Tag Archive: Artesius


All Clues, No Solutions

Dwyn didn’t ask Ari how she avoided being seen by the guards. He had a feeling she wouldn’t have told him had he asked. Instead he focused on her news regarding where the centaurs were being held.

The plan they agreed upon was somewhat risky and hinged on the fact that people tended to look toward bright lights, especially in the dark. Dwyn stayed with Artesius while he prepared the distraction. Gwilym, the faun and Ari were to go in and rescue the centaurs. There were risks for both parties. If those guarding the stronghold decided to attack the cause of the distraction, Artesius and Dwyn would be sitting ducks as neither was a combatant. If not all the defenders was distracted, an alarm might be raised by someone and the others could be captured or worse.

A flickering light near the servant’s entrance told Dwyn that the others were in position and he nodded at Artesius. The centaur grinned and set off small fireworks he’d had in a pack across his back. They were small but bright and loud. In the dim light from the fortress, Dwyn could see crowds gathering on the wall facing them to watch the display. He listened as they oohed and aahed at the bright lights and sounds. He could ony hope the others fared as well.

**
Ari led the others to the servant’s entrance. A moment after the signal was given, fireworks began going off on the hillside where the boy and centaur waited. The distraction served two purposes. The first was obvious, to draw attention away from the captive centaurs. The second was less so, the sound of the serial explosions worked well to cover the thundering of the centaurs’ hooves as they made their escape.

“They’re in the barn,” she whispered. After giving the humans a moment to go watch the display on the hill, they ducked into the fortress. They had to avoid those milling around in the courtyard but it wasn’t long before they reached the barn.

Gwilym paused at the door, holding the padlock in his hands as if waiting for something. He chose his moment as a particularly loud explosion rippled through the night and smashed the lock with the butt of his sword. Once the lock was taken care of, the trio opened the door.

About a score of centaurs, all male, some rather young stared at them through sleepy eyes. Ari realized with a start why Artesius had been reluctant to wait until nightfall. Centaurs were by-and-large diurnal beings. They had poor night vision and a tendency to fall asleep as soon as it was dark, unless their stellar observations were enough of a distraction to keep them awake.

“We have to go,” whispered the faun.

There was a soft rustle of hay as the centaurs began standing and moving toward the small party. “We don’t know where Marius is. They took him away almost as soon as we got here,” one older stallion said. “The wind says he’s not even here anymore.”

“This is the majority of you though,” Ari confirmed. There were nods and murmurs of ascension throughout the crowd and she waved them back the way the trio had come. “We’ll have to look elsewhere,” she said.

“The stars say you won’t find him but he’ll be well,” one colt said as he paused to look up. “He’s going to make a new life away from the herd. It happens sometimes.”

“Any ideas where he is?” Gwilym asked.

“No, but he’s well and he’ll be happy soon enough,” the colt replied before trotting off to join the others.

Ari shrugged and motioned for the human to precede her. Centaurs were uncanny sometimes but they always knew what they were talking about.

In Any Case, Try Many Things

The party arrived at the mountain stronghold well ahead of Anderson, or so Artesius assured them after consulting the box in his hands. Everyone had a plan; an idea of how to proceed.

Ari wanted to go in immediately. Gwilym thought they should wait for nightfall. Artesius warned that they needed intell before going in.

“We should at least observe the stronghold for a while,” he argued.

“Maybe we can do all three,” Dwyn suggested.

All three – observe, go in immediately and wait for nightfall?” the faun said, skepticism coloring his tones.

“Ari can go in now and get the lay of the land. That way we’ll know better what the fortress is like inside. Artesius can observe from out here. When we know enough about the stronghold and its defenses, hopefully by nightfall, we can go in,” Dwyn explained.

“By we, you mean us, Young Master,” Gwilym pointed out. “You are staying here.”

“Yes, Gwilym,” Dwyn said. He smiled slightly and added, “Unless I have an idea.”

“Alright that sounds like a plan,” Ari said softly at nearly the same time.

“Keep in touch,” Artesius said, handing her what appeared to be a ring. “Listening and receiving capabilities,” he added with a nod.

“Good,” she replied. She slipped the ring on her finger and flew off.

