My co-bloggers were complaining that I haven’t been writing anything and was just trolling people on Twitter. They were correct. I was also attempting to write some fiction. I haven’t finished it. What I have so far is below, work in progress.
She was in the same chair she sat in every night, rocking gently. Her night-black hair flowed down over her slender shoulder, reflecting the light from the candle flickering in the corner. She was beautiful, just as he remembered. A baby lay across her lap sleeping, partially covered by her hair. Her almond eyes were dark and full of mystery, but they radiated love as she looked upon her child. A warm gust from the open window behind her blew her hair across his face and he began to fidget and whimper. She brought him to her breast and began to sing gently:
These words I weave,
For you my love,
A shield so strong
Blessed by the Light
Safe in your dreams
Until morning comes
When you shall awake
And greet the new sun
The infant was quiet now, breathing in rhythm with the rocking of the chair. She lifter her head and saw him. She smiled and opened her mouth to speak.
Orren woke with the rising of the sun. He had made camp near a small grouping of trees clumped next to a stream. They were the only trees as far the eye could see in the green ocean that surrounded him. He gently laid down the shield from under which he slept and sat up. No sounds. No signs of life, just his horse, Alna, and the creaking of his armor. And his thoughts. Always his thoughts. Alna was sipping softly from the stream. She looked up briefly, grunted acknowledgement that her master was awake, and went back to drinking.
This was not the first time he had dreamt of them. He doubted it would be the last, no matter how far he went.
Do not let your thoughts linger on that which you cannot control.
Today he would continue his journey in the direction of the rising sun, the same as he had done the day before, and the day before that, his back always to the wall and the massive gates that separated the wildlands from the place of his birth.
The four stones he had placed around his camp remained unmolested in their original locations. The grass beyond the barrier of the stones was trampled and torn. They only came at night. He knelt next to each stone, whispered a short prayer and sprinkled a bit of water onto each from the ornate flask at his side before picking them up. He wrapped them in a cloth and placed them in the small bag that hung at his side.
The flask would be empty soon. He could always make more. He knew the ritual and his faculties had not diminished despite the distance from the Mountain. He carried out the rest of the morning rites as he had every day since his initiation. A few drops of water from the flask were sprinkled upon his thin metallic armor, helm, and telescopic pike. The words were chanted.
He then moved on to his shield. The shield was woven by the cloistered monks of Allar from a thousand strips of metal, each piece inscribed with words from the high language spoken only at the summit of Sorrakam. The shield was given to him on the day of his anointing. It had been made specifically for him; his name spoken during the blessing ritual carried out as each piece was hammered into place. It was irreplaceable, especially now. He placed the shield upon the grass directly in the sunlight, a few drops of water were sprinkled on each side. Orren knelt down beside it and sat in silence for several minutes. The water evaporated in the sun and he stood up. Time to move on.
His food had almost run out when he reached the base of the mountain range at the other edge of the green sea. He had heard stories of what was beyond. Few ever crossed the mountains, let alone the sea. It was outside the jurisdiction of Sorrakam. Alna snorted and shook her head. There was unease about this place and she could sense it. Dark things dwelt here. She eventually obeyed and began carrying her rider up the narrow path that lead through a valley between two of the mountains.
The jagged peaks watched menacingly over him as he passed through their shadows. The air was cold and damp. Sometimes a wind would blow and carry with it the smell of decay. He kept his pike at hand and his shield across his lap as they made their way. This place was death. He could feel it, could taste it in the back of his throat. Blood and acid. It was then that he heard it, faint at first, just a murmur in the wind. He thought it a spectre or other malevolent entity playing with his spiritual senses. He continued on and the sound become louder, and began to take on human characteristics. The noise was coming from against the far western wall of the valley. He turned Alna and began moving swiftly towards it. If it was a human making that noise, they were surely in need of help. If it was something…else, then best he deal with it.
When he had almost reached the valley wall he dismounted from Alna. He unlocked his pike, held his shield close, and approached. After no more than a few steps he came upon the source of the noise. A bundle of cloth was resting on the cold stone of the valley floor, noise emanating from it. The cloth was a fine silk, colored crimson and purple. A few more paces beyond the bundle the mouth of a cave gaped. The cave was darkness; no light seemed to breached its entrance. He knelt down next to the bundle of cloth and unwrapped it. Inside the cloth was an infant, naked, eyes closed, weeping piteously. The babe’s cheeks were red from crying, but did not seem to be otherwise harmed. Alna approached from behind and leaned over the child. She nuzzled the baby gently and snorted. Orren took out his flask and poured a few drops over the infant. The baby continued to cry and flail her hands and feet as infants are wont to do. He secured his pike and shield on Alna’s saddle and gently picked up the child. Upon being picked up her crying ceased. Orren wrapped her in the cloth for warmth. Until he found a suitable place to have the child cared for she was his ward. Oaths must be upheld. He mounted his horse with the little girl in his lap and continued on through the valley.
It was almost a day’s ride out of the valley. He did not stop except to water his horse and feed the child some paste he had made from his provisions. She would not live much longer without proper food and warmth. The valley opened into a great expanse of dense icy fog. Everything was damp and cold, the sun was but a gray saucer outlined in the haze. Night came and went. He rode on. The baby would cry sometimes when a cold wind blew into her wrappings, but she was growing increasingly silent and still. He whispered to her:
“I did not bring you here just to die in this never ending twilight, but if it be our fates then know that you were not uncared for. They will be waiting at the gates for you.”
He had no sooner finished his words when a light cut through the fog. A farmstead was ahead – some kind of livestock farmer. Alna saw the light and immediately rushed forward with new found strength. They reached the gate of the main house on the land and Orren leapt from Alna, babe in arms. She had begun to turn pale. Her breathing was faint. He slammed his fist against the door and yelled out,
“I have with me a child that needs warmth and food! I know not the traditions of this foreign land, but should you provide us aid I will be forever in your debt. Please…!”
Before Orren could continue the door swung open. A woman stood in the door, arrow notched and pointed directly at her visitor’s heart.
“Let me see the child.”
Orren shifted the child’s bundling to show her face. The woman slowly lowered her bow, and then she wept. Tears fell from her eyes and her shoulders shuddered deep sobs.
Orren stood in the lighted doorway, baby in arms, only darkness and death behind him.
“If you wish me to go, I…”
“No. Come inside. Please. Get her out of the cold.”
They entered, and she locked the door behind them.