The ones about Attrition 4-6Dream 4:
. . .
seven Dread Lords, all in their halls. Seven dead lords, waiting 'til He calls. Not very funny. voice sounds hollow. I am hollow. speaking from my vantage point- Did I ask you? -that is all too true.
"There will be no eighth in my time." Thick shadows and thick air. Humid. Dead of night and still hot as hell. Gliding from one shadow to the next. Almost the new moon. Lightly slip between bones and debris.
dangerous time to be in Noc-Norath, don't you think? Your point? just curious about the tour. No answers come freely. should conserve your energy. I could send the same sentiment back to you, but by all means, squander yours. squandering the boundless is not possible. We'll see.
movement. Others scuttling here and there, perhaps hoping to find some missed treasure. Perhaps just looking for one bone not yet picked clean.
little sister does nice work. Pretense of sentimentality is lost on me. as if to imply that you in some way care about the loss of life you, yourself, caused. Same response. do you suppose the girls appreciate your forcing of their hands?
stride boldly out of the shadows. Lesser, meaner things scurry away. No wind, not even a faint breeze out here in the open. The square is just a fetid, rain-washed abattoir now. The dais in the center of the square still has the bones of the horse on it.
yes, well I'm sure you know what you're doing. That makes one of us. so endearing, your obsession with isolation. Giri. whatever.
skirt round the dais. Golden plaques adorn the three foot high platform's sides. Eight plaques.
really must write to Father and urge him to disallow education in these parts. Something in the written word making you anxious? it's a terrible waste of gold. Right. coin works better than words anyway. Wouldn't know.
-Cyddin ap Cyddin-
Father of Noc-Norath and Keln-Gylith
His Courage Brought Us Peace
you want to erase the 'r', don't you? Want?. oh, I forgot, you're without desire. No. you know there is no deeper layer of you, right? I'm sure you're right.
-Herik ap Harner-
Founder of Dun Caelyn
Smiles In His Sleep
brush a moldy skeleton aside. It doesn't laugh. The bones are soft and make almost no noise.
we should visit the Wilds or maybe that dark place with the black-skinned elf that tried to get in to see me. No. how's about the Dreaming? No. sisling's safe place? No. what was her name again? No. silly name.
-Vilnius 'the Seer'-
Founder of Northfield
Envisioning the Lord's Call
looking around the square. Nothing bold enough to move closer than two hundred yards. Still there are sounds, almost like echoes. The loudest of them like a sword on a sword a mile away. And thunder.
big brother isn't always so clever. Pray, tell. only because you asked so nice. Get on with it. he attacked you directly. I hadn't noticed. he should have countered your doings. He didn't. yes, well, there's no denying I'm the brains of the family. An interesting critique on the last two thousand years of Corruption. yes, the fires were lit but no one was home.
-Croanik 'the Maul'-
Founder of Tehz Morr
Hated, Feared and Still Revered
it does make the flesh tingle. You haven't got flesh. yet. The wit astounds. sarcasm is very becoming in you. Silence is the same in you. if wishes were horses beggars would dine. You're too clever for me. ohhh, this one's my favorite!
-Clement 'the Pious'-
Founder of Giloan
Through His Teachings We Have Faith
nothing disturbs this mostly silent inspection. Nothing but echoes of the past and a sense of ancient and disgusting depravity.
you were so proud of your rangers that day. Whatever you say. dangerous thing, pride. Yes. you should see to it that it doesn't blind you to certain things. Thank you for the advice. meh, don't thank me just yet. As you like it. you're very peculiar this eve. If you say so. even knowing what you're planning I'd say you're topping the list of weirds. I'll take it as a compliment.
-Balibor 'the Monger'-
Founder of Picket Downs
He Gave Four and Then Went To War
where do you think I should set up residence? Oblivion. a thought. A promise. kind of partial to the north, actually. They won't play your games. they have so far. If you say so. do you think they'd mind me moving in at Chimeron Castle? A bit statuesque and white for your tastes. too true.
