Phoenix Rising – Snippet 24

Phoenix Rising – Snippet 24

Chapter 24

Tobimar staggered as he placed yet another gasping body – a child, no more than ten in human terms, with delicately pointed ears and long silvery hair smeared with blood – on the altar. I can’t fall now. We aren’t even near done. He called on his meditations, the training Khoros had given him, released the reserves of his soul. Strength flowed back into his body, clarity to his thoughts. There’ll be a price for that, later… but not now.

The Lurali, a priestess of Terian, looked even more exhausted than he had felt. She wavered as she laid hands on the girl, invoked the power and prayer. Blue-white light as gentle as gathered starlight flowed from the Lurali, into the little Artan girl, knitting the injuries, pulling together sundered sinew and flesh, restoring blood to the flow and pulse of life. Then she collapsed to her knees; Tobimar caught her before she fell forward. “You have done as much as the Light in the Darkness can ask, Lurali,” he said. The semiconscious priestess tried feebly to argue, but others came to bring her to a place of rest.

Tobimar shoved his sweat-soaked hair back into place and looked around. The Temple of Terian was filled all along the eight walls with refugees, the injured, the homeless, and he could see more being brought in. “Sand and sun… how many are there?” he whispered.

“A lot.” The voice, a very subdued one, spoke from near his feet. Poplock looked up at him, a completely uncharacteristic expression of exhaustion and pathos clear on his amphibian face. “Tobimar… it’s like this all up and down the Blessed Quarter. The Hall of the Aesir’s practically full – not that the Spear and Hammer will turn any with the courage to make it this far away. You know the Palace courtyard was crowded. The Cavern of Endless Crystals,” Tobimar nodded to show he recognized the name of the temples of the Dragon Gods, “the Cavern’s full. Hundreds of refugees there. The Triad, the Three Beards, the Lifecross, the Aegeians… even Blackwart’s Pond. All of them, it’s the same.” He seemed to deflate. “The priests are running out of strength, even the greatest of them. There will be people dying in the temples tonight, Tobimar. Dying. In the temples of the gods.”

Tobimar bent and picked up his exhausted friend, hearing the grief still in Poplock’s voice. “Don’t blame yourself. Please.”

“How can I not?” the little Toad’s voice was something between a scream and a croak, a pathetic sound that sent a shiver of sympathy up Tobimar’s spine. “I knew they were planning everything… I should have made people listen to me!”

The thought of little Poplock – dangerous though Tobimar knew he could be, in the right circumstances – trying to force someone like the Winnower to listen brought a faint, sad smile to the exiled Prince’s lips. “You know that wouldn’t have worked. And Khoros always told me that we must learn from the past, but not let it pain us more than the learning requires. For like any open wound, it will never heal if we do not let it alone.”

“Heed the words of your friend, Poplock Duckweed.” It was the Nomdas herself, highest priest of the mortal god on all Zarathan, the Shading Glory’s pearlescent glow blurring her features as all representations of Terian blurred his. She was clearly exhausted as well, but refusing to stop. “You cannot fault yourself for being who you are. Learn, but do not punish yourself. There is too much at stake for those who are already a part of this great game to abandon their places.”

“Great game? What are you –”

Yet the Nomdas had passed on, was bent over an injured mazakh, and Tobimar could tell the time for talk was already past. He saw how few of the priests were still up, still able to act, and realized that Poplock’s horrific prediction was all too likely to come true.

Deaths in the Temples.

It was a horror story, something to frighten children with. Yes, it could happen in the wilds, in places where there were few priests, but in the greatest city of the world, in the very temples of the Blessed Quarter?

But looking around him, seeing the refugees still trickling in, a slow but relentless flow of need and pain that was overwhelming even the servants of the gods, the alchemists, the sorcerers who practiced the healing arts, Tobimar realized that was going to happen. It was happening. And the very fact that it was happening told him that Master Khoros’ warning had to be true; somehow, the gods themselves could no longer act, could not step down from their realms and wield their supernal powers directly to stem the relentless tide of the injured and dying.

“I refuse,” he muttered.


Poplock’s confused query shocked him; he hadn’t realized he’d actually spoken that aloud. “I refuse to accept this, Poplock. This is… monstrous.”

