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Waking Days - an original online novel

Waking Days
An original online novel
By Carlo Marco

posted for previewing and commentary

[an: this is an old fantasy story of mine that I'm trying to recover, expand and rewrite for publication. Placed here for my friends to see on NewTribeZ!Happy If it interests you, please leave a comment on what you think the story and characters.

Updates once a week, hopefully.]



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Summary:

The greatworld Lumen, whose core was magic itself, is about to shatter. The many gods that were prayed to by the people who lived on its surface could do nothing to stop it, and dragonkind was more willing to help rather than hinder it. A pair of mage-hunters, Wilanj the White and Bhepin the Blue, accidentally at the trigger port for this mess, must race to bring a madwoman with a red box and a librarian with a living book, all the way across Lumen and into the ancient city of Luminzavia to stop the catastrophe.

No mortal is powerful enough to fight a dragon or outwit its ancient wiles. Now, harried across a distance measurable in world-widths elsewhere, it's nonstop sword-and-sorcery adventure as these Children of Lumen are forced use every bit of their wit and guile and shameless con artistry just to survive.

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Table of Contents
Last update on June 18, 10:44 pm by Carlo Marco Alfonso.
Topics: story, online, web novel
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Prologue


It was a stab to the gullet, winter's arrival. Already broad leaves had begun to brown, yet now all the more did the tall pines scattered sparsely within the valleys live in proud prickliness. They stood in greater numbers as the cliffs heightened to the northwards, the line between the impenetrable Cold Reaches and the hostile but overall habitable Vengeful Forests. The chill in the winds were only imperceptibly growing colder, for all year the winds were invisible knives that cut to the marrow, and added frequency only granted a deathlike numbness.

It was winter, there began the death of the world.

It was the sixty-ninth year after the Bond Cleaving, and from the peaks of black-stone mountains to the amber beaches of the Ocean Rim, from the swamps to the skies... one voice spoke, and all bowed their heads to its command. All that walked on two legs grit their teeth angrily, but knelt. All that walked on four legs or more, they hid. For three score and nine years, the Soarer's Tounge, the Draigami, the dragons - had all of Lumen in thrall.

The greatworld Lumen, whose ocean could contain an entire lesser world, whose four moons were amethyst, ruby, amber, and silver lights in the night sky, whose mana changed all that walked on its surface, and now was ruled by the greatest of creatures.

A simple matter of mathematics- a Man could kill six Gabbulen. An Oruk could slay three men before being struck down. A Gihante could bring fifteen orcs to his grave. A Wyrm thought giants were mere delicacy. And the Draigi - the eldest and largest of all dragonkind, would slaughter entire flocks of flying wyrm for amusement.

For thousands of years, creatures in Lumen have lived in some sort of odd balance. Never before had the Draige have any need to interact with the 'tiny, insignificant creatures' that eked out their existence upon the mother continent, but as events have shown, to irrevocably alter the meaning of their presence was simply too easy. Outnumbered as they were, these intellectual beasts had magic in their soul. The forces of nature at their wingtips. The flaming anger in their hearts. Unknown what had set them off, but once their vendetta had arisen, it was nigh impossible to stop.

Thus was the The Bond Cleaving: an entire year of bloodshed, millions dead, heroes devoured, as settlement after settlement was fireballed, firebreathed, firestormed into oblivion. From the Daughter Continent to the East that was thought to be myth, came armies of men whose skins were illuminated all over with intricate and doubtless painful tattoos, the Varunbe, upon airships with prows carven to the face of their inhuman masters.

The Soth-Alvii saw their forests burn, and acquiesced that a creature could just possibly be superior to them. The Orkur fought to near extinction, then surrendered with their lofty aims of conquest broken and forgotten. The Dvareg lasted longer than anyone, their bodies hardened and wills determined beyond the effects of magic, and their homes were hewn of rock and metal, deep within mountains where no one could reach. But they were too few, their enclaves too isolated. They could only burrow away more and more, dead to the outside world.

The marfolk did not bother with anything on land, and the Draig had no cause against them. The Kit'i, the Kaan'i, and other semi-wild races were one with nature - that is, they understood how it was between predator and prey. Never try to battle something bigger than you. The creatures of the dark - ampirs, drou, forsakens, and their ilk... they did as they always had before the balance of forces was shifted so to one side - they kept to the shadows always, and fed warily.

And the men...

