Authors: Meredith Skye
Tags: #Fiction, #Science Fiction, #Action & Adventure
THE GODS OF GARRAN
THE GODS OF GARRAN
This is Meredith Skye's first published novel. Additional illustrations by Meredith Skye.
Cover art by Larissa Smith, used by permission. Contact her at
Runes and medallion art by Don Goertz. Contact at:
This book is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any semblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
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Copyright © 2005 Meredith Skye
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing, Cafepress, December 2007
E-book created September 2013
Updated March 2014
Before the gods came, the winds ruled the plains, tearing up the primitive huts that the Garrans built. The winds howled and blew; ripped and tore at the grass--and everything in their path. Then one day the gods came and tamed the wind, as they tamed the fiery mountains.
The Age of the Gods lasted for a millennium. This was a time of peace and bounty. The anger of the gods erupted from deep within the earth and the Northern Cones blew smoke and oozed fire. But the fires never touched the Minorea Plains. There herds of Eke beasts grazed peacefully and provided food for the people. As the gods blessed the land with peace, the people of Garran grew more numerous.
In those days, the Borrai walked the earth--seven gods in the guise of men. They held many powers--over the wind, over the water, and especially over the earth-fires. These Borrai had lived as long as any man could remember. They were tall and pale, with dark hair. Some people say their eyes glowed, others say they could turn invisible and vanish into the night air. They walked in the mists of the Crystal Lake, an area known to be cursed.
Over time, cities were built of the black lava stones and crystals of the Northern Hills: the great cities of Urrlan, Karther, Wanthe, and Vorlea. If any went to war, the Borrai brought down their wrath and vengeance upon them. Stories were told of fire coming from the sky, or of the earth swallowing up whole cities, or of the sea crashing down on port towns.
The Borrai concerned themselves with more than just men--they also protected the animals from great slaughter by the Garrans; the southern forests and lakes from the encroachment of too many cities.
Then the Invaders came from the sky and killed the gods. Since that day, Garran has never been the same.
The Garrans invented it long ago. Even the idea of placing a pot inside another pot with a layer of wet sand to keep it continually cold. The Sand Plain Clan had done this for hundreds of years--the key to preserving the river corn, red beans, moon squash and delicate Thania nuts.
. That was new. The Chanden had brought it when they invaded the world of Garran a hundred years ago--along with guns, spaceships, tales of other worlds and
. Chanden laws. These the Chanden enforced on the native Garrans, despite all their attempts to throw off their rule.
The midday sun shone dully on the desert sands, low in the sky for the Arid season. The wind blew dust around the featureless hills in front of the Sand Plain Clan home. Most of the clan's 450 people lived in firecaves deep under the hills: long, winding caves created long ago by lava-flow.
In front of the main cave entrance, a large round wall had been constructed around a sunken firepit, used for clan gatherings. Eight rooms of adobe had been built, four on each side of the firepit. Most of these were used as kitchens, especially during harvest and for the drying of food. But they served as quarters for guests occasionally.
One watchtower always held two warriors on guard, to warn of approaching danger.
The Sand Plain Clan home was remote. It was several days trek through the dry desert to the nearest village.
Near the firepit, Moorhen admired the new pottery. These long oval pots looked like Garran pots, but they were Chanden, with a special battery to keep it cold that would last fifty years. Cold enough to freeze meat.
Moorhen examined them carefully, fascinated with the advanced technology. Rheggi had bought two pots for him, covertly, in Wanthe at one of the Chanden markets; the first his tribe had ever owned. He picked up the manual and read the instructions, which were short. No maintenance, nothing would be needed. Very simple.
"Does father know you are reading?" came a female voice from behind him.
Moorhen stuffed the book under a bag, startled. He looked up and saw his younger sister Keilah standing over him, hands on hips. He was 22 years of age; two years her senior. She was on guard duty, but had come down to tease Moorhen.
Seeing it was Keilah, Moorhen relaxed a little. "You're not going to tell are you?" he asked, pulling the book back out.
Sometimes his uncle Rheggi smuggled Moorhen books from the Chanden school at Wanthe. But Moorhen's father, Ashtan, chieftain of the Sand Plain Clan, hated reading. He blamed it for making Moorhen a strange child. Reading was another thing the Chanden had brought.
"Are those Chanden pots?" she asked.
