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Our monthly writing tips are written by our very own TerishD. You can read more in Terish's Blog located in "The Abstractions" area of the forum.

Look Back

When not able to write ahead, it helps to look back. In my case I had written a paragraph ahead of the story. What I needed to do was add a section of exposition (talking) presenting some facts. In going back, I realized that I could insert a section where a 'tour' of the surroundings could be done. This allowed for character interaction, story development, and other things that enabled me to present the facts in an entertaining manner.

One should not face a writer's block with the mentality of bursting through it. I have found in my own experience that a writer's block is usually due to my mind indicating that it has a problem in 'channeling' the story. One reason might be a re-imagining of certain story points. Another reason however is that there is a problem in where you are at in the story, so you need to look back and find out the problem with the 'journey' that prevents the tale from advancing.

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 To Know Sweet and Sour - Part One (1-5)

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TerishD

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PostSubject: To Know Sweet and Sour - Part One (1-5)   To Know Sweet and Sour - Part One (1-5) Icon_minitimeNovember 6th 2019, 6:30 am

To Know Sweet and Sour
Chapter One
(Hallith)

I became worried as I heard Ayither yell, "I AM STORM!"

The man however performed as instructed.  The tip of his sword spun around, then he stepped as she came upon him to have her miss.  Ayither did not allow the misdirect to throw her off, but immediately spun to continue the attack.  The man found himself under pressure to defend himself, and even though he had proven himself able to learn one maneuver he still had to call off the practice.

When he accepted Ayither's hand and rose, he however spoke to another, "Lord Ferrigote, I am still far from being able to continue such a level of combat for long.  Is such a benefit of becoming immortal?"

The one who answered I considered a friend.  He was not as large as me, but had a grand presence that I felt due to knowing that he could surpass my own skills in combat.  While Ferrigote was known as the companion of Terish, I had not met either of them until after they had separated to follow their own paths.  The two however continued the friendship, so when I first met Ferrigote he spoke of being told about the Quartermasters.  Since that first time, he would continue to join us eternal combatants when our paths crossed.  I thus did consider Ferrigote a friend, and was glad to have time on his estate named Nehallum.

The lord of the castle answered, "No, Brostus, but simply a benefit of understanding reality.  Something worth fighting for, is worth the fight.  You stay at it until you gain the victory.  I cannot teach you that.  I however would ask that after that battle where you fought and fought until time and fatigue and all that you hold dear seems to drift away, but you win, come and then maybe I can give you advice or listen as you advise me."

The man bowed to Ferrigote, but spoke to the one I hoped to claim for my own.  "Champion Ayither, I thank you for gracing me with this practice.  This was a rare gift.  Should I one day meet with you on a battlefield, trust that I will not seek to know whether I could truly best you or not.  Should my cause be against yours, I will walk away in sorrow in having joined the wrong side."

She replied, "You should never stand against a god, Brostus.  I have the pride of being friends with calm, and even hearing their own gods speak to me as friends."

"You speak true.  Even this estate, which is devoted to Fergush, shows the grace of the other deities in our pantheon.  Again, Champion Ayither, I thank you for this time."

She shook the man's hand, then turned to the lord of the estate to ask, "Anyone else?"

He replied, "I can take you on again if you feel those weapons still do not feel proper in your hand."

I believe both waited for someone to speak of desiring to take on the challenge.  I had obeyed the command of Terish and brought Ayither to get her a dangerous weapon she would keep on her person.  The blade she wore was a good one against normal opponents, but in bringing her against magical or strange creatures it would not inflict harm.  With her being air, she had little effectiveness against the opposed element.  Both Terish and Ferrigote had been active against all sorts of odd challenges for centuries, so had gained weapons that had helped them or had some success in opposing them.  Unlike me, they also had the luxury of having places to call home where they could store such items.  With Ferrigote being a friend, when I came seeking a weapon for Ayither he opened up his armory for our perusal.  She had found a flail that seemed to come alive in her hand.  She also found a sword that was almost a match for the one she possessed, except this blade had enchantments that would have her attacks ever painful to any opponent.  To check the true worth and compatibility of her new arms, Ferrigote had taken her to his practice field.  Their sparring had gained the attention of the military and a number of others who had come to Nehallum because of its promotion of the god of fighting.  Ferrigote had seen the crowd, and began to be more instructional in helping Ayither adjust to her new weapon while also showing that her routines could be defended against.  A few had thought to challenge the lady, but only Brostus managed to actually work the moves Ferrigote taught.

She curtsied to Ferrigote then said, "No, the weapons are most satisfactory.  I will see about replacing them with other ones."

He replied, "Oh, don't bother.  You saw how large of an armory I have.  You are actually doing me a favor in taking something from it.  I am however going to force you to calmly listen while I tell you what I know of your weapons.  Those arms with certain benefits also come with the reason to grant it such blessings, or with the story of the person who found it not strong enough to overcome a certain challenge."

"I will listen, although I cannot promise calmly."

The voice of a lady rang out, "Well, have him save it for when you are eating.  You have been out there a long time.  Both of you could use to freshen up before supper."

Ferrigote looked to Ayither and said, "That is my wife, and I do listen to her.  Does Hallith listen to you?"

"And I listen to him.  I am looking forward to having more intimate conversations with him."

He turned to smile at his wife, but looked back at Ayither with a plain expression as he asked a regular question.  "Where are the two of you going from here?"

"I have met Anerth.  Hallith is however speaking of having me meet the other two original Quartermasters, especially Chertish since he is now mortal.  However, Hallith also says that those meetings will decide our status."

I stepped up to say, "If I introduce her to Chertish, it is not far to then take her to meet my god.  At that meeting, I hope to gain Ayither as my wife."

"I am not against it."

Ferrigote said, "Well, the easy answer to that is to go see Pesloe.  Whether she directs you on or speaks against going to Chertish is really the ultimate test."

Feeling pride in hearing Ayither speak in my favor, I boldly said, "I don't see why Pesloe would speak against Ayither."

"She was the lady of the group, Hallith.  She is the one that would have a completely different perspective.  Also, she is the only member of your group to have already taken on the life you wish to gain.  You, both of you, listen to Pesloe."

We both promised that we would.  It was easy for me, since that was already my plan.  Since I did speak to Ayither, and had told her my plans, I felt pride again in hearing her speak in support of seeing Pesloe.  With both of us promising Ferrigote that we would do as he advised, he directed us to his castellan to show us to our rooms.

The halls were not drab, but various types of artwork helped to blend a variety of decorating styles.  Ayither made some comments, then I spoke of the castle itself not seeming to be a home for one devoted to a fighting god.  The castellan took the initiative to explain things of the castle.

"The edifice was designed by Baron Ferrigote, but the original plans have a lot of influence from his wife who is a devotee to Remidda.  The initial construction was however directed by Lord Terish's younger son, Althery, who had his own youthful influence on the castle.  Baroness Dirchein then had the blessing of having a young lady, Neselle who eventually became Althery's wife, and the ladies brought their own influence to the castle.  From there various friends and members of the family had their own influence.  Baron Ferrigote has grown even more proud of his castle, as he says that simply in walking the halls he feels a pride in the life he has gained."

I had to say, "Well, I am glad to now have the time to visit.  Doing things like this is so different for me, but it is something good that I hope to continue."