Oh, the humanity. Them in their moments of valor, slaughtered by the thousands upon thousands on battlefields of their own choosing. Them in their moments of weakness, sending their people to the deaths just to save a privileged few. Them in their little efforts so futile, unable to unite even against a common enemy. Greed, honor, love, faith, lust, envy, anger, and fear... fear… fear.

Their short, fleeting lives and their sharp emotions were beneath the notice of the Draigi, now that the foolish creatures knew their place in the scheme of things. Their life was too short to be wasted on something which would assuredly kill them. The glory that was the largest and longest-lived empire in Lumen faded. After eight hundred years the dreams of the Human Grand League were foiled.

And so, the dragons broke their bonds, and ruled over all that they could reach. They feasted, not on tribute or sacrifices, but the leylines of magic that now yielded to them.

At the highest peak in all Lumen, that spearpoint that pierced the sky - Draig'Nidor, they ruled.It was an Alvish name, for elvin craftmanship was conscripted for the making of this nest-fortress. In the Soaring Tounge, it is prounouced Draekkrmrvoooossh, a small plume of breathfire at the end to emphasize the meaning - Hardened Fire. The Alvii in their fondness for metaphor called it the Mother of Fury.

There was gathered the Dragi Council (their word: Megera Farrooomrf, meaning Ill-tempered Old Biters). Within an immense bowl-like hall that could comfortably contain even nine of their full bulk, were perched six of the most powerful amongst Draigi. Though the Draige were not normally given to ornamental ostentation, they adopted the customs of the Far Below of having a Meeting Hall for airing their business. Too often and too long before had the Draige Council needed to cling uneasily upon wrasses of flat rocks jutting from the mountainsides. It was fine, when they lived in seclusion from the outside world, but now that they had folk with opposable thumbs to order around... it was only fitting that they should get something back for the gift of imposing order at last upon the inconstant world.

At center beneath was a human, the great dragons seemed to be somewhat unnerved by its presence. For Draig'Nidor had exceedingly thin air, just shy of breaking through the that boundary they called the Sky-Fear, the great coldness past which no flame no matter how mightily blown could exist.

"Markjah fuurgh mafi ragre?" asked one of the Draig, a tall magnificent creature of iridescent green scales, teeth, and talons. She was well over fifty feet long, and weighed in at a hundred and ten tons. "You had me fly for this?" was what she asked, putting every bit of indignation into her tone.

Language for the dragons, was more of intent than any concrete attempt at object-linking. It was more of a show, a ritual of snapping, growls, gouts of fire... for these ancient creatures spoke mind to mind to each other and all lesser beings, but there was still much greater satisfaction in snarling out invectives. Patience, for a High Dragon, was not eviscerating anything that was in its way at the earliest opportunity.

"Speak in the Shared Tounge, Yanis." the Draig to her left commanded. It was Silamor, oldest of this gathering. His white-eyed gaze locked with her brilliant emeralds, and after a few defiant moments she had to turn her eyes away, discomfited.

His color was red, his eyeballs were blank as free clouds. Once he'd dived down into the open volcanic crater of the Draignidoran peak, his teeth clamped into the neck of his blue-skinned brother. He'd survived the swim. His eyes had not. His brother had not. And so he was leader of all Draigi, by right of Tooth and Claw. Even blinded, his other senses enhanced by his eldritch proficiency to unnatural levels, served him so well that none dared to challenge his status over many millennia.

Silamor the Blind, the Relentless. Whose wings brought together all the clutch Nests of Draige to mutual understanding - by individually defeating each of their champions until his claim as strongest Draig to ever live was indisputable.

"I do nothing for the benefit of the little parasite!" the Draig retorted angrily. That she spoke in the Shared Tongue passed notice, for even as she argued, there could be no rebelling against Silamor's will. It was a conditioned reflex.

The red dragon blinked, and turned his vision down upon the visitor. Then, to Yanis.

"FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR OWN NECK, OBEY!", he roared, his shout startling them. Silamor spread his wings, and in half a heartbeat was upon his rebellious kin. Yanis whipped her own wings, trying to brace herself against the curved wall. But the Draigking had his jaws clamped on her scaled neck, applying just enough pressure not to break skin.

She could not get enough leverage roll away, even to simply fall off the perch. The Draig never wrestled, thinking such barbaric actions already beyond them. A quick death, an overpowering blow, the victor and the defeated would not have the chance to experience even a sliver of fear. The Draig fear nothing! Cowardice had been distilled from their line throughout the eons.
The Draig were born to discipline. Duty.

Silamor growled. Humility, this they needed as well. No one made a move to help or protest the unexpected violence. He could kill anyone he chose, such was his right by Draig law and claw.

