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TNES VI - The Mythopoeia

Discussion in 'Never Ending Stories' started by Thlayli, Aug 31, 2018.

  1. Terrance888

    Terrance888 Discord Reigns

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    Monster is a curious word.
    Them who strike across the lines,
    Oft find that Hero is but a synonym.

    She breathed softly now.

    Worrysome, but one mustn’t show it. It began after the attack on the human reef, and grievous blow from the shouting deer-king. The ways of men are hard to understand for the humble serpent-ram. But it was no mere serpent-ram. It was the Great Serpent-Ram, Nathrom, he of bright scales that dazzles and humbles the humans. But even his scales showed scars from that day, a day of blood and terror.

    And even Nathrom did not have dreams such that a human does, for even the greatest human does not have dream such as that of a god. He could only wait for her fevered dreams to pass. But now, these dreams appeared different, for she no longer fought the dream-weeds every night, it seemed. After the battle, a new dream-foe beset her, one that rendered her a limp, breathing corpse. A foe that is beyond his very comprehension and aid... So he watches her breathing slowly, trying to not worry - for if he worries, she will worry.

    Yet she worried.

    There are many things she could be worried about. She could be worried about the unhealing blow under her ribs, struck by the Carnish King. She could be worried about the once-smooth scales of Nathrom, now marred and scarred by great fear and force. She could be worried by the whispers in the wind, whispers that she knew, grew louder and harsher every night. She could be worried at the blood that no longer washed clean from her palms. And indeed, these worries still dwelled, waiting for her return to wakefulness. But no, these are not her worries.

    Now, she is worried about her dreams.

    She has many dreams. The meaningless dreams from Before. The cherished dreams of the Before. Dreams she has taken in her quest. But her dreams, her real dreams used to be full of terror and battle. A bloody mirror of her wakeful hours, the spilled blood showed her the way. And onwards she had hunted, until she found the sea.

    That was the first time they changed, when the horizon appeared, and fled from her, and she chased it. Night. After night. After night. She could see what she imagined to be a premonition, a wide band of destruction stretching horizon to horizon, before her to behind her, showing her the way.

    No, even this did not worry her, for her quest brought her far, and her quest brought her closer. She could taste it in the dreams she has taken along the way.

    What worried her was that they changed yet again.

    The dreams were green instead of red, a color of life instead of death. The sky shone a bright blue, the sea a dark yet respectful reflection. There was no blood, there was no destruction, but there was fear. A dark familiar fear, and distant weights on the horizon, like stalking thunderstorms.

    She was worried because she did not understand her dreams anymore, and if she does not understand, she will be lost. She was worried even to claim more dreams, if this act would disrupt the tranquillity forced upon her in a manner most displeasing. Displeasing to whom, she dared not wonder.

    So she worried, and she slept, and she woke briefly to eat, and to groom Nathrom, and to curse and nurse her wound, and to gaze dully at the horizon until sleep overtakes her once more. And she traveled too, although she had little to no awareness of it, clinging onto the slick horns of the Great Serpent-Ram, traveling whilst her mind wandered elsewhere.

    Nathrom himself wondered little for the days she decided to depart. He could smell her wounds, and danger, and had charted a wide course around the human reefs ahead. Faintly, he would feel the shifting of her toes on his scales, and he would adjust course slightly - she had always knew where to go, where to find their goal.

    And for now, she slept, breathing softly, in a hidden cove.

    Nearby, others awaken. Unlike her, their paths were more sure. Like her, they had their worries. They knew what they were looking for - two monsters united, carving a bloody swath through the North and the East, drawing ever closer to their home. Their uncertainty was this - what to do once they found their mark. As tales became trails, they found less death, and more glimpses and fancy, of sparkling scales and stalwart figures framed in the distant sunlight, and of strange gem-like scales found in well hidden coves. And discussion turned from how to confront two deadly killers, to how to confront these travelers, if at all.

    But the truth remained that a Carnish King had to have fallen for the High King to rise, and other monsters have tried the discreet approaches before, and that for a Serpent-Ram to have survived the Carnish seas, it must be a monstrous beast, indeed. They must make their own measure of the two, to be sure.

    They read the currents and approached the cave carefully. Weapons drawn and readied, out of precaution and experience. Their senses are strong, and they can feel three… no, two presences in the cave. Then one. Then the sea exploded, for he appeared.

    Ah, it is difficult to describe the sight of the Great Serpent-Ram’s scales! At once flat and rounded, uniform and scintillating, iridescent and invincible. As the spray stung the eyes, the scales appear to replace the sky, filling the eyes with their light. These were the legendary scales that brought death to so many! These were the hallmarks of Nathrom!

    But these travelers were ready. They had listened carefully to the tales and songs, and they could have slain him if they so wished. A missing scale, a sharp arrow, a well timed cut, and a deep thrust. It sounds so simple, when put this way… and they did consider it. But no, they readied a different resolution instead, one learnt from the Udyn serpent charmers along the northern coast.

    Jemmi and Alai began a strange dance while the goat-boy chanted*, and it is now Nathrom’s turn to be entranced by this unexpected reaction. Smooth and swift, straight and curling, spinning and leaping, the pair danced and narrated a proposal - they will look into Vyndra’s dreams and find her the path. They were spirit-callers, they explained, and they help those in need.

    Jemmi nearly stumbled when Nathrom snorted and leaned in close, head turning to observe them closely, nose flaring to take in their scent. Alai smiled, and placed his hand upon Nathron’s great nose. There they froze for countless moments. He was the epitome of poise and calmness, and as it turned out, trust. For Nathrom retreated and bleated, and his great head pointed towards the entrance of the cave.

    There, the three travelers entered cautiously. And there, the three travelers found the supine form of the mad huntress, covered in her blood-stained cloak, breathing softly. Against the wall leaned the red trident, and the white of her mask. And beside her, bloody rags, half cleaned and stinking, drying, to be reapplied when she woke.

    Alai could feel it even before he reached Vyndra - it was her dream, a dream more than spirit or fancy, but a dream of sight and the unseen. Whispered questions, of safety and certainty, passed between the companions facing their sleeping target in the flesh. But the answer is now clear - they were here to help, to guide, and perhaps, to learn.

    *beatboxing
     
  2. Terrance888

    Terrance888 Discord Reigns

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    The Maelish brought the ways and tales of the North with them to the East. As they settled and learned the trades and the crafts, they combined their old tales with new means, creating a milieu of experimentation and craftsmenship. Atami's journey had brought him many names, and they all were called over the years, to look upon the workings of their people and to share their own. Maelis would find it hard to believe if it were not for her own eyes, but in a few short years, Maelish grew. Not in size, but in maturity, and in significance. For it became a home away from home for craftsmen and masters across the coast facing away from the land of the Carns, a melting pot of trade and tales.

    Spoiler Accounting and Nomenclature :
    2 Civilization Points on creating a new caste of specialists in their society, the lore-carvers who etch and carve myth and legend onto wood and stone and metal. Skilled craftsmen who specializing in producing increasingly sophisticated and detailed pieces of art.

    The coast between the old Atamite homeland and Maelis becomes known as the Tamimael coast. The many tribes who lived between the shore and stone are collectively called the Mimish, although their cultures are as varied as they are many.

    The son of Atami and Maelis, half-brother to Morvan, was so named: Taevic. Unbeknownst to Atami, his dream-sight passed to his son... but he suspects.

