Monday, 26 November 2012

A Sneak Peek

All right readers as some of you may know my twin brother (yes I am a twin) is currently starting up his own writers page on Facebook and he has asked me to help him spread a preview of the high fantasy story he is writing.

So in order to help him out (and to help him avoid a nasty tangle of copyright problems which would result in his posting this on Facebook) I will be posting his sneak peek at his as yet untitled fantasy work.

Though I must point out right away as a disclaimer that any items posted on this blog are my intellectual property protected by copyright, BUT, the work being posted here with the authors permission is the intellectual property of Nicholas Stienberg ©2012. This is also merely the undedited rough draft and is subject to change and revision.

Without further to do I present to you the sneak peak of his world or Kourell:



            “The Great Tree is dying.” The Head Gardener Jon said simply. Grand Master Talcer calmly sipped his tea, but the Elected looked shocked. The conversation had been going this way for some time, but no one had wanted to be the one to bring it up until Jon had sighed moments ago. With those words he was changing the very world they lived in, making it a much more dangerous place, possibly dooming it with the very thought.

            “I am surprised it has taken this long.” Was all Talcer said in reply. Jon looked at him through thick green eyebrows, all the Gardeners had green hair and green eyes, and it was how they were made. In thinking on how things were made, it was in a strange room that three men sat to essentially proscribe doom. It was a side room of the Kourellian Royal Palace, probably used by kings or nobles of old to sit and drink wine on cold winter days, despite that it had large glass windows that gave a good view of the eponymous capital city of this realm. It had a simple blue carpet done in an ancient Dallorian style showing waves, gulls, and a great white and gold sun in the center. The walls themselves were similarly adorned with tapestries of the river Geerne showing fish, fishing boats and villages and even some old views of the city sown in. Most of them were silk, but all were fine cloth of some sort, only the best for the palace of the most powerful kings in the world. The table was simple wood, no carvings adorned it and the chairs themselves could be found in a well to do merchants house in the Inner City, but he had wanted simple for his own sitting room here, and the blue calmed him. Being the Grand Master of the Covenant of Magi did have its advantages in palaces.

            “What do you mean honored Talcer?” Jon said, a hint of nervousness creeping into his voice.

            “Yes, please explain.” The Elected said. He wore the grey green robes of his holy order, not the vain affairs of green white and gold that the Temple priests wore. The Preachers had split with the Temple seven hundred years ago before the Wars of the Clerics, when the Eastlands had torn each other apart in the name of one god or that, all to gain more power and prestige through the support of the commoners and give the many clergies more power in one kingdom or another, whilst attempting to usurp the power of the Magi in the east. It had taken his order nearly a century to sooth the land and repair the scars of war and distrust. There had also needed to be deaths too, the Magi were not above such things to keep order after all.

            “This has been waiting to happen for centuries Jon, you know the tree has been growing sicker and sicker as this realms fortunes have plummeted.” He stood and crossed the room to gaze out the window, stroking his short grey beard with a free hand.

            “But Master Talcer, this realm has only been prospering for the last two hundred years! If anything the Tree should be doing so much better!” Jon said with alarm, but he did not look surprised that Talcer would say such a thing.

            “Master Gardener, the other four trees are dead yes?” Talcer replied. Jon swallowed and simply nodded. “This has been the only tree in the world for eight hundred years, the only force holding back the dark that waits since its four partners fell to the enemy’s machinations. The world around it has been growing weaker and more corrupt with war and betrayal as nations have fallen and risen in the last two thousand years. Now it is all that stands between our collective enemies, the Daemeni and entering the world.” The two other men shuddered at that name, but he continued regardless of their discomfort at speaking of their ancient foe. “Now the question we must ask ourselves is what to do. We can no longer delay as we have been, or form grandiose schemes, we need to act quickly and decisively in the coming months.” The men in the room sat and stared into their cups. Talcer sighed again and turned back to the large window, watching the sunset bathe the palace and the city in a warm golden light that mixed so well with the greens, grey and browns of the capital. Sunlight was always vital to calm too, showing you the beauty in the world instead of hiding it.

