Wanderer

The knight moves in the peculiar L-shaped manner – two squares forward and one step sideways at once. So a knight in the centre of the board can move to eight potential positions from its position – two steps front then one left or right (2 positions), two steps back then one left or right (2 positions), two steps left then one up or down (2 positions) and two steps right then one up or down ( 2 positions). Any enemy piece standing on any of these squares can be captured by the knight., making it able to easily attack up to eight enemy pieces at once.

The knight is also the only piece that can jump over a piece or pieces on the board. It can make the first move of the game because of this and is extremely maneuverable in closed board positions. The knight is materially equal to three pawns just like the bishop but two bishops are generally regarded as stronger than two knights due to their long range control of more squares on the board when in combination.

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It had all started as fun and games to Saleh as a child. His father must have been surprised when he shot his first arrow at the age of five and hit a tree trunk over a hundred paces away. He was supposed to be playing in the sand with the other kids and there must have been a twinge of guilt in his father’s heart to see his second son substitute weapons of iron for toys of wood and stone. The pride that came from seeing his little boy put archers thrice his age to shame grew on him however and he decided to let the boy be.

Saleh got bored easily, always in search of some new weapon to master, always in search of some new land to explore. He would sometimes travel to a distant land for months on end and return with some obscure weapon to renew his hold on the admiration of the village. The ladies were not left out in the admiration either. It seemed they all wanted to render services to him in any form. He was welcome on anyone’s farm and in anyone’s vacant bed at any time he chose.

Despite the love and admiration he enjoyed, Saleh never really bonded with anyone. Even his weapons could not lay claim to his restless heart. One could not even be certain of his loyalty to his clan. He switched alliances in the yearly war games so easily one could almost claim he was doing it just for fun or experiment. The irony was in his hatred for war of any sort. He seemed to avoid conflict and situations that required actually killing someone.

These last thoughts crossed the king’s mind when Saleh’s name was brought up in the war council’s meeting. The men around the table seemed to think putting a sword in Saleh’s hand and a standard bearer beside him would galvanize the other men in the village to go forward to confront the advancing enemy. Did they even know the man? A sword was not his thing anymore! Neither would the loud noise of a vuvuzuela right in his ears pleasure him or make his blood boil in any way. In fact, no one could really be sure where Saleh was at this very moment. He could have gone off on one of his distant journeys this very night, slipping between enemy sentries under cover of darkness and the footprint-obscuring rain.

The king did not voice his doubts anyway. He quietly mulled the idea of going over to Saleh’s tent to see if he was there to weigh his heart intentions and without warning he left the meeting for the young warrior’s abode. The king did not reckon with the possibility of stumbling on Saleh with the wife of one of his wartime generals. Apparently Saleh was busy spearing the wife of the chief spearheading the idea that he be made wartime commander-in-chief of the village armed forces.

The instant the king stepped foot in Saleh’s tent, he regretted ever doing so. He wished they had been groaning or moaning so he would have taken warning before going in unannounced. At least then he would have been able to maintain plausible deniability of the thrusting crime happening right before his eyes. Now not only would he have to execute Saleh for disobeying the wartime ban on sexual activities, he would have to expose the poor woman to the wrath of her husband. On the other hand, if the king chose to exempt Saleh from punishment, it would seem as though Saleh were above the law and above the king. And no one could be seen to be above the king.

This was a thorny situation but the king did not panic. He calmly regarded Saleh sit up slowly, eyes squinting at the august visitor, while the woman quietly tried to cover her pendulous breasts. She scurried out of the room in less than thirty heartbeats, as though she had hoped the king did not recognize her in the darkness of the room.

After she was gone, the king’s plan came together. Here and now, this situation was his leverage. Everything had fallen into place as though it were carefully planned. He would offer Saleh instant pardon for his capital offence conditional on his accepting to go on a mission the king felt was more important than leading the armies of the village, an offer he simply could not refuse. In the king’s mind, if Saleh agreed to protect the carver-soldier Izibor being sent to kidnap the heir of the enemy king, then he would be free of guilt and summarily pardoned. This way, the village would have her victory, Saleh would have his life, the king would have his dignity and everybody would be happy.

The king smiled graciously and opened his mouth to speak to the naked man.

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Pride lands you flat on your face;
humility prepares you for honors.
(Prov. 29 vs. 23, The Message)

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Chosen

The bishop moves only on the same colour of squares it begun the game on. A white bishop will therefore move diagonally both backward and forward in as long a straight line as possible unless it is obstructed by one of its own pieces or by an enemy piece. Any enemy piece in its line of fire can be captured by removing that piece and placing the bishop on the now vacant square.

Bishops operate best on open boards with a lot of freedom for movement. A bishop is worth three pawns in material value.

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Few men know what it feels like to be feared as gods. Those that know do not relish the burden.

If I had the slightest idea I would become this powerful or tormented I would have ended my life long before the day I was ordained the chief priest of Isiso.

I wasn’t taught by anyone. In fact, I was forbidden contact with my father until the day he died and I took over his role. I was only eleven at the time. But by then I had been starved to paralysis three times, abandoned in the wild a total of 3 years in all, and had killed a leopard. No, I had not done that last act by physical means. Those levels of persuasion I have no interest in recounting.

I had no knowledge of fear except what I saw reflected in the eyes of everyone else. They did not love me, but they worshipped the ground I walked on as the embodiment of the will of the guardian spirit of Isiso. My standing was not without claim either. The otherwise defenseless community had survived solely because of my exploits in battle.

The duties I had were not ceremonial or religious. Well, yes, I had to satisfy the blood lust of our guardian but that was only because I was the only one who would not be struck down by a mysterious ailment within days of doing so. My primary assignment was in the battle field during the years of the origins of the kingdoms of the West.

