Tag Archives: Klista

Let the Cast Assemble

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I tend to write a wide variety of stories with many different characters. However, if you were really paying attention, you know that a few characters have come up more than once.

The first of these is Klista. She first appeared in the story See the World Through a Cardboard Tube! and then recently in The Recruitment of Bruce Riansson.

Klista is a mysterious character. She is a woman who apparently has no trouble traveling between worlds or even quickly in space. Where she comes from is unknown. She often wears a red cloak and carries a bag of strange, possibly magical, items. As for what she does, she tells Bruce Riansson to “think of me as a type of guide. I show secrets to people who need them and who are worthy.” What this actually means, will be explored in later stories.

Joining her is Bruce Riansson, a former innkeeper who was exiled from his home country of Indrake for harboring a fleeing traitor. Because The Recruitment of Bruce Riansson occurred first, Bruce is actually the unnamed male assistant in See the World Through a Cardboard Tube!

The second recurring character is Horus Vere. He was the main character in The Mermaid’s Kiss and I Was on Trial Once… He come from the same world as Bruce Riansson and is a professional traveler, who seeks adventure and whatever profit he can make along the way.

A third character who will become a recurring character is Edward “The Squid” Morrison, who appeared in the recent story Saturday, 4am. He is an extortionist and scavenger in post-apocalyptic England who is out to find what he calls “hidden pearls” of the old world, the time Before. He is accompanied by his recently-acquired android follower, Droog.

I will still write unrelated stories, but I will write more stories to expand these three story arcs. Let me know if there is one character whose stories you particularly enjoy and I will try to do more with them.

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The Recruitment of Bruce Riansson

The leaves were what first spoke to Bruce Riansson and told him that maybe there was still some hope in life.

He sat on the damp, pungent leaf mould of the clearing just where the squad of soldiers had left him, with all that he now owned in the world: a satchel with enough food for two meals, a small knife and three copper coins. He had been exiled to the wilderness and they had left him three copper coins. It was a mockery of charity.

He wished they had just killed him. He had been sentenced to death, but the king, with a wicked glint in his eyes, had so graciously, so magnanimously commuted his sentence to exile. Now he would die a longer, more painful death than any executioner’s axe could give.

He had been sitting that way for some time when he heard the leaves rustling and whispering above him as the wind played them back and forth restlessly. There were no words in their message, but as he listened, he felt better. He was still alive and he was free now. There was still hope.

Bruce stood up and with a start, noticed a woman looking at him from across the clearing. She had black hair and was wearing a dark red cloak of a style he had never seen before. She smiled at him. “I was wondering when you would stand up. Those leaves are quite persuasive, I see.”

Bruce looked at her warily. “Was it you who made them shake like that?”

“No, that was only the wind,” she said, walking towards him. “But I had a feeling they would have that effect on you. My name is Klista. Remember it, please. And you are?”

“Bruce Riansson,” he said, with a feeling that she already knew.

“How is it that you are sitting out here alone, Bruce Riansson?” Klista asked, putting a hand on her hip. It was a gesture both familiar and imperious.

“I was exiled from Indrake,” he said. “The traitor and former pirate, Sir Denvé, came through our village as he was fleeing capture. I let him stay at my inn.”

“And you knew that it was him?”

“I have never turned away anyone from my inn. I have always considered hospitality to be a matter of humanity, not politics.”

Klista nodded. “That’s a very mature attitude. Very rare indeed, actually. Now, Bruce Riansson, I have a proposition for you. I knew you would be coming here and I was waiting for you. If you wish, you may work for me, work with me even. The work is not what you are used to, but I’m sure you will be suited to it, nevertheless.”

“Who are you?” Bruce asked, his apprehension rising again. “Why would I want to work for you?”

“I have already told you my name,” Klista said. “I did ask you to remember it, you recall. Besides that, think of me as a type of guide. I show secrets to people who need them and who are worthy. Does that not sound intriguing? As for why you should work for me, you are exiled in the wilderness in late summer with almost no supplies.” She gave him a look as if the choice were obvious.