"Nehallum will always welcome you.  Ah, this is your room, Honored Ayither.  This was once the room of Honored Neselle, before she became the wife of Althery.  She claimed it saying that it had the best view.  I hope that you enjoy it."

From down the hall came the voice of the lady I heard earlier.  "I do not know the heraldry for either of you.  Let me know, and I will have a shield designed for your doors."

Ayither and I had met Baroness Dirchein when we arrived at Nehallum.  I had heard that Ferrigote had married a lady of gold, but what I imagined did not match who I met.  She was no construct, but finding even her eyes and teeth of gold had me suspect something mechanical in her composition.  Baroness Dirchein however appeared as a most lovely lady, and the way she acted gave one no doubt about her being a living member of the castle.

"I am a Champion of Typhorsh."  Ayither took an icon from off her clothes and handed it to the noble lady while saying, "Nothing more needs to be said about me."

The baroness took it while saying, "I believe a lot more needs to be said, but for identification it should be sufficient."  Her voice dropped in volume as she said, "We do have good times, and the shields do a wonderful job of assuring even those heavily inebriated find their rooms."

"Hallith and I do not drink much, and tend to burn off what we do partake."

"Ferrigote and I usually have to make it back to our room before we do that."  After some giggling, she then said, "This room has a good history, and I feel you will add to that.  Hallith, I will show you to your room."

After some parting words and actions with Ayither, I found the baroness to take my arm, then direct me before saying, "I did not know you were a member of our family, Hallith."

"I'm not."

"I have heard of you a lot.  The stories of you traveling through the omniverse are legendary.  I then find that you have found a wife from another world who seems to be a wonderful lady.  It all sounds like something my Ferrigote and Terish would have said about them.  Terish got his wife from Davelda, and Ferrigote found me on the original world of Terish."

While I found the words very pleasant, I had to respond, "Well, I'm still not related."

"I am very glad to finally meet you, Hallith.  I have never met Anerth.  The life of the Quartermasters is not something I could handle.  I however have met Pesloe and Cornispe.  They will come here and Ferrigote and I will go there.  I met Chertish once.  Ferrigote felt a need to go, and I went with him.  He is a very formal person, although pleasant."

"Yes.  He is nothing like the man I traveled with all those centuries.  He did not just deny his immortality, but sometimes I feel quit being everything he was.  I have told him that I feel his soul will be lost when he dies, as it will not know who he truly is.  He cursed me out when I said that, and in hearing his old speech I felt that there was a core to him that was still true to his essence."

"There is a history to you, Hallith, that I hope to come to know.  Gold does not tarnish, Hallith, so I will stay as I am while waiting for you to tell me more about yourself.  This is your room here, Hallith.  Just as Ayither got Neselle's room, you are being given Althery's.  Both of them are still in love, and having a wonderful life.  I hope for the same with you and Ayither, Hallith, and I want both of you to continue to be a part of my life."

I took off an icon from my clothes, then said as I presented it to the gold lady, "We both serve gods of other worlds."

"My husband is a devotee to one god of this world, and I have taken on the devotion of a goddess of this world.  Althery and Neselle serve a Goddess of another world.  There should be no reason you do not fit in as a member of this family.  Now, Ferrigote and I do travel the omniverse, so we will come and chastise you if you stay away too long."

"It is good to know you, Dirchein.  I am so glad to now be able to develop the friendships of those who have been friends with me for so long.  I have every intention of developing those friendships, I assure you."

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.


Last edited by TerishD on December 1st 2019, 6:29 am; edited 4 times in total
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PostSubject: Chapter Two   To Know Sweet and Sour - Part One (1-5) Icon_minitimeNovember 11th 2019, 6:35 am

To Know Sweet and Sour
Chapter Two

(Hallith)

The evening meal was a lot more formal than I expected. Dirchein had said that Pesloe and Cornispe had visited, and I saw heads turn to me when I was introduced as once being a companion of the lady. Having the floor, I felt it my place to officially introduce Ayither. I spoke of being sent to her world with the possible intention of gaining a lady, but that Ayither was not the one intended. She however had been the one to desire me, and had left her world to spend time with me. We had spent time with Anerth and the companions that now made up the Quartermasters, then had joined with Terish and Straekin to help them with an adventure. Those present knew that couple very well, so pressed me for details that ended up with me telling that story. Finally, I again presented Ayither and had her speak. She had an energy inside her, but not one that kept her isolated. She entertained the group with a couple of stories. While the proceedings were more formal than I expected, no one forced a dismal mood with Ayither seeming to have fun.

Escorting her back to her room, she pulled me into a parlor before asking, "Hallith, are you scared?"

I felt that if I was scared, I would have sought to avoid the question. Another option would be to stall by forcing Ayither to clarify what she felt I was scared of. I did not feel myself scared, and sought to prove it by simply responding.

"We both like our lives, Ayither. Of the two of us, I however see you as knowing what type of life you want. I am not showing you my life, but who I am going to turn to as I encounter every problem with our marriage. Kierle helped, but what she showed me was not life as I know it will be for me. Even with her in my life, I went from world to world and fought those who were oppressing others. I am not looking for Kierle, but for someone who can be fully involved in my life. I know my life will be out here. Out here are my friends, or at least those that consider me their friend. Out here are the challenges I will face. Honestly, when us Quartermasters went home, one thing we found was that our world really did not need us. I will be your husband, Ayither, but I will not be a man about the house."

She lifted herself to kiss me. She was not tall. While the two of us could kiss, I would have my neck bent and she would have her body stretched. Ayither however was a champion of a god of air, so could have her form lifted. When she did that the contact was easily managed, and I enjoyed those kisses with her.

As her form dropped back down, she said, "I only fear the passing of time, Hallith. I do not have centuries behind me. Those of the storm usually do not even last a decade, and I have managed slightly over two. Typhorsh says that I will gain the blessing of immortality, true immortality, should I marry you. I believe he meant for those words to comfort me. I however know the blessing is unnatural, so it does scare me."

"I know you are storm, Ayither, but I do seek times like this. Those centuries were filled with battle after battle. They are all there in my mind jumbled together, and I am looking to separate them. I am also wanting to gain memories that do not need to be separated. I want the breaks between adventures to allow each to be easily remembered and treasured. I would like to say that calm and peace are two separate things, but I am worried that you will not agree."

"Hallith, I want peace as well, and I will find a way to have it in spite of the storm. You allow the storm, and I will allow the peace. We will manage."

I felt that we should do more after such an agreement, but had to say, "I am a divine champion, Ayither. We really should wait."

"I'm a divine champion as well. Once you marry me, Hallith, you have married a storm."

She was very lovely. I felt a lot was youth, but I had come to see some of the wisdom in her. Her straw-colored hair did not simply blow with the wind, but I could tell had some fashion to help how it moved. Her gray eyes that had me think of a cloudy day were enhanced by the presence of some cosmetics. The knowledge of the tricks of women helping her appearance had me respect her youthful form while recognizing just how lovely she truly was.

I smiled, although wanted to hug her, as I said, "Then I will take comfort in a storm, even as I hope you find peace with me."

There was a slight smile even as she asked a practical question. "We are going to leave here and go to Pesloe?"