To fight with nature and the elements, one had to be at peace with them. I had heightened my senses by a rotational regimen of sensory deprivation, with brief days of recovery interspersed. I could see where the blood vessels of any animal flowed near the skin. I could taste your last night’s dinner in your sweat upon the first impression of your scent. I could hear where the blades of grass were disrupted from their bowing in unison before the wind by the form of some crouching predator pretender. And all the animals welcomed me as a creature of the night.

I was destined to die in battle. The only thing I didn’t know was which one. It didn’t matter. I was already dead. Dead to the world and human emotion, alive only to my senses and the voices in my head.

Presently I was on my way to destroy the bridge linking the ridge of Alkaban to the pass of Rithmor. By my projection I had overheard the plans of the Envites as they conducted their final war council meeting in their battle cave behind their leader’s tent. I had informed our king to delay crossing the river in return from his victory against the rebels of the North so as to trap them right where they would be starved to death upon the destruction of the bridge.

They must have known about these plans. Because upon my arrival at the bridge I was welcomed by their famous witch doctor. Glasa was skilled in the potions and in bird speak. I had heard about her but no one had told me she was that young. Perhaps her youth was the result of partaking in the blood  sacrifices of her deity. I had long eschewed such childish behavior when I noticed my heart rate was not what it used to be. The vain witch couldn’t be bothered I presumed.

Her beauty was not her only distraction. Perched on her shoulder was a large hunting eagle with talons the size of my gnarled hands. My eyes would be the obvious target. I smirked inwardly. Did she think I needed the dim light of the sun to present her carcass to the vultures? Still, this fight would have been easier if I had brought my scent markers with me. It would have ensured our fight would be hand to hand and without the distractions and surprises of the interfering forest folk.

I calmly addressed her in her native tongue. She smiled in admiration as I mimicked the voice of her king. She didn’t realize until then that I had been the leak by my astral eavesdropping. A needed edge for me. The respect of your enemy meant they would be reluctant to throw their full weight at you, possibly the only way they could have possibly stood a chance.

She released her winged messenger of death at me suddenly, without warning and without so much as a flinch. Thought controlled? Not bad. I picked a handful of dirt and sprayed it in the path of the huge bird. I didn’t blind it completely as I had hoped but I had created my first opening. Throwing myself forward into a body roll, I finished with a leap for her bag of charms. She sidestepped me as I expected and delivered a whack to my ribs with her staff.

The force of the whack told me all I needed to know. This fight would not last long. One more hit in the same spot and my ribs would puncture my heart and lungs. But I had created this opening intentionally to make sure such a blow did not happen again. Catching the staff under my arm at the point of impact, I threw my body momentum off centre, wrenching the staff from her grasp. If she’d been demon assisted she might have stood her ground, but since I was heavier than she, not letting go would mean tumbling to the ground with me. My grip was that strong.

Rolling to my feet, I tested the weight of her rod. There were poisoned thorns on the handle end of it which would no doubt kill the unwitting wielder. I laughed at them, eyes unsmiling, as I recognized the scent of the king cobra venom; slow acting poison, no doubt, to give the sufferer a chance to reach the antidote somewhere hidden in the bag, my original target. Well, I would not be so careless. Neither would she die by her poisons. She had earned my slight respect enough to grant her my quick alternative death.

I had the weather forecast down to the hour in my mind and presently the clouds began to gather. I gave her no time to notice as I jumped in again, exposing the thorns on her stick to her view. She seemed to know that I had changed my strategy and that her weapons were no longer of interest to me. She caught the stick in her white robes, performed a handless side somersault away from it and pulled it out of my hand. Her side bag and robes fell away from her body with the rod as she landed in cat like balance, revealing perfectly sized breasts and a skin as smooth as porcelain.

Her scent immediately divided into two equal strength halves. Apparently her clothes were dashed with an aroma to exactly counter the stench I now perceived oozing from her direction. What had she oiled her skin with? I was perceiving this offensive odour for the first time and to my sensitive olfactory nerves, it was mental torture.

Her body oil must have been an aphrodisiac mixed with a hallucinogen. I began to feel very relaxed very quickly. Apparently the pores of my skin were absorbing the ethereal potion, regardless of my refusal to breathe. I gave myself thirty seconds to act and ten to think. It was enough.

I staggered to the highest rock in the vicinity and lay down on it slowly in surrender. I meant the act to be a possum imitation so I could strike back like a rattle snake when she came over to gloat. But she took her time, keeping her distance well away from my reach but within my sense of smell. My endurance wore down as my limit of muscular control was exceeded. She snickered, watching with undisguised hubris.

She shouldn’t have been so confident. Right on cue my silver lined messenger passed overhead, teased along by the agitated winds, pregnant with rain, flashing smiles at the earth. I chose this moment to flash my smile at her too. Her face quickly  became as dark as the horizon when she looked up and realized what her end was to be. By then it was too late. Lightning flashed down on my chain mail from the sky, spreading all over the rock like a dancing river of magic and madness. I could withstand the shock as it was conducted quickly through my armor and into the rock.

She was not so lucky. Her war scent was quickly replaced by that of the singed flesh of a toad burnt alive. Her cries echoed off the mountains and she fell face down, a smouldering mass of lifelessness, quivering involuntarily at the overload of her nervous system.

It took me thirty minutes to recover from the induced paralysis of her biological warfare. When I did, I calmly walked to the bridge and set it on fire, leaving the scene without so much as a second glance at her body. Perhaps if we had met earlier under different circumstances, she would have been the mother of my successor.

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You have as little to fear from an undeserved curse
as from the dart of a wren or the swoop of a swallow.
(Prov. 26 vs. 2, The Message)