            They sat in silence for a time. What he said had been true, their collective orders had been trying to find a way to stay the hands of fate from bringing down the inevitable wrath of consequence on this world. Since the true Kourellian Era had ended some four hundred years ago as the Kingdom fell apart from the disastrous rule of the Darynes Dynasty only to be replaced with the blood thirsty Kenerid Dynasty. Those kings had warred and bickered for five hundred years for nothing, undoing even longer centuries of plans laid by their orders to keep the realm strong and the last Great Tree safe. Whilst they had been successful in defending the tree, they had failed to keep the world from falling into chaos as Kourell collapsed and the warrior kings of Golieh rose to prominence over the east, smashing Kourell’s armies in the field and running the people’s confidence at home. It had been more than just careful plans that had kept this kingdom from being absorbed by its larger neighbours for the past three hundred years, it had been luck, loathe as he was to admit it, more than the skill of his order. For the past one hundred and fifty he had guided his order, and by association the Gardeners and the Preachers, in protecting the realm. He had weakened the Iron Kings, had brought to heel the Haldari and the Goliehns, even put the arrogant high priests of the temple in their place to ensure the wellbeing of this kingdom, but he could not keep the last hope man had safe from the slow death that sought to claim it as time marched on. What he knew they had to do would be as difficult as it was dangerous, but he knew it must be done. He sipped at his tea again calmly, but let them talk first.

            “The Knights of the Dawn.” The Elected said. “Long have they served us and the world by keeping the darkness of the north at bay. They will surely serve now when they are most needed.” The man tugged at a beard that was not there, he was bald as an egg and just recently so. His responsibilities were hard, especially in a city where many viewed him as a heretic.

            “Yes, that ancient order will be one of the first to come to our aid, but we need more. They are not the strength they once were. Once were there twenty thousand of them, now we will be lucky if they have half that in their fortresses, and we need all of them.” He sighed, this would be the difficult part. “We need a King.” Jon and the Elected’s mouths fell open.

            “Surely you do not intend to involve THE king?” The Elected said awed. “He is young, untested in both affairs of state and war, this is not something we should drag the young king into just yet.”

            “Indeed, we must think about this. Surely we have more seasoned allies to call upon besides the Knights? I and my order will do our very best to rush as much strength and aid to the tree as possible, our skills have served us this long, why not longer?”

            “And surely, my order can bring its own strengths to bear, I could call to arms the faithful and set them up along the borders of the Great Forest, none would question it if we did it slowly. I could raise an army of, say four thousand men?” The Elected said looking hopeful.

            “And what would the Jarasoni say when four thousand men marched across their realm to join the Knights in the north? King Gregori already distrusts all our orders and looks at the Knights as a threat to his thrown and his machinations to the south, he would more likely have them all killed.” Talcer replied with utter calm, but the Elect worked his mouth as though chewing something he did not like, a quirk of his. “Master Jon your Gardeners have already been doing all they can for the past four centuries, what more will they do as the effects of the world spread ever more quickly if this new king does not act like his predecessors?”

            “All the more reason we must work around him Talcer!” Jon protested. “He is too young to take care of this matter. He was only crowned a month ago! If it was his father King Emanel, or his grandmother Hannah then by all means I would say we bring this matter right to him, but he was not even being reared to lead the realm! If anything we should bring this to Earl Marc. He will know what to do.”

            Again Talcer simply sipped his tea. It was true, King Samuel was young and had not been the first in line to inherit the throne. His eldest brother Mical had been deemed unfit to rule and was currently locked up in the countryside under heavy guard. His next brother Andrac had died two years ago in a riding accident (though some would say it was more a convenience, since many nobles had disliked him). Now it was young Samuel, not even past his twenty third year yet. He was no one in powers first choice, wise but head strong, just but questioning, he was a good man, but still too young to be ruling such a large and powerful realm so soon in his life. What worried everyone was whether he could be manipulated, or simply would do as so many other kings had, and that was what they wanted regardless of the consequences for the realm long term. Talcer felt Samuel would be different though, he seemed determined to rule well and rule effectively, his heart was truly in the right place. Judging people had become an art to him, and he had known Samuel all his young life, the man was ready and he simply needed his people to believe in him.

