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Very Hot Topic (More than 25 Replies) Group Story (Fantasy) (Read 21,324 times)
Darwinist
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Re: Gonna try this again: Group Story
Reply #20 - Feb 19th, 2013 at 11:15am
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S'Hulm was on a north-facing balcony of his manse when his physician found him leaning upon the railing, looking outward, a silver cup of iced water dangling carelessly from his hand, a nude, bald eunuch kneeling beside him on the marble deck, still as a statue with a large crystal pitcher frosted with cold beside him.

The view from this balcony was no better than from the manse's many others; in fact, the view was spectacular from all the balconies. To the south were high basalt cliffs above a tossing sea, the same cliffs the manse sat upon; to the west were his family's cool, shady game forests stocked with deer, elk, wingless forest birds as tall as a man, bears, and an active pack of the stuff of nightmares, mistcats, cooperative social hunters like lions but for the deep forest not the savannah, only two-thirds as big but twice as tough, gray instead of tawny, and the reason wolves were extinct in this region. Three leagues away to the east, past the trees and across a glittering azure bay, could be seen a long curving limb of the rich merchant quarter and the port of Qaharredekh, slicing into the sea upon a narrow spit of land shaped like a scimitar blade. The view north offered a vista of long obsessively manicured grassy lawns dotted with decorative topiaries shaped into animals, castles and exotic freeform shapes, pools of salt water stocked daily with colorful fish and crustaceans from the ocean, fresh-water fountains made from white and black marble and pink-crystal, and a hundred beds of gaudy flowers, all being cut through with gracefully arcing gravel paths dotted with wooden benches beside which brightly-feathered birds sang lustily from cages on posts with little bags of seed, so that resting walkers might feed them should they choose. S'Hulm preferred this balcony because the northern exposure made it cooler than most, and the late afternoon breezes played across him as he sipped and thought.

He breathed the warm, flower-perfumed air and drank from his cup, thinking. The slowly setting sun gave the side of his clean-shaven, narrow face a golden glow and shot his long, black, bound hair through with corruscating highlights. Without turning he addressed the physician standing respectfully behind and somewhat to the right of him. "What news of my niece, slave?" Then he added as an afterthought, "And the others?"

The physician replied, "Worthy Eminence, the status of Her Glory your niece, and of the dozen other similarly-afflicted young women gathered from Qaharredekh, remains unchanged, aside from the natural progression of their condition."

S'Hulm absorbed this and chuckled. "Natural, you say?" he asked brittlely. He drained his cup and held it out. Silently the eunuch raised the pitcher and refilled it. S'Hulm turned and put his backside against the balustrade. He was dressed in a robe of flowing black silk with seams and cuffs trimmed in creamy mink. Upon his left breast his personal heraldry was displayed, a white full moon partially occluded by gray clouds limned and lit from within by orange lightning above the pale silhouette of a galloping horse, dexter, all within a thin coppery circle. Several rings set with gems fit to buy a city or ransom a king sparkled on S'Hulm's left hand, while his right was unadorned but for a single gold signet ring upon the first finger. Upon his feet, rich silken slippers. Around his waist was a wide belt of leather interwoven with silk ribbons of rainbow colors, scarlet, emerald, saffron, white, violet, sea-blue; from the belt, a bluntly functional poignard in a plain steel scabbard rested diagonally athwart his right hip. S'Hulm's signeted forefinger lazily traced a design upon the roundel set into the poignard's hilt as he fixed chestnut-colored eyes upon the physician whose own were properly focused on a spot just beyond his sandaled toes. "Exactly what," S'Hulm asked soft as velvet, "Is ... 'natural' about pregnancy without knowledge of a man?"

The physician stiffened slightly within his plain incarnadine robe, and he murmured, "Please forgive this foolish old man, Worthy Eminence. Under the circumstances my choice of words was ill-advised. Of course I should have said the progress of the condition of Her Glory your niece, and that of the other young women, mirrors the progress of a natural pregnancy."

S'Hulm quaffed from his cup and held it forth again, its surface fogged with condensation. Without ever leaving his knees, the eunuch shifted position with the grace of a serpent to reach and refill the cup, then flowed back to his place, set down the pitcher, and resumed his stony stillness. S'Hulm said, "Yes, well, I suppose that's not the worst news I could receive. And the Great Mare has been informed." It was not a question.