I took those words as an agreement, and not just a basic need to rush things along. "Yes, not just because of what Ferrigote said, but because she was my princess. I was her bodyguard. That relationship is long in the past, but it is there. I need Pesloe to agree, Ayither."

"How soon do we leave?"

"These are friends, Ayither. Ferrigote I have known for over a century. I do not know Dirchein, so I would like more time speaking with her. There are portraits of their children, and those of Terish's. I would like to commit those images to memory, and learn some things about them. Give me another day, Ayither."

Again I felt her lift to kiss me. She really did not weigh much, but in those moments I did not feel her weight at all. There was still her presence against me, and the press of her lips was quite intense. I enjoyed her presence as we exchanged simple acts of affection, and listened not wanting my time with her to pass.

"You have as much time as you want. I will ask you again tomorrow evening, but will accept whatever reason you have for extending it another day."

"Ferrigote and Dirchein are immortal as well, and they also travel the omniverse. We should be able to leave on the following day, but we simply need to assure that we come again."

"Once your visiting is done, we go back to Slidell. She is my friend, and she will need to be informed."

I could not help but smile with the thought that Ayither really did not mention things that I found disagreeable. "Of course, and I consider her a friend as well. I just wonder how many monsters will rise up claiming to be my friend along the way.” Actually pleased with that statement, I playfully added, “I mean for a time I might be having to introduce you to some horrendous creature before we annihilate it."

Ayither stood around and talked for a time about ways we could introduce ourselves as a couple before attacking a really great monster. With us already having some memories of taking on really grand opponents, we imagined how things might have gone if we were newly married at that time. I know that I had fun with the conversation, and from the way Ayither moved while she spoke I felt that she was enjoying the time with me as well. I could not help but hold her close as I walked her to her room, as I wanted very much to already feel that we were a joined couple.

She broke from me as we approached her door. For a moment I was frightened that Ayither would disappear through the portal. I however then smiled seeing her stop to look at a shield shaped wooden panel set on the door. It was a lovely design of the symbol of Typhorsh painted in white on a blue background. While I approached to stay with her, I allowed her to inspect the shield on her own.

I decided it best to speak, so explained, "Dirchein wants it clear that this castle will ever be a home for us."

Ayither admitted, "Even calm does not do things like this. They will find a place for you, but not in a manner of stating they will ever desire your presence. This is truly a home of friends, and it pleases me that in becoming your wife I will gain a life with these people."

"I know the people I am bringing you to because they came to me. I was rushing from world to world, from one great eruption of evil to another, and the people I consider friends are those who came and joined me for a time. It is now time for me to prove my friendship with them by coming to them. I will not have your wind simply blow through worlds, Ayither. There are places that will want your storm, and that shield is saying this is one such place."

She turned to kiss me, then after the period of affection she said, "Go to your room, Hallith. Enjoy what periods of calm you can, because soon you will ever be in the presence of a storm."

After the door had closed, I turned to see a young lady approach as she informed me, "You are now supposed to go and sing under her balcony."

She was dressed in a very lovely green robe that somehow coordinated with the red and yellow locks coming from her head. The eyes were a dark blue. I considered the female rather colorful, and spoke willing to learn more about her.

"That is not my style of courtship. I am Hallith, once of the Quartermasters." I did bow as I said that. "The lady I seek will not desire such things from me."

"Oh, it's fun. I gave the men a really hard time, and enjoyed those that were able to respond to my antics. Oh –" she curtsied while saying, "I am Jelnaya, Terish's immortal granddaughter. Great-uncle Ferrigote is a devotee to Fergush, but I am one of his champions. I now have my own home, although I still have an apartment in this castle. Sometimes I am visiting with my husband, and times like the present I simply find Nehallum the closest haven after a serious battle. Sorry I missed learning about you, but my purpose for being here has nothing to with all the formality that Great-aunt Dirchein likes in her life. I however did hear of you being the center of attention at supper, and have heard of you from my family and from my own travels. Now, let me show you where your lady's balcony is."

Ayither was storm, so I felt surprising her with an attempt at singing would be enjoyed. I thus allowed Jelnaya to escort me. She had an energy in her that reminded me of Ayither, but there was a substance to Jelnaya that did not have me think of air. We almost began sparring at one point, but she quickly realized the seriousness of standing against me. She assured me that she would be around tomorrow, so once out of her finery would look to take me on. She finished her escort by pointing to a balcony, then told me to do my best. I thought about what songs I knew, then boldly went forward to see if Ayither had already put her storm to sleep.

We spent more time laughing at each other's attempts to sing than singing. We both had strong voices, but had not trained ourselves in managing proper tones. I believe the knowledge that we knew others could not help but hear us only fueled the laughter after each of our attempts to sing.

"I AM STORM!" I felt a breeze pick up around us as Ayither added, "That is what I will teach our children, Hallith."

I replied, "Then I will see about teaching them to sing. Maybe I will hire a teacher. I am sorry, Ayither, but those words usually are said when things are not at peace. I would like our home to be at peace."

"You are right, Hallith. Still, you will have me for a wife, so I will have my influence on the children. They will know of Typhorsh, and that their mother is committed to him."

"They will also know of Zetrullid, and that their father is committed to him – and to you. Our children will know that I love you."

"I do not doubt that, Hallith, and neither does Typhorsh. Now, let us get some rest, as I know we will be active tomorrow."

After some parting words, I turned to head back only to see Jelnaya approach. "That was more entertaining than any minstrel Great-aunt Dirchein could get to perform. It took a man who could do things like that with me to get me to marry. I made Fergush promise me everything, including a man, but I felt at the time it would be at least a century before the possibility would come. My willingness to help goddesses of love, the one of this world and one from another, is what sped up the process. While my husband was not a devotee of Fergush, he was still of this world. Stay strong, keep your love strong, even with you and Ayither having gods of other worlds.”

Wanting to start a relationship with this lady, I provided some background. "Well, that is one thing we Quartermasters found upon returning to our world. There were no others like us. It took the goddess of fire to help me adjust to a normal life, then she sent me to another world with completely different divine personalities. Maybe we are unique, in that both Ayither and I find our differences to drive us with our devotion to our gods. I do not see you with your husband. I hope that your love is still strong."

"It is. Potorly is however not a divine champion. While he will travel with me, just as Great-aunt Dirchein will travel with Great-uncle Ferrigote, some places I can go he cannot. My home is the Duchy of Phanigist. It’s on another continent. Learn its location, Hallith, as I promise it will be a haven among friends just as this castle is.”

Those words had me think about the antics I performed with Ayither while at the balcony, but I felt it best to be honest with Jelnaya. "Right now I have old friends to visit, although it is good to know that I have the possibility of expanding my wealth of those I can associate with. A grandchild, huh? I guess children is something Ayither and I will have to deal with. Up to now, with both of us the test has been ourselves. We both understand that we will need to do our part to make the marriage work, and we have both had to come to terms with the demands it will require. It pleases me that we have both come to find a future with the other, but still troubles me as well."

"I would agree with that. Once you settle on a place, you should find me showing up there. I would like to hear your stories, Hallith. Tell Ayither that I would like to hear hers as well."

"That will not be a problem. In fact, I guess that I will look forward to you coming. I mean, I want to hear what stories I have to tell as well. Over four hundred years is jumbled up in my mind. I want to sort them out, so I will be looking for people to tell them to."