He bit harder, drawing blood. His niece stopped struggling. Yes, she had brought to submission an entire supercontinent. But there were still much she had to know of power. It was more than just magic or strength - it was knowledge, it was control. If oneself cannot be willfully controlled, how can she hope to control others? A blank path!

Politeness was another thing they could use in learning from lowlanders, Silamor thought. Greatness was the accumulation of small virtues. He withdrew his stabbing maw and rose with the strong highwind. Silamor flapped lazily on this rising current of warm air, looking down at his council with the light of sundown. His face was occluded by the sun's scarlet glare, their faces were clear to him. On theirs were tempered emotions, from fear to awe - and knowing they wouldn't see it, allowed an expression of fondness to cross his face.

The greatest of Draige, gathered together. As sovereign grandfather to all Draigkin he was indeed proud of all that they were, though unable to show it. He gently eased down to his former perch and spoke. "You forget thine place, infant. Draig are who we are, indeed, but WHAT we ARE is only a SMALL part of our world. We serve a function as do every breathing thing upon our greatworld. Such is the Maker's intent."

Yanis bowed in deference, hiding her resentment. Murder was in her eyes, but also the respect due. Silamor rumbled, somewhat mollified.

Post-adolescence. Bah. Let them reach a thousand years, and they think they know everything... when the Bhaulldarr came from the Outworlds, who fought the hardest lest the world itself be consumed? The Draige. When the Epochs shift, who are most affected? The Draige. With the power given to his race, were also great obligations entrusted.

"It is of no matter. I can understand whatever language you choose to speak in." said the hooded man below.

He blinked. "Hrrr... yes. I should have realized that you would be capable of that.." Was that a smile or a snarl on the great dragon's face?

"<Silamor-wingmaster... why have we brought here? It is the Toothing Time for my children, I would have wanted to see them lose their first fangs on the Draiglin nest-fight.>"

The Draig-king turned to the left and nodded gravely. To his side was Lenz, his most loyal of supporters. He was equivocal and so devoted to his large, squabbling family, but was for that was a better diplomat and compromise-finder than anyone that flew.

The Toothing Time was when all the young draig would fight amongst each other for the right to survive. Either kill, or die at the hands of your siblings. At the end, only those that had tasted the blood of one other little dragon would live. Those that ran away, would only be deemed unworthy of their blood as a draig, and snapped up in the jaws of their own mother.
It was one of their finest traditions, not interrupted even during times of war. He remembered his own Toothing-day, he'd lost nearly all his front teeth on the sharp ridged bones of his sister's back.

They grew back, of course, tougher and stronger than tempered steel and sharper than a lightning's edge.

At least Lenz only had to fly from the remoteness of the relatively nearby Gray Mountain range. Some of these gathered had to sleepfly at full speed cross-continent. But what tiredness they had, they disguised. It wouldn't do to appear weak to their malificent peers. They huffed their chests and stood straight, trying to appear as massive as they could.

"<This is a matter of the ultimate importance.>" he sent to all. "<We all MUST hear what this one has to say. All else can be forgotten.">

Wings fluttered and clawed feet shifted uneasily on their perches. "<We shall do so, wingmaster, even as we understand not the why, at this time..>"

"<You need not understand. I need not explain. I will not have anyone questioning my commands! Leave us now if you want is not to listen to him! Or to me! Or to be able hear anything EVER at all.>" How dare they resist his orders! Should he want them to fly straight into the heart of a volcano,they should jump at the task.

There was no room for insolence at Draig'Nidor. So he roared thus: "Fremrag ARNA RAFWOOOOSH! Silamor GOR MIRRKLARE SURFAR! (FVOOM!!)" Cease your sniveling! I am YOUR LAW! Silamor IS YOUR DEATH! (firebreath) "Would there be anyone here with a pressing NEED to die violently?" he snarled, baring his teeth in a horrific grin.

"<We hear and complain no more..>" the five quivered in their perches, wrapping their wings around themselves like a shawl and dropping their heads. Even Yanis bowed the low stoop of servitude. At that, Silamor grunted with pleasure. His niece had best remember that while she was that which led the destruction of Lumen, he was still the greatest power over them, for a good long while yet. Or so they should believe for a good long while yet.

"<Thank you.>", he replied somewhat sarcastically. He looked down at the stranger in their midst. The white-cloaked man was unperturbed by the quick tumult. "Speak what you have told me, exalted one."