“What would I have to do?” he asked.

“Ah, we’ll get to that in time. First, I have a test for you. I have to be completely sure about you first.” She took a leather bag off her shoulder and rummaged through it. Bruce caught a glimpse of a jumble of strange objects: a purple conch shell, a white tube with blue stars on it, and a key shaped like a spreading tree. Finally, she pulled out a box with a glass window in it and handed it to him.

“This is a compass,” she said and then saw his blank expression. “It has lodestone in it and always points in the same direction. What you have to do is follow the direction of the needle. Several miles away there is a high pass between two mountains. Reach that pass by sunset and look over the other side and you have passed the test.”

“That is all? It sounds too simple.”

“You have not seen the way yet. Remember, you must follow the needle exactly. There will be an easier way up, but do not take it. Sometimes the journey taken is more important than the destination reached. Sometimes the destination depends on the path taken there. Now go and I will see you at sunset.”

Klista walked off briskly. Bruce picked up his pack and looked at the box. The needle pointed into the trees, away from where Klista had gone. He started walking.

At first, the way was easy. There was little underbrush and the ground was level. After half an hour, the ground got steeper and soon the way was choked with brambles that tore at him with thorny claws.

He had just climbed over a pile of rocks when he saw a well-defined trail off to the right. He ignored it and kept fighting his way through the underbrush. The trail crossed his path and for a moment, he was tempted to follow it for a little ways, until he remembered and re-entered the tangle of bushes.

The mountain trail zigzagged back and forth up the slope and by the time Bruce had crossed and re-crossed it four times, he was torn and bleeding in multiple places and his clothes were shredded to rags. Already the light was decreasing, softening to the peaceful glow of dusk. He pressed on.

He crossed the mountain trail for the last time and it disappeared off to the left, going straight and following the ridge of the mountains. Above him were two steep peaks like horns, their summits tinged with red from the approaching sunset. Between them, he saw the high pass, only several hundred feet above him.

The final climb was the worst. He scrambled recklessly up as the sky darkened above him, ignoring the sharp bite of razor-like granite edges cutting into his hands. Finally, he pulled himself up to the pass and looked over.

The valley below him was a mass of trees, like a vast carpet of greenery. Bruce looked farther and in the orange glow of the day’s end, he saw strange structures rising out of the trees. They were like huge blocks of stone, a hundred feet high or more, but he could see the light glinting off rows of windows. It was a vision of some alien city.

 

“You pass,” Klista said from behind him. He turned quickly.

“How did you get here?”

“I take my own paths,” she said. “What do you think that is?” She pointed to the distant structures.

“I do not know, but it looks like a city of some sort.”

“It is a city, although not one of this world. This is what I wanted to show you, a tiny taste of what is hidden behind real life. The world you were living in yesterday was infinitely smaller than the world you will be living in tomorrow.”

“Is it really over there or is it only a vision?” Bruce asked.

“It is really where it is,” Klista said. “You will find that a word like ‘there’ has very little meaning. If you mean, could you reach it by walking, then yes. You were able to see it by following the compass and you could follow it to the actual place too. But that is a long, hard road and I travel by quicker ones. Now, do you still want to join me?”

“I do not know what I can do, but yes, I am willing,” Bruce said. He offered her the compass, but she shook her head.

“You keep it. It will be very useful to you in the future, I think. This is the not the end of your journey by far, Bruce Riansson: this is only the beginning.”


See the World Through a Cardboard Tube!

A blue van with lightning bolts painted on it pulled up in front of Brent’s school at lunchtime. The students, being trusting teenagers, crowded around to see what it was. A man and a woman stepped out, dressed in outfits that could only be described as castoffs from a magician’s garage sale.

“Step right up!” the man said, somewhat unnecessarily, since he was in danger of being crushed against the side of his own van. “See the world as you have never seen it before!”

The crowd of middle-schoolers remained silent, seeing where this was going, but the man refused to give details.

“Who will be the first one? Come into the van and we’ll give you the instructions.”

