it stand out a bit! Huh, I may not be able to afford amber but there's plenty of sap in the river yonder…”

Jungle Night was closing in as Hari, fatigued and irritated at Seng's chaff, squatted down to his chore of boiling down some sap to produce a firm jelly which he could then use to rub into the receptacle to give it a green sheen. The night lamp attracted all the fireflies of the night, Hari grumbled at yet another that danced between his eyes. “Ah, get lost before I zap ya!” he groused waving a sap sodden hand. But the firefly was determined to make a nuisance of itself. “Right, you asked for it!” Hari took a scoop of sap, rolled it into a ball, thought up a binding spell off the top of his head and zapped the insect which fell to the ground in a prison of eternity. “Wow!” exclaimed Hari, “look at that! I've bound it in sap!”

On retrieving the translucent green ball of sap, he was able to marvel at the intricate anatomy of the creature and behold the full beauty of its highlighted wings that no homin had ever seen before. “Any sage would give his book of stanzas for that,” he thought, and an idea was borne into his head. All night long he practiced zapping and dezapping fireflies to perfect the power words of the stanza until at last, in the small hours of the morning, a firefly was able to slip its tarsi from its spherical prison and flew away totally unscathed.

Early next morning, the hustle and bustle of competitors getting ready and making their way to the parade ground soon gave way to the stillness of the vacant tents. Vacant, all except for one. Hari, still under the effects of the sap fumes and a hard night's work, had fallen back into deep sleep and slumbered on and on…

It was the distant sound of horns signaling that the judges had reached their decision that finally stirred him from his dream. No sooner had he opened an eye than he was running with his beads of sap over to the podium where none other than Master Seng was proudly holding up his box for all to see. “Amber,” he intoned, “will last forever and this box will give lifelong protection to anything stored inside it.” He then turned, according to tradition, to give the box to the master sage in exchange for the winning medal.

“Master Seng,” began the great sage in his ceremonial voice, “I proudly pres…”

“Wait!” piped in Hari, all out of breath and squeezing himself out from the front row of spectators. “Your reverence, my piece has yet to be judged…”

“W… what do we have here?! Silence, the winner is chosen…”

“My lord, if I may,” interrupted Seng, who then pulled the sage aside. “I recognize this lad, he has an uncommon mind, one of a fool or of a genius. To discourage his efforts now, could mean killing a bright bird of fancy in the egg later…”

“Yes, Seng, I see your point, it takes every twist of nature to make the world whole,” agreed the sage then motioned to Hari who brought out a bead of sap form his bodoc horn and held it up to the sun for all to see. The sage examined the sap-bound fly not without wonder.


“It's a new process, your reverence.” Then, with a wave of the other hand and an utterance, Hari conjured his reversing stanza releasing the firefly which took to the air amid the “oos” and “ahhhs” of the surrounding spectators. “Is there anything more fragile than a firefly?”

“Very interesting,” conceded the sage, “but sap won't resist against the first drop of rain let alone the ravages of time!”

“No, but amber will,” put in master Seng stepping forward to Hari offering his beautiful creation in one hand and a sphere in the other. “Come, young homin, take the amber you need from this box and show us what your magic can do with this sphere of knowledge. If you succeed, you can pay me back with your winnings!” chuckled the great crafter.

In the twinkling of an eye, the young crafter had dissolved a portion of amber which he then directed to seal the sphere of knowledge. The whole crowd clapped and cheered as the sage, muted by the clamor of praise, took the young homin by the arm and raised it in the air.

The balls of amber were thereafter perfected into cubes for easy storage with the help of Seng, who, incidentally, also made the first great Chest of Wisdom to store them in. To add security, the council of Sages added a special binding seal to ensure that only initiated fellows could handle the precious contents.