            “Earl Marc will serve his king, thus we must show the King how to rule.” Talcer said simply. Again there was silence for a moment. The Elected spoke first, hesitantly.

            “Can we, can we show him how to rule Grand Master? The rulers of old have been foolish when young, Setern the fifth lost everything from his head strong nature. Will this… young man be truly any better than him?” He asked cautiously.

            “Yes,” Jon spoke up quickly. “Will he be any better than his older brother? The man would ruin us if he ever set foot in the capital. But the true question is, can we rely upon him to learn what must be learned to rule and survive in this tumultuous time? Can we rely on him to work with his allies, some he does not even know he has? Emanel would be shocked by some of the news we are going to be giving King Samuel, what do we truly think he will do?” There was a hint of worry in Jon’s voice. Talcer pounced.

            “My friends, we have not been led astray in our goals for two thousand years, and now, when it truly matters we will not lead others astray. I have sent for one of my wisest and skilled advisers to help teach the king. We will have the best hands to guide and aide the king in his rise to power.” Talcer smiled as the two men squinted at him like he had become a parchment they couldn’t read. Well, they didn’t think he hadn’t already taken action. He had known what this meeting would be about before Jon had called upon all of them.

            “Who is this man Grand Master? And why did you not mention him before?” The Elected asked with a quizzical look on his face, his tea set aside and his fingers steepled, letting his robes fall to his elbows to reveal thin arms beneath. Talcer smiled mischievously, much as he had as a boy.

            “His name my colleagues is Dyran Pishtar.” The two men gasped. Dyran had been the man who had been advisor to the last King of Golieh, convincing him to stand his armies down from war and rebuild his nation, turning swords to horse shoes and spears to plowshares. Golieh was now growing ever more prosperous by not invading other nations and King Villem looked set to continue the trend of rebuilding a kingdom shattered by wars and upheaval. Dyran was their master speaker and could probably convince you the sky was white and the clouds blue if he so chose too. It had been Dyran that had helped Talcer come to power in the Covenant all those years ago, and they had worked closely ever since. Now he was needed more than ever, and his skill would be out to the limit, as would that of the small cadre that followed him, as they sought to return to Kourell greater glory that it had known in centuries and save creation from the machinations of an enemy unseen. The Iani was certainly up to the task.

            “If it is Dyran you trust to this task, then I am with you Grand Master.” Jon said first. “His skill will be beyond use. I stand by my earlier statements, we will rush all aid and strength to the tree we can whilst you complete these goals. It may take a few more decades, but I am sure we can recover with your leadership.” He bowed slightly in his seat.

            “I am with you too. I shall send word to the Knights of the Dawn to double their recruiting efforts. I am positive we can make a stronger force out of them with time. I will do all I can to stir up support for our king among the faithful, and even within the Temple where I can.” The Elected said soberly. Talcer smiled again at them, this time with much more warmth than mischief.

            “Thank you my friends. This is all an excellent start.” Both nodded, but then Jon looked taken aback.

            “Start? Talcer I thought this would be the plan, we seat the king as high as we can and then prepare to weather the storm that shall inevitably come from somewhere.”

            “Indeed, we have agreed on a beginning, but there is so much more work to do in all corners of the map. Our orders will be very busy, not just sending messages and peddling influence for the king, but in other areas too.” Talcer gave them smile again with a little more mischief than intended.

            “Such as what Grand Master? Will we be going north and south seeking more aid? Surely that was already part of the plan?” The Elected asked furrowing his brow deeper than Talcer had believed possible on any man.

            “Jon, what have the Gardeners learned of grafting?” As soon as Talcer asked Jon looked liable to choke on his tea, but quickly hid his shock behind an upturned cup.