Film and Flesh

“Where’s Anderson now?” Dwyn asked. He watched, his brows furrowed as Artesius drew out a small box and began to tap on it.

“He’s still near your father’s manor,” Artesius replied. “I’ve got him on visuals. He’s heading back toward the mountains though so we’d best hurry.”

“Visuals?” Gwilym asked.

Artesius turned the box so the humans could see. There, as if he’d somehow been shrunk and put inside the box was Anderson. “How’d you make him so small?” Dwyn asked.

“Didn’t,” Artesius said. “It’s just an image of him. He’s near enough to one of our Eyes that we caught him on camera. Eyes are… it’s hard to explain.”

“You shouldn’t explain,” the faun said softly. “The humans don’t need to know everything that we’re capable of.”

“Images…. Like a painting?” Dwyn said, frowning at the small box. “It’s moving. Is this what he’s doing now?”

“Yes,” Artesius replied. “We have little outposts – unmanned mostly – all over. We use them to monitor human activity. It’s how we avoid human travelers and the like. We call them Eyes.”

“That makes sense,” Gwilym said. “So we can see him, but he can’t see us and we know where he is, so we can avoid a direct confrontation as we make our way past him to his mountain home.”

“Exactly,” Artesius replied. He darted a glance at Ari and added, “Much as I’d like to trample the man, we’d do better to avoid him and focus on rescuing the other centaurs.”

A Gentleman Can Have it All

Dwyn listened to the elf on the council. Then they returned to the archives. He settled down to read about the man they were going up against. The whole time, the faun watched them, obviously not trusting them.

“Anderson has been busy,” Ari said softly. “He’s a landowner and he travels around with this menagerie. He has a family and a multitude of servants and people working under him.”

“He has everything someone could want in the world,” Dwyn said softly. “Why does he need to attack innocent people?”

“He want the one thing that never satisfies once you get it,” Artesius said. “He wants revenge. He wants to punish us – the non-humans; the demi-humans – for whatever we did to him all those years ago.”

“He’s been trying to get it,” Gwilym said tapping the computer screen. “He’s attacked several clans of non-humans. Those he doesn’t kill outright are taken and enslaved.”

“Taken where?” as the faun.

“That’s the question,” Ari said. “Where did he take them? We’ve found the females and children, but no males.”

“He has a home in the mountains,” Dwyn said softly. “They aren’t far from the field where the centaurs were and the home is secluded enough that no one would report a sudden influx of centaurs.”

“Let’s try there,” Artesius said.

Elpis listened to the youngster tell of the humans and the older centaur that he’d encountered and knew just which centaur he was speaking of. It could only be Artesius, she thought. Then, he’s alive – safe. So many of her brothers and cousins, uncles and her beloved father had not made it through the massacre. Artesius, who’d been away from the herd on business as their emissary, had been spared.

A tearful smile came to her face. She could take anything as long as she could see Artesius again. She sent a silent prayer to the gods to look after the young stallion; to bring him safely back to her – even if he never saw her as more than a friend.

I Have Daughters and I Have Sons

Artesius followed the humans, keeping himself between them and the armed faun until they reached the council chamber. A small part of him wasn’t surprised to find a tall blond elf seated at the center of the table. This could only be Ari’s father.

“Master Artesius, I understand your position as emissary but that does not mean you should bring humans within the walls of this city,” the elf said without preamble.

“Due respect councilman, the lives of many in my herd are at stake and I will not allow prejudice thinking to prevent me from helping them. These humans have offered their help and I have accepted. The city is the best place to find information on the human who has attacked my herd.”

The elf blinked in shock but seemed to agree with Artesius, at least for now. He directed his attention to Ari then and frowned. “Won’t you come home, Aria?” he asked softly. “What happened to you -”

“No, father,” she said, cutting him off. “I’ve found a place for myself and right now that place means that I’m going with the centaur and these humans to find out what has happened to the rest of the herd.”

“Surely your brothers,” the councilman began. He broke off at Ari’s fierce glare. “Whenever you’re ready, my dear,” he finished. “Very well, Master Artesius, but you are in charge of these humans. If they cause trouble while within city walls, you will suffer the consequences.”

