Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Martian Clue Part VI

To the southeast of Titus' trail, hundreds of miles away, Clayton faced a great pyramid.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Martian Clue Part V

The sixth day, Adel asked everyone to stop and rest. He walked back to Titus and asked, "Do you smell anything?"

"I do. Death ahead," replied the taller blond man. "We must stay together. So, you walk behind and I will lead. But, I do not sense any harm coming to us."

Titus led with his staff held high until they reach a small killing field. A dozen men lay in different positions. Adel thought the sight looked odd as no birds of prey flew overhead.

Titus walked into the center of the bodies and kneeled down and began examining one of the bodies. Adel knelt on one knee next to him.

"These men died from a strange weapon. Notice the holes. Have you ever seen anything like this?" asked Titus.

"Never, " replied Adel. "I have seen men killed before, but always by spear or sword. Not like this."

From a distance Elizabeth's voice rang with an urgency, "Titus, Adel, Abhe, come here quickly.

The three men arrive at the same time and saw the two women peering down at trench. Dozens of Nazar bodies lay in the trench as if executed. The killers tied each person's hands behind them. Each person faced the far side of the trench on his or her knees. Blood had run down the backs of each body.

"Someone executed these people," Adel spoke in almost a whisper as if the dead might hear him.

"The others on the trail must have skirmished and tried to defend the others," Titus observed without emotion. The women wept and Marian took Titus' arm.

"If we leave them here," Adel began, "the Nazars coming will turn back when they see this slaughter."

"I hear the wind in the distance, a storm is coming," Titus told the others. "Move quickly to those rocks and set up the tent."

And as Titus warned a ferocious wind storm swarmed around them. Each members of the party held onto the tent. The storm went on for hours through night fall and then suddenly stopped.

The wind covered the tent with a thick layer of sand. Titus drug through and looked back toward the killing field. The storm had buried the bodies and no trace of the dead appeared.

"Adel," Abhe began, "it's as if God buried them. I can think of no other explanation."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Martian Clue Part IV

The moon lit up the terrain as Titus and the four Nazars moved over the sand with two donkeys. Adel had worked as a runner on several caravans and he made sure that everyone wore long robes to combat the cold desert wind. He also insisted that they travel by night and sleep during the hottest parts of the day.

Titus allowed Adel to lead the way and brought up the rear as they marched. Marian felt the need to break up the monotony and asked Titus if he knew what their names meant. They all seemed surprised when Titus told her that Adel meant the just, that Marian meant my beloved and that Elizabeth meant presence of God. But Titus did not know what Ahbe meant. So Marian told him it meant brave.

Adel noticed the lack of wind and sand in the air. As he kept a keen eye on the terrain he thought about his mother and father and worried about the caravan of Nazars who would leave his village. Nazars almost worked as slave laborers and he wondered if the Irites would resent the Nazar's leaving. But then, Irites would have more dwellings, fields, olive trees, wells and goods his people would leave behind.

Adel had allowed his mind to wander too long because he suddenly noticed hoof- marks and foot prints in the sand. When he turned about, he noticed Titus examining the trail far back from the marchers. Then Titus grabbed a hand full of sand and let it pour slowly back on the trail. Titus then signaled for Adel to continue onward.

Adel wondered if anyone could image the agony of marching through the desert sand at night. Titus did not concern himself with the monotony. He had trained to remain still, silent and patient.

They marched all night and into the mid-morning. When the heat of the Sun against the sand caused them difficulty. Adel told the others to move under the shade of a rock formation. There, the Nazars pulled heavy cloth from the donkeys packs and made a small tent using the rock formation to create a shelter.

When Titus saw the tent could barely cover the group he used his staff lift the tent higher. He then brought the donkeys into the tent. He got the Donkeys to lay down as the astonished Nazars watched.

Everyone fell asleep except Titus who kept watch as a sliver of light peered through the tent. Eventually, the Sun fell lower in the sky and a cool breeze began to blow from the north. Adel woke and pulled food and water from his pack.

And so they followed the same routine for five days.

The Martian Clue Part III

Titus forgot about the roosters crowing when the sun rose. Preoccupied with gathering supplies and information about his trip to Korduenestan, the roosters loud crowing intruded on his sense of hearing. He surveyed his belonging and wondered if he needed anything else.

Amar approached Titus from inside the family dwelling and asked, "Do you plan to go alone or wait for the next caravan?"

"I plan to travel alone," Titus replied still preoccupied with gathering his things.

"We want to go with you," Amar announced.

"Who is we, Amar?" Titus asked.