We were now coming to the hallway for single men, and I saw a shield with the symbol of Zetrullid in white on a blue background. While the colors were as appropriate for water as they were for air, I still gained the impression that Dirchein meant to speak of Ayither and me as already committed to each other. I did not mind, and the words from Jelnaya sounded pleasant as well.

"You do Ayither right, Hallith. I do not want to lose any respect for men. Not only have a good marriage for yourself, but to keep the honor of all us immortal champions."

I assured her that I would. She curtsied as I bowed. Watching her leave, I almost cried thinking of the personalities I had been missing. In all those centuries Anerth preached and preached about the good we were doing, but now I found myself realizing that there was a lot of good we were not being able to do. Feeling that I was now leading a much better life than I had as a Quartermaster, I went into my room feeling assured that my future would be a good one.

_________________
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PostSubject: Chapter Three   To Know Sweet and Sour - Part One (1-5) Icon_minitimeNovember 16th 2019, 6:23 am

To Know Sweet and Sour
Chapter Three

(Phesdorra)

Atagandes was laughing, as he knew my chance was fading. I had no choice but to take extreme actions. While accepting that I would present myself as someone desperate, I knew that I was lost if I did not take my chance.

He had captured me. That was not a difficult thing to do. I was much smaller than him, and did not move that quickly. Not only were my large wings not made for speed, but I dressed for beauty and not for action. The fact that Atagandes captured me in a manner that did not hurt me I actually appreciated.

What he wanted me to do seemed strange. He usually had problems with me and others, making statements of us not even existing. I assumed Atagandes demanding that I use my powers was an inner desire to assure the reality of what I claimed to be. Actually hoping to help him, I decided it was for the best if I did what he wanted me to.

It surprised me that I gained access to a person’s dream so easily. I did not know him, and really Atagandes did not either. The man was only identified as a challenge. In looking around, I understood part of the reason for being able to intrude into this mind. What I sensed as a dream was in reality a jumble of images and thoughts. The mentality was looking for a way to focus on certain threads, and actually allowed my intrusion in the hope that I might help. I however sensed surprise when I demanded that the thoughts focus on me.

"Are you sweet or sour?" I demanded.

From somewhere I sensed a chuckle. As jumbled as the images were around me, the mind itself seemed very rational and clear. The words that formed did not come from a specific source, an image of the one I contacted, but merely sounded from somewhere that the true essence of the man had some stability.

"I guess you could say I was sour. Definitely not sweet."

The man was humoring me. I had heard words like that numerous times. I however needed a clear response. To get the man to understand how serious I was, I spoke to let him know the facts behind my question.

"If you are sweet, I will love you for eternity. If you are sour, I will be your doom."

"My love is already claimed by another. I feel assured of that. As for being my doom, you will find yourself taking on a greater challenge than you realize."

I wished that I did not need to act so desperately, but eager to gain my victory I yelled out, "NO! None can offer you what I can. You do not realize what you are risking. Tell me that you are sweet, and claim my support throughout the ages!"

"Look around you. Don't you see what you are going up against? There are almost uncountable threats, great adversaries, that were defeated by me. For over four hundred year I went from battle to battle claiming victory over horrendous threats. I now stand as friends with some of the greatest heroes imaginable, and they are awed by what I represent. Think again before claiming me as your enemy."

I did look around. While I really could not make out any one image, the impression of the confusing collage was that of horrible atrocities. His success only could be realized by the fact the man was still alive. Desperate, I tried to get the man to look at me.

"I can take all this from you. I can give you an eternity of sweetness. I am sweet. Come to me."

"No."

The word did not come defiantly, but there was strength behind it that troubled me even as it drove me to sound even more desperate. "Are you claiming to be sour?"

"I am water. It is neither sweet nor sour. Nature sometimes adds flavor, and people will as well. Water itself is neither sweet nor sour."

I felt my own doom as I said, "Water?"

"Water, and the one that is claiming my love is air. We are not opposed. We can mix while still keeping our own identities. I feel that my future will be a good one."

Since I was in his mind, I clearly understood that what was being said was the truth. "You do not know what you are saying."

"Oh, I know what I am saying. You are not realizing your situation."

"My situation is hopeless. You were my only hope."

"Again let me call your attention to all the images around you. I have been in hopeless situation after hopeless situation. I kept fighting. For over four hundred years I kept fighting. I came to feel that weariness was a normal state for my body. I got to where I felt it a luxury to gain moments of sleep while my body ran forward. Let me offer you the hope that if you keep fighting, eventually you will find your release."

Feeling the fatigue of defeat, I said, "There are moments when you know the fight is done."

"And that is when the cause you fight for either proves itself or you realize that you were fighting a lie. Zetrullid, my god, restored me after those few defeats. I ended up not losing, but gaining an understanding of the depth of my commitment forcing a strength of acknowledgement. Those defeats only strengthened my resolve to continue the fights, and so I stayed fighting."

"The cause I fought for told me that I needed to claim you."

"I am sorry that you championed a foolish cause."

Those words drove me from the man's mind. It was not he that did the act. In fact, I felt a willingness to talk. Something about the man I found to be sweet, and I felt him to be a man worth fighting for. The honestly of his words had me understand my defeat, and the lack of strength is what sent me from the man's mind.

The laughter of Atagandes again sounded around me, then it stopped with him announcing that he understood my situation. "Strip yourself bare and kneel before me, Phesdorra. You are now mine, and I will claim you in your most dismal, weak, and embarrassing manner."

The words of the man I contacted resonated in my mind. Their honesty had driven me from speaking with him, but the truth of what he said rang within me. Feeling a need to put the words to the test, I did not give in to doing as Atagandes commanded.

"No."

"What? You cannot defy me, Phesdorra."

"I just did. You chose the wrong man for me, Atagandes. Just because he will not claim me does not mean that I cannot claim him. He had a strength you did not suspect. He told me that I could keep fighting, and I will claim that advice."

The man rose from his throne as he said, "You cannot defeat me, Phesdorra. If you could, you would not be here."

"I wanted to end the fight, Atagandes. I now have the conviction to keep fighting. You demanded the wrong man, Atagandes, and that will prove your defeat."

"You cannot defeat me, Phesdorra."

"Then you are going to have to keep on fighting, Atagandes." I turned to leave as I said, "I am going to keep fighting. You will now be forced to either agree to terms to end the fight, or commit yourself to the centuries of our struggle."

"GUARDS! Seize her!" As I considered fighting the soldiers, all men much larger and more vicious than I could be, I heard him add, "Centuries, Phesdorra?"

I dodged around one man to avoid the strike of a polearm as well as gain myself time to escape while replying, "The man you sent me to had fought for centuries, Atagandes. He told me that eventually I would find my release. Well, either you or me, Atagandes. Either you or me."

I had not truly transported myself into the dreams of another. That feat was more mental. My physical body had not disappeared, but a presence in the throne room of Atagandes remained. This time I transported my body, and with that magic I would be completely removed from the presence of Atagandes.

He had done his homework on me, so had previously been able to determine where I headed. He had discovered all the places I preferred to dwell. I now realized I knew I was not completely safe in those locations. I frequented those because I liked the surroundings and the people. There were however places that I felt completely safe, even though I did not like the locales. I sent myself to one of those locations feeling that it would not trouble me even if Atagandes could determine where I went.

