THE WIZARD OF THE WHITE TOWER
by CAPHER


In a land of dreams and lore called Aér'aí'chán. In a time lost in myths and fairytales the gods scheme to destroy the races of Avá, the Dreamer. In this world a young girl dreams... In her dreams the owl spoke. "You carry within yourself the seed of destiny! He will bring about great destruction, but he also carries your love and will find it someday. Let his name be Ethan." Then visions of a great war and powers unleashed like she never saw before flashed before her eyes... Thus the prophecy was given and the epic story of the Wizard of the White Tower begins.
 

CHAPTER VI
A B
ROWNIE, A BEAR AND THE O'OSH

aboth’s inn was set in the north-eastern part of the town close to the Northern gate and was usually the inn favored by most travelers when visiting Sophronia. It was a two story building built like a curved T and had four wooden steps leading up to a short wooden porch with Eur’Oak eves overhanging it. The bar and one of the two spacious dining rooms were located in the front of the building. The other dining room and dance hall were off to the left of the entrance of the inn. Both halls were lit by evenly spaced posted oil lamps. Above each table was a potted plant to finish the décor and add to the ambience of the inn. Inside each dining hall was either a spitted slab of mutton or beef slowly being roasted over an open fire pit in the center of each hall. The guest quarters were located on either side of the building while the upper floor was used for the living quarters of the staff and the owner Naboth Shipher and his family.

Akasai Malvol, Lord Ma’asherom’s courier, sat at one of the tables in one of the two of the inn’s spacious dining halls. The other hall, like the one he was sitting now, was filled with laughter, music and dancing. He worked feverishly at the crude drawing he was making of the maze of streets and alleyways that the two black-cloaked women who had towered over him led him through after they had left the Manor.

Every once in a while he would scratch at his Eascathe bandaged wound on his left forearm as he tried to remember the path they had taken. There had been so many stops, turns and double backs. “Now where did this street end?” he asked himself. He took another look at his drawing.

A small female voice whispered from out of his inside pocket. “No you fool, it was the other way. That street went east not west.” Akasai scribbled in the correction. “Now you have it right. Wait! You fool! You forgot to mark the starting point of the map.”

“Call me a fool again you little…” Suddenly a spark of flame leapt from the small female’s right hand and scorched Akasai’s wound. He yelped and covered it with his other hand. Fortunately the inn was quite crowded and noisy and his outburst as well as the leaf of a small plant that hung overhead and suddenly went brown and died was hardly noticed.

“Let that be a lesson! I am Blackrosepetal of the night. I am a Redbark Birni. I may be small but I know magic and I am the one who is the leader here. If it were not for the request of Lord Ma’asherom to my Lord, Lord Saban, for my assistance I would not be here in the pocket of a fool of a half naked human male. The only enjoyment I’ve received in these last few weeks with you is when I witnessed that female guard give you that.” She pointed to his wounded arm. “It took all I had not to burst out laughing. I had to hold my mouth shut, as it was I who was doubled over in pain from not trying to make a noise. It served you right for trying to feel that female’s leg.” Blackrosepetal gave a small chuckle. “She was quick with that knife, wasn’t she?”

“Shay who you talking to? Yourself? You don’t even have any ale in front of you. Are you a little queer in the head?”

Akasai looked up into the face of a man. He had dark wavy hair that hung almost down to his shoulders, a small goatee of a beard with streaks of gray and large brown blood shot eyes. In his right hand covered with rings, which were inset with some of the most precious jewels Akasai had ever seen, was an opened half-empty tankard of ale. Akasai’s eyes popped open when he realized that the strangers other fingers in his other hand were covered with more of those jewels. Obviously this man was not a Sophronian. He was probably a merchant from Marcogg, he thought. Akasai quickly covered up the drawing with his hands and crumpled it up tossing it on the floor. He then invited the stranger to sit down. The stranger happily obliged. Blackrosepetal kept quiet and listened.