    Spoiler Bonus Art :
    https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/451360497170907148/502707756214648832/image0.jpg Atami and Maelis react to a statue installed by some of their followers.
     
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  3. Jehoshua

    Jehoshua Catholic

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    A Fond Farewell

    -

    "The time is come"

    "Indeed it has... you're still the same as before"

    Halogund wryly smiled to his friend Aeladan, who despite the passing of many years remained the same in outward appearance as he always had as he sat on the knotted stump beneath the shade of the great oaks, his hooves kicking at the leaf litter on the forest floor. A bitter taste lingered on his tongue, for long had the children of Haadulf sojourned in the sacred forest and the Aaruanef were his brothers and dearest friends, yet now was the time come for them to return to the realms of men and see what had become of the Children of Gahad. It was time to leave the forest with all its mysteries and holy spirits behind and see, for the first time, the open sky. And with it the workings of man and man's gods.

    "Why of course"

    Aeladan smiled.

    "For we are of tree and forest, where race of man is of flower and field. Nonetheless whether short of long the span of years matters little before the vastness of infinitude and the eternal cycle in which all must play their part. If its any consolation man has the sweeter share, for your light burns brighter for the brevity of its duration"

    "Always the philosopher brother. I'll miss you"

    Haadulf petted Aeladans head, rustling the hair between his horns fondly as a frown snuck its way onto the Aeranoth's face. Halogund mused that once he looked up to Aeladan as a young child but now that he was a young man the Aaruanef had to look up to look upon his face, for the man now stood over a head taller than his old comrade in crime and childhood adventure.

    "Miss? you have drunk of our chalice have you not, you have only to walk the green road and you shall find us near at hand. You might have grown taller brat, but I can see you are still a child"

    "true".

    Halogund smiles, had indeed learnt much from the currently discontented Horned One. Far and wide he had shown him the secrets of the spirits, of the forest cycles, and of the trees who's leaves even now whispered in the wind. He had tasted of the Salua's sweet nectar and beheld the green road, something even his prophetic father had not yet beheld. Halogund smiled wryly as he mused that while his father taught men to farm, he turned out to become a child of the forest. Perhaps it was because he was of his mothers moiety.

    As he pondered the Aaruanef turned to him, now done with his childish protestations, and intoned solemnly a warning.

    "A great menace shall come upon your family when you leave this sanctuary, so too shall fire and stone pursue you even unto the sundering of the waters and the rising of the burning hills. But do not fall into despair when the hour seems darkest, for we shall guide helpers to your fathers side, you shall learn much of them and they much from you and Father. While their path is not your path, they shall point you to where it is that you should go."

    "Can't you just tell me who that is"

    "Nope, our brother shall point the way, but it shall be His choice on whether to follow the path. Besides you already know who they are, that is if you care to remember."

    "You're incorrigible"

    Aeladan nodded in satisfaction. Halogund frowned. The horned rascal always said such dire omens without any warning, and while he had learned to act somewhat akin to human sensibilities his thought process was still fundamentally strange and alien to mankind's.

    "We accept your compliment" Aeladan said.

    "At least you know your manners. Fathers teaching was not in vain... let us hope that Gahad shall rise again... not that I remember it. Nonetheless I should be going, Father is waiting and I do not wish to be scolded by Mother. Farewell Aeladan my brother, tell everyone I'll miss them too"

    Haolgund was a young child at the time the fire forced his families flight beyond the sea. But still he remembered a city of flowers, the smell of water lillies and the laughter of its people... vanished into smoke and ash. The heat that he felt upon his face even now haunted him, now that he knew what

    Aeladan smiled bitterly.

    "Gahad shall not rise again."

    He said with utter finality

    "but perhaps the passing of the summer fire shall not be eternal. The seed sprouts from the ash with the coming of the rain and so shall we sing of rain that the seeds sown in the blood of our kin may beget strong trees. Travel far brother, for we shall meet again."

    And voices rose up

    And with that he heard the sound of drums, and chanting in the speech of the Aeranath, which like the rolling of stones and gurgling of the waters whispered through the leaves of the forest and shook the earth with its sad lament, yet at the same time, joyful exaltation. For joiyful and sorrowful was the parting of brothers, and joyful and sorrowful was that working which was to be begotten from their song.

    "Farewell!"

    Aeladan smiled as he turned back and waved his hand.

    "And rejoice when the new forest sprouts from the ashes of the old!"

    And he disappeared into the shadows of the wood. To be seen not until the appointed time where that which has been foreseen shall come to pass.

    -

    note 1: Beatboxing is anathema. But the Aeranoth character in question is in Thomas's jurisdiction as part of Alai's party. This story provides an opening for how this second meeting may occur should Thomas choose to avail himself of it.

    note 2: Orders are contingent and dependant on what Anis-Natar does. This reflects that the god sleeps and the forest is primarily reacting to outside incursions [at present] rather than being proactive in prosecuting an agenda or a plan.



    -



    ORDERS

    Should Anis-Natar stay its hand or extend it but a little against the woods.

    Spoiler :

    1 Civilisation Point: In the deep forests the Aenerath sing the green songs and bear its bounty, being fruitful and multiplying. Aeladan whom men call the Horned King is Lord here, though he is but the eldest and most favoured of ELAADI. Here the court of summer and the secret rites of the Aemakim tell the eternal story and walk the green way, and with their living story do the secret villages and tents and civilisation [be that as it may] of the Aenarath take form beyond the prying eyes of humankind. [A court, guards, weapons, workings and makings. A civilisation emerges of those whose kingdom is the forest]

    3 Magic Points: Great and Mighty is Aeladan, Horned King of the Aenarath. His throne is the branch of the oak and his footstool a moss-clad stone, and in his train are many dancers and singers of unremembered songs. Behold the teacher of his adopted fathers son, the firstborn of the god. [Guaranteed emergence of a hero]

    1 Magic Point: The songs of the Aemakim ring out and the forest stirs, from the ashes does it grow anew and to those who come with fire and sword does it give answer, laying them waste beneath gnarled roots. [destroy mass of mundane enemies: ie incursions via anis natar, otherwise to regrowth where scoured by fire - note half points against an Empire for the power manifested is that of a god]


    Should Anis Natar extend its hand in might somewhat against the grove

    Spoiler :

    1 Civilisation Point: In the deep forests the Aenerath sing the green songs and bear its bounty, being fruitful and multiplying. Aeladan whom men call the Horned King is Lord here, though he is but the eldest and most favoured of ELAADI. Here the court of summer and the secret rites of the Aemakim tell the eternal story and walk the green way, and with their living story do the secret villages and tents and civilisation [be that as it may] of the Aenarath take form beyond the prying eyes of humankind. [A court, guards, weapons, workings and makings. The civilisation emerges of those whose kingdom is the forest]

    2 Magic Points: Strange and dreadful are the powers of the Aemakim, mightiest of the Horned Ones. In garb of green leaves and mantled in ancient magics long forgotten from this world they lead the keepers of the grove against those who would put them to the torch [A caste of magicians, to obtain through esoterica what they may not through might - may this serve to build up the "empire" of the Aenerath]