Kockerferral was a snake, but not a poisonous one. That did not mean that he was not dangerous, but that I knew it would be a struggle before he gained me. Considering the advice I gained, I set myself to start the fight. Kockerferral however simply looked at me without any indication of being antagonistic.

"Ah, Champion of Sweet, why should you trouble me?"

It was best to get to business with a snake, so I did. "What do you know of Hallith of the Quartermasters?"

"There are new names now associated with the Quartermasters, but Hallith is one of the old names. I cannot say much more than that."

"Are the Quartermasters sweet or sour?"

"Am I sweet or sour, Phesdorra? Is anyone sweet or sour? That is a distinction only your kind force on others."

His words were not wrong, but he also ignored the fact that I really knew no others of my kind. There were pixies, but as a race we did not go around speaking of sweet and sour. That was something only I truly did. Where I felt Kockerferral was at fault was in not considering why I considered the differences important. Some admitted the knowledge was part of my personal magic, but they tended to ignore my claim of drawing the power for my spells from a divine source. Sweet and sour were references to the two flows of power that transcended the physical plane. Being connected with sweet seemed to limit me to others, but those who claimed sour understood my might. Atagandes only had the ability to overcome me because he fought me in a manner I could not defend. I however found myself thinking over the words I had been told, and considered how best to show Atagandes the difference between his power and mine.

Kockerferral interrupted my thoughts by asking, "What do you want, Phesdorra?"

"If Atagandes bothers you, Kockerferral, you may excuse yourself. Charge me what you will, but allow me to rest. I know you are a snake, Kockerferral, but I don't remember me ever giving you a desire to bite me."

"As far as charging you, Phesdorra, I believe I owe you enough to give you time. As far as being a snake, I would have to be mighty hungry to think of eating a pixie. If you are powerful enough to challenge Atagandes, you are more powerful than someone I will want mad at me. Rest, Phesdorra. Just don't overstay your welcome."

"Thank you, Kockerferral."

He began to slither off, but stopped to touch a sack with his nose. "I'm not sour, Phesdorra. Don't you ever accuse me of being sour. I'm not saying I'm sweet, but I promote sweet. Feel safe."

I could only smile as I remembered things about Kockerferral. He was much more than a snake. It was his past that originally had me go to him. It was trouble with sour that had me stay and help him. Thinking about the history of Kockerferral, I found my thoughts going in a different manner than any possible fight against Atagandes.

There was a larger battle. Most associated it with the divine realm, but I knew it touched the lives of those on the physical reality. That was the reason for an underlying belief system of sweet and sour, with only a limited number of us able to comprehend the forces active around us and how they could be manipulated. The words of Hallith had not just given me the strength to resist Atagandes, but suddenly I found myself able to see a method of affecting the holy war and ending the divine strife. Realizing that I now would be able to take on an even larger battle than personal rivalries, I set myself to finding the strength to rise to the ultimate challenge.

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
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PostSubject: Chapter Four - Part One   To Know Sweet and Sour - Part One (1-5) Icon_minitimeNovember 21st 2019, 6:34 am

To Know Sweet and Sour
Chapter Four – Part One

(Hallith)

I came awake and did my best to quickly make myself presentable. I saw it still dark outside, but I trusted in things concerning those who were my friends. Our relationship started as they joined me in my constant battle, so they were of the mentality to understand that troubles needed to be faced when they arose. Leaving the door I found myself thinking of another, and considered it for the best if she also proved herself able to quickly respond to situations.

Feeling a wind as I approached Ayither's door did concern me, but I boldly stepped up before speaking in a normal voice. "If you are up, Ayither, you probably should join me."

I heard a male voice say, "Wait."

Having heard the voice of Typhorsh before, I calmly held my place. A breeze that could not be explained away by a draft continued to play around me, but did not become threatening. Actually, in less time than I expected, Ayither's door cracked open.

"What do you want, Hallith?"

"If we were married, you would already know. If we were still simply courting, you might never know. Our relationship however I feel is close enough that I am willing to let you know."

"It won't be long, Hallith."

Again it was a shorter amount of time than I was willing to allow her. I had her take my arm, then started us marching to another part of the castle. I expected soldiers to challenge us, but none made a move. When I reached a certain set of doors, they were opened. It pleased me to know just how much my friends were willing to do for me.

Ferrigote was in a nice robe, although I noticed a number of weapons nearby. "I really do not sleep that much, Hallith. What do you need?"

"What do you know about sweet and sour?"

Of course he wanted to know more, and I did my best to explain things to him and Ayither. Neither spoke of challenging the importance of my dream, or the facts as I relayed them. In the end Ayither just thought it strange while Ferrigote explained another option.

"I am not the puzzle solver, Hallith, but Terish is. If this troubles you, take the matter to him."

A door opened, and I saw the lovely robed form of Dirchein, who suggested, "You could bring the matter to Jelnaya, Hallith. She has taken on the devotion of Fergush, but she spends a lot of time with her grandfather. She does enjoy puzzles. You could bring the matter to her."

"She has a completely different relationship with Fergush than I do. Jelnaya has completely too much fun serving a fighting god. I would however ask that you wait until morning to bother her."

A large smile showed on the gold lady as she said, "Jelnaya would have the whole castle up with people collapsing from fatigue by lunchtime."

I smiled from my own memory of the lady as I replied, "Well, I do not mean to treat the matter so seriously, but I did want to assure that it was not something of which you were not already aware."

Ferrigote said, "You would have been wrong not to do so, Hallith. I am sorry that this happened in my home. If I can think of something, or am somehow informed of something, I will let you know. If it happens again, feel free to bother me. Terish is my friend, and we consider each other brothers. I am thus used to working with puzzles, so will help you organize pieces if you feel that you have more than you can handle."

I thanked the couple, then again heard them speak of our friendship. They mentioned that things would begin early, and that Jelnaya would start her day out in the practice field for the military. Feeling that we had done what we could to settle the matter, we all turned back to find some time of rest.

Once again I found myself pulled by Ayither into a parlor. She hugged me for a moment. I did not think the action was proper, but I would never push the lady away. Ayither then did what I hoped she would do, and that was to explain herself.

"You would have been wrong to not have involved me, Hallith. I do not know if I would have involved you, but I accept our relationship has advanced to this stage. It is not Typhorsh's place to thank you, and it is not mine to treat this as anything special. However, I do want you to know that you are something special to me, and will ever be."

I replied, "Well, that was basically my thoughts as well. If you could not tolerate me waking you in the middle of the night, it was time to know."

"Yes, but, if you want to know my opinion, you are not sour. You are a very sweet person, Hallith."

Since she brought up the subject, I replied, "I was about to claim to be sour, just because I did not want her thinking that she could replace you."

"I would have also been not afraid of calling for the storm, especially when the calm seemed so troubling. Now, take me to my room. Let us both get some rest, but let us also go together to see Jelnaya."

I definitely agreed with that decision. While I enjoyed a little more affection from Ayither, I turned from her door worried that I would not get any sleep. I did go through the motions of lying back down, but expected to soon be up and doing things to pass the time. I did drop off however, although found another made the decision to see about my disposition in being rudely awoken.