“No, stranger. I am not queer in the head. I was just complaining to myself about the hospitality here.”

“Whash you mean? Naboth always serves good food and ale.”

“I am sure he does. In fact I was planning on partaking of this delightful inns delicacies shortly before you showed up. Actually I was talking about the Guards’ hospitality.”

“The Guards?” the stranger asked. He then noticed the bandaged arm. He asked. “One of the guards do that to you?”

“Yes, her name was Liothalla I believe.”

“Whash you do to her? The Guards have always been good to me!”

“Well, let us just say I touched her.”

The stranger almost fell off his seat as he began to laugh so hard. “You? You touched a Guard without permission?” He peered at Akasai through bleary eyes. “Now I know you are queer in the head or else you have a deash wish. Are you sure you are not queer in the head? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you here before. You look strange.” He looked harder at Akasai. “You’re a short little fellow. And how come you are not wearing hardly any clothes? Whatsh you’re name?”

Akasai almost told the drunken stranger to leave except the lure of those precious jewels on the man’s fingers made him swallow his pride. “I am called Akasai Malvol. I am the personal courier of Lord Ma’asherom. I have an important message for Lord Oman but he is ignoring me at the moment.”

There was a long pause. Then the man took a long drink from his tankard. His eyes seemed to clear and he spoke slowly but fluently. “Ma’asherom? You work for him? Yes, now I see. You are one of the Bear clan. I should have known. Only one of the Clans would go around half naked when it is this close to winter, though it has been unseasonably warm. I have traveled and seen much in this part of the world and not many men or things scare me, but when I saw Ma’asherom, he scared me.”

Suddenly a barmaid stood in front of the table. “Is there anything you want, Sir?” she asked.

Akasai did not answer right away. He was staring at the man beside him. His thoughts were varied, but one kept screaming at him. Does he know?

The barmaid asked again thinking he was angry. “Can I get something for you, Sir? It is on the house. Lord Oman left word with Naboth, the owner, that you were his special guest and that he would repay. I apologize for not coming over sooner, Sir, but we have been pretty busy besides I did not see you right away. Please do not tell Naboth, Sir. I just got this job and would like to keep it!”

“I believe she is talking to you?” said the stranger nodding at the barmaid.

Akasai turned his attention away from the stranger and cleared his throat. “I am sorry, miss. I did not hear you.”

“I asked, if you wanted anything, Sir? It is on the house.”

“Oh, yes! I would like to have some of your roast mutton, some dark bread and a tankard of this ale that this gentleman is drinking. Bring him another tankard as well.”
“Yes, Sir. And Master Feinion are you still drinking that dwarven ale?” she asked the other man. Hathor Feinion nodded. She gave a small curtsy and left.

Akasai turned back toward him. “Do you mind if I ask you where and when you saw Lord Ma’asherom, Master Feinion?”

Hathor sat back, drained the rest of the ale, wiped his mouth off with the sleeve of his coat and smiled. “I happened to be in Quanti two years ago during a full moon. I had pulled in late that afternoon. Your former leader, his name escapes me at the moment, had just been killed in battle two weeks before. You were going through some sort of ritual to have your god choose another leader. I just wanted to sell some of my wares and perhaps buy some items, but I was told I had to wait until the following morning after those who thought they should be the next leader of your clan goes into your temple. I believe it was called Colthoi. Anyway the young boy I was talking to suddenly became excited and it seemed like your whole village came out of their homes to watch these five people walk up those stone steps into the temple. I think there were three men and two women who walked up those steps. It all seemed a little dramatic, but I guess all religious gatherings are. I personally don’t care too much for gods and goddesses, though I would never turn down the blessing of any if they choose to bless me. I believe in hard work and a little luck will get you where you want to be in life. The young lad pointed out to me whom I now know as Ma’asherom. He was a little taller than the others and he had the darkest, longest hair on a man that I’ve ever seen. I thought he was a woman until I was told by the lad who he was. No disrespect intended.”

