The Coastal Kingdoms of Olvion: Book Two of The Chronicles of Olvion (2 page)

BOOK: The Coastal Kingdoms of Olvion: Book Two of The Chronicles of Olvion
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See, Tag never doubted that he would return.  He did not know why he had been taken from the life that he had grown to love or the woman that he adored, but he knew he would be called back at some point.  He couldn’t tell you how he knew, but he did know.  He was going to be ready for it.

After his sudden reappearance in the small town of Clovis, California he was desperate to get back to the exotic world of Olvion and the woman with whom he’d fallen in love.  He’d even gone back to the hospital for the purpose of having his lungs biopsied.  That was what had started all of this in the first place.  Six months ago he had been prepped for a surgical biopsy after shadows were seen on his lungs.  As soon as the anesthesia was administered he’d woken up
there.
  Tag figured reenacting those circumstances would be the most likely scenario for being returned.  But, as fate would have it, the x-rays showed no trace of any problems in his lungs.  Whatever had been there before was now gone.  Tag didn’t know whether to be happy or disappointed.

Did he ever doubt that his recollections were real?  Or ever allow that maybe what the experts were saying was true?  Sure, but in his core he knew the truth.  Every time he started to have serious doubts he would just take off his shirt and look at the numerous scars on his body.  He vividly recalled the circumstances behind every one of them.  Those couldn’t be faked, and they weren’t there before this all happened. 

After re-stashing his sword Tag climbed into his creaking canvas army cot and turned out his lamp.  Before closing his eyes he said good night to her. 

And then he dreamed of Olvion.

In his mind, Olvion was a planetary cousin to Earth.  The similarities in the flora and fauna were striking.  A great many of the animals that were found on Earth had similar creatures in existence on Olvion.  Most terrestrial animals were sturdier of bone and build because the gravity of Earth was greater and there were always other differences, some slight, others more pronounced.

Olvion was home to other creatures to which Earth had nothing to compare.  On the ugly side, besides some fearsome predators, were the Grey Ones.  These sub-human beasts were named for the color of their skin. They sported coarse black hair which started growing at the swell of their eyebrow ridges and continued on back past their shoulders to their lower backs.  Called “Greys” for short, they lacked any trace of humanity and hunted humans for food.

On the opposite end of the spectrum were the Mountain Children.  These wonderful creatures inhabited the higher regions of a mountain range and were so rare that many Olvionis considered them to be myths.  There were three different versions of Mountain Children.  Most plentiful were the Browns.  As their names implied they were brown in color and were considered to have intelligence on the level of a human child, thus the name “Mountain Children”. 

There were two mutations to the standard Mountain Child.  The first were the Whites.  These amazing creatures had adult human-level intelligence and the ability to telepathically project images, emotions, and sounds.  Their kind were able to communicate with each other without the use of words.   Besides their color, the Whites were unusual in another amazing way.  Every White, at some point in his or her life, was called upon by The Awareness to perform a task.  It would be impossible to describe The Awareness because, about it, nothing was known.  Folklore among the Mountain Children held that the mysterious entity used the Whites to maintain balance in the world of Olvion.  Depending upon the abilities of the individual Mountain Child, some tasks were simple and safe.  The strongest among them were sent on quests that frequently resulted in great injury or death.

The third incarnation of the species were the Silvers.  Silvers had all of the abilities and intelligence of the Whites.  There was only one difference between them; Silvers were evil.  They roamed the planet seeking weak minds and weaker wills.  They would then use their abilities to help their victims gather power which the Silvers would share.  They were the antitheses of the Whites.

And then there were the people.  In his brief time in Olvion Taggart had come to know them as exceedingly noble and courageous, none more so than his Dwan.  She was a rare beauty who was dedicated to the art of healing the sick and injured.  She was the first person he had seen on Olvion and their relationship had developed quickly.  Then, after months of soul-draining combat with the Grey Ones, when the future promised peace and a lifetime of happiness…he had been stolen back to Earth.  Taggart slipped away into sleep knowing that his first thought the next morning would be of her.

Tag woke at mid-morning and jogged the half-mile to his gym.  He still had no money for a car.  He had a union rep who was fighting with the State Prison officials over getting him back pay.  When he was “taken away” the last time he had eight weeks of vacation pay and six more weeks of sick time owed to him.  Plus, since Tag’s job had sent him to psychiatric counselling when he got back, they were pretty much admitting that they thought his condition was medical in nature.  That was a mistake on their part because the California Correctional Department was a state agency and the court was going to make them pay him all kinds of fines and fees for wrongful termination.  You can’t fire a state employee for being sick.  They had also charged off his vacation time and sick pay which was a gross violation of procedure.  He was looking at a healthy infusion of money in his near future.

