Read The Melaki Chronicle Online

Authors: William Thrash

The Melaki Chronicle

THE MELAKI CHRONICLE

by

 

William Thrash

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Cover Photo by
Steve Groves

www.ESI-Media.com

 

Special thanks to Andrew "Sharkman" Taylor for use of his image.

The Melaki Chronicle is a work of fiction. Names, locations and incidents
either are a product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

Copyright
©
2014 - All Rights Reserved

 

 

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

 

~ Genesis 6:4

CHAPTER 1

 

Melaki was spared the executioner's axe by the slight lift
of a hand. Amidst the chaos of blood and smoke, the gesture was at once lazy,
but insistent, as if curiosity was piqued and the diversion might entertain.

Melaki looked at his unseemly benefactor. Surrounded by
fellow Imperium soldiers, this one wore the shimmering black Imperium robes
adorned with blue embroidery of an Elet - a searcher for those who possessed
the capability to understand the arcane. Black, flat eyes regarded him in the
flickering torchlight. A lined face suggested this Elet was old, while the
oiled hair contained streaks of gray suggesting this one was not just old, but
ancient to ordinary man.

Melaki did not ponder why such an aged wizard would be
subject to such mundane duties. Instead he looked away. The bodies of his
friends and family lay heaped ahead of him in a horrifying mix of blood, gore,
and death. Behind, a line of others, all men, awaiting the axe. The Imperium
did not absorb. No, in fact they slaughtered. Blood and death for their hungry
god Amtar. The women they kept for sacrifices.

Jukta, the village elder had been warned. He had been
advised by the couriers of the Meseditt Empire that the Altanles Imperium was
once again surging forth to claim peoples for their sacrifices. The elder Jukta
had assured everyone that the probability of the Altanleans choosing their
village was slim. “Complacency breeds death,” the old village lunatic had
muttered more than once. The smell of blood assaulted Melaki's nostrils to
remind him of the lesson.

His family had already been beheaded. One of his closest
friends lay decapitated on the heap in front of him. Imperium soldiers watched
him dispassionately as the blood of those he knew pooled around their feet.
Melaki felt no fear, but he did feel hatred. Also in the pile was the old
village lunatic Nihtu who had whispered secrets to him of things best
forgotten. But once told, those secrets awakened within him that which many
considered a curse. The mystical in man had been on the decline for centuries.
The giants were all but gone. Only in the Imperium did man cling to the
mystical in vain hopes of producing a better life.

But what the Elet sensed was not the mystical talent the
Imperium wizard expected. No, this was the secret knowledge that Melaki was
taught by the old Nihtu. The Elet could not tell the difference. Both used the
same pathways in the head, as it were, but the means were different. Melaki did
not see why one way was forbidden and the other welcomed. Whatever the Elet saw
in him satisfied the wizard's curiosity. With another flick of the wrist,
Melaki was hoisted to his feet and led away from the bloodied stump where so
many of his villagers had met and were meeting their end.

Looking at the carnage, Melaki remembered without bitterness
his vision of this event. The dark of night was the same. The roiling waters
overhead were the same. The torches cast an odd and wavering glow that he now
understood as his vision swam from the clubbing his head had received. The
gorstone buildings of his village burned brightly with a green hue just as in
his vision. Everyone had laughed at his dreams, except old Nihtu, and that
vision was the beginning of Nihtu's mutterings to Melaki. Many of those
mutterings were about secrets universally avoided. The secrets of the giants
were not only avoided, but shunned. The giants were cursed, everyone knew. But
whereas everyone believed the giants were cursed due to their mystical secrets,
Nihtu claimed the giants were cursed as a state of being, rather than for their
knowledge.

Perhaps Nihtu was right. Melaki did not know. But once
exposed to secrets everyone claimed best forgotten, Melaki could not unlearn
what he knew. One might have as much fortune forgetting how to breathe.

“Take him,” grunted the Imperium wizard. A wave of the hand
dismissed Melaki and his guards as the wizard returned to studying each
villager in line at the chopping block.