"The whole family. We do not think we will remain safe here with you leaving," Amar replied. "But, if you stayed and waited for the next caravan, then we would see how the Irites treat the remaining Nazars."

"So, you have given me some options to consider. Perhaps all the Nazars of the village should leave and we would travel together, " Titus said jokingly.

"Do not discount that as a solution," replied Amar. "We know of an Oasis on the way north. We could build a village there and you could have our company. We would carry your water and feed you. Do you want to leave Marian here? How do you know the Counselors won't return to execute her?"

"Why would they want to do that?" asked Titus.

"She spurned the elder's son. He chose to take her as one of his wives. Marian told his messenger that she would rather die. So," Amar attempted to continue as Titus interrupted him.

"So, the elder decided to oblige her," Titus added.

"Yes," Amar answered. "They say no one in this place and all the places beyond can compare to her beauty. Do you see her as beautiful, Titus?"

"Amar, it never occurred to me. Your sister has youth to her advantage. Beauty flees as the flesh grows older."

Titus began securing one of his packs with rope. "I will carry this one on my back," Titus said to Amar.

"Not to change the subject, Titus," Amar began, "but may I tell the others to begin preparing for the journey?"

Titus lowered his body and placed his arms on his thighs as if to contemplate. He moved his head slightly from side to side as if looking at different possibilites. He then stood up and replied, "The others can prepare and meet me on the road ahead. I will take two of your brothers, Marian and her older sister. We will stop at the Oasis and wait for the others if you do not catch up in time."

Amar lowered his head in respect and went into his family dwelling. He returned quickly with the entire family all packed and ready to go. Titus laughed once and then smiled. He then asked, "But what of the village?"

Amar put his pack down and walked up to Titus and said, "But we are ready and the mules and donkeys are packed down. We planned to leave before you came. We had planned all along to run."

Titus looked at Amar without saying a word. The silence grew longer until Amar spoke, "We will tell the villagers and catch up with you."

So, as the Sun began to sink, Titus, Marian, Elizabeth, Adel, Ahbe and two donkeys left the others and started their journey toward the trail of the Korduenes. A cool wind blew from the north blew in their faces while theyfelt the heat from the Sun on their backs. Adel led the way and Titus carried the staff he had taken from the elder.

The Martian Clue Part II

Marian woke before dawn and raised her head slightly. She wanted to see Titus while he slept. But, Titus sat upright with this arms over his thighs and his legs crossed. He simply starred into the darkness.

The man now known as Titus caught a glimpse of Marian and peered into her eyes. She quickly turned her head feeling embarrassed. She laid her head back on the ground and looked upward at the ceiling. She thought to herself, " Who am I fooling? He saw me". She then sat up and looked toward Titus again smiling. Titus returned the smile and Marian felt the entire room glow.

Then, she woke up and thought to herself that she had been dreaming. She sat up and saw Titus in the same sitting position as in her dream. But, was it a dream? She did not know.

She looked around the darkened room and heard the sounds of her family sleeping. Her father snored loudly and so did her brother. But no one seemed to stir. She saw the cloth that covered the entrance to their home. The chilly wind tossed it back and forth, in and then out. She heard the rustling of the olive leaves and the distant clanging of a cow bell.

She rose to her feet and walked gingerly toward Titus, tiptoeing around the sleeping members of her family. She then sat next to him. Again they exchanged smiles. She pressed her head against his arm and wrapped her arms around his right arm. Tears ran down her cheeks.

This man, this stranger, this Holy One had changed the course of her life and perhaps her death in an instant. In her mind's eye she relived the events of the previous day. All seemed a blur until Titus entered the barn.

Titus placed his hand on the top of Marian's head like a parent would a small child. She felt warm and safe. She slipped into sleep again her head against Titus.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Martian Clue Part I

Clayton pressed forward on the yokes as his craft made an entry into the stratosphere. He had tracked Jessip from the underground caves to this place. Only a faint signal and memories drove Clayton to this rock his kind neither admired or cared to visit. And who could blame them, he thought. No other inhabitants in the galaxy preyed on their own. So, this clump held little allure for beings of any intellect, he thought to himself as he watched the darkness morphing into a blue horizon.

Jessip knew few of his kind would want to mingle among the populous and their soiled air. No one considered it a travel spot or a place one might hide. Yet on previous missions, Jessip had acclimated himself to the short list of land masses that could support him. He also knew any tracker with Clayton's experience in this place could gain an edge against a man on the run.

Jessip rarely underestimated his own resourcefulness. He felt he could hide by becoming visible. Who would expect to find him in the open? He would blend into the population, perhaps take a wife.