Tag had plans to buy himself an old Harley to ride around on until he was called back
home
when his back-pay money came through, but he still planned to jog to his workout.  It seemed foolish to him to drive somewhere only to jump on a treadmill.  Since joining the gym and concentrating on weight training Taggart had added fifteen pounds of muscle to his large frame and increased his stamina. 

After a few hours of working out, Tag showered and went to Grandma’s Kitchen.  He usually ate one large meal each day then snacked on protein bars and fruit for the rest of the night.  Grandma’s Kitchen had been his favorite restaurant since before his life had radically changed.  He used to eat breakfast there every Saturday morning with the members of his motorcycle riding group.  They had been a strange collection of personalities composed of cops, corrections officers, construction workers and even a school principal.  To this day Tag could call on any one of them, and they would arrive to help him within minutes.  Indeed, he had been contacted by most of them after his situation was reported in the local newspaper.  Many had offered their spare rooms or couches, but Tag had gratefully refused.  He knew he had a lot of introspection to get done and wouldn’t be a very pleasant houseguest until he got himself right.

After eating, Tag checked the time display on his cheapie cell phone and saw he had about three more hours before the evening shift started.  He walked over to a little business on Clovis Avenue that called itself “Twangs”.  It was an indoor archery range.  For five bucks you could use one of their bows and shoot at a straw-filled target for an hour.  Tag tried to get in two days of practice a week.  He enjoyed it, and it was a skill that he thought might eventually prove useful…you know…when he got back.

Tag spent his remaining free time sitting on a grassy hill just looking out at the Sierras.  The blue skies were beautiful but partially obscured by pollution, and he couldn’t help yearning for the pinkish tint of the skies of Olvion.  He had a bottle of orange juice that he’d bought at a mini-mart and sipped it as he pondered his situation. 

As much as anyone else, Tag wanted to be happy.  He once thought that would be impossible because of his social anxiety disorder.  It is a terrible affliction that robs a person of the ability to interact with others.  Before his life changed forever he had accepted the fact that he would probably have to live his entire life alone.  Now his S.A.D. was gone, healed by his little protector, Tinker.  Tag had named her Tinker, short for Tinkerbell.  She was a beautiful animal looking much like a small Arctic Fox.  She had befriended him when he was alone, naked and thinking he’d been condemned to a solitary hell.  She had saved his life.

Whenever Tag would show up for his court-mandated counselling sessions he would be asked how it would have been possible for him to have suddenly appeared in a place such as Olvion.  Now that he was not fighting for his life with grey-skinned cannibals every other day, Tag had time to consider that question.  He had come to the conclusion that it was most likely another dimension that he had passed into rather than being transported to another world.  Interstellar travel was enormously time consuming, but passing through a dimension warp could (theoretically) be instantaneous.  Or at least what he had been able to read of them made it appear so.  He was surprised to learn that Einstein believed them to be a probability even though he was unable to prove their existence.  Tag’s only concern now was how to make it happen, so he could get back.

At 6:00 p.m. Tag jogged back to Billy’s, showered again and dressed in his best black jeans and a long-sleeved Harley-Davidson tee shirt.  It was Friday, and that usually meant a happy crowd. 

They did, indeed, have a happy crowd that night.  Weekends required a second bartender to help Karen as well as two more waitresses.  There was the usual assortment of people celebrating the end of the work week.  Karen was friendly, but she seemed embarrassed about the night before.

About midnight a skinny young guy wearing a salmon-colored polo shirt with the collar turned up approached Tag and said that a car in the bar’s back parking lot had the alarm going off.  Tag thanked him and told Karen he would be right back.  Billy’s back lot was not well-lit, and it was right on the edge of a large field.  Tag had asked Wilhelmina several times to buy a motion-sensor light for back there telling her that he would be happy to install it for her.  She kept telling him she would get back to him on that, but, in the meantime, the local riff raff had noticed the opportunities that it presented, and he had to run at least one of them off every week.