“I understand,” Artesius said softly. “Rest assured, we mean only to gather information.” He bowed and taking the elf’s silence as a dismissal, led the way out of the room. “They’ll debate for a while. They might call us back to speak with them, but they won’t hinder us in our search.”

Take a Bow

Artesius frowned as he read over the information that the archives had, not only on Anderson, but also on Dwyn, his family and associates. The bodyguard was the latest in a long line of guardians for the boy’s family. The man’s uncle guarded the boy’s father. It had been this way for centuries. The boy’s father had been involved in shady dealings in his youth but after his education was complete seemed to have a change of heart. Since that time, he’d been involved only in endeavors that were helpful to others. The boy himself was virtually unknown. This didn’t shock the centaur in the slightest. The boy was only twelve, after all and hadn’t had a chance to make much of a mark on the world.

Just for a bit of equity, Artesius also looked into the elf’s past. The daughter of an important family, she’d been cosseted and pampered for most of her youth. Something changed the typical pattern of nobles though and instead of marrying well and settling down to raise a family, she’d enrolled in the Defenders Academy. She’d taken top marks throughout her schooling and had achieved a respectable rank since joining the force.

“What are you doing?” Ari asked peering over his shoulder. “You’re checking up on me.” She scowled at him as she realized this. “Why?”

“Just being equitable,” he explained. “I checked into the boy and his bodyguard, it’s only fair if I do the same for you.”

“You looked into us, did you?” Gwilym said. “Find anything useful?”

“You’re an old soldier from a line of old soldiers and the boy… has lived a rather unremarkable life so far.” Artesius shrugged. He hoped the human wasn’t expecting an apology.

“I have a feeling my life’s about to get more interesting,” Dwyn said. The tension in his voice made all heads turn toward him. He was backed against one of the shelving units staring down a faun who held a weapon on him.

“These humans are my guests,” Artesius said softly.

“Then you can come explain to the council why they’re here,” the faun said softly. He directed his attention to Dwyn as he added, “Come along, child.”

Artesius nodded once, hoping that Dwyn and his bodyguard both remained calm. He stepped away from the computer terminal and joined the faun, intentionally placing himself between the boy and the weapon. “There’s no need for violence. We only came to access the archives,” he said calmly.

People would take advantage of things; whether they were human or non-human. There would always be someone who tried to profit off of those weaker than they were. Artesius settled into a specially made chair and scrolled through the database, searching for particular jackal that had led the attack on the herd.

Dwyn wandered the stacks of the archives with Ari and Gwilym following close at his heels. The boy was wide-eyed at the thought of the books to be read. The bodyguard was wary of the unknown dangers the strange room presented and Ari wanted to make sure the boy didn’t learn some indefinable secret meant only for the non-humans.

Artesius sighed, then gasped as he found what he’d been looking for. “Cadoc Anderson,” he read. “He was attacked by fauns several years ago – probably got too close to their homelands. Fauns are very territorial toward those outside their kind. He’s been leading attacks on non-humans ever since.”

“Revenge?” Gwilym said softly. “This was about revenge?”

“Actually, maybe not,” Artesius said. “He seems to view us – non-humans, that is – as inherently dangerous. Just being near humans is enough for him to target a group, it seems.”

“He’s a monster,” Ari growled.

“He’s a victim,” Dwyn said. He shook his head and shrugged, “He can’t get past what happened to him and in his mind, he’s trying to prevent it happening to others.”

“But centaurs are a peaceful people,” Ari argued.

“He doesn’t know that,” Artesius said. “Now we know who he is. That means we know where he comes from. That will lead us to the rest of the herd.”

Almost Doesn’t Count for Much

Artesius slowed as they reached the city. He was the emissary between the centaurs and all other peoples. He’d always known that he would some day interact with humans. His people, and their allies, however were under the impression that they could continue to live isolated from the humans.

“It looks like ruins,” Dwyn said softly.

“It is ruins,” Ari replied. “The city is hidden by them.”

“At present, humans aren’t interested in their ancestors… at least not enough to disturb their ancient cities. It’s a good cover – for now,” Artesius said. His voice was quiet and tense.

“Reconsidering?” Ari asked.