    2 Magic Points: The songs of the Aemakim ring out and the forest stirs, from the ashes does it grow anew and to those who come with fire and sword does it give answer, laying them waste beneath gnarled roots and perhaps their stronghold also. [destroy mass of mundane enemies: ie incursions via anis natar - note half points against an Empire for the power manifested is that of a god. Additionally due to this the magical counterattack may extend into the slave cities, laying this outpost of the enemy waste along with the enemy hosts as the total equivalent value is 4, enough to cast down an empire]


    Should the great and terrible power of Anis-Natar be turned in force against the Forest

    Spoiler :

    1 Civilisation Point: In the deep forests the Aenerath sing the green songs and bear its bounty, being fruitful and multiplying. Aeladan whom men call the Horned King is Lord here, though he is but the eldest and most favoured of ELAADI. Here the court of summer and the secret rites of the Aemakim tell the eternal story and walk the green way, and with their story do the secret villages and tents and civilisation [be that as it may] of the Aenarath take form beyond the prying eyes of humankind. [A court, guards, weapons, workings and makings. The civilisation emerges of those whose kingdom is the forest]

    4 Magic Points: The fires burn, and the god stirs in his slumber not yet awake yet perhaps, for a moment, not quite asleep either. And lo is his divine wrath terrible to behold laying waste the armies of men and ruin their cities. The sacred forest sprouts from ash and field in but an instant and men become transfigured into oaks, and beech and stranger trees sparing only perhaps a few favoured of the green wheel or bearing the great favour of the enemy. [Lay waste the armies of anis natar who dare strike the woods, and the slave cities also as the forest devours them and all becomes one with the green. Yet not the Empire proper for the power of the god does not yet extend so far or so deep into the realm of the enemy - Note double points against the empire, hence equivalent to 8 points magic usage ;) ].
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2018
  4. Lord_Iggy

    Lord_Iggy Tsesk'ihe

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    I talked to Thomas and he considered that Alai and Jemmi would meet Haadulf in one of the offshore groves, in which case I can very easily edit my story to change where the naioune led us, without changing any other important details.
     
  5. Jehoshua

    Jehoshua Catholic

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    Alright, it should be fine in terms of harmonisation of timelines. The second story [of the ones I wrote this turn] can just be chronologically the latest out of the three and it would still work out in the grand narrative of things. I would just need to delete the explicit and unambiguous reference to Halogund eavesdropping on Alai in the first story as the actual meeting would occur when he is near adulthood rather than when he is a young child [which is the case in that tale]
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2018
  6. Lord_Iggy

    Lord_Iggy Tsesk'ihe

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    Well I was also considering that Halogund, might be spending time away from his family (he is old enough at this point that he has seven younger living siblings), so his activities needn't line up with Halid and Haadulf's. I didn't explicitly say if he was present or not at the end of my story.
     
  7. Jehoshua

    Jehoshua Catholic

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    certainly one would expect that to happen. That said ret-conning the earlier story so it happens when he's a de-facto adult would be a pain. Its easier to just delete the explicit reference altogether since it doesn't effect the veracity of the narrative.
     
  8. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

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    Great, great, great stories.

    The deadline is upon us. I will give the weekend, and perhaps a few days more, for those of you still working to continue stories and spend points. We've filled in quite a few gaps now, but I'd prefer not to raise a wall in haste to come crumbling down in the night on my family. Can you imagine the sounds, the masonry dust filling the air and your eyes, and above all the narrowing terror, that shrinks your perception to that tunnel of need, of such great fear as you stumble over the clattering bricks? Are they alive? Are they alive?
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2018
  9. thomas.berubeg

    thomas.berubeg Wandering the World

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    And from the bricks crawl one, two, a dozen, a hundred, a hundred thousand spiders spun from the shadows and the screams of your family.
     
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  10. ork75

    ork75 Chieftain

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    Apologies, so incredibly busy
     
  11. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

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    Some people have asked me for more information on the backstory of the world. I suppose I can indulge. Some of the Carnish tribes believe that a special god created beer, because it gives rise to so many magical thoughts. It ferments and bubbles forth, and just like life itself, a death and a rotting of things, a uselessness, a failure, gives forth to joy and pleasure and so much more. Of course, like most Carnish gods, it rewards strength and punishes weakness. It makes you a better man, or woman, for a price. You know, the hangover.

    Have you ever poured yourself a tall glass of beer, but intemperately, right down the middle rather than carefully down the side like you should? Well, the entire glass fills up with bubbles, with only a thin layer of beer at the bottom, which slowly expands as the bubbles pop and their corpses reliquify. But consider that glass, now, as the foam rises. Consider how many tiny little bubbles there are inside, piled and piled up on top of one another. Squint, and look at the froth. You’ve just created countless thousands! Then imagine the world of the bubble, as it sees itself. If it was sentient. The vast majority of these bubbles exist, floating on their comrades, others floating atop and around them. For them, their world is bubbles. They would know nothing of the air above, the beer below, the glass beyond countless thousands of other bubbles. All they would know, all they could ever know, is the white world of the froth. And if someone tried to explain something so vastly different to them as air, or glass, or beer, they would utterly fail to comprehend it.

    Except for those few that lie on the fringe, close enough to grasp what vast utter differentness lies beyond their comfortable froth. But you see, those bubbles are the ones most likely to pop.

    I hope that clarifies.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2018
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  12. TheMeanestGuest

    TheMeanestGuest Chieftain

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    To Draum

    They followed him through the winds and across the snow, keeping the trail. Two tall-legged bears, gaunt with hunger, their coats a dull greyish-white and hard to see through the flurried gusts. Their need was maddening, but still their fear surpassed it. The pull of the rope had worn his hands down to their very bones, a mess of frozen blood and pulp, hauling at that impossible weight. He was unconcerned; he had suffered far worse. The mercy of Shadur was a wasted and hidden thing. Even with great toil and torment he might never earn it, and it was this thought that consumed him. So he pulled on the rope, and he pulled, dragging, dragging.

    Ibba had failed, and punishment was his only due. They had stood against the Stag, and all their killing prowess had been as nothing, and its power was their ruin. Its antler had pierced him through his breast, and he was thrown aside as a ragdoll, left to lie on the ground as his zemmi died around him. Hyric saved him then, heaving him up onto his shoulder. Favoured Hyric; father’s cherished first. Ibba burned with shame and rage.

    So he went north, far across the barren tundra. To the very edge of the plain of terror where it met the grinding ice. His master desired, and the desires of the obelisk cannot be denied. Towering bergs scraped against each other slowly, tearing up that forgotten jagged sea. Booms and crashes echoed in the distance across endless sheets of white. Ibba was a killer, and he had been sent to kill. He called on the northern wind - so very strong in this place - and he balled it up into a fist. A blow upon the ice, and cracks forming. Another, and geysers of salt brine shot into the air, freezing before they came back down. One more, and a hole was staved down into the black. Beneath dwelt the ancient Syyag, and with it all its ancient memories; a priceless prize. He dove down into the frigid deep, two hatchets of sharpest black flint gripped tight and tied.

