<sample>THE KINSMEN BOOK 1: BETWEEN GODS AND MORTALS<sample>
I do not know who or what may be reading these words. It is my distinct hope that if the worst should come to pass in the dark days ahead, there should be some record of what truly happened during those final days – that not everything or everyone is who or what they appear to be – to serve as a valuable lesson about the past and more importantly to help us survive what is to come.
It may interest you to know that this is no ordinary book. It may seem so and yet, in many ways, it is so much more. There are many copies and yet there is only truly one. Destroy it and it will appear again at some point, at some place in space and time. Within these pages is an account of my involvement in what is known as the Nacuerian-Galacien War – a war, despite what some may like to think, Is still happening to this day. It may seem, to some, that that is all. However to a few selective beings, there is the capability of unlocking a more intimate knowledge of these and subsequent events.
There are three distinct levels of translation within this account. Firstly, my own. I am writing this in the language I have adopted, not my first language and certainly not my last. Nonetheless it is the language I use now. My recollections of other languages include those of ancient Aramaic or standard Galacien. I have encountered many other languages in my time, but all these words are in my adopted tongue.
The second level of translation is more for the purpose of deception. It will become quite clear why such deception is necessary. I have taken great pains to ensure that only those I wish to can read these words – ‘they’ will see the real words I have written down here. Anyone else? Well they will see something quite different. From what they would like to believe I have written, to nothing more than blank pages. How is this possible? If you knew, then it wouldn’t be a very a clever idea on my part, would it?
The third and final level of translation is for the benefit of the observer, for there is something quite unusual about the words on these pages and about the pages themselves. If you are capable of the same ‘technique’, then you already know of that which I speak. If not, let me enlighten you. Look closer and see what lies beyond the words. If indeed you can read this, you will see this text in that of your own language, whether Elamite, Yan, or English. However this is merely an illusion – a very functional one, but an illusion nonetheless. Languages are all different and though it may seem that the world and, therefore, truth is shaped by our words, they only scratch at the surface of true reality, of what most of us can perceive. However everyone, whatever their destiny, has a name.
Mine is Jonas.
PART 1. Chapter 1. Origins
I was born in Assyria on Earth around what would become known as the year 300 BC. I do not know the exact date for I lived in a remote area on a farm, where only the seasons are important, and the dates on any such calendar were unknown to me.
From an early age we all knew I was different. Work on a farm is long and hard yet my strength was always equal to the task, and I never seemed to tire. I was also unnaturally fast, and my senses could perceive far more than any normal human. As I grew into early manhood these abilities became more pronounced. I took on more work at the farm as my parents grew older, and as time passed, my parents continually pestered me to find a woman with whom to bear and raise children of my own. This was no easy request, for not only was it my extraordinary physical abilities that separated me from the rest of humanity, but also my perception of the rest of humankind. With the exception of a few, such as my loving parents, I found humanity in general to be despicable and a constant source of frustration. On those occasions we ventured to the nearest town to trade, my keen senses would see that which others could not: lies and deceit. I could feel their greed, envy, and jealousy, like rotting food that I was being forced to eat. The ugliness of human nature was everywhere and I was a grim spectator whose senses were overwhelmed. I found it hard to look upon any girls who secretly lusted after me, their thoughts hidden from their fathers, yet not from me. Some considered me backward due to my lack of response and I had to keep my anger in check for fear of shouting across town that it was they who were backward and I could barely stand the torment of it.
I commented on the things I saw to my father who replied that I should not involve myself in the business of others, as I might end up regretting it. I could see that he spoke from experience and heeded his advice as best I could. I was always glad to be away from the crowds and eventually return to the peace and quiet of our home.
