17 September 2023

The Awakening of Alder Sable

Chapter Four


“What the hell was all that about?” I asked, as I sped up to keep pace with him.

We were by now halfway into an enormous hall.

I was only vaguely aware of the space’s awesome geometry and dimensions because I was still busy fuming about the antagonism I had been greeted with.

Here too people milled around everywhere, parting quickly to give us unimpeded passage.


When he ignored me again, I seized him by a shoulder and spun him around.

“What is going on?” I demanded.

Anvil looked at my hand.

“We do not have time for this,” he repeated. “We must not keep the Clave waiting.”

He wrenched himself away and, once again, I had no choice but to follow.

“What’s a Clave?” I asked. I did not like the sound of the word much.

“It is the ruling body of Omenrock,” Anvil replied. “They govern and administer this, the last bastion of our people. They oversee all major events and decisions. It was they who sent me to retrieve you.”

The prospect of receiving an explanation soon, appeased me. I trudged behind him, avoiding eye contact with the people that crossed our path as we climbed staircase after staircase, higher and higher into the innards of Omenrock.

I could not help but be overwhelmed by the magnificence that surrounded me. The halls and passages we passed through were so varied in their complex geometry that I could not see any repetition or duplication.  It was as though every staircase, hallway, room and open space was designed to be unique.

Finally, we entered a circular hall that reminded me of an arena. It was a broad and empty space, save for an elevated round platform at its very centre. It was encircled by balconies that protruded from the walls, pods of polished stone that looked down over the vast emptiness where we stood, and each balcony accommodated a man or a woman. The people there were of diverse ages, from the youthful to the venerable, but all of them wore the same dark blue cloaks that I had not seen elsewhere in this place.

“Is this he?” asked a woman’s voice.

I could not isolate the speaker because the voice seemed to be coming from all directions at once.

“Yes. This is he,” Anvil responded.

What the hell?

“Outsider, please step onto the dais, that we may behold you,” the voice instructed.

I did not comply. Instead, I squinted up at the balconies, trying to figure out who had addressed me.

“You know what,” I said, “I’m actually through being told what to do. You have brought me here, so you start by telling me what the hell is going on. I’ve been following your crony for miles, and I still have no idea. Before I talk about anything at all, I would like you to give me some answers.”

I crossed my arms and stared up into the faces of the Clave members that surrounded me. I was distantly aware of Anvil looking at me in shock, apparently aghast at my temerity. I did not care.

My outburst was met with a prolonged silence.

Then a lone voice – not the first one who had spoken – rose in response.

“We have brought you here because we need your help, Outsider.”

This time I saw the speaker and the sight of her struck me dumb. It was not just due to her beauty, it was deeper than that. It was like I was seeing someone I had known and loved deeply, and simultaneously I knew that I had never met her before. She was young compared to many of the others; barely thirty, if that. She had auburn hair and her brown eyes were set in an oval face that seemed to glow with inner radiance.

I suddenly became aware that I was staring at her, slack-jawed. I pulled myself out of my trance.

“Well, you’ve sure got a funny way of asking for it,” I protested, without much conviction.

The woman stood.

“I am Eirlys, Magrit of the Clave. I assure you that we understand your need for answers, Outsider, but we are not the ones who can provide them to the extent that you may want. There are rules, and we are all subject to them.”

“Yes, I’ve been told that already. But if you don’t have all the answers, who does? Someone must know something, and that someone must be able to explain to me what is happening.”

She was draped in the same midnight-blue gown as all the others, but on her it seemed to enhance her beauty, and my heart quickened as I studied her.

“Indeed, there are some who do,” she said. “It is said that there are many paths that open out before each of us, and the path that led to your summons was made clear to us through the wisdom of the Seers. However, your personal path is unreadable to us, Outsider, and no one can speak of what they cannot see. All we know is what the Seers have told us, and this is all I can say: that you hold the power to assist us. You would not be here if you held no such power.”

Her voice was like a river, gentle and strong and soothing. It made me want to listen to her despite the chagrin I felt at my predicament. She paused and my throat unlocked.

“Well, it sounds like these Seers might be able to answer more questions than you can. Where are they? I need to speak with them.”

“We will send word of your wishes, and await their reply.”

“Okay, thanks,” I said. “How long will that take?”

