I. Disconnection


Partyk would learn the Laws Immortal, though he was but a Man. He climbed the ladder of cloud and stood at the feasting hall of the Gods, and demanded that he be instructed. The lords of earth and sky laughed at this, and at him. Partyk, in his arrogance, had not kneeled, nor apotheosized, nor presented tribute. This was so against all that was right that the lords were amused, and so did not rend Partyk immediately.

But soon, caused by the look on the Man’s face, the lords’ ire outweighed their curiosity and they moved to strike him from history. Wurut, Grandfather to us all, however, arose and raised his cloven hands.

And Wurut said to Partyk, “If you would learn, I would teach. If it is in you to possess and contain the Laws, you will know them. I will tell you them, all in turn. And if you can hold them in your heart, without it bursting, you will be the lord of Men.”

And Wurut spoke the First Law, “Brotherhood. You are nothing without the blood of your heart. Preserve, defend and watch over your brothers. This holds.”


A chariot thundered over the Svenian plains, as the skies responded in kind. Its spokes and linch pins gleamed and in the chill morning air one could hear the cries of jubilation—or, perhaps, elementary insanity—from its mad driver. Its four black horses bore a horse-thief (obviously) and twelve sacks of precious stones. The gems, pilfered directly from the great hall of the new city, were of significant value, personal and otherwise, to the Reagent Lord.

Mirrored within the brass fittings of the vehicle, the indigo light of the tempest above kept a brisk tempo. The metronome counted on and with each beat the earth was struck by a raging heaven and the wheels groaned at the pressure on their joints and the dampened grass parted in panic at their passage.

Some seconds passed. A cricket deemed it was safe to resume chirping. A family of field cats relaxed again. Then a second chariot, borne along faster than the first, tore through the thickets and down the narrow slope. Oaken wheels thudded onto earth and this driver whipped at the reins with a franticness unmatched.

It was nothing but widening expanse from here onward. The horse-thief had been lucky, or maybe clever, to have chosen the route he did. Yet, his more conservative vehicle was better suited to the craggy gullies and rocky hills that had populated their way here from the city. But now, oh now, it was a different sort of game entirely. The second charioteer’s animals were of far better breed—typical of a hurrying thief to not be assured in his selection.

And so it was that he came alongside the cur, who shot him a look of mixed alarm and another emotion. Repentance?

“Dog!” he shouted and swung a knobbed club.

Not repentance, then.

The clumsy blow would have missed regardless, but the pursuer ducked all the same. The habit had formed after receiving far too many strikes to suit his health.

“A dog, am I? Stop, toss over the sacks and we’ll call it a day. A dog wouldn’t bargain with you like this.”

“If you’ve lost your teeth,” he said and made another swipe, “recall what I’ve done—why you’re after me—and turn back!” And another. This blow landed on the side of the chariot and jarred his arm. The club left his hand.

The chaser shrugged and slapped the reins against his horses’ backs. They shot ahead of the lesser animals with ease. With one hand to steady himself, man turned to face thief.

“Reconsider,” he said.

The horse-thief drew a stone dagger in reply.           

The soldier leapt from his chariot at the other, drawing bronze as he did. He slipped between the horses, barely, and landed a solid heel kick directly on the thief’s jaw. The latter rolled through the dirt. The soldier, now standing directly in the thief’s place, tugged gently at the reins. The chariot rolled to a halt.

There was quiet. The dust settled. His shin guards clanked as his heavy feet took him to the thief’s battered form. Slung over his shoulders were six of the jewel bags. The petty thief held the rest. He clung to them as if they were his children, or the last vestiges of dignity that remained to him. They might well have been. Regardless, the soldier snatched them from him.

“Oh, how far we’ve fallen. I must say, it was a thrill, chasing you through this bleak storm.” The soldier lifted the helm from his head and prodded the beaten man’s back with his sword. “Bryndt, why?”

“Curse you,” he breathed through grimy, grass-stained lips.

“Since you’re going to be like that, come on then. Stand and let us be done with it.” He snickered. “I tell you that I’ll take a fair amount of joy in felling you out here. Like one of those stories, the ones our grandfathers yawped about when we were boys. Two men of the warrior race, in the wild.”

Bryndt rolled onto his back. “My ribs… I think they’re broken.”

The soldier blew a sigh of disappointment. No glorious finish, after all. “Horse-thief, jewel-thief. What better did you expect?”

“Freedom. Might’ve been good,” said Bryndt.

“We are free, you idiot. You’ve forsaken that, in following this path of idiotic paths. What were you fighting for, if not for the glory of Sven?” He squirmed uncomfortably and added with haste, “And all of Berl?” He edged closer, preparing himself. “Does our strength, our protection, mean nothing to you? Can you so blithely turn away from it all? You helped build it, blast you.”

“Are you through monologuing? Just kill me and have done with it.”

“Ending your life would be a mercy. Look at you. No—disgrace, I deem, will be a snugger fit. They’ll take from you until there’s naught left to take and then you’ll be thrown out into that ‘free’ world you covet. Give me the jewels.”

“Take them. No one’s thwarting you.”

The soldier’s sandaled feet rested by Bryndt’s head. He kicked the downed man for good measure and stooped to retrieve the loot. If he looked hard enough he might find himself a promotion in one of these sacks, or at least a quaint cottage on a hillside somewhere. They couldn’t possibly miss one lousy—

Pain. He stared at his gut. A stone dagger had pierced his breastplate and nestled itself in his entrails.

He made to kick Bryndt again, but all force had left the defiant gesture.

“You slimy, honorless…”

“You’ll live,” said Bryndt.

Someone was bound to find him. Only a blind man could miss a chariot and four stallions abandoned just outside the city walls. They were hounding Bryndt, anyway. Yes, they’d find this man.

He hadn’t been lying about his wounds. A part of him was definitely broken. Sweat matted his bark-colored hair and ran in rivulets between the stalks of his inconsistent beard.

He, bent slightly at the waist, pulled the sacks back onto the chariot and stepped after them.

The horses bore him far and away. Not far enough, yet. 

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