We lived alone in the valley and the new king’s soldiers rarely patrolled the area. A few times a year groups of mercenaries or bandits would pass through our farm en route to some unsavoury business, and would take it upon themselves to consume our food and drink with no payment of any kind in return. Due to my unnaturally keen senses I was always the first to know when they were coming. My mother was hidden on such occasions, for my father feared, if seen, they would take her as willingly as they did everything else. Thus, those that passed through saw only my father and I. From an early age I was taught that they were only interested in fresh supplies and travelling light, and that it would be best not to interfere. We were farmers not fighters, and we were alone.
Early one morning I awoke uneasily. Moving quietly past my sleeping parents and outside to find that the sheep had gone during the night. I quickly dressed and set off to collect the wandering animals. I examined the gate on my way and saw it was, indeed open, yet nothing was broken or disturbed. Listening intently I was soon able to deduce their location and, after a few hours, I managed to herd them together and set off back in the direction of the farm. As I came closer, I began to feel a great sense of foreboding which grew stronger with each step, until eventually I knew for sure there was something wrong. I broke into a sprint, hearing the screams of my mother before I reached the crest of the final hill. I took in the sight of what had happened in an instant.
This time, when some unsavoury characters had arrived at the farm, I, who usually acted as an early warning system, had not been there. My family had not realised they were coming until it was too late. I saw before me nine men, eight of them were pushing and beating my father as he tried to stop the ninth from dragging my screaming mother into our home, his intentions obvious. The anger I had held under control for so long in my life rose and burst forth through every fibre of my being as I bore myself down the hill as fast as a stallion towards the fiends.
The men were oblivious to my rapid approach, due to the sounds of my mother’s screams and the shouts of protest from my father. Before I could reach them, my father managed a well-aimed punch to a man he grappled with, lifting him off his feet. In response, his comrade drew out his sword and, in a quick movement, slashed my father’s side. I ran into armed man with a force far greater than any chariot, barging with the full momentum from my long sprint. He flew into the air and hit the wall of our house with a sickening crunch, falling to the ground like a broken doll. The others, though shocked, responded quickly, having been trained to live a life where fighting is a common occurrence. I was only able to steal a quick glance at my father on the ground clutching at the bloody wound in his side, when one of the men attacked me, thrusting with his sword. Although I had no fighting experience, I was fast, my reaction like lightning; the man’s attack though quick in its own right seemed slow to me. I managed to sidestep his thrust, turn into him, grab him, and bring him to his knees. I quickly broke his arm like a twig and mercilessly finished him with his own sword. As his comrades took another step towards me I unsheathed his dagger and in a flash of movement it was in another man’s throat.
A mounted man, perhaps the leader, ordered the others to rush me at once. Again my speed and agility seemed boosted to a degree where it appeared as if my opponents were moving in a viscous liquid. I was able to dodge their attacks and turn their own weapons against them. After a few seconds though, their swords began to make contact with me. I did not notice it at first but at some point I realised that their swords were simply glancing off my body with no effect, as if I were made of polished bronze. This unlikely revelation was confirmed when, after managing to kill another two men, my exposed chest was struck hard with a dagger. The dagger broke and the man who had tried to run it home with such force, grasped his crippled hand in agony. The point at which he had struck me remained unmarked and, before he could recover himself, I knocked him to the ground. I somehow sensed that two arrows had been let loose from their bowstrings and were about to strike me. I moved with unnatural speed and managed to grasp one in mid-air while the other simply ricocheted off my neck.
The two bowmen exchanged a disbelieving look before running quickly for the hills. I turned on the last man, who stood before the doorway to our home, holding a knife to my mother’s throat. Having seen me kill most of his comrades without any initial weapons of my own, he was naturally scared and desperate. The rage was still coursing through my body and it took some amount of will to just stand there and talk calmly to him. I assured him that if he let my mother go, then he would come to no harm. He told me to get him a horse and then step back. My father was lying quietly near me in a puddle of his own blood and I had no choice but to do as he wanted. I looked at the bandit waiting for him to move. The frightened man looked at me, and then glanced at the horse. I could tell he was unsure as to whether he would be able to make it out alive. Then something changed in his eyes and I knew in that terrible moment what he was going to do. As I shouted in protest, he cut my mother’s throat and pushed her away. I reached her in moments and clasped my hand to her throat in a desperate attempt to stop the blood, but it was no good. I did not know what to do. I sat there with her in my arms, water streaming from my eyes blurring my vision as I felt my beloved mother’s blood pouring down my arm. I could feel her slowly losing strength, slipping away, terrified in her final moments.
