Saturday, December 25, 2010

Extended Christmas excerpt! From the chapter, "The Steward of Kihar"

The party reached the city by the next day. As has been said, in the midst of Kihar was a single tower, the Great Tower of Feoheir, and within that tower ruled the High Steward of Kihar: currently Esuvar, son of Ektiro X. Around the tower were built several smaller stone buildings and houses that branched out and created seemingly innumerable side-streets and back-alley paths throughout the city. The encircling wall rose to about seventy feet high and was seven feet thick, and it had a rail along the top, so that soldiers could assume posts in case of battle. As of yet, no enemy had been able to penetrate the imposing wall since its construction. The city itself had an area of about seven square miles.
“The Lord Esuvar awaits you,” said Kedaer as they reached the main gates of the city, which were flanked by two tall guards wielding bladestaffs. The gates were tall and made of thick steel, and they bore the crest of the Kiharian Stewardship: two wolves sitting on either side of a single stone of adamant. The gates swung open and the party entered the city. There was a main street that led directly to the tower, along with three other streets from the south, east, and west. The street broke off into side-streets, where Mathion saw heraldic motifs of different guilds and practices. They saw that on their right hand, as they walked down, was a street that bore the crests of smiths and wrights. And on their left hand they saw a street that was home to traders and barterers. Narios saw these and gazed at them in wonder, for he had never been to Kihar before.
“What do all these symbols mean?” he asked.
“There are many guilds in Kihar,” Kedaer replied as they walked down the street. “Saddlers, potters, gardeners, traders, and so on. But only four of them have hereditary membership: scribes, healers, smiths, and masons, which include carpenters and sculptors. The son of a smith will then become a smith; the son of a scribe will become a scribe, and so on and so forth. These are what we call the Elder Guilds, because they were the first to be established in Kihar. Many of the smiths and healers that attend to the King at Avakaš are actually of Kiharian origin.”
“Yes, I know,” said Mathion. “They are the best in all of Ánovén.” He then summoned his sword Aelak’ra and held it in front of him.
“This sword was forged for me by Thúros, who was born in this city one thousand one hundred and five years before my time,” Kedaer looked at the sword, his expression calm but his eyes betrayed his awe.
“My father knows Thúros,” he said. “They call him Ktildion, because he has such a connection with blades and their making. Many say he is the greatest forger of sara’il since Aruvai himself.”
“Indeed,” said Mathion. “Sadly he passed into the Next Realm.” As they walked, Kedaer bowed his head. He touched the center of his forehead with his two left-hand forefingers, a sign of sadness and mourning for the dead.
“How long ago?”
“Not two decades. Aelak’ra was the last blade he forged; it was given to me as a reward for my ascension into the Sentárin thirty-two years ago. After that he rested from his labors for twelve years. He passed on in peace.”
“I would go so far as to say it is the most beautiful weapon I’ve ever seen, be it sword or shield or bladestaff.” Mathion nodded in thanks and recalled his sword.
Now they had come to the midst of the city, at the base of the Great Tower of Feoheir. They ascended a flight of marble steps and stopped in front of the high doors to the Tower. They stood nearly twenty feet high, and were flanked by two soldiers on either side. One took his great right fist and knocked once, paused, and knocked again twice. The doors promptly swung open inwards, though Mathion could not see who opened the door from the inside. Immediately two attendants came and took the reins of Mathion’s, Dovosir’s and Oharion’s horses and led them to a stable on the other side of the tower.
“I leave you here,” said Kedaer, “I must return to my duties. But I hope that we will meet again soon.” He swiftly descended the steps, returning to his post outside the city walls.
“Enter,” said one of the guards, which slightly startled Mathion. “The High Steward wishes to see you.” Mathion led the party into the Great Chamber of Feoheir. Once again, another lord of an Ánovénean city had a vast, cathedral-like chamber, only this one was not as tall as Belevâk’s hall, and not as grand as Hâr-Tharion’s. They walked to the far end of the chamber, and on the walls were banners that bore the crests of each of the former High Stewards of Kihar. It was Kiharian custom for each High Steward to choose a personal crest that would be displayed alongside the Crest of Kihar. Many of them were associated with various guilds of the city from which the Stewards claimed descent. Then, they saw another banner, shining with scarlet and grey: a white crescent moon prominent against the black silhouette of a bladestaff. On either side of the chamber they counted thirty-six banners in total, the Lord Esuvar’s banner being the thirty-seventh.
Below the hanging banner, there was a great throne, carven out of rich mahogany. Unlike many Ánovéneans, Kiharians used wood and other such items along with the stonework and masonry that the Wolven in general were widely known for.
Upon the throne sat an aging man, obviously of high blood, and he wore on his head a richly engraved circlet made of sara’il with a single, oval piece of onyx in the center. The hair on his head was a deep oaken brown flecked with bits of grey, and he had a white beard. But his deep brown eyes still conveyed the vigor of youth. Respectfully, Mathion bent down his head and bowed slightly, grasping his left shoulder with his right hand.
“Baec cadim Ka’én uvo,” he said. The others did the same, and even Elekan managed to bow his head and lower the front of his body.
“Rise, Ser-Mathion of Avakaš,” said Esuvar. His voice was calm, and yet an air of anticipation, even anxiety, was in it.
“My lord, are you aware of why we have come?”

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