"...exalted one?" Rargend muttered. A younger Draig with the color of shale, a dependable but otherwise unimaginative warrior. He thought of everything in terms of power and prowess, which is how he'd clawed his way into this Council... yet he was still in wonder of those that were yet far more powerful than him. He did not feel himself yet capable of killing Silamor, but will not hesitate to strike when he was, to claim the right and power for himself. It was tradition.

If he ate the Wingmaster's heart the heat of all that the other had vanquished would be added to his own soulflame. So many fallen draig were already fueling the great red dragon’s inner fire, that the victor would be more than twice as powerful as whatever he (she) had been before.

And so why would the great and powerful Silamor, the distilled might of a million years, defer to a mere human?

"The time of dragons has ended." said the man, with a casual sweep of his hand. "Forces beyond anyone's control are converging, the land you have seized will plunge into the greatest of conflicts. The time has come for you to choose from whose hand you will die."

Emotions passed from shock, to puzzlement, to disbelief in short order. Was this one insane, how dare he speak in such manner, in the irascible midst of Six that were worth a thousand armies each?!

"INSOLENCE! BEGONE!!" Five fountains of fire spewed forth to inundate the man. They were Draig after all. Individually thousands of years old, unchallenged in their lifetimes except by each other. The pinnacle of Lumen's growth. There was only so much they would tolerate (which granted was really very, very little).

It was Salete, Silamor’s front general who spat first, Yanis in all her vanity a close second. The others followed suit with little hesitation. Silamor shook his weighty head in amusement, and sent out; "<Don't hurt them. Too much.>"

"<My mistake,> was the temperate reply. <I should have phrased it differently. I must make an effort to remember that pride is of great importance to some beings. It was not meant as a threat, I assure you.>"

The other noble dragons boggled that yes, the man-shaped bundle of cloth was completely unscathed by the combined fury of their coughed up blasts, and more impossible - that it spoke within the communal Draig-Consciousness!

No, they thought... this one could not be a Draige like them, polymorphed as the some curious were wont to do. Even as some Draige could reshape their own bulk, magical law dictated that their former essence would still affect the resulting form. To counteract this, they would have spells to lighten their step. A spell to compress and reform mass, and another spell to alter the effects of gravity, bringing their tonnage down to the life they were imitating. And perhaps another spell to mask the immense streams of mana that the Draige radiated involuntarily, which often inspired unnamed unnatural dread in anyone in their vicinity. A complex procedure, using more and more power just to have the appearance of LESS power!

Not many Draige made an effort to walk the World Below The Clouds. It was degrading to pretend to be less than what they were, but the less obvious reason was that the task was immensely difficult. Very few were skilled enough with the manipulation of their own essences. But even then, a complete disguise was impossible. The mask of non-power was after all, still a spell and it used mana … for which all Draige had an impeccable innate sense.

But this one, his magical scent was wrong. They could feel the mana flow. It rippled around him, flowing into him and through him. A magical mask would have had mana disappearing around his position, being sucked into an invisible field, being used. A normal living being moved through an invisible river of mana, displacing it as he moved. This one stood an impossibility. Even ghosts had a mana-image. He stood smiling even as the stone around him was blackened by fire from the Draig's own supernatural inner furnace.

Yanis closed her eyes and relied on the mana streams.. this was how Silamor knew the world, she reflected. All her senses melded into one ・she could smell color, feel sound, and taste textures.. mana, it was everywhere! And she was nowhere, only a part of it. If she moved her arms, she sensed it not as motion, but spikes in the mana field. The other dragons had likewise done as she was performing, but the method known as Mana-Flight was often useless except as meditation exercise. Too much and yet at the same time, too little information!

She could sense the other Draige, distance was meaningless while Seeing Mana, but she felt unity with them for a brief moment. Their scent/color/taste/feel were same as hers. The Draigmana. The soul was a vessel for mana, purifying and contaminating it, making it unique. The mana of Draigkind were different from the flavor of mana released by Alvii, or Orkur, or Men.

Silamor’s presence was half as strong as all the others, his subdued aura a testament to his control. The stranger in their midst was not in the Mana Stream. There was nothing! Yet even so, the Draige trusted the view of Mana more than their own eyeballs. It was possible to hide several things in corporeal reality, but the ripples of mana was always there, following every living thing.

He lifted the cowl from his head. All five winced as a bright flare filled the open chamber, and their senses for magic were painfully ringing - overloading!

"Who.. what are you?" shakily asked Lenz. Throaty growls of expletives and pain were all his fellows could say. They had not his stamina for mana, second only to the dragonking himself. That great red dragon was unaffected, being blind and in utter control of all his senses, kept him from most of the effects of the invisible (and unintentional) blast.