The physician bowed slightly, his hands stacked left above right, just below his heart. "Even now, Worthy Eminence."

"Then return to your collocate of potioners, leechers and bone-cutters. Inform me immediately if the slightest irregularity manifests." The physician bowed and backed away one, two, three, four steps, then with his head still declined, he turned and moved away into the manse.

S'Hulm resumed his vigil over the northern vista. He sipped his water and thought. Late afternoon breezes moved upon his face like the fingertips of an invisible lover, and the sun sank toward the horizon, lingered there, then slipped away. The guard changed, and the evening grew as still as the eunuch beside him.
« Last Edit: Feb 19th, 2013 at 1:00pm by Darwinist »  

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Re: Gonna try this again: Group Story
Reply #21 - Feb 19th, 2013 at 4:06pm
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S'Hulm's mind drifted in the still, quiet evening. Something big was coming, of that he was certain. First had come the reports of strange behavior among the animals. Three herds of cattle had stampeded off of the cliffs into the ocean. Then came the bright light which had lingered in the western sky for three nights, before disappearing. Now there was this incident with the young maidens.

S'Hulm's knuckles whitened as he gripped the balcony. His priests, seers, and magicians were utterly useless! None of them had been able to tell what the signs meant. Worse, none had been able to explain why his own niece was pregnant. S'Hulm was a harsh and stern man, but he had always doted on his niece. He had promised his sister on her deathbed that he would care for her. And now...

His mind went back to the signs that had plagued his land. What could this all mean? He looked up at the stars, in their multitudes. A faithful army of light...

An army. That was it! S'Hulm was certain of it. The signs came from the god of war. It was his time to march his armies to the west and grow the size of his domain. Chuckling to himself, S'Hulm turned to the eunuch.

"Bakkhunna", said he, "I am retiring to my chamber. Have the first minister summon my generals tomorrow morning".
  
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Re: Gonna try this again: Group Story
Reply #22 - Feb 20th, 2013 at 10:35am
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Bakkhunna flowed to a standing position as if immune to gravity. "Worthy Eminence, if this one may speak freely?" His voice, as ever, was reedy, pitched like a little boy's, and incongruous with the man's grave mien.

S'Hulm knew well Bakkhunna had been made a eunuch before puberty; his own father had ordered it as one of three to ten such castrations carried out every fifth year in the palace's medical chambers, castrations which S'Hulm himself continued to order. But these operations were not punishments, nor to supply castrati for the choirs, carolers and minstrels his House employed.

Not for the first time S'Hulm regarded Bakkhunna. Unlike most eunuchs who tended to fleshiness and fat, Bakkhunna and his smoothed brethren were lean with wiry muscles that belied enormous physical strength, and between the lot of them not an ounce of superfluous flesh or a single hair on their bodies. Collectively they were At'khem Qesiq. There was no precise rendering in the common tongue, but an approximate translation was "Death in Plain Sight": the At'khem Qesiq were the personal bodyguards of S'Hulm's family, House Ozek, and under no circumstances was a member of the House ever without at least one in attendance. Bakkhunna had been S'Hulm's personal everyday "attendant" for more than ten years, going everywhere S'Hulm went, sleeping when S'Hulm slept. The At'khem Qesiq were trained to loyalty - in 1600 years not one had ever betrayed his master. S'Hulm trusted Bakkhunna with his life, without reservation, and had come to know the wisdom the eunuch embodied, being privy to everything his master was. Therefore S'Hulm said, "Speak."

"Worthy Eminence, this one understands what it is you see - battles on the horizon, and throats giving vent to the iron tongue of war - and regrets he does not see with the same eyes."

"Go on."

"Indeed, some dark sorcery is afoot. But this one perceives the source as originating from within not without, portentous of nothing which comes from the gods but rather from the shadowed hearts of ordinary men." Bakkhunna bowed deeply.

"A member of the family?"

"This one believes not," the eunuch replied. "But certainly within bowshot of House Ozek."