Back in his vehicle, Clayton planned to revisit places where he and Jessip resided when surveying earth years before. He would start by storing his hopper in the sands of the Sinai and then use the ancient communication lines to amplify the signal from Jessip's implant. Clayton cleared the images from his mind and looked over the horizon until he saw the white dwellings he remembered so well.

As he neared the hills he pulled back on the yokes of his hopper and an opening appeared in the rocky formation of a white hillside. He landed smoothly but in exiting his craft became baffled. In the hanger, he saw a second hopper like his own that he assumed belonged to Jessip. He expected that. But from where did the third hopper come?

As he signaled he watched the doors to the hillside close. He felt troubled. What dangers would he face knowing either an another tracker or another fugitive roamed the planet?

He felt trapped as he had no orders from Command to undertake this mission. He knew if he reported into Mission Control, they would order him back. He had no access to the mainframe. He lacked the information he needed.

Whatever he faced, he would face without the knowledge of the third party. He sat in his hopper frozen in a kind of fear he had not known before. He attempted to think, to improvise, to adapt. Who knew when he would formulate a working plan? Then it struck him: examine the third craft for clues.

In a village north of the hills, Jessip walked through the market and observed the vendors and their wares all brought by the peasants. He felt delight as he looked into the eyes of the people. As he walked the narrow passages, he spied a melon, rich with color and sweet to his senses. The vendor offered him a slice and Jessip took it and began eating it as the cool juice began to cover his chin and cheeks.

Then as if jerked by someone, Jessip turned and heard the muffled sound of a woman struggling. Through the loud noise of the market, the muffled sound triggered his instincts and in his mind he saw himself standing in a small barn with a straw floor. Two men held a young woman down by her arms and legs and another had his hand over her mouth.

Jessip hurried through the crowded market to a wooden horse barn and entered through a side door. He saw the three men hovered over the woman. One man held a dagger to the woman's throat. Jessip approached the men.

"What are you doing here?" ask the man with the dagger. "This is none of your business. Leave. Get out."

Jessip moved closer to the men until one stood up and pulled a weapon. Jessip grabbed the man's arm and slung him across the barn into the wall like a child's doll. The man fell on his face unconscious.

The site of Jessip's strength frightened the other men and they quickly jumped to their feet. The leader spoke less curtly to Jessip. "We are carrying out a sentence. This woman has defamed her people. She has sinned and she must pay."

Jessip moved to the woman as he brushed the two men aside with his right arm. Laying on the ground, he saw a girl, not a woman. He put his hand under her neck and lifted her slightly. He looked into her sobbing eyes. He saw her terror and her exhaustion but continued to probe her soul with his.

Jessip turned and said, "Which of you accuses this girl?"

The second man replied, "We have not accused her. A tribunal found her stained. We only prepare her for her execution."

Jessip raised the girl and held her in one arm. "She has committed no crime. Where are her accusers?"

"They will come," the leader replied.

He looked at the girl and asked, "Where does your family dwell?"

The girl spoke up through sobs, "I will take you to my home".

"You will pay for this interference," said the leader defiantly.

"You can find me at her dwelling," replied Jessip as he placed his hands on the child's shoulders, leaving the barn and the men behind. He walked with the young woman to her home where her family gathered and rejoiced at seeing their daughter and sister alive and well.

That night, Jessip accepted the family's food as the sun began to set. He knew the authorities would make an appearance. Curious, Jessip asked what led to the accusation of the daughter's sin.

He elderly father continued to sit as he began to answer. Aristocratic, he patted his face with a folded cloth. Looking directly at Jessip. "We are Nazars and no longer belong here. When the occupation began, we became a minority. My people live now in exile, taken away. We know not where."

"Marian has become of age and the people now occupying our land will either take our women and force them to bear children or kill them. It makes no difference to them, they are barbarians. Do you understand this?"

Jessip heard the sounds of men in the courtyard and could see they carried torches to light their way. Jessip walked to the doorway and gestured to the family to stay in the dwelling. He then emerged from the doorway into the courtyard where he saw several men armed with swords and spears. He also saw three men in robes holding large books and standing in front of the others.

"Who are you to interfere with our laws?" asked the larger and older of the men.

Jessip simply stared at the man without answering. The man stepped back into the others. The man then asked again, "Who are you?" Then he stated in a lower voice, "I do not know you."

Again, Jessip stared at the man. Jessip kneeled with his arms resting on his thighs. He waited until silence swept across the troupe.

"I understand you intend to stone this girl," Jessip stated.

"Yes," replied the elder as he approached Jessip.