-Kreeg ap Krogan-
Founder of Serien
A Beloved Giant
moving to the last plaque. Nothing yet etched into the gold.
seems a lot of room's been left for others. In vain.
left hand trailing fingers over the blank plaque. Black leather over gold gleaming even in this dismal place.
wondering who it's going to be? You know I am not. was actually talking to the cargo. A valiant effort. informed is a better adjective. Far be it from me to disagree with you. you really think you're slipping things by me, don't you? Perish the thought. that's what this is all about.
standing up. departing the square. Northward. Whistle low and long.
don't care to let the trusty steed in now, eh? No doorways for you, (warlord of air’s name). dull form that.
a great horse, part shadow, part silver in the gloom, canters up. Enormous. It kneels to take the rider on.
"Away, Destrier. Let me guide by hand." The animal stands and bolts away from the doorstep of Corruption.
paranoia is a beautiful thing. Hearty warriors are far fairer. ahh, dying by sword or otherwise in search of peace. Mock as you will. this I will always do. How can a lie ever know truth? a bit late in the game for that kind of rhetoric. I'm just getting started. a delightfully short run for you, then. By some measures. well, as it concerns the average mayfly you're...
the silver-grey warhorse tears through first the ruins and then dark forests, turning or slowing at the rider's whim.
if that is what constitutes a victory for you these days... The terms of victory were set long before you and I met. and? And don't imagine you can needle them out of me. why would I? You need them to foil me. all is here in your mind- Where it will stay. -with me.
slow the horse. There're children's voices singing in that peculiar harmony that only the young can achieve.
"Seven Dread Lords, all in their halls.
Seven dead lords, waiting 'til He calls.
Say they to thee, found is peace in thy bed.
Fret not for babes; their woes be that of the justly dead.
On pain of death keep you on their path.
For those that stray only draw His wrath.
Here they come now; fear their foreign might.
Stay you well within the Erl-King's sight.
Beware their words, they're meant for naught but gain.
Heed them ever and the children have gone in vain.
Seven Dread Lords, all in their halls.
Seven dead lords, waiting 'til He calls."
hop off the horse, abruptly.
"On with you, Destrier. And be safe." The children silence themselves. The adults take notice.
smooth move. You're pathetic.
faces in the dark. Turning. Weapons. Someone crying and panting nearby.
they'll definitely love you for this. I am comfortable with that.
catch the first swipe in the cloak. Twist. Entangled. Pull him off balance and leave him sprawling. The small crowd is retreating to watch from afar.
"You know why I have come."
voice still sounds hollow. Not always a bad thing. like a rotted out tree. Wrong side of the wheel. oh, that makes it all better then.
"His head for the Lord of Sothron!"
dart sideways, make the attackers trip over each other. "This can only get worse for you." They are frenzied.
take the glove off. No. your pain. Mine.
two blades from high. The third cutting sideways. Skip back. Kick. Tangled again. "Hahsfah'ohhl."
tsk tsk tsk.
right fist feels like stone. Breaks the jaw like stone. Catches the sword like stone. "Fight me, filth. Or flee."
the third sword enters at the left under the ribcage, cutting through the stomach and up into the right lung.
should have used my hand. In contrast to your ego I must point out that I never need you or any part of you. my ego is only ever as big as the myth you made of me.
catch the attacker by the right shoulder and wrench him over and down. Pull out the sword.
inards righting themselves. "You can see it, can't you? You saw it that day in Noc-Norath. I will suffer no more of this bargaining. Keln-Gylith is over."
"HE BLEEDS! KILL HIM."
true enough. Shut up. Even I can feel it dripping from your chin, staining that pretty green baldric. Not wearing it.
throw the sword. It clatters painfully, but not mortally, into the one who yelled. "This is your blood on me."
step forward. The nearest armed man seems uncertain.
would have left a better impression if you took the glove off. Would have been a terrible thing to do. yes, thank you. Don't thank me yet.
advance fast. Swordsman backs off. Stare him down. The crying, the panting...more insistent. "Only one person has to die tonight. I'll kill you all to get that done." Fading into the darkness. Fleeing. Go to the light. Starting to drizzle. No. Pour.