            “Grafting? We know plenty of it for many plants.” Jon dodged. That was the problem with the Gardeners, far too traditional on some issues.

            “I mean grafting the Tree, to give as a gift to one nation of our choosing. It would certainly keep the enemy far busier than simply trying to outdo our plans on the ground.”

            “But Grand Master Talcer, we have tried to take a seed from the tree for centuries and it has not worked! But, taking a living part off the tree and moving it through land that could wither like grapes on the vine? Such an action would be a waste! Especially now with most lands no even fit for our Gardeners to work. Where would you even suggest placing this piece?” Jon said near outrage. The idea of doing harm to the Great Tree for a Gardener was like asking a man to murder his whole family, an outrageous and furious idea. Talcer knew this ofcourse, but needed to press ahead anyways.

            “What if we fail Jon, what are we left with? We need to find a way to keep the Tree safe, and if it means replanting a branch then that is what we must do. You should know this more than any man here. You MUST find a method of saving the Tree. It is our only hope, above Magi, above Kings, above even armies unless the angels themselves are willing to turn back the clock and save the Old Kingdom.” Talcer said, putting emphasis on the whys of the situation. He spoke with such emphasis it was impossible for either Jon or the Elected to ignore.

            “We will… We will begin to examine the possibility of such an action as soon as it is possible Grand Master Talcer.” Jon said waveringly. He looked pale, likely from the very thought of damaging the tree in anyway. Good, though Talcer, maybe now he will begin taking the threat seriously. If the tree was to survive they had to stop trying to staunch the bleeding and begin finding more ways of healing, not the old methods.

            “Excellent.” Talcer said cracking a smile, but then he became very serious, his tone brokering no misgivings as to how he viewed his words. “Remember, these plans we discuss, these actions we make, they are our last hopes without a doubt. Be it days to decades, the Great Tree will fail without us, and if it does I pray for all of mankind when the gates of hell open upon us. We must challenge the enemy, and this is the beginning of our battle.”

            “Grand Master,” The Elected spoke up after a moment of thought. “When does Dyran arrive?” He scratched at his ear, a nervous tick Talcer had noticed on the man ages ago, even before he was the Elected. Talcer turned his attention out the window again and thought they were fortunate, it looked straight out to the Kings Gate and gave a clear view of the road where now merchants and travelers were straggling in late in the day. The gates would be closing for sunset soon, and anyone stuck outside the walls would have to wait there until morning and find lodging in the Outer City.

            “He left Golieh a week ago, so in roughly two weeks time he should arrive Elected. The all of our plans will be in motion, and we can begin to concentrate more fully on the many difficult tasks at hand.”

            “Well, what good news that is at the very least Grand Master.” Talcer said simply, taking a rather large gulp from his tea. Talcer nodded simply, but did not turn his head. Instead, he continued staring down the road that lead out of the King’s Gate, one called the Great Highway which had once connected Kourell to its eastern provinces. Down that road lay a man with whom the success of the first part of Talcer’s plan lay, and by proxy the rest. Or at least, enough distraction for their enemies to buy time for the second, and most important, aspect of his plan to bear fruit, the survival of the Great Tree. Kourell could, and would burn if his orders ancient mandate were lost here in this city. It did not matter of course, this city and the rest of the world could burn one hundred times over were it necessary for his plans to succeed. The Great Tree was the key to the survival of mankind, and it did not matter to him how many nations fell or were rolled over to achieve that goal. It may seem noble of him to think, but such was the harsh reality if their last hope should die. Though with his abilities with magic in him he could neither see nor perceive his distant comrade, though he could see the light of his other affiliates burning like stars in the night throughout the city, he willed with as much of the power as he dared for his brother of the order to arrive faster, for time was short. With that he closed his eyes and sighed. Turning back to the meeting at hand he had a few more pieces of information to dispense to them, and it would likely be a few more hours regardless of how quickly they accepted.

All above works done by Nicholas Stienberg.

So here so far is the first part of the sneak peek that is promised. Stay tuned readers as I herald more of this writers works!

Till next time!

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