“None taken,” replied Akasai. “Lord Ma’asherom at the time had just come back from spirit guide wanderings. During that time our people go out into the wilderness to search for our spirit guide. We take nothing along with us except a small knife. We are not to cut our hair during our wanderings. We believe that letting our hair grow during this time allows us to even become more with nature and our god. We stay out there until we find our spirit guide. He had been gone almost a full year before he returned.”

The barmaid returned, set the food and ale on the table asked if there was anything else she could get for them. Receiving “no” for an answer she curtsied and left. Hathor continued after taking another long drink of ale from his now filled tankard. “We watched those five go into the temple and then the crowds began to disperse when all of a sudden there came screams from inside the temple. I looked up and I could have sworn it was on fire. But I knew that could not be as the temple was built into the side of a mountain. I couldn’t believe my eyes. That temple actually glowed. Then as sudden as the screams began they stopped. All of your people seemed to be mesmerized by the glow of the temple and then it stopped glowing.

When it did the door opened and out stepped this man. His hair looked like it was on fire. He was totally naked and his skin looked like he had been burned. As he came to the end of the stairs he stretched out his hands and bellowed ‘I am Ma’asherom. Lord of El’Darthar. Touched by the fire god himself.’ He slowly walked past the crowds and walked right by me. I took a look at his eyes. They looked liked his hair, on fire. He looked at me and I swear he could see through me to my very own soul. Then he just disappeared into the crowds. Your people went crazy. The young lad that had been talking to me went away screaming into the night. Well that was enough for me I packed my things, loaded my wagon and left your village as fast as my horse could take me. I also took up drinking dwarven ale, stronger than any other ale I’ve drunk.” He smiled and took another long drink. “Drink up!!”

Akasai took a piece of bread and a chunk of mutton, put it inside his mouth and chewed slowly as he thought about the man’s tale. Who would have believed that here in this inn at this time I would come across someone who actually saw Lord Ma’asherom before and after his “Calling” as he now names it? I had only believed that only those of our Clan had seen it. But there was an outsider there. I wonder… He swallowed his food and took a drink of the dwarven ale. Suddenly he started to sputter and cough as the ale burned his throat all the way down to his stomach. “What is this stuff?”

Halthor roared and slapped Akasai heartily on the back, almost dislodging Blackrosepetal from her hiding place. She held on tightly to the edge of the pocket and had to pull herself back into it. She almost let a fire blast go, but thought better of it and just fumed inside of Akasai’s pocket thinking up some of the most horrible things to do to Master Feinion. She spat at the thought of this drunken man’s name. “It’s dwarven ale. Strongest drink I’ve found anywhere yet. It’s a lot better than the drink the Sophronian’s have. They drink some sort of fermented mare’s milk. They call it Aymyz.”
Soon the ale began to warm Akasai’s stomach and he could speak again. “Master Feinion,” he asked. “I was wondering if you have told anyone else about this tale you have just told me?”

“Just about every merchant from Marcogg to Elsreth. But it didn’t matter, because shortly after all the borders into your lands were closed, rumor was that the Clans were going through some sort of civil war but nothing was ever confirmed. - Say, I just thought of something. Quanti is the name of your capitol, isn’t it? But where is El’Darthar? Or what is it?”

“Quanti was the name of our capitol. When Lord Ma’asherom came into power he changed the name to El’Darthar and began to build a palace for himself,” answered Akasai.

“Something else just occurred to me. If the borders to your lands have been closed these past years how come you are here?”

Akasai slowly thought over this question. To reveal too much would prove to undermine Lord Ma’asherom’s plans but he needed the word to spread. What better way than to tell a merchant? Akasai smiled. “That, Sir, is a good question. I am here on behalf of Lord Ma’asherom to open dialogue with Lord Oman to begin trade agreements between our two kingdoms. I would be more than willing to go to Marcogg and present our agreements to your king. If you think that would be acceptable.”