Ayither laughed as I mentioned her earlier acts of kicking my feet. She mentioned feeling it was the best method of waking a large man like me, but while in the castle of another it was best to simply bang on a door. She however joked that once we were married, she would probably again wake me by kicking my feet.

Soldiers came running when Ayither and I advanced to the practice field, although none challenged us. Jelnaya had a couple sparring with her, but they stepped out of the circle when I approached. She indicated for me to step up to go against her. No sooner did I take a stance than she lifted her hands in an indication of surrender.

"I notice eyes, Hallith. Yours don't only say that you could take me, but that you would not be taken by me. Knowing who you are, I have to ask why you are here."

"What do you know about sweet and sour?"

She asked for me to explain. Without any complaint, I told her what I had told Ferrigote the night before. She listened, then turned to our audience.

"I'm stumped. Anyone here has anything they might add to help Hallith?"

An elder soldier began to quote, "The pill is bitter, but its taste is of no concern
If it was sweet, for the taste of more I would yearn
The war is sour, and it rots our souls
To turn to that taste has me speak of woes
I taste the bitter, and in sorrow I roam
But I will fight until seek the tomb
They have stolen the sweet, but I will win the day
I long for the sweet, and in its pleasure to stay."

Everyone spoke of being impressed with the recitation with Jelnaya saying, "Repillon, you are one of Great-uncle Ferrigote's original men for this place. Why haven't you retired?"

"I was young when I came into the service of Baron Ferrigote, Honored Jelnaya. I could have retired from this service, but I like the land I now call home. I spend time at the graves of those who convinced me to come here and not stay on Gaeskow thanking them for their wisdom. As for that verse, I actually felt it to be something sweet to sing to a lady. Never could find the rest of it however to prove my belief."

"So, it's from Gaeskow?"

"That is where I learned it."

Jelnaya turned to me to say, "When you speak to Grandfather Terish, you tell him that. If he does not know anything about it, that information will help him look through his vast library of books."

After I had thanked Jelnaya, Ayither stepped up to challenge the lady. I had traveled for centuries with Pesloe in my group, but most female opponents were not threats to any of us. Considering the power of the opponents we usually faced, the body of a lady just could not command the strength to match our might. I however found myself wondering about Pesloe as I watched Ayither and Jelnaya spar. Both were divine champions, and each had a command of tactics resulting from decades of facing grand challenges. The blows they directed at each other would be deadly to the men watching, but each took hits without concern as they sought openings to gain an advantage on the other. Finally, it was Ayither that gained victory as she made her cry of being storm while flipping to avoid a swing. Jelnaya found herself lifted, then slammed to the ground with the tip of Ayither's newly gained sword at her throat.

Rising, Jelnaya praised Ayither, then asked her, "You practice with Hallith?"

"Often."

"Does that move work with him?"

"He uses a rather large sword, so really cannot duel with him. I enjoyed those exchanges with you. That move would not work, because he would turn his sword to act as a barrier to prevent me from moving upon him as I did you. When sparring with Hallith, I have had to learn to recognize my moments and go for the kill."

I had to support those words. "When I first met Ayither, I could best her pretty easily. She has worked to stand beside me as an equal. With the two weapons she gained from Ferrigote, I might for a time be the one needing to learn new moves."

We all stopped making further comments by Dirchein announcing that breakfast would be served in short amount of time to which Jelnaya said, "She only calls to me because I am family. Are you going to breakfast, Hallith?"

I answered, "I am hungry."

"You know what? Today I am hungry as well. Might as well make Great-aunt Dirchein happy and actually show up for a meal."

_________________
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PostSubject: Chapter Four - Part Two   To Know Sweet and Sour - Part One (1-5) Icon_minitimeNovember 26th 2019, 6:34 am

To Know Sweet and Sour
Chapter Four – Part Two

(Hallith)

Jelnaya had the aged soldier show up during the meal and quote the verse. On a personal level the lady appeared very much in control of her energy. In a formal setting she however seemed very agitated, but released herself in attempting to perform jokes on those around her. What she did was not mean, and I found her antics entertaining. She however stayed still listening the verse again, and I saw her turn to show respect when another lady stood up.

Baroness Dirchein said, “If the verse is from Gaeskow then we should have the book. My lord still ruled over that world when I became his wife, and he did try to show me the better things of that culture. Poetry books were presented to me, and I do still have them.” She said a name, but not hearing a response she turned to me. “Hallith, expect for you and Ayither to be summoned to a parlor for a meeting with me. I doubt you can read the texts, so I will have to read the poetry to you.”

Jelnaya intended to whisper, but she had to speak loud enough for her voice to cover the distance, “Be nice to her.”

I replied, “She’s my friend.”

“Maybe not after listening to her read all that poetry.”

The lady of gold hissed, “Jelnaya.”

The Champion of Fergush smiled as she replied, “I intend to leave for my home, Great-aunt Dirchein. While I am glad to have met Hallith and Ayither, I will leave this situation to you. It’s not my type of fight.”

I said, “Thank you, Jelnaya, for doing this much.”

“Yes, well, I am a champion of a fighting god. This isn’t part of his influence, although I know how clues can come that will direct you to grand challenges. I have often been pleased with taking the time to solve mysteries. Have fun, Hallith.”

Her words had me think of Ayither. She however displayed no annoyance at the steps to discover information about the dream I had. I even heard her make comments indicating her enjoyment of the entertainment. I knew that she had a friendship with one who promoted calm, but also what stunts she did while around those of a less energetic lifestyle. Sitting and reading poetry did not sound like something Ayither would appreciate, but she assured Dirchein that we would show up for her reading.

Even with those words, I did not expect the cheerful response when a maid came out to the stables to summon us back into the castle. We were with our horses, and I expected Ayither to put off the meeting speaking of continuing her work with the animals. She however mentioned that there would be plenty of time to train her horse in special maneuvers once we were settled as a couple, but that now was a time to assure our friendship with certain people. She told the maid that we would be coming after returning our mounts to their stalls.

We entered the parlor to see the lady of gold standing next to a table and not sitting on a padded stool with her wide skirt flowing around her. She not only had a number of books but also a few parchments with writing and drawings. Dirchein welcomed us, then indicated the things on the table as she spoke.

“It seems that Terish and Ferrigote planned on checking up on that poem. The writing is that of Terish, but that is not unusual. The fact that it is in our possession means that he was working on it with my husband. The notes however say that there is nothing there of any importance. It seems the poem was recent, and only added because the author was also intrigued by the stanzas. He wanted the distinction of being the first to record it, and promised to update with further stanzas once they came to light. While the poem might bring out an interesting culture, that really is not something either man would truly find worth their time to explore. I believe that my husband probably considered the poem in his search for me, but came to the conclusion I was not on that world.”

Ayither asked, “His search for you?”

“He had heard a story of a lady of gold, and considered it something he would claim for his own. I was sought as a prize, but I take pride that I gained a prize as well. I am more than pleased with my marriage.”

While I could understand all speech, that gift did not apply to the written word. “What advice can you give, Dirchein?”

“What script can you read, Hallith?”

I pointed to some parchments while saying, “I can read Terish’s writing. Among those who travel through the omniverse, his writing is rather common. Also, his actual language is easily understood.”

Something about one sheet caught my attention, and Dirchein smiled as she said, “I am from that world as well, Hallith. That is my writing as I prepared for this meeting. I will write out the poem for you and give you possession of the parchments. You may read them to determine your own actions. I just ask that you return to tell us what you may.”