    Down, down, down. To the lightless pit of Draum. He waited there, quiet, as cold water chilled his bones. He charmed a tiny orb of moonlight to float beside, a pinprick in the gloom, an irresistible lure. An hour passed, and then one more, but he knew that it would come. A sound far off, a hateful sigh, the memory of old and crashing waves. A dark and coiling presence twined itself around - a thousand gnashing teeth, a hundred sightless staring eyes. It said nothing, and neither did he. There was nothing to say. Danger and dread swirled in the currents about him. But there was so much anger in Ibba, bitter and stale, and it would be contained no longer. The Syyag struck furst, lashing out with sharp tendrils thick around and tall as trees. A glower lurked in Ibba’s eyes, the better to see. He moved in strange ways, not where he should be, and even the long Syyag couldn’t pin him in place. Moon’s light flared in the deep, a burst of sudden power, and the Syyag groaned as it burned. Ibba shot forward, strong kicks driving him through the water, the edges of his axes before him. Hacking at its scales and flesh he dug his way within, tearing through the guts of the beast, pale blue ichor clouding the water. It trembled and twisted, keening. Ibba cut his way out the other side, and the Syyag was still. His shoulders heaved, a knot of fury still lurking in his belly, always so slow to leak away from him. He tied ten strong lines with shaking fingers, and he hauled it dead up from the depths.

    He bore it across the tundra, hundreds of leagues, straining. The sun never rose, and so it never set. He knew not how long he’d walked, and the bears had given up long ago. The fire of his anger had dwindled, and soon all that would be left was the bitterness of winter. His limbs moved slowly, his flesh freezing through. He was so very cold, but still he endured.

    SHADUR struck him then, driving him down to his knees.

    You know nothing of COLD, Ibba.

    Ibba’s head was wrenched to look up at the sky, to behold the moon.

    They took the written words of their philosophers, and they built a pyre from it. “To get that furnace lit,” he said, the words rolling from his tongue unbidden as the monolith pressed down upon him.

    They took the church’s veils, and wove a mighty sail. “To carry forth their ships,”

    THERE WAS NO HOPE IN THIS

    And SHADUR was before him, stretching up to the sky, its crown of storms raging against the vault of heaven, stronger now than ever he’d seen before. Ibba let go the rope, and steam began to waft from the great bulk of his delivered burden. SHADUR reached down, the warm and gentle touch of a proud father’s hand upon his brow. One more task, one more trial, and he would be redeemed.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2018
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  13. inthesomeday

    inthesomeday Immortan

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    Golmorod dreamed. His eyes did not open, but he could see, for his eyelids were melted from his face by the inferno. It engulfed him, closing in on every side. It surrounded him. He screamed, but there was no sound, for his lungs were smothered in smoke. He ran, but he could not move, for the ground beneath his feet was churning, turning over and over and flowing like liquid under the scorching heat of the flame. All he could do was look, and so he did.


    He searched up, higher and higher, as the pillar of fire advanced into the sky. At last, he found it: towering over him, over all the land of the continent, was an eye. It pierced the world, leering down at men and horses like ants through the feeble cover of the cloud. From it tumbled a mountain of fire, a spilling river of tar and tinder that slowly and surely consumed everything it could reach.


    Then, in an instant, the fire was gone. Darkness replaced it; a scream rose up in the air, somehow both rhythmic and chaotic. He turned all around, trying desperately to identify its source. Again, he looked up, and there he saw another pillar, this one made from something even more horrific than the last: faces, trapped in ether, overcoming one another in a desperate bid to be heard, chained to a swiveling tower of energy, reaching eternally higher into the heavens.


    Finally, his dream shifted again, one last time. And now, Golmorod was surrounded in all directions by something truly inconceivable, that was somehow less possible than a world choked by darkness or fire. It was a river, stretching as far as he could see, in every direction, but unlike any he had seen before: it was still. In the distance, Golmorod spotted a canoe, steadily approaching him. As it drew nearer, he realized that it was no canoe. It was larger, monstrously larger, forged not of a single tree but surely dozens, or hundreds. Mounted on its mast were the antlers of a mighty deer, and Golmorod almost recognized them.


    Then the monster-ship spat out a man, who landed on a rock that rose from the water at the perfect moment. His skin was paler than any man Golmorod had seen before, and as he smiled, one tooth shone like the sun. He bowed to Golmorod, and when his mouth opened, his speaking was muffled, and alien; then he drew a sword from his belt and presented it to Golmorod. The latter took it by the handle, the material light in his hand and yet powerful at the same time. It whispered to him, and called him names that were great and terrible: conqueror, and king, and a title Golmorod had never heard before. Its whisper grew, until it was as loud as a regular speaking voice, and then Golmorod awoke.



    “We are here.”


    In the few years since the bargain, Golmorod had come to accept the wooden masks as much as he could, but still he found himself frightened when he was pulled from a dream to confront one immediately. Staring down at him was an expressionless visage, a slab of wood whittled and polished into a sheer surface and oiled with the fat of sacrificed forest creatures. Only two slits for eyes betrayed its wearer: the piercing green of Everach, the messenger of the horned god. Everach was kneeling to Golmorod’s sleeping body; if he had wanted to, surely he could have slit the prince’s throat as he slept. Luckily, his master saw value in Golmorod yet.


    It was pitch black. Golmorod slowly rose to his feet, Everach rising with him and then walking lazily to the tent flap.


    “Come, I wish to show you the past—our destination thus far. There, we must meet with a harbinger of the future.”


    Everach led Golmorod to a clearing where Virageg, Unasht, and two of the King’s favored apprentices (both young men whose manhood had only recently been affirmed) were already assembled. All four seemed to be quite as tired as Golmorod, who was still wiping the sleep from his eyes, digesting the contents of his dream. Everach, however, was wide awake, as seemed to always be the case.


    “Each of you, take one of these,” said Everach in his typically cold voice. From his cloak he produced five masks, and a flask of oil.


    The men complied, silently. Virageg was certainly the most alert of the five, his eyes already sharpening into the darkness. His mask left just enough room for them, gray and wolfish, to peer at his agitator. Once the masks were oiled, Everach turned, wordlessly, and set off into the trees. The other five followed, careful to avoid tripping on the knotted branches, their path illuminated only by the light of a tilted crescent moon. As they walked, Everach spoke, sparingly and occasionally, telling them of his mission tonight.


    “I consulted the horn-god tonight, under the moon. He sang directions to me. They led me to the edge, and this is our destination. There we must wait for our next deliverance.”


    “What edge?” Virageg asked.


    Everach did not answer.


    As the party advanced through the trees, the air began to hang thicker and thicker with a certain smell, a sway that Golmorod had never felt before. It had, of course, been more than a decade since Golmorod tasted the wind of the plains, so perhaps these were them, and he simply failed to recognize them. Indeed, as they mounted the hill, a smell with only the faintest imprint on his memory dawned on him again, and as he struggled to make the memory specific, a plain came to mind: dusty, boundless, and pristinely white. The scent was that of salt.



    Golmorod looked at his father. The scarred and wrinkled face of a King led the party as the briefest inklings of dawn began to light the sky ahead of them. At the age of 46, Virageg had already outlived most of his predecessors, and despite his physical wear and tear his body showed no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Even where the signs of age marked him-- in his shrinking stature, for instance, which decreased as he stooped lower with the weight of rulership-- they were regal in a way, bringing not weakness but wisdom to his personage.


    A moment before the men reached the peak, Everach stopped suddenly. He turned to the others, who stopped with him. Around them, the wind whipped, heavier than Golmorod had felt it, sweeter than he had tasted it, in more than a decade. Blues were joining the night sky, and more overwhelming than anything was the sound: the wind was not whispering as it had in the forest, but crashing thunderously in a vigorous alien cacophony of slamming and pounding.