Tag went out the back door, smelling the dumpsters and waving away a Kamikaze attack from the tenacious California mosquitoes.  He heard the alarm and saw the flashing headlights of a vehicle parked on the side over by the field.  It was a late model van, and Tag saw a guy standing there.  That was unusual because they usually ran when they saw him come out.  This guy was back in the shadow of the van and did not appear to be taking too many pains to conceal himself.  Tag walked over to see him jiggling a bent coat hanger that had been thrust between the glass of the side window and the rubber seal.  He was in the process of fishing for the door lock.  Tag was amazed at the boldness of the guy because he either didn’t see him coming or didn’t care that he was there.  Something in the back of Tag’s mind began to tingle as he approached him.  The feeling reminded Tag of Tinker and the psychic interactions the two had between each other.  He was concentrating on that fact and not on what he was doing.  That was a mistake because everything about this situation was screaming that something was fishy.

Tag was almost to the car burglar and saw that he was a tall white guy with a shaved head and an athletic build.  He looked right at Tag and continued his efforts to pop the lock knob.  Tag was just about to ask him what the hell he thought he was doing when he turned toward him and smiled.  Tag thought he was trying to sucker him into looking over his shoulder so he could run, so instead, he reached out and grabbed his sweater sleeve.

That’s when comets and sparklers exploded in his head.  His eyes lost focus and the guy in front of him grew fuzzy and dim.  Tag fell, twisting around as he did so.  The bald guy was thrown to the ground too because Tag still had hold of his sweater.  Tag landed flat on his back and found himself staring up at the sky.  His vision cleared a bit and he got a glimpse of Frat Boy Brad from the previous night standing over him.  As Tag tried to focus his eyes better, Brad raised his hand and Tag could see that he was holding something.  Just before he struck a second time Tag saw that the object in Brad’s hand was a ball peen hammer. As the world spun away, he heard Karen screaming.

CHAPTER TWO

Toria

Toria was working the ground in front of her with a hoe.  She was barefoot, and the sun above her head was warm but not hot.  Her long dark brown hair had been tied back off of her face with a length of yarn that had been too short to make any other use of.  Her dark eyes were shaded by her bunched brows.  She always frowned while attacking the weeds.  She wished there were a way to get rid of them forever, but that was the stuff of dreams.  There were machines that were designed to be pulled by animals which would make quick work of the irritating plants, but Father said that he had children so he wouldn’t have to buy any such machines.  It was a funny joke when they were sitting around the hearth, not so much when she was actually attending to the task.  She glanced over to the house that her family had been given in exchange for turning this land back into a producing farm.  The family that had it before Toria’s had been victims of the Great War. Now that the Greys had been routed by The Legend and King Ruguer, some of the more isolated farms were being offered to families who were willing to put in the hard work and brave the dangers to make them productive again.  Though the Grey horde invasion, as a whole, had been broken and the Grey King had been killed by Tag-Gar, The Legend, there were still bands of the sub-human ogres roaming about looking for targets of opportunity.  Most of the would-be conquerors, however, had been killed or sent running back to the Grey Mountains.

Toria was not afraid of Greys out here in the daytime.  The rich and fertile Valley of Olvion was flat for miles in any direction, and she would be able to see any of the fiends approaching.  Then her father, uncles and two brothers would provide protection.  Even without them to protect her she was not helpless.  No, it wasn’t the days that concerned her, it was the nights when the Greys could creep quietly up on the large log and mud house.  Such attacks were rare now and becoming even less common, but they were not unheard of.  In her secret heart she almost wished it would happen.  Toria was a nearly grown woman, and she craved excitement in her life.  There was precious little of it on the farm.

Toria took another full look around herself to make certain that no raiders were near.  She then returned to her never-ending attack on the weeds and preparing the field for planting.  Halfway down the row on which she was currently working she stopped.  Her hands fell to the knives she wore on her hips.  She took another look to make certain she was seeing what she thought she was seeing.  Then she ran shouting for her father and uncle.

 

***

Kal Da’ Brann, engineer and shipbuilder to King Tyner of Aspell, stood in the forecastle of the two-masted brig.  The wind coming off of the sea was exhilarating, and he reveled in the smell of the brine.  He gazed up at the rigging and saw that the sheets were full, and the masts and spars were holding strong.

Kal had spent the last two hours examining every aspect of his newly designed ship.  His engineer’s eye had checked and double checked then checked again every area in which the unpredictable forces of the sea could cause problems.  Even in the rougher seas that the ship was now experiencing the new brig remained sturdy.