Halthor suddenly interrupted his speech. “I’m not sure. Like I said your Lord scares the daylights out of me. I could not…”

Akasai paused, smiled, sat back in his chair with his fingertips touching, like he was praying. “You need not fear anymore. That was just a side effect of the ‘Calling’ he received. Within a few days he was back to normal. You see, Lord Ma’asherom knows that our kingdom and ways seem somewhat barbaric to most of the other kingdoms surrounding our lands. He has taken steps to correct that impression within our own societies and now he reaches out his hand to the world.”

Hathor laughed, took another drink and replied. “Well, in that case I assume it would be okay but you assume too much, my diminutive friend. I never mentioned I was a merchant from Marcogg. Actually I live in Elsreth. As far as talking to my king about trade agreements, I suppose I could mention it to our king’s advisor during our meetings. But we don’t meet except once a year and our next meeting is not until after the winter thaw. I should warn you though, the last trade agreement that was made with the Erpheronians took almost five years to settle. That agreement was with these kind folks. Lord Oman, along with his advisors Belrath and Salina, I believe were their names, are tough negotiators. They had our king and his advisors fuming most of the time.” He chuckled as he thought about those negotiations. “So don’t think that this will be an easy sell. You and your Lord had better bunker down and prepare yourselves for a long siege.” Halthor prepared to leave as he finished his drink. “I thank ye for your hospitality but morning comes early and I must be on my way.”

“You are heading back to Elsreth?” asked Akasai.

“No, I go to Marcogg. It would be too long and hazardous a journey to travel back to Elsreth. I have a place in Marcogg where I winter.”

Akasai thought a moment. “Would it be okay to visit you there? My next stop was Marcogg after I received a reply from Lord Oman.”

Halthor stood. “I suppose it would be fine. When you get into the city just ask for me. I am known fairly well there. However another warning I give to you. If you plan on trying to open negotiations with those people your Lord had better be prepared to offer more than just trade. Those people are looking for gold.”

Akasai reached out his hand. “Thank you Master Feinion for all of your good advice.”

Halthor stood and looked at the offered hand for a moment, then he spit in his own hand and shook Akasai’s hand heartily. “No problem friend. Hey you have a pretty strong grip for such a little fellow. - Now I know! You remind me of a dwarf. You are about the same size except you have no beard. I hope you don’t take any offense to that. Most dwarfs I know are pretty decent fellows.”

Akasai smiled as he palmed the ring he took off the man. “No. No, offense taken.”

“Well, then till I see you in Marcogg... Happy negotiating!” Halthor said as he sauntered off to the rear of the inn.

Akasia wiped his hand off on his light tunic. He took out the emerald ring and stared at it.

“Psst. Hey don’t you think you should give back that ring you stole?” asked Blackrosepetal. “What happens if he discovers that it is missing? That would not be a good start to your relationship with this man and would really upset Lord Ma’asherom if your petty thievery delayed his plans. Myself personally I could care less. That drunken human deserves what he gets. I’m just thinking of your skin.”

Akasai rubbed the jewel on his sleeve until it shone brightly under the lamp’s light. “He is so drunk he won’t even know it is gone. If he does come back I’ll just tell him I found it and went to look for him but couldn’t find him and was going to give it to Lord Oman in the morning. If he doesn’t miss it, I’ll return it to him when I visit him in Marcogg. My honesty will just make him trust me more. Besides I don’t think you are one bit concerned about my skin except on how you are going to get out of here,” Akasai replied smugly.

“Do not underestimate me, underling! I can leave this place any time I want! But now I can’t because you have not done your job. Now I am going to have to go and do it for you. There is a saying that females use: ‘If you want the job done right, then a female should do it.’ So go outside and get a breath of fresh air, discreetly let me out of your pocket so I can breathe, and then go back and do whatever you are going to do. I will get back the map of the town to Lord Ma’asherom myself. It may take some time but the job will be done right. Now let us go. I have had enough of humans. And do not forget the piece of crumpled map on the floor! It would not be to our best interests if someone found it!”