"I am Wisdom." said the tall, pale human whose face seemed to blaze with light from a sun.

"<Bow to him now, you fools.>" Silamor sent. "<For this is a being so much greater than us, as were are to mere men. We speak to the Old Gods, this day.>"
Last update on June 18, 10:49 pm by Carlo Marco Alfonso.
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This snippet has captured my interest. I look forward to more.

VanAllen

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This snippet has captured my interest. I look forward to more.


Thanks, Vanessa! :D Next chapter will be up on Wednesday. Hopefully, every Wednesday.

Posting to the forum made me realize how text-chunky my prose can be. Hmm. I wonder if I should make a separate 'publication' Page using Blog posts with Back - Index - Next buttons ala MerStory.

Or something in the Light Novel format...
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Thanks Carlo! Looking forward to future additions Grin

Greg Gibson Owner, Founder and Designer
NewTribeZ.net & NewTribeZ Radio

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Chapter One

If it can be believed, the end of the world began on another autumn day
in a place only sixty miles north-west of Draig'Nidor. The dragons cared
little for the northern reaches of Lumen, in the strip of fertile land
between the ice-shorn mountains and the inimical Orkus-infested woodlands
further south.

The wild lands of La-kan and Dula.

The wood-king and the Ice Spirit that he loved and brought him only death.
La-kan is the land that grows, and Dula is the wind and the water that
almost destroys it each winter, that the old not choke the new.

Here hidden in this land of thick forests and great beasts, where lived
iceclan tribes on the mountainsides and settlers on the lowlands, was
the ancient storm-vault of Aleenfer.

Long have the walls of Aleenfer stood, though parts of which had already
crumbled. But they were ancient even before the Draigeni, and would probably
outlast them still. These walls of exactly fitted and shaped stone blocks,
hexagonal brick made of smooth stone that was nearly impervious to time
and harm.

All these grayen walls were carved ornately, and illuminated with colorful
mosaics and frescoes of intricate but incomprehensible design. A legend
said these were etched magical recipes, though only charlatans claimed to find
any meaning in them.

Most avoided Aleenfer, it was a holy place full of desperation. Within dwelled
ghosts who spoke no known language, not even under magical Waysaying. It was
guarded by great unmoving creatures of metal, inert but as bright and unmarked
by the seasons as they day they were made. Travelers reported the the steady
grunting of some great slumbering beast deep within, at precisely the same hour
each night... lights which appear mysteriously, and strange music... ah, there
be magic in the olden city.

Or that it devoured magic, for there was no traces of mana that could be sensed
from within.. but what else but magic could cause such wonders to be?

The people of the North were practical folk, and there was no good to be gained
in meddling with ancient magic and the resting places of the forgotten dead.

Most avoided Aleenfer. But from the woods that day emerged sixteen hurried
horsemen clad in red armor of worked leather. Splashesof rusty red were likewise
on their plain flax tunics - dried blood, but not their own. Their steeds
thundered through to the clearing, and suddenly into a nervous stop upon sight
of the strange domed buildings.

These were brave men, or to be more precise, men hardened by the passing of many
a cruel midyear. Their horses were of the fine Sopi breed, obedient warhorses
that would run even while starving and could even eat meat. They would bite chunks
out of the enemy if they were left unsupervised. These horses knew no fear.

But close to Aleenfer, they whinnied and stamped their hooves like foals
frightened by a lightning flash.

"Hoy!" Nibot tugged at his reins with one hand. His left arm held his greatest
prize of the recent raid. Sune struggled weakly, and since that her mouth was
gagged her green murder-filled eyes told all that she felt about her situation.
The bandit leader could only grin broken-toothed at her malevolent expression.
Girls of the north were of such fair skin, he thought. And toned bodies, as he
shifted his hold on the bound captive maiden.

For her part, she saw nothing of worth in the bandit. Tall and unshaven, his
skin was of a bronzed hue from the lands farther south. The beak-like nose and
slightly bulging eyes were clear indicators of his ancestry. He was a plains-
dweller! What were his ilk doing in the northlands?

Aside from the obvious; raiding, raping and pillaging. They had run through her
village like a hot knife through butter. With sword and burning torches, they
set upon a defenseless border community - their walls split open as if by magic,
then the killing began. Can't run away, a javelin in the back for all your
trouble. Cries of mercy were soon replaced by cries of pain. Men, women,
children, none were spared if by chance they were within striking distance.