"Hard to tell, isn't it?" Moorhen grinned.
"Father won't like it."
"He won't even know. Since when does he inspect the kitchens?"
She stared at him. "You're going to get into trouble. That had to cost a fortune."
He shook his head. "I've kept a little money out for the last few seasons, saving up for it. No one ever even noticed." He smiled.
The pots would be stored deep in the firecaves were it was already cool. Next year, maybe he'd buy a few more. Almost half of the 450 clan members in the
were children or young adults. Up 32 from last year. The clan was growing.
"With these, we can stretch our food supply. You know how short we are," said Moorhen. Since he'd appointed himself to organizing the harvest several years ago, their foods stores had been nearly full, not scarce like in past times. Everyone knew it was Moorhen that kept the pantries full--maybe everyone but their father. Moorhen had made many improvements, like building four new adobe drying racks near the firecave entrance.
"Can you come pick alia flowers with us? We're leaving within the hour," Moorhen asked.
"No," she said.
"They only bloom once in seven years. We have to hurry before the birds get them all."
"I'm a warrior, Moorhen," she objected.
"So am I," he said defensively. "That doesn't mean I can't pick food."
She shook her head. "You're no warrior," she laughed. A quick whistle from their cousin Gudhel got their attention. They glanced at the tower.
"Someone's coming," called Gudhel. The clan rarely got visitors. Moorhen and Keilah hurried outside the wall to look. There, in the distance, they saw four riders.
"Upper Steppe Clan," said Keilah, noting their red hair
"And the other two are Red Sun clan," said Moorhen. He was sure of it.
"Get father," she ordered him. He didn't argue. She was the better warrior. He hurried inside.
A long length of lava-tubes separated the outdoors from the main firecave chamber. There Moorhen found his father, Ashtan, sitting with two of his wives: Reisha and Drinia. His brother Channik and aunt Mirrhia also sat at the table eating. Channik, the best hunter of the clan, was eldest of Moorhen's siblings and next in line to be chieftain.
"Visitors," Moorhen said, a little breathless. His father, looked up. "Four of them. Some are Red Sun Clan."
"What?" his father said, rising in apprehension.
Ashtan's long hair was a ragged grey mixed with black, as was his short beard. He was not young, but looked older than his age. He'd grown more around the middle in the last few years. He grabbed his sword-belt from a nearby wall.
Moorhen found his bow on a hook on the wall, his heart beating quickly. They almost never had visitors--and not from rival clans. Both
Mirrhia and Channik went for their weapons, ready for an encounter.
All of them followed Ashtan back outside, where he strode over to the firepit to wait. They didn't draw their weapons, but had them ready. They didn't yet know the rider's intentions.
Moorhen's little sister Crysethe appeared, her bow ready. Although only 13 years old, she considered herself an adult.
The riders were nearly to the tsirvak by the time Ashtan and the rest arrived at the surface. The four riders dismounted from their
--an awkward, scaly, lizard-like creature. The
moved easily through the desert sands, unaffected by the desert heat. Their skin color changed slightly to match the color of the surrounding terrain, helping the rider blend in.
All of the riders were warriors, two were women, all
dressed in rough alia-weave tunics, dune-rissen armor, and fur capes common for the northern tribes. The Sand Plain Clan wore the softer, finer krell cloth (spun by their own tribe) with leather armor.
One of the girls, probably Red Sun Clan, had long silver-blond hair braided down her back. Channik took careful notice of her.
The rider's dismounted and entered the firepit circle.
Ashtan strode forward and stopped in a forbidding stance. The others stopped just beside him. Moorhen noticed the book lying visible on the ground, and gingerly kicked it under one of the sacks. This action wasn't lost on his sister, Keilah, or his uncle Rheggi, who had followed them out.
"What do you want?" demanded Ashtan as the four drew closer. His sister, Crysethe stood not far behind him, hands on hips.
If the visitors had been from a friendly clan, they would have invited them into the tsirvak for food and refreshment, letting them rest after their long journey through the desert. Ashtan made no such invitation. There had been a long blood-feud between the Red Sun Clan and the Sand Plain Clan.
The Upper Steppe wasn't any more welcome. Both tribes lived far to the northeast and had very little interaction with the southern tribes. Little of it had been friendly. They rarely kept the Chanden laws and often ignored decisions of the joint Clan Conclave.