"You hold an ancient staff with a crystal at the crown. Did a prophet once condemn stoning? You hold his staff do you not?"

"I know of no such prophet," replied the elder. "Do you know of such a man?"

"I know you carry his staff," replied Jessip. "Watch it glow." And as Jessip stood, the crystal began to glow with light so white and searing that it blinded the troupe. The elder threw the staff to the ground and Jessip swiftly picked it up and as he did the crystal ceased to emanate light.

Jessip held the staff in his right hand with his arm extended and replied, "Yes. I knew this prophet. This was the staff he carried. I gave it to him as a gift."

Then Jessip began swinging the staff striking randomly at the men in the crowd. As he did each fell to the ground for the force of Jessip's swings pierced their armor and broke their swords. When he stopped the men stared up at Jessip from the ground.

"This practice of yours stops today. If you persecute or harm any Nazar from this time forward you will all die. I will personally see to it. Is that clear?"

The elder stood in shock and replied, "Yes. I understand. But in the morning we will return with a thousand men and we will kill every Nazar in this village."

Jessip turned the staff toward the elder so the crystal faced him. Light and energy radiated from the crystal and turned the elder into dust in an instant. He then looked around at the men who lay prostrate on the ground.

"Now, who will return tommorrow to face annihilation?" asked Jessip.

One of the original three elders approached Jessip and spoke. "The old minister spoke for himself, not for our people. He was a tyrant. From this day forward Nazars will live in peace with the Irites. On this you have my word, oh Holy One." And as he spoke the men all nodded approvingly.

"Then go," Jessip commanded as he entered dwelling of Marian's family.

As Jessip stepped through the entrance he saw confusion on the faces of each family member. As the father began to kneel, Jessip took him by the elbow and raised him so he stood upright.

"I hope you approve of my magician's tricks, father?" Jessip faced him with a grin on his face.

"But you turned the High Counselor into dust," the father replied. "I watched it from the behind the doorway."

"The crystal returned the power of the man's hatred to him" Jessip explained. "So, he destroyed himself. I saw this done many years ago when I first enountered this staff. A sheep herder found it in a ravine. Notice that the wood looks new. I believe it is indestructable."

The eldest son then drew near and spoke to Jessip saying, "Will you turn me to dust if I ask who you are?"

Jessip laughed one time and with a smile replied, "Of course not."

"Then who are you?"

"I am a man," Jessip began, "who has lost his way. I am looking for my people. Have you seen people who look like me?"

"Korduenes," the elder son uttered. "Very tall people, like you with light hair and eyes of blue. I saw them once on a caravan. They live in the mountains to the north. "

"To the north?" Jessip asked.

"Yes," replied the son.

The next oldest boy stepped forward, "Yes. They live to the north. I know the trail they follow. I have seen it and walked with them."

Jessip smiled and took a seat at the table. He sent his consciousness to the north and sensed the presence of one of his own kind among the Korduenes. He then looked at the young man and asked, "what is your name, son?"

"I am Amar and this is Adel and this is," the boy began but each member of the large family reached out to shake Jessip's hand and introduce him or herself. "

Amar waited for everyone to finish and then asked, "What do we call you?"

Jessip became still and then asked, "Can you guess my name? Marian what should they call me?"

"Titus," replied Marian. "I heard one of the soldiers say you were Titus."

Jessip became still again for a moment and then replied, "I wonder how he knew. I have never been to this village before."

The father spoke up, "You were known to them. You just won't tell us everything, I believe."

Jessip nodded affirmatively.

The mother then spoke up, "We should all take our rest. This day has weighed heavily upon us all. Titus will you stay with us, then?"

Jessip replied, "Yes. I will rest here and then prepare to go north."

And as the mother shuffled her family to their corners, Marian and her older sister brought Jessip a blanket to cover himself. And they retired for the night.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Understanding Mystery Writing: An Introduction

You may understand the genre of mystery or believe you do. Some of us believe Agatha Christi represents the quintessential mystery writer. So, what about her writing sets it up as an archetype?

She has successfully incorporated that element that keeps the reader guessing while using the Aristotelian paradigm used in the essay "Poetics". The model incorporates the three act motif and introduces an inciting incident. It hides the antagonist and that gives the genre a mysterious allure.

She and other great writers give clues to the antagonist's identity and creating the who dunnit effect. Generally, the antagonist turns out the least suspicious of the characters. That character turns out as one we trust.

So, as you find the stories presented play the guessing game with me. Discover who keeps the protagonist from accomplishing his or her goal. That not only creates mystery but it also creates drama.