The little toad looked at him with a wry tilt to his body that seemed at least something more like the old fearless, carefree Poplock Duckweed he’d come to know. “Well, yes, it is, but exactly how can you not accept it? If you close your eyes and put your thumbs in your ears you’ll still be tripping over the people.”

“I mean that this is part of what they – whoever they are – intended.”

Poplock narrowed his eyes. “Oh. Oh, my. You mean that the assassination –”

“Has to be part of it. It was all coordinated.” He whirled, strode over to the northern wall, picking his way carefully past healers and injured and sleeping, to point to the inlaid map of the continent. “Look. That first group of refugees… came from Pondsparkle. Right?”

“Well… some of them had ‘ported or gated from farther in, but they’d come to Pondsparkle, yes. Couldn’t pop to Zarathanton for some reason.”

“So here… Pondsparkle’s about two hundred miles north of Zarathanton – but if you go about this far south you can take the river for a good long distance, which you would if you were refugees in a hurry. If they took that route, when did they start running, to get here when they did?”

Poplock thought for a moment, tongue flicking out absently, and he suddenly sat up. “That’s –”

“Exactly. The attack must have started almost precisely when the assassination took place.”

The little Toad bobbed slowly. “And the refugees…”

“They’re not trying to kill everyone. Driving so many people here will overload the Temples, terrify the population, demoralize people… and reduce support, because people will start to worry about protecting their own. Fewer nobility subscriptions because people don’t feel the privilege is worth it now, maybe established nobles retract their subscriptions… with the Sixteen not able to intervene and make a show, the State’s in trouble.”

“The Adjudicators?”

“They’ll do what they can, but they can’t support the defense of the whole city. If enough people lose faith, the whole system will collapse.”

“Oh, drought and quicksand.” Despite the grim situation, Tobimar felt his heart lighten a tiny bit. Poplock was sounding more himself, and somehow that made things better. “What can we do? I don’t think we can defend the city ourselves either.”

“No,” agreed Tobimar, “but right now we need to make sure the King sees the whole situation, and then…” he gave a weak grin and shrugged. “Then we do the best we can. He can’t leave. He’s the Sauran King, the living representative of the Dragon Father and the Sixteen. As long as he’s here, he might by himself be able to keep the people’s confidence. But he’ll need all the help he can get.

“Still, someone has to find out who did this, track them down, and stop them.”

Poplock hopped on his head and then leaned perilously over, looking down into Tobimar’s eyes. “That’s an awfully tall order for one exiled Prince and a somewhat height deficient Toad.”

“True. But if we can at least find out who we need to stop, maybe after that we can figure out that little question of how.”

Poplock’s gaze bored into his own for an eternity of seconds; then the little Toad suddenly bounced off Tobimar’s head and onto his shoulder. “Then it’s a good thing we registered with the Guild last week!”

“Helped to have Toron as the sponsor. Come on.” He turned, bowing to the remaining priests. “My apologies; we have just realized something of grave importance that needs to be told to the King.”

The Nomdas returned the bow wearily. “You have done much here already. Go, and Light Unto Darkness.”

“Light Unto Darkness, Nomdas.

Tobimar strode out into the night.


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21 Responses to Phoenix Rising – Snippet 24

  1. Robert H. Woodman says:

    From the snippet:

    “Has to be part of it. It was all coordinated.” He whirled, strode over to the northern wall, picking his way carefully past healers and injured and sleeping, to point to the inlaid map of the continent. “Look. That first group of refugees… came from Pondsparkle. Right?”

    “Well… some of them had ‘ported or gated from farther in, but they’d come to Pondsparkle, yes. Couldn’t pop to Zarathanton for some reason.”
    “Couldn’t pop to Zarathanton for some reason.”

    Does Zarathanton have anti-teleportation wards all around the city? Or was something else blocking the refugees from teleporting into the city? If it was “something else”, then having a visible stream of refugees moving through the countryside was also part of the plan.

    Oh, and with what “Guild” did Tobimar and Poplock register? The text just says “the Guild” but not what Guild. (I’m assuming that there is more than one guild in Zarathanton.)

    • The “for some reason” implies that Poplock thought they SHOULD have been able to pop straight to Zarathanton, so something else is involved.