The rest of the day I tried to keep my father alive, again to no avail. I buried them both the next day. With each shovel of earth heaped upon their graves, I died a little bit more. The noblest parts of me were buried in those graves that day, and all that was left was mistrust and hatred. Those small flecks of decency left on the stinking hide of humanity had been killed by the sickening whole and I wanted nothing more to do with them. I mourned my parents’ deaths and was torn between avenging them, or staying to tend the farm they had built and loved so much. Despite my almost irresistible urge to seek vengeance, I managed to see clearly that the best way to honour them both would be to not let that which they had worked so hard to build and maintain, fall to ruin.
Through the rest of the season I tended the farm in a melancholy and unbreakable routine.
Chapter 2. Soldiers
The air was fresh and the sun low in the morning sky, casting long shadows on the dry land, when I sensed over sixty men on horseback approaching from the east, twenty of whom were suspiciously left hidden behind the last hill. I walked up to meet them. They were the new king’s soldiers, not the Persians from whom they had so recently taken this land. They fell into line, their horses snorting restlessly, as their captain approached me.
“We’ve heard reports that there have been bandits in these parts of recent, do you know anything of this?” he asked. I could sense the insincerity in his voice.
Anger rose in me immediately. “You know I do. You also know that they came here, because you have heard rumours of a man who could not be cut or pierced by blades of any kind. A man whose speed and strength seemed unnatural,” I said as the captain remained silent. “I killed six of them, but not before they murdered my family. You are here to see if these improbable rumours are true. You are worried they may be. That is why you have brought forty men here and another twenty just over the rise there.” I indicated the direction and noted his reaction. He moved his horse closer to me and I could see the other soldiers tense. The captain looked me in the eye as he spoke.
“I am to deduce if these rumours are true, by force if necessary,” he stated.
Let them try I thought, and then they would know. I looked over to his men and all too easily saw a focus for the vengeance of my parents’ murders. I was ready to make a quick example of their captain, but reflected on what my parents would have wanted – certainly not unprovoked bloodshed. I approached the captain and held out an out-stretched palm. Giving the subtlest of nods in understanding, he drew out his knife, tested the sharpness of it on his thumb and, after a pause, ran it along the length of my palm. We both looked at my unmarked flesh and then at one another. He seemed completely taken aback, and it took him a moment to remember himself.
“I have orders that if the rumours were true, to inform you that the king commands you to come with us,” he told me.
“What king is this?”
“King Alexander of Macedon,” he replied as if I should have known. Perhaps my parents had, but I was just a little boy when the Macedonians came to our lands. Besides, what difference did it make to me which king ruled?
“Why?” I questioned.
The captain seemed annoyed and his soldiers outraged that I had questioned an order from the king himself.
“The king wishes you to help fight his enemies,” explained the captain.
“I am sure he does. Tell the king I do not want to fight his battles. I only want to be left alone,” I said, turning my back on them.
“The king commands it!” he bellowed. I could sense some of his soldiers had their hands that bit closer to their sheathed weapons at this point.
I turned on him. “The king was not here on that day when we needed him most. I owe him nothing.” I could see he was torn between his unquestionable orders from his king and sending his men to fight an unknown like myself. In the end it was pathetic human arrogance that drove his decision.
He paced his horse back to his men and shouted orders for some of them to break flank to my left and others to my right. “Who are you to question your king?” the captain shouted back to me.
“I won’t fight the king’s wars for him. I won’t murder those who intend me no harm.”
“Take him!” ordered the captain.