Aspell was a prosperous kingdom on the coast of the only known continent which they had named Maltania.  The people called both their world and their largest kingdom “Olvion”.    For centuries the kingdom of Olvion had protected the three Coastal Kingdoms, Aspell, Northland and Archer’s Gate, by guarding the Lion’s Road.  The only known threats to the four human kingdoms always came from the east and would have to get past Olvion in order to reach the coast.  There had been two large attempted invasions in the last two centuries.  Neither had gotten past the walled kingdom, but those successes had been costly.

Because of the dangers that this world possessed, exploration and travel had heretofore been limited.  The east was forbidden because in that direction lay the mountain home of the Grey Ones, the cannibalistic race of semi-human beasts that had almost overwhelmed the mighty city kingdom of Olvion just a half year earlier.  North and south had been explored more than the other two compass points, but the only thing of note ever discovered were long-isolated pockets of human villages.  The war-ravaged economies of Olvion, Aspell and the other two Coastal Kingdoms prevented longer and more expensive quests for discovery.

So that meant that the only direction that now held any hope for beneficial discoveries was the West.  The large azure Sea of Panoply had never produced any explorers from over the horizon in the known history of Olvion.  Many opined that there were no other land masses other than their continent of Maltania.  Others have long believed that the sheer size of the world dictated that land must exist in more than one place.  One of those believers was King Tyner himself, and that was the reason why Kal was here on the eleventh day of the trial cruise of the Wind of Aspell. 

It was possible that the Sea of Panoply had been explored in the past, but any record of that occurring must have been lost.  The last three hundred years had been turbulent times for the small population of humans.  For almost a century the four kingdoms had argued and fought among themselves, different kingdoms allying against other kingdoms and sometimes the three Coastal Kingdoms all united against the mighty Olvion.  Eventually the inhabitants of all four kingdoms matured.  Then, just as the peace began to pay dividends, the first invasion of the Grey Ones came pouring down from the Grey Mountains like an odious lava flow.  The flood of sub-humans swept down into the Valley of Olvion killing and slaughtering the farmers and ranchers in the enormous valley.  The bestial attackers were eventually fought to a standstill by King Ausloe, the monarch of Olvion.  Then, however, more and more of the man-creatures descended from the mountains pushing the humans back closer and closer to the city.  Just as the humans’ defense was in danger of collapsing, The Legend appeared. 

The huge man came out of nowhere and had no recollection of his past.  He spoke not a word of Olvioni but was aided by the near-mythological white Mountain Child, a telepathic animal that served as his translator and friend.  Using the man’s size and strength as well as the animal’s ability to sense danger, the pair inspired the surviving Olvioni warriors to victory even as Ausloe fell.

The last two hundred years had largely been spent repairing the damage caused by the war and repopulating the city of Olvion.  Then, just as trade between the four kingdoms was going well and there was a measure of prosperity taking hold, the second great invasion of Grey Ones struck. The noble people of Olvion achieved an epic victory, but it had come at a horrible price. 

Aspell was one of the three kingdoms located on the coast that had almost waited too long to send help.  The politics of the situation had been complicated even though the facts were not.  The Greys would have to be stopped, either at Olvion or on the coast.  The delays had cost countless Olvion lives, and the politicians who fought for the delay in rendering assistance had all since been thrown from office.  Luckily, King Tyner had not been one of them.  He had tried for months to persuade the members of Aspell’s parliament to respond to the desperate requests from the great walled city.  In the end he and the other two kings of the Coastal Kingdoms, supported by their military commanders, simply informed the parliaments that they were joining the effort to stop the invading beasts at Olvion with or without their approval.  The threat was in violation of their constitutions, but Kings and warriors had limits beyond which they would not be pushed.

Kal had first been called into the royal chambers over two years previously and asked by Vice-Monarch Joern to design a seagoing ship capable of surviving many days at sea.  The design would have to be strong enough to withstand heavy seas and storms and large enough to carry enough men, food and equipment to last while searching for other lands.  For Kal it was a commission about which he had always dreamed.  It was also a challenge to which he was more than equal.  The war at Olvion had held up the construction plans, but work on the ship had begun anew last season.

And now here he was, days away from any sight of land. 

Kal looked around.  The crew were nervous but not yet alarmed.  Most were honored to be in the position of pioneer for their kingdom.  That was helping to keep them calm regarding the fact that they were currently farther away from land than any other person in recorded memory.