Perfect. pity. What? the rain will drown out the screams.
push the door open. No more attackers with the heart to fight. Nothing more than a shack, a way station on the road. An oil lamp and two women within.
"Midwife." The woman looks up. Dull, cow-like eyes. "Leave." She does, in a hurry. The other woman tries to grab at her in vain. She is in the last moments.
"You know why I am here, don't you?"
you're quite mad. Angry is the appropriate word. that denotes emotion. Shut up.
"You've already picked the land." The pregnant woman stares at him, trying to control her convulsions. It is beginning. "You've already promised this child."
"Get away from me!" she snarls.
love the ferocity.
"A golden plaque and a place in His Court." She grabs frantically with her right hand for anything the midwife left. She comes up with a knife. "That was meant to severe the link between mother and son." She surges upward, more in the need of the moment than to attack him. "You won't need it." Catch her wrist. Twist and press in at the tendons. The knife falls to the muddy floor. "They would have called you Berylinn 'the Whore'. It would be written that you founded the city of Alehend. Your epitaph would have read 'Eleven she gave for us to save." Pick up the knife.
how do you know that? I don't. priceless. I just know the name of the new city that would be and that she is the bargainer. so in actuality you're just buttering her up with the idea of her death. Yes, that's it, (warlord of air’s name). well, I'd choose death over eleven pregnancies. You are undisputedly the second worst thing that has ever happened to me. oh and I'd pay a thousand pregnancies of ten month terms to know the first. I'll tell you if you really want to know. ...? Needing to exist at all.
"Your son will be named Alexander. He will live well and be strong. You will never know more. Go to Oblivion in peace, Berylinn."
you know, I'd be hard pressed to top this act of terrorism, old friend. We are most definitely not friends. you wound me. Soon.
. . .
itching against right cheek. Horse hair. Taurse hair. Powerful neck, silver grey coat. Stained with blood. Almost black mane. Constant companion.
Straighten up. Cold air. The taurse turns, craning its neck to look back. Dark and troubled sea in three directions. Sense of something immense behind.
"It's almost that time, Destrier." The right hand pats the muscular neck of the taurse. "Shall we run?" A hesitant smile. The great warhorse tosses its head, eager.
. . .
head whips to the left. Brief glimpse of blood misting into the air. Muscles in the neck strain, staving off the break that should come to anyone normal. Most of the molars on the right side stir painfully before rooting again.
"You're done. You're finished. Only one game left between us. And precious few moves left there."
(warlord of air’s name) sneers. But he's not here. Not exactly. He is thought. He is illusion and madness. The sneer is pulling back your own lips, baring your own teeth.
silver chains so fine they shouldn't be anything more than jewelry. One through the right wrist. Blood seeping lazily through the links towards and unseen ground. Chain through the stomach. Chain through the left calf and the left foot. Laceration on the brow over the left eye. Chain missed the skull by a hairsbreadth. Chain entering the right elbow and exiting through the loop in the clavicle. Hurts. Hard to concentrate.
. . .
The taurse tenses beneath, the jump coming. Timing is everything. The world comes screeching to a halt. The magical creature bends reality as is in its nature. Plant one hand on the strong back between legs and thrust upward. The taurse goes riderless. Land on a knee and hand. The beach sand is fine and soft but extremely cold. Drops of blood splatter the ground.
Futility has ever been your strongest aspect, says the monster within.
the sea begins to boil. The earth trembles. The air goes rank. The temperature drops, breath steams. The world seems to gather a surreal quality, charged, as if a titanic lightning storm is about to strike.
still staring at the freezing beach sand. Blood seeping away.
. . .
"Drop your burden. Give up. Forfeiture is only weakness in the early game."