S'Hulm rubbed his jaw, considering.
« Last Edit: Feb 20th, 2013 at 2:36pm by Darwinist »  

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Re: Gonna try this again: Group Story
Reply #23 - Feb 20th, 2013 at 3:30pm
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This was a problem. S'Hulm was known as a stern, austere man, but he was also known as reasonable. It was not in his nature to carry out the violent raids and wanton executions that had made his father, S'Qarh, feared and despised throughout the whole length of the coast of Andira.

If there was indeed treason afoot, as Bakkhunna suspected, and he knew that Bakkhunna's senses were sharper than the blade of a scimitar, he would have to deal with it delicately.

"Bakkhunna", said S'Hulm, "have you ever heard of the prophetic scroll of House Ozek?" S'Hulm asked this question already knowing the answer.

"This one has never inquired of the secrets of House Ozek", answered Bakkhunna.

S'Hulm nodded and explained: "Many years ago, when my father, S'Qarh, was a child, a merchant arrived at Qaharredekh. This merchant was well practiced in the magical arts, and he carried a scroll, which he read before my great-grandfather, S'Mir, who ruled at the time."

"This scroll", continued S'Hulm in a low voice that was almost a whisper, "told of a group of mages that would rise up and abolish all the kingdoms and lordships of the land. The mages would unite the entire continent of Dy'urjan, from the coast of Andira in the east to the legendary Mountains of Odrek in the far west, from the southern swamps of Glyssdal to the frozen northern valleys of Ydravis".

S'Hulm walked right up to Bakkhunna and said, in a barely audible whisper, "I believe the treason you sense and the events of this prophecy are one and the same." Then he added with decision, "and I will defeat it."
  
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Re: Gonna try this again: Group Story
Reply #24 - Feb 23rd, 2013 at 7:55am
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Volvap was a very wise man; he was the keeper of the secrets of the empire. He knew the secrets of the ancients, secrets that predated everything that was kept in the history books. He was the only man in his entourage that S'Hulm talked to as an equal, with a touch of awe in his voice at times. That is why S'Hulm always saw him in private where he could sound like a novice addressing his mentor without losing any of the respect and even veneration that were expected of his subjects. That is why S'Hulm was now headed on foot and incognito towards Volvaps spartan abode. Volvap never cared for the luxury or the glitter that he could easily have obtained but regarded with contempt along with the company of superficial people, and time wasted in futile pursuits. Right now he was mulling over, as he had done many times before, the last words of his own mentor on his deathbed, and he still couldnt make total sense of them. For a long time he had almost forgotten them, half dismissing them as the ramblings of an old man overcome by senility, but recently these words had resurfaced in his mind, and strange occurrences had given them weight and substance. Could it be? was the fugitive thought that went through his mind for an instant and then his natural skepticism took over. No thats impossible! Insane even! and then he heard a knock at the secret little door that only one man in the realm knew the existence of.
Volvap was addressing Shulm with respect but not the obsequious tone that everyone else had better use lest theyd put their lives in serious danger.
And Shulm valued Volvaps counsel so much that he would sooner have cut off his own arm than thought of harming the old man.
Shulm just watched Volvap in silence, knowing full well, that the latter already knew what he was going to ask.
And before the question was even posed Volvap responded : Eminence, I may have an explanation for the pregnancies
Shulm was waiting with the humility of a school boy.
There is a secret, older than everything that is known in the empire, older than life in this world itself..
Shulm was brimming with questions but didnt dare to interrupt his old mentor.

While making these revelations Volvap was thinking again of the last words of his master: Ships moving through the air coming from the stars themselves seeding this world, making it habitable wars, destruction all over
And then his skepticism took over once again That cant be!

He was looking at the calendar, of which he was the keeper and let out a sigh of dread: A two sun day!

A scorching heat was to be expected
  
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Re: Gonna try this again: Group Story
Reply #25 - Feb 24th, 2013 at 12:39am
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Yscir was a wide man negotiating a very narrow alley, and none too happy about it. He growled at the small man wearing the dirty brown-striped robe leading the way, "Emester, how much farther can it be, damn you?" Emester glanced back over his shoulder with his good eye. "Not far now," he said, grinning through his scraggly black beard. Two of his teeth were missing, three were fashioned from gold, and the rest were stained an unpleasant shade of yellowish-green by kho, a plentiful local grass chewed almost universally for its mild narcotic effects. Yscir did not approve of kho; it dulled the reflexes, and when one lived or died by the sword sharp reflexes meant as much as a sharp blade.