Akasai put the ring on his finger, picked up the paper off the floor, stood up and walked out of the inn. The air was warm but was considerably cooler than it was inside the inn. He looked up and down both sides of the street, walked over to a shaded area and let Blackrosepetal out of his pocket. She did not even thank him. She just melted into the night. He looked at his ring one more time just gazing and admiring the glow and then walked back towards the inn, but before he walked in he took down the lamp outside of the inn and set the piece of paper on fire. He let it burn until it almost touched his fingers, then he let it go. Taking another deep breath he thought: Gold? If that is what the Marcoggian king wants then gold we have. It just so happens that some of our slaves discovered it just a few months ago in the mountains... He chuckled at the thought of calling the tribe of dwarves they found in the mountains their slaves. He then entered the inn and found his room for the night.

Lorilie Hawke was fuming as she stomped down the cobble street to the southern gate. She was in deep thought. How can they do that? Kill a child? She stopped and looked around. The street seemed unfamiliar to her. Somehow she had gotten herself turned around. She began to feel afraid. She felt like she was back in the meadow.

Suddenly a hand touched the back of her right shoulder, without thinking, acting on pure instinct she whirled to her right, her left hand in a tight fist, arm shooting out straight and stiff. She caught her supposedly attacker unawares and smacked him right below the sternum. A gasp escaped the young boys lips. Still moving she twirled on her right heel, using all her strength and momentum she hit the boy on the side of his head with the back of her right hand as she came around. Instantly the boy fell, like a felled ox, a bell dropped from his unconscious hand. Loirlie looked down at the young boy and realized what she had done.

“Oh no!” she cried. She stooped down and tried to minister to the young boy. She did not know what to do. His head was bleeding and he did not seem to be breathing. She looked around and started to shout for help. Then out of nowhere Belrath showed up huffing and puffing. He took one look at the boy and knelt down beside him. His expert hands handled the boy’s head carefully as he searched and probed for the source of bleeding. He noticed the boy was not breathing and began to massage the boy’s chest. The boy gave a small cough and began to breathe again.

“Loirlie! How did this happen? Did you see what happened?” he asked.

Lorilie stood up. Her face was white as a sheet. She held her hand to her mouth not saying a word. “Lorilie! I asked you what happened?” Belrath asked again as he began to rummage through his bag of herbs and medicine. “Lorilie, I do not have a bandage with me... Tear off a part of the bottom of your dress so I can use it to try to stop the bleeding.”

Aghast at what she had done she numbingly tore off a part of her lower dress and handed it to Belrath. She began to mumble. “He is only the town crier. He is just a young boy. I didn’t mean too hurt him I thought he was…” Suddenly she burst out crying and ran away.

“Wait, Lorilie!” shouted Belrath.

But she did not wait and ran into the darkness. Belrath knew the boy needed more help than what he could do for him here, so he picked him up and quickly walked over to the nearest home with a lamp still on. He knocked and the door squeaked open a little an elderly female voice sounded forth. “What is it? Who are ye? What do ye want?”

Belrath answered quickly and forcefully. “I am Belrath, I have a young boy out here who needs medical attention and the use of your home. Let me in?”

The door opened a little wider. A wizened face peered out. She quickly took a look at Belrath and the bleeding boy and opened the door. Belrath rushed in thanking her and laid the boy on the table. “Do you have any hot water and bandages or clean cloth I can use?” he asked. She nodded looking at the boy. “Why, that is young Wilhem, the town crier! What happened to him?” she asked going to her hearth and taking her teapot off of the warming stone and gave it to Belrath. Then she went to her cupboard and began to rip an old clean sheet into strips. “Do you have Eascathe?” she asked. Or better yet, I have some Yahrle!” She scurried off to another cupboard and produced some of the leaves. She took the teapot, poured some water over the leaves and let it begin to soak. Belrath was quite amazed.