“In for a penny,” Artesius said, with a shake of his head. He led the way with seeming confidence. He paused long enough for the humans to tie their mounts up outside the city walls. He knew, though they didn’t, that the city guards would see to the animals.

When they passed into the city proper, he heard Dwyn catch his breath. “It’s… almost like gold,” he whispered.

Artesius chuckled and shook his head. “A play of the light. There’s no gold here – only golden lamps. “The archives are this way,” he added leading them toward the building that housed the databases holding information on all the known inhabitance – both noble and criminal – on the planet. If the building were awe-inspiring, Artesius wondered what the humans would make of the computers.

“It’s beautiful,” Dwyn added.

“I suppose,” Artesius replied. “I prefer natural beauty, myself. That’s why the herds mostly live outside the city. Only in the wilds can we see all the stars in the sky. The city has too much light pollution.”

“Light… pollution?” Dwyn asked softly.

“The ambient light in the city is so great that only the brightest stars can be seen,” Artesius replied. “If we can’t see them their voices are silent to us.” He saw the boy’s nod of understanding. Each group had something to contribute to the other – if only they would put aside their differences.

All This Foolishness…

About Moons and Blossoms

Ari landed in a tree and watched the humans. So far the boy and his guardian had nothing but help the centaurs. The man had even buried those slain in the herd. The boy had helped to comfort the colt they had encountered. Now however, the centaur was talking about bringing the humans to the city. That couldn’t be allowed.

She hopped from the tree and landed deftly on the path in front of the boy. The child reigned in and blinked at her in shock. His guardian immediately moved to block her. “What are you thinking?” she snapped, directing her words toward the centaur. “You can’t bring them to the city.”

“We need to find out what we’re dealing with,” Artesius said reasonably. “We can learn more about this human called Anderson from the files in the city. We might even learn where he took the rest of the herd.” He leaned in close as he added, “I’m sorry if that doesn’t meet with your approval, but my herd is more important than that.”

“I’m coming with you,” Ari said firmly.

“As if you haven’t been right along.” The tone in his voice spoke volumes. “At least now the humans will be able to see the attack coming.”

“You stay away from Master Dwyn,” Gwilym said, his voice dangerously soft.

“She will,” Artesius replied. “Let’s go.” Soon they were traveling once more in the direction of the city; deeper into the wilderness.

**
Late that night they set up camp under the spreading branches of hundreds of flowering trees. A full moon lit the camp as darkness settled around them. Dwyn watched the elf carefully from a safe distance. He had no doubt that she could kill him – that she would if she felt he was a threat. Gwilym would likely be unable to stop her. Indeed, he would probably be her first target if she decided to finish off the humans.

“I’d always heard that the elves were a peaceful people,” he said softly.

“Yes, all moonlight and blossoms,” Ari said, rolling her eyes.

“You revere nature and love the moonlight,” Artesius said. “We observe nature – the grass, the sky, the movement of the planets. Nature speaks to us. It sings to you.”

“How poetic,” Ari said. A slight smile reached her lips. Artesius smiled back and nodded his thanks. “The humans just use nature – they break it down and harness it, like the horses they ride.”

Dwyn sighed and looked up at Fletcher. The gelding seemed happy with his lot in life, though he’d never known differently. Perhaps when humans had first taken wild horses in and broken them to harness, those horses had missed the wilds they had known. Their young might have missed the wilds as well, if only from their parent’s memories. Once domesticated however, it was only natural that the beasts would become accustomed to their captivity. Truly, Dwyn couldn’t say if that was bad or not.

“He’s happy and he loves you,” Artesius said, following his gaze toward Fletcher. “Don’t her upset you. Elves have magic to help them travel quickly. Centaurs have their own fleet legs. Humans have nothing like that – except their intellect and ingenuity. Don’t feel guilty for being what you are. Just be the best human you can be.”

“Thank you,” Dwyn replied. He smiled over at Gwilym and blushed at the older man’s gaze.

“He’s better than most, you’ll find,” the bodyguard added softly.

“I’ve noticed,” Artesius replied. “So has Ari, though she won’t admit it.”

Monica Ferris

an author with many hats

A Land of Curiosity

From the files of Shynian Intelligence

Heather's Fancies

tales from the enchanted gardens and shadow hollow

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