Yscir glowered at the back of Emester's greasy head. Though the only other things visible were decaying plaster walls - if one didn't count the stiffened body of a dead woman they'd had to step across fifty paces back - and a strip of blue sky above, he knew one of Qaharredekh's many bazaars was to their left and nearby, from the bustling sounds of hagglers, whores, street urchins and animals, and the mingled smells of bread, fruit, sex and shit. Several fat, iridescent green flies buzzed in lazy circles ahead. Yscir passed through their orbits, barely noticing them.

Emester pulled up. "And here we are," the small man declared without turning.

Yscir looked past him. "Here we are ... where?" he demanded. "I see nothing but alley." His hand went to the pommel of his blade, and he glanced quickly behind him. Nothing but alley there, too. He returned his attention to Emester just in time to see the small man tap the wall to the right in several places. A rectangular seam appeared in the wall, and the seam deepened, resolving itself in moments into a dark doorway. Now there's a slick trick, Yscir thought.

Emester stepped aside from the doorway and, grinning, motioned extravagantly for Yscir to enter. "You first, I think," said the bigger man.

"Alas, it is not permitted for one such as I to enter this demesne. But fear not, no harm shall come to you."

"As long as I have this --" Yscir patted the hilt of his blade, "There is nothing I fear." He stepped forward and passed into the darkness. As soon as he had done this, the rectangle of light behind him went dark. No surprise there. The blackness lasted but a moment before a weak light appeared before him, seemingly at some distance but it was hard to tell as there were no reference points in the gloom. He kept his hand on his blade but did not draw; no blooded warrior could be frightened of the dark.

It seeming the thing to do, Yscir began walking toward the light, and noticed immediately two things: that he made no sound as he stepped, and that he was approaching the light more quickly than he should. So then, it comes to me as I come to it. It was also getting brighter. Within another dozen steps the light had reached him. It was another doorway, egg-shaped, opening onto a garden. Yscir passed through the door. He turned back, expecting to see the passage had vanished, but it remained. Its appearance on this side was that of a cave mouth surrounded by bushy greenery. He faced the garden once more. It was boisterous with colors of every hue, red, pinks, blues and purples in the many flowerbeds, orange, green and yellow globular fruits hanging in a small grove of white-leafed dwarf trees unfamiliar to him, grass a green like no other he had ever seen. He looked up and was startled to see the sky was a pale lavender color, with gauzy clouds of paler gray-blue.

"It is not often we see red hair here."

Yscir looked toward the voice. Its owner had apparently stepped out from behind the grove of dwarf trees. He was tall, somewhat shorter than the trees but slightly taller than Yscir who was himself near seven feet, unusual enough of itself but the man's skin was an impossible shade of deep red, his clean-shaven triangular face criss-crossed with the fine lines of snow-white tattoos forming loops, arcs, and circles, and his eyes were as green as the finest jade. His hair was as white as his tattoos; worn loose, it hung halfway to his waist. He was dressed in a cinnamon-colored tunic and long breeches of strange cut, with beaded slippers of yellow leather upon his feet. Over his right shoulder he wore a garnet-studded white sash, which ended with a rapier in a silver scabbard upon his left hip.

Quicker than thought, Yscir's blade was in his hand. He swung it in figure-8 circles before him. The red man's eyes widened and he smiled a little. "A chain-sword," he marvelled. "We see far fewer of their like here. To dare wield such a weapon requires-- well, you must be quite skillful."

Yscir grinned whitely through his red beard, his gray eyes like flint shards in his weathered brown face. "Enough, I suppose," he said. "What is this place, and are you he whom I was charged to meet with?"

The red man declined his head slightly, looked up again. He said, "This is my home. And yes, I believe I am the one you were sent to seek. Please, I invite you to my domicile which is close by. Let us share wine together, and bread and cheese while we discuss our matters. Please, put your steel away. And call me Stormheir."
« Last Edit: Feb 25th, 2013 at 11:21am by Darwinist »  

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Re: Gonna try this again: Group Story
Reply #26 - Feb 25th, 2013 at 10:31am
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Yscir was somewhat apprehensive. "I am not a suspicious man", he began, "but if you are indeed who you say you are, then you will understand..."