“You are very knowledgeable woman. Not many people know the uses of herbs, especially Yahrle. Where did you learn?” he asked as he watched her take the strips of cloth, dip them into the herbal solution and began to expertly wrap the young boy’s head. She stepped back after she was done. “I used to be the armies apothecary many years ago,” she answered. “How come you don’t carry any?” she asked.

“I do normally but there has been a rash of injuries to the people by wild beasts and I have not had the time to replenish my bag.”

“Oh I see,” she said. “Is he going to be all right?”

Belrath once again probed the boy’s head. It seemed to be just a superficial cut but he would know better when he had a chance to talk to the boy. At least he was breathing normally. He wondered about Lorilie. “He seems just to have a superficial wound on the head. I will know better when I get a chance to talk to him. What is your name?” he asked.

“I am called Belledhwain Yourng,” she answered.

“Pleased to meet you Belledhwain. Belrath, just Belrath, at your service.” He bowed slightly. He paused a moment, took a look around and asked. “Are you a widowed woman?”

She looked suspiciously at Belrath, then answered. “Yes, I am. Why do you want to know?”

“I was thinking that if you had a husband I would have to ask him first but since you are a widower I don’t need to.”

“Ask me what?” she questioned curiously.

“I need a good nurse. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind being mine. You have already the experience and knowledge. Would you be willing?” he almost pleaded.

She thought about the offer for a while then nodded affirmatively. “I would be happy to be in the service of the great Belrath. Besides it would do me good to go and do what I was born to do once again.”

Belrath blushed. “I am… I am not that great. But I thank you for your compliment and your services. I will pay you well.”

She laughed. A very nice warm laugh that melted Belrath’s heart.

Lorilie ran and ran until her sides hurt. She was constantly wiping away the tears that seemed never to stop falling from her eyes. She found herself back in front of her Grandparents home. A lamp still shone inside. She didn’t want to go inside thinking her mother was still there. She walked behind the house into the garden. Moonmoss was planted on either side of the rock pathway that led to the center of the garden. The garden was beautiful. It was bathed in soft moonlight and she made her way up the three tiers of flowers to the huge Eur’Oak tree that stood in the middle. She sat down under the tree, sobbing. Why? Why me?, she asked herself. “Why was I the one he raped!!” she yelled. Suddenly she began to tear out clumps of grass out of the ground. Her anger and frustration poured forth in her fury. “I was just a little girl! I did not do anything to him! Why? Why?” She screamed over and over again. She thought of the young boy. “Oh my! What have I done? What have I turned in to?” she began to cry and shake uncontrollably.

Suddenly a voice spoke.

It was Esmerelda. She had heard the noise outside and went out to investigate. “Lorilie, is that you, honey?” she asked as she walked up the stone path.

Lorilie looked up through tear blurred eyes. She rose and ran to her Grandmother. “I’m so sorry Grandmother for causing so much pain. I didn’t mean too. I didn’t ask for this, did I?” she asked.

Esmerelda held her close to her as she began to cry and sob once again. “No, dear, you did not ask for what had happened. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Do not blame yourself, child, for the actions of some evil elf.”

“But mother hates me! And what about father? He is missing and mother is probably right. He is might be dead! All because of me!” She cried even harder. “I just want our family and lives put right back where they were! We were happy. And now I destroyed it all. All!”

“No, child. Listen to me. You did not do any harm to your family. It was not your fault. Your mother loves you. I know she does. She is just in so much pain and fear for your father she does not know what she is saying or doing right now. Give her time. Give yourself time and forgiveness. As well as to your mother.”

“But what about Grandfather? He hates me too, because I won’t let them kill the baby inside of me.”

”No, my child. He does not hate you either, nor do I. He was only looking out for your best interests as he thought at the time. So was Belrath. But you do have to think about this. If you do have this child it will be half elf and half human. What do you think the people and especially the children of your village and this town will say and do to him or her when they grow up? People and especially children can be so cruel, you know? Do you want your child to be teased, called names like half-breed and being thought of as an outcast the rest of its life? And yourself you will be labeled also. These are the things that your Grandfather was thinking of when he asked Belrath if there was a way to kill the child within you. Do you understand?”