The tallest of the strangers was about Channik's age, strong and lean, a fierce looking warrior with flowing red hair. "I am Nevehan. Son of Wanlann, chief of the Upper Steppe Clan. We've travelled far," he said.
Ashtan indicated the well outside the wall. "There is water if you need it." Even this courtesy surprised Moorhen. That was as close as Ashtan would let them get to the tsirvak though, Moorhen was sure of it.
Nevehan nodded. Two of the riders went to the well to water their animals and fill canteens.
"We have matters to discuss."Nevehan drew closer to Ashtan.
"You may speak them here," said Ashtan coldly.
The man hesitated, obviously wanting to come into the tsirvak, perhaps hoping for an invitation to stay the night.
"Our clans in the north grow tired of the wrongs and misdeeds of the Chanden," said Nevehan. "We feel that it is a time for action! The Chanden take our lands for their own, they force us to learn their language, they treat us like slaves! This is our world, not theirs! We are looking for brave warriors who feel as we do to help bring an end to our oppression."
"You wish to ride out against the Chanden?" asked Ashtan. His father wasn't rash, nor was he stupid.
"We will do whatever is necessary," said Nevehan.
"We have no love for the Red Sun Clan," said Ashtan. "Nor do we know the Upper Steppe Clan as allies."
"This is a time of change," said Nevehan. "The old ways and the old alliances should be left behind. Unite with us and we'll all be made stronger."
Ashtan nodded but made no reply.
"Will you consider it?" asked Nevehan.
"No. I think not."
Nevehan looked disappointed but not surprised. "Do the Chanden frighten you?"
"No," said Ashtan, "but maybe this isn't the time to strike out."
"Long ago, you weren't such a coward."
"I'm no coward!" said Ashtan.
"Indeed?" asked Nevehan.
"The Clan Conclave has spoken against an open attack on the Chanden. You may get a few tribes, but you won't get the support of all the tribes. Your attack is doomed to failure."
"If a few of us rose up in a brave move, the others would take heart and follow!" said Nevehan. "It must be done. The tribes grow weaker while the Chanden grow stronger. One day, it will be too late."
"Perhaps when the other clans see it this way, we will join them," said Ashtan.
The warrior studied Ashtan a moment. "Yes, when it is safe, then even the cowards may join us." He turned and stalked off towards his
, signaling the others that they were leaving.
They mounted their
. Nevehan looked back at Ashtan. "If you find your courage, look for us at Sonthhe."
Ashtan just stared at the man, expressionless.
Nehevan and the others turned and rode off. Ashtan watched until they vanished over the hill. "Channik, Mirrhia, set a watch."
"Yes, father," said Channik.
"What do you think they'll do?" asked Rheggi.
"Make trouble," said Ashtan. "That's what they always do."
Briefly, Ashtan surveyed Moorhen's food organizing project with some disapproval. "Moorhen?"
Moorhen drew closer. "Yes?"
Crysethe took the lid off Moorhen's Chanden pots, which made him nervous. He didn't want father to look too closely at them. He scowled at her. She gave him a defiant look.
His father studied him. "Are you coming on the hunting trip to the plains?"
Moorhen hesitated. "No. I already promised Shibbea to help with the harvesting."
"Hmm," said Ashtan, not at all pleased. "You spend too much time in the kitchen."
"It's just a few more weeks. The alia flowers are in bloom and their season is very short."
Channik laughed. "He'd rather pick flowers," he said to Keilah.
Ashtan frowned at Channik, who fell silent.
"You should practice your bow more."
"I do practice."
"I hear that Crysethe can outshoot you," he accused. Crysethe gave Moorhen a superior glance.
Perhaps this was true. Moorhen didn't know. "I'll work harder," he said. "Soon, I promise."
Ashtan shook his head and went back in the tsirvak. The
"Crysethe," said Moorhen. "Help me gather."
"I can't," she said. "I'm going hunting with father." Haughtily, she followed her father into the firecave.
"See? What did I say?" asked Rheggi when all but Keilah had dispersed.
"Father didn't even see them," Moorhen said, referring to the pots.
Rheggi gave a smile and followed the others.
"You're hopeless," said Keilah.
"You say that now," said Moorhen, "wait 'til you see how we eat during the Season of Dusk."
At this she smiled. They might tease him about picking flowers, but everyone loved alia sweet-cakes, even his father.