Three of the soldiers jumped from their horses and made an attempt to grab me. With startling speed I struck the first to the jaw and hit the second with the back of my hand. Grabbing the third, I threw him hard to the ground, bringing up the dust. None of them got to their feet.
“Archers!” shouted the captain furiously. The soldiers directly in front of me drew their bows; almost twenty arrows were pointed at me.
“You fools,” I whispered.
Their arrows flew, and I could not help but turn my face away. The arrows ricocheted off my body and, as I looked up, I realised that another order had been given and the left flank was charging at me. I quickly turned to face them and, at the last possible moment, managed to dive out of the way of the charging horses. I was distracted from my surroundings for a moment and so did not realise until too late the right flank of horses as they ran me down beneath a mass of hooves. As I got up the mounted soldiers attacked me fiercely with their swords. They did not hurt me or cause me injury, but I was becoming very annoyed by what I considered to be pathetic distractions. Yet this was the intent. The captain wanted my attention drawn, so that his armoured horses could be brought from over the rise of the hill, without my realising it. On another command the soldiers attacking me withdrew and a moment later I was hit with the full force of the charging armoured horses. The captain expected me to be dead, or at least severely injured.
I was neither.
The captain seemed at a loss as to what to do next but stubbornly issued a new command for another fierce sword attack from his men from both flanks. This time though I was aware of his strategy, and looked out for his real attack, amongst the commotion. I realised, to my horror, that three of his men had been dispatched to set fire to the farm; my parents’ farm. This was enough. I had given them a chance to retreat and now, like the bandits, they seemed determined to destroy that which I loved and cherished most. I broke free like an enraged beast from the mass of men and dived onto the first soldier who held a torch, breaking his neck. I leapt high into the air, higher than the farm, I reached the second soldier, who received the same fate. The third soldier managed to throw his torch towards the barn. I jumped a moment later, intuitively guessing its trajectory, grasping it in my hand before landing on the roof of the farm. I dropped down onto the remaining soldier. He lay there unmoving as blood seeped from his brow.
Picking up the fallen soldier’s sword I raised it into the air and bellowed to his stunned comrades, “Leave now and no one else need die this day. Stay and I shall be forced to kill every last one of you!” The wind was the only reply bringing up the dust around our feet as I looked over the frightened soldiers’ faces. I pointed the sword at them as I shouted, “Well? Choose! Go and live, or stay and die.”
“Withdraw!” shouted the captain his eyes not leaving mine as his men fell in. I wanted to believe that this would be the end of it, that humanity would fear me enough not to seek me out again; that I would be left alone.
Somehow, though, I did not believe I would be so fortunate.
Chapter 3. Garianne
As the days passed I had a terrible feeling of trepidation. I could imagine the king’s fury from my refusal of his command and his response to what he would consider treason. Yet I felt justified in my position. I questioned his right to command me, even though he was a king, but the more I thought about it, the less that seemed to matter.
The animals had been grazing that day and I was in the process of herding them back to the farm. The sun was dropping slowly in the sky, soft serene oranges and violets spreading out across the wispy clouds, and a gentle breeze caressed my face. An impression of calm settled upon me until I sensed three people approaching from the hills. I presumed, like many others these days, they would simply go around rather than pass through the small valley, but I became aware that the three were heading straight towards me. I had no wish to interact with these, or any strangers. I scrutinised them with my acute senses, even though they were not yet in sight. I could tell that two of them were old, one male and one female, and the third only a boy. The old woman had an oddity about her that I could not explain. They were moving slowly and after some time they eventually crested the final hill and approached the farm. It was becoming dark and the stars were slowly emerging. The only other light was from the fire within my home.
The cart drew close to me, as the three of them huddled together. The old man looked welcomingly at me. The boy was wide-eyed, curiosity pouring from him. I envied his positive, hopeful outlook on the world, at the same time pitying him, for it was a lie that he would come to realise sooner or later. Yet his eyes, and the eyes of all humanity, I believed, would never truly be opened.