    “I… should warn you,” said Everach simply. There was, perhaps, the slightest hint of apprehension in his voice. “What we are about to see is unexpected. It is also… in some ways… maddening. Nonetheless, I advise you to remove your masks.”


    This was unwelcome news. Once each man had complied with the order, Everach turned and continued to the top of the hill, stopping there, and leaving each traveller to question their own optimism. One by one they followed him: first the two squires, whose mouths fell open upon cresting the peak; then, Unasht, whose stumbling way brought him to his knees when he reached the top; then, Virageg, tense and thoughtful as he overcame the step; then, finally, Golmorod.


    The last few steps came with a rush of adrenaline as IT came into view. Recognition, too: Golmorod gasped, for he had lived this moment before, hours ago. He had dreamt of this shock. Nonetheless, he was filled with feeling. Terror, awe. Before him, as he climbed, something indescribable drew into his sight. Though his mind would have no word to describe this thing for at least a few more days, it struggled to make sense of this thing, surely from a dream. Golmorod saw the sea.


    Below their feet, the lazily flowering sunlight illuminated the base of their hill. A cliff, of treacherous and fractured stones, was subject to a rotating siege of water. It rushed and smashed against the ground like no river Golmorod had ever seen, and with it came an Eastern Wind with a great and terrible vengeance. It howled, and so did the water, and beyond this cliffside was an endless, fierce, and powerful series of these same waves, back and back forever, always followed by another. It was, indeed, maddening.


    There was perhaps an hour of silence as each of the wonderstruck Oshkum digested this new thing. The cycle of birth, death, and devastation played out in a thousand dramas, the stage an underwater circle, a reel of repetition tedious and yet chaotic. Slowly, the sun crawled up to the horizon, barely reaching over the waterline, but with it came a new understanding: this thing was as beautiful as it was terrible. Pinks and oranges danced on the sparkling thing, jumping into their eyes to dance there too.


    Eventually, Virageg broke the trance. “What is this?”


    Everach answered, hesitantly. “I… do not know, exactly. My master tells me it is known by many names and faiths, but that the powerful people who tame it call it by one: Amúlta. The Past.”


    Another silence followed, and Golmorod saw his father regaining his composure, his mind returning to its typical state of rapid calculation. As Virageg stared down at the water, one of the squires noticed something in the distance, to the periphery of the group’s vantage point.


    “What is that?” called the young man.


    “I believe it is what we’re waiting for,” replied Everach ominously.


    Golmorod struggled to make out a shape: it seemed to be something moving through this water, growing larger and larger as it it approached.


    Once it had grown from a mere speck into a somewhat threatening mass on the horizon, Virageg whistled an order. The men retreated some few metres until they were reasonably behind the hillcrest so as to be concealed from the eyes of the water-beast. Here, they were to gradually fan out to cover more of the landscape, and to keep watch below them until further instruction could be parlayed. Unasht, Golmorod, and the squires complied; the former taking the far south, the prince the spot between, and the apprentices spread out to the north. The King stood at the ready in the centre, producing from his back a bow and arrow. Everach, typically disobedient, replaced his mask and fell to a knee to pray.


    As the group spread out, the shape grew closer. With each lurching advance it gained bulk, and one by one, the party came privy to the understanding that, quite like the ocean lain before them, this thing was beyond the imagination of their earthbound race. It was a ship-- immense and proud, glimmering in some parts and crusted with barnacles that could surely tell tales of their own in others. Such was its vastness: from one side to the other the craft could boast some ten metres in width, and along its spine perhaps forty.


    Though the Oshkum were well familiar with canoes after so many years in the presence of river Naami tribes, not one had lain eyes on a warship of these dimensions before. Nearly as awesome as the ocean itself was the vessel, and Golmorod could not help but recall this same shape from a dream he’d only awoken from just recently. He craned his head to pick out what confirmatory details he could, and soon he found them: heading the mast, pristine even while parting the salty foam of the waves, were two wooden antlers.


    Virageg whistled to either side of his, and Golmorod relayed the whistle to Unasht, on his side. The men were to approach the vessel. It seemed to be heading for a break in the cliff not to far from them, and Virageg seemed to desire at least a closer look. Each of the men complied, Everach the last to do so, rising unsatisfied from his knee. One by one they scoped out a pathway down the treacherous rocks, and by some miracle they all managed to find one. It was difficult going, balancing speed, security, and covertness, but Golmorod knew a hunt was afoot, and in his every limb he felt the tingling awareness of adrenaline catch him where he fell.


    By the time each man had settled in to some stony precipice from which to observe the ship, it began to make land. It sought the shelter of the precise cove around which the Oshkum six were now situated, and once it was anchored, its observers were silent. Golmorod watched as a precession of little men, close enough to bear detail, disembarked on small canoes, much more appropriate-seeming to the thoroughly terrestrial Oshkum knowledge of travel. They all seemed to be wearing precisely the same clothes, oddly, except for one who sat in the back of the grandest canoe, who wore a hat seemingly woven entirely from cowhide.


    Eventually, the sailors-- they numbered twenty or so-- reached the beach, and by this time the sun had risen sturdily above the horizon. Golmorod felt his adrenaline fading, but the sight below was intriguing enough to keep him awake. Rather than igniting a fire, the men poured some from jars concealed under their coats onto wood carried along on the ships. This perplexed Golmorod, as the beach where they had made their camp was surrounded by roots, shrubbery, and even small trees, all of which could easily have made for adequate kindling. Finally, each of the men appeared to be fully covered in ceremonial paint, bleaching them from head to toe pale as salt. Golmorod started when he realized this was their skin.


    He watched as the men produced odd, stringy flesh from their satchels to heat over the fire until his eye was caught by commotion to his north. In a small cave just slightly below him, he noticed first Virageg, furiously shaking his head-- and then Everach, who still wore the wooden mask, pleading with his hands. Though Golmorod could not make out the mens’ words, he watched clear as day as Virageg reached for his bow, only to be stopped by Everach. The King’s eyes bulged and he made the slightest scuffle. This was all the delicate cliff needed, for the resultant dislodging of a small rock imbedded in a crack in the cliffside sparked a series of ever-larger rocks to cascade down the hill.


    Though it did not grow into an avalanche, the commotion was nonetheless loud enough to draw the well-dressed sailor to look in their direction. He stood, and Golmorod saw the men shout to each other. The beach became alive at once, as one by one the men seemed to scramble into their belongings, producing spears, swords, and axes. Virageg, no longer concealing motion or sound, yanked Everach by his robe and thrust him into the air.


    “FIX IT THEN!” he bellowed, and Everach tumbled over the side of the cliff.


    Even the King wasn’t sure what he expected, but it surely wasn’t this. The moment of Everach’s descent seemed to slow instantly, until he seemed to be wading through honey. Halfway down to the ground, he began to turn, and twist in midair, and Golmorod could swear he saw a dozen shapes protrude briefly from the man’s face-- no, from the mask he wore-- until at last, when he hit the ground, he wore the antlers of a stag on his head.


    Once he made contact with the ground, there was something of a boom, and he stood to face the sailors at the beach.


    Everach was not an imposing man, but he spread his arms and spoke, his voice loud and strong, in a tongue these pale men seemed to understand, and it was effective. A few even dropped their spears, but unanimously the reaction was a swift transition from ferocity to feebleness. All but one, that is: the man in the hat seemed taken aback, but his eye was filled with thought, quite the same as all leaders seemed to react when confronted by something like this. There was silence before Everach in the Horned Mask, until at last he-- or it-- spoke again, this time in the Oshkum tongue.