Stormheir chucked. "You wish proof that I am a brother, right?", he asked. "I would do the same", he added, reaching into his tunic. Stormheir produced a silver disc slightly larger than the palm of a man's hand. Inscribed on the disc was a triangle connecting the Sun, Moon, and a star, with the image of a crown and scepter in the center.

Yscir nodded and presented his own disc. "So", said he, "shall we get down to business?"

They walked towards another small passage, which led to Stormheir's home. They sat at a round table adorned with fresh bread and a bottle of wine pressed from Stormheir's own vineyard. As Yscir took a sip of wine, Stormheir began his explanation.

"You have no doubt heard of the strange omens which are being reported throughout the land. The Supreme Guildmaster feels that these omens are The Sign". Yscir's hand froze halfway to his mouth at these words.

"The mages have revealed themselves?", he asked in awe.

"They have not", answered Stormheir. "But the Guild is expecting them at any moment, and prepared to join in their struggle when they do". As he spoke these last words, Stormheir's eyes shone with a sharp determination.

As Stormheir and Yscir pondered the future with excitement, Volvap stared at his cards with dread.

"What does it mean", asked S'Hulm, his voice a mix of impatience and wonder. Volvap was unable to answer. On the table before him were the three cards he had drawn: Helios, Luna, and Hermes.

Volvap was finally able to speak in a barely audible whisper. "They are risen", he said.
  
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Re: Gonna try this again: Group Story
Reply #27 - Feb 25th, 2013 at 12:32pm
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S'Hulm was looking at his mentor with an expression that betrayed the shock and the disbelief that he was feeling. After a long silence spent digesting the stunning explanation that the old man has just told him he started speaking in a slow and prudent manner trying to make sense of things as he was restating them. So the ancients the ones that were here in the beginning they had the power to change their own nature.. Eminence Said Volvap helping his liege along. And so they implanted all these hidden powers in us? Exactly. Said Volvap, happy to see that SHulm was catching on. Now Volvap was able to talk in a less cautious tone as if he had unlocked a blocking mechanism inside of himself. You see, Eminence, they were preparing for the worst. SHulm now continued with more assurance yet he still couldnt believe it as he was stating it. So my niece and these other women are pregnant of This time he needed help to say the last part and so Volvap said it for him copies of themselves. But why? They thought it would increase our chances of survival if a catastrophe were to befall us. Volvap now stayed silent for a long time, waiting for SHulm to absorb the news. And so youre saying that something inside their bodies received a sign of sort that such a catastrophe was imminent? And with an ominous tone Volvap said Unfortunately that only confirms the other signs that Ive recognized myself
Something bad is going to happen, continued Volvap with a determined yet anxious tone in his voice Something that could mean then end of our society, of everything, maybe the end of man in this world.

A long and tense silence ensued.
  
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Re: Group Story
Reply #28 - Feb 27th, 2013 at 9:33am
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Volvap finally broke the silence. "There is one possible hope, Eminence." As he spoke, Volvap turned the matter over in his mind. Could it really be? Everything seemed to point in that direction: the ancient scroll, the notes of his mentor Geldheim, Geldheim's own dying words...

No, it had to be. He was convinced. Volvap was brought back to reality by the sound of S'Hulm's voice. "What is this hope you speak of, Volvap?"

Volvap began. "I believe... no, I am convinced that the coming catastrophe is connected to the prophecy of House Ozek."

"The legend of the mages?" asked S'Hulm.

"Yes. It is my belief that these mages portend blessing, rather than curse." Volvap said these words hesitantly, apprehensive of his lord's reaction.

S'Hulm was silent for a while, before addressing Volvap. "You realize that, according to the prophecy, the foretold mages will eliminate all kingdoms of the land."

"Yes."

"Including mine." S'Hulm's voice maintained it's calm tone.

Volvap carefully thought over his response.

"Eminence, the signs are clear. The new age will not be one of destruction, but of restoration." His voice was calm and deliberate as he finished. "If we resist the prophecy, the coming catastrophe will destroy the world. If we embrace it, the catastrophe will pass us over."