My attention fell to the woman before me and immediately I felt there was something different about her. Every time I tried to focus on her I became distracted by the cart, or the horses, the sky or the land, or back to her two companions; my focus seemed to slide off her. Unlike the others, I found her difficult to read. However, I relaxed a little at the warm smile she directed my way.
“Hello there,” said the old man. “Is there room on your farm that we may stay and rest the night? As you can see we are getting on in our years and the young lad has not slept in anything but the cart for well over a season.”
I did not feel my usual disgust at those before me. Was it the innocence of the boy? Perhaps I enjoyed the illusion of his fantasy – that existence was exciting and essentially good – if only for a fleeting moment. Or maybe it was because there was something odd about the old woman which intrigued me. With sadness growing heavy in my heart and soul, I realised it was probably because the three of them reminded me of the family I had once been a part of.
“We can pay you, if that is what you are thinking,” prompted the old man.
“No, there is no need for that. You can stay,” I replied.
They seemed relieved to hear this as I helped to guide their horse and cart to the stable. As I helped the old woman down I noticed that, despite her age, her movements were smooth and precise, as if everything she did were a beautiful dance, though so subtle as to be almost unnoticeable.
I readied them a place to sleep in the barn and asked them if they had need for anything else.
“No, no, you’ve done more than enough for us,” replied the old man. “I think we are all tired so we will rest now, though the hour is early. We wish for an early start tomorrow.”
“Very well.” I managed to catch the eye of the old woman longer than was necessary as I said this and saw a depth of wisdom there that I could not possibly fathom.
I left the barn and finished my routine tasks for the night, before retiring to bed.
I always found it difficult to sleep and I had never dreamt as others do, except once. Being such a unique experience it stood out as a vivid memory. In my dream I was standing in a place of nothingness, no land or sky, no colour – if such a place can exist for it seemed featureless all around me. I felt as if I was nowhere yet I was obviously somewhere. Another stood behind me. I turned around and acknowledged her presence. She was tall and strikingly beautiful, with eyes gleaming with knowing. She was dressed unlike anyone I had seen before, in a manner which seemed both peaceful yet warrior-like. She was adorned in a material I did not recognise, it conformed snugly to her body and I felt that despite its apparent lightness it was exceptionally durable. Puzzled, I’d asked her who she was. She never opened her mouth but she did reply, one word, “Kinsmen”. The dream ended there, yet it has always been with me and sometimes I feel it was the most real and significant thing I have ever experienced. Wrapped up in my recollections I knew sleep would never come and rose from my bed.
Stepping out into the starry night, I leant against the fence, and looked up at those wondrous lights blazing down upon me.
I sensed someone behind me.
“Admiring the view?”
It was the old woman. Her voice was unlike anything I had heard before and not what I had expected from one so old. It sounded young and perfected as if she were royalty of the highest order, like the voice of a goddess singing to me. From those first notes I wanted to hear more, the whole song.
Speak again so that I may soak in the delectable beauty of your words, I yearned.
“Yes,” I replied eventually but abruptly, my own voice sounding woefully inadequate.
“Could you not sleep either?”
“Do you not feel tired?” she sang, as she turned to look at me with those incredible eyes full of intelligence and wisdom.
“No,” I repeated simply. “I am never truly tired,” I acknowledged.
“Then why do you sleep?” she asked.
The question seemed silly at first. But the more I thought about it the more intriguing and insightful it became.
“Because everyone has to sleep.”
“People sleep when they’re tired. But if you’re never truly tired, then why do you go to sleep? Maybe you do it because you have always done it. Perhaps it’s a habit,” she said.
I thought on this. Although I never felt truly tired, I did sleep. Did this not suggest that I was like everyone else? Deep down though, I knew this was not true. I was not like everyone else.
I noticed she was holding a wooden cylinder and box. She followed my gaze down to the curious objects.
“What are they?” I asked.