***

Mattus stood over the cot that was usually slept on by his daughter.  Toria had come running out to the south field yelling about her discovery of a dead body.  Mattus and his brother, Seeja, had raced out to the plowed section of the east field of his newly-gifted farm.  The two had run all the way out there and found the giant.  He was not dead, but he wasn’t conscious.  Mattus had sent Seeja back to get his two sons to help move the man due to his size and weight.  In the end, they had harnessed up a charon and brought out a slide to pull the man back to the house.

Mattus chased Toria away, not wanting her to spend too much time watching because the man was not clothed.  He sent her to fetch her mother, Summ, who was at the river with Seeja’s wife, Lonn.  Mattus made certain to cover the man with a blanket once they got him in bed.  He was not eager for his wife to see the young giant naked either.  Of course that point became moot when Summ and Lonn arrived and quickly removed the blanket and examined the man for wounds.  They even had their husbands pull him over onto his side so they could check his back.  Mattus did not miss the look that passed between the two women.  Once the examination was done, they pronounced him free of injury and set about cleaning the field dirt from his body.

When the two women began the washing process Mattus tapped Seeja and nodded toward the door.  They left the house and stepped over to the stables.  Mattus spat in a corner and looked at his brother.

“Have you ever seen anyone that large in your life?”

Seeja crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the stable wall.

“I’ve barely ever seen a charon that large,” he answered.  “And did you see all of those scars?”

Mattus looked back at the house.  “I did.  He is a warrior, they are the marks of combat.”

Seeja nodded.  He did not doubt the conclusion his big brother had drawn.  Mattus had served for years as a warrior in service to the kingdom of Archer’s gate.  His time of service had expired, and he was offered the option of serving another eight years, with the resulting increase in pension, or homesteading the farm in Olvion’s valley.  It was a risk either way.  The farm was in a very isolated area with fertile ground and the bonus of a crop-nourishing river.  Farms had been known to fail, however, and the Grey Ones, though seriously reduced in number, were still around and still dangerous.  Staying in military service always carried the threat of dying alone in a dusty battlefield and ending up on the menu of the grey brutes. 

The “Great War” had probably broken the back of the threat from the Greys for the remainder of Mattus’ lifetime.  That would mean an early retirement for him no matter what choice he made.  The farm had been available to him now and might not be later.

There was another reason that Mattus and Summ decided to start a new life as farmers.  The Great War was a humiliation to every citizen of the three Coastal Kingdoms; Archer’s Gate, Aspell and Northland.  While the heroic citizens of Olvion fought the Greys to a standstill, losing an estimated thirty five thousand warriors, the Coastal Kingdoms had dithered, allowing the politicians and fundraisers to delay providing the assistance needed by the besieged kingdom.  That delay had been responsible for the deaths of thousands of brave warriors who died, not just defending Olvion, but also protecting the Lion’s Road.  At the end of that route lay the sea and the three remaining kingdoms.

As a warrior, Mattus could not abide others dying in his place.  Neither could the other military wings of the three kingdoms.  When they finally took matters into their own hands they were amazed and disgusted at what they found.  The huge battleground to the east of the walled city of Olvion ran red with blood.  Mattus had been a cavalryman and as he rode his mount past the insect covered dead bodies of magnificent warriors his stomach turned.  He saw lads as young as his own lying prone in the dust, half-opened eyes staring sightlessly up at a sky they would never again see. 

As he spurred his mount further onward he saw another sight that shamed him.  The surviving remains of the Olvion army that had battled the sub-human invaders non-stop for hours was exhausted and badly-outnumbered.  Yet instead of fleeing before the savage grey horde they limped, staggered and slogged their way
toward
the enemy, prepared to defend their kingdom and those on the coast to the last man or woman.  Never had Mattus witnessed such courage. 

Even as he screamed his rage and skewered the retreating grey bastards with his lance, as he smashed and caved in sub-human skulls with his cavalry mace, Mattus cried.  His tears were for the shame of his kingdom and his admiration for the people of Olvion.

So all things having been weighed, when it was announced that Olvion needed people to work the farms whose owners had been killed by the invasion, Mattus and Summ knew what they had to do.  The population of Olvion had suffered horribly from the war, and they needed people to work the fields, grow the food and get the economy of the kingdom working again.  The other three kingdoms were extending help in other ways, but it was people that were needed most.

BOOK: The Coastal Kingdoms of Olvion: Book Two of The Chronicles of Olvion
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