“Well, I was hoping to first visit Pesloe.”

“I would tell you the same. Who knows? She and Cornispe are probably eager to get away for a time. Knowing Pesloe, she would love to join you on an adventure. Honestly, I would as well, but Ferrigote and I have already been gone from Nehallum for a time. If your visit on your world goes peaceably, come back and you could very well gain the company of me and my husband.”

“Thank you.”

“Certainly.” She then spread her hands while asking, “Now, with that settled is there anything else you would like to do or talk about?”

Ayither asked, “Is that it?” Seeing both of us look to her, she explained, “Calm would have had us listen to the poem, the authoritative commentaries, and discuss the notes.”

“I might like things done a certain way, but you should be more than aware that my plans are regularly disrupted. Jelnaya is quite a personality about my castle, but Ferrigote can be rather active as well. I love this life however, so merely attempt to assure that my presence is felt even as others have me feel theirs. I am highly pleased to have Hallith visit, and that he brought you, Ayither. Come, let us get to know each other better.”

We visited for a time allowing Dirchein to mention topics she preferred. She however lit up when I asked for her tell me about those in the portraits. Her children were not that old, but she mentioned what she could about them. Terish and Straekin had their brood first, so Dirchein spoke of who they had married and things about their lives. She then took me to another corridor where there was a large painting. It was Ayither who recognized it as a scene of the Quartermasters. Dirchein pointed to a nearby portrait of Pesloe and Cornispe along with one of Chertish, and I recognized that I had indeed visited a home of one who was proud to call me a friend.

Dirchein said, “I will want a painting of you and Ayither.”

“Where did you get that large painting?” I asked.

“It was actually a house warming gift from Terish. He said he was contacted about it when a noble needed to sell some things to make some payments. Where that person gained it, or probably one of his ancestors, I cannot say. Can you recognize the monster, Hallith?”

“All those years are jumbled in my brain, Dirchein. One thing I keep warning Ayither is that I will probably spend time calmly going back on all my time with the Quartermasters to sort out all those memories.”

“Pesloe said something like that as well. If either of you can place the scene, please let me know.”

Ayither said, “That painting supports that you are storm, Hallith.”

I replied, “No, I would think you would not consider this a storm, certainly not the good of a storm. It does show knocked down walls, destroyed wagons, and other indications of destruction. What I know is often a lot of that was done by us. I sometimes feel our acts rivaled the damage of the monsters we fought. Also, it shows Pesloe in a lovely dress. She would wear dresses when we entered a city, but they would never survive a battle. While this is a painting of the battle, seeing Pesloe in the dress has me think the struggle is not that great.”

Dirchein said, “I would think details like that would help you identify the scene.”

“They might, but it will take time. Really, it is over four hundred years of battle after battle after battle. I really feel the need to take the time to start sorting those memories out.”

Ayither asked, “You did things like that for over four hundred years?”

I could not say how many times I told her that, or she heard when I spoke to others, but I saw her focus on the painting and gained the impression my words were finally sinking in. “That is why it does not bother me to face the things you have seen me go up against.”

“I want to hear your stories. You tell them to me.”

“No. You listen when I tell them. I hope I will find an event and from there begin to untie the knot of memories. They may however come out slowly at odd moments. When I begin speaking, just listen. Assuming, of course, you are there to listen.”

“I plan on it. We leave in the morning?”

Dirchein said, “If she is ready, take her to Pesloe, Hallith. I assume that Anerth did give you his blessing.”

I answered, “Yes. When he saw Ayither take on the third challenge without complaint, he agreed that she could well be someone we needed in the family. He actually said ‘family.’ That was when we started discussing where I should take her. Anerth however really does not know of places, as he simply goes where the portals take him. He just set it as a requirement that when I decide to marry Ayither to go to Pesloe first.”

“Then we are all agreed. She misses you, Hallith.” Those words had me stop and think, although I was glad when Dirchein said some more. “Well, since you are not leaving until the morning, what else do you want to do around here?”

I actually had an answer. “Your metal smith. There are some things I need worked on.”

“You let him know to quit what he is doing and get on it.”

Ayither piped up asking me what I needed worked on. As I answered her, we excused ourselves from Dirchein. It seemed that Ayither had some of the same needs I did. Neither one of us wore a lot of armor, but what pieces we had we wanted to fit properly. My armor was also enchanted, so tended to stay in perfect condition, although certain opponents could damage almost anything. Ferrigote however had a metal smith that could work with special materials without spoiling their arcane properties, and I took advantage of his skills to adjust things I felt Ayither or I needed.

The work took up most of the day. We oversaw the labor of the metalsmith, then sparred with each other to assure the comfort of the finished pieces. Dirchein let us know about meals. She also sent word to Ayither of a social. It surprised me when she went, although it sounded familiar when she came back comparing Dirchein’s social with the things Slidell would have as entertainment. While I did enjoy the day, I thought of Jelnaya as I again moved to a certain balcony.

Ayither came out to ask, “Will we need to put balconies on our homes?”

“A porch should be fine,” I replied, “although I really cannot imagine either of us falling into some peaceful routine. Still, if we have a balcony then you can step outside on it with me. Damn if I’m going to leave our room, walk through our house, outside the house, then to beneath the balcony only to gain your approval so I can then rush back to our room.”

“I could just have Typhorsh blow you up.”

“That actually sounds like fun. Might have to try that.”

She laughed, then asked, “Pesloe is water?”

“We were all Zetrullid. It is the new group of Quartermasters that have a couple who represent other gods.”

“Tomorrow, Hallith.”

_________________
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PostSubject: Chapter Five   To Know Sweet and Sour - Part One (1-5) Icon_minitimeDecember 1st 2019, 6:33 am

To Know Sweet and Sour
Chapter Five

(Phesdorra)

Atagandes was looking for me. He had searched for me before, but I considered it the normal antagonism between us. I however now knew just how serious he was about advancing his cause. I considered the struggle between sweet and sour as something divine and distant. It affected the flow of power, but otherwise had little effect on our lives. Atagandes had however caught me and revealed a desire to intensify the antagonism between us, so I stayed observant to be aware of those agents who were actively looking for me.

I felt that I had a momentary advantage in that Atagandes had tipped his hand in having me enter the mind of Hallith. I had no idea of the man’s importance. If Hallith had claimed to be sweet, I could not imagine how he might benefit me. The opposite I however felt to be my advantage, in that I felt learning how Hallith could be an asset to Atagandes would give me a clue about his plans.

Chifar was a sweet owl. While he needed to eat, few animals actually considered him a threat. He kept his hunts to those who were preying on the blessings of those who tried to live respectable lives. People thus saw Chifar as an agent for good, which made me glad to know that he identified himself as sweet.

He laughed when I reacted to something he said. “Yes, Phesdorra, older than you. If what you say is true, Atagandes is involving himself in something he has no comprehension of. It is older, more powerful, and of a nature neither of you can truly imagine.”

Hoping to advance my own strategy, I asked, “If I can contact it first?”

“From what you said, you have contacted it. From what you said, the meeting was not to the advantage of you or Atagandes.”

“No, it was to my advantage. The words of Hallith gave me the strength to resist Atagandes. I would like access to that strength, that support, that friendship.”