(warlord of air’s name) twists everything within his domain. Rewriting the rules as fast as the ancient magicks regenerate the lost blood.
chains rooted in darkness. Nothing solid here. Library gone. Life's work...
"Make your move or forfeit, mortal."
left arm tightens around a satchel. Burden.
"Let it go."
rubs the flesh sore beneath it.
. . .
"five Warlords." Sneering.
Six, says the voice inside.
"flattering." Salivating pretty badly. Blood and spit. Sticky. "should have brought the Champion down too." Standing up. Surrounded. Almost.
"Oh, let me!" a wasted, rotting man demands.
"Silence!' commands the stark and elegant woman standing closest. "I've lent our brother enough to crack this mortal's spirit." Maggot recoils, snarling.
turning to face Maggot directly. "don't need a flaming sword this time, filth."
The ruined man-thing steps closer only to be held back by a hand larger than the taurse. Irrad. A mountain of blackened bedrock hauled up from the lightless depths of the earth. There is no real attempt at human features today.
"Stay yourself, little brother," the granite god urges. "We are not to be baited by words anymore. The game of weaknesses is done. The trap is closed. The quarry locked in."
"I don't care!" Maggot growls. Nevertheless, the appendage of stone keeps Maggot from getting any closer.
Good friends, you and my third brother, (warlord of air’s name) remarks dryly.
Ang, her black gown glittering even under overcast and shadowy skies, turns to regard the horror which stands hip deep in the icy surf. "Shall we, sister?"
The pale, bloated corpse smiles like some sort of predatory lizard. Water gushes from its mouth through rotted teeth.
"Yes, let's!" Irrad booms.
. . .
"What's in the bag, anyway? Names? Secret plans for the survival of the Forest Runners?"
"I know! The last vital key to all the foolish hints and clues for your friends that you've tried so well to hide from me all these years. Should have smuggled this one out first."
frowning. Chains biting, twisting within festering wounds. Restrained. Trapped.
. . .
"Eldest brother?" Ang asks coolly to the sky.
Thunder ripples through the atmosphere, dwarfing even the rock god's voice. Ang's face lowers from her regard for the heavens. She is smiling.
Tell my li'l sis I think we should go for it.
"Your time for games and talk are over, mortal. You've served your purpose most adequately. Your masterpiece is well wrought. The Master wishes to thank you directly. And in return for our patience and exceptions credited to you we expect you to lay down arms."
wipe blood away from the nose. "...forgetting something." The Warlords pause.
"Pray tell." Ang steps closer.
"time isn't on your side. In fact, timing is your weakest point."
"What's he talking about?!" Maggot grunts.
"you've sprung your trap too soon. More importantly, without the assurances that your quarry is as helplessly gone as you would like to think. You really ought to know your enemy much better than this."
"Stalling." Irrad snorts, beginning to lumber forward.
. . .
"You feel it don't you? The sands have just about slipped down the funnel. And they didn't come to you. They missed all those painstaking clues. They failed to see the evidence."
voice isn't really in the head. Seems to emanate from the chains.
"Did you actually believe that your trickery would buy you time? You must have known the rules of this place cannot be broken. Even I am bound by them. All you did was spread your spirit so thin, hoping those fools would be able to hold on and pull you back before it was too late."
. . .
"The dreams, for one thing."
The hells are you talking about? (warlord of air’s name) mutters.
"this instance right now, as you planned, is passing on to many in the north. No one is fooled. No one thinks they're coming from me. Why would I display these, my darkest hours?"
Irrad stops, looming overhead. "The dreams are your pride seeping through."
"are they? Small victories of mine taken out of me and thrust upon others? and they know in their hearts that there's something malicious behind the dreams. Not pride. Malice."
"As with everything you've ever achieved, mortal, it matters not at all." Ang smiles faintly. "The sendings were never really of any interest to us. Just one more thing to heap on you, to tear away your oh so infuriating concentration.