Eirlys shrugged and I groaned, but before I could say anything, she raised a hand to forestall me.

“The Seers answer to no one, for they bide their own time, but in the meanwhile, allow us to tell you what we know. But, Outsider, rather than harry you with words, I would show you the answer. Are you in agreement?”

I was not sure what she meant, but the offer seemed like a step in the right direction.

“Sure,” I said. “Go for it.”

Eirlys nodded.

“Then may your eyes be opened to our predicament.”

She turned aside and spoke to someone outside my direct line of sight.

“Raina, will you meld with the Outsider and show him the memory of our latest loss?”

I heard no reply, but a few moments later a boy emerged from the deeper shadows beneath the balconies. He could not have been much older than ten. His head was shaved and his eyes had dark rings around them. He looked ill.

This boy, Raina, walked right up to me, stopping at arm’s length. He opened his shoulder bag and produced a length of fabric which he used to blindfold himself.

Next, he rummaged once more inside the bag and pulled out a small bundle, unfolded its covering, and exposed a smooth, milky white stone which he held out towards me.

“When I begin my invocation, you must touch the stone, Outsider,” he instructed, and then fell silent.

Holding the stone with his fingertips, he began to hum in the soft, high-pitched voice one would expect from one so young. Within moments his voice was joined by many others and soon everyone in the Clave was singing with him. It acquired the qualities of a chant, then, looping back onto itself, the alien words weaving into a repetitive sequence.

I glanced at Anvil, only to find that my guide had also closed his eyes and was singing. Remembering Raina’s instructions, I reached for the stone.



A note from the author

Sorry for the delay. I just finished running a five day writing retreat yesterday and did not have the wherewithall to upload the 3rd chapter. But it’s done now. Enjoy!

Claudio SIlvano

17 September 2023

The Awakening of Alder Sable

Chapter Three


As the light grew stronger, the world around me took form.

I saw that we were crossing a valley whose slopes were densely wooded; the closest trees looked like cedars, only squat, with great wide branches that reached out and seemed to embrace each other. The hills were tall, rising in my estimation to around four hundred metres or so above the valley floor.

When we reached the bottom of the valley the path was momentarily swallowed up by a gurgling stream.

The water was icy, but also soothing. The soles of my feet were already feeling raw.
I paused to check them when I stepped out of the stream.

“How much further?” I asked. “My feet are starting to bleed.”

Anvil stopped and turned.

He looked at my feet with sudden concern, then sat down on the road and began to remove his footwear. When he was done, he handed me what barely passed for a pair of shoes.

“What about you?”

He shrugged.

“I am accustomed to walking barefoot, but you are not, it seems.”

I put them on and took a few steps. As shoes went, they were not the best, they were in fact no better than a layer of leather between skin and road, but it was enough to ease the torture of travelling barefoot.

He also removed the cloak he had been wearing and handed it to me.

“This will do until they give you other clothes.”

I donned that as well.

The cloak had reached all the way to his ankles, but on me it just managed to cover my knees.

“Thank you,” I said after a short while, meaning it.

He turned, caught my eye, and just nodded.

I had plenty of time to think, but thinking was not very helpful. I revisited the limited memories available to me since waking on that damned gurney with Anvil hovering over me, and that was pretty much all I had.

I soon grew tired of looping my memories like a Mobius strip and, in the growing morning light, I decided to take in my surroundings instead.

Everything looked fresh and new. The narrow path we walked along was lined with bright-green grass, each blade swaying in the breeze. The silhouette of the trees and hills against the lightening sky was sharp. The air was crisp, clean and fragrant. Every detail stood out in a way I was not accustomed to.

The path meandered between two hills and entered the woods. Here the smell of pollen mingled with an intoxicating scent of resin as the trees began to crowd in upon us. We crested a small hill and even though the view was largely obscured by trees, I had a tantalising glimpse of a clearing shaped like a vast concave bowl and beyond it, in the distance, a range of blue-grey mountains.

Then, as the path turned once again, I saw in the very centre of that bowl a huge structure that shimmered like a mirage in the sunlight.

“What’s that?”

“Omenrock,” Anvil announced. “Sanctuary. Our destination.”

Imagine a mystical city with towers and spires and cupolas made of some dark reflective material that shimmered with rainbow hues in the early morning light and you will get an impression of what I was looking at. The buildings were ornate and the entire city seemed to be encircled by a tall, curved and elegantly decorated terracotta wall.