    The voice that came from Everach was songlike, and it chose its words carefully. Indeed, Golmorod wondered if it was really making words at all, or if perhaps he was simply feeling the music how it made sense to his ears. “King Virageg. Come and make council with these seaborne men.”


    Virageg looked on with struggle, and with pride, but also with a pragmatic resolve Golmorod knew well in his father. He stood, to some murmurs from the crowd, and wound his way down the cliff until he at last made groundfall with an impressive stomp upon the sand. He leered up at the Masked Thing before taking a place beside it. He looked next to the man in the hat, who Golmorod now recognized as some sort of chief among these sailors.


    “You two have much to say. Go on and say it-- I have a song to sing elsewhere. I must depart, but beneath this wood visage I shall remember an old music to… join the tongue.”


    And with that, as soon as the stag thing had come, it went again, the horns on Everach’s head shrinking into the mask. He removed it, revealing a clammy, drained face. Almost without skipping a beat, Everach spoke again, twice now: the first for the Oshkum, and the second time for the pale men.


    “Please, make yourselves restful. It shall only take a moment.”


    Some of the sailors took enough ease to gather back around their various campfires, but some four or five stood by their leader as the latter tried to stare menacingly into the much taller eyes of the Oshkum King Virageg. Neither of these men sat, but on the beach beside them, Everach did. There, in the sand, he sang. It was a beautiful sound, full of sorrow and anticipation but in a language Golmorod had never heard before, and as Everach sang, an oddly warming breeze washed in over the cove from the water. When the song was done, there was a feeling of calm on the beach, and Virageg whistled.


    One by one, the remaining four companions fell to the sand and took places beside the King. In all, it seemed their average stood about a head above the tallest of the sailor’s men. The Oshkums’ skin was several shades darker, and their hair longer, thicker, and black, where the sailors’ hair ranged from dark to golden brown to yellow to even bright red. The faces of the Oshkum seemed rounder, but also more jagged, with bones and eyes and noses longer and more pronounced than in their counterparts, where the sailors had narrower faces adorned with softer features. Once the two groups had sized one another up, Virageg spoke.


    “Who are you?”


    Golmorod was startled to hear that, while the pale men had not changed their tongue, he could understand what they were saying clearly as possible. The speaker’s voice had a rhythmic pattern to it, falling forth from his teeth pleasantly.


    “My name is Captain Horovix of Carns.

    I meet you here today beneath the sun,

    And find my sight so stricken with the shape

    Of men so large and boisterous as thee.

    Persuade me, giant King of faraway:

    What threat do pose ye six against a band

    Of sea-tossed scallywags of twenty strong

    Whose mission North is one of righteous sword?”


    At this, the crew behind the Captain let out some bleating laughter, bordering on jeer. Golmorod watched his father warily. Though surely these sun-shy sailors would be no match for Oshkum speed and wit, Captain Horovix had a point: the party were sorely outnumbered, and with reinforcements likely not even awake yet, Golmorod did not like their odds. However, to his welcome surprise, his father smiled instead, then grinned, and then burst into his own laughter. It was merry, and regal, and with it came a softness in the air that further melted it, even more so than Everach’s magic already had. Nonetheless, Golmorod stayed on his toes.


    “None. I mean not to harm you, traveller. Allow me to make myself an introduction: I am Virageg, Great King of the Oshkum. We are indeed from far away, and our journey has brought us across your path. We seek respite from some terrible thing at our backs, north of this place.”


    At this, Golmorod noticed the interest of the pale crowd perk up. Though the Captain made some effort to conceal his own, Virageg noticed this too.


    “Do you know the evil of which I speak?” asked Virageg softly. Here was his kingship: he could negotiate as skillfully as he could ride.


    The Captain was thoughtful, eyeing Virageg closely.


    “Perhaps, ye noble king of Osking men,

    The path we tread shall follow yours restepped.

    My sense of forward reckoning has found,

    Beyond the northern reaches of the sea,

    A thing which whispers foul necrotic words

    Into the minds of sleeping travellers.

    Perhaps our destination is the same

    As Osking feet originate by stride.

    If both our paths depart to fork the past

    Of each the other’s beaten repertoire

    Then surely here today our meeting must

    Be full of bounty, feast and traded lore.”


    Here, Virageg laughed, this time a hearty and victorious one without the front of negotiation. This one, the Captain joined, just as gracefully as Virageg did. And Golmorod met at last his exhaustion, and allowed himself to be taken in the arms of some young Kharnizi lads to a fire, where he ate strange meats and roots from the sea, and drank ale fermented from foreign grain. The rest of the day the Captain and the King set about drawing up maps, telling tales, and dodging faux pas. At some time in the high morning, Virageg sent one of the squires back to camp with special instructions. By noon he had returned among ten other Oshkum soldiers and one horse, which the party led carefully down the cliffside, to the beach.


    Of course the horse was a source of great intrigue to the Kharnizi, who had never seen such a thing before, but Golmorod felt the slightest bit of guilt on his father’s behalf. Since the Bargain, every new horse born to the Oshkum wore a midnight black coat. They were stronger, faster, and more enduring than those born before, and this distinguishing feature made it easy to instantly identify the young generation from the old one. The horse Virageg had ordered the soldiers to bring was an old one, with a white-and-brown stained coat, collected no doubt from the house of a mourning family. And while this was prudent in negotiations with foreigners who did not know the horse-trade, it surely hit the folks back home a bit hard in the one spot where Oshkum bear sentimentality.


    Nonetheless, once everything was settled in place, the spirits of the party were higher than they’d ever been before. When Virageg scaled the mountain again, it was with a set of maps, and with a set of foreign trinkets, and with a new plan for his people: south of this forest, along the coast, they would meet with a new hope, new allies, and a broad new plain to ride. Nothing would stop them now.


    Golmorod looked up, at the same terrible eye as before, twisting and spitting fire onto a bubbling world. He choked, the same sensation he knew before. But something changed course-- something saved him. Saved them all. A shadow washed over the inferno. And atop that shadow was Virageg, weaving and bobbing between the cascading beams of flame. The King took aim, and he fired, an arrow straight and true to pierce the fiery eye. It fell at once into ashes, and all was well in the world.
     
  14. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    10,477
    Location:
    In the desert
    Carns canonically ALL talk in iambic pentameter now.
     
  15. Lord_Iggy

    Lord_Iggy Tsesk'ihe

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2005
    Messages:
    24,511
    Location:
    Yukon
    Haadulf Orders
    1 Point of magic to the acquisition of knowledge of plantlore on behalf of the land and people we encounter.
    1 Point of magic, by dint of inheritance, to the mortal bloodline children of the Green Prophet: Inquisitive Aardulf, Kind Masti, Bold Aarogund and Haadalid, who is yet too young to be discerned.

    2 Points of civilization to teaching and organizing the people who live outside the sphere of the southern flame to strengthen and empower their kindreds, tribes, peoples and nations. These people range from the border tribes of Sommos and Enaios, to the hidden people of the mountains, to the mainland and insular circle cities.
     