      Given that the two of them are talking about going out and doing some kind of troubleshooting/investigation about such stuff, and the mention of it in earlier parts of the book, the implication is the Adventurer’s Guild. It’s been mentioned more than once that Aunt Victoria was in that Guild (Toron was too, although in his case it was more a formality than a necessity).

      • RichardK says:

        And Victoria Vantage is not a registered guild member because she is an avatar of Myrionar?

        • Robert H. Woodman says:

          You mean Kyri Vantage, don’t you? Victoria Vantage was a member of the Adventurer’s Guild, but she may be retired now.

        • I presume you mean Kyri. She wasn’t Guilded before she came, but you can bet that Toron, knowing what she was up to, got her into the Guild double-quick before she left.

          Victoria’s been in the Guild for AGES.

          Also, Kryi is not an avatar. She’s what I call a god-warrior, a souped-up version of what D&D calls a Paladin. Avatars are the god itself hiding behind a mask.

          • Robert H. Woodman says:

            Is there a penalty for going on adventures when you’re not a member of the Adventurer’s Guild? Do Guild representatives come and repossess your sword and your Never-full bag?

            • Drak Bibliophile says:

              Anybody can go on adventures (remember *adventures* can find a person), but there are benefits from being a member of the Guild. IIRC local authorities are likely to be friendlier to Guild members than they would be to non-Guild members.

            • Being Guilded is like having an official license and certification; it says “this is an Adventurer of the true stripe, who may be doing this just for the sake of good or excitement or even just out to make a buck, but only in the best traditions of the service, so to speak.”

              Other people are Adventurers, but those that aren’t Guilded might have to prove themselves and won’t be trusted as much as those who are. Plus calling on other Guild members is a common way of pulling together a group to face a major problem and be sure your group’s all trustworthy.

        • RichardK says:

          Yes, Kyri. Sorry.

      • Robert H. Woodman says:

        I had thought it might be the Adventurer’s Guild, but I didn’t want to make that assumption. That’s why I asked.

  2. JeffM says:

    Looks like people beat me to the “Adventurers Guild” questions before I got here. I usually take the chapters home to read, then stop back to comment. :)

    So, this isn’t being written as a fantasy based in real life, but a fantasy based in RPG’s? That makes more sense to me.

  3. JeffM says:

    Because RPG’s, when actions are dictated by dice rolls, have nothing to do with how actions originate in real life. I pointed this out to my DM a number of times that what he was asking us to roll for had absolutely no relation to the process by which a person would react in the real world. He pointed out to me that it was a game, not real life.

    So therefore, you are writing how people are reacting based on a game, not real life. Which is why I have difficulties with suspension of disbelief at some points. But now that I know what you are doing, I’ll make proper adjustments. It;s just a story set entirely in an RPG.

    Take, for just one example, when Kyri froze at her first sign of danger. That is unrealisitic on so many levels, however “plausible” to someone who has never seen action–or is basing people’s reactions upon RPG’s. As I pointed out there, the whole point of training isn’t just how to use a sword–it’s to help ensure that a person reacts, rather then freezing, when suddenly faced with an unfamiliar scenario.

    That upon my reflection that people who are considered “heroes” don’t “freeze”–they simply do what needs to be done, with no freezing (or ‘heroism’) about it. If you freeze, people die. I say that not only from personal experience, but reading the writings of those who have “been there, done that”. Human beings are human beings, regardless of the setting. Even Tolkein’s halflings and elves were “human”, without the artifice of an RPG overlay. Same for Lewis’ and Rowling’s characters…although the former were a bit…overenthusiastic.

    I’ll add this because it has bothered me. Justice and Vengeance are two concepts that don’t usually coexist. Once Justice is served, Vengeance is empty. Retribution? Maybe. So this whole “Vengeance” coming last is just weird to me. Vengeance is what the Hatfields and McCoys thrived on, and vengeance just feeds upon vengeance, until justice puts an end to it. That’s why the symbols for Justice are always balanced scales.

    But like you said, it’s a fantasy, operating in a fantasy world. Not real people who just happen to live in a fantasy setting.

    BTW–in one place you called the Marshall the cousin of the King, later when he was King, he called his predecessor his ‘brother”. If he was speaking symbolically, that wasn’t clear–but I thought you’d like to look at it.