"everything matters." Ang's smile solidifies. "every detail. But you still misstep. You believe that I am relying on my strength, my will and my mind against you." Ang's face sobers some.
"What else is there?" her eyebrow is arched, challenging.
frowning. "something even the Lord of Corruption has failed to anticipate."
Careful, Reeve, they'll call your bluff, mocks (warlord of air’s name).
. . .
"I had thought better of you, Reeve."
sagging, pain like fire in every persisting wound. Burden still clutched tight to ribs.
"you haven't won yet, (warlord of air’s name)."
chains slide through muscle at ever increasing speed.
"Am I not allowed my moment of gloating. Two thousand years of terrible, bodiless existence and now... seven? Eight years of dueling? I think I have time to grind you down a bit further."
"haven't won yet..."
"Quite right. That last hope in you. In that bag. What is it?"
. . .
The skies seem to fracture as thunder peels across them. [Show us, mortal,] it says. [Let us bear witness to this final trickery of which you are so proud.] Kytsim.
the faintest of smirks.
"we'll do our dance soon enough."
What are you doing?
"we'll see each other in the Castle. But by my choice, not yours." look up at the rockslide waiting to happen. Smile. "by the by, Irrad... I was stalling."
right hand raises and the first two fingers wave a short and condescending goodbye. tons of rock come smashing down.
(you wake up very abruptly, almost painfully, and it feels as if you have been dreaming for a dozen years. More even. Muscles weak, mind obscured, eyes foggy, and everything around you seemingly alien. And then it all passes from you. Just one of those dreams...)
TIME TO PLAY A HAND.
LOOK YOU UPON YOUR FRIEND AND GUIDE. SEE HOW HE RETURNS FROM HIS OWN TRICKERY AS SURELY AS A FLIPPED COIN MUST COME DOWN TO MAKE ITS CALL. TRICKERY. CLEVERNESS WILL NE’ER HOLD UP.
There is something indefinable about the voice. Your mind cannot cope with all of it. It’s like an itching and an iciness all together assaulting your primal self. And yet it belies something beyond all that. Something of a magnitude that promises to crush you if ever it should turn its attention to you.
SEE HIM THERE. A RAGGED MAN, BLEEDING ALREADY AS THE ONSLAUGHT OF MY SECOND CHILD STRIKES HIM FULL ON. HE IS SHED OF HIS COLORS. SHED OF HIS TIES TO THE WORLD. SHED OF EVEN WEAPONS. HE HAS COME TO SHED ONE LAST THING. HE HAS COME TO MY HOUSE TO SHED THE BURDEN THAT IS HIS LIFE.
LOOK HOW HE STANDS. HIS LEGS RIDID LEST HIS KNEES SHAKE. IT IS NOT FEAR. OH NO. FEAR WAS NEVER THE TOOL I EMPLOYED FOR HIM. IT IS STRAIN. LIKE A CORD HOLDING UP A MONOLITH. HE IS FRAYED. HE IS LOST. THERE IS ONLY THE BURDEN OF HIS FAILURES ND THE LURE OF HIS LIFE LONG GOAL. THERE IS THE MAN ON THE DOORSTEP OF HIS ENEMY’S HOUSE. THERE IS A CELEBRATION WITHIN. A SURPRISE PARTY, IF YOU WILL. HE IS JUST THE GUIDE WHO BRINGS THE GUEST OF HONOR.
COME TO ME, REEVE. COME TO ME FROM THE DARKNESS AND SENSELESSNESS OF YOUR IMAGINED DUTIES. COME TO ME NOW.
And the man does, for you can see him as clear as if you were there, yourself. But you see him from the outside. He is bleeding freely from the mouth and nose. His head seems to twitch involuntarily on his neck. His teeth look fused together. The place he is in must surely be some pocket in hell. And he looks as if he has come through every other corner of that dread place to get here.
He doesn’t simply walk, he sprints. Past tortured, hideous tress. Past decaying, decimated buildings. Over barren unyielding ground. Under a grey and vengeful sky. Towards the gates of an ancient and terrible castle. The first peel of thunder hurtles down from on high.