At this point, an adult would have been running in the opposite direction while calling the police, but teenagers are thoughtless and curious: a dangerous combination. After a moment, a girl named Stacy raised her hand.

“Sounds good. What do I have to do?” Stacy was always self-assured and forthright. Some had speculated that she had probably cut her own umbilical cord.

Brent watched with the others as the woman led Stacy into the back of the van. A moment later, she emerged, seemingly unscathed, with a cardboard tube in her hands, like one that comes in a paper towel roll. It had red stars drawn on it in pen.

Stacy held the cardboard tube up to her eye and gasped. “Oh wow.” It sounded like a moan. She slowly moved the tube around and when she turned it on the crowd, she laughed. “This is amazing, guys,” she said.

This reaction caused a ripple of discussion to go through the crowd. Half the students were intrigued; the other half tended towards derision. Brent was in the latter group. It just seemed too absurd, although part of him wanted it to really be something amazing, and not make-believe or a drug trip.

A minute later, Stacy gave the cardboard tube back and grabbed her boyfriend, Tim. “You have got to try this Tim,” she said, cutting off his refusal with an imperious look. She practically pushed him into the back of the van.

The students were captivated now. Tim was one of the most popular boys in school. What would his reaction be? A few minutes later, the van door opened and Tim got out. He held the same tube and put it up to his eye.

He didn’t say anything, but as he looked around, his mouth slowly fell open. The crowd was dead silent. A tear actually rolled down his cheek as he handed the tube back a few minutes later. The students went crazy. Whatever was in that tube, it had made one of the coolest boys in school cry.

There was no shortage of takers now. The man picked a few more and their reactions were even more outrageous. A few laughed or jumped up and down. One just full-on bawled, and kept saying how incredible the sight was.

“We have time for one more,” the man said. “Who will it be?”

Brent found himself raising his hand, although he had not planned to. The man pointed to him and the woman led him into the back of the van.

“Can you keep a secret?” the woman asked. It did not seem a promising beginning to Brent, seeing that he was now alone with her in the back of a van.

“What kind of secret?” Brent asked.

“The biggest kind of secret in the world. The kind you couldn’t tell to your best friend.”

“No, probably not,” Brent said after a while. “I would try, of course, but it if was a big secret, it would probably slip out at some point.” He had a troubling habit of being honest.

“Well, I suspect you could,” the woman said with a smile, “but I appreciate your honesty. Now, go out and look through this tube.” She handed him a cardboard tube decorated in pen with blue stars.

Brent stepped out of the van. Half the crowd had wandered away after hearing that Brent was going to be the last one. The rest of them were staring at him. He put the tube to his eye.

The world disappeared.

The school was gone. In its place was a high castle with strange mountains climbing up behind it. The sky was a dark purple, with coruscating lines of pink running through it. Small, blue creatures like dragons flew around them, landing and taking off nearby. A group of trees was strolling around, having what looked like an animated discussion.

Brent looked back at the van. It was gone. In its place was a woman dressed in a red cloak, sitting on a huge black Pegasus. She smiled at him.

He took the tube down from his eye and the real world flooded back. The students looked unimpressed by his reaction and the crowd started to break up.

“Here you go,” Brent said, handing the tube back to the woman. She held up her hand.

“You keep it. I’ll make another one. My name is Klista, by the way. Remember that.”

The next day, Tim came up to Brent after school. “I saw that they picked you to look into the tube. So, how much did you get?”

“What do you mean?”

“That woman didn’t give you any money?” Tim asked.

“No, did she give you some?”

“Yeah, she brought me into the back and asked if I could keep a secret, so I said yes. She said they were doing an experiment and that she would give me money to go pretend I saw something amazing when I looked through that tube. That’s why I cried. Nice touch, eh? I’m thinking of taking up acting, maybe go in for the school play. Between Stacy and me, we got fifty bucks. You really didn’t get anything?”

“She let me keep the tube,” Brent said.

“The tube?” Tim laughed. “Man, you really got gypped.” He turned and walked away.

Yes, you did, Brent thought.


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