Stone Brigands: Episode 1

Originally posted here: Episode 1. New episodes will be released there, a few days before they are put on this site.

Here is the début “episode” (pilot?) of Stone Brigands, the main story of Sesho. New episodes will hopefully be released a few times a month. It’s all in good fun. Generally, each episode will be around 1,000 words long, but some will be longer if that’s what is needed to finish a passage, and occasionally they may be no more than a short scene. We’ll see how it all pans out.

Feel free to add ideas along the way because I’m winging it with this story (for the most part). I’m also open to suggestions for posts if there’s something in the episodes that you’d like to see explained separately in more detail. Check out the Sesho Region category for all related info. Eventually I’ll add an episode list page and a page for related posts to make it easy to find the older stuff.

—–

greenstones

STONE BRIGANDS

EPISODE 1:

INVADERS FROM AFAR

Charmele climbed the grassy hill, up toward the cliff. Small flecks of magical energy passed her by, some passing through her, but she was used to that feeling. It was the usual uncomfortable sensation that came when another’s energy passed through the body.

The strange thing was, she realized, the one to whom these excess waves of power belonged to was atop the hill, and still further on, most likely standing or sitting at the cliff’s very edge.

As she took the final elevated steps, Charmele saw she was correct. There the foreigner stood, through a dense mist of pressure. A fairly tall man with long, black hair, wearing burgundy robes with a white lining. He also wore armour, but only a black cuirass with relatively thin shoulder straps.

To an untrained eye, he would appear like a mirage as if he was far ahead, blurry through a haze of heat waves. Yet it did not get that hot this far north, she knew, as it did in the wastes of Chatal where she and her task force were from. Besides, he was too close for that anyway. All this pressured, blurry air came from that man, some twenty paces ahead.

With her practiced skill, she could see him just fine. Vermilion. Charmele and the others had been ordered to let him join them in their covert operation. She saw the reasoning behind it – he would know more than all of them combined on the geography, the people, and their strengths and weaknesses. All vital information.

But what was in it for him? Why would he help them conquer his own home? He hadn’t revealed anything as of yet, and that made Charmele nervous. They had nothing on him, but needed him as a guide. She’d feel much better if she were allowed to just off him right now, but the warnings to leave him unharmed were clear enough, and Charmele had been told straight from her own task force’s leader, Corewell.

“The northern valleys are wild and untamed,” he had said. “If we march in from the south – our only way in – then we’ll be beat up along the way. It only gets worse heading north, and that’s where the bulk of the resources are. No, we won’t even get close that way. We need this small group, Charmele. The five of us are the best. We have to figure out how to usurp these people from the inside, and we won’t be able to do it without Vermilion. Without him, we’re lost. You’ll just have to accept it.”

Fed up with reminiscing, Charmele came to the edge of Vermilion’s barrier, and stepped forward. The strange feeling of weightlessness and nausea was quickly overcome as she walked to him. The Seshese was standing right at the edge of the tall cliff, looking down at the forests below, and did not turn to acknowledge her.

“What are you doing?” she asked him, impolitely.

“Testing,” he said. “You’ll see. Now, silence. This is not easy.”

He grabbed the blade at his waist, and unsheathed it. The moment he held the handle and drew it out, the pressure in the air all around fled inward back to its source, focused. Incredible. Then she saw the five or so stones, shining emerald green in the wrapped grip. It was a thin blade common to the area of Sesho, but she knew it was sharper and just and dangerous as the wider blades of Chatal. She saw he carried another, similar in appearance, but left it on his belt. She wondered why he was using the shorter blade.

“Stand back,” he warned her. She did not argue.

He slashed across his body from left to right, striking an invisible opponent. From his blade launched half a dozen or so bolts of light, and they all rose quickly skyward in the upward angled direction of his slash. Then, when they were above the forest, they dove with greater speed.

Charmele saw each bolt was headed for a large tree, yet as they came closer to their targets, the energy appeared to weaken rapidly. When they should have struck their marks, nothing happened.

“Looks like you missed. It’s too far away,” she said, amused by his failure.

“Just as I thought. These forests are still occupied. We’ll have to head east, then. We’re not ready for the Vix, yet.”

“You mean those fox-people? I thought they were as good as gone.”

“Were you not just watching? That was a large barrier,” he said with a calm voice. “Hiding is more likely. Biding their time. From your reaction, it’s working.”

“And where’d you get all those?” she said, pointing to his weapon. It was a stupid question, he was from Sesho after all, but she had never heard of the stones being green. “Why did you not use your main weapon?”

“You still don’t have any, do you? None of you do. Isn’t that what you’re here for?” said Vermilion, sheathing his sword, finally turning.

Charmele did not answer. She was too frustrated within to say anything. Was he mocking her? Something about the ease with which he spoke really bothered her, like everything was so obvious that he was above giving specific answers. Then there was his stare. So…calculated.

After a moment of silent regard, Vermilion took out a pouch from his robes.

“Here,” he said, lobbing it to her with a satisfied smile. Then he sat down again, cross-legged with his arms folded, intently watching the land below them.

Charmele walked away, back toward the others. She opened the light pouch, and saw the handful of small items within. Stones. This is what they were here for, just as he had said. Chatal wanted the famous stones that channeled magic. Then their forces would be that much more effective. Even soldiers who possessed a drop of magical power could focus it into their attacks. Thinking of this, she realized what they were up against, what awaited them all in this place. Sesho. In these lands surrounded by mountains, every village and farm might possess the stones, with people who knew how to use them. That’s why Sesho had to be torn apart from the inside. And, she reluctantly agreed, that’s why we need him. For now.

(end of episode)

Next Episode: The Scandalous Companion

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