Lorilie thought about her Grandmother’s words. “No, I would not like that Grandmother. I guess I understand but the child inside of me has a purpose. I know it does. Monk told me so. That is why I must not kill him and he will be a boy. Monk told me that too, I think.”

“This Monk, I’ve heard his name several times now. But is he not an owl?” Esmerelda asked incredulously.

“Listen to me, Grandmother. I have never told anyone the whole story about Monk but I will tell you. I will tell you about the dream I had and how he talked to me, but it wasn’t a he, it was a she.”

“Let us go inside, Lorilie, and you can tell me all about this Monk over a cup of tea,” said Esmerlda as she gently led Lorilie back down the path. Lorilie stopped. “No. What about mother? I cannot face her right now.”

“No need to worry, Lorilie, your mother left shortly after you did. Now let us go inside and talk.”

Ruth Oman walked steadily toward the southern gate. Suddenly she stopped and changed direction and walked up a dark street. Lit only here and there by small oil lamps hung high on wooden posts. She found the house she was searching for and walked up to it. She furtively looked around to see if there was anyone following her. Seeing no one she knocked three times on the door, paused, and then she scratched like a cat on the door three times.

A wooden small door inset in the larger door slid open. A whispered voice came forth. “Password?” it asked.

“O’OSH” Ruth whispered back. She heard a metal bolt be slid back and the door opened. Ruth quickly entered after once more looking around to see if she could be seen. The door closed, and bolted behind her.

She stood silently in the entryway of the house. Two lit candles held by two hooded and cloaked figures stood on either side of her. Silently they beckoned her to follow them into the next room. She obeyed and followed them through a heavy dark curtain into the interior of the house. Candles spread throughout the room. They lighted the interior and several hooded and cloaked figures turned as she entered the room. One of the cloaked figures walked up to her and asked: “What is the word?”

Ruth answered. “The word is she will not kill the child.” A small murmuring went throughout the crowd. Then out of the shadows another cloaked figure asked: “Then are you ready to learn of the Society of the O’OSH and take the oath?”

“I am ready.” Ruth answered with no hesitation in her voice.

The cloaked figure said. “Ladies, show her!”

All of the cloaked and hooded figures took off their hoods and unclasped their cloaks. They were naked underneath. They took out their left breasts and showed them to Ruth. Tattooed on them was a small insignia of a three-fingered hand. Ruth immediately recognized the insignia. It was part of the crest of the Sophronians’ coat of arms. Ruth recognized some of the women there. They were from all different stations of life, from the noble to the peasant.

Then the only hooded and cloaked figure spoke in a solemn voice. “Listen and obey to what I have to say to you: After each question you will answer with your name, title and then with ‘I swear’. - Do you understand?”

Ruth nodded.

“Prepare the mark!” A woman came forward with a bowl of ink and a sharp small needle. She heated up the needle as Ruth unloosened her bodice and exposed her left breast. The woman then proceeded to dip the needle into the ink and started to tattoo Ruth’s breast. Ruth tightly held her lips together as pain shot through her.

“Do you solemnly swear that what you will hear tonight you will never tell a living soul for as long as you live? Know that if you do, you condemn your soul to eternal damnation!”

“I, Ruth Oman, Princess of Sophronia, swear.”

“Do you solemnly swear never to reveal the members of O’OSH to anyone for as long as you live? Know that if you do, you condemn your soul to eternal damnation.”

“I, Ruth Oman, Princess of Sophronia, swear.”

The tattoo was finished. Ruth looked down at the three-fingered figure on her breast. Drops of blood were dripping from its nails.

“Now listen to the story of the O’OSH, the Order of Sophronia’s Hand."

Story written by Capher View Profile