  16. thomas.berubeg

    thomas.berubeg Wandering the World

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Messages:
    8,887
    Location:
    Ft. Lauderdale



    Two years on the hunt
    A dripping brushstroke of blood
    Death a miasma

    Two years of despair
    A lengthening trail of hate
    The bright sun obscured

    Closer and closer
    The twin-souled dreamer follows
    To slay the demon

    Two Dueling sleepers
    The hunter becomes hunted
    Arrow pierces dream

    The green wheel turning
    A sleeping god awakens
    So does another

     
  17. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2005
    Messages:
    10,477
    Location:
    In the desert
    I will be in rural Ethiopia for a few days. It would be reasonable to expect the update within a week, hopefully less than a fortnight. Stories written over the weekend will be included. Good luck.
     
  18. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2005
    Messages:
    10,477
    Location:
    In the desert
    The update will take a bit more time, but in the meantime, please enjoy a brief prequel to Update 3 - The Tyranny of Land.

    ---

    All mortal beings with minds must sleep. Even your cat does it, simple dreams, eyes twitching. There are a few humans who gradually lose the ability to dream. Do you know what happens to them? They gradually sicken, and then they go insane, and then they die. Dreams are essential to sentience.

    Shadur has never slept. And it has certainly never dreamed. Or has it always dreamed? Perhaps it's up to you.

    The forest of Amno is as it was. Except that the trees are no longer their swaying, grayish green, but something darker, wine-colored wetness seeping through the frozen humus. A purple aurora shimmers high above the tundra.

    So, you are the cause of all this, says the Mountain, looming on the cold horizon.

    For once, the obelisk is silent, feeling space bend South.

    It was finished, Moag. Our work. You had your silence, and the world my authority. So why have you come back?

    “I do not know you,” says the obelisk, finally. “But. I see you.”

    Hm. What do you see?

    “The ice on your mountains. The darkness in your caves. The emptiness in your regrets.”

    Moag-

    “SHADUR.” A whirlwind of whispers engulfs the obelisk and fades again to silence.

    Very well, Shadur. says the Mountain. Break yourself upon me to your heart’s content, and all your little toys. But first…we have enemies in the forest.

    Shadur rumbles with hatred.

    Good, you can prioritize, says Azzatar. Then you may have this prophecy for free. Neither of us will survive a new war of the gods. So, I propose we cooperate. When they’re dead, we can settle things between us.

    “I will break them all. There is nothing you can offer me.”

    I know how to kill one of our enemies. And you don’t. Give this to one of your servants, then, if you are too proud to do the deed. The wine-blood seeping through the snow freezes into the shape of a jagged amethyst dagger.

    “So great. So wise,” Shadur says spitefully. “But it cannot cover your fear.”

    Funny how similar we are, after all these years. Goodbye, Moag. I'm sorry, Shadur.

    Shadur seethes as the aurora fades, black stars twinkling in an unaltered world. But the petty queen’s offer, condescending as it is, perhaps…perhaps.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
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  19. thomas.berubeg

    thomas.berubeg Wandering the World

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Messages:
    8,887
    Location:
    Ft. Lauderdale
    Alai and Jammie heard the commotion just as they were setting up camp. The priest's trail had gone hotter and hotter, in recent days, and they could almost feel the pull at their souls. The moment they heard the shouts in the distance in the forest, they ran, forgetting everything.


    Just as they reached the edge of the clearing, they heard the distinct twang of a bow-shot, and, just like that, the pull at their essence vanished. There was a small crowd, men and women and strange looking gods, standing over two forms. One, a woman, whose stench of rotting meat on the soul could be identified as the priest, and another, a man, who was just waking. He opened his eyes, and, from across the clearing, Alai’s met his.


    I was falling. Darkness rushed past me, and I fell for longer than I could conceive. Years passed, generations born and grew old and fell in love and died as I fell.


    The water was warm. I floated in it, serene, as small wavelets lapped at his body. In the distance, there was a sound, rushing. The ocean was endless, and curved up into the slate-grey sky all around, a globe of water the size of of the world. A globe where the clouds became the water, and the water the sky.


    The sun shone somewhere in the distance, but the warmth came from the waters.


    I was alone.


    I lay there, softly buoyed, for a thousand years, or a few minutes. The clouds and the waves flowed into one another, a steely grey bubble, and I was content, the kind of content that comes from the deepest of sleeps.


    I was not alone.


    There was something, below. A somnolescent being, a shapeless leviathan. It passed time as I did, and slowly, the eddies moved us, sometimes closer, sometimes further, sometimes closer. It slept, and dreamed, as I dreamed, and slept.


    Languorously, lazily, it moved it’s tentacle, it’s arm, it’s finger, it’s gaze, it’s thought, to me, wrapping me tightly in it’s embrace, pulling me closer.


    The rushing sound came closer.


    Trees all around leaned closer as I drifted on the wind. The sun shone high above, a golden warmth seeping into my bones. The autumn leaves rushed around in an endless spiral, and the moonlight reflected off them, thousands of silver diamonds reflecting in the rain.


    I was alone


    I drifted aimlessly, eternally, surrounded by the spring- green leaves. Far below, the trees quivered, sleeping. The wind rustled their leaves, and the whispered to one another, one long story, a song without end. I the wind pushed me closer to them, and the wind pushed them closer to me, and they reached out with a branch, an arm, a finger, a gaze, a thought, wrapping me tightly in it’s embrace, pulling me closer.


    The sands whispered to the starry skies, and the stars danced with the sand eddies. It was flat, and I stood alone, nothing for the eye to see but the stars, and, far away, farther than the eye could see, mountains.


    In the distance, there was a rushing sound.


    The milky road of the stars traced a clear line in the sky, and I could see people moving along the astral trail.


    It was cold, and the warmth of the sun heated my bones. I walked for nights, feeling no thirst, no hunger, no exhaustion. The stars guided my way, and the sun never shone, the moon never lessened the stars, but my shadow was at my side.


    It held at my legs, pulling at me, grasping, gesturing, until the wind whipped sand eroded it away, and with it, my fears.


    And yet, it was still there as I walked. I could see it from the corner of my eyes, lurking behind a dune, darting into my blind spot. It was every rabbit, every fox, every lizard. I walked, and walked, and I could feel myself grow lighter and lighter as the mountains came closer.


    It was not a mountain, I saw, but rather the reclining form of skeleton. It’s grinning skull shone silver in the starlight, and it's bleached ribs reached pleadingly to the heavens. I saw that the path of the stars ended between its raised knees. A thousand souls moved to and fro, on countless errands across the sky.


    Slowly, the Giant turned it’s head me, and even more slowly, it opened its eyes. It’s eyes were green, and I could see rushing circles of leaves around pupils. It raised a leafy hand to me, and it’s finger touched my forehead.


    There was a scream. It might have been mine, or that of the spectral messengers, or the giant, or Jammies, or...


    I awoke.


    I knew.


    A man kneeled over Alai, concern warring with confusion on his face as he checked him over. Alai gasped, and grasped at the man’s collar. “I know.” he whispered. “I know the shadowed flame and chained flame and the moonlit corpse and the moonlight copse. I know the dreamers and the circle of leaves. I know..."
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2018 at 1:29 PM
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  20. thomas.berubeg

    thomas.berubeg Wandering the World

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    Messages:
    8,887
    Location:
    Ft. Lauderdale
    The sacred groves where Jammi and Alai had rested for the better part of three years were fading into the haze of memory and a sunlit morning. The air was brisk, and the forests were starting to color with the shades of autumn. The road to the north end of the Island would be long, and cold, but that was nothing new for the pair.