THE GODS ARE PLEASED BY THIS.
The earth heaves, a crater large enough to swallow up a town common splinters and sucks downward under his feet. The man jumps, skips, leaps on crevice, clears a second, and tumbles over the third. The ground answers the heavens with its own thunder, the sound of laughter. As if mountains could somehow wrestle and the resulting cacophony could be mistaken for amusement.
The titan of stone breaches the ground right in the gate of the castle. A gravelly howl standing in for a cry of victory. Two great fists, each the size of wagons smash the ground where Reeve was. Shard of broken stone and ruined earth fly. Reeve tumbles away, narrowly missing his fate. There are streaks of blood every where he touches the ground. Frighteningly quick, the Warlord adjusts, pummeling everything in Reeve’s path only a half instant after the mortal has vacated it.
“YOU WILL NEVER LEAVE THIS PLACE!” Irrad booms.
Reeve falters, right hand touching his temple. The force of Irrad’s fist slamming down just behind him knocks him to the ground.
(Warlord of corrupted Air’s name). BUT I KNOW HE WON’T LET IT END LIKE THIS. HE KNOWS WHERE IT ENDS FOR THIS MORTAL. AHH, SECOND SON. YOU WILL MAKE ME PROUD.
Irrad’s next blow catches the mortal full on. Or rather the mortal catches the next blow. Even driven to his knees, Reeve somehow manages to halt the obliterating force of the Warlord’s onslaught by first catching the fist and then shunting it aside. Irrad adjusts all to quick, moving to smash the man between his fists. The great slabs crack together. But Reeve has grabbed hold of the arm must too quickly. He climbs.
IMPRESSIVE. NEVER A DISAPPPOINTMENT.
Irrad bucks, trying to swat the man, but his momentum somehow gives Reeve leverage. The man jumps from Irrad’s shoulder, catches hold of an archer’s window set into the gate house three stories up and clings there. Irrad stares over at him dumbly, both arms raised. The force of the punch that follows carries most of the Warlord’s arm into the hollow depths of the gatehouse. Reeve is lost in the debris.
NOT SO CLEVER, MY THIRD SON.
Reeve is running again, but now he is not menaced by the grinding stone hands. He pelts trough halls and rooms and corridors of stone. He ascends one stair then another. Somewhere outside Irrad screams in frustration. Reeve bursts back out into the grey light of the dying day. He hesitates not the least, building speed as he sprints outward onto a skywalk. The old bridge is partially collapsed. He leaps. Below Irrad spies him and swats at him. The clumsy attack only manages to hit the other side of the bridge. Reeve flails in the air and then slams bodily into the far edge of the broken stone bridge. His hand dig in and pull him up before Irrad can make a second pass.
The end of the bridge leads to a doorway, only the wooden door probably rotted away fifteen hundred years ago. He is inside again, and on his way. Rooms and halls and stairs slide past. He comes out onto a balcony feeding another bridge through the air.
He drops to one knee as if Irrad himself had pushed down on his shoulder. His fists are clenched, shaking at his sides. He seems to struggle to breathe. To his left, she lounges on the parapet. There is a glass of wine in her hand. She studies it and ignores him.
“…can’t…” he manages to gasp.
Her gaze slides over and falls on him.
“We’ve let you have your games, mortal. It is time to pay up.”
BUT HOW NECESSARY THOSE GAMES WERE, MY DAUGHTER.
“It is best if you give up now. Struggling deeper into this place only makes you more vulnerable.”
Reeve lifts his head and his eyes fix on the bridge before him.
His head twitches violently. There is blood leaking from his right ear.
“Something you are rapidly growing short on.” She returns to her inspection of the glass of wind. “Go then.” She waves her empty hand at him.
He gulps in air and launches himself along the bridge. He reenters another part of the castle. It is convoluted, huge. A thing built over the course of centuries, perhaps eons. Always up, and always further it goes.