It was such a spectacular vision that I stopped for a moment to take it all in.

Anvil turned immediately towards me.

“The sun’s light is already touching the highest buildings,” he pointed out. “Believe me when I say that you really do not want to be caught out here when the day has fully broken.”

I nodded and resumed walking.

I suddenly felt like I was on the set of a sci-fi movie. Because of the city’s design, its size and distance were difficult to gauge. And all too soon it vanished once again, swallowed up by the trees as our path began to plunge and weave down the slope.

I wanted to ask questions, but was too overwhelmed by feelings of wonder to articulate them. Besides, I doubted that Anvil would answer me.

As we drew closer to our destination, I could see more of the city’s detailed and decorated structures. Omenrock was as mysterious as it was beautiful, and I could not look away from it.

We had managed the descent in complete silence, but as we emerged from the trees, Anvil turned without slowing down and spoke to me.

“Omenrock is unique in the whole of Surmur. We did not build it, for we lack both knowledge and skill. Stories about it abound: some say that it has always been here, and that it had been shaped by the gods for our benefit. Others claim that it was created by a mysterious sorcerer, for sheer pleasure. But it is likely that these are just stories, with little veracity at their core, for the truth of Omenrock’s origins is lost to us.”

We were now crossing a vast circular clearing that surrounded the great structure. Unimpeded at last, the path was free to shoot directly towards Omenrock. In fact, I became aware that the clearing was crisscrossed by dozens of paths, all converging towards it from different directions.

I could not tell what spell had been cast over it, but as we came closer, I had my first true sense of its size. Omenrock was enormous.

At last, we reached the place where the smooth stone wall emerged from the valley floor.

I looked left and right but saw no sign of an entrance or a door anywhere nearby.

“Now what?” I asked.

“Now I need you to remain quiet for a few moments,” Anvil instructed.

He brought his palms together at the level of his heart, fingertips pointing upward. He closed his eyes and then slowly and purposefully moved his joined hands skyward until his arms were fully extended. He paused in this position for a moment, before turning his palms outwards and brought his hands down in a wide arc at either side of his body until his fingertips pointed at the ground beneath his feet.

I was so intent on watching him that I almost missed seeing a circular section of wall directly in front of him begin to shimmer and then quickly reveal a round opening within the wall.

Anvil stepped into the breach without hesitation and gestured for me to follow.

As I passed through this incomprehensible portal, I saw that the walls it tunnelled through were at least three metres thick. Just as soon as we were inside, the opening behind us flickered, and then was gone. The wall was seamless once more.

“That was … how did you do that?” I exclaimed.

Anvil looked at me, and for the first time since we had met, he smiled.

A throng of people had gathered and many of them were watching me.

They were of all ages; men, women, and children, all wearing similarly loose and flowing garments in washed-out hues of yellows, browns, reds, and greens. Most were gazing at me with open curiosity, but I caught one man frowning, and another eyeing me with open hostility. A child of about five reached out towards me, but her mother snatched her up, eyes filled with fire and lips pressed into a tight line of suspicion and disapproval.

I turned towards Anvil, hoping for an explanation.

“Come,” was all he said, as he pressed into the throng.

I hurried after him.

9 September 2023

The Awakening of Alder Sable

Chapter Two


At first there seemed to be nothing but an empty void, but I knew that we were someplace else.

There was not a sound. The hum of the city was gone. I felt a sense of a wide open space and a breeze on my face.

“You must wait for a few moments,” the man’s voice said. “Your eyes will soon adapt.”

And little by little I began to make out this new place we had come to. The sky was dark, but not black; it was the darkness of night, and soon my eyes began to discern a modicum of light, especially from my right. It was faint, like the first hint of dawn, but unmistakable.

My companion made a cussing sound.

“Daybreak stalks us, we must make haste.”

And again, he grabbed my hand and dragged me forward.

We had been on the manicured lawn of the square outside the hospital moments earlier, and were still on grass now. Tall, soft grass that yielded gently under my bare feet. We were moving down a slope.

I could make out nothing in the darkness on my left, but to my right I saw trees clearly outlined against the first glimmer of dawn.

“We should wait for more light,” I suggested.

“No!” he snapped. His vehemence sounded like fear. We cannot, must not wait.”