    Still, it was strange for them to be back on the road, more so for Alai than Jammi, who had taken the occasional trip in the past year, as stories of particular wild gods or unhappy spirits had penetrated the groves.

    “We should try to make as much road today as we can.” Jammi said. Alai nodded, glancing back at the receding green line of the forest.

    “I’m going to miss them.”

    “Me too.” Jammi nodded, stepping carefully over a loose rock.

    Alai paused. “I know you didn’t want to worry Hadulf, but...”

    “But you want to know what happened on my last trip south.” Jammi had been called to the south by dreams of shattered stone and raucous tones, dreams of amethyst light and coruscating flames. When she had mentioned her dreams at breakfast, the next morning, Haadulf had broken the wooden mug he held. Though he had not said a word about it, Jammie and Alai had heard the stories of the holocaust of leaves. Jammie had left that very afternoon, pack full of food and the tools of her trade.

    “Yeah.”

    Jammi Sighed, and looked out over the edge of the high ridge along which they walked, towards the distant glimmer of the ocean.

    “It was a real adventure, like the ones I used to dream about, before. The ship that was taking me south had been beset by pirates with yellow sails, and I was captured, taken to the dead-cities in the south.”

    This she had told before, to a crowd of wide-eyed and breathless children, leaning close to a fire.

    “All had seemed lost. I despaired, as the sailors who had been taken with me disappeared one by one. Taken to be sacrificed, I was sure, as that’s what the breath of the wooden-masked priests whispered when no one was listening.

    Finally, as the days grew longer and longer, a rat-god, not quite a creature of the city, and not quite one of the wilds, slipped into my prison. I whispered to it, gave it some food. Every night it came, for a week, and eventually it asked me for a name. I named it, and in naming it, it shaped itself.”

    She laughed, as Alai stumbled pulling himself up over a fallen log, before continuing.

    “It thanked me by gnawing through my chains, and then gnawing a rat-hole in the wall for her. I slipped out, dodging patrols and worse.”

    This is normally ended the story, an exciting tale of daring do, and if one of the children asked for more, she always told them that that would be for another night.

    This time, though, she continued. “I wanted to come home,” she said, “But the dreams hadn’t stopped. If anything, they were more insistent. I dreamed of a ship, wreathed in purple flame.”

    “And from below it’s decks echoed a chorus of voices.” Alai completed.

    Jammi nodded.

    "I've seen it in my dreams too, coming ever closer." Alai added.

    Jammi continued “So I traveled even further south, to where the water started going north again, and, there, found it. A bridge of dead stone, wide enough for a dozen men to walk side by side, and with nothing growing on it. When I touched it, I could feel the heat trapped within. I knew that nothing would ever grow on it, I knew it was wrong. A few gods lived in the cracks in the stone, but they were illformed, twisted, and broken, seven legged insects, scorched mice, a turpid pool of water. For a time, I tried to help them. They didn’t like that.” She touched a faint scar on her right hand, a star-shaped bite mark. So I sat where the death met life, and played music, blowing in the bone-flute and tapping my feet to the rhythms of the world. And something answered, though I never saw what it was. Some deep-water god, I think, angered by the land that divided it’s territory, and following my song to it’s end. I saw a great wave in the distance, which crashed against the stone-bridge with such strength that it washed away entirely. I stayed there for a while, to make sure, but the bridge was gone, didn’t come back.”

    “You think that the Flame made the bridge.” Alai paused. “To find Haadulf.”

    Jammie nodded.

    “There’s Shadur to the North, the Flame to the south. Is our island to be Sanctuary, beset on all sides?” Alai sighed. “We need to move faster. Get north, to the Dreamers.”

    “You haven’t told me who these dreamers are.”

    “I forget how often you were gone. I missed you, Jammi." He smiled. "Do you remember, back in the village we met, people talking about sleepers?”

    “Yes...?” Jammie paused. “Oh. Them. They’re connected with you?”

    “With us.”

    “Us? What do you mean?”

    “I meant to tell you earlier, but... never found the right time.”

    Jammie stopped walking, “What is it?”

    Alai sighed again, kicking at a loose stone. “You haven’t really aged, Jammi.”

    “What do you mean? I’m a woman grown.”

    “Sure, you aren’t the sixteen year old girl that left with father and me to be an Umaki... And i’m not an eighteen year old boy. You are a woman, I am a man... but neither of us look our years.”

    Jammi touched her face. “I don’t understand what you mean.”

    “You look barely twenty. How old do I look, do you think?”

    “Well, the beard ages you... But twenty five, at most.” Jammi admitted.

    “Whatever I am, you are too.” Alai smilled. “Haadulf saw it first, but he mentioned it. You are as much a part of what I am as I am a part of what you are.”

    “How, though?”

    Alai shrugged. “I don’t know, really. Maybe the awoken dreamers will have an answer. I can guess, maybe, when we slept together long ago... I don’t remember, but I think that’s the first time I dreamed. Maybe something that was too big to fit within me fills you now.”

    Jammi playfully punched him. “I don’t remember you being that impressive.”

    Alai rolled his eyes. “Well, it was my first time. Can’t expect me to be perfect first time around.” He laughed “Something Haadulf said, though, resonated with me. We’re a twin-souled being, two parts of a whole. It’s why you can also see the gods, why they speak to you as well. It makes sense, I think...”

    A rock clattered somewhere nearby. Jammi raised a finger to her lips, shushing Alai. She drew her bow, an arrow pointed loosely towards where the sound had come. Alai slipped to the side, drawing the small bone dagger he carried, fading to the shadows. Softly he moved towards the sound, slipping from shadow to shadow, as Jammi presented a target, swinging the point of the arrow to and fro.

    Alai closed on a particularly dense patch of shrubbery and boulders. With one movement, he dove forward, and pulled a struggling figure out.

    As he saw who the figure was, though, he relaxed, slipping the dagger back into the loop on his belt.

    “Ghalaenar!” He snarled, scolding. “What are you doing here? Your mother will be worried sick.”

    “I’m nearly eighteen! I’m old enough to be out in the world, helping! Like you do! In all your stories.” The figure picked himself off the ground indignantly. He was tall, with legs of fur, and nut brown skin beneath a woven vine-vest and, poking from his tightly curling hair, small equally curling horns.

    “Len.” Jammie said. “Did you at least tell your mother?”

    The young man had the grace to look abashed. “No... But the king knows!”

    “He does?”

    “Well... he told me directly, last week, that you would be leaving soon, and that you would need friends out there.”

    “Len!” Alai sighed, rubbing the back of his head. “Len...”

    “Please! I can help!” The young man interrupted pleading. “I want to learn to be an Umaki. I want to take those skills back to my people, teach them, as you teach me. And, besides, you let Jammi come with you when she was younger than me!”

    “But Jammi didn’t have someone worried for them.”

    “Please! Please! I’ll do anything!”

    Alai sighed “We’re in a hurry to reach the dreamers... but once we’ve gotten there, you’re going right back to your mother. If she agrees, and I doubt she will, you can come with us.”

    “Oh, thank you!” Ghaelanar exclaimed. “This way! We need to go this way. The Dreamers are this way.” He charged forward, down the trail.

    Alai shared a look with Jammie, and together, they followed.
     

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