I WONDER WHERE HE THINKS HE IS GOING. SURELY HE DOESN’T THINK TO ATTACK DIRECTLY.
Twice he has to pause, leaning against the wall and massaging his temples. The cord has almost snapped now. The mind that trapped a god for years is almost broken. The will eroded to nearly nothing. Each time he gives pause is followed by a less dramatic resurgence of determination. His speed is beginning to diminish. His will ebbs.
REMINDS ME OF A POEM.
He runs across yet another bridge, avoiding the mostly collapsed parts. And finally he is in the largest and most central part of Castle Sothron. There is a preternatural shadow hanging therin. It makes all things dim.
WHO RIDES SO LATE WHERE WINDS BLOW WILD?
IT IS THE FATHER GRASPING HIS CHILD;
HE HOLDS THE BOY EMBRACED IN HIS ARM
HE CLASPS HIM SNUGLY, HE KEEPS HIM WARM.
His steps slow deliberately. He is in a wide corridor, other hallways feed it. He hesitates. Something moves behind him. A man in blue robes, old but not ancient looking. His skin is blue. His eyes are blue. His hair and beard are blue. The very air around him seems to hum with power begging to be tapped. Reeve looks over his shoulder at Kytsim. Magic and Mind.
“MY SON, WHY COVER YOUR FACE IN SUCH FEAR?”
“O DON’T YOU SEE THE ERL-KING NEAR?
THE ERL-KING WITH HIS CROWN AND TRAIN!”
“MY SON, THE MIST IS ON THE PLAIN.”
Yards ahead of him, a smaller incarnation of Irrad appears from a side passage. It only fills the entire height and width of the corridor.
“TIME IS UP!” Irrad bellows and charges forward.
Behind, Kytsim holds his hands out to his sides as if trying to quell a crowd of people rushing past him from behind. Reeve snatches his left glove off and bares his palm to the wall on the right. Irrad surges forward, great stone mouth gnashing. The wall blasts outwards from Reeve even as he moves towards it as if to escape into the room he has opened up.
“SWEET LAD, O COME AND JOIN ME, DO!
SUCH PRETTY GAMES I’LL PLAY WITH YOU;
ON THE SHORE GAY FLOWES THEIR COLORS UNFOLD
MY MOTHER HAS MAD YOU A GARMENT OF GOLD.”
Water and filth wash over him in a great torrent. Groping, grasping things that are too diseased to know they’re dead overwhelm him even as the waters seek to drown him. In the breech in the wall Polth stands unhindered by the onrushing water. And Maggot too.
“Take him down, my pretties!” He cries to the rotlings in the water. “Take him down.”
Reeve struggles. There are too many and nowhere for him to evade. Even so he fights. He throws one off of him. Two more struggle to pounce on him. Dozens and dozens bury him. Even the sorcery that grants him strength enough to shove off a blow from Irrad cannot keep the clinging, scratching things from piling onto him.
“MY FATHER, MY FATHER, O CAN YOU NOT HEAR
THE PROMISE THE ERL-KING BREATHES IN MY EAR?”
“BE CALM, STAY CALM MY CHILD, LIE LOW
IN WITHERED LEAVES THE NIGHT WIND BLOW.”
He opens his left hand again and some of the rotlings are thrust back by the unseen force. Somehow he struggles to his feet as the water begins to course away down the corridor in both directions. The creatures redouble their efforts. He redoubles his own. In vain. Irrad reaches out frighteningly quick and knocks Reeve against the wall. He lies still.
“WILL YOU, SWEET LAD, COME ALONG WITH ME?
MY DAUGHTERS SHALL CARE FOR YOU TENDERLY;
IN THE NIGHT MY DAUGHTERS THEIR REVELRY KEEP,
THEY’LL ROCK YOU AND DANCE YOU AND SING YOU TO SLEEP.”