“Ah, friendship, that is an interesting thought, Phesdorra. Definitely something sweet. No.”

The final word definitely struck me as something improper. Chifar smiled in a manner of seeing my glare at him, then moved to an upper level of his hollow tree. Trusting that he would provide some reasoning for his word, I waited while I saw the dust filter down from whatever he was disturbing in the height of his abode.

What fell was a satchel. While I heard the sound of metal, it was only a few clinks letting me know that the items were mostly padded from contacting each other. I probed the contents of the satchel for signs of sweet or sour, and stepped back amazed at the strength of the aura I detected.

More dust fell as Chifar came back down before saying, “You should understand, Phesdorra, that the struggle between sweet and sour is a divine one. Not good and evil, but more love and hate. While sour speaks of love, and points out the bad in sweet, the tendencies of each have most people wishing for sweet to dominate and sour to fade from being noticeable. The majority of people however try to ignore the flow of sweet and sour, as the problems of this life overwhelm any desire to acknowledge the divine. What Atagandes is doing is attempting to make that divine struggle apparent. What you could end up doing, Phesdorra, is assuring his success.”

He flapped his wings in a manner of sending the dust away. Chifar did keep his residence clean, so his action did not send up more dirt in the air. As things settled, he began to use his feet in a manner of opening the satchel to show me what was inside.

“You don’t know what you are doing, Phedorra. The problem is that Atagandes does not either. What I am suggesting, Phesdorra, is that you assure yourself of doing the right thing.”

I looked at what he was showing me. The candlesticks were about the only thing I recognized. The icons and runes were familiar, but I could not understand their importance. If not for the strong aura I felt, I would not have thought the items Chifar was showing me as having any true value.

“There is a God of our world. No one honestly denies that. He however is just so distant. Our daily struggles just do not seem to involve Him. Further, the divine struggle of sweet and sour seem to make our God seem more interested in petty feuds than what is truly important to us.”

“The teachings –“

“The teachings of sweet and sour do not speak of our God. Yes, they acknowledge Him, but do not stress any importance of Him in our lives. It is our worship of Him, our way of worshipping Him, that I believe needs to be stressed. I believe our religion died because we lost sight of the God it sought to have us worship with sweet and sour rising to again bring some recognition of the divine.”

I could not argue with his words. The divine aura was just too strong. What puzzled me was never seeing such items as they were now being presented. The only words I could form were a basic question.

“Where did you get these?”

“There was once a church across Tadmore’s Pond, before your time.” Seeing me again glare at him, Chifar explained, “They were put here. Secreted here in this tree we believe by the priests when others came to tear the church down. My ancestor saw, as the nest was disturbed by the action. We however sensed what these were, and have ever guarded them.”

“Are you telling me to use them?”

“Yes, Phesdorra. I will help. If you will, attend me as I use these. Let us actually contact our God and see what He tells us to do.”

Curious, I had to ask, “I feel the aura, but will they work?”

“I can’t say. Sometimes I feel they do. I however usually only feel the sweetness of appreciation afterward, so assume that what I do has some type of positive effect.”

“Sweetness?”

He took a breath of air and ruffled his wings before responding. “That’s why I’m sweet, Phesdorra. Honestly, we believe these items would also work for sour. Each generation is however taught to resist the sour. My grandfather said it, my father said it, and as I have matured I felt that my children and grandchildren need to hear me say it. The path of sour is too disastrous. There is a lure to it, but there are no records of one sour rising to any degree of fame. While my family has never rose to gain any great honor, as sweet we have maintained good relations.”

“I have no shame in seeking out your advice. What is your reason for showing me this?”

“Actually, Phesdorra, I feel that we need to preform a simple rite, a basic church service. The purpose of the rite is to purify ourselves. In a way, it is not much different than what a congregation of sweet would do when they come together. What I am going to have us do however is ask for an infusion of the divine spirit, not just the essence of sweet. In the hope of making an actual connection with our God, we will ask for a blessing to keep our world on its path and not have it descend toward an improper balance.”

“Why not ask to tip the balance to sweet?”

He pulled out a book and set it on a table I could tell had been used previously as an altar. Chifar did keep it covered with a very clean pale orange satin cloth with icons of sweet set upon it. The items had been removed. A white silk cloth was set over the pale orange one. The book was then set in the center of the table, and Chifar rubbed the top of it with his right wingtip polishing features as he answered my question.

“Sweet and sour are not in the holy book, Phesdorra. The feeling is that it is a corruption, but it is so ingrained in our ways that we cannot imagine what it is a corruption of. The book speaks of good and evil, but sweet is not wholly good and sour is not wholly evil. What the men in my family before me sought, and I would like to find as well, is some document clearly stating the rise of sweet and sour. If you must know, Phesdorra, our God is presented as good, and if there is any balance tipped I would ask that it tips to good.”

“No, sweet?” Seeing Chifar shake his head, I then asked, “How old is that book?”

“And the items? I told you there was once a church – of men. The book dates back in time to when men were dominant. I believe the book dates back many centuries: five or six. The items could be older.”

“Atagandes is a man. He has tried to build a structure like the ruins of men, but just cannot pull a large enough work force. There is then the problem of him devoting his time to pushing his connection to sour.”

“You need to keep your focus, Phesdorra.”

The words sounded as if Chifar was scolding me, but I quickly let him know the reason for my thoughts. “But he is the reason I am doing this, Chifar. He is attempting to dominate. He is the one attempting to tip the balance. Surely in my pleas to our God to keep His world a good one, I need to let Him know why I fear that not being our future.”

“When you put it that way, I guess it will be all right. I just would warn you away from having it sound like you desire vengeance.”

“That is not the way of sweet!”

“Phesdorra, please! Respect the age of these things. Respect my place as its keeper. There is sweetness in you. I know it well. Only, now, do not take pride in your sweetness, but your goodness. Also, humble yourself as we will be seeking to gain acknowledgement from none other than our God.”

I bowed my head while calmly replying, “Yes, Chifar, I’m sorry.” I then said a prayer basically saying the same thing. “What would you have me do?”

He led me through what I recognized as a type of personal cleansing ceremony. There were differences with a couple of steps I liked enough to consider adding them to my own practices. Finally, I noticed a chant from Chifar and from the words recognized that it was time to set my thoughts toward God.

Chifar would have been proud of me, as I did not focus on my antagonism with Atagandes. Such thoughts really were not the way of sweet. The one I found to fill my thoughts was Hallith. Something from my time in his mind had me see him as a potential source of wisdom and power that could meet my desires. Truly wanting to assure my God of the strength and fullness of my beliefs, I set my mind in a manner of seeking the grand mentality of the entity. Chifar had to have seen my body disappear just as Atagandes did. However, my focus either was so strong, or my desire to truly connect the divine was so deep, that I did more than spiritually travel.

I felt a rush of what gave me the impression of being a storm. In the midst of the chaos of wind and water came the additional shock of realizing my passing was physical. I found myself worried that Atagandes had somehow taken control of me, but finding myself unable to control my body caused me to simply be concerned for my situation. My wings could not flap, as what felt like water kept disrupting the large butterfly-like appendages. All I could do was try to contort my body to assure some hope of keeping myself safe when the storm finally ended rushing to wherever I would go.

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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