The air felt cold and I realised I was still wearing the hospital gown; you know, the fashionable kind that for some reason leaves your backside exposed to the elements.

I still believed that I was probably dead, but the truth was, right now I felt more alive than I ever had.

I still had no idea where I was, but by now I was pretty sure that we had to be somewhere in the countryside. The clean fragrance of the air made me think of rich loam and pine needles. I inhaled it in great gulps, and my eyes started to well with inexplicable tears.

“Where am I?” I asked.

“Surmur,” came the reply.

“Surmur?” The name had a ring to it. I had heard it before.

“Yes. Now please, we must hasten,” he repeated.

We stepped onto bare earth and I felt something sharp under my foot.

I bent and picked up the pebble I had stepped on.

Surmur? Why was that name so familiar?

“We have completed the crossing, but we still have some distance to travel before we reach our destination.”

I stared blankly at my pebble, almost expecting it to reveal an all-important clue to my situation.

“What the hell is going on?”

With a sigh the man walked back towards me.

“The time for questions and answers will soon come, but that time is not now.”

He grabbed my arm and pulled me downhill.

“We must pick up our pace if we are to reach sanctuary before daybreak.”

Something about the way he said that gave me a shiver.

“What happens at daybreak?” I asked.

“The Sketh come out.”

I looked to my right, the sky there was definitely lighting up.

“What are Sketh?”

“They are monsters, creatures that feed upon people, and for now all you need to know is that they will kill you if they catch you outside the walls after daybreak. So let us make haste and we will soon be safe.”

His reassurance did nothing to lift my spirits and although I was pretty sure that I was already dead, I did not wish to test my theory with carnivorous predators.

I walked in silence for a time, digesting the information he had given me.

“What is your name?”


I took a good, hard look at him then for the first time. In the wan light he appeared to be around thirty, not as tall as me but compact and stalwart, with a shock of black hair and pensive blue-green eyes. The name truly suited him.

A thought occurred to me.

“Who am I?”

He cast a dark glance in my direction.

“That is not for me to say.”

“Excuse me? Why is that? You were at the hospital when I died; you brought me here, to wherever this is, so obviously you must know something. Are we in hell?”

He looked away, then shook his head.

“I do not know this hell place that you speak of, but there are rules,” he said as he continued walking downhill. “I must abide. I cannot say more.”

I watched him go, wavering between insisting that he tell me all now, or telling him to get lost.

In the end I decided this was not the time to cause a stir. After all, he was my only link to … well, everything really. I was not even sure if I could communicate with anyone else.

And I certainly did not like the sound of these Sketh.

So, I followed, musing as I walked.

Okay, so it seemed that I would have to figure out things for myself. Somehow. The main problem was that I could not remember a damn thing about myself or my life beyond this moment. I knew that I was, that I existed; I felt that I was myself, and that feeling was not at all weird or wrong. But beyond that sense of self, there were no details: no name, no background, and no history. Nothing whatsoever. Oh yes, the one thing I did know was that I was probably dead.




A note from the author


I had a bit of trouble with my internet connection yesterday, so apologies for the delay in getting this up.

These posts will appear on this page consecutively every Saturday morning from now on, till the end of the novel. Given that I’m currently on the third draft and have just started polishing chapter 60, this is going to be a long haul.

The latest chapter will always appear at the top.

I hope you’ll enjoy the story. I’m leaving the comments open at the moment, but if I get inundated with spam, I’ll probably close them again until I can find a functional solution.

Let the tale begin…

Claudio SIlvano

2 September 2023

The Awakening of Alder Sable

Chapter One


Waking up was supposed to be a return to the familiar. Instead, I found myself between a world that was ending and another that was just beginning. My vision was blurred, and I did not know where I was.

A stranger was standing next to my bed. The soft glow of the fluorescent panel in the ceiling left his face hidden in shadow.

I blinked repeatedly, trying to clear the fog from my eyes. When they finally focussed, I saw the man looking down at me with an expression I could not decipher. There was something familiar about him, which I found oddly comforting, but I still did not recognise him.

“What happened?” I tried to say, but the words tangled in my throat.

He nodded sympathetically.

“Listen,” he said, speaking softly, as though he did not want to risk being overheard, and I sensed an urgency in his tone. “I have been sent to find you and bring you back with me. We need your help.”