Maggot titters. Polth, silent as ever, crosses the hall and stands over the unconscious Reeve. She is smiling. The rotlings begin to gibber and snap at each other, only to be silenced by a sound from Maggot. They scurry back through the hole in the wall to lurk behind him, those that are still able to at any rate. Far behind him Ang sits with her wind in hand, watching.
“Bring him,” she says.
“MY FATHER, MY FATHER, O CAN YOU NOT TRACE
THE ERL-KINGS DAUGHTERS IN THE GLOOMY PLACE?”
“MY SON, MY SON, I SEE IT CLEAR
HOW GREY THE ANCIENT WILLOWS APPEAR.”
The ankle deep water stirs and seven skalds rise up from it. Two of them pick Reeve up and carry him. Through hall and room, down ramp and stair, Ever deeper where Reeve strove to ascend. At last they bring him into a vast room still fitted with the remnants of finery. A throne room. In the expanse between the floor and the shadowed ceiling tattered, dusty banners sway. Unpleasant things skitter in the shadows and eyes of all sorts turn to watch.
The five Warlords with their backs to the throne, the bulk of Irrad entirely blocking the seat. The skalds drop Reeve unceremoniously on the red carpeted floor. One tears away his tunic, shirt and belt. The other waits. He is covered in tiny hurts and bite marks.
“Wake him.” Kytsim demands. And though Irrad steps forward, it is the waiting skald who turns Reeve over onto his stomach and knots a watery hand into his hair. The pain wakes him instantly. For just a second there is a set to his face like the man he used to be. And then it vanishes. His face contorts in pain.
“I LOVE YOU, YOUR COMELINESS CHARMS ME, MY BOY
AND IF YOU’RE NOT WILLING, THEN FORCE I’LL EMPLOY!”
“NOW FATHER, O FATHER, HE’S SEIZING MY ARM
THE ERL-KING HAS DONE ME THE CRUELEST HARM!”
He plants his hands and starts to rise. Irrad passes over him, plucking up his left arm by the fingers and twisting it backward until Reeve has no choice but to remain on his knees bowing forward to the throne. His arm is twisted backward and up an excruciating angle.
“TIME.” Irrad booms.
“Time.” The other Warlords agree.
“We shall be complete with the sundering of your mind, mortal.” Ang declares.
“LET OUR BROTHER OUT.” Kystim says dryly.
Reeve grunts. Blood dribbling from his lips. Irrad twists his arm a bit more.
“TOUGH TO CONCENTRATE WITH ALL THIS PAIN?”
“LET ME HELP YOU!”
Irrad plants one great foot on Reeve’s back. There is a simply awful sound. Bones and tendons and muscle and skin all tear. The Warlord tosses Reeve’s left arm onto the floor. It makes a useless impotent sound as it lands several feet in front of him and at the foot of the dais on which the thrown is set. But you daren’t cast a look at what sits there. He forces Reeve to the floor. Reeve is gasping, trying to say something. His blood is pouring out in a flood. Seemingly in a stupor he stares at it puddling next to him.
THE FATHER SHUDDERS, HIS RIDE WILD
IN HIS ARMS HI’S HOLDING THE SHIVERING CHILD
HE REACHES HOME THIW TOIL AND DREA.
IN HIS ARMS, THE CHILD WAS DEAD.
The Pantheon of Corruption watches as his breathing slows and his body relaxes. And from above them their god and father looks on in silence.
I LIKE THAT POEM.
Reeve’s features slacken and then tighten into a painful looking grin. His eyes seem to burn brightly, maliciously.
“IT’S MY BIRTHDAY,” he giggles.
SWEET REALMS, O COME AND JOIN ME, DO. SUCH PRETTY GAMES I’LL PLAY WITH YOU.
The end of the dream, and the end of that string of dreams.
Created by Janna Oakfellow-Pushee at 05-28-14 10:40 AM
Last Modified by Janna Oakfellow-Pushee at 05-28-14 10:41 AM
Last Modified by Janna Oakfellow-Pushee at 05-28-14 10:41 AM