Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tales of a Failing Empire- Interlude (Part 4)

The tors around Tamith split on the southward sheep trail out of the village. The rocks weathered down to clusters less than 3 armspans in height. The granite slabs and domes occasionally revealing the weathered remains of Sulkiri and Orcish runes. Some of the stones were split in two, scars of 'earthcarving' magicks from the Orc shamans and the Rockhewer Lords of the old tribes of man. The grey stone dark and cold, giving way to the bright green grasses that were the province's namesake.

Despite their efforts, Nefydd and Grijolhd could not gain a significant lead on the woman. Her stamina was considerable, and she maintained an armspan of distance from the pair. Her shapely boots moving in steady rhythm with their respective marching down the trail. The two companions no longer whispering to one another, their faces grimly set on the trail ahead of them.

The trail cut east and then north for a half a league. The pair stopped by what appeared to be a split menhir. The dwarf waved his left hand in a vertical motion, across his torso. A small section of earth at the base of the menhir eroded away, revealing a hole an armspan wide. Nefydd crouched down, pulling two backpacks and a pair of shoulder packs out of the hole.

“How far to the bulette spoor?” Lyn asked.

Grijolhd waved the sunrod in his right hand, “Another half a league thereabouts. North, northeast.”

“We'll camp here for the night,” Nefydd proclaimed. “You expecting to tackle the critter this evening?”

“I'll just follow your lead for the time being, gentlemen.” Lyn placed her hands on either side of her belt, covering the hilts of her weapons. “I'll take first watch.”

“I've got an extra blanket,” Nefydd eyed Lyn warily.

“Thank you, won't be needing it. I'm a light sleeper.”

“Fine with me.” Nefydd saw her eyes looking into his and knew she caught his lie. He brought two packs over to the dwarf and walked a few armspans across to begin rummaging through his own gear.

“I travelled with Berend Keirkegaard for a time. He says you were a good soldier.”

Nefydd looked up at her.“There's no such thing as a good soldier,” he replied, “Only living ones. How is the Ser... When was the last time you saw him?”

“Six months past, in the mountains of Bosor. He died in the expedition.”

Nefydd was quiet for a moment, turning his gaze from the woman. His hands froze for a few heartbeats pulling a camp stove from his pack. “Didn't know where he contracted in.”

“Your company was the only one who left the Senators' forces-”

“We were disillusioned with where the campaign was heading.” Nefydd placed the stove on the ground, rubbing his hands on his knees.

“And shortly thereafter, their armies were routed in a crushing defeat-”

“At the eastern Jurasin, is there a point to this inquiry?” Nefydd stood up, teeth clenched and walked to the menhir.

“Lass, this isn't exactly where you want to go.” Grijolhd chimed in. Quicker than the woman could follow, the dwarf signed to Nefydd, 'We need to have a conference, now.'

The dwarf tossed a small metallic dodecahedron to Nefydd. The ranger clasped the item, no bigger than the tip of his thumb, to the colllar of his shirt. “Shit,” he whispered.

Lyn was smiling, unmoving hands still on her belt. The dwarf and the man vanished. Her eyes wide, the woman channeled a questing for enchantments, and found nothing. There was no evidence of any magic.

“Oh they'll be back,” she murmured, looking at their gear.

“And you will harm not a hair on their heads,” a voice growled behind her.

“Most impressive orc, but your stench gives you away.” Lyn didn't bother turning around.

“And your signature matron, you light up the night like ten thousand fireflies.”

The woman frowned, questing her senses, there, she found it, a tiny spark.

“An earth father, here? Oh how delightful.”

“It is good you remember matron. Your kind often forget the ancient ways of others.”

“Hmph. And you fail to appreciate that it was we, who aided your enlightenment millenia ago.”

“Not all of you.” The orc said, his voice deep, rich, as if flowing through the air, rock and soil.

“A node, of course. Very well, earth father, you have my attention.” Lyn turned around. The orc was old for his kind, his appearance told otherwise, but Lyn could see his aura, and she gasped. The orc positively glowed, giving off a shimmer of the land as it looked thousands of years ago, when the orcs creeped above their ancient stoneholds in the night. On the eve of their rebellion.

Physically, he was still impressive, his muscles retaining their shape, not quite wiry as most orcs became as they aged, but solid curves, veins vibrant, the blood flowing in strong currents. His hair was still black for the most part, but Lyn's vision saw the faint traces of grey in a few strands. The sides of his head were shaved, but the hair on his head was long and tied in a ponytail. His goatee was black. Where the hair was shaved were several tattoos, whorls, circles inscribed with the old runes of deep earth magicks. His tunic and breeches were made of bulette hide, stained a deep brown. His left hand gripped a staff made of Tysthewood; trees that grew no longer in the human held lands of Anfekor and the other nations of the East.

Majestic as the orc was from the eye's view, his aura was absolutely stunning, Lyn was nervous, something she had not felt, in a long, long time.

“You know of my companions then?” Lyn cooed.

“Indeed, they are known to many brethren bordering the Cursed Lands.”

“Have you come to help us with our little quest?”

“I have come to make sure that no harm befalls them as they seek a resolution to their challenge. I will be watching you matron.”

Lyn brought her left hand up, chewing on her index finger suggestively. “Delightful, very well earth father, I will behave.”

“See that you do.” The orc changed, his arms folding towards his ribs, body crouched to the earth almost in a strange bow of reverence, wings came forth, then the piercing eyes, and finally the powerful claws of a plains owl. The wards around the orc as he transformed were blinding, and Lyn had to actually look down at the grass for a few moments. There were sounds of air being displaced by wings at least an armspan in length. Lyn looked up to find herself alone once again within the disheveled campsite. The dwarf's sunrod the only illumination, highlighting the orcish runes in white upon the menhir's base.

“I suppose I should cook up something for the boys when they come back.” Lyn sighed and went to work.

Far above the campsite, a great plains owl circled within the dwindling thermals, waiting.

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