Melaki did not feel gratitude or relief. Instead, fear
washed through him as if he were under a waterfall. This reinforced his vision
of the here and now and meant that his other visions were thus more likely to
be true. His gaze drifted to the axe in the executioner's hands. The blade
dropped in a curving arc from the handle a handspan before turning parallel. It
dripped blood as if weeping. He made a reflexive lunge towards the chopping
block without thinking. Death would be preferable. But his guards jerked him
back and away from release and relief.

Once again his head was clubbed. Darkness closed in as his
vision receded. He heard laughter from the guards and a mewling groan that he
recognized as his own.

 

*  *  *

 

Melaki shifted uncomfortably on the white stone bench.
Several of the other initiates suffered the same discomfort. A breeze drifted
through the open window of the instruction room, but it brought no relief from
the stifling humidity. He had suffered this same torment for more days than he
cared count. Sometimes, the rain at least brought some relief, but never for
long. Even the stone beneath him was damp to the touch.

He rolled his eyes before he could stop himself but it was
too late.

“Melaki,” croaked the blue-robed scribe. His voice was the
dry rustle of leaves disturbed by shuffling footsteps.

He immediately formed his face back to a serene but pensive
look - one designed to forestall further interrogation. Unfortunately, it was
too late.

The scribe's crop punched into the nook between Melaki's
shoulder and chest. “Are you once again supporting the outrageous claim that a
millennium of mysticism is somehow now wrong?”

The claim, as it was, never gained traction with a scribe of
the Altanles Rukha. The institute for instruction of wizards was a thousand
years old and entertained no deviation from precedent. The Rukha taught those
with mystical ability the rites of spiritism and blood. Melaki knew another
way, taught from his old lunatic friend, that involved neither the danger of
spirits or the blood of others. Indeed, a way existed to use magic that used
the power inherent within oneself rather than relying on others - whether man
or spirit. But this line of thought was considered heresy, primarily because
the giants had worked with that particular knowledge and self-inherent power to
wage their wars.

The giants were cursed, so everyone was taught, and this was
true. Gods came and married women who produced giants. Knowledge increased and
better ways were found for accomplishing things. But the giants turned against
each other and used their knowledge of the magic and mundane to kill themselves
in war. The rumors were that they were cursed by the Unknown God - He Without a
Name. But Melaki did not believe the giants were cursed for their knowledge,
but cursed for their existence as abnormalities among mankind. Perhaps the gods
were not meant to marry with women. Nevertheless, mankind shunned not only the
giants, who were all but gone, but also what they taught.

Melaki shook his head at the hypocrisy of man. Fortunately,
the scribe took his head shake as an answer to his question. Man chose to
retain the knowledge of mining and metals, but the rest they rejected. If all
their knowledge was a curse, was not metal, also?

The scribe appeared satisfied and returned to the front of
the chamber. “Melaki, please recite the wards.”

With a heavy sigh, Melaki stood. “First ward of help
contains light, lifting, and minor warding.”

The scribe furrowed his brow, looked down, and struck a pose
of intent listening.

“The second ward of healing contains augury, remedy, and
cleansing. The third ward of harm contains curse, trauma, and affliction.”

The scribe nodded sagely.

“The fourth ward of hate contains death, blight, and
disease. The fifth ward of heavens contains summoning, weather, and control.”

The scribe huffed and shuffled his feet. “And?”

Melaki squared his shoulders, bracing for the rebuke to
come. “All are harder than the last and the fifth is the hardest to master.”

The scribe moved with seeming little effort, despite the white
in his bushy eyebrows and hair, to stand once more before Melaki. The crop came
up and punctuated his words with pokes to Melaki's shoulder. “Then why is it
that you cannot grasp even the first ward despite your ability and knowledge?”

He remained silent.

"Why is it that you have failed six testings of the
first ward when even the dimmest of your fellow initiates fail only
twice?"

Melaki knew the scribe was within his rights to demand
explanation. No initiate failed more than twice and few failed twice. The Rukha
existed to teach those with ability the methods of using magic. No empire or
kingdom on this world exerted more effort in teaching capable pupils the most
efficient way of tapping into magic. The problem was not his intelligence; he
was bright enough. The problem was not any difficulty in learning to work the
magic; the instructions were simple. Rather, the problem that held him back was
the method. Having learned the ancient way of the giants, at least in theory,
the transition to what he considered an abusive form of magic was personally
distasteful. It was nothing he could ever admit.

