Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A Trail Long and Cold--Part 34

The woman emerged in a darkened chamber with a grunt.  Her wings, already battered and torn from previous experiences, had been scraped and chafed by the narrow tunnel.  She glanced around the room, and snarled in frustration.  The chamber was dark, even for the taste of a Nightfolk.  A bit of encouragement from the voices had her mutter that small charm that could summon a bit of foxfire that revealed her surroundings.

She gasped.  While the chamber was nothing spectacular in its dimensions or build, the walls were covered with writing and symbols, much of it mystical in nature.  The portion of her mind that was all hers said that this was a labor of years, and she looked around for the person who had done it.

It did not take too long to find him.  The body had fallen in the midst of writing, and much of it was scattered, with the skull rolling into an alcove.  But what remained of the robes and jewelry suggested a man of wealth and power.  The voices whispered a name to her.

"Sutekh?" she muttered.

Yes, it is I, came one of the voices, stronger than the rest.  Centuries upon centuries have passed, and my body is but bones and dust, but my will, my hatred and my malice, they are still strong.  And you, you child shall be my instrument of vengeance.   

The woman gulped at this.  Are you not honored?, came Sutekh's voice.  She nodded.  Then bow.  She gave as great and sweeping a bow as she could manage in the circumstances.  And now could you get my head out of this damn spot?  It is has been staring at the wall upside down for the last six centuries.  It is damned annoying.

She hurried to do so.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Trail Long and Cold--Part 33

Yaskva stirred the fire with a stick, and listened to the howling of the wind.  He glanced at his parents.  "Are you sure she will be all right?" he asked at last.

There was a painful silence for a moment.  Jena turned and smiled at her son.  "I have no doubt Mother Night shall look after her, as She looks after us all, Yaskva."  She raised a hand.  "Now, do not worry, son.  All shall be... as it should be."

"It was her choice," said Cetra.  "We only did what she wanted."

There was a long moment of silence. Shoana stirred in her little bundle of blankets and yawned.  "Brrr," she muttered.  "Listen to the wind howl."

Jena nodded at that.  Cetra stiffened, and then stood.  He stared for a moment, then coughed.  "Yaskva... get your cudgel."

Yaskva gulped.  "What... what is...?"

"Jackals," said Cetra.  "It's jackals."

Thursday, June 14, 2018

A Trail Long and Cold--Part 32

Throughout the Concordat, wherever the Stylites met, owls were gathering, most notably in the Great Tower of St. Simon.  It was an eerie sight, made eerier by the fact that most animals avoided such places.  Indeed, the Stylites had a great deal of trouble getting horses at times--the methods they used to do so were held by many to be both suspect and unpleasant.

But the owls were there, hooting in the windows of the Tower, and in a hundred similar places throughout the Concordat which the Stylites had claimed over the centuries.  The owls did so, day and night, making people even more uneasy about them.  The Knights of the Tower were up to something, they muttered. 

But they did not mutter too loudly, and they did not try to find out what they were up to.  That would be unwise, they thought, from a long and inherited experience.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Trail Long and Cold--Part 31

The winds howled, raising great clouds of dust.  The stone stood where it stood for centuries.  And from that tulmult, she came.  She came to the spot before the stone, and she knelt.  As if she stood in the eye of the storm, the winds died down around her, leaving her standing in a sphere of dead calm. 

She knelt there for a while, and then rose slightly, as if listening to a message.  She nodded, and then crawled towards the stone.  As she did so, a sudden stray gust of wind that entered the otherwise calm area around her cleared the dust at its base, revealing a small tunnel.  She crawled into it, and soon vanished underneath the stone.

The winds around the stone continued to howl, and seemed to grow worse.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Trail Long and Cold--Part 30

She stood there, and listened to the voices.  They were giving her instructions--very specific instructions. You will move from this spot to that spot, they were saying.  That spot is this many steps from where you now stand.  And you will move to it.  Do not worry.  All will be well.  But you will move when we tell you to. 

Oh, yes.  You will.

"...flask," said Cetra pressing something into her hands.  "It should... it should last you for several days, if you're careful."

She nodded dully at this.  "Thank you.  Yes."  A thought occurred to her dimly, coming in as the babble of the voices lessened.  "How is your... boy?"

"Yaksva?" asked Cetra.  "Very well.  He's worried about you,"

"He's very nice," said the woman.  "So are you.  And your family.  You are all nice."

Cetra looked away at that.  "I... thank you, milady."  He coughed.  "Are... are you sure you wish to be left here?  It..."

The voices started again at that.  "Yes, yes, yes," said the woman.  "This must be the place."  She nodded, and stepped forward.  "This is it.  Thank you.  Thank you so very much."

She could almost feel Cetra watching her as she walked forward, and heard him walk away.  One step, and then another.  The voices praised her.  She nodded.  This stage of her journey would be finished soon.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Trail Long and Cold--Part 29

Asterot had a headache.  The knocking on the door of his chamber did not help it, not one little bit.  "Keep it down," he muttered, not daring to raise his voice.  "I am the King of the Goblins, and you are making my head hurt."

To his immense displeasure, whoever was knocking responded by beating against the door even more fervently.  "Blasted fools," Asterot said, shutting his eyes.  "I don't know why I bother saying anything.  You all just do as you will and ignore me.  I should abdicate.  That would show you all.  Let's see what you all do without me around..."

The door burst open.  Asterot's eyes blinked open.  He realized that a group of Goblins in the colors of the Belfior Maganzas were standing there.  They had swords in their hands, he realized.  Asterot considered things for a moment, and then shut his eyes.  "Just get it over with," he said at last.

The Goblins moved forward.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Trail Long and Cold--Part 28

Amfortas awoke with a start.  He'd been having a very strange dream, one where he was a drowning in a thick liquid--was it honey, perhaps?  His motions as he contorted under the surface were slow and distorted--he was unable to get himself up to the surface, only falling further and further in.  But falling... slowly, which made the sense of impending doom somehow greater.

On consideration, Amfortas blamed the sudden chill in the weather, which had coated him in a cold dew.  He wrung his clothes, hoping to get some of the moisture out. His eyes fell on the troops outside.  They were... not so much asleep as they were inert, standing and waiting for his signal. A spider crawled over the eye of one man, lying nearby--the man did not flinch or even blink but let the thing pass over unhindered.

This was a sight he'd seen numerous times in the past few weeks.  And yet today it was truly making him uneasy, perhaps due to that dream.  He wondered again vaguely what purpose his army was serving, marching forth now...

"It must be done," he said.  "I serve the Light.  We will be victorious."   He gave a loud sneeze then, which gradually turned into a fit. 

After several minutes of it, he resolved to speak to Doctor Praetorius on it to see if he could help.It wouldn't do to die of a chill, after all.  He had things to do.