S'Hulm pondered his advisor's words for several moments. Finally, he spoke.

"Volvap, my kingdom is built upon the blood, sweat, and sacrifice of my ancestors. I cannot relinquish our accomplishments for a meaningless piece of paper." His voice had just a hint of contempt at these words.

With determination, S'Hulm delivered his final decision. "I will be prepared for this catastrophe, and for these mages, and I will defeat them all."
  
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Re: Group Story
Reply #29 - Feb 27th, 2013 at 12:24pm
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Rejnick opened his eyes to a leaden sky and a drizzling rain upon his face. He lay in his bedroll for a time in the natural cup-shaped declivity among a cluster of boulders he and the boy had found to camp in, listening to the sharp warning barks of the rockdogs, small, nondescript territorial lizards that yapped like angry puppies while guarding desirable cracks and crevices in every tumblefall of stones or weather-cleft outcropping of any size. The rain was warm and fell softly, so Rejnick was in no particular hurry to escape it. It would somewhat dampen efforts to make a fire to break their fast, of course. He looked to the boy who was still asleep on his side in his own roll, head covered completely but for a shock of straw-colored hair, the blanket rising and falling slowly and regularly with his every breath.

Rejnick stretched, yawned, rubbed the sleepgrit from his eyes, and sat up, pulling the blanket off his legs. Beside his right thigh rested his military shortsword, a broad and heavy fullered blade for hacking, with a serviceable piercing point, a plain crosspiece of thick steel to help guard the hand, a hilt Rejnick regularly rewrapped in criss-crossing leather strips for grip, and for a pommel a scarred ball of black iron that had cracked many a skull. Beside his left thigh was his dagger - short and blunt, but Rejnick could shave with either edge. He put these items back in their sheaths. He unwrapped the linens from off his feet, shook the previous day's sand from the cloth and cleared it from between his toes, then rewrapped his feet and laced his boots on. He stood, buckled on his blades, stretched again, ran his fingers through his hair and put on his leather cap. His garrote was still securely wound around his left wrist. As Rejnick began moving about the rockdogs had all gone quiet and disappeared into their crevices. Looks like trail rations for breakfast, he sighed to himself.

Now he climbed over the rocks on the shady side of the pile and moved off a short distance to piss. By the time he was finished he had begun to feel fully awake and a bit more like a human being. He went to where he'd staked their horses for the night, making friends with them again. They had eaten all the growth within the radius of their tethers.

Rejnick studied the surroundings. The land about the campsite was a trackless study in browns and reds, earth the color of ecru, reddish-chocolate sandstones, low brown scrub, all surrounded by sandy hills. West, to their backs, was the outpost. Fifteen leagues to the east was the small bordertown of Tecthony, the first place the outpost's officers would order scoured for a murdering deserter with a child. Northwest were the Bloody Hills, a region of red sand and stone crawling with bandits and marauders, which had more than earned it its sanguine name. South was desert, all desert, here and there dotted with tiny oases which were usually squatted by nomads not much friendlier than Red Hills bandits. Forty leagues to the southeast, in the middle of an otherwise featureless waste, stood the eroding ruins of Qebhet, reportedly a city of the Ursonei, a people now a thousand years gone from the earth, all perished in some god-sent cataclysm that, the legends said anyway, wreaked its destruction in a single cursed night.

He made his way back to the campsite. The child was still asleep so Rejnick nudged him with a toe. "Get up, boy" he said, "The outpost will be coming for me, and I'd rather be farther away than nearer when they find this place."

The boy sat up and yawned. Rejnick tossed a strip of dried meat and a crust of bread into his lap. "Eat, and make yourself ready. Enjoy this little rain while it lasts, for it won't last long enough, and the ride will be devilish hot by midday." The boy stood and turned his back to Rejnick to make his water. Pisses in his own nest, Rejnick thought with distaste. Where did this child come from?

Together they broke camp and loaded their belongings onto the horses. Rejnick looked at the boy. "Which way?" The boy looked around, considering, and sniffed - perhaps he sniffed the air, scenting to something; Rejnick could not say. He looked back at Rejnick and said, "That way," raising his arm to point southeast.
« Last Edit: Feb 27th, 2013 at 6:17pm by Darwinist »  

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