His shoulders slumped. He did not want to give in and use
blood or someone else's life energy. He wanted to use the method taught to him
of the giants. He knew, though, that he was struggling against something at
which he could not succeed. What use in resisting? What if he relented and
passed his tests? Could he live with himself after? Once a wizard, he might
leave Altanles; nothing in the law directly kept him here once he was raised to
wizard.

The scribe took his silence for shame.

Melaki wondered again how fast he would be sent to death if
the wizards of the Rukha knew he remembered his previous life as a fisherman on
the outskirts of the Meseditt Empire? All new initiates were burned as it were
in their minds - their memories removed as if they had never existed. But
Melaki knew the theories of the giant magic and knew how to block that searing.
It was painful, but he had survived the burning. He hated the Altanles
Imperium, but he had been treated well. The brutality of the Imperium, as
exhibited by the slaughter of his village, was dispassionate. Melaki had found
people here that reminded him of home. They were no different than any others
he had known. They were not consciously evil in a social sense, but expedient.
They believed they traveled a better way and worked to preserve life within
their Imperium even if it cost the lives of those without.

“Remove yourself, Melaki. Present yourself to Scribe Enshar
for duties.”

He ran his hand through his hair in frustration and did as
he was told. He shut the door behind him to whispers from the other initiates.
He stared at the white tiled floor of the hall and sighed heavily, once again.
He was not going to work magic their way. The firm set of his jaw carried him
forward through the arched halls to the Rukha's library. Another day of
replacing scrolls and tablets in meaningless work only served to drive his
frustration to nerve-wracking depths. So focused within himself was he that he
almost walked into a black-robed wizard.

Of all the hells in existence...

The Imperium held a strict dress-code for those who wielded
magic. Initiates wore white robes. Senior initiates, those who had received all
instruction but not yet ready to test wore silver belts. The life of a senior
initiate was short as testing took place every third moon. Few were retained as
senior initiates unless the Dara-Scribe deemed them requiring further mental
conditioning. Once tested and passed, the initiate became a mage of the first
ward and donned the shimmering black robe of the Imperium Magistery. A mage of
the second ward wore a silver belt in addition. A mage of the third ward added
a silver medallion bearing the seal of the Altanles Imperium. A fourth ward
mage had a single line of silver embroidery on cuffs and hem. One who passed
the fifth ward test was a full wizard and all of the trimmings were gold.

There were other ranks above wizard at the bidding of the
Imperium, but the Rukha only taught the five wards. A council of wizards
assessed and promoted beyond the five wards. Melaki had heard that there
existed ten wards, but how one attained the sixth ward and beyond, he did not
know. There were also scribes - those who retired from the duties of the
Imperium's wizards.

Before he knocked heads with the wizard in the hall, Melaki
dove for the side. The wizard had seen him, but moving was not the
responsibility of the wizard, rather the initiate. Colliding with the wizard
would have been disastrous and deserving of punishment best avoided. Melaki
instead collided with the wall as he dove out of the way.

“Sorrow, Wizard,” Melaki mumbled as he rubbed his head. He
saw the black robe and the gold adornments and the extra piping - a full wizard
of the tenth ward. He was not sure if he was fortunate for avoiding the
collision or foolish for having hurt his head.

The wizard regarded Melaki and simply raised one eyebrow.

Melaki recognized the wizard as Talin, a conceited and
pompous ass always critical of others. He could see the disdain in the wizard's
eyes. He was becoming well-known as an initiate that might be better used as a
sacrifice. Admonishing himself for not watching his walk, he continued his trek
to the library. Frustration nipped at his edges and he came to a stop outside
the library door.

He slowed his breathing and focused inward. He knew he could
attempt the magic that hovered in the back of his mind to calm himself. But he
resisted. Or so he thought. Once he opened the door and entered the library, he
knew he had failed.

Scribe Enshar was bent over a scroll, his back to Melaki.
“Ah, here on duties again, are you? I detected you outside the door.”

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