“Who are you? Where am I?” I was confused, but at least my words sounded more coherent to me now.

“At this moment, you probably don’t even know who you are,” he said.

I started to panic. How could I not know who I was? But then I realised that he was right. I did not know who I was.

The man continued to talk, past my distress.

“That should pass in time.” His eyes flitted around the room. “But now you must rise and come with me. We need to go. Now.”

His accent was strange and he had an odd way of speaking.

I became aware of a persistent beeping sound and discovered that I was lying on a gurney. There were a couple of trolleys laden with medical equipment alongside it: an IV feed and some kind of monitor that displayed graphs and readouts.

I frowned, and followed the feeds from the equipment to where they were plugged into the back of my hand. I raised my arm to get a better look at them, and suddenly I had two arms. One that was lifting free, and another that was lying exactly where it had been.

I looked at the man in shock.

“Am I … dead?”

He shook his head, but whether in reply to my question or to something else, I could not be sure.

“We must not linger! We cannot speak now; hurry, rise and come with me, before…”

Lapsing into silence, he slipped his arm firmly behind my back and gently lifted me into a seated position. He swung my legs off the gurney and even as my feet touched the floor the door swung open and a woman rushed into the room, followed by two others.


They swept past us as if we were not there. I looked back to see them all fussing over the body – my body – still lying on the gurney. One of the nurses was hurriedly removing a defibrillator from its casing, and the last thing I saw as my companion whisked me away was the nurse bringing the equipment down over my chest.

And then I was gone, out of the room, without my body.

I looked down at the man’s grip on my arm; that at least felt real.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“No time!” he muttered as he dragged me past triage and out of the hospital. And, to my astonishment, through the closed glass doors.

Then we were outside, and what I saw took my breath away. The sky looked like a combination of day and night, on fire with blue flames. The stars resembled van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’, swirling with energy, but the buildings, the cars, and the whole physical world were lit up as if in broad daylight.

I stared skyward as the man dragged me along.

“Can you see that?” I asked.

He ignored my question.

“We must hurry,” he said again, “We must make the crossing as soon as we can.”

And in that moment, something inside me snapped. My faculties fired up, my mind rebelled, and I wrenched my arm free of his grip.

“What crossing? What could be more important than what is happening right here? I’m pretty sure I’m dead, for chrissakes!”

I was surprised at my sudden outburst.

My companion matched my outrage.

“You must come with me!” he shouted back. “You are all we have. We need to leave immediately, before it is too late, before all the things that you have set in motion come to pass. You do not have to understand anything right now; you never did, anyway. If you do not accompany me right now, you will come to regret it, and so will our entire world. Please! Trust me!”

His eyes sparkled with angry tears and his obvious despair stirred something inside me. “Why should I trust you?” I asked, but my words lacked conviction.

He stopped and looked at me intensely.

“Trust the Seers,” he said. “They are the ones summoning you. I am just their hand, but the will is theirs.”

I still had no idea what he was talking about, but I followed numbly as he pulled me onward. What I had set in motion? And who were these Seers? What was happening?

The man steered me into the busy street outside the hospital, oblivious to oncoming traffic. I froze in horror as an accelerating vehicle headed directly towards me. To my utter shock, I found myself moments later cowering in the middle of the road, still in one piece, untouched.

The car had driven right through us.

I gawked after it like a demented lunatic as another car did the exact same thing. Neither driver had bothered to slow down or attempted to swerve. Again, it was as though we were invisible.

“Come now,” he urged, yanking at my arm. “Just a short distance to go…”

He dragged me into the square opposite the hospital and then onto the lawn. There he finally let go of me and I collapsed on the grass. I was trying to get back on my feet when I saw that the buildings all around us were starting to sway and ripple. They were losing their substance, and dissolving like sand castles at neap tide.

The pavement, cars, buses, taxis, and people, all became translucent and seemed to melt away; the stars overhead dripped lights all around us and the world simply vanished. Darkness enveloped me.

I could not see a thing nor feel the ground under my feet. Neither could I move my arms or legs. I felt like I was plunging into an abyss, fast. Like being sucked into a narrow tube at breakneck speed.

My ears rang.

There was a blinding flash, followed by a growing roar that reached a deafening crescendo and then abruptly ceased altogether.

I opened my eyes.


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