No... she shut her eyes. She wanted to scream again, an outpouring that would
drown out the memories, but held the anguish in. It stirred and bubbled, being
decanted into the purest, strongest hatred.

They had heard of the mountain clans attacking the valley dwellers upon occasion,
but the Frost-tribers were mostly decent folk and did not attack save to repay
some insult or crime. Nothing prepared them for this. But... shouldn't they have?
Sune let out a groan straight from her gut.

At some point in the past, could not anyone have said "We must have spears and
swords in our storehouse?" Would they have been saved?

All these thoughts went from her head upon seeing where they'd stopped. 'No, it
can't be - Aleen-...!'


She struggled again, though she knew it was pointless. She had experienced two days
of nonstop riding, the bandits stopping only to rest and eat. They put in as much
distance as they could from the site of their butchery, too busy to do anything but
ride and sleep. It taxed the endurance of everyone, even the captives. Specially
the captives, who spent perhaps more energy even while trussed up in rope, in blind
fear for their fate.

"Do you fear this place more than you do me?" she was asked. Sune glared balefully up
at him. "Oh? You don't fear me? Ha! It will be fine sport to see how long that defiance
lasts. You will scream sweet enough." Nibot's barking laughter sapped all hope.

It was an eroded circle several miles wide, and despite the frenetic growth of the
forests, this was a clearing that nature itself seemed fearful to touch. Rising upon
the center of this barren space was rough mountain. No one so far had dared to climb
it, or to take a shovel and dig out its side... and it was not needed, to know it
was no mountain at all. The sides sloped too regularly and the peak though overgrown
by wild grass and worn down by wind and rain, still vaguely had the carved visage of
a grotesque flat face.

It was a stepped pyramid far larger than the Palace of Luminzavia, the geometrically
aligned citystate of the Kit'i, the Alvii Home Trees, or even the rock fortresses
built by the masterhewers of the Dvareg. Something so large could not have been built
by mortals, lest they then admit that they too will be forgotten someday. So all say
that Aleen was built by gods or demons descended from the sky.

Only the Men were delusional enough to wish that lost long ago was a vast Dominion of
Mankind and that all advances were simply trying to rediscover what the ancients had
carved into the walls of Aleenfer in their unspeakable, undecipherable language.

Around the worn pyramid were block-like buildings with domed roofs. At first glance
they seemed to be homes, but what houses were without doors? There were hundreds of
these small dwellings, all sealed up and arranged in neat rows, as if awaiting their
owners' return. Their windows were perfect and unbreakable mirrors. Stony paths were
in patches here and there, signifying soil-buried roads. The crystal-flecked stones
shone banefully under the red light of sunset.

The base of the pyramid-mountain had an opening in the form of a screaming hawk's
head. The left half of the hewn stone creature had caved in, but the open mouth was
still more than large enough to admit the horsemen. They entered with some trepidation,
but pushed forward under their leader's imperious eye.

Within was only darkness. Their steps echoed faintly from unseen walls. One of them
took out some flint from his satchel and tried to light one of the torches set into a
wall. However, as he dropped smoldering rag into the bowl of oil, he had to gasp out
"Oy!" as all other torches were similarly lit at the same instant. A strong wind blew
from deep within the cavern, the flames grew stronger and then settled into a steady
amber blaze. The horses began panicking again.

Nibot reached down to stroke the side of his steed's neck, calming it with a smooth
gentleness belied by the ever-present scowl on his face. He turned to his band, they
too had mostly calmed down their own horses. Sixteen tan horses for fifteen dark-haired,
red-clad men, one for shared loot. And a seventeenth horse, wiry and night-black, and
upon it sat a short wiry man in white furs. He had thin, suspicious eyes and a sneering
semi-smile eternally on his face.

He was untroubled by the repute of this place, and his horse was one that trotted into
the clearing like it was home. Lirarkie, the sorcerer. His spoken word burst open their
palisades and reduced people to smears of blood and bone. There was also hate in Sune's
her heart for him. His power was great, his delight was in its abuse. His eyes on her
were not of lustful desire, like the other men. It was a strange hate that might have
even surpassed whatever she was feeling.

It was not mere tales that made the north-folk so scared witless of Aleenfer. Perhaps the
fickle goddess would show mercy.

'Dula help us', she prayed. 'Spread your cold wings and slay us all.'


~~~~~~~~~~~



AN: Playing with the layout to reduce text-chunkiness
Last update on June 25, 7:50 pm by Carlo Marco Alfonso.
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