“Ah, parchments and tools for writing – a passion of mine.” I could see the delight in her face. As the melody of words sprang forth from her lips, I could not help but smile, something I did not do often.
“Would you like to see?” she enquired.
“Yes, shall we go inside? We cannot see much here in the dark. I will make us something to drink,” I replied. Gods I could listen to her mellifluous voice all night.
Inside the house I offered her a seat, made a drink, and fed the dying fire which crackled in satisfaction. I sat next to her as she unrolled a piece of parchment on the table, and produced her simple writing tools. I was fascinated yet again by her exquisite movements, especially when she began forming symbols upon the parchment. It was as if her hand were performing a delightful dance, leaving an artistic trail of beauty in its wake. She turned to me smiling, offering the writing tool.
“Would you like to try?” she enquired
“I do not know how,” I said.
“I could teach you,” she replied almost mischievously. “Or maybe I should go now?” She began putting her things away.
For the first time since my parents’ murders I wanted someone’s company.
“No, please stay,” I beseeched, the words feeling foreign on my lips.
She stopped what she was doing and looked me in the eye, for what seemed like an age.
“Very well, let us see what we can teach you. Give me your hand,” she beckoned.
I was not enthusiastic about human contact but reluctantly agreed. Her skin felt strange, smooth but rugged. From the physical contact my focus, which had been sliding from her since we had first met, was now abruptly locked in place. We looked at each other as she began speaking slowly and purposefully, her voice taking on a hypnotic rhythm as she began teaching me the Aramaic alphabet. I repeated after her when told, and copied the symbols she specified. My mind absorbed everything she taught me with an immediate permanence. As the moments passed I noticed her pace was quickening, and to my surprise I was keeping up. As the lessons increased even further in pace and complexity, I felt my mind becoming hungry for more. The old woman’s voice was getting faster and faster, impossibly fast. I became dimly aware that her mouth no longer moved, that her hand had stopped upon the parchment, yet the words flew across its surface like lightning. The lessons continued, and my mind exulted in the thrill of its own hunger. I do not know how long we sat there, in that bubble of accelerated learning, separated from the outside world, but eventually the pace slowed until the old woman’s lips were moving again, and she reverted to her original speed.
Overcome with exhaustion, I fell back into my chair and oblivion took me.
I awoke with the sunlight pouring through the window hitting my face. Bewildered for a moment, I knew instantly that it was much later in the day than my routine demanded. The memory of last night seemed like a dream, as some aspects of the night’s events seemed impossible. I stumbled outside to the barn to discover to my dismay that it was empty. It seemed the woman and her two companions had left some time ago, as I could not sense their presence at all. I rushed back inside and suddenly noticed a small piece of parchment on the old wooden table. I approached it cautiously, like a hunter afraid to alert his prey, and slowly picked it up. I was instantly stunned to realise that upon looking at the parchment, I was able to read it. The clarity and pleasure of reading for what seemed like the first time was almost overwhelming. This is what the message said:
Consider, what I taught you last night, as a gift, in return for the generosity you showed to us. Do not attempt to seek me out. You will not find me, though we will meet again soon, I promise.
That was the first time I beheld that legendary name, a name that would change my future forever. How had she known mine? I was sure I had never told her. After reading the note several more times just for the pure pleasure, I put it down, and despite what she had said, I ran from the farm in the hope of finding her. It took the better part of the day before I finally gave up.
As I stood there on the grounds of my parents’ farm, I knew after my experience with Garianne, nothing could ever be the same again. It was time to leave and see what the world was about. I truly did want to be alone, but I knew that would never happen here. What I yearned for was to learn; to touch that purity of thought I had experienced with her – the incomparable joy of enlightenment when that which was hidden, was finally revealed to me.
I did not hesitate a moment longer. I moved about my home collecting only that which mattered to me. I filled the cart with tradable items and tethered the animals to it. Without looking back I left the only place I had called home and headed towards the nearest town, leaving my past behind me.