    • That’s not the way I run RPGs, though. I build a world and run the world. The rules are there to provide fair mechanics to interpret what happens. If the rules conflict with the way the world works, I throw out the rules. The world, as a living, breathing world, exists independent of the rules. The dice only determine things that are known to be possible, and that shouldn’t be left to pure narrative in the game. The actions of the characters are purely determined by living people (the players, or by me if they’re NPCs). This assumption that RPGs are some kind of mechanical paint-by-numbers is either laughable or tragic, depending on my mood and who’s making the assertion.

      Insofar as “freezing”, that appears to be an idiosyncrasy of yours. I know quite a few people who are or have been in the military, and none of them (that I have talked to, anyway) find it hard to imagine a person trained purely AS A SPARRING PARTNER, without any actual combat experience, would momentarily freeze before gettting a grip and going into combat for real. There’s plenty of record of people actually freezing in combat in real battles, or in police situations which the police were supposedly trained for. No offense, but I really can’t see this objection as being one with a terrible amount of weight, given multiple people that I know saying that people can, and DO, freeze sometimes when first finding themselves in real I-Could-Die combat. Kyri just happened to be lucky that she froze BEFORE she was in full striking range of her adversaries, so she didn’t die in the instant.

      Vengeance , in the Myrionar perspective, is for the times when there can be no Justice otherwise, so to speak, which is why it comes dead last. WITHOUT Justice and Mercy, yes, it does indeed breed on itself, and that’s why you need to temper it, or it becomes a force of destruction alone.

      Yes, you’re right that I switched cousin and brother around; the problem is that I actually shifted his relationship a couple of times during the design of the world and so some parts of it reflect one state of relationship and the others reflect the other.

      • Drak Bibliophile says:

        My experience with being in combat is limited to what I’ve read or heard from knowledgeable people.

        From what I’ve read/heard, nobody can predict how a person will react to their first time in combat/danger.

        Ryk’s correct that a momentary freezing is a very possible reaction to one’s first combat/danger situation.

      • Robert H. Woodman says:

        Having read JeffM’s question and Ryk’s response, Ryk I would point out that vengeance is a word with a long history and many shades of meaning. Retribution (just or otherwise) is one such shade of meaning. Given what Ryk wrote about Myrionar and Vengeance, it seems clear to me that Ryk is using Vengeance with the shaded meaning of Retribution (just retribution, of course).

        • I think that’s probably the right way to interpret, yes. Vengeance in the sense of, oh, Khan in Wrath of Khan is self-destructive, ruining everything you touch including all y0u ever valued. But bringing justly-considered retribution upon those for whom there is no possibility of redemption can be cleansing.

  4. Sharon Turner says:

    Sorry I’ve come late to the party, but there are some terms being thrown around here, that I am not familiar with. . . or possible since I’m 65, and sprinting into my dotage, I simply cannot remember. Chief among them: “RPG, & NPG” is there, perhaps, a glossary of some sort? I have been an avid Science Fiction/Fantasy fan since the 1950s, with my preferences running to: time travel / time displacement / alternate universe / alternate timeline. But I also love Dragon fantasies! So, although coming late to this party, I have always been lurking in so many of your corners for many years. I am just getting too old, and before I disappear completely, I’d like to know what I may have missed. S. Turner

    • Drak Bibliophile says:

      “RPG” is Role Playing Game, “NPC” (which is what I think you meant instead of NPG) is “Non-Player Character” ie a character in the game who isn’t “played” by one of the people playing the game. Oh, the “DM” stands for “Dungeon Master” which really means “Game Master” ie the person setting up/controlling the RPG as well as controlling the Non-Player Characters.

    • As Drak says — RPG means “Roleplaying Game”, and NPC is “Nonplayer Character”. In an RPG, there are PCs — player characters, the characters played by the player, and NPCs, who are played by the GM/DM (Game Master or Dungeon Master).

      The most famous RPG is Dungeons and Dragons, but there are literally hundreds if not thousands of others. I’ve been gaming since 1977 and it’s actually one of the most powerful tools in my writing arsenal. The world of Zarathan itself I invented for my games and writing in 